Posts tagged with 'Chelsea Green'
Weekly Mulch: White House Relents on Solar Panels; Why Congressional Inaction Hasn’t Stopped Green Building
by Rosie Powers, Media Consortium blogger
The Obama administration finally agreed to assemble solar panels on the roof of the White House. It’s encouraging news, considering that Congress was unable to pass climate change legislation this year.
While Congress may not get it, citizens across the country have committed to building green using energy-efficient guidelines such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), a rating system set out by the U.S. Green Building Council. Green buildings are no longer reserved for the wealthy or the province of distant countries. They are becoming a well-traveled path to a sustainable future.
Consideration of inward, rather than outward, urban development encourages major cities to be more self-contained and sustainable in the realms of energy and water usage. Inclusion of building features such as solar panels and energy-efficient window and wall insulation insure that energy is self-produced and not wasted. (more…)
By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger
Maybe it’s time for environmentalists prioritize do-it-yourself climate fixes instead of looking to politicians. There are all sorts of options, including, for those dedicated enough, switching to an insect-based diet, as Change.org reports.
But in the private sector, inventors, corporations, and small businesses — farmers in particular — are finding more palatable ways to scale down their environmental impact. In short, politicians aren’t the only ones with the power to make high-profile statements and strong choices on climate change.
No solar on the White House
Environmental crusader Bill McKibben had already given up on Congress; now the White House has disappointed, too. McKibben and other leaders in the climate change movement are eschewing lobbying on legislation in favor of pushing for more visible, direct action on climate issues. To that end, McKibben, along with three students, asked the White House last week to reinstall one of Jimmy Carter’s solar panels on the roof. The answer was no. (more…)
by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger
Washington has a blind spot when it comes to the environment. BP and the oil spill brought the government’s failures into the spotlight, but the same problems crop up across industries: Corporations pollute water, blast through mountains, and pour carbon into the atmosphere with insufficient oversight. But no one—Congress, the environmental community, or the president—seems to have the power to address these issues.
The Senate says it will take up energy legislation soon, but staffers are saying the body won’t pass a strong climate bill without more public pressure. Energy companies are ripping resources from the land and leaving destruction in their wake, while clean energy technology, though popular, has yet to form a new platform to fill the country’s needs.
And where’s presidential leadership on this issue? “The president had a good meeting a couple days ago with senators from both parties that have led on this issue,” Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told the press this week, according to Mother Jones. “We have not made any final determinations about the size and scope of the legislation except to say that the president believes, and continues to believe, that putting a price on carbon has to be part of our comprehensive energy reform.” (more…)
by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger
President Barack Obama is in Louisiana today, and BP is saying it will know in 48 hours if its attempt to “top kill” the leaking oil well in the Gulf Coast by pouring mud and cement over it has worked.
If the scramble to stop the leak has ended, the slog to clean up is just beginning. Thousands of fisherman are still out of work, as ColorLines notes. But there are new jobs in Louisiana. This week Mother Jones’ Mac McClelland visited workers raking oil off a beach in Louisiana. One man, she writes, “can’t count how many times he’s raked this same spot in the 33 hours he’s worked it since Thursday, but one thing he’s sure of, he says, is that he’ll be standing right here tomorrow and the next day, too.” (more…)
By Raquel Brown, Media Consortium Blogger
President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize today for his accomplishments in international diplomacy, climate change and attempts to curb nuclear proliferation. The Nobel Committee praised Obama for his “constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting,” but, Richard Kim of The Nation wonders if the award comes too soon, as Obama has not yet committed to attending the international climate summit at Copenhagen. (more…)
by Raquel Brown, TMC MediaWire Blogger
International climate negotiations are currently bogged down in smog. Many countries are in disagreement about the best way to go about reducing emissions and curbing climate change. Some, like the U.S. and Great Britain, are working together to cut carbon emissions; while others say it’s their way or the highway. Until the air clears, it will be difficult to determine which global leaders are making the most effective choices—or even what the best path to a cleaner earth will be.
On Tuesday, the world’s two leading polluters, the United States and China, finally signed a “memorandum of understanding” and pledged to work together to create a global solution to arrest climate change by December’s United Nations summit in Copenhagen, as Stephen Robert Morse reports for Mother Jones. The two countries have long disagreed on the best way to control climate change and used each other as an excuse for inaction. Disagreements have centered around which country should pay for clean-ups and new technologies.
As Agence Grance-Presse emphasizes in Grist, China and other developing nations have argued that they shouldn’t have to cut their emissions, as the bulk of pollution comes from industrialized countries. Developing countries do not have the means to finance a more energy efficient economy and many argue that the U.S. should take a leadership role and help them.
India made a similar point when Secretary of State Hilary Clinton visited last week. India’s environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, was remarkably candid when he told her that India would not succumb to international pressures to set targets on emissions. After all, as Barbara Crossette points out for The Nation, developing countries shouldn’t have to clean up after rich countries’ negligence. Although India has a strong economy and is one of the world’s largest polluters, their rising population keeps per capita emissions lower than other developed nations.
Yet, actions speak louder than words. Going back to Grist, Grance-Presse notes that despite China’s non-committal stance, it has made significant strides in wind and solar power. Their next step towards improved energy efficiency should be reducing its coal-dependency, which accounts for 85 percent of its carbon emissions. However, as global temperatures continue to rise, it’s clear that active collaboration between industrialized and developing nations is necessary to meaningfully tackle climate change.
Much like China, India has made gains towards renewable energy. At a conference organized by a OneWorld.net sister organization in India last week, Special Envoy to the Prime Minister on Climate Change, Shram Saran, explained that India will do “Whatever we can within the limitations of our resources.” The country is exploring investments in solar, hydro, biomass and wind power. Some specific strategies are to replace incandescent with energy-saving flurescent bulbs, and to go “local” among Indian communities and farmers with a “people-centric” environmental campaign.
OneWorld reports that “This project intends to link grassroots communities, development practitioners, academia and policymakers with a view to encourage them to forge new partnerships with the government, domain experts, and community-based organizations working with vulnerable sections of society.”
Great Britain’s innovative solution to climate change is the “clean energy cash back” program. According to Chelsea Green’s Paul Gipe, the program features feed-in tariffs for Combined Heat & Power (CHP), small solar PV systems on new homes and a tariff for existing homes. What distinguishes this from other tariffs are the added incentives: if a homeowner reduces their own consumption, they can sell the surplus electricity to the grid, and receive an additional paid bonus in return.
“The proposed program, like the successful programs it was modeled after, was designed to ‘set tariffs at a level to encourage investment in small scale low carbon generation.’ This is in contrast to faux feed-in tariffs that set the tariffs on the ‘value’ of renewable energy to the system as in the California Public Utility Commission’s largely ineffective program,” says Gipe.
Britain was the first to set legally binding carbon budgets when they passed Britain’s Climate Change Act last year. This low carbon policy aims to transform Britain’s economy and has a realistic shot at reaching the country’s renewable energy and carbon targets.
Meanwhile, how does the U.S. measure up? The Nation has an excellent overview of the current status and future of the climate bill. In this interview, the Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin says that farming and manufacturing interests will be one of the key battles in passing climate change legislation through the Senate. The future of the Senate bill is also contingent on the outcome of international negotiations in Copenhagen. And although the ACES bill does not meet the requirements scientists believe are necessary to curb climate change, Eilperin remains optimistic that the bill sets up a valuable platform for successful legislation in the future, much like the Clean Air Act.
The U.S. appeared hypocritical when they urged other nations to reduce their carbon emissions and commit to climate change when they themselves haven’t made strides. Rather than lead by example, Republicans like Michael Rogers (R-MI) opposed the U.S. climate change bill because the bill will “eliminate our middle class and send it to China and India,” as Osha Gray Davidson reports for Mother Jones. Some argue that a U.S. effort to cut carbon emissions will put America at an economic disadvantage if China and India do not take similar steps.
In other news, The Washington Monthly‘s Steve Benen reports on global warming skeptic James Inhofe’s (R-Okla) shocking claim that burning oil doesn’t cause pollution. Really?! I thought we were past all that nonsense.
But there are pervasive problems on the home front too. As climate legislation dawdles in the Senate, few have considered how climate change will impact marginalized communities. In an article for In These Times, Michelle Chen highlights how global warming widens the climate gap and exacerbates social and racial inequalities:
“The reality is, poor people always lived in the most environmentally vulnerable places – places that were vulnerable before the climate change problem made them worse. The real problem in this country is we haven’t had a real serious discussion about the social equity issues connected to climate and environment. Sadly, too many people aren’t inclined to engage in that discussion,” said Elliot Sclar in an interview with Chen. Sclar is the director of the Center for Sustainable Urban Development at Columbia University.
As the world tries to break the stalemate over how to reverse climate change, it is ambiguous whether the U.S. has encouraged any collective progress. While our government has taken small steps toward investments in alternative energy, other nations have leapt ahead in their commitment towards a sustainable environment.
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment. Visit Sustain.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on the environment and sustainability, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health, and immigration issues, check out Economy.NewsLadder.net, Healthcare.NewsLadder.net and Immigration.newsladder.net.
by Sara Luckow, TMC MediaWire Blogger
Americans have picked up some interesting habits thanks to the Great Recession. Online dating is on the rise because it’s cheaper to vet a date online than pay for a night on the town. Interest in urban farming and community gardening has also spiked, but for different reasons: Home-grown foods taste better, cost less and are better for you.
While technology has made online dating easy, urban agriculture has a tradition of mushrooming during the tough times. During World War II, Eleanor Roosevelt inspired millions by planting the first Victory Garden. That tradition continues today: Michelle Obama planted an organic vegetable garden on the White House Lawn.
But urban gardening isn’t just for the movers and shakers. And it’s not always easy to get a garden in the ground, no matter how clear-cut the benefits are. As Todd Heywood of the Michigan Messenger reports, residents of Flint, Michigan are appropriating abandoned lots as community gardens, but are running into some big problems in the process. Flint has no zoning laws that allow for urban agriculture, which makes the legality of these guerrilla gardens questionable at best. The city council will review proposals to update zoning ordinances in September, but Flint’s troubles are a good example of how, even if urban agriculture seems like a practical solution, it’s not always feasible.
In contrast to Flint, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has ordered all city departments to audit unused land that could be utilized for urban farming. City officials have also spent the last year preparing approximately 15 sites for growing produce, according to Mother Jones’ Josh Harkinson. As part of an initiative to encourage the spread and consumption of locally-grown foods, a colorful quarter-acre victory garden was planted in front of San Francisco’s city hall. Newsom’s other creative gardening plans including planting strawberry patches atop bus shelters and fruit trees in street medians.
While Newsom’s goals are intended to be in the best public interest, there are legitimate concerns: Contaminated soil, city pollution and vandalism could make the food unfit to eat. And his proposal to require jails, hospitals and homeless shelters to only serve high-quality, sustainable fare might not work in other metropolitan areas.
In an interview with Grist, food writer and urban farmer Novella Carpenter defines urban farming as ‘growing enough food to trade or sell for added income. Food security and financial savings are big motivators to plant a plot of land, even if it’s just to feed one household.
The popularity of community gardens will likely fall when the economy rebounds, Carpenter says, much like the 20 million World War II victory gardens that disappeared after the troops returned home and convenience foods because ubiquitous. That’s because sustaining a, well, sustainable land plot takes a lot of energy, planning and dedication.
But attempting to eat locally and seasonally can be frustrating if you live in a climate with a short growing season. Finding locally-grown tomatoes during a North Dakota winter is out of the question. But Tom Philpott offers a solution: Investing in technology and infrastructure “can dramatically extend growing seasons in almost any climate.” (Scroll down for link.)
Appropriate technology doesn’t mean complicated or expensive. Chelsea Green’s Brad Lancaster writes about how his mentor, Russ Buhrow, has defied dry climate conditions since the 1980s by harvesting rainwater to irrigate his crops. Without money for extraneous equipment or fertilizers, Burhrow’s sole significant investment was his time.
Deciding which issue to dedicate time and resources to can be overwhelming: Hard times make plenty of big problems to go around. But urban agriculture has the power to alleviate problems related to both healthcare and the recession, which makes it worthwhile despite political, technological or social difficulties.
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment. Visit Sustain.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on the environment and sustainability, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health, and immigration issues, check out Economy.NewsLadder.net, Healthcare.NewsLadder.net and Immigration.newsladder.net, This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.
In 2008, we witnessed the first serious fallout from deep structural flaws in the relationship between the nation’s public and private sectors, a relationship which fell short in every conceivable area from Wall Street regulation to the basic social safety net. The biggest economic stories of 2009 will be about how President-elect Barack Obama’s administration repairs—or fails to repair—that connection.
The first step in rebuilding a government that actually responds to problems before they reach the bailout stage will be Obama’s highly anticipated economic recovery package. As Dean Baker notes for The Huffington Post, the failure to date of Congress to pass meaningful stimulus legislation has been beyond negligent. Several Congressional leaders are cautioning that a bill will not be ready until February, but with more than two weeks to go before Obama’s inauguration, Congress has both the time and the public support necessary to pass a major bill before Obama takes up a chair in the Oval Office, as anyone who remembers the speed of Congressional action moved on the Wall Street bailout can attest.
The content of the legislation will reveal a great deal about Obama’s priorities. No president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has entered office with an economic mandate as clear as that Obama enjoys, but one early warning sign for progressives is this week’s news that Obama plans to devote as much as 40% of the bill to tax cuts, a number that could go higher in legislative haggling with Congressional Republicans.
In a blog post over at The Washington Monthly, Hilzoy highlights the well-established economic fact that tax cuts are the least efficient method for boosting economic activity. Remember the February 2008 economic stimulus bill? Fat lot of good those $600 tax rebates did.
Public investment in areas like health care, green energy and research into sustainable manufacturing also leaves a stronger economy in its wake, and spending on basic infrastructure projects—roads, bridges, etc.—has been sorely neglected for the past eight years.
What’s more, as Ezra Klein notes for The American Prospect, the U.S. government seems to be in perpetual tax cutting mode, whether economic times are good or bad. While cutting the right taxes amid a severe recession can be justified, President George W. Bush’s decision to take a chainsaw to the IRS code during an economic boom cannot become a permanent facet of U.S. policy.
Imperative services provided by state governments are currently in severe jeopardy amid tax shortfalls prompted by lower housing values. The Public News Service discusses budget problems in Michigan and Missouri in pieces by Tony Bruscato and Laura Thornquist. Michigan faces cutbacks in health care for the poor and college tuition assistance programs, while Missouri needs to fill a $900 million hole by 2010.
State and local governments are likely to be $200 billion underwater next year, according to a piece by Robert Kuttner appearing in Chelsea Green. Even if Obama does not want to tackle major issues like universal health care in his first 100 days in office, he could fund community health clinics and make sure police officers, firefighters and teachers do not lose their jobs.
It has been easy to forget amid the mortgage market news of 2008 that other aspects of the economy have been under intense strain. In a frightening interview with The Real News, Leo Panitch details how a drop-off in working-class wages, fueled by a decades-long decline in the power of organized labor, has forced millions of Americans to turn to expensive consumer debt just to make ends meet.
That surge in credit card debt has been accompanied by a refusal on behalf of the federal government to place meaningful regulations on credit card lending practices. The Federal Reserve finally took steps in December to rein in deceptive credit card lending, but as Mike Lillis demonstrates for The Colorado Independent, the new rules are relatively modest given the scope of credit card-related abuses. Lenders can still do pretty much anything they want to a borrower once they miss a payment, and the Fed’s restrictions do not even go into effect until July 2010.
If low wages and predatory credit cards are not enough to push consumers into financial ruin, consider what is taking place in the student loan industry. The government keeps the student loan market going in two primary ways: by directly lending to students and by guaranteeing loans students take out from private lenders like Sallie Mae, making it cheaper for Sallie Mae to extend loans. The government-assisted private sector loans cost taxpayers significantly more money than loans made through the direct loan program.
When student lenders hit the skids this year amid a Wall Street-induced credit crunch, the government responded by financing student loans made through private companies.
But if the government is not only guaranteeing private-sector loans but financing them as well, the resulting scheme is essentially a less efficient version of the direct loan program, as Cole Robertson explains in a piece for The Nation. Sallie Mae CEO Albert Lord seems to approve of the bailout plan, but has not offered to return one penny of the orgiastic pay he’s accumulated over the past year in return for this taxpayer largess. Lord cashed out over $44 million in stock options in one day during the summer of 2007, and has been targeted by Congressional insider trading investigations for convenient sales of Sallie Mae stock.
A big federal bailout accompanied by outrageous executive compensation. Sounds familiar.
It is truly astonishing to consider how much damage conservatives have done to public attitudes on economic issues over the past 14 years. There is nothing inherently progressive about policy suggestions like like funding emergency health care, paying firefighters and teachers or refusing to allow lenders to arbitrarily change the terms of a contract without borrower consent. This stuff is basic sanity. At least 2009 promises not to be boring. We will either witness a return to said sanity that would have been unthinkable even a year ago or another depression. Happy New Year.
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy. Visit Economy.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on immigration, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical health and immigration issues, check out Healthcare.NewsLadder.net and Immigration.NewsLadder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.
President-elect Barack Obama rolled out his highly anticipated priorities for an economic recovery package this weekend, but the current Congress remains focused on bailouts, with the fate of U.S. automobile manufacturers still hanging in the balance.
Mike Madden details the Detroit drama for Salon.com, reporting on how lawmakers who would ordinarily be receptive to a salvage plan have become skeptical in the wake of the Bush administration’s handling of the Wall Street bailout. After being promised that their votes would be used to help fend off foreclosures, members of Congress have responded with outrage as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has devoted all of his legislatively allocated funds to the purchase of preferred stock in financial companies.
Josh Marshall offers a compelling analysis of the public reaction to the Big Three’s predicament over at Talking Points Memo, noting that the widespread reluctance to reward bad behavior at the automakers could be tied to the fact that most people actually grasp how car companies work, whereas the average American has no idea what role Citigroup really plays in the economy.
“I do think a big, not very good, and really underappreciated reason for the disjuncture is that the auto makers are structured in a way, are economic entities in a way, that most of us can have some basic understanding on how they operate, what they do,” Marshall writes.
While the Big Three have undeniably been horribly mismanaged for decades, losing even one of them would have major economic aftershocks. General Motors alone employs well over one million workers.
The role of unions in the collapse of the Big Three has also been blown completely out of proportion. Not only have major newspapers grossly overstated union wages for Detroit by factoring in decades of built-up pension costs as labor expenses for current employees, they have recently featured editorials claiming that unions exercise too much power in the current economy. Ezra Klein of The American Prospect takes the Washington Post’s Sebastian Mallaby to task for simultaneously bashing unions and praising economic growth in countries like Sweden and Denmark, which both have union densities of about 80%, compared to 12% in the U.S.
Which is why it is nice to hear that union workers at the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago– who received just three days’ notice that the plant would be shut down– have refused to leave the facility until they are granted severance pay. Check out Ron Ruby’s interview with factory worker Raul Flores live from the sit-in for Air America Radio.
Obama’s new New Deal also gives progressives something to celebrate after several recent centrist selections for cabinet positions. We finally have an economic policy that does not begin and end with the financial sector.
The next president’s proposals include a massive push to boost the energy efficiency of government buildings, repair public schools and provide them with new teaching technologies, and invest in new health care technologies. The plan also includes some of the most basic infrastructure layouts, with a 21st century twist: Obama pledged to rebuild roads and bridges across the country and expand the availability of broadband interenet access.
John Nichols writes for The Nation that Obama’s focus on infrastructure will be particularly helpful for construction workers, who have been hit hard by the recent housing market downturn.
But while the recovery package would be a step in the right direction (the term “recovery” appears to be roughly synonymous with the word “stimulus,” with added hints of AIG, Lehman Brothers and skyrocketing unemployment numbers), it is far from the final word on the nation’s economic troubles. For Obama to carry out his campaign promise to make health insurance available to everyone in the U.S. would not only be good for the nation’s physical well-being, it would also cushion the shock stemming from mounting job losses, as Sarah van Gelder notes for YES! Magazine. An extension of unemployment benefits would also help laid-off workers pay the bills while they search for new work.
Speaking of job cuts, the Labor Department delivered another devastating set of unemployment data last Friday, revealing that the U.S. economy lost 533,000 jobs in the month of November, the largest monthly decline in 34 years.
Carlo Basilone produced nice video spot for The Real News detailing the scope of current U.S. economic difficulties. Although 10.3 million people are now unemployed nationwide, a staggering 10% are living on food stamps, revealing that many of those who still have jobs are not being paid enough to make ends meet.
As Farron Cousins notes in a piece for GoLeft TV, monthly job losses could reach over one million next year and remain at that level for several months.
On the Wall Street front, David Moberg provides an excellent history of recent financial innovation and subsequent financial collapse in a piece for In These Times. Chelsea Green features Woody Tasch’s inquiries into alternative financial structures that are actually tied to communities and the environment rather than unsustainable risk and short-term executive compensation models.
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy. Visit Economy.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on the economy. And for the best progressive reporting on critical immigration and healthcare issues, check out Immigration.NewsLadder.net and Healthcare.NewsLadder.net.