Posted onJune 22, 2019|Comments Off on “You may laugh, but your grandkids will not.”
That’s one response from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to critics who have been trying to mock the Green New Deal resolution of Feb. 2, and we think it shows her admirable determination in the face of the very catastrophe that the critics are hastening. Here’s a more detailed video advocating the Green New Deal.
It’s useful to recall that similar criticism greeted Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s original “New Deal” in the 1930s. It was “anti-God,” said fascist priest Charles Coughlin. It was communistic or socialistic, said others who were so well off they did not understand the pain of joblessness and hunger during those years. But the New Deal lifted the country out of the Depression and provided a long term structure for the economy in situations where laissez-faire policies had led to economic deterioration.
Similar laissez-faire polices have led not only to environmental deterioration in general but a very specific and catastrophic threat: climate change, rising sea levels and extreme weather. It’s a deep crisis unlike anything we have ever faced. To laugh in its face, to deny the science, to mock attempts to engage in dialogue, is nothing short of a nihilistic and reckless disregard for the facts.
So AOC is right to say that the grandchildren won’t be laughing.
Read the 14-page document that describes the current environmental crisis, addresses economic and health issues, and then advocates steps towards renewable zero emission power. There’s nothing radical or strange in advocating renewable technology and conservation. What’s wrong is pretending there is no need for a response, and that future generations will be fine if we just do nothing.
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There is something perverse and peevish about the anti-environmental movement that current US president Donald Trump exemplifies. Yet if there is anything we can learn from environmental history, it is that willful ignorance and a stubborn refusal to acknowledge reality is not unique in history.
Consider, for example, the sort of arrogance that led the Times of London to proclaim, in 1854, that it would “prefer to take our chance of cholera … than be bullied into health.” Other famous examples include: denial of the germ theory of disease in the mid- to late-19th century; resistance to mosquito control at the start of the US Panama Canal project in 1904; acceptance of deadly leaded gasoline in 1926; denials that tobacco caused cancer in the 1960s; and objections to reducing ozone-depleting CFC refrigerants in the 1980s.
So it’s not just our president and his minions, and it’s not just the climate change issue. Trump has amplified a self-destructive tendency that lurks in human nature and affects many issues.
This week, a New York Times editorial entitled “Trump Imperils the Planet” explained that in terms of endangered species and climate change, the Trump administration “is taking the country, and the world, backward.” For the stout of heart, the Times provides a long, depressing list of environmental standards that are being rolled back, not just in the US, but in many other countries as well, following the American lead.
Central to Trump’s thinking – or lack thereof – is the notion that sustainability is not compatible with economic growth. Nothing could be more naive or short-sighted, of course, but even if others see him cutting a figura ridicola, Trump’s brazen arrogance shows he is determined to carry through to the end. And what an end.
Consider Planet Trump, year 2100. It doesn’t take much imagination to envision just how lifeless earth could become in less than a century. If we do not act soon, we will get Planet Trump instead of the great blue earth; we have dead seas and not living oceans; we have silent springs rather than flocks of birds; we have a dead world, a world that is no longer home.
We only have a short time to stop Planet Trump if this world is going to survive in any recognizable form. To be clear, the struggle ahead is one that must use the more powerful force of persuasion and non-violent resistance. No one should dream that any real change will come from the barrel of a gun. That, too, would be a stubborn refusal to acknowledge the reality of our precarious situation.
The key issue seems to be when Exxon knew climate change involved C02 from fossil fuels. Many of the Exxon Knew stories start along these lines: “In the 1960s, the American Petroleum Institute (and / or Exxon) made a troubling discovery.”
From an historical standpoint, the question ought to involve the broader context of scientific research. If API and Exxon researchers knew about climate change, what about the rest of the engineering and scientific community?
The fact is that the topic was a constant source of concern and research across the related scientific communities for a century and a half. Scientists concerned with climatology and glaciology and many associated geophysical sciences have studied climate change for generations.
As seen here, the Washington Post carried an article May 4, 1953 on a Gilbert Plass paper at American Geophysical Union, quoting him specifically pointing to fossil fuel use as increasing climate warming. Plass and other climatologists regularly published on these and related topics, with much of that generation’s research converged in the International Geophysical Year (1957-58).
One of the most outstanding discoveries of that time was Charles Keeling’s observations from Mauna Loa in Hawaii showing evidence of atmospheric accumulation of C02 greenhouse gasses. Around 1958, famed Hollywood director Frank Capra made a film warning about greenhouse gas accumulation called “Unchained Goddess.”
So, clearly, Exxon knew, but so did everyone else.
In confining the discussion to Exxon’s own knowledge and actions, for example in a series of Inside Climate News articles, we have a legal strategy rather than an appreciation for the history of science. When we say “Exxon knew” as early as the 1970s or 80s, we ignore the long trail of scientific discovery beforehand, and we leave the field open to highly selective interpretations of trends.
So, even though the oil industry knew plenty before fueling the great climate change coverup and public relations barrage, it was not their discovery. They were reacting to real climate science, not leading it.
Perhaps this makes what “Exxon knew” even worse, since their own researchers were only confirming and expanding on what was already well known.
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Donald Trump’s election is generating much speculation about how his administration may or may not reshape the federal government. On space issues, a senior Trump advisor, former Pennsylvania Rep. Bob Walker, has called for ending NASA earth science research, including work related to climate change. Walker contends that NASA’s proper role is deep-space research and exploration, not “politically correct environmental monitoring.”
This proposal has caused deep concern for many in the climate science community, including people who work directly for NASA and others who rely heavily on NASA-produced data for their research. Elections have consequences, and it is an executive branch prerogative to set priorities and propose budgets for federal agencies. However, President-elect Trump and his team should think very carefully before they recommend canceling or defunding any of NASA’s current Earth-observing missions.
Posted onJune 15, 2015|Comments Off on Pope Francis’ long-awaited climate encyclical
June 18, 2015 — ROME — Pope Francis has issued an extraordinary environmental statement calling for environmental justice between the generations and dialogue in the international community. In one portion he says: 165. We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay.
“LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs. ”(#1 Cantico delle creature: Fonti Francescane (FF) 263. )
2. This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters…
Posted onApril 11, 2015|Comments Off on Environment used to be bipartisan
Environmental protection had enormous bipartisan support in the US during the 1970s, says former EPA administrator William Ruckelhaus in a February 2015 interview with the Public Integrity Project. Has that support changed? “Oh, yes, quite a bit,” Ruckelshaus says. “The Reagan Administration was less sympathetic than the Nixon Administration to environmental regulation, environmental laws, but nowhere near where the Republican Party has come today.”
Some day soon, an oil & gas industry representative will probably tell a journalist, or a politician, or a concerned parent: “Fracking water is as safe as dish soap. Check out the 2014 University of Colorado study.”
And of course that will be horribly wrong, but very few people will know why.
There was a time, about 50 years ago, when thoughtful scientists and science writers dreamed of the day that the American public would wake up to the importance of science. Jacob Bronowski, C.P. Snow, Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov saw science as integral to life. They didn’t like the idea of science “popularization,” as if something so important and ubiquitous had to be promoted. Instead, scientific issues and controversies should be taken up and understood, and maybe even debated, by the average person.
Well, that day has arrived, in a sense. We now have the spectacle of the Average Joe, who never set foot in a science class, imagining that climate scientists are lying about radiative forcing and the use of the Stefan-Boltzmann constant. And this is just the beginning.
Posted onAugust 16, 2014|Comments Off on Sorry, Africa needs its telegraphs
The energy ladder: Developing nations first use firewood, then move “up” to coal, then kerosene, then a select few might get oil and gas. Eventually, lucky developing nations may work their way “up” to nuclear power.
RECENTLY, Barack Obama stopped US government financing of most overseas coal projects due to climate concerns. The predictable reaction from the energy industry and its friends was expressed in an opinion by Ken Silverstein in the Christian Science Monitor:
The underlying philosophy here is that if a developing country is going to move “up” the energy ladder, it needs to develop basic cheap energy sources first, use them to fuel development, then move “up” to more complex fuels, and then finally move “up” to nuclear power.
If Mr. Silverstein had been talking about communications in this same vein, he would have said: “Sorry, Mr. Obama; never mind the cell phones — Africa needs its telegraphs.” Continue reading →
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Brown pelican removed from federal endangered species list. This species of bird had suffered many decades from the effects of DDT pesticide, which was sprayed for insect control but had the side-effect of cracking bird eggs. By 2009, however, the pelican had made a remarkable comeback.
Dust Bowlstarts with the first of a series of dust storms across the American Midwest on this day in 1933.
Tomorrow In Environmental History
Belgium's poison fog was probably just due to abnormal weather conditions, a commission reports on this day in 1931. We now know that the five-day fog killed 67 and sickened thousands in the industrial Meuse river valley Dec. 1 - 5, 1930 was due to fluorine as an ingredient in air pollution. Similar poison fogs had occurred in the Meuse valley in 1897, 1902 and 1911. Similarly well-publicized incidents would occur in the US in Donora, PA in 1948 and London in 1952, but in fact, such "smog episodes" were relatively routine.
Yesterday In Environmental History
1995 Nine Nigerian environmentalists executed this day in 1995 by the government of Nigeria acting in complicity with Shell Oil Company. The executions -- by hanging -- are intended to frighten other non-violent environmental activists in Nigeria. Their concerns included gross pollution, killer pipeline explosions and other well-documented environmental and human rights violations. Ken Saro-Wiwa, environmental journalist, was among the nine who were convicted of trumped-uip charges despite obvious evidence refuting the charges. The Nigerian government was called on to commute the sentences by world leaders called including then-US President Bill Clinton, Bishop Desmond Tutu, South African President Nelson Mandala, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and many others. Still, the executions were carried out. In subsequent years, the dictators of Nigeria who ordered the executions died mysteriously and Shell earned a reputation as an international pariah. in 2009, Shell was sued by the Wiwa family and the company opted to settle out of court, anxious that its role and the facts not be widely publicized. Shell has also promised repeatedly to clean up the mess it has created in the Niger Delta, and yet has repeatedly failed to carry out is promises. The execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and fellow activists is considered one of the great human rights outrages in environmental history, although it is certainly not isolated, as another page in the Environmental History Timeline shows. Saro-Wiwa's last words were: "Lord, take my soul, but the struggle continues."
Ellen Swallow Richards is profiled in March, 2017 Nautilus Magazine as "the woman who gave us the science of normal life." Richards first became active in environmental issues in the 1870s and was an important early voice in the Progressive reform movement at the turn of the 20th century.
Pollution regs saved lives says Michael Greenstone in this Sept. 24, 2015 article in the New York Times. Although some people want to repeal the Clean Air Act, air quality regulations have averted tens of thousands of premature deaths, Greenstone says.
LA's first big smog on July 26, 1943 is the subject of this Wired article. Of course, there had been many previous smog incidents, but mostly involving coal in Europe and the industrialized eastern US. As Peter Dykstra notes on the radio program Living on Earth, it was the first smog caused by automobiles.
Exxon Valdez anniversary Twenty five years ago, on March 24, 1989, a negligent oil industry and a drunken tanker captain and ruined a pristine corner of America. Here's what it looked like.
LA smog siege, 1979 Sera Segal-Alsberg wears mask designed to filter out airborne particles during Los Angeles smog alert on June 29, 1979.
¶ 1970 Clean Car Race is reported in MIT Technology Review in August, 2013. The cleanest car, among the electrics and hybrids, was a modified internal combustion engine.
¶ Buffalo soldiers In the late 19th century and early 20th century, black cavalry troopers patrolled Yosemite and Sequoia national parks in California. A new book describes their role. (Chicago Tribune, June 18, 2013).
¶ History of the Commons and today's environmental crisis is an excellent read in the May/June 2013 Utne Magazine.
¶ Saving the NJ Pine Barrens Writer John McPhee recalls the struggle to save a remnant of wilderness on the east coast. Philadelphia Inquirer, March 4, 2013.
¶ Aldo Leopold is remembered by the editor of the Milwaukee Journal, March 2, 2013. The forester and conservationist articulated a "land ethic" in his 1949 book A Sand County Almanac.
¶ Remembering Darwin Scientific American remembers Charles Darwin and his impact on science on the 204th anniversary of his birthday, Feb. 12, 2012.
¶ Shackleton crew's 1916 ordeal -- a perilous journey taken after their ship got stuck and sank in Antarctica -- is being reinacted by a group of British and Australian adventurers. (Associated Press, Feb. 10, 2013)
¶ First subway The London tube is 150 years old on Jan. 9, 2013. Mind the gap!
¶ Birth of the Clean Water Act Living on Earth interviews William Ruckelshaus, the first EPA administrator, about the Clean Water Act of 1972. "it was a terrible time," Ruckelshaus said. "I remember the first time I moved to Washington and the air was brown as I’d go to work in the morning. There was no industry in Washington at the time, that was all automobile pollution." Dec. 28, 2012.
¶ Remembering Barry Commoner A biologist and activist best known for studying baby’s teeth to demonstrate that radioactive fallout from atomic weapons testing was getting into our food supply and endangering our health. Living on Earth, Oct. 5, 2012.
¶ Bodega nuclear fight Gary Pace of Sebastopol, California reflects on the 1960s fight over building a nuclear power plant on top of the San Andreas earthquake fault at the Bodega Headlands. "I often wonder how (environmentalists) found the outrageous hope that they could halt the building of a nuclear plant once the work had started and I ask for similar inspiration." Living on Earth, Sept. 28, 2012.
¶ Climate change drove early human migration, anthropologists believe. NPR, Sept. 20, 2012.
¶ Ancient deforestation created the Danube River delta 8,000 years ago, scientists have found. Sept. 14, 2012New York Times.
¶ Environmental injustice The Hawks Nest Disaster of 1930 - 33 is getting a new memorial. In the infamous incident, between 700 to 3,000 US workers were killed or severely injured for life after boring a tunnel through a section of pure silica without then-standard respiratory protection. Sept. 7, 2012, W.V. Gazette. Also see this People's Press 1935 article about the disaster.
¶ National mammal? Teddy Roosevelt V argues that the US should remember its conservation history by making the bison the country's national mammal. Sept. 4, 2012
¶ Environmental Future Postcards from the past show the world of the future in 2012 in all its dazzling glory, from air police stopping traffic to whales pulling carriages full of divers. Fast Company, Aug. 20, 2012
¶ Smog of History LA Times recaps an article about testing pollution control devices in the 1950s. Aug. 17, 2012
¶ Remembering the Radium Craze France's 19th century radium craze still haunts Paris, Reuters reports. "When the Franco-Polish Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie discovered the radioactive element radium in 1898, she set off a craze for the luminescent metal among Parisians, who started using it for everything from alarm clock dials to lipsticks and even water fountains." July 20, 2012
¶ Drought in ancient times The ancient Mayan water system was designed with drought in mind, as this New York Times article notes. Are there lessons for the modern era? July 17, 2012.