Tonight we’ll be reviewing ecological news—local, national, and international.We’ll start our environmental news update with three stories we’ve been following on Ecotopia.

Methyl Iodide.  Two weeks ago we talked with Maggi Barry of BEC about the misuse of pesticides in our region and Dana Perls of Pesticide Watch, about the dangers of methyl iodide for use on strawberries.

 “Today[November 30], a diverse coalition of farm worker, children’s health, farm, and environmental groups released their priorities for the incoming Brown administration. Healthy Children & Green Jobs: A Platform for Pesticide Reform lays out scientifically-grounded, public health-protective priorities for protecting children’s health and supporting healthy, safe and climate-friendly agriculture and pest management in California” A major concern of this group is that in his last days of office, Arnold Schwarzenegger may approve methyl iodide.

 A press release today from Californians for Pesticide Reform details the risk: “’The science is in. Methyl iodide is used to create cancer cells in labs, it causes late term miscarriages and it’s a water contaminant,’ said Paul Towers, [who is the director of] the coalition group Pesticide Watch Education Fund. ‘Scientists have said repeatedly that there’s no safe way to use this chemical in the fields. Approving it as a pesticide would be the wrong thing to do.’

 “Advocates are calling specifically on DPR Director Mary-Ann Warmerdam to listen to the science and deny the registration of cancer-causing methyl iodide in the state. Over 50,000 Californians and dozens of scientists, including six Nobel Laureates in Chemistry, concluded that the chemical was too toxic for use in California. Experts cite many reasons for prohibiting the use of methyl iodide, including higher health care costs and lost work time for farm workers and people in neighboring communities, as well as the cost to clean up local water supplies that may be contaminated if methyl iodide is approved.

“If the outgoing Schwarzenegger administration decides to let corporate pressure trump the science and approves this dangerous pesticide in its last few weeks in office, advocates are calling on Governor Brown to reopen the decision immediately and ban methyl iodide in California.”

In addition to taking a stand on methyl iodide, the coalition of groups has outlined a series of recommendations for the incoming Brown Administration to reduce pesticide use in Healthy Children & Green Jobs: A Platform for Pesticide Reform.

 “Currently, 2.48 million pounds of pesticides are used in Butte County annually, largely on rice, almonds, walnuts, peaches and prunes. Some of the top pesticides used include ziram, maneb, thiobenbcarb and chlorpyrifos – suspected carcinogens, reproductive toxins and endocrine disruptors.

“The platform calls for Governor Brown to take leadership that will:

Make agricultural jobs greener.  . .  . .

Protect children’s health. . . . .

Address climate change through agriculture. . . . .

“Californians for Pesticide Reform is a statewide coalition of over 185 public interest groups dedicated to protecting human health and the environment from pesticide use. Today, the coalition is simultaneously releasing its policy brief for the Brown Administration, Healthy Children & Green Jobs: A Platform for Pesticide Reform, in eight cities across the state, including Sacramento, San Francisco, Fresno, Bakersfield, Santa Cruz, Oxnard, Chico and Redding.

Healthy Children & Green Jobs: A Platform for Pesticide Reform can be downloaded at www.PesticideReform.org.”

Food Safety.  This morning [November 30]the Senate passed the Food Safety Modernization Bill by a vote of 73-25. Some of the provisions of this bill include:

    * FDA access to facility records in a food emergency;

    * More FDA inspections at all food facilities;

    * FDA authority to decrease the amount of time between inspections, and     mandate yearly inspections of high-risk companies;

    * FDA authority to force a recall of potentially tainted food.

The issue is one we addressed on last week’s Ecotopia—food safety. Last week we talked with Michael Halpern of the Union of Concerned Scientists about their new report that raises questions about how safe our food supply is and the political and commercial pressures put on agricultural inspectors that limits their effectiveness. Part of that discussion included information about a bill before the Senate, The Food Safety Modernization Bill. This is an enormously complicated and controversial bill.This week we received an email update from Food Democracy Now, urging citizens to contact their senators to support amendments to protect small farmers while holding large farmers to account. They note, “[w]hile this bill has been controversial, family farmers and small-scale producers have won vital protections by getting the Tester Amendment included in the Manager’s Amendment. Now Big Ag is trying to kill these provisions, which exempt farmers that have sales of less than $500,000 and sell within 275 miles of their farm, and others are hoping to kill the bill outright.” Yesterday the Tester Amendment did pass [exempting small farms], and today the bill passed easily, after senators were besieged by phone calls yesterday, both pro and con. http://www.fooddemocracynow.org/blog/2010/nov/29/urgent-vote-today-final-food-safety-bill-vote-toni/ 

 The Center for Food Safety also weighed in on this issue: “The key to food safety is flexibility and transparency. A balance must be struck between protecting those most vulnerable to pathogens—children, persons with compromised systems, and the elderly—while safeguarding the livelihoods of small, medium-sized and family farmers and stringently regulating those food producers that pose the greatest food safety risks.”

 We have been somewhat overwhelmed by the battles over this bill waged on the internet, so we turned to food experts—Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser—to provide the background on the legislative battle. On Sunday, Pollan, author of the Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, and Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation and a producer of the documentary “Food Inc.” had an editorial in the New York Times, entitled “A Stale Food Fight.” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/29/opinion/29schlosser.html

Because this bill still needs house approval, we want to explore the issues. Here’s what Pollan and Schlosser have to say:

“This legislation is by no means perfect. But it promises to achieve several important food safety objectives, greatly benefiting consumers without harming small farmers or local food producers.

“The bill would, for the first time, give the F.D.A., which oversees 80 percent of the nation’s food, the authority to test widely for dangerous pathogens and to recall contaminated food. The agency would finally have the resources and authority to prevent food safety problems, rather than respond only after people have become ill. The bill would also require more frequent inspections of large-scale, high-risk food-production plants.

“Last summer, when thousands of people were infected with salmonella from filthy, vermin-infested henhouses in Iowa, Americans were outraged to learn that the F.D.A. had never conducted a food safety inspection at these huge operations that produce billions of eggs a year. The new rules might have kept those people — mainly small children and the elderly — from getting sick.

“The law would also help to protect Americans from unsafe food produced overseas: for the first time, imported foods would be subject to the same standards as those made in the United States.

 “You would think that such reasonable measures to protect the health and safety of the American people would have long since sailed through Congress. But after being passed by the House of Representatives more than a year ago with strong bipartisan support, the legislation has been stuck in the Senate. One sticking point was the fear among small farmers and producers that the new regulations would be too costly — and the counter-fear among consumer groups that allowing any exemptions for small-scale agriculture might threaten public health.

“Those legitimate concerns have been addressed in an amendment, added by Senator Jon Tester of Montana, that recently was endorsed by a coalition of sustainable agriculture and consumer groups. But now that common sense has prevailed, the bill is under fierce attack from critics — egged on by Glenn Beck and various Tea Partyers, including some in the local food movement — who are playing fast and loose with the facts.

“Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, is the bill’s most influential opponent by far. On the floor of the Senate the week before last, he claimed that only 10 or 20 Americans a year die from a food-borne illness, that the government doesn’t need mandatory recall power because “not once in our history have we had to force anyone to do a recall,” and that the annual cost of the new food safety requirements — about $300 million — is prohibitively expensive.

 “Senator Coburn is wrong on every point. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 5,000 Americans annually die from a food-borne illness. Last year, at the height of a nationwide salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands, spread via tainted peanut butter, the Westco Fruit and Nuts company refused for weeks to recall potentially contaminated products, despite requests from the F.D.A.

“And as for spending that extra $300 million every year, a recent study by Georgetown University found that the annual cost of food-borne illness in the United States is about $152 billion. In Senator Coburn’s home state, it’s about $1.8 billion. Compared with those amounts, this bill is a real bargain.

“In the last week, agricultural trade groups, from the Produce Marketing Association to the United Egg Producers, have come out against the bill, ostensibly on the grounds that the small farms now partially exempted would pose a food safety threat. (Note that these small farms will continue to be regulated under state and local laws.) It is hard to escape the conclusion that these industry groups never much liked the new rules in the first place. They just didn’t dare come out against them publicly, not when 80 percent of Americans support strengthening the F.D.A.’s authority to regulate food.

“By one estimate, the kinds of farms that the bill would exempt represent less than 1 percent of the food marketplace. Does the food industry really want to sabotage an effort to ensure the safety of 99 percent of that marketplace because it is so deeply concerned about under-regulation of 1 percent? The largest outbreaks are routinely caused by the largest processors, not by small producers selling their goods at farmers’ markets.

“Theodore Roosevelt ran up against the same sort of resistance when he fought for the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. “Unfortunately,” he said, “the misdeeds of those who are responsible for the abuses we design to cure will bring discredit and damage not only upon them, but upon the innocent stock growers, the ranchmen and farmers of this country.” That is one reason the federal government decided to guarantee food safety during the last century — and why it must continue to do so in this one.”

We’ll stay tuned to this bill to see how it fares in the House.

 Monsanto’s Genetically Modified Beets.  Another project of the Center for Food Safety is an issue we’ve been following for over a year is the case of the USDA allowing Monsanto to plant genetically modified beets without getting an environmental impact statement. In October of 2010 we interviewed Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seed in Willamette Valley in Oregon. He was involved in what has come to be called in various media sources a “David versus Goliath” legal battle. When we first talked to him, Frank Morton had, along with a number of other plaintiffs, sued the USDA and its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), because they didn’t file an environmental impact statement (EIS) prior to deregulation of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beet plant, as they were required to do. Those suing the USDA and APHIS were the Center for Food Safety, Organic Seed Alliance, Sierra Club, and High Mowing Organic Seeds.

On September 21, 2009, Judge Jeffrey S. White, of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs—requiring that APHIS prepare an environmental impact statement. But while the organic seed/environmental groups won this round, the next round to play out was the remedy phase of the trial, which was scheduled to begin in December of 2009 in order to decide what would happen to Monsanto’s Round-up Ready transgenic crop.

Frank Morton explained in our interview with him a year ago last October that his livelihood depends on his ability to produce non-transgenic crops. When Monsanto began planting GE sugar beet seeds in the Willamette Valley, farms producing organic were at risk of cross-pollination, thus contaminating their seed. In Frank Morton’s case, his red chard and table beets were threatened. Morton said, “My market doesn’t have any tolerance for this.” Morton sells his seed both nationally and internationally. He explained: “I have to test my seed before I sell it and if I ever get a positive for genetic engineering traits, then my seed crops are worthless.”

In March 2010 we talked with Paul Achitoff, an attorney with Earthjustice, the Sierra Club’s Legal Defense Fund. He was preparing for the remedy phase of the trial

According to the Earthjustice website: In August of this year Judge White’s ruling made the planting of these beets illegal. The court reversed USDA’s approval because of the environmental and social-economic damage, which involve not only contamination of organic crops, but also “promoting the growth of ‘superweeds’ that are resistant to Roundup, and therefore are very difficult to eradicate unless highly toxic chemicals are used.”

Despite Judge White’s ruling, “on September 1, 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced that it was in the process of issuing permits to authorize the planting of genetically engineered (GE) sugar beet seedlings this fall, without performing any review of the crops’ environmental impacts. . . . The unprecedented permitting process for a commercially-grown genetically engineered crop was initiated without public notice and comment or any environmental review. Last week, the agency met with companies involved and invested in promoting the gene-altered crop.

. . “The Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety, Andrew Kimbrell, said that “USDA has become a rogue agency in its regulation of biotech crops. Despite numerous court opinions, congressional mandates and federal investigations, it continues to act illegally.  The agency and Secretary Vilsack seem to see their mission as defending Monsanto’s bottom line rather than protecting farmers and consumers,”

Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff, whom we interviewed in March said, “USDA’s persistent refusal to comply with environmental laws in the face of one court decision after another is remarkable. This is yet another instance of USDA serving Monsanto’s interests at the expense of the public interest, without regard to the rule of law.”

The Center for Food Safety now has an online comment link to allow citizens to respond to the USDA’s action. Comments are being taken until December 6

 The Center says that the “USDA, under the influence of the biotech industry, must not be allowed to circumvent environmental law and the opinion of the U.S. courts, or ignore farmer choice and public opinion. Tell USDA its illegal proposal must not be approved!

“USDA has a comment period open only through December 6, 2010, so please send your comment today!” The link to that site is included on our webpage.


Or, you can respond to this call for action by going to the Center for Food Safety’s website: http://truefoodnow.org/. You’ll find the link to the comment line on that page, along with other action items.



Here are some international ecological events:

Climate Change. The annual United Nations climate change conference began yesterday[November 29] in Cancun with delegates from 191 governments negotiating long-term climate change cooperation.

The UN body that manages the UN treaty responding to climate change is the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change or the UNFCCC. The secretariat of UNFCCC states that: “The world has this year been confronted with a series of disasters that have illustrated the vulnerability of all humanity to extreme climate events. These include the devastating floods in Pakistan and in Niger, the wildfires in Russia, and the mudslides in China. . . . It is not possible to say with utmost scientific certainty that each of these are a direct climate change impact. But if they are anything to go by, then they give us a taste of the magnitude of what could come – and of what could come more frequently, and more intensely.”

According to the Environmental News Service, http://www.enn.com/ the talks in Cancun are taking two directions to talking about climate change: – ”the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol to that convention, which limits 36 signatory industrialized nations to an average of 5.2 percent reduction below 1990 levels in the emission of six greenhouse gases.

”The original deadline for completing negotiations on both these tracks was to have been last year’s UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, but many issues remained unresolved – most stemming from differences between industrialized and developing countries on emissions limits and funding. As a result, the two working groups – one for each track – were given another year to finish their work and report to delegates at the Cancun conference.

Mother Nature Network http://www.mnn.com/ represents the pessimistic response to this meeting:  “As climate negotiators from 194 countries converge on Cancun, Mexico, today, the mood is much more subdued than it was a year ago in Copenhagen. That U.N. climate summit kicked off with frothy fanfare and optimism, driven by the belief it would be a turning point in the war on global warming. But after the talks fell apart last December — producing only the watered-down Copenhagen Accord, and leaving the entire U.N. climate-negotiating process in question — world leaders are entering the 2010 talks more cautiously, avoiding the kind of sweeping, hopeful language that raised expectations in Copenhagen. Unlike that summit, most diplomats now admit they’re unlikely to reach a substantial emissions-reduction treaty in Cancun, and are instead focusing on smaller, longer-term agreements that may one day be built into a broader treaty. Also unlike Copenhagen, few heads of state are expected to attend the Cancun summit, signaling their pessimism that major deals will be reached.

According to Mother Nature Nework, “aside from merely doubting this year’s summit, some observers are doubting the entire idea of U.N. climate talks: as Damian Carrington writes in the Guardian today, “The whole multilateral U.N. process is on trial here.” This is partly due to lingering disappointment from Copenhagen, but there are also fears that even existing, small-scale efforts to fight climate change may fail. For example, a plan to save forests in Indonesia is widely seen as one of the few global successes since Copenhagen — capable of protecting animal biodiversity as well as trees, which can absorb extra carbon dioxide from the air — but as the New York Times reports today, even that program is now in doubt.

A Greenpeace report last week accused Indonesia of planning widespread land clearing, even though Norway recently agreed to give the country $1 billion in exchange for banning deforestation. Indonesia denies the claims, but they nonetheless highlight just how murky the process of global climate deals can be, and how daunting the task is for diplomats in Cancun. Still, U.N. climate chief Christina Figueres rejects the idea that a deal is out of reach. “At this point, everything I see tells me that there is a deal to be done,” she says. “Cancun will be a success, if parties compromise.” The Cancun climate talks will continue through Dec. 10.

According to a report of November 24, 2010 by Bob Petz in Ecology Global Network,

“The main greenhouse gases have reached their highest levels recorded since pre-industrial times, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s 2009 Greenhouse Gas Bulletin (pdf). The report also highlights concerns that global warming may lead to even greater emissions of methane from Arctic areas.

According to the Bulletin, total radiative forcing of all long-lived greenhouse gases increased by 27.5% from 1990 to 2009 and by 1.0% from 2008 to 2009, reflecting the rising atmospheric burdens of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

The aricle quotes WMO Secretary-General Mr Michel Jarraud:

“Greenhouse gas concentrations have reached record levels despite the economic slowdown. They would have been even higher without the international action taken to reduce them,” he said. “In addition, potential methane release from northern permafrost, and wetlands, under future climate change is of great concern and is becoming a focus of intensive research and observations.”

Carbon dioxide is the single most important anthropogenic [human-created] greenhouse gas in the atmosphere and contributes 63.5% to the overall global radiative forcing by long-lived greenhouse gases. Global radiative forcing is the balance between radiation coming into the atmosphere and radiation going out. Positive radiative forcing tends to warm the surface of the Earth and negative forcing tends to cool it.

For about 10,000 years before the start of the industrial era in the mid-18th century, atmospheric carbon dioxide remained almost constant at around 280 ppm (ppm=number of molecules of the gas per million molecules of dry air).  Since 1750, it has increased by 38%, primarily because of emissions from combustion of fossil fuels, deforestation and changes in land-use. During the past 10 years, it has increased by an average annual 1.88%, according to WMO.

Methane (CH4) contributes 18.1% to the overall global radiative forcing and is the second most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide.

Before the start of the industrial era, atmospheric methane was about 700 parts per billion. Since 1750, it has increased 158%, mostly because of increasing emissions from human activities such as cattle-rearing, rice planting, fossil fuel exploitation and landfills. Human activities now account for 60% of methane emissions, with the remaining 40% being from natural sources such as wetlands.

After a period of temporary stabilization from 1999 to 2006, atmospheric methane has risen again from 2007-2009. The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin reports that the likely causes were above average wetland methane emissions due to exceptionally warm temperatures at high northern latitudes in 2007 and heavy precipitation in tropical wetlands in 2007 and 2008. However, it cautions that the reasons for the recent increases are not yet fully understood.

Nitrous oxide (N2O) contributes 6.24% to the overall global radiative forcing. It is emitted into the atmosphere from natural and anthropogenic sources, including the oceans, biomass burning, fertilizer use and various industrial processes. Globally averaged nitrous oxide in 2009 was 19% higher, at 322.5 parts per billion than the pre-industrial era

The combined radiative forcing by halocarbons is 12%, nearly double that of nitrous oxide. Some halocarbons such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), previously used as refrigerants, as propellants in spray cans and as solvents, are decreasing slowly as a result of international action to preserve the Earth’s protective ozone layer.

However, concentrations of other gases such as HCFCs and HFCs, which are used to substitute CFCs because they are less damaging to the ozone layer, are increasing rapidly. These two classes of compounds are very potent greenhouse gases and last much longer in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.


Protecting Animal Species. The next few stories look at efforts to protect animal species around the planet.

Prserving Sharks. The Environmental News Service also reports (November 16) that Sharks, Mantas, and Turtles are to be protected in Raja Ampat, Indonesia.


Misool Eco Resort, [www.misoolecoresort.com] and Shark Savers [www.sharksavers.org] announced in mid-November that a Shark Sanctuary has been declared for the entire 17,760 square miles of Raja Ampat, Indonesia. . . . The Regent of Raja Ampat made this historic declaration, demonstrating leadership in marine conservation.

The Raja Ampat Shark Sanctuary provides full protection for sharks, manta rays, mobulas, dugongs, and turtles. Also prohibited are highly destructive practices including reef bombing and the aquarium fish trade. The Shark Sanctuary is the first of its kind in Indonesia, the largest island archipelago in the world.

Misool ResortThe Shark Sanctuary declaration is in direct response to a campaign mounted by Shark Savers, an international shark conservation organization, in partnership with Misool Eco Resort (MER). The campaign won the support of over 8,500 divers and conservationists, with hundreds of tourism and diving companies and NGOs from around the world.

“This new Shark Sanctuary owes its creation to thousands of ocean advocates who expressed the urgent need to protect sharks, mantas, and other marine life,” stated Michael Skoletsky, Executive Director of Shark Savers. “Divers experience the oceans from the inside and are increasingly taking responsibility for ocean and shark conservation. Underwater ecotourism is a vital tool to counter the rampant exploitation of the world’s remaining sharks and bio-rich marine ecosystems.”

The Raja Ampat Shark Sanctuary is expected to attract additional underwater eco-tourism, which will bring economic benefit to Raja Ampat’s people while offsetting the cost to enforce the new wildlife protections. Shark Savers will play an ongoing role to mobilize continued support of divers and conservationists to fund long-term enforcement in the Shark Sanctuary.

Katrina Manson, for Planet Ark, also reported yesterday that the “UN Urges Congo To Ban Oil Drilling In Gorilla Park”


Protecting Gorillas. The United Nations’ cultural arm UNESCO has appealed to Congolese President Joseph Kabila to guarantee there will be no oil exploration in the forest home of rare gorillas where two UK-listed firms hold drilling rights.

SOCO International and Dominion Petroleum were awarded a presidential decree to Block 5 of east Congo’s Albertine Graben in June. Plans for a seismic survey include exploding dynamite, despite the fact that the rebel-heavy area overlaps with the protected Virunga National Park.

In a letter seen by Reuters, UNESCO chief Irina Bokova warned Kabila of “extremely damaging repercussions” of oil activity and asked him to ensure no exploration took place in the park, which is also home to chimpanzees, lions, elephants, and migratory birds so rare it has special wetland status.

“I call on you to guarantee that no oil exploration or production will be committed at the heart of the Virunga national park,” she said in the letter dated August 6, which noted past commitments by Congo to protect the World Heritage site.

Local environmentalists argue that any exploration would be contrary  to Congo’s own laws.

“Congolese legislation does not authorize mineral and petrol production in national parks,” said a November 15 letter seen by Reuters to Environment Minister Jose Endundo from the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN).

Russia And China Pledge To Save The Tiger according to Alissa de Carbonnel in a Planet Ark article on November 25.


 Tiger Populations.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday agreed with other Asian nations to try to double the world’s wild tiger population by 2022 and save it from extinction.

Just 3,200 tigers now live in the wild, down from 100,000 a century ago, and those that remain face a losing battle with poachers who supply traders in India and China with tiger parts for traditional medicines and purported aphrodisiacs.

Putin, whose country is one of 13 that are home to the world’s last wild tigers, hosted a “tiger summit” with Wen and representatives from other Asian countries, the highest level meeting ever held to try to save a single species. “It is very important to save this wonderful, imperial creature — the tiger — for future generations,” Putin said, adding its situation worldwide was approaching “catastrophe.”

His spokesman Dmitry Peskov said a program to double the number of free-roaming tigers by 2022 was approved on Tuesday. Putin, who was given a tiger cub for his 56th birthday, has tried to court Russia’s growing environmental movement by throwing his weight behind efforts to save the tiger that roams across the vast forests of Russia’s Far East. An ex-KGB spy who sports a macho image, Putin referred to Indian freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi’s quote: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

Alissa de Carbonnel’s article continues:

“Initially, $350 million will be spent over the next five years, according to coordinators the World Bank and conservation organization WWF. But implementation will be key and without tough measures to halt poaching and deforestation by the 13 nations, tigers could cease to exist in the wild by that time.”

World Wildlife Foundation director Jim Leape says, “Here is a species that is literally on the brink of extinction. If we cannot succeed now, if current trends continue, by 2022 we will have only scattered remnants of the populations left.”

But conservation groups say governments and activists have failed to stop the poachers.

“The tiger population around the world has been dwindling away and the tiger conservation community has been putting in a lot of effort, but we’re not succeeding,” said John Robinson, chief conservation officer of the U.S.-based Wildlife Conservation Society.

. . . .

A marker of the summit’s success will be the launch of a consortium to fight wildlife smuggling, said John Sellar, chief enforcement officer for the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

. . . .

India is at the center of the trade with the most seizures of tiger parts, followed by China, where nearly every inch of the tiger fetches a high price, with pelts sold for as much as $35,000, according to black market database Havoscope.

John Stellar concludes:

“If we can’t do it for the tiger, then I think we have to ask, are we going to be able to do it for anything else?”

Coral Watch

Our final story is related to an interview we did a few weeks ago about the threat to tropical fish and their habitat. This comes from Ecology Global Network, posted November 17 by Bob Petz and claims that “80 Percent of Caribbean Corals Suffer Bleaching Due to Heat Stress”

Petz writes:

“Coral reefs suffered record losses as a consequence of high ocean temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean in 2005 according to the most comprehensive documentation of basin-scale bleaching to date. Collaborators from 22 countries report that more than 80 percent of surveyed corals bleached and over 40 percent of the total surveyed died, making this the most severe bleaching event ever recorded in the basin. The study appears in PLoS ONE, an international, peer-reviewed, open-access, online publication.

In this story, C. Mark Eakin, coordinator of NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch Program is quoted as saying:

“Heat stress during the 2005 event exceeded any observed in the Caribbean in the prior 20 years, and regionally-averaged temperatures were the warmest in at least 150 years. This severe, widespread bleaching and mortality will undoubtedly have long-term consequences for reef ecosystems, and events like this are likely to become more common as the climate warms.”

This study also substantially raised the standards for documenting the effects of bleaching and for testing satellite and forecast products. Coral bleaching occurs when stress causes corals to expel their symbiotic algae, or zooxanthellae. If prolonged or particularly severe, it may result in coral death.

Through this survey, several species and localities reported bleaching for the first time, including the first known bleaching of any kind in Saba, the first documented mass bleaching at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, and the first reported mass bleaching in Virgin Islands National Park of Acropora palmata, a species listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2006.

The Caribbean is suffering severe bleaching again this year, and in some locations, this bleaching event is worse than the event in 2005. Not only are temperatures causing further damage to reefs hit hard during the 2005 event, but new locations have also been impacted.

The decline and loss of coral reefs has significant social, cultural, economic and ecological impacts on people and communities throughout the world. As the “rainforests of the sea,” coral reefs provide economic services — jobs, food and tourism — estimated to be worth as much as $375 billion each year.

Satellite-based tools from NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch Program guided site selection for field observations conducted across the greater Caribbean region from June to October 2005. Field surveys of bleaching and mortality in this study surpass prior efforts in both detail and extent.


And that’s what we have in International News. For more environmental international news, check out: Planet Ark at www.planetark.org, the Environmental News Network at www.enn.com, and Ecology Global Network at http://ecology.com/

 Playlist for Ecotopia #113: International News

1.  Karma Police          4:26     Radiohead                                                      

2. Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)     3:16     Marvin Gaye   What’s Going On       

3. Global Warming Blues        3:42     Lenny Solomon           Armando’s Pie                        

4. Danger (Global Warming) – Radio Mix      3:35     Brick Casey     Danger (Global Warming)                                         

5. Weave Me the Sunshine     4:28     Peter, Paul And Mary The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary

6. Black Moon (Album Version)        6:59     Emerson, Lake & Palmer        Black Moon