Monday, February 27, 2006

How do you stop a Super-Mega-Crap-Shack from being built near your house?

The front page of Saturday's Grand Rapids Press let me know that there is a Walmart expansion coming my way. The good folks in Alpine Township are up in arms, and rightly so. Traffic and noise in their suburb is projected to triple. Ain't it great folks that your once sleepy suburban refuge is about to turn into a 18-wheeler nightmare? Fortunately the township planning commission decided last month to table the vote on the super-mega-crap-shack's request to change the zoning from agricultural to retail until they got more input from residents. The land is an orchard. (Yes, destroying a local orchard so that you can buy produce from Mexico and South America; it's pure evil genious.)

So, I know I'm preaching to the converted, but let me throw out a few ideas that may (or may not) work.

1. In order to stop another super-mega-crap-shack(SMCS)from destroying your town, you'll need to pass a zoning ordinance that limits the size and shape of parking lots. That ordinance would require anyone who exceeded the limit to pay additional monthly fees to the city in order to operate that lot. For example, if your limit was 250 parking spots (and the average SMCS parking lot is far larger than that) you could charge maybe $100 to $1000 for each spot that broke the limit, which would easily earn your community needed revenue. This could add up to tens of thousands each month for each big box store.

Many communities already do this. Check out Eugene, Oregon. They have what is referred to as a runoff tax. Businesses pay extra monthly or annually for large roofs and large lots that produce more runoff and increase flow to the city's sewer system. This is totally doable, Alpine Township, you should think about it.

2. Another thought, require the SMCS to build vertical lots rather than spread across the landscape. A vertical lot costs millions, and would discourage the SMCS from locating in your town in the first place. Unfortunately, it's too late for Alpine.

3. Actually following federal wetlands law and requiring super-crap-shacks to mitigate wetland loss would also be a good step. For every acre of wetland they destroy with a store and parking lot, they have to preserve another acre somewhere else. 1 for 1. That's the law. It's called the Clean Water Act.

The best thing for you to do is to STOP SHOPPING AT SUPER-MEGA-CRAP-SHACKS. There is absolutely nothing inside that big box store that you need to live. You will survive just fine if you never go there, ever. It is not necessary for you to even look in the direction of a WalMart.

OK, you can't resist the advertising. There you are, smack-dab in the middle of your local super-mega-crap-shack, surrounded by that magic phase that is stamped on everything, "Made in China." So, does it benefit you or your neighbor to buy something from China? Does it help out the factory across town whose workers are about to be laid off? Does it support local unions? Nope, it doesn't. Put it back on the shelf and walk away. It's that easy.

If you have any advice to the folks in Alpine, feel free to write the Grand Rapids Press.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Wolf News

Researchers at Central Michigan University will conduct a survey of wolves with the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians. CMU associate professor Tom Gehring received a $78,000 three-year grant from the tribe to conduct a survey of wolf populations in Cheboygan, Emmet and Presque Isle counties at the tip of Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula, an area of about 295,000 acres with more than 197,000 acres of forest.

With the tribe's help, Gehring and two graduate students will develop a plan for monitoring and mapping wolf recovery. Gehring is recruiting a third graduate student to help develop an educational outreach program and work on the management plan for the tribe.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources is also conducting a grey wolf survey now through March 10, targeting nine priority areas north of M-32. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services and the Little Traverse Band of Odawa Indians will assist in monitoring roas and trails for signs of wolves. Survey teams will also search the areas on snowmobiles and snowshoes.

Search efforts will be mainly in areas where wolf sightings have been reported and the department is encouraging citizens to notify officials of wolf sightings in the survey area. Call the DNR's Gaylord Field Office at (989)732-3541, ext. 5901, to report sightings.

In Illinois, DNA tests have determined that a wolf shot in Pike County in December was wild and probably traveled hundreds of miles to reach west-central Illinois. An asshole in New Canton shot the wolf while hunting for coyotes.

This beautiful creature was stuffed and mounted, and then sent to the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Lab in Ashland, Oregon, where scientists concluded the wolf was wild and part of the Great Lakes pack originating in Minnesota, Wisconsin or Michigan.

This is the third wild wolf confirmed in the state since 2002, and some wildlife experts think that is a sign that wolves are on their way back to Illinois.

"We know that we've got wolves dispersing out of (the Great Lakes pack), but we only hear about them if they are killed somehow," said Mike DonCarlos, wildlife program manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. "They're looking for new territories, and some animals will disperse very long distances, hundred of miles."

No charges have been filed in the case of the Pike County wolf, but it is still "considered a pending investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service."

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006


BLACK BEAR SPEAKS actually made a profit this month, meaning advertising revenue was actually greater than the cost of my monthly internet bill. That is a first! Who said Google Adsense was a scam, eh? It works! (okay, yeah, I said it was a scam more than once... sorry about that.)

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and read for a bit, and thanks to all of you who clicked on the Google ads and helped me earn some cash. Hopefully this trend - let's pretend it's a trend - will continue. Now if we could just get this blog to pay for my groceries...

Keep clicking on those ads kids. Help me use the man's technology to fight the good fight. Every click keeps my electricity on and gives me incentive to keep on ranting about environmental issues. In fact, as long as you're reading this, click all the google ads on this page right now!

Take the poll in the right column. Let me know what you what to read about. I'll do the research so you don't have to.

Remember, No Compromise in Defense of Mother Earth!

Earth First! Impeach Bush! Food Not Bombs!

Bush alternative energy plan makes hippies giggle

His Supreme Evilness, GW Bush, spent the last two days on a PR tour of electorally important states to promote alternative energy technologies. Supposedly this lying sack-of-shit has a plan to increase funding for energy research. So yesterday he heads out to solar-panel manufacturer United Solar Ovonic, just outside Detroit, and to Johnson Controls, which is researching advanced lithium ion batteries for hybrid cars in Milwaukee. No mention in the press that all the hippies working at United Solar were gagged and tied up in the back room. Oh yeah, Bush's proposed funding for energy research is less than half of what was promised in last year's energy bill. He's LYING. Increased gas taxes and higher CAFE standards, the only things that might actually work, are not on the table.

Meanwhile, at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO., three dozen researchers were rehired over the weekend in time for Bush's visit, after having been laid off last month because of budget cuts. Most likely they will be let go immediately after his plane lands back in D.C.

It should also be noted that the Saudi ambassador, appearing on Charlie Rose last week, was dumbfounded by Bush's state-of-the-union announcement that we were going to cut oil imports from the MidEast by 75%. Why? Because the U.S. has just negotiated a $50 Billion deal to build refineries in Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates takes control of 6 seaports in the United States and receives 80 F-18 strike fighters and 18 Cobra attack helicopters. Why the hell does U.A.B, a country the size of Maine, need 80 fighter jets? For what, attacking Israel? Who's the nutsack in the U.S. government who decided to give these folks attack jets?

How does any of this relate to the Great Lakes? Sorry to point this out Mr. Bush, but the Govenor of Michigan - A DEMOCRAT - has announced a $2 Billion dollar plan to make Michigan the leader in alternative energy manufacturing facilities. You sir, are way behind and appear to be attempting to steal her thunder.

Mr. Bush, you suck.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Cleaner School Buses, Healthier Kids

The EPA has just awarded 37 grants totaling $7.5 million as part of the Clean School Bus USA program, which is intended to reduce kid's exposure to diesel exhaust. The program encourages policies and practices to eliminate unnecessary school bus idling, to install emission control systems on newer buses and to replace older buses with
cleaner diesel or compressed natural gas powered buses. Grant recipients are contributing an additional $13 million in matching funds and in-kind services. The grants will help fund the cleanup of more than 500 tons of annual diesel emissions from 4000 school buses nationwide.

Great Lakes grant recipients
Michigan: Okemos Public Schools, Traverse City Area Public Schools
Ohio Bexley City School District, Cleveland Municipal School District, Cuyahoga County Board of Mental Retardation
Pennsylvania: Chester County Intermediate Unit, Great Valley School District
Wisconsin: Madison Metropolitan School District

Personally, I think we could solve the diesel exposure problem and the childhood obesity epidemic by making kids ride their bikes to school.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Dangerous genetically modified crops legislation being introduced by Michigan Republicans

Christopher Bedford, President of the Sweetwater Local Foods Market up in Montague, MI sent an email this morning that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Republicans in the Michigan House are attempting to pass legislation that will stop local authorities from blocking the planting of genetically modified crops. In other words, these guys are trying to block any opposition to large scale bio-engineered industrial agriculture. Their goal is simple, crush small farmers. If you understand anything about ecological diversity, or if you ever took Economics 101, you can plainly see this is a stupid move.

Mr. Bedford's letter:
In December of 2005 and January of this year, a coalition of small farmers, environmentalists, consumers concerned about food safety, and health experts temporarily stopped a bill to prohibit local regulation of seed in the Michigan Senate. This bill, SB 777, introduced by Senator Gerald van Woerkom of Muskegon -- Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry, and Tourism, would stop Townships and Counties from prohibiting the planting of GMO crops (Genetically Modified Organisms) in their jurisdiction. Several counties in California have already passed such ordinances.

Now Michigan Representative Neal Nitz (R-78th District, and Representative John Proos (R- 79th District, are quietly circulating a House version of SB 777 to recruit co-sponsors. It is their intention to introduce and pass this bill in the House BEFORE any one can organize a resistance. This stealth approach to passing dangerous, unfair legislation is essentially undemocratic and wrong.

People who support the right of farmers to protect their crops from GMO contamination from pollen drift, who are concerned about the potential environmental and health costs of the untested GMO technology in crops (in effect, we all are guinea pigs in this test)and who want to be able to differentiate local food production through non-GMO strategies should email Reps. Nitz and Proos as soon as possible to protest their undemocratic maneuver.

Demand an adequate time for the public to comment on this legislation. Demand hearings where all sides on this issue can be heard -- not just the pro-GMO words of Farm Bureau and the agribuisness corporations. This decision to ban local control is too important to be done behind closed doors.

Citizen opposition temporarily stopped SB 777. We need to do the same in the House.

It is continually made apparent to me that the Michigan's Republican led legislature does not have the best interest of Michiganders at heart, has no intention of benefiting anyone but their own bottom line, and has no interest in the future generations who will inherit this state. Every last one of them should be kicked out of office for their sheer lack of understanding of basic economic and ecological principles that would lead to long term sustainable economic growth in this region. These guys do not see the damage they are doing.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Wolves being shot from planes

I just signed a petition to end the barbaric practice of aerial gunning at, and you should, too.

More than 400 wolves have been shot dead under the state of Alaska's inhumane aerial gunning program that allows trophy hunters to gun down wolves from airplanes or run helpless wolves to exhaustion and then land and shoot them.

We must stop the slaughter of Alaska's wolves. Help me protect these magnificent creatures.

Thanks to Norene for bringing this to my attention.

Click here to take action now!

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Forest Activist Alert: Superior National Forest roadless area to be logged

A chunk of northern Minnesota forest once included in a federal roadless area will be logged under a plan recently approved by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The plan for the Border Lakes region calls for logging 260 pristine acres that was reopened to roads and logging in May by the evil tyrant Bush.

The state's logging plan may well be the end to a longstanding effort by activists to designate 62,000 acres around the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness as off-limits to new roads and loggers.

Educate yourself, here's the story: Duluth News Tribune, 02/10/2006, DNR plans logging in roadless area

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Ohio residents should just say no to proposed changes in air quality regs

Ohio Senate Bill 265 and House Bill 496, could dramatically reduce the state's ability to regulate air toxics, no longer require plants to use the best available technology to reduce emissions when building or updating facilities, and eliminate citizens' rights to hold a company accountable for releasing toxics into the air.

Ohio smokestacks emitted more than 132 million pounds of air toxics in 2003, the most of any state.

Read more in the Marietta Times.

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Wisconsin gets $4 Million for Brownfield Cleanup

Local Wisconsin governments and tribes can apply for grants or loans to help clean up contaminated properties under the new $4 million federally funded "Ready for Reuse" program.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources runs the program for the Wisconsin Brownfields Coalition. The coalition received $4 million through a federal EPA grant, and will use the funds to clean up brownfield properties, which are abandoned properties where development is blocked by contamination. The Coalition is providing $1 million for cleanup of gas and oil contamination and $3 million for cleanup of sites with hazardous substances.

Applications and additional funding information are available on the Wisconsin DNR web site.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Largest Mercury Hair Sampling Project Confirms Negative Impact of Coal-burning Power Plants

One in Five Women Tested Nationwide Has Mercury Level Higher Than EPA Limit

Results of the United States largest mercury hair sampling project were released today by the Environmental Quality Institute (EQI) at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. The report found mercury levels exceeding the EPA's recommended limit of one microgram of mercury per gram of hair in one in five women of childbearing age tested.

More than 6,600 people from 50 states of all ages participated in the hair tests conducted by Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. Mercury contamination is a particular concern for women of childbearing years (16 to 49 years old)and their small children (under the age of six) because mercury exposure in the womb can cause neurological damage and other health problems. The EPA has not established mercury exposure health standards for older children, men, or women older than 49.

Coal burning power plants are the U.S.'s biggest mercury polluter, releasing 42% of the country's industrial mercury pollution. Mercury from these power plants falls into lakes, streams and oceans, concentrating in fish and shellfish, which are then consumed by people.

"In the samples we analyzed, the greatest single factor influencing mercury exposure was the frequency of fish consumption," said Dr. Steve Patch, Co-director of EQI and co-author of the report. "We saw a direct relationship between people's mercury levels and the amount of store-bought fish, canned tuna fish or locally caught fish people consumed."

"This study should be a wake-up call for state governments to move to clean sources of energy in order to keep women and children mercury-free," said Navis Bermudez, Sierra Club's Environmental Quality Representative.

"Greenpeace started the Mercury Hair Sampling Project in response to President Bush's failure to clean up power plant mercury pollution," stated Greenpeace campaigner Casey Harrell. "It was very disappointing to hear President Bush call for more coal burning power plants in the State of the Union address when clean energy sources are available."

In 2005, the EPA proposed weak power plant mercury regulations that violate the Clean Air Act according to an ongoing lawsuit filed by 15 State Attorneys General. Switching from coal and oil to wind and solar energy would reduce pollution and its negative health impacts, help solve global warming and create jobs.

To purchase a home hair sampling kit, or to view the EQI report and supporting documents visit the Sierra Club's mercury page.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Vonnegut punches American culture in the face

Undoubtedly the best thing to ever come out of Indiana was an unreasonably tall man named Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut is an 82-year-old farting Great Lakes luddite, a self-proclaimed freshwater humanist, a German-American POW who witnessed the bombing of Dresden and lived to tell about it.

He's written a plethora of fiction, enough to make any author envious. However, his latest work, A Man Without a Country, is not his usual fictional hammer bludeoning you with truth, but a straight-forward berating of cultural norms and a veritable slap in the face to wake us out of the witless, braindead passivity that has enveloped American culture.

Kurt, I hope you don't mind if I quote:
"Do you know what a twerp is? When I was in high school in Indianapolis 65 years ago, a twerp was a guy who stuck a set of false teeth up his butt and bit the buttons off the back seats of taxicabs... I consider anyone a twerp who hasn't read the greatest American short story, which is "Occurence at Owl Bridge," by Ambrose Pierce... I consider anyone a twerp who hasn't read "Democracy in America" by Alexis de Tocqueville."

To say anymore would do nothing but limit this work. The man is a master at building prose castles, and I revel in my mediocrity stacking words like bricks. Just buy the damn book.

Read more about "A Man Without a Country".

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Consumer Reports' Organic Food Research Results

Based on recent scientific findings, as well as its own research and that of other groups, Consumer Reports says that some organic foods may be worth their added cost, because consuming them may reduce health damage from pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and other food contaminants.

As part of its study, the Consumers Union, which publishes CR, also said that some organic foods likely aren't worth the extra price, because the nonorganic forms of those foods tend not to contain many contaminants. And the group also provided some perspective on the vagaries of organic labeling.

Among organic foods worth buying are: apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach, strawberries, meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, and baby foods

Among nonorganic foods with relatively low contamination are: asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet corn, kiwi, mangos, onions, papaya, pineapple, and sweet peas

Products for which organic labels are meaningless, due to weakness in standards and enforcement: seafood and cosmetics

The report also noted several scientific studies, including one published online by Environmental Health Perspectives, which found that within just a few days of switching from conventional food to organic, concentrations of several pesticides in children's urine dropped to undetectable levels, and that resumption of conventional food consumption led to a rapid return to the previous pesticide concentrations.

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Chicago's Coyotes Doing Well

The fact that coyotes occasionally adapt to cities has been known for years, based on scattered sightings. But now the first hard evidence of their presence is available through the efforts of a team led by Ohio State University assistant professor Stanley Gehrt. His group has been analyzing Chicago's critters for about six years, and continues to find surprising results that likely apply to nearly any North American city. Gehrt says:

1. In Chicago alone, the researchers have identified about 200 coyotes, in every part of the city, and they speculate there may be up to several thousand.
2. Coyotes have a large range, with solitary animals covering up to 50 square miles, sometimes in just one night. Small packs of five to six adults, and their pups, are common, and even those family groups will cover five to ten square miles.
3. Urban coyotes tend to be much larger and live much longer than their more wild kin.
4. Coyotes help control many other animals, such as Canada geese, deer, raccoons, rabbits, and rodents.
5. Coyotes usually pose little threat to people, and tend to operate at night to help avoid contact. But they do snatch some domestic pets and poultry, and also are attracted to easy outdoor food sources such as pet food or garbage. They're also drawn to less obvious sources such as fruit fallen from trees.

Source: SEJ Publications

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Bush "Mis-spoke" About 75% Mid-East Oil Reduction Plan

Environmental Action Blog is reporting that Bush mis-spoke on his pledge to reduce oil imports from the Mid-East by 75%.

"Turns out that Bush's signature goal (as weak as it was) of reducing America's dependence on Mideast oil by 75% in 20 years was actually his best punch line. According to the Secretary of Energy, Samuel Bodman, it was just a figure of speech. The President has no intention of reducing our actual imports from the Middle East, instead his Cabinet members are saying that the goal is to displace the equivalent amount with biofuels.

The reference to the Middle East was "purely an example," said Bodman. The Middle East was just a convenient reference point. In the end, their plan has nothing to do with reducing Middle East imports.

Granted, oil is a globally traded commodity so there will always be a challenge in ending imports from a specific place. But the President's language was intentionally misleading.

What Bush actually said: "Breakthrough on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025."

You can't fault 30+ million viewers with assuming that Bush meant what he said. (Although you do think we'd have learned by now).

Instead what the President meant to say was:
"Breakthrough on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace the equivalent of more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025."

Say what you mean, George. Or better yet, just resign and let someone who knows what they're doing take over. At least with Cheney we'll know we're gonna get dicked.

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