Saturday, June 27, 2009

Rock Snot

Photo via PopSci

Didymosphenia geminata (Didymo for short) is a single-celled alga that grows at an alarming rate. As it grows, it kills fish; threatens rivers and streams; sprouts tendrils; and, ends up looking like an environmental nightmare (which it is!).

Fishermen and biologists around the world have nicknamed this algae “rock snot”. Disgusting name for a disgusting alga.

Didymo was first confirmed in New York two years ago, according to the NY Times, but it's already made its way to some crucial streams and waterways. Unfortunately, this alga is very robust and easily transportable. All it takes is one cell on a fisherman’s waders to pollute an entire stream. Didymo seems to travel extremely well on the felt-soled waders that are so popular with fishermen everywhere. Fishermen are being encouraged to switch to rubber-soled waders and to clean their waders with bleach after every fishing expedition or stream change. Boaters are being requested to keep their hulls as clean as possible so Didymo cells don’t hitch a ride. In a warm damp environment, cells can live for 90 days!

Treehugger says this about the 2004 Didymo invasion in New Zealand:
Since being found there, it has spread to more than 120 rivers and streams on South Island. Blooms there have severely reduced fish populations and turned wild streams into sludge pits. Scientists believe that a fisherman from North America who packed his damp waders in a bag might have flown to a remote stream in New Zealand with the tenacious Didymo piggybacking on his boots. Once back in water, it made itself at home.

Now it’s a mere 180 miles from New York City. If the city cannot stop it, it is capable of doing more damage than just decimating fish populations. It is capable of clogging water intakes and pipes with the potential to meddle with plumbing and water transportation.

The stuff is such a menace that if you knowingly transport Didymo in New Zealand, you could face up to 5 years in prison.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has labeled Didymo an invasive species. Similar to most invasive algae, Didymo has the potential to bloom in thick masses and fully blanket the bottoms of streams — threatening the ability of other aquatic species to survive by smothering all possible food sources.

According to biologists who've studied it, there are no easy ways to eliminate it: the only solution is hindering its spread. This will be no easy task considering a single cell is enough to eventually choke out an entire river and the cells can live up to 90 days out of their original environment.

Of great concern to scientists also is the fact that Didymo was once a rare species; but, its numbers have grown exponentially over the last few decades. Traditionally a resident of high-altitude, low-nutrient rivers, the algae has now become ubiquitous in rivers in Missouri and Arkansas, leading many to wonder what factors have helped spark its spread. Some suspect drought, dammed rivers and changes in sunlight may play a significant role.

The following information and video has been taken from YouTube.com in its entirety:
In autumn 2006 ASF (Atlantic Salmon Federation) researchers discovered another risk for salmon rivers - the diatom Didymosphenia that creates a thick oxygen-reducing mat on the floors of streams. There is still no evidence whether or not it jeopardizes the nests and later growth of juvenile Atlantic salmon in the river. By 2009 there was "cautiously" less concern, and more of a "wait-and-see" approach - monitoring its presence and impact. But it has not, to date, overwhelmed any of our Atlantic salmon rivers.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Asian Elephants of the Kerala Rainforest


John Seed, founder of the Rainforest Information Centre, makes an appeal for the largest population of Asian Elephants whose survival in the wild is in trouble. The elephants face two separate threats in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu in India.

The video John made contains breathtaking elephant footage that shows just what the world stands to lose if this crucial corridor between Indian states is made inaccessible to the elephants.



For those who need the assist to view: click here to view.

John would like anyone who is interested in helping the elephants to take 30 secs. to sign the petition at: http://forests.org/shared/alerts/send . He also requests that you share this video through your blog, website, a link, word of mouth, or any means you have.

John Seed's website: The Rainforest Information Centre
Shekar Dattatri's website: click here. He took the amazing elephant footage.
The film is directed/edited by Ruth Rosenhek with Fx by Neil Pike.

The Odd Blog (I warned you about)


BD Tyagi from Bhopal, India, the old record holder. Photo courtesy CBBC Newsround.

BD Tyagi originally held the Guiness Book of World Records for the longest ear hair with ear hair measuring 10.2 cm (4.015 in). BD used to be a head teacher at a school, where all the pupils and staff called him 'the ear-haired teacher'. That record has now been broken by the man in the picture below.

Anthony Victor, the new record holder. Photo courtesy CBBC Newsround.

Antony Victor from India officially has the world's longest ear hair - it measures 11.5cm (4.527 in). His achievement has been confirmed by the Guinness Book of Records, and these are the first pictures of his incredibly hairy ears.

You'd think that this record would be safe for awhile; but, wait... there is a third challenger waiting in the wings for his turn to display his ear hair to the world.

A third man, Narayan Prasad Pal, also from India, is claiming his hair measures a whopping 13 cm (5.118). This has yet to be confirmed by the Guinness Book of Records.

I have to wonder if there is anything Guiness Book of World Records will not accept in the way of a "record". There are just some things that should not be measured.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Geritol Solution (final)


So, what are these "loose ends" that need tying up. The information in the past two blogs raises questions for me that cannot be answered until the oceans are seeded and the data collected and analyzed. By this time, if something has gone wrong, it may be too late to reverse. Worse yet, we may not have enough time left to allow Mother Nature to reverse the damage we will have done to her.

The concerns/questions this leaves me with are:

We are seeding the oceans with additional iron to force unseasonal algal blooms in the hopes that the phytoplankton will take the CO2 they have taken from the atmosphere, turn it into organic material, and take it to the sea bottom as they die.

1. What if the phytoplankton does not manage to take the organic material to the ocean floor; but, instead is eaten before it has a chance to sink? What are the ramifications of this scenario?

2. Will additional phytoplankton, food for many levels of the aquatic food chain, cause an imbalance in fish species? Will one or two species thrive on the additional, out-of-season food windfall to the detriment of other species? What new problems will this cause?

3. Since the plankton blooms will be out-of-season, will they become HABs (harmful algal blooms)? Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) can occur when certain types of microscopic algae grow quickly in water, forming visible patches that may harm the health of the environment, plants, or animals.

4. Many fish species feed with the first couple ocean layers; and, could be in danger of ingesting some of this iron dust in their normal feeding habits. What health problems could be brought on by overingestion of iron dust?

5. If alot of the organic matter makes it to the ocean bed to decompose, could this excess of organic matter eventually smothering the ocean floor it lays on causing an oxygen-deprived zone on the seabed? What effect would this have on bottom-dwelling ocean life? What about decomposition of dead marine species who depend on bottom-dwellers, such as hag fish, to help the process along?

6. Will areas of forced algal bloom cause oxygen-depletion in surrounding waters while the bloom is active? Could this change fish migration and/or movement?

7. Will the additional seeded iron and the algal blooms it can cause, cause a depletion in other minerals, etc. needed for a healthy aquatic environment? If so, what will we do then?

I think there comes a times when you stop tinkering with Mother Nature and let her get on with her job!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Geritol Solution (con't)


The following video shows how even crystal-clear water systems can become clogged with algal blooms when too many nutrients enter the water system. Is this a foreshadowing of what will happen if we seed the oceans? Unfortunately, we will have to “do the deed” to get the results; and, there may be no way back from the brink this time.

Link for those unable to view (K): click here

This second video has amazing photography and should be viewed for that reason alone. It discusses just one of the many phenomena that overfishing and global warming are causing in the oceans. It is relevant because one of the mixes that causes algal blooms is overfishing and global warming.

Link for those unable to view (K): click here

This is my second concern:

The "iron hypothesis" was first suggested by John Martin, a much-revered oceanographer at the Moss Landing Marine Laboratory in California, who died before his idea could be properly tested.

In the 1990s scientists established they could produce unnatural algal blooms by adding iron dust to the waters; and, they would be able to force blooms when they normally would not occur. This, along with the fact that the iron hypothesis had been promoted by such a revered scientist as John Martin, convinced some scientists that by stimulating plankton growth they could draw more CO2 from the atmosphere. This CO2 might be sequestered in the ocean depths for many centuries when the organic matter formed by photosynthesis sinks to the ocean floor.

However, it was important for the phytoplankton (who eat the algae) to sink quickly to about 300 metres, beyond the range of the zooplankton (who eat the phytoplankton.

Martin’s idea was given a few small-scale tests; but, it was found that zooplankton multiplied as quickly as the phytoplankton. The result was the animals quickly ate the organic material formed with the iron was added. Instead of the carbon sequestering by the phytoplankton sinking to the ocean floor, it was emitted into the sea and back into the air by the feeding of the zooplankton. Despite this, the scientific community is still considering this one of the forerunners in the fight against global warming.

Fortunately for all concerned, Planktos, has failed to get enough funding to go forward with planned tests. Grist.org reports the Planktos website (which I failed to find) as posting this: "A highly effective disinformation campaign waged by anti-offset crusaders has provoked widespread opposition to plankton restoration in the environmental world."

Unfortunately for all concerned, there are other unscrupulous companies ready to take Planktos' place in the big-money game of carbon offsets.

I find it interesting that the self-proclaimed eco-restoration company is in the process of changing its name to Lobo Resources and going into the gold mining business.

Many scientists are coming out against seeding the oceans. Chris Field, of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology, says that the absorption of increasing amounts of carbon dioxide is the main cause of ocean acidification. "It may be possible to store excess carbon in the ocean, but you'll be acidifying the ocean when you do it, and causing a dramatic change in the the ocean's ecology, with no known effects."

Ken Caldeira, also of the Carnegie Institution, says "there's no practical way to verify" that ocean seeding would sequester any additional carbon. "It's far-fetched to claim you help ocean ecosystems by disturbing them," he said. Caldeira was co-author of a portion of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that dealt with ocean-carbon capture.

In “Global Iron Connections Between Desert Dust, Ocean Biogeochemistry and Climate,” the authors – one of them Robert Duce, Distinguished Professsor of Oceanography and Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University – conclude that dust, especially the iron in the dust, could have a global impact on the Earth far greater than anyone has believed. Robert Duce stated:
“So there are some very big questions to be asked. If global warming is occurring as widely believed, what effect does this dust and its iron have on global warming? Would increasing the amounts of atmospheric dust cause the climate to cool because the dust would scatter more of the sun’s energy back into space? How does this iron-dust specifically affect marine productivity, and could changes in this productivity affect climate by taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to fuel the growth of marine plants?

“We clearly need more research on this problem,” Duce adds. “This does not affect just one part of the Earth – it affects the entire Earth systems – land, atmosphere andn ocean. If this dust is changing significant atmospheric and marine life processes, we need to know about it. We definitely need a better understanding of the iron-dust cycle to find out what the long-range impacts could be for all of us.”

Next blog, I'll tie up the loose ends on this topic.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Geritol Solution

Photo courtesy of Manicore.

My loyal reader and friend, K, has given me a challenge - do a couple blogs on the methods being considered to make the ocean a more effective carbon sink.

What is a carbon sink? Wikipedia says this:
A carbon sink is a natural or manmade reservoir that accumulates and stores some carbon-containing chemical compound for an indefinite period.

The main natural sinks are:
• Absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans
• Photosynthesis by plants and algae

The main manmade sinks are:
• Landfills
• Carbon capture and storage proposals

The process by which carbon sinks remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is known as CO2 sequestration or carbon sequestration. Public awareness of the significance of CO2 sinks has grown since passage of the Kyoto Protocol, which promotes their use as a form of carbon offset.


Algae is very effective at storing carbon dioxide; so, scientists feel that seeding the ocean with iron dust to encourage algal growth will cause the oceans to hold more carbon. While algae do remove carbon from the atmosphere; and, the more algae blooms, the more carbon is captured – there is much more to this story than meets the eye!

My first concern is the location they have chosen to seed. Planktos (an eco-restoration organization with long-standing financial woes) couldn’t have chosen a more environmentally-sensitive environment in which to begin this test project if they had tried. In my mind, the location they chose – the Galapagos Islands – is enough to brand them eco-terrorists not eco-restorationists. After the Galapagos, the research ship and its potential crew of 17 (including eight scientists) plan to sail to the relatively pristine waters of Tahiti, the coast of South America and the South Pacific to do a little seeding there also.

This procedure is untested and should something go wrong, it affects an area of our world that is home to land and marine species that can be found nowhere else on earth. Should anything happen to them or their habitat, there is no way to save them. There are no species elsewhere that we can transplant to the Galapagos nor is there anywhere on earth to which we could introduce any remaining individuals. The Galapagos has no comparable environment anywhere.

Planktos is heralding the research ship Waterbird II as going on a “voyage of recovery” to “seed” the oceans with the iron in the hope of stimulating blooms of phytoplankton.

The organizers are hoping to prove the critical role that plankton plays in maintaining the carbon dioxide balance between the oceans and the atmosphere. Plankton are the microscopic marine plants that soak up sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into organic matter.

Photo of algal bloom (green areas) in Lake Titicaca in South America. Nasa photo courtesy of CNET.com

Scientists have long postulated that it may be possible to speed up the rate at which the oceans soak up atmospheric CO2 by stimulating the growth of plankton in the oceans with added iron - an essential nutrient for photosynthesis.

Noel Brown, a former director of the United Nations Environment Programme, said, "I cannot overstate the importance of these Planktos pilot projects. If their applied science works as well as the early research indicates, this work will both help restore the neglected oceans and give everyone concerned about global warming truly meaningful hope."

Normally plankton forms vast blooms at certain times of the year that can be seen from space. These blooms only occur when all conditions are right with many scientists believing that the vital factor for a bloom to develop is iron.

A phytoplankton bloom in the Southern Ocean, captured during a break in the clouds by an orbiting NASA satellite.

Zooplankton growth patterns and ocean mixing attributable to winter storms are major factors in the biological carbon pump. Zooplankton range in size from microorganisms to large jellyfish, and include abundant, shrimplike krill, pictured here.

This topic is huge; and, my next blog will deal with other major concerns regarding "The Geritol Solution". Seeding with iron dust was first called "The Iron Hypothesis"; but, was renamed "The Geritol Solution" after an iron-rich tonic for more mature persons promising to stimulate their cells and increase their energy.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Mad Fish Disease?

Photo courtesy of Vegetarian Organic Blog.

Robert P. Friedland, neurologist from the University of Louisville, has released a scientific paper warning that farmed fish could be at risk of contracting Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) – commonly known as mad cow disease.

In yet another boundary-blurring move, farmed fish are fed cow byproducts – a food source they never have access to in their natural environment.

Friedland and his co-authors raise the issue/ethics of feeding cow bone or meat to farmed fish in an article for the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. They call on food regulatory agencies to ban feeding of any cow byproducts to farmed fish until it is determined whether this practice is safe.

“We have not proven that it’s possible for fish to transmit the disease to humans. Still, we believe that out of reasonable caution for public health, the practice of feeding rendered cows to fish should be prohibited,” Friedland said. “Fish do very well in the seas without eating cows.”

Mad cow disease is a fatal disease that can be contracted by eating parts of a cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). After an outbreak in Britain due to infected beef, 163 people died.

About.com says this about Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease:
Since Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease affects the brain, the symptoms it produces are neurological. It may start out subtly with insomnia, depression, confusion, personality and behavioral changes, and problems with memory, coordination, and sight. As it progresses, the person rapidly develops dementia and involuntary, irregular jerking movements called myoclonus.

In the final stage of the disease, the patient loses all mental and physical functions, lapses into a coma, and eventually dies. The course of the disease usually takes one year. The disease generally affects people between the ages of 50 to 75 years. Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is called "variant" because it has affected people at a younger age, even teenagers (the ages have ranged from 18 to 53 years old).

“The fact that no cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease have been linked to eating farmed fish does not assure that feeding rendered cow parts to fish is safe,” warns Friedland. “The incubation period of these diseases may last for decades, which makes the association between feeding practices and infection difficult. Enhanced safeguards need to be put in place to protect the public.”

If the threat of getting mad cow disease from your seafood isn’t enough to put you off farmed fish, think about this. Farmed fish are also fed significant, regular amounts of antibiotics to keep them disease- and parasite free and have a tendency to be contaminated with mercury.

For My Canadian and American Friends


Are you an animal lover? Petcetera is going out of business in Canada and the US. They are selling their stock of pet supplies at a discount; so, now might be a good time to stock up. If you are looking for a pet, consider adopting a cat from them. When they close, any unadopted cats will be turned over to the SPCA.

The World's First Raw Vegetable Institute

Photo courtesy Treehugger.

The raw food movement is a hot topic right now with many believing that raw foodists are only slightly less nutty than those claiming to be alien abductees.

However, in our increasingly health-conscious society, the benefits of raw food are becoming more and more apparent. Now, not everyone wants to give up all their cooked foods; but, it has been determined that a diet of 70% - 80% raw food will give you boundless energy and effortless weight loss. (Works for me!!)

There are three rules that must be adhered to in order for this to work:

1. Understand food combinations. Mix veggies with anything; but, keep starches (carbohydrates) and proteins separate from one another. In other words, do not eat proteins and carbohydrates in the same meal. Oil, butter, etc. may be eaten with your protein/veggie meal as desired; but, do NOT eat oils, butter, etc. with your carbohydrate/veggie meal.

2. Be careful with fruit. Most people think that eating fruit along with their main meal is a good way to stay healthy; but, it has been discovered that when fruit is digested along with other foods it causes fermentation. Fruit should always be eaten on an empty stomach (½ hours before meals or 1 ½ hours after meals.) Always eat fruit alone – never in combination with anything else.

3. Drink fresh vegetable juice at least once a day. Fresh vegetable juice delivers the enzymes, minerals and all the nutrition of the vegetable straight into the bloodstream. It detoxifies the blood and cleanses the body without activating the digestive system.

Now an innovative cafe, culinary institute and shop in Oklahoma City is aiming to win over raw-food doubters by putting raw, or living, foods at the center of our culinary consciousness.

From the look and feel of its website, 105degrees raw food cafe and culinary center is attempting to change the unfavourable image raw-food diets have been burdened with for so long:
We intend to bring raw food cuisine to the mainstream, enhancing the health, level of dining, and career opportunities available in our local and worldwide community. The 105degrees Academy will draw students from around the globe, seeking to enter the fast-growing field of health-supportive culinary arts. We are currently accepting enrollment in our chef certification courses.

At 105degrees, we are committed to helping the environment. In a setting specifically built from the ground up with sustainability and the preparation of raw cuisine in mind, it will provide a warm and modern environment, ideal for the innovative menu created by Chef Matthew. In addition to building "green", we have worked aggressively to build relationships with local, organic growers of the fresh ingredients that comprise our cuisine. The fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes, will be locally and organically grown, whenever possible. Protecting the environment has been at the top of our list, in selecting everything from staff uniforms, to cleaning agents, to shop inventory.

Give the website a visit – I’m ready to take my next vacation in Oklahoma City and stay in a hotel very close to 105degrees raw food and culinary center. Looks yummy!!

I'm going to try the 30-day raw food diet and see how I get on. I'll let you know the results.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

High School Student Discovers Plastic-Eating Microbe

Photo courtesy of Treehugger.

Wouldn’t it be an environmental dream come true if plastic bags could be composted just like organic waste can be? Worldwide we produce 500 billion (500,000,000,000) plastic bags annually knowing they can take up to 1,000 years to decompose.

We all know how they take up space in landfills; litter streets and parks; pollute the ocean and kill the animals that eat them.

Photo of Daniel Burd courtesy of Mother Nature Network (MNN).

Burd, 16, a Grade 11 student at Waterloo Collegiate Institute drew on an everyday frustration for the inspiration.

"Almost every week I have to do chores and when I open the closet door, I have this avalanche of plastic bags falling on top of me," he said. "One day, I got tired of it and I wanted to know what other people are doing with these plastic bags."

Realizing that very little existed out there for the recycling and decomposition of plastic bags, he decided to take matters into his own hands. Remember, this is one very smart 16 year-old.

Daniel knew that while it could take 1,000 years, plastic does eventually degrade; so, he decided that microorganisms must be the reason. He decided to isolate these microorganisms capable of breaking down plastic to see if the process could be speeded up.

Daniel's plan was to immerse ground plastic in a yeast solution that encourages microbial growth; and, then isolating the most productive organisms.

Encouraged by the results of the preliminary tests, he kept selecting out the most effect strains of microbe and interbreeding them. After several weeks of selective manipulation, Daniel achieved a 43% degradation of plastic in six weeks. This was an unbelievable accomplishment. Daniel had managed to do what scientists had not been able to do.

The processing of plastics by these methods would have to be contained in highly-controlled environments. We are not talking about a magic bullet that will allow us to continue making and using plastic with total abandon. However, this is still a major scientific breakthrough with applications that can be used now and in the future.

The two strains of bacteria Daniel identified as working together to accomplish this were Sphingomonas (serving as the primary decomposer) with help from Pseudomonas.
Daniel states that industrial application should be easy, "All you need is a fermenter . . . your growth medium, your microbes and your plastic bags."

He continues, "This is a huge, huge step forward . . . We're using nature to solve a man-made problem."

This potentially world-changing idea snagged Daniel first place in the Canadian Science Fair in Waterloo, ON, Canada. He also received a long list of awards, including a $10,000 prize, a $20,000 scholarship, and recognition that he has found a practical way to help the environment.

"Dan is definitely a talented student all around and is poised to be a leading scientist in our community," said Menhennet, who led the school's science fair team.

Daniel Burd is hoping that his idea will be used to help solve the world’s plastics problem.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Link for Paper Water Bottle


For anyone like Kathi who cannot see the video for the paper water bottle, here is the link that Kathi asked for. There's an ad first.

Paper water bottles

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Water Bottles Made From Paper?


This young man has invented a water bottle constructed of paper. Take a look!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

World Bank Does The Right Thing!

State of Mato Grosso and cattle ranching. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

Being the cynical woman that I am, I always expect people; and, especially big corporations to stand on the side of money. I am delighted to say that one major corporation has taken a stand on the side of the environment.

The World Bank’ private lending arm has withdrawn a $90 million loan to Brazilian cattle giant Bertin after a report linked Bertin to illegal deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. (There are two small flags on the upper right corner of the Bertin homepage - one will change the language to English.)

The loan was initially granted by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in March 2007. It was primarily to expand Bertin’s meat-processing in the Brazilian Amazon; but, was promoted as a way to promote environmentally-responsible beef production in the Amazon. Environmental groups – including Friends of the Earth-Brazil and Greenpeace – criticized the move.

Two weeks ago Greenpeace released it’s exposé of the Brazilian cattle industry. The report, aptly named Slaughtering the Amazon, linked many prominent brands to illegal deforestation in the Amazon in the name of cattle production. Earlier this week Brazil's three largest supermarket chains, Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Pão de Açúcar, said they will suspend contracts with suppliers found to be involved in Amazon deforestation.

William Laurance, a senior scientist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, said this to mongabay.com: "I am delighted to hear that the proposed IFC loan to Bertin, S.A. operation has been halted. Cattle ranching—often on illegally deforested lands—has emerged as one of the biggest killers of the Amazon rainforest; and, a threat to the region's indigenous peoples. Bertin has been profiting from this destruction."

Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth-Brazil also welcomed the IFC's decision saying, "It is good news that the World Bank is withdrawing these funds, yet scandalous that it was feeding a company that causes Amazon deforestation and climate change in the first place. It must now guarantee that it will not invest in such damaging projects in the future," said Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Brazil’s Amazon campaign director.

"We congratulate IFC for its decision and we hope that this serves as a lesson in the future," said Roberto Smeraldi, director of Friends of the Earth. "Now, it is important for the National Bank for Social and Economic Development (BNDES) to follow this example. How can a public bank continue as a partner of a company so involved in illegal activities?"

Last year BNDES, Brazil's giant development bank, loaned Bertin 2.5 billion reais (approximately $1.25 billion).

The map which follows reflects what mongabay.com says about cattle ranching:
Cattle ranching is the biggest driver of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, accounting for roughly 80 percent of forest clearing. More than 38,600 square miles has been cleared for pasture since 1996, bringing the total area occupied by cattle ranches in the Brazilian Amazon to 214,000 square miles, an area larger than France. The legal Amazon, an region consisting of rainforests and a biologically-rich grassland known as cerrado, is now home to more than 80 million head of cattle, more than 85 percent of the total U.S. herd.

The number of cattle bred in the Legal Amazon is growing fast: between 1990 and 2003, the bovine herd more than doubled, from 26.6 million to 64 million head of cattle – 60% of the herds are in the states of Mato Grosso and Pará. Caption and image courtesy of Greenpeace's Amazon Cattle Footprint.

Cattle and rainforest. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

National Aboriginal Day


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) reports this about National Aboriginal Day:
June 21 was first proclaimed in 1996 as an annual occasion to recognize the diverse cultures and outstanding contributions to Canada of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis. Collectively these groups make up the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada.

The date was selected for several reasons, including the fact that it coincides with the summer solstice.

Aboriginal Solidarity Day is marked every year on the same date to honour the achievements of Aboriginal Peoples in all areas of achievement, including the arts, language, reverence for the land and spirituality.

So far, National Aboriginal Day is celebrated only in Canada; but, everyone can celebrate by doing something.

I recommend going to the Survival International website and sending a letter regarding one or more aboriginal communities that require support.

It's easy and costs only the price of an international stamp. Go to the site and decide which tribal peoples you want to support. Fill in your name and address. The website sends a completely-written letter to your email inbox. Print it off, sign, slip in envelope and post.

Amazingly simple - even I could do it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

World Refugee Day

Photo courtesy: The UN Refugee Agency.

June 20, 2009 is World Refugee Day. Let's all take the time to give thanks for our blessings - clean water, adequate food, shelter, good friends, freedom from persecution, and many other "freedoms and rights" that we sometimes take for granted.

To catch a glimpse of how some of our more unfortunate brothers and sisters live, visit The UN Refugee Agency website. Hopefully, it will inspire us to give a little more and take a little less.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Peaceful Indigenous Protesters Shot in Peru

Awajun indigenous protesters in Bagua, northern Peru, where many were wounded and taken to hospitals on May 10, 2009 after armed police attacked their non-violent blockade of the Corral Quemado Bridge (photo courtesy of Global Response and Thomas Quirynen)

Indigenous persons the world over are fighting to defend their lands from the mining and oil firms who want to drill/mine/deforest their land to capture the remainder of the earth’s resources. Unfortunately, many of them have been killed in this attempt. We have robbed the earth of so many of her resources, that now most of what remains lies either in or on tribal lands.

This battle is becoming so brutal, it has become known as the world’s second “oil war”. Nowhere is this battle being more bravely fought than in the Peruvian Amazonian rainforest. However, the battle is anything but fair. On one side are the police armed with automatic weapons, teargas, helicopter gunships and armoured cars. On the other side are several thousand Awajun and Wambis Indians (many in war paint) armed only with traditional weapons: bows and arrows; and, spears.
Photo courtesy Survival International.

In some of the worst violence seen in Peru in 20 years, at least 50 Indians and 9 police officers were killed with hundreds more wounded or arrested in the Bagua Grande incident alone. The indigenous rights group Survival International described it as “Peru’s Tiananmen Square”.

This past week, indigenous people gave testimony to Latin America regarding the consequences of allowing corporate companies free access the Amazonian forest to exploit an estimated 6 bn barrels of oil and untold millions in timber. After months of peaceful protests on the bridge at Bagua Grande, the police were ordered to forcibly remove the road block erected by the natives.

"For thousands of years, we've run the Amazon forests," said Servando Puerta, one of the protest leaders. "This is genocide. They're killing us for defending our lives, our sovereignty, human dignity."

The Peruvian rainforest is the biggest stretch of Amazon outside Brazil. As the Earth's largest tropical rainforest, the Amazon plays a critical role in safeguarding global climate. Scientists estimate Peru is home to some 25,000 plant species (10 % of the world total) and to 1,816 bird species. But this crucial global ecosystem has been threatened in recent decades by the industrial extraction of natural resources. More than 70% of the Peruvian Amazon is now under some sort of foreign resource concession. Between 2002 and 2007, mining grew more than 70 percent.

Peru is just one of many countries now in open conflict with its indigenous people over natural resources. Barely reported in the international press, there have been major protests around mines, oil, logging and mineral exploitation in Africa, Latin America, Asia and North America. Hydro electric dams, biofuel plantations as well as coal, copper, gold and bauxite mines are all at the centre of major land rights disputes.

"An aggressive drive is taking place to extract the last remaining resources from indigenous territories," says Victoria Tauli-Corpus, an indigenous Filipino and chair of the UN permanent forum on indigenous issues. "There is a crisis of human rights. There are more and more arrests, killings and abuses. This is happening in Russia, Canada, the Philippines, Cambodia, Mongolia, Nigeria, the Amazon, all over Latin America, Papua New Guinea and Africa. It is global. We are seeing a human rights emergency. A battle is taking place for natural resources everywhere. Much of the world's natural capital – oil, gas, timber, minerals – lies on or beneath lands occupied by indigenous people."

Davi Yanomami, a shaman of the Yanomami peoples, one of the largest; but, most isolated Brazilian indigenous groups, came to London last week to warn of the effects of the deforestation and to ask for help to prevent his tribe from becoming extinct.

"History is repeating itself", he told the MPs. "Twenty years ago many thousand gold miners flooded into Yanomami land and one in five of us died from the diseases and violence they brought. We were in danger of being exterminated then, but people in Europe persuaded the Brazilian government to act and they were removed.

"But now 3,000 more miners and ranchers have come back. More are coming. They are bringing in guns, rafts, machines, and destroying and polluting rivers. People are being killed. They are opening up and expanding old airstrips. They are flooding into Yanomami land. We need your help.

"Governments must treat us with respect. This creates great suffering. We kill nothing, we live on the land, we never rob nature. Yet governments always want more. We are warning the world that our people will die."

Victor Menotti, director of the California-based International Forum on Globalisation says this: "This is a paradigm war taking place from the arctic to tropical forests. Wherever you find indigenous peoples you will find resource conflicts. It is a battle between the industrial and indigenous world views."

A video by Greenpeace talking about the deforestation of the Amazon.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Chinese Sub Hits Underwater Sonar Array Being Towed by US Destroyer


A Chinese submarine collided with an underwater sonar array towed by the destroyer USS John S. McCain off the coast of the Philippines, CNN television said, quoting a US official who said it was an 'inadvertent encounter'. Photo:Guang Niu/AFP

On February 17, 2009, I wrote a blog wondering how two submarines, both carrying nuclear weapons, could collide in the Atlantic Ocean. The two submarines involved were French and British.

In the latest maritime accident a Chinese submarine has hit a sonar array being towed by a US destroyer.

CNN television reported a Chinese submarine colliding with an underwater sonar array being towed by the destroyer USS John S McCain off the coast of the Philippines. US officials are taking the stance that this was “inadvertent encounter.” The US Navy does not consider this a case of deliberate harassment.

While the sub and ship did not collide, the array, used to locate underwater sounds, was damaged in the incident.

In March, 2009, two tense standoffs between US and Chinese vessels in the South China Sea triggered accusations by the United States that China was behaving in an "aggressive" manner.

China later countered by saying a US naval vessel involved in the incident with Chinese fishing boats in the Yellow Sea had, in fact, been in violation maritime law. China further urged the United States to take steps to avoid a repetition.

Philippine Navy officer-in-command Vice Admiral Ferdinand Golez said they have no information on the alleged incident.

He also said that the USS John S. McCain was not in the Philippines and that Chinese submarines should not be passing through Philippine waters. However he admitted that the Philippine military has no equipment to detect such submarines.

I have to wonder what the true number of these types of incidents are. I am, after all, only one woman and her computer and I have managed to find two collisions in the past 5 months. I wonder how much information some one who knew what they were doing could find.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Southwest Texas Alternative Energy And Sustainable Living Field Laboratory

All photos courtesy of John Wells.

Haven’t we all, at one time or another, wanted to leave everything and everyone behind, find a small place where we can live a sustainable lifestyle and totally change our way of living.

John Wells (who also took the photos) did just that. John had been living in upstate New York for years; but, he had a dream. One day, he dropped everything, bought his 40-acre desert homestead and set about making his dream of a sustainable lifestyle and a sustainable homestead a reality.

The Field Lab, also known as the Southwest Texas Alternative Energy and Sustainable Living Field Laboratory, is the result. After purchasing his land in October 2007, he built this little house in 8 days for $1,600. It was habitable; but, needed some detail work and a few other changes. He completed this work in about 5 months for $800.


John has created what many of us imagine; although, most of us don’t picture such a dry and remote area as our little piece of paradise. Since his energy needs are so low, he draws all his electricity from a small photovoltaic solar array. (No shortage of sunlight to recharge the batteries here!) He satisfies his water needs from collecting the rain that hits his roof (when it rains) and stores it in a water tank for later use. The desert can become very hot; and, as John points out in his blog “it can be very hard sleeping at night when the temperature is still 90° F.” So, John designed a small swamp cooler that keeps his home at 80° F no matter what the temperature outside.


John’s rainwater collection system (above) can collect 140 gallons of water for every inch of rainfall. In an effort to add to his water-capturing efforts, he is currently working on a way to tap a nearby arroyo for additional water when it rains. It should be noted that when the Anasazi lived in this region over a millennia ago, they tapped the arroyos for additional water for their needs. His final contribution to his water-collecting efforts will come when he has completed his project of making a 1,600 sq ft greenhouse out of shipping containers. He will store the rainwater that falls on that roof also.


His homemade swamp (evaporative) cooler (above) draws very little electricity; but, keeps his home cool all summer long.


Above is John's toilet. As you can see, it’s simply a bucket and lid with sawdust layered between the contributions. When the bucket gets full you wait a little and then compost it.

At first most people are a bit surprised at the idea of recycling human waste; but it begins to make more sense when you consider it uses no water and the resulting compost can be used like any other fertilizer. Below is his compost pile.


To visit John, learn about his simple way of life and/or contact him: The Field Lab's Home Page

Follow his daily blog: thefieldlab.blogspot.com

To learn more about tiny house design and receive a free tiny house plan, go to: Tiny House Design

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Alaskan Natives Start Environmental Website

Alaskan fish caught with internal discolorations. Image via: nunat.net

Much is made of the desolation and isolation of living in northern Alaska; and, to a certain extent life in Alaska can be a very solitary existence. However, living in Alaska gives a unique point of view into global warming.

Since Alaska is such a rural state, it can sometimes be hard for information to be shared. Unnerving environmental changes have been happening recently; so, rural Alaskans have taken matters into their own hands and created a website to bring these changes to each others' and the world’s attention. They named their website “nunat.net”. The world “nunat” means “lands” in the Yup’ik language.

The website is very simply designed and laid out; but, the information is very action oriented. Users of this website have space to upload images; a calendar for organizing meetings; information on contaminant, climate change, resource development, and subsistence observation; an elders’ section that allows the elders to comment on changes they have seen over the years; and several discussion boards.

The site’s database is a year old. It was designed to give rural Alaskans a way to share information and document the changes around them, especially those who spend a lot of time outdoors, said its creator, Brad Garness.

“People who live a subsistence hunting and fishing lifestyle generally have a unique view regarding climate change and why animals behave the way they do,” Garness said.

Garness is acting executive director of the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, which owns the site.

Already there have been several noticeable odd occurrences that have been posted on the site.

Treehugger reports:
One thing noticed is "a polar bear lying on the beach after swimming to shore in Barrow last fall - something scientists say is becoming more common because of receding sea ice."

"There are trees and lawns in Nome now. I never thought I'd see trees growing on the tundra. Beavers are overrunning the area now that there is food for them. They are even in Barrow, north of the Arctic Circle," said Patricia Cochran, the chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council.

Nome, which lies on the Bering Sea, was once too cold for trees to grow. Now, as a consequence of the positive feedback loop that has resulted in the region's gradual warming and loss of ice, it is not uncommon to see an influx of new plant and animal species every year.

One of the most popular sections includes information of deformed fish catches and sightings. Villagers are becoming concerned because deformed fish catches are happening more and more often. They want to know if any other villages are having similar experiences.

The data posted is reasonably uniform as there are “official” forms to be filled out to help ensure accuracy of reporting.

While most of us are aware of the news-worthy loss of polar bears and penquins; most of us are unaware of the more subtle signs such as flowers blooming earlier every year or animals failing to adapt to the changing environment.

The website is incredibly interesting and well worth a visit. As an added bonus, all the news on there is free from the taint of the media. So, for the true view on global warming, visit nunat.net.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Way To Go, Venezula!

A customer picks a can of Coca-Cola Zero from a shelf in a supermarket in Caracas. Coca-Cola pulled its no-calorie Coke Zero from shelves in Venezuela Thursday on Health Ministry orders, as the local bottler insisted it was safe to drink. Photo:Juan Barreto/AFP

As my readers know, I have just finished blog on the conspiracy between Coca-Cola and other major food distributors to stall the removal of Bisphenol A (BPA) from containers food products are packaged in. I also detailed the health problems that BPA can and does cause in human beings. While the next story does not state which “harmful ingredient” is being referred to, my guess is Venezuela objects to either the BPA or the aspartame used to sweeten it.

Today, Coca-Cola started pulling its no-calorie Coke Zero from shelves in Venezuela on Health Ministry orders. Coca-Cola still insists that their product is safe to drink; but, Health Minister Jesus Mantilla disagrees.

"This product must be taken off the market to safeguard Venezuelans' health" as it has "an ingredient that can be harmful to people," Mantilla said according to the state news agency ABN.

Zero has been sold in Venezuela for only a few months. This order means that Coke Zero will be removed from all businesses nationwide. Venezuela is led by President Hugo Chavez, an outspoken critic of the US and market economics.

Coke and its local bottler Femsa "declare that Coca-Cola Zero has no ingredient that could be harmful to human health." Coke and Femsa gave this statement to local media today.

Coca-Cola said the sugarless soft drink met all standards in Venezuela; but, still suspended production of Zero pending a government investigation of its ingredients.

We should all follow Venezuela lead and ban the product until all harmful ingredients have been removed. Then, if the public desires, Coca-Cola and other harmful products can be allowed back on the market.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I Feel Safer Already?

A fisherman watches his lines in Florida in 2007. Instead of what he thought was a very large fish, a Florida fisherman netted a live and very unstable air-to-air guided missile that was floating in the Gulf of Mexico, police said Tuesday. Photo:Karen Bleier/AFP

Sometimes I wonder how some people manage to live the long, healthy lives that they do. There are people out there who seem to have more than their share of luck on their side and the following story is evidence of someone I would have thought had pushed the envelope too far.

Commercial fisherman Soloman Rondey knew he had a big one the moment he hooked it. He was out on his boat “Bold Venture” in the Gulf of Mexico doing some long-line fishing. Rondey reeled it in and discovered he had caught a very unstable air-to-air guided missile.

Being the safety-minded person that he is, (Soloman says he had no idea it was live), he strapped the unstable missile to the roof of his boat and continued with his fishing. When he reached shore 10 days later, the bomb squad from a nearby military base dismantled it saying the eight-foot-long missile was so unstable it could have exploded at any moment.

"I had it strapped to the roof of my boat as we rode through lightning storms," Soloman said, according to local Tampa Bay's 10 Connects News.

"I wasn't scared," said 37-year-old Soloman. "Why should I be scared?"

Apparently, Rondey, from Saint Petersburg, FL, was 50 mi (80 km) out in the gulf from Panama City when he caught the missile say Pinellas County sheriff’s office.

Experts said the missile was corroded by its apparent extended stay in saltwater making it extremely unstable.

As a reminder of the episode, Soloman asked the bomb squad if he could keep the disarmed missile as a souvenir; but, the request was denied.

Soloman maintains this wasn’t the first missile he and his three-man crew have picked up. Days after this find, he caught another one.

Since that one was beeping, he decided to let it go.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Plastic Vortex Hinders Search For Air France Flight 447


In January of this year, I did two blogs about the giant plastic vortex in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans that no one wants us to know about. (Click here for part 1, click here for part 2 of my blog.)

Environmentalists have been sounding the alarm about this plastic garbage dump for years. The foremost fear being that plastic does not biodegrade (forever whole in a landfill); but, it does photodegrade. The photodegradation process means that instead of remaining whole, the plastic just keeps shredding into smaller and smaller particles. The pieces ultimately become small enough that fish mistake them for food and ingest them. Guess whose plate these fish eventually end up on?

The plastic vortex has been in the news for the last week for a surprisingly different reason than environmentalists thought it would be. Air France Flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near Brazil this week (the location of the Atlantic plastic vortex). The other is located in the Pacific Ocean – together they are known as the Western and Eastern Pacific Garbage Patches.

Map locating the crash zone of Air France 447 in the Atlantic, where 17 bodies were recovered at the weekend. Photo:/AFP

The major obstacle to overcome in the rescue attempt was that the aircraft was not on radar when it went down; so, officials had no real idea where the aircraft was. That meant rescue workers had to look for floating debris and work their way back to the plane. Not as easy as one would think.

Rescuers were not optimistic about their chances of finding either the plane or the black box. Survivors were out of the question.

John Perry Fish of American Underwater Search and Survey on Cape Cod:
“They'll have to work with flotsam. You get the wind and current data and work back. You have to distinguish between the light material that is on the surface and exposed to the wind, and the buoyant material, which is floating, but just under the surface and not exposed to the winds.”

But the ocean in that area is so garbage-filled that rescue workers are having trouble locating any signs of the plane among the floating piles of waste. The search was hampered earlier when rescue workers reported they had found debris from the plane – two buoys and a cargo pallet. Valuable time was wasted before workers realized that what had been found was not from the plane; but, was just floating debris that came from a cruise ship, oil platform or land. Yachts, refrigerators, plastic bottles, anything you want to name have been found floating discarded in the garbage vortexes.

Photo: jdj150 via Flickr. Would you be able to distinguish between plane debris and just plain debris from this photo?

Officials plan to send in submarines as a last resort to recover the black box. A couple of recovery photos I thought were interesting.

Brazil has recovered the tail fin belonging to the Air France jet that plunged into the Atlantic June 1, 2009 killing 228 people, as well as more human remains from the doomed flight. Photo:/AFP

A handout picture from the Brazilian Navy press office shows crew members of the Brazilian Frigate 'Constituicao' recovering debris from Air France flight 447, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1. Seventeen bodies now have been recovered from the debris of an Air France jet that plunged into the Atlantic nearly a week ago, as investigators probed the tragedy. Photo:/AFP

While finding the plane earlier would not have changed the outcome regarding survivors - they all died before they hit the water; it may have meant more remains recovered for grieving friends and family.

A Reader Says...


Seminoma left a comment wondering if his testicular cancer could be the result of BPA. It could very well be especially if he used alot of canned or jarred foods; and, drank fluids from either PET soda bottles or the hard plastic water bottles.

I am sending good wishes to you regarding the cancer. Please know that we care.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

BPA Cover-up (con't)


Bisphenol A, used in commerce since the 1950s, is added to plastics to give them strength. It is used in the synthesis of polyesters, polysulfones, and polyether ketones; as an antioxidant in some plasticizers; and as a polymerization inhibitor in PVC. It is a key monomer in production of polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastic, which is clear and nearly shatter-proof, is used to make a variety of common products including baby and water bottles; sports equipment, medical and dental devices; dental fillings and sealants; lenses, CDs and DVDs; and household electronics. Epoxy resins containing bisphenol A are used as coatings on the inside of almost all food and beverage cans. Bisphenol A is also a precursor to the flame retardant, tetrabromobisphenol A, and was formerly used as a fungicide.

Over the past decade, a growing body of scientific studies has linked the chemical to breast cancer, testicular cancer, diabetes, hyperactivity, obesity, low sperm count, miscarriage, early onset of puberty and other reproductive problems in laboratory animals. More recent studies using human data have linked BPA to heart disease and diabetes. It has now been found to interfere with the effects of chemotherapy in breast cancer patients.

Researchers have found that BPA leaches from containers into food and beverages, even at cold temperatures. A study by the Harvard School of Public Health published earlier this month found that subjects who drank liquids from plastic bottles containing BPA had a 69 percent increase in the BPA in their urine.

The chemical industry, which rakes in an estimated $6 billion in global BPA sales annually, is downright hostile to the idea of limiting BPA to things you don't eat on, like cell phones, computer casings and washing machine paint.

So what can we do to show these major corporations that we don’t appreciate them playing Russian Roulette with our health?

1. Phone Coca-Cola toll-free and express your concerns: 1-800-GET-COKE, ext. 2.

2. Phone Del Monte toll-free and express your concerns: 1-800-543-3090.

3. Visit the websites of the companies involved (Coca-Cola, Alcoa, Crown, North American Metal Packaging Alliance, Inc., Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), American Chemistry Council, Del Monte) and send an email expressing your concerns.

4. Try to avoid using containers containing BPA as much as possible and let the manufactureres know why you are making these changes.

5. Spread the word with your friends and encourage them to take action also. (Suggestions #1, 2, & 3 are free!)

6. Do you have a blog, website, Facebook, MySpace, etc? Do a small article and post. (Also free!)

And remember, these corporations respond best to actions that reduce their profit (such as boycotting products). Demand your right to a BPA-free body!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Coca-Cola, Del Monte and Other Major Companies in BPA Cover-up

Photo courtesy EWG (Environmental Working Group).

These minutes are taken directly from the EWG website. Click here to see them.

These minutes follow an invitation from a major food trade association to its members requesting their attendance at a communications strategy meeting on Thursday, May 28, 2009 in Washington, DC.

Obtained by Environmental Working Group

Meeting Minutes
North American Metal Packaging Alliance, Inc.
May 28, 2009
10:00 a.m. – 3:10 p.m. EDT

RE: BPA Joint Trade Association Meeting on Communications Strategy

Meeting Goal: Develop potential communication/media strategies around BPA

Discussion

Topics: Consideration of available web-based communication options, including targeted geographies, as well as mainstream media response

Attending Companies: Coca-Cola, Alcoa, Crown, North American Metal Packaging Alliance, Inc., Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), American Chemistry Council, Del Monte

Summary: Attendees discussed the need to be more proactive in communications to media, legislators, and the general public to protect industries that use BPA, prolong the life of BPA, put risks from chemicals in proper prospective, and transcend the media and the blogosphere. Attendees believe a balance of legislative and grassroots outreach (to young mothers ages 21-35 and students) is imperative to the stability of their industry; however, the association members continue to struggle to initiate research and develop a clear-cut plan to defend their industry. The committee will spend approximately $500,000 to develop a survey on consumer BPA perceptions and messaging and eventually content and outreach materials. Overall, the committee seemed disorganized, and its members frustrated. Lack of direction from the committee and these associations could continue to allow other associations and environmental groups to push BPA out.

Other Points: Attendees suggested using fear tactics (e.g. “Do you want to have access to baby food anymore?”) as well as giving control back to consumers (e.g. you have a choice between the more expensive product that is frozen or fresh or foods packaged in cans) as ways to dissuade people from choosing BPA-free packaging. Attendees noted, in the past, the different associations have had a reactive strategy with the media, with very limited proactive outreach in reaching out to journalists. The committee agrees they need to promote new, relevant content to get the BPA perspective into the media mix. The committee believes industry studies are tainted from the public perspective.

The committee doubts social media outlets, such as Facebook or Twitter, will work for positive BPA outreach. The committee wants to focus on quality instead of quantity in disseminating messages (e.g. a young kid or pregnant mother providing a positive quote about BPA, a testimonial from an outside expert, providing positive video, advice from third party experts, and relevant messaging on the GMA website). Members noted traditional media outreach has become too expensive (they have already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars) and the media is starting to ignore their side. The committee doubts obtaining a scientific spokesperson is attainable. Their “holy grail” spokesperson would be a “pregnant young mother who would be willing to speak around the country about the benefits of BPA.”

Eventually, the committee concluded before deciding on the tactics to spread their messages, they need to develop the messages. The committees plan to fund a joint survey and message testing—what new messages they need to sell—before implementing a website and creating materials. Another task group will be implemented to finalize how to develop messages and aggressively use electronic media to deliver those messages.

Members noted the industry needs research on how perceptions of BPA are translating into consumer behavior—Is it translating into most moms not buying canned products or just a minority of moms? They hope to form messages relevant to how people live their lives—What does not having BPA mean to your daily lifestyle? Focusing on the impact of BPA bans on minorities (Hispanic and African American) and poor is also important. The members want to put the danger of BPA into perspective.

Legislatively, the committee is focusing on Connecticut and California. Committee members are meeting with as many representatives on the Health Committee as possible. The members are focusing on more legislative battles and befriending people that are able to manipulate the legislative process. They believe a grassroots and legislative approach is favorable because the legislators worry about how the moms will react. If the Connecticut bill goes through, the committee believes it will be a good opportunity to talk about the negative impact that ban will have on businesses and employment—How will it affect the union workers? The committee wants to put a proposal together for the right way to deal with legislative issues in each state.

The committee discussed Prop 65 in California—requiring the Governor to publish, at least annually, a list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. The committee will form a coalition to write a submission about the benefits of using BPA by the deadline for submissions on June 30, 2009. Members will also build up their contact base in Sacramento. The committee does not want to win at the legislative level and then not have anyone to buy the product.

The committee questioned whether or not trade associations should challenge what is being said about BPA. Other trade associations for plastics have begun writing letters in response to “lies” being told about BPA. The committee proposed to be involved in the dialog and comment electronically and directly back to reporters. Attendees noted it does not matter what the next material is, there will be issues with it, and the committee wants to work to make people feel more comfortable with BPA and “BPA2” or whatever chemical comes next.

The committee suggested dividing the costs of the work and research equally by the members. The members are guesstimating it will cost at least $200,000 for the message testing and the survey and $500,000 for the entire project. The committee is also looking for new members to help with costs and outreach.

More on this betrayal next blog.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

World Water Crisis Having Unexpected Results

Photo courtesy of magnusfranklin.

This is one result of the global water crisis that we in the western world have not taken into consideration. However, if there were a more compelling reason to help get water to villages in the developing world, I don’t know what it is.

In the developing world the distance between villages and drinkable water is becoming ever more burdensome for the women and children who are the main gatherers of this precious liquid. In some villages, the trip to drinkable water is 2 hours each way and must be made more than once a day. The number of trips depends on the water consumption of the family and the amount of water the women and children can carry over long, rough terrain.

For centuries, women in the country of Kamuli (and many other countries) have been fetching water for home and field use. However, the water shortages have forced wives to travel long distances to collect drinkable water. The problem lies within the cultural norms in India. Husbands attribute the women being gone so long with love affairs or other indiscretions. This has led to domestic violence and divorce in many families.

In a twist of culture that benefits no one, few women receive formal water management education even though they are primary water keepers of the country. India still considers the knowledge a man’s business.

Circle of Blue reports:
Parliament Deputy Speaker Rebecca Kadaga told delegates from the World Malayalee Council — an Indian nongovernmental organization — that the water depletion in Kamuli had led to many women being divorced and beaten by their husbands.

“Kamuli has 18 sub-counties and over 100 parishes, but there are cases where four villages share one water source and others do not have,” Kadaga added.
We may look at this situation and say there is no excuse for violence; but, unfortunately, this is just one of the many instances in which violence will be sparked by water shortages.

More from Circle of Blue/Water News:
Gender inequality was a major theme at the 5th World Water Forum held in Istanbul in March this year. At a special gender session, delegates to the forum discussed the impact of unequal gender roles for the health, dignity and social progress of women, particularly in less developed societies.

Photo courtesy Circle of Blue/Water News.

Monday, June 1, 2009

June 5 World Environment Day


This is taken from the United Nations Evironmental Programmes:
World Environment Day (WED) was established by the UN General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.

Commemorated yearly on 5 June, WED is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action. The day's agenda is to:

1.Give a human face to environmental issues;
2.Empower people to become active agents of sustainable and equitable development;
3.Promote an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes towards environmental issues;
4.Advocate partnership which will ensure all nations and peoples enjoy a safer and more prosperous future.

The theme for WED 2009 is 'Your Planet Needs You-UNite to Combat Climate Change'. It reflects the urgency for nations to agree on a new deal at the crucial climate convention meeting in Copenhagen some 180 days later in the year, and the links with overcoming poverty and improved management of forests.

This year’s host is Mexico which reflects the growing role of the Latin American country in the fight against climate change, including its growing participation in the carbon markets.

Mexico is also a leading partner in UNEP's Billion Tree Campaign. The country, with the support of its President and people, has spearheaded the pledging and planting of some 25 per cent of the trees under the campaign. Accounting for around 1.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the country is demonstrating its commitment to climate change on several fronts.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon states that the WED celebration will “further underline Mexico's determination to manage natural resources and deal with the most demanding challenge of the 21st century – climate change.”

The End of an Era



Millvina Dean, the last survivor of the sinking of the Titanic, has died. She was 97when she passed in her sleep at her nursing home in southern England.

Staff members discovered her in her room Sunday morning. Previously, Ms. Dean had been hospitalized with pneumonia; but, had recovered and returned to the nursing home.

Dean was just over two months old when the Titanic - billed as "practically unsinkable" - hit an iceberg on the night of April 14, 1912. The ship sank in less than three hours killing 1,517 passengers (mostly men). While Dean was one of the 706 survivors (mostly women and children), she lost her father that night.

She had been a member of the Titanic Society.