Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment
Fisherville, Ontario, Canada
Tel. 416 410-0432, Fax: 416 362-5231
Vol. 13, No. 5, June 9, 2008

Honoured Reader's Edition


This is the honoured reader edition of the Gallon Environment Letter and is distributed at no charge: send a note with Add GL or Delete GL in the subject line to Subscribers receive a more complete edition without subscription reminders and with extensive links to further information following almost every article. Organizational subscriptions are $184 plus GST and provide additional benefits detailed on the web site. Individual subscriptions are only $30 (personal emails/funds only please) including GST. If you would like to subscribe please visit If you feel you should be receiving the paid subscriber edition or have other subscriber questions please contact us also at This current free edition is posted on the web site about a week or so after its issue at See also events of external organizations at Back free editions from January 2007 are available at


Our two part update of asbestos issues concludes in this issue with a special focus on asbestos and international relationships. Even as conservative a group as the Canadian Cancer Society has called for “the eventual phasing out of use and export of asbestos” and for Canada to support the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos on the Rotterdam Convention’s Prior Informed Consent list for 2008, yet both past Liberal and the current Conservative governments have consistently declared that chrysotile asbestos can be handled safely. As our articles indicate, support for asbestos has trademarked Canada as a country that has insufficient concern for the health of workers and citizens in many developing countries. See GL V13 N1 for Part 1 of this series. Even if you are not directly involved with asbestos, our stories illustrate how international organizations, companies, governments, and individuals are teaming up to defeat the Canadian government’s position on asbestos.

Recently the media, spurred on by some of the silliness at the Rome Food Summit, have been full of the biofuel versus food debate. The Food Summit was attended by national leaders from around the world, including President Sarkozy of France, President Lula of Brazil, President Mubarak of Egypt, Prime Minister Fukuda of Japan, and more including the most senior of Canadian representatives, our Ambassador to Rome. GL’s editorial explains where this periodical comes out on the food versus fuel debate.

Are you an Ecological Economist yet, or are you into Degrowth? Our letter writers in this issue would encourage you to be. Our guest column also focusses on the Degrowth issue - GL is inclined to think that, while the term is unattractive, the concept is well worth contemplating. If Degrowth is not for you then try the Steady State Economy, a similar concept which we also address in this issue. We review a conference, Waste: the Social Context '08, and an excellent new book by Robert Paehlke: Some Like it Cold, The Politics of Climate Change.

Stratos has published its Canadian Corporate Sustainability Reporting - Best Practices 2008 report - we give you its highlights and tell you where to find it. Stratos did not review the corporate social responsibility report of the government’s export agency, EDC, so we will do it for you. We also look at a chemical that is widely used in Canada but which has been put on temporary ban in Germany because it may be implicated in the death of bees, something that was of great concern to Charles Caccia and is still of concern to many beekeepers and orchardists. Water hyacinth was for many years regarded as the worst of weeds but now some local entrepreneurs in Africa have worked out how it can be used as a for-profit resource. Isn’t that what Sustainable Development is really all about? Almost finally, in this issue we are introducing a new feature, Another Kick at the Gallon Can, in which we will provide updates on issues previously covered.

Finally, it is unusual, in fact never before done, that GL publishes a request for assistance from the police. In this instance, however, the victim was such a strong environmentalist and the circumstances so tragic that we have decided to publish the appeal on the extremely unlikely off-chance that one of our readers was in the area of Yonge and Eglinton in Toronto on May 18, 2007. If you think you may be able to help please follow the link given in our article.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently spoke to Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity which held its ninth meeting in Bonn May 19-30, 2008. Given no Canadian Minister participated in the 2008 World Food Summit and the enthusiasm from Ottawa for the Bonn Climate negotiations is similar to the enthusiasm with which a pike swallows a hook, GL has decided that the Biodiversity Convention must be part of a really big deal. We’ll be looking at some of the business aspects associated with this Convention (target sectors include agriculture, animal breeding industry, energy, fisheries, financial institutions, forestry, infrastructure, mining, shipping and tourism) in our next issue. That is if we survive the kamikaze attacks of the red-wing blackbirds protecting their nests in our yard not just by fluttering overhead and squawking but also by diving to make actual human body contact.

Canadian Cancer Society Position on Asbestos.,3182,3172_600633685_17432422_langId-en,00.html

Excellent reporting on the High-Level Conference on World Food Security is available through IISD’s Earth Negotiations Bulletin Linkages reporting service at


Readers of our last issue will be aware of the enormous respect that GL held for Charles Caccia, until the last election the federal MP for Davenport, a past Minister of the Environment, and long-time Chair of the House of Commons Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. A celebration of the life of Charles Caccia will be held at 7.30pm on Wednesday June 11 at Oakwood Collegiate Institute, 991 St. Clair Avenue West, Toronto. The event is open to all and no RSVP is necessary.


At last week’s Rome Summit, convened by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the nations of the world had as much difficulty agreeing on the cause of the rapid rise in food prices as they did in agreeing on a solution, which they were unable to do. Much of the controversy revolved around whether or not the move to biofuels was the villain.

A fundamental difficulty in debates of this kind is the common misperception of a linkage between cost of production and market price. It matters not whether the commodity is cars, computers, or corn: in a free market the price is whatever people are willing to pay. Supply and demand play a much more important role than cost of production and demand frequently has little to do with consumption because grains can be stockpiled and some are storing grain in bins to be released at times of higher prices.

The fact is that today the world is not short of food yet. However, there is a major problem with distribution of food, with OECD countries having more than enough to meet their needs while many developing countries still have far less than is necessary to meet their needs. That is a problem of distribution and poverty, not a problem of supply. Demand for grains for biofuels is still a small fraction of global demand for grains for food, so one would expect that the impact of biofuel production on price of grains would be small.

A couple of factors are serving to distort markets. First, there is a very strong anticipation of increased demand of grains for biofuels. Farmers and granaries are hoarding grain and grain futures in anticipation of higher prices in future months. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy but the speculation is a bubble that will inevitably burst when storages become full and the cost of storage exceeds the monthly rise in price. Second, the UN and most governments have been focussing their efforts on feeding the world’s poor with aid programs: free food delivered to refugee camps and villages with no expectation of payment in kind or otherwise in return. To maintain this system, food agencies have been distributing the very cheapest food: the left-overs and dregs after everyone else has taken the better quality food. It is this poor quality food that can be used for fuel and to some extent the demand for grain for fuel may have served to increase the price of the food at the bottom of the barrel.

Other rumours have swirled around the food price issue. Some conspiracy theorists are convinced that the food vs fuel debate is being encouraged by oil company opposition to biofuels. Others believe that the issue is part of the global trade agenda and is being used as additional leverage to win abolition of agricultural subsidies. Information from the Rome Summit indicates that the biggest problem is political chaos in management of global food distribution.

The real challenge is not the one which we face in 2008, serious though it is for people who rely on food aid, but the one which we will face by about 2015 if we fail to to adopt a plan for world food security today.

Some key biofuel versus food issues include:
None of these considerations mean that we should ignore the potential for biofuels. The 5% biofuel mandate that is currently policy in Canada and elsewhere can be met without major distortion to world food markets, provided the excesses of the marketplace are moderated by governments. Biofuels, whether made from grains, oilseeds, or cellulose, can help the transition to a renewable economy but they cannot be the only source, or even a major source, of our energy needs in a carbon-constrained world. The major priority for addressing climate change must continue to be conservation, lightening our ecological footprint and doing everything we can to live well with less stuff.

It is unfortunate that the Rome Food Summit got hijacked by short-term thinking. To properly address the food needs of the developing world we must eliminate agricultural subsidies, move the food system in the least developed countries from aid to trade so that currently poor people can earn a living and afford to buy food, enhance the adaptation of agriculture to climate change including the diversity of the crops suitable for local conditions and find and implement the tools to end the wars and conflicts which are wasting so much of the world’s capital, human, and agricultural resources.

Colin Isaacs

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.

See also article entitled Biofuels Not Only Cause of Food Shortage later in this issue. 
(See GL V13 N1 for Part 1)


The Rotterdam Convention* entered into force on February 24, 2004 but this year is the tenth anniversary since nations agreed to adopt the text of the agreement. The goals are to protect health and the environment by ensuring environmentally sound use of specified hazardous chemicals. It requires a process for prior informed consent which sometimes means it is referred to as PIC.

The Convention was designed to deal with the issue of industrial countries banning release of life-threatening chemicals for their own people while continuing to sell them to developing countries. While not prohibiting such exports, prior informed consent means importing countries can decide whether to receive certain chemicals and if they choose not to they can be assured that the exporting countries will not permit them to be shipped.

To date the Convention lists 39 toxic chemicals. While the other types of asbestos in commercial use are on the list, Canada and other asbestos exporters have been lobbying against including chrysotile, the most commonly used asbestos, on the list. (see GL V8 N10 December 16, 2003 Canada Undercuts Toxics Notification Convention).

Columnist for the Globe and Mail, Martin Mittlestaedt pointed out how shameful it was for Quebec and the federal governmnet to promote asbestos aggressively to the developing world. He cited the World Health Organization estimates that 90,000 people die annually from asbestos-related diseases, half of all occupational cancer deaths. Canada exports 95% of its asbestos for a value of about $93 million in exports. GL suggests another way of looking at this: at an average of over US$1 million payment per worker with mesothelioma (asbestos disease) in the US, Canada’s annual revenue potentially covers liability for about 93 of the 90,000 workers who lose their lives from asbestos each year. Mittelstaedt commented "Even the asbestos in the Parliament Buildings [of Canada] is being removed."

GL notes that ensuring continued markets for asbestos has been part of Canada's long term strategy not only under this convention but in taking the EU to the World Trade Organization when France banned asbestos in 1997. A resolution of the European Conference on Asbestos held in 2003, which has also received support of the International Labour Organisation, called for a worldwide ban on asbestos. The European Union has taken action to ban asbestos with a directive of 1999 which bans the placing on the market and use of products containing asbestos effective in 2005. A 2003 directive prohibits all activities exposing workers to asbestos fibres in asbestos extraction or production/processing of asbestos products as of 2006.

Chrysotile asbestos is again on the agenda for the fourth meeting of the Chemical Review Committee of the Rotterdam Convention. Notifications from two parties from different geographic regions must detail final regulatory action to ban or restrict chrysotile and the action must be based on hazard or risk evaluation. At its first meeting, the Chemical Review Committee received three notifications from three different PIC Regions (Europe, Chile and Australia) which met the requirements of the Convention and recommended that chrysolite asbestos be listed. A text of the draft decision guidance document was agreed. For this fourth meeting, both Japan and Bulgaria sent in notifications but the actions are not based on hazard or risk assessment so do not meet the criteria for listing chrysotile. According to the IISD Linkages report, the third meeting of the Parties of the Rotterdam Convention held October 9-13, 2006 in Geneva deferred the decision to include chrysolite asbestos in Annex III. COP-4 is scheduled for October 27-31, 2008 in Rome.

* The full name is Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


The Rotterdam Convention Secretariat dispatched on April 15 draft recommendations and draft DGDs (Decision Guidance Documents) for chrysotile asbestos, endosulfan and tributyl tin compounds (TBT).

The third meeting of the Conference of the Parties had rejected the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos due to countries, including Canada, voting to exclude it. It is important to note that listing would only have required that the exporting country provide notice in advance before shipping the substance so the importing country can decide whether to accept it. Listing under the Convention does not constitute a ban. The Chemical Review Committee of the Convention has recommended again that asbestos be subject to prior informed consent procedures.

Failure to reach consensus about chrysotile asbestos is of serious concern to many of the Parties because if such a known-to-be-toxic substance cannot be subject to the process, then there is little hope that substances with less definitive evidence will get on the list. This could well doom the international agreement's intent of reducing the spread of toxic material which is handled inadequately with risk to humans and the environment. The Convention's goal is in particular to help developing countries and countries with economies in transition (e.g. Eastern European) to make informed decisions about acceptance and management of toxic substances such as chrysotile asbestos.

The original submission to list chrysotile asbestos was submitted by the European Community, Chile and Australia. The Chemical Review Committee also made available a report by the World Health Organization workshop on cancer-causing mechanisms of asbestos fibres and chrysotile asbestos substitutes.

Risk evaluation in the European Union by an independent scientific committee has concluded that chrysotile asbestos is carcinogenic to humans and that there is no threshold of exposure at which there are no cancer risks. Chile and Australia have evaluated occupational exposure, current uses, and application, and have concluded that regulatory action is required based on excessive risk of asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The reports are based on scientific data generated in accordance with scientifically recognized methods and reviewed and documented according to scientific principles and procedures. Regulatory action in those countries has significantly reduced the risks.

For each substance proposed to be listed on the Annex III, the Chemical Review Committee provides a decision guidance document reflecting the information provided by two or more Parties on national regulatory action to severely restrict or ban the chemical.

Chrysotile asbestos is the most commonly used of all the types of asbestos representing 94% of the world production of asbestos. The asbestos-cement industry uses most of this, 85% of all use.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Canada's export of Canadian asbestos to developing countries "sets the stage for another preventable occupational disease epidemic that will manifest over the coming decades". A paper on Canada's asbestos legacy by James Brophy, Margaret Keith and Jenny Schieman in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health in 2007 discusses how the Government of Canada opposes a worldwide ban on chrysotile asbestos despite the overwhelming scientific concensus about the harm. Canada continues to block efforts under the Rotterdam Convention to even include chrysotile asbestos on a list so countries can be warned about its hazards before accepting import and doubled its contribution to the Chrysotile Institute in Montreal.

A group of trade unions, environmentalists , medical and scientific associations and victims' groups have formed Ban Asbestos Canada to end the export of Canadian asbestos. The World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization have policies to eliminate asbestos use. The authors write "Canada is eroding its credibility as an ethical society by promoting asbestos while ignoring or harming the health of people in other countries."

Awards for Environmental Health Work

Two of the authors of the paper above, Jim Brophy and Margaret Keith, community health advocates both based in Windsor, Ontario won Canadian Environment Awards (Gold in the category Environmental Health) awarded June 2.

Brophy, James, Margaret M. Keith and Jenny Schieman. Canada's Asbestos Legacy. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health. Vol. 13. No. 2. April-May 2007. p236-243 Register at International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health and search for title or

Geographic Magazine. Canadian Environment Awards 2008. Gold and Silver Community Awards Winners 2008. June 2, 2008.

Ban Asbestos Canada.


The CBC reported on May 26 that two of the seven scientific and medical experts who were hired by Health Canada to write a report on cancer and asbestos want the report made public as Health Canada has promised. The Ministry of Health said that the report which was submitted in March would be released after ministerial review. Leslie Stayner from the University of Illinois, School of Public Health and Trevor Odgen, the chair of the project, complained in a letter to the Health Minister Tony Clement that the report should not be withheld from the public as some who have read it are using it for political purposes. While Stayner says that the panel was not asked to speak about a ban of asbestos, there is nothing in the report which would suggest that a ban in Canada and the world would be inappropriate.

            Stayner Wins Award for Work on Chrysotile Asbestos Research

Leslie Stayner and his colleagues were awarded the Alice Hamilton Award in the Human Studies category in May. The award is given by the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for "rigorous reviews by panels of scientific experts from outside the Institute.” Dr. Alice Hamilton who died in 1970 was a pioneering researcher and occupational physician; the annual awards are in her honour. Stayner was one of the authors of each of the trio of papers. The trio was declared the winner as a group and are posted online. The findings improved the risk assessment models using fibre dimension and specific exposure of workers exposed to chrysotile asbestos. The US Environmental Protection Agency is expected to use the information to revise models of risk assessment to account for different fibre sizes and to manage risk due to exposure to asbestos.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


One of the early leaders in inspiring businesses to take big steps towards sustainable development was Stephan Schmidheiny, a Swiss industrialist who founded The Business Council for Sustainable Development which eventually led to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development based in Geneva, Switzerland. He was an advisor to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development and also wrote a book called Changing Course (1992) which explored over fifty cases, markets, technology, trade, managing renewable resources including food, agriculture and forestry, and how businesses could manage change, partnership, and financing.

Stefan (Stephan) Schmidheiny has connections to a family company Eternit with a long history of asbestos. Although asbestos has been in use for centuries, in the 19th century, asbestos was mostly used for insulation and textiles. In 1901 Austrian Ludwig Hatschek invented asbestos fibre cement and called it Eternit meaning everlasting. He sold the license and by 1903 the new product was being made in the Swiss Eternitwerke AG. The King of Siam had his palace covered in asbestos cement cladding in 1911. There were advantages for the poor as well. The material was so easy to use that houses could be built cheaply in 3-4 days. Because of its fireproofing benefit, buildings with Eternit roofs and cladding survived fires that destroyed many buildings. During World War II, asbestos was a strategic raw material mandated by governments for vessels. Following the footsteps of his grandfather and father, Schmidheiny became a key executive becoming at the age of 28 in 1975 the chair of the board.

Phasing out Asbestos at Eternit

On the 75th anniversary of the company in 1978, Schmidheiny announced the plan to phase out asbestos-containing goods. Many in the industry said it couldn't be done since no substitutes were suitable. In 1984 he took over the company.

Eternit was producing asbestos cement in a number of Central American countries after World War II. Asbestos cement had been promoted as the ideal construction material, the "miracle fibre", but by the 1970s concern grew on the serious threat to health when it was inhaled. With scientific data showing there was no safe level for asbestos and trade unions in a number of countries calling for a ban, Eternit set out in 1980 to completely replace asbestos cement with another yet to be developed fibre. In the 1980s, Eternit was the second largest buyer of asbestos and in one year sold $2 billion in asbestos cement in over thirty countries.

One of the cases in the book Changing Course describes the innovation and challenges needed to find a substitute, which was said by some to be impossible. In 1981, one product called Plycem was trialed and in a few years entered the market but not as a substitute for the cement but rather as wallboard which was a better market than the asbestos roofing sheets it was meant to replace. It was made from locally available fibres including cellulose, recycled newspaper and broken banana boxes. A corrugated fibre cement sheet was developed in El Salvador in 1989 and produced commerically at Eternit's subsidiary, RICALIT in Costa Rica. Similar panels were also produced at other Central American subsidiaries. The innovation was not the only challenge; some plant managers didn't feel asbestos was a health issue, production costs for research, development and testing were higher than expected, the marketing people didn't like promoting the new materials, and core buyers had to be won over. The front-end investment paid off as the panels were cheaper to produce so buyers got a better and safer product at a lower price. Where the asbestos had formerly to be imported, these panels were made with local materials

By 1984, the company was using half the asbestos compared to 1978. In the 1980s, the company underwent various restructuring with some companies taken over by brother Thomas Schmidheiny. Stefan Schmidheiny left the company by 1993. In 2006, Forbes magazine estimated his net worth to be US$3.1 billion.

Charges of Injustice about Eternit's Asbestos Legacy

Knowledge of the disease linked to asbestos was known in the 1930s. In 1949, the Netherlands proposed a bill to declare asbestosis an occupational disease. Bob Ruers, former Dutch Senator and founding member of the Dutch Asbestos Committee and Solicitor of The Netherlands,, has written that the international cartel of asbestos cement companies including Eternit provided its members with detailed scientific information and statistics about asbestos on July 6, 1950 with information from companies all over the world including the Thetford Mines in Canada.

Although Eternit is said to have come through with compensation packages in Europe, the company and Schmidheiny himself is said to have profited at the expense of workers and their families, in the developing world who have had to fight to get any compensation. Schmidheiny is recognized for his actions to phase out asbestos use by Eternit but is criticized for the long delay in actually phasing out of asbestos. He is also criticized for taking his money and running from Eternit's looming asbestos disaster and investing it in books and academic pursuits on "eco-efficiency" leaving dead and dying workers abandoned. (see separate article on asbestos in Brazil)

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Two big companies, the Swiss company Eternit (see above article) and LonaFlex/Fras-Le, are accused by a Brazilian worker group as having used asbestos as a "without any information to the workers and the population on its risks. The closing of the plants in the late 1990s, left an enormous social debt. The Brazilian Association of People Exposed to Asbestos was formed in 1995 to help the victims suffering from respiratory problems and asbestos related diseases. They were joined by workers at a Thermoid brakes factory as well as at Johns-Manville subsidiary making textiles using asbestos. ABREA sees transnationals, government and institutions as colluding in "economic fundamentalism" which ignores the epidemic of occupational diseases. Conflicts of interest arise as big corporations such as mining companies fund university research including Canadian McGill University. Official figures grossly underestimate asbestos diseases. Workers are paid small amounts US$1,700-$5,000 only if they quit any other claims and health insurance provided is valid only as long as companies can still use asbestos. In developing countries such as Brazil, it is very economically challenging to discourage industrial development so the fact that there is a ban asbestos movement in Brazil is described as "quite extraordinary and laudable."

Fernanda Giannasi: the Erin Brockovich of Brazil

The founder of ABREA, Fernanda Giannasi, Inspector of Labour working in the State of Sao Paulo, has been a key spokesperson on asbestos pollution as well as an inspector of factories, asbestos mines, residential areas and other areas for asbestos contamination. Giannasi is a Civil Engineer and an Engineer of Work Safety. She insisted on personal protective and launderettes so the clothing of the workers could be washed lest they carry home the fibres to their families.

Fernanda Giannasi is the personification of the fight against asbestos in Brazil and is coordinating effort globally including publishing in occupational health and safety journals. Workers in developing countries such as Brazil are even more scared of losing their jobs than workers in industrialized countries as they are often poor to start with. Most didn't know that asbestos was dangerous. Some even told her that asbestos wasn't dangerous because it was white. Her leadership led to an international conference on asbestos in Sao Paulo and the formation of the Ban Asbestos Network, which put her in touch with more sick workers. She said that more workers were found attending the funerals of others who had died from asbestos diseases. Eternit sued her for slander. She said she received some death threats in Brazil and also from Canada. She was on the cover of the Brazilian Epoca magazine with a circulation of half a million. The story compared her to Erin Brockovich, the gutsy campaigner who worked for compensation for victims of disease from pollution of water by Pacific Gas & Electric in Hinkley, California. Giannasi was awarded the International Prize for Environmental Occupational Health by the American Association of Public Health. She has won other prizes and is listed in the United Nations Who's Who of Women and the Environment.

She is the Coordinator of the Ban Asbestos Network for Latin America. She writes about the issue such as an article in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health on the effects of and alternatives to asbestos in the chlor-alkali industry.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


The World Health Organization advises that asbestos can be a risk not only for occupational exposures but in other situations including clean-up after emergencies such as tsunamis and earthquakes. GL has previously reported on the impact of toxic mix including asbestos not only on emergency workers but also on people's homes following the collapse of the World Trade Center (GL Vol. 8 No. 4 US EPA Failed to Tell the Truth after September 11). According to WHO, "damage to asbestos-containing material can result in the release of small asbestos fibres that become airborne and are readily inhaled. These fibres can remain in the lungs for long periods and can cause serious lung disease." Small asbestos fibres can travel long distances on wind and water. Asbestos is not acutely toxic and oral intake is not known to be harmful to human health.

It is common for the chemical industry to state that the public ought not to be too concerned about chemicals because "the dose is the poison"; any chemical, even water and carrot juice, can be poisonous at a certain dose. In other words, all we have to do is to keep our exposure below a certain threshold and and we will be safe. This generalization is false for asbestos. According to WHO, "asbestos is a proven human carcinogen (IARC Group 1). No safe level can be proposed for asbestos because a threshold is not known to exist." Yet only the very unlucky are likely to fall ill from one fibre for the greater the exposure the greater the risk of developing lung disease. WHO sets out the occupational exposure limits set out by the UK and the US.

When buildings have been damaged and destroyed after a disaster, it is often volunteers and local residents who work to rescue people inside or help in the cleanup. They is often have no way of identifying asbestos containing material.

WHO recommends that risks be minimized through following the main principles of safe handling which are to:
WHO says that the asbestos-contained materials can be disposed of to landfill provided these have taken measures to ensure no asbestos fibres get airborne including a liner, a system of leachate collection and a record kept of the exact geographical coordinates of the waste. Other conditions are:
The guide also discusses worker protection, protective gear which must not be taken home to contaminate the family and which must be disposed of the same as asbestos waste, need for washing facilities, use of wet methods rather than dusting, sweeping or use of a domestic vacuum cleaner, storage in sealable containers and labelling, "Danger contains asbestos fibres, harmful if inhaled, may cause cancer, keep sealed, avoid creating dust."

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


The benefits of nanotechology, the science of extremely small things, may usher the world into a post-industrial economy with reduced use of materials, energy and impact on the environment. However, a number of policy advisors are warning that unless the risks are minimized the benefits may not be realized and the hazards could remain for decades. Research on the hazards is in very early stages but a study recently reported in Nature Nanotechnology is one of the first to base the warning on research results. Mice exposed to carbon nanotubes of a certain size experienced similar effects to being exposed to asbestos.

CIELAP Releases 2nd Nanotechnology Policy Document

The Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy released a policy document on nanotechnology, a second paper building on a 2007 discussion paper.

About 20 countries are selling products of nanotechnology although numbers are rapidly changing. The US leads with 52% or 247 consumer products containing nanotechnology, East Asis has 123 products an increase of 58% in just one year.

Among some of the recommendations CIELAP makes to government to be achieved mostly within the next year are:
GL thinks that CIELAP has highlighted how important it is to deal at the front-end (although it seems to be almost too late already for nanotechnology) of emerging technologies so what is first touted as a miracle cure for what ails us won't turn out to be a scourge of the future.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


            Subject: Degrowth Conference GL V13 N4

Dear Mr. Isaacs,

I always read with a lot of interest the latest edition of The Gallon Environment Letter.

In the May 12, 2008, edition which I have just received, I noticed you mentioned the "Degrowth" conference in Paris. I attended this conference (it was organized by a very good and close friend of mine in France).

 I spent 7 years in France (2000 - 2006), and worked for a NGO in Paris called Association 4D on sustainable development (my bio here: The "degrowth" movement is very strong in France, and when I was contacted by another colleague of mine, Sylvia Lorek (SERI), a couple of years ago when she had just been invited to help organize this conference, I prepared a little note for her on degrowth, which I have attached to this message. I am now based in Vancouver, where colleagues and I (including Bill Rees, inventor of the EcoFootprint) have created the non-profit, research and advocacy organization called the One Earth Initiative: One of our objectives is to make Canada a leader in sustainability, and we will be working with the new organization called My Sustainable Canada ( and through the Canadian Environmental Network to promote sustainable production and consumption patterns in Canada (and abroad). We are also very much involved the "Marrakech Process" (, a UN-led process to promote sustainable production and consumption patterns at the global level by developing a "10-Year Framework of Programmes in support of regional and national
initiatives on sustainable consumption and production" (as per the Johannesburg Plan of
Implementation, 2002).

On another note, I was wondering if the Gallon Letter will be reporting on the Canadian Centre for Pollution Prevention Annual Roundtable (June 11 + 12, 2008): I will be speaking on "Taking inspiration from the European Union and moving forward on SCP in Canada"; I think the discussions that will be taking place there would be very interesting to report on in a future edition of The Gallon.
Kind regards,
Emmanuel Prinet
Emmanuel Prinet, MSc (Plan) One Earth Initiative 1205 - 1255 Main St. Vancouver, BC
V6A 4G5 Canada Tel.: +1 604-669-5143
            Subject: CANSEE Conference 2009

Dear Colin:

I noticed with interest your reference to a recent conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics. CANSEE (a sister organization of ESEE, both being affiliated to the international society, ISEE) will be holding its biennial conference in Vancouver in 2009, likely in June.

As Secretary-Treasurer of CANSEE and as one of the two members of the executive committee based here, I will be involved in organizing this. We are looking for some anchor sponsors, but also for lots of publicity.

I am eager to get the executive to adopt a punchy, upbeat theme for the conference. Something like "Are we all Ecological Economists yet?" appeals to me

Best Regards
Mike Barkusky
Michael Barkusky CGA 201 - 4088 Cambie Street Vancouver BC V5Z 2X8 Phone: 604-876-1224 e-mail


Ahmed Djoghlaf, the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity told the High Level Conference on World Food Security held in Rome June 3, that the loss of the majority of domesticated plants and animals in the last 100 years is perilous, "The reliance on so few plants makes human populations vulnerable to climate changes." Threats to diversity also threaten food security. Only three food crops (wheat, rice and corn) supply two thirds of the calories consumed by the world’s human population. Djoghlaf noted the concern of the high-level summit about the impacts of biofuels to ensure that biofuels are made in a sustainable way but suggested that the high rate of species extinction, including those species many farmers have relied on, is another contributor to the food crisis not only now but as an indicator of worse to come in the future.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization FAO suggests that even increasing the use of one other food, the potato, in addition to cereals can make a huge difference. Because the potato is not a globally traded commodity, it is not subject to speculative activity and the UN FAO recommends it as a "highly recommended food security crop that can help low-income consumers rideout any repeat of the current turmoil in world food supply and demand.”

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Canadian companies seen as leaders in sustainability reporting were invited to participate in a best practices report by Stratos, an environmental consulting company. The report states that they paid to participate but had no input to the assessment or analysis. The reports of seven companies were reviewed BC Hydro, Enbridge, Suncor, Syncrude, Telus, TransAlta, and Vancity. GL thinks that lots of companies are interested in some kind of environmental reporting but lack the internal programs and practices to do so properly. This report explores some of the ways Canadian leaders are reporting. Key issues are materiality (the issues most significant to impact of the business and of interest to stakeholders), climate change (the Hot topic), reporting standards especially the Global Reporting Initiative, and aboriginal engagement and relationships.

Stratos. Canadian Corporate Sustainability Reporting - Best Practices 2008. Ottawa, Ontario: 2008.  [Find view file. Click on one for summary report and one for full report.]



Note on Degrowth: "De-growth" Debate in France Originally Sent to Sylvia Lorek
by Emmanuel Prinet (see also Letter to the Editor):

Regarding de-growth (or "décroissance") in France, I am very familiar with the movement. In fact, if you can read French, I have quite a few articles on this movement. It's not so much "de-growth" or negative growth, as a slogan to mean significant reductions in material and energy consumption. You see, many people are disappointed with the lack of progress to sustainability, and the fact that businesses and governments have co-opted the word "sustainable development" to mean more economic growth, but taking into account environmental concerns, has resulted in some adopting a new word.

We can see in Europe, for example, the tensions that exist between the Lisbon Strategy and the European SD Strategy, or "growth and jobs" and trying to conciliate this somehow with "sustainable development" which, in my sense, growth makes it harder and harder to reach, because unsustainability is the result of ever more growth! Yesterday, I sent an e-mail explaining this to friends and to Bill Rees, the man who invented the Ecological Footprint (he lives right here in Vancouver, and I was his student; we are very good friends). So, more economic growth for the wealthy, which in turn leads to more consumption of resources, and is based on a wasteful consumerist, materialistic and capitalist development model, is the main criticism of this movement.

So, the French movement around de-growth is basically very similar to the supporters of "real" sustainable development think, except that they found that there is too much confusion around the word "SD", so they just invented a new word for it. They base their work on Nicolas Georgescu-Roegen's work of thermodynamics and imbedded systems, and use Eco-Footprints as testimony to our current unsustainable production and consumption patterns.

Although I fully support what they do and what they stand for, I have some criticisms: I think that, just because you are dissatisfied with the word "sustainable development" and the content some people give it, you shouldn't just come up with a new word, thinking that everything will then be ok. The general public just gets confused, and I think it is up to all of us who really believe in the "true" sustainable development (not the one about relative decoupling and the one that talks about more economic growth, but the one where we reduce our absolute consumption of energy and material, thus reducing our Eco-Footprints) to fight to clarify the content of sustainable development. This was one of 4D's roles, because 4D was about promoting sustainable development in France and abroad, and we decided not to give up the word to adopt "decroissance".

Another criticism I make is that they do not differentiate between "growth" and "development"; I think this is a fundamental point, and people like Herman Daly and others make a clear distinction, because they are not synonyms: one is quantitative (growth, as measured by the GDP), and one qualitative (development). I firmly believe--and this is what the laws of thermodynamics and ecosystem functions suggest--that once we've reached the limits to growth, then you should (and must--it's a matter of long-term survival) focus on development: maintaining and improving what you have, instead of "producing and consuming more stuff".


Wildlife biologist and ecological economist Dr. Brian Czech sent GL a couple of slide shows on the concept of the Steady State Economy. He and his colleagues at the organization Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (Arlington, Virginia) say the economic growth is in conflict with wildlife conservation (and the ecological systems which support human endeavours). Economic development as a qualitative process does not necessarily conflict with environmental protection (e.g. clean air and water, atmospheric stability) and wildlife conservation. For example, economic developments such as subsidy reforms and cleaner technologies are compatible but housing developments are not.

Technology, however, cannot be depended upon to ensure long-term ecological and economic welfare. Affluent nations should not continue to pursue the anachronistic goal of ever increasing GDP but should instead pursue a steady state economy with a relatively stable population and per capita consumption. A lower level of population and consumption is necessary to ensure the long term survival of the ecosystem. Wealthy nations should assist other nations towards a steady state economy. Poor countries with much poverty can retain a goal of increasing per capita consumption or alternatively distribute wealth more equitably. These views are expressed in a position statement endorsed by a number of other organizations including The Wildlife Society, US Society for Ecological Economics, The Land Institute and others.

Czech is author of many papers and the book "Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train: Errant Economists, Shameful Spenders and a Plan to Stop Them All." He discusses how much consumption in American society is just waste: for example, each year Americans dump more food equal to more than 21 million shopping bags full into landfill. He goes further than even GL dares by saying it is shameful that Americans drink more soft drinks than water, that the wealthy live in the lap of luxury including big mansions and the not-so-rich try to emulate them and that one of the fastest growing sports is environmentally destructive stock car racing.

Czech advocates not that a dictator set new rules for reducing consumption but that people think about their grandkids "Our majority, misled by neoclassical economics and corporate backers, is simply unaware of the magnitude of the risks imposed by economic growth upon the grandkids...The signs of economic growth gone awry are abundant: congestion, endangered species and water shortages, for starters. All it will take is for more people to interpret such signs as the effect of economic growth, and not of other scapegoat phenomena." To many, this may sound wildly utopian but GL's editor remembers advising an Ontario environment official in the 1980s that an experimental program in Kitchener Ontario of curbside recycling should be adopted across the province and indeed across the country. The reply was that the success of the pilot program in Kitchener was a fluke due to unique conditions and the people of Ontario would never be persuaded to separate their garbage. The scepticism turned out to be less than well-founded.

On the side of the non-idealists, however, there are relatively few human societies that have chosen simplicity over economic growth; if they do they are usually labelled with derogatory names such as the Luddites who wanted to maintain their craft-based skills and work rather than mechanize. Another biologist, Don Chant, University of Toronto professor (see GL V13 N4) said, "All species, including our own do everything to excess. With all other species, however, there are natural checks and balances that keep things under control. With us, insulated as we are from these natural factors, the only thing that would work is self-restraint, and that seems to be singularly lacking."

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by Monte Hummel, O.C. President Emeritus WWF-Canada

As we near the anniversary of Glen Davis’ cruel death, I am trying to assist the investigation, and you can too. The police have reached the stage where re-broadcasting the images of both the suspect and person of interest would be helpful to them. Therefore, attached to this message is a link to the photographs of the two people believed to be implicated in Glen’s murder. Someone, somewhere knows one or both of them.

Please examine these photos carefully. Even better, may I ask you to please distribute them to your own email list? The police numbers to call are clearly indicated on the poster, and anonymous reports can be made to CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

If circulation of these images becomes “viral,” it could be a real help in solving this case. Therefore, for Glen, I hope you will help us out.

(See GL V12 N5 Glen Davis: Supporter of the Environment May 28, 2007)


The conference held in Edmonton May 11-15 called Waste: the Social Context '08 explored the non-technical aspects of waste management. Dr. Jerry Leonard, Conference Chair and Executive Manager of the Edmonton Waste Management Centre of Excellence which organized the event wrote in the program, "Successful waste management (be it solid waste or wastewater) doesn’t simply depend on applying the right technologies. Successful waste management also depends on the careful consideration of the social, economic, and environmental issues that inevitably surround it."

An Edmonton Journal article by Todd Babiak about the international conference described the links made to the arts community. Gary Spotowski from the Edmonton Waste Branch described waste which is produced from consumerism as having many cultural manifestations even beauty. So as well as the series of workshop, the social aspects of waste were explored through film and exhibits. A four day film festival called Reel Waste: Films on Garbage featured films from around the world such as on shipbreaking as well as on the conversion of the Edmonton landfill to a leader in waste management. The film festival was advertised as "Take a break from spring clean-up to enjoy some truly trashy films." Viewers were invited to "Engage and challenge your own patterns of use, abuse, consumption, wasting and recycling."

A design show was entitled Consumable Waste: the Perfect Product. Its goal was to raise awareness about how people fill their needs and wants affecting waste. Shoppers buy anything they want and are encouraged to buy more than they need without regard to the environmental impacts of disposable lifestyles. The design challenge was to local people to design or redesign a product to reduce or eliminate waste and in the process encourage the audience to change their consumption and waste behaviour. Products included furniture, textiles, ceramics, print, jewellry, interior design, architecture and fashion. From GL's point of view, the short term tenure of students while attending college means lots of perfectly good stuff is left on the curbside at the end of term so the Boite Chair was a very interesting idea. The Boite Chair made out of cardboard was specifically designed for "short-term furniture use". It can be made locally, with little transport needed and made of recycled and recyclable material and its goal was described as "The eco aesthetic of the chair encourages more awareness on the part of the consumer regarding their specific needs, i.e. the durability of the product in relation to the required lifespan of the product, and encourages the sustainable use of materials in transient furnishings."

Edmonton Waste Management Centre of Excellence. Waste: the Social Context '08. May 11, 2008.!=public=12096715856458=239=39932047&Conference=252 or

Film Festival

Idea, Made in Edmonton, and University of Alberta Department of Art and Design with the Edmonton Waste Management Centre of Excellence. Consumable Waste. May 13-24, 2008.

Babiak, Todd. Recycling Thinkers Make Art of Trash. Edmonton Journal. May 11, 2008.


Robert C. Paehlke spoke about his new book Some Like it Cold, The Politics of Climate Change in Canada at a book launch at the Sustainability Network in Toronto on May 22. The event was sponsored by the network which encourages effective administration of environmental groups and Alternatives journal of which Bob was founding editor. Price of admission included a glass of wine from Frogpond Farm winery, based in Niagara producing organic wine and a member of the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario.

Bob is a recently retired academic, Professor Emeritus of Environmental and Resource Studies and Political Science at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario. He can't help be a bit on the academic side but this is a readable and a remarkably inspiring work calling on Canadians to ensure that Canada as one of the wealthiest countries of the world contributes now to "create a global capacity to act collectively" to reverse the growth of fossil fuel use.

The book is vivid about failures of the both the Liberal and Conservative-led governments to act with deception and delay on climate change especially Kyoto targets. The oil companies are calling the shots. In regard to the current Prime Minister who has not yet said anything about having changed his mind that climate change is a figment, Bob writes, "He merely works to stretch out the time horizon and to slowly move Canada back towards an 'anti-Kyoto alliance' that includes the United States, China, India and perhaps even Japan and Korea."

Some of the hard choices which Canada and Alberta have to make are the tar sands. Canada is the largest single foreign supplier of oil the US supplying 11% of US oil consumption and 16% of natural gas consumption. The book explores how "If Canada were to decide to really be a global leader on climate change, it could marshal the influence that arises out if capacity to export oil. It could insist that the nations to whom it sells at least match its record on greenhouse gas reductions. This would only be an effective action, of course, if Canada had  a record that we would want other nations to emulate. Needless to say, Canada would first need to make its own significant reductions - beginning in the industry that extracts the fossil energy that we export." Various options are explored but probably the greatest strength of the book is the encouragement that this is something that has to be done. Canada is giving billions of dollars to mostly foreign-owned companies through rock-bottom royalities and bargain-basement taxes to exploit the tar sands and export the resources. The price of oil is likely to rise so oil left in the ground is better than money in the bank. The Canadian government could instead spend the same amount to discourage energy use.

The strength of this book is not just the political view from a long-time environmental observer but in making a case for Canadians to recommit to resolving otherwise intractable problems through international cooperation before the time is past. The choice will make the difference between whether "Canadians continue to adhere to their internationalist, peace and decency-oriented outlook" or whether, "they join the very short list of rogue states that image that for some reason they are exempt from the needs and desires of humankind as a whole as expressed through international organizations and global negotiations."

Paehlke, Robert C. Some Like it Cold: The politics of Climate Change in Canada. Toronto, Ontario: Between the Lines, 2008. $22.95 [online purchase]

Open Book Toronto. Ten Questions with Robert C. Paehlke. May 21, 2008.

...Bisphenol A

Last GL, we suggested that it was unlikely that Canadians would be happy to hear that the Government of Canada declared Bisphenol A as CEPA-Toxic but then intended to only regulate minimally, for example baby bottles. Not surprising then, that the Globe and Mail's journalist Martin Mittelstaedt reported on tests conducted by the Globe and CTV on finding what they called "high levels of the estrogen-mimicking chemicals in canned food sold in Canada." Although the amounts leached from cans linings were said to be high because they were double that found in water and baby bottles, the amounts leached ranged up to just over 18 parts per billion. If such low doses are really dangerous, then even if all exposure to Bisphenol A were regulated, there are other other endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as phthalates commonly used in thousands of consumer products which would present an equal, greater or (not necessarily better) unknown hazard.

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...National GHG Emissions

In the last issue, GL noted that the Government of Canada had not submitted annual greenhouse gas inventory to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change UNFCCC by the April 15 deadline. This has now been filed. Total greenhouse gas emissions in Canada for 2006 were estimated at 721 megatonnes, a decrease of 1.9 per cent from 2005 levels but 22 per cent higher than 1990 and 30 per cent above Canada's Kyoto target of 558 megatonnes.

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Victory didn't last long for environmentalists pleased with a court ruling reported in the last GL that the environmental assessment of Imperial Oil's project failed to meet standards for greenhouse gas GHG emissions. The judgement indicated that the court agreed that federal government's position of setting intensity rather than absolute targets for major GHG emitters does not protect the environment. A decision by Cabinet approving the project despite the court ruling is seen by critics as seriously undermining the environmental review process by critics. Is Dick Cheney a member of the Cabinet of Canada?

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CSR AT EDC                                                      

Export Development Canada has issued its fourth Corporate Social Responsibility Report. EDC is a Crown corporation reporting to the Minister of International Trade which provides insurance for credit and political risk, financial and other services to Canadian companies selling goods and services abroad and to foreign buyers and projects purchasing products or services of Canadian companies. EDC also provides information on trends, tips and opportunities for all sizes of companies, commentary in podcast (the latest is entitled "Gloom is growing and growing global"), the ExportWise quarterly newsletter and other publications for companies interested in export or becoming export-ready. It has 14 offices in Canada and 13 offices employing just over 1000 people including emerging markets such as Mexico City, Sao Paulo, New Delhi, Shanghai, Warsaw and Abu Dhabi. The value of the trade is $77.7 billion globally with $20.8 billion in emerging markets. Extractive and resource business sectors accountt for $38.7 billion. Infrastructure and environment $17.2 billion, transportation $10.2 billion. IT & communication is $6.8 billion and light manufacturing $4.7 billion. The largest market is in North American/Caribbean totalling $49.8 billion.

When EDC adopted the Equator Principles in 2007, it became only the second Export Credit Agency to so. Eric Siegel, EDC President and CEO wrote, "These are voluntary guidelines for assessing and managing social and environmental risks in project lending, which have become the standard for the world’s leading private financial institutions, including Canada’s major banks. In adopting the Principles, EDC is in a distinctive position to facilitate the harmonization of the leading environmental practices of ECAs worldwide."

EDC became subject to the Access to Information Act in 2007 so more disclosure of everything except what is "truly commercially confidential to our customers" is expected.

CSR Advisors

In January 2008, a new Chief CSR Advisor position was created. It is filled by Greg Radford who was an environmental consultant first who then began work on environmental issues at EDC in 1999. A CSR Advisory Council chaired by Maureen O'Neil, President of the International Development Research Centre includes:
Performance Measures

Ethics: Ethical and legal conduct is guided by the Code of Business Ethics and Code of Conduct which relate to environment, bribery, human rights, conflicts of interests, confidentiality and expectations for employees and Board members. An e-training course on ethics awareness mandatory for all employees covers issues such as outside employments, gifts, hospitaility and insider trading. Employees have to sign off annually on the Code of Conduct. Exporters and applicants have to sign off on an Anti-Corruption declaration.

Human Rights: Assessment of human rights conditions are part of any particular transaction with higher risk investment project receiving an additional layer of due diligence. The policies for human rights were reviewed in 2007 and are expected to be revised in 2008. (New Human Rights statement was issued April 30, 2008)

Environment: The EDC policy uses the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development OECD Common Approaches on Environment and Officially Supported Export Credits. The current Environmental Policy expires November 1, 2008 and is under review. In 2007, 76% of permanent employees completed the electronic environmental awareness tool.

Projects are screened by the Environmental Advisory Services team depending on the project category (A,B or C). Category A with the potential to have significant adverse environmental effects require a Environmental Impact Assessment using World Bank Group standards. The CSR report describes the process of environmental review for cases in each of the categories. For example, the Ambatovy nickel and cobalt mine in Madagascar sponsored by Sherritt International Corporation is one of the seven Category A projects signed in 2007. For projects over *SDR $10 million and repayment of two or more years, the more rigourous Environmental Review Directive is required by Canadian Law. Eleven projects were assessed under the ERD in 2007.
*Special drawing rights—an artificial currency unit defined as a basket of national currencies established by the International Monetary Fund.

By applying the Equator Principles which are used by five large Canadian banks, EDC says it eases the due diligence burden for their customers who know that environmental assessments must meet the International Finance Corporations Performance Standards on Social and Environmental Sustainability for both export credit and private lending institutions.

EDC's Environmental Footprint: The data collected on internal operations in 2007 will be used as a baseline to measure progress in future years.

The Enviroexport Program

EDC's EnviroExport Program has the goal of facilitating the export of environmentally beneficial goods and services as well as exports to projects which benefit the environment, for example renewable energy projects, waste-to-energy projects, drinking water supply for households. Examples include technologies which require reduced energy consumption, recover valuable by-products or minimize waste disposal. This program used to be quite broad but has been redefined so companies previously eligible are no longer so. Fewer transactions than previously are thus defined as environmental exports.

Over 90% of the companies involved in this sector are small to medium companies often at start-up requiring venture capital more than financing and insurance support. EDC is most interested in those which have reached commercialization. An example is Photon Control Inc. based in Burnaby, British Columbia. Photon has developed a precision instrument to measure smoke stack emissions. Most regulations allow estimation of emission flows but it is expected that more precise measurement will be required in the future when carbon credits and trading become more common. EDC worked with a Vancouver bank to guarantee 90% of a $500,000 line of credit so Photon can export its technology.

EDC is also seeking opportunities to support Clean Development Mechanisms and Joint Implementation projects and has developed a carbon-based risk insurance product which takes income from carbon credits into account.

EDC is exploring how to support clean technology. Cleantech is knowledge-based products or services which improve operational performance, for example by reducing energy consumption or pollution. EDC has invested in a number of funds such as Enertech Capital Fund III, European Clean Energy Fund and Yaletown Venture Partners (Vancouver).


EDC is also partway through a consultation to review its mandate and operating effectiveness. Townhall meetings have been held; three remain (June 12 Kanata, June 24 Halifax and June 25 Ottawa)

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Thirty million people in three countries, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania rely on Africa's largest fresh water lake, Lake Victoria. Water hyacinth, probably brought from South America for a garden pond, escaped with some ending up in the Lake. Described as the "world's most noxious invasive weeds", water hyacinth or Eichhornia crassipes, doubles its area every 6 to 18 days. By 1998, the mats covered 77 square miles. The Neochitina weevil was imported to eat the weed and for a while succeeded. But as images from the NASA Earth Observatory show by December 2006, the water hyacinth was back mostly due to extra plant food from fertilizer, raw sewage and sediment runoff due to high levels of rain and increased development. People fishing can't launch their boats or access their markets, native plants have died due to shading from the plants, canals and pipes are clogged, mosquitos are increasing in numbers, dead zones are being created due to the oxygen the water hyacinths are using. Flow rates of rivers are affected. There are also some ecological benefits as less open water and reduced wave action provides bird and fish habitat. First priorities suggested are to deal with the excess nutrients: towns and industries need to treat their waste through proper sewage treatment not only on the shores of the lake but the catchment area. More forests need to be planted to reduce erosion which washes sediment into the lake.

A New Profitable Use

A Kenyan weavery located in Nairobi which has made its mark producing handwoven carpets and other textile products made of 100% natural materials such as wool, cotton and environmentally friendly plant dyes has found a new resource. Ben Handa, a fine arts graduate of Kenyatta University who founded the company in 1991, has designed furniture made of water hyacinth, a noxious weed which is changing the ecosystem of Lake Victoria. The plant is dried before the fibres are extracted and the furniture is reinforced with wood. The fibres can be dyed to match any decor.

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Along the Rhine is one of Germany's prime agricultural areas. Half or more of the bees have died according to the German Professional Beekeeper's Association beginning they say during spring crop seeding. According to an article in Der Spiegal, Dutch and French beekeepers also reported die-off when planting began a few weeks ago and in France, the beekeepers protested against the use of clothianidin in the Alsace region.

In the middle of May, the federal German Consumer Protection and Food Safety Agency suspended the use of certain chemicals used for seed treatment after large numbers of honey bees died in southwest Germany in Baden-Wurttemberg.. The temporary ban was a precautionary measure to determine the risks of the chemicals belonging to a group known as neonicotinoids and including pesticides such as clothianidin. The agency conjectures that it is probable but not proven that the method of applying the insecticide-treated seed with a certain type of pneumatic seeding machines exposed the bees to greater harm than previously experienced. The machines are thought to have created a dust cloud containing pesticide. Among the seven brand names is Poncho, used for sweet corn and approved since 2004 in Germany. The dosage depends on the pest: 25 grams per 50,000 corn seeds for protection against wireworm and 62 g for corn borer. The German Government press release states that until now bee damage of this kind with this chemical has been unheard of although clothianidin is known to be very toxic to honeybees.

Canadian Approval of Poncho

The Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency also approved the chemical most widely used in Germany, Poncho, a clothianidin-based pesticide. Bayer CropScience, the brand owner, issued a press release posted by the Canadian Honey Council in 2003 advising that "an error was made in the Regulatory Note that was recently released by PMRA (Pest Management Regulatory Agency) to the public. The residues of the pesticide Poncho in pollen and nectar are below the LD50 for honeybees. You may find websites and circulating e-mails in bee circles indicating that PMRA has registered a compound - Poncho or clothianidin - that is harmful to bees. The source of the material is an editing omission by the PMRA in the Clothianidin Regulatory Note." The press release discusses LD50 used as a measure of how poisonous the substance is to bees. LD50 is the concentration of the active chemical in sugar syrup when half the bees die after ingesting a specified amount of the sugar syrup. Bayer says the LD50 was 142 parts per billion while in the fields where the treated corn seed is planted concentrations in nectar and pollen range from less than 1 up to 5 ppb.

GL notes that this seems to be indicating a trend towards a high level of distrust at the safety data provided by product manufacturers and assurances provided through screening by regulators. While public pressure including that of environmental groups is essential and invaluable, regulation by public/stakeholder opinion is going to lead to piecemeal attention to certain products, possibly one chemical at a time not necessarily the most hazardous ones, rather than an overall integrated chemical management system. Should public opinion in this case turn out to be correct in the face of scientifically-based assurances, distrust in the regulatory system will grow even more.

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Most people consider "alternative energy" to be energy sources other than fossil and nuclear. Wikipedia helpfully defines it as "some energy source that is an alternative to using fossil fuels. Generally, it indicates energies that are non-traditional and have low environmental impact."

Interestingly, Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator, a government agency with a Board of Directors entirely appointed by the Minister of Energy (hence already misleading the public with its use of the word "independent") has redefined "alternative energy" to include natural gas and oil.

Surely this is not because the amount of real alternative energy in the province is otherwise minuscule?

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