Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Change Agents

The election of Barack Obama is truely one of the greatest moments in American history. As he prepares to embark on one of the toughest jobs in the world, Barack Obama has done something even greater with the people he has chosen to serve in his cabinet by nominating Lisa Jackson to serve as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. This is a very big deal because she, like Barack Obama is black and, if confirmed, would be the first black Adminstrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The fact that Lisa Jackson is black is one thing, but I truely believe the fact that she grew up in the lower ninth ward of New Orleans, is something even greater. No one can deny that what happened to the people of the lower ninth ward, and all of New Orleans for that matter, during hurricane Katrina was horrific. But what has happened to them after Katrina in terms of environmental injustice is a tragedy.

Since Katrina is no longer front page news, we have turned a blind eye to the environmental impacts on the people of New Orleans. Residents still have to ask themselves; is the soil clean enough to build my house on, can this happen again, are they going to redevelop my neighborhood for someone else? And politically the silence is almost deafening (when was the last time you saw a bill/law/legislation that even mentioned Katrina?).

I refuse to set myself up to think that Lisa Jackson will be the savor of all evironmental issues. I don't for a moment think that she will welcome all the Siera Clubs of the world into EPA for a "tell me whatever you want and I'll do it" meeting, or appoint Al Gore as her confidant, or reduce the size of the hole in the ozone layer. It's just not possible because she is a POLITICAL appointee. But I do hope that Lisa will galvanize us brown people and make us a little more green for the environment and for our fellow brown people.

Each one, teach one.

This is such a historical time, our children must know that they are a part of history. Please, teach the children well!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Gasoline Confusion

I was so excited on Friday, at around 10:00am, to see that the price of regular at the gas station around the corner from my house had dropped to $3.47 a gallon. I swore this was a wonderful sign of things to come and just knew it would go down to about $3.25 by the end of the month. So imagine my dismay when I came home later that night and saw that price had gone up to $3.57!!!!

Apparently, this is all due to the hurricanes. Hurricanes disrupt gasoline and electricity production because most of our gas refineries are located in or near the gulf of Mexico. This hurricane season has seen 2 major hurricanes strike the gulf region and cause the cost of gasoline to go up almost $1.00 in some places. And although disruption of gas production is very real, a lot of what drives the price of gas up is actually fear and price gouging.

The fear that the availability of gas will somehow disappear and we will be sitting in long lines at the gas station like in the 70s is a bunch of BS. Not only does the US have strategic oil reserves that we can tap into in emergency situations, but 58% of all our oil is imported. Hmm, doesn't that mean that more than half of the oil we use isn't even affected when there is a hurricane? Furthermore, there are a couple of the oil reserves located in areas that have not been affected by Gustav or Ike.

This all leads me to believe one thing, these gas stations are gouging the hell out of us!! What other reason would there be for gas to go up to $4.99 in Knoxville, TN or $5.50 in Tallahassee, FL over night!!!??!!

If you or someone you love have been price guoged, please report it to your State's Attorney General. It's illegal and unfair.

Brown Tip

Walk it out!

Sept. 22nd is World Car Free Day. So do the world a favor and walk, bike, skip, take metro, tumble to work on that Monday. It's good for you and the environment.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Politics of the Environment

Over the past 2 weeks we've had the American pleasure of witnessing the Democratic and Republican National conventions. Both conventions served as a platform for each party's nominee to explain what exactly are they going to do for the country.

On the environmental side of things, I found the Republican ideas on oil drilling very interesting. During her acceptance speech, Sara Palin said under the McCain administration they would promote drilling in Alaska and other parts of the country, opening up more oil reserves, and promote clean coal. However, she did not talk about conservation or the impact of these policy choices on the environment. I understand the need to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources, but is drilling everywhere really the solution?

Furthermore, does it really matter how much more oil and energy we can produce if we (Americans) continue to use too damn much if it? After all, oil IS NOT A RENEWABLE RESOURCE! This all just makes me wonder if politicians, or their speech writers, think through environmental matters the same why they think through economic and homeland security matters. Just one to grow on.

So my summer vacation is over and I'll see you next week.

Brown Tip:

CFLs not NFL

During this NFL season, I'd like to challenge you to replace all of your old light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs. CFLs use less power and last longer than regular light bulbs thus allowing us to conserve more energy. Although CFLs are a bit more expensive you can usually find a coupon or rebate on them at your local home depot or Lowes.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Something Looks Smoggy........

So the Olympics are here and it has basically taken over the news for the past 2 weeks. All the rivalries (US vs China), the Opening Ceremony (which was off the damn chain), Visas being revoked, how much money was spent on all this, and of course the environment.

If you haven't heard China, Beijing specifically, has a very bad Smog problem. If you watch the Olympics during the day (around about 12am-3am our time) you can actually see the Smog hanging over Bob Costas' head like a thick piece of white construction paper. The IOC (International Olympic Committee) expressed concern for the athletes competing in outdoor games (marathon, cycling, etc) just 1 week before the opening ceremony took place. And, in the picture seen around the world, some of the athletes showed up in Beijing with personal protective equipment (re: breathing masks).

I think the thing that gets me the most about all this is that the IOC and the Chinese government knew 5 years ago, when the Olympics were awarded to Beijing, how bad the air was.

Beijing is in the middle of an industrial revolution. Imagine the Olympics being held in Pittsburgh, PA in 1890! Well, that's Beijing. The city is in the process of expanding its technological reach in the world. To do so it has to expand its industries by increasing energy production and relying heavily on coal (because it's cheap, available in large quantities, and is easy to convert to electricity). To boot, more and more people want in on this "industrial boom", so more people are moving to Beijing.

Now Beijing knows this is a problem so to prepare for its world neighbors visit, they did a couple things. They moved some of it's heaviest polluting factories out of the city or shut them down completely; they told people they could only drive on certain days of the week; they came up with a "rain maker" which sends nitrogen up into the atmosphere (via a rocket luncher) to help seed clouds with rain to help sweep the smog away; they made people buy reusable bags at the grocery store to reduce the amount of waste that goes to their landfills; and they planted some trees.

This is all fine and dandy for the Olympics, but folks none of this is sustainable (except the trees). Once the Olympics leave, factories and people will be back to business as usual and the smog will probably get worst. So I guess you have to wonder, how much of this is really about the environment or is this just putting lip stick on a pig? The pig is still Smog and this pig ain't going nowhere! Now, where's that lipstick??

Brown Tip:

Plant a Tree!

Trees not only provide shade and make things look a little nicer, they also produce oxygen and absorb pollution from the air. Don't believe me? Go to the middle of DC (I'd say Pennsylvania and 12th) at about 5pm (during rush hour) and try to breathe on a hot and humid day. You'll be wishing for a tree!!!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Over The Water

A couple months back my toilet started to run. Now I'm no plumber but I knew it probably needed a new ball or chain for the inside of the tank. So I did what any good wife would do and ask my husband to fix it.

After a couple of Heathcliff Huxtable fixes, the hubby and I went to home depot and got a new flapper part for the tank. We thought this would solve the problem. Unfortunately, it didn't and the toilet continued to run. About a month after the initial discovery we got our water bill............

Our bill was about $185, a whole $130 more than usual. Needless to say we needed to did a little more research. We found out the ball and lever both needed to be replaced and we did that expeditiously. We just got a newest bill and we are back down to $50!!!

Brown Tip:
Get Out Your Tool Belt!

We all waste water but when it starts touching our pockets, then it's a big problem. I'd encourage all of you to take a look at your toilets, kinda leaky faucets, and drippy pipes and fix them! More than likely its a really easy and quick fix that can save you some money. Most of all though, since we are brown thumbs and this is really about the environment, it can save some couple hundred gallons of water.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Killin Me Softly

I love crabs. I could sit for hours on my deck with a cooler full of Coronas and just break crabs all up with my teeth (those little wooden mallets are for suckas!) and enjoy the sweet juicy meat inside. When I was little, it was a summer time ritual to eat crabs wrapped in newspaper on one of the apartment buildings stoops. All the kids in the neighborhood (about 13 of us) would pool our money and get as many crabs as we could from the neighborhood bar on Thursdays. Crabs then cost $0.50 each.

Lately I've been reading articles and catching news reports about the decline in the crab population along the Chesapeake Bay. I have learned, since moving to the DC area, that the Bay itself is in danger due to the increase in pollution to the Bay, mainly agricultural pollution.

Delaware and Maryland have always been great places for farming communities. However over the past 40 years there has been increase in large production farms. Not your "Mom and Pop" farms where you can go get some milk and ice cream (like Broom's in Bel Air, MD) but your big assed farms like Purdue and Morningstar Farms. These place have hundreds of thousands of animals (chickens and cows) and all of them need to shit, and need to have grain and corn to eat (which are treated with pesticides and other chemicals). These chemicals and shit unfortunately end up in the bay when heavy rains come and washes them away into streams or when they are mismanaged and seep down into groundwater below the farms.

I know what you thinking, "WTF does this have to do with crabs?!". It's simple, polluted water= warmer waters= less crabs being produced. Just like people, crabs have to have the right environment to reproduce and the Bay right now is not the right environment.
People in the crab industry thought this was part of the crabs cycle. Crab populations decline sometimes but they usually come back within a couple years. The decline we are in now started in the early 1990's and has contributed to a 65% drop in crab production! Right now, they say there are about 43.5 million pounds of crabs available Bay wide. You know how big the Bay is?! It stretches over 6 States!!!

I see bumper stickers all the time that say "Save the Bay!". They even have the Save the Bay Maryland License Plate , where proceeds from the purchase of the plate goes towards saving the Bay.

But folks, even if you can't relate to saving the Bay, we can all relate to saving some crabs!!! Damn I'm hungry........

Brown Tip


Stop washing your car in your drive way! Since most of us live along the Bay (yes the Potomac leads to the Bay so it's the same thing) when we wash our cars outside the pollution from your dirty cars and it's oil goes down the sewer to.... the Bay! Taking your car to the car wash can save water and reduce pollution runoff to the bay since most car wash places (not the shady ones) have storage tanks under the facility for wash water.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

I just could not resist

Last Sunday I bought an SUV. Not the Lexus RX 330 that I talked though. I bought a Ford Edge, which is a wonderful piece of SUV. It has all these bells and whistles like a panoramic roof, fake leather seats, sirus radio, and sync technology. I totally enjoy driving the truck and it has already been used to DJ an impromptu party.

I have driven the car much more than I would usually drive just to get used to it. I drove it to work (something I never do since it cost $20 to park downtown), I visited a couple extra friends to floss a bit, I even drove to Rockville during rush hour to meet up with Bonna (something else I usually would not do since people on the beltway lose all common sense during the 3pm-6:30pm hour).

But all this joy riding comes at a price. I have only had the truck a week and already spent $60 to fill it up. This gas experience helps me to better understand the "pain at the pump" some people deal with everyday, like those who commute long distances or who have lots of kids to shuttle around. I'm pretty blessed that I can afford to fill up for $60, but trust and believe this will not be a weekly occurrence. So if you haven't seen the car and want a glimpse, you'll have to stop by the Hopkins House or see me at the Landover metro station.

And since I am a brown thumb I did manage to get the Edge model which meets the California Emissions Standards, which are stricter emissions requirements than the federal government (EPA) requires.

In other news......

My bad for not posting last week, seeing that I was being anything but an environmentalist at the time I should have been blogging.

Brown Tip:

Put your trash in the trash can or it will end up on your plate!

I don't think people really know where their improperly disposed street trash ends up. Well, FYI, the trash from the street here in the DC metro area ends up in the Potomac River. Yeah that may not seem like a big deal since none of us will be taking a refreshing dip in the river, but when your drinking water also comes from the Potomac River, I highly doubt you'd like to see a cigarette butt in your glass.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Gimme Da Loot, Gimme Da Loot!!!!

When I brought my car 5 years ago it cost me $15 to fill it up with gas. Last week I paid $40. But you know what, I'm not going to bitch and complain about it.

I hear people all the time complain about how high the gas is and how messed up paying $4 a gallon is, and I agree it is messed up. But my co-worker from Dallas pretty much summed up the whole gas "crisis". He said, "...until gas prices get to a place where middle class people have to choose between gas and eating, the government will not do anything about it and people will deal with it. Besides, most of the people who are complaining are still taking summer vacations." We are consumers!

Saudi Arabia (the oil gods) just said yesterday that they would increase production of oil to meet the demand of the US, China, and India. This increase in production should help the cost of gas go down a whopping $0.10 per gallon!!!! Thank You Saudi Arabia!!! What would we do without you?!

Brown Tip:

Stop Bitchin and take metro!

I know y'all, metro is the worst. They are always late, broken, and completely unreliable. But you know what, I take metro to work everyday and I only have to fill my car up every 2 weeks! Taking metro helps to save gas and reduce CO2 emissions (this is an environmental blog after all). And if you work for the government, they give you metro checks which, if you are creative, you can flip for more money!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tacoma, Washington

I spent the majority of last week in Tacoma, Washington for a conference. During my time there it was pretty much cold and rainy everyday but the people were so nice and pleasant, like a little sunburst in the middle of a rainy day. One of the other things I noticed was the way the people in the Seattle area care for the environment.

The local power company, Seattle City Lights, has a program called Green Up where customers can choose to get a portion of their power from a renewable power source for an extra $3 to $12 dollars a month! WOW! And they advertise this on TV. What if Pepco or PSE&G, which serve 2 major metropolitan areas (DC and NYC), actually discussed, explained, and promoted the use of renewable energy to their customers? We could all be green thumbs with very little effort.

Also, I flew Alaska Airlines direct from Seattle to DCA. It blew me away that they recycle all the plastic cups used on board. Just think about how many drinks you have on a coast to coast flight that lasts about 5 hours...... now multiply that by about 70 (for your flight)..... then by 300 (for all the other flights).... You get the idea. I don't think people really understand the amount of garbage we generate, even in a short time period. Isn't it nice to know that there are places that take this into consideration.

Brown Tip:
Wash Your Cups!

I drink tea a lot and I know some of you drink coffee a lot. Instead of going to Starbucks and having your double mocha coco venti white chocolate latte in a paper cup, take your own reusable coffee cup or travel mug.

Most coffee and tea shops will give you a discount for using your own cup and, of course, it helps to reduce the amount of waste we generate.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

I want an SUV?!

I've been happy with my ULEV (ultra low emissions vehicle) for the past 4 years. The civic has been very good to me; it's cheap, reliable, low on gas, and spacious for me. However, I feel like at this time in my life I need an upgrade. I don't like when Bonna has to squeeze into it. I don't like going home to jersey and not being able to take my family out all at one time. I don't like having to borrow someone else's truck when we need to go to Ikea or when Bonna has a gig. Lastly, I hate feeling like the world is advancing around me. You ever see someone with a old assed cell phone?! And you be like, damn that's a old assed phone, get a grown up phone like a blackberry. I need the blackberry equivalent to a car, and that car is the Lexus RX 330.

I know, I know, I can upgrade the civic with an Accord or some other car that is not a gas guzzler, and really be about protecting the environment, but that's the rub. How do I not sacrifice luxury (which I fee like I deserve, and I know this is very obnoxious) but at the same time not increase my harm to the earth. This would be easily solved if I got a hybrid. However hybrids are made for people who live in the city and helps them to save gas in stop and go traffic.

So what do I do? I think a lot of us run into this problem. You want to be good to the earth, but we have such bad habits (like feeling entitled) that we just can't seem to get over. Maybe I'll consider the hybrid.

Brown Tip:
Recycle Damn It!!!

Recycling cuts down on our use of natural and non-renewable resources and energy consumption.

Recycling is required in DC but not in Maryland. The recycle forms for PG and Montgomery County, MD only take a moment to fill out.