Friday, December 5, 2008

Environmental Broad Cast, December 2008

Interior of mother polar bear's den, photo by Stephen Kazlowski
(Interior of a mother polar bear's den after she exited it from hibernation -- Photo by Steven Kazlowski from his new book The Last Polar Bear: Facing the Truth of a Warming World.)

Environmental Broad Cast, December 2008

The Natural Resources Defense Council has issued a press release celebrating an environmental victory on November 21. A U.S. federal appeals court blocked Shell Oil (Royal Dutch Shell) from drilling in Alaska's Beaufort Sea, ruling that the Bush administration's approval of this plan to drill next to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was illegal. Specifically, the court said the Minerals Management Service had failed to conduct a proper environmental review. Indeed, the government's own experts predicted that drilling in the Beaufort would cause at least one oil spill -- there is no known method for cleaning oil in this icebound sea. The administration has been requested to do further study and disclose the "significant harm" which could be caused by drilling.

Native Alaskan Nupiat people in this area rely on fishing and hunting for bowhead whale in this region. Polar bears in ANWR will also benefit from this ruling. For further information about this and other environmental struggles, check out the Natural Resources Defense Council website.


November 21 was also the eighth annual ULS (Use Less Stuff) Day, aimed at reducing (and hopefully eliminating) the stream of trash Americans pump into the environment, particularly oceans. This waste stream is exacerbated during the holidays when, according to Use Less, "Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year's holiday period than any other time of year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week." To aid in stopping this trend, Use Less Stuff has published their online 42 Ways To Trim Your Holiday Wasteline.

Plastic debris in ocean, source unknown One company,, has already announced it intends to phase out plastic clamshells and has introduced 19 products with what it calls "Frustration Free Packaging". The key piece of information here, however, is that "frustration-free" means dramatically reduced wasteful and petroleum-based packaging. Their goal is to eventually have all their packaging fall within these guidelines. For more details about their practice and intent, check out Frustration-Free Packaging FAQs. Let's hope this catches on with other manufacturers and distributors.


President-Elect Obama and Vice President-Elect Biden have stated their intention to create a White House Office of Urban Policy. In response, software company Front Seat has begun the website Obama Urban Policy, to allow us a place to offer our feedback and suggestions.