Flat Earth: Environ-mental

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The Independent Online
What a relief that the world was saved in Kyoto last week (mainly by John Prescott, it seems). Thanks to the agreement to cut emissions of greenhouse gases a little, global warming will proceed more slowly than it would otherwise have done. I think I have that right: anyway, clearly a triumph.

You can't help wondering, though, about the environmental impact of the gathering itself. How much pollution was there from the airliners bringing in some 9,000 delegates, journalists and lobbyists? The Kyoto Protocol, be it noted, says nothing about the fumes and unused fuel spewed out by aircraft and ships.

After nine days some 14 tons of rubbish had been generated. And this was Japan, where they insist on disposable chopsticks made from non-renewable hardwoods. One shudders, too, to think how many more forests were felled to produce the 6,000 different kinds of documents, enough to fill a suitcase for each participant. On top of that were 2.6 million photocopies.

I don't know whether this is possible, but it would be interesting for someone to work out how long we will have to wait for the benefits of Kyoto to overtake the immediate damage to the environment. The next millennium, perhaps.

Green in judgment

Only in America, Part 93: a judge in New York state, has ruled that ordering a woman to mow her lawn is not a violation of her First Amendment right to freedom of expression.

Bourke Kennedy, an environmentalist, has been at odds with neighbours over her free-range lawn, which they insist should be cut twice a month in accordance with a local by-law. She declined, saying her garden was just as pleasing as their neurotically manicured lawns.

But Judge James Tormey of the state supreme court said Ms Kennedy had failed to show that her constitutional rights were being abridged. What's more, he ruled after an inspection that her property was ugly. How did he know? Judge Tormey drew on the precedent set by Justice Potter Stewart of the US Supreme Court, who, called upon to define pornography, said: "I know it when I see it."

Dirty business

The divide between smoking and non-smoking sections in aircraft can seem pretty academic to clean-air addicts who find themselves in the row in front of the weed fiends, but things could be worse: on the local JAT airline, a recent visitor to Belgrade tells me, they have smokers on the left of the plane, choking non-smokers all the way down the right.

In large chunks of the world, of course, smoking sections are on the way out - something which worries the Philip Morris tobacco combine, allegedly. One employee told us that company rules oblige all execs to book smoking seats when they travel, whether or not they smoke. "Complete nonsense," was the company's official comment. But the Philip Morris HQ is just about the last skyscraper left in Manhattan where you don't have to go down to the pavement outside to light up.

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