Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sean Lennon's Op Ed About Gas Drilling

From the 8/28/12 New York Times:

Destroying Precious Land for Gas By SEAN LENNON

ON the northern tip of Delaware County, N.Y., where the Catskill Mountains curl up into little kitten hills, and Ouleout Creek slithers north into the Susquehanna River, there is a farm my parents bought before I was born. My earliest memories there are of skipping stones with my father and drinking unpasteurized milk. There are bald eagles and majestic pines, honeybees and raspberries. My mother even planted a ring of white birch trees around the property for protection.

A few months ago I was asked by a neighbor near our farm to attend a town meeting at the local high school. Some gas companies at the meeting were trying very hard to sell us on a plan to tear through our wilderness and make room for a new pipeline: infrastructure for hydraulic fracturing. Most of the residents at the meeting, many of them organic farmers, were openly defiant. The gas companies didn’t seem to care. They gave us the feeling that whether we liked it or not, they were going to fracture our little town.

In the late ’70s, when Manhattanites like Andy Warhol and Bianca Jagger were turning Montauk and East Hampton into an epicurean Shangri-La for the Studio 54 crowd, my parents, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, were looking to become amateur dairy farmers. My first introduction to a cow was being taught how to milk it by hand. I’ll never forget the realization that fresh milk could be so much sweeter than what we bought in grocery stores. Although I was rarely able to persuade my schoolmates to leave Long Island for what seemed to them an unreasonably rural escapade, I was lucky enough to experience trout fishing instead of tennis lessons, swimming holes instead of swimming pools and campfires instead of cable television.

Though my father died when I was 5, I have always felt lucky to live on land he loved dearly; land in an area that is now on the verge of being destroyed. When the gas companies showed up in our backyard, I felt I needed to do some research. I looked into Pennsylvania, where hundreds of families have been left with ruined drinking water, toxic fumes in the air, industrialized landscapes, thousands of trucks and new roads crosshatching the wilderness, and a devastating and irreversible decline in property value.

Natural gas has been sold as clean energy. But when the gas comes from fracturing bedrock with about five million gallons of toxic water per well, the word “clean” takes on a disturbingly Orwellian tone. Don’t be fooled. Fracking for shale gas is in truth dirty energy. It inevitably leaks toxic chemicals into the air and water. Industry studies show that 5 percent of wells can leak immediately, and 60 percent over 30 years. There is no such thing as pipes and concrete that won’t eventually break down. It releases a cocktail of chemicals from a menu of more than 600 toxic substances, climate-changing methane, radium and, of course, uranium.

New York is lucky enough to have some of the best drinking water in the world. The well water on my family’s farm comes from the same watersheds that supply all the reservoirs in New York State. That means if our tap water gets dirty, so does New York City’s.

Gas produced this way is not climate- friendly. Within the first 20 years, methane escaping from within and around the wells, pipelines and compressor stations is 105 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. With more than a tiny amount of methane leakage, this gas is as bad as coal is for the climate; and since over half the wells leak eventually, it is not a small amount. Even more important, shale gas contains one of the earth’s largest carbon reserves, many times more than our atmosphere can absorb. Burning more than a small fraction of it will render the climate unlivable, raise the price of food and make coastlines unstable for generations.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, when speaking for “the voices in the sensible center,” seems to think the New York State Association of County Health Officials, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the New York State Nurses Association and the Medical Society of the State of New York, not to mention Dr. Anthony R. Ingraffea’s studies at Cornell University, are “loud voices at the extremes.”
The mayor’s plan to “make sure that the gas is extracted carefully and in the right places” is akin to a smoker telling you, “Smoking lighter cigarettes in the right place at the right time makes it safe to smoke.”

Few people are aware that America’s Natural Gas Alliance has spent $80 million in a publicity campaign that includes the services of Hill and Knowlton — the public relations firm that through most of the ’50s and ’60s told America that tobacco had no verifiable links to cancer. Natural gas is clean, and cigarettes are healthy — talk about disinformation. To try to counteract this, my mother and I have started a group called Artists Against Fracking.

My father could have chosen to live anywhere. I suspect he chose to live here because being a New Yorker is not about class, race or even nationality; it’s about loving New York. Even the United States Geological Survey has said New York’s draft plan fails to protect drinking water supplies, and has also acknowledged the likely link between hydraulic fracturing and recent earthquakes in the Midwest. Surely the voice of the “sensible center” would ask to stop all hydraulic fracturing so that our water, our lives and our planet could be protected and preserved for generations to come.

image courtesy of Onearth Magazine

Junk Mail Creep

Just when you think you've got it under control, junk mail creeps up on you again. If you order something online, you will generally begin getting regular catalogs from the company, even if you had previously asked not to. If you wrote to an organization like the Direct Mail Association, asking to get off mailing lists, be aware that they keep your name in their database for only 5 years. So it might be time to make that request again.

Food for thought: Americans spend 8 months of life opening junk mail; 90 million trees are leveled each year to provide the paper for mostly unwanted mailings; out of 5.6 million tons of mailings generated each year, 4.3 million are thrown in the garbage; 340,000 garbage trucks are needed to haul away all the junk mail that doesn't quite make it to the recycling bin.*
In your letter, request your name and address be deleted from all mailing and marketing lists. Provide them with all possible ways of spelling your name, as well as the names of anyone else at your address who does not want to receive junk mail. Be sure to sign and date your letter.

Send your letter to:
Mail Preference Service / DMA
ATTN: Dept. 9407644 P.O. Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512
Tel. No.: 212-768-7277

You can also eliminate those pesky credit card offers by doing the following:
    There are four credit bureaus: Equifax, Trans Union, Experian, and Innovis. These credit bureaus sell credit information to anyone who would want to purchase their lists. If you don't want your information sold, contact the four credit bureaus and request them not to sell your information. You can contact all four companies and stop them from selling your credit info by calling just one toll-free number: 888-5OPT OUT or 888-567-8688, 24 hours a day.

* sources: Center for Democracy & Technology, Center for a New American Dream, U.S. EPA
Image of artist Anne Cohen with her 5-foot-tall junk mail tower courtesy of Long Island Press

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Gardens Using Less Water

With so many areas of the country suffering from drought this summer, we might want to think about ways to conserve water. The average lawn and many gardens use quite a bit of water, but there is no need to do without greenery in our backyards and community gardens. Think about growing plants that require less moisture. Treehugger has a nice slide show on would-be lawns that have been converted into gardens requiring minimum water. The Chicago parkway garden (above) is planted with native and drought tolerant plants that divert rainwater from sewers, provide food and forage for pollinators, and brighten up the neighborhood.

Monday, August 13, 2012

This Year's Dirty Dozen

Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases a list of the 12 fruits and vegetables which routinely contain the most pesticides. If possible, choose to get organic versions of these. Washing your fruits and vegetables won't remove all traces of pesticide and pesticides tend to remain within our bodies over long periods of time. These chemicals have been linked with many health problems such as asthma, autism and learning disabilities, birth defects and reproductive dysfunction, diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, and several types of cancer. The Pesticides Induced Diseases Databases at Beyond Pesticides will tell you more.

Here is the current list of fruits and vegetables to eat in organic form whenever possible:
  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Sweet bell peppers
  4. Peaches
  5. Strawberries
  6. Imported nectarines
  7. Grapes
  8. Spinach
  9. Lettuce
  10. Cucumbers
  11. Domestic blueberries
  12. Potatoes
EWG also lists a clean 15--fruits and vegeetables that aren't so bad to eat non-organic.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Banana for Your Thoughts

We're all about reducing waste, and it makes it easier if you have a great new use for would-be waste. Banana peels, for instance. Did you know that a banana peel can be used to remove splinters, polish silverware, polish shoes, reduce the itch of insect bites, and more. Get the details on reusing banana peels. Thanks to Kat G. for passing on this tip!

After you're finished using your banana peels and other food waste, you can compost them. If you don't have your own compost, the Grand Army Plaza green market as well as others accepts compostable waste.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Safer Pest Control

Insects are, for the most part, an important part of our ecosystem. Many of us prefer that they stay in the outdoor ecosystem rather than in our homes. Small spiders and ladybugs can easily be scooped up on a piece of paper and returned to the outside world where they and you will be happier. Other kinds of insects, like bedbugs and roaches, have a less clear role in the outside ecosystem and when discovered indoors need to be removed ASAP.

Beyond Pesticides has advice about the least toxic pesticide options. Ants, for example, plague many Brooklynites during the summer months. Beyond Pesticides has a factsheet to help you cope. There is helpful information about bedbugs as well.

The Food Coop carries food grade diatomaceous earth, a safer alternative to tackle and prevent a number of indoor insects.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Fracking Update

As the battle to gain statewide legislation banning hydraulic fracture drilling from New York State continues, various municipalities are passing their own local legislation to protect their water supply. Of course, ground water flows from one area to the next, and we really need statewide legislation to protect our environment, but every bit of local legislation helps. Fractracker has a map showing current fracking moratoria and legislation throughout the state.