“Global Warming: What Can I Do?” seminar series finale
Acclaimed actress Lisa Harrow and her husband, internationally renowned whale biologist Roger Payne, will present a theatrical reading of Lessons from Copernicus, a dramatic presentation created out of concern for the health of our planet.
The fourth and final part in our “Global Warming: What Can I Do?” seminar series takes place Wednesday, May 3rd at 7:00 pm at Falmouth Academy, 7 Highfield Drive, Falmouth, MA.
Lessons from Copernicus is a must-see sustainability presentation combining the knowledge of science with the wisdom of poetry. What’s more, it asks the crucial question at the heart of our Global Warming: What Can We Do? lecture series – which is: “What will our children think if we let this planet and its beauty go to waste?”
Marion Institute and The Coalition For Buzzards Bay. Admission is free to members of the Marion Institute and/or The Coalition For Buzzards Bay. Charge per lecture for non- members is $5 Senior or student non-member charge per lecture is $3 For more information and directions, please contact the Marion Institute at 508.748.0816 or the Coalition at 508.999.6363 or visit www.marioninstitute.org or www.savebuzzardsbay.org.
Bioneers by the Bay: Connecting for Change
Mark you calendar. The Second Annual "Bioneers by the Bay: Connecting for Change" Conference will be held on the campus of UMASS Dartmouth, MA, Friday, Oct. 20th – Sunday Oct. 22nd. Bioneers is a hub of practical solutions for restoring the Earth, and people. It's a thriving network of visionary innovators working with nature to heal nature. This conference features a live satellite downlink of the Bioneers Conference in San Rafael, CA.
Kick the Bottle
The team at 13 D Research reveals why soda - and bottled water - is getting harder and harder to swallow.
Most consumers today are aware of the link between sugary colas and obesity and diabetes, but few know that consuming carbonated drinks alters the body’s pH by increasing acidity levels. After all, soft drinks contain carbonic acid. A body’s pH level is an important factor in disease prevention. Bacteria, viruses and cancers thrive in acidic environments.
Soft drinks, particularly colas, are “extremely acidic”. Colas contain high levels of phosphoric acid, “powerful acid capable of poisoning you if not quickly neutralized”.
Cola has a pH of around 2.5, extraordinarily low.
“Because pH measurement is logarithmic [a disease of 1 in pH means multiplying the acidity by 10], a pH of 2.5 means that it would take 3,200 glasses of alkaline water with a pH of 8 [or 32 glasses with a pH of 10] to neutralize the acid in just one glass of cola. If the body did nothing to counteract it, a single glass of cola would change the pH of your blood to 4.6, killing you instantly.
“To prevent acidic poisoning from cola [or other acid] consumption, the body uses two strategies. One is to use alkaline blood buffers [for example, sodium bicarbonate and sodium phosphate] to buffer [neutralize] the acid. The other strategy is to convert these volatile liquid acids into less-reactive solid acids. However, there were no colas thousands of years ago, so our bodies did not evolve to deal effectively with the onslaught of acids that many people consume today, and there are problems resulting from the body’s detoxification strategies.”
The authors describe that the body attempts to neutralize acidic drinks such as colas and coffee with alkaline blood buffers, which also neutralize such acidic waste products produced by the body as acetic acid, lactic acid, carbonic acid, uric acid and fatty acids.
The danger comes when the body’s limited supplies of alkaline buffers is overwhelmed, allowing these toxic acidic waste products to accumulate in the body, causing significant damage. The body employs calcium to convert the poisonous liquid phosphoric acid in colas into more stable solid phosphates.
“But these phosphates may form into calcified kidney stones, calcium deposits [which can also result from a urinary infection, inherited metabolic disorders, and other causes]. Many people erroneously think kidney stones are caused by excessive calcium. But the real culprit may be the high level of phosphoric acid, which happens to be a primary ingredient of colas. Anyone with a concern about kidney stones should avoid colas. Consuming acidic foods such as soft drinks may also create an ideal environment for cancer to form.”
Also, the authors write that drinking colas risks bone loss. Citing a comprehensive review in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the authors say that “low-grade acidosis resulting from acidic diets contributes to bone loss, osteoporosis, and loss of muscle.”
Statistics show that healthcare is by far the most searched subject on the Internet and that Americans are now increasingly taking responsibility for their own heath. The danger of colas is being recognized slowly - it’s hard for people to break long-term consumption habits. But, as baby boomers age, and reflect on their own mortality, such statistics as those discussed about, will produce a contagion of action.
Increasingly aware of the health risks of sodas, millions of consumers have switched to a healthier alternative, bottled water. In just half a decade, worldwide consumption of bottled water has soared 57%; in 2004 154 billion litres of bottled water were consumed globally, offsetting the lackluster performance of soft drinks in many markets.
From “flavored” and “enhanced’ waters to those claiming to increase athletic stamina and suppress appetite, bottle water now occupies its own aisle in most supermarkets. According to The New York Times, over 200 new types of water beverages were introduced to the market in 2005.
But along with growing cynicism about the purported health benefits of these enhanced waters – 40 % of which are made from municipal tap water – there are mounting environmental concerns. A recently released study by the Washington-based environmental group, the Earth Policy Institute [EPI] raises about the enormous waste and heavy energy resources consumed by the bottle water industry.
Unlike tap water, which is delivered through an energy-efficient infrastructure, bottled water is often shipped thousands of miles, consuming vast quantities of fossil fuels. Factoring in transport costs, some estimates suggest it costs 10,000 times more to create bottle water than it does to produce tap water.
The plastic bottles used to contain the water are made from PET [polyethylene terephthalate], which is made from crude oil. According to the EPI study, producing the 26 billion litres of bottled waters which were delivered to U. S. consumers in 2004 required more than 1.5 million barrels of oil, or enough to fuel 100,000 cars for a year.
Moreover, despite community-based efforts to encourage recycling, most Americans do not. According to the Container Recycling Institute, about 90% of PET bottles discarded each day by Americans end up in landfills [or about 30 million a day], not recycling centers.
As Live Aid organizer/impresario, Bob Geldolf opines: “Bottled water is bollocks. It is the great irony of the 21st century that the most basic things in the supermarket, such as water and bread, are among the most expensive. Getting water from the other side of the world and transporting it to sell here is ridiculous. It is all to do with lifestyle.
There are signs of change. As The New York Times recently reported, a high school in Berkeley, CA, recently replaced the bottled water in its cafeteria with water coolers of filtered water. Last month, Colorado-based Biota introduced a bottled water packaged in a new kind of biodegradable plastic, PLA, made from corn. A generic fiber with the trade name NatureWorksTM [Cargill Dow], PLA is also used in all of the Newman’s Own packaging.
Just as the soft drink makers begin to switch gears and focus their attention on bottled water and other sports drinks, will the rug be pulled out from underneath them, again?
Physician to an Ailing Planet
Paul Epstein explains to Claudia Dreifus why global warming is hazardous to your health
Onearth | NRDC | Spring 2006
For all his adult life, tropical disease specialist and public health physician Paul Epstein has worked as a medical-political activist. In the 1970s he was a health-care provider in a newly independent Mozambique. In the 1980s -- a time when many medical professionals shunned HIV-AIDS patients -- Epstein treated them at a Cambridge, Massachusetts, clinic. More recently Epstein, 62, joined forces with psychiatrist Eric Chivian, winner of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for his work on nuclear disarmament, to become a kind of eco-policy physician, if there is such a thing. As associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School -- Chivian is founding director -- Epstein uses his medical expertise to document the impact of environmental degradation on human health.
"With this work I've got a few billion patients," Epstein commented during a recent interview at a health-food restaurant not far from his Boston office. "I try to show that bad environmental policy can make people sick."
Which human diseases are linked to global warming??Malaria. It's a mosquito-borne infection, and it isn't caused by global warming. But climate change is contributing to its resurgence. As temperatures rise, precipitation patterns change. In some areas there are more intense droughts. In other parts of the world we see heavier rains. Greater precipitation creates ideal conditions for malaria-bearing mosquitoes to thrive. Mountainous areas that were once too cold for these carriers of disease are warming up. In Africa, malaria is circulating in the region of Kenya once known as "the white highlands." The English settled there because it was cooler than the coast and relatively free of malaria. In Zimbabwe, the mosquito is now found at higher altitudes. Malaria mosquitoes are spreading in the mountainous areas all along the Great Rift Valley. The same thing is true in Asia. In Papua New Guinea, there has been a surge of malaria in the highlands. And we are seeing other mosquito-borne diseases beginning to ascend into the Himalayas.
How do you know that this is the result of global warming??Because it's often happening in the same regions where glaciers are melting, plant communities are migrating to higher elevations, and temperatures are rising. Global warming is also increasing the intensity of extreme weather. In Mozambique, weeks of devastating floods in 2000 were accompanied by several cyclones. Immediately afterward, malaria increased fivefold. Extreme precipitation events can also lead to outbreaks of water-borne diseases like cholera and cryptosporidium. The latter affected 400,000 Milwaukeeans in 1993. As you recall, that was the year of the giant floods of the Mississippi River. This kind of thing is not just confined to developing nations.
So diseases that are associated with global warming have become a problem in this country, too??The rapid spread of the West Nile virus in the United States was accompanied by extreme weather. As oceans warm, ice melts and water vapor rises, and the increased evaporation over land and sea is changing weather patterns worldwide. While we don't know how West Nile was introduced into the United States, we think that drought played a role in amplifying the disease. West Nile first appeared in New York City, in 1999, when there was a terrible drought. In those conditions, mosquitoes thrive in the small pools of organically rich water that remain in drains. The heat wave didn't stop until late August, and then only with heavy rain. Epidemiologists now say the virus had been lingering in animals, with a few human cases over the summer. Then it spread as insect populations grew after the heavy rains. The spread of West Nile to 44 states and five Canadian provinces in 2002 was associated with another intense drought, with no snow or spring runoff in the Rocky Mountains.
Does that mean the public health problems associated with global warming are essentially about mosquito-borne disease??No, there are many health issues affected by a changing climate -- for instance, the 1993 emergence of hantavirus, which is a rodent-borne disease. A six-year-long drought in the Southwest had decreased the numbers of rodent-eating predators. Then came unusually early rains, which provided a bounty of food for the rodents. The rodent population exploded elevenfold. That led to the proliferation of animals carrying hanta -- and ultimately to the deaths of 32 people that year. There are also new health problems arising among returnees to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, which is the kind of weather extreme we can expect more of with global warming. There's a new syndrome, "Katrina cough." Mold is everywhere -- flooding fosters fungi. Toxins are ubiquitous.
What about the rise in asthma rates nationally? Is that associated in any way with global warming??Well, many factors contribute to asthma, including air pollution -- particulates and ground-level ozone. Our research suggests that the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which comes from the burning of fossil fuels, also contributes to asthma. CO2 stimulates plant growth, particularly weeds, and helps them produce excessive pollen. It has the same effect on some soil fungal spores. So one end product of using more carbon-based fuels is more allergens in the air. This increase may be one reason why asthma in the United States has more than doubled in the last 25 years, according to the American Lung Association.
How did you develop an environmental health specialty? I started out as a family physician and then became a tropical disease doctor. My wife, Andy, is a nurse, and we went to Mozambique with our two children in 1978 for the American Friends Service Committee. There we saw very difficult things -- including the effects of the seventh global cholera pandemic, which had begun in Asia during the 1960s. We set up treatment facilities, which helped lower the death rate dramatically. When we returned to the United States in the early 1980s, I entered public health school here at Harvard, at a time when molecular biology was becoming the dominant trend. Much of what we learned involved new diagnostic tools and drugs -- it wasn't so concerned with environmental factors that were the drivers of disease. Our experience in Mozambique made clear the environmental and social dimensions of public health. I realized a bridge was needed between science and a holistic view of a healthy earth.
You mentioned cholera, which plagued the world long before people knew the term global warming. What's the link??Cholera was something I'd seen and felt in Mozambique, but at that point few scientists were asking whether the global environment had anything to do with the disease. The light went on in 1989. That was when Rita Colwell, who later became head of the National Science Foundation, began reporting fascinating research showing that cholera bacteria can be harbored by floating algae, which proliferate as the temperature of the ocean surface increases. Rita and I collaborated on a paper on the subject that was published in the Lancet in 1993. Since then she's been using data about the relationship among sea surface temperatures, plankton blooms, and cholera to develop early-warning systems and prevention measures to reduce the threat posed by the disease in a warmer world.
How easy was it to get this kind of information out to the public??When Eric Chivian and I went to the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, we held a press conference where I spoke about the relationship between climate change and cholera. Nobody picked up the story except the Wall Street Journal, which did a big spread on it. The Journal understood that there was a connection between outbreaks of disease and the health of the economy. When cholera hit Peru, for example, the country lost a lot of money -- in terms of tourism, in terms of shrimp exports. So disease and epidemics are one of the pathways you can use to work with economic forces that are affected by climate change.
One of the surprising features of your work is the unusual coalitions that you and Dr. Chivian have been able to forge. For instance, how did you get Swiss Re, the re-insurance giant, to participate in your climate change study??Swiss Re is not a newcomer to this issue. Analysts there have been producing reports on climate change since 1994. Frankly, they're worried about whether they can insure the future. The costs associated with natural catastrophes have grown exponentially. In the 1970s and 1980s they amounted to about $4 billion a year; in the 1990s those losses went up tenfold. By 2004 they came to $123 billion. Last year, with hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, losses exceeded $200 billion. Swiss Re is thinking about the health of its assets -- so there's a convergence of interests. At our center, we have a corporate council that includes Swiss Re, 3M, Johnson & Johnson, and British Petroleum.
Some environmentalists might worry that you're getting into bed with the Devil. I think we need new alliances among businesses, scientists, international agencies, and environmentalists. The financial sector -- which includes insurers, banks, and pension funds -- must be farsighted. The job of activists is not to do away with business, but to ally with the more enlightened forces and help redirect economic development in a way that is healthy and sustainable.
From "Literary Ethics"
An Oration delivered before the Literary Societies of
Dartmouth College, July 24, 1838
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Gentlemen, I have ventured to offer you these considerations upon the scholar's place, and hope, because I thought, that, standing, as many of you now do, on the threshold of this College, girt and ready to go and assume tasks, public and private, in your country, you would not be sorry to be admonished of those primary duties of the intellect, whereof you will seldom hear from the lips of your new companions. You will hear every day the maxims of a low prudence.
You will hear, that the first duty is to get land and money, place and name. `What is this Truth you seek? what is this Beauty?' men will ask, with derision. If, nevertheless, God have called any of you to explore truth and beauty, be bold, be firm, be true. When you shall say, `As others do, so will I: I renounce, I am sorry for it, my early visions; I must eat the good of the land, and let learning and romantic expectations go, until a more convenient season;' -- then dies the man in you; then once more perish the buds of art, and poetry, and science, as they have died already in a thousand thousand men. The hour of that choice is the crisis of your history; and see that you hold yourself fast by the intellect. It is this domineering temper of the sensual world, that creates the extreme need of the priests of science; and it is the office and right of the intellect to make and not take its estimate. Bend to the persuasion which is flowing to you from every object in nature, to be its tongue to the heart of man, and to show the besotted world how passing fair is wisdom.
Forewarned that the vice of the times and the country is an excessive pretension, let us seek the shade, and find wisdom in neglect. Be content with a little light, so it be your own. Explore, and explore. Be neither chided nor flattered out of your position of perpetual inquiry. Neither dogmatize, nor accept another's dogmatism. Why should you renounce your right to traverse the star-lit deserts of truth, for the premature comforts of an acre, house, and barn? Truth also has its roof, and bed, and board. Make yourself necessary to the world, and mankind will give you bread, and if not store of it, yet such as shall not takeaway your property in all men's possessions, in all men's affections, in art, in nature, and in hope.
You will not fear, that I am enjoining too stern an asceticism. Ask not, Of what use is a scholarship that systematically retreats? or, Who is the better for the philosopher who conceals his accomplishments, and hides his thoughts from the waiting world? Hides his thoughts! Hide the sun and moon. Thought is all light, and publishes itself to the universe. It will speak, though you were dumb, by its own miraculous organ. It will flow out of your actions, your manners, and your face. It will bring you friendships. It will impledge you to truth by the love and expectation of generous minds. By virtue of the laws of that Nature, which is one and perfect, it shall yield every sincere good that is in the soul, to the scholar beloved of earth and heaven.
Please click here for the full version of Emerson’s oration to the Literary Societies of Dartmouth College.
On July 24, 1838, Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered an oration to the Literacy Societies of Dartmouth College in which he posed the timeless question, "Why should you renounce your right to traverse the star-lit deserts of truth, for the premature comforts of an acre, house, and barn? Truth also has its roof, and bed, and board." [read more].
Atheism is a Legacy Worth Fighting for
For centuries, we have been told that without religion we are no more than egotistic animals fighting for our share, our only morality that of a pack of wolves; only religion, it is said, can elevate us to a higher spiritual level. Today, when religion is emerging as the wellspring of murderous violence around the world, assurances that Christian or Muslim or Hindu fundamentalists are only abusing and perverting the noble spiritual messages of their creeds ring increasingly hollow. What about restoring the dignity of atheism, one of Europe's greatest legacies and perhaps our only chance for peace? [read more].
Physician to an Ailing Planet
For all his adult life, tropical disease specialist and public health physician Paul Epstein has worked as a medical-political activist. Now, as associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, Epstein uses his medical expertise to document the impact of environmental degradation on human health. "With this work I've got a few billion patients," Epstein commented during a recent interview at a health-food restaurant not far from his Boston office. "I try to show that bad environmental policy can make people sick." [read more].
Paint, brush, and a dream
As founder and executive director of Artists for Humanity, a first-of-its-kind organization that hires Boston teenagers to create and sell artwork, Susan Rodgerson has racked up plenty of accolades, including a Coming Up Taller award from the White House in 2001. Her arts enterprise is so original that it's being duplicated across the country, and so successful that both Harvard and Stanford business schools have used it for case studies. But Rodgerson is quick to shift credit for the success from herself to the teens with whom she started the organization in 1990. ''The kids led the way," she says. [read more].
Kick the Bottle
The team at 13 D Research reveals why soda - and bottled water - is getting harder and harder to swallow. [read more].
Joanna Harcourt-Smith, John Lash and the Metahistory Quest team have been collaborating with Mike Hagan and Larry Norager of RadiOrbit to create Future Primitive: a site dedicated to oral tradition and dialogue on emergent communities in a planet-friendly future. We invite you to visit futureprimitive.org and listen in on the “gaialogues” and interviews with all of last year’s “Bioneers by the Bay: Connecting for Change” conference plenary speakers. The name Future Primitive expresses the team's belief that a sustainable future for humanity depends on the return to lost essentials. And as the Buddhist quote on the homepage reminds us, “a community practicing understanding and loving kindness, a community practicing mindful living… may be the most important thing we can do for the survival of the earth.”
CNU XIV Fourteenth Congress for the New Urbanism: Developing the New Urbanism
June 1 - June 4, 2006
Providence, Rhode Island
New Urbanism is an urban design movement that burst onto the scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s. New Urbanists aim to reform all aspects of real estate development. Their work affects regional and local plans. They are involved in new development, urban retrofits, and suburban infill. In all cases, New Urbanist neighborhoods are walkable, and contain a diverse range of housing and jobs. New Urbanists support regional planning for open space, appropriate architecture and planning, and the balanced development of jobs and housing. They believe these strategies are the best way to reduce how long people spend in traffic, to increase the supply of affordable housing, and to rein in urban sprawl. Many other issues, such as historic restoration, safe streets, and green building are also covered in the Charter of the New Urbanism, the movement's seminal document.
For more information, please visit us online at www.CNUXIV.org or call 312.551.7300.
"You cannot go back. You cannot become primitive people - that’s all behind us. We have to face the modern world on its own terms. You can’t go back, because you haven’t left. You aren’t recovering something primitive. You are recovering an essential process which should take place within each person."
- Paul Shepard