Flotsam & Jetsam
I Fear for the Planet, Proof: Eating Whales Makes You Stupid, Who Was Really behind those Anti-Bush Shirts, Build It Green and They Will Come, Mind Your Manures, and more...
November 28, 2004
'I Fear for the Planet'
|Credit: Edge photo by Gar Smith|
UK -- It's not unusual to hear environmentalists bemoaning the looming threat of global warming, but it is news when these same warnings come from the lips of Ronald Oxburgh, the head of British Shell Oil, one of the world's largest oil companies. In a candid interview with the London Guardian in June, Oxburgh confessed that he saw "very little hope for the world."
Sounding a lot like Al Gore, Oxburgh lamented that "people are going to go on allowing this atmospheric carbon dioxide to build up, with consequences that we really can't predict. No one can be comfortable at the prospect of continuing to pump out the amounts of carbon dioxide that we are at present." (Oxburgh must be especially uncomfortable since it is the consumption of his company's oil products that is fueling the problem.) While a solution to global asphyxiation might be found, Oxburgh fears "the time-scale might be impossible."
Instead of calling for an immediate ban on the burning of fossil fuels, Oxburgh instead proposes reducing Greenhouse gases through "carbon sequestration" -- trapping the carbon in solids and burying them in the ocean depths. "I don't see any other approach," he concluded. Ironically, Oxburgh's confession followed a warning by Britain's Chief Science Advisor Sir David King, who warned that climate change was "a far greater threat to the world than terrorism." If George Bush can declare an endless war to "rid the world of terrorism," why can't we assume the challenge of "ridding the world of excess atmospheric carbon"?
Proof: Eating Whales Makes You Stupid
|And don't eat dolphins, either! The December 2004 issue of MAD Magazine featured a "socially responsible" version of the videogame Grand Theft Auto that included a pumped-up gangsta sporting a well-known Earth Island logo. Credit: Mad Magazine|
JAPAN -- Any environmentalist wound agree with this statement: "You'ld have to be an idiot to eat a whale or a dolphin." And now a 14-year Environmental Investigation Agency study on residents of Denmark's Faroe Islands confirms that gnawing on cetaceans actually does knock points off your IQ. The culprit is methymercury, an industrial pollutant that accumulates in the tissue of marine mammals. Because of the reliance on a sea-food diet that includes the flesh of pilot whales, dolphins and porpoise, children in the Faroes and in Japan are being exposed to mercury doses that can be 100 times higher that what is considered safe -- and suffering brain damage as a result.
Who Was Really Behind those Anti-Bush Shirts
Even in hippypolitan Berkeley, Arnie Schwartz stands out. He's the fellow in the anti-Bush T-shirt and anti-Bush baseball cap, carrying the inflated Bush-on-a-stick balloon with the foot-long, I-cannot-tell-a-truth Pinocchio nose.
Bearded, bearish, and beaming, Schwartz was one of the original outside-the-box thinkers behind "Nader's Traders" -- the folks who figured our how voters in the 2000 presidential race could trade a ballot for Ralph Nader (in a secure Blue state) for a vote for Al Gore (in a potential swing state). The Nader's Traders set the political establishment on its ear but four years later, the courts have ruled that "vote-pairing," while unorthodox, is not explicitly illegal.
These days, Schwartz is still promoting ballot-balancing but he's also branched out into more commercial pursuits. "The marketing of anti-Bush merchandise has become a sort of cottage industry for a lot of creative Americans," Schwartz told the Dock during a visit to the UC Berkeley campus. "I run the www.Bushbashers.org site and we sell all kinds of funny and edgy anti-Bush election gear, including T-shirts, bumperstickers, buttons, Bush punching bags."
But a funny thing happened as Schwartz began interacting with other George-goring vendors. "A typical online site would offer, say, 60 anti-Bush shirts and perhaps ten anti-Kerry shirts," Schwartz related. "At first, I smugly thought meant that the anti-Bush forces were more creative and imaginative -- or at least had more unemployed graphic artists. But what I found out was that, maybe half the anti-Bush paraphernalia sites -- including some of the most vicious ones -- were actually run by Republican Bush supporters who were simply responding to the huge popular demand for such products and saw a good economic opportunity in catering to it."
Once again, the world is not what it seemed. All those pre-election expenditures on anti-Bush t-shirts might have actually wound up in the coffers of the Republican National Committee! You thought you were investing in a pre-emptive strike against "For More Years"? Think again. In 2004 and the months ahead, the watchword in the marketplace has become "caveat pre-emptor."
Build it Green and They Will Come
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA -- Students at the Laney College Carpentry Department used to learn construction skills by building temporary structures on campus -- and promptly tearing them down. Now Laney's hammer-wielding students can be found in the community nailing down real homes for moderate-income owners. But what makes this home-sweet-home deal even sweeter is that these 1,300 square-foot, three-bedroom urban nests are resource-efficient "green" homes.
Built from recycled, eco-friendly materials and incorporating energy saving technologies, thousands of new state- and city-certified Green Buildings are saving their owners big bucks on construction costs as well as water, electricity, gas and maintenance. Since 2000, the US Green Building Council has certified 19,000 green building professionals -- which helps explain why four percent of all new construction in the US now is green-certified and ten percent of the country's 4.7 million commercial buildings have "smart" systems that automatically turn off unneeded lights.
San Francisco's Department of Environment's 1999 Resource-Efficient Building Ordinance requires green-building practices in all City buildings. Alameda County has issued Green Builder Guidelines. Oakland's towering city administration building incorporates green-design principals. Berkeley's Environmental Visitors' Center at Shorebird Nature Park is a state-of-the-art solar-powered green building built with recycled lumber and straw-bale walls, radiant floor heating, and non-toxic linoleum floors.
San Francisco visionary Kevin Danaher is preparing to extend the reach of Global Exchange -- San Francisco's celebrated social-justice/ethical-shopping/reality-touring/anti-war nonprofit -- by purchasing a building in the City that it can transform into a GreenMart (www.greenmart.us) to showcase the best new green-building products and practices. Danaher predicts that The GreenMart will become "a hub for ecologically and socially responsible enterprise, education and economic development." Green Gables is no longer just a movie: It's a movement.
For the latest tips for building your own eco-home, check out: www.GreenHomeGuide.com.
Mind Your Manures
GEORGETOWN, TEXAS -- To most folks, flies and manure go together like beer and pretzels, but the folks at Texas' Stet Corporation seem to have turned this assumption upside down. Stet Corporation [www.stetcorp.com] has won EPA approval for a process that makes insecticide out of a familiar, safe, and renewable resource -- cow plop. Stet boasts that its True Stop formulation -- produced primarily from dairy and feed-yard manure -- is chemical-free, biodegradable and effective.
Central Texas dairy farmers have been under the gun because their waste flows through watersheds that feed several metropolitan water supplies. Stet Corp Founder and President Dean Holz calls this breakthrough the culminating event in a 13-year effort to provide effective, affordable and environmentally-friendly natural insecticides." True Growth, which is available in sizes from quart sizes up to tanker loads, could become a preferred alternative to chemical insecticides, many which are derived from organophosphates.
Organochlorines persist in air, water and body fat and damage the nervous system (not surprising, since organochlorines were originally developed as nerve gases in World War I). Other chemical insecticides include phenoxyacetic acids (the chemicals combined to produce Agent Orange), carbamates (which destroy nervous system enzymes), and synthetic pyrethroids, (which also attack the nervous system).
The World Health Organization estimates that at least three million people -- and up to 25 million agricultural workers -- are poisoned by pesticides every year and more than 200,000 die.
Climate Change in New England: Leave No Leaf Behind
BOSTON, MA.-- For the past five years, the autumn colors have been fading from New England's famous forests. University of New Hampshire Professor of Natural Resources Barrett Rock believes climate change is the culprit. Rock warns that the region's famed autumnal display could disappear in as little as 100 years. Also on the way out: New England's maple syrup industry.
Only 40 years ago, New England and New York produced about 80 percent of the world's maple syrup, while Canada produced 20 percent. Now, that ratio has been reversed. As New England grows warmer, winters are no longer cold enough for optimal maple syrup production. Rock warns of "an emerging pattern that suggests strongly that some of the things that define New England -- such as its fall color display -- are going to disappear if global warming continues unchecked."
Climate change projections issued by the New England Regional Assessment three years ago forecast a temperature shift of 6-10 degrees over 100 years. Under this scenario, Boston's climate would begin to resemble that of Richmond, VA. Under the worst-case scenario, Boston could eventually become as hot and humid as Atlanta, Georgia.
On average, New England has warmed by almost one degree since 1895, with the greatest warming in New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island. In some parts of New England, annual precipitation has increased more than 25 percent over the last century. While storms have grown more intense, snowfall in northern New England has declined 15% since 1953.
The American Bird Conservancy expects to see several species of wood warbler forced to move northwards by hundreds of miles. Five species, including the Cape May and bay-breasted warbler, may vanish from New England entirely. Over the past 25 years, 20 percent of 35 North American warbler species have already been driven an average 65 miles northwards by the warming climate. Without these birds, spruce budworm outbreaks could devastate the forests.
"When you start talking about a New England without fall colors and maple syrup production, that's when global warming gets very real very fast for people," says Frank Smith, a senior fellow with the Civil Society Institute, located near Boston. "The wisest course of action is to start changing things now," Smith told the Boston Globe. "To do less is to be both reckless and irresponsible. This is the message we want to send to business leaders and elected officials: If you think of climate change as just a vague theoretical abstraction that will only have an impact on your great grandchildren, you need to realize that the time to do something about global warming is now."
Leave No Child Unexposed
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking input on a new proposed study in which infants in participating low income families will be monitored for health impacts as they undergo exposure to known toxic chemicals over the course of two years. Since many health problems have a lag time of 20 to 30 years before they appear after the original contamination, the short- term results may not show any health problems. But that does not mean that the tested chemicals are safe. This is a very calculated move by the chemical industry, which, coincidentally is funding the study.
For taking part, each family will receive $970, a free video camera, a T-shirt, and a framed certificate of appreciation. The study, entitled Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study (CHEERS), will look at how chemicals are ingested, inhaled or absorbed by children ranging from babies to 3 years old. Please take a moment to follow this link and join tens of thousands of citizens in petitioning the EPA to terminate this study prior to its proposed launch in early 2005.
-- Ron Forthofer.More information, related newspaper headlines and petition here:
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