Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Keeping Up on Environmental News

One of my favorite ways of keeping up on environmental news is to listen to two podcasts by NPR. The first is NPR: Environment. This podcast is a collection of stories (focusing on the environment) from their various shows (20 to 40 minutes each). The second is the weekly show, Living on Earth (about an hour each). Subscribing is easy, free, and then you can listen to these shows whenever you have time. Doing chores around the house, commuting, at the gym. You get the picture. Just one easy way to keep yourself in the know.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Annapurna: Memories in Sound

I heard this sound journal on NPR a few weeks ago. Its a beautiful account of one couple's trek through the Himalayas to Nepal. This journal is unique because there is a paucity of narration, the real focus is on the sounds they recorded throughout the trip. Monks chanting, prayer flags whipping in the wind, sherpa bells clanking- it was really a treat to listen to.

Follow this link and click on the headphones next to the Feb 3, 2007 show. There's a short segment before it, which you can fast-forward through if you like.

The Endangered Species Act

The Endangered Species Act was a groundbreaking piece of legislation, vastly improving the first few versions of laws inspired by the plight of the whooping crane (Grus americana).

However, this law is not a guarantee that the species needing protection from extinction will get it. The governmental agencies responsible for listing species often drag their feet, when protecting wildlife will harm interests like timber, grazing, and agriculture.

For the most famous example of how the ESA can be circumvented see the snail darter (Percina tanasi) case, argued by Zyg Plater against the Tennessee Valley Authority. Briefly (from

1978 - The Supreme Court rules that the Endangered Species Act requires that construction of Tellico Dam be halted. The arguments that $78 million had already been spent on the dam or that the endangered snail darter was only a tiny fish do not impress the court. The "plain intent" of the law, say six of the nine members, is to save all species "whatever the cost."
1978 - Congress responds to the court ruling by creating the "god squad": a committee that could exempt selected species from protection.
1979 - The first meeting of the god squad decides, with the Supreme Court, that the snail darter should take precedence over Tellico Dam.
1979 - The Tennessee congressional delegation responds by slipping a rider into an appropriations bill exempting Tellico Dam from the Endangered Species Act. The rider narrowly passes. The Tennessee Valley Authority completes the dam.

The current administration has a disappointing record when it comes to listing the growing number of species in need of protection. Here is an excerpt from the non-profit organization Forest Guardians:

“Under the Bush Administration, the federal endangered species program is faltering. President George W. Bush has made his mark as the only president under whom not one taxon has been listed on the initiative of the administration. All listings under George W. Bush have occurred as the result of court-orders. Only 7-8 species have been listed since George W. Bush has been in office, the lowest under any president since the Endangered Species Act was passed. Contrast this with an average of 65 species per year under Bill Clinton and 59 species per year under George H.W. Bush.”

To participate in advocating for the protection of the Endangered Species Act, follow this link to send a letter to your senators. It only takes a minute and helps give you a voice!