Monday, April 22 was Earth Day. It is one day dedicated to bringing attention to our shared environmental impact, and to inspiring action that reduces that impact. It is also the day the NBC peacock logo turns green.
As with all “Days,” Earth Day’s larger design is to send out a message that reverberates the whole year ’round. Lets see how we’re keeping up this week in “6 Things You Need to Know Right Now.” (The standard-setter here might surprise you.)
1. China’s Pollution Creates a Problem for Japan. Sometimes a neighbor is troublesome because of a yapping dog, loud house parties, or questionable lawn ornamentation. Japan’s country-next-door problem is that China is sending airborne pollutants upwind, and those irritants seem to be wiping out the island’s primeval forests. A Japanese scientist has been warning for years that Chinese pollution is to blame for the scores of dead trees, but his fellow countrymen only started paying attention recently, when a public health scare surfaced and China itself began acknowledging the dangerous side effects of its smog-filled air. The dying trees are both a tourist attraction and an endangered species of pine. So the next time you and Japan are trading stories, you should probably keep your complaints about your neighbor’s outdoor shower to yourself.
2. Samsung Phones Made From Tin Mined By Children. Well, this news has it all, assuming all you want is depressing news. Global corporation + environmental danger + human health danger + child exploitation = this. Samsung – the company that makes the phone you might be reading this very post on – has admitted that its phones may contain tin mined from Bangka Island in Indonesia. An investigation last year uncovered that tin mining depends on child labor and leads to human and environmental fatalities. Samsung had been pressured to look into its tin sourcing, and vowed to continue investigating its own supply chain. The company stressed it had no “direct” relationship with suppliers from Bangka Island. Apple is under similar pressure to vet its sourcing. Gives a whole new meaning to the term “tin ear.”
3. Angry Exchange Over Keystone XL Pipeline. Last year, NASA climatologist James Hansen wrote a column for The New York Times predicting that it will be “game over for the climate” if the development of Canada’s tar sands is not stopped. That is a controversial statement because the Keystone XL pipeline, a $5.3 billion project awaiting Obama administration approval, would carry tar sands oil. Canada’s Natural Resource Minister, Joe Oliver, is in Washington, D.C. this week, hoping to drum up support for the project. According to Oliver, the oil sands represent “one one-thousandth of global emissions.” He went on to accuse Mr. Hansen of “talking nonsense.” In other words, nah-nah-nah-boo-boo.
4. Fight Over “Amazon” as Domain Name. The Internet being the new frontier, it is no surprise there are disagreements as to how the property should be divided up. ICANN, the U.S.-appointed non-profit that decides what new domains can be added to the web, has stirred the pot by expanding rights to “top level domains.” Amazon, the mammoth Internet retailer, has applied for ownership of .amazon. Brazil and .Peru – the countries that the actual Amazon River spans – are not excited. In fact, they have called for the application to be withdrawn, arguing that a private company should not be allowed to own a geographic name. Who would have thought it could be possible to wax nostalgic for the good old .com days?
5. Appeals Court Hands Legal Victory to EPA. The D.C. federal appeals court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to withdraw a permit it had previously issued. The EPA tried to reverse portions of a mountain-top mining permit it issued in West Virginia. The 2007 permit allowed a mining company to discharge “material” into three nearby streams and tributaries. In 2011, the EPA stated that discharge could not run into two of those streams because of expected environmental and health effects. The mining company sued, arguing the EPA did not have that retroactive authority, and the lower court agreed. Supporters are heralding the appeals court’s reversal as allowing Appalachian communities to “breathe a sigh of relief.” Pun intention unclear.
6. George W. Bush Presidential Library Certified LEED Platinum. You might not like his politics, but it’s pretty hard to argue with his design priorities. The presidential library of former President George W. Bush – formally dedicated on Thursday – has 100% solar hot water heating, 10 percent electricity supply from photovoltaics and a green roof. The entrance is made of sea coral mined from Midland, Texas, and the grounds have been restored to a prairie state, with 90 kinds of native grasses and plants and an irrigation system that uses captured rainwater. There is no sign that Dick Cheney will be allowed to bird hunt on the premises.
Join us again next week for the latest edition of “6 Things You Need to Know Right Now!”