David Roberts

David Roberts

Energy, politics, and more

David Roberts is a staff writer for Grist. You can follow his Twitter feed at twitter.com/drgrist.

Franzen in The New Yorker

This week The New Yorker is home to a piece by noted author Jonathan Franzen on birdwatching, environmentalism, global warming, and, um, his love life. No description can do it justice -- it really is an extraordinary piece of writing, weaving together personal history, acute political and sociological observation, ornithological detail, and an elegiac tone, with effortless grace. As usual when I encounter stuff like this, I feel admiration and naked envy in roughly equal measure. It isn't available online yet -- not sure if it will be -- but it's worth buying the magazine to read it. If I can track down an electronic copy, I'll paste some excerpts.

Environmentalism as a religion

What does the accusation mean and how should greens respond?

James Schlesinger had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal the other day called "The Theology of Global Warming" (paid subscription required, but really, don't bother). It's full of the usual skeptical blather -- if you're interested in the specifics, and in finding out why Schlesigner in particular is an unreliable source, I refer you to Chris Mooney. I'm more interested in this general idea that global warming, and environmentalism generally, has become a "secular religion." You hear it a lot. It's become a favorite talking point on the right. (And let's be honest: When you hear anti-environmentalist talking points, it's coming from the right. I wish it weren't so, but it is.) What should a green make of this charge? I think it's strategically brilliant. It's a way for the leadership on the right to reach two constituencies simultaneously:

From Panties to Pledges

Eco-panties The world’s fascination with panties dates back to, oh, probably whenever panties were invented. At U.K.-based GreenKnickers.org, they make them from organic materials or oddball secondhand dresses. You got your eco, you got your panties — what’s not to like? Like Grizzly Adams, but crazy Photo: Timothy Treadwell. Self-proclaimed “kind warrior” Timothy Treadwell lived for 13 years among Alaska’s grizzly bears, totally unarmed, filming himself, befriending the bears, and going slightly nuts. Then they ate him. The documentary Grizzly Man opens Friday. I love to ride my biii-cycle Hey, did you know there’s been an outbreak of eco-consciousness leading …

Legalize it, don’t criticize it

The U.S. is the only developed nation that does not cultivate industrial hemp as an economic crop. The Industrial Hemp Farming Act could change that -- if it's passed. Given the Bush administration's retrograde attitude toward pot (which yes, yes, I know, has nothing to do with hemp), I highly doubt this bill has a chance. But I could be wrong. Joel Makower has the details.

Specter and Roberts

Judiciary committee chair to question SCOTUS nominee about commerce clause

Those who read our piece on Supreme Court nominee John Roberts know that one of greens' principle concerns about him is his interpretation of the commerce clause. In short, the commerce clause, which gives Congress the right to regulate interstate commerce, has been broadly interpreted and used as the foundation for a great deal of important environmental legislation. If SCOTUS chooses to interpret it more narrowly, much of that legislation could be challenged. (This is what was at stake in the case of the "hapless toad that, for reasons of its own, lives its entire life in California" -- i.e., doesn't cross state lines.) Meanwhile: Arlen Specter (R-Penn.), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is sick and tired of SCOTUS questioning -- nay, mocking! -- the reasoning Congress uses to pass laws. He just sent Roberts a letter saying as much: "members of Congress are irate about the Court's denigrating and, really, disrespectful statements about Congress's competence." Denigrating and disrespectful statements about Congress! Say it ain't so. In particular, Specter asked Roberts about his his opinion of two cases -- U.S. v. Lopez and U.S. v. Morrison -- that turned on the commerce clause. (Both were narrow judgments finding that Congress had overreached.) Why should you care about this? Well, Specter says he plans on asking Roberts about this stuff at his confirmation hearings. And that's somewhat surprising -- Republican leadership had been saying that Roberts shouldn't have to answer questions on individual issues. (I'd be curious to find out if Specter is off the reservation about this.) So while ineffectual Democrats will have no luck finding out what Roberts really thinks about an issue central to environmental legislation, Specter might just find out for them. (You can read more about this, and Specter's letter, on Greenwire if you have a paid subscription, which you probably don't.)

Freecycle (TM)

… oh, and R.I.P.

In May of last year, we did a story on Freecycle, the spontaneously organized, voluntary, web-based network devoted to enabling people to give stuff away rather than throw it away. Then in May of this year, we wrote another story, about Freecycle and its growing pains. On the one hand there was a fight to obtain the trademark to the Freecycle name. On the other hand there was controversy about a $130,000 sponsorship from Waste Management, Inc., the largest garbage company in the U.S. Well, it appears the former fight has been won and the latter money is being put to good use. Today we received a letter from "media relations" at Freecycle:

Welcome to the new Grist. Tell us what you think, or if it's your first time learn about us. Grist is celebrating 15 years. ×