Sunday, November 04, 2007

Literary Warrant [21]

I RememberI remember the only time I ever saw my mother cry. I was eating apricot pie.

I remember how much I cried seeing
South Pacific (the movie) three times.

I remember how good a glass of water can taste after a dish of ice cream.

—Joe Brainard, I Remember (1975)

A gratuitous epigram, perhaps, but also a wholehearted recommendation of a unique work of humorous, often poignant writing.
  • Climate Science Watch, Government Accountability Project (GAP), Climate Science Watch Posts Testimony Censored by White House (October 24, 2007)

    "The White House is coming under fire for 'watering down' Senate testimony from the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention delivered yesterday regarding the impact climate change is having on public health.

    "Climate Science Watch, a GAP program focused on holding public officials accountable for the ways climate science data is used, has posted the director’s original testimony prior to being censored."

  • Laura Gordon-Murnane, BNA's Web Watch

    "Here you will find links to government, industry, and academic resources on selected topics spanning the breadth of BNA coverage. New subjects will be posted weekly, and new resources will also be added to existing topics."

    Among the recent topics:

  • Government of Canada, Sustaining the Environment and Resources for Canadians, Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators 2007—Highlights (October 15, 2007)

    "This is the third annual Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators Highlights report. It presents key findings from the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators 2007 report. The full 2007 report provides more analysis on indicators and socio-economic factors than previous reports and is based on the best national information available on three environmental issues of high importance to Canadians: air quality, greenhouse gas emissions and freshwater quality. In this year’s report, the three indicators have been updated with 2005 data."—Introduction.

  • Joe Hodnicki, Law Librarian Blog, Bad Boys of Environmental Movement Offer New Vision in Break Through (October 4, 2007)

    Silent Spring"In October 2004, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus became the 'bad boys' of the environment movement with the release of their paper, The Death of Environmentalism. In it they argued that the US environmental movement had become just another special interest group lead by myopic technocrats who focused on a tired, narrowly defined set of issues and advocated for piecemeal procedural solutions that keep an army of attorneys and lobbyists employed. Their point, their concern signaled in the subtitle of the paper, Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World, was that the political and legal tactics that dealt with acid rain and the like were inadequate to deal with global warming.

    "Three years later, Shellenberger and Nordhaus' new book, Break Through: From The Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility, is now available. In his review of the book, Wired's Mark Horowitz says,'Green groups may carp, but the truth is that the book could turn out to be the best thing to happen to environmentalism since Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.'"

  • Jeff Rubin, CIBC World Markets, Fueling Inflation, StrategEcon (October 22, 2007)

    "The Fed may still be cutting interest rates, but markets should brace themselves for
    some of the hottest inflation numbers seen this cycle. If energy prices haven’t gotten your attention then surely food prices have, where inflation is already running well above 4%. The coincident surges in food and energy price inflation are not unrelated. The massive policy-mandated diversion of the American corn crop from animal feed and human consumption to ethanol production has already led to huge distortions in agricultural prices, and threatens even greater distortions as land use patterns continue to change."

  • Vassilis Spyratos, Patrick S. Bourgeron & Michael Ghil, Development at the Wildland–Urban Interface and the Mitigation of Forest-Fire Risk, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, v.104, no.36 (September 4, 2007)

    "This work addresses the impacts of development at the wildland–urban interface on forest fires that spread to human habitats. Catastrophic fires in the western United States and elsewhere make these impacts a matter of urgency for decision makers, scientists, and the general public. Using a simple fire-spread model, along with housing and vegetation data, we show that fire size probability distributions can be strongly modified by the density and flammability of houses. We highlight a sharp transition zone in the parameter space of vegetation flammability and house density. Many actual fire landscapes in the United States appear to have spreading properties close to this transition. Thus, the density and flammability of buildings should be taken into account when assessing fire risk at the wildland–urban interface. Moreover, our results highlight ways for regulation at this interface to help mitigate fire risk."—Abstract.

  • James Tassos, Enterprise Community Partners, Greener Policies, Smarter Plans: How States are Using the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit to Advance Healthy, Efficient and Environmentally Sound Homes (2007)

    "All states promote sustainable development in some fashion through their Housing Credit allocation plans. Forty-two states employ 'threshold criteria'—mandatory design, construction, energy standards or other program requirements—that address sustainable development. Forty-eight states encourage green development using selection criteria incentives. State policies that address sustainable development generally fall into four broad categories: energy efficiency; sustainable site selection; resource conservation and indoor air quality."—Analysis.

  • Union of Concerned Scientists, 15 Percent by 2020 National Renewable Electricity Standard Would Save Consumers Money and Fight Global Warming, Science Group Says (Press release) (October 25, 2007)

    "An energy bill requiring utilities to generate at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources would significantly lower consumer electricity and natural gas bills and reduce global warming pollution, according to new analysis released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The House passed such a provision, called a renewable electricity standard, in its version of the bill."

  • United Nations, Department of Public Information (DPI), Climate Change: How It Impacts Us All (60th Annual DPI/NGO Conference) (September 5-7, 2007)

    "This year’s DPI/NGO Conference will focus on the facilitation of individual action plans that address the growing concerns associated with climate change and its profound and decisive impact on human well-being. The world is now equipped with a vast body of information, scientific as well as social and political, all pointing to the potential devastation of our common world. This conference will address solutions by helping interested parties to develop concrete practices that can be both implemented and shared. The goal of this conference is to build our knowledge of climate change into the viable habits of everyday practice that ensure a better future."—Conference Programme. Includes a link to the Conference Final Declaration.

  • United States Conference of Mayors, Best Practices Guide (January 2007)

    "The past few years have clearly illustrated America’s vulnerability to an uncertain energy future. Similarly, the emerging threat of global climate change, due largely to widespread fossil fuel use, has made it clear that business as usual, as far as energy use is concerned, is not sustainable.

    "To remain competitive as the global economy expands and puts greater strain on traditional fuel supplies, the United States, in our view, must develop a comprehensive strategy of fuel diversity, and a combination of conservation, alternative forms of energy and modern energy technologies. Furthermore, rising energy costs and the threat of widespread blackouts here, and the unpredictability of energy supplies from abroad require leadership at all levels in attaining energy independence, security, and reliability.

    "Fortunately, as this document, The U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Energy & Environment Best Practices, illustrates, Mayors from across America are taking the lead. From residential energy efficiency rebates to carbon neutral municipal 'Green Buildings,' cities are at the leading edge of energy conservation, easing air pollution and reducing climate-change inducing greenhouse gas emissions."—Tom Cochran, Executive Director.

  • United States Government Accountability Office, Climate Change: Agencies Should Develop Guidance for Addressing the Effects on Federal Land and Water Resources (Report to Congressional Requesters, GAO-07-863) (August 2007)

    "According to experts at the GAO workshop, federal land and water resources are vulnerable to a wide range of effects from climate change, some of which are already occurring. These effects include, among others, (1) physical effects, such as droughts, floods, glacial melting, and sea level rise; (2) biological effects, such as increases in insect and disease infestations, shifts in species distribution, and changes in the timing of natural events; and (3) economic and social effects, such as adverse impacts on tourism, infrastructure, fishing, and other resource uses.

    "Experts at the GAO workshop also identified several challenges that resource managers face in addressing the observed and potential effects of climate change in their management and planning efforts. In particular, BLM, FS, FWS, NOAA, and NPS have not made climate change a priority, and the agencies’ strategic plans do not specifically address climate change. Resource managers focus first on near-term, required activities, leaving less time for addressing longer-term issues such as climate change."—What GAO Found.

  • United States National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Enviro-Health Links—California Wildfires (October 2007)

    "The California Wildfires web page includes information on the health effects from fires and exposure to smoke; links to air quality resources, environmental clean-up following fires, and animals in disasters.

    "In addition, resources for emergency responders and information in Spanish are alsoincluded. Searches of NLM databases, such as MedlinePlus, PubMed,TOXLINE, Tox Town, and Haz-Map (occupational health) are provided for additional health information. It also provides the locations of facilities reporting to the EPA Toxics Release Inventory and Superfund sites in and around San Diego (TOXMAP).

    "This web page is designed to help emergency responders, health care providers, public health workers, and the general public find authoritative and timely information about key health concerns from wildfires. Links to other federal government web sites, including, FEMA, and the Department of Health and Human Services are included."—Web Resources for California Fires.

  • Orice M. Williams, Director Financial Markets and Community Investment, United States Government Accountability Office, Commodity Futures Trading Commission: Trends in Energy Derivatives Markets Raise Questions about CFTC’s Oversight (Testimony Before the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, Committee on Agriculture, House of Representatives, GAO-08-174T) (October 24, 2007)

    "Under the authority granted by the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA), CFTC focuses its oversight primarily on the operations of traditional futures exchanges, such as the New York Mercantile Exchange, Inc. (NYMEX), where energy futures are traded. Increasing amounts of energy derivatives trading also occur on markets that are largely exempt from CFTC oversight. For example, exempt commercial markets conduct trading on electronic facilities between large, sophisticated participants. In addition, considerable trading occurs in over-the-counter (OTC) markets in which eligible parties enter into contracts directly, without using an exchange. While CFTC can act to enforce the CEA’s antimanipulation and antifraud provisions for activities that occur in exempt commercial and OTC markets, some market observers question whether CFTC needs broader authority to more routinely oversee these markets. CFTC is currently examining the effects of trading in the regulated and exempt energy markets on price discovery and the scope of its authority over these markets—an issue that will warrant further examination as part of the CFTC reauthorization process."—What GAO Found.

  • Orice M. Williams, Director Financial Markets and Community Investment, United States Government Accountability Office, Federal Emergency Management Agency: Ongoing Challenges Facing the National Flood Insurance Program (Testimony Before the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, U.S. Senate, GAO-08-118T) (October 2, 2007)

    "The most significant challenge facing the NFIP is the actuarial soundness of the program. As of August 2007, FEMA owed over $17.5 billion to the U.S. Treasury. FEMA is unlikely to be able to pay this debt, primarily because the program’s premium rates have been set to cover an average loss year, which until 2005 did not include any catastrophic losses. This challenge is compounded by the fact that some policyholders with structures that were built before floodplain management regulations were established in their communities generally pay premiums that represent about 35 to 40 percent of the true risk premium. Moreover, about 1 percent of NFIP-insured properties that suffer repetitive losses account for between 25 and 30 percent of all flood claims. FEMA is also creating a new generation of 'grandfathered' properties—properties that are mapped into higher-risk areas but may be eligible to receive a discounted premium rate equal to the nonsubsidized rate for their old risk designation. Placing the program on a more sound financial footing will involve trade-offs, such as charging more risk-based premiums and expanding participation in the program."—What GAO Found.


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