Tuesday, August 30, 2011

GMO Food, a Scam, US Government Inside Job for Monsanto, Wal-mart, Dow, et al

Here's how rhetorical grace comes about after reading a purely self-interested Opinion piece in the New York Times on why genetically engineered foods are great (NOT).

Genetic modified plants Warning! Nina Federoff — former “Science and Technology Advisor” to the U.S. State Department and well-known genetic engineering apologist — is back on her soapbox. In an Op Ed [www.nytimes.com] published in the New York Times last week, Federoff strings together one blazing falsehood after another, extolling the virtues of a technology that much of the rest of the world has rightly rejected. What is behind her evangelical commitment to this particular technology? Let’s take a look.

Conflict of interest?

Thanks to Tom Philpott [www.grist.org], we know that for the 5-year period before she joined the State Department, Federoff served on the scientific advisory board at Evogene [www.evogene.com]. This Israeli agriculture-biotech firm works closely with Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred, Bayer CropScience, Syngenta and others. She also served on the board of Sigma-Aldrich [www.sigmaaldrich.com], a transnational corporation that provides services and products — including transgenic animals — to agricultural biotech companies.

And she herself was one of the early patent-holders [www.patentstorm.us] on transgenic technologies, back in the 1980s. Federoff was one of the early patent-holders on transgenic technologies, back in the 1980s.

These solid corporate credentials proved just the ticket into the G.W. Bush Administration’s State Department; tapped initially by Condoleeza Rice, she was kept on by Hillary Clinton. During the same period (2007-2010),Federoff also served as the Science and Technical Advisor to the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development. USAID [www.panna.org] works with Monsanto and other partners to develop and commercialize GE crops, advancing U.S. trade interests in opening new markets abroad for these products.

Feeding the world? Or feeding U.S. geopolitical interests?

Corporate connections aside, it is entirely possible that Federoff truly believes in the technologies and products associated with high external input, industrial agriculture as the panacea for the world’s woes. Unfortunately, many (though certainly not all) molecular biologists and geneticists have a disciplinary habit of thinking in such narrow, reductionist terms that they miss a lot of historical and political context.

For instance, often missed in such myopic preoccupations with what's on the other end of a microscopic gaze is the cold hard fact that the Green Revolution’s origins in 1940s Mexico were not really about feeding the world; Mexico was a food exporter at the time. Rather, the aims included stabilizing restive rural populations in our neighbor to the south, and making friends with a government that at the time was selling supplies to the World War II Axis powers and confiscating oil fields held by Standard Oil (a funding source for for the Rockefeller Foundation, one of the key architects of the Green Revolution).

The dark underbelly of the Green Revolution — how it was driven largely by the political, economic and trade agendas of the U.S., then taken up by key partners including the World Bank and international research centers, is brilliantly dissected by historian Nick Cullather in his new book, The Hungry World, recently reviewed [motherjones.com] by Tom Philpott in Mother Jones. (Note to self: send copy to Federoff.)

Today, the geo-political agenda behind the first Green Revolution, combined with a blind preference for silver-bullet solutions to complex global problems, has led to what Sussex University researcher Sally Brooks calls a “lock in” of genetics-led strategies that fail to meet the diverse needs of people on the ground. And hence, we are forced to read too many ill-informed commercials for corporate technologies — like the one by Federoff — published by news outlets that one would hope might know better.

“Sorry, my dogma ate my homework”

As the kids say now, Federoff gets a FAIL for her latest rant. She provides no empirical evidence to back up her sweeping claims, and blithely ignores the abundance of reports from U.N. agencies and independent scientific studies that have — over the past several years — consistently concluded that GE technologies are unlikely to reduce either hunger or poverty, but do pose a serious threat to food and livelihood security.

For the empirically inclined, here's a quick roundup of the evidence:

*  Meeting the climate, water, energy and food challenges of the 21st century requires investing in agroecology [www.panna.org];   in contrast, GE technologies [www.panna.org] are unlikely to get us where we need to go (concludes the UN-led IAASTD    [www.agassessment.org).

*  GE crops neither increase yield [www.ucsusa.org] nor provide nutritional benefits. They have led to a massive increase in  herbicide use [www.organic-center.org] and epidemic of herbicide-resistant superweeds [www.nytimes.com];

*  GE won’t feed the world (see Anna Lappé's Civil Eats [civileats.com] rebuttal of Federoff and her Foreign Policy     [www.foreignpolicy.com] dispatch of the ardent GE-proponent, Robert Paarlberg);

*  Agroecological farming can double food production [www.panna.org], save our soil [www.panna.org], protect biodiversity [www.panna.org] and help farmers adapt to climate change [www.panna.org]; and

*  Organic farming and reliance on traditional seed systems is the best option for achieving food security in Mexico   [motherjones.com], Gaza [motherjones.com] and across Africa [www.unctad.org];

*  oh, and it's more energy efficient  [www.panna.org] too.

This is not the first time that the New York Times has completely missed the mark [www.panna.org] in identifying the causes of world hunger — which makes it awfully difficult to identify the solutions.
Fed up with Federoff? If you’re tired of being bombarded by pro-GE rants, and would rather get the real scoop on GE, food and ecological justice from leading thinkers, scientists and activists in CA, then join me next month at the Justice Begins with Seeds [biosafetyalliance.org] conference in San Francisco.

See you there!

Marcia Ishii-Eiteman [www.panna.org]


Here's the reason for Marcia's response --
August 18, 2011

Engineering Food for All


FOOD prices are at record highs and the ranks of the hungry are swelling once again. A warming climate is beginning to nibble at crop yields worldwide. The United Nations predicts that there will be one to three billion more people to feed by midcentury.

Yet even as the Obama administration says it wants to stimulate innovation by eliminating unnecessary regulations, the Environmental Protection Agency wants to require even more data on genetically modified crops, which have been improved using technology with great promise and a track record of safety. The process for approving these crops has become so costly and burdensome that it is choking off innovation.

Civilization depends on our expanding ability to produce food efficiently, which has markedly accelerated thanks to science and technology. The use of chemicals for fertilization and for pest and disease control, the induction of beneficial mutations in plants with chemicals or radiation to improve yields, and the mechanization of agriculture have all increased the amount of food that can be grown on each acre of land by as much as 10 times in the last 100 years.

These extraordinary increases must be doubled by 2050 if we are to continue to feed an expanding population. As people around the world become more affluent, they are demanding diets richer in animal protein, which will require ever more robust feed crop yields to sustain.

New molecular methods that add or modify genes can protect plants from diseases and pests and improve crops in ways that are both more environmentally benign and beyond the capability of older methods. This is because the gene modifications are crafted based on knowledge of what genes do, in contrast to the shotgun approach of traditional breeding or using chemicals or radiation to induce mutations. The results have been spectacular.

For example, genetically modified crops containing an extra gene that confers resistance to certain insects require much less pesticide. This is good for the environment because toxic pesticides decrease the supply of food for birds and run off the land to poison rivers, lakes and oceans.

The rapid adoption of genetically modified herbicide-tolerant soybeans has made it easier for farmers to park their plows and forgo tilling for weed control. No-till farming is more sustainable and environmentally benign because it decreases soil erosion and shrinks agriculture’s carbon footprint.

In 2010, crops modified by molecular methods were grown in 29 countries on more than 360 million acres. Of the 15.4 million farmers growing these crops, 90 percent are poor, with small operations. The reason farmers turn to genetically modified crops is simple: yields increase and costs decrease.

Myths about the dire effects of genetically modified foods on health and the environment abound, but they have not held up to scientific scrutiny. And, although many concerns have been expressed about the potential for unexpected consequences, the unexpected effects that have been observed so far have been benign. Contamination by carcinogenic fungal toxins, for example, is as much as 90 percent lower in insect-resistant genetically modified corn than in nonmodified corn. This is because the fungi that make the toxins follow insects boring into the plants. No insect holes, no fungi, no toxins.

Yet today we have only a handful of genetically modified crops, primarily soybeans, corn, canola and cotton. All are commodity crops mainly used for feed or fiber and all were developed by big biotech companies. Only big companies can muster the money necessary to navigate the regulatory thicket woven by the government’s three oversight agencies: the E.P.A., the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.

Decades ago, when molecular approaches to plant improvement were relatively new, there was some rationale for a cautious approach.

But now the evidence is in. These crop modification methods are not dangerous. The European Union has spent more than $425 million studying the safety of genetically modified crops over the past 25 years. Its recent, lengthy report on the matter can be summarized in one sentence: Crop modification by molecular methods is no more dangerous than crop modification by other methods. Serious scientific bodies that have analyzed the issue, including the National Academy of Sciences and the British Royal Society, have come to the same conclusion.

It is time to relieve the regulatory burden slowing down the development of genetically modified crops. The three United States regulatory agencies need to develop a single set of requirements and focus solely on the hazards — if any — posed by new traits.

And above all, the government needs to stop regulating genetic modifications for which there is no scientifically credible evidence of harm.

Nina V. Fedoroff, who was the science and technology adviser to the secretary of state from 2007 to 2010, is a professor of biology at Pennsylvania State University.


Wiki-Leaks strikes at GMO thugs:

New WikiLeaks Cables Show US Diplomats Promote Genetically Engineered Crops Worldwide

by: Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report

(Image: JR / t r u t h o u t [3]; Adapted: Peter Blanchard [4], Wikileaks [5])
Dozens of United States diplomatic cables released in the latest WikiLeaks dump on Wednesday [6] reveal new details of the US effort to push foreign governments to approve genetically engineered (GE) crops and promote the worldwide interests of agribusiness giants like Monsanto and DuPont.

The cables further confirm previous Truthout reports on the diplomatic pressure the US has put on Spain [7] and France [8], two countries with powerful anti-GE crop movements, to speed up their biotech approval process and quell anti-GE sentiment within the European Union (EU).

Several cables describe "biotechnology outreach programs" in countries across the globe, including African, Asian and South American countries where Western biotech agriculture had yet to gain a foothold. In some cables (such as this 2010 cable [9] from Morocco) US diplomats ask the State Department for funds to send US biotech experts and trade industry representatives to target countries for discussions with high-profile politicians and agricultural officials.

Truthout recently reported [10] on front groups supported by the US government, philanthropic foundations and companies like Monsanto that are working to introduce pro-biotechnology policy initiatives and GE crops in developing African countries, and several cables released this week confirm that American diplomats have promoted biotech agriculture to countries like Tunisia [11], South Africa [12] and Mozambique [13].

Cables detail US efforts to influence the biotech policies of developed countries such as Egypt and Turkey, but France continues to stand out as a high-profile target.

In a 2007 cable [14], the US embassy in Paris reported on a meeting among US diplomats and representatives from Monsanto, DuPont and Dow-Agro-sciences. The companies were concerned about a movement of French farmers, who were vandalizing GE crop farms at the time, and suggested diplomatic angles for speeding up EU approvals of GE Crops.

In 2008 cable [15] describing a "rancorous" debate within the French Parliament over proposed biotech legislation, Craig Stapleton, the former US ambassador to France under the Bush administration, included an update on MON-810, a Monsanto corn variety banned in France.

Stapleton wrote that French officials "expect retaliation via the World Trade Organization" for upholding the ban on MON-810 and stalling the French GE crop approval process. "There is nothing to be gained in France from delaying retaliation," Stapleton wrote.

Tough regulations and bans on GE crops can deal hefty blows to US exports. About 94 percent of soybeans, 72 percent of corn and 73 percent of the cotton grown in the US now use GE-tolerate herbicides like Monsanto's Roundup, according to the US Agriculture Department. [16]
A 2007 cable [17], for example, reports that the French ban on MON-810 could cost the US $30 million to $50 million in exports.

In a 2007 cable obtained by Truthout in January, Stapleton threatened "moving to retaliate" against France for banning MON-810. Several other European countries, including Germany, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria [18], have also placed bans on MON-810 in recent years. MON-810 is engineered to excrete the Bt toxin, which kills some insect pests.


One more response to Fedoroff:

Letters to the Editor
      New York Times
      August 22, 2011

      In “Engineering Food for All” (op-ed, 8/18), Ms. Fedoroff rehashes
      industry-sponsored myths about genetically-engineered (GE) crops, while ignoring
      some ugly facts.  First, massive adoption of GE crops has coincided with a
      swelling of the world’s hungry by over 100 million, consistent with science
      showing no yield boost from GE [1].  Second, herbicide-resistant GE crops
      have not reduced soil erosion (the no-till farming revolution preceded their
      mid-1990s’ introduction) [2]; but they have increased herbicide use, spawned an
      epidemic of herbicide-resistant weeds, and forced a return to tillage and even
      hand-weeding for many farmers [3].  That beneficial GE crops have not been
      developed is due to the technology’s high failure rate, not the extremely lax US
      regulatory system [4].

      William Freese, Senior Science Analyst
      International Center for Technology Assessment
      660 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Suite 302
      Washington, DC 20003
      814-237-2767 (home office)
      202-547-9359 (work)

      Notes to Editor (FYI only of course, not for inclusion in the letter):

      [1]  Frankly, we do not share Ms. Fedoroff’s simplistic assumption that
      increasing yields equate to less hunger.  Yet this emotive card is regularly
      played (always in the future tense!) by biotech proponents who do not understand
      or care to learn about the overriding political factors that cause poverty and
      hunger.  That said, increasing yields in exporting nations where most GE crops
      are grown would mean more abundant harvests; all other things being equal, this
      could slightly lower world food prices, benefitting the urban poor in
      import-dependent developing countries.  Yet, as stated: 1) The world’s hungry
      have increased by over 100 million since the mid-1990s, when GE crops were first
      introduced (see chart of UN FAO figures at http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/world%20hunger%20facts%202002.htm [www.worldhunger.org]);       and 2) GE crops are not designed to, and do not, increase yields.  See  Gurian-Sherman, D. (2009).  “Failure to Yield,” Union of Concerned       Scientists: http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/science_and_impacts/science/failure-to-yield.html
      [www.ucsusa.org].  Real solutions must come from helping poor farmers produce more, and GE crops do not do that.  84% of world GE crop acreage is planted with herbicide-resistant crops
      that are irrelevant to poor farmers, who cannot afford herbicides.

      [2]  USDA National Resources Conservation Service (2010).  “2007 National
      Resources Inventory: Soil Erosion on
      Cropland,” http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/nrcs143_012269.pdf [www.nrcs.usda.gov].  See
       the table on page 2, which shows a large decrease in soil erosion from 1982 to
      1997, attributable to rapid adoption of conservation tillage (including
      no-till), and a leveling off of soil erosion in the years GE herbicide-resistant
      crops were massively adopted, from 1997 to 2007.  (Note: GE herbicide-resistant
      crops in the U.S. expanded from just 16.0 to 117.2 million acres from 1997 to
      2007, as documented in Benbrook, C. (2009).  “Impacts of Genetically Engineered
      Crops in the U.S.: The First Thirteen Years,” The Organic Center, Supplemental
      Table 5,
      at http://www.organic-center.org/science.pest.php?action=view&report_id=159 [www.organic-center.org]).

      [3]  See Benbrook, C. (2009), cited above.  The NYT’s Andrew Pollack also
      reported on this last
      year http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/04/business/energy-environment/04weed.html [www.nytimes.com].  It
       is disingenuous of Ms. Fedoroff to ignore the responsibility of GE crops for
      increasing herbicide use, resistant weeds, increased use of soil-eroding
      tillage, and sharply rising weed control costs, regarded by agricultural
      scientists as major challenges facing U.S. farmers.
      [4]  See pages 2-3 of the letter (the section entitled “Regulation does not
      ‘stifle’ GE crop innovation”) to USDA Secretary Vilsack, August 3, 2011, from 22
      farming and consumer protection groups, food companies and trade associations
      regarding US regulation of GE crops,
      at http://www.agra-net.com/content/agra/ips/pdf/APHIS-Rules-Letter.pdf [www.agra-net.com].

Monday, August 29, 2011

Climate Change Ain't Worth the Sweat on the Golf Course -- Coal is Obama's Middle Name, Tar Sands his Nick-name

There is no reason why Obama, his PR spinners, his confidants, his friends, all those folk helping him get out of his Harvard elitism, even the contentious ones harping on him, to PUT in SOLAR panels. This story below is tepid, somewhat, but this is not rocket science. You just get the things installed. It' easy. Spokane's own Eco-Depot could help. Community Building on Main has a few installed. This guy's handlers are just so out of touch.

Last fall, thousands of youth climate activists called on President Obama to restore solar to the White House, removed 20 years ago by Ronald Reagan. In October, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced that “by the end of this spring, there will be solar panels and a solar hot water heater on the roof of the White House.” Today, with less than 24 hours before the summer solstice, Ramamoorthy Ramesh announced that the date of White House solar installation won’t even be publicly decided until September at the earliest, based on the timeline for the DOE’s Rooftop Solar Challenge:
The Energy Department remains on the path to complete the White House solar demonstration project, in keeping with our commitment, and we look forward to sharing more information — including additional details on the timing of this project — after the competitive procurement process is completed.
The Rooftop Solar Challenge, part of the Department of Energy Sunshot Initiative to accelerate the deployment of solar technologies, is designed to encourage local and regional governments to improve market conditions for rooftop solar installations. The Sunshot Initiative program was only announced in April of this year, and the final date for submissions to the rooftop challenge is August 31. There is no date established for when the “competitive procurement process” is to be completed.

Although the work being done by Ramesh, one of the nation’s top solar-power scientists, as the head of the Sunshot Initiative, is crucial, tying the White House demonstration solar installations to this program is a transparent excuse for a broken pledge.

The threat of our polluted climate and the urgency of rebuilding our economy with clean technology should be the Obama administration’s paramount concern. Their deferral of a commitment made to our nation’s youth in the midst of this crisis is a grave disappointment.

Summer's almost over, and still no solar panels on White House roof

Posted: 2:36pm on Aug 25, 2011; Modified: 11:53am on Aug 26, 2011
WASHINGTON — In October, Energy Secretary Steven Chu pledged that solar panels and a solar water heater would be installed on the White House roof before the start of summer.
Now, summer is almost over, the 2012 election campaign is well under way, and there are still no solar panels on the White House roof.

Why? That's a mystery.

The Energy Department will say only that the project is mired in the "competitive procurement process." Spokeswoman Joelle Terry declined to go into details of the holdup. Questions about when that process might be completed also were rebuffed. So were queries about the projected cost of adding the panels and where the panels would be located.

The National Park Service, which put solar panels on White House outbuildings during the administration of President George W. Bush, said it couldn't comment on why the previous installation was completed more quickly. It directed questions to the White House, where press spokesman Clark Stevens deferred to the Department of Energy, where spokeswoman Terry stuck to her original statement.

Not even Solar Design Associates, which according to the magazine Solar Today installed the previous panels, was willing to comment. A search of the government contracting website USASpending.gov did turn up a $10,000 contract, awarded in January, to Overly Manufacturing Co. That contract was to "support the contractor" for the photovoltaic system and "ensure that the integrity and warranty of the White House roof is maintained."

No one was willing to reveal the details of the formal government bidding proposal, which was not posted online.

Solar panels atop the White House, America's most famous government building, have long been a policy statement. President Jimmy Carter installed 32 in 1979 when an Arab oil embargo spiked fuel prices.

"No one can ever embargo the sun or interrupt its delivery to us," Carter said at the installation ceremony, having never seen the episode of "The Simpsons" where Mr. Burns blocks out the sun with a giant disk.

President Ronald Reagan removed the panels in 1986. Then came the National Park Service-directed installation during the most recent Bush administration. Those panels went on a maintenance building and on the president's cabana to heat water for the outdoor White House pool.

Chu announced that panels would be going up on the White House itself at the GreenGov Symposium, which was described on its website as "a three-day educational event to identify opportunities around greening the Federal Government." It was sponsored by the White House Council on Environmental Quality and held at George Washington University in Washington Oct. 5-7, 2010.

"As we move toward a clean energy economy, the White House will lead by example," Chu said then when he promised that solar panels would be returned to the White House roof. "It's been a long time since we've had them up there."

The project was intended to be part of the Energy Department's larger SunShot Initiative to make solar technology cost-competitive.

Solar power is one of the staples of the growing alternate energy sector. Both commercial buildings and homes are incorporating the technology, though it still makes up only about 1 percent of the energy produced by alternative fuels in the U.S., according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

A spokesman for the organization 350.org, named after an atmospheric target of 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide recommended by some scientists to ward off the "greenhouse effect" blamed for global warming, expressed disappointment that the solar panels hadn't yet made it to the roof of the White House.

"This isn't rocket science. Hammer it in, make a few connections — you're good to go," said Jamie Henn, the group's spokesman. "If the first lady is going to go out and get her hands dirty planting her garden, then it's up to the president to do some home improvements as well."

His group has been a leading proponent of heads of state adding solar panels to their residences.
"The administration needs to do more to show that they're serious about moving clean energy forward," he said. "There's no better way of doing that than getting on the roof of the White House and proclaiming that there shouldn't just be solar panels there, but on rooftops all across America and around the world."

While it may be a little more complicated than Henn jokes, two other heads of state have installed solar panels on their official residences.

In the Maldives, 48 panels went up on the Mulee Agee Palace in 2010, within days of Chu's appearance at the GreenGov Symposium. President Mohamed Nasheed helped install the solar panels himself and pledged to make the island nation carbon-neutral by 2020. The Maldives, which sit off the tip of India, are vulnerable to the rising seas associated with climate change. How vulnerable? The highest point is less than eight feet above sea level.

In New Delhi, 64 solar panels were installed on the auditorium at Rashtrapati Bhavan, home of India's president, Pratibha Devisingh Patil. One hundred solar-powered streetlights also illuminate various sections of the Rashtrapati Bhavan compound, which boasts of five electric vehicles that are charged with solar power and leave no carbon footprint, according to the government's website. India began greening the presidential compound in 2008 as part of the Roshni initiative to develop green urban habitats.

(Biron reports for Medill News Service, the Washington program of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.)

Read more: http://www.kentucky.com/2011/08/25/1857305/summers-almost-over-and-still.html#ixzz1WQmwsXvM

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Jailed for Peaceful Protest -- Back in the USA -- And it is going to keep going on until billionaires and politicians are jailed

Try the abolitionist's shoes on. Or the farm workers' sandals with Cesar Chavez. Try civil rights workers' shirts. Anti-war protesting Americans' pants. The War on the Greens is a great book written by David Helvarg. Almost 20 years ago. So, Bill McKibben is in jail, or was, with more than 250 peaceful protesters.

Using democracy to say no to Canadian energy companies getting a pipeline built from Canada to Texass and you end up jailed. For three days. Hell, it's also a property rights battle -- Canadian billion-dollar company getting USA soil to run their dirty oil pipes. USA helping secure Eminent Domain seizures?

Welcome to the 21st Century wars --

Jailed Over Big Oil's Latest Attempt to Kill the Planet

After being arrested protesting the Keystone XL pipeline, activist Bill McKibben shares what he learned.

August 25, 2011 |

Pipeline about to be installed in Manitoba, presumably to link to Alberta Tar Sands

Photo Credit: Loozrboy

I didn’t think it was possible, but my admiration for Martin Luther King, Jr., grew even stronger these past days.

As I headed to jail as part of the first wave of what is turning into the biggest civil disobedience action in the environmental movement for many years, I had the vague idea that I would write something. Not an epic like King's “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” but at least, you know, a blog post. Or a tweet.

But frankly, I wasn’t up to it. The police, surprised by how many people turned out on the first day of two weeks of protests at the White House, decided to teach us a lesson. As they told our legal team, they wanted to deter anyone else from coming -- and so with our first crew they were… kind of harsh.

We spent three days in D.C.’s Central Cell Block, which is exactly as much fun as it sounds like it might be. You lie on a metal rack with no mattress or bedding and sweat in the high heat; the din is incessant; there’s one baloney sandwich with a cup of water every 12 hours.

I didn’t have a pencil -- they wouldn’t even let me keep my wedding ring -- but more important, I didn’t have the peace of mind to write something. It’s only now, out 12 hours and with a good night’s sleep under my belt, that I’m able to think straight. And so, as I said, I’ll go to this weekend’s big celebrations for the opening of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial on the Washington Mall with even more respect for his calm power.

Preacher, speaker, writer under fire, but also tactician. He really understood the power of nonviolence, a power we’ve experienced in the last few days. When the police cracked down on us, the publicity it produced cemented two of the main purposes of our protest:

First, it made Keystone XL -- the new, 1,700-mile-long pipeline we’re trying to block that will vastly increase the flow of “dirty” tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico -- into a national issue. A few months ago, it was mainly people along the route of the prospective pipeline who were organizing against it. (And with good reason: tar sands mining has already wrecked huge swaths of native land in Alberta, and endangers farms, wild areas, and aquifers all along its prospective route.)


Or this --

On Saturday 70 people from across the US and Canada were arrested at the White House for the first day of a two week sit-in aimed at pressuring President Obama to deny the permit for a massive new oil pipeline. Over 2,000 more people are expected to join the daily civil disobedience over the coming days.

At stake is what has quickly become the largest environmental test for President Obama before the 2012 election. The President must choose whether or not to grant a Canadian company a permit to build a 1,700 mile pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

Environmentalists warn that the pipeline could cause a BP disaster right in America’s heartland, over the largest source of fresh drinking water in the country. The world’s top climatologist, Dr. James Hansen, has warned that if the Canadian tar sands are fully developed it could be “game over” for the climate.


or this,

Within a few minutes, police began issuing warnings to clear the area. At 11:30 AM, a young woman from Sarah Palin’s hometown of Wasilla, AK was the first person to be arrested. Arrests proceeded for over an hour as van-loads of protesters were taken away from the White House.

Jane Kleeb, an outspoken opponent of the pipeline and founder of BOLD Nebraska, stood in Lafayette Park this morning and cheered on the protesters as they were arrested.

“Nebraskans are counting on President Obama to do the right thing,” said Kleeb, who is planning to risk arrest on Monday with a delegation of farmers and ranchers who are coming in from Nebraska. “Back home we are fighting to protect our land and water. We decided to bring that fight to the President’s doorstep because our families’ legacies, those that homesteaded the very land now threatened by a foreign oil company, are too important for us sit on the sidelines. We are acting on our values and expect our President to act as w

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tar Sands Be Damned

Protests Continue at the White House Against Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline
Bill McKibben, speaking from jail after getting arrested for protesting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, said, “We don’t need your sympathy, we need your company.”

Who are the doctors, lawyers, teachers and students joining Bill McKibben in civil disobedience against the pipeline? Watch this video from the first days of protest to see who is answering the call:


Friday, August 19, 2011

Burning Trash in War Zone; Politics; Cult of Celebrity; Food Facts

"Veterans Administration and private physicians have seen a significant increase in respiratory problems in soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Other physical problems among war veterans include shortness of breath, headaches and coughing up blood. Almost all of these soldiers had exposure to burn pits as well as battlefield smoke and dust storms. It seems unlikely that the thousands of Iraqis and Afghans working on U.S. military bases or living nearby have escaped such debilitating ailments themselves."

Pulled from a recent article on the USA's grand sustainability and green methods in Afghanistan -- burn pits. That's 10 pounds of trash generated by each American soldier (100,000 total), maybe more by the tens of thousands of contractors shooting up the desert. Pretty nifty -- each ground troop in Afghanistan costs around $1.2 million a year to keep alive and "supported" by infrastructure, energy output, etc.

Going to hell in a hand basket. Hmm, how apropos is that? Read the great piece here --



WING Nut central -- Aspirants Bachmann and Perry are losers when it comes to basic science -- here's a pulled chunk from a great piece in Alternet:

Science. Both Perry and Bachmann object to the theory of evolution, even though evolution has a similar scientific consensus to the theory that mammals need to breathe oxygen to survive. Perry put his anti-science views into action, appointing creationists to the Texas School Board in hopes they can deceive Texas schoolchildren about reality.

Perry and Bachmann also object to global warming, even though it also enjoys scientific consensus. Bachmann’s objections to science won her a space on the House GOP American Energy Solutions Group, which is dedicated to killing off any actual solutions to American energy problems. Perry went beyond vague insinuations that he somehow knows better than scientists about climate into the territory of promoting the theory that climate change is a global hoax involving thousands---millions?---of scientists and leaders, in order to get the sweet cash from imaginary funders who have some non-disclosed interest in cutting into oil profits. Instead of listening to scientists on the subject of climate, Perry prefers a more 12th-century approach, asking people instead to pray for rain.

We are heading for the Bronze Age, for sure, and James Howard Kunstler, of The Long Emergency and Geography of Nowhere fame, predicted the USA would be putting in more and more radically stupid and superstitious folk in low and high elected office. This is where we are heading, for sure, when you look at the GOP and tea bag party.


Okay, Matt Damon for president is another reaction to these bizarre times --

The Guardian mentioned Damon as a defender of teachers and public education. As a misguided establishment consensus has emerged around standardized testing, privatization and charter schools, Damon has made a full-throated and deeply personal defense of public education, teachers and even the much-maligned teachers’ unions. He gave a real barnburner speech at a recent pro-public education “Save Our Schools” rally.

Like many other progressives, Damon has grown weary of Democrats looking for phony centrism instead of standing up to a shockingly far-right Republican party. Against this backdrop, Damon’s principled and public stands do indeed make us sit up and pay attention.


Our own Spokane has some wing nuts running, including Mike Fagan for City Council --

Here are some questions pulled from the Seeping Spokesman Review --


12. Spokane’s library system offers significantly fewer hours than many of the 20 largest cities in Washington. Would you be willing to ask voters for a tax to boost this service as was requested earlier this year by the city library board?

Again, NO MORE TAXES! Please see answer #8. It is very imperative that we get a firm control on labor costs. Lower taxes, smaller and less intrusive and transparent government. To hear the Mayor claim that we are cut to the bone is laughable.

13. A consultant hired by the city to review city services in 2006 said that the city was not investing enough in its urban forest. Should the city do more to plant and maintain street trees. If so, how?

I believe the urban forest is adequate. While I love trees, they sure can do a lot of damage and require a lot of maintenance to our infrastructure, i.e. pruning, leaves, sidewalks, sewer, and water pipes. Let’s not forget, the expansion of our urban forest program has been a contributing factor to growing the size of our city government also as we now have at least 3 arborists working for the city and parks.

14. Do you support the sustainability plan promoted by Mayor Mary Verner, which was adopted by the Spokane City Council in 2010? Do you support the decision of former Mayor Dennis Hession to sign the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement?

I actively practice and support conservation, composting and recycling. I have been schooled and have hands-on experience with LEAN principles. I have had a hand in the creation of several community gardens in northeast Spokane, but, I do not and cannot support any taxation or regulation which has its roots in the “global warming” lie.

15. Some nearby cities have crafted restrictions for watering lawns during certain hours. Would you support instituting similar rules in Spokane?

AHH, notice the tea bag, Patriot Party, Libertarian-faux guy go at all these things. He'll be with some interesting council members, if Fagan wins. Laughable, the city would be, but then we had a child rapist mayor, Jim West, supported by conservatives, Christian-talkers, no less.

Food, sustainable sanity --

Lastly, these are real tough times for people trying to eat, but here is a phalanx of ways to connect to positive action -- Nourishing the Planet (dot) ORG:

Nourishing the Planet also highlighted five plants that not only provide nutritious crops, but also help farmers mitigate the effects of climate change. And we discussed how energy from the sun is being used to provide water for crops. 

All the best,
Danielle Nierenberg
Nourishing the Planet Co-Project Director
Please connect with us on Facebook!
Here are some highlights from the week:

Marula Tree

Five plants you've never heard of that can slow climate change

Nourishing the Planet provides five plants that are helping farmers adapt to changes in the climate. Crop yields are estimated to decrease by 30 percent by the end of the century in the United States as a result of climate change. But heartier and more tolerant crops, such as the marula tree and marama, have significant potential to heal degraded soils and aid in the global fight against climate change.

SELF Innovation of the Week: Harnessing the Sun's Power to Make the Water Flow

This week's innovation discusses how energy from the sun is being used to get water to crops. In the Kalalé district of northern Benin, agriculture is a source of livelihood for 95 percent of the population, yet small-scale farmers lack access to effective irrigation systems. But the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF), a U.S. nonprofit, has introduced an innovative solar-powered drip irrigation system that is helping farmers-especially women-irrigate their fields.   

Ending the Hunger Season

Fred Bahnson, co-founder of the Anathoth Community Garden in North Carolina, discusses the work that the Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization (ECHO), a Florida-based group, are doing to reduce global food insecurity. In addition to conducting research, ECHO provides free consulting for development workers, and promotes agricultural practices, such as growing indigenous crops, to make marginal land more productive. By helping small farmers, the staff at ECHO believe you increase food security for the whole country--and the world.

NtP TV Nourishing the Planet TV: Farmers Groups and Cooperatives

In this week's episode, we discuss the role cooperatives have in supporting small scale farmers in Africa. We highlight the role that organizations, including Urban Harvest and the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union, play in helping farmers establish local groups, which help to increase crop yields and improve access to markets.

Creating a sustainable world: An interview with Barton Seaver

In this interview, National Geographic fellow and chef, Barton Seaver, discusses the role that a chef can play in creating a sustainable food system. He believes that chefs can act as advocates and educators and can be an important part of changing people's food habits and food choices.

Food Waste -- Letting funding go to waste

In the United States, an estimated 27 percent of all food available for consumption is thrown away. Food waste in the United States amounts to about 30 million tons and accounts for 12 percent of total waste produced in a year. But organizations, including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, are working to ensure that food that would otherwise be thrown away is delivered to the people in need.

30 Project Dinner kicks-off in San Francisco

Ellen Gustafson and her colleagues brought together food advocates from a variety of organizations,including California Food Policy Advocates (CFPA), CoFed, and the Jamie Oliver Foundation, to eat and talk about the best ways to change the global food system. This is the first of 30 dinners that Gustafson will host in 30 states, where she plans to bring policy makers and other important stakeholders to the table to discuss the future of domestic food policies.

What did you think of this newsletter? Please give us your feedback...we will use your comments to constantly improve our work. Write Danielle Nierenberg, Senior Researcher and Co-Project Director of Nourishing the Planet, at dnierenberg@worldwatch.org.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nothing Like Cutting Back on USA Science

The stupidity never ceases. Jody Foster has to rile up the donors to keep the SETI going? That search for intelligent life needs to be pointed back onto earth -- it's dubious that there is much of that left in Congress, in political races, in the Administration of Obama. So, how do we get to mitigating climate change? How do we wean ourselves off of fossil fuels? Hell, Bill Gates is offering $3 million for the new toilet, for those 2 billion that don't have one. What the hell does this say about our society? Defunding tea baggers want the USA and enlightened to disappear so they can watch themselves lift into the miasma of their poor shaped flat heaven above flat earth? Nah, just kidding. We need MORE science, MORE arts, MORE healt care, MORE thinkers, MORE teachers, MORE people working in communitites.

This is from truthdig.com

Telescopes looking for extra terrestrial intelligence should re-open within weeks after donors replaced income lost in public funding cuts.

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute, had to shut the $30m (£18.3m) Allen Telescope Array in April.

Donors, including actress Jodie Foster, raised more than $200,000 (£122,000).

The 42 radio telescopes, in northern California, search space for potential signals from alien life forms.

Ms Foster was one of more than 2,400 people who contributed to the fund to save the Allen Telescope Array. She played the lead role of an astronomer looking for evidence of aliens in the 1997 film Contact.
Science Fiction into Science Fact
In a statement on the fund-raising website she explained her support: "The Allen Telescope Array could turn science fiction into science fact but only if it is actively searching the skies."

Another donor was the Apollo 8 astronaut, Bill Anders.

The SETI Institute says the fund should be enough to keep the telescopes operating until the end of the year, though the plan is still dependent on the institute receiving money from the US Air Force to track space debris that could damage satellites.

SETI Institute Astronomer Seth Shostak told BBC News, the deal with the Air Force is not yet done but he said he is fairly confident it will go through. Even then the money will need to be ratified by Congress and so there may be a delay. He hopes the array will re-open in September or October.

Thomas Pierson, SETI chief executive, agreed that a deal with the Air Force, combined with the donations, should allow the array to start listening for space chatter once again.

dish shaped antenna Some 42 dish-shaped antennas function as one radio telescope

He said: "For those who are interested in understanding whether intelligent life might be out there elsewhere in our galaxy, the Allen Telescope Array and our SETI team doing the research are the best bet."

The array began operating in 2007 and is named after its major benefactor, Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. It consists of 42 dish-shaped antennas which work as a single radio telescope.

It is part of the Hat Creek Radio Observatory, run by the University of California, Berkeley. Originally the array was a joint project between SETI Institute and the UC Berkeley Astronomy Laboratory but Berkeley had to pull out because of the loss of National Science Foundation grants and state budget cuts.

SETI is hoping to raise more money to contribute to the $2.5m (£1.5m) annual operating and staffing costs of the telescopes and keep them going beyond the end of this year. Ultimately the plan is to use the array to observe planets outside our own Solar System.

Mr Shostak said: "People still think this very fundamental question - is there somebody out there as intelligent or more so than us - is important and worth doing."

The array also contributes to research into black holes, pusars and magnetic fields in the Milky Way.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Man, the Same Old Saw -- Tuna, Emptying the Sea, Fighting the Un-sustainable Appetite


I get blue in the face trying to convince friends that eating fish and marine protein is more than just a crap shoot in terms of how many PCBs, mercury lines and plasticized polyps are in the flesh. I get bluer trying to tell them that there are very few species in restaurants that are sustainable. As we all know, a marine biologist has the most depressing job in the world -- net losses are a daily event. No recovery, nothing positive coming out of their particular speciality.
We can get to the Monterrey Bay aquarium and see and download their sustainable sea food pocket cards --
But, these are sort of delusional things in a sea that has maybe 10 times the fishing boat-ship capacity of a sea that is almost fished out. Farmed salmon lover? Think 5 pounds of sardine-like fish for every pound of salmon produced in those ungodly sea pens full of flesh eating lice and tons of bacteria and disease.
I'll let this story rip below -- from Casson Trenor of Greenpeace, in his monthly column, 4 Oceans. Will our sustainability readers finally get blue in the face with all of these facts facing him or her?

4 Dirty Secrets Hiding In Your Tuna Can

Tuna may be one of the most popular seafood products in the U.S. but there are four important things you should know before popping open that can
By Casson Trenor,
This is the latest installment in Casson Trenor's monthly column, 4 Oceans, about protecting our fisheries and ocean health through sustainable seafood.

Seafood isn't only sold in the seafood section. Americans buy a tremendous amount of seafood from the shelves of our local grocer rather than from the freezers, including one particular item found in everything from sandwiches and casseroles to salads: tuna fish.

For decades, tuna was the most widely consumed seafood product in the United States. Although it has recently lost pole position to farmed shrimp, it is still massively popular, and even though it's in a can, it is still fish, and thus merits scrutiny in terms of sustainable practices -- or, in this case, the total lack thereof.

Here's the issue: catching tuna in a manner that keeps the price hovering around $1-$2 per can is difficult. It's a challenging process for a number of reasons, not least of which is that most species of tuna are constantly on the move across the vastness of the open ocean. Chasing these schools around is a time- and resource-intensive process -- especially with oil prices on the perpetual upswing -- but the tuna industry has found a way to cut some pretty significant corners. Unfortunately, this has led to any number of nasty consequences, and those smiling bumblebees and luxuriating mermaids on the tuna cans at your neighborhood grocery store have done a great job covering them up... until now.

The tuna industry has a dirty little secret -- actually, it has four of them.

1. Fish Aggregating Devices

Fish aggregating devices (aka FADs) are floating objects that tuna vessels cast adrift in the open ocean. They are generally attached to a radio beacon and can relay their position back to a given tuna boat. FADs work because fish in the open ocean find random flotsam absolutely captivating. Small plants and polyps anchor themselves to the physical body of the FAD, small fish use it as a hiding place, and larger animals flock to it as a source of shade and as a fertile hunting ground. After a few weeks at sea, a FAD can develop an entire ecosystem around it, which is wiped out entirely when the tuna boat returns and scoops the whole thing up in a seine net.

The problem is that FADs don't just attract the target species of tuna (usually skipjack). They are similarly mesmerizing to sharks, billfish and other animals -- most notably juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tuna -- that come swimming by wondering what all the fuss is about.

By then, it's generally too late.

FADs increase bycatch in the skipjack tuna industry by between 500 percent and 1000 percent when compared to nets set on free-swimming schools (FAD-free seining). To make matters worse, between 15 percent and 20 percent of the total catch of a FAD-associated skipjack seine is actually juvenile yellowfin and bigeye -- two species of tuna that are in serious trouble and cannot afford to have their young purloined before they ever have a chance to breed. The total content of bigeye and yellowfin in FAD-free skipjack seines is less than 1 percent.

I'll put this plainly -- if we don't stop using FADs, we will run out of yellowfin and bigeye tuna because we will kill all of the juveniles.

Rule #1 for sustainable canned tuna: When shopping for "light" tuna, buy pole-and-line or FAD-free seined skipjack.

2. Longlines

Cans of "white" tuna contain albacore, a temperate tuna species that is only popular in canned form in North America. Albacore isn't caught with purse seines as often as it is caught on longlines -- an equally destructive practice that incurs a tremendous amount of bycatch. Longlines are just that -- long lines set by fishing vessels that stretch from buoy to buoy across the open ocean, sometimes for multiple miles at a stretch. Every few yards, a long lead ending in a baited hook dangles from the main line. When the ship circles back to reel in the longline

The total bycatch rate of this massively destructive operation is estimated to be somewhere just shy of 30 percent of the total take. That means nearly one third of the total global catch of the albacore fleet -- thousands upon thousands of tons per year -- is turtles, sharks, sea birds, and other casualties of the industry's callousness and greed.

Rule #2 for sustainable canned tuna: When shopping for "white" tuna, buy pole-and-line albacore.

3. Unregulated Fishing in the High Seas

Outside of the boundaries of a country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which stretches 200 miles into the ocean beyond the shores of any given state, there exists a lawless, oceanic Wild West known as the high seas. When it comes to fishing, most anything goes as there are no universally acknowledged enforcement bodies that can serve to protect our common resources.

Tuna vessels regularly park just shy of this 200-mile line, inside what are often referred to as the "high seas pockets" -- four areas of unregulated ocean that are fully encircled by the EEZs of any number of island states in the western and central Pacific that depend on tuna stocks for their economic livelihood. Tuna, of course, know nothing of international boundaries, and pass freely back and forth over these lines until they are netted up by a nearby predatory seiner.

Since these vessels are operating in what are technically high seas areas, they have no rules to follow -- no quotas, no maximum limits, etc. -- and they don't have to pay dues or access fees to the countries that actually own and manage the resources. Activities like transshipping (transferring fish from one vessel to another to allow for longer fishing times and less resource expenditure) are common, which further reduces the abilities of these nearby states to manage their tuna stocks sustainably.

Rule #3 for sustainable canned tuna: Tuna should be caught in managed waters. Buy tuna from companies that refuse to fish in the high seas pockets.

Stolen Fish, Stolen Future

Might tends to make right when there aren't any overarching laws offering protection to those involved. The tuna industry has been the scene of an infuriating amount of bullying over the past decades, mainly by larger, more wealthy nations -- countries like Taiwan, Spain, the United States -- that have ransacked the waters of the independent Pacific Island states. Countries like Kiribati and Tuvalu have virtually no resources aside from tuna, and without a modicum of international law and market support to enable them to draw a fair and honest living from it, the established international tuna barons -- companies like Thai Union (which owns the well-known US brand Chicken of the Sea), Fong Chin Formosa and Dong Won -- are able to pillage their waters with near impunity.

Recently, a number of tuna-rich but cash-poor Pacific island states have banded together in an effort to take charge of their fisheries and to keep the tuna pirates out of their watery backyards. These states are known collectively as the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), and they represent one of our best chances to foster a sustainable and equitable tuna industry that protects both the ocean's tuna populations, and the peoples that depend on them.

More information about the PNA and its struggle to wrest control of its own resources back from outside forces can be found here.

Rule #4 for sustainable canned tuna: Buy tuna from companies that support the PNA

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Conservative White Males are Depopulating the World of Science and Critical Thinking

There are all sorts of studies on, books about and opinions concerning the climate change denial. These are tough times for smarts: Texas colleges and universities teach courses on creationism in science programs. We have young earth geology nuts thinking the whole thing was done in 6,800 years -- our universe, and beyond. There is a disconnect between what everyday Americans see and feel and how they might never come in contact with a scientist. That we have governments, militaries, colleges, even insurance lobbies and corporations looking at climate change -- global warming -- as the issue of the millennium, yet we have shill lawmakers lambasting anything to do with the science of glaciers, oceans, weather, and agriculture. To them, all science that is not directly tied to putting drugs in their bodies or some new fangled device in their investment portfolio is worthless, needs defunding and is way outside their league, intellectually, and as truth since they are superstitious and uncaring. REPEAT -- Science deniers need to be taken out behind the outhouse and whipped. As Rick Perry prays for the USA's financial markets, to get back to Jesus' way (NOT) -- make money, exploit, subjugate, or I don't know what else -- he starts his wacko bid for the White House. He is a big-time denier of science. Quantum physics be damned. So, read on how to confront these deniers.

So, a sustainability blog can't not publish or rehash this topic. Read on:

By David Roberts, ThinkProgress
Posted on August 13, 2011, Printed on August 13, 2011

What’s the Best Strategy for Dealing with Climate Deniers?

The other day, I wrote about a study that attempted to explain why conservative white men (CWM) are so loathe to accept the threat of climate change. It has to do with system justification and identity-protective cognition. Go read it!



We examine whether conservative white males are more likely than are other adults in the U.S. general public to endorse climate change denial. We draw theoretical and analytical guidance from the identity-protective cognition thesis explaining the white male effect and from recent political psychology scholarship documenting the heightened system-justification tendencies of political conservatives. We utilize public opinion data from ten Gallup surveys from 2001 to 2010, focusing specifically on five indicators of climate change denial. We find that conservative white males are significantly more likely than are other Americans to endorse denialist views on all five items, and that these differences are even greater for those conservative white males who self-report understanding global warming very well. Furthermore, the results of our multivariate logistic regression models reveal that the conservative white male effect remains significant when controlling for the direct effects of political ideology, race, and gender as well as the effects of nine control variables. We thus conclude that the unique views of conservative white males contribute significantly to the high level of climate change denial in the United States.


► Conservative white males are more likely than other Americans to report climate change denial. ► Conservative white males who self-report understanding global warming very well are even more likely. ► Climate change denial is an example of identity-protective cognition. ► System-justifying tendencies lead to climate change denial. ► Climate change denial increased from 2001 to 2010.
Keywords: Political ideology; Race; Gender; Climate change denial; Public opinion

The question remains: What should we do about it? The denialism or indifference of CWM toward climate is a huge barrier to getting anything done. In this post, I’m going to argue that the typical strategies are doomed to failure. It may be that the simplest, least clever strategy — kick their [metaphorical] asses — is still the way to go.
Repeat it
The original and still most popular approach to dealing with climate deniers is reasoned persuasion: facts and figures and reports and literature reviews and slideshows and whitepapers. This hasn’t ever really worked, but climate types keep trying, like American tourists in a foreign country who try to overcome the language barrier by talking louder and more slowly.
While the study postulated a lot of interesting things about CWM, one thing it didn’t ascribe to them is ignorance. In fact, the CWM who know the most about climate science are the most likely to reject the consensus account. And this isn’t a new finding. Yale’s “Six Americas” report found that the highly skeptical are more informed about climate change science than those who report a high degree of concern about it (the latter of whom still regularly confuse climate with the ozone hole, etc.).
A large number of CWM have taken pains to seek out information on climate change so that they can dispute it. You’ve no doubt encountered them in comment sections online. This is called motivated reasoning: reasoning aimed at justifying a pre-existing conclusion or social identity, gathering supporting facts and ignoring disconfirming evidence.
Motivated reasoning is something all human beings do; we all defend and justify our social identities. In fact, some interesting new social science argues that motivated reasoning is not a bug but a feature — what reason evolved to do. Nevertheless, there’s a difference between motivated reasoning and complete epistemic closure, which is what the right has achieved on climate (and other issues as well).
Which suggests that giving CWM still more facts and arguments is not going to achieve anything.
Drop it
One sentiment, lately growing in popularity, is that the best way around the CWM climate conundrum is just to stop talking about it. If climate has become divisive and partisan, then drop it; there’s plenty of good policy that doesn’t require climate as a premise. That’s the thrust of the recent “Climate Pragmatism” report and the idea seems to be catching on. I addressed that notion in a post last week and said most of what I need to say there. I’ll just add that there’s an implicit premise in the “pragmatism” argument. It assumes that climate is a unique barrier to cooperation with CWM in positions of power and that there are other areas where CWM can be brought around to support clean energy. But what if climate isn’t unique? What if CWM reject it because it came from a tribe they see as their enemies and they’ll reject anything that comes from that tribe? Then dropping climate has won nothing and sacrificed moral authority and simple honesty.
Finesse it
A somewhat more sophisticated take says that we should talk about climate differently, in a way that does not trigger CWM defenses. David Ropeik (whose work on risk perception everyone should be reading) has a post on the CWM study in which he says:
We have stop making climate change a zero sum if-you-win-I-lose battle. We have to frame the issue in ways that work within everybody’s underlying cultural/tribal perspectives. We have to realize that answers are more likely to be found, and solutions are more likely to be reached, if the goal is finding common ground …
In the abstract, this makes plenty of sense, though it’s rarely spelled out in any detail. Offer CWM an entree into the issue that doesn’t require them to give up their tribal affiliations and commitments. Find common ground. Who could argue?
Notice the gigantic underlying assumption, though: that climate change can be rendered benign to the current cultural/tribal perspectives of CWM. Is that so? It’s often claimed that if climate is discussed as a national security issue, an economic opportunity, or a religious/moral imperative, it will bring skeptics over. But those claims have not born out in practice, despite years of attempts. CWM grow steadily more skeptical even as the military, the private sector, and religious institutions grapple with the truth.
The fact is that climate change triggers system justification among privileged classes because it really does carry a threat to the system! It implies an argument for global governance when CWM are nationalistic, an argument for egalitarianism when they are hierarchical, an argument for conservation when they love capitalism, an argument for investment and regulation when they hate government. It also implies that hippies have been right and the conservative movement wrong, for decades.
In communications among individuals, the psychology of communication can be helpful. But framing — which is where lots of wonks and academics seem to begin and end — is not a sufficient political solution. There’s a reason CWM have the cultural/tribal perspectives they do. They are heavily influenced by people and institutes whose interests are threatened by the solutions to climate change.
Denialism in context
Where climate scientists, energy wonks, academics, and eco-journalists go wrong is in abstracting climate change from the larger political situation. They approach it in isolation, wondering what characteristics of this particular phenomenon invoke this particular reaction in these particular people. That distorts their reactions.
The fact is, as I’ve written before, climate denialism is part of something much larger. The most significant driving force behind climate change denial among CWM is not any ineffable psychological mystery but simply the increasing intensity and radicalization of the American conservative movement. The same dynamic afflicting climate change is afflicting the debate over fiscal policy, the economy, jobs, and health care. The right is rejecting empirical reality and adopting a stance of unshakeable ideological opposition to anything the non-right does, even policies they have supported in the past (see: individual mandate in health care, cap-and-trade in environmental policy). The core of the CWM tribal perspective is loyalty to the tribe and hostility to outsiders.
There is a serious asymmetry between the left and right in America that lots and lots and lots of people, for whatever reason, don’t want to acknowledge. The left remains a broad, fractious coalition composed of all sorts of competing interests. The right, by contrast, has become increasingly clarified. Since Reagan, but accelerating since Gingrich, the right has become more and more homogenous, composed of CWM who share a visceral sense of being besieged, of “losing their country,” of seeing their privileged normative place in U.S. culture slip away. They view liberals not as fellow Americans with differing policy views but as a threat to the moral fiber and even the existence of the country. Manicheanism has always been part of the conservative temperament, but that propensity has been hugely accelerated by the construction of a self-contained media machine that runs on fear. They need everything divided into two buckets: good and evil.
In those circumstances, the chances of luring CWM into the climate hawk coalition seem exceedingly slim, no matter how clever and psychologically adept the messaging.
Let’s remember the goal. The goal is action. The support of CWM is a means to that end, but not necessarily the only means to that end. Perhaps instead of hiding from the fight, or transcending the fight by finding common ground, climate hawks couldwin the fight. A crazy notion, I know.
CWM are blocking the entire, diverse climate coalition from taking action by virtue of intensity (not to mention a broken and utterly dysfunctional political system). The poll numbers are consistently on climate hawks’ side, but their support is shallow and fickle. The Tea Party, on the other hand, views even efficient lightbulbs as incipient tyranny. As I’ve said many times, intensity wins in politics.
If that’s true, perhaps the answer is not to reduce intensity in hopes of attracting CWM. Perhaps the answer is to increase intensity in order to overcome CWM. Intensity is increased first and foremost through organizing, but also through clear, inspiring messages that draw sharp lines between those fighting for progress and those fighting against it.
The implicit premise of climate “pragmatism” and similar efforts is that CWM are stronger, that climate hawks can’t win a direct clash. And for now, that seems to be true. Beating back the radical conservative resurgence is something that nobody on the left has figured out yet. But the alternative, attempting to win over CWM by soft-pedaling climate, doesn’t exactly have a record of success either.
In the end, everyone has to make their own bet. Do you make progress by attempting to please the Very Serious People running the system or by speaking truth to power and subverting the system? For my part, when I see people denying facts and bullying scientists in order perpetuate the dominance of fossil fuel interests that are killing people and threatening my children’s futures, I am inclined to tell them to go f*ck themselves. That won’t resonate with their social/tribal perspectives, but that’s because I find their social/tribal perspectives repugnant and worthy of social censure. I want to beat them.
© 2011 All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews//

Friday, August 12, 2011

Young Greenies, Sustainability Advocates -- Learn How to Write Your Congress-woman!

Below is a blog post from my friend and colleague, Paul Dillon. I am not trying to harp on friends who understand sustainability, but we have to be a lot more steeled and aggressive against lobbyist-loving politicians. Kid gloves, contrived respect for the person and the office, well, those days are long gone -- after Roy Cohen, Hoover, Reagan, Nixon, Bush, Rove, Rumsfeld, Newt, and the Tea Bag Express. Palin and the other women radical government haters and people disclaimers, well, time is now to fight with tools. Writer's tools. Not back peddling, no honoring politicians who dishonor their role in our community called the State of Washington, the State of the Union.

So, a little bit of fun below that as I commented on Paul's DOWN to EARTH blog --


Mr. Dillon:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the FY 2012 Interior Appropriations Act. It is an honor to represent the people of Eastern Washington and I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with me.

Like you, I believe it is important that we protect our wildlife and the environment. However, these efforts should not come at the expense of grown [sic] and development. I believe the two policies can coexist. The FY 2012 Department of Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act reflects this balance, providing $27.5 billion to ensure than our wildlife and environmental policies are consistent with growth and job creation. Be assured that I will keep your views in mind as the House considers this bill.

Thank you again for contacting me on this important issue. As your Representative in Congress, I am committed to putting the best interests of Eastern Washington first. I invite you to visit my website at www.mcmorrisrodgers.house.gov for additional information or to sign up for my e-newsletter. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance.

Best wishes,

Cathy McMorris Rodgers

My original letter:

Dear Rep. McMorris Rodgers:

The House Appropriations Committee recently passed the FY2012 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill that will significantly reduce funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, and in particular the Office of Smart Growth. The bill would reduce overall funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by $1.5 billion and completely eliminate the Office of Smart Growth. The bill, approved along party lines, also cuts Clean and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds by $1 billion; Brownfields funding by $40 million; The Historic Preservation fund by $5 million.

As an advocate for smart growth, I urge you to reject this funding proposal. Spokane has benefited from this program and we have won awards from the program on two occasions:


  •  2006 - Spokane, WA Smart Growth Implementation Assistance (SGIA) for market analysis to identify smart growth development opportunities in the University District.

  •  2007 - Spokane, WA Smart Growth Implementation Assistance for market opportunities for smart growth development.

The Washington Growth Management Act (GMA) encourages smart growth in that state law mandates that growth be directed into urban growth areas where urban services already exist. Smart growth strategies help create the housing, transportation and business resources necessary to keep America competitive in a global, 21st century economy. The EPA’s Office of Smart Growth is a critical part of implementing these strategies for a stronger America. Eliminating federal support for this program will hurt towns still struggling to rebound economically, American families looking to reduce their dependence on oil, and the businesses that need strong local economies to survive.

In addition, the Office of Smart Growth is a central part of the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities, an innovative, interagency initiative that coordinates federal investments in housing, transportation and the environment to make the most of taxpayer dollars. Cutting funding to the Office of Smart Growth would seriously damage the Partnership and its efforts to help federal dollars go further in communities across the country.

  I urge you to reject budget cuts to the EPA, and fully fund the Office of Smart Growth in the FY 2012 budget.

Best, Paul Dillon


Paul Haeder on August 12 at 12:47 p.m.



Paul, Paul, Paul — Take the kid gloves off. Boise's doing it. Portland's doing it. So are Vancouver, BC., Seattle, and. Chicago.


Learn to write politicians letters that have some meat and punch:


Dear Out of Touch Lobby-hound McMorris —

First, WE are here because of the environment — clean air, water, sound soils, land for growing food, and land and ecosystems that give Spokane and any city like it big development bucks, tourists, and outdoor activities you can not imagine. This is not treehugger stuff. This is deep planning, deep architecture, deep economics, deep biology, deep sociology, deep health care, deep engineering, deep human services, deep creativity, deep, deep, deep.


First, you need, ma'am, to leave the shallows and take off the floaties and begin to swim with the big guys, the adults, the smart kids who know your white girl's rap song so-so well.

Chicago is preparing for 110 degree summers, 30 or 40 days in a row. That's the mayor's office, business people, insurance companies, citizens, law makers, the smart professors, etc. We are talking by 2020, heat and death, That being said, other cities understand to be resilient to fossil fuel shortages and to deal with the energy companies' crook pricing facilitated by elected chumps … and to deal with the rain that never comes, or storms that come at the wrong time, and the heat that broils grass and forest under stories, they know that compact growth and new urbanism — call it smart growth — are tools to HELP communities. Tools. We need thousands of tools in the tool chest. One is not the only way, but to cut a tested and emerging area is backwards, unAmerican, and typical of your out of touch and uneducated style.

It's called sustainability. Put that word in a metacrawler.com search — “sustainability and Boise” or “sustainability and smart growth and cities” or “sustainability and peak oil” or finally, “sustainability and climate change”. Start reading. See how businesses and communities are working together, and it isn't about tea bag or radical conservatism. It's about thinking and critical analysis.

You obviously had a lapse in your edification — major and medium cities know that EPA needs more tools, that citizens live longer with good food, good air, and sanity. Jobs, jobs, jobs is not about the next hotel chain coming to town, killing unions, forcing workers to work injured, and gouging wages. Or maybe a nuclear waste plant to process the stuff of Fukashima. Build on Green Bluff. Come on, ma'am, you are a person seemingly stuck in the 1950s.

Please start getting staffers to help you learn what cities must do to get through the next 100 years. How jobs are tied to clean energy, new architecture, new transportation models, and a new generation of youth living smaller and more compactly thanks largely to unregulated growth, car use, and fossil fuel waste generated by parents and grandparents. The RV trip and constant jet trips you are taking have caused some oxygen debt. .

So, please, please, stop the empty worded politicking and find voice in education. Many schools are helping teachers understand that their 8 th graders or younger know what wind turbines are, know what melting ice caps do, and how humanity is in need of a huge shift in how we do business. Gutting programs kills jobs, futures, and potential genius thinking of the next and the next generation.

Thanks, your loyal truth meter who knows a hustling political operative when he crosses her on the street 

I don't know, Paul. Think Tim DeChristopher more when you start engaging in these letters. Guts, our wonderful language, and think of the history of great writers like Twain, Atwood, Octovio Paz, Vonnegut, Gore Vidal, She is showing zero respect for milliions of thinkers from around the world who are dedicated to sustainability, smart growth and economic growth. She is on the wrong side of history, and you have to have the tools to tell her that. Mano y mano with a political hack gets you nowhere, my friend, except a dose of Prozac.


Think TIM DeChristopher.



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