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[1THING] Blog: Archive for January, 2013

[ Water Demand for Energy to Double by 2035 ]

Water consumption for power and transportation will soar due to expanding coal power and biofuel production, the International Energy Agency says.


[ Ideas for your next vacation… ]

Shannon sent this to me and I wanted to share. It’s The National GeographicTop 20 list of Free animals to see.  ATX bats under the Congress bridge made the list.  THEY ROCK! 🙂 Click here to check out the list!



[ Biochar Cookstoves Boost Health for People and Crops ]

Innovative nonprofits are taking clean cookstoves a step further by designing them to produce biochar, a byproduct with the potential to fortify soil and fight climate change.


[ What We Can Learn From Love Canal ]

What We Can
Learn From Love Canal


Cleaning Up Love Canal / Photo: EPA


Guest post by Lois Gibbs, Executive Director of EarthShare member
charity Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ)

This year, 2013, marks a very
significant date – the 35th anniversary of the Love Canal crisis. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long.
Entire generations have been born since who may know little or nothing about
Love Canal and how the environmental health and justice movement began. It was
in 1978 when we started the Love Canal Homeowners Association to respond to the
industrial waste dump that was poisoning our community in New York State. Our
work eventually led to the creation of the Superfund program in 1980.

We need to find ways to tell the
Love Canal story so that we don’t repeat our mistakes. One key lesson is that a
blue collar community with few resources can win its fight for justice and open
the eyes of the nation and the world to the serious problems of environmental
chemicals and their effects on public health.

Thanks to Mark Kitchell, an Oscar
nominated filmmaker (Berkeley in the
), there’s now a compelling film that tells the story of Love Canal
and the history of the environmental movement: A Fierce Green Fire. The film will engage younger viewers who may
have never heard of Love Canal and re-engage those who have spent decades fighting for a
healthy planet. What’s exciting about this film, which includes a prominent segment on Love Canal, is that it demonstrates
that change really can happen when people get involved.

“The main difference between my
film and a lot of other environmental films is that instead of it being focused
on the issues, ours is focused on the movement and activism,” said Mark
Kitchell in an interview. “I feel that telling stories of activists, taking up
the battle and fighting, is the best way to explicate the issues. And that was
my main handle on the environmental subject, doing the movement story”. The
film is narrated by Robert Redford, Meryl Streep and Ashley Judd among others.

(Lois Gibbs speaking about Love Canal in A Fierce Green Fire)

As CHEJ moves forward this coming
year, we are partnering with groups across the country who would like to show
the film in their communities and learn how to win environmental
and environmental health and justice battles. Partnering with these groups, we
hope to also bring media attention to local environmental concerns across the country
and raise funds to address these issues. It’s a plan that’s hard to pass up.

If your
group is interested in hosting a local viewing of A Fierce Green Fire, please contact CHEJ. Together we can inspire people to take
action to protect our health and the planet.


Mini_lois-150x150Lois Gibbs
raising her family in Love Canal, near Niagara Falls in upstate New York, when,
in 1978, she discovered that her home and those of her neighbors were sitting
next to 20,000 tons of toxic chemicals.

That shocking
discovery spurred Lois to lead her neighbors in a three year struggle to
protect their families from the hazardous waste buried in their backyards. In
that fight, Lois discovered that no local, state or national organization
existed to provide communities with strategic advice, guidance, training and
technical assistance.

Lois with her neighbors on their own, by
trial and error, developed the strategies and methods to educate and organize
their neighbors, assess the impacts of toxic wastes on their health, and
challenge corporate and government policies on the dumping of hazardous
materials. Her leadership led to the relocation of 833 Love Canal households


[ Obama and Keystone XL: The Moment of Truth? ]

President Obama will soon have to decide whether he will be the “all of the above” president or the “respond to climate change” president.

In Pursuit of Hydrocarbons

Last year on the campaign stump, Obama presented himself as the “all of the above” guy on energy. Here’s an example from a speech delivered at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland:

“We need an energy strategy for the future — an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy.”
(President Obama, March 15, 2012)

The operative words are “every source.” Sure, he touts and has funded the development of green energy, but he has also favored a ramp-up in production of domestic hydrocarbons — specifically oil and natural gas. At any number of occasions last year Obama trotted out the fact that under his watch domestic drilling and production were up, imports were down. Similar boasts appear on WhiteHouse.gov as well:

“Domestic oil and natural gas production has increased every year President Obama has been in office. In 2011, American oil production reached the highest level in nearly a decade and natural gas production reached an all-time high.”

The Climate Change Pledge

While energy was a campaign issue, it was obvious (painfully so for many) that climate change was not. No major policy speeches by either candidate and not a single question in the debates.

But after the election climate change re-entered the president’s ambit. First came his acceptance speech on election night:

“We want our children to live in an America … that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”

Then came an inaugural address that got the environmental community all atwitter — climate change receiving more attention than any other single issue? Could it be that Obama was positioning himself to go after climate change in a big way?

You Can’t Have ‘All of the Above’ and Address Climate Change

But here’s the problem: an “all of the above” energy policy that encourages the development and production of oil and gas flies in the face of a “climate change” pledge to “respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”

And the stakes are too high to ignore. Greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric greenhouse gases are at an all-time high. Nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001. And there is increasing concern that we may be seeing an uptick in extreme weather events as a result of global warming.

Responding to climate change requires that production and use of hydrocarbon fuels be ramped down, not up.

So sooner or later the Obama administration will face a moment of truth — a choice between following an “all of the above” path or responding to “the threat of climate change.” And that moment could be just down the road.

The Looming Keystone XL Decision

The Keystone XL project would put into place a pipeline system that would allow oil imports to flow from the Canadian tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast. (For more, see my post here, this NYT explainer, and this Washington Post Keystone XL interactive graphic.)

It’s been a rallying cry for both the “drill, baby drill” crowd and the environmentally minded, albeit from different positions. For the pro-drillers the pipeline is a no-brainer — a job-creating project that will bring a new, unconventional, (almost) domestic source of oil to American refineries.

For many environmentalists, stopping the pipeline is also a no-brainer — it’s a landscape-decimating proposition whose oil is among the most carbon-intensive out there. (More here, here and here.)

There’s also the issue of the pipeline itself. The initial plan had routed it through highly sensitive lands in Nebraska’s Sand Hills, which sit above the all-important Ogallala aquifer — a critical source of drinking water and irrigation for a huge swath of the United States. The potential risk to the aquifer was so grave that Dave Heineman, the Republican governor of Nebraska, urged Obama to deny TransCanada (the pipeline company) the greenlight for the project.

And finally there is the climate concern. While there is still some debate about how the size of the Alberta resource — and how much carbon dioxide would be released if it were completely exploited (see here and here) — there is little argument that on a BTU-to-BTU basis, tar sands oil is about as dirty and carbon-intensive as it comes. And so sure, if you’re an “all of the above” president, you might approve the pipeline. But if you’re a “respond to climate” one? I don’t think so.

Decision Day Approaches

The Keystone XL project has had its ups and downs, its starts and stops. (See timeline.) Because the pipeline would cross an international border, the project must be reviewed by the State Department and approved by the president. In January 2012, the State Department rejected TransCanada’s application because of concerns about environmental impacts but invited the company to re-apply with a new route that would avoid environmentally sensitive areas.

TransCanada has now submitted a new proposal whose newly proffered path for the pipeline avoids some — but not all — of the ecologically sensitive areas in Nebraska and its surrounds: It still passes over the Ogallala but avoids the Sand Hills.

Gov. Heineman has approved the new plan, with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality finding that the pipeline’s construction and operation along the new route would result in “minimal environmental impacts” and that any oil released “should be localized and Keystone would be responsible for any cleanup.”

So now it’s up to Obama and his administration.

The State Department is said to be studying the new plan and a decision is expected this spring. So what will they do? Just-confirmed Secretary of State John Kerry was cagey and non-committal on the subject during his confirmation hearings last week, promising only to make “appropriate decisions.” (Hey, at least he didn’t say he would decide for it then against it.)

Ultimately, though, the decision is in the hands of President Obama. That decision will be revealing indeed.


End Note

* Oil sands produce bitumen, a thick tarry hydrocarbon that is either “upgraded” into a synthetic blend or diluted so it flows like oil.


[ I LIKE IT… ]

My honey Ted sent me the heads up on this cool Mama Earth friendly invention. I could see these getting around ATX! Couldn’t you?  It’s called a Velopresso.
Here’s the write up on it:
The Velopresso is the  invention of Royal College of Art students Lasse Oiva and Amos Field Reid. It’s a fully human powered bicycle and coffee maker, driven by Gates Belt Drive to  keep it all clean and grease free. The design uses two belt driven systems – one to move the bike from point A  to point B, the other to drive the grinder and other moving parts required to turn roasted beans into the sweet brown liquid so many of us enjoy. The only fuel used is a camp stove to boil the water and create steam, but Reid says they’re trying to figure out a way to create ethanol fuel from spent grounds. The goal is a zero carbon system. Click here for more photos & 411! Pretty cool!


[ Pointers from Copenhagen ]

Here are 10 other lessons learned from Copenhagen on how to do transportation infrastructure right:

  1. All the systems – from buses and bicycles – are integrated for effortless travel.
  2. Bicycles make up 30 percent of all work trips, and 50 percent of all trips.
  3. There are few drop handlebars and not much lycra. Almost all the bikes have cargo racks and baskets, and people don’t lock them to anything. Lots of the bicycles had little ring locks, and they are covered by their homeowners insurance if they get stolen.
  4. Bike lanes are slightly raised from the street, and they are very wide, giving a nice comfort level to the bicyclists and a buffer from the traffic. And there are bike lanes on both sides of the street, almost everywhere.
  5. When it snows, the bike lanes get plowed as fast, if not faster, than the streets.
  6. There are bike sections in supermarkets – yes, that’s right, supermarkets – and they are bigger than the car sections.
  7. Everything that is bike-friendly is also wheelchair and baby-stroller-friendly, such as the free air-pump stands. This works to broaden the base of political support for the causes of bicyclists (and parents and the disabled). Buses are packed with parents and their children in strollers, and nobody rolls their eyes or acts inconvenienced as they get on and off the buses.
  8. Bus and train systems all have free wi-fi.
  9. Buses run on holidays and Sundays and every 10 minutes. No exceptions.
  10. Each train has an entire car for bikes. And each has a quiet car. Even in the non-quiet cars, the trains and buses are really quiet and people don’t have loud music blaring or loud conversations.

A bonus to the top 10 list: Surprise, surprise, there is virtually no obesity.

Spread the Good Karma!

Could you see this in ATX? Have the kiddos pedal to school.


[ Take The Pure Action Challenge ]

I was cruising through the ATX Women’s Magazine and ran across the ‘PURE CHALLENGE 2013’ ‘Heal Yourself. Heal The World.’  It’s through Pure Action a non-profit that is dedicated to bringing the ancient benefits of Yoga to mainstream medicine through scientific research, global education and community programs.  Yoga has come a long way since I learned ‘Downward Facing Dog’.
If Yoga can make you more balanced and healthier, that would mean less medicines in the body and polluting Mama Earth.  The containers… the meds…  It’s worth checking out!

Why Yoga?
Click here to see  how Yoga can help make you healthier.

Pure Action Goals:


PURE Action is devoted to establishing the feasibility and the effectiveness of yoga therapy as an alternative medicine through continued research. As research is the basis for clinical practice, studies are needed that will enhance our knowledge of the benefits of yoga and afford this mode of physical activity recognition among health professionals and in the medical science arena. A concerted goal of this organization is to fund research studies on the effects of yoga on physical and mental health in various populations including under served communities.


Through lectures, presentations, and demonstrations we will educate groups and individuals within our community on the therapeutic properties of yoga.


We are passionate that hatha yoga is preventative and healing medicine and are devoted to reaching out to youth so they may enjoy a lifetime of health and yoga practice. PURE Action also wholeheartedly believes in the beneficial qualities of yoga practice for adults and elders, the fit, injured and ill alike and will provide access to yoga through various community efforts.

Click here for lots more!


[ ATX- This can be recycled… ]

I got an email heads up about the Downtown Recycling Center taking

Ecology Action is now accepting
electronic waste
at their Downtown Recycling Center, 707 E. 9thStreet! To kick off the program they are having a recycling drive through Feb. 4th. They will take anything that plugs in, has a circuit board, and is NOT an appliance. Click here for more!


[ A Model Net Zero Home by the Numbers ]

The community of Serenbe, a multi-use development outside Atlanta in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia, was founded with sustainability in mind. Seventy percent of its 1,000 acres is preserved natural space, and many of its buildings use geothermal heating and water-conserving appliances. But one of its greenest homes might be one that was built specifically as a model to showcase energy-efficient technologies. (See related post: “Energy Efficiency on the Farm and Beyond“)

The Bosch Net Zero home, which is designed to accommodate a family of four with zero annual energy costs, opened to the public last summer and went on the market in September. The details:

Price: $499,000 (unfurnished)

Square footage: 1,650 (three bedrooms, 2.5 baths)

Anticipated energy bills: $0

Typical energy bill for a U.S. single-family home: $2,200

Amount of that typical bill used for heating costs: 29 percent

Estimated savings from the house’s geothermal heat pump: 70 percent

Number of solar panels on the house: 18

Amount of water used per flush with a standard low-flow toilet: 1.6 gallons

Amount used by the Net Zero house toilets: 1.28 gallons

Estimated water savings from the home’s washing machine: 5,040 gallons a year

Another Net Zero home at Serenbe, which was meant to be the original model, was sold before construction was finished. Serenbe is also the site of HGTV’s Green Home 2012, which was given away last year.

Do green features in a home make you more likely to buy? Post your thoughts on the Net Zero home at Serenbe in the comments.