Wednesday, December 21, 2011

America's first environmental president long preceded Teddy Roosevelt

Found this interesting historical piece, a speech by our fourth president, James Madion:

But although no determinate limit presents itself. to the increase of food, and to a population commensurate with it, other than the limited productiveness of the earth itself, we can scarcely be warranted in supposing that all the productive powers of its surface can be made subservient to the use of man, in exclusion of all the plants and animals not entering into his stock of subsistence; that all the elements and combinations of elements in the earth, the atmosphere, and the water, which now support such various and such numerous descriptions of created beings, animate and inanimate, could be withdrawn from that general destination, and appropriated to the exclusive support and increase of the human part of the creation; so that the whole habitable earth should be as full of people as the spots most crowded now are or might be made, and as destitute as those spots of the plants and animals not used by man. 

The supposition cannot well be reconciled with that symmetry in the face of nature, which derives new beauty from every insight that can be gained into it. 

A nice description of ecosystem services, as well as a statement of value.

According to the link, the speech caught on at the time but was gradually forgotten.  Maybe some version of the idea went on to influence Thoreau and the incubating environmental movement.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Unmanned drones - a tool for environmental groups?

There has been some possibly-deserved concern about unmanned drone use inside the US, due to civil liberties concerns:

Excitement over America’s use of drones in multiple Muslim countries is, predictably, causing those weapons to be imported onto U.S. soil. Federal law enforcement agencies and local police forces are buying more and more of them and putting them to increasingly diverse domestic uses, as well as patrolling the border, and even private corporations are now considering how to use them. One U.S. drone manufacturer advertises its product as ideal for “urban monitoring.” Orlando’s police departmentoriginally requested two drones to use for security at next year’s GOP convention, only to change their minds for budgetary reasons.
....the use of drones for domestic surveillance raises all sorts of extremely serious privacy concerns and other issues of potential abuse. 

We have to acknowledge these concerns, but at the same time, there could be beneficial uses by environmentalists.  Many environmental violations are hidden on private property or on inaccessible portions of public property.  Remote-controlled aircraft with cameras could help resolve those problems.  For example, a radio-controlled helicopter with a video camera, with 8 minutes of flying time, costing less $100.  This is an approach that environmentalists might want to consider, especially as their capabilities get better.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Our new partner in the fight for San Francisco Bay

CGF has a new partner in the fight against the "Saltworks" project -- the proposed city-size development on Cargill's Redwood City salt ponds. A new grassroots community group, called Redwood City Neighbors United (RCNU), has been founded by a group of Redwood City residents, including Alice Kaufman, CGF's new Legislative Advocate, and Nancy Arbuckle, one of CGF's Board members. The group is dedicated to fighting the proposed Saltworks project and promoting responsible growth in Redwood City.

Why this is important

Cargill and its partner, Arizona luxury housing developer DMB Associates, want to build a massive development of 12,000 housing units and 1 million square feet of commercial/retail on the salt ponds between Woodside Road and Marsh Road in Redwood City. This would mean 30,000 more residents -- the size of the population of Foster City -- living behind a massive flood levee and adding to the already-heavy traffic on 101. No bayfill project this huge has been proposed since the 1960's. These salt ponds are former wetlands that were intended to be included in the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, and they can still be restored to wetlands if Cargill is not allowed to fill and pave them for this development. An estimated 90% of the Bay's wetlands have already been diked or filled in for development, and scientists tell us that we need at least 100,000 acres of wetlands for the Bay to thrive.

What's happening

Cargill and DMB have submitted a project application for their proposed "Saltworks" project to the Redwood City City Council, and a Notice of Preparation under CEQA has been prepared. Over 900 pages of comments in response to the NOP were received, expessing the concerns of Redwood City residents, environmental groups, labor unions, the governments of nearby cities, local businesses, and other concerned parties. Most recently, in early November, DMB announced that due to the high volume of comments received, they would not be issuing a revised project description by the end of 2011 as previously promised, but instead will be delaying the process for an indefinite period of time.

What you can do

We need to keep our opposition to the Saltworks project as strong as ever, in spite of DMB's delays. Please keep in touch with both CGF and RCNU (you can visit RCNU's website at to learn the latest developments on this misguided and irresponsible project.

Thank you!