What's Up With the Rainforest: Are biofuels an ethical solution?

While scientists make strides in researching solutions towards a better future, we have become apathetic to our environmental crisis. Are we falling back on the idea that technology will save us? We need technology and innovation combined with the power of human action and devotion in order to win the fight for a sustainable, clean environment. This week the Rainforest Newsladder has brought to light both encouraging scientific advancements, as well as sobering truths about the way we see the world. Along with our partner Rainforest Alliance, we hope you become an active participant towards a brighter tomorrow. 

As we have seen in the past weeks, biofuels, especially palm oil, are being scrutinized for their negative environmental, economic and social effects. Our first group of stories looks into the new energy alternatives being studied to provide a solution that will be both beneficial to the environment and to our lifestyle. One option scientists are considering is using "biochar - charcoal created in an oxygen-free environment - to improve soil quality and sequester carbon". Still in the early stages of research, it is impossible to tell, with certainty, biochar's impact on the environment, but the lab results so far have been promising, suggesting that biochar would lead to less carbon in the atmosphere while also improving crops and soil fertility. 

Another possible solution could be growing right in your backyard, grass. The Carbon Trust has recently announced it will be working with the University of York to "research how using microwave technology could turn garden and wood waste into biofuel". According to the Carbon Trust, the environmental benefits could be substantial, with this new pyrolysis biofuel producing a carbon footprint that could save "95 per cent of carbon compared to fossil fuels". In relation, a new consortium of British businesses led by Axion Energy has been created in order to enhance existing technology to produce biofuels created from organic waste materials en masse, with hopes of having a pilot plant up and running by 2014. 

Although scientists continue to develop innovations and new strategies, the drive towards a sustainable future must be carried by all of us. Unfortunately, as indicated in this next article, environmental concerns are at a 20-year low in the US. An annual Gallup survey saw "record-low levels of concern in all but two if its categories - global warming and maintenance of fresh water supply". What caused the drop in numbers? Gallup speculates it could be "due in part to Americans' belief that environmental conditions in the U.S. are improving", as well as "greater public concern about economic issues, which is usually associated with a drop in environmental concern". This study reveals the "alarming disconnect from the problems that still face the planet", we don't live in a world where we can afford to ignore our environmental crisis, yet we continue to act that way. 

However, Daniel Janzen, pioneer biologist, reminds us how hard it is for the youngest generation to not be apathetic about what the world now looks like, because "they don't have any idea of what they...could be seeing, or what they could have in their backyard". That combined with the digital age means the only kind of biodiversity they become exposed to is through their laptop or television screen. But Janzen has an idea on how to instill a new perspective - through a DNA barcoder that fits in your back pocket and would allow you to identify "anything, anywhere, anytime". Janzen hopes that "if people can 'read' biodiversity, they will then find it much more valuable to be interested in". 

The environment and climate change can be a complicated web to understand, but becoming informed on the issues that face our planet today, each of us can become a passionate advocate for a better world. Start your journey by checking out the Rainforest Newsladder to discover the top stories happening around the globe, and then connect with other concerned citizens to continue the conversation by visiting our Facebook page.

A Senior Progressive On Health Care

Seniors are the closest to dying, the most frail, and the most vulnerable population in our society.  Is it any wonder they are the population most opposed to Obama Care as it has emerged from the shadows?

A July 31 Gallup Poll found that just 20 percent of Americans aged 65 and older believe health care reform would improve their own situation, noticeably lower than the 27 percent of 18- to 49-year olds and 26 percent of 50-to-64-year-olds who say the same.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/2009081 2/pl_politico/2602

Americans still do not know the details of the  final bill. We do know that the Obama administration has made private deals and secret promises to corporate health care stakeholders. The public recipients, the inheritors of  Medicare, the people who have worked and paid into this program all their lives have not been invited to the White House. All they do know at this point is that 380 Billion will be taken from Medicare in what is being termed a  "waste management" effort to trim costs.

They also know  that in its assault on Medicare this White House-- the progressive Democratic one-- has echoed the sentiments of the neo-con Bush one.

I am a senior who recently buried her mother who was on Medicare.

My mother received abominable care in the hospital. They looked at her insurance and based on it they routed her to a back  ward and to an inferior type of care.

My mother was 87, and when it was finally deduced that she had congestive heart failure-after two weeks of a false diagnosis-- she was deemed too old for any sort of surgical intervention. She was sent home on hospice to die because without any sort of surgical intervention that was what was going to happen. My mother drowned in her own fluids within 6 weeks.

The former Mayor of New York City, Ed Koch, recently wrote:

Most alarming for people like me, who at 84 years of age recently needed a quadruple bypass and aortic valve replacement, are the pronouncements of President Obama's appointee, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who, according to a New York Post op ed article by Betsy McCauley, former Lt. Governor of the State of New York, stated, "Savings, he writes, will require changing how doctors think about their patients: Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath too seriously, `as an imperative to do everything for the patient regardless of the cost or effects on others' (Journal of the American Medical Association, June 18, 2008)." He also stated, "...communitarianism' should guide decisions on who gets care. He says medical care should be reserved for the non-disabled, not given to those `who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens...An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia.' (Hastings Center Report, Nov.-Dec. '96).

http://yonkerstribune.typepad.com/yonker s_tribune/2009/08/ed-koch-commentary-fal ling-out-of-love-with-barack-obama-by-ed -koch.html

My God, is anybody listening? If  seniors on premium plans funded by their expensive law offices, which Koch's is, are concerned, it is because health care past the age of 80 is literally about  life and death. It is not a question of measles or the flu. And if we compare the case of Koch, 3 years older than my mother, we do not need more rationing and cost effective cutting of Medicare. We need to expand it. We need to improve it. We need to see to it that hospitals and doctors across the country do not provide sub-standard care because Medicare is rationed in ways that more expensive, private pay health care plans are not.

My mother could be alive today if she had Ed Koch's insurance plan.

So yes, when I see seniors railing at Congress people, outraged by the crass and soul-less behavior of their so-called representatives who in fact are more representative of health care lobbying interests, I applaud them.

And I join them  in asking this one simple question: if your reform is so sound and so excellent, when will you give up your terrific private plan and join us on Medicare?

The whole idea is laughable, isn't it? And yet I  remember during the campaign, Obama  promised that Americans would be awarded  the same kind of healthcare as members of Congress now enjoy.

The health care industry giants have bought and paid for Obama Care. Now they are lobbying for it with more money than the sum which bankrolled John Mcain's entire presidential campaign.

You better believe seniors are angry.

And if Obama is so concerned about ballooning Medicare costs. Let's get the hell out of Afghanistan. We can "win" there through education, health care and civilian efforts not military intervention. If we went to trim costs, ok. Let's deal with our trillion dollar bailout  of  our out of control financial industry  which is soaking up taxpayer money for billions in bonuses, buy outs and mergers.

There is Nothing about  this present health care effort that could be termed reform in the traditional meaning of that word. We are in the land of  Orwell Speak here.

Obama care is a return of the same waste, mis-management, and many-tiered health system dependent upon how much you can pay that reined supreme before Medicare dared to show Americans there could be a better way.

I believe many others have said all of this far better than I have. But I know  no one has shed more tears or felt more despair over the boondoggle being foisted on us by a Democratic President who has wrapped his health care give-away in the flag of reform while betraying the ideals of those Democratic presidents who have gone before him. These Presidents brought real reform and hope to millions of  working Americans and I believe they would be appalled at this lack of a new deal.

There's more...


A new Gallup poll taken the day of and the two days following President Obama's first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, finds the President's approval rating has jumped up 8 points to 67% and his disapproval has dropped 4 points to 21% from the prior 3-day period. Obama's term-high approval rating was 69% just after his inauguration.

A 12 point net gain virtually overenight shows just how dramatic an impression President Obama made Tuesday night. What's even more dramatic though is where this newfound support is coming from:

Obama's approval rebound is due to increased support from all political groups, but especially from independents and Republicans, whose support had been waning. Over the past week, independents' approval of Obama dropped from 62% to 54%, but is now back to 62%. There has been a sharp increase in support among Republicans, from 27% to 42%. Democrats' support for Obama was already extremely high at 86%, but even this has climbed slightly, to 90% in the latest polling.

I figured he'd get a bump but those numbers among Republicans are ridiculous.

There's more...

The Trashed GOP Brand

Stories like this never get old:

The Republican Party's image has gone from bad to worse over the past month, as only 34% of Americans in a Nov. 13-16 Gallup Poll say they have a favorable view of the party, down from 40% in mid-October. The 61% now holding an unfavorable view of the GOP is the highest Gallup has recorded for that party since the measure was established in 1992.

While generally, the decline of the GOP brand has tracked with Bush's plummeting approval ratings, this latest surge in unpopularity seems to have been largely informed by the results on election day. People do not like a loser.

The Democrats' favorability rating is not quite a mirror image of the Republicans' but it's close. 55% have a favorable view of the Democratic Party while just 39% have an unfavorable view, a net gain of 6% since election day.

My favorite part of the poll though has to be the "what next" question.

Gallup addressed this issue in the recent poll with a question asking, "Over the next few years, would you like to see the Republican Party and its candidates move in a more conservative direction, a less conservative direction, or stay about the same?"

Most rank-and-file Republicans (59%) want to see the party move in a more conservative direction and another 28% want it to remain about the same. Only 12% would prefer to see the Republican Party become less conservative.

I can relate to this instinct to want to shift the party to the outer edges, of course, to try to get away from the mushy middle. That's exactly what we've been pushing the Democrats to do for years. The problem for conservatives, though, is that we were and are on the right side of history; the country has been and is trending to the left so we were out ahead of our party. Moving the Republican Party to the right would move their party and their movement backward, which is exactly the reason that David Brooks predicted in a recent column:

In short, the Republican Party will probably veer right in the years ahead, and suffer more defeats.

There's more...

Gallup: O-46, M-43

Obama is up three in the Gallup tracker.  Perhaps Rasmussen lags because of the timing in releases--6:30am Pacific vs. Gallup's 10am release time.

Another possibility is that a gap is opening up between registered and likely voters.  I still think McCain will win this election.

Any thoughts?

There's more...


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