Archive for March, 2009
In August 2008, Dr. Marcus Eriksen and Joel Paschal, members of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, set sail from Los Angeles for Honolulu on “JUNKraft” – a vessel created using 15,000 plastic bottles and a Cessna 310 – in the name of plastic pollution awareness.
Along their 2,600 mile, 3-month journey, Marcus and Joel skimmed the ocean surface for marine debris – and came away with 100 samples of visual proof of the toxic soup being cooked up by the pervading presence of plastic in our oceans.
“It gives me a profound sense that there is no place and no life form on earth that isn’t being affected by the onslaught of synthetic chemicals that humans are releasing into the environment.”
- Joel Paschal
To follow the path and read more about JUNK’s journey and discoveries, visit www.junkraft.com. And keep your eye out for the JUNKriders as they embark on a cycling / speaking tour from Vancouver, BC to Tijuana, Mexico this spring to continue spreading the word about plastic marine debris impact.
EBSCO Publishing offers a free environmental research database called GreenFILE – a collection of thousands of scholarly, government and general interest articles that covers all aspects of human impact on the environment. If you’re interested in digging a little deeper to get objective information on a large array of environmental subjects, give it a try. It’s a great resource.
Foods worth buying organic
- Bell peppers: One of the Environmental Working Group’s so-called “dirty dozen”—12 types of produce that have the highest level of pesticide residue. Their company includes celery, peaches, nectarines, and cherries.
- Apples: Ninety-two percent of the apples tested by the EWG were positive for pesticide residues—and 72% of those had more than one type of bug-killer on their peel.
- Peanut butter: Chemicals tend to concentrate in oils—one reason residues from up to 28 different pest-killers have been found in p.b.
- Strawberries: Bugs love supersweet fruits, so it’s no wonder that random F.D.A. tests found trace amounts of 38 different kinds of pesticides on these luscious, soft-skinned treats.
A good rule of thumb for produce: if you’re going to eat the skin, consider buying organic. If you’re going to peel the fruit or vegetable, you’ll end up stripping off much of the residues anyway – not worth the extra money.
Foods not worth buying organic
- Milk: Any residue from cattle feed ends up in milk fat, which gets removed if you drink low-fat or skim. And, contrary to popular belief, all milk—organic or not—is free of antibiotics.
- Chicken and fish: The USDA hasn’t created official guidelines for what constitutes “organic” fish. Also, meats in general don’t have as many residues as produce.
- Olive oil: Fewer synthetic chemicals are used in the production of olives than in other conventional crops to begin with—so you’re not getting that much bang for your buck if you buy organic.
- Yogurt: Like milk, any trace amounts of residue in yogurt would come from the fruit mixed in, not the yogurt itself.
The following is from Auden Schendler’s book, Getting Green Done: Hard Truths from the Front Lines of the Sustainability Revolution – a current Earthkeeper favorite. This particular piece illustrates how environmental “tunnel vision” – even well-intended – can in fact be damaging to the greater cause.
It has long been in vogue to hate both sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and their drivers. The environmental community encourages commando citizens to paste I’m Changing the Climate, Ask Me How bumper stickers onto the biggest offenders. A group called Earth on Empty, based in Somerville, Massachusetts, was “ticketing” SUVs for “failure to pay attention to your own behavior,” among other crimes, and the Sierra Club, after dubbing the Ford Excursion the Valdez, had a hand in the company’s decision to mothball the beast. (That and the fact that it got 3.7 miles per gallon in city driving during one test.) A few years ago, Stonyfield Farm Yogurt joined with NPR’s Car Talk guys on a campaign with bumper stickers that read: Live Larger, Drive Smaller: Not Everyone Needs an SUV. Throughout the nation, the SUV has superseded DDT and big dams on the environmental blacklist. And the religious community has even come up with the WWJD campaign: “What Would Jesus Drive?”
There are good reasons for the anti-SUV bias. Since every gallon of gasoline burned puts twenty pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, gas-guzzling SUVs are major contributors to global warming. Each five-mile-per-gallon increment in improved fuel economy keeps ten tons of CO2 from being released over the lifetime of a vehicle.
Global warming aside, sport utility vehicles spew 30 percent more carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons and 75 percent more nitrogen oxides than passenger cars. Those pollutants are precursors to smog and cause asthma and other illnesses. If SUVs got gas mileage equivalent to that of passenger cars, we’d save one million barrels of oil each day. The list goes on.
But despite the strong case against SUVs, the war against them is probably a mistake on the part of the environmental community.