Friday Finds: Schoolhouse Shock
Coal company tries to brainwash school kids
Scholastic Inc., whose books and educational materials dominate the American classroom, is distributing fourth-grade curriculum materials paid for by the American Coal Foundation, reports the New York Times. Not surprisingly, the industry-funded class materials have drawn the ire of groups such as the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and Friends of the Earth, who argue that the one-sided curriculum conveniently leaves out coal’s environmental and human health impacts while failing to mention other useful, less polluting energy sources, like wind and solar. No word yet on whether the kids received a free inhaler to pair with their coal-friendly books and pamphlets.
The U.S. may have been unable to pass meaningful climate legislation, but at least some communities have been successful in reducing their carbon footprint in other ways, like cutting down on plastic bags, reports National Geographic. Coast-to-coast and even internationally, cities like San Francisco and Washington, D.C. and entire countries like Italy have either banned plastic bags altogether or imposed taxes on the ubiquitous single-use sacks. The bans have resulted in a major drop in bag use, a big win for the environment since plastic bags clog storm drains, landfills and marine creatures’ bellies.
Angry palm oil activists take a bite out of Girl Scouts
Last week, Girl Scouts USA came under heavy criticism after deleting Facebook comments from its page that condemned the organization for continuing to put palm oil in its cookies, reports Grist. Though Girl Scout Thin Mints are undeniably delicious, what’s also undeniable is that palm oil is responsible for destroying rainforests and endangering forest-dwelling species like orangutans and rhinos. That last fact has left a sour taste in the mouths of activists, who are asking the Girl Scouts to switch to certified sustainable palm oil. So far, the conservation-touting organization hasn’t budged, which ultimately may prove to be a recipe for disaster when it comes time to sell those cookies next year.
Last year, millions of people watched in horror as one man lit his contaminated drinking water on fire in the gas drilling documentary, Gasland. But that stuff only happens in the the movies, right? Wrong. Scientists at Duke University recently published the first-ever study linking natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing to contaminating drinking water so badly that it can be lit on fire, reports ProPublica. The flammable component in the water is methane, which increases to “dangerous levels” when gas drilling wells are placed next to water supplies. This recent finding comes on the heels of a national study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on fracking, expected to be finished next year. In the meantime, find out if natural gas fracking is coming to an area near you.
Michigan Governor and Tea Party mogul Rick Snyder recently broke ranks with his fellow class of newly elected Republican governors by accepting federal funds for high speed rail, reports the UK Guardian. The nearly $200 million will go towards creating a line between Detroit and Chicago, a big win for both ecofriendly and gas price-conscious Midwesterners. The project, scheduled to be finished in 2014, is expected to “spur economic development” and “provide access to a 21st century rail system that will help Michigan citizens compete in a global economy,” wrote Snyder. Meanwhile, after rejecting funds for high speed rail the first time, Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker thankfully did not get his request to get $150 million to purchase new locomotives, which would have effectively kept his state in the 18th century.