Archive for April, 2006

Sane development in Illinois

Thursday, April 20th, 2006

This is cool — the Ill state legislature has passed a bill that links economic development subsidies to land-use planning that promotes use of public transportation. The Center for Policy Alternatives writes

Illinois Legislature Approves Linking Economic Development Subsidies to Transit and Affordable Housing

The Illinois legislature passed SB 2885, sponsored by Sen. Terry Link, which will make the state the first to intentionally link the granting of economic development subsidies to jobs that are accessible by public transit and/or close to affordable housing. By giving extra preference to transit- and housing-accessible deals, Illinois’ “location-efficient” incentives law will encourage companies to make siting decisions that create more job opportunities for workers who cannot afford a car, avoid costly new infrastructure expenses, reduce sprawl, and promote more affordable housing. The governor is expected to sign the bill. The idea to link subsidies with transit sprang from Good Jobs First’s 2003 study A Better Deal for Illinois, which documented two outrageous cases of state-subsidized sprawl and from its 2003 national study Missing the Bus: How States Fail to Connect Economic Development with Transit.

Let’s hope this gets adopted in many more states as well.

A Clarion Call for Christians to Save the Planet with ‘Creation Care’

Thursday, April 20th, 2006

For Immediate Release
April 20, 2006

Contact: Jessica Saturley, (802) 295-6300, ext. 106

Serve God, Save the Planet
A Christian Call to Action
by J. Matthew Sleeth, M.D.

Serve God, Save the Planet is a deeply personal book with a very public message about what we can do to save the environment before it’s too late. Although written for Christians, it will be of great interest to anyone whose religion figures in the genesis of life-changing decisions. This is a rarity: A moving personal story that is practical. Serve God, Save the Planet lays out the rationale for environmentally-responsible life changes, and a “how-to” guide for making those changes.

Five years ago, the Sleeths lived in a big house on the coast. They owned luxury cars and they had many material possessions. As chief of the medical staff at a large hospital, Sleeth was living the American dream—until he realized that something was terribly wrong. He saw patient after patient suffering from ailments that were uncommon in his grandparents’ day. The complaints ranged from cancer and asthma to auto-immune disorders and depression. He began to see a connection between these illnesses and the polluted world we inhabit. Seeking answers, he turned to his faith for guidance and discovered how the scriptural lessons of personal responsibility, simplicity, and stewardship could be applied to modern life. The Sleeths have since sold their big home and given away more than half of what they once owned.

In Serve God, Save the Planet, Sleeth shares the joy of adopting a less materialistic lifestyle, as his family discovered much healthier lifestyles, stronger relationships, and richer spiritual lives. With the storytelling ease of James Herriot and the logical clarity of C.S. Lewis, Sleeth relates a prescription for sustainable living in the twenty-first century.

“Although I believed in the “environmental cause” before I accepted Christ as my Savior, my belief did not translate into action,” Sleeth writes. “After I became a Christian, I went through a process of examining my life, and I found it was filled with sin and hypocrisy. I decided to conduct an assessment and figure out a rough estimate of the actual environmental impact by my family. This honest inventory indicated what the Christian faith required of me.”

“Because of these changes,” Sleeth writes, “we have more time for God. Spiritual concerns have filled the void left by material ones. Owning fewer things has resulted in things no longer owning us.”

Serve God, Save the Planet addresses the questions:

  • How can I live a more equitable and meaningful life?
  • How can I help people today and in the future?
  • How can I be less materialistic?
  • ow can I live a more charitable life?
  • What would happen if I led a slower-paced existence?

Earlier this year, 86 evangelical leaders released a Call to Action on climate change and ran a full-page ad in the New York Times; it signaled a historic moment in the Christian community and a growing clarity about the role evangelicals must take in environmental stewardship. A film that has been released nationally, The Great Warming, features Richard Cizic, who wrote the foreword for the book, as well as Dr. Sleeth, discussing the concept of creation care. A poll released in Feb. 2006 by Ellison Research showed that 84 percent of evangelicals agreed that reducing pollution is a form of obedience to the biblical command to love your neighbor. Now, they have a handbook they can trust to guide their steps.

Sleeth writes: “Serve God, Save the Planet is meant to elicit personal accountability rather than political change. Its lessons are meant to teach individuals, families, and communities not much larger than a congregation; yet it looks at larger issues because they profoundly affect each of us. . . . . As the 30 million evangelicals—and all those who consider themselves people of faith—grow in their understanding that God holds us accountable for care of his creation, we will begin to see positive changes on an unprecedented scale.”

Available May 2006 | Paperback | $25 | 1-933392-01-0 | 6 x 9 | 224 pagesFind out more about Serve God Save the Planet

“There’s hope”

Thursday, April 20th, 2006

Climate Change Will Be Significant but Not Extreme, Study Predicts

By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 20, 2006; Page A08

Earth will experience significant climate change in the coming century as a result of greenhouse gas buildups, but the more extreme estimates of global warming generated by some studies are unlikely to occur, according to newly published research.

“This still commits us to quite a bit of climate change, but it leaves the door open to avoiding the largest and most devastating consequences,” said Gabriele C. Hegerl, a Duke University climate expert who led the study.

Specifically, the research aims to refine a value known as “climate sensitivity,” which is defined as the global average temperature change that can be expected to occur in response to a doubling of carbon dioxide levels.

Climate scientists from around the world have for more than a decade concurred that climate sensitivity’s most likely value is in the range of about 2.5 degrees to 8 degrees Fahrenheit. But because many factors can affect global temperatures in poorly understood ways — including the extent to which the oceans have tempered climate trends — scientists have not been able to rule out more extreme calculations suggesting a warm-up of 16 degrees Fahrenheit or more.

The result: Climate sensitivity almost certainly falls within the more conventional range of current predictions, with only a 5 percent chance that it will exceed 11 degrees Fahrenheit.

Even a few degrees increase can have significant environmental and economic impacts, but by downgrading the worst-case scenarios the new work may convince governments that it is not too late to take action, Hegerl said. Models suggest that carbon dioxide levels could reach double the pre-industrial levels between 2050 and 2100. Peak temperatures would occur decades later, as the planet’s climate system settled into a new balance.

Money Talks (and Eats)

Thursday, April 20th, 2006

Since I am an occassional editor and contributor to the Econ-Atrocities series, I’ll take this moment to plug the series with this example. An archive is at

An Econ-Atrocity, brought to you by the Center for Popular Economics. If you would like automatically receive CPE’s Econ-Atrocities by email, subscribe (or unsubscribe) by going to the following link: To see our archive of Econ-Atrocities please visit

Money Talks (and Eats)
Adapted from Understanding Capitalism: Competition, Command, and Change, Third Edition (New York: Oxford University Press)
By Samuel Bowles, Richard Edwards, and Frank Roosevelt
April 19, 2006

On any given day between 1997 and 1999, 815 million people-nearly one-eighth of the world’s total population-were undernourished in the sense that they did not get enough food to meet their daily energy needs, even for moderate activity. Although it is difficult to determine exactly how many people die of hunger in any particular year-the exact cause of death is uncertain in many cases-authorities on the subject believe that the number is between 30 and 50 million.

The facts regarding the world’s children under five years of age are better known: one-third of them were undernourished during the 1990s, and toward the end of that decade more than 10 million of them were dying of hunger each year.

Victory in Bhopal

Tuesday, April 18th, 2006

Three big cheers for the Bhopali activists, and their allies (like Diane), who seem to have gotten the Indian P.M. say “uncle!”

Bhopal gas victims end fast after PM agrees to demands

17 April, 2006, New Delhi: Bhopalis today celebrated a major victory and called off their international hunger strike as the Government conceded to four of six long-standing demands of the Bhopal campaign.

The Prime Minister assured a 10-member delegation consisting of Union Carbide’s victims and supporters who met him today for 30 minutes that the demands relating to clean water, clean-up of toxic wastes, and the setting up of a national commission for medical and economic rehabilitation will be met.

The Bhopalis will end their dharna today on a note of solidarity with the Narmada struggle. Separately, the Madhya Pradesh Government announced the allotment of Rs. 100 crores for the construction of a memorial in Bhopal, and Bhopalis have been told that the story of the Bhopal disaster will be included in educational curricula developed by the National Council of Educational Research and Training.

Three Bhopal activists will leave immediately for Bhopal to accompany a high-level team led by Secretary, Ministry of Chemicals, to finalise details regarding provision of safe water and the participation of survivors in the construction of a memorial in Bhopal….

Great big thanks are due to all of you who responded to the activists call to action.

…Josh Imeson and Diane Wilson, both of whom have been fasting in solidarity with the survivors, have also been requested to call off their fast by the Bhopalis. Diane Wilson, a long-time Bhopal supporter, is on the fourth day of her indefinite fast in the United States. International support for the campaign has brought tremendous pressure to bear on the Government. The Prime Minister”s office has received nearly 3,000 faxes and more than 400 people have signed up to fast for a day or longer in solidarity with the Bhopal campaign….

However, there’s still more to be done, and this serves as a warning to us all.

…The Prime Minister, however, said he was powerless to take any extra-legal measures to hold Union Carbide or its owner Dow Chemical accountable. “I don’t promise to prosecute. We have to do business. India has to survive despite these tragedies,” Mr. Manmohan Singh said in response to a demand by survivors that Union Carbide and Dow Chemical should be held liable for the continuing disaster in Bhopal. Mr. Singh, however, said he would explore whatever options existed within the law to hold the company accountable.

“We are ashamed and outraged that the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy has openly admitted to his inability to pressure an American multinational. At a time when India is set to more than double its industrial capacity, the Prime Minister’s reluctance to take extra-legal measures to pressure multinational corporations is deplorable and should set the alarm bells ringing,” said Satinath Sarangi, one of the six hunger strikers and 39 people who walked from Bhopal to New Delhi. “It doesn”t make any sense to direct our protests on the matter of corporate accountability towards a man who has expressed his powerlessness on this matter.”…

Scalia: missing the point, as ususal

Monday, April 17th, 2006

Scalia Defends Involvement in Cheney Case

Associated Press
Thursday, April 13, 2006; Page A06

HARTFORD, Conn., April 12 — Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Wednesday called his 2004 decision not to recuse himself from a case involving Vice President Cheney, who is a friend of his, the “proudest thing” he has done on the court.

The case involved Cheney’s request to keep private the details of closed-door White House strategy sessions that produced the administration’s energy policy. The administration fought a lawsuit that contended that industry executives helped shape that policy. The Supreme Court upheld the administration position on a 7 to 2 vote.

“For Pete’s sake, if you can’t trust your Supreme Court justice more than that, get a life,” [Scalia] said.

Uh, dumpkoff, it’s not any ole generic Supreme Court justice that we can’t trust, it’s particular justices who fail to comply with even the most simple of guidelines regarding the propriety of hearing cases. And dude, if you can’t trust a woman to make decisions about her own internal organs, why don’t YOU get a freakin’ life!

For all the steps back, there are steps forward.

Monday, April 17th, 2006

Despite global warming, rising sea levels, widespread species extinctions, a quagmire occupation of Iraq that won’t be won and if abandoned will result in horrific civil war, political corruption, fundamentalist absurdities, ever-broadening inequalities, and other stuff like that, there is some good news out there. In perenniality is our salvation. Oh, here’s some positive tidbits in an article that’s overall fairly mixed; too much of a “on the one hand, but then on the other hand” situation.

Biodiesel anyone?

Monday, April 17th, 2006

Oil Futures Close Above $70

Published: April 17, 2006
New York Times

Oil futures rose above $70 a barrel in New York today, their highest level in nearly eight months, fueled by the ongoing diplomatic row over Iran’s nuclear program, production shortages in Nigeria, and concerns about tight gasoline supplies in the United States.

Early in the day, the contract for light, sweet crude for May delivery touched $70.05 a barrel, its highest since Aug. 30, when the contract reached $70.85 after Hurricane Katrina. Weak volumes today added to the market’s volatility. The Nymex was closed for the Good Friday holiday.

In London, Brent crude reached a record $71.40 a barrel, the highest since the contract began trading in 1988.

Analysts warn that oil prices — which have doubled over the past two years — are unlikely to fall soon. For one, the diplomatic showdown over Iran’s nuclear ambitions is escalating. Another source of real concern, for oil traders, is the continuing shortages from Nigeria where armed groups have forced oil companies to slash their production by about 500,000 barrels a day, or more than 20 percent of the country’s daily output.

“Without question, this is the worst political-risk year we’ve seen for energy supplies since 1973,” said Ian Bremmer, the president of Eurasia Group, a consultancy in New York. “The threat of escalation from the two biggest threats out there — Iran and Nigeria — remains very strong. In both cases, the worst is still ahead of us.”

With most members producing at full tilt, OPEC producers say they are powerless to bring prices down. The group is meeting informally this weekend in Doha, Qatar, on the sidelines of the International Energy Forum. There oil producers will also discuss the state of the oil market with representatives from consuming countries — including the United States. Little action is expected.

Prepare for some shock and awe

Monday, April 17th, 2006

Ever see the movie Down By Law? Remember the scene in which Roberto Benigni is roasting a rabbit over a fire and remembering how his mother used to butcher rabbits in his youth? “Nice little rabbit [motions of gently stroking a rabbit's fur], nice little rabbit, then DAH! [a karate chop motion to the neck]” Ever get the sense that that’s how Mickey D’s works?

McDonald’s accused of ‘acting like the Taliban’

Oliver Burkeman in New York
Saturday April 15, 2006
The Guardian

The author of the best-selling expose Fast Food Nation has accused McDonald’s of behaving “like the Taliban” in its pre-emptive efforts to discredit his new book and a film on the subject.

Internal McDonald’s documents reportedly show that the company is shifting into “crisis management” mode in advance of Chew On This, a young people’s version of Eric Schlosser’s book along with a forthcoming film adaptation of Fast Food Nation. The plans speak of mobilising a “truth squad” to attack both works, and of initiatives to “discredit the message and the messenger”.

Plans sent to McDonald’s franchisees, originally obtained by the Wall Street Journal, seek to reassure restaurant managers that “a lot of work is going on behind the scenes … from a crisis management standpoint” – part of a “full-scale media campaign” to tell “the real story” about the world’s largest restaurant chain.

“The book is not out yet, and they clearly haven’t read it,” Schlosser told the Guardian.

“And they have not seen this film. And yet their instinctive reaction is to attack. You know what they did to the McLibel duo.” He was referring to McDonald’s seven-year court battle with two London-based environmental activists, which was a major public relations embarrassment for the firm.

“A truth squad? That sounds like the Taliban or something. Aside from it bothering my free-speech instincts, I don’t think those tactics serve McDonald’s very well. They work hard to cultivate this image of a friendly company – and then they get out the brass knuckles if you disagree with them.”

More news from Farm and Food

Monday, April 17th, 2006

Is Climate Change Shifting Plant Hardiness Zones?

You may have noticed from using plant hardiness zone maps that the USDA has been quietly moving the lines on the maps, perhaps because of the evidence of global warming. Now the National Arbor Day foundation has released their own version of plant hardiness zone maps. They show dramatic northward movement of the hardiness zones, and the website even allows you to make the comparison between the two, and to download a document so you can print out your own version.

Check it out at

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