Saturday, January 31, 2009

Organic Products: Part of the Changing Zeitgeist?

Organic vegetables at a farmers' market in Arg...Image via Wikipedia

The Popularity of Organic Products by Anne Harvester

Organic products are made from organically grown plants. These are plants of any variety that are grown with no chemical fertilizers or pesticides. They are grown on land that has been chemical free for several years before the organic crops are sown. As such, they are very popular for food use. Any cuisine can be enhanced through the use of organic herbs. People also enjoy the flavor of organic tea.

Beyond food and drink, if individuals have sensitivity to certain chemicals, they know not to ingest it, yet the chemical may be an ingredient in personal care products such as shampoos and soaps. Organic bath products offer these people protection from the offending chemicals. For all these reasons, organic products are popular today.

Organic herbs can be used to enhance the taste of all your favorite dishes. Everything from first courses and appetizers to main dishes and desserts and all food in between, benefit from the addition of organic herbs. Any number of dips and spreads make quickly prepared but delicious first courses. They often include a piquant bite to them, to enhance the appetite and get the diner ready for following courses. For example, salt, sugar, dill and peppercorns are the basis of pickles, which can be made with baby peppers, cucumbers, olives, beans, asparagus, and many other vegetables. They can be prepared with organic herbs in advance, and allowed time to cure so that they are easy to serve at a moment's notice when unexpected visitors arrive.

Other organic products that you will see in today's well-stocked market include organic tea. Organic tea can be purchased in individual bags, or you can find it in a bulk or loose variety. Bulk organic tea allows you to blend your favorites together for custom drinks, and so they are enjoyed by many.

Switch aisles at your market, and you will see row upon row of health and beauty items. Organic bath products are becoming more common, because of their wonderful scents and because they contain no chemicals that may cause some individuals skin sensitivities and even rashes. Organic products include soaps and shampoos, often pleasantly scented with lavender, rose or lemon, so you can bathe with your favorite fragrances. The heat of the warm bath water also helps to release the scent of the herbs and spices used in these organic products, so they smell even better in a steamy bathroom.

Organics can enhance everything from your cuisine to your drink and your bathing rituals.

As a herbalist who spends her time learning about the properties of organic herbs and organic products, Anne Harvester has a thorough knowledge of organic bath products and it's uses. Anne's advice for purchasing herbs and spices in bulk can save you time and money.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Green Architecture: Energy Star Metal Roofing

Design freedom with metal roofing, house in Da...Image via Wikipedia

Energy Star Metal Roofing by Matt Fay

These days we are trying to be more energy conscious. One of the best changes we can make to lower energy consumption is to change our roofing material to a coated metal roof that will reflect the sun's rays, lowering the amount of energy that you use to cool your home.

There are even more incentives now to convert your roof to metal, as the US Government is now offering tax credits to home owners who replace their roof with approved metal roofing material during 2009. Those who qualify can get back 10% of the cost of their roof in tax credits, to a maximum of $500. Be sure to ask your Absolute Steel representative which metal roofs qualify as Energy Star!

With a metal roof, the heat from the sun is reflected, as opposed to dark asphalt shingles which absorb heat and then release it after the sun goes down. Energy Star roofing has an extra-reflective coating which makes it more energy efficient than regular metal roofing. With an Energy Star roof homeowner's can expect to save up to 40% in their cooling costs.

When considering a change to metal roofing you also want to take into account the climate in which you live. A hotter climate means that you will want to ensure your metal roofing material is pre-painted or granular coated to ensure maximum heat reflection.

Installing a metal roof can help your home with a number of issues besides cooling costs. Increasing the energy efficiency in your home can also help with moisture on window panes, peeling paint and mold. Additionally, there is much less maintenance required on a metal roof than asphalt shingle roof, so you will spend much less time and money taking care of it.

If you currently have a large air conditioner you can save money by downgrading to a smaller model once your roof is installed as you won't need as much cooling power as before. The fact that a metal roof keeps a more constant temperature means that your roof will last longer due to a reduction in thermal shock (cool rain hitting hot roof) which cuts down on stress and degradation on the roof.

Besides the money saving reasons, there is an important environmental reason why you should consider an Energy Star metal roof. In large urban areas there are now many occurrences of hot zones, where the dark asphalt roofs on homes are absorbing heat and release it back into the atmosphere at night. This phenomenon causes the temperature to be as many as 12 degrees higher than surrounding areas, causing increased smog and poor air quality. A metal roof can reduce this problem and make the air around you easier to breathe.

Whether you are environmental or just like to save money, an Energy Star approved metal roof can help you achieve both these tasks, and will help your home stay cooler in the summer months. At the same time you are reducing your fossil fuel consumption by using less energy to cool your home.

Visit to learn more on the benefits of metal roofing.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

What is the Best Way to Deal with the Problem of Plastic Bags?

Reusable shopping bagsImage by Luca Penati via Flickr

Plastic Bag Taxes and Bans - Not the Final Answer by Kit Parks

As more municipalities struggle with the disposal of plastic bags, many are considering a tax, or even an outright plastic bag ban, to reduce usage. Unfortunately, there are some unforeseen consequences to these actions, which can actually harm, rather than help, the environment. Reusable bags are the ultimate solution. However, converting consumers to make it a regular habit has been the real challenge.

The EPA estimates that the US consumes over 100 billion plastic bags each year, with less than 2% being recycled. Most recycling centers reject the flimsy bags because they gum up the recycling equipment. Some estimates say that it can cost thousands of dollars to recycle a ton of plastic bags that are worth less than $30 per ton on the commodities market. New York has laid out an ambitious recycling effort which will hopefully lead to some solutions.

When San Francisco became the first major city to ban plastic bags in 2007, it was hailed as a triumph. Unfortunately, since paper bags are still being offered at no charge, there is only a 'bragging rights' incentive to use a reusable bag. A study by Use Less Stuff found that reusable bag use in San Francisco was about the same as other municipalities without a plastic bag ban, indicating a plastic bag tax by itself may not be enough of a 'stick' to alter consumer behavior.

Paper bags, which many assume are good for the environment, are surprisingly worse. According to the American Chemistry Council, it takes 70% less energy to make a plastic bag versus a paper bag, and the freight costs are seven times more to deliver paper bags to the stores. Stores prefer plastic bags because they do not take up as much space as paper bags, and because paper bags can cost retailers ten times more than plastic bags. Ironically, when disposed, paper bags often don't break down: when a paper bag is tossed in the landfill, it often cannot decompose due to lack of air and moisture.

Millions of reusable bags are sold each year, indicating the good intentions of many consumers. The problem is that people forget them in their cars, and don't realize it until getting ready for the check-out. Another problem is that many of the bags sold are difficult to properly sanitize, as most are spot- or hand-wash only. People who have switched to reusable bags that fold into a pocket or pouch have had better success in converting to a reusable bag habit, as the bags are stored or clipped to a purse or pocket.

Both a plastic bag ban and tax lead to increased use of paper bags, higher costs and a negative environmental impact. If municipalities were to tax both plastic and paper bags, this would be the 'stick' necessary to alter behavior. By keeping one-time use bags available, a shopper would still have that option at checkout, in addition to those times that they may forget their own bags. Increased use of reusable bags with a self-storing pocket would help eliminate those times the shopper forgets.

Kit Parks is the president of Ecoroot, a wholesale and retail reusable products company which donates 20% of its profits to environmental education programs. In addition to a complete line of eco-reusable products, Ecoroot manufacturers a unique patent-pending reusable mesh bag that stores in a customizable pocket that stores in a purse, so you don't forget it - you can even wash it in the dishwasher! She writes about environmental and lifestyle issues. Parks can be contacted via the Ecoroot website: or check out her eco-blog which has links to cool environmental websites and discusses the problems of one-time plastic use at:

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Endangered Species List - Gray Wolves

Gray Wolf (Canis lupus)Image by dobak via Flickr

Gray Wolves Returned to Endangered Species List
By Marlene Affeld

Wolves are once again protected in the northern Rocky Mountains of the United States. On Tuesday, October 14th, 2008, a court victory for environmentalists returned gray wolves to the endangered species list.

"The northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf is returned to the list of endangered and threatened species, with each of its component populations having the same status under the Endangered Species Act" said Federal Judge Donald Molly, in a written ruling handed down in Missoula, Montana. Twelve groups had challenged the United States Government's decision in February 2008 to delist the gray wolf in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Passionate in their commitment to protect wolves, the challengers refuted claims that the reintroduction of gray wolves had been a success. It was feared that delisting the species would lead to hunting of wolves, sanctioned by the authority of the individual states.

Before the early settlers arrived, gray wolves ranged across most of the continental United States. As the settlers moved in and encroached on the wilderness, the once massive herds of bison, elk and deer were scattered or annihilated. Natural predators, the carnivorous wolves began to attack domestic livestock and the settlers retaliated. US government agencies and ranchers paid a generous bounty on the pelts of wolves trapped or shot by hunters. Ironically, wildlife studies have shown that wolves have minimal negative impact on deer and elk populations, since they feed primarily on sick, weak or disabled individuals.

Until the introduction of the species in the early 1980s, gray wolves had all but disappeared in the mainland United States. At that time wolves began colonizing northwestern Montana near Glacier Park. In 1995 and 1996, sixty-six wolves from Canada were released in Yellowstone National Park in the hope that they would survive and multiply.

Since the release, the wolf population has increased through dispersal and natural reproduction. US Forest Service studies report over 1200 wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

The gray wolf or timber wolf is a social animal and lives in family groupings called packs, which bond together to hunt large prey and to defend their territory against other wolves. Montana has 73 packs with 415 wolves. This estimate includes 38 breeding pairs. Wolves normally have 4-6 pups per litter. Mineral County conservatively reports that there are 36 wolves in 7 packs. Mineral County represents less than one percent of Montana's land mass, but has 18 percent of the state's wolf population.

The average gray wolf pack is about 6-8 animals. The pack grows and shrinks dependent on the season. In the spring and summer months, wolves focus on raising their young and stay in small groups to feed their pups. In the winter months, wolves form larger packs to facilitate hunting and traveling. Wolves range over large distances with a territory size that varies from 50 to 1,000 square miles.

The timber wolf is a magnificent creature. Canis Lupus plays a critical role in the natural ecosystem by restoring balance to Montana's diverse wildlife population. The unique experience of encountering a wolf in the wild is a rare gift, a breath-taking, heart-pounding moment that few will ever have the opportunity to savor.

With the reinstatement of the endangered species designation, perhaps the midnight howl of a gray wolf will be heard by future generations.

Nandu Green is a lifestyle portal, offering high-quality, unique, intriguing and innovative merchandise from around the globe.

Marlene Affeld's passion for the environment and all things natural inspire her to write informative and insightful articles to assist others in living a Green Lifestyle. For more Green Living info visit Nandu Green at

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Plant Trees and Save Energy and Money

An aerial view of the colorful autumn forestImage via Wikipedia

How to Save Energy and Money by Planting Trees in Your Landscape by Terry White

It is hard to believe that you can save energy by planting trees in your landscape, but it is true. That energy saved can also save you money, which is a benefit in these economic times.

I see a lot of new subdivisions being built in open fields with no trees around. This leaves it open to bake in the sun, which can be good in the winter when you need that heat, but not good in the summer when your air-conditioner has to work harder.

This can be changed by planting deciduous trees on the south, east, and west sides of our house. The leaves of these trees will shade your house in the summer, keeping it cooler. Your air-conditioner will not have to work as hard, by starting with a cooler home. Consider shading your air-conditioning unit also as this can increase their efficiency by up to 10 percent. During the winter deciduous trees lose their leaves, thereby letting the sunlight through to help warm the home.

Another winter factor to take into consideration is the cold north wind that can drain heat from your home. To help with this, a wind break of evergreen trees and shrubs can be planted on the north side of the house.

Planting the right types of trees in the right location saves money and energy. It also provides another benefit, the beauty that your family will enjoy. This will also enhance the value of your home and the neighborhood in the future.

Terry White along with his wife are the owners of Paula's Herbs and Plants a family-owned business specializing in organically grown herbs and other plants. For more information on herbs and gardening in general, check out our website and sign up for our newsletter.

We also have other informational websites.

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Economic Recession: Time for a Change in Thinking?

Economic Recession Calls For Change by Frances Van Den Berg

Whenever there is a crisis people change and evolve in many ways. Consider the effects that the end of the Second World War had on the world's superpowers. Technology improved in leaps and bounds, humans went to the moon, and eventually computers were introduced worldwide. Germany and Ireland built themselves from the ground up, moving from devastation to among the richest countries in the world. Change can, however, be painful and the world is certainly feeling the pinch at the moment.

People are feeling helpless and confused after the financial crisis of 2008. Countries that are dependent on foreign investment, such as India, are suffering as the US and UK cut back on foreign investment to minimise their losses. If an Indian man, who supports a large family on his small income, loses his job, more than one person will starve. While unemployment rates soar, so do inflation and food prices, making it that much harder to feed a family. Similarly, a middle-class family in the US will have to live a different lifestyle, cutting back on spending on credit and many luxuries.

So, for the man on the street the good years are a thing of the past. In times like these luxuries such as holidays, gadgets, eating out and rich foods are the first to go; bringing to mind the rationing imposed during the two World Wars. However, there is now a more significant place for technology, which helps with cost saving. As more people are laid-off, creativity comes to the fore. Many companies are using freelancers or are offshoring their work, creating opportunities in unlikely places. One thing humans know is the art of survival; and while there is a lot of cost cutting in business at the moment, there is also a lot of ingenuity.

Governments the world over are starting to implement stimulus plans, which they hope will lift us out of the crisis by midyear 2009. The world economic crisis has certainly shocked us out of our comfort zones. It's emphasised for us some of life's important lessons: always save, don't use credit, and don't gamble, don't splash money around unnecessarily and learn to think on your feet.

Frances wrote this article for the online marketers Exchange4Free,
leaders in international money transfer services leaders in the provision of exchange rate services across all currencies, to both the corporate and private sector.

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Wind Power from the Ocean

Windmills in the Ocean by Ron Trzcinski

Serious discussions and negotiations have been taking place regarding the possibility of constructing windmills off of the coasts of the States of Delawere and Maryland. During the warmer months of the year, this resort area blossoms in population to nearly 500,000 people and efforts in Ocean City, MD through conventions and festivals have made it almost a year-round destination.

With these big crowds comes the need for lots of electrical power and the question of how to supply it. Recent attempts to construct windmills atop of some of Western Maryland's mountains failed mainly because the huge structures would be an eyesore to the currently beautiful views.

The windmills which are being contemplated for the ocean waters would be nearly 25 stories tall. It is likely that they would be located at least 3 miles off-shore where federal waters begin, but more likely would be closer to 12 miles off-shore to keep them out of view. The trade off would be a higher cost for the additional cabling required to go the extra distance out to sea, however, this would then have minimum impact on the main reason why people flock to this region, which is, of course, the sand, the surf, and the sun.

The governors of Maryland and Delaware support the idea as do government representatives of Ocean City, provided the windmills are out of sight. However, also, to be considered is the environment and how these structures might impact on the ocean wildlife. Practical knowledge does exist regarding the potential impact, because windmills have been used off the coasts of England and Belgium for several years with no significant impact on the environment.

With a free and plentiful supply of wind which should not effect industry or property values, it sounds like a winning scenario for many people. And who knows maybe these giant fans could be cranked up in reverse to blow hurricanes off-shore or to increase the wave size to allow for great surfing opportunities . . . or not.

Ron Trzcinski

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Fair Trade Produce - Palestinian Olive Oil and Harry Hill's New Nuts‏

The following collection of historical Fairtra...Image via WikipediaPalestinians might not have much to smile about right now, considering the onslaught of Israeli aggression they have experienced since Christmas, but 2009 sees the launch of Palestine's first fair trade product.

In December, Bethlehem saw its highest number of tourists for a decade, and although this is bound to be affected by the atrocities taking place in Palestine, we can only presume that at some stage, the conflict will settle down and tourism and agriculture can recover. In December, Israeli and Palestinian officials reported economic growth at 4-5% with a drop in the unemployment rate.

Palestinian farmers face challenges when carrying out normal agricultural activities, because of restrictions on movement, water shortages, and more recently, bombs. The executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, Harriet Lamb said "We hope this will be the first of many more Fairtrade products coming from the world's conflict zones and least developed countries. If so, it will help to catalyse markets and make a real economic difference to the communities that need it most".

Former Marks & Spencer managing director, Lord Stone of Blackheath, was scheduled to head a delegation to the West Bank in February, to explore the possibility of creating a Palestinian agricultural hub to improve economic conditions. With the Israeli military bombing hospitals and UN representatives, it's unlikely that this visit will take place, unless the security situation improves dramatically and a ceasefire is agreed upon.

The development of Palestinian olive oil is seen as an important source of food security, labour and cash. Olive oil is projected to add 123 million USD to the fragile West Bank economy, which is 18% of their total agricultural production.

The development comes after a Palestinian investment conference attended by Gordan Brown, Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair among others.

In other Fairtrade news, Harry Hill is launching his own brand of salted peanuts. He's not collecting any profits from his first foray into the food world, in a bid to help farmers in Africa and Latin America.

'I love salted peanuts myself and feel I am doing a service to snacker's everywhere who want to know the farmers who grew what they are eating have been paid a fair price,' explained Hill.

It seems in 2009, Fairtrade products will continue to expand and diversify, and all the while help the world's poorest people receive a decent price for their produce. It remains to be seen whether olive oil can help Palestinians out of poverty, but Fairtrade products are a great way for consumers to guarantee that the farmer who grew their food received a fair price.

Cafedirect is the UK's largest 100% Fairtrade hot drinks company, with a team of experts in tea, coffee, sustainable development, climate change, social enterprise, and responsible supply chain management.
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BOOK REVIEW: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria

Cover of Cover of The Post-American World

Book Review - The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria by Jeffrey Caminsky

In our turbulent world, it is tempting to view America as surrounded by enemies intent on our destruction. Everywhere we look, we can see signs of American influence waning. Often - and especially in a time of economic turmoil - our mounting troubles can seem insurmountable. But sometimes merely looking at the world through a different lens can help us gain some perspective. And if that lens is held by one of today's most perceptive observers of the world scene, it might even help us all take a deep breath and relax.

In Post-American World, best-selling author Fareed Zakaria takes a look at America's place in the world and explains why we have reason to be optimistic. Zakaria, who was born in India, came to this country as an awkward and naive eighteen-year old in the depths of the recession of the early 1980s. What he found then - and what he still sees all around us today - is a vibrant and expansive country, open to fresh ideas and eager to show the world what it has to offer.

What has changed in today's world, he explains, in not America: rather, it is the merely rest of the world, racing to catch up with us. And while this new era - where American ideas and aspirations have inspired the world to follow us into the future - may pose unique challenges, they need not be as frightening as the pessimists and nay-sayers make them out to be.

In his view, the key to understanding our changing world is to realize that America is not really lagging behind; rather, it is the rest of the world that is rising. And if we are tempted to respond by retreating - withdrawing into Fortress America, secure in our belief in our own superiority - then we are playing a game that has failed other civilizations in the past, and would likely surrender our leadership for the future.

Among the cautionary tales the author cites from history is the example of China, another great country that once stood at the pinnacle of greatness. Nearly a century before Columbus, in the early 1400s, a series of expeditions set forth from China, with several hundred vessels, each larger than an Spanish galleon, carrying thousands of men. They sailed eastern shores, down the coast of Southeast Asia and into the Indian Ocean, impressing everyone they met with the majesty and might of Chinese civilization, and returning with treasures including precious stones, exotic plants and animals.

Yet by the middle of the century, all this stopped: a new emperor had come to power - one who viewed these excursions as needless and expensive extravagances of little use to China. Before the end of the next century, building similar ships was forbidden on pain of death, and vast tracts of forests were burned to make similar ventures impossible in the future.

And so China, convinced of its own superiority, turned firmly away from outside contact to withdraw within itself...and before long, the rest of the world had passed the stagnating Chinese culture in all manner of accomplishments. It has taken them six centuries of struggling to approach the pinnacle again; and now, having learned the lesson of history, they seem determined not to repeat the mistake.

Today, though we are beset by dangers on many sides, Zakaria reminds us that we often fail to appreciate just how lucky we are to live in an age of plenty and an era of discovery and adventure. Now that America has led the way, the rest of the world is racing to catch up to us. But, he cautions, we should not treat their efforts with suspicion or disdain, but we should embrace the future envisioned by our own ideals - for it is those very ideals that have long inspired the world.

Foremost among our many resources are the American culture and people. Both are filled with resilience and optimism. The American spirit of innovation derives from the openness of our culture, and our embrace of the off-beat and heretical - as well as the welcome we have shown to the best and the brightest from around the world. And despite the imperfections of our much-derided educational system, the author demonstrates that most of our problems stem from disparities within our own country: there is, the author notes, a greater disparity between students from our typical, middle-class schools and those from poverty-stricken, inner-city schools than there is between our best, and the best from the rest of the world.

And while we bemoan our own lagging test scores, others are actually coming to the US to learn our techniques. And what impresses them most are the things we take for granted: the willingness of our students to challenge teachers; their courage to speak out in class; and their ability to be creative in applying what's taught to their everyday lives. While the rest of the world may beat us at teaching their students to take standardized tests, our system seems to excel at producing people who can be innovative, willing to challenge convention. Our culture seems drawn to the heretical and oddball; and since our schools don't quite squash this out of our students as well as some countries do, these same oddballs help keep our culture fresh.

Comparing us to the British Empire in its heyday, Zakaria notes that Britain, though blessed with gifted statesmen, was saddled with a dysfunctional economic and cultural system that stifled the creative impulses of British society. In many ways America's challenge is just the reverse: we have a vibrant, dynamic culture that remains the envy of the world - but one that is saddled with a political system that often seems more intent on gaining temporary partisan advantage than moving the country forward. And where our culture benefits from the influx of immigrants - bringing energy, ambition, and new ideas along with them - we often mistake the challenges they bring as well for danger, rather than viewing them for what they are and have always been: a priceless source of renewal.

Insightful and well-written, filled with a global perspective often lacking in today's commentators, The Post-American World offers hope as well as perspective. It is written not in the lofty tones of academics, but with a precision born of thought and deep understanding. Those interested in understanding America's place in the world - past, present, and future - would do well to read it carefully. The world, after all, needs an America - embodying the free spirit and sense of adventure we have always taken for granted. That is, the author concludes, this country's real role in the world - and the reason that most people across the world still look to the United States with good will. It would be a pity if, through misguided attempts to hold back the future, we squandered the America we have...and forced the world to go looking for a new one.

Jeffrey Caminsky, a veteran public prosecutor in Michigan, specializes in the appellate practice of criminal law and writes on a wide range of topics. He is the author of the science fiction adventure novels, The Sirens of Space and The Star Dancers, the first two volumes in the Guardians of Peace science fiction adventure series, as well as The Referee's Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating, and The Sonnets of William Shakespeare a book on Elizabethan poetry, all published by New Alexandria Press,

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The Zeitgeist is Changing: Redefining the Economic Paradigm

(The Depression) The Single Men's Unemployed A...Image via Wikipedia

Time to Redefine the Economic Paradigm by Andrew G Hughes

The World Bank recently released it's long awaited forecast for the World economic future. "The financial crisis is likely to result in the most serious recession since the Great Depression," said Justin Lin, it's Chief economist. The global economy is captured in a downward spiral as never witnessed before.

Whereas before, economies were more localized and had more immunity to outside forces, now globalisation has ensured that one big failure in the machine can create a systemic event that brings down all the component parts. The inevitable failure of a few major banks has demonstrated just how much havoc can be wreaked from Alaska to Beijing.

Emerging markets, dependent on mature market consumption, are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy as private capital inflow has been drying up and is forecast to reduce by half next year. The volume of world trade is set to decrease by 2.1%, the biggest drop for 33 years. Oil exporting countries from Venezuela to Russia are seeing revenue crash as demand across the world decreases. Poor countries, on the other hand, have experienced a decrease in the cost of living as food and oil prices drop. In an unforeseen twist of fate, globalisation has enriched poorer countries and impoverished richer ones.

Greece is in the throes of a revolution as their people mount a massive protest against the country's history of corruption and economic mismanagement. Originally born of the alleged murder of a 15 year old boy by Greek police, the momentum was maintained by deeply rooted history. Is this a sign of things to come?

As economic conditions deteriorate across every continent, blame will be apportioned and it won't be hard to find easy targets. Shortages of food, homelessness, unemployment are now realities for an ever increasing number of people who have never known a life like this before. We are watching our own governments waste the money we could be using constructively to prepare and mitigate for harder times. Attempts to restore the economic activity of nations through liquidity injections in to failing banks will achieve nothing when the basics of this same economy rely on a volume of activity that was sustained by inflated wealth through credit. The only reason we bought so much stuff was because we could always pay the bill off later.

So it's no big surprise that "We're almost in an air pocket, where we don't have a new global driver of growth." as said by Thomas Mayer, the chief European economist for Deutsche Bank. Sorry Thomas, we're all tapped out. Unrealistic growth was the problem in the first place.

Growth of an economy through a regulated monetary system, consumer saving, profits ploughed back in to production, balanced budgets is one thing, but unhinged consumption and imaginary accounting by the Financial "Industry" to inflate wealth was always destined to arrive at cardiac arrest.

Financial companies are supposed to provide credit to individuals and real industries to grow the economy. When they discovered that there was money to be made giving loans to anyone who could hold a pen, they officially became usurers. When they opened the casino and took bets on anything that could go one way or another, from the economic health of a country to whether interest rates would go up or down, they opened the gates to their own destruction and consequently that of their victims. Even ordinary citizens got caught up in the act as stocks were bought and sold like candy. We have a stock market that may as well take it's cue from the atmospheric conditions on Pluto. It certainly has nothing to do with economic realities on the ground.

Lack of regulation and the quest for short term profit at the expense of long term sustainabilty has brought the world to it's knees. A new paradigm is desperately needed to restore sanity to a world gone mad. As we travel the downside we cannot expect the same failed mechanisms to save us. The actions of governments the world over so far is to try and blow air in to a burst balloon; no matter how hard they blow it will never be able hold it's form. It's time to admit that we have overextended the system to the inevitable breaking point and now the remaining pieces must be reassembled in to something that does not need wizardry to keep it upright.

Andrew G. Hughes

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Climate Change, the Oceans and Aquatic Life

original caption states Image via Wikipedia

The Death of Waterlife by John C. McCabe

Every sea mammal and every type of fish, crustacean, and mollusk are on the critical list. So are the seabirds and the bears that depend on fish for their survival. Even the microscopic animals of the seas are in trouble.

This is because air and industrial pollution is changing the acidity level of the oceans and poisoning sea life; because synthetic farming chemicals and farmed animal waste are causing massive algae blooms that block light and choke off waterlife; because of fishing, recreational, cruise line, industrial, and military watercraft; and because plastic trash is both killing marine life and gathering in and leaching chemicals into the rivers, lakes, and oceans. To put it mildly, what is going on in the oceans threatens every form of sea life, every form of life dependent on ocean life, and every human on every area of the planet.

Since the middle of the 1800s, the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has increased in relation to the use of fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, and natural gas). The burning of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Plants naturally absorb carbon dioxide. But the amount of carbon dioxide being produced by humans is far beyond the amount that could be absorbed by the plants on Earth. The oceans, lakes, and rivers also absorb carbon dioxide. But the world's bodies of water are absorbing far more carbon dioxide than they would in a balanced atmosphere.

The industrial pollution and carbon dioxide from the use of fossil fuels have greatly increased the acidity of the oceans. The oceans of the world are experiencing the worst acid trips ever. Because pollution can hang in the atmosphere for decades, the oceans keep absorbing more of it, and humans keep creating more of it, there are no signs that the acid trip of the seas is going to come down soon.

The situation doesn't damage the marine life only at the surface, but impacts marine life miles below water. One of the most dire situations caused by pollution exists with coral reefs throughout the world.

Coral reefs are among the most endangered forms of marine life. They support all forms of ocean life, and 24% of all marine life lives directly in and around coral reefs, all of which are now on the critical list worldwide. Scientists have estimated that one fifth of the coral reefs around the planet have died in the last 50 years, and their extinction continues to increase.

In July of 2008, scientists from around the world gathered at the International Coral Reef Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. While there, they were presented with a study by the Global Marine Species Assessment concluding that a third of Earth's remaining coral reefs were threatened. Scientists at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology have determined that all varieties of coral reefs are the most endangered life forms on Earth.

Thousands of miles of coral reefs that were filled with life just a decade ago sit almost empty of life because of bleaching, dynamite fishing, overfishing, and rising temperatures and levels of water acidity, or they are being strangled by algae and bacteria overgrowth caused by pollution.

Many reefs are being killed by the runoff of synthetic chemical fertilizers and other gardening chemicals used to maintain the landscaping of tropical resorts; the turf of golf courses and sporting fields; lawns at homes, schools, and corporate campuses; and crops grown on farms.

When the fertilizers enter the ocean water, they spur algae growth that blankets and kills the coral reefs. In the natural balance, fish and other marine life would consume the algae, but with the double threat of overfishing and pollution, the algae has gotten out of control. Because marine life populations have plummeted, there aren't enough fish or oysters and other filtering creatures to consume the amount of algae that would naturally occur. The fertilizers are causing so much algae growth that even a healthy population of marine life couldn't keep up with the growth.

All of the remaining coral reefs in the oceans are growing at stunted rates, or they are dying. Most of the remaining coral reefs are supporting only a fraction of the marine life they hosted just a few decades ago. In addition to overfishing, development of coastal cities, boating, military activity, oil drilling, fertilizers, industrial pollution, and the related algae and bacteria overgrowth, the death of coral reefs is caused by the amount of carbon dioxide being absorbed into the oceans.

In ocean water, carbon dioxide forms carbonic acid. An abundance of carbonic acid decreases carbonic ions. The carbonic ions are key components of the exoskeletons of the tiny polyps that form the coral reefs. Under natural circumstances, the polyps cling onto the reef while feeding from the water. As the polyps die, their skeletons become part of the reef and other polyps cling to the layers of skeletons. But when their systems aren't able to absorb enough carbonic ions, the polyps can't survive, don't reproduce, and the coral reefs don't grow.

When algae overgrowth sets into a coral reef, and when the marine life is not at healthful levels, the coral reefs are subjected to bacteria overgrowth. When the reefs are in balance, the marine life consumes the bacteria and algae as natural sources of food. But the marine life among most of the world's coral reefs is no longer in balance. This provides the terrain for bacteria overgrowth among the coral reefs. The bacteria feast on the sugars released by the algae. The bacteria also feast on the eggs and sperm of the coral polyps, and also consume the polyps. This also contributes to the loss of coral reefs.

When coral reefs die off, so too does all marine life that is dependent on them. The death of coral reefs leaves coasts susceptible to erosion. When the coasts are damaged, wildlife dependent on the coastlines lose their homes. Many coastal areas, including kelp forests, mangrove forests, seagrass lagoons, tidepools, delta wetlands, salt marshes, and the mouths of rivers are the breeding areas and nurseries for fish and other waterlife.

The acidification of the oceans is only part of the problem that coastal waterlife faces. Throughout coastal areas of the world the mangrove swampland forests have been and continue to be destroyed to make way for resorts, piers, bridges, roads, parking lots, marinas, gas refineries, shipping ports, shopping villages, entertainment and sports venues, and for shrimp and other types of seafood farms. As the coasts are destroyed, so too are kelp and sea grass beds, wetlands and swamps, and the forms of life that depend on them.

The destruction of the coasts contributed greatly to the damage done by the tsunami that swept hundreds of thousands of people from villages and towns throughout the Indian Ocean region in December 2004. Clearing of coastal forests and damage to barrier islands to create fish, shrimp, and other seafood farms and to drill for oil also contributed to the strength of Hurricane Katrina that decimated the New Orleans region in 2005.

The damage to marine life that we have become aware of in the past decade is likely an example of what we will see in coming years. This is because the oceans keep absorbing carbon dioxide and pollution that has been hanging in the atmosphere for decades. As this happens, the oceans will increase in acidity and temperature.

Scientists have discovered that coral and shells actually dissolve when ocean water becomes too acidic. This specifically presents a potentially devastating situation for all forms of shell-based waterlife, and for the structures naturally left over as the shells gather.

The acidification of the oceans is expected not only to kill off and collapse coral reefs, but also destroy small islands (atolls) that are comprised of ancient coral reefs and tidal collections of old shells. Many small island nations consist of atolls. As the oceans become more acidic, which is expected as they continue to absorb carbon dioxide and industrial pollution from past and future decades, where will these island people move when their homes flood and the islands collapse?

Coral reefs aren't the only forms of sea life dependent on an abundant supply of carbonic ions. All shellfish need carbonic ions to build their calcium carbonate skeletal structures. These include clams, crabs, lobsters, shrimp, krill, urchins, barnacles, and oysters. These crustaceans and mollusks provide food for otters, seals, walruses, seabirds, and other types of wildlife.

The microscopic plankton, which are the food for whales and krill, also have calcium carbonate shells. If the plankton populations decrease, the whales and krill-eating seabirds will die. Plankton levels in the oceans today are at an all-time low, and this is directly related to global warming and the acidification of the oceans, which is directly related to the use of fossil fuels, including the use of natural gas to create synthetic fertilizers.

Whales are facing a number of difficulties. Many whales have died when they have collided with ships, and many more have died because of hunting. Against international law, Japan, Norway, and Iceland still allow their citizens to hunt whales. In July 2008 the Japanese whaling community announced its plan to hunt 1,000 piked and 50 fin whales. has said that the Japanese also have threatened to hunt humpback whales.

It is a travesty that whale hunting still goes on. However, global warming poses even a greater threat to whales. If the plankton keep dying off, there will be no whales anywhere. The krill populations will plunge, and so will those of krill-eating seabirds.

What is happening with plankton is also happening with pteropods.

Pteropods are winged underwater creatures that live in the polar and subpolar seas. These marble-sized creatures are the food for cod, herring, pollack, and salmon. Pteropods also have calcium carbonate shells. Tests have shown that their shells dissolve in acidic conditions. This is another problem caused by the increasingly acidic conditions of the oceans. The pteropods feed off tiny crustaceans, including plankton. Many types of fish feed off the pteropods. And larger creatures, including otters, penguins, puffins, eagles, gulls, albatross, terns, pelicans, tundra swan, snow geese, seals, sea lions, polar bears, grizzly bears, and black bears, feed on the fish.

If the pteropod populations plunge, so will the populations of all of the marine life dependent on the pteropods, and so will the birds and land animals dependent on the fish. The demise of coral reefs and shellfish is only part of the problem waterlife is facing because of carbon dioxide, farming chemicals, and industrial pollution.

Fish, jellyfish, and other sea life suffer because the heavy metals in the pollution, such as mercury spewed by coal-burning electrical plants, interfere with the normal function and growth of their body tissues. This includes how their bones grow, how their nerves function, and in their ability to reproduce.

Carbon dioxide from air pollution hovering over water is known to gather in the tissues of fish and interfere with their absorption of oxygen, asphyxiating them. They also die off because of a lack of oxygen in the water caused by liquid pollutants.

Fertilizers pose a double threat to marine life because fertilizers cause both water and air pollution. The fertilizers are made from natural gas drilled from Earth, which means they are nitrogen-based. When they are spread on farms, lawns, and landscaping, the fertilizers emit nitrous oxide, which is nearly 300 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide. Synthetic chemical fertilizers run off from farmland during rainstorms and end up in rivers that flow into lakes and oceans.

The number-one use of synthetic fertilizer is for the growing of grain, alfalfa, and other crops for farmed animals. Unknown to most people is the fact that most of the food on every continent is grown to feed farmed animals, not humans. Most of the water and fuel used to grow food is used to grow food for farmed animals. Livestock consumes 70% of the grain, 80% of the corn, and 90% of the soy grown in the U.S.

In 2007 there were over 20 billion pounds of fertilizer and over 175 billion pounds of pesticides used on U.S. farmland to grow food for farmed animals. The farmland used to grow the food for farmed animals uses an astounding 33% of arable land on the planet. Most or all of the wildlife that would have lived on that land naturally is displaced, or is killed off by farmers, ranchers, and government workers using guns, traps, and/or poisons.

Seventy percent of the formerly forested areas of the Amazon rain forest are used for grazing cattle, which compact and erode the land, damage creek and river beds, kill wildlife, and cause the extinction of species. The burning and clearcutting of all of that rainforest land has released enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and has removed billions of trees that were absorbing carbon dioxide while providing homes for wildlife.

When it is taken into consideration how much pollution is created to grow the food for the farmed animals, that farmed animals in the U.S. alone produce 60 million tons of manure each year, or 130 times more waste than the country's human population; and that the animals and their waste emit methane gas, which is over 20 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide emitted from engines; and that manure emits nitrous oxide, it is easy to understand that animal farming and the meat industry create more global warming gasses than all forms of transportation combined, including cars, trucks, and airplanes.

In other words, hundreds of millions of farmed cows, sheep, goats, and pigs, and the billions of chickens and turkeys raised for food, and all of the resources used to grow food for them, to slaughter them, and to transport, package, refrigerate, and cook the meat are easily the leading cause of global warming and the pollution of and acidification of the oceans.

Fertilizers from farm and landscaping washing from the land, and nitrogen leaking into rivers from manure and urine pits cause excessive algae growth in the oceans. The floating blooms of algae spread through miles of water and choke off waterlife, which results in "dead zones" where all forms of waterlife natural to that area cannot survive. There are now over 150 dead zones in the world's seas. The dead zones take up vast amounts of water, and they are all related to pollution.

In the Gulf of Mexico, the algae and bacterial growth in dead zones is directly related to the amount of synthetic fertilizers and farmed animal waste washing from farmland and into rivers that flow into the gulf. There, the algae growth and subsequent dead zones have been blamed for a spike in water temperatures. The decrease in fish populations in and around these dead zones has driven sharks closer to the coastlines, increasing the number of shark attacks on humans.

Dead zones are directly related to the global blight being experienced by oysters and clams throughout the world. The bacteria growing in the dead zones kill clam and oyster larvae. This was first discovered on the West Coast of North America at a facility in Newport, Oregon, in 2005. Just three years later, oyster and clam populations had plunged along the entire West Coast of North America. The number of larvae being killed by bacteria has been in the billions. East Coast waters are experiencing similar situations.

Damage to the largest estuary in the U.S., Chesapeake Bay, has been vast and all forms of marine life have been impacted. The tragedy is directly related to farming chemicals, farmed animal waste, industrial pollution, and lawn fertilizers. The water has become murky with algae, which blocks out light and allows for bacterial growth. Oyster, striped bass, and menhaden fish populations in the Chesapeake Bay have plummeted.

The bay is the world's main spawning ground for striped bass, which are now often found to be starving and with bacterial infections eating away at their flesh. The first to go were the oysters, which nearly vanished in the 1980s, and have never recovered. The population of Chesapeake Bay blue crabs has plunged by 70% in less than twenty years. The oysters and menhaden are natural water filterers, but even an abundance of them couldn't keep up with the amount of microscopic substances growing in the bay.

Dead zones of algae and bacteria overgrowth caused by farming and industrial pollution in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, and other saltwater bodies are impacting marine life in ways similar to what is happening in the Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, and Chesapeake Bay. In addition to the oceans, algae overgrowth caused by synthetic farming chemical pollution is becoming a problem in the world's largest bodies of fresh water as well as throughout swamplands, saltwater marshes, tidal reefs, and other wetlands.

Waterlife throughout the world is also in danger because of the melting of the ice caps, which results in fresher water at the poles and saltier water near the equator. This is damaging to marine life in specific regions of the planet. Many types of marine life can exist only in water that is within certain ranges of salinity and temperature. If the water is changed for too long, those species become extinct.

The melting ice caps are also among several factors leading to the warming of the oceans. Ice reflects the heat of Sun. Where the ice has melted, the ocean water and the newly bare land absorbs the solar radiation heat that would naturally have been reflected back into space. This heat absorption delays and prevents the formation of new ice. The extent of ice melt of the polar caps is greater now than has ever been recorded.

In September 2007 the ice of the Arctic Ocean melted to the extent that the Northwest Passage was accessible by boat for the first time in known history. There is less ice on the North Pole than has ever been recorded. The Bering Straight is now ice-free into December. Polar bears are losing their ice habitat needed to build their dens. And the melt extends into the permafrost of the soil. When the permafrost melts, the number of insects increases. It also brings birds to nest out of season. Adding to this tragedy is that companies are now seeing this as an opportunity to exploit the resources of this newly uncovered land. Petroleum and mining companies want access to this land so they can begin to extract whatever substances they can find to sell into the world market.

The changing ocean and atmospheric temperatures and the acidity of the water are playing a role in the accumulation of more water vapor in the global atmosphere. This is accelerating the occurrence of torrential storms, such as those that caused record flooding in the American Midwest in June 2008.

Other causes of this excessive accumulation of water in the atmosphere include the destruction of millions of acres of mountain and rain forests, which would normally hold water; clearing millions of acres of land of natural habitat on every continent to plant huge plots of monocropped grain to feed billions of farmed animals; and the covering of billions of acres of land with driveways, roads, highways, bridges, parking lots, and parking garages to support car culture.

Those of us who live in coastal areas are becoming all too aware of the damage being done to the oceans. In 2005 there were nearly 20,000 beach closings on U.S. shores triggered by pollution. Similar beach closings are becoming common everywhere from Asia to Australia, from South and Central America, from Mediterranea and Africa, and among islands throughout the world.

As plastic has become a popular material for manufacturing an increasing number of products, it has also become a problem for the environment. In 2006 the U.S. produced an estimated 113 billion pounds of plastic. Throughout the coastal areas of the planet, on beaches in the middle of the oceans, and in areas far from major cities, tons of plastic pollution gather on the sand and rocky shores, and get tangled among coral reefs and underwater rock formations. There are now bits of plastic of all sorts floating in the oceans, rivers, and lakes throughout the world.

A 2006 study by the U.N. estimated that each square mile of ocean has as many as 46,000 pieces of various sizes of plastic floating in it. Plastic bits are mistaken for food by seabirds, turtles, and other sea creatures, causing their death due to blocked digestive tracks. Other plastic materials, including fishing nets and plastic bags, end up strangling birds, turtles, otters, seals, and other sea creatures that get entangled in the plastics. So much has accumulated in the oceans that there are large, swirling pools of plastic trash spread over hundreds of miles. The largest collection of plastic stew in the oceans exists in the Pacific halfway between California and the Hawaiian Islands. It is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Some material pulled from this stew has been identified as being from plastics manufactured as early as the 1940s.

This indicates that how people live and what they do at work even at a great distance from the ocean can impact far away marine life, and for decades. The simple act of allowing plastic trash to enter lakes, rivers, or the ocean can result in the death of a fish, turtle, bird, or dolphin living years in the future.

A decrease in any variety of smaller types of waterlife is damaging to seabirds, to bears, and to other forms of wildlife that rely on healthful populations of waterlife. When the bird and bear populations suffer, so to do the forests. The nutrients that collect in the bodies of the birds and bears feeding from oceans, rivers, and lakes naturally end up as nutrients in the land, feeding the plants. Marine carbon and nitrogen isotopes are two beneficial atomic nutrients brought into the forests by animals and birds eating fish. Even animals living hundreds of miles away from the oceans feed on fish that make their way upstream to spawn.

When the birds and bears don't get the food they need, their populations suffer. That is currently happening. Large numbers of sea birds are dying, and many are abandoning their nests because they aren't finding the food they need to feed their young. The birds are also being poisoned by industrial waste and by the same excessive amounts of bacteria caused by farming and industrial pollution that is putting marine life out of balance. What is going on with the marine birds is also happening with bears. Many bears are underweight, many are found to have weak bones, and others are simply abandoning their young. Bears are also turning to cannibalism as their natural food sources are vanishing.

The forests of the world are where many of the rivers start that empty into the oceans. The forests are being damaged or eliminated by development, logging, road building, pestilence, the spread of cattle culture, and fire. This is damaging the headwaters of rivers, the flood plains, and other wetlands, and the wildlife dependent on them.

The depletion of wildlife populations is also impacting the forests because it is depleting the forests of nutrients. When the forests don't get the nutrients they need, the immune systems of the trees weaken, making the trees susceptible to beetle infestations, rot, and fire - which are also conditions accelerating because of global warming and drought. By the summer of 2008, California had already experienced more fires than for any entire year of recorded history. This is at a time when salmon runs have also been lower than ever.

The predator animals and other mammals living on and near the ice caps are also under threat from a silent danger that is biomagnifying in their food chain. Because the predator animals are at the top of the food chain, they are collecting all of the pollutants in their bodies that exist in the fatty tissues of the smaller creatures they eat. Although they live far from industrial society, the body tissues of these creatures have been found to contain fire retardants, pesticides, perfluorinated compounds used to make Teflon, and other industrial chemicals. Seabirds, forest birds, seals, foxes, bears, whales, and fish living in the southern and northern regions of the planet have all been found to contain these chemicals. It is wreaking havoc on their hormone levels, on their bone and nerve structures, and on their birth rates.

One of the most common chemicals found in polar bears is a fire retardant used in furniture, blankets, mattresses, carpeting, plastics, and in cell phones, televisions, and other electronics. These chemicals are known to disrupt thyroid and sex hormones, impair mental abilities and motor skills, and to alter brain development. Bears are being found with weakened immune systems, and the milk of lactating bears has been found to contain enough of these chemicals to jeopardize the health of cubs.

These problems are directly attributed to the pollution the polar bears are accumulating in their body tissues by consuming fish living in polluted oceans. With only 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears left in the wild, it is a tragedy that they are facing the problems of chemical pollutants and melting ice caps. At one time the main threats humans posed to polar bears included only hunting and deforestation. The existence of polar bears on the planet may soon come to an end.

The killing of marine life for human consumption remains a threat to many types of sea creatures.

The worldwide fishing industry is playing a major role in destroying the oceans. Fish species are becoming rare or extinct in regions where they were common just decades ago. Every type of sea turtle is endangered. And massive fishing operations continue to set billions of hooks every year to capture large fish. What they end up doing is killing sea life of all sorts. It is estimated that 25% of the sea life captured is not acceptable to the fishing fleets, and these dead or dying creatures are tossed back into the water.

A global study authored by 14 marine biologists that was published in the November 3, 2006, issue of the journal Science concluded that unless humanity makes enormous changes in the way they live and in what they eat, the entire populations of the world's fished species will collapse by about 2048. The study considered evidence from all of the world's 64 large marine ecosystems. They found that 91 percent of native species suffered from a 50 percent decrease, and 7 percent were extinct. Continued overfishing as well as coastal land development, habitat destruction, and world pollution are to blame.

The study pointed out that nearly 29 percent of species that are fished have collapsed (defined by being below 10 percent of historic highs). The study said that the fish populations were rapidly decreasing and losing entire functional groups. The study says that the oceans will not be able to recover from the decline of so many species. The study authors wrote, "Our analyses suggest that business as usual would foreshadow serious threats to global food security, coastal water quality, and ecosystem stability, affecting current and future generations." Many scientists throughout the world voiced their opinions in agreement with the study.

Massive nets are being dragged across the ocean floors at deeper and deeper levels to capture fish that were once abundant, but are becoming sparse or nonexistent in places where they had existed since their species began. Many nets get caught on underwater rock formations and are then abandoned as "ghost nets," which continue to kill as fish and sea mammals get tangled in them.

The massive fishing operations cause a destabilizing of sea life biodiversity, extinguishing populations that rely on others to survive. Deep-sea trawling is the equivalent of killing every bird, animal, and bug in a forest during a hunt for several hundred deer. Many of these massively destructive fishing expeditions operate on government subsidies and are protected by laws formed to protect not the oceans or sea life, but the profits of the fishing industry.

Additional damage is being caused to waterlife by the hundreds of millions of pharmaceutical drugs taken every day and ending up in the water bodies of the planet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 130 million Americans use prescription drugs every month. As the American way of consuming unhealthful foods while leading sedentary lifestyles spreads to other countries, so too does the occurrence of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other health conditions related to consuming junk foods and animal protein-dominant diets.

This has led to a global increase in the number of people taking synthetic chemical prescription drugs. The drugs end up in the waters of the world because the drugs are urinated away, or expired and unwanted prescriptions are flushed down toilets. Hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, testing labs, and the military often dump unused and expired drugs into sinks and toilets. As the chemical drugs dissolve into the waterways they wreak havoc on water life. Scientists have tested marine life from all over the planet and found that their tissues contain prescription medications, including antibiotics and synthetic hormones, and drugs for pain, for birth control, for erectile dysfunction, for hair loss, for heart organ diseases, for allergies, for acne, for weight loss, for mood disorders, and for cancer chemotherapy.

Pharmaceutical drugs, farming chemicals, industrial pollutants, and greenhouse gasses are directly related to the global decline of frogs and related amphibians. Pharmaceuticals and industrial pollutants also are the cause of more and more amphibians being found with both sex organs; with extra limbs, and with other physical deformities.

Consider that you play a role in the health of the oceans. When you see water, realize that you and all life on the planet consist mainly of water. If the water bodies of Earth are not healthy, neither is humanity. If life in and around the water bodies of Earth die, so will humanity.

John McCabe is the author of "Sunfood Living: Resource Guide to Global Health."

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Water Conservation During a Drought

Dry earth in the Sonora desert, Mexico.Image via Wikipedia

How to Conserve Water During a Drought by Allen Owen

This scene is familiar to anyone who has experienced a particularly oppressive summer. The soil cracks in a thousand places, looking like the skin of a lizard. Plants begin to wither, and change from green, to yellow, to brown, from lack of water. The air seems to be thick and heavy, and heat distortion makes the air seem to rise from the ground, making the air seem to shimmer. Everyone seems to be in an ill mood, no matter how well their day is going, and how much progress they have made at school or work.

A drought-stricken area is in a poor state, but it is not hopeless. Even with very little water, you can deal with the scarcity and still emerge with a wallet filled with enough money to pay the rest of your bills. Even with very little water, a cooperative community can pull through a drought and enjoy the rains when they finally arrive.

If you live in a drought-stricken area, you will need to utilize every method of water conservation available. Here are a few tips that you might want to follow as you work on keeping what water you have.

Instead of soaking in a tub or using a pail and dipper to take a bath, take a brief shower. Soaking in a tub will only force you to fill up a tub with gallons of water that you might not end up using. A pail and dipper might make you careless, so that you splash water everywhere and end up using more than a bucket to clean yourself.

A shower, on the other hand, can force you to regulate the use of water. Confine your shower to no more than fifteen minutes. Turn off the shower while you shampoo, or while you soap your body. To save more water, wet your entire body, turn off the shower, then apply your shampoo and start soaping yourself. Rinse your entire body all at once. It was (and may still be) a common practice in the US Navy to shower in this fashion. Ships can make their own fresh water, but it was common to shower in this fashion anyway, since with so many crew taking showers, the fresh water making equipment may not be able to keep up with demand.

To save even more water, have a bucket standing by as you shower. Collect your shower water in the bucket, and use it to flush your toilet. When you flush, you can use up to five gallons of water each time you flush! This may differ, depending on what kind to toilet you have in your home. Save this water for more useful purposes, such as washing the dishes and your body. You can use your bath water to flush your toilet, and a bucket will usually be enough.

Don't use soapy dishwater water to water plants. This may seem like a good water conservation method, you also need to remember that the detergents in soap can damage plants and destroy nutrients in the soil. It is better, instead to control the amount of water you use to water your garden. Instead of using a hose or a sprinkler, take a small bucket of water and water plants with moderation. Too much water can weaken their roots and stems.

Health consideration are paramount, so analyze each decision that you make before conserving water. When rinsing dishes, don't soak them in a basin of water along with the rest of the dirty dishes. This practice can lead to bacteria and fungi accumulating on your utensils. Don't reuse bath water for any other purpose, except to flush your toilet. The dirt from your body can do more damage to your plants if you water them with your bath water. Don't conserve your drinking water! You need at least eight glasses of water a day to remain hydrated; you can go longer without food than without water! If you are in a drought-stricken area, you are more prone to dehydration, so don't scrimp drinking water.

If you don't finish the water in your glass, don't pour it down the drain. Put the water into a bucket, where it can be used to flush your toilet later. If the drinking water you have left is relatively clean, you can use it to water your plants. Don't give your half-consumed glass of water to your pet: your mouth can have bacteria and viruses that can make your pet sick.

Save on water by using paper plates that you can throw away after use. If you find paper plates expensive, you can also use paper plate safe wax covers, which are cheaper, and which can be discarded after use. You can also use cheap paper cups. These will save you money, and they can be recycled.

By following these simple tips, you can conserve water during severe droughts and save some money at the same time.

Allen Owen is an engineer and writes on various topics concerning energy conservation and alternative energy and fuel on his blog, Maxwell's Demon at

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

London - The World's Biggest Fairtrade City‏

a T-Shirt made from Fairtrade certified cottonImage via WikipediaLondon has officially become the world's largest Fairtrade city, after more than a thousand businesses agreed to sell fairly traded goods.

Roughly 1,000 retailers and 600 catering outlets, including the Houses of Parliament, London Fire Brigade, the Metropolitan Police, museums and the Bank of England, sell items carrying the Fairtrade logo. Due to this, the city of London was recently awarded Fairtrade status.

London Mayor Boris Johnson is said to be glad about the announcement, calling it "super" and acknowledging that it means "Londoners want their products to be Fairtrade and to make a significant difference to the lives of the farmers and workers in the developing world."

He noted that 20 of London's boroughs have Fairtrade status. In order to be granted Fairtrade status, companies must ensure that all those involved in the production process receive a decent price for their efforts or produce. The Fairtrade Foundation tries to ensure that marginalised producers in developing countries get a better deal.

There are five guarantees behind the Fairtrade logo; guaranteeing farmers a fair and stable price for their produce, extra income for farmers and estate workers, a greater respect for the environment, giving small farmers a stronger position in world markets, and to close the gap between producers and consumers.

London is the 400th of the UK's towns and cities to be awarded Fairtrade status, demonstrating the UK's progressive views on developing nations and agricultural workers.

Universities, schools and some churches have also embraced the campaign and have agreed to increase their participation in fair traded goods. London seems to be keener than ever for Fairtrade goods, and The Fairtrade London Steering Committee has said that it believes the accomplishment makes London the world's Fairtrade capital, or at least the biggest Fairtrade city in the world.

So Londoners will not have to go too far to buy the Fairtrade products they desire. London has sent a strong message that they want trade to be fairer, and as the biggest Fairtrade city in the world, London can be seen as an ambassador for Fairtrade products everywhere.

Garstang in Lancashire was the first town in the UK to become Fairtrade, with local residents voting almost unanimously in favour of the move at a local meeting in 2000. Local enthusiasts have received MBEs for their efforts in promoting Fairtrade as a consumer solution to world poverty.

Cafedirect is the UK's largest 100% Fairtrade hot drinks company, with a team of experts in tea, coffee, sustainable development, climate change, social enterprise, and responsible supply chain management.

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Is Your Town Fairtrade?‏

International Fairtrade Certification MarkImage via WikipediaMaking your town Fairtrade aims to bring communities together by making businesses and local authorities work towards a common goal. That common goal is the creation of a system that puts people first, not profits, the essence of Fair trade.

Where the idea of a Fairtrade town originates

The first town to gain the status of a Fairtrade town was Garstang in Lancashire when it became the World's first Fairtrade town in April 2000, which went on to inspire others to achieve Fairtrade status in their own cities, boroughs, villages, islands and counties across the country. There are currently over 300 Fairtrade towns and 200 currently working towards the status. The inspiration has moved outside the UK to other countries wanting to do their part for Fairtrade.

Five things you need to do to gain status:

Step1: Local councils must pass a resolution supporting Fairtrade and serve Fairtrade products in meetings and their canteen.

Step 2: A range of Fairtrade products must be available at local shops, cafes and catering establishments.

Step 3: Fairtrade products must be used by a number of local workplaces and educational establishments, faith communities and other community organisations.

Step 4: Attract media coverage and organise events to gain popular support for the campaign.

Step 5: A local Fairtrade steering group must meet on a regular basis to ensure continued support for Fairtrade Town status. The composition of your steering group should be composite of your community overall.

London, an inspiration

London gained status this year and has helped make the UK the capital of Fairtrade. Their new status means you won't be far away from Fairtrade products when you are in the cities cafes and stores. The fact that such a large city has managed to gain support for Fairtrade and meet the criteria should inspire smaller towns and cities to follow suit.

What you will be helping to prevent

By campaigning to get your town or city Fairtrade status, you will be helping the world's poorest people gain a fair wage for the work they do and liberate them from the common factors that stop this happening such as trade barriers, third world debt and exploitative middlemen keeping their workers in poverty while they cash in. Although consumers realise that there are workers being exploited in order to supply them with affordable products, many people don't know how they can help prevent this but Fairtrade creates that avenue to make a difference.

If you want to see more Fairtrade product on offer in your area, then why not help your town or city to gain status, there are lots of ways to do this listed on various Fairtrade websites.

John McE writes articles on a number of subjects including Fairtrade products and campaigns. For more about Fairtrade products see
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