Sarah K. Burkhalter

Sarah K. Burkhalter is Grist's project manager.

Down for the count

Be sure to head over to Grist's Counter Culture section, where yours truly has compiled facts and figures about poverty in the United States.

Let the good times roll

Bushies restore forest research funding

Man, journalism is hard! America is addicted to oil -- oh wait, no it isn't. Evangelicals aren't fighting global warming -- oh wait, yes they are. (And by the way, hallelujah!) The Bush administration has suspended funding for forest research that contradicts timber policy -- oh wait, no they haven't. A federal agency restored funding Wednesday for a study that has provided evidence for conservationists opposing the Bush administration's policy of logging after wildfires. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management's decision to lift its suspension of the final year of a three-year grant to Oregon State University came a day after a congressman called for an investigation of the funding cutoff. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., had asked the Interior Department's inspector general to examine whether the bureau was punishing the researchers for their findings. Hey, I'm not complaining. Keep the good news rolling in. I'm still waiting for the front-page headline "Climate Change Not Actually a Problem After All." Maybe tomorrow? Maybe The Day After Tomorrow?

Hey young eco-folk

Wanna win some money?

The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes seeks nominations for its 2006 awards. The Barron Prize honors young people ages 8 to 18 who have shown leadership and courage in public service to people and our planet. Each year, ten national winners each receive $2,000 to support their service work or higher education. Half of each year's winners are chosen for their work to protect the environment. Nomination deadline is April 30.

Iraq and water

You already know basically what I’m going to say, don’t you?

Well, nothing to report on water quality in the U.S. -- all is hunky-dory these days! Good thing, too, because our energies are elsewhere, restoring what we destroyed doing improvement projects in Iraq. Hey, how's that going? Because of unforeseen security costs, haphazard planning and shifting priorities, the American-financed reconstruction program in Iraq will not complete scores of projects that were promised to help rebuild the country, a federal oversight agency reported yesterday. Only 49 of the 136 projects that were originally pledged to improve Iraq's water and sanitation will be finished, with about 300 of an initial 425 projects to provide electricity, the report says. What? But all the money we're spending on restoring quality of life to the Iraqi people! The US government will complete just a fraction of the planned massive reconstruction projects in Iraq before $18.4 billion in federal funding runs out next year, according to a government audit released yesterday. But ... but ... isn't money put aside for specific projects? Among the obstacles were sharply higher spending for security, strategy shifts in response to the changing Iraqi environment and increased spending to sustain programs when Iraqis take over, the report said. ... Water resources and sanitation took the biggest hit among the sectors, losing $2.185 billion, or 50.4 percent of its original allocation, the audit found. The next hardest-hit was the electric sector, slashed 22.5 percent to $4.31 billion. Oh well. So we're bungling the job in Iraq. At least the water's all clean and drinkable here in the U.S. of A. Right, guys? Right?

The prince and the CEO

Wal-Mart boss gets some tips from the Prince of Wales

Here is a story about Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott seeking greenie advice from the Prince of Wales. Any attempt on my part to summarize the tale wouldn't be nearly as good as the article itself, so I offer you the best tidbits of blunt British reporting. I love me some British. The Times on Wal-Mart: Mr Scott is desperate to transform the image of the monolithic retail organisation, which has a history of building huge superstores on the edge of towns on greenfield sites and squashing competition with an aggressive pricing policy. The Times on the Prince of Wales: [A] champion of green causes whose own lavish lifestyle often comes in for criticism. The Times on Charles' twitterpation with Scott: The Prince, who is acutely aware of the bad public relations profile of Wal-Mart, decided to go ahead with the meeting because it was a rare chance to meet the head of such a large company. The Times on why the Prince shouldn't have been so twitterpated: When Wal-Mart took over Asda [the second-biggest retailer in Britain] in 1999 it withdrew from Business in the Community, which is headed by the Prince and which seeks to introduce good corporate practice in all sizes of companies. Apparently Scott and the Prince just talked and made out and stuff. No word on what tidbits of wisdom the Prince actually provided -- if you know what I mean. Incidentally, Wal-Mart, while making steps in the environment department, still sucks at taking care of its workers.

River Gym

Concept gym floats on the Hudson River.

In response to the "silly question" asked of Umbra about human-powered gyms, alert reader Erin B. directed us to architectural visionary Mitchell Joaquim. Enter the Human-Powered River Gym For New York City, the name of which gives all the basic information about it, the pictures of which are worth a thousand words. Or at least the 167 words of this post. As writes Joachim: This training protocol will exploit the inherent disequilibrium of floatation devices.  Often the average urbanite exercising at the gym performs controlled repetitive single plane movements using industrial fitness equipment.  All of this energy is summarily dissipated and ultimately exhausted for the sake of a single individual's wellbeing.  Other potentials exist to harness this vast human expenditure of caloric energy. Translation: Running on the treadmill is boring and pointless. Exercising in a pod in the middle of the Hudson River is awesome! The concept for this water-purifying, commuter-hauling, calorie-burning bundle of clean energy won third place in New York Magazine's Create a Gym competition.

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3

EPA set to test toxics on humans.

This NRDC press release is vague but ominous: More humans are about to become lab rats for the pesticide industry, according to a leaked copy of a rule due to be finalized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency later this week. This even though the EPA recently released stricter regulations on testing toxics on humanfolk. Said an NRDC attorney: EPA is giving its official blessing for pesticide companies to use pregnant women, infants and children as lab rats in flagrant violation of a new federal law cracking down on this repugnant practice. There is simply no legal or moral justification for the agency to allow human testing of dangerous chemicals. None. Word.

Earth in 2050

An assessment.

The UN's Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was completed by 1,360 researchers from 95 countries and published last year; a five-volume coda has just been published that "outlines four plausible ways the planet could develop politically, economically, and socially by 2050, and the effect they would have on people and the environment." According to a CSM article: By 2050, it estimates that the highly global approach - with liberal trade policies, and concerted efforts to reduce poverty, improve education and public health, yet respond reactively to environmental issues - could yield the lowest population growth and the highest economic growth. But the environmental scorecard would be mixed. In a fragmented world that focuses largely on security and regional markets and takes a reactive approach to ecological problems, economic growth rates are the lowest and the population is the highest of the four pathways. Two other paths, which place a greater emphasis on technology and a proactive approach to the environment, yield population growth rates somewhere in the middle, and economic growth rates that may be slow at first, but accelerate with time. Huh. The title of the article is "Forecast for Earth in 2050: It's not so gloomy," but I, living in a highly reactive, security-focused, highly influential country, am skeptical.

Drought in Africa

People, animals at risk of famine.

In case you weren't aware ... Drought is causing crisis conditions in East Africa, leaving millions hungry in Kenya, Somalia, and bordering countries. Sudanese herders have driven livestock into a Ugandan wildlife reserve in an effort to find water. The drought is affecting animals too: Elephants are leaving sanctuaries to find food and hippos are dying as water levels are depleted. You know when you feel totally helpless ... ?