Getting Gassy and All Fueled Up!

Dearest Poopers,

In nature, there is no such thing as waste. To have an ecosystem means that all the organisms present are balancing each other out, providing for one another so that every problem has an equal and opposite solution.

There's a gallon of rotting cabbage on my kitchen counter right now--a little delicacy called Sauerkraut. Guided by Sandor Ellix Katz' Wild Fermentation, I bravely chopped up a mess of cabbage, green onion, carrots and their tops, added water and salt, shoved the whole thing in a crock with a another one on top. That was last Monday night.

Click the pic for a Scientific American article about the dangers of antibiotics and bacterial extinction.

Now I've got a little ecosystem going in my kitchen, thriving with healthy bacteria that are predigesting the cabbage for me, freeing up nutrients my body couldn't otherwise access. The healthy Lactobacilli that came from somewhere in my kitchen will become a part of my body, an ecosystem (officially called the human microbiome) that already contains approximately 100 trillion bacteria living symbiotically with my 10 trillion cells--that's a 10:1 bacteria to human ratio. The approximately 500 species in my gut are so helpful in the digestive process that, according to a nicely footnoted Wikipedia article, "the metabolic activity performed by these bacteria is equal to that of a virtual organ, leading to gut bacteria being termed a forgotten' organ.[24]"

For more information check out this great Science Daily article about how decoding the microbiome might play a role in health and illness. You can also read the latest news from The Human Microbiome Project, a federal initiative to map the microbiome.

These ecosystems just go to show that for every problem there's an equal and opposite solution. To that end, I am pleased to announce two news items in this fashion!

PROBLEM A

New York's Riverkeeper released an important report yesterday revealing that, though the Hudson is getting healthier, there's still has a long way to go. In the words of Riverkeeper Boat Captain John Lipscomb, "We still have a significant problem with sewage contamination. The recent 200+ million gallon sewage spill in New York City is only a minor part of widespread contamination that regularly occurs in the Hudson.” I encourage you to check out the Riverkeeper website to read more about this eye-opening report, or listen to the audio explanation.

      SOLUTION A

The ultimate solution will mean that what goes down NYC's pipes during a rainstorm doesn't flow back unchecked into the river. In the meantime, it might be nice for swimmers, kayakers and river walkers to at least know when it's happening. You can help make this so! Sign this petition to join Riverkeeper, New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat and New York State Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti in calling for a Sewage Right to Know Law for New York so that the public can be  properly informed about where and when it is safe to get in the water.

PROBLEM B

I've recently been going to protests and meetings about the dangers of hyrdraulic fracturing, or "fracking." While there's tons of natural gas lying underneath the ground, current fracking technology is unsafe, requires millions of gallons of water that must be dumped after, and has the potential to contaminate the water we depend on for drinking (and flushing, but that wasteful practice is a whole other post). When I go to these events, I've been struck by the inherent dilemma--yes, fracking is a bad way to get energy and, yes, our energy consumption is out of control. So if we're going to say "No!" to fracking, but can we say "Yes!" to?

SOLUTION B

Sunday, 8/14, at 2pm The MORE Project presents a FREE screening of Josh Fox's Gasland, an expose on fracking, followed  at 4pm by Fuel the Film, all about exciting new possibilities for energy. A discussion with The Puru will follow and the beer will surely flow over at Pour George on 8th btwn 5th and 6th Aves, because there's nothing like alcohol and documentary films! Full details just below.

Now I've gotta go. It's sauerkraut hour.

Peaceful pooping,

Shawn "The Puru" Shafner

2 Great FREE films – Sunday 14-Aug-2011 at 2 PM in NYC

The M.O.R.E. project is proud to present a ‘fair use’ screening of TWO outstanding films on Sunday 14-Aug-2011. There is NO admission fee! A ‘fair use’ screening must be FREE!

The two award winning films are “Gasland” at 2 PM, and “Fuel” around 4 PM. They will be shown in the back room of a great bar in Greenwich Village called “Pour George” at 35 West 8th St, New York, NY 10011 / (212) 253-2999. That's just East of 6th Ave.  Take the N/R to 8th Street, the 6 to Astor Place, or the A/C/E to West 4th St.

“Gasland” by Josh Fox explores the truly deadly consequences of extracting natural gas by the process called hydraulic fracturing aka “fracking”. This process has reportedly already contaminated drinking water in 34 states and unless we block it, fracking will soon start in areas whose water feeds New York City.

People are being sickened and killed by fracking all over the country, but the laws that are supposed to protect us have been bypassed by Halliburton and other large companies.

Josh F’s courageous film digs deep into what fracking is, what it does, how it kills, and who profits from (literally) ‘making a killing’…

“Fuel” is the story of Josh Tickell, filmmaker and eco-evangelist, who spent eleven years exploring real-world energy alternatives to oil, coal, and natural gas. He put his findings into his film along with his brave spirit (as did Josh Fox).

Josh T found that there ARE real ways to create power that do not poison the Earth and all the living beings who share it.  In his film, he explores energy creation from wind, solar, tidal and biofuel power sources.  He also makes a fantastic case for biodiesel fuel created by algae from sewage and industrial waste. 

If you are coming to the event, please RSVP, John Hechtman at jhecht410@gmail.com. You don’t have to do this – as long as we have space to seat you, no one will be turned away. But Pour George is not a large place – it would be very helpful to have a rough idea of how many people are coming.  For more info call  212 586 4633.

Pooping Is Not a Crime

Dearest Poopers, First off, there's still room for YOU to join us this Saturday, 7/30 at 7:30pm for a rooftop screening of Gasland! Read the original post to learn more or just go express track and and RSVP here! And now for the news...

Pooping is not a crime. Dumping poo in the river is. So said your trusty Puru via cardboard and marker yesterday at the rally held by New York Senator Adriano Espaillat. While there have been many individuals and organization (like Riverkeeper and the SWIM Coalition) hounding the city and state for years to provide adequate signage in the event of a CSO, perhaps the Senator's rallying cry will put a stop to this heel-dragging on the part of those responsible, and get this thing moving. (By the way, you can see a cool video showing how scientists think the spilled sewage was moving through New York's waters from the fantastic SeaAndSkyNY.)

In case you missed it, you can learn more about yesterday's rally in this great article at DNAinfo (in which the above picture and some of my own comments are featured), or take in a short video about it from NY1 (in which I am not featured).

All the best, and peaceful pooping.

Shawn "The Puru" Shafner

Rally Against NYC Sewage Dumping TOMORROW

Dearest Poopers, If you live in New York City, you've probably heard by now of Wednesday's explosion and fire at the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant. Oh, you know! The one that was spewing untreated sewage out into the Hudson until Friday evening (around 120 million gallons)? If this is news to you, check out this New York Times article. Perhaps most concerning is the discrepancy between tests conducted by the DEP and Riverkeeper, an independent watchdog for water safety and health. They were looking to see whether bacteria that normally live in our intestines (that little cutie down below) had moved en masse to riverfront property. And the answer was yes. Yes it had. From the Times:

On Saturday, Riverkeeper said that Thursday’s samples at 6 of 16 test locations in the Hudson, from the Tappan Zee Bridge down to New York City’s Battery, had unsafe counts ranging from 132 to 104,620 per 100 milliliters. “The concentrations near the discharge points were much higher than usual, comparable to the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek,” Dr. O’Mullan [of Riverkeeper] said.

Gowanus and Newtown, among the most contaminated bodies of water in the nation, were both declared federal Superfund sites last year and are to undergo decade-long cleanups.

The city’s own sampling Thursday showed much lower concentrations because the testing is done at beaches and in the center of the river, Mr. Sklerov [of the Environmental Protection Department] said.

Here's the problem (well, one problem): beachcombers are not the only ones who need to be told to stay ashore when sewage has been released into NYC water. There are boathouses up and down NYC's waterways. There are fishermen who live off of what they catch every day. There are even brave folk who swim in these waters without ever stepping foot on a public beach. And there are 2 billion gallons of effluent (washed down by 25 more billion gallons of wastewater--normally rain or snowmelt) coming out of large pipes around the city every year in what's called a Combined Sewer Overflow, or CSO. (You can find tons more information on this from the SWIM Coalition--and be sure to check out this swell factsheet.)

Eventually, the city needs to figure out an alternative to dumping untreated sewage into the river every time it rains or snows too much and the city's wastewater treatment plants can't handle the capacity. Until then, an effective notification system would at least help to mitigate the danger. Plenty of other cities have them (see this compendium, again from SWIM), so why not the Big Apple?

To that effect...

I look forward to seeing you there!  And till then, peaceful pooping.

Shawn "The Puru" Shafner