The Inuit sitting on billions of barrels of oil

Eskimo children enjoy boiled skin and blubber of a bowhead whale.  Photo Credit: RICHARD OLSENIUS/National Geographic Stock

(November 29th, 2012) After a decade of legal wrangling and spending $4.5bn (£2.8bn), this year Shell Oil was given permission to begin exploratory drilling off the coast of Alaska. But many in the local Inuit community are concerned it could have a devastating impact on one of their main sources of food – the bowhead whale.

Marie Casados shows me the contents on her freezer. Inside there’s whale meat, muktuk – frozen whale skin and blubber – a selection of fish and a polar bear foot, which looks like a human hand. She describes it as a real delicacy. But it’s more than that – this is her food supply for the winter. Read more from BBC News…

KENYA: Disquiet over Lamu port project

Lamu Fishermen. Photo Credit: An Epic Journey

(October 31st 2012) A fledgling project to build a huge new port, oil refinery and transport hub on Kenya’s northern coastline promises to deliver thousands of jobs and is a pillar of the government’s long-term development agenda. But critics fear the project will displace tens of thousands of people in Lamu District, exacerbate decades of marginalization, degrade marine environments essential to local livelihoods and increase the risk of conflict as the country gears up for elections in March 2013. Read more from IRIN News…

A new investigation accuses HSBC of ignoring its own sustainability policies

(November 3, 2012) Can a right make up for a company’s wrongs? The Economist highlights some of HSBC’s, a British multinational bank, business practices. HSBC boasts environmental initiatives, including a “Climate Partnership” with the World Wildlife Fund. Working with “corporate bad guys” has become common practice these large environmental NGOs. In these partnerships, the NGO helps companies develop more sustainable business strategies. Despite this commitment to environmental good, HSBC is connected to some of the most unsustainable logging operations in Malaysia. These unsustainable logging practices threaten Borneo’s rainforest, have led to abuses against indigenous groups, and have been connected to political corruption. This might suggest that HSBC is benefits from being able to market themselves as an environmentally and socially conscious business without having to actually be one.  To the bank’s credit, their forest policy is well-developed and they support other well-established environmental NGOs, including the Forest Stewardship Council. Perhaps they are transitioning to a truly sustainable business strategy and this is an area they are working to improve. Read more from The Economist…

 

Rehabilitated Orangutans in Danger if Development Proceeds in Borneo

Photo Credit: Creative Commons, Sheba_Also

(October 22,2012) The proposed extension of an industrial area in East Kalimantan, Indonesia will likely mean the end of a population of rehabilitated orangutans who reside there, according to the Indonesian environmental group Peduli Teluk Balikpapan. The Kariangau Industrial Area (KIK) will comprise 5,130 hectares of land currently covered by hardwood forests and mangroves when completed, including one third of orangutan habitat in Sungai Wain forest—a crucial portion that is not within the boundaries of the Sungai Wain Protection Forest and therefore not under any governmental protection. Though the expansion has not yet been finalized, two companies—PT Dermaga Kencana Indonesia (Kencana Agri Ltd. Group) and PT Mekar Bumi Andalas (Wilmar Group)—have proceeded to clear forest and reclaim mangrove swamps in areas still classified as protected in order to build crude palm oil mills near Upper Balikpapan Bay. Read more from mongabay…

Industrial “Park” to Enhance Southeast Chicago Neighborhoods

 

(October 10, 2012) The Environmental Justice Alliance of Greater Southeast Chicago has been opposing development of new non-renewable energy projects in the 10th Ward. Their efforts gained support of Gov. Pat Quinn, and were successful in chasing away private interests. The group expressed interest in a project proposed by Calumet Genesis Energy Park that uses anaerobic digestions to create gas from organic waste. In New York, reconstructed green spaces are being used to improve problems in communities linked to historical industrial uses. The Waterfront Justice Project was launched in 2010, and will hopefully be a model of how to improve once industrial areas. Similarly, Chicago activists believe that their plan for the space will provide habitat for wildlife, improve ecosystem health, and build a stronger community. Some argue that there are monetary benefits to sustainable urban planning. Specifically, the project will require development of some wetland areas, but will not have  the high cleanup costs, often exceeding the value of the property, common to traditional development projects. Read more from nwi.com…

 

The Nuclear Industry Continues To Makes Its Mark On Native American Lives

Image(October 11, 2012) Short clip on Democracy Now! illustrates the history of uranium mining on Native American communities in New Mexico. The mine tailings and the radioactive waste contaminate the land and water on the reservation. This problemis not unique to the New Mexico area. For decades, private companies have targeted Native American tribes in Nevada and Utah as sites for atomic waste dumps. Many of these tribes have lost hope for improving the environmental health of their communities. Pro-dump tribal chairman Leon Bear summed up his feelings: “We can’t do anything here that’s green or environmental. Would you buy a tomato from us if you knew what’s out here? Of course not. In order to attract any kind of development, we have to be consistent with what surrounds us.” Read more from Nuclear Information and Resource Service…

As Arctic Melts, Inuit Face Tensions with Outside World

Inuit hunter Teman Avingaq displays a pair of narwhal tusks. This year, the spring narwhal hunt near Arctic Bay on Baffin Island, which usually yields 60 of the tusked whales, produced only three. The sea ice was so thin that the Inuit couldn't safely stand on it to shoot narwhal as they migrated through channels in the ice. In summer, as sea ice disappeared, Inuit hunters killed more than 100 narwhal in open waters. (Photo courtesy of Ed Struzik via environment360)

(October 1, 2012) Sakiasiq Qanaq has seen a lot of changes on the north coast of Baffin Island in recent years as the retreat of summer sea ice has continued unabated. But the Inuit hunter has never seen anything quite like this year, when sea ice loss in the Arctic hit a record low.

First, the community’s spring narwhal hunt, which usually yields roughly 60 of the tusked whales, produced only three. The sea ice was so thin that the Inuit couldn’t safely stand on it and shoot the narwhal as they migrated into Arctic Bay from Greenland through channels in the ice. Then an unprecedented number of killer whales, or orcas — rarely seen in heavy ice — showed up in the largely ice-free water, with Inuit hunters in nearby Pond Inlet observing three pods of orcas that reportedly killed some of the narwhals and scared off the others. Read more from e360…