Saturday, October 23, 2010

We Can Try and Bring Hope to the Climate Change Table -- with 10 "greenest" cities on Earth Articles, but . . . .

There are great ideas spinning from these cities' desire to cut down carbon footprints. The cities that make the average person's commute and daily lives fine, those are the cities of note. We have a greater need to support a growing poor and lower middle class in the world, since we have this proclivity to throw money at CEOs and corporations top .01 percent. So, note the cities that are green, and note that they are also places that have a high cost of living, though some in the southern hemisphere have programs that assist the backbone of their societies -- workers, not millionaires. Or billionaires.

The World’s Most Eco-Friendly Cities Thoughts of a greener earth may call to mind rolling pastures and snow-topped mountains. Certainly the wide-open spaces of the planet are eco-friendly, but don’t rule out cities for their share of “green.”

There are many cities around the world that do their parts to make this planet a better place. And with thousands to millions occupying these close-contained areas, every little bit helps.

According to research as recent as 2009, here are the top picks for the most environmentally friendly cities across the planet.

10. Sydney, Australia. Sydney employs many green initiatives, including innovative food-waste management and raised awareness of global warming. Australia also was the first to reduce usage of inefficient, energy-hogging light bulbs.

9. Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador. When natural disasters devastated the city in the late 1990s, the government instituted a plan to rebuild the city in a more sustainable way. The city is also marketing itself as a destination for eco-tourists.

8. San Francisco, California. Nearly 20 percent of the city is devoted to parks and green spaces. Also, more than half of all residents bike, walk or take public transportation to work every day.

7. London, England. Under London’s Climate Action Plan, the city will switch 25 percent of its power to locally generated, more-efficient sources, cut CO2 emissions by 60 percent within the next 20 years, and offer incentives to residents who improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

6. Copenhagen, Denmark. Copenhagen has won awards for cleaning up its waterways. It also has one of the highest concentrations of cyclists.

5. Vancouver, Canada. Vancouver draws 90 percent of its power from natural sources and is the largest user of hydroelectric power.

4. Malmoe, Sweden. This city is known for its extensive green spaces and parks. It is also rebuilding using innovative designs that employ green methods of building and design.

3. Curitiba, Brazil. Curitiba boasts one of the best bus systems in the world, enabling residents to save on energy by using public transportation. Parks are kept tidy by lawn-eating sheep.

2. Portland, Oregon. Portland is the first U.S. city to enact a plan to reduce CO2 emissions. It also has 92,000 acres of green space. It is touted as one of the greenest places to live.

1. Reykjavik, Iceland. This city earns the No. 1 spot by using hydrogen-fueled buses and renewable energy provided by geothermal and hydropower sources. In addition, Reykjavik plans to be fossil-fuel-free by 2050.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Are cereal boxes and TV dinners stacked against the alfalfa sprouts and arugula?

While Marshall McLuhan may have anticipated today’s credo – the medium is the message, and that message is as vapid as the empty calories we eat – thousands in the green movement, and more specifically the healthy food wave, believe that talking, writing and broadcasting the right information when it comes to nutrition and food security is the only way toward real change.

Ya gotta read a lot and listen to in-depth stuff to get the information.

For Melinda Hemmelgarn — dubbing herself the Food Sleuth — the reality is most people gain nutrition and health information from traditional media, which is bought and paid for by purveyors of agri-business and monopolies destined to put organic and sustainable farming out of business.

Take corn pushers, for example:

“Maybe you were beginning to believe that high-fructose corn syrup wasn’t so bad,” Hemmelgarn said. “After all, it meets the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s definition of ‘natural,’ and isn’t it OK to eat all foods in moderation?”

She stressed that one 20-ounce soda gives the “consumer” 17 teaspoons of HFCS, while the American Medical Association recommends limiting all added sweeteners to eight or less teaspoons per day per person.

The media is supported by corn – it’s injected into all the foods sold in grocery stores, all sodas peddled on TV, and all the fast-food chains barking at us in print and TV ads depend on cooked-up corn mash.

Think salad dressings, baked goods, jams, dairy products, and cereals as deliverers of that dreaded product.

As of September 2010, corn refiners of America – think more than 95 million acres of U.S. soil planted in corn, hundreds of millions of pounds of weed and bug killer, millions of tons of nitrogen fertilizer, and think Genetically Modified kernels – are demanding that that lab-created HFCSs be re-labeled as the more natural term “corn sugar.”

Hemmelgarn’s work as a food and nutrition communicator, her columns for KOPN FM out of Missouri and her blogging for Organic Valley, as well as her membership in many organizations, including the Association for Health Care Journalists, give her a unique perspective on how public health and sustainable food systems are closely tied to the message the average person receives.

So-called “corn sugar” now is being implicated in a study showing some samples of HFCS contain the neurotoxin mercury, as a result of a process using mercury-grade caustic soda to separate corn starch from the kernel.

“But here’s where the story gets sticky, not to use a pun,” she said, “Back in 2004, under the direction of environmental health officer Renee Dufault, researchers found detectable levels of mercury in nine out of 20 samples of HFCS. However, FDA ignored the results, and journals didn’t print the story … until now.” [see Jan. 26, 2009 issue of Environmental Health]

So much now is being written – by journalists and some medical journals – that diet can and should be part of a treatment regimen for people (mostly children) diagnosed with autism in its various iterations and severities. There’s plenty of information in the non-mainstream media on mercury toxicity in apex fish and the limits pregnant women should put on eating those ocean species (see Monterey Bay Aquarium’s seafood guide and mercury studies, and the movie, The Cove, for more on these topics).

“Now the Corn Refiners Association says the Environmental Health article is outdated and HFCS manufacturers ‘stopped using’ mercury in HFCS production ‘years ago,’” Hemmelgarn wrote in a Columbia Daily Tribune article.

The Food Sleuth uncovered more hypocrisy, or subterfuge: a 2008 Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy regional study confirmed Dufault’s findings after testing 55 name-brand food and drink products where HFCS was the first or second highest ingredient. “They found mercury in nearly one in three of the tested samples.”

Negotiating the superhighway of multi-million advertising budgets is more and more difficult these days for what marketers call us – consumers, targets, market groups, or, as P.T. Barnum so quickly impugned, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

How much for those Super Bowl HFCS 30-second ads by Denny’s, Coke, Pepsi, Pedigree Dog Food, Frito Lay? $3 million a pop. Melinda showed 100 dieticians and nutritionists this new alphabet – a through z, all letters from recognizable brands. Most of the participants got 26 out of 26. Take the quiz here:

The point of Melinda Hemmelgarn’s message is that the war against bad food and bad food policy is on the marketing front, on the word game. She started off her life decades ago wanting to study art, but while in Florence, Italy, she stumbled on a nutrition class.

Her interview with me on KYRS,, in September 2010 covered many areas tied to the food crisis and genetically engineered foods, and the battle for truth in advertising as Big Food is trying to stop GMO-free labeling.

The entire gamut of how organic farmers and sustainable producers have been planted an uneven playing field from which to bless eaters with their safe and sustainable bounty was covered. While she’s a registered dietician holding a masters degree as a public nutrition policy specialist, Hemmelgarn is on the warpath against the stacked cards that have been dealt the American eater.

“Most of us, and I’m including dieticians with the larger group of citizens in our country, don’t question where our food comes from. If I were to generalize, I would say the larger proportion of dieticians probably haven’t thought that much about it.”

She’s quick to attack McDonald’s programs that have McTeacher’s nights, which get parents to bring kids to schools and buy loads of “McTrash,” and then some of the sales go back to the school. Not philanthropy but marketing.

Heart-clogging hucksterism in many minds.

“I guess the reason I feel so strongly about this area is because consumerism robs our children of their innocence. It makes them want products more than the things that are really valuable in life like relationships and spending time in nature,” she said.

Luckily, we have some ammunition to go up against the Barnums of bad food and toxic advertising: Health Care Without Harm writes and or develops contracts that food service managers can use to make it much easier to source food from local farmers rather than a big institutional provider.

For more details about Melinda Hemmelgarn, visit

For Haeder's interview of her --

For some of her KOPN Food Slueth radio shows, visit


Many are surprised about the presence of high-fructose corn syrup, an inexpensive sugar substitute that can be found in everything from soft drinks to syrup. There is a recent push by the agricultural industry to change its name to corn sugar.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Photographer Jordan takes viewers through ‘the numbers’

Mass consumption, mass culture collide in artist’s giant photos

Paul K. Haeder

Photography is this fabulous medium from which the human shared vision of the world captured in silvers, dyes and digital pixels has transformed culture.

The Gulf of Mexico and the coast itself have been captured over decades in the viewfinders of artists, and now we are at the point of cataloguing and reflecting the pain of the BP oil disaster through multitudes of photographers who have amassed there to tell a story.

Photographs are now being used to raise consciousness, and one area that the photographic image plows into ethos and pathos is the environment.

Lucky for Spokane, and thanks to a benefactor from Boeing and his widow, we have not only a riveting event featuring an internationally acclaimed photographer, but Whitworth University now has one of the country’s largest collection of photography books.

Thanks to Floyd and Shirley Daniel, hundreds of books – coffee table types – are in a special collections group at Whitworth’s Library.

According to Tad Wisenor, the university’s director of campaign planning and fund raising, having the Daniel Collection brings to the private college an historical record of photography’s impact on our world. Daniel was an avid videographer and photographer who heard about Whitworth at his Seattle church.

Bringing to campus Seattle-based photographer Chris Jordan Oct. 12, 7 p.m. to the Weyerhaeuser building, ties into the college’s effort to teach the Christian community about the impact of photography on world cultures and consumerism’s impact on ecosystems.

[see his work here:

“We want the Whitworth community to realize the decisions they make have a broader impact on the world,” Wisenor said.

Jordan’s work is varied, and he is famously known for those huge digitally manipulated panels of the junk and stuff our consumer society uses and throws away. His work is haunting and beautiful, even when we find out that that horizon that looks from a distance like a colorful beach is made up of 2 million plastic bottles, the number the U.S. uses every five minutes.

His artwork’s themes tie together various forms of dualism: “E Pluribus Unum”; “Midway; Running the Numbers I” and “II;” “Intolerable Beauty; In Katrina’s Wake.”

Jordan says this about his show, “In Katrina’s Wake: Portraits of Loss from an Unnatural Disaster”: “There is evidence to suggest that Katrina was not an entirely natural event like an earthquake or tsunami. The 2005 hurricane season’s extraordinary severity can be linked to global warming, which America contributes to in disproportionate measure through our extravagant consumer and industrial practices.

Never before have the cumulative effects of our consumerism become so powerfully focused into a visible form, like the sun’s rays narrowed through a magnifying glass. Almost 300,000 Americans lost everything they owned in the Katrina disaster. The question in my mind is whether we are all responsible in some degree.”

His images of rotting and desiccated remains of seabirds in the continuing project, “Midway: Message from the Gyre,” awakens in many viewers the reality we dump so much plastic into the ocean and around its edges that we are yearly responsible for the deaths of millions of birds, marine mammals and fish who eat things like BIC lighters and soda pop six-pack rings.

One portrait, huge at 64-inches by 94-inches, shows a hammerhead and blue shark, with Japanese calligraphy in the center. Almost like a tattoo some sailor would have scribed into leathery skin. Except this image was “made” using 270,000 fossilized shark teeth in a pointillist genre, the total number of sharks killed everyday for their fins (known as the extinction-facilitating shark-finning practice to serve mostly Asian palates.

Some of his images represent the futility of modern culture to want something nature never intended – in “Barbie Dolls” (2008, 60 inches x 80 inches), the viewer standing way back sees the contours of a woman’s torso and breasts. Upon closer inspection, the flesh color canvas is made up of thousands of pods, almost like some Rose Bowl float flower-like shape. Except each shape is made up of Barbie dolls, 32,000 in all, equalling the number of elective breast augmentation surgeries done in the U.S. monthly in 2006.

Jordan has made a name for himself using the photographic art form to sculpt a certain visceral and intellectual reaction from us, his audience and his consumer masses. The impact of the number of cellular phones tossed away daily, shaped like an undulating sea, or the 1.14 million paper grocery bags used hourly in the U.S. manipulated to look like a birch forest pull the average viewer into his own personal space – how and why we are all shaped by this hyper-consumerism society, where obsolescence is either perceived or planned.

I’ve had the opportunity to attend classes at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, and I’ve interviewed a few artists, and photographers specifically for newspaper and radio shows. One show (heard here) included talking with Arizona physician Michael Collier, who has for 30 years created 13 books showing his love of geology, photography and aeronautics.

“I want people to see beauty in the landscape,” Collier says. “If they can start there and realize that there are tendrils of information, that there are stories buried in it, then I’ve done the work I’m supposed to be doing.”

His work covers beautiful shapes and colors, contours and lines and geometrics, all seen from this single-engine Cessna 180. His photos can be seen in many publications, but one of his books, “Over the Mountains, An Aerial View of Geology”(Mikaya Press), is the kick-off picture book focused on the morphology or evolution of landscapes.

Matthew White (read interview here --

has spent decades in the Gulf of Mexico, photographing towns, ecosystems, and the intersection between nature and development. White believes in showing the reality of the oil spill, not exploiting people’s misery.

What these photographers bring to their work is a larger sense of how the image brings to the human eye a conscious decision to allow the sheer vastness of our landscape and our consumption to overtake our intuition.

Jordan’s talk ties into the larger goal of sustainability at Whitworth, which Wisenor says has had much impetus – from students – over the past five years. Wisenor, with a master’s in urban and regional planning from Eastern Washington University, says this effort to show students the “value of creation protection” (ecological awareness) allows students who haven’t necessarily been exposed to sustainability issues to connect their lives and consumerism to negative effects Jordan so beautifully shapes in his photographs.

Photographer Chris Jordan and his photos will be at the Weyerhaeuser building at Whitworth University at 7 p.m. Oct. 12. Reception is free to the public. For more information on Jordan, visit

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

10-10-10 -- Look for some Significant Event in Your Community about Carbon Reduction

10-10-10 -- Sunday. Yet another global effort to contextualize the carbon dioxide story, and to get the industries off their duffs and get politicians to speak intelligently about climate, global warming, and such.

Two very different messages below. In fact, the second one is a bit startling to some. Not always sure if those PETA-type campaigns work for the average Joe. But, it's provocative.

10:10:10 A GLOBAL DAY OF DOING from 10:10 on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The State of US Education -- Full of Holes Thanks to Billionaires and Politicians

It's been a non-planned interruption of the Sustainability blog mainly because, a, I am a hard-working community college instructor teaching 5 classes and getting my students up and running in a very adversarial world. Our State, Washington, Bill and Melinda Gates-ville, is in the process of more education cuts -- on a massive scale. Students are attacked daily -- tuition hikes of 28 percent at the state colleges, classes and programs cut, and, now, 6 percent cut for 2010-11 and then 11 percent for 2011-12.

This is the nose-dive the Reagan Administration in California started in the 1970s. This is the nose-dive Republicans and many Democrats have facilitated. And, the nose-dive is something the elitist millionaire and billionaire clubs have been biting at the bit over for years.

What will follow over the next few blogs ties into climate change, green industries education's role, and so on. As this blog posts, Jill Biden and Arne Duncan and others are holding a so-called community college summit Tuesday. Another group of elitists and out of touch folk probably ramming down our proverbial throats misinformed and exploitative policies to turn Americans into compliant employees.

We've got idiot politicians trying to cut an absurdly low minimum wage further. Bills in Washington to stop an income tax on the elite. Idiots fighting a soda pop and bottled water tax, because the sugar and soda industries have pumped millions into this state to propagandize the issue.

We've seen the McArthur winners and Nobel Prize winners being announced the past two weeks -- how are we to compete and enliven culture and survive climate change when we are gutting education, vouchering it for only the elitist rich?

We'll look at the list of winners in upcoming blogs:

Below -- 10-10-10. Part of Campus2Congress:

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Bill McKibben and team at , with relentless energy, keep growing the grassroots. This weekend, almost 6,000 teams in 183 countries are speaking out for climate solutions. Bard CEP is partnering with the town of Red Hook NY, to kick off a 10% energy reduction challenge. Look for an event near you!

Poll’s show again and again that the people are there: support for climate legislation is consistently above 60%. But the politics is not. This Weds (10/6) join Liz Butler on The National Climate Seminar, as we turn to climate politics 2011. We are expecting an all-out assault on the Clean Air Act. Is any pro-active policy possible? How can we build a stronger clean energy movement?

Liz is Executive Director of 1Sky, an organization that has worked to focus the power of millions of concerned Americans on a single goal: bold federal action to stem climate change. The call will be at noon eastern, Wednesday.

Dial-In: 1-712-432-3100

Code: 253385

Two weeks later, we will continue a focus on the Clean Air Act, with Bill Snape from the Center for Biological Diversity. Still to come this term: Michael Mann, Bryan Walsh and Juliet Schor.

C2C is off to a strong start, following our launch conference and webinar. (Sorry to those who did not get the log in info for the webinar—we’ll be in touch with the information you missed). Watch for upcoming C2C announcements about campus-to-corporation dialogues later this fall.

Eban Goodstein

Director, Bard Center for Environmental Policy

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