Blue Marble

The New Gideons Bible Or How To Really Save The World

| Thu Oct. 4, 2007 9:45 PM EDT

I've got an idea. You know all those free Gideons Bibles in hotel rooms all over the world that nobody reads (how many trees? how many carbon emissions?). Let's start a new movement. Let's, one by one, replace them with copies of The Hydrogen Age: Empowering A Clean Energy Future, by Geoffrey Holland and James Provenzano. It's loaded with stories (and pictures) of one view of salvation. Don't like hydrogen? Pick the vision/book that you offers your version of redemption.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, "The Fragile Edge," and other writings, here.

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Good News On Ozone Hole

| Thu Oct. 4, 2007 9:16 PM EDT

In a year of bad news from the Polar regions, a bright note. The ozone hole over Antarctica shrunk 30 percent compared to last year's record size, reports the European Space Agency. This year's ozone loss peaked at 27.7 million tons, compared to the 2006 record of 40 million tons—although the researchers caution the data don't prove the ozone layer is actually recovering. This year's hole was probably smaller because it was less centered on the South Pole, allowing it to mix with warmer air, reducing its growth.

So, we're not off the hook on this one. Though it does mean that for one season, at least, fewer phytoplankton, penguins, leopard seals, and great whales, had to suffer life in the ultraviolet. May that come to pass again next year.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, "The Fragile Edge," and other writings, here.

Hatchery Fish Struggle To Reproduce In Wild

| Thu Oct. 4, 2007 8:51 PM EDT

Here's another surprise from the unpredictable frontlines of biology. A new study from Oregon State University finds that steelhead trout raised in hatcheries face a dramatic and unexpectedly rapid drop in their ability to reproduce in the wild—nearly 40 percent per captive-reared generation. Fish reared in a hatchery for two generations had around half the reproductive fitness of fish reared for a single generation. The effects appear to be genetic, and probably result from evolutionary pressures that quickly select for characteristics that are favored in the safe, placid world of the hatchery, but not in the comparatively hostile natural environment. The study, to be published Friday in the journal Science, raises serious questions about what happens to wild populations when they interbreed with hatchery fish, and the wisdom of many hatchery practices.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, "The Fragile Edge," and other writings, here.

Recall Irony Roundup

| Wed Oct. 3, 2007 6:11 PM EDT

Two pieces of news about recalled products stood out today:

First off, there's RC2, the toy company (slogan: "compelling, passionate parenting and play for all ages") that recalled about 1.5 million Thomas & Friends toys in June. To the customers who surrendered their lead-laced toys, RC2 sent a consolation prize: shiny new railway cars.

The ironic twist: Last week, those "bonus gifts" were recalled because of—you guessed it—lead paint.

Then there's the line of canvas and vinyl lunchboxes made by TA Creations in China.

The ironic twist: In California, the lunchboxes are distributed to low-income families as part of the Network for a Healthy California program. The most cringe-worthy detail? The lunchboxes are emblazoned with the message, "Eat fruits & vegetables and be active" in both English and Spanish. Another cheerful health tip could read, "Throw away this lunchbox before it gets anywhere near those fruits and vegetables."

Ozone Shuts Down Immune Response

| Tue Oct. 2, 2007 9:42 PM EDT

We already know that exposure to ozone, a major component of urban air pollution, increases cardiovascular and pulmonary hospitalizations, and deaths. Now Duke University Medical Center finds that inhaled pollutants impair the immune system, making mice, at least, more susceptible to subsequent foreign invaders, such as bacteria. This just as the Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing the standards for levels of ozone in the air. The current standard is 85 parts per billion. Many medical groups, including the American Thoracic Society, recommend a stricter standard of 60 parts per billion.

(BTW, have I mentioned that we should build a memorial the size of Kansas to all the lab rodents who've unwilling sacrificed themselves so you and I can get fat, do no exercise, make pollution, and still live to 90? I'm thinking a giant white, faux Swiss cheese rat, inscribed with the names all the little lab pets were never given. You and I can write them in with Sharpies.)

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, "The Fragile Edge," and other writings, here.

Acid Rain Recovery Falls Far Short Of Expectations

| Tue Oct. 2, 2007 9:24 PM EDT

Thought we were done with this problem? A new study from Britain finds that the acid rain pollution of the 1970s and 1980s is still largely with us. Action taken over the last 20 years across Europe to clean up acid pollutants (from power generation and industry) in rivers has fallen far short of expectations. Apparently the problem is more stubborn than we'd imagined (read why it's even more stubborn in the U.S). Recent studies in Galloway, the Scottish Highlands and Wales reveal that many streams are still highly acidified. Biological recovery has been particularly poor, with more than two thirds of all streams sampled still acid enough during high flow to cause biological damage, and with metals at toxic concentrations. . . Oops. Further proof that the not-paying-attention thing never really works.—Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, "The Fragile Edge," and other writings, here.

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Wake Up The Candidates: Americans Are Scared Of Global Warming

| Tue Oct. 2, 2007 8:53 PM EDT

Hey, it's working. The long slumber is coming to an end. A Yale University survey found 40 percent of Americans will only vote for a presidential candidate who has a strong sense of urgency on the global warming problem.

"One of the most surprising findings was the growing sense of urgency," said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change and the study's principal investigator. "Nearly half of Americans now believe that global warming is either already having dangerous impacts on people around the world or will in the next 10 years—a 20-percentage-point increase since 2004. These results indicate a sea change in public opinion."

The survey's findings reveals that 62% of Americans believe life on earth will continue without major disruptions only if society takes immediate and drastic action to reduce global warming; 68% support a new international treaty requiring the U.S. to cut its emissions of carbon dioxide 90% by 2050; 85% support forcing automakers to increase the fuel efficiency of cars, trucks and SUVs to 35 miles per gallon, even if it meant a new car would cost up to $500 more; 82% support requiring electric utilities to produce at least 20% of their electricity from renewable energy sources, even if it cost the average household an extra $100 a year; 50% say they are personally worried—15 percent say a great deal—about global warming.

We heard about Leiserowitz's 2004 survey in MoJo's The Thirteenth Tipping Point. Well, it seems to be tipping, at last. Somebody set the alarm and wake up Washington.—Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, "The Fragile Edge," and other writings, here.

How To Save 375 Million Gallons Of Gas A Year

| Tue Oct. 2, 2007 4:50 PM EDT

Amazingly, American cities did it last year. Did the economy collapse? Did the world end? Nope. The way forward just got a little easier to navigate. So reports the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The work was done by Clean Cities, a network of approximately 90 volunteer coalitions developing public/private partnerships to promote alternative and advanced vehicles, fuel blends, fuel economy, hybrid vehicles, and idle reduction.

According to the report: Seventy-one percent of the 2006 gasoline displacement came from the use of alternative fuels. Thirty percent of that was from the use of compressed natural gas, mostly in heavy-duty vehicles. E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, accounted for 24 percent of gasoline displacement. Coalitions acquired nearly 44,000 hybrid electric vehicles in 2006, a 61 percent increase over 2005. HEV use displaced about 9 million gallons of gasoline. Idle reduction efforts displaced 8.4 million gallons, including 1.2 million gallons from truck stop electrification. Almost 2 million gallons were saved by reducing the number of miles traveled.

Okay, so it's not enough to save the world, and it has some built-in problems, say, ethanol. But it shows us how and where to start, and how surprisingly easy it really is when you make up the collective mind. Imagine how the problem might transform into opportunity if the big guns in DC ever get motivated.—Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, "The Fragile Edge," and other writings, here.

David Corn To Become Mother Jones' Washington Bureau Chief

| Mon Oct. 1, 2007 3:05 AM EDT

Everybody here at Mother Jones is very pleased to announce that David Corn, long-time Washington Editor for The Nation, best-selling author, blogger, and TV commentator has agreed to take the reins of our greatly expanded Washington bureau.

You can read our old school, fully committeed, awesome press release after the jump. (Quick, somebody "leak" it to Romenesko.) But the gist is: David will head up a team of seven reporters and all this firepower in D.C. represents a fundamental change in the way we do business. Better, stronger, faster than before.

Look out D.C.! Oh, and we've also hired Debra Dickerson (author of The End of Blackness) as an on-line columnist and Nick Aster (who built Treehugger and a lot of the Gawker blogs) to head up our web team. Read more after the jump.

McKibben On The Race Against Warming

| Sat Sep. 29, 2007 2:45 PM EDT

A rousing op-ed by MoJo's contributing writer Bill McKibben in today's Washington Post—just in case you're unclear on what Bush's tepid and untimely global warming conference is really about. Some highlights:

It's the oldest and most clichéd of metaphors, but when it comes to global warming, it's the only one that really works: We're in a desperate race. Politics is chasing reality, and the gap between them isn't closing nearly fast enough.

Shaken scientists see every prediction about the future surpassed by events. As Martin Parry, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told reporters this month, "We are all used to talking about these impacts coming in the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren. Now we know that it's us."

The panel's chair, Rajendra Pachauri, offered the planet an absolute deadline: We need to be producing less carbon dioxide—which is to say burning less coal, gas and oil—by 2015 at the latest, and after that we would need "very sharp reductions" or else there is no hope of avoiding an eventual temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius and the accompanying prospect of catastrophe.

Such news has finally begun to penetrate the bubble of denial that has surrounded Washington for two decades. President Bush, after ignoring the issue for six years, has convened a conference of the major carbon-emitting nations to begin considering . . . something. Bush said in a speech yesterday that "we acknowledge there is a problem," but few expect the process to amount to much; cynics see it as a way to derail ongoing U.N.-sponsored talks for a firm agreement on reducing emissions.

The only real hope is for decisive legislation from Congress; activists are calling for a law that commits the United States to early cuts, closes all coal-fired power plants and auctions the right to pollute so that we can raise the revenue to fund the transformation of our energy system. President Bush won't sign such a law, so it doesn't have to pass this fall; we're working to set the stage for 2009, when a new leader takes over.

It will take a movement to force that kind of change—a movement as urgent, and one to which people are as morally committed and willing to sacrifice, as the civil rights movement was a generation ago. Last spring, I worked with six college students to put together StepItUp07.org. In the course of 12 weeks, with almost no money, we helped put together 1,400 rallies in all 50 states demanding action. This fall we're trying again.

I've blogged StepItUp07.org before. Check it out. Better yet, participate. —Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, to read from her new book "The Fragile Edge" and other writings…