Flotsam & Jetsam
Green Government in Costa Rica, Anti-Nuclear Action in Russia, Africa's Parks for Peace, Popes Call for Green Activism, Cambodian Timber Thugs Attack Enviros.
June 28, 2002
La Costa Will Remain Rica
COSTA RICA - In early May, during her last hour in office, outgoing Environment Minister Elizabeth Odio upheld a government panel's decision to ban oil drilling off the country's Talamanca coast as "environmentally unviable." Costa Rica's incoming Environment Minister has pledged to uphold the decision, which would block Houston-based Harken Energy from building massive oil-drilling platforms in the Caribbean.
The decision was a victory for ADELA, a coalition of anti-oil environmental groups. The campaign to keep the country's coasts rich with marine life was abetted by Global Response [www.globalresponse.org] which flooded Costa Rica with waves of letters from 86 countries. The letters included pleas from hundreds of school children who enclosed drawings of the dolphins and tucuxi whose ocean habitats were at risk from oil pollution.
In his inaugural address, President Abel Pacheco repeatedly referred to the ADELA campaign and promised to make Costa Rica "an ecological leader, not an oil enclave." Sounding very much like an environmental prophet, President Pacheco declared that "the true oil and gold for Costa Rica are water and oxygen produced by our forests."
This is the kind of stand that, in the past, has unleashed CIA plots to overthrow governments. Please register your support by contacting Dr. Abel Pacheco de la Espriella, Presidente de la República de Costa Rica, [email@example.com] and Dr. Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Ministro del Ambiente y Energía [firstname.lastname@example.org]. Please send letters to your representatives asking that the US respect the decision of the Costa Rican people. No more coups for oil.
Don't Dump on Russia
RUSSIA - From June 30 through July 7, thousands of activists from 40 Russian environmental, human rights and women's groups maintained an action camp near Krasnoyarsk, the site of a proposed "international nuclear waste dump. Russia's Ministry of Atomic Power (Minatom) hopes to generate $20 billion by opening its doors to nuclear garbage imported from the West. (Ironically, the G-8 industrial nations have just agreed to spend $20 billion to dismantle Russian nuclear weapons, which will generate additional tons of deadly radioactive wastes.)
A statement from two leading Russian environmental groups, Ecodefense [www.antiatom.ru] and Socio-Ecological Union International, complained that the plan "is being promoted by a small circle of people in Russia's nuclear industry, who hope to control the funds from waste import contracts." The protesters charge that the idea of importing nuclear waste is unacceptable. "Each country has to manage its own waste within its borders. No waste should be dumped on other countries."
Anti-dump campaigners collected nearly 100,000 signatures from Krasnoyarsk residents calling for a referendum on the dump (only 40,000 signatures were needed) but local authorities refused to call a referendum.
Referendum backers have gone to court "in hopes of restoring justice" but, in the meantime, Krasnoyarsk's residents and anti-nuclear demonstrators from around the world are gathering at the action camp to make their presence known.
As Ecodefense co-chair Vladimir Slivyak observes, the nuclear industry "will be unable to stop people if they get active all across Russia."
Eco-Heroes Get a Good Licking
Dave Brower honored on postage stamp.
PALAU -- From Monaco to Ghana, the issuance of commemorative stamps has been a proven means for small but creative nations to raise foreign revenue. The small island Republic of Palau deserves special attention (and praise) for issuing a commemorative block of stamps honoring 16 "Environmental Heroes of the 20th Century." Included in the top rank of heroes are Rachel Carson, Jacques Cousteau and Earth Island founder David Brower. The other honorees include Roger Tory Petersen, Dian Fossey, Joseph Wood Krutch, Prince Philip, Aldo Leopold, David Attenborough, Paul D. McCready, Ian McHarg, J. N. "Ding" Darling, Earth Day founder Denis Hayes and two musicians - Paul Winter and Sting. [ www.postmark-micronesia.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/palaua]
Africa's Parks for Peace
Nelson Mandela and the Peace Park Foundation's Anton Rupert
On October 4, 2001, Nelson Mandela and the tourism ministers of three countries -- South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique -- opened a gate on the South Africa-Mozambique border to allow a family of 40 elephants from South Africa to explore their new home in Mozambique. The relocation of these 40 elephants (the first of 1,000) marked the debut of the world's largest conservation area -- the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.
"In the months to come" Mozambique's The Star editorialized, "visitors from SA will have the opportunity of seeing what lies beyond the Lebombo mountains. While they will have new places to explore, the local populations will be offered concessions to start tented safari camps. Some are being trained as game rangers, others to protect wildlife from poachers."
Africa's Transfrontier Peace Parks are pulling down border fences that are the remnants of colonial-era imperiousness. Imposed political boundaries that cut across ancient animal migration routes and caused the removal of thousands of indigenous villages are slowly being replaced by the unfettered expanse of a shared commons that honors biodiversity and the dream of peace between neighbors.
Across southern Africa, the vision of Peace Parks Foundation creator Dr. Anton Rupert is slowly being realized as tattered scraps of isolated game reserves and conservation areas are being reassembled into an expanding tapestry of vibrant, transnational wilds.
The first Peace Park, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, opened in May 2000. It joined South Africa's Kalahari Gemsbok National Park to Botswana's Gemsbok Park, creating the largest protected natural area in southern Africa.
At least six more transfrontier parks are being planned. On November 27, 2001, the Mozambican Council of Ministers transformed the million-hectare Coutada 16 hunting concession into a national park. Combined with the Madimbo Corridor in South Africa, this had the effect of doubling the size of South Africa's Kruger National Park. Mozambique's Banhine and Zinave National Parks may eventually be linked with the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe. In KwaZulu-Natal, the Mkuze Game Reserve, the Greater St. Lucia Wetlands Park, Ndumo and Tembe Elephant Reserve will be merged with Mozambique's Maputo Elephant Reserve. Zimbabwe and Botswana are planning to create the biggest of these peace parks by pulling together territory ranging from the Okavango Delta to Victoria Falls, Lake Kariba and the Zambezi Valley.
Francisc Nhema (Zimbabwe), Valli Moosa (South Africa), Nelson Mandela and Fernando Sumbana (Mozambique) gather at the border gate to inagurate the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.
Contact: The Peace Parks Foundation [Millennia Park, 16 Stellentia Avenue, Stellenbosch, PO Box 12743, Die Boord, 7613, Republic of South Africa, www.peaceparks.org, email@example.com] Information on tours to the peace parks are available through CCAfrica [www.ccafrica.com/vision/peaceparks].
Vassals in Vessels Pushing Gushy Sushi
ITALY -- The oilier the tuna, the finer the sushi -- at least that's the word from Japan. Spurred by the premium prices being paid by Japanese sushi importers, Europe's tuna suppliers have gone beyond mere fishing and aquaculture to introduce "tuna-farming." Tuna farmers build fish corrals on the coast and fill them with wild tuna caught at sea. Once in the pens, the captive fish are artificially fattened to inflate their oil content. In the last five years, 12 new tuna farms have sprung up around the Mediterranean and exports of farm-fattened fish have ballooned from 200 to 4,300 tons in just three years. The problem, explains the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), is that the Mediterranean tuna stocks are overfished and grabbing tuna for fish farms is further depleting the species. Unlike traditional fishing and aquaculture operations, fish farms remain a totally unregulated industry.
Popes Pray for Environmental Action
ITALY -Earth is blessed in many ways, one of which is that the planet has not one, but two, popes. Catholic Pope John Paul II is better known in the West but Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I is celebrated throughout Europe and the Middle East as "the Green Pope."
John Paul and Bartholomew both agree that the world is in grave environmental danger (of course, since popes are infallible, it only stands to reason that they would agree). On June 10, the two popes issued an unprecedented "Common Declaration" calling on people of all faiths (and non-faiths) to become environmental evangelists.
The popes expressed their shared concern about "the negative consequences... resulting from the degradation of some basic natural resources such as water, air and land, brought about by an economic and technological progress."
The popes deplored government decisions that betray " the mandate God has given us: to be stewards called to collaborate with God in watching over creation in holiness and wisdom" and praised the "growth of an ecological awareness which needs to be encouraged." Echoing the instructions of Gandhi, the Popes stressed the need to consider "the world's children when we reflect on and evaluate our options for action.
"It is not too late," the pontiffs concluded. "God's world has incredible healing powers. Within a single generation, we could steer the earth toward our children's future. Let that generation start now, with God's help and blessing." [The complete text of the Common Declaration is available at Benchmarks.]
Springs Grow Badder with Coke
INDIA - The spring-fed aquifers of Kerala have been "sucked dry" and water-starved local Adivasi and Dalit villagers are pointing their fingers at the Coca-Cola Company. Coca-Cola's factory in Plachimada consumes more than its share of the aquifer, the villagers claim. With the killing heat of India's summer approaching, the villagers began a nonviolent vigil outside the factory gates, demanding the closure of the facility. On June 9, police broke up the protest and arrested 130 villagers - those arrested reportedly included 30 women and 9 children. You can send a free fax to Coke via CorpWatch India [www.corpwatchindia.org/action].
Freshwater Data on Tap
NORWAY -- The quality and quantity of the Earth's accessible freshwaters are in decline. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) "two out of every three persons on Earth will live in water-stressed conditions by the year 2025." By way of preparing for the global drought crisis, UNEP has created a new website, the Freshwater Portal [http://freshwater.unep.net] with free access to critical documents, databases, maps and graphics. Current resources include the Global International Waters Assessment, the Comprehensive Assessment of the Freshwater Resources of the World and the proceedings of last December's International Conference on Freshwater. This is a good site to visit in the run-up to World Water Week set for August 11-17. The Freshwater Portal joins the GEO Data Portal and UNEP on-line resource sites covering Climate Change and the Arctic [www.unep.org]
Congress Challenges Bush to Cut CO2
USA - Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA, www.house.gov/lee) and 40 congressional allies, joined by leading environmental and religious organizations, are calling for the passage of the Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Global Climate Change Act of 2001 (HR 117). The act would compel the Bush administration to "implement policies to reduce emissions of fossil-fuel-generated carbon dioxide with the goal of achieving stabilization of greenhouse gas emissions in the US at the 1990 level by the year 2010." This echoes the goal set by the Kyoto Protocol on Global Warming, which George W. Bush (alone among the world's leaders) has repudiated. Rep. Lee declared that Mr. Bush needs to understand that "global warming poses grave dangers to our environment, our economy and our national security."
Enviros Attacked by Timber Thugs
CAMBODIA - Because illegal logging is a lucrative business in Cambodia, the government in Phnom Penh established the Forest Crime Monitoring and Reporting Project (FCMRP) to control the illicit trade. In December 1999, the London-based Global Witness was invited to undertake the role as the FCMRP's Independent Monitor.
Almost immediately, the Global Witness (GW) workers began receiving threatening email messages. The situation worsened when the investigators uncovered evidence that GAT International and other giant logging companies were ignoring a government ban on logging that went into effect on January 1, 2002. "The more information we uncover, the more serious the threats become," reports GW's Jon Buckrell.
When GW staff visited the forests to investigate the situation on the ground, they were threatened by timber concession security guards. The environmentalists even received "veiled threats from government officials who are meant to be working with Global Witness to stop illegal logging."
On April 30, one of GW's senior representatives was attacked outside the NGO's office by as many as three masked assailants who clubbed him to the ground and fled. "We will be seeking assurances from the very highest levels of government that this incident will be thoroughly investigated and the future safety of our staff assured," Buckrell has vowed.
On March 18, Global Witness received another surprise but this time it was a pleasant one. The organization received word that it had been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize [Global Witness Limited, PO Box 6042, London, N19 5WP, UK, www.globalwitness.org]
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