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In the Pipeline

In Oregon, a volatile climate for liquefied natural gas pipeline and terminal projects

In 2012, an energy company offered Deb Evans and Ron Schaaf $2,000 for an easement across their property in Klamath County, Oregon. The easement was for a portion of the Pacific Connector pipeline, which was to carry natural gas from the Western Rockies across Southwest Oregon to a new export terminal in Coos Bay, Oregon, called Jordan Cove. The terminal would include facilities for super cooling the natural gas into liquefied natural gas, or LNG.

photo of Jordan Cove and Pacific Connector Pipeline protestPhoto courtesy of Francis Eatherington An orange banner the same width as the proposed Pacific Connector pipeline, which would bring natural gas to the Jordan Cove LNG Export facility proposed in Coos Bay, Oregon.

Evans and Shaaf refused. As they learned more about the pipeline, their alarm grew. If the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the project, Pacific Connector could use eminent domain to acquire a 95-foot construction easement and a permanent 50-foot right-of-way easement, despite their refusal to sell the rights to their land.

Approval seemed likely. The pipeline and terminal project was one of a flurry of projects proposed by various energy companies to capitalize on the Oil Sands and fracking booms; so far, none of the applications had been denied.

In December 2014, the couple attended a public meeting, where they met dozens of concerned citizens. “We had missed the big picture of why people were against the project,” says Evans. This bigger picture included not only devalued property values and the threat of eminent domain, but increased erosion, habitat fragmentation, degraded water quality and compromised salmon habitat, and the threat of catastrophic wildfire should an explosion occur somewhere along the mostly forested 232-mile pipeline route.

Then there was the Jordan Cove export terminal. The proposed site for the terminal was a sandy spit located in a tsunami inundation zone in southern Oregon, near the towns of Coos Bay and North Bend. Its construction and operation, which would require extensive dredging, would impact fisheries, including commercial clam and oyster operations. The facility would become a large source of greenhouse gas emissions, and it would require a 420-megawatt power station to liquefy the natural gas in preparation for export across the Pacific to Asia. Should an earthquake or tsunami damage the facility, volatile leaked LNG could …more

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Works of Gritty Art

Guadalupe-Nipomo Sand Dunes is one of coastal California’s best-kept secrets

An interesting thing happened to me while driving along the Central California coast a few months ago. I decided to get off the beaten path and took Highway 135 north through Los Alamos, following it past its scenic, rural countryside until I reached old Highway 1, the coastal route to the small beachside town of Guadalupe in northern Santa Barbara County that’s home to the second largest intact dune ecosystem in California.

photo of Guadalupe Nipomo Sand Dunes Photo by Chuck GrahamThe Guadalupe-Nipomo Sand Dunes is the second largest intact dune ecosystem in California.

The 18-mile long costal dunes complex begins in Pismo Beach, about 5 miles northwest of the town, and gradually grows more spectacular as it stretches south to Guadalupe. Once across the Santa Maria Rivermouth, waves of sand rise dramatically for 2.5 miles from the car park south to craggy Mussel Rock. Some of the dunes tower 500-feet-tall, as they immediately ascend from the shoreline. Hidden within the dunes are several freshwater lakes offering safe wetland havens to numerous bird species.

This dramatic landscape hasn’t been missed by Hollywood. The first 10 Commandments movie, a silent but early Technicolor epic by Cecil B. De Mille, was filmed here in 1923. De Mille built what was then the largest set in movie history, called “The City of the Pharaoh,” for the film and later had it dismantled and secretly buried in the dunes. The remains of the set, called the “Lost City of Cecil B DeMille,” still lie under in the sand, though the burial site was eventually located in 1983 by a group of film aficionados.

photo of Guadalupe Nipomo Sand Dunes Photo by Chuck GrahamThe National Wildlife Refuge was established in 2000.

Scenes from Hidalgo and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, were also filmed here.

In 2000, 2,553 acres in the heart of the dunes complex — which contains some of the most remote and least disturbed habitats in the complex — was declared a US National Wildlife Refuge.

Every time I hike the dunes I see something I didn’t spot the time before. That could be because of the ever-shifting sands that are constantly groomed by steady northwesterly winds. These winds sometimes sculpt the sand into peaks hundreds of …more

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Plastic Loom Fuses Tradition and Modernity

How two young Egyptians are reinventing plastic bags

The old adage “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” could be the motto for the project Reform Studio.

Mariam Hazem, one of the project founders, explains why she collects plastic bags: “Statistics show that the number of plastic bags on the globe is growing by a million each minute. A June 2012 report by the GIZ Society for International Cooperation and SWEEP-Net states that 11 percent of solid waste in the Middle East and North Africa consists of plastic.

photo of plastic loomPhoto by Sabry Khaled Reform Studio helps to keep the traditional craft of weaving with the handloom alive.

Reform Studio is headquartered in El-Tagamo El-Khames, one of the more refined quarters of Cairo. Visitors are immediately struck by the unique, colorful seating arrangements. The “El-Qahwa” (‘the coffee’) chair collection has an authentically Egyptian flair as it mimics the chairs in traditional coffee shops; except that the seats are not made of wood, but of plaited plastic bags. The “Gramaz” set (derived from ‘grandmas’), on the other hand, is more modern, inspired by an old chair that used to belong to Mariam’s grandmother. It takes 50 plastic bags to manufacture one chair for the “Ahwa” collection, a piece from the “Gramaz” collection requires three times as many.

It all started with the revolution

Mariam Hazem and Hend Riad, both 25 years old, are the masterminds of Reform Studio. They originally came up with the concept for their graduation project at the Faculty of Applied Arts at the German University in Cairo in 2014. Today, their idea has evolved into a brand. Their products are available at six stores in Cairo and one in London.

photo of plastic loomPhoto by Sabry Khaled Chairs from the Ahwa collection. Their upholstery is made from plastic bags.

“After the onset of the revolution on January 25, 2011, we were highly motivated, we wanted to be part of the change,” says Mariam. “We wanted to find a solution to one of Egypt’s most serious issues: the all-pervading trash,” Mariam adds. So the two researched the topic and talked to some trash men and scavengers around Cairo. They learned that people mostly get rid of plastic by burning it, because it does not decompose. Therefore, Mariam and Hend …more

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Amid Showdown, Thai Officials Begin Removing Big Cats from Infamous Tiger Temple

Day 3 of rescue operation leads to awful discovery: 40 dead tiger cubs and other animal parts

So it has come to pass — following several months of stand off, the infamous Tiger Temple has been closed down as Thai wildlife officials and veterinarians undertake a monumental operation to relocate the remaining 137 tigers from the temple in Thailand’s Kanchanaburi province to wildlife sanctuaries across the country.

Wildlife officials with a tranquilized tigerPhoto by Edwin Wiek/Wildlife Friends Foundation ThailandAt least 40 tigers have been removed from the controversial temple since Monday.

According to the Bangkok Post, since Monday, when the rescue operations began, at least 40 tigers have been removed from the temple. Ten other tigers had been rescued from the temple in January and February following new, incriminating reports that the temple — which has long been dogged with controversy — had been speed-breeding and trafficking tigers since at least 2004.

As I write this, Day Three of the rescue operation is underway. Sadly, the day brought the gruesome discovery of 40 dead tiger cubs stacked in a freezer at the temple. Officials also found several other animal parts including deer horns, a bull’s skull and animal intestines in held containers. According to local Thai media reports, some of the cubs appear to have died recently. Photos posted on Twitter by reporters on the scene seem to indicate that some of the cubs were only a few days old.

Thai wildlife officials say they are looking into who’s responsible for the cubs death and might file separate criminal charges. Monks at the temple, who have denied all trafficking allegations in the past, have not commented on this latest finding yet. Officials also found six hornbills, a protected species, at a monk's residence.

The Buddhist temple, Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Yanasampanno, draws thousands of tourists from across the world every year to hang out with its large population of “pet” tigers that numbered 147 in January. This extremely lucrative operation — the temple makes some $3 million annually off of the tourists — is based around claims that the first tigers to arrive at the temple were rescued from poachers and all the big cats currently housed there live freely and peacefully with the temple’s monks, who are actively engaged in conservation and rescue work.

But wildlife activists have for years accused the Tiger Temple …more

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Why Was the Gorilla Harambe Killed at the Cincinnati Zoo?

Grief and outrage over 17-year-old great ape's death

Many people worldwide already know about the shooting of a 17-year-old male western lowland gorilla named Harambe at the Cincinnati Zoo to save the life of a four-year old child who fell into the gorilla's cage. The boy apparently told his mother he wanted to meet Harambe and crawled under a rail and over the wall of the moat. As usual, my inbox was ringing constantly with different reports of Harambe's killing, some might call it an execution or a murder. Indeed, the title of Peter Holley's essay in the Washington Post is called "‘Shooting an endangered animal is worse than murder’: Grief over gorilla’s death turns to outrage." 

Harambe the gorillaPhoto by Mark DumontLet's remember in head and heart that Harambe was killed for being forced to live in a cage for some human's, not his own, benefit, and because it was thought he might harm the child for coming into his home.

Who's to blame and what can be done to avoid such unnecessary killings?

Opinions vary widely about whether or not the boy's parents are to blame and should be charged for negligence, and whether Harambe should have been killed, as there is essentially no evidence that the gorilla was going to harm the child. As I watched footage of the event I was reminded of an incident at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo in which a female western lowland gorilla named Binta Jua rescued a three-year old boy who fell into her enclosure.

We can also ask if the zoo is to blame. Why was the boy able to get under the rail, had zoo workers practiced the sorts of rescues brought on by these events, why wasn't Harambe tranquilized? 

Moving forward, caretakers, who are responsible for the day-to-day well-being of the zoo's residents and who form personal relationships with them, must be involved in preparing for emergency situations such as this. It's these people "on the ground" who know the animals the best and who regularly communicate with them. They also could well be the people who could communicate the animal out of danger so it could be a win-win for all involved. Harambe, like all other gorillas and numerous other zoo-ed animals, are highly intelligent and emotional beings who depend on us to respect and value their by Marc Bekoff – May 31, 2016

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Australia’s Censorship of Unesco Climate Report is Like a Shakespearean Tragedy

The iconic Great Barrier Reef is clearly at risk from climate change, so why would Unesco agree to censor its own report?

That quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet comes to mind: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

The lady in question is the Australian government, which some time in early January saw a draft of a report from a United Nations organization.

coral in the Great Barrier ReefPhoto by Tchami/FlickrLeaving the Great Barrier Reef out of the report is like writing about the risks of oil drilling without mentioning the Deepwater Horizon.

The report, provisionally titled “Destinations at Risk: World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate”, outlined how many world heritage sites around the world were being compromised by the impacts of climate change.

One of the sites highlighted in the draft report was the Great Barrier Reef. The Australian government doth protest, and Unesco obliged.

As Guardian Australia revealed last week, all mentions of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef, the Northern Territory’s glorious Kakadu national park and Tasmania’s forests were then removed from the report.

All this, as the reef’s worst recorded case of mass coral bleaching makes headlines around the world

So why the whitewash?

In a statement to Guardian Australia, the Department of the Environment made two arguments to justify the request for censorship and neither of them makes any sense.

Firstly, the government argued the title of the report “had the potential to cause considerable confusion”.

The title Australia objected to was “Destinations at Risk: World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate”. The report was finally published as World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate.

The department said the UN world heritage committee had only last year agreed not to place the reef on its list of sites “in danger”.

If the reef then appeared as a case study in a UN report about world heritage sites “at risk” this might confuse people, the department claimed.

But the reality is that the reef is both “at risk” and “in danger” from the impacts of climate change – the government’s own science agencies have warned them of this multiple times, not to mention scientists at leading universities around the world.

The only confusing aspect is how a report about world heritage sites and climate change now omits one of the world’s most iconic natural wonders that has become a …more

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A Legacy of Fighting for Justice

Lawyer behind youth climate change lawsuit comes from a family that’s championed social and environmental causes for generations

On the morning of March 9 2016, 21 young plaintiffs, aged 8 to 19, crowded into a courtroom in Eugene, Oregon, to sue the United States government for failing to protect their environment by allowing continued fossil fuel development that was leading to potentially catastrophic global warming. Their efforts were set in motion by a law professor whose family has been fighting for social and environmental justice for well over a century.

little girl holding a sign saying I want a better worldPhoto by Viewminder/FlickrAcross the US, youth groups are suing governments, demanding that their rightto a pollution-free environment be respected.

The group behind the current lawsuit, Our Children’s Trust , believes that Earth’s atmosphere is a legacy that each generation must protect for the next, and that the US government must not allow any actions, public or private, that might abuse this common heritage. Specifically, they cite increasing carbon pollution as the greatest threat to our atmospheric trust. Similar lawsuits in Massachusetts and Washington have received favorable rulings in court.   

Based on this idea of a trust violated, young activist organizations such as iMatter (which began as Kids vs. Global Warming, a project of Earth Island Institute) have organized demonstrations around the world. They mobilized during the recent Paris climate talks, whose positive steps forward were, in the children’s opinions, far less than what is needed. They want to force the US government, through the courts, to respect their rights to a pollution-free environment. 

The concept of an atmospheric trust doctrine, as their legal argument is often called, was the brainchild of Mary Christina Wood, a University of Oregon Environmental Law professor. Wood worked with teams of young Americans to develop the idea, and a strategy for taking it both to the streets and to the courts. 

As Mary explained in an interview with Yale Environment 360: “The litigation just takes this well known, ages-old principle that government is trustee of our crucial resources and applies it to the atmosphere and to the climate in particular. The reason it’s important is because the political branches of government are doing next to nothing to address this crisis, which is threatening the future survival and welfare of the youth of this nation and future generations. …more

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