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Posted on on December 24th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (


December 18, 2007:

You Decide: Best Green Story of 2007
Please enjoy the last Insider of 2007. We will return to our normal schedule on January 8th. Happy Holidays!

You Decide: Best Green Story of 2007
Vanishing bees, contaminated toys, and Al Gore’s Academy Award were all newsmakers on the green front in 2007. There were others that spun us out or gave us hope, ten of which we’ve summarized below.

Which was the most important of them all? You decide. Read our round-up and then vote here.

Bye-Bye Bees

The mysterious disappearance of honeybees from North American hives has alarmed beekeepers and puzzled experts. A host of suspected culprits have been blamed for what has been dubbed colony collapse disorder, or CCD everything from global warming to GMO crops to cell phone towers.

While the ultimate cause (or causes) remains undetermined, the episode highlighted our over-reliance on one species to pollinate crops.

Not a Drop to Drink
Large sections of the country — especially the Southwest and Southeast — remain locked in severe to extreme drought. In October, news outlets reported that metropolitan Atlanta could run out of water within 3 months, and Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue literally prayed for rain.

Meanwhile, in the West, the glass is half-empty, as it were; the Lake Mead reservoir on the Colorado River is currently at 48 percent of its normal capacity.

And Then There Was One
As a result of the Labor Party coming to power in the November elections, Australia has reversed its position on the Kyoto Treaty to curb global warming.

That leaves the United States the world’s leading producer of greenhouse gas emissions as the lone holdout among industrialized nations that have not ratified the Treaty.

Hopes are running high that the second generation of biofuels may one day wean us off our reliance on petroleum, but until we’re burning switch grass and wood waste, the dream has a definite downside.

Deforestation rates in Indonesia and Brazil have spiked as farmers clear land to plant oil palm and soybeans for biodiesel.

Meanwhile, in the US, increased corn production for ethanol has raised commodity prices, increased pressure on conservation reserves and threatened to exacerbate the Gulf dead zone as a result of increased fertilizer run-off.

 Pollutant Defined
In the case of Massachusetts versus the Environmental Protection Agency, in which the Sierra Club was a petitioner, the Supreme Court ruled that, contrary to the administration’s contentions, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases do indeed qualify as pollutants under the Clean Air Act and that the agency has the authority to regulate them as such.

Getting the Lead Out
Way back in September of 2006, the Sierra Club asked the courts to force the EPA to address the presence of lead in toy jewelry.

This year, sadly, the issue became front-page news as the toxic substance was found to be widespread in children’s toys, leading to massive recalls.

The Big Melt
The summer of 2007 brought record melt to the Arctic ice cap, with sea ice extent in September 38 percent below average and 24 percent below the previous record set in 2005.

The melting sparked territorial ambitions and international tensions, particularly after the Kremlin sent a mini-sub to plant the Russian flag on the Arctic seafloor.

Coal’s Changing Fortunes
It would be an exaggeration to say that King Coal was dethroned in 2007, but certainly the writing is on the wall.

Thanks to a combination of grassroots activism and hard-nosed legal work, the industry has met with unexpected resistance from state regulators, the courts, and even investors.

The Consensus is Validated
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its 4th Assessment Report in which it declared that global warming is “unequivocal” and that it was “very likely” that most of the observed warming was caused by man.

More than 2500 scientists worked on the report. The panel’s work was recognized with a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, which it shared with Al Gore.

Al Gore Wins Everything
This was Al Gore’s year. First, his film, An Inconvenient Truth, won an Academy Award for best documentary. Later, he won an Emmy for his founding role in Current TV. Then he won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Just to ice the cake, the Sierra Club gave him the John Muir Award, the organization’s top honor. The man should buy a lottery ticket before the year is up.

Go vote for what you think is the top environmental story of 20

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