Saturday, November 12, 2011


Coca-Cola objects to a plastic water bottle ban at the Grand Canyon, and the National Park Service caves:
Mr. Martin, a 35-year veteran of the park service who had risen to the No. 2 post in 2003, was disheartened by the outcome. “That was upsetting news because of what I felt were ethical issues surrounding the idea of being influenced unduly by business,” Mr. Martin said in an interview. “It was even more of a concern because we had worked with all the people who would be truly affected in their sales and bottom line, and they accepted it.”

As noted, concessionaires were on board with the ban, despite the potential economic costs:
“This is a big issue for us, and we are trying to proactively address it,” he said in an interview for an article in Thursday’s paper on a decision by the National Park Service director to scuttle a planned water-bottle ban that park personnel, Xanterra and its fellow concessionaire, Delaware North, had spent months preparing for.

“We would like to see the ban of all petroleum-derived plastic water bottles in national parks,” Mr. Lane said.

Levi Strauss seeks to minimize water use.

Fracking fouls aquifers.

And fracking is causing tensions between gas companies and hunters in Pennsylvania.

Speaking of water, our nation's water infrastructure is being ignored.

The jury is still out on whether the Marine Stewardship Council's seal of approval is actually benefitting aquatic ecosystems.

One way to help aquatic ecosystems? Eat invasive species. Next time I'm in New Haven, I'll have to check out Miya's:
The dish “kanibaba”—made with Asian shore and Dungeness crabs and spinach, rolled up tightly in potato skin, infused with Asian shore crab stock, and topped with toasted havarti cheese and lemon dill sauce—is now one of the most popular items at Lai’s restaurant, Miya’s, in downtown New Haven. “We run out of them at this point,” he says. “We go out and get thousands of them, and we sell thousands of them every week or so.” Kanibaba has become the signature dish of his “Invasive Species Menu,” a chapter in Miya’s 60-page menu that reads like a manifesto on sustainability, spirituality, and the creative process.

“Clean coal” is still a pie in the sky.

Being in compliance of EPA rules doesn't necessarily mean that the pollution is under control:
Federal rules establish a unique class of polluter for cement kilns, like the massive one in Chanute, that burn hazardous waste for fuel. The law allows them to emit greater amounts of some toxic chemicals into the air than the hazardous-waste incinerators specially designed to burn the very same chemicals—including industrial solvents, aluminum-plant waste, and other toxic leftovers from the production of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and oil.

When operating at capacity, the Chanute plant has discharged into the air more than 500 pounds of mercury a year, though the economic downturn has cut operations and mercury emissions the last three years. Mercury is one of the nearly 200 toxic substances singled out in the bipartisan effort to toughen the Clean Air Act two decades ago, and the EPA still struggles to limit it. Unlike hazardous-waste incinerators, cement kilns built or rebuilt before 2005 can release 43 percent more lead and cadmium, as much as twice the hydrocarbons, close to four times the hydrogen chloride and chlorine gas, and twice the particulate matter, according to EPA standards. Altogether, 13 kilns in six states operate under those standards and can emit toxics at those levels.

The Obama Administration postpones a decision on Keystone XL and Bill McKibben is pleased, yet it seems the decision to postpone is based on further review of the proposed route through Nebraska's Sand Hills and not larger concerns about climate change:
The State Department, in a conference call with reporters, said the review of the Canadian pipeline project was prompted entirely by public unease over its proposed route through the Sand Hills, a vast expanse of prairie grass seen as a treasure by Nebraskans.

"This message about the Nebraska Sand Hills has been coming strong and with increasing intensity," Kerri-Ann Jones, who heads the bureau of ocean and environment, said.

Oberlin College professor David Orr is leading an effort to make Oberlin, OH, a sustainable model for other communities:
The Oberlin Project, as it's called, joins town and gown to create a resilient community for a post-fossil-fuel era. When asked to describe the project, Mr. Orr conjures a picture of life in Oberlin—a city of 8,000 residents and students, 40 miles outside of Cleveland—many years into the future: The town and the college would be powered by renewable energy, with a smattering of new and renovated green buildings at the town's core—the first among them paid for by the college. A "greenbelt" of farms would pump food, wood, and fiber into the city, while a steady stream of money from the college and small businesses, like restaurants and furniture manufacturers, would flow back out to the farms. The college, the local community college, the local vocational school, and the city's elementary and secondary schools would rejigger their programs to prepare students to live in the future: a world short on oil, wracked by unstable weather, relying increasingly on sustainable design, regional industries, and local know-how. The town itself would be a laboratory for a new way of life.

“What colleges and universities can do, it seems to me, is serve as genuine anchor institutions,” Mr. Orr says. “Intellectual leadership is going to be really important for moving forward in an era that is going to be radically different.”

Henry Farrell and Cosma Shalizi on the problems with nudging and libertarian paternalism:
[D]emocratic arrangements, which foster diversity, are better at solving problems than technocratic ones. Libertarian paternalism is seductive because democratic politics is a cumbersome and messy business. Even so, democracy is far better than even the best-intentioned technocracy at discovering people's real interests and how to advance them. It is also, obviously, better at defending those interests when bureaucrats do not mean well.

While democratic institutions need reform to build in dialogue between citizens and experts, they should not be bypassed. By cutting dialogue and diversity for concealed and unaccountable decision-making, "nudge" politics attacks democracy's core.

Polarization of our political parties means greater partisan polarization on the Supreme Court.

Pretty pictures taken by National Geographic readers.

Pankaj Mishra on the war-mongering, empire-loving, neo-imperialist hack that is Niall Ferguson.

Yesterday was Nigel Tufney Day. What songs warrant being heard extra-loud? I'd put pretty much Nick Cave's entire discography on the list, particularly “Get Ready For Love,” along with most anything by The Stooges and the Pixies.

SFJ on The Fall's Mark E. Smith.

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