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Climate Crisis Coalition Newsfeed (Dec 24, 2006)

Community Models

New German Community Models Car-Free Living . The Christian Science Monitor, December 20, 2006. "It's pickup time at the Vauban kindergarten here at the edge of the Black Forest, but there's not a single minivan waiting for the kids. Instead, a convoy of helmet-donning moms - bicycle trailers in tow - pedal up to the entrance... With gas prices well above $6 per gallon across much of the continent, Vauban is striking a chord in Western Europe as communities encourage people to be less car-dependent... There are numerous incentives for Vauban's 4,700 residents to live car-free: Carpoolers get free yearly tramway passes, while parking spots - available only in a garage at the neighborhood's edge - go for €17,500 (US$23,000). Forty percent of residents have bought spaces, many just for the benefit of their visiting guests. As a result, the car-ownership rate in Vauban is only 150 per 1,000 inhabitants... In contrast, the US average is 640 household vehicles per 1,000 residents. But some cities - such as Davis, Calif., where 17 percent of residents commute by bike - have pioneered a car-free lifestyle that is similar to Vauban's model."

Prince Edward Island: Canada's Cutting-Edge Energy Model . , The Christian Science Monitor, December 21 2006. "W hen workers finish the last [wind generator] this month, the new Eastern Kings Wind Farm will generate 30 megawatts of electricity - 7.5 percent of the province's power - by harnessing the strong winds that buffet the island's northern shore. But more than an isolated project, the wind farm is part of an ambitious plan to enable Prince Edward Island (PEI) - which has no significant coal, petroleum, natural gas, or hydro resources - to meet most of its electricity and 30 percent of its total energy needs from its own renewable resources by 2016. If successful, government officials say, this remote rural province will find itself at the cutting edge of the world's fastest growing energy sector."

'Sustainability' Gains Status on US Campuses . By Ron Scherer, The Christian Science Monitor, December 19, 2006. "T he Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education ( AASHE) has quintupled in size this year, as it went from a West Coast-based organization to a national group. Also, an increasing number of schools, from New York University to the University of Central Oklahoma, are getting 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources. And next month, a group of colleges and universities will launch an effort encouraging 200 universities to develop a plan that would make their schools 'climate neutral,' meaning the schools wouldn't adversely affect the environment... One of the best examples of the ivory tower's effort to tread lightly on the land is at Arizona State University. Next month, ASU will inaugurate the nation's first School of Sustainability - whose classes will look at everything from water scarcity to urban air quality problems... Behind the university's efforts is its president, Michael Crow, who arrived at ASU in 2002 after 11 years at Columbia University, where he played a lead role in founding the Earth Institute. ( Read an interview with Mr. Crow)."

Winds Farm Getting a Stronger Foothold

Wind Farm in Maine Clears Major Hurdle . By Joe Rankin, Central Maine Morning Sentinel, December 23, 2006. "The staff of the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission has recommended approval of a proposed $150 million wind power project in northern Franklin County. The draft recommendation on Maine Mountain Power's Redington wind farm was released Friday. It goes before the seven-member Commission for a vote Jan. 24. Final approval could make Maine a leader in wind power in the region and pave the way for other projects, including the even larger TransCanada wind farm proposed for Kibby Mountain to the northwest."

Arizona Taps New Mexico's Wind . By Mark Shaffer, Arizona Republic, December 22, 2006. "Arizona Public Service Co. on Friday took the state's first great leap forward into renewable energy as 5 megawatts of wind-generated power flowed into its Four Corners substation in northwestern New Mexico. It was the company's first delivery from the newly constructed Aragonne Mesa Wind Farm in eastern New Mexico. A series of 90turbines, each 227feet high, will produce 90megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 25,000 Valley homes for a year."

Cape Wind Survives Another Legal Challenge: Permitting for Transmission Lines . The Associated Press, December 18, 2006. "The state’s highest court on Monday upheld a decision permitting construction of transmission lines to bring electricity from the Cape Wind project to shore . The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed a May 2005 decision by the state Energy Facilities Siting Board that was challenged by [the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound] a group opposing the Cape Wind project. If it receives needed federal approval, Cape Wind would become the nation’s first offshore wind farm - a unique status that has presented local, state and federal jurisdictional questions during five years of government reviews. The SJC found the state board acted within its discretion."

Controversial Australian Wind Farm Gets Go-Ahead . By Jewell Topfield, The Age, December 22, 2006. "The long-running saga of the orange-bellied parrot and the Bald Hills wind farm has ended with Environment Minister Ian Campbell overturning his controversial decision to block the $220 million project. The reversal was variously hailed as a 'humiliating backdown' by the Federal Opposition, a victory by the Victorian Government, a vindication by the developer, regrettable by the anti-wind farm Coastal Guardians... 'Having thoroughly considered all information presented to me in relation to the proposal, I am satisfied that the strict conditions attached to this approval will address the risk to threatened species that may use the area,' Senator Campbell said. Wind Power director Andrew Newbold was relieved that the project had finally been approved after 4½ years. He said the project would reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by 435,000 tonnes a year, the equivalent of taking 100,000 cars off the road."

World's Largest Offshore Wind Farm Gets Government Approval in the UK . BBC News, December 18, 2006. "The green light has been given for two offshore wind farms in the Thames Estuary, one of which will be the world's biggest when it is completed. The government said the schemes would produce enough renewable electricity to power about one million households... The larger London Array project...will have 341 turbines rising from the sea about 12 miles (20km) off the Kent and Essex coasts... The smaller Thanet project will be located seven miles (11km) out from North Foreland, Kent, and will have 100 turbines... The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds backed the London Array scheme after plans were amended to prevent harm to red-throated divers - a bird rarely seen in UK waters."

A Balmy December

In Balmy Europe, Feverish Choruses of 'Let It Snow' . By Peter Finn, The Washington Post, December 20, 2006 . "Scattered flurries teased Moscow on Tuesday afternoon with the promise of a real winter, the birthright of a city whose people take pride in trudging through snow and in ice fishing and cross-country skiing in white countryside beyond the outer beltway. The winter of 2006 has yet to arrive, however, and Muscovites are deeply discombobulated. 'I want snow. I want the New Year's feeling,' said Viktoria Makhovskaya, a street vendor who sells gloves and mittens. 'This is a disgusting winter. I don't like it at all.' Moscow is not alone in the unexpected warmth -- it stretches across the continent... Trees are sprouting leaves in Switzerland. And low-altitude ski resorts across the Alps look more like springtime meadows. 'We are currently experiencing the warmest period in the Alpine region in 1,300 years,' said Reinhard Boehm, a climatologist at Austria's Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics."

Washington Warming to Southern Plants . By David A. Fahrenthold, The Washington Post, December 20, 2006. " A warming climate in the Washington area is beginning to affect the area's trees, with cold-loving species finding the weather less welcoming and southern transplants thriving, according to findings released yesterday by the National Arbor Day Foundation. In a revised map of 'hardiness zones' -- bands of similar temperatures where similar trees are likely to grow in winter -- the foundation reclassified the entire Washington area in the same zone as parts of North Carolina and Texas... The findings also help give an unexpected answer to one of the region's oldest questions. If Washington wasn't the South before, then now -- at least from a gardener's perspective -- the South seems to be coming to Washington... The Washington area's warming trend is one of many that the foundation detailed across the country as it presented its updated map."

With Warmer Weather, Different Decisions to Make . Commentary by Anne Raver, The New York Times, December 24, 2006. " It's not that I don’t like 60-degree days and eating fresh spinach right out of my garden in December. But the extended growing season is one of the signs of global warming... In central Maryland, warmer winters allow me to grow Southern magnolias and apricot trees, but more insects are wintering over, and weeds, like poison ivy and ragweed, seem far more aggressive. It didn’t surprise me to see that my garden has jumped a zone, from 7 to 8, according to a hardiness zone map based on lowest winter temperatures in the past 15 years, just published by the National Arbor Day Foundation ( arborday.org/media/zones.cfm)... As the warming trend continues, gardeners and farmers are changing the varieties of vegetables and fruits that they grow."

Rising Oceans

Tidal Surges Eating Away Papua New Guinea Islands . By Richard Lloyd Parry, The London Times, December 21, 2006. " The Cartaret Islands in Papua New Guinea appear doomed. They are a portent of catastrophe to come-- not only for the other low lying atolls of the South Pacific, but for low-lying coastal communities across the world... Every year the tidal surges are becoming stronger and more frequent; every month, a few more inches are being eaten away from the shrinking land of the tiny islands. It happened last March, it happened again in September and it may happen again tonight under the tug of the new moon. The people of the Carteret Islands — among the smallest, most beautiful and most remote inhabited islands in the world — are hungry and afraid. Since the sea poisoned their fruit trees, their children have lived on an unbalanced diet of fish and coconuts, and their pot bellies and the yellowing tips of their black hair hint at malnutrition. Most of them are desperate to leave."

Rising Sea Levels Engulfing Indian World Heritage Islands . Agence France-Press, December 21, 2006. "Rising sea levels have submerged two islands in the Sunderbans, where tigers roam through mangrove forests in the Ganges River delta, and a dozen more islands are under threat, scientists say. A six-year study of the impact of future climate change on the world natural heritage site that India shares with Bangladesh came up with alarming results. Official records list 102 islands on the Indian side of the vast Sunderbans, where the Ganges and Brahmaputra empty into the Bay of Bengal... Fifty-two of the islands are inhabited with a population of more than 1.8 million people... 'As the islands sink, nearly 100,000 people will have to be evacuated from the islands in the next decade,' says Sugata Hazra, director of the School of Oceanography Studies at Jadavpur University."

The Arctic and the Gulf

Global Energy Hunger Brings Oil and Gas Boom to Arctic Barents Sea . The Associated Press, December 23, 2006. "The massive gas plant outside Hammerfest, once a lonely Arctic outpost known for fish, reindeer traffic jams and a dubious claim of being "The World's Northernmost Town," is now the base of oil-rich Norway's latest energy drive. It's a pioneering venture to extract natural gas in the fragile Arctic waters of the Barents Sea, which the Nordic country uneasily shares with its powerful neighbour Russia - and may contain billions of barrels more of yet-to-be discovered oil and gas... With the world's known petroleum resources drying up, the inhospitable waters of the Barents Sea are a new frontier in the search for oil and gas. But exploration is controversial, as Norway and Russia weigh the odds of hitting paydirt against the potential damage to fragile Arctic ecosystems already under assault by global warming. The area, named after 16th century Dutch explorer William Barents, is one of the world's cleanest and richest fishing grounds, and has fragile cold weather ecology - both of which environmentalists fear the hunger for oil could put at risk."

"It shouldn't be this hard to do something about climate change when half of Victoria is on fire because of climate change," Mr Newbold said.

But local member Mr Broadbent said he was "sorely disappointed" by the decision. "This is a real blow to the people of this area who have fought long and hard to protect endangered wildlife and the amenity and beauty of the Gippsland coastline," he said.

Victorian Nationals leader Peter Ryan said it was "another example of city-based politicians overriding the concerns of a country community".

The anti-wind farm group Tarwin Valley Coastal Guardians vowed to continue the fight. "Our community has been fighting this developer and the Bracks Government for over four years, we are not going to go away now," Coastal Guardians spokesman Tim Le Roy said.

He said 1500 people and many major environmental groups, including the Australian Conservation Foundation, the local state Greens candidate and South Gippsland Conservation Society, had objected to the wind farm.

Senator Campbell denied allegations of political motivation, saying all his decisions had been based on science. He said the Victorian Government had knocked back wind farms to the north and west of Bald Hills for "purely political" reasons.

With LIZ MINCHIN

Corps Proposal for Gulf Draws Criticism From Scientists . By Cornelia Dean, The New York Times, December 19, 2006 . "Ambitious federal plans to repair the Gulf Coast and defend it against future hurricanes are coming under fire from many coastal scientists who say they would only perpetuate a costly and wrongheaded approach to storm management. The projects are still in the planning stages by the Army Corps of Engineers, which has been ordered by Congress to present its long-term, comprehensive plans by the end of 2007. In addition to short-term repair projects, the corps is considering large and elaborate systems of walls and barriers, offshore breakwaters, dune reconstruction on offshore barrier islands, levees and mechanical barriers or gates that would close across inlets to keep surging storm waters out. Many scientists have long objected to seawalls, other coastal armor and even some beach restoration projects as costly interventions that can damage the very beaches they are supposed to protect... They say the larger projects will have the same effects, only worse."

Looking Back on 2006

The Year the World Woke Up . By John Vidal, The London Guardian, December 20, 2006. "The west awoke in 2006 to the vast economic, political and social implications of climate change - and twigged that it presented as many opportunities as threats to humanity. As temperature and rainfall records tumbled, and unseasonal, intense heatwaves, droughts and floods struck many countries, local and national politicians scrambled to beef up their green policies and credentials, some businesses found they could make a packet from trading carbon, and a broad-based global social and ecological movement emerged, linking climate change to social justice, as well as to poverty and lifestyles... The US went ahead with plans for over 150 new coal-fired power plants, and China for some 550... But even as many environment groups said the world had only a decade or more to stabilise emissions before potential runaway climate change set in, those who could really influence change moved slowly; 160 countries meeting in Nairobi could not even agree what to do when the Kyoto agreement runs out in 2012... Crucially, a popular movement emerged, driving the social and financial agenda in all developed countries... Many religions and faith groups discovered the environment... The growing concern was reflected in Britain in early November when 20,000 people - possibly the largest environment protest ever staged in Britain - marched in London and elsewhere for action."

The Top 10 Climate Change Influencers of 2006 . One Degree, The Weather Channel, December 18, 2006. "The One Degree Hot List hopes to call attention to those around the world who dedicated their time and energy to an issue that exploded into the public's consciousness in 2006 — global climate change. One Degree hopes this list in some way will help bring focus to the people and organizations who in 2006 most influenced climate policy, science and public opinion... It became a tough call to narrow the list to only ten. In 2006 global warming became a front and center issue with the media, law makers and entertainers. More and more people throughout the world were participating and taking action... The presence of both NASA climatologist James Hansen and retail giant Wal-Mart on the same list demonstrates that climate change leaders can now be found in all sectors of society... The No. 1 position is, no surprise, Al Gore. If global climate change reached a tipping point in the public consciousness in 2006, former Vice President Al Gore may well have pushed it over the top... By opposing mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, President George W. Bush gave states such as California and New York reason to act on their own." 2006 One Degree Hot List : Former Vice President Al Gore ; British Prime Minister Tony Blair ; President George W. Bush ; Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and California state lawmakers Fabian Núñez, Don Perata and Fran Pavley ; Richard Cizik, Vice President for Governmental Affairs at the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) ; Competitive Enterprise Institute ; Laurie David, Activist ; Dr. James Hansen, Director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York ; Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman ; Wal-Mart .

The 110th Congress

Green Laws No Slam-Dunk in New Congress . By Richard Simon, December 18, 2006, The Los Angeles Times. " Steps to curb global warming. Tougher fuel economy standards for automobiles. Repeal of massive tax breaks for the oil industry. Environmentalists are busy these days crafting their holiday wish-list, giddy about the prospects for success in the new Democratic-controlled Congress. But industry groups are gearing up to fight, and their forces may include more than the usual Republican allies. 'We're confident that there are plenty of Democrats who know and understand us,' said Charles Drevna of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Assn. Drevna's confidence is probably well-placed. The politics surrounding environmental issues have proved hard to predict, largely because the potential economic impact of stronger regulation tends to scramble partisan loyalties. Democrats from auto-making states, for example, have fought efforts to mandate stricter miles-per-gallon rules for vehicles."

With Dems in Control, Yuka Project May Be Doomed . By David Whitney, McClatchy Newspapers, December 18, 2006. "A few years ago, the plan to store the nation's nuclear waste in Nevada seemed all but certain. Congress decided that highly radioactive waste from commercial nuclear-power plants, which takes centuries to decay, needed to be stored underground. And it reaffirmed by wide margins in 2002 that Yucca Mountain, 100 miles from Las Vegas, was the place to build such a repository. But now that's being rethought, for a variety of reasons. And the Nov. 7 elections, which propelled Democrats into power on Capitol Hill, are likely to accelerate that thinking despite strong bipartisan support for Yucca Mountain in Congress. The incoming majority leader of the Senate, Nevadan Harry Reid, long has pledged that Yucca Mountain will never open. The incoming chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Californian Barbara Boxer, agrees. Both voted against the Yucca repository."

Biofuels

Biofuels Eating into China's Food Grain Stocks . By Antoaneta Bezlova, Inter Press Service, December 20, 2006 . " China's biofuel industry is booming thanks to voracious demand for energy to power the country's high-flying economy. Applying modernised versions of ancient chemical processes to convert crops and oils into energy sources, Chinese entrepreneurs have created a profitable 'green business' with plenty of room to grow. But worried over surging crop prices China is now clamping down on the use of corn and other edible grains for producing biofuel. While it wants to support the growth of alternative energy sources, Beijing says the issue of national food security should take precedence over the country's green agenda... Surging demand for biofuel is now partly blamed for recent price hikes in the food market and for shortages in grain stocks. Wheat prices are at their highest level in a decade, due to poor harvests in key producing countries like the United States and Australia, while corn prices have surged by up to 20 percent in local markets. Beijing has begun auctioning some of its wheat reserves to halt the rise in crops prices and prevent panic among the public."

Brazil's Investment in Ethanol Has Made Sugar Growers Very Rich . By Barry Shlachter, McClatchy Newspapers, December 19, 2006. "Brazilians across the country are snapping up new-model 'flex' cars that use gasoline or cheaper, sugar-derived ethanol, or a blend of the two... The vast majority of new cars sold in the South American country have flex engines. And with ethanol about half the price of gasoline - itself about 20 percent ethanol - times are remarkably good for sugar-cane growers and refiners of the alternative fuel. Some are vertically integrated, cultivating cane, crushing it and distilling the juice into ethanol."

Wood Boilers Lower Expenses, but Raise Concerns on Smoke . By Anahad O'Connor, The New York Times, December 18, 2006 . "Outdoor wood-fired boilers... are now a fast-growing alternative energy fad — and, depending on whom you ask, the latest suburban scourge. Scientists studying the boilers’ environmental fallout estimate their numbers have doubled in the last two years, to about 150,000 nationwide... The boilers, which look like tool sheds topped by 12-foot smoke stacks, were originally designed for rural areas where open space — and wood — are plentiful. They generally cost about $5,000, and work by burning wood to heat water that is pumped through underground pipes to a home’s plumbing and heating systems. The boilers are creating fierce disputes virtually everywhere they turn up... Next month, the Environmental Protection Agency expects to issue guidelines for states to follow in regulating the use of wood boilers. The industry, too, is working with the agency on new standards for boilers... 'These machines sound good when you buy them, but look at all the health problems you cause,' said Edward J. Nowak, who is suing his former neighbor in Chicopee, Mass., for creating a 'public nuisance' by installing a boiler in his backyard... Owners of the devices say the complaints are unfair. Peter Muller, a landscaper in Stony Point, N.Y., who bought his boiler three years ago, calls them 'the greatest thing since sliced bread... Every day you turn on the news, they’re saying lower your dependence on foreign oil,' said Mr. Muller, who gets inexpensive wood through his business and estimates his savings at $400 to $600 a month in the peak heating season. 'Now I have a renewable energy source, and people are complaining.'”

Jet Travel, Carbon Credits and Pollution Taxes

Europe Acts to Penalize Jet Pollution . By James Kanter, The New York Times, December 22, 2006 . " In the face of stiff opposition from the airline industry, the European Union moved forward Wednesday with plans to impose extra charges on foreign and domestic carriers that pollute too much... The rules, which would be legally binding, would apply to all flights within the bloc starting in 2011. Foreign carriers landing and taking off from busy airports like those in Frankfurt, London and Paris would be obliged to join the system the following year. If enacted, the measure could drive up costs for airlines, potentially leading to higher airfares for travelers. The proposal draws from the principles of an established system that Europe now uses to help combat global warming and meet emissions goals set forth under the Kyoto Protocol... Peter Lockley, a policy analyst at the Aviation Environment Federation in London, praised Mr. Dimas for 'standing up to pressure from the U.S. and certain sections of the aviation industry' by including all flights landing at and taking off from European airports."

Concern Grows over Pollution from Jets . By Gary Stoller, USA Today, December 19, 2006. "On a New York-to-Denver flight, a commercial jet generates 840 to 1,660 pounds of carbon dioxide per passenger. That's about what an SUV generates in a month. With the projected explosion in worldwide travel, air pollution from aviation is a growing concern among scientists, and it's drawing increased scrutiny from governments, particularly in Europe... The European Union is considering strict controls on aircraft emissions, an action strongly opposed by the White House because of its potential effect on U.S. airlines... In the USA, a panel of scientists brought together by NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration agreed in August that the effects of aircraft emissions on the climate 'may be the most serious long-term environmental issue facing the aviation industry.' The FAA projects that the number of U.S. airline passengers will nearly double from 739 million last year to 1.4 billion in 2025. Air traffic controllers are expected to handle 95 million flights by all types of aircraft in 2025, compared with 63 million last year. Worldwide, a growing middle class with the means to travel is spawning new airlines and big orders for new planes. China plans more than 40 new airports to accommodate the growth."

UN Program Generates Outsize Profits, and Questions, in Effort to Cut Warming Gases . By Keith Bradsher, The New York Times, December 21, 2006. The Montreal Protocol (the 1987 agreement that requires the phasing out of ozone-depleting substances) and the Kyoto Protocol are both being undermined by The Clean Development Mechanism, a U.N. program that enables businesses in wealthy countries offset their emissions by investing in pollution abatement measures in poorer countries. "Critics of the fast-growing program, through which European and Japanese companies are paying roughly $3 billion for credits this year, complain that it mostly enriches a few bankers, consultants and factory owners... The situation has set in motion a diplomatic struggle pitting China, the biggest beneficiary from payments, against advanced industrial nations, particularly in Europe... Richard Rosenzweig, chief operating officer of Natsource, a company in Washington arranging emissions deals between poor and rich countries, said... if the world tried to reduce emissions through an outright ban or regulation alone, as many environmentalists recommend, it might not happen at all."

EU Trade Chief Rejects Green Tax Plan . By Andrew Bounds, Financial Times, December 18, 2006. "T he European Union’s trade commissioner dismissed [today] French proposals for a “green” tax on goods from countries that have not ratified the Kyoto treaty as not only a probable breach of trade rules but also “not good politics”. Peter Mandelson says that the levy, aiming to cancel the competitive advantage of countries that are not cutting carbon emissions to fight global warming, would be “highly problematic under World Trade Organisation rules and almost impossible to implement in practice'... Mr Mandelson, who favours a positive rather than punitive approach, is also writing to Pascal Lamy, WTO director-general, to suggest talks on scrapping tariffs on renewable energy and clean power generation equipment worldwide."

Animals and Climate Change

Australian Fires Kill Hundreds of Thousand Native Animals . By Alex Koutts, Independent Online, December 18, 2006. "Hundreds of thousands of native Australian animals such as koalas and kangaroos have been killed in bushfires that have burnt across southeast Australia in the past two weeks, wildlife officials said on Monday. The bushfires, which are still burning in three eastern states, have been so big and intense that wildlife officials fear some species may become extinct as the fires destroy large swathes of animal habitats. 'The fires are so devastating and moving so quickly that animals just don't have a chance to get out of the way,' said Pat O'Brien, president of the Wildlife Protection Association... Wildlife officials fear the animal death toll will rise even further as those animals which survive the fires may now starve to death in the charred landscape... Australia faces extreme fire danger this summer due to a drought... Scientists fear climate change will bring more frequent higher temperatures and less rainfall."

Bears Have Stopped Hibernating in Spain . By Geneviève Roberts, The London Independent, December 21, 2006. "Bears have stopped hibernating in the mountains of northern Spain, scientists revealed yesterday, in what may be one of the strongest signals yet of how much climate change is affecting the natural world. In a December in which bumblebees, butterflies and even swallows have been on the wing in Britain, European brown bears have been lumbering through the forests of Spain's Cantabrian mountains, when normally they would already be in their long, annual sleep."

Unhappy Times for Hit Penguin in 'Happy Feet' . By Michael McCarthy, The London Independent, December 23, 2006. "He's Lovelace the rockhopper, one of the stars of this winter's hit animated comedy about dancing penguins, Happy Feet. But in real life, he's in trouble... S ince the beginning of the millennium as rockhopper penguin numbers have plunged from 298,496 pairs in the Falkland Islands in 2000 to 210,418 pairs now - almost a 30 per cent decline in five years. However, figures from 1932 suggest the population of rockhopper penguins then measured around one-and-a-half million pairs - which would mean today's figures represent a decline of around 85 per cent... The rockhopper is one of the world's 17 penguin species. Listed as "vulnerable" by the World Conservation Union, it is one of 10 species facing global extinction."

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'Something Only We Can Do'

Santa Claus in Chinese . Commentary by Lester Brown, Earth Policy Institute, December 18, 2006. "I know Santa Claus is Chinese because each Christmas morning after all the gifts are unwrapped and things settle down I systematically go through the presents to see where they are made. The results are almost always the same: roughly 70 percent are from China. After some research, it seems that my one-family survey is representative of the country as a whole... Some 80 percent of the toys sold in the United States—from Barbie dolls to video games—are made in China... Eight out of every 10 artificial Christmas trees sold in the United States are made in China. Last year Americans spent over $130 million on plastic Christmas trees from China. This year Americans will spend over $1 billion on Christmas ornaments from China... Last year Americans spent more than $39 million buying nativity scenes shipped in from the East... Today Christmas is celebrated in both the United States and China—but for different reasons and with far different economic consequences. For the Chinese, the manufacturing bonanza means record profits, rising incomes, and, in a society where people save some 40 percent of their income... In the United States, Christmas shopping expenditures, headed for another record high this year, contribute to rising credit card debt and a soaring trade deficit... Underneath the American Christmas spirit and good cheer is a debt-laden society that appears to have lost its way, marred in the quicksand of consumerism. As a society, we seem to have forgotten how to save so we can invest in a better future... The official national debt, the product of years of fiscal deficits, now totals $8.5 trillion—some $64,000 per taxpayer... Of the 145 million cardholders, only 55 million clear their accounts each month. The other 90 million cannot seem to catch up and are paying steep interest rates on their remaining balance... National policy failures such as not adequately supporting the use of renewable energy technologies have contributed to the growing U.S. trade deficit... Beholden to other countries for oil and to finance our debt, the United States is fast losing its leadership role in the world. The question we are facing is not simply whether our Christmas is made in China, but more fundamentally whether we can restore the discipline and values that made us a great nation—a nation the world admired, respected, and emulated. This is not something that Santa Claus can deliver, not even a Chinese Santa Claus. This is something only we can do."

Organizing a Nationwide Day of Climate Rallies on April 14 . Open letter by Bill McKibben, StepItUp2007.org. "A few of us are trying to organize a nationwide day of rallies on April 14. We hope to have gatherings in every state, and in many of America’s most iconic places: on the levees in New Orleans, on top of the melting glaciers on Mt. Rainier, even underwater on the endangered coral reefs off Key West. We need rallies outside churches, along the tide lines in our coastal cities, in cornfields and forests and on statehouse steps. Every group will be saying the same thing: Step it up, Congress! Enact immediate cuts in carbon emissions, and pledge an 80% reduction by 2050. No half measures, no easy compromises—the time has come to take the real actions that can stabilize our climate. As people gather, we’ll link pictures of the protests together electronically via the web—before the weekend is out, we’ll have the largest protest the country has ever seen, not in numbers but in extent. From every corner of the nation we’ll start to shake things up. By its very nature, this action needs all kinds of people to help out. We can’t make it happen—it has to assemble itself. Email us at StepItUp@gmail.com , and say ‘here’s where I live—I want to help organize.’ We’ll coordinate the responses, introducing you to others from your area, and give you everything you need to be a leader."