Flotsam & Jetsam
A Well-seasoned Calendar, Dimming Prospects as Pollution Shutters Sunshine, Eating Whales Makes You Stupid, Organic Crops Now Cover 24 Million Hectares, Countries Agree to Clean-up after War, and more...!
May 22, 2004
A Well-seasoned Calendar
|The debut of an environmentally attuned calendar.|
One of life's eternal verities is that each year brings new hopes, new dreams and hundreds of slick, four-color calendar designs competing for your wallspace and loose change. Once in a while, there's a rare entry that stands out from all the rest. The Antenna Theater's ECO-logical Calendar fits the bill.
When you think about it (and the designers of this alternative calendar certainly have) the traditional calendar's arbitrary subdivisions of time into 12 pages of boxed grids has left us "imprisoned in artificiality" and insulated from the awesome rhythms of the natural world -- the procession of the stars, the transformation of waters from snowflake to ebb tide, the moonlit arias of wolves, the springtime stirring of grubs and robins.
The ECO-logical Calendar offers an Earth-based alternative to the Gregorian calendar's familiar linear, flip-the-month approach by reflecting the seasons in four separate fold-out murals, one for each of nature's seasons. The Eco-Logical Calendar doesn't start on January 1 -- it commences on January 21, the Winter Solstice, and runs from "solstice to equinox to solstice to equinox."
This new calendar has drawn praise from Julia Butterfly Hill, David Suzuki and Paul Hawken who marvels at how the calendar "marries the sun and the moon to feathers, rime and starfish."
In a heady mix of science and poetry (both the written and painted kind), each 12" x 35" panel captures the "mood" of the season. Look at the winter panel and you'll feel like pulling on an overcoat; unfold the spring panel and you'll feel like kicking off your shoes. The brilliantly intricate graphics are salted with detailed information about the brightest stars, the tides, the phases of the moon. The back of each panel blossoms with factoids ranging from pine cones to bears dens to cloud cover and meteors.
And forget the Monday-Sunday grind. In this calendar, every day has its own unique name embroidered into a running line of touchstones that turns each "week" into a poem. Here, for example, is the last week of "March" (with the day names in Italics): "Blossom Out make Land Swell end Winters Rout as Wind Swing scatters and Cloud Fling splatters on Journey Rest for Gather Nest pairs."
And there's a six-page booklet filled with even more information about the natural world. So, spend as much time as you can outside but when you're inside, don't bedevil yourself by hanging yesterday's calendar over your desk. The Gregorian calendar is so square. It's time to buy into a more natural testament to time. Circle your calendar.
The calendar is printed with soy-based inks on recycled paper by Petaluma's Pomagrante Press. For more information, see: www.ecologicalcalendar.info OR www.antenna -theater.org
Dimming Prospects as Pollution Shutters Sunshine
Sunlight is already on the way out. Repeatedly expressing shock at how quickly our space colony's life-support systems are failing, scientists are finding levels of solar radiation reaching the Earth's surface decreasing by almost 3% a decade.
"Global Dimming" is too small to detect with the eye. "But it has implications for everything from climate change to solar power and even the future sustainability of plant photosynthesis," reports the London Guardian.
All those jet-propelled vacations and car trips to the corner store add up. Since 1960, 10% less sunlight has reached Earth's inhabitants. Levels of solar radiation reaching parts of the former coal-belching Soviet Union are down almost 20%. In any greenhouse, the rule of a green thumb is that every 1% decrease in solar radiation results in a 1% drop in plant productivity.
"It's actually quite a big deal," says Graham Farquhar, a climate scientist at the Australian National University in Canberra. But get this: Farquhar doesn't think that identified pollutants, "by themselves would be able to produce this amount of global dimming."
The baffled Aussie should check out the role of contrails in turning off sunlight. Since the Jet Age took off in the 1960s, normal condensation trails from five million jet flights every year have been found to block 10% of sunlight across Europe and the USA. Over heavily trafficked Atlantic and American air-routes, artificial cloud cover caused by jet engine pollutants has increased 20%. -- Will Thomas
Eating Whales Makes You Stupid
LONDON -- A scientific study released in early February revealed that children who eat mercury-contaminated whale meat and can suffer brain damage. The study raises new alarms over the Japanese Government's decision to promote the sales of whale, dolphin and porpoise meat which contains levels of mercury in excess of the government's own health guidelines.
The 14-year study, carried out in the Danish Faroe Islands, suggested that post-natal exposure to methylmercury can cause children to suffer developmental problems, and supported concerns that pre-natal damage may be irreversible.
Over a three-year period, 72 cetacean products sold in Japanese supermarkets were tested and more than half were found to contain levels of mercury or methylmercury that exceeded Japanese Government guidelines for human consumption. Mercury levels in these products can be 10 to 100 times higher than levels typically found in fish.
Japan has issued a warning advising pregnant women to limit consumption of certain cetacean species but the advisory says nothing about the danger to children. Clare Perry, of the Environmental Investigation Agency's Cetacean Campaign believes the new findings should compel Japan "to take immediate action to protect their consumers, particularly children, from brain damage caused by exposure to mercury."
Organic Crops Now Cover 24 Million Hectares
GERMANY -- The US press carries a lot of stories about the spread of farmland coverted to growing genetically engineered soy, corn and wheat, but there's another, greener, trend afoot. According to "The World of Organic Agriculture: Statistics and Emerging Trends 2004" -- a report prepared by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements [www.ifoam.org], Germany's Foundation Ecology & Farming [www.soel.de], and the Swiss Research Institute of Organic Agriculture [www.fibl.org] more than 24 million hectares of farmland currently are under organic management worldwide.
Australia leads the pack with approximately ten million hectares, followed by Argentina (almost three million hectares) and Italy with more than one million hectares. Regarding the share of organic farmland in comparison with the total agricultural area, Austria, Switzerland and Scandinavian countries lead the way. In Switzerland, ten percent of the agricultural land is managed organically. In 2002, the global market for organic products hit $23 billion. The largest markets for organic products are found in Europe and North America.
The study can be ordered through IFOAM and FiBL (see addresses above) or accessed via the internet at: www.soel.de/oekolandbau/weltweit.html or at: www.fibl.org/shop/pdf/st-1298-organic-world-2004.pdf.
Countries Agree to Clean Up after War
|Landmine cleanup in Africa. Credit: The British Council|
GENEVA -- Last November, more than 90 countries, including the US, pledged to reduce the number of post-war civilian casualties to cleaning up munitions left behind by armed conflicts. The countries that are signatories to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) will be required by treaty law to remove (or tell others how to find) their unexploded cluster and mortar bombs, missiles and other weaponry.
Although there are no hard-and-fast figures for the victims of Explosive Remnants of War -- the technical term for the lethal debris -- ERWs are believed to injure, maim and kill tens of thousands of innocent civilians each year. The situation is gravest in Sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated 24 countries and territories are littered with abandoned and unexploded ordnance. The next most ERW-contaminated regions are Afghanistan and Iraq.
Reuters reports that the new rules will be legally binding on signatory states as soon as the new protocol to the CCW convention has been formally ratified by 20 member states. Besides having to clear areas they control, states must maintain records of when and where ordnance was used to speed the clean-up, warn civilians of and provide technical, material and financial assistance to other agencies called in to do the work.
While the International Committee of the Red Cross (one of the leading advocates of a treaty) welcomed the pact, some NGOs faulted the treaty for the being vaguely worded.
This marks the first time the Bush administration has joined a global weapons pact. The Bush White House has been notoriously resistant to a range of international arms control treaties. The United States, Russia and China are amongst 50 countries not to have joined the 1997 Ottawa treaty against landmines.
Fluoride Threatens India's Water
GUJARAT --. In February, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI)-Tata Water Policy Program sounded the alarm that the mismanagement of groundwater supplies could endanger India's economic development. Within 20 years, approximately 25% of India's grain harvest could be imperiled because of the over-exploitation of groundwater supplies. Groundwater currently irrigates more than 35 million hectares, sustaining 60% of the India's irrigated land.
Declining water tables are also causing water-borne fluoride to build up to alarming levels. Research shows that while affluent farmers have increased their wealth by drawing down groundwater tables, the health costs from rising levels of fluorosis have been disproportionately borne by the rural poor. In Southern Rajasthan, 6,600 predominantly tribal people from 20 villages were surveyed and severe skeletal fluorosis was detected in 20% of men and 30% of women in the 30-46 year age group. Professor Tushaar Shah, a groundwater expert at the IWMI has warned: "Fluoride in groundwater is a public health time bomb."
Possible Brain Cancer-Air Pollution Link
In January, the Brain Tumor and Air Pollution Foundation inaugurated a research project to explore a possible link between brain cancer and air pollution. The study will be led by Keith Black, M.D., director of Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute and Division of Neurosurgery. The research is being funded by more than $1 million in grants from the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) and the Brain Tumor foundation, a newly chartered California nonprofit.
Certain toxic air pollutants are known to cause cancer in humans and an American Lung Association study has linked particulate pollution to lung cancer. At least one investigation that found a dramatic increase of brain cancer rates in a metropolitan area, with a possible link to air pollution.
Dr. Black cited an increased incidence in brain tumors among children and young people with some estimates suggest brain cancers and other tumors of childrens nervous systems rose by more than 25 percent between 1973 and 1996.
"Brain cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in young people," Black said. "Among the potentially toxic products of concern are the ultra-fine particles [less than 0.1 micron in diameter] that come from diesel engines -- particles that would likely be plentiful along freeways, in congested metropolitan areas, and in the immediate vicinity of diesel-burning vehicles."
Piercing the Terrorist Net with a Wink and a Nod
CANADA -- In December, Halifax International Airport became Canada's second international airport to implement the CANPASS-Air iris-recognition technology. Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) has created a list of "pre-approved travelers" who will be permitted to clear customs and immigration quickly and securely -- as long as their eyes match CANPASS' mechanical scanners.
Ministry of National Revenue spokesperson Geoff Regan called CANPASS "another example of how the CCRA implements programs that balance security with the free flow of travelers."
An official government statement explains: "CANPASS-Air members clear customs and immigration by looking into a camera lens that recognizes the iris of their eyes as proof of identity. Reducing the time it takes for interaction with trusted clients allows Customs personnel to focus on people they don't know."
CANPASS-Air kiosks are scheduled to open at other international airports in Canada in the spring of 2004. Passengers can buy their way into the CANPASS system by paying an annual membership fee of 50 Canadian dollars. The CCRA expects that the CANPASS-Air Program will be expanded into a joint program with the US.
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