A total of 72 people are now in hospital, a rise of 32 since Friday, under close observation amid fears of a major outbreak. 41 of those hospitalized are children as Russia copes with a full scale health emergency above the polar circle which has also killed thousands of reindeer.
A state of emergency has been imposed throughout the region in western Siberia, and reindeer herding communities have been quarantined.
While NBC News last week pinned the blame for the outbreak on “[t]he carcass of a reindeer thought to have died from anthrax decades ago,” new reports suggest an old burial ground could be the source.
Nadezhda Noskova, press secretary of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region government, told the Siberian Times:
We are working out all the versions of what has happened. The first version is that due to the very hot weather permafrost thawed and bared the carcass of an animal which died from anthrax long ago.
The other version is that it could have been a human body. The point is that Nenets and Khanty peoples do not bury their dead in the ground.
They put them into the wooden coffins—they resemble boxes—and place them on a stand or hillock.
The old cemetery could be also the source of the disease.
But regardless of the precise culprit, there’s little doubt that climate change is exacerbating the health crisis.
The Washington Postnoted last week, “Temperatures have soared in western Russia’s Yamal tundra this summer,” with several regions seeing record heat. Indeed, temperatures in the Yamal tundra above the Arctic Circle have hit highs of 95°F this summer, compared to an average of 77°F.
The Post quoted two Russian researchers, who warned in 2011: “As a consequence of permafrost melting, the vectors of deadly infections of the 18th and 19th centuries may come back…especially near the cemeteries where the victims of these infections were buried.”
“The extreme heat has triggered a seemingly endless rash of freak weather, natural disasters, and signs of ecological malaise, including enormous wildfires, record flooding, and natural moon bounces [methane bubbles] that might be explosive,” staff writer Maddie Stone reported at Gizmodo. “But above all else, this week’s anthrax outbreak—the first to hit the region since 1941—signals that global warming is transforming Siberia’s lonely wilderness into a feverish nightmarescape.”
Or, as Charles Pierce wrote at Esquire on Monday, “an anthrax strain that has spent 75 years resting, sleeping a lot, going a few times a week to the Bacteria Gym, and generally muscling up, gets another chance at sickening reindeer and people because the Great Climate Change Hoax has thawed the permafrost, so it gets its shot at the reindeer and people that didn’t die in the record wildfires. I would point out that one of our two major political parties doesn’t believe that any of this is happening, and that the party’s candidate for president thinks it all might be a hoax thought up by the Chinese.”
It would have brought a million barrels of toxic tar-sands sludge oil across the length of our nation, through wetlands and communities. President Obama wisely rejected it.
Only now you and other American taxpayers may have to pay for that common-sense decision.
TransCanada is demanding that American taxpayers pay them $15 billion in compensation. They’re using the “investor-state dispute system” that’s in NAFTA – just like the one in the Trans-Pacific Partnership
It allows corporate polluters to attack our environmental and safety laws in private courts stacked in their favor. These companies think protecting clean air and water is a trade barrier. If TPP passes, they will be able to sue any time we manage to pass not just environmental legislation, but anything they believe might hurt their bottom lines. And we’ll be on the hook when they win in their sham corporate-biased dispute system established by the TPP.
Naomi Klein—activist, author, and self-described “secular Jewish feminist”—spoke at the Vatican on Wednesday where she championed the Pope’s message for global action on climate change and made the case for “the beautiful world” beyond fossil fuel addiction.
Klein, who was invited to speak by the Vatican, gave her speech ahead of a two-day conference to discuss the Pope’s recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, on the environment and the threat of the global economic system—subjects that the author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate knows well.
The encyclical has garnered praise from environmental campaigners like Greenpeace International’s Kumi Naidoo, who called it a “clarion call for bold, urgent action.”
“Pope Francis writes early on that Laudato Si’ is not only a teaching for the Catholic world but for ‘every person living on this planet.’ And I can say that as a secular Jewish feminist who was rather surprised to be invited to the Vatican, it certainly spoke to me,” Klein told reporters ahead of the conference, which is called People and Planet First: the Imperative to Change Course.
She praised what she described as “the core message of interconnection at the heart of the encyclical.”
Klein also expanded on what may appear to be an unlikely alliance with the leader of the Catholic Church.
“Given the attacks that are coming from the Republican party around this and also the fossil fuel interests in the United States, it was a particularly courageous decision to invite me here,” she said, according to the Associated Press. “I think it indicates that the Holy See is not being intimidated, and knows that when you say powerful truths, you make some powerful enemies and that’s part of what this is about.”
“In a world where profit is consistently put before both people and the planet, climate economics has everything to do with ethics and morality.” — Naomi Klein
“I have noticed a common theme among the critiques. Pope Francis may be right on the science, we hear, and even on the morality, but he should leave the economics and policy to the experts,” Klein said in her speech. “They are the ones who know about carbon trading and water privatization, we are told, and how effectively markets can solve any problem. I forcefully disagree.
“The truth is that we have arrived at this dangerous place partly because many of those economic experts have failed us badly, wielding their powerful technocratic skills without wisdom,” she said. “In a world where profit is consistently put before both people and the planet, climate economics has everything to do with ethics and morality. Because if we agree that endangering life on earth is a moral crisis, then it is incumbent on us to act like it.”
Echoing the Pope’s message to address inequities, Klein said that “our current system is also fueling ever widening inequality.”
But Klein stressed that her appearance at the Vatican did not mean that any one world view was “being subsumed by anyone else’s.”
“This is an alliance on a specific issue. It’s not a merger,” Klein said. “But when you are faced with a crisis of this magnitude, people have to get out of their comfort zones.”
Despite the magnitude of the crisis, Klein stressed: “We can save ourselves.”
“Around the world, the climate justice movement is saying: See the beautiful world that lies on the other side of courageous policy, the seeds of which are already bearing ample fruit for any who care to look.
“Then, stop making the difficult the enemy of the possible.
“And join us in making the possible real,” she said.
The two-day conference, which comes in the lead-up to the COP21 international climate talks in Paris later this year, is being coordinated by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity (CIDSE), an alliance of Catholic development agencies. Alongside Klein, other speakers include Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, pontifical council president H.E. Cardinal Peter Turkson, and CIDSE secretary general Bernard Nils.
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— by Paul Buchheit
Law enforcement, education, health care, water management, government itself — all have been or are being privatized. People with money get the best of each service.
At the heart of privatization is a disdain for government and a distrust of society, and a mindless individualism that leaves little room for cooperation. Adherents of privatization demand ‘freedom’ unless they need the government to intervene on their behalf.
These privatizers have a system:
1. Convince Yourself that “I Did It On My Own”
The people in position to take from society seek to rationalize their actions, and many have accomplished this through the philosophy of Ayn Rand, the author of The Virtue of Selfishness. She rejected community values, saying “Any group…is only a number of individuals…If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.”
Post-Ayn-Rand, in the growing era of neoliberalism, with Ronald Reagan blurting “government is the problem” and Margaret Thatcher proclaiming “There is no such thing as society,” once-respected institutions like public education and public transportation were demonized as “socialist” and “Soviet-style.” The message has been repeated so often by the business-backed media that the general public began to believe it. Said The Economist with regard to product development, “Governments have always been lousy at picking winners, and they are likely to become more so, as legions of entrepreneurs and tinkerers swap designs online, turn them into products at home and market them globally from a garage. As the revolution rages, governments should stick to the basics…Leave the rest to the revolutionaries.”
But as Mariana Mazzucato points out in The Entrepreneurial State, “In reality it is the State that has been engaged on a massive scale in entrepreneurial risk taking to spur innovation.” There is much evidence for this, in a multitude of disciplines, especially in technology and pharmaceuticals, both of which have seen corporate research labs diminishing if not entirely disappearing.
In the burgeoning new field of nanotechnology, says Mazzucato, industry cannot justify applications that require 10 to 20 years of development and which demand a coordination of physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, engineering, and computer science.
2. Insist that the Removal of Government Will Benefit All People
The removal of government is equated to a vague demand for “freedom” which is hyperbolic if not meaningless. It gained momentum with Milton Friedman, who said: “Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.” The Cato Institute went on to preach that “Free markets create a future promoting integrity and trust.” And Forbes Magazine founder Steve Forbes blustered: “You can’t create prosperity without freedom!”
Despite the fact that this ‘freedom’ has generated the greatest inequality in nearly 100 years, apologists try to convince us that somehow we’re all prospering. From the Wall Street Journal: The U.S. economy is on a tear. From a Moody’s analyst: Our economy is firing on most cylinders.
Some libertarian “lovers of freedom” go to even greater extremes to defend the benefits of inequality for all of us, claiming that income inequality is Good For The Poor, and even that “Income inequality in a capitalist system is truly beautiful.”
3. Ensure that Government Isn’t Removed Until You Get Rich
As the well-to-do have complained about government, they’ve also made sure that government has continued to help them, with a mind-boggling array of deductions, exemptions, exclusions, and loopholes.
At least $2.2 trillion per year in tax expenditures, tax underpayments, tax havens, and corporate nonpayment go mostly to the very rich, the most brazen of whom make the astonishing claim that their hedge fund income should be taxed at a much lower rate than a teacher’s income.
Their tax breaks are augmented by the payroll tax rate limit, which allows multi-millionaires to pay a tiny percentage compared to middle-income earners; by high-risk derivatives that are the first to be paid off in a bank collapse; and by a bankruptcy law that allows businesses, but not students, to get out of debt.
4. Defund Government Until Privatization Seems Like the Only Option
This has happened most notably in education, with a simple formula, according to The Nation: “Use standardized tests to declare dozens of poor schools ‘persistently failing’; put these under the control of a special unelected authority; and then have that authority replace the public schools with charters.” And, of course, cut funding. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, forty-eight states — all except Alaska and North Dakota — were spending less per student in 2014 than they did before the recession.
It’s happening to Social Security, perhaps the most efficiently run system, public or private, in our nation’s history. As Richard Eskow notes, “Congress has cut 14 out of the last 16 SSA budget requests. There’s only one rational explanation for that: a hostility toward government itself, combined with the determination to place more public resources in corporate hands through ‘privatization.’”
It’s happening to police forces, which are going private in neighborhoods and on corporate campuses as public money is disappearing.
5. Remain Ignorant of Any Troublesome Facts
Facts abound of failing private systems, including:
Education: A private system that pays a charter CEO 350 times more per student than the corresponding public school chancellor.
Health Care: The most expensive system in the developed world, with the price of common surgeries anywhere from three to ten times higher than in much of Europe, and with 43 percent of sick Americans skipping doctor’s visits and/or medication purchases in 2011 because of excessive costs. Medicare, on the other hand, which is largely without the profit motive and the competing sources of billing, is efficiently run, for all eligible Americans.
Banking: Thanks to private banks, interest claims one out of every three dollars that we spend, and by the time we retire with a 401(k), nearly half of our money is lost to the banks. But the public bank of North Dakota (BND) had an equity return of 23.4% before the state’s oil boom. The normally privatization-minded Wall Street Journal admits that the BND “is more profitable than Goldman Sachs Group Inc., has a better credit rating than J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and hasn’t seen profit growth drop since 2003.”
Law Enforcement: As public money for police protection is depleted, our communities are being subjected to law enforcement officers who are insufficiently trained, poorly regulated, and often unaccountable to the public for their actions.
Water Management: A water security expert suggested that “One promising solution is to create water markets that allow people to buy and sell rights to use water.” But a 2009 analysis of water and sewer utilities by Food and Water Watch found that private companies charge up to 80 percent more for water and 100 percent more for sewer services.
The Environment: According to former World Bank Chief Economist Nicholas Stern, climate change is “the greatest market failure the world has seen.” Yet Bloomberg reports that “Wall Street firms are investing in businesses that will profit as the planet gets hotter.”
Government Itself: In a study of outsourcing, the Project on Government Oversight found that in 33 out of 35 cases “the average annual contractor billing rate was much more than the average annual full compensation for federal employees.”
Great Individuals Emerge from Cooperative Efforts
Privatization is closely connected to the demand for individualism over cooperation. But the belief that self-centeredness will benefit everyone is backwards. As George Lakoff summarizes: “The Public provides freedom…Individualism begins after the roads are built, after individualists have had an education, after medical research has cured their diseases…”
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Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, RappingHistory.org), and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.
Multinational oil and gas companies are moving into increasingly vulnerable countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia where the ecosystems, communities, and authorities are even less able to cope with the impacts of fracking and shale gas extraction, according to a new report from Friends of the Earth Europe.
The report, Fracking Frenzy: How the Fracking Industry is Threatening the Planet (pdf), shows how the pursuit of fracking in countries such as Mexico, China, Argentina, and South Africa is likely to exacerbate the climate, environment, social, and human rights problems those countries already face. While much has been written about fracking in the United States and the European Union, this study “seeks to provide a global overview of shale gas development in the rest of the world,” its authors note, focusing specifically on 11 countries that are leaders in shale development on their respective continents.
“From Brazil and Mexico to Algeria and South Africa, this thirsty industry is exploiting weak regulation and causing untold environmental and social damage in the pursuit of profit,” said Antoine Simon, shale gas campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe. “The fracking industry needs to be urgently reined in before it’s too late for our planet and people across the globe.”
Released as United Nations climate talks open in Peru, the report illustrates the variety of dangers posed by the rapidly expanding fracking industry. In Northwest Africa and Mexico, for example, longstanding water scarcity issues will only be exacerbated by fracking operations that require millions of liters of water per project. In the earthquake-prone Sichuan basin in China, the Karoo basin in South Africa, the Himalayas, or the Sumatran basin in Indonesia, drilling around complex underground geologies raises the prospect of increased seismic activity, higher costs, and “incalculable environmental impacts and risks.” In Argentina, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa, drilling activity on or near indigenous lands is already leading to conflicts with local communities.
“The emerging planned expansion of the shale gas industry outside the EU and North America raises serious concerns because of the almost unavoidable environmental, social, and health impacts already seen at existing fracking sites,” reads the report. “Given that these problems have proved difficult to avoid in countries with relatively strong regulations to protect the environment, how can this industry be properly monitored in countries where environmental standards are often lower (and sometimes non-existent), and/or where enforcement capacities are frequently limited and where corruption can be an everyday reality?”
Far greater scrutiny of the industry’s climate impacts is warranted, the report concludes, “particularly in countries which are already and will be much more directly affected by the consequences of climate change.”
Natural gas “is not—and never has been—the clean fuel that the industry has tried to claim,” it reads. “In fact it poses an immediate threat to attempts made to fight climate change.”
Friends of the Earth is urging the 195 nations gathered in Peru this week to consider these assertions.
“Around the world people and communities are already paying the price of the climate crisis with their livelihoods and lives,” said Susann Scherbarth, climate justice and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe. “Fracking will only make things worse and has no place in a clean energy future. Europe and other industrialized countries most responsible for the climate crisis need to use the talks in Lima to make genuine commitments to end their reliance on corporate-controlled fossil fuels and embrace clean, citizen energy.”
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We know the catastrophic risks we are passing onto future generations and we wonder, with anxiety and grief, what will become of our planet. We ask ourselves, “what can I do?”
“The message that solutions to climate change and environmental degradation is up to the individual directly conflicts with what people are witnessing.”
One of the key barriers to taking action on the paramount issues of our time is that these problems are the end result of entrenched cultural, economic and social systems. The message that solutions to climate change and environmental degradation is up to the individual directly conflicts with what people are witnessing: the health and well-being of their bodies and their communities coming a distant second to powerful economic interests.
Current economic calculations do not recognize the full cost to the Commons – the cultural and natural heritage we share that is the foundation of our economy.
Yet growing numbers of people are waking up to the reemerging Commons ethic, which holds that human systems must be aligned to match ecological ones. People believe that future generations have the inalienable right to a healthy planet, and many are now seeking ways to withdraw their consent to the politics and policies that lead to a toxic future.
A rights-based approach to human systems like the economy allows us to open our discussion to questions like: What is the economy for? What are the principles needed to guarantee that we are fair to future generations? What tenets make justice and the protection of the Commons more likely?
Participants at the Congress will bring forward ideas to help shift the way we care for and relate to our Earth–ideas such as moving environmental law out of free market private property law into rights law; caring for the Commons, the Precautionary Principle, and Free Prior and Informed Consent. Congress goers– both men and women–will imagine different economic principles that counter dominant but destructive paradigms.
Some of the new principles to be discussed are:
The Earth is the source of our life and our economic activity.
The Commons, the cultural and natural heritage we share, are the foundation of economics, which presupposes: a) a role of government as the trustee of the commons; b) Laws and rules governing economic systems must first protect the commonwealth; c) Concepts such as economic growth, which ignore the cost to the commons are evolutionary dead-ends.
Justice within generations and justice between generations must be linked to economic justice.
This is a conversation about the definition, boundaries, and acceptance of limits. And, these are a few of the tenets that flow from these economic principles:
Measure the right things: Currently we do not measure the health of the Commons. Pollution and disease count as good for the economic GDP.
Polluter Pays: The one who pollutes or damages the commons shall be held responsible and pay for restoration.
No Debt to Future Generations without a Corresponding Asset: We cannot ask future generations to pay for our messes. We can share with them the costs of assets like parks, art, clean air and water.
Audit, Account for and Fund Commons Assets.
If one accepts the incontestable truth that present generations inherit an Earth left from previous generations, and that we are all eventually ancestors, then our lives are a simultaneously defined by inheriting and bequeathing.
Facing another incontestable truth that our Earth is finite allows us to expand our point of view to include a “bigger picture,” which tells a story with a common goal: It is a story of an incredibly interconnected living systems on which we are dependent, not dominant. The story of human development that has recalibrated its systems to match those of nature itself. The story of a civilization that thrives on stewardship and care, generation after generation into the far future.
This post addresses concerns and misconceptions about the proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect clean water. The proposed rule clarifies protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources. The following facts emphasize that this proposed rule cuts through red tape to make normal farming practices easier while also ensuring that waters are clean for human health, communities, and the economy.
MYTH: The rule would regulate all ditches, even those that only flow after rainfall.
TRUTH: The proposed rule actually reduces regulation of ditches because for the first time it would exclude ditches that are constructed through dry lands and don’t have water year-round. Tweet the truth
MYTH: A permit is needed for walking cows across a wet field or stream.
TRUTH: No. Normal farming and ranching activities don’t need permits under the Clean Water Act, including moving cattle. Tweet the truth
MYTH: Ponds on the farm will be regulated.
TRUTH: The proposed rule does not change the exemption for farm ponds that has been in place for decades. It would for the first time specifically exclude stock watering and irrigation ponds constructed in dry lands. Tweet the truth
MYTH: Groundwater is regulated by the Clean Water Act.
TRUTH: The proposed rule specifically excludes groundwater. Tweet the truth
MYTH: The federal government is going to regulate puddles and water on driveways and playgrounds.
TRUTH: Not remotely true. Such water is never jurisdictional. Tweet the truth
MYTH: EPA is gaining power over farms and ranches.
TRUTH: No. All historical exclusions and exemptions for agriculture are preserved. Tweet the truth
MYTH: Only the 56 conservation practices are now exempt from the Clean Water Act.
TRUTH: No. The proposal does not remove the normal farming exemption. It adds 56 beneficial conservation practices to the exemption, which is self-implementing. Tweet the truth
MYTH: The proposed rule will apply to wet areas or erosional features on fields.
TRUTH: Water-filled areas on crop fields are not jurisdictional and the proposal specifically excludes erosional features. Tweet the truth
MYTH: This is the largest land grab in history.
TRUTH: The Clean Water Act only regulates the pollution and destruction of U.S. waters. The proposed rule would not regulate land or land use. Tweet the truth
MYTH: EPA and the Army Corps are going around Congress and the Supreme Court.
TRUTH: EPA and the Army Corps are responding to calls from Congress and the Supreme Court to clarify regulations. Chief Justice Roberts said that a rulemaking would provide clarification of jurisdiction. Tweet the truth
MYTH: The proposal will now require permits for all activities in floodplains.
TRUTH: The Clean Water Act does not regulate land and the agencies are not asserting jurisdiction over land in floodplains. Tweet the truth
MYTH: The proposed rule will harm the economy.
TRUTH:Protecting water is vital to the health of the economy. Streams and wetlands are economic drivers because of their role in fishing, hunting, agriculture, recreation, energy, and manufacturing. Tweet the truth
MYTH: The costs of this proposal are too burdensome.
TRUTH: For this proposed rule, the potential economic benefits are estimated to be about TWICE the potential costs – $390 to $510 million in benefits versus $160 to $278 million in costs. Tweet the truth
MYTH: This is a massive expansion of federal authority.
TRUTH: The proposal does not protect any waters that have not historically been covered under the Clean Water Act. The proposed rule specifically reflects the more narrow reading of jurisdiction established by the Supreme Court and the rule protects fewer waters than prior to the Supreme Court cases. Tweet the truth
MYTH: This is increasing the number of regulated waters by including waters that do not flow year-round as waters of the United States.
TRUTH: Streams that only flow seasonally or after rain have been protected by the Clean Water Act since it was enacted in 1972. More than 60 percent of streams nationwide do not flow year-round and contribute to the drinking water supply for 117 million Americans. Tweet the truth
MYTH: Only actual navigable waters can be covered under the Clean Water Act.
TRUTH: Court decisions and the legislative history of the Clean Water Act make clear that waters do not need actual navigation to be covered, and these waters have been protected by the Clean Water Act since it was passed in 1972. Tweet the truth
MYTH: The rule includes no limits on federal jurisdiction.
TRUTH: The proposed rule does not protect any waters that have not historically been covered under the Clean Water Act and specifically reflects the Supreme Court’s more narrow reading of jurisdiction, and includes several specific exclusions. Tweet the truth
MYTH: This rule is coming before the science is available.
TRUTH: EPA’s scientific assessment is based on more than 1,000 pieces of previously peer-reviewed and publicly available literature. The rule will not be finalized until the scientific assessment is finalized. Tweet the truth
MYTH: This is about little streams in the middle of nowhere that don’t matter.
TRUTH: Everyone lives downstream. This means that our communities, our cities, our businesses, our schools, and our farms are all impacted by the pollution and destruction that happens upstream. Tweet the truth
MYTH: The proposal infringes on private property rights and hinders development.
TRUTH: EPA, the Army Corps, and states issue thousands of permits annually that allow for property development and economic activity in ways that protect the environment. The proposed rule will help reduce regulatory confusion and delays in determining which waters are covered. Tweet the truth
MYTH: Stakeholders were not consulted in the development of the proposed rule.
TRUTH: This is a proposal. Agencies are seeking public comment and participating in extensive outreach to state and tribal partners, the regulated community including small business, and the general public. Tweet the truth
MYTH: The federal government is taking authority away from the states.
TRUTH: This proposed rule fully preserves and respects the effective federal-state partnership and federal-tribal partnership established under the Clean Water Act. The proposed rule will not affect state water laws, including those governing water supply and use. Tweet the truth
MYTH: Nobody wanted a rulemaking to define Waters of the U.S.
TRUTH: A rulemaking to provide clarity was requested by the full spectrum of stakeholders: Congress, industry, agriculture, businesses, hunters and fisherman, and more. Tweet the truth
Knowing that HR 2824, the Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America bill, would be coming up for a vote this week, I decided to write to Rep. Amodei to express my concerns regarding this onerous bill:
Dear Rep. Mark Amodei:
I strongly oppose passage of HR2824, the Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America. This bill would misdirect limited resources and limit State discretion in regulating industries within their borders, stomping the crap out of any future “State’s Rights” argument you might wish to make. The bill requires State surface coal mining regulatory agencies to implement the 2008 Stream Buffer Zone Rule for a mandatory implementation period. In case you missed it, that rules does NOT adequately protect drinking water, nor does it protect watersheds from strip mining.
We’ve just see a few massive spills in streams that supply drinking water, yet HR2824…
As someone concerned with climate change, I want to thank you for your years of climate leadership as a Senator. As Secretary of State, you have the opportunity to have an even greater impact on combating climate change. One of the main ways you can do that now is by telling President Obama that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not in our national interest and should be rejected.
Climate action starts at home, and one of the first and clearest actions you could take would be to recognize that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is a climate issue. The evidence is clear that Keystone XL could increase production levels of tar sands oil in Alberta, and therefore significantly add to carbon emissions. Moreover, the massive investment would lock us into dependence on this dirty fuel for decades, exacerbating carbon pollution just when we have to move quickly and decisively in the other direction.
Beyond the effects on our climate, activities to remove those toxic materials have already had a serious impact on wildlife who call that area home. Plus, the dangerous pipeline would put the water supply and the bread basket we use to feed millions of Americans at risk. After a year in which many communities across the USA were harmed by spills from existing pipelines, we cannot allow any more of the dirtiest, most toxic tar sands immersed in solvents that NO ONE knows how to clean up, to spill and permanently contaminate our farm lands, our aquifers and our waterways.
President Obama will have the final say on the Presidential Permit for Keystone XL, but your department, as the lead agency, will point the way. Although the State Department’s environmental impact statement underestimated the likelihood that Keystone XL pipeline would fuel climate change, you can set the record straight in your National Interest Determination.
At a minimum, you could say that Keystone XL is not in our national interest. But to be totally blunt, this pipeline would be an absolute disaster not only for our country, but also for our planet! Not only is there is no available “Planet B” within migrating distance, we have no viable means to get there even if there were a likely “Planet B.”
All we ask is that you get your facts right and support our fight against climate change in your decision on Keystone XL. We’re sure that once you have studied the issue carefully, you will see that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is a significant climate issue, and must be stopped.
The final comment period is open for 30 days. Send your own letter to Secretary Kerry asking him to “reject the Keystone XL pipeline.”
America’s best idea is in trouble, and I don’t mean our national parks. Yes, our parks were closed, which was a crushing disappointment for millions of would-be visitors and an economic gut-punch for neighboring communities — to the tune of $76 million dollars a day.
But what’s really under attack is something even older than our national park system: our democracy.
How did we reach a point where one fraction of one party that controls one chamber of Congress would drive our government into the ground if it doesn’t get everything its members want? ‘This shutdown is like a firefighter standing on the hose to stop the rest of the company from putting out a blaze until he gets a million-dollar raise — all while the building burns.
We didn’t get here by accident. It’s the result of a systematic attack on basic democratic principles by a handful of people who have no interest in a functioning democracy. While there is no excuse, there is an explanation.
It starts with big money. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision opened the floodgates for a tidal wave of corrupting corporate money into our system. But where is the money coming from and where is it going?
Huge amounts are from polluter-backed groups, which spent more than $270 million on television ads in just two months of the 2012 election — and that explains why Congress has taken more than 300 votes attacking clean air and water. The same people who are poisoning our democracy are also determined to poison our environment. It’s no surprise that 80 percent of Americans agree that political money is preventing our most important challenges from being addressed.
At the same time, special interest groups are spending millions to keep anyone who disagrees with them away from the polls and out of office. No sooner did the Supreme Court gut a key part of the Voting Rights Act, that state houses with Republican majorities pushed through suppressive legislation to keep young people, seniors, students, and people of color away from the polls. It’s no coincidence that those are the same citizens who have voted against them.
These challenges have led the Sierra Club to team up with the NAACP, Communications Workers of America, and Greenpeace to form the Democracy Initiative. Our goal is to build a movement to halt the corrupting influence of corporate money in politics, prevent the manipulation and suppression of voters, and address other obstacles to significant reform.
Only about 1,200 people came close to reaching the spending limits McCutcheon wants overturned — and a good number of them are oil, gas, and coal executives, from the sectors that directly contributed $40 million in 2012. Give them free rein to write whatever size of a check they want, and we’ll see that number skyrocket.
The faster that money pours in, the quicker the voices of ordinary Americans are drowned out. We can’t let that happen. And we won’t. They may have millions of dollars, but we have millions of people. And, thanks to efforts like the Democracy Initiative, we are organizing and coming together to make sure our voices are heard.
If we want to see more shutdowns and debt crises, then we should maintain the status quo. If we want more attacks on our air, water, and climate, then all we need to do is turn away in disgust at the political posturing. But if we want to restore a democracy that works for Americans and will preserve a healthy planet for future generations, it’s time to stand up and fight back.
Michael Brune is the executive director of the Sierra Club, the largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. SierraClub.org. Image courtesy of Oil Change International. Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)