Tumblelog by Soup.io
Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

August 15 2013

19:19

ALEC Must Die

ALEC seeks to thwart open democracy and progress on clean energy and climate actionThere is a sinister force that is corrupting American politics by giving the most environmentally destructive elements of Big Business significant control over state legislatures. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) turns 40 this year. This organization is composed of large corporations and state lawmakers. They draft environmentally harmful model laws that have been adopted in state legislatures across the country.

ALEC describes itself as “nonpartisan public-private partnership” and is registered as a not for profit organization. While the organization enjoys 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, many groups see it as little more than a front for one of the most powerful and influential lobby groups in America.

The threat to America’s democracy from ALEC should not be underestimated as this is a well-funded and well-coordinated organization that has a proven track record of successfully manipulating state legislatures.

According to a new report from the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), ALEC continues to hold sway over statehouses across the country. In total, CMD identified 466 ALEC bills that were introduced in state legislatures during the first seven months of 2013. At least eighty-four of these measures have become law.

As reviewed in PR Watch, ALEC’s real mission in state legislatures is, “to allow dirty energy companies to pollute as much as they want, to attack incentives for clean energy competitors and to secure government handouts to oil, gas and coal interests,” says Connor Gibson, a Research Associate at Greenpeace.

Fossil fuel lobby

One of the most egregious threats to the public interest comes from the fossil fuel industry’s involvement with ALEC. “Disregarding science at every turn, ALEC is willing to simply serve as a front for the fossil fuel industry,” says Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org.

Corporate sponsors of ALEC include the leaders of the fossil fuel industry. Companies like Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, Duke Energy, Peabody Energy, BP, Shell, Chevron, TransCanada and American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, as well as industry trade associations and large corporate foundations provide almost all of ALEC’s funding.

ALEC’s goals are clear, they seek to provide financial rewards and protections to the companies that they work with.

According to Calvin Sloan, a legislative researcher with People for the American Way, corporations pay $50,000 each for full membership in ALEC. The purpose of the ALEC meetings is to instruct lawmakers on policy initiatives, which according to Sloan is “a fossil fuels-funded agenda.”

“They [ALEC] have participating corporations like fossil fuel companies drafting legislation that benefits those corporations directly, and then can get that legislation introduced in 50 states within a year,” Sloan said. “It’s part of an overall framework of corporations exerting their will and agenda upon the people.”

ALEC supports some of the most destructive fossil fuel legislation ever tabled including bills supporting coal, fracking and the Keystone XL Pipeline project.  It should come as no surprise that TransCanada Corp., the company that wants to build the Keystone XL pipeline, is also a member of ALEC. The company even sponsored an expense-paid trip called “ALEC academy” for nine ALEC-member state legislators. Following the trip, some of those in attendance introduced resolutions backing the pipeline in their state legislatures.

According to CMD, 77 ALEC bills promoting fossil fuels and undermining environmental protections were introduced in 34 states in 2013. At least seventeen of these measures have become law.

Climate change denial

ALEC’s activities extend beyond support for fossil fuel interests and encompass climate change misinformation. The Environmental Literacy Improvement Act which passed in at least four states, teaches children that climate change is a “controversial theory.” (The truth is that with 98 percent support, there are few theories that have garnered more support from scientists than anthropogenic climate change).

ALEC is a leading organization that actively denies the veracity of anthropogenic climate change and opposes limits on climate change causing emissions. At the 2013 meeting of ALEC, climate change was one of the items on the agenda.

One of the speakers at this year’s ALEC meeting was Joe Bastardi, he is a leading climate change denier and television weather forecaster who frequently comments on Fox News. He has called human-caused global warming an “obvious fraud.”  This year, Bastardi was the speaker at a plenary breakfast meeting misleadingly titled “A Thoughtful Approach to Climate Science.” In 2011, he spoke about “The Many Benefits of Increased Atmospheric CO2″ at ALEC’s annual meeting.

As reported in a May 2013 Forbes article, Bastardi says that “blaming turbulent weather on global warming is extreme nonsense.” While many have speculated as to whether he is willfully ignorant, willful, or just plain ignorant, as a meteorologist Bastardi should know better.

Opposition to renewable energy

ALEC does not only work in support of dirty hydrocarbons, it also is working to snuff out renewable energy. “ALEC’s long time role in denying the science and policy solutions to climate change is shifting into an evolving roadblock on state and federal clean energy incentives, a necessary part of global warming mitigation,” says Gibson.

Through legislation called the Electricity Freedom Act, ALEC sought to prevent states from requiring energy companies to increase electricity production from renewable energy sources. Because the Electricity Freedom Act failed to gain the support of state legislatures, ALEC is modifying its plan of attack against renewable energy standards. At its August 2013 meeting, ALEC introduced a bill called the Market Power Renewables Act, which seeks to undermine the Renewable Portfolio Standard or RPS.

As explained by PR Watch, this legislation “would phase-out a state’s RPS and instead create a renewable “market” where consumers can choose to pay for renewable energy, and allow utilities to purchase energy credits from outside the state. This thwarts the purpose of RPS policies, which help create the baseline demand for renewables that will spur the clean energy investment necessary to continue developing the technology and infrastructure that will drive costs down.”

Opposition to emissions reduction

ALEC has drafted laws that seek to oppose state efforts to reduce emissions. This includes a model bill titled, “State Withdrawal from Regional Climate Initiatives”, which opposes limiting climate change causing carbon emissions.

ALEC bills have not only opposed efforts from state agencies to regulate pollution, they even tried to stop the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

In essence, ALEC’s goal is to undermine emissions reduction efforts and to continue our reliance on fossil fuels. Resistance to limiting atmospheric CO2 represents a serious threat to global health as it is widely understood that failure to reign in carbon emissions will have catastrophic consequences.

Control of water, land and information

An ALEC bill titled “Environmental Services Public-Private Partnership Act” would give for-profit companies control over wastewater treatment and drinking water. Another ALEC law titled “Disposal and Taxation of Public Lands Act” would give states access to resources in federal lands that are protected as wilderness preserves.

In addition to promoting anti-environmental bills, and seeking control over resources, they also craft legislation to control information and help industry escape public accountability. ALEC’s Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act would quash the First Amendment rights of reporters, investigators and videographers by making it harder for them to document issues associated with food safety and animal cruelty.  This is similar to Utah’s ag-gag law of 2012, which led to charges against a young woman named Amy Meyer, who filmed the outside of a slaughterhouse from public land. This ALEC model bill could also criminalize environmental civil disobedience.

Click here to view the full list of 2013 bills from the ALEC Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force bills.

Growing resistance

The American public is increasingly aware of ALEC’s activities. As ALEC gathered for its 40th annual meeting in Chicago on August 7, they were met by protesters who marched outside the Palmer House Hotel where the meeting was held. The thousands who demonstrated included environmentalists, union members, civil rights activists, and social justice campaigners. Although this was not the first protest against ALEC, it was the largest to date.

Groundbreaking news coverage has helped to expose ALEC. Some of the most inclusive coverage of ALEC was provided by the CMD in the 2011 piece titled “ALEC Exposed.” Another was a documentary from Bill Moyers & Company titled “United States of ALEC.

One of the ways that ALEC has managed to wield so much power is by virtue of the fact that they have always functioned in the shadows. However, people are increasingly coming to terms with the nefarious ways in which ALEC threatens democracy and efforts to combat climate change.

The normally clandestine activities of ALEC are no longer hidden under a blanket of secrecy. Companies are increasingly understanding that involvement with ALEC is a PR liability.  Already, there have been a number of big multinationals that have withdrawn from the organization. Over the past year-and-a-half, almost 50 global corporations have dropped their ALEC membership and national campaigns are encouraging others to abandon ALEC.

After four decades of covert operations, ALEC is starting to feel the pressure from public scrutiny. Although ongoing resistance can be expected from the fossil fuel industry, public awareness can divest ALEC of its influence over state legislatures.

Shinning a spotlight on ALEC’s activities will kill the succubus that is draining the lifeblood of America’s democracy.
——————-
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Main image credit: DonkeyHotey, courtesy flickr
Featured image credit: Light Bridgading, courtesy flickr

 

The post ALEC Must Die appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 23 2013

21:25

Keystone XL: First Big Test of President’s Climate Change Action Plan

Keystone Tar Sands Pipeline: The destruction to communities and habitats outweigh the benefits of tar sands oil

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would transport liquefied bitumen from massive tar sands deposits in Alberta south through Midwest US watersheds and agricultural areas and on down to the Gulf of Mexico would significantly boost the carbon emissions that fuel climate change and thus fails to meet the criteria set out in President Obama’s recently announced National Climate Change Action Plan, according to a detailed analysis undertaken by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Just how polluting would Keystone XL be? The amount of additional carbon dioxide (CO2) that would be added to the atmosphere is staggering, even when compared to transporting conventional oil: Keystone XL would add as much as 1.2 billion metric tons more CO2 to the atmosphere over its 50-year life than if it were used to transport conventional oil. That’s more in the way of CO2 emissions than that pumped into the atmosphere by all the cars in the US in a year, according to an NRDC press release.

Looked at from another perspective, the additional CO2 pumped into the atmosphere by Keystone XL would offset all the reductions anticipated if all the new emissions reductions targets for heavy trucks and fuel efficiency set out in President Obama’s National Climate Change Action Plan were to be realized, NRDC says.

Keystone XL: Drawing a line in the Tar Sands

The Keystone XL pipeline project has become a key battle ground for those looking to literally and figuratively draw a line in the sand when it comes to just how far societies – Canada and the US specifically – will go to explore for and produce climate-changing fossil fuels. Pioneering climate scientist turned social activist Dr. James Hansen stated that exploiting the Athabasca Oil Sands would mean “it’s essentially game over” in terms of our chances of mitigating human-induced climate change.

Yet exploitation of Canada’s tar sands and other uncoventional fossil fuel deposits proceeds. In a recent Guardian article, environmental journalist Stephen Leahy provides an account of the Tar Sands Healing Walk recently organized by local First Nations’ community groups and international environmental activists including Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein.

Protecting the Sacred One Step at a Time – Tar Sands Healing Walk 2013 from Zack Embree on Vimeo.

Part and parcel of the Tar Sands Healing Walk, nearly 15,000 Canadians called on Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver and Alberta Premier Alison Redford to meet local community members being affected by Tar Sands exploitation face-to-face.

Conversely, NRDC estimates that 18.7 million-24.3 million metric tons per year of CO2 emissions would be avoided if the Obama Administration were to deny approval of Keystone XL. That, the environmental organization adds is “comparable to savings from new US heavy duty truck emissions rules – 27.4 million metric tons a year – and from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in New England the Mid-Atlantic – 11.9 million metric tons a year.”

Furthermore, denying approval of Keystone XL would greatly decrease the likelihood of further expansion of tar sands oil production, NRDC points out.

Tar sands expansion is not likely without the Keystone XL pipeline; the expanded development of tar sands oil it would drive; tar sands transportation alternatives such as other pipelines and rail; the destruction of peatland that naturally pulls carbon out of the air; and total new carbon pollution added to the atmosphere.

“Our analysis clearly demonstrates that the Keystone XL pipeline would dramatically boost the development of dirty tar sands oil, significantly exacerbating the problem of climate pollution,” director of NRDC’s international program Susan Casey-Lefkowitz was quoted as saying.

“Approve it, and our children’s future is jeopardized. Deny it, and we’ll avoid sending over a billion tons of additional carbon pollution into the air. The right choice is obvious: Keystone XL fails the president’s climate test and he should reject it to protect our national interest.”

The following is NRDC’s list of bullet points for its Keystone XL tar sands pipeline project analysis, how and why it fails to meet the president’s National Climate Change Action Plan and other criteria, and hence why the State Dept. should deny approval of the project:

  • Over the project’s 50-year timeline, Keystone XL would add between 935 million and 1.2 billion metric tons of carbon pollution to our atmosphere. Today, the roughly 230 million cars on the road kick out about 1 billion metric tons of carbon pollution annually.
  • The extraction, production, and refining of tar sands oil is more carbon-intensive than conventional oil. The State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency both concluded that from the tar sands mine to the gas tank, tar sands emissions are 81 percent higher than conventional oil.
  • Keystone XL’s climate impact should be considered within the broader context of U.S. policy regarding high-carbon infrastructure. In addition to Keystone XL, the State Department is considering other tar sands pipeline projects that could increase carbon emissions by 16.2 million tons.
  • Due to limited refining capacity, Keystone XL is a necessary component of expansion of tar sands production – and its associated climate emissions. Because of refinery limits in the U.S. and Canada, Keystone XL is the only viable way to deliver tar sands oil to the Texas Gulf Coast to be refined and sold to overseas markets.
  • Export pipelines from the tar sands region are expected to reach capacity by 2014, and Keystone is the only major pipeline proposal for transporting bitumen in the near-term.
  • In the absence of pipelines, rail is not an economically viable alternative for heavy tar sands transport. The State Department was incorrect in its Draft Supplemental Impact Statement by asserting that tar sands development and transportation would happen regardless of whether Keystone XL is approved. Rail is expensive for tar sands crude, which is why it has been largely absent in the current crude-by-rail boom.
  • Industry and market opinion say Keystone XL is a linchpin for tar sands expansion.
  • Canada is not pursuing climate policy that would effectively counteract significant growth in greenhouse gas emissions, or meet its international climate target.

Main image credit: BPOffCampus.org

The post Keystone XL: First Big Test of President’s Climate Change Action Plan appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

August 23 2012

19:09

Daily Kos Climate Change SOS Blogathon Features Wide Range of Climate Hawk Voices

Our friends over at Daily Kos are running an amazing Climate Change SOS Blogathon this week, featuring dozens of voices from the climate hawk community. Bill McKibben, Michael Mann, John Abraham, Rep. Ed Markey, A Siegel, Richard Heinberg, Heather Libby, Brad Johnson, Kelly Rigg and DeSmog's IT director Evan Leeson are just some of the many friends of DeSmog that are contributing posts throughout the week-long blogathon.

I jumped into the action as well, contributing a piece on Tuesday titled Breaking Up With Polluters To Save The Climate.

Greg Laden just posted a scary piece about the implications of sea level rise for future generations.

There is a lot of great content. I highly recommend heading over to Daily Kos to check it out. Here is a full run-down of the posts so far. Stay tuned to the Climate Change SOS Blogathon box at the bottom of most posts to keep up with the newer entries.

 

14:29

EarthTalk: Atmospheric CO2 – Is it Too Late Anyway?


The amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere today is roughly 390 parts per million (ppm), well above the 275 ppm it was before we started pumping pollution skyward during the Industrial Revolution. Climate scientists and green leaders today agree that 350 ppm would be a tolerable upper limit.EarthTalk® is a weekly environmental column made available to our readers from the editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: I read that CO2 in our atmosphere is now more than 300 parts per million. Doesn’t this mean that we’re too late to avoid the worst impacts of climate change?  – Karl Bren, Richmond, VA

Actually the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere today is roughly 390 parts per million (ppm). And that’s not good news. “Experts agree that this level cannot be sustained for many decades without potentially catastrophic consequences,” reports the Geos Institute, an Oregon-based non-profit and consulting firm that uses science to help people predict, reduce and prepare for climate change.

While we’re unlikely to get atmospheric CO2 concentrations down as low as they were (275 ppm) before we started pumping pollution skyward during the Industrial Revolution, climate scientists and green leaders agree that 350 ppm would be a tolerable upper limit. Prior to 2007 scientists weren’t sure what emissions reduction goal to shoot for, but new evidence led researchers to reach consensus on 350 ppm if we wished to have a planet, in the words of NASA climatologist James Hansen, “similar to the one on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.”

The non-profit 350.org, launched in 2008 by writer and activist Bill McKibben and others to raise awareness about global warming, has circled the proverbial wagons around the cause of reducing atmospheric CO2 to 350 ppm. The group has enlisted the help of thousands of student volunteers around the world to mobilize public support for reducing humanity’s carbon footprint.

McKibben, whose 1989 book The End of Nature detailed the potential effects of climate change and remains one of the most influential environmental books of all time, believes that 350 ppm is attainable.

“We’re like the patient that goes to the doctor and learns he’s overweight, or his cholesterol is too high. He doesn’t die immediately—but until he changes his lifestyle and gets back down to the safe zone, he’s at more risk for heart attack or stroke,” says McKibben. “The planet is in its danger zone because we’ve poured too much carbon into the atmosphere, and we’re starting to see signs of real trouble: melting ice caps, rapidly spreading drought. We need to scramble back as quickly as we can to safety.”

“Scrambling back” will entail nothing short of transforming our energy infrastructure, including how we transport people and goods and power our structures. According to 350.org, it means building solar arrays instead of coal plants, planting trees instead of cutting forests, increasing energy efficiency and reducing waste.

“Getting to 350 means developing a thousand different solutions—all of which will become much easier if we have a global treaty grounded in the latest science and built around the principles of equity and justice,” the group reports. “To get this kind of treaty, we need a movement of people who care enough about our shared global future to get involved and make their voices heard.”

The group is working to create an international grassroots movement to influence political dynamics and implement solutions that show the benefits of moving to a clean energy economy. 350 ppm, while merely a number, represents humanity’s potential capacity to solve the most pressing problem it has faced; it also represents a target for international negotiators to aim for in forging an effective global warming treaty.
——————-
EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine.

January 04 2012

15:16

The Year in Review: Popular Efforts to Combat Climate Change in 2011


Popular efforts to fight global warming increased in 2011Last year saw a significant increase in popular efforts to combat climate change. From protests against the Keystone XL pipeline to campaigns that pressure businesses to engage more sustainable practices, people are standing up in support of efforts to combat climate change. Last year, we also saw an unprecedented number of people getting involved with environmental events, protests and social activism. Although the Occupy Movement may have lacked a clear environmental focus, it did underscore the growing popularity of grassroots protests.

Keystone XL Pipeline

According to the Guardian, the Keystone XL pipeline protests that took place from August 20th to September 3rd were, “the largest act of civil disobedience for the climate in US history.”  Thousands of people, including 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben and NASA’s Dr. James Hansen protested at the White House, demanding that President Obama reject the tar-sands oil pipeline.

On Monday August 28th, more than 60 religious leaders made their voices heard in front of the White House. Nine recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, also joined the protest against the Keystone XL.

Weeks of protest and the arrests of 1,252 peaceful protesters did not deter people from opposing the pipeline in Washington. McKibben reportedly said the pipeline galvanized U.S. action on climate change.

On Sunday, November 6th, another protest was held to stop the tar-sands pipeline. As many as 15,000 Americans encircled the White House to tell President Obama to reject the Keystone XL project. This was described as a historic defining moment in the push to move beyond oil.

On November 10th, President Obama announced that he would put the future of the planet ahead of Big Oil. Citing climate change, Obama sent the Keystone XL pipeline project back for review until at least 2013.

Even though Republicans are resorting to blackmail to get the Keystone XL pipeline back on track, the success of the anti-pipeline protests represent an important victory for those involved in the struggle against climate change.

Arab Spring

Corruption and misuse of natural resources were some of the factors that fueled the uprisings in Arab states. The Arab world is facing numerous environmental problems including air pollution, water scarcity, desertification, waste management, loss of arable lands and marine degradation. Popular movements in the Arab world succeeded in changing the political landscape in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011. There are early indications that the environment could benefit from the Arab Spring.

The Arab Spring has attracted a $550 billion investment that promises to bring sustainable energy to the region. The world’s most ambitious solar project could start producing energy as early as 2015 in the region.

Paul van Son, the managing director of the Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII), told Reuters that interest in the project to turn sunshine into energy has grown with the spread of democracy across North Africa and the Middle East.

Before the Arab Spring, there were concerns about the political stability in the region. “We like the Arab Spring because it has opened up a lot of ideas and generated support for the project,” van Son said. “We’re very supportive. The democratic structures fit very well with ours.”

Renewable energy projects could help the economy and create jobs in the country and throughout the region. van Son said he hopes Desertec can help bring Mediterranean nations closer together. “I believe large infrastructure projects like this can contribute to stability. It’s about the development of new industries in the region, investment, job creation and the transfer of knowledge and know-how,” he said.

The first 150 megawatts power plant will be built in Morocco and it could be generating power by 2015 or 2016, with further projects planned in Tunisia and Algeria.

COP 17 

On Saturday December 3rd, 2011 in what was called the “Global Day of Action,” about 20,000 people from all over the world took to the streets calling for action in Durban. Protests, marches and rallies around the world demanded “climate justice.”

“We march today to show our outrage. We want to give the ministers…a clear message: You cannot continue to make excuses,” said Action Aid international climate justice coordinator Harjeet Singh.

“We demand urgent and strong action on climate change. We can’t just keep talking and keep wasting time,” Singh said. And Greenpeace said, “it is time to listen to the voices of ordinary people not polluters.”

Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, told the protesters in Durban: “You know where we stand, here with you.”

Although expectations for COP 17 were low, people came together and helped to force governments to sign-on to a binding agreement.

Local Protest Goes National

Michigan State University (MSU) students have been protesting the fact that they have the largest on-campus coal plant in the nation.

“Coal is harmful to our environment and us, but not everyone knows. I think it is important to raise awareness of the problem so it can be fixed and the damaging effects of coal can be stopped,” said student activist Kendra Majewski.

Even though three students were arrested at a sit-in, MSU activists have indicated that they are going to keep demanding clean air for their campus. In October, hundreds of campuses across the nation joined in on the demonstration against the university to show support for the Quit Coal campaign known as 100 Actions for 100% Clean Energy.

Students across the country are now engaged in telephone protests directed at the MSU president’s office. They are requesting that the president reconsider her position and commit to using 100 percent clean energy at Michigan State. This campaign illustrates that local issues can quickly gain national support.

Although MSU has not yet agreed to close its coal plant, the university has taken other steps to become more sustainable, including plans to have all new buildings become LEED-certified.

Environmental Events

There have been a number of environmental events in 2011, which were supported by an ever growing number of people. Global Green’s I Am Fighting Climate Change video contest asked people to document their individual actions to fight climate change. Global Green asked people to come together to help stop climate change and demand that leaders invest in green technologies and green jobs.

The League of American Bicyclists sponsored an event in the US and Canada that promoted the bicycle as an option for commuting to work. In 2011, Bike to Work Week was held on May 16th through the 20th. On June 5th the annual World Environment Day (WED) event became the largest and most widely celebrated WED event ever.

On June 15th, Global Wind Day raised worldwide awareness about wind energy. Thousands of public events were held in the US and around the world.  On Saturday June 18th, Canada, the US and the UK (November 19th in Australia) celebrated SolarDay. The 2011 SolarDay events were held by cities, non-profits, companies and the solar industry.

On August 15th through the 19th, the EDF led a campaign titled Voices for Clean Air to help remind political leaders that clean air is something that the majority of Americans support. The EDF sent a message to political leaders in the U.S. in support of strong clean air standards.

Beginning on September 13th, the Climate Reality Project hosted a live streaming event. The event was known as 24 Hours of Reality, it involved a global broadcast about the reality of the climate crisis. This global event was designed to help people make the connection between extreme weather, climate change, and the need to push the planet beyond fossil fuels. ZeDay was an event that took place on September 21st, it was a day for people all over the planet to strive for zero emissions and encourage the use of renewable energy.

On September 24th Bill McKibben and the 350.org team launched the “Moving Planet” campaign. It inspired over 2000 events in more than 175 countries. In South Asia, the 350.org coordinator indicated that their goal was to encourage grassroots activism against coal fired power emissions, as well as redefining development. African initiatives urged people to take to the streets to demand climate jobs. All regions including, the Pacific and Europe, pushed for renewable energy laws and sustainable transportation.

On October 26th, college campuses across North America celebrated the 9th annual Campus Sustainability Day (CSD), a day which highlighted the green accomplishments and initiatives of staff, faculty and students.

On March 26th, 134 countries and turned out their lights for WWF’s Earth Hour. In 2011, Earth Hour called on businesses and other organizations to show leadership by committing to lasting action for the planet beyond shutting off their lights for one hour. Climate Care Day is an event that takes place on the same day as Earth Hour; however this initiative is intended to encourage global businesses to replace all corporate travel with remote meetings.

On Earth Day (April 23rd), the Billion Acts of Green® campaign became the largest environmental service campaign in the world. In 2011, it included an increasing number of commitments from businesses to measurably reduce carbon emissions and support sustainability.

On Monday, April 18th, thousands of people came together for a rally outside the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington DC. The rally was the culmination of Power Shift 2011, which took place between April 15th and 18th. 350.org launched a campaign entitled “The US Chamber of Commerce Doesn’t Speak For Me,” where more than a thousand businesses abandoned the climate denying Chamber, including corporations like Apple, Nike, Microsoft, Levi-Strauss, Best Buy, and General Electric.

Businesses are Listening

Businesses are increasingly reckoning with the power of popular pressure. Individuals are pushing corporations to cleanup their supply chains, which are causing some businesses to change the way they source commodities. Public pressure has forced companies like Nestle, Unilever, Nestle, Kraft, Burger King, and General Mills to adopt more sustainable business practices.

In 2011, it became increasingly obvious that the risks associated with unsustainable business practices are a serious threat which cannot be ignored. Rather than incur such risks, an increasing number of businesses are cooperating with environmental groups. For example, Xerox has partnered with The Nature Conservancy to promote sustainable forestry, preserve biodiversity and help minimize forest loss and degradation that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Non-profits are putting their expertise to work guiding businesses on sustainability. Carbon Trust has published a Green Guide for SMEs, the WWF-UK has launched its Green Game-Changers initiative and the EPA’s Green Power Partnership program has yielded impressive results.

People around the world are increasingly united in their demand for action on environmental issues. The events of 2011 demonstrate that the public can influence decision making at the highest level. This is a testament to the power of citizens to effectuate meaningful change.

——————-

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Sky News

September 13 2011

13:15

Video of Keystone XL Tar Sands Protesters Arrested At The White House

Usually the best way to solve a neighborly spat is to march right up to the door and talk it out, face-to-face. However, if said neighbor happens to be away a lot and has rooftop snipers protecting the property, Plan B may be in order: shouting through the fence.

That's why for two weeks over 1250 people got arrested in front of the White House in an attempt to show President Obama that putting a leaky, oily pipeline through their collective backyards is not a very neighborly thing to do. Each day of the protest averaged between 50-100 arrests, steadily increasing until the 14th (and last) day when 244 people were arrested, resulting in the largest act of civil disobedience yet for the climate movement.

Participants protesting the Keystone XL pipeline spanned a wide range of ages, occupations, and origins: including those from the heartland of the Midwest where the pipeline is set to run through, and indigenous and frontline communities situated near the tar sands in Canada.


According to organizers, this is Phase 1 of the campaign, with Phase 2 coming up quickly behind in early October. President Obama will supposedly decide the fate of the pipeline in approximately 90 days, and in the meantime people have been encouraged to give his campaign offices a friendly visit.

Watch the video below for a look at the last day of the arrests in DC:

See video

September 07 2011

18:49

Obama Can Regulate the Environment and Create Green Jobs


President Obama should focus on creating green jobs and supporting environmental regulation. Jobs and a healthy environment are not mutually exclusiveAs U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to unveil his jobs and economic plan, his popularity is at an all-time low. Support from the President’s base has been eroded by the two week long protest against the Keystone XL pipeline and profound disappointment about the abandonment of stricter ozone regulations.

From the end of August to the beginning of September, a total of 1,252 protesters were arrested in front of the White House for opposing the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Those arrested included 350.org’s Bill McKibben and NASA climate scientist James Hansen. The tar sands pipeline could galvanize U.S. action on climate because many believe we should be working to reduce the demand for oil rather than increase the supply.

The Obama administration decision to abandon stricter ozone pollution standards pleased Republicans and business groups who say environmental regulations kill jobs. However, the research shows that regulations are not killing small business.

Previous regulations, like amendments to the Clean Air Act, have resulted in far lower costs and job losses than indicated by industry and the GOP. When the EPA first proposed amendments to the Clean Air Act aimed at reducing acid rain caused by power plant emissions, the electric utility industry warned that it would cost $7.5 billion and tens of thousands of jobs. But as reported in the New York Times, Dallas Burtraw, an economist at Resources for the Future, indicated that the cost has been closer to $1 billion. The EPA cited studies showing that the law had been a modest net creator of jobs through industry spending on compliance technology.The costs of regulation should be factored alongside reduced mortality and morbidity. The New York Times reports that clean air regulations have reduced infant mortality and increased housing prices according to research by Greenstone.

The Sierra Club indicates that half of U.S. families live in communities where the air is unsafe to breathe. According to the Sierra Club, the new standard for smog would have prevented up to 12,000 premature deaths, 5,300 heart attacks and tens of thousands of asthma attacks and other serious respiratory illnesses each year. These protections from smog would have saved billions of dollars in health costs.

Countries around the world are investing in cleaner air and a healthier environment. According to ENN, the 2011 Global Green Economy Index (GGEI) show that expert practitioners in the green economy rank Germany as the top overall national green performer while a new index places New Zealand on top. The UK has also announced its national sustainability agenda.

Many other countries are getting very serious about their focus on sustainability. Bolivia forwarded a piece of legislation called la Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra (the Law of Mother Earth), which encourages a radical shift in conservation, enforces new control measures on industry, and reduces environmental destruction.

Bolivia’s law redefines natural resources as blessings and confers the same rights to nature as to human beings, including: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered. Perhaps the most controversial point is the right “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities”.

Ecuador has enshrined similar aims in its Constitution, other nations have also shown interest in this approach including Nicaragua, Venezuela, Antigua, Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

In the summer of 2011, politicians in Turkey sought a constitution that would afford rights to the Earth. Even the African nation of Nigeria is working hard to protect their environment. To help with this task, Nigeria created the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) which was created to help enforce environmental laws, standards and regulations in the country.

In the U.S., the preoccupation with jobs overshadows any interest in the environment. When President Obama addressed a crowd of more than 10,000 people in Detroit on Labor Day, they were heard chanting “More good jobs.” During the speech, the President intimated what he’ll be saying in his major jobs address to the joint session of Congress.

“We’ve got roads and bridges across this country that need rebuilding,” Obama said. “I still believe both parties can work together to solve our problems. We’re going to see if congressional Republicans will put country before party.”

A move toward stricter governmental regulation would help green industries to grow and provide jobs. Despite the prevailing public mood, job creation is intimately connected with environmental protection. But it is hard to imagine that Republicans will work with the President to pass any legislation, particularly environmental legislation. According to the Presidential Climate Action Project, there is a great deal the President can do without congressional input. In 2010 they provided a report (pdf) that lists a large number of actions that can be implemented with executive orders.

“What we’re saying is Congress has decided not to act, but [Obama] can do so,” former Sen. Gary Hart, a Colorado Democrat and a co-chairman of the group, said.

It’s not as if Obama has failed to make progress on climate issues. In October 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13514, Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance. This EO calls on Federal agencies to set and meet specific sustainability related targets throughout their operations. As part of this undertaking, GSA is leveraging its purchasing power to promote sustainable procurement. More recently, the Obama administration developed landmark fuel efficiency standards for vehicles by regulating cars and light trucks as well as trucks and buses.

Despite the lack of legislative progress on the environment, the Obama administration has done more to promote renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions than any previous government. However, Obama’s efforts have been impeded by the unrelenting multi-front manipulation of powerful interests associated with the old energy economy, including the oil industry. Further, the Republican controlled House is working hard to dismantle the EPA.

It comes down to the choice between temporary jobs of the past which are ruining the environment or permanent jobs of the future that protect the planet.

Republicans and ill-informed members of the business community are indicating that now is not the time for environmental regulations or investment in sustainability. In 2008, some feared that a recession would undermine the growth of sustainability, but current events appear to indicate otherwise. Difficult economic times auger greater efficiency, and a weak economy is also the reason why economists argue that massive green infrastructure investments may be the best way to strengthen the economy and create jobs.

A President’s popularity is a function of jobs and the best way to create jobs is to enact regulations and invest in the green economy.
——————–
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Austin Post and Take Part

Enhanced by Zemanta

September 01 2011

09:50

Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Action Page

Below is a compilation of fact sheets, information resources and action items from environmental groups, governments and other groups surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline and the Canadian tar sands. Please contact us or comment below if you know of additional resources we should add to this page.

TarSandsAction.org - Coalition organizing the White House protest and a 10,000+ strong petition urging President Obama to say no to the Keystone XL pipeline.

Friends of the Earth's Keystone XL pipeline resource page, petition and report "Dirty Business: How TransCanada Pipelines bullies farmers, manipulates oil markets, threatens fresh water and skimps on safety in the United States."

NRDC's Stop Dirty Fuels: Tar Sands - Fact sheets about tar sands, Switchboard blogs on the Keystone XL pipeline, and a BioGems petition to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.

National Wildlife Federation's Keystone XL Pipeline page and Tar Sands page- numerous fact sheets on Keystone XL and tar sands.

Oil Change International's report "Exporting Energy Security: Keystone XL Exposed" debunking the claims that Canadian tar sands oil is good for U.S. national security.

Bold Nebraska's Keystone XL resource page and letter urging Secretary Clinton and Governor Heineman to deny TransCanada's permit request.

Stand With Randy - Nebraska farmer and landowner Randy Thompson's page opposing the Keystone XL pipeline.

Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman's letter urging President Obama and Hillary Clinton to reject TransCanada's Keystone XL permit.

energyNOW! interview with DOE Secretary Steven Chu about the Keystone XL.

Rainforest Action Network's tar sands page with reports and fact sheets on Keystone XL.

Greenpeace Canada's tar sands page and report "Dirty Oil: How the Tar Sands Are Fueling the Global Climate Crisis" [PDF]

Avaaz's petition against the Keystone XL pipeline.

DailyKos page with sample letters to the editor about the State Department's Keystone XL decision.

DirtyOilSands.org website about the Canadian tar sands.

Interfaith Religious Contingent Against Keystone XL Pipeline

Sojourners religious site with tons of content about Keystone XL and climate issues.

U.S. State Department page on the Keystone XL pipeline.

TransCanada description of its Keystone XL pipeline proposal.

Selected readings about the Keystone XL pipeline:

NASA scientist James Hansen's "Silence Is Deadly" [PDF] June 2011 piece about Keystone XL.

Bill McKibben: "Why I Got Arrested Over the Keystone XL Pipeline".

New York Times Editorial  urging President Obama to reject the Keystone XL proposal.

 

Los Angeles Times article exposing a 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa showing early U.S. support for Keystone XL long before the appropriate agency review process.

The Tyee's 'War Over Oil Sands' series of reports.

Robert van Waarden's photo essay of the impacts of tar sands development on Canadian First Nations communities.

DeSmogBlog's ongoing coverage of the Keystone XL issue as well as our tar sands coverage.

Mark Fiore's "State Department Oil Services" animation commissioned by DeSmogBlog:

Please contact us or comment below if you know of additional resources that should be added to this page.

August 29 2011

18:11

Enviro News Wrap: Rick Perry – an American Idiot? Keystone Pipeline Gets State Dept. Thumbs-up; The Economics of Declining Oil, and more…


The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

June 24 2011

00:25

Scientists and Activists Issue A Call To Action To Stop Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline

A group of eleven veteran U.S. and Canadian scientists and environmentalists today jointly issued a call to action for non-violent civil disobedience in front of the White House later this summer to stop the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.  This proposed Transcanada pipeline, which must be approved by President Obama in order to proceed, would carry filthy tar sands oil from Alberta to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries, and further solidify North America's commitment to mutual fossil fuel addiction for generations to come. 

"This is one issue where the president has total control--he has to grant or deny the necessary permits. Congress can't get in the way. It's where Obama can get his environmental mojo back. But we need him to lead," said Bill McKibben, author, DeSmogBlog contributor and signatory on the letter.

The letter ask citizens to come to Washington for a peaceful and dignified protest against the Keystone XL pipeline, which the authors describe as a "1500-mile fuse to the continent's biggest carbon bomb."

Climate scientist James Hansen, another signatory, notes that there's enough carbon in the tar sands, were it all burned, to increase the atmospheric concentration of CO2 by nearly 50%. If the tar sands get fully developed, said Hansen, "it is essentially game over" for the climate.
 
Bill McKibben states that the protest isn't designed to rail against Obama, but rather to do what the President asked of citizens when he was elected - pressure him to get it right on climate.

"The last thing we want to do is harass the president--instead we're asking people to dig those Obama buttons out of their closet and wear them when they protest. The president asked supporters to keep pressuring him once he was in office, and we're going to try and make it clear there is real support for action on climate," McKibben said.
 
Signatories of the letter include Maude Barlow, Wendell Berry, Tom Goldtooth, Danny Glover, James Hansen, Wes Jackson, Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, George Poitras, David Suzuki, Gus Speth.

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Friends

This will be a slightly longer letter than common for the internet age—it’s serious stuff.

The short version is we want you to consider doing something hard: coming to Washington in the hottest and stickiest weeks of the summer and engaging in civil disobedience that will quite possibly get you arrested.

The full version goes like this:

As you know, the planet is steadily warming: 2010 was the warmest year on record, and we’ve seen the resulting chaos in almost every corner of the earth.

And as you also know, our democracy is increasingly controlled by special interests interested only in their short-term profit.

These two trends collide this summer in Washington, where the State Department and the White House have to decide whether to grant a  certificate of ‘national interest’ to some of the biggest fossil fuel players on earth. These corporations want to build the so-called ‘Keystone XL Pipeline’ from Canada’s tar sands to Texas refineries.

To call this project a horror is serious understatement. The tar sands have wrecked huge parts of Alberta, disrupting ways of life in indigenous communities—First Nations communities in Canada, and tribes along the pipeline route in the U.S. have demanded the destruction cease. The pipeline crosses crucial areas like the Oglalla Aquifer where a spill would be disastrous—and though the pipeline companies insist they are using ‘state of the art’ technologies that should leak only once every 7 years, the precursor pipeline and its pumping stations have leaked a dozen times in the past year. These  local impacts alone would be cause enough to block such a plan. But the Keystone Pipeline would also be a fifteen hundred mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent, a way to make it easier and faster to trigger the final overheating of our planet, the one place to which we are all indigenous.

How much carbon lies in the recoverable tar sands of Alberta? A recent calculation from some of our foremost scientists puts the figure at about 200 parts per million.  Even with the new pipeline they won’t be able to burn that much overnight—but each development like this makes it easier to get more oil out.  As the climatologist Jim Hansen (one of the signatories to this letter) explained, if we have any chance of getting back to a stable climate “the principal requirement is that coal emissions must be phased out by 2030 and unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar sands, must be left in the ground.” In other words, he added, “if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over.” The Keystone pipeline is an essential part of the game. “Unless we get increased market access, like with Keystone XL, we’re going to be stuck,” said Ralph Glass, an economist and vice-president at AJM Petroleum Consultants in Calgary, told a Canadian newspaper last week.

Given all that, you’d suspect that there’s no way the Obama administration would ever permit this pipeline. But in the last few months the administration has signed pieces of paper opening much of Alaska to oil drilling, and permitting coal-mining on federal land in Wyoming that will produce as much CO2 as 300 powerplants operating at full bore.

And Secretary of State Clinton has already said she’s ‘inclined’ to recommend the pipeline go forward. Partly it’s because of the political commotion over high gas prices, though more tar sands oil would do nothing to change that picture. But it’s also because of intense pressure from industry. The US Chamber of Commerce—a bigger funder of political campaigns than the RNC and DNC combined—has demanded that the administration “move quickly to approve the Keystone XL pipeline,” which is not so surprising—they’ve also told the U.S. EPA that if the planet warms that will be okay because humans can ‘adapt their physiology’ to cope. The Koch Brothers, needless to say, are also backing the plan, and may reap huge profits from it.

So we’re pretty sure that without serious pressure the Keystone Pipeline will get its permit from Washington.  A wonderful coalition of environmental groups has built a strong campaign across the continent—from Cree and Dene indigenous leaders to Nebraska farmers, they’ve spoken out strongly against the destruction of their land. We need to join them, and to say even if our own homes won’t be crossed by this pipeline, our joint home—the earth—will be wrecked by the carbon that pours down it.

And we need to say something else, too: it’s time to stop letting corporate power make the most important decisions our planet faces. We don’t have the money to compete with those corporations, but we do have our bodies, and beginning in mid August many of us will use them. We will, each day, march on the White House, risking arrest with our trespass. We will do it in dignified fashion, demonstrating that in this case we are the conservatives, and that our foes—who would change the composition of the atmosphere are dangerous radicals. Come dressed as if for a business meeting—this is, in fact, serious business.

And another sartorial tip—if you wore an Obama button during the 2008 campaign, why not wear it again? We very much still want to believe in the promise of that young Senator who told us that with his election the ‘rise of the oceans would begin to slow and the planet start to heal.’ We don’t understand what combination of bureaucratic obstinacy and insider dealing has derailed those efforts, but we remember his request that his supporters continue on after the election to pressure his government for change. We’ll do what we can.

And one more thing: we don’t just want college kids to be the participants in this fight. They’ve led the way so far on climate change—10,000 came to DC for the Powershift gathering earlier this spring. They’ve marched this month in West Virginia to protest mountaintop removal; a young man named Tim DeChristopher faces sentencing this summer in Utah for his creative protest.

Now it’s time for people who’ve spent their lives pouring carbon into the atmosphere to step up too, just as many of us did in earlier battles for civil rights or for peace. Most of us signing this letter are veterans of this work, and we think it’s past time for elders to behave like elders. One thing we don’t want is a smash up: if you can’t control your passions, this action is not for you.

This won’t be a one-shot day of action. We plan for it to continue for several weeks, till the administration understands we won’t go away. Not all of us can actually get arrested—half the signatories to this letter live in Canada, and might well find our entry into the U.S. barred. But we will be making plans for sympathy demonstrations outside Canadian consulates in the U.S., and U.S. consulates in Canada—the decision-makers need to know they’re being watched.

Twenty years of patiently explaining the climate crisis to our leaders hasn’t worked. Maybe moral witness will help. You have to start somewhere, and we choose here and now.

If you think you might want to be a part of this action, we need you to sign up here.

As plans solidify in the next few weeks we’ll be in touch with you to arrange nonviolence training; our colleagues at a variety of environmental and democracy campaigns will be coordinating the actual arrangements.

We know we’re asking a lot. You should think long and hard on it, and pray if you’re the praying type. But to us, it’s as much privilege as burden to get to join this fight in the most serious possible way. We hope you’ll join us.

Maude Barlow – Chair, Council of Canadians
Wendell Berry – Author and Farmer
Tom Goldtooth – Director, Indigenous Environmental Network
Danny Glover – Actor
James Hansen – Climate Scientist
Wes Jackson – Agronomist, President of the Land Insitute
Naomi Klein – Author and Journalist
Bill McKibben – Writer and Environmentalist
George Poitras – Mikisew Cree Indigenous First Nation
Gus Speth – Environmental Lawyer and Activist
David Suzuki – Scientist, Environmentalist and Broadcaster

P.S. Please pass this letter on to anyone else you think might be interested. We realize that what we’re asking isn’t easy, and we’re very grateful that you’re willing even to consider it. See you in Washington!

June 08 2011

23:04

Bill McKibben's Recent Op-Ed On Climate and Severe Weather Remixed Into Video

Check out this excellent video version of Bill McKibben's recent Washington Post op-ed "A link between climate change and Joplin Tornadoes? Never!"

Narrated and illustrated by Stephen Thomson of Plonomedia.com, the video is a great visual representation of McKibben's widely-circulated op-ed.

Watch here, and share this widely:
<!--break-->

June 02 2011

19:32

President Obama Must Say No To Dirty Energy's Wish List

Originally published at TomDispatch.

In our globalized world, old-fashioned geography is not supposed to count for much: mountain ranges, deep-water ports, railroad grades -- those seem so nineteenth century. The earth is flat, or so I remember somebody saying.

But those nostalgic for an earlier day, take heart. The Obama administration is making its biggest decisions yet on our energy future and those decisions are intimately tied to this continent’s geography. Remember those old maps from your high-school textbooks that showed each state and province’s prime economic activities? A sheaf of wheat for farm country? A little steel mill for manufacturing? These days in North America what you want to look for are the pickaxes that mean mining, and the derricks that stand for oil.

There’s a pickaxe in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming, one of the world’s richest deposits of coal. If we’re going to have any hope of slowing climate change, that coal -- and so all that future carbon dioxide -- needs to stay in the ground.  In precisely the way we hope Brazil guards the Amazon rainforest, that massive sponge for carbon dioxide absorption, we need to stand sentinel over all that coal.<!--break-->

Doing so, however, would cost someone some money.  At current prices the value of that coal may be in the trillions, and that kind of money creates immense pressure. Earlier this year, President Obama signed off on the project, opening a huge chunk of federal land to coal mining.  It holds an estimated 750 million tons worth of burnable coal. That’s the equivalent of opening 300 new coal-fired power plants. In other words, we’re talking about staggering amounts of new CO2 heading into the atmosphere to further heat the planet.

As Eric de Place of the Sightline Institute put it, “That’s more carbon pollution than all the energy -- from planes, factories, cars, power plants, etc. -- used in an entire year by all 44 nations in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean combined.”  Not what you’d expect from a president who came to office promising that his policies would cause the oceans to slow their rise. 

But if Obama has admittedly opened the mine gate, it's geography to the rescue. You still have to get that coal to market, and “market” in this case means Asia, where the demand for coal is growing fastest. The easiest and cheapest way to do that -- maybe the only way at current prices -- is to take it west to the Pacific where, at the moment, there’s no port capable of handling the huge increase in traffic it would represent.

And so a mighty struggle is beginning, with regional groups rising to the occasion.  Climate Solutions and other environmentalists of the northwest are moving to block port-expansion plans in Longview and Bellingham, Washington, as well as in Vancouver, British Columbia. Since there are only so many possible harbors that could accommodate the giant freighters needed to move the coal, this might prove a winnable battle, though the power of money that moves the White House is now being brought to bear on county commissions and state houses. Count on this: it will be a titanic fight.

Strike two against the Obama administration was the permission it granted early in the president’s term to build a pipeline into Minnesota and Wisconsin to handle oil pouring out of the tar sands of Alberta. (It came on the heels of a Bush administration decision to permit an earlier pipeline from those tar sands deposits through North Dakota to Oklahoma).  The vast region of boreal Canada where the tar sands are found is an even bigger carbon bomb than the Powder River coal.  By some calculations, the tar sands contain the equivalent of about 200 parts per million CO2 -- or roughly half the current atmospheric concentration. Put another way, if we burn it, there’s no way we can control climate change.

Fortunately, that sludge is stuck so far in the northern wilds of Canada that getting it to a refinery is no easy task.  It’s not even easy to get the equipment needed to do the mining to the extraction zone, a fact that noble activists in the northern Rockies are exploiting with a campaign to block the trucks hauling the giant gear north. (Exxon has been cutting trees along wild and scenic corridors just to widen the roads in the region, that’s how big their “megaloads” are.)

Unfortunately, the administration’s decision to permit that Minnesota pipeline has made the job of sending the tar sand sludge south considerably easier. And now the administration is getting ready to double down, with a strike three that would ensure forever Obama’s legacy as a full-on Carbon President.

The huge oil interests that control the tar sands aren’t content with a landlocked pipeline to the Midwest.  They want another, dubbed Keystone XL, that stretches from Canada straight to Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. It would take the bitumen from the tar sands and pipe it across the heart of America. Imagine a video game where your goal is to do the most environmental damage possible: to the Cree and their ancestral lands in Canada, to Nebraska farmers trying to guard the Ogallala aquifer that irrigates their land, and of course to the atmosphere.

But the process is apparently politically wired and in a beautifully bipartisan Washington way. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must approve the plan for Keystone XL because it crosses our borders.  Last year, before she’d even looked at the relevant data, she said she was “inclined” to do so. And why not? I mean, the company spearheading the Keystone project, TransCanada, has helpfully hired her former deputy national campaign director as its principal lobbyist.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the political aisle, those oil barons the Koch Brothers and that fossil fuel front group the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are pushing for early approval.  Michigan Republican Congressman Fred Upton, chair of the House Energy Committee, is already demanding that the project be fast-tracked, with a final approval decision by November, on the grounds that it would create jobs. This despite the fact that even the project’s sponsors concede it won’t reduce gas prices.  In fact, as Jeremy Symons of the National Wildlife Federation pointed out in testimony to Congress last month, their own documents show that the pipeline will probably cause the price at the pump to rise across the Midwest.

When the smaller pipeline was approved in 2009, we got a taste of the arguments that the administration will use this time around, all masterpieces of legal obfuscation. Don’t delay the pipeline over mere carbon worries will be the essence of it. 

Global warming concerns, said Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg then, would be "best addressed in the context of the overall set of domestic policies that Canada and the United States will take to address their respective greenhouse gas emissions." In other words, let’s confine the environmental argument over the pipeline to questions like: How much oil will leak?  In the meantime, we’ll pretend to deal with climate change somewhere else.

It’s the kind of thinking that warms the hearts of establishments everywhere. Michael Levi, author of a Council on Foreign Relations study of the Canadian oil sands, told the Washington Post that, with the decision, “the Obama administration made clear that it's not going to go about its climate policy in a crude, blunt way." No, it’s going about it in a smooth and… oily way.

If we value the one planet we’ve got, it’s going to be up to the rest of us to be crude and blunt. And happily that planet is pitching in. The geography of this beautiful North American continent is on our side: it’s crude and blunt, full of mountains and canyons. Its weather runs to extremes. It’s no easy thing to build a pipeline across it, or to figure out how to run an endless parade of train cars to the Pacific.

Tough terrain aids the insurgent; it slows the powerful. Though we’re fighting a political campaign and not a military one, we need to take full advantage.

Originally published at TomDispatch.

May 24 2011

18:00

No Need to Worry: Record Tornadoes, Raging Fires, Mega Floods, & Crop-Killing Droughts Are NOT What Climatologists Predicted

This op-ed originally appeared in the Washington Post.

Caution: It is vitally important not to make connections. When you see pictures of rubble like this week’s shots from Joplin, Mo., you should not wonder: Is this somehow related to the tornado outbreak three weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, Ala., or the enormous outbreak a couple of weeks before that (which, together, comprised the most active April for tornadoes in U.S. history). No, that doesn’t mean a thing.

It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advisable to try to connect them in your mind with, say, the fires burning across Texas — fires that have burned more of America at this point this year than any wildfires have in previous years. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they’ve ever been — the drought is worse than that of the Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if they’re somehow connected.<!--break-->

If you did wonder, you see, you would also have to wonder about whether this year’s record snowfalls and rainfalls across the Midwest — resulting in record flooding along the Mississippi — could somehow be related. And then you might find your thoughts wandering to, oh, global warming, and to the fact that climatologists have been predicting for years that as we flood the atmosphere with carbon we will also start both drying and flooding the planet, since warm air holds more water vapor than cold air.

It’s far smarter to repeat to yourself the comforting mantra that no single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change. There have been tornadoes before, and floods — that’s the important thing. Just be careful to make sure you don’t let yourself wonder why all these record-breaking events are happening in such proximity — that is, why there have been unprecedented megafloods in Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan in the past year. Why it’s just now that the Arctic has melted for the first time in thousands of years. No, better to focus on the immediate casualties, watch the videotape from the store cameras as the shelves are blown over. Look at the news anchorman standing in his waders in the rising river as the water approaches his chest.

Because if you asked yourself what it meant that the Amazon has just come through its second hundred-year drought in the past five years, or that the pine forests across the western part of this continent have been obliterated by a beetle in the past decade — well, you might have to ask other questions. Such as: Should President Obama really just have opened a huge swath of Wyoming to new coal mining? Should Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sign a permit this summer allowing a huge new pipeline to carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta? You might also have to ask yourself: Do we have a bigger problem than $4-a-gallon gasoline?

Better to join with the U.S. House of Representatives, which voted 240 to 184 this spring to defeat a resolution saying simply that “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” Propose your own physics; ignore physics altogether. Just don’t start asking yourself whether there might be some relation among last year’s failed grain harvest from the Russian heat wave, and Queensland’s failed grain harvest from its record flood, and France’s and Germany’s current drought-related crop failures, and the death of the winter wheat crop in Texas, and the inability of Midwestern farmers to get corn planted in their sodden fields. Surely the record food prices are just freak outliers, not signs of anything systemic.

It’s very important to stay calm. If you got upset about any of this, you might forget how important it is not to disrupt the record profits of our fossil fuel companies. If worst ever did come to worst, it’s reassuring to remember what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told the Environmental Protection Agency in a recent filing: that there’s no need to worry because “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.” I’m pretty sure that’s what residents are telling themselves in Joplin today.

Bill McKibben is founder of the global climate campaign 350.org and a distinguished scholar at Middlebury College in Vermont.

April 27 2011

18:38

Response to Criticism of Cooperation Between Business and Mainstream Environmentalism


Criticism of Cooperation Between Business and Mainstream Environmentalism is UnwarrentedSome radical environmentalists are harshly critical of the increasing levels of cooperation between environmental organizations and major corporations. These extremists believe that the only way we can address the climate change crisis is through a revolution which overthrows the entire capitalist system.

This revolutionary rhetoric was reiterated in an article published on Saturday, April 23, 2011, by Cory Morningstar in the Huttington News. In an article titled “1Sky Unveils the New 350.org: More $ — More Delusion,” Morningstar claims that corporate support for the major environmental organizations is part of a global conspiracy by the “elites” to hijack grassroots environmentalism.

Morningstar’s attack on environmental NGOs includes well respected organizations like Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and 350.org. Morningstar points to the April 6, 2011, announcement that 1Sky and 350.org have officially merged.

The Green Market (of which I am the founder) did not escape Morningstar’s conspiratorial musings. He rails against 350.org and its The US Chamber of Commerce Doesn’t Speak For Me campaign stating:

“350.org revealed its first order of business – that of business. In 2011, The Green Market website published an article titled 350.org and Business. The website promotes the 350 campaign to ask businesses to leave the US Chamber of Commerce in response to climate change; however, it neglected to critically analyze why such a campaign can only fail.”

The truth is the campaign has actually been a great success with some of the most widely recognized brands joining over one thousand businesses of all sizes in saying no to the US Chamber of Commerce and its anti-environmental agenda.

Morningstar has a different interpretation, in his view this “incrementalism dooms humanity to failure.” Although there is an urgent need to respond rapidly, an accelerated form of ‘incrementalism’ may be the most efficient method of implementing the most effective broad spectrum changes.

Morningstar continues:

“No matter how many businesses leave the Chamber, they will still be doing what they do…destroying the environment for the sake of profit…it will provide nothing of consequence to the solution set. It’s nothing less than delusion, if not a crime against humanity, that those who understand the science actually believe such campaigns are helpful beyond our psyches.”

Despite Morningstar’s contention, the 350.org campaign is helping to build momentum which encourages ever larger numbers of businesses to adopt serious sustainability initiatives. Although Morningstar may believe that the climate scientists are delusional, there is a certain logic to accepting the conclusions derived from experimentation over ideologically driven rants.

350.org supports regulation, an end to fossil fuel subsidies and greater taxation for the wealthy, but Morningstar manages to convince himself that the real agenda is “keeping the wealth and power in the hands of a few.” He goes on to say, “As long as the elites control the non-profit industrial complex we will never defeat the climate crisis.”

Morningstar even dismisses proposed US climate change legislation as “completely inadequate and focused on false solutions and commodification of Earth’s final remaining natural resources.” Although legislation is unlikely before 2012, assigning a value to the earth’s resources and attaching a price to pollutants like carbon is an efficient means of slowing anthropogenic climate change in the near term.

At its core, Morningstar’s tirade calls for a revolution against what he refers to as the “ruling elite” which apparently now includes mainstream environmentalism. As he explains in the article:

“…institutions such as 1Sky, are manufactured and funded to serve the system and create a false pretext of dissent. And as long as such organizations refuse to focus on and examine the fundamental relationship between green capitalist logic and ecological disaster, they simply serve as nails in the coffin of humanity and nothing more than brilliantly executed distractions that allow us to embrace the comfort of denial…1Sky and all of the other interconnected heavily funded organizations are little more than convenient messengers for the ruling classes who continue to excel in ensuring ‘all the ducks are in a row’. Nothing is left to chance.”

Although some would have us believe otherwise, the very system which created the ecological nightmare we are facing is also our best hope for the future. The rapid growth of the green economy offer the only viable solution, the revolution that Morningstar advocates is a nightmare within a nightmare.

Morningstar portrays 350.org’s founder Bill McKibben as having created “the world’s most heavily funded token movement tightly controlled by world’s most powerful ruling classes.”

According to Morningstar,

“If we truly want to save some resemblance of a livable planet for our children, we must confront and reject the non-profit industrial complex, who in reality, cannot and will not bite the hand which feeds them – the hand upon which they depend, in order to continue to exist.”

It is important to follow the actions of corporate and organizational interests closely as there are undeniably many who are working to subvert the process of greater transparency, responsibility and accountability. However, the growing relationship between business and the “non-profit industrial complex” as Morningstar calls them, drives the green economy and benefits the environment. It is nothing short of absurd to dismiss the business community’s pivotal role in carbon reduction.

Morningstar’s Marxist-Lenninist rants reduce the war against climate change to class conflict, but his revolutionary zeal is unproductive and does nothing to solve the dire crisis we are facing. We have seen this tired rhetoric before, and as we look back on the arc of history we see that anti-capitalist regimes are the polar opposite of a panacea.

If we are to make the kind of environmental changes we need to see in the time frames we have, we will have to use the mechanisms in place. Environmental organizations have a crucial role to play getting carbon below a safe threshold and the most expedient way of inducing this change is through the mechanism of capitalism.

_______________________________________________

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, enviro-politics and eco-economics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find Richard on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Enhanced by Zemanta

April 19 2011

22:22

Power Shift 2011 Round Up

I was sitting outside the DC Metropolitan Police Station last night at 11:30 pm when the last arrestee out of 21 for the day came out to cheers from the supportive crowd. The weekend of Power Shift 2011 ended with quite a bang, with the final day of the conference leading up to a massive day action to say no to big polluters.

I’ve been attending the Power Shift conference, in which 10,000 climate youth leaders descended onto Washington DC. It is always reaffirming to be around thousands of people that don’t think you’re some kind of nerd or radical hippie when you say you’re associated somehow with the environmentalist/climate change/clean energy/climate justice movement. There’s still such a stigma associated with climate change and environmentalism, especially with the right-wing denier machine pushing out tropes that we’re all communists wrapped in a blanket of radicalism vying to “kill the parents”.

It’s uplifting to remember at least once in a while there are thousands of people committed and passionate about working to establish a clean energy economy and promote meaningful climate legislation. And the climate justice movement isn’t just geared toward saving the planet, this movement also works toward helping to improve racial and social justice issues too.
<!--break-->
The beginning of the conference started with quite a bang as well, as conference organizers from the Energy Action Coalition, who were originally supposed to meet with White House aides to talk about issues surrounding clean energy and climate, got a bit of a surprise on Friday when President Obama unexpectedly showed up to the meeting. According to reports from several of the people in attendance, they took advantage of their precious 20 presidential minutes by presenting a lesson on clean energy, with particular emphasis on the definition of “clean”. They specifically wanted him to know that energies such as nuclear, clean coal, and offshore drilling should not be bargaining chips on the table, and that President Obama needs to work harder to stand up to fossil fuel industries and implement a true green energy economy.

Yet the President had his message to share as well. If people really want clean energy and climate legislation, then the people needed to put more pressure on the government. It’s no lie that the dirty energy industries have more money, lobbyists, and political clout surrounding the legislators in DC. If the climate movement wants to make progress, they need to step it up and make their voices louder than the deafening roar of corporate money that currently rules the government.

Speakers at Friday and Saturday night’s plenary sessions echoed that sentiment, including Van Jones, who encouraged the crowd to stick together and move without Congress, as they seem to be “stuck on stupid here in DC.”
   
“We have more computing power in a laptop than the US government had when they put a man on the moon,” Jones said.

The next night, Bill McKibben sang a similar tune when he took the stage to say that, “DC is as dirty as Beijing, except instead of coal smoke polluting the air it’s money” and that “we’re not going to wait for the politicians, we’re going to create the future ourselves.”

The multitude of trainings, workshops, and impromptu protests led up to one big day of action Monday morning on the White House lawn. Yesterday, conference-goers protested against major polluters who stand in the way of a better, more equitable future filled with clean air, water, and jobs. From the White House they marched to the Chamber of Commerce across the street down to BP headquarters a few blocks away. Continuing the momentum of the day, Rising Tide North America organized a sit-in in which activists occupied the Department of the Interior for several hours with as many people as could fit in the lobby in order to protest offshore oil drilling, MTR coal mining and tar sands extraction, which in the end resulted in 21 being arrested and carted off to jail.

As the conference closes, my hope is that the newly trained young leaders will take the lessons home with them and put them to good, pragmatic use. However, the movement must realize that we’re not going to win with just a bunch of substance-less petitions and vigils (why we protest climate change by burning things I will never understand).

We need assertive (non-violent) action that speaks louder than the special interests that normally drown out the voices trying to reach our government. We need to face that the fact that polluters outnumber us both in money and lobbyists, and they work in a much more concerted, strategic manner that has a proven track record of not backing down. If we’re serious about reaching our goals, we can’t play it safe and let bureaucracy stand in the way. It’s one thing to show up to a protest in the morning, it’s another step to build community locally and fight in true grassroots style. And not the kind of grass that gets uprooted the second someone tramples over it.

In Copenhagen at the COP15 climate summit, people expected everything to get fixed within the two weeks of the conference. It didn’t. People spent time putting so much pressure on the negotiations that they almost forgot that there would still be work to do after the talks ended. Just like after the Copenhagen climate talks, we can’t expect to go home and see everything magically fixed.

If anything, the bulk of the fight is yet to come, especially since polluters have successfully stalled real action to date. Science is constantly under siege, fossil fuel giants are expanding their territory, the political climate has practically come to a stand still, and the EPA is under constant attack. That’s not to say there isn’t time to still turn it around, but if climate youth leaders want to pave the way for the future they seek, they are going to have to give it more than the “good ole college try.”

April 16 2011

00:32

Power Shift 2011- Youth Leaders Flock to DC

This weekend in Washington DC, thousands will descend upon the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for Power Shift 2011. A veritable boot camp of movement building, it will bring together the leaders of the so-called “youth” movement to converge on finding solutions to effectively fight climate change, ensure a clean energy future, and finally displace the entrenched dirty energy industries.

The jam-packed agenda includes keynote addresses from Al Gore, Bill McKibben, and EPA administrator Lisa Jackson along with a plethora of workshops, meetings, and trainings planned from morning until night each day of the conference, culminating in a day of action on Monday the 18th in which attendees will take direct action against major polluters and also participate in citizen visits to Congressional offices.

With climate threats posed by hydrofracking and unconventional gas production booming across the US, the Canadian tar sands  and dangerous proposed pipelines, and the coal and oil industries stubbornly fighting to keep their dirty energy subsidies, we definitely have our work cut out for us.
<!--break-->
Yet something has always bothered me about the “youth” label so frequently applied to this movement by the media. I remember the first time I heard it when I was working with several groups at the COP15 summit in Copenhagen, and a few friends were telling me about the youth delegations attending the conference. I thought, what a smart and provocative idea to bring a bunch of little kids and tweens along to show exactly whose futures we are sacrificing if we do not reach any meaningful, science-based and binding agreements. However, I was dismayed to learn that the “youth” delegation was actually comprised of mostly 20-somethings and college students - in other words, people from my generation. Suddenly I felt like I was sitting back at the kiddie table at Thanksgiving.

While it is true a few of my generation are sparking a new subset of psychological rules in life milestones, branding us as “youth” diminishes the importance of our goals and undercuts the leverage we need to get our message across in the struggle to enact change from all sides of this momentous challenge. The average age of a member of the 112th Congress is approximately 57 years, leaving a minimum 25-year age gap. While the age-old adage of “respect your elders” is a fine social construct, sometimes it is frustrating when your elders are swayed more by what’s being placed in their pockets and campaign coffers instead of the science-based messages being placed in front of them.

There are many people in my age range working to solve climate change and combat dirty energy in diverse and powerful ways. They work as journalists, offering smart and insightful views of policy and science. They work in urban sustainability, attempting to make our cities more livable with less impact and waste. They work locally in communities across the globe enabling people to become more resilient against future climate impacts. They work to fight for a better future through acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. They receive distinguished titles and work in Federal service. While pragmatism is a key priority, we “less-aged” folks also leave room to envision a more ideal, fairer world.

Today in an article on Power Shift by the Washington Post, some view these demands for climate justice and a clean energy future as “unrealistic” just based on the political hurdles that would need to be surpassed to reach those goals. The first step is not accepting the deal currently on the table if it’s not going to do anything that’s going to solve the problem. President Obama has disappointed many in the last few years with his continual kowtowing to oil and gas industries. This year at Power Shift, the organizers are not giving him any praise this time around. Co-director of Power Shift 2011, Courtney Hight was quoted as saying,

“We want to make sure the president is seeing that we’re done with this. We need them to draw a line in the sand. We need him to stand up to the polluters.”

We want our leaders to understand that we are not just some kids with paint brushes working on some elaborate art project and aimlessly waving signs and banners in the air. It seems like the “youth” branding leaves us with this connotation that the “real adults” are the ones actually equipped to make the important decisions. If anything, our generation’s voice is just as - if not more - important, since it is our future that is being decided (or sentenced, depending on how you look at it).

We have daunting obstacles in front of us, including decision-makers who don’t even believe in the science of climate change or feel it’s not important enough to act on. Then there are those who have the mentality that they won’t be around to see the fallout of our current decisions, so why bother. Well, we “youth” don’t want to be handed an ecologically devastated planet when we grow older - we want to fix it now.

Our generation will not be underestimated. Our abilities will not be discounted. And we definitely will not sit quietly and let our potential futures and the planet get flushed down the drain just to enable a comfortable joy ride for the elders.

I fought hard to graduate from the kiddie table at Thanksgiving as I grew older, and my peers and I will fight just as hard to not be placed at the kiddie negotiating table.

Follow me at the conference this weekend on Twitter @Laurel350.

March 04 2011

23:54

Tim DeChristopher stands tall despite guilty verdict

“Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.” Henry David Thoreau on Civil Disobedience

A collective gasp was heard late afternoon yesterday as Tim DeChristopher was found guilty after only 5 hours of jury deliberation. Officially charged with one count of False Statement and one count of violating the Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act, suddenly everyone was left thinking- did they convict the real criminal?

Much of the last two days of trial had focused on DeChristopher's intent when bidding for BLM land leases. Prosecutor John Hubert argued that DeChristopher intentionally "disrupted, derailed, and sabotaged" the auction. However, defense attorney Ron Yengich painted a different picture:

"He wanted to raise a red flag," he said. "He wanted to make a statement. That’s what he wanted to do. His desire was not to thwart the auction. ... He wanted people to think about the consequences that the auction was bringing to bear on other people. But it was never his intention to harm anyone."

Maybe if Tim had run into the auction using his paddle to feverishly whack participants to prevent them from bidding, then that could be seen harmful.

But let’s put this into context:

<!--break-->Did Tim cause the deaths of 29 people in a mining accident fueled by poor practices and improper equipment maintenance?

Did Tim cause the deaths of 11 people when an offshore oil rig exploded because of numerous safety violations and regulatory oversights causing millions of barrels of oil to spew into the Gulf for months and effectively decimate local economies and ecosystems?

Or how about the other oil spill last summer that leaked over 800,000 gallons into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, that remains contaminated over 6 months later?

Did he contaminate acres of Amazon rainforest and years later refuse to clean it up and pay the fines?

Or did he cause a toxic gas leak at a pesticide plant that not only killed 20,000 people but continues to contaminate the water and cripplingly sicken citizens over 25 years after the original event?

No, in fact Tim only picked up a paddle. And now he’s the one facing prison. The worst any of the above companies suffered was a blow to their images.

Be it what it may, this trial has catalyzed the climate movement once again, serving as a call for civil disobedience to stand up to those who would rather have us submit in fear. Ultimately, Tim decided to stand up to injustice when he saw it and is now calling to others to do the same. From his speech outside the courthouse,

"Everything that went on inside that building tried to convince me that I was alone, and that I was weak. They tried to convince me that I was like a little finger, out there on my own, that can easily be broken. And all of you out here were the reminder, for all of us, that I was... connected to a hand, with many fingers, that could unite as one fist. And that fist could not be broken by the power in there... All those authorities in there wanted me think like a finger. But our children are calling to us, to think like a fist."

Likewise, the cries of heroism have reverberated around the blogosphere and beyond. Bill McKibben penned in his piece on Grist.org,

“If the feds think this prosecution/persecution will deter us from working for a livable planet, they couldn't be more wrong. Tim was brave and alone. We will be brave in quantity.”

Just as Thoreau sat in jail to protest injustices of his day, Tim will now do the same, and bring a spotlight on what we must stand for. The stakes for the planet are high; therefore the stakes for the risks we must take to save it will be high too.

March 02 2011

13:05

December 31 2010

15:27

How to Avoid Fracking and Oil Spills in the New Year


Environmentalists are looking for better news on 2011

The Weekly Mulch from the Media Consortium
by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger
(reposted with permission)

2010 was a disappointing year for environmentalists.

This was the year Congress was supposed to pass climate change legislation, but each and every time Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seemed on the verge of pushing the bill forward, the effort fell short. In April, off the coast of Louisiana, the Deepwater Horizon explosion led to one of the worst environmental disasters in the country’s history, and in the aftermath, neither President Barack Obama nor Congress has pushed for the sort of strong regulations that would rein in the oil industry and the risk it poses to coastal ecosystems.

Meanwhile, a newly invigorated natural gas industry has been plowing forward with a controversial drilling technique called hydrofracking. Although the Environmental Protection Agency has committed to studying the environmental impacts of the practice, it’s unclear at this point how much leeway the industry will be given to use techniques that have contaminated water and air across the country. Author and environmental activist Bill McKibben had trouble convincing the president to take the small symbolic act of reinstalling a solar panel on the White House roof. And in November, the country elected a group of lawmakers who are skeptical that climate change even exists.

Hope springs eternal

But the news was not all bad, as Change.org’s Jess Leber reports. In California, green-minded voters defeated a proposition that would have rolled back the state’s ambitious climate law. Coal-fired power plants are closing in states like Oregon and Colorado, and mountaintop removal coal mining is losing its funding. And cities like New York, Washington D.C., Denver and Minneapolis made it easier for their inhabitants to use bikes as a primary mode of transportation.

“All over the world, activists are fighting in their states, towns and cities to do right by the environment,” Leber writes. “They are also moving to pressure the corporate world. So while, given the results of Election Day in the U.S., progress in Congress will be an uphill battle, I’m confident there will be even more victories to report this time next year.”

A year can be a long time. Consider, for instance, Steph Larsen’s reflections on her farm’s first year. “I feel like I’ve lived a decade in the last 12 months,” Larsen writes in Grist. Last year, her pasture did not exist, and the farm buildings on her land had sat unused for years. But in the past 12 months, she’s grown cherries and tomatoes and squash, kept chickens and hunted for their eggs, and raised livestock that later became her dinner.

Larsen’s goals for her farm are modest: “to grow food for her household and community.” It can be hard sometimes to see how individual choices like hers can make a difference while global leaders cannot agree on how to reduce carbon emissions and industry continues to exploit and pollute the environment. But as Winslow Myers, the author of Living Beyond War, writes at Truthout, “the cause-and-effect relationship between what I do personally in my daily life and those planet-wide challenges has become infinitely clearer” over the past 50 years:

“Now we can see how the two are connected – between my diet and the effect of industrial agriculture on the land, between my energy consumption and global climate change, between the chemicals in my laundry detergent and the health of the oceans – and between my political commitments and the world-destroying weapons built with my tax dollars….the reality is that I am so deeply connected to the whole entity that I am responsible for it, answerable to it.”

Local leaders step into the breach

It’s true that individual decisions to turn down the heat, or eat local food, or bike instead of drive cannot turn back global warming. But in aggregate, they do make an impact. And although nationally and internationally, politicians are finding it difficult to create strong policies on climate change, that would reduce emissions, not all lawmakers are avoiding the issues. Franke James’ visual essay on climate change at Yes! Magazine puts it like this: “Don’t be fooled by the global leaders loafing. Local leaders and cities are making plans to adapt to climate change (because it’s affecting them NOW!) ”

And ultimately, these sorts of decisions on local and individual levels do send a signal to leaders that their constituents care about keeping the planet healthy, care about preserving our environmental resources. To that end, check out these ideas for individual action from the staff and readers of Mother Jones.

And next year? Leaders like Bill McKibben are working to create a global movement around climate change, a people-driven movement that will convince legislators and negotiators that it is incumbent upon them to act. Look for them to start making lots of noise in 2011.

——————

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Image credit:mstami, courtesy Flickr

October 19 2010

18:39
Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.

Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl