Re: All This Aggravation Ain’t Satisfactionin’ Us

Dear Editor:

For the first time ever, you got a story completely wrong. Environmental groups just won a huge victory at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change and first meeting of Kyoto Protocol Parties in Montreal. You missed it. “Plenty of drama but little progress” hardly reflects what we did achieve, against very large odds:

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First, the goal of the Bush administration was to kill Kyoto. Instead, we have launched Kyoto Phase Two. The Article 3.9 decision calls for negotiations through an “ad hoc working group,” with a goal of completing negotiations for a new round of binding emission-reduction targets for industrialized countries in time to ensure “no gap” between the end of the first commitment period (2008-2012) and the new one.

Second, we passed all the rules to make Kyoto work (the COP7 decisions from Marrakech).

Third, we enhanced the Clean Development Mechanism, and countries in attendance contributed $8 million to help the CDM Executive Board and secretariat.

Fourth, a decision was made to prepare well for the discussions at the next COP-MOP, December 2006 in Nairobi. It deals with both industrialized and developing countries in looking at the future Kyoto contributions all can make.

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Fifth, for the first time, the issue of stopping tropical deforestation was put on the agenda for targets for developing countries (at the request of Papua New Guinea).

Sixth, the conference in Montreal really shone a spotlight on the progressive elements within the U.S., beyond the regressive and dangerous Bush administration. Mayors committed to Kyoto, 190 in the U.S. alone, received attention. The role of labor in the U.S. supporting Kyoto was highlighted. Faith groups, including U.S. evangelicals concerned about climate, participated. Business leaders from the U.S. who are calling for climate action were in attendance. And the youth of the U.S. really participated strongly. In one meeting between U.S. youth and the U.S. delegation, the youth call to protect their future led one U.S. official to cry.

Seventh, the U.S. media may finally have figured out that Kyoto did not die when Bush pulled out.

Please let Grist readers know: the world just moved ahead without George W. Bush!

Elizabeth May

Executive Director

Sierra Club of Canada


Re: No Talk and No Action

Dear Editor:

I knew it would be only a matter of time before the great moral stars of our day would begin to fall. Anti-global warming stalwart Bill McKibben appears to be taking 1960s writer Timothy Leary’s famous quote seriously: “If you take the game of life seriously, if you take your nervous system seriously, if you take your sense organs seriously, if you take the energy process seriously, you must turn on, tune in, and drop out.”

Please get up, Bill. We need you now more than ever.


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Re: Dancing with the Scars

Dear Editor:

Interesting story. While I partially agree with its concluding remarks, I do not share the reluctance to embrace nuclear technologies — they hold tremendous potential for solving problems caused by fossil fuels.

I founded Adams Atomic Engines, Inc. in September 1993 with the mission of designing and developing pebble-bed-reactor heated closed-cycle gas-turbine power plants. We believed that the time was right to build plants that could compete in the markets that were being served by large diesel engines and combustion gas turbines, specifically the commercial shipping market and the market for distributed power plants.

By 1996, we put the company to sleep — with oil at about $10 to $12 per barrel and natural gas at $1.80, our economics were not compelling enough for anyone to take a chance with an “unproven” technology. Our protestations that oil and gas prices were in a temporary slump fell on deaf ears.

In the past three to four years, the market has begun to turn, and we have begun the process of waking up our tiny little company.

The Chinese, South Africans, French, and even some Americans believe that the technology has great promise. The conventional nuclear plants have a place, but they cannot serve all needs.

Rod Adams

Founder and President, Adams Atomic Engines, Inc.

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Re: Dancing with the Scars

Dear Editor:

The nuclear power cycle is definitely not “clean,” with mining, storage, disposal, radiation pollution, and the massive amounts of water that are evaporated or heated, but the most powerful argument I’ve heard against nuclear power is its economics. I find it interesting that this article didn’t even mention the economics of nuclear. Nuclear power is more expensive than even solar per kilowatt-hour and takes years to deploy, so it is definitely not a good solution to climate change.

To mitigate climate change, we need to make investments right now in clean, renewable energy technologies that give us the most bang for our buck, such as energy efficiency, solar thermal, wind, geothermal, and even solar photovoltaic. It is also important to point out that these investments have little risk (compared to nuclear energy projects, which only seem to attract investment when they are propped up by taxpayer insurance and other subsidies) and will ensure much more consistent energy prices in the future because the sources of energy are free and abundant.


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Editor’s note: You can find more discussion on nuclear power in Gristmill, Grist‘s blog.


Re: Moving Light Along

Dear Editor:

I taught elementary science for over 30 years and discovered using old Christmas lights to teach about electricity. Students love to create circuits using lights and nine-volt batteries. Just cut lights apart, strip the ends of each wire, and connect them to the batteries. You can create parallel and series circuits, as well as classify items as conductors, insulators, or both. Just make sure students use the lights only with dry-cell batteries. Happy Christmas Recycling!

Mary Cathcart

Arlington, Texas


Re: Moving Light Along

Dear Editor:

Two recycling ideas for old holiday lights: paint the bulbs white with orange tips and use as candles on non-electrified mini trees, or use real recycled bulbs instead of plastic fake bulbs to make Christmas necklaces.

Gail Griswold

Melbourne Village, Fla.

Editor’s note: You can find more discussion on holiday lights in Gristmill, Grist‘s blog.


Re: To the Victor Go the Oils

Dear Editor:

Thanks to David Roberts for his multidimensional review of the multifaceted movie Syriana. It was thoughtful and critical — and of course now I must see the movie for myself to verify his observations and deepen my own take. As one of many concerned about peak oil and the ravages of our oil-based addiction, I applaud even a movie that only shows us the dark, seamy side of the oil game we all play, and only hints, through the Pakistani character turned terrorist, at an answer to the question, “Why do they hate us?”

Mark Wahl

Langley, Wash.


Dear Editor:

I was disappointed to read that some of your vegan-pushing readers were so appalled by your articles. Like most of your other articles, I loved them.

While I understand why some people aren’t into meat, for some of us, sometimes it just makes more ecological sense to eat meat. I live in Alaska and was amazed at adding up the miles incurred by one vegetarian store-bought meal. For me, it makes more sense to grow some greens indoors, get my own game, and trade around with friends for a little variety.

Elizabeth Villarreal

Homer, Alaska


Re: Gardener on the Roof

Dear Editor:

In addition to the type of green roof Umbra described, you can also buy trays of plants that link together to form a green roof. The waterproof membrane is also necessary, but it’s neater and easier than spreading soil yourself. Not sure which suppliers sell them, but here’s a link to some green-roof providers, most of which are in the Midwest.


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Re: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Dear Editor:

Anyone who is considering intentional community should run, not walk, and get the book Creating a Life Together, by Diana Leafe Christian. Diana, editor for a decade of Communities Magazine (itself a great resource), notes that only about 10 percent of such projects succeed, and thoroughly covers the pitfalls and pleasures of starting an intentional community.


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Editor’s note: You can find more discussion on co-housing in Gristmill, Grist‘s blog.