Category Archives: current events

The Fukushima disaster keeps getting worse

By   
Professor and Director, Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, Nagasaki University, 
Via The Conversation 

Six years have passed since the Fukushima nuclear disaster on March 11, 2011, but Japan is still dealing with its impacts. Decommissioning the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant poses unprecedented technical challenges. More than 100,000 people were evacuated but only about 13 percent have returned home, although the government has announced that it is safe to return to some evacuation zones.

In late 2016 the government estimated total costs from the nuclear accident at about 22 trillion yen, or about US$188 billion – approximately twice as high as its previous estimate. The government is developing a plan under which consumers and citizens will bear some of those costs through higher electric rates, taxes or both. Continue reading

Fake news and climate change

 Fake news needs to be curbed through targeted advertising boycotts, according to writers of recent  opinion articles in Slate and the New York Times.  A prime example: a Breitbart story about global “cooling” that misuses Weather Channel information. (See WC response video, right),

Consumer activism against Brietbart and other fake news sites is being organized at a Twitter site called Sleeping Giants, with the idea that most commercial companies are only accidentally placing ads on the sites.  According to the site:

We are trying to stop racist websites by stopping their ad dollars. Many companies don’t even know it’s happening. It’s time to tell them.

Sleeping Giants recommends that a screenshot of a commercial ad placed next to   Continue reading

Death toll rising in global war on environmentalism

United Nations envoy says the pattern of killings has become an epidemic. (UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré)

Three Central American  assassinations in the first three weeks of March 2016, and three more in the summer and fall, underscore the mounting global death toll in the war being waged against peaceful environmental protests by mining, timbering and hydro-electric industries.

The assassinations signal a “growing epidemic” according to a United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.

Waterkeeper Alliance president Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has called on the US State Department and international organizations to investigate.

“Ordinary citizens and local communities are increasingly finding themselves at the forefront of the battle over the planet’s natural resources,” Global Witness spokesman Billy Kytes said.

The three Central American activists are among hundreds named and described here on the Environmental History Timeline page Remembering Murdered Environmentalists.

The toxic history of lead

cropped-1.5.Franklin.jpg

The recent outrage over lead contamination in the water supply of Flint, Mich. reminds us of how much is known about the history of  lead poisoning.

In 1786, Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter about the harmful effects of lead. In describing the problem in distilleries and the printing trades, Franklin noted how resistant people can be when it comes to understanding public health and environmental issues.

You will observe, with concern, how long a useful truth may be known, and exist, before it is generally received and practiced on,” he said.

Although it hardly seems creditable, the useful truth about lead in the form of paint, water pipes, and leaded gasoline is still not practiced.

Lead is the oldest and best known of environmental hazards.For over two millennia, overexposure to lead was known to cause hallucinations and severe mental problems. Continue reading

2015 in review

Pope and Obama

US President Obama greets Pope Francis at the White House in September, 2015.

Pope Francis’ campaign to stop climate change and the Dec. 12 Paris climate agreement were the two top environmental developments in a year that marked a turning point for the environment  and renewable energy.

Environmental Health News put the two  at the top of its list, as did Huffington Post,  Deutche Welle,  the Conversation and others.

“It was an outstanding year for the environment,” said Deutche Welle.

“Call it the grand convergence,” said Douglass Fischer of Environmental Health News. “Coverage of environmental issues, especially climate change, jumped traditional boundaries to pick up broader—and slightly ominous—geopolitical and health angles.”

Continue reading

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. 

 The full statement is found at a Vatican website here. The statement begins:           ——————

“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. )

St. Francis

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…

Continue reading

Minamata convention finally signed 怨

 

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is signed Oct. 10, 2013, with a thousand delegates from  140 nations   adopting an international  treaty that controls the use and trade of mercury.  The convention was named for the Japanese city that suffered thousands of deaths and injuries from uncontrolled releases of mercury by the Chisso Chemical Co.  In the 1950s and 60s, “Minimata disease” was one of the world’s earliest and strongest wake-up calls for environmental protection.  And yet, recognition and even minimal compensation in Japan has been a struggle for some 65,000 who have applied for help;  only  3,000 have been officially recognized. That number is set to expand following  an April 16, 2013 ruling of Japan’s Supreme Court.

Continue reading

Turning point in Tidewater, Virginia

By Bill Kovarik
The Daily Climate

Editor’s note: This story is part of an ongoing series at The Daily Climate exploring climate change impacts hitting society right now. Find more stories here on The Daily Climate.

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Weary of debating the causes of climate change, mayors and other elected officials from Virginia’s battered coastal regions gathered here last week and agreed that local impacts have become serious enough to present a case for state action.

Fraim-150“We are here to ask for your assistance,” said Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim. “It’s a threat we can no longer afford to ignore.”

So far, assistance from the state level has been paltry and grudging at best. In 2011, a group of coastal scientists and planners, with the backing of mayors like Fraim, were asked to study the problems, but only after tea-party conservatives in the state Legislature insisted that “recurrent flooding” – and not climate change – would be the study’s sole focus.

The report, Recurrent Flooding Study for Tidewater Virginia was released in February and did indeed point to increasing local problems from sea-level rise. Continue reading

Baleful history and the Balcombe protests

An historian is always hopeful when stumbling across an appeal to history in the popular press. But more often than not, an historian is disappointed.

Take, for example, one particularly baleful reaction to the Balcombe fracking protests in the UK this August of 2013.  That the protesters were a superstitious lot, lacking any sense of history, is an argument employed by Daily & Sunday Express columnist, Niel Hamilton.

Although it must be read in its native ‘red-top’ context to be fully enjoyed, here are a few of Hamilton’s ‘lessons’ of history:

The doom-mongers are like primitive tribes, firing flaming arrows at the sun at sunset in order to make it rise again the next day, which obviously ‘works’  because the sun does rise again.    Continue reading

Bursting the petro-bubble

There’s a great opinion article in The Tyee by artist Robert Bateman in the wake of the the incredible oil train disaster in  Quebec early in July, 2013.  While many newspaper opinion writers are looking at the disaster as a “trains versus pipelines” issue, Bateman says we need to consider deeper issues.

 The total transformation of planet Earth has happened due to cheap energy. Has this been a good idea? Perhaps even if we could find a new, cheap energy source, it might be a bad idea. Do we need to change our goals?    THE TYEE, July 13, 2013.