What are they waiting for?
The League of Conservation Voters has launched a campaign to influence reporters to ask candidates about the issue of global warming.
The League of Conservation Voters has launched a campaign to influence reporters to ask candidates about the issue of global warming.
Bruce Lieberman covered science research for the San Diego Union-Tribune between 2002 and 2007, and now writes about education issues for the newspaper. This year he also reported on a small community north of San Diego affected by the California wildfires. Target Green recently talked to Lieberman about reporting on environmental disasters and dealing with PR pros.
Target Green: Did your knowledge of science make it easier to cover the wildfires?
Lieberman: My job — like a lot of other people — was to talk to people and get personal stories of people caught in this fire. In 2003 with the Cedar Fires, I wrote articles about air quality and talked to scientists at UC-San Diego. This time around, I did a story on hazmat clean-up and chemicals that are dangerous. But I didn’t get into science coverage because my assignment was to cover a community north of San Diego called Fallbrook. [My job was to] find out how a community that has no city government, that depends on other support systems, was dealing with the fires.
Target Green: What was it like to cover a community without a city government?
Lieberman: In a community that you’re not familiar with, it takes some time to get to know who is who. This is a community that doesn’t have a city council or that kind of structure, so the centers of government are the fire department, the chamber of commerce, the water district, or the merchant’s association for the downtown area. These people are tapped into who is who, and what fundraisers are going on. It took a little time to get oriented and to find the people in the know. You have to just drive around, and walk around.
Target Green: As a print journalist, was it challenging to cover such a visual story?
Lieberman: The first day of the fires, I was making calls in the office. When a big story like this happens, they mobilize everybody — no matter what their beat is. On Tuesday they sent me out to Rancho Santa Fe, and I went without a photographer. So I was filing snippets of what I would see over the cell phone to someone in the main office. Then on Wednesday it was a bit more formalized, and I went out with a photographer. She was able to capture a lot of images I was writing about. But about halfway through the day we split up. Sometimes you have photographer and sometimes you don’t, so sometimes you have to just describe what you see. But with a dramatic event like this it’s not that hard at all.
Target Green: What was it like covering an area that got less press coverage than other regions?
Read more »
Green news for the week of 12.18.07
Bill Talen is promoting the fictional Church of Stop Shopping. According to ABC News, “Talen is part activist, part performance artist, but this time of year, he takes on the full-time persona of his alter-ego: the Rev. Billy — leader of the fictional Church of Stop Shopping. For the last 10 years, he’s spent his holidays railing against the evils of consumerism. Despite his contrarian views, he insists he is not the Grinch.”
Tech companies have a reputation for being progressive about green issues, even though making technology can be hugely wasteful and polluting. Well, now there are some more staggering statistics about “end of life” tech issues from National Geographic. The article says, there are an estimated 30 to 40 million PCs that will be discarded every year, for the next several years. It doesn’t end there: about 25 million TVs, and 98 million U.S. cell phones are taken out of service each year. And what happens to this stuff? It mostly sits in landfills, possibly emitting harmful toxins into the ground. But more surprising, even the outmoded electronics sitting in storage are harming the environment. Keep reading for more.
According to NPR, “So-called ‘green burials’ are catching on in some areas as an alternative to traditional burial. They are simple, often more affordable and environmentally friendly.”
Heads up to the corn industry, you might have a green issue to grapple with. According to the AP, “Because of rising demand for ethanol, American farmers are growing more corn than at any time since the Depression. And sea life in the Gulf of Mexico is paying the price.”
Andrew Revkin chronicles the terrifying adventures of a young couple caught on cruise ship that hit an iceberg and sunk in the Antarctic Peninsula this year. But he raises an interesting question about this trend toward eco-inspired holidays. Folks are flocking to Antarctica to “see the icebergs before they melt” — but is this spike in tourism actually contributing to the icebergs melting? Revkin’s expert says probably not, more tourists just means there are more opportunities for iceberg collisions.
According to the LA Times, “Cars are set to get dramatically better mileage in the next decade under the energy bill that’s expected to get final congressional approval today. But for drivers hoping to see sport utility vehicles go the way of the dinosaurs and find dealerships stocked with hybrids and high-tech fuel-cell vehicles, the future may be a long way off.
The legislation requires that new mileage standards take effect in the 2011 model year with modest increases, ramping up to 35 miles per gallon in 2020. ”
Locating the sunniest spots on Earth has some practical uses outside of vacation planning. According to the LA Times, NASA is using these maps to “gauge solar energy at every other spot on the planet and already have been used to help businesses site solar panels in Morocco, for instance, or send text messages to tell sunbathers in Italy to put on more cream.”
NPR reports, ” Green companies are sprouting. There are some 200 new businesses for solar-panel installation, home weatherization, and electronic recycling. The sector is growing so fast, there’s a critical shortage of entry-level workers. And that’s opening doors for unemployed young people. ”
Warming Could Worsen Many Problems Along the Coast (The Times-Picayune, New Orleans)
More bad news for America’s Gulf region. According to the Times-Picayune, “Louisiana’s coastal parishes and other Gulf communities from Houston to Mobile should build higher and more resilient roads, bridges and other infrastructure to withstand more intense hurricanes and rainstorms, sea level rise, and higher temperatures caused by global warming during the next 50 to 100 years, according to a draft report prepared by the federal Department of Transportation and the U.S. Geological Survey. ”
The AP reports, “Preliminary data released Thursday by federal scientists predict the annual average temperature for 2007 across the contiguous United States at near 54.3 degrees Fahrenheit — making the year the eighth warmest since records were first kept in 1895. Worldwide, the average temperature for the year, expected to be near 58 degrees Fahrenheit, is on pace to be the fifth warmest ever, said the report by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.”
Eric Bailey writes, “The city of San Francisco on Monday sued the owners of the container ship that sideswiped the Bay Bridge last month and spilled 58,000 gallons of fuel oil, blackening the coastline and wildlife, shutting down the fishing industry and spawning an expensive mop-up operation.”
The former Vice President points out that the United States and China are the world’s leading emitters of greenhouse gases while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize for spreading awareness about global warming. The , NPR, and the Washington Post also report.
NPR reports, “Representatives of the world’s nations have gathered in Bali, Indonesia, to plan how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions after the Kyoto agreement expires.”
William Yardley reports, “In Missouri, where the average winter temperature has been rising, hunters say birds are arriving later and sticking around longer before bolting for warmer redoubts. Elsewhere, wetlands are not freezing over the way they once did.”
NPR reports, “Next month, dealers in the U.S. will begin selling the tiny vehicle best known for slipping into tight parking spaces on the streets of Rome and Paris. The car’s maker, Daimler, said high gas prices, crowded cities and concerns about global warming mean the time is right to crack the world’s biggest auto market.”
The list includes several green efforts, including , , , and .
Andrew Revkin responds to a colleague’s , questioning whether local produce is always the greener option, especially in terms of carbon dioxide emitted in its growth process.
If the only metric is greenhouse-gas emissions, it’s clear that local is not always better, as the article makes clear. But my guess is that most people seeking local produce are not in it to save the climate. This reflects, perhaps, the deeper challenge facing those trying to make global warming the single-topic environmental issue of our time…It’s not just about the amazing variety of heirloom tomatoes. It’s about trying to sustain the nature of a place in a world moving rapidly to big-box and mini-mall monoculture. And as my wife just reminded me while I was typing this, it’s also about community.
Now that major supermarkets sell store-brand organic products, established organic companies have to give some consumers a reason to spend the extra dollars on their items. For Newman’s Own Organics, the strategy has been to show consumers its consistent commitment to the organic movement.
More than a decade before major retailers went green, Newman’s Own Organics launched amid a quiet organic movement with the simple message that organic snack foods could be tasty. Though it wasn’t the first organic company on the market, Newman’s Own Organics gained a distinct edge by its affiliation with the charitable Newman’s Own brand.
Nell Newman started the organic brand in 1992, and pays her father’s company – Newman’s Own – royalties to use its name, says Sally Shepard, a PR consultant who has worked with Newman’s Own Organics since it launched.
“We are PR-driven so we don’t spend much money on advertising, other than trade advertising,” says Peter Meehan, co-founder and CEO of Newman’s Own Organics. “But mostly we stay consistent, and find categories that are meaningful to convert to organic, and then stay with them. We don’t leave them every time the wind blows.”
For instance, the company kept producing organic carbohydrate foods, even when low-carb dieting took hold of the nation. Keeping consistent also helped the company win consumers during the pet food recall earlier this year.
“When the pet food recall happened we were able to say straight away our pet food does not contain the ingredients in question,” Shepard points out.
Most of Newman’s Own Organics’ charitable contributions are made through its royalty payments to Newman’s Own, which donates all after-tax royalties to charity. Yet, the organic company still ensures that most of its donations go to environmental causes, she adds.
“One of our core foundations is generating money for charity,” Meehan says. “So it’s not a passing, ‘here’s a project, let’s support that group for a little while’ – that’s not what we’re about. Consistency, rather than change, has been our leading effort.”
Though some organic purists are skeptical about the green movement going mass market, Meehan supports the industry’s growth.
“The fact that there are big companies [producing organic] is more challenging,” he says. “But if you’re committed to [organic], like we are, it’s a good thing that there are more organic farmers out there, and more land is certified organic and less land is used conventionally.”
- The attention-grabbing green headline this week is a study that argues divorce is bad for the environment. NPR,
and the were among the pubs to report on this popular finding, complete with tips on how to have a green divorce. From the LA Times:
Environmentalists, however, said divorced individuals might look at their situation as a chance to lessen their environmental impact by moving in with family, getting a roommate or renting an apartment in the city.
“Think of divorce as an opportunity to scale back on the stuff you surround yourself with,” said Lisa Wise, executive director of the Center for a New American Dream, a nonprofit environmental organization in Takoma Park, Md.
Yet a voice of reason emerges:
Jim Jewell, chief operating officer of the Evangelical Environmental Network, a Christian conservation group based in Suwanee, Ga., said the study’s revelations, while interesting, will have no effect on the way he advises couples.
“When we sit down and counsel somebody not to get divorced, the fact that they would need two refrigerators would be so far down the line that it wouldn’t even register,” he said.
Treehugger offers an apt criticism of the report, asking if a family of four living in a sprawling suburban home is really more “green” than a newly-divorced man living in a one-bedroom apartment, or even townhouse.
- As the war against bottle water rages on, the investigates just how safe its tap water is. The problem in Southern California is its water supply was contaminated with toxic solvents in the mid-1980s. Even so, the article says the water is solvent-free when it reaches the faucet. Another point for the tap water advocates?
- According to USA Today, the generation that built the sprawl model is now feeling its negative impact, as many are getting too old to drive. The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging has even launched an awareness campaign around the issue for its annual “Home for the Holidays” campaign.
- The Philadelphia Inquirer reports a consensus among forecasters that this year will be a mild — perhaps snowless — season for most of the nation. “And it would dovetail with an increasingly apparent trend: The snows of yesteryear were more impressive than those of today,” the article notes.
- NPR reports on a quirky way to save the planet:
If you dumped iron filings into the ocean, says Columbia University scientist Bob Anderson, phytoplankton would bloom and suck carbon dioxide out of the air. Sound mad? Maybe.
UN Climate Change Conference
Time boldly asks if the world can be saved by 2015. Though the headline is overinflated, the article offers an interesting analysis leading up to this week’s UN change conference.
Spiegel Online has an editorial by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about the conference and the dawning of green economics.
In Dot Earth Andrew Revkin writes about the limits of language to inspire people to act on looming environmental troubles. This is compounded by the human tendency to focus on the present moment - that does not involve, say, melting icebergs, and the tendency to normalize bad situations. Revkin posts some insightful analysis from experts and readers on this topic.
On his own column, Thomas Friedman :
And sweet-sounding “global warming” doesn’t really capture what’s likely to happen. I prefer the term “global weirding,” coined by Hunter Lovins, co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, because the rise in average global temperature is going to lead to all sorts of crazy things — from hotter heat spells and droughts in some places, to colder cold spells and more violent storms, more intense flooding, forest fires and species loss in other places.
Revkin also chronicles yet another climate change hoax. This time in the form of a mock Web site proclaiming that companies that are a part of the Climate Action Partnership have pledged to turn off their emissions in the next 50 years. The fake news was picked up by several news outlets. Any thoughts on the recent hoaxes troubling the credibility of climate change organizations?
DeSmogBlog.com has developed a creative and fresh way to get the word out about climate change. The “100 Year Letter Project” asks readers to write letters to their great, great grandchildren about global warming. Revkin posts excerpts from a poignant letter written by Simon Donner, a climate scientist at the University of British Columbia:
Are you still shoveling snow off the lake and playing hockey at the cottage? Do you have to wait an extra month for the lake to freeze? Or does the lake not freeze at all?
Your climate, your world, will be shaped in large part by the choices my generation is about to make. Maybe to you, we are famous. Maybe we are infamous. I hope for neither
Perhaps language can convey the urgency surrounding climate change? Your thoughts?
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