Friday, August 26, 2011

Un-American Politicians and Corporations

Latest members of the group of politicians with dollar signs in their eyes. U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R), freshman from Colorado, is working for the welfare of Big Oil over the welfare of our environment by blocking efforts to combat climate change and promote renewable energy, taking funds away from land cleanups and conservation, and weakening the Environmental Protection Agency. His voting record clearly defines him as a protector of tax breaks for big oil.

Tipton joins Big Oil’s collection of politicians, along with his fellow Republican congressmen Cory Gardner and Doug Lamborn, who repeatedly vote against the environment simply to support a pro-polluter agenda.

This country needs oil. At least for now. This country also needs safe drinking water and breathable air. Congress must work on a balanced agenda of protecting business while protecting its citizens. They must not favor one over the other.

Subsidies to corporations that are raking in huge profits is unethical and unsustainable to this nation’s well-being.

One of the foundations of a moral and ethical society is that if you do the damage you clean up the mess.

Politicians, corporations and conservative media are so against any effort that appears to threaten their ability to make money that they will spend their precious dollars to combat all groups - who only want to help their fellow Americans not be poisoned - rather than work with these groups in an effort to keep everyone happy.

Their version of ‘share the wealth’ is to pay lawyers to prevent being held accountable for the environmental damage they have caused.

This is so very Un-American.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lead Shot Still Approved for Bird Hunting

Iowa Legislature has decided that a 100 year ban on hunting Doves is long enough. Beginning Sept 1 of this year hunters will be given the legal right to kill these song birds once again.

I’m not a fan of killing animals for sport. The old argument hunters use to justify it being “it helps nature keep the population down so they don’t starve to death from over-growing their food source” just sounds so self-serving. Nature has been able to keep this ‘balance’ for millennia before man ever came onto the scene and took almost all of that food source away.

Anyway the purpose of this post lies in the shot used to hunt these animals. Apparently, lead is still being used in shotgun shells. If you have ever dissected a shotgun shell you will notice it is filled with pellets of varying sizes. About the same size and shape as bird feed and scratch that birds eat. Once the lead gets into their tiny bodies and they get eaten by birds of prey, etc and so on, you know the chain. Lead has been taken out of paint and gasoline due to its well known toxicity. Why not bird shot?

It took me by surprise to learn that lead is being scattered throughout the country side where it can be eaten by wild animals, or leeched into the waterways affecting aquatic life. To be fair to hunters, there are quite a few who are concerned enough for the environment that they will pay the extra 4 cents per shell to avoid lead. But there are many more who just don’t care. Given the fact that they eat the few forkfuls of meat a song bird provides and the lead gets into their own bodies as well as the bodies of the family, one would think this would be enough to wake them up to the fact they are poisoning themselves. Spend the extra 4 cents.

The Iowa legislature had the opportunity to ban shells of lead shot but turned it down. Why? Only they know, but lead is still being scattered about without regard to how it affects our food chain.

Just thought you would want to know.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It is Our Responsibility To Know What We Eat

We as consumers enjoy our freedom to spend our money as we see fit. We would like to believe that the market at large provides us with safe and healthy product and that they generally have our best interests at heart. We would also like to believe that an organization with the lofty title The Center For Consumer Freedom is looking after our best interest. Don’t you believe it.

There is truth in their title. They are interested in our ability to consume freely. However, they are not interested in consumer protectionism. Most of their funding comes from the restaurant, food and gaming industry, including Coca-Cola, Wendy’s and Outback Steakhouse. And also Monsanto, which might have something to do with why it thinks that groups against genetic engineering are “anti-choice nannies”.

Basically, restaurants want you to think that eating their crap without knowing what's in it is just awesome, and they know that using a nonprofit group as a front is more effective than getting a guy in a burger costume to crash Congress.

If we want to live a healthy lifestyle, it is up to us to research verifiable studies and to question the motives for ‘consumer groups’. They always have an agenda and at the top of that list is invariably money.

Don’t take the easy way out of research when it comes to your health by believing what this or that group says. Read different sources, use common sense based in solid scientific studies and always, always learn who is behind every claim.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Stop Fracking!!!

Did you know oil and gas companies are allowed to inject huge quantities of secret, toxic fluids, directly into our drinking water - and that the EPA is currently powerless to do anything about it?

High Pressure Hydraulic Fracturing (or fracking) is a method of drilling for natural gas by pumping a mixture of water and toxic, cancer-causing chemicals deep underground, and it's already responsible for poisoning the groundwater in states across the country.

An original investigative report by Earth Focus and UK'sEcologist Film Unit looks at the risks of natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale. From toxic chemicals in drinking water to unregulated interstate dumping of potentially radioactive waste that experts fear can contaminate water supplies in major population centers including New York City, are the health consequences worth the economic gains?
Do we really need natural gas more than we need clean drinking water? Or uncontaminated food?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Scented Soy Candles

I like to pass on info on products that actually follow the mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle”.

This candle is made using  a natural organic candle 'wax' produced from Soy Beans which does not produce toxins. The company claims the essential oils used in soy candles can alter your health and mood, only you can decide if this actually works.

I found many several pleasing fragrances that can last from only a few hours or up to an entire day.

Disclaimer: This is NOT a paid for advertisement for this company. I do not receive any money or gifts in exchange for anything I write on this blog.

Choose Vegetarian Billboard

Mercy For Animals (MFA) has launched a billboard campaign in Las Vegas urging residents to adopt a vegetarian diet. The ads feature precious baby animals and read, "Why love one but eat the other? Choose Vegetarian.”

13 of 27 EU states say NO to GM foods

The long term effects of genetically modified foods on the human body have not yet been proven good or bad. Due to a lack of clearly demonstrable benefit from growing genetically altered crops, half of all European Union states are against growing it.

It seems odd to me that the other half have not given any opinion at all. Does this show their willingness to just follow whatever edict is laid out by the commission without question? They need to take a stand, if for nothing else than to force the findings on the effects of GM crops on humans.

The European Commission is being pressured by American GM producers such as Monsanto into opening up the European market for their product who say that European bans on such products are illegal as they breach global trade rules.

Once again the ‘ugly American’ bully is trying to force its way onto the world market.

In my opinion, if farmers are conscientious enough to not grow GM crops then they should not be forced to. Especially in light of the fact that there is no solid proof that it provides any benefit other than to American companies profit line.

- - - - -

On a side note, in America, 60 certified organic farmers from around the country filed a lawsuit last week against the world’s largest genetically modified (GMO) seed maker and agribusiness, Monsanto. The organic plaintiffs, including Seedkeepers, LLC of Santa Barbara, were forced to take legal action to prevent future accusations of infringing on Monsanto’s seed patents.

Let's wish them luck in their pursuit to stop big agribusiness from forcing their products on farmers everywhere.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Slow Food University

Think Slow Food is just a fad? Well, you may be wrong.

There’s a university just for you called the University of Gastronomic Sciences.

The nonprofit Slow Food organization founded the university in 2004. Located in Bra, a city in northern Italy, the University of Gastronomic Sciences offers undergraduate and masters degrees for students passionate about food. Their offerings:
  • Three-year Undergraduate Degree – gastronomic Sciences
  • Tow-year Graduate Degree – Gastronomy and Food Communications
  • One-year Masters Degree – Food Culture and Communications
  • One-year Masters Degree – Italian Gastronomy and Tourism

The university’s mission is to further the Slow Food movement’s core principles. From renewing farming traditions to preserving historically significant food products, the university focuses on training a new generation of concerned food consumers. Offering courses like ethnobotany, travel and food photography, and the history of agriculture, the university offers students a truly unique educational experience.

You can learn the history and origins of food, the place and the people from which it comes, and the impact it has on the planet. They cover topics like how food is grown, transported, processed, cooked, and eaten.

The university teaches experts in high quality food to become food ambassadors to the world. “Educators and innovators, editors and multimedia broadcasters, marketers of fine products, and managers of consortia, business, and tourism companies”—gastronomes apply what they learned at the university to transform the food world.

Sorry, no online courses.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Future of Factory Farming?

AP/Peter Dejong
I found an article describing indoor ‘farms’ providing meticulously controlled light, temperature, humidity, air quality and nutrition. The ideal would go a long way towards providing food for all those millions of people who simply don’t have access to healthy land that can be used for growing crops. The image of barren Africa comes immediately to mind.

Growing the ‘perfect crop field’ in an urban high-rise, an underground bunker, or a sprawling complex in the desert is not a new idea. Architectural designs for high-rise buildings that incorporate greenhouses have been around for years.

The argument in favor of such a major shift in traditional farming practices - besides the obvious one of feeding more people – would be to control food prices, weather fluctuations and energy costs.

Another very favorable result from this scheme could eliminate the destruction of forests and wilderness typically cleared to make room for expanding farmland.

Advocates say a building of 100 sq meters (1,075 sq. feet) and 14 layers of plants could provide a daily diet of 200 grams (7 ounces) of fresh fruit and vegetables to about 140,000 people. Their idea is not to grow foods that require much space, like corn or potatoes.

There’s an aspect of nature that is taken out of the equation that I find disturbing. Insects. Birds. Reptiles. Microbial activity. I can’t help think that mankind’s zeal in creating such a controlled system will likely be fraught with unforeseeable problems. I truly hope it works but excluding this major part of nature cannot be good.

This is a manmade utopia that every farmer wishes our natural planet could one day provide again. Since we humans have fouled our air and water so badly, this is probably an inevitable next step. Hopefully we have learned enough to not spoil this utopia too.

Monday, March 14, 2011

USBCELL Not an Alkaline Battery

This is a rechargeable AA battery that charges via your computers USB port. The battery is sturdy, powerful, eliminates the need a separate charger and according to the manufacturer each cell saves 3kg of toxic waste.

Being the skeptic that I am, I researched that claim and discovered some interesting information. I contacted a national chain, Batteries Plus, and was told that recycling alkaline batteries is not necessary. However, rechargeable batteries should be recycled.

I then went to the Duracell Battery web site and found this statement:
“Alkaline batteries can be safely disposed of with normal household waste. Due to concerns about mercury in the municipal solid waste stream, Duracell has voluntarily eliminated all of the added mercury from its alkaline batteries since 1993 while maintaining the performance you demand. Our alkaline batteries are composed primarily of common metals - steel, zinc and manganese - and do not pose a health or environmental risk during normal use or disposal.”

The Energizer web site says: “Energizer recommends recycling rechargeable, but not alkaline batteries, even indicating that alkaline batteries can safely go to city incinerators.”

I even found a couple of sites that said that if you bring alkaline batteries to recycling centers or events, they are separated from the rechargeables and typically end up in the landfill or incinerator anyway.

The Consumer Electronics Association Question and Answer Website says: “Alkaline batteries are not recyclable. They’ll just be thrown out in a landfill, or at the most a hazardous waste landfill.”

Alkaline batteries bo longer contain mercury.
They do contain nickel, cobalt, zinc, manganese, and silver – which are not considered to be environmentally hazardous.
Rechargeable batteries contain mercury, cadmium, lead, and lithium – heavy metals which have a negative environmental impact.

Web sites I have reviewed that address how to properly dispose of household batteries use generalized terms such as ‘can contaminate the environment when batteries are improperly disposed of’ and ‘certain metals might be released into the air” and ‘have the potential to do harm’. Phrases such as these do nothing to ease the controversy over whether household batteries require special handling. Battery collection programs typically target button and nickel-cadmium batteries, but may collect all household batteries because of the consumers' difficulty in identifying battery types.

The bottom line is that all rechargeable batteries should be recycled due to the presence of mercury, cadmium and lead. Alkaline batteries do not require special handling according to their manufactures. If you feel better about recycling alkaline batteries then by all means do so, but what I have learned they end up in landfills and incinerators anyway.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Some interesting uses for Bananas

To the surprisingly inventive uses for banana peels -- which include polishing silverware, leather shoes, and the leaves of house plants -- scientists have added purification of drinking water contaminated with potentially toxic metals.

Supplementing spaghetti with unripe banana flour may be a healthy addition since banana flour contains antioxidants and fiber, according to a study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists.

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast are pioneering a new technique for the use of banana plants in the production of plastic products.

In the interest of spreading the knowledge of just how versatile the banana as become, see Curbly

Thursday, March 3, 2011

How Much Does “Free” Recycling Truly Cost?

Mountains of electronic waste is still being sent from the U.S. to sweatshops and open burn pits in Africa and Asia. This has been reported for a very long time and yet still nothing is being done to stem the flow.

The cost of dumping our leftover poison on the poorest and most vulnerable people on Earth is shameful and because it is preventable it is more shameful still.

“Recycling” electronics may be “free” for U.S. consumers but whole cities and regions are being turned into wastelands of toxic smoke and ash and mountains of debris.

How much longer can our collective conscience bear this terrible onslaught of damage to human health and the environment to third world countries? Can we truly afford to just throw our hands up and say “That’s just the way it is”?

Some will argue that our waste gives these people a source of income, and if that is true then aren’t we as the creators of this toxic material obligated to make the handling of it less deadly?

The incredible amount of e-waste we generate is due in part to our addiction to always ‘needing’ the ‘latest’ electronic gadgets, but a lion’s share of that blame falls on a corporate mindset that generates ‘new’ devices with ever shorter life spans in order to maintain a constant profit margin.

How can we reverse the trend of increasing e-waste?
Consumers need to be made aware when they are adding to the e-waste problem and take action to stop buying ‘new’ while ‘old’ is still useable.

Corporations need to make products that last longer even though it cuts into their profit margin and future sales. In short, they need to develop a conscience.

Below is a very short list of recent media documenting how much e-waste is dumped on third world countries. And this is only from the U.S. There is even more coming from Europe and Australia.

Business ManagementThe global e-waste problem

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Easy Everyday Ways We Can Use Less Gas

I think everyone will agree that drive-thru convenience is here to stay. I see these used at fast food restaurants, banks, drug stores, grocery stores, even liquor stores. In inclement weather their value is immeasurable. If you cannot walk due to some disability, they are a god-send. No matter the reason you choose to use these conveniences, you can save a little gas by shutting your car engine off while waiting. Even better, if you park and walk into the store, you’ll not only save gas you’ll burn calories.

Park Further Away
Circling a parking lot looking for a ‘closer’ parking space is just being lazy. Plus, it’s a foolish and selfish way to use gas. Give up the quest for the perfect parking spot, and settle for one at the back of the lot. You may have to walk a bit further to get to the store, but when did that become a bad thing?

Park in the Shade
I realize there is very little shade in most parking lots, but when you have the option a cooler car means less need for air conditioning and less gas evaporating from your tank. To save even more, invest in a shade for your windshield and tinting for the rest of your windows.

Hang Up and Drive
Let’s face our driving habits suck. There simply is far too much unconscious driving taking place on our roads. Talking on your cell phone while you drive is a prime example. You are less aware of how you're driving and tend to ‘pace’ with everyone else who are pushing their vehicles harder than they need to, which uses more gas than is necessary.

Tighten the Gas Cap
A loose gas cap makes it easy for gas to evaporate from your car. Protect those precious gallons, by turning your cap until you hear it click three times.

Shop at Home
The internet is wonderful for keeping us up to date on the latest protests for personal freedoms in the Middle East or what so-and-so wore to the Grammy’s, but saving gas by not driving to the store is far more valuable. More and more companies are offering free shipping deals. Calculate how much you would spend on gas by running to the store and if you have to go consolidate your shopping to as few trips as possible. Find what you need online, and let your car spend more time in the driveway.

Check the Traffic Reports
Another great use of the internet. The less time you spend sitting in traffic, the less gas you'll need to get to your destination; so take a minute to check the traffic report before you head out.

Ditch the Attitude
This is an incredibly valuable habit to get into, both for fuel saving and for the safety of everyone around you. Check your bad day at the car door. When you're under the influence of a bad mood you're more likely drive faster and brake harder than you normally would.

Travel at Off-Peak Times
Idling in traffic is a big waste of gas and time. Bow out of the bumper to bumper madness by doing most of your running around before or after rush hour.

Streamline Your Vehicle
Engineers work hard to make cars as aerodynamic as possible, and then we do our best to undo their efforts. Bike racks, car top carriers, flags, giant wreaths – there's no end to the things we'll stick on our vehicles. Unfortunately, all those add-ons add to our wind resistance and our gas consumption. Keep your modifications to a minimum, and you could save big.

Ask for Directions
Don’t waste gas making a bunch of wrong turns because you don’t want to be embarrassed for asking directions or because you don’t want to take the time to stop and ask. If you don't have a GPS to get you on track, stop and ask for directions as soon as you can.

Don’t Tailgate
This one is one of my pet peeves. When you travel too close to the vehicle in front of you, you have to brake a lot more frequently, which means you press the accelerator more frequently to get back up to speed which sucks up even more gas. Plus, it adds to the stress level of the person in front of you.

Don’t Lane Hop
Relax when you drive (see Ditch the Attitude). Passing everything on the road is one of the leading causes of traffic accidents. It increases stress levels and it foolishly uses more gas than is necessary to get to where you are going. Honestly, you are not in a race with anyone. So, give all the lane changes a rest, and you won't need to apply your foot to the accelerator and brake nearly as often.

Final Word
It doesn’t matter that you may be wealthy enough that the cost of gas doesn’t bother you, or you think that gasoline will always be available, the real reason to save gas is to cut down on the added pollution you are subjecting everyone else to. The fossil fuel supply is not limitless. Using it up for lazy, selfish, unthinking reasons is just wrong. Please do your part to keep gas prices down by reducing demand. You not only help the gas supply last longer and cut down on pollution but you help those of us who are more financially strapped than you when gas prices go up.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Booze it Up! Recycled Bottle Crafts & Projects

Next time you empty a bottle of one of your favorite beverages, thing about these great ideas and help the recycling effort as well.

Wine Bottle Table Lamp
Photo: recycled-bottles-wine-lamp.jpg
Caption: (images via: wit and whistle)
Turning any wine bottle into a table lamp is as simple as drilling a hole and inserting a strand of lights. The color of the bottle enhances the glow of the light, adding ambiance to a room. The only special tool needed is a glass drill bit.

Wine Bottle Candle Holder
image: design sponge
How simple and elegant are these DIY wine bottle candle holders? In shades of brown and green, they’re an earthy addition to a wooden table. This tutorial by Design Sponge uses a simple glass cutting kit and some sandpaper to snap the bottles in half.

Wine Bottle Shelves
image: renest
Would you ever have thought of using wine bottles and slabs of wood to create a shelving unit? DIY recycled furniture is rarely easier than this. Made by Zero Waste Design, the shelves are created by drilling holes into the wood for the necks of the bottles, with hook and eye strainers adding a bit of stability. The Glasgow-based furniture maker also offers a how-to on Instructables.

Bottle Trees
image: recyclart, metaefficient, examiner

Turn your holiday tree into an ode to beer (or perhaps just a sparkling green alternative to a living tree) using reclaimed empty bottles. This design uses circular platforms to support each tier of bottles, and as you can see, the result is as big as you want it to be, from a standard living room-sized tree to the monster 1,000-Heineken-bottle tree set up in Shanghai in 2009. Bottle trees are also popular year-round as garden art and easy to create.

Beer Bottle Drinking Glasses
image: bottlehood
Got half of a wine bottle left over from your candle holder project (above)? Use it as a drinking glass! This tutorial from Instructables explains how to cut and finish the edges of your favorite beer or wine bottles to create custom drinking glasses – or you could just buy a set from Etsy seller Bottlehood.

Tiki Lamps
images: design sponge
These DIY recycled wine bottle torches are modern and minimalist, but the best part is, they cost next to nothing. Design Sponge has the details on how to use $5 in hardware to create simple copper-colored tiki lamps that can be mounted to a wall or fence.

Beer Bottle Chandelier
Unless you’re handy with welding tools, this project is not so DIY-friendly, but it’s still an amazing use of beer bottles. Maybe you could even come up with your own cheap and easy solution for creating a custom beer bottle chandelier.

Chalkboard Vases & Pantry Organization
images: ourbly, berm design
Chalkboard paint transforms any old bottle into a cool customizable vase – or just use a swipe of it as a label that can be erased and re-written again and again.

Wine Bottle Bell Charms
image: my vintage decor
These wine bottle bell chimes were made using a hemp string, a wooden ball and a piece of hammered copper, but you could improvise any number of materials to come up with a similar result on your own. Just use the glass cutting kit from the beer bottle drinking glasses tutorial to slice off the bottom of the bottle. A wood or metal ring inside the bottle neck holds the string in place.

Hummingbird Feeders
image: deelux designs
Etsy shop Deelux Designs uses liquor bottles to make these backyard feeders, filled with colored food that looks disturbingly like the real thing – but you could also use wine or beer bottles in a simple wire holder, as illustrated at Crafting a Green World. The feeder tubes are sold on for less than a dollar each, so plan on making some to sell or give away as gifts.

Beer Bottle Solar Water Heater
image: neatorama
Chinese farmer Ma Yanjun came up with a novel, inexpensive way to provide hot water for members of his family: laying 66 bottles, connected by hose pipes, on a board covered with aluminum foil. Placed on a rooftop and pointed north to collect the maximum amount of sunlight, this incredible DIY solution really does work. Instructions don’t seem to be available, but anyone good with DIY projects could probably come up with design based on Ma’s prototype.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

MIT Creates New Energy Source

artist's rendition of a carbon nanotube
This is some pretty exciting news. It seems that researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of the most prestigious science and engineering schools in the United States, has created a new energy source -- and it's clean and renewable. The odd thing is that the only way you can see this energy source is with a very powerful microscope, because it is created by using nanotechnology.

For a few years now, we have been hearing about the possibilities offered by the new field of nanotechnology. Now it looks like the first usable breakthrough has been accomplished. MIT has devised a process to generate electricity using nanotechnology. And this new process may soon revolutionize batteries for all kind of devices.

The researchers built tiny wires out of carbon nanotubes. Then they coated these wires with a fuel and discovered it generated electricity -- a lot of electricity considering its tiny size. They believe they will be able to use this technology to create batteries at least 10 times smaller than current batteries, but produce the same amount of electricity.

The nanotechnology batteries will have a couple of other advantages over current batteries. First, they will not lose power while sitting and not being used (as you probably know, current batteries can lose their charge even if they are not being used). This will result in a huge energy savings.

Second, these batteries are non-toxic since they are made of carbon. Current batteries are made from very toxic heavy metals like lead, nickel and cadmium, and must be disposed of very carefully. The carbon nanotechnology batteries can simply be burned and produce no toxic fumes or waste.

Computers, cell phones and other electronic devices will be the first to benefit from the nanotechnology batteries. This is a marvelous breakthrough, and I hope it's not too long before the new nano-batteries hit the market.

Friday, February 25, 2011

CHEVRON Finally Found Guilty of Rainforest Destruction

Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network just announced a major victory for the Amazon rainforest. An Ecuadorean judge today found Chevron guilty of one of the largest environmental crimes in history and ordered the company to pay a whopping $8 billion to clean up its damage in the Amazon. 

Chevron immediately issued a statement condemning the judgment as "illegitimate and unenforceable" and announced plans to appeal.  This ruling clearly has Chevron riled up, as the statement suggests the ruling is "the product of fraud" and included this ominous line: "Chevron intends to see that the perpetrators of this fraud are held accountable for their misconduct."

Chevron apparently fails to see the irony of the phrase "held accountable for their misconduct" since today was a major slapdown of the company's destruction of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador.

AmazonWatch and Rainforest Action Network have released the following statement in response to the verdict:
“As of today, Chevron’s guilt for extensive oil contamination in the Amazon rainforest is official. It is time Chevron takes responsibility for these environmental and public health damages, which they have fought for the past 18 years.

“Today’s ruling in Ecuador against Chevron proves overwhelmingly that the oil giant is responsible for billions gallons of highly toxic waste sludge deliberately dumped into local streams and rivers, which thousands depend on for drinking, bathing, and fishing.

“Chevron has spent the last 18 years waging unprecedented public relations and lobbying campaigns to avoid cleaning up the environmental and public health catastrophe it left in the Amazon rainforest. Today’s guilty verdict sends a loud and clear message: It is time Chevron clean up its disastrous mess in Ecuador.

“Today’s case is historic and unprecedented. It is the first time Indigenous people have sued a multinational corporation in the country where the crime was committed and won.

“Today’s historic ruling against Chevron is a testament to the strength of the Ecuadorian people who have spent 18 years bringing Chevron to justice while suffering the effects of the company’s extensive oil contamination.”
From 1964 to 1990 Chevron (formerly Texaco) operated a large oil concession in the northeastern region of the Ecuadorian Amazon, reaping billions of dollars in profits before pulling out of Ecuador in 1992.

Chevron has admitted during the long-running trial in both US and Ecuadorian courts that it created a system of oil extraction that led to the deliberate discharge of approximately 18 billion gallons of chemical-laden "water of formation" into the streams and rivers of Ecuador's Amazon, home to six indigenous groups.

Over the course of more than two decades of operations, Chevron abandoned more than 900 unlined waste pits gouged out of the jungle floor that leech toxins into soils and streams; contaminated the air by burning the waste pits; dumped oil along roads; and spilled millions of gallons of pure crude from ruptured pipelines. Internal company documents demonstrate that Chevron officials ordered field workers to destroy records of oil spills. The company refused to develop an environmental response plan or pipeline maintenance program, and Chevron never conducted a single health evaluation or environmental impact study despite the obvious harm it was causing.

Small Steps to a Greener Future

We all want to do our part in reducing carbon emissions and saving money on the cost of daily living. Below is a short list of small steps we can all take to help realize these goals.

Rechargeable batteries. They have lower total cost of use and environmental impact than disposable batteries and are available in the same sizes as disposable types. Rechargeable batteries have higher initial cost, but can be recharged very cheaply and used many times. Disposable batteries leach toxic chemicals into the ground. A solution for what to do with used batteries – AAA, AA, C, D, watch, button, hearing aid, or car battery – can be found at Environment, Health and Safety Online.

solar bag charger
Solar-powered chargers. For those devices that don't use conventional batteries - cell phone, MP3 player and other portable devices - there are portable solar chargers in many shapes and sizes. Solar bag chargers and solar clothing chargers are now available. Also, if you feel inclined you can make your own solar chargers. The website Instructables shows step by step instructions on how to do so for iPad/iPhones but you can make them for any device.

Solar-powered LED flashlights. With solar cells for power and the brightness of low-energy LED bulbs these flashlights will outlast any conventional flashlight. Perfect for use in emergency situations. I keep one my car’s emergency pack in the trunk, two in the house and one for each person when we are out camping.

Home appliances have come a long way in energy savings with the ENERGY STAR-qualification program. Opting for these appliances will help reduce energy costs and greenhouse emissions by cutting down on energy production. Plus, many energy-star appliances offer tax credits.

Heating and Air Conditioning As much as half of the energy used in your home goes to heating and cooling so installing a programmable thermostat will save energy here as well.

Taking these small, individual steps will make a big difference in reducing carbon emissions and lead us into a greener future.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Produce Prices Expected to Skyrocket

The recent freeze in Northern Mexico and Southwestern U.S. is going to cost everyone at the supermarket. It is being called the worst freeze in 60 years, and it wiped out entire crops.

Peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, asparagus, the entire asparagus crop has been wiped out. Roma tomatoes have more than doubled in price since Thursday and very soon they may not be available at all.

Next week, lettuce and spinach prices are expected to rise.  Normal prices likely won't return until new crops in Mexico start producing again in late March and early April.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Does the soil cleanse wastewater well enough to use on food crops?

Using waste water on food crops in developed nations is something very few people do. Besides the ‘ick’ factor and prospect of poisoning ourselves with viral diseases, the smell is usually enough to keep us from doing it. Our government does do a fairly good job of treating our waste water so that contaminated food does not end up in supermarkets, farmers markets, etc. It’s the handling of food after treatment is where the issue of food safety is problematic.

But in developing nations, recent findings by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) found that 85% of cities discharged the water without any appropriate treatment. The root of the problem is pretty basic, cities are growing faster than waste water treatment plants can be built. In the conversion from a farming based society to an urban one, More and more farms are going to be needed to feed those people who don’t raise their own food. Since the flow of water is being directed more and more towards cities, those people who remain on farmland are being faced with waste water as their only water source.

A study, based on case studies from 53 cities in developing nations, examined where waste water was being generated, how much was being used in urban agriculture, and to what degree the water was being treated. "We know that there is an informal sector within many cities that is using [waste water] to grow vegetables, but there has been no data on how much of this water was being used or what the risks were," explained IWMI director general Colin Chartres.

The study’s authors highlighted a number of benefits of using wastewater to irrigate crops such as allowing food production in places where there was a lack of water, or where no alternative clean water sources were available, it also recycles nutrients, meaning that farmers did not have to buy expensive fertilizers.

The environmental benefit is that if the water just went straight into a river, it would cause a lot more eutrophication problems further downstream by increasing plant growth in lakes and streams that then die off and depletes the oxygen supply leading to the death of fish and other aquatic life. See ‘Dead Zones’ for an extreme example of this.

The real issue here is whether or not pouring waste water onto the soil surrounding food crops is healthy. Does the soil act as an effective filter to keep harmful human-based, disease-causing organism out of the food supply?

Allowing waste water to settle in a pond is a good sound alternative to chemically treating waste water and can therefore produce usable water. It still may not be clean enough to drink but for food crops I would say go for it. When the crop is harvested it stills needs to be washed with fresh, clean water. But if you don’t have access to fresh, clean water what are you to do?
 settle in a pond

Currently, farmers in developing nations conduct a smell test or a taste test and if the water tastes too foul or smells too bad, then they won't use it to irrigate their crops. Relying on smell and taste is not good enough.

IWMI is focusing on wetlands and pipelines to turn the tide on waste water usage in developing nations.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


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Energy Department Awards Contracts to Bring Cost of Solar Down

Energy secretary, Steven Chu, has been tirelessly working toward fulfilling President Obama’s priority of weaning America from dependence on fossil fuels. The success or failure of this effort depends heavily on America’s ability to bring the cost of solar energy in-line with the costs of electricity from fossil fuels. In his attempt to reach this goal, the Energy Department’s “SunShot” initiative has awarded $27 million to nine new solar projects.

Dr. Chu notes that solar companies have made strong progress in cutting the price of solar panels used in photovoltaic systems, but that this cut is not enough. The installed cost per watt is now about $4 and the panel is less than half of that, but if the panel became free, the rest of the system would still be far too expensive.

The department said it had spent $1 billion on solar in the last 10 years, and it took partial credit for the price of solar power falling 60 percent since 1995.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Lab-Grown Meat

A South Carolina scientist has been working for a decade to grow meat in a lab, hoping it help solve the global food crisis.

Vladimir Mironov, 56, a developmental biologist and tissue engineer at the Medical University of South Carolina has been working for years to make meat in a lab and claims to be within hailing distance of a significant breakthrough.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sustainable Living Round-up

Best Buy’s recycling program has been effect since February 2009 and has accepted more than 25 million pounds of in-store take-backs. Their e-cycle program accepts almost anything electronic, including inkjet cartridges, rechargeable batteries, gift cards, televisions, DVD players, computer monitors, audio and video cables, cell phones and other devices. Also, see next story ‘The Darker Side of E-waste”.

The darker side of e-waste While recycling your electronics is important, there is actually a darker side of e-waste that you need to be aware of: the outsourcing of this process to developing countries. The Basel Action Network (BAN) has uncovered numerous instances of toxic waste dumping in developing countries in Africa and China where workers are exposed to lead, flame retardants, chromium, PVC, mercury, cadmium, barium and many more.

Choosing polluters over children’s health. “Let’s get straight to the point. When members of Congress choose to support bills that would prevent the EPA from updating Clean Air Act standards, they are making a choice to support polluters over the health of children and adults.”

Whole Foods, Organic Valley, and Stonyfield Farm surrender to Monsanto. Top executives from these companies have publicly admitted that they no longer oppose the mass commercialization of GE crops, such as Monsanto’s controversial Roundup Ready alfalfa, and are prepared to sit down and cut a deal for “coexistence” with Monsanto and USDA biotech cheerleader Tom Vilsack.

Whole Food's Dirty Little Secret: Most of the So-Called "Natural" Processed Foods and Animal Products They Sell Are Contaminated with GMOs.

Food Security roundup

Taco Bell responds to “Ground Beef” claims. Taco Bell has been accused, in a lawsuit, of serving Ground Beef in their tacos that does not contain enough 'real beef' to legally be called "Ground Beef." Taco Bell's President has now responded.

Global food prices rose to a fresh high in December, according to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

The current dioxin crisis in Germany has initiated calls for action across the EU. One possible dioxin control being discussed is a tracer such as a coloring in the oil mixed with animal feed that would enable immediate detection of tainted produce,” said Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout.

African Union (AU) announced a plan to make African food secure in the next five years. The plan, detailed in a document entitled The African Food Basket, “Requires countries to allocate a substantial portion of their budget to agriculture, provide farming input subsidies, and make available affordable information and communications technology.”

Eco News Roundup

England is getting ready for a huge sell-off of national forests to private firms. If you want to have your voice heard on this topic here’s your chance.

Scottish-based Cairn Energy has announced the discovery of gas in Artic waters off the coast of Greenland. The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is at the site in a stand off with Cairn and Danish Navy warships just west of Disko Island in Baffin Bay.

Did Vikings navigate by polarized light? A Viking legend tells of a glowing 'sunstone' that, when held up to the sky, revealed the position of the Sun even on a cloudy day.
It sounds like magic, but scientists measuring the properties of light in the sky say that polarizing crystals — which function in the same way as the mythical sunstone — could have helped ancient sailors to cross the northern Atlantic.

“Encased in my cozy down blanket, I slowly wake to the sights and sounds around me; today it is birds and the occasional car whizzing by. This week we are staying at a rodeo fairground in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a far cry from our home in a Portland, Oregon, suburb. I smile thinking about the day ahead of me and make a cup of hot jasmine green.”

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Brave New World: The Return to Self-Sufficiency

My wife and I were talking this morning and the subject came up about how in the good ole' days the whole family used to pitch in with the role of homemaking. About thirty to forty years ago home life roles were beginning to change, the woman began to find work outside of the home alongside the man and the two income family was born.

Our household situation is not so uncommon any longer. One of us works at home while the other works outside the home. I, who just happens to be the man in this union, am at home alone all day. I have happily accepted this role as it allows me to experiment with some desires I have had. I love to cook. I love to decorate the home. I wear the title of Homemaker without any fear whatsoever of having my manhood questioned. Isn’t it odd that in this century there are still some people for whom that would present a problem? Anyway, we have accepted the situation as a matter of necessity.

Since the industrial revolution, men began leaving the home for work and women became the main homemakers. Women took up the lions share of cleaning, cooking, etc thus making many of them feel subjugated and soon began seeking “liberation”. Corporations, being quick to fill any gap that promised a profit began offering convenience products and foods which made women’s lives easier. The side effect of this ‘convenience’, led to what we now refer to as the consumer society.

Homes went from units of production… growing food, preserving foods, sewing clothes, bartering within their community… to units of consumption. We became consumers who relied on companies and corporations for most of our needs and high paying jobs to support even more consumption. With consumer debt increasing, many families found that both partners needed to work outside the home.

This drastic alteration to the family unit soon lead to unforeseen problems. Children coming home to an empty house after school were known as ‘latch-key kids’ and unsupervised children soon led to deeper problems.

In light of how our society appears to be losing its direction, along with the steady erosion of good moral values and ethics, it seems the argument can be safely made for the return of good old-fashioned homemaking as our only hope to improve family, community, social justice, and the health of the planet.

During the nations current financial downturn plus the recent local-food movement, the desire for and the need for a more sustainable lifestyle has never been greater. Our ancestors lived that sustainable lifestyle for many years. Re-learning that ability and making it a life-long priority can create the empowerment needed to produce mentally and physically healthier children who will then bring back the moral values we need to get this country back on track.

Our greatest stumbling blocks will come from politicians, particularly those who so faithfully follow capitalistic ideals. The support of corporate profits at the expense of home production will only cripple our attempt to return to the self-sufficient family-based culture we so desperately hunger for. As more families attempt to forgo corporate convenience we are going to face more corporate welfare in order for them to maintain their accustomed incomes.

Tax payer funded assistance programs can be scaled back as more of us accept our ability to feed ourselves and create community-based services such as food co-ops, bartering, home schooling, community based financing (much like credit unions), community based housing, etc.

It may seem like we are about to embark on a ‘brave new world’ but change is the one constant we can all depend on.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

USDA – What are you really telling us

Marion Nestle, of Nestle Chocolate, tells us how the food industry hijacked nutrition.

It would seem that organizations such as the USDA should have a mandate to improve the health of the country. But there appears to be a built-in conflict of interest.

“The Department of Agriculture is full of contradictions,” said Nestle. “First, while it subsidizes corn and soybeans, it is also responsible for dietary advice to the public that tells people to eat more fruits and vegetables. But fruits and vegetables aren’t subsidized.

“The subsidies for corn and soybeans mean that corn sweeteners and corn oil and soy oil are cheaper than they would be if the true cost of producing those foods were factored in. That has encouraged processed-food makers to use a lot of soy oil and high-fructose corn syrup, because they’re cheap.”

Is dietary advice motivated by a real concern for public health or by driving profits for food companies? Despite the fact that many consumers already have figured out the true motivation of food companies is profit, the USDA is slow to catch on. Or are they just playing dumb in order to ‘play nice’ with food companies?

Go to the article and make up your own mind. “If you don’t act, nothing will happen,” Nestle said. “Not doing anything is a decision to allow the system to proceed as it has been proceeding. If you want to take action, there are plenty of ways. Individuals have made a big difference in lots of different ways. Some of it is legislative; some of it is on a local level.”

Monday, January 24, 2011

An Additional 934 German farms close on fresh dioxin discovery

These type of reports seriously shake my faith in humanity. It’s one thing not know that the food products you sell on the open market is tainted with dioxins, or with anything harmful to your fellow humans, but to knowingly hold back information like this from people you sell to, well, it’s criminal as well as unethical.

The 934 pig and poultry farms that were closed over the weekend are in addition to 4,000 farms closed at the end of December when it was revealed that Schleswig Holstein firm Harles and Jentzsch had mixed dioxin-tainted industrial fatty oils into animal feed. Dioxin-contaminated liquid eggs are known to have entered the food chains in the UK and Denmark.

The fact that this firm - Harles and Jentzsch - places its financial bottom line above the very health of others just sickens me. No pun intended.

Farms in Lower Saxony as well as in North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria and Brandenburg were all shut and banned from selling eggs and pork. But federal authorities stressed the levels of dioxin presented no immediate threat to human health.

Another disturbing statement that concerns me is “federal authorities stressed the levels of dioxin presented no immediate threat to human health”. We have been told for ages and it is a verified fact that dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, and can also cause cancer. But time and again, whenever the public learns of dioxins found in our food stream we are fed this standard industry-wide statement.

Dioxins are environmental pollutants. They have the dubious distinction of belonging to the “dirty dozen” - a group of dangerous chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants.

Saturday’s development came just 24 hours after federal ministry released an anti-dioxin action plan calling for the tightening up of rules on animal feed and food manufacturers and as it confirmed that the majority of affected farms had been re-opened.

The plan would compel manufacturers to have “strict separation of production flows” for materials for industrial and feed/food uses. It also proposes introducing a licensing system for oil and fat producers as well as extending legal requirements for the inspection and subsequent reporting on animal feed products.

Question: If this new plan will require “separation of production flows” between animal feed and the food we eat – given the fact that we eat food (chickens and pork) that is fed that animal feed, how is this expected to keep dioxins out of the food chain?