Hope and hiatus

November 12th, 2012

Photo via Flickr: Hadleygrass is asparagus

Some of you may have noticed that it’s been quite some time since I last posted. Daily (or thrice weekly, or heck — once a month!) blogging, sadly, doesn’t seem to fit with my life and other projects I’m pursuing at the moment. Or not so sadly: I’m grateful for all that’s happened in the relatively short three-plus years since I started The Red, White, and Green; both in my personal and professional life, and in our country at large.

The seeds for this blog were sown, after all, in the wake of my work volunteering on the 2008 Obama campaign — in my hope for Americans to finally unite around protecting our country, our planet, after eight years of war and destruction in the pursuit of oil — and now here we are, four years later, having just reelected President Obama to a historic second term. A term, in which, if last Tuesday night’s acceptance speech is any indication, the president will finally feel empowered to confront the threat of climate change head on.

Do we have a long, long way to go? Absolutely. But four years ago, I never would have believed that the cover of conservative-leaning Bloomberg Businessweek would read “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.” Or that 70 percent of Americans would now accept the science of climate change (up from around 50 percent when I first started writing here). If the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy has revealed anything, it’s that the politicization of climate change may at last be behind us.

As may the marginalization of the environmental movement as a whole. Who would have thunk, back in 2008, that an initiative to label GMOs could have made it to the state election level here in California (though it was narrowly defeated)? Or that the FDA would actually take steps to ban BPA? Or that Walmart would start selling cloth diapers? Not I. I was still just trying to convince most people I knew why taking simple steps to go green (switching to CFLs, giving up bottled water) wasn’t a total buzzkill to begin with.

It’s easy to shake one’s head and say that things will never change, but all of the above is proof that they do. And to paraphrase our newly reelected president, this kind of change happens — the task of perfecting our union moves forward — because of you. So thank you for all your encouragement and enthusiasm here so far. You give me hope.

Speaking of change… more is coming to my family, with babe No. 2 due around the end of this year. So I thought this would be a good time to say that The Red, White, and Green will be on official hiatus for a bit. In the meantime, you can connect with me here.

Wishing you all the best for the months ahead!

–Jennifer Grayson

Until I return, some reading you might enjoy:

Buying ‘Made in America’ boosts the eco-nomy
Organic alone isn’t going to save us
WATCH: How to Green Your Move
Patriotic decorating: Vintage US maps
On Kleenex and our disposable society
A funny story. Or, why US food labeling needs an overhaul

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Breast buds and BPA ban fail

April 10th, 2012

Photo: Blingcheese.com

The news that girls as young as 4 are now developing breast buds and pubic hair should horrify anyone. But as the mother of a toddler girl, I felt my insides twisting when earlier this month, I read Elizabeth Weil’s feature about early-onset puberty in the The New York Times Magazine (Puberty Before Age 10 — A New ‘Normal’?). The medical term for this phenomenon is “precocious puberty,” which makes it sound like it’s something benign, even adorable. Clearly, it’s anything but:

That morning one of [pediatric endocrinologist Louise] Greenspan’s patients was a 6½-year-old girl with a bone age of 9. She was the tallest girl in her class at school. She started growing pubic hair at age 4. No one thought her growth curve was normal, not even her doctors. (Eight used to be the age cutoff for normal pubic-hair growth in girls; now it’s as early as 7.) For this girl, Greenspan prescribed a once-a-month shot of the hormone Leuprolide, to halt puberty’s progress. The girl hated the shot. Yet nobody second-guessed the treatment plan. The mismatch between her sexual maturation and her age — and the discomfort that created, for everybody — was just too great.

Now it seems it’s not only we parents of girls who need to be concerned. Early puberty is striking boys, too, and not only American ones: In Leipzig, Germany, the famous St. Thomas Boys Choir has noticed the voices of its boy sopranos cracking earlier than ever before; now at age 13, on average. (The choir, which dates back to 1212, has quite the historical record for comparison. In the 1700s, boys’ voices changed around age 17; even as late as 1993, the age was 14 or 15.)

So what the heck is going on? Well, obesity, for one. More than one-third of US children are now overweight or obese, and the ties between a high childhood body mass index (BMI) and early puberty are strong. Germany, too, has a growing problem with childhood obesity, which may be to blame for the squawking sopranos. But exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the environment are also of grave concern, as the NYT article points out (bold is my emphasis):

One concern, among parents and researchers, is the effect of simultaneous exposures to many estrogen-mimics, including the compound BPA, which is ubiquitous. Ninety-three percent of Americans have traces of BPA in their bodies. BPA was first made in 1891 and used as a synthetic estrogen in the 1930s. In the 1950s commercial manufacturers started putting BPA in hard plastics. Since then BPA has been found in many common products, including dental sealants and cash-register receipts. More than a million pounds of the substance are released into the environment each year.

In other news, the FDA has decided not to ban BPA from food and beverage packaging, stating “the most appropriate course of action at this time is to continue scientific study and review of all new evidence.”

Really? We are turning into science experiments faster than we can be studied and the response is a carefully measured “wait and see?” Nothing like choosing the chemical companies over our children.

–Jennifer Grayson

What you can do: Join Non Toxic Revolution (@kanbtr) today on Twitter and tell @US_FDA that not banning #BPA was a major #FAIL because #PlasticSucks. Find out more here.

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The Keystone XL setup

January 19th, 2012

By now, you’ve likely heard the news that Pres. Obama has rejected the Keystone XL pipeline; though rejected may be too strong a word. Punted is more like it, since the pipeline’s builder, TransCanada, will be allowed to reapply for a new permit. But for now, it’s a victory, and everyone who protested and marched and called their Congressperson certainly deserves a thank you.

The Republicans deserved this, of course. They were the ones who placed a rider in the payroll tax cut extension forcing Obama to either reject or approve the pipeline by Feb. 21. What a ridiculously short and arbitrary deadline. Did they think Obama (and the State Department) would approve such a far-reaching project without having adequate time to study its potential risks?

The rub is: Of course not. It was a setup.

The Republicans put that provision in the legislation because they knew that Obama — or any sensible person, for that matter — would be forced to reject it, and then they could call him out for being a job-killer and make him look bad in his bid for reelection.

Nevermind that Cornell University says the pipeline could actually cost us jobs. Look for Republicans to stick to those ridiculously inflated TransCanada numbers in the months ahead.

Is anyone else insulted that the Republicans think we’re that stupid?

–Jennifer Grayson

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In memoriam

September 11th, 2011

Photo via Flickr: Kim Carpenter NY

I’ve been keeping an eye on all the coverage leading up to the 10th anniversary of this day, September 11. I haven’t been able to bring myself to read or watch any of it.

I grew up in a New York suburb. My father worked on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange; I remember visiting the World Trade Center often as a child. Shortly after college, my now-husband and I moved in together on East 51st Street. That was August 2001.

There is nothing I could say here to describe what it was like to be in New York on that fateful morning. There are no words.

What I will say is this: After the attacks, we had the sympathy of the whole world. The president had the attention of every American. We were gathered together, waiting to be directed, ready to do whatever was asked of us. We had a golden opportunity, to declare ourselves free from foreign oil, to shut our ports and our gas caps right then and there. It wasn’t worth it. We would have found another way.

A decade and two presidents later, we are still fighting a war in one country and occupying another. We are reliant as we ever were on Mideast oil. Our country is more divided than at any time since the Civil War.

The 2,977 who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, most likely know none of this now, of course. But they deserve better.

–Jennifer Grayson

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Photo via Flickr: Tarsandsaction. Credit: Shadia Fayne Wood

If there’s one environmental issue you should be following — make that fighting for it’s the effort to stop the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would leave a 1,700 mile scar across America’s Heartland to transport crude from Canadian tar sand fields to Gulf Coast refineries. A rupture in the pipeline could be devastating — we’re talking a BP-scale oil spill over the source of drinking water for 20 million Americans.

Needless to say, people are pretty pissed. As in, not-just-sign-a-petition-online-but-go-sit-in-at-the-White-House pissed. Here, a glimpse at the protests that took place over the past two weeks. 1,252 people in total were arrested.

Photo via Flickr: Tarsandsaction. Credit: Josh Lopez

Photo via Flickr: Tarsandsaction. Credit: Ben Powless

Actress Daryl Hannah. Photo via Flickr: Tarsandsaction. Credit: Ben Powless

Photo via Flickr: Tarsandsaction. Credit: Ben Powless

Photo via Flickr: Tarsandsaction. Credit: Shadia Fayne Wood

The White House sit-in, which was led by Tar Sands Action, officially ended on Saturday, but Phase 2 will be starting soon. Circle October 7 on your calendar, then click here to find out more.

–Jennifer Grayson

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Photo via OHVEC.org

Whenever a politician sets him or herself apart from the party pack, attention is sure to follow. Case in point: Jon Huntsman’s much-talked-about tweet last week, where he strayed from the GOP’s global warming talking points to side with the scientists.

But I have another theory about the buzz surrounding that tweet: I think there are a lot of Republicans out there who identify more with Huntsman than with Perry. Forty-four percent of Americans say they will likely vote for a Republican candidate in the 2012 election, yet seventy-seven percent of Americans support the work the EPA is doing. So clearly there’s some overlap.

Agree with me? Check out Republicans for Environmental Protection. The grassroots organization so far has only 350 followers on Twitter, but I predict we’ll see that number climb in the months to come.

–Jennifer Grayson

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Photo via jon2012.com

Texas Gov. Rick Perry called climate change “a scientific theory that has not been proven,” in New Hampshire on Wednesday. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has said she doesn’t think global warming is possible because “CO2 is a natural byproduct of nature.” Thankfully, there’s a beacon in the smog among the GOP presidential wannabes: Former Utah governor and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, who yesterday tweeted

To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.

The tweet was a clear jab at Perry, who had been questioned earlier that day on both topics (evolution “has some gaps” in it, Perry said).

I like your style, Mr. Huntsman, but tell me: If you do trust the scientists, why is there not a single tag for “Environment” on the Daily HBlog section of your campaign website?

–Jennifer Grayson

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Notice whose photo this is. What is it being used for? Photo via Flickr: TexasGOPVote.com

It’s been obvious for some time now that the Republicans have been trying to undercut the EPA at every turn — the slew of anti-environmental riders attached to the 2012 spending bill being the latest example — but an article out this week puts the writing on the wall: The Republicans have made it their mission to halt what it views as EPA’s ‘activist’ agenda.

From Reuters:

Emboldened by their success wresting concessions from the Obama administration in debt-limit talks, House Republicans now plan an assault of similar vigor on the Environmental Protection Agency.

Republicans, backed by wealthy conservative lobbyists, are determined to stop the EPA and what they see as an activist agenda that is costing jobs and hurting corporate profits.

“Right now for House Republicans one of their important rally cries is that EPA regulations are excessive and even abusive,” said Robert Stavins, director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program.

Here’s my question: Isn’t calling the EPA “activist” kind of like calling the Department of Homeland Security activist? I don’t know about you, but I like my taxpayer dollar–funded federal agencies to do the job they’ve been tasked with, which in the case of the EPA — otherwise known as the Environmental Protection Agency — is to do just that: Protect. The. Environment.

It’s not the Protect-The-Environment-But-Only-When-It’s-Convenient-For-Big-Business Agency, after all. That would be too cumbersome an acronym.

Hell, why don’t we just shut down Border Patrol while we’re at it? Terrorist, shmerorist — the BP oil spill was arguably a weapon of mass destruction (though perhaps an unintentional one), and we’re doing just fine now, thank you very much. (By “we” I mean BP — $18 billion-plus in cash and counting!).

Did you know the EPA was created during the Nixon administration?

–Jennifer Grayson

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Photo via Flickr: KOMUnews

The GOP-led House has gone on an environmental rampage this year, and the debt-ceiling negotiations have proved no different: At last count, more than 75 anti-green riders have been attached to the 2012 spending bill for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department — including one that would eliminate all carbon pollution reporting requirements under the Clean Air Act, one that would halt EPA’s work to update clean air standards for smog and soot, and another that would cut funding to enforce mercury standards for power plants.

I say anti-green, but what I really should say here is anti-minority: According to the NAACP, an astounding 71 percent of African-Americans live in counties that are in current violation of air pollution standards. As a result, these communities are most at risk for the dangerous health effects of toxic air — including heart disease, asthma and low birth weight.

Isn’t breathing clean air a civil right?

–Jennifer Grayson

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Photo via Flickr: Satoru Kikuchi

It’s expected that the House will be voting today on the BULB Act, a misguided piece of legislation that would repeal the bipartisan light bulb efficiency standards signed into law by President George W. Bush. Contrary to popular belief, the law, if it avoids repeal, does not ban incandescent light bulbs, nor does it mandate the use of CFLs — it only requires that incandescents become 30 percent more energy efficient by next year.

Manufacturers have already developed these light bulbs. There will be no disruption to the consumer, other than lower energy bills. What’s more, all of this information is readily available.

So why am I receiving alarmist press releases in my email inbox from an organization called The Heartland Institute, warning me about the dangers of CFL breakage and mercury contamination and ostensibly urging a “yes” vote on the BULB Act?

You don’t like CFLs; that’s great. Well guess what? You don’t have to use them. You can use the freedom of choice you’re so vehemently in support of to buy a more energy efficient incandescent.

And, by the way, if you really did care about the heartland, you’d realize that with a near 10 percent unemployment rate, most Americans welcome the idea of paying 30 percent less for their lighting.

–Jennifer Grayson

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