Thursday, April 30, 2009

Vets Vote for Clean Energy

The organization is very much aware that their fellow soldiers have died in a war that was started because of oil, fueled by oil, and supported the enemy through payments for oil. Therefore they are creating a series of TV ads like this one (for Utah) to convince their own Congressmen to back Clean Energy.

As cofounder of the organization Jon Soltz wrote today in Why Vets Are Backing Clean Energy in the Huffington Post:

It's very rare that you'll find a group like -- which was initially formed to oppose the war in Iraq -- agree with the neocons who helped plan the war.

But, indeed, one of the staunchest Iraq war backers and self-professed "Member of the Dick Cheney Fan Club", Frank Gaffney, wrote in a column, "We are funding both sides in this war for the free world, as our petrodollars are enabling much of the threat we most immediately confront. This is an intolerable -- and unsustainable -- situation." He's called for a greater focus on efficiency and alternative power.

James Woolsey, the former CIA director, famously now drives a Prius with a bumper sticker that says, "Osama bin Laden Hates This Car." He also partially powers his home -- and even his laptop -- with solar panels.

They need support for the ads and other activities. You can help at

Amazon Packaging Rating

Amazon Packaging Rating
Originally uploaded by bonbayel.

Amazon is listening to its customers about packaging!

Unfortunately, I just discovered this the other day, so I don't remember what the packaging was like on the other ones in the list.

But I will try to remember to go in each time and rate them in the future.

I wrote another post about a particularly bad Amazon package a while back.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

BBC says: 'Safe' climate means 'no to coal'

A BBC report today, 'Safe' climate means 'no to coal', discusses how to figure out what we have to do to keep climate change at acceptable ranges. Evidently someone has figured out that we don't want more than a 2 degrees C increase, and we're already almost half-way there, and will reach it by 2050 (which I guess I could conceivably experience at the age of 107?)

Up to now the discussion has been what percentage of carbon emissions we should be cutting back to, but this article supports Bjorn Lomborg (see a couple of posts back) that we shouldn't be looking at emissions, but just saying "no to coal" in particular and the other carbon-based fuels ASAP.

Of course this is by no means easy to do if we just stand around on one foot and figure "someone" will solve this all. But we all have to start now to move us to renewables.
  • Put renewables on your home or business.
  • Invest in renewables.
  • If you're in the renewables business, put your next plant on one of the lovely "flat places" where mountains have been removed in Appalachia, to provide clean, green jobs for the people who now depend on coal to provide for their short lives.
  • Send in every petition you get to government officials and business people to let them know you want sustainables, not coal, thank you.
  • Write letters to your local paper, or better, an Op Ed piece, explaining why this is so important.
  • Get into the renewable industry, for example, by signing up to become an Ecopreneur for solar panels (see the banner at the top right of this page.)

Sorry about the ads

I just decided to see if I can earn anything by "monetizing" my two blogs, since right now I don't appear to have any other income. If the results are just pennies, however, I will remove them. On this blog, in particular, there is so much other stuff, that they just take up valuable "landscape." I hope the ads won't be offensive in anyway, like for pesticides or coal! I've seen sometimes that they get to be somewhat related to the labels on the posts. I wouldn't mind ads from sustainable services, for example!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rule Reversal to Protect Appalachian Streams from Coal Slag

My Kentucky blog friend told me about the local TV station WYMT's coverage of the President's plan to reverse Bush era kowtowing to coal companies: Possible Rule Reversal on Surface Mining. The Administration is working on "rules that would make it more difficult for coal companies to dump waste near steams, reversing a policy put in place by former president George W. Bush." The news story mostly interviews mine owners and managers, but the reporter also talks with an "environmentalist," a local guy who is concerned about Kentucky, not profit at the expense of the land.

If you read this today, be sure to vote in the online poll in the middle of the page.

The really interesting part is the comments section at the bottom - where you can read local residents' views on the matter. One big argument for mountaintop removal appears to be that they now have "flat land" to build malls and the like which they didn't have before. But there are a lot of commenters who are pleased. You wonder who are the commenters who really like their homeland destroyed! Managers and owners, maybe, who don't even come from East Kentucky? This person puts it into perspective:

The rule being reversed puts the coal industry back into compliance with the Clean Water Act. The Bush Administration illegally allowed coal companies to flaunt the law and then did a last second rule change to effectively reverse the Clean Water Act, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by Ronald Reagan. It is based on an earlier act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Amendments, signed into law by Richard Nixon. Neither of these men was exactly a foaming at the mouth environmental radical and both considered these measures the absolute minimum that could be done to preserve the nation's water supply. The "right" of an individual or company to destroy the watershed, or the "right" of a person to have a new pick-up every year and drown in debt in downturn cycles does not supersede the right of the rest of us to have clean drinking water nor does it override the obligation of the federal government to protect the majority of the people against one industry, blinded by greed, which has willfully broken every law ever made affecting environmental quality and workplace safety.

In the same day's news was another coal related story: Hundreds Of Coal Miners Are Laid Off. The notice the men received says the layoffs are temporary and the managers hope to call them back to work when the market improves. This is of course very bad news for people who have families to support. Unfortunately for them, coal companies have a history of laying off union minors and shutting down mines, only to reopen them with new non-Union hires, sometimes brought in from elsewhere. The only deep mines are also being abandoned for the relative ease of strip mining, where only a few employees can move a lot of coal - destroying the landscape at the same time.

You can't help thinking that there's a connection between the two stories. By laying off workers, with the large local impact, those affected will be unhappy with Obama's proposed rule change, even though it is for the greater good of Appalachia to preserve the mountains.

We have to find new jobs for these people in green industries, fast, to show that leaving the old will result in cleaner, better paying jobs in the long run. But right now, life is pretty miserable around the coal fields, for those who have lost the family farm to slag, and to those who have lost dangerous, relatively well-paying jobs as deep mines are closed. For the rest of us, the poor market for coal sounds promising.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

You're right for a change, Bjorn Lomborg!

Change is what I believe in. My PhD dissertation was about language change (I'm afraid I never completed it, so I'm not a PhD.) I ran a diaper service about 15 years ago to change the way people changed diapers. (Never made a profit, though). I worked for a while with a Danish management consultant who was very big on using motivation to effect change, and used what I learned there in a job working on motivating Danish telephone company employees to recycle more.

Danish Statistics Professor Bjorn Lomborg is interested in cost-effectiveness, which is also a worthy thing to be concerned about. In fact most of my motivational work was connected with the cost-effectiveness of managing resources as part of environmental management programs. Now of course we have to motivate an entire planet to the cost-effectiveness of managing our resources, including habitats, energy, and people.

Mr. Lomborg, the organic vegetarian who calls himself the Skeptical Environmentalist, has long doubted the need for spending lots of money to save the planet from Climate Change. He was more interested in using the same money for very necessary projects for health, education and the like. But he seems to have come around now to thinking that just letting the Climate Change maybe wouldn't be all that cost effective anyway.

But still he doesn't like the methods that have been suggested so far to combat Climate Change. Instead of fighting symptoms, which emissions are, we should be removing the sources of the emissions by spending more money researching (and I assume also installing) renewable energy. That is a great change that is also cost-effective. Climate Change is a change we need to slow down -by changing ourselves, the way we think, and the way we spend our money.

For once, Mr Lomborg, I agree with you. Let's get things moving even faster than they are to implement this systemic change that will save the globe only if we do it fast enough. No more stalling with new coal technology or nuclear plants, which are decidedly NOT cost-effective. Let's get those PV panels up on roofs and over parking lots, or in military areas (as long as they don't affect tortoises, gophers and other desert wildlife.) Lets get those windmills turning in Nantucket Sound, Mr. Kennedy. It's cost-effective, all you conservatives who don't like to spend government money. In the long run it will save you piles of tax-money - or maybe it will be there for you when your insurance company throws you out because you got cancer...

Green green green

According to today's LA Times, Military embraces green energy, the US Army has discovered what we've been saying all along. Environmental management, including energy management, like all good management, saves money on the bottom line for businesses. Environmental and energy management is resource management. and resources cost money. If you can find ways to use fewer resources, partly by doing the job more efficiently, or by ensuring that the job you're doing is the right thing to do, you save money. If you find less expensive resources that do the (right) job just as well, then you've saved even more.

Of course sometimes you have to spend money to save resources in the long haul. I am getting really tired of reading that Obama's emphasis on renewable energy and carbon caps are going to cost us a lot more money. We're throwing money away hand and foot now, supporting wars and widows, orphans and mentally and physically ruining soldiers, all because we need oil from the mideast. We have a problem with people who can't pay mortgages because they lost their jobs, because it's too expensive to keep them in this country. What support we can give them also comes from tax-payer money. Carbon caps make traditional energy sources more expensive to provide an incentive to conserve energy with insulation, Energy Star houses, hybrid cars - just read more here in my blog, if you don't know what I'm talking about. It also encourages energy companies (or private businesses, citizens - and the military!) to install wind, solar, geothermal, hydro or other methods to avoid the high costs of conventional carbon-based energy. Once they're installed, they provide practically free energy, since their sources do not have to be renewed and they come (mostly) from the pretty undepletable energy of the sun.

Several years ago in September 2005 I attended the Sierra Club Summit in San Francisco. There I went to a fascinating meeting pairing Dave Foreman, co-founder of the radical EarthFirst and the more mature Rewilding, with, believe it or not, Marine Brigadier General Mike Lehnart from Camp Pendelton of the Marine Corps, who initiated a program to protect endangered species and perform environmental management on Marine bases. That was back when "environment" was things like habitat protection. But it was at the Sierra Summit that the Sierra Club decided to focus on sustainability and renewable energy (which my local chapter hasn't really caught up with.)

In the LATImes article you can read how the Fort Irwin army base in the Mojave Desert (not too far from here) has been going green for numerous reasons. By using insulated, sun reflecting tents they have got air conditioning costs (running generators) by up to 75%. By producing energy using wind, solar and geothermal sources, they figure they can soon be off the grid.

In the military, this doesn't just save money, it saves lives. In Iraq many lives have been lost among soldiers defending fuel transport convoys, which understandably are a popular target. If they can avoid the fuel entirely through conservation and locally generated energy, lives will be saved (as well as the costs of supporting widows and orphans, if you want to look at it cynically.)

As the article points out, the military (as well as the space program) have provided us with everything from Tang to cellphones to Hummers. Since the military is an enormous, its conversion to renewables will have a tremendous effect on our fuel needs, as well as the general attitude toward renewables.

Some in the green energy sector hope that as the military adopts alternative power sources, the technology will gain broader acceptance among political conservatives.

"Just hearing that their military is embracing this new technology that was thought of as left-of-center is going to swing people's thoughts" about using it, said David Melton, president of Albuquerque-based Sacred Power Corp., which installed some of Ft. Irwin's photovoltaic panels and wind turbines.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Coal and Nuke Plants Not Necessary

I'm not just making that up, and it's not just propaganda, although I've been saying it all along here in my blog. But the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Jon Wellinghoff speaking at a U.S. Energy Association forum said that he doesn't think we'll be needing more "baseload" energy in the form of coal, nuclear or even NG.

With energy efficiency from Energy Star rated products, alternative fuel vehicles, better building insulation, inspired by LEED, etc. reducing our needs for energy in the first place, locally distributed solar, wind, geothermal, and new hydro energy sources will cover our needs sustainably, cheaply, quickly, and providing lots of local jobs. Building new coal and nuke plants is too expensive, he said. You can read about it in this article from yesterday's NYT: Energy Regulatory Chief Says New Coal, Nuclear Plants May Be Unnecessary.

Further support of the future of solar (and other sustainable energy) came an announcement from Alteris Renewables and SunRun that they will be making Solar Power Cheaper than Utilities for First Time in Northeast, which is similar to the plans by Citizenre, which I am associated with. We will be renting panels to homeowners at a rate under that of which they are paying their utility company with a very low deposit, compared with buying panels. SunRun, Citizenre and SunEdison, who have a similar offering for businesses, will quickly be able to make solar a viable component in the energy mix.

Even Walmart understand this. They have announced plans to double their solar power usage by the end of 2010 under a similar arrangement with BP. They have already seen some savings, and with the price of energy increasing in the future and their solar expenses staying flat, the savings will be increasing as the years go by. This of course is a business decision, not just some green public service!

There is even good news about wind now, in this article from the LA Times: Offshore wind turbines get further boost from Obama administration. Soon projects like Cape Wind between Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard and Deepwater Wind, in Rhode Island, will be providing energy for heavily populated areas up and down the Atlantic coast, where the continental shelf provides relatively easy sites for off-shore installations. The Great Lakes also provide perfect sites for future off-shore wind projects near industrial areas. Manufacturing the turbines is already becoming an alternative to jobs in the old dirty industries, as even European companies like Vestas are opening manufacturing facilities in the U.S.

What a great way to celebrate Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lizard visits us on Earth Day

Lizard visits on Earth Day
Originally uploaded by bonbayel.
Today my email inbox was filled with Earth Day messages, all the newspapers and magazines have been having articles about eating organic and living sustainably, and even Target is selling a line of organic cotton clothing.

And the government's been right there too, with the EPA agreeing that CO2 is endangering, and Obama is getting on to clean energy (unfortunately he hasn't dropped "clean coal.")

But I think the most significant thing for me today was a visit from a little friend, a San Diego Alligator Lizard (I thought it was a skink, but I've changed my mind!) who has been exploring our patio, and finally decided to take a look inside.

Once inside, it was hard to get him out. He (she?) knows when I'm looking at him, so I can't get a picture of him moving, as the video clip shows! When I opened the screen door that he'd crawled under to get in, he finally eyed a chance to get away from me. (After I moved away!)

Saturday, April 18, 2009 might change the world

I sometimes think I'm not doing enough to change the world. I just sit at home reading and then researching and typing away at my computer, while others are out there demonstrating, or actually doing practical work.

The big efforts of Citizenre's solar panels for everyone is on hold because of financing problems (but things are looking up recently, so we expect that the first panels will be installed within the year) and I haven't had an environmentally related job since I worked for Vestas Wind Systems in 2002.

However, I think my blog is reaching some people besides the "choir" so this is my activism. (BTW, the most popular entries here are about Green Mountain Coffee's plastic K-cups trash, and the horrible indestructible trash that comes with each candy bar we buy, even though the largest number of entries have been about energy: dirty coal and oil, and the future of solar and other renewables.)

I read an appropriate quote on the Sierra Club's Daily Ray of Hope from April 1, which made me realize that maybe what I am doing does help change the world.

Choose your corner,
pick away at it carefully, intensely and to the best of your ability
and that way you might change the world.
-- Charles Eames

Monday, April 13, 2009

Michigan Citizens for Renewable Energy

The wonderful thing about renewable energy is that it is locally generated and provides local jobs. This Michigan group is working toward transforming Michigan to a new renewable economy.

Michigan (and many other states, like Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Iowa) is moving from dirty industries and power plants to clean energy and green jobs!

Here is what Governor Granholm has to say about the new jobs the recovery act will provide: Governor Granholm Says Recovery Act will Help Millions of Citizens Throughout Michigan

You can find more about what activist in Michigan are working on at Clean Energy Now.

This is the future! And we can all participate in it, just like the Michigan Citizens for Renewable Energy. Find out where your local group is, and help build the new economy!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The chemical industry is shuddering!

I got a message today called "Don't Poison the Obama puppy" from Credo. Evidently the chemical industry is up in arms because Michelle Obama is not using garden chemicals in her organic garden. (Maybe they didn't realize that the Bush family are also organic gardeners back home in Texas!)

According the the email, an organization called Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) has apparently convinced itself - or at least its spokesman - that plants can't grow without chemicals. (Whatever did plants do before the chemical industry?)

Their spokesman sent an extensive open letter to Mrs Obama telling of the Wonderful Things Chemistry Can Do For You, which it also sent to its supporters with a cover letter. Spies from a foody blog called La Vida Locavore managed to get a copy of the letter, which is available for your edification on their website. In the cover letter to supporters the spokeman wrote:

spring weather & pesticides
Originally uploaded by gribley.
Did you hear the news? The White House is planning to have an "organic" garden on the grounds to provide fresh fruits and vegetables for the Obama's and their guests. While a garden is a great idea, the thought of it being organic made Janet Braun, CropLife Ambassador Coordinator and [me] shudder. As a result, we sent a letter encouraging them to consider using crop protection products and to recognize the importance of agriculture to the entire U.S. economy. [all emphasis mine.]
The letter tells all about how modern technology since 1900 has made it possible for "an average farmer" to produce enough food for 144 people. He doesn't mention that it would be pretty boring to be the person getting his nourishment alone from the crop of a corn or soy farmer! He tells about how farmers were the "first environmentalists" (that is, before the chemists got to them!) I particularly love this sentence:
Fresh foods grown conventionally are wholesome and flavorful yet more economical. Local and conventional farming is not mutually exclusive. However, a Midwest mother whose child loves strawberries, a good source of Vitamin C, appreciates the ability to offer California strawberries in March a few months before the official Mid-west season.
Local Strawberries in January...since I have been horrified at the quality of even local California strawberries like these compared to what I have known and loved up north in Maine and Denmark! The local strawberries in stores are white inside, rather than red, and they don't reach out to you with enticing strawberry fragrance as you wall by. If you were blind, you'd have to stick your nose in the box to figure out that they were strawberries. I've tried making the favorite Danish summer strawberry dessert Jordbærgrød med fløde but it isn't as red, and tastes sort of watery. I've doctored it by adding ginger and more sugar, and finally fruit juices, but it will never be the same! I remember deserts in Denmark consisting of large bowls of big strawberries that we had picked in the garden just before dinner! I pity those poor Midwestern children who don't even have local strawberries anymore since all farm land has gone to corn and soy. I'm afraid that even local strawberries from our farmers' market don't grab you like fresh Danish strawberries sold by a local farmer outside our supermarket!

The letter from MACA concludes with this fine paragraph:

As you go about planning and planting the White House garden, we respectfully encourage you to recognize the role conventional agriculture plays in the U.S in feeding the ever-increasing population, contributing to the U.S. economy and providing a safe and economical food supply. America's farmers understand crop protection technologies are supported by sound scientific research and innovation.
The email I got concluded with a petition: Tell the Pesticide Peddlers: We support Michelle Obama's organic garden. I urge you to sign it!


We are enjoying our own mini organic garden starting to wake up. Actually here in California we've been harvesting a few red bell peppers all winter long. The strawberries are coming along nicely, too, and it's about time to get some more tomato plants!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Computer Museum in a box

Computer Museum in a box
Originally uploaded by bonbayel.

My husband is going through his closet and finding all sorts of treasures - 5" floppies, wires, strange boxes, software for DOS, Windows 98, speakers, etc. The 5" floppies are way outdated, but what about those perfectly good 3" ones, like the one in the box? It was only about 4 years ago I was handing in homework for a computer class on a floppy. Now we only have one computer in the house that will take a 3" disk. We've been keeping that computer "just in case."

I have a lot of pictures stored on CD's (from before the time of Flickr) and I'm afraid CD drives may soon also be a thing of the past, now that we have thumb drives. CD and DVD technology has also changed rapidly.

Of course there's the grand switch to HD TV that is really causing a pile-up of old TVs and related equipment as well.

Not in the landfill

But we don't want them in landfills. They contain a lot of nasty toxic materials, including PVC wire coverings (burning causes carcinogenic dioxins to form,) brominated fire retardent, lead, cadmium and mercury, as well as other materials that are worth a lot of money in quantity, including copper wire and gold in switches.

We have found a company that will pick it up for us when we've gathered everything. Normally they only pick up from businesses, so we're lucky we live close by.

Our town toxic waste depot does not accept electronics, and Goodwill doesn't either. Those are the places residents normally would turn to get rid of these things.

I suggested to the company who will pick up our wastes that they leave a container at the town waste area for residents to place E-waste. They guy was actually receptive, so I hope it soon will be easier for the rest of us to dispose of all this stuff we've saved, not because we really thought we'd use it again (well, not entirely!) but because we didn't know what else to do with it. Or the thought that some deserving school or non-profit or African village might want our old computer.

We may be using less paper (now that we're - i.e. "some people," certainly not us!... - not even reading paper newspapers or books) but it looks like all this e-waste is going to be even worse. Companies must design recycling into their products, and be willing to take them back.

What happens to recycled E-Waste?

I found this video about what happens to some e-waste from CBS 60 Minutes, Nov 6, 2009. It looks like we can't even trust recyclers who are purportedly recycling "clean" in the US. I wonder what will happen to our stuff. Maybe we should keep it a little longer?

Here's where you can look to recycle e-waste

And some articles about e-waste: