Monday, November 19, 2007

Iowa's Dirty Secret

Since moving to Iowa City three months ago, I've taken to jogging once in awhile along the Iowa River. There are some paths through what the city calls "parks" (I'd call it open lawn with baseball fields and a scattering of trees) briefly surrounding a dark and slow moving river.

The Iowa River is a major tributary of the mighty Mississippi. Stretching over 300 miles the river flows southeast from Belmond, IA through the towns of Iowa Falls, Steamboat Rock and down into Iowa City by the University of Iowa campus. There are two dams along the way, the larger of the two in Coralville, just a few miles north of Iowa City, and a smaller lowhead dam along downtown Iowa City.

But while Presidential Campaigns bustle about the state, a river that centuries ago flowed clear and chock full of northern pike, small and large mouth bass, crappie, walleye and flathead catfish, is now close to death. The American Rivers organization has rated the Iowa River as the #3 most endangered river in North America. Why? Because the state EPA fails to enforce the regulations that are known as the Clean Water Act. Not only does it fail to meet EPA standards (which have been regularly downgraded by the Bush administration over the past 7 years)along 40% of its length but there is no sign of action to change it.
Unfortunately, the state of Iowa trails far behind the rest of the country in implementing and enforcing the federal Clean Water Act. Unless the state wants water quality in the Iowa and other rivers to deteriorate even further, Iowa must adequately implement key provisions of the Clean Water Act and provide its Department of Natural Resources sufficient funding to enforce these regulations.

A host of ancient factories up in Cedar Rapids are also blamed for dumping tons of waste into the river. Plus, the millions of tons of agricultural waste dumped into the river every year keeps it dark and green with pollutants and toxins.

There are plenty of small community cleanup projects every year, but these are not the type of cleanup that the Iowa River needs. If Iowa wants to get serious about cleaning up its river it should think not just about what it can pull out of the river, but about what it's dumping into it.

Checkout American Rivers list of other endangered rivers. Is one of your's on the list?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Norman Mailer: 1923 - 2007

We lost a great American character and truly unique individual today. If the cowboy persona of John Wayne could be a writer, it'd be wrapped up in Norman Mailer. Married six times while fathering eight children he was scrappy, outspoken and one of the few American writers who looked more at home at a union hall then a desk. The SF Chronicle has a great writeup of this uniquely brilliant story-teller and writer.

Mailer once stabbed his wife with a pen-knife at a booze-filled party but no charges were ever filed. He loved boxing and bull-riding be it in a bar or in the ring. He sat with Kerouac and Ginsberg but also tore a page out of Hemingway's book assuming the classic American alpha-male characteristics being a rough-and-tumble, no stranger to the party scene fella.

I've pulled together some of my favorite Mailer quotes for your enjoyment too:

"America is a hurricane, and the only people who do not hear the sound are those fortunate if incredibly stupid and smug White Protestants who live in the center, in the serene eye of the big wind. "

"Giving a camera to Diane Arbus is like putting a live grenade in the hands of a child. "

"I don't think life is absurd. I think we are all here for a huge purpose. I think we shrink from the immensity of the purpose we are here for."

"The final purpose of art is to intensify, even, if necessary, to exacerbate, the moral consciousness of people."

"Culture's worth huge, huge risks. Without culture we're all totalitarian beasts."

Hillary and the Lords of Dopetown?

You gotta love former drug-lords coming out for Hillary Clinton.

Former Harlem heroin drug lords Frank Lucas and Nicky Barnes both ruled the boroughs of NYC during the early 1970s, now are back in the spotlight thanks to a pair of biographical feature films. Frank scored big with a Hollywood hit, American Gangster (Denzel Washington is the lead as Frank) and Barnes' documentary Mr. Untouchable isn't too bad either. Both are solidly unique perspectives of two different drug kingpins from Harlem during the late 60's and early '70s. The interview with New York Magazine is big because, well, neither of them have spoken to each other in over 30 years. Naturally, the discussion was colorful.

In the middle of the interview, which at times seems tense in a soft geriatric kind of way, I was shocked to see them both put money down on Hillary Clinton for the '08 Presidential election, even after saying that Giuliani would be the best man for the job. Junkies for Giuliani? Drug Lords for Hillary? Not the kind of shining endorsements two not-exactly-Superfly presidential candidates can afford to really get excited about.

Mark Jacobson(NY Magazine): Rudy Giuliani chased both you guys when he was D.A. What do you think about him running for president?
Nick Barnes: Giuliani would make a good president because he’s a principled guy.
Frank Lucas: When Giuliani tells you something, he means it. But I don’t think we’re ready for an Italian president. I don’t think we’re ready for a black president. I don’t think we’re ready for a woman president, but I tell you right now: I think Hillary Clinton will win this thing hands down.
Nick Barnes: Hillary will be the next president.
Frank Lucas: No question about it.

Um...does Hillary know that she just got the endorsement of two of the most powerful street titans of the 20th century? I'm not whether she should issue a press-release distancing herself from them or hope that they both quietly fade into the sunset.

Checkout the trailer for Mr.Untouchable, the name given to Barnes by the NY Times back during his heyday. I'm thinking Lucas got a much better deal on the film break.

Btw, the Jay-Z's remix of Bobby Bland's "Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City" is incredible. A perfect soundtrack for these characters. I just hope Hillary isn't dumb enough to start playing it at her lame events.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Green Collar Gigs

Hillary Clinton has been utilizing the term "Green Collar Jobs" over the past few months and, not surprising, she didn't come up with it. In fact, she wasn't even the first candidate to start endorsing the term and the revolutionary plan associated with it. Actually, John Edwards was the first to actually layout a full-fledged plan called "Green Collar Economy." But where did this Green Collar Job plan and terms origniate from?

Van Jones has been talking up this plan for over a year and a half now. His organization, The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, has been the megaphone for this and other progressive ideas and strategies to combat the multiple challenges facing our communities and world: poverty, racism, environmental degradation and economics.

His interview with Thomas Friedman in today's NY Times shows just how far his idea for Green Collar jobs is going. Check it out...

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Messenger Clips

Below are two fantastically filmed videos of bike messenger races in NYC and London. I have come to have a great deal of respect for the messenger community after having lived in San Francisco for two years and starting to bike to work myself. There is something very freeing about bobbing and weaving through traffic and running red lights and stop signs.

That being said, no one does it better than these folks. Pretty amazing cuts of their races through parts of London and NYC. Enjoy...

And more of racing from NYC.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Christmas Tree threat?

I'm originally from Vermont and outside of Ben and Jerry's ice cream (fave flavor is still Phish Food), maple syrup (on the decline) and skiing Mad River Glen (best community-owned ski mountain in the east) there are few things I feel make up the heart and soul of this fabulous little republic just south of Montreal. And pine trees are part of this lifeblood that make up a winter in Vermont.

Enter the Sirex Wood Wasp. Hitching a ride on boats from Africa and Europe this little bugger bores holes in two and three-needle pine trees and then lays it's larvae in the tree. This of course does damage to the trees tissue eventually causing it, with enough bored holes and injected larvae, to die a slow death. For the first time every, the Sirex Wood Wasp has been found in Vermont pine forests. While having been found in pine forests throughout New York State, Pennsylvania and Michigan it had not yet been tracked into the Green Mountain State.

Forestry officials will be keeping an eye out for more signs of the wasp in the coming months. It has been controlled, with minimal damage, using biological agents. Hmm...sounds harmless?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Chinese Biking: Oh brother where art thou?

China, the largest and most powerful consumer country in the world, is dying to clear up their air. The combination of leaded gas, millions of new vehicles, and lax air pollution limits has made urban China a veritable death trap - over 600,000 deaths a year are blamed on air pollution (another 400,000 die every year from polluted drinking water). And yes, the pollution does effect the U.S. How the world's top athlete's deal with this pollution in the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games will be enlightening for the world to behold. But thats a problem for another day...

Coal power plants are a major cause of this pollution (well-documented in a three-piece series by the NYT) but the growing use of cars in the world's largest country is having heavy impacts on an already deteriorated air quality.

Yet, it looks like China is working to begin chipping away at this problem, albeit with a very small hammer and chisel. September 22 is China's first "No Car Day" where in more than a 100 cities across the country will ban private vehicles from hitting the blacktop all day. Some cities will ban driving altogether while others will just "encourage" citizens to stay off the roads. To help commuters forgoing their four-wheeled habit get around, there will be an increased number of public transportation options.

I find this whole No Car Day push sadly ironic. Here is a country that 60 years ago had the goal of reaching 1 million bicycles nationwide as part of the government's Five Year Plan. In 1958 they reached that goal and bike lanes became a part of every urban development program. This was almost 30 years before the first state-sanctioned bike lanes appeared in the United States. Now, because of the growth in the economy and the development of a national transportation system that is structured around the vehicle, China is inheriting all the problems that go along with such "progress": air pollution from millions of new vehicles.

Either way you look at it, you have to admire how fast the country has mobilized over 100 cities to commit to this day. I'll readily admit the problems with Chinese communism but their efficiency in things like this is really incredible. When was the last time the U.S. has been able to organize something like this from the White House on down?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Green skyscraper in S.F.

They seem to be the rage now. San Francisco, being full of the smartest, most progressive folk I've ever encountered, is building the world's greenest skyscraper as the centerpiece of the massively huge Transbay Terminal project that will connect SF to LA via high-speed rail trains (like France's TGV but faster and quieter). Think Grand Central Station but 50 times more advanced - and sleek and sexy like something out of a futuristic sci-fi book.

This is one of three designs submitted for consideration. These are my favorite pics from SOM (Skidmore, Owings and Merrill). (Via Inhabitat).

Here are some pics:

Seg-vehicle: running on steaming cow dung

When your name is Dean Kamen, you probably eat really smart cereal in the morning. You probably wear really smart sweaters too. I bet you'd even have a really smart car. Well, maybe not smart, but how about one that doesn't have an internal combustion engine?

Kamen, the inventor of the famously useless but "damn that is cool" Segway, has been focusing all his attention on developing a new kind of green car (something incredibly useful). No, it doesn't run on water. No, it doesn't run on corn, or McDonald's french fries. It runs on heat. With global warming keeping us nice and toasty for the next few millenia we'll have plenty of that to go around.

They're called stirling engines and they're already being put to use in the global south (for those of you still stuck in the '80s and the Cold War that's the "3rd World"). A village in India uses steaming cow dung to power their stirling engine and the entire village. Hot cow dung. Who knew?

The engines actually convert the heat into mechanical energy by compressing and expanding gas inside a small cylinder. The problem here is actually mass producing these little suckers. But Kamen is confident after chatting with green car maker THiNK about putting stirling engines in their electric cars. This move has all sorts of potential for extending the range of electric vehicles by hundreds of miles. And, those cars could run on anything -- even cow dung.

Via EcoGeekand GreenWombat

Friday, August 03, 2007

I Can Has Cheezburger

I've become addicted to this site over the past year after being introduced to it by one Stanley J back in SF. It continues to give me plenty of chuckle but I think only a few people will understand or appreciate its humor. Today's pic gave me a good belly laugh:

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Waiting for that paper trail

How this is still an issue in an state who's history with voting corruption as checkered as your dad's wedding tuxedo from 1975 is beyond me. Why has Diebold not been taken out? Their ATMs don't even work. How the hell do we expect their voting machines to, and why, in God's name would be put the outcome of our most democratic process in their hands? We can host cleaner and more honest elections in other countries than we can here in our own. Pathetic? Yes, absolutely.

Just get a freakin' paper trail. Is it that hard of an ask?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

No End in Sight

I'll be running to the theater to see this documentary. Unlike other films that are critical of the Bush administration's handling of just about anything this decade, "No End in Sight" was directed by a former political science professor -- probably one that knows a fair amount about the world in which we live. The trailer is pretty stunning:

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Baseball and Politics

I have to say that I wasn't surprised to see that the Yankee-Red Sox game tuned in almost twice as many viewers on Sunday night than the Democratic national debate on CNN. When it comes to things that are authentically American, it doesn't get much more
purely nationalistic than baseball and politics. And baseball, it seems, will always win.

Thinking along these terms, imagine what would happen if Election Day were held on the same day as Game 7 of the World Series. I actually think the rise of nationalistic pride might actually increase voter turnout. Well, most likely not, but it'd be an interesting situation to watch unfold. Or, god forbid, you vote from the ballparks!

The fact that the debates were only Democrats in the thick of an early primary race contributed to the low viewership. If it was an open debate that included Republicans as well I imagine the numbers would have been a bit higher. However...
Democrats need not be completely discouraged. Ratings for the debate were up from the previous one in South Carolina and telecast on MSNBC. That one was seen in 1.68 million homes and attracted 2.26 million viewers on April 26.
And of course the post-debate analysis wasn't going to hold up to "The Sopranos" one of the most successful cable shows of our time.

Of course it'd be great if more Americans were tuning into the debates and the political world in general. Afterall, our democracy is rooted on the idea of strong civic participation -- unfortunately, most folks only make time to vote once every four years and watch a few last minute news conferences to make their decision. And, why? Well, because in the end it doesn't really matter to most people. I think the average person doesn't feel the effects of whomever is elected to the White House. In the end, its just another position that doesn't really impact my everyday life.

But is it? It is not just the President you are electing when you vote every four years. You're also electing (via the President's decision) a cabinet full of dedicated people that work in specific sectors of our government, economy and culture. You're also electing everyone that they the end you're adding your voice and opinion to a position that's power trickles down into all of our lives. On the surface it may look meaningless and unconnected to your daily life but it indirectly affects everything we do. And, yes it's what keeps some power in the hands of the people of this country -- that alone is enough to drive me to the polls for even the most local election.

But baseball rules. It is part of our national identity. One of my favorite quotes from George F. Will sums it up nicely:
Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona.
Go Sox.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Beautiful San Francisco - 1971

For those of us who have been in San Francisco and can appreciate the changes over the is a great panorama circa 1971.

More money for crappy coffee

Starbucks announced today that they'll be raising coffee prices again -- this time about 9 cents a cup. The reason is purportedly due to the price hikes in the dairy sector. Apparently milk and cream are no longer so cheap. But, the larger discussion here is about whether Starbucks is starting to tank:
The widely anticipated move marks Starbucks' second price increase in less than a year and comes a month after the coffee shop chain's chief financial officer warned it would be "very challenging" for Starbucks to meet the high end of its 2007 earnings forecast, in part because of rising dairy prices.

Some drinks might have a more dramatic change in price than others but overall it shouldn't be too much of a "shock" to the caffeinated faithful.

As I always do when I hear about anything Starbucks-related, I have to speak to the other Starbucks problem: the beans are burned! People don't really realize it but we're all drinking sweetened ash. What makes Starbucks have its "distinctive" flavor is the fact that they cook the beans all the same way -- that is they burn the hell out of them. People who have been roasting their own coffee beans for years will be the first to tell you this, and if you try making your own coffee from raw beans you'll notice an immediate difference in flavor and taste -- basically, that it tastes fuller.

But the Starbux faithful don't seem to mind -- whether its burned beans or flavored ash it all tastes the same and as long as you're willing to pay way more than the average price (because you THINK you're getting something of extreme value) they'll continue to sell it.

I'm off the 'bucks. Its been 2 years. I couldn't feel better about my coffee experience. Here's to no more "tall, skinny, shot-of-vanilla, no-whip, extra chocolate" fairy-tale drinks.

On a funnier note: i actually went into a Starbucks last year to prove a point: that you could make up your own Starbucks drink on the spot. I asked the barristers for a "coal-fired" mocha. They looked puzzled, even amused. "Haven't heard of it...did you say, 'coal-fired?'" I told them it meant they should throw an extra shot of chocolate in the mocha and add some chocolate "smokestack" sprinkles over the whip cream. "It's big in New York," I said (I was in San Francisco). "Oh, ok man that sounds cool. Yeah, coming right up."

And there you have it: a coal fired mocha was born. Too bad it was mixed in with burned beans.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Still Sweating

I'm down in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where apparently, the climate has moved toward tropical rainforest. It rains 5 out of 7 days at noon for about 15 minutes and then again around 10 o'clock at night for another 5 minutes. The humidity is through the roof (when you feel beads of sweat sliding down your legs after being outside long enough for a popsicle you have to know something ain't right) and when the sun is out everyone heads for the shade only to develop inappropriate sweatlines everywhere you can imagine.

But, the word on the street is that 2007 is on pace to be the second hottest year on since 1860, and its only just getting to be July.

I'm ready for some snow.

Facebook gets useful

One of the things i hate about all the socnet craze is lack of actual real-life utility these communities provide. Don't get me wrong, I love cruising through my friend's (and non-friend's) photos and gawking at whats-her-name who now has kids with whats-his-face, but beyond that the socnets out there are really being under utilized as organizing tools for the dirtworld.

Facebook is aiming to change that. I found (finally) an application that they've put together that may actually provide a community service for all of us Facebook users. It's called CarPool and its one of the better apps that FB has put out there for users to organize offline.

It fits into your profile page on FB and allows your friends to see both the rides you're offering or rides you're desiring in the coming days or weeks. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this app is that it actually shows you your history of Carpool usage -- and then breaks down the amount of CO2 you have saved as a result of sharing rides.

Carpooling is gaining in popularity especially among the younger generation who sees conserving energy as a daily activity. Integrating the idea into a socnet like Facebook is taking it to a new level of online organization. I'm glad Facebook is starting to open up applications that aren't all about, say, a fortune cookie that reads me my daily automated fortune.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Largest Photovoltaic Panel in the World

This is the future. I love when politicians say solar isn't viable. Is it really any less viable than putting a man on the moon? Then building a national system of highways that paved the way for the car industry? If we want to make truly clean energy a reality, we have to have leaders who can envision it with us and then have the ability to carry that desire out with a strong plan.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Jerry Falwell

The Reverend Jerry Falwell passed away yesterday in his office at Liberty Univeristy of heart complications. While it's never a good day when we lose another human being on this earth, I have to say I was ok with losing this one. Falwell was perhaps one of the most outspoken bigots when it came to homosexuality, America's God culture and anyone left of center on the political spectrum.

My good buddy Isaac over at the Voices of American Sexuality Magazine has posted a great list of Falwell's best quotes. My favorite:

“Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions”

Um, last I checked the disciples of Jesus asked plenty of questions. Questions are the beginning of progress. It promotes action and is what comes before change occurs, both in thought and in action. If Falwell really believes that Christians shouldn't ask questions than I have to think that Falwell is against progress.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

All Hail Loyalty

Are you loyal to your country? This seems to be the question our country's draft-dodging, cocaine-using, recovering alcoholic of a president is asking us. On Monday, Congress passed into law a new national holiday: National Loyalty Day. As if I need a day to remind me of my loyalty. Its like having a day to forgive my sins and cash in my good deeds.

The move, surprisingly passing in both houses without much fanfare or discussion, smacks of autocracy and confusion at the White House. But perhaps the ironic piece of this move is that May 1st has traditionally been May Day, a day of May-poles and flowers. It also is a big labor holiday in my dad's hometown of St.Louis, MO as May 1st was the day that summer construction contracts were signed. Unions have always turned out en masse for May Day celebrations and in the past century May Day has also been known as International Worker's Day dedicated to supporting and celebrating the labor movement and the working class.

So, now we add "Loyalty Day" to the list of things to celebrate on May 1. But how the hell do you celebrate loyalty? And isn't it utterly relative? I could celebrate my loyalty to Red Sox Nation by watching the Red Sox tonight. Does that count? Why do we need a useless "holiday" to remind us of our loyalty?

This gets to the root of the problem with a lot of Republican enforced government measures: they're not specific. Their War on Nouns (War on Poverty, War on Drugs, War on Terrorism) has been nothing short of a complete disaster. Their education programs of late (No Child Left Behind) have wavered and collapsed. And now, to add insult to injury, they can't even come up with a decent holiday to add to the national calendar. I guess expecting a timetable and exit strategy around Iraq was out of the question.

In the end, this holiday will have zero impact on our lives. There are millions of holidays that go by without any sort of real acknowledgment. How did you celebrate Labor Day and Memorial Day last year? Most likely, similar to millions of other Americans, you got off work, went to the beach/barbecue/ballgame/picnic of your choice and had a great day off. What sucks about Loyalty Day is that I can't skip out on work. At least they could give me that, for godsakes.

Superfunds near you

In case everyone forgot about how many biohazard sites we have in this country, the Center for Public Integrity gives us a stern visual reminder: they're in our backyard.
CPI has also found that funding and follow through on clean up around Superfund sites has dropped precipitously since 2000 (go figure -- I guess thats what happens when you appoint former industry lobbyists and friends to the EPA).

Among the most egregious companies contributing to Superfund waste sites (and their cover-up at the local level) are General Motors, Alcoa (largest steel manufacturer in the country), Chevron, BP, CBS Inc., General Electric (so much for that Ecomagination bullshit) and Dow Chemical. But the worst offender, the one that contributes the most with ties to Superfund sites all over the country is the Federal Government (read Department of Defense).

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Money in Weed

I don't smoke it but am an advocate of legalizing it. The benefits on society are big (and I don't mean everyone walking around stoned will result in a "calmer" and more "laid back" American culture) and the money (a tax) from it could be tremendous.

Checkout this article from the Prometheus Institutes's blog. It lays out exactly what we could get and then what we could do with over $10 billion in federal funds. Not bad.

There is a lot of history on the public perception of marijuana and how it has come to be looked at so negatively. Politicians who once did it in college poo-poo it, teachers who preach against it in the classroom use occasionally and a culture that fears it spends billions each year on stopping its impact on our lives (the whole War on Drugs is part of that really successful Republican "war on nouns" platform that seems to always end in defeat by obscurity -- "War on Poverty" was a real gem from the Regan-Bush days). Regardless, its time we cast away our old-time assumptions about it, grow up and let it be.

When you can profit $10 billion from it (not to mention the profit from hemp production!) can we really pass it up?

Best Quickie on Military Industrial Complex

Great little 2 minute animation on how we got to where we are and the effects of the military industrial complex. Maybe a bit of a reach in some ways (towards the end anyway) but interesting ideas on how to look at the strategy that the right-wing hawks use and how they view the world.

Dubya Gets Purple Heart

Apparently, some members of this great nation feel that our fair President needs a little boost after all of the "attacks" he's withstood over the past few years. The boost, is a Purple Heart that was given to him by Bill and Georgia Thomas, one of three that Bill earned during his service in Vietnam.

How in the world can a man who was injured three times in the most controversial American war of the last century, give away a symbol of his country's gratitude for his sacrifice to a man who did everything he could to avoid serving his country so that he had an excuse to party and spend money on blow? It boggles the mind.

But then again, there have to be some actual people who makeup the 28% that approve of his job. I guess Bill and Georgia are some of those folks.

The fact that the President actually accepted the gift is shocking as well.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Illegal Timber Harvesting more lucrative than smuggling heroin. It also clears forest areas equal to the state of New York worldwide annually.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Deforestation Diesel

The next time you fill up your little VW Bug with biodiesel you'll be shocked to find out that you could be contributing to the continuing deforestation of the world's rainforests.

How? Palm, a popular species of tree from which the cheapest and easiest forms of biofuels are sourced from, is the world's number one fruit crop, outpacing the once untouchable banana. Oil from these trees has become a fast and cheap way to produce biodiesel. The explosion in the oil palm market has resulted in massive amounts of deforestation in Africa, South America, Indonesia, Malaysia and other south pacific countries, as corporations and big-business start flocking to the oil palm market.

And this is where the irony is: while supporting a more sustainable fuel source for my automobile that will help limit the amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere while I drive, I am also supporting an industry that clear-cuts huge swaths of tropical rainforest further limiting the amount of CO2 absorbed by these forests that play a vital role in slowing and stopping global climate change.

What's interesting about this comparison (that of fighting global climate change by using biodiesel to cut vehicle CO2 emissions or by supporting the forests of tropical regions that absorb massive amounts of CO2)is that it doesn't have to be one or the other. We can do both.

Biodiesel can come from many different oils besides palm, including rapeseed, soybean, hemp, algae, mustard seed, flax seed, sunflower, vegetable oil waste, and canola oil. All of these are able to be made into an efficient and clean-burning biodiesel. So why is there an entire industry being dominated by only one, the palm tree?

Well, because of all the various oils that biodiesel can be made from, oil from palm trees has one of the highest yields besides that of algae and Chinese tallow. This means that from a production standpoint, oil palm is a much more efficient (and therefore lucrative) business to be in.

What must be kept in mind, and in our overall strategy in dealing with emissions, is that there is no silver bullet. The world can't all use one solution because there's too many of us. We need a diversity of solutions. A diversity of crops with which to draw biodiesel from, a diversity of power plants including wind, solar, and geothermal from which we draw power. This diversity is what will sustain the ecological balance we have fallen out of on this planet. Governments can support all types of natural oils and subsidize the ones that cost more or are more difficult to produce. But we simply can't keep thinking that there is one solution that will work for all economies and all environmental challenges that we face as a world.

We have already started converting what was once natural rainforest into monoculture farms for soy, palm oil and other agricultural fast-money crops, much like we did for beef production in the late '80s and '90s (and still do). From a forest ecology standpoint, it brings into question how quickly they are being killed off under the guise of seemingly natural plantations and tree farms.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Gov. of MO is Pro Breast Cancer

The culture wars around abortion are continuing to rage. Planned Parenthood, the decided face of abortion for the conservative right, is about to be starved to death out of Missouri. Governor Matt Blunt announced this weekend that he will be cutting off all funding to the state program and redirect it all to specific health clinics.

Here are a couple red flags: First, fewer than one in ten clients who show up at a PP clinic actually come in for an abortion and less than 30% of the 860 clinics actually provide abortions. Second, the PP clinics in Joplin and Springfield don't offer abortions to clients. However, what they do offer are free breast and cervical cancer screenings as part of a state health program. So why in the hell is Matt Blunt shutting them down?

"Patients should not have to go to an abortion clinic to access life-saving tests," Blunt declared. Refusing to fund cancer screening at the clinics, he said, "ensures women may access important preventative care without contributing to abortion providers' goal of facilitating the destruction of innocent life."

I'll let Finley say the rest:
This is how it goes now. Planned Parenthood clinics lose money to help fight cancer because their parent organization has an image problem: Every time they have to step in to defend abortion rights, it reinforces the impression that that is their main mission. This makes them an easier political target, since overwhelming majorities of Americans favor access to contraception: a Wall Street Journal poll last summer found that 81% of Catholics and 75% of born-again Christians favored providing access to birth control as a way to reduce the need for abortion.

Meanwhile the Governor who cuts the funds himself is slapped for compromising on stem cell research — even though some staunch abortion opponents have more textured feelings about where to put up the guardrails around research. One ABC news poll found that only half of all opponents of legal abortion oppose stem cell research. Blunt may want to think twice about playing the politics of guilt by association.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

No Impact Living...on 5th Avenue

Just when you thought you were taking a stand for the health of our planet by recycling all your recyclable materials, composting all your compost-ables, and buying only organic foods at your local Whole Foods, you find out about Colin Beaven and Michelle Conlin.

Living in a bourgeois 5th avenue apartment is a far cry from a strawbale house in Colorado. But the new face of urban environmentalism has just taken a new turn. The Beaven-Colin family (including 2 year-old Isabella) has committed themselves to a year-long experiment in living a life that leaves no imprint -- or at least one that leaves very little -- one they call No Impact. Since, Mr. Beaven is a non-fiction author he is writing a book chronicling these experiences and has already secured a book deal as well as a documentary filmmaker who will track their every move over the course of the year. Could this be the first ultimate reality-show for No Impact style living?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Al Gore goes to Washington

Al Gore is taking his fight to the U.S. Congress. He's testifying before two committees that he once served on, the House Science and Energy Committees. Here's part of his opening speech. Thanks to Nancy Pelosi's office for posting (I think...who really knows). What's your favorite quote?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Edwards Keeps Impressing

This is amazing. Edwards is really becoming the "green" candidate for '08. Edwards committed to an 80% carbon reduction by 2050, by far the most dedicated and patriotic answer among any of our current politicians. No one has gotten this serious about global climate change.

Nicely done, senator.

Another Coal Mine Accident

This one wasn't in the U.S. but it was much more devastating than anything I've heard before when it comes to coal mine accidents. A methane explosion killed 106 people in a Siberian coal mine and they are currently trying to rescue 4 trapped miners who at 885 feet down.

Do we really need to keep digging this crap out of the earth? I haven't heard of any windfarm engineers or solar panel installers dying from work-related accidents. This mine was relatively new, had a brand new safety system installed was supposed to be a modern marvel for the Russian government.

China just recently closed down 4,000 coal mines because of the threat of accidents like the one in Siberia.

How has the U.S. treated mine safety? The Bush administration ignored warnings from "whistleblowers" about the lack of consistency around safety checks and went a step further by refusing to collect penalties on mines and companies that were not up to snuff. Ken Ward Jr., a reporter for the West Virginia Gazette had a great write-up of administration coal mine policy in the Washington Monthly early on in 2006.

Obviously, if you stop handing out fines for unsafe mining practices, those practices will continue unchecked. But the bigger question that isn't being asked is, do we really need to keep mining the earth for a dirty energy that happens to kill some of our hardest working men and women? There are other ways of obtaining energy for our society and what is so amazing to me is how tightly our world's traditionalists are holding on to a practice that dates back to the middle ages -- burning coal for energy. Its high-time we start actually implementing our knowledge and have a little faith that solar and wind power can meet our energy needs today.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Edwards '08 Goes Carbon Neutral

Along with Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, who has since dropped out of the race, Edwards gets on board the Carbon-neutral train:
Stumping in NC 3/13, Edwards pledged to run a "carbon neutral" campaign. Speaking to a crowd of college students at Bennett College" in Greensboro, NC, Edwards "urged all Americans to help reduce" their emissions. Edwards: "It's time for the president of the United States to ask Americans to be patriotic about something other than war." Edwards "said his campaign will consult with experts to calculate its total carbon emissions -- covering everything from his" travel to the energy used at his HQ. Along with taking a series of steps to improve its energy efficiency, the campaign will buy carbon offsets." Before dropping out of the race, Tom Vilsack also made a carbon neutral pledge. Vilsack "said his campaign would offset its carbon dioxide production" by paying a VT "company that invests in renewable fuels such as wind power. Edwards plans to work with the same company."

This is tremendous news as the amount of carbon a Presidential campaign puts out is incredibly high. The amount of air-travel and driving that campaigns do is enormous and offsetting that will be a fabulous undertaking. My only concern is that they do an effective job of tracking down exactly how their offsets will be implemented. Planting mango trees that die within a year due to lack of care is not an offset. The amount of ways we can all get screwed is amazing. Think about it: you pay someone $50,000 to offset your yearly flight travel. In return they say they'll plant some trees, invest in wind companies and start a bio-diesel company. Only, they don't. The bottom line is, if you're going to go carbon-neutral, realize two things:

  1. Its not really the silver bullet solution to emissions so treat it as a bridge to what's next.
  2. You can get screwed by the hundreds of different "schemes" out there that aren't really doing anything, or are ill-equipped to handle your demands, so don't be afraid to thrown on your investigative hat when hunting for carbon offset companies.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Dodging the Storm

Here's a great clip of the Fedex radar around Memphis, TN during a thunderstorm. It's sped up but shows a ton of Fedex planes trying to land before it hits the city. It kind of resembles an ant colony searching for the entrance back home.

FedEx Planes Dodging Storm - Click Here for more great videos and pictures!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Speaking Truth to Power

Dan Rather addressed the SXSW crowd today in the Hilton Ballroom here in Austin. It was my first time seeing the man in the flesh and he's one of the few TV personalities I've seen who actually look larger in real life than on the tube.

Rather, whose ultimate career at CBS was dealt a deathly blow by the hands of the more conservative wing of the blogging party, had a stern message for the journalism industry: stop the go-along get-along attitude and start speaking truth to power. Rather went on to say that journalism has entered into a perilous state due to the "access game" they continue to play with those in power; information and access in exchange for integrity of reporting.

Rather talked briefly about his days covering the Nixon administration, being stone-walled during the uncovering of the Watergate scandal, Vietnam, and what he learned from all these experiences. "I made a lot of mistakes but I always tried to be the honest broker of news for the people who couldn't be at the White House or in a place like Vietnam."

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes:

"We've lost the sense that patriotic journalists will be the ones asking the tough questions. Speaking truth to power is part of the job. Follow-up tough questions -- this is now a rarity in American journalism. What we need is a spine transplant."

"We should be asking ourselves tougher questions. For instance, do we still believe in asking the hard follow-up questions? Do we still believe that the documents of the Constitution belong to "we the people" and not the people in power? Do we still believe in journalists being investigative? I've always thought it was redundant -- the term "investigative journalist" -- shouldn't all reporters be investigators? Shouldn't they be digging for the truth, the real story? By its nature, investigative journalism will make someone, usually someone in power, uncomfortable. It puts them in conflict with their constituencies which can be difficult for both the reporter and the contact...."

"A watchdog is not an attack dog. An attack dog goes for the kill, targets the throat. A lap dog just wants to hear "Good pup...". A watchdog barks at anything that seems suspicious and raises issue with odd strangers. We have plenty of lapdogs in American journalism. What we need is more watchdogs."

"As corporations buy up and continue to control the mass media market, and its gotten to the point that only 3 or 4 actually do own the news, the news will continue to get smaller. These are corporations that own record companies, millions of billboards, radio stations, newspapers, professional sports teams, etc. News is not their interest and neither should it be."

"Do we still believe in a constitutional republic where the most important thing is to have an informed citizenry that will judge the decisions of our leadership? I think we like to think we do, but we sure don't act like it."

Starbux on Lockdown

This is what happens when you attend a conference full of computer geeks and Warcraft addicts...

Obviously, during certain times of the morning and day these beauties are unlocked for our mass consumption but usually they're on lockdown.

However, there a few people who are adamantly against the coffee mega-retailer but honestly, they're just not enough to make a dent in the amount being slammed down between 8 am and 8 pm. I've seen folks who are on their third cup of 'bucks at 11 am. How they don't end up speeding off into next week I'll never know.

I'm more amazed at how many people in this good life are going everyday from alcohol buzz to caffeine buzz and not really spending much time in between (which I guess normal people call "reality.")

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Ultimate Outsource

Halliburton, VP Dick Cheney's favorite private-sector employer and one he still receives paychecks from, has pulled the ultimate outsource: they're reportedly moving their C.E.O to Dubai, one of seven emirates that makes up the United Arab Emirates. Dubai, receieves an economic benefit not from oil but from the Jebel Ali Free Zone which offers lucrative incentives and tax breaks to corporations.
Halliburton's corporate offices will remain in Houston, Texas but CEO David J. Lesar will move his personal offices to Dubai. There are a number of issues that Halliburton currently faces:

1. Breaking away from its military contracting unit KBR to focus on oil drilling and
2. an investigation by the SEC and Justice Department because of questionable
dealings in Iraq, Nigeria and Kuwait.
3. has agreed to pay billions in an recent asbestos litigation suit.

A spokeswoman for Halliburton said:
Ms. Norcross added, “As companies usually refer to the C.E.O.’s office as the corporate headquarters, that’s what we are doing. Basing the C.E.O. in Dubai to focus on our Eastern Hemisphere growth makes good business sense, as it is the center of our Eastern Hemisphere operations and a global business hub. We will maintain our company’s legal registration in the United States and we are not leaving Houston.”

This move is symbolic but also points to a key shift in the energy epicenters of the world. Now, a major energy firm of North America is moving it's corporate "headquarters" to Dubai, a Middle Eastern economic power house that is fast-becoming a powerplayer in the global energy business. Houston once served as a center of energy deal-making and commerce, but does this move say Dubai has taken over? The younger oil fields of the Middle East trumping the aging fields of North America. Last year, Halliburton reported $2.3 billion in overall revenue, 60% of which was in North America.

The loser in this deal appears to be American business, who once again is having jobs chipped away and sent overseas. The winner looks to be Lesar, Halliburton and of course, Dubai who continues to establish itself as a "regional commercial center rivaling Singapore and Hong Kong."

Saturday, March 10, 2007

World Domination by Collaboration

The last two years of Web 2.0 discussions have been a good foundation for watching it actually unfold. For those of you unaware of Web 2.0 you can read a brief description here.

Many of the panels here at SXSW have to do with organizing communities, managing communities, and dealing with a lot of the hassles that comes along with such an "job." First, a little background. These communities can form around hundreds of thousands of different issues, items or interests. Blogs like dailyKos and Wonkette, who have large consistent followings, are one form these communities take. Second Life is another. Or Facebook and Myspace communities that have since sprung up with thousands of "friends" and supporters.

What's different about these new online communities is that they are increasingly pushing transparency, user empowerment and a strong collaboration with their community members and users. How do you get users?

Jenna Woodul, Co-founder of LiveWorld says that, "its the people stupid."
At the very beginning you HAVE to know your people. If you do establish that rapport with folks when you do hit problems they will step forward to help fix them.

It's also about the conversation you have with your community members. So often, we forget that a relationship is built on a conversation that is goes both ways. You can't simply talk at your members, you have to include them in the conversation and hear their opinions, perspectives and concerns, even if it hurts you to listen. Betsy Aoki of Microsoft (hold your hisses for a moment please) says:
"you can find people who have huge opinions, and they want to share them. They are the ones you want talking to folks, i.e. your customers and supporters. Its not so much incenting people to write, as much as its allowing them and giving them tools to express their ideas, concerns and beliefs around the topic."

By ushering in all perspectives (whether or not they are deemed legitimate or spam is up to the community or the host) the community gains a sense of trust. That's when the community starts to create its own rules or laws which further builds trust and camaraderie. And trust is a key building block to any relationship, online or off.

As the community elects leadership, for instance in the form of a rotating advisory board made up of dedicated community members, the community may also begin to gain power and be legitimatized outside of its niche. For instance, the DailyKos community (who refer to themselves as Kossacks) has emerged as a key power among the liberal left for fundraising progressive candidates running for office. In this way these communities begin chipping away at the power that normally would be held by someone or something else.

Maybe not world domination but collaboration for sure.

Friday, March 09, 2007

SXSW: Re-entry

Our webteam headed off to South by Southwest in Austin, TX this 12:45 a.m. SXSW is a 3-part conference that stretches out for 10 days bringing all sorts of filmmakers, music lovers (this is Austin -- Live Music Captial of the World) and techies together for a clustergasm of creativity and shareware. Stan, Luke and myself are here for the Interactive portion of the conference along with about 2,000 other bloggers, hackers, web-designers and internet gurus. Just this afternoon, upon arrival and sitting in comfy couches while checking email, Bruce Sterling sat next to us. Last year I met with Markos and Jerome Armstrong of DailyKos and MyDD. Needless to say, its a great crowd to be around and talk with.

I'm hoping to continue a conversation with Treehugger founder Graham Hill and see my buds from EchoDitto. I'm also looking forward to Dan Rather's keynote presentation on Monday.

If you're really interested in the types of panel discussions being staged you can see a complete listing here:

Zillion Pillows....or Zillow

Or, more importantly, how much is your friend's house worth? Your boss'? How about that musician you used to stalk? If you have an address Zillow will tell you the relative value of any home in the United States. Created by the two fellows who brought us, its purpose is to "help[ing] you get an edge in real estate by providing you with valuable tools and information." Yeah, like how much the houses on your block are worth, what they are selling for and ones that are currently for sale. Let's just say that it proves to be a much more fun information tool for knowing how the value of Jimbo's home is, than for finding houses for sale in your future dream city.

Zillow combines already known services within the online real estate market, mainly the ability to look for homes that are for sale, advertise your own real estate for sale, and assess the value of your home. However, Zillow adds a few more tools that make it stand out.

It allows owners to create "homepages" that display all the nitty gritty buyers might want to know. Owners can update these pages and continue to post the latest news on the property whether it be additions or major upgrades or fixes. There is also a real estate Wiki which seems to serve as a virtual classifieds for current homes for sale.

All in all Zillow has taken the standard in online real estate tools and expanded them, which seems similar to what did for internet travel.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Voting Like its 1984

Wow. This is a direct hit on Hillary and although its recycled content from an old Mac commercial, its compelling. A vote for Hillary is a vote for the "system." A vote for Barack, is a vote for the people. It also speaks to the "blather" that Hillary tends to speak but rarely really understands or means. The whole "Start a Conversation" campaign is about as real as any other token politician looking to embrace the web's true democracy but failing to check her ego, power and plans at the door.

I don't think she'll ever really get it. She doesn't hear the American public because her own pride is screaming bloody murder.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Romney Back in the Hunt

Its been a tough week for GOP candidates between McCain announcing that he was going to announce his candidacy and Romney stepping quietly away from Ann Coulter's incredibly ridiculous flamethrowing. But now Romney appears to have hit one one out. Via RealClearPolitics:
Almost everything now being written about the 2008 race should be prefaced with "It's still early but..." With that in mind, Mitt Romney, who's had a tough couple of weeks fending off flip-flopping charges, apparently just dazzled the CPAC crowd, according to some conservative folks in attendance.

Nice. McCain only a week ago turned down the opportunity to speak at CPAC and he took two in the gut for it after Romney hit this grandslam.

Racket Grade

This is a tough point. If badminton is always this exciting I'm getting season tickets.

Badminton gets serious


A fabulous little bracket (similar to the NCAA bracketology) showing classic "mondegreens" or misheard lyrics. Haven't we all sung a little lyric from our favorite pop song only to be flagged by friends with, "How do you think that song goes?!" I didn't feel so bad after reading some of these doozies.

Apparently, the biggest and best mondegreen out there is "A piece of Momma Daddy never had." However, my favorite is "All we are saying, is give Jesus pants."

Green Thumb Epic

What is it with British and gardening? The BBC put up a 4-hour video on "How to be a Gardener." I watched the first few minutes and there really is something about a British fellow talking about gardens...but that "something" starts to wear out after about 8 minutes. What you decide to do with the other 3:52 is up to you.

"Before we go any further, I'm afraid we have to talk about sex. They may look pretty and innocent to you, but in reality that is all they're interested in."


Hat tip: kottke

Youtube and '08

Youtube has gone political. By creating a hub of all the video content posted by various candidates and their campaigns, YouChoose has made it that much easier for all of us to see our possible future president in his/her finest/worst moments on the campaign trail. The content is put up by the campaign and you can subscribe to each candidate's channel in case you can't get enough of Obama making us all feel warm inside, or Hillary making us all feel empty and cold inside. If you can't bring yourself to watch either one of them, there is always room for Dennis Kucinich.

I like to see/judge which campaign is using this technolgy the best and for that I have a brief set of criteria that I spit out in no particular order or importance:

1. Experience: how many months or days has this candiate's campaign been posting to Youtube?

2. Quality: are the videos all shot on a Treo camera or is there actually some sign of someone who knows what they're doing.

3. Subscribers: who's committed to watching and how many?

4. Diversity: if you put just the campaign speeches up there I'm gonna unsub in a few weeks. Show me different aspects of the campaign trail -- Mitt Romney eats what everyone morning for breakfast? Or how about whats the last thing each candidate does before hitting the sack after a long day of speaking? Keep it colorful....but not a rainbow.

Based on this criteria I'd say Obama is doing really well. He has by far the most subscribers (2,268 -- the next closest is Edwards with just shy of 1,000), has a ton of quality video footage available and its all different stuff. Some of it is created by the campaign and some of it is created by grassroots activists. Other campaigns just don't seem as committed to getting themselves online in a big way. Even Hillary, who received much press on the fact that she announced via a taped webvideo, only has 400 subscribers.

Granted, Obama is quickly wrapping up the student vote and as we all know this generation of students get everything online. Its not surprising that the candidate with the largest Facebook group in history is also the most-subscribed to Youtube channel of any '08 candidates.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Effects on Rainforests: A History

Apparently, clearing vast swaths of rainforest isn't a new idea.

Salon's "How the World Works" is carrying an intriguing story covered on Rhett Butler's Mongabay that speaks to some of our more hidden assumptions when it comes to rainforest destruction. However, there are numerous responses that can spin off as a result of an article like this so I'll try and parse it without gravitating toward wild conjectures and unqualified statements.

Dolores Piperno of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, found evidence of widespread fire use for land-clearing by pre-Colombian populations in Latin America. This evidence further supports other research that suggests the impact indigenous populations had on tropical forests before European arrival.

Even more interesting is her claim that there is a clearly defined "forest resurgence" upon the arrival of European explorers and conquistadors due to the "terrible decimation" they caused indigenous peoples through disease, warfare and slavery. Piperno goes on to say that had Europeans not arrived on the scene 500 years ago, the forests of Central and South America would bear little resemblance to what we see today making the point that the continued impacts of indigenous populations could have severely altered the forests in ways we will never know.

On first analysis, it's easy to write this off as utter least thats the initial response for me. Could it be that we, one of the most materialistic societies the earth has ever known, are superseded in rainforest destruction only by indigenous populations from centuries ago? That's the initial response. In a different way it's easy to jump to the island of self-justification: "See! I knew our culture wasn't the only one screwing the earth!" Suddenly, I feel as though I can let go of any guilt I may harbor for the depletion of the rainforests, or other ecological wonders, in my time. If we aren't the only ones doing it, who cares? Just as misery loves company, guilt can't stand to be left alone.

Let's dive a little deeper. What does this really mean? To me, it begins with recognizing the potential of our time, the energy of this moment. To write off or ignore this study is to dodge responsibility. To justify our way around it with comparisons to cultures long dead and gone that survived a level or two above hunter-gatherers, is to ignore our progressive history as a human species and to sell ourselves short when it comes to our potential.

It doesn't really matter to me whether or not past cultures, centuries ago, removed more trees than we previously thought. What matters to me is that we have an opportunity to change our own actions, actions we know to be harmful to a necessary ecological resource. We are the culture of now, and we can choose to do something about it, or stand by and become another pillar in history that future civilizations will read about and wonder why we weren't smart enough or organized enough to stop the train of destruction before it was too late. Indeed, Piperno says it best at the close of her research:

"As with the forces associated with 'development' today, these prehistoric advances probably came with negative consequences for the native flora and fauna. Profound human alteration of the tropical landscape with substantial loss of biodiversity is hardly new, but we are the first societies with the wherewithal to do something about it."

On a more basic level this article and Piperno's research does achieve its intended means: to break the scarlet-hued vision of conservationists everywhere who fail to acknowledge the impacts of indigenous people's pasts on the land. The danger of this message, however, is the ease in which we, in an effort to justify our own actions, ignore the much greater impacts of ourselves on this earth. While Piperno enlightens our understanding of the historical indigenous impacts on Central and South American tropical forests, she does not vindicate the current impacts of forest clearing and destruction. If anything, she empowers us to do something about it.

Arthur Schlesinger Dies

He died on Tuesday night. He was 89.

Language of the Future

When I was in high school French or Spainish were the two languages we, as blossoming young linguists, were given to study. If you were really into learning the root of the English lanugage you could also take Latin. But that was for the geeks. Like me.

You thought deciphering the accents of the French language or the rolling 'r's of Spainish were difficult, trying learning an alphabet with 10,000 characters. More and more oftoday's public schools are putting America's young tykes through Mandarin immersion courses. Why now? China's booming economy. Not only is it now the world's most populous country it's also the world's largest potential market of untainted consumers. So, as you can imagine it would help if we spoke their language. Or at least tried.

In California, 41 public and private schools offer Chinese language training. Sentaor Joseph Lieberman co-authored a bill that would bring in a flood of $1.3 billion to augment Chinese classes in school. Parents are lobbying school administrators and local leaders to put a Chinese program in their children's school. Gov't, schools and parents all fighting for the same thing? Now that's new.

Suddenly, all those Chinese language programs, once quiet and gathering dust, are bursting at the seems with interested young 6th graders (or rather, the parents of 6th graders). Asia Society has a program and opportunity webpage as a resource for Chinese teachers to get jobs in American schools. But even that isn't meeting the need. The Chinese American International School (CAIS) here in San Francisco has programs that start as early as kindergarten.

``I think what all of us in the profession are trying to do is dramatically increase the study of Chinese,'' said Andrew Corcoran, head of the school and executive director of the institute. ``The latest figures indicate that only 24,000 students study Chinese in the United States and 200 million Chinese students are studying English. We don't even get a line on the graph, that's how small it is.'
Is it possible that economic explosion that 1 billion people represent is the driving force behind this? Or is it actually a product of the Chinese government's effort to make Chinese the world's #1 language? Regardless, being able to order from my local Chinese restaurant in Mandarin would be sweet.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Olbermann debunks attack on Al Gore's energy use

Once again, conservative think tanks are out to pawn their slightly twisted, laundered, half-truths to the open public. This time the esteemed Tennessee Center for Public Policy got a hold of Al Gore's energy bills. This "non-partisan" group claims Gore is a hypocrite. Too bad they are a part of the American Enterprise Institute which continues to claim the skepticism around global warming (whether global warming is actually happening as well as the challenging the claim that humans play a role), take huge payouts from Big Oil and "cheerleads the war in Iraq."

Gotta love Olbermann's reply. Kudos to Tennesse Center for Public Policy for finding the real facts in this story...idiots.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Obama on 60 Minutes

I was immensely impressed by both Barack and his wife Michelle in their interview with Steve Kroft. By far two of the strongest most eloquent people I've heard run for president in a long time.

Obama's campaign released a new social networking site alongside their campaign website called "My" Its a good start and is definitely the closest to any Web 2.o standard than any other candidate but I think Howard Dean set an unrealistic bar when it came to internet ingenuity for a political campaign. Barack's tech team is certainly nipping at Dean's legacy though.

Monday, February 12, 2007

How much water does it take to make water?

Bottled water is one of the largest beverage industries in the world. Global consumption in 2004 grew to a staggering 41.1 billion gallons, up 6.5% since the previous year. In the U.S. the average American was consuming 25 gallons of bottled water annually. The U.S. market for bottled water has exploded growing by 15% in 2002 and 7.5% in 2004. How much water is that? About 7.357 billion gallons of bottled water.

Why do we drink so much of it? Most people believe that tap water isn't fit to drink because it comes out of a dirty faucet while bottled water has been "cleaned" and is therefore much more fitting to drink. But, hundreds of studies prove this assumption dead wrong. NRDC conducted its own tests and found no reason to believe that tap water is any cleaner than bottled water or vice versa. 22% of the bottled waters they tested contained chemical levels that were above strict state health limits. These chemicals and contaminates are able to avoid detection in standards testing because....well, because there is no standards testing. Bottled water has no international standards or committee that tests various types of water brands.

"Bottled water may be no safer or healthier than tap water, while selling for up to 1,000 times the price," the report said. The reason, according to the environmental group, is an absence of standards regulating bottled water.

Here's some more for your gourd: recently, it was discovered that some brands of water actually consume 7 times as much water to create the bottle than the amount of water the bottle holds itself. Seems a bit inefficient to me. Here's why thats possible.
He starts with the production of the bottle in China, taking the bottle blanks to Fiji, and confirming that it takes more water to make the bottle than it actually holds. He then transports the bottle to the States by ship. Not even including the distribution in the States, the numbers are absolutely staggering.
The world's obsession with bottled water has even started to produce a connoisseur elite that pride themselves on understanding the best that bottled water has to offer similar to those of us who take wine (maybe a bit too) seriously. Maybe, instead of having a wine steward at your next elegant dining experience, you'll have a water steward.

I'm off for a glass of fresh water straight from the exotic side of my bathroom sink.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Open Season on Gray Wolves

We really should question the way in which this country manages it's endangered species. I guess, once you have reached x number of individuals, there's no reason to protect them.

Montana, Wyoming and Idaho will be declaring open season on the soon-not-to-be endangered Gray Wolf. Great Lakes states Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin are considering a similar option specifically for trophy hunting. I don't quite understand why we pick and choose endangered species like some sort of laundry list of animals that could very well disappear. There doesn't seem to be a middle ground in this idea of how to live with animals. Its like as soon as a species is on its last breath, we remove our hands from their throat and allow it to keep breathing again until some other incident or lobbyist (this time the ranchers and farmers lobbies) chooses to start choking the speicies out again.

Where is the middle ground? How can this be an effective, efficient policy? The U.S. Fish and Wildlife, IMHO, is a joke...what they really do is manage land and animals for our use.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Private Solar Funding

Billionaires and other uber-rich can have a huge impact on where our country, and world, is headed. Ted Turner is partnering with New Jersey solar company, Dome-Tech Solar, to bring solar energy to the California markets. Since Gov. Schwarzenegger committed the state to creating over 3,000 megawatts of new solar energy, this market could be substantial.

The question is, how come the gov't can't give substantial sums of money to promote the R&D of solar and wind energy? Well, if we're giving anywhere between $8.6 and $11.3 billion every year in subsidies to big oil, imagine what half of those figures could do for solar power.

How much solar power are we wasting? Alot...

Bush, quietly lifts Alaska drilling ban

Lots of little manuevers going on during this whole Iraq war ordeal. Bush single-handedly laid a below the belt blow to our environment and also helped to continue our dependence on oil as an energy resource.

Nope, he didn't open up ANWR (but you know its on his hit-list) but he did open up the similarly-sized Bristol Bay in Alaska. The fish-rich waters off the coast of our northernmost state was approved by Congress last month as one of its last acts. However, how quickly we forgot that those very waters of Bristol Bay were set aside and protected by the Congress in 1990 and re-opened in 2000 thanks to Alaska Senator Ted Stevens (R) "who argued that the area's oil and natural gas could be developed while still protecting the fisheries."

What are the effects of off-shore oil and gas drilling on fisheries, oceanlife and the water? For the purely academic version go here. For a more layman's explanation, go here. Regardless, should we be worried?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Forest Consciousness

I sat in wonderment for over 2 hours on this website today. Granted its Saturday, so I had some time to waste, but it also speaks to the powerful images and music Forests Forever was able to pull together for an amazing experience into the consciousness of forests. You can visit over 10 different forest systems throughout the world. I highly recommend Waipoua, the Ural's Boreal Forest and the Amazon as your first visits.

Not only is the experience pleasing to the senses but it pleases the brain as well. At the end of each slide show, which is controlled by you the viewer, you can read about why each of these forests are so important to our global ecosystem and learn about their history.

Always a good reminder coming from such an urban setting of how necessary nature is in our lives.

Put the pie down and step back from the dessert table!

Apparently our law enforcement staffs have run out of dangerous people to arrest and apprehend and have turned their focus on to the frightening pie terrorist groups. AMERICAblog caught this story this morning....
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) -- A Canadian lawyer has been awarded more than C$10,000 ($8,550) in damages by a British Columbia court after he was falsely arrested and strip-searched over rumors he planned to throw a pie at the prime minister.

A judge ruled on Wednesday that police had no objective basis to believe that Cameron Ward planned a pie attack when he was arrested in a crowd that was watching then-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien during a visit to Vancouver in August 2002.

"He was too far away and was not in possession of a pie," British Columbia Supreme Court Judge David Tysoe wrote in his ruling, which said that Ward's constitutional rights had been violated.

Nicely done, fellas. I hear cherry is the pie of the month so keep your eyes peeled.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Top 10 Eco-Neighborhoods

Just when you think you're community is the greenest of the green, some magazine has to come and ruin it for you by putting out "America's Best Eco-Neighborhoods" a list of towns and cities that have been chosen as having a particularly vibrant eco-neighborhod -- none of which include your humble, but eco-riffic, abode. I was distraught not to see my home city up on the list, but I guess there is always room for improvement.

Topping the list are Austin, TX and Asheville, NC, both of which have a bit of southern charm mixed in with a tint of green. An oddity about this list is that the cities are displayed in alphabetical order, which makes me wonder if the 1 through 10 listing is completely arbitrary and really what we are looking at are 10 cities that have some eco-strengths in certain pockets but aren't necessarily all that dedicated to sustainable development per se.

I noticed that Andersonville, IL, a suburb of Chicago, is also at a key decision point in their city's development. While many of these cities are presently on the green track or were founded by communities dedicated to improving the environment, the future contains some key questions and answers around where they will go and how they'll get there.

However some cities are also committing to more intensive strageties to deal with water pollution, air pollution, global warming and environmental degradation. The city of Denver has quite a plan to limit its greenhouse gas emissions and a mayor that appears ready to tackle the issue head-on. While Denver has other environmental issues it needs to worry about (like water availability in drought season), dealing with global warming on a local scale is key to solving the issue in a larger context.

If you're city didn't make the top ten, feel free to get involved in your community and see if it appears next year. Needless to say its a good start and highlighting who's doing what helps the rest of us.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

ExxonMobil Fumbles Integrity

In a not-so-shocking release today, the Union of Concerned Scientists stated that big-oil company ExxonMobil spent over $16 million in a coordinated effort to mislead the American public on the science behind global warming and climate change. UCS isn't the first group to make that claim. Back in September, Britain's Royal Society demanded that the oil company halt financial support of groups that purposely misrepresent the science of climate change. ExxonMobil didn't feel that this deserved a response until this:
"the company said in response to the Royal Society that it funded groups which research "significant policy issues and promote informed discussion on issues of direct relevance to the company." It said the groups do not speak for the company.

Notice how ExxonMobil immediately takes the conversation to a selfish perspective; doesn't global warming, a "significant policy issue," effect everyone who lives on the planet earth, and not just "the company?" I'm glad that they believe they're funding a "discussion" around the issue but what they forget is that there is no discussion to be had. The majority of the world's leading individual climatologists and scientists, organizations and government agencies support and defend the fact that human induced levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are causing climage change. What ExxonMobil wishes to do is to bring the issue out of certainty and into uncertainty cloaked in the idea that a community "discussion" (backed by corporate contributions) will give us a better or more honest answer.

Someday, these corporations will have the gaul to take responsibility for their impacts on our world and instead of shying away from leadership, embrace it, and tackle the problem.