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Ted Alvarez's Posts

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Nine out of 10 psychos agree: Heartland’s bonkers climate billboards need company!

Oh, Heartland Institute. We thought you were climate-sanity adversaries on par with Sauron, but your latest PR move reminds us more of Wile E. Coyote: desperate overreach followed by spectacular flameout.

Let's get up to speed. Ahead of its 7th International Conference on Climate Change (which is basically like Burning Man for deniers, but with more peyote and charts), the Chicago-based climate denial think tank launched a billboard campaign on the Eisenhower Expressway that equates belief in climate change to mass murder. It did so by featuring the looming mugs of Ted "The Unabomber" Kaczynski, Fidel Castro, and Charles Manson next to the phrase, "I still believe in global warming. Do you?"

Read more: Climate Skeptics

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The weirdest, worst PR crap we’ve seen this Earth Day

Oh, Denis Hayes and Gaylord Nelson, what hath ye wrought. Though Earth Day was founded with good intentions, the holiday has long since been co-opted by flacks from all trades as another great opportunity to sell shit. And we can't exactly blame them: What doesn't go well with Earth? Seriously, it's the Sriracha of planets.

Here at Grist HQ, we're in the unique position of receiving a press release about every targeted Earth Day campaign in existence. No matter what we say to the collective PR hive mind, come Earth Day they always make sure we're fielding pitches like a young Joe Garagiolo. And bless 'em for it, because with the dire state our atmosphere's in (insert second Sriracha joke here), we sure could use the yuks.

We figured you can, too. Here are some of our favorites this year.

Read more: Media

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Hot on the trail: Exploring parks threatened by climate change

When writer and outdoorsman Mike Lanza realized climate change was staking a full-scale assault on our most beloved national parks, he didn't just lament about how his kids wouldn't get to experience them the way he did. Instead, he saddled up his entire family -- wife Penny, son Nate, 10, and daughter Alex, 7 -- with packs, kayaks, and climbing gear and embarked on a year-long mission to visit them all. His new book Before They're Gone: A Family's Year-Long Quest to explore America's Most Endangered National Parks chronicles the adventure. He took some time to answer a few questions about our changing parks, life-list trip planning, and educating the next generation about climate change through adventures in the great outdoors.

Read more: Climate Change, Family

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Green goo: Sustainable meat producers market their own ‘pink slime’

If you had to choose a Public Enemy No. 1 for the food movement this year, pink slime would be a strong contender. This slurry of ammonia-soaked leftover "fatty trimmings" from industrial meat has been used in everything from school lunches to McDonald's Big Macs. Now, after much public outcry, fast-food chains have dropped it, and the USDA has started to pay attention to its presence in school lunches.

But small-scale organic meat producers across the country are discovering something unexpected about pink slime: They actually like it.

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Katniss Evergreen: Do ‘Hunger Games’ fans care about climate?

Aiming for climate action? Maybe.

In a mad rush to hitch themselves to the pop-culture rocket sauce of The Hunger Games, a few media outlets (uh, guilty as charged) have suggested that the dystopian appeal of the books and now movies draws strength from the young'uns' acceptance of the climate-disaster-addled hellhole they are destined to inherit. I'm not so sure. Suzanne Collins' fleet prose is built for action; she largely skips the details of her futuristic world of Panem so that we can get on with the underage stabbin'. As such, any allusions to climate change must be drawn from one line:

[The mayor] tells of the history of Panem. He lists the disasters, the droughts, the storms, the fires, the encroaching seas that swallowed up so much of the land, the brutal war for what little sustenance remained. The result was Panem, a shining Capitol ringed by thirteen districts … ”

Is that enough for kids to draw connections between the fantasy world du jour and their own? Can Hunger Games make this generation care more about climate than the last? Curiously absent from this conversation are the Voices of the Youth themselves. So I decided to head into the belly of the beast: I would go to a midnight premiere in downtown Seattle to talk to the climate disaster survivors of the future. (It would be like war reporting, but with higher-pitched screams.)

Read more: Climate Change

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Earth Day too committed for you? Celebrate Earth Hour instead


Budget cuts are hitting everybody hard these days. Earth Day used to get a whole damn day, and now it's getting cut back to Earth Hour? What's next, Earth Nanosecond? I know the news cycle is getting faster each day, but this is ri-goddamn-diculous.

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This suds for you: Taste-testing organic beer

Stay glassy: What fancy beer tasting parties look like (not ours). (Photo by Cambridge Brewing Co.)

Beer -- it's what's for dinner.

No, seriously: It sounds like a party T-shirt for bleary-eyed frat boys, but by now we all know Mesopotamians created beer at the dawn of civilization to help stretch their cereal crops, and perhaps to help get them smashed while watching the game. The point is, beer is closer to food than practically any other liquid, and we should treat it as such and ingest only the best. Thankfully, the craft brewers driving the malted beverage industry get this, and the ingredient quality and variety of domestic beers is arguably higher than it's been in a century.

But while organic beer sales are on the rise overall, they remain a minuscule portion of the market. (Blame hops and barley: Organic versions of these key ingredients are often in short supply and expensive.) Colorado's New Belgium just announced plans to phase out their Mothership Wit, one of the more high-profile organic beers on the market, because of declining sales. Most specialty stores carry only a handful of organic brews, and a fact-finding mission to Seattle's Bottleworks bore this out. This is no fluorescent-lit liquor mart stacked with cubes of Natty Light, mind you. It's more like a wood-trimmed, darkened library of beer, complete with hushed acolytes poring (pouring) over sacred chilled texts. Even here, an otherwise knowledgeable sales associate admitted no one had ever asked specifically for organic beers before. Nevertheless, he deemed the idea "cool" and helped me scour the archives looking for telltale green stickers on frosty bottles.

In the end, I came away with eight organic brews -- comparable results to those of past Grist Beer High Priest Tom Philpott, who valiantly braved the malted seas on three separate occasions. Where Philpott convened a panel of experts with refined palates in genteel "temples of flavor," I chose to taste-test beer as it is typically consumed: among bitter coworkers, straining to bear each other's company at the end of a long day. (I kid, but come on -- it was a Tuesday.)

Herewith, the results of Grist's first staff organic beer blind taste test, completely scientific and recorded in the office kitchen. In ascending order of preference:

Read more: Food

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Obama calls to end subsidies for oil and gas

Obama in Nashua in 2007.

With prospective GOP challengers hawking guarantees of Seinfeld-era gas prices, President Obama simultaneously called their bluff on what he called "phony election-year promises" and urged Congress to end $4 billion in subsidies for oil and gas companies. Sure, he's said it before (most recently in his State of the Union address), but at a stop in Nashua Community College in New Hampshire, Obama put some muscle behind it:

“You can either stand up for the oil companies, or you can stand up for the American people,” Mr. Obama said. “You can keep subsidizing a fossil fuel that’s been getting taxpayer dollars for a century, or you can place your bets on a clean-energy future.”

It took GOP bigwigs approximately four nanoseconds to respond that the president's move could make oil costs go even higher, while John Boehner needled him over what he perceived to be a reluctance to open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (which also might not lower costs or stop our Bubbles-esque problems with oil). White House Press Secretary Jay Carney didn't address whether Obama would tap into the reserve, but affirmed the president was "very concerned" about the pump-fatigued American family.

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The Oscar goes to … ‘Tar Sands: The Movie’?

Damon and DeChristopher: dead ringers?

With last night's totally shocking (read: not shocking at all) crowning of The Artist as last year's best picture, we can finally say good-bye to Oscar season and months of back-patting, overwrought movies about gentle Nazis who can't read good, or sappy, pseudo-racial vignettes that "help" Hollywood work through white guilt. Angelina Jolie's leg will get some much-needed rest, and movie studios can get back to coming up with new ways to convince us that a weenie like Shia Labeouf can be a legitimate star. (Is he? I'll let him answer that.)

Beyond a few second-tier parties and celebrities' off-time advocacy, greens and green issues are not the focus of the occasion. It's not that we haven't had our moments: The emerald years of 2006-7 saw celebs ferried to the red carpet on briefly trendy Priuses (Prii?), and An Inconvenient Truth even brought home Oscar gold for Best Documentary and Best Song. (It was Melissa Etheridge, and no, we don't remember how it goes, either.) Last year, the flaming faucets of Josh Fox's Gasland got a nod, and this year, the enviro movement had another runner-up in If A Tree Falls, an ecoterrorism chronicle that bows heavily toward the Julia "Butterfly" Hill school of environmental sympathy.

Read more: Living

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