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Russ Walker's Posts

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Taking a bite out of the environment

Phobias are powerful sh*t. Some people really hate bugs, for example. Even consider them torture. Why are these two Gristers smiling? Click here to find outGrist PhotoBut for me, bugs aren't the worst. If I wind up in a secret detention center and get subjected to the ultimate third degree, here's a little tip for the CIA: skip the bugs, bring on the dentist. I'd confess to anything -- rat out every friend and family member I have -- to avoid just one minute in the chair. But would that change if I knew my dentist was ... wait for …

Read more: Living

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If it’s Yellowstone, leave it mellow-stone?

After editing Grist's recent three-part series on poop, it's sort of hard to stop thinking about all the bodily waste flowing inexorably out humanity's gut and into the streams, rivers and oceans of the world. Six billion people, relieving themselves several times a day, every day ... well, you get the picture. Yellowstone National Park's yellow-tinted hot springs sure can be tempting...Courtesy jimbowen0306 via FlickrSo with too much poop on the brain, it's easy to explain why the weird news out of Yellowstone National Park caught this writer's attention. As multiple news outlets have reported, six men were arrested for …

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Science in the planet’s interest

The White House today announced the members of President Obama's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology. The distinguished group will be co-lead (unsurprisingly) by John Holdren, the president's top science adviser and an environmental science expert. Other climate/energy experts on the panel include: Rosina Bierbaum, a widely-recognized expert in climate-change science and ecology, is Dean of the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan. Her PhD is in evolutionary biology and ecology. She served as Associate Director for Environment in OSTP in the Clinton Administration, as well as Acting Director of OSTP in 2000-2001. She …

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First day on the job!

It's hard to tell, but that's Greenpeace Executive Director Phil Radford standing atop a construction crane mast as Greenpeace activists display a banner near the State Department in Washington, D.C.Greenpeace / Tim AubryPhil Radford spent his first day on the job as Greenpeace USA's new executive director getting himself arrested by staging a bit of climate activism in the nation's capital. Several Greenpeace activists, Radford included, scaled a large construction crane located near the U.S. State Department building in D.C.'s Foggy Bottom and hung a large banner stating, "Too Big to Fail. Stop Global Warming. Rescue the Plant." The message …

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Taking Neil Young’s latest album out for a spin

In 2006, Neil Young released a powerful political album, "Living With War" -- an 11-track screed against the Iraq misadventure and the folly of sending young people off to die in faraway lands. It felt immediate, like Young had recorded it in a hurry, harkening back to CSNY's rapid-fire release of "Ohio" within a few weeks of the shootings at Kent State. Its polemical lyrics, bashing everything from George W. Bush to the mind-dead consumerism of America, were great, but they were icing on the cake. It was the music -- angry, raw, full of the powerful guitar that defines …

Read more: Living

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The secret history of Earth Day

If 40 years of Earth Days have taught us anything, um ... While the Earth Day movement has had undeniable successes, critics charge that, uh ... Whatever, screw it. Here's the "real" story (with jokes!): 1970: Twenty million Americans celebrate the first Earth Day, but bloggers opine that it's just a fad and will be quickly forgotten by those "stoned-out hippies." 1971: Nixon White House looks forward to second annual celebration, which it refers to internally as “Pay Less Attention to Vietnam Day.” 1972:  Green ring added to official Olympics logo in attempt to "green up" the upcoming Montreal summer …

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Steven Chu doesn’t talk in sound bites

My oh my, how times have changed. For eight years, Washington was run by a crew that seemed to take delight in not sounding brainy, in being plain-spoken and "common-sensical." Time after time, you'd see reporters banging their heads against the wall when President Bush or his minions would answer complex questions with non-answer answers mixed with tough-guy attitude. Cowboys don't worry about fancy book learnin', the Bushies all but screamed. Steven Chu isn't the guy you send out to offer sound bites.Akira Hakuta / The Washington PostWe're not even 100 days into the Obama presidency, and the media-politico relationship …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Eustace Tilley says ‘Screw Earth Day’

Ok, the New Yorker magazine's cartoon mascot didn't really say that. The New YorkerBut Elizabeth Kolbert, the magazine's star journalist covering the climate crisis, has a very interesting essay on Earth Day at the front of this week's issue. In it, she bemoans the fact that Americans seem to be unenthusiastic about the environment in general and confronting global warming in specific. She observes that this public ambivalence is infecting the government: "...there are plenty of reasons to wonder whether serious steps to reduce carbon emissions will be taken this year or, indeed, ever. Regulating CO2 using existing laws will …

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A few (green) minutes with Andy Rooney…

The old codger has been haunting my Sunday evenings for more than three decades. When I was a kid, "60 Minutes" opinionator Andy Rooney was kinda entertaining; his "common sense" rants about the stupidity of daily life appealed to my pre-pubescent world view. And as I got older, it was still fun to watch the old guy rant about whatever had pissed him off the past week. But at a certain point, like after watching his routine for 20 years, it got annoying. Then, after another 10 years, it became sad. One man dedicates his entire life to cranky diatribes. …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Obama considering ‘cash-for-clunkers’ program

President Obama discusses the latest efforts to aide the U.S. auto industry. (White House photo) Did President Obama endorse a "cash for clunkers" program today? Maybe. In detailing the government's latest efforts to shore up General Motors and the U.S. auto industry, Obama said this: Finally, several members of Congress have proposed an even more ambitious incentive program to increase car sales while modernizing our auto fleet. Such fleet modernization programs, which provide a generous credit to consumers who turn in old, less fuel efficient cars and purchase cleaner cars have been successful in boosting auto sales in a number …