Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Hope Blogging

Earlier this week, Pacific Gas & Electric pulled out of the US Chamber of Commerce.

We find it dismaying that the Chamber neglects the indisputable fact that a decisive majority of experts have said the data on global warming are compelling and point to a threat that cannot be ignored. In our opinion, an intellectually honest argument over the best policy response to the challenges of climate change is one thing; disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality of these challenges are quite another.
Now, the New Mexican utility PNM Resources has followed suit.
At PNM Resources, we see climate change as the most pressing environmental and economic issue of our time. Given that view, and a natural limit on both company time and resources, we have decided that we can be most productive by working with organizations that share our view on the need for thoughtful, reasonable climate change legislation and want to push that agenda forward in Congress.

As a result, we have decided to let our membership in the U.S. Chamber lapse when it expires at the end of this year.
Jonathan Hiskes has more on corporate disenchantment with the USCOC, and asks a very good question:
So here’s a question for climate activists: Why not hound companies in the Chamber and ACCCE, demanding to know why they lend their money and their legitimacy to such groups? Companies may decide that membership is a weight around their necks they don’t need.
Meanwhile, the G20 has tentatively agreed to phase out fossil fuel subsidies:
The world's largest economies will agree to phase out subsidies on oil and other carbon dioxide-spewing fossils fuels over the "medium term" in an effort to fight global warming, a G20 document said.

The draft G20 statement showed countries such as Russia, India, and China will back a move to reduce and eliminate most financial support that keeps fuel prices artificially low, albeit without a timetable for the cuts.
An attempt by Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to limit the EPA's authority to regulate CO2 has failed:
The Senate declined Thursday to take up Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s effort to limit for a year the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, factories and other stationary sources of pollution.

Murkowski had sought to amend the Interior Department appropriations bill being considered Thursday by the U.S. Senate, but was blocked from bringing forward her proposal.
And California is imposing some fairly strong restrictions on VOCs:
California air regulators approved strict regulations Thursday for aerosol air fresheners, paint thinners and solvents as a way to lessen smog-forming emissions and reduce a health threat.

The state Air Resources Board voted 8-0 to ban the sale of products that emit high levels of so-called volatile organic compounds. The rules are the toughest state mandate in the nation and will take effect Dec. 31, 2013.
Yellowstone's grizzly bears will once again receive ESA protections:
A federal district court ruling in Montana today returned Endangered Species Act protections to the Yellowstone grizzly bear population. In the case, brought by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Judge Donald Molloy ruled that inadequate regulatory mechanisms were put in place to manage the bears after federal protections were dropped in early 2007, and that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) failed to address the loss of an essential food source for the bears, whitebark pine seeds.
Plans to site a solar-thermal facility in a remote, sensitive desert area have been scrapped:
The proposed project site was located in a remote wildland area currently being planned for inclusion in a new national monument proposed by California senator Dianne Feinstein. The new monument would connect Joshua Tree National Park with the Mojave National Preserve and would protect some of the most pristine, ecologically important and beautiful desert lands in the world.

Peter Galvin, co-founder and conservation director for the Center for Biological Diversity, stated, “We are tremendously pleased that this poorly-sited project has been withdrawn.” Galvin added, “Broadwell Valley and similar lands should be recognized as the national treasures that they are and permanently protected as a national monument.”
Rare primates will be protected by new reserves in China and Vietnam:
There are 200 Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys left in the world. The cao vit gibbon, however, is even worse off with only 110 individuals remaining, giving it the dubious honor of being the second most endangered primate in the world (the closely-related Hainan gibbon with only 17 individuals is likely number one).

Both of these species — the cao vit gibbon and Tonkin snub nosed monkey — have received good news recently as new reserves in China and Vietnam have been created in part to aid their survival.
Photo by Zhao Chao, FFI.

In related news, conservation efforts are helping the Central Asian saiga antelope:
In a decline on par with that suffered by the American bison in the Nineteenth Century, in the 1990s the saiga antelope of the Central Asian steppe plummeted from over one million individuals to 50,000, dropping a staggering 95 percent in a decade and a half. Since then new legislation and conservation measure have helped the species stabilize in some areas but in others the decline continues.
And the world's first shark sanctuary has been created in Palau:
BBC news reports that Johnson Toribiong, President of Palau, has announced that a sanctuary about 230,000 square miles in total will be established to protect sharks. All commercial shark hunting in their entire Exclusive Economic Zone - about the size of France - will be banned.

"These creatures are being slaughtered and are perhaps at the brink of extinction unless we take positive action to protect them," said President Toribiong. "Their physical beauty and strength, in my opinion, reflects the health of the oceans; they stand out."
A plurality of Republican voters seem to favor a public healthcare option:
The poll asked this question: "Would you favor or oppose the government offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan -- something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get -- that would compete with private health insurance plans?"

The top-line result is 65% in favor, 26% opposed. Among Democrats only, it's 81%-12%, and independents are at 61%-30%. And among Republican respondents, 47% are in favor, to 42% opposed.
For the first time, an AIDS vaccine has shown significant protective effects:
The combo cut the risk of becoming infected with HIV by more than 31 percent in the study of more than 16,000 volunteers in Thailand, researchers announced Thursday in Bangkok.

That benefit is modest, yet "it's the first evidence that we could have a safe and effective preventive vaccine," said Col. Jerome Kim, an Army doctor who helped lead the study.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has won its lawsuit for the release of telecom lobbying records:
A judge ordered the government Thursday to release more records about the lobbying campaign to provide immunity to the telecommunications giants that participated in the NSA's warrantless surveillance program. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White ordered the records be provided to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) by October 9, 2009.
Green roofs seem to be even more beneficial than was previously thought:
[R]esearchers have attempted to quantify the benefits of covering urban rooftops with plants. The scientists found that replacing traditional roofing materials with ‘green’ in an urban area the size of Detroit with a population of about one-million, would be equivalent to eliminating a year's worth of carbon dioxide emitted by 10,000 mid-sized SUVs and trucks.
Lynchburg, VA is imposing some sensible restrictions on big-box retailers:
Requirements include making provisions for mass transit access; building a connected system of external sidewalks and internal walkways; and employing a more environmentally friendly system of stormwater management that allows at least 25 percent of all water to return directly to the soil.
Despite the usual alarmist predictions from the usual conservatarian thinktanks, Phoenix's light rail system is a terrific success:
Even its proponents were surprised by its success and its transformative effect on downtown businesses, particularly during a recession.

Valley Metro light rail opened last December. Opponents viewed the $1.4 billion, 20-mile line a boondoggle for the largely auto-dependent city. Now some of them admit to riding it.
Illinois "has a new law that starts building the infrastructure for a real regional food system":
The legislation establishes a council to develop a fresh farm and food system in the state, and it creates a system that allows buyers for state agencies to pay up to 10 percent above the lowest bid when purchasing locally grown foods. It also sets a goal for state-owned agencies to increase their purchase of locally grown foods each year so that 20 percent of their food purchase is spent on Illinois-grown foods by 2020.

Currently, an estimated 4 percent of the money Illinois residents spend on food each year is for products grown in the state, and just several hundred of the state’s 76,000 farmers are producing for the local market, according to a task force report.
Ontario has launched the feed-in tariff system mandated under its Green Energy Act:
The tariffs are precedent setting in North America not only for the number of different technologies listed, but also for the prices offered. Solar energy advocates will be particularly pleased. Ontario’s proposed tariffs, if implemented, will be the highest in North America. For rooftop solar they will be comparable to those offered in Germany and France.
The UK is taking a small but significant step towards disarmament:
Gordon Brown will add momentum to moves towards nuclear disarmament tomorrow by announcing that he intends Britain to build only three, and not the planned four, replacement Trident nuclear submarines.

The move, which could cut billions from the defence budget over the next decade, was welcomed by anti-nuclear campaigners today, who said it was a "step in the right direction" but did not go far enough.
Cheryl Rofer explains the implications:
This is actually pretty significant. If America and Russia move toward 1500 warheads, that is getting close to where the other nuclear powers - Great Britain, France, China, Israel, India, and Pakistan need to be included in negotiations. So Britain is moving ahead of the curve.
Onwards and upwards. Swedish Matchboxes and Edible Geography. Photos by Kobi Israel. The South Bronx in the 80s and 90s. International doorhangers. And vintage cheese labels.

Lawnmower cards (via Plep). Photos by Henry Busse. Images from the Byron Collection. Drawings from the Civil War. And photos by Esther Bubley.

Animal Architecture and Abandoned Farm House Rooms. Urban Life Through Two Lenses. Port Townsend Then and Now. Lots and lots of red dust. And via Moon River, a photo of White Sands, New Mexico from 1952.

And now, a word from our sponsors.

(Photo at top: "Ores of Copper" via EPOD.)


Unknown said...

I like the light rail, but they made a mistake in not putting in crossing gates and letting it keep going. It takes over an hour to get end to end and another 40 minutes by bus to get out to the east valley. It's still "light" years ahead of the car or local bus to get to and from downtown!

Phila said...

I like the light rail, but they made a mistake in not putting in crossing gates and letting it keep going.

Interesting. At least it sounds like something they can fix, if enough people feel as you do?

P. Drāno said...

I almost thought the first item about the Chamber of Commerce was a parody, but then I realised there's no joking on Hope Blogging. That seems sort of significant.
Also I sent a link to "Trade Tattoo" to a young film student who's looking for ideas.

grouchomarxist said...

Those labels were amazing: If I ever form the Acid Swing ensemble of my dreams, I swear I'm gonna call it "Sputnik -- Cheese of the Future"! ('Twould make a right fine web handle, too.)

As always, a wonderful miscellany, Phila. "Trade Tatoo" is the coolest thing I've seen in weeks.

Anonymous said...

Thank you again, Phila. I've started coming back through the week to read FHB to keep my spirits up.

The Bubley photos are wonderful.

Anthony McCarthy