6/30/2008 12:27:00 PM
Despite overwhelming evidence that human-induced climate change is real, many doubters in Congress are still dragging their feet, blocking climate-change legislation like the recently defeated Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act.
In the provocatively titled Salon piece “Anti-Science Conservatives Must Be Stopped,” Joseph Romm aims squarely at legislators and pundits who bypass hard scientific evidence to make claims against global warming and block climate-change legislation—not because they’re conducting scientifically rigorous studies that might refute that evidence; not because they want to have an intellectually honest debate about that evidence; but simply because it’s fiscally advantageous for them to block any legislation that might weaken the corporations from whom they receive donations.
The consequences of allowing conservatives to keep stalling on climate-change legislation are terrifying, as Romm provides the figures to show how a reduction in carbon emissions isn’t going to happen naturally by letting free trade to push the gas prices higher, or even by the relatively tepid cap-and-trade initiative in the Lieberman-Warner bill. Instead of trying to implement these sorts of incremental changes, Romm urges progressives to write “aggressive energy-independence” bills with stringent limitations on carbon emissions and greater incentives for clean-energy technologies.
If conservatives manage to continue blocking a major climate-change policy reversal into the next decade, then 2025-2050 will become a period of what Romm ominously calls “planetary purgatory,” when the doomsday scenarios of rising sea levels and widespread desertification will attain irreversible momentum. By then, emissions would have to be cut by at least 75 percent in 25 years for change to happen, and that “would require a massive, sustained government intervention … on a scale that far surpasses what this country did during World War II.”
The irony here, of course, is that conservatives deplore government intervention, and yet by stubbornly resisting what they see as unnecessary federal meddling in the form of today’s climate change legislation, they’re all but ensuring that future generations will live in an era of unprecedented government involvement in every aspect of their lives, experiencing firsthand the very scenarios of rationing and regulation their forebears used as bogeymen to prevent real change back in the early 21st century.
6/24/2008 11:50:16 AM
The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to step into the controversy over the Navy’s use of sonar in marine habitat off the coast of Southern California. Next term, the high court will hear the Navy’s appeal of a Ninth Circuit order to suspend or minimize the military exercises.
Sonar has been blamed for whale strandings and severe injuries, though the Navy claims that the technology’s impacts are minimal and temporary. The science, however, is not what’s at the root of the case. Rather, as Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times explains, the judges will decide whether the executive branch has the right to overrule federal laws and statutes in “emergency circumstances”—the label the government used in January to claim that such exercises were necessary in a time of war. (That’s one more principle to be swept under the banner of the War on Terror.)
Military sonar is the most high-profile noise pollution in the ocean, but it’s not the only aural scourge for marine mammals. As Judith Lewis reports in our current issue, “researchers also worry about constant background noise in the sea: sound that causes little in the way of instant injury, and whose effects are harder to prove, but may have a long-term, chronic impact on marine mammals.” Think of the constant drone of cargo ships crisscrossing the globe, the seismic air guns blasting through waters as petroleum outfits hunt for oil, and the acoustic deterrents that fishing operations use to warn other animals off their nets. This noise might be preventing whales from hearing each other, finding mates, or navigating properly (which might send them crashing into ships). You should take a listen for yourself. We’ve compiled a few examples of the different sounds—natural and unnatural—ricocheting through the world’s waters in this online exclusive.
6/23/2008 9:36:38 AM
Israel has finally chosen a national bird, 60 years after its founding. (Americans should respect the delay; if we had too hastily selected our own national emblem, we might now have turkeys tattooed on every patriotic bicep.) Israel’s selection process was a feathered frenzy, the New Republic reports, unavoidable in a country that attracts 540 avian species (that’s 500 million specimens) during semi-annual migrations. “We are at the junction of three continents,” says Israeli ornithologist Yossi Leshem. “From a political point of view, this is disastrous, but for birds it is magnificent.”
The bird that ascended to state symbolism is the hoopoe, which served as the messenger between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, according to the New York Times. (The hoopoe is not kosher, Reuters reports, so the national bird won’t face the disgrace of becoming any Jewish citizen’s dinner.) “It’s a good choice, all in all, a gorgeous bird with a crown-like crest,” writes the New Republic. “Any country would be proud to have it on its telephone cards.”
6/13/2008 12:33:10 PM
Summer hasn’t even officially begun, but we’ve already seen an abundance of freakish weather ranging from the inconvenient (blackouts caused by spring heat waves) to the disastrous (tornados, flash floods, and wildfires). Think Progress’ Wonk Room (thanks to Grist for the link) has assembled a list of the damage done by extreme weather just within the last month. The link between climate change and shifting weather patterns is getting harder to refute, and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 statement (PDF)—asserting that global warming induced by human activity will most likely cause an “increase in the frequency of hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation”—resonates even more strongly amid this spring’s meteorological abnormalities.
, licensed by
6/12/2008 5:11:02 PM
You might think your home energy consumption is your own dirty little secret, but Lolly Merrell reports in the Bear Deluxe (#27; article not available online) that it is in fact probably public knowledge. “In most states, public service commissions require energy companies to provide the records of anyone’s power consumption upon request,” she writes. While making such requests is sometimes slow and cumbersome, she reports that more energy company websites “have made power snooping easy and inviting.”
Such snooping was famously used by a conservative group to shame Al Gore by publicizing the lavish energy use of his Nashville mansion. But Merrell points out that that the numbers can be used for constructive ends as well. She notes that a friend has gathered energy stats for her neighborhood and “plans to go door to door with a challenge: reduce each household’s consumption with the goal of lowering the entire neighborhood’s utility usage by 10 percent.” Now, if you’ll excuse me, my doorbell is ringing.
6/12/2008 4:45:24 PM
It’s possible to buy a down-filled comforter or parka without suffering guilt pangs about over-plucked birds. Down harvested from the nests of the common eider, reports Canadian Geographic, helps protect the formerly over-hunted ducks. The Canadian nonprofit Société Duvetnor Ltée, headed by retired biologist Jean Bedard, funds itself by selling eiderdown hand collected from 12,000 nests on the Île aux Lièvres, one of the islands it owns in Quebec’s St. Lawrence Estuary. “The down can be collected without damaging the ducks or their eggs and nests,” according to Hinterlands Who’s Who, a wildlife information site sponsored by the Canadian Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Federation. Société Duvetnor Ltée and another nonprofit, Société protectrice des eiders de l'estuaire, reinvest their net annual revenues of $50,000-$100,000 into protecting nesting grounds, reports the Quebec Management Plan for the Common Eider.
In addition to generating revenue for preservation, Canadian eiderdown harvesters aid the scientific study of the eider. “Eiderdown harvesting activity in the estuary has made it possible to accumulate a series of unique scientific data that would otherwise have been obtained only at considerable expense,” write the authors of the Quebec Management Plan. “Eiderdown collectors should therefore be considered as partners in the protection and management of the eider rather than as commercial operators.” (The authors of the Management Plan include Société Duvetnor members.)
For duck lovers who can’t afford (or who ethically oppose) a $9,000 comforter, Société Duvetnor allows ecotourism on two of its islands. And don’t worry about disturbing the natives. To coexist with the myriad birds populating the islands, Société Duvetnor prohibits visitors from hiking in certain areas until the birds finish nesting in early July.
6/12/2008 3:55:59 PM
Medicinal herbs stave off a range of ills, including the common cold, joint stiffness, and herpes outbreaks. Soon, they might be able to stave off tiger poaching. The Wildlife Conservation Society Russia Program hopes to reduce Siberian tiger poaching by collecting and selling certified organic herbs, reports In Good Tilth (article not available online), the newspaper of the sustainable agriculture nonprofit Oregon Tilth. Russian villagers will collect Siberian ginseng root, wild rosehips, and Schisandra chinensis berries on organic certified land managed by local hunting clubs. The Wildlife Conservation Society hopes the income generated from selling organic medicinal herbs will reduce the temptation for locals to hunt or allow the hunting of the eight to 10 tigers who roam the area. Only 400 to 500 wild Siberian tigers remain worldwide.
6/11/2008 4:45:19 PM
Living in the city amid dense development and endless pavement, it’s easy to forget the pleasures of cultivation and growth that can be found in gardening. Writing for Permaculture Activist, a quarterly magazine that promotes the design of “ecological human habitats and food production systems,” author David Tracey outlines, step by step, how to build community and reconnect with the earth by beginning a community garden.
The first step, Tracey writes (article not available online), is choosing the right location. Nearly any size plot of land can be used, but the size will affect future plans. “Make sure you have enough space for everything you hope to do, now and later,” he advises. “Think of what you’ll need for other features, perhaps an orchard, an herb garden, a picnic spot or a pond.” Community gardens can fit perfectly into vacant lots, street ends, abandoned park spaces, and unused schoolyard areas, among other places. The area needs a fair amount of sun and water, it needs to be safe from crime and vandalism, and it needs to be accessible to gardeners and enjoyers.
The next step is choosing the right people: like-minded individuals who care as much about community as they do about gardening. “Think of the garden as what grows only after you’ve tended the community,” Tracey writes. Once your small community is assembled, set up a mission and lay down garden ground rules.
How are you going to pay for the land? Tracey recommends pooling volunteer money, donations from land trust groups and other organizations, and possible government grants to fund the project. In Seattle, in conjunction with the P-Patch Trust, the city has established community garden space servicing residents of 70 neighborhoods.
Once your garden is established and your community decides what to grow, you'll need to tend it and promote it. Tracey suggests a “work party” at the end of every month where garden members get together to weed, prune trees, and perform other general maintenance tasks. He also advises an annual “Open House/Plant Sale,” monthly planning meetings, and other fun events that bring members of the community to the garden in admiration of their hard work and dedication.
For more information on community gardens and to find one near you, visit the websites of the American Community Gardening Association and the Urban Community Garden.
Image by Paul Symington licensed under Wikimedia Commons.
6/4/2008 1:44:04 PM
Our sister publication Mother Earth News has an online rundown of a fun little springtime DIY project: making kites from recycled materials.
You can choose from designs that use paper bags or newspaper. Or you can go with non-recycled (but still inexpensive) fare such as paper, foam balls, and feathers. For the expert kite-flyer and -maker, there’s some guidance on DIY sport and stunt kites, too.
Image by ronnie44052, licensed under Creative Commons.
6/4/2008 10:53:42 AM
Many green-minded people give lip service to the idea of local produce, but how many of us eat local all winter long? An organic gardener in Vermont is pioneering a new type of greenhouse that might make winter growing more feasible for aspiring locavores by using heated soil.
In its spring issue, Vermont’s Local Banquet magazine pays a visit to Carol Stedman’s greenhouse, where in January “the air temperature inside was only slightly higher than outside … but a thermometer stuck deep in the dirt read a balmy 60 degrees.” Stedman uses tubes to circulate warm water through the soil, a system she calls “radiant dirt heating.” Her can-do attitude and experimental spirit might just get you started on planning and designing your own “cool greenhouse” for next winter.
6/3/2008 12:46:40 PM
Treehugger reports that London is taking material efficiency into consideration in designing its stadium for the 2012 Olympic Games. The facility will be built from with as many recyclable materials as possible, including a hemp roof. The stadium will also be demountable, meaning it can be disassembled, moved, and rebuilt in a new city. It will be largely bolted together, rather than welded, and break down into pieces that can fit on cargo ships. This new philosophy of “low impact” games and reusable stadia might afford poorer countries the opportunity to host future Games. Chicago, a possible 2016 host, is also considering more reusable and versatile construction materials.
6/3/2008 12:38:00 PM
You’ll have to brave a few Britishisms and metric measurements, but the UK-based Veg Box is a handy site for identifying and cooking with the produce in your “veg box,” i.e. your share in a community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm. Identify fruits and veggies with the photo gallery, and find recipes in the database organized by ingredient.
(Thanks, The Spark.)
6/3/2008 11:52:31 AM
Outdoor retailer Cabela’s inspires an almost religious following among hunters and anglers who make pilgrimages to its humongous shrinelike stores filled with taxidermied trophy game. But New West magazine reports that Cabela’s lost some of its flock in Montana by acting like an 800-pound gorilla.
In New West’s premiere issue, writer Bill Schneider cites two reasons for a revolt among some Cabela’s customers. For one, Cabela’s got involved in a real estate business, Cabela’s Trophy Properties, that could reduce access to land used by hunters and anglers. For another, the store threw its weight around with “aggressive subsidy requests” from local governments in places where it wanted to build new locations. (The magazine’s affiliated website, NewWest.net, has covered the controversy online.)
The real estate blunder seems to have been the biggest misfire. After word got out, “The Montana Wildlife Federation, the state’s largest sporting group, told its 7,000 members to return or burn Cabela’s catalogs,” writes Schneider. “And they did.” Cabela’s backed off and started making concessions to its critics, but not before taking a shot to the flank.
I’ve long wondered how any truly conservation-minded hunter or angler could give money to Cabela’s. Not only does the store seem to glorify the worst elements of the hook-and-bullet crowd by focusing on spectacle and trophies over subsistence and conservation, it has strong ties to the environmentally destructive Bush administration. (The environment, it should be noted, is where game fish and animals live.) As Slate has reported, the Bush-Cheney campaign made a string of campaign stops in Cabela’s stores, and founders Dick and Mary Cabela “maxed out as donors to President Bush’s 2004 campaign and [have] given thousands of dollars more to other Republican candidates and organizations.”
Cabela’s may be seeing the limits of its influence, however. Bush is now a very lame duck, Cheney has distanced himself from any hunting affiliations for obvious reasons, and, Schneider reports, Cabela’s has announced a dramatic cutback in its store openings—including one proposed for Billings, Montana.
of lion at Cabela's licensed under Wikimedia Commons.
6/2/2008 1:43:24 PM
With everything going green, it seems only appropriate that the laundry room, a veritable vacuum of energy and water waste, would be a likely site for improvement.
The environmental parenting blog Eco Child’s Play offers a host of suggestions for more environmentally friendly laundering. The tips come from the 2007 book Raising Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care, by pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene.
One of his recommendations is to use a front-loading washing machine (look for an Energy Star) instead of a top-loader. This will save as much as 15 gallons of water per load and use half as much energy.
Greene also advises alternative means of fabric softening (add 1/4 cup of baking soda to the wash cycle), combating static cling (add 1/4 cup of white vinegar to the wash water), and water softening (“use a soap-based, rather than detergent-based, cleaner”).
Image by Joshua Sherurcij, licensed under Wikimedia Commons.
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