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89 posts from June 2009

June 26, 2009

Remembering Michael Jackson's "Earth Song"

While recently deceased pop star Michael Jackson may be best remembered for hits like "Thriller," "Billie Jean," and "Beat It," we'd like to call attention to Jackson's 1995 environmentally themed tune, "Earth Song." From the album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I, "Earth Song" was the singer's top-selling single in the United Kingdom and a top-five hit in many European countries (the song wasn't released as a single in the United States). The video, below, was one of the most expensive ever made.

Movie Review Friday: Battle in Seattle

Escape to the movies with one of our Movie Review Friday selections. Each week we review a film with an environmental theme that’s currently in theaters or available on DVD. Seen a good eco-flick lately? Send us a short review and look for it in the next Movie Review Friday.

Battle in Seattle (2008)
Available on DVD

In 1999, as the World Trade Organization gathered to set out its plans for the 21st century, it made the mistake of holding its summit in a truly free nation. The five-day gathering would live on in history, especially for what happened outside the conference rooms. More than 50,000 protesters from every walk of life converged to halt the destructive forces of globalization. It was a struggle for justice that, after bouts of police brutality and property destruction, became a shot across the bow.

Battle in Seattle is a film about that protest. Directed by Stuart Townsend, it stars Martin Henderson as an environmentalist driven to desperation after police kill his brother, who was defending redwoods in Oregon. Woody Harrelson plays a cop considering his morality after his pregnant wife (Charlize Theron) is brutalized by the police in the tear-gas confusion. Andre Benjamin has the role of a protester speaking out against the lack of regulation on fishing nets that have brought sea turtles near extinction. One of the protesters’ major complaints is the WTO’s push for unregulated trading and commerce, endangering many habitats and species.

Despite some cliches in the script, and a degree of historical inaccuracy (see This is What Democracy Looks Like for a truer account), this film is highly recommended for anyone looking for an environmental success story, or simply for a tense, emotional drama of moral ambivalence and forgiveness.

-- Will Hawk

June 25, 2009

Daily Roundup: June 26, 2009

Waste Not: San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom signed the first mandatory composting law. When the law takes effect this fall, residents and businesses will be required to sort trash, recyclables, and compost. Inhabitat and Associated Press

What Big Ears You Have: Global warming may impact fish growth--scientists found that white sea bass exposed to high levels of carbon dioxide grew larger ear bones. Dot Earth

Exhausted: The results of a recent study suggest that pregnant women who live near sources of traffic pollution may have a higher risk of premature delivery and preeclampsia. Scientific American

Cheers: Portland, Oregon, will host the world's largest organic beer festival this weekend. Wend

Just Do It: In anticipation of an expected vote in the House on Friday, President Obama encouraged lawmakers to support the climate-change bill. Los Angeles Times

--Della Watson

Video: Daryl Hannah Gets Arrested

Daryl Hannah, NASA scientist James Hansen, and dozens of others were arrested Tuesday for impeding traffic during a civil-disobedience protest against mountaintop-removal mining in West Virginia.

Fast-forward to 1:25 on the YouTube video above to hear the anti-coal statement Hannah made while being arrested. Then keep watching as the beaming actress gets loaded into the front seat of a police car while the surrounding crowd cheers loudly.

Green Your Wedding: Food

Treat your guests to organic apples at your wedding Weddings inspire and delight us, but these sacred events have grown into resource-sapping affairs. If you're wondering how to pull off your dream celebration without a huge carbon footprint and an empty bank account, refer to this week's tips to help you work some ecofriendly wedding magic.

Tip #4: Serve Sustainable Cuisine

Reduce your wedding's environmental impact by serving organic food and wine. Ask your caterer about meals featuring seasonal fruits and vegetables that can be sourced from local farms. Some caterers even specialize in ecofriendly cuisine or vegan wedding cakes. Keep in mind that vegetarian dishes tend to be less expensive and more ecofriendly than meat courses.

Share your tips: What are your suggestions for serving an ecofriendly wedding meal on a budget?

June 24, 2009

Daily Roundup: June 24, 2009

Green Giant: Sears Tower, the tallest building in the Western hemisphere, is scheduled for a $350 million green retrofit that could reduce the skyscraper's consumption of electricity by 80 percent and water by 40 percent. Reuters

Baby On Board: According to a recent report by the International Whaling Commission, over 25 percent of the whales killed this year by Japanese research vessels in Antarctic waters were pregnant. Science News

Go Fish: A new task force created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plans to create a cap-and-trade system for fisheries. Scientific American

Dirty Oil: Environmental groups launched a campaign to urge Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to halt permits for pipeline projects designed to import tar sands oil from Canada into the United States. Sierra Club

Switcheroo: Lawmakers have agreed to shift control of agriculture offset programs under the House climate bill from the EPA to the USDA. New York Times and Reuters

--Della Watson

Book Roundup Wednesday: Books About Water

Books about environmentalism Every Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. Today we’re recommending books about water.

Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What to Do About It (by Robert Glennon, $28, Island Press, May 2009): The author, a law professor at the University of Arizona, defines our nation’s underreported water crisis and lists all the crazy ways we’re wasting the resource (specifically calling out that bastion of sin in the middle of the Mojave: Las Vegas) – but also provides solutions, including reclaiming wastewater (in the charmingly named chapter “Shall We Drink Pee?”) and making farmers more water-wise. Glennon takes a subject matter that can be prohibitively academic and manages to present it with mass appeal, even while refraining from dumbing down the issue’s complexity.

Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It (by Elizabeth Royte, $25, Bloomsbury, June 2008): Royte, who’s good at painting characters and bringing us into a scene, writes in first person about her on-the-ground investigations into why and how the bottled water became a multi-billion-dollar industry. She questions companies’ rights to water sources, as well as the safety of tap water. The result is an engaging book that’s likely to leave anyone who reads it feeling uneasy the next time they reach for their Evian.

Continue reading "Book Roundup Wednesday: Books About Water" »

Congress Ponders Greenwashing

Green shopping bags Of all the products claiming to be ecofriendly, 98 percent of them are guilty of greenwashing, according to TerraChoice’s survey of 2,219 consumer goods in the United States and Canada. And now Congress knows it, thanks to the testimony of TerraChoice Vice President Scot Case.

Case was invited earlier this month to testify before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection at a hearing entitled "It's Too Easy Being Green: Defining Fair Green Marketing Practices." The meeting addressed environmental marketing claims and included testimony from five witnesses.

Monitoring green marketing practices is a job that's becoming increasingly difficult. As interest in protecting the planet is grows among consumers, interest in creating misleadingly planet-friendly labels grows among manufacturers. Some common greenwashing practices include being so vague that the claim is meaningless, advertising claims with no proof, and creating images that falsely imply that the product has gone through a certification process. TerraChoice has labeled these and other greenwashing practices “The Seven Sins of Greenwashing.”

Continue reading "Congress Ponders Greenwashing" »

Green Innovations Inspired by Trees

Forest When it comes to sustainability, trees have got it down. Not only do they make their own energy, but through that process, they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

So it seems natural that scientists have started basing their clean-energy innovations on nature's own carbon cleaners. For instance, Columbia University scientist Klaus Lackner has invented a plastic tree able to capture 1,000 times the carbon dioxide the living versions can.

The synthetic tree costs about as much as a car to manufacture but has many advantages: It can capture carbon dioxide from the air without the sunlight a living plant requires, and that trapped gas could be used to create fuel for jet engines and cars, says Lackner.

Continue reading "Green Innovations Inspired by Trees" »

Green Your Wedding: Gifts

Give to the earth Weddings inspire and delight us, but these sacred events have grown into resource-sapping affairs. If you're wondering how to pull off your dream celebration without a huge carbon footprint and an empty bank account, refer to this week's tips to help you work some ecofriendly wedding magic.

Tip #3: Give Back

Let your wedding gifts do some good by registering for ecofriendly products or requesting charitable donations. Register with the I Do Foundation and up to 10% of the price of your guests' purchases will be donated to the charity of your choice. If you already own a complete set of dishes (or you're perfectly happy with your mismatched thrift store plates), consider asking guests to give to the Sierra Club and sponsor a wild place in your name.

Share your tips: What are your ideas for ecofriendly wedding gifts? 


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