Grist staff

Interviews with the 2004 Democratic presidential contenders

There are enough of them to field a baseball team or fill the Supreme Court bench. With nine candidates vying to win the Democratic nomination for president, sometimes it can be tough to remember which one drives the SUV and which one’s the vegan. To help you get a leg up on the environmental platforms of President Bush’s would-be challengers for the presidency, Grist is conducting interviews with the contenders. (Looking for a particular interview but don’t see it? Check back soon — and in the meantime, email the candidate and say you’d like to read more about his or …

A special edition on elections and the environment

“Information is the currency of democracy,” said Thomas Jefferson, who, as the oft-cited father of democracy, presumably knew whereof he spoke. Alas, a couple of hundred years later, it seems more accurate to say that currency is the currency of democracy. Here at the height of the Information Age, information about the workings of our democracy is increasingly tough to come by (think of the Bush administration stonewalling about Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force) and increasingly hard to trust (think of the staggering consolidation and centralization of media control). To counter those trends and conduct a little Jefferson-style …

New Kid on the Block

Democrats Block Vote on Leavitt’s Nomination to EPA As expected, Senate Democrats blocked a committee vote yesterday on President Bush’s nominee to head the U.S. EPA, Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt (R). Though they insisted it was “nothing personal” against Leavitt, Democrats on the Senate Environment Committee, joined by independent Sen. James Jeffords (Vt.), boycotted a committee meeting and thereby denied the quorum needed for a vote to send Leavitt’s nomination to the Senate floor. Jeffords said he and his Democratic cohorts want responses from Leavitt and the Bush team to numerous questions about the administration’s environmental policies. “The American public …

The Terminator

Schwarzenegger Suggests that He Might Shut Down California EPA California gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) suggested yesterday that he might terminate the state’s environmental protection agency. At a question-and-answer session with voters, Schwarzenegger was asked by a farmer why the state needed Cal/EPA when there was a federal EPA. “What you just talked about is the waste — overlapping agencies,” said the candidate. “They cost a fortune. We have to strip that down and get rid of some of those agencies.” Meanwhile, one week out from a vote on whether to recall California Gov. Gray Davis (D), Davis has been …

The Fairest of Them All

Fair-Trade Food Starts to Catch on in the U.S. Hey, you — sipping the fair-trade, shade-grown, organic coffee. How would you like a fair-trade banana with that? Or a fair-trade chocolate bar? A small but growing number of products in U.S. grocery stores carry a fair-trade label issued by TransFair USA, based in Oakland, Calif., which guarantees that the workers in developing countries who produced the products were paid a fair price for their labor. Many fair-trade-certified products are also organic. Inspectors from TransFair USA make annual visits to fair-trade producers in Latin America, Africa, and Asia to ensure that …

Readers sound off on our back-to-school advice, political proclivities, and more

  Re: Of Classrooms and Closets Dear Editor: Thank you for the feature on earth-friendly, back-to-school clothes and school supplies. While the information is greatly appreciated, however, your timing stinks. My kids, as with most others around the country, have been back at school for nearly a month now, with new tennis shoes and backpacks in tow. Your article would have been much more valuable to me, and the impact greater, if you had published this information two months ago. I’ve bookmarked some of the links for next year! I notice that Greenpeace’s grades for eco-friendly athletic shoes do not …

Return of the Smog Monster

Southern California Air Quality Takes a Turn for the Worse After years of gradual improvement, Southern California’s air quality took a tumble this summer, falling to its worst levels since 1997 due to the combined effects of hot weather and increasing emissions. Taken as a whole, the region’s air quality has dramatically improved in the last quarter-century, but the rising smog levels in the last three years, and especially this past summer, threaten that long-term trend. Southern California had 30 percent more smoggy days this summer than last, and twice as many smoggy days as Houston, usually a close competitor …

The Endesa Nigh

Indigenous Activists Give Up Fight Over Chilean Dam After a six-year protest, four elderly Pehuenche women have agreed to end their opposition to a $570 million hydroelectric dam to be built on their ancestral land in Southern Chile. After lengthy negotiations with the Chilean government and Endesa, the Spanish-owned power company building the dam, the women agreed to accept $1.2 million and 761 acres of land in exchange for ending the protest. The company and the government say the 540-megawatt dam is crucial to meeting Chile’s energy needs; environmental and indigenous activists say it will flood sacred land, destroy endangered …

The real dimensions of $87 billion

Add enough zeros to the end of any number — say, 87 — and it quickly becomes an abstraction. I can imagine 87 years (my grandmother’s age), or 87 miles (about the distance from my home in Brooklyn to outer Long Island), or $87 (which wouldn’t go far out there in the hoity-toity Hamptons). But I’m at a loss to wrap my mind around 87 thousand years (which would take me back to the most recent ice age) or 870 million miles (Brooklyn to Saturn), or $87 billion dollars — enough, or maybe enough, to fund one year of military …