June 2009

Monthly Archive

Ecotopia #39 Heatstroke

Posted by on 30 Jun 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Date:  June 30

In this program, we discuss climate change with Professor Anthony Barnosky of UC Berkeley. He is the author of a book called Heatstroke that looks at the prospects for the environment in response to Global Warming.  (Washington: Island Press, 2009).

Recent News on Global Warming:

In probably the most interesting and even exciting news on this front, last Friday, the House narrowly approved the Waxman-Markey climate change bill by 219-212 vote. Its passage is the first comprehensive climate change and energy legislation in the U.S.

An article on Politico dot com explains:

The complex bill mandates a 17-percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and a 83-percent cut by 2050, reductions that will be accomplished by putting a price on carbon dioxide through a cap-and-trade system. It mandates that 20 percent of electricity comes from renewable sources and increased energy efficiency by 2020. And the legislation gives electric utilities, coal plants, energy-intensive manufacturers, farmers, petroleum refiners, and other industries special protections to help them transition to new, less-fossil fuel-intensive ways of doing business.[…]The legislation split both the environmental and business communities. Although environmentalists have pushed for stricter controls on greenhouse-gas emissions for more than a decade, more left-wing groups like Greenpeace wanted stronger emissions reductions and fewer protections for greenhouse-gas guzzling industries like coal. While some electric utilities, auto manufacturers, and Fortune 500 companies supported the bill, large business associations like the Chamber of Commerce argued that it would impose a crippling regulatory burden on the economy that would push factories and jobs abroad.


Jim Tankersley of the L. A. Times was part of a small group of reporters who talked with President Obama at the White House on Sunday. He reports that the President called the bill:

“an extraordinary first step” toward halting global warming and reducing the use of fossil fuels, but he expressed reservations about a controversial provision that would slap tariffs on imports from countries that did not similarly crack down on greenhouse gas emissions.  [Obama] predicted that the measure would spark innovation and jobs, and that its costs to consumers would fall well short of critics’ warnings. He castigated opponents for “lying” about cost projections and “scaring the bejeezus” out of voters, and accused Republicans of being stuck in a 1990s-era debate on energy when the American people “have moved forward” with concerns about climate change and hope for renewable power.

Robert Stavins of the Harvard Economic Development Program, writing on Huffington Post, argues that there are a number of flaws with the bill, but he generally sees it is a positive step forward, especially with the opportunity given to the Senate to make adjustments in the House version.  Most important, Stavins believes, the Waxman-Markey bill makes a long-overdue statement about the U.S. willingness to tackle climate change:

So, the Waxman‑Markey bill has its share of flaws, but it represents a reasonable starting point for Senate deliberation on what can become a national climate policy that will place the United States where it ought to be -‑ in a position of international leadership to help develop a global climate agreement that is scientifically sound, economically rational, and politically acceptable to the key nations of the world.


Our Questions for Anthony Barnosky:

Professor Anthony Barnosky of the University of California—Berkeley has written Heatstroke: Nature in an Age of Global Warming. He’s a dirt-digging cave-exploring paleontologist and at Cal he’s  a Professor of Integrative Biolog, and a  and researcher in Cal’s natural history museums.

Part I: Global Warming and Heatsroke—What is the science and what is it saying?

  • As you say in your book, global warming is no longer a matter of speculation or debate, but the possible effects are not well “known” or easily predictable. Please tell us about the broad range of predictions you make in the book. What will/might/can be the effects of “heatstroke.”?
  • Let’s talk about the Pizzly and the Marmots and what their behavior is showing.
  • We have had periods of global warming on earth before. What do those periods tell us to expect as our own climate heats up?
  • What do you see happening under best- and worst-case scenarios between now and, say, 2050, when some compacts are aiming to stabilize or reduce C02 emissions worldwide?
  • The research studies you cite in the book are often quite ingenious in figuring out climate effects—investigating the nests of packrats, for instance, or the fossil teeth of voles—to see what these indicate about what was living at different ages.  How “certain” is this science? What are some of the rules or parameters do you use in coming up with viable generalizations?
  • Please tell us a little about Magnetostratigraphy and the “paleomagicians” who use it.
  • What’s a “keystone” species and what is their role in keeping ecosystems afloat? What are the keystone species telling us about heatstroke?
  • You are a professor of “integrative biology.” Is your book an example of the work in this field?

Part II:  Possible Cures for Heatstroke

  • You write about the Gang of Four—global warming, habitat fragmentation, invasive species, and population growth—as teaming up to alter our ecosystems irrevocably.  But you are also modestly optimistic that ecosystems can be saved. Why are you optimistic?
  • You also mention that simply “slowing down the train” does not mean that we will return to an ecological status quo—in fact, you say that forces already present will continue to operate, “gaining momentum” far into the future? So what should we do? Is there really any hope?
  • Among your arguments is one for saving “certain species and assemblages of species.” Please explain. Do we really have the knowledge (or the right) to make such seemingly god-like decisions?
  • Please explain your “Keep,” “Connect,” and “Create” approach to ecological restoration.
  • You dedicate your book to the graduating classes of a high school, a middle school, and an international school “and to young people of their generation everywhere.” You tell those kids:  “You have the talent, the power, and the responsibility to change the world for the better.” What steps might politicians, activists, parents, educators, and just-plain-citizens do to ensure that these kids make this happen? What can we do now in order to affect change and not leave it all to the next generation?
  • What do you think of the recently passed Waxman-Markey bill?

The book is Heatstroke: Nature in an Age of Global Warming, and it’s published by Island Press. You can learn more about it at http://www.heatstrokethebook.org.


In past editions of Ecotopia, we’ve offered a number of do-it-yourself suggestions for reducing one’s carbon footprint, ideas like drying clothes on the line rather than in a drier, and turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth. Rather than repeating those, we will refer you to Green Wiki, which has an extensive list: Check out the link on our web site. http://green.wikia.com/wiki/How_to_reduce_your_carbon_footprint.

We also want to highlight some kid projects that earned recognition in the 2008 President’s Environmental Youth Awards

Up to 10 winning projects are selected each year from EPA’s 10 regional offices. Young people  are invited annually to participate in the PEYA program, which is aimed at encouraging individuals, school classes, summer camps, youth organizations and public interest groups to promote environmental awareness and encourage positive community involvement.

Among this year’s winners is  Green Your Lives, a student-led initiative in the Gilbert H. Hood Middle School in Derry, New Hampshire. Students developed a community outreach program including an informational Web site,  public service announcements, educational posters,  a model solar car, and a  hydro prototype. Their “Give and Go” program encouraged students and members of the public to recycle items they no longer needed and eleven vanloads of materials were diverted from landfill disposal and sold by the local Salvation Army, which netted $3,000 at its summer garage sale.

Another winner in the President’s Environmental Youth Awards is Change a Lightbulb, created by Ryan Morgan, Moscow, PA.  He wrote more than 100 letters to celebrities and businesses requesting donations to buy the energy-efficient bulbs he then gave away. Bruce Springsteen, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., John Mellencamp, Philips Lighting, and Harper Collins were among his contributors. He obtained more than  2,000 bulbs to give away. He also created pamphlets, posters, PowerPoint presentations, and a Web site to promote his project and also made a display on how to dispose of CFL bulbs at his community center.

Cory Adkins of  Lewisville, North Carolina  became dismayed by the sight of $75 textbooks that were thrown in the dumpster after his school’s book sale. He created the Green Books Project to sell used textbooks online. In turn, this project has funded an environmental club that collects and recycles old books. The proceeds from book sales have been reinvested into the community and used to purchase recycling bins. Cory also designed and distributed a “how-to” manual for others who might be interested in starting a similar program. Excess books that are not sold are largely donated to prisons, elementary schools, and a mobile library in Kenya.

The Wetlands Education Team (WET) was founded by the students of West Geauga (Ohio) Middle School. They created an outdoor classroom at their school, including native plants, signs, birdhouses and feeders, a trail to a seating area, a directional signpost, and a weather station. The students also travel to nearby schools and communities to educate others and to help area schools create their own outdoor classrooms and they have collaborated with several community environmental organizations to map wetlands and teach other students how to use global positioning system (GPS) technology. Finally, they successfully petitioned the Ohio State Senate to declare the  the spotted salamander as Ohio’s state amphibian.

OUTRAGE is an anti-tobacco youth group made up of middle school and high school students from Provo, Utah.  Some of the OUTRAGE members came from households where their parents smoke and thus have experienced first hand the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. OUTRAGE members recognized that many other young people in Utah County were being exposed to second-hand smoke in public parks. They created a Smoke Free Parks project and held more than 40 planning and training meetings, where the group planned events and trained other youth on the harmful effects of tobacco. From 2007 to 2008, these kids planned and implemented 21 major events, including included health fairs, concerts, a Relay for Life, the Utah County Fair, and multiple rodeos. Finally, they presented their work to elected officials and Board of Health, which passed a regulation banning smoking in all city parks, outdoor recreational areas, and outdoor mass gatherings throughout Utah County.

A project called A Plastic Predicament was developed by two kids identified only as Clay and Chance, from San Leandro. They created a video to educate the public and to propose pragmatic solutions to the environmental threats associated with use and disposal of plastic products. They’ve shown their video at 4H meetings as well as in public venues such as farmers markets. They met with the mayor of San Leandro and made a presentation at a city council meeting. Clay and Chance participated in discussions of a proposed ban on plastic shopping bags at a meeting of the Alameda County Waste Management Authority attended by more than a dozen East Bay mayors. They furthered their outreach when their video was displayed by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation’s blog site and used as part of an online ecology course at Las Positas Community College. The video also encourages smart recycling and notes that used plastic bags can best be recycled as clothing or construction materials, rather than ending up as landfill mass or marine pollution.

To learn more about those amazing kids and many more, visit the EPA web site–http://www.epa.gov/enviroed/peya/peya2008.html

Playlist for Ecotopia #39–Heatstroke

1. Danger (Global Warming) – Radio Mix            3:35    Brick Casey  Danger (Global Warming)

2. Oceans Rising     3:58    Kristen Grainger & Dan Wetzel   Part Circus, Part Rodeo

3. My Oklahoma Home (It Blowed Away)            5:01    Sis Cunningham  The Best of Broadside 1962-1988: Anthems of the American Underground from the Pages of Broadside Magazine

4. Global Warming Blues   3:42    Lenny Solomon  Armando’s Pie

5. Pollution    4:50    Basskick  Sound Of The Nature – Collection 5

6. Weave Me the Sunshine           4:28    Peter, Paul And Mary  The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary

7. (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave        2:46    Martha & The Vandellas The Ultimate Collection: Martha Reeves & The Vandellas

8. Powerhouse         2:56    Don Byron  Bug Music

9. New Frontier (Album Version)  6:23    Donald Fage   The Nightfly

10. Long Ago and Far Away          2:21    James Taylor  Mud Slide Slim & The Blue Horizon

Ecotopia #38 Media and Environment

Posted by on 22 Jun 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Date:  June 23

Media and Environment
Tonight our topic is “Media and the Environment,” and we talk with Diedre Pike, who is both a practicing journalist and former editor of the Reno News and Review as well as a professor of journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. We’ll ask her about her about how the media portray environmental issues and about what environmental activists can do to get their message out to the world.
Media and Environment: The Issues

The first amendment to the Constitution protects freedom of the press:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

And Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights further guarantees the rights of expression and explicitly the right to send and receive ideas via unfiltered or uncensored news media:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
However, such statements do not grant anyone access to the press or guarantee that what comes to us through the press is unbiased, unfiltered, or unadulterated. Such problems get to the heart of journalism ethics and are especially noticeable in the field of environmental journalism.

from the writings from environmentalist and photographer Mark Meyers, blogging on events last August at Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County. He wrote:

Today I am looking at the reporting of an environmental story starting with three headlines published within one day of each other. They are all reporting the same event—the release of a report by the Office of the Inspector General [,,,] regarding complaints raised by the Drakes Bay Oyster Company […] against the National Park Service […].

Park Service cleared in probe of oyster farm fight
—Associated Press published in Mercury News

Park Service skewed data on oyster farm
—San Francisco Chronicle (via sfgate.com by Kelly Zito, Chronicle Staff Writer)

Marin County’s Drakes Bay Oyster Co. Abused by Government Agency, According to U.S. Department of Interior Inspector General Report–Report Shows National Park Service Used False Information, Bureaucratic Red Tape in Attempt to Ruin Marin County Business
—Wall Street Journal’s Marketwatch (Business Newswire)

Is it any wonder it is difficult to know where to stand on a particular issue, or that the environment, something we all have a vested interest in, always seems to polarize us. None of the articles, all available online, even provide a link to the actual [… government] report.

to quote Marshall McLuhan
, the medium IS the message. Journalism professor at UC Santa Barbara, Ronald Rice, has written of the ways in which the nature of the media themselves affect environmental reporting:

The mass media (including the Internet), scientific research, and government policy, as well as public attitudes and behaviors, all intersect to influence how we perceive, interpret, and act on environmental concerns.

Environmental news coverage has risen since the first story on climate change in the U.S. popular media, which probably was a 1950 Saturday Evening Post article, “Is the World Getting Warmer?” Coverage declined from 1992 through 2000, and in some places shifted from pro-environmental to pro-business as industry and affected publics  managed to reframe the discussion. […] Nonetheless, environmental issues represent a very low proportion of all stories covered by newspapers and television. These stories also suffer content limitations, typically providing little qualification or support from scientific data, making vague references to the scientific communication, and emphasizing sensationalist aspects and near-term and personal consequences.

No coverage of environmental issues in the popular media is likely to be a straightforward treatment of the “facts,” due to many practical constraints, some of which are inherent in the structure and values of modern American news reporting. Among these practical influences on media portrayals of climate change are misreporting or miscommunication, public misunderstanding, low levels of journalistic training in science, media time and space constraints (especially in television), commercial pressures on media to be more profitable, event orientation, the “technophobia” of many reporters and their editors (to say nothing of the audiences), confusion over complex scientific terminology, focus on “newsworthy” drama and novelty rather than the underlying environmental issue, dependence on official sources, and trends in communication of climate change. A central practical factor is the journalistic norm of “objectivity” and “balanced co

verage.” While we generally value journalistic non-partisanship and accuracy, this phenomenon has the paradoxical consequence of reinforcing and legitimating the status quo. This is especially salient as the increased commercialization and concentration of media necessarily emphasize profit, avoid negative coverage of corporate owners and advertisers, and reflect public relations pressures from relevant industries.

The drive toward apparent, balanced objectivity leads to the treatment of climate science as “uncertain” and the inclusion of rebuttals by “experts” who are often affiliated with think tanks sponsored by the fossil fuel industry. Such coverage is unlikely to increase knowledge or change attitudes and behaviors, due to the general nature of media effects.


In an op-ed in the New York Times last month
, Frank Rich wrote:
IF you wanted to pick the moment when the American news business went on suicide watch, it was almost exactly three years ago. That’s when Stephen Colbert, appearing at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, delivered a monologue accusing his hosts of being stenographers who had, in essence, let the Bush White House get away with murder (or at least the war in Iraq). To prove the point, the partying journalists in the Washington Hilton ballroom could be seen (courtesy of C-Span) fawning over government potentates — in some cases the very “sources” who had fed all those fictional sightings of Saddam Hussein’s W.M.D.  Colbert’s routine did not kill. The Washington Post reported that it “fell flat.” The Times initially did not even mention it. But to the Beltway’s bafflement, Colbert’s riff went viral overnight, ultimately to have a marathon run as the most popular video on iTunes. The cultural disconnect between the journalism establishment and the public it aspires to serve could not have been more vividly dramatized.


Our Discussion with Diedre Pike covered two basic questions:

How do the media handle environmental issues?
How can environmentalists get their messages out through the media?


In the Northstate, we are fortunate to have some nonprofit environmental media sources doing good independent journalsm, including (but not limited to):

Sierra Club, Yahi Group http://motherlode.sierraclub.org/yahi/index.html

Butte Environmental Council

The Nature Conservancy


Plus faculty and students at Butte College and Chico State, who have created exemplars of sustainable development on campus and in the community.

There are also a growing number of global online sites dedicated to green issues. These include:







These sites get their material from a variety of sources and most make use of interactive media to accept contributions—wiki style—from amateur reporters in the field.

Their articles are often snappy, clever, and optimistic, but they also publish some pretty hardcore and disturbing information about environmental issues.

What needs to be pointed out, however, is that most of these sites are also commercial and carry a wide range of advertising and article, most of it superficially “green,” but some downright suspicious:

For example, on Sunday two of these sites both contained articles and ads touting  “green-approved gifts for father’s day”—gifts and green, perhaps, but still selling stuff—eco-cotton T-shirts,. push lawn mowers, and some material called “Cowboy Charcoal,” which is alleged to burn cleaner than ordinary charcoal—but it’s still carbon and it still creates C02..

One site also had a lead “story”—an infomercial, really–about jewelry from recycled materials, which turned out to be hyping necklaces and earrings made in Sweden from clear plastic shards that look like ice and sell for $25 on up.  Consumerism recycled, we think.

And one of these sites had a detailed article on how to plan a green wedding that pictured the traditional rental awning and chairs set by the seashore—how much did that cost in embodied and transportation energy?–and included the advice that the happy couple should invite its travelers coming from long distances to purchase carbon offsets from an outfit called Terra Pass.

So we conclude: Ecobuyer Ecobeware.

Here is advice from Gavin Hudson on Ways to Change the World Through Social Media.  He writes:

[…] For most of us, social media has changed our lives in some meaningful way. Collectively it is changing the world for good. Given the pace of innovation and adoption, change has become a constant. Every so often we find the need to stop and reflect on its most recent and noteworthy developments, hence the following list.

Take Social Action:  The Social Actions dot org website just gave a prize to an Interactive Map […] that  is a virtual tour of the world through the lens of social action. […]  [Unfortunately, when we followed the link, we couldn’t access the map, which supposedly allows you to mouse over the world and learn about social action projects. Meanwhile, the social actions site itself includes all kinds of do-it-yourself activities to give direction to your own activism.]

Twitter with a Purpose: […] From Tweetsgiving, the virtual Thanksgiving feast, to the Twestival, which organized 202 off-line events around the world to benefit charity: water, it’s become the de facto tool for organizing and taking action.

Visit White House 2.0 [an interactive community forum]: Inside of its first 100 days, the Obama administration has managed to set the historic benchmark for government transparency and accountability.[…]  The White House continues to raise the bar with its official Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter channels.

Host a[n Online] Social Media Event: […] No meaningful gathering of people is complete without an interactive online audience, especially when it’s so easy and cost effective to pull off. Essential tools include a broadband connection, laptop, video camera, projector, and screen. Add people and a purpose […]. Promote it through social media channels, and you have a social media event.

Travel the World: […]The idea is that social media has enabled each of us to have an audience. Whether through Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, or a personal blog, each of us can have influence and reach out.  [For example, an organization called] SalaamGarage coordinates trips for citizen journalists (that means you) to places like India and Vietnam in conjunction with non-government organizations like Seattle-based Peace Trees. The destination is the story.

Create a Web Page.  Drupal and WordPress. [are both open source web building programs. Our Ecotopia website is done on WordPress, and it’s a snap to use]:

Unite the World Through Video: [Make a video and post it on U-Tube.].

Rate a Company: The conversation about corporate social responsibility (CSR) takes place across the social web on blogs, Twitter, and YouTube, but a central hub for this information and opinion is still to be determined. SocialYell seeks to address this by building an online community […], where users can submit reviews of companies together with nonprofit organizations and even public figures like Michelle Obama. The major topics are the Environment, Health, Social Equity, Consumer Advocacy, and Charity. The reviews are voted and commented on by the community […] with both up (Yell) and down (shhh) voting.


1. Kill Your Television           3:00    Ned’s Atomic Dustbin

God Fodder

2. TV News Junkie    2:17    Frank Cole

DeSoto Street Band

3. Newspapers          2:42    Stan Ridgway


4. Too Much TV         3:03    Gan     Do That Again? … Again ?!?           Alternative Rock

5. Newspaper Man   3:04    Pete Seeger

Which Side Are You On?

6. Weave Me the Sunshine  4:28    Peter, Paul And Mary

The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary


Ecotopia #37 SummerSolstice

Posted by on 17 Jun 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Date:  06/14/09

On this episode of Ecotopia we celebrate the summer solstice,  the official beginning of summer, which happens on June 21, at 1:45 a.m. Greenwich Time  (or in the Sacramento Valley the Foothills and Beyond, on the 20th,  10:45 pm).


This is the third of our seasonal shows, which we launched just six months ago with winter solstice and continued with the spring equinox. In this program we bring you mix of factual information about the solstice, summer solstice traditions  from around the globe, a couple of do-it-yourself ideas for solstice celebrations, and lots of summery music.
What is the Summer Solstice?

From Wikipedia: A solstice is an astronomical event that occurs twice each year, when the tilt of the Earth’s axis is most inclined toward or away from the Sun, causing the Sun’s apparent position in the sky to reach its northernmost or southernmost extreme. The name is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because at the solstices, the Sun stands still in declination; that is, the apparent movement of the Sun’s path north or south comes to a stop before reversing direction.
The term solstice can also be used in a wider sense, as the date (day) when this occurs. The solstices, together with the equinoxes, are connected with the seasons. In some cultures they are considered to start or separate the seasons while in others they fall in the middle. The English expressions “midwinter” (winter solstice) and “midsummer” (summer solstice) may derive from a tradition according to which there were only two seasons: winter and summer.


Frank Asch

If sunlight fell like snowflakes,

gleaming yellow and so bright, we could build a sunman,

we could have a sunball fight,

we could watch the sunflakes

drifting in the sky.

We could go sleighing

in the middle of July

through sundrifts and sunbanks,

we could ride a sunmobile,

and we could touch sunflakes—

I wonder how they’d feel.

The Oven Bird
Robert Frost

There is a singer everyone has heard,

Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,

Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.

He says that leaves are old and that for flowers

Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.

He says the early petal-fall is past

When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers

On sunny days a moment overcast;

And comes that other fall we name the fall.

He says the highway dust is over all.

The bird would cease and be as other birds

But that he knows in singing not to sing.

The question that he frames in all but words

Is what to make of a diminished thing.

Cultural Traditions
from Religious Tolerance dot org

People around the world have observed spiritual and religious seasonal days of celebration during the month of June. Most have been religious holy days which are linked in some way to the summer solstice. […]

In pre-historic times, summer was a joyous time of the year for those Aboriginal people who lived in the northern latitudes. The snow had disappeared; the ground had thawed out; warm temperatures had returned; flowers were blooming; leaves had returned to the deciduous trees. Some herbs could be harvested, for medicinal and other uses. Food was easier to find. The crops had already been planted and would be harvested in the months to come. Although many months of warm/hot weather remained before the fall, they noticed that the days were beginning to shorten, so that the return of the cold season was inevitable.

The first (or only) full moon in June is called the Honey Moon. Tradition holds that this is the best time to harvest honey from the hives.  This time of year, between the planting and harvesting of the crops, was the traditional month for weddings. This is because many ancient peoples believed that the “grand [sexual] union” of the Goddess and God occurred in early May at Beltaine. Since it was unlucky to compete with the deities, many couples delayed their weddings until June. June remains a favorite month for marriage today. In some traditions, “newly wed couples were fed dishes and beverages that featured honey for the first month of their married life to encourage love and fertility. The surviving vestige of this tradition lives on in the name given to the holiday immediately after the ceremony: The Honeymoon.”

Most societies in the northern hemisphere, ancient and modern, have celebrated a festival on or close to Midsummer:

* Ancient Celts: Druids, the priestly/professional/diplomatic corps in Celtic countries, celebrated Alban Heruin (“Light of the Shore”). It was midway between the spring Equinox (Alban Eiler; “Light of the Earth”) and the fall Equinox (Alban Elfed; “Light of the Water”). “This midsummer festival celebrates the apex of Light, sometimes symbolized in the crowning of the Oak King, God of the waxing year. At his crowning, the Oak King falls to his darker aspect, the Holly King, God of the waning year…”  The days following Alban Heruin form the waning part of the year because the days become shorter.

* In Ancient China the summer solstice ceremony celebrated the earth, the feminine, and the yin forces. It complemented the winter solstice which celebrated the heavens, masculinity and yang forces.

*In Ancient GaulThe Midsummer celebration was called Feast of Epona, named after a mare goddess who personified fertility, sovereignty and agriculture. She was portrayed as a woman riding a mare.

*In Ancient Germanic, Slav and Celtic tribes in Europe: Ancient Pagans celebrated Midsummer with bonfires. “It was the night of fire festivals and of love magic, of love oracles and divination. It had to do with lovers and predictions, when pairs of lovers would jump through the luck-bringing flames…” It was believed that the crops would grow as high as the couples were able to jump. Through the fire’s power, “…maidens would find out about their future husband, and spirits and demons were banished.” Another function of bonfires was to generate sympathetic magic: giving a boost to the sun’s energy so that it would remain potent throughout the rest of the growing season and guarantee a plentiful harvest.

*In Ancient Rome the festival of Vestalia lasted from JUN-7 to JUN-15. It was held in honor of the Roman Goddess of the hearth, Vesta. Married women were able to enter the shrine of Vesta during the festival. At other times of the year, only the vestal virgins were permitted inside.

*In Christian countries the feast day of St. John the Baptist was set as JUN-24. It “is one of the oldest feasts, if not the oldest feast, introduced into both the Greek and Latin liturgies to honour a saint.”  Curiously, the feast is held on the alleged date of his birth. Other Christian saints’ days are observed on the anniversary of their death. The Catholic Encyclopedia explains that St. John was “filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother’s womb…[thus his] birth…should be signalized as a day of triumph.”  His feast day is offset a few days after the summer solstice, just as Christmas is fixed a few days after the winter solstice.  “Just as John was the forerunner to Jesus, midsummer forecasts the eventual arrival of” the winter solstice circa DEC-21.

*The Essenes were a Jewish religious group active in Palestine during the 1st century CE. It was one of about 24 Jewish groups in the country — the only one that used a solar calendar. Other Jewish groups at the time included the Sadducees, Pharisees, Zealots, followers of John, and followers of Yeshua (Jesus). Archaeologists have found that the largest room of the ruins at Qumran (location of the Dead Sea Scrolls) appears to be a sun temple. The room had been considered a dining room by earlier investigators, in spite of the presence of two altars at its eastern end. At the time of the summer solstice, the rays of the setting sun shine at 286 degrees along the building’s longitudinal axis, and illuminate the eastern wall. The room is oriented at exactly the same angle as the Egyptian shrines dedicated to the sun. Two ancient authorities — the historian Josephus and the philosopher Filon of Alexandria — had written that the Essenes were sun worshipers. Until recently, their opinion had been rejected by modern historians.

The Old Swimmin’ Hole

James Whitcomb Riley

Oh! the old swimmin’-hole! whare the crick so still and deep

Looked like a baby-river that was laying half asleep,

And the gurgle of the worter round the drift jest below

Sounded like the laugh of something we onc’t ust to know

Before we could remember anything but the eyes

Of the angels lookin’ out as we left Paradise;

But the merry days of youth is beyond our controle,

And it’s hard to part ferever with the old swimmin’-hole.

Oh! the old swimmin’-hole! In the happy days of yore,

When I ust to lean above it on the old sickamore,

Oh! it showed me a face in its warm sunny tide

That gazed back at me so gay and glorified,

It made me love myself, as I leaped to caress

My shadder smilin’ up at me with sich tenderness.

But them days is past and gone, and old Time’s tuck his toll

From the old man come back to the old swimmin’-hole.

Oh! the old swimmin’-hole! In the long, lazy days

When the humdrum of school made so many run-a-ways,

How plesant was the jurney down the old dusty lane,

Whare the tracks of our bare feet was all printed so plane

You could tell by the dent of the heel and the sole

They was lots o’ fun on hands at the old swimmin’-hole.

But the lost joys is past! Let your tears in sorrow roll

Like the rain that ust to dapple up the old swimmin’-hole.

Thare the bullrushes growed, and the cattails so tall,

And the sunshine and shadder fell over it all;

And it mottled the worter with amber and gold

Tel the glad lilies rocked in the ripples that rolled;

And the snake-feeder’s four gauzy wings fluttered by

Like the ghost of a daisy dropped out of the sky,

Or a wownded apple-blossom in the breeze’s controle

As it cut acrost some orchard to’rds the old swimmin’-hole.

Oh! the old swimmin’-hole! When I last saw the place,

The scenes was all changed, like the change in my face;

The bridge of the railroad now crosses the spot

Whare the old divin’-log lays sunk and fergot.

And I stray down the banks whare the trees ust to be—

But never again will theyr shade shelter me!

And I wish in my sorrow I could strip to the soul,

And dive off in my grave like the old swimmin’-hole.


from Religious Tolerance dot org

Our description of cultural traditions surrounding the solstice would not be complete without a discussion of Stonehenge in England: Historically, the summer solstice has been a time   for divination and healing rituals. Divining rods and wands are traditionally cut at this time.

From prehistoric Europe many remains of ancient stone structures can be found throughout Europe. Some date back many millennia BCE. Many appear to have religious/astronomical purposes; others are burial tombs. These structures were built before writing was developed. One can only speculate on the significance of the summer solstice to the builders. Perhaps the most famous of these structures is Stonehenge, a megalith monument on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. It was built in three stages, between circa 3000 and 1500 BCE. “The circular bank and ditch, double circle of ‘bluestones’ (spotted dolerite), and circle of sarsen stones (some with white lintels), are concentric, and the main axis is aligned on the midsummer sunrise–an orientation that was probably for ritual rather than scientific purposes.   Four “station stones” within the monument form a rectangle whose shorter side also points in the direction of the midsummer sunrise.

The celebration of the solstice at Stonhenge has continued from the Druids’ time to our own. In recent years, partying at Stonhenge has gotten a bit on the wild side, and  to a recent news article in the Guardian, police, are trrying to:

allay growing concern that a “zero tolerance” approach during the summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge could lead to serious trouble.

Officers maintained they would police the ancient site in a fair and sensitive manner and played down comparisons to the tense build-up to last month’s G20 protests and to notorious clashes of the past such as the Battle of the Beanfield in 1985, when police stopped a convoy of new age travellers who were hoping to get near the henge for the solstice.

At a meeting […] between police, English Heritage, druids and others who attend the event, fears were expressed that trouble could be provoked if the police at the site in Wiltshire clamped down heavily on offences such as possession of cannabis and being drunk and disorderly.

There were also worries that the new police tactics, which include using an unmanned drone that will fly above the stones, and the reintroduction of police horses, could spoil one of the great English celebrations. […]

Brian Viziondanz, for the group Infinite Possibility, which supports peaceful protest, said he took the police reassurances with a pinch of salt and added: “There’s a shroud coming down on our freedom. There is more and more control over our lives. It’s a monster coming into our society.”


Dozens videos are available free on YouTube showing the summer solstice at Stonehenge and elsewhere. See: http://www.youtube.com/

Native American summer observations, this from Religious Tolerance dot org:

–The Natchez tribe in the southern U.S. “worshiped the sun and believed that their ruler was descended from him. Every summer they held a first fruits ceremony.” Nobody was allowed to harvest the corn until after the feast.

— Males in the Hopi tribe dressed up as Kachinas – the dancing spirits of rain and fertility who were messengers between humanity and the Gods. At Midsummer, the Kachinas were believed to leave the villages to spend the next six months in the mountains, where they were believed to visit the dead underground and hold ceremonies on their behalf.

Native Americans have created countless stone structures linked to equinoxes and solstices. Many are still standing. One was called Calendar One by its modern-day discoverer. It is in a natural amphitheatre of about 20 acres in size in Vermont. From a stone enclosure in the center of the bowl, one can see a number of vertical rocks and other markers around the edge of the bowl “At the summer solstice, the sun rose at the southern peak of the east ridge and set at a notch at the southern end of the west ridge.” The winter solstice and the equinoxes were similarly marked. 5

The Bighorn Medicine Wheel west of Sheridan, WY is perhaps the most famous of the 40 or more similar “wheels” on the high plains area of the Rocky Mountains. Mostly are located in Canada. At Bighorn, the center of a small cairn, that is external to the main wheel, lines up with the center of the wheel and the sun rising at the summer equinox. Another similar sighting cairn provides a sighting for three dawn-rising stars: Aldebaran, Rigel and Sirius. A third cairn lines up with fourth star: Fomalhaut. The term “medicine wheel” was coined by Europeans; it was a term used to describe anything native that white people didn’t understand.


William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance or nature’s changing course untrimmed.

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;

Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Carol Frost
“All Summer Long”
The dogs eat hoof slivers and lie under the porch.

A strand of human hair hangs strangely from a fruit tree

like a cry in the throat. The sky is clay for the child who is past

being tired, who wanders in waist-deep

grasses. Gnats rise in a vapor,

in a long mounting whine around her forehead and ears.

The sun is an indistinct moon. Frail sticks

of grass poke her ankles,

and a wet froth of spiders touches her legs

like wet fingers. The musk and smell

of air are as hot as the savory

terrible exhales from a tired horse.

The parents are sleeping all afternoon,

and no one explains the long uneasy afternoons.

She hears their combined breathing and swallowing

salivas, and sees their sides rising and falling

like the sides of horses in the hot pasture.

At evening a breeze dries and crumbles

the sky and the clouds float like undershirts

and cotton dresses on a clothesline. Horses

rock to their feet and race or graze.

Parents open their shutters and call

the lonely, happy child home.

The child who hates silences talks and talks

of cicadas and the manes of horses.

cruel, cruel summer
D. A. Powell

either the postagestamp-bright inflorescence of wild mustard

or the drab tassel of prairie smoke, waving its dirty garments

either the low breeze through the cracked window

or houseflies and drawn blinds to spare us the calid sun

one day commands the next to lie down, to scatter:      we’re done

with allegiance, devotion, the malicious idea of what’s eternal

picture the terrain sunk, return of the inland sea, your spectacle

your metaphor, the scope of this twiggy dominion pulled under

crest and crest, wave and cloud, the thunder blast and burst of swells

this is the sum of us:      brief sneezeweed, brief yellow blaze put out

so little, your departure, one plunk upon the earth’s surface,

one drop to bind the dust, a little mud, a field of mud

the swale gradually submerged, gradually forgotten

and that is all that is to be borne of your empirical trope:

first, a congregated light, the brilliance of a meadowland in bloom

and then the image must fail, as we must fail, as we

graceless creatures that we are, unmake and befoul our beds

don’t tell me deluge.      don’t tell me heat, too damned much heat.

Summer Job
Richard Hoffman

“The trouble with intellectuals,” Manny, my boss,

once told me, “is that they don’t know nothing

till they can explain it to themselves.   A guy like that,”

he said, “he gets to middle age—and by the way,

he gets there late; he’s trying to be a boy until

he’s forty, forty-five, and then you give him five

more years until that craziness peters out, and now

he’s almost fifty—a guy like that at last explains

to himself that life is made of time, that time

is what it’s all about.   Aha! he says.   And then

he either blows his brains out, gets religion,

or settles down to some major-league depression.

Make yourself useful.   Hand me that three-eights

torque wrench—no, you moron, the other one.”

Summer Fun and Facts for Kids

For the Do-It-Yourself part of our summer solstice program, we draw on the website of  Ellen Jackson, author of a children’s book, Summer Solstice.  She writes:

From ancient times to the present, people have found many ways to express their thankfulness for the sun’s gift of warmth and light. THE SUMMER SOLSTICE depicts the mysterious rites of the Egyptians, the tales of fairies and selkies, the modern parades and baseball games–all part of the fun and folklore of this happy time.

She gives some FACTS ABOUT SUMMER for the younger set, including that:

• Animals teach their young how to find food in the summer. Wolves teach their pups to hunt, and female brown bats carry their babies with them to show them how to catch insects.

• Summer is the best time to look for fireflies. In South America, fireflies signal each other with red or green lights. In North America, fieflies signal with yellow lights.

• Snails are active in the summer, but if it gets too hot or too dry for them, they enter a period of inactivity known as estivation. They find a safe place—such as a tree trunk or the underside of a leaf and they stop moving and stay in their shell.

• The month of June may have been named for Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage. For this reason, June was thought to be a good month for weddings.

• The six hottest weeks of summer–the second half of July and all of August–are called the dog days because Sirius, the Dog Star, can be seen overhead in the sky.

• In North America, the middle of August is a good time to see shooting stars.

Author Ellen Jackson also offers  a summer game for the youngest kids; It’s called Leo The Lion (K-3), Leo being the sun sign for people born in the months of July and August. Here is a lion game you can play:

A player is selected to be Leo. Leo gets down on all fours in his 10-foot square “cage” (drawn with chalk). The other children jump in and out of the cage or run through it. They try to avoid being tagged by Leo. If Leo touches one of the children, that child takes Leo’s place.

Here from  Ellen Jackson is a SUMMER TREAT FOR YOUR DOG

You will need:

1 weiner, diced
1 can chicken broth
can opener


Pour broth into ice cube containers. Add a piece or two of diced weiner. Freeze. Dogs love this one!

And finally from Ellen Jackson, a summer joke

How do farm animals like the hot summer weather?
A sheep says, “Bah!”
A pig says, “I’m bacon!

Playlist for Ecotopia #37: SummerSolstice

1. Summertime, Summertime (Single Version) 2:01    The Jamies   Pop Music: The Golden Era 1951-1975

2. Girls In Their Summer Clothes (Live Version)           5:19    Bruce Springsteen    Girls In Their Summer Clothes

3. Summertime        3:01    Billie Holiday   Remember Lady Day (Gone for 50 Years)

4. In The Summertime        3:42    Mungo Jerry   In The Summertime – Greatest Hits

5. Lean In      5:15    MaMuse   All The Way

6. A Summer Song  2:39    Chad & Jeremy    A Summer Song      Folk

7. Summertime Blues         2:01    Eddie Cochran   The Best Of Eddie Cochran

8. A Summer Wind, A Cotton Dress         3:55    Richard Shindell   Blue Divide

9. Glorious     5:19    MaMuse    All The Way  Folk

10. Weave Me the Sunshine         4:28    Peter, Paul And Mary   The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary

Ecotopia #36 The Dangerous World of Butterflies

Posted by on 10 Jun 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Date: 9 June 09

The Dangerous World of Butterflies

Tonight we turn to the butterfly and we talk with Peter Laufer, author of a new book with the intriguing title of The Dangerous World of Butterflies.

Recent News and Facts About Butterflies

Butterfly facts. From Milkweed Café dot com comes some interesting facts about the butterfly. [Incidentally, Milkweed–the plant, not the website–is one of the major food sources for the Monarch butterfly, from which it actually ingests poison that make the Monarch distasteful to predators.]

Did you know……that the wings of butterflies and moths are actually transparent?

The iridescent scales, which overlap like shingles on a roof, give the wings the colors that we see. Contrary to popular belief, many butterflies can be held gently by the wings without harming the butterfly. Of course, some are more fragile than others, and are easily damaged if not handled very gently. Both butterflies and moths belong to the order lepidoptera. In Greek, this means scale wing.

Did you know that butterflies taste with their feet?

Their taste sensors are located in the feet, and by standing on their food, they can taste it! All butterflies have six legs and feet. In some species such as the monarch, the front pair of legs remains tucked up under the body most of the time, and are difficult to see.

Did you know that butterflies don’t have mouths that allow them to bite or chew?

They, along with most moths have a long straw like structure called a proboscis which they use to drink nectar and juices. When not in use, the proboscis remains coiled like a garden hose. Some moths, like the Luna moth don’t have a proboscis. Their adult lifespan is very short, and they do not eat.  They simply seek a mate, reproduce, then die. The Asian Vampire moth pierces the skin with its strong, sharp proboscis and drinks the blood of animals.

Did you know that a caterpillar grows to about 27,000 times the size it was when it first emerged from its egg?

If a human baby weighed 9 pounds at birth and grew at the same rate as a caterpillar, it would weigh 243,000 pounds when fully grown. Because the caterpillar’s skin doesn’t grow along with it as ours does, it must periodically shed the skin as it becomes too tight. Most caterpillars molt five times before entering the pupa stage.


The Butterfly Effect. And then there’s this curious phenomenon called “the butterfly effect,” which is less about entomology than about chaos theory. As reported by Wikipedia:

The term “butterfly effect” itself is related to the work of Edward Lorenz, and is based in chaos theory and sensitive dependence on initial conditions [….] In 1961, Lorenz was using a numerical computer model to rerun a weather prediction, when, as a shortcut on a number in the sequence, he entered the decimal .506 instead of entering the full .506127 the computer would hold. The result was a completely different weather scenario. Lorenz published his findings in a 1963 paper for the New York Academy of Sciences noting that “One meteorologist remarked that if the theory were correct, one flap of a seagull‘s wings could change the course of weather forever.” Later speeches and papers by Lorenz used the more poetic butterfly. According to Lorenz, upon failing to provide a title for a talk he was to present at the 139th meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1972, Philip Merilees concocted Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas as a title.

A Sound of Thunder. Ray Bradbury’s 1952 short story, “A Sound of Thunder,” provided a science fiction look at the butterfly effect. In terms of our discussion tonight, it raises the question: Do butterflies matter? In that story, an enterprising time travel company allows big game hunters to go back in time and shoot dinosaurs. The caveat is that nothing in the past can be altered by the hunters, for this would affect the future. Thus the hunters get to kill only dinosaurs that were just about to die anyway. To make this short story shorter, one of the hunters panics when he sees the dinosaur and briefly steps off an elevated path designed to keep the hunters from touching and therefore interfering with the earth and thus its future. When the travelers return to the present, they are astonished to see that everything is slightly changed: language, their offices, even the outcome of elections. Everything is different, wrong, mysterious. The hunter looks at his shoe, where he picked up a bit of mud when he strayed off the path:

“Embedded in the mud, glistening green and gold and black, was a butterfly, very beautiful and very dead.

‘Not a little thing like that! Not a butterfly!’ cried [the hunter].

It fell to the floor, an exquisite thing, a small thing that could upset balances and knock down a line of small dominoes and then big dominoes and [the Hunter’s] mind whirled. It couldn’t change things. Killing one butterfly couldn’t be that important! Could it?

Ray Bradbury, “A Sound of Thunder,” in R is for Rocket, (New York: Doubleday, 1952)


International  Butterfly Trade. Does the killing of one butterfly matter? Well, for sure, the international community is increasingly concerned about protecting butterflies. We want to reread a story we presented on the very second episode of Ecotopia last fall. It concerns illegal insect gathering in India, and you can do time for it.

KOLKATA, India: The conviction of Czech scientist Emil Kucera – who was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment by the chief judicial magistrate’s court in Darjeeling on Wednesday for violating the Biodiversity Act – will go a long way in protecting the region’s forest resources.

Forest officials, who had been working hard to ensure that Kucera and his biologist companion Petr Svacha did not get away, were elated by the judgment. Svacha, however, has been let off with a fine.

“It is a landmark judgment. Over the last few years, there have been several cases of illegal collection of insects and butterflies. But none was punished. This time, we were hell-bent on ensuring that the offenders did not get away just because they were foreigners. We had gathered enough evidence that helped to nail the duo,” said Utpal Nag, assistant divisional forest officer of Darjeeling, who played a key role in getting Kucera and Svacha arrested and jailed.

It was under his leadership that forest officials collected 46 documents against the Czechs. These included their e-mails, photographs taken by a digital camera, a pen drive and instruments used to collect butterflies from the Singalila National Park.

“Some of the documents were quite incriminating. But the fact remained that they were foreigners and that the Czech ambassador was playing an active role to ensure their release. It, however, did not deter us from pursuing the case. We always knew that their intentions were suspect and that they had come here to collect butterflies knowing fully well that it was not permitted,” added Nag.


Our Questions for Peter Laufer

Peter Laufer is author of The Dangerous World of Butterflies. His books include Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq and Wetback Nation: The Case for Opening the Mexican-American Border. He is also co-anchor of a weekly current affairs program on Radio Green 960 in San Francisco.

Part I: The Dangerous World of Butterflies

· You have done books about some of the biggest political issues of our time—Iraq and immigration. You’ve gone face to face with Bill O’Reilly. Now a book about butterflies. How did that come about?

· The title of your book is The Dangerous World of Butterflies. Where does this danger lie? with the poor little butterflies? with those who would protect them?

· Much of your book focuses on issues that are created, directly or indirectly, by collectors. As kids, we netted, chloroformed, and mounted butterflies. Is that really such a big problem?

· Who are some of the players in the world of butterfly collecting? Are there good guys and bad guys, in your opinion? How would you characterize the “uses” of butterflies?

· What are the some of the conflicts between the so-called “butterfly huggers” and butterfly breeders?

· Earlier, we reread a story we first reported on this program in September regarding the arrest of Czechs Emil Kucera and Petr Svacha in India. You’ve followed up on that story. What did you learn about this issue? What does it tell us about the international trade in butterflies (and other endangered insects)?

· Who are some of the other butterfly traffickers covered in your book? [Yoshi Kojima. Richard Skalski.] How would you evaluate their impact on the world of butterflies?

· How do people use butterflies in art? What do you think about people who use segments of butterfly wings to create works of “art”?

· Do you believe any butterflies have been deliberately driven to extinction in order to raise the price on the market?

Part II: In the first part of the program, we talked about some of the skullduggery in the world of butterfly collection. In this segment, let’s talk about endangered butterflies and conservation efforts.

· You say that habitat destruction is probably a greater danger to the butterfly than illicit collection and smuggling. Please explain.

· You spend a chapter on probably the best known butterfly—the Monarch. First please tell us a little about their amazing migration; then, perhaps something of their endangered wintering grounds and the ecological efforts of Jose Alcala and Ed Rashin to preserve those grounds. What are they doing and how is it working?

· The Bush administration border wall; does it have an impact on butterfly migration? How? —can’t the butterflies just flutter over it?

· Let’s talk about Jana Johnson and the Antioch Dunes restoration project. Where are the Antioch Dunes and why do they need to be restored? What have been the successes? How does this effort make a difference? Aren’t these efforts just a drop in the bucket?

· We mentioned the “butterfly effect” earlier in the program. How many butterflies could go extinct before—to mix metaphors and use one of yours—we’ve lost too many rivets on spaceship earth?

· What, in the end, are butterflies good for?

· Do you see an Ecotopian connection between butterflies and the troubled world we live in?

· How has doing this book changed you?

· What’s your next book?

The Dangerous World of Butterflies is published by the Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot. You can learn more about Peter on his website: http://www.peterlaufer.com/ and you can check out other Lyons Press books at http://www.lyonspress.com/


You  can become part of the global butterfly preservation movement by creating a butterfly garden. Colleen Smith of Denver writes on Examiner dot com:

Butterflies are darlings of the insect world. Like bugs in elaborate costumes, like beautiful flowers in flight, butterflies grace our gardens, spreading their papery wings, flitting here, poised there, all the while enchanting the onlooker with their elusive lightness of being.

Even the names of butterflies evoke the fanciful. With categories that include satyrs, wood-nymphs and grass-nymphs, Colorado counts among her native butterflies the Creamy Marble and the Lilac-bordered Copper, the Pearl Crescent and the Painted Lady, the Mourning Cloak, the Funeral Duskywing, the Silver-spotted Skipper.

For all their ethereal charm and delicateness, butterflies are tougher than their delicate appearance belies. Some fly as far as 2,000 miles in migration, soaring at altitudes of up to 7,000 feet above the surface of Earth. Except for the coldest environments where a lack of plant life can’t sustain caterpillars, butterflies inhabit most of the world’s ecosystems.

Yet many environments are becoming uninhabitable for the planet’s 20,000-some butterfly species. Consequently, their populations have taken a nose-dive, particularly in industrialized nations, where some butterflies are now extinct, and others have landed on the endangered species list.

You can help the butterfly population by planting a garden with these lovelies in mind. Habitat gardening has been on the upswing, largely due to a heightened awareness of how our changing environment. When we replace meadows and forests with parking lots and office buildings, apartment complexes and strip centers, we eliminate natural habitat. When we’re left with cement and metal, we lack the ideal living arrangement for insects. (This affects more species than just butterflies.)

    • The first rule in butterfly gardening is to eliminate the use of pesticides that kill insects, including butterflies. To survive and reproduce, butterflies need three elements: habitat that includes shelter, food plants for larvae, and nectar source for adults.
    • Plantings should include a variety of species that bloom at different times of the season. Planting flowers in clusters makes it easier for butterflies to locate and access the nectar sources. And gardens most successful in attracting butterflies have blossoms of different colors and varying heights
    • Plants are important for both larvae food and nectar sources. One of the best annuals for attracting butterflies is zinnias. For perennials, choose butterfly bush, the buddleia. Both of these choices respond well to our climate and growing conditions.
    • Some butterfly species are specific about plants they feed on, and adults will lay eggs on these plants to provide a food source for caterpillars. Dill, parsley and carrots, for example, attract black swallowtails. I plant dill every season for the swallowtails. Viburnum, sweet alyssum, hollyhock, and milkweed provide both nectar sources and act as host plants to butterflies laying eggs.
    • Place bowls of fresh water bowls in the butterfly garden, then add a rock or two so the butterflies have a place to perch and bask in the sun. Or if you have a bird bath, add a rock so the butterflies will feel welcome, too.
    • Butterflies also enjoy mud puddles. They find minerals and nutrients in there when they’re puddling. If the habitat doesn’t have natural occurring mud puddles, gardeners can add a shallow bowl of dirt kept moist. Another tip recommends occasionally adding a few grains of salt to the bowl to provide the sodium required by butterflies.
    • In addition to plants, gardeners can set out rotting fruit, fruit juice. The rind of watermelon will attract butterflies. (But also other flies.)
    • The butterfly garden also should include shelter for roosting and sleeping. When winds kick up, they need something to grab onto and a place to stay.

Habitat gardens can benefit butterflies substantially because they will quickly recolonize an area if what they need is there. Wildflowers can make a difference, too, in gardens because they can serve as nectar plants or host plants.


Playlist for Ectopia #36: The Dangerous World of Butterflies

1. Little Butterfly 4:01 Susannah Blachly Come On H
2. Baby Butterfly 2:29    Mr. Nicky Rattlesnakes for Breakfast
3. Little Butterfly (Remastered 2001) 5:14 Carmen McRae Carmen Sings Monk
4. Four Little Butterflies 4:38 Kin Behind Closed Doors
5. Poor Butterfly 4:18 Johnny Mathis       Johnny
6. Weave Me the Sunshine 4:28 Peter, Paul And Mary The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary
7. Royal Garden Blues 1:54 Don Byron Bug Music
8. Powerhouse 2:56 Don Byron Bug Music

#34 Ecotopian News

Posted by on 02 Jun 2009 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

May 26, 2009

Tonight our program will focus on Ecotopian News from around the world. We’ll look at some news stories—all published within the month—that tell us about the state of the air, earth, water, and fire. With each of these segments, we will include some sources for do-it-yourself ecotopianism—ways you can work in your home, neighborhood, and the community to help preserve and rescue the earth.

Listen to Ecotopia #34, Ecotopian News, now!


From the Sunday, May. 24, edition of the San Luis Obispo times comes this about air quality. David Sneed writes: of a flag system at a local elementary school that announces air quality:

A new flag flutters on the pole at Carrisa Plains School just below Old Glory and the California state flag. Most days, it will be a green flag, occasionally yellow and rarely orange or red. The color of the flag indicates the day’s air quality

On May 12, Carrisa Plains became the first school in San Luis Obispo County to participate in a new outreach program designed to raise public awareness about air quality, said Arlin Genet, spokeswoman for the county Air Pollution Control District. The color-coded flag system is part of the national Air Quality Index program. Its purpose is to communicate daily air-quality information so that people can take precautions when their area is impacted by smoke from wildfires, dust or other air quality problems.

“Until now, we haven’t had the resources to implement it in the county,” Arlin Genet said. The day’s flag color is based on ozone and particulate levels. Both are lung irritants that can cause a variety of health problems…. The air district has enough money to enroll 10 schools in the program. Money for more schools will become available in July with the arrival of a new fiscal year.


Intrigued by the San Luis story, we went online to read about air quality alerts, and we were amazed and discouraged to Google up over 75 air quality warnings in just the past week.

It probably comes as no surprise that Air Quality in Iraq is causing military personnel to have allergic reactions. Air Quality Tips reports:

Careful analysis of over 6,000 soldiers’ medical records has revealed that troops deployed to the Middle East are at an increased risk for developing allergic diseases.  The comparison was made between soldiers who had served in the Persian Gulf and soldiers who were stationed stateside.  “All of them say they didn’t have allergies before [they served],” remarks researcher Anthony Szema, M.D., of Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northport, N.Y.

The numbers show that 9.9% of soldiers in the middle east were developing allergies or asthma while only 5.1% of homeland stationed personnel were experiencing symptoms.  This ratio held true for both men and women troops and led researchers to ask why there was such a disparity between the number of cases occurring only in the U.S. versus cases with time spent in Iraq and its surrounding area.

The study was conducted after the Department of Defense noted that 13% of all medic visits in Iraq were for new cases of allergies, asthma or other respiratory ailments.  After being discharged, soldiers were showing up at VA Hospitals with complaints about prolonged periods of coughing, stuffy nose and wheezing.

Experts say that much more study is needed to accurately pinpoint the cause of the pattern in developing new cases of allergies, but they do have an idea of some of the likely culprits.  The tents and trailers that soldiers inhabit in the desert climate are often choked with dust that contributes to general lung and throat irritation.  Air conditioners that are used in these settings provide moisture that allows dust mite populations to explode.  Another factor that may contribute to the problem could be lung injury due to the high amount of pollution soldiers have inhaled while in the Middle East.

The recommendation made to the soldiers was to wear a protective dust mask for immediate and protection against pollution and allergens,


Other bad air news comes from James Bruggers, of the Louisville Record-Courier who reports that :

A toxic chemical once used to dry-clean clothes, extinguish fires, and even clean collectable stamps was mostly phased out of production more than a decade ago, yet it lingers in Louisville’s air and around the world…Carbon tetrachloride is still detected by air-quality monitoring equipment run by the University of Louisville, even though Louisville industries have reported no emissions of it since 1990 and dry cleaners haven’t used it for at least 17years […] Most uses of carbon tetrachloride were discontinued in the United States for health and safety reasons in the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classified the chemical as a probable human carcinogen that was also known to damage the liver, kidneys and brain. It was largely phased out of production worldwide in 1996 to protect the Earth’s ozone layer. But for nine years since U of L started monitoring for toxic chemicals in Louisville air, carbon tet has been detected at levels that could cause between one and 100 additional cancer cases among 1 million people over a lifetime of exposure — or up to 100 times higher than the city deems safe.[…] http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20090524/GREEN01/905240387/1003/business/Phased-out+carbon+tetrachloride+lingers+in+Louisville+s+air and KentuckianGreen.com

And in the Houston Chronicle, Matthew Tresaugue reports a new study to discover what might seem to be pretty obvious, that :

[…] emissions coming from flares at refineries and chemical plants may play in the formation of smog. The $3 million project — which involves scientists from the University of Houston, University of California at Los Angeles and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, among other institutions — targets the releases of chemicals known as radical precursors, including formaldehyde, that may exacerbate the eight-county region’s smog problem more than previously realized. An estimated 1,600 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds are released in the Houston region each day. They mix with sunlight to form ozone, a colorless gas that can cause lung damage. http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/6439826.html

We don’t want to dwell overmuch on the bad air news, though it is important to see that air pollution problems are enormous and complex. One optimistic bit of news comes from Green Right Now reports from ABC TV in Los Angeles:

The U S D[epartment of] A[griculture]’s Natural Resources Conservation Service says it will add $5 million to California’s air quality resources. With the grant, California has received a total of $20.9 million from NRCS to help farmers and ranchers reduce air quality emissions from off-road mobile or stationary agricultural sources.

The primary goal of this new portion of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program is to help farmers and ranchers attain the standards set by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Producers in the 36 California counties that are currently not in compliance with one or more of these standards.

[…] The funds help pay for practices that have been shown to reduce ozone precursors, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), particulate matter and fine emissions from agricultural sources. The agency says applications will be ranked and funded based on the amount of emission reductions achieved in the proposed plan. The 36 eligible [presently noncompliant] counties [include] Amador, Butte, Nevada, Placer, Stanislaus, Sutter, and Yolo.

You may recall that we talked about the effects of VOCs and other air pollutants in our interview with the author of The Body Toxic, Nina Baker. You can listen to that interview by going to our archives for September 23, 2008, where you will also find links to informative sites on toxins and the environment.


From the San Francisco’s “Examiner.com” comes this story from a Denver writer, Colleen Smith, on religious groups’ acknowledgement of the need to care for the earth: She reviews: Bottom of Form“Oneness: Great Principles Shared By All Religions”, a book by Jeffrey Moses, with a foreword by the Dalai Lama.

Jeffrey Moses writes:

“The world’s scriptures were written long before the earth was burdened with the intense levels of pollution that we have today. Even so, each religion emphasizes the importance of preserving the indigenous resources and beauty of our planet.

“Our very existence depends upon the normal, healthful interaction of many different levels of the natural world—ranging from the smallest microbes to the vastness of the seas and atmosphere. When nature is defiled, every person ultimately suffers. For this reason, every religion states that nature should be preserved and that we must be aware and responsible for our interactions with the earth.

“Preserving the ecology may be a problem affecting society as a whole, but the solution must come on the level of individuals. Only when people understand the universality of their own inner nature can they live harmoniously with the rest of the natural world. This is the basis for care of our planet: the growing worldwide awareness that the inner self of every person touches the universal Being, uniting every person and every thing on earth.”

• From Christianity: “The earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs…receiveth blessing from God.”

• From Buddhism: “Do not contaminate the water. Do not throw your waste or leftover food into rivers and lakes. In this way, you guard the lives of all living beings abiding therein.”

• Islam “There is no Muslim who planteth a tree, or soweth a field, and man, birds or beasts benefit from them, but it is a charity for him.

• Araphaho Native American: “Take only what you need and leave the land as you found it.”

• Hinduism “Care should always be taken of trees and forests because of the many healthful effects they have for mankind.”

• Confucianism.“If the seasons of agriculture be not interfered with, the grain will be more than can be eaten. If close nets are not allowed to enter the pools and ponds, the fish and turtles will be more than can be consumed. If the axes enter the hill-forests only at the proper times, the wood will be more than can be used.”

Yet recovering from the damage we have done to the earth is not easy. Xinhua, the Chinese news agency reports in a story by Guo Likun that Chinese Farmers are pinning hope on “Soil Doctors” to Cure Polluted Land. Guo wrtes:

Eight years after his arable land was polluted by heavy metals, Zhou Xiaobing finally saw hope of a harvest out of the infertility.

“I don’t know what magic they used, but, you see, the land is covered with plants again,” said the 37-year-old South China farmer […]

In 2001, flood water from the Huanjiang River carried mineral processing industry wastes from tailings dams of three major mining companies on the upper reaches to lower watercourses, causing infertility in more than 5,000 mu (about 750 acres) of arable land including Zhou’s 0.6 mu.

“This place didn’t even grow a blade of grass at that time,” Zhou said, standing beside his land, which, he claimed, used to yield 500 kilograms of grains a year. Now it is part of a 30-mu soil recovery base set up by one of China’s leading soil cleaning experts Chen Tongbin and his team in 2005.

Chen uses plants, such as a home-grown fern, to “suck up” heavy metals like arsenic, copper and zinc, from contaminated soil.

[…] They [then alternated rows of] the fern and cash crops including maize, sugar cane, and mulberry….

“We can rehabilitate the land and have yields at the same time,” he said. “It could help to increase farmer’s income.”

Last year, the maize in the [experimental area] grew so [well] villagers flocked to harvest [it], Chen said. His team members had to be on guard to tell the villagers the maize was not safe yet for eating as poisonous elements had not been cleaned up. […]

Through three years of rehabilitation […], the soil’s PH value got back to normal, the amount of arsenic in the soil was cut by 12 percent, the yield and quality of mulberry leaves had not been affected, and heavy metal contained in silk and silkworm pupa did not exceed the national level, according to the Center for Environmental Remediation.

Compared to water and air, soil contamination is the most dangerous because it is hidden and can only be reversed by human intervention as nature cannot do it, Chen said.


A recent publication called The New Orleans Residents’ Guide to Do-It-Yourself Soil Cleanup Using Natural Processes offers exactly what the title advertises. It advises that people whose soil has been contaminated should first get a soil test, then use “phytoremediation”—plants, to clean the soil. They write:

Plants are one of the main ways to remove toxins from your yard and to improve soil health. … Some absorb toxins in significant amounts—these are called hyper-accumulators. […] Some of the best hyperaccumulators are sunflowers and Indian mustard greens. Sunflowers extract lead but do not store any in their seeds, so they are safe to eat.

Among other plants recommended by this project are peas, Asiatic Dayflower, Brake Fern, Lambsquarters, Spinach, Carrots, Radish, Corn, and Carrots.

They also have recommendations for the use of mushrooms and fungi (mycoremediation) and the kinds of bacteria that develop in compost tea.


And we’ll conclude this segment on an Ecotopian Earth with a story by high school student Victoria Viksne from Vista del Lago High School in Moreno Valley, Calif. with A few suggestions to make your prom night greener for nature’s sake. She writes:

Prom is a night with a lot of impact — on young lives and on the environment. Just think of the clothes bought and used for one night and those gas-guzzling limos, and then extrapolate that to the number of proms happening every spring across the country. The waste adds up and it’s not pretty.  If every high schooler around the country went green for prom, our carbon footprint would be decreased. She recommends:

  • Be conscious of your beauty products
    One way to go green for prom is to buy all-natural makeup or hair products that also use recycled materials for packaging. It is better for the environment and often your skin. Also, make sure the products you buy are not tested on animals. Companies that bother to go organic probably also produce their products without blinding bunnies in test labs, but make sure.

    Another thing to check is that your hair spray does not contain CFCs, or chlorofluorocarbons. A tight style isn’t worth a hole in the ozone layer. […]

  • Look cool, look green
    Head to a local vintage clothing shop or thrift store. Vintage has never been cooler, and it’s a sure way to avoid wearing the same thing as someone else at the prom. No way someone else will be sporting that velvet suit you got at Goodwill. Why? Because used clothing wasn’t likely gunned out of a big factory recently. You won’t find your dress in eight other sizes and colors; you are guaranteed to be unique. You will also be making real use of post-consumer products instead of buying all-new materials. That’s reducing your footprint.
  • Ditch the limo
    Another way to go green for prom is to not splurge on that stretch limo.  Such vehicles are not fuel-efficient and can have high rental fees. It may sound lame, but carpool. Get the person in your date group with the nicest ride to drive so you don’t skimp on the glam.



First a few statistics from Information Please about the amount and quality of water on the earth:

The Antarctic Icecap is the largest supply of fresh water, representing nearly 2% of the world’s total. […] The amount of water in our atmosphere is over 10 times as much as the water in all the rivers taken together. The fresh water actually available for human use in lakes and rivers and the accessible ground water amount to only about one-third of 1% of the world’s total water supply.

97.2 % of the world’s water is found in the oceans. It’s thus disturbing to read of the major sources of debris in the world’s oceans. The 2006 International Coastal Cleanup enlisted half a million people in 70 countries in an effort that removed 7 million pounds of garbage from our oceans, including:
1,922,830 cigarettes and cigarette filters    632,161 food wrappers and containers
539,832 caps and lids
438,763 plastic and 328,239 glass beverage bottles
354,292 bags
317,447 cups, plates, knives, forks, and spoons

Even more disturbing is to learn that about 42% of the world’s population, or 2.6 billion people, live in families with no proper means of sanitation, and 1.1 billion do not have access to safe drinking water. Lack of water supply and sanitation services kills about 4,500 children a day.


The quest for clean reliable water sources is obviously one of the most crucial problems facing the world, and many argue that wars will be fought over water supply.  One ongoing war is between the people of Owens Valley, California, and the thirsty City of Los Angeles Water Department. As many of you know, in the first two decades of the twentieth century, Los Angeles bought up water rights in Owens Valley, and under the supervision of John Mulholland, built the Los Angeles Aqueduct and pipeline 250 miles to the city. Owens Valley was desiccated, and Los Angeles developed as an oasis. But according to a new story in the Los Angeles times, “In the Owens Valley, resentment again flows with the water.” Louis Sahagun reports from Lone Pine:

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is quietly prospecting once again for land and water rights in the Owens Valley, sparking tense disputes among residents over the agency’s influence on their economic stability. […].

“Sustainable communities — that’s what they are sucking out of this place along with our water,” said Scott Palamar, a photographer who moved to Lone Pine in July after his Malibu home was destroyed by a brush fire in 2007. “The DWP only wants just enough infrastructure to support its own operations. Beyond that, they don’t seem to care.”

The trouble started when a local real estate broker learned that the DWP, which already owns 25% of the Owens Valley floor, plans to buy 100 acres of privately held stream-side property just west of Independence, the Inyo County seat, for an estimated $4 million to $5 million. […]

“They are creating a net loss of private land in Inyo County and destroying our towns in the process,” said Jenifer Castaneda, a Lone Pine real estate broker and community activist who helped write the petition. “If they are going to take what little available private land there is left in the valley out of circulation, they should make an equal amount of land available in communities that are struggling to survive.”

“I understand their sentiments” and “I’m open to having conversations” about releasing property, DWP General Manger David Nahai said in an interview.

But he also pointed out that three years of drought, cutbacks in state water allocations and rationing and its $500-million dust-mitigation project at Owens Lake have left the agency trying to cope with “a seriously overburdened water supply.”

In the meantime, the communities of Olancha, Lone Pine, Independence and Big Pine continue to deteriorate, with most of their developable land controlled by the DWP.


And as we learned on this program three weeks ago in our interviews with Steve Rothert of American Rivers and Greg Werner of the Nature Conservancy, there is increasing demand for the absorption of northstate water into the Southern California water cistern. Just this week, the San Jose Mercury News published an investigative story that headlines: Pumping water and cash from Delta. Mike Taugher reports:

As the West Coast’s largest estuary plunged to the brink of collapse from 2000 to 2007, state water officials pumped unprecedented amounts of water out of the Delta only to effectively buy some of it back at taxpayer expense for a failed environmental protection plan ]…].

The “environmental water account” set up in 2000 to improve the Delta ecosystem spent nearly $200 million mostly to benefit water users while also creating a cash stream for private landowners and water agencies in the Bakersfield area.

Financed with taxpayer-backed environment and water bonds, the program spent most of its money in Kern County, a largely agricultural region at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley. There, water was purchased from the state and then traded back to the account for a higher price.

The proceeds were used to fund an employee retirement plan, buy land and groundwater storage facilities and pay miscellaneous costs to keep water bills low, documents and interviews show.

Revenues from those sales also might have helped finance a lawsuit against the Department of Water Resources, the same agency that wrote the checks, documents show.

No one appears to have benefitted more than companies owned or controlled by Stewart Resnick, a Beverly Hills billionaire, philanthropist and major political donor whose companies, including Paramount Farms, own more than 115,000 acres in Kern County.

Those companies sold $30.6 million of water to the state program, participated as a partner in an additional $16 million in sales and received an additional $3.8 million in checks and credits for sales through public water agencies, documents show.

“For a program that was supposed to benefit the environment, it apparently did two things — it didn’t benefit the environment and it appears to have enriched private individuals using public money,” said Jonas Minton, a water policy adviser to the Planning and Conservation League, a California environmental advocacy group.

Representatives of Resnick’s farm and water companies did not respond to repeated requests for interviews. […]

The state Department of Water Resources also declined to comment for this story.

There’s quite a bit more to this story, which we recommend that you read at http://www.mercurynews.com/breakingnews/ci_12439808.

Given that story of ecoabuse, we are probably allowed to be a bit skeptical about a story from the San Franciso Chronicle by Kelly Zito, that California will receive $440 million in economic stimulus money to ease water problems. Kelly writes:

The money, in the form of grants, subsidies and low-interest loans, is expected to spur hundreds of new water infrastructure projects as well as jump-start those stalled by California’s budget disaster, state and federal officials said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [… has] awarded $280 million to the State Water Resources Control Board’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund program for wastewater treatment, pollution control and estuary management projects. The state Department of Public Health’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program received $159 million for drinking-water infrastructure improvements.

The award is one slice of the $6 billion in water system improvement funds contained in President Obama’s American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009 – Washington’s effort to shore up the nation’s infrastructure while providing much-needed jobs.

The money comes with a catch – about 20 percent of it must go toward conservation, green infrastructure and energy-efficiency projects. In addition, the agencies will strongly favor “shovel-ready” projects because funds not used by February will disappear.


And as we close this segment on water news on Ecotopia, we want to remind you to check out the website of the Butte Environmental Council, becnet.org to keep track of BEC’s efforts on our behalf to keep northstate groundwater from being shipped to the south. http://www.becnet.org

Fire (Energy)

In this final segment of Ecotopia, we look at the environmental news concerning fire—or, more specifically, the oil and gasoline that we burn in our internal combustion engines.

You may recall that last December we interviewed Antonia Juhaz of Global Exchange, who has written on The Tyranny of Oil. We just received a press release concerning a new report written by Juhaz concerning Chevron Oil and its activities

Tomorrow, the 27th, Chevron will hold its annual stockholder’s meeting and will be presented with the 2008 annual report, what Antonia Juhaz and activist Nick Magel call

“a glossy celebration of the company’s most profitable year in its history and one in which CEO David O’Reilly became the 15th highest paid U.S. chief executive, with nearly $50 million in total 2008 compensation.”

“What Chevron’s annual report does not tell its shareholders is the true cost paid for those financial returns, or the global movement gaining voice and strength against Chevron’s abuses.”

Their report is called, “The True Cost of Chevron: an Alternative Annual Report.” . It covers

“Chevron’s operations, political control, consumer abuse, and false promises, [and] provides the most comprehensive exposé of Chevron’s operations – and the communities in struggle against them – ever compiled. It includes reports from Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, the Gulf Coast, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Utah, Washington, D.C, and Wyoming; internationally across Angola, Burma, Canada, Chad, Cameroon, Ecuador, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, and the Philippines.

The activists will then use proxies to enter Chevron on May 27 during its annual general meeting to discuss the report with shareholders while a protest/rally is held at Chevron’s front gates.

That event should make the evening news tomorrow evening. Meanwhile, you can read about the report at http://truecostofchevron.com/ and you can listen to our interview with Antonia Juhasz at ecotopiakzfr.org–just look in the archives for the December 18 show.

In that program, we also talked with Antonia Juhasz about the manipulation of oil prices—especially given that world oil consumption has gone down, partly due to people’s good behavior and environmental consciousness, but in no small measure due to the failing economy. More insights into current conditions are given in a story appearing in the SF Chronicle on Sunday, by David Baker, Supply up, demand down, but oil prices rise. In an article that puts the lie to everything we learned in our high school economics class , he writes;

Recessions usually bring cheap oil and gasoline.

But not now. And that has analysts worried that another fuel-price spike could be on the way.

Crude oil, the lifeblood of the global economy, costs $61.67, even as the world struggles through the worst recession since World War II. And prices are rising, climbing 26 percent in the last month.

Gas prices have jumped as a result, rising 12 cents in California last week to reach an average of $2.62 for a gallon of regular.

Compared with last year’s record oil price of $145.29 per barrel for oil sold on the New York Mercantile Exchange, $61 may not sound like much. But it’s twice the historic average for petroleum, which used to trade from $20 to $30. Prices briefly fell below $34 in December and February, but they’ve rebounded with a vengeance.

The economy hasn’t [recovered]. But oil traders are betting that the recession is at or near its worst, meaning a recovery could start later this year and drive up global demand for oil again. They’re trading on the possibility of a recovery, rather than a recovery itself. [Italics added….]

“The fact it’s going up now on nada is proof that speculators are still in control,” said Judy Dugan, research director with the nonprofit group Consumer Watchdog. “Unless there are curbs in place, it obviously could shoot through the roof again.”

[…] Even after last summer’s economic meltdown ended the bull market for oil and sent gas prices tumbling, drivers kept buying less. Americans used 2.7 percent less gasoline in the last four weeks than they did during the same period last year, according to the Energy Information Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Such weak sales should be keeping oil prices low. But traders have been gambling that the recession has finally bottomed out, with a recovery perhaps starting later this year. That would increase worldwide demand for petroleum.

“I think there’s no question that supply-demand fundamentals are not reflected in the current (oil) price,” said Tyson Slocum, director of the energy program at the Public Citizen watchdog group, which supports cracking down on oil-market speculation. “Is this a preview to $145 oil? I don’t think so. But I think this underscores the need to increase oversight of these markets.”


On that somewhat bewildering note, we wrap up this edition of Ecotopia, where we have looked a recent news stories on the environmentalism of air, earth, water, and fire.

Playlist for Ecotopia $34: Ecotopian News

1. I Remember California 5:04 R.E.M. Green

2. Slower Than Guns (LP Version) 3:50 Iron Butterfly Metamorphosis

3. Death Of Mother Nature Suite (Album Version) 7:54 Kansas Kansas

4. Don’t Go Near The Water (2000 Digital Remaster) 2:43 The Beach Boys Sunflower/Surf’s Up

5. Drive My Car 2:30 The Beatles Rubber Soul

6. Weave Me the Sunshine 4:28 Peter, Paul And Mary The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary

7. Powerhouse 2:56 Don Byron Bug Music

8. Rain Rain Beautiful Rain 3:05 Ladysmith Black Mambazo Long Walk to Freedom

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