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Umbra on water conservation

Dear Umbra, We are doing a NW Earth Institute discussion course on sustainability here at work, and someone asked, "Is it necessary for us to conserve water here in Portland despite seeming abundance and replenishment? If so, why?" My response was not as strong or compelling as I would like. Can you help? Rick ReberPortland, Ore. Dearest Rick, What was your response? It's hard to be more compelling if I don't know the compellingness standard. I will still make an effort, despite having incomplete information, because I know it is important to be compelling. Likewise, it is important to try …

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<em>Tired</em>

Wired magazine bursts a blood vessel doing its contrarian thing

To your right, you'll see the cover of this month's Wired magazine. The premise of the issue is that climate change is now the only eco-problem that matters, but to solve it, we'll have to slaughter the sacred cows of environmentalism. (2001 called. It wants its framing device back.) So what are these heresies that Wired's Strawman Enviro so clings to? The Tired: Yes, yes, nuclear power is the only way to stop climate change and enviros who don't embrace nukes are like silly children. So counterintuitive! (See also: Prius not the end-all be-all!) The Ill-informed: Carbon offsets are a …

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Town meeting fun

Small-town politics meets big-time energy crisis

Last night I went to the town meeting where I live, which -- well, if you've never lived anywhere podunk enough to have a town meeting, you're missing out. This one was just as I remember them from my childhood, though PowerPoint has replaced mimeographed pages: ambition, exhaustion, confusion, and the one crusty, bearded guy who has to argue every point. After a presentation by the head of the municipally owned utility, a tall, thin audience member in a tan suit and lavender tie approached the microphone. "Can you tell me what your short- and long-term plans are for incorporating …

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Strangers in disguise

Coming to terms with the reality of a world of refugees

There's definitely a survivalist streak building in the environmental movement. Mainstream newspapers are starting to run stories about survivalism. There are quite a few people who hear that the energy peak or climate change is coming and believe that building up their stocks of ammo and heading for the hills is the way to go. I recognize, even if I do not share, that impulse: It is the impulse to protect your own, the panic you feel when you realize that your society, which on some level is supposed to protect you, hasn't planned ahead for this one. And so …

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A dozen men’s shaving creams get put to the blade

The best a man can get? For men, shaving surely ranks as one of our most bizarre daily rituals: We take a razor-sharp blade, scald it hot with water, and scrape the hair off of our faces and necks -- even the regions over our jugular veins. Yikes. And to complicate matters yet more, we tend to lubricate the process with gels and foams full of all sorts of dodgy and toxic chemicals. Like the hard slap that greets the hapless shaver's face in the '70s-era aftershave commercial, perusing the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep cosmetic database is a bracing …

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Mazzocchi, Speth, and capitalism's future

Ted Glick on two new books that address capitalism and the environment

"Capitalism as we know it today is incapable of sustaining the environment." -- James Gustave (Gus) Speth, in The Bridge at the End of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability The Bridge at the End of the World, by James Gustave Speth "In the late 1980s, Tony was arguing that global warming might force us to fundamentally alter capitalism. He believed that the struggle against nature was the irreconcilable contradiction that would force systemic change." -- Les Leopold, in The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor: The Life and Times of Tony Mazzocchi I …

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Putting the fun between your legs

A very good blog aimed at recumbent bike riders has morphed into what will probably be an even better blog for all riders: EcoVelo.

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Hybrid speedboat makes its debut

You knew it had to happen sometime -- luxury speedboats have gone green! Well, at least one has: California resource officials got a ride Friday in what Austrian manufacturer Frauscher Bootswerft says is the world's first hybrid recreational boat. The speedy, sleek 25-footer has a combo electric-diesel engine. California Resources Secretary Michael Chrisman's reaction after his ride around San Francisco Bay: "It's a hoot." And who doesn't want a $185,000 hoot?

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Umbra on tent caterpillars

Dear Umbra, In beautiful Virginia, this is the time of year that the caterpillars start making their "tents" in branches of shrubbery and trees in our yards. Conventional wisdom has been to destroy them, as they will surely eat the leaves inside the tent, causing some damage to the infected tree/shrub. So I have two questions: First, are these "tent worms" (which are really caterpillars) a stage of a butterfly or a moth? Second, since butterfly populations are on the decline, should we leave these "tents" alone? Greg Springfield, Va. Dearest Greg, A few years back we had a huge …

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We Get It -- the joke, that is

Corporate evangelical leaders cloak opposition to climate policy behind concern for poor

Those of you following Grist's news feed (if you're not, you should) are aware that last week a group of conservative evangelicals launched the "We Get It!" campaign, arguing against action on global warming. We've written a great deal on Grist about the split in the evangelical leadership between those who recognize the danger of global warming and those who don't. The former includes lots of younger churchgoers who want to broaden the church's mandate beyond abortion and homosexuality, taking on poverty and environmental issues and asserting the church's independence from the Republican party. The latter group, the old guard, …

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