November 5, 2019
We now know that the window for avoiding serious environmental degradation is closing. Even the most casual look at the weather maps of the globe during any one month shows a string of record-breaking events, deadly heat waves in the high 120°F range, and obvious trends. So, preparation for deep adaptation is necessary, even as we carry on the work of stopping catastrophic climate change. This week we focus on cultivating resiliency in several dimensions.
But first the news.

A Note About This Edition

Due to the editor’s being on jury duty from Monday through Thursday, October 28-31, this edition has been severely delayed.  Next week’s edition might likewise be delayed somewhat, as gathering material for it was also curtailed by jury duty.

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

THE RELUCTANT RADICAL

Meaningful Movie Group @ The Park Church

If a crime is committed in order to prevent a greater crime, is it forgivable? Is it, in fact, necessary? THE RELUCTANT RADICAL follows activist Ken Ward as he confronts his fears and puts himself in the direct path of the fossil fuel industry to combat climate change.

The film reveals both the personal costs and also the fulfillment that comes from following one’s moral calling- even if that means breaking the law. The film follows Ken through a series of direct actions, culminating with an action that shuts down all the U.S. tar sands oil pipelines and threatens to put him behind bars for 20 years.

Ken Ward has no regrets, and his certainty leaves the audience to consider if he is out of touch with reality, or if it is the rest of society that is delusional for not acting when faced with the unsettling evidence that we are collectively destroying our world.

Further reading: ‘I’m Just More Afraid of Climate Change Than I Am of Prison’New York Times Magazine, 2/13/18

Tuesday, November 12, 2019 7:00
Discussion & light refreshments to follow
The Park Church
Beecher Hall

208 West Gray Street,
Elmira, NY 14901 (Enter via parking lot side door near Gray St.)

Free, public event

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

South Dakota Backs Off Harsh New Protest Law
and ‘Riot-Boosting’ Penalties

South Dakota Backs Off Harsh New Protest Law and ‘Riot-Boosting’ Penalties

At least seven other states have added stiff new penalties in the last few years for protesting near oil and gas pipelines and other ‘critical infrastructure.’

South Dakota officials have agreed to walk back parts of the state’s new anti-protest laws that opponents say were meant to target Native American and environmental advocates who speak out against the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline.

Gov. Kristi Noem and state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg agreed in a settlement Thursday with Native American and environmental advocates that the state would never enforce portions of the recently passed laws that criminalize “riot boosting”—which it applied, not just to protesters, but to supporters who encourage but never take part in acts of “force or violence” themselves.

The settlement, which makes permanent a temporary ruling issued by a federal judge in September, has immediate implications for opponents of the Keystone pipeline in South Dakota and could challenge the validity of similar laws targeting pipeline and environmental protestors in other states.

Further reading Oil Spill Causes ‘Major Disaster’ for Ganges River
‘It Happens Over and Over and Over and Over’: Keystone Pipeline Leaks (at Least) 383,000 Gallons of Crude Oil in North Dakota

“People can continue to organize and show up in public places and speak out against these projects without any fear of retribution or being identified as rioters and face potential felonies,” said Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network and a plaintiff in the lawsuit that challenged the rules.  

“I think it’s immense,” he said. “We have legal precedent that is shooting down these anti-protest laws that are being replicated across the country.”

At least seven other states have passed harsh penalties for protesting near oil or gas pipelines or interfering with the infrastructure since the start of the Trump administration, according to the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, which tracks the legislation. Several of those laws were based on a model bill promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, an industry-backed group.…—Phil Mckenna, “South Dakota Backs Off Harsh New Protest Law and ‘Riot-Boosting’ Penalties,” InsideClimate News, 10/25/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Trump Admin Proposes New Rule:
Allow Shipping Flammable LNG by Rail

Trump Admin Proposes New Rule to Allow Shipping Flammable LNG by Rail

President Trump has made clear that he wants to move the nation’s glut of fracked natural gas onto trains and then to ships for sale abroad.

In response to Trump’s April executive order pushing federal agencies to make that happen, the Department of Transportation (DOT) on October 18 announced a proposed rule for what it calls the “safe transportation of liquefied natural gas [LNG] by rail tank car.”

However, the proposed rule does not include any new safety regulations or require any safety testing for moving large quantities of this flammable cargo. Instead, the rule, coming from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), would allow the rail industry to move LNG in rail tank cars, labeled DOT-113, currently used to ship small quantities of other flammable gases super-cooled into liquid form. 

While the DOT press release announcing the rule-making emphasizes safety (the word or a variant is repeated no fewer than eight times), the actual document proposing this new rule details a worrisome scenario for what could happen if a train of LNG tank cars derails, breaching and releasing the liquefied fossil fuel — what PHMSA calls “Scenario 3”:

“Although Scenario 3 has a low probability, a breached inner tank during a transportation accident could have a high consequence because of the higher probability of a fire due to the formation of a flammable gas vapor/air mixture in the immediate vicinity of the spilled LNG. This probability is based on the likelihood of ignition sources (sparks, hot surfaces, etc.) being generated by other equipment, rail cars, or vehicles involved in a transportation accident that could ignite a flammable vapor cloud.”

According to PHMSA, the derailment of a train full of LNG could have “high consequences” — as in, a major fire or explosion — but because the agency says there are lower odds that it would happen, the public should feel assured this proposed transportation mode, using DOT-113 rail tank cars, is safe.

In the proposed rule, PHMSA also acknowledges that such “rare” accidents with DOT-113 tank cars can release large quantities of their cargo, which in this case would be natural gas, a flammable fuel.

“Though rare, derailments involving DOT-113 tank cars can result in large quantities of hazardous materials released, which can result from venting or breach of the inner tank shell.”

A low-probability but high-consequence accident involving trains loaded with flammable liquids sounds a lot like the 2013 rail accident involving an oil train that derailed and exploded, killing 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. While numerous oil trains have derailed, resulting in large fires, explosions, and oil spills over the past decade, a high-fatalities accident like the one in Lac-Mégantic has only happened once so far — but the consequences were, as PHMSA would put it, “high.”

Safety is the number one priority of PHMSA,” PHMSA Administrator Skip Elliott, who is also a former CSX rail executive, said in the press release announcing the new LNG-by-rail rule. [The administrator does not appear to understand the difference between and uses of risk and consequence assessments regarding safety.—Editor]

There is a 60 day public comment period for this proposed rule that ends on December 23, 2019.—Justin Mikulka, “Trump Admin Proposes New Rule to Allow Shipping Flammable LNG by Rail,” DeSmog, 10/25/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Global Hunger Strike – Extinction Rebellion

Global Hunger Strike – Extinction Rebellion

On November 18th the Extinction Rebellion Global Hunger Strike will officially launch! Everyone who will participate as a hunger striker will need to fill in this form (linked below). The form is mandatory and if a striker is not registered, they will not be considered as part of the Extinction Rebellion Global Hunger Strike.

Where: World-wide

From:
11:00 Local time

Until:
25 November 2019
14:00 Local time

Everyone who will participate as a hunger striker will need to fill in this form (linked below). The form is mandatory and if a striker is not registered, they will not be considered as part of the Extinction Rebellion Global Hunger Strike. This is for safety reasons!

Furthermore, we are imposing a strict 24 hours limit for participants under 18 to hunger strike for health and safety reasons. For an under 18 to participate they MUST have both medical and parental consent.

Registration Form Over 18 https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScpvNlUmOYLq089uB15hS4OxOMl98cGlrvBnTpRBcnHuaTWMg/viewform

Registration Form Under 18
https://docs.google.com/document/d/11J4IGryiLs7P_7IK_4rVT3boj15KDcNma_S-IjZP3Bw/edit#

It is recommended to read through this document before registering.

What kind of hunger strike will you do?

One Week Constant Hunger Strike
The one week constant hunger strike is what it sounds like. No food will be consumed, but plenty of water and daily vitamins and minerals will be taken (more on this further down in the document). All hunger strikers, but especially the one week hunger strikers, need supervision and monitoring as to make sure they are getting enough water, salts, vitamins and minerals and that their weight is kept on normal levels.

Rolling Hunger Strikes (24 hours)
Rolling hunger strikes are hunger strikes that are done for 24 hours and then broken (preferably in the morning) by a regular meal. Water and extra vitamins and minerals will be consumed just as in the constant hunger strike. Strikers under 18 years of age are limited to a strict 24 h limit on their hunger strikes, but can do rolling hunger strikes during the week.
Rolling hunger strikes can either be done for the whole week or for two days (24 + 24 hours). Rolling hunger strikes can also be done with a 12 hour rolling schedule.

Solidarity Hunger Strike for a day or more
Solidarity hunger striking is hunger striking done for a day or more, but not the whole week. Far from everyone has the opportunity to strike for a whole week, and thus this is a more inclusive option. A solidarity strike can for example be done during the weekend (Saturday and/or Sunday) when the striker is free from work or studying. Solidarity hunger strikers will consume plenty of water and extra vitamins and minerals just as the one week hunger strikers.

Preparing for the hunger strike
Medical supervision
While there may be XR doctors willing to be around/contactable during a Fast/Hunger Strike it needs to be clear that this does not constitute ‘medical supervision.’ Anyone refusing food for prolonged periods should seek the guidance of their own General Practitioner/Family Physician – someone who has access to past medical records and can order blood tests where appropriate. It is recommended that all participants check with their doctor, however this is not mandatory in all countries.

What happens to the body during a fast/hunger strike?…”Global Hunger Strike,” Extinction Rebellion, 11/3/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Statewide Action to Stop Duke’s LNG
Storage Facility in Robeson County,  North Carolina

Saturday, November 16, 2019
10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
MAXTON, NC

Action will include a March for Justice from Maxton to Wakulla and a Celebration of our Sacred Lands and Waters near the LNG site

The billion cubic foot, LNG storage facility is a part of massive, dirty, fossil fuel infrastructure that exists and is planned for Robeson County – all connected with the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline – in the Lumbee Community and 4 miles from Maxton, a predominately African American town. The need for gas storage is unsubstantiated and un-needed.  In opposition to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the statement of the NC Department of Environmental Quality is equally relevant to Duke Energy’s planned LNG facility:  “The cost of renewable energy resources is rapidly declining, and the economics now favor utility-scale solar and onshore wind plus storage over construction of natural gas infrastructure”.

Make Plans to Join Individuals and Organizations Who Oppose the Expansion of Harmful, Natural Gas Production and Promote a Clean, Renewable Energy Future and Job Growth across North Carolina   

Further reading: The Next Standing Rock Is Everywhere

For more information:
Steven Norris, 828-777-7816, Fairview, North Carolina
Mac Legerton, 910-736-5573

Sponsored by the Robeson County Coalition to Protect Our Sacred Land and Waters

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Resilience & Re-wilding
Deep adaptation, post-sustainability
and the possibility of societal collapse

Deep adaptation, post-sustainability and the possibility of societal collapse – Resilience

A new paper by a long-time sustainability academic and consultant says that minor tweaks in our current system won’t help us. We are likely headed for societal collapse and need a radical new way of thinking about the future. The first necessary casualty is hope–hope that we can keep things largely the way they are.

I write this piece primarily to get you to read an academic paper that has attracted relatively widespread attention. It is entitled “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy.”

It is remarkable in a number of aspects. First, it was written by a professor of sustainability leadership who has been heavily involved for a long time in helping organizations including governments, nonprofits and corporations to become more sustainable. Second, the author, Jem Bendell, has now concluded the following after an exhaustive review of the most up-to-date findings about climate change:  “inevitable collapse, probable catastrophe and possible extinction.” Third, his paper was rejected for publication not because it contained any errors of fact, but largely because it was too negative and thought to breed hopelessness.

It is important to understand what Bendell means by “collapse” in this context. He does not necessarily mean an event taking place in a relatively short period of time all over the world all at once. Rather, he means severe disruptions of our lives and societies to a degree than renders our current institutional arrangements largely irrelevant. He believes we won’t be able to respond to the scope of suffering and change by doing things the way we are doing them now with only a few reformist tweaks.

That this idea doesn’t go down well in sustainability circles should be no surprise. That’s because our current arrangements, even if “reformed” to take environmental imperatives into account, are in no way equal to the task ahead. Our existing institutions are structurally incapable of responding to what is coming and so consulting about how to reform them is largely a fool’s errand—not the way sustainability experts and consultants want to be thought of.…—Kurt Cobb, “Deep adaptation, post-sustainability and the possibility of societal collapse,” Resilience, 3/17/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

M.K. Gandhi Institute Presents

Location:
Coordinated Care Services Inc. 1099 Jay Street, Building J – 3rd floor
Rochester NY 14611 MAP:
November 9, 2019 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

This workshop is an opportunity to learn and engage with others who are also grappling with the overwhelming information and grim prospects that humanity faces, most specifically with climate change, as well as other crises.

Our collective challenge is to find a way to turn around many millennia of patriarchal ways: negation of life; separation from ourselves and from each other; pervasive powerlessness; lack of trust in what’s enough; insistence that we are masters of nature and that nature is separate from us; and hubris about our ability to do so without destroying everything on which we depend. Sink in with us and find your way as an individual and within whatever community you are part of.

Click to register

Resources for this event:
We want everyone to be able to attend regardless of financial means, and we also depend on income from this event as part of the sustainability of both the Gandhi Institute and BayNVC. We ask that you make a deposit of $10 to reserve your spot unless this is a hardship for you. Towards the end of the event, we will provide information about our financial situation and invite you to contribute based on knowing our needs, in interdependent flow to sustain our work based on what comes from your heart that can be sustained by your pocket.

Logistics:
Bring lunch, cups for water/coffee/other beverages
Further info: Contact Us – M.K. Gandhi Institute

Presenter:
Miki is a Clo-founder of Bay Area Nonviolent Communication (BayNVC). She holds a PhD in Sociology from UC Berkeley and draws on over 20 years of experience as a facilitator and consultant working with businesses, nonprofits, government bodies, and community groups. Her blog and writings can be found at thefearlessheart.org. Her third book, Reweaving Our Human Fabric: Working Together to Create a Nonviolent Future, explores the tools, practices, and systems needed for a collaborative society.

Her forthcoming book Convergent Facilitation describes the process she’s developed for reaching group decisions on polarized issues. She offers free interactive calls each month on topics including Reckoning with Collapse, Facing Privilege, Overcoming Patriarchy, and Questioning Money. In her writing as well as on the calls she invites readers and participants to grapple with the most difficult challenges we are facing, individually and collectively, to be able to lead lives of meaning and integrity, even joy, in perilous times.  

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Delivering ‘Catastrophic Message in a Moment of Great Urgency,’
Trump Formally Begins Ditching Paris Climate Deal

Delivering ‘Catastrophic Message in a Moment of Great Urgency,’ Trump Formally Begins Ditching Paris Climate Deal

“President Trump’s decision to walk away from the Paris agreement is irresponsible and shortsighted.”

As President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday took the first step to formally withdraw from the Paris agreement, climate campaigners reiterated concerns about the United States ditching the landmark 2015 deal that aims to bring countries together to tackle the climate emergency.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the move in a tweet Monday, the first day that world leaders could begin the one-year withdrawal process:

In response, Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and a leading expert on the United Nations’ international climate negotiations process, warned that “President Trump’s decision to walk away from the Paris agreement is irresponsible and shortsighted. All too many people are already experiencing the costly and harmful impacts of climate change in the form of rising seas, more intense hurricanes and wildfires, and record-breaking temperatures.”

“The moral outrage at this decision will be a powerful catalyst for action.”
—May Boeve, 350.org

The primary goal of the Paris accord is to “strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

Trump announced his intention to abandon the agreement, which was backed by the Obama administration, in a June 2017 speech. In the two years since, every nation on earth has pledged support for the accord, which went into effect on Nov. 4, 2016. No country was allowed to withdraw for three years.

The Trump administration was required to send a letter to the United Nations to begin the withdrawal process. U.S. State Department spokesperson James Dewey had told The Associated Press Friday that “the U.S. position with respect to the Paris agreement has not changed. The United States intends to withdraw from the Paris agreement.”…—Jessica Corbett, “Delivering ‘Catastrophic Message in a Moment of Great Urgency,’ Trump Formally Begins Ditching Paris Climate Deal,” Common Dreams News, 11/4/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

What is a Resilience Circle?

What is a Resilience Circle?

[Editor’s Note: We published this article in edition Vol.5, No. 41, “Stranded Commitments.” It led to an expanded view of the currency of this topic, so it is reprinted here]

The economy is going through a deep transition, and economic security is eroding for millions of people. We’re worried about our financial security and about the future we are creating for our children. Many of us aren’t part of communities where we can talk openly about these challenges and fears.

In response, people are forming small “Resilience Circles” of ten – twenty people. These groups are exploring a new kind of security based in mutual aid and community support, and helping build a new kind of economy that’s fair and in harmony with the earth.

Resilience Circles help us:

  • Courageously face our economic and ecological challenges, learning together about root causes.
  • Build relationships and undertake concrete steps for mutual aid and shared action.
  • Rediscover the abundance of what we have and recognize the possibility of a better future.
  • See ourselves as part of a larger effort to create a fair and healthy economy that works for everyone in harmony with the planet.
  • Get to know our neighbors, find inspiration, and have fun!

How it Works

Across the country, people are starting Resilience Circles in their communities. The free, open-source Curriculum provides a guide for facilitators to lead groups through seven initial sessions, and after that groups determine their own activities and projects.

Three Components of a Circle

Learning – A Resilience Circle is a place to face the real nature of our economic and ecological challenges. Facing these realities may be overwhelming for isolated individuals, so a Circle is a place to learn with a supportive community. We analyze the economy to expose its structural flaws, and ask if “growth” is really the only way to create financial security.

Mutual Aid – Resilience Circles take concrete steps toward enhancing personal security by slowly stretching our “mutual aid muscles,” which are often badly out of shape. In Session 5 we exchange “gifts and needs,” where participants write down things they can offer – such sewing skills, tools, or child care – and things they need. During this activity we gain a new sense of the wealth and abundance present within the group and the community.

Social Action – Many of our challenges won’t be solved through personal or local mutual aid efforts alone. They require us to work together to press for larger state, national and even global changes. While there is no official Resilience Circle social action agenda, many groups choose to take action based on their own values and interests.—”What is a Resilience Circle?Resilience Circles: Small Groups for Tough Times

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Rogue Loggers Kill Amazon Indigenous Warrior
Guarding Forest, Wound Another

Illegal Loggers Kill Amazon Indigenous Warrior Who Guarded Forest, Wound Another

Illegal loggers in the Amazon ambushed an indigenous group that was formed to protect the forest and shot dead a young warrior and wounded another, leaders of the Guajajara tribe in northern Brazil said on Saturday.

Paulo Paulino Guajajara, or Lobo (which means ‘wolf’ in Portuguese), was hunting on Friday inside the Arariboia reservation in Maranhao state when he was attacked and shot in the head. Another Guajajara, Laercio, was wounded but escaped, they said.

The clash comes amid an increase in invasions of reservations by illegal loggers and miners since right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro took office this year and vowed to open up protected indigenous lands to economic development.

“The Bolsonaro government has indigenous blood on its hands,” Brazil’s pan-indigenous organization APIB, which represents many of the country’s 900,000 native people, said in a statement on Saturday.

“The increase in violence in indigenous territories is a direct result of his hateful speeches and steps taken against our people,” APIB said.

APIB leader Sonia Guajajara said the government was dismantling environmental and indigenous agencies, and leaving tribes to defend themselves from invasion of their lands.

“It’s time to say enough of this institutionalized genocide,” she said in a post on Twitter.

Brazil’s federal police said they had sent a team to investigate the circumstances of Paulino Guajajara’s death. APIB said his body was still lying in the forest where he was killed.

The Guajajaras, one of Brazil’s largest indigenous groups with some 20,000 people, set up the Guardians of the Forest here in 2012 to patrol a vast reservation. The area is so large that a small and endangered tribe, the Awá Guajá, lives deep in the forest without any contact with the outside world.…—Reuters, “Illegal Loggers Kill Amazon Indigenous Warrior Who Guarded Forest, Wound Another,” Reader Supported News, 11/03/19

Source: readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/59554-illegal-loggers-kill-amazon-indigenous-warrior-who-guarded-forest-wound-another

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Greta Thunberg is right: It’s time to haul ass on climate change

Greta Thunberg is right: It’s time to haul ass on climate change

Economically and politically, early ambition is better.

When Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed the elites assembled at the World Economic Forum in Davos, she concluded with a simple message: “I want you to act as if our house is on fire.”

For those elites, it was unfamiliar language. They are accustomed to talking about climate change, but typically such talk amounts to ritual invocations of “urgency” coupled with promises about what might be achieved in 2030 or 2050.

When your house is on fire, though, you don’t promise results in a decade or a year or a week. You grab a bucket and find some water. Immediately.

Further reading: ‘The climate doesn’t need awards’: Greta Thunberg declines environmental prize

When it comes to climate policy, Thunberg has it right. We are in a unique historical moment; we understand the danger of climate change and, for now, still have the resources and political space necessary to address it. But every second of delay makes the challenge more expensive, more difficult, and more dangerous.

Humankind is wasting a short window of opportunity to address climate change,” Howard and Livermore warn, “one that may soon shut as climate damages incapacitate effective political action.”

It’s not just climate activists saying that. The policy community is moving in that direction as well, with similar arguments coming into clearer view from economists and political scientists. The common theme is risk, and what it means to take the mounting risks of the climate crisis seriously.

Let’s start with economics. The conventional climate policy recommendation from economists has been to start with a low carbon price and ramp up slowly, but a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science (PNAS) flips that view on its head, urging instead an aggressively high price, starting now. The arguments are worth unpacking.…—David Roberts, “Greta Thunberg is right: It’s time to haul ass on climate change,” Vox, 10/4/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Fears of More Extreme Weather as Kincade Fire Swells

Fears of More Extreme Weather as Kincade Fire Swells

Up and down the state, wildfires are driving residents from their homes. The fire threatens 90,000 buildings across an expanding evacuation zone.

…The best scientific explanation: Bad trends plus bad luck.

Adam Sobel, an atmospheric scientist and director of the Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate at Columbia University, gives an explanation:

This increasingly awful fall fire season follows hard on the previous two, in 2017 and 2018, both of which were worse than any in recent memory. Some of the same regions, and people, are being affected repeatedly in quick succession. Psychic trauma is surely compounded significantly for these residents, not to mention the firefighters on the front lines.

Further reading Lost track of all the California fires? Here’s what you need to know, Los Angeles Times
Trump threatens funding for California forest fires that didn’t happen
For Porter Ranch, Saddleridge fire is the latest disaster on a growing list

It’s an increasingly common experience, occurring with other kinds of events as well. Heavy rain events are becoming heavier around the world, but known climate trends can’t explain the repeated 500-or-more-year floods that Houston has seen in the last few years.

In the case of the increasingly frequent wildfire disasters in California, I argued the other day that they have multiple causes: poor maintenance by PG&E, expanded human settlement at the margins of fire-prone woodlands, and global warming. But I don’t think any of them explains either the suddenness or the persistence of the change that Californians have experienced in the last three years.

When it comes to the weather, and the climate, my views here are strongly informed by discussions with my colleague Park Williams, an expert on wildfire and climate whose research is directly relevant. That research shows that the area burned by fires each year in the summer months has increased drastically, and this is consistent with the influence expected from global warming.

But, as explained by Dr. Williams in his recent research article, and in The Times on Friday, the headline-making fires of the last three years have all occurred in fall. In that season, temperature has a role, but other factors are likely to be more important — first and foremost, the dry Diablo and Santa Ana winds.

Those are mainly fall and winter phenomena, and clearly critical factors in the recent and current fires. But these winds are actually projected to occur less frequently as the climate warms (with no clear trend yet apparent in the observations). So the fires may be attributable to weather, but the most critical aspect of the weather isn’t directly attributable to human activity — nor, as far as I can tell, to any other identifiable larger cause.

So what is going on?

My guess is that the best scientific answer goes something like this. The sparking might have gotten worse over time. But more important, in the last three years, it has encountered the hot, dry downslope winds markedly more often. And global warming is probably making those winds a little hotter, but the wind events themselves, the most important proximate causes, may well be only explainable, ultimately, as “natural variability.” That means they are inherently unpredictable. Bad luck, in other words. If this is true, it would suggest a decent chance that next year shouldn’t be as bad.

Or maybe the causes are in principle knowable, but current science just doesn’t know them. Maybe climate change is proceeding more rapidly and dangerously than we understand. But it’s good to understand what the limits of our knowledge are. That should keep us humble about our place on the earth.—Adam Sobel, “California Wildfires Updates: Getty Fire Rages as 405 Jams|Bad trends plus bad luck,” The New York Times, 10/28/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Getting back to nature:
how forest bathing can make us feel better

Getting back to nature: how forest bathing can make us feel better

The Japanese have known for years that spending mindful time in the woods is beneficial for body and soul. Now western doctors – and royals – agree

Every day, apart from when it’s raining heavily, Dr Qing Li heads to a leafy park near the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo where he works. It’s not just a pleasant place to eat his lunch; he believes the time spent under the trees’ canopy is a critical factor in the fight against diseases, of the mind and body.

Once a month Li spends three days in forests near Tokyo, using all five senses to connect with the environment and clear his mind. This practice of shinrin-yoku – literally, forest bath – has the power to counter illnesses including cancer, strokes, gastric ulcers, depression, anxiety and stress, he says. It boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure and aids sleep. And soon it could be prescribed by British doctors.

Last week the Woodland Trust suggested forest bathing – which doesn’t, despite its name, involve getting in water – should be among a range of non-medical therapies and activities recommended by GPs’ surgeries to boost patients’ boost wellbeing.

Social prescribing”, a growing movement in the NHS, can include volunteering, gardening, sports activities, cookery and befriending.

Forest bathing is an opportunity for people to take time out, slow down and connect with nature. We think it could be part of the mix of activities for social prescription,” Stuart Dainton of the Woodland Trust told the Observer. “Evidence about its benefits is building.”…—Harriet Sherwood, “Getting back to nature: how forest bathing can make us feel better,” The Guardian, 6/8/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Climate Change Will Cost Us Even More Than We Think

Climate Change Will Cost Us Even More Than We Think

Economists greatly underestimate the price tag on harsher weather and higher seas. Why is that?

For some time now it has been clear that the effects of climate change are appearing faster than scientists anticipated. Now it turns out that there is another form of underestimation as bad or worse than the scientific one: the underestimating by economists of the costs.

The result of this failure by economists is that world leaders understand neither the magnitude of the risks to lives and livelihoods, nor the urgency of action. How and why this has occurred is explained in a recent report by scientists and economists at the London School of Economics and Political Science, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

One reason is obvious: Since climate scientists have been underestimating the rate of climate change and the severity of its effects, then economists will necessarily underestimate their costs.

But it’s worse than that. A set of assumptions and practices in economics has led economists both to underestimate the economic impact of many climate risks and to miss some of them entirely. That is a problem because, as the report notes, these “missing risks” could have “drastic and potentially catastrophic impacts on citizens, communities and companies.”…

In a worst-case scenario, climate impacts could set off a feedback loop in which climate change leads to economic losses, which lead to social and political disruption, which undermines both democracy and our capacity to prevent further climate damage. These sorts of cascading effects are rarely captured in economic models of climate impacts. And this set of known omissions does not, of course, include additional risks that we may have failed to have identified.

The urgency and potential irreversibility of climate effects mean we cannot wait for the results of research to deepen our understanding and reduce the uncertainty about these risks. This is particularly so because the study suggests that if we are missing something in our assessments, it is likely something that makes the problem worse.…—Naomi Oreskes, Nicholas Stern, “Climate Change Will Cost Us Even More Than We Think,” The Benicia Independent|The New York Times, 10/23/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

How Social Resilience Can Save Your City

How Social Resilience Can Save Your City – 100 Resilient Cities

Resilience studies focus on two different but equally important aspects of disaster preparedness: physical systems and social systems. Much has been written about the effect of natural disasters on the physical infrastructure of cities, but the effect on social infrastructure is just as vital to how a city will recover.

Drawing on the results of an AP-NORC poll and report, The Rockefeller Foundation Vice President Neill Coleman describes social infrastructure as “the level of trust in a neighborhood.” According to the report, when New Yorkers were confronted by the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, “families and communities — not the government — were the most helpful sources of assistance and support.”

Social scientists describe this phenomenon in terms of network theory. Mark Granovetter’s seminal 1973 paper “The Strength of Weak Ties” describes social infrastructure as a system of strong and weak ties. Strong ties are characterized by duration, emotional intimacy, mutual confidence, and reciprocal services — conditions one usually finds among kin and close friends. Weak ties, on the other hand, are characterized by looser affiliations. For example, if you worked for a international organization and met an employee stationed in another office, you would be bound by the weak tie of sharing an employer, rather than the strong tie developed by spending days and weeks in close quarters with the people in your own office. Weak ties are useful because they can be bridged and turned into strong ties in times of need.

Weak social ties break down in times of stress and emergency, especially those between disparate groups. During an emergency, people turn toward those they trust. But such a move can have far-reaching, negative effects.

Though Superstorm Sandy often brought out the best in New Yorkers, there were negative social effects that would have had disastrous consequences if the situation had been even slightly different. For instance, when drivers became aware that gas stations were experiencing supply shortages, many motorists in the outer boroughs waited for hours in long lines to top off their tanks. Panic buying, like a bank run, is a leading indicator of social breakdown, which can lead to looting and anarchy if allowed to escalate. In the case of the panicked New York drivers, they spent valuable time and gasoline engaging in competitive behavior with people who should have been their natural collaborators.

Two examples from the past year [2013] illustrate the importance of strong social networks for a city’s resilience.…—Will Kenton, “How Social Resilience Can Save Your City,” 100 Resilient Cities, 1/22/14

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

EPA rule change:
power plants can dump fine powder,
sludge and contaminated water

EPA rule change: power plants can dump fine powder, sludge and contaminated water

EPA to scale back federal rules restricting waste from coal-fired power plants

Agency chief Andrew Wheeler argues that Obama-era rules ‘placed heavy burdens on electricity producers.’ Critics call the changes unwarranted and potentially dangerous.

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday plans to relax rules that govern how power plants store waste from burning coal and release water containing toxic metals into nearby waterways, according to agency officials.

The proposals, which scale back two rules adopted in 2015, affect the disposal of fine powder and sludge known as coal ash, as well as contaminated water that power plants produce while burning coal. Both forms of waste can contain mercury, arsenic and other heavy metals that pose risks to human health and the environment.

The new rules would allow extensions that could keep unlined coal ash waste ponds open for as long as eight additional years. The biggest benefits from the rule governing contaminated wastewater would come from the voluntary use of new filtration technology.

Trump administration officials revised the standards in response to recent court rulings and to petitions from companies that said they could not afford to meet stringent requirements enacted under the Obama administration. They also reflect President Trump’s broader goal of bolstering America’s coal industry at a time when natural gas and renewable energy provide more affordable sources of electricity for consumers.…—Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis, “EPA rule change: power plants can dump fine powder, sludge and contaminated water,” The Benicia Independent|The Washington Post, 11/3/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Giant Pumice Raft Floating Toward Australia
Could Help Replenish Great Barrier Reef

Giant Pumice Raft Floating Toward Australia Could Help Replenish Great Barrier Reef

An underwater volcano is thought to have produced a sheet of pumice that stretches 58 square miles.

A massive raft made of pumice stones is floating towards Australia, carrying marine organisms that scientists say could help replenish Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Some of the stones are as large as basketballs, and have formed a giant sheet stretching about 58 square miles — nearly the size of Washington, D.C.

An explosion from an underwater volcano near the tiny island nation of Tonga is thought to have produced the raft, according to NASA.

Michael Hoult and Larissa Brill, an Australian couple that was sailing to Fiji on a catamaran, posted to Facebook about the pumice sheet on August 17th.

They had heard the previous day of “pumice fields,” and in a Facebook post, they reported they encountered a “faint but distinct smell of sulfur” when they were near a location “charted as area of volcanic activity.”

Later, the couple wrote they “entered a total rock rubble slick made up of pumice stones from marble to basketball size … The rubble slick went as far as we could see in the moonlight and with our spotlight.”…—Shannon Van Sant, “Great Barrier Reef Could Be Helped By Giant Pumice Raft,” NPR, 8/25/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

‘They should be allowed to cry’:
Ecological disaster taking toll on scientists’ mental health

‘They should be allowed to cry’: Ecological disaster taking toll on scientists’ mental health

‘We’re documenting destruction of world’s most beautiful ecosystems, it’s impossible to be detached’

The ecological disaster is taking its toll on scientists’ mental health, with top researchers saying those working in the field must be supported and “allowed to cry”. 

Leading researchers have published a letter saying many scientists experience “strong grief responses” to the ecological crisis and there are profound risks of ignoring this emotional trauma. 

The letter, published in the journal Science, calls on academic institutions to support scientists and allow them to address their ecological grief professionally.

Further reading Climate change is creating a new kind of grief, and we’re completely unprepared for it
Hope and mourning in the Anthropocene: Understanding ecological grief
I have felt hopelessness over climate change. Here is how we move past the immense grief

Professor Andy Radford from the University of Bristol, and co-writer, said: “The emotional burden of this kind of research should not be underestimated. Grief, when unaddressed, can cloud judgement, inhibit creativity and engender a sense that there is no way forward,” he said. 

Authors of the letter say environmental scientists often respond to the degradation of the natural world by suppressing or denying painful emissions while at work. 

Tim Gordon, lead author of the letter and a marine biologist from the University of Exeter, said: “We’re documenting the destruction of the world’s most beautiful and valuable ecosystems, and it’s impossible to remain emotionally detached.…—Phoebe Weston, “‘They should be allowed to cry’: Ecological disaster taking toll on scientists’ mental health,” The Independent, 10/10/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Finding our Common Ground and Common Purpose

Finding our Common Ground and Common Purpose – Resilience

We are living in extraordinary, stormy times. In the political sphere, a sixteen-year-old girl speaks truth to powerful global leaders in New York; in the UK, the Supreme Court finds our Government has acted unlawfully in the proroguing of Parliament. In spite of all the promises and declarations, the planet is still set for 3 degrees of global warming above pre-industrial levels, sending us more rapidly towards the tipping point for our climate and all life on earth. We are travelling through unchartered territories. Tribal and polarised politics shape the public discourse. It can feel profoundly unsettling. Where on earth is the solid ground from which we can find common purpose and make the urgent progress we need on the really critical issues facing us?

In July 2019, The RSA Food Farming and Countryside Commission (FFCC) published a series of important reports. Funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, this two-year independent inquiry helped to shape a new vision for safe, secure and sustainable food and farming systems and a flourishing countryside. Initially focussed on matters raised by the Brexit vote, the inquiry quickly turned its attention to the urgent issues that transcend Brexit: the crises in climate and nature, health and well-being and rural communities. For eighteen months, we worked with business leaders and academics across different sectors, and with citizens in their communities around the UK, to arrive at the recommendations in our report, Our Future in the LandThe report garnered widespread – and cross-party – backing, both for our recommendations and for the process by which we arrived at them. We were determined that the many and diverse perspectives we’d heard through our inquiry were respected, and that everyone who’d given their time, experience and expertise to us so generously would see their voices in our reports. And make no mistake: this is contested territory. Even when people agree on the problems to be solved, there are very different versions of what is needed to solve them. How should we use our land – should we re-wild parts of the UK and intensify food production in smaller areas; or should we layer regenerative practices across all land? What constitutes a truly sustainable diet – more plant-based foods and white meats, or meat and dairy from pasture-fed ruminants? Should we go all out for technological solutions like gene-editing? Or should we scale down consumption ready for a post-growth economy?

We looked at evidence across the whole system, balancing the data about healthy diets and sustainable land management, with climate and nature-friendly solutions, and the needs of rural communities. Our recommendations are radical and practical, around which we hope many people, organisations and businesses can convene.

  • Healthy food is everybody’s business – we have to level the playing field for a fair food system.
  • Farming must be a force for change – with farmers and land managers fully involved in shaping a just transition to regenerative farming by 2030.
  • The countryside must work for all – balancing multiple needs and a vibrant place to live and work.

But it’s the second of our reports, The Field Guide for the Future, which is our antidote to the continuing turbulence and uncertainty. In it, are the stories of people already doing incredible things across the whole country, experimenting with regenerative approaches, reconnecting communities, working together, sharing knowledge and learning. Their stories helped us shape a version of a more sustainable future, already coming to life.…—Sue Pritchard, “Finding our Common Ground and Common Purpose,” Resilience, 10/25/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Every human should be alarmed
by the plastic crisis in our oceans

Opinion | Every human should be alarmed by the plastic crisis in our oceans

A bipartisan bill is just the first step away from disaster.

“WITHOUT CHANGE,” warns a bipartisan group of senators, “there will be more plastic by weight than fish in the oceans by 2050.” Some of the signs of this growing crisis are visible: sea turtles caught in discarded fishing nets; piles of trash floating in the ocean; birds and fish stranded in plastic six-pack rings.

But much of the trash in the ocean is not so obvious. National Geographic reports that the iconic Great Pacific Garbage Patch — also known as the Pacific trash vortex — is really more of a soup of small plastic particles the sun has broken down, punctuated by larger items such as fishing nets and shoes. Much of the trash is dumped into the sea from ships. But most comes from land: bottles, cups, bags. The sun breaks down these items, but they do not really biodegrade. Instead, they enter animals’ bodies, killing the animals immediately or entering marine food chains. These “microplastics” also block sunlight from supporting plankton and other backbone ecosystem species.

A Plastics Reader Plastic is everywhere. We can no longer ignore that.
The oceans are in danger. We need to do more than ban plastic straws.
Nothing in today’s headlines compares to the coming catastrophe
Plastics are killing our oceans
It’s time for Congress to finally protect our oceans from offshore drilling

Ocean currents transport trash from shore to the middle of the ocean, but the problem is by no means distant and isolated. Researchers announced in June that they had found microplastic particles off California’s idyllic Monterey Bay. And not just on the surface; the researchers found microplastics in surprising abundance in the middle of the water column. Anyone who cares about the marine ecosystem — and that ought to include every human — should be alarmed.

Enter the bipartisan group of senators, led by Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) , who have introduced a bill that would start to take on the problem. Save Our Seas 2.0 builds on an ocean cleanliness law President Trump already signed. The new legislation would overhaul the country’s recycling infrastructure, which needs basic upgrades , such as the ability to effectively sort plastics into different grades of material. It would create a fund to respond to “marine debris events” — like a container ship accident — enabling quick response to major mishaps. And it would finance research into re-purposing used plastic into useful things — think everything from blue jeans to skateboards to telephone poles.…—Editorial Board, “Every human should be alarmed by the plastic crisis in our oceans,” The Washington Post, 10/27/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Offshore wind turbines ‘have potential
to meet entire world’s electricity needs 18 times over’

Offshore wind turbines ‘have potential to meet entire world’s electricity needs 18 times over’

Bigger turbines, floating platforms, cheapening technology and green policies – these are all plotting the course for a wind revolution, the agency says

Outlining the rapid pace of change, which the authors say has been led by European countries including the UK, the report says the global offshore wind market grew nearly 30 per cent per year between 2010 and 2018.

There are now about 150 new offshore wind projects in development around the world, with China adding more capacity than any other country in 2018.

“Yet today’s offshore wind market doesn’t even come close to tapping the full potential,” the authors write.…—Harry Cockburn, “Wind power could meet entire world’s electricity needs 18 times over, says International Energy Agency,” The Independent, 10/25/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Why is Europe rewilding with water buffalo?

Why is Europe rewilding with water buffalo?

  • Conservationists have released 18 water buffalo onto Ermakov Island in the Danube, in the first ever such re-wilding project in Ukraine.
  • The water buffalo were gifted by a German-born naturalist-cum-farmer, Michel Jacobs, who has taken on a mission of saving the Carpathian’s distinct water buffalo.
  • Researchers believe the water buffalo will bring new richness and diversity to the Danube by acting as ecosystem engineers.

This post is part of Saving Life on Earth: Words on the Wild, a monthly column by Jeremy Hance, one of Mongabay’s original staff writers.

At the end of a long day, Michel Jacobi, 36, rides a water buffalo home. The choice of commute is unique even in rural, Trans-Carpathian Ukraine — though it wasn’t always.

Jacobi, a native of Kiel, Germany, with a degree in ecology and forestry, has spent nearly a decade in Ukraine, raising a sizable herd of domesticated water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis), starting an NGO, and living off the sale of their rich and hypoallergenic yogurt and cheese.

But these animals aren’t livestock to Jacobi; the relationship is intimate.

“They produce an atmosphere of coziness and deep-rooted trust,” he says. “All this is only possible, when you admit them to be part of your life and let them be real domestic water buffalo.”

This summer, 2019, Jacobi said goodbye to 17 of his animals. He wasn’t selling them for slaughter, but giving them to an ambitious re-wilding project to employ these animals as ecosystem engineers on the Danube River in Ukraine.…—Jeremy Hance, “Why is Europe rewilding with water buffalo?Mongabay, 10/24/19

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

Artifishal
Film & Screening Dates

Artifishal Film & Screening Dates – Patagonia

Artifishal is a film about people, rivers, and the fight for the future of wild fish and the environment that supports them. It explores wild salmon’s slide toward extinction, threats posed by fish hatcheries and fish farms, and our continued loss of faith in nature.

Protect Wild Fish. Tell decision makers to stop wasting money on failed plans and invest in science-based solutions to save endangered wild salmon and orcas: Stop hatcheries, reduce harvest and remove dams. Sign the Petition.—Josh Murphy, Collin Kriner, “Artifishal,” Patagonia, 2019

≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈≈

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.