Archive for January, 2008


This page (linked to below) describes the numerous problems associated with the highly toxic substance, methyl iodide. Even though EPA and external scientists argued against it, the agency approved methyl iodide for fumigation. This is bizarre and irresponsible behavior, yet again, from the Bush-controlled EPA.

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© James K. Bashkin, 2008

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From the New York Times, by Bloomberg News:

“The Environmental Protection Agency ignored the advice of its employees in rejecting California’s request to set rules on automotive (CO2) emissions”.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D, California): “It’s clear that E.P.A.’s own experts told Administrator S. Johnson that California’s case … is solid”

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As reported by Robert Booth of The Guardian:

“Groups who attempt to raise money for charity by climbing the highest mountains in England, Wales, and Scotland in one day are blamed for causing environmental havoc … on the three peaks.”

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Two wrongs don’t make “a right”, and neither do 200. This is an unfortunate story, but it helps illustrate that it is not enough to care about the environment- one must be able to make informed and sensible choices in order to help solve environmental problems. Becoming informed is no easy task, however, given the misinformation and confusing messages that are often provided, especially by Federal, State and corporate sources in the US and elsewhere (on, for example, the subject of biofuels such as ethanol from corn). In striking contrast to the more typical messages we hear, the city of Portland, Oregon has developed a rational sustainability plan that includes a critical assessment (and sometimes rejection) of different sources of biofuels. Similar ideas are expressed in the recent draft legislation proposed by the European Union for governing the source of biofuels.

© James K. Bashkin, 2008

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As reported by Michael Moyer of PopSci.com (the site for Popular Science):

Imagine a solar panel without the panel. Just a coating, thin as a layer of paint, that takes light and converts it to electricity. PopSci’s Innovation of the Year for 2007 is a solar cell that can be printed like paper and applied to roofs or any other flat surface, delivering solar energy at 1/10th the cost of a traditional glass and silicon cell

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I gratefully acknowledge Steve B., a user at Gather.com, for informing me of this story.  James K. Bashkin

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Concluding that some biofuels are worse for the environment than traditional fuels, the EU has listed acceptable and unacceptable biofuels based on how they are made or what the are made from.

As reported by Jeremy Elton Jacquot of Los Angeles:

Amidst renewed fears over the impact of biofuels on the environment, which a recent Royal Society report warned could “do more harm than good,” the European Union has issued a draft law that would propose a ban on the imports of biofuels derived from crops grown on certain types of land — such as forests, wetlands and grasslands. It would also require them to deliver a — as yet undetermined — “minimum level of greenhouse gas savings.”

Palm oil is cited by many as a particularly insidious source of biofuel because of the unaccpetable environmental and societal costs it incurs.

The ban would particularly target environmentally harmful crops like palm oil, which Europe imports from Southeast Asia; it could also affect a few crops grown in Latin America, including soy, wheat and sugar beets. The decision to enforce a ban comes in the wake of a rash of studies that have downplayed or thoroughly discredited some of the more bullish claims made by biofuel producers.

We simply can’t embrace concepts that people claim are green, we have to be sure of the details in each case. The EU has made an important advance by using available reports like the Royal Society’s document to sort and judge the different sources of biofuels.

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© James K. Bashkin, 2008

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“This time Steve is on the right path for a green Apple. The MacBook Air is a strong entry in the race to build a green PC. As a mercury and arsenic free laptop it exceeds European Standards and raises the bar for the rest of the industry. The BFR and PVC free printed wiring on the motherboard is a big step forward.”

Making electronic equipment with safer and less-polluting materials is a very important step, and both mercury and arsenic are present in significant amounts in the vast majority computers in use today. These toxic elements are not a threat while using a computer, but they are to workers in parts of the assembly process, and, of course, to the environment: they can leach out of landfills or poison people and areas if improper recycling is done.

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© James K. Bashkin, 2008

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Planning to ice skate on a local lake or river this winter? You may need to think twice, say scientists J. Magnuson, O. Jensen and B. Benson of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Their research is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Data came from newspaper archives, transportation ledgers and religious observances. From NSF News:

The records show that later freezing and earlier ice breakup occurred on lakes and rivers across the Northern Hemisphere from 1846 to 1995. Over those 150 years, said Magnuson, changes in freeze dates averaged 5.8 days per 100 years later, and changes in ice breakup dates averaged 6.5 days per 100 years earlier. The findings translate to increasing air temperatures of about 1.2 degrees Celsius each century.

In contrast to the observation that climate changes are occurring more rapidly at higher latitudes, said Benson, the greatest rate of change in ice breakup dates in the Great Lakes region is happening at lower latitudes, near the southern boundary of the area in which lakes are routinely ice-covered during winter.

Depending on how your browser is set, a picture might show up here:

Ice cover on lakes around Madison, Wisc., and throughout the northern U.S. has formed later each winter.  Credit: Peter W. Schmitz, Madison, Wisconsin Ice cover on northern lakes across the U.S. has formed later each winter.
Credit and Larger Version (this link is not working all the time for me)

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“Minimizing waste, pollution, and natural resource depletion does not represent a strategy for long-term success; it simply makes the current destructive system sustainable.”

Mr. McDonough addresses issues from biodiversity to specific sustainability approaches in China. He distinguishes efficiency and diversity in nature from those qualities in man-made materials, and describes textiles now “clean enough to eat” that were arrived at by careful study of textile components and possible replacements.

The quoted first paragraph was taken from the report in AlwaysOn Magazine about a speech by William McDonough, who is “the founding principal of William McDonough and Partners, Architecture and Community Design as well as the cofounder and principal (with German chemist Michael Braungart) of McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry.”

“This is part two of William McDonough’s speech. For part 1, click here. (AlwaysOn has) also posted a short highlight video and the video of the entire speech online. The transcript is also available in the winter edition of the AlwaysOn Magazine.”

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Originally found on DIGG by fthead9.


Researchers found dangerous levels of mercury and arsenic in Lake Baiyangdian, the largest lake in North China, a source of both food and drinking water. First reported by David Kagan in Sunstroke and his latest, book, Doomwatch–the Legacy. Submitted to DIGG by internjack.

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New technology makes solar power affordable to install and cheaper than current environmentally unfriendly energy sources. This article from Jessica Hunt of Celsias.com on new technology from Nanosolar describes high tech, high-efficiency and inexpensive solar cells.

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