Americans are dead last when it comes to environmentally-friendly consumer consumption, according to the 17 country “Greendex 2010: Consumer Choice and the Environment–A Worldwide Tracking Survey.” The National Geographic survey, in partnership with GlobeScan, is in its third year of monitoring and measuring 65 areas of consumer behavior in housing, transportation, food, and consumer goods–ranking countries according to their consumers’ environmental impact.
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The top-scoring countries with sustainable-savvy consumers are India, Brazil, and China. Americans remain at the bottom, as they have since the survey began three years ago. We are in familiar company at the bottom, though, with Canada, France, and the U.K. right there with us.

Emerging countries, it seems, may have fewer bad habits than those in the industrialized countries in this survey.

Among the survey’s findings about American consumers:

• 55% reside in homes with seven or more rooms, similar to Australian, British, and Canadian consumers.
• 58% drive alone daily.
• 61% never use local public transportation.
• 26% walk or bike to their destinations regularly.
• 25% eat imported foods; only Chinese consumers eat imported foods less often.

Across all participating countries, it was found that two perceptions helped to suppress sustainable consumption: many were discouraged by “companies that make false claims about environmental impacts of their products” and by the many obstacles set up by governments and companies to prohibit action.

Consumers, says the survey, “want less talk and more action.”

Read more about the Greendex Survey. Post a comment on the Tribe forum.

The octopus can teach us a thing or two about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, especially about the threat from IEDs, improvised explosive devices.

No, really. It’s all about decentralization in the natural world–the ability to quickly adapt to changing conditions and threats. Those in the natural world have learned to quickly change their structures, behaviors, and reactions–like the amazing ability of the octopus to camouflage. It can react to perceived danger and blend in, match the colors of its surrounding area, and vanish right under the eye of its predator.

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A group of researchers from the University of Arizona’s Institute of the Environment is advising security and disaster management officials on how to more successfully and “naturally” react to and deal with threats from our predators–terrorists, hackers, and even mutating pathogens. The key to addressing threats, the researchers say in the May 20 edition of Nature, is to examine the natural world.

By examining the billions of years of evolution and adaptation in nature, researchers have concluded that large centralized bureaucracies do not allow for quick and effective reactions to serious threats. Just as the octopus utilizes its decentralized network of pigment cells to evade predators and conceal itself from its prey, ground troops can act like independent cells, assess the given situation, and act most appropriately and effectively.

“The individual soldiers in the war zone are the most adaptable unit out there,” says Rafe Sagarin, lead author of the Nature article. “They are in a better position to recognize and address an emerging threat in time than a centralized bureaucracy.”

Read more and then post a comment on the Tribe forum.

Two NASA satellites are capturing images of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which began April 20, 2010, with the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. This series of images reveals a space-based view of the burning oil rig and the ensuing oil spill, through May 24. The imagery comes from the MODIS instruments aboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. The oil slick appears grayish-beige in these images. The shape of the spill changes due to weather conditions, currents and the use of oil-dispersing chemicals.

Watch the NASA video and then post a comment on the Tribe forum:

Credit: NASA/Goddard/Jen Shoemaker

On May 7, 2010, John Wathen and pilot Tom Hutchins flew out over the Gulf of Mexico and videoed the environmental effects of BP’s Deepwater Horizon explosion. From the video:

“At nine miles out, we began to smell the oil. At eleven miles out we saw a visable sheen on top of the water. Heavy streaking was evident at about mile fifteen. Mile twenty-six we began to see solid oil on top of the water with a heavy sheen and numerous streaks at mile thirty-four. Mile eighty-seven, ground zero…nothing but a red mass of floating goo…[so] many boats on the horizon….nobody seemed to be able to do anything about it…I find myself using the word “hopeless”…..There’s no way to prevent this from hitting our shorelines….[preventative] Safety measures were not in place….An environmental disaster…a social disaster, as well. Fishermen out of work; oyster shuckers, no work; people working the docks–all up and down the coast people are cancelling reservations, fishing boats are not going out….this event…will be felt for decades. This cannot happen again. The Gulf appears to be bleeding….Will the Gulf ever heal? As far as you can see on the horizon…mats of this reddish-pink sheen…a perfect line of it leading to the shoreline….On May the 8th they found tar balls.”

Watch the video and then post a comment on the Tribe forum:

IBM’s newest advertising language really annoys me: “Building a Smarter Planet”; and from their website: “See how the planet’s getting smarter.”

Our “planet” is plenty smart, thank you very much. Gaia has an amazing and effective regulating system that has done a fine job adjusting for human actions that continually foul up the works–well, that is until recently.

And even if Gaia cannot continue her regulation in a manner that allows this present system of life to continue, she will regulate for another system that will naturally follow. She has done it before; she can do it again.

Okay, okay, I understand that advertising is all about taking license with language and molding it–often cleverly–to make a product stand out. As a wordsmith, I frequently admire, chuckle, and rail against their efforts. This is a rail.

Planet is not a synonym for human. Our planet includes humans–one of the over 1.5 million known species of animals, plants, and algae. Not accepting that has gotten us into the environmental muck that currently surrounds us. Advertising’s word geniuses could help move us away from that Manifest Destiny mindset and toward a partnership with the other organics and inorganics that also populate this planet.

A word, a simple word, can change our perception of the world. A healthy dose of humilitas, an acceptance of a lesser place in our planet’s overall system, could create a future in which we all flourish. As it is, continuing the perception of our planet as human will only continue to manifest a destiny of loss for the whole system–including humans.

Havasupai Indian Reservation Waterfall

Time for a little refreshment…

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