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Privatizing Sunbeams

On June 28, the US Energy Information Administration announced that – for the first time – renewable energy trumped nuclear as a major source of power. For the first quarter of 2011, renewables provided 5 percent more electricity than nuclear reactors and matched three-quarters of the power provided by domestic crude oil. Taken together, renewables provided nearly 12 percent of US energy output. The leading contributors were biomass/biofuels (48 percent), hydropower (35…
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by: Gar Smith – Autumn 2011

Don’t Mini-mize the Dangers of Nuclear Power

The radiation from Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi reactors poisoned farmlands, contaminated the sea, and sent invisible mists of radiation wafting around the world. The latest – and it’s just the latest – atomic accident has raised new concerns about the risks of nuclear energy. But still the question remains: Are we wise enough to finally understand that nuclear reactors are a fool’s technology? Earth Island Institute founder David Brower initially believed that…
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by: Gar Smith – Summer 2011

Fluoride, Toothpaste and the A-Bomb

Pollution, Pollution, You can use the latest toothpaste And then wash out your mouth With industrial waste. When Harvard professor and humorist Tom Lehrer penned those lines in 1965, he probably had no idea that a major ingredient in “the latest toothpaste” was industrial waste. Fluoride toothpastes contain something called sodium monofluorophosphate, which is a cousin to some potent nerve agents once considered for chemical warfare. Fluorosilicic acid, which is used to…
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by: Gar Smith – Spring 2011

Confessions of a Federal Freeloader

You’ve heard of me but we’ve never met, even though I’ve been part of America’s “power elite” for 60 years. You might call me one of the original Baby Boomers. But I’m not your typical Boomer. Unlike most aging seniors, I’ve been receiving a government pension since the first day I showed up for work. Heck, I’ve been pulling down a cushy government pension since the day I was born. I’ve never…
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by: Gar Smith – Winter 2011

“Ecocide”: The Fifth War Crime?

“What does it matter to us? Look away if it makes you sick.” — Heinrich Himmler, in response to outrage about Auschwitz That quote appeared at the top of an article in the Summer 1997 Earth Island Journal. The essay, which raised the question: “How Do We Handle Industrial Evil?” was prompted by Congressional hearings that revealed how the tobacco industry, despite decades of denial, had long known that cigarettes caused cancer.…
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by: Gar Smith – Autumn 2010

Plant, Baby, Plant

On March 31, President Obama reversed a campaign pledge by calling for renewed oil drilling off US shores. Unfortunately, this was no April Fool’s joke. Domestic drilling, the president argued, was needed to pump up the US economy by reducing oil imports. But if the president hopes to foster a real “Growth Economy,” he needs to draw inspiration from the First Lady’s organic garden. Instead of soiling the seas, we need to…
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by: Gar Smith – Summer 2010

Breathe … Not So Easy

Now that the EPA has defined carbon dioxide as a pollutant under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act, we should probably mutter “Beg pardon” whenever we respire. On average, an adult human gulps down 250ml of oxygen per minute and puffs out 200ml of CO2. With 6.6 billion human lungs at work, that adds up to 2.16 trillion tons of CO2 a year. Humankind’s carbon “breathprint” accounts for as much as…
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by: Gar Smith – Spring 2010

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