Tourism Is Poisoning the Mexican Caribbean

By Stephen Leahy*

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Feb 10, 2011 (Tierramérica)

The booming tourist industry along Mexico’s Caribbean coast, particularly in the area of Cancún and the “Riviera Maya,” is polluting the world’s largest underwater cave system and harming the world’s second largest coral reef, a new study has found.

Pharmaceuticals, cocaine residues, shampoo, toothpaste, pesticides, chemical run-off from roads and many other pollutants have been found in the immense system of underground rivers and aquifers south of the resort city of Cancún, located on the Caribbean coast of Quintana Roo state.

“There is little question the pollutants we detected have come from human activity along the coastal region,” said Chris Metcalfe, a researcher with the United Nations University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health.

The British journal “Environmental Pollution” published a study by the Institute this month, titled ” Contaminants in the coastal karst aquifer system along the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.”

Metcalf told Tierramérica that pit latrines, septic tanks, leaking sewer lines and golf courses were the most likely sources of groundwater pollution.

The flow of groundwater takes much of this pollution into the coastal zone and the region’s famous Mesoamerican Barrier reef, the second largest in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef off Australia.

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Land-based pollution is just one of the impacts on the coastal reefs, Metcalf said. Overfishing, coral diseases, and climate change have also contributed to an estimated loss of up to 50 percent of coral since 1990.

Without serious attention to preventing groundwater contamination, tourist development will kill the goose that laid the golden egg,” Metcalf said.
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Emission Reductions Punted to Durban, Breakthrough Seen on Forests

As carbon emissions bend upward Canada’s Harper government singled out as worst at climate talks. Again.

By Stephen Leahy*

CANCÚN, Mexico, Dec 11, 2010 (IPS/TerraViva)

If success is measured by delaying difficult decisions, then the Cancún climate meeting succeeded by deferring crucial issues over financing and new targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the next Conference of the Parties meeting a year from now in Durban, South Africa.

International negotiations to address climate change proceeded at a glacial pace in the palatial, over-air-conditioned Moon Palace Resort in Cancún. After two long weeks, final talks dragged on into the early hours of Saturday morning, with Bolivia’s refusal to accept a weak agreement that puts the world on a path that “could allow global temperatures to increase by more than four degrees”, said Pablo Solón, Bolivia’s chief negotiator.

In the end, Bolivia’s continued objections were drowned out by applause and cheering by more than 190 national delegations as the chair of the meeting, Mexico’s foreign secretary Patricia Espinosa, gaveled the meeting to a close declaring “a consensus without Bolivia”.

“The Cancún text is a hollow and false victory that was imposed without consensus,” Bolivia said in a final statement.

Based on the science, Bolivia is not wrong.

The World Meteorological Organisation declared last week that the decade will close as the hottest 10- year period on record. The 100+ pages that form the “Cancún Agreements” will do nothing to curb greenhouse gas emissions warming the planet, but did revive the U.N. climate negotiation process after its near death in Copenhagen last year.

This article was made possible thanks to contributions from Janos Mate, James Creskey. Extra special thanks to monthly contributors Julie Davis, Aidan Constable, Patricia A Warwick, Judith A Leahy

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Will Year of Climate Extremes End Without Progress on Tackling Climate Change?

By Stephen Leahy*

CANCÚN, Mexico, Nov 29, 2010 (IPS/TerraViva)

This year will likely be the warmest ever recorded, with soaring ocean temperatures resulting in a near record die-off of tropical corals, extreme heat and drought in Russia and massive flooding in Pakistan – all signs that climate change has taken hold.

But despite the ever more compelling science regarding the urgency and risks of climate change and growing public support for action, representatives from nearly 200 countries meeting here in Cancún for the next two weeks are unlikely to produce a new binding agreement.

At best, matters such as forestry, climate finance and mitigation commitments will be further developed in the faint hope that the next big meeting in South Africa might produce some kind of deal.

“Carbon emissions continue to climb despite the economic recession and yet I have never seen such low expectations for a COP (Conference of the Parties),” said Richard Somerville, an eminent climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California.

“The science is quite compelling regarding the need for urgent action. We don’t have another five years to reach an agreement,” Somerville told TerraViva.

In 2009, Somerville and others co-authored an update on the latest climate science called ‘The Copenhagen Diagnosis’ which concluded that global carbon emissions had to peak and begin to decline before 2020 to have any hope of keeping global warming to less than 2.0 degrees C.

However, the negotiators in Cancún will mostly not be acting on the science but on their national interests as directed by their political leadership, who largely do not understand climate change, he said.

“Developed countries think they can adapt to warmer temperatures. I don’t see how we can keep warming below 2.0 degrees C.,” Somerville said.
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100 Million Suffering in World’s Toxic Hotspots – 1% of Wall Street Bonuses Would End This In a Year

Millions of kids are condemned to die or suffer severe brain damage because there is no money to clean up toxic sites and neighborhoods. One or two billion dollars would solve the problem permanently but health advocates have to beg and plead to get maybe $20-$30 million. Wall Street’s 2010 bonus and salaries are estimated to total a record-breaking $144 billion for just 36 firms according to Wall Street Journal.

Don’t you think they could donate 1 per cent of their ‘earnings’? — Stephen

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Nov 11, 2010 (IPS)

One of the world’s biggest health threats is also one of the least recognised – more than 100 million people who literally breathe and eat toxic pollutants like lead, mercury, chromium every day, according to the first-ever detailed assessment.

By contrast, global attention and billions of dollars are focused on AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, which affect comparable numbers of people.

“Toxic pollution has been under the radar screen of most governments for some time,” said Stephan Robinson of Green Cross Switzerland, a group focused on environmental health, and co-author of the assessment titled “World’s Worst Pollution Problems Report 2010”.

“These pollution problems can be dealt with affordably and effectively,” Robinson told IPS.

Past clean-up projects designed by the groups range from the very low-tech, low-cost to more technical engineering projects involving soil removal at playgrounds and groundwater remediation, he said. Continue reading

Record Heat Killing Caribbean and Indian Ocean Corals

By Stephen Leahy*

[There hasn’t been much news about the impacts of the record warming of parts of the world’s oceans but severe coral bleaching in the Indian ocean resulted in widespread coral death. Sadly the Caribbean also at high risk this month with record high water temps. My article connects that reality with how a new approach to protecting corals may give them the best chance to survive in hotter, more acidic oceans. — Stephen]

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Sep 13, 2010 (Tierramérica)

The waters of the Caribbean Sea are the warmest on record and the region’s imperilled corals are bleaching and beginning to die, experts warn.

This year many corals are already bleached and dying in the southern Caribbean Sea, especially in the Lesser Antilles, according to Mark Eakin coordinator of Coral Reef Watch at the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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The waters are even warmer than they were in 2005 when a severe bleaching occurred across much of the Caribbean. More than 60 percent of corals around the U.S. Virgin Islands died, Eakin told Tierramérica.

Water temperatures in this region reach their annual peak between September and October.

The area affected by bleaching and dying corals will likely extend to the region east of Nicaragua, past the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic) to Puerto Rico and the Lesser Antilles, and south along the Caribbean coasts of Panama and South America, according to a warning issued by Coral Reef Watch last month.

“There is the potential that this will be worse than 2005, unless some tropical storms come through and mix the warm surface water with deeper, cooler water,” Eakin said.
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“Drug War” Policies Need a Stint in Rehab – Makes Societies More Violent Not Safer Studies Show

DEA raid on a medical marijuana dispensary in ...
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Drug Wars Make Societies More Violent Not Safer Studies Show

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Apr 29, 2010 (IPS)

The war on drugs is a complete failure everywhere, according a comprehensive review of 20 years of scientific literature released at the Harm Reduction 2010 conference in Liverpool, England that wraps up Thursday.

The war on drugs does not work, period,” said Dr. Julio Montaner, president of the International AIDS Society.

“We must take an evidence-based approach to dealing with the drug market, because current strategies are not working and people are paying for ill-considered policies with their lives,” Montaner said in a release.

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An examination of all English-language scientific literature dating back more than 20 years reveals that drug law enforcement dramatically escalates drug-market violence. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a startling 82 percent of the studies found the various wars on drugs in countries and internationally simply increase violence. Continue reading

Turning Forests Into Carbon Profits To Protect The Global Climate?

By Stephen Leahy*

MONTPELLIER, France, Apr 7, 2010 (Tierramérica)

Billions of dollars are being mobilised to protect and increase the world’s forests under a climate protection mechanism known as REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). But many experts are unsure that it will work, and some fear it could end in disaster.

According to Anne Larson, who works in Nicaragua as an associate at the Indonesia-based Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), “REDD presents lots of risks.”

“Most countries are simply not ready. They do not have policies to protect the rights of local and indigenous peoples, to determine land tenure or even work out who owns the ‘carbon rights’ to a forest,” Larson told participants at an international conference on smallholder and community forestry in Montpellier, France, in late March.

Under the REDD initiative, richer countries would pay to maintain forests in tropical regions to offset their own carbon emissions. Carbon dioxide from human activities is one of the main gases that produce the greenhouse effect.

The wealthy countries would be granted “carbon credits” towards achieving their carbon reduction commitments to combat climate change. Continue reading