Climate Crossroads Blog
Posted by: Bri Fo at 2:40PM PST on November 26, 2008Taking an Electric Ride
Posted by: Bri Fo at 12:53PM PST on November 26, 2008
Last week I got to see two electric vehicles that many Americans would lust after, if and when they become available in 2010-2011. Mitsubishi brought two of its iMiEV all-electric city cars to San Francisco and gave one to the local utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, to keep for testing. (See photos.)
Then I attended Wire Magazine's anniversary party at San Francisco's Academy of Sciences museum.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 12:45PM PST on November 26, 2008
Posted by: Bri Fo at 9:11AM PST on November 26, 2008
It may be trite to write about Thanksgiving wishes and reflections. But despite all of the uncertainties and challenges that our country and world are facing as of November, 2008, I know I also have lots for which to be grateful – both personally and more globally.
So in that spirit, I'm making Thanksgiving resolutions, too – no need to wait until January, 2009! I resolve:
-- to better internalize personal reductions in energy use and petroleum-based products, so that I never forget to unplug my charged laptop or carry my own shopping bags. These kinds of activities should become second nature to me, as much a part of my lifestyle as brushing teeth.
--to be better educated on climate change issues, by reading books like Van Jones' The Green Collar Economy (which has been sitting on my bookshelf for weeks); regularly listening to the several environmentally-related podcasts to which I subscribe; reading periodicals, blogs and websites that post on these issues; attending panels and forums; etc. Information is everywhere; there's no excuse not to seek it out.-- to advocate for candidates and issues that are important to me. Being a casual observer doesn't really qualify as walking the walk.
-- to be a more socially conscious consumer (and recycler).-- to honor and support my friends who are trying to make a difference, through their own writings and actions. They need to be publicized, as appropriate – especially when they so often have so much to teach others, or can energize others to action.
-- and finally, to be more tolerant of folks who are willing to change their carbon-heavy habits, but who just need more education and encouragement to do so. Every day, more people – and businesses – want to learn more and do more. There are definitely strong forces of the status quo, and I need to do my part to counteract them whenever possible.Happy Thanksgiving!
Posted by: Bri Fo at 1:41PM PST on November 25, 2008
Over at the discussion forum today, one Crossroads member wondered if the idea of carbon offsets is based on guilt:
I read about Cheat Neutral, a joke site that says you can cheat on your significant other and then pay $5 to feel better about it. The joke is that this $5 will go to someone who has no chance of being in a relationship so they won't ever cheat.There's no doubt that carbon offsetting has its critics. But the system, flaws and all, is not going anywhere. In 2006, the global market reached $30 billion, three times greater than the previous year.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 10:20AM PST on November 25, 2008
After completing How Green is My Cuisine, one quiz-taker sent us a recent study out of Carnegie Mellon, which found that going vegan one day a week saved much more in greenhouse-gas emissions than eating locally-grown food during the course of a year. This argument isn't new.
Of course, going vegan/eating organic and buying locally aren't mutually exclusive either. But you might want to check out the discussion forum that is going on right now and share your opinion.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 9:24AM PST on November 25, 2008
Being a lazy gardener would be impossible if not for easy plants. I've tried growing carrots -- you have to plant the seeds in sand and keep them moist for weeks to get even a pathetic crop. I've tried melons, and I got one puny one. Not enough heat, apparently.
At least 90 percent of my garden, by volume, consists of easy plants, and it's probably more if I count the easiest of them all -- the morning glory and ivy that grow on my fences. They take no care at all to grow. The only work is pulling them out.
I'm going to post a short video here that shows my morning glory vine. I'm new to using the video feature of my camera and I'm pretty green when it comes to editing video, but hey, I said I was lazy. If I wait until I've actually read the camera instructions on how to use video and read the user manual for iMovie, well, it would be next spring by now, and time is passing too fast already.
In Berkeley, morning glories grow all over the place, and they're pretty and distinctive enough that I knew what they were without having to look them up.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 1:16PM PST on November 24, 2008
The following was written by Dashka Slater, a freelance writer from Oakland, Calif. and a frequent contributor to Sierra Magazine. Check out her website.
When Hurricane Ike bore down on the Texas coast last fall with its 110-mile-per-hour winds and 15-foot storm surge, it left behind an estimated 11,000 damaged homes and a pressing political question--are there some places where houses just don't belong?
Posted by: Bri Fo at 10:19AM PST on November 24, 2008
Short of somehow harnessing the power of a zombie uprising, I never really imagined we'd be tapping graveyards as a potential energy source. But this is exactly what is happening in a small town outside of Madrid, Spain.
Real estate is hard to come by in Santa Coloma de Gramenet that the graveyard was just about the only viable location for a new array of solar panels. While the locals weren't too keen on the idea at first, learning that the project will generate enough electricity to power 60 homes annually and will keep about as many tons of carbon dioxide out of the air each year may have swayed them. Additionally, the project's designers tried to keep the profile of the solar panels as low as possible -- the panels cover less than 5% of the total surface area of the graveyard.
"The best tribute we can pay to our ancestors, whatever your religion may be, is to generate clean energy for new generations," said the director of the Spanish energy company behind the project. Sounds like a heavenly idea to me.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 8:28AM PST on November 24, 2008
When you think about city living, growing your own food isn't necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. But a movement is blossoming in cities from coast to coast to grow and harvest fruits, vegetables, and herbs in urban backyards and community gardens.
The idea isn't really a new one; it's more that we're seeing a return to older ways where there was a closer connection between people and the food they ate. As the local food movement has gathered momentum, community vegetable gardens have been proliferating on vacant urban plots. And increasingly, city dwellers are producing food for the table even closer to home: in their own back yards.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 10:25AM PST on November 21, 2008
Last year, one of my neighbors called me the smartest gardener on the block -- and I took that as a compliment even though I know it's hyperbole.
I'm not as serious a gardener as my next door neighbor Sally or my neighbors across the street Keenie and Carol. Their gardens are prettier and more prolific than mine.
They know the latin names of plants. They have more flowers and fewer weeds. But they also do a lot more work.
I earned my reputation because I manage to have an attractive and productive garden without investing anywhere near as much time or money as they do.
[Here's a slide show of my backyard garden from early August. To be honest, these photos show it at its best -- I don't think it's looked this good or been this productive since, well, never.]
I'm sure my neighbors enjoy the work of gardening, as I do, to a degree. But I'm always behind on my gardening chores and I enjoy sitting in my garden with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine more than the actual weeding, planting, and harvesting.
In my humbler, younger years, I might have said I'm not a real gardener. But I am. A gardener is one who gardens. What I'm not is an expert. My goal in writing this blog is share my experiences and ideas and encourage you to share yours.
One of my gardening books is an counterculture classic by John Jeavons called "How to Grow More Vegetables Than
You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than
You Can Imagine." A friend used to call it "How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible By Doing More Work Than You Could Possibly Imagine." Jeavons is a proponent of biointensive farming, which uses less water, land, machinery, and fertilizer, but which, he would freely admit, requires more human labor.
I support that theoretically, and I even live it more often than I care to admit, but over the years, I've developed my own system based on doing less. Spending less. Watering less. Sweating less. Weeding less. I'm not advocating laziness per se, only making gardening a pleasure instead of a burden.
And I'm not saying my way is better -- and I promise to keep my soapbox rants to a minimum -- but I do have one guiding principle that I'm absolute about, which is that my garden is organic.
If my livelihood depended on what I grew, and some pest or weed was wreaking havoc, maybe I'd consider using some toxic substance to get rid of it. My goal is more than hauling in a big harvest or sporting the showiest flowere -- it's nurturing a healthy and sustainable space, feeding and giving back to the soil, welcoming wildlife, and all that natural, groovy stuff. If a plant can't survive without pesticides or herbicides or lots of work, well, it doesn't belong in my garden.
There are plenty of easy things to grow that are beautiful or delicious. And if being organic means that my weeds are healthy too, well, so be it. Sometimes I pull them up, sometimes I let them live.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not that lazy. If I were, I'd hire someone to do all the work. I'm more of a cheapskate gardener than a lazy one. Earlier this summer, I was in the Santa Cruz mountains, visiting my partner's twin sister, who boards horses, and I drove home, as I have several times before, with a dozen bags of horse manure in the back of my car. (Everyone assumes that it really stinks up the car, but I hardly notice the smell.)
I had to shovel the manure from the pile into the bags and then lug them into my backyard and spread them out when I got home -- it certainly would have been easier to buy manure at the garden center. So no, in that case I wasn't being lazy. But it was free.
(And they thought I was doing them a favor by hauling it off. They also thought I was a little bit nuts.)
I was originally going to call this the Lazy Gardener, but there already is one: the Houston Chronicle's Lazy Gardener Brenda Beust Smith.
She's got a column and she appears on radio and TV, but truth be told, just reading a few of her posts made me tired. She's even written a book. How lazy can she actually be?
Posted by: Bri Fo at 9:55AM PST on November 21, 2008
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
It's been a good week in the ongoing battle against coal. The EPA's rejection of a new coal plant in Utah means bad news for three proposed coal power plants in Nevada. And here's more coal victory news! And here's the story of high school students in Ohio flexing their muscle. Right on!
The economic downturn has not deterred Green Building Convention goers in Boston.
Scientists try to spell out for us why the "global warming has stopped" mantra is a myth.
And finally...Neil Young asks, "So you want a big electric car?"
Posted by: Bri Fo at 3:32PM PST on November 20, 2008
The Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) is “publishing” a new online magazine about climate change and sustainability called Texas Climate News. The magazine is edited by Bill Dawson, former environmental reporter for the Houston Chronicle, who has covered the environment, science, health, and related news for about three decades.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 3:25PM PST on November 20, 2008
Wheeeee, what a ride we're having in the changing world of the U.S. automotive industry! At the L.A. Auto Show this week Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn committed the company to a full fleet of electric vehicles, starting with a roll-out in Oregon in 2010. Why Oregon? The state's governor and its largest utility have sent the message loud and clear -- we want your plug-in vehicles! (Hey, U.S. governors -- are you listening?)
And in Congress, Rep. John Dingell of Michigan has been ousted after a 28-year reign as chair of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, where he was the auto industry's watchdog. He's being replaced by Rep. Henry Waxman of California, an environmentalist who's more likely to push President-elect Obama's environmental policies.
Meanwhile, the Big 3 automakers in Detroit still are begging for a bailout from U.S. taxpayers. They already have a $25 billion loan coming their way that was approved by Congress in September specifically to help them retool for the manufacturing of fuel-efficient vehicles. Now they are asking to use that money for short-term cash flow.
In other words, even at the brink of bankruptcy, the automakers still are resisting technological change and wishing for business as usual. Congress needs to hear from us that we want to keep those requirements in place. We want the American automakers to gear up for the cars of the future. Plug In America has made it easy to send a message through their "No Bailout Without Strings" page.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 12:06PM PST on November 20, 2008
Do you know how to solve global warming, but haven't been able to make your voice heard? Well, Barack wants to know. The president-elect's Energy and Environment Policy Transition Team wants to hear "your story, which energy and environment issues are important to you, or what actions you'd like to see an Obama-Biden administration take."
Need some time to brainstorm? Head over to our discussion forums and bounce your ideas off other Climate Crossroads members!
You can also watch this video interview with Energy and Environment Policy Transition Team member Heather Zichal for some inspiration:
Posted by: Bri Fo at 9:02AM PST on November 20, 2008
“If you aren't cheating, you aren't trying hard enough to win.” I heard a DJ spout that ethically challenged aphorism on a rock station last week, and thought that my first blog post for Climate Crossroads would be a serious riff on that sentiment, as it might apply in an environmental context. But then I really started to think, “What's wrong with cheating anyway?”
First, a bit about me: I'm not a climate change or environmental expert, but am blogging here as a kind of “woman on the street.” Expect my posts, therefore, to focus more on what I'm experiencing as I try to walk the walk in being more carbon-sensitive, and in observing what others are doing, too. If you want more serious analysis, don't read me; plenty of my blogger colleagues will fit that bill. But if you just need a quick shot of color, I hope I can give that to you.
So here goes -- back to Cheating as a Social Good. There are some efforts out there, like ThePoint.com, that challenge us to undertake activities like reducing vehicle emissions or using reusable cups. And what if someone really, really wants to win a reduce-your-individual-carbon-footprint competition? How far should they be allowed to go? These are some cheats that are OK, or not so OK, in my book:
1. Hopping into your partner's shower so as not to have your own individual water consumption? Fine!
2. Poaching your neighbor's trash cans so as not to display any of your own garbage? Not so fine.
3. Bumming rides whenever you can, when your friend is running errands? Fine!
4. Sneaking into your colleague's office after hours to use her lighting, while turning off your own lights? Not so fine.
5. Swiping the plastic bags that your mom still gets from the grocery store to use yourself when you go there? Fine!
6. Pretending that you bought all those disposable water bottles for your 10-year-old instead of yourself? Not fine.
7. Getting your solar and wind power for free by air-drying outside? Fine!
And so on – and of course, the opportunities to “cheat” our way to a greener lifestyle go on and on. So thanks, Mr DJ, for the inspiration, wherever you are!
Posted by: Bri Fo at 8:09AM PST on November 20, 2008
Judging by some of the stories out there this week, it seems the
answers to our energy and deforestation problems come from the collective
cabooses of our four-legged brethren.
Meanwhile in the dairy farms of
And if that wasn't enough, 1,500 lucky journalists recently received a press release on paper manufactured from elephant dung that promoted the DVD release of “Horton Hears a Who!”
The tie-in to the movie works well: Horton, Dr. Seuss's whimsical main character, is a socially conscious elephant who knows the importance of sticking to one's ideals even in the face of social resistance. He knows that even one small person, one small action, can make a difference, especially in efforts to defend a fragile world.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 3:28PM PST on November 19, 2008
Ford's CEO, who was in Washington begging for a bailout this week, arrived at the Capitol in a Ford Fusion Hybrid. Nice!
But wait. How did he get to Washington from Detroit? Did he buy a plane ticket? Of course not. He took his private jet. Duh!
In fact, all of the CEOs from the cash-strapped Big Three took separate corporate jets, which cost their companies tens of thousands of dollars each. And Ford's CEO doesn't even live in Detroit. He lives in Seattle -- where his jet takes him on weekends.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 1:41PM PST on November 19, 2008
Check out the White House Organic Farm Project and tell the incoming family to consider starting an organic farm on the grounds of the White House. Corn, strawberries, zucchini, it doesn't matter! Just planting an organic patch would send a strong message in support of safe and healthy food.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 8:59AM PST on November 19, 2008
Wasn't more surf and less turf supposed to be the way to go to set ourselves on a path to healthier eating? That's sure what I remember a few years back when I started eating more seafood and less flesh-on-the-hoof. (My consumption of fowl remained fairly steady, my main adjustment being to purchase free-range chicken at the grocery store.)
But no sooner had I adjusted my diet to include more tuna steaks than beef steaks, along came warnings about mercury in larger fish. So much for albacore and swordfish on the grill. (I continued to eat tuna in the form of sushi, but less frequently.) Luckily, there were plenty of other fish I enjoyed, like salmon, Chilean sea bass, and halibut.
But not so fast. Many of these options are now considered off-limits because we've fished them nearly to the edge of extinction. Chilean sea bass is pretty much a total no-no, even when it's wild-caught. Wild Atlantic salmon have been teetering on the brink for years, and this year's commercial salmon season on the Pacific coast of the U.S. (excepting Alaska) was canceled due to an alarming crash in the number of fish returning to their spawning streams.
At this writing, wild Alaskan salmon runs between $15 and $25 a pound, relegating it to special occasions in most households. Farm-raised salmon presents a host of problems, from being disease-ridden due to overcrowding (and passing those diseases on to wild fish passing nearby), to habitat destruction, to inefficiencies inherent in aquaculture: on average, it takes a pound of fishmeal (ground-up smaller fish) to raise one pound of farmed salmon. For cod, the ratio is five to one; for tuna, it's more like 20 to 1.
What's a fish-lover to do? One alternative is to eat lower on the food chain. Eschew top predators like tuna, swordfish, salmon, and sea bass in favor of smaller fish like herring, whiting, sardines, pollack, and mackerel. Shellfish like crab, lobster, mussels, and oysters can also be good choices, depending on the health of the local harvest.
And therein lies the key, as in terrestrial eating: to the extent you can, eat local, seasonal, and sustainably harvested seafood. Talk to your local fishmonger; they'll usually be the best source of information about what's on offer and how it was caught. And if you don't have a local fishmonger, here are some other resources for anyone who wants to "eat green" while partaking of the sea's (threatened) bounty.
Seafood Watch, a service of the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, gives recommendations of what to buy (and why), provides a free downloadable pocket guide for ocean-friendly seafood, keeps you abreast of fishing pracices worldwide, and lets you know what you can do to promote awareness of sustainable seafood, like letting your local restaurants and grocery stores know that you care about where your seafood comes from.
The Blue Ocean Institute, a marine conservation organization on Long Island, New York, also provides seafood and sushi guides, as well as seafood FAQ, retail resources, and a wealth of advice to help people "make better choices on behalf of the ocean." The Marine Stewardship Council, a London-based nonprofit working to certify, promote, and reward sustainable fishing practices, lets you track fisheries and provides practical information on purchasing and cooking sustainable seafood. Or check out Eartheasy's sustainable seafood guide.
So don't despair, just take care when you choose your next seafood meal.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 8:45AM PST on November 19, 2008
The U.S. Green Building Council announced yesterday that they're seeking public feedback to develop a LEED rating system for neighborhoods. It would be the first of its kind for neighborhood design and construction. Traditionally, the LEED rating applies for individual structures. Click here to give the USGBC your two cents.
Meanwhile, the green building conference in Boston is drawing tens of thousands of people, despite the slumping economy.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 12:58PM PST on November 18, 2008
While visiting Colorado last week, I noticed that among the many evergreens were a large number of trees that had turned red. Of course, this isn't a normal, seasonal "fall foliage" turning of color. These red, dead trees are the work of mountain pine beetles who have been painting broad swaths of the state's forests red over the last few years. In what one state forester has called "the phenomenon of the century," Colorado expects to lose much of its lodgepole pines.
In a series of articles called "The Last Stand," The Steamboat Pilot & Today recently took an in-depth look at the epidemic. One particularly chilling tale: In northern British Columbia, which faces the same threat from mountain pine beetles, the mean temperature has increased by over four degrees in the last century, and the winters are no longer cold enough to kill off the beetles.
In the early fall or late spring, sustained temperatures of about minus 15 degrees can do the trick. ... Such conditions used to occur like clockwork once a decade. The last time it happened was 1985.
Kind of like how those lemmings haven't boomed since 1994?
At least officials in Canada seem to be making the connection. One article quotes British Columbia's chief forester as saying, “It certainly appears our warming climate is conducive to increased survivability of the mountain pine beetle. It's just science. It is what it is.”
Posted by: Bri Fo at 12:06PM PST on November 18, 2008
Today California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is hosting a bi-partisan, international Governor's Climate Summit in Los Angeles, and I have just obtained a copy of the taped remarks that President-Elect Obama will deliver. In these remarks, Obama repeats his commitment to an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050, and an ambitious $15 billion-per-year investment in clean energy technologies and solutions. Thus Obama strongly signals that the U.S. will rejoin the world, stating that even though he will not be President when the international community meets next month in Poland, he will be there in spirit. "While the United States has only one President at a time, I've asked members of Congress who are attending the conference as observers to report back to me on what they learn there. And once I take office, you can be sure that the United States will once again engage vigorously in these negotiations, and will help lead the world toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change."
Obama goes on to make clear to the Governors, business leaders, and international delegates present in Los Angeles today that the era of federal resistance to their leadership on climate and energy is going to end on January 20. "When I am President, any governor who's willing to promote clean energy will have a partner in the White House. Any company that's willing to invest in clean energy will have an ally in Washington. And any nation that's willing to join the cause of combating climate change will have an ally in the United States of America."
See the President's remarks here.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 9:57AM PST on November 18, 2008
Here's a look back at Decision '08 and why clean energy was an issue that truly resonated with voters.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 9:18AM PST on November 17, 2008
Are the "Detroit Three" auto companies – GM, Ford and Chrysler – the motor that keeps the U.S. economy humming? Enough to give them billions of dollars in bailout money to avoid bankruptcy? After so many years of their intransigence and obstructionism when it comes to building cleaner cars, that's a bitter pill for many of us to swallow. On the other hand, some of them have recently started prioritizing development of plug-in vehicles that would give consumers the choice to drive on cleaner, affordable, domestic electricity. Those nascent programs could bite the dust.
The utility industry is considering a creative way to try to save those programs, as reported in the Wall Street Journal. (And before any of you get apoplectic about plugging in cars on our 52%-coal U.S. grid, see the summary of more than 50 studies on my FAQ page showing that it's cleaner to drive on electricity, and it will just get cleaner as we add renewables and shut down coal.)
Now's a good time to contact your U.S. Senator and Congressperson to insist that any bailout money for automakers be conditioned on accelerating the switch to plug-in vehicles. Do it soon, because they may vote on this in the coming week. And hey, if they're going to be handing out cash goodies to the big guys, how about throwing a bone to electric-vehicle start-ups like Tesla and Aptera?
Posted by: Bri Fo at 9:02AM PST on November 17, 2008
In case you missed it, here's T. Boone Pickens back on Meet the Press on Sunday. And here's a revisit of the Sierra Club's Carl Pope with Pickens and Center for American Progress CEO John Podesta last August at the Democratic Convention in Denver.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 12:26PM PST on November 14, 2008
Are you a vegetarian or a vege-leaning omnivore looking to break from the tradition of eating meat on Thanksgiving? Perhaps you're a health-minded meat-eater interested in the challenge of eating only vegetables while your family mercilessly chows down around you?
Posted by: Bri Fo at 11:50AM PST on November 14, 2008
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
Will climate change make the current economic crisis look like a cake walk?
If you think CFLs look funny, check this out.
Ants can teach us a thing or two about easing congestion on our highways.
Someone seriously examines if driving is more green than bicycling.
And last but not least: Here's a thoughtful piece about famed-author Michael Crichton, a "devout and honest skeptic," who passed away last week.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 4:17PM PST on November 13, 2008
President Bush may have been willing to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that carbon dioxide is an air pollutant and that EPA must regulate it, but as the clock runs out on Bush's presidency, the EPA's Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) signaled the end of the Bush era this morning and the beginning of a clean energy future.
The EPA has continued to issue clean-air permits to coal-fired power plants without requiring those plants to use the best available technology to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. One such plant is a project called the Bonanza Generating Station, a 110-MW waste-coal facility being proposed by Deseret Power Electric Cooperative. The Bonanza plant would have emitted 3.37 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. The Sierra Club and other environmental groups appealed this permit to the Environmental Appeals Board.
The EAB ruled today that the EPA had no valid reason for refusing to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new coal-fired power plants. The decision means that all new and proposed coal plants nationwide must go back and address their carbon dioxide emissions. This puts an effective hold on the final permitting of almost all new coal plants until the Obama administration decides on the best available control technology for CO2 emissions from coal plants.
"Today's decision opens the way for meaningful action to fight global warming and is a major step in bringing about a clean energy economy," said Joanne Spalding, the Sierra Club senior attorney who argued the case. "This is one more sign that we must begin repowering, refueling, and rebuilding America.
"The EAB rejected every Bush Administration excuse for failing to regulate the largest source of greenhouse gases in the United States. This decision gives the Obama administration a clean slate to begin building our clean energy economy for the 21st century."
Posted by: Bri Fo at 8:44AM PST on November 13, 2008
A group of high-publicity pranksters called The Yes Men printed 1.2 million copies of a phony New York Times, dated July 4, 2009. Among the top stories, the Iraq War ends!
Here's another article they conjured up about nationalizing Big Oil to help fund climate-change solutions. Notice who's quoted in the story: Deputy Under Secretary of the E.P.A. Gavin Newsom, the current San Francisco mayor.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 4:18PM PST on November 12, 2008
Oliver from Austin pointed me to the Oxford University Press blog where those doyens of dictionary* have posted their Word of the Year: hypermiling. Cool. Of course, all bicyclists are hypermilers, but it's nice to see the drivers catching on.
What's amazing, though, is how many other words on their runner-up list are eco-related, like frugalista, eco-hacking, rewilding, and (everybody's favorite word to hate) staycation.
*yes, I actually do own a full-sized hardcover OED, and I don't care what it did to my carbon footprint to have it logged, printed, and shipped to me.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 10:37AM PST on November 12, 2008
OK, the Obamas have visited the White House, Barack got a tour of his new home gym from W, Michelle mentally measured the drapes, and the kids are busy sorting through hundreds of resumes from hypoallergenic rescue mutts. All we have to do now is wait for the inauguration, right?
Not hardly. There's still a lot of work to do before we reach that golden day. Sure, the economy is still priority #1, but let's not forget that the Bush administration shows no intention of marching gently into that good night. They're going out fighting, and they've got 75 days to do it.
How can we stop them from weakening environmental protections in the time that's left?
And what about Detroit? It sounds like Obama wants to bail-out U.S. automakers responsibly, but the Bush administration needs to play ball. Read Tom Friedman's column from yesterday for a thoughtful screed on why giving Detroit a blank check is a terrible idea.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 2:19PM PST on November 11, 2008
Speaking of cuisine, check out the Crossroads' awesome food section with sustainable recipes from food experts and Crossroads members.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 1:27PM PST on November 11, 2008
The election's aftermath election continues, with lots of gossipy stuff about Governor Palin's wardrobe and how Rush Limbaugh hates John McCain and the Republican party. The media are ecstatic that they no longer need to spend much ink on the substance of governing but can instead review the horse race over and over with clean consciences (except in Georgia, where there's still a Senate runoff).
However, in the midst of this trivia, an occasional nugget offers insight into how our next President views the political arena he has just mastered so thoroughly. Here's a wonderful bit from Newsweek's "Secrets of the 2008 Campaign" quoting Obama on efforts by the debate moderators to keep things at a sixth-grade level:
"I often find myself trapped by the questions and thinking to myself, 'You know, this is a stupid question, but let me … answer it.' Instead of being appropriately [the tape is garbled]. So when Brian Williams is asking me about what's a personal thing that you've done [that's green], and I say, you know, 'Well, I planted a bunch of trees.' And he says, 'I'm talking about personal.' What I'm thinking in my head is, 'Well, the truth is, Brian, we can't solve global warming because I f–––ing changed light bulbs in my house. It's because of something collective'."
Posted by: Bri Fo at 9:20AM PST on November 10, 2008
Auto makers in Detroit want in on the bailout party. In October, GM's U.S. sales plunged 45 percent. And since the recent $750 billion bailout for the bank and loan industry set up a precedent for saving Wall Street, the U.S. auto industry – with its record of resisting better gas mileage standards and efficiency – now wants a slice of the pie.
So if billions in tax money is going to be handed over to GM and Ford, what should the American people demand of these corporate execs? They don't deserve a blank check.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 4:55PM PST on November 7, 2008
Our good friend Mr. Green has some choice words to say about so-called "small" SUVs.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 8:46PM PST on November 6, 2008
So in September of 2001, if you had predicted that a mixed-race junior senator with a Muslim name ("Hussein," no less) who campaigned on a platform of raising taxes and making sacrifices would rally to defeat W's chosen successor, I don't think anybody would have taken you seriously. Nothing short of amazing.
And that he would come into office largely on the basis of throwing out the inside-the-beltway playbook on how to run a campaign? Ludicrous.
And that we may actually be entering an era of statesmanship, in which ideas and leadership count for something, not just policy out-wonksmanship.
And that, knock wood, this would come to pass without violence in the streets?
Now, here's the challenge: The Obama mandate is about the economy. The environment was rarely an audible issue in this campaign -- at least at the national level. And to the extent it cropped up occasionally, it was a pragmatic issue (do we compromise on off-shore drilling as a temporary bridge to energy independence? can we make green jobs a driver of an economic recovery?).
In an era of hardship and sacrifice, how do we make sustainability a "given," not a negotiable commodity? We need to change attitudes, not just policies. While the spirit of FDR has permeated the campaign and the likely early days of the Obama administration, we also need the spirit of TR, the belief in conservation and respect for nature not just as a means to some other agenda, but as a noble and worthy end in itself, as an important part of what it means to be a resident of the planet.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 4:36PM PST on November 6, 2008
It was right around the time the Baby Boomers began to arrive into the world that "convenience" became the order of the day in this country. Appliances, gadgets, modes of transport--anything that could save us time and effort--were accepted almost unconditionally as signs of progress and a higher quality of life.
This was nowhere more so than in the way we ate. TV dinners, pre-cooked frozen foods, and preservative-laden comestibles with long shelf lives were all the rage in supermarkets and kitchens from coast to coast. At the same time, we began eating out more, and the emergence of fast food outlets, which quickly proliferated across the American landscape, utterly transformed our notion of "dining out."
How ironic that the quality of the food we consumed took a nose dive at the very time our quality of life was arguably at its apex, and that Americans' lousy eating habits led to an epidemic of obesity and myriad diet-related health problems.
But even as McDonald's empire was expanding in the 1960s, argues food writer Mark Bittman, the seeds of a counter-revolution in our food consciousness were being sown. And that consciousness, now making itself manifest in phenomena like the Slow Food movement, has made Bittman hopeful that health and sustainability are starting to replace convenience as the paramount objective in our eating habits. Read Bittman's recent New York Times article, Why Take Food Seriously?.
Posted by: Bri Fo at 10:26AM PST on November 5, 2008
Barack Obama's historic victory last night is such a huge achievement, pundits and experts are still trying to sort through the implications. In terms of climate change, it's a breakthrough. Obama will probably reverse the lame-duck administration's record of inactivity and apathy.
This got me thinking: what if the president-elect stumbled on this site one day? If he became a Climate Crossroads member, he'd probably join the 2% Solution, judging by his commitment to reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
He'd probably read the article “How to Green Your Home” for tips on planning his new abode on Pennsylvania Avenue. He'd probably check out the food section and forward the link to the White House chef. And he'd probably surf through the energy independence section.
It's unclear whether the new president will ever come across Climate Crossroads, but what is clear is that Obama's theme of “change” will take the country on a new path toward taking the climate crisis seriously.
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