May 24, 2002
The Green Holocaust Files #5: Bright Or Blighted Future? The Choice Is Ours
I know the following will not exactly cheer you up but I could not ignore this - in fact we ignore this at our own greatest peril...
It is still not too late to change course and I believe we will...
Despite the Unilateralist Usurper who is now - temporarily! - in the dirty/corrupted "White" House.
Earth Rainbow Network Coordinator
1. How one creature drives so many species to extinction
2. How Can We Possibly Go On?
3. Why The Earth Summit Matters
4. Massive Pullout from World Summit
Planet at the crossroads (22 May, 2002)
An authoritative United Nations report says human activity is likely to mark more than two-thirds of the Earth's surface within 30 years. The choices this generation makes will be crucial for our descendants, according to a United Nations report.
Planetary stress (Taken from this UN report)
Population pressure: There are 2,220m more people alive today than in 1972.
Soil decline: Around 2bn ha of soil, 15% of the Earth's surface, is now classed as degraded by human activities.
Water: About half the world's rivers are seriously depleted and polluted. Serious water shortages were affecting 40% of the world's people by the mid-1990s.
Forests: Since 1990 they are estimated to have declined by 2.4%.
Wildlife: Nearly 25% of mammal species and 12% of birds are regarded as globally threatened.
Fish: Just under a third of global fish stocks are defined as depleted, over-exploited, or recovering from over-fishing.
1,000 die in India heat (22 May, 2002)
The death toll from the heat wave in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh has now passed 1,000, according to the local authorities. The state government said that reports from districts across the state had now been collated, bringing the current toll to 1,030 for the period 9-15 May. The heat wave began earlier in May and at one point, the temperature soared to between 49C and 51C in some areas. (...) Heat-related deaths have also been reported from other parts of India, as well as in neighbouring Bangladesh and Pakistan. Reports from the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, said the toll over the past two days had reached 45.
Atlas shows man's 'footprint' on the planet
An extraordinary new atlas has been produced that shows humankind's impact on the world and how we are stretching the planet's resources to the limit. The book is a pull-together of the most up-to-date information available, much of it obtained by remote-sensing satellites. (...) Researchers like to characterise humanity's impact on the environment through three factors: population, consumption and technology. These act together to accelerate the drain on the Earth's resources, leading to the production of more waste and pollution. The atlas notes: "We have become a major force of evolution, not just for the 'new' species we breed and genetically engineer, but for the thousands of species whose habitats we modify, consigning many to extinction; compelling others to evolve and adapt to our pressures. "We have become a force of nature comparable to volcanoes or to the cyclical variations of the Earth's orbit."
How one creature drives so many species to extinction
Scores of animals and plants are being driven out of existence each year - and scientists say that mankind is almost always to blame
By Steve Connor Science Editor
21 May 2002
Planet Earth is going through its sixth and probably its most devastating period of mass extinction with scores, and possibly hundreds of species of animals and plants dying out each year. But unlike the previous five extinction waves, this time the culprit is just another lifeform, Homo sapiens.
A United Nations report on the environment, to be published tomorrow, will highlight the scale of a problem many conservationists believe is likely to rapidly worsen over 30 years as wildlife congregations are destroyed or invaded by a less diverse range of species.
Some scientists believe the "sixth wave" of mass extinction is between 1,000 and 10,000 times greater than the normal "background" rate at which species are lost naturally.
Such a dramatic fall in biological diversity is identified as one of the most pressing problems facing humanity, by the scientists who contributed to the Global Environment Outlook-3 (Geo-3) report of the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep).
The report will identify some 11,046 species of plants and animals known to face a high risk of extinction, including 1,130 mammals 24 per cent of the total and 12 per cent, or 1,183 species of birds.
Human activities, from habitat destruction to the introduction of alien species from one area to another, are listed as the main causes of this dramatic loss in biodiversity. In the report, scientists also identify 5,611 species of plants known to be on the verge of extinction. They say the true figure is likely to be far higher, given that only 4 per cent of the world's known plant species have been properly evaluated.
The Geo-3 report covers almost every aspect of environmental degradation, from forest destruction to water pollution. It is designed to set the framework for the world summit on sustainable development to be held this summer in Johannesburg.
Geo-3 looks back on the past 30 years of environmental degradation, since the 1972 Stockholm conference on the human environment, to assess the likely prospects for the next 30. It is likely to warn that many of the factors that led to the extinction of species in recent decades continue to operate with "ever-increasing" intensity.
Serious threats to life on Earth are over-exploitation of natural resources, pollution, habitat destruction, the introduction of alien species and global climate change, say the scientists who advised Unep.
They identify the loss of habitats by human encroachment as one of the most pervasive threats to wildlife. Habitat loss and fragmentation of breeding grounds are behind the precarious predicament of 89 per cent of threatened birds, 83 per cent of threatened mammals and 91 per cent of endangered plants, the Unep scientists say.
In addition to growing poverty and climate change caused by global warming, Unep has identified alien invasive species as another serious threat to biodiversity, affecting 30 per cent of threatened birds and 15 per cent of threatened plants.
The black rat, which since 1800 has stowed away on ships sailing to the remotest corners of the world, is held responsible for the biggest slaughter of birds, especially those on uninhabited islands.
Another of man's hitchhikers has caused havoc to native wildlife from Hawaii to the Seychelles and Zanzibar. The crazy ant, so called because of its frenetic movements, killed three million crabs in 18 months on Christmas Island alone.
A host of other invasive aliens have also inflicted enormous environmental and economic damage throughout the world. The list includes the brown tree snake, the small Indian mongoose, the Nile perch, the strawberry guava, the water hyacinth, the zebra mussel and the brushtail possum.
Several species of animals and plants in Britain are threatened by a similar invasion of aliens. The water vole is being killed off by the American mink, the eggs of rare wading birds nesting in the Outer Hebrides are being eaten by hedgehogs introduced from the mainland, and the wetland habitats of the Norfolk Broads suffered decades of destruction by the coypu, a South American rodent.
Jeff McNeely, chief scientist at the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Geneva, said the next 30 years could be the defining moment for life on Earth. Either we can finally recognise the problems and do something about them, or we do not, he said.
"It could go either way. It could be a golden age of nature conservation, or it could be a disaster scenario. If we assume a doomsday scenario then we're going to live in a greatly oversimplified world.
"Most of the remaining species are going to be widely dispersed and cosmopolitan. We will have lost many of the large mammals and birds, and life in general will be more homogeneous, with a smaller capacity to adapt to a changing environment."
Within the next 30 years, if the biodiversity crisis is not addressed, it is likely that the last tiger, rhinoceros, Asian elephant, cheetah and mountain gorilla will have been lost in the wild, Dr McNeely added.
Often it is the well-known animals and plants which are at greatest risk. The Chinese alligator is the most endangered crocodilian, with only 150 individuals in the wild. Half of the world's insect-eating pitcher plants are threatened and one, the green pitcher plant, is critically endangered because of the loss of its wetland habitat.
Scientists have identified and named about 1.5 million species but they believe that between 5 million and 15 million species have yet to be formally classified. It is now generally assumed that many unnamed animals, plants and micro-organisms are going extinct before they are even known to science.
Lord May, an Oxford zoologist, believes present extinction rates are likely to increase further over the next century. He said: "This represents a sixth great wave of extinction, fully compatible with the big five mass extinctions of the geological past, but different in that it results from the activities of a single other species rather than from external environmental changes."
"In 30 years? We'll still be heading for very fast rates of extinction comparable to today simply because we're not doing anything about it," the professor said. "I have to be a bit gloomy on the 30-year time-scale. There's not been very much action to justify being optimistic."
How Can We Possibly Go On?
By Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D.
"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive."
- His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama
Maybe it is just because of my heightened sensitivities at the one year anniversary of the birth of my son, but recently I have felt a profound despair at the depth of cruelty, ignorance, greed, and lack of concern for the health of the Earth and her people and animals going on all around me. The newspaper sickens me, the endless reports of the Bush administrations elimination of environmental rules for industry sicken me, and even reading my own reports of the greed and destruction in our world makes me nauseous. I wonder how I can go on in the midst of this madness.
I know that I am not the only one feeling this way. A friend of mine who is a holistic doctor in Southern California told me the other day that nearly every one of his patients is feeling the negative effects of something profound going on. Emails I receive from readers all over the world mirror this upset.
I have always believed that awareness of the true magnitude of the environmental and social devastation around us is vital to forming a solution. But this awareness now feels like a heavy weight surrounded by a deep, dark cloud that only the smile of my son can get through.
How can we go on in the light of revelation after revelation of profound cruelty and insanity?
How can we go on after learning that for the last 18 years, Mark Laudenslager, Ph.D. of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center has been conducting maternal deprivation studies with macaque monkeys? When the monkeys are six months old, Laudenslager separates the infants from their mothers and isolates them for two weeks. The maternally deprived monkeys are then shipped to researchers at the University of Washington who inject them with a version of the HIV virus.
The University of Washington is currently under investigation for undue cruelty towards the monkeys under their care.
Has this longstanding research project achieved any meaningful results, or is it simply one of many that have become a business, fueling the archaic, brutal animal experimentation industry?
How can we go on after learning that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has legitimized the illegal dumping of all manner of waste that has been going on by mine operators for decades, in spite of the opposition of many members of Congress? U.S. Senators Jim Jeffords and Joe Lieberman wrote, in a letter to President George W. Bush, that the proposed rule would jeopardize the health of the nations streams, wetlands, lakes, rivers, and other waters. Their warning went unheeded and the rule was signed on a Friday night at 5:15pm, a time that opponents claim was intentionally chosen to avoid publicity.
How can we go on knowing that President Bush has refused to allow the U.S. to sign treaties reducing global warming and stopping the use of land mines that kill and maim thousands of people every year? And he has created a valueless nuclear treaty with Russia that insures that we will have enough nuclear missiles to kill the world many times over and leaves the option open to develop new, more deadly nuclear weapons.
How can we go on after learning that our efforts to keep our bodies safe from pesticides by eating expensive organic produce have been useless? A study released earlier this month revealed that almost one-fourth of the organic produce in grocery stores could contain traces of pesticides, including long banned chemicals like DDT. Decades of pesticide use has polluted most of the land in the world and drift from farms that are miles away from organic farms can end up on the produce.
How can I go on after learning, in spite of working so hard during his first year of life to keep my son away from harmful chemicals, that we may have been putting him in harm's way every night? Even though we use cloth diapers, we have been using disposable diapers overnight. I just learned this week that the diapers we chose contain the very chemicals we were trying to avoid. Nature Boy and Girl Diapers, a product that claims to be good for the environment, does not list anywhere on their packaging that they contain synthetic oil based polymer salts, also known as sodium polyacrylate, sodium polymer salts, or SAP, that cause great concern among some parents.
These moisture absorbing granules swell up and become a gel that comes into direct contact with a babys skin, continuing to leach moisture from it. I believe that the rectal bleeding my son has been experiencing may be because of that gel.
Is it safe anywhere?
Can you trust anyone?
Just when the blackness from all this misery felt like it was about to envelop me this week, a tiny ray of light made its way through the darkness. After discovering that the disposable diapers we were using at night contained SAP, I immediately sent email to the board of directors and the store managers of the PCC Natural Markets, a major food cooperative in Seattle with seven stores.
The next day, I received the following unexpected email message:
"Hello Jackie, Thank you so much for letting us know of the quality issues with products offered at our store. I have just heard back from our grocery merchandiser and include her comments below:
'Upon receipt of the following letter (your letter), PCC was able to determine that SAP's are indeed used in the Nature Boy and Girl diapers. Although the company's information lists this as 'considerably less' than the market's leading diapers, we feel that the known risks associated with this ingredient justify discontinuing the brand from our product mix... Thank you for your attention to this matter.'
"Your input on products is important and incredibly helpful to our staff. Thank you again for letting us know the results of your experience and research." Mary Kirman, PCC Community Relations Leader, Greenlake
The quick action of PCC, their responsiveness and dedication to their community and their values, has reminded me that we can only survive by taking each day as it comes, doing our very best to honor what we believe in, working to end any suffering we become aware of, and trusting that millions more feel as we do.
We can go on we must go on by taking little steps forward and cherishing the occasional light that shines through the blackness. Those that honor only greed and deception as their deity cannot win and we have to survive to be around to pick up the pieces after they are gone.
We will go on.
CLIP - Please go at http://www.ens-news.com/ens/may2002/2002L-05-17g.html to review those excellent resources.
Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D. is a writer and teacher in Seattle and the author of Healing Our World, A Journey from the Darkness Into the Light, available at: http://www.xlibris.com/HealingOurWorld.html or your local bookstore. Please send your thoughts, comments, and visions to him at: email@example.com and visit his web site at: http://www.healingourworld.com
Published on May 19, 2002 in the Observer of London (http://www.observer.co.uk/)
Why The Earth Summit Matters
Instead of worrying about the trivia of hotel bills and travel arrangements, we should recognize that one of the most important global summits of the decade risks being wrecked by the rich north.
by Ian Willmore
The media was in full cry last week at John Prescott and Margaret Beckett for racking up impressive hotel bills during what was presented as a giant junket to Bali. So were Margaret and John just engaging in a mutual taste for sybaritic living?
Well, no. Bali was the admittedly exotic venue for a preparatory meeting for one of the most important international summits for a decade, the Earth Summit, which will take place in Johannesburg in August this year. This will be the first major inter-governmental conference dealing with sustainable development since Rio in 1992.
There is plenty to talk about. The world economy has outrun the capacity of national Governments and international institutions to regulate and control it. In particular, the largest transnational corporations now wield enormous economic and political power. The number of multinational companies jumped from 7,000 in 1970 to 40,000 by 1995. If they were states, 50 companies would now appear in the list of the world's largest one hundred economies. The five largest companies in the world have combined sales greater than the total incomes of the world's poorest 46 countries. Multinational companies now hold 90 per cent of all technology and product patents.
The growing power of corporations has been accompanied by worsening inequality both within societies and between states. In 1960, it is estimated that the richest fifth of the world's population, almost all living in developed countries, were 30 times richer than the poorest fifth, almost all living in developing countries. By 1997 the top fifth were 74 times richer, and the figures are believed to have got worse since then.
Corporate power is also often associated with irresponsibility towards local populations and the wider environment - Asia Pulp and Paper rampages through the rainforests of Indonesia, using money provided by Barclays Bank; Exxon-Mobil lobbies to destroy the Kyoto agreement on climate change and Balfour Beatty planned to evict thousands of Kurds to build the destructive Ilisu Dam.
A key issue at the Earth Summit will therefore be corporate accountability. Many environment, development and labor organizations - and some Governments - want the Summit to agree on the principle of internationally binding rules to control corporate behavior and ensure that they can be held accountable for their actions. This campaign is backed by political institutions such as the European Parliament. But it is being resisted by the British Government among others, and of course by the United States.
Even some of the G77 group of developing countries have reservations, fearing that a Treaty in this area might simply be used as an excuse by developed countries to deny them access to markets. The hypocrisy of the United States and EU, on the one hand demanding progress towards an ever stronger World Trade Organization while on the other hand jumping to protect their steel industries from external competition, shows just why this concern exists.
The same story could be told about other key issues. The Bush administration has made it clear that it does not want any new global agreements since Rio. It is even trying to unravel some of the progress gained over the last decade. For example it wants to restrict the use of the precautionary principle in decision making. This principle has of course been at the center of trade confrontations between the USA and the EU over restrictions on hormone treated beef and GM food.
Oil producing nations - especially Saudi Arabia - are also trying to prevent energy from becoming a major issue at the Summit. They are supported in this by the USA, which is intent on preventing any mention of the Kyoto Treaty, which of course was reneged on by the Bush Administration. The European Union and others want progress in developing renewable energy, especially in delivering energy to communities who do not have access to electricity, but in the face of US opposition progress may be slow at best.
Developed countries must make solid commitments at a domestic and at an international level before the Earth Summit, including timetables, targets and finance. Without this, the Earth Summit will be little more than an expensive photo opportunity for world leaders. But the omens are not good. At the last preparatory meeting held in New York in April, Governments failed to deliver the promised a 'Program of Action'. This was meant to include commitments to action, identify barriers to progress and ways of removing them, and also agree necessary financial support. This is now the main focus of the meeting in Bali.
Other issues to be discussed at the Earth Summit include water, forestry, fisheries, poverty reduction, and HIV/AIDS. Fourteen to thirty thousand people die each day from water-related diseases. More than a billion people lack adequate clean water, more than double the number using computers. Nearly three billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. On forests, for example, the Summit will need to discuss why destruction of old growth forests has continued apace since Rio.
Between 1980 and 1995 the extent of the world's forests decreased by an area roughly the size of Mexico. In 2000 the World Conservation Union (IUCN) found that 18 per cent of the world's estimated 11,000 threatened species were critically endangered. Meanwhile, 80 per cent of the world's people do not have access to enough paper to meet minimum requirements for basic literacy and communication, but wealthy countries consumer paper at an astonishing rate. An average American uses 19 times more paper than the average person in a developing country and most of it becomes trash. Less than half of the paper used in the US gets recycled.
The extent of the illegal timber trade is shocking. A report by the Brazilian Secretariat for Strategic Affairs in 1997 found that 80 per cent of logging in the Brazilian Amazon was illegal. The Indonesia-UK Tropical Forest Management 'Program (2000) concluded that 73 per cent of Indonesia's logging was illegal. Figures are similar throughout the tropics. FOE has concluded that half of the timber that enters the EU may be illegally sourced - and in the UK the rate is believed to be 60 per cent.
So it's not as though there's nothing to talk about in Bali or Johannesburg. Poverty, environmental destruction and climate change threaten all our futures, our society and our families as well as those of the developing world. They are a principal cause of insecurity and conflict across the planet. But the Summit is now in grave danger of failing completely, as President Bush's "unilateral" - or isolationist - foreign policy threatens to wreck any progress on the most vital areas. No wonder politicians are held in such disrepute. They show few signs of even understanding the dangers posed by a world economy that is beyond political and popular control, let alone agreeing on what to do about it.
The likely failure of the Earth Summit was the real story this week. Rather than worrying about Mr Prescott's hotel bills, the media should be demanding that the United States and other rich northern countries stop their outrageously obstructive behavior and allow real progress towards a fairer and more sustainable world.
Ian Willmore is Media Coordinator of Friends of the Earth - http://www.foe.co.uk/
The Earth Summit Website
World Summit on Sustainable Development
Annan urges world summit to rehabilitate the earth.
NEW YORK, May 14, 2002 (ENS) - United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is looking ahead a little more than three months to August 26 when the World Summit on Sustainable Development opens in Johannesburg, South Africa. Intended as a 10 year reinvigoration of Agenda 21 agreed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, Annan sees the gathering as a means to rehabilitate the Earth. (...) Annan stated concrete goals for each of the five areas he wants to see the WSSD take action to achieve.
Water: Provide access to at least one billion people who lack clean drinking water and two billion people who lack proper sanitation.
Energy: Provide access to more than two billion people who lack modern energy services; promote renewable energy; reduce overconsumption; and ratify the Kyoto Protocol to address climate change.
Health: Address the effects of toxic and hazardous materials; reduce air pollution, which kills three million people each year, and lower the incidence of malaria and African guinea worm, which are linked with polluted water and poor sanitation.
Agricultural productivity: Work to reverse land degradation, which affects about two-thirds of the world's agricultural lands.
Biodiversity and ecosystem management: Reverse the processes that have destroyed about half of the world's tropical rainforest and mangroves, and are threatening 70 percent of the world's coral reefs and decimating the world's fisheries.
World Resources Institute - Earth Trends
Stressed Seafloors - The world could be trawling at least 20 million km? of the seaflooran area nearly 2.5 times the size of Brazil. Some equate the effects of trawling on the seafloor to the effects of clearcutting on forest ecosystems.
UN warns of looming water crisis (22 Mar 02)
More than 2.7 billion people will face severe water shortages by the year 2025 if the world continues consuming water at the same rate, the United Nations has warned. A new report released to mark World Water Day on Friday says that another 2.5 billion people will live in areas where it will be difficult to find sufficient fresh water to meet their needs. The looming crisis is being blamed on mismanagement of existing water resources, population growth and changing weather patterns. (...) The commission is calling for greater effort to be made in the developed world to conserve and protect water resources. The UN body says wasted water is costing Europe around $10bn a year. According to the report, by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an estimated 1.1 billion people have no access to safe drinking water, 2.5 billion lack proper sanitation and more than five million people die from waterborne diseases each year - 10 times the number of casualties killed in wars around the globe. Less than 3% of the Earth's water is fresh and most of it is in the form of polar ice or too deep underground to reach. The amount of fresh water that is accessible in lakes, rivers and reservoirs is less than a quarter of 1% of the total. (...) The UN says that the implications of the water crisis will be extreme for the people most affected, who are among the world's poorest, limiting their ability to grow crops, which they need to survive. Agriculture consumes about 70% of the world's available water, but experts say that, where there are competing demands for water, small farmers are the first to lose their supply.
I also received this below from Julian <firstname.lastname@example.org> on 14 May 2002
Subject: Massive Pullout from World Summit
Drawbacks and Shortcomings
Many groups from around the world say NO to their earlier planned participation at the World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg later this year.
Feature by John Bamau
14. May 2002
The mainstream Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and especially those ones, who cover for the United Nations as "representing the people", gear up for the Development Summit. Some like the Global Youth Forum are even paid by the United Nations (UN) to do so and others are paid to (moderately please!) "protest". The world wonders what actually is going on, since more and more voices are heard, which call the Global Summit of this decade a non-starter.
The UN-selected groups as well as some continent-hopping professional protesters will most likely still go and sit or fight with participating governments at this summit in South Africa, but many hundreds if not already thousands of civil society organizations and individuals have terminated their plans and stepped off the road to Johannesburg. The number of resisters is growing every day. A total flop of the whole conference is immanent and after the rather failed preparation conference more likely than ever.
"The summit will just be another public relations gimmick by and for those who continued to collect our knowledge and vision over the last thirty years since Stockholm [the first global summit] in order to produce them as their own bright ideas and to feed them back to us, while secretly putting the strategic countermeasures in place against those of our demands, which don't fit into their money oriented concepts", Claude Dechamps, an obviously frustrated board member of a community based organization in the south of France wrote in her latest newsletter.
"Who will benefit from the summit?", asks Patricia Hutton in an e-mail from Canada and she continues: "I don't believe that anything good will come out from a conference, organized, financed and steered by a cartel of nation governments, which can not even agree to do something effectively against the manmade changes of the world climate.
Still UN Secretary General Kofi Annan reiterates his Mantra of WEHAB (Water and sanitation, Energy, Health, Agriculture, Biodiversity) as the five areas where solutions are long overdue to be found. But only the officials, who still pat on each others back, and those, who directly are busy to make money with the conference event, or those who got the expensive tickets for the preparation conference in Bali, an island still unfree and occupied by Indonesia and its military, continue to proclaim that the Global Summit will make the world a better place. For them maybe yes, but if for the billions of impoverished people is not only another question - it is at least already out of that specific question, which is answered daily by the natural world itself: It just disappears! Nature and Humanity disappear with lightning speed, while "global leaders" continue to meet and meet and meet and - if at all - today only gather in extremely policed states.
More on this...
Massive police presence planned for summit
CIVIL SOCIETY UPSET ABOUT SUMMIT PREPARATIONS: Civil society is particularly upset about the failure of PrepComm III. Some NGOs were even thinking that in the end, it might be better to have NO summit at all rather than a flawed one. Explore some of the NGO positions at http://www.worldsummit2002.org/guide/civilsociety.htm
JOHANNESBURG SUMMIT PREPARATIONS BOG DOWN (April 8, 2002)
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