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Sierra Daily: April 2013


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3 posts from April 2013

Apr 18, 2013

Gritty Journalism

Oil rich sand of the oil sand region of CanadaThis week the scrappy blog InsideClimate News won the 2012-2013 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for its coverage of the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill, “the biggest oil spill you’ve never heard of.” Its investigation into the 100 million gallon spill of dirty, sticky Canadian tar sands oil broadened into “an examination of national pipeline safety issues, and how unprepared the nation is for impending floods of imports of a more corrosive and dangerous form of oil.” 

The New York Times’ Andrew Revkin offers up an online chat with publisher David Sassoon, editor Susan White and reporter Lisa Song.

InsideClimate News is only the third online news organization to win a Pulitzer (the others being ProPublica -- which has won two -- and the Huffington Post). The non-profit, non-partisan ICN paints its mission thusly: “Climate and energy are defining issues of our time, yet most media outlets are now hard-pressed to devote sufficient resources to environmental and investigative reporting,” and it would be more than happy to accept your donation to keep the fires of environmental journalism burning.

Image of oil-rich Canadian sand by iStock/AdShooter.

HS_ReedMcManusReed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”

Apr 05, 2013

The New Arctic

Clipboard01We've all read about the shrinking sea ice, melting ice caps, and drowning polar bears. But this simple short film by Kenneth Dutton, Professor of Marine Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin (h/t Joe Romm--video below) made it real to me in a way that computer graphics never can. It made me think back to the amazing Inuit hunters I was lucky enough to hang out with years ago on a Canadian River Expeditions trip to the northernmost tip of Baffin Island, only a couple hundred miles from the North Pole. Even then they were complaining of newly treacherous ice conditions:   

Our last full day was the third in a row with unusually bright, warm weather. The sea ice was covered with puddles and melting rapidly, necessitating long detours. Simon [Qamanariq] took one sledful due east to see the cliffs of the Borden Peninsula, where hundreds of thousands of fulmars nested, while others elected to stay in camp. . . . On the way back, Simon was about to drive over a puddle on the ice when he realized at the very last moment that it was actually open water. He swung his snow machine violently, and his fully loaded qamatiik missed falling through the ice by inches. The most frightening thing, his passengers said, was the look on Simon's normally stoic face; when he came into the mess tent, hours after the incident, he was still visibly shaken.

Dutton's tale of the Inupiat family's fishing tragedy reminded me of the amazingly resourceful people I met on Baffin. It's inexpressibly sad to lose, in the space of a generation, a way of life finely honed over thousands of years. But what I learned from even a short time among them was that whatever our angry, changing world throws at them, they will find a way to survive in it. Unlike so many others in the sordid tale of climate change, they make you proud of being human.

 

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PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and father of two. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber

Apr 04, 2013

MPG Inches Forward

Pumping gasSo 24.6 miles per gallon may not seem a lot to anyone driving a 50 mpg Prius or a gasoline-free electric car, but it’s the highest national average we’ve ever seen. The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute has calculated the “average sales-weighted fuel economy” of monthly car sales since 2007, which gives more weight to vehicles that sold in higher volumes. So, for cars, SUVs, vans, and pickup trucks sold in March, the average combined EPA fuel economy was 24.6 compared to just under 21 some five and a half years ago. Not bad, and bound to improve as new fuel economy standards, finalized in 2012, go into effect. Those standards will increase every automaker’s average fuel economy to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by 2025. (That’ll be the automaker’s fleetwide average, not the average of every individual vehicle sold.)

And for more transportation inspiration, watch the short video “Americans Are Driving Less” by Streetfilms (“documenting livable streets worldwide”), which celebrates the news that Americans have been driving fewer and fewer miles per capita since 2005 -- an eight-year trend that began before the economy tanked.

Image by iStock/PhotoTalk.

HS_ReedMcManusReed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”




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