A significant part of childhood entertainment is premised on the idea that it's fun to watch animals eat. Dogs are so slobbery! Horses have such big teeth and like apples! Birds will fight over bread crumbs! In fact, it’s so fun to feed animals that often we humans have to be told not to feed them.
It's less fun to feed the animals, though, when you’re just trying to keep them from death’s door. And, as an article in Conservation Letters argues, with sea ice vanishing faster than a fish slipping down a hungry seal's throat, humans may have to feed the polar bears if we want them to survive.
A coalition of 65 state lawmakers is asking New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to release the Department of Environmental Conservation's review of potential health impacts of shale gas drilling for public comment before deciding whether to allow drilling to begin.
The group headed by Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton sent a letter to Cuomo on Tuesday. They said the Health Department's evaluation of DEC's "health impact analysis" should be transparent, but the public hasn't been given any information about it. It's expected to be complete within a few weeks.
Let the public comment? Bold.
One New Yorker isn't waiting for the governor to solicit input. Her name is Yoko Ono.
If God wanted us to camp he wouldn't have invented hotels. But sometimes one finds oneself caught in a hurricane, or living off the grid, or even camping if there's someone one wants to impress. And for these occasions it would be wonderful to have a PowerPot, the nifty invention that uses a thermo-electric differential transducer to charge your cell phone as you cook your food.
Remember that beautiful map that imagined what the country's high-speed rail network could look like? Well, in case you felt happy or optimistic after looking at it, here's a map, via Atlantic Cities, that shows the depressing reality of American rail:
Those bubbles represent the ridership for various Amtrak stops around the country. It's no secret that the Northeast Corridor line is the system's most popular, but you can get a sense of how much more used it is than any other bit of the system. And long distance, cross-country lines? They barely register.
To a certain extent, the more popular stops just denote more populous areas. But that's not the whole story, as Atlantic Cities explains:
The semi-vacant Rust Belt city of Youngstown, Ohio, thought that fracking might be the solution to its epidemic of empty buildings. The revenue from drillers could allow the city to continue its policy of razing abandoned buildings, constricting the city and allowing it to better serve residents. But the explosion of fracking in the Utica shale formation on which the city sits may yield another revenue stream: fines for pollution.
On Jan. 31, Ohio Department of Natural Resources inspectors caught employees of a fracking company in the act of dumping oil and brine into a city sewer. From the Tribune-Chronicle:
"On Jan. 31, 2013, division inspectors, acting on one of the anonymous tips, visited 2761 Salt Springs Road and observed two individuals disposing of substances from a hose connected to a frac tank into a storm sewer,'' Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials spelled out in an order that they delivered Wednesday to D&L Energy. …
The men observed by ODNR inspectors discharging the brine [Ed. - fracking fluid waste] drove away from the site in a truck labeled "Mohawk" before inspectors began taking samples of the liquids they had dumped, reports say.
Larry Bennett, who operates Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, N.Y. -- which, we don't mind saying, makes very good beer -- has some serious realtalk for the state about fracking and its potential impacts:
For beer, the biggest ingredient is water. When you drink an 8 percent alcohol beer, 92 percent of what you drink is water. For Ommegang, that means water from the ground beneath our brewery in Cooperstown.
But Ommegang is worried that fracking could pollute that water. As the company's CEO told NBC, "Accidents are happening. Places are getting polluted."
I've known for a while now that the real action on sustainability is happening in cities -- other than Washington, D.C., that is -- but a few months back, it came to my attention that many of the people leading the charge are women, often young ones.
While higher-up positions in city government are still skewed in favor of men, sustainability directors seem to be more evenly split between the genders. Because most sustainability director positions have been created in the last 10 years, there isn't the same good-ol’-boy hierarchy in place. And due to the fact that the field is so young, so are many of its practitioners. Take, for example, Katherine Gajewski, who was just 29 years old when Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter asked her to head up the city’s sustainability department.
Inspired by the women who are leading the sustainability movement in cities big and small, I created Knope and change, a series named after Leslie Knope, the main character in the popular television show Parks and Recreation. Knope, played by the estimable Amy Poehler, is a mid-level bureaucrat working in her city’s parks department. She loves her city, works tirelessly to improve it, and never lets bureaucracy discourage her.
Over the course of the past five months, I found a lot of Knope-ish energy in the burgeoning field of urban sustainability. Although there are still female sustainability directors out there deserving of a profile, my compatriots and I felt 15 interviews were enough, so with this post, I'm wrapping it up.
I realize how lucky I’ve been to write this series -- talking to passionate women from around the country was like taking a carbon-free trip every week to a new city. I wish every young writer could do the same. I wanted to share a bit of what I've learned, in case you haven’t read and reflected on every piece. (Of course, you’ve read every piece. Right? Right?)
THE THINGS I LEARNED FROM THEM
1.When you’re building a new field, you need all the help you can get.
“Sustainability” is such a broad term -- and the resulting city policies and programs are just as wide. A sustainability director must be versed in local food, energy efficiency, waste management, and public transportation. “You have to be ADHD” to do the job, jokes Oak Park, Ill., Sustainability Manager K.C. Poulos.
I'm morbidly fascinated by the way conventional wisdom lags behind evidence, like the notion that renewable energy is expensive and fossil fuels cheap. In fact, there is a tectonic shift underway. Renewable energy prices are declining as technology improves, economies of scale kick in, financing mechanisms mature, and public policy begins to take some (inadequate) account of the negative externalities of fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, the cost of coal-fired electricity is heading up. It's getting harder to finance coal plants in the face of competition from clean(er) energy, activist opposition, and the inevitability of some kind of carbon policy. Construction costs are rising. Transportation costs are rising. It's getting harder to reach the coal that's left in the ground. Etc.
Good news for troubled farmers and stoney bros who like hemp beanies: Yesterday, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013 was introduced into the U.S. House by Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.). A companion bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate later this month.
Let's be honest here: A Democrat from Oregon seems like an obvious pick to back a hemp bill. But Kentucky's Massie is bucking the pervasive American right-wing perception of hemp as a smokable, dangerous narcotic and not a sustainable industrial material.
“Industrial hemp is a sustainable crop and could be a great economic opportunity for Kentucky farmers,” Massie said in a statement. “My wife and I are raising our children on the tobacco and cattle farm where my wife grew up. Tobacco is no longer a viable crop for many of us in Kentucky, and we understand how hard it is for a family farm to turn a profit these days. Industrial hemp will give small farmers another opportunity to succeed.”
Sources have reported that following a long night of carousing at a series of D.C. watering holes, Energy Secretary Steven Chu awoke Thursday morning to find himself sleeping next to a giant solar panel he had met the previous evening. “Oh, Christ, what the hell did I do last night?” Chu is said to have muttered to himself while clutching his aching head and grimacing at the partially blanketed 18-square-foot photovoltaic solar module whose manufacturer he was reportedly unable to recall.
The newspaper, which hails itself as "America's Finest News Source," somehow acquired this image of the dalliance.