Poverty and environment redux

I commend Grist's editors for this landmark series. Their efforts, along with the many great writers who have contributed, have helped exemplify one of the central themes of environmental justice: Environmentalism in the absence of people (as both political participants and right-endowed members of the Earth community) has led to worse social and ecological conditions by concentrating the negative impacts of industrial civilization on the disempowered, while not solving the core ecological issues it set out to fix. If this is correct, then environmental justice offers a very serious and very useful critique of our environmentalist agenda. If, as reformers, we can face up to this difficult reality, we can begin to re-form our own movement in ways that recognize our short-comings and work to avoid them in the future. The critique implies a question: How do we be sure to "include people as both political participants and right-endowed members of the Earth community" in our environmentalist agenda? I believe we must. I have offered some tentative suggestions for how to do so elsewhere (I would add make all landscape decisions local in character to that list), but I would love to hear from others who are wrestling with these issues. Peace, Kip

New urbanism on the Gulf Coast

Casinos and high-rises battle trolleys and bike lanes for the Gulf Coast future

The bossman draws my attention to a story in the NYT that rather tragically illustrates the struggle over new urbanism I mentioned in the post below. Really, really interesting stuff. There's probably no place in the U.S. where new urbanism has a better shot at taking hold than the Gulf Coast. By getting wiped out, many of the towns and cities along the coast have a chance to start over -- to reimagine what their communities can be. Lots of people seem to have the right idea: Gov. Haley Barbour's rebuilding commission and many small-town officials advocate a planning approach known as New Urbanism, which supports pedestrian friendly, historically themed developments where people of mixed incomes share the same neighborhoods and are closely linked by public transportation. Given a rare chance to redesign their landscapes, many residents and officials want to see towns designed around trolley cars, pedestrian walkways and open spaces. And of course, lots of people seem to have the wrong idea: But critics here mock New Urbanism as being impractical and ignorant of the preference of most Americans for privacy over community, and as creating towns that often look like film sets rather than real communities. What do "real communities" look like? "Biloxi is going to be high-rises and condos," said Duncan McKenzie, president of the Chamber of Commerce and a vice president of the Isle of Capri casino. "People refer to what happened here as a tragic opportunity." Even before the storm, casinos were Biloxi's second-largest industry after the military, employing 15,000 people and generating $19.2 million in taxes.

To boldly go where no man has gone before

This is a couple of weeks old. See those specks at the bottom of this picture? Those are helicopters. From LiveScience: A cave so huge helicopters can fly into it has just been discovered deep in the hills of a South American jungle paradise. Researchers found a new species of poison dart frog inside. I don't have a good feeling about this. Some scientists are starting to suspect that just maybe they are the ones responsible for spreading the fungus that is killing off the frogs of the world.

Why isn’t there more new urbanism?

It is conventional wisdom in enviro circles that a big part of a green future is green cities, and a big part of green cities is dense, mixed-use development, wherein people interact with their neighbors, walk or bike to amenities, and generally have a much smaller environmental footprint than suburbanites. In other words: new urbanism. Supporters of new urbanism face a daunting challenge, though: namely, the apparently overwhelming preference of Americans for sprawling, single-use suburbs. If dense, mixed-use urban communities are so great, how come there just aren't that many? How come nobody seems to want to live in them? There are two basic schools of thought on this question.

Justice in Time

Meet Robert Bullard, father of the environmental-justice movement

Rich, white environmentalists love to moan about why the movement is so ... rich and white. But activists who don't fit that description are busy on the ground, wondering what the hell the white folks are talking about. Robert Bullard is one of them. Considered the first to articulate the concept of environmental justice, Bullard has been battling eco-inequities for nearly 30 years. He talks with Gregory Dicum about why he entered the fray, how things have changed since, and why "creating little black Greenpeaces" isn't the answer. new in Main Dish: Justice in Time see also, in Grist: Poverty & the Environment, a special series

Chem and Get It

State report urges California to adopt greener chemical policy California continues to leave the rest of the nation in the (toxic) dust: A new report commissioned by the state legislature recommends a tough “green chemistry” policy to identify, restrict, and replace the most dangerous chemicals used by American industry — because, says the report’s lead author, federal laws are not strong enough to protect the public. Cautioning that the “United States has fallen behind globally in the move toward cleaner technologies,” the research team recommends that industry be required to provide hazard data on individual chemicals, and state regulators be …

State of the planet's wildlife and water

Courtesy of PBS

While most television networks lack programming in the environmental arena, at least we have PBS, which will air a few green specials just in time for Earth Day. First we have "Planet H20":

Job opening for the most important job in the world

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- the group that's supposed to translate the international scientific consensus on climate change, so the threat can be accurately gauged and appropriately addressed -- is looking for an information officer. The job posting is here (pdf). Rightly or wrongly, autopsies of global-warming failures to date often indict scientists for their poor communication skills. Regardless, to counter the well-funded counter-intelligence coming out of Exxon-Mobil and the White House, it sure would be nice to have a top-notch professional in the role. It is not much of an exaggeration to say that the future of the world may depend on it. So how about helping find one? Know a mercenary PR professional with bulldog instincts who's tired of selling widgets and keeps telling you how they really want to make a difference? Forward the posting: here's their big chance. Job's in Geneva -- a beautiful city. Pay is $80k-$100k. I'll even throw in Vote Solar t-shirts for the whole family if that will make a difference.

Correlation does not equal causality, but c’mon already

The U.N. announced today that global warming gasses have reached record concentrations in the atmosphere:"Global observations coordinated by WMO show that levels of carbon dioxide, the most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, continue to increase steadily and show no signs of leveling off," said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. In other news, Canada is reporting the warmest winter since records have been kept.Canada has recorded its warmest winter in nearly six decades of record-keeping, with temperatures that a veteran forecaster said on Monday were almost "un-Canadian."Environment Canada said temperatures averaged 3.9 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than normal from the end of November 2005 to the start of March 2006, and broke the previous record for the country's warmest winter by almost a full degree."The entire country was into this balminess. This kind of benign winter, said David Phillips, Environment Canada's senior climatologist in Toronto. Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories basked in temperatures that were more than 6 degrees Celsius above norm. "We are known as the second coldest country in the world and it was anything but that. It was really quite un-Canadian," Phillips said.

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