Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 11th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
THE NEW YORK TIMES Politics section:
Supreme Court’s Blow to Emissions Efforts May Imperil Paris Climate Accord.
By CORAL DAVENPORT February 10, 2016
Photo — A coal-fired power plant behind homes in Poca, W.V., in 2014. Credit Robert Galbraith/Reuters
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s surprise decision Tuesday to halt the carrying out of President Obama’s climate change regulation could weaken or even imperil the international global warming accord reached with great ceremony in Paris less than two months ago, climate diplomats say.
The Paris Agreement, the first accord to commit every country to combat climate change, had as a cornerstone Mr. Obama’s assurance that the United States would enact strong, legally sound policies to significantly cut carbon emissions.
The United States is the largest historical greenhouse gas polluter, although its annual emissions have been overtaken by China’s.
But in the capitals of India and China, the other two largest polluters, climate change policy experts said the court’s decision threw the United States’ commitment into question, and possibly New Delhi’s and Beijing’s.
Supreme Court Deals Blow to Obama’s Efforts to Regulate Coal EmissionsFEB. 9, 2016
With Coal Industry Under Pressure, Some See Long-Term DeclineDEC. 2, 2015
Climate Deal’s First Big Hurdle: The Draw of Cheap OilJAN. 25, 2016
2015 Was Hottest Year in Historical Record, Scientists SayJAN. 20, 2016
“If the U.S. Supreme Court actually declares the coal power plant rules stillborn, the chances of nurturing trust between countries would all but vanish,” said Navroz K. Dubash, a senior fellow at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi. “This could be the proverbial string which causes Paris to unravel.”
Short Answers to Hard Questions About Climate Change
The issue can be overwhelming. The science is complicated. We get it. This is your cheat sheet.
The court did not block the rule permanently, but halted it from being carried out in the states until legal challenges against it have been decided, a process that could take a year or more. Legal experts said the justices’ decision to stop work on the rule before any court had decided against it was unprecedented and signaled that the regulation might ultimately be overturned. That could set back the United States’ climate efforts for years, although there would still be a chance for Washington to meet its commitments by 2025.
“If the American clean energy plan is overturned, we’ll need to reassess whether the United States can meet its commitments,” said Zou Ji, the deputy director general of China’s National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, a government think tank in Beijing.
Mr. Zou, who was an adviser to the Chinese delegation at the Paris negotiations, said by telephone: “It had seemed that with the American commitments, it was possible to get on the right emissions path globally. But without those commitments, that could be a blow to confidence in low-carbon development. In China domestically, there is also resistance to low-carbon policies, and they would be able to say: ‘Look, the United States doesn’t keep its word. Why make so many demands on us?’ ”
Paris Climate Change Conference 2015
Complete coverage of the United Nations meeting in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, and efforts to reach an emissions deal.
Paris Climate Accord Is a Big, Big Deal
Silence on the Climate Pact From the Republican Candidates
The Paris Climate Pact Will Need Strong Follow-Up
Republicans on Campaign Trail Largely Ignore the Climate Deal
A Climate Deal, 6 Fateful Years in the Making
Inaction by the United States has long been the chief obstacle to meaningful global climate change agreements.
Mr. Obama sought to change that with aggressive but politically controversial Environmental Protection Agency rules to cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. With those rules, Mr. Obama won agreements from China and India to enact pollution reduction plans and helped push other countries to sign on to the Paris measure.
The top priority for Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India remains to provide cheap electricity to the 300 million Indians without power. If the United States reneges on its commitments, “it really would strengthen the hand of those who say Paris was ineffective and a bad deal for India,” Mr. Dubash said.
What the Supreme Court’s Decision to Halt Climate Regulation Means:
Answers to questions about the court’s decision to temporarily block the Obama administration’s effort to regulate emissions from coal-fired power plants.
Under Mr. Obama’s commitment to the Paris Agreement, the United States will cut its emissions 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025, largely through the E.P.A. regulations on power plants and a mix of rules reining in pollution from cars, buildings and other sources. All of those policies were set to be carried out briskly so they would be well underway by the time Mr. Obama left office.
White House officials insisted on Wednesday that the rule would eventually be upheld, and that given the timetable for litigation and for meeting the target, the United States could still achieve its Paris commitment.
A White House spokesman, Eric Schultz, pointed to other greenhouse gas reduction policies Mr. Obama had established to help meet the 2025 target, including a federal budget agreement late last year that included long-term extensions of tax credits for wind and solar power.
Still, the Supreme Court’s decision ensures that climate policy will not be set on Mr. Obama’s watch. A Federal District Court will hear oral arguments on the climate rule June 2 and is expected to issue its decision later this year, but an appeal to the Supreme Court is all but certain. If the justices agree to hear the case, a ruling is unlikely before June 2017.
If the rule is eventually overturned, the E.P.A. is still required by law to put forth a regulation controlling carbon dioxide emissions. That rule would be shaped by the next president and face its own legal gantlet, pushing action years into the future.
The White House and its supporters took hope from announcements that the governors of some states, including California, New York and Washington, would continue to work voluntarily to carry out the rule.
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But most states are expected to halt their compliance efforts. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, had already been urging governors to refuse to comply with the plan. “These regulations are, in my view, likely illegal,” Mr. McConnell said Wednesday. “Yesterday’s Supreme Court order is just the latest sign of that. If nothing else, it shows we were right to let governors know their options.”
American policy experts said that the Supreme Court decision might be the first of many fractures in the deal.
“This pushback is not something that’s unique to the United States,” said John Sterman, a professor of management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who attended the negotiations in Paris. “It’s happening all over the developed world.”
Poland and some other coal-reliant countries have resisted the European Union’s commitment under the agreement to more stringently reduce emissions across member states.
Already, some people close to the climate talks worry that the events in the United States could lead to a repeat of what happened after the signing of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the first major climate change treaty. Vice President Al Gore, a staunch environmentalist, negotiated the treaty with other world leaders, but the Senate voted against it. Then President George W. Bush pulled the United States out entirely.
The Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, have pledged to continue and strengthen Mr. Obama’s climate change agenda, so a rule developed by their administrations would probably let the country meet its Paris goals.
But Republican contenders, including Donald J. Trump, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, have questioned or denied the science of human-caused climate change and sharply criticized the climate change regulations and the Paris Agreement.
“The Supreme Court just clarified the stakes for the American people in the election when it comes to climate change,” said Nigel Purvis, the president of the Climate Advisers consulting group and a climate diplomat under Bill Clinton and Mr. Bush.
Ellen Barry contributed reporting from New Delhi, Chris Buckley from Beijing and Justin Gillis from New York.
You can follow The New York Times’s politics and Washington coverage on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for the First Draft politics newsletter.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 23rd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
2016 Elections, Climate Change, Climate Desk, Science, Top Stories
Attention GOP Presidential Candidates: Winter Does Not Disprove Global Warming -
Weather is not climate.
By Jeremy Schulman of Mother Jones
| Mon Jan. 26, 2015 1:24 PM EST
Update, 1/21/2016: With an epic blizzard expected to bury Washington, DC, this weekend, and an epic caucus night quickly approaching in Iowa, I decided to revisit this post. It remains true that winter storms and cold weather are in no way inconsistent with global warming. But I can no longer stand by my assertion that Donald Trump is “probably not going to run for president.” As Rick Perry would say: Oops.
Snow is falling across the Northeast, and millions of people are preparing for a massive blizzard. Due to the extreme winter conditions, my colleague at Climate Desk has issued the following advisory:
Tim McDonnell Verified account
PSA: Big snowstorm ? (IS NOT) proof global warming is a hoax.
It may seem obvious to you that the existence of extreme winter weather doesn’t negate the scientific fact that humans are warming the planet. But that’s probably because you aren’t a climate change denier who’s contemplating a run for the GOP presidential nomination.
Last year, for example, Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) weighed in on the issue. “It is really freezing in DC,” Cruz said during a speech on energy policy, according to Talking Points Memo. “I have to admit I was surprised. Al Gore told us this wouldn’t happen!” Cruz said the same thing a month earlier, according to Slate: “It’s cold!…Al Gore told me this wouldn’t happen.”
And former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on his Fox News show, negated global warming as well after a major blizzard back in December 20, 2009.
Which brings us to a couple of Republicans who are probably not going to run for president but who have nevertheless generated headlines recently by suggesting they might. Here’s Donald Trump, during a cold snap last year:
Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps,and our GW scientists are stuck in ice
2 January 2014
And then there is a Facebook post of January 12, 2012, from former Gov. Sarah Palin, citing extremely cold winter temperatures in her home state of Alaska.
If you’re a regular Climate affectionado, you already know why all this is wrong. You understand the difference between individual weather events and long-term climate trends. You probably even know that according to the National Climate Assessment, winter precipitation is expected to increase in the northeastern United States as a result of climate change. But if you’re a Republican who wants to be president, please pay close attention to the following video:
to get his – lease look at – www.motherjones.com/environment/2…
also, if you want updates on the effects of the blizzard - CNN.com – BreakingNews at mail.cnn.com
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 21st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
CONTEMPORARY “ART MEETS SCIENCE” EXPERIENCE
THURSDAY JAN 21, 07:00 PM at The Austria Cultural Forum building – New York City – 11 East 52nd St., NYC 10022
Jonáš Strouhal and Jakub Jansa will introduce “The Name of the Project is Project Itself”, an innovative project organized by the Czech Center NY, that incorporates installation and procedural performances created in response to the context of the environment.
The two artists will introduce the 12 artist/curator partnerships and discuss the work that will be happening throughout the year. They will use live demonstration and video to outline the elements of this fascinating endeavor.
Therefore, the launch of “The Name of the Project is Project Itself” at the Austrian Cultural Forum will give an extensive and entertaining overview of what to expect from this contemporary art experience throughout 2016.
ABOUT THE INITIATIVE
This is a yearlong initiative where artists from the Czech Republic work with curators from New York to present their unique projects that blend artistic and scientific approaches in the creation of their internationally acclaimed work at Czech Center NY. The works of the invited artists are not limited to the gallery space, instead the artists will be free to explore New York City and create their interventions directly at any given location. These events will take place at architecturally interesting open spaces, in gardens, courtyards, street corners, abandon buildings, garages, industrial spaces, train stations. The selected places are areas that visitors usually do not have access to, and their precise location will remain hidden from them. The only transmitted image of the installation will be placed in the gallery in the form of a video. Czech Center New York will transform its gallery into the entrance portal.
The first of “The Name of The Project is Project Itself” initiatives will occur on 26 January 2016 and is entitled “The Patient Constructed an Apparatus”. It features artist, Jonáš Strouhal and curator Ali Cashman (MA Art Business, Sotheby’s Institute of Art) who will introduce the event. He will project his mental process towards a landscape. An EEG sensor evaluates the level of his frustration. When abnormal values are reached, it activates instruments that manipulate the surrounding environment.
At the Lecture Demonstration on 28 January 2016 the audience can experience one of these Art and Science procedural performances called “First Scratch”. Jonáš motivates himself and other people to scratch or have their new possessions scratched. He utilizes various techniques and has altered 3 laptops, 12 mobile phones, 4 tablets and a parquet floor. Jonáš Strouhal oscillates between art and serious research in the fields of humanities and natural science. You can follow the hashtag #firstscratch.
“The Name of the Project is Project Itself” is a movement to explore fascinating spaces that can yield the maximum potential for these experiments to flourish. It is a contemporary vision where “Mind meets Hand”/ “Art meets Science” that culminates in a unique experience in the visual arts landscape of New York City.
For more Information visit www.czechcenter.com
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 17th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Investing Guide – CNNMONEY
Is it time to bail out the U.S. oil industry?
by Matt Egan @mattmegan5 January 14, 2016: 1:37 PM ET
America’s once-booming oil industry is suddenly in deep financial trouble.
The epic crash in oil prices has wiped out tens of thousands of jobs, caused dozens of bankruptcies and spooked global financial markets.
The fallout is already being felt in oil-rich states like Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota, where home foreclosure rates are spiking and economic growth is slowing.
Now there are calls in at least some corners for the federal government to come to the rescue.
“It is time to send out an S.O.S., before it’s too late,” John Kilduff, founding partner of energy hedge fund Again Capital, wrote in a recent CNBC column. In the Kilduff dictionary, by the way, S.O.S. stands for “Save Our Shale” industry.
Related: Half of oil junk bonds could default
Kilduff fears Saudi Arabia’s strategy of flooding the world with oil to put pressure on high-cost producers in the U.S. will kill America’s shale business.
“While we are laughing our way to the gasoline pump now, we are heading back down the road to dependence on OPEC and foreign oil,” he wrote.
Greg Valliere, chief strategist at Horizon Investments, thinks an oil bailout could become the next big issue in Congress.
“If Washington can bail out big banks and the auto industry, why not a bailout for oil companies?” Valliere wrote in a client note on Thursday.
Sheila Hollis, an energy practice partner at the law firm Duane Morris, has also heard murmurings about an oil bailout. However, she doubts there’s the political will in Washington for one.
“It makes sense in theory, but they’d need some pretty impenetrable body armor to take this on,” she said.
Related: Falling oil means rising foreclosures in these states
To be sure, it’s early days for the idea of a federal rescue. A spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute told CNNMoney he hadn’t heard of the idea before.
There don’t appear to be any imminent legislative proposals in Congress for a full-scale bailout. However, Senator Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Fred Upton plan to meet to discuss an energy package that could include modest proposals such as expediting the process for exporting natural gas and loosening environmental regulations, according to The Hill.
Kilduff, the hedge fund manager, is proposing bolder ideas that include:
-Paying oil producers to shut down production, thereby reducing some of the supply glut
-Financial assistance to preserve wells for when prices rebound
-Loan guarantees to keep the industry afloat
-Revamp the bankruptcy code to help struggling oil companies restructure
-Enable the federal government to buy land with drilled-but-uncompleted wells
Does the oil industry even want a bailout?
Buddy Clark, a 33-year veteran in the energy finance space, doubts these ideas would be game changers.
“The problem with most of these companies is they are overlevered. Adding federal money doesn’t help the equation,” said Clark, a partner at the Houston law firm Haynes and Boone.
He also doubts whether fiercely independent producers in places like Texas would even accept federal aid.
“No one really wants to get in bed with the federal government,” said Clark.
The Independent Petroleum Association of America, which represents thousands of independent producers, told CNNMoney it’s not interested in a bailout from Washington.
Related: $10 oil: Crazy idea or the real floor beneath the oil crash?
Federal aid would face backlash; Many Americans would staunchly oppose any federal aid for the oil industry.
“The Democrats would turn it into a bailout of ExxonMobil (XOM). It would be a political disaster,” said Joe McMonigle, former chief of staff of the Energy Department who is now a senior energy analyst at Potomac Research Group.
THEN ALSO ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS WOULD BE ENRAGED: Can President Obama would help oil producers he just referred to as “dirty energy” in his State of the Union address?
“It’s an outrageous proposal. We would oppose it, obviously,” said Athan Manuel, an official from the Sierra Club.
Related: Solar energy jobs double in 5 years
Job losses keep mounting
One idea that Kilduff proposed may generate more sympathy: give oil workers enhanced unemployment benefits or temporary government jobs as caretakers of the oilfields.
A stunning 130,000 energy jobs disappeared in 2015 as oil and natural gas companies slashed spending.
The pink slips will continue to fly as pain in the oil patch builds. Last year, 42 North American oil companies filed for bankruptcy, according to a list compiled by Haynes and Boone.
“The workers are going to suffer the most. Anything that can be done on their behalf would be great,” said Clark.
CNNMoney (New York) First published January 14, 2016: 1:37 PM ET
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 11th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
In a letter to all IISD readers of the Clean Energy List, Ms. Victoria Healey, the Project Leader at US NREL writes:
A representative from the Clean Energy Solutions Center (Solutions Center), Ms. Victoria Healey, will attend the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) General Assembly and the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, from January 16-21, 2016. Under the joint IRENA and Solutions Center Renewable Energy Policy Advice Network (REPAN), Ms. Healey will be available to meet individually with government representatives, government affiliated practitioners, and policymakers seeking clean energy policy, program, regulation, and finance technical assistance. The REPAN was established to help developing countries to design and adopt clean energy policies and programs that support the deployment of clean energy technologies, and to identify design, and implement finance instruments that mobilize private and public sector capital, and formulate clean energy investment strategies. This support is provided free of charge. To schedule an appointment, please contact Victoria Healey at nrel.gov.
Consultations during the IRENA General Assembly will occur at the St. Regis Saadiyat Island in a location to be determined. During the WFES the 1-on-1 consultations will take place at the IRENA networking area located in the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.
About the Renewable Energy Policy Advice Network, the Clean Energy Finance Solutions Center, and the Clean Energy Solutions Center:
The Clean Energy Solutions Center and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) joined forces in 2013 to launch the Renewable Energy Policy Advice Network (REPAN)—a collaboration that leverages both organizations’ resources by coordinating a global network of experts and practitioners to help countries design and implement renewable energy policies and programs. To learn more visit cleanenergysolutions.org/expert/…
The Clean Energy Finance Solutions Center of NREL assists governments and practitioners with identifying appropriate finance mechanisms and designing and implementing policies to reduce risk and encourage private sector investment; helping to achieve the transition to clean energy at the speed and scale necessary to meet local development needs and address global challenges. The CEFSC is an expanded and dedicated resource that is part of the Clean Energy Solutions Center, a Clean Energy Ministerial initiative that helps governments design and adopt policies and programs that support deployment of clean energy technologies.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Project Leader for the Clean Energy Solutions Center
To learn more about how these initiatives can assist in meeting countries’ clean energy objectives, please visit cleanenergysolutions.org and finance.cleanenergysolutions.org…, and follow us on Facebook www.facebook.com/CleanEnergySolu… and Twitter twitter.com/Clean_Energy_SC
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 29th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Headaches and Nosebleeds Reported as Months-Long Methane Leak Continues in Los Angeles (VIDEO)
Over 1,000 families have chosen to relocate and the school district recently authorized the two local schools to move out of the area.
By Hilary Lewis / Earthworks posted by Alternet
December 29, 2015
Have you ever seen methane? What about benzene? Or the chemical the gas company adds to make your stovetop gas stink, mercaptan? I asked residents at a Save Porter Ranch meeting in northwest Los Angeles if they had seen the pollution they knew was in their community, pouring down from the SoCal Gas storage facility on the hill behind town.
No one responded.
For months now, methane pollution has been billowing from the breached facility into their community. Families have reported bad odors resulting in headaches and nosebleeds. Over 1,000 families have already chosen to relocate and the school district recently authorized the two local schools to move out of the area. But no one had actually seen the pollution.
When an oil spill happens, you see it. At a coal fired power plant, you can often see the pollution blowing in the wind. But when a natural gas storage facility pollutes, what do you see?
Until now, you saw nothing. That’s because much oil and gas air pollution is normally invisible.
My colleague Pete Dronkers and I traveled to the community of Porter Ranch to show them the pollution they knew was there, but couldn’t see.
For Porter Ranch this was a critical step in gaining recognition for the problem. In Earthworks’ experience, showing someone pollution that is otherwise invisible makes it real, and helps catalyze much needed action. For many of the communities we serve, the polluter won’t admit there is pollution at all, so our videos are concrete evidence that something is wrong.
Earthworks uses a FLIR (Forward Looking InfraRed) Gasfinder 320 camera that is specially calibrated to expose otherwise invisible air pollution from oil and gas operations. Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is one of about 20 gases it can detect. It also recognizes known carcinogens like benzene and other toxins like volatile organic compounds.
The camera is the same model that industry and government regulators use to detect leaks and other pollution associated with oil and gas. And Pete went through the three day training that FLIR recommends and state regulators also use to get certified to operate it. That, plus the $100,000 price tag, have kept this eye-opening technology out of the hands of the communities that need it most, until now.
What I saw in Porter Ranch was shocking. The black plume picked-up by the camera went on-and-on. But, unfortunately, I have seen it many times before.
Earthworks has filmed over 150 oil and gas facilities in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Dakota, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and other parts of California. While the camera shows the presence of the group of pollutants it detects, we can be relatively certain in this situation that the pollution is mostly methane because it was leaking from a natural gas storage field.
In Porter Ranch, and across the country, air testing is used to figure out exactly what type and how much pollution is in the air. Tests are ongoing in Porter Ranch, and have already found elevated levels of benzene. But no matter the facility, in our experience, almost everything is leaking something.
This pollution must be stopped:
Methane is 86 times worse for climate change than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period. This one leaking facility in Porter Ranch accounts for an estimated 25% of California’s daily methane emissions. Imagine if other storage facilities like this one (and there are many across the U.S.) burst, the climate impact would be catastrophic.
Natural gas and natural gas drilling operations (mostly hydraulic fracturing a.k.a fracking) often bring up ‘hitchhikers’ like benzene with the natural gas that drillers seek. These pollutants can be harmful to human health and have led to documented health impacts for people living near compressor stations, pipelines, fracking facilities, etc.
Making visible the normally invisible pollution from oil and gas development is a critical step in generating the political will to take meaningful action on potent climate and health pollutants. The new climate agreement signed in Paris will fall short if we do not address all sources of oil and gas methane pollution.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a rule that would help us meet our climate commitments by cutting oil and gas methane pollution. But EPA’s proposal doesn’t cover existing facilities, or storage fields like the one near Porter Ranch. Hopefully we will learn from SoCal Gas’ disastrous Porter Ranch experience. Without strong standards that require cutting oil and gas methane pollution from all sources, our climate and our communities will remain at risk.
Hilary Lewis the the Communications Manager at Earthworks. She is the founder of Composting Toilets International, which provides an affordable, safe and sustainable sanitation solution. She also served as an environmental policy researcher in the U.S. and Europe for ZAG International. Hilary has a B.A. in Environmental Studies and International Relations from Lehigh University.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
A West Virginia Family Leaves Coal for Local Food and Wants to Help Others Do the Same.
Sunday, 27 December 2015 00:00 – By Laura Michele Diener, YES! Magazine | Op-Ed, Re-posted by Truthout.
The sound of a train whistle interrupts conversations every hour, on the hour, in the small town of Kimball, West Virginia. Linda McKinney and her son Joel were showing me the beds in their community garden when the rushing of the train overwhelmed the quiet sounds of crickets, stream, and rain. Linda and Joel were used to it and continued their conversation over the noise, shouting about how they should plant more marigolds, pulling berries off the vine for me to taste, and admiring a second crop of peppers that had sprung up overnight. The train roared along, carrying away some of the last coal processed in McDowell County.
“Coal is dying,” Joel told me. “Coal’s almost dead. Nobody wants to say it. It is what it is. On the international market, it’s dead for this area.”
He used to work for Norfolk Southern, the same railroad company that operates the train that just passed through. He has watched the number of trains loaded with locally mined coal decline, replaced with ones full of goods made elsewhere: cars, chemicals, and goods bound for Target. He grew up in a coal-mining family, the son and grandson of coal miners on both sides, and has watched as the industry’s decline decimated the place where he grew up. “This place is dying. I mean, it is. I’m from here, it’s sad to say it.”
Official numbers back up his words. As in the rest of the region, the total number of coal miners in McDowell County has declined since the heyday of the industry in the first half of the 20th century . That trend has continued in recent years, with the number of miners in the county falling from about 1,700 in 1990 to about 1,100 in 2014. There are many reasons for this: processes such as mountaintop-removal mining require fewer workers than underground mining, and the local coal industry faces competition from cheaper sources such as Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, as well as from natural gas drilling. Many of the county’s remaining jobs are low-paying ones in fast-food restaurants or the prison system.
Unemployment leads to poverty and alarming health trends. According to 2011 data, more than 46 percent of McDowell County residents were obese; the U.S. national average was 34 percent. The average life expectancy is one of the lowest in the nation at 64 for men and 72 for women; the national averages are 76 and 81. The county also leads the state in number of teen pregnancies and people on disability.
Despite these problems, McDowell suffers from a shortage of health care resources such as health professionals and addiction-treatment centers. Even sidewalks can be rare along the busy, winding roads, discouraging walking. Families get trapped in desperate cycles of disease, unemployment, and addiction
So what is left for residents? Many have left in search of employment. Others have succumbed to a sense of despondency. Local politicians blame President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency for mine closures and advocate for a return to a coal-based economy through campaigns such as “Friends of Coal.” Others join the 14 percent of McDowell County citizens who are unemployed, hoping and waiting for the mines to reopen.
But Joel, Linda, and the rest of their family have a different answer. “Agriculture,” Linda responds, without missing a beat. “Everybody—I don’t care if there’s two people left in the county—they’ve got to eat.”
Her family is doing its best to get that transition started. At Five Loaves and Two Fishes, the food bank they run to serve McDowell County residents, the McKinney family maintains a traditional garden as well as five hydroponic towers. The produce they grow not only supplements the food they give out, but acts as an educational model to encourage people to start their own gardens and agribusinesses.
Food and Faith
Five Loaves is located in an old Save-A-Lot store building on the side of the main road running through Kimball. It has been a food bank since 2001, and in the care of the McKinneys since 2009, when they took it over from longtime friend, theReverend Albert “Bubby” Falvo.
Joel and his father Bob have converted the front area into a comfortable porch with rockers, benches, flowerpots, and stacks of pallets. While planning my first visit, I tried to get directions over the phone. Linda reassured me. “Honey, if you come into McDowell county, all roads lead to the food bank.”
“Miss Linda,” as her friends call her, is the heart, soul, and chef of Five Loaves. She works full time there, or rather, volunteers full time, as she works entirely for free. At 59, with flashing black eyes, she possesses a certain glamour, even when dressed in old jeans and surrounded by packing crates. She laughs loudly, with a resounding and joyous “Ha!” and a nudge to bring you into the joke.
Although Linda calls herself a “holler girl”—using the Appalachian slang term for a rural valley—and has always lived in McDowell County, she grew up in an Italian-speaking family. Having lost her mother as a little girl, she was raised by her nonna, or grandmother, who spoke no English but cooked meals for the entire holler. Nonna, who was born Maria Nicola, emigrated with her husband, Philip Pizzato, from the Italian city of Naples in 1913.
“Everybody thought they were going to get rich in the mines,” Linda says. The Pizzatos didn’t get rich, but Philip, whom the other miners called “Mr. Patches” since they couldn’t pronounce “Pizzato,” earned a steady living for his wife, six sons, and five daughters until he died in a car accident in 1947.
Linda’s entire manner expresses this dual heritage. She pronounces certain words with a melodious accent, slipped between the slow syllables of her southern twang: minestrone, basilico. “When I was little we would grow basil in a washtub, and Daddy would say, ‘Go out and get some basilico’—that’s what we called it.”
Linda learned to cook at her nonna’s side. “We didn’t have recipes. Nothing was measured out, but each day had its own purpose. Monday was bread baking day. Sunday, we made sauce, always red sauce, never white. … On Sundays, food stayed out all the time and we would just eat all day long.”
They made chicken cacciatore, homemade pasta (they hung the noodles on a pole over the bed), egg frittatas, and Italian wedding soup, all of which Linda remembers fondly. But she also snuck out to the neighbors’ place to try pinto beans and biscuits. Her recipes now are a mix of local and foreign, old world and new.
“She just wants to feed people,” her daughter Jina Belcher explained, and that was certainly true for me. Each time I visited, Linda fed me, cooking with fresh ingredients from the garden. Since I’m a vegetarian, she made me some standards: veggie dip with chips and carrots, chocolate mousse, and my favorite, kale salad with strawberries, of which she is especially proud. “When people tell me they don’t like kale, I say, ‘You ain’t tasted my kale.’”
Linda makes and gives out wholesome, healthy food because that’s what she was raised on and what she fed her own children—but also because she wants to reverse the health trends in McDowell County. She understands that obesity and poverty go hand in hand, as half the county is on some kind of public assistance and may not be able to afford fresh produce. But she believes that education and changes in lifestyle can help people get their hands on good food, even when they don’t have much money.
Every Wednesday of this summer, she held community cookouts in the gardens with an emphasis on healthy eating and fresh vegetables. Nearly 400 people attended regularly, Linda estimates. She also offers Zumba classes (she’s a certified instructor), vegetable planting parties, and cooking courses.
In addition to her passion for healthy eating, she finds herself motivated by her Christian faith, which was nurtured in riverbanks, mountain soil, and in the small Methodist church where she worshipped as a child. She is a certified Methodist lay pastor, which means she can preach but not perform communion or weddings. “I could go anywhere in any church and feel comfortable, except where there’s snakes,” she says, referring to a Pentecostal ritual where certain parishioners hold venomous snakes during worship as an expression of faith.
She shuddered and then broke into laughter. “I won’t go to no snake church.”
She finds her faith renewed each time she reaches her fingers into the dirt. “I totally believe that relationships are built at a table and in a garden. When you bring those two together, you have family.”
Betting on Agriculture
Unlike his mother, Joel McKinney does not like dirt, and he hates bugs. What attracts him is the challenge of invention. Full of restless energy, he rarely stands still. As we spoke, he paced around his hydroponic towers, lifting up vines and pulling off dead leaves with gestures alternately rough and tender.
“I’m a science nerd,” he told me more than once. He practices a form of urban agriculture usually pursued indoors, but does it outside so it’s visible to local people. The unusual sight of the five white plastic towers, each one more than eight feet tall and bursting with rainbow-colored vines, attracts curious passers-by. Which is exactly what Joel is hoping for—to get locals excited about the economic possibilities of growing. “Agriculture is the best possible future for McDowell County,” he insists.
This work has consumed all his time for the past year, since he quit his job as a signalman for Norfolk Southern. Soon after that, he received a veteran’s grant from West Virginia State’s agricultural program to start a greenhouse at the armory in Welch, the county seat. He devoted himself full-time to growing—moving into his parents’ basement, enrolling in Penn State’s online program for a degree in agriculture, and building and maintaining hydroponic towers on the armory grounds in Welch, as well as the ones at Five Loaves. To do all this, he has taken out around $30,000 in loans. “So in about two and a half years, if something don’t happen, life’s going to be hard,” he says. “But I’m pretty certain.”
While Linda is propelled by faith, it’s the prospect of a good living that motivates Joel. Although he says he will never charge for food at Five Loaves, he hopes his towers at the Welch armory will eventually turn a profit. He has already approached grocery retailers Wal-Mart and Kroger. Once he begins selling vegetables, he plans to roll the funds back into the community garden at Five Loaves to finance projects there, including a CSA program that will distribute groceries directly to local people, a permanent farmers market, a plant store with seedlings for sale, and most of all, educational programs. His goal is to provide a model for sustainable business that others in the region could learn from.
“This is kind of small-scale,” he acknowledges, “but I want to start here, learn the ropes, and then take it to the county level.”
Feeding the County
It was August 22, the third Saturday of the month. Welfare checks were running low, and the residents of McDowell County descended on Five Loaves for the food giveaway. Cars lined both sides of the road. Old men rested in their pickup trucks, while women with camp chairs chatted in the sun. The lively atmosphere of a town festival pervaded, with children racing around the porch, scrambling over the pallets, and running through the garden. The men smoked down by the river at the back of the garden. One man with a white beard gestured toward the tree tops, preaching to the smokers. “Who do you think created this blue sky?” he asked.
There was only enough food for 150 families, and it was first come, first served. So even though the giveaway began at noon, most of the people had already been there for hours to ensure they were included. Some had brought tents and camped out the night before. One family had waited since 2:30 in the morning.
The food had come from a variety of sources. Much of it arrived in trucks that come once a month from Operation Blessing’s Hunger Strike Force, a humanitarian organization founded by the minister and TV personality Pat Robertson. Five Loaves receives donations from the local Wal-Mart as well as from individual donors.
At noon, everyone lined up on the porch for their turn to receive a grocery cart, move through the warehouse grabbing products from the freezers and shelves, then back outside to sort through three big bins of produce. Volunteers, all with relatives waiting in the line, moved the people along and helped push the carts and load up cars.
Linda kept the line in order with an iron will. “You git off my porch with that cigarette!” She shouted, chasing a recalcitrant man. She sat at the head of the line for hours, joking with people and rising to hug them.
One man waited around all day to collect any unused scraps for his pigs. He hovered at Linda’s shoulder, never speaking, his blue eyes like pinpoints lost in a creviced face, a bandana tied on top of his battered fedora. Occasionally he carried a bag of lettuce or such to his truck. “That’s Mr. Chester,” Bob McKinney said, pointing him out to me—he knew almost everybody.
Unlike Linda, Bob stayed in the background, pushing carts and lifting boxes of food. A slim man with round glasses, he spoke in soft, measured tones.
We heard Linda’s voice rising above the crowd. Bob gestured over to her as she chattered away with the woman at the front of the line. “She’s a networker,” he said, smiling fondly. “Me, I’ll take care of the rest.”
The rest included all the maintenance, the electrical work on the building, and keeping the forklifts and freezers in good working order. Bob is an ordained Methodist minister, but had never been completely comfortable speaking in front of people. “I had felt a calling in the ministry,” he explained, “but it’s this kind of ministry.”
A mine-safety teacher, Bob is the only member of the family still actively employed in coal. Like his father before him, he has worked in the industry his whole life, either as a teacher or a safety inspector, but he also acknowledges that mining is no longer economically viable for southern West Virginia.
As a minister and then at the food bank, he has witnessed the toll the changing economy has taken on McDowell County. He pointed out a number of people in the line who had jobs, sometimes commuting outside the county, but still couldn’t make it through the month. Others were disabled from accidents in mines or on construction sites. As I looked at the crowd, I noticed that a good portion were elderly—women with white hair plaited around their heads, men in suspenders lounging against the wall beside their walkers.
Bob looked them over worriedly. “Politicians have the attitude—’Them people just here for a handout.’ ‘Get a job,’ they say. Get a job where? I say, ‘You give ‘em a job, I’ll stop giving ‘em food.’”
A World Beyond Coal
“My dad was a coal miner my entire life. That’s how I was raised. That’s how he fed us, so as far as that’s concerned, my heart is there.” Jina, Bob and Linda’s youngest child, is certainly her mother’s daughter. Her determination bursts through in her voice, even more so than Linda; she speaks quickly and articulately. She works full-time at a local bank in Welch and also takes care of all the finances for Five Loaves, which she sees as far more than a place to pick up food once a month.
Like her parents and brother, she sees the food bank as leading the way in economic alternatives to coal in McDowell County. The daughter and granddaughter of coal miners, she also dated one all through high school and eventually married him. But at Concord University, which she attended on a full scholarship as a recreation and tourism major, she learned about the effects of mountaintop-removal mining on the environment. She is also aware that opportunities for coal mining are waning in southern West Virginia.
“I do think it’s a dying industry, and I think that if we could get the passion of these ex-coal miners involved in a new agricultural business, that it could flourish.”
Some former coal miners have transitioned successfully, and Jina points to her husband, Justin “JD” Belcher, as an example. After 7 1/2 years at the same mine, he found himself laid off. But he took the opportunity to pursue videography, which had always been his passion. Entirely self-taught, he submitted a trial reel to a local car dealer and now works full time for the company as a video editor. He also runs his own wedding videography business, Unscripted Memories.
Justin has taken charge of public relations at Five Loaves and makes films for the food bank’s Facebook page. “When we look at our life two years ago when he was in the mines, yes, of course there was more money,” Jina says. “But now it’s stable and he’s doing what he loves.”
His transition, she believes, could be a model for the community.
All Roads in the County
Linda McKinney was right when she told me all roads in the county lead to the food bank. That might sound depressing, but there’s more to it than dependency. In McDowell County, the Five Loaves and Two Fishes food bank is the heart of the community, a place people go for education, fellowship, and vision.
“I love going out there early in the morning, walking into that garden,” Linda says. Her vision acknowledges the coal heritage of McDowell County, which brought her grandparents over on a boat from Italy in the hope of striking it rich, and kept them fed and clothed for generations. But it also looks beyond it to a future of self-sufficiency and small businesses fueled by cultivated fields bursting into bloom in the hollers.
In the future she wants to see, people will flock to the county she loves rather than flee from it. “This county’s been good to me. It’s been good to our family. It’s been good to my husband. Where else would I go? I wouldn’t do well. I’m too loud.” She laughed in her joyful manner, shaking her whole body.
“They can say, poor, poor West Virginia and poor, poor, McDowell County. I don’t do that. I’m gonna be the brightest little star I can in my little corner where God put me.”
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Los Angeles Gas Leak Growing Into Environmental Disaster.
By Joby Warrick, The Washington Post
26 December 2015
runaway natural gas leak from a storage facility in the hills above Los Angeles is shaping up as a significant ecological disaster, state officials and experts say, with more than 150 million pounds of methane pouring into the atmosphere so far and no immediate end in sight.
The rupture within a massive underground containment system — first detected more than two months ago — is venting gas at a rate of up to 110,000 pounds per hour, California officials confirm. The leak already has forced evacuations of nearby neighborhoods, and officials say pollutants released in the accident could have long-term consequences far beyond the region.
Newly obtained infrared video captures a plume of gas — invisible to the naked eye — spouting from a hilltop in the Aliso Canyon area above Burbank, like smoke billowing from a volcano. Besides being an explosive hazard, the methane being released is a powerful greenhouse gas, more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the lower atmosphere.
Scientists and environmental experts say the Aliso Canyon leak instantly became the biggest single source of methane emissions in all of California when it began two months ago. The impact of greenhouse gases released since then, measured over a 20-year time frame, is the equivalent of emissions from six coal-fired power plants or 7 million automobiles, environmentalists say.
“It is one of the biggest leaks we’ve ever seen reported,” said Tim O’Connor, California climate director for the Environmental Defense Fund, a nonprofit group that obtained the video. “It is coming out with force, in incredible volumes. And it is absolutely uncontained.”
The gas is pouring from an underground storage field owned by the Southern California Gas Co. The facility, the largest of its kind on the West Coast, contains billions of cubic feet of natural gas, stored under pressure to supply the company’s 20 million customers. While the exact cause of the leak is unknown, company officials believe the problem began when an underground well casing failed, allowing the pressurized gas to push through geological cracks to the surface near the community of Porter Ranch.
About 1,700 homes and two schools were evacuated because of the leak, as noxious odors settled over Porter Ranch, about 20 miles from downtown Los Angeles. California officials have aided the company in a series of efforts to stop the leak, but the state officials say it could be weeks or months before the gas flow is halted.
The gas company has pledged in statements to “execute all possible efforts” to plug the leak.
“SoCalGas recognized the impact this incident is having on the environment,” company president Dennis V. Arriola said in a letter last week to Gov. Jerry Brown (D). ). The company has drilled a relief well while also pouring a brine solution and other materials into the damaged well in an attempt to seal it, so far without significant results.
The company’s losses in natural gas alone are estimated in the tens of millions of dollars, with total damages likely to exceed that figure many times over. A number of neighbors already have filed lawsuits, part of a growing outcry that includes calls for the company to close the facility altogether.
The leak is a setback to California’s efforts to reduce emissions blamed for climate change. The Brown administration is seeking to implement the country’s toughest standards on greenhouse-gas emissions by promoting renewable energy and strengthening measures to prevent methane from escaping from refineries, pipelines and storage facilities.
“We’ve been working to terminate leaks,” Dave Clegern, a spokesman for the California Air Resources Board, said in an interview. “This has been distressing to watch.”
While the leak is unusually large, scientists and environmental groups have long sought to call attention to the problem of methane emissions from oil and gas operations.
The Obama administration announced proposed regulations over the summer to cut down on methane leaks from drilling and storage, citing concerns about the climatic impact of the approximately 7 million tons of methane lost to the atmosphere from industrial sources in the United States each year. Pound for pound, methane is about 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.
Adam Brandt, an assistant professor at Stanford University’s Institute for the Environment, said substantial leaks can sometimes go completely undetected.
“Even large leaks can be hard to find if they occur away from populated areas,” Brandt said. “ One important step forward for sustainability will be to design ways to quickly detect and fix these large leaks soon after they happen.”
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 26th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Between 1979 and 1983, the American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s most powerful lobby group, ran a task force for fossil fuel companies to ‘monitor and share climate research.’
Almost All Major Oil Companies Have Known About Global Warming Since the 1970s
By Lauren McCauley, Common Dreams
26 December 2015
It wasn’t just Exxon that knew fossil fuels were cooking the planet.
New investigative reporting by Neela Banerjee with Inside Climate News revealed on Tuesday that scientists and engineers from nearly every major U.S. and multinational oil and gas company may have for decades known about the impacts of carbon emissions on the climate.
Between 1979 and 1983, the American Petroleum Institute (API), the industry’s most powerful lobby group, ran a task force for fossil fuel companies to “monitor and share climate research,” according to internal documents obtained by Inside Climate News.
According to the reporting:
Like Exxon, the companies also expressed a willingness to understand the links between their product, greater CO2 concentrations and the climate, the papers reveal. Some corporations ran their own research units as well, although they were smaller and less ambitious than Exxon’s and focused on climate modeling, said James J. Nelson, the former director of the task force.
“It was a fact-finding task force,” Nelson said in an interview. “We wanted to look at emerging science, the implications of it and where improvements could be made, if possible, to reduce emissions.”
The “CO2 and Climate Task Force,” which changed in 1980 its name to the “Climate and Energy Task Force,” included researchers from Exxon, Mobil, Chevron, Amoco, Phillips, Texaco, Shell, Sunoco and Sohio, among others.
One memo by an Exxon task force representative pointed to 1979 “background paper on CO2,” which “predicted when the first clear effects of climate change might be felt,” noting that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was rising steadily.
And at a February 1980 meeting in New York, the task force invited Professor John A. Laurmann of Stanford University to brief members about climate science.
“In his conclusions section, Laurmann estimated that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would double in 2038, which he said would likely lead to a 2.5 degrees Celsius rise in global average temperatures with ‘major economic consequences,’” Banerjee reports. He then told the task force that models showed a 5 degrees Celsius rise by 2067, with ‘globally catastrophic effects,’” Banerjee reports.
The documents show that API members, at one point, considered an alternative path in the face of these dire predictions:
Bruce S. Bailey of Texaco offered “for consideration” the idea that “an overall goal of the Task Force should be to help develop ground rules for energy release of fuels and the cleanup of fuels as they relate to CO2 creation,” according to the minutes of a meeting on Feb. 29, 1980.
The minutes also show that the task force discussed a “potential area” for research and development that called for it to “‘Investigate the Market Penetration Requirements of Introducing a New Energy Source into World Wide Use.’ This would include the technical implications of energy source changeover, research timing and requirements.”
“Yet,” Banerjee notes, “by the 1990s, it was clear that API had opted for a markedly different approach to the threat of climate change.”
The lobby group teamed up with Exxon and others to form the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), which successfully lobbied the U.S. to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol.
The damning revelations are the latest in an ongoing investigation into what the fossil fuel industry knew about climate change and then suppressed for decades—all while continuing to profit from the planet’s destruction.
Reports that Exxon, specifically, lied about climate change were published early October in the Los Angeles Times, mirroring a separate but similar investigation by Inside Climate News in September. Those findings set off a storm of outrage, including a probe by the New York Attorney General.
Nelson, a former head of the API task force, told Banerjee that with the growing powers of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the early 1980’s, API decided to shift gears.
“They took the environmental unit and put it into the political department, which was primarily lobbyists,” he said. “They weren’t focused on doing research or on improving the oil industry’s impact on pollution. They were less interested in pushing the envelope of science and more interested in how to make it more advantageous politically or economically for the oil industry. That’s not meant as a criticism. It’s just a fact of life.”
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 22nd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Florida – The Herald Tribune>
March 8, 2015 ==== In Florida, officials ban term ‘climate change.’ Also globsl wamig and Sustainability !!
State environmental officials ordered not to use the terms “climate change” or “global warming” in any government communications, emails, or reports.
Read more here: www.miamiherald.com/news/state/fl…
In 2013, Jim Harper, a nature writer in Miami, had a contract to write a series of educational fact sheets about how to protect the coral reefs north of Miami. ‘We were told not to use the term climate change,’ he said. ‘The employees were so skittish they wouldn’t even talk about it.’ John Van Beekum For the Miami Herald
By Tristram Korten, Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
The state of Florida is the region most susceptible to the effects of global warming in this country, according to scientists. Sea-level rise alone threatens 30 percent of the state’s beaches over the next 85 years.
But you would not know that by talking to officials at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the state agency on the front lines of studying and planning for these changes.
DEP officials have been ordered not to use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails, or reports, according to former DEP employees, consultants, volunteers and records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.
The policy goes beyond semantics and has affected reports, educational efforts and public policy in a department with about 3,200 employees and $1.4 billion budget.
“We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’” said Christopher Byrd, an attorney with the DEP’s Office of General Counsel in Tallahassee from 2008 to 2013. “That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel.”
Kristina Trotta, another former DEP employee who worked in Miami, said her supervisor told her not to use the terms “climate change” and “global warming” in a 2014 staff meeting. “We were told that we were not allowed to discuss anything that was not a true fact,” she said.
This unwritten policy went into effect after Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011 and appointed Herschel Vinyard Jr. as the DEP’s director, according to former DEP employees. Gov. Scott, who won a second term in November, has repeatedly said he is not convinced that climate change is caused by human activity, despite scientific evidence to the contrary.
Vinyard has since resigned. Neither he nor his successor, Scott Steverson, would comment for this article.
“DEP does not have a policy on this,” the department’s press secretary, Tiffany Cowie, wrote in an email. She declined to respond to three other emails requesting more information.
“There’s no policy on this,” wrote Jeri Bustamante, Scott’s spokeswoman, in an email.
But four former DEP employees from offices around the state say the order was well known and distributed verbally statewide.
One former DEP employee who worked in Tallahassee during Scott’s first term in office, and asked not to be identified because of an ongoing business relationship with the department, said staffers were warned that using the terms in reports would bring unwanted attention to their projects.
“We were dealing with the effects and economic impact of climate change, and yet we can’t reference it,” the former employee said.
Former DEP attorney Byrd said it was clear to him this was more than just semantics.
“It’s an indication that the political leadership in the state of Florida is not willing to address these issues and face the music when it comes to the challenges that climate change present,” Byrd said.
Climate Change Denial
Climate change and global warming refer to the body of scientific evidence showing that the earth’s environment is warming due to human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. It is accepted science all over the world.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, established by the United Nations, wrote in a 2014 report for world policy makers: “Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems.” The report’s authors were scientists from 27 countries.
Still, many conservative U.S. politicians say the science is not conclusive and refuse to work on legislation addressing climate change. This type of legislation, such as a carbon tax or policies to encourage more sustainable energy sources, could be costly to established industry.
Among the politicians who refuse to acknowledge climate change is Gov. Scott. During his first campaign for governor in 2010, Scott told reporters who asked about his views on climate change that he had “not been convinced,” and that he would need “something more convincing than what I’ve read.”
In 2014, Scott said he “was not a scientist” when asked about his views on climate change.
In response, a group of Florida scientists requested to meet with Scott and explain the science behind the phenomenon. Scott agreed. The scientists were given 30 minutes.
“He actually, as we were warned, spent 10 minutes doing silly things like prolonged introductions,” geologist and University of Miami professor Harold Wanless recalled. “But we had our 20 to 21 minutes, and he said thank you and went on to his more urgent matters, such as answering his telephone calls and so on. There were no questions of substance.”
Read more here: www.miamiherald.com/news/state/fl…
Scott’s predecessor, Charlie Crist, had been proactive on climate change, forming a statewide task force and convening a national summit in Miami in 2007. But evidence the issue has fallen out of favor during the Scott administration is apparent.
One example is the Florida Oceans and Coastal Council’s Annual Research Plan, put together by DEP and other state agencies. The 2009-2010 report, published the year before Scott was elected, contains 15 references to climate change, including a section titled “Research Priorities — Climate Change.”
In the 2014-15 edition of the report, climate change is only mentioned if it is in the title of a past report or conference. There is one standalone reference to the issue at the end of a sentence that sources say must have slipped by the censors. “It’s a distinct possibility,” said one former DEP employee.
Instead, terms like “climate drivers” and “climate-driven changes” are used.
Christopher Byrd said that he was warned not to use “climate change” and related terms during a 2011 staff meeting shortly after Scott appointed Vinyard as DEP director.
“Deputy General Counsel Larry Morgan was giving us a briefing on what to expect with the new secretary,” Byrd recalled. Morgan gave them “a warning to beware of the words global warming, climate change and sea-level rise, and advised us not to use those words in particular.”
Added Byrd: “I did infer from this meeting that this was a new policy, that these words were to be prohibited for use from official DEP policy-making with our clients.”
Morgan did not respond to a request for comment.
In 2011, Scott tapped Vinyard, a onetime law partner of powerful ex-Sen. John Thrasher, to lead the DEP in spite of a lack of experience with an environmental regulatory agency.
Under Vinyard, the DEP was repeatedly embroiled in controversies, from the suspension of its top wetlands expert after she refused to approve a permit to a failed effort to sell off surplus park land. Longtime employees, including Everglades scientists, were laid off or fired, while top jobs went to people who had been consultants for developers and polluters. Meanwhile the emphasis in regulation shifted from prosecuting violations to helping industry avoid fines.
DEP dismissed Byrd in 2013. His termination letter states: “We thank you for your service to the State of Florida; however, we believe the objectives of the office will be accomplished more effectively by removing you from your position.” Byrd, now in private practice as an environmental lawyer in Orlando, said he was fired because he repeatedly complained the DEP was not enforcing laws to protect the environment.
Although he disagreed with the policy, Byrd said he nonetheless passed the warning down to the various offices he worked with, including the Coral Reef Conservation Program at the Biscayne Bay Environmental Center in Miami.
“As you can imagine with the state of coral reef protection,” Byrd said, “sustainability, sea-level rise, and climate change itself were words we used quite often.”
The Coral Reef Conservation Program is where Jim Harper, a nature writer in Miami, was working as a consultant in 2013. He had a contract to write a series of educational fact sheets about how to protect the coral reefs north of Miami. Climate change was one of the issues Harper and his partner on the project, Annie Reisewitz, wanted to address.
“We were told not to use the term climate change,” Harper said. “The employees were so skittish they wouldn’t even talk about it.”
Reisewitz confirmed Harper’s story. “When we put climate change into the document, they told us they weren’t using the term climate change,” she said.
Harper and Reisewitz completed the assignment as instructed.
A year later, in November 2014, the Coral Reef Conservation Program held a meeting to train volunteers to use a PowerPoint presentation about the threats coral reefs faced. Harper attended the meeting, held at DEP’s Biscayne Bay office in Miami. Doug Young, president of the South Florida Audubon Society and a member of the Broward County Climate Change Task Force, also attended.
Two DEP employees, Ana Zangroniz and Kristina Trotta, showed the presentation to the volunteers and then asked if anyone had a question.
“I told them the biggest problem I have was that there was absolutely no mention of climate change and the affect of climate change on coral reefs,” Young said.
He continued: “The two young women, really good people, said, ‘We are not allowed to show the words, or show any slides that depicted anything related to climate change.’”
Young and Harper said they could not participate if climate change was not mentioned. “The women kept saying, ‘Work with us; we know you are frustrated,’” Harper said.
On Nov. 19, 2014, the DEP’s Zangroniz wrote Harper and Young an email stating she had talked to her manager about their concerns.
“Unfortunately at this time,” she wrote, “we can’t make any alterations or additions to the presentation. … If you do choose to continue as a volunteer, we would have to request that you present the information as is. If you choose to add in an additional presentation or speaker that addresses climate change and coral reefs, there would have to be a very clear split between the two.”
Trotta left her position as a field and administrative assistant in January. She told FCIR that when it came to scrubbing the term “climate change” from projects, she was following orders. Those orders came from Regional Administrator Joanna Walczak during a staff meeting in the summer of 2014.
“We were instructed by our regional administrator that we were no longer allowed to use the terms ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change’ or even ‘sea-level rise,’ ” said Trotta. “Sea-level rise was to be referred to as ‘nuisance flooding.’”
When staff protested, Trotta said, “the regional administrator told us that we are the governor’s agency and this is the message from the governor’s office. And that is the message we will portray.”
The order pained her, said Trotta, who has a master’s degree in marine biology, because she believes climate change is an imminent threat to Florida.
Walczak declined to comment citing DEP policy.
While state officials are still not using the terms ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming,’ any prohibition of the term “sea-level rise” seems to have ended. In a February press conference, Scott unveiled $106 million in his proposed budget to deal with the effects of rising oceans. But $50 million of that is for a sewage plant in the Keys, and $25 million is for beach restoration, which critics say is hardly a comprehensive plan to protect homes, roads and infrastructure.
Wanless, the University of Miami professor, said the state government needs to acknowledge climate change as settled science and as a threat to people and property in Florida.
“You have to start real planning, and I’ve seen absolutely none of that from the current governor,” he said.
In Florida it will be hard to plan for climate change, he said, if officials can’t talk about climate change.
“It’s beyond ludicrous to deny using the term climate change,” Wanless said. “It’s criminal at this point.”
Read more here: www.miamiherald.com/news/state/fl…
The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting is a nonprofit news organization supported by foundations and individual contributions. For more information, visit fcir.org.
Read more here: www.miamiherald.com/news/state/fl…
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 7th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Monday, 7th Dec 2015, EUobserver from Brussels
Germany criticizes Saudi Arabia for funding radical mosques.
By Eszter Zalan
BRUSSELS, Today, 09:22
German vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel urged Saudi Arabia on Sunday (7 December 2015) to stop supporting religious radicals, amid growing fear it is funding militant mosques across Europe.
“We need Saudi Arabia to solve the regional conflicts,” Sigmar Gabriel, the head of the Social Democrats (SPD), who are part of a coalition with the conservative chancellor Angela Merkel, told Bild am Sonntag newspaper in an interview.
“But we must at the same time make clear that the time to look away is past. Wahhabi mosques are financed all over the world by Saudi Arabia. In Germany, many dangerous Islamists come from these communities,” he said.
Gabriel’s criticism, though not the first, is a rare rebuke from a Western politician directed at Riyadh, the world’s biggest oil exporter.
In a statement, the Saudi Arabian embassy in Berlin said the Kingdom was interested in countering radicalisationzof young people.
“Like Germany, we are part of the anti-Islamic State coalition and fighting side by side against terror,” it said.
Saudis have cracked down on jihadists at home and cut militant finance streams, but have continued to finance imams and mosques, in the EU and in the Western Balkans, which are sympathetic to an ultra-conservative form of Islam – Wahhabism.
Islamic State (IS) and al Qaeda follow the extreme interpretation of the Salafi branch of Islam, of which Wahhabism was the original strain.
For his part, Jamal Saleh Momenah, the Saudi director of the Parc du Cinquantenaire mosque, the largest in Brussels, recently told EUobserver that: “Nobody like this [an IS recuiter] can come here. I wouldn’t allow them to come to this place and they understand my way.”
But in Germany, authorities are worried about growing support for radical Islam in its Muslim community.
German intelligence says the number of Salafists in the country has risen to 7,900, up from 5,500 just two years ago, Reuters reports.
This is not the first time Gabriel publicly voiced criticism of the Saudis.
During a trip in March to Saudi Arabia, he criticized the Gulf country over its sentencing of blogger Raif Badawi to 1,000 lashes.
With Germany, last Friday, opting to join the international coalition fighting IS in Syria, there is growing concern about possible jihadi attacks on German soil.
Last Wednesday, Germany’s foreign intelligence service issued a warning about Saudi Arabia’s destabilizing role, saying the new king, Salman bin Abdulaziz, who assumed the throne in January, and his son, who is second in line for the throne, Mohammed bin Salman, and who is also defence minister, want to make their mark among Arab leaders.
It indicated that Saudi foreign policy is becoming more “impulsive”.
Saudi Arabia’s more assertive foreign policy, the German Intelligence Service, the BND said in a public report, was highlighted by a bombing campaign in Yemen against Iran-backed Houthi rebels, which started in March.
German intelligence also voiced concern on Saudi Arabia’s role in Bahrain, Lebanon, and Iraq.
The Saudis have been irked by the nuclear deal between Iran, another regional heavyweight, and the US and five nations in July, which eases sanctions on Iran, in exchange for limiting its nuclear programme.
Riyadh is worried that a strengthened Iran could undermine Saudi interests in the region.
The US ought to be worried that most recent terrorist was a Saudi good girl, veiled Ms. Tashfeen Malik – that excelled in Pakistan as a student, and surely Pakistan benefited from Wahhabi largess in content and money.
So did America since that meeting on a boat between President Roosevelt and King Ibn Saud – and do not forget Texas Oil-man President G.W. Bush shipping out a plane load of Bin Ladins when airspace in the US was closed after 9/11-and those people could not be interrogated. It seems to be easier to close the door of the US to European travelers then to the Saudis.
Germany to send 1,200 military to Middle East
Raif Badawi: Saudi blogger wins Sakharov Prize
EU to mediate in Saudi-Swedish dispute on Human Rights
today – US lawmakers preparing to vote on bill that could see select EU states lose visa waiver perks if they don’t comply with stricter security measures.
today – Germany’s vice chancellor has criticized Saudi Arabia for funding jihadist mosques across Europe in a rare rebuke to the world’s biggest oil exporter.
Germany criticizes Saudi Arabia for funding radical mosques
EU states could lose US visa waivers
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
A Sensible Version of Donald Trump.
OCT. 27, 2015
by David Brooks – Op-Ed Columnist of the New York Times.
The voters, especially on the Republican side, seem to be despising experience this year and are looking for outsiders. Hence we have the rise of Donald Trump and Ben Carson. People like me keep predicting that these implausibles will collapse, but so far, as someone tweeted, they keep collapsing upward.
But imagine if we had a sensible Trump in the race. Suppose there was some former general or business leader with impeccable outsider status but also a steady temperament, deep knowledge and good sense.
What would that person sound like? Maybe something like this:
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m no politician. I’m just a boring guy who knows how to run things. But I’ve been paying close attention and it seems to me that of all the problems that face the nation, two stand out. The first is that we have a polarized, dysfunctional, semi-corrupt political culture that prevents us from getting anything done. To reverse that gridlock we’ve got to find some policy area where there’s a basis for bipartisan action.
The second big problem is that things are going badly for those in the lower half of the income distribution. People with less education are seeing their wages fall, their men drop out of the labor force, their marriage rates plummet and their social networks dissolve.
The first piece of good news is that conservative and progressive writers see this reality similarly, which is a rare thing these days. The second piece of good news is that we have new research that suggests fresh ways to address this problem, ways that may appeal to both Democrats and Republicans.
The studies I’m talking about were done at Harvard by Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren and Lawrence Katz. They looked at the results of a Clinton-era program called Moving to Opportunity, which took poor families and moved them to middle-class neighborhoods. At first the results were disappointing. The families who moved didn’t see their earnings rise. Their kids didn’t do much better in school.
But as years went by and newer data accumulated, different and more promising results came in. Children who were raised in better environments had remarkable earnings gains. The girls raised in the better neighborhoods were more likely to marry and raise their own children in two-parent homes.
The first implication of this research is that neighborhood matters a lot. When we think about ways to improve the lot of the working class, it’s insufficient to just help individuals and families. We have to improve entire neighborhoods.
Second, the research reminds us that to improve conditions for the working class it’s necessary to both create jobs and improve culture. Every time conservatives say culture plays a large role in limiting mobility, progressives accuse them of blaming the victim.
But this research shows the importance of environment. The younger the children were when they moved to these middle-class environments, the more their outcomes improved. It’s likely they benefited from being in environments with different norms, with more information about how to thrive, with few traumatic events down the block.
I know the professional politicians are going to want to continue their wars, but I see an opportunity: We launch a series of initiatives to create environments of opportunity in middle-, working- and lower-class neighborhoods.
gemli 2 minutes ago
David Brooks has been writing this same column for years. It’s just an old whine in a new bottle, offering nothing new and repeating the…
Meredith 6 minutes ago
What ‘social fabric’ has produced the radical rw that David has long made excuses for? A social environment which normalized greed,…
Expat Annie 7 minutes ago
Wow, Mr. Brooks, this article is full of so many great suggestions: improve entire neighborhoods! Improve schools! Expand early childhood…
This will mean doing some things Republicans like. We’ve got to devolve a lot of power from Washington back to local communities. These neighborhoods can’t thrive if they are not responsible for themselves. Then we’ve got to expand charter schools. The best charter schools radiate diverse but strong cultures of achievement. Locally administered social entrepreneurship funds could help churches and other groups expand their influence.
This will mean doing some things Democrats like. We’ve got to reform and expand early childhood education programs, complete with wraparound programs for parents. They would turn into community hubs. Infrastructure programs could increase employment.
Basically we’ve got to get socialist. No, I don’t mean the way Bernie Sanders is a socialist. He’s a statist, not a socialist. I mean we have to put the quality of the social fabric at the center of our politics. And we’ve got to get personalist: to treat people as full human beings, not just economic units you fix by writing checks.
Then we’ve got to get integrationist, to integrate different races and classes through national service and school and relocation vouchers. And finally, we have to get a little moralistic. There are certain patterns of behavior, like marrying before you have kids and sticking around to parent the kids you conceive, that contribute to better communities.
Look, I don’t know if I’m red or blue. If you want a true outsider, don’t just pick someone outside the political system. Pick someone outside the rigid partisan mentalities that are the real problem here.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 23rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
From the Boulder , Colorado, National Renewable Energy Laboratories – Victoria Healey victoria.healey at nrel.gov
September 22, 2015
This week the Solutions Center, in partnership with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and other international experts, published a report, “Policies to Spur Energy Access”, which reveals policy options for developing countries to engage the private sector in creating market solutions to energy access. The report discusses the regulatory and policy frameworks that can enable decentralized solutions and attract private sector investment. The report also notes that creating a robust market for energy services requires policymakers to address broader market issues. Policymakers can catalyze private financing and build human capacity to meet the needs of an emerging market. Because energy access impacts a wide range of development goals—poverty alleviation, health, education, agriculture, disaster planning and the environment—integrating the efforts of various public ministries can streamline energy access and leverage wider resources. The second part of this two-volume report includes in-depth case studies of public-private programs for financing energy access in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Mali, Mexico and Nepal. The case studies focus on the policy decisions that underpin each program and their impact on energy access for underserved populations. Along with this report, the Solutions Center has engaged additional international experts on energy access to offer assistance to policymakers via the Ask an Expert program.
The report can be accessed and downloaded at cleanenergysolutions.org/news/po….
If you have questions about this report you may contact Terri Walters ( terri.walters at nrel.gov) and Vickie Healey ( victoria.healey at nrel.gov).
Project Leader, Clean Energy Solutions Center
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 19th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
BUSINESS-is-GREAT says the UK
Invitation to a seminar on Governance, Technology and Skills Transfer:
An Entrepreneurial Approach to Meeting Post 2015 Global Development Goals in Education Health and Innovation.
Date: Friday, 25 September 2015
Time: 9:00 am – 12 pm
Location: UK Trade & Investment at the British Consulate
845 Third Avenue, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10022
To register, visit
The current increase in poverty, hunger, civil unrest, migration and social cohesion are major challenges to the UN development goals to implement and realise the proposed agenda to 2030. But can individuals help solve these problems?
This seminar coinciding with the opening of the UNGA Summit for “the Adoption of the Post 2015 Development Agenda” uses experiences from key stakeholders and innovators to propose a model for sustainable, scalable development based on a multilevel partnership of governmental ‘top down’ and grassroots ‘bottom up’ approach of local communities.
Issues of governance, commissioning, technology – and more importantly – skills transfer will be connected in ways that develop a value chain which drives the sustainability, growth and ultimate success of the of this proposed plan.
Prof Farida Fortune CBE, Queen Mary University London
Mr Ian Jones, CEO, Goonhilly Earth Station, UK
Prof Willaim Jacobs, Jr., Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Prof Julio Rezende, Centre of Innovation and Sustainability in Semiarid lands.
Presentations from leading practitioners on sustainable models for health and science education
Presentation and discussion of an action plan for future funding proposals
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 18th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
From William Rivers Pitt, Columnist and Editor, Truthout
Truthout, P.O. Box 276414, Sacramento, CA 95827
September 18, 2015
So I sat through the first Republican debate on CNN on Wednesday night, and then sat through the mind-erasing eternity that was the three-hour-long second Republican debate that came hot on the ridiculous heels of the first, took voluminous notes, and then wrote about it for Truthout … and I reached one utterly inescapable conclusion when all was said and done.
We are in deep trouble.
I’ve known this for a while, but it was reinforced during my long slog through Wednesday’s nonsense: In order to exist in that vapid atmosphere, one must accept – down through the bone and into the very marrow – a carefully concocted, vicious, violently delirious fiction of the world that has no contact whatsoever with reality.
If this is the best we can do as far as assembling presidential candidates – and the Democratic side of the deal is no New Orleans parade, mind you – doom is tapping us on the shoulder and blowing sweet nothings in our ears. We can do better, we must do better, and information is how we will do better.
Truthout is where that information can be found, come Hell or high water.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 14th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
From US Senator Bernie Sanders:
It’s time to break up the banks.
THIS IS ABOUT GOLDMAN SACHS and similar Extra-Large FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS.
The greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street drove this country into the worst recession since the Great Depression. Their casino-style gambling has helped divert 99 percent of all new income to the top one percent. And it has contributed to the most unequal level of wealth and income distribution of any major country on earth.
In the midst of all of this grotesque inequality sits a handful of financial institutions that are still so large, the failure of any one would cause catastrophic risk to millions of Americans and send the world economy into crisis.
If it’s too big to fail, it’s too big to exist. That’s the bottom line.
I introduced legislation in Congress that would break up banks that are too big to fail.
Banking should be boring. It shouldn’t be about making as much profit as possible by gambling on esoteric financial products. The goal of banking should be to provide affordable loans to small and medium-sized businesses in the productive economy, and to Americans who need to purchase homes and cars.
That is not what these financial institutions are doing. They’re instead creating an economy which is not sustainable from a moral, economic, or political perspective. It’s a rigged economy that must be changed in fundamental ways.
Let’s be clear who we’re talking about: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, and other institutions; they’re all too big to fail. So they must be broken up.
Wall Street can’t be an island unto itself separate from the rest of the productive economy whose only goal is to make as much money as possible. I fear very much that the financial system is even more fragile than many people may perceive.
Millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages, while virtually all new income goes to the people who need it the least. In fact, the top 14 wealthiest people saw their wealth grow more last year than the bottom 130 million have in total.
We must break this cycle to save the middle class in America. Can you show your support for my bill to break up the banks?
I’m running for President of the United States because I believe that it is incumbent on us to try to take back our country from the billionaires and make it thrive again for the working and middle class. Breaking up the banks is a critical part to making that a reality.
Thank you for all of your support.
Senator Bernie Sanders
Jeff Weaver, Bernie 2016
September 15, 2015
If you haven’t had a chance to read the email Bernie sent earlier today, please do.
The billionaire class is terrified. No presidential campaign in American history has accomplished what we have in just a few months, and they’ve responded as you’d expect: by activating their Super PACs in an effort to halt our progress.
Now that they’re attacking our campaign directly, we have a choice: we can either stand by and accept business as usual, or we can strike back and send a message that we’ve had ENOUGH of billionaires and corporations buying our elections.
The billionaire class has never dealt with a threat like ours before, and this will not be the last time a Super PAC considers attacking our campaign. If we stand together in this moment, we can make them think twice the next time they do.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 6th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Postcapitalism and the refugee crisis
Julian Sayarer 5 September 2015
This was brought to our attention by the London based OpenDemocracy
and was written by Julian Sayarer of “this is not for charity.” That site and blog arose from his 2009 world record for a circumnavigation of the globe by bicycle – a protest against the corporatisation of sport and human endeavour. You can buy his account of the adventure – “Life Cycles.”
The response of European citizens to the imperative to offer refuge has been inspiring, unlike the response of some governments. It shows the best face of postcapitalism.
2,200 cars are moving from Austria to Hungary, so as the drivers might ease the march of those Syrian refugees walking away from Hungary’s xenophobic position on the refugee crisis, and towards the safe haven that has been offered, in particular, by Germany.
The refugee crisis is dire and has been for a long time. We should not allow ourselves to forget that the image of a drowned toddler served only to bring us belatedly to our collective moral senses – we might have expected many of the innocent deaths before his to have done so already, but you cannot undo the past, only make good on your mistakes. The obligatory mention of western culpability, which is not the point to be dwelt on here, must also be made; western governments and media rushed into rash and heady military interventions that were painfully ill-judged. Some news outlets that now run hot for a refugee crisis have cultivated the indifference that saw the same crisis ignored for so long. It would be dangerous were we to forget that we have been fickle and that we have acted poorly, but it would be no less dangerous to have that remorse stopper our attempts to do good in the face of so much that is now ill. Right now, as 2,200 Austrian drivers head to Hungary to pick up refugees, positive things are happening in Europe.
This week, a flatmate asked me if we could house a refugee in our front room in London. I am, ordinarily, the flatmate urging we switch to a provider of renewable energy, the flatmate encouraging his flatmates consider a look at a Triodos ethical savings account rather than one with Lloyds Bank. My flatmates know that’s what I’m like, and so too do I know it, and as a result I go easy on them; well aware that there are arguments to be made on the part of ethics, but if you disregard the demanding daily lives of those you mean to convince, then they will soon disregard your ethics. And so I was not about to suggest we have a Syrian move in. Not only, however, was it my flatmate and not me who suggested we house a refugee, but a third housemate, on hearing the suggestion of the second, responded to the proposal with borderline approval. At this point, naturally, I announced that I would not be the flatmate that vetoed the decision to house a Syrian refugee. More significant than this good intention, however, is the extent to which it is already being put into practice; a UK initiative is in the process of trying to find ten thousand willing homes for Syrians, an Icelandic initiative has already found ten thousand (on an island of only 300,000), and a German initiative is actively pairing refugees with homes around the country and beyond. This is to say nothing of the assorted crowdfunding ventures and, once again, the 2,200 Austrians currently driving to Hungary to help drive refugees towards asylum.
That so many individuals now care enough to do so much so out of the ordinary is, in itself, remarkable. Still more encouraging, however, is the fact that it is working. Europeans are creating a trickle-up politics whereby Austrians drive to collect Syrians from Hungary and so Hungary feel compelled to – at least – provide buses, Iceland’s government realise it has misjudged the popular mood in only 50 asylum places and so return with an offer in the thousands. David Cameron is yet to announce how many Syrians will now be granted asylum in the UK, but – even before a 12th September march on Downing Street that will number into the tens of thousands – the figure will be substantially higher than the one the Government once felt it could get away with as the bare minimum of human rights duties. None of this is to say that now is a time for congratulating ourselves, quite the opposite – it is simply a reminder that the campaigning is working and we should keep at it. What is more, however, is that this is no longer only adversarial – whether it is the Daily Mail or the Conservative Party, some of the voices most steadfastly opposed to the movement of human beings – be that in refuge or migration – are being swallowed by the size of the consensus now under construction. The silent majority on immigration is, at last, speaking – the centre ground is being redefined. We have a humanitarian crisis and so we must respond as humans – some who would have bemoaned the issue of refugees a fortnight ago are doubtless becoming more sympathetic to the matter, and while it would be nice if we’d all of us agreed all along, this is real life, and the reality of winning a debate is that people who disagreed with you come to agree. It should be welcomed, not condemned.
This is – it bears saying – a work in progress; Eritreans, Afghans and the Sudanese are every bit as brutalised as Syrians, the latter are not the ‘special case’ some tabloids have sought to define them as – a cherry-picked victim by which we superficially re-legitimise World War Two narratives of safe-havens and our own morality. This is not to say that we can or should take infinite refugees, rather, that we must give according to our own ability and the needs of others, and that our foreign policies ought be waged (if that is still the correct verb) in a fashion that considers these human repercussions and where they flee to.
My own position on how much we might do is, probably, more utopian than most. I love to imagine British people talking of the successes and difficulties faced in integrating the Syrian couple now living with them for six months. Of people telling their boss they’ll be late for work because of dropping-off an adopted child at an English class – the boss understanding because his neighbour is running a day care centre for similar reasons. I fantasise about the idea of us all being forced to interrupt our business as usual, being reminded that millions of ruined lives and our ability to help a little was worth more than what the damn markets are saying. Sure, plenty of it is fantasy, but, there again, a week ago the UK was to take a few hundred Syrians. Next week, already with a certainty that that number will have increased, tens of thousands will march on Downing Street to demand more. I don’t go in for the nationalist baloney that The British People are good and moral… I simply believe that people are good and moral, especially where an agenda can be cleared of ulterior motives and polling data-induced paralysis, at which point you let people make up their own mind as to whether they like helping or vilifying those in need. That this open heartedness should not stop at international refugees goes without saying, but those I’ve seen most active on the refugee crisis are also those most active on UK inequality, its housing crisis, and the reliance of millions on food banks. What we are exercising is our emotional-political muscle to do good and demand more.
Individually, our own, personal morality-politics already represents as much. Countless memes circulate the internet on a feel-good theme that performing an act of kindness, of generosity, does not leave you depleted of that energy, but rather gives you your own energy redoubled. It is good to be a good person, just as it is good to be a nation that stands for values and humanity. Buddhist monks forego all possession and work so as to allow those around them opportunity to be humane in their support – the west and westerners have not, collectively, behaved with the piety of monks, and we should seek no self-congratulation, but societies have an impulse for compassion, and where that impulse is continuously stifled – where we are consistently bludgeoned with ideas that we haven’t the time, the capital, the empathy – we eventually come to believe it. Western society needs to be reminded that it can stand for change and stand for good, not only for a cheap fiscal orthodoxy; it is vitally important that we seize this moment, for it is in times of crisis that humans are able to reinvent themselves by either rising to, or falling, in the face of the challenge. We should continue to campaign, work and innovate for the sake of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, but we should also be doing it for ourselves.
Crucial in the call to action now rising are the voices of those elderly people who remember the evacuation of children from cities during World War II – their memory is essential for in them is a precedent, a recollection, that people can take in strangers for the good of all, and that life as you know it can legitimately be interrupted for an act of conscience. In those born since that time, the idea is only a text book or a history lesson, and it is so very important that each generation builds these examples anew so that they can continue to live on in the memory of those who come next.
There are, of course, practical considerations beyond only the good intention. As has been pointed out, even the 800,000 asylum places made available in Germany cannot be accessed from a refugee camp in Turkey or Lebanon, nor – quite possibly – even from the consulates within those nations. People are being obliged to make perilous and extortionately costly journeys (which, from the outset, marginalise the most economically vulnerable) to get to those asylum spaces; the momentum now needs to turn to military airlifting or charter flights. The pairing of refugees and willing hosts needs to gather momentum, and crowdfunding of – for example – the necessary bank deposits for visa sponsors could be an avenue for investigation.
None of these measures will, in themselves, solve the crisis, but by asking for them we will continue to build pressure on our governments to deliver the more adequate responses being demanded by their populations. In many ways, what we are seeing now is a hacking of government politics – the mechanisms of a much-vaunted ‘sharing economy’ put to humanitarian rather than market ends. Pressure should be applied to Airbnb to make good their ‘sharing credentials’ and have their reach and infrastructure leant to implementing, genuinely, the open-hearted human values they market themselves as espousing. People – whether in their accommodation, vehicles, expertise, time or spare belongings – are taking the unused value of their surpluses and investing it towards making good. This is what postcapitalism looks like, and here we see are seeing the network technologies of the twenty-first century mobilised to ameliorate the sort of crisis not seen since the twentieth.
The response of European governments and campaigners so far has – by and large – been one of terrible inaction on the part of governments shamed by enterprise and passion on the part of people. Governments can be embarrassed, either by other governments’ positions (read: Germany) or when their own populations demand more of them, either vocally, or by outdoing the efforts of the government itself; creating such a clamour that you break the machinery of government, the emotional armour, and break through to the humans that wear it. The Greek bailout crowdfunder, which so cheerfully managed to raise under 1% of only one debt instalment, illustrates that the efforts of networked individuals cannot match the smallest clout of a government. We should let this refugee crisis show that, whilst groundswell cannot replace government, it can and must help shape it.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
In the run-up to Paris2015 Kevin Rudd of the New York based Asia Society argues that “U.S., China, and India Must Lead Together for a Climate Deal in Paris,” Lord Nicholas Stern said that there will be a complete change in what the planet will look like in 100 years from now, and Christiana Figueres said that what countries have prepared for Paris is insufficient, but she hopes that in those 100 coming years they will be more forthcoming.
On August 28, 2015 – on CNN International’s Amanpour – Kevin Rudd, the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) President, discussed the effects of climate change – with Lord Nicholas Stern, chairman of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, and international climate policy, with Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Noting that projected levels of greenhouse gas emissions would cause average temperatures to rise by three-and-a-half to four degrees Celsius over the next 100 years, Lord Stern said “that is very dangerous territory” that the planet hasn’t seen “for around three million years,” since the end of the last Ice Age.
“These kinds of temperature increases are just enormous and would rewrite where we could live, where the rivers are, where the seashores are, what the weather is like,” said Lord Stern.
The poorest areas of the world would be “hit strongest and earliest,” he added. “Probably most of Southern Europe would look like the Sahara Desert.”
Figueres said that countries’ national climate change plans, which governments have been announcing ahead of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris this December, will fall short of “where we should be, according to science, to be on the two degree [temperature increase] pathway.”
The resulting gap “will not be filled in Paris,” Figueres said. “It will not be filled in January.”
She noted that the Paris climate agreement “is being constructed, actually, as a progressive effort over a certain period of timeframes, during which countries need, and will be able to, because of increased technology and further capital flows … increase their contribution to the solution.”
Video: Kevin Rudd discusses climate change with Lord Nicholas Stern and Christiana Figueres on CNN International’s Amanpour.
Kevin Rudd on CNBC: Don’t Confuse the Chinese Stock Market with Overall Economy
Kevin Rudd in the New York Times: U.S., China, and India Must Lead Together for a Climate Deal in Paris
THE UPDATE – SEPTEMBER 5, 2015
Ms. Christiana Figueres – the Executive Secretary of UNFCCC will end her contract at the end of this year after the conclusion of the Paris 2015 meeting – having guided the organization through all this preparatory years. It is being suggested that her candidacy be submitted for the 2016 selection process for next UN Secretary-General position. She would be the best informed person to lead the UN in the crucial 2017-2026 period when Climate Change and Sustainability become main UN topics under the incoming title from Paris – “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
The UN is in need of another period of reform, so it is ‘fit for purpose’ in ensuring that the new Sustainable Development Goals become the agenda of all its organs over the next 15 years.
UN climate chief: No such thing as ideal pace for pre-Paris talks
4. Sep, 13:47
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres countered criticism that preliminary talks for a Paris climate treaty were moving too slowly. “There is no such thing as an objective [ideal] pace of negotiations that everyone can agree on”, she said at a press conference Friday after a round of talks in Bonn.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
We react here to the New York Times Editorial of August 24, 2015 that seemingly wants us to believe that Putin and the Ayatollahs found religion when they heard that 250,000 Arabs were killed in Syria. Really – why should they care?
Let us suggest that “THE DEAL” has turned the interest of Iran to revive its International Banking if the Sanctions are removed – and that is the real driving force that eventually can bring Putin and the Ayatollahs to the table IN EXCHANGE FOR A SAUDI AND THE OTHER GULF STATES OIL EXPORTERS PROMISE TO REDUCE THEIR EXPORTS OF OIL.
YES – the US and the Europeans are driven by humanitarian concepts – the Russians and the Iranians think of the PRICE OF OIL that hit them hard in their economies. The US and the Europeans enjoyed the lowering of the price of oil – based on the high supply figures and a decreasing demand that resulted from GREEN ACTIVITIES – higher efficiency and alternate sources of energy.
But also these two developing energy topics can only benefit from a higher price for oil. So what the heck – let us help the Syrians and save whatever cultural monuments the Islamic State has not destroyed yet. We know that one way or another – the Christian population of Syria and Iraq is doomed and the Lebanese Maronites strive already decades in Brazil like the Iraqi Jews who spread all over the globe – from the Far East to the Far West. But let the enlightened world deal with the problem – and explain to the Saudis that time has come for them to listen to the global woes and do their part by selling less oil !!!