Rachel's News #987

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Rachel's Democracy & Health News #987

"Environment, health, jobs and justice--Who gets to decide?"

Thursday, November 27, 2008.............Printer-friendly version

Featured stories in this issue...

NASA Scientist Cites 'Global-Warming Emergency'
  "We've reached a point where we have a crisis, an emergency, but
  people don't know that," said NASA scientist James Hansen. "There's a
  big gap between what's understood about global warming by the
  scientific community and what is known by the public and
  policymakers." The single most important thing to do immediately, he
  said, is to impose a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants.
Unexpected Rise in Carbon-fuelled Ocean Acidity Threatens Shellfish
  Water samples collected in the eastern Pacific over the past eight
  years showed seawater had acidified more than 20 times faster than
  scientists expected. The effect could be devastating for shellfish and
  other crustaceans.
Marine Dead Zones Set To Expand Rapidly
  "Carbon dioxide fertilizes biological production," says Andreas
  Oschlies. "It's really like junk food for plants. When the carbon-
  fattened excess biomass sinks it gets decomposed by bacteria which
  first consume the oxygen, and then the nutrients."
The (Tuna) Tragedy of the Commons
  Tuna fishing on the U.S. side of the Atlantic ocean is in tatters.
  The big runs of autumn, the "tuna fever," the great herds of fish
  thundering across the blue prairies as they rounded Montauk, that's
  all gone. This was by far the worst year ever. But then, that's true
  every year. What was different this year was that in addition to
  bluefin, yellowfins and albacore were nearly absent, too.
Environmentalists Win Big EPA Ruling
  Thursday's decision means that any new air pollution permits for
  coal plants will require that Best Available Control Technology (BACT)
  be used to reduce CO2 emissions, the same criteria currently used for
  other pollutants, like sulfur dioxide or soot. Right now, however,
  there is no definition of BACT for CO2, and environmentalists estimate
  it will take six months to a year to figure that out. In the meantime,
  all other coal plants in the permitting process, or stuck in the
  courts, will be frozen.
Climate Protests Escalate Worldwide
  The rise in activism worldwide reflects growing frustration against
  the continued, and expanding, use of coal as a source of energy. The
  fuel, while affordable, is directly linked to climate change and air
Report To Congress: Gulf War Syndrome Is Real
  A new scientific report vindicates hundreds of thousands of U.S.
  and allied veterans of the 1991 Gulf War, who have been reporting a
  variety of neurological problems -- even as the government maintained
  that their symptoms were largely due to stress or other unknown


From: Palo Alto (Calif.) Online News, Nov. 22, 2008
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NASA physicist says public awareness lags about the 'hundreds of
millions' of people worldwide will sufffer from lack of water, rising

By Chris Kenrick

Time is running out to prevent catastrophic consequences from global
warming, a leading climate scientist warned a packed audience Thursday
at Stanford University.

Physicist James E. Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for
Space Studies, said hundreds of millions of people will lose fresh
water sources and hundreds of millions of others will be displaced by
rising sea levels if fossil fuel emissions remain on their current

"We've reached a point where we have a crisis, an emergency, but
people don't know that," Hansen told a packed Stanford audience
Thursday night.

"There's a big gap between what's understood about global warming by
the scientific community and what is known by the public and

Hansen, who first warned about climate change in testimony to Congress
in the late 198s, said a path out of the crisis is, "barely, still

Introduced as an "iconic leader" in the science of climate change by
biology professor Stephen Schneider, he spoke in a free public lecture
sponsored by Stanford's Center for Ethics in Society in a series
called "The Ethics of Food and the Environment."

China has surpassed the United States as the biggest emitter of carbon
dioxide into the atmosphere, Hansen said. However because of the long
lifetime of the compound, the U.S. is over three times more
responsible than any other country for the carbon dioxide now in the
atmosphere, and will remain so for decades to come.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide is already at 385 parts per million, well
over the 350 parts per million, or less, that is considered "safe,"
Hansen said. And more warming is already in the pipeline because of
inertia in the climate system.

"To preserve creation, the planet on which civilization developed, we
must draw down carbon dioxide to less than 350 parts per million,"
he said.

Hansen advocates a "carbon tax with a 100 percent dividend," with
funds returned to households based on how much they reduce their
carbon footprints.

Fossil fuels should be taxed at their source -- the wellhead or port
of entry -- to create incentives for the most efficient behavior. For
example, he said, "we import food from New Zealand because there's no
tax on aviation fuel, even though it makes no sense from a planetary

"If you had a 100 percent dividend, there would be a big incentive to
reduce carbon emissions and a motivation to develop technologies that
reduce carbon emissions. The person who does better than average in
reducing their carbon footprint will actually make money."

Aside from the carbon tax and strict efficiency standards for
vehicles, construction and appliances, he called for development of
renewable energy and an improved electric grid to get the energy to
where it's needed.

He also advocated possible use of the next generation of nuclear
power, which creates smaller and shorter-lived volumes of waste. "Most
environmentalists are beginning to realize that they probably need to
soften their attitude toward nuclear power if they're going to solve
the greenhouse problem."

The single most important thing to do immediately, he said, is to
impose a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants. "Because coal is
available and relatively cheap, China and India have relied mainly on
that," he said. "They're getting a big public reaction to local air
pollution. There have been a lot of riots there, which the government
tries to keep quiet."

Flashing photos of his grandchildren, Hansen said there's a basic
conflict between fossil fuel special interests and the interests of
young people, nature and animals.

"Fossil fuel interests have influence in capitals worldwide; young
people and nature don't have much voice. Animals don't vote and don't
talk. It's a challenge."

He said he is hopeful that young people involved in the recent
election will be aggressive in pushing for government policies to
address global warming. He said he is also encouraged that seven of
the 12 members of Congress identified as the "Dirty Dozen" by the
League of Conservation Voters were voted out of office this month.


Writer Chris Kenrick, a former editor at the Weekly, can be e-mailed
at christin...@yahoo.com.

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From: The Guardian (Manchester, U.K.), Nov. 25, 2008
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By Ian Sample, science correspondent

[See coverage of this same story in National Geographic.]

The world's oceans are becoming acidic more quickly than climate
change models predict, according to scientists who claim it will
have a dramatic impact on marine ecosystems.

Water samples collected around an island in the eastern Pacific over
the past eight years showed seawater had acidified more than 20 times
faster than scientists expected. The effect could be devastating for
shellfish and other crustaceans, because acidic waters dissolve
calcium carbonate used by the organisms to make their protective

Oceans absorb about a third of the carbon dioxide released into the
atmosphere by human activities. When the gas dissolves in water, it
forms carbonic acid, which alters the ocean's delicate chemical

The increasing acidification of the oceans is likely to have impacts
that run throughout the marine ecosystem, because the organisms most
affected are at the bottom of the foodchain.

Timothy Wootton, a biologist at the University of Chicago, led a team
of researchers who analysed the acidity, salinity and temperature of
water around Tatoosh Island off the northwestern coast of Washington

Over eight years, the pH level of the water fell by 0.36 to about 8.1,
more than 23 times more than the predicted fall of just 0.015 points.
Water is neutral if its pH is seven, and becomes more acidic as the pH
falls below that.

Writing in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences, the scientists raise concerns at how rapidly the process is
happening and the impact it could have. "Acidification may be a more
urgent issue than previously predicted, at least in some areas of the
ocean," the authors write.

According to computer models of the local marine life, the rise in
acidity is likely to cause substantial falls in the numbers of mussels
and large goose barnacles, while algae and populations of smaller
barnacles may increase. In turn, the changing distribution of these
organisms will have effects on marine life that feed on them.

Last month, researchers warned that a new global deal on climate
change would come too late to save many of the world's corals. A
report from the Carnegie Institution at Stanford University in
California found that carbon dioxide emissions are likely to acidify
seawater enough to cause widespread damage to major reefs, including
the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Even stringent cuts designed to
stabilise greenhouse gas levels still put more than 90% of the world's
reefs in jeopardy.

"Declines in seawater pH were expected to happen very slowly, so we've
been lax in dealing with the problem, but our study shows ocean
acidification may be happening much quicker," said Wootton.

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From: Nature, Nov. 13, 2008
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Rising carbon dioxide levels will make oceans more hostile to life.

By Quirin Schiermeier

Rising levels of carbon dioxide could increase the volume of oxygen-
depleted 'dead zones' in tropical oceans by as much as 50% before the
end of the century -- with dire consequences for the health of
ecosystems in some of the world's most productive fishing grounds.

At depths between several tens and hundreds of metres, large parts of
the tropical oceans are poorly supplied with dissolved oxygen, and are
therefore hostile to most marine life. Scientists suspect that these
zones are sensitive to climate change, but previous studies have
arrived at conflicting conclusions regarding exactly how and why a
more CO2-rich world affects oceanic oxygen content.

A team led by Andreas Oschlies of the Leibniz Institute of Marine
Sciences in Kiel, Germany, has now used a global model of climate,
ocean circulation and biogeochemical cycling to extrapolate existing
experimental results of the effects of altered carbon and nutrient
chemistry on dissolved oxygen to the global ocean1. They found that a
CO2-rich world will only have a small impact on waters at middle and
high latitudes. But in all tropical oceans the volume of 'oxygen-
minimum' zones will substantially increase as ocean bacteria feed on
the algae that will flourish as a result of the elevated CO2 levels.

"Carbon dioxide fertilizes biological production," says Oschlies.
"It's really like junk food for plants. When the carbon-fattened
excess biomass sinks it gets decomposed by bacteria which first
consume the oxygen, and then the nutrients."

Dramatic result

Sporadic measurements in the tropical Atlantic and Pacific suggest
oxygen-depleted zones have been slowly expanding over the past 50
years2. But none of the previously assumed physical causes, such as
ocean warming and reduced circulation, completely accounts for the
effect. This prompted Oschlies and his colleagues to examine how the
ocean's biology would be affected by rising CO2 levels. Their results
are published in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles.

"Nobody really has ever modelled the feedback of rising CO2 on oceanic
oxygen concentrations in such a credible way," says Gian-Kaspar
Plattner, a carbon-cycle modeller at the Swiss Federal Institute of
Technology Zurich (ETH). "A 50% volume increase of oxygen-poor zones
is much more than I would have expected. But further studies, with
different climate parameters, are needed to add robustness to these
results and reduce uncertainty."

Meanwhile, researchers aboard two German research vessels, the Meteor
and the Maria S. Merian, are investigating the matter further. In the
waters off western Africa and Peru, which are rich in marine life,
teams from the University of Kiel and the Leibniz Institute of Marine
Sciences, also in Kiel, will study the physical and biological
processes that are thought to drive oxygen loss in tropical oceans.

The coastal economies in these regions rely heavily on fishing. For
now, says Oschlies, local fisheries may not feel any downturn because
fish stocks can probably evade the dead zones by moving further up in
the water column. But if oxygen and nutrient levels continue to drop,
that could hit the region hard within a few decades.

Oceanic oxygen levels have varied considerably throughout Earth's
past. During the end of the Permian period, around 250 million years
ago, catastrophic oxygen losses triggered mass extinction of
terrestrial and marine life.


1. Oschlies, A., Schulz, K., Riebesell, U. & Schmittner, A. Glob.
Biogeochem. Cycles doi:10.1029/2007GB003147 (2008)

2. Stramma, L., Johnson, G., Sprintall, J. & Mohrholz, V. Science
320, 655-658 (2008).

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From: Dot.Earth (N.Y. Times Blog), Nov. 26, 2008
[Printer-friendly version]


By Andrew C. Revkin

There was new evidence early this week that the world has not yet
absorbed just how deeply humans have depleted our "exhausted
oceans." At the latest meeting of the International Commission for
the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, created under a treaty 42 years
ago to manage shared fisheries in that ocean, European governments
ignored a strong recommendation from the group's own scientific
advisers for deep cuts in some harvests of the Atlantic bluefin tuna.
On its face, that would seem to be a strange development considering
that the organization's Web site says flatly: "Science underpins the
management decisions made by I.C.C.A.T."

But such moves seem unremarkable, for now, in a world seeking to
manage limited, shared natural resources while also spurring economic
growth -- whether the resource is the global atmosphere or an
extraordinary half-ton, ocean-roaming predator. The European stance
-- insisting on a harvest in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean 50
percent above the limit recommended by scientists -- was sharply
criticized by environmental campaigners, marine biologists and
United States fisheries officials. Some biologists criticized the
United States, as well, for playing down the role of American fishers,
both recreational and commercial, in destroying the once-bountiful

But the biggest focus was on Europe. Biologists and American fisheries
officials blamed European governments for failing to shrink the huge
fleets of boats from France (771), Italy (619), Spain (441), England
(331) and elsewhere that are acknowledged, even by Europe, to be too
large for the fishery. Environmental campaigners have repeatedly
reported on rampant, enormous illegal catches in European and
international waters, as well. Given that tagging studies have shown
that the half-ton tuna can roam the full span of the Atlantic in
seeking breeding and feeding grounds, the European position is widely
seen by fisheries specialists as sending the fabled species spiraling
further toward outright collapse. At the center of the fight, spurred
largely by the worldwide sushi trade, is one of nature's most
magnificent, and endangered, experiments -- a transatlantic torpedo
that can sprint at highway speed while warming its brain with energy
from its muscles.

The European Commission said it was "pleased with the consensus" at
the meeting.

I sought a reality check from Carl Safina, the noted marine biologist,
founder of the Blue Ocean Institute, and prize-winning author of
books on tuna, albatross and sea turtles.

He noted that the situation for the bluefins that frequent the
American side of the Atlantic was in many ways worse than for those on
the European side. Here's how he described the continuing devastation
of one of the world's great, if underappreciated, predators (bold-face
highlighting by me):

"This Western stock is in much worse shape than the east, even though
all the finger-pointing has gone to the problems of eastern excess,
which are indeed major. But the Western stock is going extinct while
everyone complains about the east. The problem is overfishing in both

"The fact is that for years the quota in the West has also been much
too high, due to commercial and recreational fishing industry
lobbying. And we continue fishing in the spawning area. (Earlier this
month I lost a long-running lawsuit against N.O.A.A. to close the Gulf
to gear capable of catching bluefins during the spawning season.) It's
all subject to limits but the limits are too high. If they weren't too
high, we would not have the problems. So we have a collapsed
western stock and a rapidly declining eastern stock because of greed
all around.

"U.S. boats have been catching a small fraction of their quota (about
10 to 15 percent of what they're allowed) in recent years. That
percent of the quota will increase as the quota comes down, making
things look better. But the quota remains higher than the catch, so
the quota is not a limit. It's like limiting your pasta intake by
reducing your limit from 10 pounds of spaghetti per meal to five
pounds per meal. Nobody is eating five pounds, so it's not a

"I.C.C.A.T. has always been broken, and the tradition of ignoring the
science and insisting on higher quotas was set 25 years ago by Western
fishing interests. That tradition remains alive on BOTH sides of the
ocean, and the indignant rhetoric by the Western fishing interests
masks their own hypocrisy. No country has ever done the right thing
toward maintaining these fish, though the U.S. comes closer. But
still, the quota will be reduced to a level higher than the catch, so
it's all still meaningless....

"The fishing on this side of the ocean is in tatters. The big runs of
autumn, the "tuna fever," the great herds of fish thundering across
the blue prairies as they rounded Montauk, that's all gone. This was
by far the worst year ever. But then, that's true every year. What was
different this year was that in addition to bluefin, yellowfins and
albacore were nearly absent, too.

"What's really needed is a moratorium for bluefin, and I first said
that in 1991. That's the bluefin situation. I must say that based on
their whole history I would have been astounded if I.C.C.A.T. had set
an eastern quota that complied with the science. I'm ashamed of what
they do, but no longer surprised."

We had a separate discussion about sharks, and one move by the
commission that could help one species. But Dr. Safina pointed out how
inconsequential that initiative is given the continuing devastation of
shark populations in the Atlantic and worldwide.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

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From: Time Magazine, Nov. 13, 2008
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By Bryan Walsh

Environmentalists have long known that when it comes to climate
change, coal will be a dealbreaker. The carbon-intensive fossil fuel
provides nearly half of the United States' electricity, and is
responsible for some 30% of the country's greenhouse gas emissions.

That's just due to the coal plants already operating -- as the U.S.
looks to expand its energy supply to meet rising demand in the future,
over 100 coal plants are in various stages of development around the
country. If those plants are built without the means to capture and
sequester underground the carbon they emit -- and it's far from clear
that such technology will be commercially viable in the near-term --
our ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avert
climate change will be meaningless.

That's why a decision issued on Thursday by the Environmental
Protection Agency's (EPA) Environmental Appeals Board is so important.

Responding to a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club over a new coal plant
being build on American Indian reservation land in Utah, the board
ruled that the EPA has no valid reason to refuse to regulate the CO2
emissions that come from new coal-powered plants. The decision pointed
to a May 2007 ruling by the Supreme Court that recognized CO2, the
main cause of climate change, is indeed a pollutant under the federal
Clean Air Act and therefore needs to be regulated by the EPA. In the
months since that landmark decision, the EPA -- with the support of
the Bush Administration -- has doggedly refuse to regulate CO2, much
to the dismay of environmentalists. The board's decision will force
the EPA to consider CO2 when issuing permits for new power plants,
potentially making it -- at least in the short-term -- all but
impossible to certify new coal power plants. That's because the EPA
will need to reconfigure its rules on dealing with CO2, which is found
in greater concentrations in coal than any other fossil fuel, that
force plants in the permitting process to be reevaluated, delaying
them for months or longer. "In a nutshell it sends [new plants ]back
to the drawing board to address their CO2 emissions," says Bruce
Nilles, director of the Sierra Club's National Clean Coal campaign.
"In the short term it freezes the coal industry in its tracks." (See
TIME's special report on the environment.)

The Sierra Club had originally sued to stop the construction of
Deseret Power's Bonanza Generating Station in Vernal, Utah, part of
their nationwide campaign to stop new coal. The 110-megawatt plant,
which received its EPA permit in July 2007, would have emitted 3.37
million tons of CO2 a year -- the equivalent to putting another
660,000 cars on the road. In detail, Thursday's decision means that
any new air pollution permits for coal plants will require that Best
Available Control Technology (BACT) be used to reduce CO2 emissions,
the same criteria currently used for other pollutants, like sulfur
dioxide or soot. BACT requires companies involved in power plants to
use the best available technology to control pollutants -- it's a tool
to keep pollution controls up to date as both safety technology and
our understanding of pollution impoves. In the past, CO2 wasn't
affected by BACT because the EPA didn't recognize it as a pollutant.
This decision changes that.

Right now, however, there is no definition of BACT for CO2, and
environmentalists estimate it will take six months to a year to figure
that out. In the meantime, all other coal plants in the permitting
process, or stuck in the courts, will be frozen. Over the longer term,
it's possible that new coal plants may be impossible to certify at all
until a technology exists to greatly reduce or sequester carbon
emissions from coal plants -- and currently none has been proven. "The
decision says the EPA can't ignore CO2," says Nilles.

That effectively punts the future of coal in America to President-
elect Barack Obama's incoming Administration. It's not yet clear how
he'll act, but his renewable energy advisor Jason Grumet has said that
Obama would be willing to use the EPA to directly regulate CO2 --
something President George W. Bush has refused to do. "This lays the
groundwork for Obama to move quickly to put in place a regulatory
system and begin to achieve CO2 reduction and build that clean, 21st
century economy he talks about," says Nilles. Obama's position on coal
isn't exactly clear, though he has said that he will work to develop
"clean coal" plans that can capture and sequester carbon. What's
certain is that the future of coal just got a lot cloudier -- and the
future of the climate might be a bit brighter.

Copyright 2008 Time Inc.

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From: WorldWatch, Nov. 19, 2008
[Printer-friendly version]


By Ben Block

Members of Everglades Earth First!, a Florida-based environmental
group, block the construction site of a natural gas-fired power plant
in February. Lynne Purvis and seven other members face charges next
month for trespassing onto the site.

Lynne Purvis stood apart at a Ritz Carlton cocktail party Thursday
night. Surrounded by coal, oil, and natural gas executives at a Bank
of America energy conference in Key Biscayne, Florida, Purvis and her
six friends had not been invited. Armed with banners and signs, they
still made their presence known.

"Bank of America forgot to put alternative energy into the agenda,"
Purvis, a member of the activist group Everglades Earth First!, said
into her megaphone. "So as the clean energy transition team, we were
asked to speak to you all tonight."

The party guests were less than impressed with Purvis's sense-of-
humor. One guest allegedly wrestled the activists' banner out of their
hands. During the melee, Purvis said, two of her associates were
doused with beer.

"We did commit trespassing," Purvis said. "But is trespassing truly a
crime as opposed to putting the entire planet in turmoil?"

Climate activists worldwide are raising the stakes, with many turning
to civil disobedience to make their voices heard. Actions in recent
months have ranged from chaining themselves to coal conveyor belts in
Sydney, to forming port blockades in the Netherlands, to scaling
smokestacks in the United Kingdom.

The rise in activism reflects growing frustration against the
continued, and expanding, use of coal as a source of energy. The fuel,
while affordable, is directly linked to climate change and air

"What I see is -- in the last year -- it just exploded and went from
being a sizable amount of people, several thousands of very active
youth all around the country, to just hundreds of thousands of young
people," said Brianna Cayo Cotter, communications director for Energy
Action Coalition, a network of North American youth climate activists.
"I feel like the floodgates are about to open. We have the numbers. We
have the skills. We have the passion."

In Europe, where some 50 new coal plants are being planned, Greenpeace
is leading a continent-wide campaign [PDF] to halt eight upcoming
projects in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. In the United
Kingdom, plans are under way to build the country's first coal plant
in 34 years. Activists have escalated their opposition to the proposed
construction this year.

In the United States, a nationwide fight against 150 proposed new
coal-fired power plants that began four years ago has put a serious
dent in the coal industry's plans. Through the courts, government
lobbying, and acts of civil disobedience, activists have helped cut in
half the number of new coal power stations.

The movement achieved a major victory last week. In response to a
Sierra Club lawsuit, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ruled
that a proposed coal plant in Utah would need a plan for controlling
its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions before being granted a federal
operating permit. The ruling essentially delays all such permits for
the time being. "In the immediate future, no new coal plant will be
moving forward," said Virginia Crame, a Sierra Club associate press

Meanwhile, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has staged campaigns
targeting two of the largest funders of such coal projects: Bank of
America and Citibank. Last weekend, RAN and Greenpeace organized more
than 50 events across the country to protest the banks' financial
support of the fossil fuel industry.

"A lot of people are jazzed up about it because global warming was
such an important issue in the election on the state and federal
level," said Mary Nicol, the Greenpeace student network coordinator.
"The cleanest coal plant is the one that isn't built. The youth
generation really understands that."

Environmental author Bill McKibben organized 1,400 simultaneous call-
to-action events, known as Step It Up, in 2007. He has since founded
350, an organization that raises awareness of the 350 parts per
million of CO2 equivalent that many climate scientists consider the
maximum level necessary for a stable climate.

Following a rally at the U.S. Capitol yesterday, McKibben said that
plans for a fall 2008 global day of action would be announced at the
climate conference in Poland next month. "Hopefully there will be
rallies on every corner of the planet. We have organizers working on
every continent except Antarctica," he said. "We need people to
realize that coal is the dirtiest fuel on our planet."

McKibben also said he expects more acts of civil disobedience in the
next year. "It'll happen. Keep your eyes open in D.C.," he said.

The Energy Action Coalition is expecting 10,000 participants at its
second annual Powershift, a conference of climate workshops, lobbying,
and protests in Washington in February. Similar "climate camps" have
been held this past year in London, Hamburg, and Newcastle

The large-scale campaigns rekindle memories of effective grassroots
campaigns from the 1960s and '70s. But a saturation of information has
made it more difficult now for organizers to attract attention, said
Paul Wapner, director of the Global Environmental Politics Program at
American University.

"There is a changing landscape in which activism in general, not just
environmental, finds its expression," Wapner said. "With the Internet
and all sorts of media, it's hard to figure out how one makes a
difference and not just have their message get lost in the virtual

Regardless of whether the world is watching, more activists are
risking arrest for the cause, and more support is coming their way.

In the U.K., six Greenpeace activists faced criminal charges this past
summer for damaging a coal-fired power station on the Kent coast. With
the support of NASA climatologist James Hansen, an Inuit leader, and
other environmentalists, the defendants argued that they were acting
on behalf of the world -- specifically the Pacific island state of
Tuvalu, the Arctic ice cap, and China's Yellow River, they said.

The jury ruled that their actions were indeed protecting property in
England and across the globe. The activists were cleared of all

In the United States, 11 protestors who formed a human barrier to a
power plant construction site in Virginia in September faced 10
criminal charges and a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison, until a
plea bargain was reached last month. Hansen again offered his support.

"If this case had gone to trial, I would have requested permission to
testify on behalf of these young people, who, for the sake of nature
and humanity, had the courage to stand up against powerful
'authority,'" Hansen said in a prepared statement [PDF].

Next month, Lynne Purvis will appear in court as well. She faces
charges of trespassing, unlawful assembly, and resisting arrest
following a protest earlier this year against the construction of a
natural gas-fired power plant in the Everglades. She, too, requested
that Hansen testify on her behalf, but he has yet to respond.

Stories of climate activists who have avoided punishment did not,
however, influence Purvis, she said. "I honestly don't pay too much
attention to that kind of stuff. My personal motivation is that
whatever the consequence, it's better than the massive consequence
that will be felt by the entire community and the entire planet."

Ben Block is a staff writer with the Worldwatch Institute. He can be
reached at bbl...@worldwatch.org.

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From: Los Angeles Times, Nov. 18, 2008
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A scientific panel chartered by Congress cites nerve gas drug and
pesticides used during the conflict as being associated with veterans'
neurological problems.

By Thomas H. Maugh II and Mary Engel

Contradicting nearly two decades of government denials, a
congressionally mandated scientific panel has concluded that Gulf War
syndrome is real and still afflicts nearly a quarter of the 700,000
U.S. troops who served in the 1991 conflict.

The report [7 Mbytes PDF]cited two chemical exposures consistently
associated with the disorder: the drug pyridostigmine bromide, given
to troops to protect against nerve gas, and pesticides that were
widely used -- and often overused -- to protect against sand flies and
other pests.

"The extensive body of scientific research now available consistently
indicates that Gulf War illness is real, that it is a result of
neurotoxic exposures during Gulf War deployment, and that few veterans
have recovered or substantially improved with time," according to the
report presented today to Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake.

The report vindicates hundreds of thousands of U.S. and allied
veterans who have been reporting a variety of neurological problems -
even as the government maintained that their symptoms were largely due
to stress or other unknown causes.

"Recognition of the full extent of the illnesses suffered by these
veterans of the conflict and the obligation owed them is long
overdue," said Marshal of the Royal Air Force Lord David Craig, chief
of the British defense staff during the war. "They are victims of the
war as much as anyone struck by a bullet or shell."

The panel, made up of scientists and veterans, called on Congress to
appropriate $60 million per year to conduct research into finding a
cure for the disorder.

"The tragedy here is that there are currently no treatments," said the
panel's chair, James H. Binns, a former principal deputy assistant
secretary of defense and a Vietnam veteran.

The reports of a Gulf War syndrome have percolated ever since the end
of the war. Many veterans reported memory and concentration problems,
persistent headaches, unexplained fatigue and widespread pain. Some
also reported chronic digestive problems, respiratory symptoms and
skin rashes.

The new report is the product of the Research Advisory Committee on
Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, which was chartered by Congress in 1998
because many members felt that veterans were not receiving adequate
care. Its 15 members, about two-thirds scientists and the rest
veterans, were not appointed until January 2002.

Critics charged that the VA was reluctant to spend the research and
treatment funds that such a committee might recommend.

Several reports had already been issued by the prestigious Institute
of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, concluding
that there was little evidence to support existence of the syndrome.

Today's report, however, concludes that those studies were
inappropriately constrained by the VA.

The bulk of the evidence about the neurotoxic effects of the chemicals
to which the soldiers were exposed comes from animal research, but the
VA ordered the institute to consider only the much more limited human
studies, skewing the results, the panel said.

"Everyone quotes the Institute of Medicine documents as meaning
nothing's going on here," said Roberta F. White, associate dean of
research at the Boston University School of Health and the panel's
scientific director. "Some people feel that the IOM reports have been
permission to ignore these guys... . Veterans repeatedly find that
their complaints are met with cynicism and a 'blame the victim'
mentality that attributes their health problems to mental illness or
non- physical factors."

The panel urged VA to instruct the Institute of Medicine to redo its
reports and take into consideration all the available animal research.

The new report says that scientific evidence "leaves no question that
Gulf War illness is a real condition," and it cites dozens of research
studies that have identified "objective biological measures" that
distinguish veterans with the illness from healthy controls.

The major causes of the disorder appear to be self-inflicted.
Pyridostigmine bromide was given to hundreds of thousands of troops in
the fear that the Iraqis would unleash chemical warfare against them.

The pesticides cited in the report were sprayed not only around living
and dining areas, but also on tents and uniforms, White said.

Another, although probably lesser cause, was the U.S. demolition of
Iraqi munitions near Khamisiyah, which may have exposed about 100,000
troops to nerve gases stored at the facility, according to the panel.

It cited a 2007 study by White that showed that the exposure could
have caused lasting brain changes in troops and that the extent of the
changes correlated with the degree of exposure.

The panel also noted that veterans have significantly higher rates of
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis than other veterans and that troops who
were downwind from Khamisiyah have died from brain cancer at twice the
rate of other veterans.

Binns emphasized that the report was not written to yield
recriminations about past actions.

"The importance... lies in what is done with it in the future," he
said. "It's a blueprint for the new administration."

Engel and Maugh are Times staff writers



Copyright 2008 Los Angeles Times

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