California ecological collapse on the fast track

It is said that the name “California” came from the Spanish after a Greek adopted legend about an island fortress populated by “beautiful Amazon women warriors whom were gifted in the use of golden tools and weapons.”  Early European “explorers” described the place as having fog shrouded and rugged coastlines, vast mountains, deep valleys, desserts, and lakes. They dreamed and schemed about how to conquer the wilderness. Invasion and colonization of the west coast of the United States by Europeans began in earnest about 500 years ago. They did not know or care that they were preceded by at least 250 generations of people who were there first. People that had lived in relative harmony with the natural world and each other–Karok, Maidu, Cahuilleno, Mohave, Yo Semite, Paiute,  Tule–were now put under the colonial guns. The wilderness that supported all life was on the road to evisceration.

The Mother of the Forest, -Mother Tree of Calaveras County- Cut down for lumber 1902.  Height 300 plus feet. circumference 78 feet, bark off. Photo C.L. Pond, Buffalo, New York circa 1870-1880)

The Mother of the Forest, Mother Tree of Calaveras County, cut down for lumber 1902. Height 300+’. Circumference 78 feet, bark off. Photo C.L. Pond, Buffalo, New York (circa 1870-1880)

There was once a vast waterbody, Lake Tulare, located in the Central Valley. It was the largest freshwater lake in North America outside of the Great Lakes. At one point, pre-contact with Europeans, it is thought that 70,000 human beings lived along this beautiful productive lake. Around this lake and stretching to the coast, vast groves of Giant Sequoia and Coastal Redwoods stood as sentinels that helped to balance the atmosphere and the ecosystem in ways that we are only just learning about in 2014.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, Commodification of Life, Forests, Indigenous Peoples

Farmers in the Philippines band together against palm oil plantations

Indigenous peoples and small farmers in the Philippines created a new alliance, the Coalition Against Land Grabbing (CALG), in order to prevent palm oil plantation expansion in the province of Palawan. According to a post on farmlandgrab.org, CALG nabbed more than 4,000 signatures demanding a halt on the plantations, which are ripping apart the native forests.

Oil palm plantations have taken over land that the Palawan used to grow coconuts. Photo: ALDAW

Oil palm plantations have taken over land that the Palawan used to grow coconuts. Photo: ALDAW

Like many land grab situations, the palm oil plantations tear through local forests and land with little to no concern for the ecosystem or the people who rely on those forests for their livelihoods. Fed up, the Palawan people have solidified their stance just in time — nearly 20,000 hectares are set to be wiped out for future palm oil plantations, a large source for biofuels.

Tribes and farmers unite to end oil palm expansion in Philippines
By farmlandgrab.org, 22 October 2014

[...]

Palawan, which is often referred to as “the Philippines’ last ecological frontier”, is a biosphere reserve and home to tribal peoples such as the Palawan, Batak and Tagbanua, who rely on their forests for food, medicines and for building their houses.

[...]

“To find medicinal plants we must walk more than half day to reach the other side of the mountain range,” said a tribal Palawan man. “Because of the far distance we must leave our young children at home, so they do not learn the name and uses of these plants. The old knowledge is being lost.”

The plantations have brought hardship to the local communities. Rates of poverty and malnutrition are rising fastest in the area with the largest amount of land converted to oil palm production. Indigenous community organiser, John Mart Salunday called the oil palm project a complete “fiasco” in terms of poverty eradication.

Read the full article here.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biofuelwatch, Forests, Indigenous Peoples, Industrial agriculture, Land Grabs, Palm Oil

New York faces new fracking deadline

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo turned more than a few heads last night at a televised election debate held in Buffalo, New York, when he said that the state’s long awaited public release of its scientific and health analysis of fracking would be done by the end of the year. This, the only planned debate of the campaign, included Republican Candidate Rob Astorino, Green Candidate Howie Hawkins, and Libertarian Candidate Michael McDermott.

Astorino, the Westchester County Executive, aggressively supports fracking in New York because of what he characterizes as a “positive impact” on jobs and “economic development” in the state. He completely dismisses the environmental consequences. Astorino said that one of the “first acts of his administration” would be to kick down the regulatory doors so that fracking and extraction can begin immediately. Both Green candidate Hawkins and Libertarian Candidate McDermott would ban fracking because, they both agree, the science is in and the health consequences are clear.

NYS Governors Election Debate in Buffalo. Empty Chairs, Empty Heads. Empty Ideas - photo by Jay Burney

NYS Governors Election Debate in Buffalo. Empty chairs, mostly empty heads and empty ideas – photo by Jay Burney

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NYS White Man’s gubernatorial election debate in Buffalo, 23 October, 2014. Left to right–Republican Candidate Rob Astorino, NYS incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo, Green Party Candidate Howie Hawkins, Libertarian Party Candidate Michael McDermott

The analysis that Cuomo spoke about has been at the center of attention and controversy since the state issued a series of Draft Environmental Impact Statements starting in 2011, and received a tidal wave of public comments focusing on the idiocy of opening up the state to the dangerous fracking industry. Initially Cuomo had promised that the analysis would be completed and released before the initial public comment period but backed down. It has been widely speculated that several generations of both reports indicate that fracking is not a scientifically provable safe technology.  The educated public knows that fracking is not safe to water supplies and human health. Subsequently Cuomo promised the release of the reports prior to this election. The reports have not been released and 10’s of thousands of New York citizens have bitterly criticized the lack of transparency involved in the creation of the health and science analyses.

“I am not a scientist” Cuomo, who is a lawyer, stated at the debate, “We have to let the scientists decide this issue.”  This may be an entirely disingenuous position, as the fracking debate in New York has been characterized by industry and state government viewpoints that include scientists for hire, academic investments by state funded institutions of higher learning, and well funded disinformation campaigns. We have known that the state decision would not be made until after this election.  We have been waiting for the release of the reports. Now we know that if Cuomo wins the election, he says that they will be released by the end of the year.

After that?

 

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Filed under Energy, Fracking, Great Lakes, Hydrofracking

Worker killed in biomass plant accident

A biomass power plant in Louisiana, still under construction, became the tragic backdrop of an on-site death, according to Energy Justice‘s website. The death is related to testing being conducted in the building, but authorities are extremely tight-lipped about specifics.

Drexel Biomass Plant. Photo: Earth Justice

Drexel Biomass Plant. Photo: Earth Justice

Even though details are being withheld, we do know that the individual was airlifted to a local hospital, where he later died. Many environmental activists proclaim that the EPA often gives biomass corporations big breaks, even bigger than fossil fuel plants. Without knowing the full details, we cannot be sure that the error is on the worker or the corporation.

 

Man Killed in Accident at Drax Biomass Plant in Louisiana

Earth Justice, Oct. 22, 2014

The worker who died after an accident at a Drax Biomass plant in Morehouse Parish has been identified as 32-year old Christopher Erving of West, Mississippi. Erving was a contracted employee of the Jacksonville, Florida based Haskell Corporation. Drax Biomass has released a statement on the incident:

“It is with deep regret that we confirm the death of a contractor involved in an incident at the Morehouse Pellet Plant construction site near Bastrop Louisiana in the early evening of Tuesday, October 21st. Site emergency plans were enacted immediately and the injured person was air-lifted to hospital by the emergency services where he later died. The incident is now the subject of a full and thorough investigation by ourselves, the contractor’s firm, and the authorities. We are unable to give any details of that investigation until it has been concluded. Our thoughts and sympathy are with his family”

Read the full article here.

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch

Keystone XL Pipeline case faces jury in Oklahoma, man who blockaded Keystone XL construction argues threats of climate change and environmental harm justify his actions

Photo from Tar Sands Blockade website

Photo from Tar Sands Blockade website

On April 22, 2013, Alec Johnson disrupted construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline near Tushka, Oklahoma by chaining himself to heavy equipment and effectively halting work. Eventually the police were called and Mr. Johnson was removed from the site and arrested. Now, more than a year after his arrest, Alec Johnson will attempt to make US history becoming the first to argue that he was justified in breaking the law to prevent a greater harm: the urgent threat of climate change. This kind of ‘necessity’ defense rooted in climate justice could have national implications for the growing movement of resistance to the fossil fuel industry across the US.

Mr. Johnson will argue that enforcing future generation’s rights to a stable climate and livable environment is not a crime. His defense will introduce a commanding consensus of climate science, including that of renowned climate scientist Dr. James Hansen who is preparing written testimony for the consideration of the court which will make clear that effective action to address the climate crisis is urgent and can no longer be delayed. Mr. Johnson will also draw attention to imminent health and safety risks posed by Keystone XL. He will address contamination threats to people living near the 1,700 mile pipeline route, the health problems experienced by First Nations communities from the extraction of tar sands, which is the product that flows through the KXL pipeline, as well as the toxic refinery emissions that it is forcing upon Gulf coast communities.

WHO: Alec Johnson, a 62 year old father of two and resident of East Texas, and dozens of supporters from across Oklahoma and Texas many of whom are directly impacted by the Keystone XL pipeline.

WHAT: A rally outside the Atoka County Courthouse featuring the voices of defendant Alec Johnson and community supporters from Oklahoma and Texas, followed the next day by a jury trial featuring the unprecedented use of a climate change necessity defense.

WHEN: Rally begins on Wednesday, October 22nd at 6:30pm. Trial begins the following day on Thursday, October 23rd at 9:00am.

WHERE: Both the rally and criminal trial will take place at the Atoka County Courthouse on 200 East Court Street, Atoka, Oklahoma, 74525.

Follow the live blog at http://www.tarsandsblockade.org/kxltrial/ for updates

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Justice, Law, Pipeline

Coalition of Farmers and Environmental Groups to Challenge EPA Over Herbicide Approval

pesticide-sign_18072Lawsuit filed against Environmental Protection Agency for approval of 2,4-D use on genetically engineered corn, soy crops in six Midwest states

San Francisco, CA – A coalition of farmers and environmental groups filed a lawsuit to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today on behalf of six Midwest states where a toxic herbicide cocktail called Dow’s Enlist Duo, a blend of glyphosate and 2,4-D, was approved on October 15 for use on genetically engineered (GE) crops.

Approved for use on GE corn and soybeans that were engineered to withstand repeated applications of the herbicide, the creation of 2,4-D-resistant crops and EPA’s approval of Enlist Duo is the result of an overuse of glyphosate, an ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. The misuse resulted in an infestation of glyphosate-resistant super weeds which can now be legally combatted with the more potent 2,4-D. Dow Chemical has presented 2,4-D resistant crops as a quick fix to the problem, but independent scientists, as well as USDA analysis, predict that the Enlist crop system will only foster more weed resistance.

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Filed under Genetic Engineering, GMOs, Industrial agriculture, Pesticides

National Bioenergy Day is a “Dirty Sham”

This press release was sent on Oct. 22, 2014, from Biofuelwatch, Dogwood Alliance, Energy Justice Network, Partnership for Policy Integrity, Save America’s Forests, and Global Justice Ecology Project.

Groups across the country denounce “National Bioenergy Day” as a dirty sham

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Groups around the country denounce the Biomass Power Association, Biomass Thermal Energy Council and their industry partners’ designation of this date as “National Bioenergy Day.” Pointing to growing opposition to bioenergy facilities around the nation and the world, they say burning trees, contaminated wastes, and garbage is grossly and dangerously misrepresented by industry advocates as “clean, green, and carbon neutral.”  The groups point out that biomass power pumps more CO2 into the atmosphere than even coal, along with comparable amounts of toxic air pollution, while also posing new threats to forests, ecosystems, and our health.

Rachel Smolker, Ph.D., co-director of Biofuelwatch, states: “The biomass industry has perpetrated a series of dangerous myths that they just keep repeating to ensure ongoing subsidies and supports. The Biomass Power Association website, for example, is rife with misleading statements, for example proclaiming to ‘Light America with clean, green biomass power—a natural solution to energy independence.’ This is utter nonsense as we would need several planets worth of biomass to provide any significant portion of overall US energy demand from biomass.” (1)

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, BREAKING NEWS, Dr. Rachel Smolker, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Greenwashing

Oct 27: Mass Action to Stop the Vermont Fracked Gas Pipeline

Check out this new video by Rising Tide Vermont promoting a rally and sit-in on the Montpelier Statehouse Lawn on October 27th and highlighting the past 6 months of organizing and direct action against the Fracked Gas Pipeline!

The rally and sit-in, on Monday, October 27 at 3pm, will call on the Shumlin Administration to stop the fracked gas pipeline and protect Vermonters’ (and everyone’s) right to a healthy environment and livable planet.

If you can take part in the rally, definitely do so. You can find all the info you need on Rising Tide Vermont’s website.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Justice, Fracking, Pipeline