Great Lakes at a Crossroads?

This is a North America centric post.  As we begin to work toward gathering our energies for the New York climate action marches and beyond, it is important to begin to think of some of the critical ecosystems that are failing or at great risk due to climate change, commoditization of resources, and just the overall failure of the system that we live within.

This past weekend the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published a series of articles on the condition of the Great Lakes, including Lake Erie.

The three pieces are:

A Great Lake Goes Bad: Toxic algae cocktail brews in Lake Erie

Dead zones haunt Green Bay as Manure fuels algae blooms

and the one posted below

An early summer storm flushes loads of sediment off farmlands southwest of Green Bay. Manure-covered farm fields and big rains have proven to be a bad combination for the bay, because the phosphorus-rich runoff is causing massive algae blooms.

An early summer storm flushes loads of sediment off farmlands southwest of Green Bay. Manure-covered farm fields and big rains have proven to be a bad combination for the bay, because the phosphorus-rich runoff is causing massive algae blooms.

Changes in America’s Dairyland four the waters of Green Bay

Dan Egan  Journal Sentinel  September 13, 2014

Manure is a potent fertilizer that does wonders for the crops that feed the cows that give the milk that makes Wisconsin America’s Dairyland.

It’s also making a mess of its waters.

While Green Bay holds a mere 1.4% of Lake Michigan’s water, it receives one-third of the lake’s nutrient load — due largely to the farm fields that drip phosphorus-rich manure into the streams, creeks and rivers that flow toward the bay.

Samples taken in many of those waterways over the past decade show average summer phosphorus levels twice as high — and sometimes 4 times as high — as what scientists say is acceptable.

Phosphorus at these levels is the trigger for late-summer algae blooms that smother beaches and, when they die and decompose, burn up so much oxygen that the waters of Green Bay are now plagued with chronic “dead zones” — vast stretches in which almost nothing can live.

Read the whole article here

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Why the UN is useless on Climate Change–from the BBC

Okay, so much for binding climate change agreements.  As we’ve mentioned previously, the UN Climate Convention is worse than useless.  It is controlled by corporate interests while pretending to do something useful–which in turn eliminates the space for real, effective (and justice based) action on climate change.  Yet another reason for more direct action at the People’s Climate March in NYC on the 21st of this month, and the Flood Wall Street action on the 22nd.

Greenhouse gas levels rising at fastest rate since 1984

A surge in atmospheric CO2 saw levels of greenhouse gases reach record levels in 2013, according to new figures.

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere between 2012 and 2013 grew at their fastest rate since 1984.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) says that it highlights the need for a global climate treaty.

But the UK’s energy secretary Ed Davey said that any such agreement might not contain legally binding emissions cuts, as has been previously envisaged.

The WMO’s annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin doesn’t measure emissions from power station smokestacks but instead records how much of the warming gases remain in the atmosphere after the complex interactions that take place between the air, the land and the oceans.

About half of all emissions are taken up by the seas, trees and living things.

According to the bulletin, the globally averaged amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 396 parts per million (ppm) in 2013, an increase of almost 3ppm over the previous year.

“The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin shows that, far from falling, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere actually increased last year at the fastest rate for nearly 30 years,” said Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the WMO.

“We must reverse this trend by cutting emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases across the board,” he said.

“We are running out of time.”

Read the complete story here

Leave a Comment

Filed under Actions / Protest, Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Climate Justice, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, Oceans, Pollution, Uncategorized, UNFCCC

Amazon tribe captures illegal loggers, strips them of their clothing

Fed up?

That’s one way to put it.

With no help from their government, the Ka’apor tribe of indigenous Brazilians have taken the control of the fight against illegal logging in and near their lands. In a recent article on Huff Post, photojournalist Lunae Parracho captured these heated encounters on film.

The Amazon tribe strives to teach illegal loggers a lesson by stripping them of their clothing. Photo: LUNAE PARRACHO/Reuters

The Amazon tribe strives to teach illegal loggers a lesson by stripping them of their clothing, just as they continually strip their land of trees. Photo: LUNAE PARRACHO/Reuters

Illegal logging plagues the Amazon Rainforest. With so many governments controlled by the very corporations that strip this land, it’s not wonder the Ka’apor only receive a cold shoulder from their own. The result? A tribe so fed up and so tired of being threatened, that they apparently capture the loggers, strip them down and tie them up. They set fire to the loggers’ trucks. According to reports, the Ka’apor eventually let the loggers go, but there have been several altercations when the captured men try to escape or fight back.

Photos Capture Amazon Tribe As They Beat And Strip Illegal Loggers

By Nick Robins-Early, Photos by Lunae Parracho, Huffington Post: The World Post,
Sept. 8, 2014

The Ka’apor Indians, a tribe of indigenous Brazilians living in the northeast region of the country’s expansive rainforest, have begun taking up arms against illegal loggers who are threatening their homeland. On one of their recent searches for loggers, they were joined by Reuters photographer Lunae Parracho, who documented the scene when they reportedly found a number of the men.

“The warriors stripped them, tied them up and beat those who resisted,” Parracho details in his account of the event for Reuters. Parracho said that the raids are the tribe members’ way of taking matters into their own hands after a perceived lack of government assistance to stop the loggers.

Illegal logging is an endemic issue in the Amazon. A 2014 report by Greenpeace found that more than half of logging in the two largest timber-producing states in Brazil was done illegally from August 2011 to July 2012.

See more photos from the encounters here.


Leave a Comment

Filed under Forests and Climate Change, Illegal logging, Indigenous Peoples, South America

Flood Wall Street, Social Media Action Today

MonopolyA massive direct action protest in Wall Street has been planned for Monday, September 22nd.

For the inspiration, organizers credit Our Power campaign’s call for action in solidarity with the frontline communities affected by climate change and pollution. In the call, the Our Power campaign makes clear the stark contrasts for New York next week:

On September 23rd, political and corporate leaders are meeting at the United Nations in New York City for the Climate Summit 2014. This summit represents yet another step towards the corporate takeover of the UN climate negotiations, and the privatization of land, water and air resources under the guise of a global climate compact. Meanwhile, as communities on the frontlines of climate change, we are the ones cultivating real, place-based solutions to address the global ecological crises. Indigenous peoples’ communities, communities of color and working-class white communities that are the first and most impacted by the storms, floods and droughts, are organizing to create millions of family-supporting jobs in clean energy, public transportation, zero waste, food sovereignty, community housing and ecosystem restoration.

This protest will bring people right to the heart of  neoliberal capitalism and have them take part in a nonviolent sit-in during business hours. Those organizing the protest ask everyone to wear blue, as a flood headed right for one of the most significant engines for our ecological catastrophe.

Here’s the schedule:

  • 9 AM – Gather @ Battery Park – Breakfast and Music from Rude Mechanical Orchestra
  • 9:30 AM – Speakers – including frontline community leaders of the Climate Justice Alliance, Naomi Klein, Rebecca Solnit and Chris Hedges
  • 11 AM — Nonviolent Direct Action Training & March
  • 12 PM — Flood Wall St. and mass Sit-in at the New York Stock Exchange

On the event’s website, the organizers make their call:

As world leaders meet in New York for a historic summit on climate change, communities across the globe will flood financial centers to confront the corporate and economic systems that are causing the climate crisis. Join a united global movement to attack the root causes of the climate crisis and build an economy based on justice and sustainability. We need climate justice. 

And here’s what you can do today! Flooding Facebook – The Basics:

Today, organizers are asking supporters to invite their Friends to the Facebook event for Flood Wall Street. This has advantages over traditional social media blitzes because event invites:

  • Are more visible in the Facebook stream
  • Are immediately quantifiable — it’s like a game!
  • Allow us more ways to follow up with people who express interest

Here is the event page:

Short link:

Sharing the Event:

There are a few options for sharing the event. One is to go to the Event, click RSPV and then Invite Your Friends, then and share from there.

You can also drop the link in the normal Share box as you would any other link.

Short link:

Full call to action and information here:

Sign up for updates and more information:

Join the Facebook event:

Leave a Comment

Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Climate Justice

Cellulosic Ethanol: Firsts, Failures, Myths and Risks

Photo by Fishhawk/Flickr

Photo by Fishhawk/Flickr

A little different post for this Friday afternoon. The Campaign to STOP GE Trees, Steering Committee member and co-director of Biofuelwatch , Dr. Rachel Smolker’s newest piece, published in Huffington Post Green, and here in full:

Cellulosic Ethanol: Firsts, Failures, Myths and Risks

Rachel Smolker   Huffington Post Green

Wires have been buzzing with news about the “first” commercial production of cellulosic biofuels, a project of POET and the Dutch State Mines (DSM) in Emmetsburg, Iowa that is to produce ethanol from corn stover.

There have actually been several “firsts” already, testament to the fact that each of those ended in failure, clearing the path for a new “first.” For example, Ineos Bio in Vero Beach Forida announced it was the first back in 2013. But then followed in December with an “operational update” announcing they would be “de-bottlenecking over the coming year. Hopes were pinned on Kior, but after spending 629 million dollars on a facility in Mississippi they are now headed into bankruptcy.

We’ve been told for years not to worry about the impact of corn ethanol on global food prices because corn ethanol was only a “stepping stone” to cellulosic fuels. We’ve also been told for years — since the initial mandate or ethanol was adopted back in 2005, that cellulosic ethanol was “just around the corner.” So now we have the latest “first,” supposedly to be followed in short order by two others: Dupont in Iowa and Abengoa in Kansas.

The POET DSM refinery is referred to, absurdly, as “Project Liberty,” but investors are concerned that federal policy may not reflect their enthusiasm for the idea that corncobs will deliver us from oil state bondage. Does anyone really believe that we will achieve any significant degree of energy independence nirvana using biofuels?

Right now we are putting around 40 percent of our corn crop into ethanol in the US, which is causing reverberating impacts around the world. Globally, the biofuel boom is driving up food prices, stimulating land grabs, depleting soils and waterways and causing loss of biodiversity. And even with all of these impacts, biofuels are providing only about 2 percent of global transportation fuel.

It hasn’t been cheap either, dependent on absurdly generous subsidies. Project Liberty itself received $105 million dollar loan guarantee, $20 million in grants from the state of Iowa, USDA funds to support feedstock delivery and more. Our tax dollars at work. According to the International Energy Agency, global subsidies for biofuels in 2010 were around 22 billion, rising 67 billion per year to a cumulative projected accumulation of 1.4 trillion in subsidies from 2011-2035. What else could that money be used for?

Making fuel from corn cobs requires harvesting, transporting, storing, refining process, more transporting…. all of which require energy and infrastructure while also depleting soils, waterways and ecosystems. A government funded study published in Nature Climate Change recently concluded that biofuels made from corn stover would release 7 percent more CO2 than the gasoline they supposedly replace. (Dupont’s own lifecycle analysis (surprise surprise!) revealed a fabulous 100 percent greenhouse gas reduction over gasoline).

Another recent study published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Science reported that around 530,000 hectares of precious remaining biodiverse prairie lands in the western corn belt had been converted to corn and soya between 2006 and 2011 (i.e. since the biofuel mandates).

Removing corn stover or other agricultural residues means soils get more compacted and less organic matter is recycled back into the soils, which are also left more exposed to erosion. More soil depletion means using more fertilizers. Fertilizers are made with fossil fuels and their application causes emissions of nitrous oxide (a potent greenhouse gas) and contamination of precious freshwater resources.

The refinery process in use by Project Liberty isn’t clear to me, but involves some proprietary “enzymatic cocktail” followed by fermentation with DSM’s “advanced yeast.” Presumably these enzymes are produced using genetically engineered microbes, and the yeast also are genetically engineered.

Tinkering with microbial genomes via both traditional genetic engineering and recently evolving synthetic biology techniques is risky business that we appear to be plowing headlong into without much thought or oversight! Tiny single-celled organisms are near impossible to contain. They are also known to engage in a range of gene transfer trickery (such as horizontal gene transfer, which means passing genes not only from parent to offspring, but also to unrelated individuals. (It is the primary mechanism for bacteria growing resistant to antibiotics). Are we sure that these engineered microbes and yeasts will be harmless when they escape the confines of Project Liberty?

Corn ethanol was initially lauded as a path to reduce emissions from transportation, but has since proven to be a path to hunger, biodiversity loss, increased greenhouse gas emissions, water eutrophication and more.

Do we need to keep repeating history in pursuit of the myth that we can substitute living plant biomass for fossil? Is it not already clear that we desperately need to protect soils, waterways, forests and ecosystems? Is it not obvious that with a rapidly expanding population to feed, escalating climate impacts and dwindling resources, biofuels are a flagrant and dangerous waste?

Why not focus on the one thing that is absolutely guaranteed to effectively reduce emissions and deliver lots of collateral benefits: drastically cut down on fuel consumption? The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind, a gale force wind heading right down Wall Street.



Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

System change is the only solution to climate change

According to a recent article on Common Dreams by Sarah Lazare, hundreds of grassroots organizations around the world are uniting through the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit to put the spotlight on the corporate agendas that taint legitimate climate change actions.

Grassroots groups were mobilizing in early August in Richmond, California, in ongoing preparation for the People's Climate March and Summit. Photo: Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

Grassroots groups were mobilizing in early August in Richmond, California, in ongoing preparation for the People’s Climate March and Summit. Photo: Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

Current solutions to climate change, such as biomass and renewable energy, are false solutions, proclaimed as green and sustainable when, in actuality, they are not. They are false solutions that are fixated on profits, not on the environment.

Groups Slam ‘Corporate Takeover’ of UN Climate Summit, Call for System Change

by Sara Lazare, Common Dreams, Sept. 10, 2014

Ahead of the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit, which trumpets itself as an event to “catalyze ambitious action,” grassroots organizations from around the world are warning that the global gathering, in fact, has been hijacked by corporations that are pursuing “false promises” and “exploiting the tragedy of climate change.”

“The undersigned social movements that all together represent more than 200 million people around the world, denounce [the] corporate takeover of the UN and the climate negotiations process and call for a deep systemic change,” reads a statement, released Tuesday by international social movement groups, including La Via Campesina, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Indigenous Environmental Network, and more.

“There will be no going back from the climate chaos if we do not fight for real solutions and do nothing to confront and challenge the inaction of our governments’ policy-making being hijacked by polluting corporations,” the statement continues. “It is crucial for us to unify and strengthen our economic, social and environmental struggles and focus our energies on changing the capitalist system.”

But this capitalist system will be heavily represented at the upcoming UN summit, which will take place September 23 at the New York City headquarters of the UN. The meeting was convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to showcase “government, finance, business, and civil society” solutions to the climate crisis, according to a UN announcement. The summit, which President Obama is expected to attend, will not host negotiations for binding climate commitments, but rather will provide a platform for the announcement of voluntary commitments to cut emissions, as well a host of so-called private-public partnerships.

Read the full story on Climate Dreams.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Earth Watch: Rod Coronado on his lifetime of work and the Yellowstone Wolf Patrol

180px-RodCoronadoLast Thursday, September 4th, Margaret Prescod interviewed Rod Coronado about his lifetime of work, whaling, and the Yellowstone Wolf Patrol. At the end, Rod encouraged listeners to go to this site in particular:

Earth Watch is coordinated by GJEP in partnership with KPFK’s Sojourner Truth show with Margaret Prescod.


Leave a Comment

Filed under Earth Radio, Earth Watch

Forests in three major U.S. parks facing extinction

A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization found that forests in Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Glacier National Park are facing annihilation from the skyrocketing incidents of heat, wildfires, tree-killing insects and drought.

Photo: Climate Progress

Photo: Climate Progress

The culprit behind it all?

“No obvious cause.”

That’s right. The study basically concluded with a collective shoulder shrug.

According to the article, “Trees Are Dying From ‘No Obvious Cause’ In Rocky Mountains, Report Says”, by Ari Phillips (@re_ari) on Climate Progress, the scientists only slightly allude to these changing conditions being the result of climate change.

Trees Are Dying From ‘No Obvious Cause’ In Rocky Mountains, Report Says
By Ari Phillips, Climate Progress, September 11, 2014

The Rocky Mountain forests that traverse the West are under unprecedented danger from climate-related impacts according to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization. The Rockies include national parks like Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Glacier National Park, and are facing a “triple assault — tree-killing insects, wildfires, and heat and drought — that could fundamentally alter these forests as we know them.”

According to the report, titled “Rocky Mountain Forests at Risk,” many western trees are dying from “no obvious cause” like the bark beetle epidemic or increasing threat of wildfire, with scientists suggesting that these deaths are due simply to the hotter and drier conditions associated with climate change. The mortality rate for old-growth trees in undisturbed forests has doubled recently, with a sharp increase in recent years, and there’s been no compensating increase in the number of seedlings.

Read the rest of the study’s findings at Climate Progress.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Human made disasters