Living

Are we medicating and educating our solutions away?

Best talk on education ever, from Sir Ken Robinson:

Some like it <em>really</em> hot

An Inconvenient Musical plays on

Think the idea of An Inconvenient Opera is a bit off-key? You might be singing a different tune after reading this: Apparently, An Inconvenient Musical opened to sold-out crowds in Toronto last summer. Says Kurt Firla, co-director/writer of the production: It’s a satirical look at the climate crisis, corporate greed, and the general public’s reluctance to do anything about the problem. It features some of Toronto’s top improvisers/comedians, and we’re giving $1 from each ticket to the David Suzuki Foundation. The theater will also be powered by renewable energy. The show will run again in Toronto beginning mid-June, and they’re …

On the Ball: For compete's sake

Your sporting roundup for the month

Apparently, people are still playing sports. Who knew? Beijing Olympics 2008: The Games will be “basically” carbon neutral, according to one official. Technology Minister Wan Gang predicts that the Olympics will emit 1.3 million tons of carbon dioxide — thanks in large part to athletes’ travel — but that keeping cars off the road and planting trees will “ensure that emissions will be balanced.” China’s Environmental Protection Minister expressed cautious optimism: “At the current level of progress and intensity, we can meet national standards and our government’s Olympic pledge under ordinary weather conditions. But we must be clear-headed that the …

Ozone-depleting asthma inhalers being phased out

Asthma inhalers containing ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons will be phased out by the end of 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Friday. The phaseout of CFCs is required under the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty that the United States actually deigned to sign on to. Alternatives to CFC inhalers use hydrofluoroalkanem as a propellant; HFA inhalers may taste different, feel different, require more regular cleaning, and cost about $20 more. Some 52 million inhalers are prescribed in the U.S. each year, and the FDA estimates that some 65 percent of inhaler users have already switched to HFA.

Hurdles for new transportation technology

More hybrid electric bikes hit the streets

I have received hundreds of emails from people wanting to build a hybrid electric bike. I have a standard response that attempts to dissuade them, which seems to work pretty well: You will have to spend about $1,400 on parts, excluding the bicycle. When it breaks -- and it will break -- you will be on your own to fix it. If you are not a reasonably fit cyclist and expect this bike to perform like a scooter, you are going to be disappointed. This generally takes care of the technically challenged chain smokers looking for a cheap scooter. I don't hear back from most, other than maybe a thank you note. If you have to ask for help, you probably shouldn't be building one.

Leading to problems

Implications of the study linking childhood lead exposure and adult criminality

A study just published in the journal PLoS Medicine (and written up in the L.A. Times) suggests a link between childhood lead exposure and adult arrests for violent crimes. Studying 250 adults for whom they had prenatal and childhood blood lead level measurements, University of Cincinnati researchers found that each 5-microgram-per-deciliter increase in blood lead levels at age 6 was associated with a nearly 50 percent increased risk of arrest as a young adult (the risk ratio was 1.48). The good news is that overall, U.S. children's blood lead levels have dropped dramatically since manufacturers started phasing lead out of paint and gasoline in the mid-1970s. The bad news is that 40 percent of the nation's housing still contains lead-based paint, and hundreds of thousands of children still have blood lead levels associated with neurological problems. When we as a society consider whether to regulate hazardous substances, we need to remember that allowing their continued use can have severe consequences. The lead saga demonstrates that even when environmental and health advocates succeed in getting hazardous substances out of consumer products, the damage can be extremely costly and long-lasting.

More employees encouraged to telecommute, work short weeks

Employers across the country are offering workers the option to telecommute or work a four-day week to help cut down on fuel costs. Compressed work weeks are particularly attractive to employees who work in places without reliable mass transit — especially since a 10-hour day can mean coming in early and leaving late enough to avoid rush hour traffic. As an added bonus, offices find that fewer employees on site means lessened energy costs. And allowing workers to cut down on commuting can also increase morale. “As the price of gas rises, the level of grumbling rises,” says a spokesperson …

From Libretto to Liquor

Truth or falsetto An Inconvenient Truth gives its encore performance — at the Milan opera house. Climate change ain’t over ’til the fat Albert sings. Photo: Gil Cohen Magen / Reuters Lookin’ fin Feel like a fish out of water? Slip into an itsy bitsy teeny weeny salmon skin bikini. Made from discarded scales and trimmed in Lycra, they may cost a lox, but your chums will surely filet envious. Pop on pop Think those salmon ‘skinis are a bit fishy? Suit up with a pant/jacket combo made from recycled pop bottles. Pair it with a clip-on recycle tie and …

Candy-shaped rat poison on its way out

EPA gives manufacturers three years to adjust to new regulations designed to protect children

The U.S. EPA announced today that it would be tightening up the safety requirements on ten nasty rodenticides that are blamed for poisoning around 10,000 children -- mostly black and Latino inner-city kids -- every year. Those ten chemicals will no longer be available in the form of little pellets that look like candy, and that small children are so prone to stick in their mouths. The new rules will require non-agricultural users of rat poison to use it only inside tamper-resistant bait stations designed to protect kids. This is great news, and a long time in coming. There's just one catch: These new safety requirements aren't going into effect for a while. Manufacturers get three years to change their practices. EPA has determined a final "release for shipment" date for the last batch of deadly pellets on June 4, 2011. Three years ... let's see, three years times 10,000 poisonings a year ... let me get my calculator ... That means about 30,000 more sick kids before we clean this mess up. You've got to be kidding me.