Environment: Can Do

There is plenty to be worried about these days, of course. The shelling from the rich, the greedy, the obtuse, the deliberately cruel comes in non-stop. Hunkering down sometimes seems the only option available. But there are bright moments, too. Utopia exists if we could just gather together all the pieces in one place.

From Maine to Georgia an interesting project is unfolding. Its roots are in public education and early warning. Its real effect may be on the lives of the many who participate.

…a diverse group of organizations has started a long-term project to monitor the [Appalachian] trail, with plans to tap into an army of volunteer “citizen scientists” and their professional counterparts.

Together, they will collect information about plants and animals, air and water quality, visibility and migration patterns to build an early-warning system for the nonhiking public.

Appalachian Trail Scouts

In Northern California decades of work are starting to pay off along the Sacramento River where acres of farmland and logged over hillsides are being returned to riparian wilderness with a bursting forth of song-birds and the networks of species that indicate a renewed health for the area.

Some of the most beautiful and charismatic species have made the most dramatic rebounds. Black-headed grosbeaks are up almost 16 percent, spotted towhees have jumped more than 26 percent and American goldfinches have climbed almost 12 percent.

There is a clear cause-and-effect going on, Gardali said. Over the past 15 years, an informal confederation of government agencies and private environmental groups has restored about 4,000 acres of former farmland to the riverside thickets and woodlands — “riparian forests,” as biologists call them — that songbirds dote on.

“What surprised us was the rapid response of bird populations to the increased habitat,” Gardali said. “And it was for the whole complex of species — resident birds and migrants, cavity nesters, ground nesters. We really didn’t expect it.”

Wildlife Restoration

And in the bizarre beyond belief category the Bush’s EPA’s argument that CO2 is not a pollutant is being heard by the Supreme Court today. [Not a pollutant, don’t have to do anything about it, you see.] Like the specious arguments over torture and genocide and a host of other things we are going to have sophists parsing meanings down to paralysis while the world burns. Arghhh.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency argues in the case before the Supreme Court that greenhouse gases are not air pollutants, and therefore are not subject to government regulation. Even if the common gases are pollutants, the EPA says, nationwide regulation would be premature at best and might cause more harm than good.

The agency’s position is consistent with President Bush’s policy of relying on industry to reduce emissions voluntarily, and withdrawing the United States from the Kyoto Protocol, which requires industrial nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Supreme Court Hears Pollution Arguments

The good news is that among the many plaintiffs are a fat handful of states and their governors who, unlike the Administration, do not need emergency brain surgery.

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