Thursday, December 01, 2011 11:08 AM
Jeff Conant, writing for Earth Island Journal, isn’t holding out much hope for COP17, the UN Climate Summit currently happening in Durban, South Africa. And judging by the last two summits in Copenhagen and Cancun, who could blame him. “[N]o matter where you come from,” Conant writes, “if you are actually concerned about the climate crisis, [the UN Climate Summit is] going to be an ugly two weeks.”
For the 99 percent, the climate crisis is neither about settling a scientific debate (the scientists have that pretty well sealed up), nor about safeguarding an already dubious multilateral agenda (if the 16 previous Conferences of Parties haven’t forged a solution, why should we expect one now?) Rather, it is about ethics, about human rights, and specifically the rights that UN parlance calls economic, social and cultural rights (food, water, shelter, health, political participation). For many, in short, the concern in Durban – as in Cancun and Copenhagen previously – is for justice.
The previous climate summits have made it painfully clear that, at the top levels, government ministers, heads of state, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) itself, is more about form than content. Last year, in Cancun, after the spectacular debacle of the failed talks in 2009 at Copenhagen, the concern among global leaders was less about saving the climate than about saving face. Those clamoring for justice in Cancun – a delegation of thousands from civil society – were fenced out, and kept literally miles away from the talks. They were the 99 percent.
Conant’s article doesn’t leave one with a good feeling, finding, as he does, very little in the way of positivity coming from the summit. He points to the Climate Action Network (CAN) as one possible avenue for reform, but quickly dismisses that group with the position of Climate Justice Now!, “the more radical civil society network that sometimes vies with CAN for space inside the negotiations,” that capitalism will be priority number one over justice.
Earth Island Journal
Image by Olivier Tétard, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, May 05, 2011 2:05 PM
Our library contains 1,300 publications—a feast of magazines, journals, alt-weeklies, newsletters, and zines—and every year, we honor the stars in our Utne Independent Press Awards. We’ll announce this year’s winners on Wednesday, May 18, at the
MPA’s Independent Magazine Group conference
in San Francisco. From now until then, we’ll post the nominees in all of the categories on our blogs. Below you’ll find the nominees for the best environmental coverage, with a short introduction to each. These magazines are literally what Utne Reader is made of. Though we celebrate the alternative press every day and with each issue, once a year we praise those who have done an exceptional job.
rightly believes that if you care about birds, you care about the environment. The Audubon Society’s magazine is a must-read for nature watchers of all kinds, digging into its subjects with a keen eye for both natural beauty and the forces that threaten it.
Published by the Society for Conservation Biology, Conservation transcends its modest roots with intellectual depth. From exploring “the dark side of green consumerism” to asking, “Can we feed ourselves without destroying the planet?” it gets to the environmental stories that demand our attention.
A publication of the Earth Island Institute, the group founded by legendary activist David Brower, Earth Island Journalreports from the front lines of the environmental crisis. Its global focus and eagerness for stimulating debate make it essential reading for greens.
The footnotes in Environmentmagazine say “academics at work”—but the stories will have you asking, “Why isn’t anyone else writing about this?” This publication covering “science and policy for sustainable development” goes in-depth but never gets out of reach.
covers myriad stories from the forefront of environmentalism, whether it’s the U.S. military’s use of forestry as a counterinsurgency tool or “urban ecology” putting teens to work greening their cities. Published by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, the biannual provokes readers to change the way they think about the natural world.
The Western United States is a key battleground for many environmental issues, and High Country News is your experienced and knowledgeable correspondent. Its watchdog coverage of mining, ranching, logging—and simply Western life—is unmatched.
The quarterly journal of the Natural Resources Defense Council, OnEarth monitors what’s happening to our land, air, water, and wildlife. It’s a pretty nature magazine, but it also brings a keenly analytic eye to the societal and political dimensions of environmentalism.
The most literary of environmental magazines, Orion takes a big view, touching on spirituality, philosophy, and the arts in its gorgeous pages. Thoughtfully provocative columnists keep it from drifting off into the rapidly warming atmosphere.
our complete list of 2011 nominees
Image by Enokson, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, April 08, 2011 5:25 PM
In Canada’s tar sands, oil is extracted from the earth in a destructive, laborious, energy-sucking process that makes the end product one of the dirtiest forms of oil. It leaves behind a denuded landscape and is blamed for a host of ills, including cancer, in local people. The industry also employs many people and fills a need: Our insatiable thirst for energy.
Earth Island Journal editor Jason Mark journeys to the heart of tar sands country in Northern Alberta, wrestles with thorny ethical dilemmas, and comes away with a stark insight:
In the simplest language, the debate over the morality of the tar sands comes down to a plain choice of who and what we are willing to destroy.
Mark reveals that we may end up destroying people like Marlene and Mike Orr, two residents of the mostly indigenous residents of Fort McKay, Alberta, who became whistleblowers when they spoke out against a dangerous mining waste disposal pond—and now fear the consequences of doing so. For as Mark points out, “There is not a person [in Fort McKay] who doesn’t understand that without the multibillion-dollar oil sands industry they would likely would have no likelihood at all.”
Marlene Orr describes to Mark some of the contradictions in play:
“What people outside of here need to understand when you’re talking about the impacts of oil sands, it’s not black and white. Everybody gets the health concerns, the traffic problems, the light pollution. But people are unwilling to speak out because this community is 100 percent dependent on the oil sands. There’s not a job here that’s not connected to the oil sands. Every one of us here in this community has ambivalent feelings—the health impacts, the cultural impacts, the impacts on band governance. But what do you do? Bite the hand that feeds you?”
In his editor’s note in the same issue, “Don’t Blame Canada,” Mark takes issue with environmental groups that aim to cripple the mighty tar sands machine, and notes that there’s plenty of blame to go around, even to you and me:
Convinced that they can slow the razing of the boreal forest if they can only plug the oil outflow, environmental groups in the U.S. and Canada have set their sites on stopping the expansion of cross border pipelines, halting the retrofitting of American refineries, and preventing the shipment of mining technologies. The basic idea seems to be that by squeezing supply we can increase the price of fossil fuels—and discourage their use. …
Environmental campaigners can do all the blaming and shaming of Canadian oil tycoons and financiers that they like. The fact is, there’s no way to halt the tar sands at the source. The only way to shut down the mines is to make them obsolete. And that will require finally getting over our addiction to oil. Given that more than half of the tar sands petroleum is consumed in the United States, the responsibility for the destruction up north lies with those of us who live south of the 49th parallel.
Source: Earth Island Journal
Panel image by sbamueller, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, April 22, 2010 3:04 PM
Our library contains 1,300 publications—a feast of magazines, journals, alt weeklies, newsletters, and zines—and every year we honor the stars in our Utne Independent Press Awards. We’ll announce this year’s winners on Sunday, April 25, at the MPA’s Independent Magazine Group conference in Washington, D.C., and post them online the following Monday. We’re crazy about these publications, and we’d love it for all of our readers to get to know them better, too. So, every weekday until the conference, we’ll be posting mini-introductions to our complete list of 2010 nominees.
The following eight magazines are our 2010 nominees in the category of environmental coverage.
American environmentalists would be wise to look to Canada’s Alternatives Journal for cogent, well-informed reporting and commentary on green issues. The official publication of the Environmental Studies Association of Canada puts topics from climate change to local food into clear-eyed perspective. www.alternativesjournal.ca
Audubon rightly believes that if you care about birds, you care about the environment. The Audubon Society’s magazine is a must-read for nature watchers of all kinds, digging into its subjects with a keen eye for both natural beauty and the forces that threaten it. www.audubonmagazine.org
Published by the Society for Conservation Biology, Conservation transcends its modest roots with intellectual depth. From profiling “the mushroom messiah” to asking “Is a warmer world a sicker world?” it gets to the environmental stories that demand our attention. www.conservationmagazine.org
A publication of the Earth Island Institute, the group founded by activist legend David Brower, Earth Island Journal reports from the front lines of the environmental crisis. Its global focus and eagerness for stimulating debate make it a must-read for greens. www.earthisland.org/journal
The footnotes in Environment magazine say “academics at work”—but the stories will have you asking “Why isn’t anyone else writing about this?” This publication covering “science and policy for sustainable development” goes in-depth but never gets out of reach. www.environmentmagazine.org
The Western United States is a key battleground for many environmental issues, and High Country News is your experienced and knowledgeable correspondent from the front lines. Its watchdog coverage of mining, ranching, logging—and simply Western life—is unmatched. www.hcn.org
The quarterly journal of the Natural Resources Defense Council, OnEarth keeps tabs on what’s happening to our land, air, water, and wildlife. It’s a pretty nature magazine, but it also brings a keenly analytic eye to the societal and political dimensions of environmentalism. www.onearth.org
The most literary of environmental magazines, Orion takes a big view, touching on spirituality, philosophy, and the arts in its gorgeous pages. Thoughtfully provocative columnists keep it from drifting off into the rapidly warming atmosphere. www.orionmagazine.org
Monday, April 05, 2010 12:28 PM
Last fall, environmental journalist Gar Smith authored an opinion piece for Earth Island Journal in which he argued that cap-and-trade for emissions—designed to allow polluting companies to purchase credits from greener peers to offset their environmental impact—is a morally bankrupt con game on par with the ancient Catholic Church’s doctrine of indulgences. The doctrine he describes is a “once popular practice” that “allowed rich parishioners to purchase remission for their sins by making contributions to the church’s minions.”
The comparison compels, particularly because Smith saves some space to wonder what would happen “if we applied the medieval logic that underlies the granting of ‘pollution indulgences’ to other aspects of human behavior?”
Admissions Trading: We know politicians lie. With Admissions Trading, politicians would no longer fear having to admit to their fibs: They could continue lying to the public as long as they purchased Truth Credits from Buddhist monks and young children.
Omissions Trading: Did you forget to recycle? Did you forget that vow to eat organic? With Omissions Trading, forgetful souls could “offset” their bad habits by purchasing performance credits from the conscientious. Thanks to the genius of market-based solutions, the morbidly obese could continue to overeat – just so long as they remembered to purchase Calorie Credits from health-conscious neighbors and malnourished Third World villagers. You want that extra helping of dessert? Just pay someone else to forgo dinner.
Remissions Trading: People with terminal cancer could buy Recovery Credits from cancer survivors and individuals who are cancer-free. Of course, remissions trading wouldn’t cure the cancer and the buyer would still die from the disease. In other words, it would be just as effective as cap-and-trade’s pollution credits.
Possessions Trading: The filthy rich could buy Poverty Credits from the very poor. This is one trading plan that could significantly improve the overall health of our planet and its people but, when it comes to redistributing wealth, this is one idea that the well-to-do just don’t seem prepared to indulge.
I missed this piece when it was first published, so thanks to the editors at Resurgence magazine, who reprinted a version in their March-April 2010 issue.
Source: Earth Island Journal
Friday, March 26, 2010 12:06 PM
The landscape photographs of New York artist Kim Keever project a grandiose, almost bombastic natural drama: majestic snowcapped mountains, towering trees, and spectacular waterfalls, with landforms and flora shrouded in glistening mist or bathed in sunset hues. But Keever doesn’t travel any further than his studio to make his art: His sweeping scenes are constructed inside 200-gallon fish tanks filled with water.
Compare West 91r, above, to the studio setup of the same scene below.
Earth Island Journal, which presents a sampling of Keever’s work in its spring issue, makes a compelling environmental case for Keever’s open artifice, casting his art of illusion as an heir to the epic landscape paintings of yesteryear:
A simulacrum rarely has the force of the original. But it may also be the perfect statement for an Avatar age in which the most invigorating “nature” experience many people have occurs in the luminescent forest of a multiplex fantasy world. Through a restoration of wonder, Keever makes us hunger for breathtaking vistas.
Source: Earth Island Journal
Images courtesy of Kinz + Tillou Fine Art. Top: West 91r, 2008. Bottom: Artist’s studio, 2008.
Tuesday, March 09, 2010 5:33 PM
If you want to travel in the developing world yet leave a light footprint, consider pointing yourself to Poland, Suriname, or Chile. These countries are among the surprising selections on “The Developing World’s 10 Best Ethical Destinations” of 2010 named by Ethical Traveler, reports Earth Island Journal. Here’s the full list:
• South Africa
“The ten destinations … offer not only scenic beauty and memorable experiences, but also set a positive example in the areas of environmental protection, social welfare, and human rights,” writes Earth Island Journal.
The full ethical destinations report at the Ethical Traveler website contains a detailed description of methodology and some interesting notes about the countries that won—and those that didn’t:
• Lithuania and Chile are green champions, having scored particularly well in environmental protection.
• The “developing world” part of the criteria means that some countries that were on last year’s list, such as Estonia and Croatia, have basically prospered their way out of eligibility.
• “Notably, not a single Asian country made it to the Top 10. Irresponsible development, human rights abuses, and a lack of strong environmental policy kept them all off the list again this year. Perhaps surprisingly, though, four African countries—three on the mainland, and one island republic—made the final list. We believe this bodes well for the future of these nations and, hopefully, for the African continent.”
• Nicaragua was bounced from the list because of its poorly run 2008 municipal elections and a worsening record on human rights and freedoms of speech and the press. “We remove Nicaragua with regret, as the country has created many initiatives to help local communities benefit from tourism, and is taking strong steps to protect and restore its tropical forests.”
• Bhutan may be the only country in the world to measure success by a Gross National Happiness Index, but still it doesn’t make the cut: “Despite its sublime natural beauty and extraordinary commitment to preserving the environment,” writes Ethical Traveler, “the highly nationalistic kingdom is still plagued by human rights issues.”
Sources: Earth Island Journal, Ethical Traveler
Image by doug88888, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, September 11, 2009 4:17 PM
Environmentalists are butting heads over the fate of the ancient Maya Forrest in Guatemala, according to Earth Island Journal. A confusing patchwork of governmental regulations is creating animosity and disagreement on how best to protect the 3,000 endemic species of plants and animals, the priceless artifacts inside the park, and the economic rights of the people who live there.
The government has given permits to locals for low-level, sustainable logging in the area in an effort to curb the massive deforestation inside the park. Some environmentalists insist that including locals in this way is the best way to proceed, because it gives people a stake in the environmental sustainability of the area. Others insist that stricter regulations are needed to promote international ecotourism, an effort that has been cast as “a misbegotten colonialist effort to strip Guatemalans of their jobs working the land, forcing them to drive buses and change bedsheets in tourist hotels.”
Either way, most people agree that the current path for the Maya Forrest is unsustainable. The Rainforest Alliance, for example, estimates that a quarter of the forest could disappear by 2025.
Source: Earth Island Journal
Image by Willem van Bergen, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009 10:07 AM
“We all know that ‘good marriages take work.’ There it is again, work: the cornerstone of our society. Wage labour, relationship labour—are you ever not on the clock?”
—The CrimethInc. Ex-Workers’ Collective, “Adultery and Other Half Revolutions,” from Briarpatch
“[W]e all have the freedom to choose the identity that most reflects our aspirations. I’ve let go of the tropes of the moment, ways others define my identity—blackness, femaleness, bisexuality, Americanness, able-bodiedness. I work to cultivate an identity that is more nuanced, more intuitive than these blanket terms.”
—Rebecca Walker, interviewed by Joy Gugeler, from Room (not available online)
“The fat salaries paid to underperforming CEOs are an adult version of the A–.”
William Deresiewicz, “The Hypothesis,” from Lapham’s Quarterly (not available online)
“Instead of having sand made out of coral and lava rocks and other rocks and shells, now we are having beaches made out of broken-down plastics.”
—Captain Charles Moore, interviewed by Nell Greenberg, from Earth Island Journal
Sources: Briarpatch, Room, Lapham’s Quarterly, Earth Island Journal
Image by Ljubisa Bojic, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009 9:56 AM
Like a cap-and-trade system for fishing, individual fishing quotas (IFQs) are an innovative way that ocean conservationists are fighting overfishing.
Current fishing seasons tend to encourage a zero-sum view of fishing, where fishermen try to catch as much as they can in the shortest time possible. This depletes fish stocks, and threatens biodiversity. In an IFQ system, the government would regulate how much fish—including the nasty bycatch of unwanted animals—that fishermen could haul in. The latest issue of Earth Island Journal explores the strategy, and finds that IFQs give fishermen a stake in the long-term sustainability of fish, because the more fish there are in the sea, the more wealth there is for everyone.
Image by Philippe Gabriel, licensed under Creative Commons.
: Earth Island Journal
Monday, December 22, 2008 10:55 AM
Solar panels are a powerful symbol of the future of energy production, and global demand for them is expected to increase in 2009. In a recent study, researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography found that a man-made gas used to manufacture the thin-film photovoltaic cells that capture sunlight is more prevalent—and more powerful—in the atmosphere than previously thought.
Nitrogen trifluoride, which is also used in the production of flat-screen televisions and microcircuits, is 17,000 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, reports Earth Island Journal (article not available online). About 16 percent of the gas used in producing these items escapes into the atmosphere. Although nitrogen trifluoride accounts for only a very small portion of overall greenhouse gas emissions, as more people look to solar panels as a viable alternative to coal-powered electricity—ironically, to reduce their ecological footprint—the gas in the atmosphere is likely to increase as well. The study estimates the increase to be around 11 percent each year.
Researchers who conducted the study hope to more thoroughly study the information technology industry’s impact on global warming, which is already estimated to be equal to the aviation industry’s.
Image by Tiggs07, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, April 14, 2008 3:29 PM
While media outlets generously cover large-scale issues like global warming, serious environmental problems affecting disadvantaged Americans often go ignored. Residents of low-income and minority communities are often victims of environmental racism, being disproportionately affected by hazardous waste dumping, pollution, and limited access to healthy food.
But one program is trying to counterbalance these disparities. City Slicker Farms is an innovative urban farm in West Oakland, California, that sells organic food on a sliding scale. In an interview with Earth Island Journal, founder Willow Rosenthal argues that people shouldn’t have to choose between eating cheaply and eating well. Because organic farms aren’t subsidized by the government, the cost of organically grown food is high. Rosenthal thinks people would choose to eat locally and organically grown food if it was more affordable. So far, she’s right. The five empty lots that Rosenthal and volunteers transformed into urban gardens have been very popular with the community.
“There’s this perception, maybe, that the environmental movement is very white, and that people of color don’t understand what’s going on, and that’s absolutely not true,” Rosenthal says. “People of all different walks of life are very capable of understanding what’s being done to them, and what’s happening to them. And they see that our environment is completely inundated with toxins, and that in low-income communities there are more, because people aren’t as able to fight against industries that are polluting.”
For more information on environmental justice, check out the Environmental Justice for All stories in the March-April 2008 Utne Reader.
Image by cogdogblog, licensed by Creative Commons.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008 10:34 AM
As the Olympics approach, all eyes are on Beijing—and they’re noticing that the view is pretty smoggy. Despite China’s promise of cleaner air for the Summer Games, which begin on August 8, many observers are speculating that the world’s top athletes will probably be breathing some of the world’s most noxious air.
The New York Times recently reported that many Olympic teams are “preparing for the worst” in terms of air quality. For the U.S. athletes, that means training elsewhere, delaying their arrival as long as possible, and maybe even donning filter masks until competition time, at the risk of offending their Chinese hosts.
There’s more at stake than feelings. Kathryn Minnick takes a deeper look at the environmental backdrop to the games in the Winter 2008 issue of Earth Island Journal (article not available online), noting that “the big question is whether short-term ‘face’ or long-term change will win out.”
The games “have morphed into a pageant of environmental correctness,” Minnick writes, with China making a host of green promises in order to land the coveted games. Beijing has been making real progress in some areas, for instance, changing its power generation mix, tightening car emission standards, and cleaning up some of its most polluting factories. And the Chinese have included lots of flashy, high-tech green features in high-profile Olympic venues like the “Bird’s Nest” main stadium and the “Water Cube” swimming stadium.
However, other goals appear to be overblown or perhaps unattainable, environmental observers tell Minnick, and that pesky smog problem looms. Air quality figures for the final day of a four-day August trial test went “mysteriously missing,” Minnick writes.
“China’s attempt to stage a green Olympics is a good sign,” she concludes, “even if being sustainable was a requirement for holding the Games more than it was a free choice.”
Photo by Peng Bo, licensed under Creative Commons.
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