Saturday, April 21, 2012

Banana Apocalypse

bananas infographic


Free Your (Eco)Mind This Earth Day: Think Like an Ecosystem - And You Just Might Save the World

Frances Moore Lappe @ CM10COnf
Frances Moore Lappe @ CM10COnf (Photo credit: Choconancy1)
by Frances Moore Lappé, Yes! Magazine:

Gradually it’s dawned on me: We humans are creatures of the mind. We perceive the world according to our core, often unacknowledged, assumptions. They determine, literally, what we can see and what we cannot.

Nothing so wrong with that, perhaps - except that, in this crucial do-or-die moment, we’re stuck with a mental map that is life-destroying. And the premise of this map is lack - not enough of anything, from energy to food to parking spots; not enough goods and not enough goodness. In such a world, we come to believe, it’s compete or die.

The popular British writer Philip Pullman says, “we evolved to suit a way of life which is acquisitive, territorial, and combative” and that “we have to overcome millions of years of evolution” to make the changes we need to avoid global catastrophe. If I believed that, I’d feel utterly hopeless.

How can we align with the needs of the natural world if we first have to change basic human nature? Fortunately, we don’t have to.

A new way of seeing that is opening up to us can form a more life-serving mental map. I call it “eco-mind” - looking at the world through the lens of ecology. This worldview recognizes that we, no less than any other organism, live in relation to everything else.

As the visionary German physicist Hans-Peter Dürr puts it, “There are no parts, only participants.”

As part of this shift, breakthroughs in a range of disciplines are confirming what we already know about ourselves, if we stop and think about it: That humans are complex creatures and what we do - from raising children to caring for elders to sharing with our neighbors - exhibits at least as much natural tendency to cooperate as to compete.

The view that our species is basically brutal defies the evidence: “There is a very tiny handful of incidences of conflict and possible warfare before 10,000 years ago,” says archaeologist Jonathan Haas of the Field Museum in Chicago, “and those are very much the exception.”

Our species has a vastly longer experience evolving in close-knit communities, knowing our lives depended on one another. The result is at least six inherent traits we can foster, once we learn to navigate the world with the map of eco-mind.

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Wireless Interference: The Health Risks of RF-EMFs

A cell phone tower in Palatine, Illinois, USA.                        A cell phone tower (Wikipedia)by Christopher Ketcham, from "Earth Island Journal", on UTNE - The Best of the Alternative Press:

In January 1990, a cell tower goes up 800 feet from Alison Rall’s dairy farm in Mansfield, Ohio. By fall, the cattle herd that pastures near the tower is sick, and Rall’s three young children begin suffering bizarre skin rashes, raised red “hot spots.”

The kids are hit with waves of hyperactivity. The girls lose hair. Rall, when she becomes pregnant with a fourth child, can’t gain weight.

Desperate to understand what is happening to her family and her farm, she contacts an Environmental Protection Agency scientist named Carl Blackman.

He’s an expert on the biological effects of radiation from electromagnetic fields (EMFs) - the kind of radio frequency EMFs (RF-EMFs) by which all wireless technology operates, including not just cell towers and cell phones but also wi-fi hubs and wi-fi-capable computers, “smart” utility meters, and even cordless home phones.

“With my government cap on, I’m supposed to tell you you’re perfectly safe,” Blackman tells her. “With my civilian cap on, I have to tell you to consider leaving.”

When Rall contacts the cell phone company that operates the tower, she is told there is “no possibility whatsoever” that the tower is the source of her ills. But within weeks of abandoning the farm, the children recovered their health, and so did the herd.

We all live in range of cell towers now, and we are all wireless operators. As of October 2010 there were 5.2 billion cell phones operating on the planet. “Penetration,” in the marketing-speak of the companies, often tops 100 percent in many countries, meaning there is more than one connection per person.

I don’t have an Internet connection at my home in Brooklyn, and, like a dinosaur, I still keep a landline. Yet even though I have, in a fashion, opted out, I’m bathed in the radiation from cell phone panels on the parking garage next door.

The waves are everywhere. We now live in a wireless-saturated normality that has never existed in the history of the human race, and the effects of EMFs on human beings are largely untested.

In May 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a statement that the electromagnetic frequencies from cell phones would henceforth be classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

The IARC decision followed multiple warnings, mostly from European regulators, about the possible health risks of RF-EMFs. In September 2007, the EU’s European Environment Agency suggested that widespread radio frequency radiation “could lead to a health crisis similar to those caused by asbestos, smoking, and lead in petrol.”

Double-strand breaks in DNA - one of the undisputed causes of cancer - have been reported in tests with animal cells. Neuroscientists at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia discovered a “power boost” in brain waves when humans were exposed to cell phone radio frequencies. The brain, one of the lead researchers speculated, was “concentrating to overcome the electrical interference.”

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Saturday, April 7, 2012

No More Handouts to Big Oil: Bill McKibben’s Five Rules of the Road for Reforming Fossil Fuel Subsidies

A diagram of the basic fossil fuel life-cycleA diagram of the basic fossil fuel life-cycle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Bill McKibbin, Yes! magazine:

Along with “five dollar a gallon gas,” the energy watchword for the next few months is: “subsidies.”

Last week, for instance, New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez proposed ending some of the billions of dollars in handouts enjoyed by the fossil-fuel industry with a “Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act.”

It was, in truth, nothing to write home about - a curiously skimpy bill that only targeted oil companies, and just the five richest of them at that. Left out were coal and natural gas, and you won’t be surprised to learn that even then it didn’t pass.

By some estimates, getting rid of all the planet’s fossil-fuel subsidies could get us halfway to ending the threat of climate change.

Still, President Obama is now calling for an end to oil subsidies at every stop on his early presidential-campaign-plus-fundraising blitz - even at those stops where he’s also promising to “drill everywhere.”

And later this month Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders will introduce a much more comprehensive bill that tackles all fossil fuels and their purveyors (and has no chance whatsoever of passing this Congress).

Whether or not the bill passes, those subsidies are worth focusing on. After all, we’re talking at least $10 billion in freebies and, depending on what you count, possibly as much as $40 billion annually in freebie cash for an energy industry already making historic profits.

If attacking them is a convenient way for the White House to deflect public anger over rising gas prices, it is also a perfect fit for the new worldview the Occupy movement has been teaching Americans (not to mention, if you think about it, the Tea Party focus on deficits). So count on one thing: we’ll be hearing a lot more about them this year.

But there’s a problem: the very word “subsidies” makes American eyes glaze over. It sounds so boring, like something that has everything to do with finance and taxes and accounting, and nothing to do with you.

Which is just the reaction that the energy giants are relying on: that it’s a subject profitable enough for them and dull enough for us that no one will really bother to challenge their perks, many of which date back decades.

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