Surferbird News-Links, 15th Edition


Welcome to Surferbird News-Links. Join me on an exploration of health, food, science, and the environment. For more information on the name and origin of Surferbird News-Links, check out the About page. Oh, I almost forgot; there's always an earworm at the end of every edition. What's an earworm? Well, scroll on down to discover!

Surferbird News-Links, a weekly summary from across the web

Welcome to this 15th edition of Surferbird News-Links! I got a little carried away with this one - hopping around the news-links much like a grasshopper. So, I thought I'd begin by sharing this red-legged grasshopper. Take a peek and smile. Well, we better get hopping! We have a lot of ground to cover.



Interview with Patagonia's co-founder Yvon Chouinard ( - Honestly, I found this rather lengthy interview so captivating that I couldn't stop reading. The author's description of Chouinard seated in his Wyoming cabin, where most of the interview took place, transported me to the Tetons and into the thoughts, character, and political views of Chouinard, who is both an environmentalist and a climber.

If you're at all curious about his take on the upcoming election, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, climate change, and other current happenings, Chouinard doesn't disappoint. He spills his thoughts freely and without pretense. Normally, I have trouble concentrating on long articles. But in this case, I was drawn so deeply into the story that I swear I could feel evening descend upon the unlit room as Clinton's voice rambled on the radio. The two men stopped briefly to listen. Chouinard wasn't short on commentary.

The civil engineer who exposed lead contamination in Flint, Michigan ( - I had no idea that a civil engineer, Marc Edwards, proved the water in Flint, Michigan, was contaminated with lead. And he spent $150,000 of his own money to do so, after being contacted by a concerned mother. Somehow, I thought the government must have hired someone to conduct studies. Now, why would I think that?

Climate change

A new climate change math equation ( - Here's a simple climate change math equation. So, let's just get to the heart of the matter. In order to have a two-thirds chance of staying below a 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise, we have to stop all future fossil fuel development. Anything beyond using up our current reserves, and we will miss the mark. To have a 50/50 chance of staying below a 1.5 degree Celsius rise in temperature, all coal mines and some gas and oil production would need to cease operating immediately - in addition to prohibiting all future fossil fuel development.

And here's the clincher. Big business is lobbying to have Obama complete the Dakota Pipeline. I quote my thirteen-year-old son: "They're gonna drive the Earth into the ground - to mop the floor of space and time with the Earth."

Drought conditions in California may continue for a very long time into the future. ( - For those of us living in California (that would be me), the current drought conditions we've been experiencing the last five years may become the norm well into the next century. Drought is nothing new to Californians, but usually, there's an end in sight.

Changes in the surface temperature of the Pacific combined with warmer air temperatures have historically pointed towards extended periods of arid conditions, which is exactly what we're currently experiencing. Greenhouse gases are contributing to an increase in drought conditions by 15 to 25 percent.


Dead coastal forests along mid-Atlantic states ( - Salt from rising seas is killing mid-Atlantic coastal forests. Groundwater pumping and geological changes are actually causing the land along this part of the Atlantic Coast to sink. Whereas, a northward shifting Gulf Stream increases seal level rise due to an increase in water temperature. The warmer water expands.

This process of marshes giving way to the sea, forests becoming marsh, and forests moving inland has been going on for thousands of years. The difference now, though, is that forests have been replaced by so much agricultural land that they have nowhere to go. As we lose forests, we lose, yet again, another way to capture carbon dioxide.

Larger ocean species are at greatest extinction risk ( - At present, this has more to do with overfishing and loss of habitat from building and pollution. However, climate change will only exacerbate the situation.

Green technology

Powering jets from eucalyptus trees ( - I'm not sure what to think about this, but it's interesting.  If we planted the same amount of eucalyptus as the pulp and paper industry plant, we could supply 5% of the jet fuel industry with eucalyptus fuel. The challenge is producing enough fuel to make an impact. However, fuel from eucalyptus would be close to carbon neutral. Scientist and biotechnologists are working on ways of increasing production and improving harvesting methods. What do you think?

Tidal energy farm in Scotland ( - Actually, this is the world's largest tidal energy farm. The first of four turbines is ready to be installed underwater. Scotland believes it had the potential to supply the EU with 25% of offshore wind and tidal energy.

Building a castle in France ( - Sheer ancient beauty using 800-year-old technology - seeing is believing. When will MY room be ready? Did you happen to take a look at the castle bedroom?

Featured Home

Featuring a tiny home or other alternative building form is becoming a tradition on Surferbird News-Links! I love today's tiny house. Isn't it cool how with a smaller home, you get to have beautiful aesthetics right from the start? So often, we purchase homes beyond our financial means. And in many cases, they need an incredible amount of work. That's OK for some folks. But I'm very sensitive to my surroundings and appreciate how these smaller houses pull off both aesthetics and affordability - without all the waiting. Thank you, treehugger for another great tiny house!


Too many clothes and the devastating consequences ( - OK. I'll admit it. I love clothes. Some days I fancy black. Other days, I long for gray, purple, or shades of burgundy. I've learned to live with fewer garments, though. And it's a good thing, as the textile industry is a huge contributor to toxic waste.

Fabric dyes, chemical finishes, and production of the fabric itself along with poor working conditions and wages for workers are more than enough to give us pause before purchasing, yet again, more clothing. Furthermore, did you know that Africa doesn't want our second-hand clothes?

If you're like me, and you love clothes but don't want to harm the environment or people, take a look at this article which has links to other helpful posts on textiles and reducing waste. I've started a list of environmentally friendly clothing companies and artisans on my Healthy Planet Resources page. This is, by far, just the beginning of what will become a rather extensive list.

Eco-friendly clothing

Zady ( - The article above led me to another article, which led me to Zady - a clothing company with a mission to change the way we buy clothes. I'll admit - they're not cheap. However, I'm impressed with their emphasis on quality design, sustainable fabrics, and fair treatment of workers. We can see what results from cheap clothing made from toxic fabrics and under-payed workers, or even child labor. Just look around.

Ably ( - Since we're on the subject of textiles, take a look at this company. They're making clothing from natural fibers that shed stains and liquids. And there's no BO, as your sweat evaporates. Ably fabrics have been certified to be safe by bluesign®, an organization that works with the textile industry to ensure the safety and sustainability of fabrics. I'll be watching this company. You can pre-order their clothing on the ably website.


The price of gold( - Environmentalist and farmer, Máxima Acuña, was attacked on her farm in Peru last weekend by security forces of Yoanacocha Mining, which is owned and operated by Colorado-based Newmont Mining and Peruvian Buenaventura mining company. She's been defending her land from the Conga gold mine project since 2011. A 2014 court case already determined Máxima Acuña to be the legal owner of the land.

Although 15-20 agents actively participated in the attack, a total of 80 people entered her property. She was treated at the hospital for contusions to her head, arms, chest, and legs. Máxima Acuña received the 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize.

This led me to wonder about gold. How much gold do we need?  Currently, 50% of gold is used for jewelry, 40% for investments, and 10% for industry. This is a question far too complex to answer in a news roundup, especially the investment component. I smell a blog post simmering.


Petition to ban plastic wrap on organic produce ( - Have you ever noticed organic produce all wrapped up in plastic? Here's a petition to end that practice. Please, take a look and sign, and share on social media. They're getting close to their goal!

edible spoons( - These spoons made from wheat, rice, and millet are both edible and biodegradable (of course). I'm still partial to reusable cutlery, as we need to conserve our resources. Realistically, though, everyone slips up now and then and forgets to bring their cutlery along on road trips. At least this is an option that won't pollute our landfills and our oceans.


Looking to the past for baking bread( - Whether your gluten-free, or not, I think you'll appreciate this article on ancient bread and wheat. This is a far cry from anything you'll find at your local grocery store. Bring on the ancient bread! (Seriously, for now, I'm gluten-free.)

Glyphosate in U.S. honey ( -  The U.S. hasn't established legal amounts of glyphosate allowed in honey. But in the EU, the limit is 50 ppb. Out of ten honey samples collected by the FDA, all ten contained glyphosate at levels from 22 ppb to 107 ppb. Even organic honey tested positive for trace amounts of glyphosate. Obviously, this is a situation where the bees are spreading the weed killer when they return to the hive. Meanwhile, the debate over the safety of glyphosate rages on.


Seed sharing victory in California ( - Seed sharing has historically been an important activity among farmers in local communities as a way of insuring biodiversity, preserving culture, and encouraging food security. California amended a law last week that allows local seed libraries and seed sharing activities to continue without being subjected to the same expensive procedures as large seed companies. I wasn't aware this was even a problem.

Evidently, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture informed a local seed library that they were violating the Pennsylvania Seed Act of 2004, which required the library to test the seeds for purity and germination rates to the same rigors to which commercial seed companies are held. Local seed libraries don't have this kind of money.

Kudos to the class of 4th graders in Novato, California, who led this amendment initiative and worked with other farming and ecology groups to insure the continued activities of California seed librries. California now joins Minnesota, Illinois, and Nebraska as states that have laws protecting local seed sharing.

Seed sharing in the Andes ( - So, I just took you from seed sharing in California and Pennsylvania all the way to the Andes. I love the stories that bind us - seeds and farming from across the globe. Indigenous farmers from China, Bhutan, Parque de la Papa, and Cusco met to exchange seeds in order to share information and test foreign seeds in their own homelands.

Experimenting with a greater variety of seeds under varying climate conditions will become especially important with climate change. In the Andes, a farmer might grow hundreds of different varieties of potatoes. Whereas, in the U.S., we grow very few varieties. And they're cultivated under tightly controlled growing conditions, which is contrary to how nature works.


Medicinal marijuana for kids with autism ( - The potential for using medical marijuana to treat kids with autism is fascinating. I'll leave you to read about the success stories and complexities of the various treatments. I hope scientists conduct more research in the near future which helps parents make more informed choices regarding dosage and varieties specifically tailored to each child.

Meditating - this cartoon says it all ( - I love this short video. Have you thought about meditating? Does the idea seem daunting? After watching the video, you might feel differently. Five to ten minutes a day is enough to make a big difference in how your brain functions. No special clothes. No special class.


The first two lines of "Song From Half Mountain" by Dan Fogelberg go like this - "Now the wind is still/ In a moment it will be raging." The wind really was still for a few days last week, leaving our household to bake in the heat one last time before autumn fully sets in. And true to form, the wind kicked up off the bay, again, bringing its cool breeze, without the raging.

As usual, simple parts of my life play out with earworms. And yet, I think this is an appropriate song to usher in the season known for self-reflection and the stirring, sometimes unsettling, voice of the wind. Let's listen.  - Laura