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Two weeks ago, for the first time in something like two years, I actually got out into the wilderness and did some hiking. And as far as I can remember, this is the first time I've ever planted a tree. I know, I'm a terrible excuse for an environmentalist.

Specifically, I spent a morning in the San Bernardino Mountains near Lake Arrowhead, under the auspices of the Mountain Communities Releaf project, which is trying to accelerate the recovery of the forest after last October's devastating fires by having volunteers plant seedlings in the burned areas -- our group of around 40 planted hundreds in the course of less than four hours.

Pictures! )

I may be doing this again next weekend (with actual boots this time!), and they're also planning trips to water the trees in the summer.
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Democracy For America Redlands has a campaign to build local support for this initiative to build grassroots support for carbon caps from the city level. This is the text of a flyer I created to hand out to potential allies in the Redlands area:

What is the USMCPA?

The Agreement is a local-scale program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and work toward the goals of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, while improving the quality of life in urban areas. It was created by the mayor of Seattle, Greg Nickels, and has already been adopted by well over 400 cities and towns throughout the country, including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and even our neighbors in San Bernardino and Riverside.

The agreement includes measures to prevent urban sprawl and reduce commuting times, increase fuel efficiency, invest in alternative energy and green building practices, and promote green spaces and tree-planting, among others. Even if the federal government won’t sign Kyoto and get moving to address the threat of global warming, with the USMCPA we can change our nation’s policies from the grassroots up!

Why act locally?

The evidence for a human-caused greenhouse effect is now far too substantial to allow us to continue with business as usual.* But the giant oil companies, automakers, and electric utilities cling to their established business plans, using tiny “climate-friendly” pilot projects to greenwash their public images while fighting tooth and nail to prevent any real change. Ironically, they need a push from governments to make them remember the capitalist ideals of risk-taking, innovation, and progress.

There are promising signs that the U.S. government may finally be ready to take some action along these lines, but Congress has rejected many initiatives aimed at cutting carbon dioxide emissions over the past fifteen years, and it’s easy to see why. Megacorporations make huge campaign contributions that sway lawmakers’ decisions, and the government is terrified of doing anything that might hurt the economy in the short run, despite the likely advantages of the alternative-energy boom that a carbon-cap policy would promote.

Cities, on the other hand, experience less political pressure and thus have more freedom to innovate. Particularly here in the dry Southwest, they also see the dangerous effects of higher temperatures firsthand. And most importantly, while it’s easy for representatives in Washington, D.C. to brush off the demands of their constituents 3000 miles away, our city leaders can hardly ignore us if we walk up to them and tell them what we want!

Where can I learn more?

• Check out the main USMCPA website at
• Contact me at if you have questions or want to help out.
• Sign up for our mailing list now, or look up the Redlands Democracy For America group at to join up and help us build a movement!

* Conservatives keep saying that we need to be certain about the causes of global warming before we take economically risky steps. And they're right that we can't be certain, but only in the sense that science is never certain about anything. That's what makes it so powerful, in fact: scientists are willing to consider that any fact, no matter how seemingly obvious, could turn out to be wrong. This allows them to accumulate evidence for ideas that seem crazy--like the idea that the Earth spins and orbits the Sun, or that many diseases are caused by living creatures a millionth of a meter long, or that humanity has a major impact on something as large as the global atmostphere.
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As far as I know, swallowing solid plastic objects doesn't cause a big problem because they go straight through your digestive tract without being broken down. But when exposed to liquid for longer periods, or when heated, plastic starts to leach hazardous chemicals into that liquid. Here are some safety tips:
  • When you buy bottled water, don't reuse the bottle more than once or twice.  (In other words, don't make the same mistake I just found out I've been making for the past three years.)  Reuseable water bottles may have some protection against leaching.

  • Storing liquidy or acidy foods in glass containers is a good idea (source).


  • In general, plastics number 3, 6 (styrofoam), and 7 are the most potentially dangerous, although if a #7 container also has the letters PLA on it, then it's a safe and biodegradable plastic (source).
Thank you for your attention.

March 2015

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