Wealth gradients

Ever wonder what it is that holds people in poverty? Although never expressed in polite company, there is an undercurrent in many circles that the poor are victims of their genes. There isn't a word for it, like racism or sexism, but the mindset still exists. Here's the real skinny: poverty, like wealth, is usually inherited. Poverty is primarily the result of competition from other human beings. People like you and me took their jobs. It is also a matter of statistics and energy. A street orphan in Bangladesh has essentially zero chance of becoming CEO of Boeing, no matter how hard he or she tries. How do you suppose President Bush, a man who rarely reads and can hardly string a grammatically correct sentence together, became president of the most powerful nation on Earth? He was not only accepted into Yale (SAT scores: 566 verbal and 640 math), but managed to graduate as well. He later attended AA, and with the help of a higher power managed to kick the drinking habit he had developed while at Yale. The best analogy I can come up with is a ten-mile race (having been a long distance runner for most of my life, I prefer footrace analogies to football analogies). Dubya started life's race two feet from the finish line and staggered over it. Others started in a huge pack at the starting line. Arrayed before them, somewhere between the starting line and the finish line, were people born to wealthier parents.

The gentleman from Colorado

I was going to blog about this, but I honestly can't add anything to the ThinkProgress post. So I'll just steal it: Colorado State Rep. Jim Welker (R) blasted an email to his colleagues containing "an essay written by someone else that accused 'welfare-pampered blacks' of waiting for the government to save them from Hurricane Katrina." A excerpt from that essay, written by the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson: President Bush is not to blame for the rampant immorality of blacks. Had New Orleans' black community taken action, most would have been out of harm's way. But most were too lazy, immoral and trifling to do anything productive for themselves. Welker forwarded the essay "without comment." Here is his defense: "Some of my best friends are of different skin color, like Ed Jones," said Welker, referring to Sen. Jones, a Colorado Springs Republican who is black. According to Jones, "he and Welker are friends, but not best friends." Wow. Just ... wow. Greens are fond of thinking that when another Katrina happens -- maybe another hurricane, maybe a flood, maybe a heatwave -- people will finally "wake up" and start cutting back on consumption, lobbying lawmakers to address global warming, etc. This bespeaks a rather naive view of human nature, if you ask me. Seems to me just as likely that you see stuff like the above: An outbreak of tribalism. I'm not sure what could swing things one way or the other, but one thing that will certainly help is to have a model of a good green life, ready at hand, so people willing to resist tribalism have something easy to fall back on.

The Daily Grist Headline Battle Royale: Match 3

First, last week's winner ... d'oh! "Nobody Undoes It Like Sara Lee" with 40% of the vote. And I thought it was going to be "Bring in Da Illinois, Bring in Da Hunk" for sure! Now, here are this week's nominees: It's Hard Out Here for a Chinook: Fishing ban considered for Klamath chinook along West Coast Fools Russia In: Russia to build oil pipeline within half-mile of world's deepest lake Tray's Anatomy: Hospital menus getting green overhaul Can We Sue Them for Label?: House passes industry-beloved food-labeling bill The Leak Shall Inhibit the Earth: Northern Alaska pipeline leak may rank as one of region's largest Vote!

SWOP and Go

Tomasita González, environmental-justice organizer, answers readers’ questions

Tomasita González is pushing to bring clean, running water and electricity to low-income communities of color in the Albuquerque area -- including her own. In answering reader questions, González -- an organizer with the SouthWest Organizing Project and this week's InterActivist -- chats about her favorite bilingual kids' book, New Mexico's status as a "nuclear colony," the rights of a toothpaste tube, and more. new in InterActivist: SWOP and Go

Media Shower: Environmental film

If you watched the Oscars on Sunday night and were paying close attention, you may have noticed that climate change made a small appearance. Missed it? It was right there in the middle of the "issues" montage. If you don't believe me, head on over to and take a look at item number ten. See it? Day After Tomorrow. (For those of you not familiar with the movie, IMDb can help. May I also suggest this and this.) As I mentioned last week, this year's Academy Awards presented a variety of green tinted films, including Syriana and March of the Penguins, which both won Oscars. But you don't need to depend on Hollywood for great environmental filmmaking. A whole host of green films are being created by independent filmmakers everywhere, and are featured at environmental film festivals around the U.S. Two of the most prominent are taking place this month.

Eden Come, Eden Go

Climate change threatens newly discovered tropical paradise One short month ago, the world thrilled to the news that researchers had discovered an untouched jungle in the Foja Mountains of New Guinea in Indonesia, full of unknown or rare plants and critters. Now — you saw this coming, right? — a U.S. climate scientist has warned that global warming may wipe out many of the forest’s species before they’re identified. Climatologist Michael Prentice reports in New Scientist that temperatures in the newly discovered paradise have risen precipitously since the 1970s: about 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit every decade. “This is five times the …

Don’t Let the Door Hit You …

Interior Secretary Gale Norton resigns Gale Norton, secretary of the Department of Interior, announced today that she will resign her position, effective at the end of the month. “Now I feel it is time for me to leave this mountain you gave me to climb,” she wrote in her resignation letter to President Bush, “catch my breath, then set my sights on new goals to achieve in the private sector.” The private sector should welcome her with open arms: In her tendentious career at Interior, Norton stripped protection from wilderness areas, pushed for more logging, advocated increased oil and gas …

Gale Norton resigns

The Denver Post, Associated Press, and other news services are reporting that Gale Norton is stepping down after five years at the helm of the Department of the Interior. Norton's taking her leave to "catch my breath, then set my sights on new goals to achieve in the private sector," according her letter to President Bush. While primly notes that her "name came up" in connection with the Jack Abramoff inquiry, ThinkProgress is more assertive. Under the headline "Another Abramoff Casualty?" TP notes that Norton received $50,000 from the defrocked lobbyist, who also channeled half a million dollars to her former aide Italia Federici to gain access to Norton and another Interior top official. Whatever the reason or not-reason, Norton is leaving the Bush cabinet without having achieved her goal of opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. Update [2006-3-10 12:7:8 by Emily Gertz]: The folks at ThinkProgress elided the specifics slightly in the post I linked to above (although they're clearer about them elsewhere on the site). According to, this $50K from the Meskwakis Tribe of Iowa actually went to a Norton-founded group, the greenwashy Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy ... as did many thousands more from other tribes that employed Abramoff. CREA's president? Italia Federici.

Will you change your life to save the planet?

EcoBrits have begun a "Click for the Climate" campaign, asking the U.K. public to make a small lifestyle change in honor of National Science Week (March 10-19). Apparently, "Prime Minister Tony Blair will be turning down his thermostat, world record holder Colin Jackson will be taking the train, and Sir David Attenborough will be unplugging his mobile charger." Wo0t! The BBC has set up a "Have Your Say" forum on the campaign, asking readers to leave comments on how they plan to change their lifestyle -- and the results are pretty amusing: "How about increasing death, take away all medication, and get rid of all people over the age of 60?" Ha! I'm more interested, though, to find out what all you Gristmill readers think. What will you do to reduce carbon dioxide emissions? Will you make a change to your lifestyle? Do you already try to limit your personal effect on the environment? What can you personally do to limit climate change? Or do you think you can't make any difference anyway? Leave your thoughts in comments.

Got 2.7 seconds?

We've devised the world's shortest survey to find out what kind of actions our readers are taking. You know you want to.