Posts Tagged ‘Britain’

350.org is an influential newcomer to the environmental movement. I was curious to hear how they got their start so I used this social media piece as an excuse to talk with some interesting people.

An abridged version of this story focused exclusively on 350.org ran on the front page of the Huffington Post’s Green section the weekend after the 10/10/10 Global Work Party mentioned below. It was featured just below a post from 350.org co-founder and aclaimed author Bill McKibben.

My bike helmet is hoisted in the air on the left side of this photo.

American environmentalists recently suffered a pair of devastating defeats in their decades-long effort to halt global warming. Progress stalled on domestic legislation to cap greenhouse gas emissions prior to a key UN summit in Copenhagen. Lack of leadership from America, the world’s second largest climate polluter, made it impossible to produce and binding international agreement at the conference. Then, a few months later, the U.S. climate bill died in the Senate.

Their diplomatic and legislative maneuvers having fallen short, U.S. climate campaigners are hoping a renewed focus on activism and grassroots organizing can provide the push needed to produce carbon emission controls. As a result, the Internet and digital media are playing a growing role in efforts of progressive organizations ranging from new climate activists like 350.org to longtime environmental agitators such as Greenpeace.

Birth of 350.org

By using the same name and web address, 350.org announced to the world in 2008 that it was a new kind of environmental advocacy organization. In choosing the odd name, the founders of 350.org wanted to communicate that their group was a science-based, single issue organization. The number comes from research, which shows that 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most the atmosphere can safely absorb without triggering catastrophic climate change.

The group emerged after author Bill McKibben and a group of recent Middlebury College graduates organized the 2007 Step It Up campaign. They collaborated with existing environmental organizations like Greenpeace, as well as other groups and governments interested in climate protection. The upstart activists described it as the “first open source, web-based day of action dedicated to stopping climate change.”

It was a surprising success.

Click here to keep reading about 350.org and Greenpeace or to make a comment.

Photo credit: 350.org (via Flickr)


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A Triumph of Ignorance

creationist-idiotmobileWhen I originally submitted it, this post also touched on the difficult path into the US market trod of another controversial film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus–and had the catchy title “Darwin, the Devil and American Cinema.” Why my editor chose to entirely chop out all references to Heath Ledger’s last film, I do not understand.

UPDATE: This post was picked up by The Penn Pusher.

Bible Belters and their red state ilk don’t often infiltrate America’s cosmopolitan coast (the occasional befuddling health care reform protests aside). The righteous and religious have Branson and Dollywood; Hollywood and New York remain the destinations of the decadent and the depraved. The denizens of these opposing poles have little to do with each other, except for within the disappointing realm of politics.

That’s what makes the dispute surrounding “Creation”, a film about the life of Charles Darwin (in British theatres on September 25th), so surprising…

Click here to read the rest of the MIL post or to make a comment.

Photo credit: Amy Watts (via Flickr)

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2552191337_240b64d637_mI wrote this on Sunday night in between stoppages of play during Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals.  The Wings won and my piece got posted the next evening so I was pretty happy with the results.

Hockey fan or not, be sure to watch the ad I refer to in the post–I asked my editor to embed the YouTube video in the text but she just made it another hyperlink, for some strange reason.

Also, I touched “the ultimate prize” when I was in high school, thus ruining my chance at becoming a successful player in the NHL.  It was worth it.

UPDATE – My editor emailed me: “Okay, fixed those issues and embedded the video (I didn’t at first because it was all starting to seem a bit too worshipful, like you were on the NHL payroll….). But added now, because your pathological adoration of hockey may have company.”  Oh what I would not give to be on the NHL payroll…


On May 31st the Detroit Red Wings earned a two-game lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals, the championship series of the National Hockey League (NHL). The hard-fought games showcased hockey at its finest and fiercest. Indeed, a fight broke out with 18.2 seconds left in the second game—something common in the regular season and nearly unheard of in the finals, when a two-minute penalty can cost a team its season.

In the Stanley Cup Playoffs passions run high. Perhaps this is because players are not competing for gaudy rings, silly trophies (designed to look like a collection of giant cocktail toothpicks) or cash bonuses, per se, unlike in other major North American sports. Rather, they are battling to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup, “perhaps the world’s best known piece of folk art,” according to the authors of the book “The Ultimate Prize“.


Click here to read the rest of the blog post and make a comment. 

Photo credit: michaelrighi (via Flickr)

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Although The Nation is legally registered as a for-profit company, it has lost money for nearly all of the magazine’s 144 year history and has only survived through the unwavering support of what are now some 30,000 Nation Associates. This profile was written for The Associate, the quarterly newsletter that goes out to all those rabid Nationistas.   Click here if you’d like to learn more about the Associates.

As one might expect of someone who donates to a for-profit corporation without the benefits of a tax deduction or voting shares, the Nation Associates are very passionate about the magazine so the content of each newsletter (the full PDF version of which can be downloaded here) is very Nation-centric.  The topic I wrote on, a profile of a Pulitzer Prize-winning contributing editor now living in Nepal, was already formulated when I agreed to write it up.  Although it was time consuming and uncompensated (!), I really, really enjoyed the experience–this is perhaps the first piece I’ve written since my “Green.view” articles where I was almost entirely removed from the frame of the article.  Kai Bird is the focus feature and he’s a fascinating subject.



 “George Orwell once pointed out that political chaos may be both a cause and an effect of the decay of language, adding, ‘A man may take a drink because he feels himself a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks.’ Nowhere is this semantic vicious cycle more apparent than in the American vocabulary of Middle East politics.”

This analysis could easily apply to the Israel lobby’s character assassination of Charles Freeman, the failed nominee for National Intelligence Council Chairman, or the Obama administration’s urge to double down the troop count in the failing war in Afghanistan, yet it first appeared in the opening article of a special issue, Myths of the Middle East, which was published on December 5, 1981. That unsigned editorial, like many written between 1978 and 1987, was authored by Kai Bird. During those nine years, first as associate editor in the New York office and four years later as a Washington editor, Bird played a major role in both the weekly production of The Nation as well as the broader progressive discussion about the focus of American foreign policy.


This was a role for which Kai was uniquely well suited. Bird was born in Eugene, Oregon, but at age four he moved to East Jerusalem in what was then Jordan and, with the exception of two years spent in Washington, DC, lived abroad until he returned to the US for college. The experience of growing up as the son of a Foreign Service officer sparked Bird’s interest in American foreign policy and led him to major in South Asian and Middle Eastern history at Carleton College. Before graduating he managed to get arrested protesting the Vietnam War with a young professor named Paul Wellstone and to do an independent study in India and Bangladesh during the tumultuous months that followed the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War. His experience abroad helped him win a prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to return to the Middle East and Southeast Asia. After completing a one year master’s in journalism at Northwestern, Bird married his wife, Susan, who had also recently graduated from Carleton and been awarded a Watson Fellowship. The couple—who now live with their 16-year-old son in Nepal, where Susan is the country director for the World Bank—took their first trip abroad together using her Watson money to travel by land from Europe to Bangladesh for 15 months.


Throughout his time with The Nation, Bird, regardless of what it said on the masthead, was thought of as the “foreign editor,” as senior editor Richard Lingeman referred to him in an interview for this profile. Along with Max Holland, Bird wrote the “Dispatches” column from Washington about American foreign policy and even managed to string together a couple of trips abroad. (more…)

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The cable news coverage of Michele Obama’s casual interaction with Queen Elizabeth understated the danger posed by Britain’s dreaded monarch.


Click here to watch The Daily Show clip.

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“…Who Needs Jobs?” was the full suggested title of my April Fools’ piece.


Last week, Britain’s health minister made some ill-considered comments about men’s health during a recession. He explained that while men are ordinarily reluctant to seek healthcare and advice, they are suddenly more likely to see a doctor once they are unemployed, if precedent “in this country and abroad” is anything to go by.

The “abroad” Ben Bradshaw was referring to must have excluded America, land of the free and home of the uninsured. In the only industrialised nation without some form of national health care, the unemployed must find other ways to maintain good health and spirits. This may help to explain the Unemployment Olympics, which took place in New York yesterday.


Click here to read the rest of the blog post.


Photo credit: clementine gallot (via Flickr)

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Taming the rock-concert industry’s excesses

AS ANY country-music fan knows, Willie Nelson, America’s favourite outlaw-troubadour, can’t wait to get on the road again. Although he often sings about whiskey, since 2004 his tireless touring has been fueled by an entirely different sort of liquid: biofuel (which he has cleverly branded “BioWillie”).

Mr Nelson, one of the founders of the annual Farm Aid concert series, began running his tour bus on biofuel to support American farmers, but musicians and concert promoters have started using the fuel as part of an effort to reduce the environmental impact of their live shows. How effective has the concert industry been in shrinking its carbon footprint?


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