I Gave at the Office

Ask Umbra on offsetting work trips

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, Lately I have been traveling a lot for work. This has made me seriously consider buying offsets for these trips. I know that it is better to not travel at all, but outside of quitting my job I can’t get around it. I have considered spending money on projects around the house to lessen my footprint, but using a carbon offset seems to give you more bang for the buck. My question is, are these offsets really helping or should I save my money for a bigger ticket item like a solar …

Road hogs

NASCAR and the high-octane American dream

The action at the Talladega Superspeedway.At dawn on a hazy autumn morning, the rising sun spilled over the steel grandstands of the Talladega Superspeedway like foam from a cracked can of Bud. This image likely came to mind because I was lying beneath a tarp in a scrubby Alabama meadow carpeted with empty beer cans — an area known as Talladega’s Family Parking Field C. The 2.66-mile Talladega racetrack, located about 50 miles east of Birmingham, is the world’s second-largest car-racing venue, with a mile-long grandstand built to accommodate more than 140,000 fans. Around my L.L. Bean tent were some …


Entourage season finale delivers surprises and sustainability

Warning: If the season finale of Entourage is waiting on your TiVO and you haven’t watched it yet, come back and read this post later as it contains spoilers. On the season finale of HBO’s Entourage, Matt Damon stole the show with a guest appearance as a well-meaning yet overbearing version of himself. But another dazzling cameo slipped under the radar. Damon pressures Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) to contribute time and money to OneXOne, a charity for which Damon is a real-life ambassador. Damon won’t take no for an answer, enlisting Bono and LeBron James to help pressure the vacuous …

is it too late?

A video interview with Bill Moyers

Renowned journalist Bill Moyers has seen a thing or two during his career, including the incredible social change wrought during the LBJ administration. He talks with Grist about what it takes to change direction in America, whether it’s too late to act on climate, and what he thinks of climate skeptics.

Free Pass?

Ask Umbra on buying carbon offsets

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, I’ve been hearing about carbon offsets for awhile and even have purchased some for my car emissions through Terrapass. But I just got an email from my local power company saying that I can pay to offset my own carbon emissions at the low rate of just $8 per month. Is this a good idea? I hear such conflicting stories about the “greening” of coal power plants. How do I know what they are doing with the money? Mary B.Winston-Salem, N.C. A. Dearest Mary, Is your power company partying in the tropics …

Tank and File

Ask Umbra on replacing hot-water heaters

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, We are a family of five, with three little boys growing bigger every day. Which is the better environmental investment for our family: to replace our existing hot water heater with a solar model, or to switch to an on-demand, “instantaneous” hot water system? Thanks! Gillian and Grant Toronto, Ont. A. Dearest Gillian and Grant, Whaddaya mean, my bath is heated with coal?Solar hot water is the better choice and would still be so if your children grew not one inch taller. Solar hot water takes advantage of the sun hitting your …

No Holds Barred

The Yes Men reveal their next big stunt

Grist catches up with The Yes Men — those high-minded pranksters behind the faux climate-week New York Post and the notorious SurvivaBall — to talk about runaway climate change, that Big Apple arrest, their plans for Copenhagen, and their latest movie, The Yes Men Fix the World, which comes out on October 7. To get involved with The Yes Men in an effort they hope will be the largest international climate civil disobedience action of all time, visit

The assumption of inconvenience

Cross-Posted from Streetsblog. Early this week, I noticed a number of my favorite bloggers linking to this Elisabeth Rosenthal essay at Environment 360, on the mysterious greenness of European nations. The average American, as it happens, produces about twice as much carbon dioxide each year as your typical resident of Western Europe. Rosenthal attributes much of this difference to behavioral factors relating, it seems, to Europeans’ unique tolerance of inconvenience. She writes: But even as an American, if you go live in a nice apartment in Rome, as I did a few years back, your carbon footprint effortlessly plummets. It’s …

Acres of Apathy

Does anyone still care about “the land”?

So earnest it hurts.The new climate anthem is out — you know, the remake of “Beds Are Burning” that features such hip, 21st-century acts as Duran Duran, Bob Geldof, and Youssou N’Dour — and I can’t get it out of my head. Actually, it left my head pretty much as soon as the 4:02 video ended. But I was struck by, and can’t stop thinking about, the fact that the modified language in the song goes like this: “The time has come/to take a stand/it’s for the Earth/it’s for our land.” I expect this to resonate with exactly no one. …

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