Upwards of 10,000 protestors took to the nation’s capital last Sunday to oppose TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline project. The Keystone XL is an extension of the already operational Keystone pipeline, which originates in the Alberta tar sands. If the Keystone XL project passes through the federal government, the pipeline would be carrying as many as 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Keystone XL extension, which was proposed in 2008, has quickly become one of the key environmental issues facing President Obama as he bids for re-election next year. The thousands of protestors that gathered outside the White House made a plea to the President to oppose the project that pits environmentalists against conservative Republicans and Big Oil interests.
While the finalized pipeline would provide up to 5% of current U.S. petroleum consumption needs, the question is at what cost? The protestors are no doubt concerned over the environmental impacts of the extension. As Green Global Travel showcased in a recent Eco News article, the massive amounts of CO2 generated by the export of “dirty crude” will ultimately raise climate temperatures, not to mention the spilling that regularly occurs during tar sands processing operations that has already proven toxic to humans, birds, and fish in the Athabasca River area. The XL extension will only intensify the potential environmental consequences of the pipeline.
The thousands of protestors are not alone in the fight to halt the project. Last June, 50 members of congress wrote a letter to the State Department warning that “building the pipeline has the potential to undermine America’s clean energy future and international leadership on climate change.” While supporters of the project cite the most recent environmental impact report stating that there are no significant impacts as long as environmental protection measures are followed, President Obama does not seem convinced: He has now decided to delay a final decision on the “tar sands pipeline,” which could very well become a key issue in his campaign for re-election. –Raffi Simel
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On October 26, World Wildlife Fund and Coca-Cola announced a historic partnership on the Arctic Home project, in which Coke will donate $2 million and match private donations of up to $1 million more to fund WWF’s efforts to conserve the polar bear’s precious Arctic habitat. Geoff York, a polar bear biologist with 14 years of experience in the field, is spearheading the WWF’s efforts. Last week York spoke with us about the day-to-day life of a polar bear field researcher, how global warming is impacting the Arctic ecosystem, and how the Arctic Home project can help turn things around.
The DESERTEC Foundation has announced a 2012 project in Morocco that could supply 15 to 20% of Europe’s electricity by 2050.
The first phase of construction is a 150-megawatt solar power plant to begin next year, and four more of the world’s largest solar power plants will be built in different locations around Morocco in future years. Planners are still deciding whether to use photovoltaic panels or solar-thermal technology to produce the electricity for Europe and parts of North Africa. Depending on their decision, the energy produced could begin to power parts of Spain and Morocco as early as 2014.
The DESERTEC project is a milestone in renewable energy co-operation. According to a report by the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, the DESERTEC project could create 240,000 jobs and generate close to 3 Trillion EUROS. The project also has the potential to provide stability and promote energy co-operation in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa).
Energy entrepreneurs in the United States should watch the DESERTEC project carefully and take note of the potential for solar power in our deserts. According to Dr. Gerhard Knies (a lead on the DESERTEC project), deserts receive enough energy from the sun in 6 hours to provide the world with power for over a year. We here at GGT believe that capitalizing on the energy potential of solar and wind power in our deserts should be a key goal of the United States’ future sustainable energy plans. –Raffi Simel
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At a time when blows to the environmental conservation movement seem to come almost daily and corporations seem more concerned about the bottom line than the greater good, it’s important to recognize those companies that are doing something in an effort to make a difference. So when Coca-Cola announced yesterday that they were partnering with our friends at World Wildlife Fund to help protect the polar bears’ endangered Arctic habitat, it got our attention.
Coca-Cola has used the polar bear in its always-clever ad campaigns since 1922, so changing their iconic red cans to white (starting November 1) and featuring a mama polar bear with her two cubs is undoubtedly a savvy marketing ploy. But they’re also donating $2 million to WWF’s polar bear conservation efforts right up front, and encouraging the brand’s U.S. fans to join their “Arctic Home” campaign by texting package codes to 357357 (to donate $1). Coke will match all donations up to an additional million, but we at Green Global Travel challenge the brand to consider matching ALL donations to the campaign to show their corporate commitment to the cause.
The funds will be used to aid WWF’s efforts to protect the rapidly dwindling polar bear habitat, particularly a 500,000-square mile area high in the Arctic, where summer sea ice is likely to last the longest. “Polar bears [are] massive, powerful, beautiful and they live nowhere else except the Arctic. Their lives are intimately bound up with sea ice, which is now melting at an alarming rate,” said Carter Roberts, WWF’s President/CEO. “By working with Coca-Cola, we can raise the profile of polar bears and what they’re facing and, most importantly, engage people to work with us to help protect their home.”
The partnership also includes legendary IMAX filmmakers MacGillivray Freeman Films (The Living Sea, Everest), who will be releasing To The Arctic 3D in 2012. Footage from the film will be featured on the Arctic Home website, where visitors can learn about polar bears and their Arctic habitat, conduct live video chats with WWF scientists, track polar bear sightings and make donations. Visit ArcticHome.com for more info. –Bret Love
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The news headlines last week were devastating: “48 EXOTIC ANIMALS KILLED AFTER OHIO ESCAPE.”
The details of the story seemed too incredible to believe. Zanesville, Ohio resident Terry Thompson opened the enclosures of the exotic animals he’d assembled on his 73-acre farm, then committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. Nearly 50 animals– including 18 rare Bengal tigers, 17 lions and numerous bears– were killed in an all-night hunt, and the resulting photos were tragic enough to make any wildlife lover tear up in sadness and anger.
Unfortunately, as the documentary The Elephant In The Living Room makes all too clear, the situation in Zanesville was hardly unique. Director Michael Webber‘s film focuses on two central characters, wildlife rescue specialist Tim Harrison and exotic animal owner Terry Brumfield, both of whom live in Ohio. They’re initially at odds: Brumfield has been raising a pair of African lions in a small pen for several years and, when the male escapes, is forced to relocate them into an even smaller horse trailer. The lions are unhappy, the clinically depressed Brumfield (who raised them from cubs) loves these animals as his children and can’t bear to part with them, and Harrison is trying to do the right thing by helping to relocate the lions to a facility designed to give them adequate care.
The emotional storyline grabs hold of your attention and won’t let go, but Webber also addresses the bigger issue of the sale and ownership of exotic animals in a state that has ZERO regulations in place to control the industry. We see monkeys, cougars, hyenas and deadly poisonous snakes being auctioned off in the heart of Amish country. We see a small child holding a baby alligator, oblivious to the fact that it will grow to be an 8-foot long carnivore that could consume him on one gulp. And we see the results of the exotic wildlife trade– an infant choked to death by the family’s boa contrictor, a woman mauled by her friend’s pet chimpanzee, a trainer killed by the grizzly bear who’d co-starred in Will Ferrell’s Semi-Pro.
Webber wisely refuses to choose sides between Harrison and Brumfield, who ultimately become close and do what’s best for the animals. But, through Harrison, The Elephant In The Living Room makes a potent statement that ownership of exotic animals needs to be more firmly regulated, both in Ohio and in the other 9 states that have no laws to control this insidious industry. The result is one of the year’s most powerful and moving documentaries. –Bret Love
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