The Mongabay rainforest site, an excellent educational resource for science and info on the state of the world's rainforests, has been updated and revised.
Condoleezza Rice: We do have to do something about the energy problem. I can tell you that nothing has really taken me aback more as secretary of State than the way that the politics of energy is -- I will use the word warping -- diplomacy around the world. It has given extraordinary power to some states that are using that power in not very good ways for the international system, states that would otherwise have very little power. It is sending some states that are growing very rapidly in an all-out search for energy -- states like China, states like India -- that is really sending them into parts of the world where they've not been seen before, and challenging, I think, for our diplomacy. It is, of course, an energy supply that is still heavily dependent on hydrocarbons, which makes more difficult our desire to have growth, environmental protection and reliable energy supply all in a package.
The Sierra Club has an in-depth investigation up on the corporate practice of using loopholes in the horrific Bankruptcy Bill to shift the costs of pollution clean-up onto taxpayers. I haven't read the whole thing yet -- just thinking about that bill makes my stomach hurt -- but it looks to be a humdinger. Check it out. (Carl Pope summarizes.)
If you're into eco-design, there are all kinds of conferences and meetings and such you can attend around the country. Today's Dig This will run down a few coming up in the next month. April 13-16, Eugene, Ore.: HOPES (Holistic Options for Planet Earth Sustainability) conference at the University of Oregon. The 12th edition of the "only ecological design conference developed and managed by students." This year's theme: permanence/impermanence. How very Eugene. April 19-20, Baltimore, Md.: The TurnKey Conference of the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (whew!). The conference, all about humane treatment of lab animals, includes many sessions on facility design. No, I'm not making a statement about the rights or wrongs of animal testing here. Don't shoot the messenger. April 25-27, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: EnvironDesign 10. Includes a visit to the world's first LEED-certified winery. And tons of design workshops too. May 3-7, Atlanta, Ga.: EDRA 37 (PDF), the 37th annual conference of the Environmental Design Research Association. Topics range from Crime and the Built Environment to Environmental Gerontology. Speakers include former U.N. ambassador Andrew Young and recent Grist interviewee Dr. Robert Bullard. May 4-7, Shepherdstown, W.V.: The Architecture of Sustainability, put on by the American Institute of Architects' Committee on Design and Committee on the Environment. Topics include "Is Sustainable Design an Oxymoron?" Hopefully they will find the answer to be no. The huge Dig This international audience can find upcoming events in Australia, the U.K., and Estonia. Anything I've missed?
Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad Is Good For You, has a blog post up about the new book he's just finishing, The Ghost Map. It's about the Broad Street cholera outbreak in London in 1854, and it sounds goood. In many ways, the story of Broad Street is all about the triumph of a certain kind of urbanism in the face of great adversity, the power of dense cities to create solutions to problems that they themselves have brought about. So many of the issues that define the modern world today -- the runaway growth of megacities, environmental crises, fears of apocalyptic epidemics, digital mapping, the need for clean water, urban terror, the rise of amateur expertise -- are there, in embryo, in the Broad Street outbreak.
Nothing exemplifies the neoliberal policy consensus that dominates U.S. politics quite like NAFTA. The trade pact germinated under Bush I and flowered under Clinton/Gore. Bush II tends it like a conscientious gardener; he is even trying to harvest its seeds and plant them in Central America, hybridized as CAFTA. (There goes my garden-metaphor quota for the month.) Nativist NAFTA critics like Pat Buchanan and anti-corporate opponents like Ralph Nader operate outside the mainstream. Rebuked as apostates by the major parties, they prove the rule: As divided as they are over the war, environmental policy, and other issues, political elites believe on faith that global trade must be promoted by public policy. Hillary Rodham Clinton and George W. Bush may not agree on much, but they converge on this point. (On the war, HRC's major beef with GWB hinges on troop levels, but that's another story.) The heated debate in Congress over immigration, which gained new life last week when a bipartisan Senate deal collapsed, has touched very little on NAFTA -- just as the question of God's existence probably doesn't figure much in Vatican fights over papal succession. But the two issues are intimately related, for NAFTA stipulates that capital and goods must flow freely across the U.S.-Mexico border, while leaving policy about labor -- i.e., people -- to the pleasure of the respective national governments. Environmentalists could intervene in the immigration battle by altering the terms of debate. But so far, they've been silent.
Alcohol can lead to all kinds of unintended consequences -- but who knew it could lead to energy independence? Apparently, the Brazilians did. Processing sugar cane into ethanol is expected to help Brazil meet its rising energy demands in a big way. According to an article in the New York Times, officials expect that within a year the country will become fully energy self-sufficient, thanks largely to putting sugar in gas tanks. Brazil's story is encouraging, but it's hard to know precisely what conclusions to draw for North Americans.
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Chinese villagers attack polluting leather factories and sewage plant Environmental protests are increasingly common in China, where environmental protection often takes a backseat to cronyism and profit-making. But a group of 200 Chinese villagers in …