Brian J. Barth

Brian J. Barth writes about the environment, culture, policy, food, agriculture, urbanism, design and more. @brianjbarth

Recent Articles

Sometimes It’s Lonely Being Liberal

At an “underground” watering hole in Pocahontas, Iowa—they serve fair-trade coffee, not homemade whiskey—hope grows for the tiny town’s left-wing minority.

(Carmella Schultes)
In a suite above Flex Fitness in Pocahontas, Iowa, population 1,700 and dropping , Carmella Schultes paces the creaky wood floor as her guests arrive. The Upstairs Coffee Shop, which Schultes opened in 2016, may be on the second floor, but like a Prohibition-era watering hole, it is, figuratively speaking, underground. But Schultes’s patrons aren’t hiding their taste for fair-trade espresso; it’s liberal politics that they, in this deep-red town, are keeping closeted. “I felt so frustrated and lonely after the election,” recalls Schultes, 63, who runs the Pocahontas Chamber of Commerce from the room next door. “I had to do something.” She knew there were some like-minded folks in town— 25 percent of voters in Pocahontas County cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton, after all—but the local social scene was not welcoming to those who needed to vent about the nation’s new far-right government. Schultes, who has steel-gray locks and...

Will Big Business Help Fight Trump’s Anti-Environment Agenda?

Environmental advocates may find that an unlikely ally—big business—helps them erect a firewall against the most damaging aspects of a polluter-heavy Trump administration’s agenda.

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
Environmentalists can be excused for feeling apocalyptic about Donald Trump’s presidency. Compared with Barack Obama, who championed the Paris Agreement, enacted the Clean Power Plan and preserved major swaths of open space, President-elect Donald Trump can come off as the planet’s grim reaper, ready to usher in a new era of dirty water, polluted air, and melting glaciers. Trump’s cabinet selections make crystal clear that his anti-environment rhetoric as a candidate was no mere campaign swagger. To head the Environmental Protection Agency, he has tapped Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a man who has repeatedly sued the agency. For energy secretary, he’s picked Rick Perry, the former Texas governor who once vowed to eliminate that agency. For secretary of state, Trump has tapped ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. To put the icing on the cake, he wants to install Arctic oil drilling advocate Ryan Zinke, the House Republican from Montana, as interior secretary...

Will the Green Political Machine Foil Trump?

Donald Trump’s climate denial has fired up environmental activists who have launched an early and aggressive voter turnout effort that could help Hillary Clinton and other Democrats.

Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa via AP Images
Voters don’t tend to rank the environment among their top five concerns, but green activists have staked out an early and potentially decisive role in the progressive movement to defeat Donald Trump. Indeed, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee is widening the left-right divide on the environment into a gaping abyss. Climate politics, in particular, is emerging as a politically potent wedge issue that could drive Democratic and swing voters, some of whom have yet to enthusiastically embrace Hillary Clinton, to turn out against Trump. “He has said any number of things that by themselves would have been enough to demonstrate that he is a distinct threat to our progress on climate that we’ve made over the last 12 months, but also to baseline protections for clean air and clean water,” says Clay Schroers, national campaigns director at the League of Conservation Voters. The group has mounted a well-funded voter turnout effort aimed at blocking Trump and...

Q&A: Farmers Are the New Climate Warriors

Meet the Environmental Defense Fund’s Robert Parkhurst, the man working to create a market for farm-based carbon sequestration.

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
Environmental advocates have all but given up on their long-cherished goal of a federally-mandated cap-and-trade program to rein in carbon emissions, given the present state of gridlock on Capitol Hill. But amid protracted hemming and hawing over how such a system would stack up against carbon taxes or other broad incentives to reduce emissions, the state of California has stepped in where Washington policymakers fear to tread. California formed its own state-mandated carbon market in 2012, restricting the emissions of 600 of the state’s biggest polluters, who produce 85 percent of greenhouse gas emissions statewide. Lowering the “cap” will slash emissions in the state 16 percent by 2020. More recently, the California Air Resources Board , which oversees the state’s carbon market, linked arms with allies north of the border—Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba—to ink an agreement that will integrate the three Canadian provinces’ carbon markets with...