Saturday, February 23, 2008

Green Entrpreneur Needs Your Vote; Win Start-Up Money from

I just got an interesting e-mail on the subject of fair trade and organic coffee.

Coffee, as you have read on this blog, is one tropical food product that can be grown sustainably, without cutting down rain forest trees. Most organic arabica beans are shade-grown. So I am inclined to support this woman's idea. Readers, she needs our votes in a competition for start-up money on

Here's what she wrote me:

"I am in the process of starting my own completely fair trade, completely organic coffeehouse. Currently, my business idea is featured on a website called site where people post their business ideas in order to network and gain advice. In addition, they offer a $10,000 to put towards the business for whoever has the most votes at the end of the month. I am currently a finalist and desperately need votes. I don't know if you would consider posting something on your blog to help out a budding entrepreneur who is passionate about fair trade, but if you might consider, the information you would need to post would look something like this:
Here's how to vote:
2. Click on the vote icon next to "Fair Trade Organic Coffeehouse Sponsoring Social Justice Causes"
3. Tell your friends to vote too.

Thanks for your time and know that I would greatly appreciate any help you might be able to give me. Janice"

Readers, I went to, and here is the description I found there for Janice's idea:

"I want to create a completely fair trade, completely organic coffeehouse that sponsors social justice causes while taking care with the environment. In addition to serving fair trade coffee, we will also only use fair trade sugar, tea, and cocoa as we educate our consumers on how their buying habits affect the working poor in developing countries. Every month, this coffeehouse would sponsor a social justice cause--promoting awareness to customers about worldwide issues of injustice. This coffeehouse will also have free wifi, live music, local art--all with a community emphasis."

Interesting idea to have such a website as ideablob. I like it.

Readers see this important post too, about the Coffee and Conservation blog I just discovered. Julie has done an amazingly thorough job of investigating the good and the ugly among coffee producers.


Keywords:: certified coffee, organic coffee, fair trade coffee, fair trade, coffee, rainforest, entrepreneur, ideablob, sustainable

Friday, February 22, 2008

Gray Wolves Booted from Engangered Species List

photo of wolf pups, courtesy of

We knew the chop was coming. The federal government announced yesterday (Feb 20) that gray wolves will be cut from the endangered species list. The Department of the Interior, under intense pressure from hunters and ranchers, once again revealed that conservation is among their lowest priorities. And so three states are setting up shop for legalized hunting and trapping of wolves this coming autumn- Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Interior Assistant Secretary Lyle Laverty justified removing protection of wolves by pointing out that 1,500 wolves now live in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. But biologists say the minimum number to maintain a healthy population in that area is 2500 to 3000. (See my post of Dec 15 on the subject.) Biologists say that hunting and trapping wolves is likely to cut their existing numbers significantly, by several hundred.

The Natural Resources Defense Council and Earthjustice are working on lawsuits to halt the delisting.

But as far as the feds are concerned, a wolf population of 450 survivors in these three states of the Northern Rockies will be high enough, and will be sufficient to keep them off the endangered list.

For more info on the controversy between biologists & conservationists versus the ranchers, hunters & trappers, see my post of Dec 17 .

Inaccurate Stereotypes Hurt - Even in Play
I went to a play tonight at the school where I work - it was stunning production of Beauty and Beast and the students did a remarkably professional job. Their singing and acting, the stage sets, everything blew me away. It was a fantastic production.

But I couldn't help but notice the role of the wolves in the play. In two different scenes, wolves in the forest surrounded and threatened the lives of characters in the play. Ack! It's just fiction, but fiction perpetuates stereotypes. Wolves were completely exterminated in the U.S. in the 20th century because of unrealistic fears. Wolves never attack humans unprovoked, never. And they very seldom attack ranchers' livestock. Wolves that have adequate prey and habitat have no need of lifestock, and prefer their natural prey. Even when they do attack livestock, ranchers are compensated by Fish & Wildlife. We try to screen our traditional stories these days for damaging racial stereotypes, and some of us try to screen traditional stories for damaging gender stereotypes - sort of. Will we ever care enough about wildlife to think about the stereotypes we perpetuate with traditional stories, and how much suffering these stereotypes have perpetuated? Suffering, and ultimately, I fear, a lost species.

I'm not blaming Beauty and the Beast in particular, but change means learning new ways of understanding old stereotypes and perceptions, like wolves as varmints that should be shot. If we don't, our kids, our grandkids.....they won't have any wolves in the Northern Rockies.

Keywords:: wolves, stereotypes, endangered species, delisting

Source: "Gray wolves going off list." Associated Press. Charlotte Observer. Feb 22, 2008.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Commuting challenge

What a magnificent ride this morning. Thanks to North Carolina’s loose interpretation of “winter,” I needed only a tank top, lightweight shirt, and leggings to keep me plenty warm today. The air was fresh and wet, and soft puffy clouds shielded my eyes from the full exuberance of the sunrise. When I stopped to take off my sweater, I saw cardinals hopping and chirping in the tree next to me, and a red-headed woodpecker insistently drilling a telephone pole. I had to laugh. I could’ve ridden for hours.

It isn’t always this perfect, though. Last week I hit a real morale slump. I was tired, and it was cold. On Tuesday, riding my bike seemed like about as much fun as cleaning out a porta-john. But somehow I made myself do it. Wednesday, I was prevented by a 70% chance of rain. Thursday, a freak snowstorm kept me off the road. (Like I said, Carolina winters…)

Yesterday I finally hooked up a bike odometer I got for Christmas, and gathered some encouraging statistics. This morning I spent just under 28 minutes in motion, at an average speed of 11.7 mph. I maxed out at 17.7 mph on Benbow Street, and covered 5.5 miles overall. And, may I encourage you, I did all this on a 12-year-old mountain bike with 24" diameter tires - which is to say, if your bike is anything other than prehistoric, you will probably go even faster.

Incidentally, in the process I burned 149 calories and 15.9 grams of fat, rather than 1/3 gallon of gasoline. I saved myself a dollar and twenty minutes at the gym. And all that will double this afternoon.

In my slump last week, I set myself a goal: to commute by bike 100 times this spring. So far, I’ve done 27. If I make this goal, I’ll cover the distance from here to New York City. (So far, I’d be in Warfield, VA.) I’ll save at least 30 gallons of gas, and $100 in fuel costs. (At this point I’ve saved almost one tank.) And best of all, I’ll spend two entire days of time outside, time that I would otherwise spend stuck behind the wheel.

I’m excited.

by Sadie Kneidel

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Conservation & Coffee - a great blog

I discovered a great new green blog this week.

"Coffee & Conservation" at is the blog of an ornithologist, Julie, who has thoroughly investigated the agricultural methods of coffee companies. Her investigation has answered a lot of questions about which companies are using sustainable methods, and which ones aren't. If you want to buy bird-friendly coffee, or labor-friendly coffee, or 100% arabica, check out Julie's blog. She kindly wrote to me to tell me that Millstone Coffee is not as green as they profess to be. This was in reference to a post I wrote here on Veggie Revolution on Bird-friendly Chocolate and Coffee on December 6, 2007.

For the real deal about Millstone Coffee, see Julie's post:

Julie also says that Rainforest Alliance's environmental criteria for certifying coffee are not as stringent as Smithsonian's. She goes into this in several posts; here's one:

Even if the Millstone line were sustainable, P&G, and the other large conglomerates, played -- and continue to play -- a large role in the coffee crisis, which Julie outlines here:

Here's P&G's corporate responsibility profile:

So. If you enjoy drinking coffee, like I do, let's pay more attention to how it's being grown. Coffee is one crop that can be grown in rain forests without cutting down trees. It's important that consumers who care make the effort to support sustainable tropical agriculture. If we don't support it, who will?

Key words:: certified coffee, organic coffee, fair trade coffee, fair trade, coffee, rainforest, entrepreneur, sustainable, conglomerate

Friday, February 15, 2008

New World Map Highlights Oceans; Land Masses Are Blank

New world map courtesy of National Center for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis

Most world maps are drawn to show details of the world's land masses but they leave the oceans blank.

Now a group of scientists have created a map that's just the opposite. The continents are a blank gray, while the oceans are intricately detailed.

The map was created by a team from the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara, Calif. The purpose of the map is to call attention to changes resulting from coastal pollution, overfishing, and other human activities. Pristine areas, shown in blue, are found in oceans near the poles. Stressed marine regions are yellow and orange. Intensely troubled ocean waters are red. The team leader, Ben Halpern, says the red zones are near large cities and overcrowded coastlines.

"These are the most impacted ocean areas on the planet," Halpern says. "It's where the combination of human activities, from shipping to fishing to land-based pollution, are coming together to make things really bad."

The map shows that the most disturbed ocean areas include parts of the Atlantic near the East Coast of the United States, as well as the Persian Gulf, Europe's North Sea, and the South and East China Seas. Halpern says small zones of pristine ocean water within damaged areas need to be preserved as a first step toward saving more badly damaged ocean waters.

For a link to the audio of an NPR report about the map, the written NPR report, and an animated flyover map of global ocean damage, click here.

To see the full article from the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis about making the map, and a larger graphic of the map, click here.

John Nielsen. "Scientists map ocean damage." Feb 14, 2008. All Things Considered. NPR.

Keywords:: ocean damage, ocean map, marine biology, overfishing, ocean pollution

Saturday, February 09, 2008

China's growing appetite for meat will strain world water supplies

China's rapid industrialization and increasing population, along with a growing preference for meat on the dinner table, are creating water shortages that will have world repercussions. In coming decades, China will have to rely on food imports to meet demand.

China is home to 21% of the world's population. Its economy has grown at the fastest rate in recent world history, about 8% per year over the last two decades, says Junguo Liu, an environmental scientist in Switzerland.

During this period of unprecedented growth, the consumption of grains in China has remained steady, even dropping a little. But the consumption of meat in China has more than quadrupled since 1980. The production of meat requires much more water per serving than any other kind of food. Even though meat and other animal products made up only 16% of the typical Chinese diet in 2003, those foods accounted for more than one-half of the country's food-related water consumption, report Liu and colleague Hubert Savenije of Delft University in an upcoming Hydrology and Earth System Sciences.

How does the Chinese diet compare to the American diet?

Food-related water consumption per capita in the United States is about 3,074 cubic meters per year, almost four times the Chinese figure. The water needed to produce the typical U.S. citizen's consumption of meat alone far exceeds that required to produce the average Chinese citizen's entire diet.

Why is that? According to Danielle Nierenberg of Worldwatch Institute, Americans eat 248 lbs of meat per person per year, far more per capita than any other country in the world.

The world of the future will not be able to support a growing population eating more and more meat. Already more than 1/3 of the world's population live in regions where water is considered scarce.

Keywords :: China, water shortage, meat industry, American meat consumption, population growth

Sid Perkins. "A thirst for meat." Science News. January 19, 2008.

Danielle Nierenberg. "Happier meals: rethinking the global meat industry." Worldwatch Institute. 2005.