Umbra offered up a number of clever gift ideas for kids in her latest column, focusing particularly on experiences rather than things. But if you still want to do some thing-giving for those wee ones, you might first want to check out "What's Toxic In Toyland," an article by Margot Roosevelt in Time.
The international climate conference in Nairobi just wrapped up, and it sounds like it was a bit of a yawn. As expected, no exciting progress or big future plans. Of course, progress is in the eye of the beholder, as we see in three different articles from MSM sources: Alister Doyle and Gerard Wynn for Reuters: U.N. climate talks keep Kyoto on track, but scant progress Environment Ministers kept plans for widening a U.N.-led fight against global warming beyond 2012 on track on Friday amid criticism of scant progress in aiding Africa and confronting wrenching climate change. After two weeks of negotiations in Nairobi, about 70 ministers agreed to review Kyoto in 2008 in what many see as a prelude to widening a 35-industrial nation pact to outsiders such as China and India in the longer term. It also agreed to aid Africa obtain funds for clean energies such as wind and hydro power. But delegates had mixed views on the outcome of the talks.
Wal-Mart has been mislabeling non-organic food items as organic, charges the Cornucopia Institute in a complaint filed with the USDA. Reports the AP:
"[T]he President has made dealing with climate change a priority for this administration," said White House Press Secretary Tony Snow at yesterday's briefing. Meanwhile, a German group has ranked 56 nations according to their efforts to fight climate change. Yes, look way down the list [PDF]:
Four governors' races with notable environmental angles have gone to the greener-leaning Dems, as expected. New York: Eliot Spitzer (D) pummeled John Faso (R) Pennsylvania: Ed Rendell (D) trounced Lynn Swann (R) Ohio: Ted Strickland (D) whipped Ken Blackwell (R) Massachusetts: Deval Patrick (D) beat Kerry Healey (R) Background on enviro angles here and here. Race results here.
Michigan's Democratic governor, Jennifer Granholm, has beaten back Republican Dick DeVos. It's an important win for enviros -- Granholm is about as green as one could manage in the home state of the U.S. auto industry. Background on the race here.
Stonyfield Farm, purveyor of organic yogurt and milk, is concerned that some folks got the wrong idea about its business strategy from a recent Business Week article about the big-ification of organic, which I pointed to a couple of weeks ago.
A fine feature story in Business Week this week -- The Organic Myth, by Diane Brady. "As it goes mass market, the organic food business is failing to stay true to its ideals," the cover proclaims. When I first glanced at the mag, I expected rah-rah boosterism for corporate organics and spite for old-school purists, but the article actually struck me as a pretty fair assessment of the culture clash between the organic ethos and the Big Biz model -- the gist being that the two are remarkably ill-suited. Corporate enthusiasm for organics notwithstanding -- and there's plenty of enthusiasm out there, from Wal-Mart to General Mills to Kellogg and beyond -- these two approaches to comestible commerce look increasingly irreconcilable. None of this is new, of course -- our own Tom P. has written about the issue (and I'm interested to hear his assessment of this story). But this is the first article that's made me think the organic juggernaut is really about to blow up into a big ol' mess. Not just organic getting watered down, as is already happening, but the whole system breaking down, unable to support the new model of globally sourced organic items pouring into processed foods and mega-stores. Demand is outstripping supply by huge margins, corporations are demanding lower prices, production is being offshored to unreliable suppliers, individuals are growing even more confused about what "organic" means.
He was arguably the most powerful man in Washington for more than 18 years, but former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan waited until retirement to finally come out in favor of a gas tax. Writes Daniel Gross in the NYT: As a rule, Mr. Greenspan, a Republican by temperament and background who was reappointed twice by Bill Clinton, adhered closely to Republican orthodoxy on taxes: the lower the better. Mr. Greenspan was hardly a proponent of raising taxes on energy to encourage conservation, a policy prescription generally associated with the politicians and economists of the left. Until now. In late September, as he spoke to a group of business executives in Massachusetts, a question was posed as to whether he'd like to see an increase in the federal gasoline tax, which has stood at 18.4 cents a gallon since 1993. "Yes, I would," Mr. Greenspan responded with atypical clarity. "That's the way to get consumption down. It's a national security issue." Want to bet Ben Bernanke will wait until retirement before he comes to the same sage conclusion?