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Dysfunction - Jan 9

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The £1,290 car delights Indians but horrifies the green lobby

Amelia Gentleman, The Observer
After years of secret preparation, the world's cheapest car will be unveiled in Delhi this week - delighting millions of Indians as much as it is horrifying environmentalists.

At 100,000 rupees (£1,290), the People's Car, designed and manufactured by Tata, is being marketed as a safer way of travelling for those who until now have had to transport their families balanced on the back of their motorbikes.

Ratan Tata, 70, chairman of the family-run business, who has spearheaded the race for a cut-price car, wrote on the company website: 'That's what drove me - a man on a two-wheeler with a child standing in front, his wife sitting behind, add to that the wet roads - a family in potential danger.'
(6 January 2008)


Thieves target vehicles' catalytic converters

John Spano, Los Angeles Times
With a socket wrench and 90 seconds, criminals can make off with the emissions-reduction devices -- and the platinum they contain.
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This holiday season has seen an explosion in thefts of expensive, platinum-laced catalytic converters from parked cars, and authorities report that high-clearance sport utility vehicles are the targets of choice for thieves.

With a common socket wrench and 90 seconds, they leave drivers stuck with cars that sound like Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and facing repair bills topping $1,000.

"It's an epidemic. It's everywhere," said Lt. Bob Turnbull of the El Segundo Police Department.

... The prize is a catalytic converter, a device used to reduce emissions. Platinum is more valuable than gold, and the contents of a typical converter are worth $40 to $50 to scrap-metal dealers.
(2 January 2008)


Are the suburbs a health hazard?

Kathy Flaxman, Globe and Mail
Some say a bigger home on a wide lot can take a physical toll
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"The suburbs are a nightmare - a total planning disaster. People move in because they're affordable, and then they can't do anything. They're in the car all the time. You get this big house, but studies show that the rate of heart attack increases with the length of time you are stuck in traffic."

Dr. Kim Connelly, cardiologist, is talking about Australia, but no matter what continent, he is not a fan of suburbs. In Canada on a research grant from the Australian government, he has his studded tires on, but the tires are on his bike. This 36 year old physician cycles through all four seasons from his home in on Helena Street in west-end Toronto to the two hospitals, St. Michael's and Sunnybrook, where he's researching heart disease and diabetes.
(4 January 2008)


This year resolve to update cosmetics to eco-friendly brands

Aaron Hill, Salem Monthly
Every adult American uses an average of 10 personal care products a day containing 100 or more unique chemicals, according to a recent report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

The study is part of an effort by EWG to provide comprehensive safety information on industrial chemicals in cosmetics.

It identified a total of 200 chemicals from personal care products alone. Many are known toxins.

A scientific technique known as bio-monitoring, in which scientists track the levels of synthetic chemicals in people, continues to provide details on what has become known as the chemical body burden.

...According to Hankins, over 90 percent of all beauty and cosmetic ingredients are derived from petrochemicals and other synthetics.

"The manufacturing and processing of these compounds is not only bad for people, but it creates an unsustainable business considering we have hit peak oil production," he said.
(31 December 2007)


Junk Mail Box: Stopping Paper Waste

Alan Durning, Sightline
On my email accounts, I have filters that keep out most spam. But my regular mail boxes at home and the office? No such luck! Advertising arrives in the post daily, by the sheaf and by the ream.

It annoys me. Here I am, scrupulously recycling and contemplating the climate impacts of my consumption, while L.L. Bean and its ilk are dropping slabs of paper in my mail box: paper that took carbon-storing trees to create, climate-polluting factories to mill, and carbon-belching trucks to haul. All told, it’s 41 pounds of junk mail a year per American.

Admittedly, junk mail isn’t high on Cascadia’s lists of menaces. According to estimates developed for the US Postal Service, it accounts for just over one tenth of one percent of all energy use (at least, if Cascadia matches the US average), plus one-fiftieth of municipal solid waste.

Still, it’s worth a little attention, especially when you consider that virtually no direct mail actually works.

...The environmental implications of junk mail-most of which are caused by paper production and disposal-are worth spelling out. This report by a group of national environmental organizations says that, among US manufacturing industries, papermaking is the first-ranked consumer of water (per ton of product), third-ranked consumer of energy, third-ranked emitter of toxic pollutants into the air, fourth-ranked emitter of greenhouse gases, and fourth-ranked emitter of toxic pollutants into water.

Paper’s climate impacts are particularly troubling:
(31 December 2007)

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