Rachel's Precaution Reporter #7

"Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World"

Wednesday, October 12, 2005..........Printer-friendly version
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Table of Contents...

New: Web-Based Training On the Precautionary Principle
  Now anyone can gain in-depth training on the precautionary
  principle via the web -- useful for grass-roots activists, and for
  public health professionals and students.
A 400-page 'Precaution Toolkit' Hot Off the MIT Presses
  "Finally--a book that exposes the precautionary principle for what
  it really is: a rational, practical, fair-minded, powerful, science-
  based approach for making the world a safer, more livable place....
  Bravo!" --Sandra Steingraber, Ithaca College
Mendocino Supervisors Consider a Precautionary Approach
  Supervisors of this northern California county will spend 90 days
  studying how the precautionary principle might affect local decision-
  making and governance.
Indigenous Farmers Urge Precaution for 'Terminator' Seeds
  "Indigenous peoples from Peru are asking the international
  community to 'stay strong' in the face of huge pressure from
  corporations that now promote terminator technology for... monopoly
  control over the global food system... Action is needed by world
  governments to fully apply the precautionary principle..."
All the Signs of Full-blown Mother Earthism
  "Secondary symptoms of Mother Earthism include... recourse to the
  intellectually vapid precautionary principle..."


From: ECO-Action, Oct. 8, 2005
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Carol Williams, the executive director of ECO-Action in Atlanta, has
developed a web-based instructional package about the precautionary
principle. It works best with a high-speed internet connection. You
can start by reading the online User's Guide.

Carol's web-based instructional package is aimed at people working
in, or studying, public health, particularly environmental health,
chemical hazards assessment and community health education. But we
think others will find it useful as well. The package incorporates
some "flash," "audio," "powerpoint presentions" and graphics. Lessons
are best viewed with high speed internet, an updated browser, and with
display screen area set at 1024 X 768 (Screen areas can be adjusted on
Windows programs at Control Panel > Display > Settings). While in the
instruction, turn internet pop-up blockers off (i.e., allow pop-ups)
for ease of navigation. You may also want to bookmark the site in your
"favorites," so you can easily return to it.

ECO-Action is encouraging local communities, governments and schools
to adopt the precautionary principle. A Model Precautionary
Principle Ordinance has been developed with the River Basin Center
at University of Georgia. The model ordinance is a Microsoft Word
document that you can download and adapt to your own county. Also take
a look at the Precautionary Principle Background Paper prepared by
the River Basin Center.

Precautionary Principle: Awareness, Training & Advocacy

The precautionary principle argues that protection of the environment
and human health should take precedence over other interests (i.e.,
private profit-making) when considering whether or not to use or
release potentially harmful chemicals. The Precautionary Principle is
a decision-making tool that underscores prevention and precautionary
action. How?

** Ask the right questions -- instead of what level of harm can we
tolerate? Ask how can we prevent harm?

** Take action to prevent harm even if conclusive cause & effect
relationships are not fully established scientifically

** Place the burden of proof on the creators of toxic chemicals and
harmful processes, instead of the people on the receiving end

** Assess alternative ways to do things, such as clean technologies
that eliminate toxics and waste

** Build openness into the process and let people participate in the
decisions affecting human health and the environment.

Copyright 2004 John Klossner, www.jklossner.com

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From: MIT Press, Oct. 10, 2005
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New Book: Precautionary Tools for Reshaping Environmental Policy,
edited by Nancy J. Myers and Carolyn Raffensperger.

The precautionary principle calls for taking action against threatened
harm to people and ecosystems even in the absence of full scientific
certainty. The rationale is that modern technologies and human
activities can inflict long-term, global-scale environmental damage
and that conclusive scientific evidence of such damage may be
available too late to avert it. The precautionary principle asks
whether harm can be prevented instead of assessing degrees of
"acceptable" risk.

This book provides a toolkit for applying precautionary concepts to
reshape environmental policies at all levels. Its compendium of
regulatory options, detailed examples, wide- ranging case studies, and
theoretical background provides both citizens and policymakers with
the basis for acting on any issue in any situation -- whether it's
pesticide use at local schools or a new international regulatory
system for chemicals.

Precautionary Tools for Reshaping Environmental Policy describes the
analytical and ethical bases of the precautionary principle as well as
practical options for implementing it. It provides a "precautionary
checklist" that can serve as a springboard for discussion and
decisions. And it offers a variety of case studies that show the
precautionary principle in action -- from elk and cattle farming to
marine fisheries, from the protection of indigenous cultures against
bioprospecting to the restoration of the federal court system as a
safety net for people harmed by products and chemicals. A hands-on
interdisciplinary guide, the book demonstrates the advantages of a
precautionary approach and addresses criticisms that have been leveled
against it.

For updates and more information on the precautionary principle at
work, visit the Science and Environmental Health Network web site.

Nancy J. Myers is Communications Director of the Science and
Environmental Health Network.

Carolyn Raffensperger is an environmental lawyer and the founding
director of the Science and Environmental Health Network.


"Finally--a book that exposes the precautionary principle for what it
really is: a rational, practical, fair-minded, powerful, science-based
approach for making the world a safer, more livable place. From
playgrounds in Texas to courtrooms in Wisconsin, from elk farms and
marine fisheries to hospitals and architectural firms, here are
portraits of precaution in action. All together, they serve as a
template for environmental transformation. Bravo!" --Sandra
Steingraber, Ithaca College, author of Living Downstream: An Ecologist
Looks at Cancer and the Environment

"A unique and comprehensive synthesis and compendium of heretofore
disparate writings on and critiques of the precautionary principle,
incorporating both European and American legal, political, and
cultural traditions and perspectives. Theoretically sound and
practically oriented, this book will be a must-read for policy
analysts and policymakers, environmentalists, enlightened
industrialists, citizens and activists, and students of government and
regulation." --Nicholas A. Ashford, Professor of Technology and
Policy, MIT, and coauthor of Environmental Law, Policy, and Economics:
Reclaiming the Environmental Agenda

The MIT Press
November 2005
ISBN 0-262-63323-X
6 x 9, 400 pgs., 1 illus.
$25.00 (PAPER)

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From: Environmental Commons, Oct. 1, 2005
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By Britt Bailey

At its Sept. 27 Board Meeting, the Mendocino County [Calif.] Board of
Supervisors approved a request by the Mendocino County Public Health
Advisory Board to "conduct a ninety-day study of the precautionary
principle." Proponents say the precautionary principle would provide a
guiding framework for policy planning and decision-making at the
departmental level.

The Sept. 27th decision reversed the Board's 3-2 vote a week earlier
opposing study of the precautionary principle.

According to Sara O'Donnell, a member of the newly-formed "Mendocino
Partnership for the Precautionary Principle" and Director of the
Cancer Resource Center, "The Board's action [Sept. 27] is an important
first step in the development of a way we as a county make decisions.
The precautionary principle provides a guiding framework that will
allow us to take into account more fully the ways in which local
government impacts our resources, health, and well-being of future

Supervisor Hal Wagenet placed the item on the agenda Sept. 27,
reversing his Sept. 20 vote against the precautionary principle.
Wagenet said, "You all may be wondering why I am bringing this back?
We have tough times ahead and we will need all of the tools in our
toolbox to guide us in the right direction. I realized that I am not
interested in winning the race as I am surviving the race."

Fifth District Supervisor David Colfax says that over the next three
months the standing General Government Committee of the Board of
Supervisors will be reviewing ways in which the precautionary
principle can be integrated into County government planning and policy

According to Colfax, "One of the key elements of the precautionary
principle is that decision-making be transparent and community-
friendly, and to that end I expect that the monthly meetings of our
committee will be well-attended, informative, and productive."

Colfax says that he hopes that a "guiding and formalizing" county
ordinance could be put forward early in 2006.

Supervisors who voted "no" Sept. 20 said they did so because they
viewed precaution as a "job killer." One supervisor was offended by
the principle's emphasis on democratic decision-making: "I take
offense at the precautionary principle and its references to
'participatory democracy'," he said.

The Mendocino Partnership for the Precautionary Principle has
scheduled two public forums where residents can learn more about the
Principle and its implications. The first will be held on October 13th
in Fort Bragg, and the second on October 14th in Willits.

The featured speaker at both forums is Dr. Mary O'Brien, author of
Making Better Environmental Decisions: An Alternative to Risk
Assessment (ISBN 0-262-65053-3).

For more information, see www.mendoprecaution.org or contact the
Environmental Commons at (707) 884-5002.

See FAQs for further details on the precautionary principle.

Environmental Commons
PO Box 1135
Gualala, CA 95445
(707) 884-5002

Other contacts:

J. David Colfax
Supervisor-Fifth District
Mendocino County
(707) 895-3241

Sara O'Donnell, Executive Director
Cancer Resource Center of Mendocino County
(707) 467-3828

Carol Mordhorst, Director of Public Health
Mendocino County Public Health Department
(707) 472-2777

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From: Quechua-Aymara Association (Peru), Oct. 6, 2005
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LIMA, Peru and London -- Indigenous farmers in Peru, the birthplace of
the potato, have slammed a move to overturn a UN moratorium on using
genetically modified "Terminator" technology in agricultural

Genetic Use Restriction Technology, commonly known as Terminator,
means that food plants could be genetically modified so that their
seeds are rendered sterile, thus preventing farmers from reusing
harvested seed.

However, according to a new report from indigenous leaders, Peruvian
farmers and small farmers worldwide "are dependant on seeds obtained
from the harvest as a principal source of seed to be used in
subsequent agricultural cycles."

More than 70 indigenous leaders representing 26 Andean and Amazon
communities have agreed that Terminator represents a dangerous
technology that could undermine traditional livelihoods and damage the
environment. Meeting in the mountain village of Choquecancha in
southern Peru late last month, they produced a report detailing their
concerns to be presented to UN and government officials.

A defacto moratorium has existed on Terminator under the UN Convention
on Biological Diversity, applying the "precautionary principle" to
potentially dangerous GM technology.

The fear is that Terminator would transfer sterility to and
effectively kill off other crops and wider plant life, as well as
increasing the reliance of farmers on big agribusiness which is
already patenting seeds traditionally owned by indigenous people.
Industrialised "mono-culture" farming would benefit at the expense of
tried and tested local agricultural knowledge, threatening
livelihoods, cultures and biodiversity.

The indigenous leaders warn that, in Peru alone, 2,000 varieties of
potato could be put at risk by Terminator technology.

Felipe Gonzalez of the indigenous Pinchimoro community said:
"Terminator seeds do not have life; they only work once. Like a plague
they will come infecting our crops and carrying sickness. We want to
continue using our own seeds and our own customs of seed conservation
and sharing."

Recently, the Swiss-based company Syngenta won the patent on
Terminator potatoes, but the UN moratorium blocks the
commercialisation of the product.

Some governments led by Canada have challenged the UN's safety
regulation, leading Convention on Biological Diversity officials to
consult widely on whether the moratorium on Terminator should be

The issue is expected to come to a head in March 2006, when Brazil
will host the next international meeting on biodiversity (8th
Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity,
COP8). Peruvian indigenous leaders are urging the UN to expose the
dangers of Terminator technology and uphold the moratorium. They also
demand that indigenous people have a say in the process equal to the
influence of the agribusiness lobby.

The indigenous leaders meeting in Choquecancha was co-organised by the
Association of Communities in the Potato Park in Pisaq near Cusco. The
recently-established "Potato Park" is a ground-breaking initiative
that puts indigenous people back in charge of managing biological

The meeting was supported by the Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature
and Sustainable Development (ANDES) based in Cusco and the London-
based International Institute for Environment and Development

Dr Michel Pimbert, Director of the Sustainable Agriculture,
Biodiversity and Livelihoods Programme at IIED, said: "Indigenous
peoples from Peru are asking the international community to 'stay
strong' in the face of huge pressure from corporations that now
promote terminator technology for their private gain and monopoly
control over the global food system. Decisive and coordinated action
is needed by world governments to fully apply the precautionary
principle in biosafety policies and reinforce the United Nations de
facto moratorium on the release of terminator technology."

Alejandro Argumedo, Associate Director of ANDES, said: "The UN
moratorium helps to protect millenarian indigenous agricultural
knowledge and the agrobiodiversity and global food security it
enables. The rush to exploit Terminator technology for corporate
profit must not be allowed to sabotage vital international biosafety

Tony Samphier on +44 208 671 2911
Liz Carlile on +44 207 388 2117
Alejandro Argumedo on +51 849721852

The Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature Conservation and Sustainable
Development (ANDES) is governed by a general assembly which is largely
composed of indigenous people from villages in the Andes. ANDES has
three professional staff in their office in Cusco, in southern Peru,
while another 15 technicians and university-trained professionals and
25 local villagers work in the field with local communities.

The International Institute for Environment & Development (IIED) is
a London-based think tank working for global policy solutions rooted
in the reality of local people at the frontline of sustainable

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From: Sydney [Australia] Morning Herald Online, Sept. 29, 2005
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Spending trillions of dollars to possibly lower the planet's
temperature is madness, writes Bob Carter.

By Bob Carter

Many Australians are worried, rightly, by the possibility that avian
flu might infect the nation. They should be just as concerned about
the disease of Mother Earthism which has reached our shores, and is
now approaching epidemic status.

One of its most virulent strains is called Hansenism, after James
Hansen, the high-profile NASA scientist who started the global warming
scare campaign running back in 1988.

These diseases attack persons who venture public opinions on matters
of environmental concern. Its most recent manifestation is in two
alarmist books on climate change by popular science writers Ian Lowe
(Living in the Hothouse) and Tim Flannery (The Weather Makers).

Mother Earthism has complex symptoms. Foremost is a touching belief in
the Garden of Eden, the halcyon state of the Earth in times before the
wicked Industrial Revolution. This balmy, and barmy, garden existed in
a state of existential ecological balance, within an unchanging,
benign environment. The roots of its philosophical trees lie with
Rousseau, and those who tend these trees deny the dynamic, ever-
changing character of our planet, its biota, and its climate.

Secondary symptoms of Mother Earthism include: appeal to authority
rather than explanation or discussion of the science; false claims of
consensus among scientists; cherry-picking of research and opinions
which support a desired world view; guilt-by-association smearing and
vilification of those who hold alternative views; the erection of
conspiracy theories about improper industry influence; endless
repetition of inaccuracies, or facts out of context; a preference for
computer model predictions over real world measurements; recourse to
the intellectually vapid precautionary principle; the exploitation of
guilt among ordinary citizens; and, above all, an unwavering alarmism
that the world is going to hell in a handbasket -- and it's all our

The biggest serpent in this Garden of Eden is alleged to be carbon
dioxide, and we must give up our fix. Why? Because it's causing global
warming, silly. And so it is.

The Earth's comfortable (for us) average temperature of about 15C is
maintained that way by the atmosphere. The presence of small amounts
of water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide -- the
"greenhouse gases" which absorb Earth's outgoing heat radiation and
re-emit some of it downwards -- causes warming. Most of the total
warming of 33 degrees is caused by water vapour (more than 30
degrees), carbon dioxide contributing only about 1.2 degrees worth.
And of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, just 3per cent comes from
human sources, which equates to a warming effect of about four-
hundredths of a degree.

Against this, computer models suggest that a further human-caused
increase in temperature of perhaps two-tenths of a degree might be

To crucify the world's industrialised economies by spending trillions
of dollars for a possible temperature drop of 0.20 defies
comprehension. The hairshirt policy exemplified by the Kyoto accord is
a classic non-solution to a non-problem.

As Flannery points out in a different context in his book, the
individual members of the public can exert influence by witholding
their memberships and donations from the organisations (including
especially green groups) responsible for spreading the disease, and by
not buying alarmist books.

The Government could do its bit by dis-establishing the professional
greenhouse lobby groups that now dominate its own environmental and
energy policy bureaucracies.

A goal to "stabilise world climate" is misplaced, not to mention
unattainable. Climate is a dynamic system within which extreme events
and dramatic changes will always occur, irrespective of human actions
or preferences. Witness hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

As for other major natural disasters, the appropriate preparation for
extreme climate events is to mitigate and manage the negative effects
when they occur. Climate impacts are generally slower to appear than
those of other "instantaneous" disasters like earthquakes, tsunami,
storms, volcanic eruptions, landslides or bushfires. This difference
is not one of kind, and neither should be our response plans.

Needed is more research, together with the preparation of response
plans for climatic coolings and warmings. Not needed is more futile
feelgoodery espoused by those infected with the Mother Earthism

Bob Carter, a research professor at James Cook University, is an
experienced environmental scientist.

Copyright 2005. The Sydney Morning Herald.

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  Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical
  examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in
  action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making
  decisions, to minimize harm. Rachel's Precaution Reporter tries to
  answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary
  principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution?

  We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we  
  believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what
  their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed
  to know the arguments used by slaveholders.

  Rachel's Precaution Reporter is published as often as necessary to
  provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

  As you come across stories that illustrate the precautionary 
  principle -- or the need for the precautionary principle -- 
  please Email them to us at rpr@rachel.org.

  Peter Montague - peter@rachel.org
  Tim Montague   -   tim@rachel.org

  To start your own free Email subscription to Rachel's Precaution
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