Will George Listen?

Thomas Friedman, a moderate columnist for The New York Times, has gone from supporting the Bush administration’s effort in Iraq…to criticizing the Bush administration for a misguided energy policy.

Once Friedman was said to be so influential in Washington that even the Bush Administration tracked his columns. But in the last few weeks he’s been calling for a "geo-green" strategy of hybrid cars, gax taxes, and other measures to reduce fossil-fuel consumption. It’s a startling change, but Friedman insists in a recent Q&A with Grist magazine that his readers support it. He goes on to call drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge an example of "brain-dead" politics over policy.

Will George listen?

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Can Enviros Be Funny? T.C. Boyle Thinks So

In a recent interview in the NRDC magazine  OnEarth noted wit and prolific novelist T.C. Boyle talked about the fundamental problem with environmental writers like Bill McKibben (who wrote the devastatingly convincing The End of Nature).   

The End of Nature is the most depressing book in the history of humankind. I can guess what happened. After he wrote it, people said to him, hey, look, Bill. You’re an environmentalist, you’re trying to get people to join your cause. But look, everybody just wants to commit suicide. So lighten up.

Boyle doesn’t claim to have answers, but he does adeptly mock sanctimonious enviromentalists who think that walking with a certain stick and pretending to consult Native American customs and elders makes them somehow "special," like a character in his novel Tortilla Curtain. He finds extremists — such as animal activists, in our time — fascinating but appalling. This comes out especially in his recent novel Drop City, which has perhaps the best hippie villain ever put down on paper. Like Dickens,  Boyle writes villainy so well that his often-bumbling good guys — blessed with simple decency and kindness — become larger than life by sheer comparison.

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Combo of the Week

 "Get Used to High Gas Prices" reads a headline from Friday April 8th’s Los Angeles Times.

In the business section on that same day, the newspaper mentions that General Motors has stopped buying advertising in the paper, claiming the coverage of GM cars was inaccurate — although refusing to specify any particular examples of inaccuracy.  The mammoth car firm did admit it was angered by a review by the Times’ car reviewer, Dan Neil, who last year won a Pulitzer prize for his bold, confrontational writing.

In his most recent column, Neil argued that GM is failing as a carmaker in part because it’s accelerating its SUV development while failing to put a single gas-conserving hybrid on the market. It’s time to "sweep the dugout" — make a management change, he wrote. The big inaccuracy in his piece? A photo of a car with a stick shift is mislabeled: actually, it was an automatic.

Evidently the emperor has no clothes — and interest in learning of his nakedness. 

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Global Dimming vs. Global Warming

The world’s atmosphere is warming, but — fortunately — for the past century it’s been warming at a relatively slow rate (in California, on average about one degree Fahrenheit in the last fifty years). But some scientists now suspect that our atmosphere would be warming much faster were it not for particulate matter — soot. This "global dimming" was observed in this country after 9/11, when plane flights were shut down completely for three days…and temperatures at thousands of weather stations across the country jumped, averaging a degree’s warming in a matter of days.

In the words of this report from the BBC:

While the greenhouse effect has been warming the planet, it now seems Global Dimming has been cooling it down. So the warming caused by carbon dioxide has been hidden from us by the cooling caused by air pollution. But that situation is starting to change.

The trouble with global warming stories is that they tend to depress people. (Believe it or not, the movie "The Day After Tomorrow" was intended to be cynically amusing, in the "Dr. Strangelove" style. But that a style easier to admire than it is to imitate.) Thanks to Global Dimming, however,  we now have an alternative to fear — pollution!

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Global Warming A Threat to Fresh-Water Fish

According to a study just published by the National Wildlife Federation,  global warming represents a threat to fresh-water fish in the Northwest.

The Southern California Steelhead Trout is believed to be uniquely well-suited to survive warm waters and drought, which is one good reason many scientists are keen to see the variety that once swarmed up the Ventura River and other Ventura County waterways return. If given the opportunity it could quite possibly thrive and extend its habitat northward as the climate warms — but only if it survives. It’s currently on the endangered list.


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