Sunday, August 31, 2008

Palin - 5 Reasons Why She's No Friend to the Environment

No clouds, nice and sunny but that nagging brown haze on the horizon - It's about the environment stupid.

To say the nation is in shock about the latest VP pick is an understatement. From an environmental standpoint, Palin is no friend to the environment. Yes she uses the environment and is proud to hunt and fish but that doesn't make you a good steward of the earth.

Here is a list of the top 5 reasons why Palin is UN-Environmental:

1- Palin wants to open up Bristol Bay to create the largest mining pit in the world, going against clean water initiatives and local salmon protection. See more.

2- Pushed (and still is pushing) to open drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) despite McCain being opposed to it. See more.

3- Sued (yes sued) the Department of the Interior for making polar bears an endangered species, despite all the science behind the decision. See more.

4- Pushed through to build a gas pipe line across Alaska, big friend to big business. See more.

5- Palin isn't sure about climate change (in Alaska where climate is changing faster than anywhere else?!$*!) so formed her own committee to comb over the science. See more.

Alaska makes a lot of money from big oil and gas, running in a budget surplus. Palin sees dollar signs in them thar fields and is convinced Alaska can help the US's energy problems. I suppose when one looks out on a State the size of Alaska (3 Texas's) which has a population almost half of the entire Sate of New Hampshire, then it might seem there is plenty of room for oil production, gas lines and the like.

Palin: "A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made. " WOW.

But oil and gas still burn fossil fuel, releasing CO2, pollutants, and other green house gases resulting in an increase in climate change. Oops, I almost forgot. If you haven't put 2 and 2 together yet, based on massive amounts of world wide science, that humans, CO2 and climate change are connected, then no wonder Palin is left pushing Alaska's fossil natural resources despite its direct conflict with Alaska's other natural resource - nature.

So in conclusion, simply put, Palin is no friend to the environment.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

BPA FREE Baby Bottles - Get Glass

Nippy New England morning...

Today's blog is short(sort of) but the links are invaluable. No point in repeating all these extensive studies and conclusions. Read them yourself by just clicking through.

BPA, one of many petrol based additives in plastic, continues to make headlines as a hormone disruptor with great potential for unknown future risks to human health. BPA, Bisphenol-A, was, and still is, added to plastic baby bottles despite being banned in Canada, and taken off the shelf by big stores such as Walmart(and our own FDA has their head in the sand) There is so much evidence of BPA's dangers( despite the plastics industry's attempt at fraud websites) that caution can not happen soon enough.

How soon? Now, before a baby is even born, or ASAP. Fetal development can be affected by the mother's exposure to and use of BPA containing products. All these links available are so comprehensive that I urge you to review them. If you want to erase all doubt, the safest non-leaching product is glass.

Glass-back to basics. Since our modern convenience society wanted something that wouldn't break, most people began using plastic baby bottles many decades ago. But things went astray as the plastic companies got greedy about cheap additives and fancy clear designs. Not only were we told they were convenient, we were told they were safe. It wasn't until comprehensive testing laid out the facts. See this link to compare baby bottles that purported to be safe and were not: 5 Leaching Brands

Now companies are switching their formula and claiming BPA free but are still showing leaching but at a low level. We are told this is safe. @%#&*! This is what SIGG claims, to be BPA free, but the testing results say "undetectable", not FREE. Like Nalgene, many companies made a switch to an untested new chemical. Or the are using polypropylene. Based on the plastic industries track record of deception, I wouldn't begin to trust these new plastic bottles.

Get Glass-Be Safe. Hormone disruption is pretty serious stuff. To dismiss it is short sighted, and that is being very polite. The affects of hormone disruption happen many years after it is way too late, breast cancer, obesity, thyroid, infertility, early puberty, heart disease and the list goes on. Taking the precautionary road is the only way to assure safety, and that means using glass.

But "my baby throws her bottle and it breaks"... so stop giving it back to her, she'll get the message. "I'm worried about the bottle breaking"...sooooo be careful. "The glass is heavy"... so get a 5 oz. bottle or sit and feed your baby if they aren't old enough to hold it, like you should. Are these typical excuses worth the entire future of your human being? I think not.

Next topic-Nipples. (no, not that kind!) Stay turned...

New Orleans Gets Ready - Haven't We Learned Anything?

Floating early morning river fog from cool nights, going, going...

Things are not looking good for dear old New Orleans, an American Icon City who has yet to come close to recovering from Katrina's destruction 3 years ago, this week. Although the big indicators like high water surface temperatures are not all there, the input from computer models and experts and still making Gustav big and heading for Louisiana. The price of oil has already risen (duh) as companies prepare for the worst. New Orleans...get ready.

It was three years ago this week that the worst American weather event took place. It also seemed at the time to be a wake up call about global warming and climate change. It seemed like a golden opportunity to take these warning signs to heart and begin to make the changes in our lives necessary to minimize the predictions of climate change. What happened?

Very little. Poor New Orleans was abandoned by the rest of our country and is only house by house recovering. At this rate it will never fully recover because it will keep getting devastated by future storms. What happened to New Orleans is beyond belief and only slightly believable by visiting the city yourself and seeing the destruction, even 3 years later.

The rest of the country has very slowly taken notice to the changes that are needed to fight climate change, but taking notice is very different from changing lifestyle. Despite the media jumping on the green band wagon, we continue to waste energy, drive too fast, don't recycle and... The list is long. Though many have taken great strides and done fantastic things, the total numbers just aren't there yet.

A tornado ripped through, of all places, New Hampshire this summer. Not the usual isolated touch down that only happens maybe every year. No, this was out of the Wizard of Oz. A continuous 50 mile swath, luckily mostly through forest, damaging over 150 homes and killing one person. Yes, in New Hampshire. Some call it a fluke, others call it the dramatic weather predicted as a result of climate change.

Some say Katrina was a fluke. After all, there are lots of flukes in history. But scientists around the world are not calling these weather events flukes. These are well established weather predictions based on science, thousand of scientists, hundreds of computer models.

So how many wake up calls do we need? How many times are we going to press snooze and go back to sleep and carry on our non sustainable lifestyle? Haven't we learned anything yet?

Meanwhile, New Orleans gets ready for Fluke Gustav.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Democrats Green? - Not Real-ly

Cool morning, signs of fall in the air.

From my view, the Democrats are trying to sit on the fence so they can fall to either side at their convenience when it comes to being green. Last night at the Democratic Convention, Brian Schweitzer, Governor of Montana, was the first to speak in truth about offshore drilling and basically what a waste of time it is to even consider the prospect. He got his numbers pretty straight enough to drive the point home. See : Offshore Drilling Is Not the Answer to High Gas Prices for excellent facts.

McCain even admitted that drilling is more of a psycho pill and would not add much to our needs, which is really irresponsible given the cost of drilling. I also recall that oil is a fossil fuel which spews out green house gases, the ills of global warming, so why even consdier it? So how in the same breath of wanting to tackle climate change would any candidate, from either side, even talk about more drilling?

Let me guess. Could it have anything to do with the big oil companies who give millions of monies to candidates at all levels who wink support for anything that has to do with oil? (including plastics) Or are they simplistically pandering to Joe and Josephine, who are hurting at the pumps and are desperate for relief now, and looking for a quick vote? Have the candidates not done a total cost analysis of even spelling offshore drilling?

And nuclear is no friend to the equation either and an easy way out. The bottom line is it is not renewable. Yes it provides energy without green house gases once it is built but there is a huge energy expenditure prior to up and running - mining, transportation, construction costs etc. And nuclear is water intensive which we can not afford to ignore. And what about nuclear waste? Does anyone care about what the heck happens to it?

If the candidates really want to talk about a clean, safe future, then the first words out of their mouth need to be renewable or sustainable energy, and yes, that means wind, solar and much more. I wish candidates would stop straddling that fence thinking that it will get them more votes. I am much more willing to vote for someone who has the courage to take a stand. It seems the Democrats have their feet dangling at least on one side of the fence for the environment but they have yet to take the jump and make the commitment to the environment and truly change the course of our future.

Until such time, I consider the headlining Democrats as not real-ly green.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bush Wants to Relax Endangered Species Rules - What You Can Do

About to get poured on, thunder approaching fast. How exciting.

Most of us know that the Endangered Species Act gets no respect but parts of it may soon not be around at all. (AP Press release) The current administration and its loathing of obstacles has proposed doing away with scientific, independent mandatory reviews that have been in place for decades prior to any federal construction on highways, dams, and mines. This has been an environmental and species safety net established 35 years ago, thank goodness.

The new regs do not require Congressional approval and the normally 60 days public comment time has been whacked to 30 days, to squeeze it in before elections – how conveeeenient. Undoing this later through Congress is a lengthy procedure and will surely be enough time to cause a lot of damage. The proposal wants individual departments to do their own reviews and they claim to have the experts in place to do this. Sounds like these foxes are in for a banquet.

The Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, who oversees the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Geological Survey, and the National park Service (a long time politician with no experience or affection in these areas) accuses the Endangered Species Act as being used by some to regulate the gases behind global warming. Dirk says: “It is not possible to draw a link between greenhouse gas emissions and distant observations of impacts on species.” You mean like the polar bear? Is this guy in this century?

So finally some insiders have found a way to get around the Species Act with this new proposal. Many federal agencies and private construction firms have complained over the years about delays and increased costs. Wah-Wah. Some, like the trade association lobbying group The National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition, whine about wanting to streamline the process (code word for ramming it through).

There is a lot more to the picture and you can get more outraged by reading more details. The point here is… what can be done to stop this? The public comment time is only 30 days. Senator Barbara Boxer from California heads the Environment and Public Works Committee and considers these proposals illegal. Her office would be a good place to start. Call, email and ask what you can do. Contact your Senators and State Representatives and let them know what you think. Remember they represent you.

Species are going extinct at an alarming rate. Scientists put the numbers at 35-150 per day. Biologists have long tried to make the point of how interdependent we are as creatures sharing this earth. Losing a species here and there IS a big deal. We, as humans, are being very short sighted (some call it arrogant) if we don’t appreciate this complex web of existence. Remember, this is the same Species Act that brought the dwindling bald eagle back to life. I think a program that was so successful in protecting our National Bird is worth keeping. I hope you do too. Please call or email your reps today.

Friday, August 22, 2008

BEST GREEN COLLEGES - Congratulations

An absolutely perfect sunny New England day without even a band of brown on the horizon.

Even the Princeton Review knows there is green to be made in the green world. This year, the fame Princeton Review College Guides ratings introduced the Green Rating Honor Roll. Eleven schools were chosen for their perfect scores - Bravo!

The criteria is pretty good and hats off to the Review for doing this. It is wonderful to see what our academic institutions are doing to help fight climate change. After all, it is here where scientists are molded and much of the evidence for climate change and global warming is gathered. The peak of scientific information begins at colleges and universities only to filter down to the mainstream where skeptics further water down the information. And then we get it. No wonder climate change is not taken seriously by so many.

Five of the 11 schools are in New England. One of the schools that shares the top spot is the University of New Hampshire. Despite the lowest state funding in the U.S., UNH has managed this great honor. (maybe as a desperate way to save money?) UNH has the first Sustainability program in the country.

UNH has always been an oasis and often in stark contrast to the reputation in the rest of the state. The State Legislators often ignore progressive environmental and health bills that pass in the neighboring New England States. Never mind the State motto Live Free or Die, the other mantra is "We'll fix it when it breaks". The problem is, climate change doesn't work that way. UNH has made lemonade out of lemons despite a state in deficit and a Governor who just built an 11,000 square foot house (yes, that's right) with millions of dollars of outdoor landscaping.

Congratulations to the top 11 green schools and all the others in the running. Kudos to all the hard working academic schools that continue to set an example of how we should consider our existence and behavior in the world. What would we do without them?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What A Nature Weekend

Post rain morning with a little mist in the air.

We always anticipate our campsite arrival with much excitement. We look for what is the same and what might be different. We like it to be the same since we already think where we go is perfect. The only thing that stood out were the greeting signs. They seemed more official, larger, brighter yellow, and warned us about bears. Yah, yah, yah.

The weekend was the usual of relaxation under protecting tarps, playing dominoes, good food, catching up and grumbling about politics. A hike here and there and the favorite swimming hole are the activities for each day. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson captures some of our weekend moments. Before we leave and before we call it a night, putting away food items for bear prevention is a ritual. Yah, yah, yah.

Before the weekend was over we did indeed finally see a bear. It was in a field munching away before a photographer scared it away. It was very exciting since some of the folks we were with had never seen a bear before despite a lifetime of being outdoors.

We also came across snakes, big and little, ones we had never seen before. The forest was filled with mushrooms of all types, colors and sizes. Given one of the rainiest summers in history, the old spores took full advantage of it. They were everywhere.

On our last night of playing dominoes, we were visited by a plucky little red fox who sneaked up and grabbed the dog's bone (the dog was exhausted in the tent) within 6 feet of us. Nature was finally a little too close for comfort. But boy was it exciting.

So why all the activity? There is no doubt that wildlife is having to live on less land interspersed with new housing and development which forces them closer to humans. Maybe they are learning to live closer to us. ( I think they were here first but we humans get a little arrogant.) Or maybe it was all chance.

Which ever it was, it was a good reminder that there are animals and such out there, lots of them who depend upon the land and their environment for survival. Each species needs so many acres to survive. They need clean water and available food free from pesticides and chemicals. They need a certain amount of land undisturbed from logging and development. I am not sure we have arrived at all these details yet, but we need to keep working at it so that nature can continue to do its thing.

We had a wonderful weekend for which I am always grateful. This one was particularly special. I felt like nature was talking to me, trying to get me to notice. I think I did too. Brings on a whole new meaning to coexist.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Going Outside Helps the Environment

A few wispy clouds in the valleys but otherwise a straight view to the mountains, lovely.

It seems like a no brainer - taking a walk outside makes you more environmentally aware but now we have research to support the idea.

Psychologists did two studies, each involving going outside for only 15 minutes. Both reported people feeling happier, more energetic (I could have told you that) and more concerned about the environment. People who did not go outside over estimated their happiness.

Anyone raising children could have told you that too. Just watch a child's compassion grow when they experience nature at work. But we needed a book to tell us too just in case we haven't gotten the message. If you are still skeptical about the power of being outside, read Last child in the Woods by Richard Louv.

The impact of nature is nothing new. Henry Thoreau wrote Walden over 150 years ago and in his owns words: ''I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.'' Some might find his book boring by today's standards but the message is loud and clear and boy could he write.

Taking this advice to heart, I am off for a camping vacation to my beloved White Mountains where I refresh my love for the outside, relax without the interference of cell phones and computers and enjoy good friends around...yup...the camp fire. This year is especially exciting since all 3 of my children actually now want to come. They are over the hump of being with boring adults and actually like the time together finding swimming holes and playing games by crank lights into the night. The transition has been wonderful to witness and so it seems going outside has paid off.

So give new meaning to take it outside. Go outside yourself, push your kids out or suggest to a loved one to spend just 15 minutes a day outside. It's good for all and apparently good for the environment too.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Virgin Paper Forests - Irving

Pea soup this morning, can hardly see 100 yards but it should "burn off".

Up in the North East, way up in northern New England Irving has been a prominent gas station stop for several years. On my way to Gaspe, Canada, we passed a lot of them. What I didn't know is their diverse holdings, namely the wood business. People in Maine are very familiar with the multi million dollar corporation, but, well, I'm not from Maine.

Between Maine and New Brunswick, Irving owns millions of acres of land, about 2 million of it in Maine alone (about 1/3 the State of New Hampshire) I think we drove by every acre. About 10 years ago, Maine bought over 1.5 million acres for less than $250 per acre. Not so fast if you want to buy land from them. Any land that is turned around and sold back to non-profits for land conservation is sold at a considerable profit.

Miles and miles and miles of scrawny forests... for wood pulp. I thought maybe the trees were for building materials, something substantial, but they never looked big enough. There were patches of various growths, and lots of stripped clear cut acreage. This was where the factory of paper making starts. It was disturbing to realize that. It just seemed so extreme.

So where does all this wood go? Apparently for pulp. What is pulp, anyway? Mostly the bottom of the barrel kind of trees that grown fast so they can be cut down and used for our modern conveniences. Irving's top producing wood pulp products are toilet paper, tissue and paper napkins.

This is where it really hit me. So as a consumer, we have a choice, recycled or post consumer paper products ( that means really after use, ie junk mail) or virgin paper made directly from fresh cut trees. These forests are being cut down and processed, using huge amounts of chemicals and energy to produce things like virgin toilet paper. Are you kidding?

So please think about where your everyday products come from. Think about the process required to bring it to the market shelf. I know we need some kind of paper products more than others. But do we really need to cut down whole forests for toilet paper?

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Reduce virgin paper use and paper all together. Reuse cloths instead of paper, reuse paper for scraps. Recycle your paper and BUY recycle paper products.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Canada IS Greener

My view is delightfully different right now-Maine harbor view, tide rolling in, gulls laughing and a gentle warm breeze-perfection.

After mountains, potato farms, tree farms (Irving owns millions of acres for wood pulp production for virgin toilet and tissue paper etc., another blog entry...), wilderness and hundreds of kilometers of rugged coastline, we arrived at the very tip of Gaspe Peninsula- Land's End in local Micmac. Gaspe, the city, has about 15,000 folks and the rest of the peninsula is dotted with villages and isolated homes along the coast. We were about one hour south of Gaspe, looking out on the endless Atlantic ocean, in what seemed like the middle of no where.

Yet despite this isolation, we had two blue large 60 gallon recycling totes and one green garbage totes, none of those small bins-they meant business. All of the recycling went into the one tote, all mixed-how civilized. Garbage pickup was Tuesday night, recycling was Wednesday night.

That was the neatest thing of all. The pick up is done during the night. That way the crews don't have to worry about traffic (yes, traffic-only one road around the rim of Gaspe), kids, dogs and bicyclists and can zip through their job. Zip they did and how efficient it was. They had big lights on their vehicles and keep in mind, they do this all winter long. Food for thought for other communities.

We started the week with three days of solid rain but when that rain stopped, and even before the sun shown, out came the laundry hung to dry, dotted all across the landscape. (remember dryers are the second energy hog in the house) It was in stark contrast to our lifestyle. And it was beautiful. All sorts of colors flapping in the breeze, one load after another. Nothing fancy, usually just a pulley and a line. Bravo.

So what else is it about this neck of the woods that makes it seem greener? To summarize it-simplicity. The houses and cars are smaller- more motorcycles were being used. Gasoline was over $5.oo per gallon. The lawns are smaller, few riding lawn mowers around. And no silly irrigation systems. More cloth shopping bags though less shopping and eating out in general. Heck, there's just no place to go, and how wonderful it was. And yet, they get by, we got by and everyone seemed happy too.

Canada and its citizens should be happy. Canada has the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years and all the Provinces are in a surplus. That's right, the country is in a surplus. Yes they pay higher taxes but at least they manage their money properly. And Canada has its eye on being greener too with commitment to action to boot. Canada is taking the leadership role for educating and encouraging their citizens to do better. The National Website is loaded with good information, all coming from the top down. Canada has been a world leader when it comes to chemical precaution, not caving to special interest groups. They know all of this will pay off in the long run- economically and environmentally.

So, the answer is yes- my humble opinion is that Canada trumps its southern neighbors in greenness. As is true where ever you are, you can stand to learn a lot from your neighbors.