Environment

August 20, 2011

South-central and southwestern Indiana has buildings, roads and bridges built on apparently solid ground. Yet below the surface is a complex system of limestone caves, sinkholes, bedrock springs, conduits (caves humans can't fit into) and swallow holes (that take in water). This collection of surface and underground features is known as "karst." It has a kind of Swiss-cheese physiography.

Indiana's Monroe, Lawrence, Greene, Orange, Crawford, Harrison, Jennings, Jefferson, Owen and Putnam counties all contain karst. It's a distinctive characteristic of this area and worthy of interest and care.

August 18, 2011

In 1953, at the beginning of his presidency, Dwight D. Eisenhower gave a speech in which he said, "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

That quotation is apt today. According to the War Resisters League, the United States spends 59 percent of its budget on the military. When spending on veterans’ affairs and nuclear weapons programs are added, Businessinsider.com says, the grand total is $1.01–1.35 trillion spent on national defense in 2010.


August 10, 2011

The tiny Indiana Bat, which is the size of a small mouse and weighs the same as a door key, has a wingspan of 10.5 inches. It normally lives 14 years, summers in the woodlands and hibernates in the caves of southern Indiana, as well as in the forests of 20 other states.

Since 1967 the Indiana Bat has been on the federal list of endangered species.

Kids are more susceptible to toxic pollution

August 6, 2011

I was reminded of the phrase "children are not little adults" this past week when an assistant commissioner from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) wrote a letter to NUVO in Indianapolis challenging a story I wrote titled "Indiana's toxic air affecting children." I was working as an environmental writer at IDEM in the late 1990s when agency officials began using that soundbite to explain why children were more vulnerable to the effects of toxic pollution than were, say, their parents.

At that time, practically everything IDEM's Media and Communication Services did revolved around was the notion that toxic pollution disproportionately impacted children's health. Ipso facto, polluters needed to clean up their acts. I recall being told that the chief lobbyist for some of the state's most venal polluters accused then-IDEM Commissioner John Hamilton of "playing the kid card" over our emphasis on children's environmental health.

It's hard to tell from the outside how much children's environmental health drives the IDEM agenda under Mitch Daniels, but the agency's Website and a story written for the Indiana Daily Student last year by one of my students suggests at least one program maintains the focus.


August 6, 2011

We gnomes always try to protect the natural treasures of Mother Earth. That's what gnomes do. But we're a little and old-fashioned, and our enemies have outgrown us. Many of those who exploit Mother Earth for valuable resources have grown to be such huge, powerful, greedy giants that they can slap aside anyone – even national governments – who try to restrain them. Agencies that were created to regulate them, such as the EPA, have been overwhelmed and neutered by their power.

That's why some of us gnomes have been discussing the need for an International Environmental Court to deal with global crimes against Mother Earth – the really brutal, heinous crimes, which are the moral equivalents of rape and murder. Two that certainly reach that level of depravity are mountaintop removal coal mining and gas fracking.

'Toxic Power: How Power Plants Contaminate Our Air and States' lists top 20 states for toxic air pollution

July 21, 2011

Indiana is the sixth worst state in the production of toxic industrial air pollution, surpassed by only Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Kentucky and Maryland.

The assessment was made by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Physicians for Social Responsibility and is based on data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), which is available to the public. The data are reported in Toxic Power: How Power Plants Contaminate Our Air and States, just published, which covers the top 20 states for toxic air pollution.


July 19, 2011

Most people who have studied the issue of "clean coal" easily understand that coal is not clean and really cannot be made so. But that does not keep those who make big money mining and burning the black mineral from making those dubious claims.

Mining coal destroys entire ecosystems, burning it alters our climate, makes people sick and cuts lives short while disposal of its huge volumes of waste contaminates land and water alike.


July 18, 2011

Global climate change is having profound effects on human health.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), by 2020 climate change-induced ground-level ozone, the primary component of smog, will cause millions of respiratory illnesses and thousands of hospitalizations for serious breathing problems, including asthma. The cost will be about $5.4 billion.

Changing Planet, Changing Health: How the Climate Crisis Threatens Our Health and What We Can Do about It, by Paul R. Epstein, M.D., and Dan Ferber (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), probes the topic of climate disruption’s effects on health in depth.

Grant Smith retires from CAC, talks about past, present and future

July 15, 2011

Editor's note: Citizens Action Coalition (CAC) Executive Director Grant Smith resigned on June 17 and sat down at his home just south of Broad Ripple in Indianapolis with Bloomington Alternative editor Steven Higgs for a conversation about a variety of topics. Smith started at CAC as a part-time canvasser in 1982. What follows are edited, extended excerpts from their 70-minute discussion.

A version of this story appears in the July 14 issue of NUVO in Indianapolis.

***

Higgs: Do I recall Chris (former CAC executive director Williams) hired you because you wore a suit and tie to the interview?

Smith: No, it was because I didn't. I was in the interview wearing a flannel shirt and jeans. Another guy was in a three-piece suit. Chris was talking to him and not to me. That was in February 1982. CAC was originally the Citizens Energy Coalition and formed in '74. The name was changed to CAC in about '76. The canvass operation began in '79.

Do Kentuckiana toxic releases cause developmental disability in Ohio River Valley children?

July 8, 2011

A new study of California twins with autism strengthens the case that the epidemic that has swept the nation in the past three decades is related to environmental pollution. The damage, its authors suggest, occurs in the womb and during the earliest days of life.

"Increasingly, evidence is accumulating that overt symptoms of autism emerge around the end of the first year of life," say the authors of the study, which was released online July 4 in the Archives of General Psychiatry. "Because the prenatal environment and early postnatal environment are shared between twin individuals, we hypothesize that at least some of the environmental factors impacting susceptibility to autism exert their effect during this critical period of life."

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