Category Archives: Fracking

Proposals for the 2020 US Elections

The broad left has been uniting behind the Democratic Party for the past four decades without having achieved much real progress for its base constituencies. In fact, there has been considerable regress: increased inequality of wealth and income, diminished collective bargaining, increased homeless numbers, rising student debt burdens, reduced abortion access, increasingly unaffordable costs of healthcare, mass incarceration, new cold wars, new arms race, and so forth.  Longstanding abuses against the vulnerable remain, including: impunity for police violence; and abuses in the criminal justice system targeted against the poor and racial minorities, often under elected Democrats (prosecutors, mayors, legislators, and other officials).  Yet, many prominent “leftists” (including avowed “socialists”) are demanding unity behind the Democratic Party and whomever will be its Presidential standard-bearer.  Consequently, it is appropriate and past time to subject that practice to careful examination.

With respect to the 2020 elections, many prominent would-be strategists for the socialist left have been, in effect, saying:

  • that Trump, with his pandering to racism and other bigotries, is dangerously and uniquely different from previous Republican Presidents and nominees;
  • that Trump, with his reactionary populist demagoguery and authoritarian aspirations, is an authoritarian “fascist” threat to “our democracy”;
  • that Trump, with his climate denialism and his other antisocial policies, will be the fundamental cause of climate catastrophe and other horrors; and
  • that consequently, another four years of Trump would be such a “catastrophe” that, with respect to the 2020 elections, nothing is more important than ensuring that the Democrats prevail.

Proponents of the foregoing strategic viewpoint are many.  Recent advocates include:

  • a group of prominent leftist author-intellectuals with “An Open Letter to the Green Party About 2020 Election Strategy” castigating the Green Party for “helping the Republicans win the Presidency” in 2000 and 2016 through not abandoning its Presidential campaigns in contested states1 and
  • Max Elbaum for Organization Upgrade with “Beating Trump: Absolutely Essential, Also Not Enough” asserting that “A second Trump term means racist authoritarianism”, “a drastic narrowing of the democratic space progressives and the left have utilized to resist”, “heightened danger of climate change-driven catastrophe”, “the erosion of democracy”, and accelerated “level of repression”. He goes on “a defeat of Trump by even the most moderate of Democrats … translates … into preservation of democratic space and … the possibility of the new American majority.”2

It may be appropriate to ask whether they have elevated Trump far above his actual significance and mistaken the centrist Democrats for agents of progress and democracy.

What follows is simply an attempt to apply a rational fact-based strategic analysis, consistent with social-justice principles, to the current situation.

To begin, what are the relevant facts?

1st.  Regarding Trump differences from previous GOP Presidents. 

The unite-behind-the-Democrats strategists, in their portraying of Trump as radically different from his GOP predecessors, evade the decades of Republican pandering to bigotry.  In fact, his bigoted pandering and his embrace of antisocial policies is no departure from decades of past Republican Presidential candidates; remember: Goldwater’s embrace of “states’ rights” as he campaigned on his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Nixon’s “southern strategy”, Reagan’s campaigning against “welfare queens”, GHW Bush’s racist fearmongering “Willie Horton” campaign ads, Republican attacks on women’s reproductive rights, their pandering to the religious right, their attacks on welfare programs which notably benefit the poor and minorities, etc.

Trump had posed as a populist; but he has, of course, embraced the longstanding antisocial policies of the Republican Party.  He has basically reneged on his promises to serve the working class; while he has, like most other Republicans, faithfully served the fossil-fuel, armaments, and other highly predatory industries.  Trump, has differed somewhat by campaigning as an isolationist who would end US military interventions in foreign lands; but he has (sometimes against his will) largely surrendered foreign policy to the bipartisan imperial foreign policy establishment.  Moreover, bully that he is, he has found that attacking vulnerable peripheral countries (Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba) bolsters his image as a tough commander-in-chief, a practice utilized by past Presidents of both Parties.

Nevertheless, from a revolutionary anti-capitalist and pro-social-justice perspective, there are some real, although unintended, positives in Trump’s Presidency.  These include: his undermining of the unity of the US-led imperial Western alliance; and his attacks on the intelligence agencies whereby he demoralizes their operatives and somewhat undermines their operations.  Moreover, the blatancy and transparent viciousness in his bigoted and antisocial actions has incited a growing popular movement in opposition to his odious policies, policies which, in some measure, he inherited from his predecessor.  But for Trump, this movement would not have risen to its current size and potency.

2nd.  Regarding domestic racism and other bigotries.

Trump differs from his Republican predecessors in that his pandering to bigotry lacks their sneaky subtlety and ambiguity; in fact, it is blatant, obsessive, absolutely transparent, and undeniable.  This transparency makes it much easier to organize against it; and that is a good thing. Meanwhile, the unite-behind-the-Democrats strategists evade centrist Democrat pandering to racism and other bigotries whenever they found it to be politically expedient.  Examples.

In the 1970s, when under pressure from racist white constituents opposed to school desegregation, Senator Joe Biden switched his position from support to opposition on court-ordered busing to end school segregation.  Then, after having been a critic (in 1981) of Reagan’s push for tougher prison sentences, Biden discovered that being “tough on crime” was popular with much of the white electorate and spent a lot of effort from 1984 to 1994 pushing Congress, over opposition from the NAACP and the ACLU, to enact (with support from most Senate Democrats) a series of “tough on crime” bills.  Those enactments then contributed hugely to the disproportionately racial-minority mass incarceration (including: mandatory minimum sentences, the 100 times harsher penalty for crack as for powder cocaine, stripping inmates of appeal rights, and a big increase in the number of crimes subject to the death penalty).3

Bill Clinton’s 1994 Crime Bill was a major contributor to the aforementioned mass incarceration of racial minorities.  Clinton pandered to bigotry again with his draconian so-called welfare reform which compels the most disadvantaged people (especially single-parent families) to work for poverty wages which leave them without the wherewithal to access basic needs (decent housing, affordable healthcare, quality education for their children, and other vital needs).4

While Obama responded to pressure from his base constituents with his DACA order and proposed immigration reform, he also pandered to reactionary Republican xenophobia by deporting more undocumented immigrants in his first five years than G W Bush deported in eight, thereby earning the moniker “deporter-in-chief”.  Moreover, while Obama separated children from their immigrant parents (a total of 152,000 in 2012 alone), most Democrat politicians and the mainstream news media took little interest.  It is only now under Trump that such abuses (now, as then, somewhat limited by court order) have become a cause célèbre.5

3rd.  Regarding climate catastrophe.  

Democrat actions to protect against climate catastrophe consist of: lip service (speeches); unenforceable aspirational goals (the Paris Agreement); regulatory enhancements (fuel efficiency “standards”, the “clean power plan”); market incentives (carbon tax, “cap and trade” schemes, subsidies for renewables); and fantasies (“clean coal”).

Those actions may appear to constitute progress toward cutting climate-destroying carbon pollution, but the meager 4.5% reduction in US CO2 emissions during Obama’s 8-year presidency actually depended largely upon independent market factors (especially cleaner alternative energy sources become cheaper than coal). Meanwhile, Obama counteracted the effects of his grossly inadequate climate action program by actively promoting: huge increases in production of fossil fuels (with increased drilling permits, expanded offshore drilling, huge increase in fracking and production of natural gas, and a 13% increase in fossil-fuel pipelines from 2011 to 2015). He also issued large new leases to coal producers.  Under Obama, US exports of coal, oil, and natural gas increased massively (1,000% in the case of oil); and Obama-approved Export-Import Bank loans and guarantees for fossil-fuel projects abroad nearly tripled from the level under GW Bush. By 2017 (the year Obama left office) the US, with 15.3% of world oil production, had become the world’s top producer, well ahead of number-two Saudi Arabia’s 12.7%.6

Meanwhile, California’s “climate champion” Governor Jerry Brown increased offshore drilling in state waters, eased restrictions on drilling and fracking, and fired regulators who stood firm against unsafe drilling practices.6

Centrist Democrats are all for saving the climate, but only as long as so doing doesn’t include what is actually necessary, namely shutting down the profitable poisoning operations of the politically-powerful fossil-fuel companies.  Their grossly inadequate feel-good climate policies will no more save the planet from climate catastrophe than Trump’s denialism.

4th.  Regarding other antisocial policies in service to capital. 

Until the scheme was derailed by the Lewinski scandal, Bill Clinton plotted with Newt Gingrich on a nearly successful bipartisan plan to cut social security benefits and turn management of its trust fund over to Wall Street.7  Clinton also backed the overwhelmingly bipartisan 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall banking reforms, repeal which unleashed the speculative and exploitative mortgage-lending practices which produced the great recession of 2008.

Obama posed as a progressive in the 2008 Presidential primaries.  Then as President his choices (in 2009) for Treasury Secretary and chief economic advisor were neoliberals US Treasury bureaucrat Timothy Geithner and World Bank vice-president Larry Summers. The then-ruling Democrats’ response to the 2008 economic crisis was: to bail out, rather than nationalize, the big banks which had created the conditions which were its principal cause; and to provide minimal relief measures which nevertheless permitted some 5.3 million homeowners to lose their homes to the banks in Obama’s first six years, with many forced into bankruptcy while official unemployment doubled to 10%.  Under Obama, no bank CEOs were jailed for their mortgage lending frauds.  This was in contrast to the policy under President G H W Bush which sent many of the Savings & Loan CEOs to prison for bank frauds committed during the S&L Crisis.8

Obama also supported the increasing privatization in K-to-12 schools (which robs already under-resourced public schools and students of desperately needed resources).9

Although the Democrats routinely pose as allies of organized labor, on those occasions (1959-71, 1975-79, & 2009-11) when Democrats controlled both the Oval Office and the Congress with a filibuster-proof 60-vote super-majority in the Senate, they nevertheless did nothing to rescind the anti-union provisions of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act.

With respect to healthcare, Obama and the Congressional Democrat leadership refused to permit consideration of the single-payer option and limited their healthcare “reform” (as centrist Democrats continue to do) so as to ensure the survival and continued profiteering of affected capitalist interest groups (in the health insurance, pharmaceutical, and service-provider industries), while still leaving tens of millions un- or under-insured and often without the means to access many of their often-vital healthcare needs.

5th.  Regarding Trump “fascism”. 

Is he about to achieve despotic power? It is true that House Democrats, for lack of support in the Senate and/or in their own caucus, have been unable, in their occasional feeble attempts, to prevent some of Trump’s excessive assertions of Executive power.  However, Trump has been able to do thusly primarily because the Congress had ceded many of its Constitutional prerogatives to the Executive branch decades before Trump’s Presidency.  Nevertheless, Trump has been repeatedly stymied on particular issues: by the foreign-policy establishment; by Congress; by the courts; by obstruction within his own administration; by his own narcissism and incompetence; and sometimes even by overwhelming public disgust at some of his most abhorrent pronouncements.

Trump failed in his attempt to coerce the Congress into funding his anti-immigrant border wall, and he only obtained said funding subsequently when Congressional Democrats caved in return for modest funding for a few of their priorities.  He has been utterly unable to muzzle his critics: in the mainstream news media, in the Democratic Party, and on the left.  Despite his obsession to put an end to the Mueller investigation of his Presidential campaign, Trump was unable (or too fearful) to do so.  Finally, he failed to prevent House Democrats from impeaching him.

Certainly, if Trump were really a threat to the rights and capacities of his many critics to agitate and organize against the social evils of capitalism and the oppressive policies of the US government; then it would make sense for the socialist left to unite with the centrist liberals to protect those rights. But there is currently no such real danger. In fact, Trump, despite what he wants to believe, does not possess anywhere near the absolutist power of a fascist despot. Moreover, with the persistence of broad and intense popular opposition to Trump, he is very unlikely to achieve such power. The Trump Presidency, despite his abhorrent policies and authoritarian aspirations, is not an authoritarian state, nor will he make it into one. Factually deficient assertions of portending “fascist authoritarianism” under Trump only serve to provide excuse for attempts to keep the broad left ensnared in its counterproductive allegiance to the centrist-dominated capital-serving Democratic Party.

6th. Regarding American “democracy”

What democracy?

Congressional Democrats and their apologists never miss any opportunity to vilify Russia for allegedly attacking “our democracy” by assisting the Trump campaign in the 2016 US Presidential election. Completely absent from the discourse is any acknowledgement of the long bipartisan history (beginning with the 1948 Italian election) of US interventions in the national elections of numerous foreign countries (including the stealing of the 1996 Russian election for US favorite Boris Yeltsin). Russian intervention in the 2016 US election pales in comparison with many of the US interferences in other countries’ elections. Moreover, the Russian effort to sway the 2016 US Presidential election was the least significant factor in the outcome, far eclipsed by: the flawed Democrat candidate and her mismanaged election campaign, abstentions by many poor and working-class citizens on account of decades of Democrat failure to deliver for their base constituencies, and the electoral college system as well as other anti-democratic features of US elections.

In fact, US elections are rife with anti-democratic features in most of which both duopoly parties are complicit: political discourse dominated by capitalist funding, gerrymanders, voter suppression, party leaders rigging the nomination process to favor the establishment candidate, convention superdelegates, etc. Moreover, the system is rigged in most states to maintain the 2-party duopoly which excludes and/or marginalizes all other parties (by giving the duopoly parties virtually automatic ballot access while imposing often insurmountable obstacles to such access for third parties); and the Democrats are complicit as they routinely act to block access for the Green Party. In actual effect, voters usually choose between candidates of the duopoly parties who are selected, not by the people, but by big-money interest groups and allied establishment political insiders.

The US is no real democracy, it is a heavily corrupted plutocracy. It will become a real democracy: only when there is popular participation and oversight over elected representatives, and only after a revolutionary movement for social justice has taken state power from the capital-subservient politicians of both duopoly parties. The need is, not to ameliorate popular discontent by putting a Democrat in the White House, but to build the revolutionary movement with a social justice program which will be clearly distinct from the actual antisocial and anti-democratic policies of nearly all career politicians in the Democratic Party.

7th.  Regarding imperialism, human rights, and consistent anti-racism. 

The “socialist” proponents of center-left alliance with the Democrats give lip-service opposition to imperialism and militarism; but then they abandon said opposition as they demand that all progressives back the candidacies of the worst perpetrators of imperial crimes against humanity.  Skipping over the crimes of Democrat Presidents Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson, which caused the deaths of millions and immense suffering to millions more, let us consider the millions of victims of US imperialism under the more recent Democrat Presidents and members of Congress.

Jimmy Carter: initiated the US funding and arming of the reactionary antisocial Islamist insurgency against the progressive modernist Soviet-aligned government in Afghanistan, joined apartheid South Africa in backing a (failed) coup plot (1979) against the anti-imperialist President of Seychelles, imposed sanctions (1979) on Grenada in an attempt to cripple its economy and thereby oust its progressive revolutionary government, and initiated (1980) the US backing for the Contra War (which Reagan later expanded) against the anti-imperialist government in Nicaragua.10

Bill Clinton, knowing (and/or not caring) that the pretense that Iraq still had WMD [weapons of mass destruction] was false, imposed a murderous economic siege [sanctions] which impoverished the people and killed half a million Iraqis (mostly children), hoping thereby to provoke a coup to topple its President.  Clinton also joined Congress in enacting the 1996 Helms-Burton Act which punished Cuba for defending itself against invasions of its airspace by a rightwing exile gang with a history of terrorist attacks against targets in Cuba and elsewhere.  Further, Clinton laid the foundation for the current new cold war against Russia by beginning the provocative eastward expansion of NATO into former Warsaw Pact countries in violation of the US commitment given to Russia in return for the needed Soviet consent to the 1990 reunification of Germany.11

“New Democrat” Presidential candidate Al Gore (in 2000) pandered to rightwing Cuban exiles by backing their attempt to prevent motherless 6-year-old Elián González from being reunited with his Cuban Communist father in Cuba.12

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton [HRC] was an outspoken advocate for the Bush-Cheney “preemptive war” against Iraq, which killed another some 700,000 Iraqis.13

In 2008 Democrat Presidential candidate Barack Obama matched rival McCain in hawkishness on foreign policy as illustrated in the following quotes from Obama’s 2008 campaign web site. “We must rebalance our capabilities to ensure that our forces have the agility and lethality to succeed in both conventional wars and in stabilization and counter-insurgency operations.” “increase the size of the Army by 65,000 soldiers and the Marines by 27,000 troops.” “Preserve global reach in the air: We must preserve our unparalleled airpower capabilities to deter and defeat any conventional competitors, swiftly respond to crises across the globe, and support our ground forces. We need greater investment in advanced [weapons] technology …” “Maintain power projection at sea: We must recapitalize our naval forces.” In the Presidential campaign debates, Obama mimicked McCain in denouncing popularly-elected Venezuelan President Chavez as a “tyrant.” Further, he boasted (on his web site) of his Senate record of “insisting that Israel not be pressured into a ceasefire” during its 2006 invasion of Lebanon; and of “cosponsoring a Senate resolution against Iran and Syria.”

John Kerry and HRC (the respective Democrat Presidential candidates in 2004 and 2016), as Secretaries of State under Obama, were proponents of his new cold war against Russia and backed his policy of support for the destructive Islamist-dominated insurgency in Syria. HRC also advocated for the US-led military invasion which resulted in humanitarian catastrophe for the people of Libya. Kerry, who had also backed the military intervention in Libya, was a proponent of Obama’s policy of encouraging and assisting the Saudi and UAE war of mass murder (from starvation and disease as well as aerial bombing) against the people of Yemen.14

Obama joined several allies in the invasion and destruction of Libya, abetted coups and coup attempts against popularly elected progressive and anti-imperialist governments in Honduras (2009) and Ecuador (2010), as well as against the duly elected neutralist government of Ukraine (2014). Obama also armed and abetted the US-client regime in Colombia which gave rightwing death squads free rein to murder (as reported by Human Rights Watch) over 120 labor organizers and other nonviolent progressive social activists in 2011..15 alone (and more thereafter).  Meanwhile, he imposed the first of the crippling economic sanctions and persisted in other interventions to undermine the popularly elected leftist government in Venezuela.15

Only 49 of 193 House Democrats voted against the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act [HR 5515] which greatly increased already massive military spending.  In the Senate it passed 87 to 10 with a mere 8 of 49 Democrat caucus members voting against.16

The 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act [HR 3364], which seeks to intensify Obama’s new cold war against Russia as well as to impose greater hardships on the peoples of Iran and North Korea, was adopted 419 to 3 in the House (each of the 3 no votes being from Republicans) and 98 to 2 in the Senate (the 2 being Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul).17

Most high-level Democrat politicians are subservient to capital and firmly ensconced in the bipartisan imperialist foreign policy consensus. In fact, Democrats have become staunch defenders: of the intelligence agencies, of Obama’s new cold wars, and of US aspirations for continued imperial world-domination. They have impeached Trump, not for his many actual crimes against humanity, but on bogus assertions that his temporary suspension of military aid to the client state in Ukraine (which was installed by a US-backed coup and is a US pawn in its unjustified new cold war against Russia) was a betrayal of US national security. None of the Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has clearly repudiated the falsehoods which are propounded and used to justify hostile US action against alleged “adversary” countries (Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua). (Note.  Although some of these countries maintain reactionary and/or oppressive domestic policies, not the reason for US hostility; all of them maintain foreign policies which are primarily defensive and in some measure anti-imperialist.  Russia and China are resisting Western imperial policies of hostile new-cold-war encirclement with US bases and military exercises in neighboring countries and/or adjacent seas.)

The “socialist” proponents of alignment with the Democratic Party have objectively embraced an objectively racist left version of America first. They care that Democrats are marginally less antisocial on domestic issues (generally because they need the votes of women, minorities, and other affected constituencies); but, like said Democrats (even most of those in the Congressional Progressive Caucus), they acquiesce to the murderous oppressions of the millions of victims of US-led Western imperialism in other countries.

Ω.  Effects.

In effect, the avowedly leftist and “socialist” unite-behind-the-Democrats “electoral strategists” have jettisoned their anti-imperialism and limited their anti-racism to victims in the US, and then primarily to victims of governing Republicans. They purport that the Democrats, even those like Joe Biden, will be saviors in the face: of Trump-incited racist abuses of immigrants and asylum-seekers (practices which actually pre-date the Trump Presidency), of Trump-abetted climate catastrophe, and of a Trump-led displacement of “our democracy” by an authoritarian “fascism.” While it is true that government policies under Trump, as under previous Republican Presidents, are somewhat more antisocial than under Democrats; nevertheless, their portrayals of Trump, as a dire threat to progressive and socialist activism, and of the Democrats as the savior for progress, decency, and “democracy”, are essentially contra-factual. They elevate Trump far above his actual significance by ignoring the many other factors (including the Democrats’ routine perfidy and subservience to capital) which are responsible for the capitalist and governmental abuses in the US. Their position is rooted in their addiction to the failed policy of giving allegiance to the centrist-dominated Democratic Party which has been seducing and betraying the progressive movements for decades. Finally, it is a betrayal of internationalist social-justice solidarity principles.

  1. Noam Chomsky & 8 others, “An Open Letter to the Green Party About 2020 Election Strategy” (2020 Jan 24).
  2. Max Elbaum, “Beating Trump: Absolutely Essential, Also Not Enough” (2020 Jan 25).
  3. PR Lockhart, “Joe Biden’s record on school desegregation busing, explained” (2019 Jun 28). Branko Marcetic, “Joe Biden, Mass Incarceration Zealot” (2018 Aug 09).
  4. Wikipedia: Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (2020 Feb 14) ~ § 4 Consequences, § 5 Criticism.
  5. Carol Dansereau, “Whose Moral Stain? Hold Democrats Accountable on Immigration Too” (2018 Oct 02). Miles Culpepper, “Why Democrats Keep Caving on Immigration” (2019 Jul 07).
  6. Carol Dansereau, “Climate and the Infernal Blue Wave: Straight Talk About Saving Humanity” (2018 Nov 13). Statista, “Carbon dioxide emissions from energy consumption in the U.S. from 1975 and 2017 (in million metric tons of carbon dioxide)” (© 2018).” Investopedia, “The World’s Top Oil Producers of 2017” (2018 Feb 18).
  7. Alan Nasser, “The Coming Plague of Poverty Among the Elderly: Clinton’s Plan for Gutting Social Security” (2016 Nov 04).
  8. CoreLogic, “United States Residential Foreclosure Crisis: Ten Years Later” (2017 Mar) ~ p 4-5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey” (accessed 2019 May).
  9. Diane Ravitch, “Flunking Arne Duncan” (2012 Mar 07).
  10. Stephen Kinzer, Overthrow (2006) ~ chapter 12 “They Will Have Flies Walking Across Their Eyeballs.” William Blum: Killing Hope (2004) ~ Chapter 53 “Afghanistan 1979-1992 America’s jihad“; Chapter 44 “Seychelles 1979-1984 – Yet another area of great strategic importance”; Chapter 49 “Nicaraguan 1978-1990: Destabilization in slow motion”; Chapter 45 “Grenada 1979-1984: Lying – one of the few growth industries in Washington.” Stephen Kinzer, Overthrow, chapter 10 “Our Days of Weakness Are Over.” Stephen Zunes, “The US Invasion of Grenada – Foreign Policy in Focus” (2003 Oct).
  11. Wikipedia, “Sanctions against Iraq” (2015 Nov 14); “Lead-up to the Iraq War” (2015 Nov 11); “Helms-Burton Act” (2020 Jan 12); “José Basulto” (2019 Nov 18).
  12. PBS, “A chronology of the Elian Gonzalez saga” (accessed 2020 Feb).
  13. On the Issues, “Hillary Clinton on War & Peace” (2018 Sep 08).
  14. Wikipedia, “Foreign involvement in the Syrian Civil War” (2019 May 03) ~ § 2.1 Support for the Syrian opposition # United States; “US domestic reactions to the 2011 military intervention in Libya” (2018 Oct 11). Nika Knight, “Saudi-led Bombing Kills 11 Civilians in Yemen, While Kerry Ignores US ‘Complicity’” (2016 Aug 26).
  15. Wikipedia: 2009 Honduran coup d’état (2018 Oct 07); 2010 Ecuador crisis (2018 Oct 01). Robert Parry: “Cheering a ‘Democratic’ Coup in Ukraine” (2014 Feb 26). Renee Parsons: “Chronology of the Ukrainian Coup” (2014 Mar 05). Medium: “US Staged a Coup in Ukraine – Brief History and Facts” (2017 Dec 18). Dan Kovalik: “Death Squads Continue to Reign in Colombia” (2014 May 24). Telesur: “Tracking US Intervention in Venezuela Since 2002” (2015 Nov 18).
  16. H.R. 5515: John S McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 ~ House vote (2018 Jul 26). Senate vote (2018 Aug 01).
  17. H.R. 3364: Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act ~ House vote (2017 Jul 25). & Senate vote (2017 Jul 27).

Drilling for Oil:  A Global Problem on Our Doorstep

These days, local is global.  Dorset is a small rural county on England’s south coast.  That doesn’t mean that its inhabitants aren’t worried about climate change.  They are.  Very.  Unfortunately, Dorset Councillors are more concerned about following government policies, policies that back using public money to invest in climate-damaging projects.  ‘Global’ doesn’t do ‘local’.  Global makes money for corporations and their investors, not the people who have to live with the result.

Sometimes it takes a threat to our own neighbourhood, our own county or country, before we wake up to what is happening across the world.  It will take food shortages before we accept that industrial farming is gradually killing the soil that all life, bar marine life, depends on.  It will take repeated storms and flooding to get the message that weather patterns really are changing; that places are becoming too wet, too dry, too hot – but not too cold.  It will take the flooding of coastal cities before everyone acknowledges that the Arctic, Antarctic, the permafrost and glaciers have melted and the sea-level risen because humans have heated up the earth.

By then it will be too late.  The damage will have been done.  To be honest, we won’t experience the effects of the carbon emissions we are, right now, pumping up into the atmosphere for another 20 years.  Climate change is happening now and it will be bad.  We can’t go backwards.  All we can do is to make it not as bad as it could be (i.e. killing most of the life we know).  The floods, the melting of the ice, the wildfires – that all comes from what we did some years ago.

The conversation has gone on for far too long.  In 1972 the Stockholm Declaration first laid the foundations of contemporary environmental policy.  The first World Climate Conference was held in 1979.  Thirteen years later, the 1992 Earth Summit (dealing with the environment and sustainable development) was held in Rio de Janeiro.  Since then there has been a constant succession of conferences on development, climate and the environment, including the yearly Conferences of Parties (COP), the UN conferences on climate change.  The first COP conference was held in 1995.   1997 gave us the Kyoto Protocol, but it was another eight years before it came into force.

In 2015 Paris hosted COP21, ending with an agreement that the UK ratified in 2016.  In April 2018 it was announced that the UK would be the first major economy to examine how it would meet its commitments and review its long-term target to cut carbon emissions.

Later this year, Glasgow will host COP26.  Note the number: 26.  That’s how many times the ‘world’ (aka politicians and business leaders as well as environmentalists) have met to discuss the problem, and we are still nowhere near seriously addressing climate change.  The ideas are there. The proposals are there.  The ‘in-place-by’ dates are there.  Real actions are not so visible.

On May 1st 2019 the UK Parliament declared a climate change emergency.  Big deal?  No.  It simply demonstrated the will of the Commons on the issue, but it does not legally compel the government to act.  Environment Secretary Michael Gove acknowledged there was a climate “emergency” but did not back Labour’s demands to declare one.  In other words, we’ll make the right sounds but not implement the very necessary actions.

What about all the local authorities?  It seems they take things more seriously – or perhaps they are closer to the people.  According to a list dating from early February, 67 percent of District, County, Unitary and Metropolitan Councils have declared a Climate Emergency, plus 8 Combined Authorities/City Regions.  Many of those authorities have committed to target dates for net-zero emissions, ranging from 2030 to 2050.  This only applies to the authorities’ emissions, not the general public’s, but it does encourage us to follow their lead.

Among the declarations is Dorset Unitary Council.  However – and there is always an ‘however’, no target date for actions or results is given.  Seeing that the motion was backed by 69 councillors, with only two against and six abstentions, you would think they’d give a target date.  Again, right noises but little action.

Surely, politicians and global business should be taking note of what is already happening to the climate – while the UK was hit by weeks of storms and floods, Australia burned.  Yet Australia’s Prime Minister refused to accept those horrendous wildfires had anything to do with climate change.  For too many people, their lives were destroyed.  For the ‘climate deniers’ it is business as usual.  In the UK it means building more houses on flood plains and installing more of the same flood defences, despite the fact that they’re really not working any more.  And in case you didn’t know, in 2010 the Labour government’s plan for flood defences got cancelled by David Cameron’s austerity policy.  In Australia business as usual means carry on mining and exporting coal.

The Paris Agreement aimed at keeping the global warming to 1.5 degrees.  We can no longer achieve that.  Even keeping the warming to 2 degrees would require us to pretty well stop everything now.  The global refusal to actually act is putting us on course for 3-4 degrees warming; with sea levels rising and extreme weather events getting worse, we face chaos and disaster.  So – the target dates themselves are questionable.  For one thing, aiming to be ‘net-zero emissions’ by 2050 makes us think ‘we’ve got 30 years, no need to hurry.’  At least the EU is calling for a target date of 2030.

There’s every need to hurry.  Report after report is coming out from worried, despairing scientists, observing and recording how much more rapidly climate change is happening.  Everything is speeding up.  The latest news is that polar icecaps are melting 6 times faster than in the 1990s.  What climate action might have been expected to happen by 2040 could now happen by 2030 or 2025.   New models on climate sensitivity are showing big increases in global temperature.

Here and there authorities and courts are taking the right decisions, based on the rule that every decision, every development, must now take climate change into account.  Bristol Airport’s expansion plans were refused on ‘environmental grounds’ by local councillors.  A third runway for London Heathrow was ruled as illegal by the court of appeal, because ‘ministers did not adequately take into account the government’s commitments to tackle the climate crisis’.

Which puts Dorset Council in an awkward position.

They are being asked to approve a planning application  by South Western Energy Ltd. (SWEL) to ‘allow for the drilling of a single vertical well for the appraisal and production of oil, together with the establishment and construction of the site compound’  in the village of Puddletown.  If enough oil is found, they could be extracting it for the next 20-25 years.  That’s hardly going to help the UK’s ‘net zero emissions’ target of 2050.

With the climate emergency now being one of the main concerns of the public, it goes without saying that first in the queue of objectors were the parish council and residents of Puddletown.  It’s bad enough worrying about global climate change, but when one of the causes turns up on your doorstep that’s another matter entirely.  (It’s worth noting that fracking at various English sites, though given permission by the government, has so far failed to actually produce any gas, largely due to determined residents and their supporters getting in the way, plus some good science.)

SWEL’s justification is:

Oil is critical to transport requirements and will likely remain so in the near term as cars may be adapted to electrification and alternative fuels but aircraft, shipping, military vehicles and large goods vehicles are currently, due to their engine capacities, less adaptable to conversion.

Wrong.  Many manufacturers are already following that path.  DAF and Tesla are selling them, and as the Irish Baku transport team says:

The most exciting thing about the arrival of electric HGVs has to be the environmental benefit. Any truck that can produce zero carbon emissions over the course of its lifetime is a world-changing investment worth making.

It doesn’t mean electric HGVs will be here tomorrow, but they will be here and probably quicker than SWE would like to think.  As new cars are scheduled to be ‘all-electric’ by 2030 (and depending on climate events, that date might be sooner), then this well could prove to be ‘surplus to requirements’.

At a Council meeting on February 18th Kira Robinson, a member of XR, put a question to the councillors.  ‘This proposal,’ she said, ‘is obviously inconsistent with the Council’s efforts to move towards a more sustainable future for Dorset…. The Government’s own wildlife adviser, Natural England, Dorset Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency have all criticised the application’s flawed ecological assessments, especially regarding the threat of pollution to potable water supplies.

Apparently the drilling could go through one of the local aquifers, prompting people’s real concerns about potable water pollution.  SWEL promises to return the proposed site (currently part of an arable field) to its former state after drilling is finished – in two weeks, no less.  How will they repair the compacted soil that will have been contaminated and made inert by the surfacing materials?

Kira Robinson pointed out in her question to the Council that the Dorset Council’s draft 4-year plan had said “It is clear that the climate and ecological emergency must inform the council’s decisions and actions for the foreseeable future“.  Well, that didn’t last long.  The approved 4-year plan has watered that down to something meaningless.

In reply to her plea for the Council to show leadership in saying no to this proposal, the response from Cllr David Walsh leant heavily on ‘government policy’ on minerals and energy that, of course, the Council has to follow.  Not to do so would cost them money.  He said that ‘Dorset hosts nationally important energy minerals which society is still dependent upon until such times as human energy needs can be entirely decarbonised.’  The thing is, you encourage businesses to invest in renewables by not supporting new fossil fuel projects.  You can’t carry on as usual until energy is entirely decarbonised.  It doesn’t work that way.  But, claims Councillor Walsh:

Dorset Council is not in a position to refuse planning permission for oil and gas development on climate grounds. Furthermore, it is unlikely that Dorset Council would be able to change its local policies to resist hydrocarbon development on climate change grounds unless and until there is a change in national policy.

Poor powerless Council.  Not brave enough to do what the earth needs, not as brave as many authorities that are aiming to be net-zero by 2030, and certainly not as brave as Cheshire East Unitary authority that has a target date of 2025.

That all sounds terribly reasonable until one considers the facts that David (‘greenest government ever’ to ‘get rid of all the green crap’) Cameron’s government:

  • Cut down the feed-in tariffs for small solar panel installations in 2015, a real blow to people who wanted to go green but couldn’t afford the total cost.  Under Theresa May, tariffs were scrapped altogether in April 2019.
  • Also in 2015, the government introduced strict regulations which effectively banned onshore wind farms in England.  This year Boris Johnson has given the go-ahead for wind farms because the lower prices of wind farm energy makes it significantly cheaper than other forms of low-carbon electricity.  However, Scotland’s wind farms are way ahead, and are on track to supply 100 per cent of its needed electricity in 2020.

And, regardless of climate change, the Conservatives love fossil fuel (and, through their lobbyists, fossil fuel companies have a huge influence on their politics and policies) they:

  • Have consistently backed fracking and although that is confined to England and on hold, they would be quite happy to allow it in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty such as West Dorset.
  • Continue to subsidise fossil fuel companies at a bigger level than renewable energy, and spend more on fossil fuel than the rest of the EU.  Germany, for instance, provided the biggest energy subsidies, with €27bn for renewable energy, almost three times the €9.5bn given to fossil fuels.  And the UK’s nuclear energy has historically got more funding than renewables.
  • Give tax breaks to major oil companies.  According to DeSmog: ‘Since 2015, the Treasury has given the industry tax breaks worth £2.3 billion’.  DeSmog also reports that UK ‘is the worst of G7 countries for ‘hiding’ fossil fuel subsidies.
  • In 2018 a Platform report showed that, via the government’s Prosperity Fund, money earmarked to support overseas development had been spent on supporting China’s fracking industry, to the tune of £2 million.
  • The Prosperity Fund also financed oil and gas projects in India, Brazil and Mexico.  Twelve of the 16 fossil fuel projects funded by the Prosperity Fund reference the creation of “opportunities for international, including UK businesses”, or an “improved business environment” as an expected outcome.

And as Mike Small, editor of Bella Caledonia, wrote: In this week’s much celebrated budget we were told to expect a “Budget that put climate and environment first” but we got a fuel duty freeze and £27 billion more spent on roads”.  Roads mean vehicles, means petrol, means oil. 

Clearly, oil is there to be invested in, made money from by a chosen few.  The corporate world is not environment-friendly, nor apparently worried about the effects of climate change.  The environment-friendly Triodos Bank’s 2018 annual report. said that: ‘The world’s top banks have poured US$1.9 trillion into fossil fuels since the adoption of the Paris Agreement.’

And surely, if government bodies Natural England and the Environment Agency are strongly critical of the Puddletown proposal, one could and should claim they are also part of ‘government policy’.  They should be listened to.

Damien Carrington, writing in the Guardian, said that:

There is no deadline to save the world.  Everything we do now has to pass the climate test… Taken together, the justice and economic arguments make it imperative that every decision taken every day by governments, businesses and communities must pass the climate test: will it cut emissions? From power plants to buildings, transport to farming, projects commissioned today will be running well beyond 2030. (My emphasis)

But, while West Dorset people fight against the Puddletown oil well, others in Longburton in the northern part of West Dorset are fighting against a plan for a solar park. Puddletown wants to fight climate change, and protect its ecology and water.  Dorset is a good place for solar energy as it is, despite the endless rain over the winter, rated as the sunniest county in England, but Longburton doesn’t want its pretty rural views spoilt.  Climate change doesn’t come into it.  Hence Dorset Council’s dilemma.  If they back the solar park project and reject the oil well, they are recognising the climate emergency.  If they back the Puddletown oil well and reject the solar park, they are saying the climate emergency is unimportant.

And if they back both projects and reject both projects, the Council is suffering from a bad schizophrenic episode based solely on party ideology.

On Day One, the Next President Should Declare A Climate Emergency

The next president should declare a Climate Emergency, which will give the president powers to act rapidly and decisively to confront the climate crisis. The president should also create a cabinet-level Office of Climate Mobilization for the coordination of all federal agencies in mobilizing the nation’s resources to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions and 100% clean renewable energy by 2030.

On July 29, I signed the 350 Action’s Day One Pledge, which asks presidential candidates to take four steps their first day in office:

  1. Reject all new federally-approved coal, oil, gas, and other fossil fuel project permits.
  2. Phase out oil and gas drilling and fracking on public lands and off our coasts.
  3. Rejoin the Paris Climate Accord.
  4. Ask Congress to investigate the fossil fuel industry’s role in misleading the public and stalling climate action, and to prepare to hold the industry accountable.

I am still the only presidential candidate to have signed the pledge to date.

350 Action’s Day One Pledge is certainly a good start on climate action. I think their call for presidential actions to immediately curtail fracking and new fossil fuel projects is particularly important. Those actions are the immediate cutting-edge demands of the climate movement now.

If we don’t stop these projects, we will be locked into at least three or four decades of greenhouse gas emissions because that is how long investors expect to profit from their investments. If we let these projects develop – new fracked-gas and fracked-oil wells, pipelines to transport fracked gas and oil, gas-fired power plants, and more – it will be too late to stop a climate holocaust.

I believe the president should take more actions on Day One. My campaign platform goes much farther and is centered around an Ecosocialist Green New Deal, which includes an Economic Bill of Rights for economic and environmental justice as well as a Green Economic Reconstruction Program for zero emissions and 100% clean energy by 2030 in all productive sectors – agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, and buildings as well as electric power production.

Office of Climate Mobilization

On Day One, the president should ask Congress for the authority to set up a cabinet-level Office of Climate Mobilization to plan and coordinate among all federal agencies an emergency mobilization to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions and 100% clean energy by 2030.

The analogy here would be the Office of War Mobilization during World War II. The federal government nationalized or built a quarter of all US manufacturing capacity during the war in order to turn industry on a dime into the Arsenal of Democracy to defeat the fascist Axis powers. We need to do nothing less to defeat climate change.

Our ecosocialist Green New Deal would do one thing very differently. After World War II, the federal government handed back the war production facilities, many of them built at public expense, to the super-rich and their giant corporations. We will build and develop these Green New Deal factories as worker cooperatives so that everybody working in them receives their full, fair, and equitable share of the value they create with their labor.

Declare the Climate Crisis a National Emergency

On Day One, the next president should declare a Climate Emergency. The next president should seek the cooperation of Congress, but not be deterred from acting on the climate crisis if faced with another do-nothing Congress. By declaring the climate crisis a national emergency, the president is empowered by existing laws with many authorities to address the climate crisis without congressional approval.

Most of the emergency power legislation relates to threats to national security. Congressional, presidential, Pentagon, and intelligence reports and policy documents have identified climate change as a national security threat since 1990, with increasing urgency as the years have gone by.

The climate-change deniers in the Trump administration may have deleted climate change from the list of national security threats in their National Defense Strategy documents since 2017, but if the fact-challenged Trump administration can declare an emergency to divert military funds to an unneeded wall on the Mexican border, the next president will have far more grounds in government reports and policy documents for declaring a climate emergency.

What could the president do with emergency powers? Some lawyers have begun to look into this, and here are some of the powers they think the president would have:

  • Reorganize the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), now captured by the fossil fuel industry, into the Federal Renewable Energy Commission (FREC) with the new mission of enabling a rapid shift to clean renewable energy.
  • Divert military construction funds to building clean renewable energy.
  • Suspend oil leases because they add to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Use emergency powers to respond to industrial shortfalls to support clean renewable energy.
  • Extend loan guarantees to critical industries to support renewable energy.
  • Instruct the Department of Transportation to use its broad power to “coordinate transportation” during national emergencies to restrict gasoline-powered truck and vehicle transportation while expanding electrified rail transportation.
  • Use US votes in the IMF and World Bank to ban funding for fossil fuel projects.
  • Declare a ban on eminent domain for fossil fuel infrastructure.
  • Mandate that federal agencies weigh the climate impact of their decisions.
  • Reward proposals for government contracts based on their impact on climate change
  • Instruct the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require corporations to disclose their vulnerability to climate impacts.
  • Close the loophole in EPA regulations that exempts agribusiness from reporting the greenhouse gas emissions of cattle, unlike other agricultural products.
  • Require projects subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires analysis and mitigation of environmental impacts, to include measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmental Justice and a Global Green New Deal

From Day One, the next president should also prioritize using the public money spent on climate action to uplift the economies of poor communities by spending the funds directly on projects in those areas under community direction instead of passing the funds through state governments that have neglected these communities.

From Day One, the next president should ask Congress to appropriate funds for a Just Transition for workers and communities who lose jobs and tax revenues due to economic conversion to demilitarized green production in the military, fossil fuel, and other economic sectors. The Just Transition should guarantee five years of wage, benefit, and local tax revenue maintenance as the country transitions to a clean energy and demilitarized economy. In the meantime, the president should use the powers and resources available under an emergency declaration to support a Just Transition for workers and communities.

From Day One, the next president should advocate for and contribute substantial resources to a Global Green New Deal, where the rich countries help the poor countries develop by jumping over the 19th century fossil age into the 21st century solar age. The solution to the climate crisis will be international, or there won’t be a solution.

Replacing the climate-denier-in-chief now occupying the White House is only the first step. Brazil’s aggressive deforestation of the Amazon is a carbon climate bomb. China is building 700 coal plants along its Belt and Road Initiative. The Gulf autocracies are mobilized politically across the world to stop any transition away from oil and gas. Russia just launched a barge with the first of at least seven planned floating nuclear power stations to power its massive expansion of offshore oil and gas extraction in the Arctic Ocean.

The next president will have to employ an aggressive and sophisticated mix of diplomatic and economic incentives to help the whole world commit to a rapid transition to clean energy and climate safety. The US will find many allies among most of the countries of the world who have pushed for much more aggressive climate action in the UN-sponsored climate summits. These nations include most of the poor countries that are bearing the most immediate and biggest burdens of climate change. The climate change already baked in by greenhouse gas in the atmosphere now means it is already too late for some of the island nations. Twenty-four of the world’s 33 largest river deltas are already being damaged by rising seas, adversely affecting 500 million people. The UN forecasts up to 1 billion climate refugees by 2050 who will be forced to move due to rising seas, excessive heat, or drought in their home communities.

Trade agreements and a carbon tax, which serves as a tariff on high-carbon imports, will be part of the policy mix. The massive public investments needed for the energy revolution will be a huge economic stimulus and a big incentive for countries to join in the economic boom of converting all productive systems to zero emissions and clean power, from regenerative agriculture and zero-waste manufacturing to electrified transportation and green buildings. We must also realize that this kind of global investment and coordination will require an international ecosocialist economic democracy where productive facilities are largely socially owned and democratically administered to meet the basic needs of all within ecological limits.

The ruling classes of many powerful countries with vested interests in fossil fuels will resist. But there are more of us than there are of them. We cannot leave our futures in their hands anymore if we want to survive.

That is a tall order compared to signing on to 350 Action’s Day One Pledge of minimal commonsense climate actions. But none of the major party candidates have signed yet. That is just another case in point for why we need Green Party candidates campaigning for real solutions – because the major parties do not.

Water, Water, Water: War Against Humanity

Capitalism is broken. It is like a gun pointed at the heart of the planet. And it’s got these characteristics which mean that it will essentially, necessarily destroy our life support systems. Among those characteristics are the drive for perpetual economic growth on a finite planet. You just can’t support that ecologically. Things fall apart. It also says, well, anyone has got a right to buy as much natural wealth as their money allows, which means that people are just grabbing far more natural wealth than either the population as a whole or the planet itself can support.

— George Monbiot

Below a short piece I wrote for the Newport (OR) News Times. Sort of like shadow boxing, writing traditional news pieces to at least prop up some of the deep deep issues tied to broken Capitalism.

Note that capitalism would never be allowed in the article, let alone the reality of how broken capitalism is. Imagine, the pigs in politics, the war mongers, the Venezuela wannabe killers, all those elites running their mouths and groins in their spasms of narcissism.

Imagine how many communities in the USA are failing, near failing, about to fail, because the billionaires and the war mongers and the Industrial Complex of felons — pharma, ed, legal, finance, IT, AI, insurance, banking, energy, chemicals, prisons, ag — are hell bent on abandoning any humanity in their insanity and their sick elitism and their bizarre anti-people and community logic.

Thousands of dams about to fail in the USA. Water systems that shoot out lead and a thousand other chemicals that kill brains and DNA. Imagine the conservative society of civil engineers giving the USA a D- for infrastructure. Imagine the failing education system. Imagine the mass murdering media following all the dog nose in rear end stories.

This story, of course, is about $70 million a city is supposed to get for a failing duo of earthen dams. Newport on the Cascadia Subduction Zone, where an earthquake will set off many other earthquakes and tsunamis.

The whole lovely Oregon Coastline will turn into a McCormac “The Road” dystopia.

The UN recently sounded the alarm that urgent action is needed if Arab states are to avoid a water emergency. Water scarcity and desertification are afflicting the Middle East and North Africa more than any other region on Earth, hence the need for countries there to improve water management. However, the per capita share of fresh water availability there is already just 10 percent of the global average, with agriculture consuming 85 percent of it.

Another recent study has linked shrinking Arctic sea ice to less rain in Central America, adding to the water woes in that region as well.

There you have it — the stupidity of this country flailing about the world with empire on steroid and smart phones, and every community in the USA is facing sea ice inundation problems because those communities near the oceans have a heck of a lot of influence on the rest of the middle of America. Money money money — and the spigots go right to the pockets of the Fortune 1000 and the Aspen Institute fellows and the Davos crowd.

So, on a community level, Newport faces big issues because the dams will fail and the cascading disasters of no water for months will cause disease and depopulation.

Ironies beyond ironies. We will NOT stop pumping emissions into the air. Read Jamail’s piece above, “The Last Time There Was This Much CO2, Trees Grew at the South Pole.”  Science. Reality.

The schizophrenia of the rich and deplorables backing trump or pelosi or biden or any of the two manure pile candidates yet every community faces kissing bugs invading, housing crisis after rental crisis, wage theft, huge thefts of human futures. Billions of people on earth stolen. So the rich and the sick people on FOX and CNN get off on the chaos they set forth.

From River to TapNewport’s Water System is an Engineering Miracle Delivering a Fragile, Vulnerable Resource to us All

Newport’s state of the art water treatment plant along Big Creek impressed the mayor and some of the council-members as we toured the facility after a presentation on the very real future water crisis that could befall not just Newport, but all the towns serviced by the water facility.

The message was clear from Newport’s Public Works Director: a new dam has to be built for the public’s health, safety and economic welfare. The public works director emphasized that 10,000 residents of Newport use water, but also another 40,000 additional temporary residents also suck up the water during tourist season. Add to that 50,000 number the huge seasonal water demands of the fishing industry and year-round clean water needs of the Rogue Nation brewery.

“In the event of an earthquake, the dams most likely could fail,” Tim Gross said. “We are looking at two to six months after a major Cascadia event (fault line earthquake) to rebuild a dam and replace the infrastructure that supplies water.”

He likened a dam failure here to what happened after Hurricane Katrina – people left the city, and millions upon millions of dollars in GDP were lost. “If the dams fail, it would be hard for this community to recover.”

There are projected population growths of 30 percent or more for Newport by 2030, and a new brewery in the works, so in reality, water demand will possibly double. Much of what Gross presented to the 20 or so people attending April 29th’s Town Hall at the Water Plant was pretty “technical” in a geo-engineering way, but the overarching message was clear.

Each year delayed on construction adds a few million dollars more added in inflationary costs. “I’ve been working on this for eight years,” he said. “This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”

Council-member David Allen emphasized that Senate Bill 894, sponsored by Sen. Roblan and Rep. Gomberg, was just referred to the Ways and Means Committee. It’s a $44 million general fund grant to be put forward for this project.

The reality is four years of geotechnical work already invested to study the two dams’ subsurface conditions point to the same thing – “the soils under both dams fail in a 3.5 earthquake.” This is spongy soil holding back millions of gallons of water;  that is, it’s “silty sand, clayey silt, and silty clay alluvium overlying Nye Mudstone.”

The failure probability for these two dams giving out 60-feet down and then causing overspills is high in a rather low intensity 3.5 (on the Richter scale) quake.

We all know about the Cascadia Subduction Zone, and the hundreds of faults that spiderweb throughout the coast, from sub-sea land masses to the coastal and beyond terrestrial areas. Our communities have various disaster preparedness plans tied to earthquakes and resulting tsunamis.

No amount of food and water will suffice, however, if the toilets can’t be flushed and water won’t be piped into sinks for months on end. It’s the resulting disasters that truly affect a community after the initial impact of a natural calamity such as a quake and tsunami.

Ironically, Gross stated that a three-day study workshop in October 2018 “was a career highlight for me . . . working with these people . . . the smartest people I have ever met.”  The experts looked at studies, projections and cost estimates for a new dam coming in at $70 million. For Gross (and others), there are basic questions surrounding a $70 million project to build an RCC (roller compacted concrete) dam between both the existing earth dams on Big Creek:

  1. What will work?
  2. How much will it cost to maintain?
  3. Will it be resilient?

We’re talking about two earthen dams built in 1951 and 1955 and dozens of geophysical tests on site and in the laboratory, with some pretty high-power members of the international community who study dams, seismic events on infrastructure, and others who have dam remediation and building in their portfolios.

Other options like rebuilding or rehabilitating the two dams or constructing a desalinization plant or even building a new dam miles away at Rocky Creek are off the table. The only thing really in play is Alternative Six: No Action, which is still an option the City has to weigh against the possible risk of losing the only drinking water source for Newport in case of a seismic event.

Ironically, a new embankment dam (not a great choice) would require 10,000 truck trips to bring in materials; 30,000 truck trips for a new earthen dam, all of which would ruin a community the size of Newport. This RCC dam proposal, however, requires less construction materials and would be utilizing some old logging roads. The project is outlined in many phases, including building a road around Big Creek, building a water pipeline to allow for water to be continuously supplied to users during construction, then building the dam, and doing stream restoration.

In the end, the plant manager, Steve Stewart, who has worked for the Public Works Department 30 years, makes a plain selling point – “I love my job because I like providing a clean product to the community. I drink it out of the tap every day and am proud of what we do here.”

Gross emphasized that many Oregon communities are facing similar challenges with aging dams needing replacing. The biggest and least expensive push for Gross is getting the community behind conservation, and, more importantly, gaining an appreciation that water is always available and can’t be taken for granted.  Newport is part of the Mid-Coast Water Planning Partnership which is a group of 70 entities and stakeholders representing diverse water interests in the region from Cascade Head to Cape Perpetua. The group’s goal is to not only understand water resources and create an integrated plan, but to carry forth on better water management in the region over the next 50 years.

So, yes, milquetoast in some ways, the piece above, but how else can this stuff get through . . . and this is the reality of mainstream America and even small town news — never ever question the business community, the timber industry, the fish industry, even the oh-so hip beer and ale community. You see, we have to work on bio-regionalism and stopping the unchecked growth in communities that can’t weather the current storm of neoliberalism and assault capitalism, let alone the future implosions of climate change and in our case, earthquakes!

Worse yet, though, and no matter how much George Monbiot or Dahr Jamail or Bill McKibbeon or any one that is part of the Extinction Rebellion or even ecosocialists like myself to realize it’s game over. Simple stuff, stopping more liquefied natural gas trains, pipelines, ports and ships crossing the seas to move that fossil fuel to the engines of consumption.

Coos Bay, Oregon, and this project, Jordan Cove LNG, is emblematic of the broken systems of capitalism and the broke pipes of compliant democracy. Here:

Headline — “Coos Bay Braces for Jordan Cove Impacts.” Imagine that, we are still attempting to stop those mafia style energy companies, trying to get our own state to stop this project, but it’s all theater, and the provokers purveyors of this sickness — multiple corporations, transnational banking, etc. — don’t give a shit about the environmental and economic breakdown of all these ships criss-crossing. We are addicted to fossil fuel and oil, to the point as a species we will give up water and food — pink shrimp, Dungeness crab, halibut and salmon, for the turn of a shekel:

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is expected to issue a final decision on the Jordan Cove LNG terminal and pipeline project early next year.

The Coos Bay Channel widening project is not as far along in the regulatory process. Earlier this month, the port hit the “90% design” milestone in completing their permit application. An Army Corps of Engineers spokesman said they don’t expect to have the Draft Environmental Impact Statement completed until March 2020.

Port CEO John Burns says the channel-widening project is the next big step for the port, which hopes to attract larger vessels and more shipping traffic overall.

“We look at the global Maritime Fleet, the size of ships. If we were going to be an international player we’ve got to be able to at least bring in ships of that size,” Burns said. “Otherwise, we will not be competitive with other ports on the West Coast.”

The project would significantly widen and deepen a little more than 8 miles of the Coos Bay shipping channel. Currently the channel is 350 feet wide and 37 feet deep. The new plan would widen the channel to 450 feet and 45 feet deep. The spoils would be dumped at a site offshore.

Regardless, the physical characteristics of Coos Bay would change significantly if the projects go through. The port’s proposed channel widening project would remove enough earth to fill a football field-sized skyscraper the height of Mount Bachelor. Add the fill Jordan Cove needs to remove for its project, and that shaft of earth rises higher than Mount Hood.

Federal environmental reports for Jordan Cove and a previous Coos Bay dredging project characterize the ecological, water quality and hydrologic impacts as temporary and within reasonable limits.

Thus, we are cooked, because we have trained PR spinners and bloodless engineers and financial creeps and legal felons in our elite schools and other schools to live in a world with no ethics other than getting the most our of earth as quickly as possible. They end up as government shills and they end up as these pigs running Jordan Cove.

Project after project like this is unfolding now and for the future. Not just the USA, but Russia and China and Europe and Canada and Australia and Japan. It’s not about retrenchment, but energy for more fabrication of a false humanity, for more pies in the sky — hell ships to Mars, the Moon, to asteroids, while a majority on earth can’t even collect clean water daily. Imagine that, we have allowed the schools, colleges, media, military, government, punishment sectors of our so-called advanced Western world, and those in the Far East, to sink ecosystems, which in turn, sinks communities Big Time.

Polluted minds with hubris dripping out of their veins and orifices is what the new normal is for so-called CEOs, public servants (disservants) and public “intellectuals” like Gates (sic).

Citizens against LNG or Jordan Cove are small in numbers because of the deplorable thinking processes people have garnered from deplorable media and deplorable parenting and deplorable jobs and deplorable politicians and deplorable Americanism — hence, there are a shit-load of deplorables out there ready to sacrifice food and water for a job!

Hundreds protest Veresens Jordan Cove LNG Open House Events

You won’t see Naomi Klein or the stars of the New Green Deal tackle the very real battles going on now in community after community, which is how capitalism has always worked — divide and conquer, propaganda on steroids, military and police strong arming, legal entrenchment, political pimping and prostituting: by the corporations the polluters, the murderers.

Schizophrenia — Democracy Now

On Wednesday, the House of Commons became the first parliament in the world to declare a climate emergency. This is Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn.

“We have no time to waste. We are living in a climate crisis that will spiral dangerously out of control unless we take rapid and dramatic action now. This is no longer about a distant future. We’re talking about nothing less than the irreversible destruction of the environment within our lifetimes of members of this house.”

It is highly significant, because it provides leverage for people like myself, for people like Extinction Rebellion, the youth climate strikers, to actually say, “Well, now you MPs, you members of Parliament, have declared a climate emergency; you have to act on it.” And, of course, it’s not clear that they’ve completely thought through the implications of this. I mean, on the same day, yesterday, that this climate emergency was declared, there was a legal ruling saying a third runway at Heathrow Airport can go ahead. Well, look, this is an emergency. And that means we need to start retiring fossil fuel-based infrastructure rather than building more of it.

The major banks, the oil companies, the politicians in the pockets of banks and oil companies, the military industrial-services-delivery-marketing complex, the Trumps and the Bidens, the entire mess that is American bullshit bifurcation of brain cells —  I will fight for the good of my rich kids and family to be free of pollution, to be well cared for, well educated (sic), blessed (sic) with opportunities to make money and live in safe neighborhoods and see the world and dodge taxes . . .  but the pain, suffering, slavery, pollution, despair, displacement, well, that’s all good for my corporation’s marks:  those  tired, your poor,  huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, the homeless, tempest-tost.

The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

immigrants seeing the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper

The Challenge of Cleaning up Toxic Sites Is More Complex Than We Might Hope

Note: I enjoy intersecting with scientists who are associated with universities that are now struggling to keep afloat, for many reasons to include the rise of the admin class, deanlets, non-academic departments, states lowering the matching rate to pay for faculty, presidents of universities making way too much money but throwing more at the athletic departments; and, alas, these vibrant and fully-packed schools — supposedly the smartest and brightest —  have continuously sold out by taking bribe money from major corporations to shunt true research away from the capitalists’ intended and unintended crimes of their engines of profit.

I think, though, it’s good to shift from my radicalized (root deep) perspective and narrative to a more down played newspaper style. I have sent this to the editor of the newspaper I have been working with to promote environmental concerns in the area I know call home — since December 2018.

So, here, a story that on the surface is a sciency piece to bring the small communities that read the newspaper a chance at seeing some of the super stars at the university — home of the beavers — that is 50 miles away as a main campus and with a marine sciences teaching and research facility in the town of Newport:

The Challenge of Cleaning up Toxic Sites Is More Complex Than We Might Hope

Analytical and organic chemistry were on display April 25 in Newport, and as a science buff and former science reporter, I find it fascinating to glean from a Ph.D.’s rarefied research pertinent information for the lay person. In this case, the average reader of the Times-News.

For one Oregon State University chemist — who was once a research scientist for Proctor and Gamble before her current 16 years at OSU — the big question she is preoccupied with ties into thousands of remediation sites in the country: Is the remediation making these sites more toxic?

For our Newport area, the public is lucky to have researchers, experts, artists and others speak about their research and projects at the Hatfield Marine Sciences Center. One such speaker, Staci Simonich, OSU VP for Research Operations & Integrity and chemistry professor, presented her deep study into a by-product of the incomplete combustion of organic matter.

Simonich’s research presentation, “Is Remediation Worth It?:  The Potential for Remediation to Make Soils and Waterways More Toxic,” has huge implications for every American since, first, what she’s studying —  Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) — are ubiquitous and are known carcinogens and disruptors of DNA, as in producing birth defects. Second, we pay billions a year to clean up sites contaminated with PAH’s vis-à-vis industries associated with fossil fuel and coal extraction, processing and burning.

The OSU chemist, who supports a cadre of graduate students also researching PAHs, posits an age-old question: Is the cure worse than the disease?

Her team’s research is both compelling and, in some sense, earth shattering in a world of continued growth of industrialization, the burning of biomass (forests, jungle), and fossil fuel production processes such as hydraulic fracturing, AKA fracking.

“Our results to date indicate that previously unidentified PAH breakdown products form in the environment and during remediation of Superfund sites,” she states.  “As the research continues, we will be able to assess which remediation technologies minimize their formation and if they pose a hazard to human health.”

The chemistry is somewhat straightforward – in the lab. However, “we are hoping to try to understand the transformation process of PAHs in a highly complex media – soil.” Deploying the fields of toxicology and chemistry will help engineers to understand what is causing the toxicity to stay the same or go up even after bioremediation.

These aromatic compounds are also found in cigarette smoke, car exhaust and in the smoke (and food) of barbecuing foods. The leeching out of soils into waterways is one way they bioaccumulate in the food-web.

In the end, for the average person, the lifetime cancer risks and the best bang for the buck are two overriding concerns. Oil spills on land and in water are regular occurrences – thousands and thousands a year, not of the Exxon Valdez or Gulf Coast variety and size. Many compounds are formed from the chemical evolutionary process of remediating a fouled site.

Simonich stated that we just do not know the toxicity of these metabolites created in the process of bioremediation.

The cheapest and most effective is composting using all sorts of complex organic substances mixed into the contaminated soil. Included in the clean-up process is biostimulation, bioaugmentation, phytoremediation at the site.

“There is no magic bug to cleaning up a site. In most cases, there are decreases in toxicity but not to a safe level,” she told the audience.

One area she and her students have studied is the SEE method of dealing with contaminated sites – steam enhanced extraction. There is an injection well, where steam is pumped in, turning into hot water that then moves the oil through the transportation process underground where the oil/water mix can then be pumped out. “The steam enhanced extraction process could increase toxicity,” she warned.

We also have to dispose of the water/oil mixture once pumped out.

Luckily for chemists like Simonich, they can get DNA and birth defect results from some of these remediated soils’ toxicity levels not through human subjects but by using a zebra-fish specifically raised to test developmental toxicity.

Here, the hours past fertilization tell an interesting story about cell damage, or genes that have been knocked out because of, say, soil contaminated by coal tar which is a big issue for the southeast.

As common as electrical and cable poles are in Lincoln County, many readers might not realize there is an unintended cancer causing consequence of the chemical treatment of wooden poles to keep them from rotting and decaying. Creosote is a culprit in many sites across the country where the soil is polluted through production and application of the substance.

For instance, the poison — a dark brown oil distilled from coal tar and used as a wood preservative containing a number of phenols, cresols, and other organic compounds – seeps into the soil initiating what Staci Simonich focuses on:  the measurement, fate, transport, and toxicity of PAH transformation products during remediation and atmospheric transport.

Another huge concern is the long-range transportation the North America relies on for goods coming from Asia. A typical trip for a container ship from say, Xiamen, China, to Oakland or Seattle, takes 19 days. The amount of smoke – containing many of the main 16 PAHs – is astronomical.

The implications are vast, as the wind currents move the particulates eastward where they end up precipitating out along the Pacific Coast range, and beyond, due to the cold condensation process. So Chinese diesel smoke from container ships ends up leaching out into our soils and waterways, again, affecting the health of both humans and non-humans alike.

I posed a question to her about just how safe are all the brownfields redeveloped throughout the USA – old railroad yards, mill and factory sites that have been in disuse and then re-purposed for prime real estate planned developments as more and more cities shift from manufacturing to services.

The chemist winced some, nodded her head, and basically indicated that we have no idea just what new compounds and off-shoots have been percolating through the soils and just how hazardous to human development and health they might be.

Staci Simonich Lab

End note: So, as many of my friends have stated, why is it us, the average person, who has to pay both the ecological/health costs of these capitalist systems as well as pay to mitigate the other parts of attempting to clean up the toxic mess?

We can’t blame China, when corporations have made a million Faustian Bargains with insane business leaders and greedy rich people who will capitalize on any means necessary to corner markets, kill competition, thwart ecosocialism, squeeze local economies, bring human suffering through unchecked mining, harvesting, burning and drives for more and more economies of scale business mispractices.

I will remind my readers that we have so many cascading issues at hand, beyond the existential crisis of global warming/world without ice.   We have microplastics in every human’s feces and have zero idea what that means to the human physiology. We have the kissing bug moving north in the USA, a seemingly benign insect story, right? Fueled by global warming in the USA

Benign? And, the conservative scientists are not yet going to hands down say the spread of the species into the USA starting in 1880 and now moving north to northern states is a result of climate change. Alas, this is why many in the world I align with are so skeptical of the sciences and the academics arena where science is touted but not politicized, which it should be!

Triatomine bugs, more commonly known as kissing bugs, are called as such because of their behavior of biting humans in the face, particularly near the mouth or eyes, and often when the human is sleeping.

Kissing bugs are common in places with warmer climates such as in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Australia, but they have since been spotted in many U.S. states. In particular, kissing bugs have been spotted in southern states since the 1800s, but recently they are also being observed in northern states as well.

Unfortunately, the insects are carriers of Chagas disease, which is a condition that can cause fever, mild swelling, or in some cases inflammation of the heart or brain muscles. If left untreated, it can enter a chronic phase and even last for a lifetime.

The infection, however, does not come from the bite itself, but from the fecal matter of the insect, which gets smeared at the wound when the bitten person scratches.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 300,000 people with Chagas Disease in the United States, but that the number may be rising. Most of the cases are of people who got the infection after living in or traveling to South or Central America. As such, the agency has since set up education courses about Chagas disease for physicians and nurses.

As I teach and write a short book on the hazards of bad education, and the good, bad and ugly of US public education, I understand there are massive shifts in the way people think, or can’t think. “The Road Beckons” in Counterpunch:

Although I often took my students’ anti-intellectualism personally, I knew that their attitudes had developed in an accommodating milieu. Beginning roughly with the Reagan years, the colleges and universities transformed themselves into business-like corporations: marketing experts, corporate titles for academic officers, patent shopping, shilling for business paraded as public interest research, distance “learning,” grotesquely high salaries for those who bring in the most money, million-dollar coaches, education as product, students as consumers, the de-funding of the humanities and social sciences, and the general cheapening of learning. As business values consumed the colleges, class sizes shot up and more part-timers were hired. To compensate for lower pay and harder work, teachers began to cut corners, dumbing-down their classes in the process. This meant that less competent teachers could be hired, and this fit in nicely with the work-averse attitudes of so many students. Students flocked to easy teachers and soft majors, like business and communications, and the schools got worse and worse.

Inherently true is the fact that we again, simple bright people that we are, have to pay the ferryman — business, war lords, toll-tax-fine collectors — to live, and that living is now on a razor’s edge, so much closer to everyone in the world now being born mutated, knocked off genes, continual chronic illness and chronic way of thinking. Here, farmer, older than I am, Joe, from Merced, California:

Paul

The thing that chaps my balls the most is how Fukashima along with an estimated 450 plants worldwide along with 60 under construction,* each one a potential environmental nightmare long after man has gone the way of the buffalo, has fallen completely off the environmental communities radar. This atomic nightmare from Hell brought to us by those that bring good things to life/GE, is rarely talked about even among the most devote environmentalists. Many in the environmental community look to nuclear as being part of a green solution. It’s fine tuned insanity. Fukashima will continue to pollute the ocean long after today’s children are dead and gone, spewing its radiation like a drunken sailor on shore leave spews his puke.

And the other thing that really twists my nuts in a knot is how these corporations that cause all these environmental nightmares are let completely off the hook for the cleanup of their messes. Everyone of the corporations are LLC’s, limited liability corporations, that in the event that they truly fuck the goose that laid the golden egg to death, are allowed to file bankruptcy and reform as a new entity, leaving the victims to deal with the results of their negligence. The CEO’s and the top brass of these corporations make out like bandits. Hell they don’t even cover their faces with bandanas anymore while they hold you at gun point. PG&E is doing that right now in California. Look back at every super screw-up by these corporations and you’ll see it’s the people effected by their misdeeds along with the taxpayers that pickup the tab.

My objection to the Green New Deal is that it shouldn’t be up to us to pay for the GND but rather the corporations that have taken us to the brink of collapse. Those are the ones that should have their assets confiscated to pay for the GND. They’ve screwed the public for their profit seeking for years. Now it’s time for the public to make love to them against their will. The public as you have said before Paul, didn’t get to vote to have our water destroyed, our air polluted, our oceans filled with plastic, the people that benefited from foisting this shit on us shouldn’t get to vote on us confiscating their assets to clean up what they created.

I’ve written about it before, being verbally attacked at the farmer’s market one day for questioning the idea of people running to raise money for breast cancer victims. My question to the attacker was why don’t you run to raise money to hold the corporations that create the conditions that cause cancer accountable and throw their sorry asses in jail? Prevention is worth a pound of cure right? Why won’t the public hold these profiteers accountable? It was as though I killed a government mule, having the audacity to criticize people trying to help the victims of cancer.

I don’t pretend to have any answers, but until as Geoff Beckman today quotes, H.L. Mencken who wrote, “Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats.”

I know of no greater group of people deserving of such a destiny than the corporate oligarchy and their minions in government.

Joe

So, the corporations need their Little Eichmanns to succeed and to formulate their schemes at indenturing most of us to their dirty, greedy, illegal and unethical practices. And now, the marketing of the environmental crisis, and it’s rarely now the crises of pollution, fence line communities sucking in all the vapors of plastics and polymers. Rarely do we care about the hundreds of thousands of carcinogens spit out through industrial capitalism. Rarely do we think what it means to have nanoparticles coursing through our bodies, messing with glands and nervous systems and crossing the blood-brain barrier.

The horrors a bigger and more tied to the technological enslavement we have allowed ourselves to live under than the bleaching coral reefs. All bad, but imagine, how many more percentage-wise people on planet earth born with more and more mutated genes and expressions of chronic mental, intellectual and physical disease.

For a bit of anti-NGD ending, John Steppling:

Our thought, so enslaved to instrumental logic, a logic that demands even superficial and meaningless *solutions*, cannot conceive a Nature that is not a colonial externality. That Nature, that which ostensibly everyone is trying to save (except for those who aren’t) seems just out of mental reach. The Garden of Eden story is very telling in a sense here. The cultic think is one that reflexively tolerates brutality and even fascist domination if it helps save the planet. That is certainly the way the marketing of new green projects sees it — lesser evil-ism in a sense, with apocalyptic overtones. And with every new threat or prediction the bourgeoisie double down on repressing their own terror, and double down projecting it outward onto those who will not fall in line. Nature, the planet Nature, is increasingly abstracted and these adumbrated narratives or story-lines are scanned and their linkage to the economic engine of society is repressed, pushed ever further back out of conscious reflection. The cultic neo New Age concerns for humanity have compartmentalized to such a degree that even ongoing Western genocides are barely mentioned. The economic logic of Capital has subsumed notions of a future, of value and concern and care and empathy. Saving the planet means tolerating the lesser evil. It is the derivatives market logic in a certain sense.

The possible is only found through de-organizing the instrumental. I fear the right image might trigger mass executions — not by the state (though that, too, I suppose) but by the bourgeoisie, the white concerned American.

Tidepools, Dungeness Crabs, Serenity-Fed Beaches and Recreation a Thing of the Past?

There is no greater failure than the failure to respond to this ecological crisis. We need a wartime-speed mobilization and a just transition to race to zero greenhouse gas emission and to take carbon out of the atmosphere in order to restore a safe climate. We are called to heroism in this hour of grave consequences. We still have an opportunity to fight for all humanity and all life on Earth to avert the worst of the disaster as it is still technically and economically possible.

— Bill Kucha, founder of 350 Oregon Central Coast

Sometimes being a journalist and fiction writer puts me in a compelling world of everyone else’s narratives and predicaments. Small towns, flyover states, even countries like Mexico and Vietnam where the average Western reader holds some bizarre beliefs about the places and the people. The universal truths, though, abound, especially in small towns. I have a deep well of respect for people I just meet but get to know deftly, and this idea that small towns have small town thinkers is balderdash.

These people I meet on my journey keep me going on, even though I know we are cooked as a society (planet), as well as all modern cultures, because of the convalescing power of 7.8 billion people on earth ravaging, pillaging and trashing the planet in a race for more, more, more incubated in and encouraged by the insanity of religions and economic systems that have cemented the me-myself-and-I egocentricity into each generation, here and now and into those yet born.

I’m in Otis, Oregon, a spit of a town near Lincoln City in the county of the same name, along the Central Coast of Oregon, a most gorgeous and biodynamic place. So breathtaking that these towns of Newport, Depoe Bay, Yachats and Lincoln City are magnets for those dreaded invasives called California Erectus.

Last week (Jan. 14-19) I ended up at a nighttime lecture series at a small community college, Oregon Coast CC, for a lecture by two divergent characters, Bill Kucha, an artist and environmental activist strumming his folk guitar and slide-projecting some of his canvas art, and then first with Evan Hayduk, restoration specialist with the Midcoast Watersheds Council.

Hayduk had his Power Point all warmed up to tell the 50-plus attendees the challenges to this central coast with inundation from melting waters caused by global warming. This lecture was wonky and science driven, a good way to contrast a science team’s work through the auspices of a non-profit environmental group, and the work of the artist, Bill, who had been a teacher at the small community college since 1976.

See the source image

The entire suite of issues surrounding the impacts of climate change/warming are interesting for many of us who like to drill down into ecosystems challenges/forces/impacts generated by humans as we utilize some heady (and indigenous people’s) systems thinking approaches to figuring just how quickly and messily the impending distruptions to civilization and natural systems will face us down.

Tidal wetlands were part of the main course in this scientific evening, and Hayduk and his small team have looked at the sea level rise (SLR) predictions as they will play out in some of Oregon’s 23 central coast estuaries. These are unique ecosystems that provide so much for humanity, to include the beauty of the varied and strangely adapted flora and fauna, but also the water filtering and tidal surge buffering benefits for all living things.

DriftCr_2013_Mar_29_10719.jpg

Evan made it clear early on that two-thirds of shrub and forested marshes have been lost due to human development – farms, homes, roads, industries and logging. The fight – if it is even a legit tussle – is to work on what will happen to the tidal Sitka spruce and forested swamps over the course of 150 years, where the projected (very conservative) sea level rise will be eleven and a half feet (11.5 feet) by 2060 (why the climate scientists always feed us conservative projections I still do not fathom).

These swamps in the estuary life zone are vital to the nursery environment of protected waterways for Chinook, chum, and Coho salmon as well as for sole, anchovy and shellfish when they are vulnerable small fry. Imagine, plowing-over and diking-away these truly amazing ecosystems that are positive carbon sinks, help reduce flooding from storm surges, and provide filtered water from creeks and rivers coming to the sea from higher up and deep in the Oregon Central coast highlands and mountains.

The crowd was compliant and attentive, and again, after more than 40 years in the trenches around conservation-environmental activism and all the other aspects of my life galvanized to social justice, restorative justice, poverty, policing, education and imperialism, I get a déjà vu from the same good people and well-intended projects mired in the cesspool that is corporate control of all ecosystems, all urban and rural planning opportunities, and all of our citizen rights to health, happiness, and safety.

Preaching to the choir is one term people use, and this night it was the choir that was hopeful that some good and dramatic change might occur through the work of guys like Hayduk and the artistic philosophy of Bill Kucha.

The proposal was clear: strategic planning and working with shutting down the harvesting and clear cutting of forests owned by private entities (40% of Oregon forests are held privately). Evan repeated that 35 percent of Oregon’s carbon emissions come about because of the poor forest practices of the state’s mostly evergreen woods.

Carbon released into the atmosphere, and its relationship to melting ice and larger ocean waves and more turgid, unpredictable weather systems is rock hard in the evidentiary trail, even given how ignorant politicians are around the entire climate change issue. It seems baby steps are for this existential crisis, however, here on the Oregon Coast, the Oregon State marine sciences wonks have been studying the Newport line, a geographic pathway from Newport out into the ocean, now going on sixty years. The work is a concerted study of ocean acidification, dead zones (oxygen-free sections of the ocean bottom), parasitic and deadly algae blooms and the amount of non-point pollution coming off roads, industries, clear cuts and agriculture. From an article written Feb. 2018, the reporter is detailing the great work and early beginnings of this Newport Line:

The existence of the Newport Line was critical in bringing to the region the most sophisticated, extensive system of ocean monitoring ever developed. In 2014, the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI), a massive federally funded ocean monitoring program, followed the Newport Line to deploy a section of the Endurance Array, a network of moored buoys, cables and gliders that collects colossal amounts of data.

OOI monitoring data have documented the increasing occurrence and severity of bottom hypoxia (low oxygen) along the Oregon coast in the summertime. Other measurements are now contributing to our understanding of ocean acidification, a result of increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. Newport Line data helped scientists to identify the “warm blob” of ocean water that lingered off the Oregon coast from 2014 to 2016, wreaking havoc with oceanic food webs.

As oceanographer Angel White jokes, “What do they say about time series? Never start one and never end one.” Some climate phenomena cycle on the scale of decades, so even the Newport Line’s 56-year record might only capture a single cycle.

Regular monitoring is generally regarded as the job of government, not universities, so many local oceanographers feel that NOAA and other agencies should foot most of the bill. White and other scientists who rely on Newport Line data recently submitted a letter to potential funding agencies encouraging continued support. The Newport Line has served as a foundation for studying the impacts of climate variability and ecosystem response … the length and consistency of the Newport time series provide a powerful context for studying ecosystem impacts from unpredictable changes of the ocean and climate variability, they wrote.

I used to teach hundreds of students a year for decades as a community, university and alternative school teacher, and my English classes were always steeped in the issues of the day, and those that are affecting youth when they turn middle aged and old. The planet was always a big part of the courses, and like it or not, so was history and politics. The number of students coming to my college classes who were shocked by the knowledge base of an English prof around technology, science, and engineering was always high. Many students learned for the first time not just what the voices of the people’s history of the United States are (Howard Zinn, Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz) but also the voices of Rachel Carson, John Lilly, Lois Gibbs, Tim DeChristopher, Winona LaDuke, et al.

Clearly, PK12 is failing these youth, and their lack of understanding of basic systems – natural, ecological, geophysical, etc. – is not just sad but dangerous. That’s not to say political insipid’s like Reagan or Sen. Inhofe and the heads of Shell, Exxon and PB are any better off intellectually.

At this OCCC lecture (the 32nd in a run of presentations), an on-going series since 1993 called the Williams Lecture series after former professor at OSU and OCCC and a noted revisionist historian, William Appleman Williams, Bill Kucha let the audience know that the Newport City Council, under the auspices of Mayor Sandra Roumagoux, just signed on Nov. 5, 2018 a “proclamation recognizing climate change awareness.”

We shifted to some folk songs and environmental ecosophy by Bill, who was citing Paul Hawken’s latest book, DrawdownThe Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.

Bill also walked the audience through the current battle to reshape the narrative on climate catastrophe and paradigm shift away from fossil non-renewable energy. He talked deeply about Oregon’s “100 by 50” proposal of having the state on 100 % renewable energy by 2050. He talked about Our Children’s Trust, groups of youth around the country (but started in Eugene) taking the on the US government by going to federal court to sue them for the irreparable damage done to their futures by their policies at the behest of the fossil fuel giants.

There was talk about the Buddhist philosophy around not arousing “hungry ghosts” and “learning how to become awake” in this big time of  change and one where we all are seeing things being destroyed, which for Bill gives us the purpose now of “being a bridge for change. . . . We are the first generation to face climate change and the last one that can fix it.”

There were moments where Bill got choked up, looking at the ways young people might be able to plug into this crisis moment. He talked a lot about finding joy in the world.

Interestingly, the Capitalist world, especially in predatory consumeristic capitalism, the “hungry ghosts” are corporations using propaganda, war on nations, and violence turned on their own people and land to accomplish the ungodly desire of wealth accumulation and unending resource exploitation at any cost.

I might have justified my 60-mile round trip in my 19-year-old three-cylinder Chevy Metro to get to the talk as a necessary journey of enlightenment, both mine and any readers reading this piece, but in reality, I am a male of white privilege, with a vehicle and a place to call home in a country that has invaded other countries and supports the largest war machine ever seen by humankind with millions of deaths since 1945 by direct and indirect soft warfare or direct overt wars. I faced gale force winds and monsoon downpours to get there, but no rain of terror by US-made bombers or drones dropping Hell-fires missiles around me.

There is a luxury embedded in talking about  a New Green Deal, carbon taxing and decrying regular poor people for flying in jets to see loved ones or go to Disneyland, when one is living in a country that sells trillions a year in war equipment, bullets and bombs in the name of “never negotiating our lifestyle and exceptionist mentality to anyone or anything.”

I remember giving food offerings to the hungry ghosts at Buddhist monasteries in Vietnam, called Vu Lan day or month. Don’t upset those departed, these living spirits, or else bad luck befalls you, that’s what the scientists from Hanoi joked about, but sort of believed, too.

Hungry ghost” is one of the six modes of existence (Six Realms). Hungry ghosts are pitiable creatures with huge, empty stomachs. They have pinhole mouths, and their necks are so thin they cannot swallow, so they remain hungry. Beings are reborn as hungry ghosts because of their greed, envy and jealousy. Hungry ghosts are also associated with addiction, obsession, and compulsion.

Guys like Bill have a deep line of hope and look toward times past when many saw the world thousands of years ago as centered around a gift economy, one where commodities were not utilized in trade or daily work was not slave wage labor.

He sees this time of the Anthropocene as hope rising, and he thinks today we have a new face of humanity emerging, one that is “not egocentric, is willing to make contact with nature, and is willing to pray and ask for forgiveness.”

The audience listened to his songs, and looked at his haunting images. What the audience left with from both Evan and Bill is the bearing witness of all these calamities calls for action; and Bill emphasized the very idea of this great turning occurring now – a time unfolding where we are learning what it means to be human and how to ask for forgiveness by being healing, caring and heartfelt.

This shift of consciousness around sustainability is featured in Joanna Macy’s film, The Great Turning.  Here is the basic expression Bill was all jazzed up about at the lecture:

In the Agricultural Revolution of ten thousand years ago, the domestication of plants and animals led to a radical shift in the way people lived. In the Industrial Revolution that began just a few hundred years ago, a similar dramatic transition took place. These weren’t just changes in the small details of people’s lives. The whole basis of society was transformed, including people’s relationship with one another and with Earth.

Right now a shift of comparable scope and magnitude is occurring. It’s been called the Ecological Revolution, the Sustainability Revolution, even the Necessary Revolution. We call it the Great Turning and see it as the essential adventure of our time. It involves the transition from a doomed economy of industrial growth to a life-sustaining society committed to the recovery of our world. This transition is already well under way.  [source]

Hope is an interesting thing, and I align myself mostly with the Beyond Hope under girder in Derrick Jensen’s essay of the same title:

Frankly, I don’t have much hope. But I think that’s a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth.

To start, there is the false hope that suddenly somehow the system may inexplicably change. Or technology will save us. Or the Great Mother. Or beings from Alpha Centauri. Or Jesus Christ. Or Santa Claus. All of these false hopes lead to inaction, or at least to ineffectiveness. One reason my mother stayed with my abusive father was that there were no battered women’s shelters in the ’50s and ’60s, but another was her false hope that he would change. False hopes bind us to unlivable situations, and blind us to real possibilities.

Does anyone really believe that Weyerhaeuser is going to stop deforesting because we ask nicely? Does anyone really believe that Monsanto will stop Monsantoing because we ask nicely? If only we get a Democrat in the White House, things will be okay. If only we pass this or that piece of legislation, things will be okay. If only we defeat this or that piece of legislation, things will be okay. Nonsense. Things will not be okay. They are already not okay, and they’re getting worse. Rapidly.

My point of going to the lecture and reporting on it and discussing it deeply is not to rain on anyone’s parade, especially those who have the gumption to study the problem and face the challenges of tackling it personally, collectively, politically, economically and spiritually.

photo of deforestation

But the forces of evil and the force of big energy are grotesque and powerful. Just here on the coast, in Coos Bay, the proposed Canadian fracked gas pipeline terminal at Jordan Cove coming from Canada, Wyoming, Colorado and other states to bring in fracked gas. Over 400 streams and creeks will be crossed, and in Oregon, 230 miles of clear-cut forests (two football fields wide) will take the pipeline which will have 70 percent fracked gas from Canada and 30 percent from Rocky Mountain states from Malin in the southwest part of the state to Coos Bay on the Oregon coast.

The American and capitalist calculus– jobs over safety, income over community health, paychecks over the rights of nature – is a tough formula to beat in a society that is addicted to oil and expects oil prices to be low (compared to Turkey and Eritrea at $10 a gallon!).

What is the Jordan Cove LNG Project?

  • 230 miles, 36 in diameter, Liquefied Natural Gas pipeline
  • Jordan Cove Project is owned by Veresen, a Canadian Company
  • Using all Russian Steel to construct the pipeline
  • Will run through 400 streams and waterways including underneath the Klamath River, Rogue River, and Coos Bay
  • First fracked Gas Export Terminal on the west coast-Located at Coos Bay, Oregon
  • 4 billion dollar project so it’s twice the size of the DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline)
  • All of the natural gas being exported will be sold to companies in Asia, Japan already having an agreement with Jordan Cove

Why should we care?

  • Pipeline would run through traditional tribal lands and burial sites of the Yurok, Hoopa, Karuk, Modoc and Klamath Tribes of Northern California and Southern Oregon
  • “We live on 10,000-year-old ancestral land along the Trinity River, which is a tributary of the Klamath River. What effects the Klamath affects us.” -Thomas Joseph- Hoopa
  • 80 miles of old growth forest will have to be clear cut for the pipeline
  • 8 of those acres are home to endangered spotted owls
  • 300 landowners will have the pipeline running through their property with the use of eminent domain
  • Pipeline comes as close as 200 ft from the front door of some of these residents
  • A “leak” with a LNG pipeline would be an explosion with a 600 ft blast radius
  • on both sides of the pipeline has to be cleared to ensure that a wildfire won’t heat up the pipe
  • Several miles of the pipeline will run through recent wildfire areas
  • It is estimated that 2 tankers per week would be needed to maintain the LNG in the pipeline
  • Tankers would be crossing frequent migration areas of up to 7 species of endangered whales, including the Grey Whale in their route to and from Japan
  • This will spike the level of ship strikes in the whale population     [ source]

For Bill and his 350.org Oregon and for Evan who is looking at the effects of sea level rise coming into estuaries, the thought of that methane coming through Oregon is not a happy one. Then, add to that the transfer of that fracked energy into carbon pollution, plus the amount of electricity needed to bring the fracked gas down to minus-260 degrees (Jordan Cove would by the largest user of electricity in Oregon), and we have the quintessential dilemma facing a capitalist world of transnational money, transnational consolidated power in the hands of the .01 percent versus the loss of wildlands, forests, species and even individual land owners’ property.

The Lakota Sioux prophecy states there will be a big black snake (pipeline) that will come to the land and bring destruction to the people and the earth. That big black snake for Oregon is the Jordan Cove pipeline.

Our power comes from our ancestors standing behind us, holding us up to have the strength to face anything. As tribal people, we know that possession of the earth is not an actual thing, so we are using our power to protect the earth and water from the abuse and destruction of greedy corporations. Our stewardship of the earth has been passed down to us from thousands of generations that have done the same.

My little Inupiaq heart is both constricted and expanded for my brothers and sisters at Standing Rock. And I can feel in my bones that the voice of our people will be heard, and every American will join us in protecting the earth for generations to come, by defeating corporate greed and killing the black snake before it ever takes a breath.

—   Tara Dowd, an enrolled Inupiaq Eskimo, was born into poverty and now owns a diversity consulting business. She is an advocate for systemic equity and sees justice as a force that makes communities better.  [ Inlander]

 

Veneration Of Power Leading To Climate Catastrophe

In a recent media alert, we presented a few rules that journalists must follow if they are to be regarded as a safe pair of hands by editors and corporate media owners. One of these rules is that ‘we’ in the West are assumed to be ‘the good guys’. This seriously damaging narrative, flying in the face of historical evidence and endlessly crushing state policies, ensures that the public is kept ignorant and pacified. The consequences have been deadly for millions of the West’s victims around the world, and now mean climate catastrophe that could end human civilisation.

First, take the recent devout coverage following the death of George Herbert Walker Bush, US President from 1989-1993, and Vice-President under Ronald Reagan from 1981-1989. When a (former) Western leader dies, the raw propaganda is often at its most fawning and servile. On Bush’s death, ‘mainstream’ media outlets broadcast and published eulogies and fanciful words of praise, divorced from reality. For example, BBC News channelled former President Barack Obama:

George HW Bush’s life is a testament to the notion that public service is a noble, joyous calling. And he did tremendous good along the journey.

The Clintons – like the Bush dynasty, part of the US ruling class – added their own gushing propaganda tribute:

Few Americans have been – or will ever be – able to match President Bush’s record of service to the United States and the joy he took every day from it.

Referring to the massive US attack following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in the 1990-1991 Gulf War, ‘impartial’ BBC News launched into full-blown Orwellian newspeak:

The subsequent battle proved to be a triumph for American military expertise and a major boost for the nation’s morale.

Likewise, the Guardian‘s obituary described Bush Senior’s devastation of Iraq as ‘triumphant’; ‘the president did not put a foot wrong’; ‘his most impressive achievement’; ‘Bush’s masterly management of the first Iraq war’; and so on, in an elite-friendly script that was essentially a press release from the very centre of US power.

The cruel reality of Bush’s ‘most impressive achievement’, as we noted in a 2002 media alert, was that Iraq’s entire civilian infrastructure was targeted and largely destroyed under the rain of bombs. All of Iraq’s eleven major electrical power plants, as well as 119 substations, were destroyed. 90 per cent of electricity generation was out of service within hours; within days, all power generation in the country had ceased. Eight multi-purpose dams were repeatedly hit and destroyed, wrecking flood control, municipal and industrial water storage, irrigation and hydroelectric power. Four of Iraq’s seven major water pumping stations were destroyed. According to Eric Hoskins, a Canadian doctor and coordinator of a Harvard study team on Iraq, the allied bombardment:

effectively terminated everything vital to human survival in Iraq – electricity, water, sewage systems, agriculture, industry and health care.1

Under the 88,500 tons of bombs – the equivalent of seven Hiroshimas – that followed the launch of the air campaign on January 17, 1991, and the ground attack that followed, 150,000 Iraqi troops and 50,000 civilians were killed. The Guardian‘s glowing obituary omitted all of these brutal facts. The Observer, the Guardian‘s Sunday sister paper, sang from the same hymn sheet, describing the former head of the CIA and US president as:

an American patriot with a deep sense of duty.

The guff piece was written by serial propagandist Simon Tisdall who has variously been a foreign leader writer, foreign editor and US editor for the Guardian. Tisdall waxed that:

Bush set great store by civility in public life. As Republican candidate in 1988 he called for a “kinder, gentler nation”. He was, quintessentially, a decent man, with a taste for the lifestyle of an English country gentleman.

Bush’s ‘most admirable quality’, opined the Guardian man, was ‘his deep sense of public duty and service.’ That word ‘service’ again, repeated over and over like a mantra. But who was really being served by Bush’s violence?

The Guardian devoted a section of its website to Bush Sr, featuring headlines such as:

A different command”. How Bush’s war shaped his work for peace’

a man of the highest character’

The “dear dad” dedicated to faith, family and country’

Steady hand during collapse of communism’

“Dear Bill.” Clinton heralds letter from Bush as source of lasting friendship

When Official Enemies portray their Glorious Leaders in this way, western commentators routinely sneer with derision. Al Abunimah, editor of Electronic Intifada, highlighted the above litany of nonsense in a single tweet, and rightly scorned the Guardian as ‘a bastion of regime propaganda and sycophancy to powerful elites.’

Meanwhile, BBC News, like the rest of the corporate media, virtually canonised Bush as a saintly agent of Western benevolence. Even his ‘service dog’ Sully paid a ‘touching last tribute‘, sleeping beside the late President’s casket. We were to understand that Sully was heart-broken after long years spent devotedly serving his ‘master’. In fact, he had been assigned to assist Bush in the summer of 2018, just a few months ago.

By glaring contrast, a Morning Star editorial gave an honest assessment of Bush Sr’s contribution to the world, summed up as:

A lifetime in the service of imperialism.

Nathan Robinson, editor of Current Affairs, listed numerous appalling crimes and abuses of human rights carried out by Bush, almost entirely buried by sycophantic journalists on his death, and concluded:

Coverage of George H.W. Bush’s death proves that Noam Chomsky’s media theory is completely true.

‘Mainstream’ media professionals do not know, or do not care, what Bush actually did in his life. Perhaps they also assume that the public do not know or care either. Obedient journalists have simply buried the destruction and mass death wreaked on Iraq in the Gulf War. In his Bush obituary, Nick Bryant, the New York-based BBC News correspondent, brushed all this away and stuck to the standard deception of ‘mistakes were made’ in Iraq. By ‘mistakes’, Bryant meant that the US encouraged the Kurds and Shia-dominated south to revolt against Saddam Hussein, but then failed to offer sufficient backing. Under BBC ‘journalism’, Bush’s ‘mistakes’ do not include mass killing and destruction. That is simply unthinkable.

The truth is that the corporate media, the BBC very much included, do not care about the deadly effect of mass sanctions and infrastructure destruction on Iraq through the 1990s, up to the 2003 Iraq War. Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, reported that 4,000 more children under five were dying every month in Iraq than would have died before Western sanctions were imposed. A total of half a million children under five died, amongst a total death toll of over one million Iraqis. There is clearly no need or desire for western corporate media to dwell on Bush Sr’s role in such horrors.

Nor do corporate journalists care about his service to death, torture, secret assassinations, and propping up of dictators in his role as head of the CIA. They do not care that, as Vice-President, Bush refused to apologise for the shooting down of Iran Air flight 655 over the Persian Gulf by the US warship Vincennes on July 3, 1988. All 290 people on board the plane were killed, including 66 children. Instead, he said callously:

I will never apologize for the United States — I don’t care what the facts are. … I’m not an apologize-for America kind of guy.

Clearly, most corporate journalists do not care that Bush shares responsibility for the multiple bloodbaths that soaked Latin America in the 1980s. They do not care that Bush was, as historian Greg Grandin notes, an ‘icon’ of ‘brutal US oppression in the Third World’. They do not care that Bush invaded Panama in 1989, in the biggest deployment of US force since the Vietnam War, ostensibly to capture former US ally Manuel Noriega on charges of drug trafficking. US planes heavily bombed populated areas, resulting in the estimated deaths of 3,000 Panamanians. Grandin says that the ‘lasting impact of the Panama invasion’ is the US wars that followed in subsequent decades. On Bush’s death, the corporate media did their job of whitewashing his blood-soaked legacy; just as they covered for his crimes when he was in power.

‘Climate Catastrophe Now Inevitable’

All this matters because the media’s veneration of Bush, and western leaders generally, is a glaring symptom of a deep truth about the corporate media: their primary function is to project a severely distorted view of world events, one that embodies state and corporate priorities rooted in power and short-term profit at any cost.

The public is perennially starved of rational facts about the real state of the planet, and the greed-driven policies that hold sway over electorates and even over global ecosystems. The appalling consequence is that we are now certainly headed for climate catastrophe. Even a few within the corporate media have started to admit as much. Science writer Robin McKie noted in the Guardian that:

Climate catastrophe is now looking inevitable.

McKie added that the US has produced around one third of the carbon dioxide responsible for global warming:

Yet it has essentially done nothing to check its annual rises in output. Lobbying by the fossil fuel industry has proved highly effective at blocking political change – a point most recently demonstrated by groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heartland Institute, which helped persuade President Trump to pull out of the Paris agreement, thus dashing the planet’s last hope of ecological salvation.

He cited environmentalist Bill McKibben:

The coalition [fossil fuel lobby] used its power to slow us down precisely at the moment when we needed to speed up. As a result, the particular politics of one country for one half-century will have changed the geological history of the Earth.

Global carbon emissions reached a new high in 2018. In other words, nothing of real significance has been achieved in thirty years of supposedly trying to cut emissions – other than making the problem very much worse – and we now only have a decade to completely turn things around. The blocking effects by powerful industry lobbies and corporate-captured political ‘leaders’, hugely underreported by the corporate media, are a disaster for the human race. Stefan Rahmstorf, a senior scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, highlighted a new analysis of carbon emissions by the Carbon Research Project and said:

See how easily we could have solved the climate crisis if we had started in 2000! Only 4% reduction per year. Now we need 18% per year. You can thank climate deniers, lobby groups and cowardly politicians for this delay.

Kevin Anderson of the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Research concurred:

Spot on by [Rahmstorf]. The academic community also take some responsibility for all too often remaining quiet about completely irresponsible decisions. Just listen to the roar of complicit silence over the UK’s shale gas plans, the new oil platform, airport & road expansion.

Renowned climate scientist Michael Mann declared:

We’ve got a LOT of work to do folks. After flat-lining for 3 years, CO2 emissions have now ticked up two years straight. This is no time for climate change denying/delaying politicians. We must vote them out & elect in their place politicians who will LEAD on climate.

He added:

It is no longer enough for politicians to just say the right things about climate change. They must demonstrate a commitment to meaningful actions & specific policies aimed at rapid reductions in carbon emissions. We are now officially starting to run out of time…

Julia Steinberger, Associate Professor of Ecological Economics at the University of Leeds, put the scale of the challenge succinctly:

If people had ANY idea of the harm and loss that is coming our way with #ClimateBreakdown, they would stop driving, flying, eating meat, overheating and overconsuming pretty much instantly, and work tirelessly to build new low carbon societies.

Instead, powerful industry lobbies are working tirelessly to block the radical action that is required.

A new Met Office study shows that the UK summer heatwave this year was made thirty times more likely by the human impact on climate. Met Office scientist Peter Stott issued a deadly warning:

Humanity just won’t be able to cope with the world we are heading for.

Last year, Arctic News editor Sam Carana pointed out the dangers of methane, a highly potent global warming gas:

As the temperature of the Arctic Ocean keeps rising, it seems inevitable that more and more methane will rise from its seafloor and enter the atmosphere, at first strongly warming up the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean itself – thus causing further methane eruptions – and eventually warming up the atmosphere across the globe.

A giant ‘burp’ of methane gas could happen suddenly and increase global temperatures rapidly. If this sounds like a scare story, Harold Wanless, Professor of Geology and a specialist in sea level rise at the University of Miami, puts it in perspective:

Scientists tend to be pretty conservative. We don’t like to scare people, and we don’t like to step out of our little predictable boxes. But I suspect the situation is going to spin out of hand pretty quickly. If you look at the history of warming periods, things can move pretty fast, and when that happens that’s when you get extinction events.

I would not discount the possibility that it could happen in the next ten years.

In summary, scientists are calling for immediate large cuts in carbon emissions. Given the normally conservative pronouncements by overly cautious experts, such warnings should stop us all in our tracks. Climate scientists are virtually screaming at those running our political and economic systems to make drastic changes now.

However, at the start of a new UN climate conference in Poland, the follow-up to the 2015 Paris summit, a BBC News article observed starkly:

The gap between what countries say they are doing and what needs to be done has never been wider.

In other words, the dangers of rapid and cataclysmic global warming are now so glaring that some degree of urgency is being communicated occasionally, very occasionally, from within the corporate media. It would hurt establishment media credibility too much in the eyes of the public were that otherwise.

Safe ‘national treasure’ David Attenborough has become more outspoken of late. He addressed the UN conference:

We’re facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.

He told the BBC:

All over the world there are people who are suffering as a consequence [of climate change] whose voices have not been heard.

Last week, the Daily Mirror went as far as putting Attenborough’s warning on its front page:

Time Is Running Out To Save Planet

But the daily diet of ‘news’ pumped out by the major news media is still a massive distraction from the huge widespread changes in society, politics and the economy that are needed immediately. Why is the climate crisis not a vital component, perhaps even the primary component, of news reporting on the economy, business, commerce, politics, and Parliament? Why is it usually restricted to science and environment ‘stories’? For instance, how often does the BBC’s business editor, Simon Jack, address the climate crisis in his reports? Never, if our occasional sampling is indicative. Nor does he ever respond to our polite challenges to do so. The same applied to the recently departed BBC economics editor, Kamal Ahmed. This is a gross dereliction of duty by the BBC to the public who pays for it.

Are we supposed to obsess over slight changes in interest rates, currency exchange rates, the FTSE 100 index, and the size of the UK economy, even while the planet’s natural resources are plundered, ecosystems collapse, and the mass loss of species accelerates? Why are these much latter, more crucial numbers and facts about the state of the planet not routinely cited in corporate media reporting on the state of business and the economy? Perhaps we are supposed to regard the number of rivets on the Titanic a reliable measure of the ship’s robustness, even as it plummets beneath the waves.

Just consider the US news media reporting on the appalling forest wildfires in California last month. Although scientists have stated clearly that climate change is a significant factor in these catastrophic wildfires, national US television networks made the link with climate in less than four per cent of their reports on the calamity. We are not aware of any similar study of UK television coverage. But it was certainly apparent that BBC News at Ten made very little mention of the links between global warming and the Californian wildfires, just as climate was glaringly absent from its coverage of this summer’s drought in the UK.

It is true that the burgeoning grassroots movement Extinction Rebellion, and the remarkable 15-year-old Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, are not entirely absent from news coverage. But, given the stakes, their activism and their urgent messages to society as a whole would be making headlines every day in a sane media system. Extinction Rebellion are calling for peaceful mass civil disobedience to demand:

an immediate reversal of climate-toxic policies, net-zero emissions by 2025 and the establishment of a citizen’s assembly to oversee the radical changes necessary to halt global warming.

During one recent climate protest that blocked five major bridges in central London, one protester said:

We have tried marching, and lobbying, and signing petitions. Nothing has brought about the change that is needed.

Extinction Rebellion issued a stark warning:

Our aims may be ambitious. But we are striving for nothing less than the fate of our planet.

The inspiring clip that goes along with these words depicts suffragettes, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and many others pushing for positive changes in the world. Thunberg has explained in very simple and powerful terms how and why she became so motivated to do something about climate change. It happened in school at the age of nine:

They [teachers] were always talking about how we should turn off lights, save water, not throw out food. I asked why and they explained about climate change. And I thought this was very strange. If humans could really change the climate, everyone would be talking about it and people wouldn’t be talking about anything else. But this wasn’t happening.

Now, at 15, her commitment to go on school strike to devote herself to climate activism is an inspiration to many around the world, including the Extinction Rebellion movement. She has a succinct riposte to those who accuse her of neglecting her education:

Some say I should be in school. But why should any young person be made to study for a future when no one is doing enough to save that future? What is the point of learning facts when the most important facts given by the finest scientists are ignored by our politicians?

The time has passed for the public to rely on political leaders taking the right steps to tackle the climate crisis. As Thunberg said in her speech to the UN climate conference:

So we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not.

As ever, it is up to each one of us to ensure that this change happens.

  1. Quoted Mark Curtis, The Ambiguities of Power, Zed Books, 1995.

Climate Crisis Made Worse By Presidential Mis-Leadership Throughout This Century

Barack Obama, speaking to the Baker Institute, made sure the audience of wealthy Texans, many in the oil business, gave him credit for making the United States a world leader for oil and gas production. He said, “American energy production . . .went up every year I was president. And . . . suddenly America’s like the biggest oil producer, that was me, people,” eliciting cheers.

Throughout this century, even though the climate science was clear, presidential leadership has escalated the dependence on oil and gas, built infrastructure for pipelines and compressor stations, encouraged fracking in the US and around the world and prevented a global response to reducing carbon gas emissions.

This dereliction of consistent misleadership has put the planet on a dangerous path of climate crisis. In a just world, the political and corporate leadership of the United States would be held accountable. As it is, leadership for confronting the climate crisis must come from the people, not from political leaders.

Obama’s Sordid History of Undermining the Climate

Obama’s legacy confuses some people because, unlike President Trump, he did not deny climate change and, unlike President Bush, he did not come from the oil industry. But in reality, Obama watered down global climate agreements and grew oil and gas output and infrastructure in the United States.

As a newly elected president, Obama came to the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009 with the goal of weakening the agreement so there would be no internationally enforced reductions of climate gases. Ban Ki-moon, the UN general secretary, warned leaders that they held in their hands “the future of this entire humanity.”

NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden showed that the US monitored communications between countries before the summit, and planned to spy on the negotiations during the conference. The NSA knew of China’s efforts to line up its negotiating position with India. Chinese negotiators entered the talks willing to undertake mandatory emissions cuts, but needed other major countries in the the developing world to agree. The US developed a strategy to stop China, indeed to make them the villain.

As the Copenhagen meeting was progressing, Obama, who had already “won” a Nobel Peace prize and was a political star as the first black president, flew to the meeting with Secretary of State Clinton. Obama and Clinton crashed a meeting of Chinese, Indian, South African and Brazilian leaders who were trying to agree on enforceable standards. The US made sure their agreement would not threaten US oil interests.

As a result of Obama’s intervention, the accord set no target for concluding a binding international treaty, leaving the implementation of its provisions uncertain and fueling criticism that it was more of a sham than a breakthrough. US intervention stopped a collective agreement among nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050, which was included in earlier drafts. Obama also successfully prevented adequate US funding for climate justice policies for poorer countries and scuttled the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed on in 1992.

Obama undermined the UN climate process and became known as “the man who killed Copenhagen,” said Greenpeace US head Phil Radford.

Bill McKibbon said:

The president has wrecked the UN and he’s wrecked the possibility of a tough plan to control global warming. It may get Obama a reputation as a tough American leader, but it’s at the expense of everything progressives have held dear.

At the time, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that world emissions need to peak by 2015 to give any chance of avoiding a 2ºC rise.

Obama declared a phony negotiating victory for the climate in Copenhagen and went on to make sure the Paris Accords also contained no enforceable standards, making it an inadequate treaty for the climate crisis. Climate scientist James Hansen called the Paris agreement a “fraud” of “worthless words.”

Domestically, after running against “drill baby drill” Republicans, Obama governed in the era where fracking became widespread, off-shore drilling increased and massive oil and gas infrastructure were put in place. In 2012, Obama said, “We’ve opened up new areas for exploration. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to circle the Earth and then some.” Obama fast-tracked the approval process for oil and gas infrastructure at a time when scientists were saying we should build no more carbon-polluting infrastructure. While he delayed portions of the high profile Trans-Canada pipeline, his administration approved the equivalent of ten Keystone pipelines.

Under Obama, while there was a decline of 37% in coal production, gas production vastly increased by 34% due to fracking. Obama presided over the highest gas production in history and crude oil production rose by 88%, the fastest rate in the 150-year history of the U.S. oil industry. On the positive side, his tenure was also timed with big increases in solar and wind energy. Obama also deserves credit for putting in place fuel economy and emissions standards for cars.

Obama’s bragging about increasing US oil and gas production at the Baker Institute came shortly after the dire October IPCC report, which warned the world has 12 years to put in place a radical transformation of the energy economy to prevent climate catastrophe, and the November 23rd release of the 4th National Climate Assessment, which warned of the serious impacts of the climate crisis in the United States. In this environment, Obama took credit for this crisis situation that will kill hundreds of thousands, cause mass migration and trillions of dollars in damage.

From Pinterest

Bush-Cheney Climate Deniers Of The Oil Industry

Despite the above, Obama’s presidency looks good in comparison to the George W. Bush administration, which denied climate science. and was marinated in oil with deep oil connections. Climate scientists were kept out of meetings to develop energy policy while the oil and gas industry worked closely with the administration.

President Bush was in the oil industry for more than two decades and came from an oil family. His investors included the bin Laden family and other members of Saudi Arabia’s oil-wealthy elite. Bush called the Saudi ambassador, Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, “Bandar Bush” because he was so close to the Bush family.

Vice President Cheney was CEO of Halliburton, one of the world’s largest providers of products and services to the oil industry. Cheney developed energy policy in secret meetings with the oil industry. He fought to the Supreme Court to keep information about those meetings secret from the public.

National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice was a director of Chevron and Secretary of Commerce Don Evans was head of an independent oil company in Colorado. Former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay was George W. Bush’s most generous campaign contributor. Bush received more campaign contributions from oil companies than any other administration in history.

The Bush administration ignored climate change for eight years, wasting precious time. Bush invaded and occupied Iraq in what was a disastrous war for oil domination. In 2008, President Bush’s last year in office, the US produced 1.06 billion metric tons of coal — an all-time high.

From Change.org

Trump Takes Climate Denialism and Climate Destruction To New Levels

As bad as previous presidents have been, President Trump’s climate denial policies have reached a new low for presidential misleadership.

When the recent National Climate Assessment revealed that global warming is causing ongoing and lasting economic damage, President Trump denied the findings of the 13 federal agencies who wrote it. Trump said, “I don’t believe it,” while noting he has “very high levels of intelligence,” and had his political appointees and press secretary attack the report.

Trump appointed the former CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp., Rex Tillerson, as Secretary of State and appointed other industry supporters; e.g., Rick Perry at the Department of Energy, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, now replaced by industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler. Trumps’s policy is “Energy dominance,” the expansion of coal and oil production as well as the weakening of environmental regulations, including those that address climate change.

Trump pulled out of the climate agreement, boosted oil and gas drilling on public lands, opened sensitive areas to oil drilling, leased nearly 80 million acres of federal waters off the Gulf of Mexico for drilling, repealed Obama’s fuel economy and emissions standards for cars and repealed rules, saving polluting industries billions of dollars in regulatory costs.

From People’s Climate March,in April 2017 from Orlando Rising.

Climate Justice From the Bottom Up

The science on climate has been known since 1990 when the first international agreements to combat climate change were negotiated. Since then, the science has only become stronger. We must not produce any more gas-fueled cars or build any new power plants or buildings of any kind unless they are replacing old ones or are carbon-neutral. When we build a factory, power plant, house, automobile or anything else that uses energy, we are committing to using energy through that structure for up to 40 years, depending on its lifespan.

This century has shown that facing up to the challenges of climate change will not come from the top of the US political system, which is polluted by the oil and gas industry as well as investors who profit from carbon pollution. Change is going to come from the bottom up.

Recently, we have seen how activity from below can impact political reality. The Green New Deal, developed in 2007 by Green Party activists, is now being taken on by Democrats. Establishment Democrats and Republicans will fight it, but it is making its way onto the agenda and will become reality if people keep mobilizing for it.

The Extinction Rebellion, started in the United Kingdom, is growing around the world. And there is now a call to build towards a general strike in September with actions throughout the year, beginning on January 15. Follow #EarthStrike.

Tampa Bay Rebellion

If the constant hurricanes and wildfires didn’t get your attention, the scientific bombshell should have.  In October the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report, Global Warming of 1.5 °C.  The panel is a UN body of thousands of scientists that analyses all the latest scientific papers to draw conclusions.  They found that in order to have a decent chance of avoiding the runaway climate change found above 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, we must aim to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030 (based on 2010 levels), and then reach zero emissions by the middle of this century.

These numbers, and the scale of challenge they represent, horrified many people.  But I haven’t seen much reporting on what it means for specific countries. The United States emits higher levels of greenhouse gases per person than most nations, so the cuts must necessarily be even deeper.  I invite more statistical minds to improve on them, but according to my rough calculations based on population size and global emissions share (neither of which has changed drastically since 2010), in order to do its fair part the United States must cut emissions by around 85% in the next twelve years.

The IPCC’s recommendations are buttressed by calls for a global 20% cut in material consumption levels, dropping coal use by around two thirds, oil in half, and natural gas by a third, all by 2030.  Again, all of these targets will need to be higher in wealthy, high consumption countries.  Look at the figures and ask yourself if the IPCC, scientists with an inclination to say nothing they can’t prove, are appealing for anything other than the bare minimum of what they think might be necessary.  We need to aim higher than these goals to have a chance of at least meeting them.

It is on the basis of all this that on October 31st, over one thousand people in the United Kingdom launched a giant campaign of non-violent direct action in Parliament Square.  Under the name Extinction Rebellion, they are demanding that the government declare a state of emergency over climate breakdown, enact legally binding “wartime mobilisation” policies to get the country to net zero emissions by 2025, and for the building of citizen’s assemblies to oversee the transition.  Roadblocks and actions have continued throughout November with the involvement of thousands more.  The May government is accused, among other infractions, of overriding democracy by ramming through unpopular fracking and airport expansion measures.

An International Declaration of Rebellion invites people of other nations to join them leading up to a coordinated action day on April 19th.  The same week as the Parliament Square event, thousands of people in western Germany protested and blocked a coal train to try and stop the further expansion of a lignite mine into a 12,000-year-old forest.  On December 2nd there will be a launch event for Extinction Rebellion US in Washington D.C.  Groups are preparing under the banner in Canada, Sweden, New Zealand and many other countries and cities.  The call for international rebellion is building on fertile ground.

There are numerous reasons why you may not have heard about these protests, the most obvious being the drama of the midterm elections.  We should care about who is put in office. The Trump administration’s assault on the environment is representative of an increasingly desperate fossil fuel industry.  But when it comes to climate change, we haven’t the luxury of obsessing over it, as the click-dependent media that helped to put him in power would have us do. If our movements are strong, worthy politicians will seek to follow them.  Largely independent of Trump, plans are in the dirty pipeline to expand two major sources of greenhouse gases in Tampa Bay, and they have so far been met with almost no opposition. Nothing makes the people destroying our environment happier than silence.

Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach is the only coal burning plant located around Tampa Bay, and is one of the largest in the state.  Operator Tampa Electric (TECO) sent out a customer letter in May of this year detailing their hopes for modernisation.  The plan is to retire one antiquated coal-and-gas-fired unit and convert another to a modern natural gas unit (two primarily coal-fired units would remain in use).  It sounds like progress. This conversion, however, is gambling on the long-term continuation of the American fracking boom and all of its associated problems (fracked wells now provide two thirds of U.S. natural gas production).  The Trump government has spent the last two years trying to remove rules that oblige oil and gas companies to at least try to plug methane leaks, rather than letting it vent into the atmosphere, and those attempts can be expected to continue.  Because methane is some 86 times more potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide, fracked gas is arguably just as bad for the climate as coal, if not worse.  This proposal is not progress at all.

If we believe fracking is unsuitable for Florida, it’s hard to see why we should financially support it happening in other places.  Tampa Electric says the project, if implemented, will cost $1 billion, take ten years to finish, and should be expected to last thirty-five or forty.  These numbers should set alarm bells off in the heads of all climate activists considering the small window of time we have left.  Are we going to let them expend all this money and effort to make a one-time conversion that will make no discernable difference to electricity emissions?

The company has made much of its investments in solar, including one project at Big Bend itself, which they brag is the biggest in Tampa Bay.  The array produces 23 megawatts (MW) of electricity, or approximately 1.35% of the amount currently produced at the fossil power station.  Other projects are expected to bring their total solar to 600 MW, or 7% of their total generation, by 2023.  But sunny Florida ranks a sad 8th in total solar generation nationwide, with California producing over ten times our capacity and powering 17% of their grid.  TECO has the means to expand these solar plans rapidly rather than give a money stream to the fracking industry, and that’s where the majority of the $1 billion budget should be going (aside from the decommissioning costs of the coal units).

This investment is even worse when you consider that natural gas, whether fracked or not, is now in direct competition with renewables to replace coal, and TECO’s current funding of solar amounts to a mere $50 million.  In the decade leading up to 2016 their profits almost doubled to $250 million.  CEO Nancy Tower earned $1.5 million last year, while CEO of parent company Emera, Robert Bennett, earned almost $2.2 million.  All that matters in judging a proposal in terms of climate change is whether it lines up with the goals of the IPCC report, not whatever positive framing a company might use to present it to the public.  Construction is expected to begin in June 2019.

When it comes to the various failures of the big green NGOs in this country, nothing stands out like their disregarding of the climate change impacts of aviation.  Going on a flight is the most damaging climate choice that an individual can make. A fully-booked return trip from London to New York produces around 1.2 tonnes of CO2 per person (with the average American carbon footprint being about 19 tonnes a year).  Planes use vast amounts of kerosene over vast distances, with a global warming effect that is, according to the IPCC, around 2.7 times higher than the carbon emissions they produce (due partially to the height at which planes operate).  While aviation currently accounts for about 5% of global warming, it is also the fastest growing sector, at a time when other industries are at the very least under pressure to shrink their emissions.  The 20,000 planes in the air today are projected, under a business as usual scenario, to number 50,000 by as soon as 2040.  The EU predicts that if this exception continues to be made for aviation its share of global CO2 output could be 22% by 2050.

The ballooning of the sector hugely outstrips all slight improvements in fuel efficiency, as most of the significant gains on this front have already been made.  Alternative fuels (like hydrogen) and tech designs (like solar planes) remain little more than public relations stunts  Even if such routes were feasible, planes are expensive, so airlines keep them in service for decades, and are not likely to retire them early and build new ones without massive political pressure.  Until a pathetic voluntary offset deal was struck in 2016, aviation was routinely ignored by national and international climate treaties because governments didn’t want to admit a simple fact: the only way to get a large cut in airline emissions is a large cut in the number of flights.  Despite American driving habits, flying already makes up 12% of all transport emissions nationally (it’s not clear how, or if, this number includes international flights).

With this information in mind, it’s possible that what is slated to happen at Tampa International Airport is even worse than what is happening at Big Bend  The publicly owned airport has already spent a billion dollars on part one of a three phase plan, and intends to spend another billion.  It involves turning the airport into what some have called a “mini-city“, complete with offices, retailers, hotels, restaurants, and a giant car rental centre, with phase two expected to begin in late 2019.  More alarmingly, the final phase of the project is designed to expand capacity from the 19.6 million passengers of 2017, to accommodate 34 million in the coming years as demand grows.  This is classic expansionist spin: by building the extra gates and capacity, the airport is helping to stoke the increase in demand.

“It’s critical that we keep this airport up to date and support this kind of growth for the next twenty to thirty years,” Hillsborough County Aviation Authority chair Robert Watkins said in February.  I’m sure it will seem like a wonderful investment when Tampa is hit by a seventeen foot storm surge that puts the runways underwater.  In a world where oil consumption must be cut in half within twelve years, is it logical or fair to allow an airport to almost double its emissions?  Or should all that effort perhaps go into alternative modes of travel? If you’re currently objecting that our economy is highly dependent on flights from tourists, seasonal visitors and retirees, you are correct, and should be very angry at business people and politicians who for decades have argued that this is a sustainable model.  Luckily, CEO Joe Lopano (projected compensation for this year: $625,000, one of the highest paid airport CEOs in the country) has another plan, which is to have Tampa International achieve carbon neutral status.  There’s just one problem: it only includes emissions from planes when they’re within the perimeter of the friggin’ airport.

Given the almost complete lack of dissenting voices against these projects from either the press or local environmentalists (with the quiet exception of Sierra Club), direct action that causes disruption and draws attention is the only tactic that is going to drag them into public consciousness in anything like the speed that is necessary.  These actions would be demanding and potentially dangerous. Last summer five workers were burned to death at Big Bend whilst trying to clean underneath an active boiler.  Airports are terrifying places to contemplate breaking the law.  But climate activists managed interventions against runway expansions at Heathrow Airport and other UK airports in the years immediately following the attacks on the London Underground, and the introduction of the “liquids as bombs” terrorism approach that annoys fliers to this day.  The U.S., with its paranoid and highly armed security apparatus, offers more challenges. But like all the others, we must overcome or subvert them.

The Extinction Rebellion protests are aimed primarily at political targets in capital cities.  Aside from the issue of geographic barriers that we face from way down here, actions against actual emission points are still important, and can supplement and build momentum for the general idea of the non-violent uprising (and we can, of course, find worthy structural targets closer to home should we so choose).  If we don’t oppose these plans that go full throttle in the wrong direction, and oppose them hard, they will make a mockery of any commitments our region makes — in the present or future — to 100% renewable energy. Climate change work that focuses on what we build at the expense of what we close down is missing the fundamental point.

Individuals can only choose honestly for themselves, but we must be brutally honest about what is a reason for holding back and what is an excuse.  As a childless, partially youthful white male, I have certain advantages when it comes to confrontational protest. But I’m also a green card holder in an age where even green card holders and American citizens are not safe from deportation, and it seems as if almost anything can happen.  I’m still more afraid of climate change than I am of the government. The chances are good that you also have room to maneuver in assisting with such actions.  As ever, we need supporters, such as legal experts, child care givers, drivers, writers, medics and mental health experts, cooks, artists and funders.  That means we need you.

This is a call to all the good people who support local businesses, care about plastic and straw pollution, voted to ban offshore oil drilling and expand transit spending in Hillsborough, decry the red tide and go on climate change demonstrations  Now or never is the time for commitment and sacrifice. In my article on the Rise Up Climate march in St. Petersburg in September, I raised questions about whether it was worth our finite efforts to force a transition in a part of the world that is incredibly vulnerable to already locked-in climate change.  I still think that is an important discussion. But whether we remain here or not, there is now no doubt that we have a responsibility to suffocate major sources of greenhouse gas emissions on our doorsteps. If we fail to see any developments on this front, if the community appears to have insufficient will to survive, it will only become worthy of abandonment in another sense.  Tampa Bay is heading for extinction. The architects of that extinction are banking on our indifference. Are you ready to rebel?

• The Extinction Rebellion Tampa Bay planning page can be found here. The first meeting will be in the next few weeks.

Fracking Filthy Fuel

Burning fossil fuels is a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions (GGE), and, greenhouse gas emissions (water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O)) are the principle cause of man-made climate change. Given this fact, governments throughout the world should be moving away from fossil fuels and investing in, and designing policies that encourage development of, renewable sources of energy. But the British Conservative government, despite public opinion to the contrary, has all but banned the construction of onshore wind turbines and is encouraging fracking in England. The Tories are the only UK political party to offer support for this regressive form of energy production, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens having all promised fracking bans should they gain political office at the next general election.

Hydraulic fracking is the process of releasing gas and oil from shale rock: huge quantities of water, proppant (usually sand) and chemicals are injected at high-pressure into hydrocarbon-bearing rocks, rocks that can be up to a mile down and were once thought to be impermeable. This process of fracturing (or cracking) forces the rocks to crack open, and gas held inside is released and allowed to flow to the surface.

Shale gas is a fossil fuel, and when combusted produces GGE, albeit at around 50% less than coal or oil, but GGE nevertheless. The leading fracking company in Britain is the energy firm Cuadrilla. An organization that according to its website, aims “to be a model company for exploring and developing shale gas in the UK,” they state that they are “acutely aware of the responsibilities this brings, particularly with regard to safety, environmental protection and working with local communities.” Really?

After protests by the local community and various court cases (Lancashire County Council had refused drilling rights, but the Secretary of State ignored community voices and approved the company’s request on appeal), Cuadrilla recently commenced fracking at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire. However, as in 2011 when the company was forced to abandon drilling, work was suspended for two days out of four because of earthquakes. Tremors measured 0.5 on the Richter scale, which breached the seismic threshold established following the 2011 earth tremors. Instead of abandoning the project as the local community and environmental groups are demanding, the firm’s chief executive, Francis Egan, wants the Government to raise the threshold.

Another Regressive Step

America is home to hydraulic fracturing, where it’s been taking place for decades. Greenpeace states that as of 2012 the “fracking industry [in USA] has drilled around 1.2 million wells and is slated to add at least 35,000 new wells every year.” Fracking has led to US oil production increasing faster than anytime in its history, resulting in lower domestic gas prices. The US Energy Information Administration record that around two thirds of gas is now produced by fracking and almost half the countries crude oil.

Shale gas is spoken of as a positive alternative to coal, but it’s just another filthy fossil fuel that is adding to GGE, which in turn are driving climate change. Fracking has a substantive impact on the natural environment and the health of those living within the surrounding area. Earthquakes, air pollution, soil pollution, carcinogenic chemical leakage and contaminated groundwater are the primary risks.

An enormous amount of water, which needs to be transported to the site incurring significant environmental costs, is required in the fracking process. The amount of water used varies per well: between 1.5 and 10 million gallons is required every time a well is fractured. Greenpeace relates that, “in 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 70 to 140 billion gallons of water were used to fracture just 35,000 wells in the United States.” The water is mixed with various chemicals to make fracking fluid, a toxic cocktail that can be further contaminated by “heavy metals and radioactive elements that exist naturally in the shale.” A significant portion of the frack fluid returns to the surface “where it can spill or be dumped into rivers and streams…fracking fluids and waste have made their way into our drinking water and aquifers. Groundwater can be contaminated through fracking fluid and methane leakage and the energy companies have “no idea what to do with the massive amount of contaminated water it’s creating,”

In addition to water and soil pollution, fracking adds to existing levels of air pollution as methane gas is released into the atmosphere through leaks and venting. A study conducted by Cornell University found that “over a well’s lifetime, 3.6 to 7.9 percent of methane gas escapes” in this way. Unlike CO2, which sits in the atmosphere for centuries or millennia, methane only lasts for decades, but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change asserts that it warms the planet by 86 times as much as CO2 before then degrading to become CO2.

Many countries recognize the retrogressive nature of fracking and have passed legislative bans or moratoriums; England is the only country within the UK where it is currently allowed. More than 100 fracking licenses have been awarded by the government, but in order to start fracking they need permission from the local council. Fracking is universally unpopular amongst the communities where sites are located or proposed; on 13th October the Gasdown-Frackdown action saw thousands of people from six continents take to the streets demanding an end to fracking and calling for long-term investment in renewable sources of energy. Fracking is not an environmentally sane way to meet the energy needs of a country. It is part of the problem not the solution and it should be rejected totally. What is required is a global energy strategy rooted in environmental sustainability. As Friends of the Earth rightly say, “a 21st Century energy revolution based on efficiency and renewables, not more fossil fuels that will add to climate change.”