Final Harry Potter Book to go Green


Scholastic Books has announced that the final installment of the best selling Harry Potter series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" will be printed on enviro-approved paper. With a first printing of 12 million (yes, that was million) copies, this is a big deal.

As reported by CNN:

Scholastic Inc. announced Tuesday that it had agreed with the Rainforest Alliance, a conservation organization that works with the business community, on tightened environmental standards for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," coming out July 21 with a first printing of 12 million.

Now, even if you're not a Harry Potter fan (who isn't?), this has got to sound good. 12 million green copies (that's 30% post consumer fiber), with the deluxe edition (100,000 copies, to start) at 100% post consumer fiber.

At 784 pages each (9,480,000,000 pages when you take those 12 million copies into account), that's a lot of post consumer fiber. And, at 12 million kids (big and small), that's a lot of people getting the message that recycling is cool as they read the last Harry Potter book.

Very cool.

More from the article:

  • The paper used will contain "a minimum of 30 percent post-consumer waste (pcw) fiber."
  • Nearly two-thirds of the 16,700 tons of paper will be approved by the Forest Stewardship Council, an international organization with a mission to "promote environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world's forests."
  • A "deluxe" edition of the new book, which has a first printing of 100,000, will be printed on paper that contains "100 percent post-consumer waste fiber."

I was a fan of J.K. Rowling and Scholastic before this.

Now I'm in awe.

Here are the links again:

The CNN story.

Scholastic Books

The Rainforest Alliance

The book is set to be released on July 21st.

Hopefully, other publishers will follow suit.

Global warming drives Alps town to shut ski area


Harbinger of things to come (or go, as is the case here):

MSNBC is reporting that climate change has forced the Alps ski resort town of Abondance, France, to shut down its ski operations and climate change experts warn that other resorts will follow:

BONDANCE, France - Muddy slopes, slushy peaks, unused lifts — this town in the French Alps is living out the nightmare of many a ski resort in a century scientists say is doomed to keep getting warmer.

The city council of Abondance — its name a cruel reminder of the generous snowfall it once enjoyed — voted last month 9-6 to shut down the ski area that has been its economic raison d'etre for more than 40 years. The reason: not enough snow.

Abondance is the French Alps' first ski station to fall apparent victim to global warming. It will almost certainly not be the last.


As reported in earlier posts, growing warming is impacting diverse regions.

In the Alps, it's hit the ski slopes:

Gerald Giraud of the Snow Study Center of Meteo-France at Grenoble said altitudes of 3,000-4,900 feet are where "global warming will pose the greatest problems." Even taking into account irregular weather cycles, snowfall levels fell 25 inches on average between 1960 and 2007 across the French Alps, he said.

His center noted a rise in average temperature of 2.7 to 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit over the Alpine ranges since the early 1980s. The OECD report said warming in the Alps in recent years has been roughly three times the global average.

The report goes on to say that, geographically, Germany is the most at risk, while Switzerland has the least impact (relatively speaking). France, with its new shutdown projected to be the first of many is specified as being at average impact from global warming.

Which means the average norm will be no snow, an annual loss, last year, of $882,000 for one specified town (which is why they closed down)...

Not that everyone will miss out:

Abondance Mayor Serge Cettour-Meunier fears that the closure of his station is the start of a troubling trend. "Skiing is again becoming a sport for the rich," since only elite high-altitude resorts will have sufficient snowfall.

So, for now, the rich will still have their playground.

Or will they?

The company that operates the mid-level resorts in France, Switzerland, Italy and Slovenia are under bankruptcy protection, with warming weather given as a principle reason.

Well, heat rises. Maybe, when it rises high enough, all the oil-laden offspring on the slopes will think twice about the warming their parents helped to create.

Here's the link to the MSNBC report.


Climate Change/Extreme Drought Cited in Calif. Farm Failures


NBC ran a story last night about the drought conditions in the Inland Valley growing region of Southern California. The story opened with an auction of farm equipment by a third generation farmer pulling up stakes due to the fact that he could NOT afford to irrigate his farm after a record 1.93" of rainfall the past year -- which, as reporter George Lewis points out, is less than Death Valley's totals.

"Last year we harvested only half a crop and this year we did not even plant."

Mike Boris, California Farmer.

"California and the west, as well as portions of the southeast, are suffering through severe and extreme drought."

George Lewis, NBC

"We're pretty concerned that things are conspiring to give us a perfect drought out here, lasting not years, but maybe decades."

Glen Mac Donald, UCLA Geography Professor

California Governator, Ahnold, visited the region today with a warning that the state was on the brink of disaster: "If we have another dry season like this, I would say that it would be catastrophic."

Short and to the point (especially for him), but backed up by facts and negligible rainfall totals (1.93").

UCLA professor Glen MacDonald has confirmed that, while there have been acute droughts in the past, some lasting half a century, climate change has made it worse:

"Global warming really raised the odds of severe drought in California and the Southwest."

Glen MacDonald
UCLA Professor of Geology

The development is doubly worrisome when you take into account the increase in western wildfires:

As a heat wave made parched terrain even drier, wildfires dotted the West on Saturday, forcing authorities to evacuate homes and close highways and wilderness areas.


A link to the NBC story above.

So, what can you do?

Here's a link to Al Gore's 7 point pledge (take it).

To the LiveEarth Climate Crisis Solutions Page.

To Greenpeace's Climate Crisis Solutions Page.

To Earthday.net's Climate Crisis Solutions Page.

And a link to the site that can help individuals reduce their carbon footprint.


Jordanian and Israeli farmers' hopes take wing


Sometimes there's good news:

Jordanian and Israeli farmers have begun working together to introduce barn owls to Jordanian farms to replace dangerous pesticides that were poisoning the Jordanian environment:

For years, Ibrahim Alayyan watched in frustration as rats ravaged the date crop at his lush family farm. Having no luck with pesticides, the retired Jordanian heart surgeon was only too eager to try a pest control agent widely used in fields just across the Jordan River in Israel -- owls.


In late 2002 Israeli farmers planned a regional conference on barn owls to explain their advantages to colleagues across the Jordan River. The response was discouraging. Many Arabs consider owls the same way others view black cats -- as bad luck.

Word came back to the Israelis that no Jordanians would attend. So the organizers changed the title of the conference to focus on organic farming, and two dozen Jordanians turned up. Midway through the gathering they were given a demonstration on owls...


In a project driven on both sides of the border by environmental concerns, the effort is providing the opportunity for a water table that has been contaminated since the 1970's to return to health. This was important to the environmentalists in Israel after birds began dying following ingestion of pesticide laden rodents on the Jordanian side of the border.

This began after the kibbutz at Sde Eliyahu introduced owls in their own environment at the urging of Israeli ornithologist Yossi Leshem, the director of the International Center for the Study of Bird Migration. After noticing the success of their efforts, the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland, Ohio, gave the funds to provide tools, advice and owl nesting boxes to the farmers in Jordan.

Among the most eager participants was Alayyan, a former chief of cardiovascular surgery at a Jordanian hospital. He agreed to build a nesting box at his family's farm in the village of Sheik Hussein, six miles from Aviel's kibbutz.

"For me, it was a real pleasure to find a man like that on the other side of the border," said Aviel, as he and Alayyan surveyed a group of newborn owl nestlings. Unable to communicate in their own languages, the two men spoke to each other in English, but when it came to nature and conservation, "He spoke in my language," Aviel said.

This is but one of several initiatives on the environment across borders in the Middle East. As reported in my earlier story: The Gray Wolf and the Akbash Dog -- why can't we be like them and not trophy hunt?, Israeli and Syrian ranchers in the Golan Heights have also turned to a natural remedy to an environmental problem by introducing the use of Turkish Akbash dogs to protect their herds from the endangered Biblical wolf. The dogs, when raised with their herds, bond in a matriarchal way as pups and then grow up to be so large, they scare off wolves, bears, you name it, without killing them.

As a side note, the introduction of these same dogs could be an alternative to the killing spree of the wolves currently planned by the Bush Administration in Wyoming and Idaho (see this link for more details).

Another example of encouraging environmental cooperation in the Middle East concerns water and the decreasing level of the Dead Sea:

Saving the Dead Sea by using the Red Sea
Jordan, Israel, Palestinian Authority meet to save shrinking body of water

SOUTHERN SHUNEH, Jordan - Officials from Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority met along the shores of the Dead Sea to settle details of a study to save the shrinking body of water, agreeing to proceed with plans to draw water from the Red Sea.


The Red-Dead Sea canal project, which is expected to cost more than $1 billion, would exploit the 1,320-foot difference in altitude between both areas. If implemented, the 248-mile desert area between the two seas would benefit from the fresh water to turn the region into an agricultural hub for the benefit of the three countries. A desalination project is also envisaged to provide drinking water for Amman. Israel and the Palestinian territories would also benefit from the drinking water.


Environmental research center planned for Israel-Jordan border

In an effort to encourage scientific collaboration between Arab and Israeli students, the governments of Jordan and Israel have agreed to set aside 150 acres along their border for the construction of a major environmental research center that will be operated in collaboration with Stanford University and Cornell University.


This environmental effort is further supported by the language of Article IV of the Peace Treaty between Israel and Jordan:


Israel and Jordan acknowledge the importance of the ecology of the region, its high environmental sensitivity and the need to protect the environment and prevent danger and risks for the health and well-being of the region's population. They both recognise the need for conservation of natural resources, protection of biodiversity and the imperative of attaining economic growth based on sustainable development principles.

In light of the above, both Parties agree to co-operate in matters relating to environmental protection in general and to those that may mutually effect them.


This is not to say that these environmental initiatives will solve the complicated Middle East conflicts -- that is NOT what this diary is about.

What this diary does say: When environmentalists come together for a mutual cause, despite the conflicts around them, they not only find a way to cooperate, it invariably leads to the building of personal relationships across borders, as evidenced by the cooperation and growing friendships between the Israeli and Jordanian farmers via the use of owls and the Syrian and Israeli ranchers through the Akbash dog.

Here's the link to CNN/AP owl story.

A link to the MSNBC Dead Sea cooperation story.

And a link to my earlier story on the Akbash Dog.

And, tangentially related, a link to the urgent effort to stop the Bush Administration's plan to kill the wolves in Wyoming and Idaho.


China Not the Only Source of Tainted Food


The New York Times has published an analysis today of foods and goods uncovered and/or rejected by the FDA (that 'we inspect less than one percent' agency...) by country.

The winners?

India and Mexico:

At a time when Chinese imports are under fire for being contaminated or defective, federal records suggest that China is not the only country that has problems with its exports.

In fact, federal inspectors have stopped more food shipments from India and Mexico in the last year than they have from China, an analysis of data maintained by the Food and Drug Administration shows.

So, what is going on here?

According to a graph put together by the NYT, based on FDA data, here are some stats:

CountryShipments Turned AwayMost Frequent Violation
Dominican Republic828Pesticides
Denmark543Mislabeled candy
Japan508Missing documentation
Italy482Missing documentation

Carl R. Nielsen, former FDA Director of the Division of Import Operations and Policy: "The reality is, this is not a single-country issue at all, What we are experiencing is massive globalization."

What we are experiencing is massive globalization.

The F.D.A. database does not necessarily capture a full and accurate picture of product quality from other countries. For one thing, only one year of data is available on the agency’s Web site, and F.D.A. officials declined to provide more data without a formal Freedom of Information request, a process that can take months, if not years.

In addition, the F.D.A. inspects only about 1 percent of the imports that fall under its jurisdiction. So the agency may miss many of the products that are contaminated or defective.


An F.D.A. plan to revamp the way it inspects imports, called the Import Strategic Plan, was completed in 2003, but shelved because of budgetary constraints, several former F.D.A. officials said.


What to do? Aside from contacting your Congressperson to ask questions about the FDA's budget and WHY the Import Strategic Plan was SHELVED (and when it will be UNSHELVED???).

Buy local wherever you can:

here's a link to Farmer's Markets by U.S. State.
here's a link to Farmer's Markets in Canada.
here's a link to Farmer's Markets in Great Britain.
here's a link to Farmer's Markets in Australia

Buy proven foodstuffs where you can't buy local and buy FAIR TRADE everywhere you can:

Speaking of chocolate (a subject dear to my heart), here's a table of chocolate products that are not produced by child slave labor [1]

chocolate, diamonds, coltan...

Here's a website from the Mandela Project about conflict products:

The Inventory of Conflict & Environment (ICE)

And here's the link to the NYT story from today.


China's Deadly Response to Toxic Food Scandal


CNN is reporting that China just executed the former head of their food and drug safety administration for taking bribes. That's right. They executed him.

BEIJING, China (Reuters) -- China's former drug and food safety watchdog chief was executed on Tuesday after being found guilty of corruption and dereliction of duty amid a series of food and drug safety scandals, Xinhua news agency said.

The Supreme People's Court approved the death sentence against Zheng Xiaoyu, 62, who was convicted of taking bribes worth some 6.5 million yuan ($850,000) from eight companies.


That's not to say the safety problem with China's products has been solved.

In fact, according to this well researched Newsweek article, it's worse than we thought.

(Confirmed by the BBC's story on the Chinese Official/Tainted Product Crisis).

China's litany of problem products, the likely tip of the iceberg, bears repeating:

  • Medicine contaminated with diethylene glycol (antifreeze) passed off as glycerin.
  • Gluten spiked with Melamine which poisoned so many of our dogs and cats :o[
  • Toxic fish contaminated with banned antibiotics and chemicals
  • Toy trains for toddlers (who like to taste things) with lead paint
  • Juice with unsafe color additives
  • Tainted seasoning on snacks.
  • A Sudan dye used to color egg yolks red
  • Pork tainted with clenbuterol, a banned feed additive.
  • Tires missing a safety component (okay, you don't eat those, but, if you're driving around on them, you may not be eating much afterward).

And it's not only their exports:

Last week, the China's food-safety watchdog said almost 20 percent of products made for domestic consumption were found to be substandard in the first half of 2007. Canned and preserved fruit and dried fish were the most problematic, primarily because of excessive bacteria and additives, the agency said.



China today resembles nothing so much as the United States a century ago, when robber barons, gangsterism and raw capitalism held sway. Now as then, powerful vested interests are profiting from murky regulations, shoddy enforcement, rampant corruption and a lack of consumer awareness. In the United States during the early 20th century, public outrage over bogus drugs and contaminated foodstuffs, fueled by graphic accounts such as Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle," finally prompted passage of the landmark Pure Food and Drug Act. China needs a similar revolution today if it is to protect its competitiveness and its consumers.


However, as CNN reports:

Avoiding 'Made In China' labels are not an easy task

The 2002 Farm Bill passed by Congress mandated country-of-origin labeling for seafood, beef, lamb, pork, fish, fruits, vegetables and peanuts, but the Bush administration has delayed its implementation for everything except seafood until October 2008.

Some fruits and vegetables sported voluntary stickers, but shoppers always should consider the calendar when shopping for produce, as stores get a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables from Central and South America during winter months.

None of the sweets in the candy aisle said "Made in China," but most are likely made with at least one ingredient that originated there, said William Hubbard, a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration official.


Only China's problem?

The 2002 Farm Bill passed by Congress mandated country-of-origin labeling for seafood, beef, lamb, pork, fish, fruits, vegetables and peanuts, but the Bush administration has delayed its implementation for everything except seafood until October 2008.

And then there's this:

FDA Tracked Tainted Chinese Drugs 10 Years Ago

China's solution? Kill the guy who may be able to tell just which companies are behind all of this (maybe not the reason, but...)...

Another Chinese man (this one a hero - one of many) who may be at risk?

Wang Hai's mobile phone keeps buzzing with calls from clients. He's China's most famous crusader against fraudulent, shoddy and dangerous goods. The business consultant targets counterfeiters, helps duped consumers and protects whistle-blowers, many of whom face harassment or worse. "A good system for guaranteeing quality control simply doesn't exist in China," says Wang, who's been on the consumer-rights warpath for more than a decade. "Even confidential informants who report to authorities about someone selling fraudulent goods can wind up dead, under suspicious circumstances."


My suggestion?

Buy local wherever you can:

here's a link to Farmer's Markets by U.S. State.
here's a link to Farmer's Markets in Canada.
here's a link to Farmer's Markets in Great Britain.
here's a link to Farmer's Markets in Australia

Buy proven foodstuffs where you can't buy local and buy FAIR TRADE everywhere you can:

Speaking of chocolate (a subject dear to my heart), here's a table of chocolate products that are not produced by child slave labor [1]

chocolate, diamonds, coltan...


Here's a website from the Mandela Project about conflict products:

The Inventory of Conflict & Environment (ICE)

And perhaps we could reserve some empathy for the 1,321,851,888 [2] Chinese people who live with the risk of their own tainted food supply -- of which we have seen just the terrifying tip of the iceberg.


Soft Drink-Cancer Link Lawsuit Settled


What do soft drinks, cigarettes and gasoline have in common? Benzene.

That's right. Cancer causing Benzene.

Soft drinks: Two the nation's largest soft drink manufacturers have just agreed to reformulate their soft drinks to exclude the known carcinogen Benzene, which forms when Ascorbic Acid and Sodium Benzoate (a preservative) combine in one product:

Safeway settles benzene soft drink suit

The supermarket market chain, Safeway Inc., has agreed to reformulate soft drinks made with ingredients that can potentially form benzene, according to a recent settlement. The company is one of several soft drink manufacturers that have recently been sued in class action lawsuits over benzene, a known carcinogen. Coca-Cola, a former defendant, agreed to settle last month.

Exposure to significant levels of benzene can lead to increased rates of bone marrow diseases, including leukemia.


The bad news? Not all companies are reformulating...



Climate Change the Culprit in Missing Lake


A few weeks ago, after an entire mountain lake the size of ten (10) football fields in a Chilean National Park mysteriously disappeared and left behind a 130 foot crater, scientists scratched their heads as to the cause.

The likely culprit has now been identified: Climate Change.

Scientists on Tuesday blamed global warming for the disappearance of a glacial lake in remote southern Chile that faded away in just two months, leaving just a crater behind.

The disappearance of the lake in Bernardo O'Higgins National Park was discovered in late May by park rangers, who were stunned to find a 130-foot deep crater where a large lake had been.

After flying over the lake Monday scientists said they were able to draw preliminary conclusions that point to climate change as the leading culprit for the lake's disappearance.


The report goes on to say that Chilean glaciologist, Andre Rivera, noticed, while flying over the glacier that dammed the lake, a break in the glacier dam where the ice had thinned to the point where it could not hold the water back. As a result, the water rushed out to a nearby fiord and, from there, unnoticed into the sea.

A 130 foot deep lake the size of ten (10) football fields.


On one side of the Bernardo glacier one can see a large hole or gap, and we believe that's where the water flowed through," Rivera said in a navy communique. "This confirms that glaciers in the region are retreating and getting thinner."

Rivera goes on to say: "This would not be happening if the temperature had not increased."

Would not have been happening, but, apparently, it did -- which leads to the inevitable conclusion that it is happening somewhere else (as reported in my earlier post here):

Our 'Gross National Happiness' is now threatened...

Bhutan's former king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, an environmentalist who made the protection of resources the cornerstone philosophy of his nation, named his policy -- the idea that lifestyle and values were as important as material gains -- their: 'Gross National Happiness'.

But in this high Himalayan nation, lined by lakes and rivers -- a country that has done more than most to help the environment -- the sins of others have overwhelmed that policy, as twenty four of over two thousand glacial melt lakes threaten to spill over their natural dams due to glacier retreat.

Our Gross National Happiness...

How many nations?


Lake Chad, once one of the African continent's largest bodies of fresh water, has dramatically decreased in size due to climate change and human demand for water. Once a great lake close in surface area to North America's Lake Erie, Lake Chad is now a ghost of its former self. According to a study by University of Wisconsin- Madison researchers, working with NASA's Earth Observing System program, the lake is now 1/20th of the size it was 35 years ago.


Images: http://search.nasa.gov/...

Vanishing lake baffles Russians

Residents of a village in central Russia are trying to solve the mystery of a lake that disappeared overnight.

Russia's NTV channel showed a huge, muddy basin where the lake once was, in the village of Bolotnikovo.

"It looks like somebody has pulled the plug out of a gigantic bath," said the TV's correspondent, next to a deep debris-filled hole.


Florida’s Disappearing Lake

It looks like someone pulled the plug out of the bottom of Lake Okeechobee.

Florida’s biggest lake is disappearing. Boats sit at docks surrounded by a sea of grass. Locks that normally move the boats into neighboring canals are now high and dry. At the giant fishing pier at the southern end of the town of Okeechobee on the lake’s north shore, locals and tourists come armed with cameras to walk on the pier and marvel at the water that is missing.


When Lake Jackson "disappeared," governmental agencies jumped in. The Northwest Florida Water Management District, along with state and local governments, were prepared to implement a massive clean-up plan to restore the lake to its previous ecological health and to its renown trophy largemouth bass days.


6,000-year-old Arctic ponds drying out

In Arctic, pools that burst into life during summer are drying up

Global warming is destroying ponds that have supported life in the Arctic for thousands of years – bad news for the North and an ominous warning to the rest of the world, says a new report by two Canadian scientists.


Global warming threatens to dry up Ganges

The Gangotri glacier, which provides up to 70 percent of the water of the Ganges during the dry summer months, is shrinking at a rate of 40 yards a year, nearly twice as fast as two decades ago, scientists say.

"This may be the first place on earth where global warming could hurt our very religion. We are becoming an endangered species of Hindus," said Veer Bhadra Mishra, an engineer and director of the Varanasi-based Sankat Mochan Foundation, an organization that advocates for the preservation of the Ganges.


According to a UN climate report, the Himalayan glaciers that are the sources of the Ganges could disappear by 2030 as temperatures rise.


So, Chile, The Himalyas, India, Africa, the United States, the Arctic, that drought in Australia that's been broken up for the moment by floods (but will it be back...? my guess? yeah), and then there's the one in Iceland and that one in Slovenia...

Which puts the global in global warming...

Here's the link to the MSNBC/AP article on the identification of climate change as the likely culprit in the disappearance of the lake in Chile.