Dig This: My two cents on Earthships

In New Mexico, natch

Today's Dig This spotlights Earthship Biotecture,which has two websites with virtually the same information, laid out different ways. It's just one of the many quirks of the Taos, N.M.-based organization, which makes cool eco-houses and is located a mere seven hours from Roswell. I'm just saying. The basic Earthship home prototype is made of recycled tires, packed with earth to the point of being "virtually indestructible." But they don't have to be made of tires -- in England they're made of tyres. Ha. Um, but really, each is custom made and tuned to the buyers' climate. Result? They "heat and cool themselves naturally via solar/thermal dynamics," to the point of being so energy efficient that residents don't have to pay any utility bills.

It’s time for conservationists to collaborate with an agency they’ve long demonized

In 1982, Earth First!er Dave Foreman used form letters to blitz the U.S. Forest Service with administrative appeals, blocking over 100 timber sales that threatened roadless areas in several Western states. There’s a new ray of hope among forest activists. Photo: iStockphoto. This act of paper monkeywrenching sums up the relationship conservationists had with the Forest Service for three decades. We attempted nearly every act of peaceful hostility — appeals, lawsuits, tree-sits — to obstruct what was then the largest single agency in the federal government and the largest single employer in many rural communities. The Forest Service was destroying …

Fin and Dandy

Low-mercury fish label debuts in Northern California If you love fish but avoid it because you’re worried about high mercury content, you may be in luck — if you live in Northern California, that is. Pacific Seafood Group, a large fish wholesaler, has partnered with Holiday Quality Foods, a chain of 19 grocery stores in rural Northern California, to test-market fish labeled as low-mercury. Fish to be sold under the new Safe Harbor brand will be tested for mercury before being packaged, and only those with mercury levels well below the FDA-recommended level of one part per million will make …

Americans support a gas tax if revenues go toward energy independence

A new New York Times/CBS poll contains extremely interesting results with regard to a gas tax. Unfortunately, the write-up in the NYT is rather garbled. Best to go look at the poll itself (PDF). If you ask people straight out, "do you favor a gas tax," the answers is overwhelmingly (85%) No. Even if you promise to reduce other taxes --payroll and income -- by the same amount, the answer is still (63%) No. But if the question is, "would you support a gas tax if it reduced U.S. dependence on foreign oil" or "would you support a gas tax if it cut down on energy consumption and reduced global warming," the results reverse pretty dramatically. The "foreign oil" question gets 55% in favor and the "energy consumption and global warming" question gets 59% in favor. (Even more intriguing: When the question is, "would you support a gas tax if the proceeds were used to fight the war on terror," 71% still oppose.) Take-home message: U.S. citizens want to reduce oil use, energy consumption, and global warming. And they're willing to pay for it. For chrissake, if we have any politicians left with a pair and the sense God gave a turkey, they would jump on this. Americans crave it. They want to be asked to sacrifice. They want to be involved. They just need an opportunity.

Move Thyself: Birth of a semi-regular column

Bush bails on his bike, but unlike Critical Mass riders, gets away scot free

The British press is all atwitter today about what's likely the top story in cycling news. Remember back in July at the G8 summit in Scotland when President Bush, struggling to ride a bike, wave, and speak at the same time, ended up crashing into and injuring a police officer in full riot gear? Details of the incident were sketchy until now, as Bush and the ever-faithful Scott McClellan attempted to skirt embarrassment, but the official police report of the incident has just been released and, among other things, it describes Bush, amusingly, as a "falling object." What a lovely mental image. As the president passed the junction at speed he raised his left arm from the handlebars to wave to the police officers present while shouting "thanks, you guys, for coming." As he did this he lost control of the cycle, falling to the ground, causing both himself and his bicycle to strike [the officer] on the lower legs. [The officer] fell to the ground, striking his head. The president continued along the ground for approximately five meters, causing himself a number of abrasions. This story's got just about everything a progressive cyclist could want: heads of state crashing to the ground, sweet, sweet schadenfreude, a riot-gear-clad protest-quashing cop being felled by a human-powered vehicle, and a touch of public embarrassment.

Rumblings in the Bronx

A virtual walking tour of the South Bronx

New York's South Bronx was once a getaway for the rich; now the defining landmarks of the community are power plants, landfills, and parking lots. Where some might see hopelessness, though, resident Omar Freilla sees opportunity. Freilla founded Green Worker Cooperatives to salvage reusable materials from trash and demolition waste, creating a neighborhood that is healthier both environmentally and economically. In a virtual walking tour of his community, Freilla discusses his vision of creating hundreds of jobs out of the abundance of "things that nobody else wants." new in Main Dish: Rumblings in the Bronx intro to week three of Poverty & the Environment series: Consumption

Work in Progress

Alan Hipólito, creator of green jobs for low-income folks, InterActivates

Alan Hipólito is putting low-income residents of Portland, Ore., to work restoring ecosystems with native plants. He is director of Verde, a new nonprofit that trains residents of affordable housing for new eco-friendly jobs and careers. As this week's InterActivist, Hipólito chats about his aversion to authority, his plan for livening up your city council meetings, and his desire to see everyone benefit economically from environmental protection. Send him a question of your own by noon PST on Wednesday; we'll publish his answers to selected questions on Friday. new in InterActivist: Work in Progress

There's coal in them plains!

Montana Governor wants to turn coal into a liquid diesel fuel

Anyone channel surfing last night that happened upon 60 Minutes might have recognized a familiar face: Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. Last month, Grist published a story about Schweitzer, who is now promoting his latest big idea: turning Montana coal into a liquid diesel fuel. It's not enough to completely break our addiction to foreign oil, but a start. Most coal today is used for electricity but the governor's plan is to turn Montana's billions of tons of untapped coal into a liquid diesel fuel for our cars.Schweitzer wants to take coal that's been pressurized into a gas, and then use something called the Fischer-Tropsch process to convert that gas into a clean diesel fuel, similar to what is made at a demonstration plant in Oklahoma.The governor handed Stahl a jar of this synthetic fuel, which looked and smelled clean. "Chanel No. 37," Schweitzer said, laughing. "It is diesel. You can pour that in your diesel car or truck right now." Lesley Stahl also interviewed Dr. Robert Williams, a senior energy scientist at Princeton, who informed viewers that this fuel would be cleaner than conventional diesel since pollutants aren't being emitted into the atmosphere, but a lot of carbon dioxide would be released -- "twice as much carbon dioxide than traditional petroleum." So what is Schweitzer's plan for dealing with the CO2? "This spent carbon dioxide, we have a home for it. Right back into the earth, 5,000 feet deep," the governor explains.He plans to sell that carbon dioxide to oil companies that use it to boost the amount of oil they can pump. "It's called enhanced oil recovery. It's worth money to the oil business," Schweitzer said. Read more about the segment and watch a clip at

Is This the “Safe, Clean” Nuclear Power We Hear So Much About?

Illinois nuke-power operator criticized for leaks and “incidents” Quantity doesn’t equal quality with Chicago-based Exelon Corp., which runs all six nuclear plants and 11 nuclear reactors in Illinois. There were at least four “incidents” at Exelon plants last week, including a false alarm at one generating station that initiated the first “site-area emergency” at a U.S. nuclear plant in 15 years. These came on the heels of disclosures that there were eight radioactive leaks and spills at Exelon plants since 1996 that went unreported to the public. One spill of roughly 3 million gallons of tritium-laced water in 1998 wasn’t …