Archive for September, 2009

Latest book review from Earth First

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

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“If you think the air is bad in Los Angeles right now, you probably didn’t live there for much of the past century. When the thick, view-obscuring gray haze first appeared in the city on July 26th, 1943, nobody knew quite what to think of it. Was some factory suddenly spewing tons of pollution in to the air? Was it some kind of chemical attack? Citizens of this Southern California city didn’t yet realize the cost of their own modernized lifestyle, wherein practically every single resident owned their own vehicle.

Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles” by Chip Jacobs and William Kelly tracks the smog invasion of LA from the first moment it arrived through the many efforts to combat it.  This might not sound too exciting – especially for people who aren’t hardcore environmentalists interested in every detail of our nation’s struggle with pollution – but you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that Smogtown is thoroughly entertaining from start to finish.

 It’s a dramatic story, playing out like it was written for the screen, with clear protagonists and villains – and humor peppered throughout. While Smogtown does an excellent job of providing the hard facts about how the pollution got so bad, the weakness of the government in controlling it and the difficulty of convincing Los Angelenos to sacrifice any part of their lifestyle to make it go away – it’s also a gripping tale that will keep you eagerly turning the pages. What with the terrified citizens crashing their cars in panic at the appearance of the smog and bewildered, ineffectual government officials bumbling about, it’s almost like Godzilla, but with pollution as “the beast”.

Of course, we all know how this story ends. Air pollution is still a major concern in Los Angeles, and despite knowing that the automobile is the source, LA is still crawling with cars and lacking a decent public transit system. But don’t let that stop you from giving this lively story a read. It’s got sex, plenty of Hollywood glamour, scandal, and murder – but never falters in its brilliant coverage of an incredibly important environmental issue …”

Review link

Puff (as in particulates) and stuff (as in melting icesheets) and burying CO-2

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

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Los Angeles’ cancer alley – an un-love story of vulnerable lungs, put-upon people and a globalized transhipment mecca that coughs out our biggest air pollution threat. There’s a new environmental justice army (well, sort of new) tackling the issue.  From today’s fine L.A. Times story:

” … Eight years ago, he ran into an old friend at a sweatshop protest in a Glendale mall: Gilbert Estrada was working on a master’s thesis on highway building through East L.A.’s Mexican neighborhoods. They traded tales of aching chests from air pollution, of chemical spills that sparked evacuations in elementary school, and of playing around 55-gallon drums marked with skulls and crossbones …”

And in case you thought smog was now our the green version of a red-headed stepchild, check out this story about the Obama White House and EPA reviewing an important ozone standard.  MSNBC reports.

Is it really possible to keep greenhouse gases from even hitting the air? A New York Times story looks at one model.

“Poking out of the ground near the smokestacks of the Mountaineer power plant here are two wells that look much like those that draw natural gas to the surface. But these are about to do something new: inject a power plant’s carbon dioxide into the earth …”

Plus, a GW call for world unity. How’s that working out? Link (from N.Y. Times) Could be the issue of our time.

 Miscellany:

Green propoganda, corporate-style, from Newsweek:

“… Hotels are not the only offenders in this kind of petty green fakery. Environmentalism is “in” at the moment, and corporations feel great pressure to prove their credentials. But it’s not easy being green. Some companies, like those at the top of NEWSWEEK’s 2009 Green Rankings, have embraced conservation for real. They build headquarters with solar panels and rainwater collection systems; they think of the environmental impact of every aspect of their businesses and actually change the way they do things to reduce waste. But this is labor intensive, often expensive, and takes commitment. Faced with that, many corporations take a different approach: They don’t do much of anything to change the way they do business, but make a big show of their dedication to Mother Earth …”

The mob gets in on the pollution racket. Like duh. From MSNBC.

” … Giordano said the former mobster, Francesco Fonti, from the Calabria-based ‘ndrangheta crime syndicate, has claimed the mob sank “hundreds” of barrels of illegally disposed of waste …”

Backloading the news … been busy

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

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You want links? You got ‘em:

The fantastical cap-and-trade fraud story involving former Pasadena emissions broker Anne Sholtz and a cast of shadowy players has kicked up a bit of dust, and they’ll followups. The story, which originally appeared in the Pasadena Weekly/Southland Publishing chain and here, has now run as a two-part installment in the California Energy Circuit (click here and here), and will make its debut on newgeography.com this Thurday. They’re both terrific sites, but I’m biased.

The story certainly has tickled emotions about whether a greenhouse gas market can work without massive white-collar fraud, and generated some conspiracy minded notions about Sholtz’s entanglements with men claiming to be currency hunters with CIA, Special-Ops and military backgrounds.

In other news …

Has cap-and-trade worked where it’s been rolled out? A very good enviro writer takes a swipe at answering this.

The Station Fire that chewed and flattened and burned so much of the Angeles National Forest blew enough smoke, ash and detrius to remind Southern Califorians of their decades strangled by man-made smog. Let’s hope it stays nostalgia. Relief is here.

What’s the future of the San Joaquin Valley? Bleak without some changes. Newsweek covers it.

While we dealt with recession, terrorism, subprime mortgages, and rising Earth temperatures, California showed it hasn’t lost all of its environmental courage in setting standards for chromium six, a subject I know a little about.