Friday, February 29, 2008

Photovoltaics Cut Emissions

Even though making photovoltaic solar cells has a negative impact on the environment, over the lifecycle of the solar cells they more than make up for that impact, according to this post in DailyKos (see excerpt below):
The estimated energy payback time (EPBT) for PV ranges from 6 years to 1.1 years, depending upon the type of PV, the insolation, and the installation. PV panels are usually rated to have a lifetime of 25 to 30 years. Now you know what to say when anybody questions whether PV's produce more energy than it takes to make them.

Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 25 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Talking with Ed

Ed Begley Jr., that is, actor, environmentalist, and star of the HGTV show "Living with Ed." The New York Times has a video of an interview with Ed Begley Jr. on its Dot Earth blog. Check it out here.
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 25 states and Greater Washington, D.C.
Find a link to your local chapter at
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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Obama, Clinton Tops on Environment

The two remaining Democratic presidential contenders have a stronger voting record on the environment than GOP candidate John McCain, according to this article from Reuters (excerpt below.)
WASHINGTON, Feb 21 (Reuters) - All three top U.S. presidential contenders tout their environmental credentials, but Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton cast far more "green" votes in Congress than John McCain, a conservation group reported on Thursday.Sen. McCain of Arizona, the likely Republican nominee, rated a zero out of 100 for his votes on environmental issues last year, the League of Conservation Voters said in the group's national environmental scorecard.Over the course of his Senate career, his score was a 24 percent, compared to lifetime scores of 87 percent for Clinton and 86 percent for Obama, both Democrats.The Democratic candidates scored lower in 2007, with Sen. Clinton of New York scoring 73 percent for her votes and Sen. Obama of Illinois getting 67 percent, the report found.McCain has sponsored legislation to combat climate change, and is described on his campaign Web site,, as having a "record of common sense stewardship" of the environment.However, he missed all 15 environmental votes for 2007 that were tallied in the report, including a vote on repealing billions of dollars in tax breaks for big oil companies, a measure that failed by one vote, the report said.By contrast, Obama and Clinton each missed four of the 15 key votes on the environment last year, and both were on hand to vote for a version of an energy bill that would have repealed the oil companies' tax breaks."TURNING POINT"Missing Capitol Hill votes is an occupational hazard of presidential candidates on the campaign trail, the report's authors noted.The environment has rarely been seen as a pivotal election issue in the United States, but that may be changing, said Gene Karpinski, the league's president.Pointing to results in congressional elections in 2006, Karpinski said independent voters moved in significant numbers to vote for Democrats, and "by far the single biggest reason was the issue of energy policy," which is closely linked to environmental policy."Clinton and Obama talk about global warming policy every day," Karpinski said at a briefing. "They've made this issue a priority because they know that's what voters want to hear."The report noted an apparent shift along with the change from Republican to Democratic leadership after the 2006 elections."2007 may well be remembered as a turning point for the environment, and especially for clean energy and global warming," the report's overview said.
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 25 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at discounts on energy saving products at

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

2008 Eco-Justice Earth Day Resources

The National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Program has released its 2008 Earth Day Sunday resource.
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 25 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at discounts on energy saving products at

Moms for the Earth

The New York Times featured the EcoMom Alliance over the weekend. Read an excerpt of the story here:
Move over, Tupperware. The EcoMom party has arrived, with its ever-expanding “to do” list that includes preparing waste-free school lunches; lobbying for green building codes; transforming oneself into a “locovore,” eating locally grown food; and remembering not to idle the car when picking up children from school (if one must drive). Here, the small talk is about the volatile compounds emitted by dry-erase markers at school.
Perhaps not since the days of “dishpan hands” has the household been so all-consuming. But instead of gleaming floors and sparkling dishes, the obsession is on installing compact fluorescent light bulbs, buying in bulk and using “smart” power strips that shut off electricity to the espresso machine, microwave, X-Box, VCR, coffee grinder, television and laptop when not in use.
“It’s like eating too many brownies one day and then jogging extra the next,” said Kimberly Danek Pinkson, 38, the founder of the EcoMom Alliance, speaking to the group of efforts to curb eco-guilt through carbon offsets for air travel.
Part “Hints from Heloise” and part political self-help group, the alliance, which Ms. Pinkson says has 9,000 members across the country, joins a growing subculture dedicated to the “green mom,” with blogs and Web sites like and Web-based organizations like the Center for a New American Dream in Takoma Park, Md., advocate reducing consumption and offer a registry that helps brides “celebrate the less-material wedding of your dreams.”
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 25 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at discounts on energy saving products at

Gas from Gas?

Will the environmental and energy crises be solved by turning greenhouse gases into fuel? That's what two scientists at Los Alamos National Lab are claiming, according to this article in the New York Times. (See excerpt below):
The scientists, F. Jeffrey Martin and William L. Kubic Jr., are proposing a concept, which they have patriotically named Green Freedom, for removing carbon dioxide from the air and turning it back into gasoline.
The idea is simple. Air would be blown over a liquid solution of
potassium carbonate, which would absorb the carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide would then be extracted and subjected to chemical reactions that would turn it into fuel: methanol, gasoline or jet fuel.
This process could transform carbon dioxide from an unwanted, climate-changing pollutant into a vast resource for renewable fuels. The closed cycle — equal amounts of carbon dioxide emitted and removed — would mean that cars, trucks and airplanes using the synthetic fuels would no longer be contributing to global warming.
Although they have not yet built a synthetic fuel factory, or even a small prototype, the scientists say it is all based on existing technology.
“Everything in the concept has been built, is operating or has a close cousin that is operating,” Dr. Martin said.
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 25 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at discounts on energy saving products at

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Global Warming Threatens Penguins

The stars of "March of the Penguins" are endangered by global warming, according to this article in Time Magazine (see excerpt below):
King penguins are supposed to be a wildlife success story. The flightless Antarctic bird — the second-biggest penguin after its movie-star emperor cousin — was hunted into near-extinction by sailors in the 19th century, who used their fat as cooking oil. When the slaughter ended — penguin fat no longer being the preferred way to simmer your cruise dinner — the penguin bounced back, and today numbers about 2 million. This is a healthy, robust species that sits near the top of the complex Antarctic food web.
They may not stay that way much longer. A new report by French scientists in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences finds that king penguins could be wiped out over the coming decades due to global warming. Led by Yvon Le Maho, a physiologist at French National Center for Scientific Research, the team of researchers followed 456 adult birds with radio transponders implanted beneath their skin. Over an eight-year period, the researchers correlated survival rate to changes in sea surface temperatures, and found that in warm years, penguin chicks were less likely to survive the lean months of winter, because there wasn't sufficient fish to feed them. (Warmer temperatures seem to lower fish populations in the Southern Ocean, off Antarctica.) Adult survival rates dropped as well in warmer years. Ultimately, the scientists report that a 0.47 degree F increase in the temperature of the Southern Ocean — considerably below current forecasts for the next several decades — would reduce penguin numbers by 9%, enough to touch off a population collapse. "Our findings suggest that king penguin populations are at heavy extinction risk under the current global warming predictions," the study's authors wrote.
That's bad news for the penguins, and worse news for the rest of Antarctic wildlife. Sitting near the top of the food chain, the king penguins are useful markers for the health of the rest of the Antarctic ecosystem. If global warming means they're not getting enough food, the conditions below the penguins could be even worse. Temperature rise due to climate change is occurring quicker at the poles than the rest of the planet — on the Antarctic Peninsula, temperatures have risen five times faster than the global average over the past 50 years. Even if we can manage to slow the growth in carbon emissions, the poles will likely continue to warm. Though the species that have evolved to survive in harsh Antarctic conditions are necessarily tough, they're also delicate. They're built for the snow and ice — change those conditions, and you take away their habitat and their food supply. Extinction comes next, and nothing can stop it.
The situation is no better in the Arctic north, where studies predict that polar bear populations will rapidly shrink over the coming decades, thanks again to warming. Environmentalists are pressing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to declare the polar bear threatened, which would make it the first species to be recognized as endangered specifically because of climate change. The government recently failed to meet a self-imposed deadline to make the decision by Feb. 9, and the fate of the polar bear remains unclear. But if we fail to slow down the rate of warming, the polar regions as we know them will no longer exist — and possibly, neither will many of the species who live there now.
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 25 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at discounts on energy saving products at

Religious Iowans Reduce Their Carbon Footprints

The Eastern Iowa Gazette has an article about the Iowa Interfaith Power and Light's Cool Congregations program, a program that helps individuals who belong to religious congregations reduce their carbon footprint. Check out the article below:
Corridor congregations get serious about going green
By Molly Rossiter
Within most faiths is a call to members to be good stewards of the Earth. So calling on congregations to "go green" makes sense, say area coordinators of a movement encouraging faith groups to become more environmentally aware."Every faith tradition has an ethic that calls us to care for creation," said Sarah Webb, who, with two other "church moms," started two years ago Cool Congregations, a project aimed at teaching church communities how to be better caretakers of the Earth. "It's something we've neglected over the last millennium, so we're looking to our own Scripture for inspiration."Congregations across the country have noted global warming, climate change and Earth stewardship for decades, but in just the past few years have concerted efforts to make a difference started to occur. When Webb and her home congregation at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Cedar Falls started turning into a "green congregation'' less than two years ago, the church became a leader in Iowa. Now Webb, 49, and other Cool Congregations coordinators hold workshops across the state, teaching participants how to determine their carbon footprint — the total amount of greenhouse gases produced, usually measured in tons of carbon dioxide — and how to improve it. At a workshop in Iowa City last week, Webb said, 54 people representing 15 congregations planned to make a difference. "They have decided to form a network among themselves to keep it going," she said.Jamie McCoy, 47, has taken an active role in getting his congregation at Zion Lutheran Church, 310 N. Johnson St. in Iowa City, more involved. Zion sponsored the Cool Congregations workshop on Jan. 26."The only way we're going to have any action taken on climate change is from a grass-roots effort," McCoy said. "Our government just really isn't that interested."As Christians we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves," he said. "Future generations and climate-vulnerable people around the world are also our neighbors. The Earth itself is also a sacred place entrusted to us by God."Webb said many successful efforts toward social change — for example, the abolition of slavery, women's suffrage and, more recently, the saving of the Endangered Species Act — were strongly supported by faith communities. What many workshop participants find especially interesting, she said, is how little it takes to make a big difference."My friend Kate changed over 75 percent of the light bulbs in her home to compact fluorescent bulbs and was able to reduce her carbon emissions by 10 percent," Webb said. "Her initial investment was about $200 for the light bulbs, but she's saved that and more every year."Washing two loads of laundry in cold water rather than warm or hot each week can reduce carbon emissions by 500 pounds per year, Webb said, and adjusting the thermostat down 2 degrees in winter and up 2 degrees in summer can save another 500 pounds."There are a lot of inexpensive things you can do that make a big difference," she said.Mark Kresowik, 23, of Des Moines, is interim director of Iowa Interfaith Power and Light, which helps coordinate green efforts in churches across the state. He said the movement for congregations to become more ecologically minded is not new, nor is it focused in Iowa or the Midwest. There are Interfaith Power and Light groups in 25 states, he said, "and we're not the only group out there.""I think part of it is that churches truly recognize the challenge that we are facing in terms of our moral obligations to take care of God's creation, the Earth," Kresowik said. "Certainly with issues like global warming in particular, we are not doing our part." Steve Mitchell might disagree, at least from his church's perspective. Mitchell, 58, is a congregational financial officer at Community of Christ Church, 1500 Blairs Ferry Rd. in Hiawatha, and also serves as an ex officio member on the building and grounds committee. He said church leaders there started going green in 1992, when they started switching incandescent light bulbs over to compact fluorescent.In addition, windows in the church's two largest rooms, the sanctuary and family life center, have been replaced with thermal insulated windows. Because the windows face south, they have a mirror finish to reflect the sun in summer. "We also do a lot of recycling. We don't use Styrofoam, and we use supplies that are environmentally friendly," he said. The church's old lawn mower and snow blower have been replaced with energy-efficient four-cylinder models, and the grounds of the church have been landscaped to include trees and shrubs "to replace as much green as we can.""It's not a new concept, and it's nothing we've just started," he said. Contact the writer: (319) 398-8288 or
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 25 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at discounts on energy saving products at

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Greening the Presidential Campaign

Environmental issues came up on the presidential campaign today, according to this AP article:
JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) — Democrat Barack Obama said Wednesday that as president he would spend $210 billion to create jobs in construction and environmental industries, as he tried to win over economically struggling voters.
Obama's investment would be over 10 years as part of two programs. The larger is $150 billion to create 5 million so-called "green collar" jobs to develop more environmentally friendly energy sources.
Sixty-billion dollars would go to a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank to rebuild highways, bridges, airports and other public projects. Obama estimated that could generate nearly 2 million jobs, many of them in the construction industry that's been hit by the housing crisis.
Obama explained that the money for his proposals will come from ending the Iraq war, cutting tax breaks for corporations, taxing carbon pollution and raising taxes on high-income earners.
Neera Tanden, Hillary Rodham Clinton's policy director, said Obama was offering ideas Clinton proposed months ago. "Voters may ask themselves that if Senator Obama cannot produce his own ideas on the campaign trail, how will he solve new problems as president?" Tanden said in a memo e-mailed to reporters.
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 25 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at discounts on energy saving products at

Treehugger on Big Think

Graham Hill, founder of online environmental hub Treehugger, has a brief video on the new opinion site Big Think. Here's what Big Think has to say about him:
Hill is the founder of TreeHugger, an online hub for news and information related to environmental sustainability. Hailed as a “green CNN,” TreeHugger hosts a constantly updated blog, newsletters, video and radio segments and a user-generated Graham site, Hugg. In the three years since its inception, TreeHugger has become one of the most high-profile and highly-trafficked sites on the internet.
Recently, Hill his been hard at work developing
Planet Green with Discovery Communications. Hill has also worked in a variety of industries prior to starting TreeHugger, including fashion, web-development, and plant-based air filters. He is also a designer, and his New York souvenir coffee mug is sold in over 150 stores. Hill was educated at Carleton University in Ottawa and Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design in Vancouver.

Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 25 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at
Find discounts on energy saving products at

By the time I get to Phoenix, there may be no water

Lake Mead, water source for Phoenix and Las Vegas, could run out of water soon, according to this story in the New York Times (see excerpt below):
Lake Mead, the vast reservoir for the Colorado River water that sustains the fast-growing cities of Phoenix and Las Vegas, could lose water faster than previously thought and run dry within 13 years, according to a new study by scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Lake Mead, which serves as a reservoir for the Colorado River and sustains fast-growing cities in the Southwest, has a 50 percent chance of becoming unusable by 2021, researchers say.
The lake, located in
Nevada and Arizona, has a 50 percent chance of becoming unusable by 2021, the scientists say, if the demand for water remains unchanged and if human-induced climate change follows climate scientists’ moderate forecasts, resulting in a reduction in average river flows.
Demand for Colorado River water already slightly exceeds the average annual supply when high levels of evaporation are taken into account, the researchers, Tim P. Barnett and David W. Pierce, point out. Despite an abundant snowfall in Colorado this year, scientists project that snowpacks and their runoffs will continue to dwindle. If they do, the system for delivering water across the Southwest would become increasingly unstable.
“We were really sort of stunned,” Professor Barnett said in an interview. “We didn’t expect such a big problem basically right on our front doorstep. We thought there’d be more time.” He added, “You think of what the implications are, and it’s pretty scary.”
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 25 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at
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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Organic Flowers for Valentine's Day

The Nature Conservancy is offering organic flowers. There is still time to order by Valentine's Day.
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 25 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at
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Friday, February 8, 2008

Disposing of broken CFLs

Every once in a while it happens: a compact fluorescent bulb breaks in the home. Since the bulb contains a small amount of mercury, here is how to handle the break, according to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection:
If a CFL bulb breaks, open a window and leave the room for at least 15 minutes. Wear disposable gloves and pick up the broken pieces. Take a damp cloth and wipe and clean the area. Use duct tape to pat the area to remove any other small pieces.Place the broken pieces, cloth, disposable gloves and tape in a sealed bag and dispose. DO NOT VACUUM. Remember to recycled burned out bulbs in hazardous waste collections to keep mercury out of the environment and the landfills. HG in a circle design indicates mercury. Also remember that coal plants release mercury and using CFLs, if properly disposed of, means less mercury since less energy is used.
Many Thanks to Judi Friedman of PACE for sending this item.

Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 25 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at discounts on energy saving products at

McCain and Climate Change

In an opinion piece in Salon, Joseph Romm argues that John McCain is not the best choice of a president to tackle climate change, even though he has been a leader on the issue in the Senate. Here is an excerpt below:
Sen. John McCain is the only GOP candidate who believes in the science of global warming and who has proposed specific legislation that mandates a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, especially carbon dioxide. That said, a President McCain would not be the climate leader that America and the world requires.
As increasingly desperate climate scientists have been
telling us, the effects of global warming are occurring faster than anyone had thought possible.
The next president must make reducing GHG emissions a central focus of his or her administration if we want to avoid the worst impacts of global warming: catastrophic sea level rise, widespread drought and desertification, and loss of up to 70 percent of all species.
While McCain may understand the scale of the climate problem, he does not appear to understand the scale of the solution. He understands the country needs to put in place a mandatory cap on GHG emissions and a trading system to energize American innovation. But in a recent Republican debate, he denied that a cap and trade system is a mandate, even though it would arguably be the most far-reaching government mandate ever legislated.
Moreover, like most conservatives, he doesn't understand or accept the critical role government must play to make that system succeed. Besides initiating a cap-and-trade system, the next president must:
1. Appoint judges who won't gut climate-change efforts.
2. Appoint leaders and staff of key federal agencies who take climate change seriously and believe in the necessary solutions.
3. Embrace an aggressive and broad-based technology deployment strategy to keep the cost of the cap-and-trade system as low as possible.
4. Lead a change in utility regulations to encourage, rather than discourage, energy efficiency and clean energy.
5. Offer strong public advocacy to reverse the years of muzzling and misinformation of the Bush administration.
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 25 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at
Find discounts on energy saving products at

Bad News about Biofuel

Two studies published in the journal Science warn that replacing petroleum-based fuel with biofuels could actually accelerate climate change, according to an article in the Las Angeles Times (see excerpt below):
The rush to grow biofuel crops -- widely embraced as part of the solution to global warming -- is actually increasing greenhouse gas emissions rather than reducing them, according to two studies published Thursday in the journal Science.One analysis found that clearing forests and grasslands to grow the crops releases vast amounts of carbon into the air -- far more than the carbon spared from the atmosphere by burning biofuels instead of gasoline."We're rushing into biofuels, and we need to be very careful," said Jason Hill, an economist and ecologist at the University of Minnesota who co-authored the study. "It's a little frightening to think that something this well intentioned might be very damaging."Even converting existing farmland from food to biofuel crops increases greenhouse gas emissions as food production is shifted to other parts of the world, resulting in the destruction of more forests and grasslands to make way for farmland, the second study found.The analysis calculated that a U.S. cornfield devoted to producing ethanol would have to be farmed for 167 years before it would begin to achieve a net reduction in emissions."Any biofuel that uses productive land is going to create more greenhouse gas emissions than it saves," said Timothy Searchinger, a researcher at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and the study's lead author.The studies prompted 10 prominent ecologists and environmental biologists to write to President Bush and congressional leaders Thursday, urging new policy "that ensures biofuels are not produced on productive forests, grassland or cropland." Since 2000, annual U.S. production of corn-based ethanol has jumped from 1.6 billion gallons to 6.5 billion gallons -- supplying about 5% of the nation's fuel for transportation, according to the Renewable Fuels Assn., an industry lobbying group.Federal legislation passed last year calls for production of ethanol to more than double over the next decade. In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions relies heavily on biofuels.Food crops such as corn, palm oil, sugar cane and soybeans have so far been the main source of biofuels because they are already grown in abundance and are relatively easy to convert.The fuels are environmentally attractive because, unlike fossil fuels, they are theoretically carbon-neutral. Carbon is released when the fuel is burned, but a similar amount is absorbed from the atmosphere as the crops grow.Calculating the actual increase or decrease in carbon emissions has been difficult because myriad factors are involved, such as the energy used to produce the fuels and the varying amounts of carbon released through cultivation.The biggest source of emissions, by far, comes from land-use changes associated with biofuels, the new studies showed.
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 25 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at
Find discounts on energy saving products at

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Greening Cities Big Challenge

That's the word in this article from the New York Times (see excerpt below):
“We have been doing things like filling potholes and reducing crime since cities began,” said David N. Cicilline, the mayor of Providence, R.I., but energy efficiency requires “a whole new infrastructure to evaluate and measure.”
When Providence officials pushed for new police cars with four cylinders instead of six, to save gasoline, there was pushback — unsuccessful — from police officers who preferred more powerful engines to pursue speeders or criminals. Cleveland’s plans to retrofit a local hot-water plant, produce new electricity and save tons of greenhouse gas emissions, molder in a file. It would cost $200 million, and there is no money — the tax base, left ragged by the loss of population and industry over the last two decades, has been hit hard again by the subprime mortgage crisis.
Nearly 1,200 miles away, in Austin, Tex., — a city that ranks high on any list of green strivers — some residents want to help but do not feel they can afford it. DeVonna Garcia’s family won an award for its beautiful outdoor display of Christmas lights — but she stayed with her old-fashioned incandescent bulbs, hearing that a friend paid $600 for energy-efficient lights.
Ann Hancock, the executive director of the Climate Protection Campaign, a nonprofit based in Sonoma County, a wine-growing area north of San Francisco, said that the county and its nine municipalities signed climate-protection agreements with enthusiasm more than five years ago, committing to bringing down greenhouse-gas emissions. Then they tried to figure out how.
“It’s really hard,” Ms. Hancock said. “It’s like the dark night of the soul.” All the big items in the inventory of emissions — from tailpipes, from the energy needed to supply drinking water and treat waste water, from heating and cooling buildings — are the product of residents’ and businesses’ individual decisions about how and where to live and drive and shop.

Monday, February 4, 2008

What, Me Worry? Mad Magazine Tackles Global Warming

Mad Magazine, the rag that taught generations of Americans how to be wiseacres, is taking on global warming in its next issue, with the help of ten pulitzer prize-winning political cartoonists, according to an article in the New York Times (excerpt below.)
The “usual gang of idiots,” as the editorial staff of Mad magazine lovingly describes itself, produces cultural and political parody every month. For the next issue, however, the gang has recruited some very special help.
“Why George W. Bush Is in Favor of Global Warming,” a two-page spread that the magazine calls an exposé, has been illustrated by 10 Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonists. They try to offer reasons why environmental apocalypse might be a good thing for President Bush, with observations like, “His worries about how future generations will remember his presidency won’t matter if there are no future generations.”
Other potential upsides are that Iraq could literally be melted off the earth, and rising oceans could submerge lefty strongholds like New York, Boston and San Francisco.
The artists include Mike Peters, who won the Pulitzer in 1981 for his work in The Dayton Daily News in Ohio, and Matt Davies, who won in 2004 for The Journal News of White Plains.
John Ficarra, the editor of Mad, and Sam Viviano, the art director, assembled the team. Mr. Ficarra, who had the idea to find 10 Pulitzer winners, described himself as the Captain Kirk of the operation, and Mr. Viviano, who recruited the cartoonists, as Sulu. “You even said, ‘Make it so,’ ” Mr. Viviano said to Mr. Ficarra during a joint telephone interview.
They said that the artists were all happy to participate. “Everybody, for the most part, who works in humor today has some kind of influence from Mad,” Mr. Viviano said.
“And they still managed to be successful,” Mr. Ficarra added.
A writer for the magazine, Jacob Lambert, came up with the reasons why President Bush might like global warming, and the cartoonists took it from there. Some of them followed the editors’ guidance faithfully, others submitted variations.
Mad, of course, has a history of lampooning politicians, particularly embattled Republicans. In recalling favorites, Mr. Ficarra and Mr. Viviano were quick to mention a parody of the movie poster for “The Sting,” which substituted
Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew for Paul Newman and Robert Redford; instead of lighting cigars with currency, the politicians lighted subpoenas. A more recent poster was “Pirates of the Constitution,” which depicted President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over the tag line, “Now subverting a government near you!”
Mad, first published in 1952, says that the average age of its readership is 26, a statistic that Mr. Ficarra explains this way: “Median age is 19. Mental age is 9. Mental age of the editorial staff dips down a little lower, around 3.”
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 25 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at
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Baby Products that Could Harm Babies

Another day, another scary story about supposedly safe products that might cause real harm. This time it's phthalates, found in many ordinary products including cosmetics, toys, vinyl flooring and medical supplies. They are used to stabilize fragrances and make plastics flexible. They may also cause hormonal problems in babies, it turns out, according to this AP story (see excerpt below):
In the study, they were found in elevated levels in the urine of babies who'd been recently shampooed, powdered or lotioned with baby products.
Phthalates (pronounced thowl-ates) are under attack by some environmental advocacy groups, but experts are uncertain what dangers, if any, they might pose. The federal government doesn't limit their use, although California and some countries have restricted their use.
Animal studies have suggested that phthalates can cause reproductive birth defects and some activists believe they may cause reproductive problems in boys and early puberty in girls.
Rigorous scientific evidence in human studies is lacking. The current study offers no direct evidence that products the infants used contained phthalates, and no evidence that the chemicals in the babies' urine caused any harm. Still, the results worried environmental groups that support restrictions on these chemicals.
"There is an obvious need for laws that force the beauty industry to clean up its act," said Stacy Malkan of Health Care Without Harm.
The study's lead author, Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana, a University of Washington pediatrician, said, "The bottom line is that these chemicals likely do exist in products that we're commonly using on our children and they potentially could cause health effects."
Babies don't usually need special lotions and powders, and water alone or shampoo in very small amounts is generally enough to clean infant hair, Sathyanarayana said.
Concerned parents can seek products labeled "phthalate-free," or check labels for common phthalates, including DEP and DEHP.
But the chemicals often don't appear on product labels. That's because retail products aren't required to list individual ingredients of fragrances, which are a common phthalate source.
The Food and Drug Administration "has no compelling evidence that phthalates pose a safety risk when used in cosmetics," spokeswoman Stephanie Kwisnek said. "Should new data emerge, we will inform the public as well as the industry."
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the health effects in humans are uncertain.
"Although several studies in people have explored possible associations with developmental and reproductive outcomes (semen quality, genital development in boys, shortened pregnancy, and premature breast development in young girls), more research is needed," a 2005 CDC report said.
The new study, which appears in February's issue of the journal Pediatrics, involved 163 babies. Most were white, ages 2 to 28 months and living in California, Minnesota and Missouri.
The researchers measured levels of several phthalates in urine from diapers. They also asked the mothers about use in the previous 24 hours of baby products including lotions, powders, diaper creams and baby wipes.
All urine samples had detectable levels of at least one phthalate, and most had levels of several more. The highest levels were linked with shampoos, lotions and powders, and were most prevalent in babies younger than 8 months.
John Bailey, chief scientist at the Personal Care Products Council, questioned the methods and said the phthalates could have come from diapers, lab materials or other sources.
"Unfortunately, the researchers of this study did not test baby care products for the presence of phthalates or control for other possible routes of exposure," Bailey said.
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 25 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at
Find discounts on energy saving products at

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Ireland Without Plastic Bags

Plastic shopping bags have been subject to a 33-cent tax in Ireland since 2002. An article in the New York Times offers an idea of what it might be like if similar legislation passes in your corner of the world (see excerpt below):
In 2002, Ireland passed a tax on plastic bags; customers who want them must now pay 33 cents per bag at the register. There was an advertising awareness campaign. And then something happened that was bigger than the sum of these parts.
Within weeks, plastic bag use dropped 94 percent. Within a year, nearly everyone had bought reusable cloth bags, keeping them in offices and in the backs of cars. Plastic bags were not outlawed, but carrying them became socially unacceptable — on a par with wearing a fur coat or not cleaning up after one’s dog.
“When my roommate brings one in the flat it annoys the hell out of me,” said Edel Egan, a photographer, carrying groceries last week in a red backpack.
Drowning in a sea of plastic bags, countries from China to Australia, cities from San Francisco to New York have in the past year adopted a flurry of laws and regulations to address the problem, so far with mixed success. The New York City Council, for example, in the face of stiff resistance from business interests, passed a measure requiring only that stores that hand out plastic bags take them back for recycling.
But in the parking lot of a Superquinn Market, Ireland’s largest grocery chain, it is clear that the country is well into the post-plastic-bag era. “I used to get half a dozen with every shop. Now I’d never ever buy one,” said Cathal McKeown, 40, a civil servant carrying two large black cloth bags bearing the bright green Superquinn motto. “If I forgot these, I’d just take the cart of groceries and put them loose in the boot of the car, rather than buy a bag.”
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 25 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at
Find discounts on energy saving products at

Friday, February 1, 2008

Energy Audit Revealing

An article in the Hartford Courant about the energy audit a home received reveals the value of these audits, which are free to many customers through their utility company. Check out an excerpt below:
The last time I got an "F" was on an algebra test in ninth grade.So when my beloved home built in 1915 failed its energy-efficiency test, I took it personally.I had asked Isaac Torres, a home-energy specialist with the Connecticut Home Energy Solutions program, to "grade" my family's 2,000-square-foot house after he tested it for drafts and leaks.
That's when I had to face up to the truth — something I already knew deep in my heart when I paid the $500 gas bill every month — that the Arts and Crafts house of my dreams was a sieve.He based the grade on a "blower door" test that measures leakage (or drafts) into a house by the number of air changes per hour that occur inside. The test showed that the heat inside our house was being "swapped" for cold air 1 1/2 times every hour. The target level (reached by very few houses) is 0.35 air swaps per hour. My house was losing four times that much.That made it one of the draftiest Torres had seen in his two years with the Energy Solutions program, which is funded by the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund and administered by Connecticut Light & Power.Even this chilling information didn't sway my love for the house, with its dark oak fireplace mantel, built-in leaded-glass bookcases and French doors that open to a huge sun porch.Torres tried to console me. He said he had seen worse.Eager to find out how to button my house up, I followed Torres and his co-worker Chris Graham for the next five hours as they weatherstripped doors and plugged the crannies, holes and gaps where New England's raw winter air flowed in.They replaced incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. They put a low-flow shower head in our bathroom and an aerator on the kitchen faucet to save water.When the two were done, the test showed their work had reduced the cold air "swap" in the house to 1 time every hour — an improvement, but still three times the target level.The cost of the audit and work: free. It's available to customers of Connecticut Light & Power, Connecticut Natural Gas, Yankee Gas or United Illuminating who heat with natural gas or electricity. (The cost is $300 for homes heated with oil.) Customers actually pay for the Home Energy Solutions program through a 0.211 cents-per-kilowatt-hour surcharge on their electricity bill, said program manager Craig Clark, of CL&P.Clark said the 2-year-old program has grown popular as energy costs have soared. Last year, 17 two-person crews visited 4,400 homes — "from trailers to mansions." Clark advertises the program in gas and electric bill inserts, but only sporadically, to keep the waiting list down. (The wait is about one month at this point.)I signed up after seeing a flier that said the program could help lower energy costs in just one visit.Clark said each crew visits two houses a day. Besides working on houses like mine that use gas- or oil-generated radiant heat, the crews seal leaks in houses with duct systems. For the energy companies, each dollar spent on saving energy is more cost-effective than buying fuel to make electricity, Clark said, and burning less fuel causes less pollution.He said efficient lighting and weatherization are the primary improvements needed by most homes the program audits.This surprised me. I had always figured the reason my family wore coats around the house in the winter and issued wool blankets to visitors was because the house didn't have enough insulation.When we moved into the house seven years ago, we replaced 21 windows on the second and third floors to save on energy costs. Clark told me our money would have been better spent on insulation — windows account for only a small percentage of energy loss in a house.
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 25 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at discounts on energy saving products at