Blue Marble

Marijuana Laws Cost Taxpayers Billions

| Mon Oct. 8, 2007 7:12 PM EDT

A new study finds the marijuana prohibition costs taxpayers $41.8 billion a year in law enforcement, diverts $113 billion from the legal economy, and loses a whopping $31.1 billion in revenue annually. The Marijuana Policy Project reports the sad numbers. I mean, think how many wars we could fund with that kind of money. Not to mention the cost of all the enviro-damage from growing in national parks and supposedly pristine wilderness areas. Not to mention the good medicine never taken.

And—shhh—don't tell the boozers, but was Lawrence Welk—or Myron Floren—on the toke many, many moons ago? Clearly the weed's been mainstream forever. Check out the video, sans bubbles:

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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Get Em While They Last: 99-Cent Flourescent Lightbulbs

| Sat Oct. 6, 2007 6:29 PM EDT

Grab this offer if you live anywhere in the Pacific Gas & Electric forcefield. PG&E is giving away 1 million energy-saving compact fluorescent lightbulbs this month. They bought them for $1.25 a pop, less than retail, and are working with Safeway to sell them for 99 cents each in their service area (northern and central California). CFLs cost more than standard incandescent lightbulbs but use about 75 percent less energy and last as much as 10 times longer. Each CFL could save $30 in energy costs over the bulb's lifetime. The giveaway might save 400,000 megawatt hours of power use and prevent 200,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions—the equivalent of powering 60,000 homes or taking 31,000 cars off the road for a year.

Okay, the gauntlet's been thrown. How about the other utilities? Maybe their customers should lean on them.

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

Greenpeace Kid Declares War

| Sat Oct. 6, 2007 5:10 PM EDT

Angry kid will grow up. Have we calculated that into the global warming equation?

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

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.

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.

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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.

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.