The Military and The Environment

The US Defence Department is again asking the US government for exemptions to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) that they say impede on their military exercises. Currently over 300 endangered species of plants and animals occur on military lands.

Last year, the Defence Department brought a similar bill to the floor which was later defeated by the Senate.

The Pentagon is asking for exemptions to the MMPA which would allow them greater ability to use low frequency sonar and conduct underwater bombing activities without having to safe guard against environmental destruction. Whale researchers and environmentalists have criticized the use of low frequency sonar tests as there appears to be a positive correlation between low frequency sonar tests and beaching whales; many of whom where found to have burst eardrums during their necropsies.

The Defence Department also wants a twofold change to the EPA. First to limit the influence of the Secretary of State over reviewing land-based military plans that could affect endangered species; secondly they want to circumvent the regulations on the disposal and clean up of hazardous wastes. Under this new legislation, hazardous waste disposal and clean up activities and costs would be forced upon the individual states.

Source:
The New York Times Mar 5/03

 

The Environment - Another Silent Victim of War

An often forgotten victim of military conflicts is the physical and biological environment upon which wars are waged. Resource scarcity is itself often the cause of many of these conflicts, and the remediation process following the conflicts is often difficult, slow and requires expensive technology and expertise.

Under the leadership of Dr. Klaus Töepfer, Executive Secretary; the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has carried out post-conflict environmental assessments in the Balkans and Afghanistan, and has taken a intermediary role in dealing with environmental problems caused by the conflict in Palestine.

Dr. Töepfer is calling on the international community to recognize that a healthy environment is an integral part of peace, and create a convention to safeguard the environment during times of war. The environment should never be used as a weapon as it has been in many conflicts, such as the burning of oil wells in the Gulf war, and the seeding of productive agricultural land with landmines, forcing people to turn to marginal, sensitive areas to survive.

Source:
BBC Feb 10, 2003

 

The Navy's Seals

The US Navy is currently deploying California sea lions to Behrain in the Persian Gulf to help protect the port and ships from underwater bombings. The seals have been trained to search for and tag underwater mines, torpedoes or swimmers and then return to their handler's boat. The bombs would then be difused by humans. Each seal will have two handlers, and two veterinarians will on site to tend to them.

California Sea lions have been chosen for this non-combative role because of their sensitive hearing, good directional ability, keen underwater vision and their ability to dive down to 650 feet.

The US Navy has had a long history of using marine mammals, including whales, in their operations. Dolphins were used in the Viet Nam War and the Gulf War, and in the 1980s were used as escorts for Kuwaiti oil tankers. They have also come under fire for putting these animals at risk. The Navy cancelled a program to use dolphins to kill enemy divers using nose mounted guns and explosive in the defense of a nuclear submarine base following complaints.

Source:
Scripps Howard News Service, Jan 2003

 

Environmental Peacekeeping

"Environmental Peacemaking" a new book which summarizes the results of a series of meetings sponsored by the Environmental Change and Security Project looks at the sociological effects of environmental restoration and cooperation. Looking at such disparate regions as South & Central Asia, Southern Africa, the US-Mexican border amongst others, these cases studies indicate that cooperation in environmental issues can solidify social bonds between different groups, and has great potential as a peacemaking tool.

Source:
ENN Dec 17, 2002

 

Russian airline uses hybrids to sniff out trouble

The Russian airline Aeroflot has created a new breed of dog - a cross between a Siberian Husky and a Jackal - that is not only hardy but might be some of the best sniffer dogs anywhere.

According to Aeroflot's chief breeder, these new employees can detect explosives that even machines miss.

With the threat of international terrorism, airport security has become a priority. While there are those who say that security is a national issue and shouldn't be left to airlines to finance, there is interest amongst other air carriers for these dogs. Aeroflot is hoping to eventually sell these dogs around the world.

Source:
BBC News Dec 13, 2002

 

Weakening the US Environmental Protection Act in the Name of Domestic Security

The Bush Administration is attempting to reduce public consultation periods and limit the access to information surrounding prospective public projects that could possibly negatively impact the environment and justifying its actions as domestic security measures. Under an increasingly business-oriented Council for Environmental Quality, the US National Environmental Protection Act (EPA) is being amended to allow the government to exclude certain projects from the EPA and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA).

Once a highly effective environmental defence mechanism, the US Council for Environmental Quality's (CEQ) protective ability has been undermined and it's focus rerouted to serve the interests of industry. Instead of scientists, the Bush administration has appointed businessmen to head key environmental positions. For example, the current chairman of the CEQ, James Connaughton is a former mining & chemical industry lobbyist.

Ironically, he has regularly represented companies fighting against the EPA's Superfund environmental & public health protections. He is also the author of a report entitled: "Defending Charges of Environmental Crimes - The Growth Industry of the 90's".

Source:
The Gallon Environment Letter
Vol. 6, No. 29, Nov 19, 2002

 

CNN Tape of Dog Dying from Poison Gas

The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) called the terrorists who killed a dog with poison gas, "cowardly subhuman sociopaths", and says that public reaction to the tape will be one of horror and outrage, according to HSC Western Regional Director, Al Hickey.

The charity was reacting to a tape obtained by CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson from a former al Qaeda terrorist camp in Darunta located in a remote area of Afghanistan. The tape shows a young dog chained to a wall, and the helpless animal slowly succumbs to the effects of a white poisonous gas that is introduced to the room. The dog begins licking his lips, looks slightly bewildered, and then eventually looses muscle control and falls to the floor howling before finally dying from the effects of the gas.

"The way we treat animals is a reflection of the way in which we treat each other. We believe this atrocity will add even more strength for a renewed call to action in the war on terrorism. The terrorists have badly underestimated the role that dogs, cats and other animals play in Western society where they are regarded as important members of the family," said HSC Executive Director, Michael O'Sullivan.

And O’Sullivan said that concern for animals in the midst of the war on terrorism is not misplaced, but rather a logical reaction to seeing a helpless living creature being tortured in such a horrific and cowardly fashion.

"During the Gulf War, the image of a single oil soaked bird provoked tremendous public concern, as people began to realize that animals were also caught up in the middle of a war. I was part of a relief effort that worked in Kuwait to help livestock and other animals affected by the Gulf War. In the aftermath of 9/11, search and rescue dogs played a vital role in searching for survivors; and therapy dogs provided warmth and affection to numb and exhausted rescue workers sifting through the rubble for bodies," he said.

"Studies show that as many as 6 out of 10 homes in Canada, the United States and Europe have pets that are important members of their family. And although, I have been doing this work for over 30 years and traveled to more than 85 countries, the depth and breadth of people’s outrage against cruelty to animals never ceases to amaze me," said O’Sullivan.

Since September 11th, The Humane Society of Canada has assigned a special section of its website to Animals and the War on Terrorism which can be found here

Source:
HSC News release 19/08/02

 

Environmentalism and the War on Terrorism

As the war on terrorism continues, many in the US are foreseeing potential conflicts between the environment and the US armed forces, specifically the use of low frequency sonar by the navy and its effects on whales and dolphins. Those critical of the environmental movement suggest that environmentalists are hampering the war on terrorism and the ability to be "combat ready".

Critics cite the Navy’s need to request exemptions under the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) that provides an injunction against all activities that have the potential to harass marine mammals. As specified in the law harassment is defined as "any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance" that might have the potential to injure or disturb a marine mammal or stock.

Officials with the US Navy worry that they won’t be able to perform their function without environmentalists taking legal action against them to protect marine mammals.

Under the previous presidential administration, there was a push to amend the language of the MMPA to allow disturbances or injury to marine mammals if they were considered insignificant.

When the matter went to the House, Congress twice upheld the previous definition of harassment. Currently the Navy must undergo an environmental review, as every one else does, to determine if their activities will negatively impact marine life.

Navy officials are not happy with the current state of events, as they feel that the review process takes too long to accomplish. They also argue that it interferes with their training activities. Currently, at issue is the Navy’s use of low frequency sonar, and its impact on marine mammals.

According to critics of the environmental movement, the US Navy should not be held to the standards of the "precautionary principle".

The Humane Society of Canada supports the war on terrorism, which harms the security of people, their animals and the environment, which are not mutually exclusive, but instead are inextricably bound together. In waging the war on terrorism, we need to be certain that the terrorists do not take from us more than they already have. We need to work together to protect people, animals and the environment.

Source:
Washington Times
July 27, 2002

 

US Chemical Plants Get New Security Defences

America's chemical plants are being evaluated by security experts at Sandia National Laboratories in efforts to improve security at the more than 10,000 sites that manufacture, store or use hazardous chemicals across the US.

Sandia experts have previously helped the US government in assessing the vulnerabilites of terrorist targets such as government buildings, dams, and drinking water supplies by using some of the same risk assessment tools that protect nuclear weapons facilities.

Although the chemical plant project started in January of 2001, the terrorist attacks of Sept 11 increased the urgency of the project, and highlighted the vulnerabilities of transport systems and the cyber systems that control the plant.

Sandia has toured many of the chemical plants, looking at each operation from a terrorist's point of view.

Sandia project leader Cal Jaeger says "We ask, if I am a bad guy, what could I do? Then we evaluate the effectiveness of current protection measures and the likelihood and consequence of each threat scenario."

Along with the expertise of the chemical industry, these visits have helped shape VAM, a vulnerability assessment technology that will long-term create a methodolgy that plant owners and security managers can use to assess the risk at their facilities for a wide range of threats.

Jaeger says the Vam prototype helps to identify critical areas and also helps in selecting the most cost-effective upgrade options for those areas where the risks are unacceptable.

Sandia is operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin Company, under contract to the US Department of Energy.

Source:
ENS, July 16, 2002

 

Animal Gift to Afghanistan

Two Chinese groups will send animals worth 1 million yuan (US $120,500) to Afganistan's Kabul Zoo as "symbols of friendship and to bring joy to the people of Afghanistan". The animals are scheduled to arrive in Kabul in early August.

The China Wildlife Conservation Association together with the Beijing Badaling Safari World have made the arrangement with the Interim Adminstration of Afghanistan.

Two lions, two bears, a wolf, two deer, two peacocks and a number of other animals, mostly in pairs, will arrive in the war-torn country soon. Once there, it is hoped that they will breed.

The agreement to send the animals was signed in China on Wednesday after Safari World decided to make a free donation of the animals.

Safari World is in the process of obtaining the necessary exit permits for the animals and arranging the 30 day quarantine process which will take place before the animals make the trip.

The animals will travel from China to Kabul partly by train and then by air. They will be accompanied throughout the trip by an animal trainer who will continue to work with them for the first month they are in Kabul to help with their adjustment to their new conditions.

Source:
China Daily July 12, 2002

 

Homeland Security Initiatives May Jeopardize Environment

The proposed Department of Homeland Security may be the cause of harmful environmental damage in ways ranging from fostering increases in invasive species to limiting the types of information available to the public.

Boosting the nation's security in the ways proposed in the Bush administration's new package may lead to damages to the country's natural resources, warn more than 120 scientists, who together with environmental and scientific groups, acted in concert to send a letter to congress this week warning that the new Department of Security could open the door to the invasion of harmful pests, weeds and pathogens by weakening two key agencies that prevent and control invasive species, the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and the Department of Transportation's Coast Guard.

Dr Phyllis Windle, a senior staff scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said today that "it's hard to imagine that a department rightfully focused on preventing terrorist activity will pay much attention to the movement of pests and weeds."

Dr Windle went on to say that "unless reorganization substantially strengthens efforts to curtail the spread of invasive organisms, this work should stay where it is."

APHIS and the Caost Guard currently prevent and control some of the most harmful invasive species.

The letter from the scientists' group said that invasives' prevention and monitoring "is not in line with the Homeland Security Mission" and that the work is likely to suffer as a result of the transfer.

Earlier in the week, House and Senate Committees debated proposed legislation that, under Section 204 of the Homeland Security Act, would exempt industries providing security information from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

If enacted into law, this provision would give companies blanket exemption from FOIA, and would carry with it potentially serious threats to public health, the environment and safety and security.

Critics claim that this would also unneccessarily exempt the federal government from disclosing information regarding environmental hazards, health hazards, product defects and accidental spills, among other dangers, when sufficent protection currently exists in the FOIA regulations against harmful disclosures of information, a protection that has already been upgraded since September 11.

As well, the exemption would give industry free reign to violate the nation's environmental, consumer protection and health and safety laws.

Chemical plants would remain targets for potential terrorist attacks, since the proposals would not address safety issues at the nations's chemical plants.

Instead, the Bush administration's Homeland Security Act, it is charged, seeks to hide the dangers posed by chemical manufacturing and processing plants by allowing them to withold information rather than addressing vulnerabilites at their source.

Critics note that the legislation fails to assign responsilibility for reducing the hazards or addressing the threats posed by these kinds of facilities.

The Chemical Security Act, currently before Congress, would if passed into law, require the EPA to improve site security and eliminate possible targets at chemical plants.

Source:
The ENS July 12, 2002

 

European Meeting Establishes Chemical Terror Incident Alert System

Last September's terrorist attacks on the United States continue to affect government policy and planning elsewhere.

Europe is now preparing for the possibility of attack by terrorists using chemical weapons.

As part of this effort to prepare, international organizations and representatives of governments in the European Region's World Health Organization met earlier this month in Copenhagen and agreed to establish a chemical incident alert system to report any deliberate use of chemicals by terrorists in Europe.

This new initiative on the part of the European Union involves improving and streamlining individual countries' abilities to cope with chemical incidents, whatever their cause, as well as taking European cooperation on chemical threats to a new level.

The World Health Organization (WHO), taking the lead in preparing the plan, is backed by other international bodies including the European Union and the G-8 group of leading industrialized nations.

BBC News Online has reported that the planners' underlying assumption is that it is not a question of if but when a chemical attack will occur in Europe.

Delegates to the meeting heard evidence from officials in charge of anti-terrorists activities, poison centres, emergency preparedness units and national surveillance systems, as well as from the international organizations most involved in this area.

With the goal of devising an international incident scale, work is now underway to quickly identify the severity of any given incident, and a permanent forum has already been set up to enable delegates to the meeting to share their expertise and capabilities.

Ultimately, the hope is that fast and efficient responses to emergencies will result, as will strengthened public services.

Fighting chemical terrorism will require not only a high degree of cooperation internationally but also close collaboration across a wide range of different sectors and consultation with experts in all related fields.

Actions range from setting up specialized agencies, such as health protection agencies or emergency committees, to establishing local websites that coordinate information from rescue services and then inform the public.

Most countries have already developed expertise to respond to chemical terrorism, so cooperation therefore becomes esential between countries and organizations to help build on existing programs and systems.

Roberto Bertollini, WHO's Director of Technical Support, said: "We do now know when or if there will be a chemical attack, but we know from our experience in handling other crises involving chemical accidents that preparation saves time and saves lives."

Chemical terrorism could threaten populations through food, air or via other routes.

Together with the International Programme on Chemical Safety, WHO has already had experience in dealing with chemical incidents, and states that there is a significant chemical incident of some kind every month.

In the UK in the last six-month period for which figures are available, there were 704 incidents, three of which affected more than 30 people.

Recent major incidents in Europe include an explosion in a fertiliser factory in France which killed 31and injured more than 2000; and another exposion in a fireworks factory in the Netherlands where 20 died and hundreds more were injured.

Without the events of September 11, it is unlikely that the European initiative to undertake new levels of cross-border cooperation against the threat of chemical terrorism would have been launched.

Source:
ENS News Service, June 21, 2002 and BBC News, June 4, 2002

 

Environment is Focus for Counterterrorism Study

Terrorist threats are often environmental in nature, since the effects of toxic chemicals, explosive materials, nuclear and radiological hazards, and biological agents all impact not only human but animal and environmental health as well.

In the face of this recognition, The National Academies have offered their expertise to the Bush administration in an effort to use the nation's scientific and technical resources effectively to counter terrorists threats of an environmental nature.

The study team, co-chaired by Lewis Branscomb, professor emeritus at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and Richard Klausner, executive director of global health at the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, will release the first phase of their counterterrorism study later this month.

Addressing risks and research needs in what the team terms are "key areas of vulnerability", they will focus on human, animal and agricultural health, toxics and explosives, radioactivity, information technology, transportation and distribution systems, energy systems, cities and fixed infrastructure, people, and interdependent systems.

Their aim is to examine the means for setting technical goals and identify how interagency coordination can be improved.

The sharing of information with federal government representatives by experts in one day meetings is a strategy similar to what was used last fall by the US Posal Service to gain the knowledge needed to sanitize mail and analyze anthrax infected letters and will be applied on priority topics identified by the study team.

The interagency Technical Support Working Group is similarly focussing on biochemcial decontamination and forensics, through-structure imaging, and explosives detection.

Concurrently, the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine's research boards are examining how the government and the science and technology community can be better connected for counterterrorism effforts and also how the United States can improve research standards and practices to prevent misuse of biotechnology research and "agricultural terrorism".

The National Academies is made up of private, non-profit institutions that provide science, technology and health policy advice under a congressional charter.

Source: ENS Washington DC
June 7, 2002

 

Fighting bioterrorism - Congress agrees to $4.6 billion to prepare America

Congress has approved sweeping legislation to help prepare America to respond to bioterrorist threats.

Already approved by a House Senate Committee, the new legislation covers everything from public health preparedness, to enhancing controls on biological agents, to protecting the nation's food, water and drug supplies. First introduced in December 2001 by Representative Billy Tauzin, who says "we tried to think as evilly as we could" in thinking of the ways in which terrorists might attack and the methods they might use, the bill authorizes $1.6 billion in grants to states, local governments and public and private health care facilities to improve laboratory capacity, train health care personnel and develop new drugs, vaccines and therapies.

In addition, the CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) will get $300 million to upgrade laboratory facilities, $640 million to expand the nation's stockpile of anthrax antibiotics and other supplies, and more than $ 590 million to purchase additional smallpox vaccines. A further $160 million will be spent to analyze the nation's vulnerabilities and protect against chemical, biological and radiological attacks on drinking water supplies.

In an effort to protect food supplies, the bill expands the Food and Drug Administration's authority to seize imports of unsafe foods to help pay for state food inspection and enforcement programs, and establishes greater regulation of laboratories and control of materials that could be used as biochemical weapons.

Source:
Environmental News Service
May 22, 2002

 

War on Terrorism Means Rising Stress for Canadians

Doctors and mental health practitioners say that the war on terror has produced a noticeable increase in stress among Canadians.

The Canadian Medical Association together with 11 other agencies has been getting "a lot of anecdotal evidence that there's a problem out there, that Canadians are very fearful" according to Dr Henry Haddad, President of the CMA.

The 12 agencies have joined forces to make Canadians more aware of the normal reactions to tragedies, and to alert them as to when to seek help.

You can assess your own degree of coping, they suggest, by asking yourself whether recent events have affected you in the following areas:

Emotional: you may be experiencing more feelings of sadness, anger, guilt, confusion, or fear of similar events.

Physical: you may have increased symptoms such as loss of appetite, sleeplessness, physical tension, stomach upsets or diarrhea.

Safety: you may be more anxious about leaving home, more protective of your children, and fearful of travel.

Carrying on with your normal routine is recommended, as are discussing your feelings with friends and even turning off the news if necessary to give yourself a break.

Parents should take time to reassure their children that they are safe and encourage them to talk about their concerns. More time together as a family may also be helpful.

 

Vancouver Port Security Enhanced by Bomb Sniffing Dogs

In a bid to prevent Vancouver's busy port from becoming a target for terrorism, port officials will shortly have on hand their own team of bomb-sniffing dogs.

A team of six to ten bomb-sniffing dogs is set to arrrive for duty in the spring, and port staff spent the past weekend in Miami working with experts in the field and their teams of dogs.

More than one million cruise ship passengers pass through Vancouver's port every year.

For now the dogs will be dedicated to ensuring passengers' safety by searching boxes and luggage waiting to be loaded onto the ships.

A decision to expand the dogs' role to include searches of cargo containers will be made later.

According to Senior Marine Officer Captain Michael Cormier, the dogs can do a more efficient job than machines or humans. But he is concerned that Vancouver get the right dogs.

Miami police oficer and trainer Tony Guzman warns that many poorly trained animals are on the market now, with a lot of trainers compromising quality and shortcutting training in order to take advantage of the market created by the international demand for highly trained bomb-sniffing dogs since Sept 11.

"All they are looking for is a dog and pony show" Guzman says. But a well-trained dog can detect bombs and explosives well beyond the range of any machine or human being.

Vancouver will become the first port in Canada to get its own team of bomb-sniffing dogs.

Source:
CBC News, March 11, 2002

 

New Warning on Tularaemia as Possible Biological War Agent

Atlanta-based Centres for Disease Control and Prevention urged doctors and health providers recently to be watching for symptoms of tularaemia, a potentially fatal disease that could be adapted for use as a biological war agent.

Tularaemia, otherwise known as rabbit fever and deer-fly fever, is usually acquired as a result of a tick or insect bite, or by close contact with infected animals.

There were 1368 incidents of the disease between 1990 and 2000.

Symptoms of tularaemia are high fever, inflammation of the area leading from the mouth to the larynx, ulcers at the site of infection, and in severe cases, pneumonia.

The CDC released the information in order to educate the public about a disease that is rare and therefore unfamiliar to most people, but is also easily treated with antibiotics.

In the wake of anthrax attacks in the weeks following the Sept 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, the CDC increased its vigilance against biological warfare agents of all kinds. They have not stated that their release of information on tularaemia is related to any recent incident.

Untreated, the highly infectious tularaemia can be fatal to as many as 5 to 15% of those infected, and up to 60% when pneumonia sets in and no treatment is administered.

A CDC spokesperson said the threat to the public would likely be greater if bioterrorists were able to release the the bacteria in aerosol form, or to infect food and water supplies.

Experts note that the disease does not progress as quickly as the now more familiar anthrax which was spread by contaminated mail last year.

To date, the disease has been naturally occurring mainly in Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, Montana, and parts of Massachusetts.

Sources:
Reuters
AOL Today's News

 

Monkeys May Be First Canadian Casualties of War on Terror

The National Post reported on January 21, 2002 that Canadian monkeys may be used in lethal smallpox experiments to be carried out by the US army.

Margaret Munro of the Post stated that the head of the US Army smallpox research team, Peter Jahrling, now uses mostly wild caught monkeys from the Phillipines and Indonesia. Jarhling says the Canadian colony could prove to be a "more reliable source of animals" than wild-caught monkeys.

The Canadian monkeys are part of a colony kept at the Sir Frederick Banting Research Centre in Ottawa, where officials have been attempting to reduce monkey inventory since 1997, but have refused to release monkeys to sanctuaries where they could live out their lives in peace.

If the sale goes through, the monkeys will be part of ongoing lethal experiments at the US Army Institute of Infectious Diseases in Maryland.

An outbreak of a simian virus that affected 220 of the 275 monkeys kept at Ottawa's Banting Reseach Centre has apparently been contained.

Source:
The National Post January 21, 2002

 

Taleban Warns Opponents With Dogs On Fire

The population of war-ravaged Taleqan, in northern Afganistan, was herded into the town's main square last October to watch a vicious display of hatred and cruelty.

It began with the Taliban parading three dogs, each with a shaved head and a name stenciled on it - George W Bush, the US president, Zahir Shahan, Afghan's exiled king, and Rabbani, the ousted Afghan president - into the square, and then, in front of the horrified populace, dousing them with gasoline and setting them on fire one by one.

The burning of the dogs was meant to stand as a warning. Facing the prospect of defeat at the hands of the Alliance and their Western backers, the Taliban began exacting terrible revenge against anyone they suspected of disloyalty to the regime.

Men attending prayers in mosques were surrounded by Taliban soldiers and asked to "volunteer" to fight for the Taliban regime. Afraid of being killed, most of them obliged.

Villages were visited at night by soldiers who knocked on doors looking for young men to recruit. Where they could not find any, they looted and then burned the houses.

Those who signed up fared little better, sometimes going without food for days at a time and often being forced onto the front lines to be killed first by enemy fire.

Others too old to fight escaped through the mountains to refugee camps, waiting there with thousands of other refugees for the Americans to strike back.

Source:
National Post, October 1, 2001

 

World Trade Center 7 Found to be Toxic

New information from the World Trade Center site identifies serious hazards from the 2 electrical substations operated in WTC 7 by Con Edison.

These substations contained 109,000 gallons (413,000 litres) of oil, and hundreds of pounds of potentially dangerous chemicals set loose when the building fell.

Now, concerns are rising that trace amounts of PCBs, a carcinogenic agent, and quantities of sulfuric acid, a possible carcinogen and respiratory agent, are present in the rubble.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dealt with the situation as they deemed appropriate at the time by pumping oil, water, and other liquids from manholes and basements at the trade center site, and this may have cleaned up at least some of the toxic substances.

While a remote possibility exists that some may have burned, officials believe that is unlikely. The transformers and the oil in them are known to have survived the worst of the blast as well as the subsequent fires, since the transformers were working until WTC 7 collapsed.

It is also possible that some of the chemicals leaked into soil, groundwater and the underground infrastructure, according to the EPA and Con Ed.

WTC 7 tumbled to the ground several hours after suicide hijackers crashed into the towers. The crash ignited flammable materials in the two towers, and spread to WTC 7, causing a blaze that levelled it, and crushing the electrical equipment in the two substations in the lower level of the building.

The presence of these toxic chemicals in electrical equipment is not unusual. Battery banks containing sulfuric acid are an essential part of any sizable substation, and sulfur hexafluoride is often used as an insulator.

The issue has raised public concerns about the PCBs which would have been used as a fire-retardant in the insulating and lubricating oil of electrical equipment built before 1977.

Some environmentalists claim that even small amounts of PCBs are harmful, since they accumulate in the fatty tissues of fish and animals. It's been shown that people who are exposed to too much are prone to developing cancer, with the likelihood being more pronounced in those who have meat and dairy products as part of their diets, since these foods often contain concentrated amounts.

So far the airborne amounts of PCBs measured at the WTC 7 site have been below the levels shown to cause cancer in animals. The Environmental Protection Agency has so far not done soil tests for PCBs.

The EPA has also not run tests for sulfuric acid and sulfur hexafluoride.

A New York State environmental group is pushing for the tests to be done.

In the meantime, the EPA is striving to contain the dangers the site poses by power-washing cars and trucks used on the site, washing the boots of workers coming off the site and wetting down debris being hauled away in an effort to minimize the risk of contamination as it is moved.

Sources:
The Environmental News Network

 

Kabul Zoo Crisis

In late November, reports about the horrific plight of the animals in Kabul Zoo began to reach the outside world.

Journalists entering the zoo found a lame, one-eyed lion, a bloody-nosed bear and unpaid staff who had to beg for food for the animals.

A decade ago the zoo became a frontline target for factional fighting between Afghan tribes. Warriors killed and ate the deer and rabbits and shot one of the lions and the sole elephant.

The main building and the aquarium were shattered, and much of the park was left in ruins. When the Taliban took over, they ignored the needs of the animals and zoo workers and left the partially ruined zoo shelters in disrepair.

During the current war, the zoo has been getting by with donations from local merchants, but zoo workers remained unpaid and the future looked bleak. The lion alone eats 25 pounds of meat each day, but that was 25 pounds more than the keepers could afford to give him.

It soon became a crisis situation, with little food, no electricity and no bedding for the animals. A crisis, that is, until the American Zoo and Aquarium Association stepped in last month and offered to fundraise.

Working with other zoos across the international community, Dr David Jones is spearheading the fundraising efforts. He says their goal is to raise at least $30,000, enough for food and expenses for the next 6 months. Early indications are that enough money may be raised not only to take care of day-to-day needs for the animals for the next 6 months but also to renovate their shelters before harsh winter weather sets in.

Sources:
Asheboro Journal, November 28, 2001
Reuters, November 29, 2001
American Zoo & Aquarium Association, December 12, 2001

 

Another Casualty of Warfare - "Kamikaze" Camels

Throughout their occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980's, the Soviets frequently had to contend with camels wired with explosives deliberately sent towards their base of operations. Their Afghani enemies would strap explosives to a camel and send it toward enemy troops. When it wandered within range, they would set off the explosion with a remote detonator.

Today, the same technique is used by Taliban fighters, and US forces have been briefed to destroy any such animal wandering near their bases.

Whatever happens, whether dying in a massive explosion or being destroyed by a hail of bullets, the animal will suffer an unnecessary and particularly gruesome death, becoming yet another casualty of war in a war that has nothing to do with the innocents being killed every day.

Sources:
National Post, December 13, 2001

 

Afghan Horses and Donkeys Suffer Exhaustion and Starvation

More than one million refugees have left Afghanistan for Pakistan during the current crisis. Many of these refugees had only one horse or donkey to carry all their family members and their belongings. The horses and donkeys, carrying huge loads, were forced to walk day after day over mountain terrain with very little food or water to sustain them. At the end of the trip, they were left exhausted, thin to the point of emaciation, and full of open and raw sores from the packs they carried.

To help deal with this crisis, Brooke Hospital for Animals (BHA) diverted a clinical team to an equine trading camp on the outskirts of Peshawar. Within a few days they were treating more than 150 horses and donkeys a day, mostly for a wide range of conditions resulting both from starvation and from the long and brutal journey over the passes to Pakistan. Malnutrition, lameness, saddle sores and raw infected wounds where the family's pack of possessions had rubbed the skin away were the most common conditions. The blood parasite Trypanosomiasis affected many animals and would have killed them without treatment.

As refugees continue to flee, BHA are deploying a number of mobile field clinics to as many parts of Afghanistan as they can safely reach, to treat other equines numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

Horses are also affected in other ways by the war in Afghanistan. Although they are a common form of transportation for fighters on both sides, horses are not often used for attack but more for supplies and mobility in the mountainous country. However, since fighting with mismatched weapons is an Afghan tradition, some commanders use horses to carry out surprise attacks on Taliban tanks.

In other news, reports indicate that UNICEF is campaigning as far away as Australia to buy donkeys for Afghanistan, where they will be used to ferry food across dangerous and mountainous terrain. Possibly unused to such difficult terrain, the donkeys will be facing weeks of hard labour over high, snow-covered mountain passes, where lack of food and oxygen (because of the altitude) and extreme weather will take their toll on these pack animals.The campaign was launched in October.

Sources:
Brooke Hospital for Animals Press Release, November 5, 2001
Associated Press, November 9, 2001
The World Today, October 4, 2001

 

Prime Sanctuary for Migratory Birds and Rare Wild Animals Pounded by Bombing

An unwanted and unlooked for result of the hard hitting bombing campaign in Afghanistan has been an 85% decrease in the number of migratory birds coming from Siberia and the Central Asian Republics to Pakistan and India via Afghanistan.

The World Wildlife Fund sent its survey team to gauge the impact of the bombing on wildlife in the area. Migratory birds affected include cranes and ducks. Cranes in particular are very sensitive and will not use a route if they sense danger.

Afghanistan has until the recent years of unrelenting war been a haven for flora and fauna. Now, depleted forests offer little habitat for the myriad of animals they once held.

The Greater Flamingo is judged to be in critical danger. Snow Leopards, in spite of their habitat in the high mountains, exist in only 12 countries. The International Snow Leopard Trust, based in Washington, is fearful of the animals' ability to withstand the current bombing campaign in Afghanistan and appealed for a halt to the bombing.

Many other species are also being affected by the severe bombardment of Afghanistan. Kabul, Kandahar and Jalalabad are all on main migratory routes and all have been targeted by US planes.

Sources:
The Dawn, (Pakistan) November 4, 2001

 

New York City Pets Orphaned and Displaced by Terror Attack

For the beloved animals of many people who lost their lives in the World Trade Centre disaster, the tragedy was just beginning. Left behind locked doors, sometimes for many days, the cats, dogs, and other pets of owners who would never return endured first fear, then thirst, hunger, loneliness and at last, if they were lucky, rescue.

News alerts and email newsletters pleaded with co-workers, friends and familes of anyone who did not return home after 9/11 to phone in information about stranded pets or to get involved themselves by providing food, water, and exercise to any pets they knew were left alone.

Working under the auspices of the New York City authorites to gain access to buildings, humane organizations were soon responding to calls from owners unable to return to their homes and removing pets from the buffer zone around the disaster site. In areas closer to ground zero, all they could do was provide emergency relief for the pets wherever they could gain access to the buildings.

Where possible, the frantic owners themselves were escorted into the disaster area to find and rescue their pets, as well as the pets of any victims they knew had not returned home.

Food, medical supplies, and offers of free veterinary care poured in to help in the rescue and relief efforts.

An emergency triage area was set up near ground zero and had already treated over 200 animals in the first few days. The 40 foot mobile medical unit of the Suffolk County SPCA, usually used for spay/neuter and rabies programs, provided a veterinary care centre for injured pets and search and rescue dogs.

All over New York animal lovers rallied in great numbers to help the abandoned and orphaned animals of 9/11 by offering their homes either permanently or on a foster care basis.

In all, the best estimates of officials indicate that over 800 New York pets were killed, orphaned or displaced by the terrorist attacks.

Sources:
The Globe & Mail, October 11, 2001
IFAW Press Release, October 22, 2001
ASPCA News Alert, September 14, 2001

 

Search and Rescue Dogs Among Heroes of September 11

Between 300 and 350 Search and Rescue (SAR) dogs and handlers arrived at ground zero in New York City in the days and weeks after September 11. They came from all parts of the country ready to help in the rescue work.

As they worked their 16 hour long shifts, the SAR dogs inevitably suffered from overheating, dehydration, exhaustion, and cut and burned paws. Even the air was dangerous: inhaling the heavy dust of the disaster site day after day, a mixture of concrete and asbestos, meant some dogs had to be taken off duty and returned home.

But most of the dogs' injuries were treatable on site by volunteer vets who examined, treated, fed, bathed and rested the dogs and then, when they were fit again, allowed them back to work.

Help and support for the dogs came in many different forms. At the beginning, some dogs were walking around the site with their feet wrapped in burlap tied to their legs, but volunteers soon organized hundreds of booties as well as vet wrap and eye and ear wash to help keep the dogs safe and comfortable.

Pet supply companies donated tons of dog food, medicine, toys and first aid supplies.

Dogs that were depressed as the work went on and few live rescues were made, were given play time, as handlers took time out to play hide and seek with them.

Cadaver sniffing dogs jumped in to help out when the rescue efforts turned to recovery.

Among the first to arrive at ground zero were Trakr, his handler, Constable Symington, and friend, Constable Hall, all from Halifax. They arrived at 4 am on Wednesday September 12 and spent three days at the site working from morning til night. Their hard work paid off in many ways but in one especially moving one. With Trakr leading the way, they were one of the few teams to find a survivor, a woman who a recovery team was able to dig out of the rubble.

On their last day at the disaster scene, it rained, and although the precipitation made the air clearer, it also made footing slippery and dangerous for the tired trio. Constables Hall and Symington regretfully made the decision to head home.

"Friday ended it for us", said Constable Hall ..... "Trakr was near exhaustion".

Making the decision easier to bear was the knowledge that more dogs and handlers were now beginning to arrive at ground zero.

Their difficult decision made, Trakr, Symington and Hall, exhausted and drained, were soon on their way back to Halifax, but not without with the cheers and thanks of thousands of New Yorkers still ringing in their ears. Said Hall, "That's one of the things I'll remember most."

Sources:
Halifax Chronicle-Herald, September 24, 2001
DOGFANCY, December 2001
National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, November 2001

 

Terrorism a Wakeup Call for Action on Environment

Britain's new environment secretary has called the Sept 11 attacks a "wake up call to all of us, not just to the dangers of terrorism, but to our mutual interdependence as a world community".

Margaret Beckett, on her first visit to Washington DC, urged the United States to extend their coalition building to include global warming and other threats to ecological health.

"These are global problems which in consequence require global solutions. At present this is a slogan. But we need to make the slogan a reality," she said.

In her remarks at the British Embassy and the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, she referred to the absence of the United States last month in Morocco where165 nations adopted the first ever rules aimed at stopping global warming.

"It seemed strange in Marrakech to be pressing ahead on a matter of such vital importance without the United States participating fully beside us," she said.

The US, by far the world's biggest polluter, rejected the pact and failed to send a delegation to attend the meeting.

Acknowledging that developing countries' emissions are growing quickly, Secretary Beckett nevertheless went on to say that "it is the developed world which has inevitably produced most of the man-made greenhouse gases ... that are causing the damage."

The United States' reluctance to join the pact may be a result of the concern major US companies have expressed about potential penalties for carbon dioxide emissions.

Sources:
Associated Press, December 6, 2001

 

Animal Refuge in Indonesia Affected by Foreigners' Departure

Foreign donors leaving Indonesia because of anti-American sentiments have left a South Jakarta animal shelter in severe financial straits.

The Foundation for the Protection and Care of Animals in Ragunan is being forced to stretch its budget as foreign donors continue to leave the country.

The Foundation normally accepts 20 animals per month but now they have 100 dogs and countless cats in their care, and must limit acceptance of new animals. The number of adoptions over the past few months has declined, and staff now house stray animals two or more to a cage.

As well as providing adoption services and care for strays, the Foundation provides animal boarding, a service that is relied on heavily during the December holiday season.

"Last year we had around 180 animals here for temporary care during the holidays" said Aneta Widiwayati, a staff member at the centre. But this year the number of animals that can be boarded will be limited, meaning even less income for the Foundation, as cage space is already at a premium.

Sources:
The Jakarta Post, October 13, 2001