Find Your Community on U.S. Oil Train Blast Zones Map

A new website has published an interactive map of the U.S and Canadian Rail system that is being used to transport millions of gallons of potentially dangerous crude oil.  The lines run through cities and towns and rural areas across the land.  We know from the Lac-Megantic, Quebec disaster of July 2013 that destroyed the town and killed 47 people, that safety is hardly assured.  Oil transportation by rail has increased 4000% in the last six years. Are safety strategies keeping up with this increase?

 

Police helicopter photo of Lac-Megantic of the derailment.

Police helicopter photo of Lac-Megantic of the derailment.

Do you want to know if these trains are running through your community? The organization that created the website, ForestEthics.org has published the map and has a petition for you to sign.

 Petition- To: US President Obama and Congress

It seems each month another town is facing a terrifying oil train derailment, poisoned drinking water, or a deadly explosion. Our rail system takes these trains through population centers by schools and homes. Safety standards are weak and our emergency responders are not equipped for accidents.

We are not prepared for this threat:

Oil trains are more than a mile-long with 100+ cars, concentrating the risk of an accident that could ignite the three million gallons of crude on a single train.
Oil train traffic has increased more than 4,000 percent in the last five years.
Rail routes run right through major urban areas and cross water supplies. The US rail system was not designed to transport dangerous crude oil.
Dangerous DOT-111 cars, which make up the majority of US oil tanker trains, have serious flaws that make them highly prone to puncture during a derailment.
We have the solution:

The first step: Ban unsafe oil tanker cars.
We must prepare and equip emergency responders and reroute trains around population centers and away from water supplies.
New rail safety rules must be strong and must give citizens the information they need to protect themselves and the power to say no.
We do not need the extreme oil transported by these trains. The crude oil carried by train is more explosive and more toxic than conventional crude oil; it is also more carbon intensive. At a time when our oil use is decreasing and the threat of climate disruption is growing, the risk from oil trains is unacceptable.

View the Map and Sign the Petition Here

Learn More about Oil Trains Here

 

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Filed under Actions / Protest, BREAKING NEWS, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Energy, Great Lakes, Keystone XL, Oil, Uncategorized

Birds contaminated by mercury sing shorter, softer songs

Scientists have discovered that the songs of birds nestled in the woods of the South River have changed, due to mercury contamination from a nearby factory. The affected birds have shorter, softer and simpler songs compared to the same species from unpolluted areas.

Songbirds like this one Kelly Hallinger is holding had surprisingly high mercury levels. Photo: Dan Cristol

Songbirds like this one Kelly Hallinger is holding had surprisingly high mercury levels. Photo: Dan Cristol

Heavy metal songs: Contaminated songbirds sing the wrong tunes

by By Helen Fields and Alanna Mitchell, Environmental Health News, August 28, 2014

Standing in the woods along the South River, Kelly Hallinger held the microphone up to capture the cacophony of songs, one at a time: the urgent, effervescent voice of the house wren, the teakettle whistle of the Carolina wren and the sharp, shrill notes of the song sparrow.

It was the summer after her freshman year at the College of William and Mary, and Hallinger was working with her professor, ecologist Dan Cristol, to investigate the effects of mercury left behind by a factory. Over and over she recorded birdsong, visiting various sites in the woods and along the shore, some polluted, some unpolluted.

When she got back to Williamsburg with her tape recorder, Hallinger sorted through the hours of bird songs. She turned them into digital files in the computer, then analyzed them. The differences were striking: The wrens and sparrows along the contaminated South River were singing simpler, shorter, lower-pitched songs.

Scientists have long known that mercury is a potent toxicant: It disrupts the architecture of human brains, and it can change birds’ behavior and kill their chicks. But after extensive research in Virginia, scientists have shown that mercury also alters the very thing that many birds are known for – their songs.

Read the full article at Environmental Health News.

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Hollywood and Gaza challenge the Ice Bucket Challenge

While we here at GJEP can appreciate when a not-for-profit snags a viral marketing idea, we certainly have some doubts about the ALS ice bucket challenge. While the organization fights valiantly for a worthy cause, the idea of wasting millions of gallons of fresh, clean drinking water — that nearly 1 billion people do not have access to — is a challenge we cannot accept.

Apparently, a few others couldn’t either.

For example, actor, screenwriter and director Matt Damon, also the founder of the nonprofit Water.org, chose to dump dirty toilet water on his head, in recognition of those millions who live without access to potable water.

Matt Damon takes the ice bucket challenge with toilet water in effort to raise awareness about the 800 million people who live without access to clean drinking water. Photo: WVCB.com

Matt Damon takes the ice bucket challenge with toilet water in effort to raise awareness about the 800 million people who live without access to clean drinking water. Photo: WVCB.com

In an article in People magazine, the actor said, “As disgusting as this may seen, hopefully it will highlight the fact that this [access to clean drinking water] is a big problem and together we can do something about it.”

Damon isn’t the only actor taking an environmental twist on the ALS challenge. Leonardo DiCaprio took the ice bucket challenge with the members of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, Canada, as he took a tour of and listened to concerns about Canada’s tar sands.

Click to Watch: DiCaprio accepts the ALS ice bucket challenge and raises awareness about tar sands with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

Click to Watch: DiCaprio accepts the ALS ice bucket challenge and raises awareness about tar sands with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

An article in Indian Country Today even has a video of the mass bucket-ing, along with some clues as to why DiCaprio and Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky are interested in this serious environmental issue.

Finally, one of the most salient ice bucket challenges comes to us from the ravaged and war-torn Middle East. The Huffington Post writes:

Palestinians have launched the “Rubble Bucket Challenge” in a moving appeal, where participants swap ice – a precious resource – for debris.

In solidarity with those in Gaza who have lost their homes in the ongoing conflict with Israel, the web has hijacked the ice bucket challenge to “raise awareness on the war in Gaza where people are bombarded in their homes,” according to the Facebook page where more than 4,000 are now backing the appeal.

Search for #RubbleBucketChallenge on Twitter to see how thousands are raising awareness about the shocking conditions on the Gaza Strip. Photo: Huffington Post

This world is filled with causes worth fighting for. However, it is the way we fight for them that makes a difference and truly defines who we are.

 

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Filed under Climate Justice, Tar Sands, War, Water

More evidence against dams, in a week of dam stories

PhotoLangelle.org

PhotoLangelle.org

Carey Biron of Inter Press News (IPS) reported on a recent study by International Rivers showing that dams have a significant negative impact on the water quality and biodiversity of their surroundings. This comes after a week of news on dams, from Jacque Leslie’s excellent NYT op-ed at the start of the week to IPS’s story about the newest planned dam in Chile.

GJEP strongly opposes mega-dam projects as false solutions to the world’s energy needs and climate change.

Large Dams “Highly Correlated” with Poor Water Quality
By Carey L. Biron. IPS. August 29, 2014.

Large-scale dams are likely having a detrimental impact on water quality and biodiversity around the world, according to a new study that tracks and correlates data from thousands of projects.Focusing on the 50 most substantial river basins, researchers with International Rivers, a watchdog group, compiled and compared available data from some 6,000 of the world’s estimated 50,000 large dams. Eighty percent of the time, they found, the presence of large dams, typically those over 15 metres high, came along with findings of poor water quality, including high levels of mercury and trapped sedimentation.

To read more of Biron’s article, click here to go to the original.

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Detroiters’ cannot afford their own water as shutoffs to poor people resume

Is access to clean water a human right?”  Many people and activists think-so.  In 2010 the United Nations General Assembly declared that nearly 900 million people do not have access to clean water and that 2.6 billion do not have access to sanitation.  The General Assembly passed a resolution saying that clean and safe drinking water is a human right.

photo_cropped_1

Early this summer the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) started turning water off in poor Detroit neighborhoods because of lack of payments.

According to the DWSD- nearly half of the residences in Detroit are behind on their water bills.  Reports indicate that more than 17,000 Detroit households have already been disconnected. The cost of water in Detroit is amongst the highest in the country.  This despite that Detroit is located near the western end of Lake Erie which makes up part of the Great Lakes which hold 20% of the fresh surface water on the entire globe. Who owns that water?

In a July 21 article in Common Dreams,  Detroit Protesters Win Temporary Reprive from Water Shut-offs,  author Sara Lazare stated Many residents of this majority black city suspect that the disconnections are part of a larger plan, backed by emergency manager Kevyn Orr, to privatize the DWSD and, ultimately, displace poor communities of color to make way for gentrification.

Activists in Detroit think that this economic strategy violates human rights and have brought the Detroit water shutoffs to the attention of the United Nations. In June a panel of UN experts agreed.  This led to a brief halt in the turnoffs.

Now, the month-long shutoff moratorium in Detroit has ended and the water turn-offs have resumed.

 

Photo: Detroit Water Brigade

Photo: Detroit Water Brigade

 Despite Calls for Humanity, Detroit Resumes Water Shutoffs

Lauren McCauley                                   Common Dreams

 

Citizen advocates warn that the “whole world is watching” as city cuts off water to thousands of most impoverished residents 

 

Despite widespread public outcry and international condemnation, the city of Detroit on Tuesday resumed shutting off the water supply to thousands of city residents.

Ending the month long moratorium on shutoffs, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) public affairs specialist Gregory Eno confirmed to Common Dreams that the city turned off the water to roughly 400 households that are delinquent on their water bills and have not yet set up a payment plan. More shutoffs are expected.

According to the citizens group Detroit Water Brigade, the only thing that changed since shutoffs began in March is that the city has lowered the required down payment water bills from 30% to 10%. “The water is still too expensive for Detroit,” they said. Detroit is one of the poorest cities in the United States with over 38% of the population living below the poverty line, according to Census Bureau statistics.

Read the Whole Common Dreams Article Here

 

For More Resources  On This Issue

Earth Minute:  Detroit’s Water Crisis  by Global Justice Ecology Project’s  Executive Director Anne Petermann   June 26, 2014

Website: Detroit Water Brigade  Fight to keep the water flowing with Detroit Residents and Activists

Article: Detroit Water Crisis, A Prelude to the Privatization of Water   Detroit Water Brigade

 

 

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Gran Canal in Nicaragua would displace Indigenous peoples, wreak havoc on ecosystems

 

Rama people, one of the Indigenous groups most under threat by the canal. Photo by MaSii via Mongabay.com

Rama Cay, island of the Ramas, one of the Indigenous groups most under threat by the canal. Photo by MaSii via Mongabay.com

A Chinese consortium plans to start construction on a canal through Nicaragua by the end of this year, with the completion date of 2019.

Jeremy Hance of Mongabay.com has written an excellent article on how the canal threatens the Indigenous peoples and protected areas that stand in its way, and the ripple effects that it would have on ecosystems throughout Nicaragua.

The Gran Canal: will Nicaragua’s big bet create prosperity or environmental ruin?
By Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com. August 27, 2014

A hundred years ago, the Panama Canal reshaped global geography, allowing ships for the first time to bypass the long and perilous journey around Cape Horn by simply cutting through a continent. Now a new project, spearheaded by a media-shy Chinese millionaire, wants to compete with the infamous canal, building a 278-kilometer (173-mile) canal through Nicaragua. While the Nicaraguan government argues the massive project will change the country’s dire economic outlook overnight—Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere after Haiti—critics contend it will cause undue environmental damage, upend numerous communities, and do little to help the people of Nicaragua.

Not only might the Gran Canal not monetarily benefit the Nicaraguan people in the near-term, but it might worsen living conditions, already destabilized by environmental issues and longstanding conflict. 

In fact, according to Huete-Perez, the canal will force the relocation of at least nine indigenous and Afro-Nicarguan communities in Nicaragua’s South Atlantic Autonomous Region. Although the autonomous regions were set-up to provide local communities with greater access and management of their natural resources, this special status doesn’t impact the approval of the Gran Canal. 

Read the full article on Mongabay.com.

 

 

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Filed under Biodiversity, Indigenous Peoples, Latin America-Caribbean

E.O. Wilson has a plan to save the world

Eminent Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson, the great champion of biodiversity and the man who coined the term “biophelia,” has a plan to save the world from extinction.

It is a plan to set aside half of the world for wildlife and ecosystems. His vision of permanently setting aside protected areas is described and partially mapped in this important new article published in the September issue of Smithsonian Magazine.

the familiar Monarch Butterfly (danaus plexippus) is in rapid decline in North America due to pesticide use, climate change, and loss of habitat. -photo by Jay Burney

The familiar Monarch Butterfly (danaus plexippus) is in rapid decline in North America due to pesticide use, climate change, and loss of habitat. Photo by Jay Burney

Can the World Really Set Aside Half of the World for Wildlife?
By Tony Hiss, Smithsonian Magazine. September 2014 

The eminent evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson has an audacious vision for saving Earth from a cataclysmic extinction event.

“Battles are where the fun is,” said E.O. Wilson, the great evolutionary biologist, “and where the most rapid advances are made.” We were sitting in oversized rocking chairs in a northwest Florida guest cottage with two deep porches and half-gallons of butter-pecan ice cream in the freezer, a Wilson favorite. He’d invited me here to look at what he considers a new approach to conservation, a new ecological Grail that, naturally, won’t happen without a fight.

Wilson, 85, is the author of more than 25 books, many of which have changed scientific understanding of human nature and of how the living part of the planet is put together.

Known as the father of sociobiology, he is also hailed as the pre-eminent champion of biodiversity: Wilson coined the word “biophilia” to suggest that people have an innate affinity for other species, and his now widely accepted “theory of island biogeography” explains why national parks and all confined landscapes inevitably lose species. He grew up in and around Mobile, Alabama, and has been at Harvard for over 60 years but still calls himself “a Southern boy who came north to earn a living.” He is courtly, twinkly, soft-spoken, has a shock of unruly white hair, and is slightly stooped from bending over to look at small things all his life—he’s the world’s leading authority on ants. Wilson has earned more than a hundred scientific awards and other honors, including two Pulitzer Prizes. And perhaps his most urgent project is a quest to refute conservation skeptics who think there isn’t enough left of the natural world to be worth saving.

Read More Here

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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Forests and Climate Change, Great Lakes, Oceans, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration, Uncategorized

Florida governor fakes interest in climate change to grab votes

From Jeb Bush to Rick Scott, Floridians have had about as much luck with politicians as the 40-year-old Virgin did with the ladies. Of course, they do keep voting these boneheads into office, so our pity for their plight is limited.

In his latest charade as a human being with a conscience, Florida Republican governor Rick Scott, who has been adamant that climate change ranks up there with unicorns and Bigfoot, finally acquiesced and met with scientists. According to Farron Cousins of Desmogblog, the meeting was more about propaganda than protecting the environment.

Florida State University environmental science professor Jeffrey Chanton gives a presentation to Florida governor Rick Scott on climate change on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014 in Tallahassee, Fla. Photo: Brendan Farrington/AP)

Florida State University environmental science professor Jeffrey Chanton gives a presentation to Florida governor Rick Scott on climate change on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014 in Tallahassee, Fla. Photo: Brendan Farrington/AP

See, Scott’s biggest rival in the next election (Charlie Crist – again) does actually believe in climate change, so this meeting was all about Scott cleaning up his drill-baby-drill persona in order to nab the votes of those lucky folks living on the Florida’s soon-to-be-submerged coastlines.

Florida Governor Rick Scott Meets With Climate Scientists, Learns Nothing
by Farron Cousins, Desmogblog, August 26, 2014

[...]

Governor Scott recently met with prominent climate scientists from universities with the expressed goal of learning all that he could about climate change.  The truth, however, is that the entire experience was more of a publicity stunt than a science lesson.

According to the scientists, at least half of the thirty-minute meeting was spent with Scott asking questions about the scientists’ education, classes they teach, and various other “small talk” questions.  This left them only 15 minutes to explain the science behind anthropogenic climate change to the inattentive governor.

Check out the full article on Desmogblog. To read a play-by-play of the “meeting,” check out the aptly titled article, “After Climate Meeting, Scientists Still Aren’t Sure That Rick Scott Is ‘Climate Literate,’” by Katie Valentine from Think Progress.

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Filed under Climate Change, Humor, Political Repression, Politics