America the Beautiful?

Recently NRDC partnered up with Willie Nelson and put out this poignant and beautiful video about our country. I haven’t focused much on Mountain Top Removal, but it is by far one of the worst atrocities in this country that people are allowing to happen. Maybe if more people see and share this video, more people will become more aware and do something about it. Fracking is bad, oil drilling is awful, but MTR is worse. Much, much worse.

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Sustainabe Seafood

Want to eat seafood and still be sustainable? Here are some options. They may not be pretty, but they’re tasty and some are just the same as what you normally eat!

Local Sustainable Scrumptious Mac and Cheese

Local Sustainable Scrumptious Mac and Cheese

In my quest to be green and sustainable I try to incorporate local food in my diet whenever possible. Recently I discovered a farm that raises their own organic cows for cheese. I put together this macaroni n cheese with gluten-free pasta, rosemary from my garden (pretty much the only thing that I have now since it’s still winter here), 3 different cheeses from the local farm, butter from an organic farm in New York, organic milk, and of course other organic ingredients. It by far was the best macaroni and cheese I have ever tasted. I even surprised myself! Perhaps the fact that it had a minimal carbon footprint might have helped too. Being green should extend to your kitchen!

Ban Plastic Water Bottles from Your Life

News came out of California that San Francisco is going to attempt to move forward to ban plastic water bottles. Leave it to California to be the first to implement such a daring yet crucial initiative. It takes 54 million barrels of oil to make one year’s consumption of plastic water bottles. Contrary to popular belief, plastic water bottles are NOT recycled – seventy-five percent of plastic water bottles end up on beaches, rivers, and landfills.

ImageIn addition to environmental impact of plastic water bottles, take note that plastic water bottles are detrimental to your health. The plastic used in these bottles is loaded with chemicals including BPA and PCBs.  The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says: “Animals that ate food containing large amounts of PCBs over short periods of time had mild liver damage and some died. Animals that ate smaller amounts of PCBs in food over several weeks or months developed various kinds of health effects, including anemia; acne-like skin conditions; and liver, stomach, and thyroid gland injuries.” BPA can cause a variety of human health problems, including a risk of cancers, reduced fertility, birth defects and diabetes. How does that water taste now?

Many folks drink bottled water because they think that bottled water is superior to tap water or that it comes from some mystical source. Not true. Hate to break it to you, but bottled water is tap water with a fancy schmancy name. It is not any better than the water coming out of your tap. It’s an all-around rip off.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, we subsisted without bottled water. In fact, not too long ago, Cosmo Kramer on the popular TV show, Seinfeld, considered bottled water as one of his “get rich quick” schemes, and Jerry Seinfeld thought he was crazy – no one would pay for water! Not too long ago, I used to use bottled water. As with everything, when you first try to do without something as vital as bottled water, it seems impossible, but I assure you, it can be done.

First and foremost – you need to find a water bottle that you like. I tried a few different ones before I found Liberty Bottle from Liberty Bottleworks. This company has many pluses going for it. I prefer this bottle for many reasons, not just because of this company’s many altruistic endeavors. Many of the other bottles I tried were made of plastic (evil! evil!), were difficult to get open quickly, made water taste funny, were cheaply made, or were difficult to get clean. Liberty Bottle solved all these problems.  It is a very robust water bottle, made of metal with a lining (no funny tastes!), easy to open and close (it doesn’t screw), and easy to clean. When I had to use an old metal water bottle for a bit while I waited for my 2nd Liberty Bottle to come in, I yearned for my Liberty Bottle. I didn’t realize how genius the design the bottle was until I had to do without.

If Liberty Bottle’s design isn’t enough to entice you to make the move to ditch the plastic, then maybe simply supporting them will. Liberty Bottle is the ONLY metal bottle on the market made in the USA. It is also the ONLY bottle to be made from recycled materials. Concerned about what to do when you’re done with your Liberty Bottle? It is also 100% recyclable. But I assure you, I have put my Liberty Bottle through the test (horseback riding, rock climbing, spelunking, cliff diving – it still looks good as new). It hasn’t chipped, flaked, dented, or shown any sorts of age in the time that I’ve had it. The bottles also come in fun colors – but even better, they also come in a bunch of beautiful art designed by starving artists.

I never used to be a big water drinker. Once upon a time I used to be a big soda drinker! I used to drink several cans a day. What helped me make the transition to water is making water more exciting than soda. Having a snazzy water bottle that is fun to drink out of, that makes me feel good about supporting green and US jobs helped. Having water that tasted AMAZING helped even more. This was accomplished by getting a ZeroWater dispenser. Between this and my LibertyBottle, which friends have joked is surgically attached to my body, I now drink more than the suggested 8 glasses of water a day. And I feel great!

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Treat our Water Better

As a child I was only allowed to bathe every two weeks. I could only occasionally flush the toilet (I’ll leave out the specific details) and our yard the predominant color was yellow than green. We’d go weeks without electricity and had to use lanterns, candles and flashlights. All of this because of water scarcity. It wasn’t until I got back to the United States did I realize people lived where water and moisture was taken for granted.
            In Kenya, when we were out and about, we didn’t trust water for “normal” reasons such as dead things an animal feces in the water. When out camping and getting water from rivers, generally boiling was sufficient. We didn’t have to worry about chemicals in this water. It continues to amaze me that Americans, in this day and age, can’t trust the water that comes out of their own tap. Furthermore, even though sections of this country are in the worst drought in 500 years, water resources are being used to exacerbate the situation rather than help it.
            A month ago coal mining operations caused a chemical leak in West Virginia. While authorities say that the water is safe to use and drink, residents continue not to trust it. Water is continued to be imported for drinking, bathing and cooking. People in California are also in an equal state of distress. There’s seventeen communities in the state that are about to completely run out of water in 60-120 days.  People are losing their businesses, their livelihoods. Consumers will soon feel the impact of the drought when we don’t have the food that California usually produces.
            Meanwhile, as people in our nation are suffering, water is being used or planning to be used, for practices that intensify the situations. If the Keystone Pipeline were to go through, we would be processing some of the most intensive, dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet. There is also some tar sands in Utah that they are considering to mine. DeSmogBlog outlines the process:

U.S. Oil Sands’ water-and-energy-intensive extraction process involves first digging up congealed tar sands, then crushing them to reduce their size. The company then mixes the crushed sand with large amounts of hot water (at a temperature of 122-176°F) to loosen up and liquefy the tarry, oil-containing residue and separating it from the sand.

Next, coarse solids sink, are subsequently removed and considered waste tailings. Air is then bubbled through the remaining water-oil mixture, which makes the oil float to the top in what’s referred to as “bitumen froth,” in industry lingo. The froth is then deaerated, meaning all the air molecules are removed.

But that is not the end. It continues and it involves even more water. Overall oil sands production takes 170million cubic meters of water – which is the equivalent of 1.7million households use in a year. None of this is water is returnable into the natural system.
              Then we have the 2nd offense – fracking. It takes up to 8million gallons of water to mix with chemicals to inject into the earth and blow it up and extract natural gas. These chemicals then percolate into the natural water systems and into our water systems. It poisons the environment. It poisons us. People can set their tap water on fire. They have to import their water because they cannot trust the water coming out of their own faucets. Animals and humans both become sick, suffering from cancer, hair loss, sensory, respiratory, neurological damage and ultimately death.
              While there’s people in this country that are suffering due to lack of water, it makes me wonder why we are using water resources to poison people. Not only that, this water is just making situations like the drought in California the new norm. We need to step back and redistribute the water in this country. We need to be aware of how our water is used and where it is going. We need to be aware of how our actions, decisions influence our water system.

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$1 Billion on Climate Resilience? What about Prevention?

              Last week President Obama came out with a plant to spend $1 Billion on climate resilience. I am still a little unclear what this plan entails, but the whole fact that this plan is based on RESILIENCE instead of PREVENTION is a clear sign that we have gone over the cliff of trying to solve the climate issue and now we are going to continue to mess up our climate and learn to live with it. While some folks may see this move by Obama as a bold move towards the climate issue, I see it as an act of defeat. Obama is going to continue to promote fracking. Obama is going to continue to drill for oil domestically. Obama is going to approve the Keystone Pipeline. In an attempt to placate the environmentalists, he has put forth this huge amount towards climate change – but it is going to the WRONG place.

              With any addiction, you do not want to feed the addiction or give anyone who is addicted that the substance they’re addicted to is okay. We are addicted to fossil fuels. This addiction has cost us our climate, our environment, our water, and our health. I don’t have to list all the ways we are being affected – but it is costing us. Wouldn’t it make more sense to try to PREVENT these things from happening rather than these proven detrimental things to continue to happen? Couldn’t this $1billion go towards renewable energy or carbon reduction? How about MAKING money by taxing these dirty industries that are costing us rather than giving them subsidies?

              Let’s put this in another perspective. Climate change could very likely cause the next apocalypse. What’s amazing is that we are doing this to ourselves. Willingly. But that’s beside the point. Let’s replace “climate change apocalypse” with “zombie apocalypse.” Then this “$1 Billion Climate Resilience Fund” becomes the “$1 Billion Zombie Resilience Fund.” Obama is budgeting to help communities to prepare for zombies and to fund research and technology to protect against them. Sounds ridiculous right? Well so does the fact that we are knowingly causing our own demise and doing squat about it.

              We have the technology and resources out there to bring climate change to a grinding halt. It is not going to happen overnight, but it we can slow it down and do something about it. New technology is being born every day. There are children out there that are winning science fairs that have created tech that can clean oceans of plastic. We have light bulbs that last longer and use less energy. New renewable tech is out every day. Better, more fuel efficient cars are being made every day. We, as the people, need to create a demand for these products and for our world to be a better place. We cannot let these dirty industries and fuels win. If we do, we move beyond the brink.
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Benefits of Snow

People in the northeast are sick of snow. I think people in the northeast need to be reminded that they need to not take the white stuff for granted. In today’s day and age we seem to forget to look beyond our backyards and look at the whole picture. We also tend to forget to look into the future.

Of all the natural ‘disasters,’ snow is probably the most benign. It doesn’t really hurt anyone. It’s kind of like a venomous snake. If you don’t provoke it (drive like an idiot in it, ski/snowboard in an avalanche area, etc.), it won’t hurt you. In fact, unlike the other natural disasters, snow has numerous benefits. We should be praising snow, dancing as each and every snowflake falls from the sky. Snow is a blessing.

* Pest Control: Thanks to snow there should be less of those annoying bugs around this summer. This is everything from ticks, mosquitos, and other insects that have been out of control like the emerald ash borer. Thanks to snow, there will be fewer ticks. As long as the snow sticks around and it stays cold, the ticks can’t survive. The later we have snow, the better. Mosquito season will be later and shorter. Aren’t those reasons to celebrate? Thanks to snow. The emerald ash borer has been devastating trees in states all across America – not just ash. Their numbers used to be kept in check because it used to snow a normal amount (you know, like we’re getting now). Because of the fact that we have not had a real winter in a long time, their numbers have been out of control and spreading, killing off entire forests and increasing wildfires. Thanks to the snow, their numbers will take a huge dent and we may be able to save iconic forests such as the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

* Snow Insulation: Now, this might sound counter-productive, but snow insulates our gardens and lawns. Any gardener or farmer will tell you a good “blanket of snow” is desirable for a garden. It keeps your plants warm (yes, warm) and happy throughout the winter season. It is WAY much better than having them exposed during the winter, especially when there’s extreme temperature fluctuations. If soil is frozen, without snow, plants can die of thirst. Snow keeps that from happening. Even when plants are dormant, they still need moisture and snow provides that.

* Poor Man’s Fertilizer: Snow has been shown to give a nitrogen boost to gardens and soil. Any gardener/farmer will tell you that nitrogen is a vital nutrient for the soil and people with spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars in liquids, powders and techniques to get nitrogen into their soil. But here comes snow, a free way to get nitrogen into your soil. It delivers an estimated 5 pounds nitrogen from the atmosphere to the soil. This helps plants grow lusher, produce more fruit (as evident by my fig tree, which always produces more figs whenever we get more snow), and generally just be happier whenever we get snow. You know what they call snow? Poor man’s fertilizer. You know what the Old Farmer’s Almanac says? “Year of Snow, Crops Will Grow” – be thankful for snow. There’s a good foot and a half of snow on my yard and gardens right now – I can’t wait to get out there and garden. I bet I am going to get some great crop this year! So bring on the snow!

* Snow is Water: There’s really not enough news or pictures of the drought in California right now. Even if rained (or snowed) for every day for the rest of the winter, they still would not replenish their water supply. There’s towns that have completely run out of water. Maybe it will hit us here in the east when cost for our food goes up since California grows a lot of our food. Anyway – we’re LUCKY here in the east to have so much SNOW because snow is WATER. Our reservoirs will be full, our wells will be filled. Our pastures will be green. Our seeds will be sown and will grow. Stop being selfish and whining about snow.

Which would you rather have?
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So, next time you moan about the snow, think twice. If you have a farm, be thankful. If you’re a gardener, be thankful. If you in any way depend on water, be thankful. There’s people having to recycle their bath and shower water for drinking water – in the UNITED STATES. There’s people in Africa and India drinking water that is polluted with feces, dead animals and trash. We have clean, pristine, beautiful snow. Be thankful.

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Apparently we can’t go a day without a fossil fuel disaster

Apparently we can’t go a day without a fossil fuel disaster

Not only can we not go a week without a fossil fuel disaster, we can’t even go days! Not only was there a train derailment in Pennsylvania, spilling thousands of gallons of oil, there was also another natural gas explosion in Kentucky that leveled homes. War veterans said that the explosion was unlike anything they heard in the war.

Yet the news is not reporting on any of these disasters. They did report on the West Virgina “chemical spill” (due to coal, but they left that out) and there were some whispers about the coal spill in North Carolina. There have been 6 fossil fuel disasters that have been REPORTED in the last two weeks. Only 1 of which have been covered by national media. All of which are detrimental to the environment.

We need to go cleaner. Now.

Can we go a week without a fossil fuel disaster?

As we come further along with renewable energy technology it becomes increasingly shocking to me that we still not only use fossil fuels but mine and develop new tech to exploit them. Last I checked, we don’t hear about wind spills or solar farms exploding. It seems like this last month we are on a roll for fossil fuel disasters. Which still makes me wonder – how can we still be debating the Keystone Pipeline? How can we still be building new infrastructure for coal/oil/natural gas? Here are the latest (at least reported) fossil fuel disasters in the last two weeks, all of which that have decimated the environment in that area.

  •   February 2, 2014: Dan River Coal Ash Spill. North Carolina. It is not certain yet how much coal ash has spilled into the Dan River and Duke Energy is being entirely uncooperative and petulant about the matter, but it is estimated that it is between 50,000 to 82,000 tons and up to 87 million gallons of waste water were released due to a broken pipe. Coal ash may sound harmless, but it is a waste material from the coal industry that contains arsenic, mercury, lead, and several other heavy metals, many of which are toxic. Now this has entered a fragile water system that not only waters thousands of people, but also (nor formerly) beautiful environment. Coal ash is one of the largest industrial wastes in the country. Funny how renewables don’t have industrial waste
  • February 5, 2014: Train Oil Spill. Minnesota. There is NO SAFE way to transport oil because oil is NOT SAFE. That’s what it comes down to. There’s been several train derailments in the last year. In this case, the train didn’t even derail. It was just traveling along with a leak resulting in 12,000 gallons of crude to dribble all over the tracks for 68 miles. But since it’s over dry land or who knows why really, I’m just making that part up – for some reason, no one is concerned about it and no one is bothering to clean it up. Who cares, right? But you bet someone is getting fired over it.
  • February 11, 2014: Natural Gas Explosion. Pennsylvania. This is still relatively fresh and not much is known, but a Chevron Natural Gas well blew up and burned for several hours. One person was injured and another person is missing. The fire burned into the afternoon and as far as we know, it is still burning. The cause of the blast is still unknown, but you know, natural gas is flammable. Wind and solar is not.
  •  February 11, 2014: Coal Chemical Spill. West Virginia. 100,000+ gallons of coal slurry (coal waste) from a coal plant somehow managed to seep into the Kanawha River and sickened six miles of Fields Creek. “This has had significant, adverse environmental impact to Fields Creek and an unknown amount of impact to the Kanawha River,” said Secretary Randy Huffman of the state Department of Environmental Protection. This is just a month after the “chemical spill” on January 9th that got a lot of press. But the press called it a “chemical spill” – and failed to mention that the “chemical” is a byproduct of the COAL industry. It is used to CLEAN the coal that is supposedly already clean that we are still mining for. This is probably the dirtiest of the fossil fuels and one of the ones that we are supposed to be phasing out.

That’s FOUR disasters in TWO WEEKS. And two of those are in the same day. Also, those are the ones that are reported. As we learned, there were nearly 300 pipeline spills in North Dakota alone that were unreported to the public in two years. What about the rest of the states? What about the rest of fossil fuels? Who knows how many more there were. We may never know. Again – it just baffles me there are still people toting how wonderful dirty fuel is. Or that people think that we still don’t have a choice. We do have a choice. It is just a matter of what we chose to invest in. The technology is out there.

Finally I would like to close with a recent report on the price of fossil fuel devastating our communities. About a year ago a pipeline broke near Mayflower, Alabama – a quiet little community. It has been deemed clean, safe, and a happy place to live again – by the oil companies. But of course, so has the Gulf, and that is far from the truth.  Many have moved away. Those that stay are plagued by headaches, nausea and dizziness from oil fumes that still seep from the ground. However running away is not so easy and ExxonMobil is not taking responsibility for its actions. The houses that are being put up for sale aren’t selling. This area of Mayflower is becoming a ghost town.

So tell me. Is this the price that we are going to have to pay for our fossil fuel addiction? Is Mayflower our future? Will we continue to suck the Earth dry rather than work with it until we kick ourselves off our own land? The more I read the news lately the more pessimistic I get about our future. We don’t seem to learn from our mistakes at all. We keep thinking we can just patch things over. There will come a time that the bandages will give way. We need to seriously rethink our actions and decisions.
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Just Like the First Time

Just Like the First Time

Do you remember the first time you discovered something new? Experienced a new sensation? Felt something? Do you remember what innocence is like? If we all could connect to nature like this little girl experiencing rain for the first time, the world would be a better place. The astrophysicist, Neil Neil deGrasse Tyson, once said “For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.” Even before I knew the existence of this quote, I always lived life this way. Always went outside or delved deep into a book to find something about the world I didn’t know. Always tried to lesson the suffering of others – whether it be of people, of animals, or of the Earth. So today, go out. Discover something you didn’t know. Find that sensation, that joy. Embrace the sky.