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Small Northern California Town Taking On Timber Giant for the Right to Local Water

Residents are engaged in a legal battle with company that has told them to find water elsewhere

For 107 years, residents of Weed, California, a picturesque hamlet nestled against the flanks of snow-capped Mt. Shasta, have been drinking water from nearby Beaughan Spring. The water is so pure it flows straight to their faucets; no treatment is necessary. Locals take gallon jugs of it with them when they leave town.

photo of Weed, CaliforniaPhoto by Don Barrett, Flickr The Roseburg Forest Products mill in Weed, California. The timber giant, which asserts ownership over a local spring, has told the city to find a new source of water.

But Roseburg Forest Products (RFP), the Oregon-based timber giant that owns the land around the spring, has other uses for that pure water. Crystal Geyser already bottles Beaughan Spring water in Weed, and residents believe Roseburg wants to sell them even more. The timber company has told the 2,700 folks who call Weed home to find their water elsewhere.

"No way,” says Michael Yates of the Water for Citizens of Weed, California. “I've been drinking that water for 60 years. I can taste the chlorine in other tap water. Even my dog gets sick drinking that stuff.”

Before it was a stop along Interstate 5, Weed was a classic timber company town. Abner Weed bought the land and the Siskiyou Lumber and Mercantile Mill in 1897 for $400. RFP is still the largest private employer in town.

The company changed hands a few times before 1959, when International Paper approached the state for permission to subdivide the land and sell it to residents. A condition of the sale, completed in 1961, was creation of the non-profit Weed Water Works to provide water, sewer, and fire protection for the fledgling community. Rates and charges are determined by the California Public Utilities Commission.

When the Weed Water Works sold all assets to the city in 1966 they included the infrastructure but excluded rights to the water. Instead they granted a 50-year lease to provide 2.0 cubic feet per second to the city for $1 a year. That lease expired June 26, 2016.

Beaughan Spring is located on RFP property, but ownership of the water rights is murky. Twenty years ago Crystal Gyser began negotiating directly with the city for rights to bottle more of that pure spring water. Finding a cloud over the water rights, they turned their attention to the land owners. Five years ago, RFP …more

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Air Pollution Problem Could Disrupt Nepal’s Tourism Industry

Consistent haze is interfering with the stunning views many trekkers expect, raising concern among some industry professionals

South Asia’s notorius “atmospheric brown cloud” could impact Nepal’s appeal as a tourist destination. Visitors are voicing their concern about the three-kilometer-thick toxic cloud that sits over much of the region, including large swaths of Nepal, and interferes with their experience of a country promoted as a trekker’s paradise.

photo of nepal hazePhoto by keso s, Flickr Tourists, expecting clear skies and crisp views, are often disappointed by hazy conditions in Nepal.

“I am asthmatic so I find the pollution exhausting,” Jacob Beehan, a German tourist, tells me over coffee in Kathmandu’s Thamel area. But what has been particularly disturbing for me has been the how the pollution has spoiled some of the views. It’s really bad in this city.”

Tourism is a major source of revenue for Nepal. In 2014, the country welcomed 790,118 tourists, and earned roughly $780 million, or 4.3 percent of the GDP in the process,. (The numbers dropped by more than 44 percent in 2015 due to the devastating earthquake and a blockade at its borders with India, Nepal’s neighbour and largest source of tourists.) A 2014 report by Nepal’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism & Civil Aviation estimates that every six tourists create one job in Nepal.

A growing number of tourists have been sharing their disappointment about the air pollution and haze on prominant travel sites like Lonely Planet in recent years. “My family and I visited Nepal for three weeks from late March to mid-April [2013]. I would never go back at this time again as the visibility was TERRIBLE! We were in Kathmandu, Nargokot, Baktipur, Pokhara, Sarangot, and the Seti River area. We got one hazy glimpse of a snow topped mountain in Pokhara on one afternoon. We NEVER saw the mountains again,” vents a disappointed traveller under the username Kazmom on the Lonely Planet website.

The atmospheric brown cloud (ABC) is composed primarily of man-made pollutants, including toxic ash, black carbon, sulphate, nitrates, and aerosols, and is a global phenomenon. The densely populated Indo-Gangetic plain — a fertile plain that extends through parts of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and southern Nepal —  however, is one of the five ABC regional hot spots identified by the United Nations Environment Programme, meaning the pollution is worse and blocks a higher percentage of sunlight. Across the plain, forest fires combine with smoke from slash and burn agriculture, emissions from automobile vehicles, and industrial and indoor pollution to add …more

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Floods and Erosion Are Ruining Britain’s Most Significant Sites

From Wordsworth’s gardens to the salmon rivers in Wales, climate change is wrecking historic sites and harming wildlife habitat, finds report

Climate change is already wrecking some of Britain’s most significant sites, from Wordsworth’s gardens in Cumbria to the white cliffs on England’s south coast, according to a new report.

Floods and erosion are damaging historic places, while warmer temperatures are seeing salmon vanishing from famous rivers and birds no longer visiting important wetlands.

photo of ShanghaiPhoto by loki973, Flickr, Flickr Over the last 50 years, about 67 centimeters of the white cliff's on England's south coast have been eroded each year. During the winter storms of 2013 to 2014, the equivalent of seven years of erosion occurred in just two months.

The report was produced by climate experts at Leeds University and the Climate Coalition, a group of 130 organizations including the RSPB, National Trust, WWF and the Women’s Institute.

“Climate change often seems like a distant existential threat [but] this report shows it is already impacting upon some of our most treasured and special places around the UK,” said Professor Piers Forster of Leeds University.

“It is clear our winters are generally getting warmer and wetter, storms are increasing in intensity and rainfall is becoming heavier. Climate change is not only coming home — it has arrived,” Forster said. It is also already affecting everyday places such as churches, sports grounds, farms and beaches, he said.

Wordsworth House and Garden in Cockermouth, where the romantic poet William Wordsworth was born in 1770 and learned his love of nature, was seriously damaged by two recent flooding events linked to a changing climate.

In November 2009, torrential rain caused £500,000 of damage, sweeping away gates and walls that had survived since the 1690s. Floods inundated the site again during Storm Desmond in December 2015. “When I saw the damage the floods had caused in 2009 I was shocked and it took almost three years to repair the garden,” said the house’s head gardener, Amanda Thackeray. “Then after all that hard work to see the devastation from flooding in 2015 was very upsetting.”

A century-long record shows the UK is experiencing more intense heavy rainfall during winter. Researchers can also use climate models to reveal the influence of global warming on some extreme events and have found the UK’s record December rainfall in 2015 was made 50 to 75 percent more likely by climate change. Another study found by The Guardian – February 7, 2017

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Delmarva Fox Squirrel Continues to Do Well a Year After Endangered Species Act Delisting

Biologists are monitoring the species under a five-year post-delisting plan to ensure population remains stable

On a chilly early spring morning, in the remote swamps of the picturesque Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, a team of biologists and volunteers are trekking through mud and water to gather data on a rare species found nowhere else but within the East Coast’s Delmarva Peninsula: the aptly named Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel (Sciurus niger cinereus), or simply Delmarva fox squirrel. Fortunately, the scientists are collecting data not because the squirrels are in decline, but rather, for confirmation that the species continues to do well — December 2016 marked the first anniversary of the delisting of the fox squirrel from the Endangered Species Act after nearly fifty years on the list.

photo of delmarva fox squirrelphoto by Mark HendricksThe Delmarva fox squirrel, which was among the first species to recieve federal protections under the Endangered Species Preservation Act, has made a comback on the Delmarva Peninsula, and particularly within the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

Joining the team for the day to document their efforts, I’m told that if we’re lucky, we may catch a glimpse of the notoriously furtive squirrel. “Sometimes they disappear into the woods so silently and at other times they are really brazen to hunters in tree stands,” says Cherry Keller, endangered species program leader with the US Fish and Wildlife Service Chesapeake Bay Field Office.

At first glance the squirrel appears much like the common grey squirrel that frequents backyards, college campuses, and other urban environments. Upon further inspection, however, you will find that it is rather large, about two and a half feet long, with a long, full tail that may make up to 15 inches of its total body length. Additionally, its body is adorned with a silvery gray, almost metallic looking fur, which is quite beautiful. “They are really gorgeous and they can be elegant at times and clumsy and comical at others,” adds Keller.

The squirrel was one of the original species placed on the Endangered Species Preservation Act in 1967 (the predecessor of the Endangered Species Act) because of habitat loss and overhunting. At the time of its listing, it only occupied 10 percent of its historic range, which at one time included parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania and all of the Delmarva Peninsula, but had shrunk to only a few spots in rural eastern Maryland. The species spends much of its time on the ground and exists primarily in mature forests of mixed hardwood and loblolly pine. As these forests …more

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We Need to Expand the Definition of What’s Natural

How an inadequate description of the world hinders the environmental movement

As US politicians attempt to create more borders and divisions between people, it is a fitting time to resist conceptual boundaries that lead to destruction and suffering. The particular type of boundary that I wish to interrogate is of the linguistic variety: words represent ideas and serve as the precursor to physical borders and social and environmental policies. Sometimes linguistic tools are so inadequate that they endanger the very societies that conceived them. The wrong words shore-up problematic divides and perpetuate injustices; sometimes new words are needed to fight these societal ills.

photo of ShanghaiPhoto by johnlsl, Flickr, Flickr Cities like Shanghai, pictured, are simultaneously natural and artificial. In fact, everything in the human-built world is both natural and artificial, or "artinatural."

For centuries philosophers have wrestled with the inadequacies of languages to describe the world around them. Of course the world and all its complex interrelationships existed well before humans developed language. Many of these confounding complexities will persist even if people never comprehend them. The sooner people grasp ecological interconnectedness — rather than insisting on boundaries between false categories — the better chance societies have of forging sustainable policies. There is the idea, for example, that human-made objects like cars, computers, and buildings exist in a realm separate from the natural — these objects are referred to as “artificial.” I believe this conceptual distinction is a dangerous myth because it hides the ecological interdependencies upon which humanity and all living things rely.

The human-built world is simultaneously artificial and natural. Borrowing a term once used in the field of landscape architecture, we could call things that are both artificial and natural “artinatural.” This term implies that everything artificial is — and always was — still natural. There are no exceptions; a Prius, an iPhone, even artificial intelligence, are all artinatural things.

What does the idea of the artinatural mean for environmentalism? It can be argued that environmentalism as a movement has reached a point of crisis. Not only have traditional environmental concerns like clean air and water been fragmented and pushed to the margins in mainstream politics and media, but the movement itself cannot garner sufficient support to combat human existence-threatening crises: global mass extinction, runaway global warming, rising sea levels, the proliferation of toxics… and the list goes on. Why hasn’t the environmental movement been able to better shield society from these catastrophic developments?

Some thinkers — Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus of …more

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Over 70 Arrested at Standing Rock as Company Aims to Finish Dakota Access Pipeline

Arrests came one day after federal officials suggested that government could soon approve the final stage of construction

North Dakota police have arrested 76 people at Standing Rock one day after federal officials suggested that the government could soon approve the final stage of construction of the Dakota Access pipeline.

The arrests occurred after a group of activists, who call themselves water protectors, established a new camp near the pipeline construction.

Rob Keller, spokesman for the Morton County sheriff’s office, told The Guardian on Wednesday night that it was too soon to say what charges were being filed. In a statement, he claimed that a “rogue group of protesters” had trespassed on private property.

photo of Lake TiticacaPhoto by Dark Sevier, Flickr Indigenous water protectors have been camped out in North Dakota since April in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Nearly 700 people have been arrested since the demonstrations escalated over the summer.

“A lot of water protectors really felt that we needed to make some sort of stand as far as treaty rights,” said Linda Black Elk, a member of the Catawba Nation. “We basically started to see police mobilizing from all directions. Someone came along and told us we had about 15 minutes before the camp would get raided.”

Black Elk, who works with the Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council, said there were initially hundreds of activists at the new camp but that those who did not want to be taken into custody ultimately decided to retreat.

“There were a lot of people who felt like the prospect of treaty rights was something worth getting arrested over,” she said.

The tense confrontation comes one week after Donald Trump issued an order demanding the revival of the Dakota Access pipeline and the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, reversing Barack Obama’s actions.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has long argued that the $3.8 billion pipeline threatens its water supply and sacred lands, has vowed to fight the order. Activists are seeking to assert indigenous treaty rights, which they say the government and the oil company have violated.

On Tuesday night, Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota announced that the acting secretary of the army has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with an easement necessary to finish the pipeline. His spokesman said the easement, which Obama had denied in December, “isn’t quite issued yet, but they plan to approve it” within days.

MG Malcolm Frost, US army chief of public …more

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Bolivia’s Disappearing Lake

As Lake Poopó vanishes, depleted by water diversions and warming temperatures, it leaves behind an uncertain future for Indigenous Urus

Battered by the blinding sun that reigns supreme in Bolivia’s arid high plain, Urus-Muratos villagers from three Lake Poopó communities waited impatiently. In an otherwise soundless sky, a helicopter’s approach galvanized the morning crowd into a flurry of activity. Indigenous President Evo Morales, who grew up close to the lake’s western edge, stepped out of the chopper onto the remains of the salty lake, which almost completely dried up in late 2015 and has yet to recover. Dozens of Urus and fisherman from the same ethnic group as Morales, the Aymara, rushed to greet him.

photo of dry lake poopophoto by Linda FarthingLake Poopó's dry lakebed. The lake dried up almost completely in December 2015.

Evo Morales came here to inaugurate 14 new houses in the Urus community of Puñaka Tinta Maria that were built by the government’s housing agency. Each one is rounded like a traditional Urus home, with two bedrooms, indoor plumbing, and water taps.

The Urus did their traditional Dance of the Fish for the President with huge fish and birds constructed from local lake reeds called tortora, the men dressed in black and white stripped ponchos and rough handspun wool pants, the women in wide skirts and tight blouses The towering puppets displayed an inevitable nod to the increasingly present modern world: all the creatures were given old CDs for eyes.  

None of the national and regional government officials present made any mention of the dusty residue of the lake just half a mile away. Only Urus leader Evarista Flores beseeched the audience to remember that “We who lived in the lake are the ones who most need our lake back.” Abandoned boats dotted the lake’s edges, reminders that many of those who once depended on the lake have fled to make a living elsewhere.

The 150 Urus living here share only 10 acres of land — just enough to accommodate their houses. With the lake gone for a year now, they can’t fish, and there are no birds, ducks, or flamingos around, all of which they have hunted for millennia.

“What worries me most about the disappearance of Lake Poopó is the uncertain future of the Urus,” says Victor Antonio Guevera, guide to a permanent exhibition on the Urus at MUSEF in Bolivia’s southern city of Sucre.

***

The Urus-Muratos culture revolves around the Lake Poopó. Historically, the Uros have lived on the lake, fished on the lake, and turned to …more

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