Grist staff

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, …

Beating Bushes and Dead Horses

Responding to Mathew Gross’ piece, Grist readers did anything but beat around the bush. Gross argued that Bush’s abysmal environmental record proved that Gore would have been a far different — and better — president, notwithstanding the claims of the Naderites. That charge clearly touched a nerve with our readers. From eulogies to Rush Limbaugh comparisons, Gross got it all; a sampling follows.   Dear Editor: The Al Gore who wrote Earth in the Balance in the early 1990s is not the same Al Gore who ran for president in 2000. Anyone who thinks they are one and the same …

The Good Life

Re: Katie Alvord, author Dear Editor: My, how I enjoyed this “how-to” series. Although not a lifestyle I think I can completely embrace (at a guess I’m at least 30 years older than Alvord and … ah … not quite as fit), it helps me imagine additional ways to live by my principles. Ann S. Lamb Knoxville, Tenn.   Re: Katie Alvord, author Dear Editor: Hooray for Katie Alvord. It takes a brave writer to publicly challenge Americans’ love affair with autos. I gave up my car and driver’s license voluntarily 20 years ago, and never looked back. Besides saving …

Not Great, Danes

Meanwhile, look who’s got a new job: Bjorn Lomborg, the controversial author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, has been appointed to head a new Danish institute of economics and the environment. Lomborg’s book outraged environmentalists in Denmark and abroad by claiming that virtually every environmental problem, from air pollution to deforestation to global warming, was exaggerated or nonexistent. Many respected international scientists accused Lomborg, formerly an associate professor of statistics at a Danish university, of misunderstanding or deliberately skewing the data on which he based his arguments. Opponents called Lomborg’s appointment to head the new organization further evidence that Denmark’s new …

That’s Some Good Coffee

  Re: Ashley Parkinson, Northwest Shade Coffee Campaign Dear Editor: Ashley Parkinson’s column has inspired me, my wife, and a friend to place our first-ever order for shade-grown coffee. After reading her column, all three of us are committed to buying environmentally friendly coffee. Please pass along our kudos for the fine piece of journalism. David Veenstra Grand Rapids, Mich.   Re: Ashley Parkinson, Northwest Shade Coffee Campaign Dear Editor: I wanted to suggest that perhaps the author should pursue having ideas about socially conscious coffee-buying dropped into the Cafe Nervosa chit-chat in “Frasier” (which is supposedly set in Seattle) …

Bah-Lomborg!

  We received an unprecedented number of responses to Something Is Rotten in the State of Denmark, our special edition on Bjorn Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist. As usual, Grist readers were impassioned and opinionated. What follows is a sampling of their letters — largely positive, occasionally scathing, and frequently informative.   Dear Editor: I don’t know if Bjorn Lomborg got his science right or if he’s blowing smoke, but when he received a green pie in the face, I knew he’d hit pay dirt. Since I was a kid we’ve been warned by the Greens that the world is overpopulated, …