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Tag: "environment"

Fracking Disclosure

[ 51 ] February 1, 2013 |

Marjorie Childress reports on a New Mexico lawmaker opposing right-to-know legislation on fracking:

“It’s gonna fuel litigation, radical fringe groups, who don’t understand the process of what we do and how we do it,” Rep. Don Bratton, R-Lea County, said about HB 136, a bill that would require companies to publicly disclose hydraulic fracking chemicals, a procedure that uses high pressure to inject a mixture of sand, water and chemicals into rock and shale formations deep underground to release natural gas.

Bratton objected to the bill, saying that requiring companies to disclose fracking chemicals—which he said were components “we use in our everyday lives”–was like requiring grocery stores to disclose all the ingredients in products they sell, like toothpaste. He also said there was no evidence that fracking chemicals pollute water deep underground.

Hmmm….Can you imaging the horror of asking a company to put the ingredients of what makes up their products on packaging? I mean, it would be just like the United States in 2013! Of course reproducing the good old days of patent medicines and rat poison in our sausage is an actual goal of the modern Republican Party.

As a supporter of the bill said:

“If it’s true that they’re all benign, ..why on earth is there such a huge fight about what’s in it? If it really is just soap, water, sand, common lubricants…why is an extraordinarily modest bill similar to bills in other states, why is there an onslaught of opposition?” Egolf asked

Carbon Emissions

[ 34 ] February 1, 2013 |

U.S. carbon emissions keep slowly falling, down to levels not seen since 1994, despite a lot more people in this country. I’m probably a bit more skeptical about the long-term sustainability of this than some people for three reasons. First, much of this is based upon the transition from burning coal to burning natural gas. While I’m sure that’s going to be the trend for the foreseeable future, unless we invest heavily in a national infrastructure based around wind and solar energy, eventually it may change back to coal if gas prices go up. Second, the poor economy has played a major role in depressing energy use. That won’t last forever, although given policymakers unwillingness to think about the deeper structural reasons for our economic problems, we probably aren’t seeing a return to 1997 or 2005 anytime soon. Third, I’m not sure whether the continued drop in miles driven by Americans will continue. It’s possible because people in their 20s and 30s are more committed to urban life and eschewing cars like no generation in American history since the car was invented. On the other hand, Americans really like driving and a booming economy might just convince a lot of those people that 3000 square foot houses and SUVs in the suburbs aren’t such a bad thing.

Still, a good sign all in all.

You: Worse for Animals Than Chernobyl

[ 100 ] January 23, 2013 |

Where is this amazing photo of a wolf near a wetland taken? Chernobyl. As has been noted before, the most militarized parts of the earth (the DMZ for instance) and the most contaminated parts of the earth are the best places on the planet for wildlife to survive. Why? Because the sheer existence of humans is a disaster for 95% of the species on the planet. Worse than land mines, worse than nuclear meltdown.

When Labor Becomes Justified in Hating Environmentalists

[ 167 ] January 13, 2013 |

As someone dedicated to building bridges between the labor and environmental movements, this post from Good promoting the idea of online grocery stores makes me want to hold my head in my hands. The post never says a word about labor or workers. What it does say is this:

1. People like food variety
2. That variety leads to waste
3. Let’s use technology to just eliminate grocery stores and get groceries to consumers without the middle man!

For we technological festishist Americans, this probably sounds good. I don’t want to go to the store and I want what I want when I want it!! Problems solved and we can feel good about our impact on the planet since that food won’t be wasted.

The issue of food waste is way more complex than this and Voila! technological innovations are no solution. Something like 50% of food waste happens in the home. But I’ll leave that alone for now. Quick question though–what happens to grocery store workers? A lot of those are union jobs too. What happens to those people? Do they even deserve consideration? In our rush to replace all work with robots and technological efficiencies, what do ideas like this mean for long-term economic and community sustainability? These questions are not only unanswered (and no doubt unconsidered) in the Good article, but in our society generally. We talk about unemployment and underemployment but are extremely reticent to consider that our unstated goal that eliminating work in the name of efficiency is a positive good is a big part of the problem.

It’s at times like this that I am at a loss to defend environmentalism to organized labor.

…..I am reminded of Good Magazine’s own atrocious labor practices. Easy to believe they’d publish something like this.

What We Need to Fight Climate Change: More Austerity!

[ 74 ] January 12, 2013 |

Maybe what Scott is missing that is Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles are genuises. They know that the gods are angry at America’s deficit spending and are making our climate go crazy as a divine punishment. The only thing that will appease their anger–austerity programs that fall on the poor while making wealthy Beltway pundits feel good about themselves.

Anyway, this is a really good overview of the weather craziness going on right now. Insane cold in Russia and China, record heat in Brazil and Australia, fires in Australia, 8 inches of snow in Jerusalem, etc. This is the new normal. Or maybe it isn’t since it is going to get worse.

Human civilization as we know it cannot survive this level of climate change. The political, social, and environmental implications are too great. Humans are an extremely adaptable species. We aren’t going anywhere. But the world we know and love, it is slipping away. I really remain unconvinced that one can say our children and grandchildren will live better lives than we will. And it’s not because of national debt.

Air Conditioning

[ 92 ] January 11, 2013 |

Admittedly, January is an odd time for an article on air conditioning for a publication whose readership is mostly in the Northern Hemisphere. Makes sense though for those in Australia where you have probably become a carbon cinder in the last few days. But this Economist piece on the pros and cons of air conditioning is pretty interesting. The short of it is that air conditioning is great for you but awful for everyone else given the massive amount of energy they use and the effect that has on the planet, where the poor suffer from ever greater heat.

On principle, I am highly skeptical of technological fetishism that assumes better technology will solve all our problems. But this is one area where some technological advancements in air conditioning would probably save a ton of water and power. It also reminds me of how odd I continue to find it that rather than capture the manufacturing of wind energy and profit from it, oil companies want to destroy it. Why not take the lead on the future of your market? Of course the answer is short-term profit.

Disasters

[ 85 ] January 11, 2013 |

Alyssa Battistoni has an interesting and lengthy piece at Jacobin about natural disasters, what will cause us to do something about them, what lessons do we leawrn, and a lot of other things. I think it’s been out for a little while, but I just read it.

The reality is that we will learn nothing from Sandy just like we learned noting from Katrina or any other natural disaster. Climate change is far and away the greatest challenge we face as a nation and a planet. No other issue is even close. But even when bizarre disasters hit the U.S. (and world) again and again, even when New York City gets hit by 2 hurricanes in 2 years, even when an iconic American city is nearly wiped off the map, literally nothing of consequence is done. The upshot of climate change is that we will do absolutely nothing, 80% of the world’s plant and animal species will go extinct, our children and grandchildren will live worse lives than we do. We will still do nothing.

One nit to pick with Alyssa. Historians need to do a better job of pushing back on the myths around the Dust Bowl. She uses it as an example of when the U.S. did react to a natural disaster:

The Dust Bowl and the Depression offer the most obvious example of successful left politics in response to dual environmental and economic crises. Driven by radical organizing, the country essentially instituted basic income schemes that paid farmers not to farm and others to do public works. It was the obvious referent for the wave of enthusiasm for green jobs and a New New Deal in the early days of the Obama administration—perhaps too obvious, failing to take into account the differences of the current situation. But those hopes have faded in the face of austerity, and with it much of whatever tentative blue-green alliance there was, to say nothing of a red-green one. Both labor and environmentalists are becoming more confrontational in their tactics, but they’ve largely retreated to their own camps. In the vacuum that’s resulted, it’s not hard to imagine newfound bipartisan attention to climate change being used to advance proposals for blunt austerity measures instead of radical redistribution, capitalizing on the popular perception of environmentalism as asceticism to justify—or deflect blame for—a familiar neoliberal agenda.

This lesson from the Dust Bowl really isn’t true (I’ll leave the contemporary issues of labor and environmental movements for now). The New Deal and Dust Bowl were almost totally coincidental. New Deal policies exacerbated what we see as a major consequence of the Dust Bowl–migration out of the Plains. Tom Joad and clan were not pushed out by the Dust Bowl, it was centralization of agriculture and the eviction of tenant farmers due to AAA policies. Two major impacts of the Dust Bowl on federal policy was the Soil Conservation Service and the National Grassland system, but neither of these were major federal responses that changed the nation in particularly profound ways (important as the SCS is from some perspectives). The other was the beginning of the agricultural subsidy system, which although heavily mutated in the 70s always had the effect of centralizing agricultural control with big farmers. Dust Bowl policies really weren’t an example of successful left politics. By the 1950s, more native prairie was plowed up than ever and the agricultural capitalism that created the Dust Bowl was more powerful than it had ever been in 1932. As a society, we learned nothing at all from the Dust Bowl.

Climate Change

[ 84 ] January 9, 2013 |

Yeah, I’m sure the United States having its hottest recorded year in history in 2012 by a full degree and Australia’s Bureau of Meterology having to come up with new colors for its temperature maps because of the hottest temperatures in the history of the continent is just anecdotal evidence of climate change. Nothing to see here. After all, there’s 3 inches of snow on the ground in the northeast!

The Dark UN Conspiracy Takes Another Hero

[ 98 ] December 4, 2012 |

Thank God (thank HIM!!!!!!!) for Georgia Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, who is willing to stand up against Satan’s grand strategy to use his minions (the United Nations) to destroy this great nation through such horrors as urban planning. In October, Rogers led his peers to hear a speaker at the state capitol building railing against the dark conspiracy known as Agenda 21, a nonbinding, voluntary UN action plan in favor of sustainable development. I’ve never heard of such a threat to the United States and God’s plan for us to develop the nation’s resources to generate profits for wealthy white people who can then store their riches offshore in the Cayman Islands.

Satan takes his pound of flesh though (though given Satan’s nefarious agenda, he probably prefers organic, locally-produced flesh. Not to mention a kilogram of flesh instead of a pound) and Rogers is now “resigning” from the Georgia Senate to “spend more time with his family.” Can we Christians take a few minutes away from building more suburban developments in wetlands to rescue our hero? Don’t you know that “spending more time with his family” is a euphemism for “sustainable, walking cities?” My god, there might be black people in those places! And not every store would have a parking lot the size of Rhode Island! Can you imagine the horror? If we don’t save him now, will Satan take him to the never before known 20th Circle of Hell–making him an employee of an NGO working with indigenous people to save their lands from oil development?

Coral

[ 18 ] November 28, 2012 |

Do you like to dive?

Do you like cool colorful tropical fish?

Do you like coral reefs?

If you do, take advantage now because they are going away very, very fast.

In another 50 years, coral reefs will be a myth our grandchildren won’t believe, like unicorns and moderate Republicans.

The United Mine Workers and Environmentalists

[ 21 ] November 16, 2012 |

The Labor and Working-Class History Association has started a new blog called Labor Online. I was asked to be a contributing editor. Here’s my first post, on the United Mine Workers attacks on environmentalists and the Democratic Party and how workers allow companies to blind them to corporate malfeasance by buying into blaming environmentalists for job losses. In part:

As someone who grew up in the middle of the spotted owl crisis of the Pacific Northwest during the 1980s, I understand why the UMWA has sided with the bosses—its members are scared to death of losing their jobs. But climate change is also a labor issue. Natural disasters inordinately affect the poor. Studies have connected climate change and poverty to project higher rates of heat stroke, asthma, and other health problems among working-class people.

Many in labor support a vigorous fight against climate change. Perhaps they can serve as a bridge to environmental organizations. What must happen is more meaningful dialogue between the UMWA and environmentalists. The UMWA’s primary mission is to protect its members’ jobs. Without coal, what happens to thousands of families in Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Virginia, and Pennsylvania? There’s no easy answer. But attacking the EPA is not going to bring union jobs back to Appalachia. Demonizing environmentalists only serves to alienate alliances with other progressives the UMWA and other unions need to fight for a better future

.

Climate Change and Coffee

[ 61 ] November 14, 2012 |

If this doesn’t get Americans interested in climate change, nothing will:

A cup of morning coffee could be much harder to find, and much more expensive, before the century is out thanks to climate change and the possible extinction of wild Arabica beans.

That’s the warning behind a new study by U.K. and Ethiopian researchers who say the beans that go into 70 per cent of the world’s coffee could be wiped out by 2080.

Researchers at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew and the Environment and Coffee Forest Forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia looked at how climate change might make some land unsuitable for Arabica plants, which are highly vulnerable to temperature change and other dangers including pests and disease.

They came up with a best-case scenario that predicts a 38 per cent reduction in land capable of yielding Arabica by 2080. The worst-case scenario puts the loss at between 90 per cent and 100 per cent.

There is a “high risk of extinction” says the study, which was published this week in the academic journal Plos One.

I personally think coffee is disgusting. But an old organizing mantra is that you have to meet people where they are at. And a lot of you really like coffee. Coffee is a very sensitive plant. I’ve seen hillsides in Central America where coffee will grow on part of it but not the other part. It needs a very particular climate. That could get much, much harder to find.

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