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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Many lines of fire: women at war

Women soldiers in Iraq - Kai Pfaffenbach, ReutersMany Americans assume that women in the U.S. military are stationed far from the fighting. While it's true they can't train for frontline combat positions, the changing nature of the Iraq war has placed many women at the center of the conflict. Yet the women serving and dying for the U.S. have received very little attention. Who are they, why did they join and what are their experiences and points of view?

listen to the programOn this edition, Sarah Olson speaks with veterans of the U.S. Army, Navy and Marines, and to one active duty soldier who served for a year as an Army journalist in Iraq. Each woman has a unique story, but all share an understanding of the power politics of the U.S. military and the price that is paid by women seeking to serve their country.

Greener News Room


Linsay Rousseau Burnett, Sgt. U.S. Army; Spent one year as an Army journalist in Iraq. Photo: Linsay Rousseau Burnett Anuradha Bhagwati, Former Marine Captain; Maricela Guzman, Former Information Technician in the U.S. Navy; Linsay Rousseau Burnett, Sergeant U.S. Army, first brigade combat team 101st Airborne division; Stefani Pelkey, Former Army Captain.

Senior Producer/Host: Tena Rubio
Mixing Engineer: Phillip Babich
Intern: Alexis McCrimmon

For more information::

Vets for Vets
520-250-0509; info@vets4vets.us

Iraq and Afghan Veterans for America
770 Broadway, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10003
212-982-9699; info@iava.org

Iraq Veterans Against the War
P.O. Box 8296
Philadelphia, PA 19101
215.241.7123; ivaw@ivaw.org

Women of Color Resource Center
1611 Telegraph Ave. #303
Oakland, CA 94612
510-444-2700; info@coloredgirls.org

Women Veterans of America
National Headquarters
P.O. Box 72
Bushkill, PA 18324


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3:30 PM

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Waves of Change, Rivers of Doubt

Global Water Issues and Solutions (hour-long radio special, rebroadcast for Water Week March 23,07)

Water... it's the source of all life. 70 percent of the planet is covered in it, and more than half of your body is made up of it. We use water everyday to refresh, revive, to subsist... yet, water resources are growing increasingly scarce around the world and access to potable water is
alarmingly difficult in some regions.

listen to broadcastIn this special, hour-long edition, we look at some core water issues affecting people around the world, including privatization, access to clean water, desalination technology, bottled water debates, and non-point source pollution.

A half-hour version of this program is available here

Greener News Room

Support for this program comes in part from the PRX Reversioning Project.

Senior Producer/Host/Writer: Tena Rubio.
Contributing Producers: Robynn Takayama, Lester Graham (GLRC - Great Lakes Radio Consortium), Sarah Olson, Sarah Meehan, Brian Edwards-Tiekert, Shawn Allee.
Senior Mixing Engineer: Stephanie Welch


“Headline News” - Wenonah Hauter, Food and Water Watch; Eric Olson, NY Advocacy Center/Natural Resources Defense Council; Wilma Subra, Subra Company.

“Water Privatization” - Kapua Sproat, Earth Justice; Duke Sevilla, Hui o Na Wai `Eha; Alan M. Arakawa, Mayor of Maui; Avery Chumbley, Wailuku Water Company; Wenonah Hauter, Food and Water Watch; Geoffrey Segal, Reason Foundation.

GLRC’s “Ten Threats: Bottled Water Diversion Debate” - Chuck Swartzle, Besco Water Treatment, Inc.; William E. Lobenherz, Michigan Soft Drink Association; Dave Dempsey, Clean Water Action Great Lakes.

“Bottled Water Debate” - Stephen Kay, International Bottled Water Association; Erik Olson, Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Access to Clean Water (Ghana)” - Pascalina, resident of Maamobi; Patrick Apoya, Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS); Ben Ampomah, Water Resources Commission; Michael Agyeman, Ghana Water Company; Leo Shang-Quartey, The Ghana National Coalition Against the Privatization of Water (NCAP).

“Desalination” - Karl B. Stinson, Alameda County Water District; Dr. Peter Gleick, The Pacific Institute; Richard Stover, Energy Recovery Inc.; Conner Everts, California Statewide De-Sal Response Group.

GLRC’s “Ten Threats: Rethinking Urban Runoff” - Brian Bell, EPA; Grace Troccolo, Chicago Center Green Technology; Dr. Stephen Bocking, Trent University.

For more information::

Alameda County Water District
43885 South Grimmer Blvd.
Fremont, CA 94538

Besco Water Treatment, Inc.

California Statewide De-Sal Response Group
2515 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90403

City of Chicago Department of Environment
Chicago Center for Green Technology (Chicago Green Tech)
445 N. Sacramento Blvd.
Chicago, Illinois 60612-1711
312-746-9642; greentech@cityofchicago.org

Clean Water Action - National Office
4455 Connecticut Ave. NW Suite A300
Washington, DC 20008

Clean Water Network
1200 New York Avenue NW, Suite 400
Washington, D.C. 20005
202-289-2421; Fax: 202-289-1060; info@cwn.org

Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS)
PMB KA 24, Airport
Accra, GHANA
233-21-25 08 16; coniwas@yahoo.com

Earth Justice
223 South King Street, #400
Honolulu, HI 96813-4501
808-599-2436; ksproat@earthjustice.org

Energy Recovery Inc.
1908 Doolittle Drive
San Leandro, CA 94577

Environmental and Resource Studies Program, Trent University
1600 West Bank Drive
Peterborough, Ontario K9J 7B8 CANADA
705-748-1011 ext.1520 or 705-748-1569; sbocking@trentu.ca

Environmental Working Group
1436 U St. NW, Suite 100
Washington, DC 20009

Food and Water Watch
1400 16th Street NW, Suite 225
Washington, DC 20036
202-797-6550; Fax: 202-797-6560; foodandwater@fwwatch.org

Ghana Water Company
PO Box MB 194
Accra, GHANA
233-21-66 67 81

The Ghana National Coalition Against the Privatization of Water (NCAP)
c/o The Trades Union Congress, Hall of Trade Unions
PO Box 701
Accra, GHANA
233-21- 66 25 68

Hui o Na Wai `Eha
c/o John and Rose Marie Duey
575A Iao Valley
Wailuku, HI 96793-3007
808-242-8565; jduey@maui.net

International Bottled Water Association
1700 Diagonal Road, Suite 650
Alexandria, VA 22314
703-683-5213; Fax: 703-683-4074; Info Hotline: 1-800-WATER-11

Mayor, County of Maui
200 South High Street
Wailuku, Maui, HI 96793
808-270-7855; Fax: 808-270-8073; mayors.office@mauicounty.gov

Michigan Soft Drink Association
517-371-4499; Fax: 517-371-1113

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
40 West 20th Street
New York, NY 10011
212-727-2700; Fax: 212-727-1773

National Response Center
(sole federal point of contact for reporting oil and chemical spills)
Toll-free: 1-800-424-8802

The Pacific Institute
654 13th Street,
Preservation Park
Oakland, CA 94612

The Reason Foundation
3415 S. Sepulveda Blvd, Suite 400
Los Angeles, CA 90034

River Network
520 SW 6th Avenue #1130
Portland, OR 97204
503-241-3506; Fax 503-241-9256; info@rivernetwork.org

Subra Company
PO Box 9813
New Iberia, LA 70562

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - region 5

Wailuku Water Company
255 E Waiko Rd.,
Wailuku HI 96793-9355
808-244-9570; Fax: 808-242-7068

Water Resources Commission
PO Box CT 5630
Accra, GHANA

Other helpful links::

Drinking Water Information - Biological Indicators of Watershed Health

Water Resources in the US - U.S. Geological Survey
(guide to America's water resources)

Water Quality Information Center - National Agriculture Library
(list of over 1,000 web sites related to all aspects of water quality)

EPA’s Clean Water Through Conservation

Public Radio Exchange (PRX)

Great Lakes Radio Consortium


Top of Page

11:25 PM

Plastic that degrades in seawater?

A new type of environmentally friendly plastic that degrades in seawater may make it safe and practical to toss plastic waste overboard, freeing valuable storage space for military, merchant and cruise ships generating large volumes of plastic waste that must be stored onboard until they reach port.

Large volumes of plastic waste generated aboard military, merchant and cruise ships must be stored onboard, often for prolonged periods, until they make port. A new type of environmentally friendly plastic that degrades in seawater may make it safe and practical to toss plastic waste overboard.

Editor's note: Considering recent bioengineering research including limited success with interspecies cloning and the discovery that a third natural form of carbon called nanotubes can be formed into structures called "buckyballs"(nanotubes of carbon, which form tetrahedral nanospheres can become self replicating) we couldn’t help but recall this fascinating video clip from Theo Jansen, sculptor and design/engineer who hopes to populate a world with ambulatory, plastic, wind driven creatures he calls “Strandbeests”.

According to scientists at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM), the biodegradable plastics could replace conventional plastics used to make stretch wrap for large cargo items, food containers, eating utensils and other plastics used at sea, the researchers say. The development was described today at the 233rd national meeting of the American Chemical Society.

“There are many groups working on biodegradable plastics, but we’re one of a few working on plastics that degrade in seawater,” says study leader Robson F. Storey, Ph.D., a professor of Polymer Science and Engineering at USM, located in Hattiesburg, Miss. “We’re moving toward making plastics more sustainable, especially those that are used at sea.”

Conventional plastics can take years to break down and may result in byproducts that are harmful to the environment and toxic to marine organisms, conditions that make their disposal at sea unacceptable. The new plastics are capable of degrading in as few as 20 days and result in natural byproducts that are nontoxic.

The new plastics are made of polyurethane that has been modified by the incorporation of PLGA [poly (D,L-lactide-co-glycolide)], a known degradable polymer used in surgical sutures and controlled drug-delivery applications. Through variations in the chemical composition of the plastic, the researchers have achieved a wide range of mechanical properties ranging from soft, rubber-like plastics to hard, rigid structures, depending on their intended use.

When exposed to seawater, the plastics degrade via hydrolysis into nontoxic products, according to the scientists. Depending on the composition of the plastics, these compounds may include water, carbon dioxide, lactic acid, glycolic acid, succinic acid, caproic acid and L-lysine, all of which can be found in nature, they add.

Because the new plastics are denser than saltwater, they have a tendency to sink instead of float, Storey says. That feature also could prevent them from washing up on shore and polluting beaches, he notes.

The plastics are not quite ready for commercialization. More studies are needed to optimize the plastics for various environmental conditions they might encounter, including changes in temperature, humidity and seawater composition, Storey says. There also are legal hurdles to overcome, since international maritime law currently forbids disposal of plastics at sea.

Greener News Room

Editor's note: Although intriguing and certainly not without practical applications, does the effort to conserve space aboard cruise ships really qualify as a "sustainable" use of limited resources? Rather than encourage research into perfecting a means for the maritime industry to return to "dumping" their garbage at sea perhaps we could enlist resarchers at MIT to construct a better trash compactor.

At the very least cruise lines might consider reusable utensils, plates and liquid containers.



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1:47 PM

Monday, March 26, 2007

Like Columbus, climate researchers explore beyond known world

A new global warming study predicts that many current climate zones will vanish entirely by the year 2100, replaced by climates unknown in today's world.

Global climate models for the next century forecast the complete disappearance of several existing climates currently found in tropical highlands and regions near the poles, while large swaths of the tropics and subtropics may develop new climates unlike anything seen today. Driven by worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, the climate modeling study uses average summer and winter temperatures and precipitation levels to map the differences between climate zones today and in the year 2100 and anticipates large climate changes worldwide.

The work, by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Wyoming, appears online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the week of March 26.

As world leaders and scientists push to develop sound strategies to understand and cope with global changes, predictive studies like this one reveal both the importance and difficulty of such a task. Primary author and UW-Madison geographer Jack Williams likens today's environmental analysts to 15th-century European mapmakers confronted with the New World, struggling to chart unknown territory. "We want to identify the regions of the world where climate change will result in climates unlike any today," Williams says. "These are the areas beyond our map."

PHOTO: courtesy Jack WilliamsThe most severely affected parts of the world span both heavily populated regions, including the southeastern United States, southeastern Asia and parts of Africa, and known hotspots of biodiversity, such as the Amazonian rainforest and African and South American mountain ranges. The changes predicted by the new study anticipate dramatic ecological shifts, with unknown but probably extensive effects on large segments of the Earth's population.

"All policy and management strategies are based on current conditions," Williams says, adding that regions with the largest changes are where these strategies and models are most likely to fail. "How do you make predictions for these areas of the unknown?"

Using models that translate carbon dioxide emission levels into climate change, Williams and his colleagues foresee the appearance of novel climate zones on up to 39 percent of the world's land surface area by 2100, if current rates of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions continue. Under the same conditions, the models predict the global disappearance of up to 48 percent of current land climates. Even if emission rates slow due to mitigation strategies, the models predict both climate loss and formation, each on up to 20 percent of world land area.
The underlying effect is clear, Williams says, noting, "More carbon dioxide in the air means more risk of entirely new climates or climates disappearing."

In general, the models show that existing climate zones will shift toward higher latitudes and higher elevations, squeezing out the climates at the extremes - tropical mountaintops and the poles - and leaving room for unfamiliar climes around the equator.

"This work helps highlight the significance of changes in the tropics," complementing the extensive attention already focused on the Arctic, says co-author John Kutzbach, professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at UW-Madison. "There has been so much emphasis on high latitudes because the absolute temperature changes are larger."

However, Kutzbach explains, normal seasonal fluctuations in temperature and rainfall are smaller in the tropics, and even "small absolute changes may be large relative to normal variability."

The patterns of change foreshadow significant impacts on ecosystems and conservation. "There is a close correspondence between disappearing climates and areas of biodiversity," says Williams, which could increase risk of extinction in the affected areas.

Physical restrictions on species may also amplify the effects of local climate changes. The more relevant question, Williams says, becomes not just whether a given climate still exists, but "will a species be able to keep up with its climatic zone? Most species can't migrate around the world."

For the researchers, one of the most poignant aspects of the work is in what it doesn't tell them - the uncertainty. At this point, Williams says, "we don't know which bad things will happen or which good things will happen - we just don't know. We are in for some ecological surprises."

The work was conducted in collaboration with Stephen Jackson at the University of Wyoming and was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Greener News Room



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5:30 PM

Saturday, March 24, 2007

What's the Catch of the Day? Mercury.

It's poisoning our waters, our fish, our bodies and it isn't going away any time soon.

Cannery Row circa 1920Each year tons of mercury gets into our streams, bays and oceans. How does it get there, what does it do to us and how can we protect ourselves?

On this edition, we go to the San Francisco Bay. Joined by a public health analyst, we'll talk to local fisherman, new moms, restaurant-goers and the E.P.A. about mercury.

Listen to the programThis program was made possible in part by a grant from the As You Sow Foundation.


Steve, fisherman; Eli Saddler, Northern California GotMercury.org public health analyst; Sarah and Kim, moms on pier; Linda and Margaret, PF Chang's China Bistro patrons; Allan Hirsch, CA Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment Chief Deputy Director; Lisa Rudman, National Radio Project's Executive Director.

Senior Producer/Host: Tena Rubio
Associate Producer: Emily Polk
Mixing Engineer: Phillip Babich
Intern: Alexis McCrimmon

Greener Magazine

For more information::

GotMercury.org (a project of Turtle Island Restoration Network)
Caryn Mandelbaum
PO Box 400
Forest Knolls, CA 94933
415-488-0370; caryn@gotmercury.org

Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment
Allan Hirsch, Chief Deputy Director

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
National Headquarters
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460

U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition

WIC Program (Women, Infants and Children Program)

Mercury Policy Project
1420 North Street
Montpelier, VT 05602
802-223-9000; mercurypolicy@mercurypolicy.org

Zero Mercury Campaign

Mercury in Schools

Healthcare without Harm

Additional links::

Californians for Alternatives to Toxics



Monterey Bay Aquarium - Seafood Watch Program
886 Cannery Row
Monterey, CA 93940
The Aquarium updates the wallet sized seafood-watch guide with information provided by Environmental Defense

Thirst (movie)
Is water part of a shared "commons," a human right for all people? Or is it a commodity to be bought, sold, and traded in a global marketplace? "Thirst" tells the stories of communities in Bolivia, India, and the United States that are asking these fundamental questions.

Thirst: Fighting the Corporate Theft of Our Water (book)
Investigates eight recent high-profile controversies over the corporate takeover of water in the U.S, and illuminates how citizens are fighting back in heartland communities like Stockton, CA, Lexington, KY, Holyoke, MA, and Mecosta County, MI.


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9:59 PM

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Planet Earth, see it, believe it

Beginning this Sunday, The Discovery Channel in partnership with The Nature Conservancy presents an 11 part series entitled Planet Earth

The premiere episode, "Pole to Pole," which airs Sunday, March 25, at 8 p.m. ET/PT provides`an overview to the series beginning with an examination of how life everywhere is ultimately connected and dependent on all other life. It is the producer's unique view of the diverse and interealated nature of the planet and the amazing creatures that live on it.

PLANET EARTH, is a first-of-its-kind look at the world’s most magnificent and compelling locations, including never-before-seen animal behaviors and remote natural locations captured for the first time in high definition production.

The goal of the series is to present the natural majesty of our planet Earth and, at the same time, challenge audiences to learn more about caring for the environment.

Greener Magazine

Additional resources:: Interactive series location mapping , Google Earth



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1:22 PM

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A tail of two cetations, whales and dolphins

A life sized blue on your desk top is the latest initiative designed to raise awareness about the risk to whales from on-going whaling by countries like Japan, Norway and Iceland.

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, has announced the runaway success of its latest awareness-raising initiative; a life-sized blue whale on the web.

The banner, as part of WDCS’s Stop Bloody Whaling campaign, gives viewers a glimpse of a life size animated blue whale, the largest animal ever to live on Earth. The campaign highlights the growing danger to great whales from a cruel and increasingly aggressive commercial whaling industry.

The animated whale banner can be seen at www.whales.org.

“The response we’ve had has been overwhelming”, says Lindsay Bruce, IT Manager at WDCS. “Now we’re finding that our hosted solution is close to saturation as demand for the banner really takes off. We hoped the banner would be popular, but seeing this level of public interest is both gratifying and creating a real technical problem. The banner has registered over 90,000 downloads of the animation in the past week and we have been inundated with requests for a version to use as a screen-saver. We’re now looking for a generous IT partner who can help us host this. Clearly it’s made an impact on the public and we want it to stay up, but we don’t have the infrastructure to cope with the demand”.

Created by the German ad agency “Jung von Matt” in Hamburg with the help of "Soulpix 3D animation", the blue whale animation is composed of 10,000 JPEG images stitched together to illustrate the enormous size of these marine mammals. An ingenious Flash engine downloads the images on demand as the whale “swims” slowly across the screen. The completed image is over 80Mb in size.

“The banner is both a fascinating impression of this gigantic animal, the blue whale and a key reminder of the very real danger of commercial exploitation faced by this and other great whales should pro-whaling countries succeed in overturning the ban on commercial whaling.” Says Nicolas Entrup, spokesperson for WDCS “We want the banner to demonstrate to people how amazing these animals are, and how important it is that we do everything in our power to protect them.”

In the twentieth century, whaling pushed many species to the very brink of extinction. In the Antarctic alone, between 1904 and 1978, 1.4 million whales were killed. This number includes the 350,000 blue whales taken by whaling fleets during that time. Thousands more were killed and not reported. With populations slow to recover, these giant creatures are now classified as endangered with some populations in the Antarctic numbering just a few hundred. Many other populations of whales were similarly decimated.

Greener Magazine


Top of Page

9:28 PM

First toxic car report released

Tuesday the Ecology Center released its consumer guide to toxic chemicals in cars at www.healthycar.org. Over 200 of the most popular 2006- and 2007-model vehicles in the U.S. were tested for chemicals that off-gas or emit gas such as the steering wheel, dashboard, armrests and seats. These chemicals contribute to the "new car smell" we all relish and may, at the same time, pose a variety of acute and long-term health concerns. The average American spends more than 1.5 hours in a car every day consequently toxic chemical exposure inside vehicles is a major source of indoor air pollution.

The good news is that some cars are less toxic than others. Toxic chemicals in fact, are not required to make auto parts, and some manufacturers have begun to phase them out. Chemicals of primary concern include: bromine (associated with brominated flame retardants); chlorine (indicating the presence of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC and plasticizers); lead; and heavy metals. Such chemicals have been linked to a wide range of health problems such as allergies, birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and cancer.

What follows is a list of the 10 best and 10 worst cars tested. GM's Chevy brand had the distinction of both best and worst pick, with the Cobalt scoring first and Silverado truck scoring last. Brands that fared well included Volvo and Honda/Acura, both with two models in the top ten. Kia/Hyundai joined Chevy with three entries in the worst ten.

"Our findings show that it is not necessary to use toxic chemicals when making indoor auto parts," said Jeff Gearhart, the Ecology Center's Clean Car Campaign Director. "There is no excuse for manufacturers not to replace these hazardous chemicals with safe alternatives immediately."

While there are numerous substances in vehicles that can lead to health and environmental problems, HealthyCar.org selected those with known toxicity, persistence, and tendency to build up in people and the environment. These chemicals included:

Bromine: Associated with the use of brominated flame retardants, BFRs are added to plastics in order to impart fire resistance, but they are released into the environment over the life of the vehicle. Heat and UV-ray exposure in cars can accelerate the breakdown of these chemicals and possibly increase their toxicity. Some BFRs have been associated with thyroid problems, learning and memory impairment, decreased fertility, behavioral changes, and other health problems.

Chlorine: Associated with the use of polyvinyl chloride, PVC is a widely used type of plastic that is of concern to the environment and public health during all phases of its life cycle. PVC contains chemicals called phthalates, some of which have been associated with decreased fertility, pre-term deliveries, and damage to the liver, testes, thyroid, ovaries, kidneys, and blood. There is also evidence that phthalates can pass from mothers to babies through the placenta and through breast milk.

Lead: Lead is sometimes used as an additive in automotive plastics. Exposure can lead to a number of potential health effects including brain damage, and problems with the kidneys, blood, nerves, and reproductive system. It can also cause learning and behavioral problems.

Other: Other chemicals tested as part of healthycar.org include antimony, arsenic, chromium, cobalt, copper, mercury, nickel and tin. The substances in this category are allergens, carcinogens, or cause other adverse health impacts depending on the concentrations and exposure levels.

The same chemicals that cause human health issues also cause problems for the environment. AS+s vehicles are discarded, the plastic and other non-metallic parts are shredded. Asigned to landfills or burned in incinerators, these discarded materials leach harmful chemicals and contaminates into our soil, waterand atmosphere.

Greener News Room


Top of Page

8:36 AM

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Chance for Global Warming Activism

Photo courtesy of peacecorpsonline.org

Here's your chance to meet other global-warming activists in your own community.

The website Step It Up! 2007 is promoting a "national day of climate action" on April 14, 2007. Great idea, and a desperately needed action. Already 920 events are planned in 50 states. The Step It Up 2007 website has an interactive map that allows you to locate the event closest to your home.

Step It Up! is pushing Congress for an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by the year 2050, which is just a 2% reduction per year.

Here is Step It Up's explanation of why they've chosen this particular goal. From their website:

"The latest science tells us that temperatures are increasing faster than expected, and the results are showing up in melting ice caps, intensifying storms, and rising sea levels. America's foremost climatologist, NASA scientist James Hansen, has said that we have just a few years to start reducing carbon emissions, and he's endorsed our goal of 80% by 2050. That won't prevent global warming - it's already too late for that - but it may be enough to stave off the most catastrophic effects.

"While few experts have said explicitly 'we need to reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2050,' we're sticking to this message. Here's why: Scientists have resisted in nearly every case prescribing policy because they don't want to enter the political realm. That's why the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and others won't suggest policy, but rather leave it up to legislators to do the dirty work. That said, Jim Hansen, the Stern Report, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a number of European countries, the State of California and others (including the new USCAP business-environmental partnership) have either suggested or explicitly referred to 80% carbon cuts by 2050 as a solution commensurate to the scale of the problem.

"And it's possible. The cost of renewable energy is falling fast. New conservation technologies, like hybrid cars, are becoming more available. Many Americans are starting to switch already, but only leadership from Washington can allow this transformation to happen fast enough. And if we begin to get our house in order, then we can play some role in helping China and India steer away from cataclysm as well.

"There are no guarantees we'll succeed. But if we act ambitiously, we have reason to hope."

Step It Up's website (link above) also has suggetions for how to plan an action near you, if there isn't one already planned, and other steps you can take to reduce our contribution to climate change. Americans are right now the world's biggest producers of the greenhouse gases that are warming the planet. But we're not helpless to stop it.

by Sally Kneidel

Keywords:: global warming day of action step it up Congress 80% reduction greenhouse gases carbon emissions climate change


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12:32 PM

Thursday, March 15, 2007

African forests going, going, gone?

Africa lost nine per cent of its trees between 1990 and 2005, according to a UN survey of the world's forests.

This represents 0ne half of the earth's forest loss, this despite the fact that the continent accounts for just 16 per cent of the earth's forests.

Photo credit: Greenpeace/Kate Davison
In a news release this week (13 March) by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, it was reported that the highest losses occurred in countries with the densest forest cover: Angola, Cameroon, DRC, Nigeria, Sudan, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, all in Africa.

Although forests are obtaining greater political support and commitment in Africa, the report says "implementation and law enforcement remains weak in most countries".

In Latin America and the Caribbean, home to a quarter of the world's forest cover, 0.5 per cent of forest was lost each year between 2000 and 2005 ― up from a rate of 0.46 per cent in the 1990s. The conversion of forest to agriculture was the leading cause of deforestation.

Costa Rica, however, reversed its forest decline in the 1990s subsequently realizing a growth of of almost one per cent of forest area expansion per year. But the extent to which this is related to reductions in agricultural land or innovative policies is not clear, warns the report.

The survey highlighted positive action in Latin American countries. This includes a large increase in forest area designated for biodiversity conservation, indicating that countries are taking steps to prevent loss of primary forests ― those undisturbed by human activities.

According to the report, the region is "among the world leaders in innovative approaches to international cooperation on forest issues". Methods used include forming networks to fight fires and improve the management of protected areas.

The Amazon Treaty Cooperation Organization ― whose member countries comprise Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela ― and the Central American Commission on Environment and Development are among those cited in the report.

Forested area increased in Asia between 2000 and 2005 ― largely due to China's investment in tree plantations, which offset high rates of forest clearing in other regions.

Greener News Room

Related links::
State of the World's Forests 2007 report
UN Food and Agriculture Organization
The Amazon Treaty Cooperation Organization



Top of Page

9:27 PM

Clean water for billions by 2015

Worldwide, more than one billion people lack access to an improved water source, such as a rainwater collection or wells. Two billion still need access to basic sanitation facilities.

Photo by E. Staub, Courtesy of CDC and The Carter Center
By 2015, the international community, working through United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals adopted in September, hopes to reduce by half the number of people without safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

In the developed world, the moment a drop of water hits the ground it goes into the water system until it becomes wastewater. Then it’s treated and put it back into the system.

“We have a large-scale infrastructure in the United States to provide clean water,” said Joseph Hughes, chair of the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “Using our current approach will not provide the rapid fix the United Nations is looking for in developing countries. It would take decades.”

Hughes outlined four steps to solving the developing world’s water and sanitation problems. First, researchers must determine how big the problem is, then analyze the water distribution process, understand the complexity of the systems required and, finally, create new approaches to water supply and sanitation through research and development, which might include new methods of storing, treating and disinfecting water and developing sanitation systems that minimize pathogen release.

Urbanization, climate changes, water scarcity and economic development will affect where water will be available in the future and where concentrated amounts of water will be required to meet the needs of large populations, Hughes says. The United Nations projects that two-thirds of the world’s population will live in areas that face water scarcity by 2025.

“Historically we’ve tried to go to groundwater sources, such as a well, to initiate improved water sources, but there’s a very finite capacity in groundwater,” Hughes noted. “We have to work much harder to make ocean or surface waters safe.”

The water must be safe and in reliable quantities

“We need to go beyond providing better water,” Hughes added. “We need to provide water that you and I would drink and consider safe. If a pregnant woman drank it, she wouldn’t be worried about her health or the baby’s health.”

In the United States, the only thing consumers need to know about their water supply is how to pay their bill and call a plumber if there’s a leak, said Cozzens, who organized the AAAS session on water and sanitation in developing countries. But a family in a developing country with a latrine needs to know a tremendous amount – how to build the latrine and how to maintain it.

“If a part breaks, what does that family do? Does the family stay in touch with the organization that came and provided the service or part originally? Is there someone who assumes the role of civil engineer in every town?” asked Cozzens.

Cozzens, in order to answer these questions, plans to investigate how communities in developing countries share their knowledge. She will conduct case studies in urban as well as rural locations in Mozambique, South Africa, Costa Rica and Brazil.
Cozzens’ goal is to provide insight to international and local water authorities helping developing countries set the right conditions for people to learn and solve the problems of unsafe water and sanitation.

Greener News Room


1. Susan Cozzens (404-385-0397); susan.cozzens@pubpolicy@gatech.edu
2. Joseph Hughes (404-894-2201); joseph.hughes@ce.gatech.edu


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3:07 PM

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The U.S. Army vs. Lt. Ehren Watada

The Fourth Anniversary of the Iraq War is upon us, and more than eight thousand members of the U.S. military are officially unaccounted for. Many other soldiers are publicly opposing the war and refusing to deploy. Lieutenant Ehren Watada is among them. He's the first Army officer to be tried for refusing to deploy to Iraq.

Listen to the program
On this edition, Aaron Glantz sheds light on the events and issues surrounding the recent court martial of Lt. Watada. We'll hear from those supporting him, from analysts following the case and from the accused Army officer himself.


Anne Wright, Retired Army Colonel and Ambassador; Lieutenant Ehren Watada, first Army officer to be tried for refusing to deploy to Iraq; Benjamin Ferencz, one of the chief prosecutors at Nuremberg; Eric Seitz, Lt. Watada's attorney; Geoff Millard, Iraq war veteran who covered trial for truthout.org; Jeff Patterson, Courage to Resist member and former Marine who refused to fight in the first Gulf War; Joe Piek, Fort Lewis spokesperson; Carolyn Ho, Lieutenant Watada's mother; Staff Sergeant Don Hanks, served fifteen years in Army; Michael Wong, social worker, Veterans for Peace member; Helga Aguayo, wife of Augustin Aguayo, army medic facing seven years in prison for going AWOL (absent without leave).

Senior Producer/Host: Tena Rubio
Contributing Producer: Aaron Glantz
Mixing Engineer: Phillip Babich
Intern: Alexis McCrimmon

For more information::

Courage to Resist

Iraq Veterans Against the War

Family and Friends of Lt. Ehren Watada

Fort Lewis Public Affairs Office

Augustine Aguayo Defense Committee

Greener News Room



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2:44 PM

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Stellerator may be key to sustainable fusion reactor

This project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison may have brought mankind one step closer to the reality of nuclear fusion.

We have to admit,for us, this is a bit of a Giger counter.

Giger design, click to see Stellerator photo
A research team, headed by Professor David Anderson and research assistant John Canik, recently proved that the Helically Symmetric eXperiment (HSX), an odd-looking magnetic plasma chamber called a stellarator, can overcome the major barrier to plasma research, stellarators lose too much energy to reach the high temperatures needed for fusion.

HSX in fact loses less energy, meaning that fusion in this type of stellarator could be possible.

Plasma is very hot, ionized gas that will conduct electricity - essentially, it is what stars are made of. Heated to the point of ignition, hydrogen ions fuse into helium, which is the same reaction that powers the sun. This fusion could be a clean, sustainable and limitless energy source.

Current plasma research builds on two types of magnetic plasma confinement devices, tokamaks and stellarators. The HSX aims to merge the best properties of both by giving a more stable stellarator the confinement of a more energetically efficient tokamak. "The slower energy comes out, the less power you have to put in, and the more economical the reactor is," says Canik.

Tokamaks, the current leader in the fusion race, are powered by plasma currents, which provide part of the magnetic field that confines the plasma. However, they are prone to "disruptions."

"The problem is you need very large plasma currents and it's not clear whether we'll be able to drive that large of a current in a reactor-sized machine, or control it. It may blow itself apart," says Canik.

Stellarators do not have currents, and therefore no disruptions, but they tend to lose energy at a high rate, known as transport. The external magnetic coils used to generate the plasma-confining field are partially responsible for the high transport rates in conventional stellarators. The coils add some ripple to the magnetic field, and the plasma can get trapped in the ripple and lost.

The HSX is the first stellarator to use a quasi-symmetric magnetic field. The reactor itself looks futuristic: Twisted magnetic coils wrap around the warped doughnut-shaped chamber, with instruments and sensors protruding at odd angles. But the semi-helical coils that give the HSX its unique shape also direct the strength of the magnetic field, confining the plasma in a way that helps it retain energy.

The team designed and built the HSX with the prediction that quasisymmetry would reduce transport. As the team's latest research shows, that's exactly what it does. "This is the first demonstration that quasisymmetry works, and you can actually measure the reduction in transport that you get," says Canik.

These results excited and relieved the researchers who have spent years working on the project. "We all thought the machine would do what it's turning out to do, but there are a million reasons why it might not: the theory might be wrong, (or) we might have built it badly," says Anderson. "But everything is panning out and supporting the fact that the ideas on which it was based were correct, and really points the way of the future for the stellarator."

The next step for the project is to establish how much symmetry in the coils is necessary to achieve low transport rates. They hope to make the coils easier to engineer, with the mindset that the principles used in the HSX could someday be incorporated into fusion generators, the reason that Anderson and his team began designing the HSX 17 years ago.

"It's an exciting field. It's something where one can contribute positively to mankind with an energy source that's completely sustainable, doesn't involve nuclear proliferation or radioactive waste, with a limitless fuel supply," says Anderson. "Plus, the machines look cool."

Greener News Room



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10:06 PM

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

International council of the 13 indigenous grandmothers

Women are gaining influence as leaders throughout the world fighting for peace, justice, the environment and civil society.

In this program, we visit with three eloquent members of the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers.

Listen to the programThe Council is a global alliance of elder women healers who represent more than 900 years of collective wisdom and traditions. The women come together to speak in one voice, with one very simple, yet urgent message: we must take care of our Mother, the Earth, for the next seven generations.

This Women's Desk program is a special collaboration with the Women Rising Radio Project, Lynn Feinerman and Crown Sephira Productions.


Rita Pitka Blumenstein of the Yupik nation practices plant and energy medicine. She is on the staff of Anchorage's South Central Foundation Traditional Healing Clinic; Flordemayo is a Mayan curandera, or healer, and serves on the board of the Institute of Natural and Traditional Knowledge in New Mexico; Beatrice Long-Visitor Holy Dance is an elder in the Native American Church, a sundancer and a health worker with the Lakota Oglala people.

Program Producer: Lynn Feinerman
Senior Producer: Tena Rubio
Guest Host: Sandina Robbins
Mixing Engineer: Stephanie Welch

Greener News Room


For more information::

The International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers
The Center for Sacred Studies
P.O. Box 745 Sonora, CA 95370
209-532 9048; info@grandmotherscouncil.com


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3:53 PM

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Tardy climate change report is long overdue

Later than the latest homework assignment, more inadequate than the most half-hearted school project, the US’s upcoming climate change report is expected to disappoint climate scientists around the world.

The report, required by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, was due to the UN no later than January 1, 2006. Yes, 2006. Nonetheless, it is currently still under review by the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

According to the Council, the fourteen-month delay has been the result of an exhaustive review process. Skeptics, however, beg to differ. Rick Plitz, director of Climate Science Watch and a former senior associate of the federal Climate Change Science Program, hypothesizes that the postponement is largely because “the administration is reluctant to make an honest statement about likely climate change impacts on this country.”

This reluctance is rather understandable, given the degree of action that an honest assessment would necessitate. The UN’s own report, released last month, stressed more harshly than ever the drastic need for a significant worldwide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Although the US ratified the report, along with 112 other nations, the administration has yet to appropriately address the gravity of this news. The US’s current emissions policy calls for limiting the nation’s rate of increase to 19% – which still allows emissions to increase from 7.7 billion tons in 2000 to 9.2 billion tons by 2020.

This slowed rate of increase is simply not enough, according to Washington’s own Climate Institute. “We really need to be seriously reducing emissions, not just reducing the growth rate, as the president is doing,” says Michael MacCracken, the Institute’s chief scientist.

It’s easy to understand why the administration, and indeed, the American public, is hesitant to admit the decisive stance that is truly needed. After all, the greatest sources of greenhouse gases are coal, oil, and natural gas – the very fuels that support almost every aspect of the comfortable American lifestyle. Acknowledging the gravity of the true need for change is going to require a serious policy change from the government and citizens alike.

Both the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and the Climate Science Watch offer continued monitoring of the report’s progress, as well as further information on climate change in the political arena.

by Sara Kate Kneidel
Greener Magazine

keywords:: global warming, climate change, UN report, US greenhouse gas emissions

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8:40 PM

Saturday, March 03, 2007

"Earl Grey, hot", fab-ulous

"Earl Grey, hot", how many times have we heard that now famous command uttered by Captian Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise as a cup of the steaming brew materialized out of thin air. God I wish I had one of those, you said.

Hod Lipson (not quite "hot 'Lipton' nor 'Earl Grey'", but uncanny all the same) Cornell assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, thinks a little machine he calls a Fab@Home may have the same impact.

Some day, Lipson believes, every home will have a "fabber," a machine that replicates objects from plans supplied by a computer. Such devices could change how we acquire common products, he suggests: Instead of buying an iPod, you would download the plans over the Internet and the fabber would make one for you, ala "replicator".

Such machines could evolve from the 3-D printers currently used by industrial engineers for "rapid prototyping." They design parts in computer-aided design programs and feed the designs to 3-D printers to make working plastic models. A 3-D printer has a small nozzle that scans back and forth across a surface, depositing tiny droplets of quick-hardening plastic. After each scan, the nozzle moves up a notch and scans again until it has built up the complete object, layer by layer. With multiple nozzles or a means of swapping supply cartridges, the machine can create objects made of many different materials. An electronic circuit, for example, can be made by combining an organic semiconductor, metallic inks and ceramic insulators.

Price tags for these machines average around $100,000, but you can build your own Fab@Home for about $2,300 worth of off-the-shelf parts. The prototype, designed by Evan Malone, a Ph.D. candidate in Lipson's Computational Synthesis Laboratory, is slower than the commercial models, and its resolution, or ability or produce fine detail, is lower, but people are finding practical -- and often unexpected -- uses for it.

Commercial machines can't be modified, which, Lipson says, impedes the progress of the technology, but the Fab@Home is "open source." Anyone can download the plans at http://www.fabathome.org, which is getting about 20,000 hits a day. The site also includes construction hints, ideas for applications, notes on the history of 3-D printing and discussion groups. People are invited and encouraged to make improvements, and a sort of cult is slowly forming.

So far, Lipson says, about a dozen people have said they are building one, and he knows of three that are actually up and running -- two at the University of Washington and one in Innsbruck, Austria. Lipson's group has built several and lent a couple to other researchers.

And recent developments: :

Biologists at Rockefeller University have been using a Fab@Home to deposit slime mold cells in various arrangements to see how the distribution influences their ability to form colony organisms, (one possible discovery, layer by layer built organ replacements).

    •The British magazine Auto Express suggests that fabbers could be used to make auto parts, allowing individuals to customize cars in ways that were previously available only to those with large manufacturing facilities.

    • While the usual expectation is to make solid objects out of epoxy or other quick-hardening plastic, the Fab@Home also can be used with plaster, Play-Doh, silicone, wax (to make forms for casting), low-melting-point metals and a variety of other materials.

    • Cornell graduate student Dan Periard and Jennifer Yao '08 have been loading commercial frosting into the machine to make cake decorations. It's not frivolous work, Lipson says: Because frosting dissolves in water it can provide temporary support for hollow structures and later be washed away.

    • A high school student in Kentucky is experimenting with a heated syringe to "fab" with chocolate.

Future fabbing machines will have to shift from one raw material to another in midstream and probably deposit material in three dimensions, not just layers, says Lipson. Research in his lab is taking early steps. Malone has built a machine that uses a rack of interchangeable cartridges to make devices out of several materials at once. So far, it has made a working battery, complete with outer case. Malone's long-range goal is to "print" a complete robot, including limbs, actuators, control circuitry and batteries.

Greener Newsroom



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7:39 PM