Wednesday, October 31, 2007



Dropping (Fatty) Acid
Organic food healthier than non-organic, research finds

Who woulda thunk: Organic food is healthier than pesticide-ridden food, according to preliminary results of a four-year study funded by the European Union. Researchers found that organic nosh contained more antioxidants (yum!) and fewer fatty acids (ew!) than non-organic. Organic milk was found to have up to 80 percent more antioxidants than conventional cow juice, as well as higher amounts of vitamin E. Organic wheat, tomatoes, cabbage, onions, and lettuce had up to 40 percent more antioxidants than their conventional counterparts, and potatoes, kiwi fruit, and carrots were found to have higher levels of vitamin C. The study -- the largest of its kind to date -- is ongoing, and final results are expected to be published over the next year; the research has yet to be peer-reviewed. Advocates hope the research will sway Britain's Food Standards Agency to change its current advisory that "the balance of current scientific evidence does not support" the contention that organic food is more nutritious than conventional.

Quote of the day

"I'd rather be at the mall because you can enjoy yourself walking around looking at stuff as opposed to the woods. [In national parks] the only thing you look at is the trees, grass, and sky."

-- 15-year-old Tommy Nguyen, visiting Yosemite National Park


Exx Appeal
U.S. Supreme Court to hear appeal of Exxon Valdez damage award

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed this week to hear ExxonMobil's appeal of the $2.5 billion in damages it was ordered to pay for the disastrous 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. An Alaskan jury in 1994 originally ordered the company to pay $5 billion in damages, but the amount was cut in half by an appeals court last December. Now the $39.5-billion-a-year company is hoping the Supremes will further reduce or eliminate the damage award, arguing it's already paid a few billion in cleanup costs and that it was the ship captain's fault anyway. For its part, the court will review the case based on whether the Clean Water Act and maritime laws allow for punitive damages, and if so, whether the award is excessive. The case could end in a tie when it's decided next year since Justice Samuel Alito will not take part in the case (he owns over $100,000 in Exxon stock). The Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil, polluting about 1,200 miles of Alaskan coastline.

The Weight of Water
U.S. states face water shortages

The catastrophic California wildfires have been getting the lion's share of the press these days, but it's worth paying attention to an equally intimidating but slower-moving threat: water shortages. From Georgia to Massachusetts, Florida to New York, the Great Lakes to the West, U.S. states are getting thirstier. In fact, the government predicts that at least 36 states will face challenges from inadequate water supplies within five years, thanks to a combination of rising temperatures, drought, population growth, sprawl, waste, and overuse. "Is it a crisis? If we don't do some decent water planning, it could be," says Jack Hoffbuhr of the American Water Works Association. Officials hope that measures such as water recycling, efficiency, and desalination will save the day. Meanwhile, local officials are tightening their grasp on any available supplies, and debates over how to address the problem are simmering.

A Tip of the ICAP
New partnership hopes to jumpstart global carbon market

A slew of countries and U.S. states have signed on to a new International Carbon Action Partnership, with a goal of sharing knowledge about and standardizing best practices for what they hope will become a global cap-and-trade system. Participants include members of the Western Climate Initiative and Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the U.S., as well as various European countries and New Zealand. "By working together we can make our shared vision of a global carbon market a reality," said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Added California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), "Just because you don't see Washington leading on this issue don't assume that America is shirking its responsibilities." Zing!

Family Matters
Vicious attack said to undermine Russian environmental movement

A vicious attack on anti-nuclear protesters in Russia this summer has had the unexpected outcome of undermining the country's environmental movement, after the son of a high-profile green leader confessed to having a role in the melee. Marina Rikhvanova had been successful at inspiring grassroots activism in Russia -- particularly against the government's plans to build oil pipelines around the beloved Lake Baikal -- but many onetime allies are now keeping their distance. "The attack and the arrest afterwards have been a tremendous blow to the environmental movement, and divided it like never before," says one journalist. Agrees Maksim Vorontsov, a member of the National Bolshevik Party: "In Russia, there is a feeling that in an ordinary family, children support their parents. Now people are wondering why children might be attacking their parents. They are saying [ecologists] must be abnormal."

Read more news ...


Send your pals a Grist e-card this Halloween

Want to celebrate All Hallows Eve in style? Send your friends a Grist e-card! From "blood and Gore" to a jack-o-lantern powered by a CFL, we've got the eco-twist on trick-or-treating to make you grin. And best of all, there's not a drop of corn syrup in sight.

Howdy Rudy
A look at Rudy Giuliani's environmental platform and record

Do you know where Rudy Giuliani stands on green issues? Neither do most other smart folks. The former New York City mayor and now front-running Republican presidential candidate doesn't talk much about the environment. He likes to bring up the importance of energy independence, which he ties to national security, but he doesn't connect the dots as to what it might mean for climate change. So we've dug through his speeches, his platform, his record, and his garbage can to bring you the lowdown on Giuliani's environmental stances. Well, OK, not really his garbage can.

Coming Wednesday: Advice columnist Umbra Fisk on greeting-card alternatives

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