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Green Roundup

Poison Arrow Frog
Here’s the environmental-related news you should be paying attention to this week:

Dr. James Hansen’s latest missive
It’s statements like, “Perhaps if politicians and businesses paint each other green, it will not seem so bad when our forests burn” that have brought James Hansen notoriety, as well as legions of fans in the environmental movement. It steels the resolve of little guys (this little guy, at least) to see a federal employee (Hansen heads up NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies) not be a government crony.
Anyway, Dr. Hansen sends out periodic letters to world leaders, challenging them to be realistic about global warming. These letters, while containing some informal, somewhat derogatory language (he dismissively refers to politicians and lobbyists as ‘those in alligator shoes,’) give some of the best arguments I’ve ever read for strong action now on climate change. His latest is to Dr. Martin Parkinson, secretary of Australia’s Department of Climate Change, in which Hansen repeats his call to end cap-and-trade approaches in favor of a tax-and-dividend.
Not sure why he’s against cap-and-trade when so many pro-environment folks, including Obama, are in favor of it? Wondering what this ‘tax-and-dividend’ stuff is?
You’ll have to read Dr. Hansen’s letters.

Ending our reliance on carbon
Speaking of cap-and-trade and tax-and-dividend and all that fun “is carbon necessary, evil, or necessary evil” talk, the University of Virginia is hosting a discussion that asks participants, “Should the U.S. end its dependency on carbon-based fuels?”
Ever wonder what becomes of government bigwigs after they serve their country? Why, they end up as high-priced consultants of course. And they show up in roundtable discussions like this. Former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, ex-CIA director James Woolsey and 2001-03 EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman will participate in this dialogue about why it is or isn’t a good idea to kiss carbon goodbye. The talk, moderated by Fox News Channel’s Jim Angle, will be Webcast live tomorrow starting at 7 p.m. ET.

Forbes’ Best Cities For The Outdoors
San Francisco adds to its “City With Most Appearances on Top Cities Lists” title by topping yet another Best list: Forbes’ “Best Cities For The Outdoors.”
The magazine used Trust for Public Land, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and EPA figures to determine which of the 40 largest cities are best for the outdoors, based on criteria including parks spending, percentage of park land, recreation facilities, air quality, sunshine, snowfall and temperature.
And here’s a fact that may be an indicator of something, but what exactly I don’t know: Captivate broadcasts in each of the top 3 on the Best Outdoors Cities list but none of the bottom 3.

Amphibians in trouble
Amphibians are in trouble. A fungus that researchers say has wiped out 122 species in the last 30 years is showing no signs of slowing, threatening an ever-expanding number of the more than 5,700 known (with many more as-yet unknown) amphibian species. Up to 40% are now considered threatened, a far greater percentage than any other vertebrate.
So the Smithsonian is heading up the Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project, a coalition of eight zoos trying to stop the chytrid fungus, which has spread all across the globe, including the U.S. The group is focusing on a small region of Panama that has an extraordinary concentration of frogs and has yet to see widespread chytrid infections.
Project manager Brian Gratwicke says, “Time is of the essence, and we need to save these important creatures for their direct cultural, biomedical and ecological impact on human lives.”
The “biomedical” part he refers to is that secretions from amphibians’ skin have shown medicinal promise. Saving a frog today could save our own skins in 20 years, via a medical breakthrough.
The “ecological” is that amphibians eat tons of insects, helping control the population of bugs that pester us and cause disease.
But the most important reason, to me, is the “cultural.” Frogs, toads and salamanders are some of the most accessible wild creatures. They’ve stoked generations of children’s interest in the environment. How many naturalists got their start by catching frogs at the local pond, by flipping logs for salamanders? In this sense, the loss of amphibians would mean a loss of human wonder.

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“Green Roundup”