Sunday, April 23, 2006

Our Poor Planet!!!

From Friday's (4/21/06) Progress Report:

Happy Earth Day

On Saturday, April 22, the world will mark the 36th annual Earth Day celebration. Sadly, it will be the first time Earthy Day founder Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D-WI) will not be around to see it. (Nelson passed away last year.) Since Nelson's grassroots effort to recognize the importance of environmental protection "took off like gangbusters" more than three decades ago, significant progress has been made. "Thanks to strong safeguards, which were generally won after tooth-and-nail battles, we've made some real strides on basic clean air and clean water," said Jon Coifman of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Rivers aren't catching fire anymore, and you can see the sky in Los Angeles." And the environment has become a real concern of the American public. A 2005 Harris polls found that seventy-five percent of the American people agree with the statement, "Protecting the environment is so important that requirements and standards cannot be too high, and continuing environmental improvements must be made regardless of cost." Yet, on issues such as climate change, clean air, and clean water, America can do more. When President Bill Clinton gave Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995, Clinton expressed the importance of heeding Nelson's legacy. "Today, as much as at any time in modern American history," Clinton said, "we need to remember what we share on this precious planet and in this beloved country. And I hope that Gaylord Nelson’s shining example will illuminate all the debates in this city for years to come."

CLIMATE CHANGE CONTINUES: The science is definitive: the earth is warming, and we will bear the consequences. Between 1900 and 2005, the average temperature at the Earth's surface has increased about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit; the last decade was the hottest in 150 years; the hottest 22 years have happened since 1980; and 2005 was the second hottest year on record. Scientists predict global temperatures could increase anywhere from 2.5 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit, "with warming in the United States expected to be even higher." The effects of doing nothing are clear: "Sea levels will rise, flooding coastal areas. Heat waves will be more frequent and more intense. Droughts and wildfires will occur more often. Disease-carrying mosquitoes will expand their range. And species will be pushed to extinction." Despite the evidence, some right-wing commentators continue to deceive the public and say that it's all a myth. (Meanwhile their counterparts in the United Kingdom warn, "Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing the world and we must have a much greater sense of urgency about tackling it.") Recent figures show that the United States “emitted more greenhouse gases in 2004 than at any time in history, confirming its status as the world’s biggest polluter.” Yet, the Bush administration's most recent response has been to muzzle scientists who are most capable of explaining the issue to the public. To fill the void, some are taking the issue directly to the public through the documentary film medium. On Saturday, HBO will premiere Laurie David's new film, "Too Hot to Handle," and in May, Vice President Al Gore will unveil "An Inconvenient Truth" in theaters nationwide. "My goal is to make it personal for everybody, because this issue of global warming is going to impact every single person," says David. "It's not a political issue, it's a moral issue: what kind of world are we all going to choose to live in?"

CLEAN AIR STILL TOO DIRTY: Air pollution continues to pose severe health risks to all Americans. Power plant pollution puts 600,000 newborn children at risk for developmental problems, and cause 24,000 Americans to die an average of 14 years early. The average New Yorkers' risk of developing cancer from air toxins was 68 residents per million, well above the national average of 41.5 residents per million. Minorities face the greatest risk. The Associated Press recently reported that "black Americans are 79 percent more likely than whites to live in neighborhoods where industrial pollution is suspected of posing the greatest health danger." But the Bush administration continues to push its "Clear Skies" legislation in an effort to loosen emission caps on airborne toxins. A federal appeals court recently overturned a controversial regulation that would have allowed power plants and factories to "exempt most equipment changes from environmental reviews," but their "decision is unlikely to be the last word." Meanwhile, administration officials are pushing a plan that some say would "curtail the involvement of scientists and boost the role of political figures in the process of setting national ambient air quality standards for six major pollutants." One such political nominee, William Wehrum of the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, is known as "the behind-the-scenes architect" of the Bush's administration's flawed clean air policies.

WILDERNESS NEEDS MORE PROTECTION: "Our forests are the heart of our environmental support system," warned conservation biologist Don Melnick and Wildlife Trust president Mary Pearl yesterday. "And yet, in the 36 years that have passed since the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, we have lost more than one billion acres of forest, with no end in sight." The U.S. Forest Service recently predicted that 44 million acres of private forest - equal to twice the size of Maine - will be sold off within the next 25 years. The Bush administration is trying to auction off 300,000 acres of forest to fund a rural school program, and the Bureau of Land Managements plans to open 96 percent of the land around the Arizona Strip, which contains the Grand Canyon and other national treasures, to uranium mining and oil exploration. The Bush administration is even cutting funding for the federal lands already under protection. They recently ordered the parks to "show that they can function at 80 percent or less of their operating budgets, which is forcing some parks to cut services for visitors as summer approaches." On the bright side, a right-wing effort to open up 20 million acres of public land to mining was beaten back in a "telling moment of cooperation between hunters and environmentalists."

THE BIODIVERSITY CRISIS: According to a U.N. Global Biodiversity Outlook report, human activity is "responsible for the sixth major extinction event in the history of earth, and the greatest since the dinosaurs disappeared, 65 million years ago." The U.N. found that the current extinction rate is 1,000 times faster than historical rates of loss. In America, the Endangered Species Act has been an effective tool in protecting species from extinction. According to the scientific journal Ecology Letters, "more than 50% of U.S. species listed as endangered before 2000, and almost two-thirds of species listed for 13 or more years, have stabilized or are improving. Further, species whose recovery efforts received significant funding are more likely to be improving." Despite the legislation's effectiveness, the right-wing continues to try to "gut" the protections, forcing biologists to take their case directly to Congress. Internationally, the disappearance of the Amazonian rainforest - one of the world's great "biodiversity hotspots" - continues to be "one of the world’s worst environmental crisis." Climate change is only making things worse. Conservation International found that a 2 degree rise in the Earth's temperature over 50 years "could wipe out tens of thousands of plant and animal species around the planet, even in remote places far away from human activity."

WATER SHOULD BE CLEANER: Since the Clean Water Act became law in 1972, our rivers are no longer catching fire, but much work remains. According to a 2003 EPA study, "approximately 40% of the rivers, 45% of the streams and 50% of the lakes that have been assessed still do not support their designated use," allowing fishing or swimming. Ignoring the figures, the FY2007 Bush budget proposal contained $199 million in cuts (or 22 percent) to the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund, which provides financing for local water projects. Globally, one billion people lack access to clean drinking water, and 2.6 billion lack adequate sanitation. The 2nd U.N. World Water Development Report warned that regions like sub-Saharan Africa may not meet their goal "halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water between 1990 and 2015." Political corruption around the world is viewed as one of the main reasons why billions of people do not have access to clean water.

THE EMERGING ENVIRONMENTAL MAJORITY: Environmental protection should not be a divisive issue; everyone owns a stake in what kind of Earth we pass along to future generations. Sportsmen and environmentalists are teaming up "in debates over the future of federal land in the West as the government seeks to sell hundreds of thousands of acres of federal forest and rangeland and continues to expand oil and gas development." "There's absolutely no question about what's brought us closer together," said Oregon outdoor columnist Pat Wray. "It's the Bush administration." Field & Stream magazine took the White House to task last summer over its wildlife policies: "With deep ties to the oil and gas industry, Bush and Cheney have unleashed a national energy plan that has begun to destroy hunting and fishing on millions of federal acres throughout the West, setting back effective wildlife management for decades to come." On climate change, many evangelicals are taking on global warming as a way to honor the Biblical admonition to watch over God's creation. (Genesis 2:15: "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.") While not all evangelicals have reached consensus about climate change, some like National Association of Evangelicals vice president Richard Cizik "say unapologetically, that we ought to be able to bring to the debate a new voice." In the absence of national leadership, governors are leading the way on innovative clean energy and new environmental solutions.


Blogger demondoll said...

Hey, the Boy's asthma has cleared up since we moved out of Burbank... trees, Fella. Trees and lots of them.

Sunday, April 23, 2006 5:45:00 PM  

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