Monthly Archives: November 2009

Italian Pasta – The Next Victim of Climate Change?

Hello! My apologies for having slacked of blogger duties for the last couple of days. I had a deadline to meet and a plane to catch, but am back on the ground now, albeit on the other side of the Atlantic.  So if you are looking for the daily news roundup of DC sustainability news, my apologies again! Please come back next Tuesday, when I will return to the District and the local beat.

For the rest of this week, I will be reporting from the GreenAccord environmental journalism conference in Italy. This gathering of reporters, writers and editors from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States is organization each fall by an Italian nonprofit group. This year’s subtitle is Climate is Changing, stories, facts and people. Later on, we will be hearing from a farmer from Uganda, a Mongolian herdsman and other local people facing dramatic changes to their lives and lifestyles as a result of global warming.  But today, the meeting kicked off with a sobering assessment from a couple of policy wonks who stressed the need for the world to take rapid measures to reduce carbon emissions and stave off the worst impacts of global warming.

Leena Srivastava, the executive director of The Energy and Resources Institute, who helped preparing the 2007 report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, opened the conference up with a speech the international climate politics. While everyone was talking about the December Copenhagen climate negotiations, she looked beyond the summit, saying what happens with pending US climate legislation could spark a wider international mobilzation in the coming months if Copenhagen fails to yeild results. Still, the forecast was pretty bleak.

Next, Janet Larsen, from our very on DC-based Earth Policy Institute, launched into her presentation by reminding everyone that rising temperatures caused by climate change may completely decimate Italy’s durem wheat crop used to make the country’s famous pasta. Climate change is also expected to take a heavy toll on corn, potato and a wide varety of other crops. But since we’re all particularly enjoying the wonderful Italian food at the conference, the impending loss of pasta was most  solemly received. After grabbing our attention, Larsen launched into a brief description of her colleague Lester Brown’s latest in the series of Plan B books that offer solutions to  our mounting climate woes.

Well, gotta go! It is lunchtime here and I don’t want to miss out on the pasta while its still around. But I will write up a more detailed report later today.

Until then, Ciao bellos!


Women Wear More Than 500 Chemicals Daily, Study Says

Shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, makeup, body lotions – count up all the chemical ingredients in these other feminine beauty products and the average woman “hosts” 515 chemicals on her body every day, according to a new study of British women.

Yikes! Was that what the UN was getting at yesterday when its new report concluded women are more adversely affected by the world’s environmental problems? No, probably no. And, the women don’t seem concerned either. The deodorant company that sponsored the new British study says seven out of ten women surveyed said they aren’t worried that their beauty regimes could hurt their health.

What the study doesn’t say is whether the chemicals actually DO pose a threat to human or environmental health. No need, really. Plenty of other studies have identified carcinogens like lead, mercury, parabens, phthalates and other chemicals that can mimic human hormones and may disrupt your body’s functioning.

California Bans Plasma TVs, Could It Happen to Us?

At the DC Energy Expo a couple of weekends ago, my jaw dropped when I learned just how much energy it takes to run a plasma television set: A whopping three times as much electricity as a regular TV.  Even when they aren’t running, plasma TVs suck an enormous amount of “vampire energy” – the power an appliance draws when turned off but still plugged into the wall. One of these beauties can set you back an estimated 1,452 kilowatts a year, or nearly $160, just by leaving the thing plugged in when your not using it, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Read the rest of this post on the Washington City Paper‘s City Desk.

Today’s Green Lines: Women More Ecological, The Big Dig Comes to The Hill, More People Taking the Bus + Lawnmower Needed

Women act more ecologically, but climate change is taking a harsher toll them than on men, according to a new UN report.

Public transportation usage is growing in unexpected places. While Boston, New York City, the District and other East Coast cities already have high ridership numbers, more people are climbing aboard trains and buses in Detroit, San Antonio, Phoenix, Charlotte, N.C. and other unexpected spots around the country.  Officials speculate that gas prices and economic uncertainty is getting more people aboard. Read the whole story.

Barry Farm (Re)mixed is getting lots of support for a neighborhood cleanup this weekend. But I think they are still in need of someone with a lawnmower. If you have one, consider joining the crew.

Park View has a photo essay questioning whether those neighborhood welcome to … signs add or detract from the loveliness of historic districts.

Go read DC Mud today on how the expansion of the Panama Canal may mean Capitol Hill is “about to get its own Big Dig – a $174 million capital improvement project that will unearth the long-buried tunnel south of the Capitol Building to widen and deepen the antiquated freight line.

Ahead of next month’s Copenhagen climate summit, countries are unveiling plans and pledges to cut emission. One notable exception to the trend – the United States.

Contraception to Fix Global Warming?

In the last year or so new research has emerged that slices, dices and quantifies the environmental impact of every person on the planet, providing a whole new level of intimacy with the greenhouse gases that fuel our lives.

These new statistics have put an uncomfortable spotlight on Americans, since we consume so much more per capita than any other people on Earth. It has also inflamed the old population debate; as much of the research points the finger at the littlest Americans – newborn babies. They are, it turns out, monumental carbon bigfoots. Each new birth locks the planet into generations of gargantuan carbon emissions, according to Paul A. Murtaugha and Michael G. Schlaxb, a couple of college professors in Oregon.

Murtaugha and Schlaxb brought this point home, then right into the nursery, last February in a paper concluding every newborn American child adds as much as 12,730 tons of carbon dioxide to each parent’s carbon legacy. A baby in Bangladesh, in contrast, adds just 98 tons, while a Nigerian newborn, the professors found, passes on only a 157-ton legacy.

Put another way: One American child generates as much CO2 as 106 Haitian kids.

The London School of Economics
followed up in September, concluding that contraception is almost five times cheaper than conventional methods of combating climate change. That study was commissioned by the environmental think tank Optimum Population Trust.

Now the United Nations has come around to the same way of thinking. In a report issued today, the UN, for the first time, draws a clear line between the fate of the world’s poor and looming environmental problems that begin to manifest themselves in climate changes, water shortages and crop failures.

Who doesn’t love kids? And, who doesn’t want to give one’s own everything possible? Ironically, giving kids “everything” – in material sense – these days amounts to stealing from them the most important things: breathable air, clean water and a stable climate.

Today’s Greenlines: Clotheslines, Bike Paths, Farmers Markets, London Deforestation + More

This trend doesn’t seem to have hit DC yet, at least I haven’t seen many clothes hanging in my neighborhood, but people around the country are apparently fighting for their rights to clothesline.

The Streetsblog Capitol Hill picks up an AP story about how a majority of Americans recognize that they could play a role in helping the environment but don’t usually back up the talk with actions. Hmmm, the same thing could be said of world leaders.

A London exhibition of giant tropical tree stumps dramatizes rainforest deforestation. Check out the story and photo on the Guardian site.

The Washington Post reports from Indonesia on “A CLIMATE THREAT, RISING FROM THE SOIL”

DC Metrocentric gives an update on Penrose Square in Arlington, a rare example of an older suburban shopping center being revamped as a denser urban village with a pedestrian friendly mix of shops and housing.

The financially troubled Allegro apartments in Columbia Heights sold for $77.5 million, DC Metrocentric also reports.

We Love DC offers its five favorite bike routes.

DC nonprofits say they are seeing more demand and less moolah to carry out those services, Washington Business Journal reports on the survey.

Columbia Heights residents are meeting Saturday to discuss plans to bring a farmer’s market back to the neighborhood.

CarbonfreeDC Meetup Tonight at the Corcoran

CarbonfreeDC holds a social hour and tour of the photo exhibition “Oil” at the Corcoran Gallery of Art tonight.

Yale’s e360: Environmental Outlook Worse But People Just Don’t Care

The Yale School of Forestry site e360 has this juxtaposition of stories up now:

It reports: “Emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels soared by 41 percent from 1990 to 2008 and have jumped 29 percent since 2000, according to one of the most comprehensive studies to date of global carbon emissions.” At the current rate, the authors predict the globe will warm 9 to 11 degrees by the century’s end, much faster than scientists say it can handle without unimaginable climate changes.

The site is also featuring an op ed titled “Apocalypse Fatigue: Losing
the Public on Climate Change,” by the controversial duo Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger.

Scary stuff, especially in combination.

Winemakers say Global Warming is Changing their Business

AFP is reporting that winemakers at the WineFuture convention in Spain this week are agog over the impact Global Warming is having on their grapes.

While a warmer world is helping out growers in someplaces, traditional wine country in Spain and new powerhouses such as Australia are already seeing both a direct impact from higher temperatures and indirect problems attributed to climate change such as drought and water shortages.

For some time now, some winemakers have been taking defensive measures to reduce their carbon footprints as more and more eco-friendly consumers become aware of the climate costs involved in drinking wine imported from the other side of the globe.  Surprisingly, however, it isn’t necessarily to the distance that’s the biggest factor in a bottle’s greenhouse gas bill, as I learned while reporting this story in Italy earlier this year.

Still, do such industry measures to reduce their carbon footprint make a difference or is it simply corporate spin? What do you think?

DC Green: Streetcars, Cyclists + Rooftop Wind Turbines

Dcist has all the details on Public Enemy‘s concert to benefit the Sasha Bruce House for at risk youth in Southeast. Bring a winter coat to donate along with your admission price.

Dcist is also reporting world-class cyclists may do more than one lap around the District next year when the 2011 Giro d’Italia comes to town. I guess it pays to have a cyclist mayor.

The Prince of Petworth is chronicling the journey of the city’s new streetcars.

WAMU says the advertising industry is trying to block Virginia Congressman Jim Moran’s bill to combat obesity among kids.

Greater Greater Washington has a post on plans to improve the walkability of two neighborhoods on opposite ends of the city.

DCMetrocentric has a post on plans to revive the Howard Theater in Shaw.

Activists are about to throw down the gauntlet (again) with an E-cycling lawsuit. They want federal regulation of electronics recycling. Today, our old computers, TVs and cell phones often end up in China, India and impoverished countries where they are stripped by hand at great human and environmental toll.

Dreaming of your very own wind turbine behind your rowhouse or atop your condo building but not sure there’s enough wind around here to make the hefty investment worthwhile?  The TerraPass blog has as a story that could help you figure it out.

I leave you this morning with Treehugger‘s  Copenhagen crib sheet to understanding the issues, the factious politics, the science, and the stakes at next month’s international climate talks.