Friday, November 17, 2006

Bill Maher: this is dated but inspiring



Thursday, November 16, 2006

"Solar Spain"

"Spain, the new up-and-coming European country, has just passed a law requiring every new or newly renovated building to have solar power systems."

"All homes now have to have, at least, hot water solar systems and all new businesses have to generate solar electricity. Other regulations in the new building code include mandatory use of insulation, maintenance of heating and cooling systems and use of natural light. All together, these practices should decrease electricity use by up to 40%.

Spain, which is both enjoying and loathing a gigantic boom in construction, is hoping to control some of that growth as well as mitigate its impacts with the new regulations. The construction lobby, of course, is furious, saying that building costs will go up over 10%. The government does not seem too unhappy about that, but cites it's own figures that say the costs of construction will be recouped by energy savings within a couple years."

Source: Treehugger



"The Case of the Mislabeled Case"

"Wal-Mart accused of incorrectly labeling organic products"

"Ah, Wal-Mart -- always reliable for some good old-fashioned eco-drama. This week, the Cornucopia Institute, an activist group representing small farmers, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture that accuses Wal-Mart of incorrectly labeling or otherwise misrepresenting various products as organic in some stores. Visiting a dozen stores in four Midwestern states, the group found several troubling misrepresentations. In one case, "all-natural" yogurt was labeled organic; in several stores, non-organic products were residing in an organic-designated cooler. "We live and die by the reputation of the organic label," says Cornucopia cofounder and organic farmer Mark Kastel. "If Wal-Mart cheapens it, we all lose." Wal-Mart pooh-poohed the accusations and defended its organic offerings. Nevertheless, the USDA has opened an investigation into the retailer's organic-labeling practices; violations of labeling standards can carry a fine of $10,000 per instance."

Source: Grist



Election Report: Greenest Day in American Political History

Last week's elections were a huge victory for the environment. The
following message was sent from the Natural Resources Defense Council
and highlights some of those key victories.

A couple of main points:
* Of the "Dirty Dozen" (the 13 members of Congress targeted by the
League of Conservation Voters for the poorest environmental voting
records), nine were defeated.

* Dozens of candidates -- from both parties -- who ran on
forward-looking energy policies were chosen by voters. At least 20
pro-environment challengers unseated anti-environment incumbents in the

* New leadership has promised aggressive oversight of President Bush's
Interior Department and Forest Service, which have done little but
front for energy and timber companies.

It is a good read and perspective of where the national environmental
policies might go in the next few years. The details are below.



You and I have got a lot to celebrate -- finally!

We have fought so unbelievably hard for six long and difficult
years to defend our environment against a House and Senate
leadership that has endeavored -- often on a weekly basis -- to
sacrifice our natural heritage for the sake of Big Oil and other
powerful special interests.

Thanks to your incredible support and tenacious activism, we
have held the line against overwhelming odds. We have fended off
attacks on the Arctic Refuge, on endangered wildlife, on clean
air and clean water -- in the undying hope that, one day, the
political landscape would have to change.

And did it ever change last Tuesday! In one fell swoop, the
American voter terminated the Congressional onslaught against
nature and gave us new leaders who share our deepest values of
environmental protection.

And while Iraq and corruption were the big issues, don't let
anyone tell you the environment didn't play a role in this
election. The billion-dollar handouts to Big Oil . . . the
energy policies written by polluters . . . the fanatic denial of
global warming science -- these were all part and parcel of the
corruption and out-of-touch ideology that Americans had grown
sick and tired of.

If you need more proof, consider this: of the "Dirty Dozen" (the
13 members of Congress targeted by the League of Conservation
Voters for the poorest environmental voting records), nine were

On the flip side, eight out of nine of the League's
"Environmental Champions" won their races. Dozens of candidates
-- from both parties -- who ran on forward-looking energy
policies were chosen by voters. At least 20 pro-environment
challengers unseated anti-environment incumbents in the House.
And Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger won strong voter support by
signing a Global Warming Solutions Act.

Last Tuesday may well go down as one of the greenest days in
American political history.

The people have spoken. They've had it with corporate cronyism
and the failed policies of nineteenth century oil barons. They
want a clean energy economy that will break our dependence on
oil, slow global warming, spare our natural heritage from
destruction and create millions of new high-tech jobs.

And NRDC is laying the groundwork for turning that vision into a
bipartisan political reality come January 3rd. We'll be working
in a Congressional landscape that is profoundly changed. The new
House and Senate majority leaders are committed to many of the
policy objectives that NRDC has advocated for years.

Speaker-elect Pelosi has promised that she'll start tackling the
energy issue in her first 100 hours in office!

And you won't be seeing the same old Congressional attacks on
our wildlife refuges, national forests and clean air. In fact,
the new leadership has promised aggressive oversight of
President Bush's Interior Department and Forest Service, which
have done little but front for energy and timber companies.
Oversight, imagine that!

Now, I don't want you to think we've lost our perspective in the
afterglow of Election Day. We know what the realities are. We
know we've got our work cut out for us.

For starters, this Congress will be as besieged by special
interests as any other. It's no accident that candidates promise
us the moon but often deliver far less. Getting environmental
legislation passed will mean reaching out to both sides of the
aisle and outworking the polluting interests that will oppose us
at every step of the way.

We won't have to wait long for our first test. The current
Congress is not gone yet, and a lame duck session in December
could do a lifetime of environmental damage. Friends of Big Oil
in both parties may unite and try to pass a bill that opens
protected coastal areas to drilling.

NRDC will be turning up the pressure on ALL members of Congress.
That's where you come in. In the end, you're the only ones who
can prevail on Senators and Representatives to vote their
environmental commitments. You'll be hearing from me soon to
make your voice heard.

As for President Bush, his Administration has not even paused
this month in its drive to dismantle our environmental
safeguards. So NRDC must continue to fight in the federal
courts, which have repeatedly rejected this Administration's
pro-polluter policies.

In the weeks ahead, I will be reporting to you in more detail on
NRDC's plan for advancing our environmental agenda in the next
session of Congress.

But I can share one key element of that plan right now: You.
Since this Congress came to power, you've helped NRDC defend the
environment against the most withering attack in modern American
history. And now that we're going on the offensive, we'll need
you more than ever.

We need your idealism. We need your activism. We need your
support. If we have all of those, we are going to do great
things for the environment over the next months and years.


Frances Beinecke
Natural Resources Defense Council



Solar Recharged Audio, by Ben Champion

You may or may not be at all interested, but I thought I'd share some exciting news.

After five years of searching, I've finally found a true high fidelity audio solution that can be fully powered with solar power - from source to sound. It would match my high efficiency speakers perfectly.

These products have gotten absolutely astounding reviews in terms of audio quality, they run on rechargeable batteries, and someone recently brought up the option of solar-powered recharging on the above audio discussion forum - to which "Vinnie", the owner and builder of Red Wine Audio products was definitely receptive, as you can see for yourself.

Now I just have to wait a little while for them to start becoming available on the second-hand market at sub-kilobuck prices.

By the way, if you read the forum at all, "EDS" is smart to bring up the issue he does, but he's completely ill-informed about the topic. Typical of economists, he assumes there's a hidden "inefficiency" somewhere with solar power, and his unique powers of economistic discernment allow him to notice the emperor is wearing no clothes, even though he didn't even bother to open his eyes to check. Solar power has a healthy energy profit ratio - the amount of energy produced relative to the amount required to produce the energy. Richard Nelson at K-State has current figures, but the numbers back in 2002 when I was studying this intently were that solar gave a 10:1 energy profit over the life of the solar cells, biodiesel gave 3:1, ethanol was about 1.2:1, and industrial scale wind turbines were 80:1. When the first barrel of oil was drilled in 1859, the ratio was 100:1; now it's somewhere around 20:1, I think. As we use up the easy-to-find oil, this ratio will continue to decline for oil.

~Ben Champion



It heats. It powers. Is it the future of home energy?

"Down in Bernard Malin's basement is a softly thrumming metal box that turns natural gas into hot water and generates $600 to $800 worth of electricity a year - a bonus byproduct of heating his home.

"It's like printing money," says Mr. Malin, the first person in Massachusetts - perhaps in the nation - to own a residential "micro combined-heat-and-power" system, also known as micro-CHP."

"Since Malin changed his home heating system to micro-CHP in February, 18 other families in the Boston area also have adopted the technology, which squeezes about 90 percent of the useful energy from the fuel. That's triple the efficiency of power delivered over the grid.

Factories and other industrial facilities have used large CHP systems for years. But until the US debut of micro-systems in greater Boston, the units had not been small enough, cheap enough, and quiet enough for American homes.

Home heating systems that produce a kilowatt of electricity - like Malin's - and bigger units that pump out about 4 kilowatts are already available in Europe and Japan. They'll make their commercial US debut in New England in January.

Micro-CHP, by contrast, is an advanced hybrid of existing technologies: an internal-combustion engine generator married to a high-efficiency home furnace.

In Japan, more than 30,000 homeowners have installed micro-CHP systems driven by quiet, efficient internal-combustion engines, each housed in a sleek metal box made by Honda. Japan is ahead because gas utilities have been subsidizing and promoting the systems. In Britain, where the systems look like dishwashers and sit under kitchen counters, 80,000 systems made by a New Zealand company are on order."

Read the Source



Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Moving Beyond Trash Talk

"Visitors at Pacific Lutheran University, in Tacoma, Washington, are hard pressed to find a garbage can in faculty and staff offices these days...

Nearly half of the 500 employees volunteered to trade in their garbage cans last month for plastic quart-sized containters bearing the words "Can the Can," in an effort to increase recycling and reduce waste.

Owners of the desktop cans are responsible for emptying them into communal trash bins rather than relying on the cleaning staff, says Amy L. Cockerham, a spokeswoman. Most refuse is recycled or composted, and only food-contaminated objects like candy wrappers and paper coffee cups land in the trash. The logic is simple: Cutting down the size of cans cuts down the amount of trash put in them, like gastrointestinal surgery.

David L. Kohler, director of facilities management, who forfeited his own garbage can 11 years ago, says the new program will save $2,000 annually in garbage-can-liner costs. The goal in the next five years, he says, is for the university to be recycling 85 percent of its waste--well above its 60-percent rate of early October.

Toby R. Beal, the university´s Web-content manager, was initially skeptical. "Who´s going to come and clean this nasty little can on your desk?" he thought. But after reluctantly trading in his wastebasket, the little green container has started to grow on him. "I might have to get a little Sesame Street Oscar the Grouch to sit next to it," he says."

-- Jane R. Porter



Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Participate in Creating a Better World, One Couch at a Time

What is CouchSurfing?You're probably here at CouchSurfing to find a free place to stay or people to hang out with while you are traveling. After your first experience of either surfing or hosting, you'll find out that what you get out of it is so much more. We help to create a better world by opening our homes, our hearts and our lives.

What is CouchSurfing?You're probably here at CouchSurfing to find a free place to stay or people to hang out with while you are traveling. After your first experience of either surfing or hosting, you'll find out that what you get out of it is so much more. We help to create a better world by opening our homes, our hearts and our lives. We open our minds and welcome the knowledge cultural exchange makes available. We create deep and meaningful connections that cross oceans, continents and cultures. CouchSurfing changes not only the way we travel, but how we relate to the world! helps you make connections worldwide. You can use the network to meet people and then go and surf other members' couches! When you surf a couch, you are a guest at someone's house. They will provide you with some sort of accommodation, a penthouse apartment or maybe a back yard to pitch your tent in. Stays can be as short as a cup of coffee, a night or two, or even a few months or more. When you offer your couch, you have complete control of who visits. The possibilities are endless and completely up to you.The friendships made through CouchSurfing enhance members' lives and contribute greatly to making the world a better, safer, more peaceful place. Signing up for a free couch and ending up with amazing adventures and a global family--that's what CouchSurfing is all about!




House Passes the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act

The House has passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act despite opposition from dozens of organizations including the National Lawyers Guild, Humane Society and Natural Resources Defense Council. The bill makes it a felony for animal rights activists to engage in non-violent protests that result in businesses losing money. Legal experts say a protester could be charged with terrorism if they engaged in a sit-in that caused a business to lose profits. Congressman Dennis Kucinich said the law would have a chilling effect on non-violent protest. Kucinich said the country has to be very careful of painting everyone with a broad brush of terrorism.ost here.



African nomads to be first people wiped out by climate change

Kenya's herdsmen are facing extinction as global warming destroys their lands

Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editorSunday November 12, 2006The Observer
They are dubbed the 'climate canaries' - the people destined to become the first victims of world climate change. And as government ministers sit down in Nairobi at this weekend's UN Climate Conference, the people most likely to be wiped out by devastating global warming will be only a few hundred miles away from their deliberations.
Those people, according to research commissioned by the charity Christian Aid, will be the three million pastoralists of northern Kenya, whose way of life has sustained them for thousands of years but who now face eradication. Hundreds of thousands of these seasonal herders have already been forced to forsake their traditional culture and settle in Kenya's north eastern province following consecutive droughts that have decimated their livestock in recent years.

Earlier this year the charity commissioned livestock specialist Dr David Kimenye to examine how the herders are coping with the recent drought, uncovering a disastrous story. Over two months, Dr Kimenye talked to pastoralists in five areas across the Mandera district, home to 1.5 million people.
The study discovered that:
· Incidence of drought has increased fourfold in the Mandera region in the past 25 years.
· One-third of herders living there - around half a million people - have already been forced to abandon their pastoral way of life because of adverse climatic conditions.
· During the last drought, so many cattle, camels and goats were lost that 60 per cent of the families who remain as herders need outside assistance to recover. Their surviving herds are too small to support them.
The new findings follow recent warnings from the UK Met Office that if current trends continue one-third of the planet will be desert by the end of 2100. The scientists modelled how drought is likely to increase globally during the coming century because of predicted changes in rainfall and temperature around the world.
At present, according to their calculations, 25 per cent of the Earth's surface is susceptible to moderate drought, rising to 50 per cent by 2100. In addition, the areas susceptible to severe drought - 8 per cent - are expected to rise to 40 per cent. And the figure for extreme drought, currently 3 per cent, will rise to 30 per cent.
And what is doubly worrying about Kimenye's research is that it has revealed that a system of nomadic pastoralism that has, over the centuries, been able to cope with unpredictable weather patterns and regular drought has been brought by climate change to the point of utter extinction.
It is a fact not lost on those who have been forced out of their historic lifestyle to settle at the Quimbiso settlement. Nearby is a stinking pit where the bones of the last of once thriving herds were dumped and burned - victims of the worst drought in living memory.
The families who until a few months ago herded these animals across northern Kenya and beyond now huddle in this riverside settlement, their children prone to malaria and other illnesses, but at least close to a reliable source of water. Now they are completely dependent on aid handouts for most of their food.
'Our whole life has been spent moving, but we are desperate people. People who have lost our livelihood,' says Mukhtar Aden, one of the elders at the Quimbiso settlement. 'We didn't settle here by choice, it was forced upon us.'
Everywhere are tales of huge livestock losses. In one roadside settlement, which now depends on selling milk from its few remaining animals to passing trucks, a man produces a book recording the dark days of the drought. One entry, for 15 February, shows that the community lost more than 500 sheep and goats and 250 cattle in a single day.
And while rain did came to the region for the first time in more than a year last month, it was too late for the makeshift roadside communities who no longer have animals to put out to pasture.
Wargadud is another sizeable community running along either side of the region's main road. The chairman of Wargadud's water users' association is Abdullahi Abdi Hussein, who describes how the periods of rain have got shorter and the dry spells longer - changing the pattern of four seasons on which the pastoral communities depended.
And while there were always droughts, he says: 'Decade after decade it has been getting more severe. It has only been getting harder and harder and more and more serious.'



What's in Your Wal-let?

Wal-Mart issues a progress report on its experimental eco-store

The company greens hate to love is releasing a report today on progress at its year-old, experimental eco-store in Aurora, Colo. Wal-Mart is trumpeting its successes, from waterless urinals to LED lights in its freezers, and acknowledging its, uh, challenges, such as wind turbines that have short-circuited and recycled rubber sidewalks that have warped and faded. The mega-behemoth has also met with Target, Costco, and other competitors to try to gain allies (and drive costs down) as it seeks to green its other stores. While progressives shiver at the company's labor record, they're praising these new steps. "None of this is 'greenstanding,'" says Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. "They deserve the chance to show that their business model is compatible with high standards, not just low prices." High standards are swell and all, but Wal-Mart execs emphasize that the real reason for the shift is to save the company and its customers money. And the good press doesn't hurt.



Monday, November 13, 2006

crazy bob wisdom...

crazy bob wisdom...check it out...



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