Tuesday, February 16, 2010

2010 International Year Of Biodiversity

The United Nations has proclaimed 2010 as an International Year Of  Biodiversity but there is not much being heard about actions that ordinary citizens are taking to promote the IYB's agenda. It is not creating the buzz it should. We are nearing the third month of the year but most information you get on the subject are from press releases from the UNEP. Ordinary citizens just do not seen to give a damn about International Year proclamations. I don't as I see it as UN's way of simply  paying lip service to developmental issues of global concern that really needs concerted global action to have them addressed. Anyway if you are up to it, here are things you could do to participate.

  • About biodiversity in your city, region and country
  • How your consumption patterns and everyday actions may impact on biodiversity, sometimes in distant ecosystems

  • Make your views known to the government and the private sector
  • Share your knowledge with people around you
  • Get your stories to the press so you can share them with the rest of the world

  • Make responsible consumption choices
  • Support activities and organizations that conserve biodiversity
  • Join a local environmental NGO or organize your own activities that will help biodiversity
  • Be creative and find solutions to biodiversity loss
  • Send your pictures, artwork, videos and other creations to the press and share them with the world 

    Sunday, February 7, 2010

    Easy Tips To Going Green

    It takes only small steps to make a big difference.

    Creating a new, climate-friendly energy future is a daunting task. But in reality, small steps by many people will change the world and protect the planet.

    Here is  a short list of the things you can do today to make a difference. Many of the items listed below will save you money too. That’s right—you might even make a little green by being green.

    Seal the deal. We waste a lot of energy inadvertently heating and cooling the outdoors. Fully close windows, weather strip, caulk gaps and holes and upgrade your insulation and windows when you renovate—you can save up to 20 percent on your annual heating and cooling costs.

    Recruit the best. Upgrade to high efficiency (ENERGY STAR) water heaters, AC units, lighting and appliances when it is time to replace old units—many of these upgrades even are available with substantial tax breaks!

    Surf. Many states, cities and utilities have programs that make up the cost difference between high-efficiency appliances and the average. Do a quick Internet search on your local utility Web site to see if there are such programs in your area. Energy saved is money saved.

    Set and forget it. A programmable thermostat reduces energy use by adjusting temperatures while you sleep or when you’re not home. Keep your home at 68 in the winter and 72 in the summer—just a few degrees can save you more than 10 percent on your heating bill. 

    Put the bottle down. Bottled water and other highly packaged items contribute to landfills and emissions. Filter systems are cleaner and cheaper. Ninety percent of the cost of bottled water goes to the cap and bottle, making it 240 to 10,000 times more expensive than that of tap water!

    Designate a driver Where possible, use public transportation or carpool. Better yet, walk or bike instead and enjoy the fresh air—studies show that getting out of your car makes you healthier and happier.

    Talk it up. Share what you do with your friends and coworkers. Let your public officials know that you care about climate issues and remember them in the voting booth.

    More you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and do your part to address our global climate challenge.

    • Plant trees, which absorb carbon dioxide
    • Use rechargeable batteries
    • Wash your clothes in cold or warm water
    • Turn off the heated dry function on your dishwasher
    • Change your light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) 
    Source unfoundation.org

    Wednesday, February 3, 2010

    End Asbestos Exports, Scientists Tell Charest

     Scientists from 28 countries have called on Quebec Premier Jean Charest, currently in India on a trade mission, to ban asbestos exports. India is Canada's largest importer of asbestos. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)

    The controversy surrounding Quebec’s asbestos industry has moved up a notch with Premier Jean Charest’s trade mission to India, one of the biggest importers of Canadian asbestos. 

    In a letter to Charest, over 100 scientists from 28 countries called for a ban on Quebec's export of asbestos to the developing world. Charest arrived in India on Sunday.

    The scientists say Quebec uses virtually none of the asbestos it mines, spends millions of dollars removing asbestos from its schools and buildings, and that its own health experts have shown that it is impossible to use any form of asbestos safely.

    Yet the province continues to promote and export the product to developing countries “where protections are few and awareness of the hazards of asbestos almost non-existent.” 

    “This seems to represent a high level of hypocrisy,” the letter states. The scientists note that the asbestos industry in India has notified a number of scientists that legal action will be taken against them if they do not retract their published articles concerning the threat to health posed by chrysotile asbestos.

    The campaign is being promoted by the Pennsylvania-based Environmental Health Trust and the Cancer Association of South Africa.

    South Africa used to export asbestos, but has now banned it. If a country facing enormous economic hardships like South Africa can ban asbestos, then why can't Quebec?” said Dr. Devra Davis of the Environmental Health Trust, in a statement.

    Asbestos was widely used around the world between the 1950s and the 1970s. Because of its status as a deadly carcinogen, the European Union banned the mineral over a decade ago. Thetford Mines in Quebec, a town of 26,000, is home to Canada’s only remaining asbestos mining operation.

    Despite its links to cancer and other health problems, several countries, mostly in the developing world, still import asbestos from Canada. The less dusty chrysotile, or white, asbestos is said to be a safer form of the product.

    The position taken by the governments of Canada and Québec is that chrysotile asbestos can be used safely as long as strict precautions are followed. The Indian asbestos industry also claims that the country’s factories have safety protocols in place to protect workers.

    The Chrysotile Institute, an asbestos lobby group, dismissed the concerns raised in the scientists’ letter.

    “Instead of giving new scientific research or data, they are just launching accusations,” the institute’s president, Clément Godbout, told the Canadian Press.

    “If they have new data and studies showing that the way chrysotile is used today in Canada and Quebec is an unacceptable risk for people, please send them to us because I've never seen such a study.”

    The scientists also want Quebec to stop funding the pro-asbestos lobby. New Democrat MP Pat Martin, who has long opposed Canada’s asbestos policy, said no other commodity enjoys the protection of the Canadian government the way the $100-million-a-year asbestos industry does.

    “More than 160 trade junkets in 60 different countries is what the asbestos industry brags it has done through our Canadian embassies, our trade commissioners, etc. Not even Canadian wheat is so aggressively promoted as much as the asbestos industry,” he told India Abroad newspaper.

    He explained that “there’s an “emotional affinity for asbestos in Quebec” that stems from the great asbestos strike of 1949, traditionally portrayed as a turning point in Quebec history that eventually led to the so-called Quiet Revolution. It also helped launch the political career of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
    After Rene Levesque was elected premier in the 1976, one of the first things he did was to nationalize the asbestos industry—the first national act of the new nation of Quebec, as Levesque put it.

    “Now, the people of Quebec talk of asbestos with pride because of its history. It is too emotional a question for Quebecers. It is almost anti-Quebec to be anti-asbestos,” Martin said.

    Martin, who once worked in an asbestos mine in the Yukon Territory, has been lobbying to have asbestos put on the international list of hazardous substances. He told India Abroad that both Canada and India should “join hands” in seeking a ban on asbestos in all its forms.

    “Asbestos and tobacco are the two industries where the industry knows well it is killing people, but it survives by junk science and aggressive lobbying of politicians,” he said.

    By Joan Delaney
    Epoch Times Staff