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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Slow Death by Rubber Duck

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The information in Slow Death by Rubber Duck doesn’t make for relaxing reading, even though the authors, Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, do a masterful job of translating statistics and technical data (sometimes very technical) into highly readable prose. The problem is, the book is about a very unsettling topic.

When I first received my review copy and read the introduction, I was struck by the experiment that forms the basis for the book: The authors voluntarily and quite deliberately exposed themselves to toxic chemicals — lots of them.

Now, why would these men risk their health by loading their bodies with toxins? Isn’t that irresponsible? I wondered. It sounded so dangerous. And, from the way they tell it, their families were none too thrilled by their participation, either….

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Dispose of Fluorescents As If Your Life Depends on It

July 31, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, CFLs, Front Page, Landfill, Mercury, Recycling, U.S., Water

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A few days ago, Joe and I were talking with the manager of a local discount store (part of a national chain) and asked what they did with their spent fluorescent light bulbs. She sheepishly hung her head and said, “Well, I know we should recycle them, but…” Our state doesn’t require that fluorescent bulbs be treated as hazardous wastes, so the store manager isn’t breaking the law. But it was obvious to us that she feels guilty about dumping them in the landfill.

Although the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has included fluorescent bulbs under Universal Waste regulations since 2001. Although EPA considers fluorescent bulbs to be hazardous wastes, their disposal in landfills is permitted. But it’s not the best policy. …

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Is Your Fish High in Mercury? Safe Harbor Knows

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I once heard a story about a lonely man who ate a tuna sandwich for lunch every day for 20 years. His cause of death? Mercury poisoning. I can’t say if this is true or not, but it certainly gets the point across: There could be something fishy in your fish…

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