Vegetable growers rely on ozone-depleting gas

I saw this article in the local newspaper.

Link: Vegetable growers rely on ozone-depleting gas |

Vegetable growers rely on ozone-depleting gas

By CHARLES SEABROOK, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 02/14/05

To prepare his table-flat fields near Valdosta for spring planting, vegetable grower Kevin Coggins injects a colorless, odorless gas into the plowed ground to kill weeds, insects and disease-causing fungi.

The potent gas is methyl bromide, a staple of Georgia’s $680 million vegetable growing industry.

"It works better by far than any other pesticide at keeping vegetables looking good and crop yields high," says Coggins, who plants 8,500 acres of tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and other crops near the Georgia-Florida line.

But methyl bromide has become the most controversial farm chemical since DDT was banned 33 years ago. Without it, Coggins says, he and other farmers are certain to suffer huge financial losses that will likely put them out of business.

Fields like Coggins’ have become ground zero in an international battle over the pesticide, which was technically banned Jan. 1 under the 1987 Montreal Protocol, the international agreement to protect the Earth’s high-in-the-sky ozone layer. Scientists say the chemical depletes the layer, which shields Earth from dangerous ultraviolet rays that can cause skin cancer, cataracts and other human maladies.

Under a controversial exemption, Georgia farmers and others around the country can keep using methyl bromide this year for squash, cantaloupe, cucumber, eggplant, pepper, tomato and strawberry crops.

Environmental groups, however, are challenging the exemption. Methyl bromide is the most powerful ozone-depleting chemical still in use, they say. It also has been linked to prostate cancer in farm workers and to neurological problems in people who are exposed to large quantities of it.

What about consumers of the vegetables?

What about the health of the soil after this treatment? For example, earthworms are key to healthy soil — what does methyl bromide do to earthworms and other essential organisms?

Eat More Sesame

I really like tahini, which is sesame butter. I’ll be eating it more often in the future.

Modern research has found that sesame seeds offer a broad range of health benefits. Sesame may be especially well suited to helping reduce the risk of heart disease, the leading killer of men and women in America today. Numerous biochemical processes can contribute to the pathogenesis of heart disease, including unfavorable lipid profiles, oxidative stress, elevated blood pressure, and reduced levels of protective antioxidants.

Sesame and its lignans—fibrous compounds that may act as antioxidants and influence hormone metabolism—may be valuable therapeutic tools in modulating cardiovascular risk through their numerous actions in the body. Sesame lignans have been found to enhance the anti-inflammatory effects of essential fatty acids, lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), block oxidative damage implicated in atherosclerosis, and reduce blood pressure. Sesame lignans can dramatically increase tissue and serum levels of the vitamin E fractions alpha tocopherol and gamma tocopherol, thereby enhancing their protective properties.3 Studies have shown that sesame can also reduce inflammatory processes known to promote cancer, senescence, and aging.

Sesame and its lignans boost antioxidant levels, reduce inflammation, normalize blood pressure, improve lipid levels, and promote fat burning. They act synergistically with other nutrients such as gamma tocopherol, fish oil, and conjugated linoleic acid, thereby enhancing the bioavailability and effectiveness of those nutrients. Through its many biochemical actions, sesame may help in managing some of today’s most pressing health concerns, including heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and inflammatory disorders.

Early research on vitamin E focused on alpha tocopherol, the form most commonly found in supplements. When scientists started examining other vitamin E fractions, one in particular—gamma tocopherol—was found to possess several unique properties. Although not as powerful an antioxidant as alpha tocopherol, gamma tocopherol was found to be the only vitamin E fraction capable of quenching reactive nitrogen oxide species such as peroxynitrite and nitrogen dioxide. Generated by inflammation, these dangerous free radicals are implicated in a host of degenerative diseases, including atherosclerosis, AIDS dementia complex, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. Re-searchers also discovered that gamma tocopherol and its water-soluble metabolite, gamma-CEHC, reduce inflammation by inhibiting prostaglandin E2 (PGE-2).

In addition to inhibiting chronic inflammation, gamma tocopherol exerts additional non-antioxidant effects to prevent cancer.


Sesame and its lignans have been shown to possess multiple health benefits, both alone and in synergistic combination with other compounds, including gamma tocopherol and fish oil. Sesame lignans help to increase tissue and serum levels of biological antioxidants that have been strongly correlated with improved health in mammals and humans.

Sesame lignans have also demonstrated anti-inflammatory benefits and block free radical lipid peroxidation in fish oil supplements to suppress inflammation. Lignans are powerful inhibitors of LDL oxidation, effectively reducing atherogenic processes. Lastly, lignans are potent stimulators of fatty acid oxidation, one of the key processes involved in weight control.

By influencing biochemical processes in the body, sesame and its lignans promise to help reduce risk for many of today’s most common diseases, including heart disease, obesity, and inflammatory disorders.

Source: Life Extension Magazine, February 2005 – Report: Do Your Antioxidants Suppress Enough Free Radicals?.

The Prospects for Alternative fuels Are Poor: Kunstler Speech

Let’s hope Mr. Kunstler is wrong about alternative sources of energy. It’s easy to label him a pessimist and ignore his message. Remember that the U.S. ignored the many warnings prior to 9/11 about terrorists flying planes into buildings because it was inconceivable.

Link: Kunstler Speech in Hudson NY 2005.

Right here I am compelled to inform you that the prospects for alternative fuels are poor. We suffer from a kind of Jiminy Cricket syndrome in this country. We believe that if you wish for something, it will come true. Right now a lot of people – including people who ought to know better – are wishing for some miracle technology to save our collective ass.

There is not going to be a hydrogen economy. The hydrogen economy is a fantasy. It is not going to happen. We may be able to run a very few things on hydrogen – but we are not going to replace the entire US automobile fleet with hydrogen fuel cell cars.

Nor will we replace the current car fleet with electric cars or natural gas cars. We’re just going to use cars a lot less. Fewer trips. Cars will be a diminished presence in our lives.

Wind power and solar electric will not produce significant amounts of power within the context of the way we live now.

Ethanol and bio-deisel are a joke. They require more energy to produce than they give back. You know how you get ethanol: you produce massive amounts of corn using huge oil and gas ‘inputs’ of fertilizer and pesticide and then you use a lot more energy to turn the corn into ethanol. It’s a joke.

No combination of alternative fuel systems currently known will allow us to run what we are running, the way we’re running it, or even a substantial fraction of it.

The future is therefore telling us very loudly that we will have to change the way we live in this country. The implications are clear: we will have to downscale and re-scale virtually everything we do.

The downscaling of America is a tremendous and inescapable project. It is the master ecological project of our time. We will have to do it whether we like it or not. We are not prepared.

Downscaling America doesn’t mean we become a lesser people. It means that the scale at which we conduct the work of American daily life will have to be adjusted to fit the requirements of a post-globalist, post-cheap-oil age.

We are going to have to live a lot more locally and a lot more intensively on that local level. Industrial agriculture, as represented by the Archer Daniels Midland / soda pop and cheez doodle model of doing things, will not survive the end of the cheap oil economy.

The implication of this is enormous. Successful human ecologies in the near future will have to be supported by intensively farmed agricultural hinterlands. Places that can’t do this will fail. Say goodbye to Phoenix and Las Vegas.

I’m not optimistic about most of our big cities. They are going to have to contract severely. They achieved their current scale during the most exuberant years of the cheap oil fiesta, and they will have enormous problems remaining viable afterward.
Any mega-structure, whether it is a skyscraper or a landscraper – buildings that depend on huge amounts of natural gas and electricity – may not be usable a decade or two in the future.

via Alex Steffan at WorldChanging

New quarter celebrates John Muir and conservation

Muir_quarter Finally some good news for those of us who love wilderness. John Muir fought to preserve the beautiful valleys in the California Sierras while formulating innovative ideas that changed the future. National parks were his idea. The then controversial theory of giant glaciers carving mountains originated with Muir, who was not a geologist, and was ridiculed by geologists of his day. I’m so pleased that this visionary is getting some well-deserved recognition.

Maybe this will inspire more young people to learn about the Yosemite wonderland that Muir and Ansel Adams explored and why special places must be protected.

(Personal note: Half Dome is pictured in the background on the coin. I proposed to my wife Ann on the top of Half Dome on the first day of autumn in 1995.)

Link: MSNBC – New quarter celebrates Muir, conservation.

Muir, who emigrated from Scotland as a boy, explored and wrote about much of the western United States in his lifetime. His advocacy helped launch the national parks system and he founded the Sierra Club.

Schwarzenegger picked from 20
The coin was designed by Los Angeles graphic artist Garrett Burke. The final design was one of more than 100 submitted to a committee that narrowed the selection to 20 entries. Schwarzenegger picked the winner last year.

The California condor, whose wingspan can be as long as nine feet, is also on the quarter to reflect the successful repopulation of the bird that nearly went extinct.

Alison Wright’s Brush with Death

Here are some excerpts from a story in Outside Magazine that describes incredible courage and tenacity. Allison Wright is amazing.

In January 2000, while I was traveling through Laos on a Southeast Asia photo assignment, the bus I was riding in was sheared in half by a logging truck. My seat was at the point of impact. The force of the crash instantly broke my back, pelvis, coccyx, and ribs; my left arm plunged through a window, shredding it to the bone; my spleen was sliced in half; my diaphragm and lungs were punctured; my heart, stomach, and intestines tore loose and lodged in—yes, it’s possible—my shoulder. I would have bled to death if it hadn’t been for passersby, including a British aid worker, Alan, who drove me seven hours, bouncing and jarring over potholed roads, to a hospital in Thailand.

AS A DOCUMENTARY photographer and adventure traveler for more than 20 years, I had often been forced to test my limits. Years ago, I covered a brutal revolution in Nepal, when the army opened fire on demonstrators. Dozens of people were shot and killed, and tear gas was flying. I threw my shirt over my face and raced into the crowd. "If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room," I used to laugh to my friends. Now I had to live up to my words. There was no harsher edge than lying eviscerated on the roadside in Laos.

At Aek Udon Hospital, in Udon Thani, Thailand, I underwent numerous surgeries to repair my heart, lungs, and internal organs. My surgeon, Dr. Bunsom Santithamanoth, resutured my arm with more than 100 stitches, trying his best to clean out the innumerable shards of glass and bits of debris that the Laotian kid had left in.

Finally, I was medevacked to Kaiser, and my chart was translated from Thai.

"You realize you should be dead," my doctor there told me.

"Yeah, I’ve heard."

"No, I’m serious," he scolded. "You have to be aware of the extent of your injuries—the sutures inside, the scars outside, the broken bones to heal."

The day I scrubbed the blood off my camera bag was the first time I really cried. It had been three months since the accident, and life seemed intolerable. Insomnia was killing me. When I did sleep, I was tortured by violent dreams filled with lacerated bodies, screeching metal, and, for some reason, drownings. Finally, I decided that though my body might not be functioning, I could at least clear my fogged mind. I ceremoniously flushed my painkillers down the toilet.

Over the next few weeks, I bought every book I could find on alternative healing and studied medical texts in between. I found supportive doctors and incorporated acupuncture, meditation, homeopathic medicine, hypnosis, yoga, Pilates, and massage into my rehabilitation. I tried magnets for my back pain, and even cupping, an ancient Chinese practice used to stimulate blood circulation.

In the past, I’d thrived on jogging, kayaking, hiking, skiing, scuba diving, and yoga. Now, lifting a two-pound weight was a challenge. But I refused to give up. When one doctor told me I’d never have abdominal muscles again, due to all the surgeries, I started doing as many sit-ups as I could. Over the next year, I worked up to more than 1,000 per day.

In the fall of 2001, I managed to jog three miles on the beach in San Francisco. I was so happy, I hugged a startled Vietnamese fisherman.

THERE IS NO END to getting your life back—eventually, you have to come down the mountain. A few months after my climb, I realized that the physical healing had demanded so much energy, the emotional repair work had taken a backseat. My sleep was still plagued by nightmares. I often dreamed that I was with friends in Laos, and they all got on the bus. At the last minute I would become too paralyzed with fear to board, and I’d be left behind.

Exactly three years after the crash, on January 2, 2003, I was back in Thailand on a magazine assignment and got the chance to rewrite the past. I traveled north to the hospital in Udon Thani where I’d spent three weeks and waited patiently in the hallway. At first, Dr. Santithamanoth walked right past me. I stood to get his attention. When I told him who I was, his face lit up.

Link: Alison Wright’s Brush with Death.

Environmentalists Should KISS

I’d like to invoke the old cliche: Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS).

Anyone who is pro-environment has to be disappointed with the setbacks that are occurring in the United States. Yet there are surveys that indicate that the American public wants clean air and water and fewer dangerous pollutants in our food.

I’m not going to sugar-coat the problem. The environmental message is like a John Kerry answer to a question — too long, too complicated, and boring. The Republican party understands that messages to the public have to be short, succinct, and often repeated.

So what should we do? My suggestion is to constantly deliver a simple message. For example:

Pollution causes cancer.

Mid-East oil supports terrorism.

These are broad statements, but they are generally true and can lead to solutions that help protect the environment. Repeated often and consistently, this kind of message will seep into the public consciousness and become accepted.

I’m not saying the example above is the right message. But I’m convinced that pro-environment leaders have got to deliver a KISS message soon, before our air, water, and food supply are irreparably damaged.