Posts Tagged ‘environment’

A Win in Our Fight Against Dangerous Oil Spill Chemicals

Thursday, June 13th, 2013


Pacific Environment often opposes poorly planned oil drilling because of the grave risk of oil spill disasters. But it turns out even the clean-up can cause ecological and human disaster.

Right now toxic chemicals can be used to clean up oil spills in U.S. waters. In the aftermath of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, federal officials authorized the use of toxic oil-dispersing chemicals to help get rid of the oil—even though no one knew their long-term effects on marine wildlife, corals, and humans.

Oil dispersants are chemicals that break oil spills into tiny droplets to be eaten by microorganisms for faster clean up, but they also allow toxins to accumulate in the marine ecosystem.

Years after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster, traces of the oil dispersant Corexit can still be found in the Gulf of Mexico’s coastal zone. Accumulated toxins are sickening or killing fish and corals, deforming shrimp and crabs, and harming sea turtles’ ability to breathe and digest food. People who were exposed to the oil and dispersants have complained about lasting health effects, from rashes and respiratory distress to liver and even cognitive damage.

These reported effects of Corexit clearly show that we need to pressure the federal government to consider the impact of oil-dispersing chemicals on human and marine life before authorizing its continued use.

That’s why, together with our allies Center for Biological Diversity and Surfrider Foundation, we asked a California court to order the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard to demonstrate that the use of toxic oil-dispersing chemicals is safe for vulnerable species like whales, sea turtles, and other wildlife protected under the Endangered Species Act.

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Oil dispersants can inflict even more harm than the spilled oil. Corexit, which was used to help clean up the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, damages the insulating properties of seabird feathers even more than untreated oil. This makes the birds more susceptible to hypothermia and death.

As a result of our court action, the federal government now has to analyze the effects of approving the California Dispersants Plan—which authorizes the use of oil dispersants in the event of a spill in California coastal waters—to determine whether these toxic chemicals would harm endangered wildlife.

Ultimately, we need a ban on the use of toxic dispersants in oil spill clean-up. Still, this win is an important step toward ensuring that we don’t endanger human health and inflict additional damage on marine ecosystems and wildlife in the event of another oil spill disaster in American waters.


Watch these video testimonials to find out more about the health problems caused by the BP oil disaster


Announcing the 2013 Whitley Award Winner – Eugene Simonov

Friday, May 3rd, 2013


Pacific Environment is proud to announce the winner of the 2013 Whitley Award – our own Eugene Simonov. The award is well deserved; it recognizes Eugene’s talent, years of hard work, dedication, and his tremendous impact on the environment in his community and beyond.

Eugene Simonov enjoying himself in the wetlands of the Amur River Basin.

Eugene Simonov enjoying himself in the wetlands of the Amur River Basin.

Eugene joined Pacific Environment as the Conservation Science Specialist in February 2013 but his history with our organization goes as far back as 2001 when he was one of our strategic partners and advisors. Although he currently resides in Dalian, China, his scope of work includes China, Russia, Mongolia and the United States. Eugene has a degree in biology from Moscow State University, a Master’s degree in environmental science from the Yale University School of Forestry, and a doctorate in nature conservation from China’s Northeast Forestry University. Eugene has been working on transboundary issues with a special focus on the Amur River Basin, a highly complex watershed of northeastern China, the Russian Far East, and eastern Mongolia. Since 2009 Eugene has been a coordinator of Rivers without Boundaries International Coalition which was formed to address conservation of the aquatic environment of Northeast Asia.

Eugene’s work has shined a light on the devastating impacts of major dam infrastructure projects. His organization has been successful in removing several of the most large scale projects from the agenda, and with the Whitley Award he plans to focus his energy on diverting investment dollars away from more of these dam projects and towards sustainable energy alternatives.

In his acceptance speech on May 2, Eugene imagined taking a boat ride down the river from its headwaters in Siberia through the wetlands filled with cranes and geese and possibly spotting the legendary river monster. Eugene works to make his dream of a free flowing Amur river a reality for his son and daughter.

Congratulations Eugene!

Beautiful Books about Kamchatka’s Salmon; from the rivers to the kitchen

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Nearly 300 years ago, one of the first researchers of the Kamchatka Peninsula, George Stelleronce wrote:

“Kamchatka lives almost solely on fish. If you hit the water with a spear you rarely miss a fish.  Fishing nets or seines are useless in Kamchatka for that reason.  It’s impossible to drag them ashore, they tear because ofthe abundance of fish.”

Many years ago, it seemed that the salmon would last forever.  However, today we know that all natural resources are limited, and Kamchatka’s salmon need protection.  So what is the current state of Kamchatka salmon?  The Kamchatka Branch of the Pacific Institute of Geography has published extensively on the topic. (more…)

Following Flex

Friday, February 4th, 2011

A western gray whale named Flex has been receiving media attention worldwide for being the first of his kind to be tagged and tracked.  He is a 13 year old western gray whale that was tagged on October 4th, 2010 by Russian and American scientists off of Sakhalin Island in eastern Russia.

His precedence is not the only thing gaining him fame though; his unpredictable path in the last four months has also been gaining him attention.  Scientists and researchers are baffled by his movements, but then again, they humbly admit they did not really know where western gray whales should be going in the first place. (more…)

Fighting dirty paper!

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Program Director at Wuhu Ecology Center

In China, the paper industry is considered highly polluting and energy intensive. Its COD emissions are ranked first among all industries. Anhui, in Eastern China, has a high concentration of paper companies, and the Wuhu Ecology Center focuses on the pollution problems associated with them. In the process of collecting information regarding papermaking companies in Anhui, Shandong Chenming Paper Group’s repeated violations of environmental regulations came to our attention. Within the paper industry, Chenming Paper Group is one of the biggest publicly traded companies. It has integrated pulp and paper-making production and is quickly becoming one of top 500 companies in China and one of the top 50 in the world. Chenming’s product is sold globally, including to the United States. (more…)

China Eco-Coalition Takes a Bite out of Apple

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

In a post here from last summer, Xiu Min Li, Pacific Environment China Program Director, covered an investigation by Chinese environmental groups into heavy metal pollution caused by manufacturers who supply parts to Apple Corporation.  4,000 Chinese suffered from lead poisoning in 2009, prompting the Alliance to investigate and embark on a letter-writing campaign to the companies who contract with those manufacturers.  Apple did not respond until it received nearly a thousand letters from American consumers, weeks after other companies that were investigated had all already responded to Alliance inquiries.  Late might be better than never, but it didn’t save Apple from a scathing review.

Last week, The Green Choice Alliance released a report called “The Other Side of Apple” in which they ranked the computer tech giant last among 29 multi-technology companies’ for response to public inquiry and investigation regarding pollution and working conditions at factories in their supply line.  The Alliance, a coalition of 36 Chinese environmental NGOs, is lead by The Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), a Pacific Environment partner.


Teaching Environmental Values in the Russian Far East

Monday, December 20th, 2010

I first met Arina Shurygina at the Keepers of the Salmon festival. It was amazing to see how much love she put into teaching about the salmon life cycle, its constitution, and peculiarities. It seemed that there was nothing more important to her than to teach each student how many fins a salmon has and the locations and names of each fin. Later, I learned that containers set throughout the town to collect plastic caps were another of Arina’s initiatives, but not the only one.

It was interesting to learn how it all began. Arina explains that, “One spring, at the outskirts of town, I realized that I was walking on a carpet of garbage. Snow cover was gone and garbage brought from nearby dumps had begun to surface. It was a very unpleasant feeling, but I wanted to fix it. I began to learn about different approaches to the problem that existed worldwide, and the possibilities available in the region. I discovered that in Kamchatka, and Russia in general, there is no general practice of sorting and recycling of household trash. I started to learn more about the issue and wrote articles to newspapers and journals. They were published but the situation still did not change.” (more…)

The Arctic: A Territory of Dialogue

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010


A few years ago, experts came together to discuss potential scenarios for the Arctic.  They discussed what the Arctic would look like in 50 years in the face of climate change and intensified resource development.

The experts developed several scenarios, ranging from a race by countries to extract natural resources to armed military conflict, from protecting the Arctic for its natural wonders to a vision of sustainable development that brought economic wealth to local peoples.  After Russia planted its flag on the North Pole, news outlets trumpeted the likelihood of a new “cold war” with conflict brewing in the Arctic.

This week, Russia held a conference to try to dispel this myth.  The conference, called “The Arctic:  A Territory of Dialogue,” Diplomats and scientists from around the Arctic talked about the importance of working together to address the challenges facing the Arctic.  Speeches by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Prince Albert II of Monaco, and Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson provided an official air to the discussion.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to the conference by the Russian Geographic Society, which organized and hosted the event.  In many ways, the conference was organized to showcase Russia’s long-term commitment to exploration and research of the Arctic.  Although hosted by Sergei Shoigu – Russia’s Minister for Emergency Situations and the President of the Russian Geographic Society – the most visible participant was Artur Chilingarov, Russia’s colorful Arctic explorer who planted the Russian flag on the bottom of the North Pole. (more…)

Look for self-help in time of disaster, not the party

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010


Grandpa Hu (not his real name) said “my loyalty always lies with Chairman Mao.” His red pin emblazoned with the golden head of Mao proudly hung on his left chest. It sparkled in the sun, its statement pronounced by the backdrop of his dark blue vest. Grandpa Hu wore a pair of wide-rimmed Polaroid sunglasses, which were unusually fancy for a retired peasant. He seemed healthy and strong. His description of how his family was unaffected by the flood sounded proud and almost cheery. Grandpa Hu said he used to work for the Forestry Department, until they decided they needed someone who was literate to do the job. He was told to retire early. His accent was very thick and I had to wait for my host to transcribe his words to match my speculation of what he may have said. (more…)

Support California AB 234 (video)

Thursday, September 16th, 2010