Saturday, March 31, 2012

VIDEO: On Coal River

On Coal River Synopsis

Coal River Valley, West Virginia is a community surrounded by lush mountains and a looming toxic threat. Filmed over a period of five years, ON COAL RIVER follows a former miner and his neighbors in a David-and-Goliath struggle for the future of their valley, their children, and life as they know it.

Ed Wiley once worked at the same coal plant that threatens his granddaughter’s elementary school. When his local government refuses to act, Ed embarks on a quest to have the school relocated to safer ground.

With a sharp sense of right and wrong, Ed confronts his local school board, the state government, and a notorious coal company for putting his granddaughter and his community at risk.

Along the way, Ed is helped by his neighbors Bo and Judy, who are locked in their own battle with the company over their practice of “mountaintop removal” - blowing up mountains to extract coal.

Together, Bo and Judy help Ed bring attention to the dangers at Marsh Fork Elementary, hoping that if they save the school, they can save the valley.

Film Credits

Bo Webb, Ed Wiley, Judy Bonds, Debbie Jarrell and Maria Lambert

Francine Cavanaugh and Adams Wood

Francine Cavanaugh, Adams Wood and Jillian Elizabeth

Francine Cavanaugh, Jillian Elizabeth and Adams Wood

Executive Producers
Dan Frishwasser, Eric Falkenstein, Deann Borshay Liem and J. Robert Spencer

The History of Earth Day - The Movement

A recreation of the ECOLOGY symbol used in ear...A recreation of the ECOLOGY symbol used in early Earth Day materials (Photo credit: Wikipedia)By Annie Whitney

Although Earth Day has been commonly associated with U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, and Congressman Pete McCloskey of California, it has been alleged that the concept originated initially in 1969 with John McConnell at an UNESCO conference held in San Francisco.

Whatever were the origins, it is clear that this event has deeply resonated with people across the globe.

The history of Earth Day holds that the first event happened on April 22, 1970, with 20 Million participants around the world. That number since since grown to over 500 Million, with the participation of numerous national governments and 175 countries.

And perhaps what made even more impact than those famous demonstrations, along with the "teach-ins" and cleaning up of so many places across the country by the approximately 20 million people participating that first historic event, was the bipartisan political action which followed.

Many student leaders identified what they called the "Dirty Dozen," members of the Congress and Senate whose environmental records were atrocious, and whose seats were vulnerable. These student leaders actively campaigned against the targeted legislators, not only holding letter-writing crusades, but also walking the precincts where the voters were who held the sway.

By election day of 1972, seven of that ''dirty dozen'' had been kicked out of office; those replaced were five Republicans, and two senior Democrats. To quote Mr. McCloskey, "That just had an enormous effect. The environment had proved it could deliver votes."

When Senator Gaylord Nelson was first elected to office in 1962, he was already deeply concerned by the fact that the environment was not on any political agenda, although normal citizens were increasingly aware of the disturbing effects that matters such as pollution were having on the environment and human health.

This environmental issue stayed on the back burner for seven years, making the history of Earth Day that much more compelling, until Senator Nelson invited people from all walks of life in 1969 to join him the following year to a grassroots demonstration raising awareness about environmental issues. April 22, 1970 marked the first day in the history of Earth Day.

The response was intensely overwhelming. Rallies were held across the nation, and by the time the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted a poll in 1971, a full 25% indicated that protecting the environment was an important goal to them.

March 21, 1970 was furthermore declared by San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto as International Earth Day, celebrated on the March equinox, which tends to fall around March 20. The listed founder is John McConnell.

Earth Day 1970 launched the environmental movement across the country and beyond, by harnessing the energy and enthusiasm of college students. In 2003, former Congressman Pete McCloskey, co-sponsor of that first Earth Day, sees the need to do it all over again.

Mr. McCloskey credits Mr. Hayes and Sen. Nelson with making Earth Day happen. He was recruited as a rare, like-minded Republican to co-sponsor the event in the House of Representatives.

The Earth Day Network is now is the coordinating group for the movement, and under its Canopy Project, saw 1 Million trees planted in 2010, with over 50 Million for 2011. The Billion Acts of Green campaign is still continuing.

Whatever the origins of Earth Day may be, the most striking fact about this global event is that it somehow managed to organize itself.

Annie Whitney is a Relationship and Internet Sponsoring Expert, specializing in helping others generate Leads and Cash Flow. For the exact step by step strategies, using honest and proven methods for success. Annie also has been a Nutrition and Supplementation consultant since 1973. For details, click here:

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Is Walmart Really Going Organic and Local?

Mother Jones (magazine)Mother Jones (magazine) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)by Tom Philpott, Mother Jones:

I live on an organic farm in North Carolina, so I don't spend much time roaming my local Walmart looking for produce. But on a recent trip to Austin, Texas, I decided to stop by a busy supercenter to see how the company was going about its well-publicized push to sell more local and organic food.

The produce section sat between the in-store McDonald's and some giant coolers packed with Hormel bologna. There were crates piled high with perfect orbs of cabbage and tomatoes, onions and melons. Elephant-ear-size collard greens sat in tight bunches; stacks of fist-size lemons beamed yellow.

Plenty of fresh food, to be sure, though a few "Grown in USA" signs were the nearest thing I could find to an indication of local. Organic? A few bags of house-brand lettuce claimed that standard.

But you can't judge Walmart on a single store. The company sells 18 percent of all the groceries bought in the United States - more than anyone else by a wide margin. And it's not just Froot Loops and rock-hard tomatoes.

Over the last decade, Walmart has emerged as a massive player in the organic-food market. By 2006, the year it made a splashy announcement about doubling its sales of organic food, it was already the nation's No. 1 seller of organic milk. By 2007, according to the market data firm Scarborough Research, shoppers in search of organic food chose Walmart more often than any other grocery store.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Australia May Declare Homeopathy ‘Baseless and Unethical’

English: Image: homeopathic substance Deutsch:...Image via Wikipedia

by Andre Evans, Activist Post:

Homeopathic medicine practitioners may have to defend their practice in Australia after the National Health and Medical Research Council decided that their practices may be ineffective and unethical.

A statement issued claims that it is “unethical for health practitioners to treat patients using homeopathy, because a homeopathic medicine or procedure has apparently been shown to be ineffective.”

This statement is based on an evaluation of homeopathy by the British House of Commons Science and Technology committee, who came to the conclusion that the whole field of homeopathic medicine is no more effective than a placebo pill is.

Similarly, the statement suggests that all homeopathic medicine is actually just joke medicine, and that “safe and effective conventional treatments” should not be delayed in favor of homeopathic ones.

The researchers who support this statement maintain that many homeopathic treatments are wrongfully being covered by health insurance companies, despite the fact that they are largely ineffective and sometimes more costly than conventional methods.

Many cases cited to support this statement showcase the use of outlandish medicines like animal blood and milk, which in these cases lead to the deaths of those who used these methods of treatment.

Due to the nature of the untested and absurd treatments, the researchers would like to establish a formal registration scheme in the manner of conventional doctors, so that no quackery or dangerous “medicines” are covered by insurance.

Currently, the Australian Homeopathic Association has a self-governed registration model that is not subject to more conventional scrutiny, and thus the methods stated can sometimes be encompassed within the scheme of what is called homeopathic medicine.

Interestingly, what is called ‘conventional medicine’ is also in the realm of the outlandish and has similar tested proof backing the fact that it is dangerous to individual health.

Despite this, a careful examination of legitimate and proven natural methods of medicine should not be discouraged or classified within the same category of bizarre treatments that should more properly be called fake homeopathy.
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10 Regular Products That Are More Environmentally Friendly than Their So-called Green Counterparts

Gasoline that 'cleans'Gasoline that 'cleans' (Photo credit: Toban Black)by Compare Electricity Rates:

The global warming or climate change enthusiasts have created a huge focus on saving the planet by promoting environmentally friendly products. Savvy consumers should be careful not to fall for this marketing gimmick called greenwashing.

Many of the products we already use are friendlier to the environment than their so-called green counterparts. Pay close attention to the products claiming to be eco-friendly or green because they may not be as green as they claim.

Here are 10 regular products that are already more environmental friendly than their green alternatives.

Fuel efficient cars

A gas powered car with good fuel efficiency is more likely to be better for the environment than a hybrid. People don’t think about how the electricity is generated when they plug in their car. Most of the electricity in this country comes from coal generated plants, so plugging in your car doesn’t really do much to save the environment.

Incandescent light bulbs

The standard incandescent light bulbs use more energy, but their fluorescent counterparts are filled with mercury. Does anyone think about the potentially huge environmental hazard of improperly disposing of these mercury filled bulbs? People are just going to throw them in the trash with everything else and this will be a big problem when they quit selling the regular bulbs in 2012.

Cleaning products

Many eco-friendly cleaning products that claim to be chlorine free contain a myriad of other toxic chemicals that are worse than chlorine. Check labels and be careful of percentages that are based on the number of ingredients rather than volume. The same old products you’ve always used are probably more environmentally friendly.

Water filter

Using a water filter to make your own bottled water is much better for the environment. All the discarded plastic from bottled water is causing huge problems in garbage collection and landfills.

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INTERVIEW: What Would It Take? Protecting Earth from Catastrophe

The Earth flag is not an official flag, since ...Image via Wikipedia

Interview by Mary Hoff, UTNE - Best of the Alternative Press:

What would it take to shape a planet on which people, other living things, and the systems that support us can sustainably coexist? For a special issue, Momentum magazine invited experts from around the world to share their thoughts on how we might craft solutions to some of earth’s toughest challenges. Mary Hoff spoke with resilience strategist Johan Rockstrom on what it would take to protect the Earth’s systems from catastrophic failure.

Why do we need to think about protecting Earth’s systems from catastrophic failure?

The basic reason is that major advances in Earth system science now show that humanity is facing the risk of large-scale, potentially catastrophic tipping points that could hamper human development. The evidence shows that we may have entered a whole new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, where humans constitute the main geological force changing planet Earth. The planetary boundaries framework was developed to address this new reality.

But the insight of the Anthropocene gives you only the very first step, because it just indicates we have a high degree of human pressure. The second is the risk of nonlinear change, which comes out of resilience theory and from empirical evidence that particular ecosystems have multiple stable states.

We see evidence that lakes and forests and wetlands can have different equilibria - so you have a savanna system that may be stable and thriving, but it can also tip over and become an arid steppe if pushed too far by warming, land degradation, and biodiversity loss. A clear-water lake can become a murky, biodiversity-low anoxic lake.

Unfortunately, the science is increasingly showing that even large systems can tip. There’s paleoclimatic evidence that if oceans get an overload of phosphorus, they could collapse with large dead zones. The largest ice sheets also show evidence of shifts between ice-covered and ice-free states.

We asked ourselves: OK, so if we are in the Anthropocene, and if we are at risk or have evidence of large regional to global tipping points, then what is our desired state for planet Earth? What is the state at which Earth needs to be in order to support human well-being in a world of 7 - soon to be 9 - billion people?

Paleoclimatic records show clearly that the past 10,000 years, the Holocene, is a remarkably stable period in which we went from being a few hunters and gatherers to become more sedentary agriculture-based civilizations, which then moved us to the current populated modern era. So there’s robust evidence that the Holocene is our desired state and the only state we know that can support the modern economy.

If we know that, we can also define the biophysical preconditions: What are the Earth system processes that determine the Holocene’s familiarity? Can we for those processes identify tipping points we want to avoid? The insight of the importance of the Holocene stability provides humanity with a science-based analysis of global sustainability goals that should be met to provide us safe operating space for human development.

What would it take to protect Earth’s systems from catastrophic failure?

There are so many challenges and steps that need to be taken. But if one thinks of it as entering a funnel, I think a broad entry point is the need for a shift in mind-set.

It might sound a bit awkward - the first thing one thinks of is probably new economic paradigms, really hard new governance structures, new policies. All of that is of course required, but the precondition is that modern society reconnect to the biosphere, which in turn requires a mind shift.

Today we operate the world with our growth paradigm and our economic imperative and our social imperative as being the supreme goals for our societies. We then add, at best, sustainable development, corporate social responsibility and all the good work we’re doing with clean tech and efforts to be more efficient, all with the explicit goal of minimizing environmental impacts within the overarching growth paradigm.

The insights of the Anthropocene and tipping points show this paradigm doesn’t work anymore. We have to reverse the whole order and agree that the biosphere is the basis for everything else. This is quite dramatic, because it means human development has to be subordinate to Earth system boundaries.

It changes the whole idea of macroeconomic theory, because macroeconomic theory basically states that as long as you put the right price on the environment, you automatically get the most cost-efficient way of solving environmental problems.

The second dimension is the idea of planetary stewardship, which means taking ourselves from 196 nation-states operating in their own interest as individual entities to joint governance at the planetary scale. We need to strengthen global governance.

We need a global agency that governs, monitors, verifies, and reports on whether we’re on aggregate meeting planetary boundaries. That is something a world environment organization could do. This is not to say bottom-up initiatives are not important. On the contrary, they are a precondition for success.

But in the Anthropocene, where we need to urgently bend the global curves of negative environmental change, we need to provide leadership also at the global scale. This is lacking today.

How urgent is this?

There is more and more scientific evidence that suggests it is very urgent. For climate, biodiversity and nitrogen, we are already in the slippery danger zone where we cannot exclude tipping over thresholds. On climate, we’re seeing evidence of a destabilization of the Arctic ice sheet.

On nitrogen, we’re seeing clear evidence of major tipping points where lakes are losing their capacity to support human well-being due to overuse of nitrogen and phosphorus particularly in modern agriculture.

On biodiversity, we’ve reached the point where humanity is causing an extinction of species equivalent to losing the dinosaurs 65 million years ago - at the same time we’re also learning how much we depend on biodiversity.

We have increasing evidence we need to back off also on phosphorus and that we’re approaching dangerous boundaries for freshwater and for land. So we have a decade right now that is very decisive.

And the reason it’s urgent is not that we risk catastrophic outcomes in one year or five years or 10 years. It is because what we do today injects changes in Earth systems that may cause thresholds in 50 years’ time, 100 years’ time.

The future of coming generations is thus truly in this generation’s hands. And we have already committed ourselves to major risks of tipping points in the coming century. That’s why we need to go much, much faster on turning back into the safe operating space.

For the boundaries that we have already transgressed, we can’t exclude that this decade is a determining decade, that we need to bend the curves of negative environmental change before 2020. There’s a lot of strong evidence that’s the case.

What if we do take this to heart? What could we hope for?

That’s a very interesting question, because there’s very little or no science to suggest that a global transition to sustainability, a global transition to a future within planetary boundaries, would be a worse world than the world we know today.

On the contrary, there is increasing evidence to suggest that a transition can be done while providing us with good chances of prosperity even on a crowded planet.

But there is a big “but”: And the big but is, have we already gone too far? And that we simply don’t know yet.

Published in association with Momentum, a print, online and multimedia magazine for environmental thought leaders produced by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.
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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Monsanto’s Blatant Corruption and Disregard for Health

by Anthony Gucciardi, Before Its News:

It is well known that Monsanto’s GMO crops provide a very real threat to both public health and the environment as a whole, but the depth of Monsanto’s corruption is often a less covered topic.

It has been revealed by WikiLeaks that Monsanto not only has key figureheads stationed in powerful government positions inside the United States, but also has many - if not all - U.S. diplomats on their payroll.

In the bombshell report, the leaked cables reveal that many U.S. diplomats work directly for Monsanto. Furthermore, Monsanto also has international titans pushing their agenda to maximize profits and increase the spread of genetically modified food.

The same WikiLeaks cable exposes how in late 2007, the United States ambassador to France and business partner to George W. Bush, Craig Stapleton, urged a ‘target retaliation’ against the European Union and certain nations that did not support Monsanto’s GMO crops.

Stapleton, a close business partner of George W. Bush, actually co-owned the Dallas/Fort Worth-based Texas Rangers baseball team with the former president in the 1990s. The ambassador stated:

"Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits. The list should be measured rather than vicious and must be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect an early victory. Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices".

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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bamboo Biomass Could Ease Africa's Deforestation Crisis

Deforestation, Backcountry MadagascarDeforestation, Backcountry Madagascar (Photo credit: World Resources)By Tonka Dobrev

Latest data by the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) shows that world deforestation, largely due to conversion of tropical forests to agricultural land, has decreased over the last decade, but continues at an alarmingly high rate in many countries.

Between 2000 and 2010, the global annual rate of forestry loss is estimated to be about 13 million hectares. But according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Africa is suffering deforestation at twice the world rate.

The stats couldn't be more alarming - almost 90 percent of original rainforests in West Africa have been wiped out, and the landscapes left behind are heavily fragmented and in extremely poor condition.

About 80 percent of the rural population in sub-Saharan Africa is heavily dependent on timber for fuel, so not surprisingly illegal logging, along with conversion of timberland for agricultural purposes, has proven to be a major culprit in this wholesale deforestation.

Although there are initiatives aimed at preserving the rainforest areas in the region, investments are not nearly as adequate as they need to be to outweigh forestry losses.

It takes seven to 10 tons of raw wood to produce one ton of wood charcoal. If African households continue to meet their needs by burning fuel wood, the outlook is grim - by 2050, rural households will have sent 6.7 billion tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

In addition, the International Energy Agency (IEA) claims that under a business-as-usual scenario, three-quarters of total residential energy in sub-Saharan Africa would come from biomass. This leaves the region in an urgent need for investments in an alternative biomass source that will replace wood.

"Bamboo charcoal could provide an excellent alternative to hardwood charcoal production as bamboo biomass production is much greater and considerably more sustainable," claims Terry Sunderland, scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). And she couldn't be more on target.

Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants on the planet. It produces large amounts of biomass, which makes it an excellent alternative and sustainable source of energy. Bamboo charcoal is an environmentally friendly material that has excellent absorption properties.

It is made of bamboo pieces taken from plants that are at least five years old. This sustainable biomass comes in two forms - as raw bamboo charcoal and as bamboo briquette charcoal. Raw bamboo charcoal is typically made of bamboo culms, branches and roots. Bamboo briquette charcoal is made of bamboo residue, such as dust and saw powder. The residue is compressed into sticks and then carbonised.

Bamboo charcoal is mainly used as fuel for cooking and drying tea in China and Japan. In China, which is a global leader in the production and use of bamboo charcoal, the industry is estimated at $1 billion a year and employs over 60,000 people in more than 1,000 businesses.

Sub-Saharan Africa has over 2.75 million hectares of bamboo forest, equivalent to roughly 4 per cent of the continent's total forest cover. Unlike trees, which can take decades to grow and mature enough to be suitable for biomass production, bamboo regenerates rapidly and adapts well even to areas with degraded soil.

To help African countries take advantage of their natural bamboo abundance, the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) has teamed up with China to exchange bamboo charcoal-making technology and knowhow. Chinese experts are helping to adapt African equipment like grinders, brick kilns and briquette machines, as well as hand tools, to make them suitable for bamboo charcoal production and use.

In addition, an INBAR initiative named Bamboo as Sustainable Biomass Energy is now working to transfer some more advanced bamboo charcoal technologies from China to sub-Saharan Africa. Through increased investments in technological adaptation and supportive policy reforms, African officials hope to upscale community kiln technologies and make them more accessible to rural communities.

As bamboo charcoal-making technologies advance, so will opportunities for private investors. Bamboo plantations have already proven to be a good vehicle for income generation. Beyond charcoal, the sturdy grass material is widely used in place of timber in the construction industry, for furniture manufacturing and even in the production of textiles. The plant has also entered the global food industry, as edible bamboo shoots have become a staple in the Asian-fusion cuisine popular all over the world.

Given the wide variety of business opportunities that bamboo investments offer, we can only expect that the market will continue to grow. Experts predict that it will surpass the $20 billion mark by 2015.

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