Sunday, March 25, 2007


Thursday, 22 Mar 2007

It Figures
Are indoor ice rinks bad for your health? Sarah Kraybill Burkhalter explains why you should worry about more than your tailbone in the latest On the Ball.

Not In My Back Yardarm
Biggest U.S. oil-tanker company slapped with $37 million in dumping fines

They would have gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling pipe fitters: the nation's largest oil-tanker company, Overseas Shipholding Group, will pay $37 million for gooping up U.S. seas. For nearly five years, the company's ships dumped waste oil and sludge off the coasts of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Beaumont, Texas, Wilmington, N.C., and Portland, Maine. They covered up by fudging logbooks, building bypass pipes, flushing oil sensors with fresh water, and doing the dirty deeds at night. But there's still honor left in this world, and 12 whistleblowers called OSG on their practices. The result: a $10 million fine in the Texas case and a $27 million fine for the rest, including $437,500 for each whistleblower -- altogether, the largest-ever deliberate- pollution-by-an-ocean-vessel settlement. "There should be no tolerance for those who deliberately despoil the environment," said judge Reginald Lindsay, and OSG said it's "working very hard to ensure this never happens again."

straight to the source: The Boston Globe, David Abel, 22 Mar 2007

straight to the source: Houston Chronicle, Associated Press, 21 Mar 2007

The Goracle
Gore gets a warm welcome on Capitol Hill, and a few heated exchanges

Photo: AP/Susan Walsh Al Gore got a superstar reception in Congress yesterday when he made the case for sweeping federal action to fight global warming. Politicians from both sides of the aisle welcomed him back to his old stomping grounds and listened intently as he put forth 10 bold proposals for staving off the climate crisis, from an immediate freeze on CO2 levels to a carbon tax to a ban on incandescent light bulbs. Of course, there were a few grumblers in the hall (one of whom mentioned Grist, as it happens) -- but would it be any fun without them? Muckraker reports from the scene.

new in Muckraker: The Goracle

new in Gristmill: Grist cited in Senate hearing

You Mean Bombing Doesn't Help?
Four years of war has not improved Iraq's environment

After four years of U.S.-led war and the two Saddam-ized decades preceding it, Iraq's water, land, and air are in rough shape. "The Tigris and Euphrates rivers are essentially open sewers," says Azzam Alwash of Nature Iraq, who also says clean-up is needed on over 500 industrial plants that would qualify for Superfund status in the U.S. Bombing debris litters the country, diesel and gas fumes fill the air, oil-burning factories spew black smoke, and oil has reportedly been pumped into leaky reservoirs and set on fire. Despite two bright notes in this sad song -- the restoration of marshlands drained and burned by Hussein during his tenure and the recent improvement of sewage treatment plants -- the country's 26 million people are not, as they say, in a good place. And though their polluted surroundings are a threat to their health, says Alwash, "that is not an important issue when you can step outside your door and get a bullet in the head." Fair enough.

straight to the source: Inter Press Service, Stephen Leahy, 21 Mar 2007

straight to the source: Seed Magazine, Emily Anthes, 22 Mar 2007

Filling Their Sales
If organic food is so popular, why aren't more farms transitioning their land?

A puzzle to the core. You buy organic food to support farmers who choose not to use pesticides and other harmful growing methods, right? So why is it that, despite a surge in U.S. organic sales, there's no surge in organic farming? Tom Philpott takes a closer look at this puzzle, revealing which organic foods are winning all the popularity contests (hint: it ain't fruits and veggies) and explaining where your good intentions really go.

new in Victual Reality: Filling Their Sales

Hogwarts and All
The seventh -- and, alas, final -- Harry Potter book goes green

Is Draco Malfoy green with envy, or is it just the paper he's printed on? With only 121 days until the last Harry Potter book hits the shelves (not that we're counting), U.S. publisher Scholastic has partnered with the Rainforest Alliance to green up Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The 784-page book will have a first printing of 12 million copies in the U.S., and nearly two-thirds of the 16,700 tons of paper used will be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council as coming from sustainable timber. It's the largest-ever purchase of FSC-certified paper to be used in a single book printing, and the whomping willows are certainly thankful. In addition, the books will contain at least 30 percent recycled fiber, while the deluxe edition -- with a first printing of a mere 100,000 copies -- will be printed on 100 percent recycled paper in a renewable-energy-powered factory. Muggle-rific! So OK, fewer trees will die ... but will Harry? It's really all we can think about these days.

straight to the source: The Guardian, Oliver Bullough, 21 Mar 2007

straight to the source:, Associated Press, 20 Mar 2007

straight to the source: Reuters, 20 Mar 2007

see also, in Grist: Q&A with Nicole Rycroft, forest-friendly book publisher

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