This screed by George Monbiot is mostly directed at a particular set of UK organizations, but it contains worthy insights with broader application:
I once claimed that environmental humor is never funny. But Will Ferrell as President Bush, speaking on global warming? Kinda funny. (via EE)
Top 10 lists are all the rage, but if seeing King Kong the other night taught me anything, it's that more isn't always better. In that spirit, here are my nominations for the top five environmental stories of the year. 1. Katrina The discussion about Hurricane Katrina and global warming largely missed the point. Of course global warming didn't cause Katrina -- any given weather event is the nexus of thousands of causes, proximate and distal. The exact degree of attribution scientifically supported is a question for eco-wonks and science geeks. The point about Katrina that will linger in the public's mind is: Oh, that's what climate can do. And, relatedly: We are totally and completely unprepared. 2. Bush wins on climate change Despite taking fire from an astonishing array of sources -- Tony Blair, Democrats, city mayors, state attorneys general, celebrity spokesfolk, science advocacy groups, a majority of the public, and even Republicans in Congress -- the Bush administration succeeded in delaying significant efforts to address climate change for another year. At home, at the G8 summit, at the Montreal U.N. climate talks, it simply dug in its heels. No one figured out how to move it.
I don't have a new intro, so I'll just steal my last one: "Every column Bill McKibben writes on climate change becomes more dread-laden and portentous, but I never stop enjoying them." The latest is "The Coming Meltdown," in the New York Review of Books. There's not a lot of new info in it (unless you're interested in the two books reviewed), but as always, it's engagingly written and contains some juicy quotes. How about this, from Harvard's James McCarthy: Scientists are by training and nature conservative and ... have probably underestimated our impact. Fifty years from now -- I hope I'm wrong -- I think you may be living in a world where you don't go outside between one and four in the afternoon. Whee! And some classic McKibben: It is hard not to approach this year's oncoming winter in an elegiac mood .... We are forced to face the fact that a century's carelessness is now melting away the world's storehouses of ice, a melting whose momentum may be nearing the irreversible. It's as if we were stripping the spectrum of a color, or eradicating one note from every octave. There are almost no words for such a change: it's no wonder that scientists have to struggle to get across the enormity of what is happening.
Wow. Every year, the Edge Foundation asks an enormous array of smart people (scientists, philosophers, mathematicians, intellectuals of every stripe) a single question and publishes the results. This year's question: WHAT IS YOUR DANGEROUS IDEA? The history of science is replete with discoveries that were considered socially, morally, or emotionally dangerous in their time; the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions are the most obvious. What is your dangerous idea? An idea you think about (not necessarily one you originated) that is dangerous not because it is assumed to be false, but because it might be true? What you get in the answers are the good bits: The most intriguing ideas of the world's top thinkers boiled down to their essence. It's some of the most fascinating stuff I've ever read, and after two hours I've only scratched the surface. I really can't recommend it highly enough. What would your answer be? (via BoingBoing)
Happy 2006, all you Gristmill readers! Sorry for the lack of posting lately. I've been taking a "vacation" (look it up), hanging out with family and not thinking at all about the environment. Coupled with that, I've had a mild case of blog depression lately -- which I will shake off completely, starting tomorrow! I may have one of those year-end roundups so de rigeur in the blogosphere tomorrow, but in the meantime, don't miss Joel Makower's trying-to-put-on-a-happy-face-but-really-quite-melancholy state of green business post.
The folks at RealClimate reflect on their first year of blogging. I would call what they've done a fairly hearty success. My one complaint is that, if your stated goal is to communicate accurate science to outsiders, you would do well to minimize technical jargon and focus on clear, accessible prose. Some of the posts are so dense that I hesitate to recommend them. But regardless, it's an invaluable resource. If you don't have the RSS feed in your reader, get it.
I would say "unbelievable," but this is Texas we're talking about. The majority of Houston-area lawmakers in the Texas House voted against legislation intended to protect the public from toxic air pollution, a Houston Chronicle analysis of 2005 voting records has found. The five rejected amendments would have made the state's health screening levels for pollution more strict, required companies to continuously monitor emissions and set fines for the periodic releases known as "upsets" that plague fence-line neighborhoods. Yet 20 of 34 representatives in the eight-county region, where toxic pollution problems have been well-documented, particularly along the Houston Ship Channel, voted to table these actions. All 20 of the dissenters are Republicans, some of them representing industrial districts such as Pasadena, Baytown and Seabrook, where people and industry exist side by side. No doubt a matter of conservative principle, right? (via TPMCafe)
Outside magazine has a list of 10 "New American Dream Towns." When we combed the country for the sweetest innovations and the freshest ideas for making neighborhoods better places to live, work, and play -- with tons of green space, easy access to the outdoors, and big-think visions for smarter, more sustainable everyday living -- we hit the jackpot. ... To spotlight the new American dream towns, we started with a wish list of criteria: commitment to open space, smart solutions to sprawl and gridlock, can-do community spirit, and an active embrace of the adventurous life. We looked for green design and green-thinking mayors, thriving farmers' markets and healthy job markets. We found it all -- and then some: ten towns that might tempt you to box up your belongings, plus nine more whose bright ideas are well worth stealing. Check out these shining prototypes for what a 21st-century town -- what your hometown, perhaps -- can be: cleaner, greener, smarter. Better. Some of the choices are expected (Chicago, Portland, Ore.), but some may surprise you. (They surprised me anyway, particularly given my lifelong hostility toward Salt Lake City.) And don't miss the short pieces at the end of the package: Smart Urban Ideas parts one, two, and three. (via Treehugger)