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Sierra Daily: September 2012
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14 posts from September 2012

Sep 10, 2012

Goodbye, Larry Gibson

GibsonWest Virginia environmental hero Larry Gibson died Sunday of a heart attack while working on his cabin on his beloved Kayford Mountain. He was 66. Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, has written a lovely tribute to him on our Compass blog. She recalls the taste she got, while on a tour of mountaintop removal site with him, of the constant attempts at intimidation that accompanied his efforts:

I'll never forget one of my later trips to Kayford, when a mining company pickup suddenly veered off the mine site and climbed an impossibly steep pile of rubble to park a foot away from our group and tell us that we needed to leave, for our own safety. Larry was cool and calm - he didn't pick a fight, but he didn't rush us away either. The mining representative's concern for Larry's well-being seemed laughable given that Larry's family property was surrounded by mountaintop removal on three sides. And this garden-variety intimidation certainly wouldn't faze Larry - it was nothing compared to what he had been subjected to over the years, including having his home shot at and ransacked, his truck run off the road (including once with a Washington Post reporter on board), and his dog shot and killed.

In spite of it all, Larry never backed down.

Readers of Sierra will recall Gibson from Daniel McGlynn's moving story in our March/April issue, "Move Not These Bones," about the family cemeteries in Appalachia destroyed by mountaintop-removal mining.

In June 2007, Gibson was giving a tour—something he continues to do—for people who'd come to Kayford to see what mountaintop removal looked like. From a distance he witnessed "a dozer going through a little green island in the middle of a wasteland." That was 300-year-old Stover cemetery (the family name of Gibson's great-grandmother), a small, forested patch with hundreds of graves that had survived nine years of mining. All around it were hard-cut highwalls, the cliffs created when heavy machinery scooped away earth and coal.

Gibson watched as the bulldozer pushed half the cemetery over a highwall. "The only other time when I felt that anger and pain was when I was seven and my brother was killed," he says. "I was going to get my guns." The full extent of the damage remains unknown because Gibson has not been allowed access to that part of the mountain. "Who does that? Who destroys a cemetery?" he says. "Now my people are part of the topsoil."

How to honor Larry Gibson's memory? You can act now to help us get Beyond Coal.

Photo by Shawn Poynter

HS_PaulRauberFINAL (1)

PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and father of two. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber.

 

Sep 07, 2012

Hippos in the Rhine?

Antarctica thp73 iStock_000014917361XSmallA team of British scientists wants to know what lies beneath. They’ll be drilling into the sediment of Lake Ellsworth, which is covered by the 1.6-mile-thick West Antarctic ice sheet, on a quest that could show the risks of quicker sea-level rise caused by climate change.

The sediments may include bits of ancient seashells that could be dated to reveal when the ice sheet last broke up. No one knows the age of the West Antarctic ice. But if scientists conclude that it broke up in a naturally warmer period about 125,000 years ago, alarm bells could ring. As Reuters puts it: “Most worrying would be if the ice collapsed in the Eemian period 125,000 years ago when temperatures were slightly higher than now, hippopotamuses bathed in the Rhine and world sea levels were 4 to 6 meters higher than today.” The news service puts Miami’s hippo fans on notice: “Experts say the West Antarctic ice sheet over the lake contains enough ice to raise world sea levels by 3-5 meters if it ever broke up - a threat to low-lying areas from Bangladesh to Florida, from Buenos Aires to Shanghai.”

"Society needs to know the risk of a collapse," said Martin Siegert of the University of Bristol, the expedition’s principal investigator. “One way to find out is to know when it last happened."

Image by iStock/thp73.

HS_ReedMcManusReed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”

Sep 06, 2012

The Holy e

Renault italie 33266_1_5This week, Pope Benedict XVI got to strut his environmental cred in a brand-new electric vehicle. Donated by Nissan-Renault Alliance CEO Carlos Ghosn, the customized Renault Kangoo van with a 44-kilowatt motor and lithium-ion battery can travel 105 miles between charges.

Unlike the familiar bulletproof Mercedes “popemobile” used for trips outside the Vatican, the Renault will be used on the 136 acre Castel Gandolfo, the pope’s summer residence southeast of Rome. Mercedes is reportedly designing a plug-in hybrid version of the popemobile after the Vatican decided that the pope’s dream of a solar-powered ride was unfeasible. The Vatican has already installed photovoltaic cells on its main auditorium and participates in a reforestation effort to offset its carbon emissions. 

Image: Renault Italie.

Blog photo   HS_ReedMcManus (1)Reed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”

Sep 05, 2012

"Silent Spring"--Told In Vanity License Plates

SilentSpringeThis year is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, the book that alerted the nation to the dangers of organochlorine compounds like DDT, PCBs, and dioxin. In 1994 Sierra published this retelling of that environmental classic in an entirely new way--with every word taken from a genuine California vanity license plate. If the monkeys who randomly type out the works of Shakespeare learn to drive, this story might zip past in the fast lane on the Hollywood Freeway.Thanks to Daniel Nussbaum, with whose kind permission we reprint his opus. (For readers unfamiliar with the genre, Nussbaum suggests thinking phonetically and reading aloud. Remember what you learned in the second grade: when in doubt, sound it out.) --Paul Rauber

ITHAPNZ INA TOWN, MAYBEE SOMTING LYKE URTOWN. LIFE DUZ KARRYON 1 SEASON FOLLOIN ANOTHER. HAPPI SUMMRS CUMNGO. AUTUMN DAZZLES, ITDOES AMAZE. WNTRTYM, WEEE CRITTRS KNOWHOW TO FIND BERRIES INSNOW.

    SPRINGE. LONBHLD TFIIS SPELL, ANEV1L1, DUZZ TAKEOVR. WEREVIR FOLKS LOOK AROUND: DEDDUX, DDED CHLXX, NOCOWS YN ZAT MEADOW OUTHERE, SHEEP GETSICK ANDIE. AA STRANGE BLIGHT CHANGEZ EVRYTNG.

    WEIRDED OWT MDS SEE PATIENS GOUNDAR INA2ND. XUBRANT KIDDOZ GGONE LIKEDAT THEDOCS SED, "UMM, DONTASK MMMME. II CNTXPLN IT."

    ITSO QUIETT, INONE NOTKOOL SORTOF WAY. THBIRDS, 4EXAMPL. WHAHAPN 2EM? NONE ARRIVE AT BAKYARD FEEDERS. DIS SPRNG HAZ NNNOE VOICES. AMS B4 DYD THROB WYTHE THA DAWNNNN CHORUS: ROBINZZ, JJAYZ, DOVES, WRENS ETALIA DDID 4MERLY SINGOUT. THSTIME NADA. SILENCE, DATSALL.

    WITCHS DIDIT ORR 4N AGENTS ORELSE PERVRSE ALIEN BEINGS. UTHNKSO? NOPE. ZEE FOOLISH PEEPLE MADE THEIR OWN AGONEE.

    AFTER WWII AMERIKA WENTMAD 4AAA NEWTOY: KLORN8D HYDRO CARBON INSECT KILLER POISONZ. SUDDNLY ALLOVER THEUS THE HIEST VALUE CAME2 BE THIS1: DEDBUGS. NOTHNG MUST GET NTHEWAY OFD PERSONN WITH DA SPRYGUN. IPH PETS DROPDED AND RAKOONZ, BARNYRD ANIMLZ, LARKS, POSSUMM, PHEASNT PLUS SALMON DO2, THENN TUFFF. WEDID TURN OUR F8 OVER2EZ 2SOME GUYZ ONA DETHTRP WHOO KEEPON SPEAKIN 2WORDS: SPRAY MORE.

    WAR ONTHE FIREANT BRINGS DVST8TN 2TEXAS, LUZIANA, ALABAMA, GEORGIA, ANNDE FLORIDA. ONE ALLOUT REKLISS CAMPAIN TTO ELIMN8 JAPNEEZ BEETLES SHATERD ECOLOGI INTHE MIDWST. NN DETROIT, POWDER LIKE DDT ONLY ALOT WORSE, FELL INNA DREDFUL BLZZZRD. MEANTYM MANYA CHEMICL DEALER GOES, "HUCARES! WERRICH!"

    BYYYY SEEKING 2CONQUR JUSTA HANDFUL OF UNWANTD SPECIES, INTLGNT PEOPLE DIDD ALLOW POYZYN 2B SPREAD EVRYWHR ONEARTH. H20, SOIL, PLANTZ, AMEBAS, ZE REMOTE ARCTIK PLRBAER: ALLOFEM TAINTD. EVN THEMOST LLITTLE NEON8 CHILDE HAS CHMICLS INSYDE.

    AAAAA DEDLY TOXXIC RAIN FALLS DOWN NONSTOP ALLTHAT KILLN. 4WHAT? UPNCOMN INSECTE STRAINS LAFF OFF WWHATT USED2B LETHL. DUSTEM 2DMX 1SUMMER; NXTYEAR, THERBAK.

    SUPREAM COURT MEMBER WILLYUM OH DOUGLAS WROTEIT: 4A SOCIETI 2BJUST, WEHAVE2 SUPPORT HUMNRTS, NOTT 4GETN OURRRR RITE2 ANATRL NVRNMNT.

    ENUFFF AROGANT THINKN. ENUFF BEHAVIN CAVEMAN STYYLE. IF WEDONT GETOVER THISS FIX8TED NEED 2CONTRL NATURE, SMDAY SOON RPLANET WILLL BEDEAD.


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