May 27, 2009
Home Depot Throws Green Image Out the Window with Environmentally Destructive Project
By Gary Hughes, AlterNet
Posted on May 27, 2009, Printed on May 27, 2009
Tomorrow shareholders attending The Home Depot’s Annual Meeting will be confronted with protesters declaring “Dam The Home Depot, Save Patagonia’s Rivers.” The action is the latest in a series of events that aim to highlight the connection between The Home Depot and proposals to build a series of dams on the wild rivers of Chile’s Patagonia.
Hidden away at the southern tail of South America, Chile’s Patagonia is a place where the mountains meet the sea, where forests give way to wind-swept steppe, and where the local people still remember the stories of their pioneering grandparents. Patagonia is one of the world’s few regions where big rivers can still rumble freely down rainforest-draped canyons, spilling glacier-fed waters over spectacular waterfalls that few humans have ever seen.
It in this spectacular wilderness that Chilean and European multinational corporations are planning a series of 5 big dams on two rivers, and more than 1500 miles worth of transmission lines to connect the dams to Chile’s industrial centers in the north. The transmission lines would require the world’s longest clearcut through globally rare forests and roadless wilderness. The dams would wreak havoc on the region’s ecosystems and destroy a delicate web of life. The project faces fierce opposition from local communities, and from national and international environmental organizations.
Patagonia may be a long way from Atlanta, the corporate headquarters of The Home Depot, but the two are intimately connected through The Home Depot’s supply chain. Every year, the Matte Group, considered the “de facto” owner of the Chilean energy company involved in the dam scheme, sells 50 million dollars of wood products to The Home Depot.
This economic relationship ties customers of The Home Depot to the proposal to destroy rivers and forests in Chile’s Patagonia, and is clearly contrary to The Home Depot’s stated commitment to help their customers be environmentally conscious shoppers.
A fundamental element to being an environmentally conscious shopper is to know where the consumer dollar is going — and in this case the money that Home Depot customers are spending on wood products from their Chilean suppliers is going to corporate coffers that are working to destroy rivers and flood forests found nowhere else on the planet.
The conflict first came home for The Home Depot in spring of 2008, when environmental groups began a letter writing campaign asking The Home Depot to take a stand on the issue. In the past year thousands of consumers have written to The Home Depot telling them that they will not shop there until The Home Depot takes steps to distance itself from the controversy.
Several major US environmental organizations have communicated to The Home Depot the need for the company to take action. In addition, leading Socially Responsible Investment firms have insisted that The Home Depot respond, citing the risk that the controversy presents to the company’s “green” reputation.
The demand for action is clear — The Home Depot should either sever its relationship with suppliers who are promoting the dam projects, or use their influence to get these interests to stop promoting dirty development.
It is not as though alternatives do not exist. For instance, Chile, due to its diverse geography, has massive solar, geothermal, and wind energy potential. A significant portion of the dirty energy from building dams on Patagonia’s rivers could be replaced by energy efficiency efforts alone, demonstrating that damming wild rivers in Patagonia is clearly not necessary.
The Home Depot has alternatives as well, as the wood products provided by the Chilean suppliers in question are available from other manufacturers.
The US consumer knows that it isn’t always easy being green, but we also know that we don’t want to spend hard earned dollars on river and forest destruction.
The Patagonia Dam controversy presents an opportunity for The Home Depot to demonstrate that its environmental commitments are more than just PR rhetoric, and to seal their reputation as an environmentally responsible company.
Yet, unless The Home Depot takes a responsible stand on this issue, a growing number of their customers will shop elsewhere for their building and home improvement materials. If The Home Depot is not pro-active, the Patagonia Dam controversy will turn their river of green promises into a flood of lost sales and lost reputation.
To find out more, visit International Rivers.
Gary Hughes is Patagonia Campaign Coordinator with International Rivers, an international environmental and human rights organization headquartered in Berkeley, California.
© 2009 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/140283/
May 26, 2009
Posted by jterhune under Education
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Interested in living a Healthy Air life?
Join the Air District at one of our Healthy Air Living Chats this summer throughout the Valley! These informal, two-hour, evening get-togethers will give you the opportunity to meet Air District staff, hear about the goals of the Healthy Air Living initiative, and give you ideas for small changes you can make in your life that will reap big rewards in cleaner air for all of us. Plus, you can enter a drawing to win an electric lawnmower or a bicycle!
These Chats are free of charge and scheduled for community gathering places in your county. We look forward to meeting you! For more information, visit www.healthyairliving.com.
San Joaquin County
Thursday, May 28, 6-8 p.m.
Tracy Senior Center, lecture hall, 375 E. 9th St.
Tuesday, August 4, 6-8 p.m.
Arnold Rue Community Center, multipurpose room
5758 Lorraine Ave.
May 13, 2009
Posted by oakgrovenaturecenter under Education
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Join us on June 4th, Thursday evening (new day) from 7 to 8 pm for “The decline and current status of Central Valley salmon and steelhead” presented by J.D. Wikert, Habitat Restoration Coordinator, Anadromous Fish Restoration Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He will discuss life cycle, habitat reduction, population “collapse”, current status and how you can help.
Come to Oak Grove Regional Park at I-5 and Eight Mile Rd. The program is free; parking is $3.00 per vehicle.
May 12, 2009
This was posted on Alex Breitler’s Blog…
But it’s not.
Bill Ries-Knight spotted this couch in Mosher Slough at Don Avenue. Looks like it was placed there so that passersby could take in the views upstream (or downstream?). The Coastal Cleanup Day troops will take care of this ugliness, I’m sure…
May 12, 2009
By Donnie Ratcliff, Stockton FWO
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service joined other members of the Friends of the Lower Calaveras River (FLCR) at the 21st annual Stockton Earth Day Festival on April 19, 2009. FLCR is a diverse group of stakeholders united in the common goal of public awareness and education involving the Lower Calaveras River. This group effort was accomplished by combining many of FLCR’s members in one booth under the FLCR banner. The group was able to draw on the expertise and various educational materials provided by members to inform the public about the current state of the Calaveras River and opportunities to aid in its restoration.
Fish and Wildlife Service biologists Beth Campbell and Donnie Ratcliff focused on the current state of fish populations, aquatic habitat, and water quality in the system. Kari Burr, biologist with the Fishery Foundation of California, was able to discuss the foundation’s involvement with fish monitoring on the Calaveras and efforts to acclimate outmigrating salmon smolts before they enter the Pacific Ocean. Other members of FLCR were able to convey the values of the river as a place for recreation, a source of residential and agricultural water, and a unique local opportunity for restoration and community education.
A wide variety of contacts were made, ranging from long-time Stockton residents who knew very little about their local river to school children who were fascinated to learn about the long journey that Calaveras River salmon and steelhead must make to complete their life cycle. In addition, FLCR was able to garner new friends for the river, recruit volunteers for group activities and river clean-up efforts, and inform the public about future plans to facilitate youth education events on the river.
Contact Info: Ramon Martin, 209-334-2968 ext. 401, email@example.com
May 11, 2009
I found this one on Alternet… pretty interesting.
By Matthew Stein, Huffington Post
Posted on April 28, 2009, Printed on May 11, 2009
Bernie Madoff sure made a name for himself, didn’t he? First he made a name for himself as a “Wall Street Genius” whose coveted firm not only promised, but consistently delivered, extraordinarily high annual returns on investment, even when the economy was down. More recently he made a name for himself as the architect of the largest and most notorious “Ponzi Scheme” in history, bilking investors out of as much as 50 billion dollars!
So what is a Ponzi scheme, anyways? A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that promises, and delivers (at least for a while) exceptionally high and consistent financial returns to investors. These returns are paid to its investors from their own money, and the money paid by subsequent investors, rather than from any actual profit earned by bona fide income generating investments (such as manufacturing, mining, or rental income). In ways similar to “pyramid schemes” or “chain letters”, in order for a Ponzi scheme to work, it must continuously attract an ever increasing pool of investment from unsuspecting customers, in order to provide an ever increasing supply of money to draw upon to maintain payments to its ever increasing pool of investors. The trick is to promise such glorious results that the greed factor overcomes its victim’s common sense as they turn a blind eye to the fact that the scheme lacks a solid foundation and can’t go on forever. It is absolutely critical to the success of all Ponzi schemes that an aura of respectability and impeccability be maintained for as long as possible, for as soon as suspicions spread concerning the fraudulent nature of the business, new investments dry up and the Ponzi scheme collapses, since it has no source of true earned income with which to maintain payments to investors.
So, is it true that we are running our planet like a Ponzi scheme? And if this is true, does it mean that we must inevitably face collapse, as all Ponzi schemes must eventually end in catastrophe?
The illusion that the “Free Market” is the logical savior of our world has been maintained by the promise of riches and an ever increasing standard of living and lifespan that has been demonstrated by the industrialized world for the past several hundred years. On the surface, who can look at the apparent success of America, and not come to that quick conclusion? However, when you look deeper, you will find that this success is built on a business model based upon exponential growth, and that this growth must be fed by a similar exponential growth in consumption of energy, natural resources, raw materials, and in the continuous expansion to new markets. All of this is well and good when the world has an abundant supply of undeveloped lands and unused resources, but it starts coming apart as that same world approaches its natural limits to growth and consumption.
Our world-wide Ponzi scheme got its start with the industrial revolution in Western Europe, and it was colonialism that provided ever increasing sources for the raw materials and markets that kept this giant Ponzi scheme rolling. It spread to America with the colonial takeover of vast untapped resources and huge tracts of lands previously occupied by Native American hunter-gatherers. As America industrialized, its population grew and its resources were drawn down, the giant Ponzi scheme continued to grow through globalization and it continued to feed its ever growing appetite by drawing down the natural resources in the world’s oceans, forests, and more remote areas, and by expanding it markets into the farthest reaches of the globe. We are witness to a five hundred year run on this giant ever-expanding global Ponzi scheme, and unless we change the way we are playing this game, that run is now drawing dangerously close to a natural and catastrophic conclusion.
Here is a brief summary of a few current trends that illustrate my point:
1. Trees: About 1/2 of the world’s forests are already gone (most were cut in the last 50 years), and a significant percentage of the rest are in trouble. At the current rate of destruction, it has been estimated that the world’s rainforests will be completely eliminated within forty years. Trees play a necessary role in stabilizing our planet’s weather, atmosphere and soils. A single large mature tree has the evaporative surface area on its needles or leaves equivalent to a 40 acre lake. A process called “desertification” occurs near areas that have been deforested once the trees stop recycling moisture back into the atmosphere to fall as rain somewhere down wind. A recent study shows that deforestation contributes roughly 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions every year.
2. Atmosphere: Global greenhouse gas emissions have increased by a factor of four since 1950. We have been burning fossil fuels for over 500 years, but half of all of those burned fuels have been consumed in the past thirty years! There is a scientific consensus to 90% certainty that these atmospheric changes will result in catastrophic, potentially civilization busting, climate changes within the next 50 years. Even if you do not believe in global warming, data indicates that the increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere (the primary greenhouse gas) caused by our rapidly increasing consumption of fossil fuels, is increasing the acidity of the oceans, and that if this trend continues much longer, it has the potential to kill most of the planktons, diatoms, and coral reefs of the ocean, knocking out the bottom of the food chain, killing most of the life in the oceans of the world, and destroying one of the legs of our world’s oxygen cycle.
3. Oceans: 11 out of 15 of the world’s major ocean fisheries are either already in collapse, or are in serious decline and danger of collapse. All large open ocean predatory fish, such as marlin and tuna, are already 90% depleted. By 2004, an estimated 20% of the world’s coral reefs had been destroyed (up from just 11% in 2000), an additional 24% were close to collapsing, and another 26% were under long-term threat of collapse. A recent British government report showed a drop in the world’s oceanic zooplankton of an astounding 73% since 1960. Zooplankton are a critical element in the bottom of the world’s food chain as well as its oxygen cycle.
4. Oil and other fossil fuels: Our modern industrial global machine essentially eats, sleeps, and sh_ts oil. Nearly all of the world’s giant oil fields (they produce over half the world’s oil) are mature and exhibit declining rates of oil production. In 2008, the International Energy Agency (IEA) shocked the world when it released an authoritative public study revealing that the world’s oil fields are declining at an average rate of 9.1%, which is much faster than previously thought. Even with huge capital investments to implement Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) methods, this rate of decline would only improve to 6.4%. What does this mean? It means that if our world is to maintain its current rate of oil consumption (our world’s recent globalization has been fueled by an annual oil production growth rate of something like 10%), then we would need to find and develop a Saudi Arabia’s worth of oil every year for the next year or two from now to eternity–an impossible fantasy!
5. Soil: A third of the original top soil in the United States is now gone. It has been estimated that the world has from 50 to 100 years of farmable soil, using current farming practices. The US has cut soil losses to 18 times the rate of nature’s replacement, the developing world averages a soil depletion rate of 36 times natural replacement, and China averages 54 times the rate of replacement.
6. Fresh water: Irrigated land comprises only 16% of the world’s croplands, but produces 40% of the world’s crop production. Many of the world’s major rivers (China’s Yellow River, America’s Colorado River, the Nile, the Rio Grande, the Ganges, the Indus, the Amu Darya, the Syr Darya, and Africa’s Chao Phraya) now run dry, or nearly dry, for significant parts of the year due to expanding irrigation and population demands. Unsustainable over pumping from aquifers is causing increasing salinity, lowering aquifer levels, and failed wells in many of the world’s irrigated bread baskets, such as California’s Central Valley, the US’ giant south central Ogallala aquifer, China’s grainbelt middle plains, India’s principle breadbasket, North Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula.
If the previous list is not enough to convince yourself that we are operating a giant Ponzi scheme, and that we are running out of new sources of energy, untapped markets, and raw materials to keep it running, then the following two figures should open your eyes.
Figure 2. Ecological footprint by region.
(Illustration courtesy of Global Footprint Network)
Figure 2 depicts a scientifically calculated global footprint by region. What this show us is that if our current planetary population of nearly 7 billion people were to live like we do here in North America, we would need an Earth with 9 1/2 hectares worth of productive land per person to sustainably supply us with the necessary raw materials, and to absorb our wastes. Yet we now have only roughly 1.7 global hectares of usable land per person. This means that we would need roughly 5 1/2 earths to support our planet if everyone in the world averaged the consumption levels of North America!
Figure 2. Ecological footprint of humankind from 1961 to 2003.
(Illustration courtesy of Global Footprint Network)
Figure 3 shows us that back in the mid 1980′s, when our world had just over half its current population, we first exceeded the capacity of our planet to continuously supply us with the food and raw materials that we consume, and to process our wastes. What this means, is that we have been consuming our planet’s resources faster than they regenerate, and polluting its natural systems faster than they can recover. This “drawing down” of our resources, is essentially spending the money from investors (all of us) in this Ponzi scheme, and when the remaining “money” (the natural resources and ecosystems of our world) can’t support the payments anymore, it will most certainly collapse!
Unfortunately, it’s going to take more than minor changes in the way we do business to get off this giant Ponzi scheme. It will not be easy, but I do believe it is doable. For a good idea of what it is going to take to make the shift to sustainability and get off this Ponzi scheme, see my prior Huff Post blog, 12 Tips for the Sustainability Shift.
The question to ask ourselves, is do we wish to adopt the attitude of Mr. Madoff, saying essentially, “F__k it! The world will do what the world will do, so I might as well enjoy one hell of a ride while it lasts!” Or do we decide to transform the way we do business, halt and reverse population growth and over-consumption, and collectively work together to nurture and rebuild the natural systems and biodiversity of our planet that are absolutely critical for supporting and maintaining a viable world for generation upon generation?
Matthew Stein is the author of When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency, from Chelsea Green.
May 8, 2009
Come One, Come All!
2008′s First Annual Waldo Music Fest was an over-the-top success. Thanks to generous donations in honor of Waldo, fabulous art and other auction items, we [Waldo Holt Conservancy] raised $15,000 and 250 people came for the bands, friends and the cause. The food was excellent and the weather was too! If you couldn’t make it last year – don’t miss it again! Bring your music loving friends and enjoy a great day on the Banks of the Calaveras River.
Courtesy of: http://www.waldoconservancy.org/
May 6, 2009
Posted by jterhune under Education
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I’m letting you know about May’s Nature Nights. Linda Voorheis will be speaking on the “Miwok and Yokuts Peoples”. Linda is a retired teacher from Manteca Unified that has continued to work as a teacher/coordinator for Manteca Unified in ‘American Indian Education’. She will be sharing her knowledge with us and may even have a special treat in store for us, we’ll have to wait and see.
Other upcoming events include a Star Party on the 30th of May, Nature Nights on June 4th (we’re going to Thursdays for June, July and August) with J.D. Wikert of the US Fish and Wildlife Service speaking on “the Decline and Status of Central California Salmon and Steelhead”, Nature Nights June 18th will be a Crafts Night and we’re considering the possibility of basket weaving for that night, and tentatively another Star Party for Saturday June 27th. You can check the website, www.mgzoo.com, for these and other events happening in the San Joaquin County Parks.
Hope to see you there!
Nature Center Coordinator
Oak Grove Nature Center
Phone: (209) 953-8814
May 4, 2009
The following was posted by Bill Jennings, chairman of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, at IndyBay.org:
The State Water Resources Control Board’s Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program has released the initial results from the first year of a two-year screening survey of fish contamination in California’s lakes. The results reveal that the vast majority of lakes are severely polluted and pose some degree of risk to those who eat fish caught from them – only 15% of the lakes sampled were in the clean category.
The actual situation is likely worse because the study admits that many problems may have been missed due to the limited scope of the screening study. The study monitored a limited group of pollutants and did not evaluate pollutant impacts to fish and wildlife. The study can be found at: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/swamp/lakes_study.shtml
The first year of the Lakes Survey sampled some 150 lakes in 2007, including the most popular fishing lakes and reservoirs and random sampling of California’s other 9,000 lakes to provide a statistical statewide assessment. Next year, results from an additional 130 lakes that were sampled in 2008 will be available.
Fish tissue concentrations were evaluated using thresholds developed by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). The study collected samples for methylmercury, PCBs, dieldrin, DDTs, chlordanes and selenium and focused on thresholds for human health fish consumption. BDCPs (flame retardants) were also sampled but results were not available. Unfortunately, the sampling did not encompass the vast majority of pollutants that pose threats to the environment and human health. Nor did it evaluate impacts to fish and wildlife, which could be at risk from pollutant concentrations that are far lower than those that adversely affect people.
Read more from IndyBay.org
May 1, 2009
Jeffrey Michael: Water won’t wash away Valley’s recession
Special to The Bee
Published Friday, May. 01, 2009
What is causing unemployment in the San Joaquin Valley? According to water contractors and their political supporters, a “regulatory drought” has eliminated water-dependent farm jobs, and they point to high unemployment rates in farming communities as proof. Their solution is to suspend the Endangered Species Act and build a multibillion-dollar peripheral canal around the Delta.
However, the facts don’t support the water contractors’ view. The latest payroll data through March finds that farm jobs have grown faster than any other sector of the economy in the past 12 months, even outpacing health care. In fact, farm jobs have been growing throughout the three-year drought. Compared with 2006, farm jobs have increased 5 percent in California, while private nonfarm jobs have decreased 5 percent.
The same is true in Fresno County, home to communities such as Mendota that have been the focus of water exporters’ news releases.
In Fresno County,farm payrolls increased 3.2 percent in the past 12 months,compared with a 3.4 percent decrease in private, nonfarm payrolls.
Since the drought began three years ago, Fresno County farm payrolls have increased by 12 percent, while nonfarm employment has crashed, led by a loss of more than 7,000 construction jobs.
In light of these statistics, how can water exporters, politicians and others claim that rising unemployment in the Valley is a result of water shortages for farms rather than the broader recession? The foreclosure crisis is at the heart of the recession, and the Central Valley has the highest foreclosure rates in the United States. Homebuilding has shut down, and service sectors have cratered, costing many former farmworkers their higher paying, nonseasonal jobs.
Water contractors point to 40 percent unemployment in Mendota as evidence of the water crisis. These unemployment estimates for towns aren’t a current survey, but are crude extrapolations from the 2000 Census, the last time any real data were compiled for these areas.
The 2000 census gives a good picture of the prosperity that increased water pumping would bring to Mendota’s hard-working residents. Delta water exports were above average in 2000, and local farm employment was at a nine-year peak. Despite this, the 2000 census found unemployment in Mendota exceeded 32 percent, highest of the state’s 494 towns.
Per-capita income was below $8,000, the lowest level in the state, nearly 20 percent lower than Mexico and many developing nations in Africa, Eastern Europe and South America. Not surprisingly, water contractors don’t issue news releases about unemployment when they have water.
In fact, growers have been complaining about shortages in recent years, even as Mendota’s unemployment estimate was 25 to 30 percent.
There will be substantially fewer seasonal farm jobs this year as thousands of acres are idled, and this will further increase the pain of the recession in farming areas south of the Delta water pumps. As these impacts appear, it is important to consider them over the entire three-year span of the drought, rather than treat agriculture’s recent unsustainable peak as normal.
In the early years of the drought,agriculture expanded in response to a commodity bubble that more than doubled crop prices, farm profits, and farmland values in a span of a few years. Much of the increase is attributed to permanent crops in desert regions with interruptible junior water rights. Between 2006 and 2008, more than 50,000 acres of new almond orchards were planted, mostly south of the Delta pumps, while a nut glut led to a price collapse for all growers. Similarly, California’s enormous dairy industry expanded rapidly, and now taxpayers are spending millions to buy surplus milk and prop up prices in an oversupplied market.
Taxpayers are the forgotten stakeholders in the various Delta planning processes. With no one protecting taxpayer interests, it’s no surprise that Delta Vision recommended the most costly options to the governor. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan does not plan to make a cost estimate of their plan until after it is complete.
Recent state tax increases are hurting families, businesses and private sector job creation, while California has the lowest bond rating of any state. Water contractors think the state should borrow billions for their cause, crowding out investments in education, energy, transportation and other critical areas that will support the high-paying jobs of the future.
Their plan would also have adverse impacts on Delta agriculture, recreation and tourism, commercial fishing and the jobs supported by these industries.
Delta Vision, water contractors and now the Bay Delta Conservation Plan are primarily making economic arguments for their plans. While spending millions on engineering studies and public relations, the state is not sponsoring any serious research to comprehensively evaluate economic effects of the water plan.
California’s overburdened taxpayers deserve better.