Archive for the 'Ecology' Category

To remake the world

Paul-Hawken

I saw Paul Hawken give a talk at the 2006 Bioneeers conference, The Other Superpower (you can download an iPod version here). He recently scribed a book based on the ideas he presented called, Blessed Unrest. His basic argument, which is highlighted below in an article for Orion Magazine, is that there is a massive, unparalleled movement of unofficial organizations around the globe that are working for justice and environmental causes. To make his point during the Bioneers talk he made a video that listed all the organization names in his database and ran them like a movie credit roll. He said that it would have to play continuously for several days to run the entire list.

What he describes reminds me of the international day of protest when over ten million people around the world contested Bush’s efforts to attack Iraq. I recall how astonishing it was that so many people could coordinate on the same day in a singular voice to stop the war. Clearly these people were far more correct than the warmongering pundits paraded on television, and the fact that they could all do it simultaneously around the world on the same day still astounds me. So don’t give up hope, my friends. Please read Hawken’s book and article for further inspiration.

To Remake the World | Orion magazine:

Historically, social movements have arisen primarily because of injustice, inequalities, and corruption. Those woes remain legion, but a new condition exists that has no precedent: the planet has a life-threatening disease that is marked by massive ecological degradation and rapid climate change. It crossed my mind that perhaps I was seeing something organic, if not biologic. Rather than a movement in the conventional sense, is it a collective response to threat? Is it splintered for reasons that are innate to its purpose? Or is it simply disorganized? More questions followed. How does it function? How fast is it growing? How is it connected? Why is it largely ignored?

After spending years researching this phenomenon, including creating with my colleagues a global database of these organizations, I have come to these conclusions: this is the largest social movement in all of history, no one knows its scope, and how it functions is more mysterious than what meets the eye.

What does meet the eye is compelling: tens of millions of ordinary and not-so-ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.

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Cell phones vs. bees?

Bill Maher, as usual, has nailed the current state of our consumption patterns versus the environment. He’s right to say that every day should be Earth Day. It’s kinda like how the supermarket has one miniscule “health food” section. It implies the rest of the store is unhealthy.

Click the link below to watch the hilarious but scary video clip.

Maher on the Birds and the Bees – Earth Day Needs to be Everyday – The Largest Minority:

In honor of Earth Day, Maher stresses the necessity of sacrifice. He points to the colony collapse phenomenon, which has affected honeybees on a global scale. Because of our agricultural dependence on this insect, Albert Einstein once said that “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left.” The exact cause of their disappearance is a mystery, but there’s little doubt that we’re the ones responsible for it. If cell phone signals are the cause of this die off, will we decide to literally talk ourselves to death?

Initially 350-030 and 642-901 students seldom studied with interest. Their desultory performance showed in their results. That is when they decided to expiate by studying harder for N10-003 and 70-290. Their apogee came in their refulgent results of 350-001.

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Five planets

That’s how many earths Americans need to maintain consumption habits. This video illustrates the point nicely. You can take some action here.

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Colony collapse disorder

Honey-Comb

Now a theory on why bee colonies are disappearing: cell phone radiation. Ironically, cell phones take their name from the honeycomb like network that relays wireless signals. This is exactly why media should not be considered in isolation of environmental issues.

Are mobile phones wiping out our bees? – Independent Online Edition > Wildlife:

The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees’ navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up.

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when a hive’s inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers, like so many apian Mary Celestes. The vanished bees are never found, but thought to die singly far from home. The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives.

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Coding biodiversity

Daversity Strip

Everybody must watch The Daversity Code (by the people who made The Meatrix).

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EcoMedia

Environment – Movies – New York Times:

Dumping Hollywood villains of the past — drug lords, aliens, North Korean dictators, even the news media — for an environmental bête noire carries risks for studios that don’t mind frightening viewers, as long as it’s all in fun. But it also hints at the possibility of more sophisticated entertainment, and perhaps even the kind of impact that “The China Syndrome,” with Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas, exerted on the nuclear power industry when it came out in 1979.
That an environmental consciousness should be slipping into the film industry’s prospective blockbusters is not surprising in an era when Al Gore and friends have picked up an Oscar (and hefty box-office returns) for their global-warming documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” and when the debate it fed has largely slipped its partisan moorings.

This is an interesting article from the Times about the trend of “earth revenge” movies. I’m all for our planet reclaiming its health, but I hope these Hollywood films don’t fall back on the same old tropes that it takes one heroic figure to save the world (i.e The Matrix) or that violence by the hero will solve the problem. These are metaphors that are reminiscent of the doctor administrating deadly cancer therapy to a sick patient. Healing is a collaborative process. The collective intelligence emerging from the Web 2.0 is probably a better model. Two books that are very helpful on these subjects:

“EcoMedia

and

“Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software”

I recommend EcoMedia as an erudite (it’s somewhat theoretical) explanation of environmental themes in film, and Emergence (very accessible) as an amazing exploration of the concepts of emergence– the rise of collective intelligence.

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Greening Vegas?

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This video was written, edited, produced and directed by 12 year old Walees Crittendon, resident of Big Mountain.
Source: Indigenous Action Media

I think every step towards greening, as small as it might be, is a great (see linked article below). I’m still concerned, however, about the amount of electricity consumed by the Las Vegas strip. It has been many years since I’ve been there, but at the time of my last visit I recall experiencing one of the strangest sensations of my life: the hum of death. As you amble down the strip it is impossible to ignore a pervasive electrical crackle. The buzzing is visceral, eery, strange. Do others notice it? Hard to tell. Most are too drunk to even be aware that they are breathing.

Anyhow, do you know about the plants in Norther Arizona that slurry coal with rare desert ground water? And did you know that these operations effect Native American tribal resources? See, we still have a colonized interior in which indigenous people are exploited for the pleasure palaces of the rich (and wannabes). Hopi and Diné land in Northern Arizona has been the location of the most important coal operation in the region, an energy production complex forming the basis of the United States’ Southwestern power grid. Ironically, not only do many regional tribal members have no access to electricity (some by choice), coal is transported from the mines by slurrying: the pumping of crushed coal through pipes mixed with fresh drinking water that is rare and precious to the area’s inhabitants and for survival. That we would sacrifice our environment to power the bright neon and video screens of Las Vegas or sports stadiums of Phoenix says a lot about the current matrix between media, technology, ecology and Native Americans.

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Continue reading ‘Greening Vegas?’

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A beautiful piece of media

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From a Carl Sagan quote. Via TruthDig.com

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Balancing industry against science

Discussing a report that shows a consensus in peer-reviewed journals that there is global climate change, Gore says the mainstream media has failed to report this, and have continued to seek “balance” as bias. Read on…

Gore says media miss climate message – Nashville, Tennessee – Wednesday, 02/28/07 – Tennessean.com:

He noted that recently the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its fourth unanimous report calling on world leaders to take action on global warming.

“I believe that is one of the principal reasons why political leaders around the world have not yet taken action,” Gore said. “There are many reasons, but one of the principal reasons in my view is more than half of the mainstream media have rejected the scientific consensus implicitly — and I say ‘rejected,’ perhaps it’s the wrong word. They have failed to report that it is the consensus and instead have chosen … balance as bias.

“I don’t think that any of the editors or reporters responsible for one of these stories saying, ‘It may be real, it may not be real,’ is unethical. But I think they made the wrong choice, and I think the consequences are severe.

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Greening Apple

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As the hype machine salivates over Steve Jobs‘ announcement of the the new iPhone (at a whopping $400 price tag!), Greenpeace is pushing for a better ecology policy at Apple. At issue is the continued built-in obsolescence of Apple’s products (as a Mac user, you can imagine the frustration of the constant equipment upgrades that have leapfrogged me over the past few years), and the toxic by-product of used computers and batteries. The trailer above is for a movie, Digital Dump, which documents the journey of hi-tech junk. So while I love my Powerbook, at the same time I have to keep in mind that the consumption of electronics and their attendant dream world have a direct environmental impact, from toxic waste to the carbon emissions by-product of the electricity I use to produce media. For more information about digital dumping, go to the Basel Action Network. Also, you can read this great article from Solon.com, “Where computers go to die– and kill.”

The photo below is from a Chinese computer scrapyard where poor people extract precious metals from computer parts.

Greenpeace-Computers-1

Exposing Apple’s Core | Greenpeace USA:

Getting to the Core

As this year’s MacWorld expo kicked off in San Francisco, we wanted to show the participants what’s really beneath the skin of their favorite Apple products. Greenpeace activists projected giant images of the Asian scrapyards where many electronic products – including those made by Apple – end up at the end of their lives. Images of electronics being melted down, taken apart and releasing toxic chemicals were displayed above the front of the Apple store.

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Refusing an Inconvenient Truth

The story of National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)refusing a donation of DVDs by Inconvenient Truth co-producer Laurie David is flying all over the blogosphere right now. The following post from the Think Progress blog has a great link to the kind of oil and coal industry curricula the NATA does accept (it’s about a teen girl who discovers what life is like without petroleum, such as no lipstick!). Just goes to show there is nothing “neutral” about education, or the media used for teaching. But this being a “teachable moment,” I hope educators will show the Inconvenient Truth and the oil industry video linked below to teach about bias, not only in media, but in energy consumption as well. I encourage clicking through to the Think Progress post to read the whole thing.

Think Progress » Science Teachers’ Organization Refuses To Accept Copies of Inconvenient Truth:

In tomorrow’s Washington Post, global warming activist Laurie David writes about her effort to donate 50,000 free DVD copies of An Inconvenient Truth (which she co-produced) to the National Science Teachers Association. The Association refused to accept the DVDs:

In their e-mail rejection, they expressed concern that other “special interests” might ask to distribute materials, too; they said they didn’t want to offer “political” endorsement of the film; and they saw “little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members” in accepting the free DVDs. …

[T]here was one more curious argument in the e-mail: Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place “unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters.”

As it turns out, those supporters already include “special interests,” including Exxon-Mobil, Shell Oil, and the American Petroleum Institute, which have given millions in funding to the NSTA. And while the NSTA showed no interest in helping educators get copies of Al Gore’s movie (which scientists gave “five stars for accuracy“), it has distributed oil industry-funded “educational” content, like this video produced by the American Petroleum Institute: (click this link to see the video)

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Cities of the Future Won’t Look Like Ours

Good discussion about the ecology of New Urbanism:

AlterNet: EnviroHealth: Cities of the Future Won’t Look Like Ours:

Yet another vision of the future is supplied by the New Urbanists, who have campaigned for a return to the body of principle and methodology drawn from successful historic practice rather than science fiction, politics, or metaphysics. That is, they rely on urban design that has proven to work well in the past and is worth emulating — by which I mean the relations of buildings to public space and with each other, not the deployment of sewer lines and other infrastructure. The New Urbanists are marginalized because their reliance on tradition is considered sentimental and nostalgic. Their work is viewed by the mandarins of architecture through the lens of Modernist ideology, which, going back a hundred years to Adolf Loos’s declaration that ornament is crime, has worked to decouple contemporary practice from what they regard as the filthy claptrap of history. Of course, Modernism itself has self-evidently become historical in its own right, and the more this is true, paradoxically, the more its defenders insist that history does not matter. Whatever else this represents in the form of intellectual imprudence, it at least promotes a discontinuity of human experience which cannot be healthy.

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Green roof saves green in Chicago – Nightly News with Brian Williams

Whatworks

As media critics we tend to constantly point the finger at how bad everything is, so it’s nice to be able to also encourage good behavior. In this case, it’s NBC News, which has started a new series, “What Works.” It’s designed to exemplify and showcase programs, projects and people who are making positive changes. This is exactly the kind of thing I wish we’d get on programs like Democracy Now! I find it frustrating to see in media from both the Left and RIght a continuously angry and fearful tone. It remains to be seen how the NBC News series goes; it could ultimately chose subjects that presumably only reenforce the prevailing paradigm. But it’s first segment on green roofs in Chicago bodes well. If you click to the link, you can view video as well.

Green roof saves green in Chicago – Nightly News with Brian Williams – MSNBC.com:

CHICAGO – It’s like a scene from a peaceful meadow: Where wildflowers bloom and the bees are busy. But to reach this slice of Eden, one doesn’t travel out of town, one travels up, 12 stories up.

“I talked about building a green roof,” says Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, “and everybody kind of looked at me whether or not I kind of lost it, ha ha ha.”

But the crazy idea is paying off. Since Chicago installed a 20,000 square foot “green roof” atop City Hall five years ago, the city has saved about $25,000 in energy costs.

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The future looks bright (and shiny)

averting climate changeA friend once said that if you don’t envision a future, you will live in someone else’s. This is why I like the following piece of media produced by Free Range Studios (the folks who made The Meatrix). It’s a news dispatch from the future on how we averted climate catastrophe, albeit some of the reportage is quite silly, claiming a presidential ticket of McCain and Obama had won the ’08 election. And there is a doctor named Yosemite White (she is white, of course) and another guy sporting a Nehru shirt and natural cotton vest. Yes the future looks like a Northern California Buddhist retreat. Yet, in principle the thought is a good one, and I would encourage others to make media from the future on how we survived this huge mess. My one complaint (yes, just one), is that the video is not set-up for viral deployment. It should have the same kind of embedded distribution mechanism that YouTube smartly has so people can send this thing around to like-minded amigos.
You can view it here and here.

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All and all it’s just another brick in the… toilet?

“We don’t need no ed-u-cation…” (disco guitar);
“We don’t need no thought control…” (disco guitar);
“No dark sarcasm in the classroom” (you get the idea);
“Teachers leave them kids alone” (yeah, you);
“Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!” (chorus of cool kids);
“All in all it’s just another brick in the… toilet.”
“All in all you’re just another brick in the toilet.”

OK, so Roger Waters is a bit of a cynic. But you don’t have to be. The folks at MySpace have a really cool feature, A Brick in the Toilet. There’s lots of little, practical features to get your ecology on. Plus you can see a preview of El Presidente Gore’s new missive: An Inconvenient Truth. Speaking of which, I haven’t seen the film, but I wonder about the disaster film aesthetic. Can anyone tell the difference between The Day After Tomorrow and an infomercial on global warming?

I suppose many people are only motivated by fear, so the dramatic strings and timphony drums will certainly get a rise out of some folks. But I’m still searching for a way to focus on the positive efforts of people (hopefully the movie will propose solutions, as I suspect it will). There is a tendency among media activists to believe that just by opposing something, by default it makes society more democratic. What gets me are the fear tactics of media like Democracy Now! The example of MySpace’s Brick in a Toilet is a good way to feel like you can actually do something today to alleviate climate change. I hope my little critique is not self-contradictory, but I’m really hungry for solutions, not fear. I believe most would agree.

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FYI

polar map

Polar Bears On Thin Ice:

“Perfectly at home in one of the world’s most forbidding environments, polar bears spend their summers roaming the Arctic on large chunks of floating ice. They drift for hundreds of miles, finding mates, hunting for seals and fattening themselves up for the winter. Without these thick rafts of sea ice, the world’s largest bear could not survive. Yet at this moment, the polar bear’s Arctic habitat is literally melting away beneath it due to global warming.”

(Take action Via NRDC.)

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Slumming Ecology

Salgado-global-slum“Sci-fi happens,” Mike Davis

One of the most interesting, most cantankerous writers on the urban and demographic realities of the new century is Mike Davis, who made a name for himself in his subaltern history of LA, City of Quartz. His latest missive, Planet of Slums, can be viewed as the latest in his series of global catastrophes, including Monster at Our Door, Ecology of Fear, Late Victorian Holocausts, and Dead Cities. Though his reports can be somewhat depressing, they are necessary dispatches that enable us to make better informed decisions about the kind of world we want to live in.

OrionOrion Magazine, a fantastic literary magazine focusing on ecological issues, has excerpted Planet of Slums:

Orion > Orion Magazine > March | April 2006 > Mike Davis> Slum Ecology:

“Urban theorists have long recognized that the environmental efficiency and public affluence of cities require the preservation of ecosystems, open spaces, and natural services: cities need them to recycle urban waste products into usable inputs for farming, gardening, and energy production. And along with intact wetlands and agriculture, sustainable urbanism presupposes a basic level of safety%u2014of meteorological, hydrological, and geological stability, and protection against disasters like floods or fire. None of those conditions can hold in most Third World cities. Suffering under a series of crushing pressures, most recently a quarter-century-old regime of Draconian international economic policies, cities are systematically polluting, urbanizing, and destroying their crucial environmental support systems.”

(Via Orion Online.)

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Propa-car-anda

nature-itll grow backOne of the least discussed aspects of media is the extent to which the auto industry actually shores up programming and content. In our ad-based media system, car commercials represent the single largest group of ads. My non-scientific estimate is that car ads account for roughly 25% of primetime airtime on television. With a slumping car business (Gas prices? Decreased sex appeal?), magazines are now feeling the pinch of withering placements. As media-minded people, it is important to make the connection between the auto industry, oil companies, war, global warming and advertising. This systems view of media literacy is generally eschewed for the more content oriented-sensational topics of sex and violence.

AUTO AD SLUMP CRUSHES MAGAZINES:

“DETROIT (AdAge.com) — Auto advertising in magazines suffered a meltdown in 2005, with publishers losing almost $100 million in revenue. Worse news for publishers: The new year in print ads for cars has dawned a lot like last year ended — dead.”

(Via Ad Age.)

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Earth Swallows SUV!

earth-swallows‘Bout time!

NYC sinkhole swallows up SUV – U.S. Life – MSNBC.com:

“A city street collapsed under a sport utility vehicle early Monday, leaving the vehicle nose down into a deep sinkhole that officials said was caused by a water main break.”

(Via MSNBC)

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