The Banner, Vol. 4, No. 42 – Working With the Earth

October 16, 2018
Last week’s IPCC report on our climate situation finally edged toward truth-telling despite its most conservative members. This week we look at some novel ways researchers, indigenous people, farmers, partner with the Earth restoring the climate destroyed by the Industrial Revolution..
But first, the news.

Comix + Struggle, 1968–2018
A FREE Slideshow Performance
by Seth Tobocman

Tuesday, Oct. 16, 7:00PM
Cinemapolis
120 E Green St
Ithaca, New York 14850

From the siege of Chicago in 1968 to the fight against Trump today, struggles against injustice disclose an intriguing continuity. Join radical comix innovator Seth Tobocman as he traces the themes that unite us and draws attention to the challenges that still give us pause.

Based at the School of Visual Art in New York City, Tobocman is a radical comic book artist and one of the founders of World War 3 Illustrated, the periodical that inaugurated the genre of comics journalism. Since the publication of his groundbreaking book “You Don’t Have to Fuck People Over to Survive” in 1989, Tobocman has foregrounded stories from the frontlines of struggle. From the fights against homelessness and eco-devastation to the push for system change in the face of financial ruin, Tobocman’s comix bear graphic witness to history in the making.

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SPONSORED BY: The Ithaca College Department of Sociology
CO-SPONSORED BY: The Department of History • The Department of Politics • The Department of Media Arts, Sciences, and Studies • The Park Center for Independent Media • The Park School of Communications, Ithaca College

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Large Dairies Herded to Permitting Loophole
as Toxic Algae Blooms
Threaten Finger Lakes Drinking Water

Large Dairies Herded to Permitting Loophole as Toxic Algae Blooms Threaten Finger Lakes Drinking Water

AUBURN, Oct. 15, 2018 — New court-ordered rules designed to control manure runoff from dairy farms into streams and lakes won’t apply to the vast majority of the state’s large industrial farms because roughly 230 of them recently began exploiting a permitting loophole, records show.

The towns of Auburn and Owasco have been the first to spotlight the statewide rules-dodging tactic because farming waste has been putting their public drinking water at high risk.

Both towns draw their raw water from Owasco Lake, where a large plume of floating manure was documented in February 2014.

Fueled by the high-phosphorous waste, algae blooms have multiplied on Owasco ever since. That’s forced both towns to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on new filtering equipment to protect public tap water.

“I don’t think it is either fair or appropriate or necessarily always legal to impose the burden on the municipal ratepayers to pay to clean up pollution of source water to get clean drinking water,” Peter Lehner, an Earthjustice attorney involved in litigation over the permits, told WaterFront.

New York, the nation’s third largest milk producer, is home to more than 620,000 dairy cows. The volume of waste they generate is staggering.

The average cow produces 120 pounds of manure a day — more than 100 times the federal estimate of the average amount produced by a family of four people. So an industrial dairy that confines 500 cows produces roughly as much waste per day as the city of Rochester, population 208,000.…—Peter Mantius, “Large Dairies Herded to Permitting Loophole as Toxic Algae Blooms Threaten Finger Lakes Drinking Water,” Water Front, 10/15/18

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Inside the Underground Nationwide War
Against Pipelines

Inside the Underground Nationwide War Against Pipelines

From Appalachia to Louisiana, mostly ignored by the media, activists have been putting themselves in the path of bulldozers.

It was early springtime—ramps and redbuds showing themselves in the foothills of Appalachia, rain filling the creek beds—when our family got a notice in the mail saying that the energy conglomerate Kinder Morgan planned to re-purpose the Tennessee Gas Pipeline, which runs past our house. This is the same line that, five miles from where we live, exploded in 2011, leaving a crater 30 feet across and 15 feet deep and destroying three homes. We felt the ground shake from the blast.

When I opened the mail from Kinder Morgan, I hoped it might say they were going to retire the old line, which has been in operation for around 60 years. Instead, we were informed that the company plans to pump a new product through it: high-pressure liquefied gas. The notice was accompanied by a glossy pamphlet from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission featuring a soft-focused sunset over a field of blossoming red clover. It read: “An Interstate Natural Gas Facility on My Land? What Do I Need to Know?”

My family and I live in Southeast Ohio near the border of West Virginia, territory traditionally shared by the Shawnee, Seneca, and Tsalagi. Many people here, including our family, drink from springs or wells. When I was still new to the area, a friend told me, “Growing up here, we were always told, folks here might be poor, but one thing we have plenty of is good water. We can rely on the water.”

Yet Appalachian water has often been threatened. Years of coal ash dumping has tainted it with radium and arsenic. The chemical company DuPont knowingly leaked carcinogens into the water supply for decades. In 2014, Freedom Industries spilled MCHM, a chemical used to process coal, into the Elk River in West Virginia, rendering water undrinkable across nine counties. People here have seen what big industry can mean for water.

Now fracked gas pipelines are being pushed through Appalachia, not only the one near my house but also the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The MVP and the ACP would originate in northwestern West Virginia and run down through Virginia, parallel to each other about 100 miles apart in routes that will take them through national forests, the Appalachian Trail, waterways, and private land. A report earlier this year from the National Resources Defense Council warned that construction of the MVP and the ACP would cause erosion and stir up sediment in drinking water sources before they were even operational.…—Madeline Ffitch, “The Quiet but Furious Nationwide War Against Pipelines,” VICE, 10/11/18

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Fracking wastewater from Pa. often ends up in Ohio.
Some residents say they’ve had enough

Fracking wastewater from Pa. often ends up in Ohio. Some residents say they’ve had enough | StateImpact Pennsylvania

Michelle Garman used to marvel at the 22-acres of land around her home in Vienna, Ohio, less than 10 miles from the Pennsylvania border.

“I would lean out my back window and say, ‘oh my god, I never dreamed of owning this much land’,” she said.

She didn’t know much about fracking then, let alone frack waste injection wells.

But she remembers News Years Eve 2011, when a 4.0-magnitude earthquake shook nearby Youngstown, Ohio. Around a dozen smaller quakes followed. The state determined that the quakes were caused by an injection well. And one in New Castle, Pennsylvania was linked to fracking as well. The well believed to have caused the Youngstown quakes has been closed permanently.

But Garman’s view changed in 2013 when an injection well was built on the property next door.

“Where your looking at tanks and cement and fencing, it was trees and deer and turkey. And blue jays…and I never see them anymore,” she said.

Garman describes big trucks carrying chemical-laced wastewater that squeal into the site at all hours. She can hear the pump from her yard. And Garman fears for her family.…—Julie Grant, “Fracking wastewater from Pa. often ends up in Ohio. Some residents say they’ve had enough,” StateImpact Pennsylvania, 10/12/18

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Working With the Earth
Fire and agroforestry revive California indigenous groups’ traditions

Fire and agroforestry revive California indigenous groups’ traditions

  • In Northern California, the Karuk and Yurok indigenous peoples are burning away decades of forest management practices and revitalizing their food-ways and communities.
  • Prescribed burning is the main tool in the groups’ agroforestry system, which encourages proliferation of traditional foods like huckleberries, acorns, salmon and elk, medicinal herbs like wormwood, plus willow, bear grass and hazel for basket making.
  • Agroforestry is the conscious tending of groups of trees, shrubs and herbs in a forest system that benefits biodiversity, sequesters carbon from the atmosphere, improves water quality, and also provides traditional foods that these indigenous peoples need to carry on their customs.
  • At a time when California is repeatedly ravaged by wildfires, these groups’ fire management practices are being studied by state and national agencies to inform their own fire management techniques.

For centuries, the Karuk tribe has nudged this interlocking ecosystem toward producing these beneficial plants through practices known as agroforestry. An ancient technology developed through time by the Karuk tribe and indigenous people around the world, agroforestry integrates crops and livestock into the grasses, shrubs and trees of native forests. After this 2-hectare (5-acre) stand burned in a wildfire in 2001, Karuk and Forest Service crews intentionally burned the land again in 2016 as a research plot. They’re using it to study how fire affects the food and other forest products that have sustained Native Americans in the Klamath River watershed for millennia.

For these tribes, plots like this are “our orchards, our gardens, and we cultivate them with fire,” says Lake, a slim man with a crew cut and multiple studs in his ears.

This site is part of an ambitious venture aimed at restoring the 5,700 square kilometers (2,200 square miles) that comprise Karuk aboriginal lands. The tribe is working in collaboration with the Forest Service, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), U.C. Berkeley, and numerous other partners to restore the territory, now almost all federally administered, to the functional landscape Karuks once stewarded. Their plans include a 22-square-kilometer (86-square mile) project near Orleans, approved in July by Forest Service officials for a management plan that incorporates Karuk traditional techniques. The partners are also using many of the principles of multi-story agroforestry, increasingly popular in the developing world, while reconnecting with tribal ways.…—Jane Braxton Little, “Fire and agroforestry revive California indigenous groups’ traditions,” Mongabay, 10/11/18

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Trump administration launches third ‘Hail Mary’ to stop youth climate case

Trump administration launches third ‘Hail Mary’ to stop youth climate case

The Trump administration has filed another extraordinary appeal in its attempt to avoid a trial in the landmark youth-led climate lawsuit, Juliana v. United States.

The government filed its third writ of mandamus petition to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to stay district court proceedings pending the resolution of a separate petition it plans to file with the Supreme Court next week. The Ninth Circuit denied the first two requests for a writ of mandamus—a rarely used and even more rarely approved judicial appeal that asks a higher court to overrule a lower one before the conclusion of a case—and the Supreme Court has already once denied a request by the federal government to halt discovery.

A writ of mandamus is usually granted only under extraordinary circumstances and is considered a legal last resort. The Ninth Circuit said after the first two requests that the government has not shown it would be meaningfully burdened by discovery or a trial.

The trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 29 at U.S. District Court in Eugene, Ore.

Julia Olson, co-counsel for the plaintiffs, said there is nothing new in the government’s latest petition.

“To suggest that our government suffers harm greater than its citizens by having to participate in a trial when its youngest citizens bring legitimate claims of constitutional harm before our Article III courts flies in the face of democratic principles,” said Olson.…—Karen Savage, “Trump administration launches third ‘Hail Mary’ to stop youth climate case,” Climate Liability News, 10/12/18

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Going Underground

Going Underground – The Sun Magazine

Paul Stamets On The Vast, Intelligent Network Beneath Our Feet

For several years people from different places and backgrounds kept recommending the same oddly titled book to me: Paul Stamets’s Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World (Ten Speed Press). Everyone told me it was one of the most mind-bending texts they’d ever read. With so many recommendations, I perversely hesitated to pick the book up, and when I finally did, I prepared myself to be disappointed.

I wasn’t. Stamets fundamentally changed my view of nature — in particular, fungi: yeasts, mushrooms, molds, the whole lot of them.

When we think of fungi, most of us picture mushrooms, those slightly mysterious, potentially poisonous denizens of dark, damp places. But a mushroom is just the fruit of the mycelium, which is an underground network of rootlike fibers that can stretch for miles. Stamets calls mycelia the “grand dis-assemblers of nature” because they break down complex substances into simpler components. For example, some fungi can take apart the hydrogen-carbon bonds that hold petroleum products together. Others have shown the potential to clean up nerve-gas agents, dioxins, and plastics. They may even be skilled enough to undo the ecological damage pollution has wrought.… Derrick Jensen, “Going Underground,” The Sun Magazine, February, 2008

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Soil as Carbon Storehouse:
New Weapon in Climate Fight?

Soil as Carbon Storehouse: New Weapon in Climate Fight?

The degradation of soils from unsustainable agriculture and other development has released billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere. But new research shows how effective land restoration could play a major role in sequestering CO2 and slowing climate change.

In the 19th century, as land-hungry pioneers steered their wagon trains westward across the United States, they encountered a vast landscape of towering grasses that nurtured deep, fertile soils.

Today, just 3 percent of North America’s tall-grass prairie remains. Its disappearance has had a dramatic impact on the landscape and ecology of the U.S., but a key consequence of that transformation has largely been overlooked: a massive loss of soil carbon into the atmosphere. The importance of soil carbon — how it is leached from the earth and how that process can be reversed — is the subject of intensifying scientific investigation, with important implications for the effort to slow the rapid rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

According to Rattan Lal, director of Ohio State University’s Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, the world’s cultivated soils have lost between 50 and 70 percent of their original carbon stock, much of which has oxidized upon exposure to air to become CO2. Now, armed with rapidly expanding knowledge about carbon sequestration in soils, researchers are studying how land restoration programs in places like the former North American prairie, the North China Plain, and even the parched interior of Australia might help put carbon back into the soil.

Absent carbon and critical microbes, soil becomes mere dirt, a process of deterioration that’s been rampant around the globe. Many scientists say that regenerative agricultural practices can turn back the carbon clock, reducing atmospheric CO2 while also boosting soil productivity and increasing resilience to floods and drought. Such regenerative techniques include planting fields year-round in crops or other cover, and agroforestry that combines crops, trees, and animal husbandry.…—Judith D. Schwartz, “Soil as Carbon Storehouse: New Weapon in Climate Fight?Yale E360, 3/4/14

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B.C. pipeline rupture causes natural gas shortage,
soaring gasoline prices

B.C. pipeline rupture causes natural gas shortage, soaring gasoline prices

RCMP say the explosion happened at about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and forced about 100 members of the nearby Lheidli T’enneh First Nation from their homes.

Officials say it was from an Enbridge natural gas pipeline in Shelley, about 15 kilometres northeast of Prince George.

Police say residences within several kilometres were evacuated as a precaution, but the evacuation zone has now been reduced to residences within a one kilometre radius of the explosion site.

They say there are no injuries and no reported damage other than to the pipeline itself.…—Mark Nielsen, “Enbridge pipeline ruptures, sparks massive fire near Prince George,” Vancouver Sun, 10/10

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Traditional Kyrgyz walnut-apple forests provide map for sustainable future

Traditional Kyrgyz walnut-apple forests provide map for sustainable future

  • In the Kyrgyz mountain town of Kyzyl-Unkur, farmers grow mixed forests of walnut, apple, apricot, pear, almond and cherry trees in a traditional system of agroforestry that stretches back centuries.
  • Beneath the fruit and nut trees, honey from beehives and mushrooms are collected, and hay is mown for livestock, providing multiple products for sale and consumption during the seasons.
  • Kyrgyzstan currently has numerous environmental challenges such as land, forest and pasture degradation, which agroforestry could alleviate.
  • Agroforestry also sequesters atmospheric carbon in trees and soil, and provides habitat for wild creatures.

KYZL-UNKUR, Jalalabad region, Kyrgyzstan — The mountain road leading to Kyzyl-Unkur winds through a gorge. Three hours later, on a broken road, one finds the village surrounded on all sides by unique relict walnut forests. Here, the local Kyrgyz population lives from generation to generation.

Everyone knows each other and who does what. Because of its remoteness from large settlements, a traditional way of life has been preserved here. All the inhabitants are farmers, engaged in raising livestock and growing crops. The total forest area of ​​Kyzyl-Unkur is 520 square kilometers (200 square miles), of which 225 square kilometers (87 square miles) are forested and the rest pasture. The walnut forests alone cover 37 square kilometers (14 square miles).

Further reading: Business and biodiversity benefit from Kyrgyz agroforestry systems

But a recent sharp increase in livestock numbers has taken a heavy toll on the pastures, causing land degradation and a decrease in the productivity of the vegetative cover. Because of this, the cattle have begun to enter the forests and impact the ecosystem.

The villagers have begun to change their stance on this practice, though, trying not to move the cattle into the forest and looking at the forests from a different angle: not as a free source of fuel and grazing pasture, but rather from the angle of agroforestry.

Historical arc of agroforestry

At the heart of agroforestry is the growing of different crops in a particular spot all together: fruit trees, shrubs and vegetables that yield produce at different times in summer and autumn. The Kyzyl-Unkur farmers together with the regional forestry department benefit from forests through agroforestry. The practice also benefits the ecosystem. They all pursue one goal: to preserve natural areas of forest and increase the area of ​​forests through agroforestry.…—Cholpon Uzakbaeva, “Traditional Kyrgyz walnut-apple forests provide map for sustainable future,” Mongobay, 9/27/18

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Dutch appeals court upholds
landmark climate change ruling

Dutch appeals court upholds landmark climate change ruling

A court in The Hague has upheld a historic legal order on the Dutch government to accelerate carbon emissions cuts, a day after the world’s climate scientists warned that time was running out to avoid dangerous warming.

Appeal court judges ruled that the severity and scope of the climate crisis demanded greenhouse gas reductions of at least 25% by 2020 – measured against 1990 levels – higher than the 17% drop planned by Mark Rutte’s liberal administration.

The ruling – which was greeted with whoops and cheers in the courtroom – will put wind in the sails of a raft of similar cases being planned around the world, from Norway to New Zealand and from the UK to Uganda.

Further reading: Kids around the world are suing governments over climate change—and it’s working

Marjan Minnesma, the director of the Urgenda campaign which brought the case, called on political leaders to start fighting climate change rather than court actions.

She said: “The special report of the IPCC emphasises that we need to reduce emissions with much greater urgency. The Dutch government knows that as a low-lying country, we are on the frontline of climate change. Our own government agencies recently concluded that in the worst case scenario sea levels might rise by 2.5 to 3 metres by the end of the century. The court of appeal’s decision puts all governments on notice. They must act now, or they will be held to account.”

Jesse Klaver, the leader of the Dutch Greens welcomed the decision as “historic news”. He told the Guardian: “Governments can no longer make promises they don’t fulfil. Countries have an obligation to protect their citizens against climate change. That makes this trial relevant for all other countries.”…—Arthur Neslen, “Dutch appeals court upholds landmark climate change ruling,” The Guardian, 10/9/18

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How to green the world’s deserts and reverse climate change

“Desertification is a fancy word for land that is turning to desert,” begins Allan Savory in this quietly powerful talk. And terrifyingly, it’s happening to about two-thirds of the world’s grasslands, accelerating climate change and causing traditional grazing societies to descend into social chaos. Savory has devoted his life to stopping it. He now believes — and his work so far shows — that a surprising factor can protect grasslands and even reclaim degraded land that was once desert.—Allan Savory, “How to green the world’s deserts and reverse climate change,” TED|YouTube, 3/4/13

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Not Just CO2: These Climate Pollutants
Also Must Be Cut
to Keep Global Warming to 1.5 Degrees

Not Just CO2: These Climate Pollutants Also Must Be Cut to Keep Global Warming to 1.5 Degrees

Countries won’t be able to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, considered by some scientists and policymakers to be the “safe” limit of climate change, without immediate and rapid reductions in a wide range of greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide, according to a new United Nations report.

The report, released Oct. 8 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sums up the research into how 1.5°C of warming will affect the world and how global warming can most effectively be stopped.

The planet has already warmed about 1°C since the start of the industrial era, and that’s likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if emissions continue at their current rate, the IPCC says. It describes how recent warming has been accompanied by a trend toward more intense and frequent climate, temperature and weather extremes, and how those risks will rise with the temperature.

The warming can be stopped, the IPCC writes in its summary for policymakers. Doing so will require countries to reduce global net emissions of carbon dioxide to zero by around 2050 and to also significantly reduce short-lived climate pollutants, including methane, black carbon and hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs.

That emphasis on reducing short-lived climate pollutants, which are many times more potent than CO2 but don’t last as long in the atmosphere, is stronger than what has been written into past international agreements.

That’s partly because, with the clock running out before the world busts through its carbon budget, curtailing short-lived pollutants can buy valuable time.

In analyzing the least disruptive pathways for keeping global warming under 1.5°C, the IPCC found that all involve deep reductions in both methane and black carbon emissions of at least 35 percent by 2050.

The report’s summary for policymakers points to three industries in particular for reducing short-lived climate pollutants: energy, agriculture and waste.…—Phil McKenna, “Not Just CO2: These Climate Pollutants Also Must Be Cut to Keep Global Warming to 1.5 Degrees,” InsideClimate News, 10/7/18

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Hemp Cleans Up Radioactive Soil
and So Much More

Hemp Cleans Up Radioactive Soil and So Much More

Could hemp be the plant that saves the planet? It is the best soil contaminant cleaner, and that includes radioactive waste.

Is there anything hemp can’t do? The mostly outlawed plant, once cultivated by George Washington at his Mount Vernon home, can be made into fabric, paper, pasta, and fuel, but now scientists have discovered a more subtle and astonishing use for cannabis sativa: saving the planet from our waste. Hemp can even get rid of radioactive soil contaminants.

Industrial hemp, the common name for low-THC varieties of cannabis grown for non-medicinal-related uses, has been shown to be extremely adept at sucking up harmful chemicals from the soil, allowing former radioactive spill sites to become fertile (and safe) once again.

How Do They Clean Up Soil Contamination?

Ordinarily, unusable soil that has been sullied by heavy metals or nuclear material is fixed through a process called remediation, which involves sowing designer chemicals into the earth that “eat up” the poisons. Think of it like using a magnet to collect tiny bits of metal floating in a glass of water. Remediation, however, doesn’t come cheap. It’s a billion-dollar industry.

However, all of that can happen naturally—and much less expensively—through what’s known as phytoremediation (phyto- from the Greek for “plant”). In phytoremediation, the roots of plants like hemp or mustard, dig deep into contaminated soil and, through their natural growth process, suck up the harmful chemicals right alongside the beneficial nutrients that remain. These polluting elements are completely removed from the ground and stored within the growing plants—usually within the leaves, stems or stalks.…—Matt Weeks, “Hemp Cleans Up Radioactive Soil and So Much More,” RxLeaf, 8/28/18

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And That’s A Wrap! Thanks to everyone who sent in news, action announcements and comments this week. Send kudos, rotten tomatoes and your story ideas, your group’s action events, and news of interest to intrepid climate change and environmental justice warriors! Send to editor@thebanner.news.