Irene Trashes Obama’s Polls

This image purports to show a hurricane that the Obama administration either failed to protect us from, or invented.

President Obama’s approval ratings plummeted this morning on news that a major hurricane was approaching the US east coast. Seven out of ten Americans who watched Fox News srongly disapprove of the President’s handling of hurricanes. According to the US Chamber of Commerce, “The Obama administration has done nothing to protect job creators from hurricanes. We think it may be an impeachable offense.” Continue reading

Global Warming’s Evil Twin

We may admire the first person ever to eat an oyster, like this one from the Pacific Northwest. We may soon meet the last, because of rapid ocean acidification. (Photo by adactio/Flickr).

To the extent that we talk, think or do anything about the threat of the industrial age’s rampant and accelerating pollution of air, water and land, we focus these days on climate change. It is a serious effect (serious enough to induce blindness and deafness in nine out of ten candidates for the Republican presidential nomination), but far from the only serious effect of industrial pollution. The same stuff that’s making our atmosphere warmer is turning our oceans to acid — and, little noticed outside the shellfish industry, has very nearly removed oysters from the national menu. Continue reading

Great Lakes Dying: Mussel-Bound Michigan

Beautiful, tranquil and nearly dead: Lake Michigan in the moonlight. (Photo by Kevin Dooley/Flickr)

On Saturday, August 13, the last commercial fishing boat working Lake Michigan out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, passed the harbor breakwater outbound for the last time. Two hundred years of commercial fishing from Milwaukee was over, because Lake Michigan is virtually dead. It is not over-fishing that killed it — although the once-typical annual haul of 40 million pounds of fish would have done that before long —  it was an invasive clam that did it. Continue reading

The Mother of All Fracking Lies

Water from one of the wells never harmed by fracking explodes, in a scene from the documentary "Gasland."

The claim that not one single water well has been harmed by hydraulic fracturing for natural gas is the anthem of the oil and gas industry as it presses its case to perforate the shale formations of the world without regard for the vital water resources also to be found there. The current administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Lisa Jackson, sings from the same sheet music. But even in a world where public statements have little relationship to reality, this is a remarkable Big Lie. Continue reading

Omens of Collapse: A Stage and a Fence

The concert stage at the Indiana State Fair was built to impress, and to last a day or two longer than it did. Does anyone else see an omen here?

Things that are done for show don’t work well, don’t last long, and can hurt a lot of people when, inevitably,  they collapse. This lesson was demonstrated anew this past week in two widely separated — and wildly different — places: the Indiana State Fair and the Mexican border. Continue reading

Ray Anderson, RIP

Ray Anderson addresses the TED conference in 2009. Unlike most, for 25 tears he actually walked the walk of sustainability in industry. (Photo by whiteafrican/Flickr)

The only industrialist I ever met who had a genuine, drop-to-your-knees, road-to-Damascus, life-changing epiphany about the role of industry in destroying the world was Ray Anderson. When I first interviewed him in the 1990s, he was a few years past the experience — he likened it to “a spear in the chest” — triggered by his reading Paul Hawken’s book The Ecology of Commerce.  From that day forward, Anderson had a mission. Continue reading

Solar Storm Warning

This image provided by NASA shows a solar flare early Tuesday, Aug. 9, the largest in 5 years. The image was was captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) in extreme ultraviolet light.

A solar storm of moderate intensity will affect the earth for the next few days. Some disruption of satellite, GPS, telecommunications and electric equipment should be expected from a series of eruptions in the sun including one yesterday that was the largest seen in five years. None of the eruptions has been on a portion of the sun’s surface facing the earth, so effects should be limited to minor electronic disruptions and spectacular aurora borealis. A direct hit, such as occurred in 1859, would be another matter altogether (see  “A Solar Powered Blackout”). The danger is elevated because the sun is headed toward an 11-year maximum of such storms in 2013.

Losing the War on Pond Scum

A satellite view released by NASA shows a blue-green algae bloom (the green part) taking over western Lake Erie (the blue part). And that's not all.

A legacy of industrial agriculture, energized by climate change, a continent-sized explosion of toxic algae blooms is besieging the freshwater lakes of North America, sickening people, killing animals and wrecking tourist- and recreation-based local economies. Although each eruption is big news in local papers, the unprecedented extent and severity of the epidemic has drawn no attention from national news media or political figurines. Continue reading

Texas Teeters on Blackout’s Edge

The sun and the power grid -- enemies in Texas today, but they could be the best sustainable friends. (Photo by pranav/flickr)

The electric power grid in Texas is at the crisis point, its managers on the verge of having to impose rolling blackouts on a sweltering population, and is providing a leading indicator for the rest of the country. It is not only the heat that is placing unprecedented demands on the grid (after February cold and storms led to rolling blackouts), it’s the attitude of the people in charge that pretty much guarantees catastrophic failure ahead. Continue reading

USDA Gets Bad News on Superbugs: Shoots Messenger

Confined, crowded and stressed meat animals like these pigs are given 29 million pounds of antibiotics every year in the US, 80 per cent of the available supply, to make sure they grow. As a result, the seven million pounds administered to humans are becoming less effective. (Photo by Victor Sounds/Flickr)

This summer, the US Department of Agriculture received a report it had commissioned on the rise of infectious bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. The report —  not a study, but a survey of existing studies — warned of a “growing public health concern worldwide” as more and more people are sickened and killed by infections against which modern medicines are helpless. (Just one of them, MRSA, now kills more people every year than AIDS.) And it was a powerful indictment of industrial agriculture’s role in creating these so-called “superbugs.” So the USDA did just what you would expect the government regulator of industrial agriculture to do: it buried the report.
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