Saturday, April 22, 2006

In Honor of Earth Day, the News is Green

When I fired up my browser this morning I was greeted by a solar powered Google icon. And when I skipped over to the New York Times a few minutes later Earth Day was being advertised there as well, albeit in a somewhat subtler fashion.

Green is all over the front page of the Times today. In case there's any doubt, here's a sampling of the stories:

- Thomas Friedman's current column, "The Greenest Generation," challenges university students to drive their schools toward a carbon-neutral goal. Friedman, toward the end of his column, takes up the crusade of carbon offset, which is also the subject of...

- "Gas Guzzlers Find Price of Forgiveness", a piece by Anthony DePalma, which investigates the various ways fossil fuel fixated Americans are easing their minds, and lightening their wallets, by paying for the carbon dioxide their vehicles emit. Said one SUV owner and operator: "It rounds the edges off of the guilt a little bit, I guess...It's a little like having your cake and eating it too."

Is carbon offset a real solution to global warming? It's hard to see how, largely because it does little to nothing to reduce our total energy consumption. But it's better than nothing, and it's an idea that...

- William H. Hinkle has gotten behind. Hinkle is offering $100 carbon offset challenges - "promis[ing] to buy a $100 pass from one of three carbon-offset programs in the name of the first 1,000 people who" read and pass along his "brief presentation[s] of what he believes is the grim reality of global climate change, and how the rich and powerful make things worse with their limousines, jet flights and big homes."

But Hinkle isn't stopping with carbon offset. He's also offering "$500 rebates to 20 families anywhere in the nation with annual incomes of less than $80,000 that buy a new fuel-efficient Prius before July 31." That's an offer that is all the more appealing now that...

- Oil prices are at record highs and gas is pushing the $3 barrier at many stations nationwide. And Democrats are looking to capitalize. Here's the quote: "Americans are tired of giving billion-dollar tax subsidies to energy companies and foreign countries while paying record prices at the pump." And speaking of billions of dollars...

- Wal-Mart is going green! Well, maybe. This month Wal-Mart joined "a call by a group of energy executives for caps on greenhouse-gas emissions." The environmental community, understandably, was somewhat shocked by this announcement, but is now waiting to see where Wal-Mart's new green streak will lead it next.

So there you have it folks. The headlines are painted green today, Earth Day, and that's a pleasant development on this Saturday morning. At least for today I'm feeling optimistic enough to suggest that, just perhaps, this isn't a conveniently timed tie-in with Earth Day but a real indicator of a shifting public awareness about the environmental issues that trouble us today, and that threaten our future.

Today the devil is not in the details - the specifics of carbon offset programs or Wal-Mart's green initiatives - but in the notion that care for the environment, being green as it were, is important enough to change consumer's habits, affect voter's choices, and tickle the individual hearts and minds of Americans nationwide.

At any rate, happy Earth Day everyone.


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