400 penguins dead

Auntie Ruth is green to the eco scene. Read up each week as she weeds through the dirt and unearths new gems of environmental knowledge.

Here’s something to consider as the Olympics approach. Auntie Ruth almost fell out of her seat when she read that California burns through more gasoline per year than China, India or Russia. The California Energy Commission’s State Alternative Fuels Plan, which was posted online last December, reported that Californians use up 20 billion gallons of gasoline each year, while other sources report that the Chinese went through 19.7 billion gallons last year. Sure, China’s gasoline consumption is expected to rise and eventually surpass California’s, but Ruth is shocked that 36 million Californians use more gas than China’s 1.3 billion people.

Beachgoers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, were in for a shock the past few months as they witnessed hundreds of dead baby penguins wash up onshore. Swept from Antarctica and Patagonia, more than 400 dead penguins have been found on Rio do Janeiro’s beaches. Although not unusual for live and dead penguins to be swept in by ocean currents, officials said they have never seen so many dead in such a short amount of time. A biologist at Federal University thinks that climate change has influenced rapidly fluctuating weather patterns that may be altering ocean currents resulting in more dangerous seas. Because most of the dead penguins are young, he suggested that they had recently left their nest in search of food and were unable to battle the strong currents.

Auntie Ruth was out shopping at the farmers’ market last week when her favorite local florist shared some good news: The Los Angeles City Council recently voted to ban plastic foam at all city-owned facilities by 2009 and to ban plastic bags in the city by June 2010. The council hopes to reduce the staggering 2.3 billion plastic bags the city uses each year. The bag ban, however, won’t take effect if the state passes Assembly Bill 2058, which would impose a 25 cent fee on all bags requested by customers at large groceries and pharmacies. Ruth thinks the state’s plan would be better for the environment. She remembers when megaretailer Ikea reported a 92 percent drop in plastic-bag use after customers were charged only 5 cents per bag.