News and Views on our natural world
Tips for Household Savings:
Years after his famous flick Jaws, Steven Spielberg voiced regret that he had been so successful in villainizing sharks, as they had become a target for sport fishing and began to suffer significant decline; additionally, the predilection of Asians for shark fin soup and increasing levels of affluence have impacted their numbers significantl Shark populations worldwide have declined dramatically over the last three decades, with some regions reporting reductions of 80% to 90% since the 1980ís. This change has impacted the oceans ecosystem in a very negative way. Sharks, as top predators regulate the species below them on the foodchain. With their decline, fish, rays and skates explode in population, in a common pattern, which results in these species in turn wiping out scallops and other shellfish; when these have exhausted the fish perish from lack of food. Turtles exert a similar control over jellyfish, and their drastic decline lately has meant that swimmers are more likely to have unpleasant experiences. Learn more about sharks with this PDF (it's safe from virus)
Why Did the Chicken Not Cross the Road?
If the chicken in question was raised by modern factory methods, that poor hen (males are killed en masse) is too top-heavy to walk, as they are bred for large breasts, in order to maximize ROI.
From Fast Company:
"Maybe it's something in the air--or in the Gulf--but Americans ... are willing to make personal sacrifices for the betterment of both the environment and the economy."
Canarsie Guy Mike Lieberman, AKA 'CanarsieBK', has multiple resources for living a more sustainable lifestyle. Here is one website of his. Good for you, Mike!
Transition US helps localities prepare for the challenges looming over us, as several crises converge to make the need for change more and more apparent.
Another example of unintended consequences
Press helicopters covering the Gulf of Mexico oil pollution are so numerous and present that large numbers of birds are abandoning their nests, thereby imperiling the survival of several species in that habitat. Once again our powerful technology just blows through the more complex and subtle workings of nature. Another proud moment for the human race.
Use the Home Energy Saver to get feedback on how to save money and/or save energy. Note that the more info you provide, the more useful the feedback; to some civil liberties and government skeptics, this is a place where they may not choose to participate, as this feeds into fears of 'smart networks' that know a lot about you through your appliances and devices.
Proper insulation is one at times a relatively inexpensive way to impact energy consumption. Making sure your water heater is well insulated can conserve a thousand pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
Participatory Urbanism and networked mobile personal measurement instruments seek to help provide richer information about air quality in cities worldwide. The approach, infrastructure and devices are another example of the wonderful technological synergies that are available for humans to understand and address pollution and other matters of concern.
From their site: "This system shows individuals a pattern of their own behavior that may not be easy to discern without such a tool and application. The air quality that an individual encounters varies by time of day, route and mode of travel, and time of year. Individuals are also able to compare the levels of air pollution they are exposed to daily with that of their friends, family, or other citizens in not only their own metropolis but across global cities." The technology, under development by UC Berkeley, is N-SMARTS, or "Networked Suite of Mobile Atmospheric Real-Time Sensors".
All blood vessels in the human bloodstream are protected by an almost infinitesimal nitrous oxide layer, produced by a layer of specialized cells that is ONE CELL DEEP. When any of those cells is damaged or dies, the protective layer of gas dissipates, and buildup leading to coronary disease may result.
You don't have to be daunted by the immense challenge of healing our world. A small step can be the first step; you don't have to wait for game-changers to help enact change. This site gives a lot of suggestions for things you might be able to do immediately, and promote peace of mind.
Donate used Tennis balls to Animal shelters and Rescue homes (tip from Ecosaveology)
Make SURE your best intentions to recycle your electronics donít go astray; use this locator map for responsible e-waste handlers in the US.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is dedicated to the creation of a nationwide network of trails, repurposing rail tracks. The right of way is already established and a contiguous stretch is easily available in many cases, to build out an extensive network. In the process, community bonds are strengthened, and folks get the benefit of recreation.
Where cargo ships go to die - fascinating photos; locals dismantle hulks
Pictures of Pollution in China
Copenhagen Week One Wrap-Up
Michael Pollan's 'The Botany of Desire' provides fascinating plant's-eye view of humans (we're like bees in a way), and they've helped to shape our development as we theirs, in a subtle synergy.
Tommy Linsley offers discussions, news and tips on sustainable development here.
Here's an interesting tool for finding out the 'walk-friendliness' of a given address in the US:
Massive change can come with juggling your way of thinking
We have always maintained that public and policy-maker perception of the challenges we face is one of the prime vectors for correcting our drift toward catastrophe. Here is one excellent example, relabeling rain forest as a utility, and having someone pay for its upkeep. This is the flipside of the old model of factories, where the environment was not even represented as anything of value on the balance sheet, so that industries could simply externalize their costs by dumping into rivers, etc.
Lovely interview about a self-built organic house
Go to a central source to stop catalog mailings. A small step, but one that does have an impact. People sometimes say that trees are a renewable resource, so what's the big deal? True, trees DO grow back, but it's the carbon impact of processing and transporting the wood and the wood-sourced outputs that matters, so visit, won't you? Do your bit.
Podcasts about Electric Cars
Encountered these gentlemen on Twitter. Personality galore.
Carbon neutral, eco-friendly South American wine. Pretty compelling story. (And it tastes good, too!)
How old masters are helping study of global warming
Human ingenuity at work.
Run your own hamburger conglomerate
Entertaining (?) look at fast food industry via online game. One of those 'guns vs. butter' balancing-act games, where doing A causes impact X, Y and Z. It's easy to learn, and cleverly drawn. Worth a look.
Grabbing water out of desert air
Low-tech approach, Inspired by spiderwebs and the dew-catching properties of leaves. This does not require electricity, can be installed 'in the middle of nowhere', and can be folded up for storage. The structure even provides a measure of relief from the sun through shading.
Thought-provoking Photoshop Art by Chris Jordan
Poor whale researchers - no slaughter for them this year
The Japanese, Norwegians, and a few other nations continue to insist on the right to kill hundreds of whales each year for 'research', when any objective observer knows the kills are done to satiate the (fortunately waning) demand for whale meat. Younger Japanese are embarrassed by this retrograde research scam. I guess we can add those benighted souls who capture sharks then cut off their fins for soup, then throw them back in to suffer and die. Sometimes it is very hard to be aware of what is going on, but there is hope in changes taking place everywhere. One example is the ban on sonar in protected regions of the ocean that destroys the hearing of many marine species.
That guy in the pickup truck with the motor running
We are facing a rapidly changing environment; some of the change is cyclical and natural, which does not mean to say that it is beneficial for life, but that is a whole article unto itself. Start with the consensual assumption that running an internal combustion engine puts out exhaust which has components that add to greenhouse gasses. Then assume that every little bit of pollution (avoidable or unavoidable) adds to a growing trend upwards in an undesirable direction, and assume that we are sentient beings who can do cost/benefits analysis (I know, big reach, eh?). If this mental exertion is only occasionally engaged in, then we generally come to a decision that every little bit we do to avoid pollution is an unalloyed (no pun intended) plus. Trying to imagine the effect of our actions over generations may inspire in us a feeling of awesome responsibility, where we see that running that motor is a negative input to the world we share and that we want to pass on to our children, whose immune systems are INCREASINGLY not as robust as ours.
Enter the regular person, Joe or Jane Beercan, you can say, not meant at all in a sarcastic sense. This fellow citizen, maybe a contractor or municipal government employee, like most everyone is oblivious to the impact of failing to turn off their motor, because they want to keep the heater, air conditioner or radio going for their convenience. It is a sin of omission rather than commission, if you will. In the future, avoiding that sin of omission might be understood as a 'no-brainer', since our cultural evolution proceeds apace (don't get me started on the spriritual evolution, that's another guy's web page here).
When we can get THAT GUY/GAL, in that pickup truck, to 'get it', we will have gone through a Paradigm Shift, and many things will become possible, things that seem mired in indifference and ignorance and inertia. There can be a systemic massive change in attitudes; it's happened before, even without the amazing informal, open-to-entry, peer-to-peer and community-making power of the Internet.
We're going to do our best in this page to help all of us get to that next level of understanding.
Is it possible? Think of popular attitudes toward smoking and second-hand smoke, which is causing smoking to be restricted in many parts of the world; think of how we tend now to protect species instead of allowing unbridled extermination and cruelty (again, with some work still to do 2 admittedly). I'm not mentioning this out of pride; it's kind of pathetic that, given choices such as those presented to the Americans who slaughtered huge herds of buffalo for sport, we tend to choose a very selfish and immature path.
The fact that we tend to 'make it right' after the fact is commendable, but why be so maximalist and thoughtless during the event? Anyway, we DO seem to learn our lessons and get back to some equilibrium. Since the political system is part of the change, in many cases, you have a way to help promote needed change, when you exercise your Constitutional right to petition the government. With the Internet, and IM (Instant 'text' messaging), it should be easy. Missing, for understandable reasons on the part of the populace, is the time and attention span to devote to the issues which impinge on our lives, but which cannot be put on the back burner. Hopefully the resources found here and elsewhere can assist you in exercising your civic prerogative and civic duty.
The North Pole region will be wide open to oil and gas exploration very soon
"My view has changed [of when all Arctic ice will disappear]. I think that an ice-free Arctic as early as 2030 is not unreasonable." - Mark Serreze, polar ice expert at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, as reported on the ABC News web site.
A cow grazing on an acre of land can produce enough meat to sustain a person for 10 weeks. The same acreage devoted to growing soybeans will produce enough protein to sustain the person for SEVEN YEARS. Try to cut down on meat. There is a bigger carbon imprint from consuming that protein source.
The New Jersey CleanPower Choice Program is a renewable energy initiative which lets consumers select from a pallet of energy sources. As you might expect, given the state of the industry, your choice for a renewable energy source will cost you more, but you have the choice. Consider this a 'vote' for a better world for your children, a premium similar to getting really good coffee or chocolate (albeit more expensive, to be sure).
ECUA, Brute? (props to Bill Shakespeare on the phrase I borrowed from Julius Caesar )
In a related vein to the earlier posting about the guy running the motor in the pickup, note the goodies handed out to every one who brought recycling to a nearby county facility. Some nice stuff, useful actually; kind of like 'swag', only we were not journalists. Now this stuff was generated for such types of handout venues, so upstream of the actual recycling event is one or more factories producing the handouts that are added to the future recycle stream by the recycle event. Anyway, they came in a bag, and you were free to refuse the bag, but no one came to that event expecting to get stuff back (at least that was not their primary motiviation). Seems kind of counterintuitive to give up recycling stuff, only to get more stuff, which for some of us might wind up in the garbage/recycling stream the very next day.
Again, well-meaning as possibly the initiative of a staff member with a budget and a mundane view of 'promotion'; very understandable and standard behaviour. But this is, again, like that guy in that pickup, not ignorant really, more like 'innocent of the bigger picture'.
Oh well. (I like the multi-purpose opener, btw; good thing to have in the car for an emergency, but, again, seems almost funny that I turn in recycling and get stuff I will later recycle)
Voting Early and Often
This paragraph heading is borrowed from the jocular suggestion of some machine politician some decades back regarding election rigging. We're borrowing it to suggest a way to empower yourself (rather, to understand the inherent power that is there all the time). This power, in the advanced market economies, is that of the consumer, especially in the aggregate. We'll have a lot about this topic in months to come, but for now, a simple example, that of taking bags with you when you go to your grocery store or farmer's market. This is a small vote in favor of reducing garbage/recycling --- very small, to be sure in most cases.
So why do it? I heard a spouse mocking her husband for bringing back some Shoprite bags to reuse, since their own apparent advantage was a 4 cent per bag discount at the register. Well, "Oblivia Newton-John", that's not the point. It's the demonstration of one's intention to address the problem, to maybe look silly and 'liberal', (I guess it's not as much of a problem to look liberal these days, compared to 5 years ago.)
It is more importantly the demonstration effect that this behavior can elicit, changing AGGREGATE behaviour with cascades of individual examples. (See research on 'mirror neurons' and dig how science is giving backup to the religious admonition to 'give good example'.)
Oh, and that thing about voting early? That's your call. I'm a morning person. You don't even have to start today. You have the fullness of your life. To begin to change, envision the type of world you'd like to live in, and then live the change--- be the change.
The Raptor Trust, in Millington, NJ. Called by a local fan a "repair shop for wrecked birds", this organization educates and serves our community by providing a rustic venue for bird rehab. Despite the name, The Raptor Trust takes in any bird who is injured or sick; consider making a donation when you drop off a bird. In 2003, they admitted to their care, according to their newsletter, a "feathered bevy of 2956 sick, injured and/or orphaned wild birds", including hawks, owls, turkey vultures, ospreys, falcons, ducks, geese, songbirds and others, to include such prosaic species as sparrows and pigeons. Learn about them here.
This is an excerpt from a letter to the editor of an Arkansas newspaper, from April 2007, in which the author apparently believes that the Democrats have the power to ADD DAYLIGHT to the world (emphasis mine):
".. As you know, Daylight Saving Time started almost a month early this year. You would think that members of Congress would have considered the warming effect that an extra hour of daylight would have on our climate. Or did they ? Perhaps this is another plot by a liberal Congress to make us believe that global warming is a real threat. Perhaps next time there should be serious studies performed before Congress passes laws with such far-reaching effects."
In a word - wow. Wonder if she has heard about 'sunset provisions'; that ought to inspire another letter.
A contrarian view by one of the founders of Greenpeace
Biodiesel is an important contribution to weaning us off dependence on foreign oil (but not the one-for-one alternative, as oil's fungible nature makes it a remarkable component of modern life). Biodiesel fuel can be obtained from vegetable oils, animal fats and recycled grease from the grease traps in restaurants and cafeterias. It can run most diesel-fueled engines. In addition to helping promote energy independence, it burns cleaner than oil. There was a very interesting show recently on PBS about 'Bio-Willie', with Willie Nelson hooking up with conservative Reagan fan to launch a company to buy exclusively US local sources of the mass used to create the bio-fuel. This venture was also promoted as a way to save the small farmer and small town life, something the French have striven for with government intervention. Domestic Biodiesel costs more than imported diesel, however, which makes me want to ask: Do we want to wait for pricing based on scarcity to force more widespread acceptance, or isn't there some way to sweeten the deal for US consumers, in the interests of national defense? (I'm just sayin').You've heard of low-carb diets, no doubt, but how about a low-CARBON diet? Is this a misnomer, or a typo? Actually, what the authors of a recent book and others are proposing for us to grok is that we should take a fresh look at our contributions to the environmental assault by way of our pocketbook 'vote'. Sure, you've been sensitized and sold on the value of organic, and you quite understandably enjoy having fruits and vegetables out of season, (or more likely are oblivious to the seasonality of a given entity of the vegetal world, which simply exhibits where we are in our level of holistic thinking on that topic). In any event, you buy a plum which was grown in Chile or Argentina, let us say. Free trade will produce combinations like this, and generally free trade is a very good thing, in my opinion, pace David Ricardo . The upshot for our discussion, however, is that somehow, that item had to get from its country of origin to the US. This is where the extra dimension first intrudes for most of us, I dare say. I'm talking about the fuel that had to be expended to get that stuff "from [country of origin] to your dinner table", as the advertising copywriters would probably put it. Even seemingly environmentally 'in' companies such as Whole Foods ship produce from all over the world.
The conclusion I came to is that I would rather support local farmers; the organically pure nature of the food is now just another factor in my decision-making; maybe my choice is to go with 'conventional' produce, but what does that really mean nowadays for US (strictly local now, I'm talking) produce?
How bad is it? Is it bad at all? Things change, you know. Well, to assuage that concern about conventional produce, I would then take it upon myself (truly, pick up the burden) to research that. (Maybe as I'm writing this, I'm convincing my own self to do the work... Hmmmmm. )
Click here for a good overview of the desirable new mindset.
I don't know about you, but I hate to just toss away something that's still usable, but which now is expendable, or not needed/wanted anymore. I usually ask around with family and friends to see if someone can use it; it's just part of the esthetic of how I live, but anyway, how about harnessing the peer-to-peer power of the Internet to do the same thing for an entire county or city?
Well, check out Freecycle Network, a grassroots movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. Membership is free, fittingly enough. To quote their web site:
"The Freecycle Network is a project whose mission includes reducing waste, generating employment training, and fostering cooperation between other nonprofit organizations and the public."
Started only recently, this common sense approach to reuse is a moment whose time has come. Check them out.
Books, Phonograph Records, CDs and the Waste Stream
Whatever you do, try to avoid throwing out cultural content. It will have value to some other human somewhere downstream, and since it's essentially not perishable in the decades sense, there's no hurry in disposing of it properly. Why not donate it to a prison? You must/should know by now that there are many people in prison due to simple drug possession or because they were falsely convicted (See Innocence Project), and maybe your providing a novel or other material will not just make their day, but conceivably save their sanity, maybe their life.
About this page:
There are some who maintain that existence consists of multiple levels or realms, and that among those realms is the tangible, 'obvious' physical world. The physical world is the matrix out of which our earthly vehicles issue. By definition, we are all made of materials such as carbon, nickel, iron and the like (as defined by the Periodic Table) that occur in nature. Some of the heavier elements that comprise our material world are of such a nature that they could only be created under conditions which are impossible to produce on earth.
The non-terran physical elements which partly constitute our bodies are forged in stellar furnaces, one of the few places in the universe where the necessary conditions for creation of those more exotic elements are found. These heavier elements are then disseminated 1 into the universe. The elements explode into space when stars collide with some other celestial body, or when the stars go nova. The relationship between the infinite reaches and resources of space and my own humble, all-too-mortal body was made obvious to me on what proved to be a glorious, but began as an overcast, Sunday morning several decades ago. I was sitting in my lonely bachelor pad in Frankfurt, Germany spending another humdrum day indoors when I heard Carl Sagan, in his 'Cosmos' series, conclude such a discussion of physics with the observation that 'we are made of star stuff'. That can cause a bit of a consciousness shift, let me tell you. Add to this notion the fact that more than 70 kinds of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins, hence of life), have been found within meteorite fragments, and that there is a strong theory that much if not most of our planet's water was probably delivered by the 'dirty snow balls' we otherwise call comets. These kinds of connections and realizations truly deserve the word 'awesome', in its earlier, less diminished definition, namely, 'deserving of awe'.
The observations of some of our astronauts about the obvious interconnected nature of things as seen from the sterile remove of earth orbit indicate some possible dawning of a true global consciousness. I'm not talking world government here, just an understanding that, as JFK put it, we all love our children and we all breathe the same air. This is not just a 'Western' issue; notice the yearly pall of smoke which settles over Southeast Asia from the burning of fields in Indonesia, and its significant health effects on neighboring members of ASEAN.
There is a lot of mindless exploitation of the environment, mindless in the sense of truly, not being mindful of the complete implications of our actions on the world which nurtures us. This standing affront can be the vector for creative application of wisdom and outrage toward significant change toward a self-sustaining, healthy world. Especially given the attitude of the young there remain grounds for optimism (isn't it always so?). More and more people are coming to realize that, as one wag recently put it so aptly, our economy and society are 'wholly owned subsidiaries' of the ecosystem. One way, a way that's mentioned elsewhere in this section of CDEIS.COM, is to simply change your behavior 'in place' by immediately shifting to a mental model of conservation and economy. Let's work on this mindset shift together, shall we?
1Look up the meaning of the word 'disseminate', and see how I chose a word based on seeds, then, if you want to really push the notion, check out panspermia.
2 For a sad look at how dolphins are treated in Japan, to choose just ONE example, visit this site.