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Whoa, Mexico

A standoff between farmers and the Mexican government over the construction of a new international airport is threatening to become a national crisis. The $2.5 billion, six-runway project has irked environmentalists since it was first proposed, because the airport is slated to be built on a former lake bed that is an important nesting ground for birds and is expected to worsen problems of urban sprawl. Environmentalists aren't the only ones who are upset: Area farmers have taken 15 hostages and are refusing to release them until the airport construction plans are halted. The government has offered the farmers about …

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A Thousand Acres … Well, Make That 4.7

Global standards of living will plummet by mid-century unless human beings drastically decrease their use of natural resources, according to a report issued yesterday by the World Wildlife Fund. The main culprits in the overuse of resources are the world's richest countries: the U.S., Canada, Japan, and most of Western Europe, according to "Living Planet Report 2002." The report found that more than 20 percent more natural resources are used every year than can be regenerated, meaning that by 2050, a second Earth would be necessary to meet human demand. To mitigate the problem, the report suggested using technology to …

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National Parking Service

Washington, D.C., is cursed with some of the heaviest traffic and worst air pollution in the country. But the obvious solution -- reducing the number of drivers on the road -- faces a major obstacle: the federal government, which supplies free parking, thereby eliminating a major incentive to take public transportation. The federal government is the biggest employer in D.C. and owns some 38,000 parking spaces in the city and surrounding areas. It also pays for thousands more parking spaces, all at taxpayer expense. (The National Institutes of Health alone provides 8,844 free parking spaces on its main campus and …

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Right Tern

Barge traffic could grind to a halt on a 250-mile stretch of the Missouri River, after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ruled last week that two endangered species of shorebirds cannot be moved to accommodate the release of water from two dams in South Dakota. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers planned to release water from the dams to raise the level of the drought-stricken river. Doing so would have required relocating piping plovers and least terns, which nest on sandbars and islands in the Missouri, but the move was nixed by the USFS in the interest of protecting …

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Mayor May Not

Weighing in on the debate over storing nuclear waste at Nevada's Yucca Mountain, mayors from across the country stated over the weekend that they do not want high-level radioactive waste shipped through cities until the safety of communities along the transport routes can be assured. The resolution was drafted by the energy committee of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and urges adequate funding, training, and equipment for communities along the nuclear path for at least three years before shipping begins. The roughly 300 mayors attending the annual meeting are expected to formally approve the resolution today. U.S. Health and Human …

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Old Suburbanism

Otay Ranch is the largest single subdivision in California -- no small claim to fame, since California is the land of subdivisions. By virtue of its size, Otay has taken center stage in a debate about community planning. Its developers point to its multiple parks and shared community center to bolster their claim that Otay Ranch is a unique village, not a pre-fab suburb. But critics say the differences between Otay Ranch and sprawling suburbs are cosmetic, and accuse the developers of simply appropriating the language of New Urbanism advocates, who seek to build environmentally and community minded housing. Peek …

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Environmental Quality Is Job One

A new TV and radio advertising campaign by the Sierra Club calls on the automobile industry to cut its oil use as an act of patriotism -- and singles out Ford Motor Company CEO William Clay Ford, Jr., to lead the way. The great-grandson of Henry Ford, William Ford used to be seen as an auto industry iconoclast, conversant on climate change and critical of profligate oil use. But since taking the helm of the family company last fall, Ford has changed his tune -- or at least muted it, critics say. That's why the Sierra Club chose to target …

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Dozing Off

More than 8,500 premature deaths are caused every year by pollution from off-road diesel-fueled equipment not regulated by the federal government, according to a new study by state air pollution control officials. Earthmovers, bulldozers, agricultural equipment, and other such vehicles emit extraordinarily high levels of pollution that have been linked to heart illnesses, asthma attacks, and other respiratory illnesses. Last week, the Bush administration announced an unusual collaboration between the U.S. EPA and the Office of Management and Budget to regulate off-road diesel emissions. That announcement came after a federal appeals court upheld a Clinton-era rule requiring a rapid reduction …

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Dropping the Bali

Negotiations at a two-week meeting in Bali, Indonesia, to establish the agenda for the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development ended in stalemate on Friday. Delegates could not agree on several key issues and were ultimately forced to admit defeat; former Indonesian Environment Minister Emil Salim, who chaired the meeting, blamed the failure on a lack of good faith among the negotiators. The contentious issues included a demand by the U.S. that development aid be contingent on efforts to fight corruption, as well as developing countries' call for richer nations to commit to widening their markets to trade and the …

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Auto-ah!

The Canadian government has proposed levying a tax on motorists to help pay for implementing the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. The Canadian Automobile Association, which represents some 4 million vehicle owners, calculated that the tax would be roughly $1,200 per year, based on 15 cents per mile of urban driving and three cents per mile of out-of-city driving. The CAA excoriated the proposed fee, as well as other possibilities on the table that would directly affect drivers, including higher parking fees and levies on less-efficient vehicles. CAA Vice President Elly Meister said the $1,200 fee was "aimed at reducing …