Grist: November 2007


Environmental news and commentary Leaded Gasoline Is a Crime-No, Literally
Phasing out leaded gasoline may have reduced crime rates, says research

Thank the Clean Air Act for significantly reducing violent crime rates in the U.S., says researcher Jessica Wolpaw Reyes. The legislation was behind the phaseout of leaded gasoline in the 1970s and '80s, which significantly reduced blood levels of the heavy metal in Americans. The arc of lead-exposure rates seems to match the arc of violent crime in the U.S., says Reyes, but with a 20-year lag-enough time for children to reach their most violence-prone years. Brain damage from lead poisoning has been shown to make children less intelligent and, in some cases, more aggressive and impulsive.
Source: The New York Times 

Legislate Bloomers
Congress to move ahead on climate legislation, Dems to send delegation to U.N. climate talks

Congressional leaders in the U.S. House and Senate have said they plan to push ahead in their attempts to pass cap-and-trade-type climate legislation, despite the Bush administration's renewed call to reduce emissions through voluntary technology partnerships instead. Last month, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair John Dingell (D-Mich.) released a white paper about a possible cap-and-trade system, suggesting the U.S. should reduce emissions by between 60% and 80% by 2050. "The United States needs an economy-wide, mandatory greenhouse [gas] reduction program," the paper said. In the Senate, the Environment and Public Works Committee plans to push climate legislation through the full committee in December, just in time to impress the folks at the United Nations climate meetings in Bali, Indonesia. And speaking of Bali, leading Democrats plan to send their own delegation to the meeting to present their alternatives to the Bush climate plan.
Source: The Washington Post

Incandescent Descent
China joins campaign to phase out incandescent bulbs

China makes 70% of the world's light bulbs, and has just agreed to participate in a campaign to globally phase out inefficient bulbs over the next decade. But you didn't hear it from us: China's participation in the incandescent-hatin' campaign, which is being spearheaded by green funder Global Environment Facility, will be formally announced at the United Nations climate meeting in Bali, Indonesia, in December.
Source: Reuters

All's Fair and We Love More
Fair-trade market boosted by consumer demand

An ever-greener and ever-more-caffeinated world is boosting the fair-trade market-not just for coffee, but for products such as cocoa, cotton, tea, pineapples, and flowers. The certification, which holds growers to strict standards per child labor, pesticide use, recycling, and more, is not a phenomenon specific to hippie shops: all Dunkin' Donuts in the U.S. and all McDonald's in England sell fair-trade coffee. Starbucks is also a big buyer, while Sam's Club just converted its private label of ground coffee to fair trade. It's still a niche market: in 2006, only 3.3% of coffee sold in the U.S. was fair trade, and only 27% of Americans said they were even aware of the certification. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't celebrate the trend with a glass of fair-trade wine.
Source: The New York Times

Pits and Starts
Organisms living in toxic waste pit may help fight cancer

Montana's Berkeley Pit, containing 40 billion gallons of poisonous copper-mine runoff including arsenic, aluminum, cadmium, and zinc, has two claims to fame. One, it once killed a flock of hundreds of geese the moment they touched down on its surface. Two, the 40-billion-gallon pit houses 142 organisms-some of which have shown success in killing breast and ovarian cancer cells. Remind us of this the next time we get all Debbie Downer on toxic waste.
Source: The New York Times

What a Revelation
Publisher will produce first eco-friendly Bible

Coming soon to a hotel room near you: the first green Bible, expected to hit the scene later this month from publisher Thomas Nelson. The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Daily Bible-which perhaps includes the 11th commandment "Thou shalt be principled"?-will be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and contain recycled fiber. Says Tyson Miller of the Green Press Initiative, which is working with Thomas Nelson to green the Holy Book: "The Bible is the most widely circulated book on the planet and Thomas Nelson's leadership and use of environmentally responsible paper is a living legacy to the Bible's message of stewardship." Amen.
Source: The Book Standard

Winding Up
British government approves world's largest offshore wind farm

Plans for the world's largest offshore wind farm have been approved by the British government. The project, led by Shell and European energy company Eon, would place up to 341 turbines over 90 square miles off the coast of Kent. While it's not a done deal, presumably the biggest regulatory hurdles have been overcome; if all goes well, the farm could supply one-quarter of London's power by 2010.
Source: The Guardian

Garbage Can Do
Largest U.S. garbage hauler greens operations

Strange but true: Our trash is going green. The nation's largest garbage hauler and landfill operator, Waste Management Inc., has announced plans to make its operations more eco-friendly. The company hopes to double its landfill methane-to-electricity production by 2020, boost the fuel efficiency of its fleet by 15% by 2020, process more recyclables, and set aside more land for wildlife habitat. Now we almost feel bad that our lifelong goal is to put them out of a job.
Source: Associated Press

Orbit Torrent
Satellite solar power plants could be coming soon to an orbit near you

Ooh, shiny: A federal study has concluded that orbiting solar power plants could soon become economically competitive, thanks to rising oil prices. Over a one-year period, sunlit satellites could generate nearly the equivalent of all the energy available in the world's oil reserves, says the report from the National Security Space Office. In other news, we have a National Security Space Office. Who knew?
Source: Los Angeles Times

Bottled Rage
Anti-bottled-water campaign kicks off in cities across U.S.

A Think Outside the Bottle campaign kicked off last month, urging municipal governments to cut off bottled-water contracts and to press for greater disclosure of the Source: of bottled H2O. The campaign is spearheaded by Corporate Accountability International and joined by cities including Boston, Minneapolis, Sacramento, and Portland, Ore., many of which held taste tests today to see if consumers can tell the difference between bottled and tap water. Chicago's mayor urged a 10-cent tax on bottled water, while Salt Lake City Mayor (and official Grist crush) Rocky Anderson told it like it is: "When I see people … waste their money buying bottled water at the vending [machine] when it's standing right next to a water faucet, you really have to wonder at the utter stupidity and the responsibility sometimes of American consumers." Not to be outdone, the International Bottled Water Association issued a press release stating that the campaign is "based on factual errors and subjective viewpoints."
Source: Associated Press

Coming in From the Coal
Kansas denies permit for coal-fired power plant due to concern over CO2 emissions

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment last month became the first government agency in the United States to reject a permit for construction of a coal-fired power plant based on its carbon dioxide emissions, saying such emissions could harm human health and the environment. The final decision rested with secretary of the KDHE, Roderick Bremby, who said, "I believe it would be irresponsible to ignore emerging information about the contribution of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to climate change and the potential harm to our environment and health if we do nothing." Sunflower Electric Power wanted to build two 700-megawatt generating units that together would have emitted some 11 million tons of carbon dioxide a year. Opponents hope instead for a mix of wind power and natural-gas power plants. And while the Kansas slapdown is an important first, at least 16 other coal plants across the U.S. have been denied for other reasons, including investor uncertainty about future U.S. climate legislation as well as higher construction and labor costs.
Source: The Washington Post

We love our iPhone but…
Activists threaten to sue Apple over chemicals in iPhone

Greenpeace claimed recently that Apple's much-hyped iPhone contains dangerous levels of phthalates, chlorine, and bromine, and now another environmental group, the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland, Calif., has sent the company a formal warning claiming that Apple violated California's Proposition 65, which requires companies to warn consumers of the risk of toxic exposure. "There are chemicals in some of the parts that come with the iPhone that are well known in California to cause birth defects," said CEH's Michael Green. "We want those chemicals out." Apple has 60 days to clean up the phones or warn consumers about them; if the company doesn't act, CEH has threatened legal action.
Source: Agence France-Presse

This article was originally published on October 31, 2007.