Posts Tagged ‘nature and the environment’

Pollution
Pollution, by ribarnica on flickr, creative commons.

Voting 247 times in the last 18 months to undermine regulations that protect the environment, the “House of Representatives has become the most anti-environment House in the history of Congress,” according to a June 16, 2012 report prepared for Congress members Henry Waxman and Edward Markey.

House Republicans have repeatedly voted to undermine basic environmental protections that have existed for decades. They have voted to block actions to prevent air pollution; to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of authority to enforce water pollution standards; to halt efforts to address climate change; to stop the Department of the Interior from identifying lands suitable for wilderness designations; to allow oil and gas development off the coasts of Florida, California, and other states opposed to offshore drilling; and to slash funding for the Department of Energy, including funding to support renewable energy and energy efficiency, by more than 80%.

The House of Representatives averaged one anti-environmental vote for every day the House was in session in 2011 and the first half of 2012. Of the 1,100 legislative roll call votes taken in the House since the beginning of 2011, 19% – almost one out of every five – were votes to undermine environmental protection. During these roll calls, 94% of Republican members voted for the anti-environment position, while 87% of Democratic members voted for the pro-environment position.

The report explains that the oil and gas industry is the largest beneficiary of the numerous Republican votes to dismantle environmental protections. Perhaps the oil and gas industry stands to profit in the short term, but what about the cost of environmental destruction in the long term?

House Republicans have voted to undermine The Clean Air Act that was signed into law in 1970 by President Nixon. According to an EPA full report, the benefits of the Clean Air Act outweigh the costs by a factor of four to one. In 2010, according to EPA:

saved over 160,000 lives; avoided more than 100,000 hospital visits; prevented millions of cases of respiratory problems, including bronchitis and asthma; enhanced productivity by preventing 13 million lost workdays; and kept kids healthy and in school, avoiding 3.2 million lost school days due to respiratory illness and other diseases caused or exacerbated by air pollution.

In addition, House Republicans have voted to remove protections for public lands, fish and wildlife. These are areas that contain scenic wonders as well as endangered species.

America’s public lands and resources also supported two million jobs and generated $363 billion in revenue in 2010.

Yet House Republicans voted 39 times to weaken environmental protections on public lands in 2011 and the first half of 2012.

Why would, and how could, anyone vote to destroy the national parks?

The litany continues:

•77 votes to undermine Clean Air Act protections, including votes to repeal the health-based standards that are the heart of the Clean Air Act and to block EPA regulation of toxic mercury and other harmful emissions from power plants, incinerators, industrial boilers, cement plants, and mining operations.

• 39 votes to weaken protection of public lands and wildlife, including votes to halt reviews of public lands for possible wilderness designations and to remove protections for salmon, wolves, sea turtles, and other species.

• 37 votes to block action to address climate change, including votes to overturn EPA’s scientific findings that climate change endangers human health and welfare; to block EPA from regulating carbon pollution from power plants, oil refineries, and vehicles; to prevent the United States from participating in international climate negotiations; and even to cut funding for basic climate science.

• 31 votes to undermine Clean Water Act protections, including votes to strip EPA of authority to set water quality standards and enforce limits on industrial discharges; to repeal EPA’s authority to stop mountaintop removal mining disposal; and to block EPA from protecting headwaters and wetlands that flow into navigable waters.

Is the current House of Representatives looking to win a world record for voting to put the environment on a fast tract to destruction?

The full report is here, if you can even stand to read it.

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As countries surrounding the freshly exposed waters in the Arctic region are poised to claim the areas for commercial fishing and other exploits, more than 2000 scientists have signed an open letter begging for a moratorium on the use of natural resources in the area, until ecological studies are completed. The warming climate trend has melted a 2.8 million km square of ice in an international waters area, and raised policy concerns.

In a document titled Expanding the EU’s Institutional Capacities
in the Arctic Region
Policy Briefing and Key Recommendations
, Roderick Kefferpütz & Danila Bochkarev state:

According to the recent U.S. Geological Survey, the region holds significant oil and natural gas
reserves. Melting ice cover would facilitate the exploitation of these resources and open up access
to fish stocks and particularly new shipping routes, which promise shorter distances for trade between
Europe and East Asia. On the other hand, the melting of the Arctic’s ice cap, while increasing
the region’s geopolitical and geo-economic importance, significantly exacerbates its environmental
fragility, threatens the traditional way of life of the indigenous population and increases the
potential for conflict in the region.

What countries stand to profit from Arctic ice melt? Kefferpütz and Bochkarev explain:

Besides the Arctic 5 countries (A5) that encircle the North Pole (United States, Canada, Russia,
Norway, Denmark and Greenland), the European Union has signalled a clear interest in the region.
Commissioners Piebalgs and Borg have both stressed the need to tap the region’s natural resources
while the EU’s High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana,
acknowledged the Arctic in his recent report on climate change and international security.

The authors point out that the mixture of power and resources could well result in militarization of the new Arctic zone, meaning that climate change and international security will likely be connected in the future. China and Japan are also involved, with Japan funding research for Arctic-class tankers. Legal issues, area governance and regulations are complex and will likely be the topic of concern and discussion among policymakers and international lawyers. Currently, no clear regulations are in place.

Meanwhile, the newly exposed area contains a new and fragile ecosystem. Scientists have insufficient data at this point on what is in the ecosystem, let alone the impact of removing what is there through commercial fishing, for example.

The authors note that the New Arctic zone has fish stocks, metals and likely the world’s largest untapped hydrocarbon (oil) reserves. They also predict “Heavy militarisation, a relic of the Cold War, remains an important challenge for the foreseeable future, particularly in the context of policies pursued by Russia, the U.S. and Canada.”

Will the scientists be kicked to the curb in the name of money? Will the Arctic be kicked to the curb in the name of money?

Sources:

http://www.oceansnorth.org/arctic-fisheries-letter


http://www.boell.ru/downloads/Arctic_Web-Version-3.pdf

http://blogs.nature.com/news/2012/04/scientists-call-for-no-fishin-zone-in-arctic-waters.html

Sea turtle nest sign (Boca raton, FL)

By Ianaré Sévi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Elements of the Humane Scorecard

The 501 (c) (4) Humane Society Legislative Fund tracks Congressional voting on animal welfare issues, and publishes the results yearly in the Humane Scorecard. Monitored issues include:

1. Proposed banning of animal ‘crush’ videos depicting crushing, burning, impaling and torture of live animals; such videos are sold on the internet to users who enjoy watching them for sexual gratification.

2. Guns in Parks, the Coburn Amendment: A law now allows loaded guns in national parks and wildlife refuges.

3. ESA Rule repeal: This amendment failed, and has to do with the Endangered Species Act; in May of 2009, the Obama Administration rescinded Bush ESA rules.

4. Puppy Mills.

5. Horse Slaughter S. 727, concerning the transport, treatment and slaughter of horses for human consumption.

6. Truth in Fur Labeling was signed into law in 2010.

7. Antibiotics Overuse S 619, introduced by Senator Ted Kennedy, never signed into law, addresses reckless nontherapeutic antibiotic overuse in farm animals. Overuse is associated with unsanitary animal warehousing and diminished antibiotic effectiveness in humans.

8. Chimpanzees in research S. 3694, a bill to protect great apes from invasive research and associated inhumane warehousing.

United States President Barack Obama

The Obama Administration received a grade of C- on the Humane Scorecard in 2011.

Notable:

…the Obama administration not only demonstrated that it has no problem with the fact that tens of thousands of pigs show up at slaughterhouses so injured, weak and sickened that they cannot walk, but also demonstrated that it thinks state laws protecting such animals should be overridden so that immobilized pigs can be forced to slaughter.

Source.

United States President Barack Obama general quotes on the environment here.

Former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Georgia)

Gingrich earned a 21 percent on the Humane Scorecard for the 103rd Congress, but did not have scores for subsequent sessions since the Speaker of the House typically does not vote. He did vote to allow sport hunting in the Mojave National Preserve, and to allow foreign aid dollars to be used to promote trophy hunting of elephants and other species. On the positive side, he cosponsored legislation to strengthen the Endangered Species Act, and when he was Speaker helped to prevent the weakening of endangered species protections. Gingrich is, so far, the only presidential candidate who has actively talked about the importance of the human-animal bond while on the campaign trail

Source.

Newt Gingrich quotes on the environment here.

Congressman Ron Paul (Texas)

Ron Paul’s voting record on animal welfare issues is consistently low and notable. Michael Markarian is the president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. Regarding Ron Paul, Markarian summarizes:

He has voted to allow the slaughter of American horses for food exports, the killing of Yellowstone National Park bison, the trophy shooting of bears over piles of bait on federal lands, the commercial sale and slaughter of wild horses from public lands, the import of sport-hunted polar bear trophies, and the slaughter of downer livestock too sick or injured to walk on their own. He voted to block EPA from collecting data on factory farm emissions and voted against conservation legislation to protect rare cats and dogs, cranes, marine turtles, and sea otters. He was one of only a handful of lawmakers who opposed legislation to ban commerce in animal crush videos, to provide for pets in disaster planning, to ban the trade in dangerous primates as pets, to make dogfighting and cockfighting a felony, and to fund the enforcement of the federal animal fighting law.

More and source.

Ron Paul also takes a negative position on recycling.

Here are more Ron Paul quotes on the environment.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (California)

His term as Massachusetts governor from 2003 to 2007 was mixed, and Romney did not distinguish himself on animal issues. He appointed a raft of animal-unfriendly people to the state Fisheries and Wildlife Board, even though Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly passed a ballot measure calling for more balanced wildlife policy. He vetoed a bill that would have given students the right to choose alternatives to animal dissection in the classroom. He did, however, sign a number of animal protection bills into law, including measures to strengthen the animal cruelty and animal fighting laws and prevent a convicted animal abuser from getting the animal back.

Source and story about the Irish Setter.

Mitt Romney quotes on the environment here.

Former US Senator Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania)

Rick Santorum’s voting record reflects that he has sided with animal welfare more often than other contenders who have served in Congress. Again from Michael Markarian:

Of all the candidates who have served in Congress, Santorum was arguably the most active on animal protection issues. He earned a 60 percent on the Humane Scorecard for the 108th Congress, and an 80 percent for the 109th Congress. But more importantly, he was the lead sponsor of the Pet Animal Welfare Statute (PAWS)…

Source.

However, the League of Conservation Voters scores Rick Santorum at a 0%, indicating anti-environment votes in other areas. Here is more.

Jill Stein (Massachusetts) – Physician, progressive activist, author & ’02/10 Governor nominee.

Jill Stein takes the position that the environment is imperiled and that protections are necessary. Here are her quotes on the environment, including her goals. More here.

This is a video of desert elephants from BBC’s Planet Earth series:

Nature photographers observe and record nature events that can involve risk. I own the DVD series BBC Planet Earth and, in one of the segments, they explain a general hands-off no-intervention policy. This policy must make the photographer’s job painful at times. For example, in one of the elephant segments, an elephant becomes separated from the pack, and we see the elephant wander off, lost and thirsty.

I am unable to find the clip with the lost elephant on YouTube. While I understand and accept a no-intervention policy, I must say that this has got to be very difficult for the photographers. That said, I do believe that their policy is somewhat flexible, because they did rescue a penguin chick from a hole, while the distressed parent penguins watched. They may have also assisted the lost elephant. I would have.

Question: Should nature photographers adopt a strict policy, or should they intervene sometimes?

The BBC Planet Earth series was one of the best gifts I have ever received. It is absolutely beautiful and, at times, heartbreaking.

Here is a lovely BBC clip about elephant calves learning to drink, posted eight months ago:

A poem, written by Masoninblue, and published full-text here, with permission.

Grand Canyon
Under creative commons on flickr by Moyan_Brenn

OCCUPY is the “prime directive” (h/t shekissesfrogs). I dreamed this poem into being last night after writing a short comment to a diary by Frank Lee Speaking.

OCCUPY

We decide

what matters.

We lead

but we are leaderless.

We act

and wait for no one to save us.

We save ourselves.

Sometimes a drop

sometimes a tsunami,

we are everywhere and we are nowhere.

National boundaries do not separate us;

Language does not separate us;

Religion does not separate us;

Skin color does not separate us.

Anything that separates us,

we go around

wear it down

disappear it.

We are becoming . . .

there is no force in the universe that can stop us.

we are an idea taking form

We are becoming . . .

Birthing a new world

No one imagined a year ago.

We are becoming . . .

Let he who doubts the power in a drop of water

leap into the Grand Canyon.

In the beginning there was the word.

We know that word today:

OCCUPY.

Cross posted at my blog and the Smirking Chimp.