10th IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium

10th IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium
More than 250 environmental experts from 35 countries gather at the University of Maryland for the 10th Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law in July 2012

March 2013 Environmental Field Trip to Israel

March 2013 Environmental Field Trip to Israel
Maryland students vist Israel's first solar power plant in the Negev desert as part of a spring break field trip to study environmental issues in the Middle East

Workshop with All China Environment Federation

Workshop with All China Environment Federation
Participants in March 12 Workshop with All China Environment Federation in Beijing

Winners of Jordanian National Moot Court Competition

Winners of Jordanian National Moot Court Competition
Jordanian Justice Minister Aymen Odah presents trophy to Noura Saleh & Niveen Abdel Rahman from Al Al Bait University along with US AID Mission Director Jay Knott & ABA's Maha Shomali

Sunday, February 3, 2013

China Air Pollution, Nigerian Lead Poisoning, Texas Coal Mine, Cod Harvest Slashed & Macworld (by Bob Percival)

China’s air pollution problems continued to command headlines last week. The thick smog in Beijing forced airlines to cancel flights because of poor visibility.  The Chinese government temporarily forced some factories to close to reduce emissions and it ordered government cars to cut back on travel.  To be sure, atmospheric conditions this winter have caused huge smog problems in many parts of the world.  Salt Lake City and Kabul also experienced emergency levels of air pollution in the last few weeks.  But air pollution in China has been so severe that it is causing many to argue for a fundamental rethinking of the country’s air pollution control strategies.  In remarks on January 29 that were broadcast nationwide, outgoing Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao stated: “Recent smoggy weather is affecting people’s production and their health.  We should take certain and effective measures to accelerate industrial restructuring, and push forward energy conservation and emissions reduction.”  One unusual illustration of how bad pollution in Eastern China has become is provided by reports that pollution so impaired visibility in Zhejiang province that a furniture factory was on fire for four hours before anyone noticed. Aaron Back & Josh Chin, Wen Urges Clean-Air Action As China’s Skies Clog Again, Wall St. J., Jan. 30, 2013. 

Last week Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan pledged to release $4 million in funds that had been frozen for more than a year in order to clean up severe lead pollution that killed more than 400 residents of seven villages in the Nigerian state of Zamfara.  The lead was released into the environment when gold-bearing rock that contains high concentrations of lead was grinded and melted by villagers in wildcat gold mining operations.  An additional 1,500 Nigerian children were found to have high levels of lead poisoning in what is considered to be the world’s worst outbreak of lead poisoning.  Yet this has received very little publicity except from the NGO Doctors Without Borders. Donald G. McNeil, Jr., Nigeria: Money Promised to Clean Up Lead That Killed Hundreds of Children, N.Y. Times, Jan. 30, 2013.

On January 29 Texas officials approved a new coal mine in Maverick County that will fuel power plants across the border in Mexico.  By a 2-1 vote the Texas Railroad Commission rejected complaints from Texans that the mine will cause air and water pollution in Texas primarily to benefit Mexican companies.  The mine will be owned by Dos Republicas, a U.S.-based company controlled by Mexican firms.  The company argues that it will create 60 jobs in Texas.  Ana Campoy, Texas Approves Border-Area Coal Mine, Wall St. J., Jan. 30, 2013, at A2. 

On January 30 the New England Fisheries Management Council voted to slash 2013 cod fishing quotas sharply in an attempt to save the fishery.  The Commission cut the legal harvest of cod by 77 percent in the Gulf of Maine and by 55 percent on Georges Bank.  Fishermen were strongly opposed to the cuts, while some environmentalists argued that the state of the fisheries was so dire that they should be closed entirely to fishing.

On Wednesday night I flew to San Francisco for the annual Macworld/iWorld Conference.  For many years I have been a regular participant in these conferences, which in the past featured some truly historic moments.  In January 2007 I watched Apple’s founder, the late Steve Jobs, unveil the iPhone and in January 2008 the Macbook Air.  I also fondly recall the 2005 conference where Apple’s Keynote presentation program, which I now use religiously, was launched and everyone in the audience received a free copy of it.   The conferences no longer feature the drama of Apple product announcements.  Instead this year’s opening program featured actor Ashton Kutcher, who never met Jobs, describing what it was like to play Jobs in the movie “Jobs” that will be released in April.  On Friday Fred Armisen of Saturday Night Live and Portlandia discussed his comedy sketches involving Apple products and his brief encounter with Jobs.  Macworld will never be the same without Apple and Jobs, who died in October 2011.  Although the conference has diminished considerably in size, there still were many valuable things to learn from presentations concerning the use of Apple technology in both education and everyday life without all the distractions of the former hoopla. ize, there still were many valuable things to learn from presentations concerning the use of Apple technology in both education and everyday life without all the distractions of the former hoopla.

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