Our image of California's East Bay area tends to be one of idyllic eco-hippie-gluten-free-crunchy-urban-farm magic. But that wasn't the scene at polling sites in Berkeley and Oakland today, where I talked to voters about how much environmental concerns are impacting their electoral choices today.
Talk to anyone in the solar industry and they’ll tell you: it’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times. Solar installations are booming, but there’s also a looming trade war with China.
Let's look the booming: Employment in the U.S. solar industry is up more than 13 percent over last year, as we reported last week. And Danny Kennedy, president of Sungevity, makes the point that the solar industry is a much more robust job generator than its fossil-fueled competitors: "The coal industry has been around for over a century and provides more than a third of our power supply but employs just some 1.5 times as many people as solar companies. The solar industry currently provides about 0.5% of our power supply and already employs 119,000 Americans."
Over the coming year, growth in the U.S. solar sector is expected to continue, though not as rapidly. As Shayle Kann, vice president for research at GTM Research, told KQED, "We're looking at what we expect to be about 71 percent growth in solar installations in 2012 over 2011. So that's a strong growth rate, but it is slower than we've seen. In 2010 and 2011, the market more than doubled. So it's slowing down a bit, but solar is still growing fast throughout the US."
Globally, it's a tough year in solar. We have massive oversupply of solar panels, so it's been a really hard time for solar manufacturers. And demand on a global level is growing, but relatively slowly this year as compared to the past couple of years, where we've seen really massive growth. The big reason for that is that Europe has slowed down as incentives have been pulled back from European governments.
Does your ham contain human genes? You wouldn’t know unless it’s labeled ... Pigs with human growth genes are among the creatures that food scientists have invented. Experimental life forms are sold today as “all natural” food. Does that sound natural to you?
We know Mitt Romney is itching to roll back environmental regulations, but what would he do about cities? You know, where the rich people live in the tall shiny buildings and the rest of the rabble live in the tall not-shiny ones.
The issue pages on Romney's website make no mention of transportation, public transit, poverty programs, smart growth or climate change ...
Romney has left literally no trail -- in opposition or support -- on the individual federal programs, such as the Partnership for Sustainable Communities and Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grants, that have been designed over the last four years to help local communities creatively tackle the intertwined challenges of housing, transportation and the environment. Mitt Romney the Management Consultant could very well find something to love in such silo-busting, locally nimble initiatives. Sprawl is, after all, the very definition of inefficiency.
In that time, opposition has raised an additional $3.3 million for advertising. Big food and chemical companies are pumping big cash into the no-on-37 campaign faster than you can say National Frozen Pizza Institute (shockingly, they're in the no camp). In the last days leading up to the election, the spending has only intensified. Just yesterday, Coca-Cola contributed $235,000 and Biotechnology Industry Organization sent $250,000. No on 37 ads are clogging everything from Facebook to Hulu, even for green junkies like me.
There's a bit of movement on the other side, including support from the Whole Foods camp. From Napa Valley Patch:
Whole Foods officials formally announced the company's support for Prop. 37 in September. But as the election approaches, additional signage is going up at its stores and employees throughout the state have been trained on GMOs and the ballot measure, [co-CEO Walter] Robb said ... Whole Foods has put the bulk of its Yes on 37 efforts into social media and also has some radio ads that will become more prevalent in the days before the election.
Today the Proposition 37 campaign released new commercials aimed at debunking the assertion of big corporations in the anti-prop camp: that the measure would increase food costs.
We've gotten used to not hearing "climate change" on the lips of politicians on the campaign trail this fall. But a very close congressional race in northern Michigan, a place with no lack of grassroots green activism from the area's residents, is shaping up quite differently when it comes to the environment -- at least in some ways.
While climate change may be a part of the discussion -- and even the debates -- it's still been largely up to the candidates to make up the facts as they go along, while local journalists are content to report what happens as opposed to what's true.
[T]he enormous, sparsely populated congressional district—it spans two time zones and more than 30 counties in Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas—has an especially sensitive relationship with the environment. Here, where life is defined by the Great Lakes, environmental issues are intimately connected to economic issues.
The people there are “so hungry they literally pried open this dumpster — you see that door open right now — and they are literally picking through for whatever they can take home with themselves.”
While lower Manhattan is certainly still in post-Sandy crisis mode, without water, power, or enough food, it's tough for me to see the heartbreak here, specifically, in the recesses of this massive packed dumpster. As a veteran eater of bagels from New York City dumpsters, this doesn’t look to me like “the most extreme example of what people are willing to do right now just to bring food home.” Those trash receptacles are routinely full to the brim with great edible food that stores ditch often because it’s past its sell-by date.
Since 2008, the number of countries audited by the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has declined sharply, down by more than 60 percent. Only three countries were audited last year -- visited in person by FSIS officials, who do a thorough pat down of operations and equipment -- compared to 30 in 2008 (infographic!).
Along the Eastern seaboard, Sandy devastated the rich and poor alike. But they've not been equally equipped to deal with that devastation.
In economically stratified New York City, some had the luxury of making sure their loved ones were comfortable and their homes as protected as possible, while others had to keep on earning a much-needed paycheck despite the rising waters. From David Rohde in The Atlantic:
Divides between the rich and the poor are nothing new in New York, but the storm brought them vividly to the surface. There were residents like me who could invest all of their time and energy into protecting their families. And there were New Yorkers who could not.
Those with a car could flee. Those with wealth could move into a hotel. Those with steady jobs could decline to come into work. But the city's cooks, doormen, maintenance men, taxi drivers and maids left their loved ones at home.