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Claire Thompson's Posts

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the crude cost of fuel

Two new documentaries — ‘Crude’ and ‘Fuel’ — examine two sides of our petroleum problem

Two new documentaries show the damaging effects of the world's addiction to oil, each film from its own unique angle. Crude, which opened in New York on Sept. 9, traces the story of a lawsuit brought by 30,000 rural Ecuadorians against Chevron, which denies responsibility for turning their traditional rainforest home into a dumping ground for crude oil waste, sickening and killing generations of people. And Fuel, which opened in New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. on Sept. 18, follows director Josh Tickell on his quest to convert the world to biofuels, eliminating the need for oil and thus …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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earth daze

New film ‘Earth Days’ takes a sometimes devastating look at the history of environmental activism

In the 1970s, just after the first Earth Day and in the midst of oil shortages, recessions, and uprisings by restless youth, politicians were suddenly expected to show concern for the environment. President Jimmy Carter went above and beyond by installing solar panels on the White House in 1979. Solar panels on the White House! Seven years later, President Ronald Reagan took them down. This mind-bogglingly idiotic reversal is chronicled in Robert Stone's new documentary Earth Days, about the history of the environmental movement. Seeing "history" and "environmental" in the same sentence probably makes you want to curl up for …

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Throw the book at 'em

Is it time to get rid of phone books?

When was the last time you looked up something in the phone book? What did you do the last time you got a free phone book dropped off on your doorstep--did you recycle it? If you're like most people these days, your answers to those questions are probably "I don't remember" and "No." WhitePages, an online directory service, recently released the results of a survey it conducted indicating that only 15.9 percent of U.S. adults recycle their old or unwanted phone books, and that U.S. citizens are largely unaware of the environmental impact of printing and delivering so many phone …

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It ain't over til it's over

Seattle’s bag-fee supporters still smiling despite setback

Photo: ceegee-ceegeeAdvocates of Seattle's Referendum 1, a proposal for a disposable-bag fee that was soundly defeated in Tuesday's primary election, may have lost a battle. But Brady Montz, chair of the local Sierra Club chapter and leader of the effort to pass the referendum, feels confident that the war against plastic bags is going well. "We've never had a vote before where 42 percent* of people decided, ‘I want to pay for my plastic bags,'" he said. "How well did the first votes on gay marriage work? How well did the first votes on drug legalization work? These things, they …

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Getting schooled

Top 20 green colleges

Sierra magazine has just released its third annual list of what it calls "the most eco-enlightened U.S. colleges." It ranks schools based on the results of a questionnaire sent to sustainability experts at hundreds of institutions across the country. Scores were assigned in eight categories: efficiency, energy, food, academics, purchasing, transportation, waste management, and administration. The rankings come at a time when two-thirds of college applicants say a school's green record would influence their enrollment decision, according to a Princeton Review survey [PDF]. Below we've got the dish on Sierra's top 20 picks. (Schools that also made the Princeton Review's …

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Horror Show

‘The Cove’ pulls no punches in documenting Japanese dolphin hunt

The Cove documents a the hunting of dolphins in one Japanese fishing village.Early on in The Cove, director Louie Psihoyos describes how he assembled an "Ocean's Eleven"-like team of specialists to infiltrate and expose a secret, brutal, for-profit dolphin-killing operation in Japan. The description fits the film, which is structured more like an action thriller than a documentary. And the team, which includes a pair of world-class free divers, a "clandestine operations" specialist who's discovered Caribbean shipwrecks, a rock concert organizer, and a spiritual surfer dude who co-founded Surfers for Cetaceans. (Cetacea, for marine-illiterate folk, is the order of marine …

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Cap-sacs, fanny packs, and bindles, oh my

Just say no to disposable bags — here are alternatives

While Seattleites squabble over whether to impose a fee on disposable bags, we offer up alternatives for lugging your goods home from the store (and ideas for what to do with the plastic bags you've already accumulated). Fantastic plastic alternatives Nothing says cool like a Cap-sac.For smaller items: With Cap-sac, the neon fanny pack for your head, conservation will always be on your mind. The fanny pack is a convenient classic. Speaking of classics, don't forget cargo pants: no longer just for soldiers or sketchy teenage boys. ‘Roos are also handy for carting home your smallest items. I had a …

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sack attack

Controversy heats up over Seattle’s proposed disposable bag fee

Image: Tom Twigg/Grist UPDATED: 11 Aug 2009 When the Seattle City Council voted last summer to impose a 20-cent fee on paper and plastic bags, the Progressive Bag Affiliates (PBA) of the American Chemistry Council immediately sprang to action to block the move. The fee would have taken effect January 1, 2009, but the Coalition to Stop the Seattle Bag Tax (funded by PBA, the Washington Food Industry, and 7-Eleven) collected enough voter signatures to put the measure on the August primary ballot. Referendum 1, as it's now known, would require consumers to pay 20 cents for every disposable bag …

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Summer of solutions

Youth find new ways to fight climate change from the ground up

Timothy DenHerder-Thomas (left) and fellow "solutionaries."Photo: Summer of Solutions blogFossils like Washington Post columnist George Will may think that "the Mall does not reverberate with youthful clamors about carbon." But that's because a growing number of young people are engaged in less-visible efforts at the grassroots level. It's not their parents' activism -- with all the marching, chanting, and sign-waving that entails -- but by focusing on the work on the ground, some young activists are achieving the kind of change that can't come from political rallies alone. Timothy DenHerder-Thomas, just a few months shy of graduating from Macalester College …

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Update: We're Still Screwed!

‘The Great Squeeze’ joins long list of doomsaying eco-films

Our planet's supply of safe drinking water is rapidly diminishing. We have reached peak oil (according to some experts). The polar ice caps are melting, causing sea levels to rise and threatening coastal areas and island nations everywhere. The Great Squeeze, a documentary by director Christophe Fauchere (of 2007's film Energy Crossroads), is full of such apocalyptic observations, none of which should surprise anyone even vaguely environmentally minded. The film is polished and put-together, chock-full of interviews with various professors and experts, and features powerful footage of displaced typhoon victims and third-world children picking through trash heaps. The problem with …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living