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

...is 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.