Published Jul 10 2009 by Energy Bulletin
Archived Jul 10 2009

Solutions & sustainability - July 10

by Staff

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David de Rothschild: Saving the world, one adventure at a time

Todd Woody, Grist
... The Plastiki is the latest project of British environmentalist and polar adventurer David de Rothschild, the 31-year-old scion of the famous banking family. De Rothschild and his crew of five plan to set sail later this year for Sydney on a three-month voyage across the sometimes treacherous Pacific to draw attention to a host of environmental problems, from rising sea levels and coral bleaching to the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling mass of plastic trash twice the size of Texas.

Standing 6-feet-4-inches tall with shoulder-length brown hair and piercing eyes, de Rothschild is a media magnet—a gaggle of reporters and television cameras recently gathered for the opening of the Plastiki Mission Control Center on Pier 45 as throngs of souvenir-hunting tourists passed by a window covered in a curtain of green plastic bottles.

But the pretty-boy messenger has an unconventional message. “For a very long time, plastic has been vilified as one of those materials we say that we have to ban,” says de Rothschild, standing next to Plastiki’s equally telegenic skipper, 29-year-old ocean-racing veteran Jo Royle. “We’re looking at the Plastiki not to vilify the material but to understand it. A big part of this project is to use technology to innovate new plastics, innovate new uses. We have to move from Planet 1.0 to Planet 2.0.”
(6 July 2009)

Before We 'Save' Journalism

Jim Naureckas, Extra!
The future of news reporting shouldn't be its past
One thing to keep in mind while worrying about the future of journalism is that its past hasn’t been all that great either.

Journalism ought to be judged not on the profits it makes for stockholders but on the service it provides to democracy. By that measure, the reporting profession has been falling down on the job: Leading us into an aggressive war with evidence based on lies (FAIR Media Advisory, 3/19/07), overlooking an asset bubble whose predictable deflation devastated our economy (Extra!, 11–12/08), failing to raise alarms about the erosion of key civil liberties (Extra!, 5–6/08).

And it’s not like these are recent failings:

... To be sure, there have always been journalists doing vital work, both inside and (more frequently) outside the structures of the establishment news outlets (Extra!, 1–2/06). But this is the big picture of the U.S. media system: On the most important issues—questions of war and peace, liberty, social justice, public health and prosperity, and the fate of the planet—it has failed us time and time again.

And that’s not surprising, because the system is founded on a couple of very bad ideas: It’s a bad idea to have journalism mainly carried out by large corporations whose chief interest in news is how to make the maximum amount of money from it. And it’s a bad idea to have as these corporations’ main or sole source of revenue advertising from other large corporations, so that the news industry’s overwhelming financial incentive is to keep those advertisers happy.

To the extent that this system was chosen and not foisted upon us, it was a Faustian bargain: We wouldn’t have to worry about paying for the system by which our society informs itself and debates the decisions it faces, because corporate America would be happy to pick up most of the bill—in exchange for the ability to regularly harangue us about the need to purchase their products.

Aside from the undesirability of having massive doses of propaganda as a routine part of every day, it should be obvious that giant for-profit companies do not have the same interests as the public at large.

Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's bimonthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website.
(7 July 2009)

Auto-ban: German town goes car-free

Tony Paterson, Independen5t
Vauban hopes to forge a model community without that great staple of modern life – the car. Now the sound of birdsong has replaced the roar of traffic and children can play in the street
The Germans may have given the world the Audi and the autobahn, but they have banished everything with four wheels and an engine from the streets of Vauban – a model brave new world of a community in the country's south-west, next to the borders with Switzerland and France.

In Vauban, a suburb of the university town of Freiburg, luxuriant beds of brilliant flowers replace what would normally be parking outside its neat, middle- class homes. Instead of the roar of traffic, the residents listen to birdsong, children playing and the occasional jingle of a bicycle bell.

... Because it has no cars, Vauban's planners have almost completely dispensed with the idea of metalled roads. Its streets and pathways are cobbled or gritted and vehicles are allowed in only for a matter of minutes to unload essential goods. Being virtually car-free is only the start of what has been hailed as one of Europe's most successful experiments in green living and one which is viewed increasingly as a blueprint for a future and perhaps essential way of living in an age of climate change.
(26 June 2009)