Astroturf and the Endangered Species Act

Paul D. Thacker, who is doing kick-ass work these days, brings us another sordid tale of corporate influence, faux-grassroots ("astroturf") organizations, misleading PR, and political chicanery. I won't ruin too much of it for you, but it focuses on the Save Our Species Alliance, an astroturf organization helping Rep. Richard "Dick" Pombo (R-Calif.) sneak through his "reforms" of the Endangered Species Act. Turns out SOSA has roots in Project Protect, a "grassroots" outfit that sank $2.9 million in advertising to back Bush's Healthy Forests bill. Make no mistake: Corporate interests and the Congressfolk they've purchased have made this kind of manipulation of public sentiment into a science. The only effective response is to uncover the connections and expose the mechanisms. Paul's doing yeoman's work on that score.

Consumer Reports backtracks

Odograph will be happy to hear that Consumer Reports has admitted error: some hybrids save money after all. Including fuel savings and tax credits, Consumer Reports said, the Toyota Prius hybrid would save about $400 over five years and the Honda Civic hybrid would save about $300 compared with conventionally powered models. The magazine said it overestimated depreciation of the cars in arriving at its initial conclusion. I guess the millions thousands tens zero people who were staying away from hybrids for this reason can now put them back on the shopping list. (See original thread on CR report here.)

Elizabeth Chin responds

I am heartened, challenged, and stimulated by the interesting and engaged discussion that has emerged around my short piece, "I Will Simply Survive." It's always so interesting to see the ways in which I have managed (or not) to be clear in what I am trying to say. My aim was not to cast blame on anybody (except mostly myself, I think), but rather to encourage critical self-examination of what spurs each of us to attempt simplicity, simplifying, eco-whatever. Furthermore, my aim was to expand thinking to embrace those whose choices are constrained by poverty. Of course pro-environmental choices aren't bad: I have a worm box, I buy organic, and my child has virtually never worn a piece of clothing that came new from a store. Even so, despite whatever environmentally friendly and thrifty things I do -- consciously and with enthusiasm -- the bald truth is that I, like most people in the U.S., have a ridiculously outsized environmental footprint compared to the rest of the world's population. The worm box isn't bad at all, but there's no doubt it's a drop in the bucket.

A little Exxon bashing

Nothing like a little fire breathing to start your day. So I give you Carl Pope, who really seems not to like Exxon much: It is hard to imagine a more alarming scenario from the world's largest oil company -- we are entirely dependent on OPEC's being both willing and able to increase its production dramatically, even if we are very diligent about pursuing energy efficiency. If either one of those assumptions (cooperative, successful OPEC; energy-efficient consumers) fails to hold true, then we are cooked. So why is ExxonMobil running such soothing ads in the New York Times? Because if the world does hit a major oil shortage, then prices will soar, and ExxonMobil, which just reaped a record profit, will become even richer. What's really shameful is not that they feed us this toxic pabulum -- but that we seem to swallow it.

Foresight Is 20/20

Researchers identify 20 future conservation battlegrounds The soldiers of conservation have been given their marching orders. (Ah, martial metaphors … never can get the hang of them.) A new study has identified 20 future conservation battlegrounds around the world, from Alaska’s far north to the southern tip of the Australian island of Tasmania — hotspots where land-mammal species aren’t yet endangered but could be especially vulnerable in coming years due to pollution, deforestation, hunting, and other pressures. “Conservation is a crisis discipline,” said lead researcher Marcel Cardillo. “Because there are so many species on the verge of extinction, that’s where …

I Never Promised You a Community Garden

Largest community garden in U.S. to get evicted for a Wal-Mart warehouse L.A.’s South Central Community Garden, the largest and oldest such garden in the U.S. and a food source for more than 300 low-income families, sits on private property. Big mistake! Now the property’s owner plans to evict the growers and build a Wal-Mart warehouse on the land. The fate of the garden seems straightforward, but the backstory is complex. Tom Philpott muses over how local food production fares in the “free market.”

Rebuke Nukem

U.K. government advisory commission puts the smackdown on nuclear power Nuclear power incites stiff support in U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair. But he may be feeling a bit flaccid this week: The Sustainable Development Commission, an advisory body established by the U.K. government, has formally advised against revitalizing a national nuclear-energy program. Says the commission chair, “There’s little point in denying that nuclear power has its benefits but, in our view, these are outweighed by serious disadvantages.” In a report, the SDC cites five major concerns about nuclear — waste, cost, inflexibility, security, and efficiency — and notes that doubling …

Scientists point way to greener pastures

New Union of Concerned Scientists report finds grass-raised beef healthier

The latest health, diet, and environmental news all came from one place yesterday: the Union of Concerned Scientists. The Union's report -- "Greener Pastures: How grass-fed beef and milk contribute to healthy eating" -- finds that grass-fed cows produce meat and milk lower in unhealthy fats and higher in beneficial fatty acids, such as Omega-3 and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), than grain-fed livestock. The report also notes that grass-fed livestock farming methods do a better job of protecting water, air, and the communities that support family farms. For those of us who routinely argue in favor of sustainable food production, the report doesn't provide any shocking revelations. Smaller herds of animals that are treated humanely, allowed to move about freely, and eat what nature intended -- grass, not grain -- are naturally going to produce healthier food. So how is it that we've reached the point where we need a team of Ph.Ds and a respected research institution to prove it? Carefully hidden from the view of the 99% of us who aren't farmers lies the coiled serpent we call the industrial food system. In depopulated and increasingly desperate rural communities across America, remaining locals and immigrant workers have been forced into a kind of modern servitude to factory dairy, hog, cattle, and poultry farms. It is from these places that most of our food is produced today.

Good story about an Aussie recycle co-op

There's a good story about an Aussie recycling co-op here.

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