Friday, August 24, 2007

Friday Hope Blogging


It’s been another busy and scatterbrained week for yours truly, so this’ll be a short (but sweet!) edition.

Yet another study demonstrates that abstinence programs don’t work:

When compared with control groups, abstinence-only programs had no significant effect on decreasing (or increasing) the risk of contracting HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases and on becoming pregnant. It demonstrated no effect on delaying when youths first had sex, or reducing the risk of dangerous sexual behaviors.
That's the sort of finding Minnesota Health Commissioner Dianne Mandernach would’ve rejected as unpossible, so it’s just as well that she’s resigned in disgrace. It’s probably just a coincidence that Minnesota is suddenly making birth control more affordable:
One of the state laws that quietly went into effect this week in Minnesota will lower costs and improve access to birth control. Affordable prices mean better use of contraception; that, in turn, will reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions.
In Afghanistan, childbirth is the leading cause of death among women. WorldChanging reports on efforts to solve this problem by training midwives. You can click here to donate money, equipment, or expertise.

A federal appeals court has blocked Shell from drilling a proposed offshore oil well in Alaska:
The court ruled that a collection of groups suing to prevent Shell from drilling in the Beaufort Sea showed “a probability of success'' on their appeal in a hearing yesterday.
In Utah, meanwhile, 46,000 acres of land have been spared, for now, from gas drilling:
More than 46,000 acres of public lands in Utah that were set to be leased Tuesday for natural gas drilling were removed by federal officials in deference to fears about wildlife habitat. The Bureau of Land Management postponed leasing on 42 parcels because of concerns related to mule deer and sage grouse. The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership had filed protests of the leases a month before.
And BP has pledged not to step up dumping in Lake Michigan:
Responding to a month of unrelenting criticism from politicians and the public, BP pledged it will not invoke provisions of a new permit that allows the largest oil refinery in the Midwest to release significantly more ammonia and suspended solids into the lake.
Can we have that in writing?

Triple Pundit reports on the positive effects of online banking and billing:
Imagine every US household opting to receive no paper bills or bank statements. The fuel saved (26 million BTUs) in this scenario would power San Francisco for a year, and 16.5 million fewer trees would be cut down annually. 20,000 swimming pools full of water would be saved and 56,000 garbage trucks of solid waste would be eliminated. Air pollutants and particulates would be cut, contributing to increased air quality. And the cost? Just displacing a few electrons to receive your bills and statements online.
Inhabitat discusses the Subway Sunlight Project:
Parsons student Caroline Pham, who designed the Subway Light Project, won first place in the school’s 2007 Sustainable Design Review. Her concept uses sunlight capture devices and fiber optics cables to channel sunlight into the enclosed corridors of the subway.
BLDGBLOG casts a skeptical eye at “sustainable building,” and points out that a truly green building is one that “actively remediates its local environment”:
Being not as bad as you could have been is not a viable future goal for sustainable architecture. Build something that genuinely improves the environment – build something that has a measurably negative carbon footprint, for instance, from the manufacture of its steel to the billing of its electricity – and then I'll be as excited as you are about how "green" the project really is.
Geoff’s aim is not to make perfection the enemy of improvement, but to point out that technophiliac excitement over, say, skyscrapers fitted with wind turbines sometimes causes people to lose sight of other options (including not allowing the skyscraper to be built in the first place). In my view, this is why we need to set a regulatory threshold that’ll make greenwashing difficult or impossible; while I’m grateful for voluntary efforts thusfar, the bar for “sustainable” building – and by extension, for building period - needs to be raised dramatically. (Happily, I seem to be in good company.)

Most African governments are banning plastic bags. In addition to the normal problems posed by plastic litter, bags in Africa can “spread malaria by holding mini-pools of warm water for mosquitoes to breed in.” They also block sewer systems and drains, causing additional health problems. (This is a fairly stark example of what can happen when first-world consumption patterns are naturalized and imposed on the developing world.)

Speaking of appropriate technology, here’s an idea whose time has come: clotheslines:
Vermont is the latest state to introduce a bill that would override clothesline bans, which are often instituted by community associations loath to air laundry even when it's clean. Now, clothesline restrictions may be headed the way of bans on parking pickup trucks in front of homes, or growing grass too long – all vestiges of trim and tidy hopes that may not fit with the renewed emphasis on going green.
A dietary supplement could help to save the world’s largest parrot from extinction:
This is one more step in a long recovery process for the kakapo. Once believed to be extinct, there are now 86 known kakapo in the world, and research like this could help give the species the boost it needs to avoid extinction.
Australian cancer researchers have won a prize for devising a new research method that reduces the need for animal testing:
“Conventional research often involves the use of animals to monitor whether certain changes at the cellular level of the disease leads to drug resistance,” said Prof Kavallaris. “The technique we have developed allows us to directly observe and determine the cause of drug resistance at the cellular level so we can minimise the use of animals to find the answers we are searching for.”
Darshak Sanghavi suggests that we look beyond the standard cost/benefit analyses for treating the diseases of the poor:
Assessing AIDS treatment in poor countries with QALY-based economics is like desultorily asking, "We can't really afford this, can we?"

[G]roups like Partners in Health take a radically different approach. They start with a goal — simply to save people with AIDS, and damn the QALYs—and invent ways to make it affordable.
And XicanoPwr has inaugurated a nice feature "highlighting the accomplishments of our Latin@ youth":
“A lot of people would have thought that I would fail, that I would be crazy, I would be wild, that I wouldn’t graduate,” Pichardo said. “When I hit 18 that’s it, my life’s down the drain, so that just kept me motivated to prove them wrong and say look, ‘I can make it, even though I went through all of this.’”
Last, WorldChanging discusses efforts to save traditional Tibetan music. You can listen to field recordings, and donate, by following WC's links.

The photo at top shows a slab of limestone from the Middle Devonian, and was taken in 1904 by Samuel Calvin. Also: Motel Signs (via Coudal). Rolf Bauerdick's photos of The Roma of Central and Eastern Europe. Photography in service of social justice at PhotoSensitive. And equirectangular panoramas by Pisco Bandito.


If you need a soundtrack for these images, I suggest these decaying 8-track loops from Mountain Park in Holyoke, Massachussets.

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