Monday, January 23, 2006


This has long been evident, but an international survey now documents the sad truth. From the New York Times:

United States Ranks 28th on Environment, a New Study Says

WASHINGTON, Jan. 22 - A pilot nation-by-nation study of environmental performance shows that just six nations - led by New Zealand, followed by five from Northern Europe - have achieved 85 percent or better success in meeting a set of critical environmental goals ranging from clean drinking water and low ozone levels to sustainable fisheries and low greenhouse gas emissions.

The study, jointly produced by Yale and Columbia Universities, ranked the United States 28th over all, behind most of Western Europe, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Costa Rica and Chile, but ahead of Russia and South Korea. ....

The pilot study, called the 2006 Environmental Performance Index, has been reviewed by specialists both in the United States and internationally.

Using a new variant of the methodology the two universities have applied in their Environmental Sustainability Index, produced in four previous years, the study was intended to focus more attention on how various governments have played the environmental hands they have been dealt, said Daniel C. Esty, the director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and an author of the report.

The earlier sustainability measurements "tell you something about long-term trajectories," Mr. Esty said. "We think this tool has a much greater application in the policy context."

For instance, Britain ranked 65th in last year's sustainability index, but 5th in the latest study, among the 133 nations measured. Among the reasons for the earlier low ranking, Mr. Esty said, was that "they cut down almost all their trees 500 years ago and before," something that modern British governments could not control.

The 16 indicators used in the latest study, the report says, provide "a powerful tool for evaluating environmental investments and improving policy results."

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Power of Nightmares

The well researched, well produced, deeply unsettling BBC film series, "The Power of Nightmares" has now been released in a version that "streams" on the net. The premise of the series is that two fundamentalist extremist groups, the neocons and radical Islamists, now manipulate fear for political advantage. One can certainly take exception to some of the historical reconstructions and political interpretations. But the films are riveting and challenge us to think.

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

I might add that I have not shown these to my teen aged boys. They have a sense that the world is becoming a dreary, desperate place and I have not wanted to amplify those feelings by showing this genuinely frightening documentary.