Archive for May, 2008

Yes, there is such a thing — running right now at the Eden Project in the UK.

It showcases “the pioneers who are making breakthroughs in aerodynamics, new fuels, engines and ultra-light materials.”

Of course you don’t have to rely on technology to make your drive greener, the Independent reminds us. As writer Sean O’Grady explains in his review of the Sexy Green Car Show, while you might knock 10 per cent off your fuel bill with a greener car, you can cut another 25 per cent simply by driving more sensibly.

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– let your cows free!

Another reason to drink organic milk: A British report finds that “milk from cows which graze outside on grass and clover contains more antioxidants and vitamins than that from conventional dairy farms,” the UK Independent tell us today.

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The ‘Victory Garden’ idea is getting a lot of play these days.  We’ve already noticed appeals for us to ‘eat-like-there’s-a-war-on.’

Now the UK Independent is excited by the same idea — hooking its version of the story on a new exhibit, ‘Dig for Victory: War on Waste,‘ at the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms.

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Here’s just a tiny example of what’s likely to be a growing phenomenon — increased pressure to extract oil from much-loved, environmentally sensitive areas all over the world.

It’s not just vast wildernesses like ANWR that will be threatened as oil prices soar.

As this plan to drill in the UK shows, we can expect that pressure to occur on the micro-scale also.

What’s at threat in Southern England is just 2.5 acres of woodland. But it’s in an area likely to soon be designated as a national park. And in a country where just about every square mile of land has been managed for millennia, any woodland has the status of national treasure.

How many such places will we be prepared to destroy in the name of extracting the last few usable barrels of oil left to us? How, too, can we create a proper accounting structure for that extraction, so that we factor the cost of the amenity destroyed (not to mention its history, ecology, intrinsic beauty etc.)  against the income derived from the small amount of petroleum that it will yield?

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. . . and we’re clearly to blame.

So says a new report by the WWF, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Global Footprint Network. The finds, the Independent reports today, that land species have declined by 25 per cent, marine life by 28 per cent, and freshwater species by 29 per cent.

“You’d have to go back to the extinction of the dinosaurs to see a decline as rapid as this,” says Jonathan Loh, the report’s editor.

It’s shocking and saddening reading. Let’s hope it will also help galvanize action on a global level — what’s needed for there to be any hope for the thousands more species threatened by pollution, invasive species, habitat loss and climate change, all but the last of which are unarguably the result of human actions.

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“This year, 39 percent of people with backyards told the Garden Writers Association they planned to grow vegetables,” the Christian Science Monitor tells us.

Recent spikes in gas and food prices this spring are turning many in the USA to home-food production, it seems.

We welcome that, of course. We’ve been excited about the whole ‘eat your lawn’ trend for a while now.

The struggles we’re having with our own EarthQuaker garden (much of the plum tree just collapsed thanks to heat and too many plums), also have us looking forward to the renewed appreciation all this home farming should bring the people who do it professionally.

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It stands to reason that larger people eat more than smaller ones, which means that it takes more agricultural production — a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions — to feed them, too.

Basic physics also tells us that it takes more energy to move larger people around in planes, trains or automobiles. And unless that transport is driven by sustainably-sourced power, it makes sense that the bigger people are, the bigger (on average) are their contributions to transportation-derived climate change.

That thesis is codified in this week’s edition of the medical journal, the Lancet, by a team from the London School Hygiene & Tropical Medicine which finds that global obesity is a contributing factor to global warming.

“The researchers pegged 40 percent of the global population as obese,” reports Reuters. That’s a lot of extra food and fossil fuel being consumed that could be saved if people just had healthier body mass indices.

This statement of the somewhat obvious might have the unfortunate effect of contributing to prejudices against the obese, for whom achieving a healthy weight is often far more than a mere matter of will power.

But it might drive something positive, too, in the shape of further pressure upon us all to ask hard questions about why so many people make the kind of nutritional and lifestyle choices that result in their becoming obese. If this research helps further discredit the US subsidization of ‘junk’ calories that reside in products like high-fructose corn syrup, for example, we might be able to both help slow the warming of our planet and give its human citizens a healthier, and longer, life upon it.

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That’s what the Sierra Club is telling us.  You need sun, still, since the fuel is electricity, derived from a photovoltaic system.   And then there’s the regular maintenance on the car.  But given that plenty of people spend over $45,000 on their cars alone, and if you really do keep your new car for a few decades, that’s not a totally outrageous sum.

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For some reason we here at EarthQuaker have become interested in the idea of ‘green’ deaths recently.

We’ve even been fantasizing about buying our own local redwood forest for a Quaker-focused green burial site, going so far as to investigate US state law on the subject.

But maybe we should be looking at alkaline hydrolysis instead, a method that’s been described as “dissolving bodies in lye and flushing the brownish, syrupy residue down the drain.”

That quote comes from a recent AP story on the subject, which promotes the technique as environmentally friendly and notes that a funeral industry newsletter has been calling it “a truly game-changing technology.”

The process leaves a dry bone residue, not unlike a cremation. But instead of the rest going up in smoke and adding to global warming, it goes into our sewers instead. While not toxic, one has to wonder what large quantities of the lye/flesh mix might do to our sanitary systems — maybe they’d help flush them out!

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– real urban farming

‘Urban farming’ can mean many things.  For some people it amounts to little more than growing herbs on their window sill — admirable, of course, but hardly what you could call a commercial enterprise.

Other urban growers, though, really are farming — in the sense of raising crops in volume that they then sell on to other city dwellers.

Here’s a recent profile of one such farm in Brooklyn, NY.  As journalist Tracie McMillan points out, the result is not only that environment gets beautified, residents gain a new source of fresh produce, and children get to see where their food comes from — people (often with very low incomes) are also making real money from these enterprises.  No wonder that after years of seeing agriculture and urban life as essentially incompatible, many cities are starting to look upon urban farming positively and developing policies to encourage it.

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