World Watch Magazine: March/ April 2004

WOMEN’S HEALTH SUFFERS AS “PRO-LIFE” GROUPS
REDIRECT U.S. FAMILY PLANNING POLICY

world watch magazine cover Washington, D.C.―The Bush administration has given new clout to a group of American “pro-life” organizations that operated on the policy fringe during the Clinton years, according to the March/April issue of World Watch magazine. The resulting family planning policy threatens the reproductive health—and rights—of women around the world, and will likely result in millions of unwanted pregnancies and abortions, as well as thousands of maternal deaths and the greater spread of HIV/AIDS, writes Don Hinrichsen in “Ladies, You Have No Choice.”

“From the day George W. Bush sat down in the Oval Office, his decisions in the areas of family planning and population appear to have been guided solely by ideology and not by research or facts,” says Hinrichsen. “There’s little interest in what is actually happening to women in developing countries.”

The groups now shaping U.S. positions on family planning have been led by the Virginia-based Population Research Institute (PRI), which has achieved its purposes largely by launching propaganda attacks on the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Shortly after the U.S. Congress voted $34 million for UNFPA in 2002, PRI issued a report alleging that UNFPA funds were being used for coercive abortions and sterilizations in China. President Bush then withheld the U.S. contribution, even though several independent investigations found no evidence to support the allegations.

Commenting on the losses of life resulting from misguided pro-life policies, Hinrichsen quotes Steve Sinding of International Planned Parenthood. “We are dealing with real people and their unmet needs, not statistics,” says Sinding. “These acts are a testament to the Bush administration’s war against women and his overall contempt for their fundamental civil and human rights.”

ENVIRONMENT SUFFERS IN POST-WAR BOSNIA

The ethnic war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) ended officially in 1995, leaving in its wake shattered lives and communities. Yet while people have begun to rebuild, the natural landscapes of this beautiful Balkan country continue to suffer.

In “The War on Bosnia,” author Tim Clancy writes that the remarkable natural resources of this small country, which include hardwoods, minerals, and hydroelectric potential, have a long history of extraction. Now, after the war, these resources are being subjected to ferocious exploitation.

The extent of forest cover in BiH has dropped from about 50 percent of the country’s total area before the war to 35 percent or less today. The state-run forestry service normally plants about 20 million seedlings a year, but in 2003 it planted only 500,000. Vast areas have been clearcut without being replanted at all, and the number of unregistered timber companies is well over 100.

At the same time, a plan to build dams to generate electricity for export was secretly hatched by the state electric company and an undisclosed Italian corporate partner. The dams will drown the Neretva River canyon, one of the most scenic in Europe, and flood several villages. Yet the dams are probably unnecessary, since existing hydroelectric capacity is sharply underutilized.

These problems are exacerbated by a compromised local government. “Corruption is such an integral part of everyday life here that weeding it out will take a mighty effort,” writes Clancy. “Officials’ brutal attitudes toward the environment clearly echo the attitudes many of them displayed when human beings were being brutalized only a few years ago.”

There’s hope nevertheless, Clancy believes. Serious economic alternatives do exist, including ecotourism and organic farming. Bosnia even offers sites well-suited to wind energy development. Bosnians also can remember a time when their environmental laws and practices were relatively forward-looking—and that’s reason to believe they could be once again. “Economic circumstances continue to absorb the time and efforts of many Bosnians, but others are coming to understand exactly what is being done to their country, and who is doing it. Bosnia and Herzegovina is ripening toward an ecological reawakening.”

MATTERS OF SCALE: PLANET GOLF

Number of photos in the January/ February issue of Coastal Living
that showed coastal wildlife (seabirds, crustaceans, turtles, or other fauna)
1
Number of photos in the same issue showing golf courses 61

Amount of water it would take, per day, to support 4.7 billion people at the UN daily minimum 2.5 billion gallons
Amount of water used, per day, to irrigate the world’s golf courses 2.5 billion gallons

Number of golf courses in Japan before World War I 23
Number in operation or soon to open in 2004 3,030

Average amount of pesticides used per acre, per year, on golf courses 18 pounds
Average amount of pesticides used, per acre, per year, in agriculture 2.7 pounds

Amount of water used by 60,000 villagers in Thailand, on average, per day 6,500 cubic meters
Amount of water used by one golf course in Thailand, on average, per day 6,500 cubic meters

Current area of the wetlands of the Colorado River Delta, which now receives just 0.1 percent of the river water that once flowed through it 150,000 acres
Area that could be covered to a depth of 2 feet with water drawn
from the Colorado River by the city of Las Vegas, which uses much
of that allotment to water its more than 60 golf courses
150,000 acres


LIFE-CYCLE STUDIES: BOTTLED WATER

Global spending on bottled water has grown rapidly, to some $35 billion per year. Drivers include its convenience, water shortages, and in some parts of the world, serious concerns over water quality. Bottled water’s growing popularity is sparking concerns over increased plastic bottle trash, its resource intensive nature as compared to public drinking water or piped systems, and the strain it puts on certain water supplies, among other things.

GREEN GUIDANCE

THIS MONTH: Bottled Water. Contrary to popular consumer belief, bottled water is not necessarily safer or healthier than tap water; nor is bottled spring water better than water from other sources. Bottled water may also pose a threat from toxic chemicals that have leached into the water from the plastic. Individuals can avoid plastics leaching by nursing rather than bottle feeding infants, by using and reusing containers made of glass, metal, or lead-free ceramics, or by taking water from the tap. When it’s necessary to use plastics, it’s important to remember that plastics are not all created equal. Fortunately, consumers can view numeric codes on plastic products. Plastics coded as #7 polycarbonate, #3 polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and #6 polystyrene should be avoided. Better are #1 PETE/PET or #2 HDPE, the plastic found in most 1, 1.5, 2 liter and smaller beverage bottles. Still, an Italian study found that some chemicals were leached after 9 months of storage in a PETE bottle. Plastics shown not to leach any carcinogens or endocrine disruptors are #2 HDPE, #4 LDPE, and #5 polypropylene.

OTHER STORIES: ENVIRONMENTAL INTELLIGENCE

Antarctic Melting Goes Deep: New research finds that rising temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula are accelerating not only surface melting on sections of the Larsen Ice Shelf, but also ice loss from the shelf’s base. According to a report published in Science, warm ocean waters are thinning the shelf by as much as 78 centimeters annually. Satellite imagery indicates that the Antarctic Peninsula’s ice shelves have retreated by roughly 300 square kilometres a year since 1980.

World Bank Report: Bank Should Stop Supporting Coal, Oil Projects: A new study commissioned by World Bank president James Wolfensohn of the bank’s oil, gas, and mining projects concludes that the World Bank Group should continue to deny funding to coal projects, and should phase out support of oil production projects by 2008. The Extractive Industries Review (EIR) said the Bank should instead “devote its scarce resources to investments in renewable energy resource development, emissions-reducing projects, clean energy technology, energy efficiency, and conservation.” Currently, fossil fuel projects represent 94 percent of the World Bank Group’s energy portfolio.

Global Warming Now Threatens Millions of Species: As many as a quarter of the planet’s species could disappear within the next half-century. Conservation biologist Chris Thomas of the University of Leeds and Lee Hannah of Conservation International calculate that if global temperature rises between 2 and 6 degrees F during the next century, as predicted by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), between 18 and 37 percent of the planet’s species could be extinguished by the year 2050. Thomas and Hannah note that human-caused releases of climate-warming gases appear to have triggered a more sudden change in the planet’s temperature that many species will be able to adapt to.

Institutional Investors Demand Corporate Climate-Change Risk Disclosure: A study of the 20 heaviest corporate carbon emitters in the U.S. finds that while all companies are responding to climate change through some governance actions, few are treating the issue as an imminent environmental and financial threat. A number of institutional investors feel this isn’t enough and have formed the Institutional Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR). Citing climate change as one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century, the INCR is urging broader corporate reporting on climate change risks and stronger enforcement of this reporting by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Russia Agonizes Over the Kyoto Protocol: For 18 months, Russia has been sending the world mixed signals regarding its intent to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Although more than 120 countries have passed the treaty, Russia’s support is necessary for the protocol to go into effect. Europe and the U.S. have each worked relentlessly to influence Russia’s position, which some speculate will not be known until after the November U.S. presidential elections. With or without Russia, the Kyoto Protocol has already been successful in raising awareness about climate change and has helped spur a takeoff in renewable energy development and innovative solutions such as international carbon trading. At the same time, if Kyoto collapses, many of these gains will likely disintegrate as well.

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