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July 2009 printable subscriber newsletter

Ecologist

30th June, 2009

Despite only launching the website on June 19th, we already have a raft of great content for you to read. In this newsletter you can read our exclusive expose of Vedanta Resources plc's shareholders, our report on the decay of World Heritage Sites and a meaty investigation into the viability of using biochar to mitigate climate change. To download, log in with your username and password, then scroll to the bottom of this article...

A very warm welcome to our first printable monthly newsletter. On the pages that follow, you’ll find all the key stories from the website in June, as well as our favourite comment piece. If you’ve made the transition with us from the print to the online version – thankyou. Your support is what enables us to continue, and we’re sure that not only will you find the website as informative as the magazine, but that in time you’ll become as comfortable using it as you were leafing through the print edition.

lf you’re a new subscriber, welcome also. You’re joining us as we enter a new stage in the Ecologist’s history, going where, at certain times in our past, we have feared to tread. What has become abundantly clear in the last few years is that environmentalists must no longer be afraid to tread anywhere. Just as in the past we might have balked at the thought of moving online, so many early disciples of the green movement harboured an innate fear of working with business, government and mass media. Today, we must be prepared to plumb all these depths, even if at times we feel uncomfortable. If we do not, our fate is clear: we lose relevance, we lose our voice, and into that vacuum creep the kind of business plans, policies and reporting that have pushed our planet towards its current state.

That state is aptly summarised by the three investigations that follow. In the first, Ecostorm investigative journalist Andrew Wasley uncovers shareholder data to reveal that mining company Vedanta Resources plc – which is preparing to bulldoze an Indian mountain sacred to local people – lists among its investors some of the UK’s best known businesses and organisations, from Jaguar to the Church of England.

In the second, Eifion Rees takes a look at the UN’s World Heritage Sites in Danger list, and asks key environmental campaigners what other areas should be added.

And in the third, campaigning journalist Almuth Ernsting digs deep into the infant science of biochar – the application of charcoaled agricultural wastes to soils in an attempt to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

What binds these gripping stories together is a simple, but crucial, environmental question: whose land is it anyway? Vedanta maintains that the Indian government has given it the goahead for its mine, and that it will bring development and health benefits. Local people say the land is biodiverse, sacred, and cannot be priced.

The land on which our heritage sits is often under threat because environmental impacts (‘externalities’, to the economists) have not been accounted for at source – meaning that destruction winds up on someone else’s doorstep.

And the big question about biochar is not whether the technique works: science will tell us that. It is whether giving the technology an official green light will lead to the ‘biofuel effect’ – tracts of prime agricultural land converted to lucrative, fast-growing plantations in an attempt to bury as many of our carbon sins as possible.

Mark Anslow,
Editor

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