Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bicyclists Bill of Rights

Goodbye May. Goodbye Bike Month, Bike Week and Bike to Work Day. But don't say goodbye to biking or your rights as a cyclist. The Bike Writers Collective in Los Angeles has drawn up a Cyclists' Bill of Rights that every cyclist should have in their possession. Download the PDF and share it with your friends who cycle and encourage your friends who don't cycle to saddle up.

Founded by Stephen Box and his wife Enci, the collective - known amongst themselves as the dirty dozen - is drawn from friends and activists who share a passion for cycling and the environment. This passion and activism extends beyond a website and a bill of rights as Stephen and Enci are now both car-free. "We fight for cyclists' rights at City Hall and at the Metro," says Enci. "We are on the Caltrans 7 Bicycle Advisory Committee and work with various city entities to inspire them that biking is not only a sport but, as in our case, a means of transportation."

Alex Thompson helps organize the Santa Monica Critical Mass bike ride that departs from the Santa Monica Pier on the first Friday of every month and he is also the co-founder of Bikerowave. This bicycle repair collective "provides space, tools and equipment in order to effectively teach people how to build, repair, and maintain their bicycles." If you're in the LA area Bikerowave is hosting a party Saturday night.

Most members of the dirty dozen including Bike Girl and Gary Kavanaugh write about the adventure of cycling in Los Angeles on their respective blogs.

So even though Bike Month is over, the passion for cycling lives on and you do have rights as a cyclist.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Jean Giono, Frédéric Back and The Man Who Planted Trees

A cel from The Man Who Planted Trees.

There are moments that make a profound difference in our lives. This is one of them. The Man Who Planted Trees is more than a story by Jean Giono. It is more than the Oscar winning short film by Frédéric Back. It is a solemn and passionate call to arms. More than anything the story shows us that the actions of one person can have a positive, long-lasting effect on the lives of many.

The story follows the life of Elzéard Bouffier through the course of two world wars. Elzéard's journey, for those who do not know it is best enjoyed without knowing anything about it so no more will be spoken of Mr. Bouffier. The film by Back will serve as your guide.

Jean Giono's Journey
Giono's journey also took him through the horrors of the first world war. His experiences during this time strengthened a resolve towards pacifism and the French novelist's future writings often touched on man's relationship with his environment.

Giono's commitment to the pacifist movement has him arrested in 1937 and again in 1944 for his non-commitment to the French Resistance. Blacklisted and shunned by his peers following the war Giono continues writing and publishing undaunted by the slings and arrows cast his way. He achieves great success with 1951's Horseman on the Roof and can no longer be ignored.
French novelist Jean Giono.
The short story that became known as The Man Who Planted Trees was first published in the French edition of Vogue in 1954. It created a minor uproar at the time not because of its ecological slant but because many people were confused as to whether it was a work of fiction or non-fiction. Depending on which side of the fence they sat on, they were either delighted or disappointed with the truth of the story.

Giono himself was fed up with the squabbling and left the story in the public domain stating, "It is one of my stories of which I am the proudest. It does not bring me in one single penny and that is why it has accomplished what it was written for." That purpose was to cajole people into ecological activism and to plant trees.

Frédéric Back: Animator and Environmentalist
Born in France, the young Frédéric Back emigrated from Germany following World War II to Quebec when he was 24 years old. The young animator began work with Radio-Canada and turned his attention to environmental causes in the late 1960s inspired by his father who kept him abreast of ecological news in Montreal and through his own son who was a university student studying biology.

Radio-Canada opened an animation studio in 1970 and Back began work on animated films. His environmental concerns showed up in the 1975 film Taratata. "I wanted to denounce the destruction of our cultural heritage and natural environment in the glorious name of 'progress,'" he writes on his website. The following year he read Giono's story for the first time.
Oscar winning animator Frederic Back.
"I discovered articles in many other magazines about people protecting forests, replanting abandoned mine sites, and teaching reforestation in India and Africa. There were Elzéard Bouffiers all over the world it seemed, doing what they could to create a miracle! And so I roughed out a script based on the Giono story."

Back won his first Oscar in 1982 for the animated film Crac! The success of this film, which details the life-cycle of a rocking chair from the time that a tree is felled, allowed him to pursue his dream of animating for the screen the tale of Elzéard Bouffier. The Man who Planted Trees was released in 1987 and Back won his second Oscar. He continues his work in animation and the environment today. Giono died in 1970.

Today I planted a tree.

The man who planted trees

(While Giono wanted the world to read his story, Canada's public broadcaster exerts its right's on Back's film. Finding this copy was difficult and I do not know how long it will remain live on this site.)
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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Farmers' Markets: Changing the World One Meal at a Time

A quick and easy way to change the world in which you live in is to buy local and patronize your local farmers' market. The food is all locally grown (or at least it should be - "resellers" pass off produce from Peru as locally grown) and you can live the 50-Mile-Diet for part of the week.

With the local produce scene now in full swing across the country Alicia Chu shares her Tips for Farmers' Market Shoppers to better prepare you for buying local this upcoming weekend. And don't forget tip #12!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hitch a Ride to the Concert and Save the Planet

Eat Me! Carbon neutral cake.

Heading out to see your fave band play live is a real drag on the environment. Just getting to the gig accounts for 80 percent of all the greenhouse gases emitted from the show. And you thought those semis transporting all that gear was dirty. No man, you're dirty! Unless of course you carpool it or sign up with a ride-share program like PickupPal.

PickupPal is a global rideshare and carpooling community launched last January that hooks up people with rides from a registered pool of users. PickupPal's proprietary software figures out the best match for you based on the info you submit with the info that someone else submits. Kinda like a dating service for rides.

Last summer the fledgling PickupPal joined with Reverb on a pilot project to encourage ridesharing for tours by the Dave Matthews Band, Maroon 5, John Mayer and Counting Crows among others. Reverb, founded by Guster guitarist Adam Gardner and his wife, "educates and engages musicians and their fans to promote environmental sustainability." Together, PickupPal, Reverb and the fans of the bands managed to avert the use of 475 000 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere through carpooling.

This summer, PickupPal has once again joined forces with Reverb to get you to some of the hottest gigs around. Dave Matthews is back on board for 09 and along for the ride this time around are The Dead, Phish, and John Legend among others.

Reverb's work in the rock and environment scene extends beyond its Partnership with PickupPal. Since its inception Reverb has helped fans and bands alike eliminate more than 60,000 tons of CO2. It has also helped fuel tour busses and semis transporting all that gear with over 370,000 gallons of biodiesel fuel.

It's greening services help bands with energy efficiency on tour, biodegradable catering and green contract riders to name but a few. For the fans, Reverb's interactive Eco-Village, built to reflect each band's environmental interests has hosted over 1,700 environmental groups while reaching 8 000 000+ people.
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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Unique Carbon-Credit Plan to Leave Oil Untapped in Ecuador

Beneath the tropical jungles of northeastern Ecuador lies a vast pool of oil, representing one-fifth of the small Andean country's petroleum reserves and potentially billions of dollars in revenue. Directly above that pool, the Yasuni National Park is home to a diversity of wildlife that is among the richest on the planet, Ecuadoran and U.S. biologists say.

Faced with these two treasures, Ecuador is pursuing an unusual plan to reap the oil profits without actually drilling for oil.

The idea envisions wealthy countries effectively paying Ecuador to leave its oil -- and the carbon dioxide that would result from using it -- in the ground. Environmentalists hail the proposal as a potentially precedent-setting approach to conservation in developing countries.

Read more in the Washington Post...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Urban Homesteaders

Since the mid 1980s, all five members of the Dervaes family have steadily worked at transforming their ordinary city lot in Pasadena, California, into an organic permaculture garden supplying them with food all year round.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Edmonton to Produce 36 000 000 litres of Ethanol from Garbage

Edmonton to Produce 36 000 000 litres of Ethanol from garbage.
An innovative $70-million waste-to-fuel plant in Edmonton will provide biofuels from sorted municipal solid waste which will produce 36 million litres of ethanol a year. After municipal garbage is sorted, waste that can't be recycled or composted will be heated to nearly 700 C in an oxygen-free vessel, so it won't burn. That creates a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which is converted into ethanol or other valuable chemicals.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Urban EcoMap Lets You Keep Up with The Joneses

San Francisco Urban EcoMap.

How green is your neighborhood? In San Francisco you can compare the environmental efforts of your neighborhood with the efforts of any neighborhood in the city.

San Francisco, the city that proudly boasts of its 72 percent waste diversion rate through recycling also allows you to compare environmental efforts against other areas in the city by checking ZIP codes. Want to know which neighborhoods have the most hybrids, click on the transportation component. Who composts the most? Click on the waste icon.

Surreptitiously peeking out the window has never been more fun. You can spy on your neighbors without having to worry about being caught. As an added benefit you can boast that your neighborhood is better than the average SF neighborhood - yes, there is a median and a goal on the graph - and if your neighborhood is lagging behind you can quietly go about and increase your own environmental efforts in the hope that they will raise your community profile.

You may even be encouraged to rally your community in a joint effort to improve the pounds recycled per household. The San Francisco Urban EcoMap also shows you how to organize a carpool or find the best bicycle route to get to work in a way that benefits both you and the environment.

Launched on Earth Day 2009 , the Urban EcoMap is a collaborative effort between Cisco and San Francisco’s Department of the Environment. The goal of the program is to incite climate change behavior by motivating individual action and creating friendly competition within neighborhoods.

Reduce your carbon footprint by setting your goals, planning your actions and seeing your results. Think beyond your personal actions and encourage your local municipality to incorporate an Urban EcoMap as part of their sustainable development plan.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How to clean up a lake? Floating islands might be the answer.

Man-made islands can remove ammonia, heavy metals, and other chemicals from the water. They’re constructed of layers of mesh and insulating foam. The mesh feels like the rough side of a sponge: The bigger islands are buoyant enough to hold people.

Most are at least 25 square feet, and the least expensive costs around $600. They’re topped with soil and seeds and then launched in lakes and ponds. The islands act like magnets for microbes, and the seeds sprout into vegetation that pulls nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients that cause slime from the surrounding water, cleaning it and allowing aquatic life to flourish.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Growing on Trees: A Profitable Rainforest

Iwokrama, a 370,000-hectare rainforest in central Guyana, announced that it was in profit. It added, more intriguingly, that rainforests had entered the “global economy”. Today the centre makes money in areas such as ecotourism, timber-extraction, forest-products such as honey and oils, bio-prospecting and forestry research. Its results for 2008 reveal that it made a surplus for the first time that year, with revenues of $2.4m and a profit of $800,000.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Veggie Dag: Belgium City Goes Veg for a Day

In what has to be one of the truly inventive ways to reduce meat consumption and promote healthier eating habits, the Belgium city of Ghent went meatless last Thursday for the first time. This is something that you just won't see in North America but Ghent claims to be home to the most vegetarian restaurants per capita in Europe.

The city council of this town of 237,000 is determined to make every Thursday Veggie Dag! Tom Balthazar, the local politician behind the initiative stated, "There's nothing compulsory. We just want to be a city that promotes sustainable and healthy living." To that end every restaurant in town was asked to provide at least one veggie meal on its menu. Tens of thousands of flyers have been handed out marking veggie friendly restos while providing background information to the plan.

Not just a publicity ploy - though the town has been fielding inquiries from around Europe and North America - school cafeterias in Ghent will begin serving vegetarian lunches as its "default" meal when classes return in September.

Whether it becomes a weekly riual or not remains to be seen but the locals seem behind the idea and the mood throughout the town was more of a party mood than anything else. Free food samples were being offered, goodie bags were awarded burghers who signed a "declaration" promising to go veggie on Thursdays. To encourage veggie cooking at home, recipe booklets were also distributed.

The Flanders Ethical Vegetarian Association - one of the Veggie Dag sponsors - believes that greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 18 percent for the day. While livestock production accounts for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions through methane it seems improbable that GHG reductions of 18 percent can be achieved for one meat-free day. But you never know...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

PCBs Finally being Removed from Hudson River

After decades of battles over the airwaves, in print, in courtrooms and in public meetings, General Electric has begun the first phase of removing PCB-tainted sediment from the bottom of the Hudson River. This dredging project is the largest of its kind ever undertaken.

Friday, May 15, 2009

4 Ways to Reuse Old Chrysler...and GM Dealership Properties

So can a car dealership really turn into a community center? Emphatically yes -- assuming the conditions are right. Witness Downtown Dadeland, a 7.5-acre former Cadillac dealership in Kendall, Fla., which is now a housing complex with 415 apartments and 125,000 square feet of retail space on 7 urban blocks, complete with arcades, walkways and other public spaces. And it's connected to other communities by an elevated metro line along busy Route 1

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Major Bicycle Initiative in Montreal Mimics Paris Eyed in New York

While North Americans are in the midst of Bike to Work Week its important to note that most of the world bikes to work as a matter of course. It seems that North Americans are the last to jump on any bandwagon that improves our health or saves the environment.

A big splash was made this week with regards to Montreal's plans to link 3000 bicycles to its transportation network. You know that the splash is big when the New York Times reports on your launch. The Bixi system, as it is known, will have 300 solar-powered stations (to fuel the electric bikes) at subway stops and other high traffic areas in the central core of the city. The solar power also allows for easy removal of the bike stations when winter arrives.

While new to Montreal, and under discussion in New York City this program is not novel nor new. It has been operating in Paris as Velib (velo libre or free bike) for a number of years. The ubiquitous parking stalls (as pictured above) are located every 300 metres in Paris and bikes even come with a basket for your local trip to the marche to pick up a baguette and some cheese. While primarily used by locals toursists often jump aboard the bikes using their debit cards to do some sightseeing as bikes can be dropped off at any station in Paris.

Not everyone lives in Paris or Montreal but that is no reason not to get out and pedal. Benefit yourself and the environment...even if its only during Bike-to-Work Week and you've already missed half of it. There's an event near you and if you are motivated, the good news is that May is Bike Month!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What Is The Carbon Footprint Of A Google Search?

Searched this article using Google? Then you were just responsible for 0.2g of Google’s gigantic carbon footprint, according to the internet giant’s official blog.

In an effort to counter claims originally made by an article on the Times Online website that each Google search produces on average a whopping 7g of carbon, Google has tried to make public its own figures on the carbon footprint of its operations. It claims that each individual search query produces 0.2g of carbon dioxide from its secretive data centres - the Times Online article originally included the carbon cost of running the user’s PC on top of that, as well as the carbon footprint of the global internet infrastructure.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Green Myths Quiz from Mythbusters

The gang from Discovery Channel's popular show debunking urban legends have an online quiz on popular green myths. At 10 questions the quiz is fun, informative and mercifully short. All that kept this reviewer from attaining a perfect score was his own political bias.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Way To Cut Cattle Methane, Threat To Environment, By 25 Percent

By developing equations that balance starch, sugar, cellulose, ash, fat and other elements of feed, a Canada-wide team of scientists has given beef producers the tools to lessen the methane gas their cattle produce by as much as 25 per cent.

"That's good news for the environment," said Stephen Moore, a professor of agricultural, food and nutritional science at the University of Alberta in Canada. "Methane is a greenhouse gas, and in Canada, cattle account for 72 per cent of the total emissions. By identifying factors such as diet or genetics that can reduce emissions, we hope to give beef farmers a way to lessen the environmental footprint of their cattle production and methane reductions in the order of 25 per cent are certainly achievable."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Counter-Culture Celebrates 90 Years with Pete Seeger Birthday Bash

The counter-culture stepped into the spotlight Sunday night as Pete Seeger celebrated his 90th birthday May 3, with a little get-together in his hometown of New York City. On hand at the sold-out "Garden Party" to honor the 20th century icon was a who's who of musicians that have been influenced by the gentle folk giant.

Seeger entered the collective consciousness of the nation in the 1940s and in the 50s with the Weavers scored many radio and folk standards. The civil rights movement and the Vietnam War brought him back into the spotlight in the 1960s. During this phase of his career Seeger borrowed a cue from his peer Woody Guthrie who had "This machine kills fascists" written on his guitar. Seeger had "This Machine Surrounds Hate and Forces It to Surrender" enscribed on his omnipresent banjo. The counter revolution took his words to heart and sought out the advice of his earlier recordings and many groups of the Haight-Ashbury era covered his material including The Byrds and Joan Baez.

Baez, along with Kris Kristofferson, was on hand at the Madison Square Garden show that was officially dubbed the "Clearwater Concert: Creating The Next Generation Of Environmental Leaders." They and other yippies, hippies, and singer/songwriters representing the flower power era blended seamlessly with today's counter culture vanguard led by Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello, Ani DeFranco and Michael Franti.

Seeger himself was originally dragged kicking and screaming into this event as he wanted no part of any plans to mark his birthday or his many other achievements in and out of the music world. He finally agreed to the concert on the condition that it would benefit the environmental group - Hudson River Sloop Clearwater - that he co-founded in the mid 60s. "It's not always the big things that make a difference," he said with regards to the environment, "but all the small things done by people who don't get attention."

Events to mark Seeger's 90th were also held across the country under the banner "For Pete's Sake: Sing!" Internationally, events were held in Scotland and Australia that included a performance of the play on the musician's life, "One Word We!"

Saturday, May 2, 2009

There is a Reason why it is Called Climate Change

The problem with global warming, some environmentalists believe, is “global warming.” The term turns people off, fostering images of shaggy-haired liberals, economic sacrifice and complex scientific disputes, according to extensive polling and focus group sessions conducted by ecoAmerica, a nonprofit environmental marketing and messaging firm in Washington.