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Environmental Blog, Bird Sightings, Random Thoughts, and Political Musings -- We All Want a Better World
     Home of the "2 + 2 = 3" Informal Environmental Award

Feb. 16, 2006
#1: Dick Cheney--not my idea of a sportsman.

     Those of you who have read J. Fennimore Cooper's Deerslayer series of books might remember a scene in which the pioneers are blasting away indiscriminately at the clouds of passenger pigeons overhead, while the Deerslayer picks out one bird, shoots that, and then goes to retrieve his kill for his dinner. Then the Deerslayer expresses disgust at the wanton slaughter committed by the pioneers.
     Cheney's hunting accident has a foul odor, at least to my nose. Katherine Armstrong was once the chair of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, and Cheney was reportedly hunting without the proper permits in his possession. I thought real sportsmen had no qualms about the license fees because the fees support outdoor habitat and resources.
    But then a little more web-cruising and one finds that Cheney doesn't necessarily hunt wildlife. Instead, it seems he sometimes hunts birds freshly released from the breeding pen. In Pennsylvania in 2003 Dickie apparently shot about 70 freshly-released birds in a private club in a just a few hours. Wow, what a great outdoor experience! The thrill of the hunt!  I wonder if the club operators put monofilament on the birds' legs so they couldn't get away before they got blasted? The incident in Texas smells funny not only because the group didn't have their Upland Bird Stamps, but because the ranch owner drove them out to a particular spot where they could find birds. Makes me wonder if she had let a bunch go just a few hours before.
     I'm an avid angler myself. My mother taught me to fish when I was about 9 years old, and she talked about how much her grand-dad loved fishing and the outdoors, and how he taught her to love the outdoors. Some environmental historians credit sportsmen with a lot of habitat preservation. My own experience is from my involvement with a non-profit called Trout Unlimited. Here in Wisconsin TU fights for water quality. Trout need clean cold water, and that is incompatible with irresponsible development. Another thing about TU is that it advocates managing streams for natural reproduction of wild fish rather than a "put and take" hatchery-dependent tame-trout fishery. If the only fish you can catch are the ones dumped out of the hatchery truck, your stream quality is probably pretty damn poor.
     Though I'm not a hunter, I think everyone can see the difference between having an ecosystem that sustains natural reproduction of wild game birds versus rearing them in pens, releasing them, and going "bang bang" to your heart's content. If the only birds you can shoot are ones dumped out of a breeding pen, your habitat quality is probably pretty damn poor.
     All of this connects directly to the Bushies' environmental policies. The Bushie attitude is that those of us with enough money can breed the animals, release them, and then have all the fun we want stalking them with rod or gun (not my idea of fun). There's no need to protect the environment in order to be that kind of a so-called sportsman. Environmental quality is for the peons like me who hunt or fish for wild things--those of us who can't afford a private hunting or fishing club (though I'm pretty sure I wouldn't enjoy most private rod and gun clubs). I bet Dickie feels sorry for those of us who backpack into the Wyoming mountains near his ranch to fish for wild trout. He probably thinks we do it because we can't afford to buy our own fish and toss them into a backyard pond so we can fish them out later. No wonder he wants to let the barons of the oil, gas, timber, and minerals industries exploit any area of public land.
     Another reason that Dickie is not my idea of a real sportsman is that he shot his hunting companion in the chest. Real sportsmen know their targets before they shoot.
     If you are used to shooting lots of tame pen-birds you probably don't expect your hunting companion to stop shooting and actually go retrieve the single bird he just shot. When Mr. Whittington retrieved the bird he had killed, was he making the same kind of statement to Dick Cheney that the Deerslayer was making to the pioneers in that scene with passenger pigeons? When you shoot 70 birds in a few hours I just bet you don't go and pick each one up, and you don't stop shooting and let your dog go retrieve them either.  
      I smell fowl, a lot of them, and they're probably rotting in the grass in Texas.       All this is pure speculation, but maybe, just maybe, Whittington is the real sportsman.

January 21, 2006
Whale problems? The whale in Thames river died, but why was it ill in the first place? Until the autopsy is done we won't know, and maybe not even then. But in the US there's a controvery heating up over the Navy's use of high intensity sonar.
     Some mass whale strandings are caused by Navy high intensity sonar. Active sonar is high intensity sound, and it can be both agonizing and damaging to the beasts under the sea. Sonar is a likely cause of a mass whale stranding in the Bahamas in 2000, and was being evaluated as a possible cause of a stranding in North Carolina in January 2005. The Natural Resources Defense Council sued to get the first draft of the report and found that sonar was mentioned. But the second draft deleted any mention of sonar. The final report from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is due before the animals' ear drums will have been examined. So the National Marine Fisheries Service and and NOAA win my 2 + 2 = 3 award for this "we'll revise the report because we're not sure sonar has anything to do with it" strategy without waiting for the key evidence before the final report. Read this one in the Washington Post, at NRDC, or at National Geographic.  Smell like politics to you?
     The Navy and NOAA are receiving public comments on the environmental effects of a sonar training range on the Atlantic coast. A quick cruise shows that sportsmen's groups are opposing the Navy's plans, along with environmental groups. DEADLINE to comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Report is Jan. 30, 2006. You can file comments through the Virginia Sierra Club via point and click (they'll send it in for you), after you register and log in. The Navy isn't taking email comments directly. Otherwise, to file a comment about the Navy's plans you have to do it via snail mail or fax. This tells us how much the Navy really wants to hear from the public on the issue.
#2: Another mining tragedy. My sincere condolences to the families of the slain miners. I haven't read anything about the safety record of the company operating this mine. But I agree with the governor of WV who questioned our national priorities on job safety. After the coal dust settles and the fires are out, the mining companies are going to say it is just too expensive to put more equipment, time, and money into safety. And don't forget tax dollars. Your taxes pay for inspections of the mines to see that the safety regs are being followed. Scroll down to see my previous blog on mine safety.

January 8, 2006
#1: Flame retardants accumulating in arctic animals. Polar bears and other arctic animals are suffering a variety of ill effects by accumulating flame retardants. PBDE's are flame retardants found in your children's pajamas, probably in your furniture, and in other textiles. Research with lab animals show toxic effects on thyroid functioning. Marla Cone, one of the best environmental reporters in the country, has written a nice summary in the LA Times of the latest work on how PBDE's and related chemicals are affecting wildlife. This also provides another instance of the how the Bush administration is failing miserably to protect the environment. PBDE's are being phased out in the European Union. But the Bushies, with their distorted views of how much evidence is required to take action to protect the environment, have failed to act to regulate PBDE's.
     Some will say, "So what that polar bears an arctic terns are reproducing poorly. I'm a human, and besides who needs polar bears." Humans are part of nature. The concentration of PBDE's in women's milk in North America is rising dramatically, even while the concentration of PCB's drops. PCBs were phased out in the late 1970s after a two tragic poisoning incidents revealed that PCBs are powerful teratogens. Will it take something similar to lead to the phase out of PBDE's?  I guess so, as long as the Bushies are in power.
     But Marla Cone reports that because California and the EU have banned PBDE's, the substances are no longer being manufactured in the U.S. The California market packs a lot of punch, and so California pollution regulations often help the rest of the country.  California required smog control on autos and banned lead in paint long before the rest of the country did.
     The Bushies, who claim to support state's rights, would like for federal regulations to take precedence over state regulations when it comes to pollution. Are we one Supreme Court nominee away from that?
#2: Dangers of Coal Fired Energy. Advocates of nuclear power like to remind everyone that coal kills people. And the recent West Virginia coal mine accident shows they're right. I send my heartfelt condolences to the families. No one should have to die at work in the process of earning a living.
     But the dangers of coal mining aren't a good argument for nuclear power -- rather coal mining accidents just make the case that industrial safety in the US needs attention. Uranium mining has an ugly safety record too.
     The news reports on the WV coal mine fatalities documented a large number of serious safety violations in the operation of that particular mine. Coal miners are also exposed to a variety of pollutants on the job every day. An Eau Claire, Wisconsin, TV station reported today that 8 Wisconsin workers have been killed in gravel pit accidents in the last 8 years. Construction work in the US is unnecessarily hazardous. Here in Wisconsin workers were killed during the construction of Miller Park, and at least 2 workers have been seriously injured in construction accidents on the UW-Madison campus in the last 5 years. The US has lagged behind western Europe in industrial safety since the start of the 20th century. A good read on early industrial safety is the 1943 autobiography of Alice Hamilton, MD, "Exploring the Dangerous Trades." Dr. Hamilton pioneered inspections of the lead industry nationwide in order to prevent lead poisoning in workers.
    What has changed for the better since Alice Hamilton's time? Unions helped force the safety issue, along with industrial health advocates. The US now has relatively safe coal mining, especially compared to China where thousands of workers die annually, and the Chinese government keeps making empty promises to improve safety and compliance with safety rules. Should we really be comparing our safety record to China? The US Mine Safety and Health Administration Director is quoted by the Voice of America (yep, that's the Voice of America, our government-supported world-wide news and propaganda network that actually does some darn good reporting in my opinion) as patting himself on the back for an extremely low number of deadly mine explosions in the US since 1984. Hurrah! What about other deadly events like cave-ins? And gravel pit miners being killed?
#3: Energy efficiency tax credits coming! Yes, bloggers, there's some good news for 2006. You can get money back on your 2006 taxes by making energy improvements to your home or business. These tax credits aren't as good as the ones we had under the Carter administration, but still they are a positive step. Maybe put some folks to work up-grading windows, furnaces, and installing renewable energy systems like geo-thermal heat and solar hot water and electricity.

November 4, 2005:
#1: Bird and nature sightings.
A flock of about 200 snow buntings was twirling and chattering in northern Wisconsin last weekend. An otter was diving and feeding in what is the swimming area of the lake on hot summer days. I wonder what the otter thinks of the kids jumping off the diving platform all summer? Maybe in the summer the otter comes out in the dark of night and takes a couple of plunges off the diving board. Makes a nice fantasy.
   With the Bushies in charge, I need to keep my eyes on the something beautiful. Now to some environmental issues...
#2: Are high gasoline prices good for the environment? The upside is that newspapers are reporting that people are choosing jobs closer to home to cut their commuting distances. And a small percentage are actually cranking the old bicycle, jumping on the bus, or car-pooling. Less smog and less greenhouse gas. The downside is that the Bushies and their co-conspirators in Congress propose to grant exemptions to pollution control laws in order to induce the Oil Giants to build new refineries. If that happens, the net effect of the high gasoline prices will definitely be negative for environmental quality. A 2 + 2 = 3 award goes to those in Congress who seem to believe that asthma and other respiratory diseases have no connection to air pollution. But this is the same mentality that reigned in 1948 when Donora, Pennsylvania became enveloped in a black fog when emissions from the smelters and steel mills were held in the town by a weather inversion (see Devra Davis's book, When Smoke Ran Like Water). 18 people died in a 24-hr period, but the owners of the mills said, "Oh it can't be due to our plant". Then when they had to bank the furnaces because most of the workers were ill the toxic cloud lifted. The Bushies don't believe that industry creates pollution. Tell them the truth. No more rollbacks of environmental protections. We want falling pollution, not pollution falling like rain.
#3: Can we beat global warming by taking action now?  I think there's still hope. Here's why. 18 years ago 180 countries signed the Montreal Ozone Protocol to phase out the use of chlorofluorcarbon (CFC) chemicals. Some evidence suggests that Mother Earth has begun to turn the corner so that the seasonal ozone hole in the southern hemisphere caused by CFCs  has begun to reduce in its size. It should take about 50 years to heal the effects of our past CFC emissions because it takes about that long for CFCs to degrade completely. The bad news is that some of the scientific models predict that the global warming in the northern hemisphere caused by greenhouse gasses may cause the ozone hole to get worse. But the global community joined together to stop the majority of CFC emissions. We can do the same thing with respect to global warming.
#4: Senator Obama takes action on lead paint. The Washington Post reported that Barack Obama is threatening to stop the confirmation of Bushie appointments to the EPA until regulations are issued on control of lead paint dust in remodeling projects. The regulations are estimated to prevent about high lead exposure for about 28,000 people per year. What isn't in the Washington Post article is this shocking fact: African American children in poverty have over 10 times the chance of high lead exposure compared to white middle class kids. Obama's actions are one step toward reducing lead exposure.

August 16, 2005:
#1: Sunscreens can multiply skin absorption of pesticides.   The syndicated column "Dear Dr. Gott" on August 15 commented that when suncreens and DEET (the active ingredient in most mosquito repellants) are applied simultaneously, that the absorption of the DEET is much higher. You don't want DEET to be absorbed into your body because it can cause various problems, and in high doses, can cause brain damage in small children.  But on the shelf of your drug store or sporting goods place you can find combinations of DEET and sunscreen. One study found that the DEET was absorbed through the skin 6 times faster when combined with sunscreen, even though there was a lower concentration of DEET in lotion. Wow.
     But sunscreens also enhance skin absorption of other pesticides, such as 2-4, D (the weed killer in your 'weed and feed' fertilizer), as well as some insecticides. Do you have weed killer on your skin? Yes you do, if you have used it in your yard recently. Studies show that after weed killer is applied to lawns, that the substance is present on all surfaces in the home as well as in the air. So you might be inadvertently using sunscreen and 2-4, D in combination. My solution is to go cold turkey off lawn herbicide.
     The guidelines for the safety of pesticides are based on studies in which their effects are examined one substance at a time. The synergy between sunscreens and pesticide absorption illustrates the fallacy in failing to consider chemical combinations. This time I'll give the 2 + 2 = 3 award to the FDA for allowing the combination of sunscreens and DEET to be marketed. Oh, by the way, zinc oxide and titanium oxide are less likely to enhance the absorption of DEET, depending on what other substances they are in.
#2: Pesticides embedded in clothes.  I say "buzz off" to those who want to dip our clothes in various kinds of chemicals prior to selling them to us. The latest is the pesticide permethrin. This is a pyrethroid insecticide that has been used in military uniforms for a few years. Studies show that this stuff repels ticks better than standard uniforms. But the permethrin uniforms don't repel malarial mosquitoes very effectively, according to a study on French soldiers in the Ivory Coast. How does permethrin interact with other pesticides, especially DEET? If you are going to the tropics, you might put some DEET on the exposed parts of your skin while wearing your permethrin shirt and slacks. Or you might be pull out the spray can to kill the flying critters before crawling into bed after having dabbed on some DEET earlier in the evening.
    I discovered that a lot of researchers are now studying how permethrin interacts with DEET and other pesticides in order to try to track down the source of Gulf War Syndrome, the illnesses that U.S. veterans suffered after returning from the 1991 war in Iraq. Here's a quote: "These results suggest that exposure to real-life doses of malathion, DEET, and permethrin, alone or in combination, produce no overt signs of neurotoxicity but induce significant neurobehavioral deficits and neuronal degeneration in brain" (Abdel-Rahman et al., 2004, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health). The quote is from a study of rats, so it will take a while to get a smoking gun of evidence that these things are harmful to humans in combination. 2 + 2 = 3 award to the EPA for allowing pesticides to be registered with no information on their interactions. And the CDC report I mentioned in my July 24, 2005 blog showed that levels of pyrethroid pesticides are rising in Americans, and are rather ubiquitous. Ouch. Glad I can afford to eat organic food.
     Here's my policy suggestion -- just like the bottle of Tylenol has a warning about combining it with alcohol, how about if the agencies that are supposed to protect our health and environment mandate the research to find out what pesticides interact, and then put warning labels on the substances? Command and control environmental legislation is the only way to go with this one. I can't think of a market solution to pesticide interactions, can you? 
July 24, 2005:
    #1: CDC report shows higher pesticide residues in children than in adults.
The CDC's latest national survey shows that pyrethroid pesticides are present in most Americans. Also, a look at the racial/ethnic group results shows that a subset of Mexican-Americans have the highest exposure to some organophosphate pesticides. Research teams in California, Arizona and Washington have previously shown that farmworkers and their families are highly exposed to some pesticides, and that some of their children are exposed in amounts that exceed the EPA's safety level. The CDC survey also shows that exposure to lead is dropping, as is exposure to banned pesticides. Hey, GOPers, the latter results show that "Command and control" environmental regulation works!
     Now let's talk about how the media handled the CDC report. As usual, The NY Times rolled over, exposed its underbelly, and begged for a friendly scritch from administration officials -- they published an AP report without a by-line that is pablum. I guess the NY Times can't afford a real reporter to cover environmental news. But the LA Times has Marla Cone writing for them. Check out her story and and see who actually read the CDC report and did more than merely repeat items from dueling press releases. Marla Cone is an outstanding reporter who regularly digs deeply into environmental issues. Go Marla!!
     #2: Bushies approve so many oil/gas permits that Interior Dept. can't keep up with environmental monitoring. The GAO found that the number of oil/gas drilling permits more than TRIPLED between 1999 and 2004. What is the effect of that? The BLM (Bureau of Land Mangle-ment) is not only responsible for issuing the permits, but for monitoring compliance with environmental protections for drilling on public land. Four out of 8 BLM offices had to reassign people from environmental mitigation to tasks involved in processing the permits. GAO says most offices are understaffed for environmental mitigation. More permits, less enforcement. Can you spell Halli-what? So, the Bushies get the 2 + 2 = 3 for this one.
     Now that I'm raving about the Bushies, I do admire them on one point -- these folks have been very efficient about fleecing the government. No wonder the GOPers want to repeal the estate tax -- their estates are growing while the estates of the average middle class American shrink. Billions of dollars of Iraq reconstruction and security contracting money appears to be going to the pals of the Bushie insiders. This makes any fraud in the UN surrounding the Iraq oil-for-food program look like peanuts. The millions accumulated by Saddam himself pales into insignificance. I think the Iraq contracting even tops the Enron debacle in which the Enron-ers were supposedly chuckling over the fake California power crisis they created. Just my opinions here as a taxpayer footing the bill on what will go down in history as the military even that began to bring down the U.S. economy.
    #3: On the tarmack in Jackson Hole Wyoming on July 5 was a jet marked "United States of America". Must be Cheney visiting his ranch. I wonder if Jackson Hole is his 'secret location' for security? Because Cheney might have been in town, I didn't stay in Jackson Hole long -- my mother told me to stay away from bad influences.

June 18, 2005:
     #1: Where is the political will to stop the roadside slaughter of wildlife?  I joined approximately 22,000 other Wisconsinites by hitting a deer earlier this week. That's right--about 22,000 deer-vehicle encounters per year in Wisconsin, and 800 injuries, and about a dozen annual human fatalities. My radiator and the deer were both killed; I feel sad for the deer. But deer aren't the only wildlife affected by collisions with vehicles. There are scientific studies estimating that isolated populations of some kinds of aquatic reptiles like frogs and turtles can be seriously affected by vehicle collisions. One of the solutions is to build underpasses for the animals to use during their dispersal from their place of rearing. Expensive, but maybe less expensive than the loss of a population of animals or the property damage due to collisions.  Ah but what would we eat for dinner without roadkill?
     #2: Unethically obtained human data used in pesticide review by EPA. The EPA is reviewing pesticides for re-registration. Some pesticide companies administer their chemicals to humans without full informed consent. The Washington Post printed an AP story saying that one of the substances was a WWI nerve gas agent. Most of my blog readers may not know that many insecticides are closely related to nerve gases such as Sarin. They kill by altering neurotransmitter concentrations in either insects or people. There is a lot of reason to think that many insecticides would have negative developmental effects. The neurotransmitters they affect are also gene-signalling chemicals during early development. This is part of why the EPA has been sued for its failure to protect the children of farmworkers from pesticide exposure.
    Based on the AP story on human testing of the substances, I am pretty sure that collecting the data would not have been permitted by the University of Wisconsin. But maybe I'm wrong about that. One of the studies was apparently conducted at UC-San Diego in 2002. The story says that the consent form said there were risks -- duh.  But did they tell the participants the substances were pesticides? And did they tell the participants how the dose they were given compared to the current EPA reference dose?  I'm also asking "where are the follow up data?" on the effects of the acute exposures they administered. Sure you feel better after a few days. Now what happens when you get another dose of the pesticide later?  Save a farmworker, and eat organic if you can afford it. 
     #3: Air pollution season is here so exercise in the morning if you have asthma. Where is the political will for clean air? Do our Senators believe asthma attacks come out of the clear blue sky? Anyone with an asthma sufferer in their social circle can see the inhaler come out on these muggy summer days. But the EPA is going backwards, and the Senate is leading them. The Washington Post reported that the Senate directed the EPA to study whether air pollution equipment on lawnmowers would be a fire hazard. Catalytic converters probably are a file hazard. How about if we phase out 2-cycle engines in the meantime. Oh, except there is apparently a new 2-cycle engine that has pollution waaaay below the others.
     The EPA also backtracked on pollution regulations near national parks. This one makes we want to use the "f" word, as in "finagling". Another 2+2=3 for the Bushies here. The AP report says that the new rules allow states to eliminate the worst haze from their measurements, which will allow the worst sources to continue. See another nice environmental article in the Washington Post by AP writer John Heilprin.
     #4: Bird and Orchid Sightings. At my cottage in northern Wisconsin the chestnut-sided warblers were singing in my yard. The sapsuckers were feeding young in a nest using sap from a birch tree. The dragon mouth orchids, pink mocs, and early coral root orchids were looking great at an unnamed location in Nicolet National Forest.  Get out and enjoy the outdoors before the season changes.  

May 10, 2005
     #1--Bird sightings. Where are the warblers? Even excellent Madison area birders say they haven't seen many yet.  I saw a few yellow rumpies in a big oak tree near Olbrich park on Saturday (honoring the Audubon Society art fair held there perhaps). Today in Tenney Park a green heron spoke to me directly or I wouldn't have seen it.
     #2--US unprepared for nuclear terrorism. We don't have adequate evacuation plans, and first responders are not prepared to deal with radiation contamination. Read it in the Washington Post.  But here's the part that is even more frightening -- we're unprepared for nuclear accidents too.  The three most serious commercial nuclear reactor accidents (Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Tokaimura) all left the first responders unprepared. What direction do you go if you find out the nuke plant is out of control? If you live in a major US urban area, there is probably a nuclear power plant within 100 miles of you. But the Bushies think these plants are the solution to our energy problems.  I don't. I think solar thermal and solar pv can be developed and put in place as quickly as new nukes. But it takes a different way of thinking about energy.  Instead of one huge power plant, why not lots of little sources. These little sources could provide 30% of our energy.
     #3--Bushies opened 58 million acres of roadless areas in your National Forests to lots of road building. Read it here in the Washington Post, the best newspaper in the country, and virtually the only one doing any investigative reporting.  Drop your state governor a note asking for preservation of roadless areas in National Forests.
     #4--Look before you open your car door!  Duh. But there are a lot of bicycles out there this time of year, and one car door can kill.  I was car-doored on my bike, suffering a broken 5th metacarpal, helmet impact with the pavement, and a number of painful bruises plus some road rash. The bicycle is the most energy efficient transportation invented by the human race. So when the bike rider takes the center of the lane while passing a parked car, don't honk or get into a road rage -- the law actually requires a bike rider to be at least 3 feet away from a parked car. Oh, and when you pass a bike you are supposed to be 3 feet away from the bike too.
     My hand is healing, and I hope to be back out there in the urban jungle commuting on my bike in another week or so, doing my part to prevent air pollution so people won't gag from their asthma.

March 30, 2005
      The state of the ecosystem is being severely degraded by the way people extract resources, says a major report compiled by over 1000 scientists. The Millenium Ecosystem Assessment shows that the oceans are being fished out, and fresh water is being used unsustainably (among other problems). One cause is simply population growth. The degradation of the our planet's ecosystems is likely to prevent the UN from accomplishing much in the way of reducing world poverty. Read about it in the BBC website, where you can download the full report. Environmental issues and human welfare are inextricably linked.
     The Bushies win their weekly 2 + 2 = 3 award from me for their estimates the costs of reducing mercury emissions. Read Molly Ivins's column on mercury pollution.
     Three people were removed from a "town meeting" for having a bumper sticker that says "No more blood for oil". Bush was scheduled to tout his plan to destroy the social security system. As we used to say in the 1960s, "This isn't Russia, I can think and say what I want." Guess not anymore. The Washington Post is covering this one. Be a real patriot and drop the Republican National Committee a line complaining about this one. The story says that the dirty deed of removing the dissenters (who hadn't even dissented yet) was done by a party volunteer. When you write the RNC, make sure you mention that you are a Republican and a U.S. veteran.
      The Washington Post is a great newspaper, and the only one doing any investigative reporting it seems. But last week's Onion tops them with this story: "EPA to drop 'E', 'P' from name".
     Bird sightings: I spent Easter week in the northwoods of Wisconsin snowshoeing and xc skiing in 3 ft of snow. The chickadees came right up to me for a chat, and there were some woodpeckers, blue jays, and crows around. A few bald eagles were picking over the roadkill, yum. Back in Madison the migration is obviously underway -- bluebirds are showing up at Indian Lake County Park along with sandhill cranes and great blue herons. We saw some meadowlarks singing -- my first meadowlark sighting, what beautiful birds.

March 6, 2005
     This week's 2 + 2 = 3 award goes to the Bushies plan to drill for oil on "only" 2000 acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. If the 2000 acres were a contiguous patch maybe the impact would be small. However, the 2000 acres would actually count just the drilling pads, not the roads connecting them, not the pipelines, desalination plants, and gravel mines to build and maintain all of oil infrastructure. The National Academy of Sciences says the impact of such drilling would be widespread. Read about it here in Audubon magazine.
     Is the U.S. a rogue nation on environmental issues? First, the Bushies opted out of the Kyoto protocol to decrease carbon dioxide emissions. Now, the Bushies argued against the majority of the industrialized world at the recent U.N. conference designed to limit mercury emissions. The European Union proposed eliminating mercury exports by 2011. Read about it here in the L.A. Times. At least the U.S. sided with the developing countries for once?? Too bad we don't do that on issues like the WTO, the illegal blockade of Cuba, or the UN IAEA inspections of first Iraq and then Iran.
     Bird sightings -- Looks like the resident mallards are having day dreams about night things in the middle of the afternoon, as the country song says. One male in the Yahara River was bowing gallantly to his lady, though he did interrupt himself to chase one other male away. She humored him along.

Feb. 20, 2005
     #1--More devilry from Bushies' threaten to destroy the clean air act and replace it with the Dirty Skies Act. The Assoc. of Local Air Pollution Control Officials (ALAPCO) testified against the 'Dirty Skies Act' in the Senate this week. Sen. Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) then requested that the organization submit its IRS records as well as records of its EPA grants. Does Sen. Inhofe think ALAPCO is a terrorist organization? Is it back to the McCarthy era?  Link here to drop Sen. Inhofe an email. Tell him to support the original Clean Air Act that requires a faster cleanup of mercury and particulate pollution than does the 'Dirty Skies Act' from the Bushies. Tell Inhofe what it is like to take your child to the ER in the middle of the night with an asthma attack. Local and state pollution officials favor stricter air pollution regulation because they are the ones who know the most about the deterioration of America's air quality. They see the monitor readings every day, issue the alerts, and write the annual reports, while their hands are tied to do anything to stop the polluters. Tell Sen. Inhofe that we all need to breathe easier.     
     2 + 2 = 3 award this week goes to the British who 'lost' about 30 kilos of plutonium at their Sellafield plant. It's an accounting error. Accounting errors should sometimes come out plus and sometimes minus, but Sellafield is pretty much always minus. If the balance is always minus maybe this stuff is leaking out into the environment. Downwind from Sellafield is rumored not to be a very healthy place to be.
     Nuclear materials accounting was an '04 campaign issue--John Kerry said he was going to insist on nuclear accounting around the globe. While Bush is fiddling around about attacking Iran over nuclear programs, Britain wins the 2+2=3 plutonium award. Bush and Rumsfeld failed to guard the uranium in Iraq during the initial attack, and the UN says there's no way of tracking the stuff now. They let the Iraqi kids play in it. Putin is helping Russian businesses make some money supplying nuclear technology to Iran. Iran will ship the waste back to Russia for reprocessing. Hey, that sounds like a deal to me. Can we ship our nuke waste over to Russia too? Would we have to use Russian reactors in order to get in on this bargain? Or maybe the British would reduce the quantity for us by accounting errors at Sellafield.
     #3--The Kyoto protocol to reduce global greenhouse gases takes effect! Some good news, but the US is a rogue nation.
     Bird Sightings--Cedar waxwings were eating berries off some shrubbery on campus this week even though the temperatures were pretty cold out. A nice sized flock of 50 or so. The week before there were some mourning doves in the neighborhood. Gave me the feeling that spring is near. If you have cabin fever, maybe you need to hit my wild orchid page for some eye candy.

Feb 5, 2005
     Topic 1--
The Bushies intend to revive the Bunker Busting Nuke program. Let's learn from history -- nuke testing in Nevada lead to deaths of farm animals from fallout, and also higher cancer rates nationwide over the succeeding years. The rate of children needing special education soared in some school districts in the fallout plumes, but that was never adequately studied. Underground tests often breached the surface and created fallout too.
      So where the military is going to test the Bunker Buster Nuke? In Nevada? Oh, maybe in the desert in Iraq? If the Bunker Buster doesn't penetrate far enough and explodes it will create a truly huge plume of radioactive fallout wherever it is tested. Write to Congress now.
      Topic 2--Depleted uranium pollution in Iraq. Uranium is a highly toxic metal even if the radioactivity in it doesn't give you cancer. But alpha radiation (which is the type uranium emits) is high energy and a high risk carcinogen. Children are playing on tanks that were blown up by DU munitions. DU shells were used in Fallujah. But don't believe me about DU, read about it yourself in reliable news sources such as the BBC or the Christian Science Monitor.
      Topic 3--Winter air pollution in Wisconsin. We had 3 days in a row of air pollution alerts here this week due to particulate matter. One of the my friends said he coughed all night. He is a surveyor and had to be outside working. The Bushies 'Clear Skies' initiative is part of the problem. Air pollution events kill the very young, the very old and the very vulnerable. How many people do you know with asthma? Air pollution is a potent trigger of asthma attacks.  
      The news media tell us that air pollution is due to a 'stagnant air mass'. Wrong -- air pollution is created primarily by industrial activities and vehicle exhaust. And we're doing nothing to address the causes. We need stricter regs (yep, command and control!) on point source air pollution, and stricter regs on tailpipe exhaust from not just cars, but small trucks, SUVs, and diesel engines.
     An environmental rose award to MG&E, our local utility. It looked to me like they didn't use the Blount Street coal plant during the air pollution days. Another environmental rose to the Madison School Board that voted to ask the DNR to install an air quality monitor at Lowell School, which is close to the Kipp plant. Kipp produces, guess what, particulate pollution.
     My "2 + 2 = 3" award goes to the Wisconsin DNR for granting Kipp a permit to increase its particulate pollution.
     Bird sightings in the neighborhood -- the cardinals are starting to sing, and so are the house finches. I'm hoping to get out with my binoculars and enjoy the nice weather now that the worst of the air pollution has lifted.
     Drop me a line at I know people are stumbling in here off google searches. Visit my Human Rights Blog too.
"We all want a better world. Let torture cease."
Jan 18, 2005

     Topic 1--The war on Iraq: What will the Bushies do next, invade Iran, or maybe just totally devastate a couple of cities like they did to Fallujah? Oh, and the 4 provinces in Iraq that are unsafe for the election contain about 50% of the population. It's like saying that New York, California, Florida, and a couple of other 'biggies' are unsafe, but we'll hold the election anyway, and it'll bring a new day to the country. Great idea.
     Topic 2--Reducing public input on national forest plans: The Bush administration proposes to reduce the time for public comment on Nat'l Forest plans and actions from 90 days to 30 days. What is wrong with that is that it doesn't give average folks time to find out anything is happening at the favorite camping spot or fishin' hole, let alone submit a meaningful letter or email on it. Check out the proposed regs on The Wilderness Society website. 
     Topic 3--Wild salmon and steelhead protection rollbacks: The Bush administration is redefining what constitutes 'critical' habitat for endangered salmon and steelhead. The new definition says there have to be fish in there right now for the habitat to be critical. The re-definition trick has been used by the Bush administration in other ways, and the results are ugly (mountain top removal mining in the east is one example). Why are salmon important? People eat them, eagles eat them, bears eat them, ravens eat what the bears leave behind, etc. Salmon eat other things; if the salmon quit eating those other things then the ecosystem can change dramatically. Read more about it on the National Wildlife Federation website.
     Topic 4--Bird sightings. Anyone crazy enough to go birding in single digit temps with a 20 mph wind? Ok, I heard a chickadee saying 'fee-bee' this morning on campus, so I answered it. Then there were a gadzillion house sparrows partying in front of the University Club. And a couple of crows sitting out on the ice of Lake Mendota, probably looking for fish bait left behind.  Send me a bird report via email...
Jan 17, 2005
      Bush doesn't care about public comments sent to him, and the Bushie staff do not read letters! Make sure you send your congressional representatives copies of any letters you send to Bush. Here's what happens if you start a letter with a sarcastic 'congratulations' or any other positive word. You may be randomly selected to receive an autographed letter suitable for framing that thanks you for your support. That's what I got when I wrote to the Bushie Himself lambasting him on his failures with respect to clean air. Another friend of mine says he has gotten a couple of those nifty 'souvenir' letters. Try writing yourself and see if you can get your own Bush nonsense-reply! That's why I say to send a copy to your congressional reps -- they read your letters, and even think about the issues.

Sept 22, 2004
Ok bloggers I took a couple of months break but I'm back. What is environmental justice? If this doesn't enrage you then I think you are morally impaired. According the Sierra Club and other sources the Bush administration gagged the EPA's press release that would have warned the public and workers at the WTC after 9/11/2001 that there were high levels of particulates including asbestos in the air.  The government acted like this was the Soviet Union on the day Chernobyl blew up -- "just stay indoors and everything will be ok".  The NYU Department of Environmental Medicine has a nice paper explaining what the Bush administration did wrong, and why "WTC cough" caused trust in government to decline. 
     And a publication in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that pregnant women exposed to air pollution from the WTC terrorist strike had about twice the chance of having low birthweight babies as women not exposed to the air pollution. But the EPA was told to say it was 'safe' to go back to homes near the WTC disaster.
     Of course you can read the 'junk science' website (I won't put a link to that site because the writers of it have no idea what science actually is) and see that they think what I wrote is wrong. Don't believe them -- the Journal of the American Medical Association is a top peer-reviewed journal. Who you gonna believe, the 'junk science' idiots or the scientists? You decide, I put the link to JAMA, and the article is by Landrigan. Buy it and read it for yourself. Or go to a university library and look it up for free. Think for yourself. Thinking is free and is a great hobby.
Other Links:
Who am I? Colleen F. Moore, a professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin, and author of the book: "Silent Scourge: Children, Pollution and Why Scientists Disagree". Visit my Children and Pollution page for info on lead poisoning, mercury in fish, insecticides, PCBs, how airport noise affects children's reading, and how to cope with community pollution disasters such as Chernobyl, Love Canal, Three Mile Island, and other community relocations due to toxic waste.

Also visit my Human Rights Blog
"Let torture cease". Sexual abuse of prisoners creates double victims -- the soldiers ordered to do it and the prisoners receiving it.

Looking forward to Spring? Need some beauty in the midst of ugly politics? Check out my Wild Orchids of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan.

Seen a scary movie lately? Have a child that is still scared of something from a movie after a couple of weeks? Check out Joanne Cantor's page on children and scary media.

Scroll down for:
-- Suncreens induce higher pesticide absorption
--CDC finds higher pesticides in children than in adults
--Public input on national forest plans
--Wild salmon and steelhead protection
--Bush staff don't read letters
--WTC 9-11 pollution aftereffects
Time to endorse some environmental candidates for US Congress. I think these folks are good for America, good on environmental policy, good on policy for human rights, and jobs for Americans too.
John Kerry for President of the United States of America.
Children exposed to higher air pollution have higher The number one thing that environmentalists can do in November is to vote for John Kerry. The Bush administration is undermining environmental regulations that protect all of us from pollution. The environmental policies of the Bushies are the "All Children Left Behind" program --  Children exposed to high mercury prenatally will be a burden on school special education. Higher air pollution means higher rates of asthma, more missed school, and worse school grades. The cutbacks for public health programs like medicaid toddler blood lead screening and grants to states to enforce and fund lead abatement in housing affect poor children the most. Poor children are already at risk for poor school performance because of the rest of their life circumstances. Sound environmental policies actually save us all money in the long run. But here's the important thing -- environmental policies that protect us all from pollution are morally the right thing to do. Its just wrong to allow the air, sea, lakes, and my front yard to be the toxic waste dump of the planet.
US Senator Russ Feingold  (Wisconsin). America's most courageous in voting against the mis-guided unpatriotic "patriot" act. Also scores a perfect 100 on environmental voting.
US Rep. Tammy Baldwin. (Wisconsin). Tammy advocates veterans' benefits more strongly than anyone else. Also scores a perfect 100 on environmental voting.

And if you live in Wisconsin, let's ALL vote to throw out the Republicans in our Legislature who have: a) cut back the budget of the State DNR, b) insisted that the DNR grant permits within 30 days now that they don't have the personnel to review them (duh, why can't the DNR do the reviews faster), c) undermined the laws and regulations that protect navigable waterways, d) proposed a ridiculous tax freeze that would totally cripple local government (the TABOR nonsense), e) systematically reduced the proportion of state taxes paid by corporations while increasing the proportion paid by individuals, all the while claiming to be cutting taxes, f) refused to increase the state minimum wage while increasing their own salaries.  T'row da bums out!!  
     And for you in Northern Wisconsin who regard the DNR as the enemy, think about this -- who are you going to turn to when your neighbor pollutes your well or grades the shoreline destroying the bass spawning area?    
Scroll down or click for entries on:

Highway Costs & High Speed Rail
More on Bushies & Torture   .
Orchid Hunting in the Bogs, fiction by Colleen Moore (all rights reserved)
Great candidates for congress!!  
Aerial Pesticide Spray Near Interstate
Bushies Use Command & Control
Sweatshop  poetry by Jennifer Moore (all rights reserved)
Nonpoint source water pollution
Precautionary Principle
Inaction on Environmental Issues
Teflon Pants
The Geneva Convention and the Bushies
Warbler Sightings


 Small Wetlands Preservations: Command and Control Meets Freedom  -- July 5, 2004
     I own an empty lake lot in Northern Wisconsin that I bought to save it from development. It has a lovely vernal pool that is just a bit back from the lake proper. Some years it is full of wood frogs in the spring. Also the grackles were doing some serious feeding around the edges this May. The whitetails come down an work their hooves into the nice squishy mud -- ooh, that feels good.
     This year the owners of the lot to the east are replacing their mobile home with an instant house with a real foundation. Looks like a nice place. However, the vernal pond is suffering from some serious unintentional fill as a result of their construction.
     Here's the reason why we have command and control environmental laws -- what benefits you might hurt me, and vice versa. Command and control laws give us a level playing field. If my neighbor fills part of this pond that overlaps both our properties, I lose a major benefit of this piece of property.  Filling in the pond would prevent me from enjoying the wildlife that like a nice natural mucky spot.  There are lots of friendly insects in there too, like damsel and dragonflies.  

High Highway Cost Over-runs could pay for your tuition or build high speed rail! June 24, 2004
     Wisconsin had $381 million in cost over-runs on 7 major highway projects. What would you rather buy with this as a taxpayer?  Maybe someone to make sure the bids aren't rigged, and maybe some DOT personnel to check the work to make sure it doesn't have to be re-done because someone forgot to connect the sewer at the right place prior to pouring the cement for the pavement. Or, how about some DNR personnel to carry out enforcement of environmental laws such as properly placing silt barriers around waterways during construction. or to survey state wildlife, restore habitat, clean up pollution. Or even pay for some state budget shortfalls that the great state of Wisconsin has because it also has some of the lowest business taxes in the country.
could have been used     The organization "1000 Friends of Wisconsin" thinks we ought to do more road repair and less complete rebuilding. Also, they say the $381M is the same as all cutbacks to the University of Wisconsin System, or could build high-speed rail from Madison to Milwaukee, or could build a whole commuter rail system in Madison.
$381M = 6600 full-tuition scholarships to UW-Madison
$381M = 46 free transit rides for EACH & EVERY STATE RESIDENT!!!
     Today's riddle: Why is an empty highway a wonderful thing and an empty city bus wasteful? And which costs more? Rebuilding State Hwy 33 in Ozaukee Co. cost a cool $8-9 Million for 1.5 miles. That's about $1100 per linear foot. ouch.

  Orchid hunting in the bogs -- June 23, 2004
     The stillness of the northwoods forest was broken by the faint buzz of mosquitos. A light breeze kept them at bay, but the hunters wore mesh-heads anyway. The pitcher plants were blooming, and back in the sphagnum near the black spruce and tamarack was a colony of over a hundred pink moccasin orchid. She called them 'scrotum flower', pointing with the walking stick at the crease between the lobes, and her friend laughed a little uncomfortably. Dropping to her knees in the peat moss, camera to the eye, she snapped off a couple of frames. "Ok, we can follow the deer path, but watch for holes. Once I went in up to my waist. I needed all 4 feet to get out just like a deer." The dragons should be out there on the edge, where the sponge of the bog is saturated and thin. "If you fall in one of the holes, the acidic water might preserve you just like in the peat bogs in Scotland. The archeologists sometimes find a perfectly preserved man deep in the bog. "And the archeologists would wonder what a woman was doing out here in the bog all alone."
     Then suddenly there were dragons, miniature dragons, about a half dozen of them all around a hole in the moss, ears perked up listening as the hunters crept through the sponge, leaning first one way, as their walking sticks penetrated too deeply, then the other, as the stick hurriedly found another support.
     "They're moving too much to get a good picture." "Are you sure, let me see." "Wait, if you take one step back you'll fall in."
     (Visit my web page of native Wisconsin Orchids and see what a dragon looks like.)

Bushies Tear up Geneva Convention (click for text of GC)-- June 24, 2004
     A key letter from William Taft was omitted from the documents on torture released by the Bush administration (link to Washington Post). Attorneys for the branches of the military registered serious dissent from the Bush Administration's viewpoints on the treatment of prisoners of war (aka 'detainees'). The military attorneys say that torture doesn't yield good information, and furthermore, it opens our own soldiers (and civilians) to torture. Can the Bushies spell behead?
     And still nothing has been done to 'process' the almost 600 POWs in Guantanamo. POWs (aka 'detainees') are not supposed to be removed from the country in which the war occurs. They are supposed to be repatriated after the war is over.
     Two Ukrainian merchant seamen held at Abu Ghraib say they were tortured with sleep deprivation, kept naked, and hooded. They also say that prisoners were tear gassed and forced to eat food off the floor (Seattle Post-Intelligencer).  These guys were older (late 50s and 60s), one of them was diabetic but was only given medication when his condition was serious. Oh, no medication for diabetes -- maybe that's not worse than many elderly in the US. Their health on return to the Ukraine is described as "serious". They were convicted of smuggling oil. Important enough to our national security that they were hooded and sleep deprived?

Aerial Pesticide Spray Hits Interstate Highway -- June 21, 2004
     Imagine seeing the stunt plane dip its wings, bank nearly 90 degrees, and fly low enough to graze the power lines parallel to the highway. "Nifty flying," I think. Then I see the yellow fog come from under the wing, wafting over the crops. The plane was about 1/4 mile from the highway, and the wind was not calm. As I journeyed north across the Sand Counties of Wisconsin described so eloquently by Aldo Leopold, the plane worked its way north. We played leap-frog up the highway for about 30 minutes, the plane spraying field after field. No, it couldn't have been spraying Bt for gypsy moths because it was skipping the trees. Not spraying for mosquitos either.
     Is agricultural pesticide spraying close to a busy interstate rare? No. I observed planes spraying the last 3 times I drove on I-39 during late May and early to mid-June.
     "There ought to be a law," a command and control law, against pesticide spraying from airplanes. Here's why -- Pesticide drift is a proven problem for children's pesticide exposure. What better way to get pesticide drift than to apply it from an airplane. Studies in Washington and Arizona find that kids who live near conventionally farmed fields have the highest pesticide residues, sometimes above the level the EPA or WHO calls 'safe'. You can read more on children's pesticide exposure in my book on children and pollution.
     While eating lunch with the farmers at the counter in the Royal Cafe in Coloma (which has 'good grease' and home-made pie) the conversation around me turned to pesticides. They said someone had "got it" the day before. He was driving in an open top jeep on a dirt road through the farm area when the plane let out its toxic fart. Had to be hospitalized. Was lucky to get to the hospital in time.
     Most of the insecticides in use are close relatives of the WMDs that Saddam supposedly had, such as sarin, a nerve gas that is a cholinesterase inhibitor. I've always wondered if all the nerve gas false alarms in Gulf War I were due to pesticides to kill the sand fleas and other critters that can carry disease. Toxified the soldiers a bit perhaps too.
     I won't go into the impacts of farm pesticides on wildlife, because basically no one counts them up very carefully, though it could be modeled mathematically (also covered briefly in my book).
     So at the grocery store think about saving someone from pesticide poisoning by buying organic. I wonder if pesticide residues affect my health -- low concentration, low probability. But I'm sure that pesticides affect farmers and their children, so I'm buying organic as much as I can. How about you? Drop me a line and tell me why you do or don't shop organic --

Bushies Use "Command and Control" to Gut Environmental Laws -- June 7, 2004
     The Bushies are the perpetrators of so-called 'Command and Control' environmental rules. According to Environmental Media Services the Bush administration tried to end military expenditures on environmental compliance, but the screams were loud enough that they backtracked. This is one way to 'command and control' the pollution to which neighbors of military bases are subjected--the military makes all the pollution it wants, and then there's no money to clean it up.
     The normal meaning of 'command and control' is that a rule requires that certain emission standards be met -- e.g., exhaust from our cars, chemicals in ground water, and so on. The rules say things like that you can't leave PCB contaminated equipment just lying around, hardly a burdensome requirement to an environmentally responsible company. Of course, people can be fined if they don't comply. But somehow conservatives are all heated up about 'command and control' rules. "Voluntary compliance" is supposedly better, and incentives are better yet. I agree that voluntary compliance with any law is the center of a civil society. We don't fine everyone who runs red lights -- just enough of them so the rest of us behave ourselves. The same is true of command and control environmental laws -- the majority of companies want to keep the communities they live in healthy and so they run a clean shop. The few violators (and especially the persistent ones) deserve the fines they get. It levels the playing field. I have a different view of 'command and control'.
     The Bushies have established 'command and control' of public input on the management of our National Forests, perhaps for the first time. The mis-named 'healthy forest' law prevents public comment -- "The HFRA eliminates environmental review and analysis impacts for a category of insect logging projects up to 1,000 acres in size (even for clear cuts) -- an area the size of approximately 1,000 football fields.  The American public will not be able to review, comment on and participate in these types of projects" (according to the Alabama Environmental Council).  And the public appeal process that has been in use for decades has been deleted. On top of that, the law limits court processes. This is 'command and control' to gut environmental protection.
     So what's wrong with a little logging, doesn't the land recover quickly? First, clear-cuts don't recover very well at all. The big industrial forests brag about how many trees they plant. But you shouldn't have to plant trees in a healthy forest because they re-seed themselves.  Second, clear cuts harm adjacent areas like streams. An entire aquatic ecosystem can be destroyed by clear cutting a headwaters area. Silt runs into the stream smothering not just fish eggs and fry, but aquatic insects that need clear cool water to thrive. Water temperature increases. Where once trout and salmon swam, now the stream might not even be suitable for a carp.  Third, even 'thinning' a healthy forest disturbs the understory. It takes understory plants like ginseng (which is more valuable pound for pound than the trees growing above it) about 10 years to come back after a logger thins a plot of land. But the recommended practice is to thin about every 10 years. Biodiversity can be severely damaged by standard logging practices that don't even involve clear cutting.
     The Un-Healthy Forest Law of 2003 must be repealed as soon as possible. Perhaps we can do this if elect a democratic congress and accomplish a peaceful regime change in the next election.
     In the meantime, ask all your friends if they are registered to vote. If they aren't sure, help them find out where to register. Let's get the vote out to defeat the Bushies in 2004 and reclaim the environment for the people. A healthy environment means healthy people and a steady job base for communities adjoining forests. No more 'command and control' legislation from the Bushies to eliminate public input on public land management.

Follow-up to Teflon-Coated Pants (May 22, 2004) -- June 1, 2004
I'm taking the teflon pants back to Lands End today. The vote on the pants was 25 for taking them back and 18 for keeping them. OK bloggers, those who said to take them back win this one. Let's get teflon out of the environment.

And here's the poem I promised on clothes stitched far away and shipped with Saudi-juice in containers to Amerika...

   by Jennifer Moore (all rights reserved)
My tee-shirt is all that is wrong with this world.
And there are more where it came from:
Stacked in my dresser
Adidas cheek-to-cheek
With a corporate-sponsored 10K,
Fermenting in lemon-fresh Clorox.

Some brown people
With clothes of their own--
Home spun
Hand dyed
Deep purples and maize
And endorsement for tradition,
Family, culture
Stitched across their chests--
Spelled out N-I-K-E
On my 100% cotton beefy tee.

Next spring when I
Weed through the garden
And my closet, overgrown
with garments made in Asia
My tax-deductible tee-shirt will be
Laid out
For ten cents in an open-air market.
Mamas with babies yoked to their backs will
Peel through the garden of discards
And a 14 year old boy
Who works in a factory will buy it:
A great find,
An American uniform.

He'll wear it to work
Sweating new stains
Making tee shirts.

Non-point Pollution is You, er . . . Me!  --  June 1, 2004
     Madison Wisconsin received record rainfall in May, and 7 inches in a 3 day period. Nonpoint source pollution is runoff that carries everything from e. coli to herbicides directly into your local waterways via the storm drains. Downtown Madison is perched between Lake Monona and Lake Mendota. Some summers the lakes get the most amazing algae bloom that looks like green paint on the surface, and there's an odor too. Thenutrients from nonpoint pollution feed this algae bloom -- no big storms, no big algae bloom.
     How did I contribute to the summer slime? I hired a guy to mow my lawn. Some of the lawn clippings go in the street. Storm water washes clippings into lake, and the nutrients feed the algae bloom. I also have a patch of dirt where I can't get lawn to grow. This patch erodes, and the dirt also carries nutrients into the lake.
      "But it's natural, how can it hurt the lake?" This was my reaction for years, until I learned a bit more. Natural nutrients in un-natural quantities are what creates the problem. And this included your puppy-poo. Please pick it up. And don't feed the ducks and geese because it makes them congregate in unnatural numbers, and their poo has e. coli too.
     How did you contribute to the problem? When you fertilize your lawn a bunch of fertilizer lands directly on the sidewalk or in the street. I don't add fertilizer to my lawn, so I'm innocent on that one.
     Here's where rain gardens and rain barrels come in. One of my neighbors (not the ones who hired the herbicide company to over-apply chemicals bi-weekly) has rain barrels connected to her house gutters. They are plastic barrels that are sometimes elevated above the ground about 3 ft, and have a hose connected to them at the bottom. You can use the water in your garden later, or just let it out a little at a time when you have too much. I haven't checked with her to see how the rain barrels performed during the May deluge.
     Best mowing practices --  1) aim the mower output back onto the lawn rather than into the street, 2) sweep up the gutter and sidewalk after you mow, DON'T wash it into the storm drain.

What is the Precautionary Principle? -- May 22, 2004
     The BBC reports that Russia is moving close to signing the Kyoto climate change treaty. Climate change was one of the origins of the modern version of the Precautionary Principle, which says that "Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation" (UN, 1992). In practice, this means we should cut mercury emissions NOW by adopting the best available technology to remove it from coal-burning emissions, and we should reduce CO2 emissions NOW by adopting energy efficiency measures. We should also phase out PBDEs as a flame retardant, as the EU is doing. PBDEs bioconcentrate up the food chain just like PCBs.  Of course it isn't as simple as saying "stop".  But inaction has very little to do with scientific uncertainty or lack of alternatives. We Americans, the richest residents of this heaven called Earth, are weighing wealth over health and happiness.
     But speaking of persistent pollutants, I was horrified to find myself purchasing a pair of teflon (Dupont registered brand name) coated pants for $9 at Lands End on Madison's famous State Street. We need teflon on our clothes? Ok, I'm one of those people who gets dirty really easily, but I'd rather have plain cotton paints. But the Environmental Working Group has been dogging DuPont about various teflon-related pollution issues for a couple of years. Problems include birth defects and it is one of those very persistent chemicals. I'm questioning my sanity for buying the pants, even at $9 (wealth over health and happiness?). More comments later on who stitched these pants and on what part of the globe, and why it is cheaper to stitch there and ship here than to stitch here. Stay tuned, and drop me an email if you're reading this... Let's take a vote on whether I should have bought the pants -- just put "yes pants" or "no pants" in the subject line of your email.

Bird Sightings -- May 21, 2004
     Busy week at work, so not much birding for me. But I did see a nice flock of about 20 cedar waxwings hanging out along the Yahara River. They were there for a couple of days at least.


How long do we have to know something is toxic before we act? -- May 17, 2004
     The Bushies deserve credit for phasing in diesel engines that will be less polluting, but why does it have to take so long? And the Bushies (who are adamantly pro-life when it comes to abortion) are anti-life when it comes to prenatally toxic substances such as mercury. How long do we have to know that mercury is harmful before we take effective action? Prenatal mercury poisonings occurred in Minamata, Japan in the 1950s, and animal research verifies the prenatal toxicity of methylmercury in fish. Human research (2 out of 3 major long term studies) also shows negative effects of mercury in fish on child development, especially verbal, motor and visual functioning.
    One of my friends made this analogy to the delays in action on environmental toxics -- "Within 24 hours of when Janet Jackson showed her breast on national TV there was a prohibition on saying 'tit' on the radio. Nobody did any studies to see what the costs of banning the word would be-- we got instant action. But we're still doing studies of the cost-effectiveness of cleanup for environmental pollutants that have been known to be toxic for a generation. Why can't we get fast action on toxic pollutatns"
     How about some instant action on pollutants that affect child development adversely? Let's put mercury controls on coal burners and see what happens. It might just work as well as banning lead in gasoline and paint did in the 1970s.

"W" is for Warbler -- May 16, 2004
     In northern Wisconsin this weekend the warbler migration was going full blast. At Laura Lake in the Nicolet National Forest we had some nice long looks at black-throated green warblers who were really singing. Driving back to Madison I stopped to fish the special regulation section of the Prairie River near Gleason and spotted some Wilson's warblers, and I heard common yellowthroats, and yellow warblers. There were also some phoebe's catching bugs. I caught a couple of brook trout, and of course the big one got away. The best part of trout fishing in May is the streamside warblers.  
Native orchids of Wisconsin can be found here. But don't leave with out linking to my Children and Pollution web page, ok? This is full of stuff that will help you protect your family and protect our planet without panicking.
Human Rights and the Humiliation of Iraqi Prisoners -- May 7, 2004
     Instead of asking for Rumsfeld to resign, I think the public should be screaming for an unbiased report on the conditions and interrogation methods at Guantanamo and the failure of the Bush administration to follow the Geneva conventions for the treatment of the prisoners of war who are at Guantanamo.
     But is Rumsfeld the problem or only a symptom of what is wrong with most of the Bush administration? Bush could easily replace Rumsfeld with someone worse. I think Rumsfeld is just a symptom of the sickness in the Bush administration. Language conveys attitudes and deep symbolic meanings --"collateral damage" for civilian deaths is a prime example (though other US administrations have used that one). All of Bush's language about the Iraqi "detainees" (not "prisoners of war") is dehumanizing -- they are "the enemies of freedom".  "Enemies of freedom" is disrespectful from the git-go. So should we be surprised that soldiers and 'contractors' (aka mercenaries) think it socially acceptable to photograph themselves with naked "enemies of freedom"? The Geneva convention prohibits "outrages upon personal dignity". I think military personnel had to learn something about the Geneva Convention in military training. The top people must have just "forgotten" that the Iraqis are POW, and human too.
    The Bushies (to borrow a term from Molly Ivins) think 600 people held incommunicado for over 2 years in Guantanamo do not deserve the rights normally accorded prisoners of war. Who knows what methods of "interrogation" have been used on them? We don't have a report on treatment in Guantanamo like we do for Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.  All we know is that a few guards were charged with using force inappropriately. The situation in Abu Ghraib has little to do with force -- it is all about humiliation, and a lot of it apparently occured at night. In the morning things would look fine.  
     Looks like is asking us all to demand that Rumsfeld resign. has links to the Washington Post's coverage, so you can get info and then think for yourself. I got kind of sick of MoveOn telling me what to think after they described candidates for the Sierra Club Board like Dick Lamm as right-wingers and spammed the whole country with that trash. So now I'm back to thinking for myself, and I hope you are too. Of course, MoveOn is anti-Bush, which is good in my book. But if you're clicking to send cash, give it to the Kerry campaign.
Warblers have arrived -- May 6, 2004
    The wood warblers have arrived in Madison as of about a week ago. The yellow rumped and palm warblers were numerous along the north shore of Lake Monona all week. For those of you who haven't gotten hooked on wood warblers, they are soooo pretty. But the yellow rumpies can be a bit nasty tempered, chasing each other around and chattering. The palm warblers are easy going and tame by comparison, and if you hand out with them for a while they will almost come up to you while they are foraging on the ground. Of course, this does not mean that you can take good photos of them. The palm warblers will either get too close for you to be able to focus your telephoto lens, or they will be far enough away that you will get a "find the bird in this pic" type of photo. But it is fun trying to photograph them.  Here's the National Audubon Society page where you can check out other bird migration stuff. Here's a page on Wisconsin bird sites. They want you to nominate important breeding and migration areas.
Shovelers in the Class of 1918 Marsh -- April 10, 2004
    Bicycle-birding today. There were a bunch of shoveler ducks in the Class of 1918 marsh on the west side of the UW-Madison campus. Beautiful, I love their big bills and colorful markings.  Look these up in your bird book, its worth it. Also, the first baby mallards of the year were following their mom across University Bay on Lake Mendota. And there were some really big flocks of coots on both Lake Mendota and Monona. What a great place to live.
    Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate Easter either as a secular or religious holiday. Just another day or so before you can enjoy something other than matzah if you are observing Pesach.

Lawn chemical company leaves diesel engine running -- April 9, 2004
    Join me if you think it is bad enough that people waste their money hiring companies like ChemLawn and TruGreen to over-fertilize their lawns and spray biocides around without them leaving the engine running the whole time too. Today my neighbors were visited by one the lawn chemical giants. The guy was there about 20 minutes, and he left the diesel engine on his van running the whole time. The temperature was about 50 degrees F. and there was no danger of it not starting if he had turned it off. By the time he was ready to leave the sickly sweet smell of diesel fumes had permeated the neighborhood.
    How high will fuel prices have to go to get the diesel drivers to realize there is an 'off' position to their ignition keys?
    Here's the kicker -- the neighbor who hired the yo-yo to spray chemicals has asthma, and diesel fumes kick off asthma attacks. Breathe deeply everyone!
Visit my photos of the Wind River Range, Wyoming. Nice scenery, some nice wildflowers. This isn't a photo gallery because I didn't edit things down very much.
Polluted Bike Ride Around Lake Monona -- March 29, 2004
    We have this absolutely awesome bike route around Lake Monona in Madison Wisconsin. It is about a 1 hour ride for us slugs that go about 12 mpg, and makes a nice workout. I went clockwise from the eastside, and about a half hour into it as I was riding through a wonderful suburban neighborhood on the south shore I started to notice the noise from the Beltline Highway. Don't confuse the Beltline with the Beltway in DC -- our beltlines are bigger up here in Dairyland. Wow, where it should be nice and quiet along the shore where the houses go for half a mil, I was being battered by the traffic noise.
    Then I passed a homeowner who was emptying a gas or oil tank of some kind right into the gutter at the curb. Hey, pal, that drain down the street empties right into the lake! If you want to dump toxics illegally, at least do it in private where I won't be grossed out -- carry the tank down to the lake to dump it directly out of sight of everyone biking past your house.  Better yet, call the local 'clean sweep' program and dispose of it properly.
    Next on the ride I entered a section of narrow bike path, segregated from the car traffic, but right next to traffic going 45 mph. Wow, more noise. And the road surface is grooved. For you locals, this is where you are paralleling John Nolen Drive by Olin-Turville Park. The grooved pavement must be about 10 dB louder than the non-grooved pavement.
    This great bike ride could be sooo much better with just a little community attention to aesthetics.