Friday, April 13, 2012

in the news

And now for my semi-regular news roundup: stories that caught my eye and made me think this week. From Indonesian coral reefs to Amazonian rainforests to Alaskan villages and gas prices, here they are, with links to the original articles and my own two cents thoughtfully included for your reading pleasure:

1.  Winner of the least-reported, most-important award: Bolivian president Evo Morales rescinds on a contract to build a major road through the Amazon. Kudos, Mr. Morales: for listening to the people you serve, for allowing cooler heads to prevail and for preserving intact rainforest important to the ecological and cultural health of your country, and that of the world.

2. The 92-page report Energy 2020, written by the head of global commodity research at Citigroup, says that the tar sands and shale gas deposits newly available for energy development in North America have the potential to turn the continent into a "new Middle East."

"The only thing that could stop this is politics -- environmentalists getting the upper hand over supply in the U.S., for instance," writes Ed Morse in the report. A New York Times article on America's new energy supply goes on to say that when "resources are available, they end up being developed." OR we could develop something that doesn't cause earthquakes, use up precious water resources and emit CO2.

3. Meanwhile, as Americans tighten their wallets over record-high gas prices and turn their ire into a political weapon, a National Geographic article I just came across from last fall shows that a gallon of gas in Turkey costs about $10.02, in the U.K., $8.39, and in Toronto, $5.41. In some rural Alaskan villages, it's currently up to $9 a gallon. Astronomical by our standards, but perhaps a better representation of the true cost of oil and an impetus to use less.

4. In Alaska, village schools are closing at unprecedented rates: 27 rural schools in the past 13 years have shut down because of a government mandate that cuts funding at schools with less than 10 students. When a school disappears, the vitality of the community is sure to follow. Similar shutdowns, though to a lesser degree, have been taking place in Vermont: I remember one old timer from Corinth who prophesied that when the village school there was absorbed into a regional school, the general store would be the next thing to go, followed by the post office, eventually leaving the community a shell of its former self. He was spot on. The news of rural schools closing is also indicative of the general population shift to urban areas, something that I think represents a great loss for American values, skills and culture.

5. And lastly, some good news: it turns out the cost of helping to protect the marine environment can be as low as $24 per person a year. A study by the Nature Conservancy shows that educating local people in Indonesia of the value of protecting marine resources and practicing sustainable, low-impact fishing led to a substantial increase in positive attitudes toward conservationism and a decrease in illegal fishing over five years. In the U.S., I'd imagine that giving low-income kids living along the coasts a cheap mask and snorkel would lead to a similar surge in the desire to protect our oceans. No one cares about protecting a place until they've experienced its wonders firsthand.  

Can this:

Help prevent this?
(Marshall Islands photos by me)

In other news, I'm off to the desert for five days with my good friend Desirae! Photographs of red rocks, slot canyons and two very happy people to follow.

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