Archive for January, 2007


If you must buy a new computer

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

and think hard about whether that’s really the case, but if it is, then consider this AlterNet missive:

…Then again, who talks about environmental policy at an electronics fair? Michael Dell does. A few states away at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas during the second week of January, the head of struggling Dell Computers raised the stakes for the entire PC industry: “I challenge every PC maker to join us in providing free recycling for every customer in every country … all the time — no exceptions,” he said.

[Steve] Jobs and the PR wizards at Apple have done a fantastic job of positioning the company as the technological haven for the hip, the progressive and the revolutionary. But when it comes to the environment, Apple is out of touch.

In December of 2006, Greenpeace released a report ranking the overall environmental policy of major technology companies. Dell was at the top but Apple found itself at the bottom. While top companies like Dell and Nokia have made great strides to eliminate the most toxic chemicals from their products and offer strong recycling programs, Apple has not…

Greg Pahl talks local energy on VPR

Friday, January 26th, 2007

He was on Switchboard last night. Hear the show:

Download MP3
Thurs., Jan. 25 at 7 p.m.: Small-scale alternative energy
Fran Stoddard hosts a Switchboard discussion on small-scale alternative energy. We talk about practical steps individuals, local communities and farms can take to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, and adopt alternative energy sources.

Simran Sethi, getting the word out in a big way

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

Huge congratulations to Simran Sethi, who is now going to be Robert Redford’s right-hand-woman on greening society. Here’s the press release:

Sundance Channel’s THE GREEN(TM) Presented by Robert Redford Launches April 17, 2007

With 13-Part Original Series ‘Big Ideas for a Small Planet’(TM) and Weekly Documentary Premiere

NEW YORK, Jan. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Sundance Channel’s THE GREEN, a new weekly primetime destination focusing on environmental topics, launches April 17, 2007 at 9pm. With THE GREEN, Sundance Channel becomes the first television network in the United States to establish a major, regularly- scheduled programming destination dedicated entirely to the environment.

Consisting of three hours of programming, THE GREEN will present original series and documentary premieres about the earth’s ecology and concepts of “green” living that balance human needs with responsible care for the planet. THE GREEN reflects the current tipping point in public awareness about ecological issues and the trend towards environmentally sustainable approaches to modern living. The destination is designed to be both edifying and entertaining, with an emphasis on information, practical advice and community building. Presented by Robert Redford, the destination is hosted by award- winning journalist Simran Sethi and community advocate and MacArthur Fellow Majora Carter, two dynamic leaders who have distinguished themselves with revolutionary ideas in such areas as civic planning and global business practices.

Leading off each edition of THE GREEN at 9:00pm is the original program “Big Ideas for a Small Planet,” a documentary series presenting the forward- thinking designers, products and processes that are on the leading edge of a new green world. Each episode revolves around a different green theme as it spotlights a specific innovator or innovation that has the potential to transform our everyday lives. The individuals profiled range from scientists to fashion and product designers, entrepreneurs to first-time inventors. The series also features a cast of recurring expert commentators, including activists, scientists, writers, and environmental personalities who provide the big-picture context to each week’s stories. “Big Ideas for a Small Planet” is produced by Scout Productions (“Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” NBC/Bravo and The Fog of War).

Each episode of “Big Ideas for a Small Planet” is paired with a thematically complimentary documentary premiere. For example, the debut episode of “Big Ideas for a Small Planet” explores alternative fuel sources, and is followed by the television premiere of Crude Awakening – The Oil Crash, a look at the past, present and future of the world’s oil reserves.

The initial schedule for THE GREEN is as follows:

APRIL 17

“Big Ideas for a Small Planet: Fuel” – Joel Woolf, alternative-fuel enthusiast and inventor of Veg Powered Systems, drag races his truck with the vegetable oil from a fried-chicken tailgate party, while a one-woman, bio- diesel PR campaign in Prada shoes hooks up clients with diesel cars around the country, and an Indy 500 driver tests his Team Ethanol car at Daytona.A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash – Directed by Basil Gelpke, Ray McCormack. An absorbing, lucid and lively primer on the past, present and future – such as it is – of oil, the non-renewable resource that changed the nature of everything from agriculture to manufacturing to war. The filmmakers illustrate their story in fresh and revealing ways, interweaving a host of expert interviews with archival elements including news footage and sprightly cartoons extolling the wonders of oil. At the heart of the film lies an urgent question: if the first half of the age of oil is now ending, as many believe, what will happen in the second half, when oil supplies dwindle to zero?

APRIL 24

“Big Ideas for a Small Planet: Build” – A visionary architect works with clients building their first “green” home; “green” architecture and amenities are brought to low-income neighborhoods, and a forward-thinking designer with a PhD from MIT demonstrates his real-life tree house made of growing tree trunks grafted together.

Waste = Food – Directed by Rob van Hattum. Van Hattum delivers an exciting introduction to the work of American architect/designer William McDonough and German ecological chemist Michael Braungart, who may well be starting a new industrial revolution. Taking their cue from nature’s conversion of animal waste into plant nutrients and vice versa, McDonough and Braungaut have created a “cradle-to-cradle” protocol in which every product, once discarded, is somehow usable – whether it becomes another product or breaks down into non-toxic “food” for the biosphere or the technosphere. Waste = Food shows their principles at work in a host of guises, from the revamped Ford Motors production facility in Detroit, to a line of recycled (and recyclable) shoes at Nike, to a model village under construction in China.

MAY 1

“Big Ideas for a Small Planet: Cities” – A Portland real estate developer is the pioneering force behind turning a polluted brown field into a flourishing sustainable community; years of research, engineering design, and money will be put to the test when an energy innovator submerges the first two underwater turbines in New York City’s East river; and a band of guerilla gardeners sneak around in the middle of the night to beautify blighted urban plots of unused land with local plants and flowers for the community to enjoy.

Crapshoot: The Gamble with Our Wastes – Directed by Jeff McKay. This Canadian documentary examines the origins and evolution of the sewer, that marvel of engineering that flushes away our daily wastes, out of sight and out of mind. But while the sewers of classical Rome helped define a civilization, today’s sewers carry heavy metals, chemicals, solvents and other materials the Romans could scarcely imagine. Traveling through Canada, Sweden, the United States and India, McKay reveals how these potentially toxic wastes can end up back where they started, above ground, on farms and in the food chain. The film looks at how different communities have responded to mounting evidence of health risks posed by sewer sludge, and interviews the engineers, activists and ordinary citizens who advocate a new approach to waste disposal.

MAY 8

“Big Ideas for a Small Planet: Wear” – Couture designer Linda Loudermilk creates luxurious high-fashion clothes out of eco-friendly fabrics made from sustainable sources including seaweed and bamboo; innovative sportswear manufacturer Patagonia recycles used soda bottles, second quality fabrics and worn out garments into polyester fibers to produce many of its clothes; an innovative clothing designer and entrepreneur convinces people to re-use old clothes in radically new ways.

Art from the Arctic – Directed by David Hinton. From 2003-2005, British artist/filmmaker David Buckland organized three sailing expeditions to the High Arctic as part of his Cape Farewell project, a series of collaborations between artists, educators and scientists designed to create public awareness of global climate change. Hinton’s film captures those expeditions, immersing us in the Arctic’s otherworldly sights, sounds and silences as Buckland and his companions explore the dramatic landscape. Some, like sculptor Antony Gormley, musician/sound artist Max Eastley, and photographer Alex Hartley, begin creating work virtually on the spot; others, like writer Ian McEwan and sculptor Rachel Whiteread, quietly absorb their surroundings and the evidence of climate change not yet knowing how it will fuel their art.

THE GREEN will also present original interstitial series, with individual segments airing throughout the three-hour block. The interstitial series include:

“Eco-Biz”(TM) – CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo hosts these segments exploring financial aspects of environmental innovation in business. Segments will profile individuals who are visionary in strategy and have worked to establish more environmentally sustainable policies, innovative eco-friendly business tactics, and the subsequent impact to the bottom line. NBC News will produce these pieces for Sundance Channel.

“The Ecoists”(TM) – Some of today’s most active and recognizable environmental activists share ideas, information and enthusiasm about their cause of choice. Participating talent includes Robert Kennedy Jr., Paul Newman, Daryl Hannah, Willie Nelson, Laird Hamilton, Gabby Reese, Tim Robbins, and Josh Lucas. “The Ecoists” is produced by Kontent Real.

“Global Focus: The New Environmentalists” – Fast-paced segments hosted by Robert Redford tell the stories of ordinary individuals who are defending the environment and making a difference. The first installments span six continents to tell the stories of six men and women, including: Silas Siakor of the Sustainable Development Institute in Liberia, who risked his life to expose the link between his country’s brutal civil war and the unchecked logging of Liberia’s forests; Olya Melen, a young environmental lawyer who took on the Ukrainian government to halt its potentially catastrophic plans for the Danube River; and Craig E. Williams, a Vietnam veteran and former cabinetmaker in Kentucky who led the fight against a Pentagon program to incinerate stockpiles of chemical weapons stored near residential communities around the country. The “Global Focus: The New Enviromentalists” segments were produced by John Antonelli.

The hosts of THE GREEN are Simran Sethi and Majora Carter. Sethi is an award-winning journalist who heads up the Video and Audio divisions of TreeHugger.com, the largest pure environmental site on the internet. She produced and anchored the news for MTV Asia, co-created the MTV India news division, and developed programming for the BBC through her independent production company SHE TV. Simran also wrote and hosted “Ethical Markets,” the first national program reporting on corporate social responsibility and sustainable business practices that aired on PBS, and is a contributing author of the companion book Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy. Simran began her television career at MTV News in the United States, where she worked on award-winning productions including “Hate Rock,” “Sex in the 90′s” and “Help Not Wanted.” She holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and a BA in Sociology and Women’s Studies from Smith College.

Majora Carter is an award-winning community activist/organizer and life- long resident of the Hunts Point community in the South Bronx. She is the founder and executive director of Sustainable South Bronx, a community organization dedicated to the implementation of sustainable development projects for the South Bronx that are informed by the needs of community and values of environmental justice. She has conceived and raised funds for key community projects including the South Bronx Greenway, a bicycle/pedestrian greenway along the South Bronx River, and the Hunts Point Riverside Park, the first South Bronx waterfront park in 60 years. Carter has received numerous honors for her work, including the 2007 NYU Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award, the 2006 Lewis Rudin Award for Public Service and the 2002 Union Square Award from the Fund for the City of New York. She was named a 2005 Fellow of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Majora is a graduate of PS 48, IS 74, the Bronx High School of Science, Wesleyan University (BA) and New York University (MFA).

Under the creative direction of Robert Redford, Sundance Channel is the television destination for independent-minded viewers seeking something different. Bold, uncompromising and irreverent, Sundance Channel offers audiences a diverse and engaging selection of films, documentaries, and original programs, all unedited and commercial free. Launched in 1996, Sundance Channel is a venture of NBC Universal, Showtime Networks Inc. and Robert Redford. Sundance Channel operates independently of the non-profit Sundance Institute and the Sundance Film Festival, but shares the overall Sundance mission of encouraging artistic freedom of expression. Sundance Channel’s website address is http://www.sundancechannel.com/.

Harding’s brief history of global warming enlightenment

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

Stephen’s got an article in The Guardian tracing the basic–and surprisingly long–history of figuring out climate change.

The long road to enlightenment

Climate change may be a hot topic in 2007, but the debate has been going on for 200 years. Stephan Harding looks back at a life-or-death struggle for understanding

Monday January 8, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

Our understanding of climate change began with intense debates amongst 19th century scientists about whether northern Europe had been covered by ice thousands of years ago. In the 1820s Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier discovered that “greenhouse gasses” trap heat radiated from the Earth’s surface after it has absorbed energy from the sun. In 1859 John Tyndall suggested that ice ages were caused by a decrease in the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide. In 1896 Svente Arrhenius showed that doubling the carbon dioxide content of the air would gradually raise global temperatures by 5-6C – a remarkably prescient result that was virtually ignored by scientists obsessed with explaining the ice ages.

Article continues

Talking about rejecting missions

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

My link to Peter Laufer’s “Letter to a Young Marine” elicited this comment from Pamela

Peter’s letter made sense, and yet, as a mother of two sons in the military (USAF and USN), I am torn between their believing what they do is their “job” and my wanting them to be safe at home. If it is that easy to get out of the military, as Mr. Laurer states in his letter, then perhaps that grassroots movement from within the ranks must begin. In the meantime, my husband, a clinical psychologist in private practice who has returning soldiers and their families as clients, has opened a Deployment Recovery Counseling Center–to help the soldiers deal with the emotional wounds they bring back with them. We are a warring society. Wars have been part of “civilization” since the days of the Old Testament. That doesn’t make it easier any for a wife or a mother whose loved one comes home in a body bag.

To which Peter replied

Dear Pamela,

Your note gives me great hope. And I agree with you that the work against this war comes on many fronts: a civilian peace movement, whatever efforts our elected officials make, an informed media, and — so important — those soliders who say no to the war.

Those serving, such as your sons, are in a unique position to know in detail exactly what is wrong with our nation’s policies. If they say no to war then perhaps we can begin to move into a direction other than one of a warring society.

Meanwhile, the work your husband is doing is, of course, crucial. With a million military men and women cycling through the Iraq War theater, your husband’s practice is, unfortunately, a growth industry. No one is coming out of the Iraq war whole, that million from the military and the rest of us back here on the home front are forever damaged, and we need treatment.

Here’s to the nation waking up and supporting your sons and the rest of the troops by bringing them home now.

Best,

Peter

I thought you might find this interesting.

Too little, too late? Too little, regardless.

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007

I’m on the side of the worryworts when it comes to global warming. I think effective action to reduce the negative effects will require changes in lifestyle for those of us in the large fraction of humanity who rely on lots of energy to get stuff done. So, always on the lookout for like-minded folks, I thought this review of George Monbiot’s Heat in AlterNet was worthwhile reading.

What Al Gore Hasn’t Told You About Global Warming
By David Morris, AlterNet
Posted on January 9, 2007, Printed on January 9, 2007

http://www.alternet.org/story/46318/

Al Gore is our generation’s Paul Revere. Riding hard through the country, he warns us of the impending arrival of climatic disaster. He’s proven an astonishingly effective messenger. An Inconvenient Truth may receive an Oscar for Best Documentary. Overflow crowds greet his presentations with standing ovations.

Which, come to think of it, is odd. When has someone ever delivered such an ominous message to such tumultuous applause? (Aside from those who insist we are in the end times and the rapture is near.)

In a recent speech to a standing-room-only audience at the New York University School of Law, Gore declared, “We are moving closer to several ‘tipping points’ that could — within as little as 10 years — make it impossible for us to avoid irretrievable damage to the planet’s habitability for human civilization.” The audience cheered wildly. Presumably audiences are not cheered by the prospect of imminent catastrophe. So what is going on here?

British journalist George Monbiot, author of Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning (Doubleday, 2006) has a theory.

“We wish our governments to pretend to act,” he writes. “We get the moral satisfaction of saying what we know to be right, without the discomfort of doing it. My fear is that the political parties in most rich nations have already recognized this. They know that we want tough targets, but that we also want those targets to be missed. They know that we will grumble about their failure to curb climate change, but that we will not take to the streets. They know that nobody ever rioted for austerity.”

Austerity? Hold on. Al Gore and the rest of the U.S. environmental movement never utter the word “austerity.” Their word of choice is “opportunity.” The prospect of global warming, they maintain, can serve as a much-needed catalyst to spur us to action. A large dose of political will may be required, but we need not anticipate economic pain. We can stop global warming in its tracks, expand our economy and improve our quality of life. We can, in other words, do good and do quite well. A leading environmentalist, for whom I have a great deal of admiration, summed up his position to an interviewer, “I can’t stand it when people say, ‘Taking action on climate change is going to be extremely difficult.’”

And there’s the rub, as dear Hamlet would say. By claiming we can solve the problem of climate change painlessly, environmentalists confuse us. They offer stark and rigorous presentations terrifying us about the near-term, dire consequences of global warming. And then they offer generalized, almost blithe assurances about how we can avoid these dire consequences without great sacrifice. We are horrified and soothed at the same time. It’s a dangerous strategy. Many who focus on the catastrophic present-day images of An Inconvenient Truth believe we have gone beyond the point of no return, which leads to cynicism and passivity. Those who are spurred to action believe that buying a hybrid car or taking an eco-vacation will address the problem.

[cont'd]

This might be a good time to mention Greg Pahl’s soon-to-be-released book on localizing and renewable-izing energy supplies, The Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook.

Rejecting missions gets personal

Friday, January 5th, 2007

Peter Laufer always took the issue of soldiers refusing bad orders to heart. Now a close friend of his son’s, the son of his own close friend, a Marine he’s known since the soldier was a 2-week old squirt, is being ordered deployed to Iraq. Fubar, as they say. What advice can you give someone in a position like this? How much can you expect from someone? With difficulty, Peter’s written his friend an open letter.

It’s the lard that makes it good

Friday, January 5th, 2007

Isn’t that supposed to be true? Like the best pie crusts being so good because they’re made with lard? And the best refried beans? I say it all the time, though to be honest I’ve almost never had anything made with lard. I don’t really go for pie as a rule, and I find vegetarian refried beans totally satisfying (I’ve been known to eat a can of refritos for lunch, just me, the can, a spoon, and that’s it).

Still, something about lard speaks to me. Maybe cuz it’s like the forbidden fruit or something. Anyhow, I noticed a link on 802 Online to a blog post by Jericho Settler’s Farm on making lard, and I just had to share.

50 million acres

Friday, January 5th, 2007

That’s how much land in the U.S. is in the form of lawns. Lots of it gets treated like dirt, so to speak, drenched in pesticides and other assorted crud. But this just in: SafeLawns.org has a series of videos that show how to maintain a healthy lawn organically.

Paul Gipe is changing the world

Friday, January 5th, 2007

Worldchanging interviews Paul “Mr. Wind Power” Gipe.


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