Climate Roundup: Cliches run wild

This winter, as sudden surge of media coverage unearthed some deeply entrenched beliefs about gas stoves, we learned that even the idiom “cooking with gas” originated in a marketing campaign. Looking at the news these last few months, I kept seeing environmental idioms everywhere.

Apologies again that some of the links do not appear underlined. It’s been an issue with WordPress for the last few months, and I haven’t been able to solve it yet.

Cooking with gas

To recap, the compelling research about gas in the home is not new–I linked to a good story in months ago–but gas stoves suddenly became the main character of Twitter for a few days in January, so here are some more write-ups.

This is all the gas industry’s fault (HEATED, January 13, 2023)
Why gas stoves actually matter (HEATED, January 19, 2023)

This experiment actually takes household gas heat into consideration as well, which…. well, now I’m wondering about the role NO2 plays in my seasonal respiratory woes.
I Measured the Pollution From My Gas Stove. It Was Bad. (Distilled, January 9, 2023)

Looking for an alternative?
Heat pumps are taking off in Maine, one of the coldest states (Grist, February 21, 2023)



Fearmongering over footballs (HEATED, February 2, 2023)

Down the tubes

I follow Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District on Twitter because they have some of the same kind of infrastructure we do in Philly (like a combined sewer system) and some of the same challenges. And also because they are funny, so I was glad to see them get a glowing recommendation in this roundup of environmental orgs with great social media.
‘Truly a renaissance period of social media’: how US state agencies got funny (The Guardian, January 9 2023)

For another source fighting the good fight for better sewage, see Chelsea Wald. I recently picked up Pipe Dreams: The Urgent Global Quest to Transform the Toilet; I’ll post about it in my next reading roundup when I finish the book in a few days. It’s weird to say that I love a book about toilets, but the book is great–accessibly, entertainingly written without using, as they say, bathroom humor, and without making light of the very serious problems caused by inadequate sewage infrastructure in nearly half the world. That said, the central sewage treatment and water-based toilet and pipe hardware we take for granted in the U.S. is not viable or even desirable everywhere in the world. Wald offers some insights into current and future innovations in this sector, and it’s absolutely fascinating.
Here is a sample:
It’s Time to Knock the Toilet Off Its Pedestal (Bloomberg City Lab, April 15, 2021)
The Pandemic Proved That Our Toilets Are Crap (Wired, April 18, 2021)

Train wreck

On Friday, February 3, 2023, at approximately 9:30 p.m., a Norfolk Southern train had 53 cars derail in East Palestine, Ohio, less than one mile fromthe Pennsylvania border. Five of the train cars contained the hazardous material vinyl chloride. Due to continued concern and potential for container failure and explosion, the area was evacuated and Norfolk Southern scheduled a controlled vent and burn of the vinyl chloride from all five railcars on the afternoon of February 6. The plume from the vent has since dissipated, and all previously damaged train cars have been removed from the tracks. The Governors of Pennsylvania and Ohio have announced residents may return to their homes.

The incident was a cluster, both in the sense of a shameful mess and in the sense of a complex tangle of threads: labor rights (train unions), regulation, disaster management (something that preoccupies me since I took a disaster management course this term), environmental impacts and cleanup efforts, and the larger problem of how many things in our life depend on plastic, and thus require toxic materials to be ferried around the world.

Official response:
The derailment is an interesting case study in disaster response: warnings, evacuation orders, and cleanup have been coordinated by two state agencies as well as federal agencies including FEMA and the EPA. If you live in Ohio or Pennsylvania and want a snapshot of the different government agencies in your state that have a stake in environmental disasters, check out the dashboards for Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The Environmental Protection Agency is sharing air, water, and soil sampling data on East Palestine, Ohio Train Derailment Emergency Response. The EPA maintains that sampling does not indicate harmful levels of chemicals in the area.
We don’t super believe that, though. White House defends response to Ohio toxic train derailment (Los Angeles Times, February 17, 2023)

Labor, regulation, and safety:
The Plastic Train Wreck Should Be a Wake-Up Call (Drilled, February 17, 2023)
“This was preventable”: Railroad workers explain how Wall St caused the East Palestine Derailment (The Real News Network, February 23, 2023)
We Need to Talk About Norfolk Southern’s Anti-Labor Policies (Mother Jones, February 16, 2023)

On the plastic industry:
This is what they call “essential for life” (HEATED, February 21, 2023)
Derailed Train in Ohio Carried Chemical Used to Make PVC, ‘the Worst’ of the Plastics (Inside Climate News, February 8, 2023)
The Ohio Derailment Lays Bare the Hellish Plastic Crisis (Wired, February 18, 2023)

Glimpses of the future

Five Climate Questions for 2023 (Mother Jones, January 10, 2023)

23 Predictions for 2023 (Grist, Fix Solutions Lab, December 13, 2022)

‘If you win the popular imagination, you change the game’: why we need new stories on climate (Guardian, January 12, 2023)

One story I frequently encounter frames the possibilities in absolutes: if we can’t win everything, then we lose everything. There are so many doom-soaked stories out there – about how civilisation, humanity, even life itself, are scheduled to die out. This apocalyptic thinking is due to another narrative failure: the inability to imagine a world different than the one we currently inhabit.

Rebecca Solnit

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s