The Banner, Vol. 6, No. 33 – Cashing Out on Life

September 29, 2020
An astonishing episode was pointed out this week. Wall Street has begun trading in a new commodity: water. This brought to mind the many ways that U.S. corporations are the organizers of sociopathic greed in America. And their influence spread from their beginnings around the world. We focus on the how these corporations have come to define rationality itself —a rationality that is inherently psychopathic.
But first the news.

Table of Contents

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For a better experience go to our online edition at thebanner.news

NY & Northeast Activist News

National Activist News

Cashing Out on Life

Indigenous Peoples News

Resilience & Deep Adaptation

Intersections

New Energy News

Science & Climate

Regulatory & Court News

And Now for Something Completely Different


Action Alert! Response Needed by Oct 1:
National Fuel Pipeline in Erie County

National Fuel has applied to NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) for a permit to build a 8,580 ft. , 2 to 4 inch diameter gas distribution line in the Town of Newstead in Erie County. Because it crosses under a wetland DEC must issue a permit.

This is the kind of pipeline utilities put in all the time when adding new customers, and typically DEC would approve it. BUT THE TIME FOR BUSINESS AS USUAL IS OVER!

New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act law says that before issuing any permits, state agencies must consider whether the approval will interfere with reaching the State’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.

  • Tell the DEC permitting this pipeline will increase greenhouse gas emissions and will increase reliance on fossil fuels.
  • Tell them approving this pipeline is contrary to the spirit of the CLCPA and actions by the Public Service Commission to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and to support renewable heating and cooling.
  • Tell them to reject this pipeline application and instead support heat pumps and energy efficiency.

The earth is – literally- on fire. Time is running out. Every action – even the smallest pipeline – matters.

Email comments to Michelle R. Woznick, DEP.R9@dec.ny.gov

For more information: Greenbush Pipeline Installation Project; Freshwater Wetlands Permit & 401 Water Quality Certification

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HeatSmart Tompkins Forges Ahead
with New Program Director and $200,000 Grant

HeatSmart Tompkins, a home-grown community non-profit which helps residents access the benefits of heat pumps and energy efficiency, has named a new program director to administer a $200,000 grant which will help the organization continue its mission for another two years. HeatSmart Tompkins, founded as Solar Tompkins, is a grassroots organization committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through implementation of clean and renewable energy technologies such as heat pumps, solar wind and increased home insulation and sealing.

Tompkins County has been a leader in the adoption of energy efficient air and ground source heat pumps thanks in part to the outreach and education provided by HeatSmart Tompkins. Heat pumps use refrigeration technology to capture the free solar heat in the air or the ground and use it to heat or cool buildings. These systems are 2-4 times more efficient than the most efficient fossil furnaces and are considered one of the key technology solutions for transitioning off fossil fuels to curb climate change. According to the “New York State Decarbonization Pathways Analysis,” 50 -70% of heating system sales need to be heat pumps by 2030 to stay on track to meet the carbon reduction goals codified in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) passed by the New York State legislature in 2019.

The grant, awarded through a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) Program Opportunity Notice (PON) will help HeatSmart Tompkins conduct community outreach and education campaigns to inform residents about the benefits of heat pumps, home energy efficiency improvements and other clean energy technologies.

“We started in 2013 as Solar Tompkins,” explained Jonathan Comstock, founder and outgoing program director of HeatSmart Tompkins. “We ran the first big Solarize program in New York State to alert people locally to renewable energy solutions. Following the success of that program, we turned our attention to clean heating and cooling for even greater climate impact.”

“We learned that the technology was quite advanced and that heat pumps are popular in Europe and elsewhere, but haven’t caught on here,” said Brian Eden, chair of HeatSmart Tompkins. “The main reason for this is lack of familiarity with the technology for both contractors and the customers. We created HeatSmart to fill that information gap. We also help customers identify solutions for their buildings and quality contractors to implement them.”

HeatSmart Tompkins’ grassroots efforts attracted the attention of New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the state authority which promotes energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources.

“We immediately saw the potential of doing grassroots community outreach about energy efficiency solutions for homes,” said Scott Smith, program manager of NYSERDA’s Clean Heating and Cooling team. “Albany has shown great leadership in providing us ambitious goals for climate sustainability and we rely heavily on our community partners and support from across the state to help us achieve those goals. We are now funding 15 Clean Heating and Cooling campaigns across the state, all of which were inspired by the HeatSmart Tompkins model.”

“Now in our fifth year, HeatSmart Tompkins continues to innovate and lead,” said Lisa Marshall, the newly appointed program director. “We’re incredibly grateful to have been a recipient of a $200,000 grant from NYSERDA that will carry our program forward into 2022. Our goal for this next phase of HeatSmart is to move past the early adopters to more mainstream customers, making heat pumps the default heating systems in Tompkins County. New York State is at a critical juncture in terms of our energy policy; we have to rapidly scale up energy efficiency measures including heat pump adoption to meet Governor Cuomo’s nation-leading climate goals. HeatSmart Tompkins is proud to lead the way in making that happen.”

More info: HeatSmart Tompkins’ fall events schedule

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Action Alert! Oppose National Grid’s
Rate Hikes and Climate Destruction
at Public Hearing Wednesday

New data shows one in four households in the U.S. do not have enough food to eat, and utility customers in upstate New York are falling further behind on their energy bills. Meanwhile, the state’s moratorium on utility shut offs could expire as early as October 4. Nevertheless, the utility giant National Grid seeks to rack up more corporate profits and climate destroying investments by raising energy bills on struggling residents. Virtual public hearings on National Grid’s proposed rate hike start Wednesday at 1pm. Residents and representatives of organizations will testify against the rate hikes and against the utility’s continued investment in methane gas pipelines, which are a violation of the state’s new climate law.

Further reading National Grid Expanding Its Fracked Gas Supplies | Huntington Now
Bad time for National Grid rate hike | Schenectady Daily Gazette

What: Public Hearings on National Grid’s proposed rate increase. The utility seeks to increase customer energy bills by $131.8 million next year (approximately $100 per year for the average residential customer). $41.8 million of the increase would go toward maintaining and expanding the company’s methane gas delivery system at a time when climate law requires that New York essentially phase out fossil fuels by 2050.

When: First hearing is Wednesday, September 30 at 1pm.

All hearing dates and times can be found here: http://documents.dps.ny.gov/public/Common/ViewDoc.aspx?DocRefId={0A9A79D4-05DD-4E2C-8723-9FAE6B44FE59}

Where: Online and by phone.

To listen to the hearing: Any person who would like to listen to the hearing but would not like to make a statement may access the hearing without registering. The hearings will be live-streamed on the internet and available for viewing on the Department of Public Service’s YouTube channel on the dates and times listed above. To access the YouTube channel, visit the Department’s website, www.dps.ny.gov, and click on the YouTube icon at the bottom of the homepage. In addition, any person without internet access may listen to the hearings by phone by calling (518)549-0500 and entering the applicable access code.

To register to speak at the hearing, according to the Public Service Commission:

  • Visit www.webex.com.
  • Click “Join” at the top right-hand corner of the screen.
  • Input the appropriate event number for the hearing in the spaces provided:
    • 173 059 8337 for the September 30th event
    • 173 214 6179 for the October 7th even
  • Provide all other requested information

Participants can also register by phone as well by calling 1-800-342-3330. Follow prompts to the appropriate hearing and provide the following information: first and last name, address, and phone number.

Who: Residents and organizations concerned about rate hikes and the climate crisis. Organizations include: Alliance for a Green Economy, Citizen Action of New York, Stop the NY Fracked Gas Pipeline, PUSH Buffalo, Earthjustice, and Pace Energy and Climate Center.

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Shale Gas Development and Cancer: Conversations with the Experts

Part 1: Shale Gas Extraction and Cancer: The Current Evidence
Dr. Marsha Haley
August 11, 2020

GasFrackingCancer

Dr. Marsha Haley received her medical degree from the University of Virginia and completed a residency in radiation oncology at UPMC. She is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She is an MPH candidate at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health.

Part 2: Unconventional Natural Gas Development and Childhood Cancers
Dr. Shaina Stacy
September 15, 2020

GasFrackingCancer2

For part two of the series, we are joined by Dr. Shaina Stacy

Dr. Shaina Stacy is a postdoctoral associate at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, where she investigates early life and environmental risk factors for childhood cancers. She received her PhD and MPH from Pitt Public Health’s Department of Environmental & Occupational Health.

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Hero at the Headwaters

When Pine Creek was dying, Bob McCullough stood up to save it.

Great trout fishing on Pine Creek didn’t happen by accident. It took incredible work on the part of an individual with a dream of not only what could be but what should be. It took irrepressible stamina and willpower to persist. Oh, and one more thing—it took someone with an unwavering appreciation and love of Pine Creek and its hallowed valleys with hidden pools, runs, glides, and cold-water tributaries to bring the degraded water back to its original glory. The person who did all this, almost single-handedly, was Bob McCullough.

The whole story began many years before the decreasing fly hatches and the Babb Creek acid mine drainage problem took center stage. There was a group of night trout fishermen from back in the lumbering era who lived in Jersey Shore; Bob’s grandfather was one of them. Bob related to me that, “He took me along one night, and I enjoyed it. I’ve been night fishing ever since.” My friendship with Bob started in the late 1960s at a Susquehanna Valley Trout Unlimited (TU) meeting. The individuals at the meeting divided up into fishing teams whereby two anglers would go to the various watersheds and, along with fishing, would document obvious practices of individuals polluting the creeks. Pictures were taken and team members would witness and corroborate the occurrence. Back at the next TU meeting member lawyers would put the complaints together. I remember one infraction involved a cabin that had the inhabitants’ washing machine on the back porch simply pumping the soapy water directly into Lycoming Creek! It was a very impressive group of leaders to this twenty-one-year-old—one I’ll never forget as some of the names are still sharp in my mind: Horace Hand, Bill O’Connor, Justice Baum, and, of course Bob, the leader.…

Further reading: Wildness Lost – Pine Creek | FracTracker Alliance

During the 1970s and 80s anglers began to notice a change in the flies present on Pine Creek below Blackwell. It was nothing you could put an exact date on, or even a particular year. It was an event that was cumulative and took a toll over ten to twelve years. Fly fishing people tend to live by the rhythms dictated by their favorite aquatic hatches. The typical seasons at that time started with the early spring stone flies and progressed through the Hendricksons, Red Quills, Quill Gordons, Paraleps, Blue-Winged Olives, and caddis. The big March Browns came on and all was well in the lives of the fishermen and fisherwomen. Coming quickly after were the Drakes: Brown, Slate, Green, and Yellow—people came from all around to experience the legendary Pine Creek hatches. There were good fall hatches as well but back then few shed after fall leaves started to change. In the first few years, individuals thought the decline in flies in any given hatch was a part of a normal cycle dictated by abnormally warm water in the summer, a bad winter with a lot of anchor ice, or just a poor reproductive season for the aquatic insects. After a few years of the cycle not reversing itself, anglers began to notice the lack of numbers of flies within hatches, they noticed a lack of peak-hatch, and they started to be aware that some hatches were actually disappearing altogether.…—”Hero at the Headwaters,” Dave Wonderlich, Mountain Home Magazine, 4/3/17

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FracTracker’s new fracking imagery platform – a free resource!

1000’s of fossil fuel and fracking-related photos available on FracTracker’s new image-hosting platform!

We’re very pleased to release FracTracker’s improved multimedia platform for your convenient use. You can easily view, download, and share oil, gas, and petrochemical imagery. We’ve made it easy for you to find what you need within over 1,600 photos, GIFs, and videos of the various aspects of fossil fuel industries and activities. All media are free to download and use for all visitors, and the collection will only expand as our work continues!
Much of our imagery is aerial photography taken from small planes in collaboration with international nonprofit conservation organization LightHawk, or via drone, allowing you to get a bird’s-eye view of drilling and fracking, frac sand mining, petrochemical and plastic production, refinement, and more.

FracTracker’s new imagery platform is hosted on the trusted website Flickr, which is free to use and makes it easy to explore. Navigate to our Collections page (also avai-lable from the Albums tab) to see FracTracker’s imagery convey a story through the albums grouped there—such as exploring the build-out through the Infrastructure & Transportation Collection, or the Plastics & Petrochemicals Collection. In the Albums, see snapshots sorted by specific types of facilities, like Frac Sand Mining and Pipelines, or by specific projects, like Endless Effects: the Loyalsock Creek Watershed Project. Once you click on a photo, you can view its location on a map.

We hope that these visuals will provide insight into the US energy landscape, in addition to our articles and maps. Seeing the connections from upstream, to midstream, to downstream, will help you to better understand the effects of fossil fuel activities. Whether it is the withered landscapes, the depleted environments, or the fragmented lives that speak to the viewer most, it is important to remember what was endured to procure these resources, and what it will take to move to a cleaner, more just energy landscape.

FracTrackerDonatePlease share with your networks, and if you have any feedback or questions about how to use the platform, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Cashing Out Life

How to Invest in Water

We know water is the source of life. But it can also be a source for portfolio diversification. Sounds strange, we know but remember: Like gold and oil, water is a commodity – and it happens to be rather scarce nowadays. So, as with any other scarcity, the water shortage creates investment opportunities.

 

Global Water Resources

About 70% of the earth’s surface is covered in water, but 97% of it is saltwater, which is unfit for human use. Saltwater cannot be used for drinking, crop irrigation, or most industrial uses. Of the remaining 3% of the world’s water resources, only about 1% is readily available for human consumption.1

Global Shortage

Rapid industrialization and increasing agricultural use have contributed to worldwide water shortages. Areas that have experienced lack of H2O include China, Egypt, India, Israel, Pakistan, Mexico, parts of Africa and the United States (Colorado, California, Las Vegas and the East Coast), to name but a few.

 

Pollution also highlights the need for clean water. In the U.S., the dead zone off the Gulf Coast highlights the impact of fertilizer runoff,2 and methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), an additive in unleaded gasoline, can be found in well water from California to Maryland.3 Overseas, highly publicized incidents in Russia, China, and elsewhere demonstrate that pollution isn’t limited to the West. Of course, fouled water supplies further limit the amount of freshwater available for human use.

Indexes

Here are some of the more popular indexes designed to track various water-related investment opportunities:

  • The Dow Jones U.S. Water Index is composed of approximately 29 stocks; it is a barometer consisting of a large number of international and domestic companies that are affiliated with the water business and have a minimum market capitalization of $150 million.4
  • The ISE-B&S Water Index was launched in January 2006, and this index represents water distribution, water filtration, flow technology, and other companies that specialize in water-related solutions. It contains over 35 stocks.4
  • The S&P 1500 Water Utilities Index is a sub-sector of the Standard & Poor’s 1500 Utilities Index; this index is composed of just two companies, American States Water (NYSE:AWR) and Aqua America (NYSE: WTR).4
  • The S&P Global Water Index is an 11-year-old index that contains 50 companies around the world; their water-related businesses fall into two areas: utilities and infrastructure, and equipment and materials.5

The Bloomberg World Water Index and the MSCI World Water Index provide a look at the water industry from an international perspective, although it can be rather difficult to find current information about either index.6 There are also a variety of utility indexes that include some water stocks.…—”Water Investments: How to Invest in Water,” James McWhinney, Investopedia, 6/25/19

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The UK government wants to put a price on nature
but that will destroy it

Defining Earth’s resources as ‘natural capital’ is morally wrong, intellectually vacuous, and most of all counter-productive

Never mind that the new environmental watchdog will have no teeth. Never mind that the government plans to remove protection from local wildlife sites. Never mind that its 25-year environment plan is all talk and no action. We don’t need rules any more. We have a pouch of magic powder we can sprinkle on any problem to make it disappear.

This powder is the monetary valuation of the natural world. Through the market, we can avoid conflict and hard choices, laws and policies, by replacing political decisions with economic calculations.

Almost all official documents on environmental issues are now peppered with references to “natural capital” and to the Natural Capital Committee, the Laputian body the government has created to price the living world and develop a set of “national natural capital accounts”. The government admits that “at present we cannot robustly value everything we wish to in economic terms; wildlife being a particular challenge”. Hopefully, such gaps can soon be filled, so we’ll know exactly how much a primrose is worth.

The government argues that without a price, the living world is accorded no value, so irrational decisions are made. By costing nature, you ensure that it commands the investment and protection that other forms of capital attract. This thinking is based on a series of extraordinary misconceptions. Even the name reveals a confusion: natural capital is a contradiction in terms. Capital is properly understood as the human-made segment of wealth that is deployed in production to create further financial returns. Concepts such as natural capital, human capital or social capital can be used as metaphors or analogies, though even these are misleading. But the 25-year plan defines natural capital as “the air, water, soil and ecosystems that support all forms of life”. In other words, nature is capital. In reality, natural wealth and human-made capital are neither comparable nor interchangeable. If the soil is washed off the land, we cannot grow crops on a bed of derivatives.

As the cognitive linguist George Lakoff points out, when you use the frames and language of your opponents, you don’t persuade them to adopt your point of view. Instead you adopt theirs, while strengthening their resistance to your objectives. Lakoff argues that the key to political success is to promote your own values, rather than appease the mindset you contest. The natural capital agenda reinforces the notion that nature has no value unless you can extract cash from it. Dieter Helm, who chairs the government’s preposterous committee, makes this point explicit: the idea that nature has intrinsic value, independent of what humans can take from it, he says, is “dangerous”. But this dangerous idea has been the motivating force of all successful environmental campaigns.

Guardian-Donate.-1The commonest response to the case I’m making is that we can use both intrinsic and extrinsic arguments for protecting nature. The natural capital agenda, its defenders say, is “an additional weapon in the fight to protect the countryside”. But it does not add, it subtracts. As the philosopher Michael Sandel argues in What Money Can’t Buy, market values crowd out non-market values. Markets change the meaning of the things we discuss, replacing moral obligations with commercial relationships. This corrupts and degrades our intrinsic values and empties public life of moral argument.…—”The UK government wants to put a price on nature – but that will destroy it,” George Monbiot, The Guardian, 5/15/18

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Film Review: The Corporation

TheCorporation

[Editor’s note: In this edition we present this, the original documentary, “The Corporation,” from 2004. Further down the page you will find the update: “The New Corporation.” It is not a tale of lessons learned —except corporation has learned it needed to tidy up its act to look like a good citizen rather than redeem its character, or perhaps renounce its claims to personhood.]

In many walks of life, resources that were once considered publicly owned, like the ocean, the public airwaves, and even our own DNA, are being quietly appropriated by the private sector. When the Bolivian government brought in a transnational corporation to privatise water, at the demand of the World Bank, it became illegal for people to collect rain. A corporation literally owned what was falling from the sky. Those who could not afford to buy water went thirsty, until a popular uprising wrestled back water ownership into the public domain.

This is perhaps the most shocking case study—and there are many—in the Canadian documentary The Corporation. The film argues that the corporation is today’s dominant institution and that we should be troubled by its behaviour. The problem is not just that corporations are plundering our common wealth, but that in their unfettered pursuit of profit, they have also become a liability, and a danger to our health and the health of the planet.

This argument, of course, isn’t new, but what the film makers have done successfully is to lay out the most compelling evidence in a fast-paced and stylish movie, with bold graphics and a pounding soundtrack. The story is so well told that even the Economist, a great believer in the benefits of the market, called the movie “a surprisingly rational and coherent attack on capitalism’s most important institution.”

The two and a half hour film begins with a potted history of the US corporation, which gained the legal status of a “person” in the mid-1800s, allowing it the same rights and protections that people enjoy. The film makers then pose a question that teachers at business school love to put to their students: “If the corporation is a legal person, what kind of personality does it have?”…—”Film: The Corporation,” Gavin Yamey, The National Center for Biotechnology Information, 7/10/04

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Anger and Confusion After Facebook Suspends Accounts
of Environmental and Indigenous Groups
Ahead of Pipeline Protest

“Facebook is actively suppressing those who oppose fascism and the colonial capitalists,” said one First Nations activist.

Environmental groups reacted with confusion and anger after Facebook temporarily suspended their accounts over the weekend, just days after the social media giant announced an initiative aimed at combating climate misinformation.

The Guardian reports some of the largest and most respected progressive groups—including Greenpeace USA, Rainforest Action Network, and Climate Hawks Vote—were among the hundreds of accounts of Indigenous, climate, and social justice organizations that Facebook suspended.

“Calls for violence by militias in Kenosha are allowed to persist on Facebook, yet, we are banned and receive threats for posting a petition.”—Delee Nikal, Wet’suwet’en member

According to Greenpeace USA, other affected groups include: Presente.org, Rising Tide North America, Seeding Sovereignty, Stand.earth, United For Respect, Wet’suwet’en Access Point on Gidimt’en Territory, Wet’suwet’en Solidarity U.K., and many others.

Greenpeace said the affected people and organizations were informed that they would be blocked from posting on Facebook for three days due to violations described as “copyright infringement.” As of Monday, dozens of the affetced accounts had not been reinstated, the group said.…—”Anger and Confusion After Facebook Suspends Environmental and Indigenous Groups’ Accounts Ahead of Pipeline Protest,” Common Dreams News, 9/22/20

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Wall Street is set to start trading in a new commodity: Water

Almost two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to face water shortages by 2025, according to the CME

If the record heat and wildfires ravaging California weren’t a clear enough sign that the climate is changing, then consider this: Wall Street is about to start trading futures contracts on the state’s water supply.

The contracts are the first of their kind in the U.S. and are being created by CME Group Inc., the world’s largest futures exchange. They are intended, CME says, to both allow California’s big water consumers — like almond farms and municipalities — to hedge against surging prices and can act as a benchmark that signals how acute water scarcity is becoming in the state and, more broadly, across the globe.

Water supplies have been tight for years in California, and large parts of Asia and Africa also face the potential of scarcity as temperatures rise. Almost two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to face water shortages by 2025, according to the CME.…

Wall Street first took significant note of the potential for water after investor Michael Burry drew attention to the commodity 10 years ago when he spoke about investing in farmland with “water on site.” Burry, whose bet against the subprime bubble was spotlighted in “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine” by Michael Lewis and the 2015 movie, has since exited his water and farm holdings, though he noted last year that there’s “a lot of demand for those assets these days.”…—”Wall Street is set to start trading in a new commodity: Water,” Elizabeth Elkin, Mint, 9/18/20

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‘Unlike Anything We’ve Seen in Modern History’:
Attacks Against Journalists Soar
During Black Lives Matter Protests

JournalistsAttacked

At least 50 journalists in the US have been arrested during Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the US, while dozens of others have also been injured by rubber bullets, pepper spray and tear gas.

The US Press Freedom Tracker has collected nearly 500 incidents from 382 reports, from the unrest in Minneapolis in the wake of George Floyd‘s killing by police in late May, to demonstrations in more than 70 cities across 35 states since.

At least 46 journalists were arrested between the end of May and the beginning of June, according to data collected by the organisation. Dozens of others reported injuries from law enforcement, firing “less lethal” projectiles, tear gas canisters and other weapons into crowds or directly at reporters during demonstrations, even when they had identified themselves and shown credentials, the organisation reports.

Two reporters have suffered permanent eye injuries.

The latest reports mark a significant spike since the end of May, when nationwide protests started, at which point the organisation had recorded only five arrests and 26 attacks for the entire year by that point.

But by the end of the month, the number of attacks had increased nearly five times, after more than a month of nightly protests, vigils and other demonstrations against police violence and racial injustice.

“The importance of documenting these – and doing it as quickly as we can – is not lost: the conversations and reckoning that lie ahead of us as a country are taking shape right now,” Press Freedom Tracker managing editor Kristin McCudden said in a statement.…—”‘Unlike Anything We’ve Seen in Modern History’: Attacks Against Journalists Soar During Black Lives Matter Protests,” Alex Woodward, The Independent|Reader Supported News, 9/28/20

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Don’t be fooled by the corporation’s ‘makeover’

TheNewCorporation

In 2003, a Canadian documentary called The Corporation helped audiences understand that the law treats a corporation just like a person—and if it were a person, it would fit the description of a psychopath.

The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel premieres on Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s based on Joel Bakan’s new book, The New Corporation: How “Good” Corporations are Bad for Democracy. Bakan is a professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law and executive producer of the new film, which he co-directed. We spoke with him about the project.

To what degree did your original version of The Corporation achieve its goals?

The idea of the first project was to develop a critical awareness of the corporation and hopefully have that percolate into policy and governance structures to contain the power of these institutions, which we had revealed as too powerful, too threatening to democracy, and dangerous to society and the environment.

About 10 years after the film and book I looked around and thought, “Wow, we tried to slay the dragon of corporate capitalism but it has actually become much more powerful, and the fire it’s breathing is much more dangerous. We really need to go back to the drawing board.” And I started thinking about a sequel.

What were corporations doing during that time to increase their power?

After the film and book came out, I spoke to a lot of business groups. People would say to me, “You know, Joel, you’re right. The corporation was problematic. We were acting in bad ways, but we’ve cleaned up our act now.”

That’s why I called this one The New Corporation, because corporations did a substantial makeover and started to position themselves as providers of solutions to world problems, rather than creators of those problems. If you go to the website of any major corporation, you’ll think you’ve accidentally landed at an activist group’s website. It’s all about solving poverty, solving climate change, solving social and environmental problems.…—”Don’t be fooled by the corporation’s ‘makeover,’ documentary warns,” Erik Rolfsen, University of British Columbia News, 9/10/20

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Economists keep saying
we should put a price on nature.
Now they’€™ve finally done it

A group of scholars may have finally come up with a way to estimate the monetary value of natural resources.

Putting a price on nature may seem like an impossible task, but economists believe that finding a way to calculate the value of natural resources is crucial when it comes to deciding whether our use of a resource is sustainable. Natural resources are capital assets, economists have argued, in the same way that land, buildings and stocks are considered assets — and spending money to protect these resources should be viewed as an investment in the future rather than just another cost.

The problem is that, so far, no one has developed a good way to estimate the monetary value of natural resources. But now, a group of scholars may have finally come up with a solution. In a paper published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they’ve published a formula for computing the price of what they refer to as “natural capital” — including everything from groundwater to forests. And they argue that using this formula will allow policymakers to compare the value of natural capital with the value of more traditional forms of capital, thus encouraging better investments and more sustainable decisions in the future.

Further reading: What’s Wrong with Putting a Price on Nature? | Yale E360. 10/18/12

“To me, the main reason to worry about this has to do with [the question of] can we measure sustainability, and does it mean anything that’s measurable that can guide policy and progress for the way that we allocate resources?” said the new paper’s lead author Eli Fenichel, a professor in the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.…—”Economists keep saying we should put a price on nature. Now they’ve finally done it,” Chelsea Harvey, The Washington Post, 2/8/16

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DTE, Consumers join major utilities
in electric vehicle charging pledge

Michigan’s two major investor-owned utilities are joining other large Midwest power companies in pledging to build out an interstate charging network to support more widespread electric vehicle adoption.

Detroit-based DTE Energy and Jackson-based Consumers Energy announced the “memorandum of cooperation” today along with Ameren Missouri, Ameren Illinois, Oklahoma Gas and Energy and Kansas City-based Evergy.

The agreement signals a commitment to building out an interstate network of fast-charging stations from Michigan to Kansas by 2022, but doesn’t provide specifics about where or how many charging stations would be constructed. The utilities said such details would be subject to regulatory approval in each state.

A connected charging network is meant to help alleviate “range anxiety” among EV drivers and ensure they can travel greater distances.…—”DTE, Consumers join major utilities in electric vehicle charging pledge,” Andy Balaskovitz, MiBiz, 9/22/20

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Murkowski ‘not giving up’
on Senate clean energy bill vote
before the end of 2020

Despite a potentially more difficult path for the legislative package following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chair is determined to see her bill get a vote by the end of this year.

Murkowski will wrap up her 12 years of leadership on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) at the end of this year, having spent six years as ranking member and another six as chair, and implored clean energy interests not to give up hope on seeing a clean energy package pass before her term as chair is up.

“Some are already looking ahead to next year, past the elections and to a new Congress, as they contemplate what is possible on clean energy, and I understand that impulse,” she said. “But I would also encourage you not to give up hope on meaningful legislation before the end of this year.”

She and ENR Ranking Member Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., in February introduced a wide-ranging legislative package that incorporates almost 50 bills reported to the Senate in 2019. It includes 17 demonstration projects for advanced nuclear, carbon capture, long duration storage and geothermal, and would be the first comprehensive federal energy bill to pass since 2007.

The bill hit a roadblock in March, ultimately preventing the Senate from bringing it to the floor for a vote. An amendment to limit the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) — a potent greenhouse gas used in air conditioner units, refrigeration, building insulation and other applications — led to the stall, but senators came to an agreement on including the amendment earlier this month.

The inclusion of the HFC phasedown “clears one significant hurdle” and ultimately “makes it an even better bill,” Murkowski said Tuesday.…—”Murkowski ‘not giving up’ on Senate clean energy bill vote before the end of 2020,” Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive, 9/23/20

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Press freedom advocates are slamming Trump
for glorifying violence against reporters

TrumpMocks

Press organizations have urged reporters to keep holding President Donald Trump accountable after he applauded physical aggression toward journalists covering his campaign.

“They grabbed a guy — ‘I’m a reporter! I’m a reporter!’ — ‘Get out of here!’ They threw him aside like a bag of popcorn. But honestly, when you watch the crap we’ve all had to take … it’s actually a beautiful sight,” Trump said Tuesday, in reference to an MSNBC reporter who was hit by a rubber bullet while covering protests in Minnesota in May.

John Donnelly, the chair of the press freedom team at the National Press Club, told Business Insider “a statement that glorifies violence against reporters is anathema to the American constitution.”

Donnelly said that Trump’s latest comments follow a long list of broadsides against journalists, which ultimately pose a threat to democracy itself.

“What he is doing is akin to what a Duterte or an Erdogan or a Putin might do,” Donnelly added, referring to the president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte and the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.…—”Press groups slam Trump for glorifying violence against news reporters,” Sarah Al-Arshani, Business Insider, 9/24/20

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The High Price of Police Militarization

The new study, The Wars Are Here: How the United States’ Post-9/11 Wars Helped Militarize U.S. Police,” (PDF) by the Costs of War project, argues that today’s high level of police militarization is one of the cruel, domestic costs of recent American wars abroad.

“Police militarization is in a sense as old as U.S. policing itself,” the report’s introduction reads, “yet it has exploded since September 11, 2001, and its intensification must be counted as among the costs of this country’s post-9/11 Wars.”

The study’s author, Jessica Katzenstein, is a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at Brown University. As she tells The Progressive in an email, this report “frames intensified U.S. police militarization as a cost of the U.S.-led post-9/11 wars, without losing sight of the deep lineage of ‘militarized’ policing in this country.”

“Charting this longer history is key to understanding why the post-9/11 surge of police militarization has mobilized especially against Black, brown, Indigenous, and poor people, and to understanding what ‘demilitarizing’ the police could mean,” Katzenstein says. “By tracing the continuity of anti-Black and colonial violence, and by taking a broad view of ‘militarization,’ the report argues that militarization is inseparable from U.S. policing writ large.”

The Costs of War is a project of the Watson Institute International and Public Affairs at Brown University. Comprising multiple scholars, legal experts, physicians, and human rights practitioners, the project has been documenting the “unacknowledged costs of the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere” since launching in 2010.

It has been nineteen years since the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the declaration of the “War on Terror” by President George W. Bush, which paved the way for domestic policing to become inseparable from “homeland security” and “counterterrorism efforts.” This resulted in an upsurge in resources from the federal government to local law enforcement, as well as strengthened alliances between the police, the military, and federal agencies such as The Department of Homeland Security.

“Since the launch of the U.S. post-9/11 wars with the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, we have seen successive administrations use counterterrorism as one of the latest justifications for police militarization and dramatic increases in the U.S. military budget,” Costs of War Co-Director Stephanie Savell says in an email.…—”The High Price of Police Militarization,” Mike Kuhlenbeck, The Progressive, 9/22/20

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With record temperatures and little rain,
a severe drought has gripped much of New England

The town of Scituate’s public water supply reservoir is very low. PHOTO: John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Rivers and streams have run dry or extremely low in recent weeks, leaving large numbers of fish and other aquatic creatures to die or seek refuge with little protection from predators.

Parched forests have been robbed of mushrooms and insects, while many maples, birches, and other trees have already lost their leaves, turning much of the region’s woodlands into a tinderbox that has provided kindling for a surge in wildfires.

Record temperatures this summer and a precipitous decline in rainfall have produced a worsening drought that extends from Cape Cod to the Berkshires and beyond, with some parts of New England experiencing what federal regulators call “severe” and “extreme” conditions.

In Massachusetts, temperatures this summer broke a century’s worth of heat records by nearly a degree and much of the state has received about 8 inches less rainfall than usual, with little expected in the coming weeks.… —”With record temperatures and little rain, a severe drought has gripped much of New England,” David Abel, The Boston Globe, 9/25/20

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A rare hurricane force wind warning
was just issued for Alaska

The National Weather Service office in Anchorage issued a rare Hurricane Force Wind Warning for the Northern Gulf of Alaska on Saturday.

Parts of the Gulf could experience hurricane force winds and waves as high as a three-story building on Sunday into early Monday, the NWS said. The warning extends up to 100 nautical miles out, including Kodiak Island and Cook Inlet.

“Models are in fairly good agreement with the storm/hurricane force low (pressure system) moving into the Gulf over the weekend so confidence is high with this system,” said the NWS office in Anchorage.

A deepening area of low pressure in the Gulf will approach the coast beginning late Saturday night. By then, winds will begin to approach 60 mph with seas building from 6 to 16 feet.

The system will rapidly intensify through Sunday, with peak winds approaching hurricane force (75 mph) in the afternoon. By late Sunday, seas could build to 27 feet, NWS said.…—”A rare hurricane force wind warning was just issued for Alaska,” Gene Norman and Allison Chinchar, CNN, 9/26/20

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New Climate Maps Show a Transformed United States

According to new data from the Rhodium Group analyzed by ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine, warming temperatures and changing rainfall will drive agriculture and temperate climates northward, while sea level rise will consume coastlines and dangerous levels of humidity will swamp the Mississippi River valley.

Taken with other recent research showing that the most habitable climate in North America will shift northward and the incidence of large fires will increase across the country, this suggests that the climate crisis will profoundly interrupt the way we live and farm in the United States. See how the North American places where humans have lived for thousands of years will shift and what changes are in store for your county.

Heat alone, however, won’t determine Americans’ fate. A new climate analysis — presented for the first time here — projects how humidity and heat will collide to form “wet bulb” temperatures that will disrupt the norms of daily existence.

ProPublica-DonateToday, the combination of truly dangerous heat and humidity is rare. But by 2050, parts of the Midwest and Louisiana could see conditions that make it difficult for the human body to cool itself for nearly one out of every 20 days in the year. New projections for farm productivity also suggest that growing food will become difficult across large parts of the country, including the heart of the High Plains’ $35 billion agriculture industry. All the while, sea level rise will transform the coasts.…—”New Climate Maps Show a Transformed United States,” Al Shaw, Abrahm Lustgarten, Jeremy W. Goldsmith, ProPublica, 9/15/20

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David Holmgren: Permaculture Creator, Futurist and ‘Oracle

DavidHolmgren

David Holmgren, the real inventor of #Permaculture, an ‘oracle,’ and creator of http://FutureScenarios.org, is our guest today. His humble, practical genius has been overlooked for too long in the rest of the English-speaking world. We attempt to remedy that in this Part 1 of our conversation.

Please subscribe, click on the bell for notifications, and share widely. Relatively few understand the ‘deep kim chee’ humanity is in, and we need to grow that cohort to influence the future in a manner where we may survive then next hundred years.—”David Holmgren – Permaculture Creator, Futurist and ‘Oracle’,” Stuart Scott, Facing Future|YouTube. 9/24/20

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Federal judge removes Trump’s public lands boss

BILLINGS, Mont. — A federal judge ruled Friday that the Trump administration’s leading steward of public lands has been serving unlawfully and has blocked him from continuing in the position.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris said U.S. Bureau of Land Management acting director William Perry Pendley served unlawfully for 424 days without being confirmed to the post by the U.S. Senate.

Montana’s Democratic governor had sued to remove Pendley, saying the the former oil industry attorney was illegally overseeing an agency that manages almost a quarter-billion acres of land, primarily in the U.S. West.…

Trump said he was nominating Pendley in June. But the nomination was withdrawn earlier this month after the confirmation process threatened to become contentious, potentially disrupting key U.S. senate races in Colorado and Montana, where Bullock is seeking to unseat incumbent Republican Steve Daines.

But Pendley continued to hang on to the post, under an arrangement that Pendley himself set up months ago. In a May 22 order, Pendley made his own position, deputy director, the bureau’s top post while the director’s office is vacant.

Further reading Environmentalists pledge to fight first local auction of federal oil leases since 2012 | the Bakersfield Californian
BLM’s new headquarters to share building with oil and gas companies | TheHill
Trump moves to open Tongass National Forest for logging, to environmentalists’ dismay | PBS NewsHour

After establishing that succession order, Pendley actions included approval of two sweeping land resource management plans in Montana that would open 95% of federal land in the state to oil and gas development, attorneys for Bullock contended in court filings.…—”William Perry Pendley, Bureau of Land Management acting director, removed by federal judge,” Matthew Brown, Washington Times, 9/25/20

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Trump Appoints Pair of Climate Science Deniers to NOAA
While Climate-Fueled Fires and Storms Rage

The White House has made a pair of controversial appointments to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), positioning within the climate science agency two individuals who consistently misrepresent and disagree with the scientific consensus on various issues concerning climate change and who have notable ties with conservative think tanks that disseminate climate science denial.

As the Washington Post first reported this week, President Trump is naming Ryan Maue to the role of chief scientist at NOAA, a position that will help enforce its scientific integrity process. Maue is a meteorologist who has downplayed the degree and impacts of global warming, particularly ties between extreme weather events and human-caused climate change, and he has a past connection with the Cato Institute.

Maue’s appointment follows the White House’s appointment last week of climate science denier David Legates as NOAA’s deputy assistant secretary of commerce for observation and prediction. Legates refutes the well-established scientific understanding that human activity is causing climate breakdown and he is affiliated with the Heartland Institute, which has and continues to traffic in climate denial and disinformation.

For the second time this month, a person who misrepresents, distorts, and disagrees with climate science is being placed in a science position at NOAA.

“Normally, when people are chosen for high-profile positions relating to climate change, I’ve heard of them. I have no idea who this person is, other than I’ve seen him saying things about climate that are wrong on social media and in op-eds,” said Texas A&M climate scientist Andrew Dessler in reaction to Maue’s appointment. “I suspect that he has the one and only necessary qualification for the job: a willingness to advance the agenda of climate deniers.”

These appointments of climate science deniers to NOAA — the agency charged with monitoring changes in the climate system and informing Americans on this science — come at a time when there is rising concern over the Trump administration’s embrace of pseudoscience and apparent attempts to interfere with or attack nonpartisan scientific and public health agencies like NOAA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A study published in April surveying federal scientists found a perceived loss of scientific integrity under the Trump administration.…—”Trump Appoints Pair of Climate Science Deniers to NOAA While Climate-Fueled Fires and Storms Rage,” Dana Drugmand, Ben Jervey, DeSmog, 9/24/20

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EPA Can’t Find Study Linking Formaldehyde to Leukemia

Agency claims decade-long formaldehyde assessment was never finished.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reversed its position on a long-awaited assessment of the health effects of formaldehyde. After representing for more than two years that it had a fully drafted assessment, EPA now argues no such draft exists, in response to a lawsuit brought by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) seeking the document under the Freedom of Information Act.

Formaldehyde is one of the most widely used industrial chemicals, in products such as wood composites, paints, and preservatives. The assessment is supposed to determine whether the formaldehyde exposure levels experienced by millions of workers and consumers is harmful. Formaldehyde inhalation is associated with lymphohematopoietic cancers, such as leukemia.

Further reading Study Reinforces Links Between Formaldehyde and Cancer | ProPublica, 2009
EPA blocks warnings on cancer-causing chemical | POLITICO, 2018
Does formaldehyde cause leukemia? A delayed EPA report may hold the answer | PBS NewsHour, 2018

EPA’s last completed health assessment for formaldehyde was in 1990. It had released a draft of a new assessment in 2010 but has yet to finalize it. In January 2018, then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt testified before the Senate that it was his “understanding” that the EPA had finished its study of the human health effects of formaldehyde.

PEER had requested the last version of the draft assessment in a lawsuit it filed in 2018. This month, for the first time, EPA contends that such a draft does not exist.…—”EPA Can’t Find Study Linking Formaldehyde to Leukemia,” Kirsten Stade, Common Dreams Newswire, 9/25/20

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Nothing Eats Viruses, Right?
Meet Some Hungry Protists

New genetic evidence builds the case that single-celled marine microbes might chow down on viruses.

On the dinner plate that is planet Earth, there exists a veritable buffet of viruses — an amount of biomass that is the equivalent of about 25 billion human beings.

So perhaps it’s a bit baffling that scientists have yet to pinpoint a species that deliberately eats viruses for energy.

But mounting evidence suggests that at least one group of organisms might nosh on nutrient-rich viruses: protists, microscopic and often single-celled organisms that scientists have struggled to place on the tree of life. Like viruses, protists seethe in seawater by the billions and trillions — and some might slurp up marine viruses, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology.

If the findings pan out, they could help flip a centuries-old dogma on its head: Rather than acting only as disease-causing agents of chaos and snuffing out life, viruses might in some cases play a role in fueling and sustaining it.…—”Nothing Eats Viruses, Right? Meet Some Hungry Protists,” Katherine J. Wu, The New York Times, 9/24/20

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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.