how does one say “I told you so” without sounding like a jerk?

•November 13, 2008 • Leave a Comment

and maybe I just don’t care….

gmo

Why eating GM food could lower your fertility, via Daily Mail, UK.

In an article published today, something I knew all along was verified: GM food affects us.

Professor Dr Jurgen Zentek, Professor for Veterinary Medicine at the University of Vienna and lead author of the study, said a GM diet effected the fertility of mice.

GM expert at Greenpeace International, Dr Jan van Aken, said: ‘Genetically Engineered food appears to be acting as a birth control agent, potentially leading to infertility.

‘If this is not reason enough to close down the whole biotech industry once and for all, I am not sure what kind of disaster we are waiting for.

‘Playing genetic roulette with our food crops is like playing Russian roulette with consumers and public health.’

In the article they state something that I think should make everyone open their ears and eyes: Most studies of GM food has been done in the Biotech industry and with mega-corporations like Monsanto. This is the one of the first, allowed, studies from an independent laboratory. I think as we see more labs providing scientifically backed research, we will start to see the truth. Remember, if the truth will effect the bottom line of a corporation, why in the world would they want you to know it?

Also, in the country, labels are not required to state whether the food you eat is GM. Therefore, farmer’s markets, organic, CSA’s, grow your own… those are the best options. Most of all, try not to eat prepackaged food. I know it is difficult but these are your children and your children’s children we are talking about.

Bill McKibben

•November 13, 2008 • Leave a Comment

bill_mckibbenI don’t know how many times I can mention this man’s name and essays before you finally go pick up one of his books and read them.

I think he is one of the greatest topical writers of this generation, and fortunately, his topic is the environment. I don’t know how to most effectively explain it, but he doesn’t lecture about changing light bulbs and turning off your water. He helps you understand why we got into the mess and his suggestions for getting us out.

The first of his books that I read was “Deep Economy”. In it he “offers the biggest challenge in a generation to the prevailing view of our economy. For the first time in human history, he observes, “more” is no longer synonymous with “better”—indeed, for many of us, they have become almost opposites. McKibben puts forward a new way to think about the things we buy, the food we eat, the energy we use, and the money that pays for it all. Our purchases, he says, need not be at odds with the things we truly value.”

I also have read “Age of Missing Information” in which he juxtaposes a week in the wilderness to 2400 hours of television. Guess which one leaves you a more well-rounded, educated, critically thinking adult?

He has started the website 350.org which has lead a campaign to get President Elect Obama at a critical climate change conference in Poland later this year. (Sign the petition if you haven’t already.)

I bring this up because of another article that he wrote, The Most Important Number on Earth, via Mother Jones. In it, he writes about the necessity of bringing our carbon level back down to 350ppm. He makes it clear what we are up against with global warming and uses a metaphor that I think we can all agree would be true for us:

…the doctor has said, “Your cholesterol is too high. Scaring me. You’re in the danger zone. You need to change your diet and then you need to pray that you get back down where you’re supposed to be before the stroke that’s coming at you.” When that happens, you clean the cheese out of the refrigerator and go cold turkey.

But what stops us when it comes to the cholesterol of the Earth?

He writes about the challenges ahead, and in my favorite passage, really illuminates the kind of challenge it is:

The consensus must be broad, it must come quickly, and it must encompass the whole earth—they don’t call it global warming for nothing. The list of things on which we’ve achieved a broad and deep global consensus is pretty much limited to…Coke Is It. And that took billions of dollars and several decades, and it involved inducing people to drink sugar water. The odds against a strong global movement about anything tougher than that are low, with language barriers, religious barriers, cultural barriers.

I find in his writing a man who is passionate and compassionate. And, I think his final sentence states best the kind of moral and ethical challenge before us:

To be human in 2008 is to rise in defense of the planet we have known and the civilization it has spawned.

Please go and read the article. Pick up one of his books. I think it should be required reading for every human.

I believe in data

•November 13, 2008 • 2 Comments

antarctica

I didn’t know this, but, it has been hard to prove the effects of global warming in the arctic regions, since, although we have seen melting, the overall temperature has remained unchanged or gotten cooler.

Now, a group of scientists have been able to show that there is an overall temperature increase in those zones due to mankind’s influence over global temperatures.

The scientists created four computer models, including one that included the impact of greenhouse gases and one that did not. The model with the greenhouse gases produced predictions that matched actual temperature observations up to this point in time, according to their report, “Attribution of polar warming to human influence”, in the scientific journal Nature Geoscience.

Taking averages across all of Antarctica produced findings of “overall warming” of a few tenths of a percent, Gillett said.

But the team found temperature increases on the Antarctic Peninsula of up to 3 degrees Celsius since the 1950s, among the largest increases on Earth, Monaghan said. Still, the average monthly temperature is 1 degree to minus -15 degrees C.

The whole article can be found HERE, via Inter Press Service news agency.

Much of what we read about climate change does feel like a broken record… global warming, blah, blah, human caused, blah, blah. However, until recently science proving what we are seeing has been limited. Science takes time. Studies that were started at the onset of the change are just now seeing hard data that proves the original hypothesis. I think what people have always known to be true in their gut, are finally able to have the scientific backing.

This study was a major step in understanding a dichotomy that allowed naysayers to stay as naysayers. They will be hard pressed to stand by their argument, now.

all for organic

•November 13, 2008 • Leave a Comment

india-farmI find it shocking that an article like this is still being written. And, what I mean, is that this type of thing still happens.

Organic Farmer Murdered After Protesting Toxic Dumpsite
, vie PlanetSave

I know that in India there has been a big push for the small farmer’s to become organic. In fact, when I posted a few months back about the clothing company LeAf, I know that they get their cotton from some Indian farms that made the switch. Farmer’s, I’m sure, have found that it will be more financially beneficial to them to become organic, even though it is a long process to overturn the soil, something along the lines of three years.

So, obviously, they would feel passionately about protecting their land. But to be killed!

After filing complaints the Pollution Control Board and many other agencies within the Indian government, none came to his aid. Krishnamurthy then contacted the local media to come document the waste site and mentioned that a truck driver from the factory had threatened him with a revolver that day.

According to one report, he was killed later that same day, mere hours before his scheduled meeting with the press.

And, don’t think we are immune to this type of behavior. No, there hasn’t been murder, but as a result of Monsanto suing small farmers in this country, many have resulted in suicide.

EPA v. the World, round 2…. maybe TKO…

•November 12, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Earlier, I mentioned three articles and then promptly forgot to post the third and final article.

The EPA’s Stalin Era, via Salon

I just really do not understand how a group of scientist, that comprise the EPA, allow for the bastardization of scientific policy that is designed to protect our citizenry.

…. illuminates an entirely new manner in which the Bush administration has diluted science and put public health at risk. This year, largely in obeisance to the Pentagon, the nation’s biggest polluter, the White House diminished a little-known but critical process at the Environmental Protection Agency for assessing toxic chemicals that impacts thousands of Americans.

The article investigates possible toxic poisoning of residents outside of an air base and the lack of assistance from the EPA in getting the situation under control. Many site the Bush Administration as controlling what is considered “allowable” science. (edit. note: WTF? Shouldn’t all science be allowed… hypothesis, results, conclusion)

Public health officials say this attempt to derail the scientific evaluation of toxins is one of the most damning legacies of the Bush administration. In late September, the Government Accountability Office issued a scathing critique of the EPA’s new toxic-assessment procedures. It concluded that the secretive procedures compromise scientific credibility and sacrifice the public’s trust in government. Despite such hefty criticism, public officials fear that because the new procedures have been instituted at the EPA so far below the public radar, their harmful impact will survive long after Bush leaves office. It will take a bold and expedient move by Barack Obama or the next Congress to curtail the influence of the Pentagon and other government agencies on the EPA.

The article goes on and I think it is an important read. For example, did you know that the government puts a value on human life, and in the Bush Administration it has dropped $1Million dollars? You can find the article in the link above. I do think the author is correct by saying it will only be fixed by a bold move on the part of President Obama. I will watch with baited breath to see who he puts in charge of this organization.

a lesson in volunteering

•November 12, 2008 • 1 Comment

826_logo2Recently, I became a volunteer with 826LA. I quickly signed up for my first project. I didn’t know what to expect. I will admit, I had never done this before and worried I wouldn’t do so well. I also thought that if it didn’t meet my expectations, I could always walk away… who would care…HA! Instead, I walked away from my six week project with a few lessons under my belt.

First, the summary of the project:
Fourth-graders at Cienega Elementary research, write, and create a map detailing their views of Los Angeles. Focusing on the theme, “Claiming Our Place,” students will explore this essential question: “How is space claimed?” They will investigate the answers to this question through small group discussion and writing time with 826LA tutors, then write personal narratives in a slam-poetry style on one particular landmark. The project will culminate in a multimedia gallery exhibition at the Natural History Museum.

And now:

What I learned from my first volunteer project with 826LA.

1.) The history of Los Angeles: If you have never gone, or it’s been a long time, I think you should all visit the Natural History Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits. We have a lot of history in this town and it is not all about the entertainment industry. I also learned that tar (asphalt) is fun to play with, there are secret rooms in the history museum (that we got to see), and there are edible plants all around us. Most of the museums around this town are hidden gems. If you have an ounce of interest in history, science, Los Angeles, these are amazing places to go!

2.) There are teachers that really, really care: I don’t know if Ms. Lefkowitz is a diamond in a sea of stones, or one of many. What I do know is that she is an amazing teacher, and I pray that all teachers have an ounce of her spirit. I watched as she asked questions, got them to pay attention when they were a little too excited and cared for each child, as an individual. She participated in a way I have not seen in the past, and I was inspired. As a result, I think the next thing I learned happened….

3.) That children are eager to learn: We went into this classroom twice a week to have kids write. And, you know what… they did. We had discussions about space and community and the environment and they fully participated. The kids were excited to answer questions and think and be engaged. I saw their minds churn as they practiced their skill of critical thinking. They recognized themselves as an individual and as part of a community.

4.) That “OMG” should not be in a monologue: This is kind of an inside joke… but I think we can all agree that it is true.

5.) That the students help each other: My favorite part of some days was when one child asked how to spell something and five children answered back. When someone was asked to read their essay, everyone quieted down and listened. If someone was having trouble, another child picked up a pencil and helped them out. I didn’t experience this in my childhood. I don’t know if it is a cultural difference or something taught or comes from their heart… I don’t care. It was amazing to see 9 and 10 year olds helping other 9 and 10 year olds. Because I got some sense that, they get the sense that, when one succeeds they all succeed.

6.) That those who seem weak actually are the most courageous: Again, not going to share many details about this except to say that kids amaze me in their resilience and strength. They may be young, but some of them already have a lot on their plate. They deal with it. And one or two look the obstacle right in the face and say…. “Uh-uh, today you aren’t going to get me down!” I watched as confidence bloomed before my eyes and a light that didn’t exist before was ignited.

7.) That I think I need to volunteer, more than the kids need me to: I went in thinking I could help some children. I walked away having been helped more than I can express. I saw that in helping them with their writing, I became a better writer. In wanting to give them confidence, I gained confidence. In wanting to show them someone cared, I learned that they cared for me, in return. I learned that when they beamed with pride, I beamed with pride. When they were scared, I was scared and we got through it together and we each learned from our fear. I walked away understanding that the heart needs to have connection, no matter what simple form that may come in. So, I think I walked away from this as the unfair victor. Those kids may not remember me in 2, 5, 10 or 20 years… but, I will remember them.

Thank you to the entire class and a special hello to my group…

lefkowitz-thank-you-sharpened-edges

And, to my readers, please take the time to volunteer. It can be in a school, or a soup kitchen, or a freeway clean up. I know that we all think we are so busy and don’t have time to share. But, you do. I ask you to not sit in front of the television one night, don’t go out drinking with your friends, or have lunch with a co-worker; take that time to go help someone. One hour to you can make a world of difference to someone else. And, seriously, I know it does sound silly but volunteering is an amazingly selfish act, when you think of the benefits to your heart and mind.

DOE vs. the World

•November 12, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The second article, not about the EPA, but a government organization dealing with the environment, so included it…

Climate ForestsDepartment of Energy Tells Scientists to Cut and Run, via Huffington Post

I didn’t know this study was in place. And, it seems just as I found out about it, it will disappear.

For more than a decade, the federal government has spent millions of dollars pumping elevated levels of carbon dioxide into small groups of trees to test how forests will respond to global warming in the next 50 years.

Some scientists believe they are on the cusp of receiving key results from the time-consuming experiments.

The U.S. Department of Energy, however, which is funding the project, has told the scientists to chop down the trees, collect the data and move on to new research.

There are mixed reasons for why they want to stop the study. Apparently, they put together a group of people, with unknown backgrounds, and decided that they had enough data. But, why are the scientists in charge of the experiment considered the experts to determine this. In fact, some data is seems extremely relevant and needs to be studied further:

Results so far indicate that elevated levels of carbon dioxide make forests grow more quickly, said Ram Oren, professor of ecology at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences and principal investigator on the experiments there.

But unless forests are on fertile ground _ hard to come by because of development _ growth will be in leaves, needles, and fine roots, which die off and decompose in a year or two, releasing the carbon dioxide back to the atmosphere, Oren said.

I guess we will see how this develops.