Elemental Herbs: News of the Week

This weekend, the New York Times posted an interesting op-ed piece written by Thomas L. Friedman. Something in his email inbox recently reopened the debate over who is responsible for higher oil prices. What do you think?

A Good Question


AN e-mail came in the other day with a subject line that I couldn’t ignore. It was from the oil economist Phil Verleger, and it read: “Should the United States join OPEC?” That I had to open.

Verleger’s basic message was that the knee-jerk debate we’re again having over who is responsible for higher oil prices fundamentally misses huge changes that have taken place in America’s energy output, making us again a major oil and gas producer — and potential exporter — with an interest in reasonably high but stable oil prices.

From one direction, he says, we’re seeing the impact of the ethanol mandate put in place by President George W. Bush, which established fixed quantities of biofuels to be used in gasoline. When this is combined with improved vehicle fuel economy — in July, the auto industry agreed to achieve fleet averages of more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025 — it will inevitably drive down demand for gasoline and create more surplus crude to export. Add to that, says Verleger, “the increase in oil production from offshore fields and unconventional sources in America,” and that exportable U.S. surplus could grow even bigger.

Then, add the recent discoveries of natural gas deposits all over America, which will allow us to substitute gas for coal at power plants and become a natural gas exporter as well. Put it all together, says Verleger, and you can see why America “will want to consider joining with other energy-exporting countries, like those in OPEC, to sustain high oil prices. Such an effort would support domestic oil and gas production and give the U.S. a real competitive advantage over countries forced to pay high prices for imported energy — nations such as China, European Union members, and Japan.”

To read the rest of this article, click here.

San Francisco Green Film Festival: March 1-7

Next week, March 1-7, the San Francisco Green Film Festival kicks off its second season with a new crop of eco-friendly entertainment. The lineup promises to be a mix of amusing, thought provoking and inspiring events, appropriate for the die-hard green warrior and the casual kitchen composter alike.

As the Bay Area’s only green festival dedicated to films and new forms of media, the San Francisco Green Film Festival is a week long exploration of green issues and sustainable living.

This year’s films include local premieres of 40 films from around the globe, with 50 visiting filmmakers and guest speakers. The festival will also feature special events, parties, panels and educational programs, inviting festival attendees to get involved and take action with environmental causes important to them. This year’s festival will take place at the San Francisco Film Society Cinema, located at 1746 Post Street in San Francisco.

On opening night, attendees can enjoy the “The Island President,” a new film by Bay Area resident Jon Shenk. Shenk chronicles the year he spent with President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives as he confronted a problem no other world leader has ever faced: the literal survival of his country and everyone in it, due to the devastating impacts of climate change. Witness the first chapter of his global environmental fight, a fight that, following his forced resignation on February 7th, has clearly only just begun.

After the film, attend an opening night reception with food and beverages and live entertainment.

Highlights of the 2nd Annual San Francisco Green Film Festival include:

  • San Francisco Premieres of Bay Area filmmaker Jon Shenk’s “The Island President”
  • Anthony Baxter’s “You’ve Been Trumped”
  • San Francisco premiere of a short film by Summer Rayne Oakes, who is billed as the world’s top eco-model.
  • World Premiere of Mary Liz Thomson & Darryl Cherney’s “Who Bombed Judi Bari?”
  • Sneak Preview of Emily James’s “Just Do It: A Tale of Modern-Day Outlaws”
  • Launch of “Lights! Camera! Action Steps!” which links festival attendees who’d like to get involved with leaders in local environmental causes

For more information on the San Francisco Green Film Festival, click here. To buy tickets, click here.



Elemental Herbs: News of the Week


The San Francisco Bay Area is home to some 7.5 million inhabitants, with many paying an exorbitant price for real estate that offers even a slivered view of those namesake waters — but it turns out that behind the Golden Gate lies much more than meets the eye. According to the results of the first comprehensive assessment of pollution in that famous bay, a mind-boggling 1.36 million gallons of trash are being dumped in it every year. All that waste, say experts, is be enough to fill 100 thousand kitchen-sized garbage bags! Oh, and it’s 100 percent avoidable.

To read the rest of this article on Treehugger.com.

Activist Athletes: Where the Colorado Runs Dry


Elemental Herbs Activist Athlete Jon Waterman, author of Running Dry: A Journey From Source to Sea Down the Colorado River, this week published a thought-provoking Op-Ed piece in the New York Times on the desiccation of the Colorado River. Take a look at his important piece and, if so moved, head to his website where you can make a donation through Change.org to help.

MOST visitors to the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon probably don’t realize that the mighty Colorado River, America’s most legendary white-water river, rarely reaches the sea.

Until 1998 the Colorado regularly flowed south along the Arizona-California border into a Mexican delta, irrigating farmlands and enriching a wealth of wildlife and flora before emptying into the Gulf of California.

But decades of population growth, climate change and damming in the American Southwest have now desiccated the river in its lowest reaches, turning a once-lush Mexican delta into a desert. The river’s demise began with the 1922 Colorado River Compact, a deal by seven western states to divide up its water. Eventually, Mexico was allotted just 10 percent of the flow.

Officials from Mexico and the United States are now talking about ways to increase the flow into the delta. With luck, someday it may reach the sea again.

It is paradoxical that the Colorado stopped running consistently through the delta at the end of the 20th century, which — according to tree-ring records — was one of the basin’s wettest centuries in 1,200 years. Now dozens of animal species are endangered; the culture of the native Cocopah (the People of the River) has been devastated; the fishing industry, once sustained by shrimp and other creatures that depend on a mixture of seawater and freshwater, has withered. In place of delta tourism, the economy of the upper Gulf of California hinges on drug smuggling operations that run opposite to the dying river.

Click here to read the rest of Jon Waterman’s article on NYT.com.

Should Green Non-Profits Accept Corporate Donations?


“Runners shouldn’t smoke, priests shouldn’t touch the kids, and environmentalists should never take money from polluters,” John Passacantando, a former director of Greenpeace who is now an environmental consultant, said in an interview with the New York Times.

Passacantando was reacting to the recent disclosure that the Sierra Club’s secretly accepted $26 million in donations from people associated with Chesapeake Energy, a natural gas company, has revived a debate among environmental groups:  Are corporate donations OK and, if so, what kind of transparency should be required of non-profits accepting the donations? What do you think?

To read more about the Sierra Club’s acceptance of this donation and its aftermath in the New York Times, click here.

Pondering Plastic Bags… Again

The plastic bag debate has been going on for a long time. At first, the big decision was paper versus plastic. But with countries like China and Ireland adopting fees for plastic bags, and, officials in San Francisco voting not only to expand its existing  ban on plastic bags but to require shoppers to pay 10 cents each for paper bags, it seems like one question remains: Are plastic bags headed towards extinction?

An article in yesterday’s New York Times, “Should Plastic Bags Be Banned” explores the possibility and raises some interesting questions. What do you think? Should customers be charged for each bag? Should plastic be banned altogether? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Elemental Herbs: News of the Week


In this interesting article, Jean-François Mouhot, visiting researcher at Georgetown University, makes a correlation between slavery and the overuse of fossil fuels. Whether you agree or disagree with his points, it is certainly an interesting argument.

Pointing out the similarities (and differences) between slavery and the use of fossil fuels can help us engage with climate change in a new way, says Jean-François Mouhot, visiting researcher at Georgetown University, USA.

In 2005, while teaching history at a French university, I was struck by the general disbelief among students that rational and sensitive human beings could ever hold others in bondage. Slavery was so obviously evil that slave-holders could only have been barbarians. My students could not entertain the idea that some slave-owners could have been genuinely blind to the harm they were doing. At the same time, I was reading a book on climate change which noted how today’s machinery — almost exclusively powered by fossil fuels like coal and oil — does the same work that used to be done by slaves and servants. “Energy slaves” now do our laundry, cook our food, transport us, entertain us, and do most of the hard work needed for our survival. Intriguing similarities between slavery and our current dependence on fossil-fuel-powered machines struck me: both perform roughly the same functions in society (doing the hard and dirty work that no one wants to do), both were considered for a long time to be acceptable by the majority and both came to be increasingly challenged as the harm they caused became more visible.

To read the rest of this article on PopulationMatters.org, click here.

Fall in Love With Community Gardening


Gardening is a sure fire way to get your organic fruits and veggies and plenty of ‘em. Not only will your food be fresh, but you’ll know exactly what went into each delicious bite: sun, soil, water and love.

Many of Elemental Herbs staff members have farming and gardening in their backgrounds: Founder Caroline Duell, Director of Sales Ryan Rich, heck, Co-owner Burr Purnell grew up on a farm in Maine with no running water or electricity. But you don’t have to live on a farm to grow your own food and herbs. In cities all over the country, urban farms are helping experienced and novice gardeners alike experience the joys of growing, sowing and composting. On many, you can even learn to be a beekeeper.

Click here to read the essay, What’s Growin’ On by contributor Heather O’Neill, who not only learned to love gardening at an urban farm, she fell in love at one too.

To find a community garden in your area, go to the American Community Garden website.