Kiera Butler

Kiera Butler

Senior Editor

A senior editor at Mother Jones, Kiera covers health, food, and the environment. She is the author of the new book Raise: What 4-H Teaches 7 Million Kids—and How Its Lessons Could Change Food and Farming Forever (University of California Press).

 

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So Long, Cap-and-Trade. So What's Next?

| Tue Nov. 16, 2010 11:00 AM EST

Ever since the slow and painful death of the climate bill in the Senate, it's been crystal clear that the climate movement desperately needs a breath of fresh air. With this in mind, the Climate Desk partners have convened a panel of experts who, over the next three days, will be brainstorming solutions to the climate crisis—with, of course, your help. The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal is moderating. Here's his take on the project:

We're tapping half a dozen innovative thinkers to move the climate debate beyond global treaties and cap-and-trade bills and to the wide world of policy options that haven't yet gotten their due.

It's time to break new ground. In a series of essays published over the next three days, we'll try to build a set of solutions that I think will look less like a climate fix and more like a statement of what industrial policy should look like in America. Outside the magic of a price on carbon, there have to be strategies for meeting the climate challenge.

So taking into account the political realities of our time, what can be done—particularly by US policymakers—to start solving the dual problems of energy poverty in developing nations and global climate change?

Read the rest of Alexis' post here. To kick off the discussion, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, co-founders of the Breakthrough Institute, explain why they believe the cap-and-trade was always doomed to fail—and offer some alternative solutions. Check back tomorrow to read experts' responses. 

Can You Get E.Coli From Reusable Grocery Bags?

| Tue Nov. 16, 2010 10:00 AM EST

From the department of no good deed going unpunished, The New York Times reported Sunday that some reusable shopping bags could be contaminating your food with lead. But MoJo reader Barb wrote in with a different health concern about the eco-bags:

"I just got accosted by a man in the grocery store who insisted that my reusable bags were 'spreading E. coli'...He seemed to think that I was bringing it into the store and putting people at risk by doing so."

This piqued my curiosity: Can bags breed bacteria? And if so, how likely is it that shoppers with tainted bags are spreading the bugs around their local markets?

I called Craig Hedberg, a professor in the University of Minnesota's Division of Environmental Health Sciences. Hedberg told me that the most likely bacteria scenario for reusable bags would likely involve juices leaking from meat, which could, in theory, breed Salmonella or Listeria, or less likely, E. coli or Campylobacter, which could contaminate your veggies on your next trip to the supermarket. "But you have to look at what the likelihood of that is," says Hedberg. "Probably your meat is going to be in a container, not leaking." The risk of bacteria that originates on fruits and veggies, he says, is "very low," as is the risk of a shopper unknowingly spreading bacteria by reaching into a contaminated bag and touching food. "Theoretically this could happen, but it's not likely."

That said, you can practically eliminate the risk of bag-borne bacteria by washing your bags after each use. Always wash your produce. Keeping separate bags for meat and produce (like cutting boards) is another good idea. Washing your hands after you go to the grocery store probably wouldn't hurt, either.

Got a burning eco-quandary? Submit it to econundrums@motherjones.com. Get all your green questions answered by visiting Econundrums on Facebook here.

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