Living

This 9/11, urban communities remember and serve

This September 11th, communities are honoring those who lost their lives eight years ago by participating in service activities. Churches, schools, and community groups are holding nearly 100 Green the Block service events in more than 24 states. All across the nation, people are choosing to act on encouragement instead of discouragement, on hope instead of despair. Both of us are often asked to speak for those who have no voice, and to remind others of those who are often forgotten. We are asked to respond to the frustrations of our communities and fulfill the aspirations of those who are …

earth daze

New film ‘Earth Days’ takes a sometimes devastating look at the history of environmental activism

In the 1970s, just after the first Earth Day and in the midst of oil shortages, recessions, and uprisings by restless youth, politicians were suddenly expected to show concern for the environment. President Jimmy Carter went above and beyond by installing solar panels on the White House in 1979. Solar panels on the White House! Seven years later, President Ronald Reagan took them down. This mind-bogglingly idiotic reversal is chronicled in Robert Stone’s new documentary Earth Days, about the history of the environmental movement. Seeing “history” and “environmental” in the same sentence probably makes you want to curl up for …

Citizens welcome return to sound science, sanity

EPA to hold 79 mountaintop removal permits for further review

Via Applachian Voices The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced the preliminary fate of 79 valley fill permit applications associated with mountaintop removal coal mining. In a move that pleased environmentalists and coalfield residents in central and southern Appalachia, the EPA recommended that none of the 79 permits be streamlined for approval. iLoveMountains has an interactive map and action page, as well as a little helpful background on what these permits are and why they are being announced today. This decision is not final, but is part of a coordination procedure outlined in a June “memorandum of understanding” between the …

Grow your farmer ...

USDA to unveil “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative

Vast potential: a farm grows in Brooklyn. Photo: Added ValueAs I prepare for five days of announcements next week, when USDA plans to unveil its new “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative, the buzz across my desk is about the potential for urban agriculture. EPA reminds that brownfield moneys can be used to convert polluted land into working farms in inner-city areas. I saw the excellent film “The Garden,” documenting the destruction of the largest community farm in the U.S. (South Central LA) in 2006. Will and Erika Allen are coming to Minnesota again. Over breakfast, friends asked about …

Dispatch from the virtual front lines of parenting

The fight to save childhood

Boys will be boys … online or off.School started this week. We have two fourth-graders and a second-grader. Ken has the misfortune to be driving a carpool that involves four boys and two schools and takes about an hour round-trip. I am biking to work every day now, because we’re cutting back to just the one beat-up station wagon for transportation. Today I was almost hit by a Hummer. New school year, new shoes, old lunchboxes, and a new household rule that we’re all wrestling with: No internet access except Saturday mornings. One of our children — and I think …

More, More, More, said the parents

Ask Umbra on big families

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, I have recently become a grandmother. (Eek! Doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that I made the decision to have a child.) Though I had just one child, my daughter is pregnant again. She married a guy with seven sibs, and they want to have three or four, including adopting one. How do I talk them out of it? Having more kids will defeat their work to live lightly on Earth, won’t it? Even adopting — making a kid from Asia or elsewhere [into an] American — doesn’t help much, …

Walking the Chalk

Going back to school? Here’s a green cheat sheet

OliBac via flickrAh, back-to-school season. The rustling of leaves, the squeak of new sneakers, the reassuring sound of chalk on a blackboard. Wait, does anyone still use chalk? And if they do, is it emitting some sort of toxic dust that’s dooming our children to a life of bad health and environmental despair? School, once that bastion of knowledge and wholesomeness, has become a sort of devil’s playground, presenting dilemmas ranging from toxic threats (probably not chalk, but what about radon or asbestos?) to junk-food lunches to diesel buses. We hereby present a few useful links and resources for navigating …

A stunt or not a stunt? That is not the question

Last week, Elizabeth Kolbert, a respected New Yorker journalist who writes admirably about our climate catastrophe and the environment, wrote a scathing attack on my book, No Impact Man. Sadly, casualties on the battlefield of Kolbert’s wrath included not only me, but also the work of James MacKinnon and Alisa Smith (authors of 100 Mile Diet), Henry David Thoreau (author of Walden), and other writers who used their own experiments in alternative lifestyles as narrative vehicles to, hopefully, propel into the popular discourse vital cultural issues that transcend the particularities of their experiments. MacKinnon and Smith wrote about their year …

You're not from around here, are you?

‘Localwashing’ in pictures — bogus marketing at its finest

Local food, local goods, local everything is in, as you’ve no doubt heard. Local is fresher. Local burns less shipping fuel. Local keeps the wealth nearby. Naturally, there’s money to be made off local, so big businesses are muscling into the game. The emerging term is localwashing—a variation on greenwashing wherein businesses claim to be local when actually … you get it. “The ingenuity of the food manufacturers and marketers never ceases to amaze me,” said author Michael Pollan, who’s done more to articulate the need for local in the food realm than maybe anyone else. “They can turn any …

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