2/28/2008 11:15:15 AM
The Great Lakes are dangerously polluted, but you wouldn’t know it from the information released by the Center For Disease Control (CDC). A 400-page CDC report was recently suppressed, according to the Center for Public Integrity, because it contained “alarming information” on rising infant mortality and cancer rates in the Great Lakes region. The report was subsequently leaked due to journalist Sheila Kaplan who said people in the CDC believe it was “suppressed because the government does not want to alarm the public about a problem that the government cannot fix, or at least cannot fix in the near future.”
For many more examples of information suppression under the Bush administration, read Bush Hits the Delete Button from the Mar.-Apr. issue of Utne Reader.
2/26/2008 10:26:05 AM
Amid last fall’s flurry of beef recalls, Meatpaper magazine interviewed Neal Westgerdes (article not available online), the overseer of all California meat inspectors—including those at Westland/Hallmark Meat, the firm responsible for the record 143-million-pound recall on February 17. There have been no reports of illness, but the industry’s integrity is in question. Now I can only read the interview, published in the Winter 2007 issue, with skepticism as Westgerdes explains how inspectors check in daily at all processing facilities and have on-site office space at slaughterhouses. “Consumers don’t get to go where I go and see what’s going on,” Westgerdes says, explaining inspectors’ role as defenders of the public interest. I wonder if Westgerdes would now be so quick to affirm that he confidently eats commercially raised meat, while hunting gives him ethical pause: “I don’t think those animals were put on this planet to satisfy our need for meat.”
2/25/2008 4:59:01 PM
Further fueling suspicions that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals dreams up campaigns by asking conservatives, “What would tick you off the most?” Stratton Lawrence of the Charleston (South Carolina) City Paper reports that the group is lobbying for a 10-cents-a-pound federal meat tax.
PETA likens this “sin tax” to ones already “placed on tobacco, alcohol, and gasoline for their costly effect on the environment and public health,” Lawrence writes. Revenue from this proposed bill (that will never, ever pass) would fund education about the benefits of eating less meat.
“Even though the average American adult would only pay $20 more per year with this tax, it would encourage reduced meat consumption,” PETA’s Ashley Byrne tells Lawrence. “That could save a family thousands in health care costs.”
In pairing the word “meat,” considered icky by most vegetarians, with “tax,” perhaps the most hated word in the English language, PETA, in typical fashion, seems to be saying: Let’s see how polarized this thing can get. Supply-side might be a better place to start—by raising industry standards for environmental remediation or, as one small livestock farmer suggested to Lawrence, by rolling back the huge government subsidies being handed away to factory farms.
2/25/2008 4:19:33 PM
The “cap-and-trade” strategy for reducing greenhouse gases isn’t a new idea. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to understand. Even after reading numerous articles on it, the concept of an emissions market where companies can trade shares of pollution still makes my head spin. But in “The (Very Profitable) Economics of Emissions” in the Jan.-Feb. issue of Mental Floss (article not available online), writer Sam Kean makes sense of an abstract idea:
Instead of looking for ways to dump pollution, companies “own” their emissions output and can trade it like a commodity. For instance, if a business has 25,000 permits but only needs 20,000, then it can sell the extra shares for cash. Or, if a company unexpectedly exceeds its pollution limit, it can buy extra permits to cover itself.
The result is a “cap-and-trade” market, which allows the government to screw down maximum emissions levels and lessen pollution by taking shares out of circulation. When shares disappear, the supply goes down, and the remaining shares become more expensive. Eventually, it costs companies too much to simply buy extra permits and prompts them to invest in cleaner technology.
2/25/2008 10:53:44 AM
Tim Dundon is a prolifically composting, rhyme-spitting eco-prophet living on a lush, Edenesque mountain of decomposing waste. His compost-rich soil, much of it made from his own excrement, is so powerfully fertile he has dubbed it “kraptonite.” Catch Dundon kicking some knowledge about the power of poo, the secret to universal love, and his unique cure for all the world’s ills in this short documentary by Arthur magazine.
2/21/2008 2:26:35 PM
I recently learned that the carbon tax is part of a secret, intra-governmental plot to kill 80 percent of the Earth's population. A nefarious “Banking cartel” (read: Jews) is banding together with the European Union, the North American Union, the Asian Union, and the Bilderberg Group to create a global government. That government will use the “peak-oil fraud” to enslave the Third World, dominate the First World, and enslave the 20 percent of the population that's still alive.
If you don’t believe me, there’s probably a good reason. I learned my “facts” from Endgame: Blueprint for Global Enslavement (Disinformation, 2007). The film is filled with the xenophobic ranting of Alex Jones, a radio host and filmmaker who’s heavily involved with the 9-11 truth movement. The conspiracy theory knows no bounds, implicating Planned Parenthood, the Club of Rome, Live Earth, the Council on Foreign Relations, every major government in the world, and even the World Wildlife Fund. (For some reason he left out World Wrestling Entertainment.) Jones takes to the streets, yelling at people through a bullhorn: “We are not your slaves.”
The hysterical raves negate what is admirable about 9-11 Truthers, and conspiracy theorists in general, as expressed in a piece by Paul Constant, reprinted from the Stranger in the Jan.-Feb. issue of Utne Reader. Constant writes, “the majority of Truthers I’ve met have used clearheaded and civil discussion as their primary method of coercion, and it’s worked remarkably well.” Americans are currently living under a government that's actively trying to dismantle civil liberties and obsessed with secrecy. Many conspiracy theorists are fighting against that. The problem is that people like Jones have given up on civil discussion (and reason), opting for the bullhorn instead.
You can watch the trailer for Endgame below:
2/14/2008 2:53:08 PM
The iPhone was universally greeted with ticker-tape parades, satisfied high fives, and people dancing in the streets. Well, almost. Since it was unveiled, the feather rufflers at Greenpeace have been skeptical of the revolutionary phone for environmental reasons. Back in May 2007, a month before the iPhone dropped, Apple CEO Steve Jobs made a commitment to phasing out all brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and chlorinated plastic polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in Apple products by the end of 2008. PVC and BFRs are toxic pollutants hazardous to the environment once they enter the waste stream. A study by Greenpeace revealed concerning levels of both toxins in the iPhone.
Apple has been under fire by environmentalist for years over its iPod batteries, which have proven to be short-lived and environmentally hazardous. The company was specifically targeted because of its image as an environmentally conscious company, and because of astronomical iPod sales, the Christian Science Monitor wrote in 2005.
As a possible act of redemption, however, Apple has now unleashed the Macbook Air, an eco-friendly laptop so skinny the tabloids think it’s anorexic. Starre at Eco-Chick has a rundown of the computer’s green credentials, which include an absence of both PVC and BFRs, as well as a packaging reduction of 56 percent. Plus, she points out, it’s sexy.
2/14/2008 2:29:26 PM
Gas prices continue to rise, but there’s one energy source that’s as cheap as ever: air. French engineer Guy Negre has figured out a way to run cars on compressed air, BBC News reports, and his air-powered inventions could go on sale in less than a year. The OneCAT will cost about $5,000 and can be filled up with an air compressor in just three minutes. To watch a video of the BBC report click here.
(Thanks, Raw Story and the Arlington Institute newsletter.)
2/14/2008 1:56:10 PM
Vegetarian converts can be won without employing the ubiquitous mantra of “meat is murder.” Functional and affordable products are key, argues Silicon Valley Metro Active food columnist Elisa Camahort, which is why she embraces big-box organics along with neighborhood co-ops.
“Like anybody else,” Camahort writes, “I want the fact that a product or service meets my personal ethical requirements to be the bonus, the cherry on the sundae. I don’t want it to be the reason I have to put up with below-par quality or service.”
Increasing the availability of veg products is the modus operandi of “vegan culinary activism,” which Post Punk Kitchen co-creator Isa Chandra Moskowitz outlines in the vegetarian magazine Satya. Attracting the omnivorous masses starts with convincing your mom to use a vegan cookbook or your neighborhood 7-Eleven to stock seitan sandwiches, which they do in Philadelphia. Moskowitz challenges animal libbers to tempt the taste buds of omnivores as a form of activism.
“Every time I hear animal rights activists engaging in heated debate,” Moskowitz writes, “I want to shout, ‘Shut the hell up and go invent a good-tasting soy cheese!’”
2/14/2008 12:46:02 PM
Major media outlets have been humming about Tata Motors’ new $2,500 car, the Nano, which is expected to speed into mass production in India later this year. While many in the West were previously unfamiliar with Tata, an informative profile in the New Yorker by James Surowiecki reports that the $30 billion conglomerate has been sparking India’s industrial sector since the 19th century. However, it is the company’s impossibly cheap car that has prompted worldwide media attention, fueling fears about the potential environmental impact of putting automobile ownership within reach of a market containing more than a billion people.
Gavin Rabinowitz of the Associated Press sounded the eco-alarm in a story picked up by USA Today, ABC News, and many other news outlets. Somini Sengupta of the New York Times noted these environmental concerns and added that because India lacks a driving culture like that in the United States, wacky high jinks, like dodging elephants in the road, might also ensue.
As Gwynne Dyer points out in the Toronto weekly Now, such hysteria is hypocritical, given that cars in the United States and Canada are more environmentally onerous since they are larger and far more numerous.
Dyer writes, “Clucking disapprovingly about mass car ownership in India or China misses the point entirely. At the moment, there are only 11 private cars for every thousand Indians. There are 477 cars for every thousand Americans.” Dyers proposes we adopt a “contraction and convergence” model like the one pioneered by Aubrey Meyer, whereby developed and developing countries agree on a future meeting point for their emissions.
2/14/2008 11:31:43 AM
There are so many tips on going green, or eating green, or driving green, or sleeping green, that scientists have estimated that eliminating green-tips lists from environmental journalists’ repertoires would save over a million trees’ worth of paper a year. (Not really.) The environmental giant the Nature Conservancy has jumped into the game and surprised us all with some actually innovative tips from bona fide experts in the Everyday Environmentalist. These tips range from the simple, like replacing your car with a bike trailer, to the unexpected (drill holes in logs to provide bees a home to help protect pollinators from colony collapse disorder), to the nigh-on impossible (“You should only put on your skin ingredients that you would be able to eat as well”). They’re asking for readers’ tips, too. I bet Utne folks could come up with some sure to surprise them!
2/14/2008 11:16:36 AM
Would Sen. John McCain be a good environmental president? Don’t bet the planet on it. Joseph Romm at Salon writes that although the Republican nominee-to-be is the only GOP candidate who believes in the science of global warming and who has proposed legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, his green credentials are shaky at best.
“While McCain may understand the scale of the climate problem, he does not appear to understand the scale of the solution,” writes Romm. Unless a President McCain appointed judges and agency heads who would not gut efforts to address climate change—something he’d be unlikely to do—he wouldn’t make much headway. Romm also points out that McCain has backed huge subsidies for nuclear power, yet he “remarkably” told Grist in an interview last October that wind and solar need no such help.
Over at Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington also calls out McCain on his environmental wishy-washiness in “End of a Romance: Why the Media and Independent Voters Need to Break Up With John McCain”:
“The old John McCain talked about trying to do something about global warming and encourage renewable energy. The new John McCain didn’t show up for a vote last week on a bill that included tax incentives for clean energy, even though he was in D.C. And then his staff misled environmentalists who called to protest by telling them that he had voted for it.”
McCain is still getting mileage out of the “maverick” label that no longer applies, Huffington claims. But perhaps he’s still a maverick when compared to green voters: He’s got almost nothing in common with them.
, licensed under Creative Commons.
2/6/2008 10:34:25 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.
2/6/2008 9:18:42 AM
The claim that mass consumerism is killing the planet isn’t new, but perhaps it’s best made by French author Hervé Kempf. In an article from the French-Canadian newspaper Le Devoir translated on the website Truthout, Louis-Gilles Francoeur highlights the relationship between economics and the environment explored in Kempf’s new book, Comment les riches détruisent la planète (How the Rich Destroy the Planet).* Kempf sees economic disparity and ecological destruction as symptoms of a single disease: capitalism. The system’s rigidity makes it incapable of supporting the changes needed to remedy our present environmental crisis, Kempf believes, and the only solution is to “bring down the rich.”
* Correction: Due to an editing error, the newspaper Le Devoir was originally identified as French. It is French Canadian.
2/5/2008 4:16:51 PM
Eking out a living from meager government pensions, grandmothers in poor suburban South African townships have staged a revolution. But while their cities were once hotbeds of anti-apartheid sentiment, this uprising is gentler. It involves growing vegetables. Supported by the environmental group Abalimi Bezekhaya, grandmothers have set up organic community farms, helping to feed their neighbors and gain some self-sufficiency. AllAfrica.com has a series of articles, photo galleries, and videos about the farms.
2/5/2008 3:20:33 PM
Energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs may be lighting all of our homes within 10 years, but by next fall, they will cause the lights to turn out in six Cleveland-area General Electric plants.
Hundreds of union light bulb makers will lose their jobs, reports Lisa Rab in the Cleveland Scene, because it’s cheaper to make CFLs in countries with an abundance of cheap labor, like China or Hungary. Due to China’s careful strategic insights and planning in the 1990s, Rab reports that this notorious polluter now “produces an estimated 80 percent of the world’s CFLs.”
Rab’s report puts a wrinkle in the typical feel-good environmental interest story by highlighting the competing toll on fairly paid, union labor. In response to the layoffs, the union began a “Screw That Bulb” campaign to get the word out that GE was shipping its light-bulb jobs overseas. Union official David Raleigh told Rab, “The facilities are here….[GE owns] the buildings. You have a trained work force that can be adapted. It really is a shame.”
2/5/2008 2:50:53 PM
China’s exporters are increasingly cornering markets on ingredients in prepared foods, some of which will go on to be labeled “local,” reports Wayne Roberts in Toronto’s Now magazine.
Such foods can be deemed local because their packing and packaging costs as much as their ingredients. Customs limitations, however, make it difficult to gauge the quality of Chinese ingredients and the environmental standards under which they were grown.
Chinese ingredients that dominate the prepared foods market, Roberts reports, include apples, apple juice, dried berries, organic frozen broccoli, cinnamon, fish, garlic, honey, vanilla, and xanthum gum.
2/5/2008 2:04:52 PM
Kathryn Blume’s traveling one-woman show The Boycott raises profound questions, such as, “What do men prefer, gas-guzzling motor vehicles or their wives’ carnal affections?” Blume’s monologue, based on the Aristophanes comedy Lysistrata, follows First Lady Lyssa Stratton as she singlehandedly tries to end global warming. Lyssa vows to abstain from sex until her husband solves climate change, and she urges other women to do the same. Check out Blume’s monologue here:
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