Insurers not ready for climate change? Really?

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Irene and Lee, it's troubling to discover only one-eighth of major US insurance companies have climate change policies in place

Saw a fascinating article today outlining a report that many major insurers, while acknowledging that climate change will create extreme weather events, still have no formal policies in place to deal with its risks, effects and aftermath.

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Climate change – which direction do you believe it’s going?

The face of the world is changing dramatically from what we used to know

There are well-known climate change deniers, many of them with a wide audience of believers. The issues are hotly debated and both sides can point to “evidence” that they say supports their position.

Oddly enough, there are facts involved, real bonified scientific research that one can easily go to and see “what’s so”,

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EPA opponents have loudest voice on TV news

A recent report by Media Matters, the web-based, non-profit watchdog group that analyzes and reports on conservative misinformation in the US media, shows that climate change naysayers are having the biggest say on top TV newscasts.

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China ranks #1 in catch and consumption of world’s fish

China tops the list of nations for overfishing and fish consumption

According to research conducted by the University of British Columbia in collaboration with the National Geographic Society and The Pew Charitable Trusts, China tops the list of countries in the world for annual tonnage of fish caught and consumed.

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All environmental “activists” are not alike

This post is a partial reprint of an article by Jeffrey Hollender, co-founder, Executive Chairman, and Chief Inspired Protagonist of Burlington, VT-based Seventh Generation Inc.   

America: All Koched Up

We all know that dollars buy influence and aren’t surprised when some millionaire we never heard of is found placing electoral bets or underwriting a political action committee. We have, quite sadly, become accustomed to the power of money and the dubious ends to which those who have it frequently put it. Even so, I found an article in last week’s New Yorker detailing the activities of billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch absolutely horrific. The Koch brothers run America’s second largest private company, Koch Industries, estimated to have revenues of $100 billion from brands that include Lycra, Stainmaster, Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, and Georgia-Pacific lumber.   

It’s an excellent piece of reporting I strongly urge everyone to read, but for now here’s the gist: David and Charles Koch (pronounced “coke”), have for years been clandestinely founding and funding the organizations and efforts at the very epicenter of the right wing’s war on science, truth, progress, and political civility.   

Photo courtesy of Greenpeace's 2010 report on Koch Industries anti-climate change spending


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Could bloggers be fee-d out of business?

An article posted today on the Philadelphia citipaper website presents a sobering and disquieting story about bloggers in the city of Brotherly Love being required to pay $300 for a business license in order to legally operate their blog. And that’s even if they don’t make any money from it!

Should this become a trend – for cash-strapped cities to want their “fair share” of this generally unlucretive venue – bloggers will be faced with perhaps their most challenging issue yet – pay and blog or find another avenue of self-expression. Let’s hope that with the already challenging economy and accompanying challenges so many of us face that this is merely a “blip” on the radar screen.

Watch out for BPA in those receipts you’re getting

Those innocent white receipts are really hazardous to your health


Almost every time you purchase something, the cashier hands you a little white receipt. I generally keep them to help when I do my taxes and, if you’re like me, there’s a small stack of them waiting for my attention. 

But maybe hanging onto them isn’t such a good idea, regardless of what the IRS says (okay, have tread carefully here). There have been a number of stories lately – in print, online and on the airwaves – about the growing concern of the effects of BPA (bisphenol-a), an estrogen-mimicking chemical linked to all kinds of medical issues

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Are you eating endangerd tuna?

Sushi 1Seafood tracability is becoming an important factor for consumers, particularly with the steady rise in mercury and other harmful pollutants in our oceans.

Knowing where you fish came from – and how much mercury it contains – has just gotten a little easier.

DNA barcoding research conducted by the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History has shown that sushi purchased in supermarkets might actually be healthier than that from restaurants, where it’s likely you’ll end up eating endangered species of tuna.

The new research revealed that one-fourth of the tuna served on sushi menus is bluefin, while some was escolar, a waxy, buttery fish often labeled “white tuna” that’s banned for sale in Japan and Italy because it can cause gastrointestinal distress. 

Bluefin tunaNew DNA barcoading allows consumers to know what kind of tuna they’re really getting.

Jacob Lowenstein – a graduate student affiliated with the Museum and Columbia University – and colleagues used DNA barcoding to identify the kind of fishes labeled “tuna” in one Denver and 30 New York City restaurants. Almost half the restaurants did not accurately label the kind of tuna sold, and only 14 of the samples used for this study were listed on the menu by a specific name like bigeye tuna, albacore, or bluefin.

The results of the investigation showed how misled consumers have been when ordering their favorite sushi.

  • The most prevalent tuna found in sushi is bigeye (30, or almost half, of the 68 samples collected for this study). 
  • Nearly a third of the tuna was bluefin.
  • Only eight of the 22 bluefin samples were labeled “bluefin” on menus, and nine restaurants that sold the bluefin didn’t label it as such on the menu, although restaurants that did, did so accurately and charged more for the sushi.
  • Five of the nine samples labeled in restaurants as “white tuna” were not albacore but escola.

“It is very difficult to get reliable information about the species you are eating, especially since the FDA’s approved market name for all eight species of Thunnusis simply ‘tuna’,” says Lowenstein. New requirements that would market each species under its own name would help to clarify cases of economic fraud and allow conservation-minded consumers to avoid bluefin.

Like anychange, it has to start with consumer demand. Speaking up and asking questions are the first steps to really knowing what you eat and how safe it is for you and the environment.

Santa Monica restaurant charged with serving whale meat

The Typhoon Restaurant is charged with selling illegal whale meat to customers

The Typhoon Restaurant is charged with selling illegal whale meat to customers

A Santa Monica sushi restaurant and one of its chefs have been charged with federal criminal charges of selling meat from an endangered whale.

According to the L.A. Times, a video sting was orchestrated by a producer of the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove”, assisted by federal agents and animal activists.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, named Typhoon Restaurant Inc., owner of the Hump, and chef Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, 45, of Culver City.

The Hump, a popular hangout at Santa Monica Airport, immediately said through attorney Gary Lincenberg that it accepted “responsibility for the wrongdoing charged by the U.S. attorney” and would pay a fine and resolve the matter in court.

Santa Monica Councilman Richard Bloom, chairman of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission and a recent appointee to the California Coastal Commission, said the city “will do everything in our power to make sure the situation is corrected and never happens again.”

“The first thing I would want to know is where the whale meat came from,” said Councilman Bloom.

How DID the whale meat get into this country? And, a better question, are there other restaurants that are serving it that we don’t know about?

"Organic" isn't what you think

organic.2According to a recent investigative report, current national standards allow dozens of pesticides, chemicals and other synthetic materials in organic foods. Worse yet, only 16 staffers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are assigned to its National Organic Program! A network of certifiers, whose inspectors are paid by farmers and typically visit organic operations once a year, on a prearranged basis. They’re the supposed bastion of what gets certified as organic.

Here are some sobering facts about what we consumers are really getting with much of our organic food:

In 2002, when national organic regulations first took effect, there were 77 exemptions. Since then, the list has ballooned to 245. Current exemptions include copper sulfate and tetracycline.

According to the Material Safety Data Sheet, copper sulfate’s an algaecide toxic to fish and potentially dangerous if it enters public water systems. Tetracycline, used to control fire blight on fruit trees, is toxic to the human liver and reproductive organs.

  • Certain pesticides, often called “botanical” or “natural,” are allowed on organic farms. These are certified “organic pesticides”, meaning they contain ingredients contained in nature. These include garlic, soap and essential oils but also can include copper and sulfur.
  • Pesticides, often called “botanical” or “natural,” actually are allowed on organic farms. Organic doesn’t necessarily mean organic.The “natural” label is on 1 out of 4 new food and drink products, according to Mintel, a global market researcher. Yet the label has has no seal, regulation, certification, or concrete definition.

So how do consumers really know what they’re getting when buying organic? That’s a tough call.

The best way is to be informed. Don’t assume that labels are telling you everything. Do your homework.

The OCA helps you get educated about what's really organic

The OCA helps you get educated about what's really organic

With so many large corporations and agri-business jumping into the exploding organic industry, consumers need to get educated. One of the leading consumer watchdog groups – the Organic Consumers Association – publishes a newsletter that has alerts to false organic claims and periodically lists brands that are trustworthy.

It’s easy to breathe a sigh of relief when you see the latest organic product on the shelves. But buyer beware, especially these days. Check it out first to be sure you’re getting what you pay for.