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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.

Environmental ethics III: The biocentrist pipes in

First, I would like to welcome you all to the sixth mass extinction event, in case anyone forgot where we are at this juncture in geologic time. We all fall somewhere on a scale (depending on the topic) that has VHEMT at the extreme left and the traditional Judeo-Christian belief that man is separate from nature and that nature exists solely to serve man on the extreme right (although change is in the wind, with new biblical interpretations to support the reversal being discovered daily). What we have here is a tug-o-war over the word environmentalist, kicked off, I think, by some anthropocentric-leaning articles, and readers' responses to them, and, ah, responses to those responses.

Whither Canadian environmentalism?

Conservative PM Stephen Harper could shake enviros into action, Matt Price argues

While American environmentalists have been pondering their alleged demise and/or plotting their resurrection, Canadian activists are confronting a whole 'nother set of challenges. Matt Price of Conservation Voters of B.C. tackles many of them in a new paper, "Greening the Beaver: Power, Profit, and the Canadian Dream" [PDF]. He starts off by arguing that Canada's new conservative PM Stephen Harper could be just what the nation's green movement needs to shake it into action. He also says eco-activists need to get over their ambivalence about power, learn to make markets work for the betterment of the environment, and ensure that environmental values are a key component of Canadian values. Lots more good stuff too. Check out the full PDF, Canadians. (Hat tip to ONE/Northwest's Jon Stahl.)

Environmental ethics II: The humanist strikes back

The environmental-ethics post below obviously raises more questions than it answers, but I was trying to keep it short, since I'm not sure how interested normal people are in such esoteric matters. However, in comments both yankee and birdboy raise similar questions, so I thought I'd take a stab at addressing them here. A common assumption is that anthropocentric environmental ethics leads inexorably to rape and pillage of ecosystems. After all, if non-human nature has only what value we assign it, why can't we just use up all the resources, pave all the wilderness, pollute all the water, and so on? More for us! I think this assumption is badly wrong, in two overlapping ways:

Back that grass up

I've been waiting a while for someone (else) to do the work analyzing the real energy payoff of switchgrass and other proposed cellulosic sources of ethanol. Today on Oil Drum, guest poster Kyle steps up and runs the numbers, yielding the delightfully named "Living in a grass house." Conclusion? The hype about switchgrass is mostly ... hype. Sigh.

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