It's the Environment, Stupid.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Disaster fatigue

How long will it take for the Indonesian earthquake to fade from the headlines? Long enough to garner enough sympathy dollars to even begin to help with immediate relief efforts? Long enough to get enough support for long term rebuilding?

An area that is still rebuilding after the tsunami of 2004 now faces another challenge in the wake of what might be noted as disaster fatigue. High profile disasters such as the tsunami and New Orleans post-Katrina have perhaps sucked dry the open pockets of concerned citizens across the globe. The earthquake in Pakistan of October 2005, I believe, also suffered from disaster fatigue.

As the frequency of disasters continues to rise, when will the generosity give out? How will we choose which disasters to give money to? The ones with the most devastating pictures on the New York Times front page? The ones that devastate major economic hubs? The ones that affect more white westerners and foreign tourists?

This should be an even greater reason for country and city governments to develop and implement disaster preparedness plans. Foreign aid might be better spent before the fact rather than after the fact - a lesson that could be learned the hard way as we head into what is predicted to be another monster hurricane season, since there's nothing like someone else's disaster to remind us how vulnerable our own areas might be. But how many disasters will it take?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

It takes a polar bear

Forget about the images of a flooded New Orleans, or a computer generated image of Manhattan under water. Forget about the images of smoke stacks and polluted skies. Forget about the images of dry, cracked land making it impossilbe to grow crops.

Enter the polar bear - or rather polar bear hunters. Saturday's NY Times featured polar bear hunting as the latest casualty of global warming. Aging boomers will have little time to live out their fantasies of game hunting in the Arctic because the polar bears may be gone soon - no bears, no hunting. It is an interesting angle on the whole climate change thing - let's reduce carbon emissions in an attempt to curb the effects of global warming to save the polar bear habitat so rich gamers can continue to hunt them.

If only the seal-pup advocates would take on a similar stance. Maybe former Beatle, Paul McCartney's new cause to stop seal culling could also send the message to save the seal habitat - after all, if the whole ecosystem the seals depend on goes away, there will be no seals to fight for.

Can a furry polar bear and a cute seal pup help the global warming cause? It might be more appealing on a magazine cover (Time) than Al Gore's giant face (a-la Wired magazine) - but will it be effective in getting people to act?

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Al Gore Movie

So I just got back from watching An Inconvenient Truth. It's the movie about climate change everyone is talking about - at least I hope everyone is talking about it, everyone outside of my sphere anyway.

It was basically a movie version of Gore's slide show. Not much more than that. But it is a darn good slide show. Only, I didn't learn anything new. I've seen the graphs with the carbon and temperature levels over time, I've seen the Larsen B ice shelf fall before, ocean currents, greenland ice melt, permafrost thaw, species extinction - I was even in Mumbai for the record rainfall in July 2005 that Gore highlighted in his presentation. But if you haven't seen this stuff before, or haven't yet connected the dots in the big picture, it is eye opening.

I had heard some negative things about the film prior to going in - but overall I thought it was great. My major complaint about it is that I don't know if it's going to get out to the right people. It's kind of like when Michael Moore's Farenheit 9-11 came out, and all of the Bush haters went to see it, and all of the Bush lovers said it was crap but never saw it, and then there were others who went to see it because of the hype. I think this will be somewhat of the same thing.

I think everyone should see the movie - especially those who aren't 'in the know'. And when you go, make sure you stay for the credits (which, among other things, tells you to visit, the film's website that includes some cheezy, dramatic music.)

Carbon is our friend

If you haven't watched the ads put out by the Competitive Enterprise Institute - you should. Do it now. It took me a good week or so to finally click on the ads and watch them. I read about them on lots o blogs, but didn't get around to seeing them for myself until just the other day.

They are entertaining, captivating, and downright scary - they're essentially negative campaign ads, geared to convince the public that the candidate (in this case, global warming/climate change and all those who believe in it) is a sham.

Of course I suppose I am a bit bias, since I'm one of those global warming/climate change believers. These ads will fuel the fire of the few remaining skeptics out there and perhaps gain a few fence-sitters, who will join the ranks in cult-like fashion (I'm envisioning here much the same kind of followers as those of far-right AM radio hosts.)

I'd like to think these ads won't undo the progression of acceptance that the climate change science has been receiving. But I'd also like to think negative campaign attack ads don't work... in any case, the ads will at least foster debate and maybe even get a few people to see the Al Gore movie, that will foster even more debate (and so on...)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Consume wisely

A friend of mine forwarded me an article from MSN yesterday, "The 10 Easiest Ways to Green Your Home." It leads off with, "Being earth-friendly doesn't require going solar or growing all your own food. There are plenty of easy ways to make a big difference," then it goes on to say, "It may be a cliché, but the best way to be Earth-friendly is to cut down on what you consume and recycle whenever you can."

This is just the WRONG message. Yes people (Americans) should consume less, but they (as if I'm not one of them) aren't going to. Instead the message that needs to be sent is consume responsibly.

The 10 ways they list actually include several responsible actions that don't involve sacrifice, but rather a wise buying choice: buy energy star appliances (refrigerators, furnaces), buy non-toxic cleaning products and paints, buy energy efficient light bulbs, buy recycled paper, buy bamboo flooring - buy, buy, buy doesn't translate to consuming less, just consuming differently.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Poor people don't like garbage either

Poor people, slum dwellers, garbage pickers, scavengers - whatever name you want to give them - don't like garbage either. So why are they associated as being dirty people?

They have limited resources and are often relegated to living in "undesireable" areas. Near train tracks, hillsides, or garbage dumps. Living near garbage and producing it are not the same thing. In fact, rich people generate a far greater amount of waste than poor people - but rich people have the ability to move away from it.

In "The Ten and a Half Myths that May Distort the Urban Policies of Governments and International Agencies" by David Satterthwaite, myth number 9 is that poverty is a major cause of environmental degradation.

"[L]ow-income groups generate much less [waste] per person than middle and upper income groups and the urban poor generally have an ecologically positive role as they are the main reclaimers, re-users and recyclers of wastes from industries, workshops and wealthier households. It is likely to be middle and upper income groups who consume most of the goods whose fabrication generates most toxic or otherwise hazardous wastes or persistent chemicals whose rising concentration within the environment has worrying ecological and health implications."

I bring this up because there was an article in yesterday's NY Times about garbage pickers in Manila, "Eking Out a Living, of Sorts, From a Mountain of Muck." The article is good intentioned, and highlights a segment of the population who might otherwise be forgotten or not covered by the mainstream media. However, it came across to me as having a bit of a high-income, western, "civilized" bias.

"But there is no disguising the fact that this is a garbage dump and that Ms. Janoras's work is filthy and degrading. With the other scavengers, she joins the hungry flies that swarm over the spilled guts of the city, in constant motion — bending, reaching, turning, tossing, lifting, digging, heaving — as the hot sun climbs into the sky and begins to sink again."

"The scavengers are the great levelers of society, recycling the remains of the city, perhaps to see it return again as garbage and cycle through once more...The bounty of the trucks is sifted and sorted by the scavengers, who pass it on to scrap shops specializing in copper wire, old newspapers, aluminum cans, plastic, cardboard, bits of machinery, box springs, raffle tickets, tires, broken toys — virtually all the infinite components of civilized life."

"At the end of the day, she walks down the mountainside to her little home, a mile away, where her jobless husband Edgar and two jobless teenage sons are waiting. Her teenage daughter is still at school... While she is away, the men in the family tend to the house and it is immaculate, as if cleanliness were a fetish here at the edges of the dump."

Poor people are opportunists, who have little and make the most of what is available to them. They are not dirty people, but people who are trying to live their lives and provide for their families like everyone else in this world. Until Bono can go in and magically lift everyone out of poverty, we shouldn't look down upon people like Ms. Janora, we should give them respect.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Green Ads

Another reason I like getting the print edition of the NY Times (or looking through someone else's when they're finished with it) is the ads. Not the stacks of glossy booklets stuffed in the middle of the Sunday paper, but the ads that fatten up the individual sections of the papers - full page ads like the Starbucks ad on A27 (5/21/06).

The ad isn't flashy. It is just text and small logos on a pale green background. The larger green text reads: "It's a matter of degrees." Then smaller text continues: "It may seem a bit unusual for a coffee company to take out an ad about climate change, but frankly, it's a subject we all need to consider. The earth is getting warmer, and continued warming will affect the livelihoods of the farmers growing coffee and is already changing global weather patterns, agriculture, energy costs, and the environment. In the last 30 years, the earth has experinece twice as much drought; plants and animals are going extinct; and Greenland's ice sheets are melting at twice the normal rate, jeopardizing the world's coastlines. It may seem like three separate occurrences, but they are linked, each a consequence of climate change. Starbucks is committed to taking care of the world we live in, which is why we've teamed up with Global Green USA, the American affiliate of President Gorbachev's Green Cross International. We invite you to join us in taking action on this very critical issue."

On the lower half of the page is a spiral, compact florescent light bulb pointing to more text: "If everyone who received this newspaper today switched one lightbulb in their house to a compact flourescent light, it would be like eliminating the emissions of approximately 89,000 cars for one year. Find out what you can do at"

I know there's tons of people out there who love (read: hate) Starbucks as much as they love Wal-Mart, and I'm sure the ad doesn't tell the full story, but acknowledging climate change, and taking action by creating a new partnership with, surely can't be all that bad.

On the next page, A28 is a BP-Chase ad (this one is a little less than a full page, there are two articles surrounding it.) In the middle are travel-type icons one with a gas pump that says, "Here" announcing a 5% rebate at BP; one with a fork, knife, spoon and plate that says, "There" announcing a 2% rebate on travel and dining; and one with a shopping bag that says, "Everywhere" announcing a 1% rebate on everything else.

Below is an explanation next to a photo of the green card with a BP logo on it. "New card. Great rebates. Get cash or gas back. Now there's a credit card you can use here, there and everywhere. And you can earn cash or gas back every time you use it. It's the BP Visa Card from Chase. When you apply now and are approved, you can earn doube rebates for the first two months." Of course it goes on to tell you what number to call to apply and so on. (See this Tree Hugger post about green credit cards.) All I have to say about this one is - great timing. Who wouldn't want money back on gas? Or gas back from buying gas? And since the card is literally green, it makes you just feel good about having it in your wallet - right?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

In Brooklyn today

If you live in the NYC area - there are a couple of cool things going on in Brooklyn today worth checking out.

Haute Green, Williamsburg -a sustainable design exhibition featuring 40 designers. (this is part of NY design week). All very cool - furniture, lighting, art pieces - all with their own story. (70 N 6th St., bedford stop on the L)

5th Avenue Street Fair, Park Slope - found out about this one from 3r Living's Mark Caserta. From 11-6 today, the street fair is taking over 5th Ave in Brooklyn (from 12th to Sterling). I'm going to make my way down there this afternoon. (If the predicted thunderstorms don't arrive early...)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Prius - new or used?

Via Yahoo, a article about how a used Toyota Prius sells for nearly as much as a new one.

"In one extreme example, used Toyota Priuses are in such demand that they lose almost no value in the first year or two of ownership even after being driven tens of thousands miles.

"For example, a 2005 Toyota Prius that had a sticker price of $21,515 when new could sell for $25,970 used with 20,000 miles on the odometer, according to data from Kelley Blue Book. Since Toyota dealers usually charge a few thousand over sticker for new Priuses, the buyer in this example probably wouldn't have made a profit, but nearly so."

The article says that this trend won't last long as more fuel efficient vehicles hit the streets in coming years.

Interesting what a little jump in gas prices can do to supply-demand.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

NY Times Editorial - Water Hazard

An editorial in today’s New York Times entitled “Water Hazard” throws some criticisms around about the Army Corp of Engineers, and Congress (who funds the Corp). The criticisms stem from the recent flooding in New England, a reminder, they note, of the Katrina/New Orleans debacle.

The editorial highlights a measure (which they support) sponsored by Senators Russ Feingold and John McCain, intended to bring more accountability to the corps; then goes on to advocate for federal flood insurance.

Final comments of the piece: “Nature’s storms seem to be getting fiercer as people are moving closer to harm’s way, whether that’s along the coast or behind flood walls. Hurricane Katrina made the risks abundantly clear, but our nation has yet to show it’s learned the lesson.”

The United States has not learned its lesson(s) – the government nor the public. Re-building the city, then constructing higher levees will not make New Orleans safer (a false sense of security is not what I consider safe). Besides, building anything in a floodplain is just not smart, neither is building a city/country below sea level – unless you’re prepared to accept the risks, and/or have a comprehensive water management plan (ie. The Netherlands.)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

NY Times Special Section

I usually read The New York Times online, but once in a while I'll pick up the print edition to read while sipping some joe at a nearby coffee house. I never know what 'special section' I'll get because I can't ever remember what days which special section comes out (like Science Times, or Dining Out), but today there was an added bonus with a special, special section "The Business of Green" (I threw in the extra special because I doubt this will be a regular weekly section).

The special section is huge, with articles on all sorts of 'green' things highlighting the business/economic perspective - everything from renewable energy to architecture (and beyond). I think it's great that the NY Times (read: mainstream media outlet) has devoted a whole section for one day to green business topics, however it is just one section for one day.

It's the same problem I have with how environmental issues are dealt with by international development and donor agencies - as something separate from the rest of the world's problems. Until 'environmental' issues are seen as an integral component of the way things work in the global economy and our societies, things are not going to change.

I do applaud the NY Times for their special section, because it is another step closer to all things green filtering into the mainstream consciousness, but it still sends the message, 'there's green, and then there's everything else.'

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

UK Independent goes RED

Via Tree Hugger - Bono takes UK newspaper, The Indenpendent, RED. In line with his Project Red campaign to raise awareness of AIDS, the heading of each article (online anyway) informs the reader that, "half the revenue from the edition will be donated to the Global Fund to Fight Aids."

Of course the first article I click on is about climate change in Africa. The article paints a dreary picture of the anticipated effects of climate change on Africa and how the poor will be hardest hit. A small glimmer of hope seems to come from Sir Nick Stern, head of Government Economic Policy, who is conducting a report due out in October. He is quoted as saying, "'We can provide resources to help people adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change in the coming years,' concludes Sir Nick. 'But if we act now, and strongly, to mitigate climate change, it is likely that we could reduce the risks of these scenarios while continuing economic growth.'"

Sir Nick's comments are great and all, but I don't think development and donor agencies will make the connection (or bother to integrate mitigation efforts into their current projects) - so later work will need to be focused on climate change remediation efforts, or rather, attempts to help after the fact.

The next article I click was published yesterday, "West's failure over climate change 'will kill 182m Africans,'" which cites a recent Christian Aid report, which spouts off a similar concern: "The potential ravages of climate change are so severe that they could nullify the efforts to end the legacy of poverty and disease across developing countries, the charity says."

At what point do we stop predicting and start acting?

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Greening of Nuclear Power

"The Greening of Nuclear Power" is the title of an editorial in the NY Times from Saturday.

The title implies that nuclear power is becoming environmentally friendly - but what it means is that there has been a shift in thinking about nuclear power from the greenies. (Over generalization perhaps?) The editorial uses gaia hypothesis creator, James Lovelock, as the lithmus on this, as if to say, if Lovelock loves it, why can't the rest of y'all?

The editorial urges readers to give nuclear a "fresh look," since it promises to get us off of nasty fossil fuels and uranium is "abundant and inexpensive." The piece fails to mention anything about where uranium comes from, nor does it give a cost benefit analysis of our the other inexpensive and abundant power source, also known as our arch nemesis, coal.

It does give light to one negative aspect of nuclear - the controversy about where to put the waste long term - but aside from that, the Times editorial staff paints a fairly rosy picture of a future with nuclear power. So what are we waiting for?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Beer = Energy

Thursday night marked the last class of my graduate studies career (applause, applause), so to celebrate (or really just to decompress after also finishing the last final paper of my graduate career) I went to watch some baseball (Boston vs. NY and Mets vs. Phillies) and have a beer with a friend.

As I lifted an IPA to toast my success, I noticed the coaster under my glass. There's a wind turbine on it. Upon closer inspection, I see that it is a Brooklyn Brewery coaster - and it is promoting more than just beer. "There's Wind in Our Ales," it says. "On September 1, 2003, Brooklyn Brewery became the first New York City company to switch to 100% wind-generated electricity. The company's brewery and corporate headquarters in Brooklyn are 100% powerd by Newwind Energy (insert trademark symbol here), a product of Community Energy Inc. To purchase wind energy for your home or your business, contact Community Energy 1-866-WIND123".

I can't imagine Community Energy is getting many calls from a beer coaster promotion - but you never know. It sure made me want to move that Brooklyn Brewery tour to the top of my things-to-do-now-that-I've-graduated list.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Corn Mugs

Have you seen the Corn Mug?

They're made of 100% corn-based plastic, from US grown corn, which makes it bio-degradable - so you can throw it right into your compost pile (or landfill) and it'll safely degrade (although I failed to inquire about the ink used in printing on the mug...) As an added bonus for those in the good ol U.S. of A., the corn mug is manufactured in Missouri.

I talked to Corn Mug distributor, Dwayne Burnell (who just happens to be based in my home town near Seattle, Bothell, WA) who said these particular mugs (like the thick walled 'Corn Koffee Keg'), with the corn plastic technology has been around for about a year. Burnell said that previous mugs were too thin and couldn't withstand hot liquids. But this one seems to be a winner.

It is microwavable, dishwasher safe, it doesn't chip or crack, and it withstands hot liquids like its regular plastic counterparts. (The only caution of note is that it shouldn't go in commercial grade dishwashers - those are too hot, the plastic bubbles slightly, but the dishwasher in your home is fine. Unless you don't have a dishwasher at all - like me - then there's no need to worry about the dishwasher factor.)

Burnell says came about in a marketing class he taught. He wanted students to think about product lifecycle - and the corn mug seemed to be a perfect fit. So if you need an eco-friendly promo item with your company logo - go for the cornmug.

Of course there's probably huge drawbacks to corn based plastics (which I hope you will point out to me), but I'm all for them. In my opinion, corn based plastics (and related packaging materials) are significantly better than petroleum based plastics simply because corn based plastics are biodegradable and will breakdown after disposed of, whereas other plastics last for a lifetime (if not longer).

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Battery recycling in EU

On Tree Hugger this morning is a post about Battery Recycling Laws for European Union

The law allows customers to return batteries to retailers to increase the recovery rates. "According to the EU, about 800,000 tonnes of automotive batteries, 190,000 tonnes of industrial batteries and 160,000 tonnes of portable (consumer) batteries are placed on the European market annually. And as they rightly observe thousands of tonnes of metals, such as nickel, cobalt and silver, will be recovered when batteries are recycled."

It was my understanding, however, that batteries aren't truly recycled, but are just disposed of safely. If this law is effective and can increase recovery rate of batteries, and thus decrease the amount going into landfills, that's great. But like much legislation on e-waste and recycling, it is still burdening retailers and consumers instead of the manufacturer, which isn't much of a fast track to product innovation.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Green Blogosphere lens

I'm short on time today, so I thought I'd give a little shout-out to the The Green Blogosphere lens created by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg of Sustainablog (and also now a contributor to Tree Hugger).

The lens is an ever growing, central hub (if you will) for green blogs. One of the first things on the lens is Jeff's picks for 'Cool Green Blog Post of the Day' where he highlights a well deserving green blog (I've been introduced to some very cool green blogs this way). So, I scroll down to see who is cool this week before I grab the link to the lens, and I see that I was cool on Sunday!

Anyway - check out The Green Blogosphere, rate it, share it with your pals and visit often, because the more visits the higher it gets ranked (and I'm not sure what happens after that, but it's all good I'm sure).

Monday, May 08, 2006

Landfill in New Orleans

The New York Times reports today that a new landfill in New Orleans is sparking some controversy. All of the unsalvageable homes and their contents are being cleared away for clean-up and all that waste has got to go somewhere.

Chuck Carr Brown, an assistant secretary of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality is quoted in the story as saying, "You cannot rebuild until you clean up." Which leads me to jump to the conclusion that there's some heavy, underlying political pressure to get the new New Orleans underway, and fast. Unfortunately for the planners and politicians a Vietnamese community isn't too keen on having a landfill move in as their neighbor - and they're making it known.

"But more than a thousand Vietnamese-American families live less than two miles from the edge of the new landfill. And they are far from pleased at having the moldering remains of a national disaster plunked down nearby, alongside the canal that flooded their neighborhood when Hurricane Katrina surged through last year.

Environmental groups are also angry, accusing local and federal officials of ignoring or circumventing their own regulations, long after the immediate emergency has ended. The same thing happened after Hurricane Betsy in 1965, they warn, and that dump ended up becoming a Superfund site."

"State officials say that the new landfill is safe and that they are simply moving quickly to protect public health and the environment, using techniques that did not exist 40 years ago. The new site was chosen to speed up the cleanup, they say, because the debris will not have to be hauled far. The state estimates that 7.2 million tons of hurricane debris remains to be cleaned up; the Chef Menteur landfill will take 2.6 million tons."

So who do you think will win this battle? Sounds like a thousand Vietnamese-American families and some angry environmentalists might be outnumbered by 2.6 million tons of (potentially hazardous) waste.

The ethics involved

I know I just blogged about Oikos Saturday - but David Jeffery's comments from Sunday on "The ethics, politics and economics of climate change" is worth reading. I've included a couple of excerpts here.

"I have a concern that as environmentalists operating in a capitalist system and a very pro-market political environment, we sometimes tend to tack rather half-baked business arguments onto ethical arguments. We say ‘You should do this, it’s good for the environment. Oh, and it will also save you money’, but we don’t necessarily think through the second part of our claim."

"It is unethical and immoral for a small country like Australia to emit disproportionately high levels of greenhouse gases when climate change will cause such huge global problems. It is hypocritical for a country like Australia to say it won’t agree to binding targets until developing countries with much, much lower per capita emissions also agree to reduce their emissions. And it is politically unwise to white-ant international solutions like Kyoto when Australia has so much to lose from climate change and needs international co-operation. But it’s not economically crazy to continue to emit high levels of greenhouse gases."

"Environmental advocates have a responsibility to present the ethical, moral, political and economic arguments for improving our economic performance. But we should also recognise when one of those arguments is weak. In my opinion, some of the purely economic arguments for reducing emissions – at a national level – are weak. We should recognise that, and present the other arguments (including the argument that narrow economic self-interest shouldn’t always win), rather than pretending that there’s no debate. After all, the other arguments are overwhelmingly in favour of acting now and acting decisively."

Read the full post on Oikos here.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Boycott ExxonMobil?

In response to high gas prices some small towns in the U.S. are boycotting ExxonMobil. An article in today's NY Times features a story from The Hamburg Journal (as in Hamburg, NY - not Germany).

Kathleen Hochul, a Hamburg town council member, introduced a resolution calling for such protests. She was inspired to do so after hearing that county commissioners from Bee County, Texas did the same. Hochul's resolution passed unanimously in Hamburg, but not everyone in the town is pleased - especially the local operators of the ExxonMobil stations.

While I'm a fan of picking on ExxonMobil, I don't know that one oil company can be singled out to boycott. Those who don't go to ExxonMobil stations still need gas, and will fill up at a 'competitor' down the road. Plus, there is the question of whether or not it will even make a difference at all to the oil giant's giant bottom line.

I like the fact that people (okay, Americans) are finally feeling the pinch and are making some mild noise about it, but I don't know that those who are steaming over the spike (or even the American mainstream media contributing to this news blitz) are making the connection between oil consumption and the U.S. as a (fuel inefficient) car dependent society. If you decide to boycott ExxonMobil, you'd also better be prepared to stop driving your GM vehicle.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The price of petrol

Here's a couple of recent fuel price postings by Australia based David Jeffery of Oikos.

"More on fuel prices" highlighting an NPR report on enviromentalists and higher gas prices.
and "High petrol prices are not a bad thing" with David's commentary on an article in a Sydney newspaper about the issue.

If you haven't yet checked out Oikos you should - it is an insightful disucssion of the economics behind environmental issues. Plus the comments left on his postings usually foster an active dialogue (if not a heated debate) on the topic of the day.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Summer is heating up

It is warming up in NYC. Soon the heat (island effect) will be upon us and air conditioners will run rampant. A perfect time to bring up green roofs.

Earth Pledge's green roofs initiative, Greening Gotham, has a cool home page picture. It is an arial shot of a portion of Manhattan. When you roll over the photo, the building roofs become green. I thought of this on my flight back to La Guardia, looking down over the warehouses of industrial areas, the roofs of which looked as large as Wal-Mart parking lots. A huge opportunity for greening (or solar panels - one of the two).

Green roofs can reduce the heat island effect in built up urban areas, cooling down buildings (and reducing the need for AC, thus reducing the grid load) and if it were widespread enough, could cool down the city. Of course there are structural requirements, planning and maintenance that have to be considered in order to create a green roof - so you can't just roll out a slice of sod and call it good - but with more and more green roofs there are an increasing number of examples to follow. Chicago is making great strides in this area.

What will it take for more green roofs? A fair amount of political will and public consciousness is usually the key to making things happen.

Are there green roofs in your area?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

$3.66/gal in Hawaii

My friend is on her honeymoon in Hawaii and she snapped this pic - she says it's $3.66/gal - for regular unleaded.

My question - will this gas price spike of late cause a little inflation? (at least in the U.S.?)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Still think nuclear is a good idea?

If the sheer cost of waste clean-up in itself isn't a deterrent, I don't know what is.

Here's a story from the Seattle Post Intelligencer from Monday "Hanford cleanup cost soars to $11.3 billion... if congress will pay"

But I suppose we can just look the other way and hope that all the leaking, buried waste will magically disappear.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Back in NY now

Okay - back in NY now catching up on things I didn't do while in Seattle. One thing I had a hard time doing was keeping up with e-mails and all those darned newsletter things I subscribe to.

Here's the latest from Environmental Action - Send a letter to your senator to put a little extra pressure on about this whole oil situation.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Impulse purchase

Yesterday I stopped by a drugstore, and in addition to what I went in there for I made an impulse purchase at the register. I normally don't do that, but in front of each check out counter was a display of Buyer's Choice compact fluorescent light bulbs for a price of $2.00. The handwritten sign below the stacks of packaged, spriral bulbs promoted it as an advertised special, no coupon required.

Aside from the excessive plastic packaging and the caution on the back that says lamp contains mercury (it does, however, give a web address for lamp recycling - this is an impulse purchase one needs not feel guilty for indulging in.