To: Humans, From: Everything Else on the Planet -- Thanks a lot

Four billion years. That's how long the Earth has been around. In that period of time, the ecosystem has gone through roughly five of what are being called "mass extinction periods", which is exactly what it sounds like: everything dies. Now, scientists are suggesting we're heading into period #6, but this time there's a catalyst that has nothing to do with giant space rocks or volcanoes or God turning down the thermostat -- take a wild guess what that catalyst might be.

It's okay, I'll wait.

Still guessing? Here's a hint. It's us.

At this point, the appearance and propagation of existing species is being rapidly outmatched by species that are vanishing, literally every day. And it's all our fault. To illustrate, here's a great quote from David Wake, professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley:

"There's no question that we are in a mass extinction spasm right now...[A]mphibians have been around for about 250 million years. They made it through when the dinosaurs didn't. The fact that they're cutting out now should be a lesson for us."

So whatever it was that killed off the dinosaurs, we're worse. Anybody really surprised? Show of hands?

Here are some more fun facts: according to the 10,000 or so scientists who work for the World Conservation Union, 51 per cent of known reptiles, 52 per cent of known insects, and 73 per cent of known flowering plants are in danger, along with a metric ton of mammals, birds and amphibians. Not enough? We are killing off species we don't even know exist yet. Remember all those warnings we got back in the early 90's about how we could potentially steamroll over the cure for cancer or AIDS and not even know it? Yeah, welcome to the new millennium, where science fiction has become science fact.

Let's take it even a step farther, and you can take this one with a grain of salt because it's a little apocalyptic even for my new-found worldview, but check this out. Straight from the mouth of Peter Raven, past President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science:

"We have driven the rate of biological extinction, the permanent loss of species, up several hundred times beyond its historical levels, and are threatened with the loss of a majority of all species by the end of the 21st century."

Several hundred times. Roll that number around in your head for a minute. We have cell phones more powerful than the personal computers of ten years ago; we can text one another from New Zealand to Toronto in the blink of an eye; we have iPods and Blackberries and automatic everything and five cars a household and sex toys designed by NASA -- and even with all this human ingenuity at work, we can't seem to stop killing everything.

It's like the author of the article says: what good are all these conveniences if we manage to rape, pillage, burn and destroy our natural environment, and essentially murder ourselves in slow motion in the process?

It's time for a serious alteration of our priorities. Like, now. Right now. I'm not kidding.

Check it out.

Site redesign; new vision

Hello fellow environmentalists.

By now you've noticed the site redesign which I completed scant minutes ago, and I bet you're wondering what the heck happened. That's a fair question -- it's a pretty severe redesign, and it probably shocked some people because it's a radical departure from how my blog has been run up until today.

I spent this morning reading back through the posts since I started here on Blogger, and it quickly became apparent to me that something has been missing. What do we call that elusive element that makes a blog successful?

Oh, right. Readership.

I have spent most of my adult life campaigning for environmental awareness because I genuinely care about our planet. I want nothing more than to see us get back on the right track, to find balance and harmony with our ecosystem, to fix the glaring errors of the past and develop new strategies to benefit our world and ourselves. To that end I've tried to provide helpful, positive commentary on new innovations in environmental science and useful tips on how to green up your personal life. I have done this because I truly believe in basic human goodness and the capacity to change our attitudes and way of life for the better.

And nobody seems to be listening.

Every day I scan the environmental news diggs, searching for articles highlighting positive, forward thinking motion towards realistic, eco-friendly change. But all too often the light at the end of the tunnel turns out to be an oncoming train -- a train fueled by ignorance, by short-sightedness, and most especially by an overriding sense of apathy towards these issues. I know there are people who care as much as I do out there, but we seem to be in the minority. People are far more concerned with comfort and short-term security than they are with influencing government and industry to put on the brakes before we go careening off the cliff towards which we're driving with reckless abandon. And frankly, I've had it.

So from now on you're going to get something very different from the Blog Formerly Known As Green Me Up. I'm not pulling punches anymore. If I see lies, I'm calling them lies. If I see inconsistency, I'm going to shore it up. And if I see hypocrisy, complacency or apathy, I'm going to nail it to a wall.

I haven't lost hope. I still believe in a green future. It's just time for me to take a more aggressive stance. Eco-warriors, unite! We're going to get this train back on track if we have to get out and push.


How much is it worth to you?

I try to keep up on any new technological developments that could help me be more environmentally conscious (and, if I'm really lucky, some of the better ones help me save money!) But I'm torn on this one. Philips has just released their new energy-saving LED light bulb called GeoBulb that draws a mere 7.5 watts of power to run (big money saver for those of us who don't like sitting in the dark) and provides as much light as a generic 60 watt bulb. Even better, it's got a ten-year lifespan with regular use.

Sounds great, right?

Here's the catch -- a single bulb, a SINGLE BULB, is going to set you back a whopping $120.00. Now I don't know about you, but I have more than a single lamp in my entire place. In fact, if I were going to replace all the bulbs in my house with these GeoBulbs, it would run me a one-time payment of damn near a thousand bucks. Great idea, Philips, but until you find a way to make these technological wonders just a little cheaper, I'm afraid the earth is going to have to deal with my crappy old 60 watt bulbs. Because, you know, I need to eat.

But, if you happen to know somebody with the funds and the desire to go out and buy these, check out the link here.


Told you I was helping!

Courtesy of the National Wildlife Federation comes this fantastic article about how social media and the internet are fantastic tools we can use to help save the planet. The article lists nine different reasons why the popularity of social media sites like Facebook, Myspace, and yes, even Blogger, are vital to spreading information, raising awareness, organizing fundraising, and educating one another and ourselves about environmental issues.

I don't like to toot my own horn or anything, but it seems that yours truly is a part of this initiative...and that makes me feel pretty good :)

Take a look at the article -- it has lots of great links to places you can start taking advantage of your social networking to further environmental causes. It's an uphill fight, folks, and that means we need to use every tool and resource at our disposal to work towards our common goals. Get on board!


YouTube "Plug" -- Plug, Get It?

I don't normally like to introduce people to websites they might be more inclined to visit than mine (because I'm a sucker for the limelight), but another environmentally-inclined friend sent me a link to this guy's Youtube Channel: it's called Power On, and it incorporates some of the most interesting, informative, and sometimes downright silly videos on the environment in general, but specifically new developments with Ontario's Power Workers Union and their proposed new energy plan for the next ten years. I would go into more detail, but honestly I think you'll get more out of the videos on the channel. In case you aren't convinced, I'm including the most recent video embedded here -- one of the more hilarious things I've seen in a while, but dealing with an issue near and dear to a lot of animal-loving Canadian hearts, especially yours truly. Enjoy!



Normally I'm a bright, sunshiny person, and even though I'm well aware of the potential dangers our race faces if we keep ruining our planet, I don't usually buy into the doomsayers who predict the end of the world as we know it. I like to think positively and work proactively, but sometimes it's hard to look away when somebody is holding up the big cardboard sign stating The End Is Nigh. And this article, in particular, struck me because I'll admit to having kind of a dark sense of humour at times, and this guy was kind of funny even as he was sounding the death knell of our culture.

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, predicts that if climate change continues undeterred, we could see massive worldwide disaster on a scale heretofore unseen in human history. Even a nine-degree (Fahrenheit) raise in global temperature, a conservative estimate based on studies, would result in disruption of the monsoon, collapse of the Amazon rain forest and the meltdown of the Greenland ice sheet, not to mention deoxygenation of huge tracts of the world's oceans (which would prove devastating to marine life and the ecosystem in general). Based on these apocalyptic findings, Dr. Schellnhuber predicts the death of over 75% of the human population, bringing our total numbers down to a more ecologically supportable 1 billion inhabitants.

On the bright side, he told the Danish hosts of the recent climate meeting in Copenhagen, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet would "increase your usable land by, I don't know, 10,000 percent." Funny guy.

This is scary stuff. Remember, I said conservative estimates, which means Dr. Schellnhuber's calculations are a better-case scenario. It could be much, much worse. How many signs to we have to wave around before governments, institutions and individuals start taking this issue seriously? This isn't a John Wyndham novel, folks, this is real life. Wake up.

Here's the full article.


Clap On, Clap Off

We all know that turning out your lights is both fiscally and environmentally responsible -- if you're not using them, why have them on? Saves you money and cuts down on emissions, right? Okay, this is a great idea on an individual level. I even think we should have a national "no power day" to promote energy conservation (remember how much fun the blackout was a few years ago? Why not plan for it?). But I can't help but think this idea isn't nearly as good as it sounds.

The author of this article advocates reduction of streetlight use in urban areas, citing the fact that it's our fundamental human right to see the stars, and also mentioning that powering streetlights produces five hundred thousand tonnes of carbon emissions every year. Right, that's never a good thing, I agree.

But are streetlights really that big a problem in the grand scheme? I mean, I'm all for reducing emissions, but has anybody thought of the safety implications of cutting back on lighting up the night? When the blackout happened a few years back I was working at a retail shop, and the minute the lights went out, fully half the people in the store grabbed merchandise and booked it. I don't really like what that says about people, and it makes me worry about the prospect of poor lighting in our streets at night, especially as a smaller-framed woman.

Also, 500,000 tonnes of emissions sounds like a lot (and it is) but there are other elements that produce WAY more pollutants every year (cars anyone?)...why would we risk the safety of our population in order to curb a relatively small portion of the problem?

I don't know about you, but when you stack up Clean Air versus Possible Rape, the risk just isn't worth it to me. Let me know what you think about this.


San Francisco's Sinking

How tall are you? I'm a healthy five foot eight myself. That means that in ninety or so years, were I to visit California, my head should be above water.

According to recent studies, climate change in the next century or so will force the oceans along the coastal United States to rise as much as five feet, effectively wreaking havoc in cities like San Francisco, which are expected to be hammered by storms and serious flooding that will make Katrina look like summer rain.

Seriously. Even the Governator is taking notice of this issue and is directing further studies to be done to determine how California can protect itself from this disaster, which is coming, whether we like to believe it or not. Why can't the rest of us wake up and realize what's going on here? Is it going to take half the country sinking into the sea to get us to do something?

Check out the full story here. I'm done with this.


If You Build It...

Dubai, 2009. Where else?

Architects operating out of Dubai's Timelinks company have developed a potential solution for overcrowding of sprawling city centers that is both inventive and environmentally-sound: they call it the Ziggurat.

Sounds ominous, doesn't it? Like some sorcerer should be living inside it with some kind of skull-shaped cauldron, plotting the end of the world? Yeah, I thought so too, till I *saw* the thing.

Check out the link here.

It's exactly what it looks like -- a giant, self-sufficient crystal pyramid designed to comfortably accommodate -- wait for it -- over a million people. A million. Four of them would house all of the Greater Toronto Area. Power is supplied by wind turbines, and the whole thing is about 2.3 square kilometers in base area: less than ten percent of the average urban sprawl.

Okay, it might look like something out of Stargate, but this is still a really, really interesting idea. But what's more interesting is the comments left by people, comparing it to Logan's Run or The Island. Come on folks -- save the natural landscape to be enjoyed and more-or-less left alone while we contain our human activities in self-sufficient obelisks? I think that's pretty cool. Feel free to disagree with me though -- I'd like to start responding in blog posts to people who disagree with me. Challenge me, darn it!


Nuke the Future!

So everybody who reads this blog knows I'm a big proponent of nuclear energy. I'm also a little bit tired (ran a marathon all over my city last night looking for some spices to make my patented vegetarian cabbage rolls...mmm...) so I don't really feel like posting a whole blog today. So in the interest of getting some sleep and still providing you with something interesting to check out, I've embedded a lecture from Hillsdale College on the value of nuclear energy. It's very long, but well worth checking out if you're bored at work or just plain interested.

Here ya go, see you tomorrow!


Not Just a River in Egypt...

In the grand old tradition of Holocaust denial and pro-Iraq War protesters comes an entirely new and exciting brand of united ignoramuses: climate change deniers.

Yes, even despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the Exxon-funded Heartland Institute has organized their yearly convention dedicated to spreading dangerous misinformation regarding the state of our natural world and feeding the woefully mistaken belief that our actions against the environment have no discernible negative effects on the quality of our air, water and ecosystems.

What's worse is this group has actually garnered the support of national leaders, or one national leader at least. Czech president Václav Klaus was a keynote speaker at this year's convention; he received a standing ovation for this quote:

"They [European governments] probably do not want to reveal their true plans and ambitions to stop economic development and return mankind several centuries back..."

He accused major governments lobbying to combat climate change of being "alarmist", and added that the climate change debate has not made any "detectable progress".

People were cheering this man. Seriously. But of course we're talking about a country where only 58% of the population actually believe that humans are having a discernible effect on climate change.

I'm all for free speech, but sticking our heads in the sand isn't going to make this problem disappear, and the more we convince ourselves that nothing is wrong, the more difficult it's going to be to come back from the brink. Thoughts and comments always appreciated, but read the article first: here's your link of the day.


Retroactive Greening

In yet another move that suggests to everyone he might indeed be the saviour the United States has been waiting for, President Barack Obama is overruling the outgoing Bush administration and reinstating laws requiring construction companies to consult with environmental experts before beginning work on land.

The Bush administrators changed the rule on their way out the White House door, allowing contractors unlimited access to build essentially wherever they wanted, without any regard for the local ecosystem, but our man Barack wasn't having any of that. He literally bypassed the usual public comment process in order to get this law into effect as quickly as possible. Businesses are predictably upset, because it means a lot of "red tape" for them to go through in order to start building, but environmentalists are hailing it as a major victory in the ongoing struggle between the business sector and the ecologically-interested.

I think this speaks well for America's future when they have a C in C who is willing to jump over beaurocratics and nonsense (in a good way this time) to get positive work done. What do you think? The start of a good thing or a negative harbinger of things to come? Comment and reply!

And check out the original story here.


Isn't it ironic, dontcha think?

Ah, the American military: humanity's most technologically advanced fighting force. They've gotten a pretty bad rap in the last, oh, forever, for starting unseemly wars with third-world nations and generally just being a nuisance the world over. You'd think the first thing the Powers That Be would want to do to improve their global image would rest in things like foreign policy. You would think so, and so would I, and apparently we'd both be wrong, because the next major step forward for the United States Armed Forces will be an environmental one.

Yep, the Army is going green. You heard me right.

Apparently a number of initiatives have been greenlighted for this year and the coming decade which will see increased attention paid to the environmental effects of, among other things, practice ammunition. Currently, there are millions of dud practice rounds spread out over American bases all over the world, rounds that degrade and release toxic chemicals into ground water (apparently even fake ammo is deadly). American Rheinmetall Munitions has started to produce a specialized practice round designed to not explode on contact. Instead the round will release a flash and coloured dye to show where the shell hit. Paintballs, essentially. Oh, and they're biodegradable, so the Army no longer has to worry about cleaning up after long practice maneuvers. Good thing too -- it seems cleaning up is not something these folks are particularly good at.

Hot on the heels of this initiative are other research programs with an eye towards producing cleaner jet fuel for the Air Force's attack planes, and hybrid technology to be implemented in ground assault vehicles.

Okay, let me be totally clear about this. I am definitely on board with anybody's green initiative; anything to save the planet.


This is the U.S. military we're talking about -- you know, the folks who brought us napalm, fragmentation mines and the atomic bomb.

The whole point of a military force is to blow stuff up and kill people. And these are the people trying to save the environment?

The irony would be hilarious if it wasn't kind of sickening. Check out the story here just so you know I'm totally not lying. It never ends, folks.


Seriously. I don't know what to say anymore.

Apparently our lifestyle of excess has reached its pinnacle.

What do you know about toilet paper? Really, what do you actually know about it? Do you spend a lot of time thinking about your toilet paper or carefully considering your purchasing options when it comes to said toilet paper? Do you have a brand preference? Is there quality control involved in that preference -- do you actually grade your toilet paper based on comfort, softness, PLUSHNESS even? I don't know about you, but if I started putting that kind of thought into what kind of product I use to wipe my nethers, I think I would probably require a reboot of my day-to-day priorities.

Not so for our neighbours to the south. According to the New York Times, major toilet paper companies are stripping bare the forests of our great continent to provide the discerning public with a toilet paper that is, and I quote, "silken, thick, and hot-air-fluffed". There's a huge push in this industry against the use of recycled paper in this product because it's too coarse for the delicate American posterior, so instead companies will clear cut virgin forests in order to keep up their stocks of long, sensuous fibers with which to make bum-cleaner.

I've written before about the benefits of finding other sources of pulp and fiber to supply our material needs (things like hemp in favour of hundred-year-old carbon-eating trees), but this baffles even my ability to engineer a clever response. Toilet paper. Say it to yourself again. Toilet paper. Paper that goes in the toilet after being sullied by the remains of last night's chili burrito. It's literally a product designed to clean poo and then be easily discarded. Why, oh why, oh why, must it meet standards of quality control that might also be applied to thousand-count cotton bedsheets? This is the most absurd extravagance I've ever read about, ever.

Now, I'm not advocating the use of sandpaper or newspaper as an acceptable substitute, but come on! Recycled paper really isn't that bad (it's what I use, so I know) and it's infinitely better for our environment. What would you rather have -- a beautiful forest to walk through that helps clean the air and keep endangered species alive, or a luxurious butt-wiping experience?

Please tell me what you think about this -- I can't be the only one outraged by this whole debate.

The original story can be found here.