Thursday, September 29, 2011


I'm finally going on vacation. I think it's been a good three years since I've taken a proper vacation, which is not the same as going home to visit family. I'll be back around the middle of October. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Can Brazil’s plastic bag bans give a lift to Amazon jute growers?

For decades it was the main fiber used in making shopping bags and coffee sacks – jute, also known as burlap, a plant grown in various locations along the Solimoes River. Between the 1950s and the 1970s, demand for the product collapsed with rise of plastic bags that became an unfortunate symbol of prosperity throughout the developed world. Now the clock may be turning back as cities around Brazil join a growing global trend toward plastic bag bans or taxes.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Miss Deforestation’s surprise turnaround

A high-profile winner of Greenpeace’s Golden Chainsaw Award, a woman dubbed “Miss Desmatamento,” Katia Abreu has had a surprising change of heart.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Random Rio sustainability problem

Anyone who's suffered through the swelter of a Rio summer knows the sweat-drenched feeling of wanting escape from the soul-wilting heat. Those are days when even the most ecologically conscious types will step on an air conditioned bus and breathe a sigh of relief.

Anyone who's lived through a Rio winter knows it's really nothing to compare to winters in, say, St. Paul or Moscow. But on a day when it rainy, windy, and 65 degrees out, I'm not really searching for air conditioning. And somehow on those days I still end up on those same air conditioned busses.


My sentiments exactly.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Folks, can we get over "green plastic" already? Please?

I try to avoid the usual environmentalists I-hate-plastic routine because I think it’s lame –there’s nothing wrong with using of plastic, it’s using it indiscriminately that’s the problem. The best way to “green” plastic is cutting its excessive use, using longer lasting products that aren’t constantly thrown away, and increasing our use of plastic for things like medical devices that save lives.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Taking on the environmentalist’s ultimate conundrum: why bother?

As efforts to slow climate change continue to stall, there’s a growing sentiment that it’s not worth even making the effort. I get this from a lot of people when I tell them I do silly things like recycle, use public transit, try to find reuse things that would otherwise be trash, etc. Don’t you know we’re totally screwed? The earth’s gonna heat up, New York’s gonna be six feet underwater, you think any of that stuff you do really makes a difference?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Petrobras’ "second-generation" biofuels push: more questions than answers

One of the big advantages of Brazil’s sugar cane ethanol program is that it can generate its own energy by burning the left-overs of the cane crushing process. Most of Brazil’s ethanol mills make enough energy from burning the leftover roughage, known as bagasse, that they can power their own operations while still having enough electricity to sell power to the grid. This contrasts with US corn ethanol, which has to use copious amounts of natural gas to power its boilers (which makes one wonder how “alternative” a fuel corn ethanol really is).

Now, state oil company Petrobras wants to make ethanol not only out of the sugar cane, but also out of the bagasse itself. I have to admit, I don’t get it.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I'm sorry, sir, this road cannot be completed. It seems we've spooted a tree frog.

I was surprised to learn last year that only 14 percent of Brazil’s roads are paved. When I heard the now-infamous story of the hylidea tree frog it started to make a lot more sense.