Archive for April 2nd, 2009

Ideal green vacation: Stay home, explore yourself

April 2, 2009

Today’s Ecologist carries a Paul Miles article musing about the environmental impact of travel. It’s an interesting voyage through the mind of green-think.

On space travel, Miles writes that its value lies in inspiring the wealthy to greater green actions:

Will high-spending amateur astronauts come back down to Earth ‘transformed’, inspired to save our fragile planet? Maybe a CEO will cancel a logging concession. Another will invest millions in carbon capture technology. A celebrity might donate all her wealth to environmental causes. If so, might not the benefits of space tourism outweigh the environmental costs? Or would it be better for the planet if these high-flying space cadets spent their $200,000 ticket money here on Earth? That can pay for a lot of good works.

On tourism, generally, Miles writes:

Tourism wreaks environmental and social havoc. Even in destinations where ecotourism is championed, damage ensues. A recent study by the University of California and the Wilderness Society showed that coyotes and bobcats were severely disturbed by the presence of ecotourists in their habitat. Elsewhere, in the name of tourism, fragile ecosystems are blatantly destroyed, invasive species deliberately introduced, scarce water supplies diverted to golf courses, beach access for local people curtailed, migrant workers treated as slaves, employees paid less than minimum wages and residents forcibly relocated to make way for tourism development. It is not too surprising when companies more concerned with luxury than social responsibility make mistakes, but when, for example, Wilderness Safaris, a company with a hitherto good record on social and environmental matters, goes ahead with a safari camp – complete with swimming pool – in Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve, when nearby Basarwa (bushmen) are denied access to water, it seriously challenges the hypothesis that tourism is a force for good. ‘The [Botswana] government has the gall to tell the bushmen to make the 400km round-trip to collect water from outside the reserve when tourists will be showering and sipping their drinks nearby,’ says Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, which campaigned against the safari camp, due to open in December 2008. ‘Many tourists will stay away when they know the background.’

Finally, Miles suggests that tourism be replaced by exploring ourselves:

Perhaps underlying the whole debate is the biggest question of all: why do we travel? To ‘gain perspective on our place and size in the world,’ as Professor Bor says? Alain de Botton, author of The Art of Travel, thinks not. ‘The finest journeys are those that can be taken within our own minds, without leaving the house, indeed without straying far from the bedroom,’ he says. He quotes philosopher Blaise Pascal: ‘All of man’s unhappiness stems from his inability to stay alone in his room’. That was no doubt easier to do with the view of rural 17th-century France from his window, rather than grey, urban, overcrowded 21st-century Britain. But maybe examining the familiar anew broadens our horizons as much as visiting foreign climes. De Botton has led holiday tours of the M1 and Heathrow. It’s not quite the same as a fortnight on a quiet isle, but perhaps, before we plan our visit to outer space – or even the Outer Hebrides – we need to ask if what we’re really seeking is simply our inner selves.

Embarassing: NBA goes green but steps on self with size 23EEE carbon footprint

April 2, 2009

The National Basketball Association announced that it is partnering with the Natural Resources Defense Council in launching the inaugural NBA Green Week. What’s involved in green pro-ball? Here’s what the NBA says:

As part of NBA Green Week 2009, adidas will outfit all players with 100 percent organic cotton adidas shooting shirts featuring the NBA Green logo. The Denver Nuggets, Charlotte Bobcats, and the Chicago Bulls will wear green-colored uniforms and socks made from 45 percent organic cotton during select home games throughout the week to raise additional environmental awareness. will also host an online auction of Spalding basketballs, made from 40 percent recycled materials and autographed by NBA players.

Organic cotton, of course, costs more to produce since it requires more weeding and fertilizer — and, hence, involves more greenhouse gas emissions. Organic crops, generally, tend to require more land, water and other inputs to produce as much as conventional techniques, tending to make organic crops relatively worse for the environment than conventional crops.

But if the NBA really wants to be green, it should put itself out of business.

According to the Carbon Neutral Company, an NBA game produces about 449 tons of carbon dioxide due to fan and team travel, and energy use at arenas. Given that there are 1230 games in an NBA season, that means that the NBA emits about 552,270 tons of CO2 in regular season games alone. Pre-season and post-season play add to this size 23EEE carbon footprint.

The NBA’s carbon footprint amounts to putting about 46,022 SUVs on the road each year. A 500-megawatt coal-fired power plant produces about 3 million tons of CO2 emissions per year. So the NBA is like operating a coal-fired power plant for about 2.5 months per year — most un-green of it.

The NBA could have avoided such embarrassment had it read Steve Milloy’s new book, Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them.

Take action:

Contact the NBA and tell them that green is an airball not a slam dunk.

Green Filibuster Phobia: Senate may let House take lead on climate to avoid debate

April 2, 2009

Carbon Control News reports that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said yesterday that,

“We may just have a situation where the bill comes over from the House and goes directly onto the calendar and shows up in a conference, simply because they are combining their global warming bill, at this point as far as we know, with the energy package. So when we go back to do energy, we could have a debate on the global warming bill when we come back from conference or during the energy debate.”

Now that the Senate has voted to allow a filibuster of any climate bill, Sen Boxer’s strategy would avoid, “a contentious Senate debate over climate provisions given limited political support in the upper chamber,” accord to Carbon Control News.

Eco-terrorists dump chemicals in bid to halt power plant

April 2, 2009

A manifesto allegedly from the eco-terrorist group Earth First! claims to have dumped mercury and chemical solvents at the Plainfield, CT site of a proposed wood-burning power plant, reports the local NBC affiliate.

Although an Earth First! spokesman denied the dumping, Connecticut officials reportedly have found three areas of the site that are contaminated with unidentified substances.

Earth First!’s credo is:

“We believe in using all the tools in the toolbox, from grassroots and legal organizing to civil disobedience and monkeywrenching. When the law won’t fix the problem, we put our bodies on the line to stop the destruction.”

Senate votes to block Obama climate trick

April 2, 2009

President Barack Obama’s effort to use the budget reconciliation process to fast-track global warming legislation was officially blocked by the Senate yesterday when it voted 67-31 against the President’s move.

Under the budget reconciliation process, President Obama would only have needed 51 votes (a simple majority) to pass climate legislation and ensure that a bill couldn’t be filibustered.

Now as a result of the Senate vote, climate legislation will need 60 votes to avoid a filibuster.