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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

UN Negotiations to Ban Nuclear Weapons

In Environment, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on March 30, 2017 at 8:29 am

Here is a ten page newsletter on what is going on at the UN nuclear negotiations for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons:
http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/nuclear-weapon-ban/reports/NBD1.3.pdf

The format is large print, very informative and easy to read.

Message from Beatrice Fihn, ICAN info@icanw.org

In Democracy, Environment, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Public Health on March 29, 2017 at 1:56 am

Yesterday, negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons under international law began in New York. The treaty is being negotiated based on the recognition that the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapon use is morally unacceptable and that the weapons themselves represent a significant risk to human security.

The treaty will finally ban weapons designed to indiscriminately kill civilians, completing the prohibitions of weapons of mass destruction.

While the majority of the worlds governments gathered in the room, Trump’s UN envoy, Nikki Haley, held a protest together with the UK, France and a number of Eastern European allies outside the negotiations.

The very unusual protest by Ambassador Haley and others demonstrates how worried they are about the impact of the treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. This treaty will also affect countries that fail to participate, by setting international norms of behaviour and removing the political prestige associated with nuclear weapons.

Over 115 governments, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, the Pope and other faith-based leaders, over 3,000 scientists, and civil society agreed yesterday – this is the time to ban nuclear weapons.
There are many ways to follow the treaty negotiations:

Live stream from the proceedings in New York
ICAN’s blog
#nuclearban on Twitter
Daily video updates
This is a really exciting moment and negotiations of a new treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons would not have happened without the strong support from civil society around the world.

Trump to Roll Back Obama Climate Policies

In Climate change, Environment, Politics on March 28, 2017 at 9:33 pm

Foreign Policy, March 28, 2017
Top News: U.S. President Donald Trump will sign a wide-ranging executive order Tuesday to undo key parts of the Obama administration’s climate regulations.

The “Energy Independence” decree seeks to make good on Trump’s campaign pledges to unshackle the fossil fuel industry and boost domestic energy production. It will sweep aside the Clean Power Plan, which requires states to cut carbon emissions. The order will also cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, reverse a ban on coal leasing on federal lands, and cut rules to curb methane emissions from oil and gas production.

It is not clear if the United States, the world’s second largest polluter, will continue to support the Paris Climate Accord. Environmental groups have promised to challenge the order in court.

A Legal First: Japanese Government and Tepco found liable for Fukushima disaster

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Nuclear powere, Public Health on March 21, 2017 at 3:42 am

BY DAISUKE KIKUCHI, JAPAN TIMES, MARCH 17 2017
http://tinyurl.com/k3g3xy4

MAEBASHI, GUNMA PREF. – A court in Japan has ruled for the first time that the government and the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were responsible for failing to take preventive measures against the March 11, 2011, quake-triggered tsunami that killed scores and forced tens of thousands from their homes.
Friday’s stunning ruling by the Maebashi District Court was the first to recognize negligence by the state and Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. It called the massive tsunami predictable and said the major nuclear disaster could have been avoided.
The district court ordered the two to pay damages totaling ¥38.55 million to 62 of 137 plaintiffs from 45 households located near the plant, which suffered a triple meltdown caused by the tsunami, awarding ¥70,000 to ¥3.5 million in compensation to each plaintiff.
The plaintiffs had demanded the state and Tepco pay compensation of ¥11 million each — a total of about ¥1.5 billion — over the loss of local infrastructure and psychological stress they were subjected to after being forced to relocate to unfamiliar surroundings.
Citing a government estimate released in July 2002, the court said in the ruling that “Tepco was capable of foreseeing several months after (the estimate) that a large tsunami posed a risk to the facility and could possibly flood its premises and damage safety equipment, such as the backup power generators.”
It pointed out that the state should have ordered Tepco to take bolstered preventive measures, and criticized the utility for prioritizing costs over safety.
Of the plaintiffs, 76 who lived in evacuation zones were forced to move, while another 61 evacuated voluntarily even though their houses were located outside evacuation zones. The ruling was the first of 30 similar class-action suits filed nationwide involving more than 10,000 plaintiffs.
About 80,000 citizens who had lived in Fukushima reportedly left the prefecture after the March 2011 disaster.
“I believe that the ruling saying both the government and Tepco were equally responsible is an important judgment,” Katsuyoshi Suzuki, the lead lawyer for the defense said at a news conference following the ruling. “But thinking about the psychological distress (the plaintiffs faced) after being forced to evacuate from their homes, I think the amount is not enough.”
Takehiro Matsuta, 38, one of the plaintiffs who evacuated from the city of Koriyama, hailed the ruling, but called the damages “disappointing.”

“The ruling was one big step for my family, for those who evacuated from Fukushima to Gunma, and for tens of thousands of earthquake victims nationwide,” he said.
But called the payout “disappointing,” as his child, who was 3 years old at the time of the nuclear disaster, was not granted compensation. “My wife and I are struggling everyday, but it’s my child who suffers the most.”
The group of lawyers for the plaintiffs, which have had suits filed since September 2011, claimed that the Fukushima disaster resulted in serious human rights violations by forcing victims to relocate after the crisis caused widespread environmental damage.
The plaintiffs argued that Tepco could have prevented the damage if it had implemented measures, including the building of breakwaters, based on its 2008 tsunami trial calculation that showed waves of over 10 meters could hit the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
Those calculations took into account the 2002 estimate by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion, which concluded that there was a 20 percent chance of a magnitude-8 earthquake rocking areas off Fukushima within 30 years.
However, the government and Tepco have argued that the massive tsunami was unexpected, claiming that there were different opinions among scholars over the long-term evaluation. Both attacked the credibility of the study, calling it unscientific.
The government also objected to the ruling, saying that because it had no authority to force Tepco to take such preventive measures as argued by the plaintiffs, it bore no responsibility.
According to the defense, a number of other class suits are inching closer to rulings, with one in the city of Chiba scheduled for Sept. 22 and another in the city of Fukushima involving 4,000 plaintiffs expected by the year’s end.

Why Trump’s budget may be ‘devastating’ to his supporters

In Cost, Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Politics on March 18, 2017 at 11:29 am

Rep. Hal Rogers (R) of Kentucky said his poor, rural district – which voted 80 percent in favor of Trump – would be hit harder than anywhere else in the country.

Francine Kiefer, Staff writer | @kieferf
MARCH 17, 2017 WASHINGTON —President Trump’s “skinny” budget proposal would make deep cuts in many government programs in the name of pruning the federal bureaucracy. But in doing so it might disproportionately (and surprisingly) affect a particular demographic sector of America: Trump voters.

“It’s unacceptable,” says Rep. Hal Rogers (R) of Kentucky, whose district voted about 80 percent in favor of Trump. “The president’s biggest support came from the rural and poor areas like mine…. And that area is going to be hit harder than anywhere else in the country quite frankly.”

That’s due to the plan’s focus on non-defense, discretionary spending – everything Uncle Sam does outside the Pentagon and mammoth entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

It includes many programs that are important to rural, lower-income areas that went big for Trump last November, such as subsidies for regional airports, funds to clean up the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay, and support for regional economic development.

It’s possible these proposed reductions wouldn’t hurt Trump much in his political heartland. Many of his voters view the president not as appropriator-in-chief, but as an agent of change who’ll bring heartache to Washington’s powers that be, whatever the consequences.
Trump’s biggest executive actions, explained
It’s also possible the cuts would hurt Trump. At the least, they’ve already driven a wedge between the White House and many Republican members of Congress. These lawmakers often get the credit or blame for federal efforts in their districts. While they support Trump’s aim to increase military spending while cutting elsewhere, their first loyalty is to constituents.

$69 billion in proposed cuts

Overall, the Trump budget proposal would cut funding for non-defense discretionary spending by $15 billion in fiscal 2017 (despite the fact that year has already begun) and by $54 billion in fiscal 2018. All of this money would be shifted to military spending.

Two departments outside the Pentagon, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security, would get increases. All other non-defense discretionary programs would be cut by more than 15 percent of current levels on average, according to an analysis by the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“Many of these areas have already borne significant cuts over the past seven years, due to the tight caps that the 2011 Budget Control Act placed on non-defense discretionary program funding,” writes CBPP director Robert Greenstein in a statement on the Trump budget.

At least 19 federal agencies would be zeroed out under the Trump budget. These include the Appalachian Regional Commission, founded to help promote development in an impoverished part of the US; the Delta Regional Authority, another economic development group; the US Trade and Development Agency, which promotes US exports; and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which is a main means of support for rural public TV and radio stations.

Job training programs, worker safety efforts, and federal housing and energy assistance would also face deep cuts, according to CBPP.

‘Devastating’ to Trump voters

Representative Rogers, a former chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, represents one of the most impoverished regions in the nation – eastern Kentucky, in the heart of Appalachia’s coal country. The Trump budget proposal would be “devastating” to his district, he says in an interview with the Monitor.

Funding for two key regional groups that recruit businesses and jobs and help retrain laid-off miners for other work would be zeroed out under the president’s budget. Those programs are making a difference he says.

Nor is the Kentucky lawmaker alone. Some other GOP members shared his reaction. Take Rep. John Moolenaar, a former Dow Jones chemist who now represents a big swath of Michigan’s mitten.

Representative Moolenaar, a Republican, is unhappy about Trump’s proposal to eliminate almost all of the $300 million federal funds for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. He vows to fight to ensure that cut won’t happen. The lakes are a “national treasure” that hold 80 percent of the US supply of fresh surface water, he says.

“We need to fund that,” he says. He adds that other Appropriations Committee members agree with him.

These Republicans and others say they agree with Trump’s general thrust of increasing military preparedness while restraining domestic spending. But they take issue with these specific reductions.

Moolenaar feels that voters are more interested in Trump’s agenda of tax cuts, deregulation, and keeping jobs in America than they are in the specifics of the budget proposal.

Not that Trump’s budget will pass intact, or even largely intact. As these members point out, Congress controls the purse strings. Much will change before the House and Senate cast final budget votes.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balert (R) of Florida, who is a member of the House Appropriations committee, told reporters: “It’s not the real thing,” speaking of the president’s budget. The budget process is lengthy, this appropriator points out.

Dreams of ‘Winning’ Nuclear War on Russia

In Environment, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on March 13, 2017 at 9:23 am

Exclusive: Official Washington’s anti-Russian hysteria has distorted U.S. politics while also escalating risks of a nuclear war as U.S. war planners dream of “winning” a first-strike attack on Russia, reports Jonathan Marshall.
By Jonathan Marshal, Consortiumnews.com, March 10.1917

In 1961, senior Pentagon consultants drafted a 33-page blueprint for initiating — and winning — a nuclear war against the Soviet Union. It was based on top-secret intelligence that Soviet nuclear forces were few in number and poorly defended — making them an easy target for a U.S. preemptive strike.
A U.S. government photograph of Operation Redwing’s Apache nuclear explosion on July 9, 1956.
Convinced of U.S. superiority, the Joint Chiefs of Staff began advising President John F. Kennedy to risk nuclear war over Cuba and Vietnam — even though their own analysis conceded that if something went wrong, 75 percent of Americans might die. If JFK hadn’t rejected their advice, we might not be here today.

President Trump may soon face a similar test. With almost no public awareness, the Pentagon’s nuclear program has achieved unprecedented capabilities that once again raise the possibility that a U.S. first strike could cripple Russia’s nuclear arsenal and “decapitate” its leadership. Such capabilities all but ensure that hawks will begin lobbying for more aggressive measures toward Russia, based its growing vulnerability to U.S. nuclear weapons.

A frightening new analysis for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists — by three eminent strategic arms experts at the Federation of American Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council, and MIT — provides evidence that U.S. nuclear planners have “implemented revolutionary new technologies that will vastly increase the targeting capability of the US ballistic missile arsenal,” giving it for the first time in decades “the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.”

U.S. Navy’s ‘Super-Fuse’

The concept of nuclear superiority seemed to lose its relevance in the mid-1960s, when Moscow finally built a large enough nuclear arsenal to withstand attack. Subsequent arms control treaties, starting in the Nixon years, maintained reasonable parity between U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, discouraging either side from contemplating the use of atomic weapons for anything but deterring a nuclear attack.
With absolutely no fanfare, however, U.S. technology advances have once again called mutual deterrence into question. The secret is a “super-fuse” first implemented by the U.S. Navy in 2009 as part of its “life-extension” program for submarine-based nuclear missiles. By permitting more accurate timing of nuclear blasts, this flexible trigger gives America’s sub-launched missiles three times their former killing power — enough to take out even “hardened” Russian missile silos and command centers with a high probability of success.

The authors calculate that a mere 272 warheads could wipe out all of Russia’s intercontinental ballistic missiles housed in hardened silos — leaving in reserve more than 600 lethal warheads deployed on U.S. submarines, as well as hundreds more on U.S. land-based missiles.

Although U.S. war planners would still be challenged to target warheads on Russia’s submarines and mobile land-based missiles, the authors support claims by other scholars that “for the first time in almost 50 years, the United States stands on the verge of attaining nuclear primacy.” Russia’s vulnerability will likely increase over time, as the Pentagon’s implements its planned trillion-dollar nuclear “modernization” program over the next 30 years.

From the standpoint of many Pentagon planners, greater war-fighting capabilities are always better because they increase U.S. military options. But there are good reasons to be worried by this stealthy advance in U.S. missile technology.

Beware the ‘Clever Briefer’

The first is the risk that a “clever briefer” — a convincing salesman for “limited” nuclear war — will persuade a president that fighting and winning such a conflict is possible. The president might then behave more rashly in a conventional conflict, triggering a series of military escalations that unintentionally lead to mass annihilation. (Imagine, for example, if President Kennedy had followed the advice of his generals and bombed Russian forces in Cuba during the 1962 Missile Crisis.)
The idea that some adviser might try to talk President Trump into a nuclear showdown would have seemed absurd until very recently. But escalating military tension between NATO and Russia has prompted some experts, like former Defense Secretary William Perry, to warn that the world is closer to a “nuclear catastrophe” than at any time during the Cold War. And Trump himself, who once called for greater cooperation with Russia, now declares that the United States needs to build up its nuclear arsenal to make it “top of the pack.”

Reflecting this harsh new environment, the Pentagon’s influential Defense Science Board in December advised the new administration to begin acquiring low-yielding nuclear weapons to give the United States more options for waging “limited” wars against other nuclear powers. The assumption behind such hotly contested advice is that enemies will back down, knowing the United States could fight and win an unlimited nuclear war with “acceptable” casualties.

Growing Risk of Accidental War

Second, perhaps even more worrisome, is the impact of U.S. first-strike capabilities on Russia’s nuclear planning. Faced with the possibility of only a few minutes’ warning of a devastating U.S. attack, Moscow will continue to keep its nuclear forces on hair-trigger alert, and even give local commanders the right to launch if communications with the Kremlin are lost. That policy gives rise to the chilling possibility of nuclear war triggered by an accidental alert — of which there have been several.
Russian President Vladimir Putin during a state visit to Austria on June 24, 2014. (Official Russian government photo)
“The new kill capability created by super-fuzing increases the tension and the risk that US or Russian nuclear forces will be used in response to early warning of an attack — even when an attack has not occurred,” the arms experts write. “The combination of . . . dangerously short warning times, high-readiness alert postures, and the increasing US strike capacity has created a deeply destabilizing and dangerous strategic nuclear situation.”

Indeed, as U.S. nuclear capabilities have quietly grown, Russia has shortened its time from warning to launch to just four minutes. “Today, top military command posts in the Moscow area can bypass the entire human chain of command and directly fire by remote control rockets in silos and on trucks as far away as Siberia in only 20 seconds,” reports Princeton University expert Bruce Blair. “This situation is a mistaken launch waiting to happen.”

Blair recently warned that President Trump’s apparent support for a new arms race “would be an alarming reversal of decades of nuclear weapons reductions that should scare everyone.”

And Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was alarmed enough by growing talk in Washington of nuclear warfighting to publish an op-ed in the Washington Post last week, reminding readers, “There is no such thing as ‘limited use’ nuclear weapons, and for a Pentagon advisory board to promote their development is absolutely unacceptable.”

As she wisely noted, “When it comes to nuclear weapons, victory is not measured by who has the most warheads, but by how long we last before someone uses one.”

Jonathan Marshall is author of many recent articles on arms issues, including “Obama’s Unkept Promise on Nuclear War,” “Summing Up Russia’s Real Nuclear Fears,” “How World War III Could Start,” “NATO’s ProvocativeAnti-Russian Moves,” “Escalations in a New Cold War,” and “Ticking Closer to Midnight.”

Not-so-innocent hyperbole

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Peace, Politics, Race, War on March 10, 2017 at 10:35 am

By Dave Anderson –

Boulder Weekly, March 9, 2017
Only 11 percent of the media coverage of the 2016 presidential
primaries dealt with the candidates’ policy positions, leadership
abilities and professional histories according to a study by the
Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. Instead,
there were stories of personality conflicts, gossip, scandals,
campaign strategy and polls.

Politics has been treated as entertainment for a long time but Donald
Trump made things worse. As a celebrity and TV star, he developed the
skills to manipulate the media. His business career taught him to
“play to people’s fantasies,” as he (or rather his ghostwriter) wrote
in The Art of the Deal. He added, “People want to believe that
something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I
call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration —
and it’s a very effective form of promotion.”

The Trump circus continues to dominate the news with everybody
discussing his latest outrageous insults, lies and conspiracy
theories. Meanwhile, the Republicans quietly plan to turn back the
clock several decades now that they control the presidency, the
Congress, 32 state legislatures and 33 governorships. Many noticed
this and a resistance was born.

It was organized spontaneously on social media. On the day after
Trump’s inauguration, about 5 million Americans turned out for the
Women’s March in Washington, D.C. and the sister marches in over 600
other cities. This was one of the biggest protests in U.S. history.
Less than a week later, huge crowds marched again opposing Trump’s
Muslim ban. When people from the banned countries were being detained
at airports, lawyers and protesters showed up.

Widespread protest has continued at the offices of Republican members
of Congress and at town hall meetings. Can we keep up the pressure? It
is difficult to sustain a sense of outrage and indignation over four
years.

Right after the election, progressive economist Max Sawicky tweeted,
“With a Democratic win, we’d be listing stuff to hold them to. Now we
have to list things we don’t want destroyed.” But Trump wasn’t the
usual rightwing Republican. He tapped into a populist fever. He
promised to bring back jobs, rebuild the middle class and end stupid
trade policies. He presented a classic rightwing populism that
directed his supporters’ anger at (some of) the rich and powerful and
a violent criminal underclass who are ruining the country. He claimed
that his solutions — tax cuts for the rich, decimation of business
regulations, Obamacare repeal — would bring back the American dream.

Actually these solutions would make the lives of ordinary Americans even worse.

We progressives have to resist, but we need to be pushing a strong
alternative. The ideas and programs are already there: Medicare for
all, tuition-free college, expanded Social Security benefits,
progressive taxation and a Green New Deal that will start a “just
transition” from fossil fuel jobs to jobs in renewables. That was
Bernie’s message in the primaries.

Hillary had a similar if milder bunch of proposals. But in the general
election she figured she would emphasize the perfectly sensible notion
that Trump was spectacularly unfit to be president. She calculated
that people would prefer a good manager with a “steady hand” who would
continue the Obama status quo.

There are furious debates over why Trump became president. The Clinton
campaign was criticized for not campaigning much in the Rust Belt, and
the Republicans for engaging in voter suppression of racial minorities
in many parts of the country. Hillary won the election by three
million votes but lost in the Electoral College. You can cite many
more factors.

But where do we go from here? Longtime union organizer Marshall Ganz
argued that progressives need to start at the grassroots. In an
interview on Talking Points Memo, he said, “Conservatives successfully
created a more or less coherent network of organizations linked to
local, state and national politics, which is a traditional form of
effective political organization in the U.S.” They organized in
evangelical churches, the religious schools that Betsy DeVos helped
sponsor, the gun clubs, the NRA, the Koch brothers network and ALEC.

He argued, “Many Democrats confuse messaging with educating, marketing
with organizing. They think it is all about branding when it is really
about relational work. You engage people with each other, creating
collective capacity. That’s how you sustain and grow and get
leadership.”

Ganz wants progressives to learn from the unions. He said, “When you
are organizing a union, a workplace, you have got to organize who’s
there. One of the troubles with the progressive groups is that they
respond to those who already agree with them, but don’t have much
incentive to actually go out and build a base by persuading and
engaging and converting those who don’t. If you are organizing a
union, you have to do that, because that’s how you win. Now ignoring
all these red and purple states is like pretending you don’t need them
to win, but you do.”

It isn’t easy. We need to resist. But we will win if we present an
alternative moral vision of how we can create a better society.

Marshall Islands Nuclear Zero Lawsuit Appeal to Be Heard in Ninth Circuit Court on March 15

In Environment, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on March 10, 2017 at 10:12 am

March 9, 2017

San Francisco– On Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 9:00 AM, the appeal of the Republic of the Marshall Islands’ “Nuclear Zero” lawsuit will be heard in the Ninth District Court of Appeals. The case, initially filed on April 24, 2014, alleges that the United States failed to uphold its legal obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and customary International law to begin negotiations “in good faith” for an end to the nuclear arms race “at an early date” and for nuclear disarmament.

The suit contends that the United States has clearly violated its legal obligations to pursue nuclear disarmament by spending large sums of money to enhance its nuclear arsenal. The U.S. already plans to spend an estimated $1 trillion on nuclear weapons over the next three decades and President Trump has said he wants to build up the U.S. nuclear arsenal even further to ensure it is at the “top of the pack,” saying the United States has “fallen behind in its nuclear weapons capacity.”

Scott Yundt, Staff Attorney of the Livermore-based disarmament group Tri-Valley CAREs (which closely monitors the large nuclear weapons program at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) filed an Amicus Curiae brief in support of the Marshall Islands. “As people directly affected by radioactive fallout from US nuclear weapons testing, the Marshallese are a particularly powerful voice calling for enforcement of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In this time of escalating international tension, the US Courts, and really all of us, should be listening and taking our international obligations under the Treaty seriously.”

Marshall Islanders suffered catastrophic and irreparable damages to their people and homeland when the U.S. conducted 67 nuclear tests on their territory between 1946 and 1958. These tests had the equivalent power of exploding 1.6 Hiroshima bombs daily for 12 years.

The Marshall Islands does not seek compensation with this lawsuit. Rather, it seeks declaratory and injunctive relief requiring the United States to comply with its commitments under international law.

On February 3, 2015, the Marshall Islands case at the federal district court was dismissed on the jurisdictional grounds of standing and political question doctrine without getting to the merits. David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and a consultant to the Marshall Islands in their lawsuit, stated, “We believe the Court of Appeals should reverse the decision of the lower court and allow the case to be heard on its merits. But, no matter the outcome of this appeal, the Marshall Islands has shown great leadership with their Nuclear Zero lawsuits. They are a small nation that has acted on behalf of all humanity.”

Note from Inside the EPA

In Democracy, Environment, Human rights, Justice, Public Health on March 10, 2017 at 1:38 am

This just came to me from one of my daughters.

From friend of a friend of a friend, I guess. Because the EPA staffers can’t talk to the media, and…we need to know this stuff:
From a friend in DC: Sharing with permission. From an Environmental Protection Agency staffer:
“So I work at the EPA and yeah it’s as bad as you are hearing: The entire agency is under lockdown, the website, facebook, twitter, you name it is static and can’t be updated. All reports, findings, permits and studies are frozen and not to be released. No presentations or meetings with outside groups are to be scheduled.
Any Press contacting us are to be directed to the Press Office which is also silenced and will give no response.
All grants and contracts are frozen from the contractors working on Superfund sites to grad school students working on their thesis.
We are still doing our work, writing reports, doing cancer modeling for pesticides hoping that this is temporary and we will be able to serve the public soon. But many of us are worried about an ideologically-fueled purging and if you use any federal data I advise you gather what you can now.
We have been told the website is being reworked to reflect the new administration’s policy.
Feel free to copy and paste, you all pay for the government and you should know what’s going on. I am posting this as a fellow citizen and not in any sort of official capacity.”

 

 

 

What Is the Anthropocene?

In Environment, Justice, Peace, Public Health, War on March 5, 2017 at 3:36 am

By Tom Mayer, Peace Train, Colorado Daily, March 3, 2017

Geologists divide the history of the Earth into time periods based upon the nature of the rocks formed during that period. The Holocene epoch began about 11,700 years ago after the last Ice Age. Seventeen years ago the Nobel Prize winning Dutch scientist Paul Crutzen claimed that human beings have changed the Earth’s environment so drastically that we now live in a very different geological period. He called this new period the Anthropocene, which means resulting from human action. Crutzen argued that industrialization, intensive agriculture, population growth, and the destruction of biodiversity were the main forces transforming the Earth’s ecology.

Most scientists date the Anthropocene from the atomic era, which began in 1945 and has left radioactive traces in sediments around the globe. The post World War Two period also experienced “The Great Acceleration”, a huge global expansion of economic production, human population, and energy consumption. The magnitude of environmental destruction during and before the Anthropocene is truly shocking.
Greenhouse gases, which trap heat in our atmosphere, have increased dramatically since 1750 (end of the preindustrial era). Carbon dioxide has increased by 43%, nitrous oxide by 63%, and methane by 150%. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that the maximum tolerable temperature increase over preindustrial levels is 2°C. Without radical social changes, the IPCC predicts average temperature will increase between 3.7°C and 4.5°C by 2100, and between 8°C and 12°C by 2300. This would mean the end of organized human life on planet Earth.

But global warming is only part of the Anthropocene crisis. Around 90 million tons of plastic junk has been dumped into our oceans, not to mention mountains of raw sewage and toxic fertilizer runoff. Ocean acidification is 26% above the preindustrial level causing brutally high mortality of sea life. Biologists estimate that overall species extinction now occurs at about 1,000 times the natural rate. At the current pace, 20% of animal species will disappear by 2030. Human beings and their domestic animals now constitute 97% of all land vertebrate biomass, leaving only 3% of biomass for the remaining 30,000 land dwelling vertebrate species. In light of these realities, paleontologists often speak about a looming “sixth extinction” (the fifth was the extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago).

Energy use has also leaped ahead during the Anthropocene era. Between 1800 and 2000 human energy consumption increased by a factor of 40. Agricultural land and cities covered about 5% of the Earth’s land area in 1750. They now occupy almost one-third. It is estimated that 84% of the Earth’s ice free land is presently under direct human influence. A few years ago a team of Swedish scientists specified nine ecological parameters which must not be crossed if the Earth’s biosphere is to avoid catastrophic decline. Four of these tipping points are already passed: greenhouse gas emissions, extinction of biodiversity, nitrogen cycle, and phosphate cycle.

Former Vice President Al Gore says that “the climate crisis is the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced.” Indeed, it is not clear that humanity will survive two more centuries of the Anthropocene epoch. Many rational observers would bet against it. In contrast to Paul Crutzen, some ecologists think the Anthropocene should be re-named the Capitalocene (Bonneuil and Fressoz, The Shock of the Anthropocene (2016)). This seems appropriate because the current environmental crisis is largely caused by a tiny fraction of humanity: owners of capital and their rabid addiction to capital accumulation.