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Monthly Archives: August 2010

The East Coast is preparing for Hurricane Earl, the Category 4 has battered northeastern Caribbean Islands.  It caused flooding in low lying areas, toppled power lines, damaged homes, and caused many flights and cruise ships to either divert or cancel trips.  In Puerto Rico, 187,000 people have lost their power and 60,000 are without water.
Earl is forecast to hit New England and parts of Canada Thursday or Friday.  The U.S. National Hurricane Center warned residents from North Carolina to Maine to watch this hurricane closely.  The Hurricane Center said it was too early to know what damage the east coast could suffer but major rip currents are expected.  Already a surfer in Florida was killed and a swimmer in Maryland has been missing since Saturday due to waves caused by Hurricane Danielle which weakened to a tropical storm on Monday. 
Here are a few tips FEMA suggests for those of us on hunkering on the eastern seaboard.
- Coastal communities to make a sound plan in case they are advised to evacuate. 
- Stay informed. Monitor local radio and news channels for latest developments
- Get an Emergency Supply Kit that includes non-perishable food, water, a battery powered or hand-crank radio, flashlights and batteries, medical supplies, copies of prescription medications, bedding, clothing, sleeping bags and pillows. You may also want to carry copies of important documents such as your driver's license, Social Security card, insurance policies, wills, deeds, birth and marriage certificates, tax records, etc.
- Visit FEMA's Are You Ready Guide to learn more about how to prepare for a hurricane  

Just when you thought rapper and Green the Block spokesman, Drake's "24 hour Champagne diet" was irreconcilable with his green sensibilities…

Champagne makers announced plans to reduce their carbon footprint by 25%, that's nearly 200,000 metric tons of CO2 annually.  But don't worry about Drake's bubbly, they aren't skimping on the sparkling.  Bottlers are loosing weight in their packaging to decrease on transport costs.  The characteristically heavy, 2 pound glass bottle, is slimming down and its broad shoulders are being sculpted into a new sleeker shape.  This news comes amid a worldwide movement to install sustainable practices across the entire wine industry.

Analysts expect as more bottlers switch to the lighter, cheaper bottles, the price of champagne could drop.  Which means Drake would have even more "money to blow!"

flickr/by L.C.Nøttaasen

planetharmony: Planet Harmony is on the Atlantic!

The Sissala women of Ghana weigh potential suitors on their access to potable water.  If the man lives far from a potable water source chances are she won't let him put a ring on it. 

A distant water source means less time for other home-making responsibilities such as cooking, farming, washing and cleaning. Neglecting any of those tasks carries a large social stigma.  A mother from Tampaala, a village in Northern Ghana, lamented the role water and hygiene play in calcifying class distinctions; “We give birth to beautiful and handsome children but as they grow up, they look dirty and are unable to mix with other children. They look inferior before their colleagues from different communities.”

Check out other voices on the water and marriage issue and what a few non-governmental organizations are doing to end water poverty in Ghana here.

Photo by Trevi Albin Rotary International

In New Orleans a little bit of French goes a long ways—like beignet for donut. And where else to get these amazingly tasty morsels—but Café Dumonde at the edge of the French Quarter. Depending on the morning, along with your beignets you may get to hear street musician Hack Bartholomew.


CURWOOD: A trumpeter and vocalist who’s played with the greats, including the Neville Brothers, George Benson and Keith Richards, Hack Bartholomew left New York after 14 years to come back home to New Orleans and jazz gospel. Hack performs five days a week at Café DuMonde. When he’s not busy producing recordings, he’s the trumpeter for the Greater Saint Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church.

[MUSIC: “Lifting Jesus Up In New Orleans” from Lifting Jesus Up In New Orleans (Hack Bartholomew 2003)]


CURWOOD: As the cicadas buzzed on a hot August afternoon, Hack Bartholomew sat down on his front porch to tell me his story of how he survived Hurricane Katrina.

BARTHOLOMEW: I would say I got a revelation from God to just get out. So my wife and I and our kids, grandchildren, we all just left, fortunately my wife had a cousin in Houston and we were able to stay over at her house. When the storm hit we was sitting in Houston we were watching everything on television and praying and hoping that everything would be alright for the city. But it was not. But fortunately where we lived up here up here in Carrolton, the Carrolton black pearl section is a pretty high point of the city. As you can see my home is just like I left it. When I got back a lot of my neighbors had wind damage. The neighbor over here, his roof blew off, the neighbor over here, door and windows blew out. Just about everybody had wind damage. Except us.

[MUSIC: “Angels Keep Watching Over Me” From Lifting Up Jesus (Hack Bartholomew 2003)]

BARTHOLOMEW: But our church in New Orleans east on Reed Road, it was totally flooded. Fourteen feet of water in the church. But our uptown location was spared. And I think we were one of the first few congregations that were back after the flood.


BARTHOLOMEW: When we were in Houston we looked at the television. We saw the whole city underwater, just about, 80 percent of the city under water, and I said, you know what, God is baptizing New Orleans. You know when you baptize a person you submerge them down. It signifies one being buried and when you bring ‘em up, they are rising up again, to that new man who is coming up, that’s rising from the water.

…New Orleans was really going off the deep end there with all kinds of things going on, with the crime and corruption, and what have you. And it kinda made people think. It made the politicians think, it made the people of New Orleans think about doing something positive, about having integrity, about being accountable, to your brothers and sisters who you see every day. That storm, at the time it was happening, it didn’t look too good. But in the end, it was very good because we had all of the love and compassion of people, the help of the people who came down to help us, all black white, Chinese, Asians, Indians, you name it, I think they might have had some purple people here, but I aint seen ‘em though. Everybody was like, putting their shoulders together and doing this thing, helping this city to come back.

[MUSIC: “Down By The Riverside” from Lifting Jesus Up In New Orleans (Hack Bartholomew 2003)]

CURWOOD: you like play the tune down by the riverside, what is the war you’re talking about that we shouldn’t study anymore?

BARTHOLOMEW: The war that I’m talking about is not Iraq or Afghanistan or Vietnam or any of that. The war I’m talking about is the battlefield of your mind. The people that makes us want to hurt another person, take from them is that your mind, your heart, your soul.


CURWOOD: Hack Bartholomew: Lifting Jesus up, down in New Orleans.

Hack Bartholomew Remix- PH Web version.mp3 3.6 MB

Five years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, areas of downtown New Orleans and some neighborhoods look pretty good and function well. But not everywhere. Host Steve Curwood stopped by the house of environmental justice expert and Dillard University Professor Beverly Wright. She came back to rebuild her home in the black middle class neighborhood of New Orleans east.

CURWOOD: What happened in this house?

WRIGHT: Well, this house is very interesting it had 6-8 feet of water in it- completely destroyed. There was an alligator in the pool in the back. And, the whole house had to be gutted.

CURWOOD: It’s beautiful now. I mean I couldn’t tell walking in there that anything had ever happened.

WRIGHT: No, you really cant. That’s the beauty of this whole thing. There’s no reason for us not to come back because it can be rebuilt.

CURWOOD: So here it is 5 years on from Katrina, how are things here?

WRIGHT: Well, if I had to grade the city, I would say we’re about at a 5 on a scale from 1 to 10. But there are some areas of the city that are at a 9. So, really, how you’re doing depends on who you are and where you live. And it’s not necessarily connected to income. It is connected to skin color. And African Americans, who made up 80% of the people affected by Katrina, are not doing as well as white people who make up 80% of the persons who have come back home.

In New Orleans east for example, we have one supermarket. I went to the supermarket yesterday. I could get no lettuce, you know, no fruit…all the fruit gone. It was just amazing. 70,000 people, one supermarket in New Orleans east. That’s it. And I have to tell you, I’ve not been a big McDonald’s fan, but after Katrina, if it weren’t for McDonald’s we wouldn’t have had anything to eat. It was like people just forgot about us.

CURWOOD: So, how would you explain what happened to New Orleans in environmental justice terms.

WRIGHT: Well, the environmental injustice occurs in a number of ways. The fact that, first of all, when you look at the federal level they never addressed soil contamination that exists all over the city.

CURWOOD: What are the contaminants that are in the soil here?

WRIGHT: We have extremely high arsenic levels, and PCBs, cause where we live we use a lot of pesticides; we have a lot of pests. From rat poisoning, to pesticides for roaches and mosquitoes, you already have all of that, right, and then you add to that the big mixture that came in all the water from all over, even from the bottom of Lake Pontchartrain, then you add to that human feces and everything from the sewage treatment plants. That water was extremely filthy. And very dangerous. And then it settled. There was a light dust that covered everything when we came back home. And what is just amazing about this is that it was an easy fix.

And the army corps of engineers had, in the first few weeks after the storm, come up with a remedy. They were literally going to scrape dirt off the whole city. New Orleans would have been the cleanest urban area in the country. Well, some politicians decided that if they did they they’d never get the city back…it would have the reputation for being a superfund site. My thing was, if you’re not going to protect the citizens at least tell them what they need to do to protect themselves.

So we started the Safeway Back Home campaign, where people remediated their own properties and planted new grass, and so on. And the block that we worked on, there was one lady who didn’t have much grass. So she decided when she saw the mounds of dirt that she didn’t want to be bothered with that. So she went outside sweeping up her patio, she broke out with a rash from her head to her toe.

CURWOOD: So, how far has the self-remediation program gone?

WRIGHT: I would say not far enough. We’ve been concerned because New Orleans has a history of backyard gardening. So when I was a kid everybody had a garden. If you didn’t have one, you ended up with one because the vines would start to grow across the fence and so you’d end up with tomatoes and what we call meliton, which is a Japanese plum. You’d have okra just showing up in your yard. So I grew up with things growing in my yard that we ate. And, so it’s an old tradition and it’s been difficult for us to try to get the word out to people, do not eat the vegetables that are growing in your yard unless you’ve had your yard tested or use raised gardens.

CURWOOD: So, what are the other environmental justice issues that come out of the Katrina experience?

WRIGHT: Well, levy protection for one, was one the biggest ones. And we’re still dealing with that. I mean, even after all the money that was put in place, wealthy and white got better protection than the rest of us. So I went to the army corps of engineers meetings to find out, what is this process and how is this happening? And this is what we were told: that rich white folks were in the plan for better protection some 15, 20 years ago. And so their projects were already in the hopper. So when things get fast-tracked, what’s in the hopper comes out first. So they ended up ahead of us again. So it was a lesson for us, you know, try and understand how does this work?

CURWOOD: Let’s talk about the oil disaster and the environmental justice aspects of that. Even as far north from the Gulf as here in New Orleans.

WRIGHT: You know it’s amazing to me that whenever they talk about fishermen and they don’t show black fisherman, it’s a HUGE crew. And think about it now. If we were not allowed to go to school, we had to make a living some way. If it wasn’t on a plantation, what would black people do to earn a living in Louisiana? They’d become fishermen and oystermen and stuff. And they’re 10,000 deep in some of the parishes, in Plaquemines Parrish and so on. But they were invisible.

I think that certain cultures that have made Louisiana distinct could disappear. When certain lifestyles disappear, then a certain part of that culture that has been maintained can also disappear. So we’re about—we could lose our difference. My hope is for the future with young people. I would say that young people are not NEARLY as racist as what we used to be. And I think they see a completely different world and I’m so happy that that is the case.

CURWOOD: Professor Beverly Wright directs the Deep South Center on environmental justice at Dillard University in New Orleans.

100827loebwright-01.mp3 2.3 MB

The Food and Drug Administration has taken its first steps towards approving genetically modified salmon called AquaAdvantage. The new genetically modified salmon grows twice as fast as normal salmon.  Scientists from AquaBounty Technologies in Boston, Massachusetts, grafted the DNA of an eel-like creature called ocean pout onto a chinook salmon's growth hormone gene. The new gene is then injected into the eggs of a North Atlantic salmon and becomes part of the genome. The modified gene differs only 1% from that of a normal North Atlantic salmon. However, a North Atlantic salmon's growth gene is only produced in the summer. This new gene from the ocean pout directs the growth hormone all year long.
If approved, the AquaAdvantage salmon would become the first genetically modified animal approved for human consumption and would be available on the market in as little as 18 months.  However, it must be labeled as genetically modified.  The company claims that their GM salmon would increase production and cut the costs for farmers. 
Critics have nicknamed the genetically modified fish "Frankenfish" and are concerned that if approved, it would set a precedent for other genetically modified animals to be approved for human consumption.  Critics also fear that if the GM salmon comes in contact with the ocean's natural salmon, it could contaminate the food chain.  AquaBounty Technologies says that if approved, the fish would be farmed in inland waters to keep the fish from entering the oceans.
We want to know your thoughts. Would you feel safe eating genetically modified fish?         

Photo by: AP

Dr. Tyrone Hayes, a PhD professor at UC Berkeley, had some harsh – and profane – words for the Swiss-based pesticide company, Syngenta, which makes one of the world's most common herbicides, Atrazine.  Dr. Hayes, is a strong critic of the herbicide and has bumped heads with Syngenta for decades ever since he conducted research for them which showed the product's negative effects on the health of humans and animals.  The pesticide is banned in Europe but remains ubiquitous in the states. 
In a PBS bio Dr. Hayes argues that Atrazine is an endocrine disruptor, meaning it attacks the body's hormonal system, and feminizes amphibians, fish, reptiles, birds and mammals, including humans.  Dr. Hayes' research also found that the herbicide likely increases the risk of breast and prostate cancer. 

"…In particular, I am concerned about the adverse impacts of Atrazine on endangered species and on racial/ethnic minorities. Prostate and breast cancer are two of the top causes of death in Americans age 25-40, but in particular Black and Hispanic Americans are several times more likely to die from these diseases. Ethnic minorities and people of low income are also more likely to hold the "unskilled" laborer positions in agriculture and pesticide production that would put them at higher risk of exposure and are least likely to have access to the emerging science demonstrating the dangers of exposure. Thus, this environmental and public health issue is also a racial/social justice issue because minority and working class people are the primary targets of pesticide exposure."
Now the substance of Dr. Hayes' arguments against Atrazine is competing for attention with the style he chose to express himself.  That style being email battle raps.  The company has filed an Ethics Complaint in response to numerous emails Hayes wrote containing profanity and rap-worthy lyrics. 

"how yo republican buddies ended up drinking gin with me last night? where were you? they were tellin me how you tried to tell them something about one of my figures in a paper ten years ago. what's wrong with you boy? as long as you followin me round, i know i'm da sh*t. by the way, yo boy left his pre-written questions at the table!"
The company's complaints against Dr. Hayes are intended to discredit the researcher and force him from his position at UC Berkley.  But their complaints may be backfiring as many more people learn about the dangers of their own product.
Syngenta and other Atrazine manufacturers are currently involved in a class action lawsuit brought on by 15 Illinois water providers who are seeking $350 million for facilities to be purified of Atrazine.  Dr. Hayes' research is a large part of their case against Syngenta.  Another legal battle against Syngenta involves 17 other water providers across six Midwestern states.  The case is currently in federal court. 

While pundits, activists and politicians scream themselves hoarse over a mosque potentaily being built blocks from Ground Zero, one important aspect of the debate has gone quietly unnoticed. Picturing minarets erected near the Twin Towers is raising all the eyebrows, but the buildings' footprint has been largely ignored.   

The Daily Beast reported amid the hubbub that the Park51 Community Center (often cited as the Cordoba Mosque) would be the first Green Mosque in the Country.  A representative for the Center says that if allowed to build, they are seeking for Platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification, the highest level of sustainable, new development offered by the US Green Building Council.

What was intended as an opportunity for interfaith healing could double as a place for ecological healing… and that is a hard thing to scream about.

Read more about the Park51 Community Center and other sustainable places of faith here.

Photo By ccarlstead/flickr

The spate of food recalls including nearly a half million eggs, now reaches the deli counter.  About 380,000 pounds of deli meat sold at Wal-Mart stores nationwide were recalled on Monday.  The deli meat which included ham, salami, pepperoni, bacon and beef, as well as non-meats such as sandwich peppers and pickles were contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria infection can cause fever, chills, headaches, upset stomach, and vomiting. Pregnant women, elderly people, and those with weakened immune systems should take the most caution.  

Click here to see a full list of recalled products