Under Bush, Pentagon gives EPA wedgie, steals its lunch money

How environmentalists lost the battle over TCE

An article in the LA Times today reveals how the U.S. EPA has been completely emasculated in recent years. It focuses on TCE, an industrial chemical found in the nation's water supply. After four years of study, the EPA concluded that TCE was as much as forty times more likely to cause cancer as previously believed. That was in 2001. Concerned about a potential $1.5 billion in cleanup cost, the Pentagon handled things their way: they launched a pre-emptive strike against the EPA, wielding political power and deploying bureaucratic red tape in a campaign of Shock and Audit:

Happiness: The Chinese zombie ships of West Africa

I read this on the Greenpeace blog and it really shocked me. I do admit that I eat fish sometimes, but I had no idea that I was contributing to this. It seems that Chinese workers not only pay a high price for making Western cloth, but now are used as fishermen, spending years on ships that are almost falling apart. They are being forced to steal from countries with lesser means. Did you now that the countries in West Africa are the only countries where they eat less fish? Not because they want to but because of the illegal fishing fleets taking advantage of their lack of means of patrolling their seas. And now there just aren't plenty of fish anymore. Where will the fish end up? Often on dinner plates in Europe...

Everything you wanted to know about Portland…

Well I'll be. I was skeptical about whether Treehugger's "tell us about your city" thing was going to work, but they asked about Portland, OR, and man did they get an earful. Some really fascinating stuff in comments.

Laurie David is friggin’ everywhere

And good for her. If Grist's interview with David didn't satisfy your appetite, E magazine serves up some fresh interview goodness.It has been my goal this year to permeate popular culture with [global warming], and to use all of the resources that I have available to me to make that happen. One of those resources is my relationships with comedians and my ability to produce comedy. And then, obviously, my relationship with HBO. Just using everything I can to take this issue off the science pages and put it on the front pages. My feeling is that if people don't start demanding change, the government is not going to change. Get on witcha bad self! (via TH)

Green homebuilding spreads

I would be remiss if I did not at least link to this great AP story on the spread of eco-friendly homebuilding. A happy trend. What's missing, of course, is a commensurate rise in eco-friendly community building -- but I suspect that will be along shortly.

Biodiversity holds on to win double header

Brazil and Indonesia protect swaths of land

According to this article in World Magazine: Brazil's Environmental Ministry said late Sunday that 84,000 square miles of the Amazon rain forest - an area about the size of Kansas - would be declared a protected zone over the next three years. Time will tell if this declaration will amount to jack. A lot of soybeans are presently being grown in "protected zones." Striking while the iron was hot, the alpha politician in Brazil took the opportunity to shift the blame for the destruction of his country's rainforests to the rich nations:

Having it both ways

Unfortunately, "social justice" is too often used as a code word for pouring tax dollars down a rathole; "curing" poverty. Replacing or refurbishing the boarded-up and dilapidated buildings of a long-blighted neighborhood costs major money; so does creating greenspace from rust-belt industrial land. When you do so, the value of that neighborhood or that land increases manyfold: people who have jobs and pay taxes to support the improvements want to benefit from them. They buy homes in the restored neighborhoods, and the valuation of housing increases, which in turn raises taxes and rents. Housing near the new parks will escalate in value, because they are now more desirable, and again taxes and rents will go up.

Dig This: My two cents on Katrina cottages

An alternative to FEMA trailers

In Grist's November roundup of post-Katrina bills and plans, the Other Sarah mentioned October's Mississippi Renewal Forum, organized by Gov. Haley Barbour (R) and the Congress for a New Urbanism. As we (and when I say "we," I mean "we have the same name so I can refer to us in first-person plural") said then, "A comprehensive plan was produced; we're holding our breath for full follow-through." Can you see where this is going already? One of the outcomes of the forum was the Katrina Cottage, a compact, sturdy alternative to FEMA trailers. A two-bedroom cottage prototype was unveiled in Louisiana this week, joining the one-bedroom cottage being displayed in Mississippi. Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco joined Barbour and other high state officials in asking FEMA to order Katrina Cottages instead of unstable trailers. Why, why would they want to do that?

Nukes in France

It's a Wall Street Journal kind of week. On the front page of today's edition is a story about nuclear energy in France. I've got no big take-home lesson from it, but some bits are interesting in their own right. First, some incisive framing: France's experience spotlights a daunting aspect of today's energy crunch: The world will have to face hard choices long before science comes up with definitive answers. There's mounting evidence that global warming is happening and that finding big new pools of oil is getting harder. But it's not yet clear how serious global warming will be or whether petroleum is running dry. If politicians and businesses act and these concerns prove overblown, they could waste vast sums of money. If they postpone action and the facts validate today's concerns, the future choices could be a lot harder. Yup. And here's something I didn't know. To kickstart its nuke industry in the '70s ...

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