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Sierra Club InsiderOctober 4, 2005

House Votes to Weaken the Endangered Species Act

bighorn sheepCongress took the first step last week toward gutting the 30-year old Endangered Species Act, America's safety net for fish and wildlife at the edge of extinction, voting 229 to 193 for legislation crafted by House Resources Chairman Richard Pombo. If it becomes law, the bill will eliminate the requirement for "critical habitat" for endangered species and make the government pay developers and polluters not to kill publicly owned fish and wildlife.

The landmark Endangered Species Act, signed into law three decades ago by President Nixon, has prevented 99 percent of all species ever placed under its care from becoming extinct and has helped foster the return of wildlife such as the bald eagle.

Pombo's dangerous bill can still be stopped in the U.S. Senate. Take action to tell your Senator that you support protection for endangered species such as the bighorn sheep, the American bald eagle and the grizzly bear.

(If you'd like to receive regular updates on issues like this one, subscribe to Currents. Every Tuesday, you'll be sent the latest Action Alerts so that you can stay involved in decisions that affect the environment. View a recent edition of Currents and subscribe today.)

From the Front Lines on the Gulf Coast

Rose Johnson and Lark Mason observe hurricane damageMississippi Chapter Chair Rose Johnson, right with fellow Sierra Club volunteer Lark Mason, has 14 relatives staying at her tarp-covered home since Hurricane Katrina. She's spent the past three weeks volunteering in North Gulfport providing meals and other relief supplies. But the damage to homes in the low-income minority neighborhoods of North Gulfport didn't prepare her for the scene south of the tracks in Gulfport. The neighborhood was surrounded by razor wire to keep people out, and mounds of debris stood eight to ten feet tall, like broken shipping containers with pork and chicken products. "The stench was so bad you could taste it on your tongue," she said.

Paul Stewart, who's now living in Maryland because his home was destroyed, used to live across the bay from DuPont's DeLisle titanium dioxide plant and its waste pits containing dioxin and heavy metals. He doesn't believe DuPont's insistence that everything is safe. "Katrina did not pollute our land," he says. "DuPont did. By locating that plant directly on the bay in a hurricane prone area, DuPont played Russian roulette and lost, and our land is now toxic."

Katrina destruction in D'IbervilleAnd Becky Gillette, from Ocean Springs, reports on how the Bush administration, using the hurricane and its aftermath as cover, is working on a bill to give the EPA broad powers to declare an emergency and suspend the Clean Air Act without notice or public comment.

Read more reports from the front. And learn how you can help by contributing to our Gulf Coast Environmental Restoration Project.


Sink or Swim?

"It's the difference between we're-all-in-this-together and you're-on-your-own-buddy."

-- George Lakoff, speaking at the Sierra Summit on how Katrina highlighted the difference between progressive and right-wing political philosophies.

The Real (Warming) World

global warmingThe recent hurricanes put a new spin on climate change, even though climatologists are careful to clarify that no single hurricane can be blamed on global warming. Climatologists do agree, though, that global warming is real. So why does the media keep reporting that there's uncertainty about it?

In an interview with the Planet's Timothy Lesle this summer (before Katrina), Stanford University climatologist Steven Schneider explained that the "uncertainty" stems in part from how the media tries to cover science the same way it does politics, with a balance presentation of two sides. But in science, he says, "there aren't two sides."

A Big Win in Utah for Sensible Transit

sprawlIt's official: The evils of urban sprawl are not inevitable. Last month, Governor Jon Huntsman, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), the Sierra Club, and Utahns for Better Transportation reached a win-win agreement on the Legacy Parkway project. The new agreement jump starts plans for a new TRAX light rail or bus rapid transit in south Davis County. Contemporary parkway features will also reduce impacts to the wetlands of the Great Salt Lake through a narrower footprint, lower speeds, and less noise by prohibiting trucks and utilizing quiet, rubberized asphalt pavement. The settlement addresses transportation challenges, saves money, and enhances the environment.

To learn more about how sprawl can be stopped, visit the Sierra Club's Challenge to Sprawl website.

View previous editions of the Sierra Club Insider at the Insider Archives.

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   EXPLORE
Real People. Real Stories.
Real High Mercury Levels.


"I was tested for mercury last summer," says Laura, 28, from Miami. "My levels were 1.51, well above the amount the EPA considers unsafe. I ate fish often, but I never expected to see levels that high. I felt angry. My husband and I want to have a baby, but we've decided to wait so my body can get rid of the poison. I'm sad our government would turn their back on such an alarming problem."

Laura is one of thousands of citizens who've been tested for mercury. Learn more about mercury pollution and find out your own mercury levels, too, for just $25.

Laura P.
 ENJOY
Fire Away

Americans love fireplaces. But the reality is that fireplaces create significant pollution and pose real threats to both health and safety. And having an open chimney in your house is about as energy efficient as drilling a large hole in your refrigerator to make it easier to grab a cold drink.

Before you brick your fireplace up, though, check out our tips on how to enjoy an occasional fire without feeling too guilty.

fireplace

 PROTECT

Take Back Our Rivers

For six summers, starting in high school, Chad Pregracke, a master speaker at Sierra Summit, worked as a commercial shell diver, breathing through a jury-rigged apparatus eight hours a day in the darkness of the river bottom, pulling up 120 pounds of clams at a time.

During his time on the river, he noticed massive amounts of garbage -- tires, mattresses, Styrofoam, 55-gallon drums, trucks, vans, televisions, refrigerators, tractors. Pained to see the neglect of such an important and legendary river, he began to pick up the trash, and called Illinois legislators and the governor for help. To no avail.

But he convinced Alcoa, headquartered nearby in Davenport, Iowa, to give him an $8,400 grant; got some help from fisherman, hunters, and birdwatchers; and founded Living Lands and Waters, which today organizes river cleanups that restore hundreds of miles of the Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, and other rivers.

Chad P.
Photos: bighorn sheep (USFWS) | Katrina damage (Becky Gillette) | hurricane (NASA) | fireplace (Jim Bradbury) | Chad Pregracke (Sierra Club Collection)