By all accounts, the looting was terrible. Across the Southwest a century ago, 1,000-year-old Native American granaries were pillaged by clay pot hunters. Grave robbers worked in the open. In the sandstone dwellings perched high in the cliffs, tourists cut souvenirs out of the ancient ceiling beams. Vandals carted off heirlooms by the wagonload.
The calendar is about to flip over once again, meaning it’s time for the obligatory roundup of the most important environmental stories of the past year.
Jon Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service, had a childhood seemingly tailor-made for a career in public lands conservation. His family’s farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley backed up to the Washington National Forest, and as a boy the woods were his playground. He was an avid angler and hunter, and by the time he was 12 had climbed every mountain he could see from his house. “I grew up in the outdoors,” he says.
It probably has something to do with the fact that I’m one of the last sentimentalists standing in this ironic age, but I’ll admit that I get a little misty eyed when I think about the first Earth Day.
I’ll admit that in the grand scheme of Washington politics, the news last week out of the Department of the Interior isn’t exactly earthshaking. During a news conference at the FDR Memorial in DC, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced that retailer American Eagle Outfitters will contribute $1 million to her effort to create a “Twenty-first Century Conservation Corps” that will, as a DOI press release explains, “put America’s youth and veterans to work protecting, restoring, and enhancing America’s natural and cultural resources.”
Canadian author Naomi Klein is so well known for her blade-sharp commentary that it’s easy to forget that she is, above all, a first-rate reporter. I got a glimpse into her priorities as I was working on this interview. Klein told me she was worried that some of the things she had said would make it hard for her to land an interview with a president of the one of the Big Green groups (read below and you’ll see why). She was more interested in nabbing the story than being the story; her reporting trumped any opinion-making.
“The arc of the moral universe is long,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “but it bends toward justice.” That famous line could also serve as an apt description for the comeback of Van Jones. In 2009 the veteran social justice and environmental activist was hounded out of his White House job by right wing loudmouth Glenn Beck. “A high tech lynching,” is how one commentator described the concocted controversy that led Jones to resign his post as special advisor for green jobs. Fast-forward four years, and Jones remains one of the most inspiring figures in the progressive movement. He has a new organization –Rebuild the Dream, dedicated to repairing the United States’ tattered social safety net – and is a paid pundit on CNN. And Glenn Beck? He’s off somewhere in the hinterlands of Internet television, peddling goldbug fantasies.
About a year ago, on March 26, 2012, Sandra Steingraber, an environmental writer and activist against natural-gas fracking, wrote a public letter titled “Breaking Up with the Sierra Club.” Breakups are never easy, and the letter, published on the website of the nature magazine Orion, was brutal from the start: “I’m through with you,” Steingraber began.
I had barely drank my first cup of coffee when I heard the news yesterday morning on NPR – organic food, it turns out, may not be that much healthier for you than industrial food.
Methane is 21 times more heat-trapping that carbon dioxide.” If you’re a frequent reader of environmental websites, no doubt you’ve seen some version of that sentence many times. The “twenty-times” figure is the most common way of explaining how methane (or CH4, or uncombusted natural gas) reacts in the atmosphere.