Monday, August 29, 2005

A Drop in the Barrel

Well, I'm all for baby steps when in comes to progress, but anything less than that and I think it's time to re-think the strategies. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, one of the few holdovers from the Clinton Administration, announced that sweeping new efficiency standards for SUVs and light trucks (and whats the difference there, btw?) would "save gas and headaches for American drivers at the pump." Hmm...what drivers is Norman talking about? Surely not the 13 mpg Lincoln Navigators or 10 mpg H2 Hummers (Ooo...unless you have the new H3 in which case you get 15 mpg)?

The new plan would mandate that vehicles under manufacture between 2008 and 2011 would have to, on average, get 1.8 mpg more than they do now, which puts the overall average around 24 mpg. The Post's editorial for today says the rest:

The administration estimates that this change will save 10 billion gallons of gasoline over about 15 years. This amounts to a total of about 25 days of consumption under current trends -- a disappointing drop in the barrel.

When automotive fuel efficiency standards were introduced in 1975, the looser rules for so-called non-passenger vehicles -- a category that, believe it or not, has been interpreted to include minivans, SUVs and even some cars -- weren't all that important: These vehicles accounted for less than 20 percent of the market. Now SUVs and other gas-guzzling behemoths make up more than half of automotive sales.

So much for baby steps. This feels like we're on the treadmill to denial. Neil Armstrong, a man famous for his steps, would be appalled.

Friday, August 26, 2005

European Nature

You know, I really have to love the Washington Times. For one of the more conservative-leaning papers out there they really do try to cover "liberal" issues in a more moderate manner. So, they've posted a UPI story covering the recent natural disasters that have hit parts of Europe (fires in Portugal, flooding in Germany and an region-wide heat wave that marks as one of the highest in decades.

The piece goes on to quote scientists who say that, "The tendency is that in Europe, the temperatures will rise on average, which could mean more heat waves and heavy rainfalls."
Followed by, "I don't think we can stop that trend anytime soon."

I think my favorite part about this little article is that no where do they mention global warming. Why is no one even mentioning this as an "outlandish" reason for the ridiculous weather patterns we're seeing in Europe? Has no one learned?

Whats more, the article is written as if to say the weather in Europe doesn't affect the weather in the United States. Unfortunately it does and a to a great degree. Its not like the U.S. has been having a cooler than normal summer. Parts of the east coast are actually having periodic droughts! For only the third time in 55 years (the two other times were both after 2001) New York State was close to being "overtapped" because no rain fell. Chicago would look like the Sahara if it wasn't for the flood of water that fell from the sky two weeks ago and many of the agricultural lands of the central midwest are struggling to keep crops alive. And how about those hurricanes? To me, it doesn't sound like Europe is the only continent experiencing odd weather. Whaddya say we ALL start talking about global warming a little more seriously.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

India Bans Plastic Bags

Well, it's official: India is starting to ban plastic bags. The government of western Maharashtra State banned the manufacture, sale and use of plastic bags due to the massive clogging of any and all drainage systems during monsoon flooding. Bombay (Mumbai) residents were the first to chastize the government for its slow response after record rains hit the city this year, paralyzing the country's financial and entertainment capital. The choked drainage systems were unable to flush out the majority of water that fell in the state and helped cause debilitating landslides that killed over 1,000 people. To think that plastic bags could be responsible for so much damage.

Use of plastic bags world wide is growing. Each year between 500 - 1 billion plastic bags are used and thrown away. Thats fine if you have systems that are in place to gather them up (well, most of them anyway...I'm sure we've all seen our fair share of plastic bags dancing seductively through our city streets, backyards and favorite state parks). But most non-western countries don't have a system in place to pickup after themselves, much less the ability to recycle them. Many, like India, do not have standardized garbage pickup and thus, people just chuck the plastic onto the ground and that is that.

Is paper better? Not much. According to the American Forest and Paper Association, the U.S. used more than 10 billion paper grocery bags in 1999 requiring more than 14 million trees to be chopped down. Thats just for grocery bags. Factor in the hundreds of thousands daily newspapers, weekly magazines, computer paper and suddenly we've got quite a number of "non-vertical timber."

For a good intro into the background of paper vs. plastic checkout the Institute for Lifecycle Environmental Assesment. Who knew that it takes almost twice the amount of energy to make 1 plastic bag versus 2 paper?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Sheehan Returns

Cindy Sheehan returned to Crawford, TX this afternoon after spending a week caring for her mother who suffered a stroke last week in Los Angeles. Many folks say her presence is vital to keep the emotion behind it all intact. I could not disagree more.

After spending a week there and meeting the other families at Camp Casey it became apparent that there was much more to this than Cindy Sheehan. The media glommed onto Cindy because the media needs a hero, an individual, a person to attach to. What they don't know is that there area heroes all around them whether they be Vietnam Veterans, Iraq War Veterans or any of the other veterans groups that are there simply asking the President for an explanation. What they don' t know is that there are thousands of mothers like Cindy who have lost a son or daughter in this war. And most of America wants an explanation. And no matter how many times the Prez goes around the country throwing Band-Aids on his Iraq war policy, his approval ratings continue to plummet.

So you see, its not about Cindy Sheehan. Its about the truth. Its about integrity. Bush says he knows what these words mean, but he hasn't shown us he knows how to express them.

Niger Food Crisis

Kofi Annan and his wife Nane went to Niger as a show of solidarity with a country that is going through the one of the worst food shortages in over 35 years. Crops were devastated a year ago after drought and locusts provided two knock out blows to the entire Niger harvest. The next harvest is expected to be in late September. Until then nearly 2 million people must survive on aide from outside.

Ok, so whats the holdup? Yesterday, the international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) berated the United Nations for acting too slowly to help stem the desperate need of food and nourishment. Annan called the claim, "unfortunate." Well, I gotta say now is not the time to be playing "he said, she said." Annan then urged other humanitarian organizations to join together to help the starving people of Niger. Seems the U.N. is getting too slow for its own good. Or maybe its just politics.

Regardless, a couple million women and children are waiting on a bite to eat and the most powerful coalition of nations is dragging its feet. It's not like this is a war...these people just need food.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Crawford and Back

So as soon as I had posted the previous story on Cindy Sheehan, I was recruited to head down there and begin establishing an online presence for the quickly forming community that sprung up around her. For the first day I was posting to Joe Trippi's blog and then quickly started Crawford Update. The overall website established for Cindy (Meet With Cindy was receiving over 3 million hits a day for the first 4 days. Traffic has died down a bit now but still the blog gets thousands every day checking out the material being posted. To the left, one of my fave pics from the 40,000 vigils America put on for Cindy last Wednesday.

I had to leave on Wednesday morning to come back home and get plugging away on my work with Rainforest Action Network. It was a week of activism and excitement. Cindy is a pretty amazing woman. She is standing up and demanding answers. Something I wish more people would do. Also see my diary on the Kos for some great personal stories on who all is gathering in Crawford.

UPDATE: My last-minute interview with EchoRadio on Tuesday evening is up now as well.

Take a listen.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Cindy Sheehan Brings the Fight to Crawford

Developing story out of Crawford Texas. Cindy Sheehan, the mother of fallen soldier Casey Sheehan continues to challenge Whore-Hay Bush Jr. only this time she's bravely brought the fight to the President's vacation home. Sitting outside "the ranch" while Whore-Hay enjoys a few weeks off from being the most powerful man in the world, Sheehan is grabbing press attention as her compelling story spreads across news desks around the country. It doesn't get much more American than this. A woman, disagreeing with the President's explanation and justification for the war in Iraq and the needless death of thousands of American GI's, has brought the fight to the President and is peaceably staging a sit-in protest outside his ranch. The Washington Post and LA Times both ran stories on Cindy today. and EchoRadio both have the podcast of a conference call with Sheehan and a corps group of bloggers. Apparently Cindy has been told that she "might get hit by a car" by the Secret Service multiple times which has begun to feel more like a "threat" than a "warning." Let's hope the SS isn't just trying to pressure Cindy to leave Crawford. See the Post's coverage of the call...

Many people and press are on their way down to Crawford to join the sit-in with the goal of getting Cindy into a meeting with President Whore-Hay.

Oil Hits $66 a barrel

Black gold continues to hit record highs...
Refinery strains, concerns over Iran and recent forecasts.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Gambling for Water

Building off the previous post concerning water usage in the southwest, a great article in the BBC this morning chirped yet another warning to the country's fastest growing region: You're drying up. Fast.

As Mark Twain said, "Whiskey is for drinking, and water is fighting." Seems the desert southwest could be the Cesar's Main Event for some heavy blows in the coming years as California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico duke it out. Whats frightening in all of this is the fact that Las Vegas is one of the nation's fastest growing cities (6,000 people per month). But to the typical American tourist it's become commonplace to see 50 foot fountains of water and pools in every backyard amidst one of the world's driest climates. Talk about a man-made faux-paradise. I mean c'mon...its a freakin desert.

LV consumes over 190 gallons of water per person, per day. 30% of that is used outside, watering lawns and other shrubbery that otherwise wouldn't be there. To compare, Los Angeles uses approx. 162 gallons per person per day. New York City, after a 12 year plan to conserve water in the region has shrunk to 155 gallons. Austin, Texas, also dropped from 221 gallons to a respectable 116 gallons after a 15 year focus on water conservation.

I remember flying over Scottsdale, AZ a few years ago and seeing miles of dry brown desert and then all of the sudden, like a line drawn in the sand, neighborhoods of blue swimming pools and green backyards. The bottom line is water is a finite resource and we're treating it like it's infinite. Whats more, water wars between farmers (the ones growing the food for Las Vegas and many other southwest cities) and urbanites have been brewing for decades and are getting close to boiling over. They are vociferously fighting a bill that would bring a $5 billion pipeline from central Nevada directly to LV leaving little, if any, water for agriculture. So whats more important to you? Food or the casino fountains and pools that dot the desert landscape?