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Stuff that matters


Grist 50: Member Pick

Meet the fixer: This clothing expert revives dead threads.

If you’re a typical American, you probably throw away too many clothes. But the companies behind those clothes have their own disposal problem, too. When a coat has a busted zipper or a truckload of dresses doesn’t sell, customers and retailers return the items — and those returns often end up in a landfill, contributing to the 14 million tons of textiles Americans toss out each year.

If Nicole Bassett has her way, that’s going to change. Bassett cofounded the Renewal Workshop, a tiny company with a giant goal: create a circular economy for the apparel industry (in other words, find a way to reuse perfectly good stuff).

A native of British Columbia who has worked on sustainability initiatives at companies like Patagonia and prAna, Bassett has secured a factory, five partner brands, and a hardy staff of eight. Her startup cleans and fixes clothes that have been returned to partners, then sells the like-new items on the Renewal Workshop website. Some companies have similar programs for their own products, but the Renewal Workshop is “trying to find a solution that works for the whole industry,” says Bassett.

With her outfit growing quickly, she wears every hat — with one exception. “You do not want me fixing a product,” she says with a laugh. “As soon as it involves a sewing machine, I run away.”


Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.


Actually What

We broke down Trump’s baffling speech on the “solar wall.”

In a speech this week in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, President Trump discussed one of his favorite topics: The Wall, which may one day be festooned with “beautiful” solar panels.

Let’s attempt to understand this, one clause at a time:

  1. “We’re thinking about building the wall as a solar wall so it creates energy and pays for itself.” A comprehensible, if flawed, premise.
  2. “And this way, Mexico will have to pay much less money and that’s good, right? Is that good?” Less is certainly closer to “nothing,” which is the amount that Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto has agreed to pay for the wall.
  3. “You’re the first group I’ve told that to.” No, you’re not.
  4. “Solar wall. Makes sense. Let’s see. We’re working it out. We’ll see. Panels, beautiful. The higher it goes the more valuable it is. Pretty good imagination, right? Good? My idea! So we have a good shot.” W H A T
  5. “That’s one of the places that solar really does work. The tremendous sun and heat. It really does work there. So we’ll see what happens.” This is impossible to argue with: There is certainly a non-negligible amount of sun and heat around the U.S.-Mexico border, solar will “work there” (as it does everywhere), and we have no choice, unfortunately, but to “see what happens.”

rick rolled

Meteorologists aren’t having Rick Perry’s climate denial.

Today’s forecast: cloudy with a chance of burn.

Weather scientists from the American Meteorological Society wrote Energy Secretary Rick Perry a letter on Wednesday informing him that he lacks a “fundamental understanding” of climate science.

Let’s rewind: Perry appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box on Monday, where host Joe Kernan asked him about the role that carbon dioxide plays in climate change. Perry responded that CO2 is not a primary cause of global warming — instead, he pointed to “the ocean waters and this environment that we live in.”

Kernan called it a “pretty good answer.” It’s not, according to 97 percent of climate scientistsSquawk Box has become a safe space for climate deniers in the Trump administration, as Emily Atkin writes for New Republic.

The meteorologists’ letter concludes that Perry needs to get a grasp on the “best possible science” to make sound policy decisions about the nation’s energy needs.

It almost makes you wish Perry’s dancing career never met an untimely end. Almost.


so sue me

Just as John Oliver predicted, a coal tycoon is suing him.

The nation’s largest privately owned coal company, Murray Energy, just filed a lawsuit against the Last Week Tonight host over the show’s recent segment. Oliver had criticized the company’s CEO, Robert Murray, for acting carelessly toward miners’ safety.

Murray Energy’s complaint stated that the segment was a “meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character and reputation” of Murray by broadcasting “false, injurious, and defamatory comments.”

Oliver shouldn’t be too concerned, according to Ken White, a First Amendment litigator at Los Angeles firm, who told the Daily Beast that the complaint was “frivolous and vexatious.”

The lawsuit is hardly a shocking development. Before the show aired, Oliver received a cease-and-desist letter from the company. He noted that Murray has a history of filing defamation suits against news outlets (most recently, the New York Times).

Oliver said in the episode, “I know that you are probably going to sue me, but you know what, I stand by everything I said.”


dakota access

Oil will keep flowing through the Dakota Access Pipeline — for now.

At a Wednesday hearing, U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg established a summer timeline for the Standing Rock Sioux and the Cheyenne River Sioux to submit arguments that the pipeline should be shut down while additional environmental review takes place.

Both sides of the lawsuit — which alleges the Army Corps of Engineers violated treaties by permitting construction under Lake Oahe — will be able to submit comments in July and August. That means a decision about shutting down the pipeline could come as early as September, according to Jan Hasselman, the Earthjustice lawyer representing the Standing Rock Sioux.

Last week, Boasberg ruled that the Army Corps’ previous environmental review was inadequate, sending the agency back to the drawing board to reconsider impacts on fishing, hunting, and environmental justice.

At the hearing, Army Corps lawyer Matthew Marinelli declined to give a timeframe on the new review, but said he would offer an update July 17. “The Corps is just starting to grapple with the issues the court has identified,” Marinelli said.


site for sore eyes

Rebellious cities team up to post climate data taken down by the EPA.

Burlington, Vermont, just became the 14th city to republish deleted EPA information on its municipal website.

The info, which concerns climate change and its effects, was taken down for review by President Trump’s EPA two months ago and has since been republished by major cities like Houston, Atlanta, and Seattle.

“Climate change is real, and deleting federal web pages that contain years’ worth of research does not alter this global, scientific consensus,” Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said in a statement.

The City of Chicago kickstarted the movement in May by publishing the deleted info on its website, along with a helpful “Climate Change is Real” guide that encourages other cities to do the same.

It’s not the only way cities across the United States have committed to fighting climate change. Dozens have pledged to go 100 percent renewable, and major cities have joined an alliance to uphold the Paris Agreement’s objectives, despite Trump’s policy changes. No ragrets.


lake bloomer

The Great Lakes are already grimy. Trump wants to zero out cleanup funding.

President Trump’s proposed budget suggests axing $300 million in federal dollars for the Great Lakes. Yet, a new report from the EPA and its Canadian counterparts found that the lakes — Erie, Superior, Michigan, Huron, and Ontario — aren’t doing so hot.

The spread of invasive species and algal blooms continues to degrade water quality and threaten lake ecosystems, particularly in Lake Erie. Algae can hamper commercial fishing and recreation as well.

But hey, some good news: As chemical bans take effect, the amount of toxins in the waters is improving.

At a hearing last week on the EPA’s budget, Administrator Scott Pruitt faced tough reception about the Great Lakes cuts from both sides of the aisle — even as he defended the administration’s math. “I believe we can fulfill the mission of our agency with a trim budget,” Pruitt said. “We are committed to working with all states in that region to ensure water quality standards are advanced and protected.”

Good luck with that.