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Tag: "environment"

Today in the Sixth Extinction

[ 35 ] November 4, 2013 |

Goodbye to the western black rhino.



[ 94 ] October 22, 2013 |

There’s no reason to think that the United States is more drought-immune than ancient societies that were destroyed by it:

More than 3,200 years ago, life was abuzz in and around what is now this modern-day Israeli metropolis on the shimmering Mediterranean shore.

To the north lay the mighty Hittite empire; to the south, Egypt was thriving under the reign of the great Pharaoh Ramses II. Cyprus was a copper emporium. Greece basked in the opulence of its elite Mycenaean culture, and Ugarit was a bustling port city on the Syrian coast. In the land of Canaan, city states like Hazor and Megiddo flourished under Egyptian hegemony. Vibrant trade along the coast of the eastern Mediterranean connected it all.

Yet within 150 years, according to experts, the old world lay in ruins.

Experts have long pondered the cause of the crisis that led to the Late Bronze Age collapse of civilization, and now believe that by studying grains of fossilized pollen they have uncovered the cause.

In a study published Monday in Tel Aviv: Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University, researchers say it was drought that led to the collapse in the ancient southern Levant.

Before we talk about our technology and etc., let’s remember that these societies lasted a whole lot longer than the United States has. There’s no reason to think that we are somehow immune from drought-related collapses just because of more advanced technology that can move water around. Not to mention that the intensive engineering of water comes with a whole set of additional problems.

Coalition Building

[ 20 ] October 4, 2013 |

I have a piece up at Labor Online about the difficulties of meaningful coalition building between the AFL-CIO and other progressive organizations. An excerpt:

But of course the American union movement is diverse and fractured. Some unions have embraced the relationships with the NAACP and Sierra Club. But others, particularly in the trades, are somewhere between wary and hostile. Laborers president Terry O’Sullivan has been particularly outspoken in his anger over the Sierra Club’s opposition to building the Keystone XL Pipeline. O’Sullivan has both accused environmentalists of betraying labor for opposing the pipeline and publicly castigated unions who do not have a direct stake in the pipeline to shut up about it. International Association of Fire Fighters president Harold Schaitberger warned about the federation becoming “the American Federation of Progressive and Liberal Organizations.”

We might bemoan these attitudes but we also have to take them seriously. It’s worth thinking more deeply about the mechanics of what these alliances might look like. How should the federation respond when stopping a environmentally disastrous construction project will cost members jobs? Should unions without a stake in employment oppose another union who does have that stake? Does the fight for a sustainable climate take precedence over a few hundred or few thousand union jobs? These are really hard questions to answer.

In my own book-in-progress on timber worker unions and environmental issues in the Pacific Northwest forests, there is one potential lesson. In 1978, Redwood National Park was expanded, despite protests from the timber industry, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (who represented most of the timber workers in northern California), and the California state AFL-CIO. Yet in the final bill, the Sierra Club and organized labor worked together to create the Redwood Employee Protection Plan. REPP offered up to six years of direct government benefits for any worker who lost a job because of redwood forest protection. It served as a lifeline to workers in a dying industry. REPP had its problems, including discomfort with such generous provisions from the Carter Administration and outright hostility from Reagan. When it ended in 1984, most of the major players considered it a failure. I don’t have space to explore the details of the plan or its problems here. But I do think that both labor and environmentalists can look to REPP as at least one case where two potentially powerful movements allied (even if it was an alliance of begrudging convenience) to create an unprecedented federal program for American workers while also protecting an ecologically special place.

On Our New Overlords

[ 26 ] October 2, 2013 |

In our continuing chronicle of jellyfish taking over the planet and replacing humans as the dominant species, we have jellyfish attacking Sweden and shutting down a nuclear reactor. The Soviets couldn’t stop western Europe’s nuclear regime, but what are the Soviets compared to jellyfish? Nothing.

Meanwhile, the South Koreans are trying to fight the jellyfish. It seems to me that is just going to make them angry. I wouldn’t want to be in Korea when the jellyfish strike back.


[ 9 ] September 27, 2013 |

Once again, humans are a disaster for almost every other species on the planet.

Environmental Linkage

[ 13 ] September 26, 2013 |

1. More on climate change destroying the ocean ecosystem and the rise of jellyfish as our new overlords.

2. Support for fracking declines in the United States. This is useful given our embrace of the technology without anything close to the proper research as to how it will affect water supplies, not to mention create earthquakes. But where there’s profit to be found, you can forget about caution.

3. The Louisiana sinkhole caused by mining corporations using the state as a dumping zone has gotten worse and has no signs of stopping.

Water in the West

[ 56 ] September 23, 2013 |

How bad is the long-term drought in the West? The enormous rains of last week in Colorado helped a lot locally, barely put a dent in the larger indicators.

If you don’t believe the drought monitor, take a look at Lake Powell, a good barometer of water conditions in much of the West. By early September, the lake’s surface elevation was a whopping 33 feet below last year’s level on that date, and 65 feet below 2011’s September level. The rains helped, barely: The water level rose about two feet before leveling off. It would take dozens of this summer’s biggest deluges to bring the lake back up anywhere near where it should be at this time of year.

Dozens of floods are necessary. Of course nobody wants dozens of floods. What we really want is long-term rainfall. But the reality of climate change in the West means that long-term drought is the new normal.

Say Hello to Our New Oceanic Overlords

[ 47 ] September 15, 2013 |

Jellyfish are taking over the world. And they love the conditions of the ocean created by climate change. Not only are the oceans likely to become jellyfish deserts that also make swimming in many areas increasingly dangerous, but they also wreak tremendous havoc on economic activity along the coasts, not to mention shipping.

Forgot our robot overlords. It’s jellyfish overlords that we actually have to worry about.

The linked article is terrifying.

Conservative Climate Change Predictions

[ 10 ] September 10, 2013 |

The UN consistently chooses the most conservative predictions about the effects of climate change in order to try and mollify climate change deniers. This has the effect of muting the shouting from the mountaintops we need to get a handle on an issue that will destroy the way of life we today know. Not a good idea, especially since those deniers are never going to listen since they have an economic stake in the present system.

Copper Mines Seeking to Pollute New Mexico Groundwater

[ 9 ] August 27, 2013 |

The mining industry, conducting its usual anti-social, anti-environmental, and exploitative behavior, is pushing for new rules in New Mexico to escape having to go through a variance process to pollute the groundwater below its mining sites, reports the Santa Fe New Mexican The law could allow more industries to do the same, including the state’s two national laboratories. Mining has dominated the economy of southwestern New Mexico for more than a century and with a Republican governor in office, the industry is seeking to capitalize. There’s no good reason to allow high-polluting industries to get around water quality regulations. None at all.

Keystone XL Pipe Quality

[ 14 ] August 22, 2013 |

Doesn’t this just make you feel confident that the Keystone XL pipeline won’t lead to horrible oil spills?

Of course, it’s not like the pipeline will run through any land endangered species rely upon or anything like that.

Lead and Fracking

[ 20 ] August 20, 2013 |

Industry fought against all evidence that lead exposure hurt people since at least 1767. Robin Russell-Jones rightfully compares that to the battle against fracking today, with industry saying that there are no major environmental problems at all with the process, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The lesson is to never trust industry positions on the environmental or health effects of their products. In fact, we’d be better off assuming they are lying and forcing corporations to convince us they are not.

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