Roundup Tuesday July 21, 2009

A 12-member federal team is inspecting drilling parcels in Utah—Paul Foy, AP, SLT 7/19/09

An on-the-ground review of leases auctioned by the Bush Administration has been launched in keeping with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s promise for a “fresh look” after 77 leases were rescinded in February.  The 12-member review team is headed by Mark Stiles, supervisor of Colorado’s San Juan National Forest.  BLM specialists in air quality, wilderness and landscapes from outside Utah also will preside.

The review team began last Thursday and will continue into next week reviewing the disputed 77 parcels.  Interior Chief Deputy David Hayes said 30 of the 77 leases could prove suitable for sale due to proximity to operating gas wells.  The review comes after months of volleys between environmental and wilderness protection groups and development-minded individuals, organizations and legislators stemming from the December 19, 2008 Utah oil and gas lease sale that put parcels close to Dinosaur National Monument, Arches and Canyonlands national parks and other wilderness quality areas up for sale.  The sale was confounded by University of Utah student Tim DeChristopher.

Retail titan Wal-Mart launches ‘sustainability index’—Agence France-Presse, 7/17/09

Wal-Mart announced its plans Thursday to develop the database, putting information about products’ sustainability on the web.  The sustainability index could inform on how environmentally friendly suppliers, manufacturers and products are, incorporating garment labels and barcodes into the retrieval process.  The announcement was made by Wal-Mart executives to a webcast gathering of suppliers.

The index would come together in three phases.  The first phase would survey Wal-Mart’s 100,000-plus suppliers, how they operate, where each product is made, and what goes into the product.  Thursday marked the introduction to US manufacturers of the 15-point survey.  Included are greenhouse-gas emissions questions, location of factories, water use, solid waste disposal and other significant sustainable consumer questions.

The second phase will bring together a consortium of universities that will work with suppliers, retailers, NGOs and governments to develop the database.  Wal-Mart is seeking a technology company for creating an open platform to power the index.  The corporation has pledged funds to launch the index, but the goal is not to create or own the index.  “We want to spur the development of a common database that will allow the consortium to collect and analyze the knowledge of the global supply chain,” Wal-Mart chief executive Mike Duke said.

The final step would be a fully developed index accessible by consumers.  Another executive for Wal-Mart said the index in its final form was several years away.  A multi-application handheld device could be pointed at a product online or in stores to get information at a click.  Included information for a t-shirt, for example, might be how much cotton was used, ‘product miles’ consumed to get the shirt into the store, and other green leaning considerations.  Chief merchandising officer John Fleming said these considerations would be especially important to future generations of consumers who care deeply about the environment and sustainability.

Senate Minority Report on global warming not credible, says Center for Inquiry—Stuart Jordan, Thomas O’Brien, 7/20/09

ESR Editor’s Note:

Dr. Stuart Jordan is a retired (emeritus) senior staff scientist from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, formerly heading the solar physics branch.  He is currently science advisor to the Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy.  Thomas O’Brien is production editor of the Astrophysical Journal for the Institute of Physics (UK).  The Center for Inquiry states that its mission is to “oppose and supplant the mythological narratives of the past and the dogma of the present”, with an institution “devoted to promoting science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values”.

Though the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Science Report issued in 2007 has settled the question of global warming proof for many legislators, doubts concerning climate change science remain on the conservative side of the Senate aisle.  The recent United States Senate Minority Report on Global Warming utilizes almost 700 individuals with implied scientific credentials as evidence that measures to address climate change are premature, and further research on the cause of global warming is needed.

The Center for Inquiry’s Office of Public Policy has examined the Senate Minority Report, citing the argument that if the report is scientifically credible, it would have significant implications for climate change policy.  Jordan and O’Brien say global warming has been established “beyond all doubt by observations carefully analyzed by a large and competent climate science community.”  They go on to say that climate scientists have identified anthropogenically generated greenhouse gasses as the “the only plausible major contributor to global warming.”  This was outlined in the IPCC-2007 Science Report.

Some skeptics or contrarians claim the relatively cool period since 2005 casts global warming in doubt, though climate change models did predict the cooling period.  These same models predict a sharp warming trend in the next few years.  Other arguments consider for instance that the sun is responsible for global warming, though observational tests have failed to support this theory.  The authors conclude that “the harmful effect of anthropogenic greenhouse gas is confirmed by an enormous database by all major climate models worldwide.”

The Senate Minority Report lists 687 individuals with purported climate science credentials as skeptics of the scientific consensus on global warming, the authors said.  The credibility of the report was assessed “primarily by determining what fraction of these individuals could reasonably be considered to be active climate scientists” or working in related fields.  The litmus test is whether these individuals publish articles on subjects related to climate science in peer-reviewed journals.  Additional criteria included attempts to determine the professional fields of the skeptic scientists, and degrees received.  The data set used can be found at

The results of the assessment found only 10% of the 687 individuals could be identified definitively as climate change scientists.  Only 15% could be identified as publishing in fields related to climate science.  For 80% of these individuals, no evidence was found that they had published research remotely related to climate science.  Meteorologists—the largest professional field found—often had no publications in refereed scientific publications and were mere weather forecasters.  Almost 4% have made statements suggesting they accept the scientific community’s consensus view that global warming is occurring and that greenhouse gases appear to be a significant cause.

A more appropriate comparison then might be 137 scientists who might have published on topics directly related to climate science versus the approximately 2,000 scientists whose work is summarized in the IPCC-2007 Science Report.  While the Center for Inquiry’s analysis of the Senate Minority Report is not finished, they conclude: 1)  it is highly unlikely that a growing fraction of top climate scientists are becoming increasingly skeptical of the human causation of global warming;  2)  The report does include names of some outstanding scientists, including at least one distinguished meteorologist, however the much larger number of outstanding climate scientists identify where the general consensus lies; 3)  Without hard evidence substantiating other climate change theories, it is highly unlikely that man-made greenhouse gasses do not play a significant and major role in global warming.  The document may misrepresent the state of the global scientific effort to address global warming.

Interior halting uranium mining at Grand Canyon—Joan Lowy, Felicia Fonseca, AP, SLT 7/20/09

The Interior Department will temporarily bar the filing of new mining claims including uranium claims on nearly 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon.  The department has set the land aside for two years to study the possibility of permanent withdrawal.  633,547 acres are under control of the BLM, and 360,000 acres are under the Kaibab National Forest.  Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said the study would “gather the best science and input from the public, members of Congress, tribes and stakeholders” to evaluate whether the lands should be withdrawn for a longer length of time.  Uranium claims already filed won’t be affected, due to stipulations stemming from the General Mining Act of 1872, though Congress could appropriate money to buy the claims.

US Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-AZ, has sponsored a bill that would set aside more than 1 million acres of federal lands north and south of the canyon.  The Interior announcement is intended in part to offer protection while the bill proceeds.  Vice President Luke Popovich of the National Mining Association objected, saying “current laws and regulations are effective for protecting the environment from mining activity,” the AP writers said.  Popovich also criticized the decision in light of the near 10% jobless rate.  A spokesperson for the Pew Environment Group said the decision was indicative of the Obama Administration’s commitment to protecting the public interest where managing America’s natural resources were concerned.

While uranium mining has been dormant for 20 years, current $55 per pound prices and rising interest in nuclear power has re-fueled the industry’s interest.  The Arizona Strip, just north of the Grand Canyon, is known for high-grade uranium ore.  Toronto-based Denison Mines Corp. is preparing to mine a site 20 miles north of the park’s border provided Arizona OKs an air permit.

While Arizona’s Republican senators have said sufficient protections are in place, Grijalva’s bill would minimize environmental damage that new operations could pose, while old sites have yet to be cleaned up.  Up to 10,000 claims already exist on BLM and US Forest Service lands near the Grand Canyon for a variety of hardrock extraction.  1,100 uranium claims are within 5 miles of the park.

Feds affirm drilling near Utah ruins, Golden Spike—AP, SLT 7/20/09

The Interior Board of Land Appeals has ruled that federal officials set appropriate safeguards for drilling near cliff houses, pit houses and cave sites with numerous artifacts in the Monticello area, and around Golden Spike National Historic Park in northern Utah.  The ruling rejects an appeal filed by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance after a November 2006 lease auction.

Canyonlands, Yellowstone among 16 parks threatened by ammonium—Mike Stark, AP, SLT 7/20/09

The airborne substance is known for the slow triggering of changes in plants and animals, and has been found in increasing quantities primarily across parks in the Western US.  Air quality data shows a significant worsening trend for parks including Yellowstone, Mount Rainier and Canyonlands.  Ammonium is linked to fertilizers, agricultural operations and urban pollution, and is rich in nitrogen, which can fuel growth and affect soil and water chemistry.  Sources of the increased ammonium have not been identified, though the chemical agent is carried in rain and snow.

Landslide potential near Cedar City worries geologists—Mark Havnes, SLT 7/19/09

Cedar Mountain, overlooking Cedar valley and beyond, is home to current and future residential development threatened by recent and potential slides.  A geologist for the Utah Geological Survey pointed to shale and clay soils under the mountainside making it vulnerable to slides, adding that seeping water into vertical fractures creates additional issues.  A 2-inch shift 100 feet below the surface could be enough to create a large slide.  Climate change, causing more precipitation on the mountain, as well as septic tank installations, could be over-saturating the mountain, the spokesman said.

A meeting on the slide potential of the mountain was held recently to alert the public.  William Lund, a senior geologist with the Utah Geological Survey, with two other geologists voiced concerns, including the need for extensive studies before further development is made.  If development does proceed, it should do so only after stability is thoroughly assessed and a plan has been made that does not compromise stability, he added.  Lund compared the mountain to the conditions causing the Thistle slide in Utah County in 1983, which created a new lake.

The county planning commission has put further development on hold until studies are done to identify potential geologic hazards.  The developer is conducting further studies, though an earlier study done by GEM Engineering identified the slide as “dormant”.  An engineer with the consulting firm said every building site was different.

Law professor building Native American program—Jessie L. Bonner, AP, SLT 7/18/09

Angelique EagleWoman, a Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate or Sioux of the Lake Traverse Reservation in South Dakota, has recently built a program focusing on Native American law—nationally underrepresented—at the University of Idaho.  Only a few Native American law programs exist nationwide, with but three states—Washington, New Mexico and South Dakota—offering Native American law as a subject on the bar exam.  Her efforts at University of Idaho, built on aboriginal homelands of the Nez Perce Tribe, also include recruiting more Native American Students.

The area of Native American law is according to experts often misunderstood and at times ignored, leaving Native Americans flailing while trying to negotiate the courts system.  Heather Dawn Thompson of the National Native American Bar Association said 35 states have sovereign, independent tribal nations, which makes it incumbent for lawyers to know the basics of Indian law in those states.  “Alaska has over 200 tribes and it’s not on the bar exam,” Thompson added.  California, home to over 100 tribes, and Oklahoma too has no provision on the bar exam.

Native American lawyers have been few and far between since the 1970s for helping tribal lawyers settle legal matters.  Non-Native attorneys with little or no experience in Indian affairs and law have been problematic at best.  At stake is a professional legal understanding of tribal as well as state and federal law, since all three are in effect and subject to influence decisions in states with Native residents.  One example of the critical nature of Native American legal understanding would be where a mother dies leaving behind an underage child.  Custody usually goes to the father in state proceedings, but in tribal law, underwritten by the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, the mother’s sisters may be the rightful custodians, especially if the child is a girl.

Invasive mussels imperil western water system—Felicia Fonseca, AP, SLT 7/18/09

Numbers of the invasive mussels first discovered at Lake Mead two years ago have exponentially grown to the trillions.  The quagga mussels are expected by scientists to spread throughout the West’s reservoir and river system.  California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah water agencies and wildlife managers are waging an aggressive campaign that includes mandatory decontamination or quarantine of boats and chlorinating some water inlets, though eradication in the Great Lakes region formerly has been nearly impossible.

The mollusks are thumb-sized, attach to almost anything, and clog drains and pipes, freeze up cooling systems, kill off native species and render power boats inoperable.  The quaggas, along with their close relative zebra mussels, were carried to the Great Lakes in the 1980s from eastern Europe and the Ukraine in ship ballast.  While populations in the East have expanded to the quadrillions, and no slowing of growth is in sight, experts say the species will eventually stabilize.

The lower Colorado River has been colonized in the West, leaving sharp shells on beaches.  Warmer Western weather has increased quagga mussel productivity, each female capable of producing up to a million eggs per year.  Hoover Dam saw original colonizers at intake towers and other structures, growing from one or two mussels per square foot to 55,000.  And the mussels could affect water quality and clarity, of especial concern at Lake Tahoe.  A spokesman for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency said an infestation could cost the area up to $22 million a year.

For now, water managers advise the best prevention is inspection and quarantine if necessary of boats traveling from waterway to waterway.  The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California anticipates spending from $10- to $15-million per year to address infestations in 242 miles of Colorado River aqueduct and reservoirs, which route water to 19 million people in and around Los Angeles.  The invasive species has similar substantial impact on business, the power industry, water companies and communities.  According to one expert, these costs in the East are in the billions, and the West is not far behind.

Workers rewarded for improving Utah’s air quality—Kirsten Stewart, SLT 7/18/09

The “Feral Chihuahuas”, a 30-member team participating in Utah’s “Clean the Air Challenge”, were recognized along with corporate teams from Rio Tinto, Zion’s Bank and O.C. Tanner.  Winners walked away with bikes, free golf opportunities, lunch with Salt Lake City mayor Ralph Becker and other prizes.  The grand-prize winner earned a free week with a compressed natural gas Chevy Impala.

The “Clean the Air Challenge” was presented by a collaboration of state, city and county governments, local businesses and faith-based groups.  The challenge encouraged competitors individually and in teams to cut energy consumption, ease traffic congestion and improve air quality.

Categories and winners included most pounds of emissions saved (Rio Tinto), most trips saved (Zion’s Bank), most participants (Hogle Zoo), best integration of TravelWise strategies—including use of public transit, carpooling, active transportation, teleworking, flexible workweeks and trip chaining (The Feral Chihuahuas); 2009 Corporate Role Model:  OC Tanner; Grand Prize winners for most pounds of emissions saved, Tami Jannelli, most trips saved, Soren Simonsen (Salt Lake City District 7 City Councilman), most consistent gold, Heidi Schubert, most consistent silver, Debby Vanetti, most consistent bronze, Russel Boltz.

The contest lasted six weeks.  A combined 866 gallons of gas and 32,679 pollution emissions were reportedly saved by the team “Feral Chihuahuas” alone.  All told, 110,720 car trips, 1 million vehicle travel miles and 1.7 million pounds of emissions were reportedly averted.  The challenge’s goal was 1.8 million pounds.

Farm leaders call for defeat of cap-and-trade bill—Dawn House, SLT 7/17/09

The position was reached at the Farm Bureau Convention held over the week.  Utah’s agricultural leaders claim the cap-and-trade bill will overburden financially strapped farmers.   Utah Farm Bureau president Leland Hogan pointed to weakened beef, swine and poultry industries in the wake of the recession, where milk prices sit at about half of current production costs.

While some exemptions to emissions caps for farmers are provided in the Waxman-Markey bill, farm leaders argue the exemptions won’t be enough for the energy-intensive industry.  Cost of fuel for tractors, fertilizer production costs, processing and packaging energy, and delivery truck fuel all could be seriously affected.  Farm Bureau CEO Randy Parker pointed to the 3.5%-4.5% increase in food costs nationwide during last year’s gas price spike.  Parker says last year’s price hikes would pale in comparison if the cap-and-trade bill passes.

Tom Tripp, an engineer and spokesman for US Magnesium, said the bill would send more US companies overseas, while undeveloped countries like China and India could continue polluting.  China’s magnesium process currently emits 10 times more pollution and uses 10 times more energy.  Tripp said American environmental restrictions are so tough that China is now the world’s largest magnesium producer.

The EPA brought a $1 billion lawsuit against US Magnesium over hazardous waste that it lost in 2007, though the EPA is appealing the Utah federal judge’s ruling.  US Magnesium’s Tooele plant ranked as the nation’s top polluter in the 1980’s.  Though millions were spent on cleanup, and the plant is no longer on the top 100 US polluter list, the plant still ranks 4th in Utah for toxic releases.

In the cap-and-trade costs debate, the Congressional Budget Office reports that families by 2020 would see increased energy expenses of 50 cents a day or $175 per year.  But Republicans, referring to a Heritage Foundation analysis say a family of four could face $1,870 per year by 2020 with the Waxman-Markey bill, closer to $6,800 by 2035.  Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-UT has sponsored legislation to disclose to consumers the actual costs of the program.  His figures, taken from GOP minority of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, show $1,115 new taxes on Utahn’s electric bills, and an average family cost of $3,435 per year. –Thomas Burr

Man uses chain saw in Wyoming mountain lion attack—Matthew Brown, AP, SLT 7/17/09

The cat attacked a Colorado man with wife and two young children while camping. Officials said it was emaciated and showed other signs of starvation.  The 100 lb animal pounced from nearby cover in the Shoshone National Forest.  The man, described as 6-foot, 170 lbs, raised an 18-inch chainsaw he had been using and met the animal head-on.  The animal batted the man with his paws before the saw hit and the animal left.  The man suffered a small puncture wound on his forearm, while the mountain lion retreated after receiving a six- to eight-inch gash in the shoulder.  The man was surprised the chainsaw didn’t “dig right in”.

Officials said the attack 27 miles west of Cody was one of only eight incidents where mountain lions have acted aggressively towards humans in Wyoming in the last decade.  The animals are known for reclusivity.  Typical Wyoming cats weigh 140-150 lbs, prompting speculation by a Wyoming Fish and Game biologist that the animal was desperate, though the region near the North Fork of the Shoshone River is well populated with elk, deer and bighorn sheep.  Officials said disease may have played a part, though initial tests for rabies and other diseases came up negative.  The state biologist said “It was acting completely out of character for how a lion would normally act around a full grown man who has a chain saw in his hand.”

‘Red’ alert issued for smog along Wasatch Front—AP, SLT 7/17/09

The alert was issued for Friday for Salt Lake and Davis counties by the Utah Division of Air Quality.  Utah and Weber counties were put on ‘yellow’ alert.  Ozone mainly from vehicle emissions and industrial sources is blamed, with the hot summer days adding to the creation of ozone.  Children, elderly and persons with respiratory problems are cautioned against exertion outside, and the division said persons should reduce their driving.

McEntee:  Many in Logan knew of the landslide dangers—Peg McEntee, SLT 7/17/09

The ruptured canal, which killed a mother and two children, had over a century of history of leaking, cracking and fueling mudslides.  The latest incident was preceded by increasing surface water from springs on the hillside, and cracks in the concrete canal observed by local residents.  Logan officials were given a Utah State University study that predicted more slides after a similar one in 2005.

Responsibility for the disaster has not been assigned.  Logan City contributed to canal repairs, but the Logan and Northern Irrigation Co., which owns the canal, maintained the structure without oversight.  A 1999 proposal to run a ½ mile pipeline in the canal through the most threatening portions was rejected due to costs.  Thousands or even millions had been spent on repairs over the years, according to a former company board member.  Neighbors have said that while the canal seemed to be regularly visited by company inspectors in the past, in the last five years the canal has seen little if any attention.

McEntee noted that while the neighborhood of the fatal accident was once primarily the residence of homeowners, the area is now for the most part rentals and apartments.  Runer Anderson, retired from the USU’s civil engineering department and a former chairman, has studied the canal for years.   He invited residents to a meeting at the canal in August of 2008 to see for themselves the dangers he had noted.  State Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, doesn’t expect the Legislature to tackle the issue of water company regulation that could be a contributing factor.  Logan City is also limited legally.

House votes to protect wild horses—Kevin Freking, AP, SLT 7/17/09

The US House of Representatives voted to rescue the estimated 9,400 wild horses and burros that are considered over balanced rangeland limits in the West.  The animals might otherwise face a government-sponsored slaughter.  Under the plan, they would be moved to more supportable rangeland in Utah and the West.  The bill will require Senate approval to become law.

Utah’s delegation rejected the bill.  Rep. Rob Bishop R-UT said the bill prioritized homes for horses over Americans.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates the plan will cost about $200 million over five years, another sticking point with Bishop, who criticized Congress’ attempt to micromanage land officials, expanding wild animal roaming range while limiting farmer range use.  Jim Matheson, D-UT, believes there will not be enough rangeland to support the horses.

36,000 wild horses and burros are estimated across 10 Western states including Utah, while Federal officials say 26,600 are the limit for balanced rangeland management.  31,000 additional animals live in pastures and corrals through adoption programs.  Current land set aside for the wild horses and burros is stressed from overgrazing.  The BLM under the bill would be expected to set aside 20 million additional acres, though the majority would be necessary after 2013.

One possibility would be to make the acreage a goal rather than a legal requirement, favored by amendments to the bill.  Wild-horse sanctuaries could be brokered by the BLM on non-federal lands, greater adoption programs could be implemented, a greater number of animals would be sterilized, and holding pen time would be limited to six months, but the bill would outlaw the killing of healthy wild horses and burros.

While Republicans complained it was welfare for horses, one Democrat from West Virginia said Americans would not support slaughtering healthy animals or keeping them penned up for several years.  No similarly sponsored bill has been introduced in the Senate.  One representative noted that the massive slaughter alternative did not fit with the BLM’s mission of protection of the animals.

Movie review:  ‘Food, Inc.’ exposes the factory behind the farm—Sean P. Means, SLT 7/16/09

The documentary, working off the ‘you are what you eat’ adage, reports we are unhealthy, prone to disease, and supporting companies high on secrecy and low on health and protection of employees, products and planet.  Robert Kenner, director and longtime contributor to PBS’ “The American Experience” series, surveys the American food-production industry from the farm to the plate, pointing to the issues along the way.

‘Farm’ is a term Kenner does not favor, since commodity crops tend to be mass-produced with assembly-line processes closer to factories.  Animal-processing facilities tend to house genetically overbred livestock that feed on antibiotic-filled corn and live in their own waste.  Kenner points also to the ubiquity of corn, in everything from Coke to batteries due to heavy federal subsidies.  Artificially low prices favor greasy cheeseburgers over broccoli, leading to the nation’s high obesity rates, especially in lower income communities.

An additional topic of consideration is the mistreatment of employees at for instance meatpacking companies.  Monsanto and others are highlighted for their practice of selling genetically modified soybean seed and file lawsuits against farmers that save seed for the following year’s crops, as has been longstanding tradition.  13 states have ‘veggie libel’ laws that prevent criticism of food products.

Food advocates as well as organic and natural farmers like producers of Stonyfield Farms yogurt are interviewed, pointing to the problems arising under our current business as usual practices and offering insight into healthier, more sustainable alternatives.  Trib reporter Means said “it’s not a complete anti-corporate screed, as evidenced by the fact that it finds something nice to say about, of all companies, WalMart.”  Means added that while the film didn’t go much further than Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation or Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, both of which are included in the interviews, it still provides a good overview of the issue.

Farm Bureau blasts human-caused global warming—Dawn House, SLT 7/16/09

Topping the Utah Farm Bureau’s midyear convention is the Bureau’s rejection of the idea that humans are responsible for climate change.  The convention’s keynote speaker this week is Tom Tripp, promoted as a Nobel Peace Prize winner.  The title comes from Tripp’s role as one of several thousand U.N. panel members that shared the prize with former Vice President Al Gore.  Tripp dissented against the panel’s findings that global warming are due to human actions.

Tripp’s other distinctions include his role as metallurgical engineer for US Magnesium, Grantsville city councilman, and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  Some panel members have spoken out about identifying Tripp as a Nobel winner when his connection to the award is considered to be very tangential.  A coordinating lead author for the IPCC—an atmospheric scientist at Colorado State University—said Thursday that to call any of its members Nobel winners is inaccurate, adding that the prize was awarded to the IPCC, not its individuals.

Tom Tripp has been on the IPCC roles from 2004, one of 450 IPCC “lead authors” whose job was to review reports from 800 contributing writers, which was reviewed in turn by over 2,500 experts worldwide.  Scientists, industry experts and public officials spanning over 130 countries made contributions to the report, according to Brenda Ekwurzel, of the Union of Concerned Scientists.  Five climate change reports have been recognized by the Nobel Prize committee since 1988.

Farm Bureau CEO Randy Parker pointed to Tripp as an indication that the IPCC’s supposed consensus on global warming was not all-inclusive.  Parker also defended Tripp’s billing as a Nobel Prize winner, saying “The prize was given to Al Gore and 2,000 IPCC members.”  250 attendees to the conference were in general accord with Tripp.  Tripp said “there is so much of a natural variability in weather it makes it difficult to come to a scientifically valid conclusion that global warming is man made,” according to Trib reporter Dawn House.  “It may well be, but we’re not scientifically there yet.”

Another of his peeves was modeling schemes used to evaluate global warming, though when pressed on IPCC climate modeling, Tripp said “I don’t have the expertise” to comment.   Meteorologist Thomas Reichler, who was involved in a University of Utah study, claims the IPCC models are very accurate and useful for those looking for solutions to reverse warming trends.  Farmer Neal Briggs, who attended the conference, said “the science behind [human-caused global warming] isn’t sound.  From what I’ve researched, we are not a large contributor to global warming.”

Rare snow leopard cub debuts at Hogle Zoo—Brett Prettyman, SLT 7/16/09

First glimpses of the male cub were permitted Thursday.  The cub, born May 7, has been kept secluded with his mother Nema.  His name will be announced later in the month.  He is currently on display in the Asian Highlands exhibit, the first snow leopard born at the zoo in more than 20 years.  Tiger cubs were born at the zoo in 2003.  Snow leopards appear on the World Conservation Union’s Red List of Threatened Species, as do pandas and tigers.  The Snow Leopard Trust reports between 3,500 and 7,000 animals left roaming free.  A spokesman for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) said the birth would help provide information for protecting snow leopards in the wild.

Snow leopards are adapted to high elevation environments such as mountainous regions of China, India, Nepal, Russia, Pakistan and Mongolia.  About 140 exist in captivity in the US, averaging about 6 births per year.  Hogle Zoo has three adult show leopards, though their preference for solitude has resulted in a rotation allowing only one on view at a time.  Nema has been pregnant before, though this is her first successful birth.  Snow leopard breeding decisions are made by the AZA, utilizing a Species Survival Plan.  Currently at 11 pounds, the cub should reach adult size, 60-80 lbs, by 6-8 months old.  The cub will remain with his mother until age 2, typical for the wild, after which he will probably be sent to another zoo and integrated into the snow leopard Species Survival Plan.

Snow Leopard Trust

The Transition Initiative:  Changing the scale of change—Jay Griffiths, Orion Magazine July/Aug 2009

Originating in the town of Totnes in Devon, England in 2006, the Transition Initiative has flourished in Britain, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.  The core purpose, Griffiths said, of the Transition Initiative is to address, at the community level, the twin issues of climate change and peak oil.  Rob Hopkins, the initiative’s founder, has said it is set up to enable towns and neighborhoods to move towards a post-oil and low-carbon future.

Griffiths characterizes the Transition Initiative like a charismatic, wise, practical, positive, resourceful, popular human being.  The movement is set on a foundation of acute and kind psychology, acknowledging the emotional effect of the issues, from fear and despair to anger, impotence and denial.  The psychology of addiction is used to address some of the notions of detoxifying from our oil addiction.  Healthy psychological functioning depends according to the movement’s credo on a belief that one’s needs will be met in the future; anxiety over climate change has been eroding that belief for a generation.

Affecting change at the individual as well as the national or governmental level draws a sense of impotence for many people.  At the scale of community, the Transition Initiative works where actions are significant, visible and effective, the level of greatest self-efficacy for these issues.  Author and secessionist Kirkpatrick Sale in his 1980 book Human Scale calls this the level where “individuals become neighbors and lovers instead of just acquaintances and ciphers…participants and protagonists instead of just voters and taxpayers.”  Griffiths said “at a community level, I can breathe in five river-sources and breathe out three miles of green valleys.”

Griffiths utilizes the term ‘economies of scale’ to conceptualize the idea of ‘moralities of scale’.   Like the Goldilocks fable, the individual scale can be capricious, while at the nation size morality can be as good as a welfare state or as poor as engineered genocide.  The community level affords a complex morality, Griffiths speculates, one that could hold greater cohesion as well as less ability to do harm outside of itself.

Talks and film screenings have led to steering groups and the motivation to identify with and become a Transition community in many places.   The driving force tends to be self-reliance for a community, built around aspects such as food production, energy use, building, waste and transport.  In many cases a steering group has brought the initiative into focus and up to speed before releasing it to various sub-groups for action.  Many alternatives have cropped up as different communities apply the Transition Initiative ideas to their region.

Naresh Giangrande, who was involved in setting up the first Transition Town, said the experience was driven by ordinary people who wanted something better for their children.  “The political process is corrupted by money, power and vested interests.  I’m not writing off large corporations or government, but because they have such an investment in this system, they haven’t got an incentive to change.”  Giangrande compared the grassroots process to the one utilized by to decrease CO2 emissions by pressuring government to set limits and enforce them.

Transition Initiative founder Rob Hoskins was once a permaculture teacher, and permaculture’s thinking permeates the movement, from working with rather than against nature to collaborative and cooperative, slow processes.  A “Heart and Soul” subgroup of Transition communities, for instance, focuses on psychological and emotional aspects of climate crisis.  The process nurtures participation and good listening.  Keynote speakers are complemented by “keynote listeners”, which has the potential to draw upon the best resources of a thinker speaking in public.

If traditional environmentalism has been prescriptive, advocating certain responses the Transition Initiative characterizes itself as a catalyst, without certain answers.  Hope and proactiveness are lead motivators rather than guilt or fear.  The Transition Initiative is also “whole-heartedly inclusive”, Griffiths said.

Re-skilling in traditional crafts and organic gardening brings back lost skills with a practical make-do-and-mend attitude.  One Transition community member has characterized such acts as “weaving some ideas back into culture”.  The community behaviors typical during World War II, such as victory gardens and conservation practices, also are a feature of the movement.  And there are ways that mending, tending, and restoring feed from textiles, vegetables and furniture to the restoration of community itself.

Griffiths says people never need communities more than when there are threats to security, food and lives.  Such is the case under the paradigms of peak oil and global climate change.  Psychological considerations at such times of increased uncertainty are heightened, and community, rather than increased income or consumerism, is uniquely positioned to address those needs.  The symbiotic potential between the individual and good community is encapsulated in the term ‘social capital’.  The reversal of isolation and return to meaningful community may be one of the greatest gems of the Transition Initiative, and a necessary place of fulfillment where consumerism and addiction to television and computer have reigned.

Community has been under siege by nation-states in eras past.  Witness enclosure laws that privatized common land, or the treatment of Native Americans or indigenous people across the globe.  These infringements on cultural survival, resulting in food, housing, fuel or time poverties, have been disguised as problems of the individual.  The Transition Initiative empowers these latent communities with their own narrative, one that is hopeful, active and belonging rather than despairing, passive and cynical.

Currently there are 146 known Transition Initiatives, and the movement is growing.  Another emphasis of the relationships cultivated in the movement is the concept of the Between, that place of possibility that exists when two people meet face to face and interact genuinely and guilelessly.  With participation comes recognition, acknowledgement, a key psychological need.

The Myth of the Oil Crisis, authored by an oil industry professional, calls the movement “mistaken, appalling and dangerous”.  Other critics call it insufficiently confrontational.  And some within the movement divide over fast action and slow consideration.  The concept of the tipping point is of great interest to all those within the movement, seeking fast or slow change.


Long, fractious road to global climate talks—from The Washington Post 7/16/09, SLT 7/18/09

What do we get from our mindless pursuit of growth?—Jeff Clawson, M.D., Salt Lake City, SLT 7/17/09

Great Salt Lake expansion plan works—State Rep. Kerry W. Gibson, R-Ogden, SLT 7/17/09

Pay to mine:  End free pass for hardrock mining—Tribune Editorial, SLT 7/17/09


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