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32 posts from March 2012

March 21, 2012

Dancer Walks 500 Miles to Find Coal Mines


CassieMeador_power_croppedCassie Meador is on a quest. She has decided to take a little walk — a 500-mile walk,to be exact — to trace the source of the energy she uses in her Washington D.C. home. It all started with a bit of research that led to a disturbing conclusion. 

"Learning that my power comes from a mountaintop-removal coal mine left me completely shocked. I realized that I was responsible for what was happening in those communities, part of the choices I make every day."

Meador, the artistic director of Dance Exchange may seem like an unlikely champion for the environment, but her love of dance has intertwined with her love of the planet for many years. The messages underlying her performances have made people take notice. "I grew up in a family of scientists," she says, "so that taught me to look at the world in a certain way." At one point, she considered returning to college for an environmental science degree, but then an unusual opportunity presented itself. 

Continue reading "Dancer Walks 500 Miles to Find Coal Mines " »

H2-Whoa! How much water in a slice of bread?

Sliced breadHow much water is on your plate? About 70 percent of the world's "blue water withdrawals" irrigate agriculture. World Water Day is March 22, and this year's theme examines food production. To see how many gallons of water bring common foods from field to plate, take our H2-Whoa! quiz.  

 

Q: How much water goes into a slice of bread?

A) Almost 11 gallons.

B) About 4 gallons.

C) It's hard to tell through all this mayonnaise.

 

 

Continue reading "H2-Whoa! How much water in a slice of bread?" »

March 20, 2012

Interview with a Tipi Dweller

Mark Warren Adam NashMark Warren is a naturalist, composer, novelist, and director of Medicine Bow, a "primitive school of earthlore." In the summer of 1989, a streak of lightning scorched his house and everything inside, so he moved into a tipi. He tells his story in Two Winters in a Tipi, to be published by Lyons Press in May.

The barn you lived in was struck by lightning. You lost all your work.

When I went back and saw my house, there was one pile of rubble that was still glowing bright red. That’s where my piano was. On top of it were all my music compositions and my novel. That was my first novel. I had hundreds of music compositions. There were no copies.

That must have been devastating.

That's exactly the word. But you also feel freedom at the same time that you feel victimized.

And you decided your next home would be a tipi?

I remember when the first big ice storm came to north Georgia. Trees turned to crystal. They were all bowing and creating a convergence above me. I remember thinking what a beautiful shelter this is, all these trees leaning toward me. I wanted to have my own version of trees leaning together above me.

Late in the book, a raccoon wanders into your tipi and dies by the fire.

I had a few encounters with what was probably that same raccoon. I would roam the forest with my bow and shoot at shadows, leaves, inanimate objects, and I encountered him and spoke to him for awhile. A week later, he came through the door. I thought he might have had distemper or rabies. But there was something very melancholy about his behavior, and it was so cold outside. I picked him up and brought him closer to the fire. The next morning he was dead. It turned out he had come there to die.

Continue reading "Interview with a Tipi Dweller" »

H2-Whoa! How much water goes into one steak?

SteakHow much water is on your plate? About 70 percent of the world's "blue water withdrawals" irrigate agriculture. World Water Day is March 22, and this year's theme examines food production. To see how many gallons of water bring common foods from field to plate, take our H2-Whoa! quiz.  

 

Q: How much water goes into one piece of steak?

A) About 850 gallons.

B) About 1,850 gallons.

C) Cow aren't plants, they don't need to be watered.

 

Continue reading "H2-Whoa! How much water goes into one steak?" »

March 19, 2012

Introducing the sOccket

sOccketFor whatever reason, soccer has not caught in the United States like it has in the rest of the world. But that doesn't mean Americans can't use soccer as a canvas for incredible innovation. Case in point: Harvard grads Jessica Matthews and Julia Silverman, co-founders of Uncharted Play, the organization that distributes the sOccket. The sOccket is, exactly as its punny name suggests, both a soccer ball and a light socket. It runs on kinetic energy, meaning the more soccer you play, the more stored energy you have to power electrical appliances.

This is obviously a very cool idea, but what's cooler is that Uncharted Play has a humanitarian angle, stemming from the co-founders' experience studying in developing countries. This means that you can't get a sOccket for yourself unfortunately (at least not right now), but you can donate one to someone who needs the electricity. Uncharted Play points out that "resource-poor families can spend 10 to 30 percent of their income on kerosene," which is linked to countless health issues such as respiratory problems, skin diseases, and carbon monoxide poisoning.

The idea has garnered praise from the New York Times, Discovery, TED, and dozens of other media outlets; even former president Bill Clinton has called it "quite extraordinary."

Though one little soccer ball is not likely to solve the energy issues of hundreds of resource-poor, soccer-loving nations, it is a step towards more energy efficiency. Jessica Lin, one of the original inventors who worked with Matthews and Silverman at Harvard, told the New York Times, "We are trying to make a bigger statement about energy needs. Even if our project just starts people thinking about different ways to bring energy access to places like Africa, that’s really important."

Uncharted Play is currently working on sOccket 2.0; they just recently (in September of last year) released the first mass-produced sOcckets. 

--Justin Cohn / image courtesy of Uncharted Play

H2-Whoa! How much water is in a day of food?

Food PyramidHow much water is on your plate? About 70 percent of the world's "blue water withdrawals" irrigate agriculture. World Water Day is March 22, and this year's theme examines food production. To see how many gallons of water bring common foods from field to plate, take our H2-Whoa! quiz. 

Q: How much water does it take to produce one person's daily food?

A) About 530 to 1,320 gallons.

B) Depends on the location.

C) These saltines are so dry there is no way water went into their production. 

 

Continue reading "H2-Whoa! How much water is in a day of food? " »

March 16, 2012

Frozen Planet Premieres Sunday

Frozen_planet

Thunderous three-ton elephant seals face off for control of the beach, orcas launch from the icy water, and Adéle penguins turn to a life of crime to build their nest — these are a few of the stories that unfold at the harsh, frozen ends of our planet.

Four years in the making, Discovery Channel's breathtaking new seven-part series, Frozen Planet premieres this Sunday, March 18 at 8 p.m.

To celebrate the Arctic's big moment in the spotlight, the Sierra Club is organizing viewing parties around the country. Attend one of the hundreds of Frozen Planet House Parties to view advance copies of the film and take action by signing postcards to urge President Obama to protect America's Arctic. If you can't make it to a party, click here to sign the Sierra Club's Protect America's Arctic petition.

The Arctic region hosts a thriving wildlife habitat, the largest gathering of seabirds on the planet, and an ocean teeming with fish, but it's threatened by global warming and gas and oil drilling. Invite your friends to get involved and help the Sierra Club continue to protect one of the Earth's remaining wild places. 

--Cyndy Patrick/image courtesy of Discovery Channel

March 15, 2012

Mr. Green Week: How to Throw an Ecofriendly Kegger

Mr. GreenIn honor of St. Patrick's Day, we're featuring our appropriately attired advice guru, Mr. Green. This week, we'll treat you to a few treasured columns from the archives and some rare behind-the-scenes videos — if you're lucky.

Got a question for Mr. Green? Submit it here.

Hey Mr. Green,

I'm in my senior year of college. I live off campus, and we throw a lot of parties. What appalls me is the amount of nonrecyclable plastic cups we go through. If we use 100 cups per party and have 12 parties a year, that's 1,200 cups we're wasting. Are there any reusable plastic cups that are cheap and environmentally friendly? 

 --Dan in Titusville, New Jersey

The mere thought of heaps of disposable cups, replete with congealing backwash and reconnoitering insects, can spur even the most environmentally indifferent into action. I recommend rigid plastic tumblers, in part because they provide a nice example of how helping the environment can also save you money.

I could have taken the easy path and recommended biodegradable cups made from corn, potatoes, or other "renewable" substances, but I haven't found convincing evidence that biodegradables are significantly better for the environment than regular plastic. And glassware is neither a safe nor a cheap solution.

Continue reading "Mr. Green Week: How to Throw an Ecofriendly Kegger " »

March 14, 2012

International Day of Action for Rivers

The first International Day of Action for Rivers took place 15 years ago today. To celebrate and take action for free-flowing rivers, activists will spend the day advocating for clean water, restoration projects, healthy watersheds, and the sustainable management of rivers. 

Follow the links below to learn more or join river activists around the world.

International Rivers: International Day of Action for Rivers

International Rivers: 2012 Actions by Region

American Rivers: Celebrate the International Day of Action for Rivers 

Facebook: International Day of Action for Rivers

¡SIN REPRESAS! Patagonia Without Dams

--Lauren Pope / video from "The Year of the River" series by filmmaker Andy Maser in collaboration with American Rivers, American Whitewater, and Hydropower Reform Coalition 

Mr. Green Week: Did Pesticides Whack My Birdies?

Mr. GreenIn honor of St. Patrick's Day, we're featuring our appropriately attired advice guru, Mr. Green. This week, we'll treat you to a few treasured columns from the archives and some rare behind-the-scenes videos — if you're lucky.

Got a question for Mr. Green? Submit it here.

Hey Mr. Green,

I usually don't use herbicides or pesticides on my lawn, but I'm planning to sell the house and wanted to appeal to more buyers, so I used them. I noticed the robins were gone right away and didn't come back. Is this connection possible after one application?

 --Maxine in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota

It is indeed possible that the pesticides whacked your robins. According to our friends at the Audubon Society, there are a dozen pesticides approved for home use that could kill birds. Consult Audubon's roster of toxic substances (some of which may also be harmful to humans) to get the dirt on lawn-care chemicals. 

U.S. farmers take heat for their pesticide use, but the sad fact is that the country's home owners recklessly slather on the stuff in far greater concentrations. According to the EPA, households apply 85 million pounds to 17 million residential acres, or 5 pounds per acre, while farmers use about 1.4 pounds per acre on 815 million acres of crops and pasture.

Continue reading "Mr. Green Week: Did Pesticides Whack My Birdies?" »


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