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Wednesday, April 30, 2003

After 50 years of waiting it now looks as though the Tjarutja aboriginal people of Maralinga, South Australia, are about get their ancestral lands back...

Between 1961 + 1963 their land was used for 15 nuclear tests.

Following a 1967 cleaning effort + surveys in the 1980s the Australian government has said that the Tjarutja's land is clean + ready for hand-back - sometime this year.

Later this week BBC Radio 4 will be broadcasting a documentary which explores how + why the British + Australian governments together confiscated the sacred lands of the Tjarutja people + just how much the local aboriginal people, servicemen + the desert environment were all put at risk...

To learn more read this illustrated report on the clean-up process + a second report which outlines some of the criticism the clean-up process has faced, including allegations of ineffective management, cost-cutting measures + ineffective regulation.

According to a report from the UK's Department of Food, the Environment + Rural Affairs (DEFRA) increasing the price of petrol by 10% by the end of the decade + increasing road tax to £600 a year would be among the most effective ways of reducing pollution.

See here for the latest news from DEFRA.

While in Paris I met Guillaume Chapron, Editor of the excellent Carnivore Conservation website.

This website is the news portal of choice for mammal researchers and also a fantastic resource for anyone else interested in our furry, milk-drinking friends...

Keep up the good work Guillaume! I hope it won't be long before your site receives the financial backing it deserves.

Peter van Geel, the Dutch state secretary for environment and sustainability, has urged countries to set more aggressive sustainable development targets than those established during last year's World Summit in Johannesburg.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

I'm off to Paris for a few days, so will see you next week...

I hope there's plenty of interesting news waiting for you below though, with recent stories covering the Earth Day, the CIA's predictions for the future and a planned African version of Live Aid...

If you need to know what is happening right now then I recommend the Earth Peace Project, Rebecca Blood, Tony Pierce, Invasive Species, Swamp Cottage, Sierra Activist + Hairy Eyeball weblogs as good places to start... as well as the Unknown News, Environment Media Services + ABC.net.au news sites.

Au revoir mes amies! Matt

P.S. Check out Alex Kirby's agenda-setting coverage of the need to monitor + clean-up of toxic Depleted Uranium (DU) from armour + bunker busting weapons used in Iraq.

According to a new UN report there is a risk that DU is a threat to the health of the Iraqi environment as well as veterans + local people.

So far the British Ministry of Defence has agreed to aid DU removal, whereas the US Pentagon has said that it has no intention of cleaning up any DU contamination resulting from the use of it's weapons.

Meanwhile the UK's Royal Society has demanded that maps of where these weapons have been used should be made available + scientific monitoring started - without delay.

P.P.S. Bon voyage, to my intrepid friends Dr. Kate Oddie + Dr. Nigel Barton who are about to leave the UK in order to set up a three-year long biodiversity project in Mongolia.

They are an awesome team and liable to make the same sort of impact in Mongolia as Joy + George Adamson did in Africa.

Earth-Info.Net certainly envies them the sparkling night skies, raw nature + wonderful people they'll be living amongst, if not the diet of lamb fat + fermented camel milk! I hope to see you out there one day, Kate!

Attorneys general from five states and the Environmental Protection Agency have pushed through the largest settlement ever under the Clean Air Act worth $1.2 billion with Dominion Resources to clean up 8 coal-fired power stations.

However, concerns have been expressed that no new investigations have been initiated, under the Clean Air Act, since the ending of the Clinton administration.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

I don't want to distract attention from the Earth Day posting below so will keep the following stories as brief as possible...

The Ethiopian government has announced plans to stage an African version of Live Aid in a bid to raise funds to fight the famine they currently face. Unfortunately, most countries haven't noticed this brewing disaster, or donated funds to fight it, due to the intensive coverage of the War with Iraq.

Despite intensive lobbying, the World Health Organisation looks set to adher to advice which states that in a healthy diet no more than 10% of calories should come from sugar, rather than the 25% the US Sugar Association feels is safe.

The Friends of the Earth have released a report entitled "Undermining Indonesia" which is harshly critical of Rio Tinto Zinc's human rights record at gold mine projects in Indonesia's East Kalimantan + West Papua provinces.

Friends of the Earth are also campaigning for British companies to be bound by UK company law in their overseas activities...

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Welcome to Earth-Info.Net's "EARTH DAY SPECIAL"!

Earth Day is an annual event and this year takes place on Tuesday, April 22nd 2003.

To mark this day many special events have been organised all over the US + a few web campaigns (even a blog!) have launched...

Earth Days were started 33 years ago, by a former US senator called Gaylord Nelson in an attempt "to shake up the political establishment and force [the environment] onto the national agenda" following President J. F. Kennedy's 5 day, 11 state conservation tour in September 1963.

This year's biggest campaign is being organised by the Earth Day Network and involves trying to get 1,000,000 new people to register to vote in an effort to get environmental issues + pledges included in the 2004 election campaign.

Then there is the Dive in to Earth Day 2003 blog which is asking people to help protect the planet's oceans, coral reefs + underwater ecosystems by pledging to support eco-friendly diving.

While the Wilderness Society has put together a beautiful slide show highlighting the need to protect the wilderness and people of Alaska's Arctic Refuge...

Earth-Info.Net likes to be even more low-tech + local... so here are a few extra ideas about how you can make a positive difference in your day-to-day life:

(1) How about buying Fair Trade goods?

Goods such as bananas, coffee + chocolate (yum!) can now be bought from companies that have promised to pay their suppliers in poor countries a fair price, on a regular basis.

This system enables poor communities to plan ahead + invest in their industry + community... it also helps them to protect their environment.

If you don't have access to fair trade goods in your local food or coffee shop why not ask for them?

Here's a list of UK suppliers just in case you need to point anyone in the right direction!

(2) Write a letter to your Prime Minister/President asking them what they are doing about Global Warming or any other issue you think matters !

(3) Re-use, Reduce + Recycle waste in your home, office or business.

At the moment we recycle only 11% of our waste in the UK but it is possible to recycle a staggering 80% if you really go for it + get organised!

(4) Think about using a farmer's market as a way of buying fresh produce + supporting your local community.

Here's a map which will help you to find farmer's markets all over the US.

For people in the UK there's a really good farmer's market in London and more are being set up all the time, as farmers can earn 30% more from their produce by cutting out the middle man!

(5) Share a car to work...

I know this is a radical idea, but it's getting easier + safer to do this thanks to websites such as liftshare.com...

(6) Make your home more energy efficient... and SAVE MONEY!

(7) Set up a bicycle recycling scheme that can reuse long-forgotten bicycles and provide basic employment while helping people to enjoy the outdoors + get healthy!

If all of this sounds like too much hard work then how about sponsoring someone else to do something useful - like providing clean water to people who really need it?Aquaplastics have also offered to donate 10 european cents to Water Aid for every click here. You can find out how the money raised this way will be spent here.

P.S. Well done to Google for their groovy "Martians looking down at the Earth from the Moon" logo on the Google homepage... this is just the kind of support that helps to make things happen

The BBC World Service has launched a highly commendable awareness campaign highlighting the importance of access to clean water + improved sanitation.

Issues covered during this week-long series of programmes include the impacts of people having to walk long distances in order to access water, the effectiveness of rural community projects and some of the different urban problems + solutions.

With 2 million children a year dying of (preventable) diarrhoeal diseases Earth-Info.Net is very glad to see the BBC doing what it can to help inform national + international audiences of the complex issues surrounding access to clean water and also drawing attention to some of the practical measures that can be taken...

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Last week Earth-Info.Net was told by an expert about some of the threats faced by wild falcons (which are very highly-prized by falconers)...

Even in the most remote corners of the world falcons are being trapped in order to supply this illicit trade and numerous prey species are also being hunted close to extinction.

Conservation projects associated with falcons are currently underway for Red Kites in Cape Verde and Saker falcon populations in Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Hungary, the former Czechoslovakia + Rumania with captive breeding programmes increasingly being set up in the Middle East.

An organisation set up by the UN and the WWF, called Traffic, suggests that the scale of the global wildlife trade is huge, with an annual turnover estimated at $1,000,000,000s and involving 100,000,000s of individual plants and animals.... including rare falcons!

The Traffic site also points out that "a large proportion of the world's wildlife trade is domestic and does not cross international boundaries, especially for products such as medicinal plants, timber, charcoal, wild meat + fisheries."

In terms of what is being traded internationally, "based on declared import values, it is estimated that, in the early 1990s, timber alone accounted for 65% of the annual value of global international trade in wildlife, followed by fisheries food products (25%) and non-timber forest products (7%). Other wildlife commodities - such as live animals, animal products for clothing and ornaments, medicinal products, wild meat + live ornamental plants, accounted for the remaining 3%."

We obviously don't know what goes on without being declared, taxed or challenged and it is fortunate (if inadequate) that since 1975 the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna + Flora (CITES) has offered some protection.

The Forest Stewardship Council has also established a well-respected certification scheme which helps to encourage both sustainable forestry and responsible consumer choice.

It simply remains to be seen whether these commendable measures will be enough to counteract poverty, weak law enforcement + lucrative demand before we start noticing the extinctions...

Friday, April 18, 2003

Phew! We've made it... Day 4 of the Oxford Earth Summit took place this day last year.

Many wise words were spoken at the end of the summit ranging from Lord May's advice to embrace dissent + learn from it... to John Bird's thoughts on charity keeping people exactly where there are... to Belen Vasquez's powerful advocacy on behalf of those who need help in order to get themselves out of a rut.

Cracking stuff, and well worth a read even if you don't have time to listen to whole talks.

Day 4: Friday April 19: Our Roles in Making a Difference

Prof. Steve Rayner: Said Business School, Oxford University
Listen to Steve's talk entitled "The impacts of consumer choice" as a MP3.

* "Why do people consume in the way that they do?"

* "What kinds of policy interventions might one make to change the impacts of consumer behaviour on the environment?"

* "Consumption is very difficult to change in a directed, non-coercive fashion."

* "Four types of family structure: hierachical, competitive, individualistic and fatalistic... hierachical has sunday roast, set places at the dinner table... shampoos fewer but separated by age or gender...seperate laundry."

* "Need to find means which allow people to maintain patterns of consumption with less environmental impact."

Dr. Gideon Middleton: Orange
Listen to Gideon's talk entitled "Environmental initiatives in the commerical sector" as a MP3.

* "The Orange network in the UK now covers 99% of the population, 80% of the area... 13 million customers and 15,000 staff."

* "Once we can measure them (our environmental impacts) we can set ourselves objectives and targets."

* "Green energy has been cheaper than brown energy."

* "87% of our offices are on renewable power, 100% of our retails shops and 44% of our network."

Dr. Richard Jones: The Meteorological Office
Listen to Richard's talk entitled "The science of climate change" as a MP3.
Link to the Met Office's Hadley Centre (which specialises in the study of climate change).

* "A global surface temperature increase of 0.7°C has taken place over the past 100 years. Most of the increase has been due to human activities."

* "A 3°C increase (in global temperature) is likely by the end of this century (4x the last century)."

* "There will be substantial impacts in many if not all sectors."

* "There is large uncertainty in (model) predictions but also good consistency in large-scale patterns."

* "Enormous cuts in emissions would be required to stabilise the climate at that of the present day."

Dr. Tom Woollard: ERM Consultants
Listen to Tom's talk entitled "Understanding how business thinks" as a MP3.

* "274 of FTSE 350 do NOT produce a stand-alone environmental report."

* "The generation and use of ‘value reporting’/socio-economic data is sparse."

* "Most management systems focus only on operational compliance, ignoring up- and down stream issues and impacts... much environmental management is ad-hoc and sporadic ."

Ms. Belen Vasquez: Action Aid
Listen to Belen's talk entitled "Enhancing the quality and volume of international aid" as a MP3.

* "1.2 billion people or 20% of the world’s population lives on less than a dollar a day. Additional 1.6 billion live on less than a 2 dollars a day."

* "EU-US aid announcements are modest responses that will generate merely a quarter of what is required. Monterrey has not solved the question of long-term aid funding nor has it set a timeframe for reaching the 0.7% target."

* "Donors have put a strong emphasis on aid conditionality or the set of conditions that recipient countries must have in place in order for aid to work and so for them to receive support."

* "Public pressure is essential. We need to tell world leaders that we do not want another document reflecting vague commitments. We want a plan of action setting timeframes for increasing aid to developing countries."

Mr. John Bird: The Big Issue
Listen to John's talk entitled "Self-help and society" as a MP3.

* "I was astonished at the lack of opportunity for them to get out of poverty and stand on their own two feet."

* "A hand up not a hand out."

* "A business response to a social crisis."

* "We are interested in you winning control of your lives rather than relying, like pigeons, on being fed by others."

* "We have to change the way in which we give, we have to change the way in which we connect with society."

* "It's about mutual self-interest."

Dr. Robert Barrington: Earthwatch
Listen to Robert's talk entitled "Business and biodiversity" as a MP3

* "The sustainable use of biodiversity, the conservation of biodiversity and the equitable sharing of benefits... what has business got to do with this?"

* "Businesses like things spelled out in back and white."

* "It takes businesses out of their comfort zone to have to take biodiversity seriously... the expertise lies in NGOs, universities and
local communities."

* "Biodiversity as a business issue."

* "Companies need to mainstream biodiversity in all their operations."

* "Unilever are promising that all of its fish will be sourced from sustainable sources by 2006."

Lord (Robert) May: The Royal Society (The UK's national science academy) + Oxford Uni.
Listen to Lord May's talk entitled "The role and limits of science."

* "Some of the limits to science are uncertainty."

* "Science is there to constrain the discourse, to make sure it is not taking place in cloud-cuckoo land, beyond that it leaves it up to democratic processes in open societies."

* "Globally 56% of the cash that flows through NGOs annually comes from governments."

* "Our activities today rival the scale and scope of natural processes and that is truly unique in the history of life on this planet."

* "Small actions now are much more important, leveraged by non-linear effects, than the activities that clearer evidence will force in 50 years, but it is hard to act now in the interests of a distant future."

* "Consult widely, embrace dissent, engage people even if they don't come forward voluntarily who are likely to disagree with you, expose the argument and expose uncertainty."

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Experts from New York's Columbia University have found that "The United States military used much more Agent Orange and other defoliant spray during the Vietnam war than previously thought."

By checking operational + procurement records the academics have worked out which jungle defoliants were used and where they were sprayed.

The scientists, led by Jeanne Mager Stellman, conclude that 10% more Agent Orange was sprayed than previously realised, bringing the total to 77,000,000 litres, and that earlier forms of Agent Orange contained double the concentration of dioxins (cancer causing chemicals) of later batches

At least 15 different chemicals were sprayed on the jungle in Vietnam including (Agent Purple, Agent Blue, Agent Pink + Agent White), and the Columbia team concludes that "millions of Vietnamese were likely to have been sprayed upon directly". Previous research has found that some Vietnamese have 200 times the normal level of dioxin in their bodies.

Some US veterans have complained of experiencing serious health-effects as a result of their exposure to Agent Orange but Title 38 of the United States Code prohibits veterans from suing the government for injuries suffered while in the military.

A class action suit was filed in behalf of veterans in 1979 against the chemical companies and settled out of court. The final funds in this legal action were distributed by 1992. Additional attempts to sue the manufacturers have been attempted, and have been prohibited by the courts. The most strongly fought of these legal battles, Ivy vs. Diamond Shamrock was supported in behalf of the plaintiff by attorney generals in all fifty states, the Supreme Court, however, refused to hear the arguments and that case ended in 1992. In the parlance of the court, the issue is "res judicata" or "the matter is settled".

Find out more about Agent Orange here or support an orphanage for disabled Vietnamese children here...

Jeanne Mager Stellman's article in the science journal Nature can be found here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

A grandmother, Julia Bonds, from West Virginia has just won a top environment prize for international grass-roots activists in recognition of her work to stop coal-mining companies removing the tops of mountains in order to access seams of coal.

This form of mining devastates streams + forests and results in a mining slurry containing lead, arsenic and mercury which often overflows into watercourses, contaminating drinking water... it has also resulted in the loss of 1000 miles of streams and valleys!

Other prize winners include:

* Odigha Odigha who is trying to protect the Cross Rivers forest in Nigeria.

* Maria Elena Foronda Farro who leads campaigns to clean up Peru’s fishmeal industry.

* Von Hernandez who campaigns against reckless waste incineration in the Philippines.

* Eileen Kampakuta Brown + Eileen Wani Wingfield who are trying to stop a nuclear waste dump being put in their ancestral land, and

* Pedro Arrojo-Agudo who is campaigning against a water diversion scheme in Spain which would involve 120 dams.

Serious damage is clearly being done to Julia's Appalachian Mountains, and elsewhere in the world, so Earth-Info.Net is very glad that all of the prize winners have been brave and determined enough to take on powerful commercial interests and their political representatives - despite exposing themselves to considerable risk + difficulty!

It feels like only yesterday, but this day last year was Day 3 of the Oxford Earth Summit...

The talks + quotes from this day are listed below and concentrate on highlighting some of the practical steps that can be taken if we wish to have a more sustainable future.

Speakers suggested steps worth taking included the enchancement of wildlife monitoring (in the UK and overseas), the valuing of social attributes other than financial wealth, taking urgent action to protect our environment (and to create alternatives to unsustainable exploitation) + making the global trading system fairer so that more people can work their way out of poverty...

During this four-day summit 30 humanitarian, environmental, business + political speakers (including representatives of Birdlife International, Oxfam, The World Bank, Oxford University, The Met Office, Water Aid, The Royal Society + The UN) were invited to give brief talks to the public at Oxford Natural History Museum.

The plan was to allow people with different perspectives to explain, in their own words, what they felt needed to be done in order to give people + the environment a more sustainable future and in this way to enable the audience to make up their own minds about some of the challenges, choices + change we face and where we should all aim to go from here...

I also hoped to stimulate a constructive + balanced debate in the UK before the UN's World Summit on Sustainable Development took place in Johannesburg in August 2002... but hey we can all dream!

The talks from the Oxford Earth Summit can be listened to as MP3 audio files and to give you a quick idea of what each talk was about I have highlighted some of the key quotes below.

Over the past year some things have changed, but it is no exaggeration to say that meaningful progress has been extremely limited... on the bright side, this failure to act means that most of the summit's expert talks are just as relevant today as they ever were!

My thanks to Ida, Oliver + Erica for their help before, during and after the summit and to all the speakers for covering their own expenses... without everyones' generous assistance the summit simply wouldn't have been possible on such a shoe-string budget! Cheers, Matt

I hope you'll enjoy the talks + please help to spread the word if you find them of interest!

DAY 3: Tuesday, April 16th 2002: "The choices we face."

Dr. David Macdonald: Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), Oxford University
Listen to David's talk entitled "British mammals - conservation begins at home" as a MP3.

* "Many of the UK's terrestrial mammals have been declining over the course of the 20th century."

* "Nobody knows quite how many species, or which ones, can be lost, before the functioning of particular ecosystems is distorted or even collapses."

* "There is currently no single co-ordinated, national, systematic and enduring scheme for monitoring Britain's mammals."

* "The basis for resolving all mammals issues must be sound facts, and without a strong and well-funded science base these will not be available."

Mr. Mike Woodin: Green Party
Listen to Mike's talk entitled "Greening globalisation" as a MP3.

* "In 1961 the income of the richest fifth of the world's population was 30 times greater than the poorest fifth, by 1991 it was 60 times greater and by 1998, 78 times greater."

* "Compared to 1950s/1970s we are 3-4 times as wealthy (vs 1950), there is 400% more traffic (vs 1950), we're no happier (US), we're more depressed (globally), fatter (UK), underemployed (globally) + there is greater inequality."

* "A Tobin Tax of 0.25% on international currency speculation would generate $250bn per annum (for the UN or development.)"

Dr. Malcolm Coe: Eart African Ecology
Listen to Malcom's talk entitled "The importance of biodiversity in the natural world. An East African perspective" as a MP3.

* "Since the dawn of of time of in Africa there have been changes and environmental changes."

* "In 1972-1973 there were 5000 - 6000 black rhino in Tsavo (National Park) there are now approximately 40 animals."

* "We need to devise other ways in which people can use the savannahs of Africa and we need to devise other ways in which we can help the economies of these people."

Dr. Ashley Leiman: Orangutan Foundation
Listen to Ashley's talk entitled "The biology and politics of Indonesia’s Orangutans" as a MP3

* "In 1900 there were approximately 315,000 orangutan today it is estimated that between 15,000 and 20,000 survive in the wild."

* "Indonesia occupies 1.3% of the world's land area yet it possesses 10% of the world's flowering plants, 12% of all mammal species, 17% of all reptiles and amphibian species and 17% of all bird species."

* "Indonesia has some of the best legislation, it is all there, it's just not enforced."

Rt. Hon. Sue Doughty M.P.: Liberal Democrats
Listen to Sue's talk entitled "Rubbish in, rubbish out" as a MP3.

Dr. Nigel Collar: Birdlife International
Listen to Nigel's talk entitled "Birds, biodiversity and sustainability as a MP3.

* "...the use of science to promote conservation...we use an interest in birds to deal with matters of biodiversity at the larger scale and of sustainability."
* "1 in 8 of all bird species is threatened with extinction."

* "Some areas do not have any big charasmatic mammals but have an awful lot of biological diversity, some birds but of course thousands of plants and other life forms and thorough the use of birds we got new parks in this region (near Indonesia)."

* "Birds have good indicator qualities... as they appear across a broad range of habitats, reflect changes in other plants and animals, are responsive themselves to change, a lot of good data exists in the developing world, they are easily understood and explained and they are popular."

* "Birds can contribute to the general and greater well-being of everybody."

Dr. David Nussbaum: OXFAM
Listen to David's talk entitled "Tackling poverty in a trading world" as a MP3.
Link to www.maketradefair.com.

Oxfam is calling for:
"Rich countries to remove barriers to imports for all low-income countries."

"A comprehensive ban on agricultural export subsidies, which would end the cycle of over-production and export dumping by rich countries."

"An end to the practice of attaching conditions to IMF-World Bank loans, which force poor countries to open their markets regardless of the impact on poor people."

"Action to stabilise prices for primary commodities at higher levels, and pay more to small farmers."

"A more democratic World Trade Organisation which gives poor countries a stronger voice."

"Governments in the developing world to adopt national and regional policies that help poor people to access markets and benefit from trade."

Monday, April 14, 2003

In testimony to the UN Security Council the executive director of Medecins Sans Frontieres - USA (Doctors Without Borders - USA), Nicolas de Torrente, has expressed concern that the US/UK coalition's highly visible "hearts + minds" campaign with humanitarian aid in Iraq will fuel suspicion of all humanitarian activities, and international aid personnel.

He also said that:

In Iraq ...the political agendas and military strategies of the warring parties have resulted in nearly completely shutting out independent humanitarian assistance.

and that...

The situation in Afghanistan gives us (MSF) reasons to be worried. After the demise of the Taliban, fighting, tensions and instability have persisted. The perceived association between Western military forces and humanitarian aid organizations has become a serious security liability, not only restricting access to many areas of the south and southeast of the country, but also jeopardizing their safety.

This time last year I was organising Day 2 of the Oxford Earth Summit...

The talks + quotes from this day are listed below and concentrate on highlighting what we can do to protect the environment, spend money more wisely, equip poor countries with the skills and people they need to tackle their own problems + why it is important to tackle development + environmental problems together...

DAY 2: Tuesday, April 16th 2002: "Examples of good + bad practice"

Dr. Kate Oddie: Mongolian Ecology
Listen to Kate's talk entitled "Baseline data and the practicalities of field research + funding. A Mongolian case study" as a MP3.

* "Many species in much of Mongolia have never been described."

* "Mongolia's national conservation budget (for a country 3x the area of France) is $70,000 per year."

* "There is an opportunity to act now and conserve the Mongolian environment."

Prof. Norman Myers: Oxford University
Listen to Norman's talkentitled "Perverse subsidies and other crazy policies" as an MP3.

* "Subsidies for agriculture foster over-loading of croplands, leading to erosion of topsoil, pollution from synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and release of greenhouse gases among other adverse effects."

* "Subsidies for fossil fuels aggravate pollution effects such as acid rain, urban smog and global warming."

* "Perverse subsides amount to at least $2 trillion a year. This total is bigger than the economies of all but the three largest nations."

* "The reduction of perverse subsidies would generally do more for both our environments and our economies than through any other single measure."

Dr. Rosie Trevelyan: Tropical Biology Association
Listen to Rosie's talk entitled "Developing human resources in the tropics and building link" as an MP3.

* "Countries rich in biodiversity tend to be poor in the resources necessary for describing, assessing and managing it."

*"We need to strengthen and support scientific expertise in tropical countries to ensure the future of their ecosystems."

*"Students and academics from Africa and Europe in equal numbers... share ideas and learn from each others’ experiences and helps build links for future collaboration."

*"A low cost model that is open for other organisations to adopt or to join."

Dr. Brenda Boardman: Oxford University
Link to the Environmental Change Institute.
Link to www.ChangingClimate.org.

Mr. Matt Prescott: Summit Organiser
Listen to Matt's talk entitled "Why Australia is more interesting than the Moon" as an MP3.

* "Thousands of Australian plants have been given names but we do not understand how most of them reproduce."

* "Without an ecological understanding it is difficult to decide whether any land-management will be good or bad."

* "Many seedbanks remain viable but are unlikely to be replenished due to the loss of pollinators."

* "A lot of positive things are within are grasp but we need to hear the alarm bells and to decide to act."

Sir Richard Jolly: United Nations Development Programme
Listen to Sir Richard's talk entitled "What will make human development truly sustainable?" as a MP3.
Link to the UN's annual Human Development Reports.

* "Sustainable development is defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

* "How do we mobilise talk into action?"

* "Tackling poverty in an environmentally sustainable way is part of the solution... we need to do this by listening more."

* "Environment and development MUST be tackled together."

* "We need improved global governance with regard to representation."

Dr. Peter Henderson: Fish ecologist
Listen to Peter's talk entitled "Managing natural resources sustainably:Examples of successes and failures" as an MP3.
Link to Pisces Conservation.

* "Fisheries can collapse because of over-fishing, habitat damage + changes in the climate."

* "There are examples of over-fishing in freshwater and marine environments. The North Sea has some particularly clear examples, e.g. Herring"

* "Habitat damage.... For example, in 1957 a 70km stretch of the River Thames was fishless due to pollution."

* "The effects of climate need to be monitored and landings adjusted accordingly."

* "Careful control of the level of exploitation has allowed the Icelandic fishing industry to maintain large commercially important catches."

* "A precautionary approach must be taken. Present practise is to believe that in compensatory responses and aim for maximum possible catch - this approach has repeated failed."

Ms. Jane Morrice: The Northern Ireland Womens' Coalition.
Listen to Jane's talk entitled "The role of women in democracy and conflict resolution" as a MP3.

* "A society which strives for, or achieves, gender balance in political and religious systems is one less likely to accept inequality in other sectors of society."

The BBC has set up a weblog diary for a humanitarian aid worker, called Fiona Callister, from the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) who is waiting to be given the all-clear to enter Iraq.

At present only two aid agencies have staff working in Iraq. These agencies are Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) + the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Oxford Earth Summit

DAY 1: Monday, April 15th 2002: "Setting the Scene"

Prof. Norman Myers: Oxford University.

Listen to Norman's opening address entitled "Sharing our Earth" as an MP3.

* "We face environmental problems of unprecedented scale and scope."

* "It will not cost the Earth to save the Earth."

* "What is missing for the most part is the political will."

Mr. Alfredo Sfeir-Younis: World Bank

Listen to Alfredo's talk entitled "The political, economy and human dimensionsof sustainable development" as an MP3.

* "The 12 richest individuals have the same wealth as India + Bangladesh."

* "We need a mainstreaming of sustainable development issues and shifts in empowerment + governance."

Mr. Matt Prescott: Summit Organiser.

Listen to Matt's talk entitled "Is it possible for you to make a difference?"as an MP3.

* "Little things do matter."

* "We need to develop a long-term agenda based on knowledge, accountability, fairness and action."

Mr. Nigel Cross: International Institute for Environment + Development.

The IIED's World Summit on Sustainable Development briefing.

* "25% of the world pop consumes 75% of the world's resources."

* "At Rio a global aid budget target of $125 billion was set. However in 1992 the budget was $69 billion and by 2002 had been reduced to $53 billion."

* "Most US aid goes to Israel + Egypt. The remainder, given to the rest of the world, amounts to the same sum given by Denmark."

Ms. Romilly Greenhill: Jubilee Research

Listen to Romilly's talk entitled "Third World Debt alleviation and international insolvency laws" as a MP3.

* "Debt repayments severely undermine development."

* "The debt problem has NOT been solved."

* "Of the 42 most heavily indebted countries only 4 countries have had significant debt cancellation after 3 years."

* "Solutions will not work (for debtor nations) if designed by creditor nations in their own interest."

Mr. Ravi Narayanan: Water Aid

Listen to Ravi's talk entitled "The importance of clean water and good hygiene in development" as an MP3.

* "There are 1.2 billion people without access to clean water and 2.4 billion without adequate sanitation."

* "Every day 6000 children die of diarrhoreal diseases."

* "80% of the disease load in developing countries is caused by water- borne diseases."

* "It would cost £11 billion per year (the same amount as is spent of petfood in the US and EU each year), for 10 years, to halve the number of people with poor sanitation."

Mr. Tony Vaux: Humanitarian Aid Expert

Listen to Tony's talk "Selfish altruism and non-economic development" as a MP3.

Link to a book review of the Selfish Altruist.

* "Are our humanitarian involvements really altruistic or selfish?"

* "We don't expect locals to have the necessary resources but to be reliant on international aid."

* "The poor can and do take the initiative and understand issues in a way we don't."

* "We need democratisation of the aid apparatus."

More of the talks + quotes will be added to Earth-Info.Net over the course of this week but can already be found at the Oxford Earth Summit homepage.

P.S. Earth-Info.Net has noticed that James Wolfensohn, the head of The World Bank, has today said that the Millennium Development Goals will not be met without additional aid and warned that absolute poverty will increase in Africa... he is also worried that while attention is focused on Iraq, the "other war" against global poverty will be forgotten.

He's spot on to highlight these problems and has consequently gone up in Earth-Info.Net's estimation. A war against poverty has the added advantage that it would't kill anyone but could instead save millions of lives! Sounds like a war worth fighting, and a relatively cheap one at that!

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Unfortunately, World Health Day (April 7th) - which this year had the theme of "Healthy Environments for Children" - wasn't able to compete with the storming of Bagdhad in terms of news coverage...

Therefore, although Earth-Info.Net doesn't normally post long stories we feel that the following open letters from Kofi Annan + Gro Harlem Brundtland both deserve to be (belatedly!) posted in their entirety...

Kofi Annan's message reads:

"Healthy children are crucial to sustainable development. That is why this year's World Health Day carries the theme Shape the Future of Life: Healthy Environment for Children .

A child’s world is centred around the home, the school and the local community. These should be places where children can play, thrive and develop, and where they are protected from disease. But in reality, these are often places where children -- particularly children in poverty -- face multiple threats to their health. Common risks include unsafe drinking water, air pollution, poor housing, lack of hygiene and sanitation, as well as inadequate waste disposal.

Children are more vulnerable than adults to environmental hazards. Their capacity to absorb health hazards is still developing, and thus they are more susceptible to the effects of toxic chemicals and to germs as well as other pollutants. They are also more exposed to such risks, because they consume more food, air and water than adults do in proportion to their body weight -- and because they possess more natural curiosity but less knowledge and experience.

The only sustainable response is to make sure that children can live, learn and play in safe environments. This will not only save many lives; it will have positive consequences for economic development. It will prevent many children from being taken out of school due to chronic disease, and thus help society as a whole build the skill-base it needs for economic growth.

That means we must build on the momentum generated by the Healthy Environments for Children Alliance, inaugurated at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg to mobilize knowledge, political will and resources for the reduction of environmental risks to children’s health. And it means recognizing that children are our future -- and that a future of sustainable development begins with safeguarding the health of every child. On this World Health Day, let us rededicate ourselves to that mission."

Gro Harlem Brundtland's message reads:

"Friends and Colleagues,

We are here today, on World Health Day, to stress our commitment to protecting three of our greatest assets: health, the environment and children. The three are inter-linked. Ensuring Healthy Environments for Children - the theme of this year's World Health Day - is vital to our efforts to help shape the future of life.

The biggest threats to children’s health are found in the very places that should be safest – their homes, their schools and their communities. Every year over 5 million children ages 0 to 14 die from diseases directly related to their environments. They die of diarrhoea, respiratory illnesses, malaria and other vector-borne diseases, injuries, and other environmental threats in and around their homes.

Unsafe water, poor hygiene and sanitation, air pollution, including from dirty household fuels used for cooking and heating, tobacco smoke, hazardous chemicals and other environmental threats affect the health of children disproportionately.

The deaths and overall ill-health can be prevented. We know what to do. We have developed strategies to combat these environmental risks to children’s health. They need to be implemented on a global and national scale, and at the household and community level.

In September 2002, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, we inaugurated the Healthy Environments for Children Alliance. We are now working with different groups around the world, developing a vibrant movement capable of mobilizing worldwide support and intervening to make children’s lives healthier where they live, learn and play. By working together on many fronts, by building on existing programmes, and by adapting concrete actions to local needs, we can make a real difference. Together, we are better able to address the many health and environment issues faced by communities, countries and regions all around the world.

I urge everyone to look around and think about what they can do to help so that every child grows up in a healthy home, school and community. And then, take action. The future development of our children depends on our action today.

Thank you.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Earth-Info.Net is pleased to see that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has started to collect information on how Indigenous Australians (Aborigines + Torres Strait Islanders) use the flowering patterns of native plants to forecast the weather...

See this article from the London Times for a quick overview...

A reservoir used to store caustic soda + chlorine at a wood-pulping factory in Brazil has leaked 1.2 billion litres of toxic waste into two rivers...

This serious pollution has killed large amounts of wildlife + denied 500,000 people access to drinking water!

So far the wood-pulping company, Cataguazes, has been fined almost $15 million and it could also face criminal charges.

In addition to the authorities acquiring the resources necessary to cope with such an emergency WWF-Brazil are calling for a system of alerts + regular water-quality monitoring to be set up...

Thanks to Erica Moret for forwarding this story.

Indian villagers are being poisoned by water that contains very high concentrations of fluoride.

This form of poisoning causes premature aging, blindness as well as permanent damage to joints + bones.

In the southern India state of Andhra Pradesh 600 villages and 300,000 people are affected by excess fluoride in the underground water and 10,000 people are totally crippled.

Plans exist to bring clean water from the river Krishna but progress with tackling this vast problem has been slow.

Find out more by visiting the Fluoride Action Network website.

Here's an interesting BBC report on the role that litigation might play in the climate change debate over the next 10 years - with those suffering a material loss likely to attempt to sue those reponsible for emitting greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide + methane at some point in the future.

There are obvious difficulties associated with establishing the existence, extent + causes of recent climate change + even more with attributing blame but Earth-Info.Net still suspects that companies + countries in denial about global warming could eventually find themselves in a vulnerable legal position...

In 2001, the IPCC's third climate change assessment report stated that it was "likely" - meaning a better than a two in three chance - that human activities were forcing the global climate to warm up + Peter Roderick, a lawyer who works with Friends Of The Earth International, has recently said that "Civil courts usually require a 51% proof of certainty, which is an interesting issue in terms of scientific levels of proof - and legal levels of proof."

Visit the Met Office's Hadley Centre or the Tyndall Centre website for details on climate research + the Centre for International Environmental Law for a run down on the legal situation.

Also take a look at this graph of the global temperature record from 1860-2000!

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

I know it is cheeky but please consider linking to

I've made it easier for you to link by arranging for www.earth-info.net + earth-info.net to be automatically redirected to the tongue-twistingly long http://earth-info-net.blogspot.com address.

All support is greatly appreciated!

Monday, April 07, 2003

The United Nations is currently facing a number of unprecedented challenges + many are asking whether it is up to the job...

The UN system is certainly mind-bogglingly complex + no doubt guilty of retaining plenty of dead wood...

Despite these failings Earth-Info.Net feels that the following UN programmes do exceptionally good work + are well worth supporting:

* UN Development Programme
* World Health Organisation

* UN Environment Programme
* World Conservation Union (IUCN)
* Post Conflict Assessment Unit

Emergency + Long-term
* UNHCR (refugees)
* UNICEF (children)
* World Food Programme

See Charter 99 to find out about demands for greater accountability + transparency in global decision-making and this fine set of useful links from the One World Trust for plenty of other constructive ideas...

The Bretton Woods Project site also offers numerous sensible suggestions for World Bank + World Trade Organisation reform....

Then there's the idea of a "Tobin Tax" on cross-border currency transactions as a way of generating a reliable revenue that could go to global priorities such basic environmental + human needs.

Funding arrangements such as the Tobin Tax are needed because over 32 years ago the UK and other governments agreed to spend 0.7% of their national wealth on overseas aid - so far only 5 countries who promised to reach the 0.7% UN target have done so.

Many new promises have been made in the mean time and Earth-Info.Net would therefore like to see a concerted effort to make the world a genuinely healthier, better educated, peaceful + safe place for more of it's people.

One way to achieve this would be to invest in the bits of the UN that are efficient + effective...

British industry has performed far better than expected in cutting emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), and ministers say that the country could be on track to exceed the 12.5% cut, agreed under the Kyoto Protocol.

On April 4th the UK's Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott MP, approved the redevelopment of RAF Finningley, near Doncaster, as a new international airport.

Commenting on this decision Friends of the Earth Finningley campaigner Anthony Rae said:

"This decision makes a total mockery of the Government's airport consultation. We are only halfway through the process and they are already approving new airports. The Government even admits the new airport is not needed, but it has been given the go-ahead to encourage economic growth around Doncaster. This is a classic case of the tail wagging the dog.

"The Government's own computer forecasting models show that, with proper taxation of air travel, we do not need any new runways or airports at all. We are not disputing that Doncaster needs new investment and new jobs. But there are better and more sustainable ways to achieve this than a new airport."

Paragraph 55 of the Government's decision letter states that "the Secretary of State, accepts that there is no pressing need for the airport in terms of airport capacity. The justification for the development is in its relationship with the development plan, in these circumstances it unnecessary to wait for the White Paper before taking a decision on this application"...

A Christmas Card Recycling Scheme in the UK has been a huge success, recycling 40 million cards (787 tonnes)...

Michael Meacher MP, the UK's Environment Minister, today congratulated the Woodland Trust and its partners WHSmith and Tesco

Over the past five years the Woodland Trust has recycled nearly 200 million cards – raising funds to help the Trust to create and care for woodland at 28 sites across the UK.

In addition to this new planting, the 2003 scheme alone saved 13,379 trees, 5,509,000 gallons of water, 3,305,400 KWh electricity, and reduced emissions by 15,740 lbs of carbon dioxide.

Friday, April 04, 2003

If you want to understand how business thinks and plans it is well worth reading Shell's People, Planet and Profits report.

This report identifies possible/likely social, economic + environmental trends over the next 20 years and how, under alternate scenarios, they may impact on the way business is done.

Learn about the emerging "business class","government referees", "consumer kings", "beyond-product services", "consumer boycotts" + "The Great Game of Gas".

Thursday, April 03, 2003

In this BBC interview an emergency relief worker from UK charity Cafod describes the US/UK coalition's efforts to administer aid in southern Iraq "a shambles"...

Are you fed up of cities being shaped to suit the needs of the motorist rather than the pedestrian?

If you are then visit Car Free Cities to see how cities all over the world are going about remodelling themselves in order to take this radical step...

It might just work...

Earth-Info.Net is struck by the potential of interactive "green maps" which can help you to find a wide range of life-enhancing people, places + services in a growing number of cities...

The quality of the maps currently available online is hugely variable but I was impressed by the map for Copenhagen which lets you zoom in + out, then find out more by clicking on some easy-to-understand icons.

Fields covered by the map include environmental organizations, bike taxies, parks + household goods, all of which fulfill strict sustainable + ecological criteria.

The Guardian has compiled a useful page offering green politics, news + links...

The page includes special reports on renewable energy, waste + pollution + climate change...

Rethink Rubbish has lots of sensible tips on how to reduce, reuse + recycle waste at home, work + the shops.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Here's a story from the Invasive Species Weblog...

The Guardian has a story about the report on invasive species just released by the UK Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

The report outlines goals for a comprehensive program to limit the ecological and economic impact of invasives, with a focus on prevention + rapid response to species in the earliest stages of invasion.

You can read either the entire report or a summary by following these links.

According to Reuters Alertnet, American humanitarian aid groups have complained that attempts to force them to operate under the Pentagon in Iraq would complicate their ability to help the Iraqi people + jeopardize aid workers.

See the InterAction.Org (USA) website for more details...

The UK's Environmental Audit Select Committee's inquiry into the outcomes + implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development(WSSD) has taken evidence from a range of witnesses including Margaret Beckett and Jonathon Porritt...

Members of the Canadian Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, led by The Hon. Charles Caccia MP and Johanne Gélinas, Commissioner of Sustainable Development and the Environment were also invited to give evidence to the committee...

Mr. Caccia said the most serious flaw in the post-Johannesburg process is the role of UNEP in implementation. In order to allow the agency to be successful, he said that UNEP would have to be elevated within the UN system.

Ms. Gélinas spoke about the role of the Type 2 or “partnership” initiatives. She expressed concern that by handing over responsibility for implementation to third parties, monitoring progress will be more difficult, and she underlined the need for good governance in keeping track of progress.

A new report from independent experts (the UK's Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee) says that:

The reliance on the existing Drigg near-surface disposal site alone as a long-term management solution for these "low activity wastes" is misplaced.

The site is filling up and the report indicates that additional capacity will be required. Volumes of low activity waste are not accurately reported...

A Radioactive Materials Inventory is needed - in order to take fuller account of all existing and potential nuclear liabilities.

"The number of nuclear plants being decommissioned, currently and in the near future, will result in very large amounts of waste.

RWMAC warns that unless sensible and robust solutions can be found "huge amounts of lightly contaminated soil and rubble cleared from nuclear sites might have to be transported across the UK, only to have to be buried elsewhere, all at great public cost. This would merely be moving the problem, not solving it."

A new report commissioned and published by the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation entitled “Changing Course - A contribution to a Global Energy Strategy (GES)” is now available for free download.

The report sets out how global energy production could shift towards more sustainable energy systems, and how this would create tremendous opportunities for private investments, job creation + economic development, especially in rural areas.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

And finally, an incredible story from the Bretton Woods Project's excellent newsletter...

An IMF paper co-authored by its Chief Economist Ken Rogoff warns of the effects of financial liberalisation for poor countries.

There is no proof that financial liberalisation has benefited growth and it seems linked to "increased vulnerability to crises", says the report. In 1997 the IMF considered modifying its articles of agreements to include financial liberalisation but claims to have adopted a more nuanced approach in the past few years. Despite "sobering" conclusions, the report says the IMF's role is crucial to increase the benefits of globalisation.

For more details see:

* The IMF paper
* Go with flows? Capital account liberalisation and poverty by the Bretton Woods Project.
* Global finance hurts the poor by Oxfam

The positive impact of trade unions on economic development, and evidence indicating their ability to reduce discrimination + inequality, are among the findings of a new World Bank report: 'Unions and Collective Bargaining'.

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions General Secretary Guy Ryder cautioned however, "the Bank must now translate these important findings into policy, which may involve a significant shift in its organisational culture. In contrast to worker-friendly statements at the global level, country-level Bank staff still routinely advise governments to, in effect, violate core labour standards by making access to unionisation and collective bargaining more difficult."

While offshore oil fields generate hundreds of millions of dollars for Equatorial Guinea, most of the population continues to live on about $1 a day.

A recent report by the Los Angeles Times indicates that President Obiang maintains sole control over the $300-500 million of the country's oil revenues in a US account which allegedly funds his private real estate ventures.

The IMF and the World Bank have both said they will withhold assistance from the country until Obiang accounts for the use of oil revenues and transfers them to the treasury...

For several months the World Bank has been considering withholding the second payment of a structural adjustment credit to the Royal Cambodian Government in reaction to the failure of the government to comply with the terms of the credit and its threats to expel an independent monitor of the forestry sector (see Bretton Woods Project Update 32).

Encouragingly, charges against the Global Witness country representative in Cambodia have been dropped, and reports are that the UK-based NGO may be allowed to continue as a monitor past the original three-month deadline set by the government in January.

According to World Bank spokesperson Melissa Fossberg, "there is a specific set of actions the Government has agreed to take before we would consider releasing the money." These conditions include maintaining an independent forest crime monitor + continuing a donor-led review of forestry management plans and unsatisfactory impact assessments.

Find out more about Global Witness' Cambodia Forest Crime Monitoring Project here...

The Bretton Woods Project's latest newsletter has just arrived and Earth-Info.Net is blown away by the detail + scope of it's coverage of the World Bank and the IMF!

A new study (The Challenges of Development, Mining Codes in Africa and Corporate Responsibility, GRAMA, 2003) from Canadian researchers led by Dr Bonnie Campbell examines the World Bank's influence in establishing mining codes in Southern countries.

It finds that the Bank's assessment of what was needed to attract foreign investment did not consider broader development objectives. Companies were granted low royalty rates and tax exemptions and allowed to retain much of their foreign exchange earnings in foreign accounts.

The study concludes by questioning whether "a country which deregulates and liberalises in order to be fully competitive... can indeed ensure the enforcement of environmental norms, [and] pursue development objectives that build backward and forward linkages to resource extraction... The answer appears to be more than uncertain."

See the African Civil Society Position on World Bank Group Investments in Mining, Oil and Gas at the Africa Consultation of the Extractives Industries Review (EIR) in Maputo, Mozambique for more details...

What's Earth-Info.Net all about?

Earth-Info.Net is one of the world's few sustainable development "weblogs" (please get in touch if you know of any others!) sometimes it is also a democracy blog, an environment blog, a poverty blog, energy blog, health blog, clean water blog, AIDS blog it all depends what's caught Matt's eye + what is going on...

Recently we've also tried to offer decent coverage of mega-events such as the World Economic Forum in Davos, the World Social Forum in Portoalegre 2003 + the World Water Forum in Kyoto (see links to the left + postings throughout March re: Water)...

Earth-Info.Net is a sister site to www.earthsummit.info (600+ useful links) + the Oxford Earth Summit (30 expert talks). Earth-Info.Net's archive now offers 200+ stories... why not check them out if you've found this page interesting?

If you would like to make a personal difference Earth-Info.Net recommends sponsoring a disabled Vietnamese child or the provision of clean water....

Thanks to Unknown News for their link... we've just had the most visitors ever!

Congratulations to Mexican Wave on being presented the Mexico Tourism Board's Lente de Plata (Silver Lens) Award by President Vicente Fox in acknowledgement of their role in promoting responsible travel + a better understanding of the 'real' Mexico, beyond the beach resorts and stereotypes of tequila and sombreros...

Researchers find unacceptable levels of man-made toxins in the Inuit population of Greenland.

The reality of millions of civilians caught up in armed conflict is desperate, and civilians are now the main casualties of war worldwide - often specifically targeted by warring parties rather than merely caught up in the fighting.

"The toll of dead and wounded - particularly among innocent civilians - has risen to levels that can be described, without any exaggeration, as appalling," according to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.