Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Eric de Place's Posts

Comments

Public lands: Mine, all mine

In an ominous new development, Congress may soon authorize private "patents" of public land, a wildly outdated and abused provision of an 1872 mining law. The patents are functionally equivalent to fee-simple purchases of the land, which raises the distinct possibility that private individuals and corporations could stake mining claims -- and then buy the land -- in national forests, wilderness areas, and even national parks. Mining, as it is currently practiced, is so ecologically disastrous there are too many examples of environmental degradation to mention here. But the new Congressional legislation would actually worsen matters. Not only would it …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

Sprawl is often thought to erode social capital, but the evidence is mixed

In Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam argues that the decline of social capital in the U.S. can be attributed partly to urban form. In other words, according to Putnam, sprawl is at least partly to blame for the present derth of bowling leagues. But is it really? Putnam's arguments (summarized at the end of Chapter 12) are threefold. "Sprawl takes time": more time alone in a car and less for civic engagement. "Sprawl is associated with increasing social segregation," and that segregation has led to less community participation. "Sprawl disrupts community 'boundedness'," and that physical fragmentation reduces social involvement. Although Putnam's …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

Carbon sequestration smells fishy.

In the midst of the recent climate pledging lovefest, it's easy to lose sight of the unhappy truth that atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases have already reached levels that effectively guarantee us at least several decades of global warming. While the Kyoto Protocol is worthwhile--to reduce global emissions by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels--it is only a small first step toward putting brakes on climate change. To do that, scientists estimate that worldwide emissions must be reduced by at least 60 to 70 percent.    Needless to say, achieving those levels of reductions will be a something of a challenge. …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

USA Today says the globe is warming!

Mark today in your calendars because USA Today's headline just made it official: "The debate's over: Globe is warming." My first reaction was astonishment. I kept scanning their website for other up-to-the-minute revelations. What's next? Are the Beatles really about to break-up? Is the Berlin Wall really going to come down? But my second reaction was more optimistic -- and less sarcastic. I shouldn't scoff at USA Today's belated recognition as much as I should marvel that a tipping point is happening right before our eyes. The real news here is not that the debate is over -- it's been …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

But the hispanic portion is growing like gangbusters.

U.S. population grew by slightly less than 1 percent from 2003 to 2004, according to new Census Bureau figures. In both 2003 and 2004, annual U.S. population growth was slower than it was from 1990 to 2002, when the annual rate averaged more than 1.2 percent. (In the big scheme of things, 1 percent may not sound like much, but it's enough to double the population every 70 years. If the U.S. continues to grow at 1 percent per year, the country will number almost 600 million people by 2076.) But none of that stuff made headlines like the news …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

Schwarzenegger’s new climate initiative isn’t all that.

To read today's headlines you'd think Schwarzenegger just saved the world from global warming catastrophe a la the "The Day After Tomorrow." But why? In a speech to the United Nations World Environment Day gathering in San Francisco, the gubernator proclaimed that the scientific debate on climate change is over and that the world needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I suppose it's encouraging that another prominent Republican has made such a declaration, in contrast to the willful ignorance of the White House. But isn't this stuff common knowledge by now? Schwarzenegger also unveiled a (non-binding) pledge to reduce California's …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

An optimistic op-ed on Washington state climate moves.

A refreshing and optimistic op-ed by KC Golden, policy director of Climate Solutions. Golden points out that 2005 is turning out to be a banner year for Washington--a year that includes both a turning away from energy-dependence and several encouraging steps toward a smarter and more efficient energy-economy that benefits everyone. In a time when partisanship seems all the rage, Golden's point about ending our addiction to fossil fuels is right on the money: We cannot rise to this challenge if we stay stuck in the well-worn ruts of political identity -- east vs. west; left vs. right; Republican vs. …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

Northwest caribuou may not be long for this world.

We've heard a lot about caribou recently, mostly in the fight over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But fewer people know that the Northwest is home to the last remaining caribou herd to inhabit the lower 48 states. They are considered the most endangered large mammal in the continental United States. Woodland caribou once ranged in New England, the Upper Midwest, and as far south as the Salmon River in Idaho. Today, the last survivors, the tiny Selkirk herd, occupy only a small range in northeast Washington, northern Idaho, and an adjacent portion of British Columbia. Even in …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

Massive new Washington habitat conservation plan is bad news.

Today is the final day for the public to weigh in on a giant new habitat conservation plan--called the Forests and Fish Plan--that will govern how Washington's timber industry behaves and how well it safeguards habitat for endangered salmon. Here's the punchline: the plan will essentially grant the timber industry 50 years of legal immunity to the federal Endangered Species Act. This is not a smart move. Habitat conservation plans, ostensibly designed to protect endangered species, often authorize destructive activity that harms the very creatures they are supposed to protect. The Forests and Fish Plan will supposedly require timber companies …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

Charismatic animals get all the love.

If you could monitor only 7 species for a region, which would you choose, in order to learn the most about the region's ecological health? Here's why I ask... Unless you've been living in a cave, you probably already know that the ivory-billed woodpecker was re-discovered, not extinct after all, in the swamps of Arkansas. But unless you happen to be a mollusk biologist you're probably not aware that two freshwater snails in Alabama were also recently re-discovered alive and well. That's the focus of a bit of thoughtful journalism by ABC News (unfortunately far too abbreviated to do justice …

Read more: Uncategorized