Sierra Club leads angry response to 'deeply flawed' State Department report into proposed oil sands pipeline
Green activists and climate change scientists have slammed a new report from the Obama administration that raises no serious objections to building a massive and controversial oil pipeline.
The Sierra Club, one of the US's oldest and most respected environmental advocacy groups, attacked the State Department study into the proposed Keystone XL piepline – which will bring oil from Canadian tar sands deposits down to the Gulf of Mexico – as a "deeply flawed" analysis of the environmental consequences of the project.
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said he was "outraged" by what he described as the administration's "deeply flawed analysis and what can only be interpreted as lip service to one of the greatest threats to our children's future: climate disruption".
The State Department report concluded that the environmental costs of getting oil from Canada to the Gulf by other methods were more harmful to the environment. It evaluated two options using rail: shipping the oil on trains to existing pipelines or to oil tankers. The report said these methods would release more greenhouse gases than the pipeline.
Obama is under strong pressure from the oil industry, business groups and the Canadian government to approve the project, which will open new outlets for the vast crude reserves of Alberta. Oil industry officials and the Canadian government hailed the report as bringing the pipeline a vital step closer to reality. The pipeline is also supported by Obama's Republican opponents, who claim it will be a source of new jobs and help bring down fuel prices. They called on Obama to give Keystone the green light.
"[The] report again makes clear there is no reason for this critical pipeline to be blocked one more day. After four years of needless delays, it is time for President Obama to stand up for middle-class jobs and energy security and approve the Keystone pipeline," said House speaker John Boehner.
But the move is strongly opposed by environmental groups, who say it puts an emphasis on fossil fuels at a time when climate change needs to be addressed by fostering alternative energy sources. Last month 35,000 demonstrators opposing the Keystone pipeline came to Washington in what organisers claimed was the largest climate protest in American history.
Though the report stopped short of recommending approval of the project, it would likely give Obama political cover if he wanted to endorse the pipeline. State Department approval of the 1,700-mile structure is needed because it crosses the border between the US and Canada.
Aside from the Sierra Club, other prominent scientists and environmental groups have criticised the State Department report. They say that the report ignores the idea that building the pipeline will encourage greater development of the tar sands and boost oil production of deposits that are seen as a highly pollutive resource which can cause widespread ecological damage as it is mined.
"The State Department is overlooking the fact that the pipeline is likely to trigger at least 450,000 barrels per day of additional tar sands production capacity," said Stephen Kretzmann, executive director of Oil Change International, in a statement.
James Hansen, a Columbia University professor who is one of the world's most respected experts on climate change, also issued a statement attacking the report's findings. "To say that the tar sands have little climate impact is an absurdity," he said.
Sabato 2 marzo 2013 alle ore 17.30, presso la Libreria Minerva, in via S. Nicolò 20, a Trieste, verrà presentato il volume “Un porto tra mille e mille. Scritti politici e civili di Giani Stuparich nel secondo dopoguerra” a cura di Patrick Karlsen, edito da EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Presenteranno il volume Sergio Bartole, professore emerito dell’Università di Trieste; Anna Maria Vinci, vicepresidente dell’Istituto regionale per la storia del movimento di liberazione; Stelio Spadaro, storico e scrittore; il curatore e Giusy Criscione Stuparich.
Il volume vuole idealmente concludere il ciclo del cinquantenario della morte di Stuparich (1961-2011), mediante la pubblicazione in antologia di un’ampia selezione degli interventi di carattere politico e civile che egli redasse per alcuni dei più importanti periodici e quotidiani nazionali (tra cui Il Ponte, L’Italia Libera, La Stampa, Il Corriere della Sera), nel periodo compreso tra il 1943 e il 1961. La grandissima parte di tali scritti da allora non è stata più riedita.
La ricerca nasce dalla ricognizione degli scritti dispersi di carattere politico-civile di Giani Stuparich, pubblicati su quotidiani nel secondo dopoguerra e non ancora raccolti in volume. Dando un contributo alla ricostruzione del pensiero politico del celebre scrittore giuliano attraverso la sua pubblicistica militante dispersa o irreperibile, l’antologia intende dare testimonianza dell’intensità dell’impegno civile da lui profuso al momento in cui, ritrovata la libertà, si aprì per il Paese e per il confine orientale italiano una stagione densa di contraddizioni, capace di mescolare come poche altre: angoscia e speranza, entusiasmo e disillusione. Per Stuparich fu l’occasione per riproporre nel discorso pubblico i valori a cui si ispirò nell’opera di tutta una vita, mai disposto a transigervi, sempre pronto a pagare in prima persona: la democrazia e la giustizia, il sentimento di una Patria aperta e inclusiva, la fiducia in una Europa di nazioni libere e solidali.
Patrick Karlsen (1978) ha conseguito il Dottorato di ricerca in Storia contemporanea presso l’Università degli Studi di Trieste; in seguito è stato borsista presso l’Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Storici “Benedetto Croce” di Napoli. Si occupa delle culture politiche di Trieste e della Venezia Giulia nel Novecento e di storia del comunismo internazionale. Ha pubblicato, Frontiera rossa. Il Pci, il confine orientale e il contesto internazionale 1941-1955 (Gorizia, LEG, 2010). firstname.lastname@example.org
Un porto tra mille e mille.
Scritti politici e civili di Giani Stuparich nel secondo dopoguerra
a cura di Patrick Karlsen
EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste (2013)
Pagg. 140; Euro 13,00
EUT - Edizioni Università di Trieste
Direzione e redazione: Via E. Weiss 21
34127 Trieste - Italia
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A tour around the most notable monuments to the deadPeter Stanford
The Argentine ant has spread to every continent except Antarctica, overwhelming native ants with sheer numbers and fierce battle tactics . But they may have met their match in a recent arrival: the Asian needle ant. The cross-species face-off, a surprise to entomologists, could topple ecosystems where the battle lines are drawn.[More]
New book by outspoken US anthropologist inflames arguments over Yanomami Indians
It became one of the fiercest scientific arguments in recent times: are the Yanomami Indians of the Amazon rainforest a symbol of how to live in peace and harmony with nature or remnants of humanity's brutal early history?
Now a debate that has divided anthropologists, journalists, human rights campaigners and even governments has been given a fresh burst of life by the publication of a lengthy memoir by outspoken US anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon.
Chagnon has spent decades studying and living with the Yanomami (also known as the Yanomamö) and wrote the best-selling – and hugely controversial – Yanomamö: The Fierce People. In that book, which came out in 1968, he portrayed the 20,000-strong tribe, who live in isolated jungle homelands in Venezuela and Brazil, as a warlike group whose members fought and battled each other in near-constant duels and raids. He described Yanomami communities as prone to violence, with warriors who killed rivals far more likely to win wives and produce children.
His analysis was criticised as a reductive presentation of human behaviour, seen as primarily driven by a desire to mate and eliminate rivals. Opponents of that view believed the Yanomami were still pursuing a lifestyle dating from mankind's early past, when people lived mostly peacefully in smaller communities, free from modern sources of stress and far more in equilibrium with their surroundings.
Chagnon's new 500-page book, Noble Savages, is set to reignite the argument. In it he launches an impassioned defence both of his work and life among the Yanomami and an equally spirited attack on his critics and fellow scientists. The book's subtitle perhaps sums up his attitude to both groups: "My life among two dangerous tribes – the Yanomamö and the anthropologists."
Chagnon describes life in the rainforest spent constructing villages, hunting for food, and, as shamans take powerful hallucinogens, bloody raids on rival groups. "The most inexplicable thing to me in all of this was that they were fighting over women... I anticipated scepticism when I reported this after I returned to my university," he wrote. He was not wrong. His research created a huge storm and accusations that it allowed Amazonian tribes to be depicted by governments and outside interests as bloodthirsty savages who deserved to lose their land to the developers.
Chagnon defends himself from that charge, using much of the book to attack fellow scientists' conclusions and saying that too many anthropologists are ignoring the pursuit of pure research in favour of becoming activists for the civil rights of their subjects.
"In the past 20 or so years the field of cultural anthropology in the United States has come precipitously close to abandoning the very notion of science," he writes.
But Noble Savages has prompted a fresh wave of attacks on Chagnon. Last week a group of prominent anthropologists who have worked with the Yanomami issued a joint statement.
"We absolutely disagree with Napoleon Chagnon's public characterisation of the Yanomamö as a fierce, violent and archaic people," they said. "We also deplore how Chagnon's work has been used throughout the years – and could still be used – by governments to deny the Yanomamö their land and cultural rights."
One of the signatories, Professor Gale Goodwin Gomez of Rhode Island College, who has also spent several decades studying the tribe, told the Observer she was dismayed that Chagnon had published a new book. "This is just another attempt to grab attention. I have lived in Yanomamö villages and have never needed a weapon," she said.
Human rights organisation Survival International, which campaigns on behalf of indigenous peoples, has also attacked Chagnon. "Chagnon's work is frequently used by writers... who want to portray tribal peoples as 'brutal savages' far more violent than 'us'," said Survival's director, Stephen Corry.
The group also published a statement from Davi Kopenawa, spokesman for a Yanomami group in Brazil, that was critical of Chagnon's core conclusions. "For us, we Yanomamö who live in the forest, the anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon is not our friend. He does not say good things, he doesn't transmit good words. He talks about the Yanomamö but his words are only hostile," he said.
But Chagnon, who declined to be interviewed by the Observer, has stood by his lifetime of work and study. In an emailed conversation with the Inside Higher Ed website, he repeated his beliefs that anthropology had abandoned science in favour of political activism but said that the situation would one day reverse itself.
"Those departments of anthropology whose members adhere to the scientific method will endure and again come to be the 'standard approach' to the study of Homo sapiens, while those that are non-scientific will become less and less numerous or eventually be absorbed into disciplines that are non-anthropological, like comparative literature, gender studies, philosophy and others," he wrote.Paul Harris
British law cloaks animal experimentation in secrecy despite supposed freedom of information. This inconsistency should stop
As the United States opens its doors to allow public access to all federally funded scientific research, including increasingly controversial experiments on animals, similar transparency should be upheld on this side of the Atlantic.
When the Freedom of Information Act came into force in 2000, its purpose was to provide access to information under the public's "right to know" on the premise that transparency is fundamental to a healthy democracy. It lulled the public into a sense of openness, scrutiny and accountability. However, few people are aware that there are certain areas of public activity that are exempt from the act.
Vast amounts of taxpayer money and resources are being spent on animal experiments that are conducted in secret, with little in the way of recourse for review or accountability by the public – a third of whom now oppose the practice in the UK.
Section 24 is a secrecy clause embedded within the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. Such information is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. The clause imposes a blanket ban on the disclosure of any information. It makes it a criminal offence to reveal any detail, even to Parliament, with the risk of incurring two years' imprisonment and an unlimited fine. The original intention of Section 24 was purportedly to protect confidentiality over employee identity and to maintain commercial competitiveness. However, these areas are protected by the Freedom of Information Act itself.
Perhaps no other area would benefit from access and openness as much as animal experimentation. The current law permits the deliberate infliction of suffering on animals in laboratories that would normally be illegal in any other circumstances. It's perfectly legal to inflict brain damage on a monkey, genetically engineer a mouse to induce cancer, give electric shocks to a rat and inject or force-feed chemicals to dogs in increasingly high doses until they become sick, suffer from seizures, collapse and finally die.
Despite the coalition pledge in 2010 to "work to reduce" numbers of animals used in scientific procedures, the numbers in the UK have risen to more than 3.7m. Kittens have had their eyelids sewn shut at Cardiff University, and mice are subjected to tests for Botox in another UK laboratory.
Prohibition of access means there is no way of knowing if what's being funded is at all relevant to humans. There is no way to help improve standards to ensure tests are not unnecessarily duplicated and that alternatives are used when available. It's all so secret that we can't be confident that even the Home Office knows whether experiments on animals are being conducted in a lawful manner, or whether the most effective methods are being employed. Scientific advancement depends upon rigorous scrutiny and evaluation of all the evidence from all sides, including the public whose taxes fund much of the work. This can only be possible if we are granted access to information.
The importance of public accountability and greater openness on animal experimentation is acknowledged by many parties. The House of Lords select committee on animals in scientific procedures stated that "[w]e consider the current levels of secrecy surrounding animal experiments to be excessive" and that "[t]here should be a presumption in favour of complete openness".
Peta and many organisations want to see greater transparency. They call for the abolishment of Section 24. The public has a right to know how its money is being spent. Research should undergo proper scrutiny to propel the best science forward. The public believes this, too, as evidenced by a YouGov opinion poll that found that 80% of people agree or strongly agree that all information about animal experiments should be publicly available.
The coalition government announced public sector "transparency" as one of its key pledges in 2010. Repealing Section 24 presents it with an opportunity to show the nation that, like America, it, too, recognises the value of enhancing access to scientific information. Here is one pledge it can fulfil.Victoria Martindale
The best of the rest from the Physics arXiv preprint server