Monday, December 26, 2011

Dogs for America!




Simon, world's pickiest pup when it comes to treats, loves these made-in-America delights! 









It dawned on me, as I was reordering these Carlson Morgan dog treats, that I shouldn't keep this product a secret.  My dogs absolutely love these treats, above and beyond even the over-priced bully sticks.  And this 32 oz container lasts a really long time.  I buy bulk at about $10.50 per container.

Simon's the little guy on the bottom of the heap.  
Lucy's on top.
These treats are healthy - grain free, made without added sugar or salt, no preservatives.  But they also have something else going for them - they're made in America.  Better for the environment because the product travels shorter distances to reach you, it's also become a necessity following reports of contaminated imported food products.  I spend a lot of time turning treat bags over to see whether the product is from China.

The kids also love Pampered Pets Peanut Butter and Honey treats.  These are also made in America (in a Chicago bakery!), are oat based, contain no wheat or corn, and very healthy.  Although we pretty much stick with the Peanut Butter because I can get it at Costco for $35 for two five pound bags, Pampered Pets makes a variety of other flavors.  Beware, I've seen these repackaged into small, airtight containers, and sold for much more money.

Lucy is a peanut butter fiend!
And, for those of you, like me, who are forced by circumstance to follow your dog around with a (biocompostable) doggie bag, I've noticed that some treats are easier on my pups' systems than others. The "kids" have had  no problems with either Carlson Morgan's or Pampered Pets treats.

And since I mentioned it, let me also recommend Bio Buddy, fully compostable doggie bags.  Don't be fooled by so-called biodegradable bags that degrade into teeny, tiny microscopic pieces of plastic.  Bio-compostable bags are vegetable-based plastics that compost just like any other vegetable.  You can find Bio Buddy bags here:  http://bio-buddy.com/

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Best gift for the person who has everything...

The person who has everything is also a person whose consumption patterns are depleting the earth's resources.  The perfect gift for an over-consumer is a donation to Carbon Fund, to offset their carbon use.   Click here to be taken to Carbon Fund's easy-peasy online donation application, where you can arrange for an off-set gift - and maybe some enlightenment - for all your well-heeled pals.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

EU refuses to be held to a climate deal unless U.S., China & others are too


by Andrew Light
DURBAN — The expected end game of the international climate talks in Durban is shaping up to be a fierce stand off.

A showdown has emerged between the EU and other parties over their conditions for agreeing to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. The first commitment period will expire in 2012.  If it is not renewed the fate of the instruments that support the world’s fragile carbon market is uncertain.

Japan, Russia and Canada have all signaled that they are unwilling to continue with a second commitment of binding emission cuts for the treaty leaving only the EU ready to move forward.

But the conditions the EU has asked for at this meeting to preserve the Kyoto Protocol are steep.  In exchange for their commitment they expect everyone else – in particular the other large greenhouse gas emitters like the U.S., China, and India – to begin a roadmap for a process that will create a binding agreement on reducing emissions later in the decade.  What we now know as the “mandate” debate has pulled everyone into a discussion over the fate of the Kyoto Protocol — including the U.S., which is not a party to it.

While the fate of U.S. emissions is not bound to the fate of the Kyoto Protocol, the fate of many of the most important achievements of the Obama administration in this forum are now tied to Kyoto through the mandate debate.  Included in this list are the institutions that were created out of last year’s meeting in Cancun – such as the Green Climate Fund (tasked with mobilizing a large chunk of the promised $100 billion a year in climate financing by 2020) and the Clean Technology Center and Network – as well as progress they have made on pushing for a more rigorous system of transparency for measuring, reporting, and verifying (MRV) promises for emission reductions.

The dominoes could fall like this:  If the U.S. and other parties say no to the EU demand for a mandate on a process of a new binding agreement, then the EU could in turn say no to a re-commitment to the Kyoto Protocol.
If the EU passes on the Kyoto Protocol, then the G77 (representing most developing countries at this meeting) — which has been adamant in their insistence this year that the extension of the Kyoto Protocol was absolutely critical to them — could walk away. And if that happens then all parts of the climate architecture moving through this process could come to a halt. The result would be that the final negotiating text that has been worked out here on the Green Climate Fund, the Clean Technology Center, and MRV could be left abandoned with no possibility of approving it before the parties go home. We’d have to wait another year until these valuable institutions were potentially picked up again and made a reality.

With this much at stake, why would parties say no to the EU’s demands? The key is the insistence that the outcome of the new roadmap to emerge from this meeting end in a “legally binding” agreement.  The EU wants some assurance that they will not be the only countries bound by an international regime to reduce their emissions. Currently, all other parties that have registered emission reduction targets have only done so through their official submission to the Copenhagen Accord in January 2010 — which is not legally binding.

The EU is also concerned about the math and physics of the matter. If they are the only party to continue with the Kyoto Protocol then only 15 percent of global emissions will be bound under an international treaty. On the other hand, the combined pledges from the Copenhagen Accord cover countries representing over 80 percent of global emissions. If we’re going to get an agreement that binds everyone to a common set of rules and standards aimed at limiting temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius, then a greater percentage of global emissions needs to be covered under a new instrument.

But so far there is little indication that the US, China, India and several other parties like the idea of signing onto this package. While no serious objections have been voiced about authorizing a roadmap to come out of this meeting that will continue work on a new agreement in a stipulated amount of time, parties disagree on the idea of agreeing ahead of time to a legally binding outcome for this process.

This week several parties, such as the U.S. and India, expressed reservations that they can enter into a process that guarantees an agreement a legally binding outcome when they don’t yet know what the content of the agreement would be. The U.S. has also repeatedly demanded for an all-inclusive binding target in order to craft a workable climate agreement. According to our lead climate negotiator Todd Stern, the U.S. is not necessarily opposed to a legally binding outcome, but rather to an outcome that, like the Kyoto Protocol, is binding only to some parties and not to others — regardless of the size, scale, and growth of their emissions.

The EU has been lock-step behind Connie Hedegaard, the EU Commissioner for Climate Action, who claimed in a press conference on Wednesday that parties who don’t commit to binding actions take on an “unbearable responsibility.”

But the insistence that parties agree on a process to create a legally binding outcome does not mean that those parties entering into negotiations have to say yes to anything that this process produces.

In an exclusive interview with Climate Progress, EU lead climate negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger explained that the EU was after something more akin to a couple getting engaged.  If two people get engaged, then they aim for a particular legally binding outcome.  As a process of achieving that outcome, they embark on a list of things to do – picking a date, a location, an invitation list, etc. – over a discrete period of time.  But as everyone knows, an engagement, even a good engagement, is not necessarily a successful engagement.

Engagements can even end at the altar.

Similarly, Runge-Metzger acknowledged that if parties agreed to a roadmap leading to a legally binding agreement they can pull out if it takes a turn to something they don’t want.  The U.S. has been clear that it will not tolerate an agreement that once again leaves China in the position of not having legally binding emission cuts while developed countries do.  If the U.S. agrees to the EU’s proposal for a roadmap toward a legally binding outcome, and it loses the fight during the creation of a new instrument somewhere along the way to ensure that the agreement is reciprocal, then it can drop out of the process.

Nonetheless, many parties are still wary of signing on to the EU process.  Right now, throughout the ICC, negotiators are hard at work trying to find the sweet spot between the preferred language for the outcome of a new negotiating process preferred by the EU and language and something that can garner more support.

This afternoon a new text was introduced from the South African hosts of the meeting floating a compromise.  Instead of initiating a process that leads to a legally binding commitment it would “launch a process in order to develop a legal framework applicable to all under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change after 2020.”

Unfortunately, reports on the floor were that the EU would reject this language and it was changed just a few hours later at 1:00am to "launch a process to develop a Protocol or another legal instrument."  The reasons the EU might reject substituting "legally binding" for something else are certainly not without merit from the perspective of their aims in initiating this process.  After all, the current Kyoto Protocol is a legal instrument, that China has signed onto, but it does not bind China legally under an international process of scrutiny, review, and enforcement to report or reduce its emissions.  Similarly, the original treaty that created the UNFCCC is a legal framework, ratified by the U.S. Senate, but it does not require the U.S. or anyone else to reduce emissions.

As negotiators go back in to meeting rooms late into the night and try to hammer out a new compromise on the EU roadmap, the U.S. should aim to broker a deal to get to “yes.”  The stakes are far too high not to.
As long as the U.S. is absolutely clear on its conditions for signing onto a legally binding deal down the road, it can sign onto a roadmap for a legally binding instrument with fair warning to all parties that if conditions are not met the engagement will be off.  Some will worry that this could be the U.S. in Kyoto all over again.

In the run up to Kyoto, the U.S. worked hard to create a climate treaty.  But the U.S. Senate voted 95-0 months prior to Kyoto not to even consider ratifying a treaty that divided the world into two categories, requiring emission reductions for developed parties and not for developing parties — regardless of the size, scale, and trajectory of their emissions.  Since the U.S. worked so hard to shape that treaty it was a huge disappointment, and a blow to our international credibility to have to bow out of the process.

But this time around is not like Kyoto.  The U.S. has been perfectly clear the last three years that we will not accept a non-reciprocal, non-conditional agreement on emissions reductions from developing countries.   If our conditions are not met, then we do not have to sign on to the final product (just as any party can do if their conditions are not met).  On the other hand, if our conditions are clear then we can work toward an outcome that would make for an agreement that would pick up where the Kyoto Protocol and the Cancun Agreements will leave us off in 2020.
And if we don’t make a deal, and this meeting ends without an outcome, the Obama administration risks losing everything it has worked for over the last several years and the progress that has been made which, though unsatisfying to many, nonetheless gives us critical means for moving forward.

After all, whether the EU gets its way or not, the outcome over the mandate debate will not ensure that another ton of carbon gets reduced from the world’s overall emissions during this decade.  At best, the process the EU has proposed would lead to an agreement that would require reductions in emissions after 2020 given the time it will take to finalize a treaty and enter it into force.

On the other hand, the Green Climate Fund is the only measure that could overcome the twin “gigaton gaps” that exist from the pledges made so far out of the Copenhagen Accord.  As the Center for American Progress argued in a report published last year it is the key instrument for mobilizing the finance needed to increase the ambition of parties under the Copenhagen Accord as well as a critical means to provide directed financing to closing the gap between those pledges and a path by 2020 that gives us a chance of stabilizing at 2 degrees Celsius.

If this meeting collapses over the mandate debate then we risk the postponement, and worse, the abandonment of this effort.  It is not clear when we will get a chance again to put all the major carbon emitters on the road to a common effort.

Andrew Light is Associate Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at George Mason University and a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Just say "No" to rBGH.

"What would you do if I killed your rBGH story?" he asked. What he really wanted to know was whether we would tell anyone the real reason why he was killing the story. In other words, would we leak details of the pressure from Monsanto that led to a coverup of what the station had already ballyhooed as important health information every customer should know?

This really stinks.

Please read this story by Jane Akres on PR Watch.  Or watch the video below.



It's about Monsanto's successful campaign to have a report about the strong links between cancer - particularly breast cancer - and rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) shelved, despite a tough fight by the journalists who put the report together.  rBGH is used in about half of all dairy cattle in the U.S., and research correlates its use to cancer.

According to Wikipedia, the United States is the only developed nation to permit humans to drink milk from cows given artificial growth hormone. Posilac was banned from use in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and all European Union countries (currently numbering 27), by 2000 or earlier. Read about rBGH and its health implications here.

Monsanto won this round, meaning women are the big losers.

Since that point, Monsanto sold the vaccine to a subdivision of Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company.

And please, insist on the label, "No rBGH," on all your dairy products.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Oh, the Cognitive Dissonance

AT&T is about to roll out plant-based packaging, according to an article in Environmental Manager.  The plastic is composed of up to 30 percent sugarcane-based ethanol plastic.    

Yay!  

On the other hand, I receive nearly daily emails from CREDO, a cell phone company that markets to politically progressive cell phone users by donating part of the profits of the service to politically progressive causes.  Their sales pitch contrasts CREDO's use of profits against two of its competitors, AT&T and Verizon.  AT&T, CREDO tells us, gave $426,000 to House and Senate Tea Party Caucus members, and Verizon gave $48,000.

What's an EcoGirl to do?



Thursday, August 25, 2011

Good Guide - Great Idea


I'm so impressed with the new tool bar tool that gives you information about products you're considering buying online for their sustainability value - and by sustainability, I mean the three legged stool of economic, social and environmental impacts.   Right now, it only works on Amazon.com, but I spent over $200 on Amazon over the last few weeks buying supplements and toiletries.  I wish I'd known about this first.

Here's a pic of Colgate Total.  I knew it would be bad, because I just learned about the whole triclosan thing not too long ago.  Still, check this out.  I got to create a filter based on my own levels of concern.  My filter is in the lower left-hand corner.  Then, look at the "Health" assessment for Colgate Total - there are two other assessments, environment and society, that I could not capture in the screen shot.  You can see that triclosan violates my "critical" concern filter, while there are other chemicals that have a lesser level of concern.



Wow oh wow oh wow!  What a GREAT product.  I'm still trying to figure out how they plan to make money on this free application... I'm sure they have a business model, and I'm all for their success.

There is also a mobile app.  I'm so totally in.  I spend way too much time trying to figure out which are my best environmental choices.  It's such a relief to have GoodGuide's team of experts doing all the legwork for me.  And no doubt, far more effectively.

This makes shopping so transparent, so easily.  Watch the video below and then  click this sentence to head over to GoodGuide and download your app now.



Just do this!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bag the Box

Ok, so this is an ad for Malt-o-Meal.  Still, they've got something here.  I hope this goes viral and Kellogg's, General Mills, and all the others get the bright idea.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

So Much Demand, So Little Time


A competition hosted by visualizing.org resulted in this winning graphic by Jacob Houtman.  The interactive map demonstrates the relative ecological footprint of the world's countries.

To get the full play of this map, go to the website, at http://www.visualizing.org/html5/13801.  There is also a description of the competition and a discussion about ecological footprint here, www.visualizing.org/stories/visualizing-value-nature.

I'd Rather Fight Than Switch





Triclosan. 

It's job is to kill germs.




But... it apparently moonlights as an endocrine disruptor.  So far, at least, we know it does in small animals.

Most of us come in contact with triclosan  every single day, repeatedly, in our toothpaste, in our hand soaps, our cleaning supplies, and other products.  In fact, it's so prevalent, according to this New York Times article by Andrew Martin, that it shows up in the urine of 75 percent of every American over five years old!

Add to this the increase in popularity of anti-bacterial products.  Over the past decade or so, it seems like every new kitchen and soap formula has a germ killing agent.  And along with the possibility of messing with our hormones, the prevalence of antibiotics means that bacteria will morph into antibiotic-resistant killer superbugs.  Like C.diff and MRSA.  And if we all have antibacterials in our systems, how does that effect the efficacy of antibiotics when we need to take them?

The FDA says it doesn't have enough data to make a recommendation one way or the other.

So, when is not having enough data the same thing as knowing triclosan is safe?  

That's what the chemical companies want you to believe.  Shades of the tobacco cancer wars.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

WHAT'S IN YOUR TUNA CAN?

Is she in your tuna can?


An AlterNet article by Casson Trenor on tuna fishing practices is a must read. Several species are being sacrificed to provide us with tuna at $1-2 per can.

To cut to the chase, look for this information when you buy canned tuna:


(1) When shopping for "light" tuna, buy pole-and-line or FAD-free seined skipjack.

FADs are devices placed in the ocean to draw small fish, which draw larger fish, and so on. Eventually an entire ecosystem forms around a FAD, an ecosystem that is wiped out when the tuna trawlers come to cash in. Among other unfortunate results, several highly endangered species get caught up in these FAD raids.

(2) When shopping for "white" tuna, buy pole-and-line albacore.

The alternative to pole-and-line is something called "long line" fishing, which uses a net spread wide across sections of the ocean. Yes, you guessed it. Long lines, like FADs, catch up many fish besides the intended catch in their death sweep.

(3) Tuna should be caught in managed waters. Buy tuna from companies that refuse to fish in the high seas pockets.


Fishermen who do not wish to abide by fishing restrictions park their operations in waters outside of international boundaries. What they do, and the havoc they wreak isn't even documented. Let's not support these practices.

(4) Buy tuna from companies that support the PNA.


The PNA is a pact of "Parties to the Nauru Agreement." It turns out that large companies, including, according to the author, Thai Union, the company that owns the American Chicken of the Sea brand, and other companies, are basically ransacking the waters of small countries that are tuna-rich but have no other source of industry. The PNA includes a "number of tuna-rich but cash-poor Pacific island states have banded together in an effort to take charge of their fisheries and to keep the tuna pirates out of their watery backyards."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

PRINCE OF WALES PICKS UP THE GORE BATON

The Prince of Wales wants to use his position to sway public opinion on the environment.  Yay! This is just a trailer. I'll see if I can find the entire movie.


Harmony Movie Trailer from Balcony Films on Vimeo.

EXPOSED: Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products

Third in the series of book reviews by my Urban Environmental Policy students at UMKC, "EXPOSED: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products" is reviewed here by Wesley Fahsenfeld.  This book is not what you'd think.  It's more of an expose on the international politics of safe chemistry rather than an expose about what's in all your household products.  If you're looking for politics, read on.  If you want to read about toxins in your household products, click here and here instead.   


INTRODUCTION
The book that I chose to review is titled, “Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday products and What’s at Stake for American Power”, by Mark Shapiro.  This book is essentially a ‘wake up call’ for US consumers regarding the dramatic shift that has taken place in the legislation and regulation of toxic chemicals in consumer products.  Traditionally, as in the 1960’s-1980’s, the US has been the leader in global environmental standards, however, today this power has shifted drastically towards the new and improved European Union.  Shapiro provides a contrasting comparison between EU standards and the US’s standards regarding chemicals found in everyday consumer products in relation to greater environmental policy.  Shapiro makes the case that US is falling far behind in regulating toxic chemicals in consumer products, and we as consumers will face the consequences.  Building upon this risk, Shapiro shows how not only does this shift in environmental leadership put our citizens at risk, it also will undermine the US’s ability to remain on top of the commercialized global economy. 

IMPORTANT POINTS

The EU’s rising power is known as “soft power.”  This refers to Europe’s newfound collective influence that is derived from its large market and aspiring characteristics of moral leadership.

The EU is now the largest and most influential marketplace in the world and its combined economic output from its membership countries now outpaces that of the US.

The EU follows a close application of the Precautionary Principle, and the US seeks for firm evidence before legislating certain ingredients out of consumer products.

The EU has removed all potential toxins (CMR’s: carcinogens, mutagens and reproductive toxins) from cosmetic products, whereas the US has not done so. 

The EU removed all Phthalates from toy products in 1999 because of research that indicated a potential for harming the development of the hormonal and sexual development process of young boys.  The US has chosen not to eliminate these chemicals because research has not proven a direct connection to developmental problems in young children.

The differences in the approaches to environmental regulation puts EU manufacturers in a better position to service the global marketplace as compared to US manufacturers.

The US is now officially following the EU on environmental regulation.  A perfect example of this is the POPS treaty (Persistent Organic Pollutants; ex; DDT) in which the US followed the EU and many other developing countries to ratify the treaty. 

The US needs stricter government intervention in order to keep pace with the EU.  Even after George W. Bush signed the POPS treaty the justice department immediately suspended the legislation because it violated the separation of powers act of the constitution.

China, the new leader in global manufacturing is following the EU on environmental legislation not the US.

China has chosen to mirror their chemical review laws based off of the EU’s legislation known as REACH (Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals), and not the US’s outdated version known as TSCA (Toxic Substances Control ACT of 1976). 

The consequence of the US’s lost leadership role on environmental regulation puts the US economy at the mercy of legislation that it has no role in determining.

CRITIQUE
Overall I think that this book is valuable because it shows how the global environmental leadership position of the US has drastically changed and is now spearheaded by the EU.  What makes this interesting for readers is that Shapiro uses examples from all over the consumer products industries to show which chemicals are regulated out of products in the EU and not the US.  Shapiro does a good job of showing how the US is no longer leading environmental regulations while simultaneously praising the EU for their efforts.  What this book fails to mention is the critically important differences that the two governing bodies possess.  Shapiro routinely compares the EU against the US as if they are “apples to apples” comparables.  I would contend that they are not. 

One example of this that sticks out to me is on pages 70-71.  Here Shapiro uses the example of the POPS treaty to show how the US has lost touch with EU on environmental leadership.  After President Bush signed the treaty in 2001, Shapiro says, “Assistant Attorney General William Moschella issued an opinion that ratifying the POPS would create an international process for restricting chemicals, to which the United States would be bound, compelling action by the executive branch (Via the EPA) and by congress (via the legal changes required by congress to keep the United States in compliance) that would violate the separation of powers clause of the Constitution” (69).  This is an example among many where the differences in the governing bodies of the EU and the US are far different.  The US is far less centrally controlled, by design, and the EU is a political union that by its existence has been formed by severing nations giving up independent power to a central body that creates rules and regulations that apply to 27 + member nations.  The fact that US legally cannot sign treaty that would create a process where further chemicals or additives could later be restricted without congressional approval is contrary to the governing process for which the United States was designed.  This should not be considered a black eye, but only a stark difference for which our country goes about regulation versus the EU. 

This example is a well supported theme throughout the book and while it does point to strict differences, the differences are in the design of the government and not necessarily a lack of desire to improve and protect our environment.  In Shapiro’s favor, it is clear that he sides with a European approach where the Precautionary Principle is strictly adhered to.  In this circumstance, Shapiro is correct to conclude that the US is lagging behind based off of the information that he presented in the book.  The US is more hesitant to restrict chemicals because of their toxicity at certain levels.  In the eye’s of the US, just because one chemical can be dangerous at higher levels does not mean it is dangerous in minute levels.  This difference is evident in an analogy presented by a representative from Proctor and Gamble that Shapiro shares on P. 30, “’imagine, he said, ‘you encounter a tiger in the wild, and then you encounter another tiger behind its protective enclosure in a zoo.’  The wild tiger, he said, ‘is inherently dangerous.’  Get close enough, and it can kill you.’  Put that tiger behind bars in a zoo, however, and that tiger ‘is not dangerous at all.’…’it’s the same thing in [cosmetic] products,’ he said, ‘there may be inherent toxicity to a particular chemical, but if you use it under certain conditions the exposure is minimal and they present no risk.’  This distinction lies at the core of the disagreement between the two continents in determining chemical safety.” 30).  When Shaprio points to these distinctions between the US and EU he does a poor job of describing why the EU’s approach is better than the US’s.  He simply uses these examples to show that the US is not as quick to regulate out chemicals, and because of that, he determines that the US is failing in environmental regulation.  I wish he would provide more evidence as to why the EU’s approach is better suited than the US’s.

Another area that Shapiro could have done a better job supporting, is when he claims that the US’ less strict regulations put companies and manufacturers at a disability to serve the European markets.  Shapiro claims that because the US’ regulations do not include chemicals that are banned in the EU, US manufacturers can’t serve the EU’s vast marketplace.  This assumption is short sighted and assumes that just because US manufacturers don’t have to produce a product in a certain way doesn’t mean that they will.  US manufacturers who wish to serve the EU market can produce to the EU standards just the same. 

In the end, Shapiro does a good job of showing how the leadership position of the US has dissolved and paved the way for the EU to spearhead global environmental regulation.  I think that there are a few areas that Shapiro could have done a better job but overall his narrative is well supported.  I think that the main thing that I take away from this book, is not a fear of the toxicity of products that I can buy in US, but rather the risk that is inherent to the US’ lack of leadership on environmental regulation and how it can ultimately subject our nation to a variety of initiatives that we have no role in developing.  This essentially equates a lack of leadership on environmental standards to a loss of control in the global marketplace which is a threat worth mitigating in my opinion. 

EXAMPLES
  • The comparison between the US and EU is an extremely important aspect of this book and Shapiro’s narrative.  Without an introduction, Shapiro uses the first chapter, titled “Soft Power, Hard Edge,” to introduce the position that the EU has on the global environmental policy front.  It is important to understand this first paragraph’s title to get a feel for the way the Shapiro views the EU in his comparisons to the US:

  •  
    • “Political Scientists call Europe’s form of influence “soft power,” exerted not through military might but through the lure of its vast market and from less tangible qualities of moral leadership.  But there’s a hard edge the EU’s soft power.  That edge was discovered with a jolt by Microsoft, which was fined close to a billion dollars for violating European principles of fair competition in its marketing of computer software; by General Electric, which had its proposed merger with Honeywell blocked because of similar anti-competitiveness concerns; and by Philip Morris, which agreed to a one billion dollar fine to settle allegations of tobacco smuggling and evading taxes.  These were warning shots, showing that changing European standards of competition and corporate fraud were no longer a matter of quaint differences of perspective, but had the teeth of enforcement behind them.  Now some of those teeth are being put behind environmental protection.” (16).

  • It is important to know the significance of the EU in the global economy. It is also helpful to understand the implications of the European marketplace for US companies participating in the global economy:

  •  
    • “Forty to sixty percent of Procter & Gamble’s $56 billion in yearly sales is to overseas markets, according to Long, the largest of which is Europe.  The major cosmetic companies—Revlon, Estee Lauder, and other brand-name enterprises—also rely on the European and other overseas markets for a significant portion of their yearly sales.  For the cosmetics industry overall, much of their product line is not subject to U.S. regulations at all.” (31).

  • This is a good example from the book where Shapiro uses the POPS treaty and countries in which have ratified the treaty to show how the US is not only behind the EU but also other countries that were typically seen to be far behind the US.  In this example, Mexico proposed to add a chemical, Lindane, to the banned chemicals list in the POPS treaty:

  •  
    • “Mexico’s move on lindane revealed how dramatically the global politics around chemicals have changed.  When Weir and I wrote our book, we described Mexico as one of the primary markets for pesticides like chlordane, aldrin, dieldrin, and indeed, lindane.  Today, it is the United States that is the market for a chemical that is banned in Mexico.  The ironies around lindane abound, and offer a snapshot into how profoundly the United States has lost its former position of environmental leadership.” (75)

  • Something that is also important to know is a brief discussion by Shapiro regarding chemicals and their effect on the human body.  This is important in the discussion between the EU’s precautionary approach versus the US ‘smoking gun,’ or evidence based approach:

  •  
    • “The fears now, of scientists like Caserta and others, are the effects that may be seen over time from extremely low doses, measured in parts per million or even parts per billion.  This signifies a dramatic shift in the science of toxicology, which has traditionally assessed chemical risk on the basis of volume: the higher the quantity of potentially dangerous chemical, the higher the risk.  Recent evidence suggests an unexpected twist in this assessment: some chemicals may have an effect only at low doses, while higher doses may trigger receptors to shut down, or trigger an immune reaction that is not triggered by the far more common low-dose exposures.” (130)

  • In Shapiro’s discussion on the implications of the US’s lack of leadership, this is a good example that shows the power of the global economy and how the US is potentially missing out:

  •  
    • “While the United States retreats, the EU’s tougher approach to environmental protection is rippling into the supply chains of the global economy.  ‘The ground is changing,’ commented Daryl Ditz of the Center for International Environmental Law, which works globally on behalf of environmental reform.  ‘It’s happening through all these micro-decisions made by companies in countries most American’s don’t pay attention to.’  At the same time, new axis of power are emerging, independent of any of the superpowers.  As I researched this book, a major trade deal was struck between India, Brazil, and South Africa that sent billions of dollars in commerce into motion across the hemispheres that detours the EU, U.S., and China.” (177).

Shapiro, Mark, “Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products, Who’s at Risk and What’s at Stake for American Power,” Chelsea Green, 2007

Monday, July 25, 2011

Icy Ocean


A recent Scientific American article says long buried pollutants are being re-mobilized as arctic ice melts.  Apparently, cold has kept pollutants generated by our grandparents' generation and later banned for their toxicity under water.  


According to scientists at the Barcelona, Spain-based Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research and at Environment Canada's Air Quality Division, arctic warming is causing the release.   Warmer temperatures cause chemicals to partially evaporate, and become airborne.  


Monitors at three locations around the globe demonstrate recent increases of these chemicals, despite the fact that they are no longer manufactured, and the remaining existing stores are minimal and accounted for.  To read more - the exact chemicals, where it's showing up, at what concentrations, click here.


This just adds to the wealth of warming evidence.  


I wish I understood why certain people are so adamant that climate change isn't happening, in the face of more and more mounting evidence like this rolling in.  My excellent facebook friend, Cathy Wiken, is one such person.   I'd like to see inside these nay-sayers' minds.  Really.

If you're a doubting Thomas, here are some other links you might want to check out.



Climate Change: Real or Hoax?


Won't Temperatures be Warmer Ever


Climate Chorus

MOST WALKABLE CITIES

Boston - 3rd on the Walkable Cities List
WalkScore.com has released its annual ranking of the country's most walkable cities.  Two rankings are available - Walk Score's rankings based on a proximity inventory of walkable amenities - and a second reader ranking.  The reader ranking changes as readers vote, so get your two cents' worth in.

Walk Score ranks New York and San Francisco first and second respectively, while readers put Seattle at the top of the list.   Below are the top ten for both Walk Score and Readers Score.  However, it's a lot of fun to go directly to the site, click here.  At the website, click on any city for a walking map and discussion of the community, or plug in your own home or work address to the search bar at the top of the page to find near by walkable amenities.  To see Walk Score's ranking methodology, click here.

Click this picture to enlarge.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

What's an Urban Food Desert?

My friend, teacher and mentor, Robyne Stevenson Turner, is committed to improving the urban inner city at every level - with her research and through her personal lifestyle choices.  She recently wrote a piece about lack of access to food markets.   Although she's focused on Kansas City, this is a problem in urban Phoenix and probably every other city in the country.   Obviously, groceries are a necessity for all of us who don't raise our own vittles.  Yet the grocery business is just that - a business - and grocers, like other businesses, tend to site their stores where they like the demographics, where the streets are safer.  Inner city doesn't get its share, and that means residents have less availability, fewer food choices,  more hunger and health issues, more travel cost involved in pursuing food, etc.

Here is the opening:

"A food desert is more than just the absence of grocery stores.  Like a sand desert, there are oasis of food in urban places if you know where to look.  But is the oasis real or a mirage?  Peeling back the layers, you begin to see that a desert that at first looks like a liability is in fact an economic opportunity that can change the health and well-being of residents of the urban core."

Link here to read Robyne's piece.