NEWS & CAMPAIGNS by Lucinda Labe s Send details of your organisation's campaigns, and any important news stories and developments to Lucinda Labes, at The Ecologist, Unit 18 Chelsea Wharf, 15 Lots Road, London SW10 OQJ
WTO Wages War on Forests The new 'free logging' agreement picks up speed
In June, in the wake of mass public protest, G8 leaders meeting in Cologne were prepared to promise anything. Yes, "we agree that environmental considerations should be taken fully into account in the upcoming round of WTO negotiations", they said, in an official press statement. And yes, we do understand "the importance of taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions".
Hollow promises? Apparently so. Just one month later, the Clinton administration's proposal for upcoming Millennium Round agenda has come out in full support of the recently-proposed Global Free Logging Agreement (See The Ecologist Vol. 29, No.3, p.181) .
This far-reaching WTO stipend would eradicate tariffs for forest products between the 135 member nations, as well as allowing investors unfettered access to another countries' woodland.
What's more, foreign logging corporations would have no obligation to observe domestic labour or environmental laws,
or protect endangered forests. Indeed, any country attempting to preserve its trees could be accused of "protectionism"- the eighth deadly sin, in the eyes of trade liberalisation advocates.
Clearly, the bill would have a devastating impact on the world's remaining forests. Even the American Forest & Paper Association is prepared to admit that the legislation would increase global wood consumption by up to 4 per cent. Slash and burn deforestation techniques, and a reduction in the overall quantity of oxygen-producing vegetation would increase levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, directly contributing to the global warming which our G8 leaders are supposedly so keen to avert.
48 members of the US Congress have written to President Bill Clinton, asking that he reject the WTO's proposal.
Please add your voice to the message. Write to US Trade Representative, Charlene Barshefsky, by contacting Antonia at firstname.lastname@example.org or ring + (202) 547-9230.
Let Them Eat Caviar Eating caviar is no longer just a matter of taste. Nowadays it is also a question of conscience.
In 1998, 23 types of sturgeon, including beluga and sevruga, were placed under international protection, after fisherman reported ever-dwindling catches. Now, a debate is raging in the conservation movement about how best to protect them.
Conservationists are in two minds. Caroline Raymakers, of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as CITES, thinks we should eat as much caviar as we can, particularly of the very expensive kind. By spending a lot of money on legally caught caviar, the consumer makes sturgeon too valuable for caviar exporting nations to lose.
But Vadim Birstein, a conservation biologist who helped sound the first alarm of the sturgeon's predicament, says we shouldn't be eating caviar at all. At the current rate of consumption, the Beluga species of sturgeon will have disappeared in 5 years time.
The reasons are manifold: sturgeon, which can grow to 9 metres and weigh up to 500 kilograms, take 25 years to reach maturity. Traditionally, fishermen
catch mature females as they swim upstream to spawn. But a spate of greed has prompted catches on the high seas, resulting in the unnecessary deaths of large males and immature females.
Dam-building is also to blame. Massive hydroelectric projects throughout China, Iran and Russia have blocked females from their ancient spawning grounds. And in the Caspian Sea, oil drilling, with its incumbent pollution, has sounded the death knell for many of the water's fish.
Poaching is the worst problem. Even since the break-up of the Soviet Union in
the early 1990s, black market caviar exports have soared. CITES hopes to protect the embattled fish by stamping out the illegal catches. After April next year, the institutes' 145 member nations will only buy caviar bearing the official CITES stamp.
Let's hope the measure hasn't come too late. According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome, 1997's sturgeon quotas plummeted to a disastrous 4,696 metric tons, down from some 20,416 just a decade earlier.
For the sturgeon, its going to be an upstream battle.
The Ecologist, Vol. 29, No 6, October 1999 Sacred Mountains Are Quarried Deep in the heartland of South Central Timor, the Molo tribe is up in arms. For on July 5th, marble mining company PT Karya Asta Alam (PT KAA) began drilling into their two sacred mountains.
licising the numerous violations carried out by the company. Mining on sacred land is illegal under Indonesian law, and PT KAA don't have permission from the regional government to quarry the mountains. What's more, the Molo's stone-hills fall within a designated National Park, which is protected by law against the ravages of mining.
Fatu Naususu and Fatu Anjaf are where the Molo go to pray. When important community decisions need to be made, the tribespeople meet on their mountains. Ancient folklore has it that the first Molo man and woman appeared on Naususu and Anjaf. So when they die, the Molo are buried in the ancient hills.
A network of local indigenous groups have rallied to the Molo's defence, pub
Ecologically, the mine would be a disaster. The water-intensive industry would pollute and diminish the mountains' river water, drying up the fertile agricultural land below, dubbed 'the rice bowl' of Timor. When another company began mining in the same region last year, poisonous chemical runoff from
the quarrying led to the revocation of the company's license. PT KAA has no environmental strategy and, so far, has failed to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment.
PT KAA, in cahoots with the local government, have responded aggressively to the Molo's protests. Last week, 200 armed guards were hired to protect the company's site.
Please write to the Indonesian Environmental Minister: Mr. Panantian Siregar, Jl. M. Merdeka Bar at 15, Jakarta Pus at, Indonesia. The London Embassy telephone number is +44(0)171 499 7661.
Norway to Claim PCB Compensation Norwegian authorities are preparing a collective lawsuit, demanding compensation from the world's former PCB manufacturers.
Norway's fjords and harbours are believed to contain up to 400 tonnes of polychlorinated biphenyls, for which clean-up costs are estimated at £1.1 billion.
PCBs, the bulk of which were sold by a subsidiary of our old friends Monsanto, came onto the market in the 1930s. The greasy fluids were used as insulators
in electrical equipment. But production was short-lived. When PCBs were found to concentrate up the food chain, saturating animal fat with hormone disrupting toxins, the chemicals were banned. However, prevention came too late. Already, one fifth of the 1.5 billion tonnes manufactured is circulating through the oceans, poisoning marine life across the world. In 1997, arctic researchers discovered four hermaphroditic polar bear cubs, whilst dolphin, seal and whale blubber is so contaminated that coastal authorities have to treat beached marine mammals as "toxic
Normally, Norwegian land-owners have to foot the bills for any local pollution problems. But i f the authorities can prove that producers knowingly sold an environmentally hazardous product, then companies like Monsanto will be forced to pay up.
Local authorities from several regions, including Norway's capital, Oslo, are keen to press charges. Such a lawsuit would be the first attempt by a nation state to gain recompense for the disastrous, irreversible consequences of the world's PCB poisoning.
The Renewable Revolution Brazil is investing billions in renewable energy, whilst in Iceland, a hydrogen revolution is taking place. Africa, with its new solar training programme, is also on the make.
Meanwhile, Iceland is aiming to cut its links with fossil fuels altogether and become the world's first "hydrogen economy." Analysts believe that the Earth's most sparsely populated country could become the 21st century's "hydrogen sheikh," i f it pits its abundant water resources into hydrogen fuel cells.
In a new government project, Brazil will invest billions in renewable energy, to bring power to 20 million Brazilians. Through wind turbines, solar cells, biomass and small hydropower developments, the government hopes to promote 10,000 small renewable energy schemes a year. Each project would provide clean, locally-produced energy for up to 200 rural people and would, perhaps, provide an alternative to some of the destructive oil-prospecting schemes currently planned for the Amazon basin, with the government's blessing.
Fuel cell technology has been around since its discovery in 1839 by Welsh physicist William Grove. He showed that reacting hydrogen with oxygen in the presence of platinum electrodes created electricity. Because the only byproduct of a functioning hydrogen fuel cell is water, the technology, widely applied, could provide a renewable alternative to polluting carbon technology.
With its countless fast-flowing rivers and volcanic rock pools, Iceland is an ideal place for the production of renew
able energy. Although much of the country's electricity already comes from hydroelectric and geothermal power, currently, only 10 per cent of the country's hydroelectric potential is being tapped. Icelanders hope to use the excess energy to power first buses, then fishing fleets, then trucks and cars.
In Tanzania, another renewable energy scheme is making waves. The KARADEA Solar Training Facility is training individual Africans to erect solar energy systems, and giving them the skills to pass on their knowledge. Already, people from as far afield as Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Somalia have taken part in the project, and there are currently some 200 UDEFA approved solar technicians at large in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Fxologist, Vol. 29. No 6, October 1999