Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Definitely Worth Reading: New Books on Alternative Energy

Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future by Jeff Goodell

"Few of us realize that even today we burn a lump of coal every time we flip on a switch. Coal already supplies more than half the energy needed to power our iPods, laptops, lights - anything we use that consumes electricity. Our desire to find a homegrown alternative to Mideast oil, the rising cost of oil and natural gas, and the fossil fuel-friendly mood in Washington will soon push our coal consumption through the roof. Because we have failed to develop alternative energy sources, coal has effectively become the default fuel for the twenty-first century."

What we don't hear about in the news is that the byproducts of coal burning continue to rain down upon us, poisoning our water, causing birth defects in our children and contaminating the soil in which we grow our food. The Bush Administration's energy policy is a disaster for all life in North America. Read this book, and you'll be able to recognize all the bullshit and lies corporate-coal is trying to sell you.

Natural Home Heating: The Complete Guide to Renewable Energy Options by Greg Pahl
Natural Home Heating is the first comprehensive guide to heating your home with renewable energy sources. Greg Pahl offers a well-organized, easy-to-understand tour of all available home-heating options, including traditional oil and gas furnaces, wood stoves and masonry heaters, active and passive solar systems, and heat pumps. Included is everything you need to know about the fuels, systems, technologies, costs, and advantages and disadvantages of each option. Pahl teaches homeowners how to retrofit existing heating systems and choose renewable replacements, or design an entirely new house that can be heated comfortably with minimal environmental and financial impact.

The New Independent Home: People and Houses That Harvest the Sun by Michael Potts

"In this newly revised and expanded edition, Potts again profiles the solar homesteaders whose experiments and innovations have opened the possibility of solar living for the rest of us. Potts provides clear and highly entertaining explanations of how various renewable energy systems work, and shows why they now make more sense than ever. He is a brilliant guide to the stages of planning and design faced by everyone who seeks to create a home that reconciles the personal and global dimensions of ecology.

Over the past five years, the concept of an independent home has evolved beyond the energy system to encompass the whole process of design and construction involved in planning a renovation or a new home. Independent homes are homes with integrity and personality. Beautiful abodes are now being built with age-old materials, such as straw bales and rammed earth, and combined with state-of-the-art electronic technologies for harvesting free energy from the surrounding environment."

USA's First Offshore Windfarm Wins Approval

More than 12,000 took the time to call, and more than 20,000 wrote to Congress telling them NOT to kill the Cape Wind project, these voices weren't ignored. The Senate pulled the damaging Massachusetts governor veto power from the Coast Guard bill (he was opposed to the project) and now this important clean energy project will be able to move forward.

In the face of an increasing global warming crisis, positive projects like this are essential to turn the tide. It's amazing that with all of the scientific evidence and urgency surrounding global warming, we still have to focus on changing the climate in Congress. We won this important battle, but we can't declare victory until America's first offshore wind farm becomes a reality.

Source: Kate Smolski, Greenpeace

Fertilizer industry bill punishes local communities trying to protect Michigan lakes and streams

A message from Becky at Michigan League of Conservation Voters

Algae blooms are reappearing in Michigan's inland lakes and the Great Lakes. This odorous green slime drives away tourists from our beaches, reduces crucial oxygen levels in the water, and some algae blooms are even toxic to people, pets, and fish. One of the causes of these algae blooms is excessive phosphorous in the water.

We can begin to address algae blooms by restricting phosphorous in lawn fertilizers, as other states and local governments in Michigan have already started to do. It is also critical for us to ramp up education efforts in this area if we are to have any significant impact. Unfortunately, a recent bill introduced in the Senate does not go far enough to reduce phosphorous in fertilizers and would actually prevent local governments from enforcing stronger protections. The Senate will vote on the bill this week, but with enough public support we can convince them to reinforce community efforts to protect the lakes and pass more stringent phosphorous reductions.

Please click the link below to send a message urging your Senator to oppose this bill and pass more stringent reductions in phosphorous from fertilizers. Please take action by Friday, June 30th.

To send a message, please click this link now:

Monday, June 26, 2006

Far North Peoples walk 2100 km to say no to mining

A group of four community members from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug who've walked over 2000 km since May 9 delivered a message to the Government of Ontario regarding ongoing mining disputes in their traditional territory during a news conference today at Queen's Park.

"We want our children and grandchildren to continue to use the lands and resources to pursue their usual vocations of hunting, trapping, and fishing," said Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug community member Mark T. Anderson who led the group of walkers from Pickle Lake to Toronto. "We want to protect the environment at the potential drilling/mining site plus the surrounding area which includes our Kitchenuhmaykoosib Lake."

Despite a community declared moratorium on resource development since 1998 and Supreme Court of Canada rulings to consult and accommodate with First Nations prior to resource development, Platinex exploration company received permission from the Government of Ontario to start drilling on Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug traditional territory located 603 km north of Thunder Bay in February 2006.

Mark T. Anderson, Darryl Sainnawap, Wallace Moskotaywenene, and Dylan Morris began their journey to Queen's Park in Pickle Lake, Ontario May 9.

The group of walkers - all from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug - are raising awareness of the failure of the Government of Ontario to update the Mining Act in light of recent Supreme Court rulings, including Mikisew (November 2005). Ontario's failure to implement the rulings of the Supreme Court of Canada has resulted in a $10 billion lawsuit against kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug for protecting traditional territory during a peaceful protest that stopped Platinex's drilling at the end of February 2006.

"Both Premier McGuinty and Prime Minister Harper talk about enforcing the rule of law as First Peoples stand up for their land rights - rights that are entrenched in the Constitution, the highest law of the land," said Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug spokesperson John Cutfeet. "Both governments, however, fail to enforce this Constitutional Law. Either they are selective in which laws they enforce, or they are intentionally ignoring Constitutional Law. In any case, it is not a flattering position for any government."

The $10 billion damage claim by Platinex is the largest ever against a First Nation and would take Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug 200 years to pay. The case will be heard June 22, 2006 in Thunder Bay, ON.

More background information:

In documents filed with the Ontario Securities Commission, Platinex reported that Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug registered its written opposition to the Platinex project as early as 1998.

In May 2000, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug filed a land claim with the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario. The land claim could potentially include all areas in the immediate Kitchenumaykoosib Inninuwug territory including the disputed area.

Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug again issued a general moratorium on resource development in its traditional territory in 2000 and reaffirmed that moratorium in October 2005.

On October 27, 2005, four Far North First Nations, including Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, declared a joint moratorium on resource development in their territory.

In February 2006, Platinex commenced exploration activities in direct contravention of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug moratorium.

On February 23, 2006, 23 Sioux Lookout Zone Chiefs passed a resolution requesting that Platinex cease and desist their activities in
Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug territory.

Following a peaceful Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug protest, Platinex vacated their exploration camp.

The O.P.P. were present throughout the peaceful community protest. No arrests were necessary and none were made.

On May 1, 2006, Platinex filed a $10 Billion lawsuit against Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug seeking to create a "treaty rights free zone" around their mining claims.

Documents filed by Platinex with the court revealed that an ex-British paratrooper, now working for a private security firm, had been retained by Platinex and was present at the mining camp during the events of February 2006.

On May 9, 2006, a group of four Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug community members (Mark T. Anderson, Darryl Sainnawap, Wallace Moskotaywenene, and Dylan Morris) began an awareness walk to protect the land in Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug territory. They walked from Pickle Lake, ON to Queen's Park, a distance of approximately 2100km and will arrive on National Aboriginal Day, June 21st.

On May 23, 2006, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug filed a countersuit against Platinex and put the province of Ontario on notice that they will issuing a third party claim against the government.

Ontario has been put on notice of the claim brought by Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug that the Mining Act regime should be struck down as unconstitutional for breach of Aboriginal and treaty rights.

Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug signed the 1929 Adhesion to Treaty 9 with Canada and Ontario.

Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug is a remote fly-in community of 1550 members, located on Big Trout Lake 603 km. northwest of Thunder Bay Ontario.

The injunction hearing will be heard in Thunder Bay this week at the Camelot St. courthouse on Thursday June 22 and Friday June 23, 2006.

Source: CNW Telbec

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Illinois Mercury Pollution Hearings Begin

Hearings are underway in Springfield before the Illinois Pollution Control Board to review the proposed mercury pollution reduction standards, which would require coal plants to reduce mercury pollution by 90% by June 30, 2009 by installing modern pollution control technology. These are among the strongest mercury pollution control standards in the nation.

Please sign the citizens' petition to support strong mercury pollution reduction standards in Illinois to protect children's health and the environment. To sign the petition, click here now:

For more information on the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Centers's mercury pollution reduction campaign, see

Everyone who knows me has heard me say it: All coal power plants should be shut down immediately, the cost to the Great Lakes is to high. By continuing to rely on coal for our electricity, we are doing irrepairable damage to our water supply and our children's health. Of course, if you want all your children to be retards with short lifespans, you should do nothing. Personally, I want to shoot the kneecaps of some of the Republican bastards in the Michigan legislature who continue to ignore the scientific fact.

Congressional Republicans Continue to Prove They Are Idiotic Assholes

White House, GOP Leaders Plan All-Out Assault on Federal Environmental Protections (copied from BushGreenWatch)

Rushing to lock in a long-sought goal before the fall elections, GOP congressional leaders may bring to a vote within weeks a proposal that could literally wipe out any federal program that protects public health or the environment--or for that matter civil rights, poverty programs, auto safety, education, affordable housing, Head Start, workplace safety or any other activity targeted by anti-regulatory forces.

With strong support from the Bush White House and the Republican Study Committee, the proposal would create a "sunset commission"--an unelected body with the power to recommend whether a program lives or dies, and then move its recommendations through Congress on a fast-track basis with limited debate and no amendments.

Three leading proposals have been introduced and are being winnowed into a final version. They would give the White House authority to nominate members to the commission. House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has confirmed that his office is coordinating development of a final version for prompt floor action.

Sunset commissions have been proposed, and defeated, before. But public interest veterans say the current situation is unlike any in the past, because the House Republican Study Committee, which includes some of the most anti-regulatory members of Congress, has secured guaranteed floor consideration of a sunset bill.

If such a bill should become law, the sunset commission could be packed with industry lobbyists and representatives from industry-funded think tanks, and could conduct its business in secrecy. Two of the sunset proposals under consideration would mandate that programs die after they are reviewed, unless Congress takes action to save them.

Several environmental programs have been targeted during past sunset attempts. Experts predict those would be among the first a sunset commission would review. Among them: the Energy Star Program; federal support for mass transit; the State Energy Program, which supports numerous state and local energy renewable efficiency programs; the Clean School Bus Program; the Land and Water Conservation Fund; federal grants for Wastewater infrastructure; a national children's health study that examines factors leading to such problems as premature birth, autism, obesity, asthma, and exposures to pesticides, mercury and other toxic chemicals.

A coalition of public interest groups is fighting to block enactment of a sunset commission. Information is available through the Sunset Commission Action Center at OMB Watch.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

MSU hosts environmental justice conference

A message from Dave Dempsey, MSU.

As globalization advances and the global character of many environmental problems become more manifest, wider perspectives are stimulated in local environmental traditions. In North America, a burgeoning environmental justice movement makes links between environmental damage, poverty and race that strongly recall longstanding political concerns in Europe and the South. In Western Europe, skepticism and mistrust of GM and other new deep technologies raises questions about the character of nature, long discussed in relation to the American wilderness tradition. About the globe, environmental activists grapple with new problems of human impacts, risk, technology, consumption and just distribution, and articulate new visions of the future.

This conference aims to bring together a range of disparate voices across the globe and the disciplines, broadening these new international discussions by bringing distinctly American traditions of environmental ethics into dialogue with international concerns in environmental politics, philosophy, literature, sociology, history and economics. The conference is organized by the Lyman Briggs School of Science, which has long pioneered research co-operation right across the disciplines between arts and sciences at Michigan State University, the first land-grant University.

A registration fee of US $70 is required, $50 for graduate students, which can be paid by credit card online, by fax or international money order made out to Michigan State University. Registration in the sense of checking in will be on the evening of Thursday 24th August, with the first events beginning the following morning. Workshops will be held from 25th-27th August, with an excursion to a site of interest planned for the morning of Monday 28th August.

Find out more here:

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

This Bear Hibernates in June

Hey kids, it's summertime, and BLACK BEAR SPEAKS is shutting down for 2 weeks while I go backpacking in the San Juan range in Colorado. The right column "Great Lakes News" will continue to update automatically with environmental headlines from around the Great Lakes.

The current backpacking plan is to climb Mt. Sheffner in the Sheffner Wilderness Area north of Telluride, Co. We'll be out in the wild for 4 days and 4 nights. The Telluride Bluegrass Festival begins next week, so our desent from the wilderness coincides with the start of the festival. Click here to check out the festival line-up. It includes Bonnie Raitt, Bare Naked Ladies, John Prine, Bela Fleck, Drive By Truckers and much, much more! 10,000 hippies dancing in the sun at 9,000ft! Should be a pretty good time. I hope to make lots of connections, and I hope to meet a few crunchy Earth goddesses to help me re-align all the negative energy that I've been spewing.

Thanks for reading. I sincerely appreciate all the positive email from readers lately, and I hope you keep it up. It's great to know that there are so many like-minded folk out there who really think that our current government is full of shit, that our environmental laws are far to important to be remain in the hands of the Republican congressional assholes, and that this next election will turn everything around. And for those nuts who've sent me a bunch of right-wing spam and religious crap, you all know exactly what I think of you.

I'll be re-energized and will be cranking out lots more in 2 weeks, so check back then. In the meantime, buy some damn books to support this site. Read dammit, read!


bear photo stolen from US Forest Service website

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

New books available now!

An Inconvenient Truth
Al Gore is the former Vice President and chairman of Current TV, an independently owned cable and satellite television nonfiction network for young people based on viewer-created content and citizen journalism. He also serves as chairman of Generation Investment Management, a firm that is focused on a new approach to sustainable investing. Gore is a member of the Board of Directors of Apple Computer, Inc., and a senior advisor to Google, Inc. Gore was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976 and the U.S. Senate in 1984 and 1990. He was inaugurated as the 45th vice president of the United States on January 20, 1993, and served eight years. He is the author of the 1992 bestseller Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit.

Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress
Strategic Ignorance sets forth not only the shocking Bush record but the stories and strategies behind it. Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope and coauthor Paul Rauber brief us on the key administration figures, as well as legislators and lobbyists on the reactionary right, who strive to gut landmark laws; facilitate payback to polluters; distort, suppress, or ignore science; and invent soothing flimflam like Clear Skies. The authors were prescient in predicting Bush's repeal of the Roadless Rule, the censoring of evidence on global warming, and the stonewalling on mercury emissions. They also foresaw the backlash now building: Congress rebelling against the EPA's sewage blending ploy, local opposition to coal-bed methane mining in the West, and resurgent environmental support at the polls.

High Tech Trash
High Tech Trash is a wake-up call to the importance of the e-waste issue and the health hazards involved. Americans alone own more than two billion pieces of high tech electronics and discard five to seven million tons each year. As a result, electronic waste already makes up more than two-thirds of the heavy metals and 40 percent of the lead found in our landfills. But the problem goes far beyond American shores, most tragically to the cities in China and India where shiploads of discarded electronics arrive daily. There, they are "recycled": picked apart by hand, exposing thousands of workers and community residents to toxics.

70 More New Books Here!