Friday, Apr 29, 2011, 7:10 am
Weekly Mulch: Greening the Royal Wedding is the Least of Our Worries
The biggest news for the environment this week might just be that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took pains to add a couple of green touches to this morning's Royal Wedding. The flowers were seasonal, the food locally grown, and the emissions offset.
At Care2, Laura Bailey has a few more ideas for couples inclined to green a wedding: Wear a vintage wedding dress. Exchange heirloom rings. Give guests environmentally friendly wedding gifts. Ask them to donate to a charity instead of stocking your household with kitchen appliances.
Those of us who don't live in the fantasy land of British royalty do have bigger problems to worry about: tornadoes, jobs, climate change. At Grist, David Roberts argues that America's inability to act on this last problem is tied to the general insecurity running rampant:
Americans are so battered and anxious right now. Median wages are flat, unemployment is high, politics is paralyzed. Middle-class families are one health problem away from ruin, and when they fall, there's no net. That kind of insecurity, as much as anything, explains the American reticence to launch bold new social programs.
The first step to solving climate change, in this formulation, is to give average people two legs to stand on financially. Once Americans feel more confident about today, they'll be more like to worry about the big problems of the future.
It's vital that the country get to a place where real discussions about how to deal with the threats of climate change can happen, because the solutions the country's relying on now won't cut it in the long term. Take nuclear energy. It plays a key role in America's energy strategy for the future, despite the compelling reasons for building fewer, not more, plants.
At AlterNet, Norman Solomon, a writer with a long history of arguing against nuclear energy, writes that California needs to shut down its two nuclear plants. He's worried about the near-term consequences of creating nuclear power in an earthquake-prone zone but also about the long-term impacts of pro-nuclear policies:
The Diablo Canyon plant near San Luis Obispo and the San Onofre plant on the southern California coast are vulnerable to meltdowns from earthquakes and threaten both residents and the environment.
Reactor safety is just one of the concerns. Each nuclear power plant creates radioactive waste that will remain deadly for thousands of years. This is not the kind of legacy that we should leave for future generations.
This week also marked the 25th anniversary of the meltdown at Chernobyl. At The Nation, Peter Rothberg reminds us that nuclear accidents wreak havoc for years to come. The Chernobyl meltdown, he writes, "has caused tens of thousands of cancer deaths, and showed just how far-reaching the ramifications of a serious nuclear accident could be." Rothberg and Kevin Gostolza also rounded up a list of ten great anti-nuclear songs.
Nuclear isn't the only current energy source that poses intolerable risks. As the price of oil has rocketed upwards in the past few weeks, the country has started freaking out and, as Marah Hardt writes at Change.org, in Alaska, state officials are pressuring the federal government to open up oil drilling there. But as Hardt points out:
Spills can and will happen. And in the freezing, extreme conditions of the Arctic—think extended periods of darkness, fog, sub-zero temperatures, hurricane-force storms, and lots of moving sea ice—clean-up efforts would be nearly impossible. Just this past February, an oil spill off Norway's only marine reserve proved how difficult clean-up operations can be, even in relatively calm conditions: oil leaked underneath sea ice, where it was impossible to reach, and surface skimming booms quickly clogged with ice, rendering them useless.
No matter what we do, however, gathering the energy used to power our lives will take some toll on the environment. A large portion of clean energy in states like New York, for example, comes from hydroelectric power—dams. But dams are environmental villains of long-standing, as well.
In the West, dams along the Colorado River are negatively impacting the region's national parks, Public News Service's Kathleen Ryan reports:
David Nimkin, NPCA's Southwest regional director, says all of the parks in the [Colorad River] basin, including the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and the Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado, are seeing the sometimes-unintended consequences of placing dams along the river, from unnatural water flow patterns, to the introduction of non-native fish species, or increased river sediment and temperatures.
"The dams also fragment the system as whole, creating small isolated little ecosystems and areas that are not consistent with overall river conditions."
With these sorts of choices, sometimes it is easier to worry about the little changes we can make to assuage our environmental consciences: recycled wedding invitations might not save the world, but they might hurt it that much less.
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