Category Archives: Environment

Stopping the Mega Load Mega-Madness

Mega load Tue. Mar. 8, 2011

That thing in the picture above is a piece of oil refinery machinery. It's one of two mega-loads that made their slow and sorry way over the continental Divide on a two-lane road this winter. That is, when they weren't stuck on one pullout or another waiting for the weather to clear.

NYT: Those loads were headed for a ConocoPhillips refinery in Billings, Montana, but Exxon Mobile is eager to follow their lead—part of the way. It plans to haul 207 such loads along scenic two-lane roads through Idaho and Montana on their way north to the oil sands atrocity—er, operations— in Alberta.

(See map at right–from a NYTimes article by Tom Zeller Jr., "Oil Sands Effort Turns on a Fight Over a Road," from Oct. 21, 2010.)

I really was planning to write about gardening today (this being a gardening blog and all). But during the local news section of this morning's NPR broadcast, I heard that several groups have sued to stop the mega loads. So once again I'm celebrating the little guys who won't let the big guys roll right over them. (One of the sites devoted to the cause is called “The Rural People of Route 12 Fighting Goliath.”) The post about carrots will just have to wait.

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News flash! Organic farmers take on Monsanto

This gets filed under the Way to Go! banner.

Sixty organic seed dealers and farmers have banded together to file suit against global seed giant Monsanto, a world leader in producing genetically engineered (“transgenic”) seeds. The farmers are taking pre-emptive action to protect themselves from the litigious company's propensity for suing farmers whom it claims illegally grow crops from “its” seeds.

The problem is that farmers sometimes find themselves growing such crops unknowingly, or at least unintentionally. This can happen if seeds or pollen blow from a field that does use a Monsanto crop onto neighboring fields that don't, or if seeds fall from trucks as they're being shipped, or as happened in at least one case, if farmers trade seeds—an old tradition—but one of them gives away seed collected from a crop grown from Monsanto transgenic seeds. The unfortunate recipient in that case, Edward Zilinski of Micado, Saskatchewan, was informed that he owed Monsanto $28,000.

In other words, it doesn't matter how you come by the stuff: if you didn't buy it, you have no right to it, at least according to Monsanto.

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Bozeman welcomes Rick Bass and the Bioneers

 I went to Bozeman's Best of Bioneers festival yesterday, and my head is reeling. It's amazing to spend an afternoon with such extraordinary thinkers, speakers, and activists, people who get stuff done in the realms of environmentalism and global awareness.

Bioneers has to be one of the most active and hopeful environmental groups out there. They bring together creative and active people who are working to save the environment and the people who live in it. You can follow some of their work through their fine weekly radio broadcast.

This event started with a bang, courtesy of Montana's one and only taiko group, which made me think of the traditional Japanese drumming groups we saw when we were in Japan. It also brought to mind Sendai, where we lived, decimated three weeks ago by earthquake and tsunami and now threatened by nuclear contamination. It was an oblique but fitting reminder, on this day dedicated to the environment, of how vulnerable the environment is, and we with it.

The afternoon included videocasts of speeches by Michael Pollan, author and food activist; Winona LaDuke, Ojibwe activist and politician; Jessica Rimington youthful founder of One World Youth Project; and John Francis, founder of Planetwalk, and author of Planetwalker: 22 Years of Walking; 17 Years of Silence.

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Easy Earth Day Action

Day is almost over. Almost, but not quite. There's still time to
register with the Nature Conservancy, thus joining thousands
of others who want to preserve the wildness in which Henry David
Thoreau saw the “preservation of the world.”

You don't have to join the organization (though it's a good one to join); you don't have to give them any money (though I doubt they'd return it if you offered.) Nor is this one of those awful on-line bait and switch operations, one of those “just-a-few-minutes-of-your-time” buttons that whisks you to a form where you scroll endlessly on and on, divulging more personal information than you generally share with your spouse and more sixteen-digit numbers than you realized could be attached to one person, most of which, of course, you have to dig out of the back of some envelope at the bottom of the last desk drawer you try, and all of which must be typed in without dashes or spaces, a dyslexic's nightmare and a bad dream for the rest of us.

No, these folks ask for two things: your name, and your e-mail address. Then the form goes away. You're done. The form pops up when you go to the Nature Conservancy's home page.

They've also put together a Top 5 Earth Day Action List, which I'll reprint here. The links take you to pages on their special Earth Day site, where you'll find expanded discussions of each of these topics. (Check out #3, on gardening!)

1. Use Reusable Bags
— Hundreds of thousands of marine animals die every year from ingesting plastic bags #EarthDay

2. Eat Sustainably
–You eat fish even when you don’t: 36% of world's fisheries catch is used to feed farm animals #EarthDay

3. Green Your Gardening
–Plant native species – they require less fertilizer, which can seep into oceans! #EarthDay

4. Adopt A Coral Reef
–70% of all Earth’s coral reefs will be destroyed by 2050, act now! #EarthDay

5. See Oceans, Save Oceans
–See OCEANS (4/22-4/28) & a portion of ticket sales benefits Conservancy’s work on coral reefs #EarthDay

*Bonus – General Earth Day messaging
–It's time to celebrate Earth Day's 40th anniversary. We're asking you to help protect oceans. #EarthDay

We gardeners spend a lot of time with earth. Take a moment out for the big one, Earth.

Plant Power: Phytoremediation (Arsenic in soil, Part III)

Chinese brake fern (Pteris vittata L.) Source: Brake fern remediation

Today I get to write about one of my absolute favorite gardening topics, and for once I’m not being ironic. Phytoremediation isn’t going to make it onto most people’s gardening hit lists, and it’s not a fad that’s going to take the nation’s gardens by storm the way a new rose or hellebore might. But for me it’s proof positive of the extraordinary power of plants; it’s hope in a polluted world; it’s a spot of green in the brownfields of industry; it’s good sense in the midst of madness.

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