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Elitism, morality, and food

Organic snobbery

Julie Powell writes in today's New York Times on the social implications of eating well, which for many people has come to mean eating fresh, organic food. Referring to the "cult of garden freshness" and the "snobbery of the organic movement," Powell sees two negatives that can arise from an overemphasis on such foods: economic elitism and moral superiority. The chicken at Whole Foods is organic and cage-free; the chicken at Western Beef is not. Is the woman who buys her children's food at the place where they take her food stamps therefore a bad mother? Powell (thankfully) deviates from …

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Readers talk back about lawns, eco-vandalism, labor/enviro alliances, and more

  Re: The Terror of Our Ways Dear Editor: Thank you for putting the difficult topic of eco-vandalism up front. Unfortunately, it was disappointing to read yet another article calling eco-vandalism "eco-terrorism." The term could hardly be more inaccurate: vandalism damages objects; terrorism kills people. As a fast-growing and visible news outlet, Grist has the power and the responsibility to set the language used for environmental reporting. The activists described in the article are breaking the law, but they are not creating terror. Stop giving spin artists like John Stokes what they want by equating the most audacious environmentalists to …

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UK biz ahead of schedule

This story is pretty cool, though I expect there's more than a little CBI PR behind it. Steel, aluminum, cement and chemical makers made the biggest cuts to carbon dioxide emissions. Along with paper, food and drink companies, they also took the biggest strides when it came to energy efficiency. But let's talk about the caption. WTF? Nothing in the story so much as touches on the science of climate change. BBC just thought it was worth pointing out? When they have a story on, say, new gene research, do they caption their picture with "the science of evolution has …

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Foreign oil

I've pretty much concluded that any story or speech that includes the term "foreign oil" is full of it. There is no foreign oil or domestic oil. There's a worldwide oil market. Cut off oil from one source? Another source compensates. Produce more oil domestically? Prices drop a tiny bit, equally for everyone. The problem, if problem there be, is not "foreign oil." It's oil. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to pull something over on you.

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Ignatius on Barton

Barton controversy hits the bigtime.

David Ignatius covers the Barton controversy for The Washington Post. Glad to see it's hitting the bigtime. I would take issue with this, though: Even President Bush agreed that the scientific evidence is solid by endorsing a Group of Eight communique this month that described climate change as "a serious and long-term challenge" and warning that human activities "contribute in large part to increases in greenhouse gases associated with the warming of our Earth's surface." As Chris Mooney has carefully demonstrated (and many others have argued as well), the G8 statement shows a lot more movement of other countries' positions …

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Body Count

Americans' bodies harbor numerous toxins, big study finds The largest-ever study of human chemical exposure shows that Americans are carrying dozens of potentially harmful toxic compounds in their bodies. Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control tested some 2,400 people in 2000 and 2001 and found more than 100 worrying compounds, many with known links to health threats, many present in larger doses in children than in adults. Some news is good: Dramatically reduced child lead levels are an "astonishing public health achievement," according to CDC Director Julie Gerberding. Some results are mixed: Lower overall amounts of cotinine, a …

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LEED on

Green building builds on successes

The Leadership in Energy and Environmetal Design standard is becoming quite its own recognized brand name. Bill Walsh, founder of the Healthy Building Network, fielded some questions on it in his InterActivist interview this past winter. The standard no longer just applies to buildings, though. Neighborhood development is being targeted for a LEED certification as well. Sharing many principles with New Urbanism and Smart Growth, the certification aims to reward developers for thinking green on the neighborhood level (or larger).

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Walking the walk

The World Bank gets called out

One look at the World Bank's homepage would certainly give the impression that the institution has a new focus -- climate change. "Working together to beat the heat," the banner declares. The bank has its work cut out for it if those words are going to be anything more than just that, words, says Daphne Wysham of NPR's Marketplace (see also her essay on the subject in Grist). She has a few suggestions of her own -- ending funding for coal and oil projects, increasing funding for renewables, and, ahem, actually measuring the impacts of its projects on global warming, …

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J.K. "Luddite" Rowling

Is the popular Potter author a ‘Luddite fool’?

While enviros were praising the Canadian publisher of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for printing the book entirely on recycled paper, I didn't hear any talk about the greener eBook option. Maybe because there isn't one -- at least not legally. As Wired reports: Although Potter has become a multimedia cash cow, with 52 million books sold and products ranging from figurines to a $2.35 billion movie series, Rowling has so far decided against publishing the stories in e-book format, a medium growing by up to 40 percent annually, according to the New York-based Open eBook Forum, a trade …

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The Hills Are Alive …

As Europeans flock to urban centers, wildlife reclaim the countryside Wild boars on the outskirts of Berlin. Bears scaring schoolkids in Austria. New summer blockbuster about a wildlife invasion? Nope, it's Europe in the 21st century. Animals long considered scarce are reappearing in the countryside as folks across the continent abandon rural villages for cities, leaving behind "old mines and quarries" and "farmland that can no longer be profitably harvested," says one researcher. Wolves, which disappeared from Germany in the mid-1800s, now range over abandoned Soviet military reservations in the eastern Saxony region, perhaps having migrated from Poland's Carpathian Mountains. …

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