THE BEST (AND WORST) OF 1999
3 Gator Aid A refuge for fierce alligators and delicate wood storks, Florida's Everglades has been devastated by agriculture and development. To undo some of the damage, President Bill Clinton unveiled an $8 billion, 20-year restoration plan, the largest environmental effort in U.S. history.
4 Kid Power Since today's youngsters will be around for most of the next century, they have the most to fear from global warming. So 135,000 German children in 192 schools pledged to help reduce their communities' emissions of greenhouse gases by 10%. They replaced inefficient light bulbs, turned down thermostats and shunned cars in favor of bikes. And in seven months they had more than reached their goal. Now if the grownups would just learn a lesson from the kids.
5 Panda Diplomacy It was without a doubt the best thing to happen to U.S.-China relations all year. No, not the deal to help China get into the WTO, but the birth of Hua Mei, a cuddly panda cub at the San Diego Zoo. As few as 1,000 pandas are left in the wild, and this was the first one born in the West in nearly 10 years.
AND THE WORST
1 On Thin Ice It's nice that dozens of nations have signed a pact that commits them to cutting greenhouse-gas production. But governments need to get their act together in a hurry. This year brought strong evidence that global warming is well under way. Most striking were studies showing that Arctic ice is now about 40% thinner than it was just 20 to 40 years ago.
2 Foul Feed It started with the mysterious deaths of chickens. At the height of the uproar, suspicion had spread to all of Belgium's meat, dairy products and eggs. Traced to animal feed accidentally contaminated with dioxin, a potent cancer-causing chemical, Europe's worst food crisis since the British beef scare prompted bans against many Belgian foods across the Continent and even as far away as Malaysia. The long-term effects on public health are not yet fully known, but there was at least one major casualty. Citizen outrage helped bring down Belgium's Christian Democratic-led government, which was criticized for responding much too slowly to the dioxin danger.
3 Untouchable Cargo The nearly 3,000 tons of mercury-tainted waste dumped near the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville sparked an exodus of frightened residents, riots and at least five deaths. The company responsible, Formosa Plastics, removed the toxic brew in April but could not find a country willing to dispose of it. The nasty stuff now resides in Taiwan's Kaohsiung harbor.
4 Ark Wanted The human tragedy caused by North Carolina's floods was bad enough. Now scientists fear an ecological disaster as well. The torrential rains washed enough topsoil, sewage, fertilizer and other organic matter into waterways to play havoc with offshore marine life.
5 Shameful Shawl Made from the fine wool of the chirus, a Tibetan antelope, the shahtoosh became a must-have item for some of New York's richest women. But then several of them got hauled before a grand jury. A U.N. convention makes shahtooshes illegal because the chirus is endangered. Poachers still hunt the animal, but model Christie Brinkley, for one, swears she won't wear shahtoosh any more.
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