Monday, April 9, 2007

Global Warming and Hurricanes

Here are the sources cited on the climate change and hurricane fact sheet handed out by Stetson's chapter of Roots & Shoots on April 10-11, 2007. They are listed in the order they appeared.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Supreme Court: EPA Can Regulate CO2 Emissions

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court decided that the EPA does indeed have the power to regulate CO2 emissions under the Clean Air Act. For years, industry lobbyists and the Bush Administration (but I repeat myself) have worked to keep CO2 from being regulated; however, the time has come for them to acknowledge that it really is a pollutant. It's important to note that while the Court decided that the EPA could regulate CO2 emissions, it left the question of whether it should up to that body. While this decision will hopefully force the EPA to actually take climate science into account when determining whether it will regulate CO2, I have a feeling we're not going to see any progress on this front until the entire EPA is replaced from the ground up with people who are actually committed to doing their jobs -- that is, enforcing environmental laws -- and not capitulating to the Big Three automakers and Big Energy.

I can't wait for 2008.

The NRDC (see first link, below) notes that this will have implications for California, which has had a lawsuit brought against it by auto manufacturers who think that a recently-passed law requiring a reduction in global warming pollutants is unjust. This lawsuit will probably end up being thrown out, with this ruling from the Supreme Court. And once automakers have to adapt to California, the rest of the country will see similar changes within a few years.

Some related links (if limited on time, start with the first and work your way down):

Economics of Eco-friendly Food

I originally wrote this for my American Environmental Issues class at Stetson University. It refers to a text I got for the class but have been quite enamored of, Sustainable Planet.

NB: The "opinion" tag marks this as something that I haven't really researched. In this case, I just read an essay and wrote a response offhand. Comments with references to related material are welcome.

In his essay “Be A Local Hero” in Sustainable Planet, Mark Ritchie makes a case for eco-friendly food. He describes the principles behind the movement, the reasons for its recent growth in popularity, and gives several examples of communities that have use local food production to fuel new kinds of economies. Towards the end, however, Ritchie discusses the roadblocks that governments have put in place that prevent this movement of “sustainable local food systems” from reaching its full potential (105). For example, NAFTA and the WTO “have put highly restrictive conditions on the use of consumer labeling to promote locally oriented sustainable food systems” (106). Similarly, the USDA “is attempting to redefine the term ‘organic’ so factory farms can easily meet weak standards” (107). What this means, Ritchie laments, is that “[c]onsumers cannot easily distinguish or discriminate between the product of careful stewards of the land and those who are destroying the planet” (107).

This, I believe, reveals the real motive behind so-called “free market” economics. Funnily enough for someone with such liberal tendencies as myself, I believe that the market really can induce changes in the way our food impacts the environment. This is because consumers who are aware of where their food comes from and what its production involves will choose (I believe) to make more environmentally friendly choices. However, the people in charge of the WTO and USDA apparently have a different idea of the power of the market. By making it nearly impossible for consumers to know what’s what, they remove this “power of the market” from the system. They apparently believe not in market forces (which, markets having traditionally been where goods were bought and sold, I interpret to mean “consumer-level”) but rather industry forces (at the level of production). Industry will respond to consumer demand, of course, but it will take an excruciatingly long time in the absence of consumer education and ability to distinguish between environmentally friendly and harmful products.

If eco-friendly food is to have any chance of making a name for itself in the face of the might of industrial agriculture, the 2007 Farm Bill is going to have to include some serious changes to the backwards policy Ritchie mentions, including an informative-labeling policy and removal of subsidies for factory food.

For more green food information, visit The Ethicurean.