Flotsam & Jetsam
Findhorn's Footprint: Lowest in Europe, Dow Shareholders Question Bhopal Memo, EPA Urged to Adopt Precautionary Principle, California to Tighten Regulations on Two Pesticides, and more!
May 8, 2007
Findhorn's Footprint: Lowest in Europe
According to a recent Stockholm Environment Institute study, the Findhorn Foundation's ecovillage in Moray, Scotland has recorded the lowest ecological footprint ever seen in the developed world -- just half the UK national average. The results clearly demonstrate that it is possible for communities to have a low environmental impact while retaining a high quality of life.
|The Findhorn Eco-Village in Scotland|
The community's food, and home-and-energy footprints were found to be
37% and 21.5 % of the national average, respectively. Community-level energy generation, local organic food, energy-efficient house design, low levels of commuting and sharing of resources were found to be the major factors.
Jonathan Dawson of GEN-Europe explained how the community
was able to achieve these remarkable results: A high number of people eat food that is locally grown, organic and vegetarian -- and this makes a big difference to the size of the footprint. In addition, many residents live in energy-efficient houses and the ecovillage's four wind turbines not only provide for the community's own needs, but make it a net exporter of electricity.
Findhorn's other energy-saving factors include shared washing machines, communal dinning, and local employment that cuts commuting and has reduced the community's car mileage to just 6% of the national average. Findhorn's footprint would have been even lighter had it not been for the number of international guests who jump on jets and buses to visit the retreat.
For further information, contact: Jonathan Dawson (firstname.lastname@example.org), Findhorns Catherine Glennie (email@example.com) and www.findhorn.org
Dow Shareholders Question Bhopal Memo
In April, Amnesty International (AI) called for a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation of Dow Chemical Co. after the disclosure of an internal company memo regarding the deadly 2001 chemical spill that killed 22,000 people in Bhopal, India. In a November 8, 2006 letter, Dow officials suggested that India create an "appropriate investment climate" by dropping its demand that Dow provide a $22 million deposit towards the Bhopal cleanup. Sanford Lewis, an attorney representing the New York City Pension Funds, a major Dow shareholder, accused the company of "attempting to bypass the Indian courts... by pressuring the executive branch." Amy O'Meara of Amnesty International observed that "Dow's refusal to address the human rights of the Bhopal survivors may be having a serious, but undisclosed, financial impact." AI notes that the "apparent attempts to avoid liability coincide with multiple rumors about a possible Dow buy-out."
EPA Urged to Adopt "Precautionary Principle"
On April 17, the Risk Policy Report records, MIT professor Nicholas Ashford and other advised the National Academy of Sciences (NSA) to adopt "European-style safeguards" for chemicals in the US These safeguards would include the "Precautionary Principle," which requires manufacturers to prove that new substances and technologies are safe before they are allowed on the market. Ashford (a former chair of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety & Health) called for improved testing methods and advised the EPA to "look at Europe and find out what's happening." Instead of just considering the risk to single individuals, Ashford encouraged the NSA to investigate "potential risks to whole communities." While the US Toxics Release Inventory sets no limits on exposures to harmful substances, Ashford praised Massachusetts and New Jersey for passing state laws to hold polluters accountable.
California to Tighten Regulations on Two Pesticides
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) plans to impose new restrictions on two fumigants to reduce exposures to toxic pesticide drift. Metam-sodium and metam-potassium, two pre-plant fumigants, generate volatile gases that irritate the eyes and lungs. In 2005, 7,500 tons of the two chemicals were used to fumigate California vegetable fields. The new controls under consideration would extend buffer zones to one-mile, require prior notification for schools, homes, hospitals and farmworker housing and mandate warning signs in both English and Spanish. DPR Director Mary-Ann Warmerdam said the decision was taken to "reinforce our 'zero-tolerance' policy for pesticide injuries." A public comment session is set for May 30; written comments will be accepted until June 30.
|"If the bee disappears from the Earth, man would have no more than four years to live." The quote, falsely attributed to Albert Einstein, may still be close to the truth. Credit: University of Vermont|
"Veggie Libel" Bill Defeated in Sacramento
On April 11, the California Assembly Agriculture Committee voted to pass AB 698, a so-called "veggie libel" law that would open food-safety critics to costly lawsuits. Similar bills were rejected in 1995 and 1997. The American Civil Liberties Union blasted the bill for raising "First Amendment problems" by making it easier for ranchers and growers to sue watchdogs. The ACLU noted that such laws are "descendents of criminal sedition laws, which made it a crime to criticize public officials." Beyond Pesticides complained that the bill would "stifle freedom of speech" and suppress information about "hazards associated with pesticides." The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression condemned the bill, noting that "books like The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and Silent Spring by Rachel Carson might never have been written if the authors had confronted laws like AB 698." On May 1, the Assembly Judiciary Committee defeated AB 698. www.casp.net
New Organic Herbicide Debuts
Organic farmers in the Western US will be the first to try GreenMatch", a new organic weed-killer that uses d-limonene (a citrus extract) to "burn" weeds by stripping the wax from their leaves. "Weeds are the largest cost to organic farming and the primary reason why many conventional farmers don't transition fully to organic practices," says Pam Marrone, of Marrone Organic Innovations. Marrone says GreenMatch offers an affordable alternative to "hand-weeding, propane flaming, [and] mowing" and provides better results for less cost than "vinegar, soap and oil-based products." www.marroneorganicinnovations.com
Pesticide Suspected in Global Decline of Bees
The Apiary Inspectors of America reports that more than 25% of the country's bee colonies -- 2.4 million hives -- have been lost to a mysterious malady called Collapsing Colony Syndrome. The New York Times reports that similar die-offs are sweeping Guatemala, Brazil and Europe. Some researches have suggested that microwave radiation from cell phones and transmission towers could be responsible for confusing the honeybees natural homing instincts. Others suspect systemic chemical pesticides released into the environment. Pennsylvania State University insect toxicologist Chris Mullin is screening dead bees for traces of 117 chemicals including neonicotinoids. Imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid used in the US and Europe and sold under the brandname Gaucho, was banned in France in 1999 after it was blamed for an outbreak of "mad bee disease." Gaucho's manufacturer, Bayer, claims the pesticide was not hazardous to bees but independent research concluded the danger was real. Dr. Mullen believes neonicotinoids are "the number-one suspect." Results of the toxicology screening are expected sometime in May.
No More Organic Coffee?
The US Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program (NOP) wants to require annual visual inspections of all farms seeking certification as "organic." Under current standards only 20% of the farms are inspected each year. According to an article in Salon, this ruling favors larger farms and plantations but the additional costs and lack of inspectors would make it impossible for thousands of small growers to afford to continue growing organic coffee, bananas, sugar, cocoa, spices, vegetables and herbs. Because organic shade-grown coffee must be tended by hand in small plots, TransFair USA warns the ruling "could wipe out the organic coffee market in the US" The National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture and the Rural Advancement Foundation International have called on the USDA to reconsider the ruling.
Bushs EPA OKs Pesticides in Drinking Water
On April 12, the US Environmental Protection Agency announced its "preliminary determination not to regulate 11 contaminants" found in drinking water. The Safe Drinking Water Act requires the EPA to update its list of regulated contaminants every five years. More than 90 contaminants are currently regulated and, as of 2005, 51 more substances were under consideration for addition to the list. The contaminants the EPA has chosen not to list include: DDE (a breakdown product of DDT), Telone (a soil fumigant), EPTC (an herbicide), Fonofos (an insecticide), Terbacil (an herbicide), and 2,6-diinitrotoluene (a chemical found in explosives, ammunition, dyes and polyurethane foams). The EPA is still considering whether to list two other contaminants -- perchlorate (a by-product of rocket fuel) and MTBE (a toxic ingredient in formulated gasoline).
Harkening to a Wiser Earth
Entrepreneur, author and social activist Paul Hawken has written a new book on the global movement for environmental and social justice called "Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming." Hawken has also created a new Web site called WISER Earth (World Index of Socially and Environmentally Responsible Organizations) that has been called "the first open source network for global social change." WISER Earth contains an ever expanding list of hundreds of thousands of organizations from every continent and it will be updated daily by activists around the world. WISER Earth officially launches in May. [http://www.wiserearth.org/]
Lawn Chemicals, Breast Cancers Linked
A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology compared 1,508 women with newly diagnosed breast cancer and 1,556 women without breast cancer. The women, who lived in Long Island, New York, were questioned about their activities during 1996-1997. The study found that "the use of lawn and garden pesticides was associated with an approximate 40% increased risk in developing breast cancer." The dose was not a determinant since any exposure to the pesticides seemed to increase the risk of developing cancer. The researchers have called for "use of non-chemical alternatives for pest control."
Springtime is boom-time for the lawn-and-garden chemical industry but this spring, Big Chem's ad-blitz for products like Miracle-Grow is being countered by the National Coalition for Pesticide-Free Lawns, which is urging homeowners to swap petroleum-based fertilizers for organic alternatives. Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, the Coalition reports, 19 are linked with cancer or carcinogencity, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 26 with liver or kidney damage, 15 with neurotoxicity, and 11 with disruption of the endocrine system. The Coalition's "Simple Guide to Creating a Healthy Lawn" is available online along with links to scientific studies on the health hazards of chemical lawn care products.
Cotton Is "The World's Dirtiest Crop"
"The Deadly Chemicals in Cotton," a joint report by PAN UK and the Environmental Justice Foundation, notes that $2 billion worth of chemicals are used on the world's cotton fields every year and "cotton is responsible for the release of 16% of global insecticides." The cotton pesticide aldicarb is classified as "extremely hazardous" by the World Health Organization while the pesticide endosulfan "is thought to be the most important source of fatal poisoning among cotton farmers in West Africa." Cotton chemicals also pose a major health risk to workers and children in Uzbekistan and India.
Pesticide Exposure Leads to Fatter Kids
A University of Missouri researcher has found that exposing pregnant mice to endocrine-disrupting chemicals leads to the birth of under-weight mice that subsequently "gain abnormally large amounts of weight in a short period of time, more than doubling their body weight in just seven days." These mice remained obese throughout their lives. Studies of low-birth-weight children reveal a parallel overcompensation, resulting in lifelong obesity. Exposure to "everyday plastics and pesticides while in the womb may make a person more prone to obesity later in life."
Organic Kiwis Are Healthier
Researchers from the University of California at Davis grew two sets of kiwi vines on the same ranch to compare the effects of fruit grown with agricultural chemicals and without. The organically grown kiwis developed darker, thicker, insect-resistant skins and produced 14 percent more vitamin C and 17 percent more polyphenols (health-promoting antioxidants). The researchers reported their findings in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture: "All the main mineral constituents were more concentrated in the organic kiwi fruit."
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