100 Canadian Municipalities Take Protective Climate Action

OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada, November 18, 2002 (ENS) - Canada’s Ministers of the Environment and Natural Resources congratulated the city of Iqaluit and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Friday as the capital city of the Nunavut Territory became the 100th Canadian municipal government to participate in a national effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions - the Partners for Climate Protection Program.

When Iqaluit, a city some 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle, announced that it would join the program, it completed the list of Canada’s capital cities. Now all provincial and territorial capitals from St. John’s to Victoria, are participating in the Partners for Climate Protection Program (PCP).

Iqaluit Mayor John Matthews said, “Climate change is significantly impacting our community, causing permafrost thawing that damages buildings, roads and pipelines, and is disrupting wildlife and hunting, important elements of our economy. Through our participation in PCP, we want to take steps to address energy consumption by developing an action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Environment Minister David Anderson, who is fighting Canada's oil and gas industry on behalf of the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions, is pleased that the municipalities are demonstrating to their residents and to the country that curbing emissions does not mean an economic downturn.

"From landfill gas capture to electricity cogeneration projects to urban planning, they are showing that we can take actions that are effective both environmentally and economically," he said.

"A hundred municipal governments representing half of Canada’s population are now involved in this program – that shows Canada’s municipal governments and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities are determined to be among the leaders in taking action on climate change," he said.

By joining the PCP, municipal governments commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from their operations to 20 percent below 1990 levels within 10 years, and community wide emissions by six percent below 1990 levels. The Kyoto Protocol would require Canada as a whole to cut its emissions six percent below 1990 levels.

Canada has signed the protocol, but has not yet ratified it. The protocol will not take effect until it is ratified by 55 percent of the nations responsible for at least 55 percent of the total carbon dioxide emissions for 1990. Because the United States has dropped out of the process, Canada's ratification is considered crucial to the agreement's entry into force.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities supports ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. Federation president Calgary Alderman John Schmal said Friday, “PCP is successfully partnering with municipalities and proving its value in stimulating strong local action to address climate change, protect the environment, achieve cost savings, and improve quality of life.”

"We are committed to helping municipal governments find new ways to use resources wisely and improve services through the Climate Change Action Fund," said Natural Resources Minister Herb Dhaliwal. "We are supporting municipal government leaders as they strengthen communities and tackle the climate change challenge."

Through the Climate Change Action Fund, the government of Canada is contributing C$750,000 (US$472,000) over three years to the Partners for Climate Protection campaign.

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Dirty Bomb Conference Set for March 2003

WASHINGTON, DC, November 18, 2002 (ENS) - The United States, Russia and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will jointly sponsor a three day, international convention on radiological dispersal devices, or "dirty bombs," next March in Vienna, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced.

The International Conference on Promoting the Security of Radiological Materials will be open to all member countries of the IAEA to join together in addressing threats posed by dirty bombs, DOE said.

"Safeguarding weapons usable material should be the highest priority for the IAEA and its member countries," U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said. "However, the organization also needs to seek ways to formally expand its scope to deal with the dangers posed by lower grade nuclear materials. Working with [IAEA] Director General El Baradei and our counterparts in Russia, this conference is a first step to expanding those efforts."

Abraham proposed the conference two months ago while attending the IAEA's 46th General Conference in Vienna.

Addressing the new and present threats posed by dirty bombs and their potential use for terror is vital to America's homeland security and international security.

"The detailed instructions on how to make dirty bombs found in Al Qaeda's caves make horrifyingly clear our need to have a firm plan to reduce the vulnerability of dangerous radiological materials to acquisition by those seeking to use them as weapons," Abraham said.

Topics of discussion for the conference will likely cover four major themes: 1) recovering and securing high-risk, poorly controlled radioactive sources; 2) strengthening long-term regulatory control of radiological materials; 3) interdicting illicit trafficking/border controls; and 4) RDD scenarios, possible consequences, mitigation strategies, and emergency response.

Radiological Dispersal Devices, or dirty bombs, are much simpler to make and use than nuclear weapons.

"Unlike nuclear weapons, which require scarce, highly enriched uranium and plutonium for their destructive capabilities, dirty bombs can be made using many different types of dangerous radiological material," Secretary Abraham said. "While dirty bombs are not comparable to nuclear weapons in destructiveness, they are far easier to assemble and employ."

In June, the U.S., Russia, and the IAEA established a tripartite working group on "Securing and Managing Radioactive Sources." This group is developing a coordinated strategy to locate, recover, secure, and recycle orphan radiological sources throughout the Former Soviet Union.

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Unique African Forest Wasted by Logging

MONROVIA, Liberia, November 18, 2002 (ENS) - The Liberian rainforest is threatened by destructive logging operations, according to the first Liberian nongovernmental report on the forest industry released by La Fondation pour la Sauvegarde de l’Avenir (SAMFU)in September. This Liberian nongovernmental organization was founded in 1987, but remained dormant during most of the 1990s because of the civil war in Liberia.

The last two blocks of continuous tropical rainforest subsisting in the Upper Guinea forest in West Africa, are to be found in Liberia, the group says. The Upper Guinean forest, recognized as one of the 25 hot spots for world biodiversity, forms a belt of fragmented forests along the West African coast across 10 countries from Guinea to Cameroon.

Between 1997 and 2001, SAMFU reports, the production of roundwood increased over 1,300 percent with enormous impact on indigenous rural communities and the local population, whose means of subsistence came from the land and the forest. "Their cultural and spiritual practices depend so closely on the forest that, with its rapid disappearance, the survival and growth of such communities are seriously threatened," SAMFU says.

The Upper Guinean forest has lost 12.7 percent of its initial area, about 727,900 square kilometres, some 45 percent of it in Liberia, SAMFU estimates. The Liberian forest is inhabited by many native plants and animals found nowhere else. It is a unique ecological niche for some of the world's rarest species.

The Upper Guinean forest contains 551 different species of mammals and half the known species of mammals of the African continent. It is among the regions with the highest degree of priority for the conservation of primates, and a priority zone for conservation of world biodiversity.

"We would like to stress that we do not oppose forestry development," SAMFU states in its report. What the group condemns are the unsustainable practices of the forest industry "and the lack of respect of the laws."

SAMFU concludes that the volume of wood produced, given up or wasted to build bridges, some which are replaced almost every year, is not viable. The "anarchistic" cutting of logs without preliminary suitable inventory, and the wasting of wood, must be discouraged, the group said.

The clearing of hundreds of acres of forest belts, for the construction of forest camps and cargo loading areas is "one of the most harmful practices of the forest industry," SAMFU said.

"The destruction with the bulldozer of several kilometers of dense forest to build short cuts (roads) in order to deliver logs in haste to various ports must also be discouraged."

The research team also reported on the existence of dangerous and unsustainable development practices. The inhabitants of some regions told researchers that the militia of some logging companies had harassed them and attempted to put pressure on them.

These results also showed the need for more exhaustive research on the logging industry. For this reason the Campaign to Save the Liberian Forest and Respect Liberia's Human Rights, was launched to carry out a more detailed investigation on the activities of logging companies in Liberia.

The group urged the Liberian government "to take immediate measures" to settle the environmental questions raised in its report. The Liberian forest agency must be more vigilant about law enforcement and must require payment from the logging companies, SAMFU said.

The report is in French. "Pillage: La destruction silencieuse de la forκt pluviale du Liberia" is online at: http://www.forestsmonitor.org/reports/plunder/pillage.pdf

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Peaceful Tannery Protesters Charged with Rioting

VELLORE, Tamilnadu, India, November 18, 2002 (ENS) - Eight people, including environmental activists and local residents of Vellore, have been charged with rioting and illegal assembly for participating in a demonstration outside the Vellore Collectorate Thursday.

The protesters were demanding action to address pollution from tanneries that has contaminated groundwater, ruined a river and devastated agriculture in the area. Vellore has one of the largest clusters of leather tanneries in the country.

On Thursday, activists from Greenpeace and Pasumai Thaayagam [Green Motherland], local residents and school children from Ramakrishna School and Vidyalaya in Vellore, put up a human chain outside the office of Collector Mohan Das to dramatize the sufferings of residents due to environmental pollution from the leather tanneries.

A Common Effluent Treatment Plant set up to treat the effluents from the tanneries has failed to mitigate the pollution beause of the inherent limitations of the technology, Greenpeace says.

Recently, the Supreme Court of India ordered relief for the pollution-impacted communities and remediation of the environment. But damage assessment and remediation has not taken place.

On November 12, activists from Greenpeace and Pasumai Thaayagam blocked the outlet of a Common Effluent Treatment Plant that has failed to alleviate the pollution problem.

On Thursday, the activists sought an audience with Das so that the assembled school children and residents could present their memoranda. The collector offered to come outside and receive the petition, and the activists were taken to the collector by uniformed policemen in the presence of the gathering.

Unexpectedly, the activists have been charged with rioting and illegal assembly. "These charges are totally bizarre as there was no violence and no unruly mob," said a spokesman for the protesters. In the wee hours of Friday morning, the principals of the two schools were arrested. The principals were released later that day.

"These charges reflect an unwillingness on the part of the administration to countenance any democratic demand for justice and a clean environment, and expose the dictatorial manner in which they are prepared to use police force to intimidate residents and avoid addressing pressing environmental problems," the protesters said in a statement.

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Reassessing Development as It Impacts Tribal Peoples

NAIROBI, Kenya, November 18, 2002 (ENS) - New dam construction, mining and road development plans should only be approved after assessments of their impacts on the lives and cultures of indigenous peoples, the head of the United Nations's environment agency today told an audience of native peoples from Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific.

Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), told delegates to the 4th International Conference of the International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests that new construction and development projects are no longer allowed without an evaluation of their environmental impacts.

He said the same legally binding standards should be applied to the impact of these projects on the lifestyles and cultures of indigenous peoples, not in respect of nostalgia but as an "economic imperative."

Global studies, carried out by UNEP in collaboration with other UN agencies, academics and local people, have found a firm link between cultural and linguistic diversity and biodiversity.

"If you look at languages, you can see the links," said Toepfer. "On a global level we have less than 7,000 languages and of those up to 2,500 are on the Red List of endangered languages. If you correlate this to biodiversity, the wealth of animal and plant life on the planet, you see that where you are losing cultural diversity, you are losing biodiversity, and visa versa," he told the conference.

Toepfer said the wealth of animal and plant life nurtured by indigenous, tribal and local peoples "for generations, for ages" is a treasure trove of potentially promising new drugs, crops and industrial products.

Many of these cultures and their indigenous knowledge are being lost, partly as a result of the globalization of trade, of the media, and the rising dominance of western or northern style values and traditions.

Big infrastructure developments such as dams, mining camps and insensitive tourism projects either force indigenous communities from their lands or by bring their cultures into conflict with foreign ones.

Toepfer declared his support for Alliance's demand that cultural damage be assessed as a condition of development.

"The more we lose diversity, both culturally and in the natural world, the more we run the risk of instability, the possibility of disasters such as crop failures and basic knowledge on coping with natural disasters such as drought," said Toepfer.

"For example local people and tribes have, for millenia, developed strategies and methods for surviving in often harsh, sometimes, low rainfall areas. These have allowed them to grow crops and graze livestock without sacrificing the fertility and stability of the land. We must give this knowledge and the genetic resources so carefully nurtured by indigenous people our respect and an economic value," he said.

Toepfer told delegates that UNEP plans to further these issues at the next meeting of its Governing Council set for Nairobi in February 2003.

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Sea Shepherd Launches First Vegan Anti-Whaling Campaign

MALIBU, California, November 18, 2002 (ENS) - In December 2002, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will embark on a campaign to oppose the Japanese whaling fleet in Antarctica.

Departing Auckland, New Zealand on December 4, Captain Paul Watson will take the Sea Shepherd’s ship the "Farley Mowat" and 45 volunteers on a two month long voyage across the icy waters of Antarctica's Southern Ocean in an attempt stop the slaughter of whales in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary.

The crew of the Farley Mowat will be the first completely vegan crew to voyage to the Southern continent, says Watson. "I don't want to hear the same tired old argument from the Japanese about how whale-savers eat cows but save whales," he said.

"The Japanese say there is no difference between whales and cows," argued Watson. "There are of course, plenty of differences, and the most important difference is that the Antarctic Minke whale is an endangered species, as listed by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species. (CITES).

"However, if the Japanese see us as hypocrites for eating meat from cows and not from whales, we have effectively removed this charge of hypocrisy by declaring the Farley Mowat as a meat free zone."

A vegan (pronounced VEE-gun) is someone who avoids using or consuming animal products. While vegetarians avoid flesh foods, vegans also avoid dairy and eggs, as well as fur, leather, wool, down, and cosmetics or chemical products tested on animals.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has always made vegan and vegetarian meals available to the crews of its various ships. Still, meat has been available to non-vegans and vegetarians in the past, although the organization has had a policy of not serving fish.

Watson says he and members of the Sea Shepherd Society are concerned that "some 50 percent of fish taken from the sea is utilized as food for farm animals." Fishmeal is used to raise chickens, cows, pigs, and salmon. Large quantities of tuna is fed to domestic cats.

"With our oceans dying, with numerous fish species on the brink of extinction, with the proliferation of PCB's, mercury, and other heavy metals polluting the world's fish, it is time for humanity to question this horrendous destruction," Watson says. The Sea Shepherd crew intends to exemplify this concern by adopting an exclusively vegan diet for its campaigns.

While the Japanese maintain they are taking a self imposed quota of 440 minke whales under the scientific research provisions of the International Whaling Commission regulations, Watson calls their whaling activities illegal.

He says, "These whalers will be breaking laws that govern whaling by the International Whaling Commission, International Laws of the Sea, Antarctic Environmental Protection Act, The Convention of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, and The World Charter for Nature."

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Harmful Algal Blooms Meet Their Viral Match

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, November 18, 2002 (ENS) - A team of international scientists has discovered a weapon to combat the pest algae species Phaeocystis globosa that has attacked the North Sea coast each spring and summer for decades.

The slimy colonies can be up to one centimeter (.39 inches) in size and contain tens of thousands of brown algal cells. Strong winds whip the slime into foam resulting in a thick, stinking mess on the beaches. Slime remaining in the water blocks the gills of fish, shellfish, and herbivorous plankton.

A three year international study under the leadership of the Netherlands Institute for Sea Research has found that as soon as the pest algae runs out of nutrients, viruses attack and abruptly end the algal bloom.

Biologists investigated how viruses influence the growth of the pest algae. During the period of rapid growth, the algae scarcely seemed susceptible to viruses. But once the supply of phosphate and nitrate has been depleted, the algae weaken.

In particular, what the scientists described as "free-living, non-colonizing cells" appear to be highly susceptible to viruses.

The cells in the slime forming colonies initially suffer less at first. Still, in the end the lack of nutrients ensures that these colonies also fall apart and viruses can kill them within days.

Herbivorous plankton which always graze on the algae, help the viruses in their destructive work.

Harmful algal blooms occur in many European marine waters and have increased in frequency as nutrient input from land in the form of agricultural fertilizers and sewage outfall has increased.

The researchers foresee possibilities for controlling harmful algal blooms with the help of viruses. But this will only be possible in isolated areas, for example in fiords or in rearing areas for oysters. The spreading of viruses along the entire North Sea coast would be met with a barrage of practical and ethical objections, the researchers acknowledge.