Archive for November, 2009

Obama confirms Copenhagen trip

Photo by oxfam international via Flickr

As many where preparing for Thanksgiving, President Barack Obama was making plans of his own. On Wednesday, his trip to Copenhagen was confirmed.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will be held from December 7th through December 18th, aims to create an agreement on an international strategy to fight global warming.

At the conference Obama is expected to announce  that the United States intends to reduce greenhouse gas emissions “in the range of” 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050.

With environmental advocates and world leaders pressuring Obama to attend the conference to affirm the United States’ position on climate change, it seems as if the president is attending the climate talks as a political maneuver more than anything else.

Obama will be making a stop at the beginning of the conference, on December 9th, on his way to accept the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.  If an agreement where to be reached at the conference it would be at the end of the talks.

Furthermore, Obama hadn’t committed to going to Copenhagen or having emission targets for the US. He had emphasized the importance of the climate talks and  had promised many times to take action against global warming.

After eight years of inactivity on this matter from the Bush Administration, Obama’s promises brought hope to many. But as for me, I’ll believe it when I see results.

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Taking time to give thanks

A volunteer helps fill bags with food at the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project. After the meeting, more than 200 families who work on the farm fields in Ventura County will take home the donated food.

I’ve been doing research on farm workers and pesticides for an upcoming story and was recently introduced to a non-profit organization, Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project. The organization focuses on the needs of indigenous farm workers from Oaxaca, a southern Mexican state. Because they speak mainly their own Mixteco language, it’s easy to discriminate against them.

I recently spent a few hours at a meeting, where the founder, Sandra Young, oversaw not only an H1N1 vaccination clinic, but also food distribution. Hundreds of people — mainly women and their children — were lined up for hours prior to the meeting to be one of the lucky 200 or so families to receive a bag of food that held rice, beans, flour, oil and canned fruit juice. Another bag, filled with produce, had bananas, onions, cucumber, oranges and tomatoes.

A volunteer at the Mixteco/Indigena Community Project fills a bag of food for Oaxacan farm workers in Ventura County. Photos by Denise Vastola

It’s ironic that the same, small group of people who work in fields, harvesting crops capable of feeding so many, must get a portion of their own source of nourishment from a non-profit organization that distributes food only once a month.

On Thanksgiving, I am thankful that I not only have all the food I need, but I am most thankful for the chance I have to write about Sandra Young, Donna Foster, Arcenio Lopez and the volunteers who help the people who work so hard to harvest crops in Ventura County.

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No Green Jobs for Women and Minorities

Found an interesting post from the Los Angeles Times‘ green blog, Greenspace, about women and minorities being left out of green jobs.

Although I was not surprised to learn about the low numbers of women and minorities in the green economy, I was appalled by the criticism the LAT and the writer, Tiffany Hsu, received from those who commented. The overall complaint was that the Times and writer were leftists who where overreacting.

Check out the video by the Applied Research Center, a racial justice think thank, and let us know your thoughts. Is the Times and Hsu overreacting? Are you surprised about the low numbers of women and minorities in green jobs? What should be done to allow these people into this emerging field?

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The Skinny on Bicycling

Photo by Richard Masoner via Flickr

Riding a bicycle is not only fun but it is also eco-friendly. Could it be possible it also has health benefits?

GOOD, a site dedicated to turning complicated issues into infographics, created a graphic that looks at the correlation between obesity and bicycle commuting.

According to GOOD, the average American is overweight and spends 100 hours per year commuting. Most of that time is spent in a car. (And if you live in LA, it is spent in a car stuck in traffic on the 405 or 101 freeways.)

The Effects of Bike Commuting on Obesity, compares the percentages of a country’s obesity rates to their active commutes, which include walking and bicycling.

Check out the graphic and you decide.

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Schwarzenegger’s $11 Billion Magic Bullet for Water

j0441753Several days ago, the Associated Press and other news outlets reported that Governor Schwarzenegger has an $11 billion plan to not only rebuild California’s deteriorating water infrastructure, but also build more dams to support a growing population’s increase in water use.  The article also points out that he’s signing this at a time when other states in the West are dismantling dams to save species of fish, including salmon, from dying off.

While the AP presents both point of view in the piece, what’s missing is the common sense aspect.  Yes, farmers have a right to water and to grow crops from which the rest of us benefit, but, does that have to come at the expense of the environment?  We need the land to grow crops.  What we don’t need is another dam and more land under water.

Yes, California’s population is going to continue growing, but that doesn’t mean water use has to grow at the same pace.  Unlimited water use is a luxury, not a right.  Much of California is a desert.  Why do people, including the Governor,  forget that?

How about tossing in a few water-conserving incentives, such as

  • When new housing goes in, why not include gray water reservoirs?  All the water used in showers and laundry could easily be used to water lawns and plants.
  • Why not incentivize contractors to use native, drought-resistant plants in new housing developments?
  • Why not incentivize our citizens to replace their water-guzzling lawns with water-friendly alternatives?

Lest we also forget, California hasn’t resolved its current budget crisis and here we go again, why not sink another $11 billion in debt?  Let’s get real.  We are each accountable for our actions.  Let’s all conserve water and keep a few more of our hard-earned dollars in our pockets.

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Ugly Cars

Toyota Prius

Photo by kasei via Flickr

Came upon BusinessWeeks‘ slide show titled “Fifty Ugliest Cars of the Past 50 Years” a few days ago and found myself not agreeing 100 percent with their picks. Tree huggers around the world, like me, will find it upsetting that a popular electric car made the list — the Toyota Prius.

Now I am not saying the car is the best in automobile design but I do not consider it ugly.  What it lacks in looks is made up by the fact that it helps one reduce carbon emissions and is a little better for the environment.

BusinessWeek describes it as having the style of a soybean. I do not have a Prius or a car for that matter but do have the Prius in mind when the time comes. I also like soybeans.

The list does include the gasoline guzzler that is the Hummer so I guess this inclusion makes up for what I think is a lack of judgement. Now I know the list is subjective. So let us know what you think about the slide show.

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The garbage patch in the ocean

I haven’t purchased bottled water in several years — that’s when I heard about this massive island of floating trash in the ocean. What’s the big deal? Well, the island of trash is the size of Texas.

I am truly pleased that I can say with confidence I’m not contributing to this plastic soup in our Pacific Ocean.

I hope you find this enlightening.

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