Grist staff

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 …

Readers sound off on Bushisms, organic weed control, and more

  Re: Vehicular Geocide Dear Editor: The Bush administration declared that the EPA would not be regulating carbon dioxide emissions because he decided that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. How could his genius have escaped me for so long? What a masterstroke! In one sentence, he solved the problem of carbon dioxide pollution. I only wonder why he didn’t also declare that arsenic and mercury and agricultural runoff and sulfur dioxide and oil spills and all the rest of those nasties are also all not pollutants. Then we’d have nothing left to worry about! Margaret Eisenberger Chesterfield, Mo.   …

Conan the Eco-friendly Barbarian

Schwarzenegger Tries to Green His Image Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to paint himself with a green brush as he revs up his campaign for the California governorship. Though he’s running as a Republican, he’s carving out positions at odds with the Bush administration on a number of issues, from logging in the Sierra Nevada to regulating carbon-dioxide emissions from vehicles to pushing energy conservation and solar power. Schwarzenegger is even talking about converting his gas-guzzling Hummer to run on clean-burning hydrogen. His campaign released an eight-page position paper on environmental issues last week, put together with help from Robert F. …

Deserters

Conference on Desertification Gains Little Ground The sixth international conference on desertification ended yesterday in Cuba with few results, save for a decision on how to finance efforts to slow the encroachment of arid regions and the loss of fertile lands. Leaders of 10 African and Caribbean nations attending the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification agreed to use the Global Environment Facility as their main funding source by applying for some of the $500 million in related grants the GEF will make available over the next three years. Desertification is caused by deforestation, overgrazing, drought, and climate change; it affects …

Andy Holdsworth, conservation biologist

Andy Holdsworth is a PhD candidate in conservation biology at the University of Minnesota. He studies the ecological effects and conservation implications of nonnative earthworms in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Tuesday, 2 Sep 2003 MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. There is a blurry line between work and play in my life. My wife, Hillary, learned this lesson for the Nth time this Labor Day weekend. She agreed to help me with one day of field research in exchange for a day of unscheduled canoeing and a day visiting a friend at a cabin in northern Wisconsin. As agreed, after six hours (less than a …

Readers sound off on Kucinich, Roundup, speciesism, and more

  Re: Pigs in Open Space Dear Editor: There is nothing in this article about pigs and your use of the word as an insult to greedy, gluttonous developers is offensively speciesist. I expect Grist to be more sensitive and sensible. Mary Finelli Silver Spring, Md.   Re: ACT Up Dear Editor: Overall the article about the PAC set up to defeat Bush is to the point, but the stuff about Democratic complacency vis-a-vis African Americans is crap, as was the original New York Times article that made the same point. Unlike the Republican Party, the Democratic Party has to …

Skeptic Tanked

Scientific Panel Dismisses Reports from Danish Environmental Skeptic Recent environmental reports produced by Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish environmental skeptic, were found to be unscientific and of dubious value yesterday by a panel of independent Scandinavian scientists. Lomborg created a stir with his controversial book The Skeptical Environmentalist, in which he dismissed a wide range of environmental concerns as overblown. Last year, Denmark’s conservative government appointed Lomborg to head a new environmental think tank, the Institute for Environmental Valuation. Earlier this year, a prestigious Danish scientific committee charged Lomborg with scientific dishonesty, and the government then asked the independent panel to …