This Week at TreeHugger: Atwood on a Bleak Future, Smart Grids Go Big Brother, and the War on Pedestrians Heats Up

Posted by Alex Pasternack

3833253249_2e7bc603dc_bThis week, TreeHugger spoke to Margaret Atwood, wondered what smart grids will mean for our privacy, learned some new ways of dealing with wayward poop, and watched nervously as bikers, pedestrians, and even clothesline-hangers fought for their rights.

A town of 200 people in the jungle of Colombia has no guns, no police, no cars, no mayor, no church, no priest, no cellphones, no television, no internet. But the solar energy, biofuel use, and enormous reforestation project-and relatively high incomes-has caught the attention of people like Amory Lovins. Can Las Gaviotas survive the creeping influx of globalization and armed guerrillas?

In her new book The Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood gets dystopian: society has crumbled, climate change and pandemics ravage the planet, and people are forced to rediscover their relationship with the land. Miss Atwood talked to TreeHugger about the God's Gardeners (the book's rooftop-gardening eco cult), her pantheon of ecological saints, and the greening of her book tour and her own life.

A new report says that digital music distribution is much greener than traditional methods, slicing carbon emissions and energy use by 40 percent to 80 percent. (No word on how much pollution goes up if you download Michael Buble's new record.)

Smarts grids and smart appliances can help improve our energy efficiency, but what will they do for our privacy? Since smart meters and appliances will be sending lots of data to utility companies, is this a 21st century version of Big Brother? Maybe it's time to start making our own power meters.

As an alleged indicator of poverty, clotheslines lower property values, and are banned in many private communities. Meanwhile, running a clothes drier sucks up 6 percent of a household's energy usage. A fight's a'brewin', and even state governments are getting involved.

The ongoing fight on pedestrians and cyclists gets nastier, as the governor of Texas vetoes a bill that would have afforded more protection to non-drivers. Even in America's new cyclist haven, New York City, things are still looking ugly.

Left on the land, human and dog waste gets carried into streams, ponds, and lakes by storm-water runoff, contaminating beaches and stimulating algae growth. Could flagging doggie doo pollution (as they do in Germany) embarrass dog owners into cleaning up their mess? And could a system of bags and tubes (as they use in Scotland), help campers clean up their poop too?

Recyclable plastic sounds great, but it's an oil-based product, and still consumes energy during production. None of that energy is replenished by recycling the bottle, a process that itself consumes energy. Our friends at Planet Green examine the greenwashingest word.