Friday, December 24, 2010

Grow Your Own

How To Avoid Flesh Eating Ghouls In The 21st Century
(Or, was that How to avoid becoming a flesh eating ghoul in the 21st Century?)

by Paul E. McGinniss

In Case of Zombies Photo via

In the wonderfully bleak post-apocalyptic film, "The Road", an endearing father and son team travel a barren landscape trying to stay alive.

Miracle of Miracles - the father & son characters in the film, "The Road", manage to find what is apparently the last can of Coke left on earth. (A surely nutritious meal to get up the energy necessary to fight off the cannibals.) Photo via IMDB

One of the biggest fears the ragged, dirty and hungry duo have is being eaten by packs of well-armed, low-life cannibals who eat human flesh because, apparently, all other sources of food are gone.

The Father & Son in "The Road" hiding from very hungry cannibals. Photo via IMDB

In the darkly sunny Denzel Washington film, "The Book of Eli", a similar post-Armageddon scenario unfolds with lack of food and cannibalism also running themes.

Two characters (foreground) from "The Book Of Eli" decide to abruptly leave the remote house of what appeared to be a nice old couple when they find out the old couple planned to eat them. Photo via IMDB

Apparently, the dystopian world of the future doesn't include being able to feed yourself, even meagerly. When the inevitable dystopian breakdown of central services occurs, we are left hungry, unable to fend for ourselves. (Just like most of us had to do, not so long ago.)

Luckily, just as I was getting severely depressed about the state of our future dystopia, I watched a marathon session of the delicious series, "The Walking Dead", on cable's AMC.

Hot hunk, good cop and former pizza delivery boy run from the hungry ghouls in "The Walking Dead."

In "The Walking Dead" nightmare future, also involving yet another version of flesh eating ghouls and lack of food, a small group of feisty, still civilized survivors manage to fish and feed themselves off the land without resorting to cannibalism. Albeit, their food growing skills are minimal and leave a lot to be desired, especially since they need to spend so much time making sure they are not eaten by the virus-infected, living-dead cannibals.

Another hunky cop in "The Walking Dead" cooking up some non human flesh meal.

SO, here are some things we ALL need to do to prepare ourselves for whatever the future might include, or not include, such as takeout food or the inevitable flesh eating ghouls that are sure to pop up one way or another:

*Watch "The Road", "The Book of Eli" and "The Walking Dead" to get yourself motivated to have a happy, greener, non-human-flesh-eating future.

*Proclaim 2011 as the "Year of Growing Your Own" and make a vow to discover ways to grow some kind of food, somewhere, whether it be on the barbed wire enclosed roof or in other protected areas free from ghouls.
(Perhaps a local, preferably well-armed, CSA farm would do.)

*Start a seed library
to save and store securely as many kind of seeds as possible so you will not be limited in your choice of chow after civilization collapses and all the Zagat guides are burned for fuel.)

*Get some renewable energy of some kind to power your house and grow lights.
(I am not sure of the best kind of renewable power to use if there is some kind of nuclear or volcano induced winter, but I will get back you on that issue asap.)

Happy New Year Everyone! Looking forward to a great 2011!

Copyright 2011 Paul E. McGinniss

PS: No, I am NOT a communist, but everyone should check out Roger Doiron from Kitchen Gardeners International as he talks about the urban food revolution born out of dire necessity in Havana, Cuba. I saw Roger accept an award at the Daily Green's Heart of Green Awards ceremony a few years back and he is someone to keep an eye on.

Havana Homegrown: Inside Cuba's Urban Agriculture Revolution from Kitchen Gardeners on Vimeo.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Check Out My Q & A With The Daily Green's Brian Clark Howard That Was Posted On Green Real Estate Daily

Brian Clark Howard is a multimedia journalist, editor, writer and photographer based in New York City and Connecticut. He is a web editor at The Daily Green, part of Hearst Digital Media. I've gotten to know Brian over the years, having run into him at everything from Green Drinks NYC events to the awesome Greener Gadgets conferences in Manhattan and Earth Day happenings around the Big Green Apple.

Brian is the co-author of several recent books including "Green Lighting" and "Geothermal HVAC" from McGraw-Hill (2010). I recently spoke with Brian about his new books and some other things!

Here's a link to the Q & A on the Green Real Estate Daily

Click on the video below which was shot & edited by Brian Clark Howard. The video was done with blogger and host, Olivia Zaleski, and is a behind-the-scenes tour of the NYC set for the Project Earth Day Fashion Show which took place in 2007. It's very cool!

The above video, filmed by Brian Clark Howard with Olivia Zaleski as host and Starre Vartan as producer, was recorded the night before the fashion show. Check it out to hear from some of the designers who showed their designs and to learn about the sustainable aspects of the show’s set design. Please click on video to see full frame. Video Courtesy Eco-Chick.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Report From Woodstock Film Festival: Is Eco Film Helping Trigger a Revolution of Renewable Thinking?

The Film panel entitled "Environmentally Speaking – Improving Our Planet with the Power of Film" shows us how the film world is making a difference

by Paul McGinniss

I was excited to attend the recent Woodstock Film Festival(WFF). I was also lucky to spend some time talking with Brian Geldin of Film Panel Notetaker and Brian Geldin Public Relations, the co-organizer of the "Environmentally Speaking" film panel. The panel gathered some of the film industry's leading voices to talk about the power of film to make an impact in the arena of environmental action. The event was moderated by Lydia Dean Pilcher, President of Cine Mosaic--a New York City-based production company. She is also the Chair of the Producers Guild of America Green Committee.

I met Brian initially at the Woodstock Film Festival's opening party which was held at the great local restaurant "New World Home Cooking". Ilene Marder, Communications Director of the festival, made sure Brian and I connected and had a chance to talk all things green. The panel he co-organized with the Woodstock Film Festival asked the questions: "Can film make an impact on how we take care of our planet? Do we need to be more environmentally responsible in how we make our films to get our messages across? Where is the intersection of making films about the environment and making films that are environmentally conscious?"

Brian Geldin of Brian Geldin Public Relations and the blog, Film Panel Notetaker

I asked Brian how the environmental film panel came about and he told me the history: "Last year, I programmed a similar panel called "How Green Was My Production?" at another film festival, The Royal Flush Festival in New York City, where I gathered filmmakers and green production experts to present case studies of films and TV shows that were greening their sets. While that was very informative, I felt as if there was much more to explore, so I approached Woodstock Film Festival Co-Founder and Director Meira Blaustein at the beginning of 2010 with my idea for "Environmentally Speaking: Improving Our Planet with the Power of Film" where we would focus on a broader discussion that involved both the delivery of environmental storytelling through documentaries and narrative films, and green practices and strategies to move toward carbon neutrality. Once moderator Lydia Dean Pilcher and the panelists were assembled, Lydia and I conceived the questions."

What was great about "Environmentally Speaking – Improving Our Planet with the Power of Film" was that, in addition to exploring how films can positively encourage audiences to be environmentally conscious, it also discussed how filmmakers, film productions and film festivals can be more green. One of the guests on the Woodstock Panel was Larry Fessenden who wrote a book in 1991 called "Low Impact Film Making: A Guide to Environmentally Sound Film and Video Production." Others at the panel included Katie Carpenter who is "a green production consultant and an award-winning documentary producer specializing in environmental subjects from climate change to bio-diversity."

For a full report, go to Brian Geldin's web site The Film Panel Notetaker

Actor and Producer Larry Fessenden (left) and Director Joe Maggio take a peek at how the viewing of their film "Bitter Feast" is going at the Woodstock Film Festival. Image courtesy Woodstock Film Festival.

After the festival, I asked Brian Geldin what he got most out of the "Environmentally Speaking" panel. He reflected: "I had a good understanding of environmental issues and greening practices going into the panel, but I came out with much greater knowledge and a strong desire to become more active and involved in the green film community, especially in the area of film festivals, as that is where I am most involved. I would like to ask the Woodstock Film Festival to complete the Producers Guild of America Green Committee's "carbon calculator" to determine its carbon footprint, and then set goals for next year's festival to improve its environmental impact."

At the WFF, I also caught the film "Windfall" about the controversy in upstate New York over industrial wind turbines (think 400 feet tall) in rural residential settings. I also saw the fantastic film about Ray Kurzweil, "The Singularity Is Near", which explores our future and includes a mention of nanotechnology solar panels that will be super affordable and enable us to power our entire planet cleanly by the abundant rays of the sun. I'm writing about both films next month in "New York House" magazine so check out my November Columns of "Our Green Future" and "What You Don't Know."

The Cast and Crew of INUK attend the film screening party of "Lennon NYC" at the Woodstock Film Festival. INUK is a film set in Arctic Greenland, a country being seriously affected by climate change. Image courtesy Woodstock Film Festival.

In conclusion, I have to mention that I wrote a previous post on this blog about Planet Green TV called "Saving the World By Turning on Your Television." So, the Woodstock Film Festival event, "Environmentally Speaking – Improving Our Planet with the Power of Film", was close to my heart.

I'm a big believer in the social and political power of eco cinema. I've personally witnessed how filmmakers whom I've met, namely Josh Fox of "GASLAND" and Josh Tickell of "FUEL", have made real impact by telling powerful stories through film and inspiring audiences in person at film screenings to take action to make change. Larger budget feature films, along with such documentary films and grassroots efforts, can also have a significant impact. "Erin Brockovich" (starring Julia Roberts) and "A Civil Action" (starring John Travolta) are but two examples of Hollywood movies that are extremely entertaining, but also serve as an awakening and a call to arms regarding serious environmental issues. Both were artful films that made me care about the characters as much the issue affecting their lives. Both actually managed to get me inspired AND motivated (angry even) to make people more aware about the true stories of criminal pollution such as those depicted in all of these films, and encouraging a holding of responsibility for corporate practices that harm the environment.

Copyright 2010 Paul McGinniss

For an example of the best in powerful films making an impact, check out (below) the official trailer for the documentary film "CRUDE". (PLEASE click below twice and video will open full screen in new tab)

The documentary film "CRUDE" by Joe Berlinger tells the story of grassroots environmental action in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador where 30,000 indigenous residents of the Amazon have sued Chevron over alleged contamination of the rainforest.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How Big Bucks Competitions To Solve Problems Are Changing the World

Open Source Competitions With Serious Prize Money Create International Strategies To Solve Problems

by Paul McGinniss

2010 Award Ceremony for the Zayed Future Energy Prize, Abu Dhabi

What's the incentive to solve worldwide problems so large the solutions almost seem impossible? How about multi million dollar prizes and access to the most powerful people in the world to realize your dreams? In the past few years there's been a renaissance of world-changing competitions that are sparking international scientific research and creating incredible, socially-conscious dialog. This groundbreaking paradigm is called incentivized competition. The dynamic competition process unifies students and corporate leaders, academics and entrepreneurs, world leaders and diverse populations.

Here are some of the World Competitions that were established to tackle specific problems in exciting and profound ways:

Zayed Future Energy Prize: Middle East Efforts For A Clean Energy Future

One of the coolest prizes to be launched in the past few years is the Zayed Future Energy Prize which was started by the United Arab Emirates in 2008. The prize is named after the late Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the former ruler of Abu Dhabi and founding father of the U.A.E. The yearly prize awards $1.5 million to individuals, NGOs, corporations or other organizations "for their excellence in the innovation, development and implementation of sustainable energy solutions." Up to two finalists will also receive $350,000 each. The prize "seeks to encourage innovation across a wide spectrum of renewable energy solutions, energy conservation and sustainability."

The Zayed prize demonstrates the amazing interest around the world in these large prize competitions. In 2009 there were just 204 entries to the Zayed Future Energy Prize, but the 2011 Prize competition has exploded to 633 entries from 86 countries. (Applications for the 2011 prize are open until Oct 8, 2010.)

The Zayed prize also demonstrates the range and diversity of organizations that participate in this open source, international exchange of ideas. The 2010 Prize was won by the large corporation, Toyota, for the company's groundbreaking fuel efficiency system in the third generation Prius. On the other end of the spectrum, one of the other winners of the 2010 prize was International Development Enterprises which was selected for its successful deployment of low cost, energy saving irrigation technology for small scale farmers in India. Judges for the 2011 prize include architect extraordinaire Lord Norman Foster, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, President of Iceland and Susan Hockfield, President of M.I.T.

The X Prize Foundation: Mind Blowing Brilliance

The X Prize Foundation has a motto: "Revolution Through Competition". Revolutionary, indeed. The foundation is an educational non-profit that designs and administers competitions with prizes of up to $30 million. Yes, you read that correctly--up to $30 million dollars! That's serious money and it's no surprise there's great interest from Pakistan to Peoria in the X Prize competitions.

I've been to X Prize events and I can tell you what they are doing is incredibly exciting and inspirational. The foundation was established "to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity." The X Prize Foundation states: "We believe that a small group of people with passion for a cause can achieve that which has never been attained. This is why we stage competitions that challenge issues that matter most."

The Progressive Automotive X PRIZE was one of the latest efforts from the X PRIZE Foundation. Three teams were awarded part of a $10 million purse for developing super fuel-efficient vehicles. The Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE was launched in 2008 to inspire a new generation of viable, safe and super fuel-efficient vehicles capable of achieving at least 100 miles per gallon or the energy equivalent (MPGe).

The X PRIZE Foundation, like the Zayed Future Energy Prize, also focuses on needs in the developing world. It is now working on a new prize with the Government of India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and the Indian Institute of Technology to create a global competition to develop and deploy clean and efficient cookstoves. Details of the competition, including the announcement of the launch date, prize purse and competition guidelines, are forthcoming.

Saltire Prize: Scottish Prize to Tap Into Wave Power

The Government of Scotland has organized a 10 million pound competition to seek the best ways to tap into the world's wave power to generate clean electricity. The purpose of the Saltire Prize is "to stimulate innovation across the world that will lead to delivery of commercial scale wave or tidal stream energy technology." £10 million will be awarded to the team that can demonstrate in Scottish waters a commercially viable wave or tidal stream energy technology that achieves the greatest volume of electrical output over the set minimum hurdle of 100 GWh over a continuous 2 year period using only the power of the sea. Applications are due by 2015.

The Scottish Government was motivated by a number of factors in setting this challenge including the following. Inspiring innovation that will help to harness Scotland's immense marine energy resources and achieve the national renewable energy target of 50% of Scotland's electricity consumption being generated through renewable sources by 2020. And, inspiring innovation that will help to achieve Scotland's carbon reduction target of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050.

Copyright 2010 Paul McGinniss

Friday, August 13, 2010

Passive House Concept from Germany Taking Off In America

The R House Project in Syracuse, New York Shows That
Zero Energy Homes Are More About Smart Design & Building Than Renewable Technology

by Paul McGinniss

View from Backyard of R House in Syracuse which is now being built as part of "From the Ground Up" building competition. The home was designed to fit into an existing urban landscape.

The R House was one of the winners of a recent building competition called "From the Ground Up" which was held in conjunction with the Syracuse Center of Excellence and Syracuse-based Home Headquarters as part of their initiative to revitalize the near west side neighborhood of Syracuse.

A goal of the competition was "to draw out the most advanced thinking about design, sustainability, and cost-effective building practices." And, draw out the most advanced, cost-effective thinking, it did. The 1,150 sf R House, which has an additional 1,150 sf in the basement, was built for only $125,000 and was designed to be an almost-zero-energy home, meaning it will consume almost no energy at all. The small amount of energy it uses can be easily offset by adding some minimal renewable technology.

Picture of R House Model at various proposed locations in Syracuse.

The home was built according to the Passive House (Passivhaus in German)
criteria which adheres to the concept that homes can be so well designed and built they need no conventional heating and cooling systems whatsoever. The R House is one of only a few homes in the U.S. built under the standards established by the Passiv Haus Institut in Darmstadt, Germany.

David White of Brooklyn-based Right Environments consulted on the project and explained some technical details: "The main heating system is a hot water coil in the fresh air stream. This is the classic Passive House heating system. The original Passivhaus concept was based on heating the house by doing no more than heating up the (circulating) fresh air (which was needed anyway for hygienic reasons). This eliminated the normal boiler, pump, hot water piping and radiator with thermostat in every room that is typical in Germany where the Passivhaus system originated."

Picture of R House under construction this summer. Competing teams in the "Built From the Ground Up" competition had eight weeks to develop designs for a low-cost, sustainable home capable of being built for no more than $150,000 inclusive of fees and site work.

The R of R House refers to R value of insulation and it was no huge surprise to learn the house has R-70 insulation and an extra thick frame filled with blown cellulose insulation that creates an air tight house.

The design of R House was a collaborative process executed by the team of NYC-based architects Della Valle Bernheimer and Architecture Research Office. David White reported that he "introduced the Passive House concept to the team, critiqued many iterations of formal concepts, gave guidelines for glazing ratios, developed the construction details for thermal insulation and air tightness, did all the energy and peak load calculations, designed the entire mechanical system and trouble shot the air leakage."

Picture of R House Initial Frame. The finished interior will have insulation that is 16" deep with a value of approximately R-70.

Garrick Jones, studio director of Della Valle Bernheimer, was very excited to be part of the R House project and told me: "The Passive House tenets are hard to achieve, but basic. In a Passive House it takes very little energy to heat and cool. We incorporated an HRV system which captures the heat as it exhausts the air. The home is inspired by the Passive House model which is an amalgamation of thirty years of green and net zero practices." Garrick emphasized the basic tenets of Passive House design: "Design an air tight envelope, have high R value walls and windows, locate and size the windows correctly and utilize passive solar gain from the south."

Garrick Jones let me in on some breaking news. Della Valle Bernheimer has developed a pre fab inspired by Passive House principles to market with Hometta, a design-oriented home company. (Garrick Jones clarified that the Hometta design is based on Passive House principles but is not necessarily to be designed and/or built strictly by Passive House standards and registered and tested by the Passive House Institute.)

In speaking with members of the team behind R House, I learned that the house was not exactly net zero energy. The house uses natural gas to heat both the hot water and heating coil in the air system. This I did not like because of my aversion to Natural Gas and all the downsides and environmental costs associated with extracting gas from the ground, especially by hydraulic fracturing. The R House also has a few small electric heaters as back up.

But, all in all, the R House performs extremely well, using a small fraction of the energy that similar sized homes use. Besides, for not an unreasonable additional up front cost, the gas used in the R House could be offset by investing in a solar thermal hot water system. Or, the home could utilize an on demand electric hot water heater for the domestic hot water and to heat the heating coil for the air system. The electric used by the on demand heater could easily be offset with a small solar PV system.

David White explained further: "On the coldest day of the year a typical passive house can be heated with the amount of energy from a hair dryer. Strictly speaking, we did not get that low. The amount of glass made it so that we need about the equivalent of 1.5 (1 1/2) hair dryers or so, although all that glass also means less energy used over the course of the winter." (As a result of passive solar gain.)

The R House designers state: "Wrapped within its iconic exterior are expansive and luminous spaces..."

The real exciting point to the Passive House concept is it shows us how to practically build an almost zero net energy home which does not over rely on expensive renewable technology or fancy bells and whistles. Yes, Green technology is extremely important. Yet, technology can almost make us immune to understanding that energy efficiency and cutting back on the initial consumption and demand for power is far more renewable than the renewable technology that is breaking into the market.

The R House and Passive House concept stands as a testament that building zero energy homes, even in climates that can get very cold and/or very hot, is feasible and affordable right now and not just in the far distant future. There is just no excuse not to do it.

The designers of the R House intended to "present an affordable, innovative paradigm for minimal to net-zero energy consumption embodied in architecture that is meant to nurture the spirit and engage the community as much as it is meant to perform in terms of cost and sustainability."

I spoke with inventor Brian Wiley of Wiley Electronics who plans to build a Passive House in Ulster County, NY. In explaining why he chose to build a Passive House, Brian said he was not happy with the way most people were building homes today. So, he took a Passive House training course in Boston to learn how to build his own home in Woodstock, NY. Brian was very enthusiastic about the training program: "The great thing was to connect with a lot of people building this way. The Passive House idea is to reduce the amount of energy needed. Reducing energy needed is so much easier to fulfill than finding new sources of energy."

The R House and the Passive House building method demonstrates that hi tech green building is low tech to start and, really, a simple concept.

As Russian poet and writer Boris Pasternak--author of the legendary novel Doctor Zhivago--told his ambitious friend Vladimir Mayakovsky--the futurist Russian revolutionary writer who wanted desperately to change the world: "Despite all your grand schemes and revelations, sometimes simplicity is the greatest need."

For more information about Passive Houses check out the Passive Institute US (PHIUS)

Copyright 2010 Paul McGinniss

Read More About Passive Houses By Buying Some Books on the Subject

(PLEASE click twice so video opens full screen in new tab)

Monday, June 28, 2010

LUMENHAUS: A brighter way. Everyday.

A LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO DAYLIGHT: Virginia Tech's LUMENHAUS Snags Top Prize at European Solar Decathlon

By Paul McGinniss

The LUMENHAUS at Times Square in NYC before it traveled to Madrid, Spain

The Virginia Tech Solar Decathlon team is flying like a high altitude wind turbine after winning the amazing European Solar Decathlon which just took place June 18th - 27th in Madrid, Spain. With 17 University teams from 7 countries (China, Spain, Finland, United Kingdom, United States, Germany), the competition to build the most efficient and clever zero energy home is a sister show to the United States Department of Energy Solar Decathlon which takes place every two years on the Mall in Washington, DC.

Virginia Tech's win comes after years of hard work and research. The school has participated in four previous Solar Decathlons including the U.S. Department of Energy Sponsored 2009 Solar Decathlon where the university placed only 13th with its entry.

LUEMNHAUS on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. During the United States Department of Energy 2009 Solar Decathlon

When Virginia Tech took the top honors at the Solar Decathlon Europe awards ceremony last week in Madrid, Spain, they received a standing ovation. Teams from Germany won both the 2007 and 2009 U.S. Solar Decathlon, so it was great to see a team from America so honored while besting the German team and the other exciting, cutting edge, zero energy concept homes from around the world. This win by an American University is of particular importance for our country. The United States is behind the curve on use of renewable energy systems and there is a crucial need to encourage deployment of renewable technologies. Countries such as Germany consistently outperform America in both manufacturing and use of practical, affordable renewable energy systems for homes and buildings. The United States needs to be at the forefront of renewables both for economic and security issues.

The Student Team from Virginia Tech with Secretary of the U.S. Dept of Energy, Steven Chu

The importance of the United States participating in and winning international competitions supporting renewable energy use in homes can not be overstated. Breakthrough Institute senior adviser and Stanford University professor, Teryn Norris, recently referred in an email blast to a new Time Magazine Special History Issue which reports that "clean power could be to the
21st century what aeronautics and the computer were to the 20th, but the U.S. is already falling behind. China, South Korea and Japan are set to invest more than $500 billion combined in clean technology over the next five years, while the U.S. is likely to invest less than $200 billion, and that’s assuming [current] clean-energy legislation makes it into law. Meanwhile, Congress remains largely paralyzed."

Members of the Virginia Tech Lumenhaus team celebrate victory.

Teryn Norris, who is also Director & Founder of Americans for Energy Leadership,
goes on to state: "When the United States aims to overcome a challenge -- be it defeating fascism, leading the space race, or winning the Cold War -- we make a national commitment and invest the necessary resources. The federal government currently invests $30 billion per year in health R&D through the National Institutes of Health, and $80 billion per year in military R&D. Energy receives $3 to $5 billion -- less than our national expenditure on potato chips."

Over 190,000 visited "Villa Solar" where the student teams built the homes in Madrid. The European Solar Decathlon reported: "Today, the Villa Solar has closed its doors, after 10 days of competition, with the last award ceremony announcing the winner of the Solar Decathlon Europe. The house, LUMENHAUS, from the team from Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, has been pronounced the most efficient of the competition, and following it in second and third place, respectively, were the University of Applied Sciences Rosenheim and the Stuttgart University of Applied Sciences."

Below is information from Virgina Tech and the U.S DOE Solar Decathlon which details components of the Virginia Tech House:


The Virgina Tech team reports that LUMENHAUS was "Inspired by the Farnsworth House by Mies Van Der Rohe, and the house offers an open configuration which connects the house's inhabitants to the outdoors.


The interior and exterior of the house are joined together by a smooth transition when the Eclipsis System is open, contributing to a feeling of transparency. When the weather is nice, the windows can be opened to expand both the physical and psychological appearance of the space. The floor of the house doubles in size, and the southern and northern walls disappear to make the rooms seem as if they have no barriers or limitations. The multilayered wall-changing system allows for various forms of spatial organization and therefore different perceptions of the house. The central core plays an important role in allowing different configurations in the house's interior.

Exterior depicting the Eclipsis System. The Eclipsis system is an advanced building fa├žade comprising two layers: a metal shutter shade and a translucent insulating panel.

Each area of the house is set up for specific activities, but they are designed to be flexible and can be adjusted according to individual needs. For example, the doors within the central core incorporate the work area, storage and entertainment units, but may be shifted to close off the bedroom from the rest of the house in order to create a more private area. The kitchen can be transformed into a bar, and the dining table can be left outdoors during warm summer evenings. The modular design also means that the entire house is flexible and that multiple units can be connected or placed one above the other (connected by stairs) to create a house with 3 or 4 bedrooms.


From its construction to its transportation, the house employs responsive architecture and other similarly advanced technological features.

Radiating heat in the concrete floor

The concrete floor features a radiating floor heating system. This heats the house through a geothermal pump which draws in heat during the winter and cools the floor during the summer. This procedure requires less energy use, making the house more efficient. In addition, the geothermal heat pump produces hot water as a byproduct during the summer.

Photovoltaic System

The rooftop photovoltaic system has the ability to vary its angle in order to maximize the efficiency of the power gained from the sun. It is controlled through a computerized user interface that can be connected to an iPhone. In fact, the user can control all of the functions, including the Eclipsis System, the photovoltaic system, the temperature, the electricity and the entertainment devices with the simple use of an iPhone.

Here are some links to news about LUMENHAUS on the green blogosphere:


Jetson Green

Popular Mechanics

Fast Company


From its inception, the creation of LUMENHAUS was documented in the ten-minute video produced by Summer Productions. Check it out:

All Pictures Above Courtesy Virginia Tech. Article Text Copyright Paul McGinniss 2010

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Wooly Pockets Vertical Garden System

by Paul McGinniss

I've been feeling a bit guilty about the lack of posts recently. Between my monthly columns at New York House, several book and media projects and, well, life in general, I've had a hard time this past month getting more posts out on this blog. So in lieu of an article, I found a great video on the McGraw Hill Construction Video Library. It's about a company called Woolly Pockets Garden Company which partnered with The New York Restoration Project to construct a planted wall in Manhattan's Union Square.

The temporary garden wall was done to celebrate the recent 40th anniversary of Earth Day. This living wall is gone already, but I thought anyone loving New York City or wanting to grow a garden might want to see how the recent installation was done. The Wooly Pockets growing system is a clever way to create vertical urban gardens. I can imagine them in country settings too - where they'd be great "walls" on the side of a yard or patio area. The Wooly Pockets are made out of recycled PET plastic so they're green in more ways than one. Check out the video below.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


The 8th Annual BKLYNDESIGNS Offered Up Some Tasty Locavore Design Treats.

by Paul McGinniss

NYC Interior Designer, Kelly McGinniss, relaxes on UHURU's chair made of reclaimed wood salvaged from the Coney Island Boardwalk.

It's been said in Big Apple real estate lingo that Brooklyn is the new Manhattan. But, it's BKLYN, thank you very much. And, maybe BKLYN isn't so much the new Manhattan as it's a mini Milan--as in Milan Furniture Fair. This thought took shape last weekend while observing some pretty GRVY international design denizens milling around catching the laid back vibe at BKLYNDESIGNS which features only products made in BKLYN.

St. Ann's Warehouse in DUMBO, NYC

NYC Interior Designer, Kelly McGinniss, and I stumbled onto some cool products and people that showed the depth of creative sustainable design energy lurking out there in BKLYN. The creativity seems to emanate from all parts of Brooklyn-everywhere from DUMBO, where BKLYN Designs took place at St. Ann's Warehouse, to Greenpoint to Red Hook, where the folks at UHURU have been conjuring up some amazing objects for years running.

Erica Rosenfeld of Auster PR Agency which promotes BKLYNDESIGNS

Some Highlights below.


The editors of Inhabitat were on hand to hand out awards to some of the designers at BKLYNDESIGNS. Inhabitat is one of my daily reads along with TreeHugger and my other fav e-news blasts. I got a chuckle from the Inhabitats upon asking if they were "Inhabitats" or "Inhabitots", the latter a reference to Inhabitots which is the "kid" version of Inhabitats. I love the positive energy of Jill Fehrenbacher and the Inhabitat posse. They are a shining example of the dynamic green energy in NYC. They celebrate the creative design happening in the Big Green Apple while bringing news of the best international design back home. Indeed, as Inhabitat says: "Design Will Save The World!"

Inhabitat Editors (Left to Right)Rebecca Paul, Yuka Chino, Mike Chino, Jill Fehrenbacher with Kelly McGinniss.


Jason Horvath and Bill Hilgendorf, two of the principals of Red Hook based UHURU DESIGN

I have been following UHURU since they founded their company over 5 years ago. They make sublimely beautiful objects meticulously designed with scrap wood. Their new Coney Island Line crafted from reclaimed wood salvaged from the legendary Coney Island Boardwalk is incredible.


Madbutter installation at BKLYNDESIGNS

Madbutter's interactive LED video installations might not make sense for the average home or apartment. However, they definitely would be a dynamic visual statement at a club or public venue. The holodec-like display at BKLYNDESIGNS was interactive. By either touching or walking on the screens, the color and light changed.


Andre Joyau with his assistant Angie Higdon.

These two, Andre Joyau and his assistant, Angie Higdon, were definitely an engaging, feisty pair. The furniture and lighting that Joyau makes is elegant. I felt like sitting down at his booth and having a meal at the long table made from reclaimed wood. When I asked Angie how she would describe the work, she enthused: "Modernism with a soul!"

And, finally...

Corey DiStasio of

While conversing at the UHURU booth, Corey Distasio related that he has years of experience in Industrial Design and Design Management. He's now, also, a licensed acupuncturist and expert on Chinese herbs and medicine. He posed an interesting question: "Instead of talking about renovating a home, what if your home renovated you?" I liked Corey's concept that home design should not only feature sustainably made products, comfort and convenience, but also work to create a healing environment. Russian poet and author of Dr. Zhivago, Boris Pasternak, wrote a line in a poem just before he died: "The Whole Wide World is a Cathedral." Indeed, our homes, our places of work, worship and the buildings we create should be places of transendence and healing that reflect the beautiful mystery that is the world. Green Design might not on its own save the world, but it surely has a place in the pantheon of green possibilities that can create a sustainable future while soothing our souls.

Click on For More About BKLYNDESIGNS

Copyright 2010 Paul McGinniss

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

FUEL: Change Your Fuel Change The World

Mark your calendars!! The FUEL DVD will be available on June 22nd. Let your favorite retailer or online subscription service know you want this DVD!

by Paul McGinniss

One of the most inspirational things I have ever done in my entire life was hang out with filmmaker and environmental advocate and force of nature Josh Tickell in NYC for the 2009 premier of his film FUEL. Before the film premier in Times Square, I road through NYC as part of a Green Vehicle Caravan , along with his co force of nature and partner, writer, actress and environmental advocate, Rebecca Harrell and a dedicated team who had driven across America with them to promote clean energy. I saw first hand what two people can do to change the world. Anyone who has any concern for the state of our planet and who has not seen FUEL needs to get a copy of the FUEL DVD and show it to as many people they know as possible. The FUEL story has at its root, childhood experiences involving family illness, pollution and the gas industry, that Sundance Award winner Josh Tickell had in Louisiana.

Josh says on his web site: "This past month has brought many unexpected events. Earth Day is rarely a time to morn tragedy. But with the events in the Gulf of Mexico and BP’s noncommittal response to demands they clean up their oil spill and pay for the damages, it is clear our movement has a long way to go. To become sustainable, we are going to have to stand strong and stand as a unified force for change. We cannot continue to allow the environmental movement to be categorized as “soft” or “without a backbone.” The continuation of abuse of land, resources and people in Louisiana is a microcosm of what we are allowing to take place all over our planet."

Copyright 2010 Paul McGinniss

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The State of [Local] Food

A live international webcast forum on the Hudson Valley Sustainable Food Movement will take place on May 12th. The event is organized by Hudson Valley Green Drinks and sponsored by Glynwood of Cold Spring, New York.

by Paul McGinniss

If anyone had any doubt that the Hudson Valley was at the forefront of the sustainable food movement, they should attend or watch the live webinar called "The State of [Local] Food" that was organized by Marie Celeste Edwards, founder and chapter coordinator of Hudson Valley Green Drinks. I asked Marie Celeste what inspired her to organize this event and she explained: "The title, The State of [Local] Food, came after really hashing out what am I trying to tell the world here? The Sustainable Food Movement is alive, growing and, for the most part, healthy, but help is still needed."

Photo Courtesy Glynwood. Glynwood’s mission is to help communities in the Northeast save farming.

The moderator of "The State of [Local] Food" will be Diane Hatz of The Meatrix and Sustainable Table fame. Diane Hatz is also Co-Founder and Director of the Glynwood Institute for Sustainable Food and Farming. As part of this live webinar, Glynwood’s President, Judith LaBelle, will give a presentation on The State of [Local] Food. Marie Celeste enthused about the upcoming webinar: "The Hudson Valley is full of fantastic people doing wonderful new things in sustainable food production. This happening creates an opportunity for us to showcase a few of them to the world."

Photo Courtesy Glynwood

As an Ulster County, New York resident, I have to give kudos to the organizers and participants of this event. The more farms we can save, the more land we can make productive generators of healthy food, the closer we are to creating a region that is self sustaining. Participants of the webinar include: Ken Greene of the Hudson Valley Seed Library, Jill Rubin of the Phillies Bridge Farm Project, Mike Picinelli of Thunderhill Farm, Chris Harp, the “Bee Doctor”, Jim Hyland of Winter Sun Farms and Marcus Guiliano of Aroma Thyme Bistro.

The event will be held Wednesday, May 12, 2010 from 6:30pm-10:00pm at The Rhinecliff Hotel, 4 Grinnell Street, Rhinecliff, NY. (Cost is $5 at the door and a business card to check-in. Cash bar and hors d'oeuvres are compliments of HVGD.)

Anyone wanting to attend the live event, instead of tuning into the webinar, should RSVP by the end of biz on May 11th. (RSVP to

Here is the link to tuning in on line


What's cool about this local event is that Hudson Valley Green Drinks has contacted other Green Drinks chapters to post the webinar on their websites and to participate online. 30 chapters of Green Drinks around the world have signed on already including Green Drinks NYC, Annapolis, Maryland; Las Vegas, Nevada; and chapters in New Zealand and Canada. Green Drinks is a world wide phenomena with chapters in almost 700 cities on every continent. This writer is a huge fan of Green Drinks as a social and enviromental force and over the years I have been a big supporter of Margaret Lydecker and Green Drinks NYC, the largest Green Drinks Chapter in the world.

As Hudson Valley Green Drinks' Marie Celeste passionately explained: "The people that are running Green Drinks chapters with their hearts in the right places are doing amazing work and I'm proud to be among them. I personally long to be more connected to the greater Green Drinks community and this is the first vehicle that's come along that makes it look like that's posssible. From those chapters that have responded, they too want more connection and the excitement they've demonstrated through their emails has fueled me through the late nights of pre-event prep!"

Copyright 2010 Paul McGinniss

Check out the video below about Glynwood

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day

Repower America Earth Day Remix

Repower America is one of the many excellent groups that send me their email blasts so I can keep up with what is going on in the green space. On today's Earth Day blast from Repower America there is a fantastic music video by Biz Markie called "Biz Markie Earth Day Remix 2010" and anyone reading this needs to click on the video below. It's got just the kind of positive energy that we all need to find and keep up so we can "Segway" into our green future. Enjoy!!!

For the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, Repower America supporters and staff joined hip hop legend DJ Biz Markie to record a clean energy remix of his classic song, "Just a Friend." Click on video above. Once it starts playing click on again to see video full screen. You won't be disappointed!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Saving the World By Turning on Your Television

How Visionary TV Executives Like Laura Michalchyshyn, President and General Manager of Planet Green, Are Helping Us Entertain Our Way Into Giving a Damn

By Paul McGinniss

With the Natural Resource Defense Council(NRDC) as one of Planet Green’s content partners and advisors, it’s hard not to think Planet Green isn’t up to a little bit of advocacy. The cable network and web site are, after all, self described as “a multi-platform media destination devoted to the environment.” When I asked Laura Michalchyshyn, President & General Manger of Planet Green, how she draws the line between advocacy and entertainment, or, even if you have to draw the line, she said: “We are primarily – we are a television network. Our primary mandate is to entertain and create programming that people want to watch. So, that is our goal.”

Laura Michalchyshyn, Planet Green President and General Manager

But, I have the sneaking suspicion Laura and the Planet Green cable channel is up to more than just entertainment. Then again, maybe it is JUST entertainment i.e. entertainment about doing justice to the earth--an earth which has taken somewhat of a beating in the past few centuries and is now going through a world-wide environmental awakening the likes of which have never been seen before.

Picture from the Planet Green Show “Blood, Sweat and Takeaways.” In the show, “six young, fast-food junkies embark on a grueling month-long journey into a world they know nothing about to discover the tough truth behind their fast food fixes.” The show states: "If you spent a month finding out the truth about your fast food habits, would you be so quick to guzzle them?"

I originally met Laura at the inspiring 2009 Daily Green Heart of Green Awards where she won the “Influencer” award. So, clearly, it’s not just me who thinks she’s trying to influence something. And obviously, Laura has the support of Planet Green’s parent company, Discovery Communications, which announced in 2008 that it had established a multiplatform environmental initiative and created partnerships with ten of the world’s leading non-profit environmental organizations and advocacy groups: Ashoka, Earth Pledge, Earthwatch Institute, Environmental Media Association (EMA), Global Green USA, Global Inheritance, National Wildlife Federation (NWF), Oceana, Ocean Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy. The intent was for these groups “to work with Discovery’s Planet Green on a broad range of activities and initiatives including grassroots community outreach, public affairs and content creation. “

Planet Green has a commitment to documentary programming
and serves as a platform for independent filmmakers needing

When I queried Laura further about how she views her mission as a television executive, she elaborated: “In answer to your other question about advocacy – we are honored to help many of these groups that are either in the environmental space, the activism space, the change space, the progressive space. They are affiliated partnered or advisors and, in some cases, producers of content. And, what we have is the great privilege of being able to tap into them on a case by case basis. One example was our project "Blue August" where for the whole month of August, 2009 we launched a whole initiative about water issues – clean water whether its rivers or lakes or oceans. We had the Cousteau kids, Phillip and Alexandra Cousteau, who are the grandchildren of Jacques Cousteau and are kind of spokespeople for the oceans. We had NRDC. We had all these groups as part of the exercise, as part of the initiative.”

Blue August was a whole month of programming on Planet Green this past summer that focused on the health of our planet's water.

It’s refreshing to think that the goals of corporate television programming can be combined with the goals of societal and environmental benefit. Knowing that Planet Green is also a sister company to the blog/web site,, I guess we can safely say this green TV - web site hybrid isn’t simply Corporate Social Responsibility. Rather, it’s Corporate Social Media Responsibility at its best.

Laura went on to excitedly explain the unique synergy Planet Green is creating with outside groups. “What is great about our vision and our mission is that we really are about passionate people who are doing forward thinking things that make change. So we are a forward thinking network. We are a network of the future. We are a network about forward activity whether it’s in design or fashion or environmental issues...whether it is science, technology, innovation. So, we have expanded the programming filter to say we are not just about the environment. We are more than that. We are really about looking at the future, about how we live on this planet and our affect on this planet.”

Still from the show "Operation Wild" which follows colorful members of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission as they encounter all sorts of crazy people, places and things in their efforts to keep Florida’s environment in order.

Anyone with any sense knows, if you want to make people change, you can’t hit them over their heads. You have to get inside their heads. You can’t make them feel bad or guilty. You can’t lecture them and act smarter than them. With a clever mix of programming and consistent messaging and with some of the content done in collaboration with the prestigious non profit groups mentioned above, Planet Green’s proactive environmental messaging might just seep into viewers heads and make some real change.

The show "World's Greenest Homes" follows host John Bell as he gives us tours of the most sustainable, yet luxurious, homes around the globe.

Despite mixing the message into the medium, it was clear from having so much fun speaking with Laura that one can be effective without any heavy handed proselytizing. There’s nothing more tiring than an advocate of any sort who can’t mix some charisma and good chemistry into their cause. I gleaned a sense of mischievous fun from Laura when I last met her during a recent party for the launch of the web site, (The latter, too, has an eco consciousness.) Whether in person or on the phone during this latest interview, Laura effuses the energy of someone who loves her work and mission. She makes you feel how privileged and lucky she feels to be in the wonderful position she is in. Clearly, if you go along for a ride on her journey, it is going to be filled with inspiration and good times.

Laura sums up with her characteristic enthusiasm: “I think what’s important is Discovery – at Discovery our mantra is satisfying curiosity. And, I really think we approach every thing we do from that kind of mantra--whether you are our channel or one of the sister channels or our family of channels. So, Planet Green really is about that. How do we live a different life? How do we live in a manner that is better? We are using that saying a lot. What is the better way to live, not just greener, but better?”

Satisfying curiosity. I like that. Well, maybe Planet Green hasn’t completely satisfied my curiosity. I doubt anything ever really will. At the same time, not being satisfied is perhaps just my impetus to keep on living, learning and exploring. Planet Green surely has at least peaked my curiosity so much so that I want to keep on listening and tuning in for more.

Copyright 2010 Paul McGinniss

In Summer, 2009 Planet Green broadcast the World premiere of the documentary produced by the NRDC called “Acid Test: The Challenge of Ocean Acidification” which was narrated by Sigourney Weaver. Watch this stunning and powerful film below.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Twinfire: The Most Efficient Wood Stove In the World

New York Based Wittus Stove Has Developed A Super Efficient Wood Stove in Collaboration With NYSERDA

by Paul McGinniss

Twinfire Stove from Wittus

A recent walk in the country, just a few weeks after the major blizzards of late winter 2010, made it quite apparent the amount of free "biomass" available to many residents and communities in upstate New York. The amount of felled wood from the storm was astounding.

Luckily, there are New York initiatives to do something practical with all that wood. The primary objective, of course, is to use it to heat the homes it falls down next to. With help from The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Westchester, N.Y. based Wittus Stove is positioned to import a new high efficiency stove called Twinfire. The development of the German manufactured stove, which is being sponsored by NYSERDA, is reported by the distributing company to be the most efficient stove in the world.

Sandra Lena at Wittus told me "NYSERDA is sponsoring the unit and it is being imported and made to US standards exclusively for Wittus." While not available yet, Sandra explained when I spoke with her: "NYSERDA is actually funding the R&D on the unit. The unit has been approved and we are working on the manual & label."

Although, not marketed as a primary heat source, the Twinfire will heat a 1300 s.f. space with models ranging in price from $6,000 to $10,000. This may seem expensive, costing as much as some "regular" home heating systems. But, if you look at it in perspective, they are not a waste of money because they can be used to heat up to 1300 sf and offset a major part of the heating fuel used in the home. And, consider the added eco-benefit--that these systems can use the embodied energy in that free "biomass" that is literally falling down around us. Wittus reported: The "regular" US household burning wood as their main heat source will burn (on average) 4 full cords of wood per season. I think that any client that will purchase the Twinfire will used it primarily as a back-up heat source, and will burn 1-3 cords per season."

There are many New York State homeowners with trees on their property who would benefit greatly from these kind of high efficiency wood stoves. And, importantly, in an emergency, having a heating source like the Twinfire means you can continue to heat your house while the rest of the neighbors might be worried about when power will come back on. The Twinfire looks cool to boot. So it's a no brainer and worth the investment if you can afford the up front costs. If I was buying or building a home upstate, I'd try and include the cost in the purchase price along with the solar thermal and solar PV.

High efficiency wood stoves like the Twinfire are made a bit more affordable because there's a Federal Tax Credit for them. Their purchase and installation costs can qualify for a 30% tax credit,(up to a maximum of $1,500), that was authorized for biomass-burning home heating stoves by the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Proper forestry maintenance, when coupled with the cleaning up of fallen trees and limbs from storm damage, could have a major impact on energy security for our state if the "biomass" was burned in super clean burning, high efficiency wood stoves like those sold by Wittus. If this reclaimed wood is harvested properly, it is virtually an endless supply of heating fuel.

And, importantly, reports on the green blogosphere state that the amount of CO2 released into the air from clean burning stoves is no more than the amount of CO2 released into the air just from letting the wood rot on the ground. Like I said, it's a no brainer.

Copyright Paul McGinniss 2009

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Standing Up To The Man For U.S.

United States Congressman Maurice Hinchey's (D-NY22) Local Legacy of Doing the Right Thing For His Community and Now The Rest of America

Part 1 of A Continuing Report about the activities of U.S. Congressman Maurice Hinchey

by Paul McGinniss

Maurice Hinchey in Washington, 2004

As a New York State legislator for almost 20 years, Maurice Hinchey wasn't afraid of taking on General Electric (G.E.) to clean up PCBs their factories dumped into the Hudson River. This seems all the more meaningful considering the news that exploded in the media last week about fish oil pills being laden with PCBs. What's so disturbing about PCBs in fish oil pills isn't just that the fish are absorbing PCBs because waterways are so contaminated, but that there is now a lawsuit claiming that companies selling fish oil supplements are knowingly selling contaminated merchandise.

This is something that maverick legislators like Maurice Hinchey won't abide. I wouldn't be surprised if sometime in the near future Congressman Hinchey, or one of his colleagues on Capitol Hill, begins to investigate this issue.

In 2007 Maurice presides over the House floor from the Speaker's chair as the House debates the first 100 hours energy bill which included a provision that the Congressman helped author to close a loophole that has allowed energy companies to avoid paying royalties to the federal government for oil and gas taken from publicly-owned coastal waters. The measure passed.

I had the privilege of getting to know my Congressman (Hinchey) as part of organizing "The Forum on the Future of Gas Drilling in New York" that will take place this Monday, March 8, at SUNY New Paltz. The closing keynote will be given by Congressman Hinchey--a graduate of the University. The Congressman is at the forefront of the gas drilling issue in the United States. Through Congressional action, he is leading our nation towards correcting a 2005 loophole (the "Halliburton Loophole") in the Safe Drinking Water Act that exempts gas companies drilling for natural gas from basically all environmental oversight.

The fact that any industry can be exempted from Federal environmental legislation that was clearly considered a good thing for the American public might seem hard to believe. But, if this kind of legal maneuvering seems too bad to be true, read my Q & A with Congressman Hinchey that gives some backstory on how all of this came about on

Maurice Hinchey has a distinguished legacy of being the man for the common man. Decades ago, while serving as Chairman of the Environmental Conservation Committee for the New York Assembly, the committee conducted a successful investigation into the causes of "Love Canal"--the nation's first major toxic dump site.

This post is the first in a series of reports I will write about my Congressman. For now, make sure you all read up on the issue of Gas Drilling and what Congressman Hinchey has to say about it.

Before I leave you, I want to make clear that my impression from talking to Maurice Hinchey is that he understands the seriousness of both energy security and economic security of the state--(New York)--he represents. He knows we need income and jobs and a major boost to our economy. He is not against gas drilling per se. He just wants this industry to be transparent and regulated with the oversight necessary to prevent pollution of the very land we live in.

Congressman Hinchey is putting real green money into helping New York State. For instance, he was a key participant in the 2007 creation of The Solar Energy Consortium in Kingston. On Friday, March 5, Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), New York State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (D) and The Solar Energy Consortium (TSEC) President and CEO, Vincent Cozzolino, announced that solar manufacturer, Solartech Renewables, will relocate its operations to Tech City in Kingston and create 100 new jobs within one year.

2007 Congressman Hinchey with members of Cornell University's Solar Decathalon Team on the National Mall.

The Congressman's office announced: "Solartech Renewables' move to Tech City was made possible due to a variety of funding sources, including federal money Hinchey personally obtained from Congress and various sources of state funding, as well as extensive assistance from TSEC." Congressman Hinchey said: "Over the last three years, we've developed a strong core network of solar companies in the Hudson Valley. Solartech Renewables is a company with a bright future that will create 100 jobs in the Hudson Valley over the next year and help further our effort to develop the Hudson Valley as a solar energy research, development and manufacturing cluster,"

Besides trying to keep New York environmentally sound and make it a national center for renewable energy business and technology, another battle our Congressman is taking on to help not only the people he represents in his Congressional district in upstate New York, but also the rest of our country - is the housing and financial crisis that has yet to really be rectified.

When I spoke to Congressman Hinchey last week, I asked him about Congressional legislation he is co-sponsoring to extend the first time home buyers tax credit, set to expire April 30, till the end of 2010. He reported that a few weeks ago he and Congressman Cummings (D Maryland - 7th District) sent a letter to President Obama and Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke supporting the continuation of this and other key programs affecting homes and real estate that are set to expire. I asked: "What has the response been from the Administration?"

Congressman Hinchey expounded: "We haven’t gotten any response back yet. I’m glad you mention that because this is something that I strongly support. And, it’s something that we are doing everything we can to try and maintain it. The problem with the loss of homes has a major effect on the economic circumstances that we are dealing with. And, some of the manipulation of mortgages was one of the reasons that economic decline came about so quickly and so badly. So, these are things that really need to be dealt with. And, is something else we are focusing our attention on and trying to get something done constructively to deal with it."

I have no doubt that if anyone can get to the bottom of mortgage fraud, or pretty much anything else worth fighting for, it'll be Maurice Hinchey. I look forward to keeping you up to date on other things he is doing. One such effort I hope to tell you about is the Congressman's quest to preserve 9.1 million acres in Utah. Through his incredible Red Rock Wilderness Act, he is working to maintain Federal land for the benefit of the American people. This reminds me of what legendary oceanographer and explorer Sylvia Earle is accomplishing with the creation of national marine life sanctuaries to protect our oceans.

Look out for Part 2 of my continuing report about Congressman Hinchey in the coming months.

Copyright 2009 Paul McGinniss