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Policy Lessons from Mad Cow Disease:

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 1st, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


the Republican party’s de-democratization strategy is the one of calling for a strategy of
“one Anglo-Saxon, financially successful person, one vote”.

Trump’s Next Attack on Democracy: Mass Voter Suppression

By Russ Feingold, Guardian UK
01 July 17

The Trump administration’s ‘election integrity’ commission is declaring war on voters – our democratic legitimacy be damned

he most important aspect of any democratic election is participation. A democracy gains its legitimacy through elections only so far as those elections represent the will of the people. Limit voter participation, and there is a direct correlation between the legitimacy of an election and the democratic system. President Trump and Vice-President Pence’s “election integrity” commission is unequivocally declaring war on voters – our democratic legitimacy be damned.

The commission recently sent a letter to all 50 states asking that they provide all the names and associated birthdays, last four digits of social security numbers, addresses, political parties, and voting histories since 2006 of people on their voter rolls. This letter is helping to lay the groundwork for nationalized voter suppression.

The commission is requesting the same information that Republican state governments have used to create hyper-partisan gerrymandering and enact restrictive voter ID laws. Such measures have been disturbingly successful at suppressing voting of minority and low-income citizens, groups that tend to vote with Democrats. This assault on voters might seem farfetched, except that we’ve seen this strategy too many times before to claim ignorance now.

After slavery ended, white elites invented felony disenfranchisement as a means to delegitimize black citizens and prevent them from gaining influence. We saw Jim Crow gut-punch our democracy in yet another attempt to disenfranchise minorities. We are witnessing history repeating itself.

Nationally, the Democratic party is gaining support as the country’s demographics become increasingly diverse. The majority of black, Native American, Hispanic and Asian voters vote as Democrats. The Republican party has known for several years now that its best tactic to cling to power is not to build a party worth supporting, but to deny participation in the political process to Democratic party voters.

Making matters worse, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Office, long heralded as the ultimate guarantor of civil rights, including voting rights, might unknowingly be supporting the commission’s efforts. The Civil Rights Office sent out a letter on Wednesday, the same day as the commission sent its letter, seeking information from states on how they maintain their voter rolls. The office charged with upholding the 1965 Voting Rights Act must resist playing a leading role in further dismantling this most fundamental democratic right.

I would expect these actions from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or any of the other authoritarian regimes we have sanctioned around the world – regimes that stay in power by suppressing their people and manipulating election results. We must not lie to ourselves when we see the warning signs here at home. This commission is a harbinger of a top-down, White House-endorsed assault on voters, specifically Democratic voters: the same voters who denied Trump the popular vote.

State leaders have a moral and constitutional obligation to our democracy and to their citizens to refuse to cooperate with this commission.

States should refuse to hand over any of the requested voter information, as California, Virginia, Rhode Island and Kentucky have refused to do at this writing. The Connecticut, Oklahoma and North Carolina secretaries of state, on the other hand, have agreed to send “publicly available” information to the commission. This is a mistake.

Our democracy cannot afford to turn over any information now and ask questions later. States turning over any information, including publicly available information, legitimize the commission and betray the trust and privacy of voters. Having publicly available information for in-state use is different from providing information for a national voter database that will be placed at the hands of nefarious actors. States must take a stand to protect their voters’ most fundamental democratic right.

Additionally, Democrats must refuse to participate in the commission. The secretaries of state for New Hampshire and Maine should step down from the commission immediately. Participation risks granting legitimacy where there can be none. Two lone Democrats on this commission will stand no chance of preventing the pre-cooked outcomes. Instead, they and their states are being used to cloak the commission in the guise of bipartisanship. If Democrats refuse to participate, the commission will be left with no clothes on.

The litany of research on voting in recent years has failed to come up with but a handful of voter fraud cases. On the other hand, voter suppression techniques, such as those employed by the Republican party, effectively disenfranchise scores of voters across the country. If the real goal of the administration is election integrity, the stated objective from day one should have been to maximize voter participation.

Rather than target minority voters with a modern gloss on McCarthyism, we should be prioritizing a 21st-century Voting Rights Act to protect voting rights and increase access to the ballot box.

Rather than voter ID laws that disenfranchise certain demographics, a new Voting Rights Act could set a national ID standard, granting maximum flexibility to voters. It could also ban felony disenfranchisement in national elections and require publication of new electoral changes to help educate voters.

The options are there to strengthen our democracy and truly protect “one person, one vote”. Instead, this commission appears intent on nationalizing the Republican party’s strategy of “one Anglo-Saxon, financially successful person, one vote”.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 30th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

E&E News on EPA

Pruitt will launch program to ‘critique’ climate science

Emily Holden, E&E News reporter
Climatewire: Friday, June 30, 2017

Scott Pruitt, U.S. EPA Administrator, of the Trump Administration, favors reopening the endangerment finding on greenhouse gases, according to Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corp. @EPAScottPruitt/Twitter

U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is leading a formal initiative to challenge mainstream climate science using a “back-and-forth critique” by government-recruited experts, according to a senior administration official.


The program will use “red team, blue team” exercises to conduct an “at-length evaluation of U.S. climate science,” the official said, referring to a concept developed by the military to identify vulnerabilities in field operations.

“The administrator believes that we will be able to recruit the best in the fields which study climate and will organize a specific process in which these individuals … provide back-and-forth critique of specific new reports on climate science,” the source said.

“We are in fact very excited about this initiative,” the official added. “Climate science, like other fields of science, is constantly changing. A new, fresh and transparent evaluation is something everyone should support doing.”

The disclosure follows the administration’s suggestions over several days that it supports reviewing climate science outside the normal peer-review process used by scientists. This is the first time agency officials acknowledged that Pruitt has begun that process. The source said Energy Secretary Rick Perry also favors the review.

Executives in the coal industry interpret the move as a step toward challenging the endangerment finding, the agency’s legal foundation for regulating greenhouse gases from cars, power plants and other sources. Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corp., said Pruitt assured him yesterday that he plans to begin reviewing the endangerment finding within months.

“We talked about that, and they’re going to start addressing it later this year,” Murray said in an interview. “They’re going to start getting a lot of scientific people in to give both sides of the issue.”

But another person attending the meeting said Pruitt resisted committing to a full-scale challenge of the 2009 finding. The administration source also said Pruitt “did not promise to try to rescind the endangerment finding.”

Climate scientists express concern that the “red team, blue team” concept could politicize scientific research and disproportionately elevate the views of a relatively small number of experts who disagree with mainstream scientists (Climatewire, June 29).

Pruitt told about 30 people attending a board meeting of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity yesterday morning that he’s establishing a “specific process” to review climate science, the administration official said. Murray and two other people in the room interpreted Pruitt as saying he would challenge the endangerment finding.

Challenging the endangerment finding would be enormously difficult, according to many lawyers. The finding is built on an array of scientific material establishing that human health and welfare is endangered by a handful of greenhouse gases emitted by industry, power plants and cars. It stems from a Supreme Court ruling in 2007.

If Pruitt somehow succeeded in rolling back the finding — an outcome that many Republicans say is far-fetched — the federal government would no longer be required to restrict greenhouse gas emissions.

Power companies have told Pruitt they don’t want him to wade into a protracted and public legal battle that he would likely lose. Many have said that if EPA rescinds its carbon standards for power plants — the Clean Power Plan — the agency should write a substitute rule and try to avoid court fights that might confuse their efforts to make long-term business plans (Climatewire, June 22).

Murray yesterday commended President Trump’s announcement that he would try to boost some coal exports, but he said that ultimately what the sector needs is for EPA to nix the endangerment finding.

Perry also has touted carbon capture and sequestration technologies for coal plants, even as he questions whether climate science is settled.

Murray said carbon capture won’t help, either.

“Carbon capture and sequestration does not work. It’s a pseudonym for ‘no coal,'” Murray said while waiting for a ride outside DOE headquarters. “It is neither practical nor economic, carbon capture and sequestration. It is just cover for the politicians, both Republicans and Democrats that say, ‘Look what I did for coal,’ knowing all the time that it doesn’t help coal at all.”

Murray acknowledged that the legal fight over the endangerment finding would be “tough.” He thinks that’s because climate activists and renewable power producers want to keep making money off climate change.

“All these people will be jumping on this on the other side because it’s all about money, but it is not about America. America needs reliable, low-cost electricity, and that is a mix of different fuels,” he said.

Murray also wants Perry to use emergency authority to stop coal and nuclear plant closures, although lawyers have said that is unlikely to happen (Energywire, June 19).

Still, Murray, who is close with the president, said he thinks Trump would be “receptive” to the idea.

Reporter Rod Kuckro contributed.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 25th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From TRUTHOUT:

In a recent, exclusive interview with Truthout, we asked Noam Chomsky about his take on climate change and the state of the planet. Here’s what he said:

“Every part of [the world] is trying to do something. The United States alone is trying to destroy it, and it’s not just Trump, it’s the whole Republican Party. You just can’t find words for it. And it’s not reported. It’s not discussed.”

From WASHINGTON POST:

Beyond opposing Trump, do Democrats have a message?

Perhaps Democrats thought things would be easier because of Donald Trump’s rocky start. His presidency has produced an outpouring of anger among Democrats, but will that be enough to bring about a change in the party’s fortunes? Some savvy Democratic elected officials doubt it.

By Dan Balz, June 24, 2017

Their anti-Trump fantasies are not working for them. Anger is not a plan or a policy. It only feeds those they already had and does not expand their base. If anything, it further alienates them from voters they need. This is because they not only hate Trump, they also hate those who voted for him. “I hate you because you did not vote for me” is a tough sale.

The loss in last week’s special congressional election in Georgia produced predictable handwringing and finger-pointing inside the Democratic Party. It also raised anew a question that has troubled the party through a period in which they have lost ground political. Simply put: Do Democrats have a message?

Right now, the one discernable message is opposition to President Donald Trump. That might be enough to get through next year’s midterm elections, though some savvy Democratic elected officials doubt it. What’s needed is a message that attracts voters beyond the blue-state base of the party.

The defeat in Georgia came in a district that was always extremely challenging. Nonetheless, the loss touched off a hunt for scapegoats. Some Democrats, predictably, blamed the candidate, Jon Ossoff, for failing to capitalize on a flood of money and energy among party activists motivated to send a message of opposition to the president. He may have had flaws but he and the Democrats turned out lots of voters. There just weren’t enough of them.

Other critics went up the chain of command and leveled their criticism at House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. She has held her party together in the House through many difficult fights – ask veterans of the Obama administration – but she also has become a prime target for GOP ad makers as a symbol of the Democrats’ liberal and bicoastal leanings. Pelosi, a fighter, has brushed aside the criticism.

Perhaps Democrats thought things would be easier because of Trump’s rocky start. His presidency has produced an outpouring of anger among Democrats but will that be enough to bring about a change in the party’s fortunes?

History says a president with approval ratings as low as Trump’s usually sustain substantial midterm losses. That could be the case in 2018, particularly if the Republicans end up passing a health care bill that right now is far more unpopular than Obamacare. But Trump has beaten the odds many times in his short political career. What beyond denunciations of the Republicans as heartless will the Democrats have to say to voters?

Though united in vehement opposition to the president, Democrats do not speak with one voice. Fault lines and fissures exist between the ascendant progressive wing at the grassroots and those Democrats who remain more business-friendly. While these differences are not as deep as those seen in Trump’s Republican Party, that hasn’t yet generated a compelling or fresh message to take to voters who aren’t already sold on the party.

Hillary Clinton, whose rhetoric often sounded more poll-tested than authentic, never found that compelling message during her 2016 campaign. She preferred to run a campaign by demonizing Trump and as a result drowned out her economic issues. This was a strategic gamble for which she paid a high price.

The absence of a convincing economic message did not start with Clinton. Former president Barack Obama struggled with the same during his 2012 reelection. He wanted to claim credit for a steady but slow recovery while acknowledging forthrightly the persistent growth that was rising far more rapidly for those at the top. It was a muddle at best, but he was saved the fact that Mitt Romney couldn’t speak to those stressed voters either. In 2016, however, Trump did.

Clinton’s loss forced Democrats to confront their deficiencies among white, working-class voters and the vast areas between the coasts that flipped in Trump’s direction. Their defection from the Democratic Party began well before Trump but until 2016 Democrats thought they could overcome that problem by tapping other voters. Trump showed the limits of that strategy.

The Georgia loss put a focus on a different type of voter, the well-educated suburbanites, particularly those who don’t live in deep blue states. While losing ground among working-class whites, Democrats have been gaining support among white voters with college degrees. Last fall, Clinton advisers believed she would do well enough with those college graduates to overcome projected erosion among those without college educations. She fell short of expectations, however, allowing Trump to prevail in the pivotal Midwest battlegrounds.

The Georgia district had the highest percentage of college graduates of any in the nation. Ossoff tried to win over those suburban voters with a moderate message on economic issues but it wasn’t powerful or persuasive enough to overcome the appeal of the Republican brand in an election in which the GOP made Pelosi-style Democrats a focus. Loyalty to party was strong enough to allow Karen Handel to prevail.

The long-running debate over the Democrats’ message likely will intensify as the party looks to 2018 and especially to 2020. It is a debate that the party needs. Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, writing in the American Prospect, sees a problem that goes beyond white, working-class voters to those within the Democratic base who also were left behind by the post-2008 economic gains. He argues that the part’s problem is with working class voters of all types, not just whites.

Greenberg has long been critical of the tepidness of the party’s economic message and puts some of the blame on Obama. He believes the former president’s economic message in 2012 and 2016 focused on progress in the recovery largely to the exclusion of the widespread pain that still existed. “That mix of heralding ‘progress’ while bailing out those responsible for the crisis and the real crash in incomes for working Americans was a fatal brew for Democrats,” he argues.

For progressives, the answer to this problem is clear: a boldly liberal message that attacks big corporations and Wall Street and calls for a significant increase in government’s role in reducing income and wealth inequality. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. has been aggressive in promoting exactly that, as he did during the 2016 campaign, a big investment in infrastructure, free college tuition at public colleges and universities. He has said he intends to introduce legislation he calls “Medicare for all.”

That kind of message likely will spark more internal debate, particularly among Democrats from swing districts or swing states. It points to one of the biggest challenges Democrats face as they move beyond being the anti-Trump party. That is the question of whether they are prepared to make a robust and appealing case in behalf of government in the face of continuing skepticism among many of the voters they are trying to win over. Trump might not succeed in draining the swamp, but he has tapped into sentiments about Washington that Democrat ignore at their peril.

Nor can Democrats ignore voters’ concerns about immigration. The Democrats’ message on immigration and immigrant rights (and some other cultural issues) plays well in many blue states, but it draws a much more mixed reception in those parts of the country where Trump turned the election in his direction.

In this divided era, it’s easy for either party to look at the other and conclude the opposition is in worse shape. That’s the trap for Democrats right now as they watch Trump struggle in office. But Democrats are in the minority in the House, Senate, governorships and state legislatures. Clinton may have won the popular vote but that proved about as satisfying as coming close while losing last week in Georgia. It’s no substitute for the real thing. If continued frustration with losing doesn’t prompt rethinking about the message, what will?

From OpenDEMOCRACY:

Macron and absolute responsibility
PATRICE DE BEER 23 June 2017
If there were one word to characterise these elections, it was crafted by Melenchon and is “dégagisme”, or cleaning-out.

French President Emmanuel Macron has won his ambitious and unlikely bet. After having been elected president last May at the age of 39, he now holds an absolute majority in the National Assembly, with 350 seats out of 577 – his own movement, La République En Marche (LREM), having 308 MPs, the rest being held by his centrist MoDem allies.

For a movement created only14 months ago and long considered by pundits and politicians alike as a “bubble”, this is an incredible success. Even if it is less than what the most recent opinion polls had predicted (up to 470 seats), and even though the 57% abstention rate has reached an apex in the history of the Fifth Republic.

Now that he has turned the French party system upside down, he holds all the cards to implement his promised in-depth reform of a paralysed political, economic and social system. This is what most French voters elected him for. He will marginally revamp his government, which includes ministers from left, right and centre alongside personalities from civil society, serving under the conservative 46-year-old Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, before Parliament is due to convene on June 27. Yet he has to move fast on his reforms – first of the labour market, a very divisive one, on which negotiations with unions and employers have already started – knowing by experience as the former adviser and economic minister of the last Socialist president, François Hollande, that delaying crucial decisions means having their positive effects delayed till the end of his five year tenure, if not later. He knows this so well that some of his new bills are already in the pipeline, having even been partly drafted before he took office.

If his predicted triumph has been downsized to an historical success in presiding over the demise of the two parties who ruled France in the last 60 years, it is mostly because of a massive abstention rate. Already noted during the first round, when other parties lost up to 60% of the votes obtained during the April-May presidential election, this conviction on the part of many voters that this is the only election that matters, also afflicted the Macron vote last Sunday. Some of his voters thought there was no point voting again as the dice were cast, others were not so keen to give him too big a majority. At the same time, it looks as if tactical voting from opposition voters, starting with the left and right extremes – France Insoumise (FI or Unsubdued Left) and National Front (FN) – helped defeat some LREM candidates who were ahead on the first round.

Faced by these 350 seats, conservative Républicains and their centrist allies had their worse ever score with 130 seats (against 229 in the last Parliament). Socialists slumped to 30, 10% of their previous score. They are in total disarray, having lost their historical strongholds and some MPs only having survived thanks to Macron’s support for those considered “Macron compatible”, after they voiced support in public for some of his reforms and their willingness to support his government in its first vote of confidence. A split between such recruits and the hard-liners has already occurred in the Republicains, with the same expected to ensue any moment now within the Socialists, all of which should benefit the new President.

Together for the first time, the far left and the far right will play an albeit minor role within a split opposition. FN has now 8 MPs instead of 2, including the election of its leader Ms Marine Le Pen. This is far less than they had hoped for and not enough to form a parliamentary group (a minimum of 15 MPs). The FI, the new populist party led by Jean-Luc Melenchon, has 17 MPs when it previously had none. This will give him a basis to pursue his war against Macron whom he considers as the devil incarnate of the worst type of capitalist and financial system. This is a huge disappointment for a man who still hoped a few weeks ago for a majority in Parliament and who considers Macron’s power as illegitimate because, he says, overlooking the fact that less than 2.5 millions voted for him, that it only represents 7.3 million registered voters out of 47.6 million. The Communists, rejecting fealty to the FI, cling to their 10 MPs. As for the Greens, bitterly torn among themselves, they have gone from 17 to one MP while French ecology icon, Nicolas Hulot, is now number 3 in the Philippe government, in charge of energy transition.

If there were one word to characterise these elections, it was crafted by Melenchon and is “dégagisme”, or cleaning-out. “Dégagisme” of old politicians, old parties, of the old world, to build a new one made up of several bold promises regularly repeated like mantras by this gifted orator who can hold the attention of large audiences for hours, while sporting his Mao-like jacket. “Dégagisme” for him began with his rivals on the left, starting with the PS whom he vowed to destroy and replace, and with whom he rejected any alliance, even choosing to stand against the local head of the party in Marseilles, and winning.

But it is also clear that a large majority of those who left the PS were from its moderate wing and disillusioned by Hollande as well as by his vociferous minority of hard-liners who took control of a rump party in the presidential primaries – their candidate came out fifth with only 6% of the vote at the presidential election – the rest siding with France Insoumise. So, the main beneficiary of this “dégagisme” against politicians who had been in charge for decades and were held responsible by so many of the French voters, left and right, has been Macron himself. It was they who helped him build his following before he received support from the centre and from part of the right in his “neither left nor right” or “and left and right” strategy.

Absolute majority, absolute responsibility

So the easy part of his job has now been done and a hard task lies ahead. Initially, few people believed he could be elected. Now all of a sudden they expect him to deliver. And fast. To balance his job-creating reforms by loosening up the French labour system with social reforms. To make it easier to lay-off but also to recruit. To improve the living of the less-well-off by simplifying taxes and financing health and unemployment benefits, not from wages but through a higher tax on all income, financial and corporate included, and by removing an obsolete and unjust housing tax for 80% of taxpayers.

The French want things to change for the better but are at the same time afraid of the future. And they are also reluctant to see these changes affect them directly. Difficult people to deal with! But by promoting a more benevolent type of politics, by refusing to countenance verbal abuse against his opponents, asking people in rallies to stop booing them, he has tried to promote a more peaceful atmosphere. This might pacify the political arena for a time but there will be no honeymoon: he will have to deliver.

He has started by building an image of himself as a leader. At home, by not ducking out of talking face to face with strikers fighting against the outsourcing of their jobs; booed at first, he managed at least twice to have a frank discussion with them without making, as he said, promises everyone knew he could not fulfil. Then he did the same in the international world where so many pundits said that he was too young and lacked the international exposure and guts to talk face to face with world leaders, starting with Trump and Putin. But now he will have to dirty his hands with day to day politics.

He will do this with the help of his new majority in an Assembly profoundly affected by another brand of institutional ”dégagisme”. Thanks to a recent bill, no politician can be elected for more than three terms or hold more than one position of responsibility (deputy or senator, mayor, regional counsellor). Macron has also decided to implement strict parity between women and men in his government as among his candidates for Parliament. So the new Assembly will accommodate 432 (75%) new MPs, 223 of them women (160 from LREM) instead of 155. With an average age of 48 years instead of 54 years as before, they are elected under Macron’s name. New in politics but active in business, start-ups, social services, various jobs and professions who will have to learn the tricks of the trade while remaining close to people outside Parliament. Loyal? yes, but hopefully bringing new blood, new ideas, new experience to a political world far too long endogamous and male orientated.

Will they all be up to the task? The fact is that they represent the first revolution – the title of Macron’s last book – to occur in fossilised French politics and a timely chance to bring France back as a European, and world power, thanks to his promised reforms and his pro-European stand at a moment when the EU is not that popular in the Old Continent. Just at the time when the EU’s future is at stake and Britain is starting her long, complex and, probably, bitter divorce proceedings.

As the conservative Le Figaro, criticised by readers for being too accommodating with Macron wrote on Monday, “Absolute majority, absolute responsibility”. And Le Monde’s publisher added, “Rebuild confidence”. A tough programme indeed.

‘It only needs all’: re-reading Dialectic of Enlightenment at 70

MARCEL STOETZLER 24 June 2017

Seventy years ago, Querido Verlag published a densely written book that has become a key title of modern social philosophy. Underneath its pessimistic granite surface a strangely sanguine message awaits us.

How do you make an argument against social domination when the very terms, concepts and languages at your disposal are shaped by, and in turn serve that same social domination? Probably in the way you would light a fire in a wooden stove. How would you write a book about the impossibility of writing just that book? Like a poem about the pointlessness of poems. What if your enemies’ enemies are your own worst enemies? Can you defend liberal society from its fascist enemies when you know it is the wrong state of things? You must, but dialectics may well ‘make cowards of us all’ and spoil our ‘native hue of resolution’.

Dialectic of Enlightenment[1] is a very strange book, and although it was published, in 1947, by the leading publishing house for exiled, German-language anti-fascist literature, the Querido Verlag in Amsterdam, alongside many of the biggest literary names of the time, no-one will have expected that it gradually became one of the classics of modern social philosophy.

It is a book that commits all the sins editors tend to warn against: its chapters are about wildly differing subject matters; the writing is repetitive, circular and fragmented; no argument ever seems exhausted or final and there are no explicitly stated conclusions, and certainly no trace of a policy impact trajectory. Arguments start somewhere, suddenly come to a halt and then move on to something else. If this sounds like the script for a Soviet film from the revolutionary period, then that is not totally coincidental: it is an avant-garde montage film, transcribed into philosophy.

Unsurprisingly, given that it was written during WW2 in American exile and published at the beginning of the Cold War, it does not carry its Marxism on its sleeves, but it gives clear enough hints: in the preface, Horkheimer and Adorno state that the aim of the book is ‘to explain why humanity, instead of entering a truly human state, is sinking into a new kind of barbarism’. This addresses the dialectic referenced in the title of the book. The important bit here is the ‘instead of’: the reality of barbarism was undeniable and clearly visible, but the originality of the formulation lies in its implication that humanity could have been expected to enter ‘a truly human state’ sometime earlier in the twentieth century, leaving behind its not so human state.

The promise of progress towards humanity, held by socialists (and some liberals), blew up in their faces. It would have been easy and straightforward then to write a book arguing against the holding of such hope, but this would not have been a dialectical book; Dialectic of Enlightenment undertakes to rescue this hope by looking at why progress tipped over into its opposite.

Whose barbarism?
A number of propositions have been made, at the time and later, as to who or what is to be blamed for the barbarism. Capitalism was an obvious answer, but then, capitalism does not typically and all the time produce Holocausts (and capitalists could be found among the victims). Others pointed at ‘the Germans’ and their peculiar intellectual and social history; this, too, is neither an entirely wrong nor a quite satisfying answer. Again others pointed at ‘the bureaucracy’ and modern statecraft. These surely played a role but there are plenty of state bureaucracies that do not engage in genocides and world wars, most of the time. Horkheimer and Adorno made a much stranger, more abstract and strangely radical proposition: the barbarism that destroyed civilization was a product of civilization as such. It is civilization’s self-destruction.

The attempt to formulate a theory of barbarism as the product of civilization creates a very thorny problem, though: theorizing, the attempt to bring about enlightenment, is very much the stuff of civilization, as it involves thinking, language, perceptions, concepts, images, ideas, judgements, ‘spirit’ (which in the philosophical tradition Horkheimer and Adorno came from means as much as ‘culture’). Dialectic of Enlightenment blames the destruction of enlightenment on enlightenment, i.e. on itself. The philosopher Jürgen Habermas some decades later cleverly pointed out that this is a bit of a contradiction. That was exactly the point, though: the hint is in the title, in the word ‘Dialectic’.

————————
Title-page of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, 1807. Wikicommons. Some rights reserved.
The book’s painful starting point is described in the preface: Horkheimer and Adorno looked for a position from which to confront fascism and found that ‘in reflecting on its own guilt’, thought finds that it lacks a language.

In the name of what exactly is it possible to challenge fascism effectively? In the languages of sociology, psychology, history, philosophy? The discourses of truth, freedom, human rights?

Barbarism… is civilization’s self-destruction.
————————

Here is the rub: in the period in which fascism took power these sounded hollow as they had been stripped of their authority. If this sounds familiar, it is because, almost a century later, we are in a not so different situation. Horkheimer and Adorno state – still in the preface – that fascist demagogues and liberal intellectuals feed off the same (positivist) zeitgeist, marked by the ‘self-destruction of the enlightenment’. Science and scholarship are not potent weapons against fascism anymore, and this even affects tendencies that are opposed to ‘official’, positivistic science.

The basic point here is that scientific, materialist, technological rationality is a force for good only when it is linked to the idealistic notion of general human emancipation, the goal of full rich lives for all, without suffering, exploitation and oppression. (Using a word they had good reasons to avoid, this is what Marx would have called ‘communism’). Only this link gives empirical and rationalist science its truth and significance: enlightenment needs to be ‘transcendental’, i.e. something that points beyond the actually existing reality, not unlike metaphysics in traditional philosophy. It needs to be critical, that is, in opposition to reality as it is.

The principal thesis of the book is that enlightenment purged itself of this connection to society-transcending, non-empirical, critical truth, and as early as on the second page of the preface Horkheimer and Adorno are happy to name the thinker who exemplifies for them this fatal development: Auguste Comte, the founder of positivist philosophy. They assert that in the hostile and brutal conditions of the eighteenth century – the period often described as that of ‘the Enlightenment’ – philosophy had dared to challenge the ‘infamy’ (as Voltaire called it) of the church and the society it helped maintain, while in the aftermath of the French Revolution philosophy switched sides and put itself at the service of the state. This was of course, by now, the modernising state, but still the same state. They write that the Comtean school of positivism – ‘apologists’ of the modern, capitalist society that emerged in the nineteenth century – ‘usurped’ the succession to the genuine Enlighteners, and reconciled philosophy with the forces it previously had opposed, such as the Catholic church.

Horkheimer and Adorno mention in this context the ultra-nationalist organisation Action Française, whose chief ideologist Charles Maurras had been an ardent admirer of Comte. This hint helps understand what kind of historical developments they had on their minds: while Comte himself surely saw himself in good faith as a protagonist of social reform meant to overcome-but-preserve the achievements of the Revolution, and his translation of enlightenment empiricism into the system of ‘positivist philosophy’ as a contribution to the process of modernization, his followers in many ways contributed to the development of the modern authoritarian state and, as in the case of Maurras, proto-fascism.

Dear Reader of SustainabiiTank – if you got up to here and want to read further please find the continuation starting with WATERLOO at the souce:

 www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe…

——————————
About the author
Marcel Stoetzler is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Bangor University, Wales.
He studied at Hamburg University, Germany, and at the Universities of Greenwich and Middlesex (both London). He works on social and political theory, intellectual history and historical sociology, and has lately concentrated on various aspects of modern antisemitism, especially its interconnections with liberalism and nationalism and the emergence of the discipline of sociology. He serves on the editorial board of Patterns of Prejudice and is a fellow at the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 26th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The UN General Assembly, UN Headquarters, 29 March 2017 – Intervention of the Holy See
During the Preparatory Committee established by General Assembly resolution 69/292
dedicated to the Development of an international legally binding instrument
under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity
of areas beyond national jurisdiction

Presentation by Susan M. Whelan

Madame Facilitator,

Since this is the first time our delegation takes the floor, we would like to congratulate you
and thank you for your able assistance in this session. We thank Ambassador Charles for his
instructive leadership in the prior Preparatory Committee meetings and we congratulate Ambassador Duarte for his election as Chair.

We have listened carefully to the discussion yesterday and today, and our delegation would
agree with others that there seems to be an unbridgeable divide between those seeking to apply two competing principles to this agreement. Therefore, in the interest of moving forward, we will restrict our discussion to the topic of obligations stemming from the use of ocean resources in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ).

As other delegations have noted, Freedom of the High Seas is not an absolute right and is
subject to limitations and corresponding duties. This “right of access” is conditioned as a result of the use of the ocean space and resources. Various uses such as the general obligation for peaceful use, laying of submarine cables, the construction of artificial islands, fishing and scientific research are identified and subsequently qualified, subject to certain limitations and obligations. So regulating use and providing for responsibilities as well as rights are nothing new.

The practical reality is, however, that not all resources in the ocean are equal and not all human activity has the same impact on biodiversity. Some resources, such as minerals, have an immediate inherent value, or the human activity in using the resource creates such a negative impact on the environment that there is a depreciation value. Others, such as marine genetic resources (MGRs), only have potential value and no real value or impact at the time of extraction or use; therefore, there is no benefit to share. Because of these practical realities – and in the spirit of Norway’s intervention, our delegation suggests that our analysis and our resulting agreement must be more nuanced than just identifying specific uses or ocean resources. We cannot have a successful, forward-looking regime without gaps if we focus solely on where resources are located, or what benefits States will enjoy as a result.

Therefore, our delegation suggests a bifurcated structure for considering the “use” of ocean
resources, and payments and obligations for that use. This proposed framework consists first of benefit sharing and, second, of Commercial Entitlement/Use Obligations. We have tried to fashion this analysis so that it can be applied, not only to MGRs, but to the use of all potential resources in ABNJ — for example, wind, tide, current, or geothermal renewable energies.

1. With respect to “Benefit Sharing”

Provisions are obviously already in place in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the
Seas (UNCLOS) with respect to benefit sharing. With the advent of new uses and discoveries of
ocean resources, however, and in connection with conservation and sustainable use, some
thresholds for how benefits might accrue seem helpful. In order to consider whether benefit sharing payments or obligations are appropriate, our delegation suggests that one of the following four criteria should be met:

First, the resource must have an inherent value (such as a mineral) without the intervention of mankind making it something entirely new; or

Second, there is significant harm to the environment in extracting the resource that impacts marine biodiversity for present and future generations; or

Third, the resource is non-living, and specifically not a biological resource used as a commodity in trade such as fish; or

Fourth, the resource cannot be sustainably used.

If one of these four thresholds is met, then the provisions of Part XI and Article 82 of
UNCLOS apply 82 and both monetary and non-monetary benefits must be shared. All existing
resources covered by these provisions would qualify. If one of these thresholds is not met, however, then instead of “benefit sharing” – since there is no benefit – possible “commercial Entitlement/use Obligations” attach based on “utilization” of resources jointly owned by all States.


2. With respect to Commercial Entitlement/Use Obligations.

We note at the outset that these obligations will not apply to any activities that are associated with Marine Scientific Research as provided for in UNCLOS.

As stated above, MGRs fall into a category of resources that have no value at the time of
extraction, and for which it is impossible to agree on the potential value at that time. This issue is not a new one for the business world as often a seller, such as a large pharmaceutical company, has potential products or drugs that are in various stages of development when they sell their company.
As a result, the valuation of the company is difficult and most merger or sales contracts include whatare called “earn-out provisions.”
An earn-out provision is a contractual clause stating that the seller of a business is to obtain additional compensation in the future if the business achieves certain non-financial and financial milestones. In other words, it is a contingent obligation. Non-financial targets often include the study start, study success, regulatory filing, filing of a patent, regulatory approval for use, first sale, launch of a new product, or minimum number of or increase in sales or customers. Financial targets can include the number of products sold (annual or cumulative sales), unit sales, royalty or license revenue, earnings, revenue, net income, net equity, earnings etc. As New Zealand noted yesterday, the various stages of MGR collection, analysis and utilization could form the basis for these milestones. This model could provide for non-monetary benefits to developing countries with respect to triggers that are not financial in nature, for example, regulatory approvals and patent filings. These non-monetary obligations could include access to collection, data sharing, and clearinghouse or repository arrangements. Monetary payments, if agreed, could be tied to financial
benchmarks, but could also be formulated as preventive measures against selling resulting products or drugs into developing countries at exorbitant prices.

As for how this is structured: A party, for example a private company seeking to find and
develop MGRs into a useful product, has the option of entering into an agreement prior to use
(here, collection of samples) in which case the bargaining power is in their court. If they wait until they file for a patent, the regulator can set the terms. One suggestion is that the mechanism could be the same as used for fishing – through bilateral agreements, Regional Fishing Management Organizations or Agreements (RFMOs or RFMAs), however this is agreed.
As for Intellectual property issues, our delegation believes that this agreement should not
impact or try to undermine patent laws. We hope that this can be avoided by including the
presumption that the origin of every MGR patent is presumed to be in ABNJ unless otherwise
stated. Traceability could become associated with one of the milestone events.

In conclusion: beyond the fact that it fulfills the general principle of economic equity, why
should we use this approach? There are several reasons:

First, the Nagoya Protocol anticipates this model and earn-out provisions in particular. The
Annex lists monetary benefits, including access fees, upfront payments and milestone payments.

Second, in life sciences merger deals, specifically bio-pharmaceutical deals, 82 percent of biopharmaceutical deals included earn-out provisions in 2012. These are provisions that the business world is familiar with and are part of existing international law and practice.

Third, it allows all States to move forward when the parties cannot agree on the value of the
resource, especially when it has no value at all at the time of extraction. This is particularly critical where the source of uncertainty may be the undeveloped product, when there is a new market, when the financial information is unreliable, or when there’s an uncertain future but non-State private investors, developers, enterprises and individuals are involved.

Fourth, it permits private companies or actors greater control over whether and when the
milestone events are triggered, reduces the risk of overpaying, defers obligations and therefore decreases the disincentives.

Finally, from the perspective of developing countries, the user ultimately compensates States
for the use of a resource in the Commons. Every use has the potential to give value, whether
monetary or non-monetary, at some point. It also provides the opportunity to benefit from synergies of working with sophisticated parties in business integration as a matter of contract.

I thank you for your patience with this lengthy intervention.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 8th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

A spokesman for the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency said that he would consider replacing academic scientists with representatives from industries that the agency is supposed to regulate.

Chicago Mayor Recoups Climate Change Data Deleted From EPA Website
By Cassie Kelly, EcoWatch
08 May 17

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has his own ideas about the Trump administration taking down important climate data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website.

This weekend, Emanuel posted the scrubbed data on the City of Chicago’s official website to preserve the “decades of research [the agency] has done to advance the fight against climate change.” Emanuel said he plans to develop the site further in the coming weeks.

Follow EcoWatch @EcoWatch

#EPA Takes Hatchet to Website rbl.ms/2qpaIma @ClimateNexus @climatehawk1 @CenterForBioDiv @NRDC
10:52 AM – 1 May 2017
Photo published for EPA Takes Hatchet to Website

The U.S. Environmental Protection is editing pages from its website related to …
 ecowatch.com

“While this information may not be readily available on the agency’s webpage right now, here in Chicago we know climate change is real and we will continue to take action to fight it,” Mayor Emanuel said.

The new page highlights NOAA records on global warming, basic information on what climate change is, the impact that it will have on things like farming and human health, and what citizens can do to reduce their emissions. It even has a section linking to the president’s Climate Action Plan, which as of right now, doesn’t lead anywhere but a blank page that says “stay tuned.”

The Trump Administration has shown it is not making climate action a priority and is leaning toward withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement.

“The Trump administration can attempt to erase decades of work from scientists and federal employees on the reality of climate change, but burying your head in the sand doesn’t erase the problem,” Emanuel said.

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EPA Cuts Half of Advisers on Key Panel

By Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, The Washington Post
08 May 17


Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has chosen to replace half of the members on one of its key scientific review boards, the first step in a broader effort by Republicans to change the way the agency evaluates the scientific basis for its regulations.


The move could significantly change the makeup of the 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors, which advises EPA’s key scientific arm on whether the research it does has sufficient rigor and integrity. All of the members being dismissed were at the end of serving at least one three-year term, although these terms are often renewed instead of terminated.

EPA spokesman J.P. Freire said in an email that “no one has been fired or terminated,” and that Pruitt had simply decided to bring in fresh advisers. The agency informed the outside academics on Friday that their terms would not be renewed.

“We’re not going to rubber-stamp the last administration’s appointees. Instead, they should participate in the same open competitive process as the rest of the applicant pool,” Freire said. “This approach is what was always intended for the Board, and we’re making a clean break with the last administration’s approach.”

But the move came as a surprise to members of the board, who had been informed both in January, before Barack Obama left office, and then more recently by EPA career staff members, that they would be kept on for another term.

“I was kind of shocked to receive this news,” Robert Richardson, an ecological economist and an associate professor at Michigan State University’s Department of Community Sustainability, said in an interview Sunday.

Richardson, who tweeted on Saturday, “Today, I was Trumped,” said that he was at the end of an initial three-year term on the board, but that board members traditionally have served two such stints. “I’ve never heard of any circumstance where someone didn’t serve two consecutive terms,” he said, adding that the dismissals gave him “great concern that objective science is being marginalized in this administration.”

Courtney Flint, a professor of natural resource sociology at Utah State University who had served one term on the board, said in an email that she was also surprised to learn that her term would not be renewed, “particularly since I was told that such a renewal was expected.”

“In the broader view, I suppose it is the prerogative of this administration to set the goals of federal agencies and to appoint members to advisory boards,” she added.

Ryan Jackson, Pruitt’s chief of staff, noted in an email that all the board members whose terms are not being renewed could reapply for their positions.

“I’m not quite sure why some EPA career staff simply get angry by us opening up the process,” he said. “It seems unprofessional to me.”

Pruitt is planning a much broader overhaul of how the agency conducts its scientific analysis, said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The administration has been meeting with academics to talk about the matter and putting thought into which areas of investigation warrant attention from the agency’s scientific advisers.

The agency may consider industry scientific experts for some of the board positions, Freire said, as long as these appointments do not pose a conflict of interest.

Conservatives have complained about EPA’s approach to science, including the input it receives from outside scientific bodies, for years. Both the Board of Scientific Counselors and a larger, 47-person Scientific Advisory Board have come under criticism for bolstering the cause for greater federal regulation.

Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), who questions the link between human activity and climate change and has several former aides now working for Pruitt, said in an interview earlier this year that under the new administration, “They’re going to have to start dealing with science and not rigged science” at EPA.

House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) held a hearing on the issue in February, arguing that the composition of the Scientific Advisory Board, which was established in 1978, should be expanded to include more non-academics. It is primarily made up of academic scientists and other experts who review EPA’s research to ensure that the regulations the agency undertakes have a sound scientific basis.

“The EPA routinely stacks this board with friendly scientists who receive millions of dollars in grants from the federal government,” Smith said at the time. “The conflict of interest here is clear.”

In a budget proposal obtained by The Washington Post last month, the panel is slated for an 84 percent cut — or $542,000 — from its operating budget. That money typically covers travel and other expenses for outside experts who attend the board’s public meetings.

The reasoning behind the budget cut, said the document, reflects “an anticipated lower number of peer reviews.”

Joe Arvai, a member of the Scientific Advisory Board who directs University of Michigan’s Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, said in an email that Pruitt and his colleagues should keep in mind that the board’s membership and its standing and ad hoc panels “already includes credible scientists from industry” and its “work on agency rulemaking is open to public viewing and comment. So, if diversity of thought and transparency are the administrator’s concerns, his worries are misplaced because the SAB is already has these bases covered.”

“So, if you ask me, his moves over the weekend — as well as the House bill to reform the SAB — are attempts to use the SAB as a political toy,” Arvai added. “By making these moves, the administrator and members of the House can pander to the president’s base by looking like they’re getting tough on all those pesky ‘liberal scientists.’ But, all else being equal, nothing fundamentally changes about how the SAB operates.”

=======================

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 30th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


We postponed posting this article as we wanted to see what steps this Administration intends to take in the energy and climate areas. By now we are convinced that it will be an attempt to turn the clock back to the days Petroleum was king – and we are also convinced that what Washington does will in effect not matter – this because business forces that were already put in motion can not be turned back. So, we will simply watch the novices at play.

The original information was:


Over 200,000 people joined the People’s Climate March yesterday in Washington. Activists from every community and walk of life joined together in a sit-in around the White House to demand that the Trump administration end our nation’s reliance on the fossil fuels that are eroding our very way of life, especially in communities of color and low-income areas. We’re seeing it happen with the Dakota Access Pipeline, Keystone XL, and other fossil fuel projects, and people have had enough.

We have an alternative to the backwards thinking of the Trump administration. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon has introduced the “100 by ’50 Act” in the US Senate, and already has the support of Senators Bernie Sanders, Ed Markey, and Cory Booker. The bill not only would halt construction of Keystone XL, DAPL, and other fracked gas pipelines, but invest in the technology and jobs to rapidly advance us towards 100% clean, sustainable energy independence by 2050.

The ugly truth is that the fossil fuel industry will do anything to protect their profits. They will lie to the public, cheat the political process, and steal land from the Standing Rock Sioux and anyone else who stands in their way by violent means.

Their allies in Washington are many. The Secretary of Energy sits on the board of directors for the company constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Secretary of State spent his career leading ExxonMobil. The head of the EPA made his career as a politician filing lawsuits against the agency he is now trying to dismantle from within.

We must preserve this planet for next generation and those to come — whether Donald Trump likes it or not.

===========================================================


Bill McKibben: The GOP Is a Wholly-Owned Subsidiary of the Fossil Fuel Industry
By Democracy NOW!

30 April 17

To mark the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency, thousands of climate activists from around the country are converging in Washington, D.C. on Saturday for the People’s Climate March. Already, Trump has threatened to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, begun dismantling President Obama’s climate legacy and revived the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. He has also put climate change deniers in charge of several key agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, and proposed slashing the budget of the EPA and other climate programs. This comes as scientists have confirmed 2016 was the warmest year on record. Our guest is Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, who helped organize this latest march and notes: “Weekends are for fighting tyranny.”

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: Here on Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. To mark the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency, thousands if not tens or hundreds of thousands of climate activists from around the country are converging on Washington, D.C., Saturday for the People’s Climate March. Over the past 100 days, Trump has threatened to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, begun dismantling President Obama’s climate legacy, and revived the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. Trump has also put climate change deniers in charge of several key agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, and proposed slashing the budget of the EPA and other climate programs. This comes as scientists have confirmed 2016 was the warmest year on record and that the amount of carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere is now at a new high, recently topping 410 parts per million for the first time in human history. Ahead of Saturday’s march, organizers of the People’s Climate March recently released this short video.

NARRATOR: From Boston down to Florida, all the way from the Arctic, all the way from the Gulf, frontline communities, standing side-by-side, refusing to give in.

PROTEST SPEAKER 1: Climate change has happened. Climate catastrophe is a reality. We are dying.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I’m not a big believer in man-made climate change.

NEWS ANCHOR: President Trump has now signed orders saying construction can resume…

NARRATOR: …almost a 30 percent in the EPA [unintelligible]…

NEWS ANCHOR 2: Trump’s administration orders a media blackout.

PROTEST SPEAKER 2: We tell them, no more.

[group chanting] No bans, no walls. No bans…

PROTEST SPEAKER 3: We hear the ancestors telling us, it’s time for us to do something greater than anything our brain ever thought was possible.

PROTEST SPEAKER 4: This is the greatest uniting of bases of movements and of people that we’ve seen in the country in a very long time.

PROTEST SPEAKER 5: We will stand with those who are at the front.

PROTEST SPEAKER 6: Our oceans are not for sale to the highest oil and gas bidder.

[group chanting] Keep it in the ground! Keep it in the ground!

PROTEST SPEAKER 7: It’s about public health. It’s about jobs. It is about justice.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, activities are already underway in Washington, D.C., ahead of Saturday’s People’s Climate March. Thursday night, indigenous activists took over the intersection outside Trump International Hotel, shut it down by performing a round dance. This is Indigenous Environmental Network organizer Joye Braun.

JOYE BRAUN: What do you do when your earth is under attack?

JOYE BRAUN AND CROWD: Stand up, fight back!

JOYE BRAUN: What do you do when your mother is under attack?

JOYE BRAUN AND CROWD: Stand up, fight back!

JOYE BRAUN: What do you do when the water is under attack?

JOYE BRAUN AND CROWD: Stand up, fight back!

CROWD: [cheering]

JOYE BRAUN: It doesn’t matter what Trump does. Because in the end, we are going to still be standing. In the end, no matter what he tries to put through up there on the Hill, we’re going to overturn it. You have to have faith.

AMY GOODMAN: Democracy Now! will broadcast five hours of live coverage from the Climate March Saturday beginning 10:00 a.m. Eastern time. You can go to our website, Democracynow.org to tune in. But for more, we’re going to Washington, D.C., where we are joined by Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org. Usually here up in Vermont, at Middlebury College, where we were yesterday, but now in Washington for the Climate March. Bill, can you talk about, what are the plans?

BILL MCKIBBEN: Sure. Normally, Amy, I would rather be there in Vermont with you. But I got to say, Washington is pretty exciting right now. That round dance last night was amazing. And at the same time, or just before, there was a big party at the Hip Hop Caucus headquarters where Dr. Beverly Wright, the environmental justice pioneer, was honored and so was the great singer Antonique Smith. This town is starting to buzz. Saturday is going to be—Saturday is going to be intense, in part because they’re forecasting the hottest April 29 on record for Washington, D.C. It will be beautiful weather, but, please, bring a water bottle and some sunscreen and wear a hat. It can say something clever on it, but make sure it’s on top of your head. It’s going to be a remarkable day as people march and as people surround the White House and then sit down for a while. I guess people are saying it is going to be one of the biggest sit-downs if not one sit-ins, in the history of the nation’s capital. The message is, “We’re noticing.” We are well aware of what Trump has done in his first 100 days. And people are organized all over the place to fight back.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about who is organizing this mass assembly and why you’re doing it now.

BILL MCKIBBEN: [laugh] Well, not me, in the first place. There’s hundreds of groups involved in this organizing. And they run the whole spectrum. In the lead, as usual, the environmental justice groups, indigenous groups, the people who have really been leading this fight from the start. A really big addition this time around is large, large participation by the labor movement. You know, people have tried to make out there is a split between environmentalism and labor over the years. And if that was ever true, it becomes less so all the time. Groups like SEIU and the nurses and the transportation workers and everybody just flooding in for this fight.

It is going to be—well, it is going to be not carried out in the hope that we can convince Donald Trump to do something different. We can’t. And the GOP in Congress, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the fossil fuel industry, isn’t going to do anything, either. We’re well aware of that. What we are doing is laying down the most serious of markers about the future. And one of the numbers that will be on everybody’s lips is 100, as in 100 percent renewable energy.

Yesterday, I stood with Jeff Merkley, the senator from Oregon, and Bernie Sanders, who I think may come from the very state you are in today. And they put forward really a landmark piece of legislation. For the first time, they said we need 100 percent renewable energy. Not, “We need some solar panels and we need some fracking wells.” Not the all of the above energy policy that the Obama administration favored. Instead, finally saying, we are ready to go, 100 percent. The technology is clearly there. The price of a solar panel keeps plummeting, which is why it is so absurd to watch Donald Trump try to somehow revive the expensive and dirty coal industry. We are ready to go, and now we have got I think what is going to be the flag around which progressives rally. Nothing less than 100 percent will do.

AMY GOODMAN: A new Washington Post article is headlined “The company behind the Dakota Access pipeline is in another controversy.” It details how Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, has now twice spilled drilling fluids in Ohio wetlands this month while constructing the $4.2 billion gas pipeline, the Rover pipeline, which is slated to stretch from Appalachia to Ontario, Canada. One of the spills included two million gallons of drilling fluid. Bill McKibben, your response?

BILL MCKIBBEN: I guess I can’t say that it comes as an enormous surprise, Amy. Look, there have been—from the—any pipeline company you look at—TransCanada or Energy Transfer Partners—they all have a long list of these kind of spills. Some of them a few thousand gallons, some a few hundred thousand gallons. That’s precisely why people at Standing Rock were so right to say, “Do not put this across our water supply. We know what will happen. We do not know the day that it will happen, but we know that it will happen.”

And that’s why people are standing up again to fight the Keystone pipeline in Nebraska and South Dakota and Montana. Everyone is well aware of what this industry is about. It engages not only in those kind of practices, polluting people’s water, but it has polluted our political life now for a quarter century.

One of the really powerful things that’s going on in this country right now is watching attorney generals like Eric Schneiderman in New York and Maura Healey in Massachusetts take on the oil companies that systematically have lied. Exxon is mainly in the crosshairs right now. That have systematically lied for a quarter century. And those cases are advancing. A New York judge has taken the Exxon case under her wing now and I think we are going to see remarkable disclosures about all of the things that they knew all along.

AMY GOODMAN: The significance of 410 parts per million. I mean, your group is called 350.org, based on 350 parts per million.

BILL MCKIBBEN: So, anything greater than 350 parts per million is more than the planet can safely deal with. It is what’s overwhelming our climate system. Because as you say, we’ve been going up about three parts per million per year. And two days ago, for the first time in we think at least 5 million years, the planet broached the 410 parts per million level. Now, it will go down for a while and then back up. And eventually, we will always be above 410, and then above 420, and above 430. We just keep pouring more carbon into the atmosphere. And the toll it is taking is now not some future or abstract threat. It’s what happens every day.

The latest numbers we have for March, they showed that March was the fourth warmest month that we have records on, dating back to the 1880s, and the warmest month in a non-El Niño period. That is to say, we’re kind of in a permanent El Niño now. The temperature is always elevated. March saw record lows for the date in global sea ice. That’s really, really scary. We are melting some of the biggest physical features on our earth.

But it is not just remote places. Pakistan, which is always a pretty hot place, crushed all its heat records a couple of weeks ago. It was 122 degrees in April. Up in Siberia, this year’s massive, massive wildfires began in April. These are not good signs. Not at all. Not for billions of people on this earth who are living close to the edge.

I think the place maybe to watch with the greatest worry right at the moment, and to try to help the most, may be those parts of Africa around Somalia that are enduring a climate-caused and really record-breaking drought. The Times said not long ago that it may be the greatest humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II. And of course, where humanitarian crises happen, so do political instability.

This is the world that we’re building and building fast. And it’s the world that people are trying somehow to slow down. That’s what this march on Saturday is about. That’s what this bill introduced yesterday by Merkley and Sanders are about. We’re looking for the cracks in the Death Star. Trying very hard to bring down this fossil fuel machine before it does any more damage.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill McKibben, President Donald Trump is set to sign an executive order today that would further expand offshore oil drilling in the Pacific, the Atlantic, and Arctic oceans. And President Trump also ordered this week a review of national monuments, potentially opening up millions of acres of public lands to drilling, mining, and logging. Trump said Wednesday his executive order was aimed at reversing Obama’s use of the 1906 Antiquities Act to protect federal land from development. The significance of these executive orders? Will he be able to move forward and do this?

BILL MCKIBBEN: He will be able to do some of it. I mean here, they spent part of the week talking about how they’re going to be trying to do more drilling for oil and gas in national parks. I mean, who wants to go look at Old Faithful when you can see a derrick pumping up and down someplace? Look, they’re doing everything they can on the Koch Brothers fossil fuel industry wish list. These guys have waited a long time for absolute power. They’ve got it. They are making the most of it.

The only piece of good news is it’s incredibly unpopular. Of all the unpopular things that Trump is doing, the polling shows that the one that’s most out of whack with Americans’ opinions are these attacks on the environment. And it means, too, that people are going to have to start stepping up a little bit in other places.

I noted this week that after an amazing six-year campaign by students and faculty and alumni, Harvard University, the richest and most famous educational institution on the planet, more or less announced that it was divesting from fossil fuel. Now it didn’t use those words because it would be too embarrassing, I guess, for it to back down on its strident position against divestment. But its investment managers said, “We’ve put a pause on fossil fuel investments, and we don’t think we will ever resume.”

I think one of the things that’s happening is that people are realizing that they can’t pass the buck to the government because the government, at least as far it comes to environmental protection, doesn’t exist. That they’re going to have to bite the bullet a little bit themselves. Look, there are no silver linings to Trumpism. This is an unmitigated disaster. But let’s hope that at least it helps people find their courage in this resistance. Saturday will be another episode in this ongoing saga of citizens stepping up. Citizenship has been out of fashion for some decades in our country, but now it is back in fashion. Weekends are for fighting tyranny. And that’s why it’s going to be really fun to see Democracy Now! and everybody else out on the Mall on Saturday.

AMY GOODMAN: Why does marching matter, in this last 30 seconds? And are these marches happening around the country?

BILL MCKIBBEN: Marches all over the country. They matter. It is a beautiful week of action. It began with the scientists marching last week, and marching about facts. And now it’s all the rest of us who aren’t scientists, but who can take those facts and use them to turn into action. That’s what we are marching for. The action’s not going to come in the short run from D.C. But we need to come together once in a while from all our work out in the world, fighting every pipeline and coal mine and backing every solar panel and windmill. We need to come together sometimes and show our strength, so that the Trump administration at its 100th day is under no illusions that people are somehow in a fog. We know absolutely what this guy is doing, and boy, are we pissed off about it.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill McKibben, thank you for being with us. Co-founder of 350.org. And that does it for our broadcast. We will be out on Saturday broadcasting five hours from the People’s Climate March starting at 10:00 a.m. Eastern standard Time. On Saturday night, I’ll be speaking at Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, and on Sunday at Busboys and Poets. Then it’s on to Durham, North Carolina. On Monday night, I’ll be speaking at the Eno River Unitarian church at 7:00. On Tuesday, 6:30, I’ll be speaking at the Coral Gables Congregational Church in Miami. On Wednesday at 7:30 in United Methodist Church in Tampa. And beyond, check our website, democracynow.org. Thanks so much.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 30th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Washington (CNN) Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward of Watergate fame argued Saturday night that good journalism is more crucial to a free society than ever in a climate of increasing hostility between the White House and the press.

By Josiah Ryan, CNN

Sun April 30, 2017

WASHINGTON – APRIL 29: (AFP OUT) Comedian Stephen Colbert entertains guests at the White House Correspondents Dinner April 29, 2006 in Washington, DC.

Bob Woodward: The media is not fake news.

Carl Bernstein said Nixon targeted the media in an attempt to divert attention from his own misconduct

Bob Woodward offered a critical reflection on the state of the mainstream media in 2017

The speeches from the revered journalists came on the occasion of the first White House correspondents’ dinner since 1981 in which the sitting president did not attend.

Ronald Reagan missed the dinner that year while recovering from an assassination attempt, but delivered remarks by phone. Before that, Richard Nixon was the last president to skip the dinner.

Bernstein, a CNN contributor, led the remarks by saying that Nixon targeted the media in an attempt to divert attention from his own misconduct and that of his administration’s officials.

“Richard Nixon tried to make the conduct of the press more the issue in Watergate instead of the conduct of the President and his men,” Bernstein said, speaking to a sold-out crowd in the nation’s capital. “We tried to avoid the noise and let the reporting speak.”

Bernstein also addressed lying and secrecy in the Nixon White House, but stopped short of drawing a direct parallel to President Donald Trump’s administration.

“Almost inevitably, unreasonable government secrecy is the enemy and usually the giveaway about what the real story might be,” Bernstein said to applause. “When lying is combined with secrecy, there is usually a pretty good road map in front of us.”

He added, “Yes, follow the money but also follow the lies.”

Woodward offered a critical reflection on the state of the mainstream media in 2017, but also emphasized its key role in American democracy.

“Our reporting needs to get both fact and tones right,” he said. “The effort today to get the best obtainable version of the truth is largely made in good faith.”

Speaking to the absent Trump, he said, “Mr. President, the media is not fake news. Let’s take that off the table as we proceed. …


“Whatever the climate, whether the media is revered or reviled, we should and must persist, and I believe we will,” he said. “Any relaxation by the press will be extremely costly to democracy.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 23rd, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Hundreds of Thousands Join March for Science Rallies Across the World.

By Oliver Milman, Guardian UK
22 April 17

More than 600 marches held around the world, with organizers saying science ‘under attack’ from a White House that dismisses the threat of climate change
undreds of thousands of climate researchers, oceanographers, bird watchers and other supporters of science rallied in marches around the world on Saturday, in an attempt to bolster scientists’ increasingly precarious status with politicians.

The main March for Science event was held in Washington DC, where organizers made plans for up to 150,000 people to flock to the national mall, although somewhat fewer than that figure braved the rain to attend. Marchers held a range of signs. Some attacked Donald Trump, depicting the president as an ostrich with his head in the sand or bearing the words: “What do Trump and atoms have in common? They make up everything.”

More than 600 marches took place around the world, on every continent bar Antarctica, in events that coincided with Earth Day.

The marches, the first of their kind, were officially non-political. They were however conceived by three US-based researchers – Caroline Weinberg, Valorie Aquino and Jonathan Berman – after Trump’s inauguration. Organizers have said science is “under attack” from the Trump administration and many protesters excoriated the president with signs that likened him to a dangerous orange toxin or disparaged his now defunct university.

Trump released a statement that insisted his administration was committed to preserving the “awe-inspiring beauty” of America, while protecting jobs.

“Rigorous science is critical to my administration’s efforts to achieve the twin goals of economic growth and environmental protection,” Trump said. “My administration is committed to advancing scientific research that leads to a better understanding of our environment and of environmental risks.

“As we do so, we should remember that rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.”

The US marches were some of the last to take place, following hundreds across the world. A common theme among protesters was a worry that politicians have rejected science-based policies.

“I’m encouraged by the marches I’ve seen already taking place around the world,” said Rush Holt, a former congressman and head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “For generations scientists have been reluctant to be in the public square. There is a lot of concern.”

Speakers in Washington included Christiana Figueres, the former United Nations climate chief and climate scientist Michael Mann. Hundreds of scientific institutions, environmental groups and union groups partnered with the march.

“There’s very low morale among government scientists because science is under assault from this administration,” Mann told the Guardian. “That being said, events like this will lift the spirits of scientists. They are finding a voice.”

Pharmaceutical companies, concerned about the impact on research talent of Trump’s attempts to ban or restrict travel from certain Muslim-majority countries, risked his wrath by supporting the march. In a video, Pfizer said it was “proud to stand behind our scientists”.

Trump has galvanized scientists with his comments about climate change, which he has called a “hoax”, as well as questions about whether vaccines are safe and threats to cut funding to universities that displease him.

The White House’s recent budget proposal would remove around $7bn in science funding, with the National Institutes of Health, which funds medical research, bearing much of the pain. Earth sciences, ranging from weather satellites to marine research to coastal preservation, are also lined up for severe cuts.

Climate change was at the heart of the March for Science, spurred on by dismissals of the issue by Trump and his top advisers. Budget director Mick Mulvaney has said climate research is a “waste of your money”. Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, has erroneously denied that carbon dioxide is a primary driver of global warming.

Other areas of science have been all but abandoned. The president has yet to nominate administrators for Nasa and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, nor to appoint his own science adviser.

John Holdren, science adviser during Barack Obama’s presidency, said Trump had “shown no indication of awareness of the role of science and the role of science in government”.

“Scientists are understanding that they have to become activists, that they have to speak up, that they have to be heard,” he said. “The message isn’t, ‘Please save our jobs.’ Scientists would be in another line of work if they were just interested in their salaries. If funding for science is slashed, all of society will lose out.”

The march has proved controversial within the science community, which is typically reluctant to be overtly political. Some scientists have raised concerns that the marches will invite attacks by Trump and his supporters, or will fail to convince the public that science has inherent value.

But several famous voices have joined the cause. “Science has always been political but we don’t want science to be partisan,” Bill Nye, a prominent engineer and TV personality, told the Guardian.

“Objective truths have become set aside and diminished and lawmakers are acting like a strong belief in something is as valid as careful peer review.”

Nye said science was in a “dangerous place” but hoped the march would help nudge Trump to a more amenable position.

“The president changes his mind quite frequently,” he said. “We want to influence the people who influence him. That’s our goal for the march.”

Leland Melvin, a former Nasa astronaut who participated in two missions, criticized the administration’s plans to eliminate Nasa’s education budget.

“Doing that would keep people like me from getting a masters or PhD,” he said. “If we want brown people and women getting these degrees and get them involved in science, we have to fund it. The administration needs to get its head out of the sand.”

Cristian Samper, president of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the march aimed “to celebrate science, not to politicize it”.

“Science is behind the good news and bad news about wildlife conservation ,” he said. “it has nothing to do with the fake news. Science is the antithesis of fake news.”

The marches came one week before the People’s Climate March, a series of large-scale events focused on climate change that will be more overtly political.

“Attacks on science don’t just hurt scientists, they hurt scientists’ ability to protect the people, and climate change epitomizes that,” said Dr Geoffrey Supran, an expert in renewable energy at Harvard University.

“When politicians cater to fossil fuel interests by denying the basic realities of climate science and pursuing anti-science climate policy, they endanger the jobs, justice, and livelihoods of ordinary people everywhere.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 21st, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Thousands to march in defFence of science

By ALEKSANDRA ERIKSSON, THE EUOBSERVER

BRUSSELS, April 21, 2017

Thousands of people in hundreds of places worldwide will take to the streets in support for science on Earth Day, taking place this year on Saturday (22 April), in an event underlining the difficult relationship between science and politics.

The idea of a global March of Science developed shortly after the inauguration of US president Donald Trump in January, amid fears that his term would be marked by disregard for facts and research.

.
Some 517 rallies have been registered so far, with the main one taking place in Washington.

But Calum MacKichan, a Scotsman who organises the march in Brussels, said the goal was much broader than just an anti-Trump protest.

“We want to celebrate science and the role it plays in everyday lives, protect facts and promote dialogue between the scientific community and the public,” MacKichan said at a press event on Thursday (20 April).

Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, a Belgian professor who is the former vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and Bas Eickhout, a Dutch MEP for the Green group, were also present at the gathering.

They said there was need for scientists to play a wider role in public life, also on this side of the Atlantic.


Van Ypersele welcomed that Earth Day’s theme this year is climate literacy, and said scientists should be in broader dialogue with both the public and politicians.


Eickhout, who trained as a chemist and worked as a climate change researcher at the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, said he entered politics “out of frustration that politicians made so little with science”.


“We are pointing fingers at Trump, but we should also point them at ourselves,” he added.


Politicians are dependent on research if they are to make good decisions, but many scientists are afraid of actively providing information to politicians, Eickhout said.

“They fear it makes them into lobbyists. But I don’t think it’s lobbying what you are doing, it’s about informing decision-makers throughout the legislative process,” he said.

This would help to strengthen EU policies, he said.

The European Commission, since 2001, has been conducting impact assessments for all major legislative proposals, covering the potential economic, social and environmental benefits and costs of each proposed policy.

But Eickhout said the assessments were not as objective as one would think. Rather, impact assessments usually portray the commission’s preferred scenario as the best option.

“If I was the commission, I would do the same, so I don’t blame them for this. But I blame them for claiming that the assessments are neutral, when they in fact are designed to fit the political interests of those that commanded them,” Eickhout said.


Trump’s actions could seem like a golden opportunity for green parties, but Eickhout wasn’t so sure.

“If you really want to get policies off the ground you need a broader political basis. I fear that in Europe, climate sceptics, who had a sleeping existence, are now waking up again. They see Trump’s election as an opportunity,” the Dutch MEP said.

The new US president has said the concept of global warming was made by the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing less competitive.

Van Ypersele said, however, that Trump has also shown signs he believed in climate change.

In 2009, Trump had signed a full-page advertisement in The New York Times calling for “meaningful and effective measures to combat climate change”, just before president Barack Obama departed for the climate summit in Copenhagen.

His organisation has also used the term “global warming and its effects” when applying for a permit to build protection against coastal erosion for his golf course in Ireland.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 20th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

A letter from Bill McKibben

April 20, 2017

Dear Friend of The Nation,

We’re coming up on 50 years since the first Earth Day—and the Trump administration is trying to overturn most of what’s been accomplished over those decades. And it’s trying to do much of it in silence, behind the scenes.

That’s why The Nation, a longtime source of great green coverage, has never been more important. Reporters like Mark Hertsgaard, Zoë Carpenter, and Wen Stephenson have dug deep to discover what’s going on, and their reporting continues to make a real difference. I know that when I write for The Nation, people respond (that’s why I’ve just finished a piece on the big upcoming climate march in Washington, DC, on April 29).

I’m asking you today to support this journalism with a gift. Your contribution will help fund the first-rate environmental reporting you expect from The Nation.

We are facing an ecological disaster. Last year broke every record for global temperatures; Arctic and Antarctic sea ice are melting at record rates; the fossil-fuel industry is using climate know-nothings like EPA head Scott Pruitt to roll back the clock. We can’t afford to be distracted.

If we care about future generations and the most vulnerable communities, we cannot let Trump and his cronies put their interests ahead of the welfare of the earth. We must remain vigilant and informed.

We’re at a tipping point—factual and fearless reporting on the future of our planet could not be more critical than it is right now. I hope I can count on your support today.

Thank you,

Bill McKibben

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 5th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


If Trump’s Nominee Scott Pruitt Is Confirmed, ‘EPA Would Stand for Every Polluter’s Ally’

By Elliott Negin, EcoWatch
04 January 17


Nominating Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives lie to Donald Trump’s claim that he is serious about protecting the public from pollution. While the president-elect has waffled on climate change, he has been unequivocal about toxics.

“Clean air is vitally important,” Trump declared during a Nov. 22, 2016 interview with The New York Times. “Clean water,” he added, “crystal clean water is vitally important. Safety is vitally important.” And when he announced Pruitt’s nomination in early December, Trump vowed that the attorney general would “restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and water clean and safe.”

Putting aside the fact that the EPA has not forsaken that mission, Pruitt’s track record indicates that he would do the exact opposite. Under Pruitt, the acronym EPA would stand for Every Polluter’s Ally.

Follow EcoWatch @EcoWatch
Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, ‘Puppet of the Fossil Fuel Industry,’ to Head EPA ow.ly/sGrC306X0Cr @GreenpeaceAustP @Green_Europe 1:40 PM – 9 Dec 2016

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Trump Picks ‘Puppet of the Fossil Fuel Industry’ to Head EPA
Donald Trump has appointed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The conservative Republican has close ties to the fossil fuel industry and…  ecowatch.com 33 33 Retweets 17 17 likes

Since he took office as Oklahoma’s attorney general in 2010, Pruitt has repeatedly sued the EPA to block key safeguards limiting power plant pollution, most notably the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which limits sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which curb mercury, arsenic, cyanide and other emissions.

Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are primary ingredients of soot and smog pollution, which cause a number of respiratory problems, including bronchitis and aggravated asthma, as well as cardiovascular disease and premature death. Mercury and other toxic pollutants covered by MATS have been linked to heart disease, neurological damage, birth defects, asthma attacks and premature death. Some 25 million Americans suffer from asthma, alone. That’s one out of every 12 people.

The potential benefits of the Cross-State Rule and MATS are considerable. Taken together, they are projected to prevent 18,000 to 46,000 premature deaths across the country and save $150 billion to $380 billion in health care costs annually. In Pruitt’s home state, the two regulations would avert as many as 720 premature deaths and save as much as $5.9 billion per year.

Pruitt also has sued the EPA to prevent the agency from implementing a rule that would reduce the amount of ground-level ozone or smog, which the American Lung Association says is the most widespread pollutant nationwide and one of the most dangerous. Produced when sunlight heats nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide from power plants, industrial facilities and automobiles, ozone pollution has been linked to respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease and premature death. It is particularly harmful for the most vulnerable, including children, the elderly, and people already suffering from asthma or another respiratory disease.

No matter. In October 2015, Pruitt joined with four other states to challenge the new ozone rule in court, despite the fact that earlier that month, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality said the state could meet the new EPA limits.

Pruitt also has targeted clean water safeguards. In July 2015, he sued the EPA over the Clean Water Rule, which the agency and the Army Corps of Engineers had just issued to clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act. The rule was in response to two Supreme Court decisions—in 2001and in 2006—that called into question whether the federal government had the authority to protect smaller streams, wetlands and other water bodies that flow into drinking water supplies. From a scientific perspective, it’s a no-brainer. As EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy explained in a statement: “For the lakes and rivers we love to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them have to be clean, too.”

Pruitt doesn’t see it that way. In a March 2015 column he co-wrote with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul for The Hill, Pruitt called the Clean Water Rule “the greatest blow to private property rights the modern era has seen.” Pruitt and Rand maintain that states should be responsible for protecting the environment within their respective borders, not the federal government. Never mind that air and water pollution do not honor political boundaries and state legislatures are all too often dominated by corporate interests.

Besides Pruitt’s disdain for air and water safeguards, he is no fan of federal efforts to address climate change, which he falsely insists is an open scientific question. Pruitt, who has received generous contributions from fossil fuel interests, is not only party to a pending lawsuit against the EPA over its Clean Power Plan to curb electricity sector carbon emissions, he also attempted unsuccessfully to overturn the agency’s science-based “endangerment finding” that greenhouse gases threaten public health and welfare, a cornerstone of the EPA’s climate work.

Public health advocates are rightly horrified at the prospect of Pruitt running the EPA. The response from Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, was typical.

“The EPA plays an absolutely vital role in enforcing long-standing policies that protect the health and safety of Americans, based on the best available science,” Kimmell said in a press statement. “Pruitt has a clear record of hostility to the EPA’s mission, and he is a completely inappropriate choice to lead it. … It’s this simple: If senators take seriously their job of protecting the public, they must vote no on Pruitt.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 4th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

California is destined to be the anti-Trump like Texas was the anti-Obama.
Take notice – California is the Fifth largest economy in the World and its legislature does not want Trump to mess it up.

California braces for a Trump presidency by tapping former U.S. Atty. General Eric Holder for legal counsel.

By Melanie MasonMelanie Mason, Contact Reporter based in Sacramento, The Los Angeles Times.

Bracing for an adversarial relationship with President-elect Donald Trump, the California Legislature has selected former U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. to serve as outside counsel to advise the state’s legal strategy against the incoming administration.


The unusual arrangement will give Holder, leading a team of attorneys from the firm Covington & Burling, a broad portfolio covering potential conflicts between California and the federal government.

“He will be our lead litigator, and he will have a legal team of expert lawyers on the issues of climate change, women and civil rights, the environment, immigration, voting rights — to name just a few,” Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said in an interview.

Such a task typically falls to the state attorney general. On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown formally nominated Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra to replace former Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, who now serves in the U.S. Senate. Becerra, whose nomination hearings in the Legislature begin next week, is expected to be easily confirmed.

But De León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon began contemplating hiring outside legal counsel for the Legislature almost immediately after Trump’s election, in hopes of protecting existing state policies that are at odds with the president-elect’s stated positions.

“While we don’t yet know the harmful proposals the next administration will put forward, thanks to Donald Trump’s campaign, cabinet appointments and Twitter feed, we do have an idea of what we will be dealing with,” Rendon said in a statement.

“The Covington team will be an important resource as we work with the governor and the attorney general to protect Californians,” he added.

The two legislative leaders have taken an unabashedly combative posture against Trump.
Rendon, in remarks last month at a swearing-in ceremony for lawmakers, described the incoming administration as a “major existential threat,” and asserted “Californians do not need healing. We need to fight.”

De León said the additional counsel would offer “more legal firepower” that would complement and bring additional heft to the state attorney general’s efforts.

“Hiring the former attorney general — the nation’s top lawyer — it shows that we’re very serious in protecting the values of the people of California against any attempt to undermine the policies that has made us the fifth-largest economy in the world,” De León said.

Bringing on outside counsel is not unprecedented for the Legislature. The state Senate hired special counsel for a select committee investigating price manipulation in the wholesale energy market by Enron in the early 2000s. The Senate also sought outside counsel to sort through the federal investigation of former Democratic state Sen. Ron Calderon, who later pleaded guilty to corruption charges.


Updates from Sacramento:

But it is far more unorthodox for both houses to join together in retaining counsel in a preemptive bid to prepare for as-yet-unknown litigation and policy-making at the federal level. Much of the arrangement remains murky, including how Holder’s efforts will differ from or align with Becerra’s.

Also unclear: the price tag. Aides to legislative leaders declined to specify how much Covington & Burling’s services will cost the state, citing still-unfinished contracts, but said the payment would come out of both chambers’ operating budgets and would not require additional state funds.

Holder, who was a partner at Covington from 2001 until 2009 before rejoining the firm in 2015, will direct the efforts from the firm’s Washington, D.C., office. The firm, which has a long-established presence in the nation’s capital, has in recent years expanded its footprint in California. Covington’s Los Angeles office, which will play a major role in working with the Legislature, was launched in part by former federal prosecutor Dan Shallman, whose brother, John Shallman, is a prominent Democratic strategist whose clients include De León.

“I am honored that the legislature chose Covington to serve as its legal advisor as it considers how to respond to potential changes in federal law that could impact California’s residents and policy priorities,” Holder said in a statement provided by De León’s office.

“I am confident that our expertise across a wide array of federal legal and regulatory issues will be a great resource for the legislature.”

Holder, a close friend of President Obama, left the Justice Department in 2015. As one of the most liberal figures in the Obama administration, his tenure was defined by a focus on civil rights and criminal justice reform and was marked by a tumultuous relationship with Congress and scandal stemming from the failed gun-trafficking operation known as Fast and Furious.

Representing California lawmakers against Trump won’t be Holder’s sole foray into politics in the coming years. He is also overseeing a Democratic campaign focused on redistricting, the process of redrawing political maps that, in recent years, has tilted state legislative and congressional landscapes in the Republicans’ favor.

—————————————-
 melanie.mason at latimes.com

Follow @melmason on Twitter for the latest on California politics.

ALSO

California is itching to take on Trump. Here are the prominent figures leading the charge.
Texas was Obama’s chief antagonist. In Trump’s America, California is eager for the part.

California’s new legislative session begins with a message: We’re ready to fight Trump.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 3rd, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is a unique forum where the governments of 34 democracies with market economies work with each other, as well as with more than 70 non-member economies to promote economic growth, prosperity, and sustainable development.

Today, OECD member countries account for 63 percent of world GDP, three-quarters of world trade, 95 percent of world official development assistance, over half of the world’s energy consumption, and 18 percent of the world’s population. Together with its sister agencies, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), the OECD helps countries – both members and non-members – reap the benefits and confront the challenges of a global economy by promoting sound energy policies that further: economic growth; energy security; free markets; the increasingly safe, clean, and efficient use of resources to reduce environmental impacts and preserve our climate; and science and technology innovation.

The US Mission to the OECD writes: “The Organization provides a setting where governments can compare policy experiences, seek answers to common problems, identify good practice and coordinate domestic and international policies.

For more than 50 years, the OECD has been a valuable source of policy analysis and internationally comparable statistical, economic and social data.

Over the past decade, the OECD has further deepened its engagement with business, trade unions and other representatives of civil society. The U.S. Council for International Business (USCIB) represents the views of America’s private sector through its participation in the OECD’s Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC). The U.S. trade union interests are represented on the OECD’s Trade Union Advisory Committee by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) (USA).”

How does accession to the OECD work?

In 2007 the OECD Council at Ministerial level opened membership discussions with five candidate countries, as a result of which Chile, Estonia, Israel and Slovenia became members in 2010, while discussions with the Russian Federation are currently postponed. In May 2013, the Council decided to launch a new wave of accession discussions with Colombia and Latvia; in April 2015, it invited Costa Rica and Lithuania to open formal OECD accession talks. Latvia became an OECD Member on 1 July 2016

As a first step, interested countries typically present a request to become OECD members. Once the OECD Council invites the Secretary-General to open discussions for accession with one or several countries, an “Accession Roadmap” is developed to detail the terms, conditions and process of each accession discussion. This roadmap lists the reviews to be undertaken by Committees in various policy areas in order to assess the country’s position with respect to the relevant OECD instruments and to evaluate its policies and practices as compared to OECD best policies and practices in the relevant area. Each country follows its own process and is assessed independently.

Browse the roadmaps for the accession of the Russian Federation, Colombia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Costa Rica

At the end of the technical review, each Committee provides a “formal opinion” to the OECD Council. The timeline for the accession process depends on the pace at which the candidate country provides information to Committees and responds to recommendations for changes to its legislation, policy and practice.

On the basis of the formal opinions and other relevant information, the Council takes a final decision on the basis of unanimity. An Accession Agreement is then signed and the candidate country takes the necessary domestic steps and deposits an instrument of accession to the OECD Convention with the depositary, e.g. the French government. On the date of deposit, the country formally becomes a Member of the OECD.

Reviewing the above and reading the pronouncements of President-elect Trump of the USA –
it seems to us that the proper way for a reaction from the OECD is to start a process to negate USA membership for failing minimal rules of a democracy. It is clear that 3 million Americans were denied the value of their votes and Mr. Trump does not seem to accept the meaning of democracy. His economy projections promote the oligarchy that surrounds him and
it becomes obvious that he will lead the USA in the direction of Putin’s Russia which was declared not up to OCED requirements. Jn effect we find that China projects a better understanding of OECD requirements then a Trumpist America.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 27th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Trump and Putin meeting to follow on the G.W. Bush and Putin meeting of June 2001 in Slovenia. Trump’s Appointed House Members will already have softened Trump to the point of being the pushover he is prepared to be.

By Dana Milbank Opinion writer December 27 at 12:32 PM

“Spare us the kissy-face.”

It was June 2001 and I was in an Alpine hamlet in Slovenia, where President George W. Bush had just met Vladimir Putin for the first time. I and others were struck by Bush’s praise for the Russian leader as “trustworthy.” Said Bush: “I was able to get a sense of his soul.”

But back in Washington, my editor had no interest in such talk. He rewrote my lede with other news — a tidbit about missile defense — and he moved the “kissy-face” stuff about Putin’s soul down to Paragraph 18.

In retrospect, that moment in Slovenia defined the Russia relationship for years to come. Putin had seduced Bush, who only slowly came to understand he had misjudged this adversary’s soul. Putin opposed Bush in Iraq and was unhelpful with Iran. He shut down independent television, sent business leaders who criticized him into exile and prison, ousted democratic parties from government, canceled the election of governors and invaded Georgia.

The kissy-face happened all over again when President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to “reset” relations. Russia responded by working against the United States in Syria, sheltering Edward Snowden, invading and occupying parts of Ukraine, and hacking and meddling in the U.S. election to defeat Clinton.

Now it’s Donald Trump’s turn for kissy-face, and the president-elect is practically groping the Russian dictator. After Putin gloated Friday that Democrats need to learn “to lose with dignity,”Trump tweeted Putin a sloppy kiss: “So true!” he said of Putin’s comments.

Trump also celebrated a letter he received from Putin calling for more collaboration between the two countries. “His thoughts are so correct,” Trump said.

Trump’s blush-inducing embrace of the strongman has included repeated praise of Putin’s leadership, deflected questions about Putin’s political killings and disparagement of U.S. intelligence for accusing Russia of election meddling.

In three weeks, Trump will assume the presidency, and we’ll learn what his embrace of Putin really means. Perhaps Trump is just a dupe and he’ll realize over time that Putin is no friend. The alternative, supported by Trump’s choice of Putin-friendly advisers Michael T. Flynn and Rex Tillerson, is that Trump really is pro-Putin and will grant the Russian dictator more latitude internationally and will emulate his autocratic tendencies at home.

The former would require us to endure some policy failures as Putin proved himself again to be an adversary. The latter would test the limits of our democratic institutions.

In either case, it would be useful for Americans to have at least a cursory sense of the man our new president proposes to embrace. Here’s a quick glimpse into Putin’s soul to get us started:

Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was killed outside the Kremlin as he walked home one night last year. Putin’s regime blames Chechens, but Nemtsov’s is one of a dozen high-profile murders of opponents widely thought to have been sanctioned by Putin’s government.

Another Putin opponent, Alexander Litvinenko, was killed in London by polonium poisoning in 2006. The British government said Putin “probably” approved the hit. That same year, opposition journalist Anna Politkovskaya was shot and killed outside her apartment.

In 2009, lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in prison after being denied medical care. Others working on his investigation of corrupt Russian politicians also died suspiciously.

Among the many business leaders imprisoned or ousted under Putin are Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was head of the oil giant Yukos, and associate Platon Lebedev. The Russian human rights group Memorial says there are 102 people held in Russian prisons for their political or religious beliefs.

The Kremlin has provided funding and training for far-right nationalist parties in Europe, and it used its state media and an army of hackers and social-media trolls to spread disinformation in the United States, in continental Europe and in Britain before the Brexit vote. The goals: to weaken European unity and the NATO alliance and to keep Europe dependent on Russian energy.

Russia also used disinformation to destabilize the Ukrainian government as Russia annexed Crimea. In Syria, where Russia propped up the Assad regime with indiscriminate bombing in Aleppo and elsewhere, Britain, France and the United States have blamed Putin’s government for the mass slaughter of civilians.

An Amnesty International summary of Putin’s rule leaves no doubt about his totalitarian state: “Journalist Killed .?.?. Human Rights Lawyer Killed .?.?. Gay Rights Protesters Attacked .?.?. Exhibition Organizers Sentenced .?.?. Activists Beaten and Detained .?.?. Opposition Leader Held in Detention .?.?. Repressive Laws Enacted .?.?. Fines for ‘Promoting Homosexuality’ Imposed .?.?. President Putin Signs Law to Re-criminalize Defamation .?.?. USAID Expelled .?.?. Federal Treason and Espionage Act goes into effect .?.?. Prominent NGOs are Vandalized .?.?. Moscow Authorities Detain Protesters and Opposition Party Members.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 27th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


this is an old posting of ours. I just thought to put it up again as it seemed to us to be a reminder that news have a history. it shows that the UN has a history as well. evil is not a surprise.

‘Incomprehensible’: UN Committee Elects Assad Regime to Leadership Post

By Patrick Goodenough

 CNSNews.com) – A group of United Nations’ member-states on Thursday elected the Assad regime to a leadership post of a special committee dealing with decolonization, sparking protests from a human rights group that had earlier urged U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to intervene.

At a meeting in New York, the committee’s newly-elected chairman, Venezuelan ambassador Rafael Ramirez, asked the member-states whether there were any objections to putting forward Syrian ambassador Bashar Ja’afari as its “rapporteur” for the coming year.

Hearing no objectives, Ramirez declared Ja’afari – as well as three nominated vice chairmen, the representatives of Cuba, Sierra Leone and Indonesia – “elected by acclamation.”

The Venezuelan then led “a round a applause for our friends,” told them he looked forward to working with them “in taking forward the noble work of the special committee,” and invited Ja’afari to take his seat on the podium.

Before the Syrian sat down, Ramirez – a former foreign minister in President Nicolas Maduro’s cabinet – gave him a hug.

According to U.N. estimates well over 250,000 people have been killed and 12 million displaced in the civil war in Syria.

U.S. taxpayers account for 22 percent of the U.N.’s regular budget.

The committee – full name, the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples – has 24 members.

Ten of them are free democracies, according to Washington-based Freedom House. They are Antigua & Barbuda, Chile, Dominica, Grenada, India, Indonesia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tunisia.

None of those 10, nor any other member of the committee, raised objections to Syria’s “election” as rapporteur.

Ahead of the election, the non-governmental organization U.N. Watch urged two of the democracies in particular, Chile and India, to oppose Syria’s election.

U.N. Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said after Thursday’s session the two governments should be “ashamed” for joining the consensus vote.

He also criticized Ban for not intervening ahead of the vote.

“It is incomprehensible for the U.N. on one day to lament the regime’s killing and wounding of hundreds of thousands of Syrians – to declare the regime guilty of ‘extermination’ of its own people – and to then hand this gift of false legitimacy to the mass murderer Bashar al-Assad,” Neuer said.

“Today’s U.N. vote only helps the Assad regime portray itself a U.N. human rights arbiter. That’s indefensible, and an insult to Syria’s victims,” he said. “Morally, Mr. Ban should do the right thing and at least condemn the decision.”

Neuer also called on U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power and European Union ambassadors to condemn what he called the “absurd and morally obscene” election outcome.

He said the elections of the Syrian and Venezuelan ambassadors to their respective posts would be “trumpeted by both the Assad and Maduro regimes” as a propaganda victory.

He recalled that the regime after a previous election of Ja’afari called it “yet another recognition by members of the committee of the Syrian important and key role.”

The decolonization committee, established in 1961, advocates independence for 17 specific territories around the world, including American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam.

Neuer called the 55 year-old body “anachronistic,” noting that it has often been “criticized as a costly irrelevance.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 16th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Monsanto Goes on Trial for Ecocide

By MercoPress
posted also by Readers Supported News
15 October 16

his symbolic trial, which will be live streamed from Oct. 15, 8:30 a.m. GMT+2 on the tribunal website, will follow guidelines of the United Nations’ international court of justice and will have no legal standing. Rather, its purpose is to gather legal counsel from the judges as well as legal grounds for future litigation.

”The aim of the tribunal is to give a legal opinion on the environmental and health damage caused by the multinational Monsanto,“ the tribunal organizers state on their website. ”This will add to the international debate to include the crime of Ecocide into international criminal law. It will also give people all over the world a well documented legal file to be used in lawsuits against Monsanto and similar chemical companies.”

Monsanto, which is inching closer to a US$ 66bn takeover from German pharmaceuticals giant Bayer, has faced a never-ending slew of health and environmental controversies over its products since, well, the beginning of the twenty first century.

Monsanto’s historical line-up of products includes banned and highly toxic chemicals such as 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (a dioxin-containing component of the defoliant Agent Orange); PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyl); and Lasso, a herbicide banned in Europe. Glyphosate, the controversial main ingredient in Monsanto’s best-selling weed-killer RoundUp, is the most widely used pesticide in the world. Monsanto is also the world’s largest genetically modified (GMO) seed maker, giving them a major hand over the world food supply

The trial, which will proceed on the same weekend as World Food Day, is organized by Organic Consumers Association, International Foundation for Organic Agriculture (IFOAM) Organics International, Navdanya, Regeneration International, Millions Against Monsanto as well as dozens of global food, farming and environmental justice groups.

Monsanto Corporate Engagement office has stated that “in growing our food, farmers face some tough challenges as the world’s population continues to grow. To address these ever increasing challenges collaboratively and advance our commitment to human rights, we welcome a genuine constructive conversation with diverse ideas and perspectives about food and agriculture production.

”This mock trial is not a real dialogue but a stunt staged by the International Foundation for Organic Agriculture (IFOAM), Organic Consumers Association and others who are fundamentally opposed to modern agriculture innovation, where anti-agriculture technology and anti-Monsanto critics play organizers, judge and jury, and where the outcome is pre-determined. Here is a link to our Open Letter regarding this mock trial.

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Comments:

+1 # guomashi 2016-10-15 14:01
Where is the link to the Open Letter regarding the mock trial?

.. not that I would read it or anyone would believe it.

May Monsanto rot in hell.
They are now going around to all the farms they can and testing the produce to see if any of it got cross-pollinate d with their patented life-forms.
Then they sue.
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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 22nd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

THE NEW YORK TIMES – SCIENCE

English Village Becomes Climate Leader by Quietly Cleaning Up Its Own Patch

By TATIANA SCHLOSSBERGAUG. 21, 2016

ASHTON HAYES, England — This small village of about 1,000 people looks like any other nestled in the countryside.

But Ashton Hayes is different in an important way when it comes to one of the world’s most pressing issues: climate change.

Hundreds of residents have banded together to cut greenhouse emissions — they use clotheslines instead of dryers, take fewer flights, install solar panels and glaze windows to better insulate their homes.

The effort, reaching its 10th anniversary this year, has led to a 24 percent cut in emissions, according to surveys by a professor of environmental sustainability who lives here.

But what makes Ashton Hayes unusual is its approach — the residents have done it themselves, without prodding from government. About 200 towns, cities and counties around the world — including Notteroy, Norway; Upper Saddle River, N.J.; and Changhua County, Taiwan — have reached out to learn how the villagers here did it.


As climate science has become more accepted, and the effects of a warming planet are becoming increasingly clear, Ashton Hayes is a case study for the next phase of battling climate change: getting people to change their habits.

“We just think everyone should try to clean up their patch,” said Rosemary Dossett, a resident of the village. “And rather than going out and shouting about it, we just do it.”

One of their secrets, it seems, is that the people of Ashton Hayes feel in charge, rather than following government policies. When the member of Parliament who represents the village showed up at their first public meeting in January 2006, he was told he could not make any speeches.

“We said, ‘This is not about you tonight, this is about us, and you can listen to what we’ve got to say for a change,’” said Kate Harrison, a resident and early member of the group.

No politician has been allowed to address the group since. The village has kept the effort separate from party politics, which residents thought would only divide them along ideological lines.


The project was started by Garry Charnock, a former journalist who trained as a hydrologist and has lived in the village for about 30 years. He got the idea a little more than a decade ago after attending a lecture about climate change at the Hay Festival, an annual literary gathering in Wales. He decided to try to get Ashton Hayes to become, as he put it, “Britain’s first carbon-neutral village.”


“But even if we don’t,” he recalls thinking at the time, “let’s try to have a little fun.”

Sometimes, efforts to reduce greenhouse gases involve guilt-tripping or doomsday scenarios that make people feel as if the problem is too overwhelming to tackle.

In Ashton Hayes — about 25 miles southeast of Liverpool, with a 19th-century Anglican church and a community-owned shop that doubles as a post office — the villagers have lightened the mood.

They hold public wine-and-cheese meetings in the biggest houses in town, “so everyone can have a look around,” and see how the wealthier people live, said Mr. Charnock, the executive director of RSK, an environmental consulting company. “We don’t ever finger-wag in Ashton Hayes.”

About 650 people — more than half of the village’s residents — showed up to the first meeting, Mr. Charnock said. Some in the village were less keen, but little by little, they began to participate.

Some have gone further. When they were looking to build their energy-efficient home and heard about Ashton Hayes’s carbon-neutral project, Ms. Dossett and her husband, Ian, thought it might be the perfect village for them.

They moved from nearby South Warrington and found two old farm cottages, which they converted into a two-story brick house, and installed huge triple-glazed windows, photovoltaic cells on the roof, a geothermal heat pump that heats the home and its water, and an underground cistern to hold rainwater for toilets and the garden.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to think we live in a mud hut,” Ms. Dossett said, sitting on a couch in her warm, well-lit living room.

The Dossetts also have a vegetable garden, grow grapes for wine, brew beer and keep two cows, which mow the lawn and may also eventually become food in a few years. They pay about 500 pounds (about $650) a year for electricity and heating.

The success of the carbon-neutral project seems to have inspired other community efforts in Ashton Hayes. The residents, for example, have built a new playing field with a solar-powered pavilion, which is the home of a community cafe three days a week. They have also put photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of the primary school.

Other towns and cities around the world hope to copy Ashton Hayes. Their representatives have contacted the project’s leaders, asking for help in setting up similar initiatives, according to the diary the Ashton Hayes group keeps about the project, chronicling almost everything they have done over the past 10 years.


Eden Mills, a small community in Ontario, Canada, is one of them. Charles Simon traveled to Ashton Hayes in 2007 to learn how to translate their approach to his town, adopting the apolitical, voluntary, fun method.

“Some of the changes are so easy,” Mr. Simon said. “Just put on a sweater instead of turning on the heat.”


Eden Mills has cut emissions by about 14 percent, Mr. Simon said, and has plans to do more. Residents have been working with experts from the nearby University of Guelph, planting trees in the village forest to help absorb the carbon dioxide the town emits, Mr. Simon said.

Janet Gullvaag, a councilwoman in Notteroy, Norway, an island municipality of about 21,000 people, reached out to Ashton Hayes about nine years ago after her political party decided to include reducing carbon dioxide emissions in its platform.

“I think that the idea that Ashton Hayes had — to make caring for the environment fun, without pointing fingers — was quite revolutionary,” Ms. Gullvaag said.

Though her community’s approach is decidedly more political, Ms. Gullvaag said that adopting Ashton Hayes’s mantra of fun had paid dividends: She has seen changes in her community, she said, as people buy more electric cars and bicycles, and convert their home heating from oil to more environmentally friendly sources.

“Whatever you’re trying to do, if you can create enthusiasm and spread knowledge, normally, people will react in a positive way,” she added.

Though deep cuts across the globe are still required to make broader progress, actions to reduce emissions, even by small towns, are a step in the right direction, say experts who study community action on climate change.

“The community-building element of all this has been as important as the environmental impact so far,” said Sarah Darby, a researcher at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute.

She added that Ashton Hayes was in a good position to take on these kinds of projects — it is a small village of well-off and well-educated people, so simply taking fewer flights each year can have a big effect.

Residents were able to cut emissions by about 20 percent in the first year alone, according to surveys used to calculate carbon footprints that were developed by Roy Alexander, a local professor, and his students.

Some have had even more significant reductions: Households that participated in surveys in both the first and 10th years shrank their energy use by about 40 percent.

Mr. Charnock said he thought the village could get the cuts in its 2006 carbon footprint to 80 percent in the next few years with the help of grant money to buy and install solar panels on the local school and other buildings.

The next thing they have to do, he said, is to get the county government to be as committed to cutting emissions as Ashton Hayes is.

“There’s so much apathy,” Mr. Charnock said. “We need to squeeze that layer of apathy jelly and get it out.”

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A version of this article appears in print on August 22, 2016, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: An English Village Leads a Climate Revolution.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 19th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

IIASA study assesses land use impacts of EU biofuel policy

Laxenburg Austria, 16 March 2016 – The indirect impacts of biofuel production on land use change and greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union vary widely depending on the type of biofuel, according to a study published last week.

{The Study Argues – this is our insert}
Biofuel policy in the European Union has been under scrutiny for several years, with intense debate around its efficiency in reducing greenhouse gases emissions. Indeed, biofuel production can take up agricultural land otherwise used for food and feed, and lead to land use conversion elsewhere that would offset some of the climate benefits of the policy, a problem known as indirect land use change. In a new study for the European Commission in partnership with the sustainable energy consultancies Ecofys and E4tech, IIASA researchers have now brought more precise insight to the topic, showing the different levels of impact that different biofuels have on land use change and the climate.

The study revisits the impacts of biofuels consumed in the European Union and is the most comprehensive comparison to date of land use effects across feedstocks. It provides the first analysis, in a consistent modeling framework, of both conventional (or first-generation) biofuels, produced from food crops such as vegetable oil, and advanced (or second-generation) biofuels, produced from residues or energy crops such as grasses, forestry residues and cereal straw.

IIASA researcher Hugo Valin led the modeling for the study. He says, “First generation biofuels have been criticized in the past due to their indirect land use change impact, which our study confirms. But by looking at a much broader range of biofuel options, we clearly show that not all biofuels are equal.”

On one end of the spectrum, the study shows that certain types of vegetable oils, such palm or soybean oil, can lead to significant greenhouse gas emissions. It also shows that impacts of ethanol feedstocks are relatively lower than for biodiesel, in particular for high yielded crops such as sugar beet or maize. And on the other end of the spectrum, second generation crops, included for the first time in the analysis for the EU, showed a good performance overall with in several cases net negative emissions.
{This part is a very wise conclusion with which we can completely agree – our insert}

The study also included mitigation scenarios which showed that promoting agricultural expansion on European land compared to the rest of the world would help reducing the impacts in the short run. However, in the long run, the most efficient policy for limiting land-based greenhouse gas emissions would be a better control of agricultural land expansion globally, through policies to preserve forests and other natural ecosystems which can sequester large amounts of carbon including peatlands in Southeast Asia.

The study also included an in-depth analysis of uncertainties in the scenarios to better inform stakeholders. While in some cases uncertainties can be large, the study clearly indicates how impacts of different policy orientations compare.

Valin says, “It’s impossible to remove all uncertainties in such an analysis, but the real value of this study is that it helps decision makers to better anticipate the potential implications of the option they choose. Models help to develop a common understanding of what the problems at stake are and how to mitigate them. In the context of biofuel policies this is especially true, as modeling illustrates the trade-offs between greenhouse gas emissions, food consumption, land occupation, agricultural income, and other issues.”

More information
Ecofys: Report quantifies land use change impact of biofuels consumed in the EU

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We, at SustainabiliTank, find some problems with above study based on our own experience.

Years ago – end of seventies-beginning of eighties – we published via US Congressional hearings about land use and industrial liquid biofuels production. Our argument was that agriculture in industrialized countries is managed by government policy. This was clearly true in the US, and I was approached by the newly formed Brussels based EU Agriculture Commissioner who was interested in that analysis of policy for the EU States as well.

The argument was that the various Departments of Agriculture support the price of food commodities by limiting their production or simply put – by paying farmers NOT TO PRODUCE or keep land out of production. My argument was to use that land – the so called SET-ASIDES – for the new industry of liquid biofuels and stop non-production-subsidies. I went so far as to calculate that for the US I could PRODUCE ETHANOL FROM CORN THAT WAS NOT GROWN AND PAY FOR IT WITH MONEY THAT WAS NOT SPENT. That testimony caused – because of request from Members of Congress – to my being hired as a consultant by the Office of the Comptroller General Of the United States – the US GAO – the General Accounting Office – in order to have them check out those arguments. Surely they found that there was a base for my arguments. They also found that the reduction of the quantities of agricultural commodity produced was much smaller then expected because, naturally, the farmer kept out of production the worst parts of their land. The funniest part was that agricultural corporations would switch the non-production claims from one commodity o another contingent on which ‘asides” provided higher subsidies that year – one year it could have been historic corn, but another year it could have been a claim of not growing wheat.

Whatever, at least for the EU and the US – the “set aside” policy is just public money dished out to the large farming industry for no good purpose and the concept of “hunger in China” just did not hold water. Environmentalists in this context did rather play up to the big oil and farming interests rather then my perception of reduction of dependence on petroleum. Surely, this is different when replacing natural forests in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil with oil- producing palm trees in the tropics. In those cases the damage to the environment is real. But not when we talk about the vast already deforested agricultural expances of Europe and America. Further, it is clear to us that in a globalized world – producing those commodities in smaller farms overseas, and subsistence farming, would save CO2 emissions that occur in the transport of those commodities originating in highly agriculture-industrialized economies – albeit this means lower take in the industrialized countries, lower need for food production by industrialized countries, and a parallel gain in employment by therural sector in non-industrialized countries we usually define as Developing Countries.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 3rd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)



If we don’t confront climate change, we won’t end poverty
Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank Group

The Paris Agreement, coal and Ms. Meier

February 2016

As received from Marion Vieweg —  marion.vieweg at current-future.org via lists.iisd.ca

Ms. Meier is a secretary. She lives and works in a small town in Germany. She has – very likely – never heard of the Paris Agreement, nor would it interest her. Let’s discuss why Ms. Meier is nevertheless key to the success of the Paris Agreement.

Curious? Read the full story at: current-future.org/index.php/25-b…
Best regards,

Marion

And here it is:

Ms. Meier is a secretary. She lives and works in a small town in Germany. She has – very likely – never heard of the Paris Agreement, nor would it interest her. Let’s discuss why Ms. Meier is nevertheless key to the success of the Paris Agreement.

One of the successes of Paris is the joint commitment to a complete change in our energy systems. The common goal to “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels” provides a strong political signal. It also calls for a “balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.” This will only be possible with a swift transition towards a fully decarbonized energy system.

To achieve the required reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, all sectors will need to contribute. Here are a number of reasons, why this discussion focuses on the electricity sector and specifically on coal-fired power generation:

Electricity is currently the largest emitting part of the energy sector in most countries;
Over 40% of global electricity is produced with coal, with a total increase of coal production from 3 Gt in the 1970s to over 8 Gt in 2014[1];
The long investment time frames in the sector call for swift action to avoid missing the GHG goals or generating stranded assets;
Coal mining and power generation often dominates the economic structure in the region, leading to specific challenges.

Up to now, the impressive growth in renewable electricity generation has mostly addressed additional demand from growing economies. Renewable technologies instead of fossil fuel power plants formed part of new capacity built. For most countries event this is already a challenge. In 2014, only 45% of new power production capacity added globally came from renewable sources. In 2012 the World Resources Institute estimated that 1,199 new coal-fired power plants with a total capacity of 1,401,268 MW were being proposed globally. These numbers highlight the magnitude of the challenge. Even in Germany, home to the famous ‘Energiewende,’ new coal-fired power plants are in planning[2].

If we are taking the Paris Agreement seriously, then we need to not only satisfy additional demand with zero-carbon technologies, but need to start changing existing generation systems. To some extent, this can happen ‘naturally’ by closing down coal fired power plants at the end of their technical lifetime and replacing the capacity with renewable technologies. But in most countries, including Germany, this will not be enough, given the number of plants that went online in the last years and will go online in the next few years, and which have a technical lifetime well beyond the 2050s.

So why should Ms. Meier care?

Ms. Meier lives close to the Polish border in one of the three main lignite mining areas in Germany. Lignite has been mined in the area since the 1850s. The first power plant went online in 1894. Open pit mining has dramatically transformed the landscape and relocated a multitude of villages and towns. The region delivered the bulk of the energy fuelling the economy during the existence of the GDR. The sector has been the foundation of the economy for over a century and is deeply engrained in the regional identity. Today, only around 8,000 people actually work in the sector in the area, compared to more than 10 times as many in 1989. Still, salaries in the sector are significantly above average and make an important contribution to the local economy. Ms. Meier has a part-time job in a small engineering firm. Her husband works in one of the coal mining operations, as did his father and grandfather. They are afraid to lose their jobs if the mining and coal power generation ends, and wonder if their two children will have a future in the area or if they, like so many others have already done, will need to move away.

Economic studies show the benefits of renewables and energy efficiency technology to society. They are important and demonstrate the benefits to society as a whole. However, they rarely take a more detailed look at the regional and local level. This is where it starts to get difficult: The new jobs they create may or may not be in the same regions and may or may not require similar skills to those jobs that are lost. From an economic perspective at the national level this may not matter – from a societal, political and regional perspective it does. It also changes how we need to communicate, support and steer the transition.

Ms. Meier’s employer is member of a local initiative that promotes the continuation of lignite mining and power generation in the area. He is afraid that the closing of the lignite operations will damage overall economic activity, making his business unprofitable, causing his 15 employees to lose their jobs. The initiative runs a website, lobbies politicians and organizes public events. This is one of the many examples how fear creates resistance to change.

Many, who are directly affected, like Ms. Meier, fear for their jobs and well-being. Others fear for their profits while some just feel generally insecure of what this change will mean for their lives. In total, this often leads to a situation where decisions to close down old power plants or mines or not approving new ones will politically be impossible. We need to recognize that these fears are legitimate and that we need to address them seriously, appropriately and with respect – without compromising on the final goal: a full decarbonisation of the electricity sector.

If we don’t take the legitimate fears of people like Ms. Meier, her husband and the millions like them around the world seriously, Paris will fail to deliver.

Clear political signals for a phase-out of coal-fired power generations are only a first step. Politicians will find it difficult to send those signals, with strong local opposition rooted in fear. To overcome this and create a positive dynamic we need to consider five principles:

Build strong stakeholder coalitions at the regional level, involving everybody affected and all interest groups to define realistic phase-out scenarios: Yes, it is hard, but there is no way around talking WITH rather than AGAINST each other. A lot of time, energy and resources are currently used on all sides to generate biased information to inform public and politicians to promote individual vested interests. All sides need to work together and agree on basic facts that allow to start discussing SOLUTIONS rather than PROBLEMS.

Facilitate stakeholders to create an individual vision for a development that works in the given context: The solutions will, by necessity, be individual and different for each affected region. It is essential that all interest groups and stakeholders in a region define the vision as well as the steps required to get there. This allows tapping their detailed knowledge and experience, this way creating realistic pathways and ensuring ownership and commitment in implementation.

Tailor support instruments to the individual vision: The standard solution for policy-related structural change is to create a fund. This is a bit like creating a working group, when you are not sure what else to do, and then hope they come up with something useful. Money for required changes is certainly an important element to support regions. It will, however, not be effective, if not used in a targeted way and with a clear and realistic vision to guide activities. Additional support may be required, depending on the vision, including changes in the legal and regulatory framework or cooperation with other regions.

Learn from experiences: Structural change is not a new phenomenon. Especially the coal-mining sector has seen multiple changes over the last century due to economic shifts, through mines being mined out or becoming economically unviable. While these processes were often slow and thus easier to adjust to, some were rapid, like the changes in economic structure in Eastern Europe in the 1990s. But also other sectors have seen major changes, resulting in whole regions needing to readjust. The textile industry in large parts of Europe is one example for similar large-scale structural change that affects whole regions. We need to look at experiences made with such processes within the sector, but also learn from other sectors and across borders. The fundamental challenge of re-orienting the economy in a region remains the same. We need to look more closely at what worked, what didn’t and – most importantly – why.

Develop new business models together with utilities and customers: Utilities and companies operating coal mines and coal-fired power plants are naturally opposed to phase-out plans, as it promises to cut profits and requires changes to well-established activities. We need to acknowledge that these companies provide work for a lot of people and electricity to important parts of our societies. Their expertise on the functioning of the electricity system is vital for ensuring stable systems. We need to make them part of the solution, with a clear vision on their future role in a new system. This requires to let go of cherished stereotypes on both sides and the will to overcome differences to create something new and better for the benefit of all.

Germany, as all other countries, is only at the starting point of this new road. Globally, we need to start changing existing systems, not only adding on some renewables. A recent proposal to bring all stakeholders together in a coal ‘round table’ for Germany is a good starting point. If this process can also manage to address the regional challenges posed through the required structural change in a bottom-up process that involves all stakeholders, it has the potential to become a role model for other countries and regions that are facing similar problems globally.

If we take all concerns seriously and invite stakeholders to help shape their future rather than only react and block, we might – just – make it in time to prevent the worst effects of climate change and make the Paris Agreement a lasting success.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 24th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Carbon dioxide is invisible and odorless. Dawn Stover wonders: What if we could see carbon pollution in the air and water?

Seeing (pollution) is believing: ow.ly/YHEtd

Janice Sinclaire
Communications Director

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
U.S.A.
T. 773.382.8061
C. 707.481.9372
F. 773.980.6932E.
 jsinclaire at thebulletin.org

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23 February 2016,

SEEING (POLLUTION) IS BELIEVING.

by Dawn Stover — stover.jpeg

of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. IT IS THREE MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT!
Stover is a science writer based in the Pacific Northwest and is a contributing editor at the Bulletin.

The snow has melted along the roads in my rural community, revealing a surprising number of beer cans, plastic bottles, and other trash in the roadside ditches. This is a sparsely populated area, yet I drive past mile after mile of terrestrial flotsam and jetsam. Most of it, I suspect, is jetsam—the stuff that is deliberately thrown overboard.

It probably won’t be long before some disgusted (or enterprising) neighbors start tackling this mess. Most of the cans and bottles can be redeemed for a five-cent deposit or put into bags for free curbside recycling. The worst thing about this roadside pollution is also the best thing about it: We can see it. That makes it easy to clean up.

Imagine if carbon pollution was as recognizable as a Bud Light can. What if, every time you started up your car or boarded an airplane or sliced into a Porterhouse steak, a sour-smelling beer can was ejected from your vehicle or pocket? Pretty soon there would be cans lining every highway and tarmac, and coal-fired power plants would literally be buried under them. But even this foul onslaught of aluminum might be less damaging than the 40 billion metric tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (plus other greenhouse gases) that humans are dumping into Earth’s atmosphere and oceans every year, raising the temperature of our planet. Unfortunately, carbon dioxide is invisible and odorless, which makes it easier to ignore. If we were dumping 40 billion metric tons of aluminum into the air and sea annually—the equivalent of 2,800 trillion beverage cans—surely we would do something about that.

Air quality alert. One of the reasons China is getting serious about clean energy is that the air pollution in Beijing, Shanghai, and other Chinese cities has become intolerable at times. The visibility gets so poor that flights are sometimes canceled because of smog, and residents are frequently forced to don masks when venturing outdoors—where the air quality can be worse than an airport smoking lounge. The pollution sometimes reaches all the way to California.

“The air in Los Angeles used to be like Beijing,” a California-based colleague recently reminded me. Los Angeles still has some of the most contaminated air in the United States, but the situation has improved significantly since 1970—when President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Congress passed the first of several major amendments to the Clean Air Act, empowering the federal government to regulate air pollutants.

The EPA’s new Clean Power Plan—announced in 2015 but challenged in court by 27 states and currently on hold pending a judicial review—would do for carbon pollution what the Clean Air Act did for smog in an earlier era. This time around, though, many elected officials can’t see what the problem is. Literally.

Making the invisible visible. Instead of implementing a carbon tax or federal limits on power-plant emissions, maybe we just need to add a smelly dye to all fossil fuels—something like the red colorant that is added to fire retardants so that pilots can see where they have sprayed, or the rotten-egg-like chemical that is injected into natural gas so that homeowners can detect gas leaks before they become life-threatening. Instead of subjecting airlines to proposed new emissions limits, we’d simply see a hideous red contrail every time an airplane flew overhead. Standing on the beach, we’d see a red tide—the carbon dioxide absorbed by the North Atlantic alone has doubled in the past decade. And the smell of the recent enormous methane leak from a ruptured pipeline in southern California would pale in comparison to the collective stench emitted by fracking operations and thousands of fossil-fuel-burning power plants. On the plus side, we’d be able to see trees and other plants sucking up carbon, which might make us think twice about turning forests into pallets.

This is only a thought experiment, of course. We shouldn’t have to go to these lengths to realize that the byproducts of fossil fuel combustion are bad for our health. Most of us know better than to breathe from our car’s tailpipe or leave the garage door shut with the engine running. That’s how you kill yourself, after all. And yet we think nothing of dumping copious amounts of exhaust into the air that everyone breathes. It’s out of sight and out of mind.

Turning a blind eye. Although greenhouse gas emissions aren’t visible, their climate impacts are. It’s not hard to see melting glaciers, wilted crops, and storm surges—or to find photographs, charts, and other images showing how quickly our planet is changing. And yet, as President Barack Obama remarked during a press conference on February 16, “There’s not a single candidate in the Republican primary that thinks we should do anything about climate change, that thinks it’s serious.” That’s a problem, said Obama, because other countries “count on the United States being on the side of science and reason and common sense.”

How can Marco Rubio not see the impacts of rising sea level in Florida? How did Donald Trump miss the meaning of Hurricane Sandy, a bellwether for the type of extreme events that scientists say will become more common and more severe as global warming continues? Where was Ted Cruz when Texas was enduring devastating heat, drought, and wildfires—or the deadly floods that followed? All of the GOP candidates, including self-professed climate change “believer” John Kasich, are turning a blind eye to the decades of scientific research that place the blame squarely on human activities, and it’s possible that even a putrid red haze would not move them.

There will always be some people who are willfully ignorant and inconsiderate and lazy, who toss their trash out the window and leave it for others to pick up. The rest of us can stand around shaking our heads, or we can pull on our gloves and do something about this dreadful mess. Unfortunately, the past two centuries’ worth of carbon dioxide emissions is like a heap of discarded cans and bottles that are already hopelessly bent, broken, and ground into the mud. This carbon buildup will have consequences for Earth’s climate and sea level for tens of thousands of years to come.

That’s no excuse to put off spring cleaning, though. Climate change is largely irreversible on human time scales, but rapid and aggressive action would keep the worst impacts of global warming to a minimum. It’s more important than ever to make drastic reductions in carbon dumping, and get serious about reforestation and other cleanup measures. These are the Bud Light cans we can still get our hands on.

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