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Eco Notes

Denmark Considers Total Pesticide Ban

In response to calls from members of parliament to make the country totally organic by 2010, the Danish government is initiating an assessment of the impacts of a total pesticide ban in the country, reports the Pesticide Action Network North America Update Service (Panups).

A government-convened committee of experts will study how a pesticide phase-out would affect Denmark's economy, environment and health. The committee will include representatives from government, the food and chemical industry, labour and environment, consumer and health organisations.

(Source: Multinational Monitor, U.S.A., November 1997)

Largest Wind Farm In the Southern Hemisphere

Forty-eight 660-kW wind turbines will go online in New Zealand during the next year. Each will have a large rotor 47 m in diameter. The wind farm will be located on the more northern of New Zealand's two main islands, in a hilly area known as the Tararua Ranges. The area is blessed with some of the best wind conditions in the world; wind speeds at some locations there can exceed 11 m/s. So, the park's annual electricity production is expected to be almost twice as large as those of typical European sites. The wind farm will be the largest in the southern hemisphere, with a capacity equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of more than 25,000 households. The project will cost US$ 25 million.

Vestas–Danish Wind Technology, the supplier of the turbines, believes that this project could constitute a milestone in the development of wind power, which thus far has been accused of only being viable with subsidies. 'The project proves that our new turbines are so effective that preferential treatment of wind power may not be necessary where the wind conditions are adequate. In this project, wind power competes on even terms with conventional power production. The project is not subsidised by government funds,' says Tom Petersen of Vestas.

Information: Vestas, Smed Hansens Vej 27, 6940 Lem, Denmark, Ph: +45-97-341188, fax: +45-97-341484, http://www.vestas.dk

 Logging Giant to Stop Clearcutting in Canadian Forests

 In British Columbia, Greenpeace applauded logging giant MacMillan Bloedel for showing leadership and vision by announcing a forest programme that will change the face of the forest industry in Canada. The announcement marks the first time an industry leader has acknowledged that clearcutting is no longer acceptable and that there is a drastic need to increase the conservation of old growth forests.

"This announcement is a vindication of what Greenpeace and other environmentalists have been saying for years," said Karen Mahon, Greenpeace forests campaigner. "There will still be lots of work to do but today marks the dawn of a new era."

"MacMillan Bloedel's announcement is a challenge to the rest of the logging industry to pull their heads out of the sand and meet or beat this new initiative," said Tzeporah Berman of Greenpeace. "This is the first step towards ensuring that British Columbia may be to able to meet international market demands and provide ecologically responsible forest products in the future."

MacMillan Bloedel stated that they will phase out clearcutting in British Columbia. However there are still outstanding concerns among environmentalists regarding some issues. These are, among others, the final phasing out of clearcutting and the potential problems of selective logging. Greenpeace has pledged to work with the company to ensure that the new logging practices maintain the integrity of the existing forests and that clearcutting is finally phased out.

Furthermore, MacMillan Bloedel has not yet committed to leaving the remaining pristine rainforest valleys intact. Greenpeace says it will continue its campaign for the protection of the remaining pristine rainforest valleys on Canada's west coast. Of the original 353 primary rainforest watersheds only 69 remain intact.

For further information contact: Karen Mahon or Alison Turner, Greenpeace Canada, +1-604-253 7701, mobile +1-604- 313 0159 Tzeporah Berman, Greenpeace International mobile +1-604-3292991 Christoph Thies + 31-20-5236 278, mobile + 31-6-535 04 721
 

NGOs Unite to Help Venezuela's Indigenous Peoples Protect their Forests

Much of the South American country of Venezuela is swathed in pristine tropical rainforest. The Imataca Forest Reserve in the northeast of the country—a vast and beautiful area of forest the size of the Netherlands—is home to five Indian tribes and a huge variety of wildlife. Imataca has been a protected reserve for over 30 years in recognition of its environmental importance.

But a new law, Presidential Decree 1850, issued by the Venezuelan government in May of last year, is set to allow a massive extension of gold and diamond mining in over almost half of the reserve. The government hopes that this will allow them to repay substantial parts of their large national debt.

The Venezuelan government decided to divide most of the reserve up between mining and logging corporations. Despite the protected status of the forest, and ignoring a number of national laws and international treaties, almost 40% of Imataca has now been listed for mining, and just 4% of the reserve is completely protected.

Nationwide protests by Venezuelan indigenous groups, environmentalists, social groups and many others led to Venezuela's Supreme Court suspending Decree 1850 at the end of last year, while it investigated claims the Decree was illegal. The Court's judgment is expected soon.

The international NGO network EarthAction is working with environmental, social and indigenous groups in Venezuela to ensure that Imataca is not destroyed.

EarthAction's international campaign is designed to put pressure on the Venezuelan government to repeal Decree 1850 and fully protect Imataca. A spokesperson for EarthAction said: "If loggers and miners are allowed free rein in this supposedly protected area, it will set a disastrous precedent for the rest of the country's forests. People all over Venezuela are dismayed at the government's actions. We are responding to their calls for international help."

For further details, contact:  Julio Cesar Centeno, PhD,  Merida, Venezuela,  Tel/fax: +58 74 714 576, Email: JCenteno@telcel.net.ve

Mahogany is Murder

The UK is the second largest importer of Brazilian mahogany in the world. But the environmental and social price for obtaining this beautiful wood is higher than you might think. The felling of mahogany is one of the most destructive activities in the rainforest: for every mahogany tree extracted, 26 other trees will be damaged.

It is estimated that there are only 35 years worth of legal mahogany stocks left. Desperate to find more mahogany, logging companies are moving into Indian reserves where they illegally fell the timber and inflict a horrifying catalogue of abuse and violence on the indigenous people, including intimidation, bribery and even murder.

To help stop this situation, one group, Friends of the Earth (FOE), launched the "Mahogany is Murder Campaign" in 1992. This campaign calls for a complete ban on imports of Brazilian mahogany to the UK. FOE is also asking the European Union to ban mahogany imports. The campaign has highlighted the terrible costs of the mahogany trade and has more recently featured a leaflet and cinema advertisement.

Unfortunately, the trade body for the timber industry in the UK (the Timber Trade Federation) and the Brazilian government complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about this campaign and the ASA has ruled against FOE's advertisements.

As a result of the ASA's ruling, Friends of the Earth cannot show the cinema advertisement any more or distribute the leaflet via newspapers and magazines. However, they intend to fight the ASA's ruling and force them to retract. FOE stands by their statement that the mahogany trade in Brazil is destroying the environment and devastating people's lives.

For more information contact: Friends of the Earth International Secretariat: P.O. Box 19199 1000 GD Amsterdam The Netherlands Tel.: +31-20-6221369 Fax: -6392181 E-mail: foeint@antenna.nl

This article was published in New Renaissance magazine Vol. 8, No. 2

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