Grist staff

The Truck Stops Here

Speaking of the blue-green alliance, a coalition of labor and environmental groups, plus the trucking industry, filed suit yesterday to prevent the U.S. government from allowing some 30,000 Mexican trucks onto American roads. On Friday, the Bush administration is scheduled to sign regulations that would allow Mexican trucks to cross the border for the first time in 20 years. The coalition contends that doing so would increase air pollution from diesel fumes and violate the Clean Air Act, which prevents the federal government from taking any action that would increase air pollution in regions that do not meet air-quality standards, …

Andes Dandies

Re: Now You See Them, Now You Don’t Dear Editor: As an educator in a Canadian school, I was very interested in this article. I had the pleasure of traveling in South America in the early 1980s. The beauty of the Andes and the surrounding jungle has stayed with me in the years since my travels, so I was shocked to learn what the future might hold for this region. What distresses me the most is the rapidity of these changes and the consequences they will have on fragile environments. I think it’s time to stop closing our eyes to …

The Agency Formerly Known As the EPA

Perhaps belying its name, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing revisions to some of its own rules in order to allow mining companies to dump dirt and rock waste from mountaintop-removal coal operations into rivers and streams. In mountaintop-removal mining, companies raze mountains to access coal veins and then dump the leftover debris into nearby valleys. Environmentalists say the practice causes unacceptable damage, particularly to rivers and streams, and they have challenged these mining operations in court. The new rules are designed to make winning such lawsuits more difficult for enviros and to erase other impediments to mountaintop-removal mining. …

Hopping Mad

Atrazine, the most popular herbicide in the U.S., appears to cause a wide range of sexual abnormalities in frogs, according to a study by biologist Tyrone Hayes published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Seventy-five million pounds of atrazine are used in the U.S. every year, and it is the most common contaminant in the nation’s waterways. Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Norway, France, and Belgium have all banned atrazine, and Hayes’ study suggests why: The chemical, an endocrine disrupter, alters hormone function in amphibians and other critters even when it is present at just 0.1 parts …

The Letter of the Log

More than 220 prominent scientists sent a letter to President Bush today calling for an end to logging on federally owned lands. The scientists, including E.O. Wilson, argued that the economic value of timber from public lands was insignificant compared to the environmental damage from logging, and that taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize timber harvests. The letter, a project of the Sierra Club, read in part, “Timber [from national forests] produces roughly $4 billion per year, while recreation, fish and wildlife, clean water, and unroaded areas provide a combined total of $224 billion to the American economy each …

True Grit

For the third year in a row, massive dust storms from China have blown into South Korea, closing schools, canceling flights, and creating a run on facemasks and respiratory medication. The storms are the result of severe desertification in China, where the Gobi Desert grew by 20,000 square miles from 1994 to 1999; the desertification stems from overfarming, overgrazing, and deforestation, among other causes. In Seoul, 750 miles away, dust levels usually measure 70 micrograms per cubic meter of air; during last week’s dust storm, the reading was 2,070 micrograms, over twice the level deemed hazardous. And folks in South …

Sea Ya!

Central Asia’s Aral Sea, which used to be the world’s fourth-largest lake, has shrunk so dramatically that it has split into two separate bodies of water. The two rivers that feed it were diverted in the 1960s to water cotton fields; now just a trickle reaches the sea, and much of that is contaminated by pesticides and fertilizers. As the sea has receded, villages and small cities that used to be bustling metropolises have become dusty ghost towns. One such town, the former port of Aralsk, Kazakhstan, now lies about 55 miles from the Aral Sea. Fishing and shipping industries …

Nuking It Out

  Re: Safety Dance, Part One Dear Editor: I have been religiously reading your spin on environmental news for about a year. I have gotten some good information from your mostly one-sided publication. You have a right to spread your information this way. It’s the American way. But I cannot sit here and allow you to blatantly scare people about nuclear power. Nuclear power is by far the most efficient and reliable source of energy we have. Wind and solar generators would need thousands of acres to equal the output of a couple-hundred-acre nuclear plant. The amount of waste generated …

The Left Wing

Ah, the ever-elusive boundary between art and life. Who knows where it lies, but by all indications, somewhere right down the middle of the NBC drama “The West Wing.” Here’s the proof: This week, New Mexico’s Department of Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources felt the need to issue a press release explaining that Wednesday’s episode of the hit show was fictional. In the show, a truck carrying uranium fuel rods crashes in a remote Idaho tunnel. Not to worry, New Mexico assured the public in its release, the state does not transport radioactive waste via tunnels. (Nor, it turns out, …

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