Tag Archive: environment


A new book by Tim Ingold is always good news, especially one that — like his 2000 collection Perception of the Environment — brings together several years’ worth of work into one volume. Ingold describes Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description as “in many ways” a “sequel” to that earlier book, and it’s interesting to examine the territory he’s traversed since then.

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Plastic planet

Discard Studies shares Max Liboiron’s engrossing, and depressing, account of the ocean’s toxic soup of plastics.

A few quotes:

“The best conservative estimate we have is that there are 315 billion pounds of plastic in the ocean. For comparison, The Gulf Spill spewed roughly 2.5 million pounds of oil per day at its peak.  That makes it would take 345 years of oil leaking to reach the same amount of plastic that is already in the ocean.” [...]

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radar_10.jpg

Today was the 23rd anniversary of the nuclear accident in Chernobyl, Ukraine. I had been invited to give a sermon at a nearby Unitarian church connected to both this anniversary and the May Day (Beltane) that’s coming up in a few days, and my thoughts, in preparation, revolved around how both of those dates, along with Earth Day four days earlier, combine a significance in cyclical time — the ritualized time by which people shape their daily, monthly, and annual life rhythms — and in world-historical time, that is, the time of events that have redefined humanity’s relationship to the world at large.

Earth Day 1970 and the Chernobyl nuclear accident of 1986 both served as moments of recognition of environmental risk and hazard. Earth Day instituted the practice of large-scale political demonstrations and teach-ins on the environment. The 1970 Earth Day involved about 20 million people in the US; the 1990 Earth Day, at the peak of the ‘second wave’ of environmental activism, is thought to have involved 200 million participants in 140 different countries. Earth Day’s evolution thus offers a kind of gauge of the popular pulse of environmental awareness, and with its institutionalization into childrens culture, a gauge for the struggle over how our kids’ attitudes towards nature develop and, in turn, for how they may put pressure on us to change our ways.

Chernobyl, on the other hand, was the single most important shock to a system (the Soviet) that was eventually brought down by the events it triggered. This was especially the case in Ukraine, where it catalyzed an environmental movement that ultimately mutated into the national independence movement. More so than most environmental disasters, Chernobyl remains mired in debates over its impacts. The International Atomic Energy Association’s 2006 report (co-authored with the World Health Organization and the UN Development Program) cited data suggesting that no more than 4000 cancer deaths can be traced to the radioactive release from the Chernobyl accident. In response, Greenpeace International produced a report citing scientific data that the number is really between 100,000 and 200,000. Victims’ groups, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and even previous WHO reports appear to line up on the side of Greenpeace in this debate. Critics on both sides dispute the other side’s research methods, their use of epidemiological data, estimates for escaped nuclear fuel (which the IAEA puts at 3-4%, while others have claimed that 50% or even almost all of the reactor’s fuel escaped into the environment). See here , here, and here on the “body count” and other controversies.

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tipping point ahead

Here’s an effective little media piece:

Wake Up, Freak Out – then Get a Grip from Leo Murray on Vimeo.

Full screen is particularly nice, and the well referenced script gives it substance.

climate change victims

On a visit to Ohio this week, I caught about ten minutes of an interview on a network TV station with a representative from the Maldives, talking about the plight they face with rising sea levels and the urgency of doing something about climate change at the Poznan, Poland, meeting. (See more.) It got me thinking: what does it take to get the Maldives on American news? What sort of media work would get climate change victims (small island nations, Arctic peoples, et al) a space in the imagination of the developed world that would help build the social-justice side of the climate action case? Is anyone (a Green Media Center of some kind) working on this?