Kiera Butler

Kiera Butler

Senior Editor

Kiera answers your green questions every week in her Econundrums column. She was a hypochondriac even before she started researching germ warfare.

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Kiera has written about the environment, arts and culture, and more for Columbia Journalism Review, Orion, Audubon, OnEarth, Plenty, and the Utne Reader. She lives in Berkeley and recently planted 30 onions in her backyard.

From Gmail to Global Warming Skeptics (With a Single Click)

| Mon Oct. 29, 2007 1:02 PM PDT

global%20warming.jpgUpon logging into my Gmail account this morning, what should I find in the "sponsored link" spot above my inbox but the following message:

"Global warming is not a crisis! Gore won't debate."

Intrigued, I clicked on the link and found myself at the website of the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based think tank whose mission is "to discover and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems."

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News Flash: Icebergs Still Exist

| Fri Oct. 26, 2007 4:47 PM PDT

icebergs200.jpgThese days, everyone seems to want a piece of the Arctic. (Diamond prospectors, bone hunters, and global warming tourists are just a few northward bound parties.) After all, who knows what treasures lurk under those hunks of melting ice?

But if you're planning on skipping up to the Arctic and expecting smooth sailing, think again. Today, the International Ice Charting Working Group issued a report on the state of the Arctic sea ice. In the report is a reminder that global warming hasn't quite done away with icebergs yet:

The Arctic is already experiencing an increase in shipping, primarily for oil and gas development and tourism, and we can expect to see further increases as diminishing ice extent makes Arctic marine transportation more viable...The IICWG cautions that sea ice and icebergs will continue to present significant hazards to navigation for the foreseeable future. The Arctic will still have a winter ice cover that will linger into summer for varying lengths of time depending on a range of conditions.

Let's hope it stays that way.

Good Works for Fun and Profit: Socially Responsible Businesspeople Invade San Francisco

| Fri Oct. 26, 2007 1:03 PM PDT

bsr_logo_white.pngYesterday I swung by the 2007 Business for Social Responsibility's annual conference. A BSR coordinator told me that more than 1,300 people had registered, and when I arrived, it looked as if most of them were milling around the imposing lobby of San Francisco's Grand Hyatt Regency hotel.

Why were they there? Cynics will always say that where business is concerned, social responsibility is useful only for PR purposes. In some cases, that still might be true, but these days, this idea is (thankfully) quickly becoming outmoded. At one session I attended, "Women's Health: The Key to Development?," the overall message was a no-brainer: When young female factory employees have access to medical care and information about workers' rights, absenteeism declines and overall morale improves. The logistics of such initiatives, though, can get hairy. In China, for example, factories typically won't allow any programs that could prompt workers to organize, so educators have to sneak lessons about labor rights into their health classes. Clever.

The Greenest (Richest) Colleges

| Wed Oct. 24, 2007 3:07 PM PDT

report%20card.jpg

The Sustainable Endowments Institute released its 2008 College Sustainability Report Card this week. Download the full report (including a list of the 200 colleges included and their overall green grades) here.

The grades themselves are not especially interesting—with a few exceptions, giant endowment=giant sustainability program. While no one got an A, Harvard and Dartmouth received an A-, and Yale got a B+. Yawn.

But the report does offer a few more newsworthy nuggets. It's interesting to note, for example, that more than one in three schools included in the list have full-time staff dedicated to sustainability, and three in five schools have green building projects.

Factory Conditions Sicken Chinese Workers

| Mon Oct. 22, 2007 10:52 AM PDT

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The fact that lead-laced toys put kids at risk is bad enough, but Chinese factories also cause big problems for another population—workers.

A few of the ways factory employees risk their lives to produce goods bound for the U.S., according to the Salt Lake Tribune's series on the hazards of manufacturing plants in China:

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