Flotsam & Jetsam
Save Trees and Pandas - Wear Bamboo, The Rise of the Red Panda, Invest in a Clean Environment, US Spray & Ecuador's DNA, A Chemical Time-bomb Haunts Africa, and more!
September 6, 2007

Save Trees and Pandas -- Wear Bamboo
The-Edge's editor models a bamboo shirt (along with hemp pants and a hemp tie).
Anyone who's ever had to battle to save a backyard garden from a neighbor's invasive bamboo, will have an understandable aversion to this towering weed. But anyone who's had a chance to try on a skirt, shirt or undies made from bamboo, is likely to forgive all past aggravations. For, contrary to expectations, bamboo cloth is neither scratchy nor tough -- it's as smooth as cashmere, it keeps you warm on nippy days and, when the sun beats down, bamboo cloth wicks moisture away quicker than cotton.

The-Edge recently had the pleasure of slipping on a bamboo shirt from -- where else? -- ShirtsOfBamboo.com, a company in St. Petersburg, Florida. The fiber for these soft and sleek goods comes from Moso bamboo (Phyllostachys Pubescens), which is grown on 7.4 million acres in China and is harvested on small family farms in Zhejiang Province.

Moso is grown without pesticides or chemicals (unlike cotton, which consumes about 25% of the world's pesticides). Moso can grow 60-feet tall and (talk about "growth spurt") some species can grow four feet a day! And here's a surprising "green factoid": Bamboo reportedly releases 35% more oxygen into the atmosphere than an equivalent patch of forest.

So how do you transform a stiff pole of bamboo into a soft pile of bath towels? It's similar to the way rayon is made, says Shirts of Bamboo: "The stalk is pulped and extruded into fiber." (A Chinese company holds the international patent on the process.) "The yarn is spun and we bring the yarn/fabric in from China. Some of our products are dyed and sewn here in the US. Some are made at sweatshop-free factories in China and labeled accordingly."

And rest assured: no pandas were harmed in the making of these clothes. While giant pandas and the less-well-known red pandas munch on more than 30 varieties of bamboo, when it comes to Moso, pandas are only so-so. Moso, the largest temperate bamboo species, is just too big for the pandas to handle. They prefer the smaller species that they can wrap their paws around.

You can wash bamboo cloth just like cotton and 100% bamboo duds won't shrink. When you're out in the sun, bamboo fibers offer a Sun Protection Factor of 14 and, when it comes to perspiration stains, no sweat -- bamboo fiber is stoked with "bamboo kun," a natural anti-bacterial agent that acts as a deodorant.

In addition to shirts, skirts and scarves, the company makes socks, hats, robes, jewelry underwear and bamboo booties for bambinos.

Contact: Shirts of Bamboo, 2414 Central Avenue, St. Petersberg, FL 33712. (877) 597-5678. www.shirtsofbamboo.com

The Rise of the Red Panda
The red panda, one of the cutest critters on Earth, also inspired the logo for one of the quickest search engines on Web.
Some Shirts of Bamboo customers have been confused by the company's logo, which appears to show a raccoon resting in a tree. The company's mascot is actually a "red panda" (aka a "firefox"), a little-known critter that inhabits temperate forests in portions of Nepal, India, Myanmar and China.

A red panda (there are two unique species) looks nothing like the roly-poly black-and-white bamboo munchers of China fame. According to Earth Island's Red Panda Project (www.redpandaproject.org), the red panda is an "indicator species" whose survival is linked to the integrity of the regional wilderness. The major threats to the panda's survival are agriculture, logging, grazing and hunting.

(The red panda's fame is on the rise, these days. In addition to the Red Panda Project, a growing number of computer-users have come to know the red panda through a new search engine called "Firefox.")

If you want to drape yourself in some eco-PC bamboo, the RPP has struck a deal with Daughter Earth (www.daughterearth.net), a company that sells "eco-conscious products" and donates proceeds to worthwhile causes. In this case, the company sells Bamboo/cotton T-shirts and passes 10% of the funds on to the RPP.

Invest in a Clean Environment
The Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN) argues that pollution is not just bad for the streambeds and mountaintops, it is also bad for the corporate bottom line. And IEHN has published a 52-page report to make its case. The "Fiduciary Guide to Toxic Chemical Risk" warns that the rising tide of corporate chemicals showing up in "human blood, breast milk and amniotic fluid" is likely to trigger "liability litigation and government enforcement actions [that] may further undermine bottom lines and reputations."

IEHN's study estimates that the cost of chemically triggered diseases may well top $15 a year -- and that's just for residents in Connecticut, California and New York. IEHN has the capital and clout to make a difference: it represents 20 investment groups with $22 billion in assets.

US Spray & Ecuador's DNA
The journal Genetics and Molecular Biology reports extensive damage to the DNA has been discovered in villagers living along the Colombian-Ecuadoran border following spraying with US-supplied herbicides. Since 2000, Ecuador has been using the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup") as part of a US-backed anti-drug program targeting cocoa fields. Roundup, the most widely used herbicide in the world, is manufactured by the US chemical giant Monsanto.

While Monsanto benefits from the anti-drug program, the local residents in spraying zones suffer from stomach pain, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, numbness, burning eyes, stinging skin, rashes and breathing problems -- all classic symptoms of pesticide poisoning.

Blood samples taken from Ecuadorians living within three kilometers of the Colombian border displayed 800 percent more chromosomal damage than samples taken from people living 80 km from the border. The DNA damage was severe enough to trigger cancers and miscarriages.

Researchers found blood levels of Roundup that were 20 times above the maximum recommended exposure. The blood samples were collected by Acción Ecológica and tested by the Pontificia Catholic University in Quito.
The US has spent $1.8 billion to "combat the drug trade" over the past three years. In 2006, Colombia's National Police planes doused 171,613 hectares with herbicides and, every year, chemicals are dropped over more and more acres.

Colombian officials claim that they have not "verified a single case of adverse human health effects linked to glyphosate spraying." But a June 16 Inter Press Service report notes that "many studies that show potential health impacts of Roundup on people and wildlife" have been published since 1994.

In 2005, French scientists warned that Roundup was "toxic to human placental cells within hours of exposure, at levels 10 times lower than those found in agricultural use." French researcher Gilles-Eric Seralin believes this could explain "the problems of miscarriages, premature births or sexual malformations of babies" in areas where Roundup is sprayed. Research from Turkey, the US and Colombia suggests that Roundup has been killing amphibians around the world.

A Chemical Time-bomb Haunts Africa
Rusting barrels of pesticides in Africa. Credit: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Forty years ago, the Third World signed up for the "Green Revolution and began importing shiploads of commercial seeds, chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently estimated that 50,000 tons of these pesticides still remain -- abandoned in untended barrels scattered across the continent.

Pesticide Action Network-Africa activist Eloise Touni warns that these barrels (containing dieldren and other banned compounds) constitute "immediate risks." The UN figures that it will take at least 12 years and $225 million to clean-up the mess. This is money that most African nations simply do not have to spend.

You might think it would make sense to require the pesticide companies that shipped the barrels to assume responsibility and pay for the clean-up. But that's not what happens under the model of modern global capitalism. Instead, the companies responsible for the problem stand to win the contracts to "clean up Africa." These long-term contracts will assure that the poison pushers reap a "double profit."

Monsanto's Plot to Impose FrankenCrops
Monsanto, the US-based multinational, is refusing to back off in the face of widespread resistance to the introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops.
In Chile, Monsanto and the Ministry of Agriculture have announced plans to plant GM maize, GM canola and as much as 20,000 hectares of GM soya for seed production. According to Grain.org "there is no doubt that the GM soya will eventually contaminate other crops and food throughout the country."

Under pressure from Monsanto, Venezuela's Commission for Economic Development is evaluating proposals to harvest GM crops. Grain notes that Monsanto "has managed to take the first steps towards modifying the legislation in Venezuela, which until now has forbidden the growing of GM crops."

In Mexico, Monsanto has inked a deal with the National Confederation of Corn Producers that would eventually allow the introduction of Monsanto's GM maize -- which currently is forbidden in Mexico. Grain.org warns the deal also positions Monsanto to gain "access to hundreds of native varieties under the guise of 'protecting' them."

In Argentina, Monsanto is challenging the country's right to regulate transgenic seeds by "trying to force farmers to sign a 'contract of consensus' to pay royalties." This follows Monsanto's failure to get the local courts to order farmers to pay royalties to Monsanto.

Grain concludes that "Monsanto has developed a wide-ranging strategy for achieving what it wants in Latin America." This strategy includes:

  • spreading contamination with GM crops, thus guaranteeing their inevitability, and,
  • suppressing public and democratic debate.

    Chile's Small Farmers' Organization (CLOC) has called this strategy "one more act of aggression against small farmers and the health of all Chileans." CLOC has vowed to organize "to prevent Chile from becoming another peon of Monsanto."

    At the February Forum for Food Sovereignty in Mali, representatives of the world's small farmers pledged their commitment to the Food Sovereignty movement and vowed to oppose "technologies and practices that erode our capacity to produce food in the future, harm the environment, and put our health in danger." These threats include: GM crops and animals, terminator technology, industrial aquaculture, destructive fishing practices, the "White Revolution" (industrializing the dairy industry), the "Green Revolutions" (chemical-intensive agriculture), and "Green Deserts" (monocultures -- including the new threat of biofuel plantations.)

    Terror-free Gasoline
    The Terror-Free Oil Initiative has come up with a worthy program -- "encouraging Americans to buy gasoline that originate from countries that do not export or finance terrorism" -- but it stumbles in the execution. The TFOI began by promoting companies that purchased crude oil "from nations outside the Middle East."

    Unfortunately, there is a geopolitical slant to the campaign that is more neo-conservative than eco-conservationist -- a fact that's signaled by a banner that dominates the upper-right corner of the Website. It reads "We Stand with Israel" and features Israel's national flag. www.TerrorFreeOil.org

    Given the destruction that US invasions have wrought on the civilian populations of Iraq and Afghanistan, one could make a strong anti-terrorist case for boycotting oil pumps owned by ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco.

    "Lion Gives Bear Hug, Kiss."
    That's the headline that tops an amazing tale from Cali, Colombia. The story began when Ana Julia Torres, the 47-year-old schoolteacher and owner of the Villa Lorena animal shelter, rescued a beaten and emaciated African lion from a traveling circus. Torres slowly nursed the animal back to health and named the lion "Jupiter."

    Torres has made a career out of rescuing wounded animals. According to Local6.com TV, her shelter now houses 800 creatures including "burned peacocks, limbless flamingos, blind monkeys and mutilated elephants." Torres receives no money from the state. She runs the entire operation on donations and the small earnings from her teaching salary. The animals are not put on public display.

    Although it is risky to indulge in anthropomorphism, Torres claims her charges seem to reciprocate the love that she has shared with them. And no more so than Jupiter, who routinely reaches through his cage to embrace Torres. "It is amazing to see an animal like that be so sweet and affectionate," she told Local6. "This hug is the most sincere one that I have received in my life."
    Judge for yourself. The video of Jupiter, the hugging lion, can be viewed at:

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