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Articles by Christina Larson

Christina Larson is a contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine and a Schwartz fellow at the New America Foundation. Her reporting has brought her throughout China, as well Southeast Asia, and her writing has appeared in The New York Times, International Herald Tribune, The New Republic, The Washington Monthly, and Yale Environment 360 among other publications.

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  • Environmentalism is dead? Long live environmentalism.

    Thanks to David Roberts for highlighting an article in the current Washington Monthly, "The Emerging Environmental Majority" (by yours truly).

    Here's the quick version: Each time in American history that environmental concerns rose to the top of the national agenda, support for ambitious government action came from a broad array of groups responding to an impending sense of crisis.

    Having spoken to activists, historians, and politicians of the 1960s and 1970s, I believe there are parallels between today's mounting public concern over global warming and the prelude to our nation's last great era of environmental reform. In the decade before "Earth Day," city-based citizen groups across America worked to control pollution, union chapters focused on mining safety, sportsmen's groups worried about watersheds, and women's organizations highlighted the connection between pollutants and fetal health. These groups had diverse focuses, but the broad chorus for reform made green concerns impossible to ignore. In the early 1970s, Washington produced the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act, among other landmark laws.

    Today public concern about global warming is approaching another tipping point. Climate-change campaigns are taking root among a widening spectrum of groups, from environmentalists to evangelicals, hunters to insurance companies, farmers to politicians. For ambitious measures to pass muster in Washington, global warming has to be seen, not as an issue for partisans, but as an issue affecting everyone.

    Now, my original point was that David is one smart cookie (don't you agree?), and he raises some pertinent questions that I take a whirl at answering below.

  • Fair trade palms

    Loving thy palm grower as thyself, a growing number of churches opted last Sunday to celebrate Palm Sunday with palm fronds grown in conditions deemed both worker-friendly and environmentally sustainable.

    As Brenda Meier, parish projects coordinator for Lutheran World Relief, told Religion News Service:

    To have in our hand on Palm Sunday a palm that we know has been harvested in an ecologically friendly way, in a way that's going to benefit the communities and the people who harvested them, adds that much more depth to our celebration of Palm Sunday.

    Amen, sister.

  • Ask the feds

    Via The Washington Post, the Department of Energy wants to block Montana's attempts to regulate the impacts of coalbed methane extraction on local water supplies.

    The state's Board of Environmental Review has voted in favor of requiring extraction companies -- which use large quantities of water to retrieve natural gas from coal seams -- to replenish those groundwater supplies in their original, nonpolluted state. But federal officials and Wyoming's congressional delegation object that the move could slow down the pace of energy development in Montana and neighboring states.

    As Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer told the Post:

    We want to develop energy in Montana, but we want to do it right. Here's the bottom line with the federal government: They're usually not helpful, and they weren't this time, either.

    How's an honest man to do his job?

  • Water safety rules will be more lax in rural areas

    Has the White House declared war on farmers and ranchers?

    The brunt of the Bush administration's rush to expand energy development in western states has been most directly borne by rural voters. Water-intensive gas-extraction procedures run ranchers' wells dry and expel water so salty it's toxic to crops. Gas compressor stations and their generators pump sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide into the air. Livestock drink from uncovered drip pans containing antifreeze and perish. "People can't believe this can happen to them until their own ox is gored," says Jill Morrison of Wyoming's Powder River Basin Resource Council, which works with rural communities facing environmental concerns.

    If that wasn't stunning enough, now there's this, courtesy of The Washington Post ... in March the EPA proposed regulating drinking water quality differently in rural America than in the rest of the nation.

    Bottom line: If you live in a community of less than 10,000 people, your water would be permitted to contain three times the level of arsenic as your counterparts in urban and suburban areas. (The proposal is open for public comment until May 1.)

    The logic is that smaller communities have more trouble than other areas paying to update and repair water treatment systems. But isn't this a clear case where the federal government should step in to bridge the gap -- not shrink away?

    Update: More on the EPA proposal here from Carl Pope, who notes that one community that would be at risk is Crawford, Texas.