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Crichton Mad

A review of the distorted plot and politics in Michael Crichton’s State of Fear

Michael Crichton,author of State of Fear. Photo: HarperCollins Publishers. Michael Crichton's State of Fear is an attempt to meld serious politico-scientific critique with a modern techno-thriller. It's an ambitious undertaking, but to paraphrase Thomas Edison, success is 1 percent ambition and 99 percent not writing an awful book. Crichton's novel, alas, is unilluminating as a critique and unsatisfying as a thriller. In many books of this ilk, authors work up a certain level of suspense by following several characters' storylines at once, cutting back and forth at each cliffhanging juncture. In State of Fear, however, the reader is shackled throughout …

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Sustainable development saves lives

This is a pretty remarkable story: Two years ago, drought-stricken farmers in a village on the southern coast of India walked into the Guinness Book of World Records by planting the highest number of saplings in a 24-hour period. On Dec. 26, as the killer tsunami struck down thousands of people and homes in Tamil Nadu state, the casuarina and eucalyptus trees which had been planted to appease the weather gods saved the lush green village of Naluvedapathy. Of the nearly 8,000 people who died in the state, including 6,000 in one fishing village, only seven were from Naluvedapathy. Lesson …

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Extractive myths

Speaking of rural renewables: One of the vexations of blog life is that good posts quickly recede down the page and get missed -- so don't miss this excellent post by new Gristmill contributor Tom Power on the myth that B.C.'s economy depends on extractive industries. Everything he writes could be transferred straightforwardly to Oregon, Washington, Kansas, etc. etc.

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Rural renewables

Rural areas in America are hurting, losing people and vitality by the day. The extractive industries upon which many rural economies are based are either dying, being outsourced, or taken over by megacorporations who offer residents low-quality, unstable service jobs. What if greens had something to offer these red areas? As I keep saying, a rural future based on small-scale green industry is both substantively and politically a huge potential win for environmentalists. A story in The Oregonian on rural Oregon's renewable energy potential illustrates both the opportunity and challenges involved.Here's the opportunity: As the floor of the Pacific Ocean …

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100 sustainable companies

As usual, I'm getting to this late.  Here are the 100 most sustainable corporations in the world, as announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The comically fuzzy definition: " A Corporation that produces an overall positive impact on society and the environment." Joel Makower rightly criticizes the opacity of the ranking process and Alex Steffen rightly emphasizes that these types of rankings aren't about seeking perfection so much as moving the debate in the right direction.

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Shrinking glaciers

Via BoingBoing, a series of pictures showing melting glaciers from story in the San Fran Chronicle a few months back.

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Robert F. Kennedy Jr. talk

This evening I saw Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speak at Seattle's Paramount theater, thanks to Foolproof's excellent "American Voices" program. The guy is pretty amazing. For one thing -- and I'm not sure why this is the first thing that struck me -- he looks like a Kennedy! It's a little strange, like some PBS documentary or Discovery channel special come to life. And he speaks like a Kennedy too, obviously erudite but completely at ease with the kind of aspirational, inspirational rhetoric for which his father and uncle were known. It's one of the more substantive one-hour public talks …

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Crichtonomania

Michael Crichton gave a talk at the American Enterprise Institute today -- you can watch the video here. Sadly, I was not able to attend and ask him why the eco-terrorists in his book use small, poisonous octopi as their primary weapons. I get that octopi are natural and everything, but given that to use them you've got to get right up next to your victim and hold him or her still for a few seconds -- or get a friend to do it while you fumble with the sandwich baggies in which said octopi are contained -- it seems …

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Ecotourism tips

I am, like most enviros, somewhat conflicted on the subject of ecotourism, and I wish I knew more about it. In the end, I'm inclined to think that the damage such tourism does to the ecosystems where it takes place is outweighed by the simple fact that it offers a source of revenue other than resource extraction. There is, of course, good ecotourism and bad ecotourism -- if you, as an aspiring ecotourist, want to know which is which, MSNBC's 12 tips for ecotravelers is a good place to start.

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Vancouver wants to improve public spaces

Good job them.

Via Worldchanging, where they are quite enamored of Vancouver, I see the city's 21 Places for the 21st Century contest. Participants are encouraged to choose a favourite public place or site, and then propose a change or improvement to it. Changes can be abstract or concrete; permanent, temporary, or seasonal. Your chosen public space may be large or small, as may your change. Ideas for activities or programmes to be offered in a public place are also welcome. You're only limited by your imagination. Dreamy. What if every city in North America held a similar contest?

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