Sunday, March 30, 2008
Secret film will show slaughter to the world
Covert operation finally exposes Taiji's annual dolphin horror
By Boyd Harnell
Special to The Japan Times
For the first time ever, graphic feature-length footage of the annual slaughter of some 2,500 dolphins in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, has been captured during a unique yearlong covert operation.
OPS filming team leader Louie Psihoyos (foreground) and assistant director Charles Hambleton in camouflage overlooking Taiji's "killing cove," where whalers (below) haul dolphins aboard their boat from the blood-red sea.
The secret filming by members of the U.S. conservation group Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS) ˜ equipped with state-of-the-art technology is being turned into a major documentary feature film destined for worldwide release this summer (although distribution in Japan is at present not certain).
The story of how this film of the barbaric killing and subsequent butchering of dolphins was made ˜ together with the resulting sale of their meat that massively exceeds Japanese and international limits for mercury content ˜ is told here, exclusively, for the first time anywhere in print.
The footage of the annual seven-month dolphin "drive fisheries" (as they are known in Japan), and of the brutal practices involved in them ˜ as well as the complicity in the killings by various dolphin trainers and officials from Taiji Whale Museum ˜ is sure to shock the world. But whether Japanese people themselves will be able to see the film and arrive at their own conclusions is still by no means certain.
The annual dolphin slaughter at Taiji, a town with a population of some 3,500 in the beautiful Yoshino Kumano Kokuritsu Koen national park, follows a regular pattern.
First, hunter boats from the Taiji Isana Union (numbering at most 13 skiffs, with two crewmen each) head out to sea and surround pods of dolphins or pilot whales (which are actually large dolphins). Then they drive them into a "capture cove" by banging on long metal bell-ended poles placed in the water to disrupt the dolphins' sonar, causing them to become completely disorientated and panic.
After these animals have spent a night supposedly relaxing in the netted-off capture cove (in an attempt by the whalers to make their meat more tender), they are driven to the neighboring "killing cove." There, behind huge blue tarps strung across the cove to keep prying eyes away ˜ in much the same way that Japanese police cordon off crime scenes ˜ the dolphins meet their gruesome predawn end.
It is a gory spectacle that Taiji has long striven to keep anyone from seeing ˜ and one that is crucially fueled by the lucrative, worldwide dolphin captivity and display industry. Aquarium operators, some of whom have claimed to be saving dolphins' lives by selecting a few as performers, pay up to $150,000 per animal.
The brutal selection process, though ˜ as shown in the OPS footage ˜ causes many of these highly intelligent marine mammals to die of shock or drown.
Meanwhile, cruelty apart, the government-sanctioned slaughter is widely condemned by Japanese scientists, activists and a few Taiji officials, who all cite the serious health issues related to consumption of the dolphins' mercury-tainted meat.
A baby dolphin leaps to its death on rocks (above) after its mother is killed, and a whaler (below) hauls in another speared victim. OPS PHOTOS
One of the officials OPS filmed was Taiji City Councilman Junichiro Yamashita, who organized certified tests on local dolphin meat bought from retail outlets in the town. The shocking test results revealed mercury and methylmercury levels that were 30 and 16 times, respectively, above advisory levels set by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. As a result, Yamashita hastily distributed newsletters to Taiji residents warning them to avoid consuming the meat ˜ which he called "toxic waste."
Although a massive blackout of this long-standing butchery of small cetaceans is aided by an apparent self-imposed boycott of the subject by Japan's vernacular and other English-language media, this newspaper has published a 2 1/2-year-long series of exposes that have won it two international press awards from the Humane Society of the United States.
Now, though, the focus is on the meticulously planned $2.5-million covert operation ˜ the cost of which is estimated to double by the time of the film's projected release in June.
From their base in Boulder, Colorado, the OPS group made six trips to Wakayama Prefecture, where they were constantly followed by local police and stalked and harassed by Taiji "whalers." Despite this, their mission was successful. Their high-tech film gear was covertly inserted in the "killing cove" and extracted 16 times thanks to the efforts of the film's assistant director, Charles Hambleton, and three members of the OPS team. Their hidden, high-definition (HD) cameras successfully recorded the horror that unfolded behind Taiji's blue tarps. And what they saw was beyond their belief.
Captured dolphins were filmed writhing in pain as Taiji whalers speared them repeatedly or cracked their spines with spiked weapons. Stricken dolphins are also shown thrashing about wildly, blood pouring from their wounds until they finally succumbed. Meanwhile, a number of dolphin trainers and officials from the Taiji Whale Museum are shown cooperating in the slaughter ˜ some even laughing ˜ as the killing cove's bloodied, ruby-red water swept round into the adjacent capture cove.
But perhaps the most iconic scene is one in which a baby dolphin leaps to its death on the rocks after its mother is killed. This really was a surreal and incredibly sad sight to see.
OPS team leader Louie Psihoyos, a world-renowned photographer formerly with National Geographic Magazine, and members of his group, conducted the extraordinary covert operation with the daring elan and minute precision of a military-style, special-forces mission.
With proper funding the team was able to use the most sophisticated equipment money could buy. Among their weapons of choice were a battery of HD cameras. Some of those cameras were encased in fake rocks sculpted out of high-density foam by movie-model makers with Kerner Optical (formerly George "Star Wars" Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic Shop). These disguised cameras were strat- egically positioned inside the killing cove.
Members of a multi-national pro-surfer group at Taiji last October, where ˜ despite harassment by whalers ˜ they formed a prayer circle of protest in the waters of the "killing cove" where dolphins were being speared. OPS PHOTO
Also included in the formidable lineup of high-tech gear for this covert operation were standard-size HD cameras, $50,000 military-grade HD forward-looking infrared (FLIR) P-645 thermal cameras (to detect anyone the whalers had on lookout); hydrophones and HD underwater cameras (to record the dolphins' underwater throes); unmanned gyro-stabilized helicopters; a number of "shotgun" microphones disguised as tree branches; walkie-talkies; and a host of ancillary equipment.
The mission objective was to produce a well-balanced, full-length documentary feature for general worldwide release encompassing all facets of the Taiji dolphin cull and its health risks.
"We succeeded," Psihoyos said, "but we also came back with an epic horror film resembling a Steven King novel more than a documentary."
Psihoyos emphasized that the film is neither anti-Japanese nor a "Japan-bashing" production.
In fact, the whole OPS Taiji odyssey began in the winter of 2006. Then, Psihoyos says, "My assistant director, Charles Hambleton, and I had a seven-hour meeting at the mayor's office with Taiji town officials about making a movie of their town.
"An official, who represented Mayor Kazutaka Sangen, said they were concerned about Westerners showing blood in the cove ˜ that it gave the town an evil look."
Psihoyos says he told the officials he would not show blood in his film ˜ if they allowed him to position two cameras at the entrance to the cove and to interview the whalers. After mulling it over, though, both officials and whalers cut off contact with Psihoyos and denied him permission to film near the cove. As well, they demanded that he should restrict footage showing blood ˜ apparently fearful that barbarous images may lead to their drive hunts being banned.
Entrails and internal organs of dolphins killed in "drive fisheries" and then brought to land for butchering lie unsuccessfully hidden from view on the floor of the slaughterhouse in Taiji adjacent to the "killing cove" there. BOYD HARNELL PHOTO
In this volatile atmosphere, local police warned the whalers and their supporters off any repeat of violence or threats of violence such as had happened before. In fact, Nigel Barker, a former Australian resident in Taiji, says he was threatened with bodily harm for providing The Japan Times with details of the whalers' brutal methods. In another incident, Psihoyos said he, too, was threatened by whalers, who said, "We will kill you."
Amazingly, though, after their talks broke down and the OPS people were leaving their final meeting with Taiji town officials, they were given a detailed map of Taiji, red-lining areas where filming was restricted. This map became a precious tool for planning the group's covert ops over the next year.
Now the gloves were off. No agreement had been made with the officials and Psihoyos immediately planned a thorough reconnaissance of the Taiji area. Precise vantage points were selected to position their cameras. Several camouflaged camera blinds were set up on the headland adjacent to the Whale Museum that overlooks the killing cove. But their major challenge was figuring out how to insert and extract their "rock cameras," underwater cameras, hydrophones and hidden microphones without being detected.
Psihoyos contacted Ric O'Barry, who captured and trained dolphins for the 1960s TV series "Flipper," asking for his help in detailing the whalers' routine during drive hunts.
O'Barry, head of the international Save Japan Dolphins coalition, had monitored the drives in Taiji for more than five years, and he agreed to be the point man for OPS. O'Barry was already hated by the whalers for his activities, including bringing the media to Taiji to film the brutal drives. In fact, he tells how whalers greet him with throat-cutting gestures when they see him there.
Following O'Barry's advice, the OPS group implemented their high-risk strategy for filming the covert mission. As the two headlands overlooking the killing cove were constantly monitored by whalers, members faced the loss of expensive gear and possible arrest. That was despite Japanese attorneys telling them that the legality of blocking access to a national park was questionable. They said, though, that police "made up their own rules" in enforcing the blockade.
Ric O'Barry, trainer of the dolphins for the 1960s TV series "Flipper," and head of the Save Japan Dolphins coalition, wears a video-vest in Tokyo's hip Shibuya district showing graphic images of dolphins being killed in Taiji.
The OPS group was headquartered in hotel rooms in the area, where their missions were planned and piles of pricey equipment occupied most of the space. Two vans were rented to haul their weighty gear to their target locations. Another small, unobtrusive rental car driven by OPS member Joe Chisholm was used for scouting ˜ mostly for monitoring the Taiji harbor area to check if drive boats were out. Chisholm also kept an eye on the roads to detect whether police were following the group. Altogether, the incredible challenges of making this film elevated it to a major undertaking on a scale never before attempted.
Throughout this buildup period, drive fisheries were being conducted during daylight. If the whalers were successful, captured dolphins would be trapped in the holding cove sealed off with nets. Before daybreak the next day, men in motorboats would herd the panicked animals into the killing cove of no return.
The horror of the dolphins' final moments there were recorded not only by the "rock cameras" above the waterline, but also from below by using underwater microphones and an underwater "blood-cam" HD camera devised by OPS high-tech guru Simon Hutchins, which yielded graphic footage of the sea slowly turning red as the killings continued.
To make this possible, OPS called on Mandy-Rae Cruickshank, a seven-time world free-diving champion, and her famed coach and husband, Kirk Krack, to plant the devices. (Cruikshank recently broke her own world record by free-diving down to 88 meters and back in 2 min. 48 sec.) Both eagerly accepted the risky challenge.
"Good to go Mandy," crackled through the two-way. It was 3 a.m. The OPS support group on land had just completed a thermal-imaging sweep of the capture and killing coves. No security was detected. As the OPS van dropped the two off above the holding cove's small beach, and sped away, the free-diving pair, clad in wet suits, entered the water. The moon was full, helping them to see obstacles.
"Tensions were high . . . we had to get around a barbed-wire fence and hike down over some boulders to get into the water," Mandy said. "Then we swam around to the killing cove. It was about 40 feet (12 meters) deep. We had an underwater camera and hydrophone, and we used a flashlight to get a reference point so we knew where to retrieve them from after we made a reconnaissance, but we had to turn it on and off quickly to escape detection. Then Kirk and I put down the devices fairly easily."
On their return to the beach in the holding cove, Cruickshank said, "We saw a car going into the parking lot, so we hid in bushes until they left and then we waited for the van to pick us up."
Before that mission and again afterward, she said, "We were constantly monitored by police."
A few days later, Cruikshank said that from that same beach in the capture cove they saw a pod of 40 herded round to the killing cove, where the slaughter began. "They had separated the babies, some only as big as my arm, and then the emerald water in front of us began to turn red and you could hear the dolphins screaming. One stabbed dolphin tried to escape, and it made it over two nets from the killing cove and was heading toward the beach in the capture cove with blood streaming from it. We saw the last two breaths it took ˜ it was impossible not to cry.
"The babies were led out to sea and were either killed or set free to die of starvation," she said.
Meanwhile, Psihoyos' team was embedded in their camera blinds on overlooking hillsides, sometimes for as long as 17 hours a day. Dressed in full camouflage gear and wearing face paint, they looked like military sniper teams. Black masking tape covered reflective surfaces on their cameras to avoid detection. For over 3 1/2 weeks, the OPS team survived on a daily ration of 3 hours' sleep. When filming from the camera blinds, they subsisted on energy bars and water. Whaler security men, always wary of outsiders monitoring their hunts, constantly scanned the high terrain, the bushes and undergrowth surrounding the two coves, their flashlights searching for intruders.
Fake rocks to disguise hidden cameras are sculpted out of foam (top) at Kerner Optical in California (formerly George "Star Wars" Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic Shop); world free-diving champion Mandy-Rae Cruickshank (above), who, together with her husband Kirk Krack (below, in thermal-image photo) secretly positioned many of the high-tech devices to record what happens in Taiji's "killing cove," OPS PHOTOS
Psihoyos recounted his attempt in setting up the initial camera blind in a spot overlooking the killing cove.
"It was a moonless night and I had a full-size def (HD) camera in tow with a large tripod. I scaled a cliff and descended on a rope and perched on a shelf as big as an average office desk ˜ but at a slope of about 30 degrees.
"I braced my feet against a small tree and didn't move them for the next 15 1/2 hours," he said, adding, "the lagoon was filled with pilot whales ˜ they made a protective circle around their young. I shot frantic clips from my unstable perch as I saw whales killed and dragged away."
Reacting to these brutal scenes, Psihoyos recalled thinking, "If there's a god, don't let their lives be wasted in vain."
Originally, OPS's hidden rock cameras focused on the killing cove from surrounding headlands could only film for three hours, but a high-tech piece of kit they acquired "turbocharged" the batteries to allow them to film for 11 hours continuously, ensuring they would capture all facets of the cull.
The hidden microphones revealed startling comments from whalers in the killing cove, including one during the cleanup after a killing session, when a dead calf was on the beach in the killing cove. Countering the whalers' contention they never harmed a mother or its calf, one was heard saying: "Hey, that guy over there saw the dead calf, didn't he? Is it a problem?" His friend responded, "He came from the [whalers'] union ˜ it's not a problem."
Indeed, contrary to their statements, the Taiji whalers seem unconcerned about killing female dolphins and their calves ˜ as is graphically depicted in one of the film's sequences.
However, along with the film's horrific images, Psihoyos also interviews on camera Japanese scientists and others involved in the mercury health issues surrounding dolphin meat.
Dr. Shigeo Ekino, a prominent researcher from Kumamoto University's Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Kyushu, compared the high mercury levels found in contaminated fish in Minamata, Japan, in the 1950s during the world's worst mercury-pollution disaster, to levels of mercury currently found in dolphin meat.
Ekino, who was filmed holding a tested sample of Taiji dolphin meat, said: "This dolphin meat is 98.9 ppm (parts per million of total mercury) ˜ which is higher than the level (of the fish and shellfish) in Minamata Bay. It's a clear danger!"
His sample was 247.25 times the Japanese health ministry's advisory level of 0.4 ppm for total mercury.
Tetsuya Endo, a professor at Hokkaido's Health Science University, also conducted mercury tests on dolphin meat, and his results were published in 2005. In a filmed OPS interview, he said: "I found 100 ppm of total mercury in . . . bottlenose dolphin and 2,000 ppm of total mercury in the liver of an unknown (dolphin) species. All of it was toxic." In fact, the higher figure was 5,000 times the health ministry's advisory level for mercury.
In another OPS interview, Psihoyos asked Hideki Moronuki, deputy director of the Far Seas Fisheries Division of the central government's Fisheries Agency, "How are the dolphins killed now? . . . and are the dolphins being dragged around by their tails during the selection process for captive specimens?"
Assistant director Charles Hambleton fits an HD camera into a fake rock set to capture the "killing cove" killings. OPS PHOTO
Moronuki is filmed replying, "Fishermen are using specifically made knife (sic), and put it through the spine . . . most of the animals are killed instantly." As for allegations of them being dragged by their tails, he says, "That's not happening anymore."
When Psihoyos showed Moronuki a film clip of the inhumane, random spearing of dolphins while others were dragged by their tails ˜ all filmed recently ˜ he froze and told Psihoyos: "I have to instruct them again. They are using inappropriate method to treat dolphin."
At Psihoyos' request, Moronuki gave him a hair sample to be tested for mercury. The result: a readout of 5.874 ppm of total mercury, which is 14.68 times the health ministry's advisory level.
Moronuki's response was peculiar: "I was very happier to know that I have eaten so much fish which make me much healthier than meat-eating peoples."
Another dramatic highlight of the footage shows a surfer invasion in Taiji last October led by legendary Australian pro surfer Dave Rastovich, along with a few TV celebrities and some surfer buddies. They paddled into the cove where dolphins were being slaughtered and formed a prayer circle. Shocked by the atrocity, they finally retreated when whalers in skiffs came and prodded them with poles and sharp-hooked gaffs.
Producers of the OPS documentary are aiming for a worldwide release in June, including a special Japanese version creatively marketed and circulated to ensure maximum viewing even if major distributors turn it down. The film's narrator will be an actor selected from Hollywood's "A list," they said.
Referring to his hopes the film will benefit the dolphins, Psihoyos said: "Dolphins are the only wild animals known to rescue humans. With this film, we'd like to come to their rescue and, in the process, save ourselves."
Pointedly, just months before the surfers went into the killing cove at Taiji, their leader Dave Rastovich had survived a shark attack in Australia when a dolphin swam between him and the shark and allowed him to escape.
03 April 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
05 October 2007
Thursday, October 5, 2007 12:15 PM
By Lynda V. Mapes
Seattle Times staff reporter
A federal indictment says this gray whale was illegally harpooned, shot and killed by five Makah tribal whalers in early September.
A federal grand jury returned misdemeanor indictments Thursday against all five men arrested in the killing of a gray whale in early September.
According to the indictment, the whalers sought weapons and ammunition from the Makah Tribe the day before the hunt, claiming they wanted them for practice. The whalers also got permission to get a 12-foot boat from the tribe and obtained a large buoy from a Makah tribal employee.
The next morning the five men set out in two boats, encountered a gray whale and struck it with at least four harpoons, the indictment said. They then attached four buoys to the whale and shot it at least 16 times with high-powered weapons obtained from the Makah Whaling Commission.
According to the indictment, the fatally injured whale swam nine miles. About 12 hours after it was struck, it died and sank in about 700 feet of water.
The five men have been summoned to appear in federal court in Tacoma Oct. 12.
The men charged are: Frankie Gonzales, Wayne Johnson, Andrew Noel, Theron Parker and William Secor. All are charged with conspiracy, unlawful taking of a marine mammal and unauthorized whaling.
"The charges brought today are the most serious available to the government in this case," U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Sullivan said in a prepared statement.
Said Naomi Rose, marine-mammal scientist for the Humane Society of the United States: "We welcome these charges; we think they are what should have happened. These are strong charges, with the maximum penalty the law allows. What we need to do now is wait and see what happens."
The federal prosecution does not take the place of tribal action against the whalers, said John Arum, an attorney for the tribe. "The tribe has promised prosecution to the fullest extent of the law, and it intends to do that," Arum said.
If convicted under federal law, the whalers could face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $100,000. Under tribal law, the whalers could serve up to a year in jail, pay up to a $5,000 fine and face suspension of their treaty right to fish for up to three years.
Makah Tribal Council member Micah McCarty said tribal authorities are eager to get on with trying the case, but they have been held up, waiting for federal officials to finish their work. Federal authorities have all the most pertinent evidence in the case and won't turn it over to the tribe until the federal case is concluded.
Key dates in Makah whaling
"Any jury of their peers would say, 'OK, where is the evidence?' " McCarty said. "We are patiently waiting. Our timelines are connected at the hip with the federal timelines. Initially, we thought we would be in lock-step cooperation and it became a one-way street pretty quickly. The tribal prosecution doesn't have the strongest case without the evidence they are holding.
"We are kind of in a Catch-22 situation."
Jim Oesterle, assistant U.S. attorney for environmental crimes, said the investigation is continuing, and he was not sure when it would conclude.
Tribal leaders have been impatient to get on with the case, McCarty said, because of pressure in Washington, D.C., from anti-whaling interests arguing the tribe isn't really going to prosecute its own.
The tribe needs political support in Washington, where it is seeking a federal waiver from the Marine Mammal Protection Act to allow legal hunts in the future. The illegal hunt has set that effort back, Arum said. Vicki Nomura, special agent in charge of the National Marine Fisheries Service, confirmed the rogue hunt could delay the tribe's press for a waiver, in the works for years.
"This just puts further pressure for holding a treaty right hostage until these five Makah men see their day in court," McCarty said. "It reflects on the integrity of the U.S. trust responsibility. This just wraps a whole people in a situation that shouldn't have had to come to this."
The tribe has a right to whale, guaranteed in its treaty of 1855 with the U.S. government. Whaler Wayne Johnson has said he was tired of waiting for thewaiver, and decided to go out and hunt a whale, as his ancestors always had, and as the treaty allows.
Johnson has said repeatedly since the hunt that he didn't regret his actions. But he was more circumspect Thursday.
"I got three counts against me," Johnson said. "I'm a little worried, of course."
Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
Posted by Ms Nemo at 5:47 PM
25 August 2007
Seems Japan will keep exploring all avenues from Small Developing nations in order to gain access to whale meat. In this part of the world Japan seems to have been very generous, practicaly all these nations support Japans twisted logic to justify their whaling and fisheries agenda.
While poaching fish from its neighbor ! Russia....
"Kamchatka’s Environmental Prosecutor’s Office has passed to the court a criminal case against the captain of the Japanese fishing vessel, the Hoshinmaru 88.............The vessel, owned and operated by Ikeda Suisan company, was seized by Russian marine border guards with a crew of 17 off Kamchatka’s eastern coast on June 1 carrying a catch exceeding by 14 tons the documented payload, with sockeye salmon instead of the chum salmon declared. The boat was later escorted to the port of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky."
And now making overtures to the small and vulnerable island nation of São Tomé and Principe.
No doubt a result of the recent dynamics at both the annual International Whaling Commission(IWC) and CITIES (Convention on International Trade in endangered species).
Breaching Sperm Whale
CITIES responded by denying the request and adding that the IWC was the appropriate body for such research. This also went to reinforce the ban on trade in whale meat currently in place.
Also reinforcing the "market based" decision taken by Iceland recently not to issue quotas for whale hunting next year due to a surplus of stock and no export market.
Ooh, BTW, Japans many years of research has still not provided any abundance numbers according to the the scientific committee report of the IWC 59 meeting.
This article seems to be the only reference to the whaling question, however Japan has graciously given food aid and a grant to construct the infamous "fishery facility". This will also make a neat geographical plus, certainly in the realms of food security.
Japans success at this courtship will be the fruit of the long worn battle.
Next will be representation at the IWC, perhaps!
Japan wants to hunt whales in Sao Tome’s waters [ 2007-08-09 ]
Sao Tome, Sao Tome and Principe, 9 Aug - Japan has presented proposals to Sao Tome’s fisheries authorities aimed to open the archipelago’s territorial waters to Japanese commercial whaling, officials said.
Sao Tome’s fisheries minister, Cristina Dias, said Wednesday that she considered the Japanese proposals “interesting”, noting that before Sao Tome gives approval for this type of fishing it would carry out economic and environmental studies and also sign up to an international convention on whaling.
Besides discussing financial compensation for whale fishing in its waters, Sao Tome would also discuss job creation prospects related to the whaling proposals with the Japanese authorities, added the minister.
Dias was speaking after a fisheries conference in Sao Tome, which was attended by a Tokyo delegation headed by Japanese MP Tadahiko Ito, who is to deliver an invitation to President Fradique de Menezes for the Japan-Africa summit next year.
Japan made US$ 6.9 million available to Sao Tome less than a month ago for fisheries development as part of Tokyo’s bilateral cooperation with the islands.
Japan is one of Sao Tome’s main cooperation partners in the fisheries sector. Tokyo sends annual food donations of rice to the islands worth around US$ 1.3 million. (macauhub)
So should you want to drop the good Minister a note
Ministre de l'Economie S.E. Cristina Maria Fernandes Dias
Government of Sao Tome and Principe
Posted by Ms Nemo at 7:32 PM
18 August 2007
Truely a great foundation to understand why all of humanity to have a major shift in so many ways, the Cradle 2 Cradle discipline is definably, a route toward that future.
From a leading designers prospective...
Perhaps this is a crucial foundation point for developing countries to use as a king plank for the new millennium and the future.
Posted by Ms Nemo at 10:13 AM
15 August 2007
Aug. 2, 2007
Water, air and soil pollution causes 40 percent of deaths worldwide, Cornell research survey finds
By Susan Lang
About 40 percent of deaths worldwide are caused by water, air and soil pollution, concludes a Cornell researcher. Such environmental degradation, coupled with the growth in world population, are major causes behind the rapid increase in human diseases, which the World Health Organization has recently reported. Both factors contribute to the malnourishment and disease susceptibility of 3.7 billion people, he says.
David Pimentel, Cornell professor of ecology and agricultural sciences, and a team of Cornell graduate students examined data from more than 120 published papers on the effects of population growth, malnutrition and various kinds of environmental degradation on human diseases. Their report is published in the online version of the journal Human Ecology (available at http://www.springerlink.com/content/101592/, to be published in the December print issue).
"We have serious environmental resource problems of water, land and energy, and these are now coming to bear on food production, malnutrition and the incidence of diseases," said Pimentel.
Of the world population of about 6.5 billion, 57 percent is malnourished, compared with 20 percent of a world population of 2.5 billion in 1950, said Pimentel. Malnutrition is not only the direct cause of 6 million children's deaths each year but also makes millions of people much more susceptible to such killers as acute respiratory infections, malaria and a host of other life-threatening diseases, according to the research.
Among the study's other main points:
* Nearly half the world's people are crowded into urban areas, often without adequate sanitation, and are exposed to epidemics of such diseases as measles and flu.
* With 1.2 billion people lacking clean water, waterborne infections account for 80 percent of all infectious diseases. Increased water pollution creates breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitoes, killing 1.2 million to 2.7 million people a year, and air pollution kills about 3 million people a year. Unsanitary living conditions account for more than 5 million deaths each year, of which more than half are children.
* Air pollution from smoke and various chemicals kills 3 million people a year. In the United States alone about 3 million tons of toxic chemicals are released into the environment -- contributing to cancer, birth defects, immune system defects and many other serious health problems.
* Soil is contaminated by many chemicals and pathogens, which are passed on to humans through direct contact or via food and water. Increased soil erosion worldwide not only results in more soil being blown but spreading of disease microbes and various toxins.
At the same time, more microbes are becoming increasingly drug-resistant. And global warming, together with changes in biological diversity, influence parasite evolution and the ability of exotic species to invade new areas. As a result, such diseases as tuberculosis and influenza are re-emerging as major threats, while new threats -- including West Nile virus and Lyme disease -- have developed.
"A growing number of people lack basic needs, like pure water and ample food. They become more susceptible to diseases driven by malnourishment, and air, water and soil pollutants," Pimentel concludes. He and his co-authors call for comprehensive and fair population policies and more conservation of environmental resources that support human life.
"Relying on increasing diseases and malnutrition to limit human numbers in the world diminishes the quality of life for all humans and is a high-risk policy," the researchers conclude.
Posted by Ms Nemo at 8:36 AM
13 August 2007
This is a great study as it allows for what should have been done orginally with Kyoto etc, this gets the attention needed and the "trade not aid" debate can be given a better context, one that brings the wider financial mechanisms of development for the developing world, while slowing global ecological destruction.
Carbon Market Encourages Chopping Forests - Study
WASHINGTON - The current carbon market actually encourages cutting down some of the world's biggest forests, which would unleash tonnes of climate-warming carbon into the atmosphere, a new study reported on Monday.
Under the Kyoto Protocol aimed at stemming climate change, there is no profitable reason for the 10 countries and one French territory with 20 percent of Earth's intact tropical forest to maintain this resource, according to a study in the journal Public Library of Science Biology.
The Kyoto treaty and other talks on global warming focus on so-called carbon credits for countries and companies that plant new trees where forests have been destroyed. Trees and other plants absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas emitted by petroleum-fueled vehicles, coal-fired power plants and humans.
At this point, there is no credit for countries that keep the forests they have, the study said.
"The countries that haven't really been the target of deforestation have nothing to sell because they haven't deforested anything," said Gustavo Fonseca, one of the study's authors.
"So that creates a perverse incentive for them to actually start deforesting, so that in the future, they might be allowed to actually cap-and-trade, as they call it: you put a cap on your deforestation and you trade that piece that hasn't been deforested," Fonseca said in a telephone interview.
The countries most at risk for this kind of deforestation, because they all have more than half their original forests intact, are Panama, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Peru, Belize, Gabon, Guyana, Suriname, Bhutan and Zambia, along with the French territory of French Guiana.
These places need a system of credits to involve them in the "global deforestation avoidance market," said Fonseca, of the World Bank's Global Environment Facility.
Under this kind of system, these countries could agree to keep deforestation rates below the global average and get credit for how much below the average they are, Fonseca said.
These market mechanisms are still being worked out and are likely to be debated at a series of international meetings on climate change this year at the United Nations, in Washington and in Bali, Indonesia.
Besides curbing greenhouse gas emissions, this system could offer other benefits that intact forests provide, according to Russell Mittermeier, a study co-author and president of the environmental group Conservation International.
Intact forests protect watersheds, encourage pollination and preserve biodiversity, Mittermeier said by telephone.
Mittermeier said perhaps 20 to 25 percent of world carbon emissions come from the destruction of tropical forest, but this issue is not at the center of the global warming discussion.
"People are talking a lot about vehicle emissions, industrial emissions, biofuels and recycling," Mittermeier said. "Forests were barely in there and yet forests are ... perhaps the major contributor" to global climate change.
Story by Deborah Zabarenko
Story Date: 14/8/2007
© Reuters News Service 2007
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Fortunatly this is gaining traction, there is very significant funds to be gained to assist in the building of what could be a great world, it is possible. Thats the rebel in me !
The World Bank is one of the main players in carbon financing, and estimates the value of carbon traded in 2005 to be about $10bn.
It believes the carbon market has the potential to bring more than $25bn (£14bn) in new financing for sustainable development to the poorest countries and the developing world.
Posted by Ms Nemo at 10:56 PM