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Showing posts from 2011

Christmas Day Boxing Day Shopping Blowout Consumerism Run Amok

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By B. McPherson Coca Cola Santa Helps Sell Goods at Christmas
Did you do your fair share of shopping this holiday season? Did you line up for bargains on Black Friday or rush to get the Boxing Day specials? Did you even line up on Christmas night so that you might be through the doors of the local electronic shop when it opened on the 26th? Well, merry Christmas.
The shopping frenzies that have been shown on the TV this season border on the obscene. Pepper spray, stabbings, pushing and shoving so that the latest or cheapest can be grabbed and hauled home to add to the rest of the electronic junk cluttering homes.
Stop this madness. Think about the reason for the holy day. Are you lemmings that you must run to spend money you might not have to drag home electronic toys that are obsolete a month after the wrappings come off? It’s not just electronic goods that people have dragged home during the past month – clothing, appliances, great quantities of alcohol, and massive amounts of “chr…

Doomsday Virus Created by Scientists

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By B. McPherson



Have scientists in Wisconsin and the Netherlands created a path to a doomsday virus? Investigations into the genetic makeup of the Bird Flu virus H5N1 have led to the announcement that the creation of a more transferrable virus is possible. Until now, the H5N1 avian flu virus rarely infects humans. When it does infect humans, it kills 60% of those it infects. Other symptoms that the virus prompts are acute respiratory distress, pneumonia, organ failure and sepsis(blood poisoning).
The research, sponsored by the US government, is about to be published in respected journals. Now the government is asking that some of the details of the work be censored. Security people are waking up to the very real possibility that a more transmissible form of the bird flu could be a bioterrorism tool.
Gene sequencers are for sale to individuals. LabX is just one such site on the Net. There is a new phenomenon among young, go ahead biologists with interest in genetics to set up what are …

Vancouver Island Roosevelt Elk Evicted from Winter Home

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By B. McPherson
Weep for this small group of Roosevelt Elk. They will probably be dead by spring. They’ve come down from the Island Range of mountains to winter in the Douglas Fir lowlands. Big surprise for them this year – the local First Nation group has been given permission to log the endangered fir trees. They no longer have a winter home.
The Province of British Columbia touts its “Supernatural BC” on its car license plates. It is a beautiful province but like any delicate treasure it needs to be treated gently. The Nanoose Bay forest is being logged on Vancouver Island. The land is crown land, that is publicly owned, yet desperate pleas and court cases have failed to dissuade the provincial government and the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation from logging a forest that holds endangered old growth Douglas Fir trees as well as red listed(critically endangered) plants and animals.
For more details on this rare jewel that is being killed off along with the organisms that depend on its shelt…

One Step Closer to Food Security

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By B. McPherson



Food security is on the minds of more and more people these days. Whether it is the desire to eliminate GMOs, pesticides and antibiotic resistant bacteria  in our food or simply to ensure that there will be sufficient, nutritious food available when we need it.
I am gradually moving closer to that goal of food security. When I retired I started my kitchen garden. It’s quite a lot of work during growing season, but Nature is generous and most of the summer vegetables and some of the winter ones are grown there. The soil that I purchased was poor and gradually my husband and I are improving the nutrients and texture of it. Judicious applications of well rotted horse manure help the process along.
The next step is establishing a secure source of meat. I am not choosing to go vegetarian but am very choosey about where my dead animals for the table come from. Chickens meet the criteria beautifully. They are small enough to be easily handled, good to look at, and if one deci…

Yellowstone Grizzlies Will Continue Federal Protection

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By B. McPherson



Yellowstone Park Grizzlies will continue their federal protection. There had been a move to remove them from the endangered list within the park, but evidence of a diminishing food supply due to climate change has them keeping their protected status. Like wolves in the park, grizzlies are an essential part of maintaining a natural balance.
Climate warming is being blamed for the widespread destruction of pine forests that provide the grizzly bears with what was an abundant supply of highly nutritious seeds. The pine forests are being attacked and killed by the mountain pine beetle. The insect burrows into the trees and introduces a fungus which eventually kills the trees. The beetles’ numbers have exploded in the past 20 years due to a series of milder winters. Previously a quick hard freeze killed enough of the marauders to keep their numbers in check.
While the megafauna receive the most attention, smaller animals are being affected by the warming trend as well. Rock…

Earthwatch Volunteers Spot Rare Madagascar Creature

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By B. McPherson

                                         Illegally Harvested Rosewood Threatens Forest


A volunteer working under the guidance of Dr. Luke Dollar(Duke University) whose work is bringing attention to rare carnivores on the island of Madagascar has scored a major victory. A sharp eyed volunteer worker spotted the elusive and rare western falnaouc (Eupleres goudoti major) and managed to snap a photo of the little critter. This is the first time that an image of the falanouc has been captured in the wild. These little creatures are about the size of a large house cat and eat mostly worms and insects. They are classified as endangered due to competition with humans, dogs and habitat destruction.
Earthwatch is a non profit organization that arranges for people to volunteer to work with scientists in the field. They pay their own way, but are able to work on real field science and often are able to interact with local populations. Dr. Dollar was a student volunteer when he firs…

Northern Gateway Pipeline Exposes Split in Aboriginal Solidarity

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By B. McPherson



With the suspension of work on the Keystone Pipeline through the continental United States, eyes have turned to the Enbridge project that would transport bitumen from Alberta to the British Columbia coast. The pipeline, dubbed the Northern Gateway Project would route through the Great Bear Rainforest and terminate at the town of Kitimat. Tankers would have to navigate a challenging fiord to pick up their cargos.
At a press conference yesterday Jackie Thomas, an aboriginal leader, joined others in opposing the $5.5 billion project that would see twin pipelines moving oil sand product to Asian markets. Paul Stanway, speaking on behalf of Enbridge, challenged the unanimity of the opposition, claiming that some groups were already in negotiations with the company.
Today the Hereditary Chief Elmer Derrick, speaking for the Gitxan announced their agreement with Enbridge, becoming partners in the enterprise. It is expected that the Gitxan will net at least $7 million for thei…

Blood Coltan Fuels Butchery in the Congo

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By B. McPherson



Is that blood on your ear? Is blood oozing from the coltan that helps power your phone, your computer and a myriad of other electronic goods that make life in N. America so enjoyable?
Coltan is the commercial name for the ores columbite and tantalite which, when refined, is used in electronic capacitors. Australia, Brazil and Canada are some of the leading producers of this new “gold”, but 80% of the world’s supply comes from sub-Saharan Africa. At one point this most useful substance was fetching $1000 per kilo. It has fueled a mineral rush in the eastern Congo (DRC).
There were far reaching effects of the discovery of this mineral. Firstly, the miners rushed to exploit possible deposits, with no regard to the environmental consequences. Virunga Park has fallen victim to the freelance digging. Accompanying the ruin by mining is the poaching of large mammals for bush meat, including the critically endangered mountain gorilla. The DRC has the second largest rain forest…

Durban Conference on Climate Change 2011

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By B. McPherson


The UN Conference on Climate Change being held in Durban South Africa has only opened but already the prospect of a united front to combat changes that humanity is making in the Earth’s climate look dim. Canada has made it clear that the Kyoto Protocol is dead in the water. That agreement that Canada’s representatives signed, obligated the signatories to reduce greenhouse gases by a little over 5% from their 1990 levels. The Kyoto Protocol left loopholes such as trading emission credits and ignored greenhouse emissions from the shipping and aviation industries.
The U.S. did not sign on to the Kyoto agreement at all, stating that it was inherently unfair as no similar obligations would be placed on the rapidly emerging economies of China(PRC) and India.  It now appears that Japan and Russia will not renew their commitment to Kyoto in 2012 either. 
Those countries that are feeling the brunt of climate change, whether it is a natural cycle or anthropomorphic, are urging the …

Rivers are Being Stressed by Electricity Production

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By B. McPherson


The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has released a report on water usage by power plants in the US.
The picture they have painted is grim. If power plants are not made more efficient or alternate forms of electrical production are used, the choice between living rivers and electricity will have to be made soon. While conventional power generating plants return the bulk of cooling water to the rivers they use, the water temperature is elevated. The scientists found in some cases that water was hot enough to parboil the critters living in the river.
“The report also showed that power plants are stressing water bodies by discharging water at temperatures harmful to fish and other wildlife. In 2008, 350 power plants across the country reported discharging water at temperatures of over 90 degrees Fahrenheit and some at temperatures over 110 degrees, according to the report.” Union of Concerned Scientists Some areas of the US endured a lengthy drought this year, Texas being…

Virunga Park: Is There a Future for It and the Mountain Gorilla?

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By B. McPherson


This wildlife refuge in the Albertine Rift area of Africa was designated a World Heritage Site in 1979. The 790 000 ha site was dedicated as a park in 1925. Since then it has been subjected to increasing pressure from the swelling populations in that area. Villagers crowd the park boundaries and infiltrate it, seeking to increase their plantings and find forage for their cattle. Charcoal merchants turn park trees into fuel for city dwellers in Goma who lack other means to cook their food.
Tomorrow the Democratic Republic of the Congo(DRC) will hold elections. Perhaps the warfare that has raged in this area will cool, perhaps not. Virunga Park also  borders the countries of Rwanda and Uganda, countries that have had their share of civil unrest, resulting in massacres and millions of displaced people. Enterprising poachers have slaughtered many of the large mammals in the park and sold the meat to soldiers, and irregular militia as well as to the refugees.
As well as direc…

Greenpeace Coins New Word for Politicians Who Bend to Polluters

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By B. McPherson


Greenpeace has come up with a new word to describe politicians who bend to the influence of big business whose business often includes laying waste to the environment – polluticians. In a press release they come out swinging against those who acquiesce to the polluters either by collusion or ignoring the problems. In their report Who’s Holding Us Back, they outline steps that the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa that the delegates should institute in order to ensure that rampant pollution does not continue. The UN conference starts November 28 and ends December 9th
A summary of Greenpeace directives follows: "• Ensure a peak in global emissions by 2015 • Emission reductions: Close the gap between politics and science • Ensure that the Kyoto Protocol continues and provide a mandate for a comprehensive legally binding instrument • Deliver the necessary climate finance • Set up a framework for protecting forests in developing countries • Address the needs…

Chevron Suspended From Brazil Offshore Drilling

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By B. McPherson



The Brazilian government has taken action against Chevron Corporation for their part in an oil spill in the Atlantic Ocean. Along with the Brazilian owned Petrobras Corporation, many petroleum companies are vying for the riches in the Campos Basin. November 7, Chevron had an oil spill when unexpectedly high pressure in the oil pool caused a spill and seepage through weak ocean bed rock. Estimates of the amount of oil entering the ocean vary depending on the source of the reporting, but a conservative estimate is at least 3000 barrels escaped.
Bloomberg is reporting that the Brazilian government is taking a tough stand on the spillage and demanding no drilling be done until Chevron comes up with some satisfactory answers.
“The company needs to pay more attention to safety after its “negligence” contributed to the accident, Brazil’s oil regulator, the Agencia Nacional do Petroleo, said yesterday. The ban will remain in place until the regulator identifies the causes and con…

Brazil and Chevron Juggling Oil Pollution vs Money

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By B. McPherson


The government of Brazil is fining Chevron about $28 million dollars for the oil spill in the Campos Basin. That’s a little under four days production. Chevron struck oil in their lease concession but the deep water drill site brought up oil at high pressure, enough to force oil up through the pipe and also to allow it to seek escape through weak rock formations. The spill wasn’t reported immediately. The accounts vary depending on who is relating them. The Chevron position is that they assumed the oil slick on the Atlantic was a result of operations by the state owned Petrobas corporation. The Brazilian government is saying that Petrobas was forced to report on Chevron and that Chevron underestimated the amount of oil that escaped to the surface. This current leak is far smaller than the BP catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico in 20ll which saw millions of barrels of oil foul water and beaches in the USA, but the Campos Basin is a massive formation which has several oil exp…

Super Mario Draws PETA Ire Over Tanooki Suit

By B. McPherson


The new Super Mario 3D game by Nintendo has drawn the ire of the PETA organization. In the soon to be released Mario wears a fur suit of Tanooki fur. PETA is furious that the Nintendo corporation has used this image in a game. While the Tanooki suit was introduced in 1988, many people have changed their attitudes towards animal cruelty over the past 20 years. And we have a great deal more information about this cruel trade. PETA has a mock game on their site that has the tanooki chasing Mario who has stolen his skin. They also have an undercover video taken in China of these poor animals being bludgeoned and skinned. Some of the animals are shown suffering and one is shown skinned alive. http://features.peta.org/mario-kills-tanooki/ I was not aware of these animals until now. They are big business in the fur trade around the world. Japan, Russia and China are the principal purveyors of this cruelly obtained fur. Apparently this fur trade has been going on for quite some t…

Ringo Starr Designs Boots for Timberland and Charity

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By B. McPherson


Ringo Starr is designing and autographing a special line of boots, Earthkeeper, for the Timberland Company that is geared to provide aid money to the non-profit Water-Aid. This non-government organization has been working for the past 30 years to provide clean water to those who most need it.
“WaterAid is an international non governmental organisation. Our mission is to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in the world's poorest communities.”Water-Aid
The new line of boots which feature Ringo’s peace logo will have canvas sides using organic cotton. 75 pairs will bear his autograph and will be auctioned on line. More detailed information is available at Treehugger.com with opening bids of minimum $250. The auction is expected to raise more than $18 000 for the charity.
Timberlands is receiving accolades from various environmental groups for its pioneering use of bionic canvas which features organic cotton and recycled polyesters. Th…

Keystone Pipeline Decision Delayed Until Pres. Elections Spotlight Shifts to Great Bear Rain Forest

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By B. McPherson


The decision to delay the building of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline until after the US presidential elections next year may doom the project. Opposition to the building of the oil pipeline which would connect the oil fields of Alberta to refineries in Texas has been loud and growing. The proposed route of the Keystone pipeline would take it across the Nebraska Sandhills, an environmentally sensitive treasure. Any breaches in the pipeline could easily contaminate the Ogllala aquifer. This aquifer is the supplier of water to much of the Midwest, both cities and aqriculture. Those that support the building of the $7 billion project point out the economic benefits of the pipeline. Many people would be employed in good paying jobs; oil from Canada is a stable source; there could be a reduction in oil tankers plying the Gulf of Mexico. At first glance, this looks like a victory for environmentalists. It is not. It puts the focus on a different environmental treasure – …

Hasbro Joins Other Toy Makers in Asia Pulp & Paper Boycott

By B. McPherson


Hasbro toy maker has joined other forward thinking companies in shunning the products of Asia Pulp & Paper(APP). Greenpeace has announced that along with toymakers Mattel and Lego, other companies are already on board in avoiding the products of APP.
“These names join the likes of Nestlé, Adidas, Kraft, Unilever, Tesco, Carrefour, Auchan and Metro Group who have all taken action against APP in their supply chains. Staples, the stationary retailer, summed things up pretty well when they described APP as a "great peril to our brand". More and more companies agree.” GreenpeaceThe reputation of APP is increasingly tarnished in spite of its maintaining that most of its fibre comes from sustainable plantations. They have been accused of illegal logging in Cambodia and Indonesia. APP started in Indonesia, but currently makes its headquarters in Singapore.
Indonesia’s rainforests are home to endangered species as well as being biologically diverse. They are increasi…

Foreign Corporations Moving Onto Tribal Lands in Ethiopia

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By B. McPherson
Survival International is highlighting the plight of the native people of the Omo Valley in Ethiopia. The Omo River is in the process of being dammed. The dam, Gibe III, of questionable legality, is being built in conjunction with an Italian firm. When it is complete, it will hold back the lifeline to as many as 100 000 people and prevent the annual flood which renews the cropland. When this mega project is completed, there will be a series of five dams along the Omo River, changing it forever. The series of dams will generate large amounts of electricity, with enough surplus to export energy to neighbouring Kenya, Sudan and Somalia. The expected sale of the electricity when the dam is operational is expected to bring in over $4 million in foreign money each year to the Ethiopian economy. In addition to the people who will be displaced by the flooding of the land behind the dam, a further 200 000 are expected to have their already harsh lives made more difficult by the im…

Fukushima Leaks More Radiation

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By B. McPherson


The news from Japan makes one wonder where the truth lies. Perhaps we should wonder where the lies are rather than hope for truth from the authorities at TEPCO. Since the earthquake and tsunami in March that devastated large areas of Japan and wrecked the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant the world has been receiving evasive answers about the extent of the damage to the reactors and the amount of radioactive material spewed into the environment. …. Today Japan Today has news of a new radioactive leak from the crippled power plant.
While authorities speaking for TEPCO have assured the public that there is no danger from today’s leak, they are taking measures to damp down the radiation by spraying water and boric acid onto the failed reactor container. Junichi Matsumoto is quoted: “Given the signs, it's certain that fission is occurring,” Junichi Matsumoto, a general manager at Tepco who regularly talks to the media, told reporters in Tokyo today.BusinessWeekReactors…

World Population Reaches 7 Billion October

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By B. McPherson

The world human population is predicted to reach 7 billion people by the October 31. The UN predicts that this will swell to over 9 billion in 40 years and predictions are that by this century’s end it will grow to a staggering 10 billion plus people on this planet. This trend started about 700 years ago but has gained momentum, especially after the end of WWII. Many different things have contributed to the exponential increase in human numbers over the past 60 years. The advent of antibiotics saved many lives from death by infection. Before the widespread availability of penicillin, infections were the leading cause of death. Pneumonia was nicknamed “the old man’s friend”. Advances in medical treatments and development of effective vaccines allowed many children to grow up, marry and have children of their own. Currently an estimated one billion people go to sleep at night hungry and malnourished. Children deprived of a good diet often suffer brain damage and stunted g…

NOAA Scientist Martin Hoerling Paints Picture of Increasing Drought in Mediterranean

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By B. McPherson
The area of the Mediterranean Sea east to Iran usually receives the bulk of its rainfall in the wintertime. According to figures released by NOAA scientist, Martin Hoerling, the last 20 winters have had 10 extremely dry winters in that area.  This is not encouraging news for a region that already experiences water stress, because it implies natural variability alone is unlikely to return the region’s climate to normal.” NOAA NewsAs the water temperature of the oceans increases due to planet warming, the atmosphere responds. When the Indian Ocean warms in response to planetary temperatures, it tends to push the weather systems north into central and northern Europe which then receive  more precipitation while the arid south receives less. The NOAA scientists use data from many sources to reach their conclusions.
The natural climate fluctuations may or may not be affected by humanity’s burning of fossil fuels. Humans may not be causing the Earth’s climate to shift from a co…

NOAA Scientist Martin Hoerling Paints Picture of Increasing Drought in Mediterranean

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By B. McPherson
The area of the Mediterranean Sea east to Iran usually receives the bulk of its rainfall in the wintertime. According to figures released by NOAA scientist, Martin Hoerling, the last 20 winters have had 10 extremely dry winters in that area.  This is not encouraging news for a region that already experiences water stress, because it implies natural variability alone is unlikely to return the region’s climate to normal.” NOAA NewsAs the water temperature of the oceans increases due to planet warming, the atmosphere responds. When the Indian Ocean warms in response to planetary temperatures, it tends to push the weather systems north into central and northern Europe which then receive  more precipitation while the arid south receives less. The NOAA scientists use data from many sources to reach their conclusions.
The natural climate fluctuations may or may not be affected by humanity’s burning of fossil fuels. Humans may not be causing the Earth’s climate to shift from a co…

How Deadly Is the Ongoing Disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Station?

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By B. McPherson

The catastrophe that hit Japan this last March continues. The combination of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear radiation has made 2011 a most deadly year for the Japanese. New figures being released show that the radiation release from nuclear plant Fukushima Daiichi was probably twice as high as initially thought. Apparently, the Japanese government failed to measure the amount of radioactive particles that were released into and over the ocean, only taking into consideration that which fell on the surrounding land.
Andreas Stohl, of the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, said measurements taken from a global network of sensors showed that the plant had released 36,000 terabecquerels of caesium-137 between 11 March and 20 April.The Guardian UK
New figures being made public show that there was a massive release of cesium 137 into the ocean. This element is radioactive and takes 30 years for half of it to decay to a non-radioactive substance. This constitutes the larg…

Floods in Italy Turn Deadly

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By B. McPherson

Violent weather assaulting Italy turned deadly in the Tuscany region when flash floods churning through towns killed at least 24 people(source: BBC News). Five people remain missing. About 40 000 people have been displaced. Torrential rains hit Italy from the Tuscany region south to Sicily. Some places received upwards of 99 mm of rain in a short time.
As the rains ease, some Italians have been able to return to their homes, but about half of those displaced remain homeless. The River Po which empties into the Adriatic Sea is expected to crest this weekend. The Gran San Bernardo tunnel linking Switzerland to Italy has been reopened.
This series of storms battered Switzerland as well, resulting in the deaths of 11 people. A village was destroyed when a mudslide crashed down on it.
In addition to the loss of human life, Italy is adding up the destruction done to historic buildings. Damage to farmland and crops is widespread. The clean up bill is estimated to be $2.6 billion(…

Kuwait is Turning to Solar and Wind Electrical Production

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By B. McPherson

In a move that surprises many at first glance, Kuwait is turning to solar and wind generation of electricity. At second glance it is a smart move to free up moreoil for export. Kuwait is aiming at producing about 10% of its electricity from renewables by 2020. Currently there are no large solar or wind arrays in the country, but tenders have been let for plants. Kuwait is currently the fifth largest oil producer in the OPEC cartel, but they are finding that demand within their own country is rising steadily and using up a big chunk of oil that could be exported. Currently about a half million barrels of oil per day are used to keep the lights on in Kuwait City and surroundings. During the hot summer months, Kuwait imports natural gas to augment the fuel needed to run air conditioners.
At the Lebanon Sustainability Week held last June, some of these ambitious plans were presented. Solar powered desalination plants were also on the drawing boards. The desalination plants a…

Ecuador People Take Action Against Texaco/Chevron Pollution

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By B. McPherson


Members of the Cofan indigenous people are joining in a multibillion dollar lawsuit against the Texaco oil company, now sold to Chevron to force clean up of highly polluted land. When Texaco was drilling for oil in the Ecuador rain forest, they dumped at least 18 billion gallons of run off onto local lands. Pits designed to sequester toxic sludge were left unlined and uncovered. Local rivers, sources of drinking water and food became poisoned. When Chevron took over Texaco in 2001 they inherited the problems. A legal action taken against them in the US failed. The new lawsuit is being progressed in Ecuador. Steven Donziger, acting as legal counsel for the Cofan tribe is quoted in Al Jazeera:

Texaco created a system where they dumped literally billions of gallons of toxic waste water", said Steven Donziger, legal counsel.
Donziger, who represents the plaintiffs, says the dumping saved the company billions of dollars in operating costs.Al Jazeera

On the other hand the …