Archive | April, 2012

Occupy Movement Prepares for Democratic Convention – NYTimes.com

24 Apr

Occupy Charlotte is planning actions for the Bank of American shareholder’s meeting on May 9 and the Democratic Party convention in September:

Bill Dobbs, a member of Occupy Wall Street’s press team, said there is continuing communication with Occupy Charlotte members as they plan bank and convention protests. And as many as 60 groups have signed on to join the Coalition to Protest at the D.N.C. In Florida, Occupy Tampa is involved in planning similar efforts for the Republican National Convention, which will be held there in August, but the group has had smaller protests than those in Charlotte and the city has proposed a “clean zone” limiting where demonstrations can be held.

In planning protests this time around, for the conventions, social media is likely to play a bigger role.

“I think there’s been a lot more inter-occupation communication as people got away from the encampments and starting getting online and establishing lines of communication across the country,” said Domenic Battistella, 34, of nearby Mooresville, an original member of Occupy Charlotte. “We’re going to be much more coordinated on a regional basis.”

via Occupy Movement Prepares for Democratic Convention – NYTimes.com.

The Next Big Thing in Green Energy: Floating Wind Turbines – Technology – The Atlantic Wire

23 Apr

Wind power, you see, is one of the few natural resources the United Kingdom has a lot of. Smartplanet reports that “the UK has more offshore wind capacity than any other country,” but the problem is most of the steady, heavy winds blow over parts of the ocean that are too deep to build foundations to. So floating turbines, which stay in place via cables anchored to the seafloor, make sense. But they’re still very much experimental technology. The first-ever floating turbine went into operation off Norway in 2009, and today Norway’s still the most advanced in the field. The U.S. and U.K. want to catch up, and they’re willing to pay to do so. So if you’ve got some plans lying around for a design you think might work, now’s the time to pitch them.

via The Next Big Thing in Green Energy: Floating Wind Turbines – Technology – The Atlantic Wire.

Farmers Foil Utilities Using Cell Phones to Access Solar – Bloomberg

23 Apr

The rest of the world’s going solar, and local, why not the USofA?

From the poorest parts of Africa and Asia to the most- developed regions in the U.S. and Europe, solar units such as Anand’s and small-scale wind and biomass generators promise to extend access to power to more people than ever before. In the developing world, they’re slashing costs in the process.

Across India and Africa, startups and mobile phone companies are developing so-called microgrids, in which stand- alone generators power clusters of homes and businesses in places where electric utilities have never operated.

In Europe, cooperatives are building their own generators and selling power back to the national or regional grid while information technology developers and phone companies are helping consumers reduce their power consumption and pay less for the electricity they do use.

via Farmers Foil Utilities Using Cell Phones to Access Solar – Bloomberg.

Blamed for Bee Collapse, Monsanto Buys Bee Research Firm : Natural Society

23 Apr

Monsanto, the massive biotechnology company being blamed for contributing to the dwindling bee population, has bought up one of the leading bee collapse research organizations. Recently banned from Poland with one of the primary reasons being that the company’s genetically modified corn may be devastating the dying bee population, it is evident that Monsanto is under serious fire for their role in the downfall of the vital insects. It is therefore quite apparent why Monsanto bought one of the largest bee research firms on the planet.

It can be found in public company reports hosted on mainstream media that Monsanto scooped up the Beeologics firm back in September 2011. During this time the correlation between Monsanto’s GM crops and the bee decline was not explored in the mainstream, and in fact it was hardly touched upon until Polish officials addressed the serious concern amid the monumental ban. Owning a major organization that focuses heavily on the bee collapse and is recognized by the USDA for their mission statement of “restoring bee health and protecting the future of insect pollination” could be very advantageous for Monsanto.

via Blamed for Bee Collapse, Monsanto Buys Bee Research Firm : Natural Society.

‘Taking the Waste Out of Wastewater’ – NYTimes.com

23 Apr

While we can’t “make” more water, there is one solution to water shortage problems that addresses issues of both quality and supply. Without mining an ancient aquifer, draining a natural spring or piping in the pricey harvest from a greenhouse-gas-and-brine-generating desalination plant, there is a solution to provide a valuable source of extremely pure water: reclaim it from sewage. The stuff from our showers, sinks and, yes, our toilets. In Israel, more than 80 percent of household wastewater is recycled, providing nearly half the water for irrigation. A new pilot plant near San Diego and a national “NEWater” program in Singapore show it’s practical to turn wastewater into water that’s clean enough to drink. Yet, in most of the world, we are resistant to do so.

Why?

We think we are rational beings, but we are not. We are emotional creatures, subject to obscuring feelings like fear and disgust. … While recycled water may be a smart and clean way to manage our water supply, our primitive instincts are more programmed to fear the murky water hole than to worry about climate change, new contaminants and population growth.

via ‘Taking the Waste Out of Wastewater’ – NYTimes.com.

Protester’s New Front: Student Loan Debt

23 Apr

Alexander Zaitchik, writing in Salon:

A year ago, the student debt crisis was a quiet one. Default-triggered cascades of compounding interest and collection fees were matters of lonely shame and anxiety. Journalists writing on the issue networked through friends and family to find subjects willing to go on record. Then the debt-confession signs started popping up at OWS protests, and stories of debilitating student debt were everywhere. Numbers that had been a source of private depression became symbols of generational defiance. “I have $80,000 in student loan debt,” declared a typical sign. “How can I ever hope to repay that now?” Others demonstrated the vertiginous arithmetic of the classic default spiral: “Borrowed $26,000. Paid back to date $32,000. Still owe $45,000.”

There’s no shortage of statistics capable of illustrating America’s economic elephantiasis. Taxes, health care, wages — take your pick. But it’s the student debt numbers that most shock college graduates over 50. If you went to school in the 1960s or ’70s, it doesn’t seem possible that the class of 2012 is graduating with an average debt load of more than $25,000. The macro milestones tend to get more press — America’s $1 trillion in aggregate student debt now surpasses that owed on its credit cards — but it’s the 25 large that makes boomers whistle and start talking about the days when a semester at Berkeley cost the same as a trip to the laundromat.

Years ago: Continue reading

Global Warming and the Beginning of the Great Transition

20 Apr

I’ve been thinking about the recent poll showing that a majority of Americans now believe that global warming is real and that it is the cause behind recent extreme weather (as reported in The New York Times):

The poll suggests that a solid majority of the public feels that global warming is real, a result consistent with other polls that have asked the question in various ways. When invited to agree or disagree with the statement, “global warming is affecting the weather in the United States,” 69 percent of respondents in the new poll said they agreed, while 30 percent disagreed.

Not only that, but “one of the more striking findings was that 35 percent of the public reported being affected by extreme weather in the past year.” That is global warming is no longer something affecting only “those people” who live “over there, in that other place far far away from me.” It’s happening here and now, to me!

What’s the ripple effect of these beliefs? William McKibben says ““My sense from around the country and the world is that people definitely understand that things are getting freaky” and his group, 350.org, is planning rallies on May 5 to help people to “Connect the Dots” between the crazy weather we have now and long-term climate change.

Of course those aren’t the only dots that need to be connected. Climate change needs to be connected to energy policy and practices, to farming and ranching and food practices, to relationships between local and global communities, to, well, when you think about it, to just about everything.

Certainly to war and peace. All the time, energy, and resources we throw into way is just thrown away. We need to devote that to saving the earth and thus to saving ourselves and our grandchildren, and their grandchildren.

But first we need to believe that all that must be done. Is this newly emerging consensus on global warming the beginning of that belief? Is this the beginning of the Great Transition?

A Stain That Won’t Wash Away – NYTimes.com

20 Apr

The problem then (and perhaps now) is that it is the slow pileup of factors that causes an industrial disaster. Poor decisions are usually made incrementally by a range of people with differing levels of responsibility, and almost always behind a shield of plausible deniability. It makes it almost impossible to pin one clear-cut bad call on a single manager, which is partly why no BP official has ever been held criminally accountable.

Instead, the corporation is held accountable. It isn’t clear that charging the company repeatedly with misdemeanors and felonies has accomplished anything.

At more than $30 billion and climbing, the amount BP has paid out so far for reparations, lawsuits and cleanup dwarfs the roughly $8 billion that Exxon had to pay after its 1989 spill in Prince William Sound in Alaska. And BP will very likely still pay billions more before this is finished.

And yet it is not enough. Two years after analysts questioned whether the extraordinary cost and loss of confidence might drive BP out of business, it has come roaring back. It collected more than $375 billion in 2011, pocketing $26 billion in profits.

What the gulf spill has taught us is that no matter how bad the disaster (and the environmental impact), the potential consequences have never been large enough to dissuade BP from placing profits ahead of prudence. That might change if a real person was forced to take responsibility — or if the government brought down one of the biggest hammers in its arsenal and banned the company from future federal oil leases and permits altogether. Fines just don’t matter.

via A Stain That Won’t Wash Away – NYTimes.com.

Investigation: Two Years After the BP Spill, A Hidden Health Crisis Festers | The Nation

19 Apr

This article is a horror story of health problems following the Gulf oil spill. Many/most of the afflicted people will probably never be compensated.

It will take years to determine the actual number of affected people. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), with financial support from BP, is conducting several multiyear health impact studies, which are only just getting under way. I spoke with all but one of the studies’ national and Gulf Coast directors. “People were getting misdiagnosed for sure,” says Dr. Edward Trapido, director of two NIEHS studies on women’s and children’s health and associate dean for research at the Louisiana State University School of Public Health. “Most doctors simply didn’t know what questions to ask or what to look for.” There are only two board-certified occupational physicians in Louisiana, according to Trapido, and only one also board-certified as a toxicologist: Dr. James Diaz, director of the Environmental and Occupa-tional Health Sciences Program at Louisiana State University.

Diaz calls the BP spill a toxic “gumbo of chemicals” to which the people, places and wildlife of the Gulf continue to be exposed.

via Investigation: Two Years After the BP Spill, A Hidden Health Crisis Festers | The Nation.

Can Citigroup Shareholders Launch a Revolt on Banks? – Business – The Atlantic Wire

19 Apr

The shareholders of Citigroup voted to reject the generous pay package of the CEO Vikram Pandit this week, setting up a potential showdown that could ripple throughout the corporate world. The “advisory” vote — which is required by the Dodd-Frank Act, but is not binding — now puts the company’s directors in awkward position. They can go along with it and ask Pandit to “give back” some of the $34 million it paid him last year, or they can ignore it and defy the people they theoretically work for. Neither option is attractive, but how it plays out could change the very nature of the shareholder-corporation relationship. It’s the first time a major Wall Street firm has had to face such a vote and it probably won’t be the last one to lose it.

… However, it’s now clear from this shareholder move that it isn’t just Occupy Wall Streeters who are annoyed with the outrageous sums that top executives take home. Now they’re actively trying to do something about it.

via Can Citigroup Shareholders Launch a Revolt on Banks? – Business – The Atlantic Wire.

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