Rachel's Precaution Reporter #126

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

Wednesday, January 23, 2008..........Printer-friendly version
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Featured stories in this issue...

Tenth Anniversary of the Wingspread Statement on Precaution
  In just 10 years, activists around the country have taken the
  simple idea of "taking action to prevent harm" and made it policy in
  various jurisdictions. They have taken seriously the idea of finding
  alternatives to damaging technologies. They have discovered ways to
  reverse the burden of proof and make polluters pay. And they have
  insisted that, as affected stakeholders, they must have a voice in
Largest U.S. Organic Producer's Co-op Opposes Animal Cloning
  "We already know that cloning adversely affects animal health in
  areas such as birth defects, abnormal growth, and lack of genetic
  diversity. The FDA should instead follow a precautionary principle, to
  err on the side of caution, especially in issues related to human and
  environmental health, as well as animal husbandry."
Closing the Barn Door After the Cows Have Gotten Out
  Precaution writ large: "I will not be eating cloned meat. The
  reason has nothing to do with my personal health or safety. I think
  the clearest way to understand the problem with cloning is to consider
  a broader question: Who benefits from it? The real beneficiaries are
  the nation's large meatpacking companies -- the kind that would like
  it best if chickens grew in the shape of nuggets."
An Ocean Apart on GM Foods
  Canadians express reticence about GM animals, fish and
  agricultural products, with a greater proportion surveyed believing
  this development will make life worse rather than better.
Too Much Caffeine Raises Risk of Miscarriage
  "I think the point about pregnancy in general is: the precautionary
  principle makes sense, but there's a difference between caution and
  hysteria," said Gideon Koren, director of the Motherisk Program at
  Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.
We Want Change Candidates, but Are We Willing To Change?
  "We don't have to worry all the time, we just have to be idealistic
  and practice the freedom of restraint and the precautionary
Mugged by Legality?
  Silly me. I thought conservatives were people who wanted to
  conserve Creation, to pass it along to their grandchildren no worse
  than they found it. I guess I was wrong. This fellow Gaffney says he's
  a conservative but also he says the precautionary principle -- which
  is intended to help people protect the things they love -- is only for
  Luddites, who oppose progress. I guess it depends on your idea of
  progress. -- P.M.


From: Rachel's Precaution Reporter #126, Jan. 23, 2008
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By Carolyn Raffensperger

Today I am lighting candles in celebration of the tenth birthday of
the Wingspread Consensus Statement on the Precautionary Principle.
Ten years ago this week a group of about 30 people met in Racine
Wisconsin at the Wingspread Conference Center and drafted the
Wingspread Statement.

There are three reasons for celebrating. First, the precautionary
principle is making real headway in policy. Second, the environmental
community has been able to unite under the precaution tent, joining
forces and making common cause. The world is different because we've
been able to collaborate rather than compete. Third, we still have a
long way to go before we fully implement precaution and stop sliding
toward planetary disaster. This means that there is meaningful work
ahead for all of us. So don't retire yet!

A review of the past ten years tells the story of an extraordinary
effort to rewrite and put into play an entirely new approach to making
environmental decisions. Activists around the country found ways to
use the simple idea of taking action to prevent harm and make it
policy in various jurisdictions. They took seriously finding
alternatives to damaging technologies. They discovered ways to reverse
the burden of proof and make polluters pay. And they insisted that as
affected stakeholders they had to have a voice in the decision.

School districts began the trend toward precautionary policies because
of the unassailable logic that protecting children in their day-to-day
lives was a first order of business. The Los Angeles Unified School
District led the way by requiring that the principle and Integrated
Pest Management guide pesticide policy. At the other end of the
government spectrum, a couple of international treaties, one on
persistent organic pollutants and the other on biodiversity, drove the
principle into hard law (and of course, also driving the anti-
precaution United States crazy).

San Francisco stunned the world by its thorough and thoughtful
precautionary principle ordinance, adopted in 2003. They set the
high water mark for precautionary policies, although King
County/Seattle Washington is in the running because it is the only
jurisdiction with a staff person whose entire portfolio is devoted to
the precautionary principle.

Oddly enough, businesses were -- and are -- sometimes ahead of
government. They can move faster than government and often do. Kaiser
Permanente adopted the principle as its compass for chemicals policy
and food policy within its clinics and hospitals. Other progressive
companies like Seventh Generation, Dell, Samsung, Bristol- Myers
Squibb have adopted precaution as well.

And then of course there is academia. So often our universities are
hamstrung by big donations by corporations. But in the face of many
obstacles, our scholar allies have produced an amazing body of work in
journals and books documenting the rigor, the sound philosophy and
methodological applications of the precautionary principle. This has
been particularly visible and valuable in public health and related

None of this would have happened without an extraordinary collegiality
on the part of the environmental community -- activists, academicians,
funders, and even government and business personnel. While I have an
honor roll ticker tape scrolling through my head, I am not going to
mention many people by name because we all did this together. From the
Wingspread Conference until this moment, so many people have joined
their efforts and shared the credit. Yes, we often struggled to get
money for this work, but we were able to water a thousand flowers so
all could bloom rather than tending a single hot-house group or idea.

Is our work done? Not by a long shot. The statistics, trends,
relentless news stories all paint the same dire picture. But also on
the horizon are visionary new activists (we know who you are), and a
growing cache of emerging ideas. That cache contains new disciplines
like biomimicry, ecological medicine, green chemistry and engineering,
ecological economics and life cycle assessment. But it also contains
some new possibilities for policy and law such as the commons are the
basis of the economy, government should take seriously its
responsibility as the trustee of the commons for this and future
generations, and legal guardianship of future generations.

We owe a special debt of gratitude to three groups -- our elders in
the environmental movement who keep us on track because they've
distilled what is truly important (track the money and power spoor,
don't waste time by in-fighting, history matters, think really long-
term....). We are also indebted to our environmental justice
colleagues for keeping us honest about the implications of the
precautionary principle and finding new ways to advance it. The
California EPA adopted the precautionary approach and cumulative
impacts as its decision-making policies for environmental justice. The
Indigenous Environmental Network has been gracious but relentless in
reminding us that the precautionary principle is identical to making
decisions with the Seventh Generation in mind. And a heartfelt thank
you to foundation personnel who took a big risk on the precautionary
principle -- especially those foundations that funded the Wingspread
conference -- and gave us that seed money.

So I take it back. I am not lighting candles. I don't need to. Each of
you who worked on this over the years is the candle lighting our path
to the future. On behalf of future generations, Thank You.


Press Release (Science & Environmental Health Network)

January 26, 1998

Wingspread Conference on the Precautionary Principle

Last weekend at an historic gathering at Wingspread, headquarters of
the Johnson Foundation, scientists, philosophers, lawyers and
environmental activists, reached agreement on the necessity of the
Precautionary Principle in public health and environmental decision-
making. The key element of the principle is that it incites us to take
anticipatory action in the absence of scientific certainty.

At the conclusion of the three-day conference, the diverse group
issued a statement calling for government, corporations, communities
and scientists to implement the "precautionary principle" in making

The 32 conference participants included treaty negotiators, activists,
scholars and scientists from the United States, Canada and Europe. The
conference was called to define and discuss implementing the
precautionary principle, which has been used as the basis for a
growing number of international agreements. The idea of precaution
underpins some U.S. policy, such as the requirement for environmental
impact statements before major projects are launched using federal
funds. But most existing laws and regulations focus on cleaning up and
controlling damage rather than preventing it. The group concluded that
these policies do not sufficiently protect people and the natural

Participants noted that current policies such as risk assessment and
cost-benefit analysis give the benefit of the doubt to new products
and technologies, which may later prove harmful. And when damage
occurs, victims and their advocates have the difficult task of proving
that a product or activity was responsible. The precautionary
principle shifts the burden of proof, insisting that those responsible
for an activity must vouch for its harmlessness and be held
responsible if damage occurs. The issues of scientific uncertainty,
economics, environmental and public health protection which are
embedded in the principle make this extremely complex. We invite your
thought and conversation on these topics.


Here is the text of the The Wingspread Consensus Statement on the
Precautionary Principle:

The release and use of toxic substances, the exploitation of
resources, and physical alterations of the environment have had
substantial unintended consequences affecting human health and the
environment. Some of these concerns are high rates of learning
deficiencies, asthma, cancer, birth defects and species extinctions;
along with global climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion and
worldwide contamination with toxic substances and nuclear materials.

We believe existing environmental regulations and other decisions,
particularly those based on risk assessment, have failed to protect
adequately human health and the environment -- the larger system of
which humans are but a part.

We believe there is compelling evidence that damage to humans and the
worldwide environment is of such magnitude and seriousness that new
principles for conducting human activities are necessary.

While we realize that human activities may involve hazards, people
must proceed more carefully than has been the case in recent history.
Corporations, government entities, organizations, communities,
scientists and other individuals must adopt a precautionary approach
to all human endeavors.

Therefore, it is necessary to implement the Precautionary Principle:
When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the
environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause
and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.

In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public,
should bear the burden of proof.

The process of applying the Precautionary Principle must be open,
informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties.
It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives,
including no action.


Carolyn Raffensperger is executive director of the Science and
Environmental Health Network in Ames, Iowa.

Conference Partners: The Wingspread Conference on the Precautionary
Principle was convened by the Science and Environmental Health
Network, an organization that links science with the public interest,
and by the Johnson Foundation, the W. Alton Jones Foundation, the CS
Fund and the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at the
University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

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From: EarthTimes.org, Jan. 15, 2008
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LA FARGE, Wis. -- Organic Valley, the nation's oldest and largest
cooperative of organic family farmers, strongly opposes today's U.S.
Food and Drug Administration's ruling that food from cloned animals
and their offspring is safe.

"Organic Valley farmers work in harmony with nature; we don't seek to
alter it," said George Siemon, chief executive officer for Organic
Valley. "Organic Valley and its meat brand, Organic Prairie, will
never allow the use of cloned animals on our farms and in our
products. And, we assume the USDA will never change its organic
standards to allow for cloned animals.

"As concerned citizens, parents and food eaters, we are alarmed at the
FDA's assessment. It places the nation's food supply at risk, and
threatens the existence of the family farmer," Siemon continued. "It's
wrong for the FDA to suggest that cloned animals are safe to enter the
non-organic, conventional food supply. This ruling has been made with
haste and has not been made with the interests of the animals,
consumers, or farmers in mind.

"Rather, FDA has rushed to judgment with a decision aimed at
supporting large corporations seeking to increase their profits in
food manufacturing, raise their stock value and pad their wallets --
all at the cost of everyday individuals."

"The long term effects of cloned animals on public health and our
planet are simply not known. Over a generation, how will this impact
our ecological system? Allergies? Nutritional balance? Antibiotic
resistance?" Siemon said.

"Furthermore, we already know that cloning adversely affects animal
health in areas such as birth defects, abnormal growth, and lack of
genetic diversity. We are dealing with complex biological systems that
can react in even more unexpected ways. The FDA should instead follow
a precautionary principle, to err on the side of caution, especially
in issues related to human and environmental health, as well as animal
husbandry, and prohibit cloned animals and all genetically modified
organisms," Siemon added.

"We encourage individuals to contact their U.S. Representative and
Senators to have their opinions be heard as well."

Organic Valley Family of Farms: Independent and Farmer-Owned Organic
Valley is America's largest cooperative of organic farmers and is one
of the nation's leading organic brands. Organized in 1988, it
represents 1,201 farmers in 32 states and one Canadian province, and
achieved $334 million in 2006 sales. Focused on its founding mission
of saving family farms through organic farming, Organic Valley
produces more than 200 organic foods, including organic milk, soy,
cheese, butter, spreads, creams, eggs, produce and juice, which are
sold in supermarkets, natural foods stores and food cooperatives
nationwide. The same farmers who produce for Organic Valley also
produce a full range of delicious organic meat under the Organic
Prairie Family of Farms label. For further information, call
1-888-444-MILK or visit http://www.organicvalley.coop/, 
http://www.organicprairie.com/ and the cooperative's farmers'
website, http://www.farmers.coop/.

(c) 2008 Earthtimes.org,

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From: New York Times (pg. A24), Jan. 23, 2008
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By Verlyn Klinkenborg

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration cleared the way for the
eventual sale of meat and dairy products from cloned animals, saying,
in effect, that consumers face no health risks from them. The next
day, the Department of Agriculture asked farmers to keep their cloned
animals off the market until consumers have time to get over their
anticloning prejudice. That is one prejudice I plan to hold on to. I
will not be eating cloned meat.

The reason has nothing to do with my personal health or safety. I
think the clearest way to understand the problem with cloning is to
consider a broader question: Who benefits from it? Proponents will say
that the consumer does, because we will get higher quality, more
consistent foods from cloned animals. But the real beneficiaries are
the nation's large meatpacking companies -- the kind that would like
it best if chickens grew in the shape of nuggets. Anyone who really
cares about food -- its different tastes, textures and delights -- is
more interested in diversity than uniformity.

As it happens, the same is true for anyone who cares about farmers and
their animals. An agricultural system that favors cloned animals has
no room for farmers who farm in different ways. Cloning, you will hear
advocates say, is just another way of making cows. But every other way
-- even using embryo transplants and artificial insemination -- allows
nature to shuffle the genetic deck. A clone does not.

To me, this striving for uniformity is the driving and destructive
force of modern agriculture. You begin with a wide array of breeds, a
truly diverse pool of genes. As time passes, you impose stricter and
stricter economic constraints upon those breeds and on the men and
women who raise them. One by one, the breeds that don't meet the
prevailing economic model are weeded out. By the beginning of the 21st
century, you've moved from the broad base of a genetic pyramid to its
nearly vanishing peak, which is to say that the genetic diversity
present in the economically acceptable breeds of modern livestock is
minute. Then comes cloning, and we leave behind all variation.

Cloning is not unnatural. It is natural for humans to experiment, to
try anything and everything. Nor is cloning that different from
anything else we've seen in modern agriculture. It is another way of
shifting genetic ownership from farmers to corporations. It is another
way of creating still greater economic and genetic concentration in an
industry that has already pushed concentration past the limits of
ethical and environmental acceptability.

It always bears repeating that humans are only as rich as the
diversity that surrounds them, whether we mean cultural or economic
diversity. The same is true of genetic diversity, which is an
essential bulwark against disease. These days there is less and less
genetic diversity in the animals found on farms, and farmers
themselves become less and less diverse because fewer and fewer of
them actually own the animals they raise. They become contract
laborers instead.

It is possible to preserve plant and crop diversity in seed banks. But
there are no animal banks. Breeds of animals that are not raised die
away, and the invaluable genetic archive they represent vanishes. This
may look like a simple test of economic efficiency. It is really a
colossal waste, of genes and of truly lovely, productive animals that
are the result of years of human attention and effort. From one
perspective, a cloned animal looks like a miracle of science. But from
another, it looks like what it is: a dead end.

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From: Vancouver (B.C., Canada) Sun, Jan. 20, 2008
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By Peter O'Neil, Europe Correspondent, Canwest News Service

PARIS -- Canada, like the U.S., is holding its fire in an ongoing
trade battle with Europe that underscores dramatically different
attitudes on each continent to the controversy over genetically-
modified food.

Canada, the U.S. and Argentina have the right to impose sanctions
after the European Union missed a recent deadline imposed by the World
Trade Organization to end import restrictions on many GM products.

"Canada believes that constructive progress is being made and has
therefore authorized the extension of the reasonable period of time --
until February 11, 2008 -- to allow the (EU) additional time to fully
comply with the (WTO) panel's recommendations," Michael O'Shaughnessy,
a spokesman for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, told
Canwest News Service in an e-mail.

U.S. trade spokeswoman Gretchen Hamel said last week that the EU would
be given the chance to show "meaningful progress," though she was
critical in particular of France, which like several EU-member
countries has taken an even tougher stand than the EU itself.

But a deep chasm between European and North American approaches to the
GM debate, as well as regulation of health and the environment,
suggesting a solution may not arrive soon.

While polls in the U.S. and Canada consistently reveal public unease
about the health and safety of GM foods, the issue doesn't come close
to approaching the intensity exhibited in European countries.

Feelings are most profound in France, where the country's obsession
with fine dining -- and access to fresh locally grown meat and produce
- gives the agriculture sector considerable clout and public

Police in southern France used tear gas last summer to prevent pro-GM
farmers from attacking anti-GM activists, led by 2007 presidential
candidate Jose Bove, who had been trampling or cutting down GM crops.

The clash occurred after one pro-GM farmer took his life after finding
out Bove's group planned a destructive "picnic" in his field.

Another example of the anti-GM movement's strength was the
announcement this month by right-wing French President Nicolas
Sarkozy, who took the side of GM critics in a move that ended a hunger
strike by Bove, the mustachioed, pipe-smoking anti-globalization
radical who was jailed in 1999 for trashing a McDonald's restaurant.

Sarkozy, later accused of capitulating to an extremist for reasons of
political expediency, endorsed the continued banning of a strain of
genetically modified corn made by the American agricultural giant

"With the principle of precaution at stake, I am making a major
political decision to carry our country to the forefront of the debate
on the environment," Sarkozy said.

The Canadian debate has been far less passionate, even though federal
government polling regularly records public anxiety about GM food.

"Canadians express reticence" about GM animals, fish and agricultural
products, with a greater proportion surveyed believing this
development will make life worse rather than better, according to a
2006 Decima Research poll for the federal government. The poll of
2,000 Canadians had an error margin of 2.2 percentage points, 19 times
out of 20.

Canadian MP Alex Atamanenko, a New Democrat from B.C.'s Southern
Interior riding, has toiled mostly in obscurity attempting to stir
interest in Parliament. He said the issue concerns Canadians of all
political stripes and should be given greater attention.

But he bemoaned the lack of adherence to the federal government's
"voluntary" approach to GM labelling. He said that has meant Canadians
are largely unaware of the more than 30,000 processed foods available
on grocery store shelves that contain GM organisms.

He said politicians throughout Europe, and the "peoples' movement" in
France, are pushing the issue far more aggressively than green-
oriented politicians and activists in Canada.

"There are a lot of parliamentarians that aren't aware of this,"
Atamanenko said.

"We have tremendous lobbying pressure by the biotech companies, it's
possible here that the rapport between the industry and government is
closer, they've been able to bend the ears of our government over the
years, to convince them this is good."

Michael Hart, a former senior federal trade negotiator who teaches
international trade at Ottawa's Carleton University, said Europe takes
a "precautionary" approach to the regulation of GM foods which
requires proof that a product isn't dangerous. In Canada and the U.S.,
regulators require proof that it is dangerous.

"Logically you cannot prove that something is not dangerous," Hart
said Friday.

"The example I use with my students is, when they fly from Ottawa to
Toronto, do they ask the ticket agent, 'can you guarantee that this
plane will arrive safely in Toronto?' 'Well, no we can't.' 'Can you
tell us if it is safe?' 'Yes it is safe. The chances of it not
arriving in Toronto are extremely small,'" he said.

"That's what the so-called precautionary principle is all about."

Europe's tougher regulatory regime for GM products in turn relates at
least partly to a stronger obsession with the environment and greater
mistrust of government regulators, a sentiment historians have linked
to various oil spills, contaminations of the food supply, and
especially the 1986 explosion at the Chornobyl nuclear station in the
Ukraine that sent radiation across many parts of Europe, including
Wales and Sweden.

These incidents have reminded Europeans, who live on a land mass more
than twice as small as Canada's, that the continent has to act
collectively to save itself.

That sentiment in turn has empowered the European Union in Brussels.
The EU's parliament, like most European national parliaments, uses a
"proportional representation" electoral system that makes it far
easier for Green Party activists and other environmentalists to get
elected than their counterparts in Canada and the U.S.

"The EU by its very nature and rationale has become a prime focus as a
potential initiator for environmental action within Europe," according
to the 2001 book The Greening of the European Union.

Among the pressures driving EU decision-makers is "the emergence of a
new 'green' consumer culture, most recently personified by the
campaigns against genetically modified food," the book's authors

Copyright Canwest News Service 2008

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From: Toronto Globe and Mail, Jan. 21, 2008
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By Carly Weeks

New research warning expectant mothers against drinking too much
coffee during pregnancy is adding further fuel to the heated debate
over the role caffeine plays in a woman's risk of miscarriage.

Pregnant women who consume more than 200 milligrams of caffeine, or
more than two regular cups of coffee, on a daily basis are twice as
likely to suffer a miscarriage as those who consume none, according to
a study by the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.

The researchers interviewed 1,063 women and found that 12.5 per cent
of participants who reported no caffeine intake suffered miscarriages,
compared with 25.5 per cent of women who said they consumed more than
200 milligrams a day.

While coffee was the major source of caffeine for a majority of women
involved in the study, some drank tea or caffeinated soda, leading
researchers to conclude that caffeine, and not other chemicals in
coffee, was the common factor linked to a higher miscarriage risk.

The finding, published today in the American Journal of Obstetrics and
Gynecology, is the latest piece of evidence being used to support the
view that pregnant women who drink a few cups of coffee a day may be
asking for trouble.

In light of the risks, "it may be prudent to stop or reduce caffeine
intake during pregnancy," concludes the study by Kaiser Permanente, a
private health-care provider in California.

It's a belief that has created division in recent years between
physicians who see caffeine as a risk and those who think potential
dangers are being exaggerated.

"I think the point about pregnancy in general is: the precautionary
principle makes sense, but there's a difference between caution and
hysteria," said Gideon Koren, director of the Motherisk Program at
Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.

While he doesn't dispute the link between high caffeine levels and an
increase in miscarriage risk, he said the potential danger may be
blown out of proportion and fail to take other risk factors into

Dr. Koren said he advises pregnant women to limit their caffeine
consumption to 150 milligrams a day, or less than two regular cups.

However, expectant mothers shouldn't be scared into thinking that
exceeding those guidelines will automatically put their babies at
serious risk, he said.

Although numerous studies have demonstrated a link between high doses
of caffeine and a greater chance of miscarriage, there are many
factors at play that could contribute to that outcome.

For instance, women who are heavy coffee drinkers are often much more
likely to smoke as well, which could contribute to the risk of
miscarriage. Other factors, such as a woman's alcohol consumption or
previous history of miscarriage, could increase her chances of
problems during pregnancy.

"This whole area of research is very difficult," Dr. Koren said.

In the new Kaiser study, researchers attempted to take those variables
into account by asking participants about their behaviour and
background, and whether they experienced any nausea or morning

Even after controlling for factors that could contribute to the
likelihood of miscarriage, researchers found women who consumed more
than 200 milligrams of caffeine a day were at a higher risk.

But the study doesn't specify how much caffeine was consumed by those
who reported having more than 200 milligrams a day. That distinction
is important because some women could have been consuming extremely
high levels.

In total, one-quarter of survey participants said they had no caffeine
intake during pregnancy; 60 per cent reported consuming between zero
and 200 milligrams a day, and 15 per cent said they exceeded 200
milligrams a day.

About 16 per cent of survey participants suffered miscarriages.

Dr. Koren said some medical studies seem to overstate possible risks
by linking moderate caffeine consumption with higher miscarriage

The basic message pregnant women should keep in mind is that caffeine
should be consumed in moderation, he said.

Copyright Copyright 2008 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc.

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From: The Huffington Post, Jan. 17, 2008
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By Karen Kisslinger

As the new energy bill passed through Congress and we saw, within
hours, a denial of states' legal rights to add complexity and even
confusion to the national mix by setting their own fuel emission
standards, the unwillingness of our market driven economy and life
style to really come to terms with its own inconvenient truths became
increasingly clear. It reminds me of a time when I was working with
the food service budget director at one of the prep schools where I
teach, on the subject of getting healthier less toxic foods into the
dining hall. He informed me that some students had recently visited
him with a "demand" that there be a "7 week cycle" in the dining hall.
What this meant to him and them was that no dinner meal menu should be
repeated in less than seven weeks. I sat there with my jaw dropped,
thinking about the tens of millions of people who have nothing or
virtually nothing to eat every day of their lives, or have the same
meager basics to eat every day, and I was staggered by the gross
dimensions of entitlement and expectation which this student
recommendation represented. Probably the thought that crossed my mind
was something along the lines of "How did we get to be such spoiled

Back to energy, I listened recently as the radio presented the opinion
of an automotive industry representative who was firmly stating the
need to continue to offer the thousands of options in car models,
styles and brands that currently exist. A four cylinder electric car
simply "isn't" what a six cylinder internal combustion engine is.
Well, YES,we know that already. What he meant was: it doesn't feel the
same, have the same pick up and virility. It isn't something you can
as easily conflate your ego with and stroke your identity as powerful
and cool. I'm choking. It's the exhaust fumes from all the new cars in
China and India, where we use to find bicycle-choked morning rush
hour, and we now find millions of new exhaust spewing cars, a sign
that China is successfully coming into modern, life. I know how hard
they're working to develop solar power over there and that they've had
problems with coal related and other pollution for a long time, but
what about this car thing? The need for environmental considerations
and regulations grows ever more rapidly when people's direct
relationship with their environment breaks down through the process of
industrialization and so-called modernization. And on the other hand,
think how far American people could travel emission free, if all those
bikes they work out on in gyms were actually bicycles. Couldn't we at
least be generating some local electricity from all that work-out work
that people are actually paying to do in gyms?

In Bali, at the recent UN Framework Convention of Climate Change, US
representatives met unprecedented hostile, honest, outraged resistance
to their stubborn position, which thankfully, they reversed, signing
on to working more cooperatively on carbon emissions and climate
change. There was some acceptance of the idea that newly emerging
industrial economies might have different standards of C02 emissions
while they develop. Fair is fair, unless it's the health of the planet
and the people on it that is your first consideration in fairness. If
it's not, we're all in the same boat of environmental degradation, but
that's not "fair" because some of us made more of the mess than
others...and that mess-promoting life style is what others are now
rushing to catch up with. Is "fair" allowing others to catch up with
our environmentally disastrous and glutted life style before we all
have to work together to make urgently needed changes in our climate-
changing habits? Is "fair" waiting until we and they becoming equally
enormous polluters before they are asked to catch up with our
ironically advanced, though constantly threatened, particularly with
the current administration, environmental science? Of course the
science can and is being shared globally...and it was never only
"ours" to begin with. What's even more frightening than the idea that
Americans don't understand what needs to be done is the (fact) that
they DO understand what needs to be done and aren't rushing to do the
change. Like normal humans who know that everyone is going to die, but
hide somewhere in the farthest corner of their mind the secret
knowledge that they alone may be exempt from death, we proceed with
our damaging life style, unwilling to give up conveniences and habits
for the sake of future life on the planet. The problem is not only now
or tomorrow, it was already real yesterday and the day before. We have
a lot of catch-up to play because we have too long betrayed the spirit
of international cooperation on change, particularly since the time
others signed on to the Kyoto agreement.

Meanwhile, the American auto industry is accepting some better fuel
efficiency standards because it has to to try to stay competitive, but
it still comes up against an insatiable desire for trucks in America.
The wild west is still live and well in the American psyche, but
there's no broad geographic frontier left to exploit, there's only the
frontier of saner living. We don't have to worry all the time, we just
have to be idealistic and practice the freedom of restraint and the
precautionary principle. This means change. Individual consumption
patterns can bring about change on a huge scale. Each of us is a
leader when it comes to defining the trends that lead to changes in
carbon emissions, which is a good thing if we consider the dearth of
leadership from "above" on this issue. I personally would outlaw the
expenditure of fossil based energy to transport health depleting junk
foods and drinks around the U.S. and the world. I sometimes relish
thinking about how much energy that would save, but of course it's not
the least bit likely to happen any time soon. Yet it is true that
people could make it happen by their buying and consumption patterns.

Recent political polling has shown that more than anything else,
Americans want change. What exactly do they want to change? Do we want
to learn how to be healthy robust citizens in charge of our own
health, or do we want to be served up inefficient, exorbitantly
expensive pharmaceutical based care which does not necessarily
encourage healing and good health. We can't say change is someone
else's responsibility, though at the policy level, trade agreements
and economic policies have undermined the viability of local economies
in the US and around the world, making it harder if not impossible for
individuals to live healthy and secure. People rightly want that to
change, but they can make many of their own changes.

Are we prepared to settle for "less"? Fewer cylinders? Less glamor and
macho in our cars in exchange for clean transportation and air. Less
variety in our cars in exchange for bringing down the prices on more
widely available cleaner technologies?? Less tropical fruit in winter,
shipped thousands of miles in gas fed trucks or planes? Learning to
make things again and giving that work equal or more respect as work
done on computers? Learning to grow things again and paying well for
quality local food? If we say "yes", all life will be better off.
Here's the ultimate subject where less is more and "local" really can
mean redefining life and communities. We can live the change and not
just flock to politicians who call for it.

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From: National Journal, Jan. 22, 2008
[Printer-friendly version]


A recent case should dissuade Dubya from ratifying the Law of the Sea

By Frank J. Gaffney Jr.

It is one of the truisms of politics that a conservative is often
enough a former liberal who has been "mugged by reality." The line
comes to mind in the wake of President Bush's decision Thursday to
allow the Navy to ignore a federal court order and continue training
with powerful sonars off the West Coast of the United States. Case law
and court decisions threatened to end this naval training, which is
essential to U.S. national security. Having seen how far American
judges would go to undermine U.S. interests, the episode should be a
wake-up call to the president to resist ratification of the Law of
the Sea Treaty, which would subject U.S. maritime interests to
international judges who care even less for American security.

For decades, the Navy's Judge Advocate General Corps has been in a
lather to get the United States into the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST).
Were it not for those lawyers' idee fixe -- namely, that U.S.
adherence to LOST is essential to the execution of the military's
power- projection and mobility missions -- it is unlikely that George
W. Bush would have decided to seek the ratification of LOST. His
administration -- like Ronald Reagan's did 23 years ago -- would have
refused to subject the United States to this controversial
international accord.

LOST's objectionable provisions include the following:

This accord, which its proponents call a "constitution of the oceans"
-- infringes unacceptably on American sovereignty.

The treaty imposes curbs on military operations inconsistent with
routine U.S. practice and national-security requirements.

It empowers a U.N. agency with authority to exercise control over the
world's oceans, seabeds, and even the airspace above them.

This agency -- the International Seabed Authority -- will have what
amounts to the power to impose taxes in the form of various levies and
fees, an ominous precedent for any supranational body.

It will also be able to decide who will be allowed to develop the
resources on and beneath the ocean floor and to require transfers of
technology and proprietary data from developed nations' companies to
international bureaucrats and third-world states.

Particularly worrisome are numerous, sweeping provisions requiring
"protection of the marine environment" that could give rise to
obligations to impose stricter environmental requirements than those
of the Clean Air Act or Clean Water Act.

Underlying all of these requirements is the Luddite "precautionary
principle," a European-derived legal tenet according to which a
country must guarantee that a proposed action will not cause any
environmental harm before it can proceed.

Worse yet, LOST requires that any disputes about the reach and
implementation of these and other treaty provisions be submitted to
mandatory international dispute-resolution bodies, the findings of
which are binding, with no appeal.

The Navy (and its sister services) are already hobbled at the hands of
environmental activists using domestic courts to interfere with
military operations. The practice has proved to be such an effective
asymmetric weapon that it has come to be known as "lawfare."

A case in point is the 2007 civil suit brought against the Navy by the
Natural Resources Defense Council. The NRDC -- a leftist organization
whose "green" agenda often serves as a cover for anti-military
activism -- sought an injunction against the sea service on the
grounds that its use of high-power sonar constituted violations of
federal environmental statutes.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that the Navy's plan
for protecting marine mammals off the West Coast during sonar training
was inadequate, and ordered the case back to U.S. District Court Judge
Florence-Marie Cooper. Judge Cooper proceeded to ban sonar use within
12 nautical miles of the coast and mandated shutdown procedures when
the Navy spotted marine mammals. All this in spite of the fact that
the Navy already employs 29 procedures to lessen the impact of sonar
on marine life.

So egregious would be the impact of these rulings that the Navy urged
President Bush to declare it exempt from the laws that Judge Cooper
had interpreted to prevent sonar training. In so doing, he declared
the sonar training to be "in the paramount interest of the United
States." He added that, "This exemption will enable the Navy to train
effectively and to certify carrier and expeditionary strike groups for
deployment in support of world-wide operational and combat activities,
which are essential to national security."

Fortunately, the president currently enjoys the latitude to prevent
the creation of what would amount to sonar-free sanctuaries in
strategically sensitive areas (notably, off San Diego), perhaps to be
exploited by the very quiet submarines now proliferating in Chinese
and other hostile navies. He not only recognized that such threats
demand that our sailors receive the most effective sonar training
possible; he took steps to ensure that they received that training.
Today, the president is able to assign higher priority to their safety
-- and the nation's security -- than to the alleged impact of sonar on

The bad news is that, if Bush's Navy-impelled call for the Senate to
ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty is approved, neither he nor his
successors would likely be able to exercise such a waiver. In that
event, if environmentalists turn to the Treaty's tribunals and/or
arbitral panels to enforce provisions more restrictive than U.S. laws
(a safe bet), the Greens would very likely prevail. Hard experience
tells us that international jurists all too often exhibit indifference
towards, if not outright hostility to, American equities and
positions. Such judges will ignore Navy protestations that they cannot
interfere, asserting that the activities in question are not military
ones exempted under the Treaty, but environmental predation explicitly
prohibited by it.

Sadly, an increasing number of federal judges in this country believe
they must submit to the dictates of international tribunals and, for
that matter, organizations and conferences. Ironically, the Bush
administration itself has filed a brief with the Supreme Court in
connection with the now-pending Medellin v. Texas case to the effect
that a ruling of the International Court of Justice trumps domestic

The current importuning of the Navy to protect its operations from
environmental laws should serve as a powerful warning to the
president: The national security interests of the United States will
be on the line in the future, just as much as they are today. Then, as
now, the Navy will be a prime target of those who seek to use
"lawfare" to undermine or otherwise interfere with those interests.

By acting to prevent such an action at this juncture, Bush has
unwittingly validated the warnings of LOST's critics. For this reason,
among many others, he should withdraw his support for the Law of the
Sea Treaty -- and give the Navy's shortsighted, inconsistent, and
misguided lawyers who have championed it the old heave-ho.

-- Frank J. Gaffney is president of the Center for Security Policy
in Washington.

Copyright National Review Online 2006-2007

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