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89 posts from June 2009

June 30, 2009

Daily Roundup: June 30, 2009

Cleaner Cars for California: The EPA granted California permission to set stricter vehicle-emission standards than those in effect nationally. Thirteen other states have announced plans to adopt the California standards. New York Times

Fair Trade: The United States agreed to forgive nearly $30 million in Indonesian debt in exchange for the protection of forests on Sumatra. Indonesia, which has one of the world's highest deforestation rates, will pay the $30 million into a trust that issues grants for forest-conservation work. Wall Street Journal

World at Your Fingertips: NASA and the Japanese trade ministry joined forces (and 1.3 million images) to create the most complete topographical map of Earth ever published. It will soon be available for free download and use. BBC

Back on the List: Less than two months after being removed from endangered species list, gray wolves once again have federal protection in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. MSNBC

Beetles Reign:
Exploding to a point that has created what locals have dubbed “beetle rain,” the mountain pine beetle population has killed more than half of all lodge pole pine trees in British Columbia.  The bug, usually kept in check by cold winters, could spread to the U.S. BBC

--Sarah F. Kessler

L.A. River In Focus

Making the Departures LA River documentary Last week we blogged about Conan O'Brien's comedic adventures on the L.A. River. In response to our post, we were contatcted by Juan Devis, the Director of Production of New Media at KCET Local in Los Angeles. Devis tipped us off to an exciting project called Departures: L.A. River. An online documentary produced by KCET in collaboration with Friends of the Los Angeles River and with participation of students from Los Angeles Leadership Academy, Departures: L.A. River features interactive panoramas, video portraits of the river, inteviews, and a "Remix" section, which allows site visitors to make and share their own Departures-style panoramas. "This is one of the most comprehensive online documentaries about the L.A. river," Devis says. "The scope of the project included environmental lessons and hands-on multimedia training for students that empowered them to help us tell this amazing story from multiple perspectives." Check out the Juan Devis's blog entries to find out more about the project's production process.

--Della Watson

Image: KCET

Fresh Tools for Eating Seasonally

Freshstrawberries The merits of eating with the seasons are many -- increased freshness, nutrition, and sustainability are just a few. As seasonal diets gain momentum from bestselling books like Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Michael Pollan's The Omnivore’s Dilemma, tools are (forgive the pun) cropping up to help consumers avoid globe-trotting, energy-intensive produce and find the freshest, earth-friendliest options. 

Seasons is a new app for the iPhone and iPod touch that lets users quickly gain information about what's local and in season. The database contains information for 170 fruits, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, and nuts, including their seasonal availability, a picture, and some helpful background. Users can search by month or by category; a weekly overview explains what's currently in season.

The creators of Seasons designed it with farmers' markets in mind, but it can also help shoppers sort through the produce aisles of their local grocery stores. It can be downloaded for $1.99 at the iTunes App Store.

Continue reading "Fresh Tools for Eating Seasonally" »

Recycled Shipping Containers: the New Building Blocks

Homes made from shipping containers may be a far cry from the boxcar children's basic shelter, but you still have to wonder if Warner's novel helped inspire the latest recycled building material. Many of the once unsightly steel boxes now have basements, balconies, and spiral staircases.

Shipping-container homes range from the simple but sustainable one-container Ecopod to the luxurious two-story Redondo Beach Container House, which won an award from the American Institute of Architects for its innovative design.

It’s not just the idea of recycling some of the 18 million cargo containers in use worldwide that has architects excited. In many ways, the containers make ideal building material. Their building-block structure makes construction quick, they’re cheap, and they're built to withstand incredible weight—as much as 15 tons, according to SF Blocks, which sells the containers. That strength helps the boxes protect cargo as they get carted all over the world, but it can also help a home survive a tornado or hurricane.

Continue reading "Recycled Shipping Containers: the New Building Blocks" »

Getting Kids Outside: Backyard Camping

Backyard camping Nature-deficit disorder is common among our young people. How can you ensure that your kids don’t end up with it? This week’s tips tell you how to get your kids away from the video games this summer, and out into nature instead.

Tip #2: Camp in the Backyard

The easiest place to get kids outside is literally in their own backyard. Help them set up a tent earlier in the day, pull out the sleeping bags and a flashlight at sunset, and encourage them to sleep in it for the night (stay with them if they’re too young to stay alone, or if they want you to). Comment on the brisk night air, the moonlight and stars, and nature’s after-dark sounds. Watch this video for more backyard-camping ideas.

If you don’t have a backyard, head to the nearest park where it’s legal to set up a tent for an overnight adventure.

Tell us: What are your tips for backyard camping?

June 29, 2009

Daily Roundup: June 29, 2009

The Future's So Bright: The U.S. Interior Department identified 670,000 acres of federal land with potential for solar energy production. The department will now evaluate the environmental impact of solar development in these zones. Reuters

No Coal: The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by EnviroPower to build a coal plant in Illinois. Illinois Sierra Club

The Power of Money: A new study suggests that states that spend more money to enforce environmental laws will have faster compliance results. Houston Chronicle

Don't Shoot: A legal loophole that allowed American trophy hunters the right to kill three species of endangered African animals was closed following a federal judge's ruling. The scimitar-horned oryx, the addax, and the dama gazelle are now protected from sport hunting. 60-Second Science

Copycats: Peer pressure may aid the environmental movement; a recent study found that subjects were more likely to join a green initiative if their neighbors were enrolled in the program. MSU News

--Della Watson

The (Recycled) Art of War

SMJA09_EN_02 Artist Lin Evola-Smidt, best known for her 13-foot sculpture Renaissance Peace Angel (pictured) at Ground Zero, lost her husband to suicide after his health failed because, she speculates, of exposure to organic poisons from the World Trade Center attack.

Evola-Smidt now devotes her work to world peace. Her projects involve melting down weapons and recycling their metals into public art. Her next work, the New York Peace Angel monument, will stand 30 feet tall and debut in 2012. Other cities with a history of strife, including Jerusalem and Sarajevo, are lining up for similar pieces. Her organization is called the Art of Peace Charitable Trust

--Avital Binshtock

Getting Kids Outside: Take a Hike Together

Hiking with children Nature-deficit disorder is common among our young people. How can you ensure that your kids don’t end up with it? This week’s tips tell you how to get your kids away from the video games this summer, and out into nature instead.

Tip #1: Plan a Hike

Find a trail close to home and take the family for a stroll in the woods. If you like, you can bring a field guide or birding book along so that you can work with your child to identify what you see together. Remember to pack adequate amounts of water, snacks, and sunscreen.

Tip #2: Camp in the Backyard

Tip #3: Read Them Nature Stories

Tip #4: Take Them to Water

Tell us: How do you get your kids outdoors?

June 26, 2009

Daily Roundup: June 26, 2009

Climate or Coal? The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the much-debated climate bill today. Its passage may come down to on-the-fence democrats from states with coal interests. Treehugger and Grist 

Skip the Carbon, Please: The Southern Ocean, historically a major carbon sink, is absorbing the stuff at an increasingly slower rate. Scientists blame the hole in the ozone. New Scientist

Around the World: Swiss innovator Bertrand Piccard, famous for circling the globe in a hot air balloon, announced his prototype for a solar-powered plane he plans to fly around the world by 2012. BBC News

Bad Gas: A new California regulation requires landfills to capture the greenhouse gas, methane, that results from decomposing trash. ENN

Give Me a Brake: Angry car drivers plan to blockade part of an annual Colorado bike ride in a "celebration of driver's rights." Treehugger

--Jamie Hansen

Celebrate National Pollinator Week

National pollinator week Of the many national weeks and holidays cropping up like internet weight loss ads, most are easily passed over -- National Beanpole Week, International Dadaism Month, and National Bunsen Burner Day, for example.

Here's one that seems worth celebrating, for all of us who enjoy fruit, chocolate, coffee, or the summer buzz of honey bees at work. 

The third annual National Pollinator Week takes place from June 22 - 28. A series of events hosted by the nonprofit collaboration the Pollinator Partnership, it's designed to educate about endangered pollinators and inspire action. Speakers include National Medal of Science winner and entomologist E. O. Wilson.

Continue reading "Celebrate National Pollinator Week" »

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