Erika Eichelberger

Erika Eichelberger

Reporter

Erika Eichelberger is a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. She has also written for The NationThe Brooklyn Rail, and TomDispatch. Email her at eeichelberger [at] motherjones [dot] com. 

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Dance Inspired by Theoretical Physics Not Such a Big Bang

| Sat May 19, 2012 4:50 PM EDT
Armitage Gone! performs Three Theories

They call her the Punk Ballerina. For her 1978 choreographic debut, Karole Armitage, who once danced with the Ballet Theater of Geneva and later with modern dance luminary Merce Cunningham, shocked the classical vocabulary by setting ballet to punk music. Her website says Armitage is still "dedicated to redefining the boundaries and perceptions of contemporary dance." She maintains that "music is her script." 

I was therefore a little mind-boggled by Three Theories, the piece that her company, Armitage Gone!, just performed in San Francisco following shows in Chicago and New York. According to the program notes, the piece "looks at the poetry underlying the pillars of 20th century theoretical physics: Einstein's General Theory of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics and String Theory." It goes on to explain that the choreography is derived from "scientific principles" and creates dance that, I kid you not, "reflect[s] the points of view held by physicists about the fundamental nature of the universe."

While anyone could be forgiven for failing to illuminate the theory of everything with dance, you'd think that at the very least Armitage would push some of those pesky boundaries—or even elevate the music beyond just an arbitrary metronome for the steps.

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An Expat Dad's Cartoon Adventures in the Holy Land

| Tue May 8, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

Guy Delisle makes comic books. But not that kind. A "graphic memoirist," he creates thoughtful autobiographical travelogues about off-the-beaten-path locales. His latest, Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City, follows French-Canadian househusband on a yearlong stay in the the fragmented, violent, often absurd world that is Israel and the Palestinian territories.

His earlier travel books have covered sojourns in China and North Korea, where he worked as an animator, and Burma, where he tagged along with his wife, Nadège, who worked for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, or Doctors Without Borders). He says he didn't sell a huge number of his first book, Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China, "but things have changed a lot." Jerusalem, the English language version of which just came out in April, hit the top of the New York Times Graphic Novel bestseller list and just won the prestigious Fauve d'Or prize for best comic album at this year's International Comics Festival in Angoulême, France. The 46-year-old Delisle says the political subject matter appeals to people who usually regard comics as frivolous: "People go for these works—for more mature subjects."

But even though Jerusalem is a meditation on politics and religion, it seems inadvertent. Delisle says he knew nothing about the Israeli-Palestinian situation when he landed at Ben Gurion airport in August 2008, accompanying Nadège on another MSF assignment: "I was a blank slate. I didn't even know what a settlement was. I imagined it as a couple of little houses on a hill."

New Poll: Most Americans Want Climate Action!

| Mon Apr. 30, 2012 6:32 PM EDT

With right-wing commentators like Rush Limbaugh selling climate change as a vast left-wing conspiracy you might imagine that Americans couldn't be bothered to try and stop our planet from boiling. Thankfully, that's not true, according to a Yale/George Mason University poll released yesterday.

The poll finds that a majority of Americans—63 percent—think the US should act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions now. That's even if other countries don't take any action. Surveying some 1,000 Americans, the poll found that only five percent of respondents believe there's no need to reduce emissions at all (see chart below). "Clearly, reports of the death of public support for action on global warming are overblown," wrote Ruy Teixeira at the Center for American Progress, in response to the poll. 

What's more, the survey found, 65 percent of Americans support cutting greenhouse gas emission levels by 90 percent by 2050. That's huge. Sixty-three percent of those polled also said they wouldn't mind a utility bill price hike if it meant companies would be forced to source a portion of their energy from renewables.

It's too bad the talking heads are so out of touch with the rest of us.

MAPS: Biblical Flooding Is Coming to a Refinery Near You

| Wed Apr. 25, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

Oil and water don't mix, but that may soon change.

A rare Senate hearing on the threat of rising sea levels last week coincided with a new report from Climate Central, a non-profit that publishes peer-reviewed environmental research, that shows rising seas may soon be lapping at the country's oil and gas refineries, electric and natural gas power plants, and even nuclear facilities.

Climate change has raised global sea levels by eight inches since the late 19th century, amping up storm surges and flooding around the world. Extreme coastal deluges—of the sort that's only supposed to happen once a century—are those that reach at least four feet above local high tides. The rate of this kind of biblical flooding is expected to more than double by 2030, according to the report. Check out the researchers' map of coastal threats from rising waters in your area:

Climate Central

This is bad news for coastal energy facilities. The analysis, which assessed data from the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, the US Geological Survey and FEMA, tallied nearly 300 locations, spread across 22 coastal states, which stand on ground below that critical high tide-plus-four level. That includes 130 natural gas, 96 electric, 56 oil and gas, and 4 nuclear facilities. Here's Climate Central's map of of all the at-risk locations. (You can adjust the data to show energy facilities at higher and lower flood levels.)


More than half are in Louisiana. That state can't win.

Ben Strauss, Director of Climate Central's Program on Sea Level Rise, and co-author of the report, who testified at the Senate hearing, says flooding of energy facilities could result in blackouts, damage to critical access roads and destruction of mechanical systems. At refineries storm surges could cause spillage, damage to storage tanks, and national oil supply shortages. Or imagine an American Fukushima, in which flood waters cut off power supplies, keeping reactors from being cooled, and triggering a nuclear meltdown.

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the lone Republican at the hearing, called the report's findings "a wake-up call."

Scientists expect waters to rise 20-80 more inches this century, depending on whether the world gets it together policy-wise. Don't hold your breath.

Well, actually, you might need to.

Buddy Roemer Redefines the Political Circus

| Sat Apr. 21, 2012 6:00 AM EDT
Gov. Buddy Roemer

"We've got to redefine America!" Buddy Roemer roars, sounding exactly like the former Congressman, ex-governor, and current presidential hopeful that he is. But what he says next is a bit of a departure from campaign-trail boilerplate. "Look at Southwest Airlines!" he shouts. "Who here likes Southwest?! I love Southwest! No numbers, no lines, you sit wherever you want! They've redefined the airline!"

"And look at Cirque du Soleil!" he goes on. "Look at what they've done! No popcorn, no sodas! No animals!" Roemer looks incredulous. "No animals!"

Buddy Roemer, you might say, is seeking to redefine the circus. Having had it with both the Democrats, who first made him a Congressman in the 1980s, and the GOP, his party for the past quarter-century, he is running for the nomination of the Reform Party. It's slow going—the campaign event I attended was held in a small classroom on the University of California-Berkeley campus, with maybe 30 students and aging hippies in attendance.

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