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Vegan Self-sufficiency

This came in to the mailbag and might be of interest to some readers:


The first time that I have come across your website which must be unique. If any of your members are interested in self-sufficiency, in the broadest sense of the word, they may be interested in a new social networking site exclusively for self-sufficient vegetarians and vegans ‘The self-sufficient Vegetarian’. We are hoping that a vegan will set up a discussion group.

next teabagging target: climate change

TPMmuckraker reports on a leaked oil industry memo about a plan to stage astroturf rallies in opposition to climate change legislation:

The memo -- sent by the American Petroleum Institute and obtained by Greenpeace, which sent it to reporters -- urges oil companies to recruit their employees for events that will "put a human face on the impacts of unsound energy policy," and will urge senators to "avoid the mistakes embodied in the House climate bill."

API tells TPMmuckraker that the campaign is being funded by a coalition of corporate and conservative groups that includes the anti-health-care-reform group 60 Plus, FreedomWorks, and Grover Norquist's Americans For Tax Reform.

The memo, signed by API president Jack Gerard, asks recipients to give API "the name of one central coordinator for your company's involvement in the rallies."

And it warns: "Please treat this information as sensitive ... we don't want critics to know our game plan."

Seems we can look forward to the same sort of lies, manipulation, and manufactured outrage about climate change we're currently enjoying about health care. (I did see some teabaggers at the healthcare town hall I went to last week.)

Washington Gas Energy Services (WGES): shady door-to-door marketing

So a little while ago, I heard about Clean Currents, where BGE customers can switch over to wind power at competitive rates -- indeed, right now they claim a lower rate than BGE.

(Now, this is all accounting BS anyway -- the actual amps that come to your house still pushed there by coal and nuke plants. But some credit goes to wind power providers in other parts of the country, so in theory you're offsetting the dirty power you consume with clean power somewhere else.)

Sounds nifty, and it was on my list of things to check out more fully in my copious free time. I was talking about it this weekend with my friend Carl, who's always up on this stuff, and he mentioned that Clean Currents had partnered with Washington Gas Energy Services as the wholesale electricity supplier. (Which you can verify on their website.)

By coincidence, WGES had salespeople in my neighborhood yesterday. I’m normally a bit reluctant to do business with any company that disturbs me with telemarketers or door-knockers -- but these guys were such grade-A assholes that there’s no way I would do business with the company they were representing.

Here’s a hint, guys: when I say “thank you, no soliciting”, that means you go away immediately. You don’t stick around in desperate attempts to tell me how you’re not selling anything, you’re there to save me money. And then telling me that you need me to sign a waiver showing that I declined the “savings” you were offering? That just shows me that you're shady.

Let me point out that I had to deal with two of these guys in about a quarter-hour, so it wasn't just a single bad apple.

(Though the first guy was merely annoying. The second one, though...I have to admit that the second had me thinking of grabbing up the camp ax -- did I mention I was doing yardwork when these bozos harassed me? -- and doing some crude exploratory surgery to see what was wrong with his brain. But I kept those thoughts to myself.)

I’m not surprised to see that this company rates an “F” from the BBB.

I'll keep my eye open for other clean power options. But for now, I have to recommend staying away from anything involving WGES.

Update Nov 2011: According to Clean Currents' website, "As of July 15, 2011 Clean Currents is NO LONGER AFFILIATED WITH WGES and is now a full-fledged, independent electricity supplier. This means that for anyone who enrolled AFTER July 15, 2011, Clean Currents will serve as your sole electricity supplier."

It's also worth nothing that "Clean Currents was one of the first companies in the state of Maryland to complete the B Corp assessment and adopt the B Corp legal framework into its operating structure and was the first company in the state of Maryland and the United States to file to become a Benefit LLC." (Benefit corporations, or "B Corps", are a new legal structure in Maryland and few other states which are certified to provide a public benefit in addition to a financial return to investors.)

Laser defense against mosquitoes

No, it's not a April Fool's joke: the Wall Street Journal reports on researchers who are trying to adapt technology from the old "Star Wars" laser missile defense, to target mosquitoes with death rays. If it works, it would be much less toxic and much more selective than insecticides.

Permaculture output

How much food can be grown sustainably using permaculture methods? In this article on, David Blume recounts his experience:

As far as I know I was one of the only farmers fully utilizing permaculture to produce surplus food for sale in the US as a full time occupation. On approximately two acres— half of which was on a terraced 35 degree slope—I produced enough food to feed more than 300 people (with a peak of 450 people at one point), 49 weeks a year in my fully organic CSA on the edge of Silicon Valley . If I could do it there you can do it anywhere.

I did this for almost nine years until I lost the lease to my rented land. My yields were often 8 times what the USDA claims are possible per square foot. My soil fertility increased dramatically each year so I was not achieving my yields by mining my soil. On the contrary I built my soil from cement-hard adobe clay to its impressive state from scratch....

At most times I had no more than half of my land under production with the rest in various stages of cover cropping. And I was only producing at a fraction of what would have been possible if I had owned the land and could have justified the investment into an overstory of integrated tree, berry, flower and nut crops along with the various vegetable and fruit crops. The farm produced so much income that I was routinely in the top 15% of organic farms in California (which has over 2000 organic farms) in most years on a fraction of the land that my colleagues were using.

solar panels on graves

From AP: "Santa Coloma de Gramenet, a gritty, working-class town outside Barcelona, has placed a sea of solar panels atop mausoleums at its cemetery, transforming a place of perpetual rest into one buzzing with renewable energy."

I love it! I've been more partial to cremation, but if my family wants to deposit my corpus in the ground it would be wonderful to have that plot of ground be useful for green power generation.

Back River sewage plant to generate electricity from methane

From the Baltimore Sun: "Baltimore officials activated an energy generation plant at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Facility this morning, extinguishing the 20-foot flares burning the methane gas that will now provide 20 percent of the plant's electricity."

the latest on Bisphenol-A

Back in February 2006, I posted about the dangers of the ubiquitous chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA), a synthetic hormone that is the building block of polycarbonate.

More attention has been focused on BPA of late. Time reports on the latest data and the latest regulatory action:

Why the renewed uproar over plastic? Since the FDA completed its original analysis in August, additional data on the potential health effects of BPA have emerged, linking high levels of BPA exposure to increased risk of heart disease and diabetes and even a decreased sensitivity to chemotherapy in cancer patients. The compound is also linked to developmental and brain effects in infants; BPA is known to mimic the hormone estrogen in the body, which can cause changes in developing fetuses and infants. "There is enough evidence today for the FDA to take the precaution and to certainly get BPA out of infant products," says Urvashi Rangan, senior scientist and policy analyst at Consumers Union. "Even more, consumers should not be ingesting this substance while the science is being figured out."

CFC-free foam has nothing to do with Space Shuttle damage

Been a lot of talk recently on the net about the damage to the Space Shuttle; anti-environmentalists have been bringing up old BS about the CFC-free foam used in insulating the main tank. Here's something I posted to Slashdot on the topic:

environmentalist groups got their way and now we have a riskier space program.

This point about how the foam insulation process was changed has come up many times in discussions about the damage to Endeavor. And it's wrong.

It has its origin in one of Rush Limbaugh's lies.
As it turns out, the foam that dealt Columbia the death blow was the
old-style CFC foam. The problem was in the hand-spraying application method
used on that area, which left gaps and voids in the foam.

Yes, when they first started using the CFC-free foam in 1997 there were
some problems seen. Changes were quickly made to improve the adhesion.

There were also plenty of problems with the CFC foam - "popcorning" from
trapped air bubbled was noted in 1995
, while in 1992 Columbia was
struck by a large piece of foam, ripping a 12cm gouge in the tiles. Both of
these were before the switch to CFC-free foam.

Tom Swiss | the infamous tms | my blog
You cannot wash away blood with blood

evidence that pesticides can cause Parkinson's

Reuters reports on evidence that pesticides can cause Parkinson's disease.

One study shows that farm workers who used the common weedkiller paraquat had two to three times the normal risk of Parkinson's, a degenerative brain disease that eventually paralyzes patients.

A second study shows that animals exposed to paraquat have a build-up of a protein called alpha-synuclein in their brains. This protein has been linked to Parkinson's in the past.

A third piece of the puzzle shows that this buildup of protein kills the same brain cells affected in Parkinson's.


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