Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ruth Norton Smith (Nov 27, 1921 - Oct 14, 2007)

Ruth Norton Smith died peacefully in Boulder, Colorado  on Sunday, October 14, 2007 after enjoying her full measure of life. 

Ruth was born in Oklahoma on November 27, 1921 in a tent in Oklahoma.  She was raised during the Depression years, moving frequently as her family farmed and followed the tunneling, mining, and other work available to her father.  Ultimately, her family settled in southern California.  There Ruth met the love of her life, Herbert Frank Smith, a carpenter and union organizer, whom she married on June 4, 1941. 

In WW II, while her husband served in the Navy in the South Pacific, Ruth became a Rosie the Riveter, building bombers, and then joined the Women’s Army Corps, serving as a nurse.  After the war, they settled in the Los Angeles area, where she became a real estate broker and the mom of two children, Greg in 1948 and Susan in 1953.

In 1955, her family moved to Colorado where she worked side by side with her husband to build two of the largest home-building companies in Colorado, Happy Homes and Fireside Homes, and a prominent real estate firm.  When she left real estate and home-building in the late 1960s, Ruth became a political and market researcher for Research Services, Inc. and later became a researcher for the U.S. Census Bureau, from which she retired in 1989.

Ruth was a life-long Democratic political activist with a passion for peace, civil rights, and all aspects of social justice.  She served in every capacity: running political campaigns, serving as a precinct committee woman, county, congressional district, and state delegate, pollwatcher, and election judge.  She worked with Metro Denver Fair Housing center as a realtor, helping the first African-American families in Jefferson County to find housing.  She volunteered with youth mentoring programs in Four Points and with Metro Denver Urban Coalition, Another Mother for Peace, Meals on Wheels, and countless other organizations. 

Ruth was too busy with her family, volunteer work and career for many hobbies.  She thrived on the stimulating conversations born by inviting friends and guests from all over the world and from every walk of life to dinner.  She also found great pleasure in reading, traveling and attending theatre and opera performances.

Ruth was a warm, intelligent, extroverted vibrant woman who loved and was loved by virtually everyone she met.   Her loss will be sorely missed by the many friends and family she has left behind, including her sister Lorene, her brother Fred, her son Greg, her daughter Susan, and her grandchildren Clint Smith, Brent Smith, Nathanial Smith-Tripp and Sarah Smith-Tripp.  Her family and friends will gather at Mt. Vernon Country Club on Sunday, October 21, 2007 at 10:30 am for a celebration of her life.  The family requests that no flowers be sent and suggests donations to Meals on Wheel or a charity of your choice.

October 18, 2007 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Thank you to Read/Write Web

Thursday, October 4, 2007

A Modest Proposal

As my Climate Change and Energy class was talking on Tuesday, I floated a modest proposal. 

Cap and trade CO2 emissions at existing power plants and other industrial consumers of fossil fuels to meet the 80% decrease from 1990 level by 2050 goal, but also put in place a little command and control regulation.  With respect to new coal-fired (and I suppose natural gas) plants, impose a uniform, national technology-based performance standard under the Clean Air Act requiring new plant carbon dioxide emissions to be equal to or less than the emissions from IGCC with carbon sequestration and storage [i.e. roughly zero].  To assure a level playing field, impose a ban on licensing of any new nuclear power plant unless and until there are fully permitted, environmentally safe locations for permanent storage of all nuclear waste produced from existing plants and the plant to be licensed.   This would assure that every new power plant built be roughly carbon neutral and more environmentally benign.

While arguably burdensome NSPS and NSR requirements for new power plants  previously created strong incentives for utilities and others to continue to use old plants, retool them, and game applicability thresholds set on modification/reconstruction, those incentives would be substantially reduced if existing plants faced a relatively steep CO2 phase-down requirement.

So what's wrong with a little command & control?  It would certainly create strong incentives for the power industry to install IGCC or develop alternative technologies, and hasten the establishment of CSS technology and sites.  From what I read, it is technically feasible to require IGCC and CSS.  We have plentiful coal resources.  We could share any clean coal and nuclear waste storage technological developments fostered by these requirements with other countries which undoubtedly will be using more coal and nuclear.

And....the cost per ton of carbon dioxide emissions avoided is likely to be much less than that achieved through ethanol, biodiesel, and hybrid transportation technologies.  So start here now!  Besides, if we can get clean electricity, then the electric car may rise from the dead  and the production of hydrogen for transportation may become economically feasible.

What do you think???

October 4, 2007 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, Legislation, Sustainability, US | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 6, 2007

Vote for Children's Safe Drinking Water

Welcome, SusanSmithDrinkWaterforLife
Our Money. Your Ideas. Your Decision.
My Current Vote
Children's Safe Drinking Water
Votes this round: 512  |  Send to a Friend

Project ID: 01250
Date Posted: 7/02

Supporting Organization
US Fund for UNICEF

Project Description:
For Two Cents We Can Change the World. Four thousand children die needlessly every day from drinking contaminated water. It's a tragedy that hundreds of millions of people obtain their drinking water from polluted sources such as muddy rivers, ponds, and streams. This public health crisis can be addressed today through an innovative and low-cost technology that effectively purifies and cleans water while removing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Right now millions of people in Africa, Asia, and the Americas are being reached by a not-for-profit project, but millions more are in need. Help us reach a goal of providing 2 billion liters of safe drinking water. For only two pennies a day a child can have safe drinking water. We'd love to hear your thoughts. In fact, Give Us Your Two Cents Worth. Thank you.

Member: gsallgood


About Me:
My mission is to prevent the sickness and death that occur in the developing world from drinking unsafe water. I'm lucky to spend much of my life building partnerships to provide a low-cost technology to purify water. I never get tired of seeing filthy and highly contaminated water miraculously turn into clear and safe water. And, what's most satisfying is to provide children with their first drink of truly clean and purified water. Now we've developed a way for everyone to get involved. We can make, transport, and deliver the technology on a sustainable basis for only pennies per person. In fact, for just two cents we can provide purified drinking water for a person for a day. Two Cents to Change a Life. Please consider joining our project: "Give Your Two Cents Worth.


Hear From The Fulfilling Organization

1.1 billion people around the world do not have access to clean water. As a result, 5,000 children die needlessly every day. In poor, rural communities, the only source of water is often miles away and the grueling task of collecting it often falls to young girls.

In the mountain village of La Horca, Nicaragua, Rosibel Gonzalez, 12, traveled 7.5 miles each day to fetch water for her parents and five siblings. Waking up before dawn, she walked to the creek before school and carried back a bucket of water on her head. She repeated the task after school and again before bed. But because the water she fetched came from the same source used by village livestock, it was dangerous to drink. When Rosibel's little brother, Wilber, was only eight months old, he and other villagers contracted cholera. That's where UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, came in. UNICEF provided a new solar-powered water pump and filtration system to bring clean water directly into La Horca's 35 homes. Now, Rosibel and her entire village have safe water to drink and Rosibel is left with plenty of time to study and play with her little brother.

With a presence in 156 countries, UNICEF is striving to duplicate this success worldwide. By voting for this project, you can help UNICEF save millions of children's lives. We know what needs to be done, we just need your help to do it. Only 2 cents will purchase one water purification tablet to clean 5 liters of water, $48 can purchase a portable latrine and $5,000 can buy a solar water pump, like the one installed in Rosibel's village. UNICEF partners with communities to provide these and other innovative, low-cost and life-saving solutions for the world's most vulnerable children and their families.

July 6, 2007 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Zoellick becomes World Bank president

The Executive Directors of the World Bank yesterday unanimously selected Robert Zoellick as the 11th President of the bank for a five-year term.

The President of the bank is ex-officio President of the International Development Association (IDA) and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), and the Administrative Council of the International Centre of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

This announcement affects every aspect of environmental, energy, and resources law, of course, due to the Bank's pivotal role in financing development -- and thereby setting development policy throughout the world.  So, who is this masked man?

Here's the Bank's bio:

Professional History of Mr. Robert B. Zoellick

Mr. Zoellick, a U.S. national, is currently Vice Chairman, International, of Goldman Sachs Group, and a Managing Director and Chairman of Goldman Sach’s Board of International Advisors. He has served in a number of senior positions in successive US administrations, including as Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of State, and as U.S. Trade Representative (2001-05). He also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions Policy, US Department of Treasury, and Undersecretary for Economic and Agricultural Affairs and Counselor in the U.S. State Department. He was Executive Vice President of Fannie Mae (1993-1997), the large U.S. mortgage finance corporation, as well as Vice President and Assistant to the Chairman and CEO. In addition, he served as Olin Visiting Professor, U.S. Naval Academy, as Senior Advisor, Goldman Sachs, as Research Scholar, Belfer Center, Harvard University, and previously on three corporate boards, as well as numerous research and non-profit boards.

Mr. Zoellick has a J.D., magna cum laude, Harvard Law School, and a M.P.P. (in public management and international issues) from the Kennedy School of Government. In addition, Mr. Zoellick has received numerous distinguished service awards.

Read between the lines: Zoellick is a Bush loyalist and true believer in globalization for the benefit of corporate interests and the wealthy.  Wouldn't it be refreshing sometime for the World Bank to be led by someone who is committed to reducing international poverty and who has on the ground development experience -- rather than ideological theorizing and strategizing experience.

Unfortunately, and I say this as an alumna of both, Zoellick's Kennedy School and HLS credentials just mean he's smart, not moral or committed to the public he is supposed to serve.

June 26, 2007 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Klamath Basin reflections

Occasionally there is an overlap in the theological writing I do and my professional life.  I wrote a sermon recently on the water resources conflicts in the Klamath Basin.  Those of you with a spiritual, religious, or theological viewpoint might want to take a look.  I welcome comment.

The Scripture Readings

Genesis 1: 9-12, 20-31; 2:8-9, 15

Exodus 17: 1-7

Psalm 95

Mathew 13: 3-9

The Message

Good Soil

The reading from the gospel of Matthew seems a fitting place to start today for it is a parable Jesus told about the sower – and this church is filled with sowers -- of both seed and word. Jesus said sometimes seed fails to grow because it falls on a hardened path, rocky ground, or among the thorns. But when seed falls upon good soil, it brings forth grain. As with most of Jesus’ parables, we are left to ponder exactly what Jesus was trying to say to his followers. The gospel invites us to that inquiry with the charge “Let anyone with ears, listen!”

The people of the Klamath Basin have been divided and torn apart by the conflicting claims of farmers, fishers, tribal peoples, and endangered species for scarce water resources. These groups have attempted through non-violent direct action, litigation, mediation and negotiation to resolve those claims. But they remain divided and the water resources problems remain unsolved. Often, mediators remind us of one truth that resonates with Christians: people in a community can best resolve conflicts by listening to one another and attempting to address each person’s interests to the greatest extent possible, with creative and loving solutions. But, today, I want to hold up other truths the people of the Klamath Basin must not only hear, but listen to with their hearts, if this region is to find lasting, sustainable solutions to its water resources problems.

One thing we know as Christians is that any lasting solution must grow from the seed, the seed that Jesus sought to sow in all of us, the seed that is deep, abiding love for God – and its fruit: love of one’s true self, love of neighbor, and love of all God’s creation.

As Christians, we are called to care for all of God’s creation. Humans were placed on Earth in the garden of Eden to till and keep it -- to care for the plants, trees, birds, sea life, wildlife and people God created. As Genesis 1:31 says, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. As the United Methodist Church instructs in the Book of Discipline, Social Principles, Paragraph 160:

All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings. God has granted us stewardship of creation. We should meet these stewardship duties through acts of loving care and respect.

We must confess that have fallen far short as faithful, loving stewards of creation. We pollute the water and air so that they injure both humans and other life. By watering suburban lawns and by using outdated irrigation techniques, we waste half of our precious water. We condone the death of entire species by destroying their habitats through profligate waste of water and unsustainable logging and ranching practices. And, as we have belatedly recognized, by relying on oil and gas and coal to fuel our modern, spendthrift lifestyles, we are now endangering the very climate of our planet upon which all life depends.

Why has the good seed of stewardship and sustainability failed to bear fruit? As the gospel of Matthew explained the parable of the sower:

When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart: this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the world, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.

When we fail in our duty as stewards of God’s creation, the seed sown by Jesus has fallen on poor soil. But, what makes us hardened paths or rocky ground or thorny bramble?

Hardened paths are those who do not understand. Some of us are hardened against recognizing our duty of stewardship and sustainable living by misreading the gospel. Humans anxious for biblical sanction to destroy creation misinterpret Genesis 1:28 in particular. That verse reads in part: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it…and have dominion over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” Some turn the words “subdue” and “dominion,” the English words we have used to translate the Hebrew scriptures, into a right to annihilate nature. But the Hebrew words suggest the human role as mastery over earthly creation. A master may use earth’s resources to create worthy products, but a good master does not abuse those resources nor misuse them for trifling purposes. Indeed, the statement “God’s Earth is Sacred,” drafted by an ecumenical group of renowned theologians – including Methodist theologians – speaks directly to this issue. It condemns and refutes the “false gospel” which proclaims “that God cares for the salvation of humans only and that our human calling is to exploit the Earth for our own ends alone.”i

Some of us may have been hardened by misreading John Wesley, especially his practical essay on the Use of Money. Wesley indeed encouraged Christians to be diligent and productive, to “gain all you can,” but recognized that gain must not be at the expense of another. When we gain by injuring the whole of creation, we transgress that limit. We also violate Wesley’s injunction to “save all you can”: by wasting much of what we gain. We indulge in extravagant lifestyles – to the expensive apparel, epicurean food, expensive furniture, costly pictures and paintings, and elegant gardens condemned by John Wesley, we modern Christians add a host of acronyms, SUVs, MP3s, HDTVs, and ATVs – at the cost of the Earth and other creatures that inhabit it.

Some of us may have been hardened because secular society encourages us to do whatever we want with our money or land – we have money and hold title to land and water and therefore possess inviolable “private property rights.” Charmed by the siren call of those who make fortunes litigating our “rights,” we sometimes forget that Christians never own what society calls “private property.” As John Wesley said in his Use of Money essay:

When the possessor of heaven and earth brought you into being, and placed you in this world, he placed you here, not as a proprietor, but a steward: As such he entrusted you, for a season, with goods of various kinds; but the sole property of these still rests in him, nor can ever be alienated from him.

And then, there is rocky ground. Rocky ground is those of us who hear and understand the word, but fall away when trouble comes. I have stood on this rocky ground. I come from a family of miners and carpenters, who loved both their work and the outdoors. But when mines shut down and the price of lumber skyrocketed because of environmental requirements, many of my family lost faith. They were tied to their way of life and were unwilling to sacrifice it. Rather than trust in God and the gifts God had given each of them, they worried and became frightened about how they were going to take care of their families. For at least awhile, they became deeply resentful of those who reminded them of our obligation to protect the many wonders of God’s creation. They became the rocky ground I loved and stood upon.

They became rocky ground because, at some fundamental level, they did not trust God to provide for their needs. Remember the story in Exodus where the people of Israel are thirsty and resent Moses for bringing them into the desert. They are grumbling, quarreling, and have lost faith. In desperation, Moses cries out to God and God allows Moses to strike rock with his rod and miraculously bring forth water. Exodus 17:1-7. After this, God grows impatient for he has provided manna and water to feed the people time and again, yet they do not trust God to provide. Psalm 95 reminds us of God’s impatience with our refusal to trust and counsels us to remember that:

The Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods. In his hands are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed….listen to his voice! “Do not harden your hearts, as at Mer’i-bah, as on the day at Mas’sah in the wilderness when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.”

The Psalmist implores us not to harden our hearts to the cry of Creation and stray from God’s call to stewardship out of fear. We must trust that, through the Spirit and the body of Christ, God will provide. Luke 12: 22 – 31

Some of us become rocky ground because we forget that discipleship is costly and requires sacrifice. Jesus told the rich young man that he must give away all of his property and follow him. Jesus told another that he could not delay in following him by professing other duties such as burying the dead. Jesus warned his disciples that they must deny themselves, take up the cross, and follow him, for those who lose their life for his sake will find it – but those who seek to save themselves will not. Matt 16:24 – 25.

And finally, some of us are thorny brambles. Thorny brambles hear the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and the seed sown there yields nothing. We worship wealth and power, instead of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Mark 12:29. We worship wealth -- even though we know the fate of the rich fool who planned to build storehouses for his wealth so that he could live in luxury the rest of his days. He, of course, died the same night. We worship wealth – even though we know that Jesus' metaphor of the camel and the needle. It is easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to pass into the kingdom of God. We worship wealth, though we have heard the word. Our fate in ignoring that word may well be like that of the rich man who dressed in purple robes and fine linen and ate sumptuous feasts. Poor Lazarus longed for the scraps from his table. In the end, Lazarus ended up with blessed with cool, refreshing water of the spirit and the rich man ended up in Hades, longing for a drop of that water from Lazarus’ fingertip.

Today, let us ask God’s forgiveness. We have confused God’s call to be faithful stewards of creation with a license to use all of creation as we see fit, to fulfill our will rather than God’s will. We have lost our trust in God’s providence. We have lost our willingness to make sacrifices and follow the sometimes costly path of discipleship. We have even broken the first Commandment, worshiping wealth instead of loving God, our true selfs, our neighbor, and God’s great and glorious creation.ii

As we receive God’s forgiveness, let us be transformed from hardened paths, and rocky ground, and thorny brambles, into good soil For, as the gospel explains, “what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit…” Matthew 13: 18-23.

And, with that forgiveness, let us remember that God will provide what we need for our journey.

I pray that the seed of the word of the Lord fall upon the good soil of this congregation and that you will become sowers of that word in this community and in the broader world. Amen.

i God’s Earth is Sacred: An Open Letter to Church and Society in the United States, drafted by Dr. James A Nash, and co-signed by Dr. John B. Cobb, Jr., among others.

iiSee Resolution 7, United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society

   

June 19, 2007 in Agriculture, Biodiversity, Economics, Governance/Management, Law, North America, Sustainability, US, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Spirit of the Eagle

This blog is devoted principally to the professional or academic aspects of environmental law, policy, science, and ethics.  But like any blogger, I do have a life.  Anyone interested in the slightly less academic side of me is welcome to visit Spirit of the Eagle, my personal blog.

February 26, 2007 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 5, 2007

Global Climate Change Summit

Brookings scholar William Antholis is pushing UN Director General Ban's idea of a global climate change summit, especially a head of state level meeting.  From the White House's background documents supporting Bush's State of the Union comments, the Bush administration still seems unlikely to play a constructive role in world discussion -- particularly if we are talking about Bush personally attending a head of state meeting.  Ethanol is not the answer -- although it, like gas, can play a bit role as transition energy supplies, the more promising, mid-term sources are conservation,  wind, perhaps clean coal, and plug-ins using green electricity.

Continue reading

February 5, 2007 in Agriculture, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Legislation, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Buy ADM: Bush's Global Warming Cure

Monday, January 22, 2007

GAO Says Conservation Programs Need Tune-up

AGRICULTURAL CONSERVATION
USDA Should Improve Its Management of Key Conservation Programs to Ensure Payments Promote Environmental Goals
Highlights of  GAO-07-370T, testimony before the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, U.S. Senate  full GAO report

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Security Program (CSP), administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), are designed to promote conservation goals. In recently issued reports on these programs, GAO assessed (1) NRCS’s process for allocating EQIP funds to the states to optimize environmental benefits, (2) NRCS’s measures to monitor EQIP’s performance, and (3) the legislative and regulatory measures available to prevent duplication between CSP and other conservation programs, such as EQIP.

What GAO Recommends
GAO recommended that NRCS (1) ensure that the factors and weights used in EQIP’s general financial assistance formula are documented and linked to program priorities, and data sources are accurate and current, (2) continue to analyze and use information from its performance measures to revise the financial assistance formula, and (3) develop a comprehensive process to preclude and identify duplicate payments between CSP and other conservation programs. USDA agreed that the EQIP financial assistance formula needed review and said it has improved oversight to cross-check payments to determine if duplicate payments have been made. USDA did not agree that the EQIP funding process lacked a clear link to the program’s purpose.

Because farmers and ranchers own and manage about 940 million acres, or about half of the continental United States’ land area, they are among the most important stewards of our soil, water, and wildlife habitat. EQIP provides assistance to farmers and ranchers to take new actions aimed at addressing identified conservation problems, whereas CSP rewards farmers and ranchers who already meet very high standards of conservation and environmental management on their operations. In fiscal year 2006, EQIP and CSP provided about $1 billion and $260 million, respectively, in financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers. Efficient and effective management of these programs by NRCS is especially important in light of the nation’s current deficit and growing long-term fiscal challenges. GAO found the following weaknesses in the management of EQIP and CSP:
• NRCS’s process for providing EQIP funds to states is not clearly linked to the program’s purpose of optimizing environmental benefits; as such, NRCS may not be directing funds to states with the most significant environmental concerns arising from agricultural production. To allocate most EQIP funds, NRCS uses a general financial assistance formula that consists of 31 factors and weights. However, NRCS does not have a documented rationale for how each factor contributes to accomplishing the program’s purpose. In addition, some data that NRCS uses in applying the formula are questionable or outdated.
• NRCS has begun to develop long-term, outcome-oriented performance measures for EQIP. Such measures can provide information to better gauge program performance and also help NRCS refine its process for allocating funds to the states by directing funds to areas of the country that need the most improvement. However, NRCS did not have plans to link these measures to the EQIP funding allocation process.
• Despite legislative and regulatory provisions, it is still possible for producers to receive duplicate payments through CSP and other USDA conservation programs because of similarities in the conservation actions financed through these programs. However, NRCS did not have a comprehensive process to preclude or identify such duplicate payments. In reviewing NRCS’s payments data, GAO found a number of examples of duplicate payments.
Ensuring the integrity and equity of existing farm programs is a key area needing enhanced congressional oversight. Such oversight can help ensure that conservation programs, such as EQIP and CSP, benefit the agricultural sector as intended and protect rural areas from land degradation, diminished water and air quality, and loss of wildlife habitat.

January 22, 2007 in Agriculture, Biodiversity, Governance/Management, Land Use, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 8, 2006

Dynamite Quick Reference for Students

Tomorrow the Economist will publish its survey on climate change  "The Heat is On." Economist link  I heartily recommend it for anyone who wants to bring their students or themselves quickly up to speed regarding the science, technology, economics, and law of climate change  -- about 15 pages, incorporating much of the climate research I have blogged this year.   As of yesterday, you can buy a PDF for $5 (or read/print each article in the online version if you have an Economist online subscription). 

September 8, 2006 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, North America, Physical Science, Sustainability, US, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

The Great Warming and the Great Depression: Its More Than An Analogy

Drought In a replay of the beginning of the Great Depression, more than 60 percent of the United States now has abnormally dry or drought conditions.  The drought stretches from Georgia to Arizona and across the north through the Dakotas, Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin.  Brad Rippey, a USDA meteorologist in Washington, said this year's drought is continuing one that started in the late 1990s. "The 1999 to 2006 drought ranks only behind the 1930s and the 1950s. It's the third-worst drought on record."   Mark Svoboda, a climatologist for the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, was reluctant to say how bad the current drought might eventually be.  "We'll have to wait to see how it plays out - but it's definitely bad...and the drought seems to not be going anywhere soon."  See Seattle PI report

In addition to ranchers losing their herds and farmers losing their crops, farm ponds and other small bodies of water have dried out from the heat, leaving the residual alkali dust to be whipped up by the wind. The blowing, dirt-and-salt mixture is a phenomenon that hasn't been seen in south central North Dakota since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

August 2, 2006 in Agriculture, Climate Change, Energy, Land Use, North America, Physical Science, Sustainability, US, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Movie Review: The Great Warming

Here's another entry in the world's best global warming films contest!  The current contestants are Brokaw's Global Warming, Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, and now The Great Warming.  For my earlier review of the former two, see 7/2/06 Movie Review: Brokaw and Gore.  I reviewed Brokaw based on a screening copy: now everyone wants to know where to get one.

The Great Warming is a film documentary, produced by Stonehenge, sponsored by Swiss Re, narrated by Alanis Morissette and Keanu Reeves, and aired this spring in Canada by the Discovery Channel.  It was screened in Salem today at First Congregational Church, U.C.C.

The Great Warming is a relatively comprehensive look at global warming science, with plenty of experts.  It documents the impacts of far more modest El Nino events on Peruvian fishing villages, the incredible difficulties facing nations like Bangladesh that lie 80% within the flood plain, the impact that adding another 4 billion people will have on energy use, and the pressing need for China, India, Brazil and other developing countries to adopt a better energy path than the disasterous fossil fuel path that developed countries have followed.  It provides plenty of scenic photography, discussion of innovative technologies, and practical solutions. 

The Great Warming also has a particularly interesting slant.  It highlights, in particular, the growing concern in the American Evangelical community about global warming.  It has received endorsements from Rev. Richard Cizik for the National Association of Evangelicals [Rev. Richard Cizik ], Paul de Vries, Dean, New York Divinity School [New York Divinity School], Fr. Jon-Stephen Hedges [St. Athanasius Orthodox Church], the National Council of Churches, Evangelical Environmental Network and the Coalition on Environment and Jewish Life.

The film contains frank, hard-hitting comments from scientists, health providers, and other opinion-makers taking America’s  leadership to task for failing to address what is certainly the most critical environmental issue of the 21st century.  The film analogizes the current era of Great Warming to the era of the Great Depression.  And reminds us that our children and grandchildren will ask why we didn't do something about it.

This film does discuss the faith perspective, which may not be satisfactory for all students.  But, it is a great primer on global warming science, the impacts of climate change, and possible solutions.

THE GREAT WARMING
www.thegreatwarming.com

So, what is the bottom line.  Except for the evangelical angle, I'd chose the Great Warming over the other two.  But, given law student reaction to anything that smacks of spirituality or religion, I still think Gore did the best job with the science.

August 2, 2006 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, North America, Physical Science, South America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Welcome to Environmental Law Prof Blog

WELCOME to Environmental Law Prof Blog.  Please feel free to use this post as an open thread to raise issues relevant to environmental law, policy, science, and ethics.                                                                        

The royalties from this blog and my other professional royalties are devoted to assuring that everyone in the world has clean safe drinking water.  This is my part helping meet the Millenium Development Goals.  Our children's children will thank you if you find a way to achieve the MDGs.  Even now, they are watching.... Eyes_hispanic_1

Find YOUR way to make the Millenium Development Goals reality!

Places to Start:
ONE: www.one.org
MILLENIUM PROMISE: www.millenniumpromise.org
MILLENIUM CAMPAIGN: www.millenniumcampaign.org

August 2, 2006 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 30, 2006

No Comment Required

Lebanon_qana_rubble_3

The US blocks a UN resolution deploring the Qana attack, softening the language. The US opposes an immediate, unconditional cease-fire.  Lebanon says thanks, but no thanks to a visit by US Secr. of State Rice. Deadly Israeli Air StrikeDove_w_1

July 30, 2006 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 24, 2006

Global Warming Solutions: Khosla on ethanol

Khosla's kause:  ethanol

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Vinod Khosla is a highly successful venture capitalist who is betting on next-generation ethanol.  Khosla supports

tax and regulatory policies to persuade people to adopt ethanol.  He advocates (1) requiring car manufacturers to provide more flex-fuel vehicles, (2) requiring large gasoline distributors to make ethanol available, and (3) a variable ethanol subsidy that falls as oil prices increase.  Khosla's policy fixes are cheap: flex-fuel cars do not cost appreciably more than gas cars, ethanol could be available at every tenth gas station for $ 1 billion, and a variable subsidy could cost no more than the current subsidy. 

Interestingly enough, Khosla's ethanol advocacy comes at a time when the market seems likely to achieve his goals even without policy reforms.  Car makers are flocking to flex-fuel vehicles and gas distributors seem likely to meet the demand for ethanol -- it's just a matter of time.  And if oil prices stay high, the current ethanol subsidy seems likely to fuel conversion to ethanol.

How does Khosla's ethanol proposal rate on the criteria for a serious global warming solution?

(1) dramatic and attention-compelling

For a US program to have the desired global leadership effect, it must convince the rest of the world of the magnitude of the crisis and the US commitment to an effective response.  Imposition of ethanol related requirements on car manufacturers and gasoline distributors and reform of the ethanol subsidy are hardly dramatic and attention compelling.  They are little more than priming the already functioning ethanol pump.  In addition, the proposals address only the vehicle problem.

(2) contains incentives for global responses that mirror the level of US commitment

Khosla's solutions do not include such incentives

(3) market based

Khosla's solutions are command and control requirements and subsidies.  They do not meet the market-based criterion -- and they privilege one technological solution over others -- which does not encourage innovation or provide a relatively economically efficient regulatory system.

(3) grandfathers portions of existing emissions through allotments or entitlements

This criterion need not be met because the proposal is not based on marketable rights or taxes. 

(4)  transparent

The proposal is easy to understand, so it meets the transparency criterion.

(5)  effectively monitored and enforced

The proposal would be extremely easy to monitor and enforce.  We can readily count flex-fuel cars and ethanol pumps.

(6) politically sustainable

The proposal is politically attractive because it doesn't do much and doesn't cost much.  But is it sufficiently effective in addressing the problem that it can withstand political pressures down the road?  I think not.  It is not sufficiently broad to effectively deal with the problem.  Its just another subsidy program, privileging ethanol and flex-fuel vehicles.  When entrepreneurs seeking support for another emerging fuel mobilize, ethanol may well lose its privileged status under the proposal.


July 24, 2006 in Agriculture, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Legislation, Sustainability, US | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 7, 2006

Solving the Climate Crisis

Now, we need to talk solutions.  My first premise is that, while we bear great responsibility for the climate crisis now, effective US leadership is urgently required to convince India and China to make the necessary adjustments in their development paths to contain global warming.  If so, we need to look at what sort of US response to global warming might create the momentum throughout the world to address this problem.  In this post, I suggest several criteria for evaluating proposed US responses.  Subsequent posts will evaluate competing proposals, including Waxman, Kerry, Bush, McCain/Lieberman, and any others that you care to nominate.

Here are my criteria:

(1) dramatic and attention-compelling

For a US program to have the desired global leadership effect, it must convince the rest of the world of the magnitude of the crisis and the US commitment to an effective response.

(2) contains incentives for global responses that mirror the level of US commitment

Americans are generally willing to do "their part" to solve problems.  But, the US cannot and will not solve the climate crisis on its own.  Rather than negotiate endlessly about Kyoto plus -- perhaps we should try something straightforward: a carbon tariff on imported goods and services from nations that fail to achieve equivalent improvements in their level of CO2 efficiency.  Then, as we become more CO2 efficient, our goods will enjoy an advantage compared to those from nations that are not doing their part.

(3) market based

A US program largely relying  market incentives approaches (e.g. carbon taxes or marketable rights) will provide a relatively economically efficient regulatory system.  That economic efficiency is critical given the pervasiveness of the system throughout the US economy.

(3) grandfathers portions of existing emissions through allotments or entitlements

A US program must grandfather a portion of existing emissions by providing cost-free allotments or entitlements.  Otherwise, if the full social cost/value of CO2 emissions are captured through a carbon tax or auctioning marketable rights, the transfer payments to the government will make the system wholly unacceptable.

(4)  transparent

No one will buy it unless they can understand it.

(5)  effectively monitored and enforced

Whether we use marketable rights or taxes, we need to quantify existing emissions, calculate potential emissions, and monitor future emissions.  Already the EU experience suggests this is more difficult than it might seem.  And our experience with offsets and NSR demonstrate the potential for outright fraud.  So we need to have the full array of enforcement devices...from administrative tickets to criminal enforcement available to deter the cheats.

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(6) politically sustainable

There will be a moment in time when the US can create an effective response to global warming.  At that moment, we can surmount the usual obstacles to change.  Yet, the program enacted at that critical moment must withstand the test of time.  The program does not need to be "flexible," which is frequently a synonym for ineffective and capable of manipulation by those who seek to avoid the economic impacts of regulation.  Instead, it needs to be sufficiently effective in addressing a vital problem that it can withstand political pressures down the road.

So, on this barometer, how do the currently proposed solutions rate?  Stay tuned.

July 7, 2006 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, Legislation, Sustainability, US | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Shell States Moral Objection to Biofuel from Food Crops

 

Planet Ark World Environmental News:

Royal Dutch Shell, the worlds top marketer of biofuels, considers using food crops to make biofuels "morally inappropriate" as long as there are people in the world who are starving...Eric G Holthusen, Fuels Technology Manager Asia/Pacific, said the company's research unit, Shell Global Solutions, has developed alternative fuels from renewable resources that use wood chips and plant waste rather than food crops that are typically used to make the fuels...Holthusen said his company's participation in marketing biofuels extracted from food was driven by economics or legislation."If we have the choice today, then we will not use this route....We think morally it is inappropriate because what we are doing here is using food and turning it into fuel. If you look at Africa, there are still countries that have a lack of food, people are starving, and because we are more wealthy we use food and turn it into fuel. This is not what we would like to see. But sometimes economics force you to do it."

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The world's top commercially produced biofuels are ethanol and biodiesel.  Ethanol, mostly used in the United States and Brazil, is produced from sugar cane and beets and can also be derived from grains such as corn and wheat. Biodiesel, used in Europe, is extracted from the continent's predominant oil crop, rapeseed, and can also be produced from palm and coconut.

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Holthusen said Shell has been working on biofuels that can be extracted from plant waste and wood chips, but he did not say when the alternative biofuel might be commercially available...

Shell, in partnership with Canadian biotech firm Iogen Corp., has developed "cellulose ethanol", which is made from the wood chips and non-food portion of renewable feedstocks such as cereal straws and corn stover, and can be blended with gasoline.

 

July 6, 2006 in Africa, Agriculture, Economics, Energy, EU, Governance/Management, International, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

The Millenium Village Experiment

There are many obstacles to achieving the Millenium Development Goals, pessimism, inadequate financing, corruption, armed conflict, political and social instability, and global warming among them.  But a recent Nature editorial on Jeffrey Sachs' Millenium Village project highlights the lack of data, analysis, and learning that has plagued development efforts.  The Millenium Village project hopes to overcome that obstacle.  The Nature editorial underscores the significance of the MVP data collection and analysis effort:

    The issues that hinder development in sub-Saharan Africa are many and complex, but one factor that stands out for scientists is the dearth of reliable data on the decades of development projects there.
    A lack of information on what has worked and what hasn't has contributed to a lack of accountability among donor nations, host nations and even development professionals. Donors in particular have learnt little from past mistakes, and are impatient. When a project fails, as so many do, the tendency has been to move straight on to the next idea.

When a project fails, the tendency has been to move straight on to the next idea.

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    Development specialists know this, and today data and analysis are prized. In this issue we examine the early progress of one notable experiment in Africa. It involves the support of 12 African Millennium Research Villages, which are receiving a package of interventions, at a maximum cost of US$110 per person per year, tailored to lift them out of poverty and onto a sustainable path.
    The approach has won support from the African governments involved and from private philanthropists, who have pledged $100 million to a charity, called Millennium Promise, that aims to expand the programme to an additional 78 villages in the next year.
    The administrators of the village projects intend to measure 27 important indicators of project performance, mainly by closely monitoring the progress of some 300 households in each village.
    They hope to learn three things: whether each intervention works, whether the links between various interventions can be exploited, and whether the community is ultimately better placed to manage its own future. This last involves 'softer' measures of capacity and sustainability, and will be the hardest both to monitor and to achieve.
    It is early days yet — the longest-running project, at Sauri in Kenya, is just two years old — and few hard data are available so far. But it is crucial that the schemes deliver on their research goals and that they absorb lessons, positive or negative, from the data.

Continue reading

July 5, 2006 in Africa, Agriculture, Economics, Governance/Management, Sustainability, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 3, 2006

WELCOME

WELCOME to Environmental Law Prof Blog.  Please feel free to use this post as an open thread to raise issues relevant to environmental law, policy, science, and ethics.                                                                           

The royalties from this blog and my other professional royalties are devoted to assuring that everyone in the world has clean safe drinking water.  This is my part helping meet the Millenium Development Goals.  Our children's children will thank you if you find a way to achieve the MDGs.  Even now, they are watching.... Eyes_hispanic_1

Find YOUR way to make the Millenium Development Goals reality.

Places to Start:
ONE: www.one.org
MILLENIUM PROMISE: www.millenniumpromise.org
MILLENIUM CAMPAIGN: www.millenniumcampaign.org

July 3, 2006 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)