July 7, 2020
A week of dialogue on the proposition that we are all interdependent. Some inspiring events, some crass, some violent. The voice of indigenous minds, and the wisdom that comes from those subject to deep injustice seemed to be acknowledged, even in the National Football League which has so long been absolutely intolerant of Colin Kaepernick’s gentle refusal to honor a national anthem. An anthem whose third verse dishonors slaves fleeing to seek the freedom the anthem awards to freemen. Only.

We publish “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the Black national anthem. It is spiritually grounded and moving. Has nothing to do with bombs bursting in air, etc.
But first the news.

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Table of Contents

NY & Northeast Activist News

National Activist News

Interdependence Day, 2020

Indigenous Peoples News

New Energy News

Resilience & Deep Adaptation

Science & Climate

Industry News

Regulatory & Court News

Government & Economics

International News

In Case You Missed It

The Lighter Side of Things


Dominion cancels Atlantic Coast Pipeline,
sells natural gas transmission business

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is dead, abandoned by Dominion Energy and its partner, Duke Energy, ending a 600-mile natural gas project that would have cost at least $8 billion to complete.

Dominion and Duke announced Sunday that they have canceled the project in the face of mounting regulatory uncertainty caused by a federal court ruling in Montana that overturned the nationwide federal water quality permit the project relied upon to cross rivers, creeks and other water bodies.

Further reading Atlantic Coast Pipeline stirs debate at environmental hearing | Raleigh News & Observer
Court Throws Out Forest Service Approvals for Atlantic Coast Pipeline | West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Supreme Court allows Atlantic Coast pipeline to cross Appalachian Trail | POLITICO
The Vanishing Need for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline | Oil Change International (PDF)

Three compressor stations along the route would help transport the gas, and, like much of the pipeline, would be built in lower-income, rural communities, bypassing more affluent property owners.—

“We regret that we will be unable to complete the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,” Tom Farrell, chairman, president and CEO of Richmond-based Dominion, said in a bombshell announcement.…

However, he concluded, “This announcement reflects the increasing legal uncertainty that overhands large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States. Until these issues are resolved, the ability to satisfy the country’s energy needs will be significantly challenged.”

Greg Buppert, who helped lead a wide-ranging legal battle against the project as senior attorney for the Southern Environment Law Center, was stunned by the announcement.

“Wow!” Buppert said Sunday. “Wow.”…—”Dominion cancels Atlantic Coast Pipeline, sells natural gas business,” Michael Martz, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/5/20

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Family that lost hundreds of trees
to failed pipeline project
settles with company, gets land back

A Northeastern Pennsylvania family who watched as work crews, accompanied by armed federal marshals, destroyed their budding maple tree farm to make way for the failed Constitution Pipeline has settled with the company Williams for an undisclosed amount. A federal court has also vacated the eminent domain taking of about five acres, reversing an order it made more than five years ago.

“We’re really glad that it’s ended,” said Catherine Holleran, co-owner of the 23-acre property that has been in the family for 50 years. “We’ve gotten our land returned to us. That was our main objective right from the first.”

The Constitution Pipeline project would have carried Marcellus Shale gas from Pennsylvania to New York state. Though the project received federal approval and the necessary permits from Pennsylvania regulators, New York blocked the pipeline by not issuing permits. Williams dropped the project in February.

The Holleran family of New Milford fought a lengthy battle to prevent the company from building the pipeline across their property. But in March 2016, the crews arrived at the 23-acre farm in rural Susquehanna County along with the federal marshals, who wore bullet proof vests and carried semi-automatic weapons. The crew spent several days clearing about 558 trees, including some that were hundreds of years old.

In a 2018 statement filed with the court, Holleran described how the company left the trees lying on the ground, and did not remove them for a full year after the clear cut. The stumps were left in the ground.

Holleran described the stress weathered by her and her family.…—”Family that lost hundreds of trees to failed pipeline project settles with company, gets land back,” Susan Phillips, StateImpact Pennsylvania, 7/3/20

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Environmental groups earn unprecedented climate Concessions in NYSEG/RG&E gas rate case

In a first for NY State utility rate cases, grassroots environmental groups successfully negotiated with their utilities for zero net growth in gas use over the course of the three year rate plan, while keeping gas rate increases low. After months of negotiations, NYSEG and RG&E agreed to a slate of gas reduction strategies, retracted $128 million for gas infrastructure including pipelines, and funded $1.5 million for renewable heating systems for low-income residents.

While signing the gas settlement agreement, most environmental groups oppose the utilities’ electric proposal that was supported by state regulators, and some other parties. The groups criticized the companies for callously raising electric rates by double digits during a historic health emergency and economic crisis, while failing to prepare the grid for a renewable future.

Emboldened by the aggressive targets set by the State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), environmental groups shifted the utilities’ plans away from continuous gas growth. As part of the settlement agreement on the gas case, filed on Monday, June 22, 2020, environmental groups secured utility commitments to plan their systems around no growth in gas use and to offset new customers’ gas use through energy efficiency, heat pumps, and other non-gas alternatives. The companies also plan to study and possibly implement district geothermal pilots. The companies further agreed to end their oil-to-gas conversion incentives in favor of approximately $1.5 million for low-income renewable heating rebates.

“Fossil Free Tompkins applauds the Companies and Department of Public Service for their commitment to reduce gas use and the many ways they agreed to promote and incentivize non-pipe alternatives,” said Irene Weiser, coordinator of Fossil Free Tompkins. Weiser first advocated for heat pumps not pipelines in the previous, 2015 rate case – when the Town of Lansing was placed under a gas moratorium – and was rebuffed. “The change in direction over the past 5 years is truly encouraging.”

Ratepayer and Community Intervenors tallied over 1,000 of the comments to the Public Service Commission’s case record and delivered at five public hearings. “The ratepayers showed widespread support for modernization of the grid to support renewable deployment and advance beneficial electrification,” according to the group’s president, Carol Chock. “Both low and moderate income ratepayers and energy activists called for NYSEG, RG&E, and the state to prioritize expenditures to address climate change, end investment in fossil fuels and reject the high level of proposed profit if the companies didn’t achieve clean energy goals.”

“The transition to a clean energy future must be affordable for all New Yorkers to be sustainable,” said Kristen Van Hooreweghe, Project Manager for Rochester People’s Climate Coalition. “The gas case settlement, even with its environmental initiatives, has nominal rate increases. Conversely, the Companies and Governor Cuomo’s Department of Public Service failed to develop a rate plan on the electric case that adequately addresses the disproportionate energy burden facing our low-income community members, especially during the current COVID pandemic.”

Over the next three years, NYSEG will ratchet up electricity bills for the average household to $146 more annually in 2023 than they are today, as a result of a 24.9% increase in delivery rates. The RG&E average residential bills will rise over the next three years to $100 more per year than before the rate case started, based on an increase of 15.5% in delivery rates. The electric case failed to garner support of most environmental and public interest groups because of these unconscionable increases.

“The exorbitant rate increases in the electric case show both the Utility and Department of Public Service staff to be tone deaf to the economic struggles New Yorkers will be facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Chock remarked. “While we appreciate the Companies’ COVID-19 plans to stay utility shut-offs temporarily, maintain their arrears forgiveness program, and provide additional bill credits to low-income customers, we do not believe they went far enough in sharing the pain with fellow New Yorkers.”…—”Environmental groups earn unprecedented climate Concessions in NYSEG/RG&E gas rate case,” Jessica Azulay, Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE New York), 6/22/20

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Seattle: police seek motive
after driver hits protesters, killing one

I-5 freeway protest hit by car early on Saturday, driver arrested

Authorities say road will now be closed to protesters

One person died and one remained in serious condition after a car drove into protesters on a freeway in Seattle.

Summer Taylor, 24, of Seattle, died on Saturday evening at Harborview Medical Center, hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg said.

Taylor and Diaz Love, 32, of Portland, Oregon, were hit by the car that barreled through a panicked crowd of protesters on Interstate 5 at around 1.40am on Saturday, officials said. Love was in serious condition in the intensive care unit, Harborview, Gregg said.

Dawit Kelete of Seattle drove the car around vehicles that were blocking I-5 and sped into the crowd about 1.40am, according to a police report. Video taken at the scene by protesters showed people shouting “Car! Car!” before fleeing the roadway.

SeattleDriverHitsActivistLove was filming the protest in a nearly two-hour-long Facebook livestream captioned “Black Femme March takes I-5” when the video ended abruptly. With about 15 seconds left, shouts of “Car!” can be heard as the camera starts to shake before screeching tires and the sound of impact are heard.

A graphic video posted on social media showed the white Jaguar racing toward a group of protesters who were standing behind several parked cars, set up for protection. The car swerved around the other vehicles and slammed into the two protesters, sending them flying into the air.

The driver, who was alone, fled the scene, Trooper Chase Van Cleave said. One of the other protesters got in a car and chased the driver for about a mile. He was able to stop him by pulling his car in front of the Jaguar, Van Cleave said. Troopers arrived, and the driver was put in custody.…—”Seattle: police seek motive after driver hits protesters, killing one,” Associated Press, The Guardian, 7/5/20`

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Activist Brittany Packnett Cunningham
on Building a Lasting Movement

In the last month, protests have erupted across the country calling for justice for Black lives, a wholesale restructuring of policing, and a greater racial reckoning across all facets of American society.

It feels like change is in the air. But we’ve been here before: Eric Garner was killed by police in New York City in July 2014, followed weeks later by Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, igniting outrage and protest. Activists then hoped for change too.

ACLUPodcastWe’ve seen countless social justice movements surge in popularity, cause a stir, and then peter out weeks or months later. This time, however, feels different, but how do we actually ensure that it is different?

Joining us to discuss how we sustain movements and compel real change is Brittany Packnett Cunningham, an activist, educator, and writer who has been on the frontlines of these conversations most prominently since the Ferguson protests.—”Activist Brittany Packnett Cunningham on Building a Lasting Movement,” American Civil Liberties Union, 7/2/20

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Interdependence Day, 2020

‘Til Victory Is Won: The Staying Power
Of ‘Lift Every Voice And Sing’

LiftEveryVoiceAndSing

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” is a song many African-Americans know from school or church. But if you didn’t hear it there, you may know it from one of a few landmark performances.

Motown’s Kim Weston sang it to nearly 100,000 people at the historic Wattstax concert in 1972. In 1990, singer Melba Moore released an all-star version that included Anita Baker, Stevie Wonder and Dionne Warwick. Gladys Knight and Bebe Winans added their own rendition in 2012. And this April, Beyoncé sang it at Coachella, highlighting black culture to a largely white audience.

Further reading Lift Every Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson | Poetry Foundation
James Weldon Johnson | Poetry Foundation

So what is it about “Lift Every Voice and Sing” that speaks to a people, so much that it’s become known as the “black national anthem”?

The lines of this song repay me in an elation, almost of exquisite anguish, whenever I hear them sung by Negro children.—James Weldon Johnson

Shana Redmond, a professor at UCLA who studies music, race, and politics and author of the book Anthem: Social Movements and the Sound of Solidarity in the African Diaspora, says it’s a song about transcending difficulties — and those difficulties have never fully receded.…—”Till Victory Is Won: The Staying Power Of ‘Lift Every Voice And Sing’,” Claudette Lindsay-Habermann, NPR 8/6/18

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Unfathomable Cruelty’:
Trump Files Legal Brief Aiming
to Kick 20 Million Off Health Insurance
in Middle of Pandemic

The Trump administration late Thursday night, June 25, 2020, filed a legal brief asking the Supreme Court to invalidate the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, a move that would strip health insurance from more than 20 million people in the middle of a pandemic and slash taxes for the richest Americans.

The brief (pdf), submitted by the Justice Department in support of a Republican lawsuit, argues that Congress’ 2017 repeal of the individual mandate rendered the ACA unconstitutional.

“The entire ACA thus must fall with the individual mandate,” writes Solicitor General Noel Francisco.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and lead sponsor of the House Medicare for All Act of 2019, said in response to the Trump administration’s latest attack on the ACA that “we need to be guaranteeing healthcare for all, not gutting it from millions.”…—”‘Unfathomable Cruelty’: Trump Files Legal Brief Aiming to Kick 20 Million Off Health Insurance in Middle of Pandemic,” Jake Johnson, Common Dreams News, 6/26/20

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Arctic drilling bans are racist, Alaska GOP says

Remember last week, when we learned about the manufactured racism controversy in San Luis Obispo, California?

If you don’t—understandable, every day feels like a lifetime—here’s the gist.

Amid nationwide protests over systemic racism and police brutality, gas industry interests tried to kill a small city’s clean energy policy by pushing last-minute claims that the policy was racially discriminatory. The strategy was unsuccessful, but San Luis Obispo climate advocates said they were worried that their city might be a testing ground for more industry-supported racism complaints to come.

Their worries stemmed from the fossil fuel industry’s long history of attempting to placate and/or co-opt minority groups through financial support, with the goal of stomping out policies to fight pollution that disproportionately harms them. Considering the moment of racial unrest we’re in, one activist said, “I think this is a tactic we’ll likely see more of.”

Those worries were well-founded. A similar tactic is playing out in Alaska, where the all-Republican congressional delegation is now deploying accusations of racism to win their decades-long fight to allow oil exploration in the ecologically sensitive, rapidly-warming Arctic.

The first claim: banks are using “discriminatory tactics” against fossil fuels

Further reading: Alaska Natives Get Goldman Sachs to Stop Funding Arctic Drilling | Gizmodo

Since November of last year, climate activists have successfully pressured five out of America’s six largest banks to adopt policies prohibiting funding for Arctic oil and gas projects. Republican lawmakers—specifically, the ones heavily funded by the fossil fuel industry—have not been happy about it.

They couldn’t really do anything about it, though—that is, until coronavirus provided an opportunity.…—”Arctic drilling bans are racist, Alaska GOP says,” Emily Atkin, HEATED, 7/6/20

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Message From The Sacred Circle of Grandmothers
And Grandfathers of Guatemaya

Regarding the Vile Murder of Our Grandfather Domingo Choc Che

All of us, beings of light embodied in this existence on Mother Earth, we feel moved and outraged by the murder of our wise scientist and investigator Tata Domingo, Ajq’ij y Ajilonel, maya q’eqchi, on the Nawal date Julajuj 11 K’at, Saturday 06/06/2020 at 7 am.

With this message we come to remember the life of our wise healer and send him love, serenity and confidence for his return journey to the arms of our Mother Earth, where all of us will reunite one day. With the words of this message, as elders from the Sacred Circle of Guate Maya (Guatemala), we come here to carry out an act of transmutation of the colonial legacy.

We reject the naturalization and normalization of racial violence in our lives. It is time that dark ages be left behind. We proclaim a new age of understanding and respect between all paths of spirituality in the world and we are not going to fall to the temptations that try to call and provoke the dark spirit of the Inquisition of the XXI century.

We have witnessed the rapid response of the Police with the capture of the suspects and we are sad to see that they too are humble and simple people from our community. This makes us feel that we no longer need the presence of the Spanish invaders torturing us, because the master of the ranch and the hierarchy and patriarch of the church and fundamentalist sects have succeeded in internalizing the oppression within the victims themselves to the point to be able to self-inflict trauma and violence. Acts like these are the culmination of years of genocide and epistemicide [destruction of knowledge].

Blind and cynical fundamentalism is another pandemic, a more tragic and more vile one, that has been engrained over a period of 496 years in Guatemala. The contagion of ignorance, intolerance, fanatism and the insanity of power through imposition, that as much in this case of Tata Mingo, as that of Leonardo Lizandro Guarcaj in El Tablón, Sololá, a few years ago, and the the murder of Dominga Ramos, defender of Mother Earth of Codeca and the MLP the 5th of March this year, gives us reason to reflect about the impact of the extreme fundamentalist doctrines on the internal divisions among oppressed peoples. Under this slogan, they attack our Ajq’ijab’, families and communities every day.

Our traditions are proper, millennial, protected not only by the oral collective and community based and ratified tradition, but also by international treaties. It is our right of free and self-determination as Indigenous Peoples.

Ancestral indigenousness is not perfect, but it is proper, specific and inherent… and it is not at odds with modernity when we unite efforts for the scientific construction of a new society. Thousands, millions of indigenous and mixed race peoples dream of a pluricultural Guatemala, judicial plurality, in which the respect for ancestral indigenous authorities are a guarantor of pacific conviviality in terms of equality, complementarity, balance and harmony. We know that this is possible because in other regions of our Abya Yala (continental territory), this cultural and political plurality is being built. Here we can also contribute and build, together, this pathway of contemporary interculturality.

During these days of quarantine due to Covid-19, we have been witness to the incineration of our brother Domingo Choc Ché. And his death hurts us in addition to the pain we feel seeing the dialogues present on social networks that are loaded with discriminatory, racist and reactionary messages. (We continually see the interiorized racism in each one of us.) In this framework it is important to analyze the death threat made against Sara Curruchich, singer songwriter, and cultural activist Kaqchikel. The language used, besides twitteresque, reminds us of that used by the military intelligence, by military commissions, paramilitary organizations and the likes over the last 60 years. How is it possible that those of us denouncing the structural and institutionalized racism are considered the “problem,” and the racist crime itself committed by some of our brothers against others is not?

We ask ourselves and we share this question with you because we know that the statements demanding justice by the authorities are not enough. The 21 initiatives of law based on the Peace Accords on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples have remained paralyzed in governmental institutions and the congress for 20 years. The oligarchical holders of colonial power should have already shown signs of political will by approving all the legislative reforms that would guarantee the beginning of plurality of Guatemala. We hope they react, of course. We demand it, in fact. But we know the capture of the community members who set fire to our brother is not the solution to the end of centennial institutional racism.

Dozens, thousands of judicial, political, social and cultural acts are needed to commit, with respect for the life and culture of the first peoples of Guatemala and the Abya Yala (our continental territory), in order to reverse hundreds of years of thanatological [deadly] colonial culture.

For this reason, this message is directed to the minds and hearts of each of us who read it, hear it and harmonize with our slain brothers and sisters up until now. We are speaking to all people who desire to collectively commit to building a reality of harmonious everyday fellowship. We are grateful to all the people who dedicate time in their lives to minutely analyze the cultural patterns, their beliefs, their prejudices, their thoughts and emotions. Because that is the great work that is ours to do.

We need to recognize that each one of us has been colonized and patriarchized over hundreds of years by the colonial regimes. On this side of the Atlantic Ocean as well as the other, we must remove the blindfold from our eyes, many ways of thinking and understanding the world that sadden and turn our lives gray and violent. It is hard work and we cannot do it alone. We need time to personally change our habits and ways of being in the world, but we also need time to work together in our own healing process.

We need to heal ourselves to heal our bond with Mother Earth as well. And we will achieve it. We are not willing to back away and we have deep confidence in the connections we have woven in our communities as in our cultures and our spirituality. We will continue to walk firmly on our path to building a new presence in the Here and Now. We welcome all those people who feel called to walk this path hand in hand. Here are some of our proposals for a positive construction:

  1. We request all sectors of society and nation, public recognition of the scientific contributions as a natural guardian of the ancestral Maya Q’eqchi’ wisdom of Domingo Choc Ché. And to the academic institutions, the promotion of Doctorate Honoris Causa in order to help preserve his memory, we call specifically to the UN indigenous affairs rapporteur, Francisco Cali.
  2. We invite the different spiritualities and currents of critical thinking to reflect on the effects of colonialism, genocide, ethnocide, oppression, discrimination and systemic persecution against all forms of original peoples thought.
  3. We inspire each person to begin and deepen their journey of depatriarchalization and internal decolonization.
  4. We demand that the competent authorities and governments procure expediate justice, via positive processes of causal investigation and processing of the material authors that acted with premeditated treachery and advantage in order to carry out this horrendous crime and murder. And also, the intellectual authors as the present laws dictate, in search of the restitution of the victim’s historical memory and that of his loved ones. The results of this restitution should be shared and its relationship to the fundamentalist doctrines, both national and international, so that we can educate ourselves and avoid that these events are repeated in the future.
  5. Lastly, at the same time we transmit our energetic condemnation given the act of torture and burning alive of a human being, we gather our energy, our wisdom and our everyday pathway, to educate ourselves, and we align all our relations in the strengthening of our cultural resilience, honoring the profound sense of the K’aslemal (vida) and of the Kikotemal (joy) even in these times of such deep sadness and outrage.

Further reading: Medic working on UK-funded project burned alive in Guatemala after being accused of witchcraft | The Independent

We continue to sow the seeds of harmony, cultivating the ancestral legacy, grateful for the sacred fire and the memory of our ancestors motivating our strength and balance, and because it continues to call all sectors to gather in essence in order to continue learning to know ourselves and respect all diversity so that, together and each day, we will create the conditions to receive the dawning of the new day saqirib’al, enjoying the practical results of the construction of peace with dignity and justice…in equilibrium with Nature and the Cosmos.—”Statement And Message From The Sacred Circle Of Grandmothers And Grandfathers Of Guatemaya (Guatemala) Given The Vile Murder Of Our Grandfather,Domingo Choc Che; Dragged, Paraded, Lynched And Burned Alive In The Village, Of San Luis Peten, Guatemala, Paxil Kayalá, Nawal Kajib’ 4 Tz’i’” (PDF), Sacred Circle Of Grandmothers And Grandfathers Of Guatemaya, Coordinating team of the Sacred Circle of Grandmothers and Grandfathers of GuateMaya Paxil Kayalá, Nawal Waqib’ E, 06/14/2020

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Deer River Wind Farm completes the Article 10 process, gains the environmental certificate

Click for full view

LOWVILLE, NY – The Deer River Wind Farm was given conditional approval by the state Siting Board in a meeting on Tuesday, adding another 25 turbines to the 286 already built, in the process of being built, and approved but not yet built on the Tug Hill Plateau in Lewis County.

Atlantic Wind, a subsidiary of developer Avangrid Renewables, was granted a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need from the state through the Article 10 review process for its project.

The wind farm will consist of 21 turbines in the town of Pinckney and four turbines in the town of Harrisburg with a transmission interconnection point in Jefferson County in the town of Rodman. Nineteen of the turbines will be about 600 feet tall with the remaining six to stand at about 500 feet.

The turbines will occupy about 150 acres total spread out across about 6,000 acres of privately leased land. It is expected to generate 101 megawatts of power, contributing to the state-wide goal to have 70% of the power generated in the state come from renewable energy sources by 2030.

The certificate was granted with a number of conditions, many of which must be met before construction can begin. The majority of the conditions were included in the recommended decision filed on March 20 by the official examiners of the process, and no other parties involved questioned the rationale.…—”Deer River Wind Farm completes the Article 10 process, gains the environmental certificate,” Julie Abbass, Wind Energy News, 6/30/20

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Selma ‘Bloody Sunday’ bridge
renaming efforts cause divides

Selma65

At the foot of Pettis Bridge, March 7, 1965

Residents of Selma have criticised moves to rename the bridge where voting rights marchers were beaten in 1965.

[Editor’s Note: The mood to get rid of monuments dedicated to the Southern secessionists and Ku Klux Klan leaders is easy to understand in such times. But such actions should be weighed against the actual value of the historical facts. The Edmund Pettis Bridge is not a monument to any heroism other than the Black people of Selma, determined to cross it to march to Montgomery, Alabama, to seek direct redress for the political disenfranchisement at the state capital. It seems fitting that the bridge on which they were accosted beaten, and jailed by Alabama State Police troopers keep its name, chosen intentionally for its impact on whites and blacks alike, as a historical marker. If the residents of Selma were to change their mind and wish it no longer to be a reminder of the power of the KKK, that would make this a different matter. As it stands, this is an effort by someone who has no connection to the events there, the state of matters in Selma either today or 55 years ago, is a mere pro forma extention of monument disavowal of actual merit.]

Thousands gathered in Selma, Alabama, a United States river city in 1940 to dedicate a new bridge in honour of white supremacist Edmund Pettus, a Confederate general and reputed Ku Klux Klan leader. Just 25 years later, the bridge became a global landmark when civil rights marchers were beaten at its base.

Today, with tens of thousands protesting nationwide against racial injustice, a years-old push is gaining steam to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge in honour of Representative John Lewis, who led the 1965 marchers on what became known as “Bloody Sunday”. But the idea is drawing opposition in Selma, including from some who marched with Lewis on that day.

Selma50THPettus’s name has ironically come to also symbolise Black freedom and should not be painted over, some say. Others oppose the move because Lewis was an outsider who followed in the footsteps of locals who had worked to end segregation for years before he arrived. Still, others fear a change would hurt tourism in a poor town with little going for it other than its civil rights history.

Pettus’s name has ironically come to also symbolise Black freedom and should not be painted over, some say. Others oppose the move because Lewis was an outsider who followed in the footsteps of locals who had worked to end segregation for years before he arrived. Still, others fear a change would hurt tourism in a poor town with little going for it other than its civil rights history.


Response by James Thompson, Rochester, NY activist and community organizer:

Although I’m an African American man, I view the Edmund Pettus Bridge as an outsider to Selma, never having set foot there. Yet I can relate to the sense among some African American residents of Selma that there is a power in keeping the name.

Sometimes we want to keep the names of monsters intact even after they’re slain, to remind ourselves to never let them rise up again. “Nigger” is one such name. Some of my Black brothers and sisters adopt the word as a term of affection, as a way to wrest power from the word and rework it “as only we can”, to suit our purposes. But I think we can do better than that, and I don’t use the term. There are many things we can be besides “niggers” or “niggas” or whatever way you want to put it. And as for the Edmund Pettus Bridge, I prefer the idea of changing the name. We must define ourselves rather than let others define us…that’s the second principle of Kwanzaa.

Although the Edmund Pettus bridge is “living history”, people are going across that bridge today, and they need to heal, not be re-injured. I would prefer giving power to a brother or sister who devoted their life to justice and peace. John Lewis is a possibility. What about less known folks who have quietly and heroically prevailed? Amelia Boynton Robinson was a Selma activist beloved by the people, who was also beaten on that bridge that very same day in 1965. How many more?…Generally I prefer to choose inspiration over anger. Of course, anger can be very useful, and at times there’s nothing like it to make things happen. But it’s corrosive. Now, at a time when we need to rebuild our communities, we can’t afford to burn too much, because we still have a long way to go.


Lynda Lowery, who was 14 at the time and received 35 stitches in her head on Bloody Sunday, does not want the bridge renamed for anyone. She said the span over the muddy Alabama River “isn’t a monument, it’s a part of history”.…—”Selma ‘Bloody Sunday’ bridge renaming efforts cause divides,” Associated Press, Al Jazeera, 7/3/20

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With Much of the World’s Economy
Slowed Down, Green Energy Powers On

Wind giants are trying to shrug off the effects of the pandemic.

After a two-hour boat trip from Lowestoft, a seaside town on the east coast of England, giant wind mills more than 500 feet high loomed out of the mist like enormous sea creatures. High atop the towers, technicians in helmets and red-and-black protective suits were visible, fine-tuning the machines and hooking them up to the British power system.

Britain has been under various stages of lockdown since March, but work on this wind farm, called East Anglia One, has charged ahead.

But early on, the companies behind the 2.5 billion pound ($3.1 billion) project weren’t so sure.

Further reading Ohio regulators OK Lake Erie wind farm with ‘poison pill’ that may kill project | Energy News Network
  FERC Decisions Could Undermine Renewables and Energy Storage in New York Capacity Markets | Greentech Media

As the coronavirus was gathering momentum across Europe, managers called a one-day halt in late March to consider whether pushing forward made sense. New health and safety measures would inevitably drain resources.

“We had to do a check and say ‘OK, should the project continue?’ and we asked ourselves with a very open mind,” said Charlie Jordan, the project director for Iberdrola, the Spanish utility developing the project.

The answer was “yes.” Work resumed the next day, and hasn’t stopped.…—”With Much of the World’s Economy Slowed Down, Green Energy Powers On,” Stanley Reed, The New York Times, 6/30/20

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A Series of Discussions
Inspired by Black Lives Matter

BLMPachamamaIn the wake of George Floyd’s death and global protests against racial violence, Pachamama Alliance hosted a series of discussions about the racial justice issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Black Lives Matter and the Work of Pachamama Alliance

Pachamama Alliance Co-founders Lynne and Bill Twist, Board Member Reverend Deborah Johnson, and Managing Director Mario Trigueros came together on June 15, for a discussion about Black Lives Matter and the work of Pachamama Alliance.

Mario opened the discussion by recounting his own experience of becoming politicized around police brutality earlier in life. What had become clear to him around that time was the need for social justice, environmental work, and spiritual healing to intersect.

Throughout the call, Reverend Johnson touched on this intersection and the need for both the spiritual work and the practical policy work to dismantle racism. She also drew parallels between social injustice and ecological destruction, saying “footprint on the planet, footprint on the people—it’s the same foot.” As she explained it, both crises are the result of our desire to exploit and extract from the Earth and other human beings based on a racialized hierarchy which places people above other species and the planet, and a few people above all others. What’s at stake if we don’t transform this destructive consciousness is humanity—racial hierarchy and ecological destruction dehumanize us all.…—”Pachamama Alliance Hosts a Series of Discussions Inspired by Black Lives Matter,” Pachamama Alliance, 6/29/20

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The Fullest Look Yet at the
Racial Inequity of Coronavirus

click for full view

Teresa and Marvin Bradley can’t say for sure how they got the coronavirus. Maybe Ms. Bradley, a Michigan nurse, brought it from her hospital. Maybe it came from a visiting relative. Maybe it was something else entirely.

What is certain — according to new federal data that provides the most comprehensive look to date on nearly 1.5 million coronavirus patients in America — is that the Bradleys are not outliers.

Racial disparities in who contracts the virus have played out in big cities like Milwaukee and New York, but also in smaller metropolitan areas like Grand Rapids, Mich., where the Bradleys live. Those inequities became painfully apparent when Ms. Bradley, who is Black, was wheeled through the emergency room.

“Everybody in there was African-American,” she said. “Everybody was.”

Early numbers had shown that Black and Latino people were being harmed by the virus at higher rates. But the new federal data — made available after The New York Times sued the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — reveals a clearer and more complete picture: Black and Latino people have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus in a widespread manner that spans the country, throughout hundreds of counties in urban, suburban and rural areas, and across all age groups.…—”The Fullest Look Yet at the Racial Inequity of Coronavirus,Richard A. Oppel Jr., Robert Gebeloff, K.K. Rebecca Lai, Will Wright, , The New York Times, 7/5/20

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‘This is life or death’: homeless families
reclaim vacant homes
to survive virus outbreak

The Reclaimers, a Los Angeles group, are taking back government-owned properties to give the homeless a chance to stay healthy

HomelessMoveIntoVacantHousesSeveral Los Angeles families who have been forced to live in cars, shelters and other unsafe situations have seized control of 13 vacant homes owned by the government, with the goal of staying indefinitely – and staying alive.

The takeover comes as California’s homelessness crisis and the escalating coronavirus outbreak have collided to create a catastrophe threatening thousands of lives.

Further reading Blaming coronavirus, homeless families seize 12 vacant homes | Los Angeles Times
  Homeless moms occupy El Sereno house | Curbed LA
  Two arrested in El Sereno as homeless activists take over vacant Caltrans homes | El Sereno The Eastsider
  No one should be homeless when homes are sitting empty. | Reclaiming Our Homes

Guardian-Donate.-1“To me, this is life or death,” said Benito Flores, 64, who has been living out of his van for years and moved into a vacant two-bedroom house on Wednesday. Wearing a face mask and standing inside the dusty home as volunteers cleaned, Flores explained that he is diabetic and at risk of serious illness or worse if he catches Covid-19. “By doing this, I’m giving myself a chance at living and surviving this crisis.”…—”‘This is life or death’: homeless families reclaim vacant homes to survive virus outbreak,” Sam Levin, The Guardian, 3/24/20

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New Study Confirms: Degenerative
Food & Farming System
Poses Mortal Threat

A new study calling for a “radical rethink” of the relationship between policymakers and corporations reinforces what Organic Consumers Association and other public interest groups have been saying for years: Our triple global health crises of deteriorating public health, world hunger and global warming share common root causes—and that the best way to address these crises is to address what they all have in common: an unhealthy, inequitable food system perpetuated by a political and economic system largely driven by corporate profit.

Further reading The Global Syndemic of Obesity, Under-nutrition, and Climate Change: The Lancet Commission report
Industrial Agriculture, an Extraction Industry Like Fossil Fuels, a Growing Driver of Climate Change | InsideClimate News

The study, the result of three years of work by 26 commissioners from several countries, was released this week by the Lancet Commission on Obesity. Boyd Swinburn, a University of Auckland professor and co-chair of the commission, as reported by Channel News Asia, said:

“Until now, under-nutrition and obesity have been seen as polar opposites of either too few or too many calories. In reality, they are both driven by the same unhealthy, inequitable food systems, underpinned by the same political economy.”

According to the report, nearly a billion people are hungry and another 2 billion are eating too much of the wrong foods, causing epidemics of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Boyd said that malnutrition in all its forms, including under-nutrition and obesity, is by far the biggest cause of ill health and premature death globally, and that both are expected to be made “significantly worse” by climate change.…—”New Study Confirms: Degenerative Food & Farming System Poses Mortal Threat,” Ronnie Cummins, Common Dreams Views, 1/28/19

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Is U.S. Farm Policy
Feeding The Obesity Epidemic?

These days, U.S. farm policy is blamed for a lot of things — even the nation’s obesity epidemic. The idea is that the roughly $15 billion in annual subsidies that the federal government gives to farmers encourages them to grow too much grain. As a result, the theory goes, prices drop, food gets cheaper and we end up eating too much.

FarmPolicyEpidemicIt seems like a simple equation. But the truth is rarely simple.

 

Americans Eat Cheap

Americans, on average, spend less than 10 percent of our money on food. A lot of people buy too much fast food — but from an economic standpoint, it is a good decision.

Further reading: Obesity, hunger, and agriculture: the damaging role of subsidies | National Center for Biotechnology Information

“The smartest, most rational decision is to eat the crappiest food, because everywhere you turn it’s more accessible, more affordable and more convenient,” says David Wallinga, a senior adviser in science, food and health at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis. He is one of the people who say federal farm policy leads directly to overeating.…—”Is U.S. Farm Policy Feeding The Obesity Epidemic?” Frank Morris, NPR, 8/10/11

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‘New contract’ needed with nature
to keep drought and deserts at bay

“Through international action and solidarity, we can scale up land restoration and nature-based solutions for climate action and the benefit of future generations. By doing so, we can deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals and leave no one behind”, he said.

Desertification, or the degradation of land in arid areas, is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations, with more than three billion people routinely affected.

Dry-lands cover more than a third of the planet’s land surface. They are extremely vulnerable to overexploitation and inappropriate land use, such as through overgrazing or bad irrigation practices.

Choose to protect nature

This year’s observation puts the spotlight on sustainable production and consumption.

“Each of us holds the power to protect the land for each choice we make in our daily lives. And we can still choose to protect nature. By doing so, we in fact protect our future.”…—”‘New contract’ needed with nature to keep drought and deserts at bay,” António Guterres, UN News, 6/17/20

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Crayola Unveils New Crayon Pack of
Skin Tone Colors From Around the World
to Promote Inclusivity

One of the world’s most beloved suppliers of children’s art supplies has just unveiled a new initiative for promoting an “inclusive world for children of all ages, races, cultures and ethnicities.”

Earlier this week, Crayola launched a new pack of specially formulated “Colors of the World” crayons designed to mirror and represent over 40 global skin tones across the world.

Crayola released the crayon pack on May 21st—the United Nation’s World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development—in hopes that the project would allow children to “creatively and accurately color themselves into the world they see around them.”

Further reading: Adorable Preschool “Twins” Take a Stand Against Discrimination

Crayola“With the world growing more diverse than ever before, Crayola hopes our new Colors of the World crayons will increase representation and foster a greater sense of belonging and acceptance,” said Crayola CEO Rich Wuerthele in a press release. “We want the new Colors of the World crayons to advance inclusion within creativity and impact how kids express themselves.”

In addition to conducting rigorous consumer testing on developing the crayon colors to reflect an accurate and inclusive skin tone palette, Crayola also partnered with Victor Casale for the project.

Casale, formerly Chief Chemist and Managing Director, R&D of MAC cosmetics and co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Cover FX and currently CEO of MOB Beauty, possesses over 30 years of experience in creating foundation colors for global skin tones.…—”Crayola Unveils New Crayon Pack of Skin Tone Colors From Around the World to Promote Inclusivity,” Good News Network, 5/26/20

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Degeneration to Regeneration:
Repairing Soil Health
for the Future of Land and Sea Life

Around the world, ocean dead zones are growing at alarming rates, making entire swaths of underwater habitats uninhabitable by marine life. Most of this is directly tied to agriculture and the way in which it contributes to a completely different but connected problem: soil or land degradation. Media coverage of the growing dead zones has failed to explain how and why these sections of ocean are devoid of oxygen and life, but a quick glance at a map of affected areas reveals a telling picture: dead zones exist along the coast and can be directly tied to human activity. The culprit is the copious amounts of chemical fertilizer and livestock manure collecting in runoff and making its way down rivers and into the oceans. (See the map below. Graphic Credit: Bartz/Stockmar, CC BY-SA 3.0.)

The Downstream Effect of Chemical Fertilizer

This year, scientists predict the Gulf of Mexico could experience one of the largest dead zones in history; an astounding 8,000 miles of ocean, an area the size of Massachusetts, will be hypoxic (or devoid of enough oxygen to support any form of marine life). Any time a river crosses an agricultural landscape and then empties into a body of water, the runoff brings nitrogen and phosphorous, which causes a massive algal bloom. The blue-green algae then suffocate the ocean. Ultimately, the marine life is starved of the oxygen it needs and can no longer inhabit these dead zones. This negative effect of chemical fertilizers and livestock runoff is often defended on grounds that the means justify the ends, that it is impossible to feed the world without chemical fertilizers and protein from animal agriculture. In fact, neither are a necessity, nor are they viable, long-term solutions.

A Flawed Solution to Feeding the Planet

A monocrop field is left devoid of growth,
protection, nutrients, and soil.

Chemical fertilizers are used because of a lack of nutrients naturally present in degraded soil. Land degradation is a process that begins when forests are initially cleared for agriculture and ultimately over-farmed or overgrazed until the carrying capacity of the land has dwindled. Once the original tree cover has been stripped from the entire piece of land, a slow death of desertification ensues as endless rows of a single crop (monocropping) are planted and harvested year after year, depleting the soil with every passing season. Most farm-scapes around the world have long been degraded and denuded, leaving many farmers to resort to commercial fertilizers to meet their production expectations.…—”Degeneration to Regeneration: Repairing Soil Health for the Future of Land and Sea Life,” Olivier Allongue, Agrilinks, 7/19/19

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The Natural Contract

Meditations on environmental change and the necessity of a pact between Earth and its inhabitants

Global environmental change, argues Michel Serres, has forced us to reconsider our relationship to nature. In this translation of his influential 1990 book Le Contrat Naturel, Serres calls for a natural contract to be negotiated between Earth and its inhabitants.

 

World history is often referred to as the story of human conflict. Those struggles that are seen as our history must now include the uncontrolled violence that humanity perpetrates upon the earth, and the uncontrollable menace to human life posed by the earth in reaction to this violence. Just as a social contract once brought order to human relations, Serres believes that we must now sign a “natural contract” with the earth to bring balance and reciprocity to our relations with the planet that gives us life. Our survival depends on the extent to which humans join together and act globally, on an earth now conceived as an entity.

 

Tracing the ancient beginnings of modernity, Serres examines the origins and possibilities of a natural contract through an extended meditation on the contractual foundations of law and science. By invoking a nonhuman, physical world, Serres asserts, science frees us from the oppressive confines of a purely social existence, but threatens to become a totalitarian order in its own right. The new legislator of the natural contract must bring science and law into balance.…—”The Natural Contract,” Michel Serres, University of Michigan Press, 1995

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=”microbiome-rewilding:-biodiver”>Microbiome rewilding: Biodiverse urban
green spaces strengthen
human immune systems

A research team led by the University of Adelaide has found that revegetation of green spaces within cities can improve soil microbiota diversity towards a more natural, bio-diverse state, which has been linked to human health benefits.

In the study, published in the journal Restoration Ecology, researchers compared the composition of a variety of urban green space vegetation types of varying levels of vegetation diversity, including lawns, vacant lots, parklands, revegetated woodlands and remnant woodlands within the City of Playford Council area in South Australia.

The purpose of the research was to understand whether it is possible to restore the microbiome of urban green spaces, a process known as microbiome rewilding. It is believed this process could expose us to a greater variety and number of microbiota (organisms living within a specific environment) and provide a form of immune system training and regulation.

Lead author of the journal paper, Ph.D. Candidate Jacob Mills from the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences and Environment Institute, says historically humans lived in more rural and wild landscapes, and children spent more of their childhood outdoors, allowing exposure to more microbes.

“Urbanisation has radically changed our childhoods. More time spent indoors, poor quality diets and less exposure to wild environments has led to significant increases in non-communicable diseases such as poorer respiratory health,” says Jacob.…—”Microbiome rewilding: Biodiverse urban green spaces strengthen human immune systems,” University of Adelaide, Medical Xpress, 5/25/20

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The Six Grandfathers before it was known
as Mount Rushmore

The Indian’s victory at Little Bighorn [Greasy Grass], on June 25, 1876, forced the U.S. to double its Calvary in the Plains. The Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors faced insurmountable odds in the years following their Victory Day at Greasy Grass. Their victory was squashed by the massive effort the U.S. put forth to defeat the Lakota and their allies. The Great Sioux War intensified as the U.S. Army rounded up Indians forcing them to live on undesirable reservation lands.

The Little Bighorn Battlefield [Greasy Grass] is now a national monument. The monument’s former National Park superintendent Gerald Baker (1990-1998) was a Mandan Hidatsa Indian from North Dakota, who spent his tenure making the site of the “Last Stand” more meaningful and spiritual for Indian people

“This [the Little Bighorn Battlefield] represents the end of the way of life for the Indian people,’ the superintendent, Gerard Baker, said as he gestured toward the battlefield in the rolling hills of southern Montana, which was crowded with tourists…‘When Indian people come here, they cry and they get mad for the loss of that way of life, that freedom. It’s something we’ll never get back. That’s what this place is for.’”…

The story behind Mt. Rushmore

The Six Grandfathers (Tȟuŋkášila Šákpe) was named by Lakota medicine man Nicolas Black Elk after a vision. “The vision was of the six sacred directions: west, east, north, south, above, and below. The directions were said to represent kindness and love, full of years and wisdom, like human grandfathers.” The granite bluff that towered above the Hills remained carved only by the wind and the rain until 1927 when Gutzon Borglum began his assault on the mountain.

In the 1920s, South Dakota state historian Doane Robinson saw the Six Grandfathers as an opportunity for the state of SD to increase tourism through the Black Hills area. The controversial sculptor Gutzon Borglum was hired to create a sculpture “to honor the West’s greatest heroes, both Native Americans and pioneers.” Borglum wanted a Nationally significant monument and convinced the SD state historian to use the faces of U.S. notable presidents.

For 14 years, Borglum blasted, chiseled, and filed the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln in the granite bluff. For the Lakota, this was just one more violating act of colonization. While these presidents were leaders of the United States, each with notable historical significance, their faces on a sacred mountain was a final act of conquest. Washington and Jefferson owned slaves. Roosevelt coined the phrase: “the only good Indian is a dead Indian.” While Lincoln, on the day after he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, ordered the execution of the Dakota 38+2 at Fort Snelling in Minnesota.

Needless to say, Mount Rushmore [Six Grandfathers Mountain] is known as a shrine to democracy. Its image is synonymous with freedom and patriotism; however, the other side of its story demonstrates the lack of understanding and respect shown to the Native people who inhabited Paha Sapa for generations prior to European arrival.

Sharing a new narrative at Mount Rushmore

Gerard Baker became the first Native American superintendent of Mount Rushmore in 2004 (2004-2010). In his acceptance speech at the monument, Baker explained that the choice to take the helm at Mount Rushmore was a challenge. He cites that the narrative shared by the National Park service only outlined the first centuries of America and the four presidents.

“And this is a challenge for me because I believe that we should go back before that time. I want to show what life was like before George Custer found gold in the Black Hills, before (Gutzon) Borglum came in and started carving the sculptures here,” he said.…—”The Six Grandfathers before it was known as Mount Rushmore,” Native Hope, 7/3/20

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Monumental Victory’:
Tribes and Climate Activists Celebrate
Court-Ordered Shutdown
of Dakota Access Pipeline

Thousands gathered at the San Francisco
Civic Center in solidarity with the Standing
Rock Sioux against the Dakota Access
Pipeline on Nov. 15, 2016. (Photo: Peg Hunter/Flickr/cc)

“If the events of 2020 have taught us anything, it’s that health and justice must be prioritized early on in any decision-making process if we want to avoid a crisis later on.”

A U.S. district court on Monday delivered a major win to local Indigenous organizers and climate activists—and a significant blow to the fossil fuel industry and the Trump administration—by ordering the Dakota Access Pipeline to be shut down and emptied of oil by Aug. 5 while federal regulators conduct an environmental review of the project.

“Today is a historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many people who have supported us in the fight against the pipeline.”
—Mike Faith, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

DAPL, as the Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) pipeline is widely known, transports crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale basin to a terminal in Illinois. The pipeline has gained international notoriety in recent years due to protests—particularly on and around the Standing Rock Indian Reservation—by environmentalists and Native Americans who live along the route.

The Monday decision by D.C.-based District Judge James E. Boasberg comes after four years of litigation brought by the Standing Rock Sioux, Cheyenne River Sioux, and others against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for allowing ETP to construct and operate the pipeline beneath Lake Oahe, a dammed portion of the Missouri River near the reservation.

The Obama administration denied permits for DAPL to cross the river in December 2016, but President Donald Trump signed an executive order advancing the project shortly after taking office in January 2017. The pipeline was completed and operating within months.

Boasberg’s move to shut down DAPL was welcomed by critics of the pipeline.

“Today is a historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many people who have supported us in the fight against the pipeline,” chairman Mike Faith of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said in a statement. “This pipeline should have never been built here. We told them that from the beginning.”

“It took four long years, but today justice has been served at Standing Rock,” added Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman, who represents the tribe. “If the events of 2020 have taught us anything, it’s that health and justice must be prioritized early on in any decision-making process if we want to avoid a crisis later on.”…—”‘Monumental Victory’: Tribes and Climate Activists Celebrate Court-Ordered Shutdown of Dakota Access Pipeline,” Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams News, 7/6/20

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Dolphins Have an Eating Trick. How They Learn It Is More Surprising.

A behavior called shelling is learned from peers, unlike other feeding strategies that are passed from mother to calf.

When hunger strikes, dolphins don’t mess around.

In Shark Bay, Western Australia, these swimming mammals have devised devious tactics to snare slippery prey. In one trick, dolphins chase fish into empty seashells, then chauffeur the shells to the ocean surface, where they use their beaks to jostle the prey into their mouths.

This behavior, called shelling or conching, is rarely documented by scientists.

“You never know when it’s going to happen,” said Sonja Wild, a behavioral ecologist at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Germany. Dr. Wild first witnessed shelling in 2013 and compares the behavior to dislodging stray crumbs out of a near-empty bag of chips. “It’s really remarkable when all of a sudden there’s a giant shell popping up by the boat, being shaken by a dolphin.”

DolphinShellingMost dolphins pick up tool-savvy skills from their mothers, and one might assume that the craft of conching would be inherited, too. But Dr. Wild and her colleagues have discovered that the smooth swimmers may also acquire this behavior by mimicking the movements of unrelated peers. The study, published Thursday in Current Biology, adds to a growing body of evidence that toothed whales like dolphins can toggle between learning from both within and outside of their nuclear families, a talent usually associated with orangutans, chimpanzees and us humans.…—”See How Dolphins Learn This Eating Trick,” Katherine J. Wu, The New York Times, 6/25/20

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Gold priced at $1,700 per ounce
brings new gold rush to Brazilian Amazon

Global instability brought on by the Coronavirus and the meltdown of the world economy has sent gold prices soaring to US$1,700 per ounce, their highest value in 10 years. That surge has triggered a new, intensified gold rush in the Brazilian Amazon as entrepreneurs invest in expensive equipment and cheap labor.

PORTO VELHO, Rondônia state, Brazil — We could just barely see the outline of the ghost boats from the bridge over the Madeira River. Their large, black shadows moved against the dark waters, their engines muffled. Now and again, small points of light flickered and reflected, like lanterns on fishing boats.

GoldRushBut these adventurers were angling for a different sort of bounty. What we were witnessing were clandestine illegal gold mining dredgers, big motorized barges, now all hurriedly retreating from the center of the river toward shore-side urban anchorages.

The reason for the sudden move? We were told later that messages had been received via Whatsapp groups aboard the barges, warning the miners that it would not be a good night to work. Word had circulated fast via social media that a police operation was expected, so the alerted miners were moving their machines shore-side and to safety.…—”Gold priced at $1,700 per ounce brings new gold rush to Brazilian Amazon,” Fábio Nascimento, Gustavo Faleiros, Mongabay, 7/1/20

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Arizona reels as three of the
biggest wildfires in its history ravage state

Extreme weather has contributed to the vast blazes – with the pandemic complicating the emergency response

For residents of Tucson in southern Arizona, the Santa Catalina Mountains in the Coronado national forest are known as a hub for hiking, mountain biking and other outdoor recreation.

But on 5 June lightning ignited a wildfire that has grown to engulf over 118,000 acres. The fires are still only 58% contained. Called the Bighorn fire, it is the eighth-biggest in state history, and it has transformed the Catalinas into a hub for the study of the impacts of climate change. NASA satellite photos show large scar marks left by the fire.

Further reading: Arizona wildfires grow as extended heat wave affects California | The Washington Post

“At night you can see basically the outline of the fire on the mountain,” said Courtney Slanaker, the executive director for the American Red Cross Southern Arizona, “and then during the daytime you’re seeing that heavy smoke as it moves through different fuel sources on the mountain.”

Guardian-Donate.-1And yet, Bighorn is just one of three fires that sit in the top 10 biggest wildfires in Arizona history.…—”Arizona reels as three of the biggest wildfires in its history ravage state,” Steve Horn, The Guardian, 7/2/20

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For Decades, the Oil and Gas Industry
Got Taxpayer Help from the
Fracking Production Tax Credit

Before the U.S. fracking boom took off, shale drillers had access for over two decades to a particular tax incentive that experts say played a key role in setting the stage for the so-called shale revolution.

Known as the Section 29 Unconventional Fuels Production Tax Credit, this subsidy resulted in more than tripling the production of unconventional gas, at a cost of at least $10 billion to taxpayers, from 1980 to 2002.

This fracking production tax credit originated with the 1980 Windfall Profits Tax Act during a time of concern about U.S. dependency on foreign oil. The incentive granted a tax credit of $0.50 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf) of natural gas produced from unconventional sources like shale, tight formations, and coal beds. By 2002 the credit had expired, and fracking pioneer Mitchell Energy had by then achieved commercial production from the Barnett shale, near Fort Worth, Texas.

According to a 2012 report, “Where the Shale Gas Revolution Came From,” by the tech solutions-focused think tank the Breakthrough Institute, “Production of unconventional gas nearly quadrupled over this period, with the production tax credit vital to the growth and maturation of this advanced energy industry.”

The Breakthrough Institute’s Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, who routinely bash environmentalism and advocate for government investment in nuclear technology, explained the importance of the Section 29 production tax credit in a Washington Post op-ed back in 2011: “While the rise in natural gas prices in the late 1990s sparked the shale gas revolution, it was the federal non-conventional gas tax credit that made Mitchell’s experimenting possible in the early years, when there was no market for more expensive shale gas.”

A former Mitchell Energy executive confirmed that the tax credit, along with favorable gas prices, was indeed helpful. “So you could say that those pricing scenarios, and the tight gas tax credit, created the possibility for shale gas,” Dan Steward, former vice president of Mitchell Energy, said in a December 2011 interview with the Breakthrough Institute.…—”For Decades, the Oil and Gas Industry Got Taxpayer Help from the Fracking Production Tax Credit,” Dana Drugmand, DeSmog, 6 /16/20

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‘They took it over by force’:
Corruption and palm oil in Sierra Leone

  • Sierra Leone is among the poorest countries in the world. In the 1990s, when other African countries were privatizing key industries in order to attract foreign investment and become eligible for international loans, a civil war was raging in Sierra Leone that prevented the country from taking part in the controversial structural adjustment programs initiated by the World Bank and the Inter-national Monetary Fund.
  • Sources say that the country, eager to catch up, has been rushing into deals with foreign investors without first enacting legislation to protect the interests of local landowners. In 2011, Socfin entered into a 50-year land lease agreement with the Sierra Leonean government and local authorities, which was soon followed by two more agreements. In less than 10 years, the forest and farmland around the chiefdom of Sahn Malen was transformed into thousands of hectares of monoculture oil palm fields.
  • Reception to the plantation has been divided. Some area residents say they welcome the jobs and income the company provides. But others allege the deal with Socfin was exploitative and corrupt.
  • A leaked government report from 2019 found several irregularities surrounding Socfin’s Sahn Malen operations, including a concession area on the ground that’s larger than what is stipulated in the lease agreements and evidence of financial mismanagement by local authorities.…—”‘They took it over by force’: Corruption and palm oil in Sierra Leone,” Victoria Schneider, Mongabay, 6/30/20

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States May Curb ‘Faithless Electors,’
Supreme Court Rules

The court said states may require members of the Electoral College to vote for the presidential candidates they had promised to support.

WASHINGTON — States can require members of the Electoral College to cast their votes for the presidential candidates they had pledged to support, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Monday.

In curbing the independence of electors, the court limited one potential source of uncertainty in the 2020 presidential election.

Every four years, weeks after Election Day, the members of the Electoral College cast the actual votes for president. Many states have laws requiring electors to pledge that they will support the winner of the state’s popular vote, but electors occasionally go rogue.

The votes of only 10 “faithless electors” could have changed the outcomes in five of the previous 58 presidential elections. In the 2000 election, for instance, George W. Bush beat Al Gore by five electoral votes.

Recent court decisions had come to opposite conclusions about whether electors may disregard their pledges.…—”States May Curb ‘Faithless Electors,’ Supreme Court Rules,” Adam Liptak, The New York Times, 7/6/20

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Newest Climate Liability Suits:
Climate Justice Is Racial Justice

Newest climate liability suits, filed by Minnesota and Washington D.C., highlight how communities of color are

Climate-related lawsuits—like any litigation—can seem far removed from those who are most directly impacted.

Municipalities filing climate change-related lawsuits have outlined why they believe fossil fuel companies have violated the law. They’ve described climate damage done to local infrastructure and why a warming atmosphere creates dangers to public health, property and livelihoods and why the industry should compensate for those harms.

But until recently, the suits have not mentioned that climate change does not impact all communities equally.

That changed last week, when attorneys general in Minnesota and Washington D.C. honed in on the disproportionate impact climate change is having on low-income communities and communities of color as they filed lawsuits against major fossil fuel companies.…—”Newest Climate Liability Suits: Climate Justice Is Racial Justice,” Karen Savage, The Climate Docket, 6/30/20

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Nestlé Waters leaving Canada
is a community success

On July 3, 2020, Nestlé Canada Inc. announced it will leave the Canadian bottled water market and sell its bottled water brand, Nestlé Pure Life, to Ice River Springs. This is a significant win for communities across Canada, and everyone who has been fighting the bottled water giant.

“Community groups, First Nations, residents across the country and Council of Canadian supporters have persistently challenged Nestlé’s water takings in Wellington County, Ontario and Hope, British Columbia. This is their victory against the multi-national giant,” says Vi Bui, water campaigner with the Council of Canadians.

NestleOnWater

Nestlé CEO Peter Brabeck speaks
on why water is a commodity,
not a human right, March, 2011

Nestlé has been making profit by pumping groundwater all over the world. Over the years, Nestlé has taken billions of litres of pure, clean and vital water from underground aquifers in Canada and sold them for huge profit. Meanwhile, communities are struggling with severe droughts, dwindling water supply for community uses, and plastic bottles clogging up our landfills and waterways.…—”Nestlé Waters leaving Canada is a community success,” Vi Bui, The Council of Canadians, 7/3/0

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How the legacy of colonialism
built a palm oil empire

Between 1885 and 1908, Belgium’s King Leopold II exerted control over a vast area of Africa that would later become the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His rule was characterized by systematic brutality that led to the deaths of an estimated 10 million people and one of the first recorded uses of the term “crimes against humanity.”

Today, statues of King Leopold II are being defaced and torn down in Belgium as the country, like many others around the world, is reckoning with a past rooted in racist exploitation. But statues are but one vestige of colonialism that has persisted for more than a century. Several of the biggest tropical commodity companies were founded during colonial times and still operate in countries once occupied by colonial powers. One of these is Société Financière des Caoutchoucs (Socfin), a Belgian holding company that operates palm oil and rubber plantations through dozens of subsidiaries across Africa and Southeast Asia, and which has been rebuked by civil society organizations for alleged human rights violations at its plantations.

Further reading: ‘They took it over by force’: Corruption and palm oil in Sierra Leone | Mongabay

Socfin is listed on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange and partially owned (38.75%) by French multinational corporation Bolloré. For years, Socfin has been subject to harsh criticism for malpractices in the establishment and management of its tropical plantations in eight African and two Asian countries: Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sao Tomé et Principe, Ghana, Indonesia and Cambodia. Civil society organizations, grassroots movements in countries of operation and international NGOs have voiced concerns, including what they say are irregularities in land acquisition processes, poor working and housing conditions and the absence of the sustainable inclusion of local farmers.…—”How the legacy of colonialism built a palm oil empire,” Victoria Schneider, Mongabay, 6/26/20

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Just 6% of UK public ‘want a return
to pre-pandemic economy’

Poll comes as 350 union, business and religious leaders issue call for fair and green recovery

Only 6% of the public want to return to the same type of economy as before the coronavirus pandemic, according to new polling, as trade unions, business groups and religious and civic leaders unite in calling for a fairer financial recovery.

The former head of the civil service Bob Kerslake, the former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the heads of the Trades Union Congress, Confederation of British Industry and the British Chambers of Commerce are among 350 influential figures wanting a “fairer and greener” economic rebuilding, and believe there is no going back to the past.

Their call comes as a YouGov poll shows that 31% of people want to see big changes in the way the economy is run coming out of the crisis, with a further 28% wanting to see moderate changes and only 6% of people wanting to see no changes.

Guardian-Donate.-1It also showed 44% of people were pessimistic when they thought about the future of the economy, while only 27% were optimistic. Forty-nine percent thought the crisis had made inequality worse.…—”Just 6% of UK public ‘want a return to pre-pandemic economy’,” Kate Proctor, The Guardian, 6/28/20

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$3 Million and an Official Apology:
Brazil’s Ashaninka Get Unprecedented
Compensation for Deforestation on Their Land

Far from the Brazil nut trees that shape the landscape of the Kampa do Rio Amônia Indigenous Reserve in the western tip of the state of Acre, the Ashaninka people realized their most important victory since the federal government first recognized their territory in 1992. On April 1, 2020, the Prosecutor General of the Republic, Augusto Aras, signed an unprecedented settlement that guaranteed reparations for crimes committed almost 40 years ago. The agreement gives this indigenous community the right to compensation of R$ 14 million (nearly US$ 3 million) with an official apology from the criminal offenders.

Their crime: cutting down of thousands of mahogany, cedar and other tree species to supply the European furniture industry from 1981 to 1987. The devastation struck a quarter of the area that currently comprises the indigenous reserve. Francisco Piyãko, the Ashaninka leader, was an adolescent at the time of the logging invasion. “What matters to us is what this agreement represents for the Ashaninka cause and how it can have repercussions in affirming the rights and values of the indigenous peoples in a broader sense,” explained Piyãko to Mongabay.

The settlement marks the end of a legal dispute that started in 1996, when the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) brought a Public Civil Action against lumber companies owned by the powerful Cameli family. The same family as the current governor of Acre, Gladson Cameli, and his uncle, Orleir Cameli, who was also governor from 1994 to 1998.…—”$3 Million and an Official Apology: Brazil’s Ashaninka Get Unprecedented Compensation for Deforestation on Their Land,” Naira Hofmeister, Mongabay|EcoWatch, 4/16/20

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