Monthly Archives: January 2010

Tweets Galore, But Same Old Politics Dominate Obama’s State of the Union Speech

Millions of people tuned in to hear President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Wednesday night – and those were just the online viewers.

For the first time in history, the speech was not just broadcast live, it received the whole social media treatment: Facebook, Google, Twitter, and YouTube – not to mention live streaming via a special iPhone app – all of these online technologies figured prominently into the White House strategy to take Obama’s message to the widest possible audience. And, the Republicans countered with their own online speeches and chats.

All week, administration insiders heralded the address as a game-changer for the embattled president, whose approval ratings are sagging as midterm elections near, but the real game changer may be the speed and degree to which social networking has embedded itself into the country’s political process.

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Increasingly Endangered Communities Sue Corporate Polluters over Global Warming

The New York Times has a piece profiling an Alaskan village that is suing ExxonMobil, Shell and other big polluting corporations. They want the companies to pay to relocate villagers from an island north of the Arctic Circle which is losing the sea ice that long served as a barrier protecting the island and its residents. Here’s an expert from the story:

“The case is one of three major lawsuits filed by environmental groups, private lawyers and state officials around the nation against big producers of heat-trapping gases. And though the village faces a difficult battle, the cases are gathering steam.”

DC’s Simulated Recycling on the Kojo Show This Week

I was sorta depressed after my recycling story ran in Washington City Paper and it looked like the city government wasn’t going to do anything about all the “fake”recycling in DC. But the city council held a hearing this month + DPW is seeking changes to the recycling law. I was on the Kojo Nnamdi radio show this week talking about the issue.

Here’s a link to the segment.

One Year After Obamas Move In, Washington Losing its Black Majority

It used to be “the Black Broadway.”

Washington D.C.’s U Street N.W. neighborhood has long been considered an African-American cultural epicenter. Duke EllingtonDuke EllingtonDuke Ellington, Pearl BaileyPearl BaileyPearl Bailey and Sarah Vaughn were among the legendary performers, who played at a string of nightclubs and theaters along the thoroughfare.

That’s ancient history now. One year after the country first African American president moved into that big White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington’s half-century status as a predominantly black city appears to be nearing its end.

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New Book on Why Clinton + Palin Failed in 2008 Race

Check out my latest story, an interview with Washington Post White House Correspondent Anne Kornblut about her new book: “Notes from the Cracked Ceiling.”

Clearcutting: Like An “Ecological Massacre”

A tree by Alberto Roblest

Just about everybody knows that clearcutting is bad. But why does it matter to us here in Washington, DC? While we don’t have any forests in the city, just about all houses built in the United States – including in the District – use lumber in their framing. It takes the equivalent of one acre of clearcut forest to build a single 1,700-square-foot wood-framed home.  Much of it comes from U.S. and Canadian forests.

Jason Grant, one of the more eloquent defenders of eco-friendly logging, has a long article explaining the differences between timber operations that take care to preserve the natural state of the forest and more evasive industrial forestry in the winter edition of Trim Tab magazine.  Grant writes:

“Many recoil from large-scale clearcutting because, to most people outside of the forest products industry, itʼs ugly. A recent clearcut looks like the scene of ecological massacre: the acres of stumps gape upward, the soil is torn up, and there is a lot of trashy-looking woody debris around.”

“The more serious effects of industrial forestry may be the less visible impacts that accumulate over time: the gradual loss of natural soil fertility; soil erosion and the sedimentation of fish-bearing streams; the accumulation in soil and water of the chemical remnants of herbicides used to suppress plants that compete with commercial plantings; the decline of populations of wildlife that rely on extensive areas of complex and mature forest that industrial forestry tends to fragment or eliminate.

Read more in Trim Tab magazine’s winter edition. The article starts on page 37.

2010 and Beyond!

Hello Greendistrict readers! Happy New Year to all!

It’s a good ten days into the new year and about time I return from extended holiday hiatus. I’m kicking off 2010 with a few adjustments to my blogging habits: nixing the daily Green Lines sustainability roundup, for starters. It’s just too time consuming to compile that stuff. Besides, truly compelling stories don’t appear everyday. Instead, I’m going to focus on writing more substantive blog posts and make the Green Lines roundup a weekly feature filled with the most noteworthy and new reporting of the previous seven days. To get started, here are a few stories that caught my eye:

CBS News reported on vulnerabilities in the nation’s food supply.

Finally someone wrote a story on the brewing battle over biodiesel made from trees – or lumber scraps, that is. The Washington Post had a piece today about complaints from the lumber industry that the congressionally induced boom in fuel made from “woody biomass” could put cabinet makers and other producers of “composite wood” products out of business.  The story, however, makes no mention of the growing environmental concerns. To learn why the federal Biomass Crop Assistance Program is a bad idea from a sustainability standpoint you have to go elsewhere.

The greening of the U.S. House of Representatives: “The House saved almost 75,000 pounds of waste from landfills and cut nearly 400,000 pounds of carbon emissions last year through a new program to make the chamber’s offices more energy efficient,” according to Roll Call.

Mountaintop removal mining is causing vast and permanent environmental destruction, exposing people to serious health consequences such as birth defects, and should be banned, according to a new study discussed in this story in The Guardian.

“A federal jury awarded more than $100 million to 10 workers who claimed they were injured in 2007 when a toxic substance was released at BP’s Texas City plant,” The New York Times reports. Company officials reportedly expressed outrage though it’s hard to say why they were surprised since federal investigators came to the same conclusion as the jury. The company spends more on its “Beyond Petroleum” ad campaign depicting itself as a “green corporation” than it will be shelling out to the injured workers, which seems another reason to take the executive exclamations with a grain of salt.

The White House “regulatory czar” is pushing to nix the E.P.A.’s plans for tougher rules on coal ash, according to this story in the Wall Street Journal.

Here’s a scary piece on India‘s water mafias.

Los Angeles Times has a travel piece on the “endangered paradise” of the  Maldives islands, which is expected to be underwater if the world continues to dither on global warming.

Book Report: I just finished reading “Bitter Chocolate, The Dark Side of The World’s Most Seductive Sweet” by Canadian journalist Carol Off. It’s a harrowing but fascinating and well-researched tale of human rights abuses in the cocoa fields where chocolate’s main ingredient is grown. But be warned: The stories of children working Ivory Coast in slave-like conditions  may dampen your appetite for chocolate, as it did mine – or at least for chocolate not stamped with a “fair trade” label.