Laptops, phones, mp3 players and other electronic gadgets have become staple commodities in today’s technological era. Our need for new and improved electronic equipment that becomes obsolete in two or three years has spawned the fastest growing waste stream: e-waste.
In 2012 the world purchased 238.5 million televisions, 444.4 million computers and tablets and a staggering 1.75 billion cellphones. Back in 2008, Allen Hershkowitz, senior scientist at the Natural Resource Defense Council, estimated that in the USA alone we throw out 48 million computers and 100 million cellphones every year. In fact, according to Sustainable Electronics Recycling International, the average US cellphone has a 22 month lifecycle. All these discarded electronics add up to 5-7million tons of ewaste every year from the USA alone. The volume of this electronic waste is expected to increase by 33% by 2020.
What happens to all this obsolete technology? The more conscientious individuals may try to recycle their useless electronics instead of letting them stew in a landfill. However, this task is easier said than done because used electronics are considered hazardous waste and contain toxic components such as lead, mercury, cadmium, phosphors, arsenic, flame retardants and polyvinyl chloride. These products are known carcinogenic substances that can cause liver and kidney damage, mutations and stillbirths and a plethora of other devastating effects to our bodies when not handled and recycled properly. The inadequate dismantling and disposal of e-waste release these toxic substances into the soil and the air, infecting domestic and wild animals alike while poisoning our crops and drinking water. And the bewildering fact is that less than 20% of used electronics are recycled.
Another troubling fact is that the lethal byproducts of our electronic consumption, when one actually tries to properly recycle them, are oftentimes just dumped elsewhere. A disturbing reportage done by Scott Pelley for 60 minutes on CBS News back in 2009 provides video footage of the electronic wasteland created in Guiyu China by our failed recycling attempts. We are faced with an unfortunate reality; 80% of our “recycled electronics” actually end up exported to some roadside ditch somewhere far away.
So how does one avoid contributing to the creation of an electronic Chernobyl? One solution is to use an ecoATM to recycle our mobile devices. EcoATM is an automated kiosk that buys back most used consumer electronics directly from consumers. The first step is finding the ecoATM closest to you; the ecoATM network is growing, with kiosks opening up all over the country. Then, clean out all your personal data on your phone. You will need your driver’s license and your fingerprints will be scanned during the process; this is done to avoid phone thefts and help return stolen property. The machine offers you a price and the chance to make a donation and then presto, cash for your old device! It should be noted, after reading several online reviews that pretty old phone models are not worth much. Therefore if you just want to make sure you are recycling responsibly, and don’t want to go through what can be a 15 minute process for a mere dollar or two, you can leave your old devices in the donations bin located on the ecoATM. The phones, mp3 players or tablets are refurbished if they can be fixed, and reused, or they are responsibly recycled.
The key factor in the recycling process is that ecoATM is itself R2 and ISO 14001 certified and only partners with e-waste recyclers who meet R2 or e-Stewards qualifications. The R2 standard is a premier global, environmental, worker health and safety standard for the electronics refurbishing and recycling industry. ISO 14001 certifies that a company or organization has received energy audit training and can identify and control their environmental impact. E-Stewards are a project of the Basel Action Network aka BAN, which was named after the 1997 Basel Convention in which the United Nations ratified a treaty restricting the trade of hazardous wastes, effectively stopping the dumping of lethal waste on developing countries. Interestingly enough, the USA is the only developed country that has not ratified the Basel Convention, making certifications of responsible recycling such as e-steward all the more respected. Thus e-Stewards Certification is used to identify recyclers that adhere to the highest standard of environmental responsibility and worker protection in the electronic recycling, refurbishing and processing industry.
The ecoATM is a great concept, especially for those who would like to receive a couple dollars in exchange for their old electronics. But an ecoATM cannot process old televisions, computer monitors, printers, really old telephones etc. Therefore, using the e-Stewards website to find certified electronic recyclers in your region is the other environmentally sound option.
Innovating ideas, such as the ecoATM provide us with brilliant environmental and business solutions. But they require a clientele who is not turning a blind eye to the dangers of e-waste. It is our responsibility as electronic consumers to ensure our discarded gadgets do not end up poisoning somebody else’s backyard.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of presenting a slide show celebrating “Seed People” at the Organic Seed Growers Conference hosted by the Organic Seed Alliance. As the last presenter of the day, I spent the day listening to speakers reflecting on the importance of conserving genetic diversity in the seed world, and of adapting seed varieties to low-input organic conditions and climate instability. In the face of seed industry consolidation and the GMO monocultures which dominate the agricultural landscape, this all seemed like critical work; the very work that the folks in my slide show (many of whom were in the audience that day) were doing with a passion. As the day moved on I was feeling confident that my presentation would be a fitting ending for the day and leave everyone inspired to continue the important work of breeding, adapting, and growing organic seed to forge a foundation for the burgeoning organic agriculture movement.
True Food System Sustainability
What I was unprepared for that day was the speaker who directly proceeded me. I had the great fortune that afternoon of hearing Fred Kirschenmann of the Leopold Center reflect on the future of agriculture in this country. His talk was both inspiring for the vision he had for moving towards true food system sustainability, and terrifying for the extreme challenges he saw ahead. (Also terrifying for me to have to speak after him!)
One of the many things I gained from Kirschenmann’s lecture was his reference to a paper by Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute entitled "50 Million Farmers," which I have since read many times. In this seminal essay, Heinberg points out that in a post-fossil fuel era, which is of course inevitable, that it will take one in six of us with our hands in the soil to grow enough food for humanity, as opposed to the current ratio in the U.S. of about one farmer to one hundred eaters. The vision of living in a society where nearly twenty percent of us grow food has been an inspiration for me ever since that day. A lot will have to change to get us there, not least the health of our population.
We often equate the health, or lack thereof, in our food system with the health, or lack thereof in our communities. Our current food system has lead to an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease to name a few ills. Where does this leave us as we look to develop a robust and sustainable, post-carbon food future? Surely one in six of us are not ready for the challenge. While there is a fit and even ultra-fit percentage of our population running, swimming, biking and pumping iron in the gym, many of those folks have little knowledge, time or inclination when it comes to gardening or farming. Those that do have the knowledge base for producing food at scale are largely late middle age, or older and are not necessarily in robust health due to the nature of modern, fossil fuel-based farming and the American lifestyle.
Photo, above: The author and his son, Jasper, stretching in the garden
A Powerful Question
I recently found myself presenting to another group. This time I was asked to share the work of the Center for an Ecology Based Economy (CEBE) to a group of health and wellness professionals hosted by Healthy Oxford Hills, here in Western Maine. I was also asked to come up with a “powerful question” that the group might dig into to further our thinking and collaboration. All this was to happen in a half-hour. I’m not sure we succeeded completely, but we did begin to realize the interrelated work that we were doing; CEBE focusing on sustainable food, energy, shelter and transport, and the wellness collaborative on the physical health and wellbeing of the community. Of course getting people riding bikes to work, growing organic food and living in eco-villages of energy efficient, earth-friendly dwellings would support the work of the collaborative. What was not so obvious, but began to surface, is that if we are to build a resilient, and ultimately sustainable community, and society at large, we will need healthy able-bodied and inspired people, especially young, strong ones.
Meanwhile, we face a profound challenge: How do we support the work of building a new, dynamic, post-carbon society, based on human-scale agriculture and architecture? On one hand we need to conserve and increase the health and well-being of our current food growers and community builders. To this end, I have been working with a couple of yoga teachers over the last few years to develop a program for gardeners to use yoga practice to turn “back-breaking” labor, into a “back-building” labor of love. It goes something like this: You develop a modest yoga practice in the off-season to increase flexibility, build strength and increase awareness of body and breath. You enter the growing season fit and with a new understanding of body mechanics, breathing, counter-posing against repetitive motion, and you build and maintain fitness in the garden. Invite your friends and it’s almost as fun as going to the gym or yoga studio, or a lot more fun depending on your point of view. As a bonus you get to eat like a yogi. My friend Katey Branch of Halls Pond Healing Arts and I will be teaching a Yoga for Gardeners workshop at the Alan Day Community Garden in Norway, (Maine, not the country) on July 26. If you are in the neighborhood, please come join us. It’s free.
Photo, above: A Yoga For Gardeners Workshop at the Center for an Ecology Based Economy
I have a lot of friends in the community that belong to a gym and practice something called “True Strength.” They are undoubtedly the fittest bunch in town, maybe even more than the spandex-clad cycling group that rides the gorgeous and hilly back roads of the area every week, although many are the same folks. As a farmer, homesteader and timber framer, I and a few work buddies often speculate on how much work we could get done if we could only harvest that “true strength” and put it to the work of building those gardens and dwellings that we will so desperately need to feed and house a growing population in a future of dwindling resources. Somehow we need to make it as sexy and fun as a trip to the gym or hard ride on a fast bike.
There is much to be learned by the growers and builders from the yogis and athletes about how to use our bodies to the best effect and build strength and wellness in the process. There is equally as much for the fitness buffs to learn about the critical work of building healthy, resilient communities and restoring the earth for future generations, and achieving the same excitement of peak athletic experience in the process. Bring on the Homestead Olympics!
What’s your favorite outdoor activity? Whether it’s swimming, hiking, boating or fishing, don’t forget to protect your skin and eyes from the sun when you head outside to enjoy long summer days. The sun emits radiation in the form of ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV radiation is highest when and where the sun’s rays are the strongest. This means that UV levels will be highest around noon on a clear sunny day, as well as during the summer months. UV levels will also be highest near surfaces that reflect sunlight, like water, snow and sand.
Exposure to UV can cause sunburn (ouch!), skin aging, eye damage and skin cancer – the most common form of cancer in the United States – and an estimated 76,100 U.S. residents will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2014 (See state data). But there’s good news: skin cancer and other effects of UV exposure are largely preventable.
UV Protection Tips
Tip: July is UV Safety Month, a great time to brush-up on strategies for staying safe – and having fun! – in the sun.
• Know before you go:
Check the UV Index
, which provides a forecast of the expected risk of overexposure to UV radiation from the sun.
• Wear sunscreen: Sunscreens with Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 15 and higher provide protection by preventing UV radiation from reaching your skin. Reapply every two hours and after swimming, working or exercising outside.
• Wear sunglasses: Protect your eyes with sunglasses that have 100 percent UV protection. Check the label for the protection level.
• Work and play in the shade: When you are outside, seek shade. Wear tightly woven clothing and a wide brimmed hat to reduce the amount of UV radiation coming into contact with your skin.
Learn more about UV safety from EPA’s SunWise program and the .
Estimated Number of New Cases of Melanoma by State
(Source: American Cancer Society
|District of Columbia
||United States Total
(Sources: EPA SunWise Program. “Action Steps for Sun Safety.” ; “Skin Cancer Facts for Your State,” ; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Federal Occupational Health. “What’s Your UV:IQ?” ; American Cancer Society. (2014). Cancer Facts and Figures: 2014. Retrieved March 6, 2013, from)
I have previously written about us being adopted by a buck deer. How when he and his brother were still fawns while I was gathering limbs and clearing our lot his mother found me interesting and followed me around for most of the day. Always maintaining a distance of around 15 to 20 feet, but where I went she went and her two fawns were right there too. About how a few years later the two fawns returned as full grown bucks. How the one we called Junior came back year after year until one time he did not come back and we felt certain he had died of old age or other means. I could write about several interactions between myself and Junior but I will try not to be redundant and repeat any prior stories.
Wild Animals Showing Trust
Before every conservation officer, game warden or hunter who reads this becomes upset it is not about making a pet of a wild animal but instead about a human which a wild animal chose to befriend. From the very first time Junior returned he walked right up to me like he had known me his whole life and displayed total trust. It was a little daunting at first but slowly I gained trust in him as well. He would let me rub his nose and pick ice balls or ticks off him and if my clothes became caught on his antlers he would stand still while I un-hooked us. I’m sure those antlers can be deadly in certain cases but Junior never once showed the least bit of hostility toward me. He would actually make little mewing sounds when he was getting affection.
Non-Verbal Animal Communication
I have heard stories how buck deer are dangerous during the rut but Junior was never the least bit threatening to me. In fact, he would venture off to chase the ladies and be gone for several days and then would come back totally exhausted and lay down just outside the gate to our back yard to rest up. With us around, I’m sure he felt very safe there. Non verbal communication is just as accurate as verbal and maybe more so when it comes to seperate species communicating. Junior would stand outside the gate until he caught my attention and his non-verbal communication would be clear. He was going to lay down and rest for a few hours and wanted us to watch out for him while he recovered his energy. He would go so soundly asleep that we could come and go and walk around him while he was asleep and he wouldn’t move and didn’t seem to have a care in the world. He would sometimes open an eye to see who it was and go right back to sleep again. When he was finally rested sufficiently he would browse on the lush growth over the septic tank drain field and then off he would go and the cycle would repeat itself several times each year.
One year he was proving his manhood with his brother and broke off one of his antlers. The forlorn look on his face was obvious.. I don’t know if deer understand human talk or not but I would sit out with Junior for the next few days telling him he was still a powerful deer and his manhood was intact that he had just lost an antler. After a few days he began to perk up again and returned to his normal self and was once again in pursuit of a doe. Junior’s mother also stayed around for years too and demonstrated trust in us. His mother was a remarkable deer too as one time she showed up with rake marks on her body where she had survived a mountain lion attack. Another time coyotes attacked her fawn and we watched as she chased the coyote down and pounced squarely in the middle of its back. We watched her adopt a small fawn that had broken its leg somehow and she raised it as her own until it too was grown and on its own. The original mother had abandoned it and chased it off when it tried to keep up with her. We could always recognize Junior’s mother because of that scar on her side from the lion attack.
In Junior’s case he would come back to hang out often with a group of other male deer. He would bring them around and initially they seemed confused and leery when he would walk right up to me like the old friend he actually was. Gradually they also seemed to accept our relationship of mutual trust. Next thing I knew I would be out in the yard with Junior along with his pals all standing around while I talked to them about various subjects, mostly how to watch out for hunters and poachers. They would watch intently and sometimes turn their head as if they really understood what I was saying. Once one of Junior’s pals showed up without Junior and I asked him where was Junior and why didn’t he go and get Junior because it was getting close to hunting season. He turned and walked away and three days later I looked out the window and here he came with Junior trailing behind him. Coincidence? Possibly but it sure was a strong coincidence. I can’t explain it but I know it happened and it was pretty amazing to witness. We hear of other people feeding deer and partially domesticating them but in our case it was the deer which for no reason we can fathom adopted and trusted us.
RIP Junior - You Taught us Much
Living in the mountains with wild animals is certainly a unique and educational experience. Many of the things we have heard about wild animals has systematically proven untrue. One thing we have noticed is that wild animals respect us humans far more than we respect them. It is humbling and amazing when wild animals display a trust in us humans to the extent Junior did to us. Our experience with Junior and his mother is one which we will never forget and we miss his presence to this day because he was a very special deer and we are grateful that he trusted us enough to allow us into his world.
For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and mountain living go to: www.BruceCarolCabin.Blogspot.com.
Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced $1.8 million in grants for the research and management of white-nose syndrome (WNS), a fungal infection that has killed millions of hibernating bats in eastern North America since it was first documented in New York in the winter of 2006-2007.
Funding was granted to eight projects at universities in New York, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. Projects include studies to better understand bat immune responses to WNS, investigations into methods to control the disease, and ways to examine the molecular infrastructure of the fungus that causes WNS (Pseudogymnoascus destructans), and other cave-dwelling fungi.
“Bats are fascinating animals that are vital for a healthy environment. We are hopeful that these investments into research will get us closer to getting the upper hand on this devastating disease,” said Wendi Weber, co-chair of the White-Nose Syndrome Executive Committee and Service Northeast Regional Director.
Since 2008, the Service has granted more than $17.5 million to institutions and federal and state agencies for WNS research and response. This year’s grants are the second round of WNS research funding awarded by the Service. $1.4 million was awarded to federal agencies that provided matching funds for research and response to the disease. Another $1.5 million is currently available for state wildlife agencies on www.grants.gov.
“Scientists from around the world are working together to understand this devastating disease, and to develop the tools to manage WNS and conserve our native bats,” said Dr. Jeremy Coleman, the Service’s national WNS coordinator. “Findings from past research have led to improved methods for detecting P. destructans; development of potential tools to slow disease spread and treat infected bats, and the development of a national bat population monitoring program.”
Funding for the grants was provided through the Service’s Endangered Species Recovery and Science Applications programs.
Additional information about WNS is available at www.WhiteNoseSyndrome.org/.
Connect with our white-nose syndrome Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfwswns,
follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfws_wns
and download photos from our Flickr page.
GMOSeralini.org welcomes the news of the republication of the chronic toxicity study on the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup and a commercialized genetically modified (GM) maize, Monsanto’s NK603, led by Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini. The republication restores the study to the peer-reviewed literature so that it can be consulted and built upon by other scientists.
The study found severe liver and kidney damage and hormonal disturbances in rats fed the GM maize and low levels of Roundup that are below those permitted in drinking water in the EU. Toxic effects were found from the GM maize tested alone, as well as from Roundup tested alone and together with the maize. Additional unexpected findings were higher rates of large tumours and mortality in most treatment groups.
The study was first published in Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) in September 2012 but was retracted by the editor-in-chief in November 2013 after a sustained campaign of criticism and defamation by pro-GMO scientists.
Now the study has been republished by Environmental Sciences Europe. The republished version contains extra material addressing criticisms of the original publication. The raw data underlying the study’s findings are also published – unlike the raw data for the industry studies that underlie regulatory approvals of Roundup, which are kept secret. However, the new paper presents the same results as before and the conclusions are unchanged.
The republished study is accompanied by a separate commentary by Prof Séralini’s team describing the lobbying efforts of GMO crop supporters to force the editor of FCT to retract the original publication.
GMOSeralini.org editor Claire Robinson commented: “This study has now successfully passed no less than three rounds of rigorous peer review.
“The first was for the initial publication of the study in Food and Chemical Toxicology. It passed with only minor revisions, according to the authors.
“The second review took months. It involved a non-transparent examination of Prof Séralini’s raw data by a secret panel of unnamed persons organized by the editor-in-chief of FCT, A. Wallace Hayes, in response to criticisms of the study by pro-GMO scientists.
“In a letter to Prof Séralini, Hayes admitted that the anonymous reviewers found nothing ‘incorrect’ about the results presented. However, Hayes pointed to what he said was the ‘inconclusive’ nature of some aspects of the paper, namely the tumour and mortality observations, to justify his decision to retract the study.
“The rationale given for the retraction was widely criticized by scientists as an act of censorship and a bow to the interests of the GMO industry. Some scientists pointed out that numerous published scientific papers contain inconclusive findings, including Monsanto’s own short (90-day) study on the same GM maize, and have not been retracted. The retraction was even condemned by a former member of the editorial board of FCT.
“Now the study has passed a third peer review arranged by the journal that is republishing the study, Environmental Sciences Europe.
Comments From Scientists
Dr Michael Antoniou, a molecular geneticist based in London, commented, “Few studies would survive such intensive scrutiny by fellow scientists. The republication of the study after three expert reviews is a testament to its rigour, as well as to the integrity of the researchers.
“If anyone still doubts the quality of this study, they should simply read the republished paper. The science speaks for itself.
“If even then they refuse to accept the results, they should launch their own research study on these two toxic products that have now been in the human food and animal feed chain for many years.”
Dr Jack A Heinemann, Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics, University of Canterbury New Zealand, called the republication “an important demonstration of the resilience of the scientific community”. Dr Heinemann continued, “The first publication of these results revealed some of the viciousness that can be unleashed on researchers presenting uncomfortable findings. I applaud Environmental Sciences Europe for submitting the work to yet another round of rigorous blind peer review and then bravely standing by the process and the recommendations of its reviewers, especially after witnessing the events surrounding the first publication.
“This study has arguably prevailed through the most comprehensive and independent review process to which any scientific study on GMOs has ever been subjected.
The work provides important new knowledge that must be taken into account by the community that evaluates and reports upon the risks of genetically modified organisms, indeed upon all sources of pesticide in our food and feed chains. In time these findings must be verified by repetition or challenged by superior experimentation. In my view, nothing constructive for risk assessment or promotion of GM biotechnology has been achieved by attempting to expunge these data from the public record.
Photo courtesy Fotolia/EcoView
This is a listing of some of the green-themed and environmental films that came out in the last couple of years. Click on each of the links below (or go to IMDB.com) to see previews/trailers, reviews, and descriptions of each film. I have not seen all or even most of these films yet, so I can't say whether all of them are worth seeing. Which ones have you seen and can you recommend?
Click here to see my previous listing of green-themed films; it lists movies that came out between 2006-2011.
Scroll to the bottom of this post to see a list of some green film festivals; those websites provide information on more films, including some brand new ones that haven’t been shown widely yet.
Environmental Films by Category
Seeds of Time (2013)
Symphony of the Soil (2012)
The Human Experiment (2013)
Unacceptable Levels (2013)
Toxic Hot Seat (2013)
(Note: Many of the films in the Energy section below also relate to health issues, especially Hot Water, Gasland II, and the Atomic States of America)
Hot Water (2014)
Triple Divide (2013)
Gasland, Part II (2013)
The Atomic States of America (2012)
Greedy Lying Bastards (2012)
Promised Land (2012, drama)
Water/Oceans & Climate Change
Mission Blue (2014)
Chasing Ice (2012)
Rebels with a Cause (2013)
A Fierce Green Fire (2012)
What if we change (2013) – Entire film is available to watch online
Green Gold (2012) – Entire film is available to watch online
Animal Sentience/Animal Rights
The Ghosts in Our Machine (2013)
More: See my list of environmental films that came out between 2006-2011.
If there are other relevant, recent films that you’ve seen and would recommend to others, please mention those in the Comments section below.
Environmental Film Festivals
These are a few of the annual film fests that I’m aware of. Please let everyone know about others by contributing a Comment! Many of the festivals’ websites feature video clips or entire films (short and full-length films), and they list many additional, new, independent films, beyond what I’ve listed above.
Environmental Film Festival, Washington, DC – March
San Francisco Green Film Festival, San Francisco, CA – May-June
One Earth Film Festival, Chicago area, IL – March
Wild and Scenic Film Festival, Nevada City, CA – January
Mountainfilm Festival, Telluride, CO – May
Planet in Focus environmental film festival, Toronto, Canada – November (and Earth Day)
Miriam Landman is an accomplished writer, editor, and sustainability advisor with expertise in green living, green building, and green operations. For daily links to sustainable solutions and success stories, connect to her Facebook page for The Green Spotlight.