Thursday, July 31, 2008

Canada Green? - We'll See

Either early morning fog and haze or just bad weather - too early to tell.

I'm off to Canada for a over a week, waaay up in the Gaspe peninsula. I don't think my laptop will work and the nearest library is an hour away. So not to worry if there are no posts. I will be back. In the mean time, the archives offer a lot of information with the usual tweak. I will keep my green eyes open and report when I come back...

Our neighbors to the north are often admired for many reasons, mostly having to do with their European influence and the values that come with them. Canadians seem more down to earth and enjoy life at a slower, greener? level. Over all, their houses are smaller, their cars are smaller and yet they seem a lot happier than we Americans. Smaller houses and cars and less consumption is definitely more green, even though they smoke a lot of cigarettes. ($+^&!@ French)

Though I have been to Canada a lot, this will be in a very remote area and for a long time, not the usual quick stop Montreal. I will be looking for "greenness" and maybe even deciding what all that means, it's a huge label. Do they Recycle? Even more important, do they do better at what comes before that which is Reduce and Reuse? I think it will be a yes.

Will they be more energy efficient? I guess when you don't have computers, that is one way to reduce electricity. The price of gas is really high, so are they careful about using their car? My guess is they will be. Do they care about the tar sands drilling and the problems for the environment it causes? Do they care about the boreal forests that are stripped for mostly our paper and catalog consumption? I hope to find these out.

Do Canadians citizens know more about climate change and do something about? Surveys indicate that they do. So with eyes wide open I look forward to tapping this tiny segment of Canadian life and getting a sense of where they are in this whole journey.

Stay Tuned...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Triclosan - The New BPA, It's Everywhere

A band of brown haze sits on the horizon, very sad.

Triclosan, it is everywhere and you need to know about it - for two reasons. One is what it is, and the products it is on, and the other is to ponder how on earth something like this gets past the FDA, is every where, and as consumers we have no idea. I will give you lots of resources for more in depth information otherwise I could be writing all day.

Triclosan simply falls under the category of pesticides. Makers of "things" put it on curtains, in soaps, clothing, flooring, fabric, and the list goes on. Under the name brand of Microban, triclosan is pitched as a wonder bug fighter.

No long term affects were done prior to FDA approval but there was and is plenty of discussion about the possible affects, mostly about the real possibility of creating super bugs resistant to the very product used against them.

Google Triclosan and the best articles appear on the first page. The most important one was recently published by the EWG and boy did they do their homework. Thank goodness for them. I strongly urge you to review this document.

So how did all this get started in the first place? How is it the FDA approves something like this for mass consumption and we the consumer, have no idea where it is because it is not required to be labeled? And if there is a label, it might just say antibacterial, so it must be good, right? So who is protecting us? Seems to be no one. How can a maker of a curtain even agree to have triclosan added to their product? What the heck for? (money?) Germs on a curtain? Come on!

So like BPA, Triclosan has been used insidiously for a long time. Long enough to possibly reek havoc with our bodies and mother nature. And we continuously wonder why we have the highest cancer rate in the world despite our civilized status. Maybe if the FDA and EPA actually did their job, which is to protect us, we wouldn't be in this mess. The word precautionary isn't in their vocabulary. This triclosan issue is nothing short of outrageous.

So what can you do now? I guess the usual. Write your politicians, tell others, get mad. Any other suggestions?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Really Green? Consider Triple Footprint

The low spots are filled with marshmallow fog with the peaks clear in the distance.

Triple Footprint - You heard it here first.

The production of "things" in our daily lives have a "cost". You've heard of carbon footprint, and maybe heard of chemical footprint but social footprint might be new to you. These are basically the amount of baggage a product carries with it or makes with regard to carbon required start to finish, chemicals used and contained during production and the human touch required. Considering the Triple Footprint will give you a better understanding of the what's behind the green choices you make.

Products can have a very varied history in terms of how much energy was used in its production and transportation. If something is complicated with lots of parts and metals, then you can see that considering even the energy in mining the materials adds up. A small carbon footprint would be made out of something sustainable and local. You can measure your own carbon impact by one of the many sites available.

Chemical footprint considers two things - the chemicals that are used for the entire production of a product and the final list of ingredients. Chemical footprint also includes the chemicals left behind. Most folks don't realize that paper and fabric production require huge amounts of chemicals. Reading the list of ingredients also gives you an idea of the product's chemical footprint. Remember less is more. Look for simple vegetable based ingredients in products when considering chemical footprint in personal care products.

Social footprint is getting more attention through organizations such as fair trade, but is only a small fraction of consumer products. Social footprint should be considered since the human touch is responsible for everything brought to market. So many faces and stories go behind the making of what we buy and use. It's easy to see the social footprint of some things, but other items, like a light bulb, get complicated. I think everyone would agree that all people deserve fair living wages and healthy, safe working conditions. In this global economy, equalizing working conditions and wages will bring about peaceful exchanges between people and countries for a more secure future.

The green industry has embraced the idea of the triple footprint and uses this to separate itself from green washing or businesses trying half heartedly to jump on the band wagon. Stonyfield Yogurt gets the gold star for working the Triple Footprint to the max. Considering the Triple Footprint is what will bring us towards a sustainable future. Considering the Triple Footprint will help you decide green from really green.

Monday, July 21, 2008

SIGG vs Klean Kanteen - No Contest (Madonna and Crawford got hoodwinked)

Crazy hazy today.

And the winner is...Klean Kanteen. Hands down, no question. And here's why:

Let's first compare the two. SIGG is a single walled (though they just started making doubled walled in China) aluminum water bottle, made in Switzerland out of virgin aluminum (with aluminum being the best truly recyclable material, this is not very eco after all) that is lined with a softish amber (it has to be lined) "epoxy based resin". SIGG is adamant that it is not a plastic but based on the definition of an epoxy, I don't know how that can be. Their slick CEO Steve Wasik does a nifty tap dance and never fully answers questions about the lining and passes it off to the makers wanting to hold the info. His words seem carefully chosen and vague.

Klean Kanteen is a solid, food grade, 18/8 stainless steel bottle that is not lined, made responsibly in China. Virgin stainless steel is almost unheard of which makes stainless steel appealing for it's high recycled content and its recyclable ability. Stainless steel is next in line to glass in terms of safety with a few concerns about nickel or chromium leaching. Luckily, our bodies actually need a minimum level of each for functioning and are capable of processing it. After all we cook and brew with food grade stainless steel.

So the real issue comes down to this. What the heck is the lining in the SIGG bottles made of? I mean give us the whole story, full disclosure, the ingredients - let's have it.

No one knows. It's a secret. Maybe a dirty little secret.

SIGG claims it can't divulge the lining ingredients for fear of copy cats. They claim their proprietary right to secrecy like Coca-Cola. Last I saw, the ingredients were on a coke can. There is a lot of discussion on green forums about the subject, much back and forth between the faithfuls. However, in the Land of Green, this lack of transparency just doesn't cut it. SIGG boasts meeting FDA requirements which as most of us know is pretty meaningless. So what are they hiding? Me thinks BPA.

BPA, bisphenol A, a chemical used for decades in resins, plastics and epoxy, has gotten a huge amount of press lately because of its ability to leach and cause health problems. Epoxy was co-invented by a Swiss, Dr. Pierre Caston, back in 1936 when he got an amber colored solid by mixing epichlorhydrin with...BPA. What a coincidence. As a severe hormone disruptor, BPA has been shown to cause many problems in animal studies even at very low levels, so much so that Canada has proposed banning BPA in baby bottles. Canada takes the better safe than sorry road. Yeh Canader, eh? BPA has recently been tested and found in canned foods in the range of 1.6 to 10 or more parts per billion, or PPB. Testing also can also take place at the smaller parts per trillion level, or PPT. In animal studies, very low levels of BPA in PPT have caused cell damage and cancer due to hormone disruption.

SIGG offers an independent study of their bottles to show their safety levels, though not exactly independent since SIGG paid for it. SIGG claims their bottles have been regularly tested extensively in Europe but have yet to cough up any studies despite being hounded. At close examination of this one independent study, the testers used a LOQ (limit of quantitation) of 2 PPB, which means they don't test for accuracy below that level. And in the scientific world, below the LOQ can be called zero, nothing, nada or "undetectable", because the calibration used doesn't go below the LOQ. How conveeeeenient. What's disturbing is that this gave SIGG permission to then claim that the test showed NO BPA leaching from their bottles. Now that's just plain twisting the truth as I see it. If tests can use the parts per trillion range, yet the chemistry lab uses a LOQ of 2 parts per billion and then declares the product BPA free, well ... you can draw your own conclusion. The lab was very careful in its wording saying that "no BPA was detectable above the LOQ". So if you're hanging your hat on this one, paid by SIGG study and declare SIGG totally safe, I have a covered bridge to sell you.

SIGG's marketing is nothing short of genius with long established tentacles and celeb endorsements but this dark shadow isn't going to go away. SIGG makes a big deal about great quality because of being Swiss Made (that's like saying if you've done this and that, you qualify for president) but SIGG was quick to go to China when they introduced their stainless steel bottles. Its time to look behind the curtain and find out the truth behind the lining. Until such time, I will stick to Klean Kanteen. I believe SIGG is hiding something, and you should too.

So don't just sit there. Write SIGG and ask for full disclosure. Write the EWG and ask them to do independent testing on SIGG bottles using PPT (parts per trillion). Don't settle for evasive answers or no answers at all. Don't be duped by fancy colors and cool designs, like Madonna and Crawford were.

Be healthy and safe drinking.

Lead In Your Lipstick? Ouch

Drizzle and mist fill the view, a New England steam bath.

It's true. Lead in lipstick. I have never been a personal user of lipstick but there's a bigger picture here so stay with me.

Lead in lipstick is just one of the many ingredients allowed in our make-up and does not have to be disclosed. A lawsuit has been brought against Dior because their lead levels are two times higher than the safe level. I didn't know there was a safe level for lead. Actually there isn't a safe level based on science, it's just an arbitrary number in our country.

Lead received a lot of attention last year during the holiday time when toys were found to have lead in their paint. And did natural toys fly off the shelf after that. We know lead is a powerful neuro-toxin and does all sorts of nasty brain things, especially for developing fetuses and children. Skin Deep does a great job analyzing cosmetics and lipstick. So how is it in our personal care products and we don't even know it? Our all powerful lobbyists hard at work again making sure profit comes before people.

The EU has much stricter cosmetic laws and Australia has really taken the lead on lead. Australia requires that ALL ingredients be listed on cosmetics and not in strange sounding names that you can't look up. And, Australia requires a warning sign if it contains any lead at all. Thank you Australia.

And if you still think this is no big deal because we're talking about lipstick which doesn't affect children, think again. Think about all the pregnant women walking around wearing lipstick. And have you ever seen a group of small kids play dress up and smear old lipstick all over their lips and half their face? We can do better.

What's a woman to do? Go naked!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Bush's EPA Warns Humans That Warming Is A Major Threat

After a July 4th thunderstorm, the hazy moisture is rising. We're in for one heck of a muggy day.

I would love to be a fly on the wall in the current Bush's EPA administration. Talk about fireworks. It appears the EPA is so at odds about what and when they want to say something, that they trip over themselves.

But someone in there must have the guts to persevere because the EPA came out with a very strong warning. Finally the EPA is warning that the weather, as we know it, is going to change, get hotter and cause a lot of problems. The EPA used daring words like "substantial" and "is likely" in the warning. I wonder how much arguing went into the words alone. They didn't go in that dangerous territory of saying why the weather is warming, but they got their message across that it is getting hotter, and perhaps we humans can do something about it.

Dance, dance, dance.

But I'll take it. Even though the EPA said to wait until after Bush's term to get some action done (I wonder why) kudos for them coming out with this warning. And it isn't pretty.

The poor EPA seems to be trying as hard as they can to get heads out of the sand. At least they are making headlines and apparently not giving up. Gosh, I wonder just how bad it really is?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Our Environment For Sale

Heavy clouds this morning making it impossible to see the far mountains. My lemon lilies have bloomed.

Quick to the chase here: Scientists, fronts and frauds are being used to try to continue the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Alluring websites have been created to suppress your fears, create doubt and tell you "not enough is known". Somehow this unknown part is suppose to make the problems go away and make you feel better.

Science For Sale is a great resource for ongoing discussion. The idea is finally getting the attention it deserves. Science for Sale has been reported by ABC and PBS and many others. California makes no bones about the subject. Leave it to Berk to put it on the line: .

Even Walmart has the courage to buck the big oil companies and take products off the shelves for the safety of their consumers.

So much of the ills to our environment, through energy and plastics, goes back to oil. But you can make a difference. Walmart listened to the real science and its customers. But you as the customer needs to be the squeaky wheel. Let the world know that our environment is NOT for sale.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

350 PPM Global Warming Goals - Now

The shadows of the earth approach me bringing full daylight.

350 - The most important number on earth, to earth and for us. For all of us, humanity, creatures large and small, this is the number we must return to in order to avoid facing irreversible climate change consequences.

Carbon dioxide, CO2, in the atmosphere is measured in parts per million or PPM. The earth can get along sustainably at this level. BUT we are far past that number. Never before in human history have we been so high. We are now at 385 PPM.

There is so much science behind all of this it isn't even funny. Science without agendas (which is how a real scientist is suppose to behave) has been presenting this for many years. They present the evidence as they see it. Most of what scientists present is theory. They very rarely call it fact. Did you know that the laws of gravity are not a fact? Sure seems like it to me. Gravity is actually a theory. So global warming is a really strong theory and has lots of scientific evidence.

Bill McKibben, one of the many outstanding daddy's of global warming, is behind this new movement - getting people to understand 350 and DO something about it. is the place to go. They have cool videos, facts, (oops) I mean evidence, scientific papers and much more.

So read away, get depressed and then get inspired. The most important message to come away from this, is we must take action, now, and dramatic action at that. The number one thing you can do, starting today, is energy efficiency: in your home, in your car, and at work. Humans have been a part of the problem, we must now be the solution. More on energy efficiency later, but for today, drive more slowly, turn off unnecessary lights and anything electric for that matter, and dress less so if you are around air conditioning, it can be turned down.

And if you are around air conditioning that is too cold, for goodness sake, go tell someone to set the number a few degrees higher. And tell them about the number 350 while you're at it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Toxic Ship Sank - Will We Too?

The mountains are brighter today but so is the light brown haze on the horizon. :(

Just like my view, we can't see all the bad stuff, but it's out there.

A ship carrying 80 barrels of very toxic chemicals sank in the Pacific in June. The warning is huge, the call for rescuing the barrels is immediate, there is no current leakage according to water test. So what is this stuff? Here is the quote because I can't say it any better:

The DENR Environmental Management Bureau said DTI is a main ingredient in the production of flexible polyurethane foam and other polyurethane applications including synthetic leather, coated fabrics, paints and adhesives. It said the substance is toxic and should be recovered as soon as possible.

“The chemical has a long term carcinogenic effects on human,” said a report of the DENR EMB dated July 3.

DTI, a clear, pale yellow liquid with a sharp, pungent odor is “extremely toxic from acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) exposures,” according to the US Environmental Protection Agency Technological Transfer Network Air Toxics Website (

Yikes. So this stuff is sitting in the bottom of the ocean with this kind of EPA alarm. But wait. Don't we then use this stuff to make things and put it on more stuff that we humans actually use, sit on, breath, wear, etc? So if it is so toxic sitting in the ocean, why is it okay for later use and consumption? I doubt that it becomes inactive. So where were these toxic barrels headed for anyway? What were they going to be used for? Am I missing something here?

These toxins don't end their life once they come off the ship. They get shipped to us! And we don't even know it. Time to demand more information about chemicals and toxins in the products that surround us. I hope it's not too late.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bush, Oil Drilling Ban, and Environment - Do Not Mix

A nice cool morning with the music of birds.

A symbolic move but oh how destructive. What is Bush thinking? Apparently all the arguments against lifting the off shore drilling ban - oil will not actually come to the market for another 5 or more years, the new oil will only add 3% to our supply, it is costly, creates negative local impact - didn't matter to our President because lifting the ban symbolically makes him look good, like he is actually doing something about the oil crisis.

Lifting the ban is a slap in the environmental face because it ignores our golden opportunity to switch gears and actually get away from oil dependence and truly embark on new sustainable technologies for energy. Lifting the ban also ignores the need to reduce CO2 emissions and stop burning fossil fuel, i.e. oil. So much for his pseudo interest in helping climate change.

Imagine all that money that will now be spent looking for prospect gold when it could go towards creating electric cars and solar power, and we could actually free ourselves from oil dependence and accomplish the necessary CO2 reductions needed to continue life as we know it.

But for some, I guess it sure felt good knowing our President was taking some kind of action, as pathetic and destructive as it was and will be.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Energy Efficiency - It Can Be Easy

Light drizzle this morning and grateful for it.

Experts worldwide are insisting that CO2 reductions happen immediately and fast in order to avoid planetary collapse. There is lots of talk about switching to solar and wind but the time lag is not fast enough. To drop CO2 emissions ASAP, energy efficiency takes center stage as the fastest solution for the moment.

Energy efficiency begins at home, but then take it to work and take action within your community, church, town and city. The basics apply to all scenarios and it means reducing electrical use first. And the bonus is this will all save you money. Next comes heating, cooling, water use, oil and gas use.

Gabrielle, a student at a local prep school, recently won the energy efficiency competition. And the best part is, are you ready for this? She said it was easy! This coming from a teenager. Their household electrical bill dropped a whopping 29%. How did she do it? This is HER easy list to energy efficiency:

1- No clothes dryer
2 - Switch all light bulbs to CFL's
3 - Turn off everything not being used
4 - Take shorter showers
5 - Spend time in one room, one TV instead of spread out throughout the house
6- Turn down the heat, dress warmer
7- Use daylight for work and reading

Gabrielle said it was fun and brought the family together and saved them money with NO investment. Bravo for this young person showing us the way.

If she can do it, we can do it. Don't waste any time, and don't waste.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Canada Leads the Way - Again

Never boring, another amazing summer day with a substantial breeze.

Bravo Canada. Our friends to the north have once again stood up to big business and have stopped the manufacturing of a dangerous flame retardant called DECA, a PBDE, and limited its use to certain products. DECA is from a chemical called polybrominated diphenyl ethers and is used in everything from mattresses to baby strollers, upholstery and car seats, to children's pajamas and many other fabrics.

PBDE is so prevalent in our fabricated world that it has filtered down to wildlife prompting the Canadian government to take action. ( I think we are part of the wildlife chain but we weren't mentioned.) PBDE's , and there are several of which DECA is one, cause major thyroid dysfunction. Canada banned the others in 2006 and has taken this step to reduce DECA to the use of television sets and cars. (the powerful car lobby won this one)

If you want reassurance that this chemical is actually safe, just ask the makers of DECA and they will tell you it is just hunky dory. This is the all too common line from other similar makers of precarious chemicals like plastics.

Some say Canada didn't go far enough and coward to big business by not instituting a full ban.

Meanwhile, south of the border, we Americans continue to sleep on flame retardant chemical laden mattresses, sit with our pets on toxic sofas and envelop our babies in all sorts of car seats and strollers with known dangerous chemicals such as the DECA, stain resistant chemicals, PVC plastic, chlorine and more.

Anyone have a bamboo stroller with a hemp seat?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

CFL's and Fox News

Early morning fog is nestled in the valleys and slowly disappearing.

Fox news did another one of their silly rants and picked on CFL's (compact fluorescent light bulbs). The woman reporter introduced those evil funny looking light bulbs as "really expensive" which right off the bat tells you a couple of things - either she never goes shopping (not!), is using last century's information (so much for "news") or they accidentally lie to add fuel to the fire. They sell for only one dollar each at most stores.

Yes CFL's contain mercury and they always have. Those long office ones (FOX probably has them all over their studio) have always contained mercury, for decades, and no one jumped up and down before. It was common practice to smash them in order for them to fit into the garbage. Perish the thought and now illegal.

Fox was right in that there was not enough good information on the package telling the consumer how to clean up a broken bulb or how to dispose of them properly. They also explained how to properly clean it up even though they did it back handedly as they made fun of it. You know how they jump up and down and yell at you? (Some times I think they are satirical and wonder if all this drama isn't planned sarcasm as they snicker in the back room because they can't possibly think of themselves as professionals.)

What they did leave out was the fact that leaving in your old incandescent light bulb spews out more mercury than what is in a CFL. And since I am personally a receiver of bad air and acid rain funneling from the country's coal burning plants over my house, I would appreciate it everyone would change their light bulbs.

So for the environment's sake, each light bulb uses 75% less energy. If every household in the entire USA changed only one light bulb, that would save the amount of energy to power the entire State of New Hampshire. That's how important changing your light bulbs is. The idea is to save energy so the electricity producing plants spew out less CO2.

Now for the pocket part. You guessed it. For each light bulb you change, you save 75% of your hard earned cash. And, the light bulb will last a lot longer than regular ones (there is a 1-10% failure rate so take it back to the store if it burns out too early). Your return on your investment is pretty darn quick.

How many Fox news reporters does it take to change a light bulb? You tell me.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

BPA - In My WIne?

My flowers are beginning to droop and they look like beautiful badminton birdies. A very hazy day.

While BPA, toxic bisphenol-A, has been making top news for a couple for months now, new sources continue to surface. The most obvious source that came to light was the hard clear polycarbonate bottles that Nalgene capitalized on. Add to it baby bottles, cups, bowls etc, and then canned foods. I always did wonder why the tin didn't react to foods. How about that? Most canned foods leach BPA. That's a lot of food sources. That was half my pantry.

Make no mistake, there is no question that BPA leaches, even the high powered money flushed plastics industry (remember plastic comes from oil) admits to it. The question is whether it is safe. And you guessed it, the plastic industry claims safety.

A recent review of BPA studies showed that all, 11 out of 11, of the studies funded by the plastic companies concluded the levels of BPA were safe. Not surprising. While out of the government funded studies, 104 of them, over 90, deemed the leached levels as unsafe for a variety of reasons including cell damage, cancer, and genitalia alterations. BPA and other hormone disrupting chemicals are affectionately called gender benders. I know where my bet is.

Now I learn that wine has been found to have BPA. Is nothing sacred? So how did it get there? Apparently two sources - the plastic stoppers (it's true) and vats lined with plastic that store the wine. Apparently the concrete vats have the most potential because they are lined with epoxy. Wow. This has ruined my day, especially since I am not a fan of oak.

It seems plastic linings, or epoxy, are everywhere. Aren't aluminum SIGG bottles lined with an epoxy? They sure are. I wonder what's in their bottle?

But don't give up. Be a wise consumer and fight for your right to know and health safety. Get involved. Spread the word. Tell your friends and neighbors. Meanwhile, if you find a good organic red wine processed NOT in plastic, please let me know.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Nano Particles - Buyer Beware

Very hazy today as I can only see the third row of trees - very still and peaceful.

You won't find nano particles in your list of ingredients because there are no regulations for them in the US or EU. They've been around awhile too under positive disguises such a wrinkle-free and anti-bacterial. Heck, who wouldn't want something like that?

So what is a nano anyway? It describes the size of a particle in relation to a meter ( a little over a yard). One nano particle is one billionth of a meter. It takes 80,000 nano particles to equal the size of a hair. If a particle gets up to the size of 200-1000 nanometers, then it can be classified as micronized. That's important for later.

What's the big deal? Like so many things racing past us before safety regulations are established, we have no idea of the long term health effects of nanoparticles. Minerals are nanosized for make up and passed off as Mineral Make up which sounds earthy and organic. Sunscreens have nanoed (new verb) the old favorite of titanium oxide so we don't have white smeary skin. What scientist do know is that these particles are absorbed by the skin and can penetrate even cells because of their small size. Remember a nano particle can be smaller than the human cell and almost the size of a virus. That's scary stuff.

Silver is used for its antibacterial properties and is showing up every where including ladies underwear. Not only are scientists concerned about what it does when it enters our bodies, but silver going into our environment, water (by washing) has potential to reek real havoc. Not all bacteria are bad. We need bacteria in our septic tanks, in the ground, in the oceans. They do a lot of good depending upon what it is. So to think that a new anti bacteria cleaning solution is going to disinfected my kitchen counters, go into my skin, on my food, and into my septic and mess with my bacteria, really winds me up. Lets be really clear here, scientists know nanos can go into our cells. The question is - then what? We need time to answer that question.

Inhaled nano particles are showing a similar response as inhaled asbestos. Makes sense really. Micronized particles are bigger and seem to be less likely to be absorbed by the skin and are often used in safer sunscreen products. Where is the line drawn between nano and micronized and safety? Are they really safer? Again, we don't really know yet. And what about those wrinkle free pants? What IS in those any way? Buyer beware.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Independence Day - Or Was It?

The 3 H's are brewing, hazy, hot and humid. Nice big red tail hawk over head.

The weekend in New England was perfect for the 4th of July, our celebration of Independence from England. Our young country wanted to be on its own, to govern itself with no strings attached.
So what the heck happened?

Talk about strings attached. China now owns us financially along with many other countries because of the debt we have created. Our oil dependence has seeped into every aspect of our life. Plastic (made from oil) is just about everywhere and seems impossible to live without. Prices of just about everything are increasing because of oil, mostly due to everything needing to be transported by trucks. (silly us gave up railways)

The perfect storm is brewing - scientists say we have reached peak oil so supplies will be harder to come by and very expensive, India and China are creating a huge middle class that wants what everyone else has, (so share the oil) and our foreign oil sources keep us begging for stability. Drilling and supplying our own oil is the ultimate "drop in the bucket" and offers no short term or long term solution. So much for being independent.

And then, there's that climate change issue which slaps the icing on the cake. The writing on the wall is clear for me. Time to convert to renewable, sustainable energy ASAP. We can do it. We have more geek brain power than any place in the world. Take all that money wasted on considering new drilling for oil and let these guys and gals have a crack at this. Then we can have a new kind of celebration on Independence Day.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Collecting Rain

Early morning mist rose from little pockets and valleys. Just mystical.

We don't think much of collecting rain here in New England, especially after an above average rainy June. But perhaps we should since the weather pattern is unpredictable and is taking on more extreme up and down patterns. I can't help but think this could be the last good rain we have for months. It has happened before. After all we were in a drought phase for several years.

We also don't cherish water as much as other parts of the country because we have these spectacular clear rivers and streams that we take for granted. A quick step outside of New England and the rivers become silted with brown or red. However our clear rivers and lakes now have levels of mercury in them, mostly from coal burning Midwest plants, high enough to require warnings to people wanting to eat fish. Try only once a month for pregnant women and once a week otherwise. Given our governments loose levels of concern, it makes me wonder just how toxic our fish really are. So don't eat the fish.

Other parts of our country literally die for our kind of water. The southwest is fighting over water as is Georgia and Florida. The escalating heat due to climate change in the southwest is going to have very serious water issues soon. The answer seems to be water collection. but it isn't that simple.

In Australia, particularly Victoria, water collection is a really big deal. Almost every house has at least one cistern. My sister has a small vegetable farm and she has eight large cistern. People also collect water by having a little damn on the lowest level of their property. This way they are able to go long periods of time without rain and be okay, just barely. The problem with all this collection is so little is going into the ground. There are no more rivers and streams in Victoria. They have recently dried up and are filed with weeds. Their wells are drying up and Australia is in for serious water problems.

So why bother to collect rain? Because it gets back to "every little bit helps". Whether we pay for city water (more reason to collect, save money) or get water from our wells, collecting rain is one step in water conservation. Whether you live in lush New England or not, it helps for us to be less wasteful and use water that collects instead of using other sources that require treatment or use electricity. Why run your water pump when it can flow from a rain barrel? Makes sense to me.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Toxic Midwest Flood Waters

Behind my beautiful blooming corn flowers are the hazy hills. A bright red cardinal decorates the air. Another perfectly humid summer New England day.

Watching the current flooding in the Midwest is sometimes just too overwhelming. The videos look like regular lakes where a roof top got lost. It is not uncommon for the flooding to be more than two miles away from the Mississippi. That's a lot of flood waters, that's just plain huge if you think about it.

If you're having trouble with that volume, try this: take every house, farm, barn, and shed and imagine the standard chemicals laying around in basements, under sinks, on shelves and in equipment. Imagine things like chlorine, ammonia, cleaners, ant killer, gasoline, oil, pesticides, herbicides and all the bottles, bags and containers dissolving into the waters. Now add farm animal and human waste into the mix and... my mind swims in one major toxic brew. To further add to the nightmare, all the chemicals that are on most fields are being consumed by the flood waters and the new toxins are finding their resting place on the very fields we may be consuming food from. A contamination horror story.

This is the same epiphany I had when I was in New Orleans working for Habitat. The shear volume is so overwhelming. We had the opportunity to visit the side of a levee and the amount of trash, plastic and demolished materials in the waters made me loose my appetite for fish. Ugh.

So the Midwest flood waters are probably the most toxic brew in human history. And where does that water go? I can only think of two places: into the ground or down stream. Now it's a toss up which is worse: our farm land for our food supply including both animals and agriculture, or contaminating everything in its downstream path leading to the mouth of the Mississippi and into the Gulf of Mexico where it can potentially mix in with our entire ocean.

The mouth of the Mississippi is already the largest water dead zone in the world. It was predicted to be the size of the State of Massachusetts earlier this spring. A dead zone is where there is not enough oxygen in the water support life. This is caused by the fertilizers from upstream farms feeding happy algae who multiply beyond the rate of rabbits, then die and the feeding bacteria gobble up all the oxygen. Now we'll have more happy toxic laden algae and who knows how big the dead zone will become.

Sometimes it's hard for me to get my head wrapped around what's happening regarding these toxic flood waters because the volume is beyond huge and the impact is beyond words. I shudder at the irreversible damage that has been done. How we grow our food and manage our waters must change. After all, those are our two basic needs for survival.

We need to talk about this, not cover it up. We need to not accept that the toxins are "within safe levels"; what ever that means. We need to demand change in how we manage our food and water supplies. Have conversations, show your concern or outrage, email your representatives at all levels and take action. Remember, they work for us.

The magnitude of what we are doing to our earth can really ruin your day, and maybe your life. After all, we all live downstream.