Saturday, April 24, 2010

Great Earth Day Edition of The Nation

The posts have been slow lately because I got married recently and figured out where I'm going to law school in the fall (George Washington, so to DC the wife and I and the kitty go), so I've had a lot going on to say the least.

I'm an avid reader of the The Nation magazine. It's a wonderful old institution of the American left. A lot of people of a more leftist than liberal persuasion have been disappointed in the magazine of late for the unwillingness of the editorial leadership to challenge some of the far-from-progressive policies of President Obama, particularly on health reform (adios public option!). Being of that persuasion, I understand their disappointment, but outside of the editors' editorial at the beginning of each issue, the articles continue to present an uncompromised critique, particularly of the escalation in Afghanistan and Obama's bellicose moves in Latin America. The magazine also funds some of the best investigative journalism out there, which we need more than ever as talking point talk shows replace factual investigation.

I always thought The Nation could use some more environmental coverage, but recently they've been really stepping it up on this front. Its coverage of the abysmal Copenhagen climate conference in December, online and in print, was fantastic, especially capturing the voices of climate scientists and climate justice activists locked out. More recently the magazine ran a brilliant cover story by Johann Hari savaging the big, corporate environmental NGO's for close ties to polluters and politicians that undercut their purpose and effect. This trend has culminated in an excellent Earth Day edition devoted entirely to the environment.

As I've written a couple times, our politicians as well as the public don't get how bad the climate crisis is. The notoriously conservative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in 2007 that developed countries needed to cut their emissions 25-40% below 1990 levels (we're well above that now) by 2020 to avoid a temperature rise of 2 degrees C, the level at which scientists believe the worst impacts will come to fruition. The climate bill passed out of the House last summer would cut emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, which is only 3% below 1990 levels. Hmm doesn't match up, does it?

As it has done on the matter of Afghanistan, with this issue The Nation presents an excellent environmentalist and left critique of inaction thus far by our Congress and the President as well as critique of the weak actions they are considering. You can read the most of the article in the issue online without a subscription here, and here's a summary of the best:

-Excellent piece by Christian Parenti on what the President could do using the Clean Air Act without any action by Congress. This is a big issue to watch come Monday when the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman bill comes out: will EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gases be stripped?

-Mark Hertsgaard and Johann Hari ridicule this invented Climategate scandal and describe how our news media gives credence to deniers who have no scientific credibility

-A surprisingly good and unmuddled editorial summarizing the worst aspects of disturbingly weak climate bills proposed from a progressive as well as environmental perspective: wasteful corporate giveaways to coal and nuclear, way too low emissions reductions, offsets (allowing companies to purchase dubious emissions reductions in poor countries instead of cutting their own), and pre-emption of states already regulating greenhouse gases i.e. rendering any state-level climate bills moot

-Robert Eshelman reviewing the huge successes of local grassroots activists and the more progressive NGO's (Sierra Club, RAN, Center for Biological Diversity) in defeating proposed new coal plants. As the lead editorial states, this grassroots and independent approach provides a good model to progressive environmentalists for fighting the broader climate justice battle.

So check out these articles, and don't be satisfied with a climate action incommensurate to the scope of the climate problem. Whatever ends up on the President's desk will be a piece of shit, and you can bet the Democrats will praise themselves for saving the planet no matter how weak it is. In working to make the bill less of a piece of shit we lay the groundwork for stronger climate action as this struggle continues over the next decade.

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