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75 posts from May 2010

May 21, 2010

Sunday is World Turtle Day

World turtle day According to Native American lore, the turtle symbolizes strength, longevity, and perseverance. And now the quiet and gentle animal has its own day on the calendar: May 23, which is this Sunday.

World Turtle Day was started a decade ago by American Tortoise Rescue, a nonprofit that works to protect all tortoise and turtle species. The yearly tradition celebrates turtles and encouraging people to learn more about how to protect the ancient reptiles.

To celebrate the day, why not spend May 23 outdoors, check out a few library books about turtles, or send a free turtle-themed e-card? There’s even a fun online quiz that can reveal your famous turtle alter-ego. However, our friends at the Humane Society hope that you remember turtle and tortoise species every day; they provide 12 ways to help protect these graceful creatures throughout the year.

--Sarah A. Henderson

Up, Up, and Away: Treehouses Take Off

Treehouse Everyone’s childhood dream of living in a treehouse can now be a reality – thanks to Pete Nelson, a.k.a "The Treehouse Guy." The writer-photographer-architect has taken Swiss Family Robinson to the next level; his elaborately designed homes are suspended high in the trees and have been bringing adults everywhere back to the days of scraped knees and climbing trees.

Most of his treehouses are in Washington state near the Seattle headquarters of Treehouse Workshop. But his designs seem to have inspired a frenzy of hidden tree fortresses across the globe, from a suspended eyeball-like sphere in British Columbia to a solar-powered two-story hut in the Costa Rican jungle.

Nelson says that treehouses let kids and adults reconnect with nature, and allow families to enjoy time together. At his Northwest Treehouse School in Fall City, Washington, people can venture up into the trees, and also get firsthand experience building one of these structures.

Those that cringe at the thought of dangling hundreds of feet high can instead check out Nelson's book, New Treehouses of the World, which deftly illustrates his ability to bridge nature and fantasy into some of the world's most marvelous playhouses.

--Allison McCann

Movie Review Friday: Erin Brockovich

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. 

Erin Brockovich (2000)

Available on DVD

Erin Brockovich is the ultimate portrayal of the power of grassroots organizing. After getting a clerical job at a law firm to make ends meet, single mother Erin Brockovich sees a connection between pollution from a Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) plant and the serious medical conditions of people in the nearby town of Hinkley, California. Brockovich begins piecing together the case in an attempt to hold PG&E accountable, but soon finds herself up against a company that will stop at nothing (from bribes to death threats) to prevent word about their deception from spreading.

As this is a true story, we're not spoiling anything by revealing that PG&E allowed a dangerous chemical to leak into groundwater, contaminating Hinkley's drinking-water supply and causing the town's residents' cancers, miscarriages, and migraines.

Julia Roberts is perfect as the tenacious but compassionate title character, a role that earned her a best-actress Oscar. Her portrayal of Brockovich's struggle to raise children and find happiness fits neatly with her struggle against PG&E.

Erin Brockovich proves that it can pay off for an ordinary but determined citizen to stand up to a corrupt company. Watching this movie can provide hope for those who work to make corporations take responsibility for the messes they create.
--Sophie Matson

May 20, 2010

Daily Roundup: May 20, 2010

Loophole: Scientists discovered a growing mass of cold, rotating water near southern Florida's gulf coast that could sever the Loop Current, temporarily blocking the oil's spread to Florida coastlines. Greenwire and New York Times

Hold Your Breath: German researchers found in a study of 5,000 people that long-term exposure to urban pollution can increase blood pressure. BBC

Tough Breakup: BP has 24 hours to choose a less toxic chemical for breaking up oil in the Gulf and 72 hours for implementation. EPA officials are concerned that the massive amounts of the current highly toxic dissolvent, Corexit, will damage ecosystems. New York Times

Tea Tempest: Due to unusually high amounts of rainfall in India (the world’s second-largest tea supplier), overflowing rivers are damaging hundreds of acres of tea gardens. This devastation could severely decrease the nation's tea exports. ENN

Another Inconvenient Truth: A UC Santa Cruz student put Al Gore on the spot about his meat-eating habits during a recent lecture, questioning him about why his green literature encourages vegetarianism while he continues to eat meat. Gore admitted that he is not a vegetarian but said he eats less meat than he used to. Ecorazzi

--Sarah A. Henderson

Birds: Coming Soon to a Milk Carton Near You

Migrating geese Birds have had a rough time of it lately, and as the birding community responds to the BP oil disaster and other climate-change-related bird issues, at least one company is helping to raise awareness about avian issues. This summer, Stonyfield's milk cartons will be decorated with bird photographs and facts about global warming's impact on migration and feeding habits. The organic yogurt maker will also support the Audubon Adventures school program, which teaches young people about issues affecting our feathered friends. The program even provides instructions for turning used milk cartons into bird feeders.

If you want to do more to help, you can participate in annual bird counts, buy bird-friendly coffee, plant a bird-friendly garden, or, if you're in the Gulf region, report oil-coated birds.

--Della Watson

Behind Bars, But Ahead of the Sustainability Curve

ProduceFor the inmates at Washington’s Stafford Creek Corrections Center, sustainable gardening is a part of daily life – and those who work the soil within the prison get to enjoy  the benefits of gardening, namely, stress reduction and better health through exercise and pesticide-free produce.

Inmates eat the organic fruits and vegetables that they plant and maintain while learning about the advantages of composting, recycling, and spending time outdoors to grow their own food.

The idea for the project originated at Evergreen State College, headed by professor and ecologist Nalini Nadkarni. The program for the Washington state prisons is designed to lower the system's food costs and cut down on carbon emissions by limiting transportation of food and waste.

While the project at the prison has accomplished environment-related goals, there have been other encouraging outcomes of getting inmates outdoors to care for the gardens. Officials report that there has been a decrease in violence among the people working with the program.

--Kristin Baldwin

How to Save Paper: Go Electronic

Sending an e-card This week’s tips are about how to cut down on paper use – there are many reasons to, perhaps the foremost of which is that much of climate change is caused by deforestation. Also, paper production consumes energy, and thrown-away sheets clog landfills. Here’s what you can do.

Tip #4: Digitize Your Greetings

The rise of e-mail has saved forests’ worth of trees. Which is great – but perhaps it’s time to take the paper-saving up another notch. Are you willing to rethink social graces traditionally carried out with paper? If you’re planning a wedding, say, would you consider making your save-the-dates electronic? How about the actual invitations? Can thank-you cards be e-mailed instead of produced at a paper mill, printed, bought, and delivered? How do you feel about sending electronic special-occasion cards, like for this upcoming Father’s Day? A Google search turns up plenty of services for sending online greetings; our favorite is Pingg, which stocks stunning nature imagery.

What do you think: Can an e-card take the place of a handwritten note?

May 19, 2010

Daily Roundup: May 19, 2010

Mind the Cap: Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) blocked Democrats' attempts to increase the liability cap for oil-spill cleanup from $75 million to $10 billion. Los Angeles Times

Pushing Boundaries: The NOAA further extended the no-fishing zone in the Gulf of Mexico to reflect predictions that oil may soon enter the Gulf Stream Loop Current. ENN

Disappearing Jobs: A new report suggests that, if current outsourcing trends continue, the U.S. could lose 250,000 clean-energy jobs by 2030. ENN

Cash for Chlorophyll: Norway plans to provide Indonesia with as much as $1 billion to help reduce deforestation, forest degradation, and associated greenhouse-gas emissions. Mongabay

Polluting Plant: Researchers from the National Academy of Sciences found that kudzu, a plant native to Asia but invasive in the southeastern U.S., may increase ozone pollution levels. BBC News

--Sophie Matson

It (Literally) Pays to Recycle Your E-Waste

Recycle money Sometimes being environmentally responsible can put a different kind of green in your pocket. That’s exactly what ecoATM aims to do. But there's a catch – you’ve got to hand over a cell phone, digital camera or another ecoATM-accepted electronic device for recycling.

The company launched last September with the goal of revolutionizing the life cycle of consumer electronics. At their automated e-cycling stations, you can exchange unwanted electronic devices for a cash reward.

EcoATM, which is headquartered in San Diego, offers eight e-cycling kiosks, six in California and the remaining two in the Midwest. The plan is to expand nationally by the end of this year, with the possibility of growing internationally thereafter.

Continue reading "It (Literally) Pays to Recycle Your E-Waste" »

Book Roundup Wednesday: Knowledge-Packed Reads For Kids

Books about environmentalism Every Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. This week we're recommending books that teach children about language, or culture, or math from an environmental perspective.

Alphabet Bird Collection (by Shelli Ogilvy, $17, Sasquatch Books, 2009): Beautifully illustrated, alphabetically listed bird species are described with an easy-to-remember rhyme, a short paragraph about the bird's habits and range, and a phonetic rendering of its song. The book contains a lot of information, but the clever, artistic presentation makes the learning process fun.

How to Clean a Hippopotamus: A Look at Unusual Animal Partnerships (by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page, $16, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010): Vivid collage illustrations show how unlikely animal pairings, like a plover and a crocodile or a coyote and a badger, are examples of symbiosis in action. Children will be delighted to find out how these creatures help each other out. For dog owners, the book's last example is a nice reminder that humans benefit from cross-species partnerships too.

Continue reading "Book Roundup Wednesday: Knowledge-Packed Reads For Kids" »

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