This Borrowed Earth by Robert Emmet Hernan

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As the Gulf of Mexico continues to fill with oil due to BP’s negligence and our own government agencies’ lack of oversight, we are experiencing an environmental disaster of catastrophic proportions. Tragically, this isn’t the first human-caused environmental disaster — and given our track record as stewards of this planet, it’s futile to fool ourselves that it will be the last. In his book, This Borrowed Earth: Lessons from the 15 Worst Environmental Disasters Around the World, Robert Emmet Hernan describes in detail 15 environmental disasters we must remember so that history doesn’t repeat itself.

In the book’s Introduction — penned merely months before BP’s so-called “spill,” Hernan wrote, “If we forget how and why these disasters happened and what horrible consequences emerged from them, we will not avert future disasters.” As a society, we seem to have done just what Hernan feared: We’ve forgotten. And so another disaster is upon us.

Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, writes in the book’s Foreword, “In an age where we’re once again ideologically committed to ‘loosening the reins’ on private enterprise, it’s sobering to remember what has happened in the past. In an age when new technologies are barely tested before they’re put into widespread use—genetically engineered crops, for instance—it’s even more sobering to contemplate a seemingly iron-clad rule: every new machine or system seems to fail catastrophically at least once.” …

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Brownfield Remediation Provides Local Opportunity

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Late this past fall, Cindy Quast, an environmental engineer with Stanley Consultants’ Iowa City Office, invited Blue Planet Green Living to visit a brownfield site. Quast, a 20-year veteran of environmental consulting, has been cleaning up brownfields for more than 10 years. Joe Hennager and I joined Quast at the western edge of Davenport, Iowa, for a quick course in Brownfields 101.

A chill wind cuts through my coat, and I instantly regret having left my gloves in the car. On the far side of the highway where we have parked, wetlands serve as a buffer zone for the Mississippi River. Eagles nest in the trees high above, soaring over the water to catch their food. A few feet from the busy highway on the near side, environmental engineer Cindy Quast is talking with two men. They stand at the bottom of a small hill that borders a long, private driveway.

One of the men, Wyatt McCain, is taking soil samples from the base of the hill. The other man, Daniel Cook, wears the uniform of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). We walk together to the far end of the driveway, where McCain begins sampling again. Quast and Cook take turns patiently explaining to us the work being done on the site and why it’s important.

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Go Shoeless Indoors for A Healthier Home

August 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Contamination, Front Page, Health, Homes, Kids, Pollution

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Several years ago, when picking up my preteen daughter from her friend’s house, I was invited into the living room to say hello to the girl’s mother. The family had immigrated to the US from Korea a few years before, and the mother looked at my feet in silent consternation. Although she politely refrained from mentioning it, I followed her gaze to the shoes on my feet and realized I’d made a mistake. I’d noticed the family’s shoes lined up on a rug near the door, but had thought little about them. I was only there for a moment, and didn’t take the time to take off my shoes.

I was unaccustomed to taking off my shoes indoors. And, until that moment, it didn’t occur to me that I was being rude as a visitor in their home. For years afterward, I thought it simply a reflection of their culture that the family chose not to wear shoes inside. Now, I finally understand that there’s also a health reason for going shoeless…

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Peanut Recall — Your Food Safety Is Up to You

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We learned in the news yesterday of yet another peanut-products recall due to salmonella contamination. This time, the food-processing plant involved is in Plainview, Texas. It’s owned by Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), the same folks who brought us tainted peanuts in their Blakely, Georgia plant. That recall was in January of this year. Perhaps you remember it? A brief peanut scare swept the nation, with many of us under the misapprehension that peanut butter itself was all we had to worry about.

Well, think again, America…

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