A feed from EcoWatch, one of the US’s leading environmental news sites at the forefront of uniting all shades of green to ensure the health and longevity of our planet.
22 March 2017.
Why You Should Add Super Healthy, High Protein Skyr to Your Diet –
By Rachael Link
Skyr is a cultured Icelandic dairy product that's becoming popular worldwide.
With a high protein content and a wide range of vitamins and minerals, skyr is generally recognized as a nutritious addition to the diet.
It's commonly enjoyed as a high-protein breakfast, healthy dessert or sweet snack between meals.
This article takes a deeper look at skyr, examining what it is and why it's healthy.
What Is Skyr?
Skyr has been a staple food in Iceland for over a thousand years.
It closely resembles yogurt , with a similar taste and slightly thicker texture.
Popular brands include:
- Icelandic Provisions
- KEA Skyr
Skyr is made from skim milk , which has had its cream removed. The milk is then warmed and live cultures of bacteria are added.
Once the product has thickened, it is strained to remove the whey .
Skyr has become increasingly popular in recent years and can now be found in many grocery stores around the world.
Skyr is a popular Icelandic dairy product. It's made by adding bacteria cultures to skim milk and then straining it to remove the whey.
Skyr is Rich in Important Nutrients
Skyr packs an impressive set of nutrients.
It's low in calories , fat and carbs, yet high in protein, vitamins and minerals.
- Calories: 110
- Protein: 19 grams
- Carbs: 7 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Phosphorus: 25.5 percent of the RDI
- Calcium: 20 percent of the RDI
- Riboflavin: 19 percent of the RDI
- Vitamin B-12: 17 percent of the RDI
- Potassium: 5 percent of the RDI
Skyr is a naturally fat-free product, although sometimes cream is added during processing, which can increase its fat content.
It also contains more protein than many other types of dairy, with about 11 grams of protein per 3.6 ounces (100 grams) ( 1 ).
Skyr is low in calories but high in protein and it also contains important vitamins and minerals.
Its High Protein Content Keeps You Full
One of the biggest benefits of skyr is its protein content .
Producing skyr requires three to four times as much milk as making yogurt, resulting in a more nutrient-dense, high-protein product.
Protein can also be beneficial for weight management, given that it increases fullness and decreases hunger. In fact, eating high-protein dairy foods like yogurt has been shown to help prevent weight gain and obesity ( 8 ).
One study looked at how high-protein snacks like yogurt affected appetite, compared to unhealthy snacks like chocolate and crackers.
Not only did eating yogurt lead to a decrease in appetite, but it also led to eating 100 fewer calories later in the day ( 9 ).
Another study compared the effects of low-, moderate- and high-protein yogurts on hunger and appetite. It found that eating high-protein yogurt led to reduced hunger, enhanced fullness and a delay in subsequent eating later in the day ( 10 ).
Skyr is rich in protein, which may benefit weight loss by improving satiety and decreasing appetite.
It Can Protect Against Osteoporosis
Skyr is high in calcium, an essential mineral in the diet.
About 99 percent of the calcium in your body is found in your bones and teeth.
While collagen forms the main structure of your bones, a combination of calcium and phosphate is what makes them strong and dense.
As you age, your bones begin to lose some of that density, leading to porous bones and a condition known as osteoporosis ( 14 ).
Research shows that increasing your calcium intake can protect against bone loss.
In fact, a three-year study in women showed that eating more calcium from dairy foods helped preserve bone density ( 15 ).
Another study in elderly women showed that supplementing with calcium in the long term reversed age-related bone loss ( 16 ).
Calcium can be found in a variety of foods, but just one serving of skyr can provide 20% of the recommended daily amount.
Skyr is rich in calcium, an essential mineral that can help protect against bone loss and osteoporosis.
It May Promote Heart Health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 31% of all deaths ( 17 ).
Fortunately, evidence shows that dairy products like skyr may be linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.
One 24-year Japanese study found that for every 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of dairy consumed, there was a 14% reduction in deaths from heart disease ( 21 ).
Another study showed that dairy products can help lower blood pressure . It found that three servings of dairy per day caused a significant decrease in systolic blood pressure in men with high blood pressure ( 22 ).
Dairy products like skyr have been associated with lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease.
It Supports Blood Sugar Control
Skyr is high in protein but low in carbs , so it could help control your blood sugar.
When you eat, your body breaks carbs down into glucose. A hormone called insulin is then responsible for transporting the glucose into your cells to be used as energy.
However, when you eat too many carbs, this process doesn't work as efficiently and can lead to high blood sugar levels.
One 16-week study compared high-protein and normal-protein diets. The researchers found that replacing carbs with protein significantly improved blood sugar control ( 24 ).
Skyr is high in protein and low in carbs. This combination can help improve blood sugar control.
Skyr May Not Be for Everyone
Certain people may not benefit from adding skyr to their diet.
Because skyr is made from milk, if you are allergic to casein or whey — the two proteins found in milk — you should avoid skyr.
For these individuals, skyr and other milk-based products can trigger an allergic reaction with symptoms ranging from bloating and diarrhea to anaphylaxis ( 25 ).
If you have lactose intolerance , figuring out whether you're able to tolerate skyr may be a question of trial and error.
Lactose is a type of sugar found in milk. It's broken down by an enzyme called lactase.
Those with lactose intolerance lack this enzyme, which can lead to stomach pain and other digestive side effects after eating products containing lactose ( 26 ).
Fortunately for these individuals, the process of straining skyr removes about 90% of its lactose content, so many people with lactose intolerance can tolerate moderate amounts of skyr.
However, it's best to try a small amount first to make sure you don't experience any negative symptoms.
Skyr contains milk, so it may cause adverse effects in those with lactose intolerance and milk allergies.
How to Enjoy Skyr
Traditional skyr is served mixed with a few tablespoons of milk and some sugar, although eating it plain is a healthier choice.
Additionally, it's often paired with fruit or jam to add a bit of sweetness for a dessert.
Furthermore, skyr is incorporated into a variety of recipes, from flatbreads to frittatas to puddings and more.
A few other ways to enjoy skyr include:
Skyr is traditionally eaten mixed with milk and sugar, but it can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.
The Bottom Line
Skyr is rich in many nutrients that could benefit your health.
It may also promote bone and heart health, weight loss, help regulate blood sugar and provide a good amount of protein with minimal amounts of carbs and fat.
Overall, skyr is a nutritious food that can be a healthy addition to most diets.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition .
22 March 2017.
From Steel City to Sun City: Colorado Town Turns to Clean Energy –
By Laura A. Shepard
Working-class homeowners in Pueblo, Colorado have struggled to keep up with their sky-high electric bills. Locals said rampant shutoffs have plunged entire city blocks into darkness and sent power-starved families to motels and homeless shelters. Senior citizens have given up television and unscrewed refrigerator lights in an attempt to save money. And local businesses have grappled with electric bills as high as their rents.
Frustrated by bloated power bills and frequent shutoffs, citizens of Pueblo have lobbied the city council to abandon natural gas and switch to more affordable renewable energy .
By organizing concerned citizens and packing town halls, Pueblo's Energy Future managed to push the city council to pass a resolution committing to generate 100 percent of the city's power from renewables by 2035. Based on the cost of electricity from utility-scale wind farms in the region, ratepayers could save money by switching to clean energy.
"When people lose their electricity, they lose their houses," said Anne Stattelman, director of Posada , an organization providing housing to homeless families in Pueblo County. Pueblo is one of Colorado's poorest cities but has one of the highest electricity rates in the state, she said.
Power costs are higher in Pueblo than elsewhere in Colorado. Pueblo's Energy Future
It's often taken for granted, but nearly every facet of modern life depends on electricity. When the power goes off, refrigerators full of food go to waste. Children cannot take hot showers or do their homework. Parents have to choose between dinner, medicine or keeping the lights on.
Stattelman recalled one woman, who, after losing power, came to a shelter with a child in need of 24-hour care. The local utility, Black Hills Energy, charged a $400 reconnection fee.
Black Hills acquired the region's previous utility company in 2008 and received authorization for a new $72 million gas-fired power plant. The company raised rates to cover the costs and installed smart meters in low-income neighborhoods, a move that makes it easier to shut off power remotely. In 2015, the utility disconnected more than 6,000 households in Pueblo, a city of roughly 43,000 households .
"Most people that live here, have lived here for a while and they see how the rate hike has affected them," said Rebecca Vigil, the community coordinator for Pueblo's Energy Future, an organization dedicated to advancing clean energy in Pueblo.
"I've seen how this has affected my city," Vigil said. "For the past six to eight years, there's been a definite blight."
National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners
Now, citizens are urging the city to exit its agreement with Black Hills Energy in 2020. They want to form a municipal electric utility, putting the city in charge of power generation. A municipal utility can purchase electricity on the open market or generate its own. Pueblo would not be required to purchase the natural gas plant from Black Hills Energy.
"We want the community to come together and feel comfortable saying what they want and expect from their utility," Vigil said. "They want a secure, clean, affordable and just energy future for Pueblo."
"Renewables are consistent. They don't have the same volatility, so people can plan," said Stattelman, who wants the city to move to renewable power, both to lower bills and create jobs.
Pueblo, known to locals as the "Pittsburgh of the West," has lost thousands of steel jobs in recent decades. Now Vestas , one of the largest wind turbine manufacturers in the country, operates a plant in Pueblo that employs 600 people. Rooftop solar installations could add even more jobs while taking advantage the region's consistently sunny weather—Colorado enjoys more sunshine than all but a few states.
"We don't want to be known as steel city," Stattelman said, "We want to be sun city."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media .
22 March 2017.
Hundreds Urge Sunshine State to Ban Fracking, Support Solar –
"Banning fracking in Florida is one of the best things we can do to protect our treasured waterways, public health and economy," said State Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater). "I stand with the 90 cities and counties in Florida that have passed ordinances or resolutions calling on us, the State Legislature, to pass this important legislation."
Nationwide opposition to hydraulic fracturing has escalated dramatically over the past year as public awareness of its impacts grows.
"The time has finally come to end this dangerous practice," said State Sen. Gary Farmer (D-Ft. Lauderdale). "This bill represents the now bipartisan recognition that Florida's unique geological makeup leaves our water supply particularly vulnerable and must be protected."
The gathering follows introduction of a bicameral, bipartisan fracking ban bill in the Florida Legislature with widespread support. Sen. Dana Young (R-Tampa), present at the event, introduced the bill into the Senate. Representative Mike Miller (R-Orlando) introduced the House ban bill on the same day. Both ban bills have received overwhelming bipartisan support, garnering dozens of cosponsors from around the state.
"The overwhelming support for a fracking ban doesn't stop here in Tallahassee; communities across the state have passed 90 local measures opposing the practice. Floridians have made it clear: we do not want fracking here," said Michelle Allen, Florida organizer with Food & Water Watch. "Just last week, the historically pro-energy, Republican Governor of Maryland came out in support of a fracking ban. We know now that people coming together can beat out
interests and win for our environment and communities, so we're looking to our legislators to listen to the will of the people in Florida and ban fracking now."
Students from Cornerstone Learning Community in Tallahassee attended in support of the legislation as well.
"We, as the future generation, understand how important it is to protect our water, animals and environment from the dangers of fracking," said Claire Encinosa, a 5th grader speaking on behalf of her class at the Cornerstone Learning Community . "Fracking will not just pollute our world but also make us sick , cause birth defects and even cancer. We want the Florida Legislature to ban fracking for the future."
Advocates also called for strong, common-sense implementation of Amendment 4, the pro-solar initiative 73 percent of voters passed last August, which makes it easier for businesses to implement solar energy .
"With the overwhelming support of Amendment 4, the doors are wide open for solar power in the Sunshine State," said Clifford Mitchem, Independent Energy Adviser for CREW , a member-owned solar cooperative. "It's now up to our legislators to help us walk through the door."
After this year's toxic algae outbreaks , just as many are calling for the preservation and protection of our precious water resources.
"Business as usual will drain our aquifers and poison what's left," said Burt Eno, president of Rainbow River Conservation . "We must balance our water permits with monitoring to ensure users don't take too much water and we need to better manage fertilizer, industrial and stormwater runoff to avoid polluting our waters."
Groups involved today, included ReThink Energy Florida , Food & Water Watch , Sierra Club , Environment Florida , Floridians Against Fracking , Physicians for Social Responsibility , Organize Florida and Florida Conservation Voters . They cited more than 900 health studies for why fracking has no place in the Sunshine State.
"Floridians continue to call on their elected officials to pass legislation banning fracking, promoting renewable energy and protecting our vital clean water supplies," said Kim Ross, president of ReThink Energy Florida.
"Floridians continue to call on their elected officials to pass legislation banning fracking, promoting renewable energy and protecting our vital clean water supplies," said Kim Ross, president of ReThink Energy Florida. "From the Keys, to Tampa, Jacksonville and Gainesville—hundreds of Floridians are here to inspire our leaders to reclaim Florida's future, environment, and health."
22 March 2017.
25 Cities Now Committed to 100% Renewables –
Madison, Wisconsin and Abita Springs, Louisiana are transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy following respective city council votes on Tuesday.
Madison and Abita Springs are the first cities in Wisconsin and Louisiana to make this commitment. They join 23 other cities across the United States—from large ones like San Diego, California and Salt Lake City, Utah to smaller ones like Georgetown, Texas and Greensburg, Kansas—that have declared similar goals.
Madison is the biggest city in the Midwest to establish 100 percent renewable energy and net-zero carbon emissions. The Madison Common Council unanimously approved a resolution to allocate $250,000 to develop a plan by January 18, 2018 that includes target dates for reaching these goals, interim milestones, budget estimates and estimated financial impacts.
Madison Common Council Alder Zach Wood said that his city is determined to "lead the way in moving beyond fossil fuels that threaten our health and environment."
After a unanimous vote, Abita Springs is aiming to derive 100 percent of the town's electricity from renewable energy sources by December 31, 2030.
The Sierra Club noted that Tuesday's votes from the politically polar municipalities reflect the growing bipartisan support for alternative energy development. To illustrate, during the November election, more than 70 percent of Madison voters supported Hillary Clinton versus the 75 percent of voters in St. Tammany Parish, where Abita Springs is located, who supported Donald Trump .But as Abita Springs' Republican mayor Greg Lemons said, "Transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy is a practical decision we're making for our environment, our economy and for what our constituents want in Abita Springs."
"Politics has nothing to do with it for me. Clean energy just makes good economic sense," Lemons added.
LeAnn Pinniger Magee, chair of Abita Committee for Energy Sustainability, had similar remarks.
"In a state dominated by oil interests, Abita Springs is a unique community that can be a leader on the path to renewable energy," she said. "Our town already boasts the solar-powered Abita Brewery and we can see first-hand how clean energy benefits our businesses and our entire community. By transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy, we will save money on our utility bills and protect our legendary water and clean air in the process."
Last year's Gallup poll indicated for the first time that a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents prefer an alternative energy strategy. Fifty-one percent of Republicans favor alternative energy, up from the previous high of 46 percent in 2011.
"Whether you're Republican or a Democrat, from a liberal college city or a rural Louisiana town, clean energy is putting America back to work and benefiting communities across the country," Jodie Van Horn, director of the Sierra Club's Ready for 100 campaign, said. "That's why Madison, Wisconsin and Abita Springs, Louisiana, today join the ranks of 23 other cities and towns across the United States that are going all-in on clean, renewable energy."
Van Horn noted that local leaders and governments will be increasingly tasked to curb President Trump's pro-fossil fuel policies and gutting of environmental regulations.
"As the Trump Administration turns its back on clean air and clean water, cities and local leaders will continue to step up to lead the transition towards healthy communities and a more vibrant economy powered by renewable energy," she said.
The Solutions Project , which aims to make clean energy accessible and affordable for all, is advocating for towns, cities, states and even the whole country to convert its energy infrastructure to renewables.
The Solutions Project team published a study and roadmap that illustrates how each U.S. state can replace fossil fuels by tapping into the renewable resources they have available, such as wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, as well as small amounts of tidal and wave power.
The authors found that converting the nation's energy infrastructure into renewables is ideal because it helps fight climate change, saves lives by eliminating air pollution, creates jobs in the rapidly booming renewable energy sector and also stabilizes energy prices.
22 March 2017.
How Fast Fashion Is Killing Rivers Worldwide –
By Kathleen Webber
In the opening scene of the new documentary RiverBlue , deep magenta wastewater spills into a river in China as the voice of fashion designer and activist Orsola de Castro can be heard saying "there is a joke in China that you can tell the 'it' color of the season by looking at the color of the rivers."
In China, the factory of the world, it is estimated that 70 percent of the rivers and lakes are contaminated by the 2.5 billion gallons of wastewater produced by the textile industry. This sobering film is being screened worldwide this year, which premiered March 21 to a sold out crowd at the U.S. at the 25th Annual Environmental Film Festival in Washington, DC. The film will be featured at the Cleveland International Film Fest April 3-5 and at many other festivals throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
The film examines the destruction of rivers in Asia caused by the largely unregulated textile industry. It also connects today's consumer appetite for
as a cause of this environmental degradation and explores how manufacturing innovation could help solve this global problem.
Co-directed by award-winning documentarians David McIlvride and Roger Williams and produced by Lisa Mazzotta, RiverBlue: Can Fashion Save the Planet was almost three years in the making and follows internationally celebrated river conservationist, Mark Angelo, as he paddles the rivers devastated by a toxic brew of chemical waste from the denim and leather industries. Angelo explained that these waterways in China, India and Bangladesh are devoid of life even as local communities rely on these rivers for drinking and bathing. The water in these rivers has become a public health crisis with a high incidence of cancer and gastric and skin issues afflicting those who work in the industry or live nearby.
Mark Angelo paddles a river devastated by a toxic brew of chemical waste from the denim and leather industries. RiverBlue
One river the film looks at is the Buriganga in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a city of 50 million, home to a proliferation of textile mills and leather tanneries. This river has become one of the most polluted in the world. The tanneries which supply hides to fashion accessory industries use chemicals that can disrupt the hormonal and nervous systems to those who handle them. In the film, young children are seen working with skins and experts have said this has resulted in long term health problems.
One day while filming there, McIlvride knew what the work they doing was most urgent when they met a local journalist who said to him, "don't you see you are killing us over here."
In Kanpur, India alone there are more than 400 tanneries dumping toxic chromium into the water supply which subsequently turns up in cow's milk and agriculture products.
"We are committing hydrocide," said Sunita Narain, director general of Center for Science and the Environment in India . "We are deliberately murdering our rivers."
The question the film poses to viewers: Are brand-name clothing corporations disregarding the environment in their zeal to make their clothes cheaper and cheaper and what role does the consumer play?
" Low cost clothing has a high cost attached to it, one to the environment and public health," explained Angelo.
The impetus for the film came from a photo McIlvride found online. He and Williams, producer and director of photography, wanted to do a film on rivers. McIlvride found, on Google Images, a photo taken by NASA of China's Pearl River with a dark blue streak of pollution running through it.
"It was the area of China where most of the blue jeans are manufactured," he explained. "I thought everyone wears jeans. We could bring this problem to the world stage."
The team thought if these rivers are being destroyed, what is the human impact? The film drills down to look at how jeans are made, specifically distressed jeans that are so popular now and how the chemicals used in the distressing process have been especially detrimental to workers, rivers and surrounding communities.
This decline has not happened overnight but rather over decades. For the denim industry, it started after the signing of the much talked about North American Free Trade Agreement. From the 1960s to the 1990s, El Paso Texas was the blue jeans capital of the world producing 2 million pair of jeans a week. The North American Free Trade Agreement allowed brands to find cheaper labor outside of the U.S., initially denim manufacturers left for Mexico and subsequently to China, Indonesia and Bangladesh where wages were low and environmental regulations weak.
As prices for denim jeans plummeted and consumers bought more of them, it was the waterways that paid the price. Today, the average American buys four pairs of jeans a year. In Europe they buy 1.5 jeans a year. Now in China's Xintang province (where the movie's polluted river photo came from) 300 million pair of jeans are made a year. Consider that one pair of jeans uses 920 gallons of water and many mills produce without water treatment plants.
The solution the film's producers unveil is two-fold: through brand and mill innovation and consumer education and change.
McIlvride was determined to find brands making jeans without environmental damage. He located the father of distressed jeans: Francoise Girbaud who introduced the eponymous stone washed jean decades ago.
"It took 40 years before we realized what we made and what we did was wrong," said Girbaud in the film.
In LA now, the designer was trying to re-establish himself as manufacturer of good jeans when McIlvride found him.
"He led us to the Spanish company Jeanologia," Mcllvride said, "where they distress jeans by engraving images on the fabrics with lasers (light and air) eliminating water without increasing the cost."
While filming the movie, denim manufacturers barred the filmmakers from shooting inside their facilities. It was not until they edited the film, that an innovative, Milan-based brand allowed them access. Italdenim has put money into water treatment at their mill and created a dye fixant made with chitosan (derived from the exoskeleton of crabs), a substance that is not dangerous for laborers to touch and saves money by allowing reuse of the wastewater.
"Going forward, the leaders of the fashion industry and other industries will have to be much more aggressive in cleaning up and make sure they are not making money off environmental destruction," said former Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo, one of the experts interviewed in the film.
Angelo agreed: "I think all corporations have to be accountable for their environmental practices. No one has the right to damage or destroy a river. More within the textile sector have to commit to a fashion industry without pollution. And, the consumer has the power but has to seek out clothing made in an environmentally friendly manner. That would go a long way to improve things."
McIlvride hopes the movie will be an agent of change and thinks teens and college students, who buy the most fast fashion, are the ones who can make the most change.
"They are the ones who should know about this and try to cut back on their consumption. If they see the impact of these retailers, I think they would be receptive to change because they are socially conscious," he said. "We want this to have an impact on the consumer level. We want consumers to ask themselves, 'do you really need to buy more clothes.' Consumerism is the problem."
We are hoping we are taking the same route that the organic food movement took. When consumers learn more they will make different choices.
Kathleen Webber is a journalist who has covered fashion for more than 20 years.
The U.S. Senate used the Congressional Review Act Tuesday to strip away regulatory safeguards implemented by the Obama administration in 2016 to protect wolves, bears and other predators on national wildlife refuges in Alaska. In a strict, party-line vote, Senate Republicans approved today's measure, which will allow the unsportsmanlike killing of wolves and their pups in their dens and the gunning down of bears at bait stations.
"This isn't hunting—it's slaughter," said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity . "Killing wolves and bears in this cruel, unsportsmanlike fashion is outrageous, especially in national wildlife refuges that belong to all Americans. Repealing these protections also undermines the critical role predators play in healthy ecosystems."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized regulations in August 2016 that protected predators from new predator-control tactics approved by Alaska's Board of Game. Alaska's predator-control activities are intended solely to artificially inflate prey populations, such as moose, for human hunting. These tactics include killing black bear cubs or mothers with cubs at den sites; killing brown bears over bait; trapping and killing brown and black bears with steel-jaw leghold traps or wire snares; killing wolves and coyotes during denning season; and killing brown and black bears from aircraft.
The House of Representatives
passed Joint Resolution 69
to overturn the rule using the authority under the Congressional Review Act, in a highly partisan vote on Feb. 16. With the Senate's approval of the Resolution, the measure now goes to
for his signature.
"Senate Republicans have shown just how mean-spirited and petty they are with today's vote," Hartl said. "Passing a law to allow baby bears to be killed in their dens should be beneath the dignity of the Senate, but apparently it's not."
Los Angeles-based law firm Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman filed lawsuits last week on behalf of 136 plaintiffs from across the country who allege that exposure to Monsanto's glyphosate-based weedkiller Roundup caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Three bundled complaints were filed last week in St. Louis County Circuit Court.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. at a press conference with Baum Hedlund clients outside of the courthouse in Fresno, California in January. Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman
"We're bringing the lawsuit to address the injuries that have been caused by Roundup and glyphosate to mainly farmers and farm workers, but we think that consumers and home gardeners have also been affected,"
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr
., a co-counsel in the lawsuit, told
St. Louis Public Radio
The firm also filed another 40 cases in Alameda County, California, Superior Court, on Friday. The 40 individuals, all from California, allege that exposure to the herbicide caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The St. Louis plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages for wrongful death and personal injuries against defendants Monsanto, Osborn & Barr Communications, Inc. and Osborn & Barr Holdings, Inc., all of St. Louis, Missouri.
The Alameda lawsuit also seeks compensatory and punitive damages for wrongful death and personal injuries against defendants Monsanto and Wilbur Ellis Company, LLC of San Francisco, California.
More than 700 Roundup cancer claims have now been filed in state and federal courts. Kennedy estimated that claims could increase to 3,000 in the next few months.
Monsanto, which is awaiting a multi-billion dollar merger with Germany's Bayer, is facing a spate of controversy this month over its flagship product.
First, California became the first U.S. state to require the company to label Roundup as a possible carcinogen in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, also known as Proposition 65.
Then last week, a federal judge in San Francisco unsealed documents suggesting that company employees had ghostwritten scientific reports that U.S. regulators used to determine glyphosate does not cause cancer. Court files also indicated that Jess Rowland—a former senior official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who chaired a committee on cancer risk—worked with Monsanto to suppress reviews of glyphosate.
"Monsanto's newly released documents expose a culture corrupt enough to shock the company's most jaded critics," Kennedy said in a statement. "Those papers show sociopathic company officials ghostwriting scientific studies to conceal Roundup's risks from Monsanto's regulators and customers, including food consumers, farmers and the public."
"One wonders about the perverse morality that incentivizes executives to lie so easily and to put profits before human life," he added. "All humanity will benefit when a jury sees this scheme and gives this behemoth a new set of incentives."
Glyphosate, the most heavily used weedkiller in agricultural history, is currently used in more than 160 countries. However, a number of environmental and human health risks have been associated with its rampant use.
As Alternet wrote:
"In addition to its potential cancer-causing properties, Roundup has been linked to a host of other health issues such as ADHD, Alzheimer's disease, kidney disease, liver disease, reproductive problems and birth defects, as well as environmental impacts , such as the record decline of monarch butterflies. A 2014 study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey detected the presence of Roundup in 75 percent of air and rainfall test samples take from the Mississippi Delta, a fertile agricultural region."
According to a press release from Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, the lawsuits allege that Monsanto continues to proclaim to the world that Roundup creates no risks to human health or to the environment.
They also claim that Monsanto "championed falsified data and attacked legitimate studies that revealed Roundup's dangers in order to prove that Roundup is safe for human use, while also ghostwriting studies and leading a prolonged campaign of misinformation to convince government agencies, farmers, and the general population that Roundup was safe."
Monsanto's glyphosate woes all started when the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research (IARC) on Cancer concluded in 2015 that the chemical is a " probable carcinogen " to humans. Furthermore, the IARC said that the cancers most associated with glyphosate exposure are non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other hematopoietic cancers.
The biotech giant refutes the classification and insists that glyphosate is safe and does not cause cancer.
"We empathize with anyone facing cancer," Monsanto spokesperson Charla Lord told St. Louis Public Radio via email. "We can also confidently say that glyphosate is not the cause. No regulatory agency in the world considers glyphosate a carcinogen."
The IARC's classification contrasts with findings from several international agencies including the EPA and the European Chemicals Agency, which concluded earlier this month that glyphosate should not be classified as a cancer-causing substance.
22 March 2017.
7,000 Gas Bubbles Expected to 'Explode' in Siberia –
A pair of researchers discovered 15 methane-filled bubbles in Siberia's Bely Island last July that wobbled like a waterbed when stepped on.
Well, we really hate to burst these bubbles, but further research into the wider Yamal and Gydan peninsulas has uncovered about 7,000 more of these mysterious mounds.
Scientists believe that these bumps are caused by thawing permafrost releasing methane.
The scariest part? Scientists say the gas bubbles are expected to explode and can create anything from small potholes to massive craters like the ones that have been appearing across the region in recent years.
"At first, such a bump is a bubble, or 'bulgunyakh' in the local Yakut language," said Alexey Titovsky, director of the Yamal Department for Science and Innovation, according to The Siberian Times .
"With time, the bubble explodes, releasing gas. This is how gigantic funnels form."
The sudden appearance of giant craters in the Siberian permafrost has been linked to climate change . The exact explanation behind the craters is unclear but the most prominent theory is that unseasonably high temperatures have released methane stored in the permafrost, causing a sort of explosion that forms the craters.
"We need to know which bumps are dangerous and which are not," Titovsky emphasized about the new discovery. "Scientists are working on detecting and structuring signs of potential threat, like the maximum height of a bump and pressure that the earth can withstand."
Researchers Alexander Sokolov and Dorothee Ehrich discovered the first 15 of these bulges last summer. When Sokolov and Ehrich punctured one of the spots, the air that escaped contained 200 times more methane and 20 times more carbon dioxide than the surrounding air.
Scientists accurately predicted back then that more bubbles would be found due to 2016's record-hot temperatures .
The Ural branch of the Russian Academy of Science confirmed with The Siberian Times that thawing permafrost is a suspected explanation for the gas bubbles.
"Their appearance at such high latitudes is most likely linked to thawing permafrost which in is in turn linked to overall rise of temperature on the north of Eurasia during last several decades," a spokesman said. "An abnormally warm summer in 2016 on the Yamal peninsula must have added to the process."
The Yamal peninsula experienced temperatures reaching 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) last summer.
22 March 2017.
Inspiring Music Video Celebrates World Water Day –
The Atlanta-born, Appalachian-bred, New Orleans-seasoned soulful Folk/World troubadours Rising Appalachia released their latest music video today in honor of World Water Day.
Rising Appalachia is honored to release R ivermouth in partnership with Waterkeeper Alliance , the largest and fastest growing nonprofit solely focused on clean water. Waterkeeper Alliance is a global movement uniting more than 300 Waterkeeper organizations and affiliates around the world, focusing citizen advocacy on issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change . Waterkeepers patrol and protect nearly 2.5 million square miles of rivers, streams and coastlines in the Americas, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa.
Rising Appalachia brings to listeners a collection of sounds, stories and songs steeped in tradition and a devotion to world culture. Intertwining a deep reverence for folk music and a passion for justice, they have made it their life's work to sing songs that speak to something ancient yet surging with relevance. This video release is an ongoing part of the band's "Slow Music Movement"—an effort to promote sustainability, engage with activist networks, bring local outreach to each event and continuing to create and promote sustainable practices within the music industry.
"Rivermouth is a love song ... Both human and elemental," Chloe Smith of Rising Appalachia said. "The depths of the human heart and the force of a river are both wild and unchartered at their core, best left alone to swell and stretch and change with the seasons. We have been aligned with the Mississippi River, Gulf and Kalamath water protectors and recently branched out to form alliances with Waterkeepers around the world, working towards drinkable, fishable, swimmable water everywhere."
22 March 2017.
The Beginning of the End for Coal –
The global coal boom took a nosedive in 2016 as construction starts on coal-fired power plants fell to nearly two-thirds of 2015 levels, according to a report , from Coalswarm , Sierra Club and Greenpeace .
"Markets are demanding clean energy, and no amount of rhetoric from Donald Trump will be able to stop the fall of coal in the U.S. and across the globe," said Nicole Ghio, senior campaigner for the Sierra Club's International Climate and Energy Campaign.
The updated Boom and Bust report, which is released annually, finds that China and India were responsible for some of the largest demand cuts in 2016, with policy and investment shifts causing those countries to freeze more than 100 project sites representing 68 GW of construction.
"2016 marked a veritable turning point," said Lauri Myllyvirta, senior global campaigner on Coal and Air Pollution at Greenpeace. "China all but stopped new coal projects after astonishing clean energy growth ... Closures of old coal plants drove major emission reductions, especially in the U.S. and U.K., while Belgium and Ontario became entirely coal-free and three G8 countries announced deadlines for coal phase-outs."
While the report cautions that more drastic cuts must be made to keep warming below 2°C, the global slowdown in coal construction brings that goal "within feasible reach."
"The shift from fossil fuels to clean sources in the power sector is a positive one for health, climate security and jobs. And by all indications, the shift is unstoppable," Ted Nace, director of CoalSwarm, said.
For a deeper dive:
21 March 2017.
Did Scott Pruitt Lie to Congress While Under Oath? –
The Center for Biological Diversity and University of Oklahoma law professor Kristen van de Biezenbos filed a formal ethics complaint today with the Oklahoma Bar Association against U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt , seeking an investigation into whether Pruitt lied to Congress while under oath.
The investigation would target possible ethical violations stemming from Pruitt's misrepresentation to senators of his use of a personal email address, during his tenure as Oklahoma attorney general, for official business and speeches he gave to right-wing organizations against environmental protection.
Today's complaint asserts that Pruitt violated Oklahoma's rules of professional conduct when he told Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse during his confirmation hearing that he did not use a personal "me.com" email address for official state business while attorney general of Oklahoma. Records released in the course of an Oklahoma public records lawsuit show that Pruitt received at least one email message and possibly more, at a "me.com" email address. Additional records are still being reviewed by Oklahoma courts for possible public release.
"Pruitt's friends in the fossil fuel industry clearly knew how to reach him best: at his personal email address," said Amy Atwood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Lawyers and public servants must adhere to the strictest ethical standards and the Oklahoma Bar should investigate Pruitt's apparent carelessness with the truth."
One released email shows a message from a vice president of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers association to Pruitt's me.com address, asking him to use his position as Oklahoma attorney general to help roll back renewable fuel standards that were set under the Obama administration. Other released emails show use of a redacted email address for Pruitt that may be personal, showing correspondence with representatives of the American Legislative Exchange Council. The American Legislative Exchange Council is widely viewed as a right-wing organization that has worked to weaken some of the nation's most important environmental laws, including laws Pruitt administers at the EPA, such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.
Use of a personal email address for official state business can lead to the loss of government records and to hacking. Misrepresenting facts is a matter that the Oklahoma Bar Association takes seriously.
In addition, Democratic members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works noted in a March 17 letter to Pruitt that he failed to mention several public speeches or presentations that he has made related to energy or the environment, including to the Federalist Society.
"It seems that Mr. Pruitt may not have been candid at his confirmation hearing," said Kristen van de Biezenbos, the University of Oklahoma law professor who signed the complaint in her personal capacity. "It raises questions about why he hid the fact of his use of personal email for official state business, what else he misrepresented to Congress and what else his personal emails may show us about our EPA administrator's deference to the fossil fuel industry and organizations that support the rollback of environmental regulations."
21 March 2017.
EPA Sued for Approving Dow's Deadly Pesticide Combo –
Farmers, conservation groups and food and farm justice organizations stood up today to protest against the contamination of rural communities, our food supply and the environment by filing a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration .
The groups are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under new administrator Scott Pruitt for approving Dow AgroScience's Enlist Duo , a mixture of the weed-killing chemicals glyphosate and 2,4-D—both of which are known to be highly toxic. The novel combo pesticide is sprayed directly on corn, soybean and cotton plants that are genetically engineered by Dow specifically to survive exposure to the pesticide. The EPA approved the use of the pesticide in 34 states.
Farmers will be hit hard by the human health damages of Enlist Duo and are put at risk financially by 2,4-D's known tendency to
volatilize, drift and damage neighboring crops
. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that Enlist Duo's approval will lead to as much as a seven-fold increase in agricultural use of 2,4-D—a component of the infamous Vietnam-era defoliant "Agent Orange," which has been linked to Parkinson's disease, non-Hodgkins lymphoma and other reproductive problems. The other component of Enlist Duo is glyphosate, the active ingredient in
flagship pesticide Roundup. Glyphosate was
classified as a probable human carcinogen
by the World Health Organization in 2015.
"Scott Pruitt and the Trump administration are endangering farmers and the environment by caving to Big Ag and approving this highly toxic pesticide combo," said Sylvia Wu, staff attorney for Center for Food Safety and legal counsel in the case. "Fortunately, we have laws written to protect farmers and the environment, and we intend to have the Court enforce them."
This is the second lawsuit the groups have had to bring over the product. After the groups challenged its initial approval in 2014, the Obama Administration agreed to reanalyze some of its impacts. Unfortunately, the EPA then reaffirmed its original approval and dramatically expanded it, allowing Enlist Duo to be sprayed in more than twice as many states and on cotton in addition to corn and soybeans.
"EPA knows that spraying a hundred thousand tons of this pesticide on millions of acres every year will threaten the survival and recovery of some of our most iconic endangered species, but it refuses to follow the law that protects them," Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff said. "We will hold EPA accountable."
Enlist crops and Enlist Duo are part of a disturbing, industry-wide trend where crops are genetically engineered to withstand multiple pesticides, allowing pesticide companies like Dow and Monsanto to sell both expensive GE seeds and large quantities of the pesticide cocktails that are sprayed on them. While these GE crop systems initially provide a quick-fix way to kill weeds, the intensive spraying triggers rapid evolution of weed resistance to the chemicals. Just as overuse of antibiotics breeds resistant bugs and more antibiotics to kill them, so these GE crop systems drive a toxic spiral of increasing weed resistance and pesticide use.
In addition to health risks, significant crop damage from pesticide drift and increases in both weed resistance and pesticide use, spraying Enlist Duo on millions of acres will contaminate waterways and important wildlife habitat. EPA's own assessments found that Enlist Duo is highly toxic to numerous plants and animals, including endangered and threatened species found in or near agricultural fields.
"In reissuing an expanded approval for this toxic chemical cocktail, the EPA has shown an utter disregard for human health, our drinking water and endangered species like the iconic whooping crane," Stephanie Parent, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity , said.
The petitioners bringing the lawsuit are National Family Farm Coalition, Family Farm Defenders, Pesticide Action Network North America, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety and Center for Biological Diversity, represented jointly by legal counsel from Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety.
21 March 2017.
Planet Enters 'Uncharted Territory' –
Global temperatures are on the rise again as 2016 has been marked as the hottest on record . The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which published its annual assessment of the climate today, said the unusually warm weather has continued into 2017.
Global warming, experts say, is largely driven by human activity and the release of carbon dioxide emissions. But an El Niño weather pattern consisting of naturally warm weather in the equatorial Pacific region is also a contributor.
"Even without a strong El Niño in 2017, we are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system. We are now in truly uncharted territory," World Climate Research Programme Director David Carlson said in a release.
In the WMO's annual State of the Global Climate , it said that in the years since 2001, temperatures have been at least 0.4 degrees Celsius above the long-term average for the 1961-1990 base period. And those temperatures continue to be consistent with a warming trend of 0.1-0.2 degrees Celsius per decade, it added.
Furthermore, the 2015-16 El Niño weather events have only increased the warming, it continued, noting that g lobal sea levels rose during the El Niño event, with 2016 levels hitting new highs. Meantime, global sea ice extent fell by more than 4 million square kilometers below the average November levels.
And CO2 levels hit the symbolic benchmark of 400 parts per million in 2015. They are not expected to fall below that level for generations given the long-lasting nature of CO2, the report said. The result? Severe droughts that brought food insecurity to millions in southern and eastern African as well as Central America. Meantime, Hurricane Matthew, which blew through Haiti and up the Eastern seaboard last October, caused significant financial losses in the U.S.
"This report confirms that the year 2016 was the warmest on record—a remarkable 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial period, which is 0.06 °C above the previous record set in 2015. This increase in global temperature is consistent with other changes occurring in the climate system," WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said.
"Globally averaged sea surface temperatures were also the warmest on record, global sea levels continued to rise, and Arctic sea-ice extent was well below average for most of the year," he added. "With levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere consistently breaking new records, the influence of human activities on the climate system has become more and more evident."
This WMO report is getting released just after the Trump administration unveiled its proposed budget for the next fiscal year—one that would cut funding not just for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency but also the climate initiatives established during the Obama years. President Trump has further issued an executive order that essentially said that his Department of Justice would cease to defend the Clean Power Plan in court.
"While the data show an ever increasing impact of human activities on the climate system, the Trump administration and senior Republicans in Congress continue to bury their heads in the sand," Professor Robert Watson, a distinguished climate scientist at the UK's University of East Anglia and a former head of the UN's climate science panel, told the Guardian .
The newspaper previously said that the 2016 temperature data shows that temperatures levels have risen 1.1 degrees Celsius above the levels just seen before the industrial revolution. That's when the developed world began to deploy fossil-fuels on a large-scale basis. The rising temperatures, however, come "perilously close" to the 1.5 degree Celsius ceiling that the global community agreed to in December 2015.
"Earth is a planet in upheaval due to human-caused changes in the atmosphere," Jeffrey Kargel, a glaciologist at the University of Arizona in the US. told the Guardian . "In general, drastically changing conditions do not help civilization, which thrives on stability."
21 March 2017.
The Reclusive Climate-Denying Puppet Master Behind Trump –
By Andy Rowell
When President Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp, many of his supporters hoped he would take on the political and media establishment and radically shake them both up.
In that process they might have assumed he was going to clean up politics by removing the Beltway insiders and the corporate lobbyists who have often pulled strings in Washington.
While the former has happened, the latter has not.
It is increasingly becoming clear that the swamp is being refilled by an oligarchy, where the ultra-rich who fund Trump control what is going on.
Two recent exposés—a brilliant one by Jane Mayer in the New Yorker and one in the Washington Post —focus on Robert Mercer, the reclusive brilliant computer programmer and hedge fund manager and how his money helped propel Trump into power.
Mercer, who is famous for being shy and reclusive, lives on Long Island and made his millions as co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies, seen as one of the most profitable hedge funds in the U.S.
But for years now, Mercer has been shaping the political and public arena in the U.S. by pouring tens of millions into causes that resonate with his libertarian views, which include climate denial .
He is one of the main stakeholders and funders of Breitbart news, the standard bearer of alt-right conspiratorial news on the Internet of which Trump's chief of staff, Steve Bannon , was executive chairman, before joining Trump's team. Mercer has poured more than 10 million dollars into the venture. Bannon and Mercer are close. For the last five years, Bannon has acted at Mercer's de facto advisor.
But Breitbart is just the tip of the iceberg of Mercer's hidden influence.
Between 2008 and 2016, the Mercer family foundation pumped at least $77 million in political donations and gifts into what the Washington Post called "a vast universe of causes across the conservative landscape."
Mercer's millions have completely skewed the political debate in the U.S. and he is one of a number of key puppet masters now pulling Trump's strings. Indeed, as the Post noted, the Mercers "are now arguably the most influential financiers of the Trump era."
Not everyone is happy about Mercer's growing influence, including some of his colleagues. Earlier this year a colleague at Renaissance, David Magerman, published an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer .
He outlined the close connection between Mercer and Trump's closest advisors Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway: "Stephen Bannon came from Breitbart News, of which Mercer owns a significant percentage and Kellyanne Conway came from Mercer's circle of political foundations. And, of course, Mercer's daughter Rebekah represents his interests and his worldview with her presence on the transition committee and her close relationship with Bannon and Conway."
Magerman also asked, "What did Mercer's investment in Trump amount to? He was effectively buying shares in the candidate and Robert Mercer now owns a sizable share of the United States Presidency."
Others are outraged too. Nick Patterson, a former senior Renaissance employee, told the New Yorker: "Bob has used his money very effectively. He's not the first person in history to use money in politics, but in my view Trump wouldn't be President if not for Bob. It doesn't get much more effective than that."
Rebekah Mercer, one Robert's daughters and an ex-Wall Street trader, has become central to Breitbart and then later to Trump, with her sitting on Trump's transition team.
"She is the First Lady of the alt-right," Christopher Ruddy, the owner of the conservative outlet Newsmax Media, told Jane Mayer at the New Yorker. "She's respected in conservative circles and clearly Trump has embraced her in a big way." Rebekah Mercer is now leading a group called Making America Great to support Trump's agenda.
There are even those that believe that the Mercer funding of Trump may have broken the law. The New Yorker quoted Brendan Fischer, a lawyer at the Campaign Legal Center, who said that the Mercers' financial entanglement with the Trump campaign was "bizarre" and potentially "illegal." The Campaign Legal Center has filed a complaint at the Federal Election Commission.
The New Yorker recalls how one of the issues that Nick Patterson clashed with Mercer is over climate change .
When Patterson tried to engage Mercer over climate, the later responded by sending Patterson an article by Arthur Robinson, a biochemist and climate denier. Mercer has long been a supporter of Robinson and the Mercer foundation has donated at least $1.6 million to Robinson's Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. According to the New Yorker , Robinson's Institute dismisses climate change as a "false religion."
Robinson's article was a classic climate skeptic's argument that climate change would lead to "far more plant and animal life," Patterson told the New Yorker: "It looked like a scientific paper, but it was completely loaded with selective and biased information."
Robinson has been working on climate denial for years. The New Yorker noted: "A petition that he organized in 1998 to oppose the Kyoto Protocol, claiming to represent thirty thousand scientists skeptical of global warming, has been criticized as deceptive."
Despite this, the petition is still widely circulated on Facebook.
Patterson believes that climate change is a threat to Mercer's libertarian ideals. "I think if you studied Bob's views of what the ideal state would look like, you'd find that, basically, he wants a system where the state just gets out of the way," Patterson told the New Yorker. "Climate change poses a problem for that world view, because markets can't solve it on their own."
After Trump won the election, Rebekah nominated the climate denier, Arthur Robinson, to be national science adviser, although this recommendation has not been taken up.
The Mercers' link to climate deniers goes deeper, too. According to a 2013 study by Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle, Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations , the Mercer Foundation spent nearly $4 million directly funding groups funding climate denial between 2003 and 2010. Others have the figure much higher. Earlier this year, DeSmog estimated that the Mercers had pumped at least $22 million into climate denial organizations.
Take two quick examples:
By 2011, the Mercers were working with the notorious Koch brothers , who have poured tens of millions into think tanks who fund climate denial and over the next few years, the Mercers donated more than $25 million to the Koch brothers to fund to try to oust Barack Obama. Mercer was out-funding the Kochs on the Koch campaign. In 2014, Bloomberg News ran the headline: The Man Who Out-Koched the Kochs.
The Mercer Foundation, which is run by Rebekah, has also donated $5 million to the leading skeptic think tank, the Heartland Institute. In three days time, Heartland will hold its 12th climate denier conference. Many of the usual climate skeptic suspects will be there.
Heartland bragged: "The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States already is having a profound effect on U.S. climate policy. Meet the scientists, economists, engineers and policy experts who persuaded Trump that man-made global warming is not a crisis."
Aside from Heartland , the sponsors are the Media Research Center , which received $13.8 million from the Mercer Foundation from 2008-2014 and the Heritage Foundation, which has received $1 million over the same period.
As the Washington Post noted: "What sets the Mercers apart is their interest in finding new ways to shape the environment in which policy issues are debated" and that is exactly what the Mercers are doing on climate and the wider pro-Trump campaign.
Climate denial has long been synonymous with Exxon and the Koch-brothers, but now we have a new name on the list:
Robert Mercer, the man who swung the election for Trump.
21 March 2017.
These Two Rivers Were Just Given the Same Legal Rights as Humans –
While the U.S. makes it easier for coal companies to dump mining waste into streams and waterways, other countries are acknowledging the importance of water and granting personhood to these precious resources.
The High Court of the Indian state of Uttarakhand ruled that the Ganges and Yamuna rivers and their tributaries have "legal and living entities having the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities."
The decision marks the first time a court has recognized a non-human as a living entity in India.
Judges Rajeev Sharma and Alok Singh cited the example of New Zealand's Whanganui River, which became the first in the world to be granted the same legal rights as a person last week.
The decision by New Zealand's Parliament marked the end of the country's longest-running court case, as the Whanganui Iwi have long fought for the recognition of their authority over the river and consider it "an indivisible and living whole."
Similarly, the Ganges and Yamuna are considered sacred by the country's majority Hindu population.
"The rivers are central to the existence of half of the Indian population and their health and well being," the court said in its ruling. "They have provided both physical and spiritual sustenance to all of us from time immemorial."
The rivers now have "legal parents," or state officials who will be the human face of the rivers. The central government has also been directed to establish a management board within three months to lead conservation efforts.
The ruling gives the rivers a legal voice that could potentially save the highly polluted waterways from further destruction.
As India.com explained, since the Ganges and the Yamuna are now legal persons, "if anyone is found polluting the rivers, it would be equivalent to harming humans."
The Yamuna River from the Taj Mahal. Flickr
The judges noted that the once-mighty Ganges and Yamuna rivers are "losing their very existence."
The 1,569-mile Ganges River is a considered a lifeline for the hundreds of millions of people living along its banks. But increasing urbanization and industrialization of one of the world's fastest-growing economies have tarnished the waters. More than 1,500 million liters of raw sewage is discharged into the Ganges every day, along with 500 million liters of industrial waste, Live Mint noted.
A 2016 NPR report described the Yamuna, the main tributary of the Ganges, as the "dirtiest river in the country" and a "toxic cocktail of sewage, industrial waste and surface runoff."
India's governments have spent billions of dollars on efforts to clean the Ganges. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also promised to restore the river.
As more countries step up to legally protect their waterways, will the U.S. be left behind as our lawmakers continue to gut environmental protections?
Last month, President Trump signed legislation that repealed the Office of Surface Mining's Stream Protection Rule, a law that protects waterways from coal mining waste.
"In eliminating this rule I am continuing to keep my promise to the American people to get rid of wasteful regulations," Trump said at the signing.
21 March 2017.
The True Legacy of David Rockefeller –
No one person encapsulates the enduring legacy of the "robber barons" of the Industrial Age quite like David Rockefeller. Rockefeller, who died Monday at the age of 101, was the last surviving grandson of John D. Rockefeller, the oil tycoon who became America's first billionaire and the patriarch of what would become one of the most powerful and wealthiest families in American history. David Rockefeller, an undeniable product of American nobility, lived his entire life in the echelons of U.S. society, becoming symbolic of the elite who often direct public policy to a much greater extent than many realize, albeit often from the shadows.
Rockefeller made it clear that he preferred to operate out of public view despite his great influence in American—and international—politics. Due to his birthright, Rockefeller served as an advisor to every president since Eisenhower, but when offered powerful positions such as Federal Reserve chairman and Secretary of the Treasury— he declined , preferring "a private role."
As evidenced by the numerous obituaries bemoaning the loss of the last of the Rockefeller's grandsons, he was largely successful in hiding his most significant wrongdoings from public view, as evidenced by his characterization as a generous philanthropist and influential banker.
But as is often the case, Rockefeller's true legacy is much more mired in controversy than major publications seem willing to admit . In addition to having the ear of every U.S. president for the better part of the last 70 or so years, Rockefeller—once again operating "behind the scenes"—was instrumental in shaping the more cringe-worthy aspects of U.S. policy during that time, as well as being a major force in establishing banking policies that led to debt crises in the developing world.
Rockefeller—as the head of Chase Manhattan Bank from 1969 to 1981—worked with government and multinational corporations throughout the world to create a "global order" unequivocally dominated by the 1 percent, of which his family was a part. As the New York Times noted back in the 1970s , Rockefeller became embroiled in controversy when his constant trips overseas caused the bank to become less profitable, as he prioritized the bank's influence on foreign politics over its actual business dealings.
During his time as Chase CEO, Rockefeller helped laid the foundation for repressive, racist and fascist regimes around the world, as well as architecture for global inequality. In addition, Rockefeller helped to bring the debt crisis of the 1980s into existence, in part by direct action through Chase Bank and also indirectly through his former employee-turned-Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker. Two years before the debt crisis erupted, Rockefeller, Volcker and other top bankers met at the International Monetary Conference in 1980s to argue for the establishment of a "safety net" for major banks—like Chase—that were embroiled in bad loans given largely to countries in the developing world.
After the crisis brought financial ruin to Latin America and other developing areas throughout the world, Rockefeller—along with other bankers— created austerity programs to "solve" the debt crisis during subsequent IMC meetings, provoking inequality that still persists to this day. However, thanks to the "safety net" conveniently established years prior, Chase avoided the economic consequences for its criminal actions.
In addition, Rockefeller supported the bloody and ruthless dictatorships of the Shah of Iran and Augusto Pinochet of Chile while also supporting Israeli apartheid . Rockefeller then went on to found the influential Trilateral Commission while also serving as a major force on the Council on Foreign Relations that he, along with his close friend Henry Kissinger, would come to dominate.
Both of these organizations have come under fire for using their powerful influence to bring about a "one-world government" ruled by a powerful, ultra-wealthy elite—an accusation to which David Rockefeller confirmed as true in his autobiography. Far from the generous philanthropist he is made to be, David Rockefeller deserves to be remembered for his true legacy—one of elitism, fascism and economic enslavement.
Reposted with permission from our media associate MintPress News .
21 March 2017.
First Utility-Scale Project on Tribal Lands to Power 100,000 Homes –
By Dan Whitten
Morgan Stanley put together this cool video on the project as part of their series on sustainable solutions called Capital Creates Change and we wanted to share it with you. It highlights the economic opportunity, the jobs and the clean power that utility scale developers are bringing to Indian Country and to Southern Nevada.
Late last year, I was lucky enough to attend a ribbon cutting at NextEra Energy's
Silver State South project
, a 250-megawatt project developed and built by First Solar at the southern tip of Nevada, on the California border line. Eight years ago, when developers began surveying the Silver State South site, they couldn't have known what the world or even that little corner of the Nevada and California border would look like in terms of solar adoption. But they did know major change was afoot.
Back then, solar accounted for one hundredth of one percent of the nation's power generation and it was considered by some to be the costliest form of electricity.
In hindsight, the project goes a long way toward explaining the phenomena we are seeing in solar energy today. First off, the region now boasts 1,200 megawatts of solar electricity, which is the size of two big coal plants and no emissions, a fact that helps explain why our greenhouse gas emissions as a nation are lower than they have been in more than two decades.
The Moapa Southern Paiute Solar project continues a trend in Nevada that has seen utility scale grow by leaps and bounds and with it has come thousands of jobs. Economies of scale evident from solar adoption help explain why the cost of solar has dropped by about 70 percent in the last eight years.
And while the utility scale revolution is taking hold in the West, policies governing rooftop solar in Nevada have crippled that segment of our industry and the many benefits that a healthy distributed generation market can provide for our electrical grid. The model is in place for many thousands of megawatts of clean electricity in the West and the hundreds and thousands of jobs that come with it.
The key is making sure there is a welcoming policy environment for continued growth of large scale solar, with triggers that can help distributed solar take pressure off the grid.
Speaking at a rally in Kentucky Monday night, President Trump told the crowd his administration is "preparing new executive actions to save our coal industry and to save our wonderful coal miners from continuing to be put out of work."
The president also promised to "turn the EPA from a job-killer into a job creator." The timing of the executive order in question, which reportedly includes ordering a rewrite of the Clean Power Plan and threats to the social cost of carbon, was pushed back again by the White House on Monday. The president will reportedly sign the order by the end of this month.
Speaking of job killers versus job creators, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed Saturday to oppose the Trump budget's proposed cuts to the Appalachian Regional Commission, which helps with economic revitalization in areas devastated by coal's decline.
Hours before Trump's rally, electric company Dayton Power & Light announced plans to close two of its coal-fired plants in Ohio by next June. The company announced in a statement that, "without significant changes in market conditions," the J.M. Stuart and Killen plants would not be "economically viable beyond mid-2018."
"Despite claims to the contrary, King Coal is not coming back," said Michael Bloomberg. "Four coal-fired power plants have been slated for retirement since November, reflecting strong demand for clean energy over polluting coal."
The plants, which sit at the heart of a region Trump promised to revitalize, generate 3,000 megawatts of energy and employ nearly 500 workers. In a settlement reached earlier this year with groups including the Sierra Club , the company will invest in 300 megawatts of solar and wind projects by 2022 and provide a $2 million fund for the communities affected by the plants' closures.
"The rapid deployment of clean energy is unstoppable," Bruce Nilles, senior director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, said. "What is missing in Ohio and too many communities is a plan to help the impacted workers and communities make the transition away from coal."
For a deeper dive:
Trump rally: Reuters EO: Politico Pro , The Hill , Washington Examiner McConnell: AP , E&E Commentary: The Hill, Dan Cohan op-ed Coal: Reuters , The Hill , Dayton Daily News , Dayton Business Journal Commentary: Axios, Shane Savitsky analysis
21 March 2017.
Climate Kids Demand Feds to Turn Over 'Wayne Tracker' Emails –
21 youth plaintiffs
Juliana v. United States
served request for production of documents to the U.S. government and the American Petroleum Institute (API), asking both defendants to turn over the
"Wayne Tracker" emails
, as part of discovery in the
As ExxonMobil explained Tuesday , the email address pseudonym "was put in place for secure and expedited communications between select senior company officials and the former chairman for a broad range of business-related topics." New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office stated in a March 13 court filing that Rex Tillerson used the "Wayne.Tracker@exxonmobil.com" pseudonym "to send and receive materials regarding important matters, including those concerning to the risk-management issues related to climate change …"
While risk-management issues related to climate change are important to the New York Attorney General's investigation, attorneys representing youth plaintiffs suspect the emails will also reveal the deep influence of the fossil fuel defendants over U.S. energy and climate policies and the defendants' private acknowledgement that climate change was caused by their product, both of which are important to the youth's case. To the latter point, the fossil fuel defendants have refused to take a position on whether climate change is caused by burning fossil fuels, even when pressed by federal judges to answer that question.
As reported by Bloomberg , New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office stated that Sec. of State Rex Tillerson used a pseudonym, " Wayne.Tracker@exxonmobil.com ," for emails while he served as ExxonMobil's CEO. Because ExxonMobil is a member of API and Tillerson served on the Board of Directors of API through December, he was a player in Juliana v. United States even before he was confirmed as Secretary of State, which caused him to become a named government defendant.
Plaintiffs are asking the U.S. government and API defendants to turn over any of Tillerson's pseudonym emails in their custody by April 16 .
During a Feb. 7 case management conference, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin relayed his understanding about the discovery youth plaintiffs are seeking to Frank Volpe, Sidley Austin attorney representing API:
"... there's a subset of their substantive due process case that involves what did you know and when did you know it and did someone cover it up, did they create this danger …"
"When looking for evidence of a cover up, emails from Rex Tillerson's pseudonym about climate change are just the kind of evidence the court needs to see," Julia Olson, plaintiffs' counsel and executive director of Our Children's Trust , said.
Juliana v. United States is one of many related legal actions brought by youth in several states and countries, all supported by Our Children's Trust, seeking science-based action by governments to stabilize the climate system.
21 March 2017.
And, the Happiest Country in the World Is ... –
By Andrea Germanos
Norway now holds the title of the world's happiest country, according to a new report that also outlines how Republican proposals to gut safety nets, enact tax windfalls for the rich and attack public education—as well as bipartisan failures in terms of the global war on terror and campaign finance—are making happiness further out of grasp for those in the U.S.
The finding comes via the fifth edition of the World Happiness Report , which ranks 155 countries on the variables of income, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption and generosity. It was produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a United Nations initiative and was released Monday, the International Day of Happiness.
Norway now holds the number one spot, booting Denmark from the ranking it held for three of the past four years. Norway came in at number four last year.
Joining Norway in the top ten slots are, in order, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden. It's the same group that made up the top ten countries last year.
Like the other top four countries, Norway ranked high in caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance.
At the other end of the spectrum sit Rwanda, Syria, Tanzania, Burundi and the Central Africa Republican, which rank lowest on the happiness index.
According to lead author John Helliwell, also an economist at the University of British Columbia in Canada, Norway is "a remarkable case in point."
"By choosing to produce oil deliberately and investing the proceeds for the benefit of future generations, Norway has protected itself from the volatile ups and downs of many other oil-rich economies. This emphasis on the future over the present is made easier by high levels of mutual trust, shared purpose, generosity and good governance. All of these are found in Norway, as well as in the other top countries," Helliwell said.
As for the U.S., it has slid down one spot from last year, coming in at number 14 and the country, the report says, is "a story of reduced happiness."
Study co-author, economist and Sustainable Development Solutions Network Director Jeffrey Sachs wrote that the U.S. suffers not from an economic crisis but a "multi-faceted social crisis."
It is made clear, he writes, by "worsening public health indicators"; "plummeting" trust in government; and "astronomical" income inequality, with "the rise of mega-dollars in U.S. politics" and the "deterioration of America's educational system" helping to fuel "destruction of social capital."
Further abetting that destruction has been the country's reaction following the Sep. 11 attacks, which, Sachs wrote, "was to stoke fear rather than appeal to social solidarity" and begin "an open-ended global war on terror, appealing to the darkest side of human nature."
Though the country's "social crisis is widely noted, [...] it has not translated into public policy." Rather, he continued:
Almost all of the policy discourse in Washington, DC centers on naïve attempts to raise the economic growth rate, as if a higher growth rate would somehow heal the deepening divisions and angst in American society. This kind of growth-only agenda is doubly wrong-headed. First, most of the pseudo-elixirs for growth—especially the Republican Party's beloved nostrum of endless tax cuts and voodoo economics—will only exacerbate America's social inequalities and feed the distrust that is already tearing society apart. Second, a forthright attack on the real sources of social crisis would have a much larger and more rapid beneficial effect on U.S. happiness.
Addressing the crisis entails enacting campaign finance reform; reducing inequality by expanding the social safety net and funding of health and education; "improv[ing] the social relations between the native-born and immigrant populations"; moving beyond the post-9/11 fear campaign (which he writes, President Donald Trump's "Muslim bans" have been a manifestation of); and making a commitment to improved quality education for all.
"As demonstrated by many countries, this report gives evidence that happiness is a result of creating strong social foundations," Sachs said to the Associated Press. "It's time to build social trust and healthy lives, not guns or walls. Let's hold our leaders to this fact."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams .
The Prosper-Haniel coal mine in the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia will be converted into a 200 megawatt pumped-storage hydroelectric reservoir that acts like a giant battery . The capacity is enough to power more than 400,000 homes, Governor Hannelore Kraft said, according to Bloomberg .
Pumped storage plan University of Duisburg-Essen
Founded in 1863, the Prosper-Haniel coal mine produces 3,000,000t/y of coal and is one of the few active coal mines remaining in Germany. But the mine is slated for closure in 2018, when federal subsidies for the industry dry up.
Kraft said that the miners in the town of Bottrop will remain employed at the site as it converts to its new function.
Pumped-storage facilities are not a new idea, as such systems are already in operation around the world. However, this is the first time that a coal mine will be used as part of the infrastructure.
Engadget explained how such a facility would work:
Similar to a standard hydroelectric power plant, pumped hydroelectric storage stations generate power by releasing water from a reservoir through a turbine to a second reservoir at a lower altitude. Rather than releasing the outflow, however, the water is then stored in the lower reservoira until it can be pumped back up to the top reservoir using cheaper, off-peak power or another renewable energy source. In the case of the Prosper-Haniel plant, the lower reservoir will be made up of more than 16 miles of mine shafts that reach up to 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) deep. The station's 200 megawatts of hydroelectric power would fit into a mix of biomass, solar and wind power. It's not a perpetual motion machine, but the water stored in the surface reservoir will effectively act as as backup "battery" that could kick in and fill any gaps in the energy mix whenever the other sources fall short.
Germany's ambitious "
," or energy transition, aims for at least an 80 percent share of
by 2050, with intermediate targets of 35 to 40 percent share by 2025 and 55 to 60 percent by 2035.
The country is well on track, as renewables supplied nearly 33 percent of German electricity in 2015, according to Agora Energiewende.
Germany has such an impressive renewable energy mix that last year, on a particularly windy and sunny day, so much power was generated that people were paid to use it .
And while that's good news for the environment and German consumers alike, renewable energy has a well known storage problem . The electricity produced by, say, wind turbines or solar panels must be used or else it's lost. On the flip side, renewables might not be able to meet demand on cloudy days with no wind.
Batteries, working as pumped-storage facilities, are a promising solution to this problem, since they store excess renewable energy on productive days and discharge it during energy shortfalls.
"We have a very sympathetic ear" to sustainable and cost-effective storage, Governor Kraft said in a March 14 speech in Dusseldorf.
More mines could be converted into industrial-scale storage facilities as North-Rhine Westphalia seeks to double the share of renewables in its power mix to 30 percent by 2025, Kraft said.
Learn more about Germany's transition from coal here:
"I have already completed a zero gravity flight which allowed me to float weightless, but my ultimate ambition is to fly into space," Hawking told host Piers Morgan of " Good Morning Britain " on Monday. "I thought no one would take me but Richard Branson has offered me a seat on Virgin Galactic and I said yes immediately."
Branson's spaceflight company aims to provide suborbital spaceflights to space tourists. However, the venture has faced a number of delays, including a fatal explosion in 2007 during a ground test and test flight crash in 2014. (Might I suggest that if Branson cannot offer the stars to Hawking, maybe Elon Musk 's SpaceX can?)
"My three children have brought me great joy—and I can tell you what will make me happy, to travel in space," Hawking said.
The 75-year-old theoretical physicist and cosmologist was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis lateral sclerosis (ALS) when he was 21.
Hawking actually wrote about Branson's offer in a 2016 article published in the Guardian :
"I believe in the possibility of commercial space travel—for exploration and for the preservation of humanity. I believe that life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as a sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers. I think the human race has no future if it doesn't go to space. We need to inspire the next generation to become engaged in space and in science in general, to ask questions: What will we find when we go to space? Is there alien life, or are we alone? What will a sunset on Mars look like?"
The renowned scientist said that Trump's promise of the controversial
pipelines are designed to "satisfy [Trump's] electorate, who are neither liberal nor that well-informed."
Not only that, Hawking said that Trump should replace Scott Pruitt as the head of the U.S. Environment Protection Agency because he is "a man who does not believe that carbon dioxide causes climate change ."
"Climate change is one of the great dangers we face, and it's one we can prevent," Hawking said. "It affects America badly, so tackling it should win votes for [Trump's] second term—God forbid."
Hawking commented that the current administration's seemingly anti-science agenda has made him feel unwelcome.
"I have many friends and colleagues [in the U.S.] and it is still a place I like and admire in many ways," he said, "but I fear that I may not be welcome."
Hawking has said similar remarks before. He called then-candidate Trump a "demagogue, who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator."
And during a lecture last year, he predicted that humanity has only 1,000 years left on Earth and we must find another planet to live on.
"[W]e must ... continue to go into space for the future of humanity," professor Hawking said . "I don't think we will survive another 1,000 years without escaping beyond our fragile planet."
20 March 2017.
Watch Sea Shepherd Ship Sail with Megapod of Dolphins –
On Feb. 25, while patrolling the waters of the Gulf of California for Operation Milagro III , the M/V Sam Simon sailed through a megapod of dolphins with numbers estimated to be more than 1,000 individuals.
The elation and joy of this sight comes with the realization that many of these dolphins' lives will be cut short due to illegal gill nets . Sea Shepherd will stay in the Gulf of California until we pull out every last illegal gill net, ensuring the safety of the inhabitants who call these waters home.
By Elizabeth Wartenkin
Immense herds of up to 30 million bison once thundered across the plains of North America. Like their American brethren, overhunted Canadian plains bison came dangerously close to extinction in the late 1800s. In an effort to reverse the damage, Parks Canada on Feb. 1 successfully restored 16 healthy bison—transporting them the 280 miles from Elk Island National Park, 30 miles east of Edmonton, Alberta, to their original, rightful home on the eastern slopes of Banff National Park .
This is the first step in a five-year pilot project to reintroduce the animals to the Banff wilderness. For 16 months, this initial little herd—consisting of six two- to three-year-old bulls and 10 two- to three-year-old pregnant heifers—will be kept in an enclosed pasture in Banff's Panther Valley. Project Manager Karsten Heuer and his team at Parks Canada expect that, after having twice calved, they will release the herd into a larger, 1,200 square kilometer (463 square mile) zone in summer 2018. There, they will be free to interact with other native species and to forage for food. The idea, said Heuer, is "to anchor these initial animals to this new landscape, so they adopt it as their new home and range."
In 2022, Parks Canada will reevaluate the project and, if long-term bison restoration to the area is deemed feasible, develop a management plan from there. "If we didn't think there was a good chance of this working I don't think we ever would have started," Heuer said, acknowledging that if necessary for population control, Parks Canada may ultimately have to consider pulling animals out and allowing for hunting. In that case, he said priority would be given to local First Nations groups (as Canada's indigenous peoples are known), and is careful to add, "But that's not the emphasis—our intent isn't to create a population for hunting opportunities."
Once a key source of food, clothing, shelter, and religious symbolism, bison carry great spiritual and cultural meaning for the First Nations. With the 19th-century massacre of the bison herds came the end of an entire way of life. In fact, so significant is the bison to the North American and indigenous story that in recording the continent's past, historians tend to differentiate between "bison" and "post-bison" eras.
The emblematic plains animals were once a "keystone species" in Banff, said Heuer. Bringing them back will help restore the ecological integrity of the Canadian great plains, referred to locally as "the prairies." Depending on how well the Banff bison herd survive and reproduce, wolves, which once relied on bison herds as a primary food source, will be able to do so once again. Other species would benefit, too—hulking, woolly bison graze heavily on native grasses and disturb the soil with their hooves, triggering an ecological process that helps many plant and animal species flourish. Prairie dogs, for instance, prefer to make their homes in or near bison-grazed areas, as the short grass affords a lookout for hungry predators.
Indigenous groups—many of which have played a role in bison reintroduction projects on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border—express uniform enthusiasm for the Banff initiative. Independent of government efforts, many have formed pro-reintroduction alliances. In 2014, eight nations (or tribes) signed a Buffalo Treaty in Montana, which commits signatories to bison restoration. Other nations have since signed on. In September 2016, the American Bison Society held their fifth annual week-long conference in Banff, marking their first summit in Canada. Upon February's announcement of bison reintroduction in Banff, Leroy Little Bear, a Blood Tribe member integral to the Buffalo Treaty, told the Calgary Herald, "The restoration of wild bison to Banff National Park is a great leap forward for buffalo peoples."
Banff is not the first place in Canada where plains bison have been reintroduced, but as Heuer notes, there are unusual components to this plan. "We've reintroduced them into an area [Banff] that has all their native predators, which is really rare," he said. "Other than Yellowstone and Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan and a herd up in northeastern B.C. [British Columbia] called the Pink Mountain Herd, there are no other plains bison populations in North America that actually are interacting with the full suite of native predators."
Heuer reports that working on the reintroduction project with various representatives from First Nations was "invigorating" for all parties. "I think part of the reason why our translocation went as well as it did… is because with the First Nations partners, there was a lot of spiritual preparation. We had numerous blessing ceremonies." On Jan. 29, the Samson Cree Nation hosted a send-off ceremony at Elk Island National Park, and several other First Nations celebrated the bison's return to Banff, too.
Nonprofit conservationists are also excited about the Banff reintroduction. "One of the things national parks are supposed to do is to conserve our ecological heritage," said wildlife ecologist Dr. Jodi Hilty, president of Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative , a joint Canada-U.S. nonprofit organization that connects and protects wildlife habitats. "And that includes ensuring that all the species that should be there are persisting, now and into the future. In the case of bison, they're 'ecosystem engineers,' if you will. They actively impact the landscape."
Not everyone, however, is so effusive.
initially worried that the bison could escape from their current enclosure, damage property, or spread disease to livestock. Members of the Alberta Fish and Game Association (AFGA) were also
, arguing in 2015 that "the experiment is ill-founded, has no environmental integrity and has little value to Canadians." However, Parks Canada has done due diligence in terms of disease testing and quarantining, and representatives have met with both AFGA and the Alberta Beef Producers to alleviate their concerns, even committing to slaughtering the herd if necessary. However, Heuer and his team hope it won't come to that. "It's taken a lot of time," he said, "and we finally have hooves on the ground." For now, Parks Canada observes and monitors the bison. After a period of managing the animals in such heavy-handed fashion, Heuer said the hope is that the herd will ultimately revert to bison's "tremendous wild instincts."
As the old cliché goes, it is only once we've lost something that we realize how valuable it was. The Banff project, along with other wildlife reintroductions—such as the recent scimitar-horned oryx in Chad or the Iberian lynx in Spain —offer multi-pronged opportunities: a chance to make amends for past mistakes, and an occasion to make a solid commitment to the future of the planet.
"It's fairly high-cost to try to bring something back what you've already lost," noted Heuer, adding that such endeavors are also labor-intensive. "By far, the more efficient and better approach... is to maintain the land's ecological integrity so that you don't have to restore it. I would really caution people from going down the road of thinking, 'You know, it's no big deal if we lose things because we have the power and the technological prowess to bring them back.'"
Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA Magazine .
20 March 2017.
Gorsuch Supreme Court Nomination: High Stakes for the Planet –
The U.S. Senate is beginning the confirmation process today to consider Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. Gorsuch, nominated by President Trump on Jan. 31, is now a jurist on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
Senators will be making their opening statements, with Republicans expected to say that he will be fair-minded on all issues, including those pertaining to the environment by pointing to what they consider an even-handed record. Democrats, though, will be asking targeted questions of the would-be Supreme Court jurist, especially about his thinking on the carbon-cutting Clean Power Plan that now awaits a decision at the appeals court level.
What could happen? "I'm willing … to say, that he's going to come at these things neutral and if he doesn't think an agency's interpretation is credible he's going to say so," Pat Parenteau, a professor at Vermont Law School, told the Associate Press . "Sometimes that's going to cut in favor of the environment and sometimes it's going to cut against the environment and I don't know how much of that concern actually weighs into his decision making."
What cases might environmentalists look at to get a keener insight into Judge Gorsuch's legal mindset? One of the most recent and hotly contested consisted of a Colorado state mandate requiring investor-owned utilities get 30 percent of electricity they sell from renewable sources by 2020—a law that Gorsuch voted to uphold.
According to Heavy :
In 2015, on a three-judge panel, Gorsuch affirmed that Colorado's renewable energy law would remain in place and did not violate the Constitution . The plaintiff had advocated for a free market approach to environmentalism and argued that the law violated the Commerce Clause and unfairly hurt out-of-state businesses, such as coal producers.
Conversely, according to the AP, Gorsuch sided with business interest in a 2010 case in which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had classified land in New Mexico as Indian territory when a company had wanted to explore there. Gorsuch said that the land in question was not actually on an Indian reservation and thus ruled in favor of the mining company.
By way of background, Neil Gorsuch is the son of Ann Burford Gorsuch, who led the EPA from 1981 to 1983 when President Reagan was in office. Environmentalists had been critical of her back in the day, saying that she had failed to tackle cases important to their cause and that she had tried to loosen existing regulations that had been meant to reduce pollution.
To that end, Democratic senators have expressed concern that Judge Gorsuch naturally favors the interest of big business. Senators worry that this would come at the expense of the environment as well as the most vulnerable Americans.
"The highest court in the land should be reserved only for those who believe that a democracy works for the people—not corporations," Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement . "Unfortunately but not unsurprisingly, Donald Trump's nominee, Neil Gorsuch, does not subscribe to this belief as evidenced by his long record of anti-environment, anti-women and anti-worker decisions."
Progress Now in Colorado believes that the nominee would set back environmental policy. Meantime, NextGen Climate President Tom Steyer said that, when Gorsuch was nominated, the U.S. Senate had owed "no deference" to Trump, who lost the popular vote. "The Supreme Court is one of the last lines of defense at this perilous time for our country," Steyer added.
Environmentalists, for example, point to the Chevron Doctrine , which is encompassed in the case of Chevron U.S.A., Inc v. NRDC. Simply, courts will defer to the federal agencies that have thoroughly analyzed a policy. But green groups, pointing to an earlier immigration case, are fearful that the Supreme Court nominee would give short shrift to the doctrine. That's because it is often associated with EPA regulations.
"It gives them broad authority to regulate certain pollution and it leaves it up to the experts to determine exactly what threshold of pollution is acceptable and what threshold is dangerous," Billy Corriher of the Center for American Progress said, according to the AP. "Judge Gorsuch would want to get rid of that standard and basically allow judges to substitute their own judgment for the judgment of the agency experts."
While some of the high court's current judges have criticized the doctrine—notably Justice Clarence Thomas—it has, in effect, served as a check on judicial activism, Kenneth Reich, an environmental and energy lawyer in Boston, said in an earlier interview. That's particularly relevant with regard to statutes that require a precise expertise—knowledge that the judges cannot possibly have.
The Clean Power Plan is a case-in-point. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide is a pollutant that could be regulated under the Clean Air Act—something that EPA made official in 2009, saying it was a danger to public health and welfare. And in 2014, the high court upheld that so-called endangerment finding. That ruling is the foundation behind President Obama's Clean Power Plan.
But in February 2016, the Supreme Court issued a "stay" to address some concerns of several states before sending the case back to the DC Court of Appeals, where a decision is expected soon. No matter how it rules, it will head back to the high court, which is now evenly split on the Clean Power Plan. The question many are asking is just how would Gorsuch decide and would he respect the Chevron Doctrine?
20 March 2017.
Scientists Sound the Alarm: CO2 Levels Race Past Point of No Return –
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that carbon dioxide levels in 2016 broke records for the second year in a row with an increase of 3 parts per million (ppm).
This graph shows the annual mean carbon dioxide growth rates observed at NOAA's Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory. Further information can be found on the ESRL Global Monitoring Division website . NOAA
The measurements are coming from the Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory in Hawaii and were confirmed by NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado. The numbers show that the rate of CO2 in the atmosphere is now at 405.1 ppm, the highest it has been in more than 10,000 years. Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA's Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network , said the findings are accurate and disturbing.
"The rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age," Tans said in a press release. "This is a real shock to the atmosphere."
A shock, indeed. An atmosphere of 400 ppm is dubbed the " carbon threshold ," a point of no return. To sum it up, levels this high throw the whole balance of the climate cycle into chaos, making it more difficult to predict climate changes and causing sea level rise , severe tropical storms, drought and flooding.
Emissions from fossil-fuel consumption have remained at historically high levels since 2011, and according to Tans, these emissions are contributing to the dramatic spike in atmospheric CO2 levels, which, up until the industrial revolution in 1760, averaged about 280 ppm.
Even if humans were to stop burning fossil fuels today, the carbon will continue to be trapped for at least the next few decades. Back in October 2016, when levels finally reached the 400 ppm threshold, Tans said , "It's unlikely we'll ever see CO2 below 400 ppm during our lifetime and probably much longer."
20 March 2017.
U.S. Forces G20 to Drop Mention of Climate Change in Joint Statement –
By Nadia Prupis
Finance ministers for the Group of 20 (G20), which comprises the world's biggest economies, dropped a joint statement mentioning funding for the fight against climate change after pressure from the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.
A G20 official taking part in the annual meeting told Reuters that efforts by this year's German leadership to keep climate funding in the statement had hit a wall.
"Climate change is out for the time being," said the official, who asked to remain anonymous.
French Finance Minister Michel Sapin stressed that the move did not mark the end of the road for the statement. The G20 is scheduled to meet in full in July in Hamburg.
"There can be a way to overcome disagreements today—that is, not writing about it in the communique," Sapin told reporters on Friday. "But not writing about it doesn't mean not talking about it. Not writing about it means that there are difficulties, that there is a disagreement and that we we must work on them in the coming months."
The statement does mention the need to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, but overall the language appears weaker than previous communiques, critics said.
Bloomberg reported :
The 23-page draft, obtained by Bloomberg News, outlines how the most prosperous nations can lead by example, cutting their own greenhouse-gas emissions, financing efforts to curb pollution in poorer countries and take other steps to support the landmark Paris climate accord .
"The link between global warming and the organization of financial markets and even the organization of the global economy" is particularly important for France, Sapin said in Baden-Baden. "We'll see whether there'll be agreement with the U.S. administration, but there can be no going back on this for the G-20."
At the last G20 meeting in July 2016, the group's financial leaders urged all countries that had signed onto the landmark Paris climate accord to bring the deal into action as soon as possible. But President Trump , who has referred to global warming as a " Chinese hoax ," took office vowing to remove the U.S. from the voluntary agreement.
On Thursday, a day before the finance meeting, the Trump administration unveiled its " skinny budget " proposal, which included a 31 percent cut to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Friends of the Earth
senior political strategist Ben Schreiber said at the time, "With this budget, Trump has made it clear that he is prioritizing
profits over the health of the American people."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams .
19 March 2017.
How to Meet the Soaring Demand for Organic Food –
Despite the rapid growth of the organic food industry, U.S. production lags significantly behind consumer demand. A new report from the Environmental Working Group shows that with modest reforms to existing programs, Congress could help growers transition away from farming that relies on chemical pesticides and expand the acreage dedicated to organic agriculture.
Between 1997 and 2015,
soared from $3.7 billion to more than $43 billion. This double-digit growth nearly every year makes the organic sector one of the fastest growing segments of the food industry. Major retailers such as
report that they can't get enough organic food to meet customer demand.
Yet the gap between supply and demand means many American organic food companies have to rely on foreign suppliers for staples like soybeans, corn and rice—demand that could be met by domestic producers.
"Driven in large part by the multiple environmental and health benefits, Americans' appetites for organic food is seemingly insatiable," said Colin O'Neil, Environmental Working Group's agriculture policy director and author of the report. "The current organic trade deficit presents Congress with a unique chance to expand market opportunities for U.S. producers, while also benefitting consumers, food companies and the environment. With modest reforms to current programs in the next farm bill, Congress can reduce barriers to farmers who want to transition organic methods at no additional cost."
John Paneno, vice president of sourcing for Amy's Kitchen Inc. of Petaluma, California, said increasing the U.S. supply of organic food is essential.
"Amy's continues to see strong consumer growth for our organic products," said Paneno. "We need more programs that help our farmers transition into organic farming so that we can source the ingredients we need domestically and create new jobs for our rural communities."
The Environmental Working Group's report details how Congress can play a role in better positioning American farmers to meet the demand for organics, by increasing the number of organic farms and the amount of organic acreage. Congress has already begun discussing the 2018 Farm Bill, which O'Neil said should include the following modest changes:
- Reform the Conservation Stewardship Program to create bundles of conservation practices specifically to help producers who want transition to organic.
- Reform the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative to provide organic and transitioning producers with the same level of support as those in the general funding pool.
- Reform the Conservation Reserve Program to provide greater incentives for producers to put farmland exiting the program into organic production.
"The organic food industry is now one of the fastest growing, most dynamic parts of the food sector, creating tens of thousands of jobs and producing in-demand foods for millions of Americans" said O'Neil. "Members of Congress should take any simple steps they can to reduce barriers to transition and help expand the organic farm footprint here in the U.S."
18 March 2017.
3 Cities Prove Climate Action Works –
The climate crisis is a problem caused by humans that can be solved by humans. These three cities are proving it.
While a lot of media coverage around the crisis is doom and gloom, cities around the world are coming up with powerful solutions on the local level. Here's how a Canadian city, an American city and a Chinese city are taking on climate action.
1. North America's First Renewably Powered City
City: Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver's ambitious vision to power the city entirely on renewable energy will help curb emissions from its two biggest emitters: transport and buildings.
Vancouver is the first city in North America to develop a renewable city strategy to derive 100 percent of the city's entire energy needs from renewable sources by 2050. To achieve this goal, the city is prioritizing efforts around reducing emissions from its most polluting sectors, buildings and transportation and increasing the use and supply of renewables. In the transport sector, this includes measures such as the promotion of renewably powered car-sharing fleets and the development of standards to support renewably powered private vehicles. Simultaneously, retrofits of existing buildings and ensuring the grid energy supply is 100-percent renewable will spur the clean energy shift for the city's building stock.
Underpinning the strategy is an innovative energy system model that maps energy demand across the year and by time of day, matching it with an energy supply model to identify the most economical ways energy demand can be met by renewable sources. In this way, Vancouver is using cutting-edge technology—employed for the first time by a municipality—to solve pressing energy concerns and guide plans for a 100 percent renewable future.
The Result: 80 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, from 2007 levels, by 2050 due to the renewable city strategy.
2. Legal Ordinance for Solar-Powered Buildings
City: New York, New York
New York City's government agencies are now legally required to assess potential
PV retrofits at all municipal buildings.
In 2016, New York City passed a law requiring local government agencies to assess all city-owned rooftops for solar photovoltaic (PV) potential, in order to support the city's goal to install 100 MW of solar PV on municipal property by 2025. Agencies must report on factors including the potential reduction in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, the financing of the project and whether buildings' rooftops are suitable for a solar installation. In keeping track of the projects, the city will also take into consideration the financial savings accruing from CO2 emissions reductions in order to better reflect the value of the retrofits.
To date, the city has installed 8.8 MW of solar PV across 52 municipal buildings. Informed by the government agencies' evaluations, New York City plans to develop a strategy to expand the initiative to 4,000 city-owned buildings, which include schools, hospitals, libraries, courthouses, firehouses, offices, police precincts, wastewater treatment plants and recreation centers and which will help the city reach its goal to reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.
The Result: 35,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions will be reduced by solar projects by 2025.
3. Low-Carbon Megacity Encourages Green Growth
City: Guangzhou, China
Guangzhou is planning for an increasing population and rising demand for energy with a multi-sector, low-carbon plan for green growth, targeting industry, infrastructure and buildings.
Guangzhou, a megacity with a population exceeding 13 million, is still in a stage of rapid economic development and urban construction. In 2012, Guangzhou launched the Pilot Low Carbon City Implementation Plan in an effort to reduce greenhouse emissions through systematic measures in the growing city. The plan includes the elimination of outdated industrial capacity and equipment and the promotion of energy-efficient technologies and green, low-carbon buildings. Transport infrastructure is also being targeted, with a new public transport system mainly based on rail transit.
Both market mechanisms, such as limiting entry permits for high-carbon projects to control greenhouse gas emissions, and institutional mechanisms, such as stricter emissions standards, have been used to promote low-carbon development under the plan. Green industries have developed quickly in the city, with an added value of $4.2 billion in 2014, an 11.1 percent increase compared to the previous year. As a commitment to the plan, Guangzhou announced in 2015 it will reach its carbon emissions peak by 2020.
The Result: 35.9M tons of CO2 emissions reduced between 2010 and 2014.
For more than three months, an underwater pipeline has been spewing hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of processed natural gas per day in Alaska's Cook Inlet, possibly threatening critically endangered beluga whales , fish and other wildlife.
The 8-inch pipeline, owned and operated by Hilcorp Alaska , is leaking more than 210,000 cubic feet of gas per day. The gas is 99 percent methane and provides fuel for four platforms in Cook Inlet.
A notice from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) revealed that Hilcorp knew about the leak as early as December but did not report the leak until Feb. 7 after a helicopter spotted gas bubbling to the surface of the water.
PHMSA said that the natural gas discharge could pose a risk to public safety, the environment and marine mammals and has given Hilcorp until May 1 to permanently repair the line or shut it down.
But conservation groups warn that waiting until May could allow the release of another 16 million cubic feet of gas. Seven groups have submitted a letter to the Trump administration urging for an immediate shutdown of the 52-year-old pipeline.
"This dangerous leak could stop immediately if regulators did their job and shut down this rickety old pipeline," said Miyoko Sakashita, the Center for Biological Diversity oceans program director. "We're disgusted with the Trump administration's lack of concern about this ongoing disaster. Every day the leak continues, this pipeline spews more pollution into Cook Inlet and threatens endangered belugas and other wildlife."
The letter was signed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth , Natural Resources Defense Council , Defenders of Wildlife , Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands , Greenpeace and the Eyak Preservation Council .
Hilcorp contends that Cook Inlet's heavy ice cover and strong tides has made it too risky for divers to immediately fix the problem and is waiting until at least late March or April for the ice to clear.
The ice cover has also made it impossible to survey the leak's risks to environmental and wildlife. But scientists have already warned that the impact could be disastrous.
"There are three potential impacts that we worry about," Chris Sabine, a chemical oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), detailed to InsideClimate News .
First, methane exposure could be harmful to fish, potentially disturbing its main functional systems—respiration, nervous system, blood formation, enzyme activity and others. Secondly, Sabine explained that bacteria metabolizing the methane-saturated water could produce additional carbon dioxide and deplete oxygen levels in the water, creating a hypoxic zone . Lastly, this extra CO2 can cause the water to become more acidic, which can cause shells of some animals to weaken.
Sadie Wright, a NOAA marine mammals specialist, added that the hypoxic zone could impact the food supply for Cook Inlet's estimated 340 belugas.
The the noise coming from the leak could also be a "potential stressor," she said, as excessive noise can cause belugas to abandon their habitat.
"We don't have any idea how loud the leak might be," said Wright.
Not much is known about what is happening under Cook Inlet's icy waters. State regulators only
a preliminary approval of Hilcorp's sampling and environmental monitoring plan on Tuesday.
So far, aerial surveys of the leaking gas field has not uncovered any injured birds or marine mammals, including beluga whales, state officials reported .
To slow the leak , the company lowered pressure in the affected line on March 4, estimating that leak was reduced to 210,000 to 310,000 cubic feet of gas daily. It again lowered the pressure on Monday and estimated the line is leaking 193,000 to 215,000 cubic feet daily.
As for why Hilcorp hasn't just shut down its line, the company said that an oil spill could occur because the line was once used to carry oil.
Shutting down the pipeline would risk it "taking in water, freezing and potentially rupturing," Lori Nelson, external affairs manager at Hilcorp Alaska, explained last month to Alaska Dispatch News . Nelson also said that the line needs to be kept pressurized or else it could fill with water, allowing residual crude oil to escape from what was previously used as a crude oil pipeline.
The Center for Biological Diversity has sent a notice of intent to sue Hilcorp under the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. Homer, Alaska nonprofit Cook Inletkeeper has sent a similar notice to sue.
"If Hilcorp cannot or will not stop polluting our public resources, then it should have no right to operate in our waters in the first place," Cook Inletkeeper executive director Bob Shavelson wrote in a blog post . "Hilcorp has put forth various excuses why it cannot shut down the leaking pipeline in Cook Inlet's icy conditions—including that water would infiltrate the gas line and other reasons—but the fact remains Hilcorp simply wants to maintain production and profits without interruption."