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Archive for June, 2009

By Richie Gerber

solar_farm“Don’t it always seem to go. That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. They paved paradise. And put up a parking lot.” Famous lyrics from the song Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell. How do these lyrics relate to Solar Farms you might be asking yourself?

Whenever we hear solar power brought up we all burst out in green Goosebumps because it is touted as a clean and sustainable energy source. As a mater of fact much of the new energy legislation being pushed by government relies heavily on solar power. I would like to shed some light on the dark side of Solar Power since nobody is really talking about this. Even environmentalists are split on this one.

Let The Sunshine

Most of the big money and interest in solar power is being bet on huge solar farms.  Enormous government dollars are being given to big players in the Solar Farm industry. Billions of our dollars are going to big energy corporations invested in this technology. Many solar farm projects are being considered to be located on government land. But there are lots of other projects slated for private land as well. Most are in remote areas such as the Mojave Desert. Just to see how huge this is, the Bureau of Land Management in California is reviewing applications for permits utilizing over 1 million acres in the Mojave Desert for solar farms alone. There are hundreds of projects for huge solar farms around the US as well as Canada. They are mostly in remote areas and take up vast amounts of land since the solar arrays are designed to have the largest amount of surface area to increase efficiency.

I’ve been to the Desert on a Horse with no Name

Let’s take the Mojave Desert for an example. Most people hear the word desert and think it is barren and junky land, of no useful value. Most folks don’t realize that it is a wonderful and diverse eco system, which has evolved over millions of years. It has a multitude of animals, plants and other living things adapted to this unique environment. Since it is not very hospitable to humans, which diminishes its ability to be developed, we have labeled it as junk land. Just like here in Florida, at one time some called the Florida Everglades a swamp, not realizing its diverse eco system that also provides water to the entire South Florida Region.

When Sunny Get’s Blue

In a Solar Farm the dozers come in and make roads to the remote tracts. Then they scrape the huge land areas and smooth out the surfaces. So now vast tracts of virgin land have been changed for all time forward. Metal racks are erected to hold the solar arrays. These solar panels absorb sunlight but also give shade to the land underneath them. Now we have millions of acres of historically sun caressed land put into the shade. This must have an enormous effect on the sensitive and diverse eco system. Now repeat this scenario hundreds of times all over the country.

I Am a Lineman for the County

In order to deliver the power from these remote regions to the population centers large transmission lines must be constructed through these remote areas. Huge amounts of water are needed as well to help cool the turbines, which convert the sun’s heat into electricity. Remember that some of these areas like the Mojave Dessert do not have that much water to spare. That’s why it is named the Mojave Dessert! If this is not a shock to the environment then I don’t know what is. All we talk about is global warming and carbon footprint while sometimes missing the larger picture that sometimes the cure is as bad or worse than the problem.

One Man’s Ceiling is Another Mans Floor

Even the governor of California has shown his lack of sophistication on this subject by not realizing the value of the Mojave Dessert. Governor Schwarzenegger said in a speech last year at a Yale University climate-change conference: “If we cannot put solar power plants in the Mojave Desert, I don’t know where the hell we can put it.” Maybe he will start to understand that even this desolate dessert is a unique and valuable eco system, which needs protection. Even Governor Ah-nold doesn’t have a clue.

Epp-Bee-Log: I don’t want to appear that I am a negatively charged electron with no ideas. So I would like to tell you my positively charged proton plan in my next posting. I call it: Cousin Richie’s Here Comes The Sun Solar Power Plan. So let’s not Take Paradise and put up a Solar Farm until you hear me out.

Do Nothin’ Til You Hear From Me

 

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farmed fishThe waiter opens with, “Tonight’s seafood special is a fillet of lightly grilled Organic Maine Salmon in a USDA Organic Reduction Sauce consisting of the essence of Organic Lemon and Organic Artisanal Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the Messina region of north east Sicily and finished in the oven…” I stopped listening at the Organic Salmon part. “What is Organic Salmon and who says its Organic?” I ask. He replies, “our highly renowned fishmonger, of course”. I placed my order for the “Organic Salmon” all the while questioning myself on how a fish could be certified as organic.

So what really is “Organic Salmon”? And who besides this “highly renowned fishmonger” certifies that this Salmon is organic? Please note that I have been involved in the organic movement since owning an organic farm in Maine in the 70’s. Then in the 80’s-90’s I owned the Bread of Life Natural Foods Markets, which evolved into the largest Natural and Organic Supermarket in the Southeast U.S. My Plantation, Florida store was voted Store of the Year in 1996 by Whole Foods Business Magazine. I ultimately sold my three stores to Whole Foods Markets in the late 90’s and remained on as the Regional Vice President for several years. This gives me some street cred when it comes to all things organic.

All of us are very familiar with the green and white circle USDA Organic Seal on many products. It is an outgrowth of the Natural Organic Program (NOP) created by congress in the 1990’s. In 2002 only agricultural products that were grown following verifiable organic methods and certified by a qualified certifier were permitted to use the USDA Organic Seal.  This is no child’s play either; the law was very strict which made me happy. I did not want to see scammers getting into the biz trying to make a quick buck and destroying the movement’s credibility. As a matter of fact the law had some very sharp teeth, “A civil penalty of up to $11,000 for each offense can be levied on any person who knowingly sells or labels as organic a product that is not produced and handled in accordance with the National Organics Program’s regulations.” These standards applied to produce, meat and poultry, not seafood. In other words there is no USDA organic standard for fish and seafood. Something is starting to smell fishy to me!!! How about you?

Most of the Salmon today is farmed raised. Fish farms. Aquaculture, the fish version of agriculture is the largest producer of commercial salmon.  So what are these fish farms like and what’s the problem? The first problem I see is the physical properties of a fish farm. They consist of large pens in the ocean that keeps the salmon inside. It keeps predators out as well.  Picture thousands of salmon all living in a pen in the ocean. They are constantly eating and pooping. Some say that the currents flush out the debris from the pen. It looks s like it needs lots of flushing. Since there are so many fish together in one concentrated area the farmers feed them feed pellets that are laced with antibiotics in order to prevent a bacterial infection or sea lice from wiping out the crop of fish like a Salmon Flu. Some of these farmed fish escape from their pens which can cause harm to the wild salmon population.

 Most of the pellet food the salmon is fed is not organic. Take for comparison organic chicken. They must be fed exclusively organic feed. Antibiotics are not permitted in the feed. The birds must have access to open areas, the so-called free-range organic chicken. When fish are raised in pens one realizes the lack of sustainability in the system. Although the pens are moved from one area to another there is still toxic effluent left in the wake. The pollution can be devastating to whole areas of the ocean as well as other fish and fauna.

Again I ask you, “What is an Organic Salmon?” Is it a fish that is fed pellets of non-organic feed possibly laced with antibiotics?  Does it spend its entire life closed in a pen, squished in with thousands of genetically alike fish? Is it raised in a small concentrated pen teeming with bacteria and other possible toxins? Well here is my answer to the pressing question, “what is organic salmon?” THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS ORGANIC SALMON. PERIOD!!! This beast does not exist yet. It is a marketing ploy and has the potential to harm the great work of the current organic standards that exist under the NOP. It can only add confusion. The term “Organic Salmon” must not be used until the USDA creates standards under the NOP.

Take note that farmed raised salmon appears very red in the fish case at the store. At first you may think this means it is better or fresher than the less red wild caught. In fact, wild caught salmon has a natural red color whereas farm raised salmon  gets it red color from red food dyes because farm raised is naturally very pale. The deep reds you see in the fish case at the store is because the producers add red food color to the farm raised fish to make them more marketable to customers since customers relate red to salmon. I am not a fan of additives to mask things. Many shoppers select salmon because of its healthful omega friendly fats. In fact, the farm raised salmon has very low levels of these healthy oils, which are found in high quantities in wild salmon.

Wild Salmon is a much better choice in my humble opinion. It contains high levels of the healthy omega-3 fish oils, which everyone is looking for these days. It was not fed some antibiotic feed pellets. It does not have any red dye food color to enhance its appearance. So when I am at the store I try to go to the wild side and avoid the “Organic” hype in the fish case.

Epp-BEE-Log: If you remember three things you will never be thought of as gullible or dumb. 1) There is no Santa Clause. 2) There is no Tooth Fairy. 3) And there ain’t no such thing as “Organic Salmon”.

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By Richie Gerber

chinese drywall2Most of us have heard all the stories on U.S. Water Boarding. But have you heard about the Chinese Wall Boarding of thousands of US citizens? Outrageous you might be saying but please hear me out. Thousands of US citizens are truly being tortured by Chinese Wall Boarding today, which is destroying their health, wealth and future.

Chinese Wall Boarding was most prevalent from 2004-2007.  It has its basis in the housing boom as well as several “acts of god”. These “acts of god” were the active 2004 hurricane season in Florida and then in 2005 the devastating hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Louisiana. The combination of these events created a huge building boom that in turn swelled the demand for wallboard, a key component in buildings, beyond the production capacity of U.S. producers. Builders started importing Chinese Wallboard in order to meet the booming demand.

So what is the connection between water boarding and Chinese Wall Boarding you may be asking? Torture!!! At this very minute hundreds of US citizens have been living a tortured life in buildings that have Chinese Wallboard aka drywall, sheetrock, gypsum. Victims have been crying for help and yet most Americans do not even know what is going on. The U.S. Government is not acting swiftly or effectively to end the torture. I think the EPA has a plan to make a plan. When Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) wrote a letter on this mater to the EPA in early February he did not receive a reply back until almost two months later! I guess they were planning to make a plan on how to write a letter to a Senator.

This Chinese Wallboard is different than its American Counterpart. Homeowners in as many as 16 states from Florida to Louisiana to Virginia and Washington, DC have been affected–over 100,000 homes nationally with almost 50,000 in Florida alone. All these homes were built using Chinese Wallboard and the victims have very similar complaints–a strong smell of “rotten eggs”, chronic health problems, air conditioning, electrical and plumbing problems as well as financial hardships. Is this starting to sound like torture yet?

Health complaints from victims include frequent nosebleeds, recurring headaches, asthma attacks, respiratory distress as well as skin and eye irritation. As a mater of fact some pediatricians have requested parents keep kids out of these toxic homes. Imagine how you would feel finding out that your dream house is in fact toxic to you and your kid’s health.

The smell of sulfur permeates these homes. Many Chinese Wallboard homes smell like “rotten eggs” because the wallboard has sulfur in the gypsum. Think of wallboard as a sandwich. An outer layer of heavy paperboard with a filling of the mineral gypsum sandwiched in between them. It appears that the gypsum used in this Chinese Wallboard has a higher amount of sulfur. Hence the “rotten egg” odor.. Air quality tests by the EPA have also found organic compounds similar to acrylic paint as well as Strontium. It appears that in damp and humid conditions this Chinese Wallboard offgases creating a cacophony of toxic gasses.

Another problem that many of these affected homes have is the unusually high deterioration of A/C equipment, plumbing and electrical systems. Many of these homes have gone through multiple A/C units as the condensers and compressors rot out. In this day and age this type of equipment should last for years and years but some people have replaced theirs multiple times. Typically copper turns green with age, which is natural. In these homes the copper water pipes, electrical wires turn black and then rot out. You can see how dangerous this is.

Who owns these homes? Young couples, some with kids some without, retirees, singles, and all kinds of folks like you and me, that’s who. What do you do if you start to feel sick or the doctor tells you to keep your kids out of that house? You can’t abandon it since you have your life savings tied up in it and the bank expects to receive your mortgage payment in a timely fashion. You purchased the house at the top of the market and now the market is at the bottom so you risk loosing your shirt if you sell now. You must disclose to any potential buyer the problems associated with the house. Having a “rotten egg” smell does not make it any easier to sell either. And what bank is going to put out a new loan on a place that has recurring mechanical problems. These innocent victims are being Chinese Wall Boarded.

I have an idea! How about shutting the A/C’s, turning on all the fans and opening up all the windows. This will air out the place over time. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! In fact opening up the windows makes the situation even worse. Can you imagine that these people should not open their windows since that will increase the humidity and exacerbate the problem? So now the torture victims are confined to a stinky, toxic environment and cannot let fresh air into their torture chamber since that will make things worse. They have to watch as their physical, emotional and financial health rot away.

Epp-BEE-Log: The US Government has not identified this as the tragedy it is. The Consumer Products Safety Commission and the EPA have been dragging their feet and using all of the typical gobbledy-gook lingo to explain why they have not acted swiftly. Where is FEMA? Where is the outrage? Where is the help? Right now at this very moment, as you read this article fellow Americans are suffering from Chinese Wallboarding.

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