Shut Up or the Kid Dies. What the Frack?

When hydraulic fracturing goes wrong, people get sick and corporations silence them. What the Frack? Climate Justice and Our Culture was the highlight of my final day at SXSW Eco 2013. This five-member panel was led by Dr. M.K. Dorsey, director of the Climate Justice Research Project at Dartmouth College. I was stunned by what I heard in this session; here are some highlights. If you're not familiar with hydraulic fracturing, click here for a simple summary. Hundreds of chemicals are mixed with sand and water, and millions of gallons of this mixture are blasted into the ground until the earth to cracks. Natural gas is collected as it escapes through these cracks, and much of the chemical cocktail remains in the earth. Details of the poisonous mixture are kept secret by gas companies, but about half of the ingredients are known. Many of the chemicals have been linked to cancer and others are known to cause respiratory damage. Some of this stuff can short-circuit the way your brain communicates with your body, it can also impact your fertility. We don’t know exactly how these chemicals affect children, but we do know that this crap has caused serious illnesses. During this session, Michael Green told a story so appalling that I thought it could only happen in some third-world country that I’m too lazy to read about; he explained how gas companies silence their victims. Green is some bigwig from the Center for Environmental Health, which is dedicated to protecting children from toxic threats. His story resembled that Erin Brockovich movie, but there’s more poison, less ethical behavior, no...

M. Sanjayan Was Condemned to a Drowning Death

“Your child is going to die from drowning.” That’s what some astrologist prick told M. Sanjayan’s family when he was a little boy. So they kept him away from water and wouldn’t teach him to swim. Sure it defies logic, but the death of their child was foretold. What’s a freaked out parent to do? It’s several decades later, and the child has outlived the astrologer (suck it, pseudoscience). Now he’s on live television responding to questions that he wasn’t prepared to answer. Dr. Sanjayan is on the David Letterman show discussing climate change. If you watch the interview, you’ll see an admittedly skeptical Letterman challenging the optimism of a well-informed, charismatic scientist, but Sanjayan didn’t see it that way. He says he left the interview thinking, “Damn, I gotta learn about this.” During his presentation at SXSW Eco, Sanjayan explained what he decided to learn and how his work on an eight-part series for Showtime helped him do it. Despite the big names involved with the Showtime project, Sanjayan was reluctant to participate. He didn’t want to contribute to “just another show about climate change.” He told the producers that he would contribute only if the show was compelling and creditable, so they promised to do three things. First, to tell real human stories. If the story sucks but the people in the story are compelling, people will watch it. Second, to focus on things that are happening right now. Most people think that climate change is something that’s gonna happen at some point in the future, so they need to see current events. Finally, to send Sanjayan...

Joseph Dumont “Can Advertising Save the World?” SXSW Eco 2013

Joseph Dumont is a co-executive producer of the documentary “The Naked Brand.” In a 15 minute short talk, Joseph asked these questions: – In advertising what is changing for us? – How do we communicate with people moving forward? – How has advertising changed? We were then shown a pretty cool and amazingly old “The Flintstones” cartoon. Joseph quipped that Fred Flintstone had the first environmental car. (It’s cuz, ya know, they used their legs to power their cars made of stone and wood…ya get it? ya get it?) After showing cartoon footage, he then showed us a clip of Fred and Barney smoking cigarettes. It’s kind of amazing to think that this kind of advertising took place…though of course, I’m sure we have shitty advertising going on today as well. The following was taken directly from their site: “The Naked Brand is a story about how corporations can help save the planet one small step at a time. It’s an introduction to a bright new future where companies tell the truth and work hard to create better products and a better planet.” Anyway, that commercial was broadcast many a year ago, when many people really did think cigarettes were not bad but good for you. But even in 1994, Joseph reminded us, we had the 7 major tobacco CEO’s testified before Congress stating that nicotine was not addictive. I guess they were all on something a bit more potent than tobacco to say something as insane as that. So now we have today, where only (according to Dumont) 20% of the people trust in advertising as we’ve known it. What...

Surprise Live Blog: “Peak Stuff, Baby Pigeons and the Heartbeat of Cats” presented by Adam Werbach

We did another round of live blogging today, this time on keynote speaker Adam Werbach. Following are the results (in reverse order): Surprise Live Blog: “Peak Stuff, Baby Pigeons and the Heartbeat of Cats” presented by Adam Werbach 14:53 aaand the lights are on. – Stupidgregg 14:53 “THE HOPE of the human race lies in its generosity.” 14:52 AW has been using computer printers, and their immediate obsolesence as an example of a horrible product that shouldn’t besold. – Stupidgregg 14:52 14:51 Let’s see if Yerdle can help out with this. 14:51 He has found that a lot of things you want to buy are probably already available and unused by a friend. 14:51 People don’t realize how much stuff they have that they don’t want, and how much stuff they want, that their friends have but don’t want.  – Stupidgregg 14:50 Good point, this is hitting home. I need to look at all the stuff that I have that don’t use. 14:49 We had some slight technical difficulty there. 14:49 * Technical difficulties * 14:49   Sharing is important because many things that we use are designed for obselesence, and we have a lot of crap on our shelves. The lead designer from Braun was an icon of Jony Ive (Apple Inc.). His design principle was “Less is Better.” – Stupidgregg   14:48 14:42 Updated : 14:49 A concept from Mumbai inspiring Yerdle, a simple sharing platform. Which you can download from iTunes, here. 14:42 They want Yerdle to be used as a means for people to share all that junk that is sadly sitting in storage…alone, unused, unandled. 14:41 It’s available...

Think Dirty (It’s not what you think)

“However, Think Dirty™ is more than just a mobile app – it’s a consumer revolution for safer cosmetics by learning one ingredient at a time, changing to cleaner options, one product at a time.” – Think Dirty site We had the pleasure of meeting up with the “Think Dirty” crew in the exhibition center. It’s obvious that their marketing skills are pretty damn amazing. How could I not stop at a booth where there were free “Think Dirty” stickers? It was truly a pleasure speaking with the gals at the booth, as they were very patient and accommodating when it came to explaining their app and brand. The app can be used to scan cosmetics and other personal care products so that you can determine if there are potentially hazardous ingredients in them. I don’t recall if it was for every product, but I do know that one of the representatives there has had to spend a lot of time manually inputting ingredients. I don’t know about you, but manually inputting long “never-freakin’-used-words-ever” sounds like a tedious task. I mean really, what the hell is “Ammonium Xylenesulfonate?” But they do it cuz they care, and want to be as thorough as possible. I stated that maybe it would be more bearable if while inputting these large words they could have a few drinks, but I was reminded that drinking while doing so would increase the margin for error. I really couldn’t argue with that. You can read up on how the “Think Dirty” brand came about here, which I recommend. Their app is on the App Store , if ya wanna nab it...

SXSW Eco 2013: Grandmotherly Wisdom and Tap Water – a short talk from Kavita Shukla

While visiting her grandmother in India, young Kavita Shukla unwittingly drank some tap water that could very well have made her ill, had it not been for grandmotherly wisdom to the rescue. After she drank the tainted H2O, her grandmother had her drink a home remedy made with spices that prevented her from getting ill. A true entrepreneur at heart, she discovered that she could use the same home remedy that prevented her from getting ill after drinking tainted tap water to keep food fresh. She patented “Fresh Paper” when she was just 17 years old. It wasn’t until after college and after a “real job” did the product come to life on a global scale. She found that she was able to utilize the magic mixture that was formed from spices and made into paper format. According to the Fenugreen website: “Fenugreen was founded in 2010. It all started with handmade batches of FreshPaper handed out at the farmer’s markets and street fairs in Cambridge, MA.” Just by word of mouth fresh paper spread like wildfire, and then the company got its global start with Whole Foods. Prior to Whole Foods, they made fresh paper by hand. They now ship to 40 countries, and their mission is fresh for all. What would’ve happened if she hadn’t drunk her grandmother’s mixture? Check out Kavita in the following Tedx talk in Manhattan: Fenugreen is derived from fenugreek – one of the spices used in fresh...
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