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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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Pure Know How

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Author: the Inkslinger

Non-Toxic Times reader Patti Murphy wrote in about our recent article on parabens and we wanted to share what she had to say with y'all

We wholeheartedly endorse your concerns about parabens in everyday products. My own experience with breast cancer last year opened my eyes to the impact of this endocrine disrupter chemicals in the products I used everyday. This awareness started a process that has resulted in a new venture, Pure Know How. We publish a weekly on-line bulletin on the toxins in everyday cosmetic, personal care and household products. We also have an extensive Web site with resources, product reviews, a blog and archives. Our “fresh and friendly approach” to this important issue has been resonating with our subscribers - as indicated by the number of people who have signed up to receive the weekly e-bulletin and the feedback we’ve received. Check us out.

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All I Wanted Was Some “Fresh” Air

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A new study by Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reported in last week’s issue of Time Magazine found that 12 out of 14 air freshners purchased at a local Walgreens contained chemicals called phthalates. Time reports:

“Studies involving rat and human subjects have suggested that high exposures to certain kinds of phthalates can cause cancer, developmental and sex-hormone abnormalities (including decreased testosterone and sperm levels and malformed sex organs) in infants, and can affect fertility. In 2004, the European Union banned two types of phthalates in cosmetics and also bans the chemical in children's toys, as do 14 other countries. The first state bill to ban phthalates in children's toys in the U.S. is currently sitting on California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk, and he is expected to sign it this week.”

The fall out for the study so far: Managers at 111 Walgreens stores in Minnesota and thousands more nationwide removed three different varieties of air fresheners from their shelves over the weekend.

Study details here.

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Charting Tomorrow

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Author: the Inkslinger

This interesting chart floated my way the other day from an equally intriguing website called Permatopia.

Here’s what its creators have to say about it:

Permatopia Patterns is a new way of thinking about permaculture. Historically, most permaculture guides and analyses have been focused on individual properties, often rural homesteads. Zones and sectors are key concepts in permaculture analysis, examining how to locate components of a permaculture system based on distance from the house and ecological factors. These are incredibly powerful tools for the personal level, but are far too limited in their scale for a society wide transformation to cope with Peak Oil and climate change.

This page shows how the concept of zones can be extended to the goal of "permaculture for nine billion people." Learning skills at the more local levels can help with efforts to extend to bigger levels, since effective solutions at the biggest levels depend on understanding how the solutions work at smaller levels.

The sectors concept reflects how there are many paths needed to move away from overshoot and collapse. Different people have different skills and interest, no individual or group could possibly address all of the various facets that are needed. The concept of interdependence between these issues (and levels) is one not normally promoted in our hyper-individualized society, but it is the type of path most likely to accomplish common goals.

Whether you are expanding a local community garden, installing utility scale wind power, teaching environmental education to second graders, starting up a community currency barter system, operating a bicycle shop, creating manufacturing cooperatives, campaigning for accountable elections, or any of thousands of other positive things is irrelevant - the key point is that you are doing something that is a piece of the puzzle.

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Feeling the Heat

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Author: the Inkslinger

White Rhino forwarded me the latest CSR Newswire in which there is much crowing about all the climate crisis action that’s happening this week from the U.N. to Bill Clinton’s Global Initiative to WalMart to New York State. (The only black mark on the week comes, as always (* heavy sigh*), from our country’s own point man, who just can’t seem to learn how to play well with others.)

This week’s news is all well and fine and good and wonderful and warms me like a happily bubbling fireside fondue pot full of dark chocolate body paint on a snowblown night in February when the kids are with Grandma and my wife is breaking out the good stuff. People are talking. Discussing. Communicating. Cooperating. Let me hear you say Hallelulah, people. Salut! We’re getting past that awkward early stage in the relationship where those of us who who’ve been blinded by science have to incessantly argue the clear and present danger to those keeping one blood-rimmed eye on denial and the other on the Dow. The weather forecast has come in. Cloudy and hot with a chance of the apocalypse. And suddenly, it seems, everybody is sitting up, taking notice, and feeling heat. “Oh holy crap! We’re about to turn the planet in a smoking cinder. That can’t be good.”

Uh… no. It can’t. Which is kinda sorta pretty much exactly what anyone who’s been paying attention has been screaming for a whole bunch of years now.

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Climate Change: The Sins of Our Fathers

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Author: the Inkslinger

This dispatch arrived last night from our good friend and 2006 Change It participant, Joseph Kaifala, who wanted to share some of his thoughts on what’s happening in Africa.

As I was listening to BBC Network Africa this morning I heard of the increasing rainfalls that are currently devastating certain regions in Africa. According to the report, at least 17 countries have been hit in West, Central and East Africa by some of the worst rains in living memory. It also reported that at least 500,000 people have been affected by the floods in just twelve countries. An approximated 400,000 people have been affected in Uganda alone by what the BBC refers to as the country’s heaviest rainfall in 35 years.

At this point you might be thinking exactly what I thought: Climate Change. Well, you are right to think it because scientists have predicted such effects on Africa several times within the past four years. But of course, like everything else that concerns Africa, could anyone ever listen?

Earlier this year it was revealed by scientific investigation that Africa is 0.5 C warmer than it was a century ago, but that Africa is simply bearing the brunt of problems created in the rich industrial countries. The report, (Climate Change and Africa) in May 2007 aired on both BBC Focus and Network Africa reports stated that food production in countries in the Horn and the Sahel regions is always at the mercy of the climate, and the rising temperatures are putting those arid areas in an even more precarious position. Recently, a renewed study by the economist William Cline quantified drastic reductions in agricultural productivity in many of Africa’s poorest countries by the 2080s if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase. Such declines are expected to be severe in places like Sudan and Senegal where agricultural production is predicted to fall by more than half, while other African countries will experience a reduction by 30-40 percent. I swear we don’t deserve this one.

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At the Intersection Of Montana and Wyoming

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At 10,000 feet, near the peak of Mt. Washburn, the snow leaves a soft dusting on the ground. The silence is totally enveloping. The calls of bear and elk periodically break the silence. Man is incidental to this endless wilderness. Life above the tree line is harshly peaceful.

This is my first adventure into Yellowstone National Park. From the highest peaks, the landscape seems to dwarf the vistas of my home in Vermont. Black bear and bison are hanging out by the roadside.

This was a long way to come for a Greenpeace board meeting, a lot of CO2 emissions to figure out how to slow the emissions of everyone else. But I’m grateful that I came. I had no idea how beautiful the country that often angers me so could be.

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Viva Vermont! and Yert (Your Environmental Road Trip)

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Author: the Inkslinger

Living in Vermont surrounded by Vermonters, it’s hard to know what the rest of the world thinks of our little state. My sense is that everyone else considers ours to be a kind of quaint little place, a somewhat odd anachronism in the modern world populated by slightly old-fashioned, slightly wacky, fairly far left-leaning folk just crazy enough to send socialists to Congress, endure unspeakable winters, and live miles from the nearest anything unless you count the farm down the road, the weekend chicken pie suppers, the general store, and, of course, the forests and mountains, which we here all definitely do.

Fair enough, I suppose. In Vermont we do often find ourselves a bit out of step with the rest of the world and quite contentedly so. You can drive for hours through nothing but bucolic scenes of pastoral paradise that seem like relics from a lost age. And it’s true that we Vermonters are, for the most part, quite happy living in relatively simple and traditional ways in a rare landscape where humanity and nature have learned to peacefully coexist. But if you pull off the highway and start poking around, you’ll find something else: people young and old forging the future for the rest of the world.

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Is Depression the Last Stigma?

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Many years ago I read William Styron’s “Darkness Visible,” a brilliant and courageous book about Styron’s lifelong struggle with depression. I highly recommend this short but wonderful story. My mother, brother and I all have dealt with the intensely debilitating effects of depression.

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Our Name in Lights

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Author: the Inkslinger

A couple of quick media notes to finish out the week…

Seventh Generation gets a nice plug near the end of this look at what it means to walk one’s sustainable talk from GreenBiz.com.

Jeffrey made Grist’s list of 15 Green Business Founders everyone should know about.

And our dish liquid won raves in official mom testing at Parenting magazine.

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Big Think

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Author: the Inkslinger

See…this is what I’m talking about. This is what I meant in my post of the other day. We gotta think big and we gotta think outside the box. That’s how we’re going to get where we need to go with this whole wacky climate crisis thing. Screwing in a couple of compact fluorescents and making our next car a Prius, while good and necessary and satisfying and righteous, aren’t going to cut the melt-down mustard. Not meaningfully. Not ultimately. Not when anybody who knows anything about climate and atmospheric science says we need a 90% reduction in global carbon output in the next 20 years tops or we’re toast. For that we need to dream and scheme and not just think outside the box but take the box out behind the barn, smash it to splinters, and torch whatever’s left.

We need big thinking. Huge ideas. Like Ausra's. Think of it. Ohmigod it’s glorious. It shines and beckons like a heated swimming pool in January surrounded by scantily-clad supermodels in the gender of your choice and filled with 25-year old single malt scotch. It makes me quiver in ways and places that are illegal if not at least frowned upon in certain jurisdictions below the Mason-Dixon line. Virtually every single kilowatt hour every single man, woman and child in the entire U.S. of A could possibly need to do every single thing they want to do from watch Admiral Adama find Earth on 60" of pure plasma glory to make blueberry scones for breakfast, all produced without emitting so much as a single atom of carbon using little more than bunch of mirrors on a forsaken slice of desert scrub just 92 miles square, a plot of land that represents a mere 10% of all the Bureau of Land Management holdings in just Nevada, upon which would happily and sustainably sit (and this is the best and most uncontrollable giggle-inducing part) technology we’ve got today.

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