Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Just a little something for y'all (if I may be so bold):

Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home) -- Darlene Love's annual appearance on the Letterman Show. This one is from 2006. Enjoy, and have a great holiday season!

Thank you CBS and Worldwide Pants for the use of your video, and for this great annual holiday tradition.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Obama Appoints Science and Technology Team

In contrast to the Bush administration's apparent campaign to limit scientific inquiry (please see the previous post), President-elect Obama has appointed a first-rate team of scientists to take up the challenges of the 21st century. Here is his video address from December 20, 2008:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Back to Reality

The Bush Administration has succeeded in undermining the value of scientific inquiry in our understanding of how the world works. In the last eight years, the importance of science has taken a back seat to ideology and dogma in our relationship to the planet, a practice that has caused us to despoil the Earth through pollution and waste of natural resources (including not only fossil fuels, but wetlands, natural, unspoiled areas of our national parks and forests, etc.). We have dropped the ball on medical research, as well as our understanding of global climate change. At practically every turn, science has been ignored, in favor of a firm, incurious view of how things work. It now falls on President-elect Obama to undo this ignorant approach, and to restore the spirit of inquiry into our understanding of life, and the way we function as a civilization.

Olivia Judson has an excellent opinion piece in the online edition of the New York Times that explains this eloquently. Here is an excerpt:

"The distortion and suppression of science is dangerous, and not just because it means that public money gets wasted on programs, like abstinence-only sex 'education' schemes, that do not work. It is dangerous because it is an assault on science itself, a method of thought and inquiry on which our modern civilization is based and which has been hugely successful as a way of acquiring knowledge that lets us transform our lives and the world around us. In many respects science has been the dominant force — for good and ill — that has transformed human lives over the past two centuries."

Read the full post here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


My goodness, I just noticed how long it's been since I've posted anything to this blog. I guess, like most people, I've been so caught up in the political campaigns that the blog has sort of taken a back seat to the TV news. To all those who faithfully look in here from time to time, my sincere apologies. Though I never shied away from including the political implications of some of these topics, I never intended it to become a political blog, per se. Hence the dearth of new posts during this highly-charged political season.

Now that it's over, there seems to be new found hope in a new president who has a stated commitment to environmental preservation and remediation. Barack Obama hasn't taken office as yet, but we are very hopeful that he will live up to his promise to see that he leaves the planet greener than he found it. We should all match his commitment with our own, and work together to see that the planet remains healthy for future generations.

A brief wildlife observation: I have let a vine grow over one of my window screens in my living room. It has become a haven for migrating birds passing through and stopping in our woods for a rest. Palm Warblers are common, as well as Carolina Wrens and other tiny winged creatures, and I press my nose practically up against the inside glass to observe them at close range. What a treat!

Carolina Wren

See you next time; not so long, I promise. Peace.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Small Farms Best for Environment: Organic Group

MODENA, Italy - Small-scale, not industrial farming, is the answer to food shortages and climate change, organic farmers argued this week.

Meeting at the Organic World Congress this week, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements IFOAM -- -- criticized a recent U.N. food summit for touting chemical fertilizers and genetically modified (GM) crops rather than organic solutions to tackle world hunger.

The World Bank says an extra 100 million people worldwide could go hungry as a result of the sharp rise in the price of food staples in the last year.

At the U.N. food summit in Rome this month, the World Bank pledged $1.2 billion in grants to help with the food crisis.

"The $1.2 billion the World Bank says will solve the food crisis in Africa is a $1.2 billion subsidy to the chemical industry," said Vandana Shiva, an Indian physics professor and environmental activist speaking at the forum in Modena.

"Countries are made dependent on chemical fertilizers when their prices have tripled in the last year due to rising oil prices," she said. "I say to governments: spend a quarter of that on organic farming and you've solved your problems."

©Reuters and The Organic Consumers Association, 7/2/2008

Full story at the website of the Organic Consumers Association
Link to the original Reuters article

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

New blog!

I've moved the bulk of discussion of aternative vehicles and methods of transportation to a separate blog: Eco-friendly Transportation. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

ENN: Government red tape stymies new solar energy development

Leaders in the U.S. solar energy industry blasted the U.S. government on Monday for a freeze on applications for new solar projects on public land in six Western states.

The Bureau of Land Management announced the freeze a month ago, saying it would conduct an extensive study looking at the environmental, social and economic impacts of solar energy development.

During the 22-month study, the agency will not consider any new proposals for solar energy developments on public land in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico or Utah.

Fred Morse, senior advisor for U.S. operations at Abengoa Solar, a Spanish company with a solar plant in development in Arizona, said the moratorium could hurt many companies in the burgeoning U.S. industry.

Read the full article here:

Text © 2008 Environmental News Network

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Germany and France ban pesticide linked to bees' disappearance; urge U.S. do the same

Germany has banned the use of clothianidin, a pesticide linked to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), mentioned on this blog in earlier posts and widely reported in the press. Likewise, France has banned imidacloprid, which is linked to disorientation in honeybees, which may explain the occurrence of abandoned hives in instances of CCD.

Geneticists in both Germany and France are urging the U.S. to issue a ban on these pesticides, and the EPA is considering the issue. Read the full story at

Monday, June 23, 2008

One more on electric cars

Project Better Place has an interesting top-down model for getting people into electric vehicles, from the manufacture of cars, to a distributed network of charging stations and a subscription-based method for vehicle ownership. The company's website is worth a look, to see some creative thinking in action.

Okay, I'm getting a little too mired down in talk about alternatively fueled vehicles. This will be my last post on the subject for awhile, unless there is some dramatic breakthrough in the technology or the industy. Enjoy your vacation.

Zero carbon gasoline from yeast?

New energy options from the Environmental Defense Fund.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Website: Efforts of money interests to trump scientific inquiry demystified

The U.S. government and big industry (what's the difference, really?) are conspiring to alter the findings of scientific studies in order to best serve their own interests. They are tenacious, and their conspiracy runs deep. Trying to keep scientific truth separate from the government's version is difficult. This website seeks to unravel some of the tangled narrative:

The Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Environmental President? Ha!

Well, forget the notion that George W. Bush will be remembered as an environmental progressive. The sweeping motion to create hundreds of thousands of acres of maritime preserve has apparently been abandoned; at least I haven't heard any news about its passage. Instead, it's been replaced by a call for new offshore drilling to add to our nation's oil reserves. This is a wholly unneccessary endeavor, since the major oil companies are already sitting on thousands of 68 million acres of land, covered by signed lease -- oil-rich land that is being held for speculative purposes, presumably to be used to keep profits up if it becomes necessary. In addition, any oil discovered by new drilling off America's coasts, besides being environmentally risky, very likely won't show any influence on aggregate supply or retail gas prices until 2030.

This should teach us never to elect an administration that is as beholden to industry as Bush and Cheney.

(No links for this post; information is from a presentation by Sen. Barbara Boxer [D-CA] at a meeting of the Democratic Women's Leadership Council, broadcast yesterday on CSpan.)

Another factoid, from Rachel Maddow: the U.S. consumes 25% of the world's oil. We produce 2% of the world's oil. Even if we were able to increase our oil output by a factor of five (not likely, since all our refineries are already operating at capacity), we would still be able to produce only 10% of the world's oil -- while still consuming 25%! Seems to be time for some new thinking...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Pinky Show

I love this website! Critical inquiry from some cartoon cats. Ain't the internet great? Go see!

Also look for them on YouTube.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Miscellaneous stuff

Just a few words to keep current -- my resident Eastern Phoebes have left their nest. It had fallen onto the porch from above the lamp where they had built it. I don't know if the young had matured and flew away on their own, or if they were the victims of predators. The adults seem to be still around, so perhaps it was the latter. I won't dwell on it. I'm sorry to see them go, and I hope they decide to rebuild someday in the same spot. I'll leave the light off for them.

Honda has announced the release of a hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle, called the FCX Clarity. There are only 200 scheduled to be made in the initial production run, simply because the infrastructure required to refuel them will need to catch up. And they are expensive, at $600 per month on a three year lease. But with fuel economy the equivalent of 65 mpg, and the exhaust plain water vapor, the potential for replacing traditional fossil fuel vehicles seems extraordinary. See this article from the New York Times, or Google for more information.

See you next time. Namaste.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

George W. Bush -- the environmental president?

Much has been written and spoken about George W. Bush's abysmal record in environmental matters over the course of his presidency. Lawyer and environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, called Bush's environmental record the worst in history. Earlier this month it was revealed that he spurned accepted scientific data and the warnings of scientific professionals for politcal purposes. He has been a monument to irresponsible judgement in important matters concerning the planet, such as pollution control and climate change.

Now, however, President Bush is eyeing a sweeping measure that will create a gigantic marine reserve. Two areas are being looked at in the Pacific, as well as one in the Gulf of Mexico and one in the Atlantic. This will instantly become the largest creation of such a reserve in U.S. history, with a possible 600,000 square miles of protected ocean area in the Hawaiian Islands area alone. In doing so he hopes to establish his legacy as being a visionary in environmental regulation and preservation, and of course undoing a seven-year record of having done the exact opposite. I'm not sure I can truly forgive him for all that he has done that has been harmful to the environment, but the new marine reserve, if indeed it does come to pass, will certainly be to his credit. Comments welcome.

GM restarts electric vehicle program!

Awhile back I mentioned the movie Who Killed the Electric Car?, which chronicled the sad demise of GM's electric vehicle program, to the point where every single one of the experimental EV-1's was systematically repossessed from its owner and crushed or deactivated, effectively ending GM's brief foray into alternatively-fueled vehicles.

Last week, the cover story of Business Week magazine detailed how GM realizes that high gasoline prices are most likely here to stay, and that they are losing market share to companies like Toyota and Honda, whose alternatively-fueled vehicle businesses are thriving. The designers at GM are now frantically trying to make up for lost time by energetically pursuing development of new vehicles, including plug-in electrics and hybrids. It's an interesting mea culpa from what was once the largest company in the U.S., which is now suffering the same fate as the rest of the American auto industry, and it outlines the effort GM is putting into trying to not only catch up to the companies that have passed them in sales, but to once again become an innovator and an industry leader. The whole article can be viewed here. Recommended reading.

For those interested in the high-end electric vehicle market, check out the Tesla Roadster. No, I don't get a commission if you buy one!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Turkeys, again

Not too long ago I observed, in my neighbor's yard, an enormous rafter (look it up!) of wild turkeys -- possibly 20 of them! They had obviously found something delicious to eat, or amusing to do, as they kicked through the new grass on this woman's lawn. It was really pretty amazing; I don't think I'd ever seen a bunch that big before. Eight or ten, yes, but this was ridiculous! It was quite amazing to see. There were no displaying males; apparently there were several mothers with their young ambling slowly among the trees. I wished that I hadn't been in such a hurry at the time, I would have pulled up a bit and got a good, long look through my binoculars.

Now the other side of this coin is my bow hunter is also back. He had a shoulder injury of some kind last year and I didn't see him, but he pulled in early the other morning in a new pickup, ready to shoot a turkey or two to bring his family a good, fresh dinner. As usual, I was ambivalent about this. The guy seems to be okay; at least he's using a bow and arrow, far more sporting than a rifle; and I get the feeling there's quite a bit more chance involved, possibly because his bowmanship is not so good. I didn't suggest it; but you know, if it was Canada Geese he was after I wouldn't mind so much, since the geese seem to have a much greater population density. The turkeys are also so much more striking to look at, with their size and color. But once again I let it go, and wished him good luck. He doesn't want more than one or two, and I know he and his family are eating them (unlike a guy I once lived next door to in Gloucester who would shoot ducks and throw their carcasses in the trash). It's sad for me to think that any one of these beautiful birds would not be living out his natural life; but that is the way of the world, and we all must complete the circle somehow. One bird's life ends so that the hunters' may be extended. Seems that's how it's supposed to work.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

From Daily Kos: Dangerous corporate lobbyists

This may seem like an unusual inclusion for this blog, but I feel the article linked below is necessary reading for people who seek to learn more about some of the underhanded methods used by certain private interests in order to influence public policy in this country. Rather than attempt to reproduce or introduce any of it here, I'll just send you over to Daily Kos to read an excellent post:

What is to be done? Stay aware and informed, and write your representatives in Washington frequently to let them know you're paying attention; sign petitions and attend demonstrations; and don't ever give up your commitment to preserving American democracy.

My Spring Peepers are disappearing

There is a small pond slightly downhill from my house that every year has been home to hundreds of frogs -- peepers and bullfrogs that illuminate the evening with a cacaphony of song. I could always count on arriving home, when after dark, and being escorted up my walkway to my house by their musical racket. In the last few years, however, there has been a steady reduction in their numbers, as evidenced by the volume of their singing, such that this year they seem to be either very late, or absent altogether. The bullfrogs seem to come after the peepers, so perhaps they haven't arrived as yet. However, an article in the current issue of Defenders magazine, from Defenders of Wildlife, points out that amphibians such as frogs, salamanders, etc., are extremely sensitive to environmental stress and change, and that many species around the world are now in serious decline.

Is the disappearance of my Spring Peepers, as well as the rest of the world's amphibians, the proverbial "canary in the coal mine", a warning to us all that climate change is real, and that it's time for some serious thought about how to protect the environment -- for the frogs' sake, and for our own? I suspect that it is.

Read the above-mentioned article here. Comments welcome.

To the readers of The Natural World

I want to apologize for leaving this blog unattended for so long. I didn't think many people were paying attention to it, so it was put on the back burner for awhile. As it turns out, some people have been been looking in, and I have received some comments on it. I'm glad people are finding it useful. I've been meaning to start up again with a more personal focus, things more in line with personal experience as opposed to more general posts on green living, but I thought I would open it to readers to see what you preferred: would you rather see more posts on, say, my personal bird and wildlife sightings and my life in the Topsfield woods, or would you prefer I do a little research and write or post more about the larger world from an eco-friendly point of view? Originally, my idea was to include both as part of a whole, but if there's a strong preference for one over the other, I'd be happy to focus on that for awhile.

Please write to the address in the profile, or leave comments on the blog. I'll post any comments that are on topic and not offensive to anyone. And thanks for your interest!