Living

Blue skies

Why not more solar power in Tucson?

I did not see a single cloud in my four days in Tucson last week. But what really surprised me was that I also did not see a single solar panel. The University of Arizona, which I suspect may be an intellectual bubble in the middle of Tucson, did spawn a large number of Priuses. Most people drive pickup trucks. The strip malls and subdivisions stretched out until they bumped up against a national park or a mountain range. If there ever was a place suited for solar power, it is Tucson.

Slow Down, You Hoover Too Fast

Humans consuming planet’s resources at unprecedented rate, warns WWF Humans are consuming the planet’s resources 25 percent faster than the earth can renew them, a rate “unprecedented in human history,” the World Wildlife Fund said today in its 2006 Living Planet Report. If we keep it up, we’ll need two planets’ worth of natural resources by mid-century, and “exhaustion of ecological assets and large-scale ecosystem collapse become increasingly likely,” says the report. The United Arab Emirates is stressing the planet most per capita, followed by the U.S., Finland, and Canada. Humanity’s ecological footprint more than tripled between 1961 and 2003, …

Umbra on battling cockroaches

Dear Umbra, Help! I’m having a mysterious cockroach problem. I found four in my apartment in two weeks, and not in the expected places: one in a stack of papers (I know, I should pay my bills faster), one near my vitamin bottles, one nowhere near water in my bathroom, and, the worst one, crawling along the arm of my couch (while I was sitting on the couch). I don’t like to spray them with chemicals, but these things freak me out. How can I get rid of these beasties without poisoning my space (not to mention my cats)? Julie …

License Plates Never Looked So Good

Inmates exposed to toxins in e-waste recycling program, says report A federal recycling program that uses cheap prison labor to recycle computers and other electronics exposes inmates to unsafe conditions, says a report released by activist and environmental groups last week. Prisoners paid from 23 cents to $1.15 an hour by government-owned Federal Prison Industries, Inc., also known as UNICOR, are potentially exposed to toxins like lead and cadmium, the report charges. “[P]risoners are human beings, too, and they deserve to be protected and to know what they’re being exposed to,” says Leroy Smith, a former prison health and safety …

From Real Life to Real Men

Leo-topia Once upon a time, we swore we’d never watch reality TV, but now we’re Dancing With the Bachelor’s Top Model every week. And soon Leo may join the lineup, greening a yet-to-be-chosen American town (ooh, pick us! pick us!) in E-topia. But will it restore our dwindling dignity? Stay tuned. Photo: Steve Granitz / WireImage.com All about Eve eco Place: Hollywood. Time: Rapidly running out. Characters: Julia, Geena, Sigourney, publicist.Julia, Geena, Sigourney: Dammit, Lohan’s hogging the spotlight again.Publicist: Maybe you could get some press by speaking out about a random environmental issue.Julia, Geena, Sigourney, striking Charlie’s Angels pose: Shazam! …

Umbra on dryer sheets

Dear Umbra, You mentioned toxic dryer sheets in your recent column on clothing, but without a reference to how they are toxic, etc. Lisa Milligan Fayetteville, Ark. Dearest Lisa, I appreciate the brevity and directness of your query. I’ll strive to meet the same standards herein. Fresh air beats faux fragrance any day. Photo: iStockphoto As I mentioned parenthetically in my previous column, the contents of mainstream dryer sheets can indeed be rather toxic. Unfortunately, we don’t actually know everything that’s in them, since the contents are treated as trade secrets by the manufacturers. But a few ingredients that have …

Umbra on chocolate

Dear Umbra, Although I buy most of my chocolate as fair trade or organic, I was wondering if you might enlighten me on the politics and economics of the chocolate (cocoa) industry. Where is most of it grown? What are the working conditions of those who are employed there? How effective is fair trade in getting to the growers? Just another ethical choco guy Whistler, B.C. Dearest JAECG, What with Halloween coming up, this is a frightfully appropriate question. Turns out the story behind the average chocolate bar is a lot scarier than ghosts and goblins. It’s a long way …

Religion and environmentalism: A skeptic's view

Energy is better spent elsewhere

(Warning: If speaking frankly about religion's dark side upsets you, please read no further.) There has been a lot of discussion on this site recently about the potential positive role religion (specifically Christianity) can have in solving our environmental problems. Call me skeptical.

From Ellen to Illin’

Ay, there’s the scrub First came the ads and webisodes showing Dawn detergent cleaning itty-bitty oil-soaked critters. Now Ellen DeGeneres is barking about becoming a seal on Dawn’s world-saving website. Nemo has yet to comment on the development. Photo: Kevin Mazur / WireImage.com Remote controlled Channeling vintage Grist List, Connecticut has launched a “No Child Left Inside” campaign and kid-TV network Nickelodeon went dark for three hours in an effort to get “Generation In” to go outside and play. Or change the channel and grab the Cheetos. Whichever. Photo: iStockphoto One degree of preparation We heart Heidi Cullen. And we …