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89 posts from October 2010

October 29, 2010

Daily Roundup: October 29, 2010

Done Deal: Delegates from 193 countries at the U.N. Convention on Biodiversity agreed to protect 17% of the world's land and 10% of oceans by 2020. Yahoo! News

Spill the Beans: Beginning next year, the EPA will require polluting companies to disclose their emissions as part of an effort to crack down on the nation's biggest greenhouse-gas offenders. Corporations are protesting, arguing that making the data available would reveal company secrets. TreeHugger

Head Count: Octopus heads, considered by many Koreans to be nutritious, contain dangerous levels of cadmium, according to a study done by Seoul's city government. New York Times

No Comment: Safety officers from Massey Energy invoke their Fifth Amendment right, refusing to answer questions about the Raleigh County explosion that killed 29 miners in April. Charleston Gazette

High Speed at High Altitude: 3G towers have been installed near Mount Everest's base camp, granting explorers access to high-speed internet. Washington Post

--Molly Oleson

Tomorrow is Weatherization Day

Save energy Low-income families shouldn't have to choose between buying groceries and staying warm this winter. That's why, tomorrow (Oct. 30), the Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) will offer them help in cutting energy costs by making homes more energy-efficient.

One way to accomplish this is could be to install GeoSpring, GE's hybrid water heater, which consumes up to 62% less energy than standard electric water heaters. WAPs in states including Kentucky, New York, and Virginia have expressed interest in providing the GeoSpring, and we hope many more will follow.

Over the past 33 years, WAP has provided weatherization services to more than 6.4 million low-income households. And according to the U.S. Department of Energy, those recipients saw their annual energy bills reduced by an average of $437.

Continue reading "Tomorrow is Weatherization Day" »

Your Dentist Wants to Buy Your Halloween Candy

There are certain Halloween candies that no one likes. Trick-Or-TreatDum Dums, for instance. Or Wack-O-Wax Lips (even kids know that candy shouldn't taste like wax). These kinds of "treats" usually end up in the trash, and their providers subsequently teepeed.

Of course, parents fear another kind of candy: all of it. They're keenly aware that tummyaches, cavities, and extended sugar hangovers come after the gorging. And so tons of perfectly good chocolate bars, peanut-butter cups, and bubble gum get tossed out alongside the Dum Dums only a few days into November.

Fortunately, dentists around the country are fighting back against wasteful dumping (and poor oral hygiene, of course) having launched the Halloween Candy Buy-Back program. On Nov. 6, oral experts will relieve you of excess sweets, paying $1 per pound of unopened candy (if you're an interested dentist, register your practice as a designated buy-back station). What's more, the candy will be donated to U.S. troops overseas, thanks to the help of Operation Gratitude, a nonprofit that delivers care packages to deployed servicemembers.

--Ronny Smith

Movie Review Friday: The Birds

Escape to the movies with one of our Movie Review Friday selections. Each week we review a film with an environmental theme that's currently in theaters or available on DVD. Seen a good eco-flick lately? Send us a short review and look for it in the next Movie Review Friday.

The Birds (1963)

Available on DVD  

As Halloween draws near, we find it appropriate to recommend a vintage classic of the horror genre. If you’ve never seen The Birds and intend to, be warned that the content below contains spoilers.

But it’d be difficult to discuss Alfred Hitchcock’s film — from an environmental perspective, anyway — without commenting that its plot never ends up explaining why its feathered villains act so malevolently upon humans. No motive is given, no redemption granted. To the uninvolved viewer, they’re just flying demons with an inexplicable death wish for people. The exasperating question keeps getting asked, “Why are they doing this?”

But let’s back up a bit. The Birds opens with Melanie, Tippi Hedren’s coiffed heiress, perusing caged birds in a San Francisco pet store. There, she meets Mitch (Rod Taylor), an attractive man who is, by weekday, a lawyer in the city but by weekend, a mama’s boy (Hitchcock read good amounts of Freud) in sleepy Bodega Bay.

Melanie, having learned that Mitch is shopping for lovebirds as a gift for his young sister, schemes to bring them up a captive pair. After she makes the curvy but beautiful drive northward along the California coast, the story, too, twists and turns to usher in an ex-lover of Mitch’s, plenty of screaming children, and, of course, Mitch’s troubled mother.

The problem at hand is that birds of many species keep descending on the town with apparent intent to kill. The horrified Bodegans ruminate on reasons for this, and failing to find any, hatch plans to retaliate. Only one person, a nutty old ornithologist, speaks in defense of the winged creatures, saying, “Birds are not aggressive creatures. They bring beauty into the world. It is mankind, rather, who insists upon making it difficult for life to exist on this planet.”

Continue reading "Movie Review Friday: The Birds" »

October 28, 2010

Daily Roundup: October 28, 2010

Carelessness Confirmed: Halliburton sealed the infamous BP well with a cement mixture that the company knew was unstable, a presidential panel said. AFP

How Much for Nature? The World Bank will help nations calculate their natural wealth, just like they assess economic value with GDP. Yahoo! News

Energy Vampires: Nanoscientists are redesigning transistors to consume less electricity when devices are plugged in but not in use, which accounts for up to 10% of residential energy consumption. New York Times

People Power: While activists in Germany protested extending the lives of the country's 17 nuclear plants, activists in Turkey went on trial for rallying against nuclear plants in their nation. Yahoo! News and BBC

Algae Enlists: The U.S. Navy tested a boat partially powered by algae as part of its effort to fuel half its fleet with renewable and nuclear energy by 2020. Guardian

--Natalya Stanko

Green Careers Bring Home the (Fake) Bacon

Looking For A Job In today's economy, the word "recession" may seem like a euphemism to the 30 million people out of work. As a result, saving the environment seems to have been demoded from being a priority for many Americans. But a new study from UC San Diego Extension revealed encouraging information about green careers in the U.S. 

The study, which surveyed 366 professionals of all ages throughout America who work in environment-related careers, showed that 43% of green jobs pay more than $75,000 per year. To put that in perspective, only about 27% of American households net an income higher than that, meaning that jobs in sustainability are relatively lucrative. Moreover, most respondents claimed that they'd recommend green jobs as great careers for their children. The full results are in the Oct. issue of Sustainability: The Journal of Record.

The downside? Only 34% of those surveyed said they'd be hiring new professionals in the coming year, no doubt prompting many young people to ask: How do I start? Fear not, for a catch-22 this isn't. Green jobs are avalable; check national list-serves such as Green Jobs Network or Green Dream Jobs for openings.

--Ronny Smith

Will Yosemite Be One of Oprah's Favorite Things?

Oprah was here When park ranger Shelton Johnson mused that a visit by a big celebrity like Oprah Winfrey would inspire more African-Americans to visit national parks, it sounded to some like wishful thinking. Now, just more than a year after he made that statement, Johnson is getting his wish: Oprah and best pal Gayle King recently spent a weekend camping in Yosemite, and the pair's adventures will air on TV as a two-part series on Oct. 29 and Nov. 1.

Johnson, whose book Gloryland chronicles the life of a "buffalo soldier," regularly performs reenactments to teach park visitors about the history of the African-American soldiers who once patrolled in Yosemite. Oprah and Gayle, who heard Johnson's presentation as part of their trip, are arguably Yosemite's most recognizable campers. Considering that The Oprah Winfrey Show reaches roughly 30 million viewers, they may be just the first two in a wave of new visitors to the national parks.

--Della Watson

Green Your Yoga: Set the Mood

Handstand outside With its emphasis on living mindfully, yoga teaches us to tread lightly on Mother Earth. This week's tips explore how yogis can get more out of their practice by minimizing their environmental footprints.

Tip #4: Set the Mood

A greener setting can enrich your yoga practice and put the Earth in a good mood too. Warm up your muscles before class by choosing a yoga studio within walking or biking distance. At home, brighten your workout space with sunlight or beeswax candles instead of lightbulbs. When the skies allow it, take your routine outside to reconnect with the outdoors.

Tell us: Where do you practice yoga?

October 27, 2010

Daily Roundup: October 27, 2010

Severe Losses: The death toll from the Indonesia tsunami has risen to 300, and that of Indonesia's volcano eruption is at 30. Los Angeles Times

Derailed: The largest U.S. public-works project in development, a train tunnel that would have run under the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York, has been canceled due to budgetary problems. AP

Undue Punishment: Prison inmates at 10 federal correctional facilities may have been affected by toxic materials while they were recycling electronics. New York Times

Fragile Agreement: Israel and Palestine both signed onto a Greece-led climate-change initiative to acknowledge that Mediterranean nations are all at risk of global-warming-related problems. Green Prophet

Blockbuster, Two: James Cameron has revealed that he'll soon be at work on two sequels to Avatar, expected for release in 2014 and 2015. Ecorazzi

--Avital Binshtock

Coffee on Wheels: BikeCaffe is Coming to America

BikeCaffe It's awfully convenient when our favorite form of planet-friendly transportation doubles as a source of tasty beverage. Joining the world of pedal-powered blenders and bike bars (just don't drink and drive, folks), U.K.-based BikeCaffe has crossed the pond to deliver organic, fair-trade coffee by bike. While BikeCaffe's pedals don't seem to power its espresso makers (the brewing machines are reportedly gas-powered), each barista reduces dependence on fossil fuels by biking to work. So far, the mobile coffee outlets are in Denver, Philadelphia, and Phoenix. We'll be curious to see if more bike-oriented beverage stands start popping up in other U.S. cities.

--Della Watson / image: BikeCaffe

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