[identity profile] mhaille.livejournal.com
I'm mostly including this for the discussion of what sorts of things have been shown to decrease the number of cars on the road, socially and economically.

America's Most Congested Cities
Lauren Sherman, writing for Forbes Magazine
[identity profile] ikkeikke.livejournal.com
So...I've been worrying about the power grid, kind of a lot, for a while now. It's, well, insufficient, and we deregulated in a way to make it not an attractive investment. And the government certainly hasn't been paying for non-military public goods in the last 8 years or so. Anyway, so, today I read this guest column Amory Lovins wrote in the Freakonomics blog, and I feel a lot, lot better. Just as soon as we can get this in the public consciousness...

(But! I was just noticing that some of the crap that I've been bitching about for years is gaining traction - bottled water = bad news, the fact that our food regulatory and oversight system is terribly weak...maybe this *will* happen?)
[identity profile] mhaille.livejournal.com
The article is careful to note, half a page in, that not all logging is automatically bad- it talks about some of the councils selectively thinning to prevent fire hazards, and how some harvesting is part of stewardship of a woodland, then goes on to point out the instances in which BSOA bent or broke rules and handed out contracts to former council members.

[An aerial view taken Oct. 14 shows loggers harvesting timber at the Pacific Harbors Council's Camp Delezene near Elma.]
Profit trumps preservation for Boy Scout councils nationwide
They logged, sold thousands of acres of prime lands


For nearly a century, the Boy Scouts have worn a self-adorned badge as campsite conservationists and good stewards of the land.

"The Boy Scouts were green before it was cool to be green," said the organization's national spokesman, Deron Smith.

But for decades, local Boy Scouts of America administrations across the country have clearcut or otherwise conducted high-impact logging on tens of thousands of acres of forestland, often for the love of a different kind of green: cash.

A Hearst Newspapers investigation has found dozens of cases over the past 20 years of local Boy Scout councils logging or selling prime woodlands to big timber interests, developers or others, turning quick money and often doing so instead of seeking ways to preserve such lands.

It's from the Seattle paper, stop me if you've seen it already. )
[identity profile] carneillian.livejournal.com

Why Schools Should Remove GE-Tainted Foods from Their Cafeterias

Institute for Responsible Technology

Newsletter on GM Foods, Spilling the Beans

By Jeffrey M. Smith, author of Seeds of Deception

Before the Appleton Wisconsin high school replaced their cafeteria's processed foods with wholesome, nutritious food, the school was described as out-of-control. There were weapons violations, student disruptions, and a cop on duty full-time. After the change in school meals, the students were calm, focused, and orderly. There were no more weapons violations, and no suicides, expulsions, dropouts, or drug violations. The new diet and improved behavior has lasted for seven years, and now other schools are changing their meal programs with similar results.

Full article

[identity profile] mhaille.livejournal.com
Department of the Obvious concludes that suburbs are unsustainable, 60 years too late.

Pet rant of mine. :D So far I've refrained from bending that article, word for word, in neon tubing and putting it up on the edge of town for the benefit of everyone who discouraged me from moving to a mixed-use, walkable city because OMG crime (read: brown people) and OMG the schools (read: also brown people). [yeah, yeah, I know that's not everybody's reason...but god damn do I hear those an awful lot.]

Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] slit for the heads up on the article.
[identity profile] ikkeikke.livejournal.com
So I read a post about a column Dan Savage had written about buses. I haven't read the column (but you're welcome to), as it was summarized thusly in said post: "he bitched about being expected to take the bus, because it's inconvenient and you have to sit in pools of urine and the only people who take the bus when they don't have to are smug self-righteous bastards," and that doesn't sound like something I'd want to read.

Anyway, I was sheepishly commenting that despite my semi-serious attempts to live lightly, I actually really don't like the bus. In DC, where I didn't have a car, I walked a lot and took the Metro, but almost never took the bus. Writing this, I realized there are three basic reasons why I don't like the bus:
  1. Inconvenience (does not go from where I am to where I want to go, also schedule issues)

  2. Stop-Start (I can't read on a bus, whereas I read grad school texts on my subway commute)

  3. Outdoor Waiting Places (wait times may have been similar, but at bus stops you were still in the wind/rain/snow. Bus shelters alleviate this somewhat, but in my experience, there were only shelters at major stops, so they were always overfull and so I mostly didn't get much benefit)

It occurs to me that the last two would probably apply to light rail systems. That's kind of distressing. Subways for all, darnit.

Are these reasons common? Would public transit be better used if these issues were fixed, or is there some sort of classism/selfishness/image problem that will prevent more general adoption of it anyway?
[identity profile] ikkeikke.livejournal.com
I know no one's going to read this whole thing but me, but at least read the paragraphs I cut for you. 'Cause this is a mostly uncritical story, and those are some troubling numbers.

Notes on the following article:
  1. Who could POSSIBLY foreseen the release of unapproved genes, except, I don't know, EVERYONE? (Except the people producing and regulating it, of course.)

  2. I love how there is no discussion of the fact that there's been very little study of the effects of GMOs - USDA said that they were the same as natural plants, no need to test, so most of this stuff hasn't been tested at all. Most of it's probably fine, but they have been crossing species, and gene splicing is a sort of haphazard process, so who knows what you're eating? Human genes? Could be, Ag doesn't care and no one's required to tell you what they're putting in there, it's proprietary.

  3. Seriously, they couldn't mention the stranglehold this gives biotech companies over farmers? Or possible risks to human health? There is not one single thing they could think to say except opposition to GMOs is trade protectionism or hippie bullshit with no actual substance behind it? What is this, Faux News?

Rice Industry Troubled by Genetic Contamination
Oh, look, problems in another sector of GM agribusiness )

Eleven years after the first gene-altered crops got the go-ahead for U.S. planting, biotech acreage is at a record high. Almost 90 percent of U.S. soy and corn, as well as about 60 percent of U.S. cotton, is spiked with genes from other organisms, mostly to confer resistance to insects and to make the crops immune to weed-killing chemicals.

Yet some of those genes have spread to weeds, making them tougher to control. Biotech crops approved only as animal feed have found their way into human food. And plants engineered to make medicines in their tissues have escaped from their test plots.

"Something's not working," said Al Montna, who grows 2,500 acres of rice in California. "Something's got to change."

Some farmers are pointing fingers at biotech-seed producers, whose carelessness, they say, has allowed experimental DNA to drift into commercial varieties, transforming U.S. rice into a global pariah and sending the industry into its biggest crisis in memory.

Others are fed up with the Agriculture Department, which in the past six months has been scolded in three federal courts for not keeping adequate tabs on the burgeoning business of genetically engineered crops.Read more... )
[identity profile] mhaille.livejournal.com

DDT and Africa's war on malaria

One of the most powerful weapons in the war against malaria is the insecticide DDT - effective in curbing the disease-carrying mosquito but also lethal to the environment as a whole. The BBC's Mike Donkin examines South Africa's controversial use of the chemical and the pressures facing neighbouring Mozambique as it struggles to battle malaria without it.

Malaria kills a million people a year in Africa - mainly in the poorest nations south of the Sahara. Most of these victims are children.

Babies and the very young have little resistance to the parasite, which is passed on by the Anopheles funestus mosquito when it pierces the skin to feed on human blood - the parasite that causes malaria is in the mosquito's saliva.

A still wider epidemic is threatened because the malarial parasite has becomes more and more resistant to drugs, like chloraquine, used until now to treat the disease.

No alternative medicine has yet been developed which can be made available soon enough, or in the quantities and at the price that African nations can afford.

So other ways must urgently be found to counter malaria, and one to which some countries are returning is to spray mosquitoes with the chemical long-proven to be the best at killing them - DDT.

It is a chemical, however, known to be lethal to some wildlife and feared to pose a potential risk to humans.

Read more... )
[identity profile] ikkeikke.livejournal.com
Textile Workers Get Crash Course in Survival
10 February 2006
(c) 2006. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

PONTE DA BARCA, Portugal (AP) - Ninety textile workers in northern Portugal have waged a personal battle against the dispassionate forces of the world economy.

So far, their shirt factory has beaten back the threat of outsourcing and the perils of global trade liberalization. But it's been close.Read more... )
[identity profile] ikkeikke.livejournal.com
From an article citing data by AWEA, the American Wind Energy Association.

Top Five States for Installed Wind Capacity (2005):
  1. California - 2,150 MW

  2. Texas - 1,995 MW

  3. Iowa - 836 MW

  4. Minnesota - 744 MW

  5. Oklahoma - 475 MW

Top Five Wind Turbine Manufacturers (by 2005 market share)
  1. GE Energy - 60%

  2. Vestas ~30%

  3. Mitsubishi ~8%

  4. Suzlon

  5. Gamesa

Which Utilities Added the Most Wind Capacity in 2005?
  1. FPL Energy - more than 500 MW

  2. PPM Energy (A Scottish Power Company, according to their website) - 394 MW

  3. Horizon Wind Energy (formerly Zilkha - 220 MW

  4. Invenergy (out of Chicago, looks like) - 200 MW

  5. enXco - 150 MW
[identity profile] ikkeikke.livejournal.com
The EU has been hugely resistant to GM products, so this is a really interesting story to follow. (Also today, Monsanto and Dow finally agreed to a cross-licensing deal.)

ANALYSIS-EU prepares for bruising WTO ruling in biotech case
By Jeremy Smith
18 January 2006
(c) 2006 Reuters Limited

BRUSSELS, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Europe may suffer a bruising next month when a world trade panel delivers its long-awaited verdict on whether the EU's six-year blockade on biotech crops and foods was tantamount to a protectionist trade barrier.Read more... )
[identity profile] ikkeikke.livejournal.com
It's not the weird nationalism thing at the end that bothers me, or even that they're inspecting for crop fraud. It's the constant oversight. And in private industry's hands?

USDA Using Satellites to Monitor Farmers
13 January 2006
12:44 pm GMT
(c) 2006. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Satellites have monitored crop conditions around the world for decades, helping traders predict futures prices in commodities markets and governments anticipate crop shortages.

But those satellite images are now increasingly turning up in courtrooms across the nation as the Agriculture Department's Risk Management Agency cracks down on farmers involved in crop insurance fraud.Read more... )
[identity profile] ikkeikke.livejournal.com
I know this is my own obsession, so I'll cut them well. But I really think genetically modified crops (well, and consolidation in the farm industry, which is a whole 'nother ball of wax) are a much bigger deal than most news reports seem to think. (Since, you know, they're much less regulated than other things.)

Bionic Growth For Biotech Crops; Gene-Altered Agriculture Trending GlobalRead more... )

Monsanto faces biggest challenge yet from old-time corn companyRead more... )
[identity profile] ikkeikke.livejournal.com
Two points: first, that headline is completely misleading and two, you notice how it's all state's rights until the states want businesses to actually do something? I say this all the time, but here's some proof. (It's only passed the House, though, so it's not for sure.)

Caveat Eater: A Fight Over Food Warnings --- Industry Backs House Bill That Would Set National Standards for Consumer Safety Labels
By Jane Zhang
9 January 2006
The Wall Street Journal
(Copyright (c) 2006, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)

Washington -- SOME STATE AND LOCAL governments require food makers, restaurants and grocery stores to post warnings about products containing ingredients regulators deem harmful.

Those laws are often tougher than federal Food and Drug Administration rules or cover substances not regulated by federal law. California, for example, requires businesses to disclose the presence of chemicals that the state believes cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. Michigan and Connecticut mandate allergen warnings about preservatives such as sulfur dioxide at salad bars and other settings.

The food industry has been pressing Congress and the federal government to ban such state laws ever since California voters approved what is known as Proposition 65 in 1986. Recently, it has made some progress. A bill that would override many such laws sailed through the House Energy and Commerce Committee in December, and its sponsors include more than half the members of the House. A Senate version hasn't been introduced and it's unclear if the bill will move soon, but it already has set off a firestorm, pitting the food industry against consumer activists and state food-safety officials.Read more... )
[identity profile] ikkeikke.livejournal.com
From the Texas Observer.

God’s Little Army
By James E. McWilliams
from issue: 12/2/2005

Locust: The Devastating Rise and Mysterious Disappearance of the Insect that Shaped the American Frontier
by Jeffrey A. Lockwood
Basic Books
294 pages, $25

Entomologists are quite possibly some of the weirdest people on the face of the earth. Obsessive compulsion is more than a common bond for these academic bug munchers, it’s an occupational advantage. Read more... )
[identity profile] ikkeikke.livejournal.com
I found this really interesting because he's not using biodiesel, he's just using the oil straight.

Cultivating a frying plan
By Harold Brubaker
Inquirer Staff Writer
4 January 2006
The Philadelphia Inquirer
(c) Copyright 2006, The Philadelphia Inquirer. All Rights Reserved.

Glenn Brendle practices unconventional farming.

He is small, farming just seven acres. He farms without the aid of synthetic chemicals. And he strives to be self-sustainable.

"Basically, I'm cheap," said Brendle, whose Green Meadow Farm near Gap, Lancaster County, supplies nearly 30 Philadelphia restaurants, such as Grass Roots Cafe in Manayunk, Abraccio Restaurant in West Philadelphia, and Farmacia in Old City.

That parsimonious streak sent him looking for a way to cut a huge expense his business faces each year, but this year more than ever: heating greenhouses during the winter.

He found the solution in a heating system he devised to burn used fryer oil his restaurant customers paid waste companies to haul away.

Now, even in the bitter cold, Brendle's two largest greenhouses have the warm, green glow of a summer's day - without relying on high-priced fossil fuel. Recent crops included snow pea shoots, nasturtium blossoms, and bull's blood beets.

"These are all things you couldn't begin to grow if you had to pay for heat," said Brendle, 61, who has been at the forefront of the Philadelphia region's local food movement since the early 1980s and who now has average weekly sales of $6,000 to $7,000.

High energy prices are forcing farmers to find creative ways to save money. The cost of propane, the fuel typically used to heat greenhouses, has soared by 46 percent over the last 12 months to $2.30 a gallon excluding taxes, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Farmers have been especially hard hit. Keith Oellig, president of the Dauphin County Farm Bureau, told a U.S. House of Representatives committee in November that soaring natural-gas prices caused the price of nitrogen fertilizer to rise to $190 a ton in 2005 from $105 a ton in 2002.

Brendle, who escapes those costs by not using synthetic fertilizer, said he doesn't know exactly how much he saves by burning 40 to 50 gallons of used fryer oil a day during cold weather. But it can easily run into hundreds of dollars a week.

During cold snaps - like the one that hit the Philadelphia region in mid-December - Brendle spends $100 a week on propane to heat his smallest, 600-square-foot greenhouse, which is one-quarter the size of the largest.

Brendle built his 400,000-BTU heating system at a cost of $12,000 from slightly modified commercially available parts, including a crankcase-oil burner and a boiler that could also burn wood. Underground pipes transport hot water from the furnace shed to the greenhouses and to his stone farmhouse.

"Something seems really right about it," said Brendle, as he watched his son Ian and Andrew Speck, an employee, unload a truckload of 100 five-gallon containers of used oil collected from 20 Philadelphia restaurants.

Some of the oil, which jells in cold weather, was still in a liquid state, so it could be poured into 55-gallon drums in the furnace shed, where the breading and other contaminants settle out in three or four stages.

After settling, the oil goes through two filters before being heated to 180 degrees so it vaporizes through the fuel injectors. Vegetable oil burns more cleanly than fossil fuels because it does not contain sulfur and other pollutants.

Area restaurants that supply Brendle with the oil have an incentive to help out. If Brendle didn't take the waste oil, restaurants would have to pay $25 to $30 to get rid of a 55-gallon drum, said John Bellardine, Philadelphia area supervisor for Darling International Inc., which processes the used oil into commodities for industry. Restaurants pay about $25 for a five-gallon container of fry oil, said Duane Ball, an owner of Abbraccio.

Some think Brendle is off track. The biodiesel industry, which processes soybeans and other oil crops for fuel, advises against the use of raw vegetable oil for fuel because it might cause equipment failure, said Karen Edwards, spokeswoman for the National Biodiesel Board. "We certainly know that people are doing this, but we can't stand behind it," she said.

Because straight vegetable oil is so easy to use, Brendle has little interest in biodiesel.

Heating with fryer oil is just one way Brendle sets himself apart from conventional farming. "You have to think of yourself as a guerrilla farmer," he said. "You have to be right on top of it to see where you can make money growing food."

An electrical engineer by training, Brendle appreciates closed circuits where very little goes to waste. He aims for that sort of sustainability on his farm.

For example, he saves seeds for 75 percent of his crops. He gets things he cannot supply himself, such as composted chicken manure for fertilizer, from nearby farms.

Brendle is a fanatical recycler. Empty metal oil containers go to an Amish farmer who turns them into drawers. Used plastic containers are used as planters hung from the greenhouse roof with tomato vines trailing down toward the brown earth. He gives the dregs that settle out of the oil to an Amish farmer in Soudersburg, who uses them to pave his long driveway.

As well as his system works, Brendle is not banking on the free fuel forever.

One of his customers, Greg Salisbury of Rx in University City and Django in Queen Village said he is looking for a used diesel van for his catering business so he can use the fryer oil himself instead of giving it to Brendle.

If a market develops for the used oil, "it's to everybody's benefit, really" because it will mean less waste and less fossil-fuel consumption, he said.

And Brendle will adjust. He said: "We're dodgers and weavers."

Contact staff writer Harold Brubaker at 215-854-4651 or hbrubaker@phillynews.com.
[identity profile] ikkeikke.livejournal.com
Who needs to investigate claims when you can just report them? Nonetheless, this actually does mention that it's not all love and puppies.

Biotech crops mark first decade with wins, losses
By Carey Gillam
29 December 2005

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Dec 29 (Reuters) - When Monsanto Co . introduced the world to genetically modified crops a decade ago, the biotech advancement was heralded as the dawn of a new era that could reduce world hunger, help the environment and bolster struggling farmers.

Now, biotech beans, cotton, corn and canola are profit-drivers at Monsanto and are lifting the fortunes of rival companies like Swiss-based Syngenta and Dow AgroSciences LLC, a unit of Dow Chemical Co. . The gains are largely due to broad U.S. acceptance of crops that have been genetically altered to withstand weedkillers and insects, and backers say, generate higher yields.

But as the industry celebrates its 10th anniversary, the early promises of biotech crops remain largely unrealized, and many countries have banned the technology amid concerns about potential danger for human health and the environment. Read more... )
[identity profile] ikkeikke.livejournal.com
File under: this is just cool.

Mike Toner Cox News Service
19 December 2005
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Carnivorous sponges, globe-trotting tuna and an eerie underwater "dead zone" at the epicenter of last year's tsunami are just a few of the surprises turned up in the first census of the world's oceans.

And more surprises may lie ahead. Having reached the midpoint of the unprecedented 10-year census, which involves scientists in more than 73 nations, researchers reported last week that the 230,000 marine species now known to science are only the tip of the iceberg.

"By the time the census is completed in 2010, we expect to have collected a million new species," said Ron O'Dor, the senior scientist for the international Census of Marine Life.

"One of our research vessels went to a site off the coast of Africa and discovered 400 new species of copepods [microscopic crustaceans] living in the sediment at the bottom of the sea," Mr. O'Dor said.

The pace of discovery is due in part to the fact that scientists, equipped with deep-diving robotic vehicles and new technology, are looking for life where few have looked before: abyssal plains two miles or more below the surface, polar seas and remote underwater mountain ranges.

"These regions of the ocean are the last, vast unexplored regions on the planet," said Mr. O'Dor. "But even if you wade 10 meters off the shore and pick up a handful of mud, you're likely to find something we didn't know about before," he said. "We didn't know what was there because no one was interested before now."

The goals of the 10-year, $1 billion series of programs, launched in 2000 with seed money from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, include an ambitious effort, dubbed "fish with chips," to implant tiny tracking devices in thousands of marine animals, large and small, and track them for years at a time.

By satellite, scientists are already tracking more than 21 species of fish, turtles and sea lions. They tracked one bluefin tuna as it made three crossings of the Pacific Ocean -- covering 25,000 miles in 18 months.

And an ambitious new network of acoustic sensors stretching along 800 miles of the continental shelf, from Washington state to the Alaska panhandle, is tracking salmon and other migratory fish as they move to and from rivers of the Pacific Northwest. The information compiled about marine migration may be valuable to both fishermen and biologists.

"We're not trying to put chips in every fish in the ocean, but the ocean used to be a black box that fish just disappeared into," said the project's chief scientist, David Welch of Malaspina University in British Columbia. "Now we can determine where they're going and when."

Most new species are likely to be very small -- no great surprise in an environment where 90 percent of the total living mass is microscopic.

At the halfway point of the census, however, the list of discoveries includes a number of noteworthy finds:

* In the South Atlantic and Southern oceans, three new species of carnivorous sponges that engulf other organisms with their mouths, rather than filter-feeding like most sponges.

* In the North Atlantic, four new species of sea cucumbers, sluglike creatures that live on the bottom; two possibly unknown species of squid; and several deep-swimming fish never seen before.

* In the Indian Ocean, a strange and unexplained "dead zone" seven miles long and more than three miles below the surface, near the epicenter of the December 2004 earthquake and tsunami where thick silt seems either to have destroyed all signs of life or driven it away.

"That area was very puzzling," said Paul Tyler of Britain's National Oceanography Center. "I've participated in over 100 dives, and I have never encountered a place on the ocean floor where there was absolutely no life visible -- no crabs, no starfish, no tubeworms, nothing."
[identity profile] ikkeikke.livejournal.com
Putting the PM's science under the microscope
Peter Calamai
Toronto Star
8 December 2005
The Toronto Star
Copyright (c) 2005 The Toronto Star

MONTREAL -- The political rhetoric was stronger than the scientific facts in Prime Minister Paul Martin's remarks yesterday at the U.N. climate change conference. Some examples:

Martin: Referred repeatedly to an ice-free Northwest Passage, quoting experts as saying this could happen well before mid-century.

Science: The federal government's own ice service says the Northeast Passage running along the Arctic coast of Russia will open first. Second will probably be a shipping route that passes across the North Pole. The Northwest Passage is forecast to open last - after mid-century - because prevailing winds and currents pile sea ice up at choke points.

Martin: Said the federal government has "increased substantially" the money devoted to Arctic science recently.

Science: Over the past decade, funding for research by the federal meteorological service has dropped 21 per cent after adjustment for inflation. Canada's only climate monitoring station in the central Arctic was closed because of budget cuts. Budget shortfalls forced the mothballing of one of the two Polar Continental Shelf bases essential to Arctic science expeditions. Despite getting more funds, university researchers complained to Martin last week the government wasn't committed to taking account of their findings.

Martin: Said the protective ozone layer in the atmosphere was recovering, as a result of curbs on ozone-destroying chemicals negotiated in 1987 in Montreal.

Science: New evidence announced this week at a meeting in San Francisco shows recovery of the ozone layer has slowed and will now take well beyond mid-century.

Martin: "We are going to hit our Kyoto targets," referring to Canada's pledge to reduce annual emissions of greenhouse gases to 6 per cent below 1990 levels throughout the period 2008-2012.

Science: Canada's greenhouse gas emissions are now 24 per cent above 1990 levels. Federal scientists have advised the government the Kyoto targets will be met only through massive purchases of carbon credits, both domestically and overseas.
[identity profile] ikkeikke.livejournal.com
My favorite sentence? "Even so, the United States said it was inappropriate, because discussions could lead to negotiations." Fear leads to suffering. And suffering leads to the dark side...

U.S. rejects bid for post-Kyoto talks; Impasse over Dion's proposal. Americans deem it inappropriate
Peter Gorrie
Toronto Star
7 December 2005
The Toronto Star

MONTREAL -- The climate change conference hit a major roadblock yesterday when the United States rejected even a watered-down proposal for future talks on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The impasse came on the same day as news that a small community in the Pacific island chain of Vanuatu has been moved to avoid rising seawater attributed to the warming of the atmosphere by those gases.

The proposal, introduced by Environment Minister Stephane Dion as president of the United Nations conference, calls only for two years of discussions on "long-term co-operative action to address climate change." Read more... )


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