Monday, April 21, 2008

Earth Day

Hey everyone, I'm sneaking this in with just over an hour left of Earth Day, and taking it a little different direction. I know our blog Sustainable Palouse but the semester is coming to an end and many students will be heading to Western Washington for the summer. In light of this I decided to take a look at some of the environmental issues around Seattle, our state's biggest metropolitan area, a home town to many WSU students, and the our heated/hated rivals the University of Washington Huskies.

I found some really interesting stories on The Seattle Times website ( today, they ran a number of pieces that were related Earth Day or environmental issues west of the Cascades.

A couple that caught my eye were:
A lengthy but interesting and well written piece the plight of Puget Sound.
A cute story about the efforts of students from Discovery Elementary in Sammamish who were trying to set the world record for collecting and recycling plastic bottles. It would be interesting to see a follow up story here, I wonder if they achieved their goal? This article is especially relevant considering the amount of attention plastic water bottles have been getting as of late.

The most interesting article, in my opinion, was one about Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels proposing looser restrictions for environmental reviews for developers. The article left me wanting more. What are the possible cons of such a decision. Chris Leman, who serves on the City Neighborhood Council was the only dissenting voice in the article. It seems there would be many others opposed to these deregulations in liberal Seattle, could I be wrong? Take a look and see for yourselves.

This will likely be my last post of the semester but there has been talk of continuing the blog next semester. Keep you eyes peeled for new posts, hopefully we will be updating throughout the Summer and into next Fall.

WSU students work to help developing country

Although not exactly about the Palouse, I did write an article about WSU students who are doing awesome things to help farmers in Malawi.  They are developing a bicycle water pump that local farmers can use to irrigate farmland.  Check it out, click HERE
or copy paste the link below

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hempfest draws awareness for cigarette me

AP Photo

NOTE: The following contains blatant commentary mixed with some facts.

It's April again, a time when most cities are throwing lilac galas and gardening shows. In typical Moscow fashion, artsy types from all over migrate to East City Park for the annual Moscow Hempfest to celebrate its many uses (hemp's uses, not marijuana) by singing, selling bongs and tie-die apparel and...smoking. It was a chilly afternoon, even by Moscow standards, so at six hours into the event I shrugged off the small white particulates falling outside my apartment a block from the park as a late-spring flurry. Turns out the weatherman was wrong and what was falling was not snow but ash. Now making the subjective jump of connecting a few chain-smoking legalize-marijuana advocates a block away seems, well, a jump, still it seemed like a good story to plug some interesting facts that people neglect when hatefully cursing an SUV and then burning through a pack of Camels by the end of the day.

First. Studies published in the European Journal of Health show that one joint (of marijuana) is the cancer-causing equivalent of 20 cigarettes (article). Ok, low blow to potheads and a little off topic. But informative nonetheless.

Second. Sidestream cigarette smoke (the smoke emitted from a lit cigarette, not including exhalation by a user) accounts for a strikingly high amount of toxic emissions hazards outside of just the talk about the effects of carbon monoxide, according to governmental studies in Canada. In toxins such as ammonia and acetone, cigarettes have a higher gross tonnage of emission then the entire refined petroleum and coal industry. In formaldehyde emissions, cigarettes rank higher than industries involving production of plastics, paper, wholesales, electrical and electronics, and transportation equipment. "But anything that produces anything gives off some negative substance," you say. "We want to hear about the carbon monoxide levels."

Third. According to a Cambridge University professor's Powerpoint slide, 73.3 cigarettes have the equivalent CO emission of driving the average car for one mile. Granted that seems like a weak set of data for my argument that smoking harms everything living. But it's amazing what crunching the numbers can do. Considering roughly, over, more than, about, around 52 billion cigarettes are smoked each year in Canada (Side note: isn't that like 300,000 per person?) that makes the number of miles-worth of auto emissions a whee bit higher, 709,413,296 miles higher (article). The average car is driven about 10,000 miles a year, which means the CO emissions from 52 billion cigarettes is the same as 70,941 people driving their cars for a year.

So, in conclusion, and with all the veritable data at hand: most Moscowites walk, ride their bikes, or take the transit wherever they go and thus are entitled to smoke two packs a day because they still won't ever come near to the automobile emissions given off by a douche-bag in Seattle who commutes three hours everyday in his Hummer.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Earth Day and Springfest

Sustainability, green, conservation, environmentalism. If you’re feeling a little bogged down or overwhelmed with the publics’ latest buzz words, here’s something that might put a little spring in your step. Literally. It’s Springfest, and amidst the music, comedians, food vendors and yes…beer garden, are Earth Day booths, information and giveaways.

Activities begin April 19 from noon to 9 p.m. in the VetMed parking lot on the corner of Grimes and Stadium Way. It’s free, it should be fun, and what better cause to celebrate that the arrival of spring the protection of our Earth? For more information visit:

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Erosion: Avoidable?

I took some pictures of the apartment construction project going on across the street from Maple Valley Apartments.  The project is owned by Corporate Pointe Developers, owners of basically every new apartment complex on the Palouse managed by DABCO (Maple Valley, Aspen Village, Providence Court, Emerald Downs etc....).  

The biggest problem I have with the construction is its proximity to the Magpie Forest.  Last year, before construction began, I used to see all types of wildlife on the edge of the forest, including pheasant, ravens, magpies, several deer, and coyotes.  This year the only thing I have seen is construction workers.

The land is basically the only remaining "Shrub steppe vegetation" and is considered Pullmans most important and endangered "critical area."  Basically this is what the Palouse was like before it was converted to farmland.  The forest contains several plant species that only exist on the Palouse, as well as wildlife.  

Construction of new "Pet Friendly" apartments is taking place immediately adjacent to the land.  Does this seem right to you?  I checked with the city planner, and the land is owned by WSU, and there is nothing to protect the forest from development.  Furthermore the apartments that are going in are "PET FRIENDLY," that just tells me that animals will be running all over the forest, destroying natural endangered vegetation, and animals.

I took these pictures of the erosion that is taking place from the massive amount of ground that has been moved around recently.  Does anyone have any thoughts?

These drain pipes aren't working very well if the dirt is eroding so much...

The magpie forest is these trees, the land goes back for quite awhile, and contains several endangered plants, and all types of wildlife. 
With construction access, the area is pretty unaccessible. 

In order to flatten the land for construction trucks moved dirt up onto another hill (not pictured) but cut out a huge amount of topsoil, thus making this "hill" that leads up to the forest.  It is already eroding...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

WSU Has Success in Recycling Competition

Check out the story I wrote for the Daily Evergreen about the WSU recycling program. A competition called "Recyclemania" recently concluded, preliminary results show that WSU has collected 90,000 lbs over what they collected last year. Click HERE to see how