Tuesday, September 3, 2019It is just common sense that an economy of continuous growth eventually will crucially endanger the system it exists within —its environment. We have reached that limit. Our wastes are creating a planetary crisis for the prospects for our civilization and for all life. This week we focus on the problems created by our presumption of continuous growth. Can we develop our way out of climate change? And how do we do that within a sustainable economy?But first the news.

Trump administration Seeks to endClean Water Act Provisions

Proposed Regulation Erodes Vital Health and Water Protections to Benefit Polluting Corporations

 On Friday, August 9, 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under Donald Trump’s direction, announced a proposed rule that would drastically undermine the bedrock protections set forth in the Clean Water Act. With this rule, EPA would significantly curtail authority granted by the Clean Water Act for states to protect their water quality. The rule change would severely limit the time and tools available to states to properly evaluate the effect federally permitted projects, like pipelines or fossil fuel facilities, would have on waterways. Namely, it would limit states’ ability to request additional information on the negative effects of proposed projects and would limit their review of water quality impacts to only point source discharges, instead of all potential sources of pollution, including from sediment, runoff, or erosion. Point source discharges are defined as coming from “any discernible, confined and discrete conveyance…from which pollutants are or may be discharged.” 

Prior to the rule even being finalized, attorneys general from across the country have voiced concerns about efforts to undermine states’ ability to protect their water.

In response, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune released the following statement:

“It’s simple: the Trump Administration is undermining and attacking the Clean Water Act because it’s more interested in padding corporate polluter profits than ensuring communities have access to safe drinking water. This attack on one of our most fundamental clean water protections seeks to severely limit states’ ability to protect their water, at a time when climate change, water scarcity, and pollution make access to clean water more important than ever. It’s expected that we can’t trust the polluting corporations behind these dirty, dangerous projects to protect our water, but it’s disastrous that we can’t trust our own president to do so, either.”

Further resources Public Comment & Docket materials: Updating Regulations on Water Quality Certification
Download Sierra Club talking points, PDF

HEARINGS

State and Tribal Listening Sessions

The EPA will hold state and tribal listening sessions on the proposed “Updated Regulations on Water Quality Certifications” rule.

  • The first series of listening sessions will take place at the Salt Lake City Public Library, 210 E 400 S, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84111.
    • The tribal listening session will be held on September 4, 2019 from 1 pm to 5 pm (Mountain Daylight Time).
    • The state listening session will be held on September 5, 2019 from 9 am to 12 pm (Mountain Daylight Time).
  • The second series of listening sessions will take place at the United States Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 offices at 77 West Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois 60604.
    • The state listening session will be held on the morning of September 16, 2019.
    • The tribal listening session will be held on the afternoon of September 16, 2019.

Public Hearing

The EPA will hold a public hearing session on the proposed “Updated Regulations on Water Quality Certifications” rule on

September 5, 2019 from 2:00 pm – 8:00 pm (Mountain Daylight Time)September 6, 2019 from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm (Mountain Daylight Time)Salt Lake City Public Library, 210 E 400 S, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84111.—Doug Jackson, “Trump administration Seeks to end Clean Water Act Provisions,” Sierra Club, 9/16/19

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DC Climate Strike – Shut Down Business-As-Usual

Youth leaders from around the world have called for a climate strike and global week of action from September 20th-27th, 2019. They have been taking the lead so far, but now they are calling on all of us to take action. In Washington, DC we will be answering the call and building on the momentum of the youth climate strikes in a major way:

On September 23rd, 2019, we are going to shut down DC.

The transition off of fossil fuels is inevitable; justice is not. To achieve Climate Justice, we must not only decarbonize the atmosphere, but also decolonize and democratize our economies and our communities. Shutting down the nation’s capital could be our best shot at starting this justice-based transition; we need a broad-based coalition that emphasizes the overlap of our struggles.

Further reading: Find an affinity group for Shut Down DC

The transition off of fossil fuels is inevitable; justice is not. To achieve Climate Justice, we must not only decarbonize the atmosphere, but also decolonize and democratize our economies and our communities. Shutting down the nation’s capital could be our best shot at starting this justice-based transition; we need a broad-based coalition that emphasizes the overlap of our struggles.We will block key infrastructure to stop business-as-usual, bringing the whole city to a gridlocked standstill. Parents, workers, college students, and everyone who is concerned about the climate crisis will skip work and school and put off their other responsibilities to take action on the climate crisis.

Sign the Pledge of Resistance: 

This September I will join the climate strike.

  • I will honor the picket line by skipping school or work and putting off my other responsibilities on September 23.
  • I pledge to take action with my friends, neighbors, classmates and coworkers to shut down business-as-usual, so the status quo of delay, inaction, and half measures is no longer an option.I’m going to make the strike a priority.
  • Between now and September I’m committed to pushing myself to organize my friends, coworkers, classmates and neighbors to participate in the strike.
  • During the climate strike in Washington, DC we will hold ourselves accountable to building creative and strategic nonviolent actions that bring about the world that we want to live in.

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Tap Water in Watkins Glen, Montour Falls, Seneca CountyTests Positive for PFAS Chemicals

Tap Water in Watkins Glen, Montour Falls, Seneca County Tests Positive for PFAS Chemicals

WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 30, 2019 — Public drinking water in Watkins Glen, Montour Falls and Seneca County contains elevated levels of the cancer-linked PFAS class of chemicals found in dozens of stain-repellent household products like Teflon and Scotchguard, recent tests show.

The results from a University of Michigan chemical lab fall within recently proposed enforceable New York State limits for two of the group’s most notorious variants — PFOA and PFOS.

But they easily exceed the more stringent standards recommended by many scientists and several environmental groups. For example, the National Resources Defense Council recommended in March a maximum contaminant level of 2 parts per trillion for any combination of four key PFAS chemicals.

Tests for 14 PFAS variants in Watkins Glen water registered a combined 21.0 parts per trillion, while tap water drawn from a Waterloo plant in Seneca County came in at 17.6 ppt, and water from Montour Falls registered 13.7 ppt.

Water from private wells near the former Seneca Army Depot in Romulus had combined PFAS readings of 20.0 ppt, 5.0 ppt and 4.1 ppt.

The state recently proposed 10 ppt as an enforceable limit for both PFOA and PFOS, substances that are no longer manufactured in the U.S.

“The proposed state standards won’t protect the public,” said Mary Anne Kowalski, research director for Seneca Lake Guardian, which arranged for the Michigan lab to conduct the tests.

“Our results demonstrate that they need to be lower and cover more chemicals,” she added. “Seneca Lake Guardian will be working with other organizations and elected officials to inform the public about the risks.”…—Peter Mantius, “Tap Water in Watkins Glen, Montour Falls, Seneca County Tests Positive for PFAS Chemicals,” Water Front, 8/30/19

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Bernie Sanders’s Green New DealIs a Climate Plan for the Many, Not the Few

Bernie Sanders’s Green New Deal Is a Climate Plan for the Many, Not the Few

In his just released Green New Deal proposal, Bernie Sanders brings the kind of bold, large-scale plans as well as the moral fury we need — not just to save the planet, but to create a just and equitable world.

On Thursday, August 22, 2019, Bernie Sanders launched his Green New Deal (GND) platform in Paradise, California — a community literally burned to the ground by fossil fuel company greed and state collusion less than a year ago, when the deadliest fire in California history ripped through the state’s northern forests, dried out after baking in intense summer heat. Those fires killed eighty-six people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes. PG&E — the state’s mammoth electric utility — has been found responsible.

Climate-fueled fires are still burning — not in Paradise, but in the Arctic, where Greenland has seen a massive blaze that threatens to drive up ice melt, and in the Amazon, where the rainforest has been burning for three weeks, likely due to intentional arson by ranchers to clear land for cattle. Thousands of miles apart, these fires have common threads: They’re being sparked by the rich and powerful, whether by agricultural conglomerates, complicit right-wing governments, or fossil fuel executives who’ve lied to the public so they can keep spewing heat-trapping carbon up into the atmosphere for a quick buck.

This moment demands urgency and moral clarity about who’s to blame. Bernie’s approach to climate provides both. It’s extra, in the language of the internet. On everything.

Before today, Bernie hadn’t positioned himself as a climate-first candidate. That lane was taken by Washington governor Jay Inslee. Inslee dropped out of the race on Wednesday, having failed to poll above 1 percent despite pushing other candidates to sharpen their climate proposals. But Bernie’s GND proposal is in many ways even more sweeping than Inslee’s.

We shouldn’t be surprised: climate change isn’t just one issue among many. It’s a part of the class war that capitalists are waging on the rest of us, from the forests of northern Brazil to those of northern California. So it’s not a coincidence that the most ambitious climate plans with action on necessary scale, from AOC’s GND resolution in February to Bernie’s climate plan today, are coming from the socialist left.

Further reading The Green New Deal Full Text, PDF
The Green New Deal Issues Overview, Bernie Sanders Campaign
Bernie’s Political and Green New Deal Revolution, Commentary” Ted Glick
Climate Could Be an Electoral Time Bomb, Republican Strategists Fear

Bernie’s vision is noteworthy for its aggressive stances. The timeline is rapid, in line with the findings of climate science and the demands of the climate justice movement: it calls for decarbonizing energy and transit by 2030, and full decarbonization by 2050 — a standard that sets both near- and longer-term goals that are ambitious but possible.

But it’s also aggressive in the sense of confrontational: it minces no words about the deep culpability of the fossil fuel industry, calling not only for phasing out fossil fuels but for holding the executives who have delayed climate action responsible.

All in all, the platform dramatically shifts the policy conversation, putting forth an insurgent and detailed policy vision grounded in the work of the vibrant social movements pushing climate politics. It both draws on what’s positive about the New Deal legacy — massive federal investment in the public interest — while also explicitly centering those who were excluded from its coalition, with particular attention to indigenous peoples and communities of color.…— Alyssa Battistoni, Thea Riofrancos, “Bernie Sanders’s Green New Deal Is a Climate Plan for the Many, Not the Few,” Jacobin Magazine, 8/23/19

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The Petrochemical IndustryIs Killing Another Black Community in ‘Cancer Alley’

The Petrochemical Industry Is Killing Another Black Community in ‘Cancer Alley’

The sunsets from Sharon Lavigne’s home in St. James, Louisiana, are otherworldly. In the evenings, the 67-year-old can look out from her porch onto the 20 acres she inherited from her grandfather, the land bathed in orange and pink light. Once farmland, today it is mostly grass, which gives off a sweet, earthy smell as the heat leaves with the day.

Interrupting the quiet murmur of cicadas is the steady clank and hum of machinery. Tall metal tanks are visible from Lavigne’s property, with twisted pipes running between them and plumes of white smoke curling above.

Further reading The Plastic Industry’s Fight to Keep Polluting the World
The Toxic Consequences of America’s Plastics Boom
Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made | AAAS Science Advances
West Texas becomes world’s “extraction colony” as oil, gas exports surge
The Fracking Hub: Is Appalachia the Next Cancer Alley?

St. James sits smack in the middle of Cancer Alley, a series of communities, mostly majority African American, that line the banks of the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. For decades, oil, gas, chemicals, and plastics have been produced here, and for an equally long time, residents have said they’ve faced significant health issues because of the plants. St. James Parish (the equivalent of a county) has a population of 21,000 and 32 petrochemical plants—one for every 656 residents. Industry is even more concentrated in the parish’s Fifth District, where Lavigne lives, which is 86 percent black. (The parish overall is 50 percent black.) The community has 2,822 people and 12 petrochemical plants—one for every 235 residents.

Last fall, Lavigne heard that two new companies were looking to build major industrial facilities in St. James. Formosa Petrochemical, a Taiwanese company, plans to build a $9.4 billion plant in the Fifth District to produce polypropylene and other compounds used in plastic products like bottles and grocery bags. According to Formosa’s application for an air permit, the facility will become one of the state’s largest emitters of ethylene oxide and benzene, both of which are known carcinogens. In the Fourth District, directly across the river from Lavigne’s home, a Chinese company, Wanhua Chemical Group, plans to build a $1.85 billion plant to produce a different compound widely used in plastics.…—Mara Kardas-Nelson, “The Petrochemical Industry Is Killing Another Black Community in ‘Cancer Alley’,” The Nation, 8/26/19

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Rainforest on Fire:Brazilians Mobilize Against President’s Amazon Policies 

Rainforest on Fire: Brazilians Mobilize Against President’s Amazon Policies 

Mobilizations took place throughout Brazil on Monday, to declare their opposition to President Bolsonaro’s environmental policies, which have contributed to the largest increase in Amazon rainforest fires in years

  • Brazilians have hit the streets in outrage against the Amazon fires.
  • Dozens of marches and rallies in recent days.
  • São Paulo. Rio de Janeiro. Thousands in the streets.
  • Florianopolis, in Southern Brazil, is almost as far as you could get from the Amazon and still be in the country. And here, too people are livid and upset.

Ingrid Assis, is an indigenous labor leader, who was born in Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas.

Ingrid Assis, indigenous labor leader:

“We feel like we are dying inside and we can’t let this feeling consume us, because we have to fight and we have to bring more people into the streets, because of all of these attacks.”

They blame far-right president Jair Bolsonaro for the widespread fires and his failure to stop them. Bolsonaro has promised to open up the Amazon for development. They say his rhetoric coupled with his government’s cuts to environmental agencies spurred farmers, loggers, and land grabbers to action.

More than 74,000 fires have blazed since the beginning of the year — 84% more than last year. Roughly a third of the fires across the Amazon have been on protected land.

“They are lighting those places on fire, where they have been deforested. And those places have been deforested, because they don’t have oversight and inspections from Ibama, because our companions in Ibama are being persecuting and transferred.”

Environment Minister Ricardo Salles oversaw a massive 25% funding cut to the country’s environmental protection agency Ibama earlier this year. According to recent reports, Ibama received word that landowners were going to start massive blazes across the region, on August 10. Ibama requested support from the Ministry of Justice. Nothing was done.…—”Rainforest on Fire: Brazilians Mobilize Against President’s Amazon Policies,” The Real News Network, 8/27/19

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In Search of a Sustainable EconomyCenter for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy

Herman Daly – Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy

Superlatives swirl around Herman Daly.  He has received numerous significant awards (e.g., the Right Livelihood Award and the NCSE Lifetime Achievement Award) that recognize the value of his ideas for making this world a better place.  For decades, he has been an inspiration to students of economics and public policy — how often do you see students lining up at the end of the semester to have their professor sign their textbooks?

Over his career, Herman has taken a courageous stance, swimming upstream against the currents of conventional economic thought. Not content to bequeath his ideas on economic development solely to the academic realm, he did time at the World Bank to change policies in the real world.  He also has written books that are popular with citizens around the world.

It’s a rare combination indeed to have keen insight, kindness, razor-sharp analytical skill, wit, amazing capacity for work, humility, and an uncanny way with words all rolled up into one human being.  It’s a good thing, too — the planet needs Herman Daly.  His books, lectures, papers, and essays (including the ones he writes for this blog!) are filled with ingredients for cooking up a better economy and better lives.

For more extensive information on the scope and influence of Herman’s work, please read the articles in this tribute.—”Herman Daly,” Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy

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The Fallacy of Endless Economic Growth

The Fallacy of Endless Economic Growth

What economists around the world get wrong about the future.

The idea that economic growth can continue forever on a finite planet is the unifying faith of industrial civilization. That it is nonsensical in the extreme, a deluded fantasy, doesn’t appear to bother us. We hear the holy truth in the decrees of elected officials, in the laments of economists about flagging GDP, in the authoritative pages of opinion, in the whirligig of advertising, at the World Bank and on Wall Street, in the prospectuses of globe-spanning corporations and in the halls of the smallest small-town chambers of commerce. Growth is sacrosanct. Growth will bring jobs and income, which allow us entry into the state of grace known as affluence, which permits us to consume more, providing more jobs for more people producing more goods and services so that the all-mighty economy can continue to grow. “Growth is our idol, our golden calf,” Herman Daly, an economist known for his anti-growth heresies, told me recently.

In the United States, the religion is expressed most avidly in the cult of the American Dream. The gatekeepers of the faith happen to not only be American: The Dream is now, and has long been, a pandemic disorder. Growth is a moral imperative in the developing world, we are told, because it will free the global poor from deprivation and disease. It will enrich and educate the women of the world, reducing birth rates. It will provide us the means to pay for environmental remediation—to clean up what so-called economic progress has despoiled. It will lift all boats, making us all rich, healthy, happy. East and West, Asia and Europe, communist and capitalist, big business and big labor, Nazi and neoliberal, the governments of just about every modern nation on Earth: All have espoused the mad growthist creed.

Its message was commonsensical: If humans propagate, spread, build, consume, and pollute beyond the limits of our tiny spinning orb, we will have problems. This was not what Americans indoctrinated in growthism had been accustomed to hearing—and never had they heard it from Ph.D.’s marshaling data at one of the world’s citadels of learning.…— Christopher Ketcham, “The Fallacy of Endless Economic Growth,” Pacific Standard, 5/16/17

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Greta Thunberg ‘wants a concrete plan,not just nice words’ to fight climate crisis

Greta Thunberg ‘wants a concrete plan, not just nice words’ to fight climate crisis

Young activists will pressure world leaders to address crisis, says 16-year-old Swedish activist in Guardian interview

Thunberg, the teenager whose school climate strikes have ignited a global youth-led movement, said that her journey to New York on a solar-powered yacht was symbolic of the lengths young people will take to confront the climate crisis.

She said: “It’s insane that a 16-year-old has to cross the Atlantic in order to take a stand, but that’s how it is. It feels like we are at a breaking point. Leaders know that more eyes on them, much more pressure is on them, that they have to do something, they have to come up with some sort of solution. I want a concrete plan, not just nice words.”

Thunberg’s vessel emerged from the mist of an unseasonably drizzly day to be met by a throng of supporters and media at a marina near the southern tip of Manhattan on Wednesday. Her arrival was heralded by a flotilla of 17 sailboats, charted by the UN, that intercepted her vessel near the Statue of Liberty.

Further reading: Welcome to the US, Greta. With your help we can save the planet and ourselves | Rebecca Solnit

To be a climate activist anywhere on Earth now is to stand at a crossroads: heaven on one side and hell on the other.—Rebecca Solnit

Supporters chanted “welcome Greta” as the Swedish teenager stepped off the yacht, shook some outstretched hands and said that it felt like the ground was shaking beneath her feet.

Thunberg told the Guardian: “It’s so overwhelming. I’ve gone from nothing but me and the ocean to this.”

Despite the adulation from the crowds, Thunberg said she didn’t relish being cast as the global figurehead of the climate movement.

She said: “My role is to be one of many, many activists who are pushing for climate action. I don’t see myself as a leader, or icon or the face of a movement.”…—Oliver Milman, “Greta Thunberg ‘wants a concrete plan, not just nice words’ to fight climate crisis,” The Guardian, 8/29/19

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What Does ’12 Years to Act on Climate Change’ (Now 11 Years)Really Mean?

What Does ’12 Years to Act on Climate Change’ (Now 11 Years) Really Mean?

It doesn’t mean the world can wait until 2030 to cut greenhouse gas emissions, or that chaos will erupt in 2030. Here’s what the science shows.

We’ve been hearing variations of the phrase “the world only has 12 years to deal with climate change” a lot lately.

Sen. Bernie Sanders put a version of it front and center of his presidential campaign last week, saying we now have “less than 11 years left to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy, if we are going to leave this planet healthy and habitable.”

But where does the idea of having 11 or 12 years come from, and what does it actually mean? 

The number began drawing attention in 2018, when the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report describing what it would take to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, a goal of the Paris climate agreement. The report explained that countries would have to cut their anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, such as from power plants and vehicles, to net zero by around 2050. To reach that goal, it said, CO2 emissions would have to start dropping “well before 2030” and be on a path to fall by about 45 percent by around 2030 (12 years away at that time).

Mid-century is actually the more significant target date in the report, but acting now is crucial to being able to meet that goal, said Duke University climate researcher Drew Shindell, a lead author on the mitigation chapter of the IPCC report.

“We need to get the world on a path to net zero CO2 emissions by mid-century,” Shindell said. “That’s a huge transformation, so that if we don’t make a good start on it during the 2020s, we won’t be able to get there at a reasonable cost.”…—Bob Berwyn, “What Does ’12 Years to Act on Climate Change’ (Now 11 Years) Really Mean?InsideClimate News, 8/27/19

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How capitalism without growth could build a more stable economy

How capitalism without growth could build a more stable economy

Earth has limited resources, so we can’t keep using them up. We need to look post-growth.

On a finite planet, endless economic growth is impossible. There is also plenty of evidence that in the developed world, a continued increase of GDP does not increase happiness.

Back in 1930 the economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that growth would end within a century – but he was unclear whether a post-growth capitalism was really possible. Today, mainstream economic thinking still considers growth to be a vital policy objective – essential to the health of a capitalist economy. There remains a concern that ultimately, a capitalist economy will collapse without growth.

I recently published new research that suggests a different view – that a post-growth economy could actually be more stable and even bring higher wages. It begins with an acceptance that capitalism is unstable and prone to crisis even during a period of strong and stable growth – as the great financial crash of 2007-08 demonstrated.

Further reading Nothing Grows Forever. Why Do We Keep Thinking the Economy Will?
Is Infinite Economic Growth on a Finite Planet Possible?

Previous studies on “post-growth economics” have tended to search for an elusive sweet spot where the economy would be steady and robust enough to cope with all shocks. But theorising along those lines fails to address the question of whether an end to growth would, in general, make an economy more or less stable.

For this study, I developed a novel mathematical macroeconomic model, making use of American economist Hyman Minsky’s theory of financial instability. He argued that financial crises are to be expected in capitalist systems because periods of economic prosperity encourage borrowers and lenders to be progressively more reckless. Minsky’s work was rather overlooked prior to the 2008 crash, but has received increased attention since.…—Adam Barrett, “How capitalism without growth could build a more stable economy,The Conversation, 2/26/18

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An 11-Year-Old Takes on a Nuclear Power Plant

An 11-Year-Old Takes on a Nuclear Power Plant

Sam faces a dilemma as he comes of age in the shadow of Britain’s largest power plant.

Every day, when 11-year-old Sam goes to school, he dreams of becoming a marine biologist. Next to his home, in Somerset, England, the most expensive power station in the world is slowly rising. Sam is deeply concerned about the effects of Hinkley Point on the environment. He tries to sound the alarm to his elementary-school friends.

“If that power station that they built starts to leak a bit, all that radioactivity would just [spread] through the country,” Sam says in Ömer Sami’s short documentary, Sam and the Plant Next Door. “It’s very poisonous—you could die from it. One thing that really bugs me is that corporations are doing really bad things to the environment all the time.”

In fact, many of Sam’s friends will end up working for Hinkley Point. The plant—a complex financial agreement between Électricité de France (EDF) and China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN)—is expected to create 25,000 jobs and generate support for local businesses and education. But the precocious Sam feels a responsibility to mitigate Hinkley’s threat to the planet.

With a keen eye for nuance, Sami’s stunning film follows the young boy as he grapples with difficult truths about the world he’s trying to save. Ultimately, Sam will face a dilemma that puts his idealism in conflict with his family’s economic reality: Should he accept scholarship funds from EDF in order to attend a prestigious private school, where he can study marine biology?…—Emily Buder, Ömer Samim “In ‘Sam and the Plant Next Door,’ a Child Reckons With Climate Change and Nuclear Power,” The Atlantic, 8/30/19

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Climate ‘catastrophe-check’ for UN Aid Agencies

John Doyle – Climate ‘catastrophe-check’ for UN Aid Agencies

John Doyle is a long time staff member of the EU in Brussels with over 2 decades of responsibility in the environmental area. He is about as frustrated and disillusioned with what he has experienced as one can get, after all that time and effort he’s spent trying to strengthen environmental laws and practices in the EU and among its trading partners, only to see the weak, lack of, and/or counter-productive responses.

Stuart Scott was asked to make a ‘reality-check’ presentation to UN aid agencies with responsibility climate change in May 2019 in Geneva Switzerland. With a new cancer diagnosis, Stuart was unable to travel, and John provided a highly qualified alternative speaker. Here is that presentation, a ‘catastrophe-check’ presentation.

The presentation was said to have shaken up UN HQ in New York when screened there for senior staff. Diplomacy is the art and science of posturing, distortions and fabrications about underlying false mental positions about reality. We are operating under a global political network of self-delusional agencies and individuals who seem to believe that if they just keep repeating a false narrative about reality it will become true and real.

Parties to the climate talks need to stop talking so much and start acting. But for this to happen, the world’s citizens need to take them to account. The Student Strikes and other civil disobedience are what’s needed, but much more of it. One day a week of student striking is an inadequate response for a future being stolen for a full seven-days a week forever.—Stuart Scott, “John Doyle – Climate ‘catastrophe-check’ for UN Aid Agencies,” UPFSI}YouTube, 9/1/19

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One very bad habit is fueling the global recycling meltdown

One very bad habit is fueling the global recycling meltdown

It’s called “wishcycling,” and pretty much all of us do it.

If you’re like me, you’ve looked at a paper coffee cup or an empty tube of toothpaste and thought, “Is this recyclable?” before tossing it in the recycling bin, hoping someone, somewhere, would sort it out. People in the waste management industry call this habit “wishcycling.” According to Marian Chertow, director of the Solid Waste Policy program at Yale University, “a wishcycler wants to do the right thing and feels that the more that he or she can recycle, the better.”

Well, I hate to break it to you, but this well-intentioned reflex is doing more harm than good. Not only that, but wishcycling is playing a big role in the current global recycling meltdown.

First, a bit about the process. When my recycling is scooped up by a truck every week, it goes to a materials recovery facility (MRF) run by a company called Recology. After the goods travel through the facility’s jungle of conveyor belts and sorting machinery, they are shipped as bales to buyers in the United States and abroad, who turn that material into products like cereal boxes and aluminum cans.

But in an effort to get more people recycling, companies like Recology have become victims of their own success. In the early 2000s, many communities switched from a dual-stream system, where plastics and glass, and paper and cardboard, each had their own bins, to single-stream, in which all recyclables go into one bin and the sorting is done at the MRF. But when “we decided to put all the things together, we decided to create a contaminated system,” says Darby Hoover, a senior resource specialist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. It’s almost impossible, for example, to put paper in a bin with beverage containers without the paper getting wet, which makes it unrecyclable.

And it doesn’t help that many of us are wildly confused about what we should recycle. A decade ago, according to one estimate, 7 percent of the objects Americans put into their bins weren’t supposed to be there. Today, it’s 25 percent. “For every ton of material we get in, there’s 500 pounds of trash that has to be taken out of it,” says Brent Bell, vice president of recycling opera­tions at Waste Management, the country’s largest waste disposal company. This garbage ranges from recyclables that are too dirty to process—mayonnaise jars still coated in a thick layer of eggy goo, for example—to items that just shouldn’t be there in the first place, like plastic bags.…—Jackie Mogensen, “One Very Bad Habit Is Fueling the Global Recycling Meltdown,” Mother Jones, 8/30/19

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Curbs on Methane, Potent Greenhouse Gas,to Be Relaxed in U.S.

Curbs on Methane, Potent Greenhouse Gas, to Be Relaxed in U.S.

If the proposal is adopted, the government would no longer require oil and gas companies to inspect for and repair methane leaks from wells and pipelines.

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration laid out on Thursday a far-reaching plan to cut back on the regulation of methane emissions, a major contributor to climate change.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule aims to eliminate federal requirements that oil and gas companies install technology to detect and fix methane leaks from wells, pipelines and storage facilities. It would also reopen the question of whether the E.P.A. had the legal authority to regulate methane as a pollutant.

The rollback plan is particularly notable because major energy companies have, in fact, spoken out against it — joining automakers, electric utilities and other industrial giants that have opposed other administration initiatives to dismantle climate-change and environmental rules.

Further reading Trump’s Methane Rule Rollback Divides Oil and Gas Industry
Editorial: Trump’s rollback of methane rules endangers us all to save oil and gas companies pennies, LA Times
Automakers Tell Trump His Pollution Rules Could Mean ‘Untenable’ Instability and Lower Profits
Trump-Trade Union Ties Imperiled by Apprenticeship Chaos
84 environmental rules being rolled back by the Trump administration

The weakening of the methane standard is the latest in the march of environmental-policy rollbacks by the Trump administration designed to loosen regulations on industry.

Mr. Trump has sought to open millions of acres of public land and water to drilling, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and has lifted an Obama-era moratorium on new coal mining leases on public land. This month, the Interior Department completed a plan to weaken the Endangered Species Act. Later this year the E.P.A. plans to roll back clean-water regulations affecting streams and wetlands.…—Lisa Friedman and Coral Davenport, “Curbs on Methane, Potent Greenhouse Gas, to Be Relaxed in U.S.,” The New York Times, 8/29/19

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Adam Ruins Everything

Yes, littering is terrible. But why should consumers shoulder all the blame for bad corporate habits?

Host Adam Conover employs a combination of comedy, history and science to dispel widespread misconceptions about everything we take for granted. A blend of entertainment and enlightenment, Adam Ruins Everything is like that friend who knows a little bit too much about everything and is going to tell you about it… whether you like it or not. —Adam Conover, “Adam Ruins Everything – The Corporate Conspiracy to Blame You for Their Trash,” YouTube, 12/21/16

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Economic growth doesn’t create jobs,it destroys them

Economic growth doesn’t create jobs, it destroys them

It’s time to face up to the fact that economic growth does not create jobs, does not reduce inequality and does not solve environmental problems

After so many years of being told the same thing, it is barely surprising that we believe it. Economic growth is good, we are told, and essential to all we do. Growth creates work. Work creates wealth. Wealth closes the gap between rich and poor.

Once we have a stronger economy, the economists say, we can tackle our environmental problems.

The only trouble is, this is all wrong.

1. Growth does not create jobs

The way the current economic system is designed, it does the opposite. The constant drive to increase productivity, which is what economic growth really is, requires manufacturers to steadily reduce input costs. Economic growth destroys jobs.

Before the 1980s this didn’t matter much, because many new manufacturing businesses were established to soak up a rising working population. Since then, though, this has not happened – growth has increased the number of people without jobs, certainly in the rich world.

In the last 35 years, the world has experienced the fastest economic growth in human history. Yet, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), unemployment went up. Even extreme policy tools introduced since 2007, such as ultra-low interest rates and quantitative easing, have not achieved much. We were told that these would generate faster economic growth, yet growth has remained weak and unemployment is still higher than it was three decades ago.…

2. Economic growth does not reduce inequality

Because the system is designed to reward those who already have money and assets, the free market economic model takes wealth from the poor and gives it to the rich. This is especially true since 2008 as government and consumer debts in the rich world have risen and average incomes have stagnated or fallen. The gap between the rich and poor is bigger today than in 1914. The gap between rich countries and poor ones is also much greater.…

Further reading: We must let go of this ‘trickle-down’ nonsense once and for all

3. Boosting growth is not the way to solve environmental problems

Economic growth is the cause of them. It requires a constant increase in the flow of raw materials extracted from the planet to be turned into goods, services and waste. The more we grow, certainly using current economic thinking, the more resources we need to use and the more pollution we create.…—Graeme Maxton, “Economic growth doesn’t create jobs, it destroys them,” The Guardian, 4/21/15

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It’s Raining Plastic in The Rocky Mountains

US Geological Survey Finds It’s Raining Plastic in The Rocky Mountains

While a team of researchers from the US Geological Survey (USGS) was analysing rainwater samples for nitrogen pollution, they found something they weren’t expecting – plastic.

In a new report, aptly titled “It is raining plastic”, the team explain that plastics were identified in over 90 percent of the rainwater samples they took at eight different sites, most of which are between Denver and Boulder, Colorado.

While it wouldn’t be surprising for microplastics to contaminate most sample sites, considering the abundance of plastic in urban locations, some of these sites are remote. One of them, called CO98, is 3,159 metres (10,400 feet) above sea level in the Rocky Mountains.  

Not an easy place to leave plastic.

“More plastic fibres were observed in samples from urban sites than from remote, mountainous sites,” the team explains in the report.

“However, frequent observation of plastic fibres in washout samples from the remote site CO98 at Loch Vale in Rocky Mountain National Park suggests that wet deposition of plastic is ubiquitous and not just an urban condition.”

The team found mostly strands of plastic – they look suspiciously like microfibres from synthetic materials, such as those that make up a lot of clothes. There was also a number of colours – blue was the most common, but red, silver, purple and green were also found.…—Jacinta Bowler, “US Geological Survey Finds It’s Raining Plastic in The Rocky Mountains,” Science Alert, 8/18/19

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The soil scientist and artist who paints with dirt

Kirsten Kurtz, the soil scientist and artist who paints with dirt » Yale Climate Connections

She wants people to understand that healthy soil is as important as clean air and water.

Kirsten Kurtz is a soil scientist. She’s also a visual artist, and she’s found an unusual way to combine these two parts of her life.

“I was taking a class in acrylic painting, and I was really not liking the colors of acrylic paint,” she says. “At the same time, I was working in the Cornell Soil Health Lab and becoming really enamored with the variety of colors of these natural soils.”

So Kurtz started making paint out of soil, and using it to create vibrant images. A dancer’s dress is a rich red, and a landscape glows gold.

Now, she invites others to paint with her at events. “Most of us as children played in the mud,” she says, “and I think that it brings back this kind of in-touch-with-the-earth feeling that a lot of us have, even if we aren’t that close to farming or close to soil.”…—Stephanie Manuzak, “Kirsten Kurtz, the soil scientist and artist who paints with dirt,” Yale Climate Connections, 8/23/19

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