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Lead in Brick's water has residents worried.

Environmental Health News - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 19:30
Township residents are concerned over a recent report that elevated lead levels were found in the water of nearly half the homes tested this summer.
Categories: Ecological News

Are dangerous plastics in Cayuga Lake and Erie Canal?

Environmental Health News - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 19:30
Christian Shaw and Gordon Middleton have been sampling Cayuga Lake and the Erie Canal for tiny pieces of plastic that have been widely found in waters all over the globe.
Categories: Ecological News

Sisters awarded $5 million in Baltimore lead-paint case.

Environmental Health News - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 19:30
A Baltimore jury awarded $5 million Friday to a pair of sisters who claimed they suffered permanent brain damage from ingesting flaking lead paint in a rented West Baltimore home two decades ago.
Categories: Ecological News

'Looming environmental crisis' at Salton Sea prompts plea for help.

Environmental Health News - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 19:30
The Imperial Irrigation District has sent a plea to a state water board to help avert a "looming environmental and public health crisis" at the Salton Sea.
Categories: Ecological News

Humanity has made the moon into a garbage pile, wants to keep doing it.

Environmental Health News - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 19:30
Since America conquered the moon and rendered it our property via eminent domain in 1969, we have turned the moon into a galactic landfill. Now a British group called Lunar Mission One has launched a Kickstarter campaign to dump more trash on the moon bury a time-capsule just under the surface of the moon's south pole.
Categories: Ecological News

What’s the latest on the mysterious polio-like disease affecting US kids?

Environmental Health News - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 19:30
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a request that all providers stop using several immunomodification treatments on a newly recognized, seemingly post-viral, syndrome in children called acute flaccid myelitis.
Categories: Ecological News

Mediterranean diet is best way to tackle obesity, say doctors.

Environmental Health News - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 19:30
A Mediterranean diet may be a better way of tackling obesity than calorie counting, leading doctors have said. Writing in the Postgraduate Medical Journal (PMJ), the doctors said a Mediterranean diet quickly reduced the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Categories: Ecological News

‘Hypoallergenic’ labels may not be accurate.

Environmental Health News - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 19:30
Products for kids with itchy skin that are labeled hypoallergenic often contain ingredients that can cause allergic reactions, a recent study found.
Categories: Ecological News

Representative Stewart (R, UT) needs more faith in science.

Environmental Health News - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 19:30
Stewart's plan to change who can participate on EPA panels interferes with getting the best scientific advice. EPA operates in a political environment, but that doesn’t mean its scientific advisers should bow to it. Let them give us their best explanations for what’s going on, so we’re not left hoping for miracles.
Categories: Ecological News

Health Ranger to release open source 3D printer files for upcoming invention with early 2015 release date

Natural News - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 11:30
(NaturalNews) We've got great news to share with you today: I have confirmed that I'll be able to publicly release open-source 3D printer files for some of the key parts for the upcoming invention I'm announcing in early 2015.The invention is loosely described in this article...

Looking for safe cookware? Try cast iron

Natural News - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 11:30
(NaturalNews) With so many different types of cookware on the market today, making the best and safest choices for our families can be a challenge. But tried-and-true cast iron is still among the most durable and non-toxic types of cookware available -- and if you know how to use...

How Much Interest Has Your Food "Bank" Earned This Year?

Natural News - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 11:30
(NaturalNews) In these days of declining paychecks and rising prices, people are hard pressed to get the most for their money. With every new dollar that is printed the value of your hard earned savings decreases and much buying power is lost. The conventional way to offset this decrease...

US farmers, environmentalists sue EPA for 'illegally' approving Dow's deadly 2,4-D herbicide

Natural News - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 11:30
(NaturalNews) In one fell swoop, the Environmental Protection Agency officially became the Environmental Holocaust Kingpin when they approved Dow's deadly new Enlist Duo. This new two-headed monster herbicide is comprised of Monsanto's gut-wrenching, gut-microbe-destroying glyphosate...

Is the whole world watching your private home security camera? 73,000 now online

Natural News - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 11:30
(NaturalNews) No question, we live in a "wired" world, but increasingly, we also live in a world where, no matter where we go, we are tracked -- either through our vehicle, our cell phone or by some form of direct surveillance. In addition, our personal privacy is at risk of becoming...

A Complete Guide To Being A Thought Criminal

Natural News - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 11:30
(NaturalNews) A question posed by a reader has kept my mind churning ever since it was asked. The question itself was genuine and expressed a desire to change the world for the better, but hinted that he was resigned to the fact that it would get worse before it gets better. This...

Federal government to spend your tax dollars on 100,000 pairs of underwear for illegal immigrants

Natural News - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 11:30
(NaturalNews) The Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division has put out an invitation for bids (IFB) for a variety of underwear for young boys and girls as well as adult men and women. The invitation, which is listed on FBO.gov, a site that...

New Film Shows How Florida Farmworkers Won Fairer Pay From America's Biggest Food Companies

Yes! Magazine - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 06:15

Lucas Benitez of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Photo by Jeffery Salter.

The small city of Immokalee, Florida, provides produce to millions of people. It’s one of the country’s agricultural hubs, but with an average per capita income of $9,518, the majority of residents—many of whom are farmworkers—live well below the national poverty level.

“The wealth doesn’t stay here with us.”

That’s Lucas Benitez, founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and a former farmworker, in the new film Food Chains.  The documentary, by director Sanjay Rawal and executive producers Eva Longoria and Eric Schlosser, follows the Coalition’s fight for human rights and fair wages for tomato pickers. “There is more interest in food these days than ever,” the filmmakers write on the film’s website. “Yet there is very little interest in the hands that pick it.”

Rawal, who spent 15 years working in the nonprofit industry and several years abroad, was aware of the routine human rights abuses against agricultural workers overseas. “I had no idea that these same abuses could be happening here,” he told me. “I knew I couldn’t just focus on the problem, I had to focus on the solution.”

For Rawal, the most promising path out of this kind of exploitation comes from the Coalition’s strategy of organizing workers at the bottom to revolutionize entire supply chains.

In the 1990s, Benitez and a small group of other tomato pickers founded the Coalition to create a safer working environment in Florida’s fields and raise farmworkers' pay. In addition to winning wage increases, the group has been instrumental in fighting sexual exploitation, violence, human trafficking, and debt bondage on farms.

Many tomato pickers live in trailers with up to 16 other people during the growing season, since rent is otherwise unaffordable. Until recently, when Coalition organizers succeeded in increasing their pay, workers received 50 cents for each 32-pound bucket of tomatoes they picked—a pay-per-piece practice that’s a holdover from slavery, according to the film. Pickers’ wages usually amount to less than $50 a day, and they work long hours under the constant threat of sexual assault and abuse. Because many are undocumented, crimes against them often go unreported.

In 2011, the Coalition launched the Fair Food Program, an project aimed at getting corporations to pay farmers an additional cent for every pound of tomatoes purchased. The program also demands that allegations of abuse and sexual assault on the farms are taken seriously.

Many large companies have already signed on—some of them after tenacious, drawn-out campaigning by Coalition members. Whole Foods, Subway, Walmart, and Chipotle are among several corporations that now comply with Fair Food Program standards.

Now, upwards of 80,000 Florida farmworkers—about 90 percent of the state’s total—are receiving the benefits of these protections. But Food Chains largely focuses on Publix, a major regional grocery chain in Florida, which has refused to meet with Coalition members or join the Fair Food Program, despite public pressure.

Part of what makes the Fair Food Program so successful is that the additional cost for tomatoes is offset to consumers: Since it’s distributed among millions of buyers, each family pays just pennies more per year. Plus, the program holds producers accountable: If they’re found guilty of inappropriately handling a case of sexual assault or abuse, for example, partner companies can’t buy their produce. In other words, if workers report an issue and a supplier in Florida doesn’t address it, that supplier won’t be able to sell to Subway or Whole Foods. Janice R. Fine, a labor relations professor at Rutgers, called it “the best workplace-monitoring program I’ve seen in the U.S.” earlier this year in The New York Times.

Julia de la Cruz, a Coalition member, says farmers are already seeing the benefits of the program. Workers now have a right to take breaks, to leave the farm when they feel threatened, and to report cases of sexual assault or abuse without fear of retaliation.

According to de la Cruz, farms are enforcing a zero tolerance policy against sexual assault. There have been cases where women have reported abuse, and those supervisors were investigated and fired. And that additional penny per pound of tomatoes? It’s a “significant economic relief for our workers, and our community,” she told me.

Rawal sees this fight in the American tomato industry as part of a bigger global issue. “More than 95 percent of the products that we purchase come through a supply chain system,” he said. And other, non-agricultural workers who produce for major retailers—like the Gap and Walmart—face very similar issues at the bottom of their respective supply chains.

Rawal and and his colleagues believe the Coalition’s model of grassroots organizing can be a solution for workers all over the world.

“This is not a film about oppression,” executive producer Eva Longoria told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes this week. “It’s actually about transformation.”

Watch the interview below. Food Chains opens on November 21. Click here to find out about screenings near you.

Nur Lalji wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media project that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Nur is a contributor to YES! based in the Seattle area. Follow her on Twitter at @nuralizal.

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Categories: Ecological News

Video: Vancouver Opera Violinist Plays 19th-Century Ballad for Protesters in Pipeline Fight

Yes! Magazine - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 05:26

Vancouver Opera violinist Carolyn Cole joined environmental activists and First Nations this week to protest energy company Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion through British Columbia’s Burnaby Mountain. The Trans Mountain pipeline would bring 890,000 gallons of unrefined oil daily to export through the Burrard Inlet.

“If it comes to me, I’m not going to back down.”

Since September Kinder Morgan has been surveying the land in preparation for building the pipeline. But once workers started cutting down trees, activists disrupted progress by setting up camp at the site.

The energy company then filed an injunction with the British Columbia Supreme Court to remove the protesters. On November 16, Associate Chief Justice Austin Cullen granted the injunction, ordering protesters to leave the site or risk arrest.

But this week the situation escalated as hundreds more people joined to support the encampment. Cole, among them, inspired the group by playing a century-old French ballad.

Squamish elder Sut-Lut lit a sacred fire near the encampment and spoke out against the pipeline, noting that Texas-based Kinder Morgan does not have consent from the Squamish people to drill on the land. She and about 24 others were arrested Thursday morning.

The city of Vancouver, First Nations, and the city of Burnaby also oppose the expansion of the pipeline. The city of Vancouver filed a lawsuit against Kinder Morgan requesting the company review the pipeline’s effect on climate change, and the First Nations filed another to block the entire project. The city of Burnaby filed still another suit accusing Kinder Morgan of violating laws when they cut down trees, and has applied to Canada’s National Energy Board for official “intervener status.”

Texas-based Kinder Morgan does not have consent from the Squamish people to drill on the land.

“I didn’t look for the fight. But like any good east end boy, if it comes to me, I’m not going to back down,” Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan told The Province. “This came to our doorstep. We didn’t go looking for this fight … but this will likely turn into a case that will have implications for cities right across Canada for a long time.”

Although the Kinder Morgan surveyors continued their work today on Burnaby Mountain, the Squamish elders, environmental activists, and municipalities all vowed to continue protecting their mountain.

Mary Hansen wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions. Mary has a hard time staying in one place, but is known to write, edit, and be a die-hard Steelers fan. She is an online reporting intern for YES!

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Categories: Ecological News

Dutch Company Powers Streetlights With Living Plants; Will Your Cell Phone Be Next?

Yes! Magazine - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 04:35

Photo by Shutterstock.

In Hembrug, Netherlands, a crowd stood in a park and looked up into the evening sky, waiting for lights to shine. This month more than 300 LED lights were illuminated by the Dutch company Plant-e in a new energy project called “Starry Sky.” Although the bulbs were ordinary, the electricity running through them derived from a new process that harnesses the power of living plants.

Plant-e’s technology is the first to produce electricity from plants without damaging them.

“Starry Sky” and a similar project an hour’s drive away, near Plant-e’s Wageningen headquarters, are the two first commercial installations of the company’s emerging technology. Both power lighting, but the company also sells Wi-Fi hot spots, mobile chargers, and rooftop electricity modules, all fueled by the byproducts of living plants.

Plant-e’s co-founder and CEO, Marjolein Helder, believes that this technology could be revolutionary. Using plants to generate electricity brings a new clean energy option to the table, but even more exciting, the company plans to expand the technology to existing wetlands and rice paddies where electricity can be generated on a larger scale. This could give power to some of the world’s poorest places.

Although the idea of using plants and photosynthesis to extract energy is not a new one—for decades middle schoolers have been engineering clocks made from potatoes, which run on a similar principle—Plant-e’s technology is the first to produce electricity from plants without damaging them.

Using plants to generate electricity brings a new clean energy option to the table.

Helder was working on her master’s thesis in environmental technology at Wageningen University when she first began to research plant energy. She had aspirations to be an entrepreneur and agreed to research the technology only if she could spend time each week pursuing her business interests. The two endeavors came together when Helder started working on a business case for what is now Plant-e.

Both projects that lit up the Netherlands this month involved native aquatic plants that were supplied by local greenhouses. The process involves plants growing in modules—two-square-foot plastic containers connected to other modules—where they undergo the process of photosynthesis and convert sunlight, air, and water into sugars. The plants use some of the sugars to grow, but they also discharge a lot of it back into the soil as waste. As the waste breaks down, it releases protons and electrons. Plant-e conducts electricity by placing electrodes into the soil.

Graphic by Jim McGowan.

Harvesting electricity from plants is no easy feat. Ramaraja Ramasamy, an adjunct professor at the University of Georgia College of Engineering, said that what Plant-e uses is called a “sediment microbial fuel cell.” He cautions readers that this technology is not advanced enough to compete with solar panels and wind turbines, which have been in development for years.

“It’s not making enough energy to have any reliable commercial product. That doesn’t mean that it will not be. We are too early in the research,” Ramasamy explained. “If I come to you and say, ‘Do you want to power that 100-watt bulb?’ You probably need an acre of land and dirt to get the electricity from. Is that feasible? No.”

Although it may not be practical in the United States, where households use high amounts of electricity, it could work in other parts of the world.

The next step for Plant-e is using existing wetlands to generate electricity.

Helder says that a one-square-meter garden should be able to produce 28 kilowatt-hours per year. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average amount of electricity used by a home in a year was 10,837 kilowatt-hours in 2012. This means in order to power a home in the United States, it would take approximately 4,000 square feet of space, the size of a large backyard.

But in the Netherlands, the average household uses 3,500 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, according to a press release from Plant-e. This means a home in the Netherlands could be powered by an area of Plant-e modules about a third of the size of what the U.S. home would require.

As is the case with solar and wind energy, plant energy yields vary based on climate. In the Netherlands, Plant-e’s installations stop producing electricity for one to two weeks during the coldest part of winter because the technology doesn’t work when the ground freezes. As Plant-e expands to larger markets, this detail could dictate where the product is best marketed.

The next step for Plant-e is using existing wetlands to generate electricity. Engineers would place a tube horizontally below the surface of a wetland, peat bog, mangrove, rice paddy, or river delta, and use the same process as the modular system.

The company created a prototype tubular system last year and was scheduled to start a pilot in July, but it ran into trouble with financing.

Roughly one home in the Netherlands could be powered by one-fourth of the size needed in the United States.

“Modular systems are interesting, but you can only scale up to a certain size because it’s pretty labor- and material-intensive,” Helder said. “A tubular system can just be rolled out through the field and it just works because the plants are already there. So for the longer term, for the really large scale, that’s much more interesting.”

The tubular system is still years away from production. Helder said that although the company hopes to start its field pilots soon, the product will need two to three more years to complete the demo stage and have a commercial product ready for market.

Kayla Schultz wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Kayla is a graduate from Central Michigan University, where she studied creative writing and journalism. She is an online editorial intern at YES!

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Categories: Ecological News

This Food Stand Celebrates Palestinian Culture. When It Received a Death Threat, Students Stood Up

Yes! Magazine - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 04:20

Student speaks at a rally in support of Conflict Kitchen. Photo by Heather Kresge Photography.

In front of the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, students gather around metal tables and chairs next to a small, brightly colored building. It houses Conflict Kitchen, an unusual restaurant that features food from conflict zones. Employees in scrubs from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center hustle by its counter to get lunch before rushing back to the hospital just blocks away.

“It tastes like Palestine.”

Conflict Kitchen offers a rotating menu of traditional foods from countries the United States is in conflict with. The goal, says Jon Rubin, co-director of the takeout restaurant, is to encourage a different kind of dialogue about places like Iran, Venezuela, and Afghanistan, one that counters negative depictions of those places and their people.

“Food is the easiest way to enter into understanding, or look into another culture,” Rubin said. “Food has all the stories of a region, a people, a culture embedded in it. You are tasting these things before you even think about these things.”

That message seems to be getting through to the restaurant’s customers.

“When I first came to Pitt last year, they were serving Cuban food,” says University of Pittsburgh senior Hadeel Salameh. “I thought it was a really unique way to portray dialogue and coexistence on campus, and let people know about the ongoing struggles of others around the world, or people that we perceive as others.”

“Conflict Kitchen promotes understanding in the face of ignorance!”

Salameh is the president of the University of Pittsburgh’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. When Conflict Kitchen started planning a Palestinian menu, she and other members of the group offered to support the effort in any way they could.

They served as taste testers, volunteered to be interviewed about Palestinian food, culture, and politics and to be featured on the food wrappers, and attended a couple of events hosted by Conflict Kitchen with others from Pittsburgh’s Palestinian community.

“For me, as a Palestinian, it has been a home away from home,” Salameh said. “It tastes like Palestine.”

So, when on November 7 Conflict Kitchen announced on its Facebook page that it was closing temporarily due to death threats it received in the mail, Salameh was shaken.

“I was trying really hard not to be afraid,” she said. “A death threat is very threatening to a community, not just the restaurant.”

Because of the connection she felt with Conflict Kitchen and a deep respect for its mission, she and the members of Students for Justice in Palestine felt an immediate responsibility to stand up for the restaurant.

Supporters write notes to post on the walls of Conflict Kitchen. Photo by Heather Kresge Photography.

They organized a rally outside the restaurant three days after it closed, which around 200 people attended. About 50 people spoke at the rally—including young kids, college students, and longtime Pittsburgh residents—all voicing their support for Conflict Kitchen and its mission.

Supporters covered the walls of the building in hundreds of notes with messages like “Conflict Kitchen promotes understanding in the face of ignorance!” and “Stay strong! Love will conquer fear!”

After speaking with the Pittsburgh police department, Rubin and co-director Dawn Weleski decided to reopen the restaurant on Thursday, November 13, with the notes still affixed to its walls.

“Food is the easiest way to enter into understanding, or look into another culture.”

“We are overwhelmed by the generous support we have received this week for the project and the rights of Palestinians to present their perspectives without fear of reprisal,” Conflict Kitchen posted on their website last week. “We are deeply moved by these responses and are excited to reopen and continue our programming.”

Both Salameh and Rubin are hopeful that the support the restaurant received can be a force to promote understanding of Palestinian voices and perspectives in American political and cultural discourse.

Mary Hansen wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions. Mary has a hard time staying in one place, but is known to write, edit, and be a die-hard Steelers fan. She is an online reporting intern for YES!

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Categories: Ecological News
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