Reviving this blog

Check out the blog Casaubon’s Book. See it’s About page.

Don’t forget about No Impact Man who’s still going strong:

Meet real needs, make sustainable products

Here’s a question: if the need for a product has to be created by the manufacturer, if aggressive marketing is required to convince people to buy the product, can the product, no matter how renewable its materials, really be called sustainable?

make big car owners pay

Writing in a NYT op-ed, Owen D. Gutfreund, a professor of history and urban studies at Barnard College and author of 20th-Century Sprawl: Highways and the Reshaping of the American Landscape, says,

It’s imperative that we rethink the way we approach transportation. Our highway policy has remained largely the same since the 1950s even as driving habits have changed. Then, most families had no more than one car, and many had none. Now nearly every household owns at least one; two is more typical, and each car is driven more miles per year. The population, too, has nearly doubled. The result is that bridges and highways are overburdened and falling apart, while local governments lack the money to respond adequately, a problem worsened by dwindling federal contributions.

And he has a solution:

So here’s the answer: charge a premium for expensive and inefficient vehicles. Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, has already taken this step, tripling toll charges for S.U.V.’s. We should take this one step further, requiring that vehicle registrations include designation in tiered classes, taking into account weight, sales price, emission rating and gas-mileage efficiency. Tolls would be levied according to these classes. Smaller, cheaper and more environmentally friendly cars would pay less, while drivers of more expensive, wasteful and higher-polluting cars would pay more. This is everything a tax structure should be: fair and progressive, while rewarding socially beneficial consumer decisions and penalizing selfish, destructive ones. Also, it provides a fairer allocation of the actual highway costs among users, since heavier vehicles produce more wear and tear on road surfaces, requiring thicker pavements and more frequent repairs. We already use this logic to justify higher tolls for trucks and other multi-axle vehicles. Why not also ask S.U.V.’s to pay a heavier toll?

food or conservation?

In the New York Times, As Prices Rise, Farmers Spurn Conservation Program:

Thousands of farmers are taking their fields out of the government’s biggest conservation program, which pays them not to cultivate. They are spurning guaranteed annual payments for a chance to cash in on the boom in wheat, soybeans, corn and other crops. Last fall, they took back as many acres as are in Rhode Island and Delaware combined.

Environmental and hunting groups are warning that years of progress could soon be lost, particularly with the native prairie in the Upper Midwest. But a broad coalition of baking, poultry, snack food, ethanol and livestock groups say bigger harvests are a more important priority than habitats for waterfowl and other wildlife. They want the government to ease restrictions on the preserved land, which would encourage many more farmers to think beyond conservation.

food riots

The Guardian reports: “The security implications [of the food crisis] should also not be underestimated as food riots are already being reported across the globe,”…

Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, said “many more people will suffer and starve” unless the US, Europe, Japan and other rich countries provide funds. He said prices of all staple food had risen 80% in three years, and that 33 countries faced unrest because of the price rises.

In the UK, Professor John Beddington, the new chief scientific adviser to the government, used his first speech last month to warn the effects of the food crisis would bite more quickly than climate change. He said the agriculture industry needed to double its food production, using less water than today.

He said the prospect of food shortages over the next 20 years was so acute it had to be tackled immediately: “Climate change is a real issue and is rightly being dealt with by major global investment. However, I am concerned there is another major issue along a similar time-scale — that of food and energy security.”


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead (1901-1978)

gas guzzlers should pay

Poll: Make gas guzzlers pay higher fees

A telephone survey of 1,500 Californians, dialed randomly, found support for green transportation taxes and fees – charges that rise and fall with the amount of pollution a vehicle emits.

— 63 percent supported doubling the vehicle registration fee, now an average of $31, and charging higher rates for polluting vehicles and lower rates for clean vehicles.

— 65 percent supported a tax and rebate system for new vehicle purchases that would give a rebate of up to $1,000 for clean cars and impose a tax of as much as $2,000 for higher-polluting cars.

water in the West

Warming affects trees, streams in West from AP:

The Rocky Mountain snowpacks that melt earlier in spring leave less water for summer irrigation and heat up trout streams. Glaciers, which provide consistent stream flows during summer, are melting. The glaciers at Montana’s Glacier National Park could melt entirely by 2022…. Montana, Idaho and Wyoming had their hottest Julys on record last summer, while Phoenix had 47 days of 109 degrees or hotter, according to the National Weather Service.

Powell and Mead reservoirs, meanwhile, are half-empty. The reservoirs collect water from the Colorado River, supplying much of the booming Southwest. If they keep drying up, it could shred the Colorado River Compact of 1922, an agreement that allocates fixed amounts of water among seven states. The upper basin states have the water, but lower basin states including California have senior water rights — a crisis in the making….