Just watched Gasland, the chilling documentary by Josh Fox, about the horrific environmental and health damage being caused by ‘clean’ natural gas wells across the country. The film is a must see for every citizen of the world (or maybe just the USA) who cares about the balance of power between corporations and individual, and clean water and air. But we never should have gotten to this point of deregulation and malfeasance by  the oil & gas energy industry to be killing people and destroying the adjacent habitats.

As citizens, it is imperative that we contact our representatives about S. 1215 & H.R. 2766 the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act, to stop the unregulated pollution of our air and water by the oil and gas industry. The BP leak in the Gulf is a fraction of the toxic releases everyday in the production of natural gas across the nation.

Dead cow next to a gas well in Louisiana

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78 Resonable Questions to ask about any Technology

via mindfully and written by Stephanie Mills for the defunct Clamor Magazine, i.18, Jan/Feb 03.

Old news, but worth sharing as a reflection of what I’m thinking about this summer.


  1. What are its effects on the health of the planet and of the person?
  2. Does it preserve or destroy biodiversity?
  3. Does it preserve or reduce ecosystem integrity?
  4. What are its effects on the land?
  5. What are its effects on wildlife?
  6. How much and what kind of waste does it generate?
  7. Does it incorporate the principles of ecological design?
  8. Does it break the bond of renewal between humans and nature?
  9. Does it preserve or reduce cultural biodiversity?
  10. What is the totality of its effects—it’s “ecology”?
  11. Social

  12. Does it serve community?
  13. Does it empower community members?
  14. How does it affect our perception of our needs?
  15. Is it consistent with the creation of a communal, human economy?
  16. What are its effects on relationships?
  17. Does it undermine conviviality?
  18. Does it undermine traditional forms of community?
  19. How does it affect our way of scene and experiencing the world?
  20. Does it foster a diversity of forms of knowledge?
  21. Does it build on, or contribute to, the renewal of traditional forms of knowledge?
  22. Does it serve to commodify knowledge or relationships?
  23. To what extent does it redefine reality?
  24. Does it to raise a sense of time and history?
  25. What is its potential to become addictive?                  Continue reading

Strobecom II

I found a copy of the Tomar Electronics Strobecom II System Manual [pdf] on the sidewalk while walking through my hood last week. As a belated contribution to m.ammoth’s reading the Infrastructural City and discussion about ‘Traffic’, I though it would be worth sharing some excerpts about this disruptive technology that is invading our traffic intersections.

‘ The Strobecom II system is designed to aid in the transit of designated vehicles through the traffic control system, to to their destination… At no time should a driver of a vehicle expect that he [sic] is guaranteed to receive protected right-of-way through traffic intersections. Drivers of vehicles that will operate outside of normal traffic laws and conventions must always take responsibility for ensuring the safe passage of his[sic] vehicle through an intersection regardless of the operation or non-operation the Strobecom II system.’

So what is the Strobecom II?

‘Strobecom II is a state of the art, optical, traffic preemption and priority control system. Unlike previous generations of optical traffic control systems, Strobecom II allows vehicles with varying missions and mission priorities to announce their presence to a traffic control system, and receive customized responses from the traffic control system related to the requesting vehicle’s mission.’

Ah, this is that little black cone sitting next to the traffic signal with that white like that blinks when there is a fire engine or ambulance approaching that holds the light green or turns it red so they can get through an intersection…

So how does it work?

‘A Strobecom II system, employing Tomar optical emitters and optical signal processor (OSP) cards can preempt intersections at a range from 200 to 2500 feet. Preemption is initiated using signlas in two industry standard optical bands. The Emergency Band uses the industry standard high priority carrier frequency and the Transit Band uses the low priority carrier frequency…’

‘The Strobecom II system consists of two major sub-systems. The emitter sub-system is installed on the vehicle and transmits the preemption initiation signal on the selected optical band. the receiver sub-system is installed in the control cabinet at the intersection and detects the signal being emitted by a vehicle, measures its range to the intersection, arbitrates between vehicles competing for the right-of-way and initiates the selected response actions.’

What they don’t specify, is if the frequency is a color of light or the intervals of the flashing light in the emitter. Of course municipalities and agencies want to limit the deployment of this technology and the availability for baddies and regular Joes hijacking  traffic lights to their own advantage. Yes, there even was a Numb3rs episode that revolved around catching a vigilante who was doing this. So you don’t need to hack into the traffic light control system like they ‘did’ in the Italian Job to gain superpowers over traffic jams – you just need a Strobecom II emitter!

Manifesto for the Gulf Spill

The magnitude of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico should be a catalyst for changing how we impact the environment and our use of oil. Here are a few of the needed steps we MUST try if we are to kick our addiction to oil and mitigate the ecological damage the oil is causing.

In no particular order:


We can mitigate some of the damage of the oil plumes by dealing with the Gulf dead zone caused by the runoff of fertilizers into the Mississippi River. Fixing the dead zone is easier and cheaper then cleaning up the oil.

Nutrient and Sediment Loading of the Mississippi River

Yeah, the farm lobby will howl, but the fix is simple and cheap – vegetated buffers on all tributaries to the Mississippi can significantly cut nutrient loading. Viola! no more hypoxia in gulf due to farm/lawn runoff. Okay, urban runoff is also a problem, but not the same order of magnitude.

Nutrient Control Actions for Improving Water Quality in the Mississippi River Basin and Northern Gulf of Mexico


These wetlands are the nursery of the ecological abundance of the gulf, and protect the shore from storms. Their loss has been caused by a wide range of human activities including the channelization of the Mississippi & the loss of getting new sediment, the creation of canals for oil and gas exploitation and transportation, and pollution.

The easy fixes are to close obsolete channels like the MRGO to prevent currents from eroding the fragile wetland soils. Removing levees and floodwalls brings a range of risks and is controversial.

Rebuilding wetlands is complex and costly. This requires lots of sediments and soil to be dredged and deposited where needed. Then the plants must be established (if the conditions are right).

Coastal Louisina Multiple Line of Defence home

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Louisiana Barrier Island Project

The oil protection artificial barrier islands should be more then engineered berms!

With the partial approval to create of new islands to block the onshore flow of oil, these islands must also be part of the mitigation and restoration effort and not just a wall of sand to be contaminated and disposed of. I’m not advocating for a Dubai-esque extravaganza where the ‘island’ is shaped like the continents or a palm tree.

But these islands and berms need to be designed such that it increases habitat area for shore birds, marine mammals, turtles, fish, and aquatic vegetation. Theses new barrier islands (which could be 45 miles long if all segments are built) should be integrated into the wetland restoration efforts once the leaking well is plugged. The US Fish and Wildlife Service and several other agencies have similar opinions in the permitting process [pdf], but the implementation documents don’t seem to be heeding this advice.

For the ACE and other agencies, this is an amazing fast approval of the permits to dredge the what ever part of the ’92 million cubic yards of material over a six to nine month period to build temporary barrier islands’ that was approved. I’ll have to spend more time parsing the permit to figure out what was actually permitted, and if it truly will be $350m to $950m.

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