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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage

UK Reality TV: 11 Unsuspecting Volunteers. One South London Rubbish Dump. The Ultimate Eco-Challenge?

“Dumped”, Channel 4

Dumped: About the series

Eleven unsuspecting volunteers are left marooned on one of Britain’s biggest landfill sites for three weeks. Their challenge? To survive off the rubbish the rest of us have thrown out.

How will they react when they are delivered to a huge, smelly British landfill site instead of paradise? And how will our volunteers cope when brought face to face with the sheer scale of the typical British landfill?

Can they turn the grime and pong of 1000 tonnes of rubbish into a precious resource? Will they manage to eek out a living? Will they be surprised at the quality of life they can carve out of unwanted waste? And will their experience make them think about their own lifestyles?

Dumped aims to highlight Britain’s mountain of waste. Every year each of us throws away half a tonne of rubbish and with only a little over a quarter being recycled, most of the rest ends up in landfill. The Dutch and Austrians recycle more than twice as much as we do.

Why are we in such a mess, and what can we all do about it? Watch Dumped to find out.

Buzzwords 2007

Grant Barrett, New York Times
…If you work in fields like politics, soldiering, science or technology, areas that frequently send new words bubbling up into the mainstream, it can seem strange to hear a normal day’s vocabulary talked about as if it were a novelty. For example, “bilat,” short for “bilateral,” is a workaday term to diplomats and journalists when they’re referring to a meeting of two sides, but it’s unusual to outsiders. The incongruity can bring a sense of déjà fatigué, the stage beyond déjà vu: you’ve not only seen it before, but it hardly seems worth remarking upon. It’s ordinary.

What follows is by no means a complete list of the words that took our attention this year, but rather a sampling from the thousands that endured long enough to find a place in the national conversation…

… e-mail bankruptcy n.
What you’re declaring when you choose to delete or ignore a very large number of e-mail messages after falling behind in reading and responding to them. This often includes sending a boilerplate message explaining that old messages will never receive a personal, specific response. …

… global weirding n.
An increase in severe or unusual environmental activity often attributed to global warming. This includes freakish weather and new animal migration patterns.

… hypermile v.
To take extraordinary measures toward achieving maximum fuel efficiency in an automobile. The term dates to 2004.

… truther n.
Someone who espouses a conspiracy theory about the events of 9/11.

… walkshed n.
The area that can be conveniently reached on foot from a given geographic point. Compare with foodshed, the area sufficient to provide food for a given location, and viewshed, the landscape or topography visible from a given geographic point, especially one having aesthetic value. All are patterned after watershed.
(23 December 2007)

How to diversify environmentalism?

Marcelo Bonta, Gristmill
Diversifying the environmental movement is one of the greatest challenges we face this century. Not only is it the right thing to do, but the movement needs to keep up with the rapidly changing demographics of the U.S. if it is to remain effective. Today, people of color in the U.S. amount to over 100 million people (about one third of the population), and by 2050, their numbers will more than double, growing to almost 220 million (over 50 percent of the population). People of color already constitute a majority of the population in California, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Texas.

The political and social implications of an increasingly diverse population and nation are vast. Communities of color have a mounting influence on society and politics, including the distribution of public finances, the way cities develop and grow, and the strength and creation of environmental laws and policies. Diversifying is not only a great challenge but also a great opportunity.

Marcelo Bonta is founder and director of the Center for Diversity & the Environment and the Young Environmental Professionals of Color. He is also a senior fellow with the Environmental Leadership Program and a member of the advisory board of the Orion Grassroots Network.
(2 January 2008)
The original essay has ideas and suggestions that apply equally as well to the peak oil and sustainability movements. -BA

The Growing Importance of Nonprofit Journalism
Charles Lewis, Joan Shorenstein Center
on the Press, Politics and Public Policy
(Harvard University)


Never in our lifetime has there arguably been a greater public need for independent, high quality journalism in the United States.

At the start of a tumultuous new century, with the public’s need for credible, unvarnished information as vital as ever, the news-gathering business, in all its commercial media forms, is undergoing an historic transformation. Public confidence and trust in news and the news media are at disconcerting levels. Mass market consumer interest in news from traditional, for-profit, newspaper, magazine, television and radio media outlets have been steadily eroding literally for decades, which has not gone unnoticed by advertisers and investors.1 Because of these disturbing trends, and the industry’s laggard response to exciting new technologies hugely impacting global communications and society in general, its long-term economic future has become the subject of intense concern and speculation.

Of course, meticulous information-gathering and editorial quality-control essential for serious, high quality news require time and money – finite resources that many news organizations are increasingly unable or unwilling to expend. Indeed, in recent years nearly all of our media corporations have been actually reducing their commitment to journalism, reducing their editorial budgets, early “retiring” thousands of reporters and editors from their newsrooms, in order to keep their annual profit margins high and their investors happy, harvesting their investments from a “mature” industry. The net result of this hollowing out process: There are fewer people today to report, write and edit original news stories about our infinitely more complex, dynamic world.2

… (p. 46) the moment is ripe for bold innovation on a national and global scale. Whether or not it will happen is unclear. But there is an unmistakable, momentous opportunity and a profound societal need for national leadership to solve a finite, discernible problem: How to regularly generate high quality, investigative and international reporting news content in an unprecedented, broadly accessible, multimedia way. This is a problem that is eminently solvable, with various possible solutions. What are required are informal consensus, a focused, eventually formal approach, and inevitably the considerable financial sustenance to launch it in the first years. This would seem to be a natural, large-scale, nonprofit journalism situation – doing not what makes 20 percent or higher annual profits but what is important and serves the broad public interest.

Charles Lewis is a journalist-in-residence and professor at American University in Washington and founding president of the Fund for Independence in Journalism. From 1989 through 2004, he founded and directed the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, where he co-authored five books, including The Buying of the President 2004. Previously he did investigative reporting at ABC News and at CBS News as a producer for 60 Minutes. Tim Coates and Julia Dahl, graduate students at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the American University School of Communication, respectively, provided valuable research.
(April 2007)