April 2010

Louisiana Oil Spill Creeps Onward

This week's environmental news has been all about the oil spill in the Gulf.  An offshore oil rig exploded and sank on… well, on Earth Day, actually.  Never let it be said that the universe can't be really trite sometimes.  The fire was put out fairly quickly, but not before the plume of smoke was visible from satellite imagery.

And then came the oil slick.  Vast and horrible, the slick has been produced from days of the oil rig being un-capped, spewing its oil into the ocean.  (And the Gulf is already in pretty bad shape - one of the world's most significant dead zones exists where the Mississippi dumps its fertilizer runoff into the Gulf.)

Teens Turning Green

One of the worst things we can say about young people today is that they are apathetic—that they just don’t give a damn about their world, or often themselves. I find that this is quite untrue. Not only do young people bring such innovation and freshness to the table—they also usually have a huge sense of hope that simply can’t be undone by anything but age. There are literally thousands of examples for how much young people care about the world and work to change it daily; Teens Turning Green is just one of them.

Every Day is Earth Day

I hate to sound preachy or cliché here, but it’s absolutely true, and I’m pretty tired of this once-a-year lip service to the planet.

You have to start somewhere, sure, but after more than two decades of a single day used for this cause and not nearly as many folks concerned about the home they live on as there should be, it’s high past time to take action.

Take Seafood Off Your Plate

I recently ran across a constellation of articles online about something I've been thinking about for a while now.  Seafood is the only commercial food which is primarily wild caught.  Can you imagine if the beef industry's attention were turned to wild buffalo, or to herds of elk or white tailed deer?  They wouldn't last long out there, would they?  And it would be completely unreasonable to expect the wilderness to sustain our appetite.

And yet, that's pretty much what we're doing with seafood.  Commercial fisheries are collapsing left and right, and each time a domino falls, the effect is felt throughout the entire food chain.  How long before the food chain in the oceans collapses completely?

Let The Dandelions Grow!

I couldn't help but cheer when I read an Op-Ed piece on the New York Times website by a suburban lawn-owner who has thrown in the towel on the fight against weeds.  Robert Wright, who styles himself "The Dandelion King," has decided to campaign in favor of weeds, because if everyone's doing it, then it suddenly becomes a non-problem.

What I like most about Wright's article is that he manages to side step the finger-wagging, chiding tone that usually accompanies any kind of ecologically minded discussion of lawn care.  Although he is open about the risks involved in the chemicals being dumped on lawns to make them "pretty," he takes a more laconic attitude towards pesticides: that they're just too much trouble and expense.

Celebrate Earth Day By Doing The Opposite of Shopping

I don't know if you've noticed, but pretty much every retailer in the world is asking you to buy stuff for Earth Day.  There are sales popping up all over the place, with only the most tenuous links to ecological niceties.  A lot of what I've seen so far has basically been greenwashing - faking the eco cred to make a company look good.

The sad truth is that it's our consumption itself, and not what we specifically consume, which is largely to blame for the fix we're in.  Have you watched "The Story of Stuff" yet?  Because you really should!  

Ten Reasons to Purchase a Water Purifier

Every time I go to the grocery store, I just can’t get over all of the people who continue to purchase cases and cases of bottled water. After all we’ve been told about it, all we know, how can people still fork over money for bottled water? (This is, of course, aside from places where the water is shipped due to lack of clean drinking water, period.) Here are ten reasons to kick the bottled water habit today.

10. Bottled water wastes money. You’ve got to know by now that all of that money you’re spending could be saved exponentially with a simple water purifier. Ours cost less than thirty bucks, and filters are even cheaper. They last for months in our home (a household of four) as well. How much do you spend on bottled water every month? Add it up and calculate the difference.

Have You Checked Your Footprint Lately?

It seems like there are a million "calculate your footprint" quizzes online, and more every day.  The latest is from the Global Footprint Network, which is a fairly upstanding source of global footprint information.  Nevertheless, its footprint calculator manages to get things wrong, just like all the rest.

The problem is that all of these calculators fundamentally assume that you're a "regular person" who isn't doing anything to reduce your footprint at the moment.  Whenever one of these calculators makes the rounds, there are always people protesting that it isn't accurate.  And this always comes down to, "I'm doing things to reduce my footprint, but the calculator doesn't take that into account."

Super Commuting

Tree Hugger has an interesting (and remarkably blame-free) article about super commuting up today.  Extreme commuting is up 95% since 1990, and is defined as commuting for more than an hour and a half round trip (i.e. 45 minutes each way).  

I thought that last bit alone was interesting.  My understanding is that the average American's commute is 30 minutes each way.  It hardly seems fair to define "extreme commuting" as a commute that's only 15 minutes longer!  Granted that's a 50% increase over the average, but it still seems a bit stingy.