Politics

Grading on a curve

The Republican candidates acknowledge climate change, but they don’t much care about it

All the action and excitement around climate change policy seems to have lulled Chris Mooney into a false sense of security about the current crop of Republican presidential candidates. This, however, is no time to …

Organizers or TV stars?

How should the environmental movement spend its money?

Tonight will witness the biggest social event of the D.C. environmental calendar: the Green Corps 15th anniversary bash. All the green glitterati will be there to honor Rep. Ed Markey and John Lewis with awards -- and more importantly, to raise money to support training organizers for the environmental movement. I've been helping out with the event for the last few months and I'm excited about it. It's made me reflect on how much the environmental movement has changed since I graduated from the year-long Green Corps organizing fellowship in 2002 -- and think anew about the relative importance of organizing to other methods of achieving social change. For those who don't know, Green Corps is the field school for environmental organizing. It generally takes 20-35 recent college graduates (out of more than 800 who apply!) and trains them in all the basic skills that go into running and winning an environmental (or really any social change or political) campaign. Then you get sent out somewhere in America to lead an environmental campaign yourself, working under the banner of a local, state, or national environmental group. My first campaign, for instance, was to work with Greenpeace to secure $5 billion in financing from the California government for clean energy financing. It's a lot more responsibility than most people think they'll have right out of college, and when you win, as you often do, it's hard not to embrace organizing for the long run, as most Green Corps organizers do. As a result, they've gone on to do amazing work with everyone from the Sierra Club to Move On and the Gulf Restoration Network. During my Green Corps year from 2001 to 2002, though, organizing was almost all we had. It was difficult for national environmental groups to get big-time media coverage of any environmental issue, much less the climate crisis, which seemed to be going nowhere as long as President Bush was in office. Now, since An Inconvenient Truth hit movie screens, it seems like everything is media: whether you read Women's Wear Daily, watch NBC or Fox, or read your local paper, the planet is hot, hot, hot! That change has had a huge impact, altering the spectrum of what's possible: we no longer have to beg for crumbs or think up cartoonish stunts to get attention (though no one should estimate the power of a cartoonish stunt to get attention). Suddenly, even Republican presidential candidates are forced to address the climate crisis and Democrats in Congress are actually considering fairly ambitious climate legislation. People across the country are making small changes to their own lives that might add up to something. More importantly, politicians at every level are more willing to give pro-environment legislation time on the agenda. Here's why I keep coming back to organizing -- and think the environmental movement needs to continue to focus on building its long-term organizing capacity rather than becoming overly enthralled with a pure media approach:

A proposal in the making

New developments in WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations

Some new ideas by Brazil and Argentina during the Doha round negotiations at the World Trade Organization have left me feeling rather optimistic about the ability of the WTO to actually help address one of the world's biggest environmental problems: global overfishing. Their proposal is a real attempt by developing countries in the ongoing negotiations about fisheries subsidies to establish some rules to prevent countries from subsidizing their fishing sector without regard to the fish! The proposal still needs work. But finally, leadership by the developing world to try a find a workable approach to ensure that development keeps the best interest of marine life and habitat in mind while also tending to the needs of people.

LCV declares Sen. James Inhofe a target for unseating in 2008

Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe (R) is the first person to make the League of Conservation Voters’ “Dirty Dozen” list of congresspeople the group hopes to unseat in 2008. Inhofe is the minority leader on the …

Lomborg and Shellenberger & Nordhaus redux

Yet more musing on Lomborg and S&N

Looks like I'm not the only one who sees a scary similarity between the messages in their respective books, Cool It and Break Through. The San Francisco Chronicle just ran a double review by Robert Collier, a visiting scholar at the Center for Environmental Public Policy at UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy. The review ends pointedly: [T]he arguments of Nordhaus and Shellenberger attain an intellectual pretense that could almost pass for brilliant if their urgings weren't so patently empty. The closing chapter calls for "greatness," but, like the rest of the book, it offers little in the way of substantive proposals to back up its rhetorical thunder. Perhaps that's for their next book. Or perhaps real solutions, rather than pretentious sniping, are not the authors' purpose. Nordhaus and Shellenberger, like Lomborg, will get plenty of attention in Washington from those who want to preserve the status quo. But for those who recognize the urgent need to transform the national and world economies and save the planet as we know it, they are ultimately irrelevant. Precisely.

Fascinating, but for the wrong reasons

Shellenberger & Nordhaus echo flawed economic assumptions

I just finished reading Shellenberger & Nordhaus' latest, and while I realize I am a bit late to the party, I think they say some fascinating things -- perhaps not for the reasons they intended. S&N manage to succinctly distill an awful lot of the ideas that are core not only to policy debates on carbon, but to policy discussions of any major change to the economy. Understanding these biases is critical to understanding why S&N write what they write, but also why they are so deeply wrong.

French conservatives go green, too!

Sarkozy pushes proposals on energy and the environment

We have already seen that British Conservatives "get" global warming -- both the danger of inaction and the economic opportunity of a "green revolution." Now the right wing cheese-eating surrender monkeys are also putting their American political counterparts to shame. As Nature reports about the new conservative French president: Sarkozy made the greening of France a major plank of his election campaign this year. He has since created a superministry for ecology, biodiversity and sustainable development, with responsibility for the powerful sectors of transport, energy and construction -- a first in France, where ecology was previously off the political radar. Yet it seems inconceivable a U.S. conservative politician could take such action, or agree to the following remarkable proposals now under active consideration in France:

Storage in the spotlight

Congress finally pays attention to energy storage tech

I missed this when it happened, but (via Hill Heat) it’s nice to see that the House science committee recently held a hearing on energy storage technology. It’s a woefully underappreciated piece of the energy …

Group will do organic lawn care outside Capitol

Nonprofit SafeLawns.org has received permission to use organic gardening techniques on a portion of the National Mall for a two-year trial period. Can environmentally friendly soil treatments be embraced at the site of battling over …

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