Ride For Climate USA

In one week, my dear friend Bill Bradlee and his co-conspirator David Kroodsma will hop on his bicycle in Boston and begin Ride for Climate USA, 6,000+ mile bike ride across the country and back to raise awareness of global warming, encourage action and promote solutions.  Or as I like to call it, “Bill and David’s Excellent Journey.”

They’re not just going to be buffing their calves on this trip.  All along their route, they’re going to be giving public talks about global warming and share stories and photos from their travels.  If you’re interesting in organizing a local event for them along the way, drop them a line!

Highlighting Mountaintop Removal Mining with Google Earth

This sounds like a very creative and effective use of Google Earth as an environmental advocacy tool. 

Environmental advocacy group Appalachian Voices
has joined to Google to deliver a special interactive layer for Google
Earth that tells the stories of over 470 mountains that have been
destroyed from coal mining, and its impact on nearby ecosystems.

I hope their layer includes links to ways to take action.

ExxonMobil: $40 billion a year, and still “tacky”

Matt Stoller lets ExxonMobil VP Ken Cohen have it:

The politics of ExxonMobil are interesting, though expected. Cohen is not only the VP of Public Affairs, but the head of ExxonMobil’s PAC, and the head of the ExxonMobil Foundation that distributes charitable grants. That’s a lot of hats for a PR guy. I basically let him have it. I told him that I think the only reason he’s reaching out to progressive bloggers is because the Democrats control Congress and he’s trying to ward off an excess profits tax. Until Exxon acknowledges error and funds a PR campaign that suggests that gravity of the global
climate situation, I told him I would strongly support such a tax because ExxonMobil clearly just won’t engage in ethical corporate behavior.

Cohen explained at one point in the discussion that ExxonMobil supports Republicans because ExxonMobil is a business and he can’t find pro-business Democrats. I frankly don’t care and am glad Democrats don’t get oil money; it would be better if he actually convinced Republicans to take global warming seriously. Anyway, I don’t think it’s weird that the PAC director is the foundation director is the PR director of a company that makes $40 billion a year. It is tacky, though, especially when he tried to tell me about how ExxonMobil believes in traditional Jeffersonian principles. Tacky.

Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?

I love it when the General gets all environmental.

Have you considered the possibility that the people’s wickedness is something they’ve learned from the wolves? Think about it. Alpha male wolves take multiple wives. They’re just as bad as the Mormons. What kind of example is that for our children? The sight of these alpha males engaging in adultery all over the woods has to affect them. If we don’t wipe the wolves from Idaho’s forests, we will be cursed with a generation of fornicators.

Ideas for Fun, Green Software “Widgets”

David Hsu brainstorms up some great ideas for green software mini-applications (now commonly called “widgets”).

My favorite is actually his first, a paper calculator:

Paper calculator: [I’d like] A nice little toolbar application that tells me how many pages I’ve printed today, this week, this month and this year. If someone could combine this with this useful web-based calculator from EPA and Environmental Defense, then I could get a running tally of the environmental impacts of my printing decisions, and perhaps I would think twice about how much I print.

Simple, self-contained, and provides direct feedback to change your behavior.

I also really like idea #3, “food advisory”:

Food advisory: Again, it
would be nice to know what the environmental impacts of my eating
decisions are. In the same handy way that the Monterey Bay Aquarium has
developed a nice pocket-sized guide
to sustainable seafood, it would be nice to have this as a more
extensive cell phone service in the same way that Google has made
product pricing, weather, and movie information available as a free SMS service.
This would, of course, require someone to keep a database of food’s
environmental impacts. Or, can someone tell me, does such a thing
already exist?

The End of Checklist Liberalism | TPMCafe

In The End of Checklist Liberalism, Mark Schmitt points out that the traditional “interest group” politics of enviros and others aren’t working for Joe Lieberman, and he thinks it’s the harbinger of a move towards more holistic political decision making amongst the Democratic base.

Lamont supporters actually aren’t ideologues. They aren’t looking for the party to be more liberal on traditional dimensions. They’re looking for it to be more of a party. They want to put issues on the table that don’t have an interest group behind them – like Lieberman’s support for the bankruptcy bill — because they are part of a broader vision. And I think that’s what blows the mind of the traditional Dems. They can handle a challenge from the left, on predictable, narrow-constituency terms. But where do these other issues come from? These are “elitist insurgents,” as Broder puts it – since when do they care about bankruptcy? What if all of a sudden you couldn’t count on Democratic women just because you said that right things about choice – what if they started to vote on the whole range of issues that affect women’s economic and personal opportunities?

But caring about bankruptcy, even if you’re not teetering on the brink of it or a bankruptcy lawyer yourself, is part of a vision of a just society. And a vision of a just society – not just the single-issue push-buttons of a bunch of constituency groups – is what a center-left political party ought to be about. And at the end of this fight, I don’t expect that we’ll have a more leftist Democratic Party, but one that can at least begin to get beyond checklist liberalism.

Breaking News: National Enviro Funders Still Don’t Value Organizing

Apparently big national environmental funders just don’t believe in long-term funding of grassroots organizing capacity, preferring instead to believe that they can buy one and two-year policy outcomes. Shocking. Not.

David Roberts deftly summarizes the most intersting parts of a decent new article by Mark Hertsgaard in The Nation entitled Green Grows Grassroots.

Continue reading Breaking News: National Enviro Funders Still Don’t Value Organizing

Wal-Mart Organic?

I’ve never been inside a Wal-Mart, and fates willing, never will be. But still, I read with fascination Michael Pollan’s article in today’s NYTimes about the coming entry of Wal-Mart (!) into the organic foods business.

As Pollan points out, there is both good and bad in this.  Nobody will be able to deride organic as “elitist” anymore.  Wal-Mart’s purchasing power will be voting in favor of reducing pesticide use.  But,

To say you can sell organic food for 10 percent more than you sell irresponsibly priced food suggests that you don’t really get it — that you plan to bring business-as-usual principles of industrial “efficiency” and “economies of scale” to a system of food production that was supposed to mimic the logic of natural systems rather than that of the factory.

In other words, get ready for an explosion of organic factory farms, and seeing more organic food imported from halfway across the world — and therefore soaked in petroleum.

Interesting times.

Quixotic, sisyphean efforts

What would we do without The Onion?  Or, for that matter, Alex?

By using mass transit or riding my bike whenever possible, I may not be able to influence greenhouse-gas emissions standards or reduce mass global addiction to fossil fuels one iota. Nor, by slavishly collecting every banana peel or coffee ground to make my own rich garden compost, will I alter our consumer culture’s pathological tendency to devour everything it encounters at an exponentially advancing rate. Restricting my household energy use to non-peak hours does not make me capable of reversing temperature changes in the gulf stream that even now have begun to throw the world’s climate out of equilibrium. The question, however, is not “What can’t I do?” but rather, “What can I do?”

The answer: next to nothing.

It’s funny because it hurts the truth.

Introducing Sightline.org!

I don’t like to brag, but… actually sometimes I really do. 😉

I’m really proud and excited to be able to announce the launch of ONE/Northwest’s largest and most complex web project yet — www.sightline.org, the new website of Sightline Institute, the sustainability think-tank formerly known as Northwest Environment Watch. (And our downstairs neighbors, I might add.)

The site looks pretty snazzy, of course (thanks to the graphic design work of Pat Snavely and Sightline volunteers and the CSS lovin’ of our indispensible consultant Trey Beck) and it’s got a ton of amazing content about what it’s gonna take to build a more sustainble future for our region. And of course, behind the polished look and the sparkling prose is a powerful dose of Plone.

Here’s a quick rundown on some of the more wonktastic bits:

  • A passel of custom content types, which give Sightline the ability to seamlessly handle multiple versions of maps, graphic images and publications.
  • Complex custom layouts based on database queries, alongside a sophisticated navigation scheme.
  • A full-featured multi-author blog, the content from which Sightline features alongside longer more “formal” pieces.
  • “Premium” content for registered users only (hey, gotta offer something shiny to get folks to cough up their email addresses!), powered by Plone’s best-of-breed workflow engine.
  • Site member data is stored on-the-fly into the WhatCounts email broadcasting platform via their web services API, which lets Sightline send out targeted email updates to site members with content that can be customized based on member interests.
  • We’re even using PlonePortlets, which gives the Sightline website team the ability to drag-and-drop sidebar elements into position. That, combined with Plone’s already-legendary usability, makes the daily routine of writing and posting content to the site a pleasure rather than a chore.
  • An added bonus: we now offset the greenhouse gas emissions of our web servers by purchasing Green Tags, so Sightline is able to push those pixels without warming the globe too much.

All of this web wonkery is pretty neat. But what’s even more exciting to me is the fact that Sightline’s new website is almost literally the beating heart of the organization.

Being a thinktank is all about communicating effectively, and Sightline’s new website is their main communications channel to the media, to regional decisionmakers and to the public at large. Sightline.org provides a beautiful and powerful showcase for some of the best thinkers and writers in the Northwest environmental movement. I’m extremely proud of the work they’re doing, and of ONE/Northwest’s role in helping them do it bigger, faster and louder than ever before.

Finally, I need to end this post with a hearty shout out to my colleague Andrew Burkhalter, who poured his heart and soul into this project over the past few months. Sightline.org was (is!) a massive project with a thousand little fussy details, and Andrew did an amazing job of pushing the tools right out to the bleeding edge to deliver. I’m humbled and awed by his talent.

Northern Plains on “60 Minutes” This Sunday

It’s not often that the grassroots environmental organizations I work with get national TV coverage, so I’m proud to report that this Sunday’s episode of “60 Minutes” will feature Helen Waller, a rancher from Circle, Montana and a leader at the Northern Plains Resource Council who is opposing Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer’s (D) risky schemes to strip mine eastern Montana coal and convert it into diesel fuel. (Turns out that strip mining is pretty bad for the air, land and water of Montana.)

I’ve been helping Northern Plains set up an action alert (powered by ActionStudio — thanks, Jeff, for the quick setup) so that folks who want to urge Governor Schweitzer to support faster, better, cheaper ways of createing clean renewable energy can share their opinion.