Sierra Daily: May 2011
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32 posts from May 2011

May 17, 2011

USA Today: Climate-Change Deniers As Bad As Birthers


It's instructive to realize that it took the President of the United States publicly displaying his longform birth certificate to finally turn birtherism from a topic solemnly discussed on the Sunday talk shows to a topic of general ridicule. Is it too much to hope for that something similar may come of the report published last week by the National Research Council? "America's Climate Choices" didn't exactly beat around the bush of climate science:

"Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by human activities, and poses significant risks to humans and the environment."

Could it be the pin that punctures climate-change denialism? A great editorial in today's USA Today argues that it should be:

. . . These developments ought to leave the deniers in the same position as the "birthers," who continue to challenge President Obama's American citizenship — a vocal minority that refuses to accept overwhelming evidence. . . . The latest scientific report provides clarity that denial isn't just a river in Egypt. It paves a path to a future fraught with melting ice caps, rising sea levels, shifting agricultural patterns, droughts and wildfires.

--Paul Rauber

Budweiser Wants You to Grow a Beard. Do It Anyway.

Is there anything more manly than a great beard? Probably not. As any hockey fan will tell you, a scraggly beard is the key to winning late in the playoffs. It's also one of the main requirements for male environmental writers and reporters. Witness Ed Abbey, and Sierra Daily's own corral of bearded, whisky drinking, macho bloggers.

So this writer is not surprised to see the admen behind Budweiser –- that brand synonymous with male sports and bland beer –- turning to the beard to raise attention about saving water. After all, if you're going to waste all that H20 on watered-down beer you might as well save a little at your sink each morning. (Perhaps they should advertize that they are preserving hops, too, through the weakness of their brew.)

Cynicism never saved a gallon of water on its own, though. (Cynicism, from our reporting, never successfully wooed a woman at a bar, either, Budweiser or no Budweiser in hand.) So perhaps Budweiser is to be given some credit for alerting men everywhere to the problem of water scarcity and the rugged beauty of a full-grown beard.

For all those men putting down the razor this June, take a lesson from John Muir. He knew long ago that the beard is mightier than the saw.

--Kyle Boelte

The Owl and the Pussycat

Edward O. Wilson is famous for (among much else) his "biophilia" hypothesis--an unconscious, deep love that humans have for other living beings. But why should it be just for humans? Strange and unexpected animal pairs have become an Internet staple: a deer and a gosling, for instance. Owen the hippo and Mzee the tortoise now seem to have become their own industry. In this latest example, one would be hard put to describe the connection as anything other than friendship. As is often the case in such stories, very little information is provided, but the Catalan pop music provides at least a geographical reference. (Sorry about the ad, a sure sign that Fum and Gebra are on their way to Internet stardom.)


--Paul Rauber


May 16, 2011

Note to Boss: Working From Home Saves the Planet!

With a hat tip to business- and sustainability-writer Marc Gunther comes this handy infographic that gives your boss all the Earth-saving reasons he or she ever needs to let you work from home -- in your flannel pajamas and bunny slippers, of course:

Telework 2.0 

-- Reed McManus

Fastest Growing Industries: Wind, Solar, Prisons


The future looks bright for solar power, breezy for wind energy, and, uh, not so good for dead trees. The Wall Street Journal reports on the Top 10 Thriving Industries, based on growth in the past decade and projected growth up to 2016. Wind power scores the number two slot, solar power number seven. One might hope to find fossil fuels in the companion list of Top 10 Dying Industries, but instead--nestled next to record stores and photofinishing--is newspaper publishing at number three.

One more notable growth industry: Correctional facilities rank ninth out of ten, with forecast growth of 7.5 percent in the next five years. Could it be that the market is building in an expectation of prosecutions of the Dirty Energy executives who are making our kids sick?

--Paul Rauber

image by iStock

May 13, 2011

Oil Company Execs Visit Their Money on Capitol Hill

Yesterday the CEOs of BP America, ConocoPhillips, Shell Oil, Chevron, and ExxonMobil appeared before the Senate Finance Committee to defend their billions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when they're raking in first quarter profits of more than $35 billion. ConocoPhillips CEO James Mulva was ripped for a press release his company had sent out calling attempts to end the subsidies "un-American":

“Right now we have a huge deficit. And that budget deficit, even though we don’t like it, it says we should cut aid to students who need to go to college,” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., told the oil executives. “And it boils down to priorities as we have to get the deficit to a certain level. Sitting in our shoes, Mr. Mulva, do you think that your subsidy is more important than the financial aid we give to students who go to college?”

Mr. Mulva didn't really respond, as is usual in these hearings, and despite the sound and fury the votes to end oil-industry subsidies appear to be lacking. This morning MapLight.org sent around a very simple chart that goes a long way to explaining why (click for larger image):

 Methodology: Includes monetary and non-monetary contributions from Jan. 1, 2001-Dec. 31, 2010 to candidate campaign committees of legislators serving in the House and Senate on May 12, 2011. Contributions data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics ( OpenSecrets.org).

--Paul Rauber

May 11, 2011

Newt Gingrich, the Environment's Best Fiend

Newt Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced today that he is running for president in 2012, and just in case you were somehow swayed by his 2007 plea for environmental bipartisanship, A Contract with the Earth, you may want to take a look at today’s Daily Beast story on Newt’s war on the EPA. Gingrich wants to abolish the agency created by fellow Republican Richard Nixon in 1970, and his political action committee, American Solutions for Winning the Future, has buckets of coal, power, and offshore-drilling-industry money to push the agenda: $1,550,000 received in 2010 alone. (Actually, Gingrich’s group claims it only wants to “replace” the EPA with a “new and improved Environmental Solutions Agency” – which Grist neatly pointed out back in January is basically an attempt to replace standards and regulations that work with voluntary measures and incentives that don’t.

Not that there's a groundswell of support for Newt's idea. According to a CNN poll in April,  71 percent of Americans think the government should continue to fund the EPA and its efforts "to enforce regulations on greenhouse gases and other environmental issues."

--Reed McManus

Cat-1 Bike to Work Day

It's "Bike, Walk, and Bus Week" in Missoula, Montana, the highlight of which seems to be the "Pedal Versus Metal Challenge," wherein cyclists compete with car drivers to visit six sites scattered around Missoula in the shortest amount of time. This year's winners: Sierra contributor Aaron Teasdale and sons Silas and Jonah, who competed on a triple tandem. Charming video from Montana's NBC affiliate here. (Apparent link below purely decorative.)  ----Paul Rauber




"Yo! We're Climate Scientists"

Climsci Many methods have been proposed for dealing with climate-change deniers; see, e.g. Gordy Slack's "Climate Scientists Fight Back" in the March/April Sierra, which talks about a plan to have a "rapid response team" of climate experts trained to counter misinformation. It's a fine, rationalistic approach: Surely, once confronted with superior information, people will draw the proper conclusions, right? We'd surely like to think so. But sometimes it helps for arguments to be made on a different level--and here comes Australia's ABC1 to do just that. Warning: Please do not watch if you might be offended by strong language.


Dan Ilic and Duncan Elms, with production by Brendan Woithe at Colony NoFi.

--Paul Rauber

Bicycle AT Work Day!

Everyone knows that tomorrow's Bicycle to Work Day (or at least it is in our San Francisco Bay Area: YBTWDMV). But with this handy invention, the PIT-IN, you can bicycle AT work! Truly, "This table will open up a new life style of bicycle."

Bicycle chair 
--Paul Rauber

 UPDATE: Twitter follower @twoeightnine points out that you can't actually cycle on the PIT-IN, just sit on it. All the pain of cycling, none of the pleasure.

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