Friday, June 22, 2007

Friday Hope Blogging

Grist links to a fascinating study on The Policy Impact of the U.S. Environmental Movement, which has some important implications for other political struggles:

Protest is significantly more important than public opinion or institutional advocacy in influencing federal environmental law. Agnone found that each protest event increases the likelihood of pro-environmental legislation being passed by 1.2 percent, and moderate protest increases the annual rate of adoption by an astonishing 9.5 percent.

Public opinion on its own influences federal action (though less than protest), but is vastly strengthened by protest, which "amplifies" public support and, in Agnone's words, "raises the salience of public opinion for legislators." Protest and public opinion are synergistic, with a joint impact on federal policy far more dramatic than either factor alone.

Institutional advocacy has limited impact on federal environmental policy.
In related news, Media Matters explains Why Conservative America is a Myth.

Tyson Foods claims it will stop using antibiotics to raise chicken:
"We're providing mainstream consumers with products they want," Tyson Chief Executive Richard L. Bond said at a press conference.
A program in Michigan pays farmers to switch to no-till agriculture:
Linda and Wayne Pritchard...plan to enroll their 1,000 acres in Burlington this summer....

"My husband and Jake are both concerned about where our children and grandchildren will be when we're gone," Linda Pritchard said. "Neither one of them is a materialistic person; they're both concerned about the environment and the future."
The Senate has passed a bill that modestly raises mileage standards, and closes the loophole for SUVs.
The vote, 65 to 27, was a major defeat for car manufacturers, which had fought for a much smaller increase in fuel economy standards and is expected to keep fighting as the House takes up the issue.
The Senate has also rejected funding for coal to liquids:
Controversial proposals to boost the conversion of coal into liquid fuel were rejected in the U.S. Senate Tuesday, after lawmakers and groups that support the idea broke ranks on how to get the job done.
California is mandating cool paint for cars:
By blending in special pigments, car paint of any color can be made to reflect much of the sun's heat energy. That will keep the vehicle's interior cooler and reduce the demand on the air conditioner -- which in turn improves fuel efficiency and cuts carbon dioxide emissions a bit.
A judge has ruled that Inyo County, California must allow environmental groups to contest its plan to build two-lane highways through Death Valley:
“Inyo County’s land grab could undermine the very reasons Death Valley is such an iconic American landscape: its quiet, its beauty, its wildness,” said Ted Zukoski, attorney at Earthjustice. “The court understood that, and understood that those with the strongest interest in protecting Death Valley should have a seat at the table.”
The House has approved a bill that allows the US to donate birth control to foreign agencies:
The measure, approved 223-201, is intended by the new Democratic majority to crack open debate on a policy it says is failing. Initiated by President Reagan in 1984 at a population conference in Mexico City, the policy bars any assistance to organizations abroad that perform or promote abortion as a method of family planning.
For now, this is more symbolic than practical, but it's heartening all the same. The Senate has also cut funding for abstinence education by $28 million. Not quite as good as cutting it altogether, but better than nothing.

Portugal has finalized a new, less restrictive law on abortion.
Under the law, women seeking an abortion will meet first with doctors who are to warn them of possible dangers. After a three-day reflection period, women can obtain an abortion free at a public hospital or go to a licensed private clinic.
Previously, abortions were allowed only in cases of rape or life-threatening pregnancy.

Google is donating $10 million to vehicle-to-grid research:
The company is going to modify six cars, a mix of Toyota Priuses and Ford Escape hybrids, with batteries that can draw juice from the grid and feed juice back in. The promise of this technology is that if it spreads, it will enable distributed electricity storage that can smooth spikes in electricity demand without expensive new generation plants.
The UK is spending $1 billion "to supply renewable energy to 300 government departments and civil service bodies." For the company that won the contract, the devastating economic effects of addressing climate change will be somewhat mitigated. Perhaps some of this money will even "trickle down" to workers.

China has vowed not to use food crops like corn for biofuel:
"Such a decision by such an important world player as China is likely to accelerate the second-generation technology for production of ethanol fuel from non-food crops - through conversion of biomass," Abdolreza Abbassian, Commodity Analyst and Secretary of FAO's Intergovernmental Group for Grains, told China Daily.
Speaking of biomass, olive pressing residue is being used to generate electricity in Spain.
The plant turns olive residue into biomass — a type of fuel generated from animal waste and plant material such as wood and crops. This is then burnt to generate electricity and heat. The Palenciana plant currently produces enough green electricity for 27,000 households, and has since been joined by four others in the region.
Also, Inhabitat discusses a house powered by a protein derived from spinach:
The most intriguing aspect of the residence lies in the way that it works within a community. The excess energy developed by the spinach-based skin is sent back to the grid for the neighborhood to use. The grey and black water recycling systems have enough capacity to treat the effluent from the neighbors and the garden is designed to be used by the community.
There's interesting research being done on magnetic refrigeration:
Magnetic refrigeration is a clean technology that uses magnetic fields to manipulate the degree of ordering (or entropy) of electronic or nuclear magnetic dipoles in order to reduce a material's temperature and allow the material to serve as a refrigerant. New materials for refrigeration based on gadolinium-germanium-silicon alloys display a giant magnetocaloric effect due to unusual coupling between the material's magnetism and chemical structure.
Wal-Mart claims to have achieved great things by reducing the size of its outer packaging by one inch:
By cutting the size of the boxes used to package a line of popular children's toys, the world's largest retailer says it saved trees, greenhouse gas emissions and $3 million.
Imagine how much they'd save if they got rid of the packaging altogether!

Speaking of which, the UK is increasingly opposed to plastic bags, thanks in large part to a documentary by a young filmmaker named Rebecca Hosking:
"Sea turtles can't read Wal-mart or Tesco signs on plastic bags," fumes Ms. Hosking, who returned to Britain in March. "They will home in on it and feed on it. Dolphins mistake them for seaweed and quite often they'll eat them and it causes huge damage."

Within a few weeks of coming back, Hosking persuaded her hometown to ban plastic bags outright and found herself in the vanguard of a sudden British revulsion for that most disposable convenience of the throwaway society.
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has unanimously voted to restrict bottom trawling in the Bering Sea:
Today's unanimous decision is a great victory for the whales, walrus, seabirds and other animals in the Bering Sea, and we are glad the Council voted to provide essential protections our oceans need in this age of global climate change and an exploding world population," said Jim Ayers, Vice President of Oceana, an international organization dedicated to protecting the world's oceans.
In related news, the NOAA has taken an important (and long overdue) stand against gillnetters:
NOAA has denied issuance of the special exempted fishing permit required for gillnet boats to operate in an area of coast stretching from central California to central Oregon, during the time critically endangered leatherback sea turtles are feeding there.
The Army has suspended shipments of VX nerve gas waste to Port Arthur, TX, pending review of the practice by a federal judge (there's some background here, for those who only visit this backwater once a week).

Grist has an interesting discussion of Swedish conservation practices. Here are the parts that jumped out at me:
When local politicians announced the phasing out in 1996 [?!], it was little more than a quaint curiosity. Oil prices were hovering around a manageable $US20 a barrel and global warming was still a hotly contested debate. Today, at least one international delegation a week -- mainly from China and Japan -- beats a path to Vaxjo to see how it's done.

The first step towards Vaxjo's -- and Sweden's -- success was the city power plant ...instead of dumping the cooling water, as most power stations do, it's pumped out scalding to the city's taps and to another vast network of pipes. The second delivery system of insulated pipes runs hot water continuously through heaters in homes and offices. The water leaves the plant at over 100 degrees, travels as far as 10 kilometres and comes back warm to be reheated, over and over again. An enormous municipal hot-water tank acts as back-up, so showers never go cold.
Impressive, in a sense. But what good are hot showers when you're writhing under the lash of socialist tyranny?

Tibet intends to ban "the mining of gold, mercury, arsenic and peat to preserve mineral resources and protect the environment." And the UN is placing restrictions on the coral trade.
Conservationists hailed the decision. "This is the best possible decision to start getting the trade in these corals under some form of international control," said Ernie Cooper, a coral trade expert from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.
A chart on water use from Good Magazine shows that "average daily water use per person in Mozambique is less than the water used to flush a low-flow toilet in the U.S." This isn't hope-inspiring news, exactly...but it's important for us to know. (Via AIDG Blog.)

The University of Nottingham is working to promote green chemistry in Ethiopia:
Much current research is focused on the search for renewable feedstocks and more environmentally acceptable solvents as replacements for petroleum-based products. This makes Green Chemistry particularly relevant to the needs of African countries such as Ethiopia, faced with an increasing demand for chemicals, little or no indigenous oil, and rapidly expanding populations.
Seed reports that India is shifting towards eco-friendly pyres for its open-air cremations.

This story on using buckyballs to prevent allergic reactions is the sort of thing that CKR will probably scold me for posting, but as a longtime allergy sufferer, I have to give it the benefit of the doubt:
According to Kepley, who is the principal author of the paper, the buckyballs are able to 'interrupt' the allergy/immune response by inhibiting a basic process in the cell that leads to the release of an allergic mediator. Essentially, the buckyballs are able to prevent mast cells from releasing histamine.
Apropos of CKR, Plep alerts me to a nice set of photos documenting the Seto people of Estonia.

You'll find some odd images in this Danish survey of mythological beasts.

There's a new issue of Polar Inertia. I also recommend Tales From the Vault: Canadian Pulp Fiction, 1940 - 1952. And this amazing gallery of covers for H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. Here's one of my favorites:

The Forster Collection "is one of the world's great collections of eighteenth-century Pacific art and material culture." You might also have a look at Inscribing Meaning: Writing & Graphic Systems in African Art.

Via Coudal, a collection of 600 vintage slides from the 1950s and 1960s. (Did I mention that I got this link from Coudal? I'd feel terrible if I neglected to give credit where it was due.)

Last, photos of Trees in Snow by the great Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, via Moon River.

(Photo at top: "Man in Avenue" [1889], from an incredible exhibition of Early Kodak Camera Formats at Luminous Lint.)


Anonymous said...

Tänan vaga! Ilus Setumaa! Celebrating this week’s Jaanitulid and valged ööd!

(Thanks much! Beautiful Setumaa! Celebrating this week’s St. John’s Day fires and white nights!)

I think I’m not going to Estonia this year, but the photos remind me of the clear cool breeze and the fresh smell of flowered fields. Sigh.

I’d be happy with anything that ends allergies. Even Estonia is loaded with pollen at this time of year.

I’m about a third of the way through the little book of Estonian stories you sent me. I’ll review it when I’m done. By then I’ll need a bit of time off from nuclear weapons and will need an excuse for my own sort of hope blogging.


Phila said...

I think I’m not going to Estonia this year, but the photos remind me of the clear cool breeze and the fresh smell of flowered fields. Sigh.

Never been, but the cities and the countryside look beautiful. I'm long overdue to do some traveling in that part of the world...

Sandy-LA 90034 said...

I have been on the look out for sources that might be useful for Friday Hope Blogging and I came across this one:


Any magazine titled "Good" must have some hopeful things in it!

(Hope the link works, if not, please paste it).

Phila said...

Thanks, Sandy...I'll check it out.