Positive Notes

Positive Notes

Prairies Preserved
The first 360-acre tract of Minnesota’s new Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge was purchased last August by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The reserve - intended to expand to 77,000 acres - will preserve some of the last remaining 1 percent of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem that formerly blanketed the upper Midwest. “This is a very important first step for the new refuge,” said Ron Cole, the USFWS manager for the Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge. “It’s taken several years of hard work by refuge staff, [USFWS] realty folks, our local Friends of Prairie group, the Nature Conservancy and the Brandenburg Prairie Foundation to make this first acquisition for the refuge a reality.”

Rah, RA! Sun-Stoked Ferries
Last spring, a new tourist attraction began plying the waters of the Broads wetlands in eastern England - the RA, a 30-foot-long solar-powered ferry named after the Egyptian sun god. “We felt it was a futuristic and fitting way of opening up Barton Broad to the public…. It is the fulfillment of a dream,” commented Aitkin Clark, chief executive of the Broads Authority. Another ship, the 89-foot-long RA 82, the world’s largest solar ferry, can carry 120 passengers at a top speed of 9.3 mph. These solar ferries were built by Kopf Solardesign of Sulz-Bergfelden, Germany.

Windmills in the Sea
British Energy Minister Peter Hain has announced a £1.6 billion ($2.4 billion) plan to construct 18 offshore wind farms with 540 3-MW turbines off the west coast of England and Wales. The British Wind Energy Association [www.bwea.com] expects the turbines to produce enough electricity to power 1 million households by 2005. The windmills should help the British government achieve its Kyoto Protocol-related target of obtaining 10 percent of the country’s electricity from renewable sources. A spokesperson for Friends of the Earth/UK said that it was a tremendous boost for jobs in the energy and engineering sectors and that it signaled the “dawn of new era.”

A Namibia-South Africa Park
The particularly biodiverse region between South Africa’s Northern Cape province and the town of Hobas in Namibia has been designated a trans-border conservation park. The new 5,086-square-mile park will occupy an area slightly larger than the state of Delaware and provide safe habitat for thousands of rare animals, such as mountain zebras, baboons, ostriches, gemsboks, klipstringers and kudu. The park will be jointly administered by South Africa and Namibia.

Rabbis for Human Rights
Rabbi Arik Ascherman claims that his commitment to justice has carried him “from protest to resistance.” Ascherman, the director of Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) [www.rhr.israel.net] has placed his body in front of Israeli bulldozers to stop the destruction of Palestinian homes. In 2001, more than 2,000 Palestinian dwellings were slated for demolition. RHR has received the Speaker of the Knesset’s Award for the Quality of Life for “enhancing the rule of law and democratic values, protecting human rights and encouraging tolerance and mutual respect.” Founded in 1988, RHR has become recognized as “the rabbinic voice of conscience in Israel.” As RHR explains, “Human rights abuses are not compatible with the age-old Jewish tradition of humaneness and moral responsibility,” nor is Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians respectful of the Biblical concern for “the stranger in your midst.”

Iran Hails Green Action
Last June, Iranian President Seyed Mohammad Khatami offered the inaugural speech at the International Seminar on Environment, Religion and Culture, an event co-sponsored with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). President Khatami set the tone of the conference by stating that imbalances in the environment were detrimental to humanity and would provoke calamities for present and future generations. “We should be with nature, not against it,” Khatami said. “Confrontation between man and nature is one of the real problems of the new world.”

‘Child-Safe’ Chocolates
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) has called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to establish a voluntary labeling system to indicate which brands of chocolate were produced without the use of child labor (HR 2330). Since the price of cocoa fell in 1998, some of the Ivory Coast’s 600,000 small cocoa farms have turned to child labor to cut costs. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates there are approximately 15,000 child slaves working in the Ivory Coast. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) has introduced an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations Bill to suspend federal subsidies for the US chocolate industry unless child slavery practices are stopped.

Dolphins Freed from OK Corral
The Captive Dolphin Awareness Campaign (CDAC) has succeeded in closing the dolphin show at Oklahoma City Zoo. After months of protests, letter writing, Freedom of Information Act filings and monthly speeches before the zoo’s governing trust, CDAC had cause to celebrate when the trust voted unanimously to return the remaining Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins and three sea lions to Marine Animal Productions of Gulfport, Mississippi. The zoo attributed its decision to its inability to prevent the transmission of a bacterial infection that has claimed the lives of four dolphins over two years. CDAC Director Nora Sinkankas stated that the campaign “was successful in large part due to the leadership and guidance of Mark Berman of Earth Island Institute.”

Bare-Breasted Poet
In Albion, California, a topless poet known as “La Tigresa” has been defending the forests by clinging to the running boards of logging trucks while chanting poetry and dancing to the beat of tribal drumming [www.earthfilms.org]. La Tigresa has been cheered on by crowds of local residents and salmon supporters opposed to the logging. The startled loggers generally have been respectful as they listen to La Tigresa’s Earth Mother poems, some of which are recited in Spanish for the benefit of the Latino workers. On arriving at the scene, one local sheriff said he “didn’t have the heart” to bust up the proceedings.

Playing Footsie
London’s Financial Times Stock Exchange (FTSE, pronounced “footsie”) has launched a set of ethical stock indices known as “FTSE 4 Good.” One hundred select companies will be listed on the exchange. According to FTSE’s Helen Humphries, “A perfect company would be one that has very good environmental policies, has looked at human rights issues around the world and ensures that their company adheres to it.” In Britain alone, socially responsible investing in ethical funds has increased by 27 percent in recent years and now totals close to £5 billion ($7.5 billion).

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