Earth Day

The environmental movement has failed to connect climate change to the everyday lives of people.

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One bit of Barack Obama’s recent interview with Rolling Stone has caused a little stir: He talked about climate change! After not mentioning it once in the 2011 State of the Union, nor in his recent Earth Day proclamation, Obama had this to say when the magazine brought up the issue: “I suspect that over the next six months, this is going to be a debate that will become part of the campaign, and I will be very clear in voicing my belief that we’re going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way.

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It's the first Earth Day since the BP oil spill. People the world over are still angry, Gulf Coast fishing has not quite recovered, and yet BP might actually have banner profits this year. Of course, as any Earth Day activist would tell you, the Gulf Coast will be coping with the BP oil spill for many Earth Days to come. But how long will those effects last? The closest precedent is the Exxon Valdez spill off the coast of Alaska in 1989.

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Last week's item about liberals and climate change provoked a smart response from Josh Nelson that, like the rest of his blog, is well worth reading. In my item, I had bemoaned the lack of grassroots pressure for climate change legislation, in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and suggested the relative complacency was one reason climate change legislation had stalled in Congress.

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Sorry for the few days' blog absence—was wrapping up a piece for the print mag. In any case, all's still quiet on the Senate energy front. The latest news suggests that the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman climate bill won't drop until April 26th. Why don't they release it on, say, next Thursday—Earth Day? Ah, well, here's Lindsey Graham: "We don't want to mix messages here. I'm all for protecting the Earth, but this is about energy independence." In case that wasn't clear, here he is in the Post: "We're not going to do it on Earth Day.

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Strong enough to alter time, apparently: The Feb. 27 magnitude 8.8 earthquake in Chile may have shortened the length of each Earth day. JPL research scientist Richard Gross computed how Earth's rotation should have changed as a result of the Feb. 27 quake. Using a complex model, he and fellow scientists came up with a preliminary calculation that the quake should have shortened the length of an Earth day by about 1.26 microseconds (a microsecond is one millionth of a second). Perhaps more impressive is how much the quake shifted Earth's axis.

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Global Warring

For years, advocates of climate-change legislation have struggled to find a sales pitch that will sway even the most hardened of skeptics. Polar bears, green jobs, urgent pleas to think of the grandkids … none of them have quite done the trick. But recently, a new argument has come to the fore: the national security case for cutting carbon emissions. At a hearing in October, Senate Democrats invited military leaders and strategists to speak about both the dangers of America’s oil dependency and the potential for rising temperatures to create new security threats around the globe.

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SOMETIME AFTER THE release of An Inconvenient Truth in 2006, environmentalism crossed from political movement to cultural moment. Fortune 500 companies pledged to go carbon neutral. Seemingly every magazine in the country, including Sports Illustrated, released a special green issue. Paris dimmed the lights on the Eiffel Tower. Solar investments became hot, even for oil companies. Evangelical ministers preached the gospel of “creation care.” Even archconservative Newt Gingrich published a book demanding action on global warming. Green had moved beyond politics.

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With Earth Day just around the bend, Natalie Zmuda has a great column in AdvertisingAge charting the strange evolution of the holiday. Back when Earth Day first kicked off in the 1970s, many enviros were focused on persuading people to decrease their personal consumption. But three decades later, Earth Day has mainly become an opportunity for companies to market themselves as eco-friendly while foisting "green" products of dubious hues on the public for mass consumption.

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