Friday, April 26, 2013

Sustainable green reading in shcools

This is a guest post by Joyce Del Rosario.

Perhaps some of the best learning children do in school and at home is read books. From children’s stories to text books, kids everywhere gain invaluable knowledge from opening the pages of these crucial learning and development tools. 

But for as beneficial as reading is to children, each book that is opened up and used in a classroom and in the home is created using the help of our natural resources. 

Students are ripe for learning. From their young age and throughout their teen years, their minds are under development, absorbing every bit of knowledge they can. This knowledge does not only come from the text they read, but also from the insights and guidance of their parents and teachers. 

Classrooms are a prime spot to introduce green reading. With the captive audience, teachers have the opportunity to mold the minds of the next generation and start them out early with good habits of sustainable living. Here are a few of the ways to incorporate green reading into schools today.

Have a discussion – The first step that must happen is to engage the students in the concept behind green reading. Having a discussion in the classroom allows students to realize why planting trees is so important, why caring for the environment is so important, and how they can do their part to contribute to a healthier environment. This discussion excites students about the idea of giving back while also giving them more of a reason to read and learn from their textbooks. 

Teach good practices early on – Some studies have shown that habits take as long as 66 days to create. Students, however, have the mindset of learning something new while they are in the classroom. Because of this, it is easier to get students into the habit of living a green lifestyle from a very early age. When you start teaching the importance of sustainable living and caring for the environment, students will listen and take notice. By just bringing up the importance of planting a tree for each book a student reads, kids can learn from a very early age that they can and should do their part to contribute to a healthier earth. 

Get parents involved –The teachings of green living should not stop in the classroom. In order to make the biggest impact, it is beneficial to get parents involved. Over the summer, ask the parents to continue raising awareness of planting a tree for each book read. This will inspire more homes in the school’s community to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle, while helping solidify the importance of giving back to the environment. 

Make reading more interesting – When schools add the extra dimension to reading of acknowledging what students can do to give back to their community, reading books becomes more enjoyable. Kids enjoy the idea of planting a tree and get excited by having the opportunity to do something with nature. Whether the child plants the tree themselves or not, does not matter. The idea that a tree was planted in their honor and because they read a book is enough to spark interest in their minds.

Green reading can make a big impact in a classroom filled with learning minds. When children can find excitement in the books they read for class, learning becomes more fun and lessons hit home on a deeper level. 

About the Author: Joyce Del Rosario is a career and education blogger and she is a part of the team behind Open Colleges and InformED, one of Australia’s leading providers of Open Learning and online accredited distance education.

picture credit: World Bank Photo Collection, Flickr Creative Commons

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Roads Leading to Natural Gas

The following is a guest post.

One of the most heated discussions of our society is the topic of transitioning to a cleaner and greener earth. Politicians, lawmakers, business owners and even local businesses are building initiatives on ways we can make our earth a cleaner place. The questions are; “how do we do this,”and “what are the best economic alternatives?” These are concerns that flood our airways in debates, presidential campaign speeches, and news columns all across the country.

Dave McCurdy states, “There is no doubt that our country faces great challenges with regard to our energy future, but natural gas is one of the few energy areas where our country is positioned well. Natural gas is an abundant, reliable natural resource, that customers can depend on to heat their homes, warm their water and cook their food.” Natural gas is the most plentiful option in our country. The United States alone has access to 2.4 million miles of natural gas pipelines that are reliable and efficient. Natural gas is one of the cleanest, safest, and most useful of all energy sources.

Using natural gas reduces pollution because of its natural components, which in turn will save lives. Robert Lenzer notes, “Carbon emissions have been reduced back to the level that existed in 1990. This reduction of emissions places the U.S. far ahead of economic revival China, which was responsible for 29% of all carbon emission in the world last year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy”. Natural gas is considered a clean alternative because it is primarily comprised of methane. Methane is a molecule made of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms.

The use of natural gas will be a leading contributor of bringing our national economy back to life. This alternative could spark a revival of entrepreneurialism by making changes little by little in our different industries as a whole. Changing the way we fuel our cars, generate our home energy sources and factory efficiency are all ways that America can begin implementing these changes.

Natural gas is also being used to create electricity. By doing so there will be less reliability on other countries for oil and utilizing our own resources will reduce imports from foreign oil producers. Using natural gas to create electricity also reduces the effects of emission and global warming in its overall process.

There are already sprouting attempts by companies and business to begin this transition. Natural gas utility companies have made it easy and affordable by providing budget billing for the more expensive winter months. We have already seen Shell and several other stations begin to use natural gas at their pumps to start the change. It is initiatives like these, one business and decision at a time, which will begin to make a monumental impact.  Although natural gas prices have continued to rise, growing availability and better drilling technologies will stabilize prices.

What more is there to say? Natural gas is an arguable alternative in transforming our civilization into a prosperous and thriving economy. Not only saving our environment, but also increasing our investment, skills, and technologies for progressing into a better future!

Picture credit: Wikipedia

Monday, April 22, 2013

Green book review for Earth Day - State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible?

Happy Earth Day!! Just in time for this special day we have a review of a book that not only provides us an update on the state of the world in 2013, but also tries to tackle some of the most urgent issues brought up on this day, including one that we might not like to ask but definitely have to - is sustainably still possible?

Our book for today is:  

State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible? by the Worldwatch Institute (publisher: Island Press)

What this book is about?

Every day, we are presented with a range of “sustainable” products and activities—from “green” cleaning supplies to carbon offsets—but with so much labeled as “sustainable,” the term has become essentially sustainababble, at best indicating a practice or product slightly less damaging than the conventional alternative. Is it time to abandon the concept altogether, or can we find an accurate way to measure sustainability? If so, how can we achieve it? And if not, how can we best prepare for the coming ecological decline?

In the latest edition of Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World series, scientists, policy experts, and thought leaders tackle these questions, attempting to restore meaning to sustainability as more than just a marketing tool. In State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible?, experts define clear sustainability metrics and examine various policies and perspectives, including geoengineering, corporate transformation, and changes in agricultural policy, that could put us on the path to prosperity without diminishing the well-being of future generations. If these approaches fall short, the final chapters explore ways to prepare for drastic environmental change and resource depletion, such as strengthening democracy and societal resilience, protecting cultural heritage, and dealing with increased conflict and migration flows.

State of the World 2013 cuts through the rhetoric surrounding sustainability, offering a broad and realistic look at how close we are to fulfilling it today and which practices and policies will steer us in the right direction. This book will be especially useful for policymakers, environmental nonprofits, and students of environmental studies, sustainability, or economics.

About the author:
Founded in 1974 by farmer and economist Lester Brown, Worldwatch was the first independent research institute devoted to the analysis of global environmental concerns. Worldwatch quickly became recognized by opinion leaders around the world for its accessible, fact-based analysis of critical global issues. Now under the leadership of population expert and author Robert Engelman, Worldwatch develops innovative solutions to intractable problems, emphasizing a blend of government leadership, private sector enterprise, and citizen action that can make a sustainable future a reality.

Our review:
This was a huge collaboration between authors, with 50+ contributors, idea people, and editors involved in getting it put together. Quite the project let me tell you.

So, what is sustainability? In laymen’s terms it’s simply the capacity to endure. As to ecology it’s how biological systems can remain diverse and productive over time. As to us humans, it is the potential for long-term maintenance of well-being, which has several dimensions, to wit: ecological, economic, political and cultural. Pretty simple right? Wrong. Oh it could be a simple matter, but thanks to humans and our very nature, sustainability is very complicated.

In this 2013 edition of Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World series, the collaborating authors (scientists, policy experts, and more) explain sustainability and how we can make it work and thrive in this world we live in today. There is a huge amount of information provided. Some good, some a little hinky, but lots of great information to get you thinking.

One simple idea was on how we should be protecting the Sanctity of Native Foods (Chapter 18). Something as easy as getting back to the basics and cooking the real food, not the processed fake food we can easily purchase and quickly prepare. Real food, cooked in its natural way with spice and flare. This chapter was so informative and interesting. The author, Melissa K. Nelson, does a fantastic job of keeping you excited about the concept. She gives not just the heritage information but also the health benefits, the origins, and history of the foods as well.

Another section I enjoyed was in Chapter 5, Sustaining Freshwater and Its Dependents, written by Sandra Postel. The basic lessons of the amount of water on the earth for consumption I found to be very informative. This chapter really hit the mark regarding some of the water issues of the world today. You think of Earth, the planet of water, and it’s so easy to forget that only so much of it is actually drinkable and usable. Oceans after all are salty. As the author says: Water in finite. Without it, there is no water to drink, there is no food to grow, which then means there is no society, and how long do we last without food and water and society? Makes all the garbage and toxins and simple CO2 that we put into the water, seem a bit more criminal now. Very good chapter. Very good writing by the author.

Some of the chapters will hit home more depending on the person reading and what matters most them, but there is definitely something in this book for everyone. Easy to read, and understand, all the authors did a fantastic job in that regard. Plenty of information and sources to back it up, and the best part, an index!

You can purchase the book on (both e-book and hardcover formats are available).

Happy Earth Day!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Green book review - Climate Myths: The Campaign Against Climate Science by Dr. John J. Berger

Climate change is always a fascinating story, not just the way it changes our lives, but also the way it became a public debate and the role political and economic forces played to increase the uncertainty about it. 

The latter is also the subject of the book we're reviewing this:  

Climate Myths: The Campaign Against Climate Science by Dr. John J. Berger (publisher: Northbrae Books)

What this book is about?

Climate Myths describes the fossil fuel industries’ successful two-decade-long campaign to control the public debate over global climate change―with disastrous consequences. The book reveals how fossil fuel companies manufactured controversies about climate change, obscuring its true causes and effects.  Dangerous climate change has now become a reality for which the nation is unprepared: Federal climate policy has been stalemated, legislation has been stillborn, and international climate negotiations have been stymied.

Climate Myths exposes how the fossil fuel industry’s campaign was modeled on the cigarette companies’ campaign to convince Americans that tobacco was not a health hazard, and how it operated to sow doubt about climate change through a network of prominent proxy organizations.  The book provides insights into the campaign’s origins, motives, techniques, and main actors as it tracks the industry’s ever-changing and contradictory climate myths.  
Beyond merely describing the way we got to this tragic, perilous impasse, the book carefully dissects the fossil fuel industry’s main allegations about climate change―one-by-one―in language ordinary readers can understand. 

The book includes a preface and foreword by two eminent climate scientists, Dr. Kevin Trenberth and Dr. John Harte, and an introduction by John H. Adams, winner of the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

About the author
Dr. John J. Berger is the author and editor of 11 books on climate, energy, and natural resources. He is a graduate of Stanford University and has a master’s in energy and natural resources from UC Berkeley and a Ph.D. in ecology from UC Davis.

Our review:
I read this book in its entirety. The actual reading and material was only 64 pages, which I really liked. I didn’t feel overwhelmed with information, which sometimes you get with the longer books. I do have very mixed thoughts about its content though. The book gives you loads of information, which you then need to try to take in and think about. It’s written in a way that most people will be able to understand and is then backed up with documentation. There are plenty of references and organizations in the index, which were very helpful. I was able to go and check out some of the issues and do research on my own which I actually enjoy. Plus with this type of issue, I believe people need to go out and do some of their own research in order to fully understand the problem. The index was a huge help and road map in being able to do just that. 

However, I found a lot of hypocrisy within its pages. I believe that we have a very real climate issue on our hands. This book, in my opinion, is part of the problem in getting people on board. For instance, in one section it states that 2,500 of the world’s leading scientist were in agreement with the climate issues. Yet, when you do a basic search of climate scientists there are well over 18,000-42,000 (give or take). So there is only a fraction of the climate scientists that actually agree on what is the cause of global warming. This is a huge problem. If the scientists can’t even agree, how do we expect the world too? I’m not even going to touch the tax section. 

There is also a section that goes on about how easy it is to make unfounded charges and raise misleading questions. It continues with how the skeptical try to make their case by going to the media and the students, on TV and on the radio and even to the online communities. Both of these examples can be said for both sides of the case. Both are able to make unfounded charges and raise misleading questions. Both sides are all over the media and on the tv and everywhere you look. My problem is that this book seems to be all about finger pointing and not the real issues, not the facts. It causes more questions instead of answering them. 

I understand this was a book on the campaign against climate science, but the blame game is not going to help. For the people already on board with the climate issues, I believe that this is a very good book and I believe will be well read. However, in my opinion, I don’t believe it will appeal to the conflicted, which is the very group climate science needs in order to make a difference. We have to appeal to them with facts and science, not with blame and finger pointing.

You can purchase the book on (both e-book and hardcover formats are available).