Archive for April, 2012

April 30, 2012

Green in the Gallery

How can messages about misplaced values and environmental degradation be both beautiful and shocking? Ask Agnes Denes.

In 1982, Agnes Denes planted a field of wheat on an unoccupied downtown Manhatten lot to highlight societal distortions of what is important. The environmental art piece was titled Wheatfield — A Confrontation. It yielded 1000 lbs of grain shipped to 28 cities internationally (this must have been, err, before the issue of CO2 emissions had become a concern) and used to plant new wheat.

Talk about forcing you to change your perspective!

April 29, 2012

Meatless Monday…and Sunday, and Tuesday, too?


For many of us, our diets are a touchy subject. No one likes to be told what to eat, and many Americans are particularly sensitive to the subject of their meat consumption.

Over the decades, as meat has become more and more affordable and ubiquitous in supermarkets, animal products have become less of a garnish within a meal and more of a staple. But we can’t avoid an uncomfortable truth: today’s meat production processes are unfortunately some of the largest contributors to anthropomorphic-related climate change.

Indeed, a report from 2006 places 18% of global GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions at the feet of the livestock industry, and more recent analysis suggests that the number is closer to a staggering 51% [more information is available here and here]. Livestock contribute to GHG emissions through respiration, methane emissions, livestock land use, and related energy used for the “production, distribution, and disposal” of byproducts and packaging. Antibiotic resistance and medical treatment for livestock are additional concerns that have emerged as the international meat industry has exploded in recent years.

Cutting back on meat consumption even one or two times a week is one way to significantly reduce your own carbon footprint (by as much as a ton!), and the diversity of today’s food options makes that a relatively painless decision. Here are a few additional resources on going meatless, below:


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April 28, 2012

Around the World with the Click of a Mouse

The Washington Post has a striking gallery of images from climate change disasters around the world.

It’s definitely worth checking out this slideshow on your lazy Saturday morning- see it here!

A child holds up a sign in Tuvalu, an island that is dealing with severe drought and increasingly hostile conditions:


April 26, 2012

Putting a Positive Spin On It




April 25, 2012

Earth: The Operators’ Manual

To follow up on our conversation from yesterday about climate messaging and how to empower the individual- that’s YOU- to take action, here’s a trailer for the new PBS documentary, Earth: The Operators’ Manual. 

The voiceover is done by Richard B. Alley, a climate scientist from Penn State who has spoken up about his own background to make it clear that this is a universal message. Alley is a frequent church-going Republican and makes it clear even within the trailer that climate change effects are far too dire for us to afford isolating any group, political party, or religion. This is a global commons problem, and it’s high time we started treating it as one.

Interesting, the documentary highlights the positive actions that we can all take within our local communities to make a difference: the filmmakers were careful to avoid a doomsday approach and the interesting stories from around the world make it a worthwhile watch!

Check out the trailer below:

Or watch full episodes here:


April 24, 2012

The Elephant in the Room?

Ok, enough. 

Maybe that’s the first thought that runs through your head when you read yet another article with dramatic headlines on how the climate is rapidly undergoing ecologically devastating or economically ruinous changes. We’re seeing it everywhere. Britain is experiencing the worst drought since 1976. The Northeast United States had the hottest weather in March in at least 118 years- it broke 15,292 national records. Mongolia, Thailand, Kenya, the Horn of Africa….name me a place, and I’ll tell you about unprecedented droughts, floods, or extreme weather events that have been increasingly linked to changes in climate.

So why aren’t we doing more about it, and why haven’t we seen greater political mobility? Daniel Gilbert made a speech for Harvard Thinks Big , in which he argued that we’re not yet rioting on the street because global warming lacks 4 key qualities. He claims it isn’t intentional, immoral, imminent, or instantaneous enough to lead to the kind of global cooperation this free-rider problem demands. “It’s a threat to our tomorrow, but it’s not a threat to our evening.”

Maybe we need to think more closely about how we communicate on climate change. Renowned economist Ted Nordhaus argues in his book Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility that environmental advocates are the problem, not the solution. The facts can be really depressing and not necessarily the push the layman needs to get off his coach and take action. As Nordhaus muses, what if Martin Luther King Jr. had written his speech from the perspective of “I have a nightmare” rather than “I have a dream”?

I don’t have the answer to what approach can be most effective in getting the message across that climate change has crashed our party. But we need to start getting serious because to get back “on track”, we can’t afford to party like it’s the end of the world…or on the other extreme, like it’s 1730, pre-Industrial Revolution.

So what do you think is the best way to clarion call this message and make it stick? Here are two short ads/clips taking two very different approaches to the message on environmental stewardship, one humorous, and one with a more serious streak. How could we get YOU to reconsider your lifestyle choices and your efforts as an active, involved citizen?

Daniel Gilbert speaks at Harvard Thinks Big:


April 23, 2012

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Baseball aficionados might have a new reason to crow about their favorite sport- according to a recent article by North Jersey Record James O’Neill, teams are taking on the massive responsibility of envrionmental stewardship and going green.

The MetLife Stadium is teeming with new shrubbery thanks to the efforts of Jets employees, who planted 150 perennials and 25 red oak trees in celebration of Earth Day; a massive Solar Ring composed of 1500 solar panels is expected to provide 25 times the electricity needed for the current lighting and display systems. The MetLife Stadium itself is a work of green art, a looming structure with the structural support of more than 12000 tons of recycled steel.

The Yankees are also active contenders for the role of green dream team, with a stadium lighted by 300 fewer watts per fixture than the average levels. William Nutt of the U.S. Green Building Council enthused, “In the past, sustainability was much more an area pushed by environmentalists. But people realize the benefits are more widespread — there are actual profits and savings to be gained….Since teams have such strong followings, their arenas can be powerful educational tools that promote sustainable living.”

See the original article here

image credits:credits:

April 22, 2012

The History of Earth Day

Ok, so most of us will probably do almost nothing to celebrate Earth Day. But, a ton of work went into the making of this under-appreciated holiday. To read more about the story of Earth Day (first celebrated in, you guessed it, the sixties — 1969, to be exact), click on the link below, as told by the father of Earth Day, Senator Gaylord Nelson.

A lot of work has gone into this holiday, so take a minute to appreciate the earth or reconnect with nature. Skip plastic bags today, go on a bike ride instead of driving a car, or go on a walk instead of sitting in front of the computer screen you’re staring glazy-eyed into right now. Feel that strange, warm sensation? That’s called sunlight! Enjoy!

April 21, 2012

Sometimes It Stinks to Be Right

New Yorker

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April 20, 2012

Bottled Water: Bad for People, Nature, and Wallets

Bottled water might be one of the biggest ripoffs out there. Per exchange, bottled water might not drain as much money as a fake Nigerian prince scam, but the average person tends to encounter bottled water way more frequently than would-be monarchs.

In 2009, Americans alone spent 10.6 billion dollars on water, even though tap water is safe to drink. For those bottles, they paid up to 1000 X the amount they would pay for tap water. Here’s the even crazier thing: 48.7 % of that bottled water came from tap water — literally just tap water poured into a bottle! And the percentage of bottled water that comes from tap is growing!

Here are some more bottled water facts, from Food and Water Watch:

Bottled water is bad for the environment

Bottled water wastes fossil fuels in production and transport. Bottled water production in the United States used the energy equivalent of 32 and 54 million barrels of oil to produce and transport plastic water bottles in 2007—enough to fuel about 1.5 million cars for a year. Rather than being recycled, about 75 percent of the empty plastic bottles end up in our landfills, lakes, streams and oceans, where they may never fully decompose.

Bottled water is not safer

Tap water in the United States is subject to more stringent federal safety regulations than bottled water. Federal, state, and local environmental agencies require rigorous testing of tap water safety and make test results available to the public. And despite the marketing claims of purity, independent testing of 10 different brands of bottled water conducted in 2008 found 38 contaminants.