Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Golf is Far from Green -- Water, Toxins, Wildlife Killer?

For PacifiCAD readers of the sustainability, an added benefit is my columnist position not only at the Pacific Northwest Inlander, but with Down to Earth Northwest, a blogsphere frame supported by the Spokesman Review. I will be attaching various columns from that gig here. They have hired me on as a climate change, sustainability reporter, largely for my role in Spokane the past 10 years, but also because I am part of the change, including working on Earth Days, including the 40th Anniversary here in Spokane, which will be featured in blogs and on April 24 on the Nation's Mall in the form of a photo essay on a Jumbo Tron.

Zen of Golf – Look Where You Spray those Toxins and How You Suck Up that Water

By Paul K. Haeder

Golf seems like a leisurely enough sport, almost low impact and egalitarian, but in reality golf causes wild life disruption and puts millions of pounds of fungicides, insecticides and pesticides, along with fertilizers, into the soil, air, drainages, water tables, and rivers and creeks. It’s such an exclusive sport that in most places only millionaires can afford yearly club dues and greens fees. Land is gobbled up, and as a leisure activity, so many resources are pumped into the sport.

More than 62 million people in the world golf.

We know it’s not always been that way.

It’s no exaggeration, but golf’s beginnings go back 500 years to Scotland. Mark Keast describes golf’s original natural origin poetically:

There, Mother Nature designed the links–grasses on sandy stretches were fertilized by the droppings of breeding seabirds and cut short by grazing rabbits. Bunkers were allegedly formed by sheep and other animals burrowing into the turf. The result: wide open playing areas with random clumps of razed grass, the perfect terrain for thumping a small, hard ball across the countryside

I promise I’ll get to the environmental impact of playing a round of golf in a world of water stress, pesticide and fertilizer toxicity, and global warming, but first I’ll digress and bring in the Apprentice’s boss – “the Donald” -- and his battle and victory (economic but not environmental) to build, in his words, the greatest golf resort in the world.

We’re talking about the bedrock of golf, Aberdeen, Scotland, where Trump has used his billions worth of influence peddling and “lawyering-up” to defeat common sense, climate change predictions and environmental health.

In a coastal resort north of Aberdeen, Trump’s golf heaven will cover 2,000 acres encompassing two 18-hole championship courses, a half dozen blocks of 950 timeshare condos, 500 "exclusive" homes (known as second- and third-homes for the millionaires), 36villas for billionaires, a golf academy, and in situ housing for 400 staff.

Eminent domain is planned for the hold outs, tough fishermen and old timers who just don’t want the bully on the block, with his approved coastal road, Trump Boulevard, running through their historic home which is near an ecologically sensitive stretch of dunes overlooking the North Sea.

The Aberdeenshire Council committee rejected Trumps tee-off resort based on a slew of reports from Audubon types, wetlands and marine scientists, and people just really gearing up for some major sea level rise in the next 50 years. The Scottish Government reversed that decision, caving into their own visions of endless queues of golfers dumping millions of pounds each year into the economy.

This is why I like the underdog, the commoner, who seems to “get” it while the trillionaires and staid, corrupt governments do not -- "They reckon the construction will last 10 years, but I'll never ever sell to that loudmouth bully,” said the most famous protestor of Trump’s links plan, Michael Forbes. The fisherman and quarry worker has refused dozens of offers to sell his home, which is on the land needed for Trump’s golf dream. He intends to live out his life there, on those 23 acres.

Speaking of St. Andrews, the Mecca of golf, more delusional thinkers per capita play golf, and the impact of their jaunting around fairways and greens on our air, water, land, species is tremendous.

While there are 1,200 “links” courses like St. Andrews in the US – along coastal areas – by 2100, according to many reports, including a National Science Foundation-funded study, if warming continues at its current pace, a 19-foot rise in sea level by 2100 could wipe out more than half of them.

Bye-bye the bottom foot of Florida, and those golf course properties in coastal New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas will be history. This isn’t some cool-headed global warming activist or scientist talking -- Golf Digest commissioned the study from the Longitudes Group.

“Inundation” is what’s it’s called, and of course sea level rise affects farming, urban water systems, sewers, natural fresh watercourses. The Puget Sound is building dikes or sea walls as part of a half a billion dollar project to keep the sea at bay.

I’ve already discussed the water issue in one DTE column, so the fact that 5,000 gallons of water is needed to support an average American family of four over ten days is way over any other global national water footprint. But this pales in comparison to the Tiger Woods sport: one round of golf in an arid climate like Arizona, California or Nevada costs 5,000 gallons of water.

I’ve seen the battle for water in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas as aquifers draw down while golf courses put bigger drains on that vital resource.

The past decade has seen the US explode with golf course development – 18,000 or more out of the 35,000 worldwide, according to World Watch Institute, are USA based. Those cover around 1.8 million acres and use up four billion gallons of water daily. Yes, pesticides and fertilizers contribute to water pollution.

The story gets even more bizarre, and I am not talking about the five-legged frogs and asexual fish created by DNA mutations caused by the dozens of organo-chemicals used to maintain golf courses. A review of death certificates for more than 600 golf course superintendents by the College of Medicine at the University of Iowa found unusually high numbers of deaths from brain cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Yes, Tiger Woods is the bane of environmentalists because his rise and popularity have created an obscene growth in the number of supersized golf courses being built worldwide. Yep, a $50 billion dollar a year industry it is indeed, according to the National Golf Federation, but at what price?

Water wars. We see it in Reno, where property owners are up against a high-priced golf club that has leveraged itself into senior water rights to maintain a tournament-condition course while sucking up the available water supply needed for everything else.

Again, going by the numbers – those American greens use up 312,000 gallons of water a day per course. Palm Springs has 58 major courses. Do the math.

Yes, there are moves to work with wildlife and environmental groups to mitigate or lower the impact of a golf course on wildlife and the environment. There are grey water and recycled black water courses in my old stomping grounds, El Paso. Organic golf courses actually are more than a pipedream.

Going brown is also in. Letting major swaths of grass – preferably more drought resistant and native varieties -- dry back is also one aspect of the new arid golf management school. This is not an easy pitch, though, as the average golfer in the US is not enlightened when it comes to global warming. According to a poll done by Golf Digest, 41 percent of golfers believe global warming is a MYTH!

But groups like the World Golf Foundation are initiating some sort of change, or at least planning on change in the form of the program, "Golf's Drive Toward Sustainability." It’s a collaboration of hundreds of associations, business partners and other organizations to strive toward what the 41 percent of the duffers think is either silly or some sort of conspiracy – sustainability.

This story can’t end without a little justice exacted on Trump: It took seven years, but those rich suburbanites in Mount Kisco, NY, recently forced Donald Trump to pull back on yet another golf course “development” after the residents somehow proved the risk to their only water supply from runoff pesticides and fertilizers was greater than the millions to be generated each year from slicers and handicappers trying to improve their game (read, “ego”).

Yelling “four” now has a whole new meaning. Or maybe Trump should replace the word "Mulligan." Down with Trump logic. We hope communities continue to fight golf courses and Trump mentality.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Texas Textbooks Tilting Toward Tyranny -- Why Elected School Board Officials Need to Pass a Basic Education Test and Human Interview

This Texas attack on education is nothing to shake a stick at -- the boys and girls in Texas on the Board of Education are being high jacked by right-wing nutcases. This topic goes beyond the evolution versus intelligent design debate (read the science piece below my blog here).

We're talking about Glen Beck and Patriot Party and Tea Bag idiots messing with classrooms and trying to change teaching materials for every student, K-12, that gives our students the most bizarre form of indoctrination seen in a long while.

Erase the Holocaust from German textbooks? Japan's treatment of Chinese? The genocide in Turkey? Maybe in those respective countries, but in the USA, cut MLK out as a hero, or talk about civil rights movement as a problem, something that created problems we are facing today?

It's clear that Texas' school system was already wacky in many regards (believe you, I taught at the University of Texas and has plenty of dealings with K-12 teachers and administrators), but this new assault on American education shows how tenuous our society really is when it comes to how easily our minds and our children's minds are manipulated by sheer propaganda of the right wing kind.

Rewriting the state standards that textbook publishers must follow to get the lucrative contracts for providing teaching materials for every student in the state, from first grade through high school, this education board has been combing through each sentence and scrubbing parts of social studies curriculum to the point of defamation and downright inaccuracy.
Can anyone reading this blog about sustainability believe this? Questioning research based models and teacher-formed guidelines for history, government, economics and sociology textbooks as a way to "purge references that offend their doctrinaire sensibilities and substituting their own nutty biases and ignorance," according to Texan, Jim Hightower. It's not just some comic's five-minute monologue here, as I am sure those late night laughers have been making hay of Texas' reforms. It's dangerous.

They took Thomas Jefferson out of social studies and history, replacing him with a Christian fundamentalist John Calvin. The main author of our Declaration of Independence -- just disappeared! Now that's paranoia and syphillitic thinking to the max.

What was it that offended these idiots about Jefferson? He coined the term "separation between church and state."

Taking the word justice off the list of what we should be teaching grade-schoolers to believe their duties are to foster good citizenship was another move of these sad of the Texas Education Board.

"No doubt the board majority would love to get its hands on the Pledge of Allegiance's assertion of 'justice for all,' but luckily, the pledge doesn't come under the members' purview. Yet," Hightower wrote last week.

Wow, these minority view idiots got voted down on one strange impediment to smarts -- they wanted to impose a new requirement that students be taught that the civil rights movement created "unreasonable expectations."

As Hightower reported, these ugly influencers in Texas created the false balance of rightwing nuts by having the "positive impact of Martin Luther King Jr. with an insistence that the 'positives' of Joe McCarthy's witch-hunt for commies and of Jefferson Davis' secessionist government also be taught."

Look, these idiots failed the test of intelligence and integrity so many times, putting the dreaded "socialist" moniker on Delores Huerta, farm worker leader. They mandated other sad souls of American intellectual spasming, Phyllis Schlafly and Newt Gingrich, be included as historic icons of a "conservative resurgence" in America.

It's schizophrenia and blind ignorance on display -- cutting Oscar Romero as a world leader who fought political repression because they believed, unlike Gandhi, Romero had no movie made about him.

(Raul Julia, hmm, in the 1989 film doesn't ring a bell).

The phrase "democratic societies" was scapeled out and replaced with "societies with representative government." These folk took out the god-protected "capitalism" from the school books because it has a negative connotation.

"Free enterprise" will be the new term for capitalism throughout all social studies courses.

Taking out all references to the Age of Enlightenment, these censors felt it was too secular to go into the heads of Texas' mixed up school kids.

This assault isn't a laughing matter, isn't some aberration, some knee-jerk minor move. I've seen the same kind of thinking as a community college teacher -- from fellow teachers (that's rare), from administrators (not as rare, though these folk admit to despising this sort of censorship, they still bow to pressure from the community, from the customer or customer's helicopter parents), and from more and more students who believe they are customers, who can customize their own education, their own version of history, their own values on science, and their own moral code on whatever is taught them.

Those of us in science, climate change, technology, planning, education, in business, in media, in government, we have to begin putting our feet down and stopping this idiocy. Scrubbing history and reworking mythology and racism and religious zealotry into our secular education is plain wrong and un-American.

Don’t Mess With Textbooks
Essay by Josh Rosenau / May 20, 2009

Science education faced setbacks at the Texas Board of Education hearings in March:

"An inside look at the politicians, teachers, and textbook publishers who are fighting back"

The National Center for Science Education, in Oakland, CA, where I work, has tracked hundreds of attacks on evolution education in 48 states in the last five years. In the last two years alone, 18 bills in 10 states have targeted the teaching of evolution. These bills, like the flawed science standards approved by the Texas Board of Education in March, don’t ban evolution outright. But they do authorize teachers to omit evolution or include creationism at their whim. “These bills give cover to school boards and teachers who want to teach creationism,” says Barbara Forrest, a professor at Southeastern Louisiana University who studies the history of creationism. “It’s as simple as that.”

Evolution is still the most common target in science education standards: Kansas nearly scrubbed it in 2005 and Florida only made it a requirement to teach the “e-word” last year. But conservatives, out of power in Washington, seem to be shifting their attention to the states, where anti-evolution bills are increasingly being broadened to attack conservative bogeymen like global warming and human cloning, reflecting what Forrest calls “the Religious Right’s anti-science stance.” The education standards just passed in Texas cast doubt on human contributions to climate change, a reflection of this new, more disturbing trend. The state’s School Board Chairman Don McLeroy explained to an Austin newspaper the board’s position on global warming by saying, “Conservatives like me think the evidence is a bunch of hooey.”

By expanding the attacks beyond evolution to include scientific expertise itself, these conservatives weaken understanding both of the scientific process and how the scientific community evaluates ideas. And because of the state’s enormous purchasing power for textbooks, Texas’s standards will ultimately affect textbooks nationwide. The board spent more than $200 million on K-12 textbooks last year—buying more high school science books than any other state. “Publishers typically write their textbooks to Texas standards and then sell those books to smaller states,” explains Kathy Miller of the civil liberties watchdog Texas Freedom Network. If the board rejects a textbook, it can destroy a publisher.

Given these stakes, my colleagues and I worked hard to influence the Texas School Board over the months of hearings, providing them with a statement signed by 54 scientific and educational societies opposing “any effort to undermine the teaching of biological evolution and related topics.” We worked with local activists to organize constituents and political honchos who educated board members about the importance of evolution to science education.

But the other side knew the board’s seven creationists needed to pick up only one vote to gain a majority. The Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based intelligent design think tank, and the Greater Houston Creation Association worked on creationist amendments and lobbied for the decisive eighth vote. They were aided by testimony from Ray Bohlin, a molecular biologist who left science to start a fundamentalist ministry, and Don Patton, who parades a doctorate from what appears to be an Australian diploma mill and gained notoriety claiming fossil evidence that dinosaurs and humans walked side-by-side.

Despite our efforts, after a total of 24 hours of testimony in three separate hearings, pro-evolution moderates brokered a compromise with the board’s seven creationists. Heeding McLeroy’s cry that “someone’s got to stand up to experts!,” the board approved standards that promote creationism’s mantra of “sudden appearance” of new species, echo creationist beliefs that the complexity of the cell cannot be scientifically explained, and mandate that students study “different views on the existence of global warming.”

Textbook publishers are already preparing for hearings in 2011, which will judge whether rewritten textbooks fit the new standards. Textbook author and biologist Ken Miller and publisher Rene LeBel both say they’ll abide by the letter, but not the spirit, of the standards; for instance, by fulfilling the requirement to cover “all sides of scientific evidence” without including creationist pseudoscience. Miller, a vocal defender of evolution education, insists that “biology textbook authors will all stand together on evolution,” refusing to include creationist attacks or to drop good science.

But resisting the board can result in being banned from the nation’s largest high school textbook market. For this reason, LeBel notes that publishers often placate the board with small changes, such as switching from clear statements to “open-ended questions that leave it up to students to decide.” Watchdogs worry that some publishers may satisfy the board by outright larding books with creationism.

But all is not lost. Professors in Texas and elsewhere are privately planning to boycott college textbooks from any publishers who let the board taint high school textbooks. And just as fights over science standards in Kansas and Ohio were resolved at the ballot box, board elections in 2010 may usher in more defenders of science before the final purchasing decisions are made for textbooks. Bolstered by complaints from angry voters, there are some Texas lawmakers publicly chastising the new science standards. The State Legislature is considering a slew of bills that would strip the board’s power over textbooks, and McLeroy’s re-nomination as board chairman has stalled in a State Senate committee. In a recent hearing, State Senator Eliot Shapleigh told McLeroy, “You’ve created a hornet’s nest like I’ve never seen before.”

Concerned citizens are also abuzz, with parents, teachers, and even religious leaders across the country showing policymakers that there is a constituency for honest science education. Pro-evolution clergy are being organized through the Clergy Letter Project to dispel religious doubts about evolution. And a group of Texas entrepreneurs organized to tell the board that they believe tomorrow’s innovators need to know evolution. The NCSE recently worked with a family and local professors to give a student in Washington the courage to denounce his teacher’s creationist lectures. He won not only the school’s support but also a college scholarship from the ACLU. It doesn’t take an expert to stand up for science. Whether the battle is large or small, success depends on these types of broad coalitions.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Books, Learning, Teaching, Educating -- It's Now or Never if We Want an Informed and Systems Thinking Public to Move Ahead

One thousand reasons why privatizing higher and K-12 education will destroy any chance of America becoming a leader in any given field, becoming a part of the solution we need driving the next 90 years on Planet Earth. We need to come together and fight global warming, war, and ignorance with a concerted attack on those attacking education. Would PacifiCAD and Autodesk be anywhere if we just relied on the pick-me-up attitude of some people to self-educate themselves on engineering, architecture, the sciences, computer technology? It's not going to happen in a library or on the Internet. Not for 99 percent of us it won't. It's really about stopping the tea bagging, tea party mentality: survival of the richest? Survival of the what, the most exceptional? We have to have strong schools, a strong business class that supports education and continuing education. We have to have people who respect the mind and our potential. Teaching and learning in institutions that work is our only hope for a future.

School is where it's at, and don't let any self-made businessman or woman try and drown out the message that success in almost every aspect of community or culture is attained through education, not hard-earned scratching to the top of the money pile. Those are rare stories, and even so, most self-made people have to rely heavily on an educated workforce.

Read the piece I wrote, and hit the link to see comments posted on the Pacific Northwest Weekly Inlander.

Gutting Classrooms

Higher education is a great leveler and — especially in these times — a safety net we can’t afford to tear apart

By Paul K. Haeder

I just finished reading five essays from one of my war vet students: wonderful, descriptive, emotive writing about his own “up-close-and-personal” encounters with stupidity, the Bush doctrine, Obama facilitation and death in Fallujah.

Just another student — one 20-something Marine from Spokane who was ordered to shoot to kill.

His essay, describing how the unit he was in had to clean up the “mess” when his convoy accidentally hit an elderly woman carrying bread from a market, was gut-wrenching. “… [I]t was the first time I cried as a Marine … she reminded me of my mom back home.”

Yeah, PTSD, three-day nightmares with wide-open eyes, surreal visits to a VA Hospital where drugs are prescribed to erase memory, and then he gives me an essay on what to do after your three buddies in a four-man team are killed on Thanksgiving Day in Iraq.

His story has everything to do with my sticking it out as an underpaid community college instructor.

Superintendents, senators and business leaders have no clue when they cut a few billion here and another billion there from education budgets. These returning laid-off workers, chronically underpaid or misbegotten youth, and war vets need gutsy folks in City Hall, in Olympia and from the ranks of the business class to cover their backs, my back, our future’s back.

Working with some of the more disenfranchised, underserved, under-respected youth, adults, single parents and recovering humans is a kick, a challenge and an honor for me. Teaching college students ranging in age from 14 to 79 has been remarkable.

Most are just “regular” people with aspirations to succeed. Yeah, a lot are lugging around PTSD, ADHD, bipolar disorder and other learning-disability diagnoses.

But these are men and women sticking their necks out in my writing classes. The word “entitled” does not touch their lips. Moreover, I’ve worked with remarkable people who teach at community colleges and in the nuts-and-bolts four-year colleges.

Yet every year I’ve been teaching, the whole lot of us get screwed by inept, bumbling, retrograde administrators, politicians and DC lobby loyalists who have no idea what it means that the United States’ public education system — K-12, two- and four-year schools — is being run off the rails like a recalled Toyota.

The pink slips will be sent out in the coming weeks around dozens of states where governors are scrambling to cut budgets. The mess of capitalism, free marketeering, graft from inside deals and rotten American illogic (that posits education is full of fat-and-happy, inept teachers) has finally come home to roost as state after state guts education as we once knew it.

This sputtering oil-sucking, war-mongering, global warming-denying ship needs a new crew, a new design, and neither will be coming from some great entrepreneurial tree growing in the backyards of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet.

Education trumps everything, and those current headlines warning of huge teacher layoffs and tuition spikes in California will be repeated in every state, including those in the Pacific Northwest. California plans to fire 10 percent of the state’s K-12 teachers — after sacking 30,000 in 2009. And Spokane schools aren’t hiring new teachers.

The question is: Who gives a squat about a veteran of Fallujah who needs support services from a community college, support from the entire educational system that is being gutted? Tuition-raising blackmail and consolidating public universities, like Oregon is proposing, are absolutely insane moves.

Olympia needs to tax people and corporations reaping huge profits. Allowing tuition hikes of up to 14 percent a year is suicide. California did a 32 percent hike in one fell swoop of the legislative hand. That terminator state spends 11 percent of state coffers on prisons, 7.5 percent on higher education.

Anyone comprehend the calculus there?

Americans may not “get” peak oil, may not fathom climate change’s connection to polar ice melt and might not yet feel the real price of two failed wars. Many have not seen that ex-Marine’s intense stare and total disconnect.

But he’s in a second war now. Men and women like him took to the streets last week during a student walkout as part of National Day of Action to Defend Public Education. The message is clear — education is a right, not a privilege.

We owe it to laid-off workers, never-employed kids and that former Marine who has seen the military, the VA and the city fail him.

Maybe my ex-leatherneck’s hope is penning essays in a community college — writing that gets to the bottom of his PTSD.

It’s his new war, and our old war — and tens of thousands of fired faculty and K-12 teachers are its casualties.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Beer, Hops, Solar, Clean Brew -- Pump Grade Fuel, Too?

We have to take our hats off to companies -- and this is a mid-sized one, to be sure -- for looking at green ways to do their triple bottom lines, low carbon impacts as members of the local and biotic communities, and alternative and clean energy to produce a product many of us in the tech and environmental fields just love -- ale, beer, pilsner, stout, porter, IPA, you name it.

This solar project produces over 1.4 MW of AC power for the brewery. This—coupled with its existing 1.2 MW fuel cell plant—provides the majority of the brewery’s electrical energy needs with clean power produced on-site. Surplus electrical energy will be available to help supply the overloaded California power grid during peak power usage periods. Covering a majority of the brewing facility’s roofs, this system utilizes over 6700 Mitsubishi 185-watt lead-free panels.

The environmentally conscious Sierra Nevada Brewery in California is taking steps to become partially powered by the sun. A 1.3 megawatt solar system is being installed at the Chico plant in two phases and will provide 34% of the brewery’s power.

"With the addition of our solar panels, we are approaching our goal of providing 100% of our energy needs with clean on-site alternative energy generation."--Ken Grossman, CEO, Sierra Nevada Brewing

The system will be installed by Chico Electric and incorporate technology from Mitsubishi Electric. Chico Electric completed the first phase of the project in December 2007. The next phase will be finished in June 2008 after construction of a new building on the brewery’s property. In addition to the new solar electric system, the brewery has installed a 1MW fuel cell, a 500 kW solar array shade structure in its parking lot, and it also makes methane from brewery waste products, all part of an effort to use clean energy and make the brewery energy independent.

Mitsubishi Electric is providing nearly 7000 of its 185Wp high-strength, corrosion-resistant modules for the project. The modules contain no lead solder, a technology Mitsubishi Electric introduced to the United States in 2005. Instead of lead-solder coating for the cells, Mitsubishi Electric developed silver electrodes that offer superior weatherproofing and higher PV module conversion efficiency.

“Sierra Nevada Brewery is one of the most environmentally conscious companies in the industry and we are honored to be working on this project with them,” says Gina Heng, director of marketing for Mitsubishi Electric & Electronics USA’s Photovoltaic Division. Not only does the company boast impressive green credentials, but they make a decent beer too. For those who haven’t tried it, Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale is exceptionally good, and it's free from preservatives.

“The plan is to have a machine here on site that would distill the ethanol that’s remaining in the yeast slurry,” said Cheri Chastain, Sierra Nevada Sustainability Coordinator.

“We could make it available for employees. If we have a lot of it we could end up selling it. We could use it for our shop vehicles and company vehicles,” said Chastain.

Currently, production waste is sold as dairy feed to local farmlands. In fact, Sierra Nevada sells 1.6 million gallons of beer yeast waste annually. But not once this system is in place. Testing will start in Q2 of this year with a goal of full-production by q3.

The beer yeast contains between five and eight-percent alcohol content, but the MicroFueler is expected to raise the level to 15-percent.

“Creating ethanol from discarded organic waste is an excellent example of how the MicroFueler can help eliminate our reliance on the oil industry infrastructure. This is especially true when considering Americans reportedly discard 50% of all agricultural farmed products,” said Tom Quinn, E-Fuel founder and CEO. “Using a waste product to fuel your car is friendlier to the environment and lighter on your wallet, easily beating prices at the gas pump.”

Of course, Sierra Nevada has a history of being a bit eco-friendly: they are home to one of the largest private solar installations in the US.

Mayor Verner, Spokane, Reads Earth Day April 17 and Earth Week, April 17-24 -- SPOKANE Proclamation


Charley Gurche, photographer in Spokane, is on for Earth Day 2010, Takin' it to the Streets, Spokane!. Here are some of his works that will be looped and shown at the Community Building, with his prints, 25 West Main, in the lobby. So, a digital projected slide show there, and then in the music warehouse, at 6, 17 W. Main, April 17, 2010.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mosquitoes, High Tech, the Scam of Nathan Myhrvold?

I've had the pleasure of spending time with Sonia Shah, author of such books as Crude: The Story of Oil and The Body Hunters. She was in Spokane in 2006 as part of some sustainability events I organized through Spokane Falls Community College and other colleges and public and private cooperation. She was on KYRS for an hour discussion. She made the rounds all over town.

Check out her discussion on Oil in this podcast -- low tech

She is at the forefront of issues tied to technology and corporations. Here's her look at the malaria debate, not looking at Bill and Melinda Gates this time. It's about the scam of technology and high-tech as a way to solve malaria, a multi-million person killer worldwide yearly.

Why this for Autodesk and PacifiCAD? It's obvious -- we're at the cutting edge of technology and software development as a tool for change, for working on those issues tied to development and sustainable development.

Here's Sonia's critique of the Star Wars zapper for malaria coming from a Microsoft guru. We need these critiques in a time of green washing, profiteering, false dichotomies, propaganda, and delay, denial and retrograde thinking. Will a high-tech computer based solution solve malaria? Nope. But let the blog reader be the judge.

Sonia Shah blogged:

"Doesn’t Nathan Myhrvold get enough attention? The guy is the former chief technology officer of Microsoft, a multimillionaire, a gourmet chef, a prize-winning photographer and keeper of multiple higher degrees from prestigious institutions. As the CEO and founder of Intellectual Ventures, a private outfit that invests in “pure inventions,” he frequently finds himself in the news.

And yet, at the annual techno-hip TED conference in February, Myhrvold decided to up the ante, tapping into the misery of millions of rural African women and their families to wrap his business in a cloak of moral urgency. “Every 43 seconds a child dies of malaria,” he told the crowd. And current anti-malaria interventions, many of which target the rural African women and children who are malaria’s main victims, don’t work that well, he said. Insecticides can be environmentally dangerous and some people use anti-mosquito bednets to catch fish instead.

That’s why Myhrvold came up with his latest invention: A mini-”Star Wars” weapons system that tracks mosquitoes in the air and shoots them down mid-flight–with lasers, of course. Like a Death Ray. All you need to make one is a Blu-ray player and a laser printer, plus a few months of processing time on a supercomputer, and voila!: you’re on your way to eradicating malaria in Africa for good.

Oh. My.

Obviously this would never work. Many malaria clinics in rural Africa don’t even have wire screens on their windows—how in hell are they going to install mosquito death-ray systems? There’s no regular electricity in rural African villages where malaria lurks. In villages like Namacha, in southern Malawi, where locals receive 170 bites from malaria-infected mosquitoes every year, there’s no running water. Most people don’t even own any furniture.

That’s why the international campaign to stanch malaria, “Roll Back Malaria,” has for years been implementing a series of other measures. For example, lightweight, cheap bednets that can be hung over women and children at night, as they sleep in their huts. And drugs that do not require refrigeration that can be distributed to pregnant women. These aren’t the very best interventions, the ones that will definitely end malaria in the most direct way. But they’re the best interventions that can actually be implemented.

Mhyrvold’s no dummy. He knows this.
So why pretend that your useless gizmo is actually going to save African women and children from a killer disease? Because it gets you lots of attention. Wired covered Mhyrvold’s gadget, as did the New York Times, The Atlantic, and scores of bloggers, Twitterers and Facebook users. (“I want one!” wrote one typical enthusiast.) Malariologists were called out from their labs and clinics by eager reporters wanting a comment on how Mhyrvold’s invention might finally save the world from malaria.

One, the Dutch malaria expert Bart Knols, got it right when he called Myrhold’s invention “ridiculous” and its promotion as an anti-malaria device “unethical.” In fact, it is worse than that. Mhyrvold used the very real suffering of African women and children from malaria to garner attention for himself and his gee-whiz gadget that won’t make a lick of difference in their lives. It’s the very definition of exploitation.

Worst of all is the disservice this kind of gimmickry does to the campaign to counter malaria. The real challenges in taming malaria hardly ever make it into headlines. Mhyrvold’s anti-malaria invention did. But what’s his message? That new technology and cool gadgetry–Intellectual Ventures’ raison d’etre–will solve the problem?

I mean, really. Saving African women and children from malaria doesn’t require new research into cool gizmos. What we need to do is find the political will and funding to implement all the old research that we’ve already done. Like distributing bednets, and cheap drugs. Building health clinics. And roads. Maybe it’s boring. Maybe not the best fodder for a flashy TED presentation. But it’s the only reasonable way forward. "

Will laser technology rid Africa of malaria?

Submitted by Bart Knols on February 16, 2010 - 12:11

Last week, Nathan Myhrvold, a former Microsoft executive, presented a fascinating new invention to the world during a talk at the TED conference. The TED talks are renowned for providing a stage for great people with great ideas...

Speaking at TED means a lot of global attention, and Myhrvold played his cards right. With a display of the invention that uses laser technology to shoot down mosquitoes on the wing, and some stunning video footage, it was certain that the global press would jump on the story.

Hundreds of websites and facebook pages covered this breakthrough, that was twittered to hundreds of thousands of people around the planet. Intellectual Ventures, the company headed by Myhrvold, has done well this week. Interestingly, although the world may think this is a new invention, it is not. The Wall Street Journal ran an article on the same invention on 14 March 2009. Back then the video footage wasn't as exciting, leading to limited press attention. But why did Myhrvold not use the last ten months to demonstrate the potential of his invention in the real world, in a rural setting somewhere in Africa?

On his way to a rural house in the middle of Tanzania Myhrvold would suddenly panic. He would discover that as he moves into the countryside that there is no electricity. Bummer. Next, he would have to set up at least three curtains (in a triangular fashion) around a local house, needing three lenses, lasers, and of course sophisticated computer soft- and hardware.

He would need an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) to make sure the surges in voltage would not damage the equipment. All of this would add up to a cost that one could build a pretty fancy new house for, fully screened, fitted with bednets. Imagine a village of fifty houses and the equipment that would be needed there to blast mosquitoes...

And then, what would happen if someone passes a 'curtain' and his eye is in line with a mosquito being zapped at that very moment? Not nice, I guess. My initial plan was not to write about Myhrvold's invention, fuelling attention. But I kept being bomarded with email asking me about this great new idea, and this morning I gave a radio interview on the matter for the world service. Martin Enserink, journalist at Science magazine, agreed with me that it is unethical to market such an invention by telling the press that every 43 seconds a child dies of malaria.

I stand to be proven wrong, but Intellectual Ventures' invention will probably face the same fate as the US Star Wars programme of the 1980s. It will end up in a drawer, never to be heard of again. Still a believer? Then watch this video...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Earth Ships, Garbage Warrior == Reuse, Retool, Rethink

It's pretty clear we need a new paradigm, or set of paradigms. Throw out building codes, let experimentation hold sway for the next ten years, get the American scientific and land use and legal systems to take a back seat, and let folk like Mike Reynolds and permaculture experts and others tied to sustainable and alternative building, agriculture, energy and Second Nature design be at the table to help 4 billion people suffering environmental and mega city degradation and falling hard on the impeding tipping points.

Mike Reynolds is the "garbage warrior," an architect who's been designing homes from the so-deemed refuse pool of throwaway stuff and natural objects for roughly forty years. His documentary gives us his world of sustainable and sanity design, and shows us his struggle with the vanguard, against the guys in suits, pitting the smart solutions against state honchos who just can't fathom progress outside the political box.

Earthquake, tsunami, typhoon, drought, bizarre climatic changes -- those are telling us we need these designs, and in Garbage Warrior, we see that governments affected by tsunamis want to fix the damage, using Earth Ship thinking and design, and Mike does it with low impact, grace, fluidity, overlaying it all with this concept of reuse and new-old design so people can live and thrive.

Autodesk's E-Squared series has some cool stuff based on some of the same principles. Check one out here:


Because land in the Netherlands is limited, the government has traditionally taken a strong role in the planning of their cities and suburbs. Under the auspices of a government-sponsored program called VINEX, it was decided that a disused dock area on the outskirts of Amsterdam should be the site for high-density urban housing.

In 1996, West 8, an urban design and landscape architecture firm, won the commission from the city to transform the docks Borneo and Sporenburg into residential neighborhoods with 2,500 housing units. Because these were the last two peninsulas in the area to be developed, the urban planning department had already learned a lesson from the lack of children in the other neighborhoods: Families with children wanted to live in houses.

So while it was a good decision to re-use the abandoned docks and keep the population of the area high-density, the challenge would be to design housing that appealed to families with children. Using design ingenuity and the natural landscape, Adriaan Geuze, a founding partner of West 8, found a way to demonstrate that family housing is not incompatible with dense urban areas.

Geuze's design for the master plan was to build a sea of narrow waterfront houses on intimate streets, punctuated by three large sculptural superblocks of apartments. He decided the houses would be tall, narrow and deep like traditional Dutch canal houses, and would sit back-to-back. Each house would have its own ground floor entrance, with strong gates and a secure parking space to provide the privacy and security that families wanted.

The master plan also stipulated that 30 to 50 percent of each house should be void to compensate for the fact that there was no garden or public green space to share. This void space usually came in the form of a private patio space within the house, or a deck on the roof. The houses were also built right up to the water's edge, which enabled safe private moorings that encourage residents to use and enjoy the waterfront location.

By harnessing natural daylight and using the vast waterways as core landscape design elements, the city planners and designers have successfully created a feeling of spaciousness while meeting the requirements of high-density housing. By offering an antidote to the typical trappings of suburban sprawl, the development maximizes limited space while maintaining the privacy desired by families inhabiting the neighborhood. Internationally celebrated as an example of high-density suburban-style housing done right, Borneo Sporenburg is a visually stunning and inspiring work of landscape architecture at the crossroads of sustainable design.

Check out Mike's Earth Ship on PBS
Check out the web site, Garbage Warrior:
The film

What do beer cans, car tires and water bottles have in common? Not much unless you're renegade architect Michael Reynolds, in which case they are tools of choice for producing thermal mass and energy-independent housing. For 30 years New Mexico-based Reynolds and his green disciples have devoted their time to advancing the art of "Earthship Biotecture" by building self-sufficient, off-the-grid communities where design and function converge in eco-harmony. However, these experimental structures that defy state standards create conflict between Reynolds and the authorities, who are backed by big business. Frustrated by antiquated legislation, Reynolds lobbies for the right to create a sustainable living test site. While politicians hum and ha, Mother Nature strikes, leaving communities devastated by tsunamis and hurricanes. Reynolds and his crew seize the opportunity to lend their pioneering skills to those who need it most. Shot over three years and in four countries, Garbage Warrior is a timely portrait of a determined visionary, a hero of the 21st century.

Earthship n. 1. passive solar home made of natural and recycled materials 2. thermal mass construction for temperature stabilization. 3. renewable energy & integrated water systems make the Earthship an off-grid home with little to no utility bills.

Biotecture n. 1. the profession of designing buildings and environments with consideration for their sustainability. 2. A combination of biology and architecture.

"If you create your own electricity, heating and water systems you create your own politics. Maybe that’s what they’re afraid of.” Michael Reynolds

Thirty years ago, architect Michael Reynolds imagined just such a home – then set out to build it. A visionary in the classic American mode, Reynolds has been fighting ever since to bring his concept to the public. He believes that in an age of ecological instability and impending natural disaster, his buildings can – and will – change the way we live.

“If you want permission to do something different, you first have to prove that it works. To do that you have to break the law. It’s a Catch-22 situation.” Michael Reynolds

Shot over three years in the USA, India and Mexico, Garbage Warrior is a feature-length documentary film telling the epic story of maverick architect Michael Reynolds, his crew of renegade house builders from New Mexico, and their fight to introduce radically different ways of living. A snapshot of contemporary geo-politics and an inspirational tale of triumph over bureaucracy, Garbage Warrior is above all an intimate portrait of an extraordinary individual and his dream of changing the world.

“Tsunami warning systems are put in after tsunamis, security is tightened after terrorist attacks, and we’ll deal with global warming after it happens” Michael Reynolds

Garbage Warrior - Full length trailer on YouTube

Earthship Biotecture Earth Biotecture

A crew member shares photos

Structural photos of Earthships

Earthship Brighton, UK

Earthship build in Karuna, India

Earthship Durango, Colorado, US

Earthship Newzealand

Earthship Europe

Earthship Fife, Scotland

Friday, March 5, 2010

Borders are Artificial Delineations -- Breaking Down Barriers to Help Stop Human Suffering

So many possibilities and solutions squandered away in Haiti. Engineers Without Borders is trying to help communities and government agencies work on recovery, rebuilding and sustainability in Haiti after 300,000 have died and a country has been virtually destroyed. Not hope, not intent, not the people power, those three have not been totally destroyed. But so much now is being learned by the so-called "Haiti Earthquake Response," by the missteps, by the huge mistakes.

Engineers Without Borders-USA was founded in 2000 and today has 300 chapters across the country.

Then there's Architects Without Borders:
Below is a list of organizations you can contribute to:

Habitat for Humanity
Architecture for Humanity
The American Red Cross
World Vision
Doctors Without Borders
Mercy Corps

From the report --
A distinction is usually made between immediate measures taken to support life and
sustain morale, and the later activities dedicated to re-establishing the economic, social and cultural life of the people concerned and rebuilding damaged areas. In this book, the first group of activities is called relief, while the second is collectively referred to as recovery.

There is no clear-cut boundary between the relief and the recovery periods. It is
important to emphasize that the disaster-management cycle is an unbroken chain of
human actions whose phases overlap (see Chapter 1). Since the disasters change social,political, economic and even demographic realities irreversibly, there can be no return to the predisaster situation. In addition, people begin almost immediately to rehouse themselves and to re-establish their social and economic networks after a disaster (Bates,1982; Aysan & Oliver, 1987; Oliver-Smith, 1986a, 1991). Certainly, by the time the relief phase is changing into recovery, most people have very clear ideas about what they want to do to rebuild their lives. It is essential to take their views into account when planning for recovery.

Sustainable development

The World Commission on Environment and Development (also known as the “Brundtland
Commission”)has defined “sustainable development” in terms of livelihood security.
A system is sustainable if it provides all people with secure livelihoods, in ways that do not compromise the ability of future generations to achieve secure livelihoods (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987a).

Livelihood is defined as access to adequate food and cash to meet basic needs. Security refers to secure ownership of, or access to, resources and income-earning activities,including reserves and assets to offset risk, ease shocks and meet contingencies. Sustainable refers to the maintenance or enhancement of resource productivity on a longterm basis (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987b).

Throughout this book, three key concepts are continually emphasized:

— organization that is responsive to local needs;
— improvisation;
— incremental improvement.

These three principles can and should be carried over into the period of full repair
of infrastructure, economic rehabilitation and physical reconstruction of neighbourhoods and communities, and become a permanent feature of sustainable development.

Table of Contents --

Environmental Health in Emergencies and Disasters: A PRACTICAL GUIDEEdited by B. Wisner & J. Adams

1. About this book 1
2. The nature of emergencies and disasters 9
3. Predisaster activities 24
4. Emergency response 42
5. Recovery and sustainable development 71
6. Shelter and emergency settlements 85
7. Water supply 92
8. Sanitation 127
9. Food safety 148
10. Vector and pest control 158
11. Control of communicable diseases and prevention of epidemics 168
12. Chemical incidents 175
13. Radiation emergencies 191
14. Mortuary service and handling of the dead 198
15. Health promotion and community participation 202
16. Human resources 216
· References 221
· Websites 235
· Annex 1 WHO model of country-level emergency planning 237
· Annex 2 Equipment and supplies for environmental health activities
· in disasters and emergencies 240
· Annex 3 Accidental pesticide poisoning 243
· Annex 4 International and national actions in response to a radiation
· emergency 245
· Annex 5 Selected information from the International Basic Safety
· Standards for Protection against Ionizing Radiation and for
· the Safety of Radiation Sources 248
· Annex 6 Checklist of hygiene practices that protect health in
· emergencies and disasters

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Earth Hour, PacifiCAD -- 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. ALL the lights out -- dine and play Skip Bo by Candle light

March 27, 8:30 PST:

Symbolic gestures. Solidarity. Global action. Something to say you did for an hour. Now, turn off the lights, and try doing it all the time, at many points in the evening. Unplug chargers, TVs, stereos. Wow, let's be Earth Day every day.

Mary Verner, Mayor of Spokane, will issue a proclamation about Earth Hour and also is calling on City employees to participate as well.
People can sign up to join the Mayor in participating in Earth Hour by clicking this link and signing up.

More information on Earth Hour is available at .

The Earth's climate is now clearly out of balance and is warming. Many components of the climate system—including the temperatures of the atmosphere, land and ocean, the extent of sea ice and mountain glaciers, the sea level, the distribution of precipitation, and the length of seasons—are now changing at rates and in patterns that are not natural and are best explained by the increased atmospheric abundances of greenhouse gases and aerosols generated by human activity during the 20th century. Global average surface temperatures increased on average by about 0.6°C over the period 1956–2006. As of 2006, eleven of the previous twelve years were warmer than any others since 1850. The observed rapid retreat of Arctic sea ice is expected to continue and lead to the disappearance of summertime ice within this century. Evidence from most oceans and all continents except Antarctica shows warming attributable to human activities. Recent changes in many physical and biological systems are linked with this regional climate change. A sustained research effort, involving many AGU members and summarized in the 2007 assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, continues to improve our scientific understanding of the climate.

During recent millennia of relatively stable climate, civilization became established and populations have grown rapidly. In the next 50 years, even the lower limit of impending climate change—an additional global mean warming of 1°C above the last decade—is far beyond the range of climate variability experienced during the past thousand years and poses global problems in planning for and adapting to it. Warming greater than 2°C above 19th century levels is projected to be disruptive, reducing global agricultural productivity, causing widespread loss of biodiversity, and—if sustained over centuries—melting much of the Greenland ice sheet with ensuing rise in sea level of several meters. If this 2°C warming is to be avoided, then our net annual emissions of CO2 must be reduced by more than 50 percent within this century. With such projections, there are many sources of scientific uncertainty, but none are known that could make the impact of climate change inconsequential. Given the uncertainty in climate projections, there can be surprises that may cause more dramatic disruptions than anticipated from the most probable model projections.

With climate change, as with ozone depletion, the human footprint on Earth is apparent. The cause of disruptive climate change, unlike ozone depletion, is tied to energy use and runs through modern society. Solutions will necessarily involve all aspects of society. Mitigation strategies and adaptation responses will call for collaborations across science, technology, industry, and government. Members of the AGU, as part of the scientific community, collectively have special responsibilities: to pursue research needed to understand it; to educate the public on the causes, risks, and hazards; and to communicate clearly and objectively with those who can implement policies to shape future climate.

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