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[whitespace] Sign of the Times: Greenpeace demonstrators rally in Washington, D.C.


Hague-ward Bound

Four UCSC students and one longtime Santa Cruz resident plan to attend the United Nations conference in the Netherlands later this month on the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty that would limit greenhouse gas emissions in more than 100 countries. The Santa Cruz activists--Tara Dorabji, Cathy Fogel, Bill Vaughan, Bill Le Bon and Adriana Valencia--are part a delegation of 225 students organized by Greenpeace. They will convene at the Hague on Nov. 17 and spend a week attending negotiations and working with the press to urge the U.S. to take a leadership position on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

"The students are making history," says Meghan Conklin, climate campaigner for Greenpeace. "The last chapter of the Clinton/Gore legacy will be written at this meeting, and we're going to be there to put pressure on them."

The conference, which runs Nov. 13-24, will decide on the emission standards for the Kyoto Protocol's implementation. The protocol was first presented at the third meeting of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997. Clinton ratified it 10 months later, but the U.S. Senate refused to go along with that decision. According to Santa Cruz delegate coordinator Le Bon, the Clinton Administration is pushing for loopholes that would undo the environmental protections in the protocol, in order to gain Senate ratification.

"Clinton and Gore want to allow U.S. CO2 emission to increase by 30 percent before it starts to decrease," Le Bon says. "But our goal is to keep the protocol as strong as we possibly can."

UCSC student delegate Vaughan plans to urge the Clinton Administration to stop supporting the fossil fuel industry. He says the U.S. government fears the economic consequences of switching to cleaner energy. "The new lie is that it would be an economic disaster," he says.

"But shifting from fossil would actually be good for the economy."

Vaughan is enthusiastic about the opportunity to have a voice in international environmental policy. "As a younger person, I'm more keenly aware that it's our generation that's going to have to deal with the consequences [of greenhouse emisisons]," he says.

Santa Cruzans staying behind can help get the message across too. Vaughan urges local activists to put pressure on Congress to support the treaty, write letters to newspaper editors and make phone calls to negotiators during the conference. A group of Santa Cruz bicycle advocates will send a message back to the Hague on Nov. 19 with a Global Critical Mass for Global Warming, a group bike ride in support of the Kyoto protocol, in solidarity with cyclists across the globe. The ride starts at the Town Clock Nov. 19 at 2pm.

What a Whale

The oldest whale conservation organization in the world, the American Cetacean Society, will hold its seventh international conference at the Monterey Conference Center in Monterey, Nov. 17-19. Among other things, the conference will focus on the DNA tracking of whale meat in international markets, ocean toxins, satellite tracking of blue whales, ocean acoustics and the future of the Marine Mammal Protection and Endangered Species Acts. There will also be a technology workshop on the specialized equipment scientists use to study cetaceans, as well as a silent auction, banquet and art show.

"The conference basically bridges the gap between the scientific world and the general public," says Katy Penland , president of the American Cetacean Society.

One of the speakers will be Dr. Donald Croll, a professor of biology at UCSC. Croll will discuss the place of whales in the ecosystem, focusing on the foraging patterns of blue whales, which have the highest average daily energy requirement of any organism.

"Whales are linked inextricably to the ecosystem," says Croll. "They are the gas guzzlers of the ocean."

This August saw the largest number of whales in the Monterey Bay in recorded history, making it the perfect place for such a conference.

"I think more people are beginning to realize the Monterey Bay isn't just a place to see gray whales," says Croll. "It has the largest diversity of marine species in the world."

For more information: www.acsonline.org

Some Good News

After weeks of intense lobbying by Sustainable Monterey Bay, a Santa Cruz-based regional planning and development nonprofit group, the Marina City Council voted last week to increase housing densities from 10 units per acre to 30 units per acre along the railroad right-of-way at the former Fort Ord.

"Our goal is a network of nonautomobile dependent, ecologically sensitive, affordable, high density cluster developments along the existing railway corridor from Davenport to Monterey," says Ted Lahti, director of Sustainable Monterey Bay. "We are looking at the railroad as a new sustainable backbone for housing and transportation."

An integral part of the EcoVillage vision is the SolTrain, the world's first solar-powered train. EcoVillages would be centered around transportation hubs, eliminating the dependence on automobiles. Lahti estimates that they can put 12 SolTrains on the tracks for only $15 million. (Of course, first we'll need tracks.) Thanks to private funding and this year's $15,000 grant from the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission to the city of Capitola, the SolTrain project's sponsor, a prototype will be up and running next month at Roaring Camp.

Sustainable Monterey Bay will present the EcoVillage model to several city councils before the end of the year. Next to jump on the bandwagon could be Capitola, where parking lots behind City Hall and on Park Avenue off Highway 1 are being looked at as potential EcoVillage sites.

Another key aspect of the EcoVillage is jobs. Lahti explains that each community will be totally sustainable, providing jobs within the community that will allow people to bike or walk to work.

Working in tangent with the Community Housing Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, EcoVillages could offer low- to moderate-income families the chance to own their own home while leasing the land it's on from a nonprofit organization. The land lease will stay the same in perpetuity, keeping the property affordable. Residents of the village must have been residents of either Santa Cruz, Monterey or San Benito counties for the last two years. "We want to keep dot-commers from buying these units as summer homes," says Lahti.

For more information, attend the SolTrain EcoVillage workshop at 7pm on Nov. 20 at 314 Laurel St., Santa Cruz.

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From the November 8-15, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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