Eco News


Global warming fear: A new poll has found a majority of Americans recognize the threat of climate change and want politicians to do something to reverse it. In the wake of the midterm elections in which Democrats took back the House and Senate, it is clear that the people have spoken – and that global warming is a high on their agenda. Some key findings say a majority of Americans (58 percent) feel global warming will have a "great to extreme" impact on their children’s future. Furthermore, roughly two out of three Americans agree that the U.S. economy will be adversely impacted over the next 10 years by global warming. More than half of Americans (55 percent) say it would be "very to extremely" beneficial to national security to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, and a majority of Americans (61 percent) say it is "very to extremely" important for their government leaders to require higher fuel efficiency standards in automobiles. "The findings from this poll show that the majority of Americans will not allow climate change to be continuously ignored," says Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network. "The American people have spoken – and they are concerned about curbing greenhouse gasses from our vehicles and energy sources. They are concerned about the future of their children and the role of faith in the future of the planet." – Earth Day Network []

Genetically engineered foods: The fifth annual survey on U.S. consumers’ opinions of genetically engineered foods was released last week by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology. In accordance with past years, the survey results indicated that most Americans have very little knowledge about how widespread genetically engineered ingredients are in foods. Surprisingly, the survey found that the average person’s knowledge of these issues has actually declined in the last five years. Although 89 percent of soybeans and 61 percent of corn acreage in the U.S. is currently genetically engineered (and soy lecithin and corn syrup are found in a myriad of mainstream food products), 75 percent of people don’t think they’ve ever eaten a food with genetically engineered ingredients. The survey also found that 51 percent of those polled are opposed to animal cloning. Only 29 percent said they trust the FDA, which is a strong drop from 41 percent in 2001. – Organic Consumers Association []

2025 goal of 25 percent renewable: Renewable resources could produce 25 percent of the electricity and motor vehicle fuels used in the United States by 2025 at little or no additional cost, finds a RAND Corporation study. Renewable sources currently provide about six percent of all U.S. energy supplies. Using a computer model, RAND researchers assessed the possible impact that a 25 percent renewable energy target for electricity and motor vehicle ground transportation could have on total national energy expenditures and on emissions of local air pollutants and carbon dioxide by the year 2025. They found that if renewable energy production costs decline by at least 20 percent between now and 2025, which is consistent with recent experience, the 25 percent figure can be reached unless long-term oil prices fall far below the range currently projected by the federal Energy Information Administration, EIA. RAND conducted the study at the request of the Energy Future Coalition, a nonpartisan public policy organization in Washington, D.C. In his 2006 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush stated goals for increasing the use of biomass fuels in transportation and curbing oil imports. Without waiting for federal action, 20 states and the District of Columbia, meanwhile, have set targets for increasing the use of renewable electricity technologies with renewable energy portfolios that require a percentage of a state’s power to be generated by renewables. – Environmental News Service []

Year of the dolphin: The Year of the Dolphin 2007, launched in Bonn, Germany, on December 6, will be marked by an all-out effort to raise public awareness of threats to these marine mammals, such as entanglement in fishing nets and degradation of their habitats. The Year of the Dolphin is a joint initiative between the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species, its regional dolphin conservation agreements, the British nonprofit Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, and TUI, one of Germany’s top tour operators. The partners will publish dolphin information in brochures and travel catalogues, in-flight magazines, and on a dedicated website, "We believe that our tourists and managers could contribute to an important cause while enjoying their holidays or doing their work," said TUI Director of Corporate Environmental Management Wolf-Michael Iwand. Multilingual dolphin manuals will be developed and distributed to young travelers and their families in TUI destinations and passed on to local schools. And a "dolphin diploma" will be created for children. It is estimated that world-wide over 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises drown in fishing nets each year. The biggest threat facing Europe’s dolphins is incidental entanglement and death in fishing nets. Thousands of dolphins and porpoises around the UK continue to die in nets every year. – Environmental News Service []

Seafood consumption unsustainable: To sustain present levels of seafood consumption, humans would need more than 2.5 times the area of all the Earth’s oceans, according to "The Fishprint of Nations 2006," a new study based on the idea of the human ecological footprint. Like the ecological footprint, the fishprint measures the amount of ocean area needed to sustain the consumption patterns of individual nations and the human population as a whole. The report, issued by three diverse organizations – Redefining Progress, the Ocean Project, and the Center for Sustainable Economy – estimates that humans are overfishing by roughly 157 percent. It finds that 91 countries, including the United States, overfished their biological capacity in 2003. Bill Mott is director of the Ocean Project based in Providence, Rhode Island, a network of aquariums, zoos, museums, and conservation organizations working to protect oceans. "Scientific evidence underscores that the world’s ocean is essential to human survival and also under direct and increasing threat from human actions," said Mott. "The trends may seem dire, but we still have the opportunity to leave a more abundant and healthier ocean for our grandchildren. Every person on Earth is connected to the ocean, no matter where they live." – Environmental News Service []

Pressure results: Starbucks has announced its desire to eliminate Bovine Growth Hormone from its coffee shops and will reduce its use of rBGH/rBST dairy products immediately. After years of pressure from the Organic Consumers Association and its allies, the coffee chain recently stated it will be 37 percent rBGH-free in its company-owned cafes by January. Monsanto’s rBGH, injected into dairy cows to force them to give more milk, is a genetically engineered synthetic hormone that is banned in most of the world, due to its health risks. – Organic Consumers Association []

New marine species: Deep sea shrimp that can tolerate the hottest fluids ever discovered coming from a seafloor vent, a school of fish off the coast of New Jersey the size of the island of Manhattan, and many new species found far beneath Antarctic ice – these are just a few of the discoveries made in 2006 by scientists working with the global Census of Marine Life. Some 2,000 researchers from 80 countries are engaged in a 10 year initiative to assess and explain the diversity, distribution and abundance of marine life in the world’s oceans past, present and future. Census scientists mounted 19 ocean expeditions in 2006. The most intense field work is taking place in 2006 through 2008. The results will be analysed and synthesized in 2009 and 2010. The goal is to publish by 2010 an initial census describing what lived, now lives, and will live in the oceans. "The vast expanse of the oceans, the rarity of some animals, their movements, and fluctuations challenge Census researchers. Happily, the astonishing progress of the past six years shows the community will create the first-ever Census of Marine Life in 2010," says Jesse Ausubel, a program manager for the Sloan Foundation, a Census sponsor. – Environmental News Service []

Livestock & climate: A new report from the United Nations says that the world’s rapidly expanding livestock herds are responsible for 18 percent of all greenhouse gases. This alarming figure takes into account the clearing of rainforest and vegetation for grazing, the petroleum needed to produce fertilizers for animal feed, the fuel needed to produce and transport meat, and the gases created by manure and flatulence. – Organic Consumers Association []

Kraft guacamole: Kraft Foods Inc. is being sued for misleading consumers about a chemical concoction questionably labeled as "guacamole" dip. Although guacamole has been made for hundreds of years out of avocado, Kraft’s chemical dip features yummy stuff like hydrogenated oils, starch, food coloring, and other synthetics-with less than 2 percent of the dip composed of avocado. According to Claire Regan, vice president of Kraft Foods corporate affairs, "We think consumers understand that [the guacamole] isn’t made from avocado." – Organic Consumers Association []

Environmental markets: Emerging ecosystems markets will be the topic for academia, industry leaders, government officials and landowners at a meeting – "Ecosystem Service Markets: Everybody’s Business" – February 27 in Houston. "This most important and timely conference serves as a necessary convening of the individuals, organizations and stake holders who would be most impacted by market-based trading of environmental services," said Texas Forest Service director James B. Hull. Featured presenters include Dr. J. B. Ruhl of Florida State University College of Law, Dr. James Salzman of Duke University Law School and Dr. Geoffrey Heal of Columbia University. They will lead discussions on landowner incentives to protect natural resources. According to the USDA Forest Service’s "Valuing Nature’s Capital" Oct. 2006 report, trees and forests are valued for basic goods such as food and wood fiber, but they deliver other important services to the environment and society that are often perceived to be free and limitless: air and water purification, flood and climate regulation, biodiversity, and scenic landscapes. Taken for granted as public benefits, ecosystem services lack a formal market and as a result their critical contributions are overlooked in public, corporate and individual decision-making. For more information and to register, go to – Texas A&M

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Tim Miejan
Tim Miejan is a writer who served as former editor and publisher of The Edge for twenty-five years. Contact him at [email protected].


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