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.

Werbach on population

Time to abandon the ‘population’ frame in favor of women’s empowerment and sustainable development

One last thing on the American Prospect environment package: Adam Werbach's piece on population is brilliant, and by that I mean it expresses my own position. The basic point is that the "population movement" is a bad idea. Not only is the notion that the world's problems come down to a matter of raw numbers wrong on the merits, but it's terrible framing and terrible politics. It attracts unsavory folks whose opposition to immigration has as much to do with xenophobia and racism as with ecological concern. It comes off as misanthropic, Malthusian, and insensitive to the plight of the poverty-stricken, activating all the worst stereotypes about environmentalism. Population activists are, says Werbach, "fighting a losing battle against history, language, and commonly understood mythologies that attract the wrong types of allies." The solution? Reframe the movement as "a women's empowerment and sustainable-development movement." If we reject the population-control frame in favor of the goals of women's emancipation and sustainable development, we may achieve a healthier and more stable population, without inviting the unwelcome embrace of ugly exclusionists. That's exactly right.

Oil poster

Forget pin-up girls and rock bands. The hip new thing for dorm room walls is the oil poster, and handily distilled summary of historic oil production and its inevitable decline. Chicks dig it!

More on the Prospect package

Highs and lows of sweet, sweet wonkitude

Enough about The Reapers. How's the rest of the American Prospect environment package? Much of it, sadly, is deathly, wonkily boring. In particular, Carl Pope ... dude. What is this pap? It's so bland, so politician-y, it takes genuine concentration even to get through it. You've written better stuff on your blog, for chrissake. This from Ross Gelbspan and this from John M. Meyer are similarly forgettable. But there are many bright moments. Bill McKibben could write about what he ate for dinner and make it engaging, but I found the conclusion of this piece on global warming particularly on-point:

Rebuilding: organizing for a sustainable alternative

Who’s going to push the new New Orleans in a green direction?

It sure would be nice if New Orleans would be rebuilt with an eye toward sustainability. And yet, all indications are that it will be a characteristically Bushian undertaking, riddled with inefficiency, waste, vice, cronyism, and wishful ideological thinking. How to avoid this? Well, people need to organize. Quickly. Only voluble, sustained political pressure will push Bush and Congressional Republicans toward transparency, accountability, and social/environmental responsibility. I was heartened, then, to see an article on Alternet called "Green Relief and Reconstruction." It contained many such inspiring assertions as the following: Eco-friendly companies, social justice groups and concerned professionals are forging a nascent "Green Relief" movement that is already delivering results on the ground, working to replace today's snapshots of oil-soaked abandon with visions of locally-crafted communities bustling with bike paths, sidewalks, lots of green space, healthy housing, and powered by clean energy. They are? Awesome! Uh ... who? Where? It goes on in this vague way for a while, eventually outlining some sensible principles of progressive reconstruction. But where's this budding movement he keeps talking about? Who are these people? What have they done? Where can I sign up? Bizarrely, it is only toward the end that a link is provided -- but the reason becomes clear once you click on it. GreenRelief is an effort organized by the Healthy Building Network (www.healthybuilding.net) and others to encourage and assist Hurricane Katrina relief efforts that promote environmental restoration, environmental health, and environmental and social justice. GreenRelief will bring international expertise, resources, and materials to achieve the goals of restoring community, rebuilding homes, restoring the environment, and rebuilding the economy. Site under development. Godspeed, fellas. Hurry up.

The latest bid for Arctic Refuge oil

As everyone surely knows by now, Republicans are using the devastation of a region of our country to push for their long-time goal of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The idea is, depending on which bullshit happens to be flying at the moment, that oil sales will bolster the federal budget, or that the oil will make up for shortfalls caused by the hurricanes, or that the oil will lower gas prices. All these claims are, as has been demonstrated ad nauseam, quite obviously false. According to a July 2005 report (PDF) by the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration, it will take 10 years to get the first drop of oil out of the Refuge. In 20 years, when production is at its peak, Refuge oil might bring down the price of a gallon of gas ... by a penny. The Wilderness Society has a one-page summary of the report here (PDF). Why do Republicans really want to drill in the Refuge? Well, oil-service companies are hot for it. And also, well ... because it's there.

L.A. Weekly on smog

The entire current issue of L.A. Weekly is devoted to the issue of air pollution in Los Angeles, a battle once hailed as a victory for environmentalists that is now slipping into the loss column. There are oodles of stories, and many lessons for those of us in other parts of the country. Give it a look.