Environmental News Roundup October 29

Montgomery County proposing ban on lawn chemicals.

“There are ways to care for lawns that don’t require the use of hazardous chemicals,” Leventhal said. “There are companies that I know well that are springing up to meet that need right now in Montgomery County.”

Target has a new Sustainability Statement.

Is it possible for a retailer like Target to truly be sustainable?

We believe that together we are designing a better tomorrow today. Target will lead the way by designing for more value, positive impact and healthy, vibrant communities.


How the Plastic Bag became so popular

It took years of industry advocacy before the cellophane sack, invented in the 1960s, caught on.

Thanks, lobbyists!

Watching this porcupine (Teddy) will make you feel better about all things. (I wish Clean Fairfax had half as many “likes” and “views” as this guy! )

Teddy Bear, an 11-year-old male North American porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum), is something of a YouTube star at this point, it seems. According to Zooiversity’s website, he’s raked in 11.5 million views from 16 viral videos and enjoys a following from over 19,000 Facebook fans.


Volunteer Opportunities

Do you need to get some volunteer hours in for school, or work? Or maybe you just want to do some good for your community! Periodically we’ll post volunteer opportunities for environmental events. Please note that these are not Clean Fairfax events, so you should contact the person listed in the note for more information!

Community Clean Up


Saturday November 22

From our friends at Fairfax ReLeaf

Enjoy the slight warm up in the weather this Saturday, November 22nd, at our tree planting! Meet at 7674 Oak Field Court Springfield,VA 22153 at 10am.

Please RSVP to trees@fairfaxreleaf.org if planning to attend.

Environmental News Roundup! 10-14-14

Italian startup makes clothes from oranges

I like to include fun articles like this every now and then because although not quite practical, startups like these get people thinking about how much waste there is in the world and what can be done to counteract that waste. This article is about two Sicilian flatmates who wanted to change the world by using resources from their homeland.

“Sicily is one of the largest producers of lemons and oranges, but every year more than 700,000 tons of waste are created by the Italian citrus industry. So why not use that waste to make a new eco-friendly textile? Adriana started experimenting in the lab of the Polytechnic Institute of Milan, extracted cellulose from the already squeezed fruit and turned it into textile fibre. Then she used nanotechnologies to capsulate citrus essential oils and fix them between the fibres. The result is a fabric releasing vitamin C on the skin. Adriana and Enrica called it Orange Fiber as their startup – and in 2013 they patented it.”

Immediate Risk to National Security Posed by Global Warming

“The Pentagon released a landmark report yesterday declaring climate change an “immediate risk” to national security and outlining how it intends to protect bases, prepare for humanitarian disasters and plan for global conflicts.” Although our governmental officials still struggle to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence of man-exacerbated climate change and have failed to do anything about it over the past five decades, they’re at least taking some steps to prepare for the future. However, this article seems to think that the recent report “won’t change a damn thing”.

Greens blast EPA for approving ‘superweed’ pesticide for farmers

“Green groups are lashing out against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after it approved what they see as a dangerous weed killer. The EPA gave the go-ahead to a pesticide known as Enlist Duo on Wednesday to help farmers fight back against stubborn “superweeds” that are resistant to basic weed killers. The move represents a big step forward for farmers. But green groups say the EPA is putting the environment and public health in danger by approving a toxic chemical to be used in corn and soybean fields.” I’m inclined to agree with the chairman of the “Just Label It” campaign when he said “Relying on the overuse of chemicals to control weeds won’t work in the long run. Mother Nature has adapted once, and she’ll do it again.”

​NTU develops ultra-fast charging batteries that last 20 years

“Scientists at Nanyang Technology University (NTU) have developed ultra-fast charging batteries that can be recharged up to 70 per cent in only two minutes. The new generation batteries also have a long lifespan of over 20 years, more than 10 times compared to existing lithium-ion batteries. This breakthrough has a wide-ranging impact on all industries, especially for electric vehicles, where consumers are put off by the long recharge times and its limited battery life. In the new NTU-developed battery, the traditional graphite used for the anode (negative pole) in lithium-ion batteries is replaced with a new gel material made from titanium dioxide. Titanium dioxide is an abundant, cheap and safe material found in soil. It is commonly used as a food additive or in sunscreen lotions to absorb harmful ultraviolet rays.”

We’ve heard this story before, miracle inventions and batteries that can save us from ourselves. Call me again when it has investors willing to fight against the trillions of dollars backing big-oil and coal, and while you’re at it, let me know what Apple thinks of a battery that lasts virtually forever when they’re trying to sell you a new phone every six months.

Our Modern-Day Stark Industries, Lockheed Martin

I was working on the Environmental News Roundup and kept encountering articles mentioning “Lockheed”. I began to wonder, who is this “Lockheed Martin” and why is he investing in so much green energy? Not really aware about who is who in defense contracting, I had to google “Lockheed Martin” and realized it was a defense corporation that has been doing poorly in the current economy and needed to change direction. They are now buying up and investing in green energy technology. In a society that is quickly growing more environmentally conscious, I think Lockheed is making the right investments. The US government is slowly realizing the value of green tech and will eventually be looking for green contractors to help them prepare for a brighter future- and who will be there with a bunch of promising green tech? Lockheed.

Environmental News Roundup! 10-1-14

Yes, this is an aerial photograph of 35,000 walruses

Mass gathering of 35,000 walruses is latest sign of global warming

Pacific walrus that can’t find sea ice for resting in Arctic waters are coming ashore in record numbers. Unlike seals, walruses cannot swim indefinitely and must rest. As temperatures warm in summer, the edge of the sea ice recedes north. Females and their young ride the edge of the sea ice into the Chukchi Sea, the body of water north of the Bering Strait. Unfortunately, in recent years, sea ice has receded north beyond shallow continental shelf waters and into Arctic Ocean water, where depths exceed 2 miles and walruses cannot dive to the bottom for food.

“It’s another remarkable sign of the dramatic environmental conditions changing as the result of sea ice loss,” said Margaret Williams, managing director of the World Wildlife Fund’s Arctic program. “The walruses are telling us what the polar bears have told us and what many indigenous people have told us in the high Arctic, and that is that the Arctic environment is changing extremely rapidly and it is time for the rest of the world to take notice and also to take action to address the root causes of climate change.”

California burns through $209-million wildfire budget, taps $70 million more

“California has burned through its wildfire-fighting budget — $209 million — just as it faces what is historically the worst of the fire season. And the state already has tapped into its reserves, pulling out $70 million more to combat drought-fueled blazes. Although California routinely blows through its budget for fighting wildfires, this year the state set aside more money than usual. Now, less than three months after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the budget, his administration is tapping into reserves intended as a cushion for unexpected costs like natural disasters. Some of the costs of fighting state wildfires will be reimbursed by the federal government. But those funds are running low.

The California Department of Fire and Forestry has responded to 4,974 fires from Jan. 1 to Sept. 20, which is 1,203 more than average, according to state statistics, which apply to non-U.S. Forest land. Southern California, meanwhile, is only now entering the traditional start of its  fall wildfire season, which is notorious for strong Santa Ana winds that have fanned destructive fires in the past.”

World Has Lost Half Its Wildlife in the Past 40 Years: WWF

‘The world populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles fell by 52 percent between 1970 and 2010, far faster than previously thought, the World Wildlife Fund said on Tuesday. The conservation group’s Living Planet Report, published every two years, said humans’ demands were now 50 percent more than nature can bear, with trees being felled, groundwater pumped and carbon dioxide emitted faster than Earth can recover. “This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live,” Ken Norris, Director of Science at the Zoological Society of London, said in a statement.”

A Rare Arctic Land Sale Stokes Worry in Norway

A wealthy Chinese business tycoon Huang Nubo bid on land within the arctic circle, worrying other countries in the region about his intentions. He assures that he is only interested in more southern land for the building of a resort. However, such assurances have done little to calm a frenzy of speculation about China seeking a permanent foothold in the Arctic, a region of growing geopolitical and economic significance as global warming opens new and cheaper shipping routes from Asia and also expands the prospects for exploiting the Arctic’s abundant natural resources.

“For anyone interested in geopolitics, this is the region to follow in years to come,” said Willy Ostreng, the president of the Norwegian Scientific Academy for Polar Research. The Arctic region, according to the United States Energy Information Administration, holds around 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30 percent of its natural gas, reserves that have been untouched because of the difficulty and high cost of their development.

Global Survey Says We’re Eating Better, But Our Diet Is Still Unsustainable

“The Greendex is a quantitative study of 18,000 consumers in a total of 18 countries (14 in 2008, 17 in 2009 through 2012) asked about energy consumption and conservation, transportation choices, food sources, the relative use of green products versus conventional products, attitudes toward the environment and sustainability, and knowledge of environmental concerns. A group of international experts helped determine the behaviors that were most critical to investigate.”

Although the survey says we’re eating better as a whole, it has also shown that more developed countries like Japan, the UK, Australia, and the US, are more heavily entrenched in their eating habits and most unwilling to change. On the bright side, consumers in five developing countries with a total of 1.8 billion people—Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, China, and India—all have a keen appetite and a great potential for change. Many consumers in those countries, when given information about how their habits affect the environment, indicated that they were open to altering their behavior in ways that would contribute to a more sustainable planet.

Environmental News Roundup! Climate Summit NYC Edition!

It was a big week in environmental news as leaders of the UN came together for the first time since 2009 to make statements about climate change. Read the related articles in this weeks Environmental News Roundup!

What’s the deal with this U.N. Climate Summit?

If you don’t read any other article about the UN climate change summit in NYC, read this one! It explains the who is who and what is what of the recent summit this week and will help you understand where various countries stand on climate action.

UN climate change summit in NYC

“Heads of state including Barack Obama, David Cameron and Dilma Rousseff are gathering at the UN in New York today (Tuesday) in a bid to inject momentum into slow-burning international negotiations on climate change.

It’s the first time world leaders have come together to discuss the issue in five years, when Obama, Angela Merkel of Germany, Manmohan Singh for India, the UK’s Gordon Brown and others attempted to thrash out a binding climate deal in Copenhagen. Back then, they failed to get a binding agreement though many countries did make voluntary pledges to cut carbon emissions by 2020.”

Protesters sound the climate alarm in global marches

“Tens of thousands of people poured into the streets of New York City on Sunday in a noisy march that organizers said was meant to sound the climate alarm, with participants blowing trumpets and beating drums as church bells pealed and synagogue shofar horns echoed across Manhattan on a day of massive worldwide protests demanding action to stop global warming.

Protests had been planned in more than 100 cities around the world ahead of a United Nations climate summit set to take place in New York on Tuesday, probably the last chance world leaders will have to pledge carbon cuts or other action aimed at stemming the worst effects of global warming before the negotiation of an international climate agreement next year in Paris.”

Cargill promises to stop chopping down rainforests

“Cargill, the agribusiness giant, had pledged “to protect forests in all of Cargill’s agricultural supply chains and to endorse the New York Declaration on Forests.” Cargill has a big handprint — they have soy silos in Brazil and palm oil plants in Malaysia. So as of now, if you want to carve a farm out of the jungle, you’re going to get the cold shoulder from a company that is a prime connector to world markets. It’s not just Cargill. Kellogg’s, Unilever, Nestle, Asia Pulp and Paper, General Mills, Danone, Walmart, McDonalds, and many other corporations have committed to the New York Declaration on Forests. But, here’s why Cargill is interesting: It’s making a concrete pledge, while the actual declaration is pretty mushy at this point.

U.S. Creates Largest Protected Area in the World, 3X Larger Than California

“The Obama administration announced Thursday that it will create the largest marine reserve in the world by expanding an existing monument around U.S.-controlled islands and atolls in the central Pacific. The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument will now be nearly 490,000 square miles, nearly three times the size of California and six times larger than its previous size. Commercial fishing, dumping, and mining will be prohibited in the reserve, but recreational fishing will be allowed with permits, and boaters may visit the area.” Enforcing this new law will be difficult, authorities admitted, and will take training and resources.

Environmental News Roundup! 9-17-14

Bet Your EV Can’t Do This: Electric Garbage Truck Hauls 9 Tons Of Trash

Next time you smell a garbage truck in Chicago, at least it won’t be from the exhaust! Back in 2012, the company announced that it would make Chicago the first US city to get a fleet of all-electric garbage trucks, and it looks like they’re on track. As for the new electric garbage truck, Chicago plans to run its new Electric Refuse Vehicle (ERV) on a residential refuse and recycling route topping off at 60 miles and a 9-ton payload, eliminating the use of about 2,688 gallons of diesel per year. That includes operating the compactor with a compression capacity of 1,000 pounds per cubic yard.

Although many argue that electric vehicles are only really green if their charge comes from an equally green source, it is important to start somewhere and Chicago is taking a step in the right direction!

Montgomery considers banning plastic foam food and beverage containers

To help combat the pollution of the Anacostia Watershed, 20% of which is polystyrene foam, Montgomery County is considering banning foam food and beverage containers (among which meat packing trays would be exempt). A spokesman for the American Chemistry Council, which represents leading suppliers and manufacturers of polystyrene packing said that however well-intentioned, the ban will not improve sustainability in Montgomery.

The argument the polystyrene industry is supporting is that polystyrene is lighter and therefore more economical and environmentally superior to recycled materials when it comes to transporting them. In addition, the industry insists that funding recycling plants that are capable of recycling polystyrene is a better solution. However, it seems more logical to me that cutting the source of pollution by 80% rather than relying on people to recycle polystyrene (especially when we are used to throwing out food-contaminated containers and people hardly recycle anyway) is a much surer way of reducing polystyrene pollution.

Illegal Logging in Peru Takes a Deadly Turn

In a remote region near Peru’s border with Brazil, a prominent activist, Edwin Chota, was shot and killed, along with three community leaders. Suspected in the killings were illegal loggers, who have long tried to extract tropical hardwoods in nearby forests. Unfortunately, these slayings are not an isolated occurrence. According to a recent report by Global Witness, more than 900 people were killed from 2002 to 2013 while trying to protect the environment and land rights, with Brazil accounting for nearly 450 of these cases.

Tired of encroachment by loggers and a lack of enforcement action by Brazilian authorities, the Ka’apor are taking matters into their own hands. In recent months, the tribe has begun capturing illegal loggers, taking their clothes, and forcing them to leave the area. At the same time, warriors use confiscated tools to destroy already-cut timber and logging equipment.

Government gets red card for wildlife protection, flooding prevention and air quality

Despite Prime Minister David Cameron claiming “I want us to be the greenest government ever” and increasing environmental spending in 2010, The UK government has been given a “red card” by its own Environmental Audit Committee for its efforts to reduce air pollution, protect biodiversity, and prevent flooding.

In terms of air quality, emissions of a number of airborne pollutants increased in 2013, after being steady between 2010 and 2012 and in a longer term decline before that. In terms of biodiversity, the latest Sustainable Development Indicators show a deterioration in the counts for three out of four types of bird populations, used as a litmus test for the SDI’s ‘UK wildlife’ indicator. Invasive species, which harm native biodiversity, are becoming more prevalent. Lastly, the Environment Agency and local defences protected properties in approximately 1.3 million instances, but 2.4 million properties are still at risk of flooding from rivers or the sea, and three million from surface water and there was widespread and persistent flooding in the winter of 2013–14.

Protected Areas Do Work, Says Study

“Protected areas are working. That’s the conclusion of a new analysis of over 80 different studies on the efficacy of parks and nature reserves in safeguarding wildlife. Published in the open access journal, PLOS ONE, the new study finds that in general protected areas house higher abundances of wildlife as well as greater biodiversity than adjacent areas.” The hard data published this month shows us that investing in protected areas is worthwhile.

Environmental News Roundup- Virginia News!

Photo Taken this Monday in Norfolk, VA “We’re experiencing flooding just during our lunar high tide. It doesn’t take a storm anymore.” -Jim Redick, Norfolk’s emergency preparedness director

1st meeting of Virginia climate panel set for Wed. (Today!)

“Gov. Terry McAuliffe will address the Climate Change and Resiliency Commission on Wednesday (today) when its 30-plus members meet in Richmond. The commission’s creation and other actions signal a renewed state effort to blunt sea level change, which is particularly profound in Virginia coastal areas. A report by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, which was submitted to state legislators, anticipates a sea level rise of approximately 1.5 feet over the next 20 to 50 years. The report also states that 26 percent of Virginia Beach’s land mass could face flooding over the next half century, waterlogging 289 miles of roads in the tourist city.”

The Virginia Green Travel Alliance announces first Regional Green Tourism Project – Greening of the Richmond Folk Festival!

Volunteer for the Green Team HERE!

VGTA will be the official Green Event Sponsor for the Richmond Folk Festival to be held October 10-12. The VGTA will lead all of the recycling and Volunteer Green Team efforts for the entire event. This partnership will provide great exposure, and allow the VGTA to recruit and recognize any Virginia Green partners that want to support the greening of this event. Green event sponsors will be recognized on banners at the festival entrances; they can exhibit at the Virginia Green Travel Alliance tent; and they will also receive reserved parking and VIP credentials for the festival. Please contact the VGTA’s Tom Griffin for details at VirginiaGreen@Virginia.org.

The VGTA is also helping to recruit Green Team Volunteers – approximately 60-75 volunteers are needed to fully cover every shift for 3 days. Please encourage your staff to consider being on the Green Team! It’s also a great thing for family, friends, and kids who need community volunteer hours. Volunteers get a free t-shirt and various other benefits.

Charlottesville Rally Calls for Climate Action from Virginia’s Leaders

Last week’s Environmental News Roundup discussed the EPA’s recommendation to strengthen emission standards and the dirty exposé on Dominion Power. In response to the issue of cleaning up power plants, citizens who joined to rally at Charlottesville’s downtown mall this Saturday called for the EPA to finalize the strongest possible standard and for Virginia’s Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and Governor Terry McAuliffe to support the EPA’s actions. To date, over 195,000 public comments from Virginians have been submitted to the EPA in support of limits on carbon pollution.

Environmental coalition forms to fight $5 billion pipeline through Virginia

“Environmental and citizens groups in Virginia and West Virginia have formed a coalition to combat the $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline proposed to carry fracked natural gas through their states. The 22 groups call themselves the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance and announced Monday they’re “gravely concerned” that the 550-mile pipeline, if built, will “disrupt some of the most ecologically sensitive areas of the Eastern United States.” The proposed path includes portions of national forest and an unstable underground limestone formation in Highland and Augusta counties that’s characterized by sinkholes and caves. (…) The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must first approve the venture, after a review process that includes input from the public and from local, state and federal entities.”

EPA, Virginia DEQ renew environmental partnerships with Hampton University, Norfolk State University

“In a continuing effort to enhance environmental research and teaching, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a commitment to continue a partnership with Hampton University, Norfolk State University and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. (…) Some of the goals of the MOU include promoting an increase in the number of minorities with careers in environmental science and environmental engineering, and promoting a greater understanding of the causes and effects of air pollution.” Various studies have shown that minorities are not well represented in environmental groups, despite being likely to vote for more pro-environmental policies, so this partnership could have a very positive effect on Virginia’s environmental future.

Environmental News Roundup! 9-3-14

Local salamanders could shed light on life under climate change

A local Virginia Commonwealth University doctoral student is studying whether deprivation in early life affects how the little amphibians might fare in a world changed by global warming. The importance of this study lies in the importance of amphibians in general. They are a crucial part of the food chain, as they eat annoying insects as well as feed birds and other larger wildlife. The researcher has found that the salamanders she raised in drier dirt (mimicking the effects of global warming) were smaller and weaker than those she raised with access to rainwater. The quest now is to figure out whether salamanders and other amphibians require larger bodies to continue to reproduce naturally and feed their predators, or if Virginians need to start planning how to construct habitats to keep these populations healthy in the future.

EPA staff recommends significantly lower ozone standard

EPA staff recently submitted an official recommendation that the US tighten smog laws, lowering ozone standards from the Bush administration’s 75 parts per billion to 60-70 parts per billion. Californian lawmakers in particular are disgruntled with this recommendation, as California’s South Coast basin has the nation’s worst ozone pollution. To meet the existing ozone standard of 75 parts per billion by a 2032 deadline, local air quality officials calculate they will have to slash by more than 75% smog-forming gases. This would require pretty much zero emissions from factories, transportation, and buildings, which Republican lawmakers worry will bring the entire economy to a standstill. One supporter pushing for the recommendation to become law claims: “We have evidence showing it’s not true: Since the 1970s, we’ve reduced major air pollutants by 70% and the economy has more than doubled.”

Dominion Over Nature: Greenwashing Virginia Utility Is Member of Pro-Pollution Group ALEC

Dominion Power has recently been outed by Sierra Club’s Virginia Chapter as active members and financial backers of ALEC, a group known for its efforts to roll back renewable electricity standards (and oppose EPA carbon pollution standards) in many states. As Virginia’s number one carbon emitter, Dominion Power relies heavily on coal yet claims to “protect and enhance” the environment. The author of this article questions how Dominion can continue to claim a true interest in “going green” while continuing to financially support a group that lobbies officials to vote against environmentally beneficial bills.

Century-old extinction of the passenger pigeon still a cautionary tale

Monday was the 100th anniversary of the death of the last passenger pigeon in North America and conservationists are marking the date as an opportunity to rekindle efforts to protect species currently at risk. Well into the mid-1800s, passenger pigeons were abundant — estimates put their numbers as high as 5 billion. By comparison, the most ubiquitous bird in North America today — the robin — numbers a paltry 300 million. Because the passenger pigeon was so easy to kill and only laid one egg a year, they were quickly wiped out. The plight of the passenger pigeon and other animals like the bald eagle and bison led leaders like Teddy Roosevelt to act. Not for the animals’ sakes of course, but because he worried people would run out of things to hunt for sport (heaven forbid). Although some animals have made a comeback thanks to strong regulations and great habitat restoration efforts, we must remember that the work is never over. We as humans are still the number one threat to ourselves and all other living things and as the dominant species, it’s our job to care for ourselves and our planet for our own sakes if nothing else.

Boulder adds another neighborhood with ‘bee safe’ status

Boulder is now home to half the neighborhoods in the country to be certified as safe for honey bees. To earn that status, residents have to produce signed pledges from at least 75 contiguous homeowners in a neighborhood to eliminate the use of system pesticides such as neonicotinoids, and to at least reduce the use of other pesticides. The Kendall-Endicott neighborhood resident who spearheaded the effort to get those in her area to take the bee-safe pledge is Janet Kilby. She and a half-dozen others knocked on doors over the past three months, proselytizing on the importance of protecting honey bees as a key link in our ecosystem. “These new classes of chemicals that come into our homes and gardens are 7,200 times more lethal to honey bees than DDT,” she said. “So imagine barefoot children running across grass and then bringing that into our homes. These chemicals are showing up in our air and water samples. The bees are simply mirroring this for us.”

Environmental News Roundup! What’s New In Solar?

Emerging Solar Plants Scorch Birds in Mid-Air

While bird death due to solar and wind power plants is not particularly new, deaths from the BrightSource solar energy plant in California is currently causing protest against the building of an even larger plant because the death toll seemed alarmingly high. Federal and state biologists call the number of deaths significant, based on sightings of birds getting singed and falling, and on retrieval of carcasses with feathers charred too severely for flight.

Solar farms have been criticized for their impacts on desert tortoises, and wind farms have killed birds, including numerous raptors. With billions invested in the current and future solar plants, it’s easy to predict just how much of a concern these bird deaths are to BrightSource and their investors. Unfortunate as the bird deaths are, it is important to assess how the numbers compare to wildlife affected by nonrenewable energy production before raising arms against green energy growth.

Recycling old batteries into solar cells

A system proposed by researchers at MIT recycles materials from discarded car batteries — a potential source of lead pollution — into new, long-lasting solar panels that provide emissions-free power. Because the solar panels require a layer just half a micrometer thick, the research team’s analysis shows that the lead from a single car battery could produce enough solar panels to provide power for 30 households! Lead is dangerous to mine and not particularly difficult to recover from used batteries. Since the technology to do so already exists, the use of recycled battery lead for new solar panels could easily become standard practice in the years to come.

How Australia Perfected Solar Power And Then Went Back to Coal

Policy from an increasingly conservative Australian government has thrown Australia’s progressive and successful solar industry into uncertain futures. Most of this new policy comes from the state’s coal lobbyists, who fear the increasing popularity and cheapness of rooftop solar panels and are willing to spend big bucks to keep politicians in hand. Network service providers are capping the amount of solar power that can be fed into the grid in certain areas, banning exports of solar energy, and charging solar consumers an additional amount. Their justification is that we need the network. If every home installs solar, the network won’t exist.

Huge solar grid will keep beer cold for St. Pete warehouse

“To help chill the 9.5 million cases of mass-market and craft beers that Great Bay Distributors delivers to bars and stores each year, the family-owned company is installing an array of 5,000 solar panels as part of the roof; it will become the largest private solar power system in the state.” The $2.5 million system will take around six years to offset the initial cost and it will reduce the warehouse’s monthly power bill by 40 percent. Business owners see energy costs rising in the long-term, and investment in solar energy looks like the most sensible way to grow.

Breaking Energy Poverty without Damaging Nature

“The Sustainable Energy For All initiative is an effort to bring reliable electricity to the 2.3 billion people in the world who don’t have it, but specifically with the use of clean, renewable energy technology. This is a gigantic challenge that requires the efforts of countless organizations, companies, and countries. One notable company that has been working on this for nearly two decades, long before the Sustainable Energy For All initiative was even formed, is Grameen Shakti.”

Grameen Shakti has brought 1.4 million solar energy systems, over 800,000 improved cooking stoves, and nearly 30,000 biogas power plants to people in rural Bangladesh. It is installing approximately 25,000 solar home systems, 14,000 improved cooking stoves, and 300 biogas power plants every month. The total number of beneficiaries is now over 15 million, and approximately 360,000 customers have already completely paid off the cost of their systems (they are able to pay them off over time).
Grameen Shakti also created 45 technology centers under a pilot program to scale up its solar program, manufacturing the production of solar home system accessories locally. This contributes to women empowerment by developing women as Solar Technicians and help them become entrepreneurs in the future.

Environmental News Roundup, Shark Week Edition!


With Shark Week now over on Discovery Channel, I’d like to draw your attention to the reality of sharks.

Broken Teeth And Fake-umentaries: Another Shark Week Gone By

If you’re a fan of Shark Week, you may want to reconsider WHY that is. NPR recently criticized the highly popular program, calling it a “B-movie-style blend of fiction, bad acting, a few facts and potential injuries to sharks”. An interviewed shark researcher lamented that while Shark Week used to feature real science and research about sharks and attempted to redeem their “man-eater” reputation, it is now quite the opposite, as researchers “under flimsy scientific premises” bait sharks in order to get “sweet footage of sharks biting stuff”.

Anyone who knows anything about sharks knows that they are typically harmless animals that don’t associate humans with food and very VERY rarely attack humans. In fact, shark attacks injure about 75 people per year with only 5 fatalities. To put this in perspective, you have a fantastically better chance of winning the lottery than you do of getting injured by a shark.

Unfortunately, Shark Week is now full of shows (both real and fictitious) in which baited sharks are made to attack (and break their teeth on) metal cameras and cages. Not only does this shark baiting often injure the shark needlessly, but it can cause the shark to associate the bait with humans and therefore make them more likely to attack humans in the future.

Australia: More than 170 sharks caught under controversial cull program

In related news from earlier this summer, the hype about shark attacks has caused the Australian government to actually cull sharks from its waters! “The scheme, which was part of the state’s $20 million shark mitigation policy, allowed for tiger, bull and great white sharks measuring longer than 10 feet (3 meters) hooked on the drum lines to be destroyed.”

Not only did this “successful” cull fail to catch any Great Whites (the shark most known for attacking humans), but “of the 172 sharks that were caught on the drum line, the majority were tiger sharks which haven’t been involved in shark fatalities for decades in Western Australia”. Plus, more than 70% of the sharks caught were not large enough to be a threat. Authorities claim that the cull restored confidence in beachgoers, but at what cost?

This could be the year we start to save, not slaughter, the shark

One of the worst threats to sharks is shark fin soup. “About 75m-100m sharks are thought to be killed each year for their fins, which are prized in Chinese culture for making the gelatinous yellow soup. The sharks are caught, their fins are sliced off and they are often thrown back into the ocean, where they die a slow death”. “The mass slaughter has led to some shark populations declining by up to 98% in the last 15 years, and nearly one third of all ocean-going sharks are now on the internationally recognised red list of threatened species.”

On the bright side, the revulsion and outcry of the West has caused China to crack down on corruption and extravagant consumption. Many restaurants in China have taken the soup off the menu. Popular basketball star Yao Ming started a campaign that is said to have helped reduce consumption of shark fin soup and contributed to the government’s decision to formally ban the soup from state banquets along with other wild animal products. Global efforts have contributed to the establishment of several shark sanctuaries around the world and increased China’s focus on the environment as a whole.

Sharks’ Role in the Oceans

Why is it important to save sharks? Why should we care that human activity is fast depleting shark populations beyond repair? For the most part, it’s to save our own skins. “Predatory sharks prey on the sick and the weak members of their prey populations, and some also scavenge the sea floor to feed on dead carcasses.  By removing the sick and the weak, they prevent the spread of disease and prevent outbreaks that could be devastating. Preying on the weakest individuals also strengthens the gene pools of the prey species.  Since the largest, strongest, and healthiest fish generally reproduce in greater numbers, the outcome is larger numbers of healthier fish.” What this means is, sharks keep fish populations strong and healthy so that we can continue to fish. When people continue to fish, people continue to eat and make a living.

What Can You Do?

Get involved in your community’s environmental groups. Anything you’re doing to live a sustainable lifestyle is better than nothing.

Choose sustainably harvested fish.

Talk about it. Instead of talking about the weather or Rihanna’s new hairdo, why not discuss what a non-threat sharks are to humans? The more people realize this, the less stigma there will be about sharks at your local beach.

Boycott Shark Week and tell people why. Discovery Channel generates billions of dollars in revenue by making sharks look like man-eating monsters, creating fear and misunderstanding about sharks.

Donate Time or Money to various marine conservation groups. Every little bit helps.