Here are some of the latest news stories regarding water in the environment:
A turning point for mountaintop removal?: Mountain top removal involves blasting away the tops of mountains in order to reach the coal underneath. The waste then ends up in local bodies of water causing pollution and health problems for surrounding communities. The Environmental Protection Agency has finally taken significant action this week to hault this disasterous mining method by vetoing a permit for the largest mountaintop removal operation in West Virginia history.
Scientists See Climate Change Link To Australian Floods : “Climate change has likely intensified the monsoon rains that have triggered record floods in Australia’s Queensland state, scientists said on Wednesday, with several months of heavy rain and storms still to come.”
Climate Patterns to Help Predict the Next Big Flood? : “Large flooding events, like the deadly Pakistan flood last summer, will be predictable with the next generation of climate-forecasting models, according to scientists.”
Villagers try to catch floating trees in floodwater in Pakistan, July 2010
Red Cross Uses Solar-Powered Pumps to Increase Water Access in Sudan : The Red Cross has started a project in Southeast Sudan that “will be able to supply 10 liters of water a day for people, as well as provide water for a school, hospital, several new administrative buildings, and other distribution points used by both people and livestock.”
Tougher Rules Urged for Offshore Drilling: Releasing its final report, the presidential panel investigating the gulf oil spill “found that the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill arose from a preventable series of corporate and regulatory failures. It warned that unless industry practices and government regulation improved, another such accident was inevitable.”
If I had to think of ten ways to “go green,” eating kangaroos would probably not be on my list. But according to scientists in Australia, I should add it on there. Beef is currently the most widely produced meat down under and the environment suffers greatly as a result. In fact, over 50% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions come from cow burps. When the grazing animal is digesting food, it continuously expels methane, a gas that is much more ecologically destructive than carbon dioxide, in the form of a burp. Indeed, enteric fermentation (the polite scientific term for burping and farting) is a serious environmental concern because methane is over 20 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO2.
Kangaroos on the other hand require fewer resources and do not expel nearly the amount of methane as a cow does; so some Australians are trying to bring it into mainstream eating habits. Kangatarians- those who do not eat any other meat besides kangaroo for environmental reasons- are growing in numbers. According to one Australian newspaper: “The low level of greenhouse gas emissions produced by kangaroos, and the fact that they require no additional feed, water or land cleared for them, make them an obvious choice for the ecologically conscious.” While it is organically harvested and humanely killed, there will be many difficulties on the road to making kangaroo-eating popular and widely-accepted.
A green alternative to red meat?
The cute furry animal is a symbol of national pride for Australians and is featured on the country’s coat of arms, so seeing kangaroo nuggets in the grocery store freezer might turn some stomachs. I can imagine that it would be a bit like Americans eating bald eagles as a greener alternative to chicken. Also, kangaroos cannot be herded and it would take ten of them to produce the same amount of meat as one steer. As the debate continues, consider finding more alternatives to eating beef.
I found this feel-good story about a successful use of ‘people power’ in the environmental movement:
Australia town bans bottled water
“Campaigners say Bundanoon, in New South Wales, may be the first community in the world to have such a ban… New South Wales Premier Nathan Rees has backed the cause, ordering government departments to stop buying bottled water and use tap water instead. Mr. Rees says it will save taxpayers money and help the environment.” –BBC News
Reading about collective action benefiting the environment renews my faith in grassroots movements. But Australia is not the only country making strides to ban the bottle. Here in America, urban communities like Seattle, San Francisco, and Chicago (to name just a few) are making change as well. In major cities all over the country local officials are responding to public pressure by either taxing the sale of bottled water or prohibiting the use of city funds to provide it at political events. Gavin Newsom, the San Francisco mayor told Newsweek:
“These [bottled water manufacturers] are making huge amounts of money selling God’s natural resources. Sorry, we’re not going to be part of it. Our water in San Francisco comes from the Hetch Hetchy [reservoir] and is some of the most pristine water on the planet. Our water is arguably cleaner than a vast majority of the bottled water sold as ‘pure.’”
And on a less political level, we see a lot of localized community organizing against corporate bullying. In Mecosta County, Michigan a group called Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC) sued Nestle last year after the company began excessively pumping at a nearby watershed. MCWC won the case and the citizens (temporarily) celebrated. Ok, it’s a little more complicated than that because Nestle basically lost the battle and won the war in that situation—but the point is that this kind of environmental justice empowers and unites communities in a collective fight for control over their right to live in a healthy environment.
I think these efforts represent the effectiveness of grassroots movements to overcome the sometimes overwhelming corporate pressure which tells us to consume un-sustainably.