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The Wheel Deal: Bad news edition

Sorry, optimists, it’s not your day

(Note: Due to previous misinterpretations of my sarcasm -- no, I do not actually believe that vegetarians are sinners -- I feel it necessary to mark all occurrences of sarcasm in the below post in bold.) Gosh, there's just so much good news in the environmental world -- I feel it's my duty, in the name of balanced journalism, to bring you some bad news. The U.K.'s Chancellor of the Exchequer -- I think I want that job just for the fancy title -- unveiled a budget yesterday that would exempt low-polluting cars from an excise tax. You would think this would be good news, but you would be wrong: The only car that would qualify for the break, Honda Motor Co.'s Insight, hasn't been sold in Britain since it finished its five-year production run last year. ... No cars qualify for the exemption to the tax. "I want to do more to encourage cleaner fuels and cars," said the Chancellor (presumed sarcasm mine). Insidious, but clever, I must say.

They Got Seoul But They’re Not Eco-Soldiers

South Korean Supreme Court rules in favor of eco-damaging seawall In a bitter defeat for a worldwide coalition of environmentalists, the South Korean Supreme Court has ruled that construction can continue on what will become, if finished as planned, the world’s longest seawall. Begun in 1991 and about 90 percent complete, the 20-mile-long wall will convert over 99,000 acres of wetlands into filled land and a reservoir. Conservationists point out that the wall will affect migratory birds from Mongolia to New Zealand by disrupting a crucial feeding area. The filled land was initially going to be used for rice paddies, …

No, No, We Said Hit the Road, Gale

In parting gesture, Norton paves way for more roads on federal lands Yesterday, as a Cruella-De-Ville-esque parting shot, Interior Secretary Gale Norton issued a new policy that enviros warn could allow local and state governments to build hundreds of roads on national parks, wildlife refuges, and other federal lands in the West. At issue is an 1866 law that gave states and counties rights of way across federal lands; the law was repealed in 1976, but allowed claims for already-existing “routes.” Since then, local governments and enviros have sparred over what routes deserve to be maintained as roads, with some …

Hansen on 60 Minutes

A while back, famed NASA climatologist James Hansen appeared on CBS' 60 Minutes to talk about global warming and the Bush administration's attempts to suppress climate-change science. Now Crooks & Liars has the video. Check it out. (via A Few Things Ill Considered) Update [2006-3-23 10:28:46 by David Roberts]: That reminds me: Rick Piltz, who worked for years coordinating climate research programs at NASA, the U.S. EPA, and the National Science Foundation, quit last year and started talking to the press about administration interference in science. He's interviewed in the 60 Minutes piece, and has also started a fantastic blog about media-related climate science issues. Bookmark it.

As the world swelters

Judging from this quip recently overheard in New York at the West 4th Street subway station, the Environmental Defense + Ad Council's new Fight Global Warming ad campaign can't start soon enough: Girl: ...I mean, who doesn't like being warm? It's not like they call it "Global Sweltering"! So who cares?

Kolbert blogs!

Hey, speaking of Elizabeth Kolbert, I was googling around and found this week-long blog she did for Powell's book store. It's far more breezy and conversational than her New Yorker writing -- lots of fun. Check it out.

Me and Elizabeth Kolbert

Elizabeth Kolbert is the author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe, based on three well-received articles she wrote for the New Yorker (the articles are no longer available online, but you can read an excerpt from the book here; Grist reviewed it here.) It's a journal of her travels to various parts of the world being directly impacted by global warming, along with a clear-eyed assessment of global-warming politics in the U.S. It's probably the best single book on climate change to date. I'll be chatting with Kolbert tomorrow. What should I ask her?

The Mustache and Lugar

Chip mentioned The Mustache's latest column here. A couple of people wanted to see excerpts, as it's hidden behind the $elect subscription wall. The basic point of the column is that "Dick Cheney and Big Oil" have taken control of the energy debate by defining "realism" with ... ... this patronizing, pat-you-on-the-head view about alternative energy -- hybrids, wind, solar, ethanol -- which goes like this: "Yes, yes, those are all very cute and virtuous, but not realistic. Real men know that oil and fossil fuels are going to dominate our energy usage for a long time, so get used to it." But, he says, there are signs of strain in the Republican coalition. More groups on the right are coming to realize that leaving oil behind -- and fast -- is the only "realistic" option if we want to avoid serious pain down the line. Mostly, though, the column amounts to, "hey, look at Lugar's speech!" Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) makes the same points more eloquently. I'm including a long excerpt below the fold, but I encourage you to read the whole thing.

An interview with Rabbi Michael Lerner

On spiritual environmentalism

A few weeks ago, I sat down for a long chat with Rabbi Michael Lerner. The first half -- most directly related to environmental issues -- is here. The second half, wherein in we discuss general spiritual and theological issues, is below. In his new book The Left Hand of God (you can read an excerpt here), Lerner says the religious right offers what he calls the right hand of God: a stern authoritarian father, who punishes sin, demands self-reliance, and inspires fear. The political right has gained momentum and adherents in recent years, Lerner says, because only conservative Christianity has been vocally and unapologetically addressing the spiritual needs of Americans, their quest for meaning in a materialist, consumerist culture. Lerner thinks progressives should offer an alternative: the left hand of God, a loving, nurturing presence that forgives imperfection and inspires a sense of hope and wonder.

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