Our sainted mother was many things, but a spendthrift she was not, especially when it came to Halloween costumes for her kids.

One year, she painstakingly sewed little devil costumes for all three of her boys, only to have her handywork undone by the Ohio weather, which necessitated that we don heavy winter coats over her red satin masterpieces.

After that, it was pretty much whatever could be thrown together on the cheap and on the fly.

There were ghosts (old bedsheets), hobos (old clothes and charcoal smudges on the face), pirates (like the hobo, but with eyepatch and  bandana) and army guy (dad’s fatigues).

One year though we begged for something that might actually place in the school costume contest.

She went to the garage and picked out an old moving box. She cut out holes for our arms and neck and then painted it black.

Then she stenciled on a block letter epitaph:

Here lies a cowboy/Strong and tough/He shot fast/But not fast enough

She added birth and death years from the 1800s, stapled a few weeds onto the sides and voila, we went as a tombstone for Halloween.

Won first place in both our neighborhood contest and the school contest, which sadly was the pinnacle of our academic achievement.

Little did we know, but Mom’s recycling effort was probably our first green Halloween costume.

Too bad she couldn’t be here to see it become all the rage.

Our friends at The Daily Green have a whole slide show with recycled costume ideas. Some are pretty novel,  like the Babyman above. And most, like the batwings made from from broken umbrellas, aren’t nearly as elaborate. Others though, like the two samurai costumes, look like they could run into some time. And we’re not really sure how green one of those is, given that it requires you to cut up several perfectly good Rubbermaid trash cans.

A lot of other sites have cool stuff too. In fact, there’s a whole website called greenhalloween.org, and Treehugger.com has some pretty useful tips as well. And this site suggests that you go as Mother Nature, with a white gown, a flower necklace and a garland in your hair. They recommend you use crutches or a sling, and when people ask you about it, you can reply that people haven’t been treating Mother Nature kindly.

A nice sentiment, but we’d probably have to shave our legs to pull it off, and we’re far too lazy for that.

So we’ll probably just stick with our original idea: Invisible ninja. If you don’t see someone at your door, it’s probably us.

— John D’Anna


So even if you don’t care about the polar bears or the guy in the Maldives whose whole country is about to get swamped, or the melting glaciers or disintegrating ice shelfs or the killer hurricanes or any of that other stuff, here’s why you should care about climate change.

It’ll cost you more to get hammered.

Last month, a scientist in the Czech Republic (motto: Like Czechoslovakia but easier to spell) reported that climate change is adversely affecting both the quality and the quantity of the hops they grow there for their fine Pilsners.

According to a report in Discovery.com, Martin Mozny,  a climatologist at the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute and Bar and Grill, studied weather patterns, crop yields and the acid levels of the delicate Saaz hops, which make the best Pilsners. His team looked at data from1954 t0 2006 and determined that  acid levels had dropped 0.06  percent every year. To maintain their bitter taste, hops need to contain alpha acid levels at a certain percent, but Mozny’s team found that the levels are dropping dramatically and predicted it’s only going to get worse because of continually rising temperatures in the Czech Republic as well as parts of Germany and Slovakia.

But it’s not just beer.

For several years, the French have been complaining about the quality of the wines they’re getting from certain regions and how the woeful grape yields are driving up the cost. In fact, Greenpeace just released a huge report saying basically the same thing the Czechs found, but with wine.

“The average annual temperature (in wine-growing regions) has significantly increased, leading to major shifts in the wine production calendar. The harvesting season is occurring much earlier than normal and higher temperatures are proving detrimental to the vines,” the report says. “Wines end up having higher sugar levels and alcohol content while retaining less acids – which means they are unbalanced with an overripe flavour and heavier texture.”

Now we know what you’re thinking — who cares about the French? We feel the same way, although that Carla Bruni is quite the dish. What’s she doing with that dopey Sarkozy guy anyway?

But the point is it’s not just France and the Czech Republic or even Europe. There’s a reason they call it global warming.

Which brings us to Mexico.

Several studies have shown that tequila production is a nasty business and creates a pretty big environmental mess — and that’s before you drink it. Basically, it takes 10 gallons of water to produce one gallon of tequila. Much of that water is then discharged back into the environment, along with the used agave pulp, which emits a putrid oil. It’s not treated as wastewater before it’s discharged back into the water table, which has created a pollution nightmare for the indigenous people who try to make a living farming the land.

So what’s that got to do with climate change? To begin with, tequila is made in a desert environment that can ill afford to contaminate its very finite water supply. And like grapes and hops, agave plants depend on certain levels of acidity in the soil and stable annual weather patterns.Yet increasing droughts and desertification from climate change is changing the quality and quantity of the crop yields.

So what can we do about it? There’s the usual baby steps — walk more, drive less, compact fluorescent bulbs. But the big thing you can do is go to 350.org and participate in the worldwide call to action on climate change Oct. 24.  You can also sign a sort of virtual petition calling upon our leaders to address the climate crisis.

The number 350 represents the parts per million of atmospheric carbon dioxide that most scientists say we need to get to before we can stabilize our changing climate and head off the violent storms, melted ice caps and floating polar bear carcasses that will almost certainly be the consequence of doing nothing. Currently we’re at about 390 — before the Industrial Revolution, it was 280.

And we here in the U.S. are among the largest greenhouse gas belchers in the world, even though we represent a small portion of the world’s population. 

In December world leaders will gather in Copenhagen to negotiate a global response to climate change.

Today is international Blog Action Day, and we’re proud to be joining writers around the world in asking our readers to take action.

Some folks say there’s nothing to worry about. We respectfully disagree. We’ve been writing on this issue for a while now. We’ve interviewed some of the smartest people in the business and read their research. We don’t pretend to know everything, but we’ve seen enough disinformation and hidden financial motives from the deniers to set our B.S. detectors to DefCon 5.

But don’t take our word for it. Do your own research. And after you do, go to 350.org and send a message to our leaders that you care about our planet, that you’re tired of the way big oil companies are ruining our environment. And tell them that if our politicians are going to continue to drive us to drink, we at least want something better than Sterno.

— John D’Anna

CCU Cover

Quiz time.

Astroturf is:

A) A type of artificial playing surface that looks or feels nothing like real grass.

B) A particularly potent strain of marijuana.

C) A cynical professionally run public relations campaign designed to appear as though it’s a grass-roots movement — kind of like what Fox News did with their orchestrated teabagger parties.

If you guessed all of the above, go to the head of the class.

If you didn’t guess C), then you need to read the new book on “astroturfing” by our friends over DeSmogBlog.

Written by 35-year PR veteran Jim Hoggan, Climate Cover Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming shows how slimy PR firms have been creating fake grassroots campaigns and bankrolling third-party groups to attack climate change science, keep the oil flowing and basically undermine democracy.

We’ve written before about people like Marc Morano, former lackey of Sen. James Inhoffe, R-Big Oil, who now runs Climatedepot.com, a climate-change denier website.

We’ve also written about Jim Sims of the benignly named Western Business Roundtable, which purports to be an organization of CEOs around the West, but which is really just a slick front for the oil and gas industry.

These guys will do almost anything to get people to believe that global warming is a hoax so that their own oil money spigot never gets turned off.

If you want to read Hoggan’s book, we’d suggest you check you local non-chain bookstore. In the meantime, here’s a video to whet your appetite.

In the meantime, if you can’t find a copy, we’ll give you a chance to win one.

Since we started with a quiz, we’ll end with one, courtesy of the folks at DeSmogblog.  First one to answer all three questions in the comment section wins:

Q: The American Petroleum Institute increased its lobbying budget by what percent in the second quarter of 2009, relative to 2008?


Q: How many lobbyists representing the Oil and Gas industry were registered in the US in 2008?


Q: What percent of American energy demand is filled by renewable energy sources?


Post your answers in the comment section before Oct. 15, and we’ll mail you your copy.

— John D’Anna