On Saturday, the Kauai County Council overrode the mayor's veto of a law it had passed to regulate biotech crops on the island. Barring further delays, the law will go into effect in nine months, according to the Honolulu Star Advertiser. Seed companies, which rely on Hawaii's long growing season to propagate their breeds, have promised to sue.
The law -- Bill 2491 -- forces agribusiness to be more transparent, reports the Star Advertiser:
Bill 2491 would require mandatory disclosure of pesticides [farmers] use to spray on their fields and genetically modified crops by large agribusinesses. Affected companies are Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences, BASF as well as Kauai Coffee, the largest coffee grower in the state.
Advocates said the measure is needed to protect public health and the island's environment. Opponents of Bill 2491 contend it's legally flawed and puts the county at risk with legal challenges.
Cracking down on GMOs in Hawaii could have broader implications for biotech in the United States, as we discussed here.
Q.We eat a lot of fruit and vegetables and generate a lot of compost. Unfortunately we find in it lots of annoying non-biodegradable little stickers, usually with a code number. Is there any attempt to require them to be biodegradable?
Harvey New Jersey
A. Dearest Harvey,
It’s a funny world, isn’t it? Here you are striving for a healthy, produce-heavy diet (kudos on that, by the way), but your earth-friendly ways come with a slowly accumulating mountain of sticky waste. Fruit PLU labels (for “price look-up”) may seem like a small thing in the grand scheme of world problems, but even little things add up -- and if we can do better, hey, why wouldn’t we?
How do we feed ourselves without laying waste to the earth, and ruining everything for the next generation? If you think about it, that's the existential question for humanity. (As opposed to, say, should I use the Oxford comma? What's the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow? And do I wear boxers or briefs?) And it is the question that journalist Sarah Elton tackles in her new book, Consumed: Food for a Finite Planet. Elton wants a food system that allows us to do more than just feed ourselves: She wants agriculture that will allow people and the environment to …
Here’s a riddle: When is the oil industry on the right side of a public policy fight? I know what you’re thinking: “Never.” But actually there is a potential exception: when their adversary is an equally selfish industrial complex.
On Friday, the EPA proposed to reduce the amount of biofuel required to be blended into gasoline to 15.2 billion gallons in 2014. That’s down from 16.55 billion gallons this year, and it is 14 percent lower than the goal Congress laid out in its 2007 expansion of the Renewable Fuel Standard program.
Powerful Midwestern agribusiness interests are not happy. But the oil industry is pleased -- and so are environmentalists.
Thirty states have renewable electricity standards requiring utilities to generate a percentage of their power from clean sources. But the U.S. as a whole does not.
Instead, the federal government has tried to boost domestic renewable energy production through inducements such as tax credits and business loan guarantees. But as any advocate of cap-and-trade can tell you, the most efficient way to shift the behavior of an industry is to simply require your desired outcome and let the magic of the market sort out the rest.
And so Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who knows a thing or two about cap-and-trade, has proposed to do just that. Markey, a longtime friend of the environment who was elected to the U.S. Senate this summer after 37 years in the House of Representatives, has introduced the American Renewable Energy and Efficiency Act. It would require electric utilities to get at least 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025, starting at 6 percent in 2015 and rising gradually. It also includes an energy-efficiency savings requirement beginning at 1 percent of sales for electric utilities in 2015 and increasing to 15 percent in 2025, and for natural gas utilities going from 0.5 percent up to 10 percent over the same period.
ltmayersWhat are these words you speak? Hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, and other drilling practices have unlocked previously inaccessible reserves of oil and gas across the United States and the world. However, some of the debate over fracking is distorting public understanding of these practices and interfering with good decision-making about this recent boom in unconventional oil and gas production. We often hear statements like this from industry and pro-drilling politicians: America has drilled and fracked more than 1 million wells over the past 60 years, and in all that time there has never been a proven case of …
As the tired masses yearning to breathe free -- or just yearning to breathe some fresh air and get off the highway -- staggered into the Milford, Conn., rest stop along I-95 northbound recently, most of them headed towards the McDonald’s or the Sbarro, hungry lemmings about to jump off a cliff of grease, fat, and factory farmed meat.
But my friend Gerry and I, we knew better. We turned left and kept walking, towards a corner of the rest stop dining area where we’d been told we would find organic hot dogs made from pigs that got to go outside, and chicken sandwiches made from chickens that got to act like chickens.
We arrived at the counter of Good to Go and were greeted by the friendliest fast food manager I’ve ever met, Shaun Rowe (pictured above). He told us that Good to Go only serves meat from Applegate, a major company that sells organic and natural meats and prioritizes animal welfare. He also said there was beef chili on the menu made from grass-fed beef from Kinderhook Farm in Columbia County, N.Y. (It’s brought down to the rest stop by Good to Go’s owner, who owns a farm next to Kinderhook and leases pasture to the farm.)
We ordered the beef chili. It was quite tasty. And as we did the seemingly impossible -- ate antibiotic-free, humanely raised meat at an American highway rest stop -- my friend pointed to the McDonald’s and said, “The only thing green over there is the money.”
This episode of Inquiring Minds, a podcast hosted by best-selling author Chris Mooney and neuroscientist and musician Indre Viskontas, also features a discussion of the myth that left-brained people are logical and right brained people are creative, and the legacy of Carl Sagan and its lessons for today's science wars.
For climate researcher Michael Mann, the last few weeks have hardly been average ones in the life of a scientist and university professor.
On Oct. 30, Mann introduced Bill Clinton at a campaign rally for Terry McAuliffe in Charlottesville, Va. A few days later, he listened as President Obama, also campaigning for McAuliffe in Virginia, brought up Mann's high-profile struggles with McAuliffe's gubernatorial opponent, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
Not exactly average — but then, as MSNBC's Chris Hayes put it when interviewing Mann back in August, "You didn't come to politics, politics came to you." The story of how Mann, a self-described math and computer nerd working in an esoteric field known as paleoclimatology, wound up front and center in a nationally watched political campaign is told on the latest episode of the Inquiring Minds podcast:
For the last week, people have been forwarding me this New York Times op-ed by Daniel Duane, which has the attention-grabbing title of “Is it O.K. to Kill Cyclists?” (In short: no. Or: maybe. We’ll get back to that.)
Duane describes himself as a convert to cycling because he likes the shorts, and the wind in his hair, and because it’s what the cool kids are doing these days. But as of press time he is having a hard time biking anywhere but on remote country roads and on the stationary bicycle in his basement, because fear of death. Specifically, fear of the kind of death where no one gets punished for killing you, because in the cities closest to Duane, especially San Francisco, there have been a series of well-publicized stories recently about accidents between cars and cyclists where the cyclist winds up dead, and the driver, even when clearly at fault, winds up with only a ticket.
“There is something undeniably screwy,” Duane writes, “about a justice system that makes it de facto legal to kill people, even when it is clearly your fault, as long you’re driving a car and the victim is on a bike and you’re not obviously drunk and don’t flee the scene.”
Commentators on this strange state of affairs, he adds, fall into two camps: “cyclists outraged at inattentive drivers and wondering why cops don’t care; drivers furious at cyclists for clogging roads and flouting traffic laws.” Duane attempts to find middle ground between these two groups and arrives at this conclusion: “Everybody’s a little right.” He goes on:
So here’s my proposal: Every time you get on a bike, from this moment forward, obey the letter of the law in every traffic exchange everywhere to help drivers (and police officers) view cyclists as predictable users of the road who deserve respect. And every time you get behind the wheel, remember that even the slightest inattention can maim or kill a human being enjoying a legitimate form of transportation. That alone will make the streets a little safer.
As someone who spent over a decade riding the mean streets of San Francisco that Duane is too scared to venture out of his basement and pedal through, I would say: Sir, we can do a hell of a lot better than that.
Remember the war over czars? No, that’s not an obscure episode in Russian history. It was the outrage manufactured by conservative media figures in 2009 over the proliferation of policy “czars” in the Obama administration. Never mind, of course, that President George W. Bush had 35 czars compared to Obama’s 32.
One of the new czarships Obama actually did create was the “climate czar,” a post to which he appointed former EPA Administrator Carol Browner. (Her formal title was director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy.) Glenn Beck, chief propagandist for the czar meme, was especially concerned by the creation of a “socialist” climate czar post.
Browner’s deputy, Heather Zichal, took over her responsibilities after Browner stepped down in 2011. But, as part of the April 2011 deal to avert a government shutdown, funding for the climate czar position was eliminated, so Zichal got no titular promotion. After almost five years in the White House, Zichal announced in October that she was leaving the administration. She's been replaced by her White House colleague Dan Utech.
The Obama administration has often delighted, and often disappointed, environmentalists. So how did Zichal herself perform?