Oil in the News

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would shift $18 billion worth of tax breaks for oil companies to renewable energy sources.
The bill passed by only 54 votes. Opponents to the bill, which includes the White House, argue that it needlessly targets big oil companies and would hinder U.S. oil production (Reuters). Oil lobbyists have called it a "discriminatory bill" and a Republican lawmaker accused it of being "spiteful and wrong," in that it "punishes" big oil. Bush has threatened to veto it and Republicans are talking filibuster (AP).
This legislation follows a number of recent headlines involving oil companies.
Notably, Exxon Mobile posted record breaking profits of $40.6 billion in 2007. The previous record holder was, of course, Exxon Mobile in 2006.
Exxon also appears among 23 other energy companies in a lawsuit filed by the village of Kivalina in the northwest Arctic. The lawsuit argues that these companies are contributing to global warming, which is destroying the village; in turn, they want relocation expenses paid for. "Each of the defendants knew or should have known of the impacts of their emissions on global warming and on particularly vulnerable communities such as coastal Alaskan villages," the lawsuit states. It also accuses energy companies of creating a deceptive and "false scientific debate" about global warming (Anchorage Daily News).
In other legal troubles, Exxon is waging battle against paying punitive damages to Native Alaskans and others for the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. The company feels $2.5 billion is excessive, while critics point out that the firing of the captain of the Valdez was not sufficient evidence that Exxon has taken responsibility for the largest oil spill on record in North America, covering 600 miles and forever changing the ways of life in the area (NPR).
Is anyone doing the numeric and ethical math here? Where is the outrage?


well this pharmaceutical drug commercial spoof from Saturday Night Live is making a lot of noise in the blog world and even mainstream press like the NY Times. It's funny, but I don't think it's really taking the drug companies to task. Humor can be a potent weapon, but for all the hype this is getting, I think it falls well short of making any impact. What do you think?

Grandma and Grandpa Guppy: Our Family Tree

Inspired by the NPR interview with Neil Shubin, I sought out more information about his new book, Your Inner Fish, and humans' evolutionary ties to fish in general. I came across a NY Times article that outlines our fishy heritage. Some traits we might have actually thought would differentiate humans from the fish folk, surprisingly are the ones fish have passed down to us. In fact, fish are the longest living vertebrates, having developed teeth that allowed them to stake their claim in evolutionary tides and continue evolving over a period of 550 million years. 365 million years ago, they used a little elbow grease and climbed onto dry land.

Some things we take for granted that originated with fish:
  • a head with a brain protected by a skull, surrounded by sensory organs
  • sensory organs in pairs
  • appendages in pairs
  • hinged mouth with teeth and tongue
  • upright backbone, cranial nerves, and basic wiring
  • a menopausal period of life for females
  • migratory skills and gene shifts that paralleled human migrations
  • social behaviors, such as
    • cooperation and assisting
    • family units with a dominant pair who are aided by helpers to raise young; helpers, in exchange, are protected against predators.
But as the world changes, I have to wonder, how is our evolutionary path being shaped by technology and pharmaceuticals? At this point, we can look back and see our connection to other inhabitants of the planet clearly laid out in a nice family tree. After the next evolutionary step (if we're still around), what will humans see when they look back?

Valentine's Day Roses...

Perhaps it's a bit late to look for a friendly source for your Valentines' Day flowers, but the links in this post will be good all year, and the ideas herein can be applied to any day you choose to share the gift of flowers...

From the CAM Green Newsletter, vol1 num6:

Do Roses Stink?

For Valentine's Day, birthdays, anniversaries or other special occasions, giving flowers often seems like a gift from Mother Nature herself.

But when flowers are doused in pesticides and transported long (i.e., energy-intensive) distances, their eco-appeal quickly evaporates. The health impact conventionally-grown flowers has makes them even less desirable.

Consider this: seventy percent of U.S. flowers are imported from Latin America, where growers in Colombia, Ecuador and other countries use pesticides that have long been banned in the U.S. A 2002 survey of 8,000 Colombian flower workers revealed they'd been exposed to 25 carcinogenic or highly toxic pesticides that are not used in the United States.

Often, women flower growers suffer impaired vision, asthma, and miscarriage or give birth to babies marked by lower birth weights and higher blood pressure. Thirty-five out of 72 Ecuadorian children tested by the Harvard School of Public Health experienced organophosphate pesticides in the womb while their mothers grew flowers. These children later suffered both higher blood pressure and poorer spatial ability than kids who escaped prenatal exposures.

Overall, according to a study by the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF), two-thirds of Colombian and Ecuadorian flower workers suffer work-related health problems, including impaired vision and neurological problems. Some women give birth to stillborn infants, or see their children die within a month after birth. Meanwhile, the International Labor Organization estimates that 20 percent of flower workers in Ecuador are children, who are more vulnerable to chemical hazards than adults because their immune systems and vital organs are still immature.

According to Environmental News Network, roses can contain as much as 50 times the amount of pesticides that are legally allowed on the food we eat. The U.S. requires imported flowers to be free of pests, but unlike edible fruits and vegetables, flowers undergo no testing for chemical residues. So even if you're not growing flowers yourselves, you may still be bringing the chemicals used on them into your home.

Fortunately, shoppers have a whole bouquet of alternatives to conventionally grown flowers and plants.

Buy local — Check www.localharvest.org to find flower growers in your area who minimize pesticides and use less energy to get flowers to your door. Farmers markets also sell flowers, greens and plants that can make wonderful botanical gifts.

Buy certified organic flowers. Some options to look for:

Veriflora — Veriflora requires flower growers to practice organic farming, protect their ecosystem, minimize energy use and packaging, and fobserve air labor and community development practices.

Organic Bouquet sells a dozen roses for $49.95; order by phone at 877-899-2468.

Manic Organics Flowers also sells organically grown roses, for $79.95/dozen; 678-377-8258.

Diamond Organics offers an organic flower sampler of 16-18 stems for $59, or a tropical flower bouquet of 8 stems for $49 (in season); 888-ORGANIC.

California Organic Flowers grows flowers in season; Anemones, Protea, Narcissus and Dutch iris are available now through March for $44.95; 530-891-6265.

The Sun Valley Group sells lillies, tulips, hyacinths and freesias, available wholesale or from a limited number of local retailers; 800-747-0396.

Storefronts: Whole Foods, food coops, natural food stores and other responsible retailers are increasingly carrying organically grown flowers and plants. If you don't see them when you shop, ask for them.

Beware Florverde: This trade association for Colombian flower exporters claims it certifies its members who improve worker safety and welfare. Yet almost 40 percent of the toxic chemicals applied by Florverde farms in 2005 were listed as extremely or highly toxic by the World Health Organization. If you're going to buy flowers, stick to those that carry the organic or Veriflora label.
Story provided byBig Green Purse...

Six Years of War...

March 19 marks the 6-year anniversary of the war occurring in Iraq. It is unbelievable that the U.S. has been engaged in an illegal war for so long. Protests will abound, not only in the states, but around the world. Will this insanity ever end?
Here's a short video marking the anniversary and those that have shown that the spirit of resistance is still alive...

Superbowl Sunday

With the Superbowl upon us, and with one of the teams looking to complete the first 19-game undefeated season, it is probably safe to say that the majority of the U.S. will be tuned into the game. I was seeking to present a glimpse of what this day - not just this game - has become to the people of the nation, and I came across exactly that in an article by Joseph Price from a University of Chicago publication called Sightings. The article is titled, More Than a Game.
Price explains:
"the Super Bowl constitutes a religious phenomenon, providing a prominent public ceremony for patriotic display, while blending several symbol systems that shape the worldviews of many Americans. The football game and surrounding events celebrate America's devotion to sports, its fascination with entertainment, and its practice of consumerism."
Writing in 2005, when the game was in Jacksonville, Florida, Price notes how a pilgrimage of over 100,000 people descended on the small city for the week of festivities that included everything from lavish corporate sponsored parties to your average house party that many across the country will be attending this weekend. Further, in 2005:
"The National Retail Federation estimates that nationwide about 45 million people attended 7.5 million Super Bowl parties, at which more food was consumed than on any day other than Thanksgiving."
Price goes on in describing the devotional approach to the consumerist spirit of the game by noting the $300 million boost to the Jacksonville economy, the $2.4 million spent for a 30 second advertisement during the game which was watched by more than 150 Americans. Consider all of these numbers are apt to go up this year, with the possibility of an undefeated season on the line, and capturing the interest of even non-fans of the sport. So how does all this make the Superbowl some sort of consumerist religious event? According to Price:
"It enables participants (including fans) to explore levels of selfhood, identity, and self-transcendence that would otherwise remain inaccessible, while establishing a means for developing communal relations with other devotees. It models ways to deal with contingencies and fate, providing the prospect for experiencing a final victory -- and thus sampling, at least in an anticipatory way, abundant life -- or for rehearsing the lasting defeat of death."
And so... enjoy the game, and may we all experience a little bit of connection to the things that are greater than us.