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Weekly Grist, 06 Sep 2005 September 06, 2005 4:56 PM

Weekly GristTuesday, 06 Sep 2005
From Liz to Living Libraries
Elizabeth Hurley plans to start an organic baby-food line, a chunk of Portland, Ore. plots to go off the grid, and Swedes check themselves out of libraries, this week on The Grist List.


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Any Report in a Storm
How are journalists covering climate change in Katrina's wake?

There's no write answer. Photo: AP/Andy Newman. Since Hurricane Katrina struck last week, the news has been flooded with stories of life and death, levees and domes. The nation is transfixed, and rightly so. But lurking behind the breaking news is a question on many minds: Did climate change make this storm more intense? Over the last few days, we've invited readers to talk about this and other Katrina-related issues in Gristmill, our blog. We also asked leading environmental reporters for their take. Is climate change a part of the story they're telling? Read all about it.

new in Main Dish: Any Report in a Storm

The Coastest With the Leastest
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 September 06, 2005 4:57 PM

Coastal-ecology degradation contributed to Katrina's destructive force

Far from being solely a "natural" disaster, Hurricane Katrina's impact was compounded by human alterations of the Gulf Coast ecology. Complex levee and canal systems built to protect New Orleans from being flooded by the Mississippi River, and to improve the river as a shipping channel, have also prevented river silt from replenishing the region's marshlands and river delta for centuries. More than a million acres -- 1,900 square miles -- of Louisiana's coastal wetlands have been lost to development and flood controls since the 1930s, along with barrier islands and stands of coastal forest. Louisiana continues to lose about 25 square miles of coastal area each year. These natural barriers could have absorbed some energy and water from Katrina's storm surge and mitigated the hurricane's force; studies estimate that storm surges rise by about a foot for each square mile of wetlands lost. As recently as two weeks ago, Louisiana's senators and the federal government were grappling with funding for wetlands and coastal restoration.

straight to the source: The Wall Street Journal, Sharon Begley, 02 Sep 2005 (access ain't free)

straight to the source: The Independent, David Usborne, 01 Sep 2005

straight to the source: The New York Times, Cornelia Dean and Andrew C. Revkin, 30 Aug 2005

straight to the source: The Times-Picayune, Mark Schleifstein, 27 Aug 2005

Minding Your Business
In debut column for Grist, Makower serves up ways to green cafeterias

Let's do lunch ... right. Copyright: Corbis. Feel funny checking your values at the office door? Here at Grist, we wouldn't know anything about that. Our values follow us to work. Haunt us. Hang over us like heavy, deadening ... wait, what were we talking about? Oh, right, the office. Today we're pleased to announce the debut of our second business column, by sustainable-biz expert Joel Makower. Toiling Point, to be published monthly, takes on the everyday quandaries of the work world and shows those of you who work for a living how to bring some green to your cubicles. Today, Makower tackles the tasty question of how to green your workplace cafeteria. Belly up!

 [ send green star]
 September 06, 2005 4:58 PM

new in Toiling Point: One Tray at a Time

Rays and Confused
Partisan divide stalls California's solar-roofs bill

As its initial bipartisan support devolves into a partisan food fight, California's Million Solar Roofs legislation may die on the vine. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) withdrew his formerly enthusiastic backing for the bill -- which could put $2 billion toward solar-energy generation by 2019 -- after Assembly Democrats inserted labor-friendly amendments. They would require union-scale wages for workers on commercial and industrial installations, and stipulate that future solar installers be licensed electricians, a level of expertise some in the industry consider excessive. State Republicans -- including Sen. John Campbell, an original coauthor of the bill -- say the amendments could increase solar-installation costs by 30 percent. State Democrats say they just want to ensure living wages, and anyway, the changes are negligible because most workers on large installations already receive a "prevailing wage." Each side says the other has to make a move before negotiations on the bill can proceed.

straight to the source: The Sacramento Bee, Kevin Yamamura, 31 Aug 2005

straight to the source: The Mercury News, Barry Cinnamon, 31 Aug 2005

Give a Hoot, Offset a Poot
Umbra on, well, farts

We drive cars, we burn coal, we do all manner of things that change the very air we breathe. But there's a little something else we do (giggle, giggle) that changes the air we breathe. It usually happens after a nice big meal? Are you with us here? A creative gift-giver wonders if he can buy renewable-energy credits to offset his buddy's emissions, and advice maven Umbra Fisk lets fly.

new in Ask Umbra:  [ send green star]
 September 06, 2005 4:59 PM

new in Ask Umbra: Give a Hoot, Offset a Poot

On the Roadless Again
State leaders sue feds to bring back "roadless rule"

Top officials from three Western states are suing the Bush administration in hopes of bringing back a rule banning road building on 58.5 million acres of national forests. The attorneys general of California and New Mexico, along with Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D), filed suit last week in federal court, contending that the administration illegally overturned the "roadless rule" -- enacted by President Clinton in 2001 -- in favor of its own supposedly state-friendly policy, which the plaintiffs say puts water quality and wildlife at risk. Under the Bush revision, states must file petitions with the feds indicating which national forest lands they want protected within their borders -- a costly process involving mapping, assessing impacts on wildlife, and more -- with no assurance that their preferences will be followed. If states don't request protections, the lands are de facto left open to possible development.

straight to the source: The Oregonian, Michael Milstein, 31 Aug 2005

straight to the source: Los Angeles Times, Bettina Boxall, 31 Aug 2005

Carbonated Leverage
Lesley Marcus Carlson, head of Carbonfund, answers Grist's questions

Feeling guilty about your carbon footprint? Lesley Marcus Carlson sells expiation at a bargain price. She's cofounder and president of the nonprofit, which makes it easy for individuals and businesses to buy credits that offset their carbon-dioxide emissions. She's also this week's InterActivist, so send her a question by noon PDT on Wednesday; we'll publish her answers to selected questions on Friday.

new in InterActivist: Carbonated Leverage

 [ send green star]
 September 06, 2005 5:00 PM

Freedom to Pollute Is on the March
New air rules could allow coal-fired plants to pollute more

The Bush administration may finally eviscerate the legal basis for many pesky air-pollution lawsuits against coal-fired power plants. A new proposal being drafted by the U.S. EPA would change the system for monitoring plants' emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide: after a plant modernized its equipment, its permitted emissions levels would be based on pollution produced per hour, instead of the long-established per-year standard. Under this revision of the Clean Air Act's new-source review rules, if upgrades let plants operate for longer hours, they could end up polluting more than they did using older, dirtier equipment. This radical policy shift could undercut dozens of pending state and federal lawsuits seeking to force coal-burning plants to cut back on emissions. New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer (D) said the rule change "would be devastating to all new-source review prosecutions," and pledged to challenge it in court if the administration presses ahead.

straight to the source: The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin, 31 Aug 2005

A Friendly Conservation
Cooperation is the name of the new White House game

Flowers, power. Some people in the conservation community think the Bush administration isn't concerned about protecting the environment. They think the feds don't listen, don't care, and pretty much willfully oppose anything bearing even a hint of verdancy. Sillies! Last week, the White House convened 1,000 conservation professionals and landowners to share one goopy, loopy message: we're listening. Um, what now? Jon Christensen was there, and tells us what they want to hear.

new in Soapbox: A Friendly Conservation

Petal Pusher
Entrepreneur sees vast potential for organic flower industry

Gerald Prolman is a man with an organic-flower plan. The California entrepreneur is not only after a significant chunk of the $20 billion-a-year cut-flower industry in the U.S. -- he's hopeful that cultivating demand for organic bouquets will transform grower practices in Latin America and Africa, where pesticide use in flower agribusiness has long poisoned workers and harmed the environment. Organic Bouquet, Prolman's company, is tracking to earn about $3.5 million this year -- much of i  [ send green star]
 September 06, 2005 5:00 PM

much of it from organic long-stemmed roses. He envisions notching that up to $100 million within the next five years. Some fellow floral merchants are skeptical that Americans will care about going organic with a product they don't eat. But Prolman's optimistic, and has over a decade of entrepreneurial successes to back up his instincts. "I believe, within [about five years] ... you won't be able to sell a flower in America unless it's been deemed sustainable," he says.

straight to the source: San Francisco Chronicle, Dan Fost, 28 Aug 2005

straight to the source: The Wall Street Journal, Joel Millman, 16 Aug 2005 (access ain't free)


Near Ye, Near Ye!, in InterActivist. Local-food ambassador Louella Hill answers readers' questions.

The Ol' Razzle-Nozzle, by Umbra Fisk. Advice on finding a PVC-free garden hose.

Dear Jon Letters, in Letters to the Editor. Readers talk back about poverty, population, and biodiesel.

Cost in Translation, by Christy Harrison. Seriously, now -- why aren't organics getting affordable?

Katrina links. Resources for news and opinion on the hurricane.

Katrina links II. More than you wanted to know about the hurricane aftermath.

Are Lexus lanes a HOT idea? Hybrids in HOV lanes may do more harm than good.

Interview with Alex Steffen, part three. On framing environmentalism.
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