Oregonian candidate for U.S. Senate Steve Novick seems refreshingly up on energy issues: But is he electable? Well, they say Bush got votes because people perceived him as a guy they could relax and have a beer with:
One of the most memorable scenes in An Inconvenient Truth is when Al Gore makes the sea level rise 20 feet and inundate various low-lying regions of the world, including Manhattan and Florida. It was suitably squirm-inducing, especially if the viewer happened to live in one of the areas shown. For the rest of us, or at least for me, however, the lingering question has been, "what would it look like where I live?" Now, thanks to Google's mapping API and the ingenuity of one Alex Tingle, we have Flood Maps, where you can view any part of the world and raise the sea level in 1 meter increments, up to 14 meters (about 46 feet). Behold, Seattle:
Back in January, Grist's InterActivist column featured John Amos, the head of SkyTruth. SkyTruth uses satellite photos and digital mapping technologies to reveal what is difficult to see from the highway: just how exactly we're changing our planet. Seeing a clearcut or a mine from a bird's-eye perspective often adds a visceral dimension to an otherwise rather abstract-seeming issue. One especially useful application for this sort of imagery: showing the extent of the havoc wrought by companies doing mountaintop-removal mining. Recently a coalition of Appalachian grassroots organizations, ILoveMountains.org, released a series of overlays for Google Earth showing "before" and "after" landscapes in several heavily-mined regions. What really boggles my brain is that some of the mine footprints are visible in a view of the entire eastern half of the United States. The Google Earth file is available here. A tutorial on how to download and use Google Earth to view the overlays is here.
Take a break from freaking out about the election and listen to this NPR audio clip about Whitman College's Semester in the West program. It's a biennial, semester-long environmental studies field course, with a heavy emphasis on public lands issues. If you have any passion about environmental issues, traveling, and/or camping, I guarantee this will make you want to go back to school. (Grist featured Phil Brick, the professor in the story, as an InterActivist back in October 2005.) I myself am an alumni of the program, and I'd say the audio clip is quite well done. It provides a good snapshot of what life is like during the semester and the kind of intellectual challenges students confront. As the narrator explains, students are "put face to face with people on all sides of complex issues. Students ask their own questions, and draw their own conclusions."
First there was the pack of squirrels that attacked and killed a dog in Russia. Now there's a group of "urban" raccoons taking out house cats in Olympia, WA. Apparently they even managed to carry off a small dog, although it survived the encounter. What's next? Serpents that infest a jet airliner and viciously attack the passengers with poison fangs? (Woops, didn't mean to spoil any movie plots ...) In other news, a Celebrity Cruises ship arrived in Seward, Alaska, last weekend with a dead humpback whale pinned to the bow.
Tomorrow, Alaska's primary election will include an important ballot measure that imposes new regulations and taxes on the cruise ship industry. For environmental protection, it includes beefed-up regulations that will hold cruise corporations more accountable to Alaska's strict pollution controls, as well as allowing civil action suits against violators. For economic growth, it proposes a head tax on all cruise passengers coming into the state, the revenue of which will be used for services and infrastructure related to the cruise industry. Further, it will tax income from onboard gambling and force companies to pay corporate income tax. And it will require onboard tour sellers to disclose how much they mark up tours from the price offered directly from the tour operators on shore. The Anchorage Daily News has a good piece about it here. Full text of the measure here (it's not that long). More below the fold.
Today I received an email from my friend Kate, with whom I studied environmental politics and geology in college, and who now works for the Cascadia Wildlands Project in Eugene, Oregon. On Monday, she was arrested in Medford, Oregon, during a protest against the roadless-area logging recently approved by the Bush Administration. Below the fold is her letter describing her experience and explaining why she chose to participate in an act of civil disobedience. I've added links to relevant bits of background.
Anyone who's been following the systematic dismantling of environmental protection occurring in this country knows that the Bush administration is anything but incompetent. The people in power have very specific goals, and a lack of competence wouldn't have gotten them as far as they are today. Over on AlterNet, George Lakoff explains the philosophy that has brought about our recent failures and setbacks:The conservative vision for government is to shrink it - to "starve the beast" in Conservative Grover Norquist's words. The conservative tagline for this rationale is that "you can spend your money better than the government can." Social programs are considered unnecessary or "discretionary" since the primary role of government is to defend the country's border and police its interior. Stewardship of the commons, such as allocation of healthcare or energy policy, is left to people's own initiative within the free market. Where profits cannot be made -- conservation, healthcare for the poor -- charity is meant to replace justice and the government should not be involved. So the federal response to Katrina was actually a success:
Congress is expected to vote this week on the "Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act of 2006," which, in all its Orwellian glory, is written to allow internet companies to compartmentalize the web, restricting access to domains that can't or won't pay a fee to be able to load at full speed. It undermines the concept of net neutrality, whereby internet users have equal access to any and every website, be it a corporate media node or a personal blog. According to Vint Cerf, one of the "founding fathers" of the internet, this is bad:
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