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Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Google Earth’s gotten even cooler now, and “just got an upgrade to include oceans. Previously, the space between Earth’s recognizable landmasses had flat blue and, well, not all that educational.”

google_earth_ocean

That’s all good for marine life enthusiasts. Being more of a land girl, I wish Google Earth did not stop there. How about adding yet another upgrade that would allow us to “see” water underneath the Earth’s surface. Can you imagine being able to have a peak into water tables, and water delivery networks, and moisture levels at various depths?  And being able to track changes over time. How amazing would that be?

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Today, four stories displayed next to each other, in the National section of the New York Times:

Boise Region Grapples With Smog, a Growing Threat

After years of growth and suburban development, the region that includes Boise and its suburbs, known as the Treasure Valley, is on the brink of violating federal clean air standards, and experts say the only real solution is one that might seem awfully un-Idahoan: persuading people to drive less.

List of Tainted Peanut Butter Items points to Complexity of Food Production

Tracking how the paste travels through the food supply can be challenging, because several companies can be involved in making the final food. For example, one manufacturer might coat the paste in chocolate and make a peanut butter cup, which is then sold to another company that mixes it into ice cream that may or may not also contain peanut butter. A grocery chain might buy that ice cream and sell it under a private label.

Environment Issues Slide In Poll of Public Concern

In the poll, released Thursday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, global warming came in last among 20 voter concerns; it trailed issues like addressing moral decline and decreasing the influence of lobbyists. Only 30 percent of the voters deemed global warming to be “a top priority,” compared with 35 percent in 2008. “Protecting the environment,” which had surged in the rankings from 2006 to 2008, dropped even more precipitously in the poll: only 41 percent of voters called it a top priority, compared with 56 percent last year.

Environment Blamed in Western Tree Deaths

Rising temperatures and the resulting drought are causing trees in the West to die at more than twice the pace they did a few decades ago, a new study has found. The combination of temperature and drought has also reduced the ability of the forests to absorb carbon dioxide, which traps heat and thus contributes to global warming, the authors of the study said, and has made forests sparser and more susceptible to fires and pests. 

A bit much to take, all at once . . . if you are at all concerned with what sustains us. Of course the one bright spot in this otherwise dire picture, is our new Commander-in-Chief, President Obama. I can feel his sense of urgency, and that gives me hope. 

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Dear Al,

You and I just met last weekend. I had traveled far in my Prius for the chance to have a few words with you, my hero. When my turn came, I made sure to let you know how grateful I was, for the presentation you gave three years ago, at Stanford, on “An Inconvenient Truth”. I told you I had come out of the event transformed and determined to help somehow with the global warming crisis. You seemed flattered, and you moved on to the person next in line, a funny guy named Dana Carvey.

You were supposed to give a political speech, but you could not stay away from your favorite topic. And you spoke at length about the need to bring about a change in consciousness, regarding the moral challenge of our time, our role in the destruction of the future of our planet. I loved listening to you, and so did the rest of the audience. You delivered your message with feeling and conviction, and we readily joined you in your outrage, down to your last word. “Damit!”

That’s all good. And that’s not enough. You see, what I took away from this time with you, was not the thrill of meeting you, nor the heartfelt speech you gave, nor the majestic scenery surrounding us. No, instead I will remember the sight of all the cars parked along the road, and filling every free parking space on the compound. Call me a party spoiler, but it bothered me that you seemed oblivious to the lack of carpooling for the event. When I brought up the subject with my neighbors at the lunch table, all expressed interest. I know this is a small detail, and you are dealing with the big picture.

I just want to raise this question with you. What if the big picture was all in the details? How different would have your message been, if you had sent a request ahead of time to all the guests, asking them to carpool? You could have carpooled yourself, rather than just driving with your daughter in her Prius.

Al, I hope you will consider. As the world leader on climate,  you bear a huge responsibility. Please do not misuse it, and realize the power of your actions, not just your words.

Respectfully,

Marguerite Manteau-Rao

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A few weeks ago, when I wrote The Environment Is Politics, I really meant it. My thoughts have been a lot on Sarah Palin, and how to best expose who she is, and what that could mean for our country, if she became the next Vice President, or even worse, President of the United States.

In case you are wondering, what has kept me busy, lately, here it is:

Please pass along to all your friends. http://whatssarahthinking.com.

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No time to blog. I have been taken by the energy of the Democratic Convention, and spent all my evenings glued to the TV. Nervously praying for no missteps. La Marguerite is an environment blog, not a place to share my political views. This time is different, however. I feel the big environmental challenges facing us are political issues. One only need to take a look at the past eight years, to be convinced. Eight years, during which we, the citizens of this great country, have been consistently ‘dis-inspired’, demoralized, and demobilized on so many fronts. Eight years, during which other countries looked up to us for leadership on climate change, and found nothing instead. Eight years of systematic obstruction to hundreds of good environmental proposals. Eight years of special fuel interests pulling the strings behind the scenes and imposing their wishes. Eight years, during which CO2 levels have risen steadily, past the 350 danger zone. Eight years of muffling the voices of climate scientists. Eight long years, that have dwarfed my efforts, and others’ efforts to try to heal nature.

I am ready for a change. Are you?

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by Edouard Stenger

As Marguerite most kindly proposed me to write an article for her blog, here are a few lines on the French counterpart of the “We” and “Together” campaigns, which were discussed respectively here and here.

The “Défi pour la Terre“, or “Earth Challenge”, was launched in May 2005 by the famous French journalist, TV personality and environmentalist Nicolas Hulot. With his show Ushuaïa, he has been presenting the marvels of the Earth to French people for twenty years and increasingly stated that these wonders are threatened by mankind. The Nicolas Hulot Foundation was created as early as 1990 to enable people to discover nature and protect the environment by exploration, education and communication.

The “Défi pour la Terre” wasn’t the first communication campaign launched by the Foundation, but it has been the most fruitful as already more than 840,000 French people joined it and pledged to decrease their carbon dioxide emissions. Many celebrities also supported the “Defi“. Total actions by members would account for reduction of 420,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases emissions.

During last year’s presidential elections, he asked the twelve candidates to sign a pact stating that once they would be elected, they would act on environmental issues and climate change mitigation. It was a major success as the elected President, Mr. Sarkozy, included elements of this pact into his own plans. Indeed, the Grenelle de l’Environnement“, the central part of environmental actions in France, included several parts of Hulot‘s plan.


Now, let’s review the “Défi pour la Terre” itself. As most things nowadays, the website is the central part of the Défi. People by logging to the website can access a lot of data on climate change and its mitigation. Visitors can also decide to act and are proposed ten possibilities. They can :

  • Sort out their waste and avoid excessive packaging ;
  • Prefer environmentally friendly products ;
  • Switch off appliances instead of simply turning them off ;
  • Choose energy efficient appliances and light bulbs ;
  • Take a short shower instead of a bath ;
  • Insulate and not over heat their houses and appartments ;
  • Install a solar water heater or a wood boiler to heat their place ;
  • Use less their cars ;
  • Drive in an efficient way and lastly ;
  • Choose the train when going on holidays.

As you can see, these actions cover the vast majority, if not the totality, of behaviors and lifestyles that can harm our environment.

Now let me be critical – a bit – and tell you what I think could be improved. After three years of existence, the Défi is getting old and would need a new start as the actions to be taken can’t be exactly accounted for, and are more relying on goodwill than on anything else. Indeed, CO2 cuts can’t actually be accounted for as no follow-up is done. Let’s hope improvements will come. Knowing how Nicolas Hulot has been working hard on raising awareness on the protection of the environment, I am confident such changes will occur…

Edouard has an international blog. If you want to follow what is happening on the environmental scene in Europe, go visit him at Sustainable Development and Much More . . .

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Once in a while, I decide to disclose some moments of weakness along my greener path. Yes, I still own a car. Yes, I still drive at times when I could otherwise bike, or take public transportation. Yes, I still buy too much food, too often. Yes, I give into the dryer for small to medium laundry items. Yes, I forget to turn off the power strip, on a regular basis. Yes, I engage into all these reprehensible behaviors, and then report on them, publicly on this blog. 

I have my reasons. I believe there is some redeeming value in being  real, and in writing out loud what others prefer to keep in the privacy of their minds. And to not apologize for it. After all, this is why I started La Marguerite blog, to provide a place for people to be human, not super green heroes. ‘Talk my language, and my struggles, and then, maybe I will listen to you, and change a bit.’ That’s been my stance up to now. 

Readers’ reactions to my environmental shortcomings tend to be on the supportive end. Some feel sorry for me, for being so hard on myself, and beg me instead to appreciate all my progress. Others start sharing stories of their own, and how we are all in this together. Those are music to my eyes, especially the ones vouching for the transformative power of my confessions. Then comes a third category. The hard core greenies, who admonish me for not getting my act together faster. ‘You would bring so much more to the world’, they write, ‘if you just turned 100% green overnight. Get rid of your car, will you?’

Could the greenies be right? I wonder. I have come across many tales of green gods and goddesses. While I find those interesting, I have a hard time relating to so much perfection. And so, I ask you the question. What kind of stories do you find most inspiring? Which ones have caused you to make real changes?

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Yesterday I gave up on my original idea to take the train and then BART,  to my meeting with the folks from Lucid Design Group. One thing led to the next, and before you know it, I had only one hour left before my appointment. Driving was the only way I could make it on time. To be honest, I was not too keen on this elaborate public transit scheme.  I am ok with just taking the train, but ask me to transfer to another mode, and my interest drops!

Today, no such excuse. I had planned to bike to my hairdresser’s appointment. Several hours working, then swimming, and lounging around reading the paper, once again, I cut it too close. Driving the three miles became the only option, if I wanted to make my 4.15 date at La Belle salon. 

What has happened to my green resolutions? Before I left on vacations, I wrote enthusiastically about my biking escapades. Since I came back two weeks ago, I have fallen off track. Rhythm, interrupted. Old habits, not dead, got the best of me, again. 

More telling than all the green consumers’ surveys, is the reality of my tenuous commitment. Symptomatic of a much broader ill, I believe. While away in France and in Italy, I witnessed the same spectacle: never ending flows of cars covering up the freeways, just like in the US. We the people on planet Earth, have not yet reached the tipping point when our collective consciousness will dictate another way of living. 

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Full length video of Barack Obama‘s Berlin speech:

Because, you need to watch him to fully get the power of his words. I know some of you question his ability to deliver on his promises. I don’t.

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The following is a reprint from comment I left on Huffington Post this morning, in response to their call out to bloggers for some input on future of their Green section. By the way, thanks Nadine, and Ian at NRDC blog for your kind comments about La Marguerite blog.

Olivia,

There are three very important aspects of blogging that I would like to bring up in this discussion:

First, is blogging as a vehicle for the building of a vibrant community of passionate people. This has been the most rewarding part of my involvement with La Marguerite blog. In order for it to work, your team needs to play the role of moderators, responding to, and connecting all the folks that honor you with their visit. Most of the major green blogs follow the old model of blogging as just writing, and interact very little with their readers.

Second, is blogging as a channel for problem solving and activism. Sooner or later, just talking about things cease to be sufficient. One natural progression is for clusters of people to want to take it further, and start implementing solutions discussed in the blog. This is happening on my blog, where several groups of readers have spun off into offline discussions, leading to several green initiatives. What I would like to suggest, is that you incorporate a more formal structure for such initiatives.

Third, you may be interested in Mark Klein‘s Collaboratorium initiative at MIT, regarding new ways to structure blogging discussions, so that they become more productive. For more on this, I invite you to read post I wrote a while ago, including discussion with Mark Klein‘s comment towards end of the thread: http://lamarguerite.wordpress.com/2008/04/29/mit-collaboratorium-wants-to-organize-the-climate-change-debate/

Marguerite
More on Environment
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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