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Articles by Andy Brett

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  • Organic snobbery

    Julie Powell writes in today's New York Times on the social implications of eating well, which for many people has come to mean eating fresh, organic food. Referring to the "cult of garden freshness" and the "snobbery of the organic movement," Powell sees two negatives that can arise from an overemphasis on such foods: economic elitism and moral superiority.

    The chicken at Whole Foods is organic and cage-free; the chicken at Western Beef is not. Is the woman who buys her children's food at the place where they take her food stamps therefore a bad mother?
    Powell (thankfully) deviates from the stereotypes of the two stores, delving into the difference between shopping and cooking. She warns not to "assume that everyone at Whole Foods is wise and everyone at the Western Beef benighted."

    While the stereotypes are a bit of a straw man, they are not pulled entirely from thin air. Just as with cars, the choice of grocer (for those who have the choice) is "90% social communication and self-branding."

    The question is, does this self-branding lead to the two outcomes that Powell mentions?

  • Green building builds on successes

    The Leadership in Energy and Environmetal Design standard is becoming quite its own recognized brand name. Bill Walsh, founder of the Healthy Building Network, fielded some questions on it in his InterActivist interview this past winter.

    The standard no longer just applies to buildings, though. Neighborhood development is being targeted for a LEED certification as well. Sharing many principles with New Urbanism and Smart Growth, the certification aims to reward developers for thinking green on the neighborhood level (or larger).

  • The World Bank gets called out

    One look at the World Bank's homepage would certainly give the impression that the institution has a new focus -- climate change. "Working together to beat the heat," the banner declares.

    The bank has its work cut out for it if those words are going to be anything more than just that, words, says Daphne Wysham of NPR's Marketplace (see also her essay on the subject in Grist).

    She has a few suggestions of her own -- ending funding for coal and oil projects, increasing funding for renewables, and, ahem, actually measuring the impacts of its projects on global warming, just to start.

  • Google expands its borders

    Google Earth has been out for a while now, so I hesitate to post on it, since anyone who thinks it's a cool idea has probably already heard about it. But it hasn't been mentioned here yet, and this little treat today (make sure you zoom all the way in) seemed occasion enough.

    People have also been using the software to look at large-scale impacts humans have had and continue to have on the environment, a la the UN atlas, only more interactive.