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Seattle air quality index (AQI) like smoking 5 of something that burns per day

Seattle air quality index (AQI) like smoking 5 of something that burns per day

Top 10 comparatively toxic number of things to smoke:

If you sleep with your windows open in Seattle for 24 hours, it’s just like smoking:

  1. 3 New York cockroaches, dried naturally in saltwater from the Great Pacific Garbage patch.
  2. The mystery contents of 5 vegan pill casings found in a small plastic bag lying in the parking space next over from the one you chose so your car wouldn’t get dinged.
  3. 5 cigarettes.
  4. 1 cigarette after accidentally lighting the filter and keeping going till it’s gone.
  5. The “left over” tobacco recovered from select unfinished butts in an outside coffee can ashtray wrapped in a page torn from the Bible. Leviticus or Revelation only, and only because you currently, honestly believe it would be better than nicotine withdrawal.
  6. Water.
  7. 2 packs of 1950’s Marlboros per day for the rest of your life if it never killed you.
  8. One nickel.
  9. Whatever Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s stink-eye is based on.
  10. A 1971 anal thermometer.

5 cigarettes:

Normal, invisible air:

California Smoke Over Western Washington

California Smoke Over Western Washington

Not just Western Washington, which shows in this photo around Mt. Rainier, but this was on my flight back from Salt Lake City, Utah.

Mt. Rainier peeking above the fog of California fire smoke.


Returning to Seattle from a short trip to Salt Lake City, I snapped this photo of Mt. Rainier. But while I was in Utah, I was warned repeatedly that the air there was a so bad that emergency care centers were being overwhelmed with patients experiencing urgent respiratory issues.

I’ve never experienced anything like that, no matter the air quality, until this trip. I was explaining to my mom that we couldn’t stay long due to some unforeseen circumstances when suddenly I started into a coughing fit. That has never happened to me. Could be a one-off.

In the above photo, I had to review it several times to be sure it wasn’t a photo of Mt. Rainier with some extreme color-banding in the clouds. This is smoke over the mountains surrounding Mt. Rainier as we approach Seattle to land at SeaTac Airport.

That’s smoke, not clouds, from <~ 30,000 feet.

European Union has the Upper Hand on Animal Welfare Rules

European Union has the Upper Hand on Animal Welfare Rules

The New York Times reports that progress in negotiations on an historic trade agreement between the United States and European Union has slowed to a snail’s pace thanks, in part, to the EU balking at accepting our hormone-treated, antibiotic-injected and inhumanely raised beef, pork and chicken. More power to them and let’s hope it’s the US that buckles and not the EU.

It must be unusual and more than a little uncomfortable for US negotiators to be in the position of a relatively backward nation negotiating with a party whose environmental and overall regulatory regimen, at least when it comes to agriculture, is stricter and more progressive than our own. The EU has strict laws on labelling genetically modified foods, stricter rules on the humane treatment of farm animals and, unlike the US, prohibits the sale of hormone-treated beef.

Unfortunately, thanks to Big Ag and its stooges in Congress, the US is far less enlightened. California is a leader in the humane treatment of farm stock but there is no will to improve their lot at the national level. And while the GMO labelling fight is not over, voters in relatively progressive states such as California and Washington have opted for wilful ignorance over transparency.

Even the environmental damage caused by industrial farming – as this piece on the poisoning of Iowa’s water by factory hog farms highlights – has failed to prompt a serious rethinking of the way we raise animals for food. Do we have to wait until Iowa has its very first mountain range composed of pig shit before we take notice of the harm we’re doing?

We demand cheap meat no matter what the price paid by the animals we raise and refuse to confront Big Ag about its nefarious practices. Heck we don’t even want to know about it, hence the term “Ag-gag” which denotes laws passed in several states to effectively prevent revelations about abusive and cruel treatment of farm animals.

There are no easy answers to the question of how we can healthily and humanely raise our farm animals while still providing affordable beef, pork and chicken, as even a staunch animal welfare and sustainable food advocate such as Nicholas Kristof acknowledges.

Which doesn’t mean we can’t try, and kudos to the EU countries for leading the way while showing us up to be the backward and ignorant yahoos we’ve become on this issue. And who knows? Maybe one day their example will shame us into rejecting our present industrial model of food production for a better and more moral one.

Is the XL Keystone pipeline really worth the fight for environmentalists?

Is the XL Keystone pipeline really worth the fight for environmentalists?

I consider myself an environmentalist or at least a supporter of environmental causes. In my own very modest way I have financially supported such worthy organizations as The Wilderness Society, The Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice and others for many years.

Usually the fights waged by the environmental movement are very worthwhile in seeking to protect our wild lands and wildlife, and to exert pressure on government and business to make our air and water ever cleaner and safer.

Yet the movement is currently waging a titanic struggle that I find more than a little perplexing. I speak of the Keystone XL pipeline to transport oil from Alberta’s tar sands through a bunch of mostly plains states to ports in Texas.

It’s not that I support the pipeline. And I do understand the objections. The method used to extract oil from the tar sands is dirty and creates more carbon emissions than regular oil. There are also concerns with leakages in the pipeline and the potential damage these may cause along the route. Finally, environmentalists are using the decision on whether to authorize Keystone as a sort of litmus test on whether President Obama is really serious about climate change. I get it but I just don’t agree that any of this justifies the extraordinary effort in this case.

First, no single pipeline is going to make that much of a difference, particularly when the global oil and gas infrastructure is viewed as a whole. And while extracting this oil may be a particularly dirty business, there’s little indication that Canada would cease and desist even if the project failed to receive approval. They would simply find another way to transport the oil.

Second, the proposed pipeline route in the United States runs exclusively through red states or, in the case of Montana, via the red part of a purple state. The only state that had some objections to the original route was Nebraska and their concerns were addressed. Since Canadians don’t seem to care about any environmental damage to their land and US red state residents are noteworthy for their lack of environmental awareness, I’m not sure I see why the rest of us should give it a second thought, leaks or no leaks.

Third, if we want to seriously reduce carbon emissions we need to use less oil rather than worry about a single pipeline. And that brings us to Obama’s decidedly mixed environmental record. Generally he’s been stronger on clean air thanks to a tough EPA administrator in Lisa Jackson, and on protecting the more beautiful and vulnerable parts of our coastline, than he has been on land use issues with an Interior Secretary more interested in appeasing Rocky Mountain ranching and resource extraction industries than in our wilderness . And Obama has been no great defender of our wildlife; witness the administration’s shameful delisting of the gray wolf from federal protection so that it can be hunted by the hundreds all over again in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

But under Obama the country took a giant step to reduce oil use through the imposition of new and significant mileage standards for future cars and light trucks. He has also pushed green energy to an unprecedented degree.

It seems to me that a smarter strategy for the environmental movement would be to change course and acquiesce to the Keystone XL project, while demanding, nicely, that in return the administration increase its support for and implementation of policies to preserve and protect more of our wilderness and wildlife populations, as well as continue to toughen clean air regulations and push green energy development.

After all there’s more than a little truth in the old bromide about catching more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Japan’s Nuclear Reactors have Poisoned the Water Supply

Japan’s Nuclear Reactors have Poisoned the Water Supply

From a story in today’s New York Times about the poisoned water supply:

Radioactive iodine detected in the capital’s water supply spurred a warning for infants on Wednesday and the government issued a stark new estimate about the costs of rebuilding from the earthquake and tsunami that slammed into the northeast of Japan this month. Ei Yoshida, head of water purification for the Tokyo water department, said at a televised news conference that infants in Tokyo and surrounding areas should not drink tap water. He said iodine-131 had been detected in water samples at a level of 210 becquerels per liter, about a quart. The recommended limit for infants is 100 becquerels per liter. For adults, the recommended limit is 300 becquerels.

Outside Tokyo the government said it had found radioactive materials at levels exceeding legal limits in 11 vegetables in Fukushima Prefecture, the Kyodo news agency reported. Shipments of the affected vegetables from there ended on Monday.

On Wednesday Prime Minister Kan also suspended shipment of raw milk and parsley from neighboring Ibaraki Prefecture, Kyodo reported.

So we know the nuclear power plants near Sendai, Japan were unsafe following the 9.0 earthquake.  So what can we expect for the future of nuclear energy production in the United States?  Read this week’s edition of This Modern World, and find out.

TMW Nukd Free Mkts fr 5-6

Cheney’s Fracking Firewater

Cheney’s Fracking Firewater

In certain parts of rural Colorado, this is what happens if you light a match next to your running tap water.

flammable tapwater






The documentary film by Josh Fox titled Gasland explains how flammable tap water came to be.  The film airs on HBO tonight, and the network’s synopsis of the movie includes:

Fox reveals alarming facts about America’s natural gas industry.  In 2005, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act, championed by then-Vice President Dick Cheney, which exempted fracking [hydraulic fracturing] from numerous long-held environmental regulations such as the Safe Drinking Water Act.  Natural gas companies have installed hundreds of thousands of rigs in 34 states, drilling into huge shale fields, tight sands or coal bed seams containing gas deposits trapped in the rock.  Each well requires the use of fracking fluids – chemical cocktails consisting of 596 chemicals, including carcinogens and neurotoxins, as well as one to seven million gallons of water, which are infused with the chemicals.  Considering there are approximately 450,000 wells in the U.S., Fox estimates that 40 trillion gallons of chemically infused water have been created by the drilling, much of it seeping or injected into the ground across the country.

And we thought the BP gulf spill was bad.  It is, but pumping trillions of gallons of toxic chemicals into the land that seeps into our nation’s waters supply could be just as bad or worse.

Regulations?  We don’t need no stinking government regulations.  The huge corporations in the trillion-dollar extraction industries have nothing but our best interests in mind when they drill wells 5,000 feet below the surface of the ocean and pump trillions of gallons of flammable carcinogens into the earth that seep into our groundwater supplies.  There’s nothing to worry about here…  No need for government watchdogs to get involved!  I mean really, what could possibly go wrong if companies that exist solely to create profits go fracking around the country in search of natural gas?

Gimme a BMW Hybrid

Gimme a BMW Hybrid

Previously, I wrote a post “Screw hybrids, I wanna go electric“.

Well, I have changed my story…. Screw electric, gimme a BMW Hybrid.

With the power and performance of an M3 while sipping electrical current in the evening to recharge, now that’s what I want for my daily driving.

From Wired:

The EfficientDynamics is a 2+2 four-door hybrid that combines M Series performance with better fuel efficiency and less emissions than you see in many compacts. BMW performs this magic by marrying its ActiveHybrid technology with an extremely economical engine and excellent aerodynamics. The result is a concept car with a top speed governed at 155 mph and a zero-to-62 acceleration time of 4.8 seconds. More impressive, the car gets 62.2 mpg and emits a Prius-like 99 grams of CO2 per kilometer.

Check out this video of the design team discussing the vehicle:

The Renault-Nissan Alliance forms zero-emission vehicle partnership with City of Seattle

The Renault-Nissan Alliance forms zero-emission vehicle partnership with City of Seattle


SEATTLE (April 28, 2009) – The Renault-Nissan Alliance today announced that Nissan and the City of Seattle are forming a partnership to advance zero-emission mobility by promoting the development of an electric vehicle (EV) charging network. Nissan will introduce zero-emission vehicles in the United States in 2010 and will mass market them globally two years later.

“Nissan through the Renault-Nissan Alliance has committed to being a global leader in zero-emission vehicles,” said Dominique Thormann, senior vice president, administration and finance, Nissan North America. “Nissan and the City of Seattle share in the belief that electric vehicles offer one of the best solutions to reducing CO2 emissions. This partnership expands our infrastructure development efforts on the West Coast, which also includes initiatives in Oregon and California, and is an important step in making zero emissions a reality from Seattle to San Diego.”

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels has set a goal to combine clean, green electricity with the city’s transportation system. In Seattle, power comes from the city’s utility, Seattle City Light, the first public utility in the world to be “net zero” for greenhouse gas emissions.

“From light rail to street cars to electric vehicles, we’re reducing the impact of transportation on our climate,” said Mayor Nickels. “Electric-powered transportation is particularly attractive in a city with a carbon-neutral utility, generating clean electricity through hydropower.”

As part of the agreement, Nissan and the City of Seattle will develop plans to promote a charging infrastructure for EVs, as well as the deployment, operation and maintenance of a charging network. The partners also will work to coordinate the establishment of policies and help streamline the deployment of an EV infrastructure. Nissan also has agreed to make available a supply of EVs in and around the Seattle metropolitan area.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance has begun ZEV initiatives in Kanagawa Prefecture and Yokohama in Japan, as well as in Israel, Denmark, Portugal, Monaco, the UK, France, Switzerland, Ireland, China and Hong Kong. In the United States, the Alliance is exploring ways to promote zero-emission mobility and the development of an EV infrastructure in the State of Tennessee, the State of Oregon, Sonoma County and San Diego in California, and Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.

Nissan North America
In North America, Nissan’s operations include automotive styling, engineering, consumer and corporate financing, sales and marketing, distribution and manufacturing. Nissan is dedicated to improving the environment under the Nissan Green Program 2010, whose key priorities are reducing CO2 emissions, cutting other emissions and increasing recycling. More information on Nissan in North America and the complete line of Nissan and Infiniti vehicles can be found online at and

Renault-Nissan Alliance
The Renault-Nissan Alliance, founded in 1999, sold 6,160,046 vehicles in 2007. The objective of the Alliance is to rank among the world’s top three vehicle manufacturers in terms of quality, technology and profitability.