Saturday, June 30, 2007

Can We Shop Our Way To A Greener World?

Not really, is the consensus of a small but increasingly vocal number of environmentalists critical of "light greens," people who buy green but don't reduce their overall consumption. On the other hand, maybe being a "light green" is a good starting point for changes that need to happen. The following is excerpted from a longer New York Times article on the subject:
Consumers have embraced living green, and for the most part the mainstream green movement has embraced green consumerism. But even at this moment of high visibility and impact for environmental activists, a splinter wing of the movement has begun to critique what it sometimes calls “light greens.”
Critics question the notion that we can avert global warming by buying so-called earth-friendly products, from clothing and cars to homes and vacations, when the cumulative effect of our consumption remains enormous and hazardous.
“There is a very common mind-set right now which holds that all that we’re going to need to do to avert the large-scale planetary catastrophes upon us is make slightly different shopping decisions,” said Alex Steffen, the executive editor of
Worldchanging.com, a Web site devoted to sustainability issues.
The genuine solution, he and other critics say, is to significantly reduce one’s consumption of goods and resources. It’s not enough to build a vacation home of recycled lumber; the real way to reduce one’s carbon footprint is to only own one home.


Environmentalists say some products marketed as green may pump more carbon into the atmosphere than choosing something more modest, or simply nothing at all. Along those lines, a company called PlayEngine sells a 19-inch widescreen L.C.D. set whose “sustainable bamboo” case is represented as an earth-friendly alternative to plastic.
Laptops and desktop computers said to be good for the earth.

But it may be better to keep your old cathode-tube set instead, according to “The Live Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook,” because older sets use less power than plasma or L.C.D. screens. (Televisions account for about 4 percent of energy consumption in the United States, the handbook says.)
“The assumption that by buying anything, whether green or not, we’re solving the problem is a misperception,” said Michael Ableman, an environmental author and long-time organic farmer. “Consuming is a significant part of the problem to begin with. Maybe the solution is instead of buying five pairs of
organic cotton jeans, buy one pair of regular jeans instead.”
Last year, a San Francisco group called the Compact made headlines with a vow to live the entire year without buying anything but bare essentials like medicine and food. A year in, the original 10 “mostly” made it, said Rachel Kesel, 26, a founder. The movement claims some 8,300 adherents throughout the country and in places as distant as Singapore and Iceland.
“The more that I’m engaged in this, the more annoyed I get with things like ‘shop against climate change’ and these kind of attitudes,” said Ms. Kesel, who continues her shopping strike and counts a new pair of running shoes — she’s a dog-walker by trade — as among her limited purchases in 18 months.
“It’s hysterical,” she said. “You’re telling people to consume more in order to reduce impact.”
For some, the very debate over how much difference they should try to make in their own lives is a distraction. They despair of individual consumers being responsible for saving the earth from climate change and want to see action from political leaders around the world.
INDIVIDUAL consumers may choose more fuel-efficient cars, but a far greater effect may be felt when fuel-efficiency standards are raised for all of the industry , as the Senate voted to do on June 21, the first significant rise in mileage standards in more than two decades.
“A legitimate beef that people have with green consumerism is, at end of the day, the things causing climate change are more caused by politics and the economy than individual behavior,” said Michel Gelobter, a former professor of environmental policy at Rutgers who is now president of Redefining Progress, a nonprofit policy group that promotes sustainable living.
“A lot of what we need to do doesn’t have to do with what you put in your shopping basket,” he said. “It has to do with mass transit, housing density. It has to do with the war and subsidies for the coal and fossil fuel industry.”
In fact, those light-green environmentalists who chose not to lecture about sacrifice and promote the trendiness of eco-sensitive products may be on to something.
Michael Shellenberger, a partner at American Environics, a market research firm in Oakland, Calif., said that his company ran a series of focus groups in April for the environmental group Earthjustice, and was surprised by the results.
People considered their trip down the Eco Options aisles at Home Depot a beginning, not an end point.
“We didn’t find that people felt that their consumption gave them a pass, so to speak,” Mr. Shellenberger said. “They knew what they were doing wasn’t going to deal with the problems, and these little consumer things won’t add up. But they do it as a practice of mindfulness. They didn’t see it as antithetical to political action. Folks who were engaged in these green practices were actually becoming more committed to more transformative political action on global warming.”

IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at http://www.irejn.org/.

Friday, June 29, 2007

House Passes Climate Bill; Christians Still Divided on Issue

The Christian Post reported that the U.S. House has passed a bill providing funds to mitigate damages from climate change:
WASHINGTON – The contentious debate over whether global warming exists and its primary cause came to a close Thursday – at least in the U.S. House – when a passed legislation recognized the “reality” of climate change and called for billions to remedy the problem.
In a vote of 272-155, the U.S. House of representatives passed an environmental funding bill that would provide $27.6 billion for federal investments in research on climate change and create a new commission to review scientific questions, according to Reuters.
Climate change was stated to be a “reality” in a declaration within the House bill, despite the White House’s long held questions on whether there is sufficient scientific evidence to back the claim.
The climate change debate, which Christians also refer to as the creation care issue, has also deeply divided believers who, moreso than whether global warming exists, are perplexed if man should be primarily blame for the warming of the earth.
In a Senate hearing earlier this month, a panel composed of mostly Christian leaders across the denominational lines exemplified the differences in opinion on the issue.
While some Christian leaders, such as Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, strongly declared that global warming is real and humans are mainly to be blamed for the problem, others, such as the Southern Baptist representative disagreed.
Dr. Russell Moore, dean of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, contended that although the Southern Baptist Convention and other evangelical groups are not opposed to environmental protection, science does not absolutely support humans being the main cause of warming.
He also criticized Christian leaders who used the “authority of the Bible” to support their “shifting and revisable” global warming agenda as “trivializing” to the Christian faith.
Still, despite the ongoing debate, many prominent evangelicals have climbed onboard the green bandwagon calling for a cut in carbon emission – the main contributor of greenhouse gases. These leaders include the Rev. Richard Cizik, the National Association of Evangelicals vice president; Pastor Rick Warren, author of the Purpose Driven Life; and Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., near Chicago.

IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at http://www.irejn.org/.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

HGTV Goes Green

In addition to their usual Dream Home Giveaway, HGTV (Home and Garden Television) in the United States is building and giving away an eco-friendly home in 2008. Learn more here.
IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at http://www.irejn.org/.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Global Warming Humor

The Onion has an article titled Addressing Climate Crisis, Bush Calls For Development Of National Air Conditioner. Check it out--the graphic is priceless.

Here is an excerpt:

In a nationally televised address reminiscent of President Kennedy's historic 1961 speech pledging to put a man on the moon, President Bush responded to the global warming crisis Monday by calling for the construction of a giant national air conditioner by the year 2015.
Concept art shows how the 800-mile-wide device would function on a "high cool" setting.
"Climate change is real and it demands a real solution," Bush said. "Therefore, I am committed to dedicating all of the technology, all of the brainpower, and all of the resources we need in order to keep America cool and comfortable well into the 21st century."
The National Air Conditioner Initiative is expected to be the largest public works project in the nation's history. Because technology capable of creating an air conditioner that can fulfill the cooling needs of a continental land mass does not presently exist, the president estimated that research and development alone will require at least $100 trillion in both federal and private sector funds.
"The challenge of building an air conditioner for all Americans will be the greatest we have ever faced," Bush said. "But we must face it. We must act now to ensure that our children and our children's children can live in a world where they don't get sweaty and have to change their shirts all the time."

IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at www.irejn.org.

New England Energy Use Drop

New England could decrease its energy use by 18% by using currently available technologies to increase efficiency, according to a report by a coalition of environmental groups, says the Hartford Courant.
The report's recommendations for cutting energy consumption - which would also reduce the region's greenhouse gas emissions - depend on a combination of improving efficiency and using more renewable energy. Key proposals include adopting more efficient technologies for heating, cooling and lighting residential and commercial buildings; increasing fuel economy standards for vehicles; and building wind and solar powered generators in the New England region.

Roger Smith, the campaign director for the Connecticut chapter of Clean Water Action, one of the groups that produced the report, said New England does not need to wait for new technologies before cutting energy use significantly. "If we're ever going to reach our goals, we need to take action now," he said.Solar energy and insulating homes should be on the top of the agenda for Connecticut, Smith said. Wind is probably not a viable source of energy for the state, he said, and any improvements to fuel economy standards cannot be accomplished on the state level.Weatherizing houses would provide immediate reductions in home heating costs, Smith said, and installing solar panels would reduce electricity bills. Although solar panels are not a replacement for conventional power generation, they would take the edge off demand during peak periods - muggy, summer weekdays when factories are humming and businesses and consumers use air conditioning.An 18 percent reduction in energy consumption is "definitely doable," as long as the state continues to support incentives for efficiency, said Jeff Gaudiosi, chairman of the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund."The higher the rates go, the more we see people starting to get involved in the efficiency program," he said.Interest in the program has increased significantly in recent years, Gaudiosi said, but the state government has taken money out of the fund to support general expenses. If that continues, the fund may have to reduce the incentives it offers companies who invest in more efficient technology, he said.

But Angela Carter, a lobbyist representing 14 New England power plants, said the region's energy problems cannot be solved with efficiency measures alone."There is no silver bullet," Carter said. "You cannot conserve your way out of the need to build infrastructure."The "anemic" transmission system in Connecticut needs to be overhauled, she said, and more power plants are needed to meet existing demands. Although renewable energy is an "essential component" of Connecticut's energy production, Carter said, past attempts to build renewable facilities have faced difficulties in finding suitable locations.
IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at www.irejn.org.

Warming of CT premiers 6/26/07

A new documentary featuring IREJN Director Andrea Cohen-Kiener and others who work on issues of climate change will premier on CPTV tonight, June 26. A live town meeting will follow. Check for your local station here.
IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at http://www.irejn.org/.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Home for the Bees

You can do something about the loss of bees in the US. The National Wildlife Federation has instructions for making a house for Orchard Mason Bees. Orchard Mason bees normally look for small holes in trees, like those made by a woodpecker, but you can simulate this easily. All you need is a small piece of wood and a drill. Unlike some other types of bees, Orchard Mason bees are unlikely to sting. Males are unable to sting and females rarely sting. But like other bees, Orchard Mason bees will pollinate your garden nicely!
IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at http://www.irejn.org/.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Bio-Fuel of the Future?

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin at Madison have developed a new, carbon-neutral fuel, as reported in this Press Release excerpted below:
Reporting in the June 21 issue of the journal Nature, University of Wisconsin-Madison chemical and biological engineering Professor James Dumesic and his research team describe a two-stage process for turning biomass-derived sugar into 2,5-dimethylfuran (DMF), a liquid transportation fuel with 40 percent greater energy density than ethanol.
The prospects of diminishing oil reserves and the threat of global warming caused by releasing otherwise trapped carbon into the atmosphere have researchers searching for a sustainable, carbon-neutral fuel to reduce global reliance on fossil fuels. By chemically engineering sugar through a series of steps involving acid and copper catalysts, salt and butanol as a solvent, UW-Madison researchers created a path to just such a fuel.
Currently, ethanol is the only renewable liquid fuel produced on a large scale," says Dumesic. "But ethanol suffers from several limitations. It has relatively low energy density, evaporates readily, and can become contaminated by absorption of water from the atmosphere. It also requires an energy-intensive distillation process to separate the fuel from water."
Not only does dimethylfuran have higher energy content, it also addresses other ethanol shortcomings. DMF is not soluble in water and therefore cannot become contaminated by absorbing water from the atmosphere. DMF is stable in storage and, in the evaporation stage of its production, consumes one-third of the energy required to evaporate a solution of ethanol produced by fermentation for biofuel applications.

IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at http://www.irejn.org/.

US Senate Adopts Higher Fuel Efficiency Standards

The Senate passed the higher fuel efficiency standards, but Republicans in the Senate blocked a change in the law that would have increased taxes on oil companies and diverted the money received to the development of energy alternatives, according to a story in the New York Times.
The Senate passed a broad energy bill late Thursday that would, among other things, require the first big increase in fuel mileage requirements for passenger cars in more than two decades.
Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, sponsor of an amendment to help automakers, arriving for a meeting in Senator Harry Reid’s office.

The vote, 65 to 27, was a major defeat for car manufacturers, which had fought for a much smaller increase in fuel economy standards and is expected to keep fighting as the House takes up the issue.
But Senate Democrats also fell short of their own goals. In a victory for the oil industry, Republican lawmakers successfully blocked a crucial component of the Democratic plan that would have raised taxes on oil companies by about $32 billion and used the money on tax breaks for wind power, solar power, ethanol and other renewable fuels.
Republicans also blocked a provision of the legislation that would have required electric utilities to greatly increase the share of power they get from renewable sources of energy.
As a result, Senate Democrats had to settle for a bill that calls for a vast expansion of renewable fuels over the next decade — to 36 billion gallons a year of alternatives to gasoline — but does little to actually promote those fuels through tax breaks or other subsidies.
The combination of breakthroughs and setbacks highlighted the blocking power of the entrenched industry groups, from oil companies and electric utilities to car manufacturers, that had blanketed Congress in recent days to defend their interests.
The clashes and impasses also provided a harbinger of potentially bigger obstacles when Democrats try to pass legislation this fall to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases tied to
global warming.
Democrats conceded that they had had won only a partial victory, but said they would have additional opportunities to push their agenda when the House takes up similar legislation, with the goal of passing it before the Fourth of July recess.
“This bill starts America on a path toward reducing our reliance on oil by increasing the nation’s use of renewable fuels,” said Senator
Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader.
Environmental groups, though disappointed by the setbacks on renewable fuels, nevertheless hailed the vote on higher mileage requirements as a long-sought victory that could eventually reduce American gasoline consumption by more than 1 million gallons of gasoline a day.
If the Senate bill becomes law, car manufacturers would have to increase the average mileage of new cars and light trucks to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, compared with roughly 25 miles per gallon today.
Car companies had lobbied ferociously for a much weaker requirement of 30 miles per gallon for light trucks and sport-utility vehicles. To muster enough votes to prevent a filibuster, about a dozen lawmakers from both parties hammered out a deal that included the higher standard but omitted explicit requirements for further increases in efficiency after 2020.

IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at http://www.irejn.org/.

Petition US Congress about Global Warming

True Majority is petitioning Congress to act on global warming legistation.

IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at www.irejn.com

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

First the bees, now the birds

A new problem in the natural world has come to light: birds are disappearing, just like bees. Here is an excerpt of a New York Times editorial about the phenomenon.
Last week, the Audubon Society released a new report describing the sharp and startling population decline of some of the most familiar and common birds in America: several kinds of sparrows, the Northern bobwhite, the Eastern meadowlark, the common grackle and the common tern. The average decline of the 20 species in the Audubon Society’s report is 68 percent.
Forty years ago, there were an estimated 31 million bobwhites. Now there are 5.5 million. Compared to the hundred-some condors presently in the wild, 5.5 million bobwhites sounds like a lot of birds. But what matters is the 25.5 million missing and the troubles that brought them down — and are all too likely to bring down the rest of them, too. So this is not extinction, but it is how things look before extinction happens.

IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at http://www.irejn.org/.

Sustainable McDonalds?

In a Salon interview with London Telegraph Environmental editor Charles Clover about his book "The End of the Line: How Overfishing Is Changing the World and What We Eat," he discusses the problem of over-fishing and the sustainability of the humble McDonald's Filet O Fish. Here is an excerpt.
From a consumer's point of view, should we be eating fish at all?
I didn't say in my book, "Don't eat fish." I say, "Don't eat certain fish, don't eat endangered fish." If a fish takes 20 years to double its population, that's a long time. If it takes 30 years before it breeds, don't touch it. But if you eat something that's fast reproducing and not overfished, you should be all right. And there's quite a lot of those species out there. You can eat a hell of a lot of shellfish, a huge amount of mussels and oysters, and your deep-water scallops, with a clear conscience. You can have a really nice fish stew, it's not a problem. But why eat endangered fish? And the slow-reproducing ones are probably going to have mercury in them anyway, so it's a win-win.
I think [cutting back on endangered fish] would be enough of a message to the fishermen of the world and the industries. God knows we're eating a lot of them at the moment. If you go to New York, restaurants seem actively to encourage it.
Yes. You finger some restaurants in your book, including some very well-regarded ones like Nobu and BLT Fish. Did you get a chance to look at BLT Fish's more recent menu? Had anything improved?
It was utterly disgraceful. In terms of endangered fish, there were more on that menu than I've seen on a lot. And the restaurant's gotten worse since I wrote about them in the book. They've got Icelandic halibut, which is a quite amazing fish, and about as sustainable a halibut as you could get in terms of the way it's caught, but it is still an endangered species in the Atlantic. New York chefs are a disgrace. They served caviar for a decade longer than they should have. They serve bluefin tuna because they've kidded themselves that it's a sustainable catch, which it isn't. They serve other things that are overfished, like red snapper.
You also uncover a hidden secret about McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwich: that the fish comes from two fisheries actually certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. In other words, McDonald's fish sandwich is more sustainable than Nobu's tuna sashimi. Did that surprise you?
Not really. McDonald's is sustainable because it is a big company and needs continuity of supply, but isn't that arguably a definition of sustainability?
Buying Alaskan pollock as McDonald's does is not a bad practice -- except that they don't seek to advertise their MSC connection, which might mean they would have to pay for the logo. Gambling you can make your fortune before you run out of exotic fish is an individual decision and one Nobu shares with many restaurateurs from Asia.
Despite the grim realities, you do provide a few examples in the book of places where action is being taken, and measures are working to protect fish. Do you sense improvement?
Here and there. It's actually quite instructive over here in Europe because things are much worse than in the U.S. In the U.S., fisheries science means something to people, in places like the Northeast. They've seen what a collapse means and they don't want to go back, so they listen to the scientists. The industry will sit in a room and have a discussion, whereas over here [in Europe] you'll get your legs run over [for talking about it].
Take the Mediterranean, which may be the crucible of civilization but is also the crucible of kleptomania when it comes to fishing. The only fish that come out of the Mediterranean are about 3 inches long because that's the only size that gets through the net. It's a disgrace out there. It's in Europe's backyard, and Europe goes on about how "green" it is, but when it comes to fisheries, the [European Commission] Fisheries Directorate says it's there for the preservation of the fishing industry and fishermen of Europe. It does not conserve fish.
So, I'm not sure we're getting But why hanywhere, but acknowledging the problem is a very big thing.

But why has it gone right, say, in Alaska? In the U.S., we always hear how good the wild Alaskan salmon fishery is.
I think it's like Iceland: When you've got nothing else, you look after it. When you're an island surrounded by cod, if your cod goes down, you are stuffed. I think it's pretty much the same with Alaska; they understand they have a resource they haven't destroyed yet. They were able to act on the basis of other people's mistakes. Sooner or later the message gets across that mistakes have been made and if you're the last one starting out, maybe you're going to make slightly fewer than anyone else.

IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at http://www.irejn.org/.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Greening "Live Earth"

The "Live Earth" concerts are trying to be the greenest music festival in history, according to Reuters.
Live Earth producers want the world to watch what they do. "We want to make the concerts themselves part of the solution," Live Earth's Yusef Robb says. "What we're working very hard to do is something that has never been done before: establish a new green event standard that Live Earth will not only follow but hopefully future live events will follow as well."
The concerts will be built "from the ground up to be as green as possible," Robb says. "If there is a choice between a dirty lightbulb or a greener lightbulb to light the stage, we're working to find the technology that can generate the least amount of carbon. If there's a choice between two cups at a concessions stand, we want to identify the best one that not only makes a beer taste good but can also be recycled and didn't use a lot of carbon to produce in the first place."
Obviously, there will be some carbon that Live Earth will not be able to "design out" of the process, Robb says. "That's the reality of life in the 21st century. So we'll offset any remaining emissions."
Enter environmental adviser John Rego. Working primarily with corporate "greening" consultant Brand Neutral, as well as independent nonprofits the Climate Group and consultants Seven-Star and Meeting Strategies Worldwide, Rego oversees the Live Earth Global Green Team.
"One of the key objectives of our work is to gather best practices and create a 'greener' recipe for the industry going forward," Rego says. "The three main topics we focus on are energy, waste and transport, which are your three main carbon emitters worldwide, but also in a live event."
The diversity of the venues in which Live Earth will be staged is not only a challenge but a benefit, Rego says. "There's not one model that can be used across all of them," he says. "We have stadiums that are 30-plus years old and stadiums that are brand-new and just renovated, so obviously different challenges exist there."

IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at http://www.irejn.org/.

Barry Commoner's Hope

The New York Times is featuring a conversation with environmentalist Barry Commoner, excerpted below:
Q. In 1970, around the time of the first Earth Day, you said, “We have the time — perhaps a generation — in which to save the environment from the final effects of the violence we have done to it.” What’s your assessment now?
A. We’ve really failed to do more than a few specific things. We don’t use DDT on the farm anymore. We don’t use lead in gasoline anymore. Environmental pollution is an incurable disease. It can only be prevented. And prevention can only take place at the point of production. If you insist on using DDT, the only thing you can do is stop. The rest has really been sort of forgotten about. Except that now, global warming has sort of consolidated the independent environmental hazards that many of us had been working on all of these years.
Q. So you don’t think global warming is detracting from other concerns?
A. No, it’s the other way around. If you ask what you are going to do about global warming, the only rational answer is to change the way in which we do transportation, energy production, agriculture and a good deal of manufacturing. The problem originates in human activity in the form of the production of goods.
The Chinese like to say, “Crisis means change.” It means you can get things done. Unfortunately, I think that most of the “greening” that we see so much of now has failed to look back on arguments such as my own — that action has to be taken on what’s produced and how it’s produced. That’s unfortunate, but I’m an eternal optimist, and I think eventually people will come around.
Q. What do you think of the debate over the extent to which humans are primarily responsible for global warming?
A. No one in his right mind would deny that we’re getting warmer. The question is, is this due to things that people have chosen? And I think the answer is that all of the things we have chosen to do include the release of materials like carbon dioxide, which affect the retention of heat by the planet.
You could argue that maybe this is a high point in a heating/cooling cycle. Well, we’re adding to the high point. There’s no question about it. So it seems to me the argument that there are natural ways in which the temperature fluctuates is a spurious one. If we accept that we’re in a cycle, it’s idiocy to increase the high point.
Q. There’s been some second-guessing about using nuclear power instead of fossil fuels. Do you agree?
A. No. This is a good example of shortsighted environmentalism. It superficially makes sense to say, “Here’s a way of producing energy without carbon dioxide.” But every activity that increases the amount of radioactivity to which we are exposed is idiotic. There has to be a life-and-death reason to do it. I mean, we haven’t solved the problem of waste yet. We still have used fuel sitting all over the place. I think the fact that some people who have established a reputation as environmentalists have adopted this is appalling.
Q. There’s also been some reconsideration of using DDT selectively against
malaria, rather than as a mass-quantity pesticide. Have you rethought this?
A. Well, you know, I had something to do with the ban. I think there are situations in which you could use DDT surgically. I don’t want to put anybody into a position of avoiding the use of something in a particular life-and-death situation. But there are many ways of solving the malaria problem, including reparations. Malarial regions ought to be given more money by wealthy countries. Until we get to the point where there is no other way to do it, I don’t see any sense in it.

Monday, June 18, 2007

IPL Fights for Clean Cars

According to an article in the Contra Costa Times,
East Bay clergy members ...have taken the lead in a legal showdown over a law that would direct automakers to produce only fuel-efficient vehicles.
The Automakers Alliance, and primarily Toyota, sued in 2004 to stop the state from implementing AB1493, dubbed the Clean Car Bill. It became law in 2002 but has yet to be implemented. It requires manufacturers to use the most feasible and cost-effective methods to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
California Interfaith Power and Light, a faith-based environmental organization based in Oakland, supported the law and is urging the manufacturers to drop their lawsuit.
"It's shocking that they would be blocking a bill that would take all necessary steps to apply (clean air) standards," said Jessica Brown, outreach director of the group.
Interfaith Power and Light's goal is to encourage California's 50,000 congregations to adopt sustainable energy practices, and in turn to urge their congregants to do the same. The organization also sounds the drum on global warming.
The organization is rallying its more than 460 member congregations to weigh in by today, when a pretrial conference will be held.
Brown finds a particular irony in Toyota's attack on the bill since so many faith leaders drive a Prius, an energy-efficient hybrid car manufactured by the company.

IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at http://www.irejn.org/.

People started Global Warming. People can stop it.

An article in the (Dover, New Hampshire) publication Foster's Online tells of the growing concern among the Native American community about climate change.
From New Hampshire to California, Native American leaders are speaking out more forcefully about the danger of climate change.Members of six tribes recently gathered near the Baker River in New Hampshire's White Mountains for a sacred ceremony honoring "Earth Mother." Talking Hawk, a Mohawk Indian who asked to be identified by his Indian name, pointed to the river's tea-colored water as proof that the overwhelming amount of pollution humans have produced has caused changes around the globe."It's August color. It's not normal," he said."Earth Mother is fighting back _ not only from the four winds but also from underneath," he said. "Scientists call it global warming. We call it Earth Mother getting angry."At a United Nations meeting last month, several Native American leaders spoke at a session called "Indigenous Perspectives on Climate Change. "Also in May, tribal representatives from Alaska and northern Canada _ where pack ice has vanished earlier and earlier each spring _ traveled to Washington to press their case.In California, Minnesota, New Mexico, and elsewhere, tribes have used some of their casino profits to start alternative or renewable energy projects, including biomass-fueled power plants. In New Hampshire, where Native Americans have become integrated in the broader society, some have questioned the impact of local development.Jan Osgood, an Abenaki Indian who lives in Lincoln, and who attended the sacred ceremony, said she worries about several proposals that would clear acres of national forest on Loon Mountain for luxury homes. "It breaks my heart," she said.She approached Ted Sutton, Lincoln's town manager, and gave him a collection of writings by North American Indians that details the history of the U.S. government's unfulfilled promises to their trips.After reading the book, Sutton said he agrees with the Native American philosophy of life: Use nature respectfully, never taking more than is needed."American Natives have been telling us all along that this was going to happen to the earth," Sutton said. "They were telling us hundreds of years ago that what we were doing (to the environment) would come back and haunt us. They have been proven right. But hopefully we've started to listen to them and move back to some better management of our lives."Those who study Native American culture believe their presence in the debate could be influential. They point to "The Crying Indian," one of the country's most influential public-service TV ads.In the spot, actor Iron Eyes Cody, in a buckskin suit, paddles a canoe up a trash-strewn urban creek, then stands by a busy highway cluttered with litter. The ad, which aired in the 1970s, ends with a close-up of Cody, shedding a single tear after a passing motorist throws trash at his feet."Within the last six months, there's just been a loss of faith in the insistence (by some politicians) that global warming isn't happening, and that we have nothing to do with it," said Shepard Krech III , an anthropology and environmental studies professor at Brown University.Krech is the author of "The Ecological Indian," which examines the relationship between Native Americans and nature.Though many citizens will look for "a consensus in the scientific community" to convince them of climate change, Krech said, others will seek "perspectives from Indian society . . . Native Americans have a rich tradition that springs from this belief they have always been close to the land, and always treated the land well."The New Hampshire ceremony was attended by members of the Passamaquoddy, Mohawk, Blackfoot, Micmaq, Lakota Sioux, and Abenaki tribes.

IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at http://www.irejn.org/.

Energy Bill Faces Uphill Battle

According to the Wall Street Journal, the push by the Democratic congress to pass a climate-savvy energy bill faces an uphill battle.
Senate Democratic leaders face two floor fights this week over their energy bill, one led by auto makers that want to weaken proposed fuel efficiency standards and another pushed by the coal industry for tax incentives to make diesel fuel from coal.
Tomorrow, the Senate Finance Committee will decide another touchy issue: the cost of the tax provisions in the bill, which is intended to curb gasoline consumption and push cleaner fuels.
Committee leaders estimate the proposed package, which would extend existing tax breaks for producers of cleaner energy sources from wind-generated electricity to ethanol to diesel fuel made from chicken fat, will cost $13.7 billion over 10 years. That figure will likely rise as the bill works its way through Congress.

IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at http://www.irejn.org/.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Saving Energy at Home

The New York Times has an article about stopping energy loss from idle devices in the home. Here is an excerpt:
I started checking how much electricity my electronics were consuming when I wasn’t using them. I used a Kill A Watt EZ energy meter (available online for about $25) and began measuring. My PC was continuously drawing 134 watts all night.
The more devices I checked, the worse it got. My
TiVo digital video recorder was sucking down about 30 watts when it was not playing or recording a show. A Comcast digital cable set-top box made by Motorola that I tested was drawing about 40 watts. My DVD player was drawing 26 watts while idle, and my audio system — which I rarely turned off — was using 47 watts. This was in addition to the numerous power adapters and chargers, each drawing 1 or 2 watts, not to mention several other devices sipping energy to keep clocks running or to be ready to turn on at the push of a button.
I’m partly to blame for the audio system and DVD player. They do have on/off switches that I was failing to use. I had falsely assumed they were using relatively little power. But I tested
DVR’s from Comcast, Dish Network and TiVo, and none went into a low-power mode. All of this wasted power was costing me money and pumping unnecessary CO2 into the atmosphere. My PC alone was contributing 2,000 pounds of CO2 annually. The DVR. was adding another 543 pounds.
Indeed, the Department of Energy estimates that in the average home, 40 percent of all electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off. Add that all up, and it equals the annual output of 17 power plants, the government says. In an effort to address that, a consortium of
Intel, Google, PC makers and other technology companies this week announced their intent to increase the PC’s overall energy efficiency to 90 percent.
Products that idle in what the industry calls low-power mode, or lopomo, consumed about 10 percent of total electricity in California homes, according to a 2002 study prepared for the California Energy Commission by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. A few of those devices, even those with Energy Star ratings that signal that they are less wasteful, still use a lot of power. “Some of the larger big-screen TVs consume as much energy each year as a new refrigerator,” according to Noah Horowitz, a scientist at the
Natural Resources Defense Council.
You do not have to use an energy meter to reduce your consumption. If you don’t turn off your PC when it is not in use, make sure it goes into a low-power sleep, suspend or hibernate mode. That doesn’t always happen automatically. Windows XP has both a suspend and hibernate option, but it isn’t always turned on by default. Computers running the Windows XP operating system can be configured by clicking on Power Options in the Control Panel to set the number of minutes before Windows will turn off the monitor and hard disks or put the system into standby or hibernate mode. (Hibernation uses the least amount of energy). If it is a notebook PC, there are separate settings for when it runs on the battery and when it is plugged in.
Microsoft says that it has overhauled energy management in its Vista operating system so that machines, by default, should go into a low-power state after 60 minutes of inactivity. The PC sips only a few watts until the user touches the mouse or keyboard. To configure a machine with Vista, type “Power Options” in the search box at the bottom of the Start menu and click on “Change when the computer sleeps.”

IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at http://www.irejn.org/.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Help Pass Connecticut Diesel Legislation

Clean Water Action has an Action Alert about the pending bill to reduce harmful school bus diesel emissions by about 90%. Go to Clean Water Action for easy links to email and call your legislators.
IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at http://www.irejn.org/.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Green Chocolate

Salon has an article about Grenada Chocolate Company, an eco-friendly, p.c. small producer of healthy dark chocolate. Here is an excerpt:
Edmond Brown, one of the owners of Grenada Chocolate, sits on a set of concrete steps outside of the factory. "I like making chocolate because I like the work," he says in a thick Grenadian accent, swatting at sand flies and stressing the last word to show his deepest respect for the human undertaking of doing something tangible with one's hands. He is a man who tends to speak only when there is something worth saying, yet Brown becomes animated when talking about chocolate, "the organic chocolate," as he calls it. His partner, Doug Browne, is a lanky, gentle 6-foot-7 giant, who now spends most of the year in rural Oregon. In the eyes of the islanders, Doug bears a striking resemblance to Jesus.
Mott Green completes the trio, and he is the talker, the dreamer, the man who first envisioned a Grenadian chocolate company. A sinewy American with a closely shaved head, Green lives in one small, spartan room in the corner of the factory, and exudes kinetic energy, as though he never sleeps. Originally from New York, he describes himself as an "ex-tourist instead of an expatriate." Green has lived in Grenada on and off for more than 20 years, whenever he wasn't hopping rail cars between his other bases in New York and Philadelphia squats or staying with friends in Oregon. It was in Oregon that Green and Browne met, and over the course of their friendship the two developed a taste for tinkering: transforming a Volkswagen squareback into an electric car and building a 20-foot-high solar steam generator, the remains of which reached up into the sky on Browne's Oregon farm for years after the experiment, like some alien communication device.
Browne, Green and Brown make an unlikely business team, with ambitious ideals about every step of production for their chocolate. But their dark (and darker) Grenada Chocolate bars -- 60 percent or 71 percent cacao content, no milk, no nuts, no fruit -- and Smilo cocoa powder are earning accolades. In 2006, they received a World Chocolate Award from London's Academy of Chocolate and were declared "the world's finest, and rarest, chocolate" in the Guardian. Within the company's first year of production, in 2001, they unexpectedly sold out in the Grenada market and since then have only been able to produce enough to meet limited distribution in the United States and Europe, through online outlets and in select shops.
But all that is changing. The co-owners are in the process of replacing their manufacturing infrastructure in order to increase the company's batch size from 45 kilos to 250 kilos. For now the Grenada Chocolate Co. may well be the smallest, most politically correct chocolate factory on earth. But does it have a future in a Hershey world?
IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at www.irejn.org.

The Drive for Greener Cars

"Act for Change" is sponsoring a petition to encourage the EPA to act on the recent Supreme Court ruling and give states the "green light" to put green cars on the road. You can see and sign the petition here.
IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at www.irejn.org.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Carbon Neutrality Goes to Washington

Nancy Pelosi announced plans to make the US Capitol complex carbon neutral by the end of this session, meaning the House would remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it adds by the end of next year. Here is an excerpt of the story reported in Sign On San Diego:

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., has sponsored legislation with the long-term aim of making the entire Capitol complex, 23 buildings where some 15,000 people work, carbon neutral by 2020.
Currently the Capitol complex, which includes office buildings, the Library of Congress, the Botanic Garden and the Government Printing Office, accounts for about 316,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year, the same as 57,455 cars.
About one-third of that comes from the combustion of fossil fuels at the 97-year-old Capitol Power Plant, the only coal-burning facility in the District of Columbia.
In addition, the Government Accountability Office said in a recent report, there is not one hybrid-electric vehicle in the legislative branch fleet of more than 300 vehicles. The fleet, mostly light-duty trucks, has only 35 vehicles that use alternative fuels, although the Architect's Office has ordered that almost all newly acquired vehicles be alternative-fuel compatible.
House workers have taken the immediate step of converting 2,000 desk lamps to more efficient compact fluorescent lamps. Within six months the remaining 10,000 desk lamps will switch to CFLs, saving the House $245,000 a year in electric power costs.
House Chief Administrative Officer Daniel Beard, in a report to Pelosi, said the House side of the Capitol, which includes four large office buildings, was responsible for 91,000 tons of greenhouse gas in the fiscal year ending last September, equivalent to annual carbon dioxide emissions of 17,200 cars.
The largest source of carbon dioxide comes from the purchase of electricity. Beard said his office, working with the Architect of the Capitol, will strive to meet all electricity needs, about 103,000 megawatt-hours per year, with renewable sources. Currently, more than half the electricity Congress buys is generated by coal. Only 2 percent comes from renewable fuels.
That alone, Beard said, would eliminate 57,000 tons a year of greenhouse gas emissions, the same as removing 11,000 cars from the roads. Another 7,130 tons would be saved with plans to convert overhead ceiling lights with high-efficiency lighting and controls.
He said these steps, and others including buying energy-efficient computers and furnishings containing recycled products and installing an Ethanol-85 tank for congressional vehicles, would still leave them about 34,000 tons short of meeting the carbon neutrality goal. This could be dealt with either by buying offset credits in the domestic market or contributing a per ton payment to a “green revolving fund” where revenues received from various sources are used for energy and water conservation initiatives.
IRJEN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at www.irejn.org.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Who Emits the Most Greenhouse Gases

Nell Boyce of NPR sets out to find out the single biggest source for greenhouse gas emissions in the US, and learns a lot about how information about emissions is collected (or not.) Here is an excerpt of the written version:
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) met with me in her office on Capitol Hill. She says, if we're ever going to limit greenhouse gas emissions, we need to know exactly who is emitting what. And right now, she says, that's not happening. But Klobuchar says 31 states are now calling for a national carbon registry.
She and Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Republican from Maine, have introduced a new bill to create that kind of national registry. It would require facilities to report their emissions, using the same system that is already in place for many pollutants.
If that proposal becomes law, the United States will become a lot more like its northern neighbor. Canada requires all of its biggest emitters to report.
Charles Elliott works near Ottawa for Environment Canada, a government agency. He says all the information is publicly available on a handy Web site. So, let's say you wanted to know which cement factory in Canada spews the most greenhouse gases.
That would be St Mary's Cement in Bowmanville, Elliott says after the tapping of a few keys. The company reported close to 1.5 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions.
And if you want to know the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in Canada, Elliott can say for sure: "That would be the Nanticoke Power Generation Facility, which is an electricity plant that's here in the province of Ontario."
I drove down to see it. When you're standing right next to it, it doesn't look all that impressive. There are some big power lines, but otherwise it looks just like any factory by a lake. The smokestacks don't seem to be emitting anything. But in reality, the equivalent of around 17 million tons of greenhouse gases comes out of them every year.
"It certainly is educational for people, I think, to have this data available to them. Otherwise you'd just drive by it and just say, 'Oh, that's a coal power plant,'" Elliott says.
He adds that Canada isn't collecting all this information just for kicks. It's the first step toward restricting emissions; Canada announced this spring that it plans to set tough new limits for industrial emitters. But Elliott says the public also is just interested in knowing what's what.

IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at www.irejn.org.

Candidates on Climate Change

We've just begun the long, hard slog toward the 2008 US Presidential elections, but things are heating up fast. It's not too early to learn where the candidates stand on climate change, courtesy of NPR.
IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at www.irejn.org.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Congressional Energy Debate

A debate over an energy bill that will probably last all year has already been termed "historic," according to US News and World Report.
Key House Democrats pledged to fight energy legislation proposed by fellow Democrat Rick Boucher while many Republicans voiced support for Boucher at a crowded energy subcommittee hearing today.
Henry Waxman, chair of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said Boucher's discussion draft failed to solve the dual dilemmas of climate change and energy security.
"This discussion draft doesn't step up to the urgent problems facing us," Waxman said. "It blinks and then steps back."
Edward Markey, chair of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, criticized Boucher's bill for not reflecting "the spirit of what this country wants to see happen." Boucher's discussion draft contains several elements that are anathema to environmentalists. For example, it would overturn the recent Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA that gave the EPA the right to control greenhouse gas emissions and would prohibit states from enacting their own legislation.
"This bill is cutting the legs out from under states just as they are starting to spring forward on greenhouse gas legislation," Markey said. Boucher's proposal also would change the current renewable fuels standard to an alternative fuels standard in order to promote coal-to-liquids production, a fuel that can be used in vehicles. Boucher represents southwestern Virginia, a major coal-producing region.
Critics deride coal-to-liquids as counterproductive because of its heavy carbon content. Boucher's bill would increase corporate average fuel economy standards but not as aggressively as in a bill coauthored by Markey.
But John Shimkus and Dennis Hastert, both Republicans of Illinois, offered support for the Boucher bill. Hastert said it "levels the playing field to get alternative fuels to the market." Shimkus praised its focus on coal, noting Illinois's massive deposits of the fuel. In a sign of how electrified the energy debate has become, Markey and Shimkus agreed on one key point: that the ensuing debate—likely to last till the end of the year—will be "historic."
IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at www.irejn.org.

Clean Water Setback

In a blow to the Clean Water Act, the EPA has changed the requirements for protection of a body of water, according to Time:
The Bush administration made it harder Tuesday for non-permanent streams and nearby wetlands to be protected under the federal Clean Water Act.
The new guidance issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers requires that for such waters to be protected there must be a "significant nexus" shown between the intermittent stream or wetland and a traditional waterway.
And the guidance says a determination will be made on a case-by-case basis, analyzing flow and other issues. Environmentalist argued that would negate the broader regional importance of many such waterways in the aggregate on water bodies downstream.
Assistant EPA Administrator Benjamin Grumbles said the new guidance to regional offices and enforcement officials "sends a clear signal we'll use our regulatory tools" to meet President Bush's promise of no net loss of wetlands.
He said it "maintains ... the Bush administration's strong commitment to wetlands conservation."
Environmentalists said the new rules will put in jeopardy many of the intermittent streams and headwaters that now fall under the Clean Water Act, and result in less protection of wetlands.
"This guidance adds unnecessary and unintended hurdles for agencies and citizens trying to protect our wasters," said Jan Goldman-Carter, an attorney for the National Wildlife Federation, and she called it a "retreat from protecting many important headwaters streams and wetlands."

IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at www.irejn.org.

G8 Breakthrough

According to the Earth Times, the G-8 has moved past an impasse to reach an agreement on greenhouse gas reductions.

Leaders of the world's key industrialized nations agreed a breakthrough deal on combating climate change, including a pledge to slash global greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2050. "We have a great success ... a major step forward," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after leaders at a Group of Eight (G8) summit in the Baltic resort of Heiligendamm gave their go-ahead to the climate change deal. "I can very well live with this compromise," said Merkel. But she added that "none of these documents are binding."The German leader, who is hosting the G8 meeting, said negotiations among G8 participants had been especially difficult on setting a precise 50-per-cent target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. She said it was significant that future climate change discussions would continue within the United Nations. The G8 statement on climate change referred to the need for a UN "agreement" on climate change - rather than a "framework" - following the 2012 expiry of the current Kyoto Protocol on global warming, said Merkel.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

That's Eco-tainment

Apparently even the eco-friendly famous have their own super-fans, who can now follow the every move of the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Sheryl Crow at ecorazzi, which bills itself as "the latest in green gossip". Today's story: the breakup of An Inconvenient Truth producer Laurie David and her Seinfeld co-creator hubby Larry David. Was Laurie's love of the earth to blame? Read the blurb (below), visit the website, and wallow in a little eco-voyeurism.
Making the rounds through the media circuits this afternoon is the sad news that Larry David and Laurie David are calling it quits after 14 years of marriage. As many of you know, we regularly have highlighted Laurie and Larry’s commitments to fighting global warming. Laurie David in particular has made massive waves with co-producing An Inconvenient Truth and her StopGlobalWarming site. Many consider her to be the #2 person in terms of environmental power in the United States behind Al Gore.
According to some reports, it may have been this sudden rise in fame and commitment to the cause that strained the relationship. In 2004, Larry David told Eric Alterman for a piece on Hollywood fundraising in The Atlantic:
“‘I heard nothing about the environment for all our lives and now this. I wish she would at least take back her own name.’”
Might the StopGlobalWarming tour with Sheryl Crow been the final nail in the coffin for the relationship? Obviously, speculating over why two people have separated doesn’t make us any better than the other gossip sites out there — but you have to wonder? We’ll leave it at that.

IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at www.irejn.org.

Is the Future Amish?

In this commentary from Salon (excerpted below) Garrison Keillor muses how climate change might lead our grandchildren to live more like the Amish:
You look at the Amish and you see the past but you might also be looking at the future. Our great-grandchildren, faced with facts their ancestors were able to ignore, might have to do without the internal-combustion engine and figure out how to live the subsistence life. Maybe someone will invent a car that runs on hydrogen, or horse manure, or maybe people will travel on beams of light like in old radio serials, but the realist in you thinks otherwise.

IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at www.irejn.org.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Eco-friendly "MySpace"

Cllimate Voters, a website where you can register your intention to base your voting behavior on your devotion to solving the problem of climate change, has launched "MyClimate," an eco-friendly networking site.
IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at www.irejn.org.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Penguins in Peril

African Penguins are having a rough time, and global climate change might be at least partly to blame, according to a New York Times article excerpted below.
Though the blue crane is South Africa’s national bird, the penguin clearly captures more hearts. Most penguins live on islands, shielded from land predators. But one colony on the Cape of Good Hope peninsula annually lures tens of thousands of gawkers, who revel in walking among throngs of the tolerant creatures.
Environmentalists here have made the birds’ rescue into a public crusade, contending, in effect, that the little penguin is the canary in the coal mine — a barometer of problems besetting other seabirds and the oceanic chain of life.
They could have a point. The penguins’ travails have many mothers, but the biggest one is food. African penguins live mostly on anchovies and sardines, which loitered until recently in huge shoals off western South Africa, where Robben and Dassen Islands are situated.
But starting around 1997, the sardines began to relocate east, closer to Cape Agulhas, Africa’s southernmost point. The effect has been to reduce the penguins’ main course to a few canap├ęs, and their head count shows it: in some years, the adult penguin population on Robben and Dassen has slumped by as much as 25 percent. .
More mobile species might simply follow the fish to a new home. The African penguins are prisoners to their island, though, limited to foraging for food in waters no more than about 25 miles offshore. When the sardines leave, the penguins have scant choice but to hunker down and wait for them to return.
But the fish may not return for decades, if ever. The sardines’ relocation may be part of a worldwide shift that occurs every 50 years or so, scientists say. Commercial fishing, which has depleted sardine stocks in other parts of Africa, could be a factor. So might
climate change: this month, for example, several dozen scientists concluded that the sardine movements were related to changes in the Benguela Current, a vast, frigid flow of nutrient-rich ocean water from Antarctica up the southwest African coast.
Some of those changes are cyclical, but others are related to global warming. In some locales, sardines have deserted hotspots to seek the cold waters they prefer. No one knows the long-term effects, said Rob Crawford, a marine scientist at South Africa’s department of marine and coastal management.
“It has to be either fishing or climate or a mixture of both,” he said of the sardine shift, “but my hunch is that it’s environmental.”
If so, it would not be the first time the bird had suffered at the hands of man. The first Europeans here wiped out the Robben Island penguin population in an orgy of egg-stealing by about 1800; the birds were reintroduced in 1983. Early settlers also scooped countless tons of penguin guano from islands to use as fertilizer, destroying the soft soil in which the birds dug their subterranean nests.
Escaped European house cats became feral and feasted on thousands of penguin chicks. Modern man dumped oil in the ocean, killing thousands more; a vast spill off Robben Island in 2000 caused a huge bird-rescue operation, saving perhaps 38,500 penguins.
Moving the penguins to where the food supply has gone is not considered a good option so far, in part because it might be hard to find a new island habitat to move them to.
In June, Mr. Crawford said, experts here plan to meet to decide whether Spheniscus, now classified as a “vulnerable” bird species, should be reclassified as endangered. Meanwhile, the bird’s supporters are trying to do their part, digging holes on Robben and other islands to plant fiberglass “igloos” that penguins turn into homes.
Once covered in soil, the igloos give the birds a cool nesting place and protect their chicks from the penguins’ nemesis, the hulking, aggressive kelp gull. Penguin lovers are seeking donations for more homes, a process explained on the Avian Demography Unit’s Web site.
IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at www.irejn.org.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Weather Channel Tackles Climate Change

A story in the New York Times reports on The Weather Channel's take on Climate Change. Here is an excerpt:
“If The Weather Channel isn’t talking about climate change and global warming, who is?” said Kaye Zusmann, the vice president for program strategy and development for the network. “It’s our mandate.”
The network, which had been gearing up for the opening of hurricane season on Friday, sees the engagement with the issues surrounding climate change as important for content and for business.
“We have a point of view, and we think it’s really important to articulate why it’s happening. Secondarily, it’s good business,” said Ms. Wilson, the network president. “Many consumers want to know, ‘What should I do?’ ”
The lightning rod for controversy, so to speak, is Heidi Cullen, the network’s resident climate expert.
In December, she raised the ire of Fox News and others by writing on her
weather.com blog that the American Meteorological Society should not give its “seal of approval” to any meteorologist who “can’t speak to the fundamental science of climate change.” (There are now more than 1,700 comments on that one post.)
Dr. Cullen, a tiny woman who speaks with conviction, said she believed that people were “finally seeing climate connected to weather,” but that a lot of information still needs to be disseminated. “If you turn on the local forecast, you wouldn’t necessarily know that global warming exists,” she said.
Far from being intimidated by the political backlash, Dr. Cullen and executives at the channel say they have embraced the issue of global warming. Dr. Cullen is host of the weekly show “Forecast Earth,” formerly named “The Climate Code” where she has entertained such guests as former Vice President
Al Gore. She also appears on the channel’s other programming with segments on hybrid taxicabs in New York City and the development of more fuel-efficient aircraft.
The network’s other programs have also directly engaged the elephant in the room — or, in this case, the polar bear on the melting ice cap: a recent anniversary roundup of “The 100 Biggest Weather Moments” listed global warming as No. 1. And the network is training its meteorologists so that they can discuss long-term trends as well as five-day forecasts.
“Weather information on an on-demand basis is the foundation of what we do, and a deeper experience on an emotional level brings us to life.” Ms. Wilson said.
Besides sections devoted to travel, golf and pets (yes, pets), the weather.com Web site also has interactive features like blogs and user-submitted videos — as well as consumer-information sections that give users tips on how to prepare for a severe storm, or how to reduce a carbon footprint.

IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at www.irejn.org.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Marrying Green


Planning a wedding or other special event? Think green! The Discovery Channel website offers tips for hosting a green wedding. To buy a "green" (sustainable) wedding gown like the one pictured, visit this website.

IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at www.irejn.org.

Recycling Water

An article in the New York Times discusses a new movement designed to conserve water.
LAURA ALLEN’S modest gray house in the Oakland flatlands would give a building inspector nightmares. Jerry-built pipes protrude at odd angles from the back and sides of the nearly century-old house, running into a cascading series of bathtubs filled with gravel and cattails. White PVC pipe, buckets, milk crates and hoses are strewn about the lot. Inside, there is mysterious — and illegal — plumbing in every room.
Ms. Allen, 30, is one of the Greywater Guerrillas, a team focused on promoting and installing clandestine plumbing systems that recycle gray water — the effluent of sinks, showers and washing machines — to flush toilets or irrigate gardens.
To her, this house is as much an emblem of her belief system as a home. Although gray water use is legal in California, systems that conform to the state’s complicated code tend to be very expensive, and Ms. Allen and her fellow guerrilla, Cleo Woelfle-Erskine, are out to persuade the world that water recycling can be a simple and affordable option, as well as being a morally essential one.
They are part of a larger movement centered in the West — especially in arid regions like Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California — that includes both groups that operate within the law and ones that skirt it. The goal is the reuse of home gray water as a way to live within the region’s ecological means. Using their own experience and contributions from others, they have just published a do-it-yourself guide to gray water systems that is also a manifesto for the movement, “Dam Nation: Dispatches From the Water Underground.”

IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at www.irejn.org.

Friday, June 1, 2007

President Bush Proposes Greenhouse Gas Limits

According to the Chicago Tribune,
President Bush, who has long refused to commit the United States to specific limits on pollutants contributing to global warming, took a new turn Thursday in proposing that the U.S. and other leading nations by the end of next year set "a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases."
That is what the president will recommend to a summit of the Group of Eight major industrial nations in Germany next week, along with appeals to match the U.S. in dramatically increasing funding to fight AIDS in Africa and promoting freer international trade.
But with its lack of specifics, the president's plan for addressing climate change falls far short of what the other world leaders hope to deliver at the G-8 summit, set in a serene Baltic Sea resort in Heiligendamm, especially German Chancellor Angela Merkel, an ardent advocate for averting global warming.
At the same time, European wariness of U.S. military involvement in Iraq-along with Russian concerns about a U.S. buildup of missile defenses in Eastern Europe-could contribute to an environment in which the American president, nearing the end of his second term, will have difficulty mustering support for his initiatives, U.S. and European analysts say.

IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at www.irejn.org.