THANK THE GODS FOR JANUARY: Yeah, they’re almost over, the detestable holidays. Thanksgiving’s long gone, except for the extra pounds on your ass. Christmas is over, even if lots of people still have decorations up. The only holiday left—and the most empty and pointless of all—is New Year’s. OK, I get it—it’s a fresh start, the odometer clicks over, out with the old, etc. But there’s no good music associated with New Year’s (“Auld Lang Syne”? I don’t think so). At least during Christmas you hear Nat and Bing and Frank mixed in with the drivel from contemporary pop stars. There are no cool rituals associated with this sham of a holiday (Eating black-eyed peas? That’s the best we can do?). New Year’s is really just an excuse to drink, and when you think about it, who NEEDS an excuse? A bunch of yokels who get loaded, drive and kill people, that’s who. I’ve always stayed home on New Year’s Eve, including the years when I was a godless, unrepentant party animal, a not-so-noble savage who left his moral compass in his other pants. “I’ll leave it to the amateurs,” I would say. “I’ve got 364 other days of the year to drink.” JC
ALABAMA’S REPORT CARD: The Green Resource Center for Alabama has released its 2010 Green Progress Report, which recaps some of the most important events of the year related to improving Alabama’s environment, reducing energy use and protecting the state’s resources. The report covers such progress in Alabama as the preservation of thousands of acres of land for wildlife and recreation, steps toward the recovery of some of the state’s endangered species and increases in recycling. According to a GRCA news release that accompanied the report, Alabama also saw progress in improving water quality and expanding parks, trails and greenways. To read the report or to learn more about the GRCA, visit www.greenalabama.org. Look for more about the Green Progress Report in next week’s Green Briefs. JC
LET’S TRY THIS AGAIN: A cooperative formed in 2009 to help area municipalities and government agencies go after federal stimulus money for green projects, and which has met with little success, is looking for a reboot in 2011, according to Val Walton of The Birmingham News. The Alabama Green Initiative was started in January 2009 to help governmental entities in Jefferson, Shelby, Walker and Blount counties obtain federal dollars for eco-friendly, job-generating projects. But after two years, according to Walton, the AGI has not received a single federal grant. One problem is that only three cities—Hoover, Fultondale and Lipscomb—have paid their dues to the AGI. Other cities, including Birmingham, have not, citing budget shortfalls caused by the economic slump. “About the time it came out was when all the cities were hit with lower revenues,” Hoover Mayor Tony Petelos tells Walton. “It’s going to take some of the larger corporations to help the cities to get that program off the ground.” Read Walton’s article at www.al.com. JC
OPENING THE PARK: Red Mountain Park will launch a major capital campaign in early 2011, with the goal of getting enough money to start construction of park facilities, according to Thomas Spencer of The Birmingham News. Those facilities are part of a master plan for the park that has already been approved. The commission that runs the park—which will be one of the largest in the United States at 1,200 acres—would like to open it to the public in 2012, depending on the success of their fund-raising, Spencer says. According to David Dionne, the park’s executive director, “We’re ready to go. We just need the funding.” To read Spencer’s article, go to www.al.com. To learn more about Red Mountain Park, visit www.redmountainpark.org. JC
THE GULF NEEDS HELP: There is still oil in the Gulf of Mexico, and the impact of last spring’s Deepwater Horizon spill on marine and coastal ecosystems will be felt for years. This is the message of a news release from the New Orleans-based Gulf Restoration Network. According to the GRN, the U.S. Congress has not yet passed legislation to respond to what the group calls the worst accidental oil release in history. Regulatory reforms and policy changes are urgently needed, according to the release. The GRN urges you to contact your senators and representatives and ask that they support legislation that will direct British Petroleum’s federal Clean Water Act fines back to the Gulf for comprehensive, long-term ecosystem restoration. If Congress fails to move on this issue, the group warns, these penalties will go to the U.S. Treasury, where they will not necessarily be used to benefit the Gulf Coast. The GRN also supports the creation of a Gulf of Mexico Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council to ensure that affected communities are involved in the oversight of the oil industry in the area. For more information, go to www. healthygulf.org. JC
KEEPING WETLANDS WET: With 2010 on its way out and 2011 rolling in fast, it’s comforting to hear some good environmental news. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced last week more than $19 million in grants that will go to protecting coastal habitats across the country. Additionally, state and local governments, private landowners and conservation groups will match the grants with over $21 million, totaling over $40 million dollars set aside to support 24 different conservation projects benefiting fish and wildlife on more than 5,900 acres. The program will be administered through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and funded by the 1990 Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act through an excise tax on fishing equipment, motorboat and small engine fuels. Alabama is getting in on this action, too. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources was awarded $1 million to assist in protecting Heron Bay and Portersville Bay. For more information, visit www.fws.gov. AM
UNION PISSED AT CHINESE: Going green is a cutthroat business. Or at least it is in industries that are trying to reform their practices. The Obama Administration recently pledged to address the United Steelworker’s trade case against China in negotiations to eliminate what the union calls their protectionist attitude on green technology. Recently, China has been dominating the “green job” movement, primarily through illegal protectionist and predatory policies, according to the USW. According to USW International President Leo W. Gerard, “We share the President’s goal of expanding the creation of ‘green’ jobs here in the United States. The promise of green jobs, however, will not become reality if China is allowed to dominate the sector through unfair and illegal actions.” With globalization and the green movement on the rise, China’s habits of being hostile towards trade from other nations while being protective of its own technology stands firmly in the way of progress. For more information, visit www.usw.org. AM
Jesse Chambers is a Birmingham Weekly contributing editor. Andy McWhorter is a Birmingham Weekly intern who also writes our weekly “Hot Seat & Limelight” feature. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.