Thursday, January 24, 2008

Environmental Rankings

Yale just released a list of the world's greenest countries (they listed 149 countries and some of them really aren't all that green) according to Yale's environmental performance index (EPI). Their ranking system includes emissions, conservation laws, water/air purity, etc. The U.S. ranked 39 with an EPI of 81 percent. Sri Lanka ranked 50 with an EPI of 79.5 percent. I find this fascinating because although I know Sri Lanka does not have anywhere near the amount of industry that the U.S. has, just looking around you can see the air and water pollution, the lack of enforcement when it comes to environmental laws (o.k. any laws) and the general disregard for the environment. I mean, I do understand this is the trend of my own government, but there is an incredible difference between the air I breathed in D.C. and the air I breathe here. But then again, we are really good at making the U.S. look clean, even though I know full well it isn't. Plus, I do understand that our ranking is really directly related to our transportation infrastructure and various industries (especially the coal power industry).

Anyway, the point of the index is to show that there is vast room for improvement (except, maybe for Switzerland, whose EPI is 95.5 percent). I'm not really expecting things to change in the near future, but I am hoping the U.S. is a little embarrassed that several developing countries ranked far better than us. With the resources and financing that we have in the U.S. this is incredibly sad.

Now many countries are reviewing their subsidies for biofuels. Thank goodness. The Netherlands has stopped their subsidies for palm oil now that they have proof that a great deal is grown on drained peat land (um, I could have told them that). I see potential in biofuels, but way too many countries are interested in cutting down forest to grow these crops. This is really completely counter to the point. I get asked about it all the time here, but since Sri Lanka can't even grow enough rice for their population, I'm very reluctant to give advice on biofuels. I'm all for using used vegetable oil to run your diesel vehicle, but I can't justify growing corn for fuel when people don't have enough to eat. That said, the U.S. wastes a great deal of corn -- all of that should be used for biofuels. We could also stop feeding grain and corn to cattle and other livestock. O.k. I promised less soap box this year, so I'm stopping here.

In war news, the President says the most recent bombings in Colombo may not have been executed by the LTTE! The President is quoted as saying:

“It is not like the LTTE to set off bombs to cause only a huge sound and no casualties. Why should they risk their men to plant these 'dumb bombs' when they are used to causing huge casualties?"
This is a huge jump for the President because basically anytime someone hiccups he blames the LTTE. There has also been news that he has renewed interest in working with the LTTE. Maybe a new ceasefire can be developed.

Meanwhile, the big Perahera that should have happened this week in Kelaniya did not. We actually went to the temple (by public bus -- I have no other option) to see it. Unfortunately, the guy who protects the shoes said the government canceled the Perahera for security reasons and told the temple officials to not advertise that fact. We did wander around the temple for a bit taking photos of cute kids. I'll try to get those up soon.

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