Beetle battle

Pine beetle outbreak devastates BC forests

From the Washington Post, an article worth reading on a subject that's depressingly well-known to Canadians, but probably unfamiliar to most Americans: the mountain pine beetle outbreak devastating forests in British Columbia. The damage has been colossal:

Arizona: More renewable energy

Arizona passes renewable energy portfolio

On Monday, the Arizona Corporation Commission voted 3-1 to proceed with a plan to require Arizona utilities to procure 15% of their electricity from renewable resources by 2025. A couple of things to note: 1. 30% of the required renewable energy must come from distributed generation resources -- that is, energy generated on the customer side of the meter. This could provide support for up to 2,000 MW of solar, which is more, on a per-capita basis, then California's groundbreaking $3.2 billion, 3,000 MW solar initiative passed earlier this year. 2. The commissioners are all Republican. There are still several procedural steps to get through before the proposed rule becomes final, but this was a significant hurdle. I've said it before and I will say it again: The most significant leadership on renewable energy and global warming issues is coming from the states, not the feds. Press here and here.

The evolutionary reason for humans?

This post over at WorldChanging got me thinking. For those who liken the human species to a virus, feeling the planet would be better off without us ... For those who poo-poo technology ... Pop quiz: What do you do when an asteroid is hurtling toward the Earth and the impact will likely cause mass extinction? Maybe send some pesky humans into space to knock the rock off its course? By employing some fancy technology? But wait ... are extinction-level events "natural"? Cause if so I assume we humans should not prevent them. Maybe I'm just a confused "libertarian." Take the poll (click "Link and Discuss") and tell me what to think.

Drivers wanted

Oregon tests out an alternative to the gas tax — pay-by-the-mile taxes

There was a bunch of comment in the blogosphere yesterday about hiking gas taxes, with the rough consensus that it's OK environmental policy, tough on the poor, and politically risky (though perhaps not quite as unthinkable as it once was). So it's interesting to note that Oregon -- often considered a policy innovator among U.S. states -- is in the middle of an experiment that could eventually lead to a repeal of the state gas tax.

I Will Simply Survive

Wealthy strive for

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately," wrote Henry David Thoreau. His experiment in stripping down has inspired generations of environmentalists to cast off possessions, or at least aspire to -- but simple living doesn't look so appealing when it's the only choice you have. Today, anthropologist Elizabeth Chin puts a new spin on environmental consciousness as she examines rich and poor consumers, and the difference between simple living and survival. new in Soapbox: I Will Simply Survive see also, in Grist: Poverty & the Environment, a special series

A House Divided

An interactive illustration of how the other half lives

You know how, in grade school, it was easier to understand multiplication when there were pictures of fruit and panda bears involved? Today we bring you that. Only, the multiplication is now stats about poverty and the environment. And the pictures of fruit and panda bears are now an original illustration by Keri Rosebraugh. Which has pop-up factoids. We bet you haven't had this much fun since grade school. Check it out. new in Main Dish: A House Divided

The odd decouple

A simple change that can help utilities and their customers conserve energy

This is good news: According to NW Current, more and more utilities are becoming interested in "decoupling" -- which could be the single most cost-effective step I've heard of for encouraging conservation.

Mardi Grist

By all accounts -- that is, all accounts from people who were privileged enough to attend, as opposed to people who were told that their presence was not worth the price of a subsidized plane ticket and hotel room, even though they totally would have rocked the party, hmph -- last night's Mardi Grist in NYC celebration was a resounding success. You can see some pictures from the bash here, courtesy of fiftyRX3.

Bird flu and birders

Avian flue expert calls on birders to become first-alert front

Like anyone who's neither an idiot nor willfully ignorant, I've followed the avian flu issue with enough depth and interest to know that it's scary as hell. Yesterday I happened to pick up a copy of the International Herald Tribune (it was in the lobby of the Zurich hotel we stayed in after a week of skiing in the Alps; yes, I know, life is tough) and read a scary piece about how avian flu has turned up on a poultry farm in France, forcing French health authorities to quarantine a farm family. The family's young daughter was away from home when the outbreak was discovered and she's not allowed to return home, and because the local postman is afraid, he leaves the family's medicine on the road near their farmhouse. And then I read a scary piece about how avian flu is likely to make its way around the globe, written by Laurie Garrett, who apparently has written a scary book about the topic. Her analysis is fascinating, but so is her solution -- mainly because it relies heavily on the longtime footsoldiers of grassroots environmental activism. Writes Garrett: "One of the best untapped resources in this epic battle against influenza is bird-watchers, who are among the most fanatic hobbyists in the world."

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