A few months back we reported on a campaign led in North America by Richard Cellarius of the Sierra Club to discourage the new conservative government in New Zealand to back away from a plan it had floated to open some of its national parks to mining, for coal and other minerals.
Well, sometimes you win one.
Today (July 20) comes news from Dr. Cellarius that the Kiwi government caved. It will not move to open any of the parks to mining. Many international groups and individuals weighed in to oppose the scheme (including a few of you, perhaps), along with a reported 37,000 New Zealanders. Bravo!
The indispensable Earth Policy Institute reports that emissions of carbon dioxide by wealthy countries including the United States fell a tiny fraction in the last year, which is welcome news. While China passed the U.S. as the biggest emitter of CO2 a couple of years ago, a recent study out of Stanford calculated that if you take into account the fraction of China's emissions that are the result of manufacturing various items for export to the U.S.
I wondered what was up when this press release popped up in my in box. It's head reads "Bottled Water Companies Applaud Virginia Governor for Reversing Ban on Commonwealth’s Purchase of Bottled Water for Official Functions," and goes on to outline how many people are employed in the bottled water industry in the commonwealth.
Many studies recently have indicated convincingly that tap water in most places is as safe as and tastes every bit as good as bottled water, and the number of plastic water bottles thrown away each year is simply staggering—upwards of thirty billion bottles a year in the U.S. alone. My guru on all things water is Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute. His recent book, Bottled and Sold, lays it all out in simple and compelling terms. Putting water in plastic bottles creates jobs, sure, and enriches the people behind the International Bottled Water Association. But mining and burning coal creates jobs, as does cleaning up oil spills. Job creation is important, but the kind of jobs created is pretty important as well.
The Obama administration, having been thwarted in its attempts to declare a six-month moratorium on new deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico yesterday issued a new moratorium order, citing new information on the causes of the recent well blowout and other matters. According to a question-and-answer news release from the department:
"What are the differences between the May 28 deepwater drilling moratorium and the new deepwater drilling suspension?
Wes Jackson, a plain-spoken Kansan, has been preaching agriculture reform for at least 30 years—and not only preaching but also doing ground-breaking (pardon) research at his Land Institute near Salina. Wes's basic observation is that a system such as ours, heavily reliant on wheat and corn and other grains, which requires plowing and starting from seed every year, needs fixing. It requires heavy doses of pesticides, which contaminate water and sicken field workers. It squanders topsoil, losing it to erosion and the wind.
Ed Abbey, never one to mince words, once observed, "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell."
Gus Speth, a founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Resources Institute; one-time head of the United Nations Development Program; former dean of the Yale graduate environment program; and soon-to-be professor at Vermont Law is a little less strident but no less tough: "Economic growth may be the world’s secular religion, but for much of the world it is a god that is failing—underperforming for most of the world’s people and, for those in affluent societies, now creating more problems than it is solving."
The quote comes from a long piece in Solutions magazine that ought to be read and pondered by every policymaker, every politician, every economist, and every voter in the world. Will it be? Of course not. Secular religions are rarely challenged, but this one has to be, and soon.
One more quote. Dave Brower had his own spin, "economic growth is a sophisticated way of stealing from future generations."
If we have any hope of reversing global warming and breaking our addiction to fossil fuels, we will need to find and pay attention to geniuses who can discard traditional thinking and biases and find a way through the current mess to a future energy economy based on efficiency and renewables.
In 1970, just in time for the first Earth Day, Friends of the Earth and Ballantine Books published The Environmental Handbook, which eventually sold more than a million copies. I had a short chapter in there titled Ecopornography, or How to Spot an Ecological Phony. The idea was to try to help people recognize what we might call greenwashing--image ads from big companies that gloss over, lie about, downplay, or otherwise sweep their environmental crimes under the rug.
I am not a great student of TV news, but I watch a little almost every night, and I've noticed something that makes me wonder about how stuff works in this day and age. I rather enjoy MSNBC--Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow,Chris Matthews. It's refreshing to have someone abandon fake objectivity and cut loose. Not that they're always right--that is, always agreeing with me--but they're always intelligent and passionate.