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?

Friday, January 21, 2011


Greg Whitaker, an average, middle-class American homeowner, steward of Earth, defender of wildlife, and still frustrated at the many stumbling blocks our society imposes upon itself in the quest to live in sustainable and harmonious balance with nature.

The current promise to make everything ‘green’ is beyond the wildest hope of all who wear the mantle of environmentalist proudly. But those of us in the ‘trenches’ can not help but be cynical of ‘green’ chemically-laden products and fake ‘green’ politicians.

I wish to pass on to my children a planet that can give them what they need to survive. They can be taught how to do this without destroying it beyond its ability to repair itself.

Utah Valley Gardens is where I practice at being self sufficient by growing my own food.

Unwashed Creativity is the story of creating a home as a safe refuge from the stress of daily survival out in the real world.

A Storied Existence allows my closet writer and artist to run free. It helps me maintain some semblance of sanity.

Disenchanted Citizen is my soapbox for political and social issues. Not for the faint of heart.

How to spot fake ‘green’ cleaning products

I would like to think we consumers are savvy enough not to fall for the many claims of a products ‘eco-friendly’ nature at face value. The escalating placement of the word ‘green’ on everything from cleaning products to home appliances to automobiles alone should alert us to this likelihood that this word is being misused.

I truly would like to believe we don’t wholesale believe everything we are told. But alas, far too many consumers remain sheep-like in their blind=faith=desire to have the ‘latest, greatest thing’.

This latest marketing scheme has given rise to another term: ‘Eco-farce’, because it more accurately describes an artfully subliminal advertising gimmick devised to make consumers believe we have friends in the corporate world.

The latest ‘eco-friendly’ trend of cleaning ‘green’ comes without regulation, so it can be difficult for consumers to know if the products they are buying are better for the environment or not.

‘Eco-friendly’ doesn't mean anything. . . unfortunately marketers have figured out that people are willing to pay a premium if it says ‘eco’ or ‘green’ on it. The only true way to be sure cleaning solution is ‘eco-friendly’ is to make it yourself. There are many websites dedicated to homemade recipes for safe cleaning solutions.

We need to shake off the idea that a corporation can make the product ‘better’. Convenience, or rather the desire for it, helps keep the chemical manufactures in business.

It can be difficult to tell if the products are environmentally friendly even by looking at the ingredients on the label. Just because a product had natural oils or juices doesn't mean it has a softer impact on the environment.

Consumer advocates say if the label indicates the product is non-toxic it's better for the environment. Stores like Whole Foods have done the homework for you. So you don't have to read the labels. But don’t ever give up reading labels. This is what got us into this mess in the first place. Please, read labels and learn what the ingredients are.

The eco-friendly products can be a little pricier than their more stringent chemical-based products. But you don't have to pay more to go green.

"It's as simple as these basic organic materials," says Jimmie Rogers of Whole Foods. "Lemon juice on the counter tops, olive oil on your furniture. There's all kinds of alternatives. We've got baking soda that's good for cleaning glass especially for your coffee pot."

If you are going to take a chance on eco-friendly products, consumer advocates say it's truly a case of buyer beware.

I am a big believer in spending my money natural whole products, such as vinegar, baking soda, olive oil, and not putting it in corporations pockets who truly do not concern themselves with protecting the environment nearly as much as they do in protecting their financial bottom-line.

Common household products that clean and do not use toxic chemicals: (Secret: they cost less)
  • Baking soda
  • Borax
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Washing soda
  • Vinegar
  • Lemon juice

A very short list of websites that list truly ‘eco-friendly’ cleaners without using one ‘toxic chemical’. Please, help us all by using these alternatives to cleaning.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Round up of Sustainable Living

What makes omega-3s so great?
Simply put, omega-3s make your body run more smoothly. Research has shown that omega-3s greatly reduce risks, and often reverse or reduce symptoms, of different types of heart disease and cancers and diabetes.

More at Eco Centric

Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula is a green builder’s dream. Native and plentiful, guarada bamboo is an ideal building material, capable of taking a nail without splitting. In this tropical climate, walls are often unnecessary; everyone wants to be open to the moist air and the jungle’s breathing.

Every year tons of out of date, surplus or redundant medicines are returned each year to pharmacies and GPs. Unwanted medicines cannot be reused or recycled and have to be destroyed in an incinerator.

Inter Care is a registered charity which collects returned medication from GP practices and recycles them to over one hundred health centers in six African countries. The work by Inter Care means that up to £800 million of valuable medicines can be saved from landfill and incineration in the UK, while being used to help alleviate suffering and save lives in Africa.

Round up of Ecological Interest

New Green Blog Counters “Eco Snobbery” with Humor and Inclusiveness

Jeffrey Davis has written for several years at Mother nature network has started a new blog called Eco Snobbery Sucks.

According to Jeffrey, the reason he founded Eco-Snobbery Sucks is to bring attention to the oft-forgotten truth that every step taken towards green matters, big or small. According to the site's faq, eco-snobbery could also play out when:
  • People look down their noses at others for not doing “as much” as they do.
  • Businesses make their operations or products seem more eco-friendly than they really are.
  • Manufacturers charge an unfair “eco-premium” for products that don’t warrant it.

Another new blog
Mother Craft Collective is a collective of Cape Town crafters. They aren’t all from Cape Town originally, but live there now. Here is their story:

In mid 2010 Tracy (the only born Capetownian in the collective so far) moved house, and consequently met two Zimbabwean crafters selling their wares at a busy set of traffic lights nearby in Newlands, Cape Town. These two Zimbabweans are Cuthbert and Alex.

“Cuthbert and Alex spent their days making crafts and selling at the traffic lights. This would have been a good system for them as the traffic lights are on a main route with lots of potential customers passing by every day. BUT there is a problem! It’s not legal to sell at traffic lights (you may be fooled into thinking that this is not the case if you drive around Cape Town, because almost every set of traffic lights has someone trying to sell you something). So these two Zimbabweans became adept at running very fast from the police, and hiding their wares at a moment’s notice.”

Four Loko—that high-octane alcohol- and caffeine-fueled malt beverage that drew the ire of federal authorities late last year—has found a new and appropriate role in the energy cycle: automotive fuel. A Virginia ethanol recycler is taking shipments of the product, which has been pulled from store shelves in several states, and recycling it into ethanol for use in gasoline.

The magnitude of climate change during Earth’s deep past suggests that future temperatures may eventually rise far more than projected if society continues its pace of emitting greenhouse gases, a new analysis concludes.

The study, by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist Jeffrey Kiehl, will appear as a “Perspectives” article in this week’s issue of the journal Science.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Study Finds People Ate Less Sustainable in 2010

What happened? Are we serious about wanting to do more for the environment? Are we discovering that reversing our long term bad habits is just too difficult?

Environmentalism, as we currently know it, has been around since early 1970’s. It has proven to be more than a passing phase and has grown beyond being just the latest trendy fad designed to get people to become more politically active.

Creating and living a sustainable life style takes time, effort and commitment. It exists hand-in-hand with environmentalism.

During the current recession we saw an increase in the number of home gardeners. We listened as these new converts to sustainable living made the pledge that they will reject factory food and take up growing their own and eating locally. Many of us secretly reserved our opinion on just how real this movement is and how long this would last but we all pulled for it to continue.

Now we learn that some of those Americans who joined us have given up the struggle and have reverted to their old ways. Polls show that they were less likely to engage in environmentally friendly behaviors in 2010 than they were in 2009, despite being more likely to identify with eco-friendly terms.

It seems, the fears many of us held in check were confirmed. The recent increases in people claiming to get back to the Earth only did so because times were becoming financially hard.

The poll, which surveyed 2,352 nationally representative adults online, found that fewer Americans said they were likely to buy local foods, down from 39% to 33%, and fewer respondents said they bought organic foods, down from 17 to 15 percent.

What I find most curious about this poll is that there was an increase in the number of people who said they were environmentally conscious. I guess this says they are aware of the condition of the environment and that something needs to be done but were willing to let someone else do it.

I’m sorry, but claiming to be an environmentalist during hard economical times is a sham unless you remain committed long after the economy improves.

If you are serious about remaining or becoming an active environmentalist ask for help and learn how to practice it. We don’t need charlatans and we don’t need lip service. The problems facing us are real and they do face all of us.

At the risk of getting preachy, we need to remember that we all have picked up some bad habits that are detrimental to the well-being of the environment. But we can reverse these effects by being vigilant about adopting a sustainable lifestyle. It’s going to take getting your hands dirty. Growing our own food, buying & using less biodegradable products, finding additional uses for every single thing we buy, these are not over-night propositions. We need to learn how to do it effectively, and there is a ton of help out there. The more food we grow for ourselves the less dependent we will be on factory farms which are, in all honesty, not providing us with the best in healthy food.

Look, our home gardens don’t have to win awards for being the most beautiful or most productive or most organic, but they do need to be created and used.

This poll says that the number of people who still claim to be environmentalist has remained high, I find this encouraging. It also says that the practice of being an environmentalist has fallen due to high prices of organic food and buying what is being labeled as ‘green’ products. My thoughts on this is that perhaps we need to reassess our spending priorities. Redirect spending from electronic devices that are geared more for entertainment and spend that money on healthier food and setting up gardens to grow our own.

Living a sustainable green lifestyle isn't always about large changes, but one of the changes that can make a serious impact on your health and body is making the effort to eat as sustainably as possible. It’s a matter of attitude. It is a mind set that we need to focus on in order for the environment to heal.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Utah’s Wildlife

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has released a series of YouTube videos featuring the wide variety of wildlife found here in Utah. Today I’ve chosen to highlight one on ice fishing and one on the resurgence of beavers to Utah.

Ice fishing –
Catching fish through the ice doesn't require a lot of fancy equipment. A short fishing rod and reel, a package of worms and a few hooks are about all you need.

In fact, if you just want to give ice fishing a try, you don't even need an ice auger.

Drew Cushing, warm water sport fisheries coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, says you'll usually find plenty of predrilled holes on the ice fishing waters you visit. "If anglers drilled the holes just a day or two before," he says, "they'll have only an inch or two of ice in them. Just break that thin ice and you're in business."

If you want to drill your own holes, though, you'll need an ice auger or a digging bar. A way to create a hole—and the most basic fishing equipment you can imagine—are all you need to catch lots of fish and have lots of fun.

In addition to warm clothes and waterproof boots, Cushing says the following gear is all you need to catch fish through the ice in the winter:
  • A short fishing rod and a small reel.
  • Fishing line.
  • A package of wax worms or meal worms, and some small hooks.

"Don't use nightcrawlers," Cushing says. "In the winter, use wax worms or meal worms. You can catch any species of fish through the ice using these worms. They're the best baits to use in the winter."

  • Cushing says wax worms and meal worms are easy to keep alive in the winter, and they'll last longer on your hook.
  • If you like to fish with lures, buy some small ice flies or small jigs. Cushing says these flies and jigs come in a variety of colors.

"Make sure you buy a variety of colors," Cushing says. "That way, you'll have the color the fish want on any given day."
  • A digging bar or an ice auger. A manual ice auger (one you turn by hand) costs about $50. You can pick up a digging bar for as little as $5 to $10.
  • Cushing says some anglers use gas-powered augers. But he says a gas-powered auger usually isn't needed.

"If you have a hand auger," he says, "you can drill through six to eight inches of ice in about a minute. Unless you're trying to drill through two feet of ice, a gas-powered auger usually isn't needed."

Because fish bite softly in the winter, you may also want to buy attachments that will help you detect the subtle bites of the fish. Spring bobbers, tip-ups and various floats are among the items that will help you know you have a fish on the end of your line.

Beavers -
Beavers used as a management tool represents a fresh new way of thinking

Awesome video of Utah’s beaver populations. They have recovered since the days when they were trapped by mountain men. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has drafted a new management plan that outlines how beavers play a role in habitat restoration.

Getting out where our wildlife live is a great way to remind us of their dependence on us and why we need to help them survive. Take the kids along and you could turn them into future stewards of natures wildlife. They need all the help they can get.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How Much Are We Dependent on Oil?

While doing some research for an essay on the Industrial Revolution and its effects on our lives, I got to thinking about what would happen if we ran out of oil today. As it turns out it’s a scary thought. We are far more dependent on oil than any one of us cares to admit.

The following list is just some of the products that, without oil, we would not have. Nearly everything in our lives is made from oil, made by machinery and systems dependent on oil, and transported by oil as either gas or diesel fuel. Check off all the items you can do without if we ran out of oil.

Ammonia, Anesthetics, Antihistamines, Artificial limbs, Artificial Turf, Antiseptics, Aspirin, Auto Parts, Awnings, Balloons, Ballpoint pens, Bandages, Beach Umbrellas, Boats, Cameras, Candles, Car Battery Cases, Carpets, Caulking, Combs, Cortisones, Cosmetics, Crayons, Credit Cards, Curtains, Deodorants, Detergents, Dice, Disposable Diapers, Dolls, Dyes, Eye Glasses, Electrical Wiring Insulation, Faucet Washers, Fishing Rods, Fishing Line, Fishing Lures, Food Preservatives, Food Packaging, Garden Hose, Glue, Hair Coloring, Hair Curlers, Hand Lotion, Hearing Aids, Heart Valves, Ink, Insect Repellant, Insecticides, Linoleum, Lip Stick, Milk Jugs, Nail Polish, Oil Filters, Panty Hose, Perfume, Petroleum Jelly, Rubber Cement, Rubbing Alcohol,  Shampoo, Shaving Cream, Shoes, Toothpaste, Trash Bags, Upholstery, Vitamin Capsules, Water Pipes, Yarn

Living without oil would be, to me, a lot more traumatic to think about now.

Last year mankind was introduced to a new concept, “peak oil”. It envisions a future no one is prepared for. Yeah, we are researching alternative sources of energy but we are not under any deadline to replace our dependence on oil. We simply do not know when the oil wells will run dry. Without this knowledge, we do not feel the urgency to begin to earnestly replace oil as our major energy source.

Of course, life must go on and since mankind has conditioned itself to always move forward into a more powerful future, slowing down is not an option. Only when one of these alternative energy sources can at least equal the power we get from petroleum at the same or cheaper cost will we consider dropping oil from our list of ‘must haves’. The promise of potential fortunes must be real before investments will be shifted from oil to less-polluting, cleaner renewable energy sources. It’s just a fact of life.

The first step in any plan to replace oil is to know how much is left. It is one of the most challenging issues facing our future survival. That sounds a bit dire, I must admit, but there are very few people who wish to go back to pre-industrial days, no matter how successful of self-sufficient their home-grown lifestyle is.

Make no mistake, oil will run out. Will it happen in our life times? In our children’s life times or further on down the road. It truly does not matter what the answer is, we simply cannot burn through it as though we are the only generation who needs it.

How Much is Left?
The prevailing estimate is that, at our current rate of consumption, we will run out of oil around 2030 and natural gas in the year 2060. Switching all fossil-fuel dependent industries from oil to natural gas will only buy us another 30 years, if these estimates are accurate. What is they turn out to be overly optimistic? That’s the danger in guessing.

As we get closer to these target dates, the world powers are going to escalate their aggressive pursuit of it for themselves. Can we learn to play nice and share. Given the last performance over the last several thousand years I think we all know the answer to that question. But, who will ‘win’. And if there is a ‘winner’ how much more time or they truly winning?

I am painting a very frightening picture here. But I believe we are already experiencing a third World War. The energy war if you so choose to call it, but a world war just the same. Everyone is invited but clearly the vast majority of countries are far too powerless to participate on their own. And if oil should be found in the backyard of some small previously unnoticed country, woe be unto them. We only need to look at Iraq to see what the future would hold for them.

We are so deeply invested in the pursuit of more oil that the cost of extracting oil from sand and shale is considered ‘worth it’. Despite the proven side effects of water consumption (which is also running out) and waste production (the pollution of our water tables). Realistically, how much oil can be found in these two sources? The answer to this question alone should drive home the desperation we are experiencing in our need for fossil fuels.

What is being done to encourage research in renewable energy?
We need to replace our dependency on fossil fuels now. To ignore this plea is to condemn the world population to a very bleak future.

I am perplexed as to why this nation’s population so readily accepts higher gas prices while investing our dollars in vehicles that suck it up faster than at any time in our past. New vehicles have become only slightly more fuel efficient but more and more consumers are buying bigger and beefier vehicles than ever before. Do we really need these monster trucks? And car manufacturers are more than happy to assist in our blissful ignorance as we race towards the bottom of the well.

Whenever the driving public is asked if they are going to change their driving habits due to higher gas prices, they almost smugly say they are not and auto sales figures are sadly backing this up. I don’t understand, is this a show of bravado that says I can afford it so I will pay it?

What about the higher prices for everything that is made from petroleum? Is middle America so complacent and smug in their ability to pay the price that we just do so while they silently complain of the lower quality we are forced to accept?

Be it arrogance or hopelessness in our ability to change anything, paying higher prices without voicing our discontent about it is damaging all of us.

There are several private enterprises who are taking the lead in production of products that do not require non-renewable fossil fuel. These forward-thinking individuals should have the full backing of our federal government. They should be hindered in any way in reaching their goal.

What will happen if we don’t replace fossil fuel?
Industrialized nations who are most fully invested in fossil fuel usage will take over nations with fossil fuel reserves. We could soon see a polarizing effect where smaller nations will alignment themselves with the power elite. What will this balance look like? It is anyone’s guess. The United Nations has become ineffective in its peacekeeping role that they will most likely be disbanded out of sheer frustration.

As people the world over will be unable to pay higher prices for manufactured goods, employers will begin layoffs and unemployment will increase putting more of a strain on governments or the unemployed will simply be turned out into the streets. Protests, riots and crime will increase which will bring on martial law and the police state so many of us have been warning of for so long.

A repeat of the hysteria that gripped the nation during the cold war is likely to happen. Stockpiling of food, turning away of neighbors who are not taking this situation seriously, weapons being brandished in an attempt to protect yourself from predator scavengers. It will truly get this bad if we don’t initiate a plan to replace our dependency on fossile fuel.

We cannot afford to search for the one perfect replacement for fossil fuels. We need to begin encouraging the increased use of wind energy, solar power, and power storage batteries. Our water delivery system is of the utmost priority. We need to begin building new homes partially underground if not completely underground in order to cut down on energy usage. Keep in mind that natural gas, propane, fuel oil, coal, grid electricity, wood and wood pellets will no longer be available or will become so high priced that we simply will not be able to afford it.

We need to equip ourselves with hand tools and give up all power tools. We need to educate ourselves on building, gardening, food preservation, medical first aid, animal husbandry. Only those people who prepare their minds, bodies, spirit and lifestyle for the change that is becoming more inevitable are going to survive.  Take a look around you. The United States of America is not as united as it once was. Our nations leadership has a long range plan to always have access to fossil fuels and the only they are going to have it is to take it. We common people will truly be on our own.

Monday, January 10, 2011

China’s ‘3D Fast Bus’ Straddles the Road

Now this stuff is pretty ingenious. A bus that straddles the road while cars are allowed to drive through to cut down on traffic.

Instead of building subways, the Chinese company Shenzhen Hashi Future Parking Equipment Co. designed a bus/train that straddles the roadway two lanes wide, with the passenger level on a second story level allowing vehicles to drive under it/through it.

This is the kind of innovation we need to help carry us into the future.

Future of Renewable Energy

It seems there’s a general consensus on the need to depart from our dependence on foreign oil. But what about our dependence on all fossil fuels, regardless of where they comes from?

Here in the US, almost 49% of our electricity comes from coal, and globally, somewhere between 80% and 90% of all energy comes from burning hydrocarbons, whether that’s oil, coal, gas, or, in some cases, just slashing and burning plants for heat, cooking, etc.

Perhaps, a more interesting question is not where are we now, but where we are going.

Latest Photo Voltaic and wind power advances are bringing costs down. And this has triggered a bit of a race among major countries to see who can cut greenhouse gas emissions first and the most. Even if it is for the purposes of turning the first dollar on their efforts, it will result in a benefit to our environment. The U.S. may soon become crippled in participating in this race due to the new majority in the U.S. Senate that has aggressively begun to block all actions that would mitigate global climate change.

It seems that as long as we have an uninterrupted flow of fossil fuels there is no pressure to invest in renewable energy. This is a very short-sighted view to take. What we need to do in order to overcome the thinking that fossil fuels is a bottomless well, is to determine exactly how much is left. Oil industry officials know the supply is not endless, yet they will continue to accept the easy money coming their way for continued exploration.

Politicians are obviously unconvinced that the damage done to our environment is short term enough that it is of no consequence. There are increased healthcare costs, increasing environmental cleanup costs, and there will be hidden costs in the loss of species. If we could get all of these figures into a financial spreadsheet that all politicians could understand surely they would see that renewable energy is the correct investment and the time is now.

If the world continues developing renewable energy production, the incremental cost of a megawatt of electricity from wind will cost less than the equivalent from coal. If the U.S. stifles its research and development of wind energy we will then become dependent on buying equipment from foreign countries. And we will be in the same situation of depending on foreign countries as we now find ourselves with fossil fuels. In my opinion, our leaders are being penny wise and dollar foolish. Of course, the general trend is that the world is becoming one marketplace and one community of consumers. Perhaps, this is America’s way of balancing the books on the debt we owe developing countries for the damage we have done from our industrial pollution. Instead of asking them to help pay for the cleanup, we allow them to own the renewable energy market.

Renewable energy will happen, its just a matter of when. Huge fortunes will be made. The benefit of continuing research into these fields is clear.

Politicians need to put aside any debate on whether global climate change is real. This is their chance to make up to the American worker for their part in allowing American manufacturing to relocate overseas.

What do you say Congress? How about helping out the working stiff for a change?

Greg W

Future of Solar Power

Youngstown, Ohio – The most innovative product ever introduced for mounting photovoltaic solar panels has once again been selected for a new solar array project.

The Solar FlexRack was chosen for the West Tennessee Solar Farm, a 30-acre facility located along Interstate 40 in Haywood County. A total of 761 Solar FlexRacks will be used to mount 21,300 high-efficiency silicon-based modules. The project will supply 5MW of electrical power to 5,000 homes in the area.

The Solar FlexRack, a product of Nothern States Metals, is a pre-assembled Photo Voltaic module mounting system for ground or roof applications that can be installed by a 3-man crew in 3 minutes or less. This can realize a huge savings per project.

Greg W reach me at

Friday, January 7, 2011

What Bottled Water Companies Aren't Telling You

Today we learn from a new report from Environmental Working Group (EWG) "Bottled water companies try hard to hide information you might find troubling," says Jane Houlihan, senior vice president of research for the Washington D.C.-based research and advocacy group.

EWG analyzed the labels of 173 unique bottled water products and company websites to determine if companies disclose information on where water comes from, how or if their water is treated, and whether the results of purity testing are revealed. The nonprofit also looked at how effective (and advanced) any water treatment methods are. Researchers followed up by calling dozens of bottled water companies to find out which ones willingly tell consumers what's in their bottles.

Despite consumer laws designed to protect us by governing the manufacture and processing of everything we eat or drink, these companies take short cuts, put a favorable spin on unfavorable truths and outright cover up whatever they consider harmful to their sales. It is easy to see where their main interest lies.

Our tap water is stringently tested and the results can be found online. Unfortunately, the same thing cannot be said for bottled water, which is not required to disclose that information to consumers. Why this is the case remains to be unanswered.

More than half of the bottled water products surveyed failed EWG's transparency test --18% didn't say where their water comes from, and another 32% did not disclose any information on treatment or purity of water. These results are dismal at best. For a company to sell a product, that we ingest, without disclosing the ingredients and its sources is unconscionable. Further, to be allowed to do so is nothing short of criminal negligence.

This situation continues because we consumers continue to purchase products of this nature. We need to all, each and every one of us, stop putting so much faith in the products we buy. The battle against unscrupulous manufacturers is tough enough, but when the very people we are fighting for show manufacturers they will purchase whatever is put in front of them, it becomes even more of an uphill battle.

Only three brands earned the highest possible marks for disclosing information and using the most advanced treatment methods available –
  • Gerber Pure Purified Water,
  • Nestle Pure Life Purified Water,
  • Penta Ultra-Purified Water.

These six brands got the worst marks in EWG's report because they don't provide consumers with the three basic facts about water on product labels or their company website –
  • Whole Foods Italian Still Mineral Water,
  • Vintage Natural Spring Water,
  • Sahara Premium Drinking Water,
  • O Water Sport Electrolyte Enhanced Purified Drinking Water,
  • Market Basket Natural Spring Water,
  • Cumby's Spring Water.

We have to ask ourselves, if these companies won’t disclose where their water comes from, how or if it is treated, or whether the results of purity testing are revealed, then we need to err on the side of caution and assume it is nothing more than tap water. And if it is tap water, why are you paying for it?

Related facts:
Bottled water can cost up to 1,900 times more than what flows from your tap
Drinking tap water also takes less of a toll on the planet
The most advanced treatment technologies are reverse osmosis and micro-filtration

Tags: drinking water

Monday, January 3, 2011

Endangered Oceans

West Africa’s coastal dead zone continues to expand. Rising water temperatures, along with the runoff of chemical fertilizers, create large areas of water with low-level oxygen making the area inhospitable to marine life. As fish leave these areas in search of oxygen they are moving into areas with greater fisheries activity where oxygen is more abundant.

There are about 400 of these “hypoxic” regions throughout the world, many caused by human activities. The most notorious dead zone is in the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi River where oxygen-depleting algae is growing unchecked. Another dead zone was discovered in 2007 off the coast of Texas, where the Brazos river empties into the Gulf.

Three major dead zones are known to have been caused by climate change: one off the coast of Chile and Peru, one off the east coast of Africa, and another off of Africa's west coast. A new dead zone was reported off the US west coast in 2002. It occurs seasonally and is believed to be part of a continuum of South America's dead zone.

The hypoxic zone off West Africa covers virtually all the equatorial waters in the Atlantic Ocean and is roughly the size of the continental United States. The zone is growing every year further reducing the available habitat for fish. Fish that are already experiencing a decline in population due pressures from fisheries are escaping into smaller areas making it appear to fisheries that the population is experiencing a growth spurt when actually they are just being concentrated in a smaller area. This is going to lead to a probable crash in fish harvest.

The only way this die-off of population can be prevented is to stop the practice of polluting our oceans while reversing the trend of climate change. It doesn’t seem either of these possibilities is going to take place. We may very well soon see the end of ocean fish sales.

Fracking for resources

The procedure used to extract natural gas out of shale rock deep within the ground is called hydrolic fracturing (fracking).

Several states around the country are using this controversial process even while the EPA is conducting studies to determine if this process is harmful to the environment.

So here we have the EPA doing studies to see if this procedure is too damaging to our environment to use, while companies are currently using the procedure and damaging the environment. Anyone else see any problem with this picture?

The EPA will undoubtedly wait until gas companies have extracted all they can out of the ground before ruling that this procedure is too damaging to the environment to continue. The gas companies will put up a token show of protest knowing they have already gotten what they want out of it, and then will go along with the ruling to show what good stewards of the land they are. Quite the cozy little arrangement.

Let’s examine how harmful this fracking is:
Fracking pumps millions of gallons of fluid into the ground. This fluid is composed of water, sand and toxic chemicals to help the sand in the fluid travel farther into the formation. More chemicals break down the mixture so it flows back easily, and biocides keep fungi and bacteria from growing in the passageways so they don’t block the gas.

A high percentage of the fluid that goes down into the well comes back up in the form of wastewater. This wastewater not only contains the toxic chemicals that are pumped down such as friction reducers, foaming agents, biocides, surfactants and scale inhibitors but also brings up Normally Occurring Radioactive material (NORMS), metals such as cadmium, arsenic, chromium, lead, mercury and copper, hydrocarbons and organic compounds like methanol, chlorinated phenols, formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, xylene and acrylamide.

The wastewater is pumped into impoundments, or holding ponds, at the well site and then must be trucked across our roads and through our communities to get to one of only two treatment facilities in Auburn and Watertown that are treating it and releasing into nearby rivers.

At every step of the process there are multiple opportunities for contamination to our water supply, our air and our land through leaks, failures and the inevitable mechanical and human error. There is no way to expect that you can introduce this toxic cocktail into the environment and not have severe consequences.

Must we continue this charade of protecting the environment while corporations and the EPA continue their cozy profitable arrangement? They aren’t fooling any of us. But as usual those in power hold all the cards in preventing us from stopping them.

While gas drilling using fracking is currently threatening ecologically important areas such as the Catskills and the Upper Delaware, the practice is about to affect a huge swath from there west through the vineyards and farms of the Finger Lakes on down through Allegheny State Park and beyond the borders to West Virginia all while the EPA drags its feet convinced its working for the American people.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Environmental News

More than 1,000 dead birds fall from sky in Arkansas The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said Saturday more than 1,000 dead blackbirds fell from the sky in Beebe.

Reports of sea lion shootings on rise in California Wildlife officials have seen a slight rise in the shooting of ocean mammals in recent years, and investigators often struggle to find a culprit. There are few witnesses to such shootings, making it nearly impossible to bring a case.