Jason Mark

Jason Mark is the author of Satellites in the High Country: Searching for the Wild in the Age of Man, and the editor of SIERRA magazine.

Recent Articles

Is the CIA on Its Way to Hacking the Sky?

Human manipulation of the climate might be the quickest way to combat global warming. It's also the most frightening.

AP Images/David J. Phillip
T he news seemed tailor-made to drive conspiracy theorists and members of the tinfoil hat club into a frenzy. In July, the National Academy of Sciences confirmed that the CIA is helping to underwrite a yearlong study examining atmospheric geoengineering—deliberate, planetary-scale manipulation of the climate to counteract global warming. As reporters took jabs at the idea of “spooks” seeking to “control the weather,” the National Academy of Sciences tried to brush away concerns. “We are not producing anything, building anything, or deploying anything. It’s more of a state-of-the-science review,” an academy spokesperson told me, noting that NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are also helping to pay for the study. Still, the CIA’s interest in geoengineering marks a turning point in the simmering debate about the controversial technology: More and more people are starting to take the once-laughable idea seriously. Both supporters and skeptics of...

It's Not Easy Being Green

Flickr/CREDO Action/
Flickr/Takver A bout a year ago, on March 26, 2012, Sandra Steingraber, an environmental writer and activist against natural-gas fracking, wrote a public letter titled “Breaking Up with the Sierra Club.” Breakups are never easy, and the letter, published on the website of the nature magazine Orion , was brutal from the start: “I’m through with you,” Steingraber began. The proximate cause of the split was the revelation that between 2007 and 2010 the nation’s oldest environmental organization had clandestinely accepted $26 million from individuals or subsidiaries associated with Chesapeake Energy, a major gas firm that has been at the forefront of the fracking boom. “The largest, most venerable environmental organization in the United States secretly aligned with the very company that seeks to occupy our land, turn it inside out, blow it apart, fill it with poison,” Steingraber wrote. “It was as if, on the eve of D-day, the anti-Fascist partisans had discovered that Churchill was...

Digging for China

A fight against planned coal-export terminals in the Pacific Northwest is becoming the next big climate battle.

(Flickr/Jeff Arsenault)
(Flickr/Josh Parrish) Bellingham Bay shortly after sunset Few U.S. communities can match the eco credentials of the quaint college town of Bellingham, Washington. Nestled between the glacier-tipped peak of Mount Baker and the rugged coastline of the Puget Sound—the “Salish Sea,” as locals prefer to call it—the area is a magnet for hikers, climbers, and kayakers. The town boasts a vibrant local-food scene, with two summer farmers markets and a pair of organic grocery stores. The City of Bellingham and the surrounding Whatcom County government get 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, a practice that earned both recognition from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Green Power Leadership program. The Natural Resources Defense Council has dubbed Bellingham one of its “Smarter Cities” for the town’s commitment to reducing its ecological footprint. So it’s no surprise that many Bellingham residents are against plans to make the area home to one of the country’s...

Blame Canada

Tar sands oil extraction is not a real solution anyway.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Marlene Orr lives in Ft. McKay, Alberta, a tiny hamlet of two First Nations groups at the center of Canada's tar sands deposits, the largest petroleum reserve outside of Saudi Arabia. Ft. McKay is ground zero for tar sands extraction; the giant Syncrude and Suncor mines are to the south, Total E&P's source is to the west, and Shell's mine lies to the north of town, on the far shore of the Athabasca River. Like almost everyone in Ft. McKay, Orr's livelihood is dependent upon the burgeoning tar sands industry. She owns a small company, First Nations Welding, that works for the mining companies. Her husband, Mike, has served as one of the elected councilors for the Ft. McKay area since 1998 and helps manage the community's relations with industry. So it wasn't an easy decision when, last November, the couple went to the CBC to expose what they called a dangerous waste disposal pond not far from Ft. McKay's main fresh water source. Taking organic material found in sand and turning it...

Are We There Yet?

Passage of the transportation reauthorization bill would finally shift us toward more environmentally sustainable communities.

(Flickr/cosmic_spanner)
With the country mired in two major wars and millions of Americans unable to find work, improving rail lines, conducting road repairs, and building bike lanes might rank low on the list of national priorities. But here's the thing: Global climate change isn't going to wait for the U.S. to get out of the recession, and the federal transportation bill, up for reauthorization this year, offers a prime way of tackling it. At a time when unemployment seems fixed at 10 percent, it also offers an opportunity for the Obama administration to make headway on the jobs front. "[The transportation-reauthorization bill] is arguably the biggest policy lever that can still be pulled by Congress in a way that helps to reduce oil dependence and reduce pollution due to the combustion of oil," says Deron Lovaas, the transportation policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of the environmental organizations lobbying for a bill that invests more heavily in mass transit. Congress...

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