Commentary

E--The Environmental Magazine

It is said that only God can make a tree, but only man can pollute the ground with enough toxins to produce a three-headed cow. In short, it is painfully clear to anyone who followed the reports on Hurricane Katrina and global warming that the environment is in trouble. Eminent scientists may disagree on cloning; everyone agrees that if we don't act in an environmentally responsible manner, we can take our toys and go home. Permanently.

To forestall such dire consequences, Al Gore has hit the lecture circuit preaching the gospel of Earth First. And, I'm willing to bet, in between flights, he's reading E, the Environmental Magazine. The bimonthly, published by Earth Action Network, is thoughtful, informative and pleasantly art-directed. Plus, it's not preachy or pedantic.

E, which does runs ads--from the Winslow Green Growth Fund, boasting returns that would make Merrill Lynch blush, to organic foods and green products--is the thinking person's approach to ecology. The articles, including "10 American Cities that Care About Climate" and a long cover story, "Global Warming--Points of Light," that details efforts to curtail the menace worldwide, are helpful and sobering. The stats on global warming are scary; even countries that signed the Kyoto Treaty, like Spain and Denmark, are lagging behind. Of course, the biggest polluter is the U.S., and until we cut global-warming gas emissions, we're putting the future in peril. By future I mean 2016, when scientists worry that much of South Florida, New Orleans and the California coast will flood. (Such news raises personal alarms for me. I had hoped to spend my retirement in Miami, the land of my people, staring at palm trees and pelting joggers with grapefruits the size of my head.)

Even though the Feds haven't acted, E trumpets cities and states that are implementing innovative programs. San Francisco, which has the largest U.S. fleet of alternative fuel vehicles, is also creating the nation's first green hospital. New York, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City are doing their part, too. Residents use a high percentage of public transport, including electric busses, and bikes. And Chicago, that toddling town, is poised to become our greenest city, thanks to Mayor Richard Daley, who planted 500,000 trees and ordered new city buildings to be certified green. Note to Washington: energy-efficient, environmentally sensitive policies contribute to a town or city's prosperity. Saving on energy costs can be plowed back into schools, libraries and hospitals. This is what we in the frequently bashed "liberal media" call a win-win.

What's reassuring about E is that it's not a doom-and-gloom pub. The focus is awareness--updates on biotech, wildlife, climate change and toxic threats--and practical advice. Be it information on herbal alternatives, fruits that ease the aging process or the top 10 rules of eco-travel, E educates readers--and hopefully--policymakers alike. I found the reporting balanced and critical; even sound programs were scrutinized.

When Ralph Nader first proposed Earth Day, everyone laughed. They're not laughing now. The dangers are clear--as are the solutions. Frankly, I'd much rather see Congress debate the pros and cons of solar energy and the viability of ethanol vs. a nonstarter like the flag-burning amendment. I mean, who advocates flag burning?

It's time to stop beating around the Bush. Mr. President, I know you won't see "An Inconvenient Truth" since it's Al Gore's show, but consider reading E. At least, have Laura read it to you. Remember, the environment, like reading, is fundamental.

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