Saturday, July 30, 2011

Riders on the storm.

The debt ceiling news dominates the media these days. We are all worried about a potential default and a looming recession. Some parts of me have accepted the coming of more bad days; I’ve even forgiven the politicians acting like kids, playing chicken, and waiting to the last minute to do anything for political leverage.

In a bipartisan system, this kind of tug of war is inevitable; (I'd take this over a dictatorship any day). Faced with upcoming elections, being the first to give-in could mean political suicide. The cats in Washington have grown too accustomed to their power and prestige, letting go of their seats is un-comforting. I’m more than happy to let them keep their dirty politics, but all I ask is that they do the right thing at the end – whoever it is and whatever the outcome they deem best.

But it seems my hopes are high and my naivety too strong. I should have seen the wrecking ball from a mile away.

Under the heavy smoke of our debt crisis, our environmental policies are under attack. Republicans on the hill and their Tea-bagger legislators attached 19 riders to the spending bill to block protections for clean air, clean water, wilderness lands and wild life.

These riders don’t reduce spending by one penny, but they do block the government from following environmental laws. One provision would permanently weaken air pollution standards from offshore oil and gas drilling and make some sources of air pollution exempt from the Clean Air Act. Another would block the Department of Interior from enforcing safeguards designed to protect streams from coal mining pollution.

Frances Beinecke, Most Anti-Environment House of Representatives in History Tries to Do More Damage Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, U.S. Law and Policy (July 19, 2011).

These rider legislations have nothing to do with spending, they are an “end-run around Congressional procedures.”
“Riders generally are not subjected to hearings or full debates. And by adding riders, Republicans are trying to take the spending bill hostage. They are saying to the Senate, "Go along with these anti-environmental policies, or we’ll keep the government from getting funded."”
Police march three people accused of kidnapping to a press conference at the state attorney general office. The kidnappers, who were not part of an organized crime ring, were trying to ransom a relative for a family inheritance.
Photo - David Maung
July 4, 2007
Tijuana, Mexico


Luckily, the Administration blocked the first round of these legislation riders. Now, there are 38 more on the table waiting for a Vote on August 1. If passed, we are looking at a giant leap backward into the dark days of environmental regulation. Not only will we see more pollutants in our water, air, and land, we will also see more high impact businesses rise. Simply put, we are competing in the wrong market for the next decade. Everyone is innovating around sustainability, we are looking at how to burn more fuel. China is investing billions into a circular economy model knowing they cannot sustain the current rate of growth and cope with environmental problems. Japan, Canada, and a host of European countries are arming up their sustainability developments as well.

Here we are, taking the opportunity continuing our old ways and pushing back progress.

In an economic climate like this one, we are just digging out graves. The worst part is this is all happening before our eyes; yet under a secret, dark, and incredulous scheme by the people we elected and trusted.

I wonder what they would argue in defense of their agenda? Probably economic stimulus and business incentives - quick bucks and temporary fixes.

Here is a list of these "riders." (NRDC)

Clean Water

A rider in the Energy and Water appropriation (Sec. 109) offered by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) would block the Army Corps of Engineers from clarifying which streams and wetlands are protected by the Clean Water Act. Blocking the Corps would threaten those waters, many of which are sources of drinking water and help with flood control.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 116) offered by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) would forbid the National Parks Service from enforcing boating regulations in the Yukon-Charley National Preserve in Alaska.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 432) offered by Rep. Simpson would block the Department of Interior (DOI) from enforcing safeguards designed to protect streams from pollution from surface coal mining.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 433) offered by Rep. Simpson would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Army Corps of Engineers and DOI from limiting pollution and the destruction of streams from mountaintop removal coal mining.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 434) offered by Rep. Simpson would block the EPA from strengthening oversight of coal ash disposal. The EPA was acting in response to the massive release of toxic coal wastes in Tennessee in 2010.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 435) offered by Rep. Simpson would permanently block EPA from clarifying which streams and wetlands are protected by the Clean Water Act. Blocking the EPA would threaten those waters, many of which are sources of drinking water and help with flood control. This is a counterpart to the provision in the Energy and Water appropriation, since the EPA and the Army Corps jointly enforce aspects of the Clean Water Act.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 436) offered by Rep. Simpson would permanently block the EPA from strengthening oversight of the use of water by power plants. Power plants use enormous amounts of water for cooling, and then discharge it.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 438) offered by Rep. Simpson would permanently block the EPA from limiting pollution from runoff from logging roads.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 439) offered by Rep. Simpson would require a 90-day review by Congress before the EPA could strengthen limitations on pollution from urban stormwater systems.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Title V) offered by Rep. Simpson would permanently exempt pesticide application from the Clean Water Act.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation offered by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) would block the EPA from limiting pollution from agricultural runoff in Florida.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 456) offered by Rep. Joann Emerson (R-MO) would block the EPA from protecting wetlands in areas that have experienced severe flooding.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 459) offered by Rep. Steve Latourette (R-OH) would discourage states from having strict standards for the release of ballast water from ships by withholding grant money. Ballast water is a major source of invasive species.
Clean Air

A rider in both the Agriculture appropriation (H.R. 2112, Sec. 749) and the Military Construction appropriation (H.R. 2055, Sec. 417) offered by Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) would allow the federal government to purchase dirtier fuels for its vehicles, waiving current law. The rider says the government can buy fuels like liquid coal even though current law forbids purchasing alternative fuels that emit more carbon pollution than conventional fuels do.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 428) offered by Rep. Simpson would prevent the EPA from limiting pollution from livestock production under the Clean Air Act.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 429) offered by Rep. Simpson would prevent the EPA from requiring the reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 431) offered by Rep. Simpson would prevent the EPA from limiting carbon pollution from power plants and other stationary sources.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 441) offered by Rep. Simpson would permanently require the EPA to accept certain state plans for enforcing the Clean Air Act even when the EPA determines the state plans will not reduce pollution as the Act requires.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 443) offered by Rep. Simpson would permanently weaken regulation of air pollution from offshore oil and gas drilling activities, particularly in Alaska. Among other things, the provision exempts certain sources of air pollution from the Clean Air Act.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 444(c)) offered by Rep. Simpson would prevent the EPA from limiting certain kinds of pollution under the Clean Air Act and other statutes. The rider is written in such a way that its precise intent and impact are unclear, but it is based on the incorrect premise that the EPA requires jurisdictions to reduce air pollution below natural background levels.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation offered by Rep. John Carter (R-TX) would block the EPA from limiting toxic air pollution from cement kilns.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 453) offered by Rep. Steve Austria (R-OH) would block the EPA from setting new mileage standards for cars and from allowing California to do so.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 454) offered by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) would block the EPA from updating limits on coarse particle pollution.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 461) offered by Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) would block the EPA from limiting ammonia pollution from poultry and livestock facilities.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 462) offered by Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) would delay the EPA from limiting toxic pollution from power plants. The rider would also delay the EPA from limiting cross-state air pollution.
Energy Efficiency

A rider in the Energy and Water appropriation offered by Rep. Mike Burgess (R-TX) would block the enforcement of the standard requiring light bulbs to be more efficient.

[A provision in the Interior and Environment appropriation under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Resource Management title offered by Rep. Simpson (in Title I) would bar all new listings of threatened and endangered species as well as critical habitat designations for currently listed species, but would allow species to be de-listed.] The House voted 224-202 for an amendment by Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) to remove this rider.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 119) offered by Rep. Simpson would permanently prohibit the courts from reviewing any delisting of gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act in Wyoming and in the upper Midwest.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 503) would prevent the EPA from implementing any measures recommended by federal wildlife experts to protect endangered species from toxic pesticides. This would spell disaster for species, including Pacific Salmon, that are already on the brink of extinction due to pesticides and other harms.

A rider in the Energy and Water appropriation offered by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) would block the reintroduction of Chinook salmon into the San Joaquin river, contrary to law.

A rider in the Energy and Water appropriation offered by Rep.Doc Hastings (R-WA) would block the Army Corps of Engineers from implementing measures to save salmon through better dock design on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

A rider in the Energy and Water appropriation offered by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) would block enforcement of a law that prohibits use of explosives in water projects run by the Army Corps of Engineers.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 447) offered by Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) would prohibit EPA from modifying, suspending, or cancelling pesticide registrations because of endangered species impacts.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 118) offered by Rep. Simpson would make it more difficult to challenge DOI land use decisions in the courts.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 409) offered by Rep. Simpson would make it more difficult for courts to require the Forest Service to update its land use plans.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 437) offered by Rep. Simpson would permanently limit the ability of citizens to challenge Forest Service land use decisions in the courts.

* Two riders in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Secs. 120 and 442) offered by Rep. Simpson would eliminate nearly all protections for bighorn sheep in the western United States for five years.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 445) offered by Rep. Simpson would permanently prevent the DOI and the Forest Service from declaring lands near the Grand Canyon off limits for uranium mining.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 446) offered by Rep. Simpson (Sec. 446) would require the Forest Service to stop its development of Travel Management Plans in California until it considers opening trails to off-road vehicle use. The provision would also require more Forest Service roads to be open to off-road vehicles.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 124) offered by Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) would block the DOI from protecting wilderness-quality lands.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriations bill (Sec. 415) offered by Rep. Simpson would exempt grazing permits from environmental reviews.
Climate Adaptation

A rider in the Agriculture appropriation (Sec. 755) blocks the Agriculture Department (USDA) from carrying out its Policy Statement on Climate Adaptation. The rider by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) would prevent the USDA from even assessing what impacts climate change might have on farmers, foresters and other landholders.

A provision in the Homeland Security appropriation (H.R. 2017, Sec. 707) offered by Rep. John Carter (R-TX) prevents the Department of Homeland Security from running its Climate Change Adaptation Task Force.
Nuclear Energy

A rider in the Energy and Water appropriation (Sec. 505) offered by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) prevents the government from shutting down the proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
Oil Drilling

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 121) offered by Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) requires the DOI to report to Congress quarterly on which permits for offshore oil and gas exploration or drilling were denied.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 450) offered by Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-MT) would block the EPA from enforcing rules to limit exposure to lead paint.

* A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 455) offered by Rep. Rehberg would block the EPA from requiring insurance to finance possible Superfund cleanup at high-risk mining sites.

From: NRDC. Anti-Environmental Budget Riders, A significant assault on health and environmental protection is underway in Congress. (last revised 7/18/2011)

Friday, July 29, 2011

League of Women Voters announcing a new campaign to make sure Americans kids can breathe clean air,

Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the national League of Women Voters:

"We are deeply concerned about attacks on EPA and health protections. Any action to block the EPA from updating Clean Air Act protections, or any delay on behalf of the Administration to avoid implementing new clean air and industrial pollution requirements, is an attack on the health of our children and families, plain and simple," she said.

The Clean Air Promise Campaign will call on citizens, elected officials and community leaders around the country to join in making this simple promise to protect the health of our children and families:

"I promise to protect America's children and families from dangerous air pollution.

"Because toxins and pollutants such as mercury, smog, carbon, and soot, cause thousands of hospital visits, asthma attacks, and even deaths.

I will support clean air policies and other protections that scientists and public health experts have recommended to the EPA to safeguard our air quality."

Also in the news:

The U.S. EPA proposed standards to reduce harmful air pollution from oil and gas drilling operations yesterday.

These proposed updated standards would rely on cost-effective existing technologies to reduce emissions. The standards would leverage operators' ability to capture and sell natural gas that currently escapes into the air. The goals is to create efficient operations while reducing harmful emissions that can impact air quality in surrounding areas and nearby states.

"This administration has been clear that natural gas is a key component of our clean energy future, and the steps announced today will help ensure responsible production of this domestic energy source . . .. Reducing these emissions will help cut toxic pollution that can increase cancer risks and smog that can cause asthma attacks and premature death - all while giving these operators additional product to bring to market.”
Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation.

The proposal would cut volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from several types of processes and equipment used in the oil and gas industry. This includes a 95% reduction in VOC emissions from new and modified hydraulically fractured wells. This would be accomplished by capturing natural gas that currently escapes to the air and making that gas available for sale through technologies and processes already in use by several companies and required in some states.

Natural gas production in the U.S. is growing. There are more than 25,000 new and existing wells fractured or re-fractured each year. The VOC reductions in the proposal are expected to help reduce ozone nonattainment problems in many areas where oil and gas production occurs.

In addition, the VOC reductions would also reduce methane emissions from new and modified wells. Methane is a potent greenhouse and is more than 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Theproposed changes also would reduce emissions of several air toxics, including benzene, thus reducing cancer causing agents in the air.

The proposal is to be cost effective. It includes reviews of four air regulations for the oil and natural gas industry as required by the Clean Air Act. EPA is under a consent decree requiring the agency to sign a proposal by July 28, 2011 and take final action by Feb. 28, 2012.

EPA will hold three public hearings, in the Dallas, Denver and Pittsburgh areas. Details on the hearings will be announced soon.

More information:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Nose-to-tail, stem-to-root; a foodie’s delight in the lost art of eating.

I grew up eating chicken brains and dandelions. Not that I was forced, but I was told those were the delicacies of a generation’s past.

My grandma would take me to gather dandelions, wild berries, mushrooms, and whatever else we could find. Chopped and combined with a little bit of pork fat, the wild things made a delicious dumpling filling. She would reminisce about the times when everyone in China was hungry, starving, or dying. Being able to find enough dandelions meant a full stomach for a few hours. The way she grew up, a few hours of a satisfying belly was a rare thing.

I miss her very much. She passed away a few years ago and I never got the chance to see her one last time. There is still an unresolved feeling in my stomach these days when I catch a smell of home cooked Chinese food – a smell I associated with her since as far back as I can remember.

When I was born, my father had been accepted to a doctorate program in Beijing. I lived with my mother and her family in some Podunk village in the far corner of the Gobi. We didn’t have a city Hukou then, but I enjoyed the country living. Farmers were just beginning to prosper under the communist regime. I remember my grandma would always make a big deal when someone came from even further remote places with their hens to sell.

“Back when your mama was your age, no one raised chickens. We were too poor and no one could afford to feed their own kids, let alone those roosters and hens.”

She would take me to meet the farmer on his bicycle, stacked cages strapped to the carrying-rack behind his bike seat. The farmers always carried a fresh manure smell, pleasantly funky, warm, and inviting.

“This is my grandson,” my grandma would say proudly, “he’s here to help me carry the big rooster.”

I never did get to carry any of them. My grandma would grab the feet and sling the poor thing upside down. Rooster or hen, they never struggled much; occasionally flapped their wings, they swung silently to their doom.

After we got back, I would watch my grandma hold back the chicken’s head and expose the neck. With a quick slice of a sharp knife to the artery, blood would start to gush. She would place a bowl underneath; chicken blood would be congealed, boiled, and made into delicious soup for the next day.

She boiled hot water after all of the blood had been collected, the lifeless bird would be soaked so the feathers could be easily removed. She would spend some time plucking away and I would manage to fall for a nap only to wake to find the bird immersed in a big pot of simmering water - whole, gizzards and organs floating, with garlic, salt, ginger, and some other spices.

The bird would stay on the fire for the whole day. By the second morning, I would wake to a house filled by the richness of the chicken mixed with a distinct tingling of ginger. That evening, we would gather around and divide up the chicken.

My grandpa and uncle would always get the legs; they needed the strength to work. My mom and grandma would divide up the breasts; I would get a few pieces from them. The honest truth is I never liked the white meat, tasteless and tough to chew. My grandma and grandpa would each get a chicken’s feet - the best part of the chicken according to them.

I would get the wings because everyone thought I would fly away one day. I would need all the help I could get to fly high. I loved it because it was the most tasteful parts. I would suck and savor on the bones until they are dry and meatless. My special prize was the chicken’s brain. My grandma would say it’s good for me and will make me smart. Made sense to a four-year-old then, but I’m not sure if I still believe in that oldwives’ tale.

But I would get excited because it takes a skill to crack into the skull of a bird enough to expose the delicate intact brain matter. If you cracked it too hard, you’d end-up with small pieces of bones and brains scattered. My grandpa would always help me get started, making a small crack so I could take a single chopstick and pry open the top part of the skull. Occasionally I would get a whole chicken’s brain out – victory!

This blog post is written in memory of my childhood, my grandparents, and the good things they taught me about food – sustainable food. 

(Wasted food accounts for 20 percent of the carbon emissions from meat and dairy production. - Grist)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cadmium solar panels.

I recall a conversation with someone from a Chinese energy companies last year. She told me in terms of the energy market, China is hoping for cheaper ways of producing solar panel and foreign investments to help with efficient production. China intents to market whatever they can get their hands on to its urban consumers. Given the size of their market, anyone who can perfect the lowest cost technology with the highest efficiency will have the weight and advantage to invest in China. Given Chinese energy companies are state owned, anyone who has the potential to invest in this sector will get the green light from the State and will no doubt dominate the stock market in the years to come.

Market watch: First Solar Inc announced yesterday that it’s cadmium telluride solar technology achieved a world record of 17.3% efficiency. This means the panel is capable of capturing and converting 17.3% of the sunlight into electricity. Cadmium is cheaper to produce than the current preferred silicon-based material. The silicon-based panels achieve an efficiency ranging near the low 20%.

While I think it’s a bit of stretch to say First Solar is the company to watch for investment opportunities in China, it doesn’t hurt to watch them carefully and see if they can improve the efficiency standard and lower the cost to the point where China will want to play. If that should be the case, investing in their stocks will be a smart choice. Until then, keep an eye out for GE as well. GE recently announced 12.8% efficiency in April. At that time, GE had the lowest cost technology with the highest efficiency confirmed by the DOE’s NREL.

First Solar, Inc. (First Solar) manufactures and sells solar modules with an advanced thin-film semiconductor technology. First Solar designs, constructs, and sells photovoltaic (PV) solar power systems. It operates the business in two segments: components segment and systems segment. Its components segment is its principal business and involves the design, manufacture, and sale of solar modules, which convert sunlight into electricity. Customers of its components segment include project developers, system integrators, and operators of renewable energy projects. In January 2011, the Company and RayTracker, Inc. announced that First Solar, Inc. has acquired RayTracker, Inc. In January 2010, the Company completed the acquisition of certain assets from Edison Mission Group's solar project development pipeline consisting of utility-scale solar projects located primarily on private land in California and the southwestern United States. 

Click here to see a comparison between First Solar and GE's stock pricing. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

“China will continue to overindulge”

(revised 9/21/2011)

I’ve been researching into the new Chinese Circular Economy Laws for a possible topic to write for a student note in my law review. I came across a blog post written by “Dan” for the Harris & Moure PLLC, criticizing the new Circular Economy Law. The author pointed out, rightly, a western approach would be to write clear standards into the law and impose significant penalties.

“Both of these are missing from the CEPL.”

But that’s the Chinese way. Chinese Environmental Protection Laws are principle driven. It is inherently cultural. I admit it’s Achilles’ Heel is the implementation of these laws at China’s provincial level – no clear guidance usually means confusion, which exposes the process of enforcement to corruption. But as a new law, it is a good starting point. The best hope is the inception ideas to be worked out to shift the consuming base, improving efficiency of energy use in the process, and eventually contain the loop within a closed entropic environment. The central planners perhaps anticipated this and enacted the laws as such to test the waters. They are cautious.

In his blog, “Dan” for the Harris & Moure PLLC, argued that China perhaps will continue to overindulge in their material consumption. I agree in part. China is undergoing a great transformation. Many of its citizens, mostly urban, are experiencing disposable income for the first time in generations. They look to the developed world for ways to spend their money. Buying cars and big screen TVs are natural for them and yes, in this sense they will continue to overindulge. But with the Chinese central government pushing the Circular Economy propaganda as hard as they can, with a principle driven new law, I’d say there is hope yet.

I wouldn’t say “China will continue to overindulge” just yet. Let’s hope they find a way to improve those aggressive laws and give the rest of the world an innovation challenge. If China can really get this right, it will push everyone else and advance the market place to become a circular economy. I’ve always been one for high hopes.

Fuzzy logic hat and the sustainability rabbit

I always hear people say: “no one can tell you what Sustainability is.”

They are probably right. The term is idiosyncratic to the context – it means one thing in the Arctic and another in the Gobi; it is one process in the automobile industry and a different process in the energy sector. Sustainability inherently is about adapting to the situation and finding ways to co-exist with the environment and others around you.

Once defined, Sustainability carries no weight in the continue acclimatization of our species.

Nonetheless, when people don’t want to try hard enough to figure out what Sustainability means to them, the natural thing is to say no one else has a clue.

And they are correct. Whatever you think you know about Sustainability, it’s probably wrong. Again, sustainability to the Snow Fox is different from sustainability for the Monarch Butterfly. Trying to fit one model to the other is nonsense. But humans have done all sorts of nonsensical things: binding women’s feet for example.

Sometimes, it is just irresistible to want to define Sustainability.

The U.S. EPA defines Sustainability by the national goal to create and maintain "conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans."

One scholar proposed to use Fuzzy logic in assessing Sustainability. (See Yannis A. Phillis’ Sustainability: an ill-defined concept and its assessment using fuzzy logic.)

I personally like to think of Sustainability as a contextual application of the three pillars of Sustainability as defined by the 2005 World Summit – reconciliation of environmental, social, and economic demands. I see the three pillars as principles or maxims, establishing only an infrastructure, to interpret what Sustainability should mean to a given environment to establish a process by which we can “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (See Burndtland Commission, U.N., March, 1987.)

The difficult thing, in its application as a process, is to pinpoint the context to which Sustainability is defined, from which a meaningful process can be established to sustain the ability of our future generations to meet their own needs. There are many contexts unique to the environments, and all of the smaller ecosystems must compromise and yield to the larger ecosystem, ad infinitum.

What a philosophical mess.

But then one sees the strength to use a fuzzy logic maxim and generate a systematic value scheme measuring the percentage of overlaps in contextual schema, examining locality, reality, new values independently evaluated against selected economies. It’s in no way precise, but as I’ve said before:

Once defined, Sustainability carries no weight in the continue acclimatization of our species.

I also think this kind of fuzzy evaluation and process creation with contextual overlaps can serve to strengthen existing proactive approaches. The U.S. currently employs no aggressive laws towards Sustainability. This is because we are operated by an inherently democratic system, albeit a badly influenced one. Congress cannot simply force people to think in terms of Sustainability – this would stifle innovation, as some would argue fiercely.

In this regard, I believe the Chinese has created an advantage over us. Given their government’s top-down nature and single party system, it is easy to mandate progress in the face of rapid deterioration. China recently passed two laws (within the last two National Congress sessions), one addressing clean production and the other addressing circular economy. Both of which are devoted to eliminating the source of their environmental problems. (I note the lack of talk about the human sustainability factor, but then again that belongs to the taboo topic of human rights, politics, and sovereignty.)

The Chinese Circular Economy Law requires monitoring over high-consumption and high-emission industries, (steel and non-ferrous metal production, power generation, oil refining, construction, and printing industries). It is a national law, but requires provincial governments to map out a system for recycling and improve energy-saving and waste-reutilization standards. Water saving technologies are required, as well as strength management and mandatory equipments for new constructions. The law also requires enterprises and government agencies to adopt renewable products in new buildings and recycle and make comprehensive use of coalmine waste, coal ash, and other waste materials. (Xinhua News Agency August 30, 2008)

The Chinese Clean Production Law aims to reduce pollution at its source. It mandates business enterprises to include improvements in design and management (Six Sigma alert). The law includes provisions for a clean product catalog, compulsory recycling directory, product labeling system, and audits. It applies to service providers as well as agriculture businesses. The U.S. currently does not regulate non-point discharge pollution from agricultural practices. The U.S. also primarily focuses on end-of-the-pipe regulations and any process improvement and sustainable design and implementation is only voluntary.

The uphill battle China faces is the enforcement of these laws; the uphill battle we face in the U.S. is encouraging voluntary compliance. Neither is a perfect model and each has its strength. I am happy to see two very different nations applying two sets of very different strategies. There is synergy in cooperation and distilling the best practices of Sustainability. No definition is required.

Just because we can’t define Sustainability, it doesn’t mean we can’t practice it to the best of our abilities and learn along the way. I’d rather try and fail than not try at all. It means the world to me, to us.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Water for elephants of the Beijing Zoo.

Lauren and I traveled to Beijing in 2010. I hadn’t been back in ten years and I felt it was time to visit and get reacquainted. I do miss China often; I miss the food, the people, the landscape. I have grown accustomed to my American life style, but as you can see form the way I blog, I reminisce often.

I really wanted Lauren to see the pandas, so I took her to the Beijing Zoo. Her distinct impression was the poor brown bear had nothing but a concrete hole in the ground, no water, no shade, no toys, not even grass; he had nothing but despair. She also remembers the elephants hiding in what little shade they had and the drinking bucket emptied. “Poor little elephants, there are no water for the elephants.”

We had both just read that book a few weeks before, the symbolism and irony is consuming. We’ve moved on from feeling sympathy for the elephants since then. We have family troubles and other worries more distinctively personal, the elephants at the Beijing Zoo soon became a distant memory.

But the water problem in China looms over my brain every day. I’ve always been told water has inherent qualities benefiting my health. I recently translated a short blog post from a Chinese site about the health benefits of water. I understand and appreciate the significance of water in our lives. I was also born in the Gobi desert, so I know water is scarce.

According to a recent Reuters report, more than “half of China's cities are affected by acid rain and one-sixth of major rivers are so polluted the water is unfit even for farmland.”

The impending water problem and environmental degradation accompanied by China's double-digit growth created one of the most threatening risk in the Chinese society. More and more protests rise against State's perceived inability to tackle the problem. The government has promised to clean up its environmental problems, but local protectionism and the single focus on profit at the regional level hinders any national policies set from the distant capitol Beijing.

China’s deputy environment minister stated at a news conference recently that "the overall environmental situation is still very grave and is facing many difficulties and challenges." According to Reuters, waters near Shanghai, Tianjin and Guangzhou were rated as severely polluted, 16.4 percent of China's major rivers do not meet the standard for agricultural irrigation.

China is the world's leading consumer and producer of lead, and it has struggled to control the industry. Lead poisoning from water sources, especially in children, roused even more violent protests. State has begin to crackdown on the coal industry and promised the public the protests are under control, but for how long?

Some have argued that the Chinese environmental and water problem is a problem of enforcing the law. But the deeper issue is the central State’s control over regional bureaucrats and getting accurate reporting and compliance. From speaking with farmers and local residents when I visited in 2010, I get the feeling the business investment climate is like the wild-west, local officials are taking what they can and leaving the problems for someone else to clean up. The Chinese has a rather robust environmental law, but it is the regional enforcement pressured by economic development that has pushed back against meaningful progress in shaping up China’s rapid environmental and social deterioration.

The State is faced with a rather tough challenge. The local communities risk the wrath of the centralized police power if the protests get out of control. The scale is stacked against the poor and rural Chinese population increasingly displaced by the growth of the urban middle class. The poor farmers are like the elephants without water and locked in a cage with only token amenities. All the while the pandas . . .

At the Beiijng Zoo, the once almost extinct pandas now thrive in air-conditioned mini-ecosystems with plenty of water, ice-cream, and public attention. Just like the peasant class that once almost extinct under the feudal China, they now weld the power and luxury of a mighty communist nation.

The poor brown bear is sitting in a concrete pit with no water, no shades, nothing to protect them from their conditions. But it’s the elephant I’m worried about. There is no water for these elephants.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A different kind of carbon problem and free-ranged cattles are saving the day.

I remember some of my conversation with folks who don’t believe in climate change and think it’s all a global conspiracy. I respect their beliefs and I get a tickle for their witty response: but the trees and plants breath carbon-dioxide, it’s in the air, it’s not a bad thing. Aside from restraining my scare tactic and show you a bunch of graphs of a rapid shift in our atmosphere in the last few decades, I have incentive to also direct your attention to a new counterintuitive idea to solving a different kind of carbon problem.

First, aside from the emission crisis and the rapid environmental changes, we are also faced with a carbon shortage crisis in our topsoil. Over the last 150 years, we’ve lost between 50 to 80% of our organic carbon in the topsoil. The prime culprit is the existing system of industrial agriculture. According to Guardian Environmental Network, seven tons of carbon-banking topsoil have been lost to every ton of grain gained by our current methods of farming.

Some have suggested putting back the carbon into soil by carbonate or charcoal. See "Black Is the New Green," Conservation, Summer 2010. But a growing number of scientists are considering the option of brining back grazing animals and use their digestive systems their hooves of ruminants to turn deserts back into grasslands

Allan Savory, A 76-year-old native of Zimbabwe and a staunch supporter of the grazing animal idea, believe the practice of range raising animals could help prevent and even reverse land degradation and the desertification of grasslands. Savory's theory is that grasslands and herbivores evolved in “lockstep” with one another.

Animals eat plants, which allows sunlight to reach the low-growing parts; their waste then fertilizes the land; their hooves breaking up and aerating the soil. Savory doesn’t believe that grazing degrades the land; what matters to him is how livestock are applied to the land. He argues for the capacity of free-ranged production and thinks overgrazing is a problem of time, not of number – meaning we are able to raise the same quantity as our current CAFO methods if we properly manage the cycles of grazing with appropriate land area.

He was shunned for years by the mainstream academics for his belief. He marched on and expand his training programs. Today, his success is hard to ignore.

“Farmers, ranchers, and other land stewards who have attended his training programs have brought land back from the brink across Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. In 2010, his Zimbabwe nonprofit, the Africa Centre for Holistic Management, received a $4.8 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to expand its work in Africa. More recently, Savory won the 2010 Buckminster Fuller Challenge prize, a prestigious award that supports a proposal with "significant potential to solve humanity's most pressing problems."”

You can read more at the Guardian Environmental Network.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Chinese environmental laws.

The Chinese environmental laws borrowed heavily from a number of international sources and resembles the US environmental laws in parts. China enacted its first Environmental Protection Laws in 1979 and reenacted the laws in 1989. There are 47 provisions all together, with limited details to each provision making interpretations expansive for the interests of the State.

This may be what Charles McElwee characterized as “uniquely Chinese;” the application of these laws are hidden but at the discretion of the State. It is unique in the sense it belong to a one party system; the fundamental issue of information, interpretation, and application of the law, however, is universal – the U.S. environmental laws are frequently battled-over and swing left to right depending on who sits in the White House.

Like the U.S. environmental law context, the Chinese Environmental Protection Laws gives rise to a regulatory structure to regulate discharge. Administrative enforcement is based on performance standards for water, air, wastes, and noise, each governed by separate laws and each against its own set of ambient standards.

Remedies include administrative sanctions, but I’ve been told sanctions are rarely applied and generally result in nothing more than a slap on the wrist with order to comply within some negotiated time. I figured the deals were always struck at an expensive feast with government officials drunk and fattened with steamed pork-belly and cash in red envelopes. There were also fewer regulations in the laws early inception for solid and hazardous wastes due to lack of viable plans for disposal.

Regulating discharge has proven effective in the U.S. for reducing pollutant loads. But McElwee pointed out given China’s rapid development, new facilities will continue to get permits to discharge outpacing the enforcement of existing discharge points to reduce loads. Total load will increase. IN response, China recently introduced the concept of “total load,” (“排放总量”), into its regulations to regulate some of the major categories of pollutants.

China also focused on Sustainability in its State’s agenda and is beginning to draw international experiences to its development. The State shifted their focus of regulating end-of-the-pipe discharges to halting the creation of new point discharges. The Clean Production Law and Circular Economy Law were created to enforce efficiency and reducing impact. This is an interesting way of injecting funding into innovation, almost bureaucracy proof.

“Pilot projects have been initiated to test market-based variations on the traditional command-and-control models. Experimental sulphur-dioxide trading programmes have been set up in some places, primarily involving power plants that are required to install emissions-monitoring devices sophisticated enough to support the creation of a trading scheme. Environmental exchanges have been established in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and elsewhere in anticipation of the day when large regional or national markets are created by a cap-and-trade system on conventional pollutants or carbon emissions.”

- Charles McElwee, Shaping China’s green laws

The major difference between the Chinese environmental laws and the U.S. legislations is that the Chinese see their laws as a system with certain guiding principles, “境法规和政策,” not as individual national laws such as the Clean Air Act, or the Clean Water Act.

Chinese environmental laws follows principles in the likes of “polluter pays” (“污染者付费原则”) and “management rules” (“管理规则”). These principles also focus on synergy, such as the “三同时,” “three simultaneousness,” developing synergy between design, construction, and operations. My venture is to guess this came from the core beliefs of interconnectedness of things in Chinese philosophy.

These principles emerged from national conferences in 1973, 1983, and 1989. All of the principles were incorporated into the 1989 version of the Chinese Environmental Protection Law with additional adoptions. The laws and policies may look good on paper, but in practice it required a lot of temporary fixes. This shows China still lacks the experiences necessary in implementing a comprehensive strategy and their principles must be tested with time. That experience will come, and one day China may lead the world in expertise in the industry; if China can yield to pride and amend some of their principles in the interests of its people, our planet, and economic progress.

(You can read Professor McElwee's original blog post about the unique Chinese environmental laws in Chinese here.)

Charles McElwee is an adjunct professor of law at Shanghai Jiaotong University and programme officer for climate policy at ClimateWorks Foundation. He is the author of Environmental Law in China: Mitigating Risks and Ensuring Compliance.

Friday, July 22, 2011

EPA's final guidance on surface mining.

The EPA released their final guidance on Appalachian surface coal mining on Thursday. The guidance is designed to ensure consistency, effectiveness, and review standards of surface mining under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The guidance replaces the interim-final guidance issued by EPA on April 1, 2010. The current version is based on the best-available science and incorporates input from over 60,000 comments from the public.

The final guidance enables the EPA to work with states, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, mining companies, and the public to protect communities form pollutions generated by the surface mining activities. EPA will take a case-by-case approach accounting for the best available sciences and regional specific requirements.

This final guidance incorporated tested science including proven data from the Hobet 45 permit in West Virginia where EPA worked with a company to eliminate close to 50 percent of stream impacts, reducing contaminations, and lowered mining costs. The Coal Mac-Pine Creek permit decision also provided strong evidence for the feasibilities and effectiveness of the since in this final guidance.

The final guidance is not a rule and is not binding legally or in practice.

Mountaintop mining is a form of surface coal mining in which explosives are used to access coal seams, generating large volumes of waste that bury adjacent streams. The resulting waste that then fills valleys and streams can significantly compromise water quality, often causing permanent damage to ecosystems and rendering streams unfit for drinking, fishing, and swimming. It is estimated that almost 2,000 miles of Appalachian headwater streams have been buried by mountaintop coal mining.

NASA used Boone County to show the extensive devastation of land in Appalachian coal fields in their “earth observatory webpage.“

To view a copy of EPA’s Final Conductivity Benchmark Report as well as the Science Advisory Board’s final review, click here.

Walking the food miles.

Michelle Obama is joining efforts with large chain grocers to bring health food to food deserts. Walmart and Supervalu pledged adding 525 to 550 stores combined nation wide; Walgreen expects to add more food to its stores since it's already positioned in may food deserts and low income neighborhoods. Food is close to my heart; as a Chinese native, food is as close to religion as I care to worship on a daily basis. When I saw the news, despite the names like Walmart, I am hopeful this is a positive step America is taking towards a sustainable food culture.

Food deserts are places identified as lacking access to grocery stores and fresh produce. I remember in my college days, living in downtown Cincinnati with no access to a grocer within walking distance. It seemed the home of the Reds takes on a ghostly shade after the bankers and lawyers leave for the day; only the homeless wonders the streets. After 5 PM, there is nothing in the area for me to walk to and buy produce, less bars and restaurants. I was a college kid back then, bars were sufficient. I do recall a street farmer’s market around the corner from my apartment on Thursday mornings, only selling fresh veggies. I would stock up enough for a few days, and plan for a few bar food nights. I maintained a well-balanced diet of healthy and unhealthy food. I was young, I didn’t care about things like blood pressure and cholesterol level. I’m not sure if I had lived in a food desert, it was the late 90s and the term hadn't hit the States yet.

I do remember when we first moved to the States, we had no cars and knew no one who could drive us anywhere. My parents had to live near a food oasis. Our first few apartments were always close to a local grocery store; we walked to buy groceries and was intrigued that the store would let us take the shopping cart back to our apartments a few blocks away. But my parents eventually decided their American Dream is to live in the suburbs; somehow driving a van to super stores became a symbol of their prosperity. I fought the notion because I loved walking to places. As soon as I turned 18, I moved out into an apartment in the same neighborhood where we had lived the first few years of our coming to America.

These days, I consider any place where I can’s access local grocery on foot a food desert. Even if I lived close to a place where I may be able to walk to, I choose not to. Selfishly it’s because I just don’t like walking on the streets of most American cities.

Most American cities are too spread-out and walking to anywhere is a miserable experience. There are no trees planted between road lanes to provide cover for both bikers and pedestrians. On the days like this, 104 degrees with heavy humidity, shades are necessary. There are also fewer street venders in America’s streets ready to sell tea, coffee, or Mung Bean ice-cream for a mid-walk break. Trekking anywhere means you have to prepare for hydration and other amenities.

Walking the American streets is a lonely journey, across treacherous traffics well regulated. The Beijing streets I remember are pleasant to walk; always well shaded, usually connected by many hutongs and friendly street-stands. The Beijing streets these days resemble New York City, taken over by heavy traffic and high-rises. But the street venders are still around, the trees have grown, and although cars have taken over some of the bicyclist’s turf, the pedestrian paths remain untouched. Beijingers still love to walk and ride the subway. The buses in Beijing are still crowded but still a mystery to me.

Nostalgia aside, about Walmart, Supervalu, and Walgreen joining forces with Mrs. Obama to bring healthy food to food deserts: According to Supervalu, there are more than 23 million people, including more than 6 million children, live in U.S. food deserts. These food deserts spreads to urban and rural areas alike. I’m glad the chain stores are making an effort to lower the prices on fruit and vegetables and bringing them to low income areas. On the other hand, they are motivated by the fact that they are now able to open new store in places where they are banned, like NYC.

“Supervalu already operates about 400 stores in areas some may consider food deserts, including five recently opened units on the Chicago's South Side, Chief Executive Craig Herkert told Reuters.”

My only wish for the day is to tell Mrs. Obama and these too big to care chain stores, and any store trying to solve the food desert problem, to build more walking and bicycling friendly infrastructure and concentrate basic services to walking distance of our communities. I miss walking to places and buying what I need for the day, cooking fresh food and eating in better ways. I miss being able to walk to a gym or a community center to pass those long summer days. Mrs. Obama's efforts are worth applauding, but it's only part of a good thing. To really build a sustainable society, and satisfying my selfish nostalgia for wanting others to love walking the American streets, I hope the administration will grow health neighborhoods completely, sustainably, sensibly - maximizing the effects of a totality of the circumstances strategy. Perhaps in addition to address the food desert problem, Walmart and the likes can help bring other basic services, churches, banks, libraries, together under the covers of trees and umbrella-covers of friendly street-food stands.

Here is to high hopes.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Electronic recycling, new opportunities for federal contracts.

Yesterday in Austin, at a certified electronics recycling plant, the CEOs of Dell and Sprint, and senior executives from Sony, joined the EPA, GSA, and White House Council on Environmental Quality, to release the Obama Administration’s new “National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship.”

The new plan encompasses strategy for the responsible electronic design, purchasing, management and recycling. The administration hopes to promote the electronics recycling market and create jobs here at home. Dell, Sprint and Sony’s voluntary involvement creates high hopes of promoting environmentally sound management of used electronics. EPA also commits the federal government to take specific actions that will encourage the more environmentally friendly design of electronic products, promote recycling of used or discarded electronics, and advance a domestic market for electronics recycling that will protect public health and create jobs.

Americans generate almost 2.5 million tons of used electronics every year. Inside these electronics are valuable precious metals and rare earth materials, as well as plastic and glass. United States is a global leader in designing and developing new and improved electronic technologies; but China is catching up as a powerhouse in electronics consumption. They are heavily investing in Africa and other places to mine for these precious metals and rare earth materials. Creating a responsible management system of electronics provides the U.S. an opportunity to create strong domestic electronics recycling market while preventing pollution at home and abroad; this also poise the U.S. to compete and thrive in the future of the electronics market in a scarce resource future.

The Administration promised to promote the development of more efficient and sustainable electronic products; direct federal agencies to buy, use, reuse and recycle their electronics responsibly; support recycling options and systems for American consumers; and strengthen America’s role in the international electronics stewardship arena.

GSA will remove products that do not comply with comprehensive and robust energy efficiency or environmental performance standards – from its information technology purchase contracts used by federal agencies, and will ensure that all electronics used by the Federal government are reused or recycled properly. This is huge news to those federal contracting businesses out there. I’ve consistently observed a trend towards sustainability in GSA schedules, if you are a veteran running a small business or thinking about running a business, this is a great opportunity to profit from sustainability.

In addition, EPA and GSA will promote development of new environmental performance standards for categories of electronic products not covered by current standards. Federal agencies will work together to identify methods for tracking used electronics for reuse and recycling.

The collaboration with Dell, Sprint and the industry aims to encourage businesses and consumers to recycle their electronics with certified recyclers, and for electronic recyclers to become certified. There are two third-party certification entities, R2 and E-Stewards. Certified recyclers are regularly audited by these certification entities to ensure that electronics are recycled in a manner that is safe for human health and the environment.

“The Nation’s largest single consumer of electronics, the Federal Government, will now be the Nation’s most responsible user of electronics. ”

GSA Administrator Martha Johnson.

(Note: The Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999 (Public Law 106-50) established an annual government-wide goal of not less than 3% of the total value of all prime contract and subcontract awards for participation by small business concerns owned and controlled by service-disabled veterans. As a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business, SDVOSB, this new recycling plan is more incentive for veterans to take the lead and thrive in the sustainable market place.) 

More information on the EPA and industry collaboration:

More information on GSA’s electronic stewardship goals and promoting federal agencies’ purchasing Environmentally Preferable Products:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Nano tech market alert

Kolorgen Ltd has completed a steam line, valve, and steam process equipment insulation project using Industrial Nanotech’s Nansulate® energy saving coatings.

Nansolate® EPX is a fast-cure, water based coating used to insulate equipment and parts. A manufacturing facility in Corlu Tekirdag, Turkey, was the project site. High Heat insulation and corrosion control coating was used. A 3 mm application showed a 144 degrees F reduction of the surface temperature on the steam line surface.

Francesca Crolley, Vice President of Business Development at Industrial Nanotech, claims Nansulate provides a thin but durable insulation, not only meeting sustainability and energy saving goals, but also provides other benefits such as improving worker safety and prolonging lifespan and reducing maintenance costs.

Kolorgen Ltd is a Turkish distributor of Industrial Nanotech Inc. Nansulate® is Industrial Nanotech’s patented coatings containing a nanotechnology based material. It has been documented to provide performance qualities of thermal insulation, corrosion prevention, resistance to mold growth, fire resistance, chemical resistance and lead encapsulation in an environmentally safe, water-based, coating formulation.

The Nansulate® product line includes industrial, residential, agricultural and solar thermal insulation coatings.

About Industrial Nanotech Inc. 

Industrial Nanotech, Inc. is a global nanoscience solutions and research company, member of the U.S. Green Building Council and an official ALLY organization with the U.S. Dept. of Energy "Save Energy Now" program.

Water, health, habits - the Chinese tales of a glass of water.

The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you'd rather not.

- Mark Twain 

(The following article came from The Green Earth Volunteers at the Environmental Journalist Salon - a Chinese and English site operated by volunteers. I've decided to translate and publish their content occasionally on The Green Elephant. The purpose is to encourage understanding amongst different cultures by a common desire to create a sustainable planet.  This also gives me a chance to sharpen my language skills.

Before you proceed, I recommend you read a short blog on the Triple Pundit about the difference between Green and Sustainability - Less Meat or More Local Food? Sustainability Calls for Both. I felt there were some confusions about what TGE is, is this a "Green" blog or a "Sustainability" blog? Is this blog about food or about LEED? I hope the Triple Pundit article helps clear my intent for addressing the totality of my circumstances in my path to living in sustainable ways.

Note: I have translated the Chinese article inline along with some of my own editorials to explain the culture from my childhood memories. I do not believe The Green Earth Volunteers have translated this article. If you should spot a translation, please let me know. I'd like to compare my work with theirs. You can click on the title link below to view the original article.)

Water for health.

来源于网络 2009-12-25
From the Network 2009-12-25

●色斑 要这样喝哟 → 清晨一杯凉白开
The tint of water - a glass of cool boiled plain water each crisp morning.

(The Chinese know their tap water is not clean. If you ever visit China, you will see everyone boil their water for consumption. There are countless funny looking large thermos containers people will carry around town. In many places, there will be a centralized water boiler; people will usually gather to get their water for the day. There is also no such thing as iced water or tea, a shock for Lauren to learn when we were in Beijing. The Chinese believes drinking iced water is bad for your health, good luck trying to order anything with ice in the glass. So, the Chinese will refer to a glass of cold water as 凉白开, literally translated as "cold white boiled water," usually served at room temperature.)  


Many claims that drinking a glass of water in the morning is good for your health, some drink a glass of salt-water? some drink honey-water? and some even think drinking a glass of lemon water can whiten their teeth? But what is the best kind of water? After a night of metabolic work, your body needs a little help in getting rid of the waste. Water that does not contain any sugar or other nutrients are probably the best kind. If there are sugar or other content in the water, your body will require extra time to process these and drinking that glass of water does not achieve the desire effect of flushing out the nights metabolic waste. So, every crisp morning, you should drink a glass of plain water to rid of yourself of the waste generated from your body the night before.

●感冒 要这样喝哟 → 要喝比平时更多的水
The common cold, the best way to a cure is to drink more water than usual.


Every time you get the cold, you will hear the doctor say: "drink more water!" This is usually the best way to a cure for the common cold. Because when you are running a fever, your body is trying to compensate and cool itself down. You may be sweating, your breathing becomes rapid; your body works hard to metabolize the sickness and your skin is perspiring to increase the performance. This is when you need to supplement your body with additional water, and your body may very well demand this by making you thirsty. Drinking more water will help increase sweating and urination, will help regulate your body's temperature, and promote rapid excretion of the bacterias and viruses in your body.

●胃疼 要这样喝哟 → 经常喝点粥
Intestinal pains, the way to drink water is through Gruel.

(Gruel, rice or bean soup as I have known them, is a staple of the Chinese diet. The most common kind of gruel, or congee as the westerner would say, is made with leftover rice and water with some random ingredients. Northern Chinese like their gruel plain, with pickled vegetables on the side and Chinese fried bread. Southern Chinese like theirs with sweet pork sausages and green onions cooked in the congee. Either way, the large percentage of the content is water. My parents would also make gruel with different kind of beans or other kinds of grain; each has its own health benefits according to traditional Chinese medicine. For example: the Chinese drink green peas gruel in the summer believing it to have a cooling effect to your chi, helping you combat the summer heat and various sickness that comes with your body's buildup of positive energy from the rising temperature.)    

有胃病的人,或者感到胃不舒服,可以采取喝粥的“水养护”措施。熬粥的温度要超过 60℃,这个温度会产生一种糊化作用,软嫩热腾的稀饭入口即化,下肚后非常容易消化,很适合肠胃不适的人食用。稀饭中含有的大量的水分,还能有效地润滑肠道,荡涤肠胃中的有害物质,并顺利地把它们带出体外。

For those with intestinal problems, or when you just don't feel well in the tummy you can employ what the Chinese calls a "preservation of health by water" method. Warm congee's temperature will have to reach beyond 60℃, 140 F. This elevated temperature gives a transformative property to the congee, where when it enters your digestive track, it changes quickly and is absorbed rapidly by the body. This is very suitable for those with stomach and intestinal problems. Because congee contains a large percentage of water, it can also effectively lubricate the intestines, clean the harmful contents in your system, and help rid of them from your body smoothly.

●便秘 要这样喝哟 → 大口大口地喝水
Constipation, you may have to drinks lots of water in big gulps. 


There are two general causes for constipation: because your stool lacks a certain water content, or your intestines no longer can excrete on its own power. You will need to consult with a physician to discover the root cause either way, but you also need to drink plenty of water as a temporary solution: drink water in large gulps, swallow quickly; this way, the water can reach your intestines, instigate movement, help move your bowels. Remember, drinking small sips of water won't help; because the water enters the body slowly and is most likely absorbed by the stomach before it reaches intestines. This will only fill your bladders.

●恶心 要这样喝哟 → 用盐水催吐!
Nausea, drink salt water to induce vomiting!


Nausea is a complicated thing. Sometimes it's because you ate something bad and your body is in a protective mode trying to reject the vile things. Under these circumstances, you should not fear vomiting. Once you are rid of what you just ate, your body will feel better. If you are having difficulty vomiting, try and use salt water to induce the vomit. Have a warm glass of salt water, drink a few large gulps, you should be able to regurgitate. Afterward, you can use the salt water to rinse your mouth. (Salt kills bacteria by hypertonic environment; water rushes out of the bacterium by osmosis killing the creatures.) This also reduces inflammation. After induced vomiting, you will be dehydrated. Drinking a little bit salt water also supplies electrolytes you need.

●发热 要这样喝哟 → 间断性、小口补水为宜
"Rising Heat," heat related illness - drink water in small sips.

(This is something I am intimately familiar. Dehydration and heat related problems were things of regular occurrence in Iraq. As a medic, I was well versed in the signs and symptoms. Thanks to Dr. Brown, I also picked up a few good tips from him in recovery and prevention. He would recommend drinking small sips of water; no big gulps, he would always say.) 


When we speak of "rising heat," we refer to the rising body temperature and excessive sweating due to strenuous activities. You may feel exhausted, of course drinking water is the best emergency medicine under the circumstances. Drinking water may restore circulation volume to normal, process nutrients for absorption to replace what has been spent, release the excessive heat your body generated during the activities, normalize your body temperature, and increase your endurance. The thing that need caution is: during the activity one feels the urge to replenish rapidly, drinking a few soda in a few gulps; this will increase workload to the heart rapidly, (causing problems if you are predisposed to heart diseases or circulatory problems). Remember to drink water frequently and in small amounts; drinking a good amount of water prior to activities is also a good preventive measure to take.

●肥胖 要这样喝哟 → 餐后半小时喝一些水
Losing weight, drink some water half-hour after each meal.


Some believe you don't need to drink water to lose weight! Today's medical experts will tell you this is a urban myth. If you want to lose weight, but you don't drink enough water, your body cannot metabolize the fat in your body; you end up actually putting on weight. Many of the body's chemical processes depends on water as a facilitator. Your body's digestion and the endocrine system depend on water; toxic substances in the metabolites also relies on the presence of adequate water to stay under control, avoiding dysfunctions in your digestive tract. Half-hour after each meal, drink some water; this will strengthen your body's digestive capacity, assist you in maintaining your figures.

●咳嗽 要这样喝哟 → 多喝热水
Coughing requires drinking some hot water.


When it comes to coughing, some may experience sputum, many may feel suffocated, uncomfortable, hard to expel the lodged mucus. A good way to be rid of the symptoms is to drink more hot water. First, hot water may break up the mucus making it easy to cough up sputum; secondary effects include increase urine output to be rid of harmful substances in your body and soothe the trachea and bronchial mucosa, reduce edema, reduce the frequency of coughs. 

●失眠 要这样喝哟 → 热水的按摩作用是强效的安神剂
Sleeplessness, warm water massages is the best way to calm nerves.

(In China, people don't shower daily. There is simply not enough water to accommodate this luxury. The cost of a shower system in limited living space is also prohibitive. Washing our feet, however, is a necessity deemed by all. I remember staying with family members over the years, as recent as last Summer, the first thing they did offer before bedding down is a pan and hot water for me to wash my feet. My grand-uncle would say: "Ai, Jin, wash your feet before you go to bed. You had a long journey and warm water on your feet will give you a pleasant sleep."


A gradual drop of body temperature is part of the process of falling asleep into dreams. A comfortable environment is necessary, a warm environment is essential. Hot bath and hot water foot bath have the same effect, both will give you a warm environment. This compensates for the gradual decrease of body temperature as you drift to sleep. One thing need to be noted: water massage has a unique  relaxing, gentle, rejuvenating effect on the body and is the best sedative agent.   

●烦躁 要这样喝哟 → 多多喝水
Irritability, drinks lots and lots of water.


Our mental state and physical functions are intricately linked. There is one substance we know of that provides the link between the mental and the physical, hormones. To put it simply, hormones are of two types: either producing pleasure, or pain. Endorphin is the "happy hormones," adrenaline is often referred as the "pain hormones." When you are irritable, adrenaline in your body will surge. This increase is toxic to the body as any abundant poisonous substance that is present. One of the method to flush your body and dilute the poison is by drinking plenty of water.          

●心脏病 要这样喝哟 → 睡前一杯水
Heart problems, drink a glass of water before you go to sleep. 


If you have heart problems, you should develop a habit of drinking a glass of water before you go to bed. This may significantly reduce your chances of morning chest pains (angina), heart attack related symptoms. Heart attacks and other circulatory problems are often caused by high blood viscosity. When you sleep, you may sweat, your body loses water causing the water content in your blood to decrease and your blood viscosity becomes very high. However, if you drink a glass of water before you sleep, you may reduce your blood viscosity and avoid sudden onset of heart attacks. A glass of water before you sleep may just save your life in the morning.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Obama Administration Officials and Business Leaders to Make Announcement on Electronics Stewardship Tomorrow in Austin, Texas

July 19, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC– Tomorrow, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator Martha Johnson, and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley will travel to Austin, Texas to make an electronics stewardship announcement alongside Dell Inc. CEO Michael Dell, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse and Sony Electronics Inc.Vice President Mark Small. The Obama Administration officials and industry leaders will later hold a national press conference call to discuss the announcement.

Press Event in Austin, Texas:

WHO: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson
General Services Administrator Martha N. Johnson
White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley
Michael Dell, CEO, Dell Inc.
Dan Hesse, CEO, Sprint
Mark Small, Vice President for Corporate Environment, Safety and Health, Sony Electronics Inc.

WHAT: Electronics stewardship announcement

WHEN: Wednesday, July 20, 2011; 10:30 a.m. CDT

WHERE: Round2 Recycling Facility, Austin TX

1340 Commerce Airport Dr. - Bldg. 3 Suite 300, Austin, TX 78741

National Press Conference Call:

WHO: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson
General Services Administrator Martha N. Johnson
White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley
Dan Hesse, CEO, Sprint
Mike Watson, Director, Dell Take Back Programs, Dell Inc.
Mark Small, Vice President for Corporate Environment, Safety and Health, Sony Electronics Inc.

WHAT: Press conference call to discuss electronics stewardship announcement

WHEN: Wednesday, July 20, 2011; 1:00 p.m. EDT

WHERE: Participant Dial-in Number: (888) 217-1175; Conference ID: 84283227

HOW: Members of the press interested in participating should dial in 15 minutes prior to the call

Update on the Cooling Water Intake Structures Proposed Rule

July 19, 2011

WASHINGTON – In response to requests from stakeholders and to encourage additional public comment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is extending the public comment period by 30 days for the cooling water intake structures proposed rule. This change will not affect EPA’s schedule for issuing a final rule by July 27, 2012.

This proposed rule, based on Section 316 (b) of the Clean Water Act, aims to protect billions of fish and other aquatic organisms drawn each year into cooling water systems at large power plants and factories.

The original 90-day public comment period was originally set to expire on July 19, 2011. EPA will publish a notice of this 30-day extension in the Federal Register.

More information:

Monday, July 18, 2011

Race to the bottom or the top?

“Perhaps America really does need another Sputnik moment to regain its vast potential. China is liable to provide it.”   

Lauren and I recently visited Beijing. We saw all sorts of small but innovative ways to conserve energy and water; recycling is everywhere; and the whole country seems to rally behind sustainable practices – less the sustainable human conditions in its political agenda. Aside from missing our access to information, we came home invariably disheartened.

As a collectivistic culture, at the heavy hands of the central government, China is aggressively investing and inventing in the green sector. China also enjoys a unique technology leap effect; where one generations of tech falls behind as proven technology in the US, China is experimenting with new tech and new methods. This created a leap frog effect and gave China a distinct advantage in this growing market. As Gellner noted, if we still think we can introduce new products and dominate the Chinese market in the Green economy, we are seriously misinformed about our place and potential in the years to come.

In his article, Gellner did a great job tallying the Chinese market advantage; from toilets to mass transit, he argued, we are nowhere near the sophistication of the Chinese sustainability market place. My observation tells me that China’s rising middle class will dominate the future market shortchanging any manufacturing force that is not aimed to compete for that market. The U.S. is quickly losing the innovative advantage at the hands of our failing education system and continued political compliancy. Even where we see fit to devote effort, we only use the opportunity to perpetuate the same business model. We continue to think the rest of the world will follow in our footsteps in heavyweight carbon demand and profit over mission mentality; we continue to aimlessly invest in short term gains while placing the burden on our less informed children.

I fear there will not be a Sputnik moment - there is no condensed success in the future of American’s cultural and social relevance; no giant step for mankind less we invent the next perpetual clean energy source. We gradually wake to a world no longer needing our technology, no longer wish for our products for their inefficiencies, and no longer respect us for our free press and values. Our dollars falling weaker and workforce drained of talents who prefer the friendly infrastructure of Europe and Asia. I fear our quality-of-life will come to grip with decades of irresponsible environmental stewardship; our healthcare cost increasingly burden a nation’s poor; our overweight children no longer remember what it means to have a federalism or free and fair speech – drones working to perpetuate only a cash-and-burn model.

As China’s market power spreads, its political influence spreads with ancillary means. My worst Orwellian fear is that China will make a few untimely decisions, in Africa or somewhere else in the world, and send us to a spiral of destruction at the hands of autocracy. At that point there is really no way out, no exit. Totalitarianism is inherently unsustainable; it threatens any meaningful progress for the human experience.

So I don’t think the U.S is falling behind in terms of sustainability. I think we are just about neck to neck awaiting the next critical step. Of the three elements of sustainable future, people, planet, profit, we each are experts of two. What we do from here will define the future of our generations. Should we have another cold war or should we have peaceful progress will depend on how much we are willing to work together towards a common goal, pride aside. I’m a radical positivist, but I fear at time we enjoy fearing each other more than we like each other’s company. I stand in the middle somewhere hoping for a sustainable world for my children.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Energy Star’s Most Efficient designation

I called in to EPA and DOE's announcement yesterday for a new designation for the Energy Star label – Most Efficient. It is aimed to designate the top tier products in 7 product categories in terms of energy conservation, including: clothes washers, heating and cooling equipment, televisions, Geo-thermal, heat pumps, and refrigerator-freezers. The agencies hope this will attract early adopters and promote the best efficiency products.

“[The] Most Efficient designation will help shoppers reduce their energy bills, provide incentives for manufacturers to innovate, and protect Americans’ public health and environment.” – US EPA

In order for a product to achieve the Most Efficient designation, it must be Energy Star qualified and certified as such.

"This new designation will help Americans save money and cut pollution by quickly pointing them to the best Energy Star products have to offer. Highlighting Energy Star's Most Efficient products is a great way to encourage the strides in innovation that bring even more energy and money saving choices to our stores,"

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

"Over the last two decades, the Energy Star program has consistently offered consumers energy choices that have helped families save billions of dollars on their energy bills . . . The new Most Efficient designation is the next step towards encouraging new, more energy-efficient products to enter the market, so that consumers will have even more choices when it comes to high performance, high efficiency products that will save them energy and money.”

Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

The Most Efficient designation is more about innovation than labeling. It’s a step in the direction to bring energy competitiveness to new efficient products and bring the consumers to these products. Given Energy Star’s success, I am excited to see the designation’s achievements in the coming years. I wondered if they will add more tiers but I thought that would be counter productive in terms of implementation. The agencies did promise the added Most Efficient tier would not require much administrative burdens.

There will not be a new snazzy label as we saw with Energy Star, or will there be? The facilitators on the conference call stated the answer in the negative, but I failed to see how they can alert the consumers effectively without some kind of label. The label you see next to this post is a new energy star label with the designation. It's a new visual cue. To be clear, the Most Efficient designation is an annual designation for the top products in the categories mentioned. The estimated 5% is not a set standard, rather, the criteria are set for specific achievement standards within the Energy Star program. The specification does not account for Green House Gas emissions GHG, and it does not consider life cycles (LEED focuses on life cycle principles). It is simply an enhancement for the existing Energy Star certification.

There Energy Star partners’ products among the first to be recognized as Most Efficient include: Electrolux Major Appliances, Sears’ Kenmore, LG, Samsung, Best Buy’s Insignia Brand, Panasonic, Nordyne, and Rheem.

Later this year, EPA will initiate a process to consider additional product categories for potential inclusion in 2012.

“Today, the Energy Star label can be found on more than 60 different kinds of products as well as new homes and commercial and industrial buildings that meet strict energy efficiency specifications set by the EPA. Last year alone, Americans, with the help of Energy Star, saved $18 billion on their energy bills while preventing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to annual emissions of 33 million vehicles.”