Sunday, December 23, 2007
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
Nanoparticles – billionths of metre in dimensions - produced by nanotechnology have unusual properties not found in the bulk material, which can be exploited in numerous applications such as biosensing, electronics, photovoltaics, diagnostics and drug delivery. However, research within the past few years has turned up a range of potential health hazards, which has given birth to the new discipline of nanotoxicity.
Researchers in the University of Texas in the United States found that carbon nanotubes squirted into the trachea of mice caused serious inflammation of the lungs and granulomas (tumour-like nodules of bloated white blood cells in the lining of the lungs), and five of the nine mice treated with the higher dose died ("Nanotubes highly toxic", SiS 21) [1, 2].
In a similar experiment carried out at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health in Morgantown, West Virginia, in the Unites States, researchers not only found granulomas in the lungs, but also damage to mitochondrial DNA in the heart and the aortic artery, and substantial oxidative damage, both foreshadowing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) .
In yet another similar experiment in Tottori University, Japan, researchers showed that within a minute of contacting the mice’s tiniest airways, carbon nanotubes began to burrow through gaps between the surface lining cells and into the blood capillaries, where the negatively charged nanoparticles latched onto the normally positively charged red blood cells surface, thereby potentially causing the red blood cells to clump and the blood to clot .
Researchers from the University of Rochester, New York, reported an increased susceptibility to clotting in rabbits that had inhaled carbon nanospheres (buckyballs, an isotope of carbon shaped like a tiny football) .
Buckballs present in water at 0.5 parts per million were taken up by largemouth bass, which suffered severe brain damage 48 hours later, the extent of damage being 17 times greater than that seen in controls .
Nanoparticles in the lungs are translocated to the circulatory system and from there throughout the body, accumulating in the liver, spleen, and bone marrow .
Nanoparticles inhaled through the nose and air passages are translocated to the brain through the olfactory nerves, and accumulate in the brain .
Nanoparticles can enter the body through the skin; and quantum dots injected into the skin accumulate in lymph nodes with potential effects on the immune system .
Quantum dots consisting of a core of fluorescent cadmium selenide, touted as a non-invasive way to image internal body tissues, break down in the body, releasing cadmium, a toxic heavy metal .
In August 2005, the International Council on Nanotechnology (ICON) and Rice University’s Center for Biological and environmental Nanotechnology (CBEN) launched an online database of scientific findings related to the risks as well as benefits of nanotechnology 
(POST in progress...)
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Since most fans agree an asterisk not only fails to preserve records achieved under vastly different conditions -- famously, Maris' unofficial "61*" -- we propose a notation that accounts for the "player" not the "record" having been alterred.
For example, using this method the current standings for lifetime HR's would look like this:
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Good, it’s time people started wondering. Because, frankly, to this point they rate a C-
If you're looking to contact them (hint: find the websites for their consulting firms, email them there) direct them here, too. I’ve listed his team below starting with David Axelrod.
Axelrod’s TV presence has been decidedly underwhelming. A low-watt, not very suave media presence, he delivers determinedly content-free spin. Is that the strategy, to dance while Hillary closes in on the nomination? Described as "the strategist at Obama’s right hand, perhaps the best-known Democratic consultant working outside of Washington, D.C., equally adept at sensing the right metaphor for high-minded aspirations and at finding the vulnerable spot to savage an opponent," none of those qualities has yet been on display.
Besides fundraising, what is there? Where are the articulate, passionate public policy addresses? Lincoln left a raft of writings from barnstorming speeches prior to his election that gave every indication he was, in the Emersonian sense, a Representative Man. Brilliant analyses of the constitutional questions of the day.
Barack Obama needs to do something similar. There's plenty to talk about. For example...
With the next election ours for the losing, Democrats can’t rest. Some big-time inoculation is needed immediately in the ever-so-likely event of another terror attack.
That means a rhetorical preventive strike. He needs to say LOUDLY and repeatedly that the country remains in jeopardy, that the politically unglamorous work of dismantling terror cells, of penetrating and neutralizing our enemies has yet to be done. That this administration's decision to fight a noisy, unnecessary war rather than focus on that difficult, secret work has left us more, not less vulnerable. While we've been fortunate not to have had a terror attack since 9/11, this administration has made the job of drying up support for Al Qaeda and rolling up its organizational base that much more difficult. But it's a job that must be done, and he intends to make certain it gets done.
America needs to know the terrorists love these Republicans the way Fire loves Gasoline.
Okay, the rest of the Obama campaign team seem to be ...
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Since 42% of the public in a recent poll had no idea what ‘nanotech’ is, lets spend a moment explaining it. Nanotechnology involves imaging, measuring, manipulating and manufacturing things on a scale of 1-100 nanometers. A nanometer is 1 billionth of a meter; a sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick.
Nanotechnology was first introduced as an idea in 1959 when conventional-sized robot arms were instructed to construct a replica of themselves one-tenth their original size. Then, using that new set of arms (and instructions) they were made to manufacture an even smaller set. Theoretically then, the demonstration suggested the process could be repeated until the molecular scale is reached. A nanorobot, therefore, is/was a theoretical device measured in nanometers that when fully realized works at the atomic, molecular and cellular level to perform tasks in both the medicine and industry.
Nanoprobe attaching to a red blood cell -- CGI 'vision' of nanotech at work
THE GOOD NANO NEWS:
When Floyd Landis won the Tour de France last year it was a victory for nanotechnology. Landis road a bike that was enhanced with carbon nanotubes. As a result, the frame of his BMC Pro bike weighed less than a kilogram, just under 2.2 pounds.
It’s estimated that nanotech in some way, shape or form is already part of $30 billion dollars worth of consumer products this year.
Here is the Nanotechnology Consumer Products Inventory – http://www.nanotechproject.org/index.php?id=44 as maintained by the Pew Trust-endowed Project On Emerging Nanotechnologies. Their website lists over 450 items.
Back in April the Project released a report, "Green Nanotechnology: It's Easier Than You Think," which outlined ways to harness nanotech's power. It explores the benefits of linking nanotech with green chemistry and engineering to minimize environmental impacts through resource-conserving and waste-eliminating improvements in processes and products.
The report focused on four areas:
Creating new nanotechnology-enabled products and processes that are environmentally benign - or "clean and green";
Managing nanomaterials and their production to minimize potential environmental, health, and safety risks;
Using nanotechnology to clean up toxic waste site and other legacy pollution problems;
Substituting green nanotechnology products for existing products that are less environmentally friendly.
For example, James Hutchison, a University of Oregon chemist, uses DNA molecules in a novel process that holds promise for building nanoscale patterns on silicon chips and other surfaces. The method saves materials and requires less water and solvent than the traditional printing techniques used in the resource-intensive electronics industry.
Other researchers are investigating nanoscale approaches to replace lead and other toxic materials in electronics manufacturing. Nanotech has opened promising new routes for making inexpensive solar cells and improving the performance and cost of fuel cells. And work at the nanoscale is leading toward tools for removing toxic materials and cleaning up hazardous waste sites.
And Engineers are trying to build a system to remove the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in an effort to reduce global warming. A research and development company called Global Research Technologies, LLC (GRT) and Klaus Lackner from Columbia University recently successfully demonstrated a device that captures carbon from the air.
Their air extraction device uses sorbents (absorbing compounds) to capture carbon dioxide molecules from free-flowing air and releases those molecules as a pure stream of carbon dioxide for sequestration. It met a wide range of performance standards in the GRT research facility.
"This is an exciting step toward making carbon capture and sequestration a viable technology," said Lackner. "We are trapping carbon dioxide about 1,000 times faster than a tree does," he said. "Once you have the CO2 attached to the sorbent, you have to pry it loose again, which is the costly part of the procedure."
Having dreamed the sci-fi dream of "true nanotech" back in the 90's -- "true nanotech" being nanotech that can "self-assemble," like the nanobots envisioned in 1959, building nanotools and nanofactories from a set of instructions -- the Weekly Green began its inquiry into Green Nanotechnology with hopes that "real" nanotech might be on the verge of creating not only "scrubbers" like Lackner’s device but perhaps free-floating nanoparticles, co2 eaters. That we might find that perhaps soon an egoogleplex of nano pacmen could simply be released into the air to bind with global warming gases and produce a harmless green rain of inert material.
In fact, sadly, as we shall see in PT 2 – The Bad News About Green Nanotech, the recent bad news about the dangers of Nanotech at this point may outweigh the good.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Monday, July 02, 2007
Who dat man? A true eco-celebrity -- Paul Anastas is the father of green chemistry. It's wonderful the world's getting so much help from planet-conscious media celebs, but what we really need are those with the requisite technical skillsets to save our globe.
Mr. Anastas is today's poster boy for those efforts. Director of the Green Chemistry Institute, Paul Anastas was formerly the Assistant Director for the Environment in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Trained as a synthetic organic chemist, Dr. Anastas has published widely on topics of science through sustainability, such as the books Benign by Design, Designing Safer Polymers, Green Engineering, and his seminal work with co-author John Warner, Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice.
On the eve of last year's 10th annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, Anastas discussed green chemistry and its challenges with the ACS News Service Weblog
The central questions for Green Chemists he summarized in this fashion:
"What is the molecular basis of hazard – toxicological, physical and global? Can we use weak forces as a design tool in imparting performance as we have done with covalent forces? What is the pathway toward designing catalysts from first theoretical principles? Can we use energy in the place of matter to effectively carry out transformations catalytically on a commercial scale? Are the reaction types and feedstocks we use currently in chemical manufacturing the one’s we should be using in the next ten, twenty years? If we are to meet the challenges of sustainability, it will require that we address the problem at the molecular level as one part of the solution."
The interview can be read in its entirety at the above link.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Thursday, June 07, 2007
From the ‘Cold War’ To The ‘War on Terror’ -- Why America Can’t Live Without Fear
Al Gore is doing more than indulging the current vogue for neuroscientific explanations for human stupidity when he demonized the Amygdala in his "The Assault On Reason". Illuminating the murky area where social biology meets brain neurology may be the way to begin to end the endless terror that seems a staple of American life.
Yes, absolutely. Certainly there was no end of concern voiced about America’s long, open borders after the attack on the World Trade Center. But the initial focus was, in fact, on our border with Canada due to its sizable Muslim communities and as a direct consequence of the foiled Millenium Plot (the plot to bomb LAX by an Algerian living in Canada named Ahmed Ressam who was caught New Year’s Eve 1999, trying to cross into the United States, an event that took on ominous significance in retrospect).
The 'guestimated' twelve-to-fourteen million immigrants presumed to be illegally in this country, however, did not all arrive the last six years. In fact, the boom was a phenomenon of the 1990’s, which saw a 57.4-percent increase in the foreign born population of these United States. The debate over this immigrant boom, largely Hispanic, predominantly Mexican, has, in fact, been framed not around security issues so much as in economic and social terms – as an ongoing threat to this country’s social welfare system, such as it is, its employment opportunities and its cultural integrity (e.g, initiatives to statutorily guarantee English as America's first language).
But it’s a fight Americans have been having for 400 years, since Jamestown; a debate about ‘legitimacy’, what it takes to become a citizen, what the rights, claims and legacy of those already here are over and against those who are newly arrived.
In a country peopled entirely by immigrants these issues come up with each successive wave, often provoking ugly racial and ethnic hostility, anti-Immigrant ‘nativists’ frequently fanning anxieties about the loyalty of 'foreign' arrivistes and stressing the concomitant security issues.
9/11 changed all that. For a time. But the internal stalemate seems to have returned as fears have faded that the current 'War On Terror' will require constant vigilance and a unity of national purpose.
ADDICTED TO ADRENALINE
Is it unreasonable to suggest that the "marketplace" of a plural democracy naturally finds a bi-polar equilibrium, especially absent external threats? That with the fall of the Soviet Union and the morphing of China into state capitalism, the United States, bereft of enemies, was left to confront itself?
Isn’t it fair to characterize these post-Cold War years as paradoxically having seen ever-fiercer competition in the domestic political arena even as Democrats and Republicans have had less and less to fight over ideologically? Perhaps because what’s at stake in a world with America left as the lone superpower is a monopoly on its greatest aphrodisiac -- power.
Although fear is an innate response, objects of fear can be learned. Fear offers a defensive survival advantage, and is usually a response to a given stimulus. The immediate fear response, the "fright" reaction, however, has the body freeze up an instant allowing the brain to decide whether to flee or fight.
When we spot potential danger, it's the amygdala that reacts most dramatically, triggering the limbic system to pump adrenaline and other hormones into our bloodstream. Meanwhile, the hormones released center our attention on the threat -- adrenaline causes the eyes to dilate, blood to be pumped to the large muscle groups, the heart rate to increase.
This phenomenon is known as preparedness. However, the brain is so wired that nerve signals travel more readily from the amygdala to the upper regions, the reasoning portions of the brain, than from the upper regions back down. Setting off alarms is easier than shutting them off. This, in fact, may partly account for the enduring popularity of "cheap thrills" like scary movies and roller-coasters – they trigger a powerful primitive reaction, an arousal that continues to affect the body long after we recognize the threat isn’t real.
For American society, a culture whose greatest shared value is competition – where the status of every public issue represents the state of play of a host of competing forces -- the cohesive value of ongoing external threats may far outweigh the disadvantages of long-term exposure to stress. As a body politic, the United States may gain more from "international terrorism" in national unity than its cost in national treasure.
The preparedness that is a by-product of our fear, whether real or imagined, has likely dampened and preempted internal conflicts with the potential to do greater damage. Only in the wake of 9/11 were the major initiatives of the last decade realized.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
They’ve been running for 2 days and 20 minutes, as of this moment, having started a round the globe marathon in New York, June 1st, to raise awareness and funds for the more than one billion people who lack clean drinking water. Organized by the BLUE PLANET FOUNDATION, the run is 95 days on the road through 16 different countries with a team of 20 runners and almost as many support staff. (http://blueplanetrun.org/)
The Blue Planet Run will cover 15,200 miles, across 16 countries and 4 continents, 24 hours a day for 95 days to deliver the urgent message that we can and must begin today to alleviate the catastrophic burden placed on over a billion people who, every day, must drink unsafe local water.
A Sneaker Parade, an outdoor New York City-wide exhibit of oversized running shoe statuettes designed by celebrities, accompanied the kick-off with Hillary Swank presiding. Participating celebrities include David Arquette & Courteney Cox-Arquette, Rosie O'Donnell, Rachael Ray, Mena Suvari, the New York Giants football team, Chris Kattan, Matt Modine and the cast of Rescue Me among others.
The final leg of the relay will end where it began, in the heart of New York City.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Granted, Connie Bruck's "Fault Lines" article in this week's New Yorker is hardly a paean to Tony Villaraigosa. It paints Los Angeles' new mayor as a man terminally on the make. "They'll never get me," he's quoted as saying, "I'm like Bill Clinton."
But is it really possible to write a long profile about our new mayor without any mention whatsoever of his efforts to get Bill Clinton to pardon Carlos Vignali's crack dealer son? This incident was publicized even before Villaraigosa got the hots to run for mayor in 2001, and it may well have cost him that election. Perhaps it's an innocent omission.
Admittedly it's an "old" scandal and then you'd have to remind readers Hugh Rodham received 400,000 dollars as a fee for Vignali's son's eventual pardon (yes, of course, he did get it from Bill) and that Hugh is Hillary's brother and I suppose that might have tilted the article a smidgeon to far from the Left Coast, making it a shade too parochial, too local, too... New York.
So why annoy Bill, or readers who are Hillary supporters? (Do I smell a bigger profile in the works -- one of the New York Senator?)
Then don't raise an unpleasant ordure. Wait until she gets nominated and let the Republicans do it! This kind of wisdom has cost us winnable elections in the past. And some Democrats might prefer a candidate who doesn't have to continually rise out of the slime.
Is this being too hard on the Clintons? Well, did Monica, Whitewater, the Rose law firm and that messy bit with the pardons at the end have anything at all to do with Pope W's election?
The sarcasm, if you haven't noticed, is thick here. Today's Sunday New York Times notes that Hill was among the last of the major candidates to withdraw from the Fox News-sponsored debate planned for next September, and you need only look to last weekend's "Eco-Tecture" issue of their Sunday magazine for broad hints of how spotty the Clinton environmental record was, including extremely luke-warm support of Kyoto.
As was presciently suggested by the Weekly Green Planet months ago, yes, Fabian Nunez, one of the two prime movers in advancing the date of the California primary supports Hillary.
Trailing in Iowa, her staff cleverly leaked a memo yesterday so she could scotch the rumor she's going to ignore Iowa while laying the predicate for its irrelevance. Basically, she has to give it less attention because that's what the primary season is going to demand of her. Not that she had anything to do with it.
Harry Shearer's public radio show LeShow has long enjoyed twitting the C's with a sound-alike spoof he calls "Clinton-Something". I'm looking forward to their last installments, hopefully this year.
But if they, the Clintons, garner the Democratic nomination he should rename and reframe it for another soon-to-be-defunct TV show -- The Clintanos -- with B. eating big bowls of ice cream and taking care of the family business while Carmelary is off building her spec house, a white one, in Washington.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
"Everything has been removed.
Surprise, surprise, I checked today, that was a lie. A quick search of the blogosphere shows that the blog greenlagirl.com complains of the same shabby treatment. Anyone doing this legit would not have taken the liberty Cris Popenoe, et. al., have taken. Nor responded the way they have. So it may be helpful to other bloggers and green sites, particularly those doing without ads, to list those enlisted in this FOR PROFIT scheme.
It has numerous touts who'd go nameless, except they are likely bad actors, too. And naming bad actors is the best we can do for now. For example, one dubious ally is killerstartups.com. Another is Random Thoughts of an Eco Tech Entrepreneur (name says it all, doesn't it?). Fucc blog, Ypulse blog, Appscout, Dexly, Screenalicious are some other touts for RiverWired.
This is another example of the dollar-driven pollution green advocates face. It's a tide. Making money off the boom in environmental consciousness is the only thing taking off at the moment. With so much dung being passed off as green, sadly, its hard to be anything but a gadfly.
This RiverWired scheme reminds us of the carbon neutral companies reported on in an earlier post. Only its goals are not even as laudable, since the site provides nothing except what it takes from others and more chatter and meetups for carbon neutral dating...
To update that post, THE TRUTHINESS OF CARBON NEUTRALITY, which examined the offset companies who have gone so far as to flog the virtues of private jet travel to boost their business, the New York Times has finally caught up. It 'reviewed' the phenomenon in an article on Sunday, April 29th, 2007, called, provocatively, "The Carbon Neutral Myth – Offset Indulgences for your Climate Sins."
However, in the slovenly journalistic fashion that has become the norm at the Old Grey Lady, the article propagated the results of a survey done by a carbon neutral offset provider to rank the quality of their own cohort!! This is Judy Miller redux. You remember Judy, the reporter who was in bed with Scooter Libby and the Neocons? She chose jail and a false martyrdom to forestall the disclosure that it was her run-amok, unvetted Times reports on the presence of WMD that led the charge in the run-up to the Iraq War.
This recent Times article smacks of the slapdash; it's dismal, source-avoidant, research-free infotainment. It's available for comparison online at www.tni.org.
The press could help if they'd show courage in daring to write more than eye-catching leads.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
A Porsche, man!? Sheesh, Keanu. Not only is it poor form to be caught inside one of those things, but Porsches get under 1500 photographers per gallon! That is definitely not the way to deal with that kind of situation. If you're going to nail a 'Razzi here's our recommendation.
Keanu Reloaded !!
A Prius is the stealth-vehicle of choice when side-swiping privacy-infringing parasites. They're quiet, they're fuel-efficient and they don't leave marks. What were you thinking?
Sunday, March 11, 2007
In a study last year, the U.S. Department of Energy estimated that, overall, this year's extension into March and November will save little — less than 1 percent of the nation's annual consumption. Another recent study, by the California Energy Commission, came to a similar conclusion. These estimates may be optimistic. The Golfing industry expects $200 million in added revenue from equipment sales and greens fees as a result of the extended evening hours. Factor in automotive use, multiply by millions of shoppers and what do you get?
Like 'Evolution', Global Warming poses a hard set of facts. It doesn't care we suddenly 'care' and is fairly intractible. Consequently, like Darwin's Dangerous Idea, the public is prey to snakeoil salesmen, preferring hopeful solutions taken on faith to facing the grim realities.
A few years ago, politicians and green groups in the Netherlands were thrilled by the country's early, rapid adoption of "sustainable energy," in part by coaxing electricity plants to use biofuel. In particular, palm oil from Southeast Asia. But last year, when scientists studied practices at palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia, this fairy tale began to look like a nightmare.
Spurred by government subsidies, enthusiastic energy companies designed generators that ran exclusively on palm oil. Rising demand brought about the razing of Southeast Asian rain forest and the overuse of chemical fertilizer. Worse still, space for the expanding palm plantations was often created by draining and burning peat land, sending huge amounts of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
Factoring in these emissions, Indonesia had become the world's third-leading producer of greenhouse gases.
"If you make biofuels properly, you will reduce greenhouse emissions," said Peder Jensen, of the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen. "But that depends very much on the types of plants and how they're grown and processed. You can end up with a 90 percent reduction compared to fossil fuels — or a 20 percent increase."
"Its important to take a life cycle view," he said, and not to "just see what the effects are here in Europe."
Biofuelswatch, an environmental group in Britain, now say that "biofuels should not automatically be classed as 'renewable energy.'" It supports a moratorium on subsidies until more research is done to define which biofuels are truly good for the planet.
Grown for burning, as biomass, it would be the cheapest biofuel both in energy and financial terms, as it requires minimum processing after harvest. Substituting for coal it is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 1.7 t CO2 per t switchgrass.
The economic consequences of excessive corn production in Iowa, the largest corn producer, has led to a 10-fold price decline between 1949 and 2005 as corn yields tripled. Today, Iowa farmers earn a third for the corn they sell compared to 1949, while their production costs have increased many times because they burn methane and diesel to produce corn.
The price of methane has increased several-fold in the last three years. "Corn crop subsidies supplemented the market corn price by up to 50 percent between 1995 and 2004." an expert writes, "the United States has already wasted a lot of time, money, and natural resources…..pursuing a mirage of an energy scheme that cannot possibly replace fossil fuels…The only real solution is to limit the rate of use of these fossil fuels."
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Given the popularity of WGP’s SOY UNDERWEAR column, today we answer the question:
What is ‘organic cotton’?
Simply put, 'organic' cotton is non-genetically modified cotton grown without the use of inorganic pesticides and fertilizers. Okay. That said, what’s the big deal?
The answer is tied to this fact -- less than a third of all cotton grown in the world today is GM, genetically-modified cotton. I.e., , it's not that GM cotton is so prevalent. But, less than 0.1 percent of all cotton is grown without using inorganic pesticides and fertilizers.
So the 'organic' label bears on the fact that the cotton is grown without "inorganic" pesticides and fertilizers. Not that it doesn't use some form of pesticide and fertilizers. Perhaps you can see where we're going with this.
The real issue with "organic cotton," it seems to us, is who is reaping the profits.
Cotton fibre is the fabric of life in Asia, Africa and South America. Globally, more than 50 million farmers grow it, but many receive a low price. There’s a fast-growing niche for organic, or low-input cotton. But the question, posed by Camilla Toulmin Director of the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED), is, "How can we be sure that the increasing demand and premiums for organic, or low-input cotton, will bring better prices to farmers and not just benefit others in the supply chain?" In other words, those glossy, high-end marketers of the stuff we see on the internet.
Organic cotton sells for up to 20 percent more than non-organic cotton and the amount produced, not surprisingly, has increased by 35 percent a year since 2002.
The viability of cotton farming, however, hangs by a thread. Industry analysts attribute current low market prices for raw cotton to the oversupply of subsidized American cotton on the world market. American farmers receive $3.5 billion in subsidies. Most developing country farmers receive no subsidies but suffer the consequences of lower world market prices.
"Despite successful appeals led by Brazil, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin and Chad and a ruling by the World Trade Organisation that has stipulated to the US government that its cotton subsidies contravene global trade rules," says Toulmin, "the US seems happy to ignore the multilateral rules when it suits its interests."
LOOK FOR THE NON UNION (EU) LABEL -- DON'T BUY IT AS WELL
After fierce lobbying from Spain, the European Union (the EU) has also recently postponed reducing its support to EU cotton growers.
' organic' cotton bloomers
So, if you’re going to buy right, here’s the cotton club you want to be a member of. To support the two million cotton farmers in West Africa, a number of initiatives to increase returns are underway. "Currently farmers in Mali get 165 francs per kilo of seed cotton," explains Toulmin. "But costs of production are more like 180-190 francs a kilo."
In Mali, organic cotton certified to European standards is supported by Helvetas, a Swiss NGO. Standards linking ecological criteria with fair trade and social justice concepts for cotton are also promoted by Max Havelaar and the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation to give growers a premium considerably above the conventional price.
In Benin and Burkina Faso an alliance (GTZ, the German technical agency, the OTTO clothing group and local textile companies) is pushing ahead with introducing reduced pesticide use, and forging closer links between growers and buyers.
On a more global scale, the Better Cotton Initiative of UNEP, WWF and others aims to set standards in West Africa, Asia and Brazil at a level, which could involve 50 percent of cotton producers; in contrast to the much smaller proportion likely to attain Fairtrade and organic certification, estimated at around five percent.
So, if you want to wear "organic cotton" with a social conscience it’s not the pesticides and inorganic fertilizers you should be most concerned with – it’s making sure the cotton itself comes from the above sources.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Why throw another log on the Democratic Presidential fires? They're burning hotly enough. Gore is truly an example of a candidate who looks best with his hat on and not in the ring. (In contrast to Obama who has Republican pundits hyperventilating about 'sizzle' and 'rock star status' desperately fanning the hope, a wish, that they are not up against the real deal--a candidate with durable class and charisma. Good Luck to you, sirs.)
Al Gore running for President would, and he seems to know it, be a colossal waste of precious fossil fuel. He's become a rock star in the global politics of energy and has most to offer there. "More than inconvenient" is what the truth of global climate change truly is. And getting the world to work on an extremely thorny issue will take some doing. Particularly since there are still 'bad actors' who have not yet faced the ostracism their unreconstructed views deserver. For example...
Gore’s award inspired Fox’s Sean Hannity to dredge up a worm from something called the Tennessee Center for Policy Research to whack him with the claim his home uses 20 times the energy of the national household average. The center is a right wing non-profit claiming non-partisanship and admittedly promoting “free enterprise” that keeps its donor list hidden. They are paid distorters and obfuscators. There are dozens and dozens of these right wing shells. Hannity then harangued Ed Begley, Jr., demanding Begley say Gore is a hypocrite. “Isn’t that what hypocrisy is?!”
Sean, a hypocrite is what you are, a long-term global warming skeptic who says he wants to drive his SUV without anyone or any organization saying nay who then lambasts others for excessive energy use. That’s a hypocrite. The fellow being paid by The TCPR, on the other hand, is a policy whore. (We’ve allowed these ‘bad actors’ to corrupt the air of our political environment without exacting a price; we hope to suggest how these individuals might be dealt with in future columns.)
Fox’s Hannity, on the other hand, has an audience that delights in his social irresponsibility and gives them and his corporate allies a certain number of free “Hannity jobs" just for fun.
Untangling the knot of corporate bad actors in support of these think tanks is the work of groups like MediaMatters.org and other who deserve our support.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Saturday, February 24, 2007
The 1st in an occasional series addressing his supporters and strategists. (UPDATE: If you actually are looking for Who's Running His Campaign go to the post dated July 14th, 2007, RUNNING OBAMA'S CAMPAIGN - Pt. 3, it has that information for you.)
Alright, so here's our first mistake: This household received 3 fundraising calls in two days.
Okay, fine, it's a race about money; moreso this year than ever. But in taking this tack, the Obama campaign cedes ground to the Clintons since it is not opposing moves to hold early primaries in many large states; e.g., moving California's primary up to next February.
Strategists likely advised the Senator these moves, overall, benefit him. Cash is flowing in, he's the other major player; it's simply the smart play. And the judgment has probably been made these moves are nearly impossible to stop. (We aren't so sure.)
So why is it important he oppose it? Senator O may well be able to compete with Hillary for money. Tom Vilsack dropped out yesterday faced with the likelihood there's no place in this race for less well-funded candidates. But there's two HUGE reasons he should resist letting the primary calendar become front-loaded next year and those reasons are:
1) Sen. Obama immediately becomes a "big money," machine candidate and he gets all that goes with it, bed-fellows like David Geffen who's no less sleazy than the Clintons. And Sen. Obama doesn't even get the luxury of time to pick, choose, vett and control these big-time bed crumbs. Which, for example, gets him into an immediate mud-slinging contest.
He also loses a critical opportunity to show political skill and savvy, and to do the right thing electorally. This is the very thing people are desperate to see. To see him stand for something, and organizing supporters around an objective. One with some populist appeal. It's a fight he therefore can afford to lose. Win or lose, it serves his and the country's wider interests.
And 2) the Democrats benefitted hugely in 2004 by having a long, hotly-contested primary race with a host of colorful candidates. Lots of air time, lots of talk. The country got to know the candidates. Kerry was hardly a household name. Neither was Dean. (Admittedly, both disappointed. But it's very difficult to get most Democrats to remember that losing an election to an incumbent War-time President by less than 200,000 votes in one state is astounding and this while the economy was in pretty fair shape, too).
Almost nobody but we political junkies knows who Barack Obama is at the moment. He's inexperienced; he calls it his biggest asset. That's cute. But he, above all, needs the time a dilated primary season would provide not just in name-recognition. He needs to be tested. We all want it. So that he can show that profile in courage. He needs to weather a long, fierce battle with grace and good humor, show endurance and fortitude, even lose and come back.
Letting the political calendar get squished into a month-long campaign awash in TV-ads plays directly into his opponent's hands. You're asking voters to step up and decide right then who should be the Democrat nominee. Winner-Take-All. They get one shot to get it right.
That's Hillary's ticket. In fact, it may be the ONLY chance she has. Asking voters all at once, cash on the barrelhead, to pick the nominee. Her, a known if very troubled quantity, VS. Barry Who?
I think she wins the nomination in that scenario. And the Democrats lose the election.
In that scenario, the Rose law firm, the last-minute pardon of international felons, Monica, Susan McDougal, and Paula Jones don't get mentioned til Hill is on her way to the convention with enough delegates to cinch her nomination and to tell the rest of us to eff off.
Do we really want to forget what the Clintons left us until we're heading toward a general election waiting for those ghosts and skeletons to get rattled by the Republicans?
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Here we learn what a PR business charitable work is for celebrities. With so many newcomers in this particular category this year the pickings are slender. And the one veteran appears to hew to the "my art is what concerns me most" school. The nominees are…
Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal - After filming "The Missing" she gave to the Forest Guardians, one of the Southwest’s environmental overseers. She recently converted her residence in the Hunters Hill district of Sydney, Australia into a "green house,"fully powered by solar energy after moving back and declaring that "family and the theatrical community in Australia were a large part of who we are." A periennial nominee, she’ll be pressured to do more.
Adriana Barazza, Babel – Barazza is a dialogue coach and drama teacher suddenly huge internationally. A fairly deep scouring of charity work suggests her work in Mexican soap operas has up to now consumed her.
Abigal Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine – Deeply involved in RED, ONE, GREEN PEACE and Kids For The Protection Of The Biosphere, young Ms. Breslin campaigns tirelessly for… I’m kidding, she’s ten, for chrissake! However, if she’s nominated again in the next couple years.... better get your green resume in order, Abby.
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls – Ditto. Only so long you can ride American Idleness, Jen.
Rinko Kikuchi, Babel – Also gets a pass. Began modeling at 15, she’s 26 and has appeared in a handful of Japanese features. Without scouring the net, no green causes or charities appear.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
So, in the category of Best Actress, the nominees are…
Penelope Cruz, Volver - She’s worked on (RED), fighting Aids in Africa, the ONE campaign, and given her photos and time to The Art of Elysium which encourages artists to dedicate the product of their talent to children battling serious medical conditions. She spent a week working for Mother Teresa assisting in a leprosy clinic which inspired her to start a foundation to support homeless girls in India and donate her salary from a film to the Mother’s foundation.
Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal – She works on behalf of Epilepsy Action and the Neurofibromatosis Association, and has backed the North West Cancer Research Fund, signing up to a national campaign aimed at raising the public's awareness about leaving money to charity. She’s helped Mencap, a charity supporting people with learning disabilites, The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation also in the UK, been the spokesperson for a campaign for Women Against Lung Cancer and helped the Karuna Trust which worked with some of India's most disadvantaged people. This not all-inclusive list appears to be only what she has done the last 5 years or so.
Helen Mirren, The Queen – She’s campaigned with Oxfam against the small arms trade, having addressed the U.N., and she's worked with Action Aid to stop the Asian sex slave trade. Mirren took part in One Knight Only, a benefit for the Asian Tsunami Appeal.
Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada – Oh, lord. It's alphabetical on a fan website. She’s worked for the ACADEMY OF AMERICAN POETRY , on ARTS FOR AMNESTY, with ACT which offers assistance to victims of domestic violence, the ARTS & EDUCATIONAL PARTNERSHIP, the CENTER FOR HEALTH AND THE GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT, the CHILDREN'S HEALTH ENVIRONMENTAL COALITION, the CIRCLE OF FRIENDS (part of the American Paralysis Association), CLOTHES OFF OUR BACK, CONNECTICUT FARMLAND TRUST , DISCOVER JERSEY ARTS, ELTON JOHN AIDS FOUNDATION, EQUALITY NOW (Human Rights of Women), GLOBAL RELEAF for American Forests, the HOLE IN THE WALL GANG (therapeutic drama for 800 seriously ill children), IT ALL STARTS WITH NEWSPAPERS, JOHN F. KENNEDY CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, MOTHERS & OTHERS, NET AID, READING IS FUNDAMENTAL, SAVE THE MUSIC, SCENIC HUDSON, THE GRACE CHILDREN'S FOUNDATION… Somebody stop this woman!
Kate Winslet, Little Children – Kate has helped the Helen & Douglas House charity providing respite and end of life care for children and young adults with life-shortening conditions, the National Literacy Trust and been a patron of Family Haven, a pre-school supportive day centre in Gloucestershire. There are many one-time donations of Kate-crafted objects she has given to charities.
Coming Soon, Part 3, the Best Supporting Actresses and perhaps a look at the Best Director nominees…
Monday, February 19, 2007
In the category of Best Supporting Actor, the nominees are...
Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine – Arkin is a legend. A founding member of Second City, he’s supported an organic lifestyle and preservation of the environment for many, many years. His father, David Arkin, was an artist/writer who, as a teacher, lost his job refusing to answer questions about political affiliation in the 50's. Though his father prevailed against his politically-based dismissal, Alan Arkin has long shunned celebrity for celebrity’s sake. Perhaps in the present urgent "climate" he’ll rethink his stance and take a more high profile and active role in the issues of concern to him.
LEONARDO DICAPRIO, The Departed - DiCaprio is simply Hollywood’s hardest-working ‘do-gooder’. He has a website full of links to charitable efforts in service to the planet and the creatures living on it. His largely selfless contributions, listed in part elsewhere at this site, are best seen at: http://www.leonardodicaprio.com/
RYAN GOSLING, Half Nelson - Gosling is involved with ONE (see November archive, "So Much Good To Do, So Little Time" re Running The Sahara), a campaign working to help the poor overcome AIDS and poverty. He’s also worked for animal-rights, writing a letter to Kentucky Fried Chicken on behalf of PETA, urging the company to improve its treatment of animals, and has traveled to Darfur and Katrina-devastated areas to assist in relief efforts.
PETER O’TOOLE, Venus - What to say about Peter. This is a man who generously donated his pancreas, a large portion of his stomach and a good deal of his liver to alcoholism. At 74, with an Oscar win, or, at the very least, high visibility again, one hopes Sir Peter will be granted the time to put it to beneficent use. His performance as Henry the 2nd in BECKETT remains, to this viewer, a thing of lasting human value in itself.
Coming soon, the Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress Nominees...
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Apparently, Frank Gehry was prevailed upon to go back to his earlier 'deconstructivist' work in designing the Bush edifice.
If you'd prefer the primary season be an opportunity to see how potential candidates perform you should OPPOSE it. (It favors well-funded frontrunners -- Hillary -- and will put a gun to the head of undecideds to pick the nominee without any of the candidates -- Obama -- gaining 'seasoning', or traction.)
The article below, which is studiedly "neutral" about the real reasons for this push, is from sfgate.com
Carla Marinucci: Internet push now behind plan to move up 2008 primary in California
Rick Jacobs, chair of CourageCampaign.org -- a 527 MoveOn-style coalition founded to support Democratic intersts in 2004 -- says the ramped up internet effort began Thursday to collect hundreds of thousands of voters' signatures. They will be forwarded to Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, as part of the effort asking that the legislature move forward on the February primary idea "so Californians can have a voice in the election," he says.
Jacobs says many Democratic California voters were angered in 2004 when a few thousand mostly white voters in Iowa and New Hampshire virtually decided the Democratic party nominee -- U.S. Senator John Kerry -- leaving supporters of other candidates like former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean out in the cold.
"We're going to work every possible way so we get a voice,'' says Jacobs.
The organization's pitch: "Sign our petition and forward it to your friends so we don't have to pay $2300 to shake hands with a candidate. It's time Hillary, Obama, Edwards, McCain, Hagel and the others visit California's voters, not just donors. We're the most diverse state in the country and the fifth largest economy in the world ... Sign our petition to ensure these candidates actually talk to us about our hopes and dreams, not just raid our wallets."
Top California political strategist Chris Lehane -- the former Clinton White House spokesman -- says that the such efforts may just be the beginning of a wave to push for an early primary, which he says "would be good for the state, the economy -- and the political parties."
This idea is "good" for Hillary only, who apparently already feels she needs to nail it down immediately or risk losing it. She needs to earn it. And, as was proved last election cycle, a well-fought contest with lots of debates and exposure for Democratic candidates is a blessing, not a hindrance.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
The web’s wires have been abuzz these last months with so much ‘Carbon Neutral’ news that the New Oxford American Dictionary recently proclaimed it Word Of The Year for 2006, unlike Merriam Webster’s which seemed a whole year late in making Steven Colbert’s ‘Truthiness" it’s choice. ("Besides, ‘Carbon Neutral’ is two words!" the snippish late night faux-conservative faux-talkshow faux-host can be heard to snipe.) But a day doesn’t go by without some company or celebrity jumping on the CN bandwagon. Exhibit A, this headline today from the Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Carbon Neutral (pronounced Kahr-buh,n Noo-truh,l) adjective Definition: the maintenance of a balance between producing and using carbon, esp. the global warming-inducing emission of carbon-dioxide by growing plants or planting trees both for fuel and carbon-capture to offset emissions from non-sustainable energy use
"Dell calls on customers to contribute to carbon-neutral computing". Dell announces it will plant sufficient trees to absorb all the atmospheric carbon dioxide generated by power plants producing the electricity used to drive its computers for a three-year period. Dubbed Plant a Tree for Me, Dell’s notebook and desktop buyers will be given the chance to donate $2 or $6, respectively, to fund Dell's project. Or rather, Dell will pass the money on to non-profit organizations that will handle the planting, in sustainably managed forests. Dell doesn't say whether it will be donating any money of its own and absent from its list of machines are servers, which consume more energy and tend to be powered up for longer.
Items like this show that it's getting harder to distinguish the sheep from the shorn. For example, Exhibit B, right below the same google news pages as Dell’s self-serving declaration is "The Helium Report" offering a chart that touts private jet travel as a comparably inexpensive way to fly (!!!)… from the point of view of carbon neutrality. "We were surprised to find it costs less than 1% of the flying cost per hour to fly carbon neutral…We reviewed ten popular jets in four categories and found the cost to fly carbon neutral ranges from $7 to $60 an hour — a minuscule amount when flying private costs $2,000 to $13,000 an hour. For less than $10,000, you can offset 200 hours in a Falcon 2000, a 10-seat jet that costs more than $25 million."
This on a site that appears to be largely sponsored by TerraPass, one of the largest firms engaged in selling carbon offsets.
More than just more hot air?
Do you really repair the damage caused by flying by paying a carbon offset company? Offsets are suddenly all the rage. This past Holiday Season friends boasted of giving their offspring a year’s worth of offsets, the perfect parental gift for progeny who have everything… except a planet to offer their own future progeny. For $99, Carbonfund.org offers a 'zero carbon' option, an offset not only for a year's worth of fossil fuel combustion but for all of the emissions associated with the production of 'everything we consume: clothes, food, electronics, your iPod, everything.'
The most obvious ethical problem is that any solution that when writ large, that is, when applied universally, would ruin the planet in an eyeblink needs to be approached with extreme caution. Money paid out for such schemes is blood money, balm for guilty consciences. Unfortunately simply planting trees won’t reclaim the irreplaceable fossil fuel spewed into the air on a private jet. Were all earth’s inhabitants to immediately adopt this tact there wouldn’t be space enough for all the trees needed to assuage the carbon damage. But that doesn’t mean carbon neutral efforts can't be part of the solution, one of the wedges in stabilizing our carbon dioxide emissions long-term.
However, the global market in personal, "voluntary" offsetting is exploding, expected to top over $500 million dollars the next three years. (The International Emissions Trading Association and World Bank estimate that the market for carbon credits, of which offsets are a part, is now worth more than $21.5 billion, according to a new study.) And many of these companies rely on assumptions based on "forest sequestration". It’s the easy and most attractive way to sell offsets. You’re "planting trees," you’re told. At best these efforts depend on the assumption that planting trees in an area previously without forest "locks up" carbon in the new trees grown there. In other words, it takes carbon out of the air and puts it into a plant. One criticism of "forest sequestration" is that carbon in a tree is not "stored safely". Trees burn up, forests die out due to insect infestation (the rock band Coldplay learnt this the hard way when most of the trees on a mango plantation they supported in India died), but new arguments have recently emerged that further question the value of tree planting.
Last month, two US-based ecologists claimed that most forests do not have any overall effect on global temperature. Except for a thin band around the equator, forests trap more heat than they help to get rid of by reducing CO². In fact, last year the WWF, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace issued a statement saying they do not support forestry projects to offset carbon emissions. This has led some offset firms to downplay the forestry side of their business. A major player, the Carbon Neutral Company, (there are more than 30 of these firms, some not-for profit, some not-not) changed its name from Future Forests to avoid the appearance of being a trees-only offsetter.
Nonetheless, "carbon neutral" efforts are still to be applauded. They not only raise consciousness about our individual "carbon footprints" they will inevitably be part of any carbon mitigation initiative. The issues, however, are complex, and pressing given the difficulty of calculating what really is an ‘offset’ in a rapidly warming world where ‘offset companies’ are entirely unregulated.
Readers piqued to examine this in more depth are invited to begin their journey with visits to the following online articles that contributed to this column:
A lot of hot air? By Dominic Murphy, The Guardian, Thursday January 11, 2007
Going carbon-neutral By Drake Bennett THE BOSTON GLOBE Sunday, December 24, 2006
And to follow up with perusals of Joel Makower’s piece Carbon Neutral Stabilization Wedges
And of “Do carbon offsets live up to their promise?”