What was the year's top environmental story? You can vote at the Sierra Club's website. Think they missed something? Let us know in comments.
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has spent the last week or so -- nay, the last 25 years -- attempting to circumvent the clearly and repeatedly expressed preferences of a majority of U.S. citizens by allowing oil drilling to take place in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The latest attempt involved attaching drilling to the defense appropriations bill, in effect holding military funding hostage in the middle of an armed conflict. We have perhaps become numbed by the sheer repetition and persistence of these efforts, but it's worth pausing, stepping back, and noting just how utterly venal and anti-democratic they are. The country would not benefit from Refuge oil. It would be sold on the world market just like any other oil. Oil companies and the state of Alaska would benefit. For that, Stevens is willing to make a mockery of legislative procedure and tradition. Stevens' latest defeat produced a self-pitying, thumb-sucking tantrum on the floor of the Senate. He said it was the "saddest day of his life." He also threatened his fellow Senators, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) in particular: "I'm going to go to every one of your states, and I'm going to tell them what you've done," he told colleagues who voted against the measure. "You've taken away from homeland security the one source of revenue that was new ... I'm sure that the senator from Washington [Cantwell] will enjoy my visits to Washington." He also, in effect, threatened to quit, saying "It's a day I don't want to remember. I say goodbye to the Senate tonight. Thank you very much." You can watch a little bit of the pathetic performance here (via Atrios). (It's worth noting that when Refuge drilling came out of the defense bill, so did assistance for low-income people to heat their houses. The LIHEAP program will receive less funding this year than last year, despite record high heating prices. Maybe Stevens should shed a tear over that.)
The NYT reports that eco-themed advertising is growing ever-more-ubiquitous from big companies. I know we're supposed to bitch and moan about greenwashing, but the way I see it, even if 50% of this is hype, a) 50% non-hype is better than nothing, and b) it speaks well to current cultural trends that companies feel the need to brag about their environmental consciousness. Environmentalism is once again coming out in the open as a mainstream value, after years of demonization and caricature.
Environmentalists won a key victory today, blocking a truly risible attempt by Sen. Ted Stevens to cram Arctic Refuge drilling through on the back of the defense bill. It's a good thing. Why am I not more celebratory? Well, because I'm not just an environmentalist. My muted feelings are well explained in this post by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson:
Bill Maher's intro to the Earth to America special. (via desmogblog)
The Senate has blocked the latest attempt to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Update [2005-12-21 12:16:45 by David Roberts]: MoveOn has set up a page where you can send Washington's own Sen. Maria Cantwell a message of thanks for her leadership on this issue. Go here.
Stop me if you've heard this one before:The Bush administration on Tuesday proposed new air quality regulations intended to reduce modestly sooty pollutants that health officials blame for thousands of premature deaths and illnesses each year. But in proposing the first change since 1997 in federal standards on the pollutants, called particulate matter, the Environmental Protection Agency largely ignored recommendations for tighter controls from its own scientists and from an independent panel of outside experts.
Roger Ebert has judged Syriana the second best movie of 2005. His review of the movie is here, mine (no doubt boasting equal readership) is here. FYI.
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