Weekly Mulch: How to Avoid Fracking and Oil Spills in 2011

Editor’s Note: We’re posting the Weekly Mulch on Thursday this week because of the holidays. It’ll return to its regular Friday morning posting next week. Until then, Happy New Year!

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

2010 was a disappointing year for environmentalists.

This was the year Congress was supposed to pass climate change legislation, but each and every time Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seemed on the verge of pushing the bill forward, the effort fell short. In April, off the coast of Louisiana, the Deepwater Horizon explosion led to one of the worst environmental disasters in the country’s history, and in the aftermath, neither President Barack Obama nor Congress has pushed for the sort of strong regulations that would rein in the oil industry and the risk it poses to coastal ecosystems.

Meanwhile, a newly invigorated natural gas industry has been plowing forward with a controversial drilling technique called hydrofracking. Although the Environmental Protection Agency has committed to studying the environmental impacts of the practice, it’s unclear at this point how much leeway the industry will be given to use techniques that have contaminated water and air across the country. Author and environmental activist Bill McKibben had trouble convincing the president to take the small symbolic act of reinstalling a solar panel on the White House roof. And in November, the country elected a group of lawmakers who are skeptical that climate change even exists.

Hope springs eternal

But the news was not all bad, as Change.org’s Jess Leber reports. In California, green-minded voters defeated a proposition that would have rolled back the state’s ambitious climate law. Coal-fired power plants are closing in states like Oregon and Colorado, and mountaintop removal coal mining is losing its funding.  And cities like New York, Washington D.C., Denver and Minneapolis made it easier for their inhabitants to use bikes as a primary mode of transportation.

“All over the world, activists are fighting in their states, towns and cities to do right by the environment,” Leber writes. “They are also moving to pressure the corporate world. So while, given the results of Election Day in the U.S., progress in Congress will be an uphill battle, I’m confident there will be even more victories to report this time next year.”

A year can be a long time. Consider, for instance, Steph Larsen’s reflections on her farm’s first year. “I feel like I’ve lived a decade in the last 12 months,” Larsen writes in Grist. Last year, her pasture did not exist, and the farm buildings on her land had sat unused for years. But in the past 12 months, she’s grown cherries and tomatoes and squash, kept chickens and hunted for their eggs, and raised livestock that later became her dinner.

Larsen’s goals for her farm are modest: “to grow food for her household and community.” It can be hard sometimes to see how individual choices like hers can make a difference while global leaders cannot agree on how to reduce carbon emissions and industry continues to exploit and pollute the environment. But as Winslow Myers, the author of Living Beyond War, writes at Truthout, “the cause-and-effect relationship between what I do personally in my daily life and those planet-wide challenges has become infinitely clearer” over the past 50 years:

Now we can see how the two are connected – between my diet and the effect of industrial agriculture on the land, between my energy consumption and global climate change, between the chemicals in my laundry detergent and the health of the oceans – and between my political commitments and the world-destroying weapons built with my tax dollars….the reality is that I am so deeply connected to the whole entity that I am responsible for it, answerable to it.

Local leaders step into the breach

It’s true that individual decisions to turn down the heat, or eat local food, or bike instead of drive cannot turn back global warming. But in aggregate, they do make an impact. And although nationally and internationally, politicians are finding it difficult to create strong policies on climate change, that would reduce emissions, not all lawmakers are avoiding the issues. Franke James’ visual essay on climate change at Yes! Magazine puts it like this: “Don’t be fooled by the global leaders loafing. Local leaders and cities are making plans to adapt to climate change (because it’s affecting them NOW!) “

And ultimately, these sorts of decisions on local and individual levels do send a signal to leaders that their constituents care about keeping the planet healthy, care about preserving our environmental resources. To that end, check out these ideas for individual action from the staff and readers of Mother Jones.

And next year? Leaders like Bill McKibben are working to create a global movement around climate change, a people-driven movement that will convince legislators and negotiators that it is incumbent upon them to act. Look for them to start making lots of noise in 2011.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Mulch: How to Avoid Gobbling Your Way Through the Holidays

Editor’s Note: Happy Thanksgiving from the Media Consortium! This week, we aren’t stopping The Audit, The Pulse, The Diaspora, or The Mulch, but we are taking a bit of a break. Expect shorter blog posts, and The Diaspora and The Mulch will be posted on Wednesday afternoon, instead of their usual Thursday and Friday postings. We’ll return to our normal schedule next week.

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

Tomorrow marks the day that, as a nation, we put aside our usual habits and begin a weeks-long push to eat, buy, and generally consume as much as possible in the spirit of the holiday season. Thanksgiving and Black Friday are only the first sprint, the gateway to latkes, holiday party hors d’oeuvres, Secret Santa shopping, and party-dress buying that will culminate in a hangover after a booze-soaked New Year’s Eve.

There’s really no escape, and to some extent, who would want to miss out? (Cranberry sauce! Christmas cookies!) But it’s not exactly a sustainable lifestyle, even for six weeks. Here are some guideposts to help light the way through.

Turkey trouble

A sad fact about commercially raised turkeys: Even the ones pardoned by the President are destined to live short lives. As Jill Richardson writes at AlterNet, “The Broad-Breasted Whites who receive presidential pardons have gone to Disneyland to peacefully live out the remainder of their lives since 2005, but as of last Thanksgiving, half of the pardoned turkeys did not survive long enough to celebrate a second Thanksgiving.”

It’s not news that commercial methods of raising poultry give rise to creatures that are more fit to die than to live. So think about buying a heritage bird this year.

Or, go veggie! Carol Deppe’s ode to potatoes, also at AlterNet, is enough to convince the most hardened meat-eater that tubers are one of the best ways to thrive. For a little more diversity of Thanksgiving-specific options, peruse this New York Times gallery which has veggie options good enough to make meat-eaters jealous.

But wait, there’s more!

  • In the past few weeks, reusable grocery bags have been tarred as germ-incubators. But before leaving canvas bags behind for epic Thanksgiving grocery runs, consider where those reports originated. As Jessica Belsky writes at Change.org:

Earlier this year, the ACC [American Chemistry Council]—which represents such upstanding citizens as Exxon and Chevron—paid for a study that concluded that unwashed reusable bags can be contaminated with bacteria. Let’s remember that these are the same folks who recently lobbied to keep the hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) in baby bottles. Big Plastic is using fear-mongering tactics to get health-conscious environmentalists to switch back to disposable, single-use plastic grocery bags.

Plus, there’s a simple solution to germy bags: wash them.

Want to enjoy a real savings stampede? Consider celebrating Buy Nothing Day. Enjoy a day without buying. Give your cash and credit cards a day off with you. Store them in the refrigerator next to your Thanksgiving leftovers. Trade, barter, and share. Enjoy the luxury of living the money-free life for a day.

Of course, Christmas and Hanukkah presents have to bought at some point. Here are two green-friendly gift ideas: via Earth Focus, Fate of the World, a video game that challenges players to save the world from climate change; or via Care2, for those of us who must drive a car and have cash to burn, a Porsche. Apparently every single model will soon be available as a hybrid.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

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