The Daily Grist: March 25

A Thousand Points of Green
Enviro Movement Becoming Decentralized and Diversified

Environmentalism is going grassroots. While two-thirds of Americans identify themselves as environmentalists, membership in big, mainstream enviro organizations stayed flat throughout the 1990s. IRS data explains why, at least in part: The number of environmental groups with an annual income of $1 million or more fell by nearly half from 1995 to 2003; during the same period, 4,247 groups with budgets of less than $1 million were created. Many of these smaller groups involve people who have not been traditionally associated with environmentalism but who want to act on local concerns. In the West,
ranchers and hunters fight to protect the natural resources they depend on. Other citizens band together around environmental justice, environmental health, and the intersection between religion and conservation. And some activists don't associate themselves with any organizations, like Montanan Karl Rappold, who says, "I work with environmental groups, but I don't belong to them. I can do more as an independent rancher."

The Environment Is a Girl's Best Friend
Renowned Jewelry Firm Speaks Out Against Mine Proposal

Jewelry company Tiffany & Co. -- of "Breakfast at" fame -- shocked the mining industry and the Bush administration yesterday when it
took out a full-page ad in The Washington Post opposing the proposed Rock Creek copper and silver mining project in Montana, which would involve tunneling under a wilderness area. In an open letter to U.S. Forest Service chief Dale Bosworth, Tiffany head honcho Michael J. Kowalski wrote that Rock Creek "opponents' fears are justified," and asserted that mining-industry reforms are "urgently needed." Department of Agriculture officials, mining lobby spokespeople, and executives from Revett Silver, the company planning to mine at Rock Creek, all rushed to assure the public that the project was -- despite opposition from local, regional, and national environmental groups -- perfectly safe for the environment. Grist readers will have the opportunity to ask Kowalski about his surprising stand when he does a stint as our InterActivist soon, so stay tuned ...


The Voluntary Duplicity Movement
California May Try Voluntary Fix for Dirty Diesel Engines

Comedy? Tragedy? You decide. The story begins in 1998, when California regulators discovered that manufacturers of diesel engines for trucks, buses, and motor homes had been, in effect, cheating to get around clean-air rules, putting computer chips in their engines that made them behave differently when they were tested for emissions than during actual driving. The result was some 1.3 million extra tons of smog-forming gases released nationally. The companies were fined $1 billion, and a deal was struck with state and federal regulators stipulating that manufacturers remove the chips when engines were brought in to be rebuilt. Last year,
regulators discovered that few engines were being rebuilt and less than 10 percent of the chips had been replaced; they proposed a rule requiring that engine owners get the chip software upgraded. Manufacturers threatened to sue. Regulators responded by making the program voluntary. Asked why industry would voluntarily spend money to clean up its act, California Air Resources Board spokesperson Jerry Martin admitted, "That is a legitimate question."


You Big Baby!
Pesticide Ban Leads to Higher Baby Birth Weights

A ban on two common household pesticides
resulted in a striking decline in the number of underweight infants born in areas where the chemicals had been used regularly, found a study by researchers at Columbia University. In 2000, the U.S. EPA banned indoor applications of chlorpyrifos and diazinon, used to control cockroaches and other pests. Babies born to women who had high exposures to the chemicals were an average of 6.6 ounces lighter than babies with mothers who had lower exposures -- comparable to the difference between babies of smoking and non-smoking mothers. Low birth weight is linked to a host of health and developmental problems. The manufacturers of the pesticides originally opposed the ban but later consented to it; the chemicals are still permitted for agricultural use. Said study author Robin M. Whyatt, "There is no question that this is an instance where regulation worked -- that the EPA imposed a ban and there was immediate benefit from it."

For more environmental news and humor go to Grist Magazine.

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