Thursday, February 24, 2005

Another Murder in the Brazilian Rainforest

This morning ENN is reporting that another human rights leader has been murdered in the federal reserve Tingua, about 19 miles from Rio de Janeiro. Dionisio Ribeiro Filho was a local advocate for sustainability and worked to keep rainforest tracts from being clearcut by logging companies, oil and gas companies, and land-grabbers. He was shot at close range with a shotgun.

Only 10 days ago, Sister Dorothy Stang was brutally assasinated at close range by the very people she was working to defeat: illegal logging companies and local corrupt politicians. So what were these hired (obviously) killers thinking? That they wouldn't get caught? After the most publicized murder in Brazil's history (other than Chico Mendes) these people contine to murder. The question is, how much of this is being sponsored by logging companies, land-grabbers, and local power players and how many of those companies are foreign? The worst thing that could happen here is the discovery of a link between American/European logging giants and the growing violence against environmentalists in the South American rainforests.

This tactic, of shutting up ecologists and environmentalists by murdering them, has got to stop. What's clear is that the Amazon is in utter chaos. Whatever President de Silva does it needs to be significant. Our biggest fear should be that de Silva creates pseudo-national parks that are really just tracts of land patrolled by none other than the very people that destroy them: ranchers, oil and gas companies and logging groups. What we may be seeing is the creation of a market similar to that of marijuana and cocoa, i.e. the market will always supply the need of the consumer. The majority of this Amazon wood is finding its way, either through the black market or through many middlemen, into American homes. The middleman is often China (the world's leading importer of hardwoods from all over the world). While the US and some US logging companies publicly boycott Amazonian wood, furniture companies and interior designers are able to pick the same sacred mahogany and palm pieces right out of China for cheaper. As long as there is a need for these rare resources, people will continue to use violence against those who wish to slow the market.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

What's Inhofe Hiding in His Closet?

Chris Mooney makes a great point regarding a recent move by Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe. After 2 organizations criticized Bush's Clear Skies program, the senator requested their complete financial records "to determine whether the groups represented only regulators' views or whether they also were subsidized by outside interests," said the committee's staff majority director Andrew Wheeler. The 2 organizations, neither of which are funded by environmental activists or private interests, are state and local air pollution control agencies.

Those of you who know James Inhofe and his environmental record understand why this move might be frustrating. Those of you who don't know Inhofe, let me introduce you. This is a man who once characterized the EPA as "the Gestapo." (And just to make a point seems to think that 9/11 is God's punishment on the USA for not supporting Israel more vigorously).

And in case we ever want to know where Inhofe get's HIS funding from, look no further. Note, where the majority of his cash comes from. What's even more frightening? This guy is the Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Stumbling Towards Autocracy

Looks as though we're losing the democracy battle overall...everytime we set one up (Iraq)another one falls (Nepal). Recently King Gyanendra sacked the national government and declared a state of emergency. Telephone and internet wires were cut, flights diverted and major cities were forced into a "lockdown." The King dismissed several provisions of the constitution such as freedom of the press, peaceful assembly, speech and expression, and the right against preventive detention.

2 days ago Gyanendra justified his actions as necessary due to "terrorist activites" and "a growing disillusionment with democracy in general." Talk about feast or famine. I guess in his eyes if you can't do democracy well, you shouldn't do it at all. Whether or not Gyanendra can work his way out of this is TBD, but this does beg the question, is Nepal looking ripe for a political takeover? And where better on earth to be then between the 2 largest countries in the world? Would China cloak such a takeover in a "helping our neighbor" cover?

Smart Growth in the Volunteer State

Smart Growth is beginning to flourish (finally) in many cities across the U.S. Based on the principles of sustainable development (gasp! those tree-huggers!) people are finally realizing the benefits of sound urban design.

So, what does this left-wing fanatical communisitc engineering entail? How about not paying $150,000 a year to have your highway medians mowed and instead using the patch of land for trees which would later be harvested? Or, having 8X the open space in your neighborhood? And I bet you wouldn't mind not ever having to drive to work every morning only to sit in traffic? Sound too good to be true? Its not.

Chattanooga is on the right track with urban growth and design and Karen Hundt, a local urban planner, was recently put on the hot seat over at Grist.

Take-home messages:

--"The world is run by the people who show up," i.e. get involved in your urban planning commission.

--2 biggest challenges stopping Smart Growth: public policies in the form of development codes and all that money that goes to the Dept. of Transportation every year---just for upkeep of all that concrete.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Taking Care of Business

Office Depot is quickly climbing the list of the environmental community's favorite corporations. U.S. offices go through over 90 million tons of paper (700 pounds per person) every year. Not to mention that only 40% of U.S. buisnesses have policies favoring the purchase of sustainable or environmentally preferable products.

OD is releasing its "Green Book" for their B2B clients giving companies the chance to have office supplies that would make any tree-hugger proud. Distributed to Fortune 500 companies as well as non-profits, NGOs and universities and colleges nationwide, the "Green Book" is printed on chlorine-free, 100% post-consumer waste (PCW) recycled paper. I know my office is already on this bandwagon. The question is, how long will it be before your's is? Two points for OD for taking care of business in a very green way. Get the full press release here.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Getting Going

Greetings all,

Fresh off the heels from a fabulous western adventure I've finally settled in San Francisco (not for good obviously). The northern California coast is treating this easterner pretty well although I must say, no one said anything about all this fog. Feels like I'm back in Seattle.

Thus commences my blog about tech, science and the environment. Stay tuned and we'll see what happens.