27 July 2010
Tonight’s program is one for the birds. We’ll be talking with author Sy Montgomery about her new book, Birdology, a celebration of the amazing physical and mental characteristics of birds, along with stories of her experiences working with birds and some of the people who love and train them.
Earthlife.net tells us there are about 9,703 species of birds divided up into 23 orders, 142 families and 2,057. They can be found on all major land masses from the poles to the tropics as well as in or over all our seas and oceans and their accompanying islands.
The total number of birds on the planet is very difficult to estimate because their populations fluctuate seasonally, but scientists have suggested that there may be between 100 and 200 trillion adult or near adult birds on the planet at any one time.
Since the 1600s, however, at least 115 species of bird are known to have gone extinct, mostly as a result of human interference of one sort or another. http://www.earthlife.net/birds/intro.html
One of the best known extinction stories, of course, is that of the Dodo, as described by David Reilly, The Dodo.
In the year 1598 AD, Portuguese sailors landing on the shores of the island of Mauritius [in the Southwest Indian ocean off Africa], discovered a previously unknown species of bird, [which came to be called] the Dodo. Having been isolated by its island location from contact with humanity, the dodo greeted the new visitors with a child-like innocence. The sailors mistook the gentle spirit of the dodo, and its lack of fear of the new predators, as stupidity. They dubbed the bird “dodo” (meaning something similar to a simpleton in the Portuguese tongue). Many dodo were killed by the human visitors, and those that survived man had to face the introduced animals. Dogs and pigs soon became feral when introduced to the Mauritian ecosystem. By the year 1681, the last dodo had died,… davidreilly.com
There are also a few positive news stories concerning extinction. Earthlife.net notes the example of the:
…Mauritius Kestrel [from the same island as the dodo] … once down to 4 wild individuals, but now there are more than 300. [There's also the success story of] the Californian Condor … which after the last wild male was caught in 1987 was down to 27 individuals all in captivity. By 1994 captive breeding had brought the population up to 75 with 9 in the wild.
Next, we’d like to take up some of your concerns about the future of birds:
There are also numerous sites for people of all ages who want to learn more about birds and participate in bird conservation.
July 20, 1010
Tonight’s topic on Ecotopia is the National Park System. We’ll be talking with a former National Park Ranger, Andrea Lankford, who has written a book called Ranger Confidential, with some behind-the-scenes insights into the National Park system works, and some of the problems it and its employees.
Background on the National Park System
We thought it would be helpful to background this discussion with a little history of the National Parks, this by Barry Mackintosh, who the bureau historian for 17 years as bureau historian. He writes:
The national park concept is generally credited to the artist George Catlin [who did extensive painting of western scenes, including American Indians].. On a trip to the Dakotas in 1832, he worried about the impact of America’s westward expansion on Indian civilization, wildlife, and wilderness. They might be preserved, he wrote, “by some great protecting policy of government… in a magnificent park…. A nation’s park, containing man and beast, in all the wild and freshness of their nature’s beauty!”
Catlin’s vision was partly realized in 1864, when Congress donated Yosemite Valley to California for preservation as a state park. Eight years later, in 1872, Congress reserved the spectacular Yellowstone country in the Wyoming and Montana territories “as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” With no state government there yet to receive and manage it, Yellowstone remained in the custody of the U.S. Department of the Interior as a national park-the world’s first area so designated.
Congress followed the Yellowstone precedent with other national parks in the 1890s and early 1900s, including Sequoia, Yosemite (to which California returned Yosemite Valley), Mount Rainier, Crater Lake, and Glacier. The idealistic impulse to preserve nature was often joined by the pragmatic desire to promote tourism: western railroads lobbied for many of the early parks and built grand rustic hotels in them to boost their passenger business.
The late nineteenth century also saw growing interest in preserving prehistoric Indian ruins and artifacts on the public lands. Congress first moved to protect such a feature, Arizona’s Casa Grande Ruin, in 1889. In 1906 it created Mesa Verde National Park, containing dramatic cliff dwellings in southwestern Colorado, and passed the Antiquities Act authorizing presidents to set aside “historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest” in federal custody as national monuments. Theodore Roosevelt used the act to proclaim 18 national monuments before he left the presidency. They included not only cultural features like El Morro, New Mexico, site of prehistoric petroglyphs and historic inscriptions, but natural features like Arizona’s Petrified Forest and Grand Canyon. Congress later converted many of these natural monuments to national parks.
By 1916 the Interior Department was responsible for 14 national parks and 21 national monuments but had no organization to manage them. Interior secretaries had asked the Army to detail troops to Yellowstone and the California parks for this purpose. There military engineers and cavalrymen developed park roads and buildings, enforced regulations against hunting, grazing, timber cutting, and vandalism, and did their best to serve the visiting public. [...]
The parks were [...] vulnerable to competing interests, including some within the ascendent conservation movement. Utilitarian conservationists favoring regulated use rather than strict preservation of natural resources advocated the construction of dams by public authorities for water supply, power, and irrigation purposes. When San Francisco sought to dam Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley for a reservoir after the turn of the century, the utilitarian and preservationist wings of the conservation movement came to blows. Over the passionate opposition of John Muir and other park supporters, Congress in 1913 permitted the dam, which historian John Ise later called “the worst disaster ever to come to any national park.”
[... When Franklin] Roosevelt launched his New Deal, the Park Service received another mission: depression relief. Under its supervision the Civilian Conservation Corps employed thousands of young men in numerous conservation, rehabilitation, and construction projects in both the national and state parks. .[...]
The postwar era brought new pressures on the parks as the nation’s energies were redirected to domestic pursuits. Bureau of Reclamation plans to dam wilderness canyons in Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado and Utah touched off a conservation battle recalling Hetch Hetchy. [...]
We don’t have time to read the entire history of the system, but Barry Mackintosh goes on to cover such topics as overdevelopment of the parks for tourist purposes and exploitation and loss of natural resources even as the parks have developed new attractions for tourists, including interpretive centers, exhibits focusing on environmentalism, living history projects, protection of nationally recognized historic places, and development and servicing of trails such as the Appalachian Trails. Check out the full history at http://www.nps.gov/history/history/hisnps/npshistory/npshisto.htm
We’ll be asking our guest, Andrea Lankford, about some of the problems facing the system, including a number identified in an online article by Eisla Sebastion on the Yahoo Associated Content site. She writes:
There are seven main areas of environmental problems that face the U.S. National Park System: overuse, insufficient funds for park operation, threats to wildlife, the concession systems, energy and mineral development, atmospheric pollution, and activities on adjacent lands. The popularity of National Parks especially the crown jewel parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks, have overwhelmed some national parks with visitors. In fact, the amount of visitors to national parks has steadily increased by 10% each year. This massive increase in pedestrian and vehicle traffic has caused trails to become eroded from overuse, vegetation surrounding trails around popular attraction to be trampled by visitors, and litter, noise, water pollution, and smog have all impeded the enjoyability of national parks. This increase in visitors and the need for the few rangers employed by the park to meet the needs of more and more visitors have created a safety issue. Rangers can’t monitor the entire park for criminal activity, and this impacts the safety of national parks. (Kaufman and Franz, 1993, 474).
[...] Wildlife at national parks is also threatened by the increasing popularity of these areas. More visitors means that there are more people approaching wild animals to take pictures and watch their “natural behaviors.” While these observations don’t necessarily harm the animals if done discretely from a distance, there are a few irresponsible individuals who take risks to get close to animals. They harass the animals and provoke them in order to get an action shot or to prove their “manhood.”
The concession system is another issue that is plaguing the national park system. (Kaufman and Franz, 1993, 478). In this case, private companies bid to sell their products in the park to visitors. While they are able to monopolize a market, and they are allowed to operate on national park property, they only return 25% of the money earned to the government. This percentage doesn’t make up for the amount of pollution they create from the tourists littering, or from the environmental impacts of their concession stand and sales.
There’s more to read in this article about problems facing the national parks. Read the full article at:
Our Discussion with Andrea Lankford
Our guest tonight is Andrea Lankford. She had a twelve year career as a Ranger in the National Park System, with assignments from Cape Hatteras to Utah to Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. She has also trekked the Appalachian trail, kayaked from Miami to Key West, and cycled to the Arctic Ocean. Her book is titled, Ranger Confidential, with a foreboding subtitle: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks.
The book is Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks. a Falcon Guide publication of the Globe Pequot Press. Andrea has also done books on bicycling the Arizona trail, biking in the Grand Canyon area, and Haunted Hikes: Spine Tingling Tails and Trails from America’s National Park. You can learn more about them and about Andrea at her website: http://www.andrealankford.com
A Brief History of Smokey Bear
On the cover of her book, Ranger Confidential, is a battered ranger hat, commonly called a “Smokey Bear” hat–flat brim, familiar to us all through his forest fire prevention ads. Smokey Bear is actually not a member of the National Park Service. He represents the National Forest Service, a separate government division, that is actually part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Nevertheless, we thought it might be interesting to close out tonight’s program with a brief biography of Smokey Bear. Here’s his history from the Pennsylvania Forestry Division:
Smokey Bear, the guardian of our forests, has been a part of the American scene for so many years it is hard for us to remember when he first appeared. Dressed in a ranger’s hat, belted blue jeans, and carrying a shovel, he has been the recognized forest fire prevention symbol for over 50 years. Today, Smokey Bear is one of the most famous advertising symbols in the world and is protected by Federal Law. He has his own private zip code, his own legal council, and his own private committee to insure that his name is used properly. Smokey Bear is much more than a make-believe paper image; he exists as an actual symbol of forest fire prevention.
To understand how Smokey Bear became associated with forest fire prevention, we must go back to World War II. On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor. The following spring in 1942, a Japanese submarine surfaced near the coast of Southern California and fired a salvo of shells that exploded on an oil field near Santa Barbara, very close to the Los Padres National Forest. Americans throughout the country were shocked by the news that the war had now been brought directly to the American mainland. There was concern that further attacks could bring a disastrous loss of life and destruction of property. There was also a fear that enemy incendiary shells exploding in the timber stands of the Pacific Coast could easily set off numerous raging forest fires. With experienced firefighters and other able-bodied men engaged in the armed forces, the home communities had to deal with the forest fires as best they could. Protection of these forests became a matter of national importance, and a new idea was born. If people could be urged to be more careful, perhaps some of the fires could be prevented.
With this is mind, the Forest Service organized the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Campaign with the help of the Wartime Advertising Council.
Posters and slogans were created by the Advertising Council, including “Forest Fires Aid the Enemy,” and “Our Carelessness, Their Secret Weapon.” By using catchy phrases, colorful posters and other fire prevention messages, the Advertising Council suggested that people could prevent accidental fires and help win the war.
Walt Disney’s motion picture, “Bambi” was produced in 1944 and Disney let the forest fire prevention campaign use his creation on a poster. The “Bambi” poster was a success and proved that using an animal as a fire prevention symbol would work. A fawn could not be used in subsequent campaigns because “Bambi” was on loan from Walt Disney studios for only one year; the Forest Service would need to find an animal that would belong to the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Campaign. It was finally decided that the Nation’s number one firefighter should be a bear.
On August 9, 1944, the first poster of Smokey Bear was prepared. The poster depicted a bear pouring a bucket of water on a campfire. Smokey Bear soon became popular, and his image began appearing on other posters and cards.
In 1952, Smokey Bear had enough public recognition to attract commercial interest. An Act of Congress passed to take Smokey out of the public domain and place him under the control of the Secretary of Agriculture. The Act provided for the use of collected fees and royalties for forest fire prevention. One of the first licensed items was a Smokey Bear stuffed toy. Hundreds of items have been licensed over the years.
And here’s the Smokey Bear Official Web Site http://www.smokeybear.com/
Playlist for Ecotopia #95: Ranger Confidential
1. Carry Me Off 3:54 The Dillards Roots And Branches/Tribute To The American Duck
2. Nature’s Way 2:40 Spirit Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus
3. Sunshine On My Shoulders (Digitally Remastered) 5:11 John Denver Definitive All-Time Greatest Hits
4. Earth Anthem 3:54 The Turtles Go Green: Songs for Earth Day, Volume 1
5. Haunted by Waters – A River Runs Through It (Reprise) 4:22 Mark Isham A River Runs Through It
6. Weave Me the Sunshine 4:28 Peter, Paul And Mary The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary
7. Clear Blue Skies (LP Version) 3:07 Crosby, Still, Nash & Young American Dream
8. Black Moon (Album Version) 6:59 Emerson, Lake & Palmer Black Moon
July 6, 2010
Tonight’s program is something of an Ecotopian potpourri. Over the past couple of weeks, a number of news items and announcements have come to our attention, and we haven’t been able to include them in the show. So tonight we are going to hopscotch the Ecotopian universe, with stories including a hotel constructed out of recycled trash, a bikeway made from recycled printer cartridges, an announcement concerning a lawsuit affecting northstate water, and editorial responses to the president’s handling of the Gulf oil catastrophe.
Northstate Water Issues
Listeners may recall that just a few weeks ago, we interviewed Jimmy Brobeck, a water researcher and analyst for Aqualliance, and he warned of efforts that are being made to bypass thorough environmental reviews by groups that want to transfer huge quantitites of northstate water to quench the insatiable thirst of the south.
Here’s the Aqualliance press release–it reads:
Federal Water Transfers Challenged in Court
Sacramento Valley Communities, Farms, and Fish in Jeopardy
AquAlliance, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, and the California Water Impact Network have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to protect the economy and the environment of the northern Sacramento Valley.
The Bureau‟s Environmental Assessment and Findings of No Significant Impact for the 2010-2011 Water Transfer Program reveals plans to export 395,000 acre-feet of Central Valley Project and State Water Project water to buyers south of the San Francisco Bay Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta. To replace the water sold to San Joaquin Valley growers in low-priority water districts, the plan would permit Sacramento Valley surface water right holders to substitute 154,237 acre-feet of groundwater to continue rice production.
The plaintiff groups allege that the [materials submitted by the water purveyaors] violates the National Environmental Policy Act because, among other things, it: …
–Contains a fundamentally flawed alternatives analysis, and
–Inadequately analyzes the impacts from implementing the two years transfer program.
The lawsuit seeks a comprehensive environmental review for the water transfer program. Repeated water transfer projects in the last decade have all occurred without the benefit of thorough federal or state environmental analysis, which would require the establishment of baseline conditions, comprehensive
monitoring, and the disclosure of impacts.
The Aqualliance web site also includes extensive background material on the case and on other efforts to draw down the water table in the Sacramento River Valley. There will be a public commentary opportunities, including a July 14 hearing at the Chico Public Library, 1-3 pm. We encourage listeners to check all this out on the website, aqualliance dot net.
They also provide a link to this fascinating editorial from the Monterey County Herald, which challenges the argument that farmers in the San Joaquin Valley need all that extra water being proposed for shipment from the northstate and elsewhere. It reads: [The] Sky hasn’t fallen over water allotment reduction:
Let’s return for a moment to last spring, when doom and gloom descended on the San Joaquin Valley in the form of water-allotment reductions that, we were told, would bankrupt the farmers, idle the workers and turn the region into a modern dust bowl.
Perhaps you remember when TV commentator Sean Hannity, with ample PR help from the huge Westlands Water District, went on the air with a series of heart-tugging stories about how farms and jobs were being lost because wrongheaded environmentalists and federal officials were diverting “valley” water to protect insignificant smelt and salmon.
In western Fresno County, the bedraggled farm town of Mendota provided the perfect backdrop for photo opportunities featuring busloads of sad-eyed field workers supposedly thrown out of work by the likes of the Sierra Club.
Unfortunately for the recreational and commercial fishing industries and others with an interest in keeping the environment in balance, Hannity and other easily misled news operations largely missed the story about the dramatic decline in the salmon population caused, largely, by San Joaquin Delta pumping schedules that traditionally favored field crops over fish.
Well, guess what. Farm income did slip last year in Fresno County. By 75 percent? Fifty percent?
Try 4.5 percent.
The county-by-county annual crop reports came out this week, and Fresno County retained its title as the king of California agriculture, producing $5.4 billion in receipts.
“I don’t know how ag did it, but they did it,” said Fresno County Agricultural Commissioner Carol Hafner. “This is our third year of more than $5 billion in value.”
It really is not a mystery. The growers did it by relying on water allotments that had been hoarded, by turning on their own pumps and by raising prices.
It is significant that the neighboring counties of Kings and Tulare saw much sharper declines in farm income, 25percent and 19percent, respectively, but not because of lost irrigation water. Dairy is a larger factor in those counties, and wholesale milk prices plunged in 2009.
To be fair, it certainly was a tough year for Fresno County agriculture. A small portion of the federally subsidized water was indeed lost to the fisheries, so farmers scrambled to change crops and planting patterns. Some fields were taken out of production in order to protect recent large investments in tree crops, including big water users such as citrus, almonds and pistachios.
Times certainly were tough in dusty Mendota. Times have always been tough in Mendota. Almost assuredly, the income of Fresno County farmworkers dropped more than the 5.4percent overall decline in farm income.
But times are tougher yet along the docks and harbors of California, where the salmon harvest has been wiped out by a water delivery system dominated by ag interests aided and abetted by Hannity and others who wouldn’t want the facts to get in the way of a sad story.
Obviously the Monterey paper is more interested in fishing and sports than in the fate of the water table in the northstate, but the helps to rein in the notion that without northern water, the California Agricultural Economic Engine will grind to a halt. You can access that editorial through the Aqualliance web site, and here’s the direct link at ecotopiakzfr.net
Gulf Oil and Global Oil ManagementOf great and continuing concern is the BP Gulf Oil spill, and we want to offer a sampling of editorial opinion.
From the Times-Union, Albany, New York, comes this editorial, dated June 17: ”Beyond the gulf, a new course” :
“The most telling words spoken Tuesday about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill didn’t come from President Obama but from an oil executive, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson.
“‘When these things happen, we are not well-equipped to deal with them,’ Mr. Tillerson acknowledged at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing.
It’s as good an argument for the President’s moratorium on offshore drilling as we’ve heard lately.
Some might say Mr. Tillerson was stating the obvious two months into a disaster that continues to spew upward of 2.5 million gallons of crude into the gulf each day. But many still needed to hear it, particularly those who want to believe, or at least assert, that the disaster could have been stopped by now, if only BP was more committed to plugging the leak or the President was more forceful, as if this was a matter of sheer will.
The reality is, the oil industry is in way over its head on deepwater offshore drilling, and so are we all. For too long, we have allowed the issue of offshore drilling to be reduced to just another political disagreement, as debatable as whether one likes the Yankees or the Red Sox.
What’s leaking out of BP’s well a mile underwater, what’s washing up on beaches and killing fish and other wildlife isn’t an opinion. It is evidence of the current limits of human technology. It’s a matter of fact.
Yet already, even some residents and officials in the gulf region are saying Mr. Obama’s moratorium, which suspends 33 drilling operations and holds off any new well permits, is too onerous, because it will only further damage their economy.
We appreciate how serious it is to shut down a source of livelihood for so many people and stop exploration in an oil-rich region that supplies a third of the nation’s needs. But just imagine how different the world would be today if, on April 19, the federal government had realized how inadequately prepared the industry was to deal with an accident, and shut down drilling. America would not have an environmental catastrophe, one that will take years to clean up, on its hands. The nation cannot risk another.
Mr. Obama was right to order a six-month moratorium. He should extend it for as long as it takes the oil industry to prove it can fix its mistakes and accidents — and to be able to do it in a matter of days, if not hours.
And Congress needs to learn the lesson of the gulf and move forward with a national energy policy that heeds the President’s call — not at all different from other calls we’ve heard for decades — to tackle our addiction to fossil fuels. A policy that redirects our energy, if you will, to more efficient buildings, factories and means of transportation, and to developing and refining sources of energy that don’t cause problems we can’t fix.
And far away, coming from the Anchorage Daily Statesman, is this story concerning British Petroleum by reporter Lisa Demer and printed in the mcClatchy Newspapers: Is it time to consider barring BP from federal oil leases?
The federal government should consider barring oil giant BP from drilling on federal land or holding onto its existing leases, says a recently retired federal attorney who spent years dogging BP’s operations in Alaska.
“There comes a point in time where we say enough is enough,” said Jeanne Pascal, who worked for 18 years as a Seattle-based attorney for the Environmental Protection Agency. “Because BP has definitely turned into a major serial environmental criminal.”
Pascal said that BP has been convicted of environmental violations three times since 2000 – twice in Alaska – and that the April 20 Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico that sparked what President Barack Obama calls the biggest environmental disaster in the nation’s history fits a pattern of behavior. She said BP got off too easy when it was allowed to plead guilty in 2007 to a misdemeanor for a record North Slope spill in 2006. No individual was charged.
Scott West agrees. He was the EPA special agent in charge of the criminal investigation division in Seattle that investigated BP Alaska’s operations.
“The people who are making the decisions playing fast and loose on that (Gulf) rig – ‘Hurry up, we are over time, we are over budget, let’s take the shortcut’ – if they’d seen some of their peers go to jail for those kinds of decisions, maybe they would have said, ‘You know, my bonus this year just isn’t worth it,’” West said, referring to congressional allegations that BP cut corners to save money on the Deepwater Horizon project.
Both West and Pascal have been speaking out publicly since their retirements.
“BP keeps saying that they follow safety protocols and safety is their goal and health is their goal and the environment is their goal,” Pascal said. “But look at their record.”
That record includes:
-A felony conviction in 2000 for failing to report immediately illegal dumping of hazardous waste by a contractor at its Endicott oil field in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea. The punishment: Five years’ probation, $7 million in fines and civil penalties and another $15 million to create an environmental management system.
-A misdemeanor conviction in 2007 stemming from the biggest oil spill ever on Alaska’s North Slope. In March 2006, a BP worker discovered crude leaking from a corroded Prudhoe Bay transit pipeline – 200,000 gallons in all. BP, which admitted that its system for monitoring and preventing corrosion was inadequate, was put on three more years’ probation and ordered to pay $20 million in fines and penalties.
-A felony conviction last year for a 2005 Texas City, Texas, refinery explosion that killed 15 people, injured another 170 and devastated a community. BP Products North America Inc. was fined $50 million and put on three years’ probation.
Pascal said there were other ruptures, explosions and near misses over the years, plus a propane price-fixing case in the Midwest that BP settled with a deferred prosecution.
West said he thinks that BP made a conscious decision not to invest in aging infrastructure for North Slope fields with declining oil production.
“We kept hearing a phrase called ‘operate to failure,’” – a reference West said meant that critical systems and equipment were operated until they broke down instead of maintained.
The federal investigators in the Texas City case were “finding the exact same patterns of neglecting worker safety and environmental concerns to save a few dollars,” West said. “That, of course, indicated to us that it was corporate-wide. It wasn’t just isolated to a particular operating unit.”
BP insists that it puts safety first and is following up on what it promised to do after the 2006 Alaska spill.
“As we said at the time, BP holds its environmental responsibility as a core corporate value,” BP spokesman Steve Rinehart said in an e-mailed response to questions. “We made, and continue to make, significant improvements in our integrity management programs.”
Before she retired in March, Pascal specialized in debarment, a process in which companies are prohibited from federal contracts because of environmental crimes or performance issues. It’s time-consuming, complex and even when successful, might not prevent a company from operating, Pascal said.
Under the federal Clean Water Act, BP was debarred in 2008 as a result of the 2007 Alaska conviction, but the action simply meant that it couldn’t get any new federal contracts at Prudhoe Bay. It didn’t lose its state-issued leases or its ability to operate the field. The only contracts that might be affected relate to its sales of fuel to the military, and a different BP company refines the oil and sells the fuel.
“So it did not have any (significant) impact on its business,” Pascal said of the 2008 EPA debarment action.
Because of the Gulf spill, the federal agencies involved with BP – the EPA; the Interior Department, which oversees federal drilling leases; and the Defense Department, which buys the fuel – need to evaluate whether a more sweeping debarment is in order, she said.
Targeting the company’s executives is another possible way to make a tougher legal point, Pascal and West argue.
West said the investigation into BP’s 2006 spill at Prudhoe was at first aimed at bringing felony charges against corporate executives on the theory that they knew pipes were dangerously corroded and didn’t act.
That position seemed to be supported by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Steward in a June 12, 2007, e-mail in which she said that pledges from BP officials that, “They had changed their attitude of aggressive cost cutting in 2005 and that they were changing how they did things” weren’t enough to avoid prosecution.
West is still angry that two months later prosecutors decided to allow BP to plead to a misdemeanor.
“Here we had a case where we had the potential to go way high. Even to the London headquarters of BP … and we’re settling for a corporate misdemeanor?” said West, who said his team had only begun to examine 62 million pages of documents that BP provided.
U.S. Attorney for Alaska Karen Loeffler, who headed the office’s criminal division at the time, defended the decision. “We knew everything that we were going to be able to prove,” she said. The $20 million fine, she said, “sent a very strong message.”
Pascal and West said that for a company the size of BP, whose quarterly profits are measured in the billions of dollars, the fine was minuscule.
“To me the message has been given to BP loud and clear,” West said. “You are protected. You are beyond prosecution.”
And finally, as we sample stories and editorials concerning the oil spill, comes this editorial from the Washington Post, urging us to put the spill into a larger context of a national energy policy: “Obama’s TV speech undersells how energy policy must change”
FROM THE Oval Office [...] President Obama argued that the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico underscores the need for America to transition from fossil fuels. But even as he attempted to rally Americans by invoking heroic American achievement in World War II and in space, the president didn’t talk much about what could make such a transition happen.
The answer is that oil, gas and coal have to become more expensive to spur research into cleaner energy and encourage efficiency and switching. This could be achieved with a gradually rising tax on fossil fuels or a “cap-and-trade” system that makes utilities and others pay to pollute. The government could rebate most of the proceeds directly to Americans and invest the rest in energy research and transition assistance. When a price is placed on burning dirty fuels, market forces will drive the sort of transition Mr. Obama proposes.
The president knows this. In other speeches before and after the gulf spill, he has argued for it. Yet on Tuesday he only hinted at this and seemed to suggest he’d be open to energy legislation that doesn’t raise the price of carbon.
For that, Republicans bear considerable blame. To be consistent with both science and their philosophy, they should favor a market-based approach. Most on the national stage instead prefer irresponsibly to pillory the idea as a “job-killing national energy tax”; they propose command-and-control energy programs that they think might be more popular. Democrats with ties to coal or manufacturing interests meanwhile dilute the policy, demand payoffs to support it or shortsightedly oppose it. Legislators in both parties champion more federal spending for their favored technologies.
But the harsh political climate is all the more reason why presidential leadership is essential. Passing comprehensive climate legislation isn’t likely to be easier in the next Congress. As the president begins to push on crafting a compromise energy proposal next week, he’ll have to be more forthright on what true change will require.
Plastiki and the High Seas
Deep into the southern hemisphere is the Plastiki, the catamaran constructed from recycled plastic bottles that is wending its way to Sydney, Australia. At noon, today, July 6, in the northstate, it was 6 am tomorrow in the South Pacific, and the Plastiki was nearing Sydney at -22 degrees latitude, 116 degrees longitude. The temperature was 55 degrees, and the Plastiki was proceeding at zero knots, suggesting the winds were pretty flat. They’ve been at sea now for 109 days and have logged 6944 nautical miles.
Listeners may recall that we have conducted two interviews with Jo Royle, the skipper of the Plastiki, and we are hoping to have a conversation with her after the Plastiki lands in Sydney in a few days.
Meanwhile, we have been following her blog and want to read a couple of interesting entries–this one about a torn sail, written just a few days ago:
Just as the night really fell in; just as the off watch had finally drifted off to sleep, which is always tricky straight after dinner; just as I had made Mat and Max a yummy hot chocolate, the treasured last jar – bang!
‘Why is the sail flapping?’ Max said immediately, as I asked Mr T to come and help me. The head sail had ripped along one of the seams two-thirds of the way up, leaving us with a ‘flying jib’, flapping in the air.
It was fairly windy with a two meter swell running through, so Max bore down wind to ease the pressure in the sail, as well as limiting the waves over the heads of T and I on the foredeck.
On a normal boat bringing down a ripped sail and swapping it out for another one would not be such a big deal – but the Plastiki keeps us hot on our toes as she will only allow a couple of minutes without flying a head sail before she rounds up into the wind and tacks. Then tacking back is such a big deal. On the way from San Fran to Xmas [Island] it once took us 5 hours to gybe the boat back round! [...]
Last night with Max on the helm – [several of us] ran around preparing the hoist of the new sail before dropping the one now flying in two pieces. The bows are so narrow it is tricky working two sails at a time up there. Smooth manoeuvres and we were off sailing again in no time.
An afternoon of stitching today, and we are now ready in case the same thing happens again.
Jo Royle’s blog continues the morning after the sail replacement episode:
This morning, as I was cooking up some breakfast – using last night’s left-over rice, to make rice cakes, egg and Bill’s yummy dried Kale. As I was about to serve up, I decided that a sprinkle of cheese on top would do just the job. On reaching into the jars cupboard underneath one of the saloon benches, I was greeted by a whole host of uninvited passengers. Various species of maggots, the whole story of the evolution of maggots all hosted in one cupboard. Sharing the same 20 by 15 foot cabin space as the seven of us.
I quickly forgot about the cheese, closed the cupboard and served breakfast before sharing the treat with everyone.
We then got to work, boiling pans and pans of hot water, lifting every jar (about 100), out of the cupboard and on deck into the process line of the various buckets to be cleaned. First step to be immersed in boiling hot soapy water, next to be wiped, then scrubbed around the rims with a tooth brush. They were clingy little critters.
One of the jars of beef stew had smashed- there was still some chunks of meat in it, with the remainder of the sauce all over the jars below. My body shivers as I think about reaching in for the broken jar, crawly things all over it!!!
At watch change over Vern stepped in to save the day. He proceeded to spend about three hours ensuring every maggot went swimming. He then cooked dinner!
A tired bird joined us for dinner tonight, circling the boat for about half an hour, before successfully landing on the tri attic, putting any trapeze artists in the cirque de soli to shame.
We’ve posted the link to Jo Royle’s blog on our website, and you can learn more about the voyage at the http://www.plastiki.com.
And Some Good News About Ink Cartridges
Lemery Reyes at Newsdesk, an Australian website, writes that:
An Australian national park just got a little more green: it built a new bike pathway with recycled printer cartridges.
The Simpsons Gap Bicycle Path stretches 10.5 miles inside the West MacDonnell National Park. The pathway was made with recycled plastics and printer cartridges. The national park is located in the central part of Australia, and is over 1,200 miles away from Melbourne.
According to the Northern Territory government, the project was completed by local contractors for $330,000 and is part of a tourism stimulus package.
“Here at Simpson’s Gap repairs and upgrades to the Bike Path Bridge are now complete, leaving us a safer bridge for riders with a great natural aesthetic,” said Parks and Wildlife Minister Karl Hampton. “In keeping with our government’s commitment to sustainable development, the bridge is made from recycled plastic decking, saving landfill, trees and ensuring a longer life with less maintenance.”
“Every year more than 120,000 people visit the magnificent West MacDonnell National Park and by investing in our parks we are able to ensure visitors have a unique experience while we protect our environment.”
According to the Australian National University, over 80 percent of used toner cartridges are thrown in landfills. They also report that Australians throw away 18 million cartridges every year. Currently, there is a program called “Cartridges 4 Planet Ark” in Australia. The organization that initiated the recycling program, Planet Ark, released a research study in April about the continent’s recycling habits.
“The research found more than 90 percent of Australians correctly dispose of everyday household recyclables but when it comes to recycling e-waste (electronic waste) such as printer cartridges, almost 50 percent of people are getting it wrong,” said Planet Ark’s Campaigns Manager, Brad Gray. “It’s really encouraging that most Australians recycle their paper and plastic packaging but when it comes to e-waste recycling we still have a long way to go.”
“Printer cartridges are complex items which are unable to be recycled alongside everyday household waste,” added Gray. “When we put the wrong items in a household recycling bin, we contaminate the entire contents of the bin and reduce the effectiveness of the whole recycling process.”
According to Planet Ark, they can also process and recycle cartridges. Other cartridges are returned to the original equipment manufacturer to process or recycle at a different location. The other materials kept are used to make aluminum cans or park benches.
“Many of the components that make up a printer cartridge, such as steel, plastic and ink, are reused to make new resources such as fridges, park benches, rulers, pens and more,” reported Planet Ark.
Next Week on EcotopiaWe’ll be interviewing Dr. Kerry Crofton, who has written a new book about cell phone radiation dangers. She’ll talk with us about the research that demonstrates those dangers, how to recognize symptoms of radiation effects, and how to protect yourself and your family from them. She’ll be talking with us from British Columbia via a land line, not a cellphone!
July 13, 2010
Tonight we will be looking a subject that has generated a good deal of controversy: Whether or not cell phones (and other devices that emit electromagnetic radiation) are harmful to your health. Our guest is Dr. Kerry Crofton, who is a health care specialist and who has published a new book called Wireless Radiation Rescue: safeguarding your family from the risks of electro-pollution
Background on ElectroPollution This is a highly controversial topic, and it’s clear that not all the evidence is in on the topic. We’ll ask our guest, Dr. Kerry Crofton, to summarize some of that evidence for us.
Meanwhile, close to home, just last week, the City of San Francisco posted a new ordinance requiring stores to post levels of cell phone radiation. Here’s an article from the Washington Post by Cecilia Kang:
San Francisco [has become] the first U.S. jurisdiction to respond to increased concerns over possible links between cellphone use and cancer, adopting a city ordinance requiring retailers to post the radiation levels of mobile phones.
In a 10-to-1 vote, the city’s board of supervisors passed an ordinance that would require stores to post the specific absorption rates (SAR) of phones. Those rates are the levels at which radio frequencies penetrate body tissue. Mayor Gavin Newsom co-sponsored the measure and is expected to sign off on the ordinance to make it official.San Francisco’s action casts new attention on the potential link between cellphone use and cancer and other illnesses caused by the radiation emitted from phones. The issue hasn’t gained as much attention in the United States as it has overseas, where Israel, Great Britain, France and Germany are among a growing number of countries that have begun warning cellphones users of potential risks those devices pose for long-term users and children.
The cellphone industry, meanwhile, has successfully fought similar legislation in the California legislature. Its trade groups CTIA and TechAmerica also argued against a bill in Maine this year that would require Maine retailers to brandish warning labels of the effects cellphone radiation might have on children. Both bills were defeated, and the industry argued that both would have caused confusion and gone against some scientific studies that don’t show a link between cellphone use and cancer.But there has also been a growing body of research that shows a potential connection between long-term cellphone use and brain tumors. And the risks are greater for children, according to some scientists who participated in a 13-nation long-term study on cellphone use and cancer called Interphone. Kang quotes Representative Edward Markeyt of Massachusetts, who said:
“It is my hope that [the] vote in San Francisco will spur more research into the possible health effects of radiation emitted by mobile phones, particularly with respect to potential effects on children.” Markey [is former] chairman of the House telecommunications subcommittee. Markey had conducted hearings in the early 1990s into the health impact of cellphones. “No single study is conclusive, and ongoing research is needed to add to the body of knowledge on this important subject. I look forward to following the implementation of the San Francisco ordinance and continuing the work I began in the 1990s when I was chairman of the telecommunications subcommittee, to encourage more scientific studies that advance our understanding in this vital area.”
The Cell Phone industry quickly responded to the San Francisco ordinance. We quote from an article by Kent German in CNET:
Industry groups naturally tend to protect their own, and after playing with San Francisco for several years the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) is now taking its ball and going home.
On Tuesday, the association said in a statement that it would no longer hold its autumn trade show in San Francisco after this year’s event in October. CTIA, which represents the wireless industry in the United States, is not happy that the city’s Board of Supervisors recently voted to require cell phone manufacturers [...] to display the specific absorption rate [...] for each handset sold.
Kent German quotes a statement from CITA:
“Rather than inform, the ordinance will potentially mislead consumers with point of sale requirements suggesting that some phones are ‘safer’ than others based on radiofrequency emissions,” the statement said. “In fact, all phones sold legally in the U.S. must comply with the Federal Communications Commission’s safety standards for RF emissions. According to the FCC, all such compliant phones are safe phones as measured by these standards.”
But, Kent German points out:
It’s ironic that in the process of accusing San Francisco of oversimplifying the issue, CTIA is doing the exact same thing. Though the group is correct that all phones sold in the United States must conform to FCC standards a[n emission rate] of 1.6 watts per kilogram or lower), there is still no scientific consensus that cell phone radiofrequency is or is not harmful. That’s a fact CTIA should face, whether it likes it or not.
Even the long-awaited Interphone study, which the cell phone industry partially funded, was largely inconclusive. “Overall, no increase in risk of glioma or meningioma was observed with use of mobile phones,” the study said. “There were suggestions of an increased risk of glioma at the highest exposure levels, but biases and error prevent a causal interpretation.”
In the lack of scientific evidence CNET has always encouraged readers to stay informed about cell phone radiation and make decisions based on their comfort level. If you are concerned, we offer several recommendations, one of which is choosing a phone with a lower SAR (see CNET’s cell phone radiation charts for more information).
We’ve posted a link to CNET’s cell phone radiation charts on our own website, ecotopiakzfr.net.
http://www.cnet.com/8301-17918_1-20008999-85.htmlell phones and brain tumors. David Gutierrez writes:
Meanwhile, Natural News reports that evidence is mounting between
A growing body of evidence, dating back to the 1960s, suggests that brain tumors may be only one of the many health problems produced by our new wireless society will produce.
Cell-phone technology “could lead to a health crisis similar to those caused by asbestos, smoking, and lead in petrol,” warned the European Union’s environmental watchdog agency in 2007.
The most ambitious attempt to catalogue the health risks of cell phones to date is the industry-funded Interphone study, carried out by researchers from 13 different countries (not including the United States). Although the study has been criticized for selecting data in a way designed to play down the risks of cell phone use, it continues to turn up alarming findings nonetheless. Among the findings so far are a 40 percent increase in brain tumor risk among adults who use a cell phone for 10 years (especially on the side of the head where the phone is held); a 300 percent increased risk of acoustic nerve tumors; and an increased risk of tumors of the parotid gland. The risk of a brain tumor increases by 400 percent in people who start using a cell phone before the age of 20.
The report in Natural News continues:
Other studies, mostly out of Europe, have linked mobile phone and personal digital assistant (PDA) use to DNA damage, sperm death, and brain damage including early-onset dementia. These findings regularly make big news in the international press, but are by and large played down in U.S. media.
The United States has a long history of hostility toward the claim that the microwave radiation used by microwave ovens, cell phones, cell phone towers and wireless internet (Wi-Fi) can be harmful to human health. U.S. law prohibits challenging the placement of cell phone towers on health grounds, and an industry group (the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) is highly influential in setting exposure standards.
The first research on the risks of microwave radiation was actually uncovered by a U.S. researcher, Allan Frey, in the 1960s. Frey discovered that “nonionizing” electromagnetic radiation — previously thought to be harmless — could still produce biological effects. For example, radar waves can produce “sound” even in the absence of actual sound waves by interfering with the brain’s own electromagnetic signals. Frey found that microwaves could damage the organs of lab animals, even stopping their hearts completely. [...]
Modern research supports these early findings, with 75 percent of independently funded studies showing health risks from cell phone radiation (in contrast with only 25 percent of industry funded studies). Researchers have also documented dramatic rises in the rate of numerous health problems immediately following the introduction of widespread Wi-Fi and cell phone networks across Europe.
Such concerns have led European governments to consider banning Wi-Fi in government facilities, and to the Austrian Medical Association’s call for a ban on Wi-Fi in schools. The national library of France has already removed all Wi-Fi connections due to health concerns.[...]
Our Discussion with Kerry Crofton
Dr. Kerry Crofton, is author of a new book called Wireless Radiation Rescue: safeguarding your family from the risks of electro-pollution.
Part I: What’s the problem?
–a teenager addicted to cellphoning and texting.
–an office internet addict using wireless.
–just plain folks who use cell phones, wireless, etc., but not to “excess”
Part II: Symptoms and Solutions
Our guest has been Dr. Kerry Crofton, author of Wireless Radiation Rescue: safeguarding your family from the risks of electro-pollution. You can learn more about the issue and order a copy of the book at: http://www.radiationrescue.org/
Bibliography (supplied by Kerry Crofton)
Scientific Evidence of Harm — key studies cited by the UK neuroscientist Dr. Sarah Starkey:
Aitken R. J., Bennetts L.E., Sawyer D., Wikiendt A. M. and King B. V., 2005, Impact of radio frequency electromagnetic radiation on DNA integrity in the male germline, Int J Androl, 28(3), 171-179.
Arendt J., Labib M. H., Bojkowski C., Hanson S. and Marks V., 1989, Rapid decrease in melatonin production during successful treatment of delayed puberty, Lancet 1(8650), 1326.
Bio-Initiative Report, 2007, A Rationale for a biologically-based public exposure standard for electromagnetic fields (ELF and RF), http://www.bioinitiative.org/index.htm (accessed August 2008).
Burch J. B., Reif J. S., Noonan C. W., Ichinose T., Bachand A. M., Koleber T. L. and Yost M. G., 2002, Melatonin metabolite excretion among cellular telephone users, International Journal of Radiation Biology 78(11), 1029-1036.
Divan H. A., Kheifets L., Obel C. and Olsen J., 2008, Prenatal and postnatal exposure to cell phone use and behavioural problems in children, Epidemiology 19(4), 523-529.
Johansson, O., 2006, Electrohypersensitivity: Observations in the human skin of a physical impairment, p.107-117, Proceedings of the International Workshop on EMF Hypersensitivity, Prague, 2004, https://www.who.int/peh-emf/publications/reports/EHS_Proceedings_June2006.pdf (accessed August ’08).
Erogul O., Oztas E., Yildirim I., Kir T., Aydur E., Komesli G., Irkilata H. C., Irmak M. K. and Peker A. F., 2006, Effects of electromagnetic radiation from a cellular phone on human sperm motility: an in vitro study, Arch Med Res 37(7), 840-843.
Huber R., Schuderer J., Graf T., Jatz K., Borbaly A. A., Kuster N. and Achermann P., 2003, Radio frequency electromagnetic field exposure in humans: Estimation of SAR distribution in the brain, effects on sleep and heart rate, Bioelectromagnetics 24(4), 262-267.
Lai, H., 2007, Evidence for effects on neurology and behaviour, Bio-Initiative Report http://www.bioinitiative.org/index.htm (accessed August ’08).
Landgrebe M., Hauser S., Langguth B., Frick U., Hajak G. and Eichhammer P., 2007, Altered cortical excitability in subjectively electrosensitive patients: results of a pilot study, J. Psychosom Res., 62(3), 283-288.
Lopez-Martin E., Relova-Quinteiro J. L., Gallego-Gomez R., Peleteiro-Fernandez M., Jorge-Barreiro F. J. and Ares-Pena F. J., 2006, GSM radiation triggers seizures and increases cerebral c-fos positivity in rats pretreated with subconvulsive doses of picrotoxin, Neuroscience Letters 398, 139-144.
Maachi M. M., and Bruce J. N., 2004, Human pineal physiology and functional significance of melatonin, Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology 25, 177-195.
Maby E., Le Bouquin R. and Faucon G., 2006, Short-term effects of GSM mobile phones on spectral components of the human electroencephalogram, Proceedings of the 28th IEEE EMBS Annual International Conference 1, 3751-3754.
Maier R., Greter S.-E. and Maier N., 2004, Effects of pulsed electromagnetic fields on cognitive processes – a pilot study on pulsed field interference with cognitive regeneration, Acta Neurol Scand 110, 46-52.
Murcia Garcia J., Munoz Hoyos A., Molina Carballo A., Fernandez Garcia J. M., Narbona Lopezet E. and Fernandez J. U., 2002, Puberty and melatonin, An Esp Pediatr 57(2), 121-126.
Nittby H., Grafstram G., Tian D. P., Malmgren L., Brun A., Persson B. R., Salford L. G., Eberhardt J., 2008, Cognitive impairment in rats after long-term exposure to GSM-900 mobile phone radiation, Bioelectromagnetics 29(3), 219-232.
Pyrpasopoulou A., Kotoula V., Cheva A., Hytiroglou P., Nikolakaki E., Magras I. N., Xenos T.D., Tsiboukis T. D. and Karkavelas G., 2004, Bone morphogenetic protein expression in newborn rat kidneys after prenatal exposure to radiofrequency radiation, Bioelectromagnetics 25(3), 216-227.
Stewart Report, 2000, Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones, http://www.iegmp.org.uk/report/index.htm (accessed August ’08).
Vecchio F., Babiloni C., Ferreri F., Curcio G., Fini R., Del Percio C. and Rossini P. M., 2007, Mobile phone emission modulates interhemispheric functional coupling of EEG alpha rhythms, European Journal of Neuroscience 25, 1908-1913.
Waldhauser F., Boepple P. A., Schemper M., Mansfield M. J. and Crowley Jr W. F., 1981, Serum melatonin in central precocious puberty is lower than in age-matched prepubertal children, J. Clin Endocrimol. Metab. 73, 793-796.
Wdowiak A., Wdowiak L. and Wiktor H., 2007, Evaluation of the effect of using mobile phones on male fertility, Ann Agric Environ Med 14, 169-172.
Wiart J., Hadjem A., Wong M. F., Bloch I., 2008, Analysis of RF exposure in the head tissues of children and adults, Phys Med Biol 53(13), 3681-3695.
WHO (World Health Organisation), 2006, Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity, Proceedings of the International Workshop on EMF Hypersensitivity, Prague, 2004, https://www.who.int/peh-emf/publications/reports/EHS_Proceedings_June2006.pdf
Playlist for Ecotopia #93: Electromagnetic Pollution
Technology 4:03 Chorus - Silly Classical Songs & Disney Characters Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Laws Of Motion 6:40 The Tiptons Sax Quartet Laws Of Motion Cell Phones Ringing (In The Pockets Of The Dead) 5:14 Willie Nile Streets of New York Cell Phones 3:53 Fig.Mutant Fight or Die Health 2:50 Electric Guitars Health Weave Me the Sunshine 4:28 Peter, Paul And Mary The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary Ayusha Sukta - For Health and Long Life 8:31 Inner Splendor Meditation Music and Yoga Project Vedic Mantras for Peace, Health and Protection - With Vedmurti Shri Narayan Joshi and Vedmurti Shri Dandage Gurugi Industrial Disease 5:50 Dire Straits Love Over Gold