Featured stories in this issue…

Run Your Car on Coal? Maybe Not
Despite a major split in the environmental movement over burial of CO2 in the ground, environmental advocates are united in their opposition to plans to turn coal into liquid fuels. This united opposition will be difficult to overcome, even for an industry with Congress and all the presidential candidates (except Ron Paul) in its pocket.
Environmental Toxins, Radiation May Be Tied To Breast Cancer
“In bringing this broad focus to environmental causes of breast cancer, we hope to find ways to lower the future incidence of breast cancer not only for adults but, most importantly, for our children and grandchildren,”
Amphibians Doomed, Local Biologists Say
“There are 500 other species that will become extinct in our lifetime, no matter what we do,” Rodrigue said. “The message isn’t just that there’s a crisis, but that we have to act quickly…. Any effort to help the environment, either recycling, cleaning up the shoreline or not using pesticides — anything — will help.”
Green Buildings May Be Cheapest Way To Slow Global Warming
By building green — and retrofitting existing buildings — the countries of North America could cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 25 percent
Our Three-Decade Recession
By some measures of economic performance, the United States has been in a recession since 1975 — a recession in quality of life, or well-being.
Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?
A 4-part TV series on PBS starting March 27: The social, economic, and physical environments in which we are born, live and work profoundly affect our longevity and health — as much as smoking, diet and exercise.
Byoblue: On Earth Day, Say No To Coal
Wear blue for Earth Day 2008 to vote for no coal! When you dress in the morning on Earth Day, wear blue. No matter what you’re doing for Earth Day 2008, wear blue. A blue shirt, top, sweater, or jacket… whatever. Just wear blue.


From: Rachel’s Democracy & Health News #951, Mar. 20, 2008


By Peter Montague

As the price of oil rises, coal company executives smell a huge opportunity: they are planning to ramp up a new global industry to turn coal into liquid fuels (diesel, kerosene and jet fuel), plus basic feedstocks for the chemical industry to make plastics, fertilizers, solvents, pesticides, and more). The coal-to-chemicals industry is already going gangbusters in China.

U.S. coal companies like Peabody and Arch plan to combine well-known coal-to-liquids technology and rapidly-evolving coal-to-chemicals technologies with untested methods of capturing carbon dioxide (or CO2, the main global-warming gas), compressing it into a liquid, and injecting it a mile below ground, hoping it will stay there forever. (Burying CO2 is called “carbon capture and storage” or CCS.) If coal executives succeed in convincing the public to pay for all this, low- carbon renewable energy systems and waste-free “green chemistry” will be sidelined for decades to come.

The coal industry has nearly-universal support in Congress. During President Bush’s 2008 “state of the union address,” January 28, one of the few lines that drew enthusiastic applause was, “Let us fund new technologies that can generate coal power while capturing carbon emissions.” A few days later the President announced his latest budget, with $648 million in taxpayer subsidies for “clean coal” (the coal industry’s name for carbon dioxide burial, or CCS). A few days after that, the government announced it was ending its participation in the nation’s first “clean coal” demonstration, the Futuregen project in Mattoon, Illinois. Obviously, Washington is experiencing policy angst over global warming, and “clean coal” lies at the heart of the debate. Both coal-to-liquids and coal-to-chemicals depend entirely on carbon-burial being doable, affordable, and convincingly safe and permanent.

Despite political support in Congress, “coal-to-liquid fuels” had its coming our party earlier this year, and it did not go well. Here’s the story:

In 2006 the Western Governors’ Association began a process called “Transportation Fuels for the Future, a Roadmap for the West.” They set up Teams to work on fuel efficiency, ethanol, biodiesel, electric propulsion, hydrogen, natural gas, and coal-to-liquids. The Western states hold 59% of the nation’s coal reserves, so Western governors (many of whom who need coal money to get re-elected) are hoping to use American coal to provide America’s energy, and to get us loose from foreign oil. So far, so good.

Most of the West Governors’ Teams were polite and well-behaved but the coal-to-liquids (CTL) Team started brawling right from the start. The CTL Team was stacked with coal industry reps (or their stand-ins)[1] who naturally came in with the preconceived idea that Uncle Sam should spend billions subsidizing coal-to-liquids (CTL) in the western states. And that was precisely the conclusion that the Team reached in its final report. But then the mud hit the fan. It got so bad that the representative from Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) quit the task force.

Even Princeton University got muddied in the fray. The Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC), a coalition of seven community groups with 9500 members and 45 local chapters, accused Robert H. Williams of the Princeton Environmental Institute of using an “accounting gimmick” to make coal-to-liquids seem environmentally benign compared to the alternatives. For the past five years, Princeton has been funded by the coal, oil and automobile industries to figure out how to bury carbon dioxide in the ground, to help the coal-to-liquids (“synthetic fuels” or “synfuels”) industry thrive.

When it was all over, a group of 14 national and regional environmental groups[2] wrote a searing letter to the Western Governors demanding that the whole coal-to-liquids study be discarded and re-done. Of course their request was ignored, but it revealed widespread, united opposition to coal-to-liquids among grass-roots groups across the western states. Even some of the big national groups, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Environmental Defense (ED), who often work at cross purposes with grass-roots groups, opposed coal-to-liquids. Oddly, NRDC is a wildly enthusiastic cheerleader for burying CO2 in the ground — more enthusiastic than even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — yet they strongly oppose turning coal into liquid fuels. Some would call NRDC’s stance “nuanced” policy, others might call it schizophrenic. (Recently NRDC’s support for CCS appeared to be wavering when George Peridas, one of NRDC’s two main CCS cheerleaders, acknowledged that, “There are cheaper ways and cleaner ways and preferable ways to meet energy demands, but I think CCS will ultimately be needed too.”)

The Denver office of Environmental Defense (ED) chimed in with its own withering assessment of the Western Governors’ coal-to-liquids report. Martha Roberts and Vicky Patton of ED wrote, “The CTL [coal- to-liquids] working group’s recommendation for considerable federal subsidies to support development of carbon-intensive CTL transportation fuel seriously misses the mark and leads the nation in the wrong direction, veering recklessly distant from climate security.”

The Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) sent its own blistering critique of the CTL Team’s conclusions. They pointed out that the National Academy of sciences in June 2007 said they couldn’t be sure that the western states had more then 100 years of coal remaining. Deploying a CTL industry might cut that to 50 years. If access to some known coal reserves were denied by land-owners who didn’t want their land strip-mined, available coal could fall below even a 50-year supply. Relying on resources with finite supply, a coal-to-liquids industry isn’t sustainable, by definition. They also pointed out that the Coal-to-Liquids Team envisioned a “mature” industry producing 5 million barrels of liquid fuels per day, but such an industry would require, each year, two-and-a-half times as much water as the city of Denver, Colorado. Where would that water come from?

For all their political clout, coal and coal-to-liquids advocates did not fare well in the Western Governors’ final report, “Transportation Fuels for the Future.” The final report pointed out that,

** Even with CCS (CO2 burial), coal-to-liquids will release as much CO2 into the air as petroleum-based fuels do today. Without CCS, coal- based fuels will release twice as much CO2 (per unit of usable energy) as petroleum-based fuels. (Actually, as Environmental Defense pointed out that in its critique of the Western Governors’ CTL report, even with complete carbon burial, liquid fuels from coal would still emit 3.7% more CO2, per unit of usable energy, than today’s petroleum-based fuels.)

** Coal-to-liquids plants “will require a massive infrastructure build out, including rail transportation, water supply, and treatment facilities, transmission lines, carbon capture facilities, and carbon dioxide pipeline transport to storage sites.” (pg. 16)

** And: “A mature CTL industry will use up underground carbon dioxide storage capacity which may compete with the storage capacity needs to dispose of carbon dioxide arising from the use of coal for electricity generation.” (pg. 16)

** And “… it is uncertain whether there is sufficient coal for both fuel production and electricity generation.”

So coal-to-liquids may seem like a workable idea on the face of it (at least in China) but the details seem fraught with problems that will be very difficult to resolve.

Not the least of these is the united grass-roots opposition that surfaced during the Western Governors’ attempt to promote coal-to- liquids. Even with a major split in the environmental movement over burial of CO2 in the ground, everyone is united in opposition to coal-to-liquid-fuels. This opposition will be difficult to overcome, even for an industry with Congress and all the presidential candidates (except Ron Paul) comfortably in its pocket.


[1] The initial Coal-to-Liquids Team included Paul Bollinger (DOD/Air Force, which aims to develop jet fuel from coal); Graham Parker (Pacific Northwest National Lab, a taxpayer-supported “clean coal” research organization); Greg Schaefer (Arch Coal, 2nd largest U.S. coal company); Dick Shepard and Dave Perkins (Rentech, “clean coal” technology providers); Robert Williams (Princeton Environmental Institute, funded by coal, oil and automobile companies to demonstrate feasibility of, and smooth the way for, “clean coal” and synthetic fuels from coal), and Chuck McGraw, Natural Resources Defense Council (big supporters of “clean coal” [i.e., burying CO2 in the ground, hoping it will stay there forever] but not of coal-to-liquids). Mr. McGraw resigned from the coal-to-liquids Team in September, 2007 “after ascertaining that the report would not adequately represent their organization’s viewpoint,” as the CTL team’s final report stated it ungrammatically.

[2] Appalachian Voices; Natural Resources Defense Council; Friends of the Earth; Montana Environmental Information Center; Valley Watch; Western Organization of Resource Councils; Greenpeace; Montana Audubon; Dakota Resource Council; KyotoUSA; Center for Biological Diversity; Climate Protection Campaign; Powder River Basin Resource Council; Sierra Club, Wyoming


From: Healthday, Mar. 19, 2008


Exposure to plasticizers and other chemicals in childhood may hike adult cancer risks, report says

By Sherry Baker, HealthDay Reporter

In the decades following World War II, both breast cancer rates and the use of synthetic chemicals soared in the United States — and a new report contends there’s a strong connection between the two.

Produced by the Breast Cancer Fund, a non-profit group whose mission is to identify environmental links to breast cancer, The State of the Evidence: 2008 concludes toxic chemicals in the environment, along with increased radiation exposure, are the main culprits in the sharp rise of breast cancer incidence.

The report cautions that “in-utero” [in the womb] and early childhood exposure to carcinogens through plasticizers, estrogen-mimicking substances and other chemicals may increase the risk of breast cancer in adult life.

“As we looked at the research comprehensively, the themes of interactions of timing and mixtures of chemical exposures and also radiation exposure as risks emerged. In bringing this broad focus to environmental causes of breast cancer, we hope to find ways to lower the future incidence of breast cancer not only for adults but, most importantly, for our children and grandchildren,” said Dr. Janet Gray, an endocrinology researcher at Vassar College, who edited the report.

However, some public health experts say there’s no scientific proof establishing a link between environmental contaminants and breast cancer.

Based on a review of more than 400 breast cancer studies, The State of the Evidence noted that more than 80,000 synthetic chemicals are currently used in the United States, although complete toxicological screening data are available for only 7 percent of them. Many of these substances are known to remain in the environment for many years and accumulate in body fat and breast tissue.

One group of chemicals — phthalates, which the Breast Cancer Fund report identifies as a breast cancer risk — was in the news last week when the U.S. Senate passed legislation strengthening the Consumer Product Safety Commission with an amendment requiring all children’s toys and child-care products to be free of these hormone system disruptors. A study by Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia last year found that phthalates accelerated breast development and genetic changes in newborn female lab rats, a condition that might predispose the animals to breast cancer later in life.

Exposure to chemicals that mimic estrogens in the body, called xenoestrogens, is thought to be the reason more girls are entering puberty at younger ages, according to Jeanne Rizzo, executive director of the Breast Cancer Fund.

In addition to phthalates, the new report lists other endocrine- disrupting compounds that the study authors say have been shown to affect the risk for breast cancer in humans, or the risk of mammary cancer in animals. Those compounds, according to the report, include:

** Pesticides such as DDT, dieldrin, aldrin and heptachlor; triazine herbicides

** Bisphenol A, a chemical used to make plastics, epoxy resins and dental sealants

** Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (byproducts of combustion)

** Tobacco smoke

** Dioxins

** Alkyphenols (industrial chemicals used in cleaning products)

** Metals including copper, cobalt, nickel and lead

** Parabens (anti-microbials used in personal care products)

** Food additives such as compounds given to cattle and sheep to enhance growth

The report also cites environmental factors that may exert cancer- causing effects without hormone disruption. Those factors include

** exposure to the petrochemical solvent benzene;

** organic solvents used in the computer, furniture and textile industries;

** polyvinyl chloride (PVC) used in a variety of appliances, food packages and medical products;

** 1,3-butadiene, a byproduct of petroleum refining and vehicle exhaust;

** ethylene oxide, used in medicine and some cosmetics;

** aromatic amines, byproducts of manufacturing plastics and dyes.

Both ionizing and non-ionizing radiation are also listed as suspected cancer-causing agents, the report stated.

“The conclusions of the surveyed research show us we need to look earlier and earlier at the impact of chemical exposure in utero and early life and how toxins, radiation, genetic predisposition, diet, exercise and all those things interact together to increase breast cancer risk. The results of this study compel us to look at the need for broad public health policy reform and more federally funded research,” Rizzo said.

In response to the report, Tiffany Harrington, public affairs director with the American Chemistry Council, said the chemical industry is seeking to better understand the complex relationship between modern chemistry and human health.

“The chemistry industry has contributed to endocrine research by supporting applied scientific studies focused on developing the datasets needed to evaluate the reliability of endocrine screening methods,” she said.

Meanwhile, environmental medicine expert Dr. Jonathan Borak, an associate clinical professor of medicine at Yale University’s School of Medicine, said a host of studies have found no clear link between specific toxins and breast cancer.

“So far, I have not seen any compelling evidence of a link between any environmental contaminants and breast cancer,” he said.

Copyright 2008 ScoutNews, LLC.


From: The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec), Feb. 29, 2008


By Anne Sutherland

Frogs have been around for millions of years, but if humans keep ruining the planet, these important members of the food chain face extinction, biologists around the globe are warning.

One-third to one-half of the world’s 6,000 species of amphibians — frogs, toads and salamanders — could disappear if nothing is done, the experts warn, a loss some are calling the largest mass extinction since the dinosaurs.

“In the past 50 years, 120 different species have disappeared forever,” David Rodrigue, director of the Ecomuseum in Ste. Anne de Bellevue, said yesterday.

There are 21 species of amphibians in Quebec, and seven of those are endangered, Rodrigue said.

Do away with frogs and there will be more mosquitoes and, therefore, more possible carriers of viruses like West Nile, he said.

“When you hear less and less frog noise at the chalet, that’s a sign frogs are disappearing at an alarming rate,” said Rachel Leger, director of Montreal’s Biôdome.

Air and water pollution, loss of habitat, climate change and pesticides are some of the causes for their disappearance.

Frogs drink through their skin, so if water is polluted, they can be poisoned. They are cold blooded, meaning their body temperature is the same as the air and global warming can drive their internal temperature to harmful levels.

A fast-growing disease spread by the amphibian chytrid fungus is ravaging frog populations, particularly in tropical areas.

With these frightening scenarios, representatives of Quebec’s six accredited zoos gathered yesterday to issue a call to action to save the frogs.

Global conservation groups have declared 2008 the Year of the Frog, and the six Quebec organizations hope to raise awareness of the threat to frogs, spur people to action, and raise much-needed cash to fund research.

The Ecomuseum, the Biôdome, the Granby Zoo, Parc Safari, le Parc Aquarium of Quebec City and the Zoo Sauvage of St. Felicien are all starting educational programs to teach visitors about saving frogs.

They are breeding certain endangered species of frogs in captivity and funding research into fighting the fungal disease.

“There are 500 other species that will become extinct in our lifetime, no matter what we do,” Rodrigue said.

“The message isn’t just that there’s a crisis, but that we have to act quickly.”

The presence of frogs is a clear sign of balance in the ecosystem, Rodrigue added.

Frogs and other amphibians control the population levels of insects, both agricultural pests and disease carriers.

Development of wetlands are destroying frog habitats. Pollution of our lakes, rivers and streams, as well as air pollution, is taking a toll.

“Any effort to help the environment, either recycling, cleaning up the shoreline or not using pesticides — anything — will help,” Rodrigue said.

Ecomuseum visitors Olivier Mathieu, 5, and Cedric Marcil, 11, got up close yesterday to the largest species of frog in North America, the bullfrog, common in the St. Lawrence River valley.

At this point, bullfrogs aren’t endangered.

“It had a gooey feel,” Olivier said.

“I didn’t like it; it was slippery and soft,” Cedric said.

For more information, go to the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums website at www.caza.ca and click on Year of the Frog


Copyright 2008 CanWest Interactive


From: Scientific American, Mar. 17, 2008


By David Biello

North American homes, offices and other buildings contribute an estimated 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year — more than one third of the continent’s greenhouse gas pollution output. Simply constructing more energy-efficient buildings — and upgrading the insulation and windows in the existing ones — could save a whopping 1.7 billion tons annually, says a new report from the Montreal-based Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), an international organization established by Canada, Mexico and the U.S. under the North American Free Trade Agreement to address continent- wide environmental issues.

“This is the cheapest, quickest, most significant way to make a dent in greenhouse gas emissions,” says Jonathan Westeinde, chief executive of green developer Windmill Development Group in Ottawa, Ontario, and chair of the CEC report (who admits that green building regulations would be good for his business). But “buildings are not on the radar of any governments… despite being an industry that represents 35 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.”

The report echoes the findings last year of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which identified building improvements as one way to reduce global warming pollution with “net economic benefit.”

“Residential is a slam-dunk, it’s just a matter of applying the technology we have,” says IPCC author Mark Levine, a senior staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California who studies these issues. “It’s the biggest sector. It’s the biggest savings.”

Yet, “green buildings” — defined by the report as “environmentally preferable practices and materials in the design, location, construction, operation and disposal of buildings” — represents only 2 percent of the commercial edifices in the U.S. and 0.3 percent of new homes.

“In Europe, they are much ahead of us on building,” Westeinde says. “As North Americans we pride ourselves on smaller government and bigger activity in the marketplace. We’re not seeing the market react fast enough.”

A big part of the problem, he says, is that many builders are loath to invest extra money for more efficient energy and water systems that only translate into cost savings for the eventual owners. Westeinde’s company gets around this dilemma by working out long-term financing arrangements with owners, who agree share a portion of their future cost savings with the developer.

He notes, too, that the price gap between energy-efficient and conventional construction might eventually disappear as green buildings become more common. “If everyone is using a certain type of window that drives cost down,” Westeinde says. “Green construction is only 4 percent of the market which means the other 96 percent are creating a volume discount for themselves. But if green becomes 50 percent of the industry, that cost differential goes away.”

The report calls for the Canadian, Mexican and U.S. governments to set specific targets for green buildings as well as to adopt continental standards, such as siting buildings in a way that maximizes passive solar heating and cooling.

“There is not that great a difference between green building in Oaxaca and Ohio,” says Evan Lloyd, CEC director of programs. “It is the best systems and technology that can be applied to reduce energy consumption as well as paying attention to resource inputs.”

Further reading:

Combating Climate Change: Building Better, Wasting Less

SimCity Societies: A Greener Version of the Urban Jungle

10 Solutions for Climate Change

Building Better Concrete

Service Sector Not Off the Hook When It Comes to Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Copyright 1996-2008 Scientific American Inc.


From: Los Angeles Times, Mar. 10, 2008


The American quality of life has been going downhill since 1975.

By Robert Costanza

The news media and the government are fixated on the fact that the U.S. economy may be headed into a recession — defined as two or more successive quarters of declining gross domestic product (GDP). The situation is actually much worse. By some measures of economic performance, the United States has been in a recession since 1975 — a recession in quality of life, or well-being.

How can this be? One first needs to understand what GDP measures to see why it is not an appropriate gauge of our national well-being.

GDP measures the total market value of all goods and services produced in a country in a given period. But it includes only those goods and services traded for money. It also adds everything together, without discerning desirable, well-being-enhancing economic activity from undesirable, well-being- reducing activity. An oil spill, for example, increases GDP because someone has to clean it up, but it obviously detracts from well-being. More crime, more sickness, more war, more pollution, more fires, storms and pestilence are all potentially positives for the GDP because they can spur an increase in economic activity.

GDP also ignores activity that may enhance well-being but is outside the market. The unpaid work of parents caring for their children at home doesn’t show up in GDP, but if they decide to work outside the home and pay for child care, GDP suddenly increases. And even though $1 in income means a lot more to the poor than to the rich, GDP takes no account of income distribution.

In short, GDP was never intended to be a measure of citizens’ welfare — and it functions poorly as such. Yet it is used as a surrogate appraisal of national well-being in far too many circumstances.

The shortcomings of GDP are well known, and several researchers have proposed alternatives that address them, including William Nordhaus’ and James Tobin’s Measure of Economic Welfare, developed in 1972; Herman Daly’s and John Cobb’s Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare, developed in 1989; and the Redefining Progress think tank’s more recent variation, the Genuine Progress Indicator.

Although these alternatives — which, like GDP, are measured in monetary terms — are not perfect and need more research and refinement, they are much better approximations to a measure of true national well-being.

The formula for calculating GPI, for instance, starts with personal consumption expenditures, a major component of GDP, but makes several crucial adjustments. First, it accounts for income distribution. It then adds positive contributions that GDP ignores, such as the value of household and volunteer work.

Finally, it subtracts things that are well-being-reducing, such as the loss of leisure time and the costs of crime, commuting and pollution.

While the U.S. GDP has steadily increased since 1950 (with the occasional recession), GPI peaked about 1975 and has been relatively flat or declining ever since. That’s consistent with life-satisfaction surveys, which also show flat or dropping scores over the last several decades.

This is a very different picture of the economy from the one we normally read about, and it requires different policy responses. We are now in a period of what Daly — a former World Bank economist now at the University of Maryland — has called “uneconomic growth,” in which further growth in economic activity (that is, GDP) is actually reducing national well-being.

How can we get out of this 33-year downturn in quality of life?

Several policies have been suggested that might be thought of as a national quality-of-life stimulus package.

To start, the U.S. needs to make national well-being — not increased GDP — its primary policy goal, funding efforts to better measure and report it.

There’s already been some movement in this direction around the world. Bhutan, for example, recently made “gross national happiness” its explicit policy goal.

Canada is developing an Index of Well-being, and the Australian Treasury considers increasing “real well-being,” rather than mere GDP, its primary goal.

Once Americans’ well-being becomes the basis for measuring our success, other reforms should follow. We should tax bads (carbon emissions, depletion of natural resources) rather than goods (labor, savings, investment). We should recognize the negative effects of growing income disparities and take steps to address them.

International trade also will have to be reformed so that environmental protection, labor rights and democratic self- determination are not subjugated to the blind pursuit of increased GDP.

But the most important step may be the first one: Recognizing that the U.S. is mired in a 33-year-old quality-of-life recession and that our continued national focus on growing GDP is blinding us to the way out.


Robert Costanza is the director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont.

Copyright 2008 Los Angeles Times


From: California Newsreel, Mar. 14, 2008


PBS Broadcast starting March 27.

Thursdays at 10 p.m. Eastern (9 p.m. Central)

March 27, April 3, 10, and 17

Check local listings

Unnatural Causes criss-crosses the country investigating the stories and findings that are shaking up conventional notions about what makes us healthy or sick. It turns out there’s much more to our well-being than genes, behaviors and medical care. The social, economic, and physical environments in which we are born, live and work profoundly affect our longevity and health — as much as smoking, diet and exercise.

The series sheds light on mounting evidence of how lack of access to power and resources can get under the skin and disrupt human biology as surely as germs and viruses. It also reveals a health gradient tied to wealth: those at the top of the class pyramid average longer, healthier lives, while those at the bottom are the most disempowered, get sicker more often and die sooner. Most of us fall somewhere in between.

What’s more, at every level, many communities of color are worse off than their white counterparts. Researchers believe that chronic stress over the life course may create an additional health burden for people of color.

Compelling personal stories illustrate obstacles and inequities in society but they also point the way to new possibilities, as individuals and communities organize to gain control over their destinies and their health.

As Harvard epidemiologist David Williams points out in the film, investing in our schools, improving housing, integrating neighborhoods, better jobs and wages, giving people more control over their work — these are as much health strategies as disease prevention and education efforts.

“Real people have problems with their lives as well as with their organs. Those social problems affect their organs. In order to improve public health, we need to improve society.” — Sir Michael Marmot, Chair, Commission on the Social Determinants of Health

Produced by California Newsreel with Vital Pictures, Inc. Presented by the National Minority Consortia of Public Television

PBS Broadcast starting March 27.

Thursdays at 10 p.m. Eastern (9 p.m. Central)

March 27, April 3, 10, and 17

Check local listings

MARCH 27: In Sickness and In Wealth (56 min)

APRIL 3: When the Bough Breaks (28 min) and Becoming American (28 min)

APRIL 10: Bad Sugar (28 min) and Place Matters (28 min)

APRIL 17: Collateral Damage (28 min) and Not Just a Paycheck (28 min)


Copyright 2007 California Newsreel


From: Grist magazine, Mar. 12, 2008


By Edward Mazria

(High-res version here; free for distribution)

Earth Day 2008 is going to be historic. We, along with numerous other groups around the nation, are calling on everyone to wear blue during Earth Day 2008 to signify a vote for no coal. Events will be happening around the world from April 19-22, so …

If you’re attending the Earth Day event on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on April 20, wear blue. If you’re attending another major Earth Day event, wear blue. When you dress in the morning on Earth Day, wear blue. No matter what you’re doing for Earth Day 2008, wear blue. A blue shirt, top, sweater, or jacket… whatever. Just wear blue.

Then, on April 22, as the culminating event, pick up the phone: call Congress at 202.224.3121 and ask for an immediate “Moratorium on Coal” — a halt to the construction of any new coal-fired power plants. Through this Call for Climate event, Earth Day hopes to generate over a million phone calls to Congress. Visit Earth Day’s website to learn more.

Your blue vote will count. Fifty-nine coal plants were canceled in 2007. That’s over a third of the 151 planned. That happened before millions of people joined together to say “No Coal!”

BYOBlue for Earth Day 2008. Be the vote that tips the balance.

Copyright 2008. Grist Magazine, Inc.


Rachel’s Democracy & Health News (formerly Rachel’s Environment & Health News) highlights the connections between issues that are often considered separately or not at all.

The natural world is deteriorating and human health is declining  because those who make the important decisions aren’t the ones who bear the brunt. Our purpose is to connect the dots between human health, the destruction of nature, the decline of community, the rise of economic insecurity and inequalities, growing stress among workers and families, and the crippling legacies of patriarchy, intolerance, and racial injustice that allow us to be divided and therefore ruled by the few. 

In a democracy, there are no more fundamental questions than, “Who gets to decide?” And, “How do the few control the many, and what might be done about it?”

As you come across stories that might help people connect the dots, please Email them to us at dhn@rachel.org.

Rachel’s Democracy & Health News is published as often as necessary to provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

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