George the Green? -- The latest TV ads from Congressman George Nethercutt sure caught our attention. Now he's a protector of the environment? In the spot, he takes credit for helping to protect the aquifer. And in fact he did co-sponsor a bill with Idaho's Butch Otter supporting a study of the aquifer. Perhaps it's proof that the aquifer cuts across party lines -- or maybe it's just a clever way to inoculate himself against his Democratic challenger, Bart Haggin, who will push the environment as a central theme in his campaign this fall.
It is a surprising -- and welcome --turnabout, however, from the man who perhaps killed the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project, a major study that was aimed to guide issues from water use to land management in Eastern Washington for years to come. With Nethercutt opposed, the project was never carried out, although much of the science had already been completed, according to the Lands Council. And Nethercutt has also remained strategically vague on other major environmental issues facing his district, from Superfund reauthorization to creating new wilderness areas in Eastern Washington. If his change of heart is genuine, we can hope to see more clarification on these issues from the Nethercutt camp as the campaign progresses.
How Serious Are We? -- While we are all transfixed -- does anybody remember Enron? -- by whether Iraq may or may not have weapons of mass destruction, we don't seem to care much at all about a huge stockpile of weapons of mass destruction that we do know about. Russia is sitting on enough nuclear and chemical ordnance to send us back to the Stone Age, but we're not doing anything about it, even though the Russians are willing to dismantle much of their arsenal. As you can imagine, it's no small project, and expense and politics have made it tricky to push forward. But now, as National Public Radio reported earlier this week, the Nunn-Lugar Program is dead in the water. Why? The Bush administration pulled the United States out of the plan.
Two Billion -- That's how many good old No. 2 pencils are sold every year, worldwide. That's a lot of wood. To take the guilt out of yet another purchasing decision -- oh yeah, and to save some trees -- the Rainforest Alliance has given its SmartWood designation to Dixon Ticonderoga pencils. That means the wood used in their pencils comes from mills and forests that meet their standards for environmental and social responsibility. Now if they could just get the lead to stop breaking all the time.