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Apr 24, 2009
April 22, 2009


Water is the natural resource we take most for granted--we never realize how important it is until its use is restricted.  Atlanta came within 90 days of running out of water in 2007, California will not have enough water for 38 million people, and 39 of the lower 48 states are fighting with their neighbors over water while well-intentioned ethanol production is literally sucking the water from wells across the nation.

Robert Glennon's Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What To Do About It, paints a very realistic picture of a problem America has yet to acknowledge--our rapidly diminishing fresh water supply. And new demands for water, particularly the enormous supply needed for development, ethanol and energy production, and giant computer "server farms" across the country, will only worsen the crisis.

The only way for America to avoid this impending disaster is to learn to value water as both a commodity and a fundamental human right. An understanding of the heady extravagances and everyday inefficiencies that waste scarce water is crucial to addressing the issue in the years to come. Robert Glennon is one of the few clear voices on this issue and his new book is a critical addition to anyone's library. Unquenchable is essential reading to fully understand the extent of our water crisis and what we can and must do now to stem it.

Charles Savitt
President, Island Press


Desert clash in West Over Solar Power, Water
A westward dash to power electricity-hungry cities by cashing in on the desert's most abundant resource - sunshine - is clashing with efforts to protect the tiny pupfish and desert tortoise and stinginess over the region's rarest resource: water.
Related from Island Press:
 Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What To Do About It by Robert Glennon

Interior secretary announces $260 million in water funding for California (LA Times)
The Interior Secretary is in Sacramento today, touring drought conditions with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and announcing a major federal cash infusion to help Californians cope with them.
Related from Island Press: World's Water 2008-2009 edited by Peter Gleick

California's drought raises rural-urban tensions over water(Christian Science Monitor)
Farms see fallow fields and laid-off workers, and some urban consumers face their first water cuts in two decades.
Related from Island Press: Water War in the Klamath Basin by Holly Doremus, A. Dan Tarlock

1,500 farmers commit mass suicide in India (The Independent UK)
Over 1,500 farmers in an Indian state committed suicide after being driven to debt by crop failure caused in part by falling water levels.
Related from Island Press: 
Agriculture at a Crossroads: Synthesis Report by International Assessment of Agriculture, Science, Technology and Development


Upcoming EventsEvents
4/22: Tom Turner, author of "Roadless Rules," Alameda CA

4/23: Sustainability and Historic Preservation panel series, Boston MA

4/26: Anthony Barnosky, author of "Heatstroke," Boston MA

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Unquenchable America's Water Crisis and What To Do About It
Robert Glennon
UnquenchablePublished: 05/10/2009
Publisher: Island Press
432 p. 6 x 9
ISBN: 9781597264365
Hardcover: $27.95
Buy Now

Biographies | Table Of Contents
Robert Glennon captures the irony—and tragedy—of America’s water crisis in a book that is both frightening and wickedly comical. From manufactured snow for tourists in Atlanta to trillions of gallons of water flushed down the toilet each year, Unquenchable reveals the heady extravagances and everyday inefficiencies that are sucking the nation dry.
The looming catastrophe remains hidden as government diverts supplies from one area to another to keep water flowing from the tap. But sooner rather than later, the shell game has to end. And when it does, shortages will threaten not only the environment, but every aspect of American life: we face shuttered power plants and jobless workers, decimated fi sheries and contaminated drinking water.
We can’t engineer our way out of the problem, either with traditional fixes or zany schemes to tow icebergs from Alaska. In fact, new demands for water, particularly the enormous supply needed for ethanol and energy production, will only worsen the crisis. America must make hard choices—and Glennon’s answers are fittingly provocative. He proposes market-based solutions that value water as both a commodity and a fundamental human right.
One truth runs throughout Unquenchable: only when we recognize water’s worth will we begin to conserve it.
Robert Glennon is the Morris K. Udall Professor of Law and Public Policy in the Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona. He is the author of many articles and books, including the acclaimed Water Follies: Groundwater Pumping and the Fate of America’s Fresh Waters.
Table Of Contents
Part I. The Crisis
Chapter 1. Atlanta’s Prayer for Water
Chapter 2. Wealth and the Culture of Water Consumption
Chapter 3. Our Thirst for Energy
Chapter 4. Fouling Our Own Nests
Chapter 5. The Crisis Masked
Part II. Real and Surreal Solutions
Chapter 6. Business as Usual
Chapter 7. Water Alchemists
Chapter 8. The Ancient Mariner’s Lament
Chapter 9. Shall We Drink Pee?
Chapter 10. Creative Conservation
Chapter 11. Water Harvesting
Chapter 12. Moore’s Law
Part III. A New Approach
Chapter 13. The Enigma of the Water Closet
Chapter 14. The Diamond-Water Paradox
Chapter 15. The Steel Deal
Chapter 16. Privatization of Water
Chapter 17. Take the Money and Run
Chapter 18. The Future of Farming
Chapter 19. Environmental Transfers
Chapter 20. The Buffalo’s Lament
Conclusion: A Blueprint for Reform
Epilogue: The Salton Sea
List of Figures
Getting to the Root of Recurring Water Conflicts
The western United States is characterized by highly variable and seasonal rainfall patterns. To deal with the...
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April 25, 2009 - April 29, 2009American Planning Association Annual MeetingLocation:Minneapolis
read more > View Calendar >

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Posted: Apr 24, 2009 7:43pm
Mar 4, 2009

Island Pres - solutions that inspire change
Island Press E-News
How can we improve the regulation of dangerous toxics in the U.S.?
3/4/2009 Greetings!

This year's Congressional debate on amending the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has begun, and it promises to become heated. On February 26, 2009, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing entitled "Revisiting the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976." The hearing was the first of a series on the topic of TSCA reform.

The latest hearing focused on the effectiveness of the Toxic Substances Control Act. The law has had some success, notably the lead paint regulation, but its failing is obvious in the toxic soup of PCBs, mercury and asbestos infiltrating our food, homes, and environment. The current statute gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to regulate chemicals, but the agency has only required testing for some 200 of the more than 82,000 chemicals in commerce and has issued regulations to control only five existing chemicals.

Representative Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat and chair of the House Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection Subcommittee, which held the hearing, said "I think most Americans would be surprised to know that asbestos, a known carcinogen that kills 8,000 Americans each and every year, has not been banned by EPA under TSCA."

As we move forward with a new health care and environmental agenda, action on the toxics front is imperative. We've seen the damage that toxics can do to our bodies and to our environment with the recent examples of Dr. Jane M. Hightower's  Diagnosis: Mercury: Money, Politics, and Poison and Nancy A. Nichols's Lake Effect: Two Sisters and a Town's Toxic Legacy.

As the Environmental Working Group's (EWG)groundbreaking scientific studies have documented, pollution related illnesses begin in the womb. EWG laboratory tests have found an average of 200 chemicals in the cord blood of 10 newborns born in the U.S. in August and September of 2004.

Congress's recent action proves that things are changing in Washington, DC, and Island Press has the tools to help to lead the way. We hope the decision to discuss and evaluate how our toxics are being regulated means that our health and environment benefit from these changes.


Charles Savitt
President, Island Press

25% Discount!
Enter 1AEB at the Island Press checkout to receive a 25% discount on the books listed below (under Environmental Hot Topics).

Chemical Industry, Health and Environment Groups Push for U.S. Toxics Law Reform

Health organizations, environmental organizations and the chemical industry agreed before Congress that the U.S.'s current law overseeing toxic chemicals is doing a poor job and needs to be updated.

From Island Press: Diagnosis: Mercury: Money, Politics, and Poison by Jane M. Hightower, M.D.


175 toxic chemicals worth tracking in Oregon waterways

Oregon's environmental regulators have for the first time named the most long-lived and potentially toxic pollutants in the state's waters, listing 175 chemicals used to kill weeds, soften plastics, stop fires, thwart stains and make laundry smell springtime fresh.

From Island Press: Poisoned for Pennies: The Economics of Toxics Precaution by Frank Ackerman


Obama proposes to reinstate Superfund tax to collect for polluted N.J. sites

President Barack Obama seeks to reinstate the Superfund tax, which expired in 1995, to collect cleanup money for severely polluted sites in New Jersey and elsewhere.

From Island Press: Lake Effect: Two Sisters and  town's Toxic Legacy by Nancy A. Nichols


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Upcoming EventsEvents
3/5/09: Nabhan, University of Arizona Poetry Center, Tuscon, Ariz.

3/20/09: Paul Ehrlich, The Dominant Animal, California Academy of Arts and Sciences

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Posted: Mar 4, 2009 7:08pm
Jan 29, 2009
Book review: Food Fray — Everything you wanted to know about GM food
Posted by Siel in art/lit/music, books, environment, food (Thursday January 29, 2009 at 5:41 pm)

In the U.S., 80% of our corn, 86% of our cotton, and 92% of our soybeans grown last year were genetically-modified varieties — yet 60% of Americans don’t think they’ve ever eaten genetically modified foods. And even among the more enlightened 40%, I would bet only a small percentage know how much of GM food we’re eating — considering the fact that a huge chunk of the average American diet is made of corn — much less how safe GM foods are or what health and environmental problems GM foods could cause.

I certainly had a lot of questions myself when I picked up a copy of Food Fray: Inside the Controversy Over Genetically Modified Food by Lisa H. Weasel. My biggest question was this: Are genetically modified foods physically harmful?

I mean, I get that pesticide-intensive monoculture farming, subsidies for the products from these farms, and the subsequent eating of too much processed and fried corny stuff in general creates environmental and health problems over time. But does adding genetic modification into this mix create additional crazy health problems? Can “frankenfoods,” for example, cause birth defects or cancer?

The answer was complicated. In fact, I realized I was asking the wrong question.

At first, because I couldn’t get a simple answer to my GM question, Food Fray started getting annoying for me. Instead of giving definitive, scientific answers about the safety of GM foods, Weasel instead seemed to focus on the back-and-forth arguments of various groups, pointing out that both the GM-haters’ and GM-lovers’ impassioned arguments seem based not on science but on emotion.

But reading on, I realized that the questions I thought were less important were in fact the ones we should be focusing on. Debating whether or not eating a GM food can be bad for an individual’s health makes it seem like you can guarantee your own safety by avoiding GM foods. In reality, the problem of GM foods is wide-reaching; you can’t simply buy your individual way out of this problem.

The bigger problems of GM foods? For one, when we’re talking about the big GM crops in the U.S. like corn and soybeans, we’re talking about technified farming that depends on heavy chemical inputs. Basically, GM corn and soybeans have been specifically engineered to withstand heavy chemical pesticides, which are pretty much required when you have huge monoculture fields.

This method provides higher crop yields at first — boosted by chemical fertilizers — but creates environmental pollution. Over time, the soil’s depleted — and more resistant pests adapt to the pesticides, requiring more and stronger pesticides. Plus, planting so much of our farmland with a few types of GM seeds threatens biodiversity, which doesn’t bode well for our food security in the long run.

Despite the fact that technified farming isn’t sustainable, GM crops are still touted by big ag as solutions to hunger and poverty in developing countries. However, Weasel points out that the benefits of GM crops are seen more by big biotech companies than by the poor and hungry. For one, GM crops are patented — making food the intellectual property of big companies and wealthier nations. This means, among other things, that farmers in developing nations who convert to GM crops have to buy new seeds from these companies every year, instead of being able to save their own seeds.

And of course, the success of these GM crops require costly fertilizers and chemical inputs, also bought from these big companies. If a farmer buys GM seeds but doesn’t have enough money to buy as much of the chemical stuff needed, the promise of higher crop yields disappears. Plus, because these GM crops and their related chemical inputs have been engineered to deal with the pests and other issues specific to the U.S., they’re often not suited to the unique problems of, say, drought in Africa or pest insect species in India.

So instead of helping impoverished farmers pull themselves out of poverty, GM crops can make them more dependent than ever on the technified “solutions” of wealthier countries.

Add on top of that the fact that the big companies selling GM food are trying to strongarm everyone from the European Union to Zambia to accept GM food imports or food aid, to doctor studies that expose health or environmental concerns about GM food, to cover up shortcomings of GM crop farming in India and other countries, and to push everyone from the FDA to academic scientists to do their bidding, and you start to feel big business interests completely undermine any socio-economic benefits that GM research could yield.

Which is to say that there are plenty of bigger and more important reasons for avoiding GM foods, even if eating GM food in itself didn’t lead to cancer or serious health risks.

We do know of one GM-tainted food that really could pose health risks though: rBGH milk. Yes, that would be pus-tainted milk from cows given genetically-modified hormones, which more and more people and companies rejected to the point that Monsanto finally sold off its rBGH biz. Read Food Fray to find out how the fact that rBGH-treated cows were giving birth to seriously deformed calves — and that rBGH-tainted milk could increase the risk of cancer — were covered up by big ag, the FDA, and even the media.

Earlier: The Corporation and pus milk

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Posted: Jan 29, 2009 8:10pm
Jan 14, 2009
Google sans eco-guilt, or how web research reduces carbon emissions
Posted by Siel in environment, web/tech (Wednesday January 14, 2009 at 11:07 am)

You’ve probably already seen the sensational headlines: “Google threatens polar bears,” “Could Google Searches be Killing Us?,” and the like. A new study about web surfing equated the carbon footprint of two Google searches to that of boiling a cup of water, inciting the blogosphere to — do a lot of Google searches to follow up on the news.

But if you’ve been feeling guilty about your Googling habits, don’t stress anymore. As Alexis Madrigal puts it in Wired Science: “In short, Googling is not the issue, dude.”

Madrigal calculates that Google’s responsible for just 0.2 or 0.006 percent of the U.S. carbon footprint, depending on what numbers you use (Google quickly questioned the original numbers about its own carbon footprint; the scientists who put out the original numbers also specified that their numbers were calculated per second to visit a typical website, not specifically a Google search page).

Plus, every human activity creates carbon emissions — and Google helps make some of these activities more efficient. For example, if you drove a few miles to the library to research a topic, your trip alone would far exceed the carbon emissions cost of a simple Google search.

That’s what David Roberts points to in enviro-website Grist. “The emissions of Google searches is a goofy distraction,” Roberts says. “Imagine how much clueless driving around has been eliminated by Google Maps!”

And you can’t forget about the carbon emissions created by the materials in the library either. Jason Kincaid of TechCrunch points out that “a single book runs around 2,500 grams of CO2, or more than 350 times a Google search.”

The bigger message here is to worry not about reducing Google searches, but to think about ways to increasing our energy efficiency — whether it’s by pushing government policies that support renewable energy or by reducing the energy use of your computer by letting it sleep or turning it off when it’s not in use.

Earlier: Blackle’s not the new black

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Posted: Jan 14, 2009 11:31am
Jan 12, 2009
Thanks Alba, for this very good update!
Peace, Larry

 Alba N.

Alba NUOVA. left a comment on the following article:

Utah Student Disrupts Government Auction of 150,000 Acres of Wilderness for Oil & Gas Drilling

In a national broadcast exclusive, University of Utah student Tim DeChristopher explains how he "bought" 22,000 acres of land in an attempt to save the property from drilling. The sale had been strongly opposed by many environmental groups.


So sorry I didn't find this post earlier!

No doubt that Democracy Now! gave it the best coverage possible, with Robert Redford, making a statement in defense of our collective ownership of those lands, and a lengthy interview of Tim DeChristopher himself.
What a brave, committed citizen !

I was particularly moved hearing Tim say this: "Over the past two-and-a-half days, I’ve just got an overwhelming amount of support from all across the country and from different parts of the world. People have been standing up, inspired and encouraged to take action on their own, which is really powerful. And people have been coming out of the woodwork to support me. The former director of the BLM, Patrick Shea, has now volunteered to lead my legal team pro bono. And so, he’s on our side in a big way, and he’s a great asset to have.

This has really been emotional and hopeful for me to see that kind of support over the last couple of days, because I did feel like I was putting myself out on a limb there alone, and now, after thousands of supportive statements from people, I see that, you know, for all the problems that people can talk about in this country and for all the apathy and, you know, the eight years of oppression and the decades of eroding civil liberties, America is still very much the kind of place that when you stand up for what is right, you never stand alone. And that’s been really powerful for me to witness."

I found your post because today I found an update to it, which I hope will revive interest in Tim's case. It's a Jan 9th post on the Utne Reader's Environment Blog : Environmental Activist Needs Bailout that says "...Problem is, Problem is, DeChristopher does not actually have the $1.8 million he bid, and the initial payment of $45,000 required to secure the land is due today. The Daily Kos and the Gristmill blog are encouraging readers to donate to the cause, and according to, the website set up in support of DeChristopher’s actions, $41,271 had been raised as of January 7."

But, if you go to, you can not only see that the money HAS been raised to secure his bids, but donate to his legal costs fund. You can also access all the articles, news, blog posts that have been devoted to this amazing case, read Tim's Jan 9th letter & latest interview, actually see the video of him bidding & access resources such as 'BLM Land Use Map / NILS' GeoCommunicator.'

It just seems a mind-boggling paradox that in order to protect these lands from oil & energy companies, private groups, such as environmental action groups, would have to BUY BACK what already is supposed to belong to us ! Incredible!

Tim bid $1.8million for 22,000 acres. Will this land ultimately be bought by a coalition of activist groups or will the auction be cancelled?
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Posted: Jan 12, 2009 9:55am
Dec 11, 2008
The Bridge at the Edge of the World
Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability
by James Gustave Speth


My point of departure in this book is the momentous environmental challenge we face. But today’s environmental reality is linked powerfully with other realities, including growing social inequality and neglect and the erosion of democratic governance and popular control… As citizens we must now mobilize our spiritual and political resources for transformative change on all three fronts.
—Gus Speth

How serious are the threats to our environment? Here is one measure of the problem: if we continue to do exactly what we are doing, with no growth in the human population or the world economy, the world in the latter part of this century will be unfit to live in. Of course human activities are no holding at current levels—they are accelerating, dramatically, and so, too, is the pace of climate disruption, biotic impoverishment, and toxification. In this book Gus Speth, author of Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment, begins with the observation that the environmental community has grown in strength and sophistication, but the environment has continued to decline. Something is badly wrong, and a deeper critique is needed.

Speth contends that this critique leads to a severe indictment of today’s economic and political system  — capitalism as it now actually operates. Our vital task is to change the operating instructions for the modern economy before it is too late.

The book is about how to do that.

James Gustave Speth, a distinguished leader and founder of environmental institutions over the past four decades, is Dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University. He was awarded Japan’s Blue Planet Prize for “a lifetime of creative and visionary leadership in the search for science-based solutions to global environmental problems. 

 “When a figure as eminent and mainstream as Gus Speth issues a warning this strong and profound, the world should take real notice. This is an eloquent, accurate, and no-holds-barred brief for change large enough to matter.”
─Bill McKibben

“Honest, insightful, and courageous. Dean Speth draws on his formidable experience and wisdom to ask why we are failing to preserve a habitable Earth. His conclusions are cogent, revolutionary, and essential.”
David W. Orr, Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics, Oberlin College, and author of Design on the Edge and Earth in Mind
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Posted: Dec 11, 2008 4:44am


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Larry Sheehy
, 1, 4 children
Ukiah, CA, USA
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New Petition! Speak out against Time-Warner Merger with Comcast! Let your opinion be know before your bill goes up and your programming choices dwindle.\\r\\n\\r\\nUrge DOJ and FCC to Not Allow Merger of Time-Warner and Comcast\\r\\nhttp://www.t hepetitionsi...
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New Petition! Speak out against Time-Warner Merger with Comcast! Let your opinion be know before your bill goes up and your programming choices dwindle.\\r\\n\\r\\nUrge DOJ and FCC to Not Allow Merger of Time-Warner and Comcast\\r\\nhttp://www.t hepetitionsi...
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 \\r\\n\\r\\n\\r\\nW hy this is important\\r\\nAs a community comprised of members actively using the tools provided by this site to accomplish needed improvements to various aspects of all life (animal, human, environmental), we, the undersigned, are her...
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Message to the President, and to the Congress:It\\\'s very simple. We can aim for a UNIVERSAL Standard of $15 an hour Minimum Wage for ALL - that would be {frugally} a living wage these days. One should not have to be employed, and on government assista...
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\\nThis is my Message that I send every week or so, to the President, my Representative, and my two Senators. {And in this instance, to the Vice President also.} \\r\\nThe Majority of the people of this country, approve that the President {and Vice Presi...
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\\nTalking with your kids about drugs is something that you probably dread yet you know it has to be done. What better drug to start with than marijuana – a popular drug that’s under intense debate right now in the United States...
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\\n\\r\\n\\r\\n \\\"The only thing necessary for the triumph\\r\\n\\nof evil is for good men to do nothing.\\\" ~ Edmund Burke ~ \\n\\r\\n\\n
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\\n\\n \\\"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.\\\"  (Matthew 5:5)Who are the meek?  I guess it depends who you ask, but I think the meaning implied in the passage above has somehow been lost over the years.  Perhaps t...
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I feel Care2 members should KNOW about the \\\"work from home\\\" ads, RECRUITING \\\"MULES\\\" TO CARRY OUT ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES. Just like the Drug Cartels do... A person who was recruited unwittingly by one of these ads, was given in a arti...