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The Wheel Deal: Earth Day Challenge

Send your pic to the UCS HybridCenter!

I am an impostor. Here I am writing a weekly car column, and I don't even have a car. I don't really know anything about cars. I can't even be trusted on car color: I consistently refer to my parents' "green Honda" despite unanimous opinion from all other viewers that it is, in fact, gray. You will be getting no in-depth analysis of hybrid technology from me, no this-engine-will-kick-that-engine's-ass. Nope, this column will focus on, well, whatever car-related item tickles my fancy on Thursdays as I'm desperately throwing together putting the finishing touches on the Wheel Deal. Today's Wheel Deal is about community and love. Because even if you're ambivalent about cars, you gotta love love. HybridCenter.org, a project of the Union of Concerned Scientists, has launched the Earth Day Challenge -- because what the environmental community needs is more challenges. Just kidding. Anyway, as concerned scientist Scott Nathanson says, "Ford might have Kermit to plug its Escape Hybrid, but we've got Bill Nye the Science Guy!" And he ain't lyin'. Bill Nye is plugging the plug-ins like only an overdramatic science guy in a powder-blue coat can. By the way, my brother's friend's mom used to clean Bill Nye the Science Guy's house. True story. Would you like my autograph? Anyway, the Earth Day Challenge is cool. They're trying to get 1,000 hybrid owners to send pictures and/or testimonials to the site by Earth Day (April 22). Hybrid-less individuals can participate as "hybrid enthusiasts." Aww ... feel the love! Coming up next week: I don't know yet, but you know it'll be, um, super-duper awesome. If you've got a super-duper awesome idea, send me an email: emailE=('skraybill@' + 'grist.org') document.write('' + emailE + '') . I'll take "totally wicked" ideas too, but if your idea is merely "rad," perhaps you should keep it to yourself.

Oh My Gnarly Clemenceau

French prez orders asbestos-laden ship returned to France You thought disposing of your old computer was a hassle? Just wait ’til you try to get rid of your old warship. French President Jacques Chirac was lauded by green groups yesterday when he ordered the 50-year-old warship Clemenceau to return to France from India, where it had been sent to be dismantled. Having initially agreed to the transfer, an Indian court then banned the aircraft carrier from Indian waters upon hearing that it possibly contained up to 500 tons of asbestos. The fate of the Clemenceau remained in limbo until yesterday, …

Rocky Amountin’ High

Landowners awarded $554 million for nuke contamination from Rocky Flats Thousands of Colorado downwinders got some vindication on Tuesday, when a jury ordered Dow Chemical and the former Rockwell International to pay $554 million in damages for plutonium contamination from Rocky Flats, a former nuclear weapons plant. It’s the largest civil verdict ever awarded in Colorado — likely to be reduced to around $353 million, as the jury’s award exceeds legal limits. The trial pitted more than 10,000 Denver-area property owners against the corporations, which contracted with the U.S. Department of Energy for decades to make plutonium triggers for nuclear …

Timing is everything

The more compact your neighborhood, the less time you spend in a car

One benefit of living in a compact neighborhood rather than a sprawling suburb: You don't spend as much time in your car. The chart below, derived from a national transportation survey, makes the point pretty clearly:

Have Some Class: Three degrees of eco-preparation

A study on green degree programs

It's that time of year again ... time to write that college-application essay, sign that acceptance letter, and start packing boxes. Or is it? I'm not quite sure. I've been out of the college-application process for a while now ... what with having this real job now. But I'm sure somewhere out there you kids are looking all over the internets for some cool eco-programs to apply to, right? And what better way to start off this biweekly column on college-related eco-initiatives than a post about some of the various green degree programs out there. (And also? What better way to title it? "Have Some Class" ... ha ha! Ahem.) But seriously, there are some great new curriculums out there -- and we're not just talking your generic EnviroSci. Responding to popular demand and an ever-expanding field of applicants, these inter-disciplinary majors allow students to focus on green issues within their field of interest.

The faces and voices of West Virginians battered by mountaintop removal

These photographs were originally published in Orion Magazine. In May 2005, photographer Antrim Caskey encountered Maria Gunnoe in Manhattan. Gunnoe had come to protest the practice of mountaintop-removal mining at a Massey Energy shareholders meeting. Two days later, Caskey left for the Cumberland Plateau, where she made these images. “People are scared,” Caskey says. “I’d be scared, too.” Maria Gunnoe, 37, Bob White, W.Va. “With mountaintop removal, the species we are losing is the human species — just because we’re hillbillies. Hillbillies are the last people you can make fun of — it’s acceptable. We do have educations. We do …

Al Gore: Coming to a theater near you

An Inconvenient Truth, the documentary about Al Gore's quest to raise the alarm about global warming (covered in Grist here), has been picked up by Paramount and will be distributed worldwide -- it opens in the U.S. on May 26. Gore and Powerpoint? I smell March of the Penguins numbers here people! (Amusingly, the movie poster actually features penguins -- as opposed to, you know, Al Gore.)

Organic arugula, Lake Tahoe, and poverty

In kicking off its seven week series, the talented and witty team at Grist pondered the paradox of U.S. environmentalism: "In much of popular and political culture, the movement is dismissed as the pet cause of white, well-off Americans -- people who can afford to buy organic arugula, vacation in Lake Tahoe, and worry about the fate of the Pacific pocket mouse." This perception, and how the environmental community responds to it, will determine whether it becomes a movement for everyone, or just for those with a Nalgene in every cupboard and a Gortex in every closet. Many Americans, environmentalists included, see poverty as a necessary evil, a "by-product of civilization" that will always be with us. In other words, its existence is natural. This analysis of poverty may seem pragmatic, but it morally justifies the continuation of a social system that provides comfort and extravagance for a few, while leaving others to scrape, toil, and struggle to meet their basic needs. The environmental movement has a sophisticated analysis of environmental degradation, eco-systems, and the political forces influencing the planet. Does the environmental movement have an analysis of poverty? If so, what is it? How do you explain the existence of poverty in the most affluent nation in the world? As an anti-poverty activist (and environmentalist) I'm interested in knowing what Grist readers think.

Seaweed’s Big Adventure

Scientists discover biodiversity hotspot on Caribbean atoll That ex-girlfriend was right — there are other fish in the sea! Scientists have discovered a biodiversity hotspot in the Caribbean, home to a (possibly) new fish species and a mini-rainforest of seaweeds. Over a two-week period at the coral-covered Saba Bank Atoll, 12 researchers braved heavy seas to dive 100 feet below the surface twice a day. They found the (possibly) new fish — a goby with orange spots — and an astonishing array of at least 20 once-unknown seaweeds. “We were literally discovering a species every day, that’s truly remarkable,” said …