Monday, August 10, 2009

Saavy Tech Stories

As people alive today, we must consider future generations: a clean environment is a human right like any other. It is therefore part of our responsibility toward others to ensure that the world we pass on is as healthy, if not healthier, than we found it." - His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Living Bridges

In north east India, bridges aren’t built - they’re grown! The rainforests of Cherrapunji are credited with being one of the wettest places on Earth, and timber bridges would quickly rot. Locals have an innovative solution - grow bridges out of living trees. Like many in the banyan family, the rubber fig has secondary roots that grow above the soil surface. By guiding these roots across chasms, villagers can slowly grow a strong, permanent bridge.

My response: reading this article kind of got me thinking. while i am often aware of current issues and cool stories that pop up in green science and tech, a lot of you aren't and sometimes when i'm buried in the books i tend to forget that, so i'm going to use this site more to share some of these awe inspiring stories and ideas with you, with occasionally a thought or two. i'd love to hear more of your thoughts as well.

as far as the first story goes, i think that the fact that bridges can be grown from something as simplistic as what occurs in nature speaks volumes about the power of nature and how we should be developing more natural solutions like these or at least be aware of them so that they can inspire us to grow new solutions out of the problems our predecessors have created, because as nature has proven, she never goes obsolete. here are some other stories i've previewed today.

Consumerism is 'eating the future'
18:04 07 August 2009 by Andy Coghlan

We're a gloomy lot, with many insisting that there's nothing we can do personally about global warming, or that the human race is over-running the planet like a plague.

But according to leading ecologists speaking this week in Albuquerque at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America, few of us realise that the main cause of the current environmental crisis is human nature.

More specifically, all we're doing is what all other creatures have ever done to survive, expanding into whatever territory is available and using up whatever resources are available, just like a bacterial culture growing in a Petri dish till all the nutrients are used up. What happens then, of course, is that the bugs then die in a sea of their own waste.

One speaker in Albuquerque, epidemiologist Warren Hern of the University of Colorado at Boulder, even likened the expansion of human cities to the growth and spread of cancer, predicting "death" of the Earth in about 2025. He points out that like the accelerated growth of a cancer, the human population has quadrupled in the past 100 years, and at this rate will reach a size in 2025 that leads to global collapse and catastrophe.

But there's worse. Not only are we simply doing what all creatures do: we're doing it better. In recent times we're doing it even faster because of changes in society that encourage and celebrate conspicuous and excessive consumption.

"Biologists have shown that it's a natural tendency of living creatures to fill up all available habitat and use up all available resources," says William Rees of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. "That's what underlies Darwinian evolution, and species that do it best are the ones that survive, but we do it better than any other species," he told me prior to the conference.

Spreading humans

Although we like to think of ourselves as civilised thinkers, we're subconsciously still driven by an impulse for survival, domination and expansion. This is an impulse which now finds expression in the idea that inexorable economic growth is the answer to everything, and, given time, will redress all the world's existing inequalities.

The problem with that, according to Rees and Hern, is that it fails to recognise that the physical resources to fuel this growth are finite. "We're still driven by growing and expanding, so we will use up all the oil, we will use up all the coal, and we will keep going till we fill the Petri dish and pollute ourselves out of existence," he says.

But there's another, more recent factor that's making things even worse, and it's an invention of human culture rather than an evolved trait. According to Rees, the change took place after the second world war in the US, when factories previously producing weapons lay idle, and soldiers were returning with no jobs to go to.

American economists and the government of the day decided to revive economic activity by creating a culture in which people were encouraged to accumulate and show off material wealth, to the point where it defined their status in society and their self-image.

Rees quotes economist Victor Lebow as saying in 1955: "Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction and our ego satisfaction in consumption. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever-increasing rate".

Continues at link . . .

this was also attached to the video, the story of stuff


My response: i did a reprint of my blog post on my other site about Christopher McCandless and the movie Into the Wild. I think is the kind of stuff that idealists notice that makes you sick on the inside and feeling like what you have is empty enough to go out seeking more. I just hope people begin to wake up soon, but the reality is, that if they don't they will be on the path to their own destruction. Those of us who are inclined to want to see tangible solutions to the problems created must band together, get educated, organized and rather than fight the system let the old system decline and cultivate our talents as healers and helpers to mend those areas we can fix now so that when the old system becomes obsolete, as it steadily has, people have a viable alternative to turn toward.

As frustrated and tired I get at times of cleaning up others messes, I would much rather focus my energy upon seceeding from the current state of collective chaos our society is degenerating and creating communities that are wholesome and efficient than fighting for the scraps that politicians and corporations give us so that they can continue to line their own pockets. i don't want to spend my lifetime waiting on someone else to get a clue when i have the ability and the education to work with other environmentalists and human rights activists like me and start programs and communities that give people another option out and forward.

the only way that we can leave all of this madness is to create safe spaces, land trusts, and provide educational communities that promote sustainability and self-sufficiency so that when the corporations fail their communities, that those looking for a better option will have some other model that they can look to, inspired by the order of the natural world, that will restore their faith in sustainable solutions and will hopefully inspire them to lead. the time has come, now more than ever for us to begin to cultivate our leadership and cooperative skills so that we can grow a positive change that will root itself into our consciousness and change the way we think about whether operating outside of the system is possible. because the only thing that held us back before was the lack of confidence and believe that we could.

What is Eco Tourism?

Ecological tourism or eco-tourism is a highly popular term and possibly one of the most misused in the travel industry. It should describe travel to fragile areas where the fauna, flora and cultural heritage are the main reasons for travel. Essentially eco-tourism protects and empowers local people and natural areas, and at the same time provides visitors with a unique, but low impact experience. The Ecotourism Society defines eco-tourism as ‘responsible travel to natural areas, which conserves the environment and improves the welfare of the local people’. Essentially eco-tourism should unite conservation, communities and sustainable travel. However, it can get a little confusing. There are a handful of similar terms used to describe this type of travel, like ‘adventure travel’, ’sustainable tourism’, ‘responsible tourism’, and ‘green travel’. Most of these loosely adhere to the principles of eco-tourism. A walk through a rainforest is not eco-tourism unless it also benefits the people who live there. And in the same vein, a safari trip is only eco-tourism if it raises awareness and funds to help protect wildlife. There are companies who market themselves as eco-tourism establishments, when in fact they are not. So it is up to the traveller to ask important questions about the trip’s ability to conserve and improve the destination. Often the term is used as a marketing tool to promote nature related tourism. However, placing a splendid hotel in the midst of a fragile ecosystem and calling it eco-tourism is ‘greenwash’. Two of the terms most often used interchangeably with eco-tourism are ’sustainable tourism’ and ‘responsible tourism’, both of which include aspects of eco-tourism. Sustainable tourism means that resources should be unaffected by your visit and that your stay at the destination should not prevent future tourists from enjoying the same experience. Responsible tourism means that you minimise your negative impacts on the environment, but often this also incorporates an element of ‘giving back’ to local communities. The Responsible Tourism Awards describe ‘responsible tourism’ as tourists who ‘want to interact with communities on a personal level, learn first-hand of their challenges, experience environments and hopefully, leave something constructive behind’. So what does one need to do make sure that eco-tourism is really the form of travel on offer? By asking the following types of questions: * Is the environment being looked after? * Is the local community being protected and uplifted? * Does the travel build environmental awareness? * Are resources remaining for future generations? * Does the travel respect local culture? It is not in South Africa alone that the term eco-tourism is used to describe ‘adventure’ or ‘nature’ trips that do not always meet the requirements of true eco-tourism. There are only a handful of countries around the world with national eco-tourism certification programmes in place, and these include: Costa Rica, Australia, Kenya and Sweden. There are also attempts to create international eco-tourism accreditation programmes. In South Africa there is not yet an official regulation of the term eco-tourism. SATSA (South African Tourism Services Association) tries to ‘provide high standards of tourism and focuses on accountability, integrity and quality control’, and awards like the local Imvelo Responsible Tourism Awards and the international Responsible Tourism Awards also influence many tourist destinations and tour package companies. Eco-tourism cannot be monitored as closely as it should be, until a formal procedure or framework exists. -- source info for article can be found here.
My response: also the green passport program has some excellent information about how to be a better eco-tourist.

African chickens refuse to eat genetically modified corn

Don't tell me there is no difference between traditional corn and BT corn. Even chickens can sense the difference! When will humans become as smart about this and stand up to the companies pushing this down our throats?


Chickens refusing to eat the maize they had been fed has led to the discovery that their feed had been genetically modified to include a well-known weed and insect killer.

Strilli Oppenheimer was recently approached by Dawid Klopper, the head gardener at the family estate, Brenthurst, informing her that her indigenous African chickens were refusing to eat the mealies in the chicken feed bought from a large supplier. Concerned that the birds may be ingesting genetically modified maize, she instructed Klopper to have the maize tested.

The chickens' diet was immediately changed to include organic vegetables, Oppenheimer stopped consuming the home-grown eggs and the maize was sent to the GMO testing facility at the University of the Free State for analysis.

The results confirmed Oppenheimer's initial suspicion - the maize had been genetically engineered to produce proteins that are toxic to certain insects and weeds.

"It contained BT1 which makes the maize insect resistant, as well as Roundup which makes it weed resistant. This is the first report we have had of chickens not eating GM feed," said a GM expert.
While small quantities of BT1 and Roundup weed killer were found in the seeds, the concern remained with the cumulative effect of GM feed, not only on the chickens, but also on the eggs they produced for the family.

"This is of serious concern. Do you know that 96 percent of soya-based foods are genetically modified and that maize in South Africa is contaminated," asked Oppenheimer, pointing out that research by well-known scientist Dr Arpad Pusztai had shown that rats fed on GM potatoes suffered from a weakened immune system and stunted growth of their internal organs, including the liver, kidneys and brain. … read more here

My response: don't even get me started. hence my rant on gmos that i made on the other site back in october:

Don't Smoke It
Wednesday, 05 August 2009 09:54 PETER GORMAN

Page 1 of 4
Quick: What single plant can you use to build, insulate, and heat a house; help build and run cars; turn into the finest textiles; use to make tortillas, cheese, veggie burgers, perfumes, skin creams, and suntan lotions - and also to get stoned?
Gotcha. The answer is none. But if you leave out the stoned part, you're talking about hemp, the non-smokable variety of cannabis sativa, botanical cousin of the cannabis that gets you high. It's currently grown legally in 30 industrial nations, has a history that dates back to the earliest days of man, was touted by George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, was probably used to make the first American flag, and - if given the chance - might help bring Texas farmers out of troubled times.
Unfortunately, industrial hemp's association with pot has made it illegal to produce here in the United States for the last seven decades, forcing U.S. manufacturers to import it from China, Eastern Europe, and Canada. For a while during the 1990s it was illegal to import it any form but finished textiles. And even that was suspect under Bill Clinton's drug czar, retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who, in trying to ban hemp importation, once famously announced to a group of high-ranking Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Customs officials that "kids are boiling down their hemp shirts and mixing the essence with alcohol to make marijuana."
That would be a pretty wacky comment coming from anyone, but to have national policy hinge on such impossible wrong-headedness set back hemp's future in this country a long way.
Nobody's using that rhetoric now, but the unease persists in many places, including at the Texas Farm Bureau. Spokesman Gene Hall told Fort Worth Weekly that while "hemp has come up as a possible agricultural crop for Texas, it's been a controversial subject." Hall said that neither the Texas Farm Bureau, a nonprofit organization of farmers, ranchers, and rural families, nor the National Farm Bureau have supported industrial hemp as an ag crop "because there are concerns with the farm bureau supporting the raising of a crop that could be used for illicit drug use."
But times are changing… read more here:

My response: i've actually started seed growing, to try and fix this brown thumb i seemed to have and hopefully during the spring i can switch over to hydroponic seed systems in my window. i just hope it works.

Why don’t Americans understand science better?

"Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center and the American Association for the Advancement of Science unveiled the latest embarrassing evidence of our nation’s scientific illiteracy. Only 52 percent of Americans in their survey knew why stem cells differ from other kinds of cells; just 46 percent knew that atoms are larger than electrons. On a highly contentious issue like global warming, meanwhile, the gap between scientists and the public was vast: 84 percent of scientists, but just 49 percent of Americans, think human emissions are causing global warming.

Scientists are fond of citing statistics such as these in explaining conflicts between the public and the scientific community. On politicized issues like climate change, embryonic stem cell research, the teaching of evolution, and the safety of vaccines, many Americans not only question scientific expertise but even feel entitled to discard it completely. The reason, many scientists infer, is that the public is just clueless; perhaps we wouldn’t have these problems if the average citizen were better educated, more knowledgeable, better informed.

Yet while scientific illiteracy is nothing to shrug at, the truth is that it’s only part of a broader problem for which scientists themselves must shoulder a significant portion of the responsibility. Decrying ignorance and scientific illiteracy, many scientists treat their fellow citizens as empty vessels waiting for an infusion of knowledge. That is exactly wrong, and exactly why so many people, in turn, see science and scientists as distant, inscrutable, aloof, arrogant. Rather than blaming, scientists ought to be engaging with the public, trying to personally make their knowledge hit home and to instill by example (rather than from a distance) the nature and virtues of the scientific mindset - while also encouraging average Americans to ask their own questions and have their say.

Ultimately, all of this could lead to nothing less than a substantial redefinition of the role of the scientist in public life. No longer merely a distant voice of authority, the scientist could also become an everyday guide and ally, a listener as much as a lecturer. There’s no doubt members of the public must become much more knowledgeable about science and its importance. But scientists must also become far more involved with - and knowledgeable about - the public."


What role do people and scientists need to take in the public's scientific literacy?

source found here:

My response: i've been on this bandwagon, particularly as it pertains to human and civil rights of women and minorities for about a year now. everyone wonders why i'm taking these ridiculously ambitious classes, calculus, physics, and staying up until the wee hours, or working that ridiculous nap nighter schedule, when i'll probably end up working as an activist anyway. the truth is, it's because understanding science and math are necessary in order for me to be able to understand the people and forces that i interact with, how any of our actions impact my environment, or the way that i live, and how to calculate solutions that will benefit myself and my community. even managing my mental health or understanding that as expansive as my choices seem, that in order to accomplish my own personal goals, still be able to perform service and integrate these various dimensions of things that i find valuable, that i'm going to have to walk a very specific path in order to accomplish these things, reducing the number of choices i can make, but maximizing the impact of those choices thus confirming my path. understanding science and math also helps me to understand my challenges and limitations of new ideas and which direction i should move in order to be able to work around these issues often forcing me to lead.

Toilet Paper Cores -- Rolling Out Of The Recycling Bin & Into A Very Creative Rainy Day Craft Project!
8 comments Posted Wednesday, July 29 2009, 12:03 PM | by Bob Kurz

As basic necessities go, it's hard to deny that toilet paper is one of those items that we all need to use on a regular basis. Unless you're prepared to use leaves (which would be rather unpleasant, especially when they're crunchy)...or a bidet (which uses copious amounts of water)...or a reusable towel (which is a so not a direction that I personally want to take), the next best thing that a greenie can do to make a more earth friendly choice is to purchase rolls made with 100% recycled paper content. Some may attempt to step up their conservation efforts even more by rationing out their precious squares or drastically reducing their water intake, but at the end of the day, trees are still going to get killed until we come up with a better solution.

more source info here:

My response: this site has some great pics. I'm secretly hoping to make some pretty awesome stuff out of old rolls, collapsible fans, hat bibs, totes, etc.

After Sabotaging Own Oil Wells, Exxon Faces $1 Billion in Fines

O, those oil companies; they sure do love to play dirty. And the biggest US oil company, Exxon Mobil, has just got caught with its hand in the well--the oil well that it purposefully sabotaged so no other company could use, that is. The Texas General Land Office has just revealed that Exxon "maliciously" destroyed its own oil fields so that no one else would be able to tap them--and it's getting slapped with a $1 billion fine for the crime. And wait till you hear what they did to the wells--and what that fine will go towards cleaning up.

It's not pretty. In fact, it's pretty disgusting. According to Bloomberg:

Jerry Patterson, commissioner of the land office that oversees oil leases that help fund Texas schools, asked the Texas Railroad Commission to conduct hearings into an alleged 1990s program at Exxon Mobil of plugging abandoned wells with trash, sludge, explosives and cement plugs. The barriers made it impossible for other producers to revive the wells, Patterson said in a statement he gave to Bloomberg News yesterday.

So that's an environmentally offending twofer--it both further degrades the area around the wells, and wastes the ever more scarce natural resource that had already been drilled for exploitation. On the bright side, I guess it's a bit of petrol that won't get burned . . .
So why the spiteful rampage? It seems Exxon had a bit of a falling out with one of Texas's most prominent oil families, the O'Connors.

From the 1950s to the late 1980s, the O’Connors earned more than $40 million in royalties on crude and gas pumped from 121 wells that Exxon Corp., as the company was then known, and a predecessor, Humble Oil & Refining Co., drilled on the family’s land near Corpus Christi, according to court filings.

The relationship between Exxon and the family deteriorated in the late 1980s, when the company’s request for a reduction in the 50 percent royalty rate was rebuffed, court documents showed. Exxon said the field was no longer profitable and began shutting wells, a process that concluded in August 1991, the documents showed.

After Exxon packed up and left town, the O'Connors decided to tap the rest of the oil from the partially sapped fields. Read more here:

My response: did anybody else miss this story? i'm pretty shocked by it, to be honest. but then i've heard it argued that "clean water is just as scarce as oil and yet we piss into it everyday". --yeesh. we gotta change our line of thinking. or at least create some solutions so people like this won't have to go to such extremes.

First All-Electric Commercial Delivery Trucks Unveiled In DC
By The Author ⋅ July 30, 2009 ⋅ Email Post ⋅ Print ⋅ Post a comment
Filed Under EV, plug-in electric, zero-emission vehicle

Electric vehicles are going to play a role in future transportation for the private sector, but where they are also needed, possibly more so, is in the commercial delivery sector. With the majority of vehicle emissions originating from transport and delivery vehicles, having lower and zero emission alternatives will be key in reducing the overall impact automobiles have on climate change and the environment. Though companies like FedEx and the USPS are just beginning to introduce hybrid and low-emission vehicles into their delivery fleets, most companies, that rely almost entirely on daily vehicle delivery for their business, have done little to upgrade their fleets of vehicles to more fuel efficient and/or lower emissions vehicles. Even the few companies who have made efforts to improve their fleets do not have that many environmentally friendly options when it comes to relatively heavier transport vehicles…until now.

Could You Pass Me A Smith Newton?

Yesterday in Washington, D.C., Coca-Coca Enterprises, AT&T, Frito-Lay,Staples, Pacific Gas & Electric and Kansas City Power & Light each took delivery of an all-electric truck from Smith Electric Vehicles on the National Mall at a press event showcasing the new technology. The trucks, Smith Newtons, are the first all-electric commercial vehicles of their size to meet California’s zero-emission-vehicle (ZEV) standards and, though currently produced in the U.K, will soon be rolling off the production lines of a converted TWA hanger at the Kansas City Airport.
Smith Newtons get their juice from what else; Lithium-ion batteries. Their 120 kW electric engine can get a fully loaded truck (16,000+ lbs) to a speed of 50 mph and the battery capacity, combined with the regenerative braking system, allows the vehicle to travel more than 100 miles on a single charge (Coke’s trucks will actually run about 50 miles further). Given the fact that these vehicles will be used for local deliveries within city limits, the speed and range of the Smith Newton make it the ideal vehicle for such tasks.

It Always Comes Down To Cost

These vehicles sound great for companies’ environmental images and their bottom lines right? Wrong…on the latter point at least. While these vehicles, if actually deployed, may give some green PR cred to the companies that are purchasing them, it certainly isn’t going to save them any dollars in the short term. Each truck currently costs about $170,000 each which is almost triple the price of the vehicles they would be replacing. So don’t expect seeing your favorite office chairs or bubbly beverages silently arriving to a store near you anytime soon. Though the companies receiving the vehicles yesterday already have pledged some money to purchasing future vehicles from Smith Electric, most will simply have to wait for the price to come down before wide-scale implementation is even considered.

The Good: There are finally some heavier transport all-electric options coming into the marketplace and gaining some recognition amongst major corporations that depend heavily on transport as part of their business.
The Bad: The Smith Newtons are extremely expensive, so like all companies whose bottom-line comes first, large scale orders of the vehicles are unlikely until pricing comes down. The usual negatives accompanying electric vehicles (rare earth metals for batteries, shifted emissions, limited range, non-existent charging infrastructure, etc.)

The Bottom-Line: Though encouraging in some respects, and possibly a glimpse of what’s to come in the somewhat distant future, yesterday’s ceremonial delivery of six electric vehicles to six enormous companies will do little in the short term in addressing the environmental impact these companies’ fleets of vehicles have on the environment.

source story can be found here:

My response: so do you think it would be feasible to take vehicles out of the equation and have like a maglev freight system? it would eliminate emissions, moves more rapidly that speeding vehicles and could be used to transport mail and freight much cheaper, not to mention would reduce the enery and resources spent to make and maintain equipment, parts and vehicles. it would pay for itself in no time.

New bill would ban human-animal hybrids

July 14, 7:31 PM Portland Humanist Examiner Micha J. Stone
A new bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate that would ban human-animal hybrids. Senators Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) and Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) have introduced the Human-Animal Hybrid Prohibition Act of 2009 (S. 1435). The bill would prohibit the creation of part-human, part-animal creatures, which are created in laboratories, and blur the line between species. The bill would also prevent research into the creation of such creatures from taking place in the United States.
On first blush, this seems amusing and ripe for humor. After all, a bill that bans mermaids will put a smile on the most cynical face. A law that would prohibit scientists from making mermaids, centaurs, manbearpigs and other flights of fancy seems like silly fluff. Yet the bill, if made into law, would have important consequences for research.

Some scientists believe hybrid research and experimentation will cure disease and lead to other medical breakthroughs. Indeed, this kind of research is already taking place in England. Stephen Minger of King's College London, has received permission from the British government to engage in hybrid cloning and has been pushing hybrids forward. He is attempting to fuse DNA from cows with that of humans in order to create new stem cells that could be used in scientific research.
To be fair, this is a complicated issue, with no simple answers, no easy solutions.
Senator Brownback, on his blog, claims:

This legislation works to ensure that our society recognizes the dignity and sacredness of human life. Creating human-animal hybrids, which permanently alter the genetic makeup of an organism, will challenge the very definition of what it means to be human and is a violation of human dignity and a grave injustice.

Would it be a violation of human dignity? Would it be a grave injustice? I don't know. Other questions concern scientific progress, and the wisdom of curtailing or prohibiting scientific research. Prohibition may delay or prevent important medical breakthroughs that would relieve real human suffering. The questions are profound, with deep philosophical implications about who we are and who we will become.
Fasten your seat belt. It is a brave new world. Source can be found here:

My response: this one i'm concerned about because i think we'd be putting ourselves in a technological box if we screw up the wording on this one. What does "hybrid" mean, that it has to be a whole breathing organism, or that you won't even be able to grow hybrid cells and tissues for transplants or to stave off disease? I definitely see the potential here for a clusterjunk (^_^). I'll definitely be interested to see how things work out.

Mayans were Environmentalists 3,000 Years Ago

Young environmentalists might think that the "old school green" means hippies from the 1960s, but that's actually quite young compared to what the Mayans were doing 3,000 years ago. A new study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science concludes that the ancient Mayans not only practiced effective forest management and conservation, but also that when they abandoned that practice, it was detrimental to their entire civilization (those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it).

When They Stopped Good Forest Management, Things Went South

The the researchers discovered prohibited people from cutting trees in certain areas until the Late Classic period when Jasaw Chan K’awiil beat the Tikal Maya. The reconstruction of the city of Tikal required a lot of resources, and so the new rulers decided to tap into the off limit forests to find the tall straight trees they needed.

The stands of virgin timber were more than 200 years old in some areas. After building a few of the temples, the Maya ran out of timber from the Manilkara zapota (sapodilla) tree, so they switched to an inferior tree —Haematoxylon campechianum, logwood or inkwood — which is found in swamps.

When you clear all the forests, it changes the hydrologic cycle. The world is like a flat surface with all the trees acting as sponges on it. The trees absorb the water. Without the trees, there is no buffer to stop the water from runoff. That causes soil erosion, which then chokes the rivers and streams. With no trees, you lose water retention in the soil or aquifers so the ground dries up and then there is less transpiration, so therefore less rainfall as well.

Forests provide many benefits to society. The Maya forests provided timber, fuel, food, fiber and medicine in addition to the ecosystem services of cleansing the air and water. Just as forests provided essential resources for the ancient Maya, the same is true for our civilization today.

The Mayans might not have been doing forest conservation for the same reasons, but the result was the same. When they destabilized the ecosystems on which they relied, bad things started to happen.

source story can be found here:

My response: i was just reading in Janine Beynus's Biomimicry book about how nomadic tribes used to promote poly-perma-culture by growing food that incorporated the natural relationships of the environments and produced greater yields than centralized agricultural societies, hence why the pilgrims almost starved to death the first year here. it took the native americans having to show them to plant fish with the corn crops to promote nitrates in the soil in order for the crops to have the nutrients they would need to be able to thrive. recent research has shown that polyculture environments that biomimic the make-up of the natural composition of the pre-established landscape can often recreate the natural environment that existed prior to overproduced landscapes. or rather, and i'm rambling because i'm beginning to get sleepy, if you plant 4 or more species of perennial plants in a plot and are mindful of the relationships, (ie some are perennial for reseeding, some are tall grasses or higher stalked shrubs and trees to convert hard rains to mists, legumes to restore nitrates to the soil,) you will find the plot of land restored to a healthier version of that plot of land reducing the need for pesticides, herbicides and can grow sufficient amounts of food that produce yields that are equal or greater to what we currently grow without such an elevated risk of losing a whole crop to pests and disease. i'm really kind of excited about that.

Hydroponic window farms.

You want to grow your own food, but you live in a cramped apartment. What to do? With some help from her friends, Umbra green thumbs it and shows you how to create your very own window farm! Indie rockers Rogue Wave drop by to offer green gardening tips too.

Grow more enlightened with these Grist links

Portrait of an artist as a climate activist (featuring window farmers Rebecca and Britta) []
Ask Umbra on composting in a small space [here...]

Ask Umbra's video advice on eating local in winter [here...]
Check out these links on window farming and other urban gardening ideas

Rebecca and Britta’s Window Farms [here...]

How to create a window farm [here...]

See a truck farm in action [here...]

Info on rooftop farms [here...]

How to create a roof garden [here...]

My response: I decided to link the last issue with this one because i think that you could kill two bird with one stone this way. (you'll see in a moment)

Bottled Water Sucks

I knew bottled water was a social ill but I didn't know how damaging it was until I saw an explosive and compelling new documentary called Tapped.

With style, verve and righteous anger, the film exposes the bottled water industry's role in suckering the public, harming our health, accelerating climate change, contributing to overall pollution, and increasing America's dependence on fossil fuels. All while gouging consumers with exorbitant and indefensible prices.

Claire Thompson summed up the problem well in her post on the movie at Grist:

"Not only is it [bottled water] a clear waste of resources (only 20 percent of plastic water bottles used in the United States are recycled, and far too many of the rest probably end up in the Pacific Garbage Patch), it's an incredible waste of money for consumers, who pay more than the price of gasoline for water that's marketed as "pure," but in reality is largely unregulated, full of harmful toxins like BPA, and far less safe for drinking than free tap water. (In fact, 40 percent of the time, bottled water is nothing but municipal tap water, freed from the government oversight that keeps it safe.)"
Watch the movie's powerful trailer.

The film's website lists where you can see the doc in the theater, and offers opportunities for hosting a screening of your own. (So far, it will be screened in a smattering of the coastal cities where you'd expect them to play.) read more here:

My response: i'm thinking of creating a movement on campus to reuse discarded water and soda bottles to create hydroponic window farms. i think that would be a great movement that could solve multiple issues regarding, food, economics, the environment and human rights. i would love to collaborate with anyone who would be interested to see if we could grow this practice into a larger empowerment movement.

A national high-speed rail network up and running by 2030 - Yes we can

Yes we Can? I think we should

President Obama strongly supports high-speed rail, environmentalists are behind it (well, at least some of them) and the Federal Railroad Administration is already reaching out to other countries that have had success with it. High-speed rail looks like it's going to happen. The question now is what kind of system will be built - how extensive, how fast and how integrated. Last week a new organization was founded that aims to help answer those questions, and it has already unveiled a vision that is significantly more ambitious than plans that have been floated by the Administration in Washington.

The US High Speed Rail Association , based in Washington DC, plans to lobby for a state of the art rail system that covers the entire country and provides service on par with the most advanced systems in the world. From the press release:

The Association’s advancement of this national transportation plan will help develop an entirely new industry, which will revive our economy and manufacturing sector by creating millions of new jobs. This new, electric rail system will greatly reduce our dependence on oil and significantly lower our carbon footprint.
The organization's first move was to unveil a map showing what a complete national system, built in 4 phases and completed by 2030, would look like (see map above; for the animated version, click here). The map bears a certain resemblance to the "Vision for High-Speed Rail in America" unveiled by the Obama Administration in April. Both are based on the same 10 regional corridors, but the Association's plan seriously raises the bar. Calling for 17,000 miles of track, multi-modal stations and travel speeds of 220mph, the proposal bears a greater resemblance to rail maps in Europe.

The Association plans to generate support for the plan and help advance the industry by organizing a series of public events and conferences (the first one is scheduled for October 22-23 in Washington DC). A partnership with the International Union of Railways in Paris has also taken shape, and the Association plans on hosting tours of European and Asian high-speed rail systems.

Said Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, Director General of the International Union of Railways and a member of the Association's Advisory Board:

“The ambitious plan recently publicized by President Obama in the framework of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act announces a fascinating time for railway development in America. A competitive high performance railway system – including a large network of high speed links – will constitute one of the pillars of US policies for transportation and sustainable development.”

Source info can be found here:

My response: ooh! can we use maglev? because that would be AMAZING!!!!


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