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Fluoride, Toothpaste and the A-Bomb

Pollution, Pollution, You can use the latest toothpaste And then wash out your mouth With industrial waste. When Harvard professor and humorist Tom Lehrer penned those lines in 1965, he probably had no idea that a major ingredient in “the latest toothpaste” was industrial waste. Fluoride toothpastes contain something called sodium monofluorophosphate, which is a cousin to some potent nerve agents once considered for chemical warfare. Fluorosilicic acid, which is used to…
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by: Gar Smith – Spring 2011

Confessions of a Federal Freeloader

You’ve heard of me but we’ve never met, even though I’ve been part of America’s “power elite” for 60 years. You might call me one of the original Baby Boomers. But I’m not your typical Boomer. Unlike most aging seniors, I’ve been receiving a government pension since the first day I showed up for work. Heck, I’ve been pulling down a cushy government pension since the day I was born. I’ve never…
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by: Gar Smith – Winter 2011

“Ecocide”: The Fifth War Crime?

“What does it matter to us? Look away if it makes you sick.” — Heinrich Himmler, in response to outrage about Auschwitz That quote appeared at the top of an article in the Summer 1997 Earth Island Journal. The essay, which raised the question: “How Do We Handle Industrial Evil?” was prompted by Congressional hearings that revealed how the tobacco industry, despite decades of denial, had long known that cigarettes caused cancer.…
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by: Gar Smith – Autumn 2010

Plant, Baby, Plant

On March 31, President Obama reversed a campaign pledge by calling for renewed oil drilling off US shores. Unfortunately, this was no April Fool’s joke. Domestic drilling, the president argued, was needed to pump up the US economy by reducing oil imports. But if the president hopes to foster a real “Growth Economy,” he needs to draw inspiration from the First Lady’s organic garden. Instead of soiling the seas, we need to…
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by: Gar Smith – Summer 2010

Breathe … Not So Easy

Now that the EPA has defined carbon dioxide as a pollutant under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act, we should probably mutter “Beg pardon” whenever we respire. On average, an adult human gulps down 250ml of oxygen per minute and puffs out 200ml of CO2. With 6.6 billion human lungs at work, that adds up to 2.16 trillion tons of CO2 a year. Humankind’s carbon “breathprint” accounts for as much as…
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by: Gar Smith – Spring 2010

Solving the Water and Energy Crisis

… in One Swell Poop

Upwards of 3 million people die annually from diarrhea, dysentery, and parasitic diseases – all for the want of clean water. Meanwhile, each year in the water-rich United States, 2.1 billion gallons of the world’s most precious liquid are used, not to water thirsty crops or slake parched throats, but to flush human waste from home toilets to municipal sewers. While harvesting rainwater and recycling graywater are fine strategies, it’s time to…
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by: Gar Smith – Winter 2010

Emissions Trading? I Beg Your Indulgence

The ancient Roman Catholic doctrine of “indulgences” has been born again in the 21st century. The once popular practice allowed rich parishioners to purchase “remission” for their sins by making contributions to the church’s minions. The Council of Trent tried to outlaw the practice in 1562. In June 2009, the US Congress resurrected the concept of conscience-clearing as a key portion of the American Clean Energy and Security Act. Instead of requiring…
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by: Gar Smith – Autumn 2009

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