January 28, 2009

Quote of the week

Posted in Activism, Environment at 11:45 am by The Lizard Queen

Writer and activist Bill McKibben:

Often when I’m on TV, they’ll ask what are the three most important things for people to do. I know they want me to say that people should change their light bulbs. I say the number one thing is to organize politically; number two, do some political organizing; number three, get together with your neighbors and organize; and then if you have energy left over from all of that, change the light bulb.

[h/t Gristmill]

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May 30, 2008

Why has this taken so long?

Posted in Environment, Government, News at 2:28 pm by The Lizard Queen

From Gristmill — Candy-shaped rat poison on its way out:

The U.S. EPA announced today that it would be tightening up the safety requirements on ten nasty rodenticides that are blamed for poisoning around 10,000 children — mostly black and Latino inner-city kids — every year. Those ten chemicals will no longer be available in the form of little pellets that look like candy, and that small children are so prone to stick in their mouths. The new rules will require non-agricultural users of rat poison to use it only inside tamper-resistant bait stations designed to protect kids.

This is great news. Two sticking points, though: first of all, the new requirements don’t go into effect for three more years:

EPA has determined a final “release for shipment” date for the last batch of deadly pellets on June 4, 2011.

Three years … let’s see, three years times 10,000 poisonings a year … let me get my calculator … That means about 30,000 more sick kids before we clean this mess up. You’ve got to be kidding me.

And second, this has been a known issue for ten years already:

The EPA first issued restrictions on these pesticides in 1998, finding that in their current form, they posed an “unreasonable risk” to children, but rescinded the rules in 2001 after chemical companies balked.

In 2004, the Natural Resources Defense Council and West Harlem Environmental Action filed suit against the U.S. EPA for failing to protect children from rat poison. In 2005, a federal judge sided with the children’s advocates, and directed the EPA to make the manufacturers change their practices.

Ten years hence, EPA has finally issued the regulations. But why rush things? From EPA’s Final Risk Mitigation Decision:

The anticoagulants interfere with blood clotting, and death can result from excessive bleeding. Bromethalin is a nerve toxicant that causes respiratory distress. Cholecalciferol is vitamin D3, which in small dosages is needed for good health in most mammals, but in massive doses is toxic, especially to rodents. Zinc phosphide causes liberation of toxic phosphine gas in the stomach.

The second-generation anticoagulants are especially hazardous for several reasons. They are highly toxic, and they persist a long time in body tissues …

… not to mention that children who already suffer the multiple burdens of substandard housing and urban pollution are disproportionately exposed.

Remind me who our government is supposed to be working for, again?

April 22, 2008

Earth day poetry: River of Words

Posted in Children and adolescents, Environment, Poetry at 5:48 pm by The Lizard Queen

In honor of Earth Day, I decided to post a couple of poems from River of Words:

River of Words is a California-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. We’ve been conducting training workshops for teachers, park naturalists, grassroots groups, state resource agencies, librarians and others since 1995, helping them to incorporate observation-based nature exploration and the arts into their work with young people. In addition to helping improve children’s literacy—and cognitive skills like investigation and critical thinking—River of Words’ multidisciplinary, hands-on approach to education nurtures students’ creative voices as well, through instruction and practice in art and poetry.

Furthermore, they have an annual poetry competition for children and adolescents. I was really impressed by the following poem, which won the 2008 Grand Prize in Category III (Grades 7-9):

Stories Told With Sand Whipping in Our Faces

I was three years old.
My father pulled a map
out of his backpack,
roads spilling across it
like languages I did not understand.

Later, seagulls scampered
through the dunes
as we climbed to a place
where roots laced like fingers over the earth
and Lake Michigan lay before us,
as if it were a guardian.
We stood looking out over the place where
he was born, the hospital
where doctors waited in white shoes
while his throat burned
from tonsillitis. I could see him

a young boy darting through the streets
on his way to the dunes,
the closest thing to heaven
that we have while we live below the stars.

The driveway his father paved
by hand, bruised
from days of bricks
pulling him towards the earth.

His memories fell from his mouth
and I remember them all well
as if it was that morning
and I was standing tall
with his childhood looking back at me.

—Patty Schlutt, age 13

I also thought this one, which won the Shasta Biorregion Prize (Honoring a San Francisco Bay Area Student), was sweet:

The Singing Solar System

I am the ragged obsidian solar flare
that flies in the bright red sky.
I am the steaming hot spiky crimson
seaweed that soars by my
glowing star hands.
I am the atom floating
in the DNA strip
giggling in the brown nucleus,
shining bright smiles the plant cell,
floating in red orange fluid,
dancing happily in the narrow
parallel segment vein,
sprinting across the American seaweed,
opening a door to the earth,
spinning in the singing solar system,
twisting in silky ways,
jogging by the Milky Way,
and trying to circle the dark red universe.

—Robert Chan, age 10

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

September 10, 2007

Britney and/or terrorists versus the Arctic ice caps

Posted in Environment, Media at 8:04 pm by The Lizard Queen

Things aren’t looking good up at the North Pole: “An area of Arctic sea ice the size of Florida has melted away in just the last six days as melting at the top of the planet continues at a record rate.”

Furthermore, “Sea ice usually melts in the Arctic summer and freezes again in the winter, but according to Dr. Serreze [a specialist from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center at Colorado University], that would be difficult this year.”

However, Echidne of the Snakes states that lists that tell us what we should fear focus on terrorists and say “nothing about fearing the melting ice of the Arctic,” and Joy Harjo makes the following point:

Now why are Brittany Spears or Lindsay Lohan’s escapades more important? Maybe because they are distractions.
Might the companies representing them have an interest in distracting us?
Now why would they want to do that?

I can’t really speak to corporate motivation, but I think I can understand why people are more inclined to pay attention to fears of terrorists and/or stories of celebrity escapades.  The former comfort us; our country is fighting The Good Fight.  the latter comfort us further; our lives might be fucked up, but at least they’re not that fucked up.

What would happen if the news media suddenly stopped feeding us comfort food?

August 27, 2007

*Swoon!*

Posted in Consumer info, Environment at 2:48 pm by The Lizard Queen

I just discovered, via Gristmill, that a company I love, Working Assets, has recently started offering a wireless plan. My contract with my current company doesn’t run out until June ’08, but methinks there will be some serious discussion about switching once that time comes around. Here are the deets:

  • Free LG 150 phone with Bluetooth® — a $179 value
  • We’ll purchase 10 tons of carbon emission offsets from CarbonFund.org on your behalf
  • 1% of charges to progressive non-profits including Natural Resources Defense Council, Union of Concerned Scientists and Vote Solar
  • Excellent coverage via the nationwide, all-digital Sprint® network service* [Though they’re careful to note that “Sprint is the network provider only; your service is handled exclusively by Working Assets.” Good, ’cause I’ve not heard good things about Sprint’s customer service. Just sayin’.]
  • Keep your current phone number
  • Dedicated customer service that connects you to real help from real people
  • Many individual and family plans to choose from
  • Unlimited night and weekend minutes
  • Free mobile-to-mobile calls to Working Assets Wireless members
  • 30-day trial*

Why do I love Working Assets, you ask? Well, there’s lots to love, but my specific reason is that my mom and stepdad had Working Assets long distance when I was an undergrad, and in their bill there was included fairly frequently, if not every month, a coupon for a free pint of Ben & Jerry’s. I often became the recipient of said coupons. Need I say more? 🙂

August 8, 2007

Well, that’s depressing.

Posted in Animals, Environment at 9:21 pm by The Lizard Queen

The Yangtze River dolphin has been declared officially extinct (emphasis added):

It is the first official extinction of a large vertebrate for more than 50 years.

Experts say human activity killed off the white long-beaked dolphin, which grew to 8ft weighed up to 500lb.

The animal is the first cetacean, the group of mammals that includes dolphins, whales and porpoises, to vanish from Earth as a direct result of human influence.

In the 1950s the dolphin, a species unique to the Yangtze river also known as the Baiji, had a population of thousands. Over the next five decades its numbers declined rapidly as China modernised and made heavy use of the river for fishing, transport, and electricity generation.

During Mao’s “Great Leap Forward”, traditional veneration of the Baiji – nicknamed “Goddess of the Yangtze” – was denounced and the dolphin hunted for its flesh and skin.

Industrial pollution, depleted food supplies due to overfishing, loss of habitat, and the construction of the Three Gorges Dam all put further pressure on the dolphin. Stocks of some of its prey species collapsed to one thousandth of their pre-industrial levels.

Efforts to save the species came too late, and now it is officially extinct. Chairman Mao was just full of great ideas, wasn’t he? (Let it never be said that I’m only critical of U.S. heads of state…)

[h/t to PZ Myers]

May 19, 2007

Saturday afternoon roundup

Posted in Animals, Blogging, Environment, Feminism, Government, Politics, Science, Wingnuts at 12:24 pm by The Lizard Queen

Good stuff from the blogs over the past few days. I’ve posted excerpts; follow the link for the whole thing. Enjoy!

Echidne of the Snakes: On The Immigration Bill

First, because the immigration is almost totally from the south of the border the debate often becomes mixed with racism and a certain kind of classism, given that it is mostly the poor who immigrate. Second, the debate about illegal immigrants tends to be about immigration and racism and similar issues, as much as it is about the illegal status of certain immigrants.

Shakesville: Rape is Not Only Hilarious; It’s No Big Deal

Rape is a big deal, and the very least we can do for those who have suffered its excruciating indignity is talk about it with the honesty and gravity it deserves.

Sciencewoman: Scientiae #6

Welcome to the 6th edition of Scientiae, the carnival by, for, and about women in science, engineering, technology, and math! I arbitrarily picked a theme of “mothers and others, those who influenced us along the way” and I got some great posts on the theme topic. But I also saw a ton of great posts on other topics as well, so read all the way through this carnival.

TerranceDC on Pam’s House Blend: Abstaining from Reality

“Uganda was once an HIV prevention success story, where an ambitious government-sponsored prevention campaign, including massive condom distribution and messages about delaying sex and reducing numbers of partners, pushed HIV rates down from 15 percent in the early 1990s to 5 percent in 2001. But conservative evangelicals rewrote this history–with the full-throated cooperation of Uganda’s evangelical first family, the Musevenis.” [Quoted from this article]

Gina Spadafori on the Pet Connection Blog: Pet-food recall: Tainted foods tested in bee colony deaths

“Federal scientists are researching whether the same industrial chemicals blamed for sickening and killing thousands of pets are responsible for decimating the honeybee population. . . . Honeybees in the United States began dying off in unprecedented numbers late last year, threatening the nation’s human food supply, a third of which is dependent on bee pollination. A quarter of the nation’s 2.4 million honeybee colonies died from what scientists dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder.” [Quoted from this article]

Punkass Marc of Punkassblog: Being a sinner is so 12th century, y’all

If you think about it, this kind of self-denial helps explain why so many conservatives continue to refute the existence and consequences of global warming. If all of it were true, then they’d be personally guilty of crimes against humanity, and they simply can’t own such a thing.

May 15, 2007

Ah-HA! — global warming explained

Posted in Environment, Humor at 8:44 pm by The Lizard Queen

It’s all about the unicorn waves:

In fact while in a lab CO2 will absorb energy and act as an insulator, when it is in the atmosphere pixies cast magical spells on the CO2 so that the radiation passes straight through it. Of course we would have realised this long ago if it wasn’t for the fact that, completely coincidentally, as human CO2 output has risen unicorn wave emission from the sun has increased at the same time. Now unicorn waves have the strange property that they curve away from detectors (they are shy), so the satellites and other systems that monitor the sun continuously don’t see them, and this is actually what has caused the warming.

[c/o Gristmill]

April 24, 2007

It’s a vast government conspiracy!

Posted in Environment, Humor at 3:54 pm by The Lizard Queen

A letter to the editor printed in the April 16th Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. I’m posting it more or less without comment because… wow:

You may have noticed that March of this year was particularly hot. As a matter of fact, I understand that it was the hottest March since the beginning of the last century. All of the trees were fully leafed out and legions of bugs and snakes were crawling around during a time in Arkansas when, on a normal year, we might see a snowflake or two.

This should come as no surprise to any reasonable person. As you know, Daylight Saving Time started almost a month early this year. You would think that members of Congress would have considered the warming effect that an extra hour of daylight would have on our climate. Or did they?

Perhaps this is another plot by a liberal Congress to make us believe that global warming is a real threat. Perhaps next time there should be serious studies performed before Congress passes laws with such far-reaching effects.

[h/t to Gristmill; you can see the actual newspaper clipping here]

June 22, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

Posted in Environment, Movies at 9:28 am by The Lizard Queen

Evil Bender (whose blog has moved, by the way) and I went to see An Inconvenient Truth yesterday. It was fantastic, if disheartening at times, and I encourage everyone to make an effort to see it. I also encourage everyone to go see how they can reduce their impact on the climate. Global warming is not an insurmountable obstacle if we all work together.

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