World Population Awareness

North America

North America

August 27, 2012

Tar Sands Oil: Pros and Cons

April 16 , 2012   TriplePundit

Canada has oil reserves of 170 billion barrels, more than Iran and Nigeria combined. However, much of that oil has been considered "not economically recoverable." While development of these tar sands began in the 1960s, it has been conducted at a relatively small scale because of the costs involved. But recently declining supplies and increasing prices have prompted attempts to ramp up production, and PetroChina has acquired a 60% interest in two major wells in Alberta in 2009; then by Sinopec bought a 9% stake in Syncrude Canada Ltd. in 2010.

Projections show that as much as 36% of American oil could be coming from Canadian oil sands by 2030.

However, extracting this oil requires a good deal more energy than conventional drilling, which means more greenhouse gases before the oil even reaches the pump. The net energy return on energy invested (EROI) ratio of tar sands oil by the time it is converted to gasoline is roughly half that of the equivalent process for conventional crude oil.

The Canadian government has invested heavily in the use of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) for the tar sands recovery process, but this technology is yet unproven. The process requires also vast amounts of water and chemicals to wash the sands. Anywhere from 2 to 4.5 times the amount of water is required for each barrel of oil produced.

The discharge that accumulates in highly toxic waste ponds pose a huge threat to wildlife. In one incident, 1,600 ducks died from landing in one of these ponds. Tailing pools now cover 50 square miles adjoining the Athabasca River, in the middle of the world's largest intact forest, a key absorber of CO2 and wildlife habitat. The numerous First Nations people living in the area thought the industry would bring a significant number of jobs and economic activity, but the developers not only pollute the area, but they don't take First Nations' interests into account, destroying hunting and fishing, habitat and bringing a number of health risks to the region.

Recently, a number of environmental groups and 23 First Nations groups have asked for a moratorium on new tar sands development. They are also asking to halt the Keystone XL pipeline which would strongly encourage further development of the Tar Sands, by allowing the oil to be shipped from Texas to China, where most of it will be used.

In summary, tar sands oil has a cost/benefit profile that is similar in many ways to coal, except that coal is used for electricity while oil is used for transportation. At the present, there are probably more alternatives for electricity than there are for transportation. This could begin to shift if we see tractor-trailers trucks being converted to natural gas. Of course, the current historically low natural gas prices, combined with high oil prices has, at least for the moment, rearranged the whole energy picture.

The author opined that, as bad as the environmental impacts of coal are, these tar sands might even be worse, despite what the developers might say. There is no question that the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline will encourage expansion of this resource, while bringing questionable benefits to the US, since most of the oil will be shipped to China. "Mostly though, I think the whole conversation is really about price and Americans' desire to live in a world where gas is cheap and no one bothers them to worry about global warming. That world may have existed in the 1950s and 60s, but it certainly doesn't exist anymore." doclink

The Green Car Congress website says in an August 2010 article:

"A new report commissioned by Western Resource Advocates, a non-profit environmental law and policy organization, finds that oil shale's Energy Return on Investment (EROI) is extremely low, falling between 1:1 and 2:1 when self-energy—the energy released by the oil shale conversion process that is used to power that operation—is counted as a cost. An EROI of 1:1 means there is no energy "profit" from the investment of energy. If internal energy is excluded, and only purchased energy is used as input, then the EROI calculated is in the range of 2 to 16.

"While one could argue that the char and gas produced and consumed within the shale conversion process has zero opportunity cost—i.e., that energy would not, or could not, be used somewhere else in the economy, so it should not be treated as a “cost"—the authors note, “the internal energy is absolutely necessary to accurately assess greenhouse gas emissions".

Canada: Pregnancy, Haunted by Death

December 8, 2011   Ottawa Citizen

Ghana's former high commissioner to Canada, the late Richard Turkson, spoke at the screening in Ottawa of the documentary Empty-handed, about the lack of access to contraceptives in Uganda. Citing a passage from the Book of Genesis in the Bible: "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and conception; in sorrow thou shall bring forth children ...", Turkson said "Men have long misinterpreted this passage as a mandate to lord it over women and show very little concern, if any, for women's fertility-related problems,"

"Over time, God's anger seems to have abated in many parts of the world; it appears, however, that in sub-saharan Africa, it continues unabated. Women's lives (there) are largely governed by unnecessarily hazardous pregnancies and child bearing; similarly, their death is often dictated by pregnancy and child birth. Worse still, everywhere in Africa, it is the women, not the men, who suffer from mutilation, disease and death in pursuit of the high premium we traditionally place on fertility, particularly on male children."

The fight to get contraceptives into the hands of African women is far from over.

The Canadian government - although it has led a G8 push for improved maternal health in the developing world - needs to hear this message, since it appears to remain lukewarm to family planning as a key to reducing maternal deaths, and as a development tool. That makes it unusual among western nations, according to some. Canada is not represented at the Senegal conference.

Susan Cohen, director of government affairs at the Guttmacher Institute said Canada was an outlier and "Canadians were dragging their feet on the investment in family planning."

Canada's $1-billionplus commitment to reducing maternal mortality did include family planning, but not abortion. However Canada's maternal health funding is only about $13 million of about $800 million so far - something critics say isn't nearly enough.

Cohen said "It is impossible to achieve the millennium development goal (of reducing maternal mortality by three-quarters) without investing in maternal and newborn health as well as family planning." The number of women in the world who want contraception and can't get them - is estimated at 215 million. Better access to contraceptives would not only reduce maternal deaths, reduce unsafe abortions and improve the health of newborns, because their births would not be spaced so closely together, it would increase education rates among women.

Canadian women have long taken for granted what many women in the developing world don't have- control over when they have children.

Britain, on the other hand, has made family planning a "major priority" according to Stephen O'Brien, parliamentary undersecretary of state for Britain's department of International Development, who attended the Senegal family planning conference.

"Having children should bring joy," he said during a conference call from Senegal. "For far too many women, having children amounts to a death sentence. ... Family planning is a smart, simple and extremely cost effective investment."

One of the messages from the Senegal conference was that family planning is a key to improving not only the health of women and children, but a country's economic health as well. doclink

Mass Change in Tree Species Occurring in Western North America, Study Says

November 3, 2011   Yale Environment 360

Across the western United States and Canada global warming, drought, insect infestations, and fire are driving certain species out of some regions and allowing new species to take their place, says a new study published in the journals Ecological Modelling and Remote Sensing of Environment.

U.S and Canadian scientists used remote sensing data to analyze the condition of 15 coniferous tree species in 34 different eco-regions. Once-common tree species, such as lodgepole pine and Engelmann spruce, are being replaced by species that can survive in warmer, drier conditions, such as ponderosa pine and Douglas fir.

The northern and southern extremes of western North America are experiencing the most intense shifts. In central California, for example, half of the species now present are not expected to survive future climate conditions, with temperatures expected to rise by 5 to 9 degrees F. this century.

More than 70,000 square miles of forest in the western U.S. and Canada have been destroyed by outbreaks of beetles that thrive in warmer temperatures. doclink

Karen Gaia says: if trees are affected, you can bet that crop production will also be affected.

Canada: Cash for Family Planning Group Approved; but Only Where Abortion is Illegal

September 23, 2011 (Canada)

Five countries will receive new funding from Canada for International Planned Parenthood Federation for maternal and child health projects: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Mali, Sudan and Tanzania, Canada's Conservative government confirmed.

Planned Parenthood provides abortion services, counselling and training for health providers through local organizations in developing countries, but tailored its request to provide services only in countries where abortion is already illegal, to conform to the Harper government's "no abortion overseas" criteria.

The announcement comes two days after Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced 28 new projects would receive funding through his government's G8 Muskoka Initiative, which pledged a total of $1.1 billion in new money over five years. doclink

The Myth of Canada's Underpopulation: Lay it to Rest

May 16, 2011   Women Make News

Every so often we hear about about Canada's need for more people. The growth boosters divide Canada's land surface area and divide it by Canada's population (34 million) and conclude that there's a desperate shortage of people at 3.3 people per square kilometer. In January of 2011, the Globe and Mail, printed an editorial called "Go forth, multiply and fill the provinces" which urged Canadians to do exactly that.

Parts of Canada are inhospitable to humans. Moving people to Canada's "empty" spaces would significantly raise their energy consumption and greenhouse gas production - and Canada's are already among highest in the world.

With our current low birth rate (averaging 1.6 children per woman), population growth is driven by immigration. Canada receives one-quarter to half a million newcomers annually, including immigrants, "temporary" workers, students and refugees. Our large cities are already bursting at the seams with increasing congestion and smog and ever more stressed infrastructure, and have trouble dealing with their own wastes. The parts of Canada that are realistically capable of supporting a large population are already densely populated. Canada has lost over 15,000 square kilometres of farmland to urbanization. This loss is irreplaceable and farmland constitutes only about 5% of Canada's surface area. How smart is it to demolish one's own food security?

Neil Reynolds in his recent editorial said overpopulation was a "Malthusian myth," arguing that it is ridiculous to think that there are too many people on the planet when the entire world population could fit into Texas. Evidently, Reynolds considers drying rivers, disappearing species, razed forests, eroding soils, melting glaciers, and vanishing fish stocks to be random events unrelated to a growing human population with ever-rising demands for space, energy, food, water, lumber, minerals, and other resources.

Arguments supporting more growth are usually based on the economy, our aging population, and the shortage of young workers to pay our pensions. But the earnings of the average Canadian have remained essentially unchanged since 1980 (despite Canada growing by 10 million people since then), while those of the richest have risen substantially and those of the poorest have fallen substantially.

The policy of hyper-immigration initiated in the early 1990s has had very little impact on the age structure of the general population or of the workforce. As for those pensions we've been promised: newcomers now receive tens of billions of dollars more from the government than they pay in taxes each year.

Science Council of Canada's report No. 25 in 1976; a 1991 report called The Environment: Marriage Between Earth and Mankind; and the Healey report of 1997 on the ecosystems of the Fraser River in British Columbia all stress that population growth is putting on Canada's agricultural land and ecosystems. The collapse of the cod fishery and the increasing decimation of Canada's biodiversity support their conclusions. doclink

Canada: Planned Parenthood Gets Silent Treatment From Ottawa

May 13, 2010   The Star (Canada)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a zero tolerance policy on abortion and has blocked support for safe abortions by withholding funding of a $18 million grant to the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). Abortion is legal in Canada

"We submitted an application for a three-year funding renewal to CIDA . . . in June, 2009," said Paul Bell of the International Planned Parenthood Federation in London. "It is unusual not to have heard anything about the proposal at this stage, 11 months after it was submitted."

Up until now, Canada has supplied a significant part of Planned Parenthood's $120 million annual budget.

Another maternal health agency, Marie Stopes International, has already fallen under the abortion ban - and received only funding on the agency avoiding any connection with abortion.

“The decision is a real missed opportunity to make an impact on the 13 per cent of maternal deaths caused by unsafe abortions globally," said the group's CEO Dana Hovig in a statement. “You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health and (that) includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortions."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.K. Foreign Secretary David Miliband are also upset about Canada's abortion stance. The Canadian government won't fund abortion, but Harper says it will put money into programs for safe pregnancy and childbirth, as well as family planning.

However, Harper has not backed a plan to ask world leaders to endorse a more than $30 billion global fund estimated to save the lives of up to 12 million women, children and newborns, nor has Canada supported the pre-summit Women Deliver conference in Washington, which will be attended by senior officials and politicians from around the world, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. doclink

High Arctic Species Plummeting Across the Board, Other Arctic Residents on the Rise

March 18, 2010

Between 1970 and 2004 species in the high Arctic have declined by 26%. Scientists are concerned that environmental impacts such as climate change are worsening natural population fluctuations. Declining species include lemmings, red knot, and caribou.

The Arctic is host to abundant and diverse wildlife populations, many of which migrate annually from all regions of the globe. The drop in the caribou population may be due a natural cycle or due to climate change. Some migratory species are also on the decline, such as Arctic shorebirds. Researchers are uncertain whether this is due to changes in the Arctic or to migration stops in the south.

Loss of sea ice is also a concern. A number of high Arctic species, such as polar bears, narwhales, and ringed seals, employ sea ice to survive. Studies have shown declines in polar bear populations in some areas.

However, when all the Arctic biomes are included species populations have actually risen by 16% in the past 34 years.

Some migrating geese are on the rise due to a decline in hunting and increased agricultural waste in their wintering grounds. Marine animals such as sea otters, have rebounded after regulations have protected them from overharvesting and overfishing. Marine fish has also increased in the North Pacific, which researchers speculate is due to warming waters. However, sub Arctic species peaked in the 1980s and then began to decline.

These results comes at a time for finding accurate indicators to monitor global biodiversity as governments strive to meet their targets of reducing biodiversity loss. rw doclink

Canada: Having a Baby Becoming Economical Decision

November 9, 2009   Vancouver Sun

The troubled economy and poor housing market have forced couples to put off their family plans and try to ignore the ticking biological clock.

One infertility doctor believes the best time to give birth is between the ages of 25 and 30. He claims that economic and lifestyle concerns should generally take a back seat to biology.

Economic shifts in Canada have been linked with baby booms and busts. The Great Depression saw a plunge in Canada's national fertility rate from 3.3 children in 1928 to what was then an all-time low of 2.7 in 1936. After the Second World War, the fertility rate reached a record high of 3.9.

John Mirowsky, a professor at University of Texas's Population Research Center, has done extensive research that suggests women who first become mothers between the ages of 30 and 35 are the healthiest, with fewer diagnosed chronic conditions and impairments, as well as less depression than women who give birth earlier or later.

"Obstetricians often consider much earlier first births ideal because obstetric problems, spontaneous abortions, stillbirths and ectopic pregnancies are least common for women ages 20 and 21," says Prof. Mirowsky. "But a larger view shows it is better to wait."

Other reasons to wait include more time to complete education and establish a career, more stable partnerships and better health habits.

But delaying child-bearing beyond the age of 41 comes with sharply rising likelihood of Down syndrome and congenital malformations. doclink

Karen Gaia says: delaying pregnancies also spreads out the generations, which means fewer generations living at the same time, and therefore, slowing population growth.

The Needle and the Damage Done; Images of Oil Addiction in Canada's Tar Sands

December 18, 2008   Grist Magazine

Canada has 179 billion barrels of proven "oil" reserves. Almost all is in Alberta's tar sands, a combination of 10% bitumen and 90% sand, clay, and water. The primary method of extraction is to remove the "overburden". Once all living matter is removed, some of the largest open pit mines in the world are used to extract the bitumen.

'Upgraders' turn the sands into synthetic crude. Current production is over 1.4 million barrels per day. Canada plans to at least triple that in the next decade.

There are some simple ways to improve things. Like not exempting the tar sands from environmental law in Canada and applying basic precautions including cleaning up toxic tailings ponds, installing air pollution controls, and conducting health assessments of workers and downstream communities. Instead, Canada's response has been to launch a $25 million public relations campaign. The federal government made an overture to President-elect Obama -- a deal that protects the tar sands from potentially forthcoming U.S. climate regulations. rw doclink

Karen Gaia says: at what point does it take more energy to extract the tar sand oil than it produces?

Canada: Ontario to Spare Boreal Forests

July 14, 2008   Globe and Mail

The government of Ontario will protect 225,000 square kilometres from development, one half of the boreal region in the far north. This land will be off limits to any resource projects and restricted to tourism and traditional aboriginal uses. Countries such as China and India are hungry for Canada's natural resources and it is imperative that the province strike the balance between conservation and development.

Virtually everyone agrees that the environment needs to be protected. But some accuse the government of creating confusion as the plan contains few specific details and that will take years to implement.

The boundaries of the areas have not been determined, but they will form a connected network of conservation lands across the far north.

With the remaining boreal lands, the government will work to create a plan for sustainable development, a process expected to take 10-to-15 years to complete.

It is one of the world's largest intact ecosystems, with more than 200 sensitive species of animals and birds.

The forest has remained undisturbed by human activity since the glaciers retreated. But as companies go farther afield in their search for natural resource riches, pressure is growing to open up the wilderness.

First nations will gets a greater say in any development projects on their traditional lands as well as a share of the riches. Native leaders have been pushing the government to change the province's mining laws to better protect their interests.

The region absorbs about 12.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year. rw doclink

Healthy Body, Healthy Earth: More Canadians Expected to Prove ...

May 27, 2008   Canada NewsWire

Thousands of Canadians will leave their cars at home for a week this June as the 18th annual National Commuter Challenge kicks off with more Canadians and companies expected to participate It is a workplace competition to promote environmentally sustainable transportation such as walking, jogging, biking, in line skating, transit, carpooling and telecommuting.

This year's competition is set to be its strongest in 18 years.

Corporations across the country will vie for the distinction of having the most sustainable commuter population while supporting their employees' healthier choices. Communities and companies with the highest participation rates in the National Commuter Challenge win recognition. Individuals can win prizes donated by many sponsors. rw doclink

Idyllic Yamaska is Canada's filthiest river

May 19, 2008   Toronto Star

The Yamaska flows out of Lac Brome in the Eastern Townships, across some of the most fertile farmland in Canada before spilling into the St. Lawrence River about 75 kilometres east of Montreal. Environment Canada gave the Yamaska an anemic 27.1 out of a possible 100 points.

The next worst river is in Quebec, the Bayonne, was rated 27.6, has its headwaters north of Joliette and joins the north shore of the St. Lawrence near Berthierville.

The fourth-dirtiest river in Canada is Ontario's Don rated 34.8, but of the 16 rivers rated as "poor" or "very poor," 13 are in Quebec.

Biologists say the culprits are phosphorous, ammonia and nitrates the results of pesticide and fertilizer runoff and the animal waste.

Long-term pollution problems have caused genetic mutations in the bullfrog population and one expert told a rural newspaper she wouldn't drink water out of the Yamaska, even if it's filtered. "It's more like an open sewer."

In the Yamaska watershed, one of the big problems is pigs, in the rural municipality of Les Maskoutins, for example, there are 80,000 inhabitants and 800,000 pigs.

On the Bayonne side, the issue is chickens, who produce so much manure it is exported as fertilizer.

The manure is often spread on local cornfields, whose yield is transformed into pork, chicken feed, and, recently, ethanol.

Intensive deforestation, especially along riverbanks, have contributed to runoff, erosion and turbidity problems and municipal storm sewers and sanitary sewage have compounded everything.

The Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA), Quebec's most powerful farming lobby group, says "We've been singled out a lot, but in a large majority of the cases, it wasn't just agriculture, cottagers, municipalities, lots of people have an impact on that river and others." The UPA remains committed to more sustainable farming methods. Officials insist that the situation is improving and the toxicity levels are within accepted norms.

Quebec Environment Minister announced a $200 million strategy to improve the quality of the province's lakes and rivers.

The government strategy is primarily aimed at reducing the proliferation of the blue algae and at general improvements to water-quality standards.

Critics warn that the provincial government isn't acting with enough haste. The provincial pollution standards are far too low and the UPA, will succeed in delaying the adoption of stricter practices.

The rapid development of the St. Lawrence Valley from the 1960s, sophisticated farming techniques that maximize yields, new fertilizers, genetically modified grains, agricultural subsidies, and an emerging ethanol market.

All stoked by decades of government policies aimed at developing an agricultural sector that can compete on a global scale. rw doclink

Canadians Over-confident in Country's Supply of Fresh Water New Poll Reveals

March 19, 2008   Trading Markets

A new poll by Unilever, RBC and the Canadian Partnership Initiative of the UN Water for Life Decade shows that 80% of Canadians are confident that the country has enough fresh water to meet the country's long-term needs. Two-thirds disagree that Canada has a fresh water shortage problem at all.

Canadian NGOs and a report from Environment Canada asserts Canada faces threats to its fresh water resources.

Water scarcity has constrained economic growth in parts of Western Canada and low lake levels have caused a reduction in shipping loads and reduced water availability for clean hydro-electric power on the Great Lakes. With climate change, water quality and availability will deteriorate. The health of the economy is linked to the availability of fresh water. Environment Canada estimates that water contributes $7.5 to $23 billion annually to Canada's economy.

We need to change our attitude toward water and implement conservation techniques in our everyday lives. When it comes to water sustainability, everyone has an important role to play. Although water is a renewable resource, it is not limitless. Canada possesses only 6.5% of the world's renewable fresh water. Canadians are the second largest wasters of water, second to only the Americans.

Almost all (97%) of Canadians agree that an abundant supply of fresh water is important to Canada's national economy. Twenty-eight per cent of Canadians identified removal of water to the United States as the number one threat to Canada's supply of fresh water. This belief is incorrect. The greatest threat to Canada's supply of fresh water is our belief in its absolute abundance which is being challenged by heavy use, rapid growth and by climate change and global warming-induced drought. be 'confident' that Canada in general has enough fresh water to meet our long-term needs. rw doclink

Canada: Having a Baby Becoming An Economical Decision

January 21, 2008   Calgary Herald

In Canada the economy and poor housing market have forced couples to put off their family plans and try to ignore the ticking biological clock.

The likelihood is that many Canadians will struggle with the decision to postpone child-bearing. A past president of the Infertility Awareness Association of Canada believes the best time to give birth is between the ages of 25 and 30. His message notes that economic and lifestyle concerns should generally take a back seat to biology.

Historically, economic shifts have been linked with baby booms and busts. Deferring pregnancy might actually be a good thing for women, depending on their age, some experts say.

Research suggests women who first become mothers between the ages of 30 and 35 are the healthiest, with fewer diagnosed chronic conditions and impairments, as well as less depression than women who give birth earlier or later. Other benefits include more time to complete education and establish a career, more stable partnerships and better health habits. But delaying child-bearing beyond the age of 41 comes with sharply rising likelihood of Down's syndrome and congenital malformations. rw doclink

Canada: Our Idea of Cities Needs a Rethink

January 06, 2008   Toronto Star

For the first time, most of the world's people will be living in cities. Yet cities are zoned and planned for an industrial economy although we now live and work in the same place. The attempt to protect employment lands in urban Ontario is fraught with contradictions. Protecting abandoned sites in the hope that manufacturing jobs will return is a pipe dream. We don't understand, nor have we mapped, the new urban economy. Provincial trade barriers hobble the shift from national industrial economies to a global network of regional urban economies where the source of wealth generation has evolved from production to innovation. The bent in Ottawa toward relegating urban issues to provincial governments has left Canada without national urban strategies that most federations like the US have developed to rebuild their cities.

Our policies and infrastructure are designed for the industrial economy and, are failing to deliver the economy Canadians deserve or to minimize the downshift from manufacturing-centred cities.

The second shift for cities will be in the deterioration of our natural environment.

All the elements we need to maintain our quality of life will be impacted by climate change and the efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Canadian cities have no concept of how to adapt to a rapidly changing climate.

Investments in new, clean energy, a reorganization of where we live and work, a shift to transit- and pedestrian-centred development will involve a rethink of the fundamentals of city building.

An aging population, increasing diversity and growing pressures from immigration will lead to migration from the impoverished parts of the planet and greater demands on countries like Canada to accept more immigrants.

Over the next century, many of our cities will be as Asian as European, and with that will come opportunities in the way we build and sustain cities.

Open, fluid cities that can absorb people quickly into the life and facilitate the mobility will be crucial. Diversity is a cause for celebration not accommodation.

The aging population will create increasing demands for new design and the popularization of universal design principles and other barrier-free spaces.

In less than 25 years, seniors will account for more than one in four urban dwellers.

The retention and re-engagement of older people in the workforce will likely emerge as a challenge. In the new economy, the focus will be on thinking and imagining rather than manufacturing.

The lack of autonomy, tax choices and the extreme overdependence on high property taxes of Canadian municipalities will result in a significant decline in the environment of our cities before there is any action.

The infrastructure will become for the next generation of Canadians a more challenging problem than the fiscal deficit. Infrastructure is being seen more and more as an investment. The test of sustainability is to build infrastructure that supports higher levels of density, improves the tax base and generates more economic activity over time than the cost to create it.

Rapid transit may be the strongest economic development tool and if used smartly will shift public transit to a builder of the region's tax base.

Transportation infrastructure result in different levels of energy use, air quality, land values and tax revenues and allow different levels of density and economic activity. They facilitate the participation in society and the affordability of mobility and access to employment. rw doclink

Nigeria;: How to Battle Rising Maternal Deaths

December 04, 2007   Africa News Service

Gynecologists and Obstetricians have a resolve to put an immediate end to the increasing rate of maternal deaths in the country. About 529,000 women die annually globally, Nigeria is said to account for 10%.

Many young women, particularly those from the northern parts of the country go through giving birth for one reason or the other. Some may be that she would not allow a male doctor to attend to her during delivery.

This attitude and belief may have accounted for a good number of maternal and newborn deaths in Nigeria. Though, other factors can account for the high rate of maternal and newborn deaths. Some of those factors include bad roads, absence of health facilities, while the persistent electricity failure could also be said to have contributed to the death of mothers.

Nigeria is the second highest, next to India, with a rate of maternal and infant death. "We have been interacting with Government, International and National donor agencies, the private sector and faith groups to find out why up to now Nigeria has not been able to fashion a way to deal with the high mortality".

It was clear that the only way they can impact the figures was for the stakeholders to work together in a structure that will cover the whole country with their bases rooted in the existing health structure of the states, federal government and private health institutions.

SOGON has come up with a National partnership plan and structure which have integrated all levels of Local State, Federal, Faith and Private health structures into a system that will be able to handle and overcome the high maternal and newborn death rates in the country.

It was important to look at the socio-cultural milieu within which the people live. This, heavily influences not only the health of the population but also more importantly the ability of people to take decisions including decisions on health matters.

"The Nigerian woman, like all African women, is primarily responsible for the health of children. This status of the woman is central to both maternal and infant health and mortality. Thus gender roles from conception, through childhood and adolescence affect this biologic responsibility" In Nigeria 44% of females are illiterates compared to 22% of males. Maternal mortality was the end result of social dynamics that starts way before pregnancy

Maternal mortality is dependent on the age at which a woman gets pregnant, the number of wanted pregnancies as compared to unwanted pregnancies which are associated with high level of abortions, the financial situation of the woman and her ability and level of decision making about her health and those of her children. The ability of a woman to take decisions on issues affecting her and her children was determined by her educational status. Her ability to actualize her decision was determined to a large extent by her economic empowerment. rw doclink

Canada: Climate Change Ticks Ever Closer

September 01, 2007   Toronto Star

At the foot of Leslie St., a spit of land fans out into Lake Ontario. The peninsula, built with rubble from Toronto construction sites, has grown into a home to butterflies, birds, rabbits and coyote.

The park is popular with migratory birds many coming from as far away as South America.

But among these birds and animals are ticks that can carry Lyme disease.

Every morning the co-ordinator of the Bird Research Station in Tommy Thompson Park organizes a group of volunteers who track the birds. It is part of the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network sites across southern Canada and the northern United States that monitor the population trends of northern breeding birds.

From March to June, volunteers plucked ticks from migrating birds and mailed them to scientists who are trying to gain a better understanding of how birds and climate change might increase the spread of Lyme disease through Canada.

Since the 1970s, parts of the US have suffered an epidemic of Lyme disease, mostly within the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and north-central states.

In the US, approximately 20,000 new cases are reported each year. The disease is rarely reported in Canada, but ranks among the top bug-borne diseases in the United States.

Ten years ago, eastern Canada had only two known populations of blacklegged tick. Today, there are 13 or 14. They tend to settle in migratory bird landfalls. Leslie St. Spit, the Toronto Islands and the Toronto lakeshore are popular resting spots for migrants.

Toronto has always been on the migration highways, there are lots of green spaces where the birds can drop in and rest. The birds may be bringing ticks into Canada after passing through the northeastern and north-central states, where they're abundant.

All the stations from western Ontario to Nova Scotia captured migratory birds with ticks on them.

Canada's cooler climate offered protection from the diseases of warmer regions. But as climate change brings milder winters, scientists worry that the ticks may move farther north.

The warmer air temperature can make it easier for the insect to survive the Canadian winter. Should greenhouse gas emissions remain high, average summer temperatures in southern Ontario are expected to be 4 to 5C warmer and average winter temperatures about 6C warmer before the end of the century. rw doclink

Scientists Warn on Climate Tipping Points

August 15, 2007   Guardian (London)

Scientists predict that the loss of the Greenland ice sheet may lead to catastrophic sea-level rises.

If the Greenland ice sheet melted completely, it would raise global sea levels by seven metres. This should take about 1,000 years. But the break-up could happen more quickly, in 300 years. A study identified eight tipping points that could be passed by the end of this century. The destruction of the Amazon rainforest, the melting of the west Antarctic ice sheet, and a collapse of the global ocean current known as the thermohaline circulation.

Prof Lenton said the IPCC issued more conservative reports than his team. If you could stabilise the greenhouse gas levels to today's level, you'll still get some further warming. The average temperature rise of just 1C would be enough to slip the Greenland ice over the edge. rw doclink

Canada;: Green Cars to Get Green Licenses

August 08, 2007   Toronto Star

Next year, Ontarians who buy environmentally friendly, low-emission cars and trucks would get a green license plate that entitles them to perks of free parking and access to high-capacity commuter lanes.

The government will consult with vehicle manufacturers and environmental groups to design a rating system. The plan includes a $15 million pilot project to help businesses convert to more environmentally friendly technologies. The province plans to install two ethanol-fueling stations in London and Peterborough. rw doclink

Landfill Sites Hide Electricity Potential; Houston Firm Planning to Harness the Methane From Dumps in Canada

June 27, 2007   The Toronto Star

Landfill sites in Ontario and Quebec are to be used to convert methane gas into electricity. The sites will be part of a five-year conversion project. The company plans to spend $400 million (U.S.) on 60 landfills, which would include the Canadian operations.

Landfills are the largest source of methane emissions in the US, accounting for 34% of such releases, according to the EPA. Methane is the second-biggest man-made contributor to global warming and is created by the decomposition of matter such as trash and cow manure.

The Sainte-Sophie site in Quebec is already converting methane to electricity and supplies 75% of a local paper mill's energy needs.

The company operates 281 landfills in North America, and 100 have some form of methane-to-energy capabilities.

The Sainte-Sophie site in Quebec reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 490,000 tonnes a year, the equivalent of removing about 120,000 cars from the roads.

The company sells the power to retail power providers, municipal utilities and other users.

That income, coupled with federal tax credits, makes the ventures lucrative. rw doclink

Bird Species Plummeted After West Nile; National Survey Finds Losses Among Many Songbirds

May 16, 2007   Washington Post

Several common species of N. American birds have suffered population declines since the arrival of the West Nile virus. A few N. American birds were hit hard, including the American crow, the tufted titmouse, the chickadee and the Eastern bluebird.

The analysis offers evidence that even a microscopic invasive species can wreak long-term environmental disruption.

West Nile virus is believed to have hitched a ride to New York inside a bird or mosquito in 1999. It quickly spread across the US leaving a large but unknown number of birds dead, along with thousands of horses and about 1,000 people.

We need to reassess how we go about global trade and how we move things around. The next shipment of exotic birds could bring avian flu, forcing widespread culling of commercially valuable flocks and perhaps even launching a human epidemic.

Experiments predicted that certain birds might be especially vulnerable to West Nile infection, and tests on birds found dead appeared to confirm that some species were suffering a significant toll.

Post-1998 declines were greatest at times and places in which the virus was especially prevalent. American crows suffered declines of as much as 45% and wipeouts in some smaller areas.

House wrens and blue jays have returned to their pre-West Nile levels in 2005. In the Northeast, chickadees have dropped by 53% and the Eastern bluebird is down 44%.

The West Nile virus could potentially change the composition of bird communities across the entire continent. The analysis does not capture the fates of waterfowl, nocturnal birds and birds other than songbirds. Studies suggest that the loss of seed-eating birds could have ecological effects by reducing the natural dispersal of seeds.

Bird species that are weakened but not devastated could collapse if a second challenge arises, such as an especially hot or dry summer or the loss of a crucial food source. rw doclink

Imperial Valley: in Bone-dry Region, a Battle for Leaking Water

April 13, 2007  

South of the border between California and Mexico, vast farms thrive on water that seeps underground from a leaky irrigation canal in the Imperial Valley. California water managers want to capture the leakage to supply the subdivisions near San Diego, and more efficiently use their share of the Colorado River. California environmentalists and Mexican farmers took the battle to federal court, but the Court of Appeals ruled last week that the project can proceed. Officials who say they are merely fixing a leak, and ensuring that they don't have to look to Northern California for additional waste. But with a persistent drought that some scientists say is worsened by global warming, and booming populations, the decision could exacerbate tensions over water between the two nations. The project would replace the earthen ditch with a concrete-lined channel for 23 of the canal's 82 miles. It is expected to recoup enough water for half a million people. Most will go to the San Diego County Water Authority, with 17% reserved to settle water disputes with American Indian tribes. The seven states that rely on the Colorado River consider the project key to an agreement that would reduce California's overuse of the river's water. But Mexican farmers charge that lining the canal would deprive them of the seepage that has flowed across the border since 1942. Environmental groups insisted that federal environmental protection and endangered species laws required the United States to study the impact on wetlands in the Mexicali Valley. The federal appeals court issued an emergency injunction blocking the project, but claimed that the Mexican plaintiffs could sue for monetary damages in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. The court ruled that environmental concerns were trumped by the tax bill signed by President Bush in December. Construction could begin by June 1. Plaintiffs are contemplating an appeal to the full Ninth Circuit. In a time of increasing population and decreasing water supplies as a result of global warming, it is critical to save every drop of water. Water managers are concerned that the Colorado River is overcommitted -- with promises of water exceeding the river's annual flow. Its once-vast delta has been reduced to a smattering of wetlands fed by waste, such as the seepage from the All-American Canal. Pressure on water sources is likely to grow, along with tensions among the river's many users, as drought increases and human populations boom in the American Southwest and northwestern Mexico. This situation creates a precedent that could affect the relationship between the two countries. If the canal is lined with concrete, the accidental wetlands will dry up, eliminating the habitat for the Yuma clapper rail and a rare stopover for migratory birds on the Pacific Flyway. Whenever you're increasing the efficiency of water-delivery systems, you're harming wetlands. Nobody wants to waste water, but the water that goes to these habitats is not wasted. rw doclink

Karen Gaia says: Dry up Mexico so that Mexicans are forced to migrate to the U.S. and use that same water in the U.S. that they would have used in Mexico. Sounds like a vicious cycle to me. Already 1/9th the population of Mexico has have moved to the U.S. This will just add to the millions that have already come here, most of them working at slave wages. Having people come to the U.S. to earn money breaks up families, sends the smartest most gifted people away from their countries and leaves the source country with poor planning capabilities, not enough doctors and other professionals, and an unsustainable economy. People who think immigration is good should open their eyes and see what it is doing to the world.

IPCC Report: Climate Proofing North American Cities

April 10, 2007   Science Daily

Tensions between water users are among the challenges facing North America. Many water resources are heavily utilized for drinking water and hydropower.

Shifts in rainfall patterns, melting mountain glaciers, rising temperatures, increased demand and reduced supplies are likely to aggravate the situation.

Ground-water from the Edwards Aquifer in Texas could drop by up to 40% leading to economic losses for farmers. Summer flows in some river systems are likely to decline sharply within four decades. This is expected to increase competition between industry, cities, hydropower operators, farmers and fishermen for freshwater supplies.

North American producers of wood and timber could suffer losses of between $1 and $2 billion a year during the 21st century if climate change sparks changes in diseases, insect attacks and forest fires. Between 15% and 40% of plant and animal species will be extinct by 2050.

Up to a fifth of the coastal wetlands in the mid-Atlantic region of the US will be at risk of inundation.

A current one in 100 year flood in New York could have a return period of three to four years.

A 25% increase in heat waves is projected for Chicago.

Some of the challenges facing North America include a lack of information on climate change and its likely local impacts, financial barriers and the slow turnover of existing infrastructure. Some early steps toward planned adaptation have been taken by the engineering community, insurance companies, water managers, public health officials, forest managers and hydroelectric producers.

In some areas, the impacts could be acute and may require very careful, strategic planning and investment. The best and most cost effective solution is deep and decisive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

Water systems of the western US and Canada that rely on snowmelt runoff will be especially vulnerable.

A two degree C. warming by the 2040s is likely to lead to sharply reduced summer flows coinciding with sharply rising demand. Portland Oregon will by then require over 26 million additional cubic meters of water as a result of climate change and population growth. This will coincide with a fall in summer supplies from the Columbia River by an estimated five million cubic meters.

Just over 40% of the supply to southern California is likely to be vulnerable by the 2020s due to warming triggering losses of the Sierra Nevada and Colorado River basin snow pack. Levels of phosphorus are likely to rise in some bays in the Great Lakes by as much as 98%.

Ground waters are likely to come under increasing stress as a result of climate change. The Edwards aquifer in Texas project lower or ceased flows from springs, water shortages and considerable negative environmental impacts.

Economic losses to agriculture could amount to over $2 million to nearly $7 million a year as water allocation is shifted to industry and cities.

Some northern settlements are at "moderate to high hazard" by the middle of the 21st century as a result of coastal erosion and the thawing of permafrost.

By the 2090s, a one in 500 year flood in New York could be a one in 50 year event putting much of the region's infrastructure at risk. Boston's urban transportation network may also be at risk.

The costs of replenishing Florida's beaches with sand, to counter a sea level rise of half a metre, could be between $2 and $9 billion. rw doclink

Canada: Fewer Hospitals Performing Abortions

April 03, 2007   Ottawa Citizen (Canada)

The number of Canadian general hospitals offering abortion services has declined from 17.8% to 15.9% since 2003, according to a study conducted by a national pro-choice group. Women in Ottawa face an average wait of up to six weeks.

In Ontario, 33 out of 94 hospitals performed abortions in 2006. Only one in Ontario provides abortions north of the Trans-Canada Highway, and many women face up to a 14-hour drive for the procedure.

A researcher called hospitals across Canada posing as a pregnant woman and inquired about receiving an abortion and 75% of staff members reacted with disbelief, confusion or a complete lack of knowledge.

Overall, Quebec's private clinics are a common destination for women from Ontario.

One of the reasons for the decline in abortion accessibility is a lack of trained providers. rw doclink

Asian Air Pollution Affecting Weather; the Pacific Region Has Become Stormier, Scientists Say

March 06, 2007   San Francisco Chronicle

Carried on prevailing winds, the dust, sulfur, carbon grit and trace metals from Asia are having an intercontinental cloud-seeding effect.

The pollution from Asia makes storms stronger, deeper and more energetic, and there is a direct link from large-scale storm systems to pollution.

High-altitude storm clouds over the northern Pacific have increased up to 50% over the last 20 years as China and India spew growing amounts of pollutants into the air.

The changes have helped foster the creation of formations over the northern Pacific known as deep convective clouds.

The clouds create powerful updrafts that spawn fierce thunderstorms and intense rainfall, particularly during the winter.

A decade ago scientists discovered that pollution from Asia was worse than suspected. On any spring or summer day, almost a third of the air over California cities can be traced directly to Asia. Dust and industrial pollutants take from five days to two weeks to cross the Pacific.

A study found that deep convective clouds had increased between 20% and 50%.

Convective clouds can be many miles thick with a base near Earth's surface and a top frequently at an altitude of 33,000 feet or more.

The changing cloud patterns were linked to the increasing pollution through computer studies.

The Pacific pollution also may affect other pervasive patterns of air circulation that shape world climate.

Among other consequences, the more energetic Pacific storm track could be carrying warmer air and more black soot farther north into the Canadian Arctic. packs, the researchers said.

It will take more study to understand the international climate ramifications.

Until recently, most scientists believed that such pollution was a local problem. At low altitudes, the aerosol particles reflects the sun's energy back into space, cooling Earth's surface slightly and form brighter low-altitude clouds that also shield the surface from solar heat.

But once these particles reach the upper atmosphere, they generate fierce downpours from super-cooled droplets and ice particles instead of gentle warm showers.

Researchers have captured traces of ozone, carbon monoxide, mercury and particulate matter from Asia at monitoring sites in Washington state.

They have been picking up the signatures of Asian particulates and other pollutants at several monitoring sites north of San Francisco and, around Southern California.

The pollutants are suspended at high altitude and it is unclear how much of them reach ground level or what their direct effect on local weather might be. rw doclink

Solar Park Largest in Canada

February 21, 2007   University of Toronto

The University of Toronto has joined forces with ARISE Technologies and the Portlands Energy Centre to create the largest solar energy research facility in Canada. Researchers will capture solar energy into the electrical grid, evaluating how it interacts with electricity generated by other means. This project will mark the first time that solar energy will be integrated into the central electrical grid. Electricity has to be generated and while we can't see this eliminating nuclear generated power, it only is another means of generating electricity on a larger scale.

Everything about solar energy is environmentally friendly.

Solar energy can be harnessed to fulfill a significant portion of the global energy demand. This is the largest project on solar energy in Canada. New jobs and even new companies will be created. There is a market for the entrepreneurial spirit ranging from manufacturing to installations and marketing. rw doclink

Ralph says: What happens when the sun is not shining? Karen Gaia says: it takes energy to produce solar panels. If there is not enough sun where they are placed, they are a waste of energy.

Agency Proposes to List Polar Bears as Threatened

December 27, 2006   Washington Post

The U.S. Interior Department proposed to designate polar bears as a threatened species. The bears' population is 20,000 to 25,000.

Experts say that global warming is causing the ice to melt and is partly the result of the buildup of heat-trapping gases. But Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said that his department was not taking a position on why the ice was melting. Many contend that the buildup of these gases could create ice-free Arctic summers. The Interior Department must work out a recovery plan. A lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity, said "I don't see how this administration can write this proposal without acknowledging that the primary threat is global warming."

The world population of polar bears stands at 20,000 to 25,000. One-quarter to one-fifth occupies waters off the shores of Alaska. The bear population in the Western Hudson Bay in Canada, dropped 22%, to 935 from 1,194 from 1987 to 2004. The International Conservation Union gave polar bears threatened status projecting a decline of 30% by midcentury. Polar bears are dependent on sea ice as a platform for hunting seals, and a pathway to coastal areas.

They have survived previous warming periods, but some climate experts project that nothing in the species' history is likely to match the pace and extent of warming projected in this century. The Fish and Wildlife Service saw no risk to polar bears from oil and gas activity. Another division of the Interior Department proposed opening sections of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas to oil and gas drilling.

Critical-habitat designations ensure that federal agencies must study the impact that any activities that area might have on the species at risk. rw doclink

U.S.;: Large Families 'Bad for Parents'

December 26, 2006   BBC News

US researchers looked at 21,000 couples living in Utah between 1860 and 1985, who bore a total of 174,000 children.

The data showed that the more children a couple produced, the higher their risk of early death.

The situation was worst for women. Fathers' mortality risk increased the more children they had, but never exceeded that of mothers.

Mothers were more likely than fathers to die after the last child was born.

They found 1,414 women died within a year of the last child's birth, and 988 by the time the child was five.

In comparison, 613 men died in the first year after their last child was born, with another 1,083 dying within five years.

The larger the family, the more likely children were to die before the age of 18. The findings shed light on human reproduction which are still relevant today.

The female goes through a menopause which ends her reproductive years and appears to allow mothers to live longer and rear more offspring to adulthood. rw doclink

Canada;: Air Pollutants Up, Water Quality Down

November 23, 2006   Canadian Press

Environment Canada's annual report found that human exposure to ground-level ozone increased an average of 0.9% while greenhouse gas emissions rose 27%.

The 758 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent exceeds the reduction target of the Kyoto Protocol by 35%, or 200 million tonnes, making Canada one of the world's highest per capita emitters of greenhouse gases.

The ability of fresh water to support aquatic life was `fair' at 34% of 340 selected sites across southern Canada and `marginal' or `poor' at 22%. Many activities that contributed to air and water pollution and to greenhouse gas emissions rose between 1990 and 2004 real gross domestic product increased 47%, and the population grew 15%.

Energy production rose 44% since 1990, as a result of increases in the production of natural gas and crude oil. rw doclink

Canada;: Hot Air Act Canadian Clean Air Act Meets Icy Reception

October 13, 2006   Yahoo News

Canada will aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 45%-65% by 2050, ignoring its more stringent Kyoto Protocol commitment. The Conservative government's proposal drew the ire of environmentalists and Liberals.

The reduction is based on emissions from 2003 and would also allow emissions to rise until 2020.

Canada agreed under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by 2012.

In 2004, emissions were 26.6% above 1990 levels, despite $6.3 billion Canadian dollars spent by the previous Liberal administration on climate change measures since 1997.

Smog alerts have increased in major Canadian cities in recent decades. Canada's Conservative government has repeatedly said it could not meet Kyoto targets.

Prime Minister said the new regulatory framework will take time to put in place. The Opposition said the proposed bill is a national embarrassment.

Liberal critic added the plan takes a leisurely approach to dealing with global warming and will weaken what we have in place at the moment.

Fifty environmental groups want to embrace the Kyoto Protocol; to build on Canada's existing air quality law; to force industries responsible for half of Canada's emissions to curb their output; and to implement firm targets.

The draft law proposes applying targets that reduce emissions incrementally as industrial output increases until 2020. It would also harmonize standards for vehicles and fuels with US EPA standards. Car manufacturers, based in Ontario, agreed to a voluntary reduction of 5.3 mega tonnes of greenhouse gas through better fuel efficiency by 2010.

New mandatory regulations would only take effect for 2011 car and truck models.

Canada's oil and gas, forestry and other heavy industries would be forced to cut air pollution.

Industry targets will not be announced until consultations conclude in 2008. rw doclink

Warming Climate May Put Chill On Arctic Polar Bear Population

September 15, 2006   Terra Daily

Travel agents have been boasting of an increased likelihood that tourists will see polar bears -- because starving bears are encroaching on human settlements for food. Polar bears have used ice floes to hunt seals, but Arctic ice is melting. The spring hunting season for polar bears has been reduced by nearly three weeks, causing female bears to gain up to 175 pounds less. The skinny bears are more susceptible to disease and have diminished reproductive capabilities, and their cubs are less likely to survive. In 1980, the average weight of an adult female polar bear in western Hudson Bay was 650 pounds; in 2004, it was 507 pounds. The risk posed to polar bears by global warming is potentially irreversible. rw doclink

Canada: Brown Lawns Hot

July 09, 2006   Victoria News

People stopped watering their lawns in the drought of 2001, which was a reminder that all of our resources are precious as water is.

Stage 1 water conservation bylaws are in effect, and residents with even-numbered addresses are permitted to water their lawns Wednesdays and Saturdays. Residents with odd-numbered addresses Thursdays and Sundays.

Stage 1 restrictions aim to reduce water use by 10%.

Water levels in the Capital Region are at 89% capacity.

Capital Region residents use 45 million gallons of water a day. Wasting water costs money and exerts pressure on the environment.

Population growth, increasing development and the uncertainties of climate change are compounding threats to water securit. On average, Canadians consume twice as much water as Europeans.

Even in Canada drinking water supplies are at risk. Unless Canada changes its approach to water management, they are headed toward a water crisis. They nust focus on a innovation, new technologies and approaches to provide water in a more sustainable way.

Dual flush toilets, rainwater harvesting systems and reusing and recycling household or neighbourhood water are some examples.

Regulations must promote reuse and recycling, financial incentives that ensure developers build with efficiency technologies, prices that match the value of this resource, and promote conservation. rw doclink

Canada: A Post-Peak Vision for Local Planning

April 29, 2006   Energy Bulletin

The City Council voted to hire an energy policy expert to assess Hamilton's plans in the event of rising energy costs. The job went to Richard Gilbert.

Gilbert discussed his ideas about peak oil, natural gas, and ways that Hamilton might thrive with the energy shortages we face.

He suspects 4.00 a litre gasoline if optimistic. In fact, projected declines in supply indicates a 25% shortfall twelve years from now that would drive oil prices far beyond the $4.00 mark. Gilbert does not have much hope for aviation with energy costs per tonne-kilometre that are a hundred times higher than shipping and rail and will not provide a multiplier effect to businesses located around airports.

Gilbert focuses heavily on vehicles, powered by electricity. Currently the HSR's lines are running over capacity and in many cases, packed buses pass bus stops with passengers waiting. City staff are reluctant to spend money on new buses because rising energy costs are expected to increase the operating costs of the fleet. However, if the price of oil does jump six-fold in the next twelve years, Hamilton is going to need a robust transit system that can carry all those extra passengers or the city will shut down.

All cities can encourage walking, cycling, and public transit by making them as easy as possible. Public transit would be cost effective at much lower densities than it is today as long as people don't own cars. If everyone had to take public transit, there would be enough riders even in low-density sprawl neighbourhoods.

Gilbert's goals are to insulate Hamilton from energy scarcity and grow Hamilton's local employment opportunities. 1. Reduce per-capita energy use by two-thirds, for transport and in residential, commercial, and institutional buildings. 2. Generate the total amount of Hamilton's electricity consumption within Hamilton, while continuing to trade with the Ontario grid. 3. Generate half of Hamilton's non-electrical energy use within Hamilton. 4. The cost of implementing the first three objectives should result in no more than a doubling in real direct household and business expenditures on energy.

Gilbert's first objective to reduce per-capita energy use by two-thirds will require that the city become denser, more mixed, and more deeply connected by transit. Gilbert recommends changing the mix of personal vehicles, public transit, and human powered transit, and introducing some new modes.

A grid-connected, vehicle uses AC electricity off the grid and enjoys 9% efficiency.

Calgary has installed a light rail transit system with a wind farm that feeds into the grid. Hamilton can bridge the gulf between personal vehicles and grid-connection via some form of personal rapid transit (PRT). It's too early to say whether PRT will be viable and what form it might take. Gilbert also believes that avoiding vehicular trips will play a role in reducing our energy use. Buildings consume more energy than transportation. New buildings should be constructed with much higher energy efficiency standards than apply today, but the vast stock of existing buildings means an aggressive retrofitting campaign to reduce the energy consumption by 50% to 75%.

Heating and cooling can be achieved through passive solar energy collectors, deep lakewater cooling, and geothermal heating/cooling. Buildings can achieve greater conservation through more efficient appliances and lights and efficient use of existing facilities. The city's tools can include tax incentives bulk purchases of retrofitting services, and pursuing an economic strategy that emphasises energy.

The three most promising ways to generate renewable electricity are wind turbines, solar photovoltaic (PV), and incineration. Wind turbines are cheap to manufacture and provide years of electricity. They can generate electricity for about five to seven cents per kilowatt-hour, comparable to natural gas fired power plants. A strategy could include offshore wind farms, turbines installed on farmland and in urban areas. A new generation of vertical axis turbines are lightweight and have low vibration and noise.

Solar energy is expensive, but its efficiency is improving, its price is falling, and it will become increasingly competitive. On average, using today's technology, rooftop PV can generate 43% of the electricity a building uses.

A major retrofitting exercise could install solar collectors on buildings across the city.

1. Make energy use and production the principle determinant of land-use decisions. 2. Give 'greenfield' development low priority. Today, Hamilton plans to accommodate future growth via greenfield development in rural farmland. In an energy constrained world, this no longer makes sense. 3. No abandonment of existing low-density areas. . 4. Plan for a mixing of uses. A variety of homes, jobs, businesses, retail, public amenities) must be in close proximity. 5. Aggressively pursue 'brownfield' development. Using existing public infrastructure brings more destinations into close proximity. 6. Foster vibrant centres. Become a collection of neighbourhoods rather than a city-wide agglomeration of zones. 7. Arrange that development supports low-energy transport. rw doclink

U.S.: Low Salmon Numbers Provoke Protests, Legislation, and a State of Emergency

April 24, 2006   San Jose Mercury News

Lawmakers plan to call on the federal government to implement a $45 million recovery plan for salmon in the Klamath River and would provide $81 million in disaster relief for businesses affected by the restrictions.

The bigger problem is called "gross mismanagement" of the Klamath's water quality. Water diverted to farms has resulted in tens of thousands of salmon killed by water conditions.

A bill, to be introduced in Congress to complete a recovery plan within six months, then put $45 million toward conservation projects that will better monitor and study water quality.

Following direction from the federal agency that overseas salmon restoration and ocean fisheries, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, voted to limit commercial salmon fishing along 700 miles of coast from Cape Falcon, Ore., down to Big Sur. The decision must be approved by the Secretary of Commerce.

Many fishermen said their livelihoods were at risk if they weren't allowed back.

An angler from Fort Bragg presented Thompson with an 8,000-signature petition calling for the reopening of the salmon season.

Bob Transano said the restrictions have slashed his income by 70% and wonders how long he can stay in business under current policies. rw doclink

Foetuses 'Cannot Experience Pain'

April 13, 2006   BBC News

Foetuses cannot feel pain because it requires mental development that only occurs outside the womb. A baby's actions and relationships with carers enabled it to process pain. Pro-life groups say foetuses respond to stimuli from 20 weeks.

The US is considering legislation to make doctors tell women seeking an abortion it will cause the foetus pain.

By the age of 20 weeks unborn children can respond to external aural stimuli such as music and conversation and it is also suggested that, if the pregnancy is over 22 weeks, foetuses should be given pain-relieving drugs.

Pathways in the brain needed to process pain responses and hormonal stress responses are in place by 26 weeks, but the crucial factor is the environmental difference between the womb - where the placenta provides a chemical environment to encourage the foetus to sleep, and that of a newborn baby, who is exposed to a wide range of stimuli. Pain comes from our experiences and develops due to stimulation and human interaction. It involves location, feelings of unpleasantness and having the sensation of pain.

Pain becomes possible because of a psychological development that begins at birth when the baby is separated from the protected atmosphere of the womb and is stimulated into wakeful activity.

Whether or not foetuses felt pain did not change the moral viewpoints of the pro-choice and pro-life lobby.

Avoiding a discussion of foetal pain with women requesting abortions is a sound policy based on good evidence that foetuses cannot experience pain.

Giving foetuses painkilling drugs involved procedures which may expose the woman to unnecessary risks and distress.

But a spokeswoman for pro-life said that if the unborn child can feel pain, then it makes abortion all the more horrifying. By 20 weeks unborn children can respond to external stimuli. But the issue of whether foetuses felt pain was irrelevant to the abortion debate. rw doclink

Plants Won't Help Reduce Greenhouse Gas as Much as Hoped

April 12, 2006   Pioneer Press

Because carbon dioxide is the most common greenhouse gas a finding raises the possibility of accelerated global warming. Computer modeling has counted on terrestrial plants to use up a share of the carbon dioxide that's being emitted into the atmosphere. But a study found that for plants to absorb extra carbon dioxide, they need artificially higher levels of nitrogen, which much of the world's soils cannot provide.

This suggests a less optimistic scenario for how much of the CO2 the plant systems can soak up. The study is the first look at how soil nitrogen affects the abilities of plants in open-air ecosystems to increase their size by absorbing extra carbon dioxide. Researchers found that unless plants were given extra nitrogen, there were limits on how much more they could grow, regardless of how much carbon dioxide was available.

Much of the world's soils have limited nitrogen levels, and it would be impractical to boost them.

The researchers tended 296 plots containing different numbers and combinations of perennial grassland species. They subjected each to one of four conditions: some got added soil nitrogen, others got added atmospheric carbon dioxide, and others got added levels of each. Researchers measured the amount of plant material produced. After four to six years, plots receiving more nitrogen absorbed three times as much extra carbon under higher carbon-dioxide conditions than did plots without any extra nitrogen. rw doclink

US Missouri: Northeast Missouri Becomes Latest Battleground Over Hog Farms

March 28, 2006   Associated Press

Dick Lawler says he won't surrender Mark Twain Lake, a resource for 21 communities in Missouri, to a hog farm. He fears contamination, odor and loss of the community's quality of life. But young farmer Jared Windmann sees corporate hog farming as salvation. Northeast Missouri is one of the latest flashpoints over corporate hog farms as Cargill markets opportunities to farmers looking to hold on. Cargill wants to sign up 30 farmers a year to raise company-owned hogs closer to Cargill processing plants. The move is aimed at reducing Cargill's fuel costs and gaining control of the hogs and end product. Under the plans, contract farmers do the raising, while Cargill owns the hogs, provides the feed and controls for antibiotic use and weight for market. What Cargill hadn't counted on in the resistance from northern Missouri. More than a dozen counties have passed health ordinances that control for odor and particulates, and require bonds, fees and annual inspections. The rules act as a deterrent to farmers and the banks that lend them money -- about $500,000 for a 2,500-head operation. Still, 15 to 20 Cargill contract hog farms could be built this summer. In Marion County, plans for a hog farm collapsed under the opposition from the village of Emerson, population 60. The Missouri Farm Bureau worries that counties with health ordinances will suffer economically because investors will be scared away. Proposed legislation that would make it tougher for counties to restrict large livestock operations is on hold. "Odor is a four-letter word in this part of the country, but what is going to be here for us to feast on for an economy?" rw doclink

U.S.: Group Backs Grizzlies on Endangered List

March 22, 2006   Associated Press

Scientists have signed a letter protesting a proposal to no longer protect grizzly bears in the Yellowstone area. The letter was addressed to Chris Servheen, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's grizzly bear recovery coordinator. Among those signing were primatologist Jane Goodall and bear researchers Chuck Jonkel and John Craighead Sr. The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed "delisting" bears in the Yellowstone area, declaring them recovered. The agency said the population has grown to 7% a year since the mid-'90s, to more than 600.

The scientists said that an isolated population of 500 to 600 bears does not constitute a recovered one.

A population of 2,000 to 3,000 is needed for genetic diversity and to withstand regional variation. A smaller one is likely to go extinct, they argued.

Three researchers questioned the accuracy of the estimates.

The agency has received about 160,000 comments.

The proposal affects bears in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and surrounding national forests in parts of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. rw doclink

U.S.: We Don't Need 'Guest Workers'

March 21, 2006   Midwest Coalition to Reduce Immigration

In 1964 Congress killed the seasonal Mexican laborers program despite warnings that its abolition would doom the tomato industry. Then scientists developed oblong tomatoes that could be harvested by machine and California's tomato output has risen fivefold. Now we're being warned again that we need unskilled laborers from Mexico and Central America to relieve U.S. "labor shortages." Guest workers would mainly legalize today's vast inflows of illegal immigrants, with the same consequence: We'd be importing poverty. They generally don't go home, assimilation is slow and the ranks of the poor are constantly replenished. Since 1980 the number of Hispanics with incomes below the government's poverty line has risen 162%, while the number of non-Hispanic whites in poverty rose 3% and blacks, 9.5%. What we have now is a policy of creating poverty in the US while relieving it in Mexico. It stresses local schools, hospitals and housing and feeds social tensions (witness the Minutemen). Some Americans get cheap landscaping services but if more mowed their own lawns it wouldn't be a tragedy. Among immigrant Mexican and Central American workers in 2004, only 7% had a college degree and nearly 60% lacked a high school diploma. Among native-born U.S. workers, 32% had a college degree and 6% did not have a high school diploma. The illegal immigrants represent only about 4.9% of the labor force. In no major occupation are they a majority. They're drawn here by wage differences, not labor "shortages." Most new illegal immigrants can get work by accepting wages below prevailing levels. Hardly anyone thinks that illegal immigrants will leave, but what would happen if illegal immigration stopped and wasn't replaced by guest workers? Some employers would raise wages to attract U.S. workers; others would find ways to minimize those costs. The number of native high school dropouts with jobs declined by 1.3 million from 2000 to 2005. Some lost jobs to immigrants and unemployment remains high for some groups. Business organizations support guest worker programs - they like cheap labor and ignore the consequences. Why do liberals support a program that worsens poverty and inequality? Poor immigrant workers hurt the wages of unskilled Americans. We've never tried a policy of real barriers and strict enforcement against companies that hire illegal immigrants. Until that's shown to be ineffective, we shouldn't adopt guest worker programs that add to serious social problems. rw doclink

Polar Bears Face New Toxic Threat: Flame Retardants

January 22, 2006   Los Angeles Times

Polar bears throughout the Arctic face an additional threat as flame retardants originating largely in the United States are building up in their bodies. They are one of hundreds of industrial compounds carried to the Arctic by winds and ocean currents. In urban areas, researchers have shown that levels of flame retardants called polybrominated diphenyls, or PBDEs, are growing at a rapid pace. They have been found in lower concentrations in the Arctic, but they will persist for years because they are slow to break down in cold climates. In tests on laboratory animals, PBDEs disrupted thyroid and sex hormones and damaged developing brains. Other chemicals with similar properties are weakening the bears' immune systems, altering their bone structure, skewing their sex hormones. What remains uncertain is whether those changes are killing bears or reducing their populations. An even more immediate threat to the polar bears is global climate change, which is melting their hunting grounds. Biologists for the first time have documented that polar bears are drowning. Some populations could become extinct by the end of the century as more sea ice melts. The geographical patterns in contamination suggest that the East Coast of N America and northwestern Europe are the primary sources of the flame retardants and the most highly contaminated bears are in eastern Greenland and Norway's Svalbard islands, where the chemicals are about 10 times more concentrated than in bears in Alaska. Svalbard is a national refuge where hunting is prohibited, but scientists say its bear population is not thriving, and older females aren't producing cubs. Some brominated flame retardants magnify from prey to predator at an extraordinary rate. One compound was 71 times more concentrated in polar bears than in ringed seals, their major food source. Manufacturing industries in the US use large volumes of PBDEs. The most abundant comes from a compound called penta, used primarily in N. America to make foam furniture cushions fire-resistant. The only U.S. manufacturer of PBDE ended their production in 2004 after the compounds began building up in human breast milk and Europe and California banned their use. Although the flame retardants had been doubling every four to five years in Arctic ringed seals from 1981 to 2000, they have stabilized as the bans on the two compounds go into effect. Although banned by industrialized nations in the 1970s, PCBs persist in the environment for decades, and remain the most abundant and worrisome contaminant in polar bears. In Seattle, 40 wildlife scientists adopted a resolution declaring that the bears are "susceptible to the effects of pollutants," and those effects could be worsened by the stresses of global warming. Gulls in Svalbard have shown signs of reproductive, behavioral and developmental stress, perhaps from PCBs and other contaminants. Chemical loads are also high in Arctic foxes and whales. Marine mammals in N. America's urbanized areas, particularly killer whales and belugas, are 100 times more contaminated with PBDEs than Arctic creatures. rw doclink

China Pays Huge Price for Its Peaceful Rising

January 15, 2006   China Post

China's peaceful rise is phenomenal and the envy of many in the world. The country's economy in 2005 could become the fourth largest in the world. But the achievement is costly, in social and environmental terms. The gap between rich and poor is widening and the deterioration of the environment is threatening the country's economic development. China's measurement of a country's income inequality has doubled in the past 20 years. Mainland China's increased GDP in 2005 will make the inequality worse. The mainland's city vs countryside income ratio could be as high as 6:1. Mainland China ranks 90th in the UNDP's 131-nation human-development index and leads the world in creating one of the most unequal societies in history. The cost to the environment is even greater. Public accidents have caused more than one million casualties each year, and economic losses of 650 billion yuan (US$80 billion). In 2004, these accidents killed 210,000 people and injured another 1.75 million. In the mining sector, mainland China has the world's worst record. In the past month, accidents claimed more than 300 lives. From 2001 to 2004, accidents in China's coal mines claimed 6,282 lives a year. Chemical spills and toxic emissions keep contaminating the water and air. Last month a metal factory near Hong Kong leaked cancer-causing cadmium into the Bei River. This month, a fertilizer plant in Sichuan dumped 600 tons of sulfuric acid into the Qijiang River. These problems, plus income inequalities, could trigger social unrest. rw doclink

Canada: Safe-Sex Message Lost on Younger Audience

January 10, 2006  

Despite education programs and increased awareness of the dangers of unprotected intercourse, the safe-sex message may be missing its young target audience in Toronto, Canada. Data shows that while approximately 80% of 20- to 24-year-olds report being sexually active, 44% of them reported having sex without a condom during the past year. rw doclink

Canadians' Bodies Polluted with Over Three Dozen Toxic Chemicals

November 20, 2005   Globe and Mail

Average Canadians may be packed with more than 40 human-made substances that mess with reproduction and fetal development. 11 volunteers whose lifestyles represented a cross-section of society were checked for 88 chemicals. Participants tested positive for an average of 44 including heavy metals, pesticides, PCBs, and it didn't seem to matter how green or health-conscious their habits were. The health impacts of the chemicals are unclear, but Environmental Defense Canada thinks it's obvious folks would be better off without them. rw doclink

Canada: Population Growth, Bad Planning Risks Ontario Environment

November 2, 2005   Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal

Unchecked population growth and a flawed planning system are endangering Ontario's wildlife, forests and water. The Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller questioned Ontario's unbridled expansion asking if regions in Ontario, especially southern Ontario, can sustain and assimilate unchecked growth. It is projectes that six million more people will call Ontario home over the next 25 years, a 50% increase. There's no evidence that economic prosperity depends on an ever-increasing population, said Miller, who painted a picture of a sprawling, southern Ontario choking on polluted air and unable to contain its own sewage and garbage. It's a serious problem no one wants to talk about, he said. The topic of sustainability and the future of our lifestyle and environment is a forbidden topic. Caplan said the province has a growth plan to better manage its expansion while mitigating potential damage. Environmental groups were quick to support Miller's call for a debate on the issue. Liberals don't classify infrastructure projects such as highways as development for planning purposes and the result is that highways and hydro lines can be pushed through woodlands, wetlands and environmentally sensitive areas with little regard for their impact. Miller saved his harshest criticism for the Ministry of Transportation, citing a damaging expansion of Highway 400 as an example of the government's attitude toward the environment. The Sierra Legal Defence Fund said that the report paints a troubling picture of a province whose laws and conflicted policies have undermined its attempt to safeguard our future. rw doclink

Canada: Oil From Sand a Booming Commodity

October 26, 2005   Boston Globe

A truck taller than a two-story house was filled with 400 tons of tar sands that were poured into a crusher that mixed the sands with water and sent the slurry down a pipe which flowed more than 3 miles where hot water and chemical reactions produces only one barrel of crude oil from each 2 tons of oil sands. Skyrocketing prices for crude have made these sands profitable and turned Fort McMurray into a boomtown. U.S. officials are turning attention to Alberta's vast beds of oil sands. The recently passed energy bill calls for research and commercial leasing of federal lands to hasten the US's development of oil shale in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. Oil shale is similar to oil sands, but extracting crude is more difficult. The US has between 500 billion and 1.1 trillion recoverable barrels of oil from shale reserves. Eight hundred billion barrels is enough oil to meet 25% of the nation's demand for the next 400 years. But as popularity of oil sands grows in Canada, so do concerns over environmental damage. Enormous amounts of natural gas and water are used to extract the crude, greenhouse gas emissions are high, and environmentalists worry that the land may never bounce back. The process turns vast amounts of water into a toxic mixture, forcing companies to create large impoundments. Companies that mine oil sands say that they have had success in lowering the amount of natural gas and water used to produce oil, and they are seeking further reductions. At Syncrude, a 10-year-old reclamation project at a former mining site shows the beginnings of a viable ecosystem, but it will take years to know if it will truly be sustainable. Oil explorers have long searched for financially competitive sources to help the US move from dependence on Middle East oil and offset forecasts that global oil production would soon peak. In Canada, explorers have said the sands under northern Alberta would be the future of oil. Industry analysts were quick to add that the prediction would remain a wistful dream. Squeezing useable oil is far too expensive to compete with the crude from the Middle East. The run-up in oil prices, combined with better technology, have made Canada the largest foreign supplier. Canada has the second largest reserves of crude in the world behind Saudi Arabia, and investors have pledged to triple output to 3 million barrels a day by 2020. In Fort McMurray's tiny airport, a video explains oil sand extraction to travelers, and tours bus visitors to the mines to show off the world's biggest trucks. Because of technology improvements, oil sands companies have been producing oil for as little as $24 a barrel, making a huge profit for companies when oil prices hit $70 a barrel. rw doclink

What happens when natural gas peaks?

U.S.: Bush Calling for Private Fisheries

September 28, 2005   Portland Press Herald

The Bush administration proposed legislation to overhaul management of the nation's fisheries, by giving regulators greater flexibility and encouraging them to privatize fisheries. Some environmental groups applauded privatization, others said the bill would weaken conservation rules. Bush's legislation would amend the Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which was last updated in 1996. The Senate's Commerce Committee has been working on a draft of its own bill. The administration's plan would double by 2010 the fisheries that are privatized where access is limited to those who own allocated shares, that can be bought and sold, of the annual catch. Some environmental groups, support privatization because it gives fishermen a financial incentive to conserve fidh stocks. In fisheries where such programs have been implemented, fishermen have enjoyed higher profits, lower costs, longer fishing seasons and a more stable industry. The program has been popular in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, but controversial in New England because of fears that it would allow corporations to take over the fisheries. The goal is to encourage eight new fisheries to use privatization programs. In New England, one could be on Cape Cod, where fishermen use hooks and gill nets to catch cod and haddock in near-shore waters. The Bush plan would revoke the requirement that all fisheries be restored to healthy levels in 10 years and limits the number of fishing days given to New England groundfish boats. The Bush plan would allow regional councils to address the needs of fishing communities when rebuilding stocks. The change would allow fishermen to catch more fish while stocks are rebuilding, and conservation groups worry that this would increase the chance that a species could collapse. Some species, such as Georges Bank cod, have not recovered since the mid-1990s. rw doclink

Why Canadian Women Still Denied Abortion Pill: Health Canada Cannot Extend Invitation to Maker of RU-486

July 23, 2005   CanWest News Service (Canada)

In any industrialized country, women seeking to terminate pregnancies need only take a fistful of pills and a glass of water. But not in Canada, where RU-486 remains unavailable. Foreign manufacturers won't market the drug until they are invited by Health Canada, to ensure they won't be facing a hostile government. But federal policy dictates Health Canada can extend no invitation. Access continues to decline with only 17.8% of hospitals performing abortions and two provinces with no access at all. Any push to get the drug mifepristone approved in Canada is certain to be contentious. Pro-lifers fight to have the drug pulled off the U.S. market, and the U.S. manufacturer revealed there had been two more deaths linked to the pill and added new warnings about the possibility of deadly infections when taking the drug. Pro-choice advocates laud the pill as a safe and effective alternative to surgical abortion. Former NDP health minister Penny Priddy is calling on federal Health Minister to make mifepristone available to Canadian women. On his third day in the Oval Office, Mr. Clinton issued an executive order to bring the pill to the US. Mifepristone is used to carry out a "medical abortion" up to nine weeks after conception. In the US five women have died out of 460,000 who used the pill. On Aug. 28, 2001, an unidentified Canadian woman became the first North American fatality. rw doclink

Canada: Sand Trap Cancers, Other Diseases Rising Near Alberta Oil Sands

March 14, 2005   CBC News

Illnesses including leukemia and lymphomas are cropping up at greater than expected rates in a community near Canada's oil sands. At Fort Chipewyan incidences started rising when the oil industry started extracting thousands of barrels of oil a day near their community. The area medical examiner says he'd like to figure out what's going on before more oil developments are approved. He's diagnosing high numbers of immune-system diseases, and also treated five community members for a fatal cancer that occurs in one out of 100,000 people. He is negotiating with federal health officials to start an investigation ASAP. Alberta's oil sands are estimated to hold between 1.7 trillion and 2.5 trillion barrels of oil and production is set to quadruple in the next 25 years. rw doclink

North America's Environment: a 30-year Review

February 07, 2003   United Nations Environment Program

North America moved to reduce CFC emissions to nearly zero by 1996. Sulfur dioxide emissions declined 31% between 1981 and 2000. Between 1986 and 1997 there was an 80% reduction in wetlands loss compared to previous decade. Between 1988 and 1993, over 850,000 hectares (2.1 million acres) of wetlands were protected in Canada. Emissions of 6 point source water pollutants were cut by 29%. There were reductions in wind and water erosion. Total energy use grew 31% between 1972 and 1997 due to 27% population growth, largely because of a 30% increase in miles driven. 21% of 43 groundfish stocks in Canada's North Atlantic are in decline. One-third of U.S. Federally managed fisheries are overfished. Non-point nutrient loads in water supplies have increased. 65% of coastal rivers and bays are degraded by nutrient pollution. While North America annually grows 255 million cubic meters more timber than it harvests, eastern forests have become fragmented, and western forests are threatened by insect invasions and catastrophic fires.

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