Friday, January 31, 2003
A new chair in field ornithology at Oxford University's Zoology Department has been created thanks to an endowment, it was announced this week. The Luc Hoffman Chair of Field Ornithology will secure the future Directorship of the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology.
Luc Hoffman is a Doctor in Zoology from the University of Basel, Switzerland, with a particular interest in field ornithology and wetlands conservation. He has been a key player in international conservation for many years, as co-founder and Vice President of WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature), director of IWRB (now Wetlands International) and Vice President of the IUCN (World Conservation Union). He is also an Honorary Life fellow of the UK's Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and was instrumental in the ratification of the only habitat-specific international convention in existence today, the Ramsar Convention.
The Chair is being funded by an endowment from Dr Hoffman's family to celebrate his 80th birthday. The holder, who will be appointed later this year, will also be Director of the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology (EGI). The EGI was established in 1938 to carry out research and training in field ornithology and currently has 38 members (of which I am one) conducting research in 10 countries. It houses one of the world's foremost ornithological libraries, the Alexander Library, and is responsible for the world's longest continuous study of bird populations , at Wytham Woods near Oxford.
This is extremely good news for the EGI, whose Directorship became uncertain due to funding contraints when the former Director Professor Chris Perrins retired in September last year. Dr Ben Sheldon is acting as Head of the EGI until the new Chair is appointed.
Posted 9:00 p.m. by Fiona
A new international law improving the public’s right to know about levels of pollutants and their sources was finalised late yesterday after a final four-day round of negotiations at the UN in Geneva. The treaty involves countries from Europe, Central Asia + Canada, but not the United States who dropped out last year.
Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, Senior Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council in the US said: “People have the right to know about the toxic chemicals coming from their local industrial facilities and this treaty will lay the groundwork for ensuring that right is met. Hopefully, Canada will lead the way in North America for facility-specific greenhouse gas reporting.”
The treaty requires detailed + public annual reports on a range of pollutants, including greenhouse gases, some pesticides, toxic metals, hazardous wastes + a limited number of industrial chemicals.
Industries required to report include power stations, the chemical industry, and waste management facilities. Information will also be available on the destinations of wastes sent to other countries.
Posted 7:25 p.m. by Matt Prescott
The Brazilian president has launched an ambitious programme to eliminate poverty in Brazil, the biggest country in Latin America.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, better known as Lula, aims to make a real difference for millions of people by the end of this year...
The new programme is meant to supply 1.5 million of the poorest families, especially in the north-east, with a monthly income of $15 to buy basic foods.
The government, which has earmarked $500m of its funds for the programme, is also appealing to Brazil's wealthy to donate and supermodel Gisele Bundchen has already given almost $30,000.
Posted 7:17 p.m. by Matt Prescott
According to a Global Witness press release the UN Security Council is set to pass a Security Council Resolution under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, endorsing the Kimberley Process, the international diamond certification scheme to stop the trade in conflict diamonds.
The Resolution expresses concern about the role diamonds play in fuelling conflicts, encourages the widest participation of Member States in the scheme, and urges participants in the Kimberley Process to resolve outstanding issues.
“The draft resolution sends a strong message to the international community about the importance of the Kimberley Process in eliminating conflict diamonds” said Corinna Gilfillan, Campaigner with Global Witness. “Governments must act now to effectively implement the Kimberley Process and to address the agreement’s weaknesses so that diamonds no longer fund conflict + terrorism.”
The Kimberley Process was officially launched on 1st January 2003: currently 64 governments are participating in the scheme, including China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom + the United States. Under this agreement, the majority of the diamond producing and trading countries are establishing national diamond control systems to stop conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate diamond trade. Currently, the Kimberley Process is in a transitional stage of implementation and will come into full force on 1st February 2003. Once this happens, participants will not be allowed to trade in diamonds with non-participants.
Corinna also said that “In order for this agreement to be successful, governments must also address a serious outstanding issue: the need for a regular, independent monitoring mechanism to ensure that the scheme works and is not open to abuse.”
Posted 7:00 p.m. by Matt Prescott
The European Parliament has voted to prohibit animal testing of most cosmetic products by 2009 and curb the import of such products from the rest of the world.
Animal-tested cosmetic products were already banned from Germany, UK, Belgium, the Netherlands and Austria. The European Parliament's vote on 15 January extends the ban to all 15 member states and closes a loophole which allowed the importation of cosmetics tested on animals elsewhere.
The ban will not apply to existing products that have already been tested on animals, but will be effective immediately for all new products for which alternative non-animal tests are available. For other products, the ban will not take effect until 2013 to allow time for development of alternatives to animal tests.
The EU have adopted the three R strategy to animal testing which aims to: replace animal use with non-animal methods where possible, reduce the number of animals needed and refine the procedures to minimise suffering. Animal testing for other purposes, such as medical research, is currently subject to hot debate in the UK.
For an excellent review on alternatives to animal testing (including refinements of animal tests), visit FRAME, the Fund for the Replacement
of Animals in Medical Experiments.
Posted 2:45 p.m. by Fiona
Thursday, January 30, 2003
My thanks to Michael Donnelly of the Sustainable Northern Ireland Programme for his words of encouragement...
It great to see the accesssible, useful + practical resources that Michael's SNIPS, Stafford Borough Council and the mighty Bryan Lipscombe (St. Helen's Council) offer to local governments, businesses + ordinary people wishing to take a long term perspective when considering the social, economic + environmental consequences of their actions.
Posted 11:44 p.m. by Matt Prescott
West Papau.Org has set up a fascinating website which highlights the problems faced by indigenous people and the environment when large scale copper mining + logging are thrust on areas where traditions have not changed for hundreds of years, rivers have been silted up/polluted + investment in local communities has been minimal...
Also see the Mines and Communities website for news, links to organisations dealing with mining issues in dozens of countries, charters relating to minimum standards within the mining industry + information on campaigns relating to the activities of individual companies... such as Rio Tinto and Alcoa.
Posted 11:23 p.m. by Matt Prescott
A British conservationist, fighting to save a rare breed of zebra from extinction, has stressed that its future is intertwined with Ethiopia's food aid dependency.
Dr Stuart Williams is battling to save an estimated 500 Grevy's zebras which live in the mountainous areas of southern Ethiopia.
"I have little doubt that the decline in numbers in the wild will continue," said Williams, whose base is the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University in Britain.
"In Ethiopia, I would be pleasantly surprised if there still were Grevy's zebras in, say, 15 years' time," he told IRIN on Monday.
Williams said that lessons could be learnt from the zebra - which is a third bigger than ordinary zebras - because it manages to survive droughts while domestic animals die.
"Grevy's zebras are a metaphor for what is happening to the arid and semi-arid areas and for what management steps need to be taken to remedy the situation," he added.
"Their decline over their range is symptomatic of the degradation of the rangelands which they share with pastoral people and their domestic livestock," he said.
Williams argues that if the Grevy disappears, the nomadic communities living in the remotest parts of the country will become more dependent on western food aid.
"If they are extirpated (lost) from Ethiopia, it would be indicative of a serious collapse in the environment in the areas in which they live," he pointed out. "This would affect the pastoral people because their domestic livestock are dependent on the same environmental conditions as the zebras."
"The management steps to protect the Grevy will benefit the zebra, as well as the pastoral people, their livestock, and the fauna and flora of an area that is more fragile and less resilient than people previously thought," he said.
Grevy's zebras are now listed on CITES (Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species) which means that trade in their skins is not allowed.
Posted 10:57 p.m. by Matt Prescott
The European Commission and European Group on Life Sciences (EGLS) are currently holding a conference on the role of the life sciences and biotechnologies in achieving sustainable agriculture in developing countries.
The conference was set up in response to the need to increase crop yields in a sustainable way to feed the world's growing population. It aims to "critically review the options that life sciences and biotechnology offer to developing countries" by providing a platform for debate among stakeholders.
The programme is centred on seven key questions or "challenges". The topics seem well chosen, but only 20 minutes have been allowed for open discussion on each one, with another two hours for a core debate among 8 selected panellists at the end. Only two of the panellists are actually from developing countries (see links in programme page for biographies).
There is a clear need for debate on this subject - it will be interesting to see if this platform proves fruitful, given the limited time allowed for actual discussion. You can watch the conference live, or view contributions to a forum held on the website since October 2002.
Posted 6:00 p.m. by Fiona
Green Consumer Guide.com offers an environmental news service. Sign on here to receive free weekly updates on environmental news (albeit with a European and, in particular, UK bias). Or visit the homepage for today's environmental news.
Posted 4:44 p.m. by Fiona
Wednesday, January 29, 2003
The WWF has produced a paper entitled "A new chemicals policy in Europe, new opportunities for industry" which refutes claims regarding the detrimental business impact of a new chemicals policy that is designed to protect the environment and human health...
Posted 7:04 p.m. by Matt Prescott
The Bretton Woods Project's monthly newsletter includes a report entitled "Good governance and the World Bank".
This report attempts an appraisal of the key questions which are raised by the Bank's market-centric approach to reforming states and institutions. Is the Bank's promotion of participation, democratization, and decentralization just rhetoric, or does it represent a serious commitment to transforming state-civil society relations?
Why not read the report and see what you think?
Posted 6:57 p.m. by Matt Prescott
In his annual State of the Union Address President George W. Bush has announced that $1.2 billion will be spent developing hydrogen fuel technologies that could help to reduce the United State' reliance on fossil fuels and $15 billion will be spent on tackling the global AIDS pandemic.
Posted 6:51 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Sorry I haven't posted anything for a few days...
Unfortunately, my PhD has to be finished by the end of June and I am not going to be able to post as much as I have been recently.
On the bright side Fiona has offered to keep posting material if I find I cannot do so...
My thanks to Fiona for helping to keep the Earth-Info.Net flame alive until I am able to come back to it...
Posted 6:46 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Sunday, January 26, 2003
Brazil's President Lula has proposed the establishment of an international anti-hunger fund for "Third World countries."
He called the initiative the World Agreement for Peace and Against Hunger. It would parallel his national anti-hunger campaign. The centrepiece of his four-week old administration, the domestic programme will likely adopt US-style food stamps to ensure that "every Brazilian can have breakfast, lunch + dinner," as the president put it in his speech. Lula also called for greater sharing of scientific information internationally.
Questioned about the need for yet another anti-hunger scheme when the biggest problem with current institutions might be their inability to deliver on promises, Lula responded that, "If these institutions aren't delivering, we need to review their roles or even create new institutions."
Coming to Davos from the World Social Forum, an international gathering of activists in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Lula advocated dialogue between the World Social Forum and the World Economic Forum. "I think the people in Davos should talk to the people in Porto Alegre," he said. "It is like management and unions that seem to be far away in contract talks. But when you sit down, the distance doesn't seem so huge."
In a parting shot, Lula told the packed auditorium: "The most fantastic thing is that I'm going back to the World Social Forum, and my comrades will notice that you haven't taken a bite out of me. Nor have I taken a bite out of you. I think there is room for us to get together to talk."
Posted 6:25 p.m. by Matt Prescott
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a $200 million grant to establish the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative, a major new effort and partnership with the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The initiative will identify critical scientific challenges in global health and increase research on diseases that cause millions of deaths in the developing world.
Today only 10% of medical research is devoted to the diseases that cause 90% of the health burden in the world, according to the Global Forum on Health Research.
"There is great potential for science and technology to solve persistent global health challenges, but far greater resources are needed," said Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "This initiative is about discovery and invention. It is about finding specific solutions to the hardest problems. By accelerating research to overcome scientific obstacles in AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, millions of lives could be saved."
Mr. Gates announced the initiative today at the World Economic Forum's 2003 Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where he participated in a panel discussion on "Science for the Global Good."
Posted 3:03 p.m. by Matt Prescott
See here for some photographs of the street protests that have taken place at the World Social Forum and the World Economic Forum.
The European protests (and policing!) seem to have been rather uptight + aggressive whereas the Brazilian approach seems much more uplifting, unifying + artistic...
Other observations I have include that there are very few "alternative" websites reporting on the the WSF (the tiny number that do exist are also mostly in Spanish/Portugese), hardly any NGO press releases/websites have been produced compared to the blizzard of emails the WEF people have been issuing + most of the anti-WEF websites seem to have been produced by anarchic Germanics...
Still it's good to see that Oxfam's Barbara Stocking has been keeping up the pressure on US + EU farm subsidies... as well as the general strengthening of participation by NGOs at the WEF + the Public Eye on Davos - even if the activities of the NGOs haven't been reported on very much by most of the mainstream media!
Posted 1:02 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Friday, January 24, 2003
Friends of the Earth today issued a challenge to world leaders at the World Economic Forum (WEF) to deliver real measures to ensure corporate accountability for the people they represent. Tony Juniper, Director of Friends of the Earth in England, Wales + Northern Ireland, and Silva Semadeni, President of Friends of the Earth Switzerland, called on politicians at the Forum to look beyond the greenwash put out by business at the World Economic Forum and deliver on their commitment to global rules for business, made at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, just five months ago.
At the World Economic Forum (WEF) in January 2002, Friends of the Earth challenged chief executives to comment on whether they favoured global rules for multinationals or not. A personal letter was passed to named individuals and an easy-to-use fax-back form provided.
The WEF in 2002 saw more commentary about the importance of dialogue. Warmed by the spirit of dialogue, 17 CEOs took the time to respond to the question. 1,170 were not warmed by the spirit of dialogue and did not bother.
Of the 17 who responded, 10 took the opportunity did not actually respond to the question but to provide instead glossy documents on their claimed social and environmental performance.
Of the 7 who actually did answer the question, 2 were in favour of binding global rules for corporations, 2 against + 3 three interested in hearing more.
Tony Juniper said today...
“So much for dialogue. We conclude business leaders only want to be involved in a discussion when they decide the questions. This reminds us too much of the experience of those communities struggling to protect their livelihoods and local environments confronted by meaningless ‘stakeholder dialogues’. The business agenda is clear – voluntarism instead of binding rules, but we’re not going to admit we think so.”
Posted 9:52 p.m. by Matt Prescott
According to a BBC report, two Amnesty International investigators will spend 10 days in Burma, meeting government officials + representatives of other relevant organisations.
They are also expected to meet the leader of the opposition, Aung San Suu Kyi, and representatives of many of the country's ethnic groups.
Amnesty are liable to be wary of giving the government a PR coup and it will be interesting to see whether this inspection will herald the return of meaningful reform + democracy ...
Posted 9:25 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Due to violent protests taking place in Davos at previous World Economic Forums, the Swiss authorities have this year authorised anti-WEF 2003 demonstrations to take place on Saturday 25th January.
The organiser's stated basis for "co-operation" and their "political self-image" include...
"We disapprove of the WEF and our attitude towards it is confrontative. It is impossible to reform the WEF, because of this we don't want to have any dialogue. Our aim is, to smash the WEF and to prevent their meetings."
"Our protest is against categorising, marginalising and excluding people and social groups; our aim is a society, that is orientated to the needs of all and not to the profit of a few."
"Our solidarity is with all oppressed, who do not want to accept the prevailing contradictions without criticism, and our solidarity is with all, who realize their power and organise emancipated resistance."
"Our protest against the WEF-summit is connected with our resistance against the Swiss government politics, against racist and sexist politics and against the neoliberal basic position of our society."
Posted 7:28 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Under a not-for-profit pilot program, drug company Pharmacia has agreed to transfer its proprietary manufacturing technology and regulatory dossier for delavirdine, a medicine for HIV/AIDS, to IDA [The International Dispensary Association]
IDA, in turn, will be empowered to select any generic companies that meet its quality manufacturing standards. As the world's largest non-profit supplier of generic medicines to developing countries and relief agencies, IDA is uniquely positioned to facilitate manufacturing and supply of generic delavirdine in eligible countries.
See Medecins Sans Frontieres' Access to Essential Medicines website to find out why this and other similar schemes are needed in order to help fight Malaria, TB + AIDS (plus other preventable killer diseases) in many of the world's poorest nations and the UNAIDS + AIDS Map websites for more details on the global AIDS epidemic.
Posted 1:09 p.m. by Matt Prescott
At the World Economic Forum Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad called for a ''compromise'' solution to the crisis over Iraq, arguing that war would only lead to more revenge + retaliation. Several panellists warned of growing anti-US sentiment around the world, and urged Washington not to use force against Iraq without the support of the United Nations.
''People do not tie bombs to their bodies or crash planes into buildings for the fun of it. Out-terrorising the terrorists will not work. We need a paradigm shift, we need a new mindset,'' Prime Minister Mahathir said at the session on Trust and Governance for a New Era.
Echoing Dr Mahathir's call for a peaceful resolution, Pascal Couchepin, President of the Swiss Confederation and Federal Councillor of Home Affairs, said in his welcome address that Switzerland believes that all peaceful means must be followed. "Force must not be used before the matter is brought before the UN Security Council. The use of force can only be the last resort after all other means of persuasion are exhausted.''
Posted 12:52 p.m. by Matt Prescott
In the opening session of the World Economic Forun, George Carey, Former Archbishop of Canterbury has said "Trust may not be such a soft concept as we sometimes think,".... and that "perhaps it is more like glue that holds other things together. In the light of Enron and other celebrated scams, is it time to establish a business ethic similar to the Hippocratic oath that doctors swear?"
Posted 12:34 p.m. by Matt Prescott
This morning Roger Harrabin, Environment Correspondent on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme made the following report:
"The head of the world’s top climate change body has blamed Bill Clinton for the US rejection of the Kyoto protocol on global warming.
George W Bush is normally held responsible for the American reluctance to cut emissions.
Dr R.K. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said the former President signed up to the Kyoto deal to make emissions cuts – then did nothing to persuade the Senate, Congress or the public that the cuts should be made.
He warned that the nations who have ratified the protocol would face similar problems in agreeing the next phase of emissions cuts scheduled for 2005 because the global public are nowhere near ready to agree the changes that would be needed to stabilise the climate.
But he blamed scientists, not politicians, for failing to inspire public concern.
Dr Pachauri is an economist. His predecessor in the world’s top climate post - an eminent scientist [Dr. Robert Watson] - was supplanted after the Bush administration complained he was too critical of politicians.
The world’s top climate scientists in the IPCC have been saying for several years that in emissions cuts of 60% and more in developed countries would be eventually be needed to allow developing countries an equitable share of economic growth. But Dr Pachauri said that it was not the role of the IPCC to recommend any specific reduction in emissions. His organisation would set out scenarios of future climate trends and leave the world’s public to decide on what level of climate change was acceptable.
In his official role he warned of the environmental consequences if the Indian public were to aspire to a car-dominated Californian-type lifestyle. On a personal level he did express the brief view that developed countries “could do more”.
He said the next IPCC assessment report would carry more detailed regional economic analysis to help people reach their decisions. There is currently wide variation in the IPCC’s economic models forecasting the effects of a possible 6 degree increase in global temperatures: one scenario posits a resulting 11% fall in world GDP, but another suggests that the economy might be only slightly affected.
This has lent weight to the argument – particularly in the USA - that it would be better to risk the climate than to make emissions cuts that might damage the economy. But Dr Pachauri pointed out that the some small nations would suffer much more than others, with small island states potentially being obliterated by sea level rise."
Posted 12:11 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Thursday, January 23, 2003
According to a BBC report World leaders, facing steep declines in credibility, have been warned they must prove their worth to a "new world" if they are to recover the public's trust.
Interestingly, Stephen Roach, chief economist at US investment bank Morgan Stanley, also said that the American economy's performance last year had been "pathetic" + might get worse and that "If we went into war with a big [economic] cushion, we might be able to come out of it. When you hit with a zero growth rate, we will go into recession."
Posted 5:25 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Following criticism for excluding churches, NGOs + members of civil society from their deliberations the organisers of the World Economic Forum are staging a number of open fora where representatives of Swiss United Nations Association, the Max Havelaar Foundation (Switzerland), the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches/Bread For All, the Swiss Peace Foundation, the Swiss Red Cross, the International Federation Terre des Hommes + the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) India will share a public platform with representatives of PricewaterhouseCoopers, Novartis + Nestle in order to discuss issues such as...
* "How Can Business Support the Global Compact?"
* "Fair Trade - An Alternative?
* "Which Innovations Are Conducive to Social and Economic Change?"
* "Can Globalization Be Ethical?"
* "What Is the Role of Business in Conflict Regions?"
* "Workers Needed - Nationals Preferred? Migration and Its Consequences"
Peter Brey, spokesman for International Terre des Hommes, a Swiss-based NGO representing childrens' rights, who is participating in the 2003 Open Forum said "We believe that, for improvement to take place, dialogue + non-violent confrontation are called for."
These WEF-run fora are clearly a positive step in the right direction but are still likely to be the scene of relatively gentile criticism compared to the powerful demands for corporate regulation + accountability that can be expected to emerge from the Public Eye on Davos meeting just down the road...
Posted 2:38 p.m. by Matt Prescott
According to the World Economic Forum's programme there are 27 different talks taking place today...
I won't try to list them all but abstracts that sound interesting/surprising include...
Globalization, Poverty + Inequality
The precise impact of globalization on the wealth or poverty of nations is a never-ending source of disagreement between the pro- and anti-globalization camps. However the crux of the matter is the effect that globalization has on policy choices. The agenda points are: 1) Is it true that although the world is getting richer, inequality is increasing? 2) If so, what can be done about this? 3) Can inequality threaten social stability?
Governments are investing heavily in hydrogen with a vision of hydrogen-powered cars gliding quietly down the street emitting water vapour. Advocates point to Iceland's success in its early adoption of hydrogen as a replacement for fossil fuels. The agenda points are: 1) Is this vision of hydrogen as the fuel of the future based on reality? 2) How will the energy to produce hydrogen be supplied, and how will it be stored? 3) How will the infrastructure to distribute hydrogen be developed?
Love: A Matter of Trust
Many writers have said that love makes the world go round and animates all interpersonal relationships. The agenda points are: 1) How does science explain love? What do history, literature and mythology teach us about this emotion? 2) What does one do without love? Are we ever without it? 3) Can love benefit society at large?
They've also got nine exiled Iraqis discussing the prospects for democracy in their homeland...
Posted 2:07 p.m. by Matt Prescott
The third annual World Social Forum will open today in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and will feature the largest delegation of U.S. participants since its first edition in 2001. This year, U.S. participation is expected to number close to 1000, more than double that of last year, and will be the second-largest country delegation after the host, Brazil.
Conceived as a popular response to the World Economic Forum, the closed-door summit of business executives and world political leaders which meets annually in Davos, Switzerland, the WSF attracted nearly 15,000 participants to its first gathering in January 2001 and over 60,000 to its second in February 2002, both of which also took place in Porto Alegre. This year, organizers expect the number of participants to swell to 100,000. (It's just be announced that the next WSF, in 2004, will be taking place in India!)
Many of the Americans attending come from community-level grassroots organizing efforts, including a 100- person grassroots Global Justice delegation, frontline community activists from the New Voices on Globalization project, and representatives from the U.S. peace movement.
Notable U.S. personalities featuring in Forum events include leading author and activist Noam Chomsky, and actor and longtime activist, Danny Glover.
See here for more press releases + other news.
Posted 12:12 p.m. by Matt Prescott
At the The Public Eye on Davos,” an international NGO-coalition, has organised an independent conference in Davos on the occasion of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) . NGO experts, academics and political representatives from the global North + South will provide a critical analysis of corporate-driven globalisation and present alternatives towards more equitable and sustainable world economic policies...
The WEF has this year taken on the motto of 'building trust'. This is a timely theme because their own study has shown that public trust in business leaders is at an all-time low. The Public Eye on Davos conference will focus on the daily activities of transnational corporations which have led to this lack of trust, and which contradict the assurances by WEF members that they are striving to be good corporprate citizens. “At the WEF it is always Sunday, filled with noble sounding sermons, but corporations are to be judged by what they do, not what they say,” says Matthias Herfeldt, coordinator of the conference from The Berne Declaration.
The Public Eye on Davos is organised by The Berne Declaration, Friends of the Earth International, and other international NGOs from the North and the South. The conference will be opened today by Oscar Lafontaine, former Finance Minister of Germany, with a speech on the social + environmental responsibilities of large transnational corporations. The conference runs until January 27th and will include panels on the PR strategies of transnational corporations, case studies on the impacts of corporate wrong-doings and a discussion of labour rights.
Tony Juniper from Friends of the Earth said “Rules are needed to control the worst excesses of big business – not only to protect those who are better off, but to afford rights to those who pay the highest prices of all – in suffering the effects of pollution, degraded land, stolen resources and poverty.”
At the Public Eye conference organisers this year highlight the need for international + national regulation to secure corporate accountability.
Posted 11:57 a.m. by Matt Prescott
In an Alertnet "viewpoint article written by Larry Minear, director of the Humanitarianism + War Project at Tufts University in Massachusetts. Larry argues that humanitarian agencies should lay down the conditions under which they are prepared to become involved in aid activities during or after an eventual war in Iraq.
U.N. agencies are estimating that some 10 million Iraqi civilians may require emergency assistance and Larry argues that;
"Despite financial incentives to join the fray, humanitarian organisations have ample reason to fear that an aid effort which is simply an extension of a political-military agenda will cut them off from reaching many of those in urgent need.
Perhaps it is time for a radical approach. Humanitarian agencies that resist being taken for granted should stipulate the conditions under which they are prepared to become involved in aid activities during or after an eventual war.
Rather than politicising humanitarian action, their initiative would underscore the importance of maintaining their neutrality and independence."
On a related theme I recommend Tony Vaux's book the Selfish Altruist which outlines the need for neutrality, co-operation + honesty among those providing humanitarian assistance. Tony has experience as an emergency relief co-ordinator in Kosovo, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Afghanistan + Azerbaijan. and in a far-reaching and unflinching account outlines the conflicts between subjective impulses + objective judgment. Describing and analyzing some of the most traumatic crisis situations of the last two decades, he helps the reader to understand what it takes to be an aid worker and how important humanitarian action is today... It's a compelling read!
You can listen to a talk given by Tony at the Oxford Earth Summit entitled "Selfish altruism and non-economic development" by clicking on this link...
Posted 11:25 a.m. by Matt Prescott
openDemocracy has produced a clickable map that will help you to find out where + when Anti-War protests are taking place all over the world.
Posted 10:59 a.m. by Matt Prescott
Wednesday, January 22, 2003
OneWorld, the online network for 1500+ human rights + sustainable development organisations, has released a special report website on the World Social Forum
"Another world is possible" is the motto of the World Social Forum, now underway in Porto Alegre, Brazil (January 23-28) at which over 100, 000 social activists + anti-poverty campaigners are expected to attend. With over 5000 organisations represented from over 120 countries, the WSF has become the world's largest gathering of non-governmental organisations and pressure groups.
Their aim is to create "an open meeting place where groups and movements of civil society opposed to neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital or by any form of imperialism, but engaged in building a planetary society centred on the human person, come together..." to pursue their thinking, debate ideas democratically, formulate proposals, share experiences + network for action.
OneWorld Special Report on the World Social Forum offers:
* Latest coverage from OneWorld correspondents and others on the ground in Porto Alegre
* News from development, human rights + civil society organisations as well as alternative news sources
* Background, comment + analysis on the World Social Forum and related issues
* Links to main Social Forum sites and regional Forums including recent European Social Forum reports
* Links to OneWorld full coverage sections on related topics like civil society, democracy, development, economy, globalisation, governance + human rights.
* Links to related guides on development, media democracy, structural adjustment programmes, UN + the WTO.
Posted 1:53 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Tuesday, January 21, 2003
Earth-Info.Net does not normally publish entire press releases but this one from Global Witness entitled "Does US bank harbour Equatorial Guinea’s oil millions in secret accounts? " really deserves to be made available in it's complete form...
Information published in yesterday’s LA Times indicates that a massive US$300-500 million of Equatorial Guinea’s oil revenues may have been parked in a provincial Washington DC bank, under the control of President-for-life Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.
The LA Times article, if true, gives an insight into why Equatorial Guinea’s oil money has not reached the ordinary people. It appears that President Obiang, who killed his murderous uncle to come to power in 1979, has arranged for the country’s oil income to be deposited in the Dupont Circle branch of Riggs Bank in downtown Washington DC. It is suggested the account balance has been maintained at US$300-500 million, a significant proportion of the Equatorial Guinean oil wealth generated since offshore oil production began in 1996.
Although sources close to the President have confirmed the existence of this account, it is the allegation in the paper that President Obiang himself retains control over the account that is particularly damaging. If true, this makes this fund subject to his personal whim, and while not perhaps illegal, it would surely be a clear breach of acceptable international standards of fiduciary duty and responsibility where oil money should be paid into the national exchequer.
“Global Witness would like an explanation as to why the oil companies pay money directly into Riggs Bank, rather than the national exchequer. Further, how is the relationship between Riggs Bank, President Obiang, and his brother, consistent with the bank having carried out a thorough due diligence exercise as required by US law?” said Global Witness campaigner Gavin Hayman. Documents in Global Witness’ possession reveal a close working relationship between the President, his family and the Dupont Circle branch of Riggs Bank.
It is unclear if depositing these funds directly in Washington is technically illegal under Equatorial Guinea’s oil laws, Global Witness calls upon the US Department of Justice to investigate the nature of this bank account.
Major US and French oil companies working in the country, such as ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco and TotalFinaElf, do not reveal any information about their legitimate revenue payments to the State.
Global Witness believes this lack of transparency makes such companies complicit in the dispossession of ordinary Equatorial Guinean citizens because, without adequate financial information, it is not possible for Equatorial Guineans to call their government to account for missing funds.
Oil campaigner, Gavin Hayman says: “Whilst most of Equatorial Guinea lives in dire poverty, President-for-life Obiang appears to have taken advantage of a rash of secret deals with US and French oil companies to privatize his country's oil wealth to support his brutal regime + his extravagant personal spending.” This case in Equatorial Guinea further highlights the urgency of Prime Minister Blair’s international (extractive industries) transparency initiative taking place in February.
“Here we have another example of the complete absence of government + corporate accountability totally denying ordinary Equatorial Guineans any benefit from oil exploitation.” says Global Witness director, Simon Taylor. “The UK’s transparency initiative offers a real chance for change. However, it is essential that this once-in-a-life-time opportunity is not fatally weakened through a lack of will to bring in mandatory solutions. If the oil companies don’t publish what they pay, how can the people of Equatorial Guinea hold their government accountable for what they are due?”
Please see the Global Witness's referenced press release + the Publish What You Pay website for more details...
Posted 3:20 p.m. by Matt Prescott
The “grey zone” between the European Union’s emergency relief efforts + its long-term development assistance is examined in a report released today by the ActionAid Alliance, a grouping of leading European aid agencies.
The period immediately following an emergency and before the beginning of longer-term development programmes is commonly known as the “grey zone”...
This remains a time of uncertainty where emergency relief funds have been withdrawn but long-term development assistance is still being planned. This “gap” reduces the possibility of stabilizing emergency situations + hinders people’s recovery.
The report argues for the need to frame emergency relief efforts within the larger context of development and calls for the wholesale adoption of what the European Commission terms the “contiguum” approach – the simultaneous delivery of emergency (humanitarian) relief, infrastructure rehabilitation + long-term development assistance.
Though the EU pays lip service to the “contiguum” concept, ActionAid Alliance charges that the EC and its member countries adopt a linear approach, resulting in aid delivery “gaps”...
Since the early 1990s the EC has acknowledged the transitional period to be a problem area but has concentrated on small-scale alterations to its management and budgetary structures. Ad hoc measures have consequently been implemented but have failed to provide a comprehensive strategic solution.
Report author, Iacopo Viciani said: “Whilst transitional situations cannot be made to fit into a set of blueprints, tools to manage uncertainty can still be devised.”
Effective links between emergency relief, rehabilitation and development can be achieved, but only if aid delivery involves affected communities in all stages from emergency preparation to recovery. The report finds that this is also the most cost effective form of aid delivery.
Europe is highly influential in the arena of development assistance. The volume of EC aid constitutes 10% of global donations and EU countries are collectively the world’s top aid donors accounting for 50% of all overseas development assistance.
This means that the adoption of the "contiguum" approach by the EC and EU could have a considerable impact...
Posted 12:25 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Monday, January 20, 2003
Collectors are threatening the surival + ecology of wild cacti + rare plant species found in the Chihuahuan Desert located in Mexico and the United States, according to a new study from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network and joint programme of WWF + IUCN.
The Prickly Trade: Trade and Conservation of Chihuahuan Desert Cacti report is the largest-ever analysis of trade in Chihuahuan Desert cacti. The report confirmed that if measures are not taken to regulate harvesting, this unsustainable trade will endanger certain populations in the region, including the living rock, hedgehog + prickly pear cacti.
In the UK and around the world, the use of cacti for low-water landscaping and demand for rare and newly discovered specimens by "cactophiles" is resulting in the heavy and illegal harvest of desirable species, fuelling a multimillion-dollar-a-year industry.
Many consumers + tourists are unaware they may be breaking the law when they collect, purchase or export cacti from countries that restrict these activities. According to the report, Mexican authorities seized nearly 800 cacti from travellers entering or passing through the U.S. from Mexico in 1998.
The report recommends better monitoring of the cactus trade, strengthening protection for the species that are under the most pressure from exploitation, developing community-based programs to harvest common species and commercially cultivate slow-growing species.
Posted 5:17 p.m. by Matt Prescott
The international, humanitarian medical aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) has just agreed to send Earth-Info.Net it's press releases...
Posted 4:52 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Earlier today Greenpeace activists boarded the single hulled oil tanker Vemamagna, anchored in Algeciras Bay, Gibraltar to highlight the permanent presence of single hulled ships in the area...
Gibraltar was chosen as the site of the protest as "according to Spanish government data, in 2001 over 56,670 merchant ships crossed the Gibraltar Strait. Furthermore, 10% of all international maritime traffic crosses the Strait. Around 5000 oil tankers travel the same route per year about 10 to 15 oil tankers a day."
"Approximately 20 million tonnes of oil products are transported annually through the bay" and it is therefore considered a matter of time before the area experiences a similar disaster to that experienced when the single-hulled Prestige recently sank off Spain's Galician coast.
To accompany the protest, Greenpeace has issued a press release demanding full + unlimited liability throughout the chain of responsibilities, including the owners, managers + operators of a vessel and of any charterers/owners of the cargo.
Additionally, Greenpeace is demanding that the EU immediately ban the use of single hulled tankers and exclude ecologically sensitive areas from shipping routes...
Posted 3:52 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Running your diesel car on vegetable oil is not as whacky as it may seem. Drivers in Wales have been filling their cars with vegetable oil bought cheaply from supermarkets.
Diesel engines will run quite happily on vegetable oil and it poses a cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative to diesel, especially if recycled from your local chippy. However, tax must be paid on all fuel in Britain, or you'll find yourself in trouble with Her Majesty's Customs & Excise authorities.
John Nicholson's Bio-Power (UK) website has all the necessary guidance and tax forms, along with background information on bio-fuels ("any substitute fuel made from renewable, non-fossil, organic materials"), recipes for making your own fuel from waste fat and links for those wanting to know more about bio-fuels and how to make them (e.g. see Journey to Forever's site for recipes for bio-diesel).
Nicholson has a vision for a bio-power network of local producers making bio-power fuels from waste vegetable oil collected from restaurants, pubs, and chip shops in their local area. This could have triple benefits: dealing with a waste disposal problem, producing a non-polluting form of fuel and giving locals control over how their fuel is produced, rather than leaving it in the hands of big multi-national companies.
Bio-Power (UK) Ltd currently produces and sells two forms of bio-fuel in the North Wales area.
Posted 3:52 p.m. by Fiona
Sunday, January 19, 2003
I have just added some new useful links that should be of use during next week's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland...
I've included some business + government links...
... as well as links to the parallel alternative forum being run by a coalition of international NGOs called The Public Eye on Davos.
A range of additional NGOs have also been added, such as:
* The Bretton Woods Project (IMF + World Bank reform)
* Corp Watch (Corporate corruption + workers rights)
* New Economics Foundation (Economic think-tank, home to Jubilee Research)
* Publish What You Pay (Open accounting standards)
* State Watch (Monitor civil liberties in the EU)
* Tobin Tax Initiative (Seeking a small tax on currency transactions to fund international development)
* Transparency International (Corporate + state accountability + transparency).
and key UN agreements...
* UN Global Compact (An agreement between theUN + business on minimum standards of corporate behaviour) and
* The UN's Millennium Development Goals (The halving of global poverty by 2015, universal primary school education, combat AIDS, ensure environmental stability...)
More links will be added in due course, as the number of sites actively covering the WEF increases...
Posted 4:15 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Saturday, January 18, 2003
According to a BBC report fewer people have been volunteering to work in developing countries since the September 11th attacks.
In fact the international development charity VSO has experienced a 40% drop in volunteers coming forward + urgently needs 800 experienced professionals to work as volunteers.
They need all kinds of people - from engineers to teachers, from fundraisers to social workers, from midwives to marine biologists...
If you have a useful skill, 2 years of post-qualification experience + would like to "use your skills to change our world" you can apply to become a VSO volunteer or get more personalised information via these links .
Posted 8:27 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Thanks to the stylish + scientific Burnt Toast blog for linking to Earth-Info.Net.
Posted 8:15 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Friday, January 17, 2003
Friends of the Earth has issued a press release highlighting the risk of next week's World Economic Forum "greenwashing" the activities of corporations that have already demonstrated their unwillingness to embrace sustainability if it gets in the way of more profits... despite high profile social + environmental responsibility pledges made at last year's WEF in New York.
See here for FoE's examples, such as: (a) German bank Westdeutsche Landesbank's activities in the Ecuadorian Mindo-Nambillo cloudforest, (b) Alfa Group [includes Tyumen Oil + Crown Resources] (the oil that spilt off the Galician coast was from an ageing tanker chartered by wholly-owned subsidiary Crown Resources) + (c) Petronas who took over Premier Oil’s entire Burmese operation when the company was split up even though the Burmese Democracy Movement had called on multinationals to stop operating in Burma because they fear resulting profits help keep the country's military in power, as well as lending the regime credibility.
While the WEF guests (mostly senior business + government leaders) hold private discussions, representatives from non-governmental organisations, including Friends of the Earth International, and representatives from developing + developed countries have decided to present an alternative vision at a public forum called the Public Eye on Davos, just a few blocks away...
As an indication of the thrust of this alternative vision Tony Juniper, vice chair of Friends of the Earth International has said:
“The World Economic Forum's slogan this year is ‘Building Trust’ yet many of its participants are chief executives of the companies responsible for the very worst ravages of corporate globalisation. It is a bitter irony that many people cannot swallow. How can Galician fisherfolk trust the corporations which participate in the WEF that have damaged their environment + livelihoods?
“If politicians at the World Economic Forum are serious about improving the state of the world, they should accept Friends of the Earth International's challenge and support a global regime to curb corporate power, with guaranteed rights for citizens + communities, and protection for the environment where we all live. We will also ask politicians to call the bluff on corporate greenwash.”
The World Economic Forum takes place from Thursday 23rd January until Tuesday 28th while the Public Eye on Davos International Conference takes place from Thursday 23rd January until Monday 27th.
I'll obviously do my best to keep abreast of developments at both meetings...
Posted 5:02 p.m. by Matt Prescott
The RSPCA has said an outbreak of distemper which killed 100s of seals has come to an end.
About 1,500 seals in the Wash have died, estimated to be about half the population on the East Coast of England.
Pollution it thought to have caused problems by weakening the seals' immune systems and making them more vulnerable to the phocine distemper virus...
See the St. Andrew's University Sea Mammal Research Unit, Wadden Sea Secretariat - Seal Deaths 2002 + Seal Rehabilitation and Research Centre websites for more information.
Posted 4:34 a.m. by Matt Prescott
Thursday, January 16, 2003
Transparency International is now calling for nominations for the 2003 Integrity Awards.
Launched in 2000, the Integrity Awards honour the bravery of individuals + organisations around the globe whose efforts are making a distinct difference in curbing corruption.
The programme's goal is to give greater recognition to the efforts of journalists, civil society activists, government + corporate whistleblowers who work to investigate + unmask corruption, often at great personal risk.
To nominate a winner please read the guidelines beforehand which detail the eligibility, requirements + format of nominations.
Deadline for submissions: 31 January 2003 1700 GMT. The Integrity Awards ceremony will take place in Seoul, Korea in May 2003.
See here for a list of previous winners + here for videos of the acceptance speeches that have been given by some extremely impressive individuals...
Posted 9:35 p.m. by Matt Prescott
With the Davos, World Economic Forum opening in Switzerland next week BBC News Online has produced an article which considers the progress that has been made since the G8 nations signed up to an Action Plan for African Development in support of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD)...
"Africa is supposed to be a priority for the leading rich nations. At last year's G8 summit a new Action Plan for Africa was set out, and Africa's problems have featured in G8 discussions for many years. But what progress has really been made?"
A good and timely question...
See Jubilee Research for a thorough assessment of debt issues, Oxfam for an assessment of related trade issues and the Inter-Church Coalition on Africa for a critique of the NEPAD proposals.
Posted 3:04 p.m. by Matt Prescott
A Gallup Poll based on the responses of 30,000 people has just been released in advance of the World Economic Forum due to open in Switzerland next week.
The following results were found:
"Around the world, the principal democratic institution in each country (i.e., parliament, congress, etc.) is the least trusted of the 17 institutions tested, including global companies.
Two thirds of those surveyed worldwide disagree that their country is "governed by the will of the people."
Citizens have as much trust in the media and in trade unions as they have in their national (mostly elected) governments.
Perhaps because of the security/anti-terrorism role currently played by the armed forces, they are the most trusted institution of those tested.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) including environmental + social advocacy groups enjoy the second highest trust ratings in the survey.
Citizens also express relatively high levels of trust in the United Nations, even in America, putting the UN at the same high level as religious groups and churches.
Global companies and large domestic companies are equally distrusted to operate in the best interest of society, ranking next to national legislative bodies at the bottom of the trust ratings.
The World Trade Organization (WTO), World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have almost as many people distrusting them as trusting them to operate in society's best interests."
See here for a full summary of the poll.
Bill Gates has also said that "It's a healthy thing there are demonstrators in the streets. We need a discussion about whether the rich world is giving back what it should in the developing world. I think there is a legitimate question whether we are."
Posted 3:17 a.m. by Matt Prescott
There is currently a severe drought in Australia, which has created a shortage of pasture for both livestock + wildlife...
Commenting on the determination of people to farm introduced sheep + cattle in Australia while viewing native (and perfectly adapted) kangaroos as pests Professor Mike Archer of Sydney's Australian Museum has said:
"When you think about it, there are more kangaroos in Australia than cattle and sheep, and yet we insist on focusing our attentions on harvesting cattle and sheep when in fact there's a natural resource doing better."
At present 3.5 million kangaroos are culled each year and support a A$200 million industry based on the meat + skins, while the rest of the country's 58 million kangaroos are regarded as pests...
...this is despite the human health + environmental advantages of sustainably harvesting kangaroos versus the problems associated with Australians relying on hooved animals, such as over-grazing, soil erosion + elevated levels of human heart disease.
My apologies to Skippy for this story!
Posted 1:52 a.m. by Matt Prescott
Wednesday, January 15, 2003
The top U.S. government regulator of the automotive industry said this week he would support higher fuel economy standards beyond the 1.5-mile-per-gallon increase set to go into effect by 2007.
"We can do better" said Jeffrey Runge, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in an interview with Reuters.
The "NHTSA's analysis found that General Motors Corp. would have the toughest task meeting the new rules, while Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG would meet or be just below the (22.2 mpg) standard. Federal fuel economy averages are based on vehicles sold, so if consumers reject high-mileage models and buy low-mileage ones, an automaker's average suffers."
Jeffrey Runge also said the agency was aware of automakers' complaints that safety regulations were adding weight to vehicles and lowering fuel economy, but said improved safety should not be an impediment to better fuel economy."
"A former emergency room doctor, Runge has set a goal for NHTSA of reducing annual U.S. highway deaths from about 42,000 now. At the current rate of increase, about 51,000 people would die annually by 2008."
See here for NHTSA's SUV Safety Comparison Tool
See here for the EPA's Fuel Efficiency Comparison Chart
Posted 10:47 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Two scientists from the University of California, Davis have told New Scientist that the "Red List" of endangered species prepared by the Swiss-based IUCN should be modified to incorporate the risks posed by human populations...
Alexander Harcourt + Sean Parks, who reassessed the ranking of 200 primates from the 1996 Red List, believe the tufted-ear marmoset + the golden lion tamarin, were too low on the risk list and that the gorilla + pygmy chimpanzee were too high.
A spokesman for the IUCN said "We've been asked by everyone, please don't change the system again"...
Posted 10:13 p.m. by Matt Prescott
The Bangladesh Agricultural University has won a UN competition for development funds and will be installing a rural wireless internet network that will provide schools, hospitals + non-governmental organisations, up to 100km from the national capital, with fast + cheap internet connections.
Posted 8:17 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Many thanks to Jenny at One World Radio for linking to Earth-Info.Net in OWR's Working Together community page.
OneWorld Radio offers services + networking for broadcasters + civil society organisations who are using radio for human rights, sustainable development and democracy.
If you visit their site you will find radio programmes for exchange, news, training + funding resources, and a growing directory of community members who are using radio for change.
Posted 6:56 p.m. by Matt Prescott
I've just added Google's SiteSearch function to Earth-Info.Net.
You can find the search box in the bottom left of the links section.
I hope that this search function will help both you + me to follow-up and investigate issues further, from within this site...
... with any luck it will also mean that archived stories are less likely to die a premature death?
If by any chance the Google SiteSearch doesn't help you to find stories within this page all that well you can still do this very efficiently by calling up your browser's search function by pressing the "CTRL" + "F" keys at the same time.
My thanks to Free Pie whose code helped me to work out how to fit the search bar into the space available...
For a while the insertion of Google's search function meant compressing all of the site's stories into a few inches on the right hand side!!!
Posted 5:28 p.m. by Matt Prescott
Tuesday, January 14, 2003
The US administration appears to have made a connection between Energy Efficiency + National Security...
In December 2002, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that it would raise fuel efficiency standards for pickup trucks, vans + sport utility vehicles (SUVs) by about a 0.5 mile per gallon annually in the 2005-2007 model years, or by a total of 1.5 miles a gallon by 2007 (21.0 mpg for MY 2005, 21.6 mpg for MY 2006, and 22.2 mpg for MY 2007).
The development of new vehicle + fuel technologies, through support of the fuel cell "FreedomCAR" initiative, hybrid vehicles + ultra-low sulfur fuels should also help to get things moving...
In fact, I think it will be most interesting to see what else happens along these lines if the country where President J. F. Kennedy announced his intention "Before this decade is out to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to the Earth" should decide to become as energy-efficient as possible...
... perhaps by beating the efficiency standards set by the Japanese + Germans who currently dominate the small, sexy + fuel-efficient (capable of up to 61/68mpg!) car market...
Posted 9:50 p.m. by Matt Prescott
The Independent Australian MP, Peter Andren, has said that Dr. Robert Hill, the Federal Environment Minister has merely "delayed the inevitable" by rejecting a recommendation to tax plastic bags.
The Minister has instead called on retailers to halve bag usage over the next 2 years.
A disappointed Mr Andren estimated that an extra 6 billion plastic bags would consequently be thrown away due to the Minister opting for a voluntary target rather than binding legislation...
Please see this earlier posting for more details on other countries considering the introduction of plastic bag taxes following the success of such measures in Ireland...
Posted 9:05 p.m. by Matt Prescott
New Zealand wildlife sanctuaries are being threatened by ecological sabotage.
An anonymous extremist group has claimed to have released 11 brush-tailed possums on Kapiti Island, an important nature reserve, in what has been called an act of "gutless vandalism" by the NZ Minister of Conservation. It's not yet clear whether these claims are linked to the Biodiversity Action Group which threatened to release stoats on Codfish and Stewart Islands last year. Both are thought to be acts of protest by hunters opposed to control of introduced pests and could have devastating effects on key populations of rare native birds.
Such acts threaten the ecological restoration of islands, which is key to New Zealand's conservation effort. New Zealand's native plants and animals evolved in the absence of land mammals and are highly vulnerable to predation, competition and habitat destruction inflicted by introduced pests. Eradication of these pests - including possums, stoats, weasels, cats, rats, deer, pigs and goats - from the mainland may never be feasible, but has been achieved on some key offshore islands such as Kapiti and Codfish. Rare native birds threatened with extinction have been moved to these islands in an effort to safeguard their future.
The islands currently threatened with eco-terrorism represent some of New Zealand's key conservation successes. Kapiti is an important sanctuary for rare native birds such as the takahe, kokako, little spotted kiwi and saddleback. Codfish Island (Whenua Hou) holds the main breeding population of the kakapo, a unique flightless parrot and one of the rarest birds in the world, with only 86 individuals remaining. Stoats, which prey on eggs and chicks, could have devastating effects on these ground-nesting birds. Stewart Island (Rakiura) is New Zealand's third largest island and is currently free of stoats and weasels. It was designated a National Park in March 2002 amid opposition from hunters, who value its population of introduced white-tailed deer.
The recent threats have been directed at New Zealand's Department of Conservation (DoC) and Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society because of their support for control of introduced deer and Himalayan thar under the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy. These pests serve as quarry for large numbers of recreational hunters, some of whom are outraged at DoC's aerial control operations. However, hunting groups are distancing themselves from the recent possum release claim, which is being taken seriously. DoC is using trained sniffer dogs to search Kapiti for the suspected possums.
Posted 1:02 p.m. by Fiona
Monday, January 13, 2003
Earlier today 19 Greenpeace activitists broke into the Sizewell B nuclear power station in order to expose the complete lack of security at Britain's flagship nuclear facility.
One of the Greenpeace protesters, Rob Gueterbock, who climbed on to the reactor dome, said: "Sizewell B is easier to get into than a Norwich nightclub" while a spokesman for British Energy complained that the activists had "damaged insulation, broken through a fence + smashed a door in the break-in"!
It would therefore appear that basic security at Sizewell B still leaves a great deal to be desired, inspite of a similar roof-top protest having taken place in October 2002!
Posted 11:54 p.m. by Matt Prescott
With several supermarkets bidding to take over the UK's 400 Safeway stores, Friends of the Earth have come up with 10 reasons why supermarket mergers are bad for consumers.
Reasons they give include:
Supermarkets’ bullying tactics can put small farmers out of business,
Supermarkets import food over huge distances, often by air, resulting in large emissions of carbon dioxide and
Supermarkets waste food by placing difficult conditions on farmers for cosmetic appearance...
Unfortunately, these problems already exist, although they are likely to be exacerbated if the UK's supermarkets continue to merge. This is because consumers seem to like the convenience + choice that supermarkets tend to offer as well as access to exotic + out-of-season food with a consistent cosmetic appearance...
Posted 9:21 p.m. by Matt Prescott