Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Heading east ...

Thanks to those of you who have followed my stories over the past few months. I've enjoyed writing in this format, but I recently accepted a job writing for a Web site in Atlanta, so I won't be able to keep up my environmental posts from Oklahoma.

If you're interested in taking over this blog, please let me know. I'd love for someone else to take up environmental reporting here. As you've probably read, both of Oklahoma's major newspapers have laid off chunks of their reporting staffs. That is a shame, because professional reporting adds context and depth to the news. But it's also an opportunity for bloggers and online reporters to fill in some of the gaps. Let me know if you're interested.

I wish everyone here in Oklahoma the best of luck.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

OKC Schools: no recycling program

By John Sutter

Oklahoma City public schools don't have a standard recycling program, and only about half of the district's schools do any recycling at all. In my article in this week's Oklahoma Gazette, I met up with some high school students at Northwest Classen who started an environmental club called the Green Knights (here's their Web site). A faculty member drives the plastic bottles they collect to Edmond so they can be recycled--since the city doesn't have a system set up for them. Oklahoma City recycling trucks pass by the school every week, but the municipal recycling program only covers residences, not schools or businesses.

Here's a video interview with one of the students at Northwest Classen:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christian Science Monitor on Tar Creek

By John Sutter

This Christian Science Monitor story
talks about the many things on environmentalists' holiday wish lists. At the top for Rebecca Jim is a healthy Tar Creek:

An enormous environmental tally awaits the incoming Obama administration. After an eight-year pitched battle with the Bush administration, environmentalists see a golden opportunity
to begin making progress on issues ranging from climate change and water pollution to mountaintop-removal coal mining and energy efficiency in autos and buildings.

The massive environmental mountain awaiting Mr. Obama’s administration is chronicled in a 359-page wish list of hundreds of problems the environmental community is eager to start addressing once President Bush leaves town.

Inhofe and warming ... again

By John Sutter

The Oklahoman put out an editorial today supporting U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe's increasingly marginalized stance that climate change isn't the result of human emissions of heat-trapping gases.

Inhofe says 650 scientists support his theories, which go against the global scientific community and United Nations reports. As Grist points out, Inhofe has a history of reshaping the climate change debate by tricking the media into ignoring sound science:

Deniers like Inhofe have a serious media problem -- an ever growing number of studies, real-world observations, and credible scientific bodies all point to human-caused emissions as the increasingly dominant cause of planetary warming and dangerous climate change.

What's a denier to do? The answer is simple: Repackage previously debunked disinformation, release it as a "new" so-called "Full Senate Report" full of hysterical headlines, push it through right-wing news outlets, and hope the traditional media bites. Why not? It worked before.

The Oklahoman (which, for point of disclosure, is my former employer) ends its editorial with a question:
With at least 58 Democratic senators, will Obama try to ratify the job-killing Kyoto global warming treaty?

He might, which makes it good to know Jim Inhofe will be waiting and ready.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More on wind: Gazette story

Check out my story on wind power in this week's Oklahoma Gazette.

USATODAY: oklahoma schools with toxic environments

By John Sutter

In case you missed it, USA Today had a big cover story yesterday on the presence of toxic and sometimes cancer-causing chemicals outside the nation's public schools.

The story has a useful online component. You can search by state or city or school to see if your kids or the kids in your neighborhood are being exposed to toxins in their schoolyards.

Several schools in Sand Springs, Okla., were high on the list. If you click on a school name, the site shows you which companies most likely contribute to the pollution.

In the case of Central Elementary School in Sand Spring, they include:

Friday, December 5, 2008

Q&A: Oklahoman at Climate Talks in Poland

[photo from poland by eric pollard. see: for more photos]

By John Sutter

The world is talking about climate change at a meeting in Poland, and a representative from Oklahoma is in on the discussions.

Eric Pollard, of Norman, is representing a youth advocacy group called SustainUS, at the climate talks in Ponzan, Poland, where countries from around the world are trying to hammer out an international agreement to follow the Kyoto Protocol.

The talks are seen as a primer to the United Nations' Climate Conference, which will be held in Copenhagen next year.

Pollard is blogging about the current discussions, which have involved some heated debate between industrialized countries and those in the developing world, since the richer countries aren't ready to commit to specific reductions of heat-trapping gases by 2020. A Wall Street Journal blog says the talks resemble "a Mexican standoff more than anything else."

Pollard took time out of the action to answer some of my questions by e-mail. Here are excerpts:

Concrete Buffalo: How are you involved in the climate talks?

I am in Poznan, Poland for the talks representing SustainUS, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of young people advancing sustainable development and youth empowerment in the United States. My responsibilities here at the conference with SustainUS include following plenary discussion on technology transfer (how developed countries share renewable energy technology with developing countries) and I sit on the International Youth Actions Team which is responsible for planning events, rallies, demonstrations and other forms of outreach.

CB: What is the atmosphere like?

... To an extent the talks are a bit subdued because most major negotiations regarding commitments to emissions reductions will be made next year in Copenhagen and it is becoming clear that the official US delegation will not move away from the Bush Administrations' international climate policies from the last 8 years and Obama nor any of his transition team is either here or working with . However, the International Youth Delegation, including SustainUS and other US delegations, believe that needed action on the climate is urgent and that major progress at COP 14 must be made in order to come to an agreement next year.

CB: What role does Oklahoma have at a conference like this?

Oklahoma could play a huge role in the domestic advancement of action on climate change through renewable energy policy and infrastructure development in the US ... In the past, Senator James Inhofe has sent aides to UN Climate talks. Typically, his staff has spent most of their time at the conferences consulting with various buisness lobbyists, specifically those from oil and natural gas and coal interests. This just shows that Sen. Inhofe is commited to stopping any major progress both domestically and internationally not only on climate change mitigation but the development of the various renewable energy industries that will create millions of green jobs, save our economy, and our planet.