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Bitter Coal'd

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Author: the Inkslinger

Introducing guest blogger Megan Reid. Megan is a student at Berea College and says she’s recently been awakened to the source of the coal that most of the Southeastern United States uses for energy. She writes, “I believe that if everyone knew a little more about it, the majority would have the heart to stand up for what is right and stop sacrificing the mountains and most of all the health of these people that live closest to these sites.” Here’s what else she has to say:

I recently took a field trip to eastern Kentucky, the lower section of the heart of Appalachia where mountain top removal is most popular extraction method of coal. In awe of all the beauty of this natural mountainous section of the world, there were patches of mountains that were just missing and valleys were replaced by low nutritional quality grass on a soil made of shale. Seeing these “reclamation” sites first hand matured my understanding and opinion of mountain top removal.


A “reclaimed” valley covered in this type of razor sharp seeded grass. There used to be a natural stream here.

Learning about the geological history of the Appalachian mountain chain and how coal is naturally manufactured makes it seem all the more ridiculous that we extract it, burn it, fight wars for it, and sacrifice our own people for it. It is a legal rape that effects all the people downstream, at the bottom of the valley, living within range of the vibrations of the explosions used to blow the tops off the mountains. The water is poisoned. The wildlife is poisoned. The people are poisoned.

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Greenpeace to Kleenex: Blow On This

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Author: the Inkslinger

This is funny (unless you're a tree)… A week ago, deforestating tissue-maker Kimberly Clark was in New York’s Times Square filming interviews with passing pedestrians for their new "Let It Out" Kleenex ad campaign. The idea is that people are supposed to tell Kleenex about something that upsets them, tear up over it, and reach for the tissues.

Greenpeace's idea was to secretly equip members of its Frontline street canvas program with hidden microphones and send them in to infiltrate the interviews and talk about what makes them cry, namely Kimberly Clark’s perversely twisted practice of hacking ancient boreal forests to smithereens so it can make an easy buck selling tissues made from cheap (but also priceless) wood pulp.

This is culture jamming at its finest…

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This and That From Here and There

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Author: the Inkslinger

Things are moving. Ideas are raining through the biosphere, percolating through the substrata, reaching down into the cultural aquifer where everyone can tap them and take a good long drink. Some days it’s hard to keep up with all these emergent memes. Feels like being in one of those game show money booths where high speed fans whip up a storm of $100 bills and you try to grab as many as you can. But do these embryonic notions represent lasting trends or only ephemeral fads? Me thinks the former because each one seems to be building itself in some way on those that have come before. Then it turns into a foundation for something that follows, and in this way a new vision is evolving faster than hope would previously allow. Grabbed like snowflakes from the building gale, here are some recent portents that a storm of change is coming just in time…

Great moments in pure genius: How does a simple three inch lump of black wax slash carbon dioxide emissions from one of humanity’s biggest sources? Like this.

Nice house. Nice car. Nice life. No power bills. No carbon footprint. No atmospheric impact.. We can do this
It is possible.

Now imagine this: No garbage. No trash. No waste. Anywhere. Ever.
We can do that, too.

Out in the woods, we’re losing less than we used to. And slowing the pendulum is the first thing that happens before it swings in the other better direction.

There’s even a much-needed breath of fresh air in the marbled halls, where we’re beginning to remember what it looks like when common sense and leadership replace delusional self-interested hackery.

As the poet said… The answers, my friends, are blowing in the wind.

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Greenpeace Un-Bored Meeting

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Being on a board of directors is a strange thing to do. What a bad name it has… a bunch of directors sitting around being bored. Well not so at Greenpeace. Here, I spend the day pondering the possibilities of how to leverage this worldwide organization to maximize it’s impact on everything from global warming to preventing the international whaling industry from wiping out some of Earth’s largest and most beautiful creatures.

We’re here to visit Greenpeace’s largest vessel, the 220-foot Esperanza. As we sit in our San Diego meeting room, excitement erupts as we get news that Greenpeace activists are demonstrating at Kimberly-Clark's largest mill facility in North America using a bus outfitted as a giant Kleenex tissue box

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Seeding an Expo Forest for the Trees

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Author: the Inkslinger

So a bunch of folks here took off yesterday for the Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore. It’s a humongous trade show where people who make natural products show said products to the retailers and others who buy them. Think of it as a big giant schmooze-fest in a room roughly size of the Astrodome that’s filled with display booth after display booth of each manufacturer’s goodies.

Except for our booth. This year we decided to forgo the usual hey-look-at-our-stuff-isn’t-it-great route because there’s just too much at stake in the world these days. Instead we're building a forest. And here's our first tree:

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Update: Rainforest Wins Reprieve. Amazon to Be Un-Soy’ld for Two Years

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Author: the Inkslinger

According to news reports coming out of Brazil, the Amazon rainforest has been granted a stay of execution at the hands of soy bean growers. Responding to public protests and activist pressure, Cargill, Inc. and other major soy traders have declared that for the next two years they will stop buying soy from growers occupying newly deforested lands.

The decision should go a long way toward halting the clearing of rainforest for massive soy plantations. At least in the short term. If growers and potential growers know they won’t be able to sell their crops, they’ll have zero incentive to undertake the hard work of clearing tropical forest for new plantings.

As Jeffrey and Gregor discovered when they visited the region in June, soy farming has become perhaps the most destructive force in the Amazon basin. (Greenpeace has an excellent overview of the issue here. Be patient… it takes a minute or so to load.) The word that big international soy buyers will now refuse to tacitly fund this destruction is very welcome. It’s a temporary solution, of course, but it will buy some much needed time to (hopefully) put some meaningful permanent protections in place.

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Eating the Amazon

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Father Edilberto Sena, who Gregor and I visited last month in Santarem, Brazil, Is taking his fight to preserve the Amazon to the world stage. Check out this great story from Britain's newspaper, the Independent, on how Cargill is trying to eat the Amazon and how Father Sena and the local community are fighting back!

Greenpeace is working hard on this issue as well. You can find out what they've found out here.

After you're done all your reading for the day, you can write or call Warren Staley, Cargill Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, and Gregory Page, President and Chief Operating Officer, to tell them what you think of what they're up to. Here's where you'll find them:

Cargill, Inc.
PO Box 9300
Minneapolis, MN 55440-9300

1-800-227-4455

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From Amazon Clearcut to the Vermont Forest

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As I reflect on our week in Brazil, I have struggled to find a context to hold the experience we had. I am still struggling so this is a work in process. First, the world is a big, big place, and the challenges it faces take on a new dimension when you see them with your own eyes. How many times have I said that I am committed to making the world a better place without having seen most of the world I'm referring to? Without understanding what a better place means for most of the people living in that world?

I am humbled by the experience of joy and community I had within what I assumed would be dreadful poverty. In the shanty towns outside Rio, there is garbage in the streets and men with machine guns making life far less certain that I could have ever imagined, but there are also smiles on the faces of the children.

In the Amazonian rainforest, where at least 20% of the land has been clearcut, a huge Cargill facility was recently constructed that will attract ever more clearcutting to supply the company with soy. This is a place where homes are burned, priests have their lives threatened, and everyone has their own story of corruption. Yet communities are successfully reinventing themselves, hope is not lost, and a beauty that is more than your eye’s can hold remains to nourish your soul.

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Hero of the Forest

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We are in Manahus, the heart of the Amazon Rainforest. Today we flew over hundreds of miles of virgin forest, punctuated by huge tracts of land that have been deforested for logging, cattle or soy production. (Much of the land ends up growing soy beans to be sold to Cargill.) 20% of the forest has been lost. What's left is breathtaking. What's gone a disaster. In the town of Santarem, in Para, we met Father Edilberto Sena, who works in partnership with Greenpeace Brazil.

Here is a man whose life has been threatened for his efforts to save the forest and honor the rights of the native population that is being forced out. A man who has dedicated his life to saving the local community. A leader as inspiring as Gandhi. A man who has inspired the whole local community to stand up, stop the sale of land to those who will destroy it, and protect the forest that has provided for it for generations untold.

But he is also a man with a price tag on his head. Edilberto has summoned the authority of the bishop and the Pope to his cause. He is a testiment to the potential and possibility of leadership and local organizing. It was an honor to meet him and to be able to experience the possibility of the power of local communities to fight multinational corporations.

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Into the Amazon

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Author: Gregor

After two days in Rio, Jeffrey and I have made our way at last and with no small effort to the Amazon rainforest where we spent today flying over some of the devastated areas at its edge. We've managed to find a phone line and I'm able to get this audio log entry out. Tomorrow we head up river into the incredible curtain of green and the heart of the jungle. More then...

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