Emily Gertz

Emily Gertz is a New York City-based freelance journalist and editor who has written on business, design, health, and other facets of the environment for Grist, Dwell, Plenty, Worldchanging, and other publications.

Five developing nations a presence at the G8 summit

Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa -- some of the world's most dynamically growing developing nations and up-and-coming greenhouse gas emitters -- have been invited to attend this week's G8 summit as informal participants. I've been digging through the international press this morning, looking for perspectives on Gleneagles absent in much of the Western news media. India's New Kerala reports (via the Indo-Asian News Service) that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in London today. Singh will ask the G8 nations to transfer green energy technologies to the developing nations, removing "non-tariff barriers," i.e. international protections for intellectual property rights to these technologies, as The Indian Express explains with a tad more clarity. Singh wants relaxed international IPR protections on clean energy technologies, to make them more affordable for the developing nations to use in place of dirty energy. Below the fold, more G8 perspectives from the presses of China, Mexico, and South Africa.

Endangered Species Act: Still endangered

Let's unbury this story from its grave in the holiday weekend press. Yesterday, The New York Times reported on a leaked draft of legislation that would effectively gut the Endangered Species Act. The proposed law was prepared by the Republican staff of the House Resources Committee, led by Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.), who's long opposed the ESA. The Times' Felicity Barringer writes: The draft legislation was given to The New York Times by a lawmaker opposed to its provisions, who requested anonymity because the legislation had not yet been introduced. It has been circulating among interest groups focused on the issue, which tends to pit environmental groups against a loose coalition of Western ranchers, farmers and business interests. Most lobbyists believe that the committee's legislation will provide the framework for rewriting and reauthorizing the act. Coincidentally, The Christian Science Monitor ran an in-depth look at the ESA on June 28. Although the article doesn't include the jounalistic drama of "leaked draft legislation," it's a good overview of the politics swirling around the ESA, which are even more complicated than Western governors vs. Beltway green groups now that religious groups are take a stake in species conservation: "You can expect to hear from many people of faith as they witness with passion and resolve about the importance of protecting endangered species," Dorothy Boorse told a recent congressional committee. Dr. Boorse teaches biology at Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., and is an evangelical Christian active with the Noah Alliance, a coalition of religious groups that support species protections.

Vacancy sign lights up at Supreme Court

O’Conner announces she’ll be leaving

Pundits and press have been chewing over the possibility of a resignation on the Supreme Court this week, with most of the focus on ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist. But the script has changed: This morning, Justice Sandra Day O'Conner announced that she'll be leaving the Court before the beginning of its next term. BushGreenwatch (disclaimer: I wrote for BGW last year) ran an overview of what a vacancy on the court could mean for environmental laws, and it won't surprise anyone to read the anxious prognosis. I'd say this forecasting is even more relevant with O'Conner's departure than Rehnquist's. Less doctrinaire than either her most liberal or conservative colleagues, she was often the swing vote on the Court from case to case. Replacing her may well mean a real shift in the Court's balance of power.

More rancher-enviro cooperation

Ore. ranchers welcome ideas about protecting geese

Via Nature Noted, here's another story of typically at-odds parties coming together to create a win-win for species preservation, as with the wolves of the North Rockies. In Southern Oregon, the largest stretch of uninterrupted grasslands left on the Oregon and Washington coasts, dubbed "New River Bottoms," hosts domestic sheep and cows, and also tens of thousands of Aleutian geese, which stop over in the area every spring. It's a prime migration way station on their way to breeding grounds in Alaska -- the last stop they make. Other species finding habitat on the grasslands include federally protected birds such as threatened snowy plovers and endangered California brown pelicans. Ranchers using the land to graze their herds have considered themselves at odds with the geese, which chow down extensively on the lush grass. Now, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is studying the potential for designating nearly 6,000 acres of the land as a national refuge, by offering landowners compensation easements or outright purchase of their lands.

Monkeywrencher bunny

Eco-action.org’s new mascot is tres adorable

So, when did this cute lil' bunny become the eco-action.org mascot?  Kawaii meets ecodefense.

Politics & science, oil & water, cats & dogs

GAO to investigate whether Cooney’s editing was illegal

Chris Mooney has a good catch today: Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have asked the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, to determine whether recently-resigned Bush administration official Philip Cooney violated federal statutes against obstruction of Congress and false statements. Cooney, as you may recall, is the former oil industry lobbyist, turned chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality who edited research reports to play up uncertainties about global warming. Turned, uh, oil industry lobbyist. (To everything turn, turn, turn, eh?) Lautenberg and Reid are also asking the Climate Change Science Program to retract the redacted reports, writes Chris. "I don't know what kind of results this will achieve, but it's a new tactic, as well as a strong demonstration that Congress is getting serious about the science abuse issue."

I want wolves to show me the way

Successes of rural West shouldn’t be overlooked

Over at Tidepool, Colorado ecologist Gary Wockner suggests that those debating environmentalism's death get over their movement-level myopia and get serious -- and hopeful -- about what's going on in rural America, instead. Resolution in this debate remains elusive; the only certainty is that environmentalism's death is as questionable as Elvis' but lacks his celebrity appeal. At the same time that environmentalism supposedly died, however, one of the greatest environmental success stories in history was playing out on the landscapes of the rural West. Typical of doom-and-gloom environmentalists, many of us ignored this extraordinary success and focused on other failures. In-so-doing, we missed two things we need most: 1) the lessons our movement's celebrities -- wolves -- can teach us, and 2) hope. What can wolves teach us? "Wolves cross all sorts of political boundaries -- especially public/private, and therefore left/right -- and require new thinking," says Wockner. In the Northern Rockies, tolerance for wolves has grown among rural landowners, and the predator's numbers are growing, despite the transition from the wolf-friendly Clinton/Babbitt years to the more hostile Bush/Norton era. And Wockner thinks residents of the South Rockies want to find new ways to coexist with wolves as well. It's a major success story of American environmentalism that the movement as a whole has overlooked.

Senate feeling energetic

Federal energy bill moves to final round: House v. Senate showdown

The Senate passed its $16 billion version of the federal energy bill yesterday with an 85-12 vote.  Included: tax breaks and incentives for domestic oil and gas production; billions for clean energy, nuke power, and conservation; and, the "sense of the Senate" demanding that "the United States should demonstrate international leadership and responsibility regarding reducing the health, environmental, and economic risks posed by climate change." (Search on 'S. J. RES. 5' for the 109th Congress at senate.gov to read the whole thing.) Not included, as compared to the House version: Even more incentives for dirty energy production; immunity from defective-product lawsuits for manufacturers of MTBE, a gasoline additive that has fouled drinking water in hundreds of communities nationwide; drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And the House certainly didn't include no namby-pamby non-binding resolution on reducing global warming. So stay tuned for the next round, as the House and Senate duke it out in conference to reconcile their two versions of the bill. Read more in today's The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times.

What a difference an ice sheet makes

Or, three. Not to mention a picture of what Britain will look like in 200 years if climate change melts the globe's three largest ice sheets. According to today's Scotsman, a new study suggests sea levels would rise some 275 feet. The U.K. mainland would turn into a North Sea Polynesia, with coastal towns and many cities disappearing completely. The center of London would be underwater. Hm -- those zombies in 28 Days Later are starting to look like a more manageable end-of-the-world scenario by the minute. Of course, the big queston here is: how likely is this? And that's where respectable scientists disagree.