Archive for the ‘environmentalism’ tag
There are too many cool photos in this Big Picture set not to share it. (Also, that sentence seems incorrect, but all the alternatives felt worse.)
Ten things the New York Times think you’re worrying about, but shouldn’t be:
- Killer hot dogs.
- Planet-destroying A/C. (This is only vehicular.)
- The carbon footprint of exotic fruits.
- Cellphones giving you brain cancer.
- Evil plastic bags.
- Killer sharks!
- Declining Arctic Ice. (With this caveat: “You can still fret about long-term trends in the Arctic.”)
- The unverse’s missing mass. (This boys and girls, is what is known as padding.)
- Unmarked wormholes. (This boys and girls, is what is known as padding.)
Actually, says the Green Lantern, if you’re really green you use your pants. If you’re not open to that, the often-ineffective solution is the greener one:
The bottom line is that hand dryers will be the greener choice in about 95 percent of circumstances. If the choice is between using a tiny corner of recycled towel versus a 2,400-watt dryer, then the Lantern can see how the towel will win. But dryers get the nod in most other scenarios, particularly if the dryer is rated at less than 1,600 watts. (Check the specs plate on the side if you’re really curious.)
Abigail Haddad is an excellent contrarian:
Organic food has garnered an extraordinary amount of attention from the media and, along with “local” food, is a darling of foodies and environmentalists, who talk up its civic virtues and benefits to the environment. There’s just one problem with this: agriculture has moved away from small-scale, local, and organic farming because these types of farms are land- and labor-intensive and don’t do a very good job of feeding lots of people. In addition, they are not definitively better for the environment, and their growth would lead to higher food prices than most Americans are willing to pay.
Some more practical points:
If you drive to your local farmers’ market to buy a few items from a farmer who has driven a truck several hours to be there, the number of food miles is relatively small; but compared to conventional agricultural products, the efficiency of each food mile is much lower.
If you drink organic milk, you may picture happy cows wandering in fields full of grass; but in fact, as Michael Poll[a]n discussed in his 2001 New York Times article “Behind the Organic-Industrial Complex,” it’s more likely your organic milk came from cows that spend their days in lots, eating grain and attached to milking machines—just like conventional cows.
The much awaited and debated decision was finally made, but because this is still the George W. Bush administration, no action will be permitted to actually protect the animals.
But in both cases, the Bush administration has parried this legal thrust, saying it had no obligation to address or try to mitigate the cause of the species’ decline — warming waters, in the case of the corals, or melting sea ice, in the case of the bears — or the greenhouse-gas emissions from cars, trucks, refineries, factories and power plants that contribute to both conditions.
Because I enjoy a bit of senseless swimming against the tide, I present Joseph Romm’s argument against Earth Day.
Only bitter environmentalists cling to Earth Day. We need a new way to make people care about the nasty things we’re doing with our cars and power plants. At the very least, we need a new name.
How about Nature Day or Environment Day? Personally, I am not an environmentalist. I don’t think I’m ever going to see the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I wouldn’t drill for oil there. But that’s not out of concern for the caribou but for my daughter and the planet’s next several billion people, who will need to see oil use cut sharply to avoid the worst of climate change.
In his overgrown plea that people grow at least a little of their own food, Michael Pollan eloquently expressed a theory of change I’ve been wrestling with for a while:
Going personally green is a bet, nothing more or less, though it’s one we probably all should make, even if the odds of it paying off aren’t great. Sometimes you have to act as if acting will make a difference, even when you can’t prove that it will. That, after all, was precisely what happened in Communist Czechoslovakia and Poland, when a handful of individuals like Vaclav Havel and Adam Michnik resolved that they would simply conduct their lives “as if” they lived in a free society. That improbable bet created a tiny space of liberty that, in time, expanded to take in, and then help take down, the whole of the Eastern bloc.
Apparently that’s what’s happening. The basics:
At the moment, it looks likely that humans may have only themselves to blame for the rise in jellyfish, through decades of overfishing. There is a certain Schadenfreude in knowing that Spain, home one of the world’s most voracious fishing fleets, is destined to suffer from blooms of jellies—which will presumably do no good at all to its tourist industry. Such pleasure, however, is short-lived when one realises that while Spanish fleets have long benefited from overfishing, we will all ultimately suffer the consequences.
It should come as no surprise that the United States has essentially the lowest “environmental taxes” — as a percent of total tax revenue — of the OECD, an organization of mostly rich countries. I was surprised that New Zealand “beat” the US, and that Australia was solidly in the middle of the pack.
I hate presenting “yesterday’s Op-Eds today,” but that’s what happens with I get behind. Monica Prasad made some interesting — and sure to be controversial — claims in yesterday’s New York Times.
What did Denmark do right? There are many elements to its success, but taken together, the insight they provide is that if reducing emissions is the goal, then a carbon tax is a tax you want to impose but never collect.
This is a hard lesson to learn. The very thought of new tax revenue has a way of changing the priorities of the most hard-headed politicians — even Genghis Khan learned to be peaceful, the story goes, when he saw how much more rewarding it was to tax peasants than to kill them. But if we want lower emissions, the goal of a carbon tax is to prompt producers to change their behavior, not to allow them to continue polluting while handing over cash to the government.
Though you may think a column called Green.view would be unabashedly against the creation of vast artificial islands off the coast of Dubai, you’d only be partially right.
If one’s philosophy, for example is that the ocean should be largely left alone, then whether reclamation provides homes for more fish will not matter. Others, though, may take a more pragmatic view, thinking that the development has essentially created something from nothing. Indeed, many artificial reefs—scuttled ships and aircraft, sunken tyres and shopping trolleys—house marine life in otherwise empty waters.
That conclusion, however, risks oversimplification. While there may be more substrate for coral to grow, the question of whether there is actually more marine life is complicated. Do artificial structures in the ocean actually promote more life, or do they simply attract it? Dr Love reckons some reefs do one, some do the other and some do both. So while the artificial reefs have certainly created new habitats, it isn’t clear whether this is as a net benefit for the region.
Nuclear power’s — I hope — coming back. In The American Duncan Currie says so. And though this isn’t new news (The Economist put it on the cover months ago), Currie does a good job rounding up opinions and facts on the issue. That does not, however, make the piece a breeze to read.
The Whitman-Moore coalition supports further research into renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal power. But it counsels a realistic assessment: geothermal is often impractical and capital-intensive, while wind and solar remain “intermittent and unreliable.” According to CASEnergy, “A wind farm would need 235 square miles to produce the same amount of electricity as a 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plant. The nuclear plant would occupy less than one-half of 1 percent of that area. A 1,000-megawatt power plant can meet the needs of a city the size of Boston or Seattle.”
The most recent Tech.view column over at The Economist is both long and meandering. Though that makes it hard to draw a single conclusion from it, it’s got a lot of interesting tidbits about America’s crazy policies for determining if a car or fuel is “green.” Take this, for example, which explains how CAFE standards are calculated (something I didn’t know), and how E85’s even worse than higher fuel prices:
Car companies in America get a fuel-economy credit for every flex-fuel vehicle they sell. The government rates the fuel economy of flex-fuel vehicles at about 165% the miles per gallon (mpg) they would get on straight petrol. In reality, vehicles running on E85 get 25-30% fewer mpg than their petrol equivalents.
As it costs only $200 to turn a conventional car or light truck into a flex-fuel vehicle, the industry can save itself billions in potential fines that would otherwise accrue for failing to meet the government’s CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) requirements. CAFE is the sales-weighted average mpg figure for all the cars or light trucks a manufacturer sells in any given model year.
Who knew electronic waste could be compelling? Jon Mooallem fascinating and wide-ranging piece about what happens after cellphones are thrown away, in this weeks New York Times Magazine, did it for me. I’ll call it compelling.
As with most environmental issues, then, no option for getting rid of a phone is free of trade-offs, and nothing is as simple as we’d wish. But the truth is, few of America’s phones are turned in for “recycling” in the first place. (It’s unclear how few. The figure of less than 1 percent, put forward in a groundbreaking report on phone recycling by the nonprofit Inform five years ago, is still repeated. ReCellular estimates that it’s more like 10 percent now.) While a phone’s small size may give even normally conscientious consumers a dispensation to slip it into the trash, there seems to be a more typical solution, what ABI Research estimates nearly half of Americans do: stick the thing in a desk drawer and leave it there.