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82 posts from July 2009

July 24, 2009

Movie Review Friday: Bee Movie

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.

Bee Movie

Available on DVD

Bee Movie is smart and thoroughly enjoyable family comedy that showcases the importance of one of nature’s tiniest (and often illogically feared) creatures. It's the coming-of-age story of a bee named Barry (Jerry Seinfeld). Barry is a thinker not a stinger. The film opens with Barry’s graduation, and as just like most college grads of the human variety, he is unsure to the point of being terrified at the prospect of choosing a career. His parents want him to take his place in the family business (making honey, natch), but Barry doesn’t want a small, insignificant life; he's filled with an overwhelming desire to explore the world outside his hive.

One morning, Barry follows the “pollen jocks” out into Central Park. After a series of mishaps, Barry meets Vanessa, (Renee Zellweger), a New York florist. Barry breaks the bees' number-one rule: “Never talk to humans,” and through this unlikely friendship, he's introduced to such amenities as cake. However, to his horror, he finds that humans have long been gainfully stealing copious amounts of honey from his species.

With Vanessa’s help, Barry and his best bee friend, Adam (Matthew Broderick), file a class-action lawsuit against the humans' pilfering -- and wins. At first, his victory seems sweeter than the honey his hive is now overflowing with, but after visiting Vanessa, he discovers that since the bees’ hiatus from producing honey, the world has been in peril. Without bees pollinating, flowers die, fruits and vegetables can’t grow, and the animals that eat plants (including humans) go hungry.

By film's end, Barry finally understands the importance of making honey, and that “a small job, if you do it really well, makes a big difference.” Bee Movie brims with the Seinfeld humor we know and love. Plus, the Dreamworks-driven animation and storytelling is stellar -- and buzz-worthy.

--Julia Gelbaum

July 23, 2009

Daily Roundup: July 23, 2009

Mortal Apes: Scientists have learned that the monkey equivalent of HIV, previously believed to be harmless to them, is probably fatal when it turns into the simian form of AIDS. The finding concerns conservationists. National Geographic and Scientific American

Good, Old-Fashioned Cars? A University of Michigan study revealed that U.S vehicle efficiency has increased only three miles per gallon since the Ford Model T was introduced. NewScientist

Mais, Oui:
The E.U. set environmental standards for freezers, TVs, and other appliances; the new rules are meant to improve energy efficiency. Reuters

Unconfirmed Bachelor: Lonesome George is apparently no longer lonesome. The 90-year-old, 198-pound Galapagos tortoise may soon become a father. Five eggs were discovered in his pen this week but four months will have to pass until scientists know whether they’re fertilized. FOX News

Rockin’ Beer: Kid Rock has launched a new beer brand: American Badass Beer. It’s manufactured by the Michigan Brewing Co, which uses biodiesel to power some of their production. Ecorazzi

--Avital Binshtock

How to Instill A Sense of Wonder

Natural wonderWonder for the natural world -- it's one of the best resources we can use in gaining people's support for saving the planet. Unfortunately, the resource seems to be limited these days. Statistical and wonky arguments often flood the discourse about nature, and as important as they are, these jargon-filled discussions can dull natural enthusiasm in a hurry.

Rachel Carson, arguably the founder of the modern environmental movement, wrote: “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for the destruction of our race.”

A great way to renew the inspiration she wrote about is to pass it along. Earlier this month, we wrote about the importance of getting kids outside, and instilling in them some wonder for the natural world. To quote Carson again: “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it.” She encourages us to rediscover with that child the “joy, excitement, and mystery” in the world.  

A Carson-inspired initiative, sponsored by the EPA’s Aging Initiative and other nonprofits, the “Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Contest” asked contestants to team up across generations and express their impressions of nature by way of poetry, essay, photography, or dance.

View the finalists  – and vote for the ones that most inspire you – here.

--Jamie Hansen

Summer Sports Week: Paddlesports

Protect lakes and rivers Time spent enjoying the outdoors recharges your spirit and gives you further motivation to protect the planet. This week, we'll provide tips for keeping your summer athletic activities green.

Tip #4: Protect Your Playground

If your ideal getaway is to paddle a pristine river or float on a clear lake, remember to protect paradise when you're back at home. Stormwater runoff from yards, driveways, and sidewalks drains into local lakes, rivers, and bays. Excessive amounts of fertilizer, lawn clippings, and animal waste can upset the balance of marine ecosystems. Oil, hazardous chemicals, plastic, and pharmaceuticals can wreak havoc on fish and birds. Check out our tips for keeping top offenders out of the water. Join a river cleanup event or get involved with the Sierra Club's Water Sentinels program.

Share your tips: How do you fight water pollution?

July 22, 2009

Daily Roundup: July 22, 2009

Mirage? Dubai's newest proposed landmark is an iceberg hotel called Blue Crystal. Developers claim the frozen structure will be sustainable. Inhabitat and Green Daily

Not Going to Graceland: Some West Virginia coal mining companies and supporters are boycotting travel to Tennessee after its Senator supported a ban on mountaintop removal mining. New York Times

Gone Nuts: The nut and fruit industries in California's Central Valley could be devastated by climate change, says a new report that predicts fewer of the winter chills necessary for the trees' productivity. Los Angeles Times and Reuters

Navajo Nation: The newly-created Navajo Green Economy Commission will control funds for green initiatives on tribal lands. Supporters hope the commission will generate green jobs. Los Angeles Times

Green Giant: PNC Financial Services Group will install the largest green wall in North America on the side of its Pittsburgh headquarters building. The living wall will use regional plants. Fast Company and Dayton Business Journal

--Della Watson

Book Roundup Wednesday: Books About Sustainable Gardening

Books about environmentalismEvery Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. This week, we’re recommending books about “greening” your green thumb.

A Weed by Any Other Name: The Virtues of a Messy Lawn, or Learning to Love the Plants We Don’t Plant (by Nancy Gift, $24, Beacon Press, 2009): This season-by-season guide advocates a new strategy for dealing with weeds in your yard: don’t. The author introduces the plants that pop up in your garden uninvited and offers an opportunity to embrace, instead of exterminate, the plant diversity of your yard.

The Complete Compost Gardening Guide (by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah L. Martin, $20, Storey Publishing, 2008): Gardeners just starting their first kitchen compost bin and compost experts alike will find everything they want to know about “the gardener’s gold” in this extensive illustrated manual.

Continue reading "Book Roundup Wednesday: Books About Sustainable Gardening" »

Steven Chu Meets Jon Stewart

On the July 21 Daily Show, comedian Jon Stewart asked Energy secretary Steven Chu about the Markey-Waxman climate-change bill, passed by the House but still awaiting action by the Senate. While Stewart joked about a fictional super hero called "Cap’n Trade," Chu asserted that limiting carbon emissions is a critical and tremendous step forward for the United States and the world.

Help the climate bill pass: Write a letter in support of the bill to your state’s senators. The Sierra Club makes it easy to contact your representatives.

Connect with Steven Chu: The Energy secretary just joined Facebook. How often can you add a Cabinet member and Nobel laureate as a friend?

Curb global warming at home: Chu is a great advocate of white roofs. As he discusses on The Daily Show, switching to white roofs (and light-colored pavement) would be the equivalent of taking one billion cars off the road for 11 years.

--Julia Gelbaum

Summer Sports Week: Swimming

Swimming is a good source of exercise Time spent enjoying the outdoors recharges your spirit and gives you further motivation to protect the planet. This week, we'll provide tips for keeping your summer athletic activities green.

Tip #3: Green Your Pool

Swimmers receive lifelong health benefits, but pools are not without environmental impact. Simple actions like planting a windbreak and covering your pool will go a long way to reduce the amount of heat lost through evaporation. Consider switching to a saltwater pool to reduce the harsh effects of chlorine. Want to cool off with a DIY pool? Get inspiration from these urban pools made from old dumpsters.

Share your tips: What are your poolside green tips?

July 21, 2009

Daily Roundup: July 21, 2009

Getting to Know You: Energy secretary Steven Chu is spreading the word about climate change (and sharing a few personal details) on his brand-new Facebook page. Environmental Capital

Ouch: Two journalists filming the controversial Namibian seal hunt were attacked and arrested. Treehugger

Just Checking: Researchers at Columbia University have installed carbon dioxide sensors in seven different New York City locations to study emissions at the local level. Associated Press

Let 'em Live: A committee of British MPs concerned with the environmental impact of overfishing asked the government to stop advising people to eat two servings of fish per week. BBC

Clean Cows: The Obama administration is supporting proposed legislation that would restrict use of antibiotics in healthy farm animals. Wired Science and New York Times

--Della Watson

The Cost of Water

CostofwaterIn spite of being one of the simplest, most abundant resources on our planet, water has become a complex commodity, fraught with issues of social justice. For example, producing one cup of coffee can use up to 37 gallons of water – water that likely comes from someone else’s well.

There should be greater transparency and accountability for water use, say two food ethics groups in a recent report. They recommend creating a labeling system for food and drink that would reflect the true cost of the water used in production, and help consumers make more sustainable decisions.

The proposed “water stewardship labeling system” would borrow from the concept of a carbon footprint, which is a systematic measurement an individual's, businesses', or nation’s carbon emissions. Creating such a model, however, would be incredibly complex. For now, the Food Ethics Council (FEC) recommends focusing on recognizing companies that have already moved towards more sustainable practices.

The FEC and Sustain’s concept is timely, as water scarcity has been a common topic in the news.
Today, the London Financial Times reported that water shortages in India have reached crisis levels, the result of climate change, overpopulation, and overuse by local and international businesses.

Continue reading "The Cost of Water" »

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