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Doctor: Panel overstated cancer risks

WASHINGTON, May 7 (UPI) — A new government report on chemicals in the environment may divert attention from larger cancer causes such as smoking, The American Cancer Society said.

The report published Thursday by the President’s Cancer Panel is “unbalanced” in its implication that pollution is a major cause of cancer, said Dr. Michael Thun, an epidemiologist with the ACS.

“If we could get rid of tobacco, we could get rid of 30 percent of cancer deaths,” Thun told The New York Times in a story published Friday.

The government’s 240-page report said the proportion of cancer cases caused by chemical exposure has been “grossly underestimated.”

While the panel said it cannot quantify the cancer risk from chemicals because most of the 80,000 chemicals in use have not been tested for safety. But the ACS says only about 6 percent of cancers comes from chemical exposure.

The panel urged President Obama to strengthen research and regulation and warned consumers to limit exposure to pesticides, industrial chemicals, medical X-rays, vehicle exhaust, plastic food containers and excessive sun. Children are at the greatest risk, it said.

Carcinogens and other toxins in food, water and air “needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our nation’s productivity, and devastate American lives,” the panel said.

Computer pioneer Max Palevsky dead at 85

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., May 7 (UPI) — Computer pioneer Max Palevsky, a founder of Intel, died in Beverly Hills, Calif., at the age of 85, his assistant said.

Palevsky died Wednesday of heart failure at home, Angela Kaye said.

Palevsky used his fortune from computers to support Democratic presidential candidates and to amass an important collection of American Arts and Crafts furniture, which he donated to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

In 1961, Palevsky left Packard Bell to form Scientific Data Systems, a builder of small and medium-size business computers purchased in 1969 by Xerox for $1 billion. Palevsky used some of his 10 percent share of the $1 billion to start Intel, which became the world’s largest producer of computer chips.

Palevsky used his money to back Robert F. Kennedy and George McGovern for president and in 1970 rescued a foundering Rolling Stone magazine by buying a significant block of its stock, The New York Times reported Friday.

Despite his interest in computers, Palevsky did not own a computer or even a cellphone, he told the Los Angeles Times in 2008.

Palevsky said he was skeptical of “the hypnotic quality of computer games, the substitution of a Google search for genuine inquiry, (and) the instant messaging that has replaced social discourse.”

Palevsky, who was born in Chicago, earned a bachelor’s degree in math and philosophy from the University of Chicago and did graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, and UCLA.

He is survived by a sister, Helen Futterman of Los Angeles; a daughter, Madeleine Moskowitz of Los Angeles; four sons: Nicholas of Bangkok, Alexander and Jonathan, both of Los Angeles, and Matthew of Brooklyn; and four grandchildren.

Freshway lettuce recalled in 23 states

WASHINGTON, May 7 (UPI) — Freshway Foods is recalling products with romaine lettuce linked to an outbreak of 19 cases of E. coli in Michigan, Ohio and New York, authorities said.

Twelve people have been hospitalized, including three with life-threatening hemolytic uremic syndrome, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a release Thursday.

The recall affects Freshway shredded romaine lettuce with a use-by date of May 12 or earlier sold under the Freshway or Imperial Sysco brands for use at supermarket salad bars and delis. Bulk, prepackaged romaine or bagged salad mixes containing romaine purchased in supermarkets were not included in the recall.

Ohio-based Freshway agreed to voluntarily recall the lettuce from 23 states after the New York Public Health Laboratory reported finding E. coli in an unopened bag of Freshway Foods shredded romaine lettuce, the FDA said.

Freshway, in a release Thursday, advised consumers not to eat “grab and go” salads sold at in-store salad bars and delis at Kroger, Giant Eagle, Ingles Markets and Marsh stores. Romaine purchased from those bars and delis should be thrown away, the FDA said.

The recalled products were sold in Alabama, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Consumers with questions were urged to call Freshway Foods at 1-888-361-7106 or go to the Freshway Web site at www.freshwayfoods.com1.

Extra coating aids bacterial spores

NEW YORK, May 7 (UPI) — Bacterial spores that cause botulism, tetanus and anthrax may have an extra coating of protection that help them survive, scientists in New York said.

The new findings offer insight into why bacterial spores are the most resistant organisms, researchers at New York University said in a release Thursday.

Microbiologists studied the spores of Bacillus subtilis, a non-pathogenic bacterium that shares many of the same structural features of spore-forming pathogens, such as botulism, tetanus and anthrax.

An electron microscope confirmed B. subtilis carried an outermost layer, which the researchers named the “spore crust.”

While it has yet to be confirmed, it’s possible the spore crust is a common feature of all spore-forming bacteria, including the harmful pathogens, the microbiologists wrote in a recent issue of the journal Current Biology.

The study was conducted by researchers at New York University’s Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, Loyola University’s Medical Center, and Princeton University’s Department of Molecular Biology.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Art, Carcinogens, Chemicals, Other, Philosophy, Smoking0 Comments

Computer Pioneer Max Palevsky Dead at 85

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., May 7 (UPI) — Computer pioneer Max Palevsky, a founder of Intel, died in Beverly Hills, Calif., at the age of 85, his assistant said.

Palevsky died Wednesday of heart failure at home, Angela Kaye said.

Palevsky used his fortune from computers to support Democratic presidential candidates and to amass an important collection of American Arts and Crafts furniture, which he donated to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

In 1961, Palevsky left Packard Bell to form Scientific Data Systems, a builder of small and medium-size business computers purchased in 1969 by Xerox for $1 billion. Palevsky used some of his 10 percent share of the $1 billion to start Intel, which became the world’s largest producer of computer chips.

Palevsky used his money to back Robert F. Kennedy and George McGovern for president and in 1970 rescued a foundering Rolling Stone magazine by buying a significant block of its stock, The New York Times reported Friday.

Despite his interest in computers, Palevsky did not own a computer or even a cellphone, he told the Los Angeles Times in 2008.

Palevsky said he was skeptical of “the hypnotic quality of computer games, the substitution of a Google search for genuine inquiry, (and) the instant messaging that has replaced social discourse.”

Palevsky, who was born in Chicago, earned a bachelor’s degree in math and philosophy from the University of Chicago and did graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, and UCLA.

He is survived by a sister, Helen Futterman of Los Angeles; a daughter, Madeleine Moskowitz of Los Angeles; four sons: Nicholas of Bangkok, Alexander and Jonathan, both of Los Angeles, and Matthew of Brooklyn; and four grandchildren.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Art, Other, Philosophy0 Comments

Computer Pioneer Max Palevsky Dead at 85

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., May 7 (UPI) — Computer pioneer Max Palevsky, a founder of Intel, died in Beverly Hills, Calif., at the age of 85, his assistant said.

Palevsky died Wednesday of heart failure at home, Angela Kaye said.

Palevsky used his fortune from computers to support Democratic presidential candidates and to amass an important collection of American Arts and Crafts furniture, which he donated to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

In 1961, Palevsky left Packard Bell to form Scientific Data Systems, a builder of small and medium-size business computers purchased in 1969 by Xerox for $1 billion. Palevsky used some of his 10 percent share of the $1 billion to start Intel, which became the world’s largest producer of computer chips.

Palevsky used his money to back Robert F. Kennedy and George McGovern for president and In 1970 rescued a foundering Rolling Stone magazine by buying a significant block of its stock, The New York Times reported Friday.

Despite his interest in computers, Palevsky did not own a computer or even a cellphone, he told the Los Angeles Times in 2008.

Palevsky said he was skeptical of “the hypnotic quality of computer games, the substitution of a Google search for genuine inquiry, the instant messaging that has replaced social discourse.”

Palevsky, who was born in Chicago, earned a bachelor’s degree in math and philosophy from the University of Chicago and did graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, and U.C.L.A.

He is survived by a sister, Helen Futterman of Los Angeles; a daughter, Madeleine Moskowitz of Los Angeles; four sons: Nicholas, of Bangkok, Alexander and Jonathan, both of Los Angeles, and Matthew, of Brooklyn; and four grandchildren.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Art, Other, Philosophy0 Comments

Australia Said Slow to Clean Up Oil Spill

SYDNEY, Oct. 26 (UPI) — The Federal Opposition said the Australian government is being complacent in intercepting an oil leak from a rig near Western Australia’s north coast.

The oil rig, run by PTTEP Australasia, has leaked oil for more than nine weeks into the Timor Sea, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported Sunday. Attempts to intercept the spill have been delayed three times and a fourth try is scheduled for Tuesday, the news agency reported.

“It’s been nine and a half weeks of complacency, nine and a half weeks of belching oil and nine and a half weeks of continued failure,” Greg Hunt, the Opposition’s spokesman for the environment, said.

Hunt said the government should bring in international experts to take care of the situation and accused the government of ignoring an enormous marine disaster.

“It’s an out of sight out of mind philosophy, if this spill were occurring off the coast of Sydney or Melbourne, the Federal Government would be up in arms,” Hunt said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Philosophy, Pollution & Toxins0 Comments

Timor Sea Oil Leak Likely Spilling Faster

CANBERRA, Australia, Oct. 26 (UPI) — Oil leaking into the Timor Sea from the Montara rig could be five times faster than previously thought.

The spill began Aug. 21 after an accident on PTTEP Australasia’s offshore rig nearly 100 miles off the remote Western Australian coast, known for its rich marine environment.

PTTEP estimates that between 300 and 400 barrels of oil a day is pouring into the ocean, but the Australian Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism said Thursday it could be as much as 2,000 barrels a day. Conservationists estimate that the oil is covering an area of at least 5,800 square miles.

A fourth attempt to intercept the leak has been unsuccessful and is now planned for Tuesday. When the accident occurred, PTTEP had estimated it would take 50 days to plug the leak, 1.6 miles below the seabed.

Australia’s federal environment minister, Peter Garrett, said he was confident everything possible was being done to stop the oil leak.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said that the cost of the cleanup had reached more than $5 million. PTTEP has agreed to meet the costs.

The opposition’s spokesman for environment Greg Hunt called for the government to bring in international experts to deal with the situation.

“It’s been nine and a half weeks of complacency, nine and a half weeks of belching oil and nine and a half weeks of continued failure,” Hunt told the Australian Broadcasting System. He said the spill is a marine disaster of epic proportions and the federal government is “ignoring it”.

“It’s an out of sight out of mind philosophy. If this spill were occurring off the coast of Sydney or Melbourne the federal government would be up in arms,” Hunt said.

Following a three-day expedition through the polluted waters, WWF Director of Conservation Gilly Llewellyn said, “There were times when we were literally in a sea of oil from left to right and as far as we could see ahead of us — it was heavily oiled water and it was sickening because in this we were seeing dolphins surfacing.”

Llewellyn stressed that, based on previous oil disasters, the damage from Montara will be long lasting. “We know that oil can be a slow and silent killer. Impacts from the Exxon Valdez disaster are still being seen 20 years later, so we can expect this environmental disaster will continue to unfold for years to come,” she said.

Meanwhile, on Friday PTTEP took control of five new exploration licenses, giving PTTEP access to an additional 571 square miles of Australian waters near the leaking Montara rig. Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson and Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board supported the $11 million purchase of new oil assets.

Australian Marine Conservation Society spokesman Darren Kindleysides said PTTEP’s track record should have been considered before access was granted to new oil fields.

“Clearly PTTEP’s track record has been pretty shabby in recent months,” Kindleysides said, The Age reports. “Major questions still hang unanswered over why this spill happened and why it hasn’t been plugged yet.”

Despite concerns about the impact of the two-month oil leak, the Australian government stressed that the company would be “treated the same as any other company.”

“PTTEP is a major international oil company with strong technical capability and financial capacity,” said government spokesman Michael Bradley.

“The causes of the Montara well leak are unknown at this stage. … PTTEP will continue to be treated by government on a non-discriminatory basis in its activities and operations here in Australia,” Bradley said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Causes, Conservation, Energy, Other, Philosophy, Pollution & Toxins0 Comments

Principles of New Suburbanism

The essense of New Suburbanism is to support a clean, but wider human footprint – which is anathema to much of conventional environmentalist wisdom. In many parts of the world, such as within the state of California, there is abundant open space. California, especially within its vast interior, has hundreds upon thousands of virtually vacant square miles of rolling foothills, rangeland, forests, farms and fields. The Golden State is a whopping 158,000 square miles in size, with only 36 million people, most of them already crammed quite amicably within reasonably dense urban areas. California will always have plenty of available land, and the mantra that the personal residences of humans must be consigned to ever higher densities is not natural law or indisputably moral. A wider human footprint is not necessarily anathema to the health of the environment.
post resumes below image

Low density communities can spread along roads and highways, with
small scale commercial agriculture and wildlife corridors, independent
of expensive utility scale energy, water, or information infrastructure.
(Photo: EcoWorld)

New Suburbanism, despite this emphasis on treating land as abundant, does not have to be in conflict with the ideals of New Urbanism. The roots of New Urbanism are to promote architectural and urban designs that create a sense of place in new communities; its roots are are not in environmentalism or open space movements – New Urbanism is a movement of architects and urban planners with an aesthetic focus.

For this reason, New Urbanism, at least in terms of its origins, does not necessarily require a focus on high-density development. But today, the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) promotes themselves as “the leading organization promoting walkable, neighborhood-based development as an alternative to sprawl.” Another group, NewUrbanism.org, has adopted the following eight fundamental principles:

Principles of New Urbanism“:
1 – Walkability,
2 – Connectivity,
3 – Mixed-Use & Diversity,
4 – Mixed Housing,
5 – Quality Architecture & Urban Design,
6 – Traditional Neighborhood Structure,
7 – Increased Density, and
8 – Smart Transportation.

New Urbanism today promotes ultra high density human habitation as an accepted priority. As New Suburbanists, we would claim this bias is often counterproductively applied. We believe NewUrbanism.org’s, principle #6, increased density, is being given excessive weight by New Urbanists. Their principle #7, smart transportation, in practice means mandating light rail and/or streetcars, and ultra high-density housing concentrated along these corridors. These principles, and others courtesy of New Urbanism, such as “mixed housing,” and “mixed use and diversity” now inform civic subsidies and other zoning policies. But are they always cost effective – and equally important – is this really where the New Urbanists wanted to go, when they began promoting a return to aesthetically conscious civic architecture and design?

Also coopted by high-density ideology is the U.S. Green Building Council, who define the the LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) building and urban development standards. But leadership in energy efficiency and design has no intrinsic connection with high density. Instead of developing LEED criteria focused on promoting optimal resource efficiency and zero pollution or toxicity – current LEED standards inordinately emphasize ultra dense housing within a maze of other earth friendly and sustainable criteria, some of them obviously great ideas, and others that appear more ideologically derived.

For example, according to local sources, in California, to get basic LEED certification for a home, you have to earn 45 points. There are plentiful ways to earn points, since the LEED “Platinum” certification requires 90 points. But nothing earns LEED points like high density. A builder can get 4 points by building “high density” housing, and another 10 points are available simply by building a home within a LEED certified neighborhood. The high-density points from just these two criteria earn up to 14 out of the 45 points required for LEED certification for homes, with numerous other criteria driving additional point incentives towards high density. If you refer to the USGBC’s LEED certification for buildings version 2.2 “LEED for New Construction,” you will see their criteria awards points for measures such as not building on farmland, wildlife habitat, or near water. Additional points are earned if developers build near light rail stations, construct plentiful public bike racks, and never build in excess of the mandated minimum parking spaces for automobiles. And of course, the minimum average density of a LEED certified community of residences must be ten homes per acre.

Along with LEED for homes and buildings, as described above, we now have LEED for Neighborhoods, or LEED ND, also emphasizing high density as a fundamental criteria for certification. Review USGBC’s May 2008 draft of LEED ND standards “LEED ND Draft Project Checklist” to see where the big points are scored. Basic LEED ND certification as it is currently proposed requires 40 points, with a “platinum” certification requiring 80 points. There are some good ideas reflected in the LEED ND criteria, such as 5 points for storm water management, or up to 3 points for energy efficiency in buildings. But most of the big point earners in LEED ND simply scream high density: 10 points for “preferred location,” based on proximity to mass transit, 8 points for “reduced automobile dependence,” and 7 points for “compact development” (to get 7 points here you must develop seventy units per acre); if you build an ultra high density development, you have already earned 25 of the 40 necessary points for LEED ND.

About one year ago, we published one of many critiques of the high density bias of conventional environmentalist wisdom, in particular, a critique of new urbanism, making eight claims challenging the principles of new urbanism. The only amendment to these criticisms is that they are leveled more generally against the entire “smart growth” ideology, variously advocated by the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), NewUrbanism.org, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBG), friends of smart growth at the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), and every analyst, activist, academic or policymaker who is convinced that higher density is always better.

Eight Criticisms of Smart Growth Policies:
1 – Artificially and selectively inflate land values, making housing less affordable,
2 – Emphasize public space over private space,
3 – Make war on the car,
4 – Promote high-density infill in low density neighborhoods,
5 – Prefer open space to homes, but not to biofuel crops, solar fields, or wind farms,
6 – Presume that social problems will be alleviated through forcing everyone to live in ultra high density, mixed neighborhoods,
7 – Incorrectly claim there is a shortage of open space and farmland,
8 – Pretend they have the final answer; that their precepts are beyond debate.

Rather than expand yet again upon these criticisms, our intention here is to present an alternative ideology – one that embraces much of new urbanism and LEED concepts, but from an entirely different perspective, one that believes a diversity of privately held, lower density human habitation over wider areas can manage ecosystems as well or better than the tightly managed manifestations of high-density ideology, while furthering property rights, innovation, initiative, and economic pluralism with respect to land development.

So herewith we offer “Principles of New Suburbanism,” not to refute the virtues of high density, which we believe always have and always will effectively emerge, but to extol the virtues of low density. In this philosophy we believe human stewardship and pluralistic private land ownership, combined with 21st century clean technologies, can enable a suburban and exurban landscape that would spread bucolic and utterly clean low density communities across thousands of square miles. And wildlife would flourish, farms would flourish, and homes would tuck into the folds and fissures of the land like the farmhouses of Provence.

PRINCIPLES OF NEW SUBURBANISM

(1) Compatible with New Urbanism: Both of these architectural and urban/exurban planning ideologies place the central emphasis on aesthetic imperatives – both are equally committed to creating a sense of place in new communities. New Suburbanists support high density zoning preferences in the urban core of large cities. New Suburbanists enthusiastically support building 21st century cities, with high-rises and plentiful car-independent transit options and everything else inimical to the central cores of megacities.

(2) Land is Abundant: There is abundant available land for low density suburban and exurban development. New Suburbanists encourage zoning that recognizes the importance of progressively lower density zoning from urban cores, instead of draconican “urban service boundaries” that arbitrarily restrict development, especially low density development.

(3) Car Friendly: Personal transportation devices are tantalizingly close to becoming ultra safe conveyances that can drive on full autopilot and have zero environmental footprint, and we are within a few decades at most of having abundant clean energy. The age of the personal driving machine has just begun.

(4) Road Friendly: Roads are the most versatile of all mass transit corridors since people, bicycles, cars, busses, trolleys, and trucks can all travel on or alongside roads. Commercial areas should be car-friendly as well as bike and pedestrian friendly – fortunately since land is abundant, this is not all that difficult.

(5) Decentralized & Off-Grid Friendly: New communities can have neighborhood-scale groundwater extraction and distribution systems, as well as water treatment and irrigation systems, or complete and independent systems for single homes. Using new off-grid technologies, clean and cost-effective water & energy autarky can be achieved at a household or neighborhood basis, often allowing lower taxes through avoiding more expensive public facilities.

(6) Farm & EcoSystem Friendly: Via the economic pluralism fostered by implementing new suburbanist inspired highly flexible and low density residential zoning, i.e., small independently owned, often independently constructed homes on large lots of .5 to 20 acres, with frequently modest interior square footage, you create the potential for a vibrant market in small property leases for specialty farming. Through zoning (or protecting) vast tracts of outer suburb and exurban lands according to new suburbanist precepts where low density home building and road building is encouraged or enforced instead of squelched or abandoned, you create a market for relatively cheap abundant land, making more affordable acquistion of land set-asides for agriculture or nature conservancies.

(7) Aesthetically Committed: By adopting new suburbanist zoning, permitting more diverse, progressively lower density developments based on the distance from existing urban concentrations, many of the excesses of over-regulated, artificially dense, supposedly “green” contemporary suburban developments could be avoided. There is a beauty to simply letting development take its natural course, yielding penumbras of habitation following the roads and the landscape like a life affirming circulation system, instead of something that is malevolent and must be contained.

All the essence of New Urbanism, all of its inspiring call to create the 21st century’s version of cities and buildings that are welcoming spaces are still within New Suburbanism, with none of the stridency and coercion or pork of the powerful high density coalition, without the need to make of us nothing more than punitively taxed, eco-pentinent sardines.

At its heart, New Suburbanism is the necessary counterpart to New Urbanism as it has become, constrained as it is by an imbalanced, unnecessary bias towards high density. New Suburbanism gives back to our cities and towns their freedom; gives us abundant land; gives us affordable homes; gives our cities turned suburbs turned exurbs the unforced, organic, natural and easy transition from dense to sparse. If New Urbanism defines the aesthetic of our new and renewed cities, than New Suburbanism helps define the aesthetic interface between city and country; it gives us back the smooth transition from urban chic to country soul.

Posted in Architecture, Bicycles, Buildings, Cars, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Ideas, Humanities, & Education, Other, Philosophy, Policies & Solutions, Policy, Law, & Government, Solar, Transportation, Wind11 Comments

Hycrete-Cementing Building Technology

When it comes to improvements, it is good to start with the basics. The fundamental part of any city, road, or building is concrete. By reducing the amount of energy needed to build, and by simplifying the components of the concrete, CO2 emissions are reduced while the whole building process is made more efficient.

Voted a GoingGreen winner and covered in numerous publications ranging from Time Magazine to Gizmag, Hycrete is a company at the forefront of cement technology. Hycrete has been manufacturing products in New Jersey for 40 years, and had already made a significant impact to the building industry by bringing a class of rust inhibitors to the market in the 1950s. Its more recent claim to fame-waterproof cement technology-was developed in the mid 90s when Michael S. Rhodes, one of Hycrete’s key inventors, developed the unique moisture and corrosion blocker.

Rhodes’ accomplishments are impressive: He has worked with NASA to develop solid rocket fuels and improve the heat shield of the Apollo series. The inventors’ interests are varied, however, and don’t stop there: Rhodes was also involved in creating products for the military, such as protective foams for submarines. At Hycrete, it was time to develop a product to shield one of the most used building materials on earth-Cement-from the elements.

The main problems associated with cement are corrosion and cracking. Hycrete describes the issue in their data sheet: “Conventional concrete absorbs water and dissolved salts through a network of capillaries and cracks. [This water weakens the cement and may cause rusting to any steel piping or internal structures. Also, water runoff is often an issue] Hycrete Elite’s hydrophobic properties shut down the capillary wicking action that carries salts to the reinforcement layer and transforms concrete into a waterproof construction material. Unlike external membranes or coatings, Hycrete Elite provides real time protection as it is mixed into concrete to provide integral waterproofing and corrosion resistance.” Being waterproof, cement mixed with hycrete elite is perfect for rooftop gardens, parking lots, erosion control etc.

Waterproofing cement the ‘old-fashioned’ way is a major environmental issue: A popular approach is to line the entire structure with a waterproof membrane. The problem with this membrane is that it is typically composed of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are non recyclable, so when this cement needs replacing it is simply tossed into a landfill. Almost half of the building materials sitting in landfills are made up of this kind of cement.

The soap like properties of hycrete, on the other hand, follow the ‘cradle to cradle’ philosophy and break down when returned to the soil. By being mixed into the cement rather than sprayed on top of it (though this is an option with other hycrete waterproofing products), the cement is recyclable and can be reused. It would be nice not to have to worry about leaky roofs while watering your fruit garden on top of a high rise complex.

Posted in Energy, Landfills, Military, Other, Philosophy, Science, Space, & Technology1 Comment

Polaris Venture's Bob Metcalf

Back in January 2007 we posted “New Environmentalism,” one of several attempts we’ve made to redefine environmentalism, that particular one inspired by comments from Robert Metcalf, a partner at Polaris Ventures in Boston. Metcalf’s comments were part of a keynote address he delivered at the Massachusetts Energy Summit entitled “Framing the First Massachusetts Energy Summit.” We liked Metcalf’s take on free enterprise and private sector solutions to environmental and energy challenges, his support for creative innovations, and his unwillingness to accept every precept of the traditional environmentalist’s conventional wisdom.

Bob Metcalf
“Every day a fusion reactor flies across the sky,
taunting scientists who can’t replicate that on earth.”

Metcalf is an example of someone from the high tech community who has jumped into a world that up until a few years ago, was not generally perceived to be part of the high tech pantheon.

Now “clean tech” or “green tech” is recognized as one of the hottest sectors in the venture capital driven high tech industry. More recently, on April 8th at AlwaysOn’s Venture Summit East, Metcalf delivered a keynote on the topic of energy and technology, again highlighting themes that resonate with us, to put it mildly. To view a video of Metcalf’s keynote in its entirety, click here.

Initially Metcalf explored the term to describe cleantech, rejecting “green” because of its association with a political agenda that includes anti-trade, anti-business, anti-technology, and anti-development sentiments, among others (Metcalf’s delivery probably included some overstatements to spice things up, but only to a point). He also considered “clean” to only tell half the story, because the objective of successful solutions must be clean, of course, but also cheap. Metcalf went on to suggest that rather than green as a color to describe cheap and clean technology for environmental and energy challenges, he would choose black – the color of silicon, coal, and outer space, and blue – the color of the ocean, where (along with outer space) many of our technology-driven solutions may lie. Ultimately, Metcalf appears to prefer the term “Enertech” to characterize high-tech innovations that will solve our challenge to develop cheap and clean energy.

Metcalf spent a fair amount of time extrapolating lessons we learned from the the high tech industry in general, and the internet in particular, to the burgeoning cheap and clean tech – or enertech – industry. “Did we conserve our way into the internet,” he asked, noting how we are clearly using far more bandwidth today than we were at any point in the past, despite massive improvements in efficiency. He also noted that we have learned about bubbles – not that bubbles are bad – stating “bubbles are an accelerator to technological innovation.”

Other lessons from the high tech experience that might be applied to the enertech phenomenon included the need for research to be directed more at competing research universities, and not into the monopolistic environments of government and very large corporations. As he put it “monopolies can rip off their customers,” and “monopolies are slow to bring innovations to market.” Metcalf also pointed out the parallel between high tech and enertech with respect to the promise of distributed solutions.

Some of Metcalf’s most interesting comments concerned global warming. Without delving into the debate as to what may cause global warming or whether or not it constitutes an existential crisis, Metcalf noted that from an economic standpoint, “there is going to be a crash associated with global warming investments.” Of course he’s right, there’s been so much money thrown into so many businesses in such a short time, that just like with the internet bubble, with the global warming bubble we will see great forward progress in the industry but we will also see a lot of misdirection and failed investments.

Also provocative were Metcalf’s ideas not to cool the earth or warm the earth, but simply to manage the global climate ala “geo-engineering.” He suggested “climate control research” become the emphasis, and wondered why there isn’t more work going into “blasting benign nano-particles into space to increase the earth’s albedo,” or “sticking a giant reflecting membrane at orbital point L-1 between the earth and the sun, to cool the earth and harvest energy to beam back to earth.”

Faith in free enterprise, competitive free markets, private sector innovation, distributed solutions, technological solutions, and thinking big – Metcalf’s philosophy epitomizes the best that the high tech world has to offer as it merges with and influences the environmental community and the energy sector.

Posted in Coal, Energy, Engineering, Global Warming & Climate Change, Ideas, Humanities, & Education, Other, Philosophy, Science, Space, & Technology0 Comments

Rational Environmentalism

Earlier in March we attracted the attention of a professional PR firm dedicated to exposing “deniers,” and felt personally what it’s like to have your integrity questioned by people with no idea who you are, or what you truly believe. As we stated in our response, we are not going to descend into hyperbole or personal attacks, and we are going to respect the opinions of anyone who presents a credible argument – no matter whether they agree with us or disagree with everything we write. The truth matters, and often only ongoing debate can reveal the truth.

We would much prefer to report on clean technology and the companies and entrepreneurs who are delivering it – as well as report on the status of species and ecosystems. But there is an urgent need to maintain a dialogue as to the nature of environmentalism, especially since it has suddenly acquired momentum orders of magnitude greater than it had ten years ago. There are a lot of new entrants into the world of environmentalism, and we all need to step back and think about what environmentalism means – what are the unintended consequences, what is the underlying philosophy, and what are the competing visions of environmentalism?

So here is an updated, and fairly spontaneous statement of our editorial position at EcoWorld. Anyone who has a different point of view is welcome.

(1) We believe in emphasizing limited government, free markets, and individual liberties.

(2) We believe “smart growth” is damaging the economy and the environment. Read “Taking on Smart Growth.”

(3) We believe there is not compelling evidence that human CO2 emissions are causing potentially catastrophic climate change. Read: “The Case Against Climate Alarm.”

(4) We believe in most cases, there is no shortage of land, and the hidden agenda behind “urban service boundaries” is to keep building fees and property taxes within existing jurisdictions at inflated values, in order to increase revenues of municipal governments who have utterly failed to keep their employee’s pension and benefit packages within sustainable (and equitable) limits. Read “California Land Use Choices.”

(5) We believe California’s government is using the “Global Warming Act” to create new regulations and fees relating to Lower Carbon Fuel Standards and Land Use, when a small additional improvement to vehicle efficiency could yield far more of the allegedly necessary reductions in CO2 emissions. We think the regulations that will govern new fuel standards and land use will be draconian, subjective and capricious, will tragically undermine property rights, and do grevious harm to California’s economy.

(6) We believe that public employee unions are backing new taxes and fees in the name of global warming to win new revenues to fund otherwise unsustainable benefits for their members. While we believe in the ideals of unions, we believe that all workers in the USA should get the same taxpayer funded guarantees when they are unable to work – social security and medicare. This reform would render public entities solvent again. While some defined-benefit early pensions may be necessary for government workers in hazardous or physically demanding jobs, these benefits should be brought down to earth. No public servant should make more when they’re retired than when they work, for example. We believe labor unions in the government sector should be strictly regulated, because they operate under few of the restraints that force unions in the competitive private sector to be reasonable.

(7) We believe nuclear power is safer than ever and should be part of the global energy future. We believe Yucca Mountain is a safe repository for nuclear waste and should be opened for business.

(8) We believe the “alarm industry” is far, far better funded than the alleged “denial industry,” by a factor of one-thousand to one or more. Read: “The Debate Goes On,” or “Carbon Fundamentalism.”

(9) We believe cars are getting smarter, cleaner and greener all the time, and that roads and freeways – which can convey busses, trucks and personal automobiles – are the best means to improve transit options for everyone.

(10) We believe genuine air pollution – now euphemistically referred to as “collateral pollution” – is what we should be concerned about, not CO2, and that the focus on CO2 emissions has distracted us from this more important environmental and health challenge.

(11) We believe that if anything is causing some elements of climate change, such as regional cases of extreme weather or drought, it is the result of tropical deforestation, not human CO2 emissions.

(12) We believe that since the 1970′s, green snake oil been one of the favorite currencies of charlatans, and that global warming alarm is making them come out of the woodwork. We believe the green mania currently sweeping the world will advance green technologies, but that most investors and entrepreneurs will lose.

(13) We believe that the green bubble, to the extent it relies on global warming alarm, is causing marginal business models to receive investment and subsidies and this is creating vested interests in politically contrived solutions and will inhibit genuine competitive green innovation.

(14) We believe there are compelling, urgent environmental problems, from deforestation in Borneo, to depleting aquifers and endangered ocean fisheries. But in general, we think threats to ecosystems, especially in the USA, are vastly overstated – and that more emphasis needs to go to rational cost/benefit analysis.

(15) We reserve the right to add, delete, modify or enhance all of these points, because we believe in evolving our position in accordance with whatever important new information we receive. Global warming alarmists – can you do that too?

These are some principles of what we like to refer to as rational environmentalism – focusing on the big picture, steering clear of hype and panic, respecting property rights, appreciating the power of humanity and the earth to adapt, and trying to remove ALL of our blinders when searching for hidden agendas wrapped in clean green cloaks.

Posted in Air Pollution, Cars, Drought, Energy, Philosophy, Policy, Law, & Government, Regional, Science, Space, & Technology2 Comments

Reforesting the Tropics

COSTA RICAN RESORT RAISING FUNDS FOR REFORESTATION
Monkey Jumping in Rainforest Canopy
The face of the forest – a flying monkey
soars through the canopy.

Editor’s Note: By the mid-1990′s, thanks to tireless efforts of groups such as the Rainforest Action Network, the World Wildlife Fund, and countless others, headway was being made in the battle to reverse tropical deforestation. But that was then. About ten years ago, starting in Europe, enthusiasm for biofuel began to grow, and this enthusiasm quickly spread to the tropics where entrepreneurs began to raze the forests to grow oil palms and sugar cane. The momentum picked up as global warming alarm somehow translated itself into the notion that biofuel was better than petroleum – with most of the well-intentioned proponents of this notion completely unaware of the havoc they were encouraging in the tropics.

Today where the timber barons have been slowed if not stopped, the biofuel barons are rampaging unchecked, and global warming concerns have left mute the organizations that should have been fighting this new cause for deforestation with the same vigor they fought the old. Even the figures are hard to find – we have checked with press officers for these groups and they claim there is no way to differentiate between deforestation for timber, for cattle ranches, or for biofuel.

World production figures for biofuel tell another story. Biofuel, primarily ethanol and biodiesel, is expected to reach nearly 100 billion barrels per year by 2020. At 5,000 barrels per square mile per year – which is a very good yield – that is nearly 500,000 square miles of land, and most of this land is going to be where tropical rainforests once stood. Right now, less than 3.0 million square miles of tropical rainforest remains, down from nearly 8.0 million 150 years ago. We can’t afford to lose any more.

Tropical deforestation not only causes loss of wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and soil erosion. Deforestation, especially in the tropics, also causes local and regional droughts. There is evidence that tropical deforestation disrupts the monsoon cycle, which could spread drought and extreme weather throughout the world. There is even a growing concern among climatologists that tropical deforestation may be a much bigger factor than industrial CO2 emissions in any alleged climate change we are experiencing.

This is why stories such as this one, by Steve and Debbie Legg in Costa Rica, are encouraging and can serve as a model for other people and other nations. Using the sustainable harvests from newly planted forests to fund additional reforesting is a business model that encourages reforestation instead of deforestation, and can be an alternative to biofueled deforestation. – Ed “Redwood” Ring

Costa Rican Resort Raising Funds for Reforestation
by Steve & Debbie Legg, June 20, 2007

The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn…..

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

That simple Emerson quotation is premise of the reforestation program developed by Steve and Debbie Legg owners of Leaves and Lizards Arenal Volcano Cabin Retreat.

Clear Cut Rainforest in Peru
This devastating clear cut in Peru is
an example of how the trouble begins.
(Photo: Mongabay.com)

Just over a year ago, the Legg’s purchased a 26 acre dairy farm in Monterrey, Costa Rica. They built 3 cabins and opened to guests in January 2007. A vacation at Leaves and Lizards is an ecological and cultural experience. Guests may learn about the Meso-American Biological Corridor, the consequences of deforestation, spend the day with a Costa Rica family, become informed about the circle of life in the rainforest by their expert guides and eat food cooked with methane gas produced from the manure of their pigs and cows. Many of the guests that have had the pleasure of staying at Leaves and Lizards inquire about reforesting opportunities. Some have even purchased farms in need of reforesting. Others just want to do something to help reverse deforestation.

Proper reforestation takes planning and follow through. These are the steps necessary for a successful reforestation plan:

1 – Clean-up and soil preparation; if the farm has natural grass, clean-up is done once before planting. If the farm has exotic grasses like Brazilian or Gigante, it will take several clean-ups. These invasive grasses have been planted as pasture grass on cattle farms. They choke out and kill baby trees or other native grasses and plants.

2 – Designing the new forest, ordering and careful transport of trees to the planting location. The design includes a variety of native trees. Teak, not native to Costa Rica, is commonly used as the pioneer forest. It grows rapidly, has large leaves that provide shade that the native trees need to grow. The teak can be harvested later to provide additional funding for future projects.

3 – Making sticks for tree supports, digging holes, planting and organic fertilizing of trees. In the San Carlos area of Costa Rica tree planting season is in May and November. These are the rainiest months.

4 – Eliminating weed competition and pruning; once a month for the next 24 months.
It is possible to just let the land go back to “back to nature,” however, that takes longer and the new forest will have less biodiversity.

The endpoint of thoughtless and rampant deforestation
is shown in this photo of the Malagasy Republic, where
erosion has claimed entire mountainsides.
(Photo: WildMadagascar.org)

Biodiversity is short for Biological + Diversity, defined as the number of organisms in an ecosystem, region or environment. Rainforests are highly biodiverse; they cover only about 2% of the land mass on the earth, but contain 50% of all life on the planet. In 2.5 acres of primary rainforest there may be as many as 480 different species of trees. Brazil has the highest level of biodiversity in the world with 59,851 known different species of plants and animals. Sadly, they also have the world’s highest deforestation rate. Brazil is responsible for 27 % of the earth’s yearly deforestation. The earth suffers 80,000 acres of deforestation daily!

A good reforestation plan includes ways for the new forest to support itself. For example, two trees are growing side by side, but in nature only one of those trees will reach old age, the other less dominate one will eventually be crowded out by the larger tree, the smaller tree can be harvested and the wood used to provide funding for the farm up keep, and further reforestation projects. Another tree is planted in its place. This is growing what Fred Morgan at Finca Leola (www.fincaleola.com) calls a perpetual forest.

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in. – Greek Proverb

The reforestation project at Leaves and Lizards (www.leavesandlizards.com) offers people a chance to buy trees for reforestation as a gift, memorial or as part of a vacation package. One package gives the supporter the opportunity to plant and care for the baby trees. Supporters receive yearly photographs, documenting the growth of the trees they sponsored. The Legg’s work with Hector Ramirez from Reforest Costa Rica (www.reforestcostarica.com). Hector’s knowledge and expertise of the local flora and fauna, as well as the connections he has in the community, prove to make this program a great success. Local farmers trust him and he is educating farmers about the need to protect their remaining forests and reforest to protect water sources.

As an ecologically and socially responsible resort, community involvement is the philosophy of Leaves and Lizards. Monterrey is a tiny, close knit community, perched in the mountains above La Fortuna. La Fortuna sits in the shadow of the Arenal Volcano and has experienced rapid growth as numerous tourists flock to the area hoping to get a glimpse of one of the most active volcanoes in the world. The community of Monterrey has watched Fortuna outgrow its resources and since the opening of Leaves and Lizards, Monterrey has looked to the Legg’s for guidance in planning for future tourism. Steve and Debbie believe tourism should be a support to the community, remain in the background and not take over the community. Local leaders are taking proactive measures to ensure the preservation and continuation of the quality of life in this tranquil hamlet. The first meeting of the “city association” took place in February 2007. The association facilitates community improvements including road repair, handling of garbage, recycling and water usage.

Many of the tours offered at Leaves and Lizards promote rural tourism. Farmers and other locals show off their farms, waterfalls and forests to the guests at Leaves and Lizards. Residents of Monterrey have helped plant native trees and plants that produce fruit to attract wildlife to the resort for guests to enjoy.

Funds raised by Leaves and Lizards will help pay for farmers and individuals who are buying land to reforest to plant trees. This program may indeed be the seed of a thousand forests.

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see Nature all ridicule and deformity, and some scarce see Nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, Nature is Imagination itself. – William Blake, 1799, The Letters

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Posted in Animals, Biodiversity, Causes, Drought, Organizations, Other, Philosophy, Recycling, Regional, Soil Erosion, Trees & Forestry, Volcanoes0 Comments

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