Protect Plants AND People: Stop the Natural History Museum's Expedition to Gran Chaco
Update: In a victory for indigenous rights, the Paraguayan government yesterday decided to formally suspended a mission to the remote Gran Chaco forests, until the Ayoreo Indians can grant their pemission for it to go forward. Thanks for signing this petition! As a next step, you can email Paraguay's Foreign Minister at firstname.lastname@example.org to thank the government for this decision. Read more about the victory here. There's plenty of scientific work to support in the name of biodiversity of conservation. The Natural History Museum in London's upcoming expedition is not one of them. In the next few days, a 100-person scientific team plans to enter one of the most remote and inhospitable places on Earth: an extremely dry region in northern Paraguay called the Gran Chaco. It's an area that's home to one of the last remaining indigenous populations completely untouched by Western culture: the Ayoreo Indians shun contact and live in determined isolation. While the expedition says it has made precautions to avoid the likely presence of the tribe, anthropologists and indigenous advocates say the mission is destined to result in a "disaster" in the likely event of an accidental encounter. The journey brings risk of violent confrontation and disease introductions, and the trails that are forged will lead to inevitable cultural pollution, too. This expedition would basically repeat a mistake we should have learned more than enough about in 5th grade history class. The scientists say it is important to document the region's plant and animal species in the name of conservation for future generations. Here's a better idea: Why don't we leave these plants and these people alone.
Tell EPA: Say No To Arch Coal's Mega Coal Mine
Recently, EPA's office in Appalachia took a historic stand against mountaintop removal mining, the most devastating coal mining technique in existence. Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin said that Arch Coal's planned Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County, West Virginia should be revoked. The mine is controversial because the Bush administration approved the permit, which okay'd dynamiting nearly 2,300 acres of mountain and dumping the toxic waste into nearby valleys and streams. If the mine goes forward, it would be one of the largest mountaintop projects in the region. Except the project would unacceptably devastate West Virginia's environment, as Garvin's report makes clear, especially by burying 6.6 miles of high-quality streams and seriously polluting downstream waters beyond the mine. Arch Coal, meanwhile, says never mind all that—they'll build some nice, shiny new streams to replace the natural ones they ruin. EPA has not yet decision made a decision about the permit, and now has a court-ordered deadline of February 2011. In revoking this permit, EPA has the chance to stand up in favor of real science and to protect the health and environment of dozens of communities. It would also set a historic precedent in favor of clean water in the region. Tell Administrator Lisa Jackson to stop this mine from being built.
GE Should Cleanup Its Mess in the Hudson River
Update: Victory! EPA did not listen to GE's delay tactics and put forth a plan to compete the cleanup starting next year. GE had no choice but to agree, since EPA promised to "use all the legal resources" at their disposal to compel the company to participate. Thanks for signing! Read more here. GE formally agreed to the plan and the goal is to start dredging again in late Spring. Environmentalists are gratified, but also have major concerns that the plan allows GE to leave too much of the PCBs in place, underneath a sediment cap that is vulnerable to coming loose. From about 1947 to 1977, GE spent 30 years dumping 1.3 million pounds of toxic chemicals called PCBs in New York's iconic Hudson River. In 2009, after trying and failing to absolve itself of responsibility for many decades, GE finally launched Phase 1 of the cleanup, which involves dredigng the river free of toxic sediment. Last Fall they completed Phase 1, and the state declared it a success: the contaminated sediment was removed and few PCBs were stirred up into the water. Now, the state environmental commissioner wants to make sure GE finsihes the job. GE isn't so sure, of course. Even though it committed to finish the cleanup, it now wants an extra year to look at the Phase 1 data and "decide" whether it will proceed with Phase 2. GE Chairman Jeffrey Immelt recently met with EPA privately on the matter. This week, a number of environmental groups have joined to make sure EPA gets the message that GE must finish the cleanup on schedule. "Working together with ordinary citizens and multiple local and state agencies, we insisted that GE be held accountable for threatening the health of generations of Hudson Valley residents, damaging native river species and turning one of our state’s most valuable natural resources into the country’s largest toxic waste site," they write, in a letter. Editorial boards of many New York papers, including the New York Times and the Poughkeepsie Journal, agree. For years, New Yorkers have been banned from commercial or recreational fishing in many areas along a 200-mile stretch of contaminated riverbed. PCBs are a big health risk because they first accumulate in sediments, then move up the food chain into fish. EPA calls them probable human carcinogens, and they also aren't so wonderful for fish and wildlife either. If GE were allowed to delay this cleanup, this would be a depressing reversal of progress on the Hudson. Will you join these groups by signing this petition to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson asking her to refuse to let GE off the hook?