Archive for September 14th, 2011

Katuah Medics arrested at NC DreamTeam

Katuah Medics arrested at NC DreamTeam


Posted 14 September 2011, by Staff, Katuah Medics,


Two Katuah Medics, Noah Morris and Bryan Garcia, were arrested alongside students and organizers of North Carolina DreamTeam during an immigration rally on September 6, 2011. The two medics were not arrested for any wrong doing, but by their mere presence at the scene. The charges against the medics, disorderly conduct and impeding traffic, are baseless and a vain attempt to discourage further participation in future fights for social justice.

These two medics vow to fight the charges in solidarity with 15 other students and supporters. Show your solidarity by supporting the fight that’s being taken to the courts.


(Ed Note: The following video is not a part of the original posting. The video was retrieved from YouTube, in solidarity.)



Please donate to the Katuah Medics Legal Defense Fund:


Agroecology’ could be the key to food security

Agroecology’ could be the key to food security


Posted 08 September 2011, by Staff, European Union Science for Environment Policy (DG Environment News Alert),


Posted on the web in .pdf format.


Sustainable food production in developing countries can be achieved through ‘agroecology’ – where farming practices mimic nature rather than relying on external products, such as fertilisers and pesticides. This is according to a recent report, which claims that conventional farming does little to alleviate rural poverty and ecosystem degradation.

It has been predicted that food production will need to increase by 70% by 2050 to supply a global population approaching 9 billion. However, despite increases in food production, poverty continues to be the biggest barrier to adequate nutrition in the developing world.

The report argues that conventional ways to increase food production, such as using high-yielding crops, disease resistant varieties and pesticides, do not tend to benefit the poorest farmers, who cannot keep up with the increasingly high and unpredictable costs of these methods. Instead, the report supports ‘agroecology’, which is a range of simple farming techniques that increase crop yield by promoting naturally beneficial interactions between soil, nutrients, crops, pollinators, trees and livestock. These measures can help alleviate rural poverty by reducing farmers’ dependency on external products and state subsidies.

The report recommends that policymakers refer to agroecology and sustainable agriculture in national strategies for the realisation of the right to food and that they redirect public spending by prioritising the provision of public services such as rural infrastructures and agricultural research.

The report assessed the results of 286 newly introduced agroecological projects in 57 countries across the developing world. These reported an average increase in crop yield of 79%. Preserving the natural dynamics of ecosystems with agroecological techniques also appears to help increase their resilience to climate change and promote biodiversity.

In Kenya, a ‘push-pull’ farming strategy deters pests by inter-planting crops with insect repellent species, while simultaneously enticing them away with nearby plants. This technique has doubled maize yields and also increased milk production, because the extra vegetation can be used as feed for livestock. In Zambia, unfertilised maize yields are reported to be more than three times the size of nearby fertilised crops, as a result of planting Faidherbia albida trees in the field, which take nitrate out of the air and store it in their leaves. When the leaves fall to the ground, the nitrates are absorbed by the soil, which avoids the need for artificial nitrogen fertilisers.

Agroecology is rapidly gaining support among scientific agencies worldwide, including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Biodiversity International. Ahead of the Global Strategic Framework for Food and Nutrition Security in 2012 organised by the Committee on World Food Security1, the report urges delegates to consider the benefits of agroecological farming. A successful transition to agroecological farming requires initial investment by governments to expand existing projects and to teach farmers new techniques.

However, it should be noted that best-practice techniques are likely to emerge through farmers sharing their own experiences, rather than being the recipients of government-led training and other ‘top down’ approaches. Active participation by farmers is vital to the success of agroecological food production. Investment in rural infrastructure will also be needed.

Travelling technical advisors, workshops, ‘field schools’ (where farmers demonstrate successful techniques) have contributed to successful support frameworks for farmers in parts of Asia and Cuba, and are recommended by the report for all emerging projects. Research shows that these networks also help to empower the farming community by identifying their own solutions to global problems.

1. See:
Source: Olivier de Schutter. (2010). Report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food. Report to the UN General Assembly, Human Rights Counci.l A/HRC/16/49. This report is available to download from:
Theme(s): Agriculture


The contents and views included in Science for Environment Policy are based on independent, peer-reviewed research and do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Commission.
To cite this article/service: “Science for Environment Policy”: European Commission DG Environment News Alert Service, edited by
SCU, The University of the West of England, Bristol.


Think Like a Man About the Environment

Think Like a Man About the Environment

Think recycling isn’t enough to make a difference? Try a few big, macho ways of helping with the environment instead.

photo by SMcGarnigle


Posted 13 September 2011, by , The Good Men Project,



I have been fascinated by research that suggests that women and men think about and care about environmental issues differently. According to what I’ve read, women put their energy into doing the small, day-to-day tactical stuff—they are careful to always recycle, shut off the lights, don’t sit in an idling car, carry in their own shopping bags at the grocery store. The belief embraced by those who go this route is that a small amount of actions—all the time, by everyone concerned—will actually make a difference when it all adds up. For women, then, environmental issues become a lifestyle choice: a small series of checklists to be thought about and acted on throughout the day. “Brush your teeth, don’t let the tap run, put on lipstick, recycle that carton, make the kids lunch, use the re-usable lunch bags. Don’t print that email whatever you do.” Over time, all those actions become second nature, akin to counting calories or being vigilant about where a young child is all the time. It requires a certain consciousness, but once you’ve made the commitment, it is just something you do.

Men, the thinking goes, don’t think about the environment that way. For the most part, men would like to do something big and move on. Install solar panels; put in an energy efficient furnace. Trade in the old gas-guzzler for a zippy new high-mpg baby. Think about it once, do something that gets real results, be done with it. It’s not that men can’t intellectually grasp a statistic like “producing new plastic products from recycled materials uses two-thirds less energy than making products from raw materials and reduces the demand for fossil fuels.” It’s that when they have an empty plastic Gatorade bottle in their hands with no recycling bin in sight, they’d rather toss it into the trash and go install some storm windows instead.


Men get a bad rap, as we’re apt to point out here at The Good Men Project. You could look at the above insights and say, “See, women think about the environment all the time. They care more. They are obviously the only ones who can save Mother Earth.”

But an equally valid interpretation would be that men are the ones who are actually taking the large actions that have an impact.

So, as a challenge to myself, I set out to “Think Like a Man” about the environment. What actions could we, as concerned citizens, as men, (and as women) do that would have a real, long-term, sustainable impact? What might get us beyond thinking about the environment as more than recycling our paper and plastic?


1. Get a groundswell going around stores that have zero packaging. That’s right, zero. Instead of wasting time using one less plastic bag, don’t use anything ever again. There’s a store in England, Unpackaged, that does just that. And now, opening in Austin Texas, is In.gredients—the first package-free and zero waste grocery store in the United States. As Good, Inc. describes it: “It’s as if the specialty bulk food section rebelled and took over the rest of a traditional grocery store. In.gredients will replace unhealthy, overpackaged junk with local, organic, and natural foods, and moonlight as a community center with cooking classes, gardening workshops, and art shows on the side.”

Make stores like that an economic reality by showing that there’s a viable market for them. I honestly don’t blame you if you just don’t want to think about whether that more expensive brand of paper towels has 20% post-consumer waste, or if just this once you could put your items into plastic bag and guiltily sneak out the door. Instead, wouldn’t you want to know that when you walked into a store you could do no wrong.

2. Help your city become a city of bicyclists. There are cities I’ve been to where bicyclists rule. Bicyclists on the road are treated like gold. They have the right of way. They have the good lanes, the signals. There are places to store bikes, rent pikes, borrow bikes. Take this to the next level—make it safe for bicyclists, make it fun for bicyclists, make it profitable for bicyclists.

According to the EPA, Driving a private car is probably a typical citizen’s most “polluting” daily activity. Every time we bike instead of drive, we save roughly 2.5 pounds of carbon emissions from polluting our planet. Comparatively, taking the subway save .48 pounds per trip.

Creating a city of bicyclists is not blue sky.

In Groningen, a city in The Netherlands, 57% of its inhabitants travel by bicycle.The city simply made it a priority to adapt to the wishes of those who want to get around without a car. How they did it is both simple and brilliant. They created a large, pedestrianised zone in the center of the city. They worked their way out, creating safe and accessible walking and bike paths that progressively radiated out from that hub. By continuing to favor active transportation around the center, they then “filtered out” cars by reducing the number of streets that run through the center. Certain streets became discontinuous for cars, and instead connected to a network of pedestrian and bike paths which build the network of bike paths and walkways outward. In addition, these paths go through public squares and open spaces increasing the enjoyment of every trip.

Help your city become one of those. If it can be done in one city, it can be done in any city. Lobby for it, talk about it, generate enthusiasm for it. Think of economic incentives—what if your place of work gave bonuses for biking instead of driving?

The next time there’s an election, get it on the agenda. Better yet, run for office yourself with that as the platform. At least the issue will get noticed.

In the example above, 96,000 bicyclists reduce emissions by 242,000 lbs per day, or 88 million lbs of carbon emissions a year. That has an impact.

Hate biking? Then make one simple, easy decision—next time you buy a car, get the most energy efficient model you can. And use it as little as possible.

4. Oh, about those storm windows. Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels starts with using less of it. Better windows, less oil. But here’s a story of someone who took it even further: Dick Cadwgan and his partner Frank Mundo run a company up in Maine that makes easily installable, removable, fuel-saving window inserts. First the math: Dicks company charges only for materials, a cost of about $10 per insert. Each insert reduces the heat lost through the windows by at least half, especially in older, medium-quality windows. With heating oil at over $3.50 per gallon, the savings per window ends up being about $20 over the course of a heating season. Dick estimates the amount of money put back into the Maine economy by a just one small team of volunteers building and installing these windows is about $50,000 dollars over the life of the window insert. This year, the company, Window Dressers, will have five such teams of workers. Dick runs this company as a non-profit—all volunteer teams of people. People pay only for the cost of materials, but those who can afford it often write checks for an extra $100—“so that if someone can’t afford it, Dick, you can help them anyway.” When I asked Dick why he would do something like this—run an all volunteer army of people who all winter long help people get their houses to be more energy efficient, he laughed and said, “Well, there’s not much else to do in the winter in Maine.” It’s an entrepreneurial, inventive, social way, hands-on way to help decrease our dependence on fossil fuels. Contact Dick at to learn more.

5. Think before you eat. Specifically, stop eating processed foods. For extra points, eat less meat and when you do eat meat, choose meat that was raised sustainably instead of in a factory farm.

You can make big, sweeping changes to your diet overnight—which can lead to big sweeping changes in the food chain. Here’s the deal: If you eat food that comes in a package, chances are you’re eating high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Regular old corn is one of the most genetically modified conventional crops; and mercury, a toxic production by-product has been found in many samples of HFCS and the products that contain it. Because HFCS is cheaper than other sweeteners and used as a preservative, it lurks everywhere from sodas to cereals to snack bars you might otherwise consider healthy. And that same, regular old corn is used to fatten up a beef steer more quickly than pasture does—at a cost to ourselves and cattle. The cows haven’t evolved to digest corn, and are therefore pre-emptively fed antibiotics to offset the stresses caused by their unnatural diet. As for the effect on the environment? A commonly quoted statistic, according to Practically Green, is that a meal of fruits, vegetables, and grains generates 24 times less greenhouse gas emissions than 6 ounces of conventionally raised beef.  Not to mention that eating fresh produce helps local farms become more sustainable.

Simply substitute locally grown produce for almost anything else you can think of eating. Give it two weeks to become a habit. Done. Big. Easy. Manly. You’ll make an impact, feel better almost immediately, and you’ll be in better shape to help install those storm windows.

5. Help lobby for an “Environmentalists Without Borders” organization, modeled after the highly successful “Doctors Without Borders.”

Let’s face it—didn’t you get the feeling that when the BP oil spill happened that nobody knew what to do? How is that possible? How is it possible to not be able to anticipate that level of catastrophe and have no emergency response plan when it does happen? Weeks into the spill, I remember reading: “This may not be able to be solved.”

When I saw the pictures and infographics of the depth of the disaster, I couldn’t help but think that it must have surely erased all the good I had done by not using either paper OR plastic at the supermarket. The benefits of all of the thousands of times I recycled seemed to fly up in the air with every gush of oil.

The way the Doctors Without Borders model works is this. When catastrophe strikes, Doctors without Borders mobilizes and dispatches doctors to the disaster scene immediately. Oftentimes, they are among the first on the scene. They are known for being efficient, organized, action-oriented, and immediately helpful.

A similar sort of Environmentalists without Borders could have specialized teams of engineers, foremen, water specialists, animal rescue specialists, trained by Doctors without Borders mobilizers that volunteer to immediately go to the scene of an environmental disaster and help solve the problem. We need an immediate, viable, quick-response plan in place before the next disaster takes place. Because it will.

Too grand a plan for you? Start instead by having a few passionate people in your network who care about environmental issues. And listen to them.


There. 5 things you can do that will have the following results:

1.) Reduce emissions in a city by 88 million pounds of carbon emissions a year

2.) Reduce your energy bill, save gallons of oil, pour money back into the local economy, have hand crafted window inserts.

3.) Cut packaging to zero so that you never have to worry about it again.

4.) Increase your personal health while helping improve the crop cycle.

5.) Become a part of a network of heroes for when disaster does strike.


Thinking about the environment this way—it’s is no longer an ongoing daily chore. Many of the things above are as simple as making one simple decision—like buying a fuel-efficient car or deciding to stop eating processed foods. For others, it’s taking a series of big, important actions that will change your life, and the lives of your family and community—for the better. And help Father Planet right along with them.

photo by SMcGarnigle / Flickr



Is Recycling for Girly Men? Naaaah….  Tom Matlack explores why caring for the environment is a crucial issue for good men.



Women Leading the Way: New study says women more likely to ‘vote green’ in office

Women Leading the Way: New study says women more likely to ‘vote green’ in office


Posted 13 September 2011, by Sarah Pierz, Emily’s List,



In a new study issued by Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University and Rachel’s Network entitled “When Women Lead” we learn that when it comes to going green, women in office are leading the way and making more environmentally-friendly votes than men.

The study found congresswomen, regardless of party affiliation scored an average of 48 percent higher than their male counterparts and Senate women beat their colleagues in the upper chamber by more than 20 points on environmental issues. This is not new; women have consistently outscored men every year since 2001 and these findings could not come at a more critical time – when some are heralding this “the most anti-environment congress ever.”

“On environmental issues, women of both parties support clean air, clean water, and overall environmental protections as a means to promote public health and resource conservation for future generations,” said Thu Pham, co-director of Rachel’s Network.

At EMILY’s List, we have seen firsthand the direct impact women’s leadership has on the environment. Sen. Barbara Boxer – an EMILY’s List hero – championed efforts to reduce emissions and offset global warming. Another EMILY’s List alum, Sen. Maria Cantwell, co-authored the CLEAR Act (Carbon Limits and Energy for America’s Renewal Act) to reduce greenhouse emissions.

With women consistently showing strong, pro-environmental voting records, it is now more imperative than ever that we have strong women’s leadership in Congress and here at EMILY’s List we will work every day to accomplish that goal.

The full study can be found at Rachel’s Network (PDF).

Related Posts:

EMILY’s List Women respond to 9/11 Anniversary

“Pass this bill!” and Put Folks Back to Work

Top 5 Reasons We Should be Afraid of Mark Neumann as a Senator



Warming Oceans Encourage Explosion of Dangerous Bacteria

Warming Oceans Encourage Explosion of Dangerous Bacteria


Posted 13 September 2011, by Staff, Environment News Service (ENS),



BRUSSELS, Belgium, September 13, 2011 (ENS) – Climate change is warming ocean waters, causing the spread of bacteria predicted to cost millions in health care as people are exposed to contaminated food and water and to marine diseases at work or at play.

The warning is expressed in a paper released today by European scientists in advance of a two-day conference in Brussels on the effects of climate change on the marine environment.

Project CLAMER, which stands for Climate Change and European Marine Ecosystem Research, a collaboration of 17 European marine institutes, issued the 200-page synthesis of more than 100 EU-funded projects published since 1998, together with a public opinion survey, a new book based on the scientific findings, and a major new documentary film to be featured at CLAMER’s meeting September 14-15 in Brussels.

Vibrio vulnificus lives in warm seawater and can sicken those who eat contaminated seafood or have an open wound exposed to contaminated seawater. 50 percent of V. vulnificus bloodstream infections are fatal. (Electron microscope image by Janice Carr courtesy CDC)

“Millions of euros in health costs may result from human consumption of contaminated seafood, ingestion of water-borne pathogens, and, to a lesser degree, through direct occupational or recreational exposure to marine diseases. Climatic conditions are playing an increasingly important role in the transmission of these diseases,” says the CLAMER paper.

A team of researchers from Italy, the UK, Germany and the United States has found that warmer ocean water is causing a proliferation of bacteria from a genus known as Vibrio, among the most dangerous of all bacterial pathogens, which can produce serious illnesses such as gastroenteritis, septicemia and cholera.

Some types of the bacteria and micro-algae are linked to shellfish-associated food poisoning deaths. Others harm marine animals, including mollusks and fish, “with major economic and environmental impacts,” the researchers say.

The paper reports “an unprecedented increase in the number of bathing infections that have been associated with warm-water Vibrio species in Northwest Europe,” and a “globally-increasing trend in their associated diseases.”

“We have amassed convincing and disturbing scientific evidence,” says CLAMER co-ordinator Carlo Heip, director of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research. “We need to communicate it much better than we have.”

“We must all heed the clear warnings of the hazards we face from what amounts to an uncontrolled experiment on the marine environment,” said Heip.

While the study was based on seawater samples taken near the mouth of Europe’s Rhine River and Britain’s Humber River, “the increasing dominance of marine Vibrios, including pathogenic bacterial species, may very likely occur in other areas around the world,” the paper warns.

The authors write, “We provide evidence that Vibrios, including the cholera species, increased in dominance within the plankton-associated bacterial community of the North Sea during the past 44 years and that this increase is correlated significantly with climate induced sea surface warming during the same period. … Ocean warming is favouring the spread of Vibrios.”

Crashing waves at Howick, England (Photo by Andrew Kearton)

Co-ordinated by the Marine Board of the European Science Foundation, with contributions from more than 20 scientists, the CLAMER synthesis and related book, examine the environments of the North Sea, Baltic Sea, Arctic Ocean, northeast Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea.

The research captures a host of documented and forecast physical, chemical and biological marine changes with far-reaching consequences, including sea-level rise, coastal erosion, melting ice, storm frequency and intensity, physical changes including the North Atlantic circulation system, chemical changes such as acidification and deoxygenation, changes in marine life patterns, and the ultimate impacts of all this on humans – both social and economic.

Sea level rise, combined with higher waves in the North Atlantic and more frequent and severe storms, threaten up to one trillion euros worth of Europe’s physical assets within 500 meters of the shore. And some 35 percent of Europe’s GDP is generated within 50 kilometers of the shore, the synthesis notes.

“Sea-level rise of 80 to 200 cm could wipe out entire countries … causing sea floods, massive economic damage, large movements of populations from inundated areas, salinity intrusion and loss of wetlands including the ecosystem services that they provide,” the paper warns.

More frequent and intense storms are projected for Northern Europe, especially in a band running from the south of England through northern France, Denmark, northern Germany and Eastern Europe.

Annual damages are expected to rise 21 percent in the UK, 37 percent in Germany and 44 percent across Europe as a whole, with a 104 percent rise in losses from one-in-100 year storms.

In the public opinion poll that accompanies the paper, worried citizens say their main concerns are sea level rise and coastal erosion.

While respondents said they are taking personal actions to reduce carbon emissions, they blame climate change on other groups of people or nations.

They assign responsibility for mitigating the problem to governments and industry, although they perceive government and industry as ineffective on these issues.

Crowded beach at Menton on the French Riviera (Photo by Ian Britton courtesy

The online survey of 10,000 residents of 10 European countries – 1,000 each from Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Ireland, United Kingdom, Norway and Estonia – reveals widespread concern about climate change, led by worries about sea level rise and coastal erosion.

Conducted in January by Brussels-based TNS Opinion, the survey is the first of its kind to focus on public perceptions of climate change impacts at the coast or in the sea.

Asked to select from a list the single most serious problem facing the world, 18 percent of respondents chose climate change, the second highest choice.

By comparison, poverty and lack of food and drinking water was chosen by 31 percent, international terrorism by 16 percent, and a global economic downturn by 12 percent.

Concern about climate change is undiminished since a September 2009 Euro-Barometer survey conducted for the European Union, despite the cool winter of 2010 in Northern Europe and Climategate attacks on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and climate scientists.

Some 86 percent of respondents said climate change is caused entirely, mainly or in part by human activities. Only eight percent thought it is mainly or entirely caused by natural processes. In the United States, around 32-36 percent hold this view.

Scientists working in universities or for environmental NGOs are trusted as a source of information about climate change impacts in the seas and ocean far more than government scientists or those working for industry.

Men distrust all of the organizations and individuals listed more than women do, and in almost all cases, people over 35 expressed more distrust than those aged between 18 and 34.

Personal actions taken by European citizens in response to marine climate change issues are shown to focus more on mitigating climate change, such as reducing energy use and using sustainable forms of transport, than adapting to its impacts, through protecting homes from flooding, for example.

Public support for actions by national governments and the European Union is shown to be highest for policies to protect and enhance marine environments, such as tightening controls on pollution and reducing carbon emissions, while measures to adapt to the impacts of climate change are ranked the lowest.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2011.



Infographic Explains How Peak Oil Cycle Affects Us


Infographic Explains How Peak Oil Cycle Affects Us


Posted 12 September 2011, by Matt Smith, Green Building Elements (Important Media),



For several years now, people have been aware that our over-reliance on fossil fuels, specifically oil, is dangerous because it is a finite resource and soon the supply won’t be able to reach our outrageous demands. This infographic, from, describes the peak oil problem and how we have arrived at this point. It also describes why the few alternative fossil fuels are equally as unfeasible. The infographic mentions that there are positives to the peak oil problem, in that because we are aware that the oil is running low, people are more interested in trying to find alternatives to oil. Hopefully that sort of research will bear fruit, because it is clear that we can’t continue to rely so heavily on oil as a means to power our world.



Green Buildings 101: Bioclimatic Design


Green Buildings 101: Bioclimatic Design


Posted 13 September 2011, by Jennifer Shockley, Green Building Elements (Important Media),


Design industries are taking new approaches to environmentally sustainable projects. Being aware and being pro-active is no longer a phase it is mandatory that in every project, our impact on the earth is accounted for. This accountability is found in Bioclimatic Design.

Bioclimatic Design is the reduction of energy consumption using appropriate techniques such as energy efficient systems and technologies including, but not limited to, passive solar systems. Passive solar systems are based on a building, its spaces, both interior and exterior, and the local climate.

Bioclimatic Design is the use of environmental sources: air, sun, wind, vegetation, water, soil, daylight for heating, cooling and lighting of buildings. Plus when a design takes into account the local climate, these factors must be considered and designed around: heat protection including insulation and air tightness, solar energy for heat and light, sun protection with the orientation, use of reflective materials, surfaces and colors, and the removal of heat with natural ventilation.

Kane Cres writes,

“As inhabitants of buildings, we can make our lives more comfortable, preserve the environment, our health and well being. We can use them appropriately to this end.

The energy we consume in buildings is costly. It is worthwhile asking ourselves who pays for this consumption and why.”

To achieve perfect balance with the environment with the use of Bioclimatic Designs the industry will require all kinds of participants. The manufacturing companies, the sellers, the designers, and the clients must all be on board and willing to achieve great designs through green technologies and to demand that their expectations be met, if a material is not available at the highest economy-safe standards, than a material must be designed at that level.

Different projects and companies are already displaying the smart choices that go along with Bioclimatic Design.

Elmer Avenue "Green Street"

In Los Angeles, a 40-acre neighborhood area known as Elmer Avenue has become a complete ‘green street.’ It is a Neighborhood Retrofit Demonstration Project following the water augmentation study done by the Council for Watershed Health to help lower dependency on foreign water supplies and to suppress flooding that occurs from the annual, although short-lived, winter downpours.

This street utilizes a variety of strategies to capture rainwater and runoff through the soil, clean it, and recycle it by added the water to the aquifers. The one block location generates and now captures more water than they use in an entire year.

“By capturing the rainwater, Southern California reduces its reliance on foreign sources of water and improves the overall health of the landscape. In addition, it helps save energy, since an incredible 19% of our energy use in California is devoted just to the movement of water from place to place!” wrote Brian Sheridan, Development and Marketing Manager of the Council for Watershed Health.

Elmer Avenue is a project designed to rehabilitate the neighborhood and also it is a continuous active research project that will benefit many communities in the future.

Elmer Avenue Bio-swale

The project implements the use of:

  • Under street filtration galleries
  • Open bottom catch basins
  • Bio-swales
  • Rain barrels
  • Permeable pavers
  • Climate appropriate landscape
  • Solar street lights

The first phase of the project was completed in 2010 becoming LA’s first off-the-grid neighborhood and the second phase will include an additional 20 acres, thereby capturing 60 acres of land’s rainwater to add to the aquifers.

Another company dedicated to Bioclimatic Design is a start-up company called First Coast Solar Screens founded by John Wilder a RESNET Certified Energy Auditor.

Solar screens can reduce temperatures of the sun coming through glass by embracing a relatively new technology of sun-screen fabrics. John Wilder wrote,

“The sun’s heat coming through glass almost works like a magnifying glass. I just took the temp coming through a skylight at our city hall yesterday and it was 117 degrees I took a temp through an east facing window in our school and it was 108 degrees. The solar screens reduce these temps down in the low 70′s which of course have a dramatic effect on your AC bill. They are literally the best bang for your buck in energy savings and typically have a 1-2 year payback.”

First Coast Solar Screens uses Phifer solar screening products.

Phifer fabrics

Phifer was founded by Reese Phifer and is the world’s leading manufacturer and seller of energy saving sun control fabrics for residential and commercial use.

 “Phifer’s commitment to the environment dates back to the company’s origins when our founder, Reese Phifer, envisioned a manufacturing facility that would bring a better standard of living to its community, advances in technology to its industry and innovative products to its customers.”

They offer products of insect control, plus interior and exterior sun control. Their products are 100 percent recyclable and their fabrics are PVC-free.

Their production process includes a waste management program, employee awareness training and pollution prevention programs to insure that they stay as green as possible.

Phifer was the first manufacturer in their industry to receive GREENGUARD Certification. They state,

 “At Phifer, environmental responsibility is part of our corporate culture. We are leaders. We are proactive. We do it because it is the right thing to do.”

Sun Control

GREENGUARD is an environmental institute that was created to help manufacturers to improve their processes and to do so in a more environmentally-safe and aware way. It has helped manufacturing companies in more than 20 industries to improve their processes.

As this article could continue on for endless pages, circling through all the companies that make up design industries, it is evident that Bioclimatic Design is everywhere and requires everyone’s commitment. It is throughout the design industries and is becoming a required mind-set verses a personal choice. It will take every industry, every person to re-establish what we’ve taken from and done to the earth.

Bioclimatic Design is a circle engulfing the world to make it a better place.


Resources: Greenguard, Phifer, Council for Watershed Health, The American Institute of Architects and Kane Cres

Special Thanks to: John Wilder and Brian Sheridan



Ecology and Freedom


Ecology and Freedom


Posted 12 September 2011, by Staff, Because We Must,



How are we to understand the freedom of the earth? Often these discussions are riddled with the indefinites of human language and the vague conceptions of “nature”, “earth” and “freedom”. We must move beyond the indefinite and the visceral and achieve understanding, respect, and reverence if we are to at all move beyond the destruction, exterminations and oppression.

The Ethics of Reverence

There is a rich history of analysis and critique of human interactions with the whole of natural world. Upon further examination, this body of work amounts to a study of human ecology as it relates to the larger ecological history of the planet.

For most of written human history, there has been a long and controversial discourse surrounding the meaning and value of human and nonhuman life, the ways in which human society should structure itself in relation to nature (if at all), and the duties we owe (if any) to the rest of life and why. In western history alone this dialect has existed since Pre-Socratic thought through Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, Bentham, Kant, Darwin, and into contemporary sociopolitical dialogue.

In the world of academia, perhaps the most substantially influential writers have sprung up in the last century and in particular the last few decades.

In 1949, Aldo Leopold published A Sand County Almanac, a book that famously launched the field of environmental ethics and advocated for what Leopold, referred to as “the Land Ethic”. Leopold’s “Land Ethic” stated simply that, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

Murray Bookchin

In 1962, Murray Bookchin began his rich career of ecological writings with Our Synthetic Environment. This book outlines the dangers of industrial society and in particular its reliance on synthetic pesticides. 20 years later in 1982, Bookchin published his seminal work, The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy. This work is a thorough social, political, and historical analysis of the inequalities of human society as it relates to natural ecology.

The same year that Bookchin published Our Synthetic Environment, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, a book often credited with launching the modern western environmental movement. The book deals also deals with the problems of pollution and pesticide use.

In 1973, Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess coined the term “deep ecology” in his essay, “The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecological Movement”. Deep ecology is a complex and varied theory of ecological wisdom, one that is often viewed as radical for asserting the equality of all living things and promoting a dramatic restructuring of human society. Bill Devall and George Sessions further developed deep ecology with their 1985 book, Deep Ecology: Living as if Nature Mattered. Deep ecology later became the battle cry for most radical western environmentalists, particularly with the appearance of Earth First!

Perhaps some of the most influential writings to critique human arrogance and power have been under the banner of animal rights. In 1975, Peter Singer published Animal Liberation, which provided a utilitarian critique of speciesism. In 1983, Tom Regan published The Case for Animal Rights, which outlines a defense of the notion that nonhumans can and do have rights to be respected by humans.

Perhaps best viewed as a combination of the sentiments of deep ecology and the methods of Tom Regan’s Case for Animal Rights, Paul Taylor developed what he refers to “biocentric egalitarianism” in his 1986 book, Respect for Nature. In it, Taylor outlines a critique of human superiority and anthropocentrism and defends the equal inherent worth of all living things, from bacteria to buffalo.

Ecology and Global Sociopolitical Relationships

Throughout this full western and academic history of environmental thought there has also been a variety of critiques and analysis put forth by ecofeminists, indigenous writers, and voices from the global south. There is a long history of ecological consciousness outside of western academia or industrial society, yet it is too often unnoticed. Writers from Islamic, African, Buddist, Hindu, and Taoist backgrounds have long recognized humanity’s relationship to nature as fundamentally flawed.

Vandana Shiva

Philosopher, physicist, ecofeminist and activist Vandana Shiva has for years been involved in the discussion on global economic systems, food security, patriarchy, capitalism, imperialism and how they contribute to ecological crisis. For decades she has been recognized as an influential environmental activist with an analysis focused on third world development issues such as genetic engineering, women’s empowerment, and capitalist infrastructure.

Publications such as Carolyn Merchant’s, “The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution” in 1980, Carol Adams’s, “The Sexual Politics of Meat” in 1990 and Janet Biehl’s, “Rethinking Ecofeminist Politics” in 1991 helped to shape and redefine the new concept of ecofeminism. The concept had expanded to include radical analysis, mysticism, globalization, and animal rights.

Examples of writers from across the globe are plentiful. Mawil Y. Izzi Deen argues that the Koran has an encoded system of environmental ethics and that Islam seeks to regard nature as something beyond a source for exploitation. Segun Ogungbemi, a Nigerian philosopher, has written on the devastating effects technological development, poverty and ignorance have had on sub-Saharan Africa. Ramachandra Guha has critiqued western environmentalism, in particular deep ecology, for failing to address root causes of global environmental devastation such as consumption by the west and militarism.


(Ed Note: please visit the original site for larger photographs.)


Greenhouse gas data, fresh from the source


Greenhouse gas data, fresh from the source


Posted 29 August 2011, by Mary-Lou Considine , ECOS Magazine (CSIRO Publishing),


CSIRO recently launched a new web-based resource to make the latest monthly atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) data from Cape Grim available to users inside and outside the scientific community. Cape Grim, in western Tasmania, is one of three premier Baseline Air Pollution Stations in the global monitoring network.

Back to the source: Dr Paul Fraser at Cape Grim, a globally significant greenhouse gas monitoring facility generating data that can now be viewed online. Credit: CSIRO

The Cape Grim GHG data web page generates animated graphs of monthly concentrations of the three main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – as measured at the facility. Since sampling began at Cape Grim, which is jointly operated by the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO, more than 30 million GHG measurements have been taken.

Cape Grim’s almost pristine location ensures a high occurrence of air samples are clean and representative of underlying global GHG trends, without the ‘background noise’ associated with air sampling in the northern hemisphere.

Dr Paul Fraser from CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research has been analysing GHG concentrations from Cape Grim for more than 35 years. He says the web resource will help ensure the community at large has access to high-quality data that clearly illustrate the impact of human activities on the atmosphere.

‘The atmospheric level of carbon dioxide, the most important long-lived GHG influenced by human activities, is at its highest level in more than 1–2 million years,’ says Dr Fraser.

‘The measurements testify to a steady rise in carbon dioxide concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere, mainly caused by the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. This is fundamental information in determining the global actions needed to avoid GHGs rising to dangerous levels.

‘These measurements allow us to trace the dramatic rise in carbon dioxide levels from about 280 ppm before the start of the industrial era around the year 1800, to 388 ppm in 2010. That’s an increase of almost 40 per cent, largely due to human activities.’

The website’s dynamic interface allows users to observe the progressive trends of the three important greenhouse gases influenced directly by human activities and natural variability: carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

Data for synthetic greenhouse and ozone-depleting gases, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), are also available. Water vapour, although an important GHG, is not significantly influenced directly by human activities.

The CSIRO website puts the increase in GHG concentrations over recent decades in the context of longer-term variations over the past 1000 years – determined by analysing gases extracted from tiny air bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice.

After the eruption of Chile’s Puyehue volcano earlier this year, CSIRO was inundated with queries about the possible impact on overall GHG emissions.

‘Volcanoes have virtually no impact on long-term CO2 levels,’ says Dr Fraser. ‘When people see this massive plume of aerosol [microscopic particles suspended in the atmosphere that generally cool the climate by reflecting sunlight back to space] going up into the atmosphere, they just assume it must affect GHG data.’

‘To deal with public data requests, what we needed was some sort of gateway where the public could get access to the data straight away.

‘It’s the same when people see a massive plume of water vapour coming out of power stations: they think it’s CO2 and it’s not. The CO2 being emitted along with the water vapour is invisible to the eye.’

Dr Fraser says another question often put to his team is: What were GHG levels doing when temperatures increased during the Medieval Warm Period (950–1250 AD) or during the Little Ice Age (1550–1850 AD)?

‘People want to make the connection, “what did the GHG data show?” We want to show them, through ice core data, what GHG levels did during those periods,’ he says.

‘It turns out they did very little, because those changes in climate were regional and were not driven by GHGs – they were caused by other mechanisms, such as solar output and volcanic events.

‘A lot of people naively make the assumption that because we claim the accumulation of GHGs in the atmosphere is driving climate change at present, then all climate change in the past must have been driven by GHGs.

‘There are all sorts of processes that have driven climate change in the past, which may or may not be related to GHGs. People need to understand that while this current climate change is largely driven by GHG changes, that doesn’t mean all climate change in the past has been driven by GHGs.’

Dr Fraser says the web page will soon provide users with the ability to download the Cape Grim data and do their own analyses, although he warns that people need to understand a little about the data’s caveats.

‘The data are used to drive models of climate change,’ he says. ‘It is not scientifically sound to do a simple, statistical forward extrapolation of these data to estimate future concentrations.

‘We certainly want to keep improving the page, and we’re delighted with the number of hits the site has received and that members of the public are coming to us with suggestions, whether positive or negative.’

More information

Cape Grim data: