Friday, July 31, 2009

Return to the Land: Urban Homesteading


My facebook friend Bory Chhor has been busy busy busy reading. He posted a fistful of articles on facebook before I was even awake this morning.

One is a great story about getting back to the land - right in the heart of urbania. The Denver couple in the photo, Everett Sizemore and Melissa Blakesee, rethunk their backyard, bringing a little bit of country - and some fresh eggs, herbs, veggies - even bees! - into their tiny space.

I'm not suggesting we should all do all of this - it takes him an hour an evening just to keep it all under control and seconds as recreational therapy for him. You might not have that much available time, or you may prefer to get your therapy the $150/hour way!

But if you're a gardner, like me, there may be something here for you.Chickens In Suburbia: One Couple's Foray Into Urban Homesteading Lighter Footstep


And, if it does inspire you, here's article no. 2 from Bory's morning scavenger hunt, on winter gardening. I mean, why wait to get started? By the time next summer rolls around, this blogpost will be long forgotten.

http://greenlivingideas.com/topics/garden-and-yard-care/gardening/winter-gardening-time
Article and first photo by Julie Kailus. Second article and photo by Jennifer Lance.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Should Thursday Be the New Friday? The Environmental and Economic Pluses of the 4-Day Workweek: Scientific American

An article in Scientific American is touting the possibility of a four-day, 40-hour work week as a way to save money by closing down buildings an extra day a week, reduce traffic-based pollution and energy use, and to help employees balance work and family. I'm all for it. How about you?

Read the rest of it here: Should Thursday Be the New Friday? The Environmental and Economic Pluses of the 4-Day Workweek: Scientific American

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pulling Back Bush's Tromp L'oeil Curtain of Democracy?

My facebook pal Bory Chhor posted an article from The Observer showing these two photos of the Alaskan port of Barrow. I know the shots are small, but notice how, in the shot to the left, sea ice is fairly close to the shore. In the other shot, apparently taken a short year later, the ice has receded so far you can no longer see it in the image. Of course, we know that these things are cyclical, but apparently 2008 brought little recovery.

As interesting as this is scientifically, the part of the article that most caught my attention was the fact that these and thousands of other instructive photos were classified as secret by the Bush administration. And to be honest, I just cannot fathom why. The Obama administration just released the bunch, thinking they would be useful in building public sentiment for action on climate change.

I get that diverse opinions about global warming can co-exist. I know that thinking people can disagree on what climatic change means for the earth. Scientists' diverse interpretations of the evidence have been utilized by both sides of this debate. Compare this story, http://tinyurl.com/c6f5gu, to this one, http://tinyurl.com/4zr9r, for example. Not till you're done reading my blog, though, pretty please.

What I do not get is the intentional hiding of scientific data for fear that it contradicts your political ideology. I can hear some of you shaking your heads at me and saying, "What do you expect from Bush and Cheney?" or something much cruder. But bear with me for a sec.

What's eating away at me here is this: Disagreements over interpretation of factual data is one thing. Hiding data from the scientists on your own ideological team is crazy. What if those scientists see the data? Either it shifts their thinking about global warming somewhat, or it doesn't shift their thinking at all - they can still explain the data within their scientific understanding of the issue. If you are so certain your perspective is correct, then you should not fear letting all evidence see the light of day and letting your science guys explain it away.

And wouldn't the President and his peeps want to know, either way? Don't they have grandchildren who will inheret our earth? It is possible for me to imagine someone, even a president, preferring to cling to the pleasanter worldview. But it is not possible for me to imagine a president who doesn't even want to know the scientific truth. It is the president's job to gather relevant data on issues critical to the nation, and act on it when necessary to protect us. And call me naive, but this is America. When did the champion of democracy - the U.S. - start believing that we, the people shouldn't have access to the very information necessary to inform public debate?

There is only one argument I can think of for hiding this specific scientific data on the ice floes along the Alaskan shoreline. It's the evangelical Christian argument that says global warming is part of God's plan for the end, the apocalypse, and that anything we do to impede the arrival of the apocalypse impedes the Lord Jesus' second coming. If this is the Bush worldview, then releasing data that might stir folks to action over climate change would be contrary to his religious imperatives.


This idea is summarized by scholar and guest-blogger at Vulpes Libres, Lizzie Rushton, who studies the impact of faith on environmental ideas and values. She writes:

As Michael Northcott notes in his book 'An Angel Directs the Storm' (2007), Bush set out his apocalyptic vision to rid the world of the wicked and evil long before 9/11 and the war on terror. However, the calamitous events of the 11th of September 2001 provided a context for visions of imperial American power visiting judgement to be accepted beyond conservative evangelical groups, and to reach the wider majority of people on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Despite this highly publicised and selective use of a widely misinterpreted biblical text, there are those who believe that the early section of chapter 21 of Revelation can reveal the true nature of the Christian responsibility towards creation. The text is as follows:

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more." ( Revelation 21: 1 NRSV)

This is the climax of John’s vision of the ‘end times’: the renewal of Jerusalem as the culmination of the return of Christ. This comes to us today as part of the Book of Revelation, which is a compilation of the astral visions recorded by the prophet John around 70 C.E. whilst he was living on the Mediterranean island of Patmos. The vision clearly states that at the return of Christ the ‘old’ earth and heaven shall make way for a ‘new’ heaven and earth. This has led some Christians to suggest that care for God’s creation is unimportant, as this current earth will inevitably be replaced by another. Some have been documented as suggesting that the duty of a Christian is not to impede the destruction of this earth so as not to prevent the coming of Christ [citation omitted].

Is this true? Is this really why the Bush administration chose to hide scientific data from us? I don't want to believe this could happen in America - that a president of the United States could secretly make decisions of state based on his personal religious imperatives - but I am drawing a blank on other possible conclusions as to why the Bush folks would hide these images. It's not like they expose nuclear or military secrets.

Every fiber of my being rejects such behavior - ruling the United States, home of the constitutional separation of church and state - like some fanatic mullah ruling an Islamic regime. At least in Islamic countries where mullahs are also political leaders, they don't hide it. They don't hide their religious motives behind tromp l'oeil curtains of democracy.

I know the Bush years are behind us. But it seems very important to me that we out this behavior, that we call out Bush and whomever in his cadre are responsible for this travesty of leadership, if in fact that is what happened. It seems important to me that scholars with credibility look into this behavior and find out whether, in fact, the Bush administration did secretly rule us with an eye toward facilitating the apocalypse.

It would explain so many things.

Read the rest of the article here: Revealed: the secret evidence of global warming Bush tried to hide Environment The Observer.

You can also see Barrow and the coast of Alaska by doing a mapquest search, and then looking at the "street view." Then you will need to "zoom out" on the map, to actually get an aerial photo of the coastline. Here's the link: http://tinyurl.com/meexh2.

Read the rest of Rushton's discussion, which sets out an alternative faith-based view, here: http://tinyurl.com/l65oyc.

Friday, July 24, 2009

What's Food Got To Do With It?


If you pay attention to my blog, you know the health care debate has temporarily pushed aside my concerns for the environment. Today, health care and the environment come together in an "Open Letter to President Barack Obama," which I ran across on a website called "The World's Healthiest Foods," a site operated by the George Mateljan Foundation. George Mateljan was a health food store mogul, sold his business, and decided to take his passion for healthy eating to the world. Hence, The World's Healthiest Foods website, http://www.whfoods.org/. He promotes organic, good for humans and the planet. And folks, I've said it before, we humans are part of the flora and fawna we need to preserve through healthier ecosystem practices. The cities where we live, the things we put in our mouths - all this needs to be cleaned up.

Anyway, Mateljan recognizes that lowering health care costs starts with raising awareness about the impact of food on human health. He drafted an open letter to President Obama, calling for a "Healthier Way of Eating" campaign as a means of saving up to 50 percent of health care costs. Here are a few choice nuggets from his letter, and the link to the entire thing is below. I can't tell you this is the most exciting reading I've brought to you, but it is a very exciting idea.

"Healthcare costs have risen from $3,468 per person in 1993 to $8,160 in 2008, and costs continue to rise. It is estimated that in the next 5 years, healthcare costs will increase almost another 50% to $13,100. These high costs might be justifiable if Americans benefitted by being among the healthiest people in the world, but sadly, we are far less healthy than people living in countries where healthcare costs are much lower. Our current system attempts to manage end-stage disease; it does not promote health. We need to change not just the way in which disease-care costs are paid, but the care that is provided. To lower healthcare costs and make true health care available to all, we need to focus on health promotion and disease prevention, not on how to shift the costs of disease care.

"One of the most important contributors to health promotion is a healthy diet. Our current public-health crisis calls for a strong public-health message about the importance of diet, even at the expense of offending the food industry and pharmaceutical companies, whom I believe to be largely accountable for the current state of our national health.


* * *

"I would like to outline how measures to enhance the eating habits of Americans can result in reductions in healthcare expenses.

"Obesity: If obesity continues to increase at its current rate, analysts predict that by the year 2020, we will be spending 20% of all our healthcare dollars on obesity-related problems. We now know that excess fat, especially visceral fat, is not merely a storage depot for extra calories, but functions as an endocrine organ significantly increasing inflammation and the risk for chronic degenerative disease. The enormous impact of obesity is due to its promotion of other chronic preventable diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancers. For example, experts estimate that one-half of all type 2 diabetes cases could be prevented simply by controlling obesity! If we could lower the rate of obesity (even by a modest amount) through a healthier way of eating campaign, researchers project that we could also lower cases of chronic preventable disease by about 15 million cases. That reduction in chronic preventable disease translates into $60 billion dollars less in treatment costs, and $254 billion dollars more in workplace productivity.

"Heart disease: According to research experts, it would not take complicated dietary changes to trigger major reductions in heart disease rates and their associated healthcare costs. For example, if we could simply take the 2% of the calories the typical American is consuming in the form of trans-fat and replace this 2% with polyunsaturated fat, we could reduce our rate of coronary artery disease (CAD) by at least 8%, and probably by much more in the 25-30% range! Since healthcare costs related to CAD total nearly $200 billion per year, we're talking about a potential savings of $50 billion dollars from a single dietary change that swaps a small amount of polyunsaturated fat for trans-fat.

"Diabetes: In 2002, an estimated $132 billion was spent on diabetes-related health problems, including about $40 billion on sick day costs and disability related to this chronic preventable disease, including blindness, amputation, heart disease, and early death. Since healthcare analysts predict that half of all diabetes cases could be prevented if obesity were prevented, approximately $40 billion in diabetes-related costs could be cut simply by the implementation of a healthier way of eating that corrected or prevented obesity. I don't have good estimates for the cost savings related to other dietary steps that can be taken to lower risk of type 2 diabetes, but I definitely know what these steps are.

* * *

"Cancer: The American Cancer Society estimates that we are spending over $100 billion each year on cancer-related costs, and there is some research to suggest that about one-third of all cancer deaths could be prevented by simply choosing to eat healthier food. Since $57 billion dollars are estimated to be lost each year following premature death from cancer, prevention of 33% of these deaths by a healthier way of eating alone would mean about $20 billion dollars in healthcare savings each year. In the case of colorectal cancer, it has been estimated that a healthier way of eating combined with exercise could prevent more cases than implementation of early screening.

"While it is somewhat mind-boggling to consider, all of the evidence described above points to a very clear-cut conclusion. According to healthcare experts, our best bet for reversing chronic preventable disease rates does not lie in more expensive medical procedures, or in more sophisticated technology or in further specialization with respect to testing and medication. Our best bet experts agree, lies in the simple, everyday practice of a lifestyle change in the foods that we eat. We could be saving millions of lives and several hundred billion dollars in healthcare costs related to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer if we would consistently eat health-promoting foods-foods that the peer-reviewed medical research has already demonstrated can prevent or help prevent these diseases. Instead of spending more money and having more disease (our current situation), we would be spending less money and having less disease!

If you have the time, I urge you to read the rest of Matejlan's letter. If it doesn't convince the President, I really hope his letter will convince you. And do explore the WHF website. I love the site, personally, and am glad of this opportunity to share it with you here.


WHFoods: Open Letter to President Barack Obama
photo above is chard, the "healthiest food" of the month at WHFoods.
ADDENDUM: this topic started a big ol' discussion on facebook, during which I managed to convince myself that we should pay for health care reform by taxing the things that make us sick - like trans fats, sugar above a certain ratio to other food values, etc. So this made my fb friends crazy (some of them anyway). There was discussion about slippery slope and eating mandates, and blackmarket twinkies. But to me, it's just like internalizing the costs of pollution, instead of externalizing them for society to pay. Imagine - if we taxed the unhealthiest food choices, then agribusiness would have to reformulate their products to be healthier to avoid the taxes. And if people purchased seasonal, local produce, their fresh food costs would come down too. It's a win-win, all the way around. And even though it would mean retooling, why is this different than what we've asked from Detroit (retooling for hybrid vehicles)? Ultimately, it would be an excellent sales pitch to be able to say your food is healthier AND lower priced!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dumpster Diving - Ultimate Urban Recycle



OMG - I'm not immune. I typed a lot of stuff here and then, poof, it disappeared! While no doubt user error, excuse me while I huff and snort and tizzy and get it out of my system.
Breathe breathe breathe.......................

Ok. I begin again.

Perhaps you've noticed my absence around the EcoCurious watering hole for the past several days. (In the first version I narcissistically - is that a word? yes, apparently it is - hoped out loud that you had, in fact, noticed. And I do hope you noticed.)

Anyway, another school year looms, and as both student and prof, I have a boat-load of work that I must complete before the second week of August. That and I had an offer on my house - ending my friendship with my realtor, and foregoing a sale over disagreements about negotiation styles. My idea is that she should be massaging the other side into submission. Her idea was to beat me into submission. Sigh...

But moving right along to happier things. Even though I'm not here, my very good friend and Newshound Extraordinaire Linda Ramo is watching out for us. She forwarded a New York Times article featuring this trendy new urban renew, recycle, reuse idea: Dumpster Diving. No, not transients diving into other people's trash for reusable items, although surely that qualifies for the designer 3R label. But come on. That's passe. It's been done. This is neuvo and improve and shiny, especially under la lune.

No, apparently, the chic thing to do with a New York dumpster is to turn it into a swimming hole. Yes, really. You read that right. There is, we are informed, a dearth of pools in the metro. Conversely there are dumpsters abundante. And the swimming soirees held in these dumpsters are private, invitation-only affairs. It's shabby chic squared! Brilliant. I hope they are cleaning these things out really, really, really well first.

I give you a couple of paragraphs from the story to psych you for more, and a video clip of a private chi chi dumpster party:

"The idea, said David Belt, a real estate developer and the president of Macro-Sea, the company behind the pools, was not to create an exclusive party destination but to experiment with underused space and materials, repurposing them with urban renewal in mind.

“It’s a very simple concept,” said Jocko Weyland, Macro-Sea’s project manager. “There aren’t that many places to swim in New York.” And Dumpsters “are everywhere; they’re ubiquitous.”


Ubiquitous. A lovely word, don't you think? Below is the definition from www.thefreedictionary.com/ubiquitous. Check out the pronunciation. You may need someone to pronounce the pronunciation for you. Apparently this word can be vocalized without access to a single vowel. By the way, Linda, this is how my brain works. Darting here, there. Lists, kids. Memory substitute. I could get nothing done at all if I didn't have a list by my side.

u·biq·ui·tous (y-bkw-ts)
adj.
Being or seeming to be everywhere at the same time; omnipresent: "plodded through the shadows fruitlessly like an ubiquitous spook" (Joseph Heller).

u·biqui·tous·ly adv.
u·biqui·tous·ness n.

Back to topic. You know, while I like the novelty of Dumpster Diving, I am thinking this isn't the best idea to come out of New York City. I predict dumpsters will soon begin to disappear at an alarming rate. Creative camouflaging contests will spring up. The city will be forced to find unique ways to discover and reclaim their expensive dumpsters. Requests for proposal will go out to programmers to develop software able to sort through citizen water bills for sudden spikes in usage. Garbage bills everywhere will go up to cover the costs of purchasing replacement dumpsters for ... well... garbage. Average Joes will take to the streets to protest their rising garbage bills and to demand access along side the elites who are slumming, er, swimming at invitation-only dumpster events.

On second thought, whatever. It is New York. I live in Kansas this summer. If I don't want to swim in the neighborhood pool, there's a cow pond every half mile or so, and the bovines don't mind sharing. Tres Kansas chic and very green, don't you think? So where is all our publicity?




Here's the link to the story:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/20/arts/design/20pool.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

Here's the video clip. Glad I'm not THAT guy, aren't you?







Picture above from http://www.treehugger.com/, where they apparently have already christened other utilities for the humble dumpster.
Cow pictures are from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service, http://www.al.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/photo/anim/mngt/cows_in_pond_musser.jpg, and the e.coli.blog, www.ecoliblog.com/cow-eating.jpg

Friday, July 17, 2009

Off Topic - Health Care Rant


YES!! Finally, someone telling it like it is. The Washington Post today reports that Congress's chief budget analyst Douglas Elmendorf, director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, said bills crafted by Democrat House leaders and the Senate health committee "do not propose 'the sort of fundamental changes' necessary to rein in the skyrocketing cost of government health programs, particularly Medicare. On the contrary, Elmendorf said, the measures would pile on an expensive new program to cover the uninsured."

You cannot keep what's old and not working in order to keep the insurance lobby happy, and then pile something new and expensive over the top of it. You have to reinvent the wheel. YES YES YES. Thank you Doug Elmendorf.

I'm sure this won't be a popular statement with some of my friends. Sigh... Just because he's Obama doesn't mean he's immune from the politics of DC. If he has to over-compromise to get votes, the thing that's passed may bear little resemblance to the solution necessary to solve the original problem.

Find the entire article here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/16/AR2009071602242.html?wpisrc=newsletter.

I could not find Elmendorf's actual testimony, but I will keep looking.

And for anyone who missed my post of July 6, 2009, I take my liberty to reprint this Washington Fable:

A Washington Fable

Once upon a time, Congress was charged with creating a totally new animal - a political animal. Before long, Washington was abuzz with talk about what qualities and characteristics would be most important for a political animal. Phones and fax lines and email boxes were lit up with calls and notes from constituents and campaign donors pushing their opinions, and lobbyists were jostling for presence in such competitive abundance that legislators started leaving by the back stairway to avoid their sales pitches. After awhile the legislators formed opinion groups around the strongest of their ideas. Several such groups vied for supremacy, each wanting the new political animal to be modeled after a particular existing animal. One bunch argued that the animal would be well-served if it were giraffe-like, with long legs and neck to rise above the crowd and reach high places. A second faction spoke on behalf of the massive, armored body of a rhino, the better to withstand and survive whatever attacks it was sure to get from hords of other animals. A third crowd praised the virtues of the majestic lion, full of pride and integrity and leadership ability. A particularly powerful group (they were connected to a large body of politically active citizens who could be mobilized on a dime) thought the animal ought to imitate the pelican, because, it said, pelicans are particularly protective of their progeny, and that would ensure the beast's long-term political survival and influence. These were the loudest voices, but there were others: A small but eloquent quorum sang for an elephant (big ears for full information gathering and a long nose for reaching into other people's business), one noisy legislator pushed for a replica of the pig (able to squeal loudly for attention, breaking through the noisy drone of political drudgery), and a few other ideas from random pairs of legislators whose votes might be needed for something else, so their thoughts could not be ignored.

Therefore, Congress, ever a body of compromise, built in its wisdom an animal with the legs and neck of a giraffe, the colossal body of a rhino, the full-maned head of the lion, the beak of the pelican, the ears of an elephant, the tail of the pig, and a few other adjustments to appease the necessary folks.

The poor thing, set free to do its business, was soon tripping and falling all over itself. The constituents, campaign donors and lobbyists scratched their heads, said, "well, what did you expect of Congress?" and took to fighting about whether we should get rid of the animal all together, or simply have it altered.

The moral of the story: Policy is supposed to solve social problems. Too much compromise may get the political vote done, but might result in a public program that doesn't function well in reality. That's what we do when we try to put too many pieces together to please everyone, call it "policy" and then try to watch it walk.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Lazy Music Sunday


Hey all. I'm kinda busy. I'm working on my dissertation analysis. Linda, aren't you proud of me?

This requires discipline. I must get down to business and stay down. I must especially stay away from facebook - my favorite internet playground - and even my little pet blog.

But one cannot simply abandon a pet blog. Pet blogs need feeding and attention. If you ignore them, they may become testy or sad, melancholy, lonesome... no, no, I'm confusing my pet blog with the application, PetPupz, http://apps.facebook.com/petpupz/ on Facebook. Can you imagine creating a virtual pet that actually suffers if you don't pay attention to it? Ouch!

Anyway, to stave off any unintentional suffering, today's post brings you Lazy Music Sunday...where I'll be sharing some environmental tunes from YouTube.

My criteria: I actually had to LIKE the music. There may be a zillion songs about the environment on YouTube (actually I'm not sure how many IS a zillion, are you?)

I listed to about half of what I found, and rejected most. It was a painful chore, but the results are good. There are some pretty interesting characters out there, and you have to give every single YouTuber a hand for their creativity and bravery - to sing in front of a camera, usually with very poor sound equipment that does nothing to enhance their natural talent (or lack thereof). But in the end, I axed all but the ones I liked the best. If you have favorites, why not post a link for us in the comments?

Now, enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Simply, a beautiful song.






Fun, funny take-off on the tune "Summer Days," from the movie "Grease."





Jill Sobule is a triple threat: talented, inspired and quite funny.



Turn down the sound a little for this. It's the visual story that makes this video, not the music. Although not objectionable, it gets repetitive after awhile. And wait all you want, Michael Jackson never sings. His job here is to beseech the sustainability gods to return the earth to a better state of being.




This song was originally on a children's record from the 1950s. It's apparent we haven't come that far... sigh.



This one has a broader message about all the ways we are destroying our world - not just the environment - but I like it!



Nearly a cult favorite, this next clip is the shortest version I could find of something called "The Recycle Song." If you'd like to see this sung by cartoon characters, six year olds, garage bands, comedians, spongebob and more, just go to YouTube and plug in "The Recycle Song." Although, if you're in the mood for a cult song, Numa Numa is my fave. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puVmKfCwb4M, and



Obama Girl sings "Save Your Energy"



Silly but fun to listen to:



Ok, I'm closing with a clip from a 1990 Catslay performance held in front of Exxon's New York headquarters.



Show is over. Thank you, thank you. You can all hold your lighters up, but there will be no encores. Photo courtesy of Hugo Chisholm and Flickr.

Friday, July 10, 2009

So, While We Wait...


Why did it take so long to get the evidence to tie cancer to smoking?

I'm really not intending to answer that question here.

I just want to point out the process that goes into figuring out whether a substance is harmful is a very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very SLOW process.

So, while we wait, how the heck are we to know?

Let's talk about Plastics. No, this is not going to be a discussion about the movie, "The Graduate."

Plastics are 10 percent of the earth's generated waste, according to Scientific American.

A raging argument between the plastics industry and a group of scientists: are plastics harmful to humans and the environment, or not? Several studies have demonstrated harm to laboratory animals, but so far, very little concrete science is available about their impact on humans. I'm thinking it's going to be a very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very long time until we find out.

The following quotes comes from an article in Scientific American's online Journal, entitled "Plastic Not-So-Fantastic: How the Versatile Material Harms the Environment and Human Health," http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=plastic-not-so-fantastic:

"The plastics industry maintains that its products are safe after decades of testing. 'Every additive that we use is very carefully evaluated, not just by the industry, but also independently by government agencies to look at all the materials we use in plastics,' said Mike Neal, a consumer and environmental affairs specialist at PlasticsEurope, an industry trade association...

And this excerpt:

"[O]ne study found that packaging beverages in PET (a type of plastic) versus glass or metal reduces energy use by 52 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent. And, solar water heaters containing plastics can provide up to two-thirds of a household’s annual hot water demand, reducing energy consumption."

But the other side of the story is this:

“'We have animal literature, which shows direct links between exposure and adverse health outcomes, the limited human studies, and the fact that 90 to 100 percent of the population has measurable levels of these compounds in their bodies,' said John Meeker, an assistant professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and a lead author. 'You take the whole picture and it does raise concerns, but more research is needed."

Then there's this:

Shanna Swan, director of the University of Rochester's Center for Reproductive Epidemiology, conducted studies that found an association between pregnant women’s exposure to phthalates and altered genital development in their baby boys.



"Also, people with the highest exposure to BPA have an increased rate of heart disease and diabetes, according to one recent study. Animal tests studies of PBDEs have revealed the potential for damaging the developing brain and the reproductive system.Yet the effects on human health remain largely unknown. To help shed more light on the issue, the report recommends more sophisticated human studies.

"[T]esting humans for endocrine disruptors can be tricky because phthalates and BPA pass through the body so quickly. In addition, tests for each chemical cost about $100 a pop. Deciding which chemicals to test and at what dose is also an issue. To date, most studies have addressed single chemicals, and there are limited data on the interactions between chemicals. Compounding the problem is the discovery that endocrine disrupting chemicals may have effects at doses lower than those used in the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard toxicity tests."

So, while we wait, what should we do?

I don't know about you, but 10 percent of the earth's generated wastes - that's a high figure. And clearly, since it's a man-made product, it requires a man-made solution. I'm guessing that there are places where plastic is the right product for the job. But 10 percent? I think it might be a good idea to find chemical free alternatives to some of our plastic usage. Next time you go to make a purchase, consider the non-plasticized version of whatever you are after.

The article in Scientific American is a great article. If you have time, I encourage you to read the rest of the story, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=plastic-not-so-fantastic, and take a peak at the study the story is based on, http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/364/1526.toc.


I'm not sure what the answer is. We are as reliant on plastic as we are on electricity. That's saying something big. I end this post with a couple of videos... the first is a news item by reporter Joe DeCarlo called "Toxic Vinyl" about some of the common objects that may be posing health risks in your home. The second is a general-topic news clip about the impact of plastics. Plus, what fun to see a very young Dustin Hoffman!









video

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My View From the Summit | Seventh Generation


"I was giddy with hope back in November when Barack Obama won the election. I believed that we stood at the edge of the positive change that was so desperately needed. This was the time we had been waiting for. An opportunity that I believe arises only once in a generation.


Today, seven months later, I am more deeply concerned than ever. More cynical. Not hopeless, but I have lost the boundless excitement and the sense that the future I had hoped for was just around the corner. While we are moving in the right direction under our new leadership, making positive changes from climate change to credit card debt, by every measure our progress falls far short of what is needed. The progress we are making as a result of our new political leadership is incremental at a time when revolutionary change is needed."

These are the words of Jeffrey Hollender, the founder and "Chief Protagonist" (as he calls himself) of Seventh Generation. Seventh Generation is one of four firms I have been studying for my dissertation. All four are genuinely striving to be green, but Seventh Generation is a unique, compared to the other three firms that I am studying, in that its mission is not about product or profit as much as it's about using a business model to change the world.


Greening is a never-ending process. It's not a task you place on your "To Do" list:

TO DO:

[_] Become Sustainable

and then check it off:

[X] Become Sustainable

when you've completed it. Being green is actually a process of "becoming" rather than "being," and requires the ability to make decisions time after time that prioritizes sustainability right up there with other business goals like ensuring the availability of resources, positioning your business successfully in the marketplace and against your competition, finding dynamite people, keeping your shareholders happy, and, of course, making a profit.

Seventh Generation has an interesting and long history, one of the first to enter the market with earth-friendly cleaning and paper products. The company has evolved as it has grown, in part a reflection of the emotional and intellectual growth of its people as they strive to fulfill their mission more and more completely. Perhaps Jeffrey Hollender is most responsible for this growth.

This week, Hollander is attending a gathering of sustainability thinkers called "The Great Plan Summit." He had the opportunity to give some opening remarks. I thought they were worthy of reprinting. I lifted the first two paragraphs of this blog from his speech, to whet your whistle for the rest of it. I hope you'll take the time to click the link and read the remainder of Jeffrey's words.

My View From the Summit Seventh Generation

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Washington Fable


I really want to see a healthy debate about Health Care reform. Don't you?

But first, I want to mention the treat at the end of this post: A Washington Fable. I'm not Aesop, but I hope you'll enjoy it.

On that note, I recently came across an article,here, www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/jul/06/passing-unread-laws, about a movement to slow the consideration of any health care bill long enough for legislators and Americans to have access and read it.

Why stop with health care? The article implies that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is intentionally pushing the health care bill through so fast that legislators won't have time to read it. In reality, legislators don't have time to read many of the bills they ultimately vote on. This isn't a Nancy Pelosi special. This is simply THE way of doing business in Washington and state houses all over the land. Once upon a time, as a new lobbyist, I learned there is no way legislators have enough time to read, fully digest, educate themselves, etc, on every one of the hundreds, maybe thousands, of bills that cross their desk each year. Not to mention the multiple negotiated and redrafted versions of those same bills as they go through the system.

How do legislators deal with this massive mound of paper? Via heuristic (short cut) of one sort or another. The most common of these: 1) A few legislators become experts in a subject; other legislators look to them for guidance. 2) Organizations review/analyze legislation; Legislators take their cues from organizations they trust. 3) Polling data showing voter opinion. 4) Committees and subcommittees delve deeply into individual bills, or are supposed to.

Actually, as an aside, we all use heuristics in our lives. There is no way we can be up to speed on every issue, all the time. Say you're interested in the environment - you probably wouldn't be reading this if you aren't - you can't personally know everything there is to know about carbon emissions and greenhouse gasses, carbon trading programs, windmill and solar energy sources, water and air pollution sources, natural resource conservation efforts, environmental justice issues, etc, etc. The list goes on and on. When one of these issues makes it onto the political agenda, and people are pushing to legislate about it, what do you use to get educated and to decide where you stand? A heuristic! No way most people can do all that research, understand all that science. You probably look at something written by one of your trusted sources - someone whose opinion and point of view generally meshes with your own, whom you expect to be more knowledgable than you about the subject matter. Maybe even ME! (That may be a mistake!)

So, where am I going with this? I agree, it would be prudent for our legislators to read and become knowledgable on each piece of legislation - after all, if they pass something that will impact our lives and our pocketbooks, shouldn't they have an obligation to understand what they're foisting on us?

And yet, I don't know how it would be humanly possible, given the very big, very diverse country that we are, and the enormous amount of legislation offered up each year. And I DO want a VERY healthy debate about the Health Care bill - oh, and the Energy bill, education, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, gun registration, immigration policy and every other pressing problem! But I cannot imagine what havoc it would cause to our system to do what seems so obviously like "the right thing" and hold up every bill until every legislator has had a chance to read every piece of paper, and every citizen has at least been given the same opportunity to read it all and put their two cents worth in. Washington is already slow enough, don't you think? We'd never get anything done. Although, some may say that's the better outcome.

So, what's the answer? If we're too big a country to engage in the fullness of debate envisioned by our forefathers, but lack of debate means that lobbyists are basically the main influencing factor, what impact does that have on public policies and programs? Maybe Congress needs to revisit the way Congress looks at all legislation and revamp the entire system. Or maybe social networking like blogging, facebook, twitter etc, can change the avenues for participation in major ways, but that's another blog altogether. What do you think?

A Washington Fable

Once upon a time, Congress was charged with creating a totally new animal - a political animal. Before long, Washington was abuzz with talk about what qualities and characteristics would be most important for a political animal. Phones and fax lines and email boxes were lit up with calls and notes from constituents and campaign donors pushing their opinions, and lobbyists were jostling for presence in such competitive abundance that legislators started leaving by the back stairway to avoid their sales pitches. After awhile the legislators formed opinion groups around the strongest of their ideas. Several such groups vied for supremacy, each wanting the new political animal to be modeled after a particular existing animal. One bunch argued that the animal would be well-served if it were giraffe-like, with long legs and neck to rise above the crowd and reach high places. A second faction spoke on behalf of the massive, armored body of a rhino, the better to withstand and survive whatever attacks it was sure to get from hords of other animals. A third crowd praised the virtues of the majestic lion, full of pride and integrity and leadership ability. A particularly powerful group (they were connected to a large body of politically active citizens who could be mobilized on a dime) thought the animal ought to imitate the pelican, because, it said, pelicans are particularly protective of their progeny, and that would ensure the beast's long-term political survival and influence. These were the loudest voices, but there were others: A small but eloquent quorum sang for an elephant (big ears for full information gathering and a long nose for reaching into other people's business), one noisy legislator pushed for a replica of the pig (able to squeal loudly for attention, breaking through the noisy drone of political drudgery), and a few other ideas from random pairs of legislators whose votes might be needed for something else, so their thoughts could not be ignored.

Therefore, Congress, ever a body of compromise, built in its wisdom an animal with the legs and neck of a giraffe, the colossal body of a rhino, the full-maned head of the lion, the beak of the pelican, the ears of an elephant, the tail of the pig, and a few other adjustments to appease the necessary folks.

The poor thing, set free to do its business, was soon tripping and falling all over itself. The constituents, campaign donors and lobbyists scratched their heads, said, "well, what did you expect of Congress?" and took to fighting about whether we should get rid of the animal all together, or simply have it altered.

The moral of the story: Policy is supposed to solve social problems. Too much compromise may get the political vote done, but might result in a public program that doesn't function well in reality. That's what we do when we try to put too many pieces together to please everyone, call it "policy" and then try to watch it walk.

I LIKE THIS

What could be better than bringing together four "goods" - economic, environmental, social and the arts? I ran across this Reuters video clip about a entrepreneurial woman in Manila who put low income elderly women and mothers to work for fair wages creating colorful bags out of recycled plastic bags. Each bag takes about five days to crochet, uses about forty bags, and is as creative as the woman making it. The women receive about $15 per bag. I don't know whether these bags are making it to the U.S. for purchase, but I like the whole idea and wanted to share it.
video

Sunday, July 5, 2009

QUIZ: What Shade of GREEN are You?


All environmentalists aren't created equal...or at least there appear to be a variety of shades of green, according to David Greenfield, author of the article below, "Nine Shades of Green." At first this idea reminded me of a facebook quiz: "Which Shade of Green Are You?" But then I started thinking about the implications. In my work, I've seen Green groups bickering amongst themselves in ways that reflect their ideological differences, rather than standing together for change in ways that reflect their goal-oriented similarities. To work together, we Greenies need to come together. We don't all need to adopt one ideology, but we do need to respectfully understand each other and find ways to work together.

That was the serious comment. Now for the fun.

What shade of Green are you?

As for me, I don't think my shade of green is mentioned here. At first I thought maybe I was centre-left green, but I realize that it doesn't fit. I am not comfortable with the feasibility of "sustainable development" and yet, neither do I believe capitalism is going away. I believe in creative, adaptive, innovative approaches. Coupled with recrafting the human mindset from its oblivious consumeristic space to an aware, willing, facilitative space. Change can happen if we look for it, believe in it, encourage and support it, let it! Left to my own devices (which I pretty much am), I'd say I'm Pragmatist Green. Let's get 'er done!

By the way, the article below is reprinted from Dandelion Times, http://dandeliontimes.net/. I love that website. It's thoughtful, literary - a veritable "New Yorker Magazine" of enviro websites.

Read on, and hey - why not leave a comment letting me know which is YOUR shade of green?

Nine Shades of Green
Posted April 12th, 2009 in politics

By David Greenfield
April, 2009

Over the years, in trying to discern the nature of the ecological movement, a number of activists and thinkers have made distinctions between different shades or types of green. Some have distinguished between a light or shallow shade of green and a dark or deep shade of green, while others have distinguished between left and right shades of green. It has become apparent to me that there are shades of green within the contemporary ecological movement, and that it is important to name these to begin to chart the way forward. I have come to discern some nine distinct shades of green. These are:

Light Green
Business Green
State Green
Citizen Green
Centre-Left Green
Far left Green
Radical Action Green
Deep Green and
Deep left Green

1. Light Green

Light green signifies the very basic sense of environmental responsibility, which almost everyone today professes. It would include the very basic ideas of recycling, conserving energy, etc. While this basic shade of green may be thought of as being non-political, it does tend to carry some political assumptions. It tends to assume that ecological imbalance is fixable through individual lifestyle changes, and that the deeper institutional power structures of our society either need not be changed or cannot be changed.

2. Business Green

Business green signifies the range of environmentally oriented businesses and products that have emerged with the growth of a green industrial sector. Particular businesses, products and areas of green business will very in their credibility and depth of greenness. I would include the expanding renewable energy sector, the organic food sector, and various other lines of supposedly green products. It isn’t all bad. I am glad that there are businesses producing windmills, solar cells, and organic food. There are risks, however, if one develops a sense of ecological thought and policy centred too specifically around a business green paradigm. The green business sector, like all business sectors, is committed to economic growth, the marketing of products, and the shaping of a social paradigm in ways which are taylor-made to the needs of business. Adjusting taxation systems and government policy to create a climate more favourable to green business is, at best, only a small part of the overall puzzle.

3. State Green

State green signifies the array of environmentally related departments and programs in the realm of government. It is largely a managerial shade of green, including various government programs responsible for environmental regulation, parks and wilderness management, state-based environmental education, and so forth. Many state green programs and policies over the years have been well-intended, while others have been deliberate attempts at greenwashing. Overall, since state policy in capitalist society tends to serve the interests of corporate power, or at best be limited to what the corporate elite is willing to allow, it would be fair to say that state green has been limited to the boundaries of green as defined by, or allowed by, the capitalist elite. Of course, there have been instances when governments have made the right decisions on environmental issues, and have stood up to particular development interests. Usually this has occurred as a result of strong grass roots pro-ecology citizen resistance, which managed to form a counter-balance to the power of industry.

4. Citizen Green

Citizen Green signifies the tens of thousands of ecological citizen organizations that exist throughout the world. These organizations, to qualify as citizen green, must be both non-government and non-corporate. This shade of green includes the full range of environmental groups, from groups of ten or twenty people which come together to mobilize on a particular issue, to large-scale organizations with thousands or millions of members which may mobilize on a variety of environmental issues over a long period of time. It is these organizations, large and small, which form the backbone of the ongoing environmental movement, raising concerns with governments, educating the public, and shaping the political landscape on environmental questions. Citizen green must, by definition, be free of both corporate and government control. If an ecological citizen organization decides to take funding from either the corporate sector or government, it is dancing a dangerous dance where its actions and entire focus may slide down the slippery slope toward serving state or corporate interests. As well, when ecological activists have formed political parties, such as Green Parties, and these parties have become part of government or of parliamentary oppositions, there is often a similar tendency to drift away from citizen green values toward serving the agenda of state and industry.

5. Centre-Left Green

Centre-left green signifies those ecological activists and thinkers who combine their ecological concerns with a commitment to peace and justice issues, but who tend to remain within a social democratic paradigm. Typically, centre-left greens come from the activist wing of the centre-left, and have sympathies toward, and past or present involvement in, such movements as the labour movement, women’s movement, peace movement, anti-poverty movement, and so forth. Centre-left greens will tend to have a reasonable awareness of issues of oppression within human society, but will believe that such oppression can be overcome within the boundaries of a reformed capitalism. They will often relate easily to the Earth Charter, with its intertwined call for peace, social justice and sustainability, and will usually not tend to view the term, “sustainable development” as being contradictory. The centre-left shade of green is perhaps a step or two closer to seeing the whole picture, with its commitment to peace and justice questions, but tends to believe that capitalism and the growth economy can be made sustainable.

6. Far Left Green

Far left green signifies those eco-activists and thinkers who reject capitalism as unsustainable, who are seeking to transform society in a revolutionary way, usually toward some type of revolutionary socialist, or communitarian, alternative, but who also tend to reject Deep Ecology as being misguided. Generally, far left greens come from a marxist or social anarchist background, with strongly held beliefs in the necessity of class struggle and class revolution, with the goal of overthrowing capitalism. People of the far left shade of green will often tend to reject an analysis that holds all of humanity to be responsible for ecological destruction, and will view capitalism as being the primary enemy of nature. Far left greens will tend to relate to the Belem Ecosocialist Declaration of 2008, and will criticize the Earth Charter and centre-left greens for not rejecting capitalism.

7. Radical Action Green

Radical action green signifies those ecological activists who are prepared to use more radical forms of action in ecological struggle. This would include various types of nonviolent civil disobedience, sit-ins, blockades, trespassing and the like, as well as the more direct inhibbiting and damaging of property as in classic Earth First-style monkey wrenching. People involved in the radical action shade of green may, in some cases, also have a more radical analysis of ecological issues, but the defining feature of radical action green is the willingness to participate in more radical forms of action.

8. Deep Green

Deep green signifies those who are drawn to the perspective of Deep Ecology, as expressed in the Eight Point Platform of Deep Ecology, (1984 revised in 2001), and the ecocentric perspective expressed in A Manifesto for Earth, in 2004. The deep green perspective stresses the need for human beings to undergo a fundamental shift in consciousness, away from human-centredness toward ecocentrism. This involves a fundamental realization that the earth does not belong to us, and that we have no right to interfere with the richness and diversity of an eco-system except, to satisfy vital needs. Instead, we belong to the earth, as one of many species, all of whom have intrinsic value, independent of human use. The deep green perspective teaches a different kind of radicalism from that of the traditional left, calling for a reduction in the quantitative standard of living for human beings, a reduction in the human population, and an increase in the standard of living for the rest of nature.

9. Deep Left Green

Deep Left Green signifies those eco-activists and thinkers who accept the idea of deep ecology or ecocentrism as described in the previous point, but who combine this with a strong anti-industrialist, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist analysis and commitment. Deep left greens believe that, while transforming human consciousness toward a oneness with nature, reducing our per capita impact on the earth, and reducing the human population, are all necessary, it is also necessary to put an end to capitalism and empire, and to create an equitable society within the limits of the ecosphere. Deep left greens most commonly refer to themselves as Left Biocentrists or Left Ecocentrists, and have summarized their thought in the ten point Left Biocentrism Primer of 1998. Deep left greens are critical of the far left green perspective for being too human-centred, and have expressed criticism toward some deep greens for being too philosophical and too removed from the realities of ecological struggle.

Summary and Further Thoughts

These nine shades of green represent an interesting range of thought and action within the contemporary ecological movement. Shades two to four tend to be defined by where the shade stands in relation to the dominant structures within capitalist society, the business sector, the state or the grass roots movement. Shades five to nine tend more to be defined by ideological perspective. The different shades tend to interact, and many individuals may be influenced by, and be a part of, several shades. I view the last five shades, centre-left green, far left green, radical action green, deep green and deep left green, as forming a five-way conversation, or pentalogue, between them. A pentalogue, by its nature, is less dualistic than a simple dialogue of two. The five perspectives each bring something to the conversation, and should each be willing to learn from the others.

The centre-left green, being the most wide-spread and most moderate, can have the effect of helping to keep the other shades in touch with the broader, more moderate progressive green movement, and enabling the deeper and more leftward shades to build bridges with those who share many of the same values, but who don’t go quite as far.

The far left green may help keep the other shades in touch with movements of oppressed people seeking to combine their struggles with the ecological struggle.
The radical action green brings to the conversation the direct wisdom of physically confronting industry, and may help to balance tendencies toward intelectualism in the other shades.

The deep green may remind the other shades of the fundamental fact of planetary finiteness and the need to shift fundamentally from a human-centred to an earth-centred consciousness.

The deep left green combines ecocentrism with an awareness of the realities of power and oppression within human society, and can hopefully help build bridges and heighten awareness among all the other shades.

With this model of the nine shades of green, and of the pentalogue among the last five shades, we may perhaps move forward with a mutualistic pattern of change, finding our way through the luminous fog of our time.

About the Author

Dave Greenfield is an activist and thinker from Saskatchewan who has been involved in peace, ecology and social justice concerns since the mid 1980s. His analysis of the reality of corporate and state power and its role in human oppression and ecological destruction has led him to combine the non-violent, social anarchist philosophy with deep ecology to tackle the ecological implications of living on a finite planet.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

ELECTRONICS: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?


I know electronics are environmental hazards. I hear stories about the problems of recycling monitors, and other electronic devices. If they're too full of hazardous materials for the landfill, that means there's something toxic that can break down and get into the groundwater table or the soil. It means difficulty to safely recycle or reuse, and exposure for workers. Etc.

Greenpeace just published a Guide to Greener Electronics. It ranks the various manufacturers based on several items. Toxicity is most important and double-weighted. They look at the inclusion of polyvinyl plastics, and brominated flame retardents (apparently the bad boy of electronic toxics). Greenpeace also checks to see whether the companies have scheduled phase outs of phthalates, beryllium, including alloys and compounds and antimony/antimony compounds.

OK. FYI, I don't know what all of these compounds are. Sigh. If you're a scientist type and want it in scientific lingo that I can't follow, look here: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaq.html. Otherwise, for the rest of us, here is a little info:

Brominated Flame Retardants [BFR]: A wide range of brominated chemicals added to materials to inhibit ignition and slow the rate of combustion. Several BFRs have known toxic properties, do not easily break down in the environment, and may bioaccumulate (build up in animals and humans). BFR pollution is now widespread, with the highest concentrations in the atmosphere and rivers close to urban and industrialised areas. BFRs are released during manufacture, use and disposal. Their presence in household dust increases human exposure. (Summarized from Greenpeace website, http://tinyurl.com/nqgyj9.)

Polyvinyl Chloride (Vinyl or PVC): Of all the plastics, PVC plastic or vinyl is the most environmentally damaging. Throughout its lifecycle it requires hazardous chemicals for production, releases harmful additives and creates toxic wastes - particularly dioxins. "Dioxins" is a descriptive word for several related chemical compounds, all of which are toxic to some degree. Dioxins accumulate in fatty tissues over time, and exposures may eventually reach dangerous levels. The EPA reported that dioxins may be a carcinogen, as well as causing other biological problems such as reproduction and sexual development, and immune system issues. (Summarized from Greenpeace website, and Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dioxin. Funny - I won't let my students use Wikipedia as a reference! Expediency is the mother of all short-cuts.

And a short explanation for the others:

Phthalates: an additive to PVC that makes it more flexible. Its toxicity is disputed by the chemical industry, www.americanchemistry.com/s_phthalate/index.asp, but alternatives to PVC should make that debate a non-issue.

Beryllium: A metal found naturally in coal, some rocks, volcanic matter, etc. Exposure can result in irreversable and sometimes fatal lung scarring, http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/beryllium/recognition.html.

Antimony/antimony compounds: A semi-metallic (whatever that means) chemical, used in the manufacturing of certain types of semi-conductor and other devices, http://www.lenntech.com/Periodic-chart-elements/Sb-en.htm. Oh, maybe you need semi-metallics for semi-conductors, and full-metallic chemicals for full-conductors. Sorry. I couldn't help myself.

Greenpeace looks at other issues too. Does the firm have a take-back and recycle program for its equipment? What are they doing about climate change and their own carbon load? Greenpeace does not that its guide does not rank companies on labor standards or social responsibility.

VERDICT: (did you secretly come here first?)

Worst: Nintendo seems to be the out-and-out worst, with Microsoft, Lenovo (IBM) and Fujitsu doing only somewhat better. That's too bad, because I love Fujitsu products. Although this time around I bought a Dell.

Best: Nokia and Samsung are neck-in-neck the best, with Sony-Ericsson just behind.

But that doesn't do the report justice. Go to the website and look at the information laid out corporation by corporation. It's very telling.

http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/international/press/reports/guide-to-greener-electronics-12-edition.pdf

Thursday, July 2, 2009

REAL or HOAX, part II


In my June 30 blogpost, http://bit.ly/3OsiGT , I asked some very cool people (scientists, environmental ethicists) what to think about the Heartland Institute's recent publication of well-written contrarian information to contest the reality of climate change. One of those cool people pointed me to Grist, a site focused on environmental journalism. I turned around and asked Grist (also cool people) what it thought of the Heartland material. I got a prompt reply from Ashley Braun, Grist's Community Coordinator, listing some articles Grist has written about Heartland.

I should note that the Grist articles raise doubts about Heartland, but aren't filled with the kind of hard core data that an academic wants to see. For me, the most interesting inference, and one which Grist reports blogger Kevin Grandia at DeSmogBlog is trying to back with proof, is the claim that the long list of scientists who supposedly side with Heartland on the status of climate change may be partially falsified. You can read about this in the fourth article noted below, "DeSmogBlog uncovers Heartland lies." And likewise, the second article, "A look at the non-experts speaking at Heartland Institute's denialist sideshow," raises questions for me about the validity of Heartland's conference speakers, but doesn't actually put the validity question to rest. As a lawyer and a researcher, Grist's objections (many of the speakers, on the face of it, seem under-qualified to be considered experts on climate change) raise the question, but I could see a circumstance where someone's job title doesn't account for other activities that may have created expertise. I want to know more about the speaker's own claims as to the source of their expertise. Finally, the June 30th post gave a weighty nod to ideology. Grist's last article on the list does a good job of outing the ideological bent of the web of climate change nay-sayers. As I said on June 30th, I don't begrudge anyone their ideology. But we are human, and ideology often colors our abilities to consider evidence that may be contrary to our belief system. When we're dealing with a problem as potentially devastating to the earth and its inhabitants (including us) as global warming, that warrants a mind open enough to consider the worst case scenario. I'm a pragmatist. I believe we should "plan for the worst and hope for the best," as opposed to planning for the best, and finding ourselves facing the worst.

Ashley's response is below.


"Hi Sandy,

Thanks for contacting Grist and for questioning what’s going on with the Heartland Institute. We’ve been keeping an eye on them and their climate denial conferences for a while now. Here’s a list of our coverage, which may be useful to you and your friends:


Heartland Institute terrified of Grist, http://www.grist.org/article/global-warming-deniers-grist-not

A look at the non-experts speaking at Heartland Institute’s denialist sideshow, http://www.grist.org/article/A-roomful-of-cynics/

Do as Heartland says, not as it does, http://www.grist.org/article/do-as-heartland-says-not-as-it-does/

DeSmogBlog uncovers Heartland lies, http://www.grist.org/article/skeptics-lie-news-at-11/

Heartland’s climate experts: No actual expertise required, http://www.grist.org/article/air-quote-experts/

The Heartland conference recycles the usual climate change skeptics in its speakers list, http://www.grist.org/article/four-hundred-skeptics-try-19/

Marc Morano’s secret list of climate deniers, http://www.grist.org/article/Moranos-misinformation-machine/

Best,
Ashley


Ashley Braun Community Coordinator
206.876.2020 ext. 232
710 Second Ave, Seattle, WA 98104
Celebrating 10 Years as A Beacon in the Smog.®
Party crashers welcome. www.grist.org"

Dandelion Times


For something a little different, check out Dandelion Times, an online journal featuring thoughtful articles about environmental issues and eco-poetry. Here's a Walt Whitman piece from the journal:

The First Dandelion

Simple and fresh and fair from winter's close emerging,
As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics, had ever been,
Forth from its sunny nook of shelter'd grass — innocent,
golden, calm as the dawn,
The spring's first dandelion shows its trustful face.

– Walt Whitman


A Left-Biocentric Online Journal — Dandelion Times