Archive for September 10th, 2011

Extreme Extraction


Extreme Extraction

When Ecological Chickens Come Home to Roost


Posted 09 September 2011, by Ashley Dawson, Counterpunch,



The largest grassroots environmental protest in decades came to a triumphant conclusion over the Labor Day weekend. In the course of two weeks, 1,252 people were arrested for sitting in peacefully in front of the White House in a bid to convince Barack Obama to reject the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, which is slated to bring heavy oil from the tar sands deposits in Canada’s Alberta Province all the way across the U.S. to the Gulf Coast for refining. Organizers of the Tar Sands Action declared from the outset that this would be a litmus test for President Obama: he alone will make the decision whether to proceed with the Keystone project, and, as a result, his stance on this pivotal environmental issue will be a clear indication of his broader outlook on environmental affairs. At stake, in other words, is the support of the environmental movement for his reelection bid. The battle against extraction of oil from the tar sands is, however, about far more than simply throwing down the gauntlet to Obama’s Rightward-lurching presidency.

The struggle to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline is indicative of a key shift in the stakes and terms of contemporary environmental conflict, for the tar sands are but one instance of a far broader trend towards extreme extraction today. While the world is not about to run out of hydrocarbon energy sources, discoveries of new energy supplies such as oil fields have become increasingly infrequent and small in recent years. Such scarcity has been one of the key factors driving energy prices higher. As the quality and quantity of conventional sources of fossil fuel have diminished, the energy industry has turned to increasingly inaccessible sources in often hostile and fragile environments. The technology required to extract oil, gas, and coal reserves from such inaccessible sources has grown ever more complex, expensive, and environmentally destructive. The increasing scarcity of easily exploitable energy reserves, in other words, explains the rise of extreme extractive industries such hydrofracturing, deep sea oil drilling, mountaintop coal removal, and tar sands oil extraction. These new modes of extreme extraction are bringing forms of environmental destruction heretofore confined to the global South home to populations in the North who have for decades been relatively sheltered from the most aggressive efforts of the energy industry. Extreme extraction also significantly augments the release of greenhouse gases, intensifying climate change. For this reason, extreme extraction tends to go hand-in-hand with extreme weather and (un)natural disasters.

Yet if extreme extraction brings the environmental chickens home to roost, it also galvanizes new transnational forms of solidarity. As the protests against the Keystone XL Pipeline over the last two weeks demonstrated, extreme extraction is forging coalitions that cross ethnic, regional, and national borders. In tandem with catalyzing such new links, the struggle against extreme extraction is also provoking the American environmental movement to adopt increasingly militant modes of direct action – forms of struggle often pioneered by environmental activists in the global South faced with the destruction of the natural world upon which their lives depend.

* * *

Extreme extraction would seem to be an unlikely candidate for public support, particularly after the public relations debacle of last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But neither the deep pockets nor the cynicism of the fossil fuel lobby should be underestimated. Oil from the Canadian tar sands, for example, is being marketed to the U.S. public using an incredibly duplicitous discourse of human rights that is shot through with thinly veiled forms of nationalism and racism. As a recent Ethical Oil campaign video demonstrates, tar sands oil is represented in this marketing campaign as a politically correct alternative to oil from oppressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia. “Unlike Conflict Oil from some of the world’s most politically oppressive and environmentally reckless regimes,” the Ethical Oil website states, “Ethical Oil is the “Fair Trade” choice in oil.” Never mind the fact that the U.S. has supported the Saudi regime for decades; oil from the Canadian tar sands is painted as a consumer choice in favor of democracy and human rights, akin to the decision to buy fair trade coffee.

Key to the Ethical Oil campaign is a contemporary version of the longstanding colonial trope of saving brown women from oppressive brown men. The Ethical Oil promotion video therefore focuses on the fact that “we” bankroll a state that “doesn’t allow women to drive, doesn’t allow them to leave their homes or work without their male guardian’s permission.” Instead of legitimating the rule of the British Raj or, in a more recent example of the circulation of this trope, the invasion of Iraq, this discourse of women’s rights is deployed by the Ethical Oil campaign to suggest that American consumers should support oil extracted in more democratic nations. As the Ethical Oil website has it, “Countries that produce Ethical Oil protect the rights of women, workers, indigenous peoples and other minorities including gays and lesbians. Conflict Oil regimes, by contrast, oppress their citizens and operate in secret with no accountability to voters, the press or independent judiciaries. Some Conflict Oil regimes even support terrorism.” The notion of “conflict” oil is intended to evoke the campaign against Blood Diamonds, suggesting that consumers who support the extraction and consumption of oil from Canada’s tar sands rather than from Saudi Arabia are striking a decisive blow for human rights.

Two huge fallacies underlie this apparently neat distinction between Ethical Oil and Conflict Oil. The first is the assumption that the world has to consume more oil, and that Americans must perforce choose between different sources of petroleum. Against this assumption, we should remember the admonitions of climate scientists such as James Hansen that we need to decarbonize the industrialized economies of the world with all possible dispatch if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. Few serious analysts believe such a shift is going to be easy or even possible without transforming our current, growth-dependent capitalist system, but it is nonetheless clearly imperative for our collective survival that we make this change. This is a truth that the notion of ethical oil consumption, like other forms of consumer-oriented green capitalism, conveniently ignores.

The second whopping lie in the Ethical Oil campaign is the notion that any oil can ever be extracted in a wholly ethical manner. Oil is a toxic substance whose extraction and consumption over the last century has significantly raised living standards in some parts of the world, but has also been inextricably tied to colonialism, imperialism, and other violations of people’s rights to self-determination, leading to widespread human rights abuses and the wholesale destruction of the environment. Furthermore, to continue to consume oil is to magnify the baleful impact of climate chaos around the world today and to ensure a bleak and increasingly violent world for future generations.

Oil from the tar sands, which the Ethical Oil campaign is of course designed to legitimate, is a perfect example of the violence of the energy industry. Tar sands oil is based on modes of extreme extraction that wreak unparalleled destruction on the environment and its denizens. Much of that destruction has been relatively invisible, however, since it takes place in the geographically isolated wilds of northern Alberta Province in Canada. An additional factor that makes extraction from the tar sands difficult for the general public to understand and to mobilize against is what Rob Nixon, in his recent book Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, calls the “temporal dispersion” of environmental calamities. Like the acidification of the oceans, the thawing of the cryosphere, and many other aspects of climate change, the impact of oil and gas extraction from the Canadian tar sands does not fit within the spectacular visual frame that drives mainstream news media. As Nixon argues, the slow violence that characterizes many environmental catastrophes not only tends to make such disasters relatively invisible to much of the public, but also allows the corporations that perpetrate ecocide to wash their hands of the damage they cause since this violence often unfolds over decades rather than in the spectacular moment. The problem of slow violence is, as Nixon points out, at its heart a challenge of representation. This makes a politics of witnessing – using media that can reverse the geographical and temporal invisibility of environmental crimes – a particularly key mode of contemporary activism.

Melina Laboucan-Massimo’s Oil on Lubicon Land: A Photo Essay offers a powerful instance of such witnessing. Through a collage of photographs and a voice-over narrative, Laboucan-Massimo depicts the impact of three decades of oil and gas extraction on the territory of her people, the Lubicon-Cree First Nation. Lubicon land is now pockmarked by more than 2,600 oil and gas wells, and seventy percent of the tribe’s territory is leased for future “development.” Laboucan-Massimo stresses that this oil and gas extraction has taken place without consent of the Lubicon, infringing the provisions of the Canadian Constitution that protect aboriginal treaty rights. In addition, none of the estimated $14 billion worth of resources removed from Lubicon territory over the years have benefited the tribe materially. Instead, as Laboucan-Massimo demonstrates in her arresting photomontage, the beautiful boreal forests and peatlands that used to support a self-sufficient indigenous way of life based on hunting and gathering have been replaced by a blasted, pitted, and polluted industrial landscape. As indigenous activist Gitz Crazyboy put it during the Keystone protests, this effectively represents a fresh wave of genocide against First Nations people. To destroy the land that sustains indigenous people is also to destroy their culture, to make them dependent wards of an increasingly parsimonious state that has sanctioned the illegal exploitation of their lands.

Oil on Lubicon Land also makes the impact of extreme extraction visible by narrating the April 29, 2011 rupture in the Rainbow pipeline. This spill, one of many almost totally unreported pipeline ruptures over the last year in North America, released 4.5 million liters of toxic crude onto Lubicon land. If members of the tribe were already suffering from the slow violence of respiratory illnesses and cancer clusters produced by the oil and gas industry’s exploits on their land in recent decades, the oil spill rendered the toxicity of extreme extraction graphically visible. According to Laboucan-Massimo, the government not only failed to send out crews to deal with the spill but also did not notify affected communities of the dangers of the spill for almost a week. In a replay of the mendacious collaboration between government regulators and Big Oil that characterized the Deepwater Horizon spill, provincial authorities subsequently claimed that the peatland which absorbed much of the spill was an inert and isolated bog rather than a living ecosystem with vital connections to other parts of Lubicon land, including the aquifers that supply the Lubicon with drinking water.

Oil on Lubicon Land is not just a call for solidarity with the geographically isolated and politically marginalized Lubicon-Cree people, as important as such a call is. Melina Laboucan-Massimo’s photo essay has direct implications for the Keystone XL Pipeline, which will traverse the massive Ogallala aquifer – the source of 30% of America’s irrigation water and 82% of the drinking water for residents of the Plains states. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave the State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement on the Keystone XL a failing grade for reasons tied to the threat represented by the pipeline project to the Ogallala aquifer. The EPA noted, for instance, that the Environmental Impact Statement failed to adequately consider alternate routes for the pipeline that do not run through the Ogallala aquifer, and also failed to disclose or analyze the potential diluents that would have to be used to reduce the viscosity of the bitumen carried in the pipeline, information that would be essential to dealing with potential leaks. Such leaks are a very real concern given the fact that the existing Keystone pipeline ruptured in May 2011, releasing 20,000 gallons of crude in North Dakota. This was only one of the twelve spills that have plagued the Keystone over the last year. TransCanada Corporation’s successor pipeline, the Keystone XL, is, as its cute suffix suggests, designed to carry far more crude – double the quantity, in fact – far further, increasing the potential destructive impact of a rupture.

Adding to these relatively immediate concerns about the pipeline’s potential damage to key water supplies, the EPA report discusses the Environmental Impact Statement’s failure to assess the heightened greenhouse gas emissions associated with the project adequately. Exploitation of the Canadian tar sands is an incredibly energy-intensive process. The first step is to cut down huge swaths of boreal forest, a step that of course generates large amounts of carbon. Next, three-story high motorized shovels and dump trucks have to remove tons and tons of rock and soil to expose the underlying tar sands. Then, the dense bitumen that will be turned into synthetic crude has to be separated from the sand and clay with which it is surrounded. This can be done either by hauling the tar sands to processing plants, where natural gas and a gasoline-like product called naphtha are used to separate and process the bitumen, or by pumping steam underground to “cook” the bitumen over a two-week period, and then pumping the liquefied bitumen out of the ground. Either way, the amount of water and energy needed to extract the bitumen are extremely high, and the entire process creates massive amounts of greenhouse gases. Indeed, according to Naomi Klein, Canada’s carbon emissions are up 30% as a result of increasing exploitation of the tar sands, meaning that all other steps to be good environmental stewards taken by Canadians are meaningless.

The tar sands contain massive fossil fuel deposits. In fact, Canada increased its oil reserves by 3,600% when it decided to report its bitumen as economically recoverable “proven reserves” of petroleum in 2003, making it the possessor of the world’s second-largest oil supply. Nonetheless, in his book Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World, Richard Heinberg predicted that, despite their abundance, the tar sands would not become a meaningful source of energy for the U.S. because the extraction process relies so heavily on cheap and abundant natural gas. What has changed since Heinberg published this prediction in 2004? In 2005, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act after an intense lobbying campaign from the extractive industry and from Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force. As Josh Fox details in his film Gasland, the Energy Policy Act contained what’s known proverbially as the Halliburton Loophole to the Safe Drinking Water Act, a provision that authorizes corporations engaged in oil and gas exploration and extraction to inject known hazardous materials into land directly adjacent to underground drinking water supplies. The Halliburton Loophole also exempts such corporations from the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and Superfund Law.

These legal changes were necessary because the recovery of natural gas has been vastly expanded using a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or, more popularly, fracking. Like exploitation of the tar sands and other forms of extreme extraction, fracking is necessary because our nation’s unexploited large natural gas reserves are embedded in dense rock formations. To extract these relatively inaccessible reserves, energy companies inject a cocktail of water and secret proprietary fracturing fluids deep underground, where the toxic brew literally explodes, fracturing the rock formations and allowing the natural gas to be siphoned up to the surface. Significant amounts of the fracking fluids remain in the ground after the gas has been extracted. Despite releasing a report in 2004 (under heavy pressure from the Bush administration) that concluded that fracking “poses little or no threat to underground sources of drinking water,” in a 2010 study the EPA discovered toxins such as arsenic, copper, vanadium, and adamantanes in drinking water adjacent to drilling operations; these contaminants have been linked to illnesses such as cancer, kidney failure, anaemia, and fertility problems. The Natural Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board is currently studying ways to make hydraulic fracturing safer, but, as a letter from scientists at 22 leading universities states, six of the seven members of this subcommittee have current financial ties to the natural gas and oil industry. The public has good reason to be skeptical about the reports from such biased sources.

Immediately after passage of the Energy Policy Act in 2005, a bevvy of major energy corporations began the largest and most extensive domestic drilling campaign in history. They were building on drilling conducted since the Bureau of Land Management opened its extensive territories to drilling under pressure from Vice President Cheney in 2001, a move that resulted in the drilling of 450,000 wells in largely rural areas of the American west and south. The large quantities of natural gas recovered in the course of these earlier operations were key to making exploitation of the Canadian tar sands economically viable. Abundant and consequently relatively cheap sources of one fossil fuel hence facilitated extraction of another, with little thought given to the ultimate environmental and human toll of such energy intensive and polluting processes. As we have seen, however, both sources require extreme extraction techniques, both rely on dubious scientific claims about the safety of such techniques, and they each result in grievous environmental damage, both immediate and long-term.

After 2005, drilling operations for natural gas using fracking were extended into the more highly populated areas of North America. In July 2008, Pennsylvania lifted a five-year moratorium on new drilling in state lands to allow access to the Marcellus shale, a sedimentary rock formation that extends under a large part of the Appalachian Basin, from New York’s finger lakes region, through central Pennsylvania, to West Virginia and Maryland. New York quickly streamlined its own leasing process to catch up with Pennsylvania, despite the lack of any significant objective assessments of the environmental and health impacts of fracking. A recent New York Times article revealed that a yet-to-be-released report into the impact of fracking in New York state was conducted by Ecology and Environment, Inc., a consulting firm that “counts oil and gas companies among its clients and that could gain business from increased drilling in the state.” Despite widespread public concern about the paucity and dubious objectivity of environmental impact assessments, New York State officials report they expect to receive applications to drill up to 2,500 horizontal and vertical wells on the Marcellus Shale during a peak year — and about 1,600 in an average year — over a 30-year period. That’s 48,000 wells in New York State alone. Many of these wells will be in areas near the pristine watersheds that feed the renowned public water supply of New York City.

Extreme extraction has arrived on the doorstep of the world’s most affluent and powerful city. Like exploitation of the tar sands, fracking may imperil the water supply of millions of people. The environmental chickens have really come home to roost. This threat is transforming the U.S. environmental movement. For the Indian ecologist Ramachandra Guha, author of How Much Should a Person Consume and many other important works of environmental history, the environmental movement in the U.S. has tended to focus on preservation of what is represented as pristine natural wilderness. Guha argues, in contrast, that environmental protest in India and other zones of the global South has focused more on protests against the encroachment on communal natural resources by what he calls the urban-industrial complex. Since these environmental conflicts hinge on control over resources key to community survival, they tend to center on issues of human rights and distributive justice. Such struggles also tend to generate relatively radical forms of protest such as direct action since they have to do with what Gitz Crazyboy called “taking back our futures.” Guha’s opposition breaks down when it comes to the Environmental Justice Movement in the U.S., which has fought the disproportionate location of polluting industries and toxic dumps in communities of color for at least three decades. Nonetheless, Guha’s analysis is an accurate characterization of the single-issue orientation of most mainstream American environmental organizations.

The campaign against the Keystone XL Pipeline that unfolded over the last two weeks suggests, though, that Guha’s critical characterization of the U.S. environmental movement needs to be revised. As extreme extraction becomes increasingly prevalent and increasingly threatening in the U.S., the American environmental movement is likely to converge with environmental activism in the global South around issues of social justice and collective survival. During the Keystone XL protest in front of the White House, for example, the tar sands were represented as a carbon bomb that needs to be defused. This image of a ticking bomb captures both the ominous long-term temporal menace represented by climate change as well as the danger of immediate destruction that characterizes an exploding pipeline – and, I would add, the volatile process of hydraulic fracturing. Notably, the Tar Sands Action also involved the formation of coalitions and solidarity between groups such as the Indigenous Environmental Network, rural farmers’ organizations, protesters from the Gulf Coast, and urban activists from the Northeast. And finally, the Tar Sands Action took the form of the largest environmental nonviolent direct action protest in several generations. None of these momentous changes in the environmental movement came automatically or easily; it took a lot of work by organizers to bring this protest to fruition. A lot more work remains to be done to adequately include and highlight the concerns of underrepresented groups such as environmental justice activists in the emerging movement for climate justice. Nonetheless, the Tar Sands Action represents an important milestone in the fight to take back our future.

Ashley Dawson  is Professor of English at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center.  He is the author of Mongrel Nation: Diasporic Culture and the Making of Post-Colonial Britain and co-author with Malini Johar Schueller of “Exceptional State: Contemporary US Culture and the New ImperialismHe can be reached




Dire pollution in Ogoniland but little action so far

Dire pollution in Ogoniland but little action so far

An oil spill in Bodo is blamed for poor health in the community © Bashiru Abdullahi/IRIN


Posted 09 September 2011, by Staff, IRIN (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs),



PORT HARCOURT, 9 September 2011 (IRIN) – An August 2011 UN Environment Programme (UNEP) study has found hazardous levels of pollution in Ogoniland in southern Nigeria’s Niger Delta, lending credence to claims by locals of environmental damage, health problems and lost livelihoods as a result of 50 years of oil operations in the area.

The UNEP report found oil spills occur with “alarming regularity” and residents had been exposed to petroleum hydrocarbons in air, water and soil. Some 28 wells across 10 communities were found to be contaminated, and in one community, Nisisioken Ogale, water was being drunk from wells containing 900 times the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended level of benzene, a carcinogen.

Other findings include destruction of fish habitats – including mangroves – and soil contamination found at depths of up to five metres. It is estimated a clean-up operation will take up to 30 years to return contaminated drinking water, land, creeks and ecosystems back to full health.

A history of oil spills and pollution has created tensions in the region. Citizens have also complained that they have not benefited from the oil wealth in the area.

Though oil has not been produced in Ogoniland since 1993, infrastructure remains, including active oil pipelines that cross the area. Sabotage and bunkering has added to spills in the Niger Delta.

The UNEP report, carried out at the request of the government, said health symptoms were not recorded in sufficient detail to be conclusively attributed to pollution, but for locals in Bodo the connection is clear: The community suffered two major oil spills in 2008 from pipes operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), which is a joint venture with the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, Shell International, Elf and Agip.

Contaminated wells

A man who lives close to the spill, who only gave his name as Nebachi, told IRIN his whole family was sick. “Our source of drinking water is the well. By the time we fetch water from the well, we see oil on it and that is what we drink,” he said. “We breathe the polluted air. In fact as I am talking with you now, I have chest pain… Everybody in my house is sick.”

Other residents told IRIN they now suffered burning sensations in their eyes at night, respiratory problems, frequent rashes and bloody stools.

Comfort Amadi, the chief nursing officer at Bodo General Hospital, told IRIN common problems believed to be caused by pollution were diarrhoea and respiratory infections. She added: “We often have cases of pregnant women having miscarriages. Due to the oil spillage, people also suffer from malaria as a result of the stagnant water around.”

Babiana Uporo, a nursing officer at the hospital, agreed diarrhoea and respiratory infections were common. “The whole place is polluted and filled with smoke [from gas flares].”

Aster van Kregten, a researcher on Nigeria with Amnesty International, said in interviews with Bodo residents, people told her “they have problems [such as] rashes, headaches and breathing problems.”

Joanna Tempowski, a WHO scientist, said all these symptoms, aside from miscarriages, “are consistent with exposure to hydrocarbons and their combustion products”. She said further investigation would be necessary to determine if the reported miscarriages could be attributed to pollution.

Insufficient response?

Though both Shell and the Nigerian government have accepted the recommendations of the report – including establishing a US$1 billion fund for the clean-up and addressing issues caused by the pollution – very little is clear about what specific action will be taken, or when.

The report contained emergency recommendations around warning people about contamination, supplying drinking water to families with only access to contaminated sources, and monitoring the health of people in Nisisioken Ogale. Some progress has been made here: Residents have been warned about contaminated water sources and emergency drinking water has been trucked in to some of the most deeply affected communities by the state government.

But Chris Newsom from the Port Harcourt office of NGO Stakeholder Democracy Network said the response is only part of what is needed for such a dire situation. “If those levels of pollution were found in the US, Congressmen would be having hysterics and demanding a comprehensive set of immediate responses,” he said.

Newsom pointed out that UNEP had informed the Nigerian government in December 2010 of the dangerously high levels of contamination in drinking water in Nisisioken Ogale, but that no action was taken until the report was released.

Amnesty International’s van Kregten said: “You would expect authorities to do more in terms of emergency measures.” Both Van Kregten and Jeremiah Leela, a senior health worker in Bodo, told IRIN they would like to see the authorities investigate health impacts more widely.


The Nigerian government has formed a committee to look at the recommendations. However, despite pressure from Ogoni elders in early September, the committee is still considering its response and no decisions have been announced.

A spokesperson for Shell said: “SPDC will support the [Nigerian] government to implement emergency measures as soon as possible,” but was also unable to give any details of action.

“This report should be used to put pressure on the government and oil companies to clean up and compensate people harmed by these spills,” said Eric Guttschuss, a researcher on Nigeria with Human Rights Watch.

Implementing the recommendations of the report and cleaning up the spills will, however, only assist Ogoniland – a small part of the oil-rich Niger Delta – while it is suspected pollution extends much further. “The Ogoni oil spills are only the tip of the iceberg; there have been serious spills across the Niger Delta for decades,” Newsom said. Ogoniland covers just 1,000 of the Niger Delta’s 70,000 sqkm.

“Since the terrain, operator and regulators are similar in other parts of the Niger Delta, it is a reasonable assumption to make that there are similar issues in other parts of the Niger Delta,” said a UNEP spokesperson.

Weak regulatory environment

Poor industry practice and the weak regulatory environment are part of the problem.

While a spokesperson for Shell said “SPDC has always cleaned up spills from its facilities no matter what the cause,” the UNEP report found 10 of the 15 sites investigated which Shell claimed were remediated were found to contain pollution exceeding SPDC and government standards. “SPDC’s own procedures have not been applied, creating public safety issues,” the report said.

In response, Shell’s spokesperson would only say they were “looking very closely at the report”.

The government largely relies on the word of oil companies, which say they clean up spills, but it is apparent from the report that this does not always happen, Guttschuss said, pointing out that the Nigerian government is a majority partner in joint ventures with many of these oil companies, including Shell, and the regulatory environment is very weak.

According to Van Kregten, while oil companies frequently blame oil spills on deliberate sabotage, it is impossible to verify this.

Theme (s): Environment, Health & Nutrition, Water & Sanitation,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]



Winona LaDuke Speaks on Mining and Other Environmental Issues 2011 (TV)

Winona LaDuke Speaks on Mining and Other Environmental Issues 2011 (TV)


Posted 09 September 2011, by Staff, News From Indian Country (Indian Country Communications, Inc),


Winona LaDuke was the 1st American Indian woman to ever run as vice presidential candidate alongside Ralph Nader on the Green Party ticket. She is a known environmental activist and a Harvard educated economist.

For the last four years, Tommy Nelson has sponsored a birthday party for Winona at the infamous Tom’s Burned Down Cafe in downtown LaPointe on Madeline Island off of northern Wisconsin Lake Superior coast. Here she discussed the impact of big corporations and their attempt to mine and exploit the lands of Native and other Americans.


Winona LaDuke speaks on Mining and other Environmental issues 2011

Video Link:


Watch live streaming video from indiancountrytv at


Click here to watch the video on the original website.


(Ed Note: Please visit the original site for more video content)


BHS Student Dares to be Different with Shedd Ecology Program

BHS Student Dares to be Different with Shedd Ecology Program

Amanda Patek was invited to attend Shedd Aquarium’s ecology program and was awarded half the program fee in scholarship aid.

Amanda Patek in the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior, click image to go to a photo gallery associated with this article.


Posted 09 September 2011, by Toni Greathouse, Bolingbrook Patch (Patch Network),


Amanda Patek, a junior at Bolingbrook High School, loves animals.

Her passion is so great that she decided as an elementary school student that she wanted to be a veterinarian — even though exposure to animals with fur irritates her allergies.

Regardless of the discomfort, when she was in seventh grade, Patek began volunteering at a Plainfield horse farm — a place she is so passionate about that in three years, the only week she has ever taken off occurred last month.

“Amanda started out scooping poop,” said Patek’s mother, Melinda Patek. “Now she gets to walk around the horses while the handicapped children ride. Amanda absolutely will not give it up even though the sneezing and snotting make her a big miserable mess.”

Melinda Patek began gently nudging her daughter in another direction that offered an alternate avenue to pursue her dream job.

“It was weird, I was flipping through the Bugle (the end of last year) and saw an ad about a high school marine biology program offered through the Shedd Aquarium. Amanda works summers as a lifeguard for the Bolingbrook Park District, so of course I immediately told her about it,” she said.

Melinda Patek’s inquiry illuminated a slightly different career path.

“I am a swimmer,” Amanda Patek said. “I love animals and I love to be in the water. So I applied for the program.”

Melinda Patek was amazed at her daughter’s voracity throughout the application process, which required her to submit a research paper, letters of recommendation as well as undergo an interview process.

“I got a call from Colby Mitchell at the Shedd who interviewed Amanda and let us know the only reason she wasn’t accepted was because she was the youngest applicant and didn’t have any experience,” Melinda Patek said. “The good news is that Amanda can reapply next year (for the marine biology program) and hopefully get in.”

Although Amanda Patek wasn’t accepted for the marine biology program, she was invited to attend Shedd Aquarium’s ecology program and was awarded half the program fee in scholarship aid.

“Our mission at Shedd Aquarium is to connect people, especially the next generation of scientists and conservationists, to the living world. Our High School Lake Ecology program is the perfect way to bridge students with a passion for Great Lakes conservation and research with ongoing studies in the scientific community,” said Andrea Smalec, Shedd’s director of communications and public relations.

The High School Lake Ecology Program is not your average science class.

It is aquatic science with a local twist, as Amanda Patek and 21 other students learned by exploring the natural history and ecology on the southern shore of Lake Superior in the Apostle Islands — a place known for its majestic caves, sunken shipwrecks and natural beauty.

For a week, Amanda Patek and her peers were split into several small groups and sent off in kayaks to explore the 22 islands. At night, they returned to base camp and slept among the stars on the campgrounds of Bayfield, Wis.

The well-supervised program is overseen by three Shedd staff members and two independent wilderness guides.

Prior to leaving for the Apostle Islands, Amanda Patek and her peers were required to complete three days of preparation work at Shedd’s education center, where they learned how to collect water samples and practice experiments. They also learned about visual observation during a trip to a forest preserve in the Indiana Dunes.

“The very best part was meeting people who have the same interest as me and sharing the experiences together,” Amanda Patek said. “I loved the program and can’t say there was anything bad about the trip.

“It would have been great to do a little more underwater stuff, and I’m hoping to get accepted to the marine biology program, which is held in the Bahamas and do that next summer.”

For now, Amanda Patek has the added incentive to dive into high school biology. What is her long-term payoff? A looming career as a marine biologist, where exposure will never extend beyond hypoallergenic animals.


Officials: Aquifer not big enough for two cities

Officials: Aquifer not big enough for two cities


Click this link for the video newscast of this article –


If the above link does not work,

please visit the original site to view the video newscast


Posted 09 September 2011, by, Northwest Cable News (NWCN) (Bello Corp.)),


SPOKANE — The Washington Department of Ecology is shutting down a $2 million well owned by the city of Airway Heights.  That is because it is sucking too much water out of the aquifer.  Now demand for water on the West Plains is not keeping up with supply.

Two big wells sit one quarter of a mile apart.  One feeds Medical Lake.  The other, Airway Heights.  Officials said both wells are pumping from the same underground water supply which is creating a problem.

“The combined pumping of those two big municipal wells is taking its toll on the aquifer.  Water levels are dropping 10 to 20 feet a year.  And that is not sustainable,” said Department of Ecology Water Resources Program Manager Keith Stoffel.

Homeowners in the area experienced this first-hand several years ago.  Richard Johnson said all of a sudden he had no water.  His well went dry.  He said his neighbor’s water disappeared as well in the next couple weeks.

“It’s not a good feeling.  You can’t take showers, you can’t wash your dishes, and you can’t wash your hands.  You can only flush the toilet once, and then it don’t fill up no more,” said Johnson.

Johnson said the city of Airway Heights dug him and at least six other homeowners a deeper well.  Since then, Johnson said there have not been any problems.

But Department of Ecology officials said that will not last if Airway Heights does not stop pumping from its Parkwest well and tap into a more sustainable water supply.

“There is no recharge in this area.  If you look around, where the water that gets into the aquifer at this location is only what falls on the ground in snow or rain,“ said Stoffel.

Medical Lake built its pumping station before Airway Heights.  The city has first rights to the water.  The Department of Ecology has given Airways Heights until July 2013 to find a new source farther north.  There is also a long-term option which is tapping into Spokane’s water line that already runs into Fairchild Air Force Base.

The Department of Ecology said 2011 was a wet year.  They did not see as much of a drop in the water table.  They said shutting down one well, until the aquifer recharges, should help the supply.


NEW PUBLICATION: Governing Climate Funds: What Will Work for Women?


Governing Climate Funds: What Will Work for Women?


Posted 09 September 2011, by , Women’s Environment & Development Organization (WEDO) ,



Click the image to access the publication as a .pdf document

New York, September 9th 2011– WEDO is proud to present a new joint publication with Gender Action and Oxfam: “Governing Climate Funds: What Will Work for Women?”

As the international community mobilizes in response to global climatic changes, climate funds must ensure the equitable and effective allocation of funds for the world’s most vulnerable populations. Women and girls, disproportionately vulnerable to negative climate change impacts in developing countries, have largely been excluded from climate change finance policies and programmes. This report examines four funds –climate funds and non-climate funds, to draw out the lessons for gender integration in global finance mechanisms. Women and girls must not only be included in adaptive and mitigative activities, but also recognized as agents of change who are essential to the success of climate change interventions.

This report was commissioned by Oxfam and WEDO, with funding from Oxfam Great Britain and coordination by WEDO. Primary authors of this report are Elizabeth Arend and Sonia Lowman of Gender Action. Contributing authors include Elaine Zuckerman of Gender Action; Tracy Carty, Claire Godfrey and Monique Mikhail of Oxfam GB; Sandra Freitas, Rachel Harris and Cate Owren of WEDO.

Download the publication in .pdf format


Trust, even if it means a lot of rain and a little pain


Trust, even if it means a lot of rain and a little pain


Posted 09 September 2011, by Abby Lowell, Juneau Empire,



Running for 2

The other day I could have sworn I found webbing between my toes.

Perhaps I’m adapting to the excessive rainfall we’ve recently experienced, or perhaps, it’s another lovely — though rare — symptom of pregnancy.

Who knows; it’s not like I’ve seen much of my feet in a few months anyway.

But getting back to the rain; to say we’ve gotten a lot of it lately is a gross understatement. While most regions measure rainfall in inches, mostly in the single digits, we measure rainfall in feet. Fact: Rainfall in our region nearly outpaces me in height. At 5 feet 2 inches tall, I’ve got only two inches on our yearly average.

I trust Mother Nature, though. Rainfall in Southeast is vital and it all happens for a reason. Moisture nourishes rainforest ecology, it flushes fresh water to the ocean and helps anadromous fish “sniff” their way home. And when we endure a particularly rough and soggy patch, it seems she (I assume Mother Nature is a “she”) rewards Juneauites in one way or another.

This trust in the natural ways of the world extends into pregnancy, as well. Soon, I’ll be rewarded for 10 months of hard work; my due date is nearly here. Before long my body will be swept away into an athletic feat that dances a primitive and instinctual path. No, that path is not necessarily a pleasant one. There’s work — a lot of work — and often a lot of pain. I trust, however, the reward will come and everything associated with labor happens for a reason.

That’s why I’ve chosen prepare for the athletic feat of labor over the course of my pregnancy. I’ve run, hiked, walked, biked, yoga-ed and fished my way to fit. And that’s why I’ve chosen to go the natural route — free of pain medication and unnecessary interventions — the way women have done it for millions of years and the way nature intended.

Through exercise, I learned there are huge benefits that come from bucking long-held beliefs that women should “take it easy” while pregnant. For a while I topped out my running mileage at nearly 35 miles per week. I ran up and down mountains, I captained a skiff and gutted fish, I toted a toddler up and down stairs and I did it all without blinking an eye. As a result, my blood pressure is still within normal ranges, my weight gain is at 32 pounds — right on target — and I’ve experienced a completely healthy pregnancy by all accepted standards.

There are also huge benefits to choosing a natural labor and childbirth. Today’s medical interventions, while commonplace, come with an array of pros and cons. Take the medication Demerol, for example. This medication is used regularly in today’s laboring women, I know because I begrudgingly accepted it during labor with my first child. It is a member of the opiate family and is given to laboring women to “take the edge off.” This alone is the overarching benefit of the medication. In contrast, I counted 13 disadvantages and side effects for both to the mother and child. According to the American Pregnancy Association, mothers who accept medications in the opiate family may suffer from nausea, vomiting, itching, dizziness, sedation, decreased gastric motility, loss of protective airway reflexes and hypoxia due to respiratory depression. Babies of mothers who are given these types of drugs may suffer from central nervous system depression, respiratory depression, impaired early breastfeeding, altered neurological behavior and a decreased ability to regulate body temperature. And those are the known side effects.

As a result of these side effects, the natural course of labor can be disrupted; it is, after all, a finite symphony of hormones and neurological events that kick off and keep labor moving forward.

My labor, like so many others, stalled as a result. This prompted the offering of another drug called Pitocin, which is often used to produce stronger and more frequent contractions. I accepted this medication, as well; I trusted my caregivers, as all mothers should, but I wasn’t prepared for the full extent of the consequences. The contractions produced are not only stronger they also feel synthetic. I struggled though one after the other and as I did so, I imagined my baby was also likely reeling from the new and foreign pressure being exerted on his tiny body.

I was then offered an epidural. I declined. It was offered again. I declined again. But the nurses and doctors were worried about my strength. I was, after all, working hard. And I still had to push my baby out. Finally, I accepted. I slept.

But, as I did, my baby likely did not. It was certainly still feeling the pressure of the Pitocin-induced contractions and that tiny human endured more than I like to think about.

As a result of the epidural, I suffered the same side effect that plagues most laboring mothers — my labor stalled again. I was given more Pitocin. My baby suffered more.

I could elaborate further, but I believe my point is being made — many interventions are not absolutely needed. It’s only after the use of one, that the other is required. The use of them in normal situations creates a domino effect that, for many, ultimately leads to the need for a cesarean delivery.

I was not one of those cases. My baby boy was born healthy and seems to be unaffected by the interventions. But I was lucky.

Cesarean rates in the United States are high. I believe it is because interventions have become commonplace.

In contrast, giving birth naturally allows for many more options and benefits when it comes to the overall experience of birth. The mother is able to tap into her instincts and “listen” to what her body may need. She is not tethered to machines by tubes and electric cords — she is free to move and labor in any position she deems comfortable. Take an athlete, for example. The very best are those that can take cues from their body. If it hurts, they stop. Or, if the pain is there for a reason, they don’t take medication to dull it, they practice coping mechanisms to push the pain threshold further. The same is true with laboring mothers. When a mother is managing her pain naturally, she is able to give her body and baby whatever is needed in a given moment. Certainly, if adjustments need to be made for the health and safety of the mother or baby, it’s important to accept that plans change.

This time around I’ve made every arrangement possible to experience a natural birth. I accept it won’t be easy, but few great things in this world are obtained without a fair amount of work. Plus, I trust that my body knows how to birth. Having modern medicine at our fingertips is vitally important for a multitude of reasons, but I’ll leave it for the true emergencies, because having a baby is not often a reason to panic.

Women around the world have been successfully bringing their babies into this world for centuries. I trust mothers in today’s society can do the same.

And, I trust Mother Nature — even if it means a lot of rain and a little pain.


• Contact Outdoors editor Abby Lowell at



A magisterial Connemara odyssey

A magisterial Connemara odyssey

Galway boy: Tim Robinson.Photograph: Brian Farrell



Posted 10 September 2011, by Eamon Grennan, Irsih Times,


LANDSCAPE: Connemara: A Little Gaelic Kingdom, By Tim Robinson, Penguin Ireland, 407pp. €25

IN WALLACE STEVENS’S poem The Snow Man , the last line has the protagonist beholding “Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is”. This line kept whispering in my head as I read Connemara: A Little Gaelic Kingdom. For, in this, the triumphant conclusion to Tim Robinson’s magisterial Connemara trilogy, the rooted hard facts (of landscape, history, people living and dead) and floating nonfacts (myths, stories, legends, far-fetched anecdotes) of a small geographical space are transformed into the endlessly mobile fixture of a literary masterpiece.

With the abounding knowledge of a shaman and the discursive manners of a simpatico rationalist (part unbridled enthusiasm, part sceptical detachment), this mapmaker extraordinaire explores, excavates, renders visible and audible in three, no, four and more, dimensions the world apart – of townlands, parishes and baronies – that is Irish-speaking south Connemara. It is an area that includes Ros Muc, An Ceathrú Rua, Ros a’ Mhíl, Casla, Carna and the broken, immeasurable jigsaw puzzle of tiny islands that make up Garomna and na h-Oileáin. And more. For wherever Robinson walks, bikes, halts, on his astonishing odyssey, there is always more: more to see, more to hear, more to think about, more to say.

Like its predecessors, this book defies easy definition, simple classification. Part travel account, part sociological analysis, part cultural commentary, part scientific explanation, part lyrical depth-response to landscape, part philosophy, part autobiography and memoir: heterogeneity is its essential nature, variety its wandering bedrock unity, with “no dominating theme but the multiplicity of themes”. On one page, so, you’ll find yourself immersed in the romantic Gaelic nationalism of Patrick Pearse; on another you’ll be treated to a clear explanation of fractal geometry; one moment you’ll be receiving a little history lesson on the origin of the name of a “low glacial hill” near Camas, and on another you’ll be listening to the sweet notes of some sean-nós singer or those of the tragically short-lived Ros Muc poet Caitlín Maude. Or maybe you’ll be hearing the startling story of the great singer Joe Heaney’s contribution to John Cage’s Roaratorio .

Stories flow into topographical descriptions and out again into genially informed social diagnosis, mythic tale, sacred memory. “Here lives a story,” Robinson says of every rock, nook, holy well and sea-washed cranny he pauses at, granting every one its due.

Everywhere, too, there are simple yet eloquent proofs of Robinson’s insistence on the interweaving of place and its successive human inhabitations, always signalling the collisions and collusions of landscape and language. In fact, one of the glories of the book is the way, in his persistent use of Irish, Robinson has reclaimed this landscape for the Irish language. He demonstrates again and again how a placename, even in its anglicised, colonised form (often sensitively managed by the “translators” of the 1839 Ordnance Survey, one of agnostic Robinson’s small bibles), contains a topographical fact, which in turn contains a story, a fragment of history, a glimmer of myth, whatever.

Wherever he lays the affectionate scrutiny of his attention, Robinson makes us feel both the loss and the presence of the Irish language, the “felt sense of life” as it has been and continues to be lived in south Connemara. But he never sentimentalises it, seeing rather the need of both languages, Irish and English, which between them create that interweave and interconnection by which the world itself – as viewed through Robsinson’s holistic lens – exists and sustains itself.

One of the things I’ve always loved about Robinson’s work is how it becomes an enduring homage to the work in prose of Synge, whose palpable spirit, watchful and all ears, sits arms-folded and pipe-smoking in the wings as his beloved Connemara (the “distressed districts” he and Jack Yeats visited and described in 1905) is once again centre stage. For, like Synge, who blends lyric evocations of landscape, portraits of characters, anecdotes and stories, sociological, anthropological and cultural commentary, along with elegiac interludes of great power and universal application, Robinson (who adds etymology as well as contemporary geological, mathematical and cosmological knowledge to the mix, not to mention his own continuous idiosyncratic thread of philosophic pondering) is determined to offer a presence, not a picture, a feel for what has been a hidden life and way of life. Like Synge, he aims at a complicated, beautifully layered fullness of response. Enormous as his undertaking is, I can’t help feeling its small, vigorously fertile seed lies in Synge’s The Aran Islands , a useful edition of which has been edited by Robinson himself.

Robinson’s literary strategy is one of weaving and cross-weaving his ramifying digressions into a coherent journey, its innumerable details made coherent by the clarity, concreteness and often self-mocking humour of his writing. Like a good novelist, he has never met a fact he wouldn’t stop for, an overgrown lane he wouldn’t walk down, a stranger he wouldn’t pause to chat to and leave with the mutual pleasure of a gift exchanged – the gift of information.

Nor has he ever passed a heap of stones he wouldn’t puzzle over and interrogate for its story. A holy well? The remains of a kelp kiln? A broken boulder flung by one mythic bully at another? A bit of a long-gone demesne wall? The remains of a tiny quay for a currach or two?

By bringing such facts and their contained stories to light, he has reanimated a landscape in its past and its often bustling present (for he also considers the remarkable development of contemporary south Connemara). By such tireless means he has illuminated a whole region, a region that for most of us has probably been,apart from its scenery, more or less inert, featureless except for its bare rocks, its sudden flashes of water, its formidable, gorgeous hills, its stony inlets and its “coral” strands. In his work (his own practical poetics of space), this stony, chosen place comes alive in multidimensional ways that dazzle imagination and inform knowledge.

More than 20 years ago Robinson made his indispensable map of the area, and his subsequent prose works have been a sort of layering on top of that enterprise. Repetition, layering, weaving, going over and over again the same material: it all suggests how a poet might work,revisiting themes and subjects and notions and images. Finding at each fresh visitation another layer of meanings, deeper possibilities of understanding, yet wise enough too – as Robinson is wise and sceptical enough – to know there is no end point, no finality. To know, that is, that one lives in any space as a series of discoveries, a spiral of visions and revisions that render reality itself a denser, thicker, more enthrallingly real experience.

Confined to their usual word quota, a reviewer could spend a whole review teasing out and commenting on the style and substance of any couple of pages of Connemara: A Little Gaelic Kingdom. But then there’d be so many other pages to ferret about in and comment on. For this is a book to savour in gulps or in sips, an exhilarating journey with a thought-riddled, miraculously informed and good-humoured guide, whose clear, plainly eloquent voice manages a striking balance between steely self-confidence and diffidence before the “vastitude” of his undertaking, an undertaking that amounts to a mapping of what he himself has called “my time in space”.

It’s a mapping that has been for Robinson himself, I’d say, an undertaking, an enterprise and a journey of love. Willing to enter, as he has, wholeheartedly into Wallace Stevens’s “Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is”, he has managed to do what John Donne said love does, turning a “little room” into “an everywhere”. It seems fitting, so, that Yorkshire-born Robinson concludes his Odyssean exploration and celebration of this little kingdom, his little everywhere, on the word “home”. In this context, this space, no one has earned greater right and title to this little big word.

Eamon Grennan’s most recent collections of poetry are Out of Breath (Gallery Press) and, in the US, Out of Sight: New and Selected Poems ( Graywolf Press)


Powered by seaweed: Polymer from algae may improve battery performance

Powered by seaweed: Polymer from algae may improve battery performance


Posted 08 September 2011, by Staff, Clemson University,



Igor Luzinov image by: Clemson University

CLEMSON — By looking to Mother Nature for solutions, researchers have identified a promising new binder material for lithium-ion battery electrodes that not only could boost energy storage, but also eliminate the use of toxic compounds now used to manufacture the components.

Known as alginate, the material is extracted from common, fast-growing brown algae. In tests so far, it has helped boost energy storage and output for both graphite-based electrodes used in existing batteries and silicon-based electrodes being developed for future generations of batteries.

The research, the result of collaboration between scientists and engineers at Clemson University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, is being reported Thursday in Science Express, an online-only publication of the journal Science that publishes selected papers in advance of the journal. The project was supported by the two universities as well as by a Honda Initiation Grant and a grant from NASA.

“Making less-expensive batteries that can store more energy and last longer with the help of alginate could provide a large and long-lasting impact on the community,” said Gleb Yushin, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Materials Science and Engineering. “These batteries could contribute to building a more energy-efficient economy with extended-range electric cars, as well as cell phones and notebook computers that run longer on battery power — all with environmentally friendly manufacturing technologies.”

Working with Igor Luzinov at Clemson University, the scientists looked at ways to improve binder materials in batteries. The binder is a critical component that suspends the silicon or graphite particles that actively interact with the electrolyte that provides battery power.

“We specifically looked at materials that had evolved in natural systems, such as aquatic plants which grow in saltwater with a high concentration of ions,” said Luzinov, a professor in Clemson’s School of Materials Science and Engineering. “Since electrodes in batteries are immersed in a liquid electrolyte, we felt that aquatic plants — in particular, plants growing in such an aggressive environment as saltwater — would be excellent candidates for natural binders.”

Finding just the right material is an important step toward improving the performance of lithium-ion batteries, which are essential to a broad range of applications, from cars to cell phones. The popular and lightweight batteries work by transferring lithium ions between two electrodes — a cathode and an anode — through a liquid electrolyte. The more efficiently the lithium ions can enter the two electrodes during charge and discharge cycles, the larger the battery’s capacity will be.

Existing lithium-ion batteries rely on anodes made from graphite, a form of carbon. Silicon-based anodes theoretically offer as much as a tenfold capacity improvement over graphite anodes, but silicon-based anodes so far have not been stable enough for practical use.

Among the challenges for binder materials are that anodes to be used in future batteries must allow for the expansion and contraction of the silicon nanoparticles and that existing electrodes use a polyvinylidene fluoride binder manufactured using a toxic solvent.

Alginates — low-cost materials that already are used in foods, pharmaceutical products, paper and other applications — are attractive because of their uniformly distributed carboxylic groups. Other materials, such as carboxymethyl cellulose, can be processed to include the carboxylic groups, but that adds to their cost and does not provide the natural uniform distribution of alginates.

The alginate is extracted from the seaweed through a simple soda-based (Na2CO3) process that generates a uniform material. The anodes then can be produced through an environmentally friendly process that uses a water-based slurry to suspend the silicon or graphite nanoparticles. The new alginate electrodes are compatible with existing production techniques and can be integrated into existing battery designs, Yushin said.

Use of the alginate may help address one of the most difficult problems limiting the use of high-energy silicon anodes. When batteries begin operating, decomposition of the lithium-ion electrolyte forms a solid electrolyte interface on the surface of the anode. The interface must be stable and allow lithium ions to pass through it, yet restrict the flow of fresh electrolyte.

With graphite particles, whose volume does not change, the interface remains stable. However, because the volume of silicon nanoparticles changes during operation of the battery, cracks can form and allow additional electrolyte decomposition until the pores that allow ion flow become clogged, causing battery failure. Alginate not only binds silicon nanoparticles to each other and to the metal foil of the anode, but they also coat the silicon nanoparticles themselves and provide a strong support for the interface, preventing degradation.

Thus far, the researchers have demonstrated that the alginate can produce battery anodes with reversible capacity eight times greater than that of today’s best graphite electrodes. The anode also demonstrates a coulombic efficiency approaching 100 percent and has been operated through more than 1,000 charge-discharge cycles without failure.

For the future, the researchers — who, in addition to Yushin and Luzinov, included Igor Kovalenko, Alexandre Magasinski, Benjamin Hertzberg and Zoran Milicev from Georgia Tech; and Bogdan Zdyrko and Ruslan Burtovyy from Clemson — hope to explore other alginates, boost performance of their electrodes and better understand how the material works.

Alginates are natural polysaccharides that help give brown algae the ability to produce strong stalks as much as 60 meters long. The seaweed grows in vast forests in the ocean and also can be farmed in wastewater ponds.

“Brown algae is rich in alginates and is one of the fastest-growing plants on the planet,” said Luzinov, who also is a member of Clemson’s Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies (COMSET). “This is a case in which we found all the necessary attributes in one place: a material that not only will improve battery performance, but also is relatively fast and inexpensive to produce and is considerably more safe than the some of the materials that are being used now.”