Archive for May, 2010

The BP oil spill that’s filling the news as well as the Gulf of Mexico is big. But understanding just how big has been difficult, until now. A new tool, created by Paul Rademacher, allows you to understand exactly how big the spill is, as well as overlay it over any other map to compare it to the size of familiar distances. You can see here that it is twice as wide as the distance between Washington, DC and Baltimore!

Link – via houstonist


When you’ve got a bargain, do you think about who’s paid for it?

When I buy clothing, I ALWAYS ask myself “is the cotton used to make this organic cotton?” If it isn’t organic, I follow up with a series of sub-questions tripping around “what permanently debilitating condition does the farmer who grew this have?” and “which pesticide gave it to him?”…..

Actually – – –  I don’t.

And nor, I suspect, do you.

The source, the origin, whether a farmer has a debilitating condition or if he got paid a fair price for his hard labor…that matters little when I’m clothes shopping. Pesticides?  The last thing on my mind when there is a 75% off sale!!!


Pesticides are toxic chemicals sprayed on crops to kill “pests”…or any other living thing  (humans included). Insecticides kill insects, herbicides kill weeds. So on. So forth.

Hazardous chemicals associated with global cotton production also kill fish and get into the drinking water. Chemicals are known to contaminate freshwater rivers in America, India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Brazil, Australia, Greece and West Africa.

Despite a ban across 62 countries and a pledge by its primary manufacturer, Bayer, to cease its distribution, a ‘persistent organic pollutant’ known as endosulfan is in widespread use on crops from cotton, soy, coffee, tea, and vegetables. Its ban is due to its high toxicity to humans (among other living organisms).

Wendy Richardson needs to blog more often. How else would I have found the U.K.-based Environmental Justice Foundation’s 2007 report, The Deadly Chemicals in Cotton? It’s a 40-pager, which may require more dedication than you currently have, but here is a sampling of the salient points, as outlined in the report’s Executive Summary.

  • Cotton is the world’s most important non-food agricultural commodity, yet it is responsible for the release of US$2 billion of chemical pesticides each year, within which at least US$819 million are considered toxic enough to be classified as hazardous by the World Health Organisation. Cotton accounts for 16% of global insecticide releases—more than any other single crop. Almost 1.0 kilogram of hazardous pesticides is applied for every hectare under cotton.
  • Between 1 and 3% of agricultural workers worldwide suffer from acute pesticide poisoning with at least 1 million requiring hospitalization each year, according to a report prepared jointly for the FAO, UNEP, and WHO. These figures equate to between 25 million and 77 million agricultural workers worldwide.
  • A single drop of the pesticide aldicarb, absorbed through the skin can kill an adult. Aldicarb is commonly used in cotton production and in 2003 almost 1 million kilos was applied to cotton grown in the USA. Aldicarb is also applied to cotton in 25 other countries worldwide.
  • Despite being particularly vulnerable to poisoning, child labourers throughout the world risk exposure to hazardous pesticides through participation in cotton production. In India and Uzbekistan children are directly involved in cotton pesticide application. While in Pakistan, Egypt, and Central Asia child labourers work in cotton fields either during or following the spraying season. Children are also often the first victims of pesticide poisonings, even if they do not participate to spraying, due to the proximity of their homes to cotton fields, or because of the re-use of empty pesticide containers.
  • Hazardous pesticides associated with global cotton production represent a substantial threat to global freshwater resources. Hazardous cotton pesticides are now known to contaminate rivers in USA, India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Brazil, Australia, Greece and West Africa. In Brazil, the world’s 4th largest consumer of agrochemicals, researchers tested rainwater for the presence of pesticides. 19 different chemicals were identified of which 12 were applied to cotton within the study area.

Wendy, herself, speaking at her church in New Jersey, made a product-information tag you’d never find on a T-shirt at Old Navy:

Made of 100% Cotton
Harvested by children as young as 7 in Uzbekistan where unemployment is near 70% and cotton workers are paid less than $7/month.

Children who fail to meet quota or pick poor quality cotton are punished by scoldings and beatings.

The processing of the cotton required 1/3 pound of concentrated pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers and 744 gallons of water.

Cotton fabric was processed with formaldehyde to reduce wrinkles and bleached with chlorine producing dioxin, a known carcinogen. It was then colored blue using chemical dyes that contained toxic heavy metals including chrome, copper and zinc.

Sewn in Cambodia, one of the world’s poorest countries, by Chenda, a 19-year-old seamstress working 80-hour weeks at 5 cents per hour.

The “death-trap” textile factory Chenda worked in was cramped, hot, often over 100 degrees with no fans and very little ventilation. The two doors were kept locked.

This t-shirt will need to be washed frequently at high temperatures and require tumble-drying and ironing. 60% of the carbon emissions generated by this simple cotton t-shirt will come from the approximately 25 washes and machine dryings it will require over its lifetime.



On humans, endosulfan can cause “convulsions, psychiatric disturbances, epilepsy, paralysis, brain oedema, impaired memory and death.” Spend too much time around it – like cotton growers in India and West Africa – and you run the risk of immuno suppression, neurological disorder, birth defects, chromosomal abnormalities, and significantly decreased mental capacity.

Aldicarb, a nerve agent, is one of the most toxic pesticides applied to cotton. A teaspoon on the skin is enough to kill an adult. Yet it is the second most used pesticide in cotton production.

For you and I, there are few if any horrific side-effects to those who wear cotton grown using pesticides, though studies show that hazardous pesticides can be detected in cotton clothing. Instead, a person who works with pesticides in a far flung country will get it in the neck. And in the chest. And in the bowels. And on the skin. And in the blood.

Endosulfan aerially sprayed on cashew nut plantations caused high levels of children born with severe deformities. Kerala, India. Photo Down to Earth Magazine, 2001.

Up to 99% of the world’s cotton growers live and work in the developing world. Cotton is grown as a smallholder crop by the rural poor and few can afford the protective chemical suits pesticide manufacturers say should be used with their products. Even if a suit is acquired, working for ten hours in a field in 40-degree heat and humidity in what is effectively a plastic bag doesn’t make for a happy farmer.

According to the World Health Organisation, 1 – 5 million cases of pesticide poisoning occur every year. Of that, 20,000 agricultural workers die and over a million require hospitalisation. Over 200,000 commit suicide.

Other culprits in the pesticide family include monocotophos and deltamethrin. Disgustingly, the former was withdrawn from the US market in 1989 as it can cause paralysis in children, but is still widely used in developing countries!!!. The latter is another nerve agent used in over half the world’s cotton producing countries. Medical analysis in a South African village near cotton farms found traces of deltamethrin in human breast milk.

Carlitos, child of farmworkers, born with birth defects attributable to pesticides (PBP). Source: Sarasota/Manatee Farmworker Supporters

Your typical $30 t-shirt will earn a non-organic farmer 15 cents, 9 cents of which will have to go towards buying pesticides. Going organic and learning how to manage beneficial insects in the field (the ones who kill the insects nasty to cotton crops) will eliminate the need to spend that 9 cents. These farmers are also encouraged to grow farm system crops that not only help maintain a healthy biodiversity on the farm but offer another means to increase their incomes.

UPDATE: As of 2010 – Bayer has stopped producing Endosulphan.  A statement from Bayer “We stopped the manufacture of endosulfan because it was no longer financially viable. A more efficient, and safer, alternative has emerged and we are focusing on that.”

Which is what……?

“Genetically modified cotton.”

Colorful Jellyfish!!! :)

Jellies are more popularly known as jellyfish or sea jellies.

Medusa is another word for jellyfish.

These are free-swimming invertabrate marine creatures found in every ocean. Here’s a list of a few colorful and unique species of sea jellies.

Mediterranean Jellyfish (Cotylorhiza tuberculata)

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This large and colorful species is truly captivating and is also informally called Fried Egg Jellyfish. It is commonly found in the Mediterranean Sea, Aegean Sea and Adriatic Sea.

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It can grow up to 35 cm in bell diameter. Its mouth-arms bifurcate near its base and branches several times. This beautiful sea jelly’s synonyms include Medusa tuberculata, Cassiopea borbonica, Cephea tuberculata and Cotylorhiza microtuberculata.

Spotted Jellyfish (Mastigias papua)

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The zooplankton-eater Spotted Jelly is also called Lagoon Jelly and lives mainly in the southern Pacific Ocean. Instead of one single mouth, they appear to have several smaller mouth openings in its oral arms!!!!   YIKES!!!

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Spotted Jellies are sold in Japan as novelty pets. This species is believed to have a lifespan of 4 months – perfect for fickle pet owners 😉

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Australian Spotted Jellyfish (Phyllorhiza punctata)

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The elegant-looking Australian Spotted Jellyfish or the White-spotted Jellyfish is native to the southwestern Pacific. It can grow up to 62 cm in bell diameter but in 2007, a 72 cm. wide, perhaps the largest ever recorded, was found on Sunset Beach, North Carolina.

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It has been found in large numbers in Gulf of Mexico and has also been found in the waters off the Hawaiian. The Australian Spotted Jellyfish has a mild sting which can be cured with vinegar. Salt water can be used as a last resort.

Big Red (Tiburonia granrojo)

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The amazing Granrojo or Big Red, a new species of jellyfish can grow up to 1 meter in bell diameter and is found throughout the Pacific Ocean.

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It is one of the largest sea jellies and unusual in a number of ways. It lives at ocean depths of between 600 and 1500 meters. The entire jellyfish is deep red in color.

Flower Hat Jellyfish (Olindias formosa)

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The lovely and pretty Flower Hat Jelly is a rare species occurring primarily in waters off Brazil, Argentina and Japan. It is characterized by lustrous tentacles that coil and adhere to its rim when not in use.

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Its bell is translucent and pinstriped with opaque bands, making it easily recognizable. It can grow up to 15 cm or 6 inches in diameter and feeds on small fish. Its sting is non-lethal but painful.

Mauve Stinger (Pelagia noctiluca)

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The beautiful Mauve Stinger is widely distributed in all warm and temperate waters of the world’s oceans, including the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea and Atlantic Ocean. It is also found in the Pacific Ocean. Aside from mauve or pink, its color also varies from golden yellow to tan.

Image Source In an unprecedented event on November 21, 2007, an enormous 10-square-mile (26 km2) swarm of billions of these jellyfish wiped out a 100,000-fish salmon farm in Northern Ireland.

Nomurai’s Jellyfish (Nemopilema nomurai)

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This large Japanese species called Nomurai’s Jellyfish is in the same size class as the Lion’s Mane Jellyfish, the largest jellyfish in the world. It grows up to 2 meters or 6 feet 7 inches in diameter and weighs up to 220 kilograms or about 450 pounds. It is endemic to the Yellow Sea and East China Sea.

Compass Jellyfish (Chrysaora hysoscella)

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The fascinating Compass Jellyfish is a very common species that lives in coastal waters near the UK. It has a bell diameter of up to 30 cm.

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It has 24 tentacles that are arranged in eight groups of three. It is usually colored yellowish white, with some brown.

Stinging Sea Nettle (Chrysaora quinquecirrha)

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The Stinging Sea Nettle may refer to the Atlantic Sea Nettle or East Coast Sea Nettle, a common coastal species found along the west coast of North America from California to Alaska. Its sting is not particularly harmful but can cause moderate discomfort to any individual stung. The sting can be effectively neutralized by misting vinegar over the affected area. Sea nettles have become popular exhibits in many public aquariums, and have been instrumental in educating the public about the mysterious beauty of swimming jellyfishes.

Cannonball Jellyfish (Stomolophus meleagris)

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The Cannonball Jellyfish’s informal name is derived from its similarity to a cannonball in shape and size. Its dome-shaped bell can reach 25 cm or 10 inches in diameter and the rim is sometimes colored with brown pigment.

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Beneath its body is a cluster of oral arms that extend out around the mouth. These arms function as a way of propulsion and aid in catching prey. Cannonballs are prominent from North America’s eastern seaboard all the way down to Brazil.

Pacific Sea Nettle (Chrysaora fuscescens)

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This species is generally referred to as the Pacific Sea Nettle or the West Coast Sea Nettle commonly found in the Pacific Ocean. Diameter of the bell can be greater than 1 meter or 3 feet. The long, complicated, spiraling oral arms and the 24 tentacles may trail up to 4.6 meters or 15 feet behind the bell.

Purple Striped Jelly (Chrysaora colorata)

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The pretty Purple-striped Jelly exists primarily off the coast of California. This lovely sea jelly can grow up to 70 cm in bell diameter typically with a radial pattern of stripes. The tentacles vary with the age of the individual, consisting typically of eight marginal long dark arms, and four central frilly oral arms.