Tuesday, April 10, 2007




The Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve is one of the most important protected areas and well studied tropical dry forests of the neotropics that include more than 1200 species of plants (of which 314 are endemic to Mexico), 427 species of vertebrate (of which about 23 are endemic to Mexico), and more than 2000 species of insects. Because of this outstanding biodiversity, the Reserve is part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves of the UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB), and part of RAMSAR network of Wetlands of International Importance. Furthermore, several turtle nesting beaches are protected under the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles, and the islands of the Bahía de Chamela were recently established as a wildlife refuge.On November 22, 2006, the Mexican government’s Environmental and Natural Resources Secretariat (Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, SEMARNAT) through the General Directorate of Environmental Impact and Risk (Dirección General de Impacto y Riesgo Ambiental, DGIRA) authorized two tourist developments: “IEL La Huerta” (registration number 14JA2006T0018) and “Tambora” (registration number 14JA20-06T0011). Both located on lands adjacent to the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve along the coast in the state of Jalisco. A Technical Panel of scientific researchers from the Instituto de Biología, Instituto de Ecología and Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas, of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), conducted a detailed analysis of the Environmental Impact Assessment Reports of these tourist developments. The resulting document, “Analysis of Tourism Projects in Chamela” (“Análisis de los proyectos turísticos Chamela”), was presented to the public on March 22, 2007, and it is now available in the following website:
The UNAM Technical Panel concluded that the Environmental Impact Reports lack scientific and technical rigor because the information on the biodiversity and conservation status of the flora and fauna is incomplete, and therefore the biological importance of the region is inadequately diagnosed. Both project reports fail to identify the type and extent of all potential environmental and social impacts and therefore, they do not establish real mechanisms for the mitigations of any environmental impacts. In sum, the UNAM Technical Panel concludes that both projects, as proposed and approved, will have serious negative impacts on the integrity and ecological functioning of the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve as well as other nearby protected areas and the ecosystem of the region as a whole. These developments also threaten the stability and equitable social development of the human populations in the region.For these reasons, we urge the Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales to (1) verify that the authorizations given to these projects were done according current official norms and environmental laws, and international treaties, (2) re-evaluate the Environmental Impact Reports for each of these projects taking into consideration the analysis done by the UNAM Technical Panel, and (3) proceed with the suspension of these project authorizations. If you agree to with the “Analysis of Tourist Projects in Chamela” conducted by the UNAM Technical Panel, as well as this request to SEMARNAT, we invite you to register your support below.
SincerelyThe Technical Analytical Panel

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Sunday, April 8, 2007

Apocalypse Now

This headline appeared in the London Independent in early February of 2005, following a conference at the Hadley Centre in Exeter, England, where 200 of the world’s leading scientists issued the most urgent warning to date: that dangerous climate change is taking place today, and not the day after tomorrow.
Floods, storms, and droughts. Melting polar ice, shrinking glaciers, oceans turning to acid. Scientists from the fields of glaciology, biology, meteorology, oceanography, and ecology reported seeing a dramatic rise over the last 50 years of all the indicators of climate change: increase in average world temperatures, extreme weather events, in the levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, and in the level of the oceans.
The award winning environmental writer Geoffrey Lean wrote:
“Future historians, looking back from a much hotter and less hospitable world . . . will puzzle over how a whole generation could have sleepwalked into disaster -- destroying the climate that has allowed human civilization to flourish over the past 11,000 years.”
The overwhelming majority of scientists and international climate monitoring bodies now agree that climate change is taking place, that humans are responsible, and that time is running out. In fact, we could reach “the point of no return” in a decade, reported Lean.
Melting glaciers all across the world include: the Broggi in the Peruvian Andes, Glacier Ururashraju in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru, the Pasterze in Austria, Portage Glacier near Anchorage, Alaska, Mount Hood in Oregon, Mount Kilimanjaro in northeastern Tanzania, the Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park, and the Rhone Glacier in Switzerland. The earth is getting warmer. While average warming is just under 1 degree Celsius worldwide, the Polar Regions show warming of 2 to 3 degrees Celsius, due to feedback effects.
With the melt of white snow, that previously reflected some of the heat back into the atmosphere (albedo effect), newly exposed darker surfaces absorb heat, and accelerate melting of more ice and snow. A world average warming of under 1 degree Celsius may seem small. However, historically, the difference between warm periods and an ice age has been only 5 to 6 degrees Celsius.
The transformation from the last ice age to the present climate resulted from a slow rise in temperature, which took 5,000 years to fully complete, allowing life on Earth to adapt to the changes. We could bring about a 5- to 6- degree change in only 150 years if we don’t start constraining the use of fossil fuels. It is not only the fundamental change in the composition of air, water, and soil that we need to consider. The speed at which these changes are forced upon the planet already leads to high extinction rates. Scientists at the Exeter meeting agreed that warming over 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures would be dangerous -- and we are almost half way there. To burn up the world’s remaining coal reserves, they estimated, would raise the average temperature by 3 to 8 degrees C in less than 150 years. Quite a few climate “skeptics”, fossil fuel executives, and members of the Bush administration are still denying that there is such a thing as human-caused global warming. Many of them claim that the sun has just grown hotter. However, a warmer sun would have heated the stratosphere as well. In contrast, the stratosphere is cooling -- suggesting a blanket of greenhouse gases that prevents the earth’s heat from radiating back into space. We know how the greenhouse effect works. Venus, with a thick greenhouse cover is hot; Mars, with a thin greenhouse is cold. Earth’s blanket of greenhouse gases is made up of the byproducts of the industrial age and an outdated Victorian technology. Even though methane is a more powerful greenhouse gas, it is CO2 that makes up over 80% of the greenhouse gas mix. Ice core studies show that CO2 concentrations on this planet had been stable for the last millennium, never rising or falling more than 10 ppm, and fluctuating between 275 and 285 ppm. Now CO2 concentrations are beginning to exceed 370 ppm, and are rising from year to year. Other greenhouse gases show the same dramatic increase -- mainly in the past 40 to 50 years. We are already living under a dome of air that no one has breathed in a million years. Ocean Warming and AcidificationThe average temperature of the surface waters of the oceans, extending to a depth of several hundred meters, has risen by a 1/2 degree Celsius. This has occurred in just the past 40 years. The oceans have also become more acidic, due to the uptake of anthropogenic CO2. The Plymouth Marine Laboratory in England estimates that 48% of fossil-fuel CO2, or 400 billion tons, have been absorbed by the oceans, making them the largest reservoir of carbon, a load greater than that borne by the atmosphere or the earth. CO2, while more inert in the atmosphere, becomes highly reactive in oceans, leading to physical, biological, and geological changes. Carol Turley, head of science at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, warns that no such ph changes in oceans have occurred in the past 20 million years, and that the capacity of oceans to take up CO2 is limited. What might the consequences of such changes in the oceans be? An August 2005 article in the Globe and Mail, on starving sea birds washing up on Pacific coast beaches from California to British Columbia, reports that scientists believe that, at least for this year, the “bottom has fallen out of the coastal food chain.” Off the Oregon coast, the waters near the shore are 5 to 7 degrees warmer than normal. A layer of warm water along the whole Pacific coastline prevents the usual upwelling of cool water rich in phytoplankton, the base of the food web for all marine life. Zooplankton, such as krill, depend on phytoplankton. The disappearance of zooplankton in turn affects seabirds and fish from sardines to whales. NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, found a 20 to 30 per cent drop in juvenile salmon off the coasts of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia; and monitoring in Central and Northern California shows the lowest number of juvenile rockfish in more than 20 years.The world has not yet felt the real impact of global warming since the oceans have absorbed so much heat and CO2. The US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) put out two studies in March 2005. They suggest that due to the thermal inertia of the oceans global temperatures and sea levels will continue to rise for the next 100 years - even if greenhouse gas emissions come under control. First Signs of a Gulf Stream CollapseThe opening presentations at the Exeter, UK conference gave the most comprehensive assessment of so-called “wild cards”, climate change events that risk feedback loops no longer responsive to human intervention. The run-away events, or ecological landslides include accelerated melting of the enormous ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland, as well as the decline and possible reversal of the Gulf Stream that conveys heat from the tropics to Europe. In the Hollywood movie “The Day After Tomorrow,” the Gulf Stream stops flowing in a matter of days, creating an instant ice age on the Atlantic coast and Western Europe. Scientists at Exeter said it would take at least ten years for such an event to unfold and a few hundred years to set up the conditions. But they warned that the Thermohaline Circulation, as they call the Gulf Stream, has stopped flowing before -- and that we have already a greater than 50% likelihood of a shutdown if we do not enact strict climate policies. The amount of heat transported North by the Gulf Stream, which keeps Western Europe 5 to 10 degrees Celsius warmer than it would normally be at its latitude, equals one million billion watts -- sufficient to satisfy the energy needs of 100 Earths. Even a partial failure of the Gulf Stream would have huge consequences. The Gulf Stream picks up heat from the equatorial sun. Driven by warmth, the stream flows northeast towards Europe and the Greenland ice sheets, where the water cools and sinks. The cooler and saltier the water, the stronger the sinking motion. Dense cool and salty water from the Gulf Stream then flows back to the tropics at a deeper ocean level. As the Polar Regions and the oceans are warming, melt-water from ice sheets and glaciers is changing the salinity of the ocean. A combination of the rising ocean surface temperature, and the decreasing salinity, already visibly changes the movement of sea currents that depend on differences in warmth and coolness, and the weight that higher salinity adds to the water as the driving force. Large-scale salinity changes in the Arctic and sub-Arctic Seas were reported in June 2005, in the journal Science. Ruth Curry from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, analyzed temperature, salinity, and density data, collected in the North Atlantic Ocean over the last 55 years. Curry warned that excessive amounts of freshwater dumped into the North Atlantic could affect the flow of the Gulf Stream. We know, from ice-core data, when the Gulf Stream has stopped flowing before. The most recent collapse, 15,000 years ago during the Younger Dryas, was caused by the sweetening of the North Atlantic Ocean, when glaciers covering North America melted and began flowing through the St. Lawrence waterway into the Atlantic, instead of into the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi. Today’s accelerated melting of the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets may recreate these conditions, not just for the Gulf Stream but also for other parts of the global ocean circulation. In May of this year, the London Times reported that first signs of a slow down of the Gulf Stream had been detected by a Cambridge University researcher, who hitches rides on a Royal Navy submarine to one of the three areas where the Gulf Stream reverses its course. Peter Wadhams said that “until recently we could find giant ‘chimneys’ in the sea where columns of cold, dense water were sinking from the surface to the seabed 3,000 meters below, but now they have almost disappeared.” Off the coast of Greenland, the Odden Ice Shelf once grew out into the Greenland Sea every winter, and receded in the summer. The Odden triggered the annual formation of sinking water columns in that area. However, since 1997, the shelf has ceased to form. Where Wadhams had once observed 12 giant columns of sinking water under the ice, he now found only two -- and they were so weak that they were unable to reach the seabed. Wadhams also predicts complete summer melting of the Arctic ice cap by as early as 2020. On his submarine journeys, using sonar to survey the ice cap from underneath, he has observed a 46% thinning over the past 20 years. The Greenland Ice Sheet is MeltingThe biggest danger to the Gulf Stream comes from melt-water off the Greenland ice sheet, the second largest store of fresh water on this planet. If all of it were to melt, sea levels around the world would rise by 7 meters -- over 20 feet. However even a partial meltdown would affect the Gulf Stream, by diluting the salt water right at the crucial point where the Gulf Stream sinks and returns to the tropics. Prof. Michael Schlesinger from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, whose climate model already predicts a 50% chance of Gulf Stream shutdown if we do not enact climate policies, and a 25% shutdown even if we limit greenhouse gases, based his estimate only on increased rainfall, due to global warming. He now says he will have to include additional melt-water from the Greenland ice sheet into his next set of data, because it appears that the melt has begun. Observations on the Greenland ice sheet are done by G.P.S. (global positioning systems) and radar and laser via satellites and airplanes. G.P.S. data of the past 5 years show accelerated melting, and even the beginning of a possible feedback effect: the more the ice sheet melts the faster it starts to move. The reason for this acceleration, it is believed, is that melt-water from the surface of the ice sheet makes its way down to the bedrock below, where it acts as a lubricant, further speeding up the slippage and disintegration. The question now is, when does this feedback process reach the point of no return? James Hansen, head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, says that if greenhouse-gas emissions are not controlled now, the total disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet could be set in motion in a matter of decades. Although it could take hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years to fully play out, once begun the process would become self-reinforcing and cannot be halted. The Gulf Stream is just one part of a complex global system of ocean currents that affect temperatures, winds, and rain across the whole planet. We now have charts of these powerful currents driven by heat and coolness, traversing all oceans, - Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian. And they are all interconnected via the huge circumpolar current flowing around the Antarctic. Changes at the South Pole therefore would have an even larger effect than those in the Arctic. Ice Shelf Collapses and the Melting of AntarcticaThe Antarctic is the 5th largest continent. It holds 90% of the world’s fresh water. A comparison in scale to the Greenland ice sheet shows that if all Antarctic ice were to melt, sea levels would rise by over 169 feet. The Antarctic has had a permanent ice sheet for the last 30 million years. The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in Cambridge now reports rapid warming on the West Antarctic Peninsula and the WAIS, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Of the 224 glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula, over 87% are in retreat. Major ice shelves have collapsed. BAS scientists believe disappearing ice shelves are now contributing to more rapid melting of glaciers formerly protected by the floating ice shelf at their base. Antarctica’s huge Larsen B ice shelf collapsed in just 35 days after a NASA satellite detected the first ruptures at the end of January 2002; it was roughly the size of Luxembourg. Soil sediments from that ice shelf reveal that Larsen B had been intact for 20,000 years - since the peak of the last ice age. No collapse of this size has happened since the end of the last Ice Age.Larsen B's smaller neighbor, Larsen A, broke off in 1995. According to studies by the BAS, other much bigger ice shelves nearby, such as the Ross and Ronne, each larger than France, are also considered at risk of disintegrating. Another troubling development in the Antarctic, according to the director of the BAS, Chris Rapley, is the accelerated flow of melt streams underneath the Antarctic ice sheet. Until recently, scientists were unable to explain the 20th century’s world-wide sea-level rises of between 1 and 2 mm per year, by the amount of ice that has melted from glaciers and ice sheets. Even after taking into account thermal expansion, they wondered where the extra water was coming from. Recent discoveries show a major hidden source of water comes from polar ice sheets. In the Antarctic, ice streams, and a newly discovered network of tributaries underneath the ice sheets, drain 33 major basins. Flow rates are much faster than previously assumed. Ice streams, from the feed glaciers behind the collapsed Larsen A and B ice shelves, also show accelerated flows. The BAS calls this a “cork out of the bottle” effect. These “wild cards,” the melting of the polar ice caps and the acidification of the oceans, were only the most dramatic events on the agenda of the Exeter, UK, meeting on the dangers of climate-change. The number of scientific papers, recording changes in ecosystems due to global warming, escalated in five years, from 14 to more than a thousand. In one presentation after another, scientists described a crisis they had dedicated their lives to avoid. Geoffrey Lean, who attended the conference, wrote that there were few in the room that did not sense their children or grandchildren standing invisibly at their shoulders. The formal conclusion of the meeting, that climate change was “already occurring” and that “in many cases the risks are more serious than previously thought,” appeared in the press all over the world -- except in the United States. However even in the European press, very few writers took on the scientific details of this story, without which political action and organizing are impossible. Geoffrey Lean wrote: “Mankind is Sleepwalking to the End of the Earth.” Bush-Wars on Climate Science After the Exeter meeting, in an interview for TUC Radio, the director of BAS, Chris Rapley, spoke about how, in public appearances, he bridges the gap between science, and popular understanding of these dramatic changes. He said he always refers to the picture of Earth in space taken by Apollo 17: the small blue planet, tilted back to show the Antarctic, surrounded by inky blackness. The image, he says, shows that this is all there is, no other life-support system trails behind; and, that on the planet all is interconnected. Earth is the most complex and complicated object in the universe that we know of, says Rapley, a radio astronomer by training. Only Earth has an ocean and clouds. Only Earth has physics, biology, geology, chemistry, and anthropology. Humans have transformed the earth in a dramatic way, especially in the last 50 years. Not only have we drastically changed the carbon cycle by the burning of fossil fuel and coal, and by increasing forest fires; we have also changed the nitrogen cycle worldwide by the amount of nitrogen being fixed by industrial agriculture and fertilizer use. We have transformed more than half the land surface through agriculture, deforestation, mining, industry, paving, and ever-growing cities. These changes have altered the climate systems by the way moisture is exchanged between Earth and the atmosphere. We have destroyed biodiversity by shifting plants and animals into places and conditions where they cannot survive. Our own survival, as humans, is only slightly more secure. We are seeing the most basic of our needs -- air, water, housing, and energy -- disappear before our eyes. Rapley concluded that there is no way to imagine that humans could do all these things without an effect. The demise of our common life-support system is accelerated by even more energy-intensive activities, by which a privileged group of people attempts to secure its survival. The meeting in Exeter was held explicitly to convince the Bush administration to join the rest of the industrialized world, and to use the July 2005 G8 meeting to set limits on greenhouse gas emissions. The United States and Australia, the world’s two largest polluters, are -- to this day -- refusing to be part of any global agreement to limit CO2 and other greenhouse gases. The G8 meeting came and went. The US, with 42% of global fossil fuel CO2, and 34% of combined greenhouse gas emissions, not only remained outside the climate- stabilization effort but also fought vigorously to prevent any progress in setting limits. Given the extraordinary amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the US, this country alone can dramatically slow climate change, or bring the planet to the boiling point. Three weeks before the G8 summit, The Observer (UK) printed a set of leaked documents revealing how the Bush White House derailed attempts to address global warming. These submissions to the G8 action plan show that Washington officials deleted even the suggestion that global warming has already started. Among the key sentences removed were: “Our world is warming. Climate change is a serious threat that has the potential to affect every part of the globe. And we know that ... mankind's activities are contributing to this warming. This is an issue we must address urgently.” At the Exeter conference the International Climate Change Task Force, UK, said that if we do nothing the climate system will collapse. Stephen Byers, the co-chair of that task force and an advisor to Tony Blair, said the point of no return could be reached in a decade. The Bush delegation to the July 2005 G8 summit in Scotland, probably even George Bush himself, is aware of that deadline. However the warning disappeared under the same blanket of denial and outright lies produced by industry, their paid scientists, and the Bush administration. Among all official documents that deny climate change, only one sends a different message: the report on “Climate Change as a National Security Concern,” commissioned for Donald Rumsfeld by Pentagon defense adviser Andrew Marshall, and made public in February 2004. The Global Business Network wrote for the Pentagon: “the focus in climate research has slowly been shifting from gradual to rapid change. In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences issued a report concluding that human activities could trigger abrupt change. A year later, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, included a session at which Robert Gagosian, director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, urged policymakers to consider the implications of possible abrupt climate change within two decades.” Whether in a decade as the UK scientists say, or two as the Pentagon study says, a consensus is developing that we are reaching a phase of dangerous, abrupt, and irreversible climate shifts. However, for the Bush administration, this is not an ecological or humanitarian, but only a military issue. They question only how to protect US borders from environmental refugees, how to overpower nations collapsing under the environmental pressures, how to keep access to food, water, and energy as other parts of the world go hungry and thirsty; how to keep nuclear pre-eminence, while those weapons in other countries fall into the hands of insurgents. The eerie similarity of these goals and methods, with those of the so-called war on terrorism, raises the question of whether that war on terrorism is not really already a war on the Earth. And, as in the war on terrorism, the already occurring ecological disasters -- like the Osama bin Ladens -- are needed and promoted. And the religious fundamentalists are driving this forward because God has given them dominion over the planet to do as they wish. And, as irrecoverable time passes, more bad news of ecological landslides emerges: In early August 2005, the New Scientist reported that, in Western Siberia, a permafrost area, the size of France and Germany combined, is thawing for the first time since the ice age, 11,000 years ago. What was until recently an expanse of frozen peat is turning into a broken landscape of mud and lakes, some more than a kilometer across. The area’s peat bog contains an estimated 70 billion tons of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than CO2, which, if released, could dramatically increase the rate of global warming.Even in a best-case scenario, were the methane to be released slowly over a period of 100 years, it would effectively double atmospheric levels of the gas, leading to a 10% to 25% increase in global warming, said scientists at the Hadley Centre in Exeter, UK. The scientists from Tomsk State University and Oxford, who discovered the melt, said that this was yet another feedback effect, an “ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming.” There may be some, cynical enough to think that climate change is an interesting science fiction experiment, or greedy enough to want to extract the last drop of oil from the dying Earth for a profit. But what about the rest of us: not cynical, not greedy and arrogant? It is pretty clear that there need to be BIG changes in the way we live -- and that is frightening for many, since we have become so dependent on this technological civilization. However scientists tell us that the extreme weather events to come, such as floods, hurricanes, sea-level rise, and unprecedented heat waves, are more frightening than any change in the way we choose to live now. There is a set of figures that is both deeply depressing and hopeful. The last published World Bank data for CO2 emissions per capita indicate that, while every man, woman, and child in the US puts out 20 metric tons of CO2 per annum, those in the European Union put out 8 per person per year; China 2; and the output of Nigerians, who supply us with much of the oil that we burn into CO2, is zero -- below scale. In 2002, US-Americans used over 12,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per person; Europeans used less than half the amount, while the use in China is 987 kilowatt-hours per person. The US per-capita use of oil is twice that of the European Union, and more than 8 times that of China. What if China aspires to our standard of living? And why not, if we are not willing to cut back? Europe gets by with so much less CO2-output and energy-input, while already planning for further cuts. Where is the measure of global justice, between those who cause no harm and those whose extravagant use of fossil fuels harms everybody else?Regardless of who is driving this: industry, the military, religious fundamentalists, or any permutation of government, be it red or blue, responsibility for the approaching climate collapse will fall overwhelmingly on the United States. Since the US government and corporations not only refuse to cut back but are driving eco-collapse forward, it is up to ordinary people to refuse collaboration and to control the perpetrators. For us living in the US, the opportunity and time to make a difference that will affect the entire planet is now. Maria Gilardin produces TUC Radio, a weekly half-hour radio program that is distributed for free to all radio stations via Pacifica Radio's KU Band, and as an mp3 file on TUC Radio's web site: www.tucradio.org. She may be reached at: tuc@tucradio.org
Related Links and Resources:* Hadley Centre* Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change * British Antarctic Survey* Plymouth Marine Laboratory* "As the World Burns," by Bill McKibben, Chris Mooney, & Ross Gelbspan, Mother Jones, May/June 2005.* The Pentagon's Weather Nightmare* Arctic Sea Ice Changes * Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: Abrupt Climate Change* Ice Core drilling on the Greenland Ice Sheet * Siberian permafrost melting * Carol Turley on Marine Snow * Photos of Global Warming, Glacier Melting * Douglas Quin recorded the sounds of breaking ice in the Antarctic

Scientists Detail Climate Changes, Poles to Tropics

Martin Parry, the co-chairman of a scientific panel on climate change, presented a new report on global warming Friday in Brussels.

BRUSSELS, April 6 — From the poles to the tropics, the earth’s climate and ecosystems are already being shaped by the atmospheric buildup of greenhouse gases and face inevitable, possibly profound, alteration, the world’s leading scientific panel on climate change said Friday.

In its most detailed portrait of the effects of climate change driven by human activities, the panel predicted widening droughts in southern Europe and the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, the American Southwest and Mexico, and flooding that could imperil low-lying islands and the crowded river deltas of southern Asia. It stressed that many of the regions facing the greatest risks were among the world’s poorest.
And it said that while limits on smokestack and tailpipe emissions could lower the long-term risks, vulnerable regions must adjust promptly to shifting weather patterns, climatic and coastal hazards, and rising seas.
Without such adaptations, it said, a rise of 3 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century could lead to the inundation of coasts and islands inhabited by hundreds of millions of people. But if steady investments are made in seawalls and other coastal protections, vulnerability could be sharply reduced.
The group, the United NationsIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, also noted that the climate shifts would benefit some regions — leading to more rainfall and longer growing seasons in high latitudes, open Arctic seaways and fewer deaths from the cold.
The 1,572-page report, finished here on Friday, was prepared by more than 200 scientists, and a 21-page summary was endorsed by officials from more than 120 countries, including the United States.
The conclusions came after four days of revisions by scientists and then an often rancorous all-night debate with government officials. In a sign of shifting geopolitics on global warming, scientists who worked on the report criticized China for weakening some language in the summary, while they credited the United States, which had for years stressed uncertainty in the science, with playing a mostly constructive role.
The panel, which has tracked research on global warming since it was created under United Nations auspices in 1988, has sometimes been criticized for allowing governments to shape the summaries of its periodic reviews of climate science.
But by many accounts, it remains the closest thing to a barometer for tracking the level of scientific understanding of the causes and consequences of global warming. In February, the panel released its fourth summary of basic climate science, concluding with 90 percent certainty that humans were the main cause of warming since 1950.
The new report, focusing on the effects of warming, for the first time describes how species, water supplies, ice sheets and regional climate conditions are already responding to the global buildup of heat. While the report said that assessing the causes of regional climate and biological changes was particularly difficult, the authors concluded with “high confidence” — about an 8 in 10 chance — that human-caused warming “over the last three decades has had a discernible influence on many physical and biological systems.”
At a news conference here, Martin Parry, the co-chairman of the team that wrote the new report, said widespread effects were already measurable, with much more to come.
“We’re no longer arm-waving with models,” he said. “This is empirical information on the ground.”
Reports from the panel are released only every half-decade or so, and this year’s suite of three studies — on basic science, the effects of warming, and options for cutting emissions — are likely to guide policymakers for years to come.
The panel’s reports are particularly influential in international talks over climate treaties, especially the Kyoto Protocol, whose binding limits on emissions expire in 2012. Those limits have been rejected by the United States and China.
The report also is expected to be discussed at a summit meeting of the Group of 8 industrial powers in Germany in June, when the European Union has said it plans to renew efforts to get the United States to do more to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The report said that given the current buildup of carbon dioxide and other long-lived greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, temperatures and seas would inevitably rise for decades. The worst effects would be felt in regions that are mainly poor and already facing dangers from existing climate and coastal hazards.

"It’s the poorest of the poor in the world, and this includes poor people even in prosperous societies, who are going to be the worst hit,” said Rajendra K. Pachauri, the chairman of the panel. “People who are poor are least-equipped to be able to adapt to the impacts of climate change, and therefore in some sense this does become a global responsibility in my view.”

Some authors said the report removed any doubt about the urgency of acting to curb emissions of greenhouse gases.
“The warnings are clear about the scale of the projected changes to the planet,” said Bill Hare, an author of the report and a visiting scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. “Essentially there’s going to be a mass extinction within the next 100 years unless climate change is limited,” added Dr. Hare, who previously worked for Greenpeace.
“These impacts have been known for many years, and are now seen with greater clarity in this report,” he said. “That clarity is perhaps the last warning we’re going to get before we actually have to report in the next I.P.C.C. review that we’re seeing the disaster unfolding.”
James L. Connaughton, the chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said some of the findings in the report, particularly the prospect of intensifying coastal damage from rising seas, were “of high concern,” but noted the panel also foresaw benefits to agriculture in temperate regions as well.
Over all, he said, the analysis reinforced the need of industrialized countries to foster economic growth in developing countries and thus help them to reduce their vulnerability to climate shocks. He said billions of dollars were already flowing in development assistance.
Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton and an author of the report, said it underlined the need to deal with climatic changes already under way.
“The actual outcome in terms of damages and ruined lives and costs depends heavily on the response — the response of individuals to deal with the changes and governments to organize and anticipate and deal with this in advance,” he said.
The meeting here dragged on in a marathon session Thursday night before Dr. Pachauri emerged midmorning on Friday and stood on a blue armchair in front of reporters to announce that agreement had been reached between scientists and government officials over the final details of a 21-page summary.
Under pressure from nations including Russia, China and Saudi Arabia, the authors said, sections on coral damage and tropical storms were softened in the summary. They also got the authors to drop parts of an illustration showing how different emissions policies might limit damage. Officials from those countries argued that data in the report did not support the level of certainty expressed in the final draft.
But some authors were not assuaged. The final document was “much less quantified and much vaguer and much less striking than it could have been,” said Stéphane Hallegatte, a participant from France’s International Center for Research on the Environment and Development.
Negotiations were also prolonged by European delegates’ demand that the final report reflect the need to cut back on greenhouse gases — and not just adapting to new conditions.
“Adaptation will only work if climate change is not too large and not too fast,” Mr. Hallegatte said.
Next month, the panel will release a report on options for limiting emissions of the greenhouse gases, and late in the year it will publish a final synthesis of its findings..

James Kanter reported from Brussels, and Andrew C. Revkin from New York.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Talk to the plant: Prince Charles's organic revolution

By Kim Severson
Published: April , 2007

TETBURY, England: When Prince Charles gazes from the upstairs windows at Highgrove, his home near this tiny town in the English countryside, he can see a tree planted by the Dalai Lama. It grows near a field of rare British wildflowers, which fade into a row of box hedges trimmed to frame four small busts of the prince's head. Tigga, his late, beloved Jack Russell terrier, is immortalized in a relief sculpture on a nearby garden wall, behind which a longtime gardener prepares the ground for the prince's favorite vegetables, potatoes and Brussels sprouts.
Prince Charles, whose hobbies have included both polo and the peculiarly English rural craft called hedge laying, cherishes tradition. In his world, it seems, not much good can come of change.

He has waged war against modernity, both in faceless urban architecture and in the erosion of the rural British way of life.
At home, the royal perspective has been criticized as conservative, stodgy and elitist. But to some of the generals of the American food revolution, the prince qualifies as downright progressive.
Alice Waters, who drove the organic movement in the United States, is smitten. "He is, in private, really one of the most forward-thinking, radical humanitarians I have ever talked to," she said.
The left-leaning food elite of the United States has prince fever, and it has nothing to do with an underlying fascination with the monarchy, Diana and Helen Mirren notwithstanding. To Ms. Waters and her troops, no one else of the prince's stature has spoken out on the issues they hold dear: responsible stewardship of the land, preservation of rural life and the need for good food grown without chemicals or worker exploitation.

"Can you think of any American political figure who has spoken eloquently or bravely about these issues?" asked Eric Schlosser, the author of "Fast Food Nation," who has become a friend of the prince.
Ms. Waters agreed. "Al Gore doesn't even talk about food," she said.
(That's not to say Mr. Gore doesn't have prince fever, too. He has visited Highgrove to discuss the environment with the prince, and the two happily trade shout-outs to each other in speeches.)
Eleanor Bertino, Ms. Waters's former college roommate at Berkeley in the 1960s and a food and restaurant publicist, is so impressed that she recently took on the job of promoting Duchy Originals, the prince's line of organic food and beauty products, as it makes a new push this spring into the United States.
Like the prince, Nell Newman, the actor Paul Newman's daughter, runs an organic food company whose profits go to charity. She said she is aching to visit his farm. The prince was even a hit among the farmers in Marin County, the hub of the nation's organic movement, when he visited two years ago.
"The prince was treated like a hero when he showed up in Marin," Mr. Schlosser said. "Think about how unlikely that is."
Prince Charles sets forth a practical example of his agenda in the gardens of Highgrove and the neighboring fields of Duchy Home Farm, about 1,100 acres of farmland in Gloucestershire, about a two-hour drive west of London.
When Prince Charles bought the Highgrove house and farm property in the early 1980s, he wrote, he was appalled by the loss of his country's wildflower meadows, hedgerows and chalk grasslands to "agri-industry." So he began to turn the farm and gardens into organic showplaces that might help inspire others to preserve England's rural landscape.
"I can only say that for some reason I felt in my bones that if you abuse nature unnecessarily and fail to maintain a balance, then she will probably abuse you in return," he wrote in his new book, "The Elements of Organic Gardening," written with Stephanie Donaldson (Weidenfeld & Nicolson).
The prince watches over every detail in the 15-acre garden at Highgrove. It thrives on compost and natural fertilizers brewed from comfrey or seaweed and uses only rain, natural groundwater or wastewater purified through a system of reed beds.
At the entrance to Home Farm, a short drive from his house, rustic signs proclaim the land free of genetically modified organisms. Rare breeds of British cattle eat red clover. Heirloom ginger Tamworth pigs roll in royal mud. The prince (actually, the prince's people) grow vegetables from heirloom seeds, and raise organic oats that are baked into the thin, crisp crackers that are the flagship of the Duchy Originals line.
"Given another life, I think he'd have been a farmer," said David Wilson, the manager of Home Farm.

When all of this started in the 1980s, the British press ground His Royal Highness down to a nub, branding him the prince who talked to plants. (Granted, he did say things like, "To get the best results, you must talk to your vegetables.")
He's still a little sensitive about it. "One of the great difficulties" of converting to organic farming, he wrote in his book, "turned out to be convincing others that you had not taken complete leave of your senses."
The fact that he rode out that early criticism has made him a visionary to some in the United States. "It took some real courage and backbone to keep championing the organic movement in the face of all that abuse," Mr. Schlosser said.
It was Mr. Schlosser who played matchmaker between the American food elite and the prince. The prince is the royal patron of the Soil Association, the English organic certification and advocacy group that rose up with the advent of the organic movement in the 1940s.
Mr. Schlosser had met Patrick Holden, a carrot farmer who is the director of the group and is considered a good friend of the prince. One thing led to another, and soon Mr. Schlosser was having tea with the prince and acting as Soil Association ambassador in the United States. Ms. Waters, meanwhile, was hearing more and more about the prince's devotion to the issues she holds dear. In 2004, she was casting about for a marquee speaker to address the 5,000 vegetable farmers, cheesemakers and goat ranchers from around the world who would gather that year in Turin for the Slow Food conference called Terra Madre. Naturally, she wanted the prince.
"I just immediately try to figure out what the biggest doors are we can open, and that seemed like a door to me," she said.
The Slow Food rank and file thought she was out of her mind. What would the future king of England have to say to an Ethiopian wheat grower?
Plenty, it turned out. The prince had them from the moment he said: "We no more want to live in anonymous concrete blocks that are just like anywhere else in the world than we want to eat anonymous junk food that can be bought anywhere."
By the end, if the honey gatherers and yak cheese makers had been carrying disposable lighters, they would have been lit and aloft.
A year later came the trip to Marin County, a stop at Ms. Waters's Edible Schoolyard at a middle school in Berkeley to eat goat cheese pizza baked by the students, and a stroll through the Ferry Plaza farmer's market in San Francisco, where he worked the stalls like President Bill Clinton on the stump.
The prince has recently embarked on a project to bring more of his organic products to the United States. His Duchy Originals products, made from classic ingredients like damson plums as well as crops from his own farm to help preserve British ways of farming and eating, first appeared in this country in the early 1990s.
In Britain, some 250 Duchy products are available, including bacon; hand-crimped Yorkshire pies; and humbugs, old-fashioned boiled sugar mint candies made by a family in Yorkshire. The products are almost uniformly delicious, and their prices reflect the quality of their ingredients. Last year, Duchy Originals had almost $80 million in sales; profits, about $2.4 million, went to the prince's charities.
"It's odd that the prince has such a big brand because the royal family historically never muddied themselves with such commercial things," said Simon Darling, a marketing executive in London. "However, it is an act of brilliance because the execution of the proposition has been flawless. Given Prince Charles can be accused of being a privileged rich man, it's surprising that he's managed to produce something so good."
The company is frequently scrutinized by the British press. For example, its Scottish smoked salmon is imported from wild stocks in Alaska, which, aside from annoying Scottish fishermen, leaves the prince open to complaints about the size of his carbon footprint.
Americans who want to sample the products can find a small selection of biscuits, jams, teas, body lotions and Highgrove-brand gardening tools online at duchyusa.com or at stores like Zabar's and Whole Foods. The savory oaten biscuit, which in the United States would be called a cracker, is a good place to start. Often, these staples of the British cheese plate can be stale and leaden. The Duchy Originals versions have a light crunch and just a hint of sweetness.

But the prince does not need biscuits and lemon curd to work his way into American hearts. Just being a prince who talks about the value of sustainable farming is enough, as Dan Barber of the Blue Hill restaurants in Manhattan and Pocantico Hills, N.Y., can tell you.
Mr. Barber was one of five chefs selected to cook for Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, when they came to New York in January to receive the Global Environmental Citizen Award from the Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and the Global Environment. Mr. Gore and the actress Meryl Streep were presenters.
Mr. Barber is usually a composed, focused guy. But cooking for the prince made him weak in the knees. He created tiny, perfect vegetarian hamburgers from his best Stone Barns beets and goat cheese, and personally arranged almost every pickled baby turnip that was passed to the crowd at the Harvard Club in Manhattan. When it came his turn to explain his offerings to the prince, Mr. Barber was so nervous he couldn't even get the honorific right.
"Your sirness," he began, before launching into a stammering story about organic food being something like leather to a shoemaker, which he now regrets.
"I honestly don't know what happened," he said.
It was prince fever.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007



New York Times, March 2007

The Presidential Administration of Vicente Fox left office just 3 months ago, leaving behind a well documented legacy of disregard for Mexico’s environmental laws, which translated into serious ecological degradation for the country’s natural wealth. That explains why such high hopes have been placed in your Administration, to turn that record around. However, the unprecedented complex of legally protected ecological reserves in the Chamela-Cuixmala region in México’s Jalisco coast, south of Puerto Vallarta, encompassing a Dry Tropical Forest Biosphere Reserve, a Marine Turtles Beach Sanctuary in Playa Teopa and migratory birds Archipelago Sanctuary in Chamela Bay, is under very serious threat. Veering radically from traditional environmental protection politics in Mexico, its Federal authorities have authorized, over the past 6 months, several illegal development projects right in the midst of the three protected areas, which includes delicate estuarine lagoons recognized as a Wetland of International Importance under the 1971 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and as a part of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB). What is now known about the region has led the World Wildlife Fund to consider it one of the 200 most important eco-regions in the world, and the prestigious Mexican National Biodiversity Commission (CONABIO) identifies it as a Prioritary Conservation Area. Few other sites in the planet can claim to have achieved such degree of protection, both domestically and internationally, because of their recognized environmental importance. The area is indeed one of the most biologically rich and environmentally delicate sites in the world, as evidenced by the various layers of legal protection with which it has been endowed. Yet on the Northeast of the region, the illegal construction of a highway by the Jalisco State Government, and with the open complicity of the so-called Office of the Federal Environmental “Prosecutor” (PROFEPA), is threatening the important Biosphere Reserve precisely at the place where the Chamela River, that supplies the habitat of its protected species, dry forest and wetlands, enters its territory, while on the Southwest, the illegal construction of a deceitful project called Casa Matos is also threatening the Core Zone of the Reserve as well as the above mentioned Turtle Sanctuary. Worse than all that are the “Tambora” and “Marina Careyes” tourism development projects, in the Western and Northwestern flanks of the Biosphere Reserve, and impacting both of the said Sanctuaries, which were illegally authorized in the last few hours of the outgoing Vicente Fox Presidential Administration last November the 30th. The Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve, encompassing 13,142 hectares of the best conserved natural coastal areas along the Pacific slope of Mexico, where the forest and the sea converge, supports wetlands with mangrove and aquatic vegetation, as well as coastal dunes in the transition to the sea. The reserve protects a combination of habitats which stand out for their high biological diversity: more than 1200 species of plants, 270 bird species, 70 of mammals, 68 reptiles, 19 amphibians, and thousands of species of insects and other invertebrates. The Marina Careyes project, owned and promoted by Mexican banker Roberto Hernandez, (formerly owner of Banco Nacional de Mexico), is of special concern, because he has persistently tried to undertake similar illegal developments in that particular region for more than a decade. He had already submitted the project to build a marina in the Careyes area two years ago, and had to withdraw it because it was totally illegal. The strategy was to resubmit it just with another name in 2006, at the very end of the Administration and find a way to have it passed. This time, he found a way, surely an obscure and questionable one, to have his Marina project illegally authorized by Ricardo Juarez, General Director of Environmental Impact and Risk at the Ecology Ministry (SEMARNAT). Violating his solemn oath as an official to uphold the law, Mr. Juarez has authorized a project whose environmental impacts have not been previously identified as required by law and for which, consequently, no appropriate mitigation measures have been foreseen. The project is a touristic residential development that entails the construction of an artificial marina for boats and for the undertaking of a variety of naval activities, as well as the construction of more than 1025 hotel rooms, commercial areas, beach clubs, roads, infrastructure for the provision of water, drainage and sewerage, electric energy and phone service. Under almost identical circumstances and simultaneously, Ricardo Juarez illegally authorized to Operadora Chamela the Tambora project, not far North of the Marina, which involves the construction of 100 rooms in a Grand Tourism Boutique Hotel, with Spa, a Business Center, 3 beach clubs and an 18 hole golf course with artificial lagoons, and consequently the creation of roads and all the infrastructure necessary for this kind of project, which does not comply with legal requirements either. This was done in open disregard of the opposition of the National Commission for Protected Areas and other governmental entities. Independent environmental experts have demonstrated that these projects, in a site that, because of its exceptional environmental importance, should be left as undisturbed as possible, will inevitably unleash numerous and dangerous adverse impacts resulting from: · The alteration of sand dunes, wetlands, mangroves, tropical forests and marine ecosystems, which are indispensable for the maintenance of a coastal area. · The massive removal of vegetation cover and its elimination. · The loss of humidity and soil fertility. · Radically modifying the landscape and increasing the erosion and the runoff and transport of sediments. · All of the above will in turn affect the quality of superficial and ground water, causing harm to the wetland. The General Environmental Act and its Regulations on Environmental Impact, clearly demand compliance with 13 specific requirements in order to ensure that all direct and indirect adverse impacts, and their accumulated effects in the region, will be properly and scientifically identified and objectively declared in an Environmental Impact Statement, together with specific proposals for measures to prevent them and mitigate them. None of that was to be found in the Statements submitted for authorization in either of the two projects. Ricardo Juarez, the official in charge of their assessment, was warned of that by various governmental institutions and non-governmental groups, on the basis of numerous and well substantiated legal and scientific arguments. He ignored them all and went ahead to illegally authorize them Consequently, numerous prominent personalities and groups, in Mexico and abroad, have begun to mobilize to prevent such ecological crimes, demanding: 1) The immediate cancellation of the illegal Tambora and Marina Careyes permits and the suspension of any construction activity in the zone. 2) Immediate dismissal of Ricardo Juárez, ensuring that he is accountable for his acts and omissions. 3) Evaluation of both touristic projects by an independent body of experts. The legal action started today at the Secretaría de la Función Pública, against the officials involved in authorizing these illegal projects, is a vote of confidence in your reiterated public commitment to reestablish the rule of law in Mexico, a demand you are insistently getting from all quarters, both domestically and abroad. Published by Friends of the Consejo para la Defensa de la Costa del Pacifico. Mexico City, March 22, 2007.


I . BACKGROUND. The unprecedented complex of legally protected areas in the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve region in Mexico’s Jalisco coast, south of Puerto Vallarta, encompassing the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve, two Marine Turtles Beach Sanctuary in Playa Teopa and Playa Cuixmala and a Migratory Birds Archipelago Sanctuary in Chamela Bay, is the result of the successful efforts of a great and unusual partnership between, on the one hand, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (“UNAM”, recognized for its excellence as the best university in Latin America and among the best 100 universities in the World) and, on the other, the Cuixmala Ecological Foundation. Together, UNAM and the Cuixmala Ecological Foundation have been able, during the last 22 years, to endow the region, one of the most biologically rich and environmentally delicate sites in the World, with various layers of legal protection, both at national and at international levels. Few other sites in the planet can claim to have achieved such degree of protection because of their environmental importance. Aside from the above mentioned Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve (which is jointly managed by the two institutions under an agreement with the Mexican Government) and from the two Sanctuaries, the complex of estuarine lagoons of the Reserve, have been recognized as a Wetland of International Importance under the 1971 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and as a part of UNESCO´s Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB). As a result of the scientific work carried out in the area by the University and the Foundation, what is now known about the region has led the World Wildlife Fund to consider it one of the 200 most important eco-regions in the world. The National Biodiversity Commission (CONABIO) identifies it as a priority area for conservation. II. PREVIOUS THREATS. Ever since those efforts were launched, it has been necessary for UNAM and the Foundation to resist the numerous threats and pressures to which the region and its protected areas have been subjected, particularly from ill-conceived touristic development projects that, typically, follow the most negative models that have, not only in Mexico’s coasts but in those of many other countries, proved to be destructive of the very natural ecosystems and resources that attract the investments in the first place. Since the Reserve was created, not less than 6 huge development projects (“El Faro”, “Farallón”, “Caracol”, “Rancho Don Andrés”, “Marina Careyes I” and others, all of them under the false guise of “green touristic projects”) had been consistently objected to by the University and the Foundation, with sound legal and scientific arguments and supported by numerous local, national and international non-governmental environmental institutions, particularly the Council for the Defense of the Pacific Coast), and invariably turned down by the authorities, always because of their failure to meet the requirements demanded by various environmental laws. Both institutions had contributed significantly, also, to the adoption for the Jalisco coast, in 1999, of one of Mexico’s most advanced Environmental Zoning Programmes (POET) in the country, whose existence and enforcement represents still another great layer of legal protection for that region. III. THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE RULE OF LAW IN MEXICO. The challenge of defending these protected areas, despite the entering into force of well designed environmental laws applicable to them, was always made worse by Mexico’s acutely precarious rule of law situation, that yields a worrisome measure of legal uncertainty and insecurity in all fields, and not only for foreign and domestic investment, as has been signaled and recognized by many financial institutions. The tremendous deficiencies in the empire of the rule of law in Mexico is recognized, from all quarters, as the number one problem facing the nation, that significantly curtails its potential for progress. The advent of democracy in Mexico did not translate, unfortunately, into the strengthening of the legal protections that had been secured for the region. The opposite occurred, since President Fox’s Administration (2000-2006) failed not only to advance in its number one campaign pledge (to restore the rule of law and the administration of justice) but, at the end of its term, had actually accumulated and earned the worst record of environmental performance in more than 20 years, failing to comply and to enforce environmental legislation and dismantling important legal provisions, particularly those protecting Mexico’s coastal natural resources, ecosystems and protected species, in order to favor unsustainable development projects. The Government’s National Tourism Fund ( “FONATUR”), with its illegal “Nautical Steps project” and other similar coastal developments such as Litibú, that have threatened Mexico’s other great protected ecosystem (the Gulf of California, known as the “World’s Aquarium”), and that also contravened a battery of the country’s most important environmental laws, are only a small part of that negative record. Numerous other equally illegal and tolerated projects and activities, that have damaged Mexico’s natural heritage in the Caribbean and in the Pacific, dramatically expanded deforestation in the World’s fourth largest country rich in biodiversity, turned its heavily polluted water resources unusable and, above all, made worse the already unmanageable problem of hazardous and domestic wastes disposal, that have devastated and dirtied Mexico, and turned it into a perilous ground for human health and for the environment, integrate also the poor record of environmental performance accumulated by the last governmental Administration. This has helped to consolidate a “pattern” of disdain for environmental laws in favor of “development” that makes Mexico, liable under the 1994 Environmental Agreement (adopted together with the North American Free Trade Agreement, “NAFTA”), to heavy sanctions by the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation headquartered in Montreal. Some efforts are underway to submit such a claim to the Commission. IV. THE MARINA CAREYES PROJECT. The Chamela-Cuixmala region was not spared from the effects of such adverse policy, and is now threatened from all corners of its various protected areas. On the Northeast, the illegal construction of the highway Chamela-Villa Purificación, by the Jalisco Government and with the open complicity of the Federal authorities, specially the so-called Office of the Federal Environmental “Prosecutor” (PROFEPA), is threatening the Biosphere Reserve precisely at the place where the river that supplies the habitat of its protected species, dry forest and wetlands, enters its territory. On the Southwest, the illegal construction of a deceitful project called Casa Matos is also threatening the Reserve and the Turtle Sanctuary. By far, the most threatening are the “Tambora” and “Marina Careyes” touristic development projects in the Western and Northwestern flanks of the Reserve, impacting both the Turtle Sanctuary,the best kept crocodile population in western Mexico and the Chamela Bay Migratory Birds Archipelago Sanctuary. None of those projects have met with any of the requirements demanded by law, particularly regarding the prevention of environmental impacts, and they are all already illegally underway and with the equally illegal blessing of the Mexican environmental authorities, both by the outgoing Fox’s and the new Calderón’s Presidential administrations, which significantly pave the way for the next six years to come. The Marina Careyes project, owned and promoted by Mexican banker Roberto Hernández (formerly owner of Banco Nacional de México), is of special concern because he has persistently tried to undertake similar ill conceived developments in this particular Mexican region for more than a decade. His determination to invest and develop in the area, often in association with the Brignone family (founders of the Careyes touristic development, and sponsors of all of the above mentioned ill conceived projects, that were objected to and never authorized), disregarding the environmental importance of the region, has become a sort of stubborn obsession for Mr. Hernández. He had already submitted a project to build a marina in the Careyes area 2 years ago, and had to withdraw it because it was totally beyond the parameters set by the law. The strategy was to re-submit it with another name in 2006, at the end of the Administration. This time he found a way, surely an obscure and questionable one, to have his Marina project being illegally authorized, allegedly in the very last hours of the outgoing Fox Administration, although in reality it seems to have received the blessing in the first few days by the new Calderón Government (albeit by the same re-appointed official, Ricardo Juarez, Director General for Environmental Risk and Impact of the Ministry of the Environment). Apparently, Mr. Hernández has finally found someone who cannot say no to him, and a way to get his way. It is not only that, as a result of the illegal Environmental Impact Assessment Studies submitted for each of the projects, and of their equally illegal authorization by the Government, the delicate protected areas in the region, particularly the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve, will be at the mercy of uncertainty because of environmental impacts for which, not having been previously identified, no appropriate mitigation measures have been foreseen. Even worse is the fact that, in both cases, the preparation of the sites to be developed, the construction of the projects and their operation and maintenance over the years, once they are running, are sure to have very negative specific environmental impacts. Since those specific impacts have not been identified, the sum or accumulation of them will not be met, either, with any previously prepared precautionary mitigation measures. Some of the specific and accumulated impacts will inevitably occur, some that could have been tempered or even prevented will also necessarily occur, and all of that because, on the one hand, the developers did not comply with the legal requirements to assess the environmental impacts and, on the other, the authorities not only did not enforce those requirements but went ahead and illegally authorized the undertaking of the project . V. THE MARINA CAREYES PROJECT. The Marina Careyes Project is a touristic residential development that entails the construction of an artificial marina for boats and for the undertaking of a variety of naval activities, 1,025 rooms, commercial areas, beach clubs, roads, infrastructure for the provision of water, drainage and sewerage, electric energy and phone service. All of this is supposed to happen in an exceptional, vulnerable and delicate natural area of high biological diversity, where 430 terrestrial vertebrates have been identified (as many as 80 of them legally protected) that include 70 species of mammals, 270 species of birds, 68 reptiles and 19 amphibians and 110 species of fish, together with more than 1,120 species of plants, several thousand species of insects and invertebrates, many of them protected because they are threatened with extinction already specially two species: turtles and crocodiles. Four species of turtles dwell and have their nesting area in the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve’s beaches which share their borders with the future Marina site. National and international environmental laws recognize the turtles’ protected status due to the past over-exploitation of its population and are now classified as endangered specie. The constant protection’s efforts and the low perturbation which have been implemented for the past 20 years, allowed the nesting for thousands of female turtles. In the Cuixmala beach alone wich has a mere extension of 3,5 km. more than 6,000 nest sites were recorded and approximately 350,000 baby turtles were born and released into the ocean increasing the existing numbers of these decimated species which when they reach their reproductive maturity they come back to the same beach they were born to lay their eggs. The “Golfina” specie is the most common in the area and it is now responding well to the conservation programs put in place at the Teopa and Cuixmala beaches. Also other reproducing female turtles from species which are in a critical survival state are coming to nest into these two sites like the “Laud”,”Prieta” or “Carey” after which the holyday destination Careyes is named and shares its borders with the future Marina site. This year alone the biologist have released more than 40,000 baby turtles in Cuixmala and 40,000 in Teopa. Undoubtedly the building and existence of a Marina will wipe out the reproductive potential of these two well established sanctuaries. The turtles are very vulnerable to the modification of the beach’s general conditions and of the nearby areas, to boat traffic, to illumination coming from houses and tourist developments as well as towns. All this will impair their navigational and positioning skills. Last but not least the spoiling of its nests by the renown ‘”hueveros” who resell the eggs as gourmet food. The river crocodile,best known locally as “caíman”, belongs to the specie “cocodrilus acutus”, which is protected by the Mexican and international Law. It has been classified as an endangered specie and this is why it is under protection. The Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve is a sanctuary for this specie, protects it from illegal hunting and provides the natural habitat for its survival. After more than 20 years of protection, the crocodile population in the Reserve’s wetlands has shown a significant recovery concerning its numbers and structure. Today the estimated population size is approximately of 600 crocodiles, of which 40% has reached reproductive maturity. This increase allowed the re-colonization of areas within and outside the Reserve were the crocodile had previously disappeared. According to the experts, the crocodile population in the Reserve area dwells in the wetlands nearby the future Marina site where its construction and the associated development project associated with itt will dramatically change the behavior and the dynamics of the existing crocodile population in the Reserve which is the only protected area in the coast of Jalisco and as far as crocodile population and its distribution it is considered to be among the best in the Mexican Pacific coast. In the same fashion as turtles, crocodiles are very vulnerable to hunting or the perturbation and modification of its natural habitat , the nest spoiling during the reproductive period as well as to human presence and activities. A project of such magnitude, in a site where, due to its exceptional environmental importance, should be left as undisturbed as possible, will inevitably unleash numerous and dangerous adverse impacts resulting mainly from: · the alteration of sand dunes, wetlands, mangroves, tropical forests and marine ecosystems, all of which are places of refuge for species and which form natural biological corridors, which are indispensable for the maintenance of a coastal area rich in biological diversity · the massive removal of vegetation cover and its elimination will contribute to the loss of humidity and soil fertility radically modifying the landscape and will increase the erosion and the runoff and transport of sediments. · all of the above will in turn affect the quality of superficial and ground water, causing harm to the wetland. · the removed cover will deprive various animal species of their burrow, their food and habitat and will tend to disappear from the area. · habitat modification in the area where the project will be developed, which is located in the zone of influence and at a stone throw from the limits of both the Biosphere Reserve and of the Turtle Sanctuary, will inevitably impact turtles severely, given the mobility of some of the affected species. · fragmentation of the habitat will create barriers to that mobility and increase the possibilities of extinction. · roads will perform that pervasive function, and they will also modify air quality and produce several forms of pollution because of the asphalt, the dust, the oil spills and the noise from the construction equipment and the circulation of vehicles. · the added presence of tourists and workers in the region will increase access to natural resources, water consumption, generation of solid wastes, and an increment in the demand of energy, drainage and sewerage services. · that increased human presence will disturb many sensible species of animals, particularly those predators with sigil habits, such as the felines which exist in the area and are threatened and thus protected species. · birds are particularly sensitive to human presence and noise in their nestling processes, and will tend to abandon their nests, causing high levels of mortality in eggs and chicks. Many of them are migratory species that come form the United States and Canada, and their protection has been agreed through treaties with those countries that will be contravened. · to build breakwater facilities for the marina and floating docks, it will be necessary to excavate and dredge the seabed, in order to maintain the depth of the marina, which involves the extraction of materials with heavy equipment, that will have several impacts inland and at sea, altering the physical and chemical composition of its waters and altering the biota. · increased turbidity in the water will result, together with an increment in the ingestion and accumulation of contaminants by fish, a short term lowering in the level of dissolved oxygen, modification in the bathymetry that will provoke changes in the circulation of water, in habitats and in the diversity of species. · heavy equipment is likely to have typical spills of oil substances increasing water pollution. · dredging will lead to hydrological alterations that will alter the beach zone. · these impacts will produce added erosion, sedimentation, loss of vegetation and fauna, flooding and changes in the drainage of humid soils and mangrove. · the disposal of materials removed while dredging will contaminate groundwater deposits, the flow of superficial water will be altered and the use of the land will be affected. · the planned installation of a station for the provision of combustible fuels (diesel, gasoline and lubricants), with a fuel storage facility, a fuel supply dock, a net of ducts for the distribution of the product and an area for offices, will necessarily involve the threat of leaks and spills on land and in water modifying the physicochemical and biological components of the water, soil contamination, loss of habitat and risks for human health · the increase in the number of boats using the facilities of the marina, imply greater maritime traffic, with the possibility of having leaks and spills at sea, that will generate noise from their engines affecting turtles and marine mammals · the increase in the number of people coming with those boats will come together with an increase of solid wastes and the use of services. How will each of those inevitable impacts specifically happen in the area of the Marina Careyes project, as a result of the multiple works and activities that will be carried-out during each of its phases of site preparation, construction, operation and maintenance over many years, and what measures will be timely planned in order to prevent those impacts and the synergic impact of their accumulation, or at least to moderate them or ameliorate them, was precisely the mandatory function of the Environmental Impact Statement that those promoting the project were under a legal obligation to submit for authorization. The General Environmental Act and its Regulations on Environmental Impact, clearly demanded compliance with 13 specific requirements, in order to ensure that all direct and indirect adverse impacts and their accumulated effects in the region would be properly and scientifically identified and objectively declared in an Environmental Impact Statement (MIA, for “Manifestación de Impacto Ambiental”), together with specific proposals for measures to prevent them and mitigate them. The same Act and its Regulations mandated the authorities of the Ministry of the Environment (SEMARNAT) to assess compliance with each and all of those 13 legal requirements. They were nowhere to be found in the MIA for the Marina Careyes project. The SEMARNAT official in charge of the assessment of the MIA was warned of this situation by various governmental institutions and non-governmental groups. As it also happened in the case of the Tambora Project, for the Marina Careyes project the Council for the Defense of the Pacific Coast presented to SEMARNAT a well documented analysis of the MIA, with a well substantiated finding proving that it did not comply with any of those requirements. The finding was produced by prominent specialists, including one of the scientists with the greatest record of work and publications in the area, coincidentally a winner of the National Biology Award. With numerous and well argued scientific and legal arguments, the finding proved that the MIA did not comply with a single one of the above mentioned 13 legal minimum requirements, as it failed totally to identify the environmental impacts of the project and, consequently, no real mitigation measures were foreseen or proposed making the Marina project, consequently, evidently and notoriously illegal. Still, the above mentioned SEMARNAT official was somehow persuaded to go ahead and illegally authorize the project. Numerous organizations, individuals in Mexico and abroad, have begun to mobilize to prevent such ecological crime.


A.- THE RESERVE: Veering radically from traditional environmental politics in Mexico, the Mexican government has gradually, over the past many months, permitted the illegal realization of a variety of development projects, resulting in a series of unlawful acts, negligently toleranted or even perpetrated by the authorities, which now threaten one of the most conserved protected areas of tropical dry forest in the world: 1. The Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve, with a protected area of 13,142 hectares, was created 13 years ago. The reserve represents one of the best conserved natural areas along the Pacific slope of Mexico, where the forest and the sea converge. The dominant vegetation is dry deciduous forest, which sheds leaf cover in the dry season, with patches of semi-deciduous forest that maintains green leaves, along the valleys and streams. The coastal zone supports wetlands with manglars and aquatic vegetation, as well as coastal dunes in the transition to the sea. The reserve protects a combination of habitats which stand out for their high biological diversity: more than 1200 species of plants, 270 bird species, 70 of mammals, 68 reptiles, 19 amphibians, and thousands of species of insects and other invertebrates. This biological richness exceeds that of many countries with a surface area many times greater. Many of these species are unique and only inhabit the dry forests of western México, and an important proportion are currently classified as Threatened or In Danger of Extinction. The dry forest is one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet, with only 5% of its original extension remaining in continental America, as a result of the impact of deforestation. In Mexico, about 20% of these ecosystems remain unaltered, highlighting the coast of Jalisco as one of the last redoubts for its continued existence. Nevertheless, in the last 50 years more than 40% of tropical dry forest has disappeared along the coast of Jalisco, and the tendencies indicate that in the next 10 years a further 90% of this ecosystem could disappear. The value in conserving this forest, as well as the species and germoplasma it maintains, radicates in the important environmental services which the forest provides, such as water capture, storage, and purification, control of erosion, soil formation and conservation, and flood control. The dry forest contributes to the production of foods, pharmaceuticals, capture of carbon dioxide, and climate regulation on a local and global scale. Added to which, the forest offers a landscape and natural area to be enjoyed. 2. This explains why, throughout the past 20 years, Mexico has endowed Chamela-Cuixmala with all the legal shields available for its protection, in accordance with national and international law: a) The beaches of Cuixmala and Teopa on the coastal zone of the reserve, have been protected since 1986 by successive Presidential decrees, until 2002 when they were declared Sanctuaries for the Marine Turtle. b) After many years of intensive research, making the area one of the most studied sites in Mexico, the CUIXMALA ECOLOGICAL FOUNDATION (with 18 years working in the region on nature conservation, supporting ecological research, environmental education, and environmental management) and the UNIVERSIDAD NACIONAL AUTÓNOMA DE MÉXICO (which established the Estación de Biología Chamela in 1971), promoted the establishment of the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve, decreed on 30 December 1993. By means of a Convention with the Federal Government of Mexico, the Cuixmala Foundation and the National University of Mexico assumed responsability for the conservation and management of the reserve. c) In the 1999 Ecological Ordinance Plan for the coast of Jalisco, the reserve and its area of influence were protected through careful regulation of land use and the kinds of development projects and activities considered permissible. d) In the vicinity of the reserve, the islands of the Chamela Bay were declared a Sanctuary in 2002, thanks to the research, promotion and patronage of the Cuixmala Foundation and the National University of Mexico together. e) The reserve is incorporated within the National System of Protected Areas. f) The National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO), determined in 1998 that the region and the reserve form part of one of the Priority Hydrological Regions and one of the Priority Marine Regions for the country. Furthermore, in 2000 the area was considered a Priority Terrestrial Region for Conservation. g) The reserve has also been recognized as an Important Area for Bird Conservation by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, created in accordance with the Agreement for Environmental Cooperation of North America. h) The reserve forms part, since 2 February 2004, of the International Convention for Internationally Important Wetlands, better known as the RAMSAR Convention. i) The reserve also forms part, since 27 October 2006, of the International Reserves Network of the Man and the Biosphere Program of the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO). 3. No other site in Mexico, and probably in any other country, more greatly deserves to be afforded every legal protection, at national or international level. 4. The reserve conserves one of the healthiest populations in Mexico of the threatened American Crocodile, implements a successful Marine Turtle protection program, and developed the first project in Mexico on the ecology and conservation of Jaguars, just to mention a few of the most charismatic species. Furthermore, the reserve protects fragile, fragmented ecosystems, including tropical dry deciduous and semi-deciduous forest, manglars and various types of wetlands, and seeks to revert the degradation of these ecosystems. Finally, within the reserve are carried out a variety of programs for scientific research, environmental education, and community outreach for social development, with active participation in regional development plans, ecological restauration, and environmental monitoring. B. THE THREAT: 1. During the last 13 years, in close cooperation with the federal authorities of the Secretary for the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), and the Federal Agency for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA), the reserve has successfully confronted the many threats arising from deforestation, habitat fragmentation, the loss of biodiversity and environmental services, illegal poaching and timber extraction. Above all, during this time the reserve has been besieged by repeated attempts to implement non-sustainable tourist developments within the reserve and its immediate area of influence. Many of these projects violated existing legal dispositions, specifically those which protect the reserve, and were detained thanks to the defense of those same legal dispositions. 2. Nevertheless, over the last years the coastal region of Jalisco has been subjected to strong pressure for non-sustainable development by some groups from the tourist hotel sector, now supported by state and federal government. Proof of this has been the work carried out in the last few years by state government on development of the road infrastructure, and infrastructure developments carried out along the coast-line. 3. The federal authorities responsible for fulfilling environmental regulations have unlawfully authorized projects which do not comply with established legal requirements. An example of this are the projects illegally authorized on the last day of government by the concluding administration, which contemplate the construction of more than 3,000 habitations, without considering the already existing 1500 habitations, regardless of the fact that the region does not have the capacity or basic infrastructure to support a development of such magnitude. The fateful consequences of these developments will be seen in the deterioration of scarce water resources in the region, affecting local populations and the food production sectors. Likewise, the tourist developments will become a factor of population growth and migration to areas which currently do not have adequate basic services, aggravating the impacts on the environment and generating social problems which have not been adequately evaluated. Everything points to a repeat of the predatory development models in other tourist regions of the country, where the enviromental and social costs surpass the economic benefits generated in the region. 4. These projects were opposed by members of civil society, providing the authorities with solid and numerous technical, scientific, and legal arguments demonstrating that their authorization would violate environmental regulations, all of which was disdained and ignored by the authorities who inexplicably and unlawfully approved the development proposals. 5. All of this was owing to the fact that during the Administration of President Fox there was a radical change in the conduct of national evironmental politics: a) The first Secretary for the Environment, Víctor Lichtinger, with a good trajectory of environmental protection, was weak before the constant pressures to relax environmental protection in favor of development. Such pressures came mainly from the business sector, which found almost unconditional support in the Office of the President. Even when the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (PROFEPA), lowered its profile during this period and didn’t venture to take strong environmental protection measures, the agency suffered strong political attacks from various business interests with political support at the highest level. b) In order to control Lichtinger, the Presidency located as Subsecretary, Raúl Arriaga (previously Environment Secretary in the Fox administration in Guanajuato), who was the bearer of the philosophy that the environment and its legislation should stop being an obstacle to investment and development. The Subsecretary maintained a tense confrontation with Secretary Lichtinger, which became famed for its severity. A series of circumstances, which have much to do with this idealogical confrontation over the role of environmental politics, quickly brought the downfall of both. On one side, Arriaga was involved in a couple of scandals for granting seriously illegal authorizations (permits allowing the killing of millions of animals and the introduction of exotic dolphins). On the other side, Lichtinger resisted a Presidential order to cease the Environmental Attorney. c) The new Environment Secretary, Alberto Cárdenas, iniciated the instrumentation of a development policy which placed environmental legislation to one side, with the determined help of the new head of PROFEPA, José Luis Luege, who nuetralized that institution. Cárdenas gathered an unprecidented record of violations of environmental legislation, which motivated a strong campaign against him on behalf of environmental organizations. On leaving the SEMARNAT, Cardenas was replaced by Luege, who in turn was replaced in PROFEPA by Ignacio Loyola. The rest of this Presidential term was a continued decline in national evironmental politics, and a significant weakening of ecological organizations. All of this occurred in the context of a marked deterioration in the record of respect for the state of law in the country, an issue which Vicente Fox claimed in his Presidential campaign, but about which he did little during his term. d) It is significant that in the context of the facts outlined above, the authorities were gradually loosing shame or fear of the media campaigns attempted to check them, which became each time more timid and ineffectual. The media demonstrated less interest in environmental issues, and environmentalists and conservationists were seen as radicals comparable to other opposition forces in civil society, such as those called “globaphobics”. e) In the middle of this, two fundamental beauracratic positions became the key for instrumenting the new policy. On one side was the Director General for Environmental Risk and Impact in SEMARNAT, Ricardo Juárez, and on the other, the Subattorney for Environmental Resources, Héctor González Reza. Both functionaries had gained the opposition of environmental organizations, the first for many illegal authorizations of environmental impact which he approved for large development projects, and the second for abstaining to apply and enforce the law in a multitude of cases denouncing attacks against the environment and natural resources. f) In these circumstances, to ensure that the authorities reject requests for authorization of environmental impact for development projects close to the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve, has become increasingly difficult given the breakdown which now exists of the state of law. In the case of the project to construct a Marina in Careyes, the SEMARNAT advised the promoters that they should withdraw their first proposal, to avoid having to officially reject the proposal for failure to comply with environmental law, as was demonstrated by civil societies with abundant refutals founded on technical and legal opinions. It is now apparant that this advice came with the offer that the project would be authorized in the future. This is precisely what has just occurred with a new proposal submitted for this development project, whose authorization on the final day of this Administration cannot be explained except as the result of an act of corruption. The same occurred with a tourist development project named Tambora, also in the area of influence of the reserve, which despite having been initiated illegally and without authorization, and having been amply refuted by civil society, was illegally authorized in the first days of the new Administration (6 December), but by functionaries of the previous administration who had not yet left. g) Other construction works begun illegal along the boundries of the reserve, and denounced by civil society, have been totally ignored by SEMARNAT and PROFEPA, despite the fact that they have been provided with indisputable proof of the evironmental destruction that these are causing. These development projects go from the small development of “Casa Matos-Gil”, to others of great extension such as the construction of the road “Villa Purificación-Chamela”, all without any authorization and involving the commission of a variety of illicit activities and environmental crimes, of which the authorities are co-responsible for their negligence and cover-up, for which they are themselves being denounced. This is foreboding of a breakdown in the state of law, and a chaos in Mexican environmental politics, which will be prejudicial to the country at international level. h) The new Administration does not promise a change in the situation described above, rather all to the contrary. In comprising the new government, the forces of those responsible for environmental politics in the final PRI administrations roundly failed in their attempts to recuperate SEMARNAT and PROFEPA, denying them access to either of these positions. Instead of which, with the new head of SEMARNAT, Rafael Elvira, who as Subsecretary of Luege, was in charge of implementing the political change described above, with the Attorney of PROFEPA, Loyola, ratified in his position (and with him most probably the Subattorney González Reza), with Luege as new Director for the National Water Commission, and with Cárdenas as Secretary in Agriculture and Fishing, the augur is not promising, except of a term of severe confrontation between the Government of President Felipe Calderón and organized environmental society, and what is worse, of an Administration which tolerates destruction of the environment in Mexico.