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Earth Check-Up over Thanksgiving Week

Earth! (Image: donkeyhotey, flickr)

Earth! (Image: donkeyhotey, flickr)

Filling in for a couple of days this week while a transition was made for the early morning news format here at FDL, I was surprised at the number of articles that kept popping up about the environment.  But, of course:  Our politicians, officials and other Serious People were enjoying a week off, thus leaving a gap in the standard news fare.

Here are some of the articles I didn’t use as well as a few ones from the last couple of days.  The articles cover quite a range, from very promising local actions to on-going severe environmental threats at places around the globe.

Maine’s development of wind power continues apace.  People in Oakfield voted 81-22 this week for “a tax increment financing agreement . . . on a new $300 million industrial wind project”.  Additional financing will result in wind energy power for 20,000 homes, according to the developer.

Denmark is accelerating its wind energy development, and now expects to have half the country’s electricity supplied by wind power by 2020–and reducing reliance on fossil fuels to 0 (that’s a zero!) by 2050.   Government planned investment in Denmark’s energy program is also going to increase from 3.6 billion to 5.6 billion kronor.  Why is this happening?  “The left-wing government, which came to power in September, has largely overtaken the previous centre-right administration’s energy programme ‘but setting the goals higher’ . . ..”

? Argentine physicians have issued a report about the impact of GM pesticides and health, incorporating results from studies they’ve made as far back as 25 years.  The ill-health conditions observed in local communities “were quite unusual and linked to systemic sprayings of pesticides.”

? After 130 years, asbestos mining in Canada has halted.  No reason to celebrate yet, since there are plans to resume production in the spring, encouraged by Prime Minister Harper.   In opposition,  NDP MP Pat Martin points out that the Canadian government “spends millions of dollars subsidizing the asbestos industry and curbing international efforts to curb its use . . . [and blocks] international health and safety conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos”.   Illnesses resulting from exposure to asbestos are extremely serious, and deadly–mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.  (Warren Zevon and Paul Gleason were among many who have succumbed to mesothelioma.)

? A Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation report warns of contamination of Northwest Territories water by the highly toxic wastewater flowing from bitumen extraction of Alberta’s oil-sands.  Recommendations include a major water monitoring project and federal government assistance to “help the N.W.T. and aboriginal governments implement the territory’s Water Stewardship Strategy.”

? As if its troubles are not great enough at the moment, Colombia’s land, according to Oxfam, “is being stockpiled by multinational companies which could lead to [even] greater rural poverty”.  Not surprisingly, the multinationals don’t intend to use the land for growing food, but instead for “investment or speculation purposes, or increasingly for growing bio-fuels,” the latter having escalated to the point that it has become an “acute problem.” What the multinationals find most attractive about Colombia, however, are “the quality of its land as for its water.”  Not hard to imagine where this will lead.

In Bodo, on the Niger Delta, great damage has been done and continues three years after a major Shell oil “spill” in the region.  Amnesty International’s report contains very disturbing photographs of the impacts of the spill on the water, land and the approximately 69,000 people who live in Bodo.  “Many [of the people] are worried about their health and are afraid to eat locally caught fish or drink water from streams of rain water,” as they used to do.  “With their livelihoods destroyed and food prices rising, many can’t afford to buy nutritious food” from outside sources.

? Another result of global warming: Threatened massive tree die-offs in Washington have officials scrambling to find solutions. “So many pine, fir and spruce trees in the Northwest are riddled with bugs and disease that major tree die-offs are expected to rip through a third of Eastern Washington forests–an area covering 3 million acres–in the next 15 years . . . “

? Have we finally achieved a major turning-point in healing the planet?  “Electricity from the  wind, sun, waves and biomass drew $187 billion last year compared with $157 billion for natural gas, oil and coal . . ..”  This critical point was reached even in the midst of a worldwide financial crisis.

So much more to do!

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