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The latest news, food for thought, recipes you’ll love, great advice on everything from raising kids to nurturing bees, plus videos designed to entertain, educate and enlighten. If you’d like to find out what’s on our mind – or let us know what’s on yours -- this is place to be.

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Sharp Focus

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Author: the Inkslinger

Eban Goodstein at Focus the Nation checked in with us yesterday to report on the progress they’ve made in reversing the climate crisis, and it’s pretty impressive. Eban says they got a million students at 1,800 schools involved in the effort and that they discussed the issue with 75 congresspeople and governors. They also got a ton of great media exposure for the cause and Eban feels like they’re really getting somewhere.

But where we go next is always more important that where we’ve been. As I noted to a close associate this very morning, it’s onward and upward. So Focus the Nation are urging us all to dialogue with our government representatives and share the solutions that exist. They’re also asking us to share the film the 2% Solution ,which talks about how we can achieve an 80% cut in annual CO2 emissions by 2050.

There’s a lot more going on and the easiest way to connect to it is to just head over to their website and join the fray.

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E-Waste Phones Home

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Author: the Inkslinger

My wife and I got our first cell phone about eight years ago. Her commute in those days was a long one over lonely back roads and with another big bad Vermont winter coming and a toddler now often in the back seat, it seemed like a wise choice. So we got the cheapo plan, a bare bones phone and 500 free minutes of which we used maybe ten a month for quick can-you-pick-up-some-milk-on-the-way-home calls.

Four years later, a hinge on the phone snapped, and I went to Verizon to get it fixed. The phone guy kinda laughed and said they don’t really fix them. Every two years, it seems, we could get a free new phone and the old one would get thrown out. Who knew? But that’s how it works. Except that it really doesn’t work for a whole lot of reasons that are outlined in this great new video from INFORM.

It is completely crazy that we live so disposably. That it’s cheaper to replace things than to fix them. That we simply throw away so much without thinking about it. Profligacy has replaced frugality, and that may not even be the deepest sadness. What, after all, are all these phones are made from and what happens when that stuff gets tossed into our soil, air and water. Watch the video then let’s figure out a better way to go.

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What is the Story of Stuff?

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We’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth saying again: The Story of Stuff is a film you’ve got to see.

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Where to Gas Up?

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It’s hard to feel that there’s a good choice to make when it comes time to filling up your tank. And even those of us with hybrids sooner or later need to make the stop. (I just bought Toyota’s Camry Hybrid, and while I’m still angry at Toyota for fighting against higher mileage standards in California, given where we live and the other options available, it seemed like the best choice – though it did take me almost three months of research to decide.)

In the current issue of Fast Company, there is the most complete research most complete research I’ve seen to help you decide which oil company is the cleanest and greenest.

“Fast Company turned to the sustainability experts at HIP Investor, Inc. and the Social Venture Technology Group, both based in San Francisco, for help. These firms have together developed an exclusive methodology they call HIP™?Human Impact + Profit?for measuring the environmental and social impacts of business. They rate companies based on their management practices (including setting sustainability goals, and if and how managers are held accountable for those goals), as well as their human impact (such as human rights, greenhouse-gas emissions, and investment in renewable-energy sources).”

Despite all their recent problems, BP comes out in first place followed by Chevron, then Shell, Marathon and Conoco.

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The Davos Question

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Love what Davos is doing on

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Whale Tale

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Author: the Inkslinger

Two summers ago, I spent an afternoon on a boat out in the Atlantic off the coast of Nova Scotia. We were looking for whales, and we found them easily. Humpbacks by the score. Leaping and spraying in groups of two and three that came and went for hours. They were massive animals, some as large if not larger than our sizeable boat itself, and their presence was immediately and deeply humbling on that rare level that only the profoundly extraordinary can reach. With nothing but infinite sea surrounding us in all directions, no land to be seen or had, we were a tiny insignificant dot of civilization drifting silently into a world that very clearly had nothing to do with our own. Though the day was bright and the engines could be started in a heartbeat to pull us back to earthly realms, each moment came only with the permission of air and water, sky and cloud. And, or course, the graceful consent of these immense creatures, any one of whom, it was fairly clear, could swiftly sink our little bubble of dry land should they have the slightest inclination.

At one point, I was leaning over the side of the boat simply admiring the remarkable aquamarine water, its shimmering sun-soaked clarity a revelation, when an enormous humpback drifted suddenly up from the brine below and surfaced just three or so feet away. And there we were. She (or he, I don’t know) and I. Face to face. So close I could have touched her with little effort. She drifted with the boat, and for about a minute or so we were utterly eye to eye. I was watching her and she quite clearly was watching me.

I don’t know what I saw that day. I can’t claim to possess the wisdom necessary to truly distill an experience like that into truth, but I can say this with absolute certainty: Those eyes I looked into that day were alive. Behind them was a sentient being. And it was not human. I was peering into an alien world, the door opened by this lone sentinel who was quite unmistakably as curious about me as I was about her.

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Technorama-lama-ding-dong

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Author: the Inkslinger

At this point, I think you really have to bet on technology. By which I mean how we’re going to deal with the climate crisis. It’s not at all clear to me that we (by which I mean humanity) are going to summon the will and the courage and the passion to engage in the kind of behavioral constraints needed to cut carbon emissions 80% by 2050, which is pretty much what the science guys tell us we have to do to in order to avert what I’ll politely refer to as a bit of planetary unpleasantness.

Certainly personal behavior is going to be a key part of the equation and certainly even simple changes in the decisions we make and the way we live can and will have an important impact, but at the end of the day, it’s not going to be enough. The way the world is set up now, for example, I’m fairly sure I can’t drive my car 80% less than I do now, which is already relatively rarely. And I don’t see the kind of cultural and infrastructure changes coming anytime soon that would allow me to do it. So I’m figuring I’ve got to count on technology, on clever humans with opposable thumbs and big brains to imagine, invent, create, and use tricks of the material world to give me the equivalent of driving 80% less without my actually having to do it.

Which brings us to today’s edition of what’s going down around town (and by town I mean this big village called Earth). Because while I’ve been sitting here not driving, clever humans have been busy working on encouraging things…

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Shhhh... Hear that?

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Author: the Inkslinger

Our scent guru, Eva-Marie passed along this link to Just-a-Minute, an organization encouraging us all to take just a minute here and there to quiet our minds and let peace and stillness rush in as a way to maybe get some of it to rub off on the world.

It’s feels so true to me that peacefulness is rapidly becoming an extinct quality. The general pace of human existence, at least here in America, just seems to get more maddening every year, the noise and static that much louder, the collective blood pressure that much higher. We’ve all but lost the ability to sit still and just be. Empty. Unexpectant.

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Good Night & Have a Pleasant Tomorrow…

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Author: the Inkslinger

So remember how I said yesterday I had a mountain of stuff to dig through? I did. Until my e-mail crashed this afternoon precipitating two hours of empty folders where there should have been big piles of blog fodder and triggering a tide of rising panic that threatened my cranium with explosive decompression. It’s all better now thanks to my friend Google and some laborious repairs. But it does make you think…

When I moved this summer to my new house, I found the now ancient memo I wrote to Jeffrey asking permission to spend $30 a month on an internet subscription and an e-mail address for the company. It’s dated June 15, 1995. In it I carefully explain what the World Wide Web is and how it all works and how it’s maybe going to be the Next Big Thing and maybe we could even someday sell our stuff on it. A couple of people were already via these things called “web sites. The idea seemed to have potential, I wrote.

How far we’ve come in just a decade. Now e-mail is a necessity. The net is all. And life without either, as I found out this afternoon, is a bleak nightmare of technological despair in which I don’t really remember how we functioned. We stream. We download. We play. We blog. And we report newly rescued news items like these…

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Butter Nuts

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Author: the Inkslinger

Returning to the blogosphere after a refreshing holiday hiatus spent largely away from all issues green (‘cept for that tree in the middle of my living room…), I’m finding a lot of news and other items to catch up on. For no real reason other than it was the first thing I encountered this morning, I’ll start with this item, which I think aptly illustrates the dubious art of corporate responsibility misdirection.

Here’s the deal: A week or so before Christmas, ConAgra Foods announced that it was joining three other microwave popcorn manufacturers, General Mills, the American Pop Corn Company and Weave Popcorn Company, in removing a butter flavoring ingredient called diacetyl from their products. You may have heard about this. Workers at microwave popcorn factories have been suffering devastating lung disease that’s been traced to diacetyl fumes in the air where they work.

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