Grist staff

Hit Below the Pelt

Snow Leopards Threatened by Increased Hunting in Afghanistan The ouster of the Taliban from Afghanistan undoubtedly had many salutary side effects — but not for the region’s snow leopards, according to a new report by three conservation organizations. One of the most endangered big cat species in the world, the snow leopard dwells in the mountains of central and southern Asia, an inhospitable region with few natural predators. But with the regime change in Afghanistan, a market opened up for leopard skins, and illegal hunting has increased sharply. “Every pelt offered for sale is another nail in the snow leopards’ …

Can the new PAC on the block unseat Bush in ’04?

With a substantial chunk of money but a minimum of fanfare, environmentalists, labor leaders, feminist organizations, and other left-leaning groups convened last week to launch Americans Coming Together, a new PAC dedicated to defeating President Bush in 2004. The name of the alliance is terrible going on tawdry, but the acronym is apt: If we want ACT’s dream to become reality, then precisely what we must do is act — or, more bluntly, get our acts together. It goes without saying that any environmentalist worth the name should support the ouster of Bush, whose record with respect to Planet Earth …

Power to the Pueblo

Enviros Rejoice as Utility Drops Plan for Strip Mine in N.M. After a bitter 20-year fight, enviros and members of the Zuni Pueblo tribe had cause to celebrate yesterday, when an Arizona utility abandoned plans to build a large coal strip mine and railroad near a salt lake in western New Mexico that the Native Americans hold sacred. Most members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation wrote to federal regulators earlier this summer to express concern about the proposed project’s effect on the lake; Gov. Bill Richardson (D) had likewise worried about the impact of the mine and welcomed yesterday’s news. …

And other words from readers

  Re: Passing the Bucket Dear Editor: Bravo — some of the best news I’ve heard yet. Could schools get involved with a Bucket Brigade? Especially high school chemistry or environmental science classes or environmental clubs? If every school did a bucket, maybe air quality would improve in their cities. I love the concept. Karen Lowery Beason, Ill.   Re: Passing the Bucket Dear Editor: It would have been nice if the author had discussed the costs and problems associated with getting the air samples analyzed. It wasn’t even mentioned. Michael Harvey Victoria, British Columbia, Canada   Re: Passing the …

Rubber Ducky, You’re the $100

Thanks to “Sesame Street,” everybody over the age of two knows that rubber duckies make bath time lots of fun — but who knew the little yellow guys could make oceanography a bit more fun, too? Eleven years ago, a shipping container carrying 29,000 rubber bath toys (frogs, turtles, and beavers, as well as the familiar duckies) fell overboard in a storm in the North Pacific. Now, the company that made the toys, The First Years, is offering a $100 reward to anyone who finds one. The goal of the reward program is to help scientists better understand how foreign …

Blind Spot

Controversy is roiling among scientists about the wisdom of focusing conservation efforts on protecting “hot spots,” areas that cover just 1.4 percent of the Earth’s terrestrial surface but are home to nearly half of all land-based plant species and more than a third of all land animal species. Since 1988, when biologist Norman Myers and colleagues began identifying these spots, $750 million has been directed toward their protection. But a growing number of scientists are warning that the hot-spot strategy could cause big problems down the line. Michelle Marvier and Peter Kareiva, in a new article in American Scientist, argue …

The Feminine Mistake

Water contaminated with residue from birth-control pills can bend the gender of male fish, according to Canadian researchers who presented scientific findings last week to the American Chemistry Council. In the most controlled experiment to date to examine the effects of estrogen on ecosystems, Canadian scientists deposited birth-control pills in a remote lake in Ontario for three years. As a result, all male fish of all species in the lake were “feminized” — some grew eggs in their testes, others simply couldn’t reproduce. The experiment was designed to mimic the impact that the female hormone estrogen may be having in …

And other words from readers

  Re: Boycotts Will Be Boycotts Dear Editor: The entire concept of powered personal vehicles is foul, and driving has many more serious effects than air pollution, or even than inspiring oil wars: It facilitates sprawl, which cannot exist in any significant form without the automobile; it requires more and more paving, which affects not only former wilderness but also watersheds and aquifers; it distorts social relations by isolating people from each other not only in cars but in the dispersed settlement patterns made inevitable by the need for roads, garages, and parking spaces; it diverts huge amounts of public …

Back to the Yellowstone Age

The Bush administration has asked the United Nations to remove Yellowstone National Park from a list of endangered World Heritage sites. “Yellowstone is no longer in danger,” wrote the Interior Department’s Paul Hoffman in a letter to the World Heritage Committee. There’s just one snag: The park staff disagree with Hoffman, saying Yellowstone still faces the kinds of problems — threats to water quality, bison, and trout populations, among others — that put it on the endangered list in the first place, back in 1995. But in its recent report to the U.N. committee, the Bush administration diluted or deleted …

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