Thursday, December 15, 2011

This Holiday Season, Give Kiva Instead!

Ahhh, the holiday season is upon us with all the usual hustle and bustle it involves.  Assuming you survived Black Friday by opting out completely you are probably prepping for the mad gift giving that will soon be upon us.  While many people may be waffling between the automated turnip twaddler and the latest iProduct that the late Steve Jobs has instructed us we need, I'd like to mention a third alternative.  Why not give the gift of Kiva.

For those of your new to Kiva, it's pretty simple (a couple of clicks), environmentally less invasive (no wrapping required) and a great way to help others.  Kiva is a micro lending organization that helps people all over the globe.  Basically what happens is a stall owner in Jakarta wants to grow her business and help herself, her family, and her community.  She doesn't have access to cash to get it going so she contacts Kiva who then vets her and puts her request online.  Then regular Joes and Janes like us loan money (in $25 increments) and when the loan is funded, the borrower gets her money and she's off to the races.  Over time (generally within a year and with an astounding 90 something percent completion rate) she pays off the loan and you get your money back.  Simple, cool, and highly effective.

So how does this help with your gift giving choices?  Well, Kiva has gift certificates that you can buy and print, email, Facebook, or have sent as a card to that special person in your life.  How cool is that?  Instead of some new gizmo that will end in a landfill, or an iTunes gift card (that will end in a landfill by the way) you can give the gift of giving.  But it doesn't stop there my friends!

Consider this.  You give your little niece a $25 gift loan.  She heads on line and is empowered by perusing the loan applicants, reading about them, deciding on who to fund, and then helping them better their lives.  The loan is paid back to her, she gets an email, and then gets to re-loan that same amount to someone else.  Your gift keeps giving until who knows when?  So it's much more than a one time gift and your niece thinks of you every time she heads onto the Kiva site or gets an update.  And as an added bonus, she's so blown away by all of this, that she gives up her dreams of becoming a corporate overlord and instead decides to devote her life to helping others, creates a non-profit that builds houses for the poor and wins the Nobel Prize!!  And all that for $25!  Wow!

But yeah, she'll probably like that iTunes gift card just as much so i could see this being a toss up.

Happy Happy (and check out Kiva!)



Monday, September 19, 2011

UCS Resource For Alternative Vehicles

I've always been a fan of the Union of Concerned Scientists because they are scientists and they are concerned, so how bad can they be right?  (By the way, if anyone mentions that I believe in science I'll deny it, what with the witch hunts and cultural revolution coming down the pike).  Here's a link to a great resource on electric vehicles of all sorts and the (gulp) scientific information that should be considered with this new technology.  As always it's worth mentioning that public transport and bicycles are a far better choice than anything.  Enjoy.



Don't Throw Out Those Old Cellphones!

If you are like many Americans you get a new cell phone every year or so.  I won't even go into the need/reasoning behind this, but if you do, there is still a need for your old cell phones.  Check out 10 Places To Donate an Old Cellphone for more than a few ideas and re-use, re-use, re-use!



Thursday, July 21, 2011

MIT Students Create Printable Solar Panels

I've always said that technology alone won't save us but that it will be part of the solution.  Well here's an amazing example.  Solar panels that can essentially be printed up and used to generate power.  Brilliant.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Great Kids Video About Mountaintop Removal


Are Climate Change and the Recent Tornados Connected?

Bill Mckibben nails it squarely on the head.

A link between climate change and Joplin tornadoes? Never!

By Bill McKibben, Published: May 23

Caution: It is vitally important not to make connections. When you see pictures of rubble like this week’s shots from Joplin, Mo., you should not wonder: Is this somehow related to the tornado outbreak three weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, Ala., or the enormous outbreak a couple of weeks before that (which, together, comprised the most active April for tornadoes in U.S. history). No, that doesn’t mean a thing.

It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advisable to try to connect them in your mind with, say, the fires burning across Texas — fires that have burned more of America at this point this year than any wildfires have in previous years. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they’ve ever been — the drought is worse than that of the Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if they’re somehow connected.

If you did wonder, you see, you would also have to wonder about whether this year’s record snowfalls and rainfalls across the Midwest — resulting in record flooding along the Mississippi — could somehow be related. And then you might find your thoughts wandering to, oh, global warming, and to the fact that climatologists have been predicting for years that as we flood the atmosphere with carbon we will also start both drying and flooding the planet, since warm air holds more water vapor than cold air.

It’s far smarter to repeat to yourself the comforting mantra that no single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change. There have been tornadoes before, and floods — that’s the important thing. Just be careful to make sure you don’t let yourself wonder why all these record-breaking events are happening in such proximity — that is, why there have been unprecedented megafloods in Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan in the past year. Why it’s just now that the Arctic has melted for the first time in thousands of years. No, better to focus on the immediate casualties, watch the videotape from the store cameras as the shelves are blown over. Look at the news anchorman standing in his waders in the rising river as the water approaches his chest.

Because if you asked yourself what it meant that the Amazon has just come through its second hundred-year drought in the past five years, or that the pine forests across the western part of this continent have been obliterated by a beetle in the past decade — well, you might have to ask other questions. Such as: Should President Obama really just have opened a huge swath of Wyoming to new coal mining? Should Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sign a permit this summer allowing a huge new pipeline to carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta? You might also have to ask yourself: Do we have a bigger problem than $4-a-gallon gasoline?

Better to join with the U.S. House of Representatives, which voted 240 to 184 this spring to defeat a resolution saying simply that “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” Propose your own physics; ignore physics altogether. Just don’t start asking yourself whether there might be some relation among last year’s failed grain harvest from the Russian heat wave, and Queensland’s failed grain harvest from its record flood, and France’s and Germany’s current drought-related crop failures, and the death of the winter wheat crop in Texas, and the inability of Midwestern farmers to get corn planted in their sodden fields. Surely the record food prices are just freak outliers, not signs of anything systemic.

It’s very important to stay calm. If you got upset about any of this, you might forget how important it is not to disrupt the record profits of our fossil fuel companies. If worst ever did come to worst, it’s reassuring to remember what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told the Environmental Protection Agency in a recent filing: that there’s no need to worry because “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.” I’m pretty sure that’s what residents are telling themselves in Joplin today.

Bill McKibben is founder of the global climate campaign 350.org and a distinguished scholar at Middlebury College in Vermont.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chicago Prepares For Climate Change

Wild article in the New York Times about how Chicago is preparing for the coming storm.  In 50 years the weather there is expected to be more like New Orleans than Chicago, so they are beginning to change sidewalks, roadways, and the types of trees they plant.  It's hard to know if this is smart or not, but it seems like embracing what is happening (and trying to slow it at the same time) is the thing that makes the most sense.  Check it out here.


Friday, May 13, 2011

9 out of 10 Climate Denier Scientists Linked To Exxon

The title alone should be enough proof for most of us at this point, but if you need a little more, check out the full article here.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How Meat Impacts The Environment

A great little graph (and more here) from Scientific American about the problems with eating meat.  OF course they are talking about industrialized meat production but it's pretty alarming. Click on the pic to enlarge it.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Can white roofs save the world?

Probably not, but check out the cool info (pun intended) at White Roof Alliance.  The simple explanation is this:  much of the worlds industrial (and personal) roofing is black as are our roadways.  Black surfaces trap heat, warm up, and create heat islands.  And it's not only black roofs!  So the idea is to change the color of our rooftops and road surfaces and thereby cool things down.  Of course they explain it much better than I do, along with the science, but it makes a lot of sense me thinks.

According to the site permanently changing the worlds rooftops would have the same effect as cutting out a full year of man made CO2 (in decreased cooling and heating costs).  Cool.

Check it out.



Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Helping make the global warming argument

Time and again I find myself getting asked about Global Warming or, as it should more accurately be called, Global Climate Change.  It's a tough one because it's so political and so large, but when you look at the science (oh dear, did I say science) it's actually quite simple.  I generally try to convince people why they need to change using logic as it seems to cut through all of the left/right stuff that this topic brings up.

Having said all of that though, check out Skeptical Science, a very cool site that has a list of the generally raised "beliefs" about climate change and the science that refutes these claims.  They even have a free iphone app that has the same info, so you can argue on the go!  How cool (pun intended).



Sunday, May 1, 2011

Fantastic Speech By Bill Mckibben


Monday, January 10, 2011

Can a "normal" American family achieve zero waste? Practically.

Great story on a Northern California home of 4 people who have taken their waste stream down to a small amount of recycling and compost.  Something we can all aspire to!