David Roberts

David Roberts

Energy, politics, and more

David Roberts is a staff writer for Grist. You can subscribe to his RSS feed or follow him on Twitter or email him at droberts at grist dot org, if you're into that sort of thing.

Environmentalism = bias

Seems Grist is connected, in a six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon way, to the ongoing efforts of Bush defenders (I won't call them "conservatives" any more) to free the administration of any responsibility for the Sago mine tragedy -- and many other mining accidents that preceded and followed it. Jordan Barab has the strange details.

Ha ha, stupid hippies and their, uh, markets!

Want to see what happens when the substance of libertarianism runs up against the prejudices and stereotypes held by libertarians? Read this thread on Hit & Run about Whole Foods recent move to buy wind-power credits. Deeply incoherent.

Sen. Ted Stevens: Can this hurt ever heal?

I wrote a little while back on the tantrum thrown by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) when his fellow Senators refused to let him attach Arctic Refuge drilling to the defense appropriations bill. Well, he's still whining: As the Arctic drilling went down to defeat, Stevens said "goodbye" to the Senate, a remark interpreted by some as a farewell. At the press conference, Stevens said that interpretation was wrong. "I'm here, I'm going to stay and get ANWR, there's no question about that. It's going to happen." But Stevens said when he returns to Washington, he will no longer consider some Democrats his friends. The final refuge debate became too personal, he said. "When I first went there, you would never hear a senator speak about another senator the way they were speaking about me that night," he said. "There are people I've considered to be personal friends without regards to politics, and they were turning into vipers as far as I was concerned. ... The extent of the venom there on the floor, that would never have happened in the days gone by." Stevens said he has "written off" those friends. "I'm not traveling with them anymore, and I'm not going to play tennis or swim or do various things with them." Somebody give this guy a hug! (via ThinkProgress)


Our science-minded readers may be interested to know that a whole gaggle of sharp science bloggers -- Chris Mooney, Tim Lambert, PZ Myers, and more -- are moving over to ScienceBlogs.com (sponsored by Seed). Their combined firepower is formidable. Bookmark it.

Kia ads: ‘Save the greenbacks’

The problem with these Kia ads is not that they mock environmentalists -- the world needs more mockery, not less -- the problem is that they're not funny. (via desmogblog)

A bit of rambling: What is 'nature'?

Philosophical musings.

Since I am cut off from the news, I thought I'd discuss some philosophical issues. Environmentalism is shot through with the same dualisms that have confused Western philosophy from the beginning, and the practical effect (philosophy does too have practical effects!) is to confuse environmental discourse and strategy. It's probably too much to get into in a single blog post, but let's just think for a moment: What do we mean when we refer to "nature"? Of course there's the colloquial meaning, i.e., trees and streams and stuff. But follow it up a little. What is nature? Or, phrasing it another way, what isn't nature? What separates nature from not-nature? One common line of thinking contrasts the natural to the supernatural. Nature is the material world, and then there's the immaterial world inhabited by God, souls, angels, ghosts, and what have you. A related and sometimes overlapping school of thought contrasts nature with humanity. The contrast might be positive: Nature is violent, insensate, and irrational (red in tooth and claw), while human beings are unique in virtue of possessing rationality. This has been the default approach for most of Western history. Or it might be negative: Nature as a kind of harmonious, balanced, holistic system ("Gaia"), while human beings are a cancer on the planet, either unaware or dismissive of any "natural" limits. This is a more recent way of thinking, bound up with the social upheavals of the 60s and 70s, frequently found among those who profess "deep ecology." Now, if you believe in the supernatural -- i.e., God -- then there's no need to trouble your mind. Usually the picture is pretty clear: God "gave" nature to us, his most special creatures, to take care of (dominate or tend lovingly, depending on your predilections). Or, if you're of a certain persuasion, nature is basically disposable, since the Rapture's on the way. The Enlightenment project has been to either bracket the supernatural or dismiss it entirely. For secularists, then, it's a little more complicated: How do we conceive of nature and humanity, environmentalism itself, without the supernatural?

Jury duty

Greetings from jury duty in miserable and blighted lovely Kent, Washington. I'm writing this on a dinky little laptop, using glacially slow (but free!) wi-fi here at the Regional Justice Center. I'm cut off from my usual workflow and, most importantly, my RSS feeds. So I have no idea what's going on out in the world. To boot, at any moment my number could come up and I could be called away to determine some poor schlub's guilt or innocence. So ... posting will be light today.

Damn interesting

One site I've discovered lately that's damn interesting is Damn Interesting [high hat]. It is, as far as I can tell, exactly as advertised: Short articles on random, but always interesting, stuff. A few that might be of interest to Gristmillians: A little piece on the Hindenburg disaster, which completely ended what was until then promising and safe development of air ships, and a bit on the latest developments in toilet technology. And as someone who is highly allergic to cashew nuts, it was gratifying to learn that they are in fact highly toxic.

Coal country

While the Sago tragedy has coal on our minds -- too bad it's only tragedy that moves coal into the spotlight, and only briefly at that -- it's worth reading reporter Lucy Carrigan's short but evocative post about her visit to coal country.

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