October 22, 2019
We exist in a network of life, other beings whom we depend on, and whose existence depends on our wisdom. Those beings include rivers, glaciers, oceans, the atmosphere. Does Nature have rights? What are its inalienable rights? And what happens if humanity fails to acknowledge the rights of those whose existence is fundamental to our own?
But first the news.

‘We Must Grow This Movement’
Youth Climate Activists Ramp Up the Pressure

‘We Must Grow This Movement’: Youth Climate Activists Ramp Up the Pressure

From school strikes to the harder edge of Extinction Rebellion, young climate activists are making their voices heard, and they’re increasingly politically engaged.

A new wave of climate protests hit cities around the world this week—this time aimed at shocking people with civil disobedience, fake blood on the pavement and bodies lying in the streets under signs that read: “Stop funding climate death.”

The Extinction Rebellion demonstrations have a harder edge than the student-led climate strikes that have brought millions to their feet around the world demanding leaders do more to slow climate change. While the school climate strikes end with students returning to class, these protests have often led to arrests.

But both show how young people are reinvigorating the social movement for climate action on a scale never seen before, and their organizers plan to keep up the pressure until more is done to slow climate change.

That widespread youth activism is also empowering more young people to turn their protests into political action, from pressuring lawmakers and businesses to take action to energizing voters.

The Extinction Rebellion activists and the school strikers are both decentralized coalitions that are giving young people a way to stand up for their future. Between them, the groups have a long list of school strikes, rallies and acts of civil disobedience planned through the rest of the year, including a major youth climate strike planned for Nov. 29, Black Friday, known for holiday shopping in the United States.

Alexandria Villaseñor, a 14-year-old climate activist from New York who founded Earth Uprising and is an organizer with the school climate strike group Fridays for Future, is emblematic of their determination. She announced last month that she would be taking her school education on the road as she tours the country to continue organizing climate strikes.

“I’ll be traveling and striking in a different city, or maybe even a different country, every Friday,” she wrote on Twitter. “We must grow this movement. We must get real action.”…—Kristoffer Tigue, “‘We Must Grow This Movement’: Youth Climate Activists Ramp Up the Pressure,” InsideClimate News, 10/11/19

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Rochester Youth Climate Leaders Demand
Monroe County Legislature Act on Climate Crisis

800-1000 marchers in Rochester, NY.RCYL Climate Crisis March & Rally, October 27, 2019.

For over a year, the Rochester Youth Climate Leaders (RYCL) have been pushing the Monroe County Legislature to act on climate change. Between speaking at county legislature meetings, planning climate strikes, collaborating with County Legislators, and building political support for their proposal in the community, the high school students have been very busy.

Over 3000 community members have signed a petition in support of the youth; about 2000 of these signatures are accessible via their online petition here. Additionally, the Rochester City Council (read proclamation here), County Executive Candidate Adam Bello, and Representative Morelle have all endorsed the efforts of the Rochester Youth Climate Leaders and called on Monroe County to take substantial action to combat climate change.

Earlier this month, the Rochester Youth Climate Leaders had their first legislative success: in advance of the County Legislature meeting on 10/8, Legislator Wilcox, who works closely with RYCL, drafted and submitted the first piece of legislation on the group’s agenda. This legislation sought to establish a Climate Action Plan Advisory Board, a group of legislators and climate policy experts who would work together to research climate solutions and report their findings to the rest of the legislature. This advisory board is a common sense first step towards addressing an issue that will affect us all. Unfortunately, President Carbone refused to refer the legislation to committee, killing it on a technicality.

In response, Legislator Wilcox made the appropriate adjustments to his draft resolution and submitted it to President Carbone for consideration as a Matter of Importance on 10/16. Once again, President Carbone rejected his request, this time providing no explanation as to why the legislation was not referred to committee.

To say the least, the Rochester Youth Climate Leaders are disappointed with Carbone’s actions. Liam Smith of RYCL says, “Every second we spend delaying action on climate change is a missed opportunity to protect my generation’s future. Just as it would be ridiculous to notice a ticking time bomb but do nothing to stop it from going off, it is ridiculous to see the issue of climate change but take no action to prevent it. As a 17 year old student thinking about my future, it terrifies me that politicians such as Carbone are favoring petty partisan politics over the economic vitality and quality of life of our county.”

According to Smith, Carbone’s latest actions reflect a broader issue among Republican County Legislators; “We have contacted every single Republican in the County Legislature and requested to meet with them to discuss climate policy. Surprisingly, of the 17 Republicans in the Legislature, only one has had the decency to sit down with us and talk policy. President Carbone’s refusal to consider our proposal is just the latest example of the lack of Republican leadership on this issue.”

The result? Rochester youth are endorsing Democratic candidate Lorie Barnum for County Legislature. Running a competitive campaign against incumbent Legislator Carbone in Irondequoit, she has the potential to unseat Carbone, ending his dominance in the County Legislature. Her triumph could help breathe fresh life into county climate efforts, and into the county legislature.

Rochester Climate Youth Yeaders will be hosting a Press Conference on Friday, October 25, 2019 outside President Carbone’s office in Irondequoit, 490 Titus Avenue at 3:30 PM to announce their endorsement of Ms. Barnum.—Liam Smith, “Rochester Youth Climate Leaders Demand Climate Action from Monroe County, Call Out Legislator Carbone for Blocking Climate Legislation,” Rochester Climate Youth Leaders, 10/22/19

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New Yorkers to Cuomo and the PSC:
Thanks for standing up to National Grid
Now let’s take it all the way!

Renewable Heat Now campaign praises Governor Cuomo and the Public Service Commission for standing up to National Grid’s gas shut-off pressure tactics; now the group shares their ideas for the renewable path forward.

On October 17, 2019, New Yorkers from across the state convened in Albany for the Public Service Commission (PSC) monthly meeting and held a press conference afterwards to praise the PSC’s decision to stand up to National Grid’s moratorium scare tactics , while also calling on the PSC to create a plan for a managed process for energy transition that is both swift and equitable.

“The utility National Grid has been playing politics with people’s heating needs by shutting off access to gas while not providing renewable alternatives. We believe they used this tactic hoping that the outrage from customers would move elected officials to approve the Williams NESE [Northeast Supply Enhancement Project] pipeline,”said Jessica Azulay of Alliance For A Green Economy. “Now Governor Cuomo and the Public Service Commission have investigated the situation, and they have ordered National Grid to hook up some customers to gas and to use energy efficiency and demand response to reduce the need for gas in New York. Further, they have ordered the utility to plan for the possibility that the Williams pipeline is never built by doing even more to reduce the need for gas. National Grid faces financial penalties for failing to plan properly to manage their gas system. The Governor and the Public Service Commission stood up for the people of New York by making this ruling and we thank them for this.”

Further reading: After State Rejects Gas Pipeline Permit, Utility Pushes Back. One Result: New Buildings Go Electric.

This is the second month in a row that New Yorkers impacted by fracked gas joined the Renewable Heat Now Campaign to attend the monthly PSC meeting, calling on the commission to stop approving fracked gas infrastructure and fund renewable heating solutions and energy efficiency instead.

“As a National Grid ratepayer, I’m glad Governor Cuomo and the PSC are standing up to the company’s gas shortage scare tactics to push for the Williams Pipeline,” said Lee Ziesche, Sane Energy Project Community Engagement Coordinator. “But the PSC must recognize we are in the situation we are today because New York State has no plan to get off fracked gas and continues to approve new fracked gas infrastructure. We need the PSC to fund renewable solutions now, especially for those people still being held hostage by National Grid.”

“I commend the governor for reminding National Grid and utilities- we can’t do scare tactics, we must be aggressive to put an absolute priority on renewable heat,” said New York State Assemblymember Patricia Fahy.

“It is imperative that we start a comprehensive plan for a swift and equitable transition from fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy,” said State Senator Julia Salazar, “Today we are standing with the Public Service Commission to call out National Grid’s failure to provide for basic needs to the people of New York and to call their irresponsible and callous bluff. We must also take further action to create a swift, managed process to make utilities such as National Grid toe the line with respect to New York State’s urgent energy and climate goals. The residents of North Brooklyn, and all of New York State deserve nothing less.”

“It is absolutely frightening that our utility providers appear to have no plan to address our energy needs as we approach the end of the global fossil fuel supply. We have known for decades about the inevitable transition to renewable energy. Utility providers need to roll out their plans for this inevitable transition immediately, they need to stop threatening the health and safety of New Yorkers and they need to put people over profit. The science is clear, we need to leave fracked gas in the ground!” commented Camilla Trishetti, NYPIRG Student from SUNY New Paltz.

Many in attendance had been expecting a new order on energy efficiency to come out last month and were disappointed that the PSC was once again kicking the can down the road.

“I call on John Rhodes and the other commissioners to issue an energy efficiency order that is visionary and bold. One that spells out a path forward to transition our buildings swiftly and equitably to heat pumps. Send me back to the good people of Lansing with the tools I need to remove barriers and move Lansing forward as a model community for energy transition for the rest of the state to follow. The order to the utilities must be crystal clear: Move beyond gas now! Invest in heat pumps and a livable world for our kids!” said Lisa Marshall, Program Coordinator for HeatSmart Tompkins.

Stephan Roundtree of WE ACT for Environmental Justice: “We appreciate the Governor and the PSC standing up against the Williams Pipeline and National Grid’s hostile downstate gas moratorium. It’s key that the PSC push forward on measured and aggressive decarbonization efforts to comply with the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, and also move swiftly on a Low to Moderate Income energy efficiency order that serves the health and housing security needs of unjustly under-served communities across New York State. We need our energy system to work for the needs of New Yorkers, and not the corporate interests that have left our planet in crisis.”

In addition to regulating gas utilities the PSC also has the power to approve or deny permits for fracked gas power plants.

We Need You!

  • Join us at the next Public Service Commission meeting in Albany on Thursday, November 14th! Albany, Empire State Plaza, Albany:
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      • Legislative Office Building Room 130
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“The science is clear: we can’t build any new fossil fuel projects in New York State if we hope to stay below the 1.5 degrees warming threshold laid out in the Paris Climate Accord. It’s that simple,” said Andrew Pezzullo, Organizer at Food and Water Action. “We applaud Governor Cuomo and the Public Service Commission for rejecting the dangerous, dirty, and unnecessary Williams pipeline and for standing up for New Yorkers as National Grid holds them hostage in a shameless and fabricated ‘gas shortage.’ We hope Governor Cuomo and the PSC will do the same in the Hudson Valley by denying permits for the Danskammer fracked gas power plant and moving quickly to decommission fracked gas power plants like CPV and Cricket Valley. The technology is here: energy efficiency, weatherization, transmission line improvements, renewable heating, and large-scale wind and solar can power New York State completely. Now more than ever, we need the PSC to rise to the urgent occasion, hold utility companies accountable, and truly lead New York state into our green energy future!”—Jessica Azulay, “New Yorkers to Cuomo and the PSC: Praise for standing up to National Grid; Now let’s take it all the way!” Renewable Heat Now, 10/17/19

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Newburgh takes stand against proposed upgrades
to Danskammer power plant

Newburgh takes stand against proposed upgrades to Danskammer power plant

CITY OF NEWBURGH, NY —The Newburgh City Council unanimously voted during its regular meeting Tuesday to pass a symbolic resolution opposing Danskammer Energy’s efforts to revamp the current peaker-power plant in the Town of Newburgh.

“As an environmental justice community, we understand just how economically and environmentally dangerous and unsustainable projects like Danskammer are on surrounding communities. Newburgh should not have to bear this burden and our elected leaders should be doing everything in their power to keep this from happening.”—Vanessa Agudelo, Peekskill Councilwoman

The council mulled the resolution for months before it joined several other mid-Hudson municipalities that passed resolutions with concerns and objections against the project that would spend about $400 million to upgrade the peaker plant and turn it into a baseload-generation, combined-cycle facility.

The seven-member Newburgh City Council voted on the Danskammer resolution shortly after a majority of the Orange County legislature symbolically voted to support the project. During the county’s meeting, town supervisors of Marlborough and Newburgh spoke in support Danskammer Energy’s plans.

The project is still in the early stages of seeking state permits and approvals for the proposal.

The focus of Tuesday’s council meeting was on the proposed 2020 city budget presentation, but a handful of city residents and activists thanked the council for publicly joining their fight against the project that they believe will contribute to air pollution in the region and be counterproductive toward the state’s goals to use more renewable energy sources.…—Lana Bellamy, “Newburgh takes stand against proposed upgrades to Danskammer power plant,” Times Herald-Record, 10/20/19

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UPDATE: Police ID driver in fatal ‘Virtual Pipeline’
Compressed Methane Truck crash

UPDATE: Police ID driver in fatal crash that required HAZMAT team response

ORANGE, MA — The Northwestern District Attorney’s office has identified the driver in a fatal accident that closed a part of Route 2 for an extended period and required evacuations after a tanker truck carrying methane gas crashed Friday night, October 11, 2019.

The driver was Lois Ann Johnson, 62, of Woodstock, NH.

The truck carrying methane, a highly flammable substance, “rolled over and down an embankment while exiting Route 2.” The trailer holding the contents ruptured, and a subsequent gas leak led to a Tier 2 HAZMAT situation with state and local authorities responding to remove the expelled gas and the gas still in the truck.

Further reading Virtual Pipelines: Convenient for industry, a burden on communities
After Second Deadly Crash, Regulators Say Trucks Leaking Fracked Gas Cargo Are Fine
Tractor trailer crash on I-88: Pennsylvania driver killed after avoiding hitting deer,

Orange Fire Department issued a statement that the “large-scale incident” began around 9:30 p.m. Friday in the area of Exit 14.

The circumstance and facts of the crash are still under investigation, according to State Police.

The crash led to local evacuations while hazardous materials crews worked the scene.

Route 2 between Exits 13 and 15 and West River Street by Oaklawn Ave was closed, and the Orange Fire Department evacuated residents in the immediate area to at least a half-mile away.

“The truck was hauling a large amount of compressed natural gas, and the cab and truck has significant damage making progress on the truck difficult. This is a long and intricate, slow process,” the Fire Department reported shortly after 11:30 a.m. Saturday.…—David McLellan, “UPDATE: Police ID driver in fatal crash that required HAZMAT team response,” The Recorder, 10/12/19

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PennEast seeks US FERC’s help:
eminent domain snag in 3rd Circuit

Click for full view (note 30-mile proximity to network connection to Elba Island LNG export terminal)

The case centered around the 116-mile, 1.1 Bcf/d PennEast Pipeline’s efforts to condemn about 40 properties owned at least in part by the state of New Jersey and some of which were preserved for conservation, recreation or agriculture.

PennEast Pipeline on Friday asked FERC to provide as early as possible its “authoritative interpretation” of the Natural Gas Act’s eminent domain authority. Such action “will be of substantial assistance” as courts consider whether NGA Section 7 authorizes pipeline developers holding a FERC certificate to bring condemnation action involving a property in which the state claims an interest, it said. It sought expedited action in time for further 3rd Circuit proceedings in the case, in which the pipeline company has asked for more time to appeal (PennEast Pipeline v. A permanent easement for 1.74 acres, et al.,19-1191).

‘ROADMAP’ FOR OBSTRUCTION

Further reading PennEast Pipeline Property Taking Ruling Reversed
Pipeline showdown: PennEast files for eminent domain against 130 landowners

The 3rd Circuit ruling found that nothing in the NGA suggested Congress intended to delegate to private companies the federal government’s exemption from state sovereign immunity. It said sovereign immunity goes to the core of the national government’s constitutional design and that accepting PennEast’s delegation theory would dramatically undermine careful limits the Supreme Court has placed on abrogation.


Not only is Dominion trying to expand in South Carolina and Savannah, Williams Company just got FERC permission to pump more gas into the southeast through Transco.

Notes to the Editor, Steve Norris

Here’s a summary of what FERC approved last week, October 18, 2019 for the Southeast:

 

FERC also approved Transco’s proposal to construct, operate and modify pipeline, compression, and auxiliary facilities proposed for its Southeastern Trail Project, which is designed to meet rising natural gas demand in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia [CP18-186].…—”Williams Receives FERC Approval for Southeastern Trail Expansion Project to Serve Growing Demand for Natural Gas in Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern U.S.,” BusinessWire, 10/18/19

 

The project would create 296,375 Dth/d of additional firm transportation capacity on Transco, according to the April 2018 application. At that time, Transco said precedent agreements with utility and local distribution companies had been executed in all four states, with plans to have the expansion done in time for the 2020-2021 winter heating season.

 

Southeastern Trail would include 7.7 miles of 42-inch diameter pipeline looping facilities in Virginia, horsepower additions at existing compressor stations in the state, and piping and valve modifications on other existing facilities in South Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana to allow for bi-directional flow.

 

The project is expected to cost $404.8 million. Williams is targeting a Nov. 1, 2020 in-service date.

 

FERC’s order approves, among other things, Transco’s proposal to design its recourse rates using the approved pre-tax rate of return from its most recent general Natural Gas Act section 4 rate case, in which a return was specified, adjusted for the current 21% corporate tax rate.

And here’s an editorial about Dominion’s plans, and the debacle of energy infrastructure in SC, “Will SC need gas pipeline like it needed abandoned coal, nuclear plants?“, Charleston Post & Courier, 10/21/19


PennEast and an industry coalition led by the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America have expressed concern that upholding the state’s invocation of sovereign immunity would cause the industry and interstate gas pipelines to grind to a halt. The 3rd Circuit ruling, combined with a federal district court ruling in Maryland, and “inevitable attempts by landowners and other states to extend these decisions to other jurisdictions will substantially impede the ability of natural gas companies to develop natural gas infrastructure,” PennEast wrote. The ruling presents a roadmap for private landowners to seek to transfer strategically a partial interest or conservation easement to a state, in an effort to block a pipeline once an early route is unveiled, PennEast contended.…—Maya Weber, “PennEast seeks US FERC’s help with eminent domain snag in 3rd Circuit,” S&P Global Platts, 10/7/19

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The Rights of Nature
Living on Earth: A Legal Revolution
That Could Save the World

Living on Earth: Database Error

Environmental lawyers are claiming in court that land, rivers, and other natural features should own themselves rather than being considered property, much like the law already treats corporations as ‘persons.’ The case for treating elements of nature as legal ‘persons’ is outlined in the book, Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution That Could Change the World by environmental lawyer David Boyd. In a conversation with Living on Earth Host Steve Curwood he explained how this approach can go a long way to protecting critical ecosystems from human exploitation and destruction.

Transcript

CURWOOD: Less than 150 years ago in America, black people finally won the right to be full citizens and vote, and voting rights for women followed 50 years later. And less than two decades ago, people in America won the right to marry whomever they choose, regardless of gender. Over time the rights of people to fairness and equality have expanded, and now there is a move to extend intrinsic rights to exist to nature.

Environmental lawyer David Boyd has written a book called “The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution That Could Save the World”. He says, trees, rivers, and ecosystems have basic rights that we, as a part of nature ourselves, are morally bound to honor. David Boyd teaches law at the University of British Columbia and he joins us now from his home in the San Juan Islands.

Welcome to Living on Earth, David.

BOYD: It’s a real pleasure to be with you, Steve.

CURWOOD: So, a legal revolution that could save the world. Explain the concept of personhood rights for nature and why you believe it’s not such a wacky idea.

BOYD: OK. Well, you know, people think of a wacky idea as being human rights for nature, and that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re not talking about chimpanzees or endangered species or ecosystems having human rights, like the right to vote. What we’re talking about is legal recognition of the rights of animal species and nature. And in our western legal systems we’ve recognized the legal rights of non-human persons for many, many years. So, examples include municipalities and corporations that we designate as legal persons, and then through the law we articulate what are the rights of a corporation, for example. So now what’s emerging around the world in terms of the rights of nature are, what are the rights of a river? What are the rights of a chimpanzee? What are the rights of an ecosystem? So, we have to be quite clear in distinguishing human rights, which we’re not talking about, from the rights of legal persons which we are talking about.

CURWOOD: Now, you live among the San Juan Islands off Vancouver and Seattle, and you write in your book about your relationship with a particular set of sentient creatures, and you suggest that maybe they inspired you to do this work. Talk to me about those creatures and what you’ve observed and why they inspired you.

BOYD: Uh-huh. Well, Steve what you’re referring to there are a population of killer whales that live here. They’re called the Southern Resident Killer whales and they are an absolutely extraordinary species that swims past Pender Island routinely during the spring, summer, and fall in pursuit of Chinook salmon which make up 80 percent of their diet. Now, these Southern Resident Killer whales suffered a severe blow in the 1960s and 1970s when over 50 of them were kidnapped and taken for display in aquariums in Canada, the United States, and around the world, and as a result they’ve been on Canada’s endangered species list for decades now. Unfortunately, their population is not recovering, and that’s because of declines in Chinook salmon, pollution of the ocean and disturbance from vessel noise. But I have a little writing cabin where we live here on Pender Island, and I can actually hear those whales when they’re going past.…—Steve Curwood, “Living on Earth: The Rights of Nature: A Legal Revolution That Could Save the World,” Living on Earth, 11/11/17

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The rights of nature gaining ground

The rights of nature gaining ground

Nature has been treated in law as property, and exploited. But there is growing legal recognition that nature has rights, and affirming these is essential to both a healthy environment and human rights.

The human right to a healthy environment is gaining ground, with more than 90 countries having enshrined it in law. For example, Article 14 of the Ecuador Constitution states, “The right of the population to live in a healthy and ecologically balanced environment that guarantees sustainability…is recognized.”

In India, the Supreme Court determined that the human right to a healthy environment is to be found within the scope of the constitutional protection of the right to life.

The increasing interest in the human right to a healthy environment comes as the world faces overlapping and related environmental crises – including the bleaching and die-off of coral reefs, increasing species extinction rates, and accelerating climate change.

Yet, as many are finding, the human right to a healthy environment is impossible to achieve if the environment itself is unhealthy. Indeed, Klaus Töpfer, former director of the United Nations Environment Program has stated that human rights in general “cannot be secured in a degraded or polluted environment.”

Töpfer explained, “The fundamental right to life is threatened by soil degradation and deforestation and by exposures to toxic chemicals, hazardous wastes and contaminated drinking water. Environmental conditions clearly help to determine the extent to which people enjoy their basic rights to life, health, adequate food and housing, and traditional livelihood and culture.”

Thus, we find that fulfilling the promise of human rights, and specifically the human right to a healthy environment, is dependent on the well-being of the environment itself. The human right to a healthy environment, therefore, cannot stand on its own.…—Mari Margil, “The rights of nature gaining ground,” OpenGlobalRights, 11/14/18

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Ecuador’s Indigenous Movement Achieves Important Victory
Violence Stopped and Austerity Decree Repealed

Ecuador’s Indigenous Movement Achieves Important Victory as Violence Stopped and Austerity Decree Repealed

“How can we talk about ‘development’, when our territories where we’ve lived for hundreds of years are being exploited, are being auctioned off, turned into new oil concessions. This undeniably affects us!”

Last night, in an unprecedented public dialogue between the indigenous movement and the Ecuadorian government, President Lenin Moreno announced the repeal of [International Monetary Fund’s] Decree 883, ending an eleven-day strike that paralyzed the country and was met with brutal police repression against indigenous peoples. The annulment of the decree, an economic austerity package that dramatically cut subsidies and unilaterally imposed labor concessions, was a central demand of the indigenous movement, along with an end to oil and mining extraction.

A United Nations-mediated commission of government and indigenous representatives will work on a new plan to supplant this decree. The existing measure had cut subsidies on gasoline and diesel fuel, which would have resulted in immediate and massive increases in the prices of all basic goods and services, creating an excessive burden on Ecuador’s poorest populations. Any new measures, according to Amnesty International must be “developed and implemented in a manner consistent with international human rights law. This includes ensuring that austerity measures are temporary, reasonable, and proportional; exhausting less restrictive, alternative measures; and ensuring the genuine participation of affected persons and groups.”

Further reading: Petition: Tell the IMF to Respect the Rights of Indigenous People and Stop Imposing Oil and Mining Projects on Their Territories!

The agreement to repeal Decree 883 and end the national strike on the eve of Indigenous Peoples Day is a major triumph for indigenous peoples. With great sacrifice and resilience, Ecuador’s indigenous movement spoke truth to power and would not stand down or give up hope for nearly two weeks despite enduring some of the worst state violence in decades.

During last night’s dialogue, Mirian Cisneros, President of Sarayaku – the only woman to address President Moreno and the government during the meeting – said “How can we talk about ‘development’, when our territories where we’ve lived for hundreds of years are being exploited, are being auctioned off, turned into new oil concessions. This undeniably affects us! That’s why, as Amazonian women, we have come to ask you, Mr. President, to put yourself in our shoes. Put yourself in our mindset. In the face of everything that is happening in Ecuador, we ask you – with all your heart – to heed our call.”…—Kevin Koenig, “Ecuador’s Indigenous Movement Achieves Important Victory as Violence Stopped and Austerity Decree Repealed,” Amazon Watch, 10/14/19

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FORESTS: Old or young growth?
Tongass logging at a crossroads

FORESTS: Old or young growth? Tongass logging at a crossroads

PRINCE OF WALES ISLAND, Alaska — Thousands of acres in southeast Alaska are ready for a second wave of logging, but is the timber industry ready to cut it?

That question lurks in the background as the Forest Service and political leaders face a series of decisions that will shape the future of the Tongass National Forest, one of the world’s last intact temperate rain-forests and the biggest national forest in the United States.

A recent inventory of young growth in the nearly 17-million-acre Tongass shows enough supply to replace what the Forest Service harvests from old-growth forests, but officials and timber companies still say a full transition to a young-growth industry is 20 years or more away.

So they’re planning to cut more old-growth forests. Thousands of acres — or more — of virgin forest could be cut down in the years ahead, including spruce and hemlock trees several feet in diameter that sprouted before the United States declared independence from Great Britain.

Recovery in those woods is measured in centuries, too: A clear-cut old-growth forest takes as long as 500 years to fully mature, meanwhile depriving the planet for generations of the best carbon sinks in a warming world.

Further reading Tongass National Forest’s natural treasures are imperiled by Department of Agriculture’s proposal to opening area to logging
Making a Public Comment on Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Alternatives to a Proposed Alaska Roadless Rule

The speed of the transition shapes the debate about more immediate policy questions, including the Forest Service’s proposed Prince of Wales Landscape Level Analysis Project — the biggest timber sale in Alaska in decades, covering 42,500 acres on Prince of Wales over 15 years — and whether to exempt Alaska from the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which prohibits the construction of roads in parts of the forest.

The Prince of Wales project is on hold, facing a challenge in federal court. A roadless rule exemption, requested by the state and under consideration by the Trump administration, could open still more old-growth areas to logging, which timber interests see as a way to save their shrinking industry and which environmentalists see as a threat to forests worth protecting.…—Marc Heller, “FORESTS: Old or young growth? Tongass logging at a crossroads,” E&E News, 10/7/19

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ExxonMobil On Trial Over
Business Impact Of Climate Change

ExxonMobil On Trial Over Business Impact Of Climate Change

ExxonMobil goes on trial over charges it defrauded investors about climate change.

In late 2013, ExxonMobil faced increasing pressure from investors to disclose more about the risks the company faced as governments began limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Of the many costs climate change will impose, oil companies face a particularly acute one: the demand for their product will have to shrink.

For years, Exxon had been using something called a proxy cost of carbon to estimate what stricter climate policies might mean for its bottom line. But as pressure from shareholders grew, a problem came sharply into focus: An internal presentation warned top executives that the way the company had been applying this proxy cost was potentially misleading. That’s because Exxon didn’t have one projected cost of carbon. It had two.

Further reading Exxon’s Climate-Change Accounting Goes on Trial
New York AG: Deleted Emails Would Show Exxon Climate Risk Deception
Exxon: The Road Not Taken Series
Report details how ExxonMobil and fossil fuel firms sowed seeds of doubt on climate change
Rise of renewables may see off oil firms decades earlier than they think
Despite Their Promises, Giant Energy Companies Burn Away Vast Amounts of Natural Gas
The Climate Crisis: Ignored By Trump, Greenwashed by Big Oil
Fixing Climate Requires Major Economic Change, Naomi Klein Says

“The contents of that presentation are at the heart of a trial set to start next week in a civil case brought against the company by the New York attorney general. Exxon is accused of disclosing one set of these projected carbon costs to investors while planners used an entirely different set internally for evaluating investments. The public set was more conservative and projected that climate policies would be more stringent, while the internal one assumed more modest attempts to limit emissions. The effect of using these dueling estimates, the attorney general says, was that Exxon hid tens of billions of dollars in potential costs, downplaying the risk to investors and inflating the company’s value.…—Meghna Chakrabarti, Stefano Kotsonis, “ExxonMobil On Trial Over Business Impact Of Climate Change,” WBUR|InsideClimate News, 10/22/19

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Fighting to Give Nature Inalienable Rights

Fighting to Give Nature Inalienable Rights

Innovative Legal Structures for a Thriving Future

When the rights of ecosystems are recognized, we can more effectively balance the needs and well-being of all life

We have brought our experience and allies in Ecuador to global conversations about sustainable democracy and community self-determination, including:

  • Supporting the inclusion of Rights of Nature in the 2008 Ecuadorean Constitution, making Ecuador the first country in history to do so, and ensuring the enforcement at a local level
  • Formation, along with The Pachamama Alliance and other partners, of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, a group of internationally recognized experts and leaders working for the universal adoption and implementation of Rights of Nature
  • Supporting the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature in successfully forming the first Global Tribunal on the Rights of Nature in 2013 —”Fighting to Give Nature Inalienable Rights,” Pachamama Alliance

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Rebel Daily 9: Rebellions don’t end – they regenerate

Rebel Daily 9: Rebellions don’t end – they regenerate – Extinction Rebellion

It’s difficult to imagine the number of rebels currently feeling exhausted, disorientated, and proud.

Though we know it’s not over for everyone, this week saw the conclusion of high-intensity rebellion phases in Paris, Berlin, New York, London, and countless other cities and nations. A truly inspiring number of those involved are new to the experience of Rebellion – small surprise, since there’s very little like it.

The most obvious exertions are physical: long days spent roaming streets or (every bit as vital!) glued to screens, sometimes eating and sleeping irregularly. But no less taxing is the emotional journey: through euphoric highs and difficult lows, made both easier and more complicated for being shared by a whole community of other people who feel it all together, and process this journey in different ways.

And when all of this comes to a close, it can be a challenge to adjust: to return to work, family, a slower pace of life. All the more so given the nature of our cause: some might be troubled by the thought that our emergency is only speeding up as we slow down.

Palestinian Extinction Rebellion

This makes it all the more essential that we do slow down: that we take the time to regenerate.

‘Burn-out’ is a major risk in movements such as ours, where our hearts can demand more selfless action at the cost of our own individual well-being. It’s for this reason that regeneration is our third core value; and it’s for similar reasons that our fifth value is to follow cycles of action with reflection and learning.

We’ve achieved an incredible amount in the past two weeks: political changes, deeper cultural shifts, and proving to ourselves that this movement is well-organised, global, and unified by the same compassionate values.

Given how much we’ve achieved, it’s small wonder if we don’t yet have the energy to fathom it. For now, all we need to know is that it’s the time for some well-deserved rest.—”Rebel Daily 9: Rebellions don’t end – they regenerate,” Extinction Rebellion, 10/19/19

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Four Climate Scientists on How to Take On Climate Change Today

Four Climate Scientists on How to Take On Climate Change Today

“Every single person can make a huge difference, and when we come together to work, anything is possible.”

Talk about ecological and climate despair.

First came last October’s news that we were on track to lose 1 million species to extinction. Then a long-awaited climate report from a U.N. scientific panel whose findings, U.N. chief António Guterres said, showed we were “running out of time.” Three months later, news stories announced an imminent insect apocalypse and last month, the U.N. released dire findings on the world’s land and food systems. Then their report on the world’s oceans slated for release September 25 leaked and, yes, it was bad.

“When boomers reminisce about their youth, I wonder what it was like to live young without impending climate chaos,” Amita Kuttner, an astrophysicist born in 1990 tweeted July 26.

But does this mean humanity and all living things are doomed, as some news and commentary portray? Here’s what four climate and social scientists have to say about what it will take—and where they find hope.

Michael Mann: Decarbonize international economies as rapidly as possible

In early August, Michael Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, did an event with two principal members of the youth climate movement —Alexandria Villaseñor, a 14-year-old New Yorker who as of Sept. 9 has gone on a “climate strike” outside the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan for 39 consecutive weeks, and Jerome Foster II, a 17-year-old activist from Washington, D.C., and founder and editor in chief of The Climate Reporter.

Mann, who one might expect to be discouraged because he’s at the forefront of the most up-to-date climate science on an as-it-breaks basis is instead inspired—by these youth.

“They’re fighting for their future, and it’s a game changer, re-centering this societal conversation where it ought to be—on our ethical obligation not to leave behind a degraded planet for our children and grandchildren. This is what gives me real hope,” he said.

Mann, author of Dire Predictions, The Madhouse Effect, and The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, said we have the technology. What we need, he said, is the political will.

“There are no physical obstacles to us limiting warming below 1.5C, only political ones,” he tells us. “Doing so will require a massive mobilization, a Marshall Plan, an Apollo Project, whatever you want to call it—a concerted, international effort to decarbonize our economy as rapidly as possible. But it can be done.”

Amita Kuttner: Our challenges aren’t insurmountable

Kuttner experienced extreme weather firsthand, losing her mother and home in a North Vancouver mudslide at 14. One might expect she’d be discouraged, but she is running for a seat in Canadian Parliament with the Green Party of Canada so others do not have to endure climate tragedies. She is encouraged by the fact that local and global movements are creating change and said that our challenges aren’t insurmountable.

“Every bit of work and organization pays off. I also refuse to ever give up,” she says. “All action has impact, so I am encouraged to continue because I know some good will come out of it regardless. I know that it is lessening climate disasters even just a little bit.”…

Peter Kalmus: Talk about climate breakdown every chance you get

Peter Kalmus, a climate scientist and author of Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution, said that while it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all that is happening, he is actually feeling more optimistic now than he did 10 years ago.

“I’m seeing such a rapid shift in culture,” he said. “People all over the world are waking up, fast. Each one of us needs to do everything we can to quicken that process of waking up.…

Elizabeth Sawin: Pay attention to difficult emotions

As the impacts of climate change become more extreme, and the gap widens between the level of action scientists tell people is needed and the level of action being taken, people are having strong emotional reactions, says Elizabeth Sawin, a biologist and systems analyst who co-founded Climate Interactive, a nonprofit that creates interactive, scientifically rigorous tools that help people view connections and play out scenarios to see what works to address the biggest challenges we face.…—Terri Hansen, “Four Climate Scientists on How to Take On Climate Change Today,” YES! Magazine, 9/20/19

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We Need a Just Transition
Because We Should Abandon Coal,
Not Coal Workers

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The coal industry is dying. But we can’t allow the communities that have been dependent on coal to die along with it.

Even if clean energy champions, environmentalists, and climate activists weren’t working together to end the burning of coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels would still be on its way out. The free market is seeing to that. As the cost of renewables continues to fall and the production of cheap natural gas continues to rise, coal has lost whatever competitive advantage it once enjoyed over other energy sources. By next year, coal consumption in our country’s power sector is expected to drop to its lowest level since 1978. That would represent a decline of 27 percent since 2016.

The nation’s older, smaller coal plants have been disappearing for more than a decade; now, even the newer, larger ones are being retired at a rapid clip. On the one hand, that’s to be celebrated: Every coal-fired power plant that goes offline, be it large or small, means fewer pollutants poisoning our lungs and water and fewer greenhouse gases warming the planet. But on the other hand, there is cause for real concern. Whenever a coal-fired power plant or a coal mine shuts down, jobs are lost and workers, their families, and their entire communities suffer.

Further reading: Kentucky miners, still seeking back pay, end coal train protest after two months

To address these unfortunate consequences, organizations and governments pushing for a coal phaseout have begun to emphasize the importance of establishing a “just transition” for those who have been, or will be, most affected by these closures. The still-young concept is deliberately amorphous, since each community’s needs will differ from the next. But however the transition manifests, the goal is the same: ensuring that no one gets left behind as we shift from one energy economy to another, and that everybody who wants one has a role to play in what’s to come.…—Jeff Turrentine, “We Need a Just Transition—Because We Should Abandon Coal, Not Coal Workers,” EcoWatch, 10/20/19

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Scientists Show How Fossil Fuel Industry Deceived the Public About the Climate Crisis

Scientists Show How Fossil Fuel Industry Deceived the Public About the Climate Crisis

Scientist from Harvard, George Mason University and the University of Bristol in the UK collaborated on the paper, America Misled: How the fossil fuel industry deliberately misled Americans about climate change. The researchers looked at more than a decade of peer-reviewed research.

An international group of scientists released a report today, October 21, 2019, detailing how the fossil fuel industry actively campaigned to sow doubt about the climate crisis and what steps need to be taken to undo the damage, as the Los Angeles Times reported.

The report may be particularly damaging for oil and gas giant ExxonMobil, which will head to court on Wednesday to defend itself against New York State’s allegations that it defrauded shareholders by downplaying the expected risks of climate change to its business.

Scientist from Harvard, George Mason University and the University of Bristol in the UK collaborated on the paper, America Misled: How the fossil fuel industry deliberately misled Americans about climate change. The researchers looked at more than a decade of peer-reviewed research to reach their findings. They issued the paper to inform policymakers, journalists and the public about “what the fossil fuel industry knew versus what they did, the arguments they used to seed doubt in the public, the techniques they used to create those arguments, and some strategies for combating them,” according to a University of Bristol statement.

ExxonMobil has previously dismissed similar research as the work of anti-oil activists, but the academic validity of this paper will be tougher to refute. It will also present a challenge for Exxon when it goes on trial on Wednesday in Manhattan, as the Los Angeles Times reported.

One of the examples that the study pins on ExxonMobil is a 2004 New York Times advertisement that read like an editorial. In the advertisement, the company used disinformation techniques, including questioning scientific consensus and calling for a “balanced” scientific approach to climate change, which gives undeserved credibility to skeptics of scientific consensus, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“For 60 years, the fossil fuel industry has known about the potential global warming dangers of their products,” said Geoffrey Supran, Research Associate in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University and a study author in a statement. “But instead of warning the public or doing something about it, they turned around and orchestrated a massive campaign of denial and delay designed to protect profits. The evidence is incontrovertible: Exxon misled the public. Like all bad actors, they should be held accountable.”

The study finds several ways that fossil fuel companies managed a disinformation campaign, including championing conspiracy theories, promoting fake experts and cherry-picking scientific evidence, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“Disinformation about climate change has a straightforward purpose–to block action on climate change. In America, it has largely succeeded, with policies to mitigate climate change blocked or delayed for decades,” said Professor Stephan Lewandowsky at the University of Bristol, who is an author on the study, in a press release.

The paper has five key takeaways, according to its press release:

  • Internal corporate documents show that the fossil fuel industry has known about human-caused climate change for decades. Its response was to actively arrange and fund denial and disinformation to suppress action and protect its status quo business operations.
  • As the scientific consensus on climate change emerged and strengthened, the industry and its political allies attacked the consensus and exaggerated the uncertainties.
  • The fossil fuel industry offered no consistent alternative explanation for why the climate was changing — the goal was merely to undermine support for action.
  • The strategy, tactics, infrastructure and rhetorical arguments and techniques used by fossil fuel interests to challenge the scientific evidence of climate change — including cherry picking, fake experts and conspiracy theories — come straight out of the tobacco industry’s playbook for delaying tobacco control.
  • Informing the public about how these arguments are deceptive not only begins to correct the misconceptions, but also will make it harder for future campaigns to use these misleading tactics to confuse the public. …—Jordan Davidson, “Scientists Show How Fossil Fuel Industry Deceived the Public About the Climate Crisis,” EcoWatch, 10/21/19

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A UN Treaty Guarantees Youth Rights Everywhere on Earth.
Except in the U.S.

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Fifteen kids from a dozen countries, including Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, recently brought a formal complaint to the United Nations. They’re arguing that climate change violates children’s rights as guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a global agreement.

By petitioning the UN on behalf of the world’s children, their action made history. But it’s not the first time that kids have turned to this international accord in pursuit of social change.

As I explain in my book The Kids Are in Charge the Convention on the Rights of the Child isn’t just a legal document. It also sends kids an important message: that they matter, that their voices are important and that they deserve to be heard. When countries join this agreement, which took effect in 1990, they pledge to work toward aligning their own laws with its principles.

Banning Corporal Punishment

The convention formally recognizes children as people with universal human rights and specific rights because of their age. It reflects a shift away from seeing children entirely as the possessions of their parents to treating them as individuals with equal rights and their own interests.

Many countries have taken action to promote children’s rights and well-being based in part on its mandate. For example, South Africa recently became the 57th country to prohibit corporal punishment — any act intended to cause pain or discomfort, such as paddling and spanking — in all settings, including schools and homes.

Corporal punishment remains legal in public schools in 19 American states and no state has outlawed the practice for parents.

In Ireland, a 2012 constitutional amendment gave kids the right to be heard in custody hearings and other court proceedings. And in Nigeria, the federal government created a children’s parliament and incorporated the perspectives of minors when drafting that country’s Children’s Rights Act.

President Bill Clinton signed this convention in 1995. But the U.S. Congress has never ratified this accord.

In fact, the U.S. is the only country that has refused to embrace the world’s most-ratified human rights agreement. It has 196 signatories including all of the UN member states except the U.S. plus some UN observers and non-members, such as Palestine, the Holy See and the South Pacific territories of Cook Islands and Niue.…—Jessica Taft, “A UN Treaty Guarantees Youth Rights Everywhere on Earth—Except the U.S.,” EcoWatch, 10/21/19

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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.