'Tis the season to jettison the clutter that's clogging your closets, basements, and garages and gumming up your feng shui. First stop: Freecycle, with city-specific listservs on which folks can post things they want to give away and plead for things they seek. I'm a huge fan. I've unloaded speakers, stereo components, a cooler, a box spring, foam pads, light bulbs, and a beige shower-curtain rod to grateful Seattleites, and I've scored a good-quality queen-sized bed, an old-school TV, and a boom box. Freecycle makes people feel happy and munificent. (Read more joyful Freecycling stories!) And now I've heard tell of a site and system called Throwplace. It looks to be a more complicated version of Freecycle, but with the added benefit that you can specifically direct your still-usable cast-offs to nonprofits and even get a receipt and corresponding tax deduction. If you end up trying it out, please report back on your adventures.
They're back! Rabble-rousing advocates of immigration restrictions are once again ruffling feathers at the Sierra Club. With the group's 750,000 members now voting in their annual election (polls close April 25; members go here to vote), the immigration critics are pushing a slate of four like-minded board candidates and a "yes" vote on a population ballot measure, which reads: Shall the Sierra Club policy on immigration, adopted by the Board of Directors in 1999 and revised in 2003, be changed to recognize the need to adopt lower limits on migration to the United States?
Inspired, no doubt, by recent lively discussion in Ask Umbra and Gristmill on nuclear power (necessary evil or pure evil?), New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has decided to join the fray with his simplistically titled (and conceived) "Nukes Are Green" column. He's of the James Lovelock school of thought, arguing that with climate change bearing down on us and renewables not yet up to full speed, nuclear is our only hope.
Score one for the Dems. Stephen Johnson on Friday agreed not to poison infants and toddlers with pesticides in exchange for Senate confirmation of his appointment to head the EPA. Johnson -- a generally unobjectionable nominee, especially by Bush admin standards -- was expected to glide on through the confirmation process, but Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) threw a wrench into matters on Wednesday, demanding that Johnson, who's now acting administrator of the EPA, permanently cancel the notorious CHEERS research. The Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study had, according to the New York Times, "offered $970, a free camcorder, a bib and a T-shirt to parents whose infants or babies were exposed to pesticides if the parents completed the two-year study. The requirements for participation were living in Duval County, Fla., having a baby under 3 months old or 9 to 12 months old, and 'spraying pesticides inside your home routinely.'" Oh, and a couple mil in funding for it was being put up by the American Chemistry Council, a trade group representing, among others, pesticide manufacturers. After the study drew highly critical press (imagine that), Johnson last fall suspended it pending ethical review (which you would think would take, oh, about 20 seconds). Now, the study's dead for good. And this is what counts as an environmental victory these days -- managing to thwart research that would use poor kids as guinea pigs for the pesticide industry.
Paying journalists to shill for Republican policies -- it's not just for Bushies anymore! The admin of Mitt Romney, Massachusetts' GOP governor, will fork over $10,000 to a Boston Herald op-ed columnist to promote its environmental policies, The Boston Globe (gleefully) reports.
You could probably guess that Prius drivers tend to be Democrats and Hummer drivers tend to be Republicans. But that's just the tip of the iceberg on car-and-driver political connections, writes John Tierney in The New York Times, summarizing new market research that I find both fascinating and hilarious. Jaguars, Land Rovers, and Jeep Grand Cherokees are very "Republican" vehicles. Volvos are the most "Democratic" cars, followed by Subarus and Hyundais. (Funny comment from Slate columnist Mickey Kaus: "Subaru is the new Volvo --that is, it is what Volvos used to be: trusty, rugged, inexpensive, unpretentious, performs well, maybe a bit ugly. You don't buy it because you want to show you have money; you buy it because you have college-professor values.")
Richard Cizik, head of the National Association of Evangelicals, is heavily hawking the notion of "creation care" these days. (That would be God-flavored environmentalism, for those not in the know.) Three weeks ago, he chatted up the concept with NPR's Scott Simon (whom I wholly adore, but that's a topic for another post). This past weekend, he got his mug and his pitch in The New York Times Magazine, via a Q&A with Deborah Solomon. An excerpt: Q: What is wrong with [the] term [environmentalism]? A: It's not the term. It's the environmentalists themselves. I was recently speaking with the leadership of the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation, and I told them, ''Gentlemen, I respect you, but at this point don't plan on any formal collaborations.'' Q: Why? Because they lean to the left? A: Environmentalists have a bad reputation among evangelical Christians for four reasons. One, they rely on big-government solutions. Two, their alliance with population-control movements. Three, they keep kooky religious company. Q: What is your idea of a kooky religion? A: Some environmentalists are pantheists who believe creation itself is holy, not the Creator. Q: And what's No. 4? A: There's a certain gloom and doom about environmentalists. They tend to prophecies of doom that don't happen. Look at the movie "The Day After Tomorrow," in which New York City freezes over. The evangelicals don't want to play with the enviros, and -- sad, but true -- that's probably smart strategizing. The Christian right already knows how to get Bush's attention, and Rove's devotion. Can any green groups say the same?
I'm an environmentalist, not an animal-rights activist. Sometimes the two labels go hand-in-hand; sometimes they clash. Personally, I place a priority on healthy ecosystems (including the survival of whole species in their native habitat) over an individual animal's right to exist no matter where it may find itself. So from that vantage point, the fracas over Canada's annual seal hunt doesn't seem to me to be an "environmental" issue, if we're pigeonholing. Seals, as I understand it, are not endangered. But, trust me, you don't have to attach any activist label to yourself at all to be revolted and horror-struck by the hunt. The International Fund for Animal Welfare is posting new video footage daily of the mass killing -- and, despite the fact that some of it is set to cheesy, melodramatic music, the images of young seals being bludgeoned and skinned are stomach-churning and heart-breaking. And infuriating. Steel yourself and take a look. "Highlights from 2004 hunt" (shouldn't that be lowlights?), which you can access after registering, are particularly gruesome and illustrative. As The Guardian notes, this year's particularly large hunt is being justified in part by the claim that seals are eating too many fish, wholly ignoring the fact that the Canadian government has long sanctioned unsustainable fishing practices. Yet another example of humans pushing a species to the brink, then using its scarcity as an excuse to massacre its natural predators. That's a fucked-up cycle.
Two months ago, we mocked Ashton Kutcher for buying a behemoth, 10-mile-per-gallon (on a good day) International CXT, or commercial extreme truck. Now, Kutcher's mocking himself. "My semi? It's the most idiotic thing I've ever purchased," he's quoted as saying in, ahem, In Touch Weekly. (I was flipping through it in line at the co-op, OK?) ContactMusic.com reports that he may auction the beast off. "It's a weird boy's dream," he said by way of explaining his stupidity. "Growing up in Iowa, all these kids in my school who had money would go out and buy these Toyota pickup trucks and put these huge wheels on them, and I would go, 'Oh man, I've got to have one of those.' "So when I saw this truck in the newspaper, I knew I had to have it ... Then I got it, and I was like, 'Son of a bitch, I should have looked at it first.' I didn't realize it was that big."