This past summer half a billion salmonella-tainted eggs were recalled. It turns out that these eggs were raised at huge factory farms in Iowa, where up to 300,000 hens are crammed into cages in filthy, rodent-infested sheds. The salmonella scare has made many people think twice about eating eggs, but according to Michael Greger, director of public health and animal agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States, it's not eggs that people should fear but the disease-ridden conditions in factory farms where these eggs are produced. This week on Locus Focus we talk with Dr. Greger about how industrial-scale factory farms impact the health and well-being of people as well as the animals confined in these operations.
It's been nearly two years since a neighborhood-backed plan was approved to rebuild the Sellwood Bridge with only two auto lanes, along with bike and pedestrian paths and street car tracks. But in recent months the final decisions on bridge design and funding have hit stumbling blocks. While the bridge is operated by the County, it connects on the west side with state-owned Highway 43 and on the eastside with city-owned SE Tacoma Street. These different jurisdictions are now caught up in a turf battle, holding the future of the Sellwood Bridge between their horns.
Missoula Floods were one of the greatest sets of geological events in North America. Occurring as many as 40 times during the last ice age, the floods were caused by waters released from ancient Lake Missoula that scoured the Columbia River basin, carved out the Columbia River Gorge, and swept across at least 16,000 square miles of the Pacific Northwest. On this episode of Locus Focus, Portland State University geology professor Scott Burns returns to discuss the effect of the floods on the landscape of the Willamette Valley. He'll also share the incredible story of how geologist J. Harlen Bretz discovered evidence of the floods nearly 100 years ago.
Now that most of the easy oil on our planet is gone, oil companies are turning to exotic places to extract oil: deep under the ocean as well as from shale and sand formations. In the far north of Alberta, Canada, millions of acres of pristine boreal forest are being stripped-mined for a substance called bitumen, that holds oil in solid form. Since 2001 this operation has accelerated at a rate that industry and government can't even keep up with, and it has turned a once pristine wilderness into hell on earth.
The environment is on the ballot in hundreds of electoral contests in all 50 states, in the guise of anti-environmental, anti-science and anti-climate candidates and ballot measures. More than 750 congressional and state legislative candidates have signed on to support the anti-climate agenda of Americans for Prosperity—a corporate front group funded by the oil billionaire Koch brothers. In California the Koch brothers have spearheaded Proposition 23, a ballot measure to suspend the Global Warming Act of 2006. This law requires that greenhouse gas emissions in the state be cut to 1990 levels by 2020.
Last spring's BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico alerted us to the unforeseen hazards of deep water oil drilling. Since most of the remaining conventional sources of oil are located in politically unstable regions of the world, many political leaders are looking toward the reserves of oil locked in the abundant bitumen under the boreal forests of northern Alberta as our best source of oil. The Alberta government and the Canadian oil industry claim that these tar sands mining operations are being managed in an environmentally responsible manner. But a team of scientists from the University of Alberta at Edmonton and other colleges in Canada released a report that contradicts the government and industry claims.
Most Americans - and a growing number of people around the world - now eat meat that was grown on factory farms. The brutal, inhumane conditions in which factory farm animals are raised calls into question not just the ethics of eating meat but the very foundations of the democracy we like to believe we live in. CAFOs - Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations - crowd tens of thousands of animals together in their own filth, pumping them full of antibiotics and feed that their bodies are not designed to digest.
Richard Alpert was an eminent Harvard psychologist on the fast track to success when he fell in with fellow Harvard professor Timothy Leary who turned him on to LSD. Harvard University did not appreciate their ardent research on the psychological and spiritual potentials unleashed by LSD and other psychedelic drugs, and in 1963 Alpert and Leary were tossed out of academia. Leary continued to bask in his iconic status in the psychedelic counter-culture, but for Alpert, mind expansion via chemical substances became a catalyst for spiritual seeking.
In January a new congress takes over, with a reduced Democratic majority in the Senate and a lopsided Republican majority in the House. For the first time there will be an official House Caucus of Climate Change Deniers. In this new political environment, what prospects remain for continuing to maintain — let alone enhance — protection for the natural environment? And how can the United States provide any credible leadership in international negotiations to cutback greenhouse gas emissions when so many members of congress don't even believe that climate change is a real problem?
It's conventional wisdom that the new more heavily GOP configuration in Congress spells bad news for climate policy. There's some truth in that, but this week on Locus Focus we look at a more positive side to the story. In what has appeared to be an overall hostile political climate this fall, progressive approaches to climate policy still held their own in most elections across the Pacific Northwest and California.