Iglu by Jacob Sackin

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As I walked outside on the day that I wrote this, I smelled the sweet air of springtime. Though I had gloves, I didn’t need them. My coat was open, and I didn’t shiver. Not so strange if this had been early in May. But it’s December in Iowa. Much as I love spring and enjoy the relative warmth of 63-degree days, I find the moderate temperature most unsettling. December isn’t supposed to be warm where I live. This false, fall “spring” is the harbinger of a changed climate that is already dramatically altering weather patterns around the world. Yet, climate skeptics still fill the airwaves with denial.

In his young adult novel, Iglu, author Jacob Sackin imagines a world in which climate change is no longer questioned by anyone. Climate refugees are fleeing the lower 48 states to Alaska, pushing back the Native people and seizing the land for themselves. War rages on as the Inuit people fight back against the encroaching masses and the cruel Skyhawk soldiers sent to ensure the safety of the refugees.

The heroine of the story is April, an Inupiaq girl running for her life, narrowly evading the Skyhawk troops who have captured — or possibly killed — her parents. Everything familiar to April has been destroyed by bombing or bulldozers. Inupiaq people are being rounded up, forced into camps where they can be contained and controlled. April’s family has been torn apart, and she is left alone to fend for herself. In this futuristic coming-of-age story, April finds the strength not only to survive, but also to fight against the cruelty and injustice of the powerful U.S. government. She isn’t perfect — no realistic character is — but she makes a powerful role model for youngsters who are themselves coming to grips with an unfair world and an uncertain environmental future….

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Notes from the UK: Climate Change Is Here

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It’s fair to say that everyone has noticed the weather changes here in the UK — the heavy rainfalls, gale force winds, flooding, and even the reduction in snow. Every year, we notice more visible changes to the climate — which many believe is the result of climate change — and they appear to be getting progressively worse with each new year.

Heavy rainfall for extended periods is expected to increase the flood risk in the coming years. We have witnessed freak levels of flooding already this year, especially during September. With major flooding throughout the country, holidaymakers in Wales had to be airlifted to safety, and homes in the south of Devon were flooded. Northern areas of the country, such as York and Newcastle, didn’t get off lightly either, with many residents claiming to have experienced the most severe flooding in recent memory.

In fact, Meteogroup released figures showing a 14.25 inch (362mm) rainfall in June, July ,and August, making 2012 the wettest summer seen in the UK since 1912. One explanation is that the flooding is due to unusual circulation patterns in the atmosphere, which can sometimes become fixed on a certain cycle. Depending on whether the circulation is pointing away or towards the country, this can either lead to the UK experiencing excessively dry or wet conditions. This theory could certainly go some way to explaining the drastic alterations in weather that have been experienced in recent times….

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Earthquakes, Tornados, Floods, Fire and Hurricanes: When Natural Disasters Hit Home

August 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Blog, Disaster, Earthquake, Front Page, Homes, Slideshow, Tornado

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Some of the largest cities in the world have been built in areas that sooner or later get hit by natural disasters of incredible magnitude. In the U.S., for example, Los Angeles, along with much of the rest of California, sits astride a massive fault line. Several eastern U.S. sea port cities are in prime hurricane country, and a fair portion of the Midwest is plagued by tornadoes.

But as dangerous as these areas can be, people still call them home despite the high cost of destruction. Below are a few examples of past natural disasters and their related costs….

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Atlas of Mud: A Cautionary Tale

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A young girl emerges from the darkness on stage. She is awakening, deep in the belly of a vast, wooden ship, reminiscent of Noah’s Ark. I listen intently as she vividly recounts a dream:

“I was in the sky…

“I was flying…

“And there were people – so many people. They were all moving towards the water. They didn’t notice me so I swooped low over them looking for you. There were boats – just like this one but hundreds and hundreds of them. And around every boat were soldiers. People were crowded onto the decks of the boat and all of them had suitcases and boxes. There was no room to move and still more people kept climbing on.”

Her dream is frightening and the event confusing. Who is this child? What prompted her nightmare? Who is she talking to?

This is the Working Group Theatre’s production of Atlas of Mud in Iowa City’s Riverside Theatre. The audience is in rapt attention as the scene the young girl describes gets worse, horrifyingly so. The images are chilling…

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Notes from India: 1984 – Bhopal

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Posts in Blue Planet Green Living’s “Notes from…” category provide readers with a personal viewpoint, often an essay, from a writer whose views are intrinsically linked to their own nation or locale. In this case, we present reflections on a needless and gruesome tragedy that occurred 26 years ago in Bhopal. Those responsible for operations […]

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Jon Hutson Says, “Enough!” to Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity

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Jonathan Hutson serves as the director of communications for the Enough Project in Washington, D.C. Enough is a part of the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank. Not long ago, a director of communications would have been confined to print, television, and radio to spread an organization’s message. Today, it’s a whole new game, with social media gaining in prominence as the medium of choice.

Fittingly, Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) first became aware of Hutson through Twitter, where WeFollow.com ranks Hutson (@JonHutson) as among the most influential Tweeters on human rights and justice. We asked Hutson to tell us about the Enough Project and how they use social media to further the organization’s critically important international work….

HUTSON: The Enough Project was launched three years ago, and is helping to build a permanent constituency to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity. We are calling the U.S. and the international community to action — to witness horrible human rights violations and to take measurable, meaningful action that stops ongoing atrocities and prevents their recurrence.

Here’s the latest example of our work: a witty video by actor/director Brooke Smith and cinematographer Steven Lubensky, called “I’m a Mac… and I’ve Got a Dirty Secret.” It’s about Congo conflict minerals; it spoofs an iconic Apple ad. Since Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof launched the video in a column called “Death by Gadget” in the Sunday, June 27, 2010 edition of The New York Times, this video has gone viral. It’s been covered by Gizmodo, Fast Company, Inc. Magazine, ComputerWorld, Planet Green, Elephant Journal, TreeHugger, and CNN International. Please take a look and share it with friends….

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From Rich to Enriched – Responding to The Tap

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There’s no doubt that Frank McKinney stands out in a crowd. His long, flowing, blond hair sets him apart from most business types he deals with. His daredevil actions put others in awe of his tolerance for risk-taking — and his successes. And his creative ways of approaching both his business and his charity work draw others to his door. Frank McKinney also knows how to market himself, his business interests, his books, and the Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF).

But everything that McKinney does these days is centered around a concept he paraphrases from the Bible: “From those to whom much is given, much will be expected.” In Part 3 of our interview, I talk with McKinney about how he puts that into action through CHPF and the homes he builds in Haiti, and about the messages he shares in his book, The Tap.

On his Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF) web page, author Frank McKinney writes, “In The Tap, I share the most important spiritual principle of my success in the business we are all in, the business of life. I explain how God has tapped me (and taps everyone) many times in life, answering prayers and presenting life-changing opportunities….

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Self Sufficiency — The Best “Return on Donation”

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“We are one global community,” says builder, author, entrepreneur, and humanitarian Frank McKinney. “There are so many places around the world that do not have the social service net to protect the indigent like we have here [in the U.S.]. So we took our ministry, if you will, to Haiti.”

This is Part 2 of a three-part interview with McKinney, author of the book, The Tap. He’s a complex individual living a dichotomous life, as described in Part 1. Using the sale of the mansions he builds, he funds the charity he founded, the Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF), which constructs villages for some of the world’s poorest people.

“We realized the dollars would go so much further by creating self-sufficient villages in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere,” Frank McKinney explains. “Commencing in 2003, and by the end of 2010, we will have built 15 self-sufficient villages in Haiti. We were there seven years before the earthquake took place. And we’ll be there many years after.

“We realized we could touch a life with shelter for about $500 internationally. So we sold two of the domestic houses [described in Part 1], kept one, and took whatever proceeds we had and stretched those dollars further internationally.” …

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Design Student Creates Jewelry to Aid Gulf Wildlife

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Like nearly everyone who sees the damage its caused, Nadilyn Beáto is upset about the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. But she isn’t just complaining, she’s doing something about it. A junior at Parsons – The New School for Design in Brooklyn, New York, Beáto has recently begun designing, making, and selling fashion jewelry to benefit the wildlife affected by the vast oil leak.

Beáto’s jewelry depicts some of the animals that she wants to save: sea turtles, orcas, dolphins, American oyster catchers, black skimmers, and more. She uses Super Sculpey to create her jewelry pieces, then paints them with nontoxic paints. Her creations include necklaces, charm bracelets, and earrings. Each individual piece of jewelry takes her about an hour and a half to make.

The turtles sell for $15 in Beáto’s Etsy store, with $10 donated to the Gulf Coast Response team at the Environmental Defense Fund. Her goal is to create and sell 150 pieces of jewelry, raising $1,500 for the rescue and rehabilitation of the wildlife in the Gulf.

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Notes from Canada: A Plan for the Planet

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“I’ve got an idea – let’s play hide and seek!” Mary Travers spoke, as I recall, on the 33-rpm vinyl record by Peter, Paul and Mary called Peter, Paul and Mommy, an anthology of some of my favourite children’s songs. Songs I love.

Well, I have an idea: let’s save humanity so that many more generations of children will sing children’s songs. Not an original idea but let’s stay with it.

Dependable science delivers a picture of planet Earth as we pass through the consecutive impacts of changing climate, consequence that may start with ecology but quickly moves through the food chain and the economy into the health and wealth of humanity, and the security of civilisation.

This somewhat succinctly embodies the essential message that Gwynne Dyer delivers globally, to all people in government and the smart folk who do “military intelligence”….

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Beyond the River Banks – IRR Annual Conference April 30 – May 2

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If you love Iowa’s rivers, you won’t want to miss the 5th annual conference hosted by Iowa Rivers Revival at the end of this month. The conference will be held from April 30 through May 2 in Cedar Falls and Waterloo. This year’s theme is “Beyond the River Banks: Celebrating Iowa’s Cedar Valley.”

As Iowans — and those who followed the severe Midwest flooding of 2008 — know, the Cedar Valley experienced historic water levels, reaching beyond the 500-year floodplain in Cedar Rapids and other places along the Cedar River watershed. The conference “emphasizes a watershed approach that recognizes that rivers and streams need space to expand and recede, coexisting in harmony with the communities and habitats they shape,” according to IRR’s executive director, Rosalyn Lehman.

“The floods of 2008 and threats of future flooding have many Iowans talking about a new vision for Iowa’s waterways to ensure the safety of river communities and to preserve and enhance Iowa’s natural heritage,” Lehman says….

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Shedding Light on Injustice in Gaza

February 8, 2010 by  
Filed under 2010, Blog, Front Page, Gaza, Media, Slideshow, UN, War

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What exactly is injustice? Injustice, put simply, is when a person, or an entire population, is denied their basic human rights — more specifically, the human rights outlined in the Geneva Conventions post World War II….

A very clear and brutal example of injustice today can be seen in the Gaza Strip. There, 1.5 million Palestinians have, quite literally, been held hostage by Israel for 43 years, since the end of the Six Day War in 1967, for nothing more than being the non-Jewish, native inhabitants of the Mediterranean lands of Palestine….

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Benefit for American Red Cross at Devotay This Sunday

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Devotay, 117 N. Linn Street, Iowa City, Iowa, launched Benefit Sundays last month to give back to the community by partnering with a local charity.

This Sunday, the restaurant is partnering with the American Red Cross’ Haiti Relief Fund. According to Devotay line cook, Jeremy Tole, the restaurant had taken 10 benefit reservations for about 25 patrons as of Friday night. They’re hoping for even more people to designate their reservations in the name of this Haiti relief effort.

Haiti is the hemisphere’s poorest nation, and many survivors have no access to water, food, shelter, or healthcare, according to Devotay’s website. The charity proceeds from Sunday’s meal will assist the American Red Cross in their work with earthquake victims in Haiti….

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Haiti on Our Minds

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Like many of you, I’ve been watching three days of news reports streaming from MSN.com and CNN.com. As I sit here in the comfort of a sturdy Midwestern home, I grieve for people I have never known. I watch in frustration as the planes land with supplies, yet reports from the streets are that aid is not reaching those who are most affected and most vulnerable.

What amazes me is the overall calm that has prevailed so far in this desperately poor country, even in the face of a disaster of massive proportions. Men, women, and children alike wait for help that is far too long in coming — in a relatively orderly manner for the most part. Yes, there are outbreaks of violence and looting. But the astonishing thing is how long peace reigned before any trouble began — and that it still reigns still over most of the capital city.

Speaking to an MSN.com camera crew, one young man with a clear American accent said, “I don’t expect you to get it to us immediately. But at least give us something, so we can have courage.” …

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Hope Springs Eternal for the Cedar River

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I remember the summer of 1967, when I fished the Cedar River for the first time, accompanied by my twin sister and older brothers. Against the backdrop of the Hormel packing plant, cane poles in hand, we caught bullheads, bluegills, and rock bass off North Main Street in Austin, Minnesota, population around 27,000 at the time. I also remember the dirty water and the smell.

That afternoon, a tired and hungry not-yet-seven-year-old, I sat at the supper table with questions for my parents: Why is the river so dirty? Can something be done about it? Why would anyone want to live in a town with a polluted river running through it? Does anyone care? They are questions I have asked repeatedly, since that first day of fishing over 40 years ago….

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Rebuilding after Disaster – Greensburg Becomes a Green Town

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On Friday, May 4, 2007, an EF5 tornado cut a two-mile-wide swath of absolute destruction through Greensburg, Kansas. This was the largest tornado in recorded history, and it reduced Greensburg to rubble. Eleven people were killed in Greensburg that evening, while 22 other tornados swirled violently across the state. Every building in Greensburg was damaged or destroyed.

Under such dire circumstances, it would have been easy for the townspeople to give up and walk away. But that’s exactly the opposite of what happened. …

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Notes from California – Time to Evacuate! What Will You Pack?

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When confronted with imminent evacuation — as thousands were during the largest fire in Los Angeles in a century — what do you take with you?

Smoke billows up and over the brown mountain ridge. Ash sifts down in swirling flakes and settling dust. The sky is an eerie golden grey, the color of the end of the world. Helicopters roll over and around every few minutes with ominous hums, dropping fire retardant in great white swaths onto flames.

August is fire season in Los Angeles, a month predictably scarred by blazes, when fires spread across the bone-dry desert chaparral like water sliding downhill. This one, the “Station Fire,” was the largest forest fire Los Angeles County has seen in a century and a half. It burned 242 square miles, destroyed 80 homes, and killed two of the nearly 5,000 firefighters who bravely fought the blaze. The scope is unfathomable…

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AmeriCorps/VISTA Flood Recovery Project Job Opportunities in Iowa

May 8, 2009 by  
Filed under 2009, Blog, Events, Flood, Front Page, Iowa, Jobs, Slideshow, U.S.

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The school year is nearly finished, and many young adults are looking for work in a depressed job market. They’re not alone. Unemployment is at a record high across the nation. People who’ve had the same job for decades are out of work and wondering what to do next. Some are now changing career paths and considering opportunities they would never have imagined if they hadn’t been laid off.

Perhaps you, too, are a job seeker. Perhaps you are looking for a challenge unlike any you’ve tried before. Maybe you’re even looking for an adventure and a way to help others…

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Take This House (and Float It Away) Flooding Play on Midwest Tour

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In the heart of levee-protected suburbs along California’s American River, a middle-aged couple think they’re immune to anything nature blows their way — catastrophic flood included — only to find themselves terribly deluded. This original theatre piece, Take This House (and Float It Away), spirals into the tragicomic world of Stu and Marlene’s floodplain living room, where the couple is unable to comprehend nature’s effect on their safe, suburban sphere. As Stu hides behind “groundbreaking” research into bird gestures, Marlene extrapolates caffeinated solutions to newspaper headlines, conflating staying informed with staying afloat…

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Notes from Nepal: Climate Change Reaches the Himalayas

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In Jagdish Poudel’s first entry in the “Notes from Nepal” series, he told us that he would soon be going to the Himalayas to teach uneducated rural residents about climate change. Last week, Poudel, along with fellow environmental science M.Sc. students Aseem Kanchan, Raju Pokharel, and Mausam Khanal, journeyed to Khudi, high in the Annapurna Mountain Range. What follows is Jagdish’s second entry, in which he tells us about giving a presentation to Khudi villagers, who live in a place where the once-abundant snow has turned to rain, and the mountainsides are losing their coat of white.

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