What about US?

A team of Berkley graduate students designed a solar hot water heater for low income households. They built heaters and tested them in Guatemala. It was a success and they are hoping to have more built in Guatemala and they are looking at doing this throughout several third world countries as a means of stimulating the economy. That’s all well and good. What I want to know is, why not do this here, in the USA? Our nation is in need of job stimulation, other than Walmart, too and there are enough low income families right here that could benefit from this solar hot water heater. I don’t begrudge third world countries getting renewable energy resources. If the economy of this country doesn’t start turning around, this nation will become a third world country and perhaps then we will qualify for low cost solar hot water heaters. Why should we have to wait until then?

CNN Technology


Affordable Solar Energy

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In case you missed reading this article from the MIT News, I’ll supply the link here.

An excerpt:

In a revolutionary leap that could transform solar power from a marginal, boutique alternative into a mainstream energy source, MIT researchers have overcome a major barrier to large-scale solar power: storing energy for use when the sun doesn’t shine.

Until now, solar power has been a daytime-only energy source, because storing extra solar energy for later use is prohibitively expensive and grossly inefficient. With today’s announcement, MIT researchers have hit upon a simple, inexpensive, highly efficient process for storing solar energy.

Great news! Solar energy when the sun doesn’t shine. This is clean energy and one that really packs a punch. Just think about how much warmth the sun provides to this planet even though the average distance between the earth and the sun is 92,900,000 miles (149476000 kilometers). That is an extremely powerful source of energy.

Sunlight has the greatest potential of any power source to solve the world’s energy problems, said Nocera. In one hour, enough sunlight strikes the Earth to provide the entire planet’s energy needs for one year.

The researchers at MIT are not quite there, yet, but they will be soon. This is a must read and will benefit us greatly. It is the photosynthesis of plants that got these scientists thinking about how to split water molecules using the sun’s energy and then storing the hydrogen and oxygen gases in a fuel cell to be used as a carbon free source of energy. Brilliant!

Economy Environment Pennsylvania

Fuel: $1.00/gallon

Hey – wouldn’t it be great to pay $1.00/gallon for fuel to run your automobile? Yes, those were the “good old days”, but I’m not talking about gasoline… I’m talking about ethanol. There are many substances that can be used to create ethanol with corn being one of the most expensive to use. Agricultural waste, scrap wood, old tires and other materials can be converted to ethanol by bacteria. Yes, you heard me correctly, bacteria. Now that’s innovation.

You can learn more about this at Penn Portal. The good news for Pennsylvania is that a cellulosic plant is currently planned to be built in Madison, PA. Music to my ears… more jobs in Pennsylvania.

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Environmental Issues

There are two new links to blogs where environmental issues can be discussed. Stop by and visit Alan Gregory’s Conservation News and Fly Rod and Reel Blogs. Alan Gregory is from Pennsylvania and Fly Rod and Reel is a National on-line magazine.

For all those who enjoy fly fishing (you don’t need to like cats 8) ), there’s the Pennsylvania Fly Fishing blog.

Let me know what environmental issues are of concern to you.

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The Corn, Wheat, Soybeans and Cotton Diet

Do you qualify for farm bill subsidies? Do you own acreage in Arkansas or Kansas or Iowa which your parents farmed and you inherited and you work in New York City as an attorney? If you do, you may be eligible for government payouts for the farm in Arkansas. Wow, what a bonus and you don’t even have to get your hands dirty.

Seventy percent of the payout from the Farm Bill that just passed in the House goes to 10% of our nations farms. Ken Cook explains in an interview in Mother Jones:

Mother Jones: There’s an impression that the farm bill is all that keeps farmers in overalls riding tractors from falling over the precipice. How accurate is that?

Ken Cook: The farm bill does definitely provide help to a lot of family farmers of exactly the type we conjure up in American Gothic style. That’s not the problem with the bill. The problem is that so much of the money that goes out through these farm programs goes to very large, commercial operations that are getting bigger all the time and basically buying up those family farms with the mom and pop in overalls working dawn to dusk. Ten percent of the beneficiaries over the last ten years have gotten over 70 percent of the subsidy money. And so the concern, which, interestingly enough, we shared most with the White House this time around, was that too much money is being funneled to large, profitable farming operations.

Would this have an impact on the “Buy Local” movement? You bet it does. More from the interview:

KC: The first thing to keep in mind is that two-thirds of the farmers counted by the census of agriculture do not get farm bill subsidies. So most farmers don’t get anything. They’re small, they grow fruits and vegetables, raise cattle or horses, they live in rural areas and maybe raise a little hay and sell it. They’re often not full-time operators — most farms are not — and they get no money. And even within the third that does get money from farm bill subsidy programs, the very large ones dominate. And it’s getting more and more concentrated all the time.

I’m not exactly a free trader here, but I am sympathetic to the argument that at some point these big operators ought to be on their own. They’re so big and so efficient and so effective at their work. We ought to reserve some of the money that we’re saying we’re giving to family farmers that are smaller and struggling and actually give it to them. And let the big guys roll the dice on the world market if they want to.

So what type of food products receive the biggest subsidy? Let’s start with the one that receives the most… corn. Since we now use corn for bio-fuels, the demand in this country has increased so the large farms that grow all this corn can raise their prices. That means less corn for cattle and less corn to sell to the world market. Even though the farmers that are growing the corn, genetically modified by the way, are having larger profit margins, our government feels the need to send these farmers more money.

What about nutrition? Does this bill supplement the growing of nutritious foods such as vegetables and fruits? What about the American diet?

KC: It doesn’t really do very much. There is a lot of talk about nutrition from supporters of the bill because they are trying to make the suggestion that we’re spending a lot more money on fruits and vegetables for schools and we’re doing a lot more in general to promote farmers’ markets and so on. But when you look at the numbers, the investments here are really very minimal compared to the money we are still going to be lavishing on the subsidy lobby.

There’s an environmental price to pay for all this corn growing. Not only does this Farm Bill subsidize the growing of grain, it offers $3.8 billion in permanent disaster program which will mostly effect the driest parts of the country. Basically, it encourages farmers to plow up fragile grasslands which will release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and destroy wildlife habitats and cause erosion. This practice would not be good for all living things, including us. It’s a temporary financial gain for long term destruction to the environment.

So why aren’t more small farmers and environmentalist having an impact on this bill? Because the squeaky wheel gets the oil. The corn, wheat, soybean and cotton industry has lobbyists that won’t quit. They keep pounding away at Congress until they get what they want. The smaller farmer doesn’t have the finances or the time to compete with the subsidy lobby.

Is this farm bill better than others? Not really. There’s been momentum in this country to support the smaller farmers and this bill fails in that respect. Also, commodity prices have never been higher so profits are up, way up and our government doesn’t need to spend $5 billion on subsidies with $3 billion of that money going just to corn growers.

This bill is a sellout to the commodity growers and is a nose thumbing to the small farmers. We must continue to work at the local level because this is the only place that we can have an impact. Support your local farmer because they are the farmers that will be providing us with healthy foods. Buy local. Keep the money in your own community.

BONUS link: No till farming in Australia

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What in the world happens to all that plastic?

Bluedahlia has done some research and created a thread at TPZoo, titled “Plastics, China and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Oh My” that gives further insight to the problems presented to all living things because of plastics. Makes me think of the movie “The Graduate” where Dustin Hoffman is told that the future lies with plastics. I think not.

Read Bluedahlia’s post here.

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Save Our Food Supply – Stop Monsanto

I attended a town hall meeting where my State Legislator discussed a bill which he introduced that would help kick-start organic farms in Pennsylvania. He stated that the “big” agriculture (Ag) lobbiest keep asking to meet with him and they try to convince him to change his bill because the bill would protect the small organic farms of Pennsylvania. He refuses to make changes to suit “Big Ag”. The Monsantos and Cargills are out to own our food supply. Is it just a matter of time until some conglomerate(s) owns our water suppy? Some States are already considering “privatizing” the water supply. Did you know that it is illegal to gather rainwater without a permit in Washington and Colorado? What’s next, our air? Will we all be required to wear some type of air consumption monitor? This may sound a bit silly, but exactly where does this control stop?

The Clintons have a very long history of association with big Ag, particularly, Monsanto. The Smirking Chimp has several links to related articles.

Vanity Fair explains the evils of Monsanto

RubyGal has more to say about Monsanto and Clinton connections over at the DailyKos.

None of the candidates are talking about holding Monsanto accountable for terrorizing our farmers and seed sellers. Something needs to be done to break the “mafia-like” grip that Monsanto holds over our politicians, judges, legislators, and farmers. This has got to stop. If it doesn’t, then we will all be consuming toxic foods and GM foods… we will be the “test” subjects for whatever Monsanto wants to throw our way. And we will be helpless to do anything about it.

Vermont has a solid, strong “Buy Local” campaign. Pennsylvania needs to better organize the same thing.


UPDATE: Here’s a link to the Rodale Institute.

You can find additional information and location of farms serving your area at their website. It is worth the visit.

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Environment Government Health

This is shocking…


In honor of Earth Day which was on April 23, I decided to create a thread about an environmental issue that is having a negative impact on the food chain. It is plastics.

Plastics may be the cause behind the decline in the number of Salmon returning from the oceans to spawn.

According to the AFC News Source, plastic is in the plankton, the very bottom of the food chain. It is estimated that there is six times more plastic debris in parts of the North Pacific Ocean than zooplankton.

According to the nonprofit Algalita Marine Research Foundation in Long Beach, California, tens of thousands of mammals and birds swallow the plastic. The plastic is dumped from countries worldwide, lost by ships or washed out to sea from urban areas. Furthermore, plastic becomes a “toxic sponge,” soaking up pollutants in the water. Charles Moore, founder of Algalita Marine Research Foundation, says the ultimate concern is that humans could wind up consuming the plastic – and its absorbed pollutants – as it makes its way up the food chain.

Since plastic is not biodegradable, it doesn’t disappear. It just gets smaller. One pound of plastic will turn into 100,000 small pieces of plastic if left in the ocean.

While oil spills get more attention as an environmental threat, Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer says plastic is a far more serious danger to the ocean’s health. Oil is harmful but eventually biodegrades, while plastic remains forever, he says. Half of beach debris worldwide is plastic and its impact on the food chain is undetermined, Ebbesmeyer says. Not much is known about the effect of plastic consumption on marine life like jellyfish and fish. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade, it just gets broken into smaller pieces resembling zooplankton. The plastic is eaten by jellyfish, which are then eaten by fish. In addition to substituting for actual nutrients, plastic also chemically attracts hydrocarbon pollutants found in the ocean like PCBs and DDT. Moore says pollutants accumulate in plastic up to one million times more than in ocean water.

Don’t think that plastic bag that was left on the beach is harmless. It washes into the ocean where the ocean “uses what she can get”. The ocean will grind it up and feed it to it’s critters. If the critters make it to our tables, then we, too, consume these toxins known to us as plastic.

The most frightening part is that unlike oil which eventually breaks down, plastic is forever.

Read the complete article here. Contact information is included in the article.

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Obama addresses the UFCW

Barack Obama is speaking as the nominee and as the next President of the United States. Listening to his vision, how could you vote for anyone else? No one cares as much about bringing this country back to the people then Barack Obama.

“We need a president that doesn’t choke on the word ‘Union’ “