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Monthly Archives: July 2010

Nowadays, Chicago and its longtime mayor Richard Daley are spearheading initiatives to make the city a "greener" place. Daley once promised that Chicago would eventually become the "Greenest City in America," and as a new Tribune/WGN poll shows, the city’s residents are following along. The poll reveals that more than 75 percent of residents in the greater Chicago area have become more environmentally conscious in the past five years. Read the Tribune’s article here

To find out more about how Chicagoans are living "greener," read about I-Go and Bike and Roll Chicago.

Photo by j.o.h.n. walker,0,5678569.story

It’s the height of BBQ season. And that means come weekend time, you’ve got a 3-speed fan pointed at you (oscillating if you’re generous), you’ve got a cold beverage that’s sweating more than you and you’ve got a cookout somewhere on your block.  Just poke your head outside and the burger vapors will slap you in the face.

Red meat, cooked on charcoal served, on single-use plates are the signatures of the American summertime BBQ.  Unfortunately, these staples of the season are far from sustainable.  But there are a few easy things that anyone can do to green their cookout.  Steaks and dogs from grass fed cows; cotton tablecloth; plates made from fallen palm leaves are some of the first steps.  And the easiest action- not buying anything new at all.

Check out the WSJ‘s search for the Green Cookout and share your own ideas below.

by idea ablaze

In another example of our warming planet, a dangerous fungus which formerly only lived in tropical and sub-tropical areas has taken hold as far north as Oregon.  The deadly pathogen, Cryptococcus gattii, has infected 60 people and killed 9 in the Pacific Northwest this July.  The fungus attacks the nasal cavity and spreads to other body sites, causing pneumonia, meningitis and other lung, brain or muscle ailments. Scientists suggest that climate change has fostered its habitat spread.

Read more about this and other tropical pathogens finding non-tropical homes.  And you can also listen to pH’s Mwende Hahesy investigate a largely unknown spore of sickness.

Photo taken near the John Day River in Central Oregon by ex_magician

Successive generations are moving away from traditional flower-gardening trends. So how are gardens across the country faring? "Forced to rethink and rebrand, gardens are appealing to visitors’ interests in nature, sustainability, cooking, health, family and the arts."

Photo by Eddie~S

Exposure to above average levels of common air pollutants can lower IQ levels in un-born babies.  Scientists as Columbia University have been studying 400 pregnant women in New York City and Krakow, Poland to determine the cognitive effects of pre-natal life.   After a decade of tracking children they found a 4 point IQ deficit in children living in air polluted areas. The pollutants stunt brain development in the womb are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. These compounds, created by burning fossil fuels, are prevalent in urban areas where traffic is thick.

Read more at Environmental Health News.

Photo by andy in ny

New research shows that Latinos and Asians are disproportionately likely to live near toxic refineries or manufacturing plants.  Researchers from UC Irvine looked close to 12,000 people in homes through 6 communities in Southern California. They found that neighborhoods with 15 percent more Latinos than average were exposed to 84.3 percent more toxic waste. Those with 15 percent more Asians were exposed to 33.7 percent more toxic waste.

But the study in the journal of Health and Place also claims that income and race are not the biggest factors in predicting one’s proximity to a toxic chemical site.  Researcher, John Hipp told the Orange County Register that "it turned out more educated neighborhoods have fewer of these sites. It’s less an income thing and more of an education thing."

This could be because less-educated immigrant communities are not aware of the health risks associated with living in the shadow of a toxic site. 

To educate yourself on the risks of resedential refineries, check out pH’s coverage of Human Rights in Cancer Alley.The study appears in July’s online issue of Health & Place

(Photo by Sousveillance)

planetharmony: In the Sherrod Fallout pH looks at 14000 civil rights abuses filed against the USDA…

planetharmony: In Sherrod Fallout, pH looks over USDA’s legacy of discrimination;

I just got the skinny on some findings about fat (hahahah).  This research said that the body shape of women affects their memory, especially later in life.  BasicallyIf you got more junk in the trunk… you got less cognitive capacity in your head.  And where the excess weight is carried on your body can affect the severity of memory loss i.e. big hip, pear shaped ladies have more memory loss than round, apple shaped ladies. Anyway, the experimental evidence is pretty "slim" so take a look at this CNN article and decide for yourself. Personally, I hope not, Sanjay Dilla likes big girls and wants them to remember to call me back! 

Tom Vilsak, head of the Department of Agriculture has said that he is reconsidering the firing of the former black USDA worker Shirley Sherrod who was director of rural development in Georgia. Sherrod was forced to resign yesterday after the conservative blog took a clip from a speech she was giving at a local NAACP banquet in Georgia. In the clip she tells a story about her initial reactions to a white farmer who she felt was trying to act "superior" to her when they first met.
"I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farm land. And here I was faced with having to help a white person save their land. So, I didn’t give him the full force of what I could do."
The 38 second clip went viral and Tea Party supporters tried to use the tape as proof that the NAACP condoned racism against white people. Fox News played the sound bite repeatedly. But there was way more to Ms. Sherrod’s message than what had been portrayed.  What they failed to mention was that Sherrod’s story happened 24 years ago before she was employed at the USDA and most importantly that this experience opened her eyes to her own racism. She even helped the family to avoid foreclosure and became friends with the husband and wife.
"That’s when it was revealed to me that it was about poor; those who have and those who don’t."
After the clip aired on Fox News, Tom Vilsak, head of the USDA hastily forced Sherrod to resign via a phone message on her blackberry. Vilsak defended his move yesterday stating the USDA’s "zero tolerance for discrimination". The White House backed Vilsak’s decision and the NAACP released a statement saying they supported Sherrod’s ouster and condoned her remarks as well.
Sherrod reached out to the media to explain that her story was not about how racist she is towards white people, but about racial reconciliation and learning from her mistakes. The Spooners, the farmer family that Sherrod referred to in her speech, were contacted and had this to say about Sherrod:
"We probably wouldn’t have (our farm) today if it hadn’t been for her leading us in the right direction," says Eloise Spooner. "I wish she could get her job back because she was good to us, I tell you."
Tom Vilsak, the White House, and the NAACP, all supported Shirley Sherrod’s firing without conducting a thorough investigation or viewing the entire tape. After Sherrod spoke to the media about her statement’s being taken out of context, Vilsak said in a second statement that Sherrod’s controversial comments could cause people to question her decisions as a federal employee and fuel doubts about the agencies past discriminatory practices.
The irony is that the USDA has been under fire for discriminating for decades against black farmers. One of the most famous lawsuits regarding black farmer discrimination by the USDA was Pigford v. Glickman which was a class action lawsuit entered in 1997 and settled in 1999. Timothy Pigford and 400 other black farmers alleged that the USDA discriminated against them for farm loans and assistance. The case ruled that the USDA had not just discriminated against black farmers but when discrimination was reported, the USDA neither investigated nor responded to the complaints. Still, more than 14,000 civil rights claims were filed against the USDA during the Bush Administration. But when a black employee gets smeared and accused of being a racist for not helping one white family 24 years ago, she is fired without investigation.
The NAACP has retracted their condemnation of Sherrod’s statements admitting that they were duped by the Tea Party. However the retraction may not be enough. Sherrod said that she was particularly hurt by the NAACP’s actions. "All of my life has been about civil rights work and fairness". Tom Vilsak has since said that he is reconsidering the firing of Sherrod. However, Sherrod said in an interview she’s not sure she would accept the job, saying, "I’m just not sure how I would be treated there."
The full video of Sharrod’s speech can be seen here.  The sound bite Fox News used is at 17:00. Let us know what you think!

Photo courtesy of Washington State Republicans