GREEN SHOOTS: Green thumbs have become red hot in the United States lately thanks to a  variety of factors — the food is cheap, organic and local, plus gardening is often more fun than grocery shopping. The NY Times today highlights the growing fad of growing food on roofs, which not only lets city slickers carve out a slice of agrarian life, but may earn them "green roof" subsidies in cities like New York and Chicago, since rooftop gardens can reduce stormwater runoff, insulate the building and control urban heat. Michelle Obama has also done her part to popularize do-it-yourself farming by starting an organic White House garden — but that hasn't made her popular with the do-it-for-you farming industry. Politico reports that an agribusiness media group has launched an online letter-writing campaign asking the first lady to give equal time to the value of pesticides "crop protection products" in nonorganic agriculture, and also reminds us how another pro-industry group told the Daily Show's Samantha Bee last month that home gardening will somehow drive up both obesity and starvation rates. (Sources: New York TimesPolitico, Daily Show)

HOT AND BOTHERED: The Obama administration on Tuesday released the most dire assessment of climate change ever issued by any White House, citing existing and looming disasters but also offering optimistic, albeit urgent, calls for action. The report was produced by three dozen academic, government and institute scientists, and was actually begun during the Bush administration, leading Obama science adviser James Holdren to call it a nonpartisan project. While it contains no new research, it does offer a more robust and troubling look at U.S. warming, and breaks down the effects to a regional level more than ever before, such as the Northwest's disappearing salmon, the Northeast's fading maple syrup and the Southwest's trickling water. (Sources: San Francisco ChronicleAssociated Press, TIMEWashington Post)

SKIPPING LAUNCH: NASA delayed the launch of its shuttle Endeavour this morning for the second time in a week, again because of a hydrogen gas leak. The space agency tried for nearly an hour to fix the leak remotely before finally calling off its predawn launch, which is now rescheduled for July. This will push back the next eight shuttle flights, all space-station trips, which the Obama administration wants completed by the end of next year. (Source: AP)

CONCRETE SOLUTIONS: It's not written in stone that large-scale cement kilns must have high emissions of mercury, hydrocarbons, particulates and hydrochloric acid, but industry officials have still been rock-solid in their defiance against increased regulation. Despite the their warnings that reducing such toxic emissions would "undermine the stability of the domestic cement industry," however, the EPA is contemplating whether to impose stiff regulations for environmental health reasons, possibly requiring the industry to cut its mercury emissions by 81 to 93 percent annually. The agency is accepting public comments through Sept. 4, and will hold a second hearing today in Dallas and another Thursday in Washington. (Source: Los Angeles Times)

PLUNDER THE AFRICAN SUN: Much of Europe may run on solar power within a decade if an ambitious new plan to tap African sunlight pans out. The Guardian reports that 20 blue-chip German companies are teaming up to build concentrating solar power plants in parts of North Africa such as Morocco, Libya and Algeria, using mirrors to focus the sun's rays toward a water-filled column, which heats up and turns a turbine with the resulting steam. Since this all sounds much more exciting for Europe than for Africa, the companies say some incentives must be in place to make sure the countries hosting the solar plants benefit as much as the countries receiving the power. (Source: Guardian

SNAKES IN IRAQ: As if things weren't already hard enough in the formerly Fertile Crescent, southern Iraq's dwindling waterways are forcing venomous snakes that once thrived in the country's wet marshes to encroach on human territory. Six people have been killed and 13 more poisoned, Scientific American reports, as saw-scaled vipers, desert horned vipers, desert cobras and other snakes attack the region's people and livestock like never before. Many in Iraq blame their northern neighbors — namely Turkey, Syria and Iran — for the serpent infestation, since they've dammed the Tigris, the Euphrates and other rivers north of Iraq's border in recent decades, restricting water flow into the country. (Source: Scientific American)

Russell McLendon

(Photo: Ron Edmonds/AP)