Retailer adopting reusable bags

Environmental groups estimate that 100 billion plastic bags are used annually in the United States. Once discarded, those bags become trash, clog landfills and drainage systems, and cause harm to marine wildlife.

Half Price Books, one of the nation’s largest new and used bookstore chains and a dedicated supporter of national literacy projects and environmental issues, is making a commitment to further reduce the use of its recycled plastic bags by urging customers to use fewer bags and to utilize reusable bags whenever they shop. — Environmental News Service

Polar bears, hippos at risk for extinction

The polar bear and the hippopotamus are listed for the first time as vulnerable species at risk of extinction in the 2006 Red List of Threatened Species recently released by the IUCN-World Conservation Union. The ongoing decline of the Earth’s biodiversity due to the impact of humans upon life on Earth is revealed in this authoritative assessment of the global status of plants and animals.

About 40 percent of the 40,177 species assessed using the IUCN Red List criteria, are now listed as threatened with extinction — a total of 16,119 species.

“The 2006 IUCN Red List shows a clear trend: biodiversity loss is increasing, not slowing down,” said IUCN Director General Achim Steiner, who will take over as head of the UN Environment Program effective June 15.

“The implications of this trend for the productivity and resilience of ecosystems and the lives and livelihoods of billions of people who depend on them are far-reaching,” Steiner said.

One in every three amphibian species and a quarter of the world’s coniferous trees, are now listed as endangered. In addition, one in eight bird species and one in four mammals are still classed as endangered.

The total number of species declared officially by the IUCN Extinct is 784 and a further 65 are only found in captivity or cultivation.

Because global warming is affecting some of the coldest places on Earth, the polar bear is at greater risk of extinction this year. Previously listed by IUCN as a conservation dependent species, the polar bear moves into the threatened categories and has been classified as vulnerable.

The common hippopotamus is also in trouble. One of Africa’s best known animals, it is listed as threatened for the first time and is now classified as vulnerable, primarily because of a catastrophic decline in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The hippo population in Africa has plummeted by 95 percent since 1994. The decline is due to unregulated hunting for meat and the ivory of their teeth.

Tokyo embraces renewable energy

Renewable energy has a bright future in Japan’s largest city. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government recently issued its Renewable Energy Strategy in an attempt to go beyond the level of pilot projects and increase renewable energy use in the city to 20 percent of all energy supplies by the year 2020. Tokyo’s Bureau of Environment says this target is proposed “from the view point of being in line with other advanced countries and regions on renewable energy use to avoid serious future effects of global warming.”

Japan is a signatory to the Kyoto climate protocol, and the bureau says renewable energy use and energy efficiency are the keys to reducing the emission of greenhouse gases linked to climate warming. The agency also reasons that the growing renewable energy market can create new business opportunities. The government has installed several pilot projects — wind generators in the Tokyo waterfront area, and a water treatment plant that uses one of Japan’s largest solar generators.

Today, renewable energy supplies about 2.7 percent of the total energy demand from Tokyo’s approximately 12.5 million people. Power and heat from waste incineration plants, and solar light and heat are the major sources of renewable energy in the Tokyo metropolitan area. — Environmental News Service

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