Bush Auctions Off National Forests

The Environment just became a major issue for the 2006 election. In an incredibly blatant bait and switch, Bush has inserted orders to the Forest Service to engage in the largest sale of federal land since Teddy Roosevelt established our national forest system.

Large Sale of Forest Planned: The White House wants to help pay for rural roads and schools by auctioning 300,000 acres of what it considers non-vital parcels.

The Bush administration Friday laid out plans to sell off more than $1 billion in public lands over the next decade, including 85,000 acres of national forest land in California.

Most of the proceeds would help pay for rural schools and roads, making up for a federal subsidy that has been eliminated from President Bush's 2007 budget.

Congress must approve the plans, which several experts said would amount to the largest land sale of its kind since President Theodore Roosevelt established the U.S. Forest Service in 1905 and created the modern national forest system.

"This is a fire sale of public lands. It is utterly unprecedented," said Char Miller, professor of environmental history at Trinity University in Houston, who has written extensively about the Forest Service. "It signals that the lands and the agency that manages them are in deep trouble. For the American public, it is an awful way to understand that it no longer controls its public land."

There's more...

A Real Plan B!

I just finished reading "Plan B 2.0." by Lester Brown. (which you can download free of charge here!) The book is amazing, not only in its simple explanation of the origins of many of our environmental problems, but in its ability to clearly - and convincingly - lay out the global implications if we fail to embrace an alternative to our fossil fuel based, disposable economy. We're running out of resources and poisoning the planet today, imagine the situation when countries like China and India achieve our rates of consumption and waste.

What set this book apart from the many books discussing the impending environmental collapse is that Brown presents a solution - a Plan B. As with his diagnosis of our problems, Brown succinctly explains an achievable alternative economic model based largely on innovative technologies and enlightened - yet shockingly pragmatic - policies.

While Brown is not a household name, he clearly has caught the eye of some of the world's more important players. Bill Clinton has praised the book, and Brown addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos last week.

There's more...

Protecting Wildlife While Improving Food Security, Health, and Livelihoods

This is the first in a two-part series about Nourishing the Planet co-director Danielle Nierenberg’s visit with COMACO in Zambia. Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet.

One of the first things you notice about grocery stores in Zambia is the plethora of processed foods from around the world, from crackers made in Argentina and soy milk from China to popular U.S. breakfast cereals. Complementing these foreign foods, however, are a variety of locally made and processed products, including indigenous varieties of organic rice, all-natural peanut butter, and honey from the It’s Wild brand.

It’s Wild was started by the Community Markets for Conservation(COMACO), an organization founded over 30 years ago to conserve local wildlife. COMACO helps farmers improve their agricultural practices in ways that can protect the environment—such as through conservation farming—while also creating a reliable market for farm products. It organizes the farmers into producer groups, encouraging them to diversify their skills by raising livestock and bees, growing organic rice, using improved irrigation and fisheries management, and other practices, so that they don’t have to resort to poaching elephants or other wildlife.

By targeting hard-to-reach farmers that live near protected areas, "we’re trying to turn things around," says Dale Lewis, Executive Director of COMACO. For decades, many farmers in eastern Zambia practiced slash-and-burn agriculture and were involved in widespread elephant poaching. Farmers killed elephants and burned forests not because they were greedy, but because it was their only alternative, Lewis explains. Degraded soils, the lack of effective agricultural inputs, and drought left many farmers in the region desperate, forcing them to turn to poaching and environmentally destructive farming practices.

By training more than 650 "lead" farmers to train other farmers, COMACO hopes to not only protect the environment and local wildlife, but also help farmers increase their incomes by connecting them to the private market.

COMACO supports the creation of regional processing centers and trading depots to make it easier for farmers to process their crops and transport them to market. The group also offers a higher price to farmers who grow rice and other products organically, and for those use the conservation farming techniques they’ve learned from COMACO trainers and lead farmers. Where farmers "comply with COMACO, they see benefits," Lewis says, including improvements in food security and health.

The resulting products are then sold under the It’s Wild brand in major supermarket chains across Zambia, such as ShopRite, Checkers, and Spar. Next year, COMACO plans to export its products to Botswana. The organization is trying to do as much of the product distribution as possible so that the money stays with the farmers and not middlemen.

COMACO has also gotten technical support from multinational food giant General Mills. The company paid for a COMACO food technician to visit its headquarters in early 2009 to learn how different food processing techniques can increase the nutritional and economic value of the foods that the organization is selling.

Lewis hopes that eventually COMACO will be self sufficient—and profitable—without the current heavy dependence on donor funding. But that’s not easy for an organization that works with thousands of farmers and has high administrative, transport, and salary costs.

Stay tuned this week for more about Dale Lewis and COMACO’s work.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:

  1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.
  1. Consider donating–For a limited time only when you donate $36 dollars (tax deductible) to support the Worldwatch Institute to support our, we will mail you a signed copy of our flagship publication "State of the World 2011" when it comes out in January. To make sure you receive your copy of the book just be sure to enter the code "NTP2011" when you make your donation.
  1. Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking here and receive regular blog and travel updates.

Just what the Gulf of Mexico needs: another oil well

Oil from BP's blown-out Deepwater Horizon well continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico and will do so until August at the earliest. In response, the Obama administration extended a moratorium on deepwater drilling for six months

last week. However, the president also "quietly allowed a three-week-old ban on drilling in shallow water to expire" last week (hat tip Open Left). As a result,

 

 

Federal regulators approved Wednesday the first new Gulf of Mexico oil well since President Barack Obama lifted a brief ban on drilling in shallow water, even while deepwater projects remain frozen after the massive BP spill.

 

The Minerals Management Service granted a new drilling permit sought by Bandon Oil and Gas for a site about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana and 115 feet below the ocean's surface. It's south of Rockefeller State Wildlife Refuge and Game Preserve, far to the west of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that triggered the BP spill.

 

Chris Bowers put it mildly when he described the Obama administration's action here as "difficult to fathom." The president is giving a speech on the economy today and will talk about investing in alternative energy, but like all my parenting books say, actions speak louder than words. The greatest environmental disaster in U.S. history is unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, and BP doesn't know how to stop it, but it's business as usual at the Minerals Management Service. Nor is today's permit approval an isolated case:

 

In the days since President Obama announced a moratorium on permits for drilling new offshore oil wells and a halt to a controversial type of environmental waiver that was given to the Deepwater Horizon rig, at least seven new permits for various types of drilling and five environmental waivers have been granted, according to records.

 

The records also indicate that since the April 20 explosion on the rig, federal regulators have granted at least 19 environmental waivers for gulf drilling projects and at least 17 drilling permits, most of which were for types of work like that on the Deepwater Horizon shortly before it exploded, pouring a ceaseless current of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

 

Words fail me, so you'll have to share your thoughts in this thread.

There's more...

Just what the Gulf of Mexico needs: another oil well

Oil from BP's blown-out Deepwater Horizon well continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico and will do so until August at the earliest. In response, the Obama administration extended a moratorium on deepwater drilling for six months

last week. However, the president also "quietly allowed a three-week-old ban on drilling in shallow water to expire" last week (hat tip Open Left). As a result,

 

 

Federal regulators approved Wednesday the first new Gulf of Mexico oil well since President Barack Obama lifted a brief ban on drilling in shallow water, even while deepwater projects remain frozen after the massive BP spill.

 

The Minerals Management Service granted a new drilling permit sought by Bandon Oil and Gas for a site about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana and 115 feet below the ocean's surface. It's south of Rockefeller State Wildlife Refuge and Game Preserve, far to the west of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that triggered the BP spill.

 

Chris Bowers put it mildly when he described the Obama administration's action here as "difficult to fathom." The president is giving a speech on the economy today and will talk about investing in alternative energy, but like all my parenting books say, actions speak louder than words. The greatest environmental disaster in U.S. history is unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, and BP doesn't know how to stop it, but it's business as usual at the Minerals Management Service. Nor is today's permit approval an isolated case:

 

In the days since President Obama announced a moratorium on permits for drilling new offshore oil wells and a halt to a controversial type of environmental waiver that was given to the Deepwater Horizon rig, at least seven new permits for various types of drilling and five environmental waivers have been granted, according to records.

 

The records also indicate that since the April 20 explosion on the rig, federal regulators have granted at least 19 environmental waivers for gulf drilling projects and at least 17 drilling permits, most of which were for types of work like that on the Deepwater Horizon shortly before it exploded, pouring a ceaseless current of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

 

Words fail me, so you'll have to share your thoughts in this thread.

There's more...

Diaries

Advertise Blogads