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.

Behind the eco-terrorism hype

is an industry effort to shut down threats to their bottom line

This Alternet piece on the new "eco-terrorism" hype covers ground mostly familiar to Grist readers. But it's got some important details. The piece identifies two specific groups behind the recent hype: the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group of conservative lawmakers, and -- behind them -- the Center for Consumer Freedom, a group that shills for the alcohol, tobacco, and restaurant industries. CCF is one of many front groups for Berman & Co., a lobbying firm owned by Rick Berman, a former restaurant industry executive. Berman is legendary as a ruthless fighter against any regulation or taxes that might hamper his industry friends. He's also known for close ties to Republican lawmakers. He once told Chain Leader Magazine, a restaurant trade publication, "Our offensive strategy is to shoot the messenger. We've got to attack [activists'] credibility as spokespersons." The strategy isn't difficult to discern: Hype the threat from "eco-terrorists," lobby friendly lawmakers to pass draconian laws, and then work hard to tie these "terrorists" to activist groups that hinder your clients' interests. From the Alternet piece: David Martosko, a CCF official, told the House Ways and Means Committee in March that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the United States Humane Society (USHS), and the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) have, to varying degrees, supported known eco-terrorists. "I urge this committee to fully investigate the connections between individuals who commit crimes in the name of the ALF [Animal Liberation Front], ELF [Earth Liberation Front], or similar phantom groups, and the above-ground individuals and organizations that give them aid and comfort," Martosko testified. "I would also urge members of this Committee to prevail upon their colleagues to re-examine the tax-exempt status of groups that have helped to fund, directly or indirectly, these domestic terrorists." There's the nut: "re-examine the tax-exempt status." It's an overt attempt to shut down particular activist groups. For industry, it's a way of destroying threats to their financial interests. For Republicans, it's a way to damage political enemies. For the mouth-breathing, talk-radio-listening Republican base, it's another focus for their spittle-flecked hatred. Everybody wins. Don't get distracted. This whole kerfuffle about eco-terrorism isn't about objectively weighing threats to our country. Don't start arguing about what really is or really isn't terrorism. Don't feel pressured to incant the line, "Of course I disavow the tactics of those groups, but ..." The merits of the case against "eco-terrorism" are a total distraction. The people waging this war could give a rat's ass about the merits. Call it what it is.

Rebuilding: more from AtKisson

More intriguing thoughts on rebuilding New Orleans from WC's Alan AtKisson.

The other kind of population problem

France is paying women to have babies.

From Booty to Biodiesel

“Hey baby, recycle here often?” OK, we’ve heard enough about steamy flings starting at Green Drinks: It’s now officially a Trend. Middle America may think it’s all patchouli and Birkenstocks when enviros mingle, but what …

Bartlett’s conference

This Monday, Rep. Roscoe P. Coltrane Bartlett (R-Md.) convened a big ol' conference on peak oil, including speakers Kenneth Deffeyes, Matthew Simmons, and other such brainy energy types. Energybulletin.net has the transcript (parts one, two, and three), as well as a roundup of news and blog covereage. Check it out.


Cali Reclamation Board tries to slow development on floodplains; Arnold fires it

Carl Pope is right: this is just bizarre. In the wake of Katrina and Rita, levees and flood control are on everyone's mind. The California Reclamation Board, which oversees flood control on the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers (the state's two biggest), has been growing increasingly leery of developing in those floodplains without additional protections. Many stretches of Central Valley levees were built decades ago to protect farmland; they are now aging and weakening at the same time they are being expected to protect thousands of new homes. In an interview several months ago, [board member Jeffrey F.] Mount said, "We need regional land use planning so we don't continue to build behind these agricultural levees." Also, he said, a mechanism is needed to pay for strengthening existing levees, and flood insurance should be mandatory. "Everything I'm saying, of course," Mount said, "will be violently resisted by the building industry." The need for better protection was so severe that a bipartisan group of California Congressfolk sent a letter to Schwarzenegger pleading for funding:

Biomimicry in Newsweek

All my environment-related RSS feeds go into a single "green" folder (in Thunderbird). I returned from paternity leave to find that folder bulging with more than 4500 unread entries. Eek. Thus far I've been too scared to even open it. All of which is to say, I'm sure someone's already covered this. But Newsweek has a nice little article on biomimicry that's worth reading. It recounts various lessons engineers have learned from nature and the nifty widgets they've built. Nothing new for folks familiar with the subject, but a friendly intro. "If you have a design problem, nature's probably solved it already," says Janine Benyus, cofounder of the Biomimicry Guild. "After all, it's had 3.8 billion years to come up with solutions." ... "The truth is, natural organisms have managed to do everything we want to do without guzzling fossil fuels, polluting the planet or mortgaging the future," says Benyus. Indeed.

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!

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