10 September 2006 — Issue #23 Editor: Michael J. Ross
In the August 2006 issue of this newsletter, we ran an article discussing California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's plans to join together with British Prime Minister Tony Blair to begin creating a joint market in carbon dioxide emissions, with the aim of reducing greenhouse gases produced by California and England. Well, Schwarzenegger is back — in his usual big way — with an announcement that is arguably even more significant ecologically and politically. Please see the article in this issue of the newsletter, to learn more.
Of all the 50 states in the American union, California is frequently the leader — often setting the trends in fashion, cuisine, and government policy. This is embodied in the common phrase "As goes California, so goes the nation." This is true of both positive and negative trends. For instance, decades ago, California was unquestionably in the forefront of creating airborne pollution in the U.S., as epitomized by the eye-watering and lung-burning smog that blanketed the Los Angeles basin. Yet that drive and willingness to make changes can cause the pendulum to swing the other way, as evidenced by the enactment of stronger industry and automobile emission standards, and the resultant and dramatic improvement in air quality throughout all major California metropolitan areas since that time. Nonetheless, there is still tremendous room for improvement, especially in the realm of air pollution: In 2005, California was the 12th largest source of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the world, exceeding that of most nations.
But California may take the lead in addressing this problem as well, if the current state governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is able to get approval for his plan to limit greenhouse gases emitted within the state. On 30 August 2006, Governor Schwarzenegger and Democrats in the state legislature reached a deal that would place a cap on carbon emissions, including those generated by industrial facilities. As of this writing, the proposed legislation still needs to be approved by both the state Senate and Assembly. However, this is the expected outcome, since the legislature is currently controlled by the Democrats, who worked with Governor Schwarzenegger in developing the proposal. It is anticipated that the bill will soon be sent to the state Senate floor.
Although the bill may quickly be enacted into law, it likely will not carry the legal power that most ecologists would hope for. The emission caps would not be mandatory, as Schwarzenegger had originally desired, but would instead allow the California Air Resources Board to implement a market-based strategy. Schwarzenegger and other administration officials have tried to assuage the concerns of California-based businesses that would be most affected by this legislation, pointing out that a market-based approach would allow the heaviest polluters to purchase credits within that market, thereby allowing them to exceed the limitations. Furthermore, the proposed bill contains a provision that would make it possible for the governor to delay the cap by one year if it would result in severe economic damage, or in the face of catastrophic events.
This new legislation is just the latest effort by Governor Schwarzenegger in his campaign against global warming, which he initiated in 2005 with an executive order that specified continually lower greenhouse gas emissions up to the year 2050. At a news conference, he commented, "The facts are if we do not do something to stop carbon emissions in this world, we will see a diminution in the quality of life." Should this and other ecological proposals of his be enacted into law, and if he wins reelection — thereby giving him another term in which to advocate such policies — then he could be well on his way to establishing himself as the nation's new "Environator".
In 2005, the U.S. trade deficit reached its fourth consecutive record, of $725.8 billion — 18% more than the previous year, and exactly twice the deficit of 2001, according to the Commerce Department. One consequence of this trade gap, is that 7 million shipping containers arrived on our shores, filled with our imports; but only 2.5 million of those went back, filled with our (fewer remaining) exports. As a result, hundreds of thousands of empty containers have piled up in storage yards throughout the United States, and especially near busy ports, such as Los Angeles. Those unused containers are slowly rotting, going to waste, creating eyesores, and serving only as visual reminders of America's unprecedented trade balance. They are also polluting residential areas near the ports. In fact, in some parts of Los Angeles, the stacks of containers cause the sunsets to occur one hour earlier than normal. In response, the city has passed a law prohibiting the operating of new storage container facilities in residential areas.
Fortunately, creative architects and home builders are making use of these large steel boxes, by converting them into custom-build homes, some more than 3000 square feet in size. The resulting homes are not just bare-bones structures: Many come preinsulated, and some even have hardwood floors. Using shipping containers for this purpose offers many advantages, because they have much structural strength, and are quite resistant to mold, termites, and fire. In addition, they are especially attractive at this stage in the commodities boom, given that wood, concrete, steel, and other traditional building materials are becoming far more expensive.
Home builders are thus able to appreciably reduce the cost of constructing a home — sometimes by hundreds of thousands of dollars, in such areas as Los Angeles that have experienced dramatic increases in real estate prices. By significantly reducing the cost of creating a custom building, the construction industry can make possible housing options that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive. For example, architect Peter Demaria, of Demaria Design, is one such innovator. He is now working with the City of Los Angeles to use shipping containers for creating low-income housing.
It is ironic that it is China's current voracious appetite for building materials that is a major factor in driving up the prices of construction materials — an appetite for creating factories to manufacture items, which will be sent to Americans in even more shipping containers. Some critics may argue that living in the leftovers of the massive shift in manufacturing from America to Asia, may be an unpleasant reminder to America's "knowledge and service workers" of the ongoing shift in global wealth and trade. But it certainly beats living in the cardboard boxes seen lined up along the streets of Los Angeles and underneath freeway overpasses. Furthermore, recycling the containers is far better than the alternative of letting them go to waste.
Even in this age of advanced medical care and up-to-the-minute information at our fingertips, modern consumers are not as nearly well-informed about health and dental issues as they might imagine. Take for instance the age-old process of brushing one's teeth. When asked to describe the process, the average adult would likely answer as follows: The toothpaste, combined with tap water, is spread around the surfaces of the teeth by the toothbrush's bristles, thereby cleaning away germs and bits of food that could later cause plaque, cavities, and gum problems. Then, after brushing, rinsing the toothbrush with tap water is sufficient to clean away any residual toothpaste and germs, and keep the toothbrush hygienic until the next use. Actually, most of this is false. Firstly, toothpaste does little to no cleaning, but instead gives the individual a false sense of having cleaned their teeth, especially if the toothpaste contains chemicals that create a tingly sensation. In one study, researchers comparing various brands of toothpaste discovered that a control group using no toothpaste got the best results! Secondly, the used toothbrush bristles are still infected with bacteria, which multiply in the warm and moist environment of a bathroom — to say nothing of what happens when a flushed toilet generates airborne contaminants.
Clearly, mainstream toothbrushes and their typical usage are doing less good than imagined, and probably a lot more harm than generally realized. In fact, dental patients usually get much better results the more frequently that they replace their toothbrushes. But there is a better way — one far more ecologically responsible: Soladey toothbrushes, offered by PristinePlanet.com member Powers International Inc., utilize ions generated when light falls upon the photosensitive titanium rod inside the neck of the toothbrush. The negatively charged ions mix with saliva, and attract the positively charged hydrogen ions contained in the acid found in dental plaque. As a result, oral plaque is reduced, as shown in clinical studies. Invented and patented by Dr. Nakagawa of Japan, in 1984, Soladey toothbrushes are now in use worldwide, and also recommended and offered by countless dental professionals. Erik Powers, owner of the business, points out that the titanium rod and handle never wear out and thus do not need to be replaced; also, the replaceable brush heads are recyclable. In addition, the Soladey eliminates the need to purchase and use toothpaste, and later toss the empty toothpaste tube into the trash. These remarkable new toothbrushes can even reduce water consumption, especially as toothpaste is no longer needed. Visit the Soladey Web site to learn more.
Enter the 2nd Annual Kate's Caring Gifts Environmental Poetry Contest! Share your passion for the environment, show off your creativity, and win cool, earth-friendly stuff! Just like last year, there are two categories, Best Environmental Haiku and Best Environmental Limerick. First and second prize winners receive gift certificates valued at $100 and $50, respectively.
Letters and guest articles posted in the Newsletter section of the Forum or sent to the publisher become the property of PristinePlanet.com, and may be edited for brevity or clarity prior to publication.