The Healthy Building Network

From Bill Walsh, founder:

The Healthy Building Network is the only organization dedicated to linking green building strategies to the specific goals of the environmental-health movement. Our goal is to shift market demand in the building and construction industry away from what we call worst in class building materials, and toward healthier, commercially available alternatives, competitively priced and equal or superior in performance. Right now, stopping the use of polyvinyl chloride plastic, also known as PVC or vinyl, is our top priority. We use a variety of strategies, from technical consultations to grassroots activism, to convince consumers, especially those with major commercial interests, to alter their purchasing habits. Ultimately HBN seeks to reverse the negative health impacts of many commercial industrial policies by influencing laws that affect public health.

What makes me happy right now is that green building professionals are starting to take a strong stand in public to defend the integrity of their profession, and to keep the nation’s leading authority on green building standards from devolving into a greenwashing tool under pressure from industry trade associations. So many efforts to develop professional standards of environmental conduct have been derailed or co-opted by self-styled "stakeholders" whose only real "stake" is the one they intend to drive through the heart of the organization.

Groups like the Vinyl Institute and the American Forest & Paper Association are threatening to tie the U.S. Green Building Council in a stranglehold of litigation. They are forming their own fake green building association. They are corrupting the internal deliberations of the group by abusing the consensus decision-making process. But it looks like the green building community is going to stand and fight.

via Grist Magazine | InterActivist | 21 Feb 2005.

Sandhill Cranes Caught in Storm

Yesterday we were battered by heavy thunderstorms in the late afternoon. Durng a lulll, Ann went out to pick some daffodils (early bloomers) that would be damaged by the hail we were expecting.

She called me outside. A flock of about 200 sandhill cranes were milling about over our home as the winds rose and the thunder boomed closer. They seemed to be confused and without leadership. I hope they found a place to land soon because the weather became dangerous soon thereafter.

Links to sightings

Greenest Vehicles of 2005

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has announced this year’s "greenest" and "meanest" vehicles, along with the environmental scorings of all model year 2005 cars and passenger trucks.

Retaining the distinction as the greenest vehicle of the year is Honda’s natural gas-powered Civic GX. The hybrid-electric Honda Insight follows closely behind, with the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Corolla rounding out the top five. The most notable newcomer to this year’s list is the Ford Escape Hybrid — marking the first time ever a gasoline-powered SUV has achieved a spot among the greenest vehicles of the year.

Widely acknowledged as the preeminent buyer’s guide to environmentally preferable passenger cars, trucks, and SUVs, ACEEE’s Green Book Online provides the facts necessary to compare the new 2005 models. Vehicles are analyzed on the basis of a "Green Score," a singular measure that incorporates unhealthy tailpipe emissions, fuel consumption, and the emissions of gases that cause global warming. Using its "Green Score" ranking system, ACEEE’s Green Book Online reveals the year’s "greenest" and "meanest" models: the 12 least polluting, most efficient vehicles; and the 12 worst.

Link: GreenBiz News | Gas-Powered SUV Cracks ‘Greenest Vehicles of 2005’ List.

Copying a Music CD Legitimately

Wr Yesterday, I wanted to hear the Mamas and Papas classic song California Dreamin’ as interpreted by George Benson (White Rabbit CD). When it started playing on my CD player, it skipped badly. So I washed the CD, hoping that it was dirty. It still skipped.

I put the CD in my PC’s CD tray and burned a copy. I put the copy in my CD player and it sounded great — not a skip throughout.

The music, recorded in 1971, still sounds great. Here’s are review from the All Music Guide:

For Benson’s second CTI project, producer Creed Taylor and arranger Don Sebesky successfully place the guitarist in a Spanish-flavored setting full of flamenco flourishes, brass fanfares, moody woodwinds and such. The idea works best on "California Dreamin’" (whose chords are based on Andalusian harmonies), where, driven by Jay Berliner’s exciting Spanish rhythm guitar, Benson comes through with some terrifically inspired playing. On "El Mar," Berliner is replaced by Benson’s protege Earl Klugh (then only 17) in an inauspicious – though at the time, widely-heralded – recorded debut. The title track is another winner, marred only by the out-of-tune brasses at the close, and in a good example of the CTI classical/jazz formula at work, Heitor Villa-Lobos’s "Little Train of the Caipira" is given an attractive early-’70s facelift. Herbie Hancock gets plenty of nimble solo space on Rhodes electric piano, Airto Moreira contributes percussion and atmospheric wordless vocals, and Ron Carter and Billy Cobham complete the high-energy rhythm section. In this prime sample of the CTI idiom, everyone wins. ~ Richard S. Ginell, All Music Guide

Why Not Nuclear Energy?

WorldChanging observes

There’s been an effort, of late, most notably in Wired to convince Americans (and others) that the answer to climate change is nuclear power. Clean energy advocates argue nuclear power presents the wrong answer for a bunch of reasons: it spews out radioactive waste which will be with us for a longer time than human beings have been farming; with the need to mine uranium, build the plants themselves and build storage facilities, there are questions as to both how much nuclear power can be brought online how quickly and how much CO2 will actually be saved; nuclear is actually already more expensive that windpower, when subsidies are removed; the nuclear industry is, based on its record, one of the least trustworthy business groups around; and nuclear power — as we’re seeing with concerns in Iran — is tied at the hip to nuclear weapons.

I see other issues:

A nuclear power plant produces energy for millions of consumers from a single location. Centralized systems are vulnerable to outages which affect all the users that are dependent on those systems. Decentralized systems, like solar cells on the roofs of buildings/homes, are much more resiliant and dependable.

Terrorism makes nuclear power plants a huge liability. A melt-down of a single nuclear power plant would kill thousands of people, cause cascading power outages, and demoralize our country. Terrorists know this and will be targeting these kinds of vulnerabilities in the future.

Green tea shows potential as anti-cancer agent

Link: Science Blog.

A study on bladder cancer cells lines showed that green tea extract has potential as an anti-cancer agent, proving for the first time that it is able to target cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone. The study, published in the Feb. 15, 2005 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Clinical Cancer Research, also uncovered more about how green tea extract works to counteract the development of cancer.

Numerous epidemiologic and animal studies have suggested that green tea extract provides strong anti-cancer effects in several human cancers, including bladder cancer. It has been shown to induce death in cancer cells, as well as inhibiting the development of an independent blood supply that cancers develop so they can grow and spread.

In the UCLA study … scientists were able to show that green tea extract interrupts a process that is crucial in allowing bladder cancer to become invasive and spread to other areas of the body.

Environmental Collapse Kills Societies

Jared Diamond’s book Collapse identifies five factors that contribute to societies disappearing:

  • climate change
  • hostile neighbors
  • trade partners (that is, alternative sources of essential goods)
  • environmental problems, and
  • a society’s response to its environmental problems

The first four may or may not prove significant in each society’s demise, Diamond claims, but the fifth always does.

Link: Jared Diamond’s Collapse traces the fates of societies to their treatment of the environment | By Michael J. Kavanagh | Grist Magazine | Books Unbound | 08 Feb 2005.

Mothers’ Exposure to Air Pollutants Linked to Gene Damage in Babies

I have been saying (here and here and here) that the environmental movement needs to refocus on a simple message that can get the attention of the stressed out, over-extended American. The message I recommend is:

Pollution causes cancer.

Middle East oil supports terrorism.

The following research supports the cancer argument.

A new study of 60 newborns in New York City reveals that exposure of expectant mothers to combustion-related urban air pollution may alter the structure of babies’ chromosomes while in the womb. While previous experiments have linked such genetic alterations to an increased risk of leukemia and other cancers, much larger studies would be required to determine the precise increase in risk as these children reach adulthood.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and other private foundations. The research was conducted by scientists from the Columbia University Center for Children’s Environmental Health. Study results will be published in the February issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, and are available online at

via: Mothers’ Exposure to Air Pollutants Linked to Gene Damage in Babies | Science Blog.