Reblog from O.G.I.

Comprehensive Consultancy

“Green Roofs: Financial Benefits of Going Green”

by Alexander Babikian, Project Manager for O.G.I.’s Green City Project 

An idea with roots in Europe, green roofing, is beginning to grow in the USA.  This idea challenges the common notion that the forest ends where the city begins, and that the roof on top of each building can provide nothing other than protection from the elements.  Green (vegetated) roofs will bring enormous economic and environmental benefits to the pioneering buildings and cities who decide to take advantage of the acres upon acres of unused land right above their heads.  The roofs come in “intensive” and “extensive” forms, extensive being very low or no-maintenance grassy vegetation, and intensive being potentially higher-maintenance and supporting of larger vegetation, including even trees.  The two green roof options can differ visually and in initial set-up and maintenance costs, but will both provide the following economical and…

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From the O.G.I. blog

Comprehensive Consultancy

“Solar Roofs: The Benefits Outweigh the Costs”
by Michael Bologna, Lead Project Manager for Green City Project of O.G.I.


Obviously, there are a number of considerations to take into account when deciding if Solar Energy is an appropriate route for your business, home, or organization.

Monetary considerations are abundant, as there are each of the following to look at (and more!):

·         -Initial and long term cost of installation location

·         -Opportunity cost for usage of installation location

·         -Value of location with installation of solar equipment

·         -Cost of solar equipment

·         -Cost of installation

·         -Cost of maintenance

·         -Monthly energy cost savings or loss

·         -Availability and concentration of solar light

·         -Environmental benefits

      I’m sure you right now are thinking of additional benefits or deterrents to Solar Energy in the area of your responsibility. I would like to take a moment to address…

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Good article…

Comprehensive Consultancy

“Venezuela and the Crisis of Chavez’ Passing”
by Manfred Schweitzer, published by O.G.I

With Chavez’ death on March 5, the constitution calls for elections to be held within 30 days, by April 4 at the latest. Elections may or may not be held by that date, as constitutional requirements in Venezuela are somewhat flexible – a good indicator will be if Deosdado Cabello, the head of the National Assembly, becomes interim President, as the Constitution requires, or if Executive Vice-President Nicholas Maduro, retains power while running for President as Chavez’ designated successor. The prospects for elections depends on the regime’s calculus – on the one hand the sympathy for Chavez will be at its strongest over the near term, on the other hand, the regime, never secure to begin with, has never been more uneasy and paranoid than at present. Much also depends on the dynamic between two main…

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“Venezuela and the Crisis of Chavez’ Passing” by Manfred Schweitzer, published by O.G.I.

So its a Sunday afternoon, and I find myself pondering what it means to be family. I know my own is probably considered dysfunctional and I am so glad my daughters seem to be doing so well academically, socially, and physically.

With these little angels I find it difficult to hold back and avoid filling their heads with my own ideas about life; I want them to decide for themselves what they think, what they believe, what is right or wrong. But I do try to instill a deep sense of loyalty in them for each other. Frankly, and despite my continuing love for them and my hope that they will always love me,I could care less what they think of me or their mothers, or anyone else for that matter, because at the end of the day they will have each other for much longer than I will be around. They fight and play, they attack each other but always come to each others defense against any outsider. Even me. If I so much as scare one of them (as often happens after we’ve watched zombie movies together) and chase her around the house, the other two are likely to jump on my back and begin punching me in the face, putting me to sleep with a blood choke, and making me regret all the grappling and boxing I put them in.

With such beautiful and independent minds as theirs, I strained to find a simple but complete philosophy-a mantra if you will-something that they could repeat and understand everyday, and something that with time they could understand every part of it in a deeper sense. Something that would not be controversial, or indoctrinating, something that leaves them free to form their own ideas and still be good, happy girls:

-Be Nice
-Be Smart
-Be Strong

From The Golden Rule, to humanitarian work, to being diplomatic in a conflict between friends, to being the one to invite the underdog to your cafeteria table, its all there in two words: be nice.

Intellectually expand your mind. Academically achieve. Think about and evaluate claims, decisions, stories, and information. Know what to do in a crisis or at a dinner party. All of that is encompassed in these two words: be smart

Have confidence in yourself; know your limits and exceed them. Physical, mental, and emotional fitness are critical to your overall well-being. That and so much more can be understood in these two words: be strong

Our children are our most precious resource and I doubt that any of us always treats them as such. I sincerely hope that we can leave them in a better state then we have found ourselves and give them the power to make the world a better place for themselves, for others, and for future generations.

I was asked to write the following column for a community newsletter:

April 22nd of 2012 will be marked by the celebration of Earth Day. Recognized as International Mother Earth Day by the United Nations since 2009, this celebration of our little blue island in the vastness of space started in 1970 under the guidance of U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson. In an effort to galvanize support for environmental and conservation policies Senator Nelson encouraged grassroots level organization, bringing together communities and their concerns locally; and the support for a global environmental movement grew exponentially. The very first Earth Day in the US on April 22nd of 1970 saw the participation of perhaps hundreds of thousands of students and perhaps millions of Americans in peaceful demonstrations for the support of environmental reform.

Today Earth day is celebrated throughout the world in more than 175 countries, coordinated by the nonprofit organization Earth Day Network, possibly by over a half billion people each year. As environmental research has become more widely available, a growing number of people around the world, from the humblest farmer to the richest entrepreneur, are joining the millions of voices asking for policies that ensure the future of the natural world around us and thus ensure the very survival of our species itself. The quality of our air, the production of crops and the availability of animal food sources are highly dependent on the richness and quality of our environment as a whole. And it seems that the very beauty of our world, which we enjoy in our travels or even at home, is something worth preserving.

While we weigh the costs and benefits of alternative energies, or of environmental protection policies against the immediate needs of every human being, we must ask ourselves what kind of impact our decisions and actions will have not only during our lifetimes but our children’s and the generations that follow them. If we do not consider the consequences of population growth and sustainability, we not only leave future generations on the edge of continual conflict over diminishing resources but the momentum of our actions now may destroy or preserve much of the natural world that we have enjoyed in our own lives. Who among us can say that the forests in which we have walked should be cut down or that the smog of the city is worth breathing? Can we, or our progeny, afford to be ambivalent?

No matter your nationality, religion, philosophy or life stance, there is responsibility that comes with the privileges of intelligence and civilization: if we are to survive and flourish, then we can no longer consider ourselves the masters of this world and its creatures. We are its stewards, its keepers, and should act accordingly for there is no other life on this earth with the power to destroy or preserve its beauty.

Today, I had the unique privilege, thanks to my work, of attending the “Baghdad eye: Human Rights Film Festival” at the University of Baghdad. In an auditorium full of eccentric and enthusiastic students, we watched quietly as filmmakers presented their work from around Iraq and the around the world.

The morning started off with Cory Taylor’s film on the Czech Republic’s Velvet Revolution of 1989, “The Power of the Powerless;” and though it might seem odd to some that films from other countries would be shown in a place like Iraq which has plenty of contemporary examples of human rights issues, I realized that by showing these films from around the world to all these passionate young intellectuals, one might hope to inspire them by giving them an outside view and new ideas to follow or emulate. The film showed the power of nonviolent resistance, something which could make all the difference in the lives of these students and in making changes within their own country.

The films that followed, “Speak Your Mind” by Emad Ali and “Sing Your Song” by Omar Falah, were great examples of the obstacles, often violent ones, faced by musicians and journalists in Iraq. Stories of death threats, dead friends, local censorship by provincial counsels but despite all that there is a will to bring back the culture and heritage being smothered by ignorance and bigotry. And despite the risks there is a will to continually work towards transparency and true freedom of speech.

In my line of work and past experience there is a part of me that is cynical about the resolve of many people in the developing world to improve their lives and those of others, but during these few hours I did see a few who are willing to meet the challenge and hold out hope for a better future for themselves and those around them.


Science-Based Life

Thankfully, we have researchers for even those “how many blades of grass on the lawn?” kind of questions.

The answer comes to us from NASA:

Specifically aimed at determining how much carbon is stored in the nation’s forests, the photograph below represents the density of organic carbon around the country.

From the researchers:

Josef Kellndorfer and Wayne Walker of the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) recently worked with colleagues at the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Geological Survey to create such an inventory for the United States. The map above was built from the National Biomass and Carbon Dataset (NBCD), released in 2011. It depicts the concentration of biomass—a measure of the amount of organic carbon—stored in the trunks, limbs, and leaves of trees. The darkest greens reveal the areas with the densest, tallest, and most robust forest growth.

Complied over six years, the data that represents this photo…

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Good posting on VAW (Violence Against Women)

Armed RevolutioKnits

I recently read an article by Newsweek about a mother in Canada who murdered her three daughters for being too “westernized.”  The question that has been haunting me ever since is, what could bring a mother to kill her own daughters, never mind three of them.  About a week and a half ago, the Armed RevolutioKnits yarn-bombed the 5Cs to spread awareness about violence against women (VAW).  While I do hope that our tags spread awareness about VAW, as well as increased dialogue about the issue, I feel I still need to address a question that I’ve been reflecting on: If VAW is acknowledged by many to be a violation of not only women’s rights, but also human rights, what is the reasoning behind those fervently defending various forms of VAW?

VAW affects females in all spectrums, irrespective of race, age, class, beliefs, values, or region.  Furthermore, it impacts more…

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It is common to see an article related to women’s rights, or a lack there of, in the news and rss feeds today; so-called “honor” killings, female genital mutilation, sex trafficking, and child marriage are all common place in regions such as the Middle East, Africa, Southern Asia and Eastern Europe. Some of these horrible crimes are also prevalent within Central and South America along with the heinous crime of rape, incest and child molestation. Often such crimes are kept quiet or swept under the family rug.

Even in developed nations there are individuals and groups of people that still adhere to such “traditions” as if their beliefs gave them rights over the law. It is pitiful to see such prevalence of abuse of women and girls and the detrimental effect it has on entire societies and nations. Time and again a key factor in the advancement of a nation or its people depends so much on the status of women and girls within that society. Or one could say that a key indicator of an advancing nation or an advanced nation is the status of women and girls within it.

But within states where the subjugation of women is written into law as it is practiced, how often do we make an excuse such as that it is their “culture” or “religion” or “tradition” or simply “their country”? Is it really the choice of the women and girls involved in such practices? The answer is a resounding NO. There are so many movements and so many causes that we do not give direct support to, that fight for the emancipation and equal rights of the female sex within these cultures and societies. Only recently has there been a focus on law enforcement against sex trafficking and a much needed increase in funding to fight the traffickers in some parts of the world. Thanks to heroes, such as Siddharth Kara whose efforts to expose the prevalence and weaknesses of the sex trafficking business, I believe, have been vital to combating it.

What about the “honor” killings, the lack of education, and child marriage when it comes to young girls? Why would we support nations that make allowances for, or barely prosecute men who would kill or imprison a woman for the “crime” of being gang raped? I believe that we, the citizens of the developed world, have as much an obligation to promote and fight for the freedom of all women, not just all men.

This is one of the reasons I served in the military, and fought in Afghanistan; the freedom of women throughout the region and the world should be considered as noble a cause for intervention as the freedom of ethnicities and tribes from the oppression of a regime. If we have stood idly by as millions of women have been brutalized in the name of culture or religion and yet supported small militant groups of the marginalized minorities in the name of freedom, then I am ashamed.

So often I look at what we have sacrificed for so many years and yet the same horrible abuses of women and girls goes on. Many of these abuses or even a secondary status for women are written into the laws even of the very countries that we went to free from “oppression.” We cannot allow ourselves the excuse that it is their culture any more than abolitionists of mid 19th century America could make the excuse that it was the culture of the plantation owners to keep slaves.

It has been shown time and again that for a country, a society or a people to advance, women and girls must be given equal status, control over their bodies, access to education, and must be protected under the law from the abuses of men and the “cultures” that would enslave them.