J500 Media and the Environment

Tangled Up in Green: The Five Years War by rarab

Editor’s note: The following is part of the Tangled Up In Green series put together by yours truly and Adam. This piece was originally published last week. Our current topic addresses the environmental concerns linked to rising corn prices. Rather than post the entire piece here, I thought I’d provide a snippet and allow you to continue reading it at RedGreenandBlue.org if you’re interested. Feel free to leave a comment at either site if you feel so moved.

We’ve got five years, stuck on my eyes
Five years, what a surprise
We’ve got five years, my brain hurts a lot
Five years, that’s all we’ve got

Okay, so maybe the above David Bowie lyric was about alien invasion and the impending end of humankind as we know it, but it’s been playing on a loop inside my head ever since last Wednesday, when we “celebrated” the fifth anniversary of our war in Iraq.

Five years. My brain definitely hurts a lot.

While the current administration will have us believe that the surge is working and that stability has returned to once volatile regions, the truth is probably closer to a “whack-a-mole” strategy that shows no signs of leading to a peaceful resolution for this ongoing nightmare. A majority of Americans now say this war was a mistake, and we continue to hear reports—be it from the peripheries—of civilian lives lost, soldiers’ lives lost, soldiers injured, vets suffering from PTSD, tax dollars spent, etc. Still, perhaps one of the greatest casualties of this war gets very little mention.

I’m speaking, of course, of the environment. Read the rest of this entry

You may now Kiss the Mine – I mean – Bride by jkongs
March 26, 2008, 3:31 pm
Filed under: Fashion + Beauty | Tags: , , , ,

Here Comes the Bride, All Dressed in White….

We all know the song, we all know the tune, and everyone of us women has a memory of sashaying in a princess gown and plastic heels with hot pink lipstick smeared from our nose to the bottom of our chin as we acted out our pretend marriages. (Don’t worry, I still do it, too.)

Wedding rings, the traditional gold band with the glitzy diamond rock on top, have also been part of the fantasy. In reality, most of us are aware of the environmental and social implications of diamond mining – but have you ever stopped and thought about the band, too?

Gold mining, as with most types of nonrenewable resource extractions, has disastrous environmental side-effects. A mammoth cube the length of an average six-foot human, the width of that same person across, and the depth of that person’s giant 10-feet brother yields enough gold for a single measly pair of wedding bands. To even get that much gold out, the rock is doused with a cyanide spray to loosen the gold flakes- since when did rat poison become romantic?

yanacocha (peru)

Yanacocha, Peru (world’s largest gold mine); indymedia.org

I spent the past week in El Salvador, and one of the most urgent environmental calls to action has been against new gold mines. “Don’t drink the water”, is the mantra to any traveler heading south of the U.S. border, but most of the people living in Central America have no alternative. The addition of more mines will only add to the high rates of birth defects and sicknesses caused by the contaminated water – can you imagine if your only source of drinking water was laced with toxic levels of cyanide? Local communities and solidarity groups, like the Sister Cities program I traveled with, are fighting against the mines – but we all know it will prove an uphill battle.

Since we live in the United States, we don’t have to all fly to El Salvador to make our opposition to gold mining known – we have strong voices through our consumption choices. (Plus, if you’re like me, you’re not quite ready to give up that fantasy wedding). A lot of “eco-ring” companies (such as this one and this one) claim to offer conflict-free diamonds, recycled gold bands, or other alternative materials – I assume the same two month’s salary price rubric would come into play here. There’s also always the option of an heirloom ring, either from great-grandma and great-grandpa or an antique store.

wooden rings

woodrings; flickr.com

heirloom wedding rings

As citizens in a globalized society, it’s important to remember the effects our choices have on other parts of the world – although nothing says “I Love You” like an open strip mine blown into the side of a mountain.

–Jennifer Kongs

Plastic Presents In My Mailbox by kimwallace

NOTE: This is a makeup post from one of the weeks when I was gone. Please comment! —Kim

I am a magazine fanatic. I subscribe to seven (7!) lucky magazines that live in neat, organized stacks in my bedroom, bathroom, coffee table and other places around my apartment.

Each month, I squeal with delight when I find my mailbox stuffed with glossy pages of fashion, beauty and other photographic delights. It’s like getting a present each month, even though the present is basically re-gifted (does that count as green?) ideas from the previous month/season/year.

To make this monthly present really seem like a present (that you paid for in advance or keep getting $12 collection notices about, grrr), some publishing houses are taking it upon their marketing genius to encase their glossies in a fine cloud of….plastic packaging.


photo by kim wallace

Yay! So I get see-through wrapping paper, at no additional cost, to put all those annoying blow-in cards (you know, the millions of rectangular subscription cards that magazines pepper themselves with each month) inside.

Wrong. The additional cost is huge. Of the seven magazines I subscribe to, five of them are delivered to me in plastic each month. That’s 60 pieces of plastic packaging that ends up in the landfill from me, via these publishing companies, each year.

The publishing company’s only legitimate reason to send shrinkwrapped magazines, I think, is to save on postage. Most times, there’s always something extra in that packaging—a bill (ahem), a renewal notice (which leads to another bill), a solicitation from a sister magazine, or some other little “bonus” booklet from the magazine. (FYI, my “little bonuses” this month were renewal notices.)

In an effort to combat this waste that overtakes my bathroom trash can, I have devised a greening plan for the magazine industry that includes other areas of the publishing process.

Don’t use plastic packaging! If you really want me to feel like I’m getting a present each month, pay for a subscription for me (and offer me a job when I move to New York in a couple of years.)

Quit sending me renewal notices (and bills!). Switch to an all electronic system for notices, or if you must, offer switch incentives to people who receive paper notices.

Stop going crazy green only for your March/April issues just because Earth Day is April 22. Incorporate green, even if it’s just a column, every month, because face it: every day is Earth Day. Challenge your readers to try new green things, even if they are of the light green shade.

Consider soy or vegetable ink for your printing needs. Soy ink has low VOC (volatile organic compound) levels, which keep your book from smelling like death. And, soy ink produces just as rich and vibrant colors as conventional, toxic ink produces.

Promote the reuse and recycle aspect of the 3R’s with your publication. Encourage pass-along to your subscribers (this increases readership and will likely gain you Web traffic from curious newbies) and be more courageous with your recycling campaign than the “Please Recycle This Magazine” symbol on your masthead. Realize your power.

Incorporate that slogan at the end of each editor’s note (some readers idolize particular editors—if you can convince me to *buy $300 shoes, you can convince me to recycle a magazine!).

And, of course, do all the necessary office revisions (things us readers usually don’t see, unless of course, you’re in the magazine world): Use CFLs, stock your vending machines/kitchens with local/organic food, dim the lights (it makes for easier vision when your glamorous editors are hunched over their Macs) or try to use natural/New York City streetlights when possible.

Let us know what you’re doing to be green! We love hearing this positive stuff, and it encourages us, the readers, to be more like you—trend or no trend, light or dark green. Your power is ENORMOUS and what you do influences us all. Make sound, thoroughly researched choices.


*I have never actually been swayed into buying $300 shoes, though I’m sure millions of women, with the power of Visa, have!

Food for thought by denzylj
March 25, 2008, 7:50 pm
Filed under: Food + Health, Waste + Recycling | Tags: , , , ,

A man at an Easter dinner table, no doubt emboldened by quaffing copious amounts of Napa Valley cabernet, proceeded to start a food fight. He must have had his fill and thought what better way to cap celebrations than by tossing his leftovers at someone sitting opposite him. I can’t say I blame him. After being fed a Hollywood diet of warped humor where food fight scenes have become the staple in slapstick comedy routines, it’s no wonder he thought a bit of flying celery and carrots would go down well. It would be spoken of for months to come, the pièce de résistance that outshone the au gratin potato bake. It was just like going to the movies and clutching our popcorn-filled bellies in the aisles as we laugh at new meanings given to having spaghetti braids.

Thankfully this kind of scene wasn’t played out. But what it did bring into sharp focus how wasteful people have become – that images of a family in Chad living off $1.23 a week are a far cry from the relative comforts of families here in the United States and elsewhere where more leads to excesses like food fights and obesity. So the study of families around the planet and their one week dietary habits made for some interesting visual comparisons and reaffirmed the gap between rich and poor nations. Reading some of the comments that followed, it seems that some people are uncomfortable addressing such global inequalities and in shouldering guilt, and responsibility even for helping to raise the standard of living of the indigent. How and what people to choose to eat is their concern, just so long as it’s sustainable. But the next time they toss a half empty plate of food away or think it funny watching or having a food fight, I hope they at least spare a thought for poverty-stricken kids so desperate they’d happily be rolling alongside on the floor, not in fits of mirth, but grasping at every precious morsel thrown about with reckless abandon.


Danger of Localism by sachikom
March 25, 2008, 4:29 pm
Filed under: Food + Health | Tags: , , , , ,

Eating and consuming locally has significant impact on reducing consumption of fossil fuel and pollution. I love local organic food. They are fresh and healthy!

Now, I became a little skeptical about localism, such as buying local products and avoiding flight or driving. Here’s Bill McKibben’s comment, which I consider fanatic. His solution to the climate crisis:

Either we build real community, of the kind that lets us embrace mass transit and local food and co-housing and you name it, or we will go down clinging to the wreckage of our privatized society. Which leaves us with the one piece of undeniably good news: we were built for community. Everything we know about human beings, from the state of our immune systems to the state of our psyches, testifies to our desire for real connection of just the kind that an advanced consumer society makes so difficult.”

Actually, his comment is nothing so new. Advocating pure localism will eventually reach to his idea of the “real community.” My concern is what if the whole community, country or even world turn into a totally self-sufficient life? Basically, you would only consume what your community produces. In that case, I’d move to the West coast. I like seafood, but I’d have to ask my Kansas friend to smuggle beef. I’m not sure if I can ever stay awake without coffee.

One Week’s Worth of Food Around Our Planet” says:

“Here’s something that I came across which I thought was very poignant. One week’s worth of food from around the world. The pictures say it all.”

What did you interpret from the pictures? First, I didn’t feel either “poignant” nor guilty. Instead, I appreciated what I have. Second, the pictures reflect their own culture and make me feel like trying all those different food. (I like exotic food.) Third, I was wondering which one is the most idealistic diet for the environment.

I realize how fortunate I am. It might be my Japanese arrogance, but people in Chad are missing out a lot of good food. Trade makes us possible to access those food. How can I help the country develop strong economy, produce goods, export and be successful in the global market? Although shipping is bad for the environment, they should try the world’s different ingredients and food, which enriches our lives.


Photo Credit: Grunabi

Sacrifice is not my kind of environmentalism. We have to find a balance between our consumers’ life and the environment. Consuming locally is an important idea, but it also comes down to the balance.


The New York Times discusses pros and cons of local food in terms of environmentalism. Eating locally can reducing consumption of fossil fuel. But we cannot measure carbon footprint only by food miles alone, considering:

“factor inputs and externalities” – like water use, harvesting techniques, fertilizer outlays, renewable energy applications, means of transportation (and the kind of fuel used), the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed during photosynthesis, disposal of packaging, storage procedures and dozens of other cultivation inputs.

Sachiko Miyakawa

Our Material World by julianat

I got picked up in Mexico City by a driver-certified-body-guard named Nacho. He was a short man who was talkative and was really excited to meet me and my travel friend, Jacob.

The second we get in his little Volkswagon, he starts blasting Madonna’s song Material Girl, singing along and encouraging us to do the same, driving down the road ignoring all traffic rules.

Welcome to Mexico City, or maybe , welcome to the same globalized world.

This bienvenido set the tone for my little trip south of the border and made me question how does consumption and waste rates differ between countries? According to Worldmapper the U.S has a relatively large amount of waste compared to the population, and more so than Mexico.

I’ve always figured that since consumption and expendable income is so high in the US, that most developing countries had less waste, but from what I saw in Mexico, I couldn’t believe that to be entirely true.

Everyone knows to stay away from the drinking water in Mexico, drink bottled water instead. This, was painful for me, in 3 days of being in Mexico, Jacob and I had drank 5 2 liter bottles of water and half a 10 liter jug of water.

In America, we have a generous choice to drink either bottle or tap, but for people in developing countries or rural areas, many have no other choice, and have to spend the little money they have on privatized, bottled water. How come clean water can’t be a natural right and resource available for everyone?

Now, what do other countries do with the ridiculous amount of waste thrown out? In Kathmandu Nepal, they burn all of their trash on the streets, and in Mexico, as I saw, they throw their garbage off cliffs into valleys.

With environmentalism, it seems as though there is a big emphasis on America, and it’s consumption, it’s energy use, it’s waste and degradation to the environment. Maybe it seems this way because I am immersed only in the American life. But what about developing countries and the way their social, political and cultural structures have them stuck in a position that they can’t even start to worry about their relationship and degradations to the environment?

Is environmentalism only for the wealthy? Can environmentalism actually become global?

Upon looking One Week’s Worth of Food Around Our Planet, I was reminded of a book I used to look at called Material World: A Global Family Portrait, which shows the material possessions of family’s across the world. Both show pictures that are powerful and show the differences between economic opportunities and material possessions across the world.

It seems as though environmentalism can be linked to consumption , reduce your consumption, and reduce your impact on earth. But how do we bring up all the people in the world to have a positive relationship with their environment that isn’t costly?

Mexican Water Bottle
A photo I took of a water bottle in Mexico, to what I think roughly translates to something like ” It is necessary to drink 2 liters of clean water every day for good health.

I can’t help but think, are these companies actually thinking about YOUR health, or is this greenwashing or marketing strategies to have you continue buying and wasting?

What about the ones who can’t ?

-Juliana Tran

The hardest working photog in the enviro business by travisjbrown

Who is the greatest environmental photographer in this history of the environment and photography?

Funny you should ask—considering I just spent my morning researching that exact topic.

Ansel Adams would be your man. I know, I never thought of it before now, either. Until now, I just thought he made pretty outdoor pictures that people put in their offices when they didn’t know much about art.

Now, I know you instantly scanned through your mental environmental photographer Rolodex and picked out your favorite modern environmental photog but I seriously doubt they hold a CFL to Adams’ efforts.

After years of photographing nature, Adams became so inspired that he became a full-blown environmental advocate, according to this essay by Peter Barr. He joined the Sierra Club board of directors, he lobbied congress for environmental aid in King’s River Canyon, and he was assigned to photograph national parks by the Department of Interior (however, this project quickly ended because of WWII). Adams personally met with LBJ, Johnson, Ford, and Carter to discuss environmental policy. He was also awarded the Conservation Service Award by the Interior Department and recieved a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his environmental efforts. Thats what I call a hard-working advocate.

And just look at the man’s stuff:


Ansel Adams. Bridveil Fall. Yosemite, 1967

Waterfall: “I am nature. Hear me roar. RAAGH!”
Ansel Adams. Snake River, Grand Tetons, 1942

Mountain: “I see you eyeing me. I will destroy you. Do not screw with me.

“The photographer showed Americans the beauty of nature. But he also put alot of American problems in perspective.


Ansel Adams. Freeway Interchange, Los Angeles, 1967

This photograph was taken in 1967—an era when a lot of people (aka hippies) were complaining about what was wrong with the world, while driving around in psychadelic buses powered by fossil fuels and love.

It is as if Adams was telling us “Hey guys, take a step back and look at all this progress. Maybe we need to slow down and meditate on this for a while. I mean, check this other picture. Goodness, are those some pretty trees or what?”

You know, come to think of it, I’m going to have to get me an Ansel Adams for my office. Maybe it’ll make me feel like I’m working amidst nature

-Travis Brown