A Solar Showdown in the Southwest; Big Oil's Republican Buy

The Los Angeles Times on solar in the Southwest, The New Yorker on the ExxonMobile and the GOP, Good on plastic bags, National Geographic on global warming and Inuits, and BBC on endangered ducklings

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Los Angeles Times on a desert showdown over solar Times reporter Julie Cart reminds us that environmental advocates come in many shades of green, often not seeing eye-to-eye on key issues. The latest involves the development of the Southwest for solar energy. "Small environmental groups are fighting utility-scale solar projects without the support of what they refer to as 'Gang Green,' the nation's big environmental players." Big green players, such as the Sierra Club, support the development of many renewable energy projects in the sunbaked Southwest that some smaller groups argue will destroy the habitats of native desert species. Cart runs down some of the current controversial solar projects being developed today, giving us an uncomfortable reminder that there aren't easy answers in balancing environmental preservation and clean energy development.

The New Yorker on how ExxonMobile bought Congress Most political observers are vaguely aware of the insidious financial connections between ExxonMobile and some (mostly Republican) members of Congress, but few may have suspected that the oil giant invests so precisely in political campaigns that it uses an algorithm to do so. In this week's New Yorker, Steve Coll runs down the history of the world's largest oil company and methodical ways it courts politicians and donates to political campaigns (subscription required). "About ninety per cent of ExxonMobile's PAC giving during the 2010 election cycle went to Republicans,' writes Coll, a disproportionate percentage compared to other mega-corporations like GE, Ford, and Bank of America, which give about half to Democrats. Despite having the support of only one of the two parties, ExxonMobile has successfully pursued a strategy of using the GOP to block legislation unfavorable to its interests, such as a 2010 bill ending subsidies to Big Oil.

Good on the new front in the war against plastic bags Shoppers of a certain sort of supermarket likely have noticed the plastic checkout bags of yore are steadily giving way to reusable and ecologically friendly canvas ones. Now, some activists, retailers, and stores are making an effort toward eliminating the plastic bags for produce. According to Good's Sarah Laskow, the alternatives to wrapping a fruit or vegetable in plastic include biodegradable single-use bags, cotton or mesh bags sold at retail, do-it-yourself bags made from T-shirts or mosquito nets, or simply forgoing any bags for produce altogether. Though we'd prefer not to wrap our oranges in something we've worn, we're sold on finding some alternative for our next shopping trip. "Plastic bags, sacks, and wraps make up a significant portion of all plastic waste—billions of pounds, which totaled 12 percent of all municipal plastic waste discarded in 2010."

National Geographic on global warming and the Inuits File this as another example of global warming disproportionately affecting indigenous peoples. "As global warming triggers heavier rainfall and faster snowmelt in the Arctic, Inuit communities in Canada are reporting more cases of illness attributed to pathogens that have washed into surface water and groundwater," writes Ker Than for National Geographic. He talked to researchers who argue that the increased waterflow is triggering more waterborne illnesses, such as E. coli, in the Arctic, causing spikes in incidences of diarrhea and vomiting in Inuit communities who traditionally have been able to drink clean water from brooks. Away from cities, indigenous populations are often more acutely affected by climate change.

The BBC on the world's most endangered baby ducks For your awww moment of the day, which doubles as a bit of feel good eco-news: a batch of 18 of the world's most endangered ducks have hatched and are alive and well. The BBC's Victoria Gill reports that the ducklings, born from parents in a captive breeding program in Madagascar, bring the entire population of Aythya innotata, or the Madagascar pochard, up to a mere 60. The species, thought to be extinct for about a decade, was rediscovered in 2006, with its few surviving members captured to revive the population. The ducklings are the first to be born in captivity. "I had incubated and watched eggs hatch hundreds of times before, but on this occasion I couldn't help shed a tear," one member of the conservation team said.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.