Sarah Laskow

Sarah Laskow is a journalist based in New York.

Recent Articles

Putting a Value on Wild Lands

Near the end of 2010, the Interior Department tried to revive the idea that keeping public lands wild might serve the public interest. But House Republicans have made quick work of that idea. They defunded the policy in April , and although the Obama administration could have picked it back up again once the next fiscal year started, Interior announced yesterday that it had given up on its wild lands policy. Interior's work will now revert to figuring out what each tract of public land is best used for. Framing public lands policy in that way favors the interests of oil and gas companies, who have that much more room to argue that public lands should be opened to drilling. The Wilderness Society points out that Interior didn't include "the public" on the list of interests it would consult with while moving forward on wilderness policy. For years, the value of preserving wilderness has come down to "conservation." And there is value in keeping nature for nature's sake. But as the...

A Reality Check on Climate Claims

At the meeting of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group in Brazil, city leaders are trumpeting their efforts to fight climate change. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who's a C40 chair, released a report yesterday on the carbon emissions of some of the world's largest cities and took the opportunity to give his "you can't start solving a problem until you've got data" spiel. And, yes, data is great! But quite a few cities have kept their emissions number to themselves. In America, Houston bowed out. (Classic.) A group of European cities usually thought of as progressive on green issues -- including Barcelona, Paris, and Stockholm -- didn't participate. But among those who didn't disclose were the few cities that the global community should be most anxious to monitor: Beijing and Shanghai, in China, and Delhi and Mumbai, in India. Without emissions numbers from these large and growing cities, this set of data is much less useful. The report also identified effects of climate...

Saner Security

Congress made smart changes to the way we fund homeland security before Osama bin Laden's death. That shouldn't change now.

Last month, when the continuing resolution for the 2011 budget stripped the Department of Homeland Security of hundreds of millions of dollars meant to aid state and local security programs, lawmakers on Capitol Hill had an unusual reaction. That is, they didn't have much of a reaction at all. In past years, the mere suggestion that a president's budget proposal would cut homeland-security funding stirred up the wrath of Congress. In 2008, after the Bush administration proposed cutting grants to firefighters, Rep. Peter King, then the ranking member of the House's Homeland Security Committee, railed against it. "We cannot afford to be cutting back on the numbers of those [grants]," he said. His reaction to last month's cuts was more mild: "There's no doubt that cuts have to be made," he said at a hearing last Wednesday. King's new attitude may kowtow, in part, to his party's renewed interest in slashing budgets, but it is also part of a gradual shift in homeland-security strategy...

Christie's Constituents Unimpressed by His National Ambitions

I live in New York, but I also have some allegiance to New Jersey. My parents grew up there, and even though we moved around when I was kid, they're both back there now. So both of my governors -- the one whose election I had a say in, Andrew Cuomo, and the one who's repping a state I always feel some need to defend, Chris Christie—are media-savvy men who may or may not have presidential ambitions. Whatever they think about that option in their innermost hearts, both men regularly have their names thrown around as possible presidential contenders. While that's flattering to them, it's not necessarily in the best interest of their constituents, who didn't elect these guys to boost them onto the national stage, but to, you know, govern on a state level. Christie is still incredibly popular in New Jersey (although not as popular as Andrew Cuomo is in New York). But when the Rutgers-Eagleton poll asked New Jersey voters if they'd support Chris Christie in a presidential election, two-...

Don't Treat Dirt ... Like Dirt

We don't value dirt. It's bad to be dirty. Taboo words are "dirty." An object of little to no value is "cheaper than dirt." But dirt deserves some respect. It's incredibly valuable: Without dirt, we would not eat. And, like oil or coal, dirt is a nonrenewable resource. When topsoil disappears from erosion, it takes thousands of years for that layer of dirt to build back up. And we're running out of it . This is one of those problems that people have known about for a very long time. Pliny the Elder wrote about it. Thomas Jefferson dedicated some of his ample brainpower and technical savvy to designing soil-saving techniques for his farm. And as The New York Times points out today , the U.S. government has been fighting soil loss for decades: Significant gains were made in combating erosion in the 1980s and early 1990s, as the federal government began to require that farmers receiving agricultural subsidies carry out individually tailored soil conservation plans. Because this problem...

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