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Ahead of Its Time, Or a Bad Idea?

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is trying to become “coal-free” by 2020 but can’t find any torrefied pellets, which are a biomass alternative to coal — they are wood pellets, but have less moisture and are thus more like coal. The price of creating a torrefied-pellet facility is high, and EPA regulations surrounding it are unclear.

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A Sad Day

The editor of a scientific journal resigns, apologizing for publishing a paper that questions the conventional thinking about global warming.

So, we are having show trials, now? Or just re-education?

Roy Spencer’s response is here.

Scientific truth will not be determined by how many people agree with a particular viewpoint but by the testing of one hypothesis against another. That process seems to be being curtailed.

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No Ziploc for This 6-Year-Old

by Jane S. Shaw


Canada’s National Post reports that a six-year-old boy was not allowed to participate in a lunchtime drawing for  a stuffed teddy bear at his daycare. Why? Because his parents had packed his lunch in a disposable plastic bag rather than reusable Tupperware. “We have to take care of our planet and the bags do not decompose well,” the boy’s teacher told his unhappy father.

The incident has spurred a “fierce debate” about how far to go in protecting the environment, wrote National Post reporter Tamsin McMahon. There’s a debate? Yes, apparently many of the people who commented on the family’s blog post agreed with the school’s position.  The Post was kind enough to ask for my opinion  (as a coauthor of Facts, Not Fear).  I pointed out that it’s extremely difficult to know whether something is environmentally friendly:

Schools should focus on teaching kids the fundamentals of science so that they can explore environmental issues themselves and draw their own informed conclusions as they get older, Ms. Shaw said.

The full story is available here.

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A Break with the Past

by Jane S. Shaw


The Boston Globe
reports that New Urbanism is being challenged by “landscape urbanism,” an approach to planning that is comfortable with people living in “spacious suburbs.”  The conflict pits Andres Duany,  designer of  nostalgic “cityscapes”–towns with a “compact grid of narrow, tree-lined streets laid out around a walkable downtown with stores and civic spaces,” according to the Globe–against Charles Waldheim, upstart landscape architect now at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

This is a great development, in my view, because it could usher in an era of common sense in urban (and suburban) planning.  We may, at last, get away from the nostalgic effort to recreate cities of the past, exemplified by Duany’s vision (often incorrectly touted as the legacy of Jane Jacobs’ vision). In fact, the Globe writer, Leon Neyfakh, says that one of the major themes of the new landscape urbanists is that:

American cities in the 21st century are not like American cities from the 19th century, and should not be expected to function the same way.

A valuable insight!

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Why So Bad at Science?

by Jane S. Shaw

The New York Times reports that U. S. high school students are sadly lacking in their understanding of science. Could that be because they have spent their school days studying how to recycle, why we need wind energy, and one-sided views about global warming?

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Green, and Green, on Campus

by Jane S. Shaw

David French at Phi Beta Cons and Charlotte Allen at Minding the Campus have been discussing the sustainability movement, which has taken over colleges around the country.  Apparently colleges are worried that the Republican Congress will hold back on “sustainability” funds that were just beginning to trickle out under the 2008 Higher Education Sustainability Act. Allen points to one example–$628,000 went to Michigan State University for a project titled “Competency Assessment of Liberal Learning Goals through Institutional Experiential Education for Global Sustainability.” Got that?

David French adds:

The irony is that these sustainability programs plow forward even as public concern about global warming wanes. On the university campus, that ship has sailed. Without much real debate and without any substantive response to the myriad concerns raised about the science of climate change, the green party rules, unchallenged.

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All the Rage on Campus

by Jane S. Shaw

On campuses across the country, sustainability is hot. Writing on the National Association of Scholars site, Ashley Thorne reports on her visit to the “sustainability open house” at Princeton. Somewhat bemused, she investigates trash sculptures, trayless eating, personalized beer cups (so you don’t throw them away each time you have a beer), and competition with Yale (to reduce carbon dioxide emissions).

In fact, Thorne and her colleague Peter Wood have been writing a lot about sustainability. As she says on the blog post:

I’m wary of how the sustainability movement has positioned itself as higher education’s new raison d’être.

So am I.