Rachel's Precaution Reporter #124
Wednesday, January 9, 2008

From: Rutland (Vt.) Herald ................................[This story printer-friendly]
January 9, 2008


[Rachel's introduction: When we have a perfectly good strategy for dealing with dangerous technology (the precautionary principle), why don't otherwise sane elected representatives, senators, and governors invoke it?]

By Bill Pearson, Brattleboro

Stephen Wark, director of consumer affairs and public information for the Department of Public Service, recently defended his department's "strong record" of regulatory oversight of Vermont Yankee, claiming that this record is "beyond reproach." But regulatory oversight is necessarily constrained by what those regulations are.

They have to do with how much Vermont Yankee can raise the temperature of the Connecticut River, for example, or how many millirems of radiation are permitted to bombard elementary schools, or whether governors in adjoining states have a voice in demanding independent safety assessments. Also, whether Wackenhut security guards can nap on the job, or how many cracks are allowed in steam dryers, or how many of Vermont Yankee's numerous effluent discharge points into the Connecticut River need to be monitored for radioactive isotopes, or how a 20-year operating license extension would affect dwarf wedge mussels, brook floaters, rattlebox, and puritan tiger beetles.

Regulations, in other words, while necessary, can be hotly debated by all sides ad nauseum and serve to divert attention from more fundamental concerns.

For example, shouldn't citizens (and citizen advocacy groups) who stand to lose property, livelihoods, and even their lives in the event of a catastrophic accident at Vermont Yankee have a voice at least equal to that of a multi-billion-dollar out-of-state corporation intent primarily on maximizing its profits?

When we have a perfectly good strategy for dealing with dangerous technology (the precautionary principle), why don't otherwise sane elected representatives, senators, and governors invoke it?

Aren't residents entitled to truthful information about Vermont Yankee's routine low-level radiological emissions? What isotopes, what half-lives, what potential damage to tissues, cells, and DNA; what risk of cancers, leukemia, birth defects, immune and endocrine system disorders? And please explain why Vermont Yankee spokesmen constantly proclaim that Vermont Yankee's ionizing radiation emissions are safe when the National Academy of Sciences in 2005 concluded that there is no safe dose of ionizing radiation.

If nuclear energy is safe, why do insurance companies refuse to insure against losses from nuclear accidents?

If evacuation plans are not designed to protect 100 percent of the affected population regardless of weather conditions or time of day, isn't there an unconscionable moral dilemma involved?

Why hasn't a nuclear power plant been built in the U.S. since the Three Mile Island disaster in 1979? Maybe Wall Street knows better than to finance them.

The Vermont Department of Public Service and the Vermont State Nuclear Advisory Panel are charged with ensuring the public's health and safety. Focusing only on regulatory oversight won't get the job done.

Copyright 2008 Rutland Herald


From: News-Press (Fort Myers, Fla.) .......................[This story printer-friendly]
January 8, 2008


[Rachel's introduction: "The rationale [for the precautionary principle] is that modern technologies and human activities can inflict long-term, global-scale environmental damage and that conclusive scientific evidence of such damage may be available too late to avert it."]

By Marti Daltry

I would like to address the comments made by the critics of a stronger fertilizer ordinance.

The quote ("Fertilizer limits feed debate," Jan. 2) from the Chem Lawn representative that "common sense is not science" demonstrates a limited understanding of the application of both science and common sense in public policymaking.

The Precautionary Principle, used by schools, social and environmental organizations as well as the U.S. government in creating and deciding on public policy, is the effective marriage of those two concepts.

The recent publication, "Precautionary Tools for Reshaping Environmental Policy," states, "The Precautionary Principle calls for taking action against threatened harm to people and ecosystems even in the absence of scientific certainty.

"The rationale is that modern technologies and human activities can inflict long-term, global-scale environmental damage and that conclusive scientific evidence of such damage may be available too late to avert it."

One should not abandon either science or common sense when making an informed decision regarding the sustainable use of our natural resources.

In this instance, Lee County has moved beyond a bygone era of "tobacco science" and into a realm of collaborative policymaking with input from the entire community.

In response to Professor Trenholm's comment that buffer zones of 25 feet are ridiculous, it should be noted that the 25-foot buffer was established in the South Florida Water Management District rules for environmental resource permit applications.

In addition, the southeastern region of the FDEP recommends that homeowners "do not apply fertilizers or pesticides within at least 25 feet of the water's edge or the wetland." Furthermore, the EPA recommends a minimum riparian buffer of at least 7 meters, or almost 23 feet, to treat and remove nitrogen from storm water in urban areas.

Either SWFMD, the DEP, and the EPA are all mistaken or her "sound" scientific opinion is nothing more than an erroneous "sound bite."

Florida has been in the throes of a decreased rain cycle and the resulting drought that has persisted and may continue for several years.

Due to the continuing urban sprawl, population growth, and dry weather conditions, our water resources are threatened. To spend our finite water supply on the maintenance of emerald green lawns and water hungry exotic plants is a waste of precious resources.

We are all affected by water pollution, water quality and water availability. Our health, our economy and our environment depend upon it.

We all need to take responsibility to ensure that there will be water for everyone in Southwest Florida.

Responsible actions include changing our water wasting habits and reducing our water consumption by using native plants and ground covers, and reducing our use of fertilizer to prevent excessive nutrient runoff.

The trend towards a more sustainable, eco-friendly landscape is growing.

Let's make the sensible changes now before time and our water run out!


Marti Daltry is regional community organizer for the Sierra Club's Fort Myers office

Copyright 2008, The News-Press


From: San Francisco Bay Guardian ..........................[This story printer-friendly]
January 09, 2008


[Rachel's introduction: The case might be made that zoos can serve as genetic incubators in the face of widespread habitat destruction. But the city's precautionary principle, like the Hippocratic oath, should prevail on us to do no harm in seeking to prevent extinction.]

By Marc Solomon

In San Francisco's June 1997 special election, the swells convinced the voters to float $48 million in bonds to build a "world-class" zoo, which would entail largely privatizing a public institution, leaving the city on the hook for liabilities while giving a private nonprofit the benefits.

The initiative passed -- you can't get warmer or fuzzier than a tiger or a koala -- and the San Francisco Zoo, relinquished to the tutelage of corporate fixer Jim Lazarus, was largely gifted as another privatized party space for the rich.

The case might be made that zoos can serve as genetic incubators in the face of widespread habitat destruction. But the city's precautionary principle, like the Hippocratic oath, should prevail on us to do no harm in seeking to prevent extinction.

The record of the privatized Zoo has hardly been a story of precaution:

oIn 2000, two already sick koalas were kidnapped from the Zoo and not returned for two days.

oA 12-year-old Siberian tiger, Emily, died in October 2004. Tatiana was just murdered at age four. Siberian tigers generally live to be 24 years old in captivity.

oTwo elands, majestic African antelope, were introduced improperly into close quarters with an already resident eland at the Zoo, which led to a spate of deadly eland-on-eland violence and the deaths of the two newcomers.

oApparently, shoddy attention to detail hastened the demise of Puddles the hippopotamus in May 2007. Hippos, like African elephants, thrive in nature preserves located in their native tropical habitat.

If zoos are to be a successful component of protecting endangered species, it's paramount that their conditions not kill the specimens. Perhaps an affiliation with a major research institution is required to ensure that professionalism is the order of the day to ward against what appears to be amateur hour at the zoo.

It's one thing for the swells to occupy public spaces such as the de Young Museum, City Hall, and the San Francisco Public Library as edifications to their egos -- only fellow humans are inconvenienced. But for the rich to wrap themselves in the distinction of being movers and shakers in the San Francisco Zoological Society and wring glee from the glow of imprisoning animals in inhospitable conditions is truly pathological.

The Zoo should be closed, its animals sent to facilities capable of caring for them, and the land used for affordable housing. The city should replace the Zoo with an academic partnership with legitimate wildlife sanctuaries around the world to subsidize conservation, produce video footage of animals in their natural habitats, and arrange trips to see wild animals in the wild for San Francisco youths who otherwise could not afford it.

That would be a true 21st-century, world-class approach to bringing the wonder of exotic animals to San Franciscans.

Marc Salomon is a member of the SF Green Party County Council.


From: Whole Life Times ....................................[This story printer-friendly]
January 3, 2008


[Rachel's introduction: "Mind modification technologies are 'changing so rapidly that the science is being formed faster than the applications can be fully recognized.' Considering the enormous potential of these tools to help liberate the mind or control it at a level beyond anything previously known, the U.S. public should demand to have a rigorous 'precautionary principle' put in place."]

By Daniel Pinchbeck

Recently, while at a Phoenix, Arizona conference on UFOs, crop circles, alternative archaeology and other such fringe matters, I encountered, to my surprise, a true American hero. A straightforward and unassuming man whose father was a well-respected Alaskan congressman, Dr. Nick Begich has been waging a long and often lonely campaign to raise the public's awareness of the extraordinary perils and potentials of new technologies that can act upon the brain and influence our cognitive and somatic capacities, often without us knowing about them. At first, many of the military initiatives and scientific research projects described by Dr. Begich sound like science fiction -- the stuff of Philip K. Dick's most paranoid visions -- but they are quite real, and in many cases already available. A huge trove of documents, articles and public testimonies assembled by Begich's team can be found at the website of The Lay Institute.

Confronted with this information, I was shocked at first, and wondered why it is almost never discussed in the media or public sphere. My next reaction was to want to run away from thinking about it ever again. Unfortunately, as Begich makes clear, the only protection we have against misuse of these discoveries is an increase in public knowledge and debate about them. The legislative system we inherited from the 18th Century was not set up to deal with the current scenario, where rapid-fire developments in technology and science have immediate political meaning and potentially great social consequences. It is up to civil society -- and us as individuals -- to step into this breach. The consequences of not doing so may be severe.

Dr. Begich began his work studying the HAARP (High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program) Project, an array of radio frequency transmitters in Alaska designed to affect the ionosphere, an atmospheric sheath that protects the Earth from solar rays. Beyond potentially influencing missile guidance systems and changing weather patterns, HAARP can also be used, potentially, to affect the brainwaves of civilians over a large geographical area, causing inexplicable agitation or aggression by beaming ELF (extremely low frequency) waves or high-frequency pulses beyond the threshold of our auditory capacity. Dr. Begich objects to HAARP because of this capacity, and because it changes the delicate ionosphere. Although we don't know much about the ionosphere, we are treating it as an arena in which to "plug and play" our experimental technologies.

In the last decades, a huge amount has been learned about the electromagnetic environment of the human brain and body. This knowledge, as Dr. Begich discusses in his latest book, Controlling the Human Mind: The Technologies of Political Control or Tools for Peak Performance (Earthpulse Press, 2006), could lead to tremendous advances in healing and in methods of self-development, or to weapons that "pierce the very integrity of the human being." Potentially, memory, emotion and cognitive function can be transformed by these technologies.

Dr. Begich isolates a spooky trend in military thought that sees the human being reduced to the status of a "data-processing system" that can be affected or incapacitated depending on the energy inputs it receives. As one article, "The Mind Has No Firewall," from Parameters, the U.S. Army War College Journal, put it, "The body is capable not only of being deceived, manipulated, or misinformed but also shut down or destroyed -- just as any other data-processing system." Electromagnetic or acoustic energy waves can alter the individual's "hardware system" and manipulate the "data" stored in their psyche. According to Dr. Begich, technologies already exist that can "shift a person's emotions using remote electromagnetic tools," and "transfer sound in a way where only the targeted person" hears a voice in their head.

Interestingly, developments in these areas could lead to breakthroughs in healing, to tools that greatly increase cognitive function and even amplify "abilities of individuals for anomalous phenomena" -- psychic capacities -- according to a military analyst. Biofeedback techniques have been proven to accelerate skills-based learning and to successfully treat children with ADD. Use of "binaural beats" can harmonize relationships between the two hemispheres of the brain, while tools focusing on the energy fields of the body can augment acupuncture and other treatment modalities.

Begich calls for an end to government secrecy about study of mind and behavior control techniques. He notes that the area of mind modification technologies is "changing so rapidly that the science is being formed faster than the applications can be fully recognized." Considering the enormous potential of these tools to help liberate the mind or control it at a level beyond anything previously known, the U.S. public should demand to have a rigorous "precautionary principle" put in place.

Philip K. Dick is great fun to read, but few of us would want to live in one of his maniacal, paranoid dystopias. Unfortunately, the powerful knowledge we are now accessing about the intricate workings of our energetic systems could lead in that direction, if we don't take action.

Daniel Pinchbeck is the author of Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism (Broadway Books, 2002) and 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl (Tarcher/Penguin, 2006). His features have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Wired and many other publications.

Whole Life Times, 1200 South Hope St, Suite 300, Los Angeles, CA 90028; Tel: 213.747.6378; Fax: 213.747.6386

Copyright Whole Life Times


From: The Guardian (Manchester, U.K.) .....................[This story printer-friendly]
January 6, 2008


[Rachel's introduction: The precautionary principle is increasingly being invoked to curb civil liberties, start pre-emptive wars, torture suspects, and hold people incommunicado in secret prisons for years without formal charges. The purpose of precaution is to protect the things we value and cherish. If you value and cherish war and torture and clandestine prisons then it is logical to invoke precaution to justify them.]

By Nicholas Watt

Why are you pushing so hard with your plans to extend to 42 days the period in which a terror suspect can be held without charge? Many members of your own party, the Lib Dems, the Tories, the DPP, the former attorney general are all expressing doubts if not outright opposition.

A few months ago Liberty published its proposals and said that there were circumstances in which they themselves understood you might have to go beyond 28 days. They proposed using the Civil Contingencies Act to do so. They recognised therefore that there are circumstances in which you may have as a result of the complexity and sophistication to detain people beyond 28 days. Now what I said to that was look, if in principle people right across the political spectrum agree that it's necessary, in certain instances -- unique sometimes perhaps, or special at least and understood to be rare -- then we ought to try and find a way and a consensus for doing that.

And that's why I've been determined to build in what I think are the key elements of something that is acceptable to all sides. And that is if you have someone detained then you have got to have proper judicial oversight. You've got to have continuous accountability. You've got to have parliamentary scrutiny. And I believe that if we could show people that there is proper judicial oversight, in other words nobody stays in prison arbitrarily, and if at the same time there's proper public accountability because an independent reviewer who's an independent figure looks at what has happened to guarantee that, nobody will be detained arbitrarily. What you've then got to do is to satisfy people that all the mechanisms by which civil liberties are [protected] are put in place. Now that's where the debate is at the moment. And I think it's a more rich debate than is simply summed up by a number of days.

Does it frustrate you that you've obviously changed the politics of this issue, by saying it's not about an arbitrary numbers of days, and yet there still seems to be very strong opposition?

I don't think there is as much difference of opinion as the headlines suggest. I've talked at length to Liberty as an organisation. I know that other political parties in the House of Commons are much influenced by what Liberty has said. I've got a great deal of respect for the arguments that have been put forward and I actually think we're not as far away as people have mentioned from reaching an understanding about what the best way forward for Britain is. If you accept that there may be circumstances in which you have to go beyond 28 days and if you accept then as a precautionary principle you should have the power in legislation to do so, then what you've got to do in my view is convince people that you've got in place all the protections against the possibility that there could be arbitrary treatment of the individual. Now an independent reviewer, parliamentary accountability, parliamentary scrutiny, judicial oversight, in fact the application coming not just from the police but from the DPP and from the Home Secretary, gives you a sense that none of these things would be done lightly. They would only be done in the rarest of circumstances when there was a real problem that had to be dealt with.

Guardian Unlimited Copyright Guardian News and Media Limited 2008


From: The Huffington Post .................................[This story printer-friendly]
January 7, 2008


[Rachel's introduction: Once again we find a critic of the precautionary principle distorting it in order to bash it: "The precautionary principle dictates that in the face of possible danger to human health, even in the absence of complete proof of that danger, it is best not to permit the hazard until its safety (rather than its danger) is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt." Such distortions are unethical, but the money is good.]

By Jeff Stier, American Council on Science and Health

If you knew there were a new product that was:

** not as well tested as the product it is meant to replace

** quickly becoming popular in offices and homes -- including homes with young children

** manufactured by some of the world's largest and most profitable companies

** possibly responsible for debilitating migraine headaches

** a risk for skin diseases including skin cancer

...would you support a ban on the product until its safety could be fully established?

The precautionary principle dictates that in the face of possible danger to human health, even in the absence of complete proof of that danger, it is best not to permit the hazard until its safety (rather than its danger) is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. As they say, it's better to be safe than sorry.

But if you agree, wouldn't you then have to join (or start) a campaign to ban so-called "environmentally-friendly" compact fluorescent light bulbs in light of reports like this one from the London Telegraph?

So: Are you sure you still like the idea of "erring on the safe side" whenever a new technology emerges?

Jeff Stier is an associate director of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH.org, HealthFactsAndFears.com).

Copyright 2008 HuffingtonPost.com, Inc.


Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making decisions, to minimize harm. Rachel's Precaution Reporter tries to answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution?

We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed to know the arguments used by slaveholders.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter is published as often as necessary to provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

As you come across stories that illustrate the precautionary principle -- or the need for the precautionary principle -- please Email them to us at rpr@rachel.org.

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