Thursday, June 30, 2011

Project ECHO - Dying Fish & The Fry

Is there a doctor in the house?

- by Moises Medina (originally published on Doc Medina's Soapbox).

Based on current events, it’s safe to say that liberty and the American way are in critical condition. Freedom, much like a wounded soldier, is strong but in urgent need of first responder aid. Most Americans may never have the privilege of tending to a soldier in need of medical treatment in a far away land. On the other hand, we all can tend to the wounds of freedom here at home. The basics of treating a patient are often called ABC's- Airway, Breathing, and Circulation.

Airway: The airway of liberty is already open. On a daily basis millions of Americans log on to their various web accounts. There is a free flow of information at our fingertips. The average American spends roughly 30 hours online every month. If everyone took just a fraction of that time to review the constitution or find out the legality of government actions, we'd be on our way to restoring our nation.

Breathing: Exactly what this blog and several others like it intend to accomplish. Upon doing a bit of research and contrasting the key factors with the basic principles of freedom; we all have a basic civic duty to get involved. Help others understand what is happening and how to fix it. "Because freedom can't protect itself."(A.C.L.U.) I know A.C.L.U. gets a bad rep from the conservative crowd, but, they are trying to defend freedom the way they see fit. What are those critics doing?

Circulation: When the American people get informed and begin to take action, liberty will hemorrhage no more. The breath of freedom will once again oxygenate every cell of American life. Only then can we enjoy the stability of a truly free society again.

The role of a first responder is to stabilize a patient until they can receive superior care, usually from a surgeon or doctor. Now I leave you with the words of, Congressman and 2012 Presidential Candidate, Dr. Ron Paul: "Refusing to reassess our mistakes and insisting on just more and more of a failed remedy is destined to kill the patient. In this case, the casualties will be our liberties and prosperity, here at home, and peace abroad."




DYING FISH & THE FRY - Mark Smith
Watercolor, Pencil Pen and Ink 9X12”
DYING FISH & THE FRY: I am attempting to articulate the economic climate during the falling housing market. Rising fuel costs dominated conversations. One day I drove passed a closed retail store and later saw businesses regaining some viability. When I painted this, I thought of the changes in the economy, bankruptcies and businesses closures, and the ill-logic of profit built on the maxim of constant expansion. The entire system cycles on a perpetual spending model and is becoming a questionable reality. Larger and specialized stores became difficult to sustain. The large fish represents this unsustainable state; its death in the dried pond left room for the fry. The fry is young and its future ahead, still to contend for the confines of this water. The fry hopes that the oncoming storm will rain upon its water.

_________________________________________________
Dying Fish & The Fry - written in 2009, by Jin Kong (originally published on Thinking Out Loud)

Sometimes a dream seems so real that you actually believe the memories of that dream, but when you wake, you are reminded of the degree of freedom uninhibited by the providence of that dream. From there, you remember the details and suddenly you realize that faith only in part determines your existence, and it is the power of your choice – to remember, to live, and to hope – that determines the eventual worth of your life.

I dreamt last night that I was back in the military again. I was in my green camouflaged uniform issued during basic training and assigned on a day duty at a store on base. At first I couldn’t recognize the base and I couldn’t tell what I was doing there except to simply be there. But as the day came to a conclusion, and I was relieved of my duties, I walked pass familiar surroundings. I saw myself holding up a duffle bag in front of me, on my first day of basic training, sweat dripping down the side of my face.

Funny, I don’t remember being tired.

I saw my drill instructors screaming into my ear, taking turns to question my self-worth in almost a choreographed way. I saw myself following instructions, collecting my initial issued items, desperately trying to fit all of the gears into a standard size duffle, and trying as hard as I can to keep pace so I can get on that cow-truck to go “down range.”

I walked pass myself, because it was the end of my duty day, I didn’t even give my exhausted self-reflection a second look. I walked pass the area where it was forbidden to basic-trainees, where the commissary was. I headed out to the base’s main gate. I can look beyond the fences and see myself marching with my platoon early in the twilight.

I saw myself hunched over, carrying my rucksack on my back, hunched over with my M4 in hand cleverly lodged onto my belt to relieve some of its weight on that 25 mile hike.

I turned my head, looked away. I was focused on getting pass the main gate, because it was the end of my duty day. I wanted to get back home.

I can see the small opening in front of me. I can see the landscape beyond the Army base littered with trash and bodies. I see that small boy, whose parents were killed in a mortar attack, who followed me the entire day and never smiled once.

I saw him walking aimlessly, looking at the bodies littered outside, looking for his parents perhaps.

I tried to walk out the front gate, to help him. I tried to walk pass the opening to leave behind the memories. A gush of wind picked up, and somehow directly funneled against me through the front gate. I lowered my head, held on to my field cap, and walked painfully against the wind.

I woke up in a panic. Have I left the military? Have I left the providence of death and resurrection? Have I shed the tears for my friends whose souls are kept in the flow of Tigris?

What of this dream now? Can I make sense of it in the years to come? Am I able to weather the storm that is pending on my horizon?

Like a well trained medic, all I can remember are my ABCs . . .

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Project ECHO - Quiploth

SOLDIERS DESCENDING UNTO THE QUIPLOTH - Mark Smith
Watercolor, Pen & Ink 9X12”
__________________________________________
Quiploth - written in 2007, by Jin Kong

I was on a week-long mission with Charlie Company, Second Platoon in Telfar helping 1-5 Infantry settle some local violence. There had been numerous bold attempts on American convoys and local police forces. Our mission was to secure the peace, engage the locals, and help build police stations.

Within our first hour in the city, one of our up-armored humvee was hit by a foo-gas IED/Bomb. The humvee was cut in half, and I remember hearing on the radio we had one KIA and another was completely amputated below the knees.

At the time, we put news like that in our hip-pocket and drove on. There was no time to show any emotion, or to let fear get the best of us. There was only one thing on our minds: the mission. My mission was to keep my platoon safe in the event of emergency. I prayed that I'd never have to work.

As soon as our convoy pulled into the Combat Operating Base (COB), we unloaded our gear, hurried through some chow, and gathered for a quick mission to scan the landscape to determine where would be the best position to hold for the night for over-watch and securing the small town.

It seemed like just any other mission, we knocked on doors, asked to come through and search… we accessed residential roofs to get the lay of this land… I simply followed, reciting my ABCs, Airway, Breathing, Circulation…

On one of the rooftop, I was taking a knee enjoying the scene of a peaceful neighborhood. Funny, there was not a single person out on the streets. The generator was not humming, and the air carried a strange tone of silence.

I felt a gush of hot air rush pass my face… I heard a swish and snap behind me…

“DOWN!”

“Doc! Get the FUCK DOWN!”

Then it registered: we were under small arms fire.

The hot air and a swish was a AK round passing my face by inches, and it made a snapping sound behind me against the mud wall. I was too scared to think at the time how close I had came to face death. I will never forget that sound as long as I live.

In an instant, I dropped to my stomach, as low as I possibly could… moving my ammo pouch out of the way to get even lower… I crawled to the edge of the roof, against the half-foot high mud-rail along the edges… I looked at the direction of fire… I heard bullets snap against the wall beneath me, and M4 charging behind me…

“It’s coming from the white building across the street!” someone shouted.

“Fire!” someone else yelled.

“I remembered silence after that… deep breath, prone-firing position, in through the nose, hold, trigger… I can smell the gun powder…

I put my M4 on automatic, I pulled my trigger and my life depended on it…

… …


“Cease fire! Cease fire!” someone shouted…

“Doc, go with team one across the street…”

I don’t remember running down the stairs… I don’t remember coming around the door to knee next to the corner of a wall.

There were four of us, two by two, we covered and ran… I ran as fast as I could across the street… I ran thinking this is where I will get hit. This is where I take a bullet…

I made it across the street, turned around the corner of a wall surrounding the white building. We entered the main gate, and ran as fast as we could up the few stairs and into the belly of the beast…

Silence…

“Clear!” “Clear!”

Room by room, we checked the building… then, suddenly:

SCREAM!!! Children are screaming!!!

My heart sank, I felt the weight on my back from my first-aids… my vest is getting tighter, I can’t breath…

The next room we reached, there were at least twenty or so kids huddled against a corner. There were two older women, teachers perhaps, leaned against the masses and attempting to protect these kids…

They were young girls… this was a school.

I had fired aimlessly on a school… a school where kids were still in classes…

I had pulled the trigger against children…




I remember that night having a cup of coffee with Mark, brewed at a house where we "took control." I remember we reflected on how f'ed up it was for these families to just lose their homes. Some of them had no where else to go, so they just started walking.

I feel remorse.

I had a dream last night! What you just read was not a dream… it was real… it is part of me, and forever will be.

I had a dream last night about those kids, and the time I dropped to the ground and pulled my trigger, open fired on a school… I had a dream last night and woke up confused about my duty as a human being to the welfare of this nation, of this generation…

Last night, my dream was hazy, was confused, was almost a nightmare… I saw the kids through the building walls... and I pulled my trigger anyway... I saw the kids screaming and I saw myself looking through their eyes at us on the rooftop... I saw myself firing my M4 with a blank stare across the street... across the world of the living...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Project ECHO - Beneath Our Feet.

BENEATH OUR FEET (sketch) - Mark Smith

BENEATH OUR FEET - Mark Smith
Pen & Ink 81/2X10"

BENEATH OUR FEET: I developed an sketch into a project that became a line drawing. I started the sketch by visualizing three soldiers standing with the earth beneath them. The ground ripples from their essence aspebbles tossed in a pond. It arouses the presence of thought forms that rise in response. The creatures that live beneath the city feed from the hatred of all of the mortal dwellers above them. They reach with fiery hands at the surface causing explosive fire and death.

_____________________

Beneath Our Feet - by Jin Kong

book by Michael Yon
Our unit saw some heavy fighting when we were deployed to Mosul. There are books written and valor song for the men lost and souls wounded. I was a medic, so was Mark. We were fortunate because medics were rock stars and kept safe on patrols and combat operations. The joke was if you see the doc hurt, you knew we were all in trouble.

Throughout the year, we saw hundreds wounded. Our unit had collected so many Purple Hearts that we joked it was awarded as the enemies’ expert shooting badge. I recall some poor infantryman were wounded two or three or more times. It seems they would visit one day for a hole in their arm and another for a new one in their leg. When they finally got well enough to carry a combat load and travel out the wire again to face the danger, they were back at the aid station getting treated again.

Thankfully we only had one medic hurt during our deployment. Poor guy was ambushed while on foot patrol alongside of his infantry platoon. Before the insurgents had targeted mostly vehicles with their IEDs, but that was the first of IEDs we saw that was intended for foot patrols. Soldiers die regardless, but at least in an armored vehicle you were protected a bit better and the chances of mangled flesh less so frequent.

His name is Chris. He was a lucky son-of-a-gun. He had been walking just pass a parked vehicle when the IED took off from beneath his feet. The parked vehicle had protected his vital organs. He took a face full of shrapnel and his feet still bear enough metal to set off airport security these days.

I visited him in the hospital. I remember thanking his lucky stars and asking for mine to protect me just the same on my patrols on foot. Ever since that day, I took each step in the city of Mosul with a heavy heart. Each step could be my last and each heavier than the last.

From beneath our feet we saw weakness and strength. From beneath our feet we saw our fears and our grief. From beneath our feet, we are men no longer feeling invincible as a child. We grew older and all the less wiser, all from beneath our feet.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Project ECHO - Threshold.


KEEPERS OF THE THRESHOLD - Mark Smith
Watercolor, Pen & Ink 9X12”

KEEPERS OF THE THRESHOLD: It began with two entities grabbing me and throwing me down into a hole. The feeling is apprehensive. I am helpless.

The two beings drag me into the woods and throw me into a pit. The visual images tell of a struggle, interlocking arms and pushing feet. I resist going into the hole but I slide down. My feet and toes are rigid against the moist dirt. The strength of the two figures forces me downward.

The supernatural beings are keepers of the threshold. They stand as the guardians of the ascension of my spirit. If I approach the gateway unprepared, the guardians will slay me. Because of my blindness, I will be unable to move beyond the paradigm. Tied to static reality and desire, I must go back into the earth. I am not ready for this. The hole will swallow me up and I will go into the abyss of my soul. Something must happen. A reckoning must take place lest I will be lost forever. The seeds are scattered in the hole. They fall down and plant the future germinating the proper conditions for the soul to grow again and be reborn.

This idea progressed into an entire group of sketches about this individual’s fate after he is captured by the guardians of the threshold. They escort him outside. They throw him down where he is beheaded. The guardians take the head of this mortal man and place it over the cave that leads to the realm. His head becomes the symbolic barrier between the realm of the spirit and of the world.


FOUR MEN & TWO RODS - Mark Smith
Watercolor, Charcoal, Pen & Ink 23X29”

FOUR MEN & TWO RODS
             Watercolor, Charcoal, Pen & Ink and 23X2”
_______________________________________

The Threshold – by Jin Kong

I have talked to many combat veterans since I returned from Iraq. I get a sense that some have tried to unleash their raw emotions in their own unique ways to let go of their frustration and confusion.

But I get the sense that most of them don’t want to make sense of their confusions, of the time they spent watching children die and mothers cry.

Their head does not serve as the barrier of their threshold and they are pushed into a world of drugs and destructive raw emotions.

to be continued . . .

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Project ECHO - a human sustainability series for combat veterans.

(In the next few weeks, I will edit and publish a series of artworks and poetry by Mark Smith. I will also contribute to part of this series with my own writing. This is part of our current project ECHO. Check back daily and we hope our message will be clear at the conclusion of this series.) 

INTRODUCTION
 - Mark Smith

The seascape settled. The waves that had once lurched upward on their crests and beaten against the hull of the perched ship receded. Overhead the gust of wind calmed to a steady stream. A pair of seagulls spanned their soft wings riding the breeze upward, swaying in the sunset lit skies creating a poetic dance. They crossed each other back and forth disappearing after a time. The weary seamen regained their strength having weathered the long expedition to never seen before lands. Filled with enthusiasm and strife, the vessel’s voyage had been much more fraught with danger than anticipated.

The expedition was to be of minimal risk.The short venture grew into a long and prolonged test of each man’s will to survive. Desperate conditions shaped their stories. The pounding sea brought fabulous storms and indescribable creatures; the danger became impossible arousing mutiny. They had not stood on the earth for some time. The men had suffered from the whipping winds and tumultuous waves. Their attack had been led by the men from below the deck, fire from the combat seared the sail and lit the skies.

The Captain commanded the vessel Aspirant Tritogeniea with determination and knowledge of the winds. His command had almost been overthrown, but for now the mutiny had settled. Unable to hold on to their anger, the crew looked at the sea. Everyone’s heart was seated and joined into glorious singing hailing the gods for their safe delivery. Glazed teary eyes peered onto the vista of land spreading in front of the battered vessel on the horizon.

ARTIST STATEMENT
- Mark Smith
The use of creativity takes many forms of expression. My works use diverse media methods to achieve the best gesture of creativity. The essential nature of my practice is to be adaptive and flexible. I focus my skills and perceptions on the fusion between my psychic inner world and outer experiences. This combination brings powerful and hidden aspects of life to the surface of consciousness. The scrawling chalk with unpredictable rhythms of gesture, blends subject matters together illuminated by the dark streaking expansive backdrops and watercolor environments. They wrap around the corporeal tenants and luminous meadows revealing a metaphysical landscape.

I have been absorbed with subjects of war since my deployment to Iraq in 2004. I patrolled the streets of Mosul as a medic in an infantry battalion. The tales of that year is one of tragedy and triumph - it is one of sadness and joy, for which I have a lifetime to reflect on the things witnessed. The images are still vivid. The ferocity of war imprinted upon my mind. I will never forget the twisted steel mixed with fleshy carnage. My heart sinks when I recall a decimated group of children while a mother looks on in horror. The memory bleeds straight through me. In my efforts to find a meaning, I use my art to honor the greatest triumph of the human spirit of these grave moments.

This is my role as an artist. My art reveals the cast of characters caught in the drama of war. The tyrants, heroes, villains and the innocent are characters of a drama whose tragic moments ripple throughout my eternity. The motifs of my work share expressions of these experiences. Some are good and some are bad, some deserves honor and must be celebrated. Still I am compelled to recreate many images in order to purge the emotional toxicity from my being. The truth is that these illustrations represent my persistent state of mind, apparitions and haunting memories assail me in every day. Still I try to make some sense of it all. My life fused with past events. This makes orientation to everyday toils a challenging undertaking. Everything becomes a strange ethereal environment that mirrors my inner world projected onto my external experience. This duality of experiences makes visible the integration of my two world.

METAPHYSICAL ART
-Mark Smith

The following works of art engage the human experience on the spiritual, epistemological, emotional and metaphysical levels. These images represent my state of being while I undertak the artistic voyage to discover my own mythological language. I sought to release forms that represented archetypal qualities to interpret my language and the best way was to write about how I felt as I looked at art. I did not want to guide my words with feelings of obligation; instead, I practiced free association. The process has been alleviating and revealing.

APPRENTICESHIP - Mark Smith
Watercolor, Charcoal, Pen & Ink 9X12”

APPRENTICESHIP
- Mark Smith
The initiation process had begun
He stepped forward taking the hands of great uncertainty with profound determination
The veil clamored making its presence known
Wrestling against the anxiety of letting go I grasped at the first of several great mysteries
The guides were there and watched as watchers do
They waited without anticipation or desire invisible to my naked eyes.
My intentions and virtue weighed on karmic scales
The moment had eclipsed my life and meeting with the first stages of my apprenticeship.
The beginning as I remembered was far more challenging than I had realized.
Bound by desperate beliefs and insecurities of my first adversary took form before me.
The head rose from great blackness breathing sweltering flames that shook my confidence and caused great fear in my heart, before my eyes my uncertainty manifested into stretching mist
My feet labored against the rocks and stone
Arching my back against the slick sharp walls, I peered through the engulfing mist
The thickness of his thoughts
The unending maw of inward churning
Each thought unraveling the next
I had to begin by undoing



APRRENTICESHIP: This image was my first studio sketch in the fall of 2008. I was facing a great deal of mental noise that caused a serious creativity block. I tried hard to distract myself from the disturbance. I thought that drawing the turmoil would help me overcome it. I intended the colors to overpower the physical form of the man. The colors and smudges are the emotions and thoughts surrounding the man occupied with translating his own substance to a sheet of paper. It was what I was feeling. I was taking on a new form. The difficult part is allowing the habits of my mind to go.

____________________________________
APPRENTICESHIP - by Jin Kong

I began to keep a journal when I moved from Beijing to Cincinnati. At first I wrote in Chinese. I wrote poetry mostly and I wrote confusedly about the home I lost and friends I can no longer remember.

Slowly I lost my ability to articulate in Chinese. I read English books at first to learn the language. Pretending to read on the school bus also kept others from talking to me – a unique advantage when I understood no one and no one seemed to understand me.

Gradually I learned to read and understand English. I put writing aside to immerse into the world of Lonesome Dove and Being and Nothingness. The more I read, the less I knew. I began to write again to reconcile my past and present. I only dreaded the future because my writing was, and perhaps still is, immature.

I never cared for the skill of writing, but I wrote feverishly because I needed to speak of the incomprehensible me. I needed to speak but I could not tell, I lived with a contradiction and I lived in my philosophical babel.

My apprenticeship came from experiences: losing my home and friends, losing my mind, losing my faith in myself. But I always took up the pen and wrote. For me, it wasn’t as much as about beginning the process, it was about making sense of the process.



To be continued . . .

Friday, June 24, 2011

Maybe I am just a little bit crazy - a manfesto of a man looking for a sustainable world.

(revised 9/26/2011) I was made to believe I had mental problems when I was 18. What an age to be crazy: the world was small enough to be sensible in some ways, but large enough to be incomprehensible in other ways.

I had made a poor attempt at crazy then. But a thought had occurred to me a few years later. If I was so miserable why not live a little?

I enlisted in the Army half way through my incomprehensible studies in the tower of a philosophical Babel. If my life should be so pointless, it shall be a worth while if I can try to save someone else’s life – someone who was not crazy and wanted to live a good life.


More than ten years later, I learned that everyone is a little bit crazy. How I felt in my youth was only the beginning of my understanding of a crazy world. Through my experiences on the battlefield, plugging bullet holes on some teenager’s body and picking up pieces of brain of what was a sensible young man looking to go home tomorrow, I learned that crazy is a good thing because it got you through the incomprehensible thing we called life.

But there is a spectrum of being crazy. Most of us stand far enough on that spectrum to deal with the incomprehensibleness of life. We learn to move on with pills or therapy. I self-medicated with beer and shine and I also enrolled in therapy for a brief period. But I learned that neither was the solution to my craziness; at most they were letting me to believe I was along side of everyone else – a collective acceptance of what is incomprehensible.

Then I acquired a cause and a duty to carry forward for something more than just my own healing. My world became sensible because there is now something beyond the spectrum of my craziness and I am the steward of that sensible future.

I once had a friend who told me that I do things because I cared. I was flattered but I told him it was because I cared for my own well being that I do things for others, for the world. I now realized the incompleteness of that truth – I do things for others and for the world because I want to be accepted the way I am, I want to be normal. But without changing who I am I had to change the world.

That is my path to search for a sustainable future of our world – one that is more sensible for the likes of my 18 year-old-self. I have been called a radical optimist once, but now I see that I am no more than a youth trying to reach for the sky, learning the sky has no limits and finding my own limits from building a world of tomorrow. I am a man, who would bleed just as our planet would; I am an incomprehensible man trying to make sense of the world for my children to stand more balanced on the crazy spectrum.




Federal Agencies Partner to Revitalize Urban Waterways In Communities Across The U.S.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 24, 2011

BALTIMORE– A new federal partnership aims to stimulate regional and local economies, create local jobs, improve quality of life, and protect Americans’ health by revitalizing urban waterways in under-served communities across the country. The Urban Waters Federal Partnership (UWFP), an innovative federal union comprised of 11 agencies, will focus its initial efforts on seven pilot locations: the Patapsco Watershed (Maryland), the Anacostia Watershed (Washington DC/Maryland), the Bronx & Harlem River Watersheds (New York), the South Platte River in Denver (Colorado), the Los Angeles River Watershed (California), the Lake Pontchartrain Area (New Orleans, LA), and the Northwest Indiana Area. Each of the pilot locations already has a strong restoration effort underway, spearheaded by local governments and community organizations. Lessons learned from these pilot locations will be transferred to other cities in the country.

Led by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and coordinated by the White House Domestic Policy Council, the Urban Waters Federal Partnership closely aligns with and advances the work of the other White House place-based efforts such as the Partnership for Sustainable Communities by revitalizing communities, creating jobs and improving the qualities of life in cities and towns across the nation. The partnership also supports President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative aimed at making the Federal Government a better partner with communities that are working to provide safe, healthy and accessible outdoor spaces. Like these other efforts, the UWFP represents another example of how the Obama Administration is promoting more efficient and effective use of federal resources through better coordination and targeting of federal investments.


U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes, Council for Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley and representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the partnership along the Patapsco River in Baltimore today where they participated in environmental education activities with Baltimore students. Americans use urban waterways like the Patapsco River as sources of drinking water and for a variety of activities including boating, fishing and swimming. Cleaning up and restoring these water resources is essential to protecting Americans’ health and improving their overall quality of life. Revitalizing these urban waterways will also reconnect citizens to open spaces, and will have a positive economic impact on local businesses, tourism and property values, as well as spur private investment and job creation in these communities.

“There is a range of health and environmental challenges facing our urban waters today -- but each challenge is matched by an incredible opportunity to transform distressed urban waterfronts into centerpieces for community revitalization,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Urban waters have the potential to support healthy environments, growing business and educational and recreational activities. By bringing together the experience and expertise of multiple federal partners, we have a chance to reconnect local residents, young people and community groups with the environmental resources all around them.”

“Water is the lifeblood of our communities and we must care for our watersheds and urban waterways around the nation,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. ”Through this partnership and President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, Interior is committed to increasing public access to river resources, helping restore and protect habitat and wildlife, educating and employing our youth, and assessing and helping safeguard water quality.”


“Conserving our natural heritage is an objective shared by all Americans,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The Urban Waters partnership will not only give thousands of urban Americans access to the great outdoors in a way they haven’t had before, it also creates partnerships between the federal government and American communities on conservation issues. At USDA, the Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service are working in thousands of communities across the country to conserve and revitalize forests and watersheds, many impacting urban areas. At the same time, we’re connecting people with our land and resources by promoting outdoor activities and healthier lifestyles.”


“This important partnership is yet another example of the way that the Obama Administration is changing the way that government does business,” said DPC Director Melody Barnes. “At a time when every dollar the federal government invests in jumpstarting the economy is critical, we are finding ways to create unprecedented collaboration among the federal agencies, invest American’s tax dollars more wisely and efficiently, and act as better partners with local communities.”

“Too often, pollution, lack of access, and other barriers don’t allow urban residents to reap the health and economic benefits of rivers and other nearby waterways,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “As called for by President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, the Urban Waters Federal Partnership increases Federal coordination with local communities to support their work towards cleaner, healthier rivers and waters.”

“The Urban Waters Federal Partnership marks a significant step towards revitalizing an often overlooked resource in our urban communities,” said HUD Deputy Secretary Ron Sims. “Urban waterways have the potential to significantly improve urban communities, so I am pleased that HUD has a role in providing these pilot cities with the necessary tools to spur the creation of local jobs, economic development and protect Americans’ health.”

“The partnership offers an opportunity to realize urban waterway and watershed revitalization goals that are larger than, and beyond the resources of any individual community, agency, or mission. We can deliver solutions to help urban communities enjoy and prosper from healthy waters through collaboration with other agencies and the communities we collectively serve, said Ms. Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, one of the initiative’s 11 federal partners, “The Department of the Army for Civil Works is committed to the vision, mission, and principles of this partnership. We are ready to assist in securing more vibrant and sustainable urban waters.”



For more information, visit www.urbanwaters.gov



11 Agencies of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership

Environmental Protection Agency

· Use statutory authority to protect and preserve water quality and provide assistance in assessing and addressing legacy contamination.

Department of Interior

Assist in building trails; increase public access to river resources; help restore and protect habitat and wildlife; educate and employ urban youth; and assess and help safeguard water quality.

United States Department of Agriculture

Help communities to plan, manage, and sustain farm and forest landscapes on public and private ownership along a complex rural to urban gradient to promote watershed health and protect water resources, from the source to the faucet.

Corporation for National and Community Service

· Recruiting, organizing and maximizing the impact of community volunteers.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

· CDC/ATSDR will serve to offer guidance and technical assistance to local health officials and community members in conducting community-based environmental health assessments and creating an accurate and verifiable profile of communities’ environmental health status.

Department of Commerce/Economic Development Administration

· Foster the creation of high-skill jobs and the generation of private capital investment in distressed communities.

Department of Commerce/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Provide unique scientific products and services designed to boost economic vitality, restore habitat, and mitigate hazards and contamination in coastal, Great Lakes, and other locations.

Army Corps of Engineers

· Offer engineering services, research and technical support to stakeholders during the planning, design, construction and operation of water resources and associated environmental infrastructure.

Department of Transportation

Help the community in designing improved transportation corridors, bikeways, walkways

Housing and Urban Development

Help the community improve access to affordable housing.

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

· Assist with health studies related to community environmental conditions.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Case For Oath Keepers - by Moises Medina

(We are reposting this blog in response to the uproar and outrage occurring in Ferguson, MO. This post, written by Moises Medina in 2011, highlights many of the problems associated with the militarization of the police force in the U.S. While this topic is (finally) getting some much needed mainstream media attention, it is important to remember that many individuals had this problem on their radar long before this incident. We here at The Green Elephant hope that more people recognize the necessity for writers, artists, advocates and the like in our society. These individuals help bring to light issues that many of us do not see until it is too late.) 

"Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would.....would do this, it would change the earth."
                                                                       --William Faulkner
“We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded." -Barrack Obama

Local law enforcement agencies have been receiving federal funds for some time now. The additional money provides better equipment for officer safety and additional inter agency training. Fusion Centers are now common throughout the country. One police department can now patrol in other jurisdictions. Another trend now observed is the increased use of SWAT teams for tasks that a regular officer could accomplish.

On May 5th 2011, a Pima county SWAT team shot an IRAQ war veteran 61 times while serving a multi house search warrant. The Pima co. Sheriff had to admit the 26yro, husband and father, did not shoot at the SWAT team and no drugs were found in the home. Really, SWAT serving a search warrant and shooting a guy 61 times without ever being shot at!?!?

In Stockton California a man's door was busted down by SWAT. The man was arrested, in front of his kids, and dragged out of his home in his underwear. The warrant, from the Department of Education, was for the man's estranged wife. No local law enforcement agencies were involved. When did the Department of Education begin to command SWAT teams? Where did this SWAT team come from, if no local law enforcement was used?!?! A simple Google search will turn up case after case were SWAT teams go into a home and kill pets (in front of kids even) and in some cases don't end up pressing charges on their suspected targets.

Let me get this right. A group of soldiers in Iraq, mostly ranging in ages between 17 and 25, can go into the home of armed Al-Qaida members and acquire 3 high profile targets (alive) without harming women, children, or pets (a real example from personal experience, so don't tell me I don't know what its like). Yet, the above mentioned SWAT teams (the elite of law enforcement) cannot go into an American home without being “trigger happy”, killing people or pets, and terrorizing children!?!? B.S. Technical skills and lack of discipline aside, why is this happening? It’s a simple matter of budgeting and funds allocation. Law enforcement agencies can continue to allocate federal funds to their SWAT teams due to their increased use. The same for inter agency cooperation and Fusion Center participation.

This is how Obama's paramilitarized "civilian security force" is created. Yey... About the only training on constitutional law or rights they receive is geared towards keeping the officers out of trouble. Example: When an officer wants to use force against a person the standard line is: "Stop resisting!" even if the person is not resisting.

What happens when the federal government uses these poorly disciplined agencies against (I mean) to help the American people during a national emergency? Will they act with in their constitutional bounds? Or will they only PROTECT their funds (paychecks) AND SERVE only the system? Perhaps its time, for every community, to demand that law enforcement re-affirm the oath each officer and deputy swore. With the new paramilitary civilian security force being expanded, its time for everyone to listen to what the Oath Keepers have been warning about all along.

http://oathkeepers.org/oath/

____________________________________________
I've known Moises Medina for about 8 years now. He and I served together as medics in Iraq. Recently he started his own blog at Doc Medina's Soapbox.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Market watch.

With my recent law school tuition and start-up cost for my new venture, my funds are dried for playing in the market place. But I can’t help noting some solid leads and in the interest of helping the green energy market sector, I want to bring you a bit of good news. What you do with it is at your own risk.

Today, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Prologis and NRG Energy announced an offer of a conditional commitment from the U.S. Department of Energy's Loan Programs Office to help finance the largest distributed rooftop solar generation project in the world. This facilitates a total project size of about $2.6 billion and which is being financed entirely by the private sector over the next four years.

The project hopes to generate employment across 28 states and will create the equivalent of more than 10,000 full-year jobs. The installations are expected to provide approximately 733 megawatts (MW) of distributed solar energy, which is enough to power approximately 100,000 homes.

With a conditional commitment from the Department of Energy, the three firms are working to finalize the financing documentation for the distributed solar project and begin the first phase of installation. 15 MW of solar capacity is ready immediately for construction and installation in Southern California. NRG Energy has committed to be the lead investor for the first phase of the project over the next 18 months.

NRG Energy is one of the nation's largest electric power companies and solar energy developers. It has a right of first offer for the remainder (up to the program total of 733 MW) and will provide development resources and project expertise for the installations.

NRG Solar pursues a diverse, multi-technology approach to commercializing solar generation, including large-scale concentrated solar thermal and photovoltaic, and distributed solar. The company also owns the largest solar photovoltaic plant currently operating in California and has more than 2,000 MW of solar projects under development or in construction across the United States.

NRG Energy, Inc. (NRG) is a wholesale power generation company. It is engaged in the ownership, development, construction and operation of power generation facilities; the transacting in and trading of fuel and transportation services; the trading of energy, capacity and related products in the United States and select international markets, and the supply of electricity, energy services and cleaner energy and carbon offset products to retail electricity customers in deregulated markets through its retail subsidiaries Reliant Energy and Green Mountain Energy. NRG has thermal businesses in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and San Francisco. During the year ended December 31, 2010, NRG acquired a pipeline of solar development projects from US Solar Ventures; acquired South Trent Wind LLC; acquired Northwind Phoenix, LLC (Northwind Phoenix); Green Mountain Energy Company, and acquired the Cottonwood Generating Station.

Range 23.38 - 23.78
52 week 18.22 - 25.54
Open 23.55
Vol / Avg. 2.08M/2.59M
Mkt cap 5.64B
P/E 41.98
Div/yield -
EPS 0.56
Shares 241.09M
Beta 0.82

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

EPA Extends Public Comment on Mercury and Air Toxics Standards

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 21, 2011
 
Extension will have no impact on timeline for finalizing standards


WASHINGTON -- In response to requests from members of Congress and to encourage additional public comment, EPA today extended the timeline for public input by 30 days on the proposed mercury and air toxics standards, an extension that will not alter the timeline for issuing the final standards in November 2011.


“EPA will put these long-overdue standards in effect in November, as planned. In our effort to be responsive to Congress and to build on the robust public comment process, we will extend the timeline for public input by 30 days, which will not impact the timeline for issuing the final standards," said Administrator Jackson. "These standards are critically important to the health of the American people and will leverage technology already in use at over half of the nation’s coal power plants to slash emissions of mercury and other hazardous pollutants. When these new standards are finalized, they will assist in preventing 11,000 heart attacks, 17,000 premature deaths, 120,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and approximately 11,000 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children each year. Hospital visits will be reduced and nearly 850,000 fewer days of work will be missed due to illness.”


EPA proposed the first ever national mercury and air toxics standards in March. The standards will be phased in over three years, and states have the ability to give facilities a fourth year to comply. Currently, more than half of all coal-fired power plants already deploy widely available pollution control technologies that are called for to meet these important standards. Once they are final in November, these standards will ensure the remaining coal-fired plants, roughly 44 percent, take similar steps to decrease dangerous pollutants.



More information on the mercury and air toxics standards: http://epa.gov/airquality/powerplanttoxics/

The declaration of a Bill.

(This is written for Sara Allen's Expert Opinion on Sustainability. She asked a selected panel of bloggers what would be one Bill we would back this year as Green activists. You can read other blogger's responses on the topic on her site this Friday.)
___________________________________________

Cap and Trade is old news and at best it only redistributes the burdens of environmental impacts to the poorest of areas while the rich and privileged can buy their way into a cleaner environment for themselves. I think most of the environmental activists and lobbyists these days recognizes the failure of Cap and Trade and have been backing off endorsing its inequities.

We have also set a new vehicle efficiency standard to 60 MPG and that is good news. It seems we are enlightened enough to at least legislate our way into less consumption. Yet I fear that our politicians are still only talking about weaning off foreign dependencies not dependencies on fossil fuel in general.

I would like to see a more robust transportation bill and energy at the federal and local level that encourages efficiency and mass transit that utilizes alternative and renewable methods. The disparities of such initiatives are regionalized, with the Midwest least of caring for such alternatives and continues to build highways and expand vehicle friendly services. Indiana prides on itself for its cars and its coal, but I dream for the day when we have to recognize the long term viability of gas-guzzling SUVs and the ugliness of six lane highways.

But the most pressing issue, and a bill that I would back this year, would be one that increases accountability for the corporations that fracks for natural gas with deadly chemicals, drill for oil from the deep sea, and mining for coal by blowing up mountain tops. Best just more accountability and transparency in general.

Sadly, there is no such bill on the table. Before the Gulf disaster, BP almost got a free pass to drill without question. EPA in PA is at least trying to regulate fracking but they are met with heavy resistance. Recently the Senate Environment and Conservation Committee voted 6-2 against the bill (SB578) sought to ban water quality control permits from being issued for mining that would alter a ridgeline located more than 2,000 feet above sea level. This marks at least the third legislative session where similar legislation has failed.

I often ask why such measures fail. Then I realize that the companies are also the contributors for these politicians to stay in office. There is a lot of back rubbing that goes on in the houses. Asking for environmental and sustainable responsibility will have to come from accountability and full disclosure, but those are meaningless if citizens do not care or are not educated enough to understand the consequences.

So my support is not for any particular bill. I think that will have to be the last step of my political activism. I would rather call your attention to the fundamentals of supporting a bill in a free country such as ours – that each of us take the responsibility to learn and search for what is best for all of us.

I leave you with the words quoted by my dear friend in TX, who also happen to be an immigrant and a fellow medic and served time in Iraq supposedly to protect this great nation:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government," 

I didn't make this up people... Wake up!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Dear Mr. Edge.

I respect U2. Bono and crew have done a lot of charitable work around the world. I first came to respect them for their work with Amnesty International. I have also seen their support for Live 8, ONE Campaign, (RED), Greenpeace, and Make Poverty History. Over the years, I have also come to like their music and thought I’d be happy there are sensible media pop icons that doesn’t just represent riches and spoils of the privileged few.

But this morning I hear on NPR that Edge is trying to build five massive mansions on an environmentally sensitive hillside above Malibu. His intention is to build them to LEED specs and meet the highest sustainability standards.

I’m sorry, did I hear that right Mr. Edge? You want to disturb what little natural habitats we have left of our world for your ego while you hide behind the label of sustainability and a million dollar donation to conservation organizations? Isn’t one of LEED’s principle credit paths focused on site selection and avoiding virgin lands?

Should I be angry with you or with the conservationists who actually took your million dollars in exchange for their silence/support? Should I be afraid that you would corrupt the LEED standards because you have millions of dollars more to throw at them? Are you better than the rich Washington donors who paid for their executive appointments as ambassadors? Corruption is the same whichever way you look and corrupting our environment is just as bad as corrupting our political infrastructure. I’m sorry Mr. Edge, but I have to think you are out of your green mind for wanting to build and I think the California Coastline Commission is in their right to reject your application.

I know you have millions more after you buy off the conservationists and the USGBC. You can buy smart lawyers who can make clever arguments to win a court case so you can build those five massive mansions for your host of buddies to feel better about your money and yourselves.


But I will no longer support that cause. I may pirate your next songs if they are just that good, but I doubt I will care enough to listen to your music any more…

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Do what you must for your country, don’t let it rot to the point where we have to be drafted to clean up the mess.

My personal political beliefs have shifted from a liberal, social welfare driven, state of mind to a more conservative one since I began to learn about sustainability. Here is why: if we are really going to make a difference, we have to take the responsibilities to make it happen; we can’t count on the government to force our way into sustainability just as we can’t expect our government to force us into military services.

I had written a short blog about why I thought military services should be mandatory, but at the pleads of my liberal friends I realized the principles of voluntarism applies as well to anything we do – do what you must for your country, don’t let it rot to the point where we have to be drafted to clean up the mess.

But I do believe our federal government plays a critical role in allocating resources, uniting strong and positive messages, and giving states and individuals something to act upon. That is the role of our government, of our president – not as a king and laying down decrees but giving assistance to help us achieve.

Last year, when I began my search in sustainable knowledge, I stumbled upon an EPA, HUD, and DOT joint effort to build sustainable communities. I had been a bit discouraged at the time thinking that it was an effort to create more robust federal involvement at the local level. Naturally I resisted the idea and put the thought behind.

I recently saw an EPA news release about this initiative. I read a bit more and realized just how childish it was for me to ignore the project simply because of its vigorous federal involvement. Sure, the money came from the unwilling tax payers and republicans are screaming foul because these kind projects cuts into their old “leave it to someone else to worry about the consequences of their profit structure” mentality. But as much as I dislike the current level of presidential powers over the people and the state, I see this particular project between EPA, HUD, and DOT a significant and progressive one.

Sure the EPA may lay final rules that inhibit business development at times, but that is only to protect the environment and our health. HUD and DOT also has their separate bureaucratic problems but they too serve important roles if their mandates are properly balanced against the social needs of our small communities.

Since last year, announcing the partnership, the agencies have dedicated more than $2.5 billion in assistance to more than 200 communities in 48 states. The goals are to help meet housing and transportation goals while simultaneously protecting the environment, promoting equitable development, and addressing the challenges of climate change. Of that funding, $238 million was focused on America’s rural communities.

You can see some highlighted the resources, best practices, grant announcements, and other information here http://www.sustainablecommunities.gov/

“When EPA, HUD and DOT pool our knowledge and our strategies in this Partnership, we’re better equipped to build solutions that lower transportation costs, reduce harmful emissions and improve our health and the health of our environment," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

I can’t help but dream that this kind of joint efforts will help the sustainability movement achieve scale, equalize economic incentives, and address the problems of unequal distributions of our health, environmental, and housing injustices to the poor.

One can only hope, but it is up to the rest of us to do something about it and use the resources and make a difference. My buddy Mark and I are looking into DOL grants to help homeless veterans with job training and community development and I think there may be synergies between what DOL is doing with this joint effort. I realized this morning that a holistic approach of sustainability cannot be driven from the top-down, but it must be taken up from the bottoms-up. To defeat the thing that has plagued our Democracy and federalism, and all of the side-effects and consequences of slow government actions, we the people must come together and help make a difference. It’s time to stop bashing the government and start working with it to make a difference.

I PLEDGE MY ALLEGIANCE TO MY ABILITIES TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR THIS COUNTRY I LOVE, FOR ITS PEOPLE I CARE, FOR ITS COMMUNITIES I MUST SAVE.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

EPA Seeks Small Business Participation on Wastewater Discharge Rule for Steam Electric Power Plants

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 15, 2011

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is inviting small businesses to nominate representatives to participate in a Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) Panel. This panel will focus on the agency’s development of a proposed rulemaking to strengthen and revise wastewater discharge regulations for steam electric power generating plants. Small business’ participation can help EPA learn, first-hand, about ways to reduce regulatory burdens and help EPA better understand small business’ challenges in complying with wastewater regulations.

The rulemaking will address nuclear-fueled and fossil-fueled (i.e., coal, oil, gas) steam electric power plants. The wastewater discharges to be addressed include flue gas desulfurization wastes from sulfur dioxide air pollution controls, coal ash pond discharges, leachate from ash ponds and landfills containing coal combustion residues, coal gasification wastewater, and other waste streams from fossil-fueled and nuclear-fueled power plants. The main pollutants of concern for these discharges include nitrogen, total dissolved solids, and toxic metals such as mercury, arsenic and selenium. These metals can be lethal to aquatic life and can build up in fish, water fowl and humans causing detrimental effects.

The Regulatory Flexibility Act requires EPA to establish an SBAR Panel for rules that may have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The panel will include federal representatives from the Small Business Administration, the Office of Management and Budget and EPA. The panel asks a selected group of small entities representatives (SER), i.e., small business representatives, to provide advice and recommendations on behalf of their company, community, or organization to inform the panel about the potential impacts of the proposed rule on small entities.


EPA seeks self-nominations directly from the small entities that may be subject to the rule requirements. Other representatives, such as trade associations that exclusively or at least primarily represent potentially regulated small entities, may also serve as SERs.


Self-nominations for the panel must be submitted to EPA by June 30, 2011.


Submit online at: http://www.epa.gov/sbrefa/steamelectric.htm


More information about the steam electric power plants rules: http://water.epa.gov/scitech/wastetech/guide/steam_index.cfm

Information is power, use it wisely.

This appears to be a big week for the EPA. On Tuesday, Lisa Jackson, EPA's Administrator, testified about its rule setting a national standard on pollutant emissions from power planets. No doubt there will be lawsuits filed challenging the EPA on the rule or its power to set such a standard. I will post if I hear anything on the legal front.

On that same date, June 15th, EPA also announced its two databases — the Toxicity Forecaster database (ToxCastDB) and a database of chemical exposure studies (ExpoCastDB) — that scientists and the public can use to access chemical toxicity and exposure data.

ToxCastDB users can search and download data from over 500 rapid chemical tests conducted on more than 300 environmental chemicals. ToxCast uses advanced scientific tools to predict the potential toxicity of chemicals and to provide a cost-effective approach to prioritizing which chemicals of the thousands in use require further testing. ToxCast is currently screening 700 additional chemicals, and the data will be available in 2012.

ExpoCastDB consolidates human exposure data from studies that have collected chemical measurements from homes and child care centers. Data include the amounts of chemicals found in food, drinking water, air, dust, indoor surfaces and urine. ExpoCastDB users can obtain summary statistics of exposure data and download datasets. EPA will continue to add internal and external chemical exposure data and advanced user interface features to ExpoCastDB.
EPA News Release on Tuesday, June 15th, 2011. "EPA Improves Access to Information on Hundreds of Chemicals"

The two databases are connected through EPA’s Aggregated Computational Toxicology Resource (ACToR). You can access this online data warehouse for information on over 500,000 chemicals from over 500 public sources.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

EPA Administrator testifies before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, testified today on air pollution and some of the more recent EPA rules regarding air pollutant discharges and technology mandates.

She stated as a matter of fact that pollutants such as mercury and other particulate matter, “shortens and reduces the quality of Americans’ lives and puts at risk the health and development of future generations.”

This is nothing new. We have seen an increase of respiratory problems in heavily impacted areas. There are also other researches correlating particular pollutants as related to diseases and cancer. Mercury, for example, is a toxin that causes neurological damages; particulate matters can lead to respiratory problems, decreased lung functions and even pre-mature death in fetuses. Because these pollutants are in the air, they impact everyone, but it is the elderly and the young that are most frequently affected most severely. The added healthcare cost from these problems may not have been a big deal in the booming and bubble years in the past. In this economy, we all hope we can cut cost a bit here and there. I’d say less health problem is a good thing not only for us personally, but also for the economy in general.

Of course most of these pollutants, including arsenic, chromium and acid gases, come from power plants. I have previously defended our nuclear power options only if we can cut back on our energy consumption to reduce the pressure on the grid and slowly phase-out nuclear and other high impact energy production methods. Health problems should be added to the list of reasons why we need to curb our energy demand and call for a transition to a distributed grid of clean and renewable energy.

We have been working hard at cleaning our air since the 1970s when Congress first created the Clean Air Act. Over the years, EPA has been fighting a good fight issuing final rules to transition technologies used and reduce pollutants emitted. The Clean Air Act was amended in 1990 to give it more teeth and the EPA is proud to report that in the last year alone, “the Clean Air Act is estimated to have saved 160,000 lives and prevented more than 100,000 hospital visits.”

On March 16, EPA proposed the first ever national standards for mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants. While many power plants already comply with EPA standards, the new national standard will level the playing field by requiring additional power plants to install proven pollution control technologies.

I am one for small governments and strong state authority and obligations to protect its own citizens. But I think a national standard is perhaps necessary to resolve some of the cross-boundary pollutant emission disputes. After all, the EPA staff and lawyers have better things to do than to argue back and forth why some states are requiring less stringent standards while impacting another down-wind state’s air quality. This is a race to the bottom problem and a proper cure must set a minimum bar to elevate our overall responsibility to the health and condition of our people.

EPA estimate the deployment of these bar minimum technologies will prevent an estimated:

  • 17,000 premature deaths
  • 11,000 heart attacks
  • 120,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms
  • 11,000 cases of acute bronchitis among children
  • 12,000 emergency room visits and hospital admissions
  • 850,000 days of work missed due to illness

The rule is currently open for comments. Once it is finalized, this rule will result in more than $120 billion in health benefits each year. EPA estimates this rule will protect public health by avoiding:

  • 14,000 to 36,000 premature death
    • 21,000 cases of acute bronchitis
    • 23,000 nonfatal heart attacks
  • 240,000 cases of aggravated asthma
  • 440,000 cases of upper and lower respiratory symptoms
  • 26,000 hospital and emergency room visits
    • 1.9 million days of work or school missed due to illness

You can read a full version of her testimony at: http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/Press%20Releases%20-%20Air!OpenView

Monday, June 13, 2011

War of the Roses: Barbie vs. Ken

Recently I wrote a short blog about the U.S. Marine's GREENS (Ground Renewable Expeditionary Energy Network System). I had declared that there should be a mandated military service for everyone but only predicated on the fact that we rethink the role of our military. Call it something else, Star Fleet or what have you, but preserve the competitiveness of a military culture and orientate the missions towards creating a sustainable culture as opposed to sending young men and women to wars killing each other for who knows what.

But I guess my artistic license offended some of my liberal friends. I eventually conceded to their point on the ground that voluntary service achieves much better focus, success, and effectiveness than a conscripted force. I guess I took my artistic license too far and made it a threatening thought for a few people who would vomit uncontrollably when the concept of military culture is even considered.

I guess I am a little different than my hippie peace days. I still believe in peace, but I also recognize the reality of the human condition - one that depends on the threat of violence to feel the need for innovation.

Perhaps I am a radical positivist and I would rather believe that everyone would enlist in a "Star Fleet" and serve their time for the benefit of others. Perhaps I am a radical pessimist, looking at human beings as incapable of innovation in the pursuit for science alone. Either way, I was wrong to ask for a social order to drafts men and women into service against their will. It's a semantic mistake on my part, but a big stink with people who misunderstands my intent. But they are entitled to their views and all their bags of sensitivities. To them, conscription is important enough to voice angry opinions.

Fair enough. I would like to correct myself. Please consider voluntarily changing your ways towards sustainability. Don't let this nut job recruit you to a cause. Start your own cause. Don't get drafted to Green. You should be intrinsically motivated to make a sustainable future for everyone. 

LEED is a voluntary and private program and it is gaining momentum. I would like to see more of us help shape a consumer culture that voluntarily take up responsibility for our mother planet. 

Like Ken, who just recently dumped Barbie®

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A man is defined by his land, or is it his land to begin with?

We are probably the dumbest folks on our block. We cancelled our lawn care service.

Everyone else have beautiful shaped and cured lawns radiant with a chemical green in this heat of the summer. Ours are slowly dominated by invasive species and some fortunate native plants. I cancelled the chemical treatments because I felt I had an obligation to figure out how to reshape this piece of land I am to care for. Native plants would be ideal. I will have to learn and do something about those invasive ones. At the very least, it’s one of those DIY opportunities that I often get to experiment with how I envision nature should be. . .

Yes, that is vain of me. But it could lead to a few points if I am to get this house certified with LEED.

I had asked Lawn Pride if they have any environmentally friendly products; or something at least with no phosphorus. I was always told with an ambiguous no, they claim my yard need all of that synthetic crap that ends up polluting nearby waters. I don’t mind the sales call, but at least hear what I have to say and don't assume what you are doing is right just because you have been doing the same thing for years.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no clue how to go about to cure my lawn either. Some would argue at least the Lawn Pride guys are “professionals” with some "professional knowledge." I’m just some schmuck who thinks fertilizers and pesticides are bad for the environment.

Well, at least the privilege of being a steward to my part of earth’s land is that I get to choose how I should care for the land. Living in a free country entitles me to that at least.

But could it be that I am over reacting and this whole thing is pointless? After all, Lawn Pride has been using this stuff for tens of years without problems.Who am I to argue what they are doing isn't right for planet earth?

Sure. Fairy tales are fairy tales. But they are my fairy tales. I get to decide how or who should botch the story lines.  

According to the Hoosier Environmental Council, over fertilizing could lead to dangerous algae blooms due to phosphorus run-offs. These algae are air-borne at times and can kill fishes and cause dermatitis, liver damage, or even neurological problems in humans. I have seen the small pond near our house, next to a K-6 school. It always has a strange algae presence.

I don’t mean to overreact, but the thought of neurological problems for kids scares the shit out of me.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Marines, they’ll f’ you up.

Military technology has shaped our society in unexpected ways. It has transformed how we relate to nature and each other. Atomic weapons threaten unimaginable things yet the Internet has brought the planet together on so many fronts. After-all I couldn’t be a helpless narcissistic blogger today without it.

I am a firm believer that the concept of military culture is quintessential to a progressing civilization. I also think military service should be mandatory for young men and women for one year. I guess you can call me a post-modern Spartanist, and no I don’t advocate for killing weak babies.

As a condition of establishing a mandatory military service, I think military should re-orientate to prepare and adopt for peacetime needs as well as prepare and battle wars. There is an important distinction of the mind, for peace it is progress and for war it is peace.

What you trade is for one year of service for a lifetime of discipline and education on the importance of war and peace. If a man or woman learns of this lesson early, and learn the respect built by centuries of codes of battles, we can only hope they are likely to avoid wars if possible.

The more important aspect of this mandatory service is the young men and women will learn to appreciate peace and progress; because they will have earned it by their military service. But that’s only if the military were focused on peacetime progress as well as wartime advantages. I guess we wouldn’t have had the incentive to mess with atoms or link minds if we didn’t have wars. Hence my intuition that war is necessary and military is quintessential to a progressing civilization.

But we can leverage this towards our advantage and avoid wars and harvest the fruit of peacetime progress. It’s just a matter of how you think of the situation, that’s all.

Okay, so all of that philosophical babel are to direct you to this: the U.S. Marine is testing a Ground Renewable Expeditionary Energy Network System (GREENS - at least this one military acronym makes sense.)

The prime contractor is HDT Global (HDT) in case you are interested. (Click here for more details about this project.) I gather that they have already completed a nine month development phase and the project is now on a production run.

The GREENS system is portable (some poor Marine will have to carry this thing on his/her back perhaps). It promises to provide limited renewable energy for forward-deployed units. Using less fossil fuel means less threats associated to vehicles in convoys. As a medic, I can appreciate that thinking.

HDT is using a large-format prismatic cell battery that contains 5 to 10 times more energy and 70 times more than the market ready cylindrical cells. (The battery is made by a Pennsylvania based company, International Battery.) This reduces thermal management requirements, increases energy density, and comes with various other structural and process advantages. Advantages the Marines desperately need.

Only if we can bypass the need for some poor Marine carrying this thing on his back, traveling to some foreign land, and give his life for some pointless war. We can use this to establish distributed renewable grids, prevent catastrophic failures and help improve our environment all at the same time.

That's how we should defend the human race.

RAGE:

                          Sing, Goddess, Achilles' rage,
Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks
Incalculable pain, pitched countless souls
Of heroes into Hades' dark,
And left their bodies to rot as feasts
For dogs and birds, as Zeus' will was done.
Begin with the clash between Agamemnon--
The Greek warlord--and godlike Achilles.

    Which of the immortals set these two
At each other's throats?
                                                     Apollo
Zeus' son and Leto's, offended
By the warlord. Agamemnon had dishonored
Chryses, Apollo's priest, so the god
Struck the Greek camp with plague,
And the soldiers were dying of it.

the green elephant Headline Animator