Here's some big, breaking news. Reports AP: A federal judge on Wednesday reinstated a ban on road construction in nearly a third of national forests, overturning a Bush administration rule that allowed states to decide how to manage individual forests. U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Laporte sided with states and environmental groups that sued the U.S. Forest Service after it reversed President Clinton's 2001 "Roadless Rule" that prohibited logging, mining and other development on 58.5 million acres in 38 states and Puerto Rico. In May last year, the Bush administration replaced the Clinton rule with a process that required governors to petition the federal government to protect national forests in their states. Laporte said the process violated federal law because it didn't require necessary environmental studies. ... "This is fantastic news for millions of Americans who have consistently told the forest service that they wanted these last wild areas of public land protected," said Kristen Boyles, an attorney for Earthjustice, one of the groups that filed the lawsuit in October 2005. Stay tuned for more ...
Today Britain's Independent amps up the rumors about a possible change of course from Bush on climate change, rumors that David first told us about last week. Reports Geoffrey Lean in the Independent: President Bush is preparing an astonishing U-turn on global warming, senior Washington sources say. After years of trying to sabotage agreements to tackle climate change he is drawing up plans to control emissions of carbon dioxide and rapidly boost the use of renewable energy sources. ... Over the past few days rumours swept the capital that the "Toxic Texan" would announce his conversion this week, in an attempt to reduce the impact of a major speech tomorrow by Al Gore on solutions to climate change. The White House denied the timing, but did not deny that a change of policy was on its way. Sources say that the most likely moment is the President's State of the Union address in January.
With British PM Tony Blair on his way out sometime in the next year -- though he won't be pinned down on a date -- Chancellor of the Exchequer (aka Finance Minister) Gordon Brown is poised to assume leadership of the Labour Party and hence the British government. What will this mean for the environment? The British press is starting to assess. Sarah Mukherjee of BBC writes that greens haven't been impressed with Blair's follow-through on efforts to fight climate change, but they're "even more worried about Gordon Brown":
A bang-up reporting job by Ray Ring in the most recent issue of High Country News on a menacing set of property-rights initiatives that will be on the ballot in six states this November: Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Washington. If you thought Oregon's Measure 37 was bad, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
So proclaims the cover of the latest issue of Ms., touting an article by Martha Burk: "Crude Awakening: U.S. Policies in Afghanistan and Iraq Sell Out Women in Favor of Oil." Alas, there's only a teaser online, not the full article. In sum: Whether supporting gender apartheid abroad, or sacrificing feeding programs for U.S. women and children so that ExxonMobil can get a tax break, or simply standing by while the company reaps record profits at the expense of women who must drive to work and heat their houses, U.S. priorities are consistent: Oil wins over women's rights hands down. Appropriately, Burk focuses most of her attention abroad -- from pre-9/11 Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, where the Clinton admin overlooked gross abuses of women's rights as it tried to grease the wheels for a Unocal pipeline, to oppressive Saudi Arabia, to increasingly woman-unfriendly Iraq, back to present-day Afghanistan, where things are looking nearly as grim for women and girls as they did when the Taliban reigned. (The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission reports that more than 300 girls' schools have been burned or bombed in the country in recent years, Burk writes.) Burk doesn't touch on any traditionally "environmental" threads in the piece, but it's an interesting, if cursory, look at how oil politics and gender politics collide.
The MSM is awash with stories hyping the quarter-century milestone, so I figured I'd jump aboard the bandwagon and use it as an opportunity to point out that MTV.com's environment section highlights news from your favorite green mag. (BTW, did you know that Martha Quinn now has a weekly '80s show on Sirius Satellite Radio? Still cute as a button!)
The AP overstated the extent of the climate agreement announced today between British PM Tony Blair and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (and thus Daily Grist overstated it too). Now that the deal's been officially unveiled, a few clarifications: The two didn't agree to launch a new trans-Atlantic carbon-trading market, though they will look into the possibility. Rather, they said the U.K. and California would cooperate on research into cleaner fuels and technologies. Writes the San Francisco Chronicle, "aspects of the agreement include jointly studying the economic impacts of global climate change, collaborating on technology research -- including studying the effects of California's effort to create a 'hydrogen highway' touted by Schwarzenegger -- and establishing regular exchanges between scientists in both places." Not so bold, but a nice symbolic gesture at least.
If the Dems go ahead with their plan to hold an early presidential caucus in Nevada, it'll be another big strike against the already beleaguered plan to open a nuclear-waste dump at Yucca Mountain. Yucca Mountain has looked like a long shot for years anyway, beset by technical problems, timeline delays, and court challenges, and held at bay by Nevada's two senators, who -- like the vast majority of their constituents -- are virulently opposed to their state serving as the nation's nuke-waste dumping ground. If Nevada's caucus becomes a key early contest, candidates will stumble over each other to swear on their mothers' graves that Yucca Mountain won't happen under their watch -- just as they now pledge undying fealty to ethanol subsidies in Iowa. (If only they'd just rotate the early caucuses and primaries every four years, so each state's pet issues could get their 15 minutes of candidate pandering.)
See Brad Pitt on the Today show talking about a competition he's underwriting with Global Green to judge eco-friendly apartment designs for New Orleans. And watch out for a Gristmill post coming soon from Global Green head Matt Petersen about the sustainable design competition and efforts to rebuild and green a still-devastated New Orleans.