Thursday, July 30, 2009

NAFTA by Dianna Cardott

NAFTA The Environmental Aspect
Environmental Studies
Warner Pacific College
July 23, 2009
The North American Free Trade Act. What on earth does this have todo with the environment? At fist, it hardly conjures up images related ecological concerns. Most people’s first considerations when NAFTA was introduced centered on economic issues. The reality is however, that NAFTA has long reaching impacts on the environment. This writer’s viewpoint is that many government or environmental regulations are written with good intent but often lack the funds, teeth or integrity to be enforced with the appropriate amount of vigor. While they may be better regulated within the US, they are poorly monitored or imposed in other countries in which we engage in trade or business agreements leaving us all exposed to the pollution they claim to attempt to abate.For instance, environmental verbiage injections into NAFTA were an afterthought and brought about only after various environmental and labor interest groups vocalized concerns for the lack of this consideration in this governmental initiative. The United States, Canadian and Mexican government responded by including provisions for sanitary and plant health considerations. It declared that NAFTAs implementation would not harm the environment. (Mumme, 1999)The problem with this is that in fact NAFTA has impacted the environment and not in a positive way. Mumme goes on to list three key issues with the current agreement: “NAFTA's trade protections are liable to abuse, threatening deterioration of environmental standards within the region. Flaws in procedures and programs also impair NAFTA's environmental institutions. NAFTA's environmental institutions are poorly funded by the three governments.” All three of these important key facts have been a hindrance to preventing the callout of NAFTA from doing significant damage to the environment.Take for example the situation that has evolved in Matamoros, a city right across the Mexican border from Brownsville Texas. In an article written by Mary E. Kelly, at one time this was a quite, primarily agricultural area, but no more. Since it is in such close proximity to the US- Mexican border it has now become a haven for numerous US companies to establish operations without having to be bothered with the scrutiny the US places on them for operating just a few miles away.Recent testing of the local drinking water in the area showed levels of xylene, a toxic solvent, 50,000 times greater than would be acceptable in US drinking water. Equally disturbing is that the while these companies are dumping massive amounts of waste illegaly even if they wanted to dispose of them legally, doing so is incredibly difficult. Kelly states:According to law, the waste must be sealed in barrels and transported to landfills. There are currently only two authorized sites in Mexico - one in San Luis Potosí and the other in Monterrey in the border state of Nuevo León. Rene Franco, an environmental consultant in Juárez, Mexico, says ‘the geographic location of these facilities, as well as their installed capacity, are far from satisfactory for existing industry, much less for the industry that will result from a free- trade agreement’.This combined with the fact that most companies do not even attempt to dispose of chemicals in legally safe ways has led to numerous health related issues in the area. Kelly’s article goes on to point out numerous cases of birth defects affecting many border towns where US companies have set up shop with unchecked waste being dumped without regard for the people, plants or animals that reside nearby.Environmental regulations at their heart appear to have good intentions. They are a beginning to a cleaner, healthier planet. The problem is that far to often they are not equally enforced or a solution to larger problems created by the very government that passes them.
Kelly M. E. (1992). Free trade and the politics of toxic waste. Retrieved July 15, 2009 from, S. (1999). NAFTA and environment. Retrieved July 14, 2009 from

Monday, July 27, 2009

Water shortage

An article in the Sunday Oregonian is a clear view of things to come. Police officers in Dallas TX are looking for illegal watering of lawns. The draught has brought billions of dollars in losses to all specially farmers that have to sell stock for lack of means to sustain it. Follow the article here

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Natural Resources by Shelley Park

Care for our Resources
Environmental Studies
PHS 100 – Cohort AAOD 2-01
July 16, 2009
In an ideal world, there would be a perfect balance between ambition, consumption, and environmental resources. The truth is that we have tendency toward blind ambition and lack of respect for the natural resources that surround us. We are only now beginning to understand the consequences of our aspirations. We have taken for granted our sources of energy, food, water, and materials. These natural resources are what sustain us and we need to care for them.With personal, communal, and global responsibility we can take action to identify and conserve resources. Our awareness is now heightened. We are given a plethora of information based on scientific studies and anecdotal observations. There is a need to assess the status of our natural resources. Data is constantly being gathered, monitoring and measuring the changes in the environment. But information is only useful if acted upon. Based on current consumption, we can make predictions of sustainability at these levels but future decisions should be made with the consideration for the external costs of lifestyle choices and economic transactions.Each person needs to consider a transformation in thinking, behavior, and values. Worldwide, constant consumerism is hyped. Pursuit of the newest, best, and innovative is the norm. Thrift and economy are now being practiced, especially as economic downturn has made it essential. If we would care for what we have, and practice thrift and contentment, we would waste less and produce less pollution. It is up to the individual to make choices based on personal values, weighing the effect on natural resources.For greater impact, public policy can provide leadership and incentives. Governing bodies have to make preservation of natural resources a paramount concern when addressing the ongoing needs of society. Seeking out balance between economy and ecology is becoming the trend. There was a recent meeting of the Group of Eight (G8) Environment Ministers. The G8 countries include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as representatives from 13 other countries. Begun in 1975, the Group of eight was originally a group of 6 nations of the northern hemisphere which focused on economic and political issues. It now discusses health, law enforcement, labor, energy, terrorism, trade, foreign affairs, and environmental interests. The current move is a global mitigation effort – recovering and cleaning up the affects of careless development (Chair's Summary: Siracusa Environment Ministerial Meeting, April 22-23, 2009). The resulting dialog increased confidence and mutual understanding in designing strategies and implementing measures for sustainability and mitigation.Efforts such as those made by the G8 bring governments together to seek out globally advantageous solutions to protect natural resources and mitigate environmental disasters. The intentions are there but there needs to be a continual quest for answers to today’s environmental dilemmas. Without these efforts, even the best of intentions get bogged down in diplomacy, bureaucracy, and judicial wrangling. This is the case of the Bajagua Project, mentioned in our textbook. The technical, financial and regulatory controversies have halted progress in dealing with cross-border pollution problems, allowing ongoing degradation of pacific beaches and ocean water (Davis, 2008). The only agreement is that something needs to be done.Governments can provide a framework that is specific, measureable, timely, and science based. By regulating resources and reducing pollution through policies of command-and control, taxes, and incentives public attitudes and values may be further shaped. Care for our natural resources today sets an example for generations to come.

References: Chair's Summary: Siracusa Environment Ministerial Meeting. (April 22-23, 2009). G8 Information Centre. Siracusa: University of Toronto. Retrieved 7/15/2009 from, R. (2008, April 24). Project's plusses should be clear to GAO. Union-Tribune . Retrieved 7/15/2009 from

Friday, July 10, 2009

Barge gets stranded in the Columbia River

Very interesting news today in The Oregonian about a barge full of gasoline getting stranded in the Columbia River at Hood River.