Jane Jacobs dies at 89

Jane Jacobs died today at the age of 89. Just yesterday, while preparing my "Small is still beautiful" post, I found myself groping for her two masterpieces, The Death and Life of Great American Cities and The Economy of Cities. I couldn't find them, because I had loaned them out -- I've been an ardent promoter of her works since I first discovered them more than ten years ago. My dog-eared copies of them have probably spent more time on the shelves of friends who I've foisted them on than my own. May her death inspire a resurgence of interest in her work, particularly among greens. I hope over the next days to find time to write an appreciation of her. Everyone who loves the chaos of a well-functioning city street -- and understands the vast environmental benefits of cities -- should bow east in the direction of her beloved Greenwich Village, and north toward her adopted home of Toronto.


How big money skews the energy debate

One of the most frustrating things about the renewed debate over nuclear power is that it has basically been forced into the public sphere by brute force of cash. The Nuclear Energy Institute can afford to hire high-profile shills; they can blitz the press until they get some prominent placement. They get to set the terms of the debate. We're stuck arguing "nukes good" or "nukes bad." That makes public acceptance of nukes inevitable, since the "nukes bad" crowd can always be cast as obstructionists standing in the way of progress. What's missing? A big-money push behind the positive green alternative: Energy efficiency standards, carbon taxes, incentives for clean energy, smarter land-use policy, smarter agricultural policy, etc. Why is there no big-money push? Because no big, consolidated industry stands to make money off it. Certainly money could be made, but for the short- to mid-term it will be scattered, distributed, small-scale money. These green strategies serve the public good, not the corporate good, and thus are at a heavy disadvantage in our corporate-dominated political and media system. They have no big-money backing, and thus have no effective advocates. So the corporate "solutions" dominate the debate. (The same is true, to some extent, for biofuels. How did ethanol come to serve as a stand-in for energy independence? Because Big Agribusiness and Big Oil both stand to profit, and congressfolk from agricultural states stand to benefit from the rush of subsidies.)

Tim’s big media moment

Our fellow green blogger Tim Haab, from Environmental Economics, was interviewed on NPR today about the dimwitted chain email going around proposing a boycott of Exxon gas. He sounded nervous, but made all the right points. Don't miss his hilarious account of his Big Media Moment. So there you have it.  20 years of schooling, 10 years of teaching, 3 pages of meticulous notes (which I never looked at) and my first national radio interview is going to consist of some incoherent rambling and me overenthusiastically yelling "DRIVE LESS."  Thank God for tenure.  I'm going back to bed. Don't worry, Tim -- the "drive less" moment redeemed you!

Think of It as Saran Wrap, to Keep the Ocean Fresh

An enormous patch of plastic trash swirls in the Pacific Ocean When it was a kid, the Pacific Ocean always wanted a Garbage Patch of its very own. Now it’s got one: a patch of …

Cruel Hand Nuke

Controversy still rages on 20th anniversary of Chernobyl Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the nuclear power-plant accident in Chernobyl, Ukraine, that spewed radioactive fallout across Europe. Estimates of the total number of deaths that …

Gas price demagoguery

In Daily Grist today, we did a little mocking: The American public will take lots of things lying down -- inaction on climate change, ill-conceived wars, erosion of civil liberties -- but expensive gas? Hell no! With oil prices topping $75 a barrel, gas prices sneaking up on $3 a gallon, and some East Coast gas stations running dry, Americans are demanding demagoguery from their lawmakers, and lawmakers are asking "how high?" Yeah, that was fun to write. But if you want to see the hare-brained schemes popping up in Congress substantively demolished, check out this post from Robert Rapier over on R-Squared (a blog, by the way, that you should bookmark).

The Clean and Safe Energy Coalition tries to buy some green cred

I didn't really notice this when the big hubbub was going on last week, but did you know that ex-EPA administrator Christie Whitman and long-time anti-environmental zealot (and oh yeah, "Greenpeace co-founder") Patrick Moore are paid shills for the nuclear industry? Organizers released a list of 58 companies and institutions and 10 people who they said were members of a new Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, which Mr. Moore said would engage in "grass-roots advocacy." A spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, the trade association of reactor operators, acknowledged that it was providing all of the financing, but would not say what the budget was. That sound like "grass-roots" to you? (More at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and a lot more on Moore on DailyKos. Also, check out the letters to the editor the WaPo received in response to Moore's op-ed, which are utterly devastating to it.)

The Daily Grist Headline Battle Royale: Match 9

"Life's a Bleach and Then You Die." So true. With 53% of the vote, this headline won last week's battle royale, beating out runner-up "Oh No He Didn't." This week I expect a struggle between Star Wars and James Bond fans. (Hmm, I wonder who would win a fight between Luke Skywalker and 007?) Here are the nominees: Youth the Force: Terrain Johnson and Colleen Contrisciane of Earth Force InterActivate Mapmaker, Mapmaker, Make Me a Map: How Wendy Brawer put green on the map Things That Go Lump in the Night: Coal makes a comeback That's Some Good Ship: Calif. plan would curb air pollution from shipping and cargo industries Pussy Galore: The lynx returns to Colorado Vote! P.S. And if you haven't voted in the magazine category for the People's Voice Awards, we could really use your help. Please vote for us!

The global warming dilemma

I've read three separate things in the past couple days that issue similar warnings: First, a much-discussed BBC Radio 4 show on "overselling climate change." Before your hackles rise: there were no "skeptics" interviewed for the piece, only experienced climate scientists. Second, an also-much-discussed piece by Andy Revkin in the NYT Week in Review, called "Yelling 'Fire' on a Hot Planet." Third, a conference call with climate scientist James Hansen, along with some Democratic staffers, environmental groups, and journalists, hosted by the National Environmental Trust. The only place I can find it covered is this execrable piece on the execrable CNS News, but it's got the quote I want. Hansen was asked about the recent upsurge in media coverage of climate change:

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