Sweet Recycled Products

15 04 2010

Resourcefulness is certainly a virtue. Buying stuff you don’t need is not. Put the two together and what do you get? A camera made of beer cans!

Car Tire Sandals

Cookie Wrapper Purse

Beer Can Camera


Bottle: Half Empty. Glass: Half Full.

22 03 2010

Happy WORLD WATER DAY everybody! Today is a good excuse to take five minutes and educate yourself on the bottled water hoopla.

If not on World Water Day, then when? Thanks to Rainforest Action Network for posting this and Annie Leonard for making it.

The Story of Bottled Water

New Goods, Good News

10 12 2009

1) Tiny News. Ride for the Trees partners discover a new orchid, the world’s smallest, in a reserve here in Ecuador.

“A previously unknown species of orchid, the world’s smallest, has been discovered inside the Cerro Candelaria Reserve by our partner Fundación EcoMinga in the Andes Mountains of central Ecuador. The reserve, established by EcoMinga thanks to the support of the World Land Trust, protects 5,221 acres of wet cloud forest and páramo (natural high Andean grasslands) on the Amazonian slope of the Andes.”

2) A reasonable, hopeful article on the COPENHAGEN CLIMATE SUMMIT. My favorite parts:

“we do not need to know the precise impact, and we do not need to have all the answers in order to start reducing greenhouse gases… What is the incremental progress we can expect out of Copenhagen? Some if it has already taken place. In the United States, the EPA has started the process of regulating Carbon Dioxide under the Clean Air Act. China, India and the U.S. have all announced national emission reduction targets. But more is still to come. When the conference ends on December 18th over 100 heads of state will be present in Copenhagen.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-cohen/climate-politics-and-cope_b_387029.html

3) Received this text from a Peace Corps Volunteer who lives in the Amazon where the police captured me two weeks ago: “You’ll be happy to know that 4 people were detained today for cutting off heads here in Macas. Lol. Guess you were innocent after all.” Hahaha…

4) Knee-slappin’ video o’ the week: This week’s humorous cycling video is a compilation of crashes that aren’t quite bad enough to make you hate me for laughing at these people, but are certainly awkward enough to bring a smile to your face. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxqh7ENJA_4  The best one is definitely at 55 seconds.

Dark and Dry Cuenca, Ecuador

11 11 2009
Vilcabamba Fire

A fire burning in the mountains of Vilcabamba, Ecuador

It’s “rainy season” in Cuenca, Ecuador, and the electricity continues to get cut on purpose. I’ve been told most of the electricity in the area comes from hydro-electric plants. To note, these hydro-electric plants were built in an area specifically because it had a high amount of powerful water flow… “had” being the key word.

Now, the precipitation levels are so miniscule there is not enough power being generated for this city. So every day, you open the newspaper to see when your electricity will be cut off.

Front pages of newspapers post statistics of economic losses… and forest fires. Cuenca’s Tomebamba river, which I see almost everyday, consists of little more than a few centimeters of smelly, contaminated water trickling between exposed river rocks. It makes me wonder if there would be any water flow at all if the sewage didn’t flow down its banks.

To make matters worse, there is a traditional belief in Ecuador, held by a small percentage of people, that burning a lot of something (like trees) will create smoke so that it rains. Smoke looks like clouds, so they think forest fires create rainclouds. It’s not necessarily their fault; they want it to rain as much as anybody, it’s just that nobody has given them a reason to stop practicing the secret grandpa taught them.

Before I arrived in Cuenca 3 months ago I bicycled through the smoke of a pine forest fire at the edge of the road. I was alone with no immediate way of contacting anybody but my first though was, “geez, I need to call for help.” I thought about waving down a passing car. Instead, I asked someone in the next town. I was told the owner of that land probably set the fire on purpuse, not for a transgenic soy plot like in the San Rafael Reserve, but to create clouds.

Some old beliefs like this can be beautiful, like the artistry that comes in the form of stamps at the local Indigenous Cultures Museum. 1,000 years ago the Canaris believed birds brought rain (hey, they weren’t far off) and they believed certain designs stamped into the dirt attracted the birds. And so a huge number of these clay stamps have been excavated in this area. Beautiful. Now fast forward a thousand years. Not quite as beautiful.

I have an interview with the local news station in a few days. This clearly needs to be the topic of conversation. Maybe I could convince forest burners to carve clay stamps instead?

here’s a news article about Cuenca’s worst drought in 45 years. http://www.cuencahighlife.com/post/2009/11/07/CUENCA-DIGEST3cbr3eDrought-forces-government-to-restrict-electric-power-use-as-Ecuadors-hydro-plants-suffer-record-low-water-levels.aspx

Special Interest Group for People Who Like to Drink Water

6 10 2009

About an hour ago I was slurping homemade spaghetti and talking green with one of those wise-beyond-their-years friends who has a way of making profound statements with simple wit. In this case that friend is the director of an environmental non-profit here in Ecuador. And so hers became the quote of the day: “The crazy thing is how quickly people get labelled ‘special interest group’ if they express interest in something environmental… even if somebody’s focus is just clean water. When are we going to realize it isn’t a special interest if you like to drink water?”

Here’s a quick newsfeed from Sierra Club for everybody out there who belongs to the same special interest group as us:

“Thicker Skin: Arctic ice is staying thicker than it has been in recent years, which could mean less melting next summer. Dot Earth (NYT)

A Positive Decline: Predictions put 2009 U.S. carbon dioxide emissions at a 5.9 percent decline; reasons include the recession, as well as lessened demand for coal, electricity, and steel. Reuters

Ouch: A new study links appendicitis to air-pollution exposure. Treehugger

Hello Again: A ferret species thought to be extinct are now roaming the Canadian wilds again, thanks to a breeding program at the Toronto Zoo. Scientific American”