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Showing posts from March, 2013

A Policy of Triage

March 28, 2013 - It seems odd that this could have happened with so little fanfare, but the Obama Administration announced its first national strategy for dealing with climate change on Tuesday. This strategy, released in the form of a report, was the product of any number of government agencies, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation taking the lead. Developed with the help of over 90 federal, state, tribal and local officials, the strategy recommends seven goals, among them land conservation, species maintenance, and educating the public.
Land conservation and habitat loss mitigation are going to play a huge role in implementing climate change strategy, because habitats traditionally occupied by certain species have already been altered by global warming. In the case of the Lesser Prairie Chicken, the threats come from all sides: climate change, mining, oil production an…

Can't Live Without It

March 25, 2013 – Conserving water is one of the most important things you can do, especially if you’re an American.Many Americans use as much water as 900 Kenyans!While it isn’t possible – for me, anyway – to increase Kenyan access to water, I can (and do) conserve water.Especially since the United States is approaching its third summer of drought, which affected eighty percent of the country’s farmland last year.That’s not all: 36 states are expecting local, regional or statewide water shortages this year.Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Nevada and Texas will face greater shortages than most in the coming years, because their populations are projected to increase the most. Did you know that 53.6 million Americans drink contaminated tap water?The Natural Resources Defense Council says water scarcity will impact the South, West and Midwest more than other areas of the country.In fact, 14 states in these three regions are already at high risk of water scarcity.Drought was so severe in Wisconsin …

Book Review: The Future

The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change is Al Gore’s twelfth book, his fourth since having lost the presidential election of 2000.I guess I always knew the former vice president was a pretty smart guy, but his burst of productivity since that epochal event has surprised both cynics and supporters, I suspect.An academy award and the Nobel Peace Prize - in the same year, no less?A fortune valued at $300 million, grown from $2 million in 2000? Co-founder of Generation Investment Management and Chairman of the Climate Reality Project?To re-iterate: four books? DIVORCED FROM TIPPER??

Talk about your late bloomer!Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised by TheFuture, but I do think it stands apart from his previous work.Where Gore seems to have “toned down” his prior attempts at impressing his audience with the seriousness of climate change (I am purposely avoiding use of the term “dumbed down,” because I think it would be inaccurate), this time we’re seeing the unabashed geek throwing himsel…

Education Can Change Our World

March 18, 2013 – This is interesting: as many as 41 of the 50 states will soon be teaching science that includes climate change.Up until now, the approach to teaching climate change in our public schools could have been described as “helter-skelter.” A rigorous approach to the subject was frequently impossible, because the personal beliefs of teachers, administrators, and/or parents got in the way.Coupled with the fact that the last set of science education standards did not include teacher input, science teaching and teachers were in a bad place.No more! Next Generation Science Standards were developed by the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the nonprofit Achieve, and more than two dozen states.The 26 states that worked to develop the standards include 7 of the ten most populous.These 26 committed time, personnel, and financial resources to the project.Other state education departments wanted…

Milkweed and Monarch's

March 14, 2013 - Did you see the story in the news about the dramatic decline in Monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico?There have been declines every winter for the past 15 years, but this year was the worst: 59%.The good news?You can help to bring about the Monarch’s revival.How?By growing milkweed. Milkweed is their favorite food.I can well remember pulling apart the sticky seeds as a child; the tall plants grew in a weedy area in our neighbor’s yard.Need I mention that modern pesticides are the problem?They’ve killed the majority of milkweed in this country, and the Monarch could well wind up as collateral damage, if we don’t take action.You’ll be happy to know that helping the Monarch is easy.

The job is made that much pleasanter by virtue of the fact that the milkweed flower is pretty.There are a number of varieties to choose from, all of them belonging to the Asclepias family.You can find the seeds for sale at http://www.milkweedseeds.com/.They get pretty tall in good soil –…

Knowledge is Power

March 11, 2013 – I was awfully glad to hear that Whole Foods intends to require labeling of all the foods, fresh or processed, sold in their stores that contain GMO’s (genetically modified organisms).Their patience in allowing vendors five years to get labeling underway is nonsensical; this must be the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.The importance of their new policy can’t be overstated, though: consumers will gradually come to accept the provision of this information as normal.In so doing, some will take the additional step of finding out why eating GMO’s could be problematic. Some will find out that the research to which the FDA repeatedly refers, when it claims foods containing GMO’s present no threat to human health, was performed by the companies that developed and sell the GMO seed!The education of the masses is, at last, off to a late, hesitant start. Organic foods will not require GMO labeling since they may not, by definition, contain them.According to the N…

Spermageddon!

March 6, 2013 – Have any of your friends been unable to conceive because of the man’s low sperm count?(Obviously, these are friends you know pretty well.)While lower sperm counts have been periodically reported over the last 20 years, it finally occurred to someone to review the literature.The jury is in, and the verdict is unwelcome, particularly for a species that likes to imagine it’s going to be around for a while. As it turns out, we even know why it’s happening. In a word, pesticides.Researchers at George Washington University report that sperm has declined both in quantity and quality over the last 50 years.Not just here in the United States, either.Everywhere.Some of the studies included in the review reported that sperm counts had dropped by half between the years 1940 and 1990.It should be no surprise to learn that farm workers are the most affected.In an article which appeared in the journal Toxicology, the researchers wrote that “significant associations between exposure to…

Treat Your Children Well

March 4, 2013 - Our children suffer, and we turn a blind eye. Forgivable? I say no, because the suffering of which I speak was first detailed in Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring, some 50 years ago. Her contention - that the newly-devised chemicals being unleashed upon the natural world, of which we are a part, were doing unprecedented and enormous damage - was proven correct decades ago. Victory in World War II, along with our subsequent generosity toward the vanquished, led to the naive belief that America could do no wrong. Our childlike acceptance of the corporate model for progress allowed Pandora's Box to be opened. To this day, we haven't demonstrated the will to close it.

Even now, the argument " 'name a chemical' has been shown to be safe in laboratory tests" ends the discussion in far too many cases. One hundred thousand synthetic chemicals have been introduced since WWII, yet it seemingly occurs to no one to deduce that we all have been subje…