Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Canary of the Canary - The Great Lakes and Climate Change

The lakes they are a-changin'... NYT Energy & Environment story here details how The Great Lakes are indicators of climate change severity.

Also, to follow more energy and environment news from the New York Times, check out The Green blog.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Dubbed a hero, Allen looks to take farming to the skies

It's hard to imagine a five-story farm in the middle of a city, but if Milwaukee urban farmer Will Allen is behind the idea, anything's possible.

After all, Allen is a world hero, according to an issue of Time magazine that hits newsstands Friday. He's among 100 individuals and small groups picked by Time editors for the annual "Time 100: The World's Most Influential People," which honors ideas, innovations and actions that are "shaping our world."

Friday, April 16, 2010

A New Twist on the Hidden Costs of Fast Food

The fast food industry has been taking quite a bit of heat lately. It isn't difficult to find articles that scrutinize the meager nutritional content of a drive-thru meal. Some studies have even shown that fast food is as addictive as heroin, like this one here. A recent Newsweek article discusses the conditioning that we humans have experienced with fast food labeling. The article asserts that we have learned to associate fast food labels, like the golden arches, Wendy's red hair, the Arby's hat, etc. with convenience and time-saving measures. While this might not seem like the worst thing in the world, if you believe this study, it is another contributor to our culture of "instant gratification". It makes me feel a little like Pavlov's dog, personally.

Read the article here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

UW Experts Weigh In on Food Issues

If you've ever thought to yourself, "Michael Pollan makes some interesting and potentially valid points, but who is he to tell us how to eat (or shop, or farm, etc.)?", you are certainly not alone. The most recent issue of Grow, a magazine distributed by UW's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, features twelve ideas for changing the food/farming industry by actual experts. Read mini-articles on topics from food processing and safety, cooking and food production, to farming and crop reform. Check it out here, if you haven't already.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Recycle your Cell

If 130 million cell phones are discarded on an annual basis in the U.S. alone, there is a lot to be said for tracking where these phones end up. National Public Radio's Elizabeth Shogren recently featured this topic in an attempt to raise awareness about the issue. Read and/or listen to the story here.

As the comments on the website suggest, there are many reasons to be cautious about who one may give their old phones to and where those phones end up. Whether it's privacy concerns over information stored in old phones or public health issues regarding the dismantling of old phones (by third world youth?), one should know what a third party intends to do with the phone before handing it over.

On the Energy Gap and Climate Crisis

I just noticed that a friend of mine and fellow Madisonian posted a well-received note on the New York Times - Dot Earth blog, moderated by Andrew Revkin. As usual with blogs, the comments following an original post can be as much or more enlightening than the original post. Not only is this post from good old Madison, it offers an interesting perspective on the "live simply so that others may simply live" bumper-sticker plea.

Have you thought about an energy gap? What about the Knowledge Gap when it comes to climate crisis information? These are concepts that environmental journalists wrestle with and try to overcome in their "on the ground" capacity to provide accurate information about these complex issues.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Can Science and God Co-exist?

While most scientists surely agree that the movie "Angels & Demons" is, by and large, not credible, it did provide a 'sneak peek' at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) that is currently in use at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland. The LHC, which has finally recovered from a few major setbacks, began proton smashing on March 30, 2010. CERN is attempting to recreate the 'Big Bang' on a much smaller scale by proving the existence of, or lack thereof, the 'God Particle', also known as the Higgs boson.

This massive project at CERN has raised some interesting concerns, among them that the LHC will create a black hole that could swallow up the earth (like 'Angels & Demons' on steroids). Regardless, the experiment is an interesting one. Click here to read an article by Eben Harrell on time.com about why the LHC experiment is important. Don't worry, Tom Hanks will surely be there to save the day.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

COMING SOON: The Man Who Planted Trees

If you're young at heart, like living green and have an extra $20 laying around , this upcoming show at the Overture Center may be right up your alley.

Read more about
"The Man Who Planted Trees".

A killer in the bat cave

In 2006, scientists began tracking a mysterious white fungus that was affecting bats and rapidly reducing bat populations in the U.S. In 2009, the fungus was identified by researchers at the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, WI, and the fungus's corresponding disease was given a name: white nose syndrome. As the WNS epidemic spreads (a WNS-related bat die off was recently confirmed in Canada), there is growing concern among wildlife health experts about the future of bat species.

By Shaoni Bhattacharya
In New Scientist

CORPSE upon corpse they lie, a carpet of emaciated, fungus-ridden carcasses. Where once healthy animals hung in slumber from the cave roof, now there is a mass grave on the floor. It is a scene that is repeated throughout the eastern US, from Vermont to West Virginia. America's bats are in crisis, under threat from a mysterious killer.

The first sign that something was up emerged in February 2006, when a caver photographed hibernating bats with white muzzles at Howe's Cave in Albany, New York state. Soon afterwards bats were observed behaving strangely - waking from hibernation early and in a state of serious starvation. Some even ventured out of their roosts during daylight to search for food. Inside the caverns, the floors were littered with bodies, most with the characteristic fuzzy white mould growing on their noses, ears and wings. So far, about a million bats have succumbed to this fate, an affliction dubbed white nose syndrome (WNS).

Continue reading...

Spooky creature endangered by superstition

Call me crazy, but I find these creatures to be adorable. The aye-aye is a tiny mammal that resides in Madagascar. They are friendly and harmless, but because they aren't the most "attractive" things around (see the freakishly long middle finger) locals fear them and consequently kill them on sight. So sad.

To read a bit more about the aye-aye, click here.

Also, here's a brief clip of an aye-aye at the Duke Lemur Center.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bottled water industry combats anti-green perceptions with fake journalism

Where do all the empty bottles go? Ummm....

Huffington Post's Jason Linkins reports on an attempt by the International Bottled Water Association to pass off an internally produced promotional video as real journalism. Is it true that the IBWA has stopped beating its dog? Get the not-so-straight answers to all the not-so-tough questions, right here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Fast food, frighteningly slow decay: Mother keeps McDonald's Happy Meal for a whole year... and it STILL hasn't gone off

Here's an example of deduction: Real food will decay when left out on a shelf for a year. A McDonald's Happy Meal does not decay when left on a shelf for a year. Thus, a McDonald's Happy Meal is not real food.

From Daily Mail UK

Glancing at the two McDonald's Happy Meals pictured here, you may feel they look pretty much identical.

Astonishingly, however, this is the same meal, photographed 12 months apart.

Where any other food might be a mouldy, decomposing mess after a year, the McDonald's meal shows few signs of going off apart from the beef patty shrivelling and the stale burger bun cracking.

Continue reading...

Scientists Use Sex-Crazed Bugs as Alternative to Toxic Pesticides

Scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem are hoping that the genetically-tweaked, sterile male insects they are releasing into the wild will serves a "green" population controllers that will reduce/eliminate the need for harmful pesticides on crops.

From Inhabitat

In today’s “gross news” category, some female insects might be getting lucky. As an alternative to toxic pesticides, scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have created “super-sexed” sterilized male leafhoppers to knock bug boots with females in the wild. Yes, that means that the female bugs will miss out on the joys of motherhood, but if the research proves successful, we may be able to eliminate a lot of the harmful and very ungreen chemicals that we currently use to keep food crops pest free.

Continue reading...

The Story of Bottled Water: Fear, Manufactured Demand and a $10,000 Sandwich

Here's a simple video about a not-so-simple product: bottled water. After watching this, maybe you'll be more inclined to head to the tap the next time you're thirsty.

From: The Huffington Post

Imagine I was trying to sell you a sandwich. It's shrink wrapped in plastic that may leach toxic chemicals, but don't worry about that. Mine's still healthier than a sandwich you could make at home, what with all those impurities in your fridge. Now, I've got no proof of that, and actually, some people have tested my sandwiches and found that sometimes they have more bad stuff in them than the ones from your own kitchen. But never mind that. Mine's more convenient. Tastes better too. I swear.

So here you go: one plastic-wrapped, waste-producing sandwich that isn't any healthier and doesn't taste any better than the one from your own kitchen. That'll be $10,000, please.

Continue reading...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Making Science Fun?

One way to lure people in and educate them on science topics is to make it fun. And what's fun for scientists? Taking a quiz! The folks at Pew Research have developed an interesting and quick science quiz to measure science knowledge. You can also compare your results with a thousand or so randomly selected others.

Deep Conversation equals Happiness?

Taking a look at this study from the University of Arizona, as reported by Roni Caryn Rabin of the New York Times, one may or may not come away with questions regarding its findings.

The subjects were college students (not uncommon) but the report goes on to mainly highlight a single "happiest" person. Does this article do a good job of explaining both the results of the study and its inherent limitations? Do the results suggested here align with your personal experiences with "deep" vs. "superficial" conversation as related to your own happiness?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Robots: friends or foes?

I have to admit, I'm prejudiced against robots. I think they're terrible actors.

I know that's not fair. As a bald, white dude who doesn't like to shave very often, I'd hate for people to judge me based on Jason Statham's body of work.

Robots actually have very active off-screen lives as well. Among other things they perform surgeries (fun!), execute military and rescue missions that are far too dangerous for humans (hooray!), and conduct menial manufacturing tasks that used to provide family-supporting income to human workers (boo!). In this film, which was heavily promoted during yesterday's NCAA basketball tournament selection show, Honda suggests that we all cancel our robot insurance policies and give robots a second chance. After all, they're not all Austrian, bodybuilding, good/evil killing machines turned California governors.

(photo: Google images)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Why Making Healthful Foods Cheaper Isn't Enough

Here is an interesting article featured on NPR about healthier food choices. Encouraging healthier eating is proving to be a complex issue; NPR takes a look at the economic side of the issue:

Bucks for broccoli or cash for carrots? Financial incentives aimed at encouraging healthier choices are catching on from New Zealand to the Philippines. Workplaces in the United States have been offering incentives for weight loss. In a London-based study, dieters got paid when they dropped pounds. Now researchers are interested in understanding how food price manipulations may influence what ends up in mothers' grocery carts. Does increasing the cost of sugary items mean fewer people buy them? Would more people buy veggies if they were more affordable?

To create successful incentives, says Yale behavioral economist Dean Karlan, a policy needs to specifically target the people whose behavior its trying to change. "So in the case of broccoli you'd want to find out who's not eating broccoli and then pay them to eat it," he says. You don't want to necessarily make broccoli cheaper for those who are already buying plenty of it, you want to target those who don't buy enough fruits or vegetables. It could be very tricky to structure such an incentive.

Click here to read the rest of the article

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The greatest [hotbed of social issues] on Earth!

Who knew that circus culture was so rife with race, gender, animal rights, and other social issues? Check out the blogoshpere's newest trove of circus-related material: Hey Rube Circus, administered by LSC's own Noel Benedetti.

(photo by Harry Atwell from heyrubecircus.com)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cutting the Fat—and Calories— in a Childhood Favorite

Children’s birthday celebrations might soon be even happier, thanks to research that’s trimming the fat and calories from a traditional favorite—cake and frosting. Any subtracting of fat, and its calories, from foods that kids crave is a plus, in light of the nation’s epidemic of childhood obesity.

At the ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Illinois, food technologist Mukti Singh is working to slim down the fat and calories of cake mixes. She’s doing that by formulating the mixes with FANTESK—microdroplets of trans-fat-free cooking oil, encapsulated in cornstarch or wheat flour.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Google FIber Considers Madison as Test Spot

While other cities are creating a frenzy around the possibility of being a test spot for the new Google Fiber, Madison held a public meeting. Google Fiber, the company's attempt at high speed internet, would provide a wireless network that runs "100 times faster" than most internet connections. Google, which already has an office in Madison, is considering several U.S. cities to test out the service.

Duluth, MN has jokingly promised to name every first born in the city either Google or Googlette Fiber. Topeka has changed it's name to Google, Kan. for a month. Madison held the public meeting on Thursday, March 11 at Olbrich Gardens to brainstorm ideas for the application. Bids are due by March 26, 2010 and Google plans on making a decision sometime this year.

Read the article at madison.com.

Climate change scientists have not yet begun to fight. Good or bad?

In this segment from the New York Times' Dot Earth blog, science communication experts Matt Nisbet and Randy Olson debate whether or not climate change scientists should get nasty and fight back against those trying to discredit them.

Meanwhile, noted science guy Bill Nye very calmly and politely sticks it to Bill O'Reilly.

(photos courtesy of webomator.com and treehugger.com, respectively)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Spread of Superbugs

Agribusiness is getting even more criticism. This time it's about the use of antibiotics. There has been talk for a while now about the overuse of antibiotics and the development of "superbugs", or antibiotic resistant bacteria. Concern is rising over the overuse of antibiotics in livestock. Nicholas D. Kristof, of The New York Times, offers his take on the situation:

Until three months ago, Thomas M. Dukes was a vigorous, healthy executive at a California plastics company. Then, over the course of a few days in December as he was planning his Christmas shopping, E. coli bacteria ravaged his body and tore his life apart.Mr. Dukes is a reminder that as long as we’re examining our health care system, we need to scrutinize more than insurance companies. We also need to curb the way modern agribusiness madly overuses antibiotics, leaving them ineffective for sick humans.

Antibacterial drugs were revolutionary when they were introduced in the United States in 1936, virtually eliminating diseases like tuberculosis here and making surgery and childbirth far safer. But now we’re seeing increasing numbers of superbugs that survive antibiotics. One of the best-known — MRSA, a kind of staph infection — kills about 18,000 Americans annually. That’s more than die of AIDS.

Food activist on a mission in Madison

Last month, Wisconsin farmer Will Allen shared a podium in Washington, D.C., with Michelle Obama as she launched her plan to fight childhood obesity.

On Tuesday, Allen will be in the buffet line at Madison’s First Unitarian Society at a community potluck, which will be followed by his presentation on the groundbreaking national effort to bring high quality food to everyone, regardless of their income, through innovative urban agriculture.

Despite Allen’s growing national prominence — he’s a recipient of a MacArthur “genius grant” — it’s likely that he’ll continue to spend a good amount time in the Madison area.

Allen’s Milwaukee-based Growing Power Inc. is a key partner in the proposed Madison “agro-urban” charter school which would be built on Madison’s South Side, at the corner of Rimrock and Badger roads. Although funding and planning are still in flux, the 4.5-acre property for the Badger Rock Middle School was purchased from Dane County for the school in January for $500,000, and agricultural work there will begin this spring — a first step in creating the vegetable gardens and orchards that will surround the school.

Click here read the article by Chris Martell

Friday, March 5, 2010

Public Health Pariah or Saving Grace to Struggling Parents?

Jenny McCarthy has sparked praise and controversy for her popular stance as just another mom taking on the medical system to combat a nebulous disease. Is she a good spokesperson for autism? The disease has no clear cause or single type of effective treatment.

Are McCarthy's methods of raising awareness for an issue like autism good even if the science behind her claims is a little unclear? This TIME magazine story covers the story. Does TIME provide a balanced portrayal of McCarthy and of the disease itself?

Big Agribusiness Targets Michael Pollan

Agribusiness is not so happy with author Michael Pollan. (Alia Malley)

When Michael Pollan published “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” in 2006, he became an overnight hero for the sustainable food movement. Now he’s taking on a new role: lightning rod.

Pollan’s scheduled speech Thursday at California Polytechnic has raised the ire of Harris Ranch Beef Company, an industrial-sized feedlot and meat-processing operation based in Selma, Calif. Company chairman David E. Wood, an alumnus of Cal Poly, objected to giving Pollan “an unchallenged forum to promote his stand on conventional agricultural practices” and threatened to withdraw a promised corporate $500,000 donation for a meat-processing facility on campus.

In response to the criticism, Cal Poly reformatted the event. Instead of giving a speech, Pollan will now participate in a panel discussion that will also include Gary Smith, a professor of meat science at Colorado State University, and Myra Goodman, cofounder of organic vegetable company Earthbound Farms.

Until recently, agribusiness had not directly challenged Pollan and other well-known advocates of sustainable agriculture, casting them as impractical elitists. But Pollan’s growing appeal to college students and children – a new young reader’s edition of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” is released today – may have spooked conventional producers. Harris Ranch, which operates a large-scale feedlot that accomodates 100,000 head of cattle, for example, believes Pollan’s message must be combated...

More Than 200,000 NGOs, Farmers, Consumers, and Organic Producers Call for USDA to Prohibit Genetically Engineered Alfalfa

The National Organic Coalition (NOC) today announced that more than 200,000 people submitted comments to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) critiquing the substance and conclusions of its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on Genetically Engineered (GE) Alfalfa. Groups, including NOC, Center for Food Safety (CFS), Organic Consumers Association, Food & Water Watch, CREDO Action and Food Democracy Now, mobilized their communities to help generate the unprecedented number of comments.

In addition, more than 300 public interest organizations, farmers, dairies, retailers and organic food producers from the U.S. and Canada delivered a strongly worded letter to USDA, calling upon it to deny approval of Monsanto’s genetically engineered, Roundup Ready alfalfa (GE alfalfa). The letter cites the inevitable contamination of organic and non-GE alfalfa hay and seeds and threats to the viability of organic dairies, livestock, and meat and dairy producers as reasons for urging the denial.


Food for thought: Why the outrage over Genetically altered foods? How does this effect third world countries who might benefit from genetically altered crops? How might GE crops impact organic producers and their status as organic producers?

Go Big Read is on facebook, just like you

Go Big Read is on facebook, and today they're discussing the First Family's kitchen garden. Hey, if the most powerful family in the world can do it...then anybody...yeah.

Kidding. First Lady Michelle Obama's program that teaches urban kids about food is actually very inspiring, and not all that different from what a variety of programs all over the country are doing.

Become poke buddies with Go Big Read now!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Health claims? Questionable celebrity involvement? Orange Juice?

If you've spent any time in front of the television over the past few months, you may have heard a vaguely familiar voice expounding upon the benefits of healthy, pure, and simple Florida orange juice. Did you know that one 8 oz. glass contains 25% of your recommended daily value of fruits and vegetables? Did you know that all of those "scientists" have not been able to replicate this quality using their "chemistry sets?" Did you know that the voice of Florida orange juice is Tom Selleck?

Check out the official Florida Juice website, read the health claims, and decide for yourself. Don't forget to turn up your speakers in order to hear the soothing sounds of the 'stache.

("Florida what? Whatever, tell them I'll do it." Photo courtesy of Google images)

Punctuation is also a part of National Grammar Day

Check out this blast from the past: Seven awesome examples of misplaced quotation marks from Huffington Post (via last semester's LSC 100 blog).

Taste the World

From WKOWTV.com

A Madison non-profit organization is working with local middle schools to help students expand their eating horizons. Thier weekly program, Taste the World, gives students the opportunity prepare and tastes cusines from a wide array of cultures. The program has been a big hit with the students and is becoming more popular in the Madison community.

Happy National Grammar Day!

While I'm very embarrassed that I wasn't aware of this important holiday until now, I will celebrate it with gusto for the rest of the day. Huffington Post is also celebrating with some examples of unfortunate grammar and spelling errors (some funnier than others). Check it out.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Demonstration speeches!

For those of you who want to see what an "A" demo speech looks like, these examples should be instructive. These speeches are not without some minor problems, but you don't have to achieve perfection to get the grade you want. Also notice that neither topic is Earth shattering, though Ben and Steph do an effective job of explaining everyday subject matter. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Got to be startin' summit


Got opinions about health care? Yes you do. So do your friendly Congressional Representatives from Wisconsin.

See what Sen. Russ Feingold has to say about last Friday's bipartisan health care summit in Washington D.C.

Then, check out this video of Rep. Paul Ryan's comments at the summit.

(photo courtesy of CBS News, via Google images)