This blog is an outlet for sharing some of the more interesting issues that I work on as a consultant to conservation groups and foundations. It includes articles I've written for a public audience, to educate others about these issues in a way that has meaning to them. Enjoy.

March 29, 2011

Our Time in the Sun

Talk about backfiring.  In our quest for longer, healthier, and more comfortable lives, we’ve removed ourselves so far from our evolutionary history that we’re perversely making ourselves less healthy.  

Yes, pollution is an obvious culprit.  We’ve known for decades that toxic chemicals used for modern conveniences can cause cancer, birth defects, and reproductive problems. 

But I’m talking about something much simpler:  sunshine.  We don’t get it anymore.  At least not enough of it according to Dr. Michael Holick, a medical doctor and researcher responsible for much of what we know about vitamin D and health.  In his 2010 book The Vitamin D Solution, Holick presents compelling evidence that most Americans have insufficient levels of vitamin D, that this insufficiency contributes substantially to serious health problems such as cancer and heart disease, and that just 15 minutes or so a day of sunlight a few times a week can prevent the onset of health problems in many people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released its own report on vitamin D levels (with a lower standard for what's considered acceptable levels), and reported that one-third of Americans have insufficient vitamin D levels.

March 25, 2011

Not In My Backyard

As they say, denial is more than just a river in Egypt.  Apparently, it’s also a fundamental part of nuclear energy planning in the United States.  The recent disaster in Japan has renewed fears about the vulnerability of US nuclear reactors to earthquakes or other disasters.   In at least one case, the reaction from officials has been a not-so-reassuring “don’t worry, it can’t happen here.” 

March 17, 2011

Speaking of cars and climate change...

In a recent piece for my local newspaper, the Shepherdstown WV Observer, I used my harrowing experience in a DC rush hour snow storm to address all-to-common skepticism about anthropocentric climate change.   But heavy snowfall wasn’t the only climate-relevant news story this past winter.  We saw a fair bit of hype about the new electric car debuted by Chevy, the Volt.  The Volt has two electric motors that operate from a charged battery with a gasoline engine for backup.  Recharging the battery allows the car to travel 30 or 40 miles, after which the gasoline engine kicks in to keep the electric motors going for a few hundred more miles.  Electric cars are often publicized in the press as being a good environmental choice because they require so little gasoline.   No doubt their widespread use could reduce our dependence on oil – a worthy goal considering climate change, the impacts of drilling and a foreign policy that includes far too many wars and propping up of unworthy tyrants.  But from an environmental standpoint, their benefits are questionable - a question that far too few journalists bother to ask.