Sunday, June 22, 2008
Plastic gets into the ocean when people throw it from ships or leave it in the path of an incoming tide, but also when rivers carry it there, or when sewage systems and storm drains overflow. Despite the Ocean Dumping Reform Act, the U.S. still releases more than 850 billion gallons of untreated sewage and storm runoff every year, according to a 2004 E.P.A. report. Comb the Manhattan waterfront and you will find, along with the usual windrows of cups, bottles and plastic bags, what the E.P.A. calls “floatables,” those “visible buoyant or semibuoyant solids” that people flush into the waste stream like cotton swabs, condoms, tampon applicators and dental floss.
As nearly everyone I spoke to about marine debris agrees, the best way to get trash out of our waterways is, of course, to keep it from entering them in the first place. But experts disagree about what that will take. The argument, like so many in American politics, pits individual freedom against the common good. “Don’t you tell me I can’t have a plastic bag,” Seba Sheavly, the marine-debris researcher, says, alluding to plastic-bag bans like the one San Francisco enacted last year. “I know how to dispose of it responsibly.” But proponents of bag bans insist that there is no way to use a plastic bag responsibly. Lorena Rios, an environmental chemist at the University of the Pacific, says: “If you go to Subway, and they give you the plastic bag, how long do you use the plastic bag? One minute. And how long will the polymers in that bag last? Hundreds of years.”
We still have limited tax dollars to spend and scarier nightmares to fear. No one — not Pallister, not Moore — will tell you that plastic pollution is the greatest man-made threat our oceans face. Depending whom you ask, that honor goes to global warming, agricultural runoff or overfishing. But unlike many pollutants, plastic has no natural source and therefore there is no doubt that we are to blame. Because we can see it, plastic is a powerful bellwether of our impact upon the earth. Where plastics travel, invisible pollutants — pesticides and fertilizers from lawns and farms, petrochemicals from roads, sewage tainted with pharmaceuticals — often follow. Last June, shortly before my voyage in the Opus began, Sylvia Earle, formerly N.O.A.A.’s chief scientist, delivered an impassioned speech on marine debris at the World Bank in Washington. “Trash is clogging the arteries of the planet,” Earle said. “We’re beginning to wake up to the fact that the planet is not infinitely resilient.” For ages humanity saw in the ocean a sublime grandeur suggestive of eternity. No longer. Surveying the debris on remote beaches like Gore Point, we see that the ocean is more finite than we’d thought. Now it is the sublime grandeur of our civilization but also of our waste that inspires awe.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Are there clean energy jobs in or near Brooklyn? Well there should be. It's time our nation made the switch to a clean energy economy.
Tell your Congressperson that you want to see tax incentives for clean energy jobs now.
Many national organizations have joined the call for clean power, including The United Steelworkers (as part of the Blue-Green Alliance), Green For All and the 25 x '25 Alliance. It's the government's job to provide business incentives for clean energy so we can expand our economy and be the pioneers of this new, exciting and necessary technology.
Speak out today!
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
San Francisco-based Working Assets was founded in 1985 and currently offers a Visa card program that donates 10-centsto an array of non-profit groups such as the ACLU, Ms. Foundation For Women, Doctors Without Borders, and Earth Justice. Encouraging consumers to remain conscious about their decisions and not passive, the organization's website also accepts donations online. Working Assets also publishes Credo Action, a blog that lays out how to contact Congressional representatives in order to make your voice heard.
The Nature Conservancy also offers a Visa card that directs a fraction of consumer purchases toward wildlife preservation, and the GreenPayMastercard reduces the amount of carbon-dioxide in the air. Additionally, Green Pay offers a members a new account bonus of removing 10,000 pounds of CO2 immediately following one's first credi tcard purchase. Large corporations jumped on to this growing demand as early as last Summer. In July 2007, General Electric launched their Earth Rewards MasterCard that will set aside as much as 1% of a cardholder’s total spending toward a handful of projects that are focused on reducing the amount of greenhouse emissions. In November 2007, Bank of America announced its offering of the Brighter Planet Credit Card and stated that every 1,000 points earned with consumer purchases will fund about1-ton of carbon offsets.
But how can consumers be sure that they are also going to the right vendors for their purchases? ClimateCooler.com is an online shopping website that calculates the total amount of greenhouse gases that was used to make and ship each product that is ordered and then charges each vendor a fee which is then used as an investment geared to eliminate greenhouse gas pollution. The Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment recently launched an online shopping site, Shopbcue.org that connects environmentally conscious consumers with stores that share their views. For food items, and the like, one should never forget o connect to LocalHarvest.org in order to find out more about the closest CSA(Community Supported Agriculture) or to find out where to get the freshestproduce.
With these options, none of us have to rely so heavilyon governmental policies to change the world.
Monday, June 16, 2008
1. Whole Foods – natural and organic grocery store (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/).
2. Wild Oats – natural and organic grocery store, now merged with Whole Foods.
3. Trader Joe’s – specialty retail grocery store featuring organic and natural foods (http://www.traderjoes.com/).
4. Toyota – Japanese multinational corporation; currently the world’s largest automaker (http://www.toyota.com/).
5. Honda – Japanese multinational corporation, engine manufacturer and engineering corporation (http://www.honda.com/).
6. Sub Zero – the industry leader of built-in refrigerators, freezers and wine storage (http://www.subzero.com/).
7. Ikea – a privately-held, international home products retailer that sells flat pack furniture, accessories, bathrooms and kitchens at retail stores around the world (http://www.ikea.com/).
8. Body Shop – The Body Shop is the second largest cosmetic franchise in the world and has over 2,000 stores in more than 50 countries (http://www.thebodyshop.com).
9. General Electric – a multinational American technology and services conglomerate that is the world's third largest company (http://www.ge.com/).
10. Aveda – a company headquartered in Blaine, Minnesota, that manufactures skin care, cosmetics, perfume and hair care products, and trains students in cosmetology, and esthiology at the Aveda Institute (http://www.aveda.com/).