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Climate chaos has gone to new extremes this summer, with Pakistan drowning in unprecedented floods due to the melting of the snow capped Himalayas, Russia cooking at 110 degrees, and an iceberg four times the size of Manhattan breaking off the top of northern Greenland. See Democracy Now!’s coverage of these climate catastrophes.

Unprecedented floods in Pakistan have killed thousands and displaced over 1 million. These catastrophes will become more common as global warming worsens.

Why hasn’t the U.S. Congress done anything to stop global warming? The answer is capitalism. As the new website DirtyEnergyMoney.com documents, the oil and coal industries have spent over $100 million in the past decade to buy congressmen and stop legislation that threatens their profit margins. The environmental movement therefore faces a crossroads: continue to compromise and waste time talking to corrupt Senators, or go out to the streets and organize people for more radical solutions.  Bill McKibben, one of the most respected voices in environmentalism, says: time for Plan B. [alex]

We’re Hot as Hell and We’re Not Going to Take It Any More
Three Steps to Establish a Politics of Global Warming

By Bill McKibben
August 4, 2010
TomDispatch

Try to fit these facts together:

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the planet has just come through the warmest decade, the warmest 12 months, the warmest six months, and the warmest April, May, and June on record.

* A “staggering” new study from Canadian researchers has shown that warmer seawater has reduced phytoplankton, the base of the marine food chain, by 40% since 1950.

Nine nations have so far set their all-time temperature records in 2010, including Russia (111 degrees), Niger (118), Sudan (121), Saudi Arabia and Iraq (126 apiece), and Pakistan, which also set the new all-time Asia record in May: a hair under 130 degrees. I can turn my oven to 130 degrees.

* And then, in late July, the U.S. Senate decided to do exactly nothing about climate change. They didn’t do less than they could have — they did nothing, preserving a perfect two-decade bipartisan record of no action. Senate majority leader Harry Reid decided not even to schedule a vote on legislation that would have capped carbon emissions.

I wrote the first book for a general audience on global warming back in 1989, and I’ve spent the subsequent 21 years working on the issue. I’m a mild-mannered guy, a Methodist Sunday School teacher. Not quick to anger. So what I want to say is: this is fucked up. The time has come to get mad, and then to get busy.

For many years, the lobbying fight for climate legislation on Capitol Hill has been led by a collection of the most corporate and moderate environmental groups, outfits like the Environmental Defense Fund. We owe them a great debt, and not just for their hard work. We owe them a debt because they did everything the way you’re supposed to: they wore nice clothes, lobbied tirelessly, and compromised at every turn.

By the time they were done, they had a bill that only capped carbon emissions from electric utilities (not factories or cars) and was so laden with gifts for industry that if you listened closely you could actually hear the oinking. They bent over backwards like Soviet gymnasts.  Senator John Kerry, the legislator they worked most closely with, issued this rallying cry as the final negotiations began: “We believe we have compromised significantly, and we’re prepared to compromise further.”

And even that was not enough. They were left out to dry by everyone — not just Reid, not just the Republicans. Even President Obama wouldn’t lend a hand, investing not a penny of his political capital in the fight.

The result: total defeat, no moral victories.

Now What?

So now we know what we didn’t before: making nice doesn’t work. It was worth a try, and I’m completely serious when I say I’m grateful they made the effort, but it didn’t even come close to working. So we better try something else. Read the rest of this entry »

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Also published on The Rag Blog.

BP Oil Disaster in the Gulf - Energy Department Photo. retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/leonarddoyle/4583740105/in/set-72157624005298860/

Just two weeks after the Massey Energy coal explosion on April 5 that killed 29 miners in West Virginia, the BP oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 more workers. These back-to-back tragedies have brought attention to the fossil fuel industry’s terrible safety record – in both cases there were known safety violations on site, but the government did nothing to prevent disaster from occurring. See the interview below which explains how the federal government approved this BP rig and many more without conducting the environmental review they are legally obligated to.

Unlike the industry executives attempting to shift blame and avoid responsibility, we must look beneath the surface to discover the deeper meaning of these horrible crises.

Is the universe giving us a warning that fossil fuels are going to destroy us? Because if global climate change continues at the rate it has, in the not-too-distant future we will see many thousands, or even millions more deaths as crops dry up, floods destroy coastal wetlands, and diseases migrate to temperate regions. This is no joke. Families and communities are being destroyed so coal and oil corporations can boost their profit margins.

We need to be open to hearing the lessons that are all around us, especially  from those who have been silenced and beaten down by capitalism.

Immediately after the Massey explosion and the BP explosion, was Earth Day – April 22. And on this date, indigenous and poor people from around the globe were meeting in Cochabamba, Bolivia for the World People’s Conference on Climate Change, a grassroots response to the corporate fraud that was the Copenhagen Summit. Bolivian President Evo Morales, who was proclaimed “World Hero of Mother Earth” by the United Nations General Assembly in October, hosted the conference, proclaiming “The capitalist system looks to obtain the maximum possible gain, promoting unlimited growth on a finite planet. Capitalism is the source of asymmetries and imbalance in the world.”

30,000 people from 140 countries convened and approved the “Cochabamba Protocol”, which calls for an International Climate Justice tribunal to prosecute climate criminals, and condemns REDDs which put a price on wild forests and encourage development, along with carbon market schemes. The protocal proposes a Universal Declaration of Mother Earth and demands that industrialized polluting nations cut carbon emissions by 50 percent as part of a new, binding climate agreement.

Global momentum is building towards confronting capitalism in terms of the ecological devastation it is causing. Here in the United States, Rising Tide North America is calling for a “Day of Action, Night of Mourning” this Friday, May 14 to call for BP to pay for all cleanup and long-term ecological effects of their spill, for the abolition of offshore oil drilling, and for “a rapid and just transition away from fossil fuels.”

[alex]

Government Exempted BP from Environmental Review

Video/interview published by Democracy Now!

May 7, 2010

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well now to the Gulf of Mexico where the enormous oil slick in the Gulf continues to expand. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has ordered a 3-week halt to all new offshore drilling permits. Emphasizing that the companies involved had made “major mistakes,” Salazar spoke to reporters Thursday outside BP’s Houston crisis center. He noted that lifting the moratorium on new permits will depend on the outcome of a federal investigation over the Gulf spill and the recommendations to be delivered to President Obama at the end of the month.

    SECRETARY KEN SALAZAR: Minerals Management Service will not be issuing any permits for the construction of new offshore wells. That process will be concluded here on May the 28th. At that point in time, we’ll make decisions about how we plan on moving forward. There is some very major mistakes that were made by companies that were involved. But today is not really the day to deal with those issues. Today and the days ahead really are about trying to get control of the problem.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Secretary Salazar added that the existing offshore oil and natural gas drilling will continue, even as public meetings to discuss new oil drilling off the Virginia coast have been canceled for this month.

AMY GOODMAN: Salazar’s announcement comes on the heel of a Washington Post exposé revealing that the Minerals Management Service had approved BP’s drilling plan in the Gulf of Mexico without any environmental review. The article notes that the agency under Secretary Salazar had quote “categorically excluded” BP’s drilling as well as hundreds of other offshore drilling permits from environmental review. The agency was able to do this using a loophole in the National Environmental Policy Act created for minimally intrusive actions like building outhouses and hiking trails. Well, for more on this story, we’re joined now from Tucson, Arizona by Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. Welcome to DEMOCRACY NOW!, Kieran. Explain this loophole, how you found it, and what it means for the Gulf.

KIERAN SUCKLING: Well, when a federal government is going to approve a project, it has to go through an environmental review. But for projects that have very, very little impact like building an outhouse or a hiking trail, they can use something called a categorical exclusion and say there’s no impact here at all so we don’t need to spend energy or time doing a review. Well, we looked at the oil drilling permits being issued by the Minerals Management Service in the Gulf, and we were shocked to find out that they were approving hundreds of massive oil drilling permits using this categorical exclusion instead of doing a full environmental impact study. And then, we found out that BP’s drilling permit—the very one that exploded—was done under this loophole and so it was never reviewed by the federal government at all. It was just rubber-stamped. Read the rest of this entry »


This is a great, short video that shows why “Cap and Trade” schemes to reduce carbon emissions, like what world leaders are discussing at the Copenhagen Summit, are fundamentally flawed. Turns out that selling our atmosphere to corporations might actually be a bad way to stop climate change. It’s just another attempt to bail out capitalism, this time by making a commodity out of our hopes for a sustainable future.

Annie Leonard, creator of the original “Story of Stuff,” has hit another one out of the park by breaking down complex political issues into simple, accessible and visually appealing viral videos. Check it out (And share with family and friends)! [alex]

And here is the original, highly-acclaimed “Story of Stuff”

see more at storyofstuff.com


[Good news from the best oil/environment writer, Heinberg. The current economic crisis is easing pressure on the planet and its resources, ecological danger is decreasing. This is hopeful. I particular enjoy this statistic: “in the first four months of 2009, more bicycles were sold in the US than cars and trucks put together (over 2.55 million bicycles were purchased, compared to fewer than 2.4 million cars and trucks).”

Lately i’ve become convinced that hope is our greatest ally in working for a better world. If this article doesn’t inspire you, look at what’s happening in Iran at this moment. – alex]

Look on the Bright Side

Richard Heinberg

Originally published by Post Carbon Institute, June 5, 2009.

Recently I’ve begun compiling a list of things to be cheerful about. Here are some items that should bring a smile to any environmentalist’s lips:

  • World energy consumption is declining. That’s right: oil consumption is down, coal consumption is down, and the IEA is projecting world electricity consumption to decline by 3.5 percent this year. I’m sure it’s possible to find a few countries where energy use is still growing, but for the US, China, and most of the European countries that is no longer the case. A small army of writers and activists, including me, has been arguing for years now that the world should voluntarily reduce its energy consumption, because current rates of use are unsustainable for various reasons including the fact that fossil fuels are depleting. Yes, we should build renewable energy capacity, but replacing the energy from fossil fuels will be an enormous job, and we can make that job less daunting by reducing our overall energy appetite. Done.
  • CO2 emissions are falling. This follows from the previous point. I’m still waiting for confirmation from direct NOAA measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere, but it stands to reason that if world oil and coal consumption is declining, then carbon emissions must be doing so as well. The economic crisis has accomplished what the Kyoto Protocol couldn’t. Hooray!
  • Consumption of goods is falling. Every environmentalist I know spends a good deal of her time railing both publicly and privately against consumerism. We in the industrialized countries use way too much stuff — because that stuff is made from depleting natural resources (both renewable and non-renewable) and the Earth is running out of fresh water, topsoil, lithium, indium, zinc, antimony…the list is long. Books have been written trying to convince people to simplify their lives and use less, films have been produced and shown on PBS, and support groups have formed to help families kick the habit, but still the consumer juggernaut has continued — until now. This particular dragon may not be slain, but it’s cowering in its den.
  • Globalization is in reverse (global trade is shrinking). Back in the early 1990s, when globalization was a new word, an organization of brilliant activists formed the International Forum on Globalization (IFG) to educate the public about the costs and dangers of this accelerating trend. Corporations were off-shoring their production and pollution, ruining manufacturing communities in formerly industrial rich nations while ruthlessly exploiting cheap labor in less-industrialized poor countries. IFG was able to change the public discourse about globalization enough to stall the expansion of the World Trade Organization, but still world trade continued to mushroom. Not any more. China’s and Japan’s exports are way down, as is the US trade deficit.
  • The number of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is falling. For decades the number of total miles traveled by all cars and trucks on US roads has relentlessly increased. This was a powerful argument for building more roads. People bought more cars and drove them further; trucks restocked factories and stores at an ever-growing pace; and delivery vans brought more packages to consumers who shopped from home. All of this driving entailed more tires, pavement, and fuel — and more environmental damage. Over the past few months the VMT number has declined substantially and continually, to a greater extent than has been the case since records started being kept. That’s welcome news.
  • There are fewer cars on the road. People are junking old cars faster than new ones are being purchased. In the US, where there are now more cars on the road than there are licensed drivers, this represents an extraordinary shift in a very long-standing trend. In her wonderful book Divorce Your Car, Katie Alvord detailed the extraordinary environmental costs of widespread automobile use. Evidently her book didn’t stem the tide: it was published in the year 2000, and millions of new cars hit the pavement in the following years. But now the world’s auto manufacturers are desperately trying to steer clear of looming bankruptcy, simply because people aren’t buying. In fact, in the first four months of 2009, more bicycles were sold in the US than cars and trucks put together (over 2.55 million bicycles were purchased, compared to fewer than 2.4 million cars and trucks). How utterly cool.
  • The world’s over-leveraged, debt-based financial system is failing. Growth in consumption is killing the planet, but arguing against economic growth is made difficult by the fact that most of the world’s currencies are essentially loaned into existence, and those loans must be repaid with interest. Thus if the economy isn’t growing, and therefore if more loans aren’t being made, thus causing more money to be created, the result will be a cascading series of defaults and foreclosures that will ruin the entire system. It’s not a sustainable system given the fact that the world’s resources (the ultimate basis for all economic activity) are finite; and, as the proponents of Ecological and Biophysical Economics have been saying for years, it’s a system that needs to be replaced with one that can still function in a condition of steady or contracting consumption rates. While that sustainable alternative is not yet being discussed by government leaders, at least they are being forced to consider (if not yet publicly) the possibility that the existing system has serious problems and that it may need a thorough overhaul. That’s a good thing.
  • Gardening is going gonzo. According to the New York Times (“College Interns Getting Back to Land,” May 25) thousands of college students are doing summer internships on farms this year. Meanwhile seed companies are having a hard time keeping up with demand, as home gardeners put in an unusually high number of veggie gardens. Urban farmer Will Allen predicts that there will be 8 million new gardeners this year, and the number of new gardens is expected to increase 20 to 40 percent this season. Since world oil production has peaked, there is going to be less oil available in the future to fuel industrial agriculture, so we are going to need more gardens, more small farms, and more farmers. Never mind the motives of all these students and home gardeners — few of them have ever heard of Peak Oil, and many of the gardeners are probably just worried whether they can afford to keep the pantry full next winter; nevertheless, they’re doing the right thing. And that’s something to applaud.

[T]he items outlined above suggest that we’ve turned a corner. Read the rest of this entry »


Richard Heinberg (author of the seminal work The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies) lays out a clear program for Obama, to move the US away from its current suicidal path and towards a green economy.  However, the danger may be that Obama has surrounded himself with people who are telling him to do the exact opposite of each of these recommendations.  Our job, as a movement, is to move the country away from fossil fuels by blocking the construction of more death machines (coal plants, oil-guzzling cars, the military…), and by simultaneously creating irresistible alternatives. [alex]

Memo to the President-elect on Energy Realism and the Green New Deal

MuseLetter 200
December 2008 by Richard Heinberg

Executive Summary

Our continued national dependence on fossil fuels is creating a crippling vulnerability to both long-term fuel scarcity and catastrophic climate change.

The current economic crisis requires substantial national policy shifts and enormous new government injections of capital into the economy. This provides an opportunity for a project whose scope would otherwise be inconceivable: a large-scale, coordinated energy transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy.

This project must happen immediately; indeed, it may already be too late. We have already left behind the era of cheap and plentiful fossil fuels, with a permanent decline of global oil production likely underway within three years. Moreover, the latest research tells us we have less than eight years to bring carbon emissions under control if we hope to avoid catastrophic climate change. Lacking this larger frame of understanding and action, a mere shift away from foreign oil dependence will fail to meet the challenge at hand.

The energy transition must not be limited to building wind turbines and solar panels. It must include the thorough redesign of our economic and societal infrastructure, which today is utterly dependent on cheap fossil fuels. It must address not only our transportation system and our electricity grid, but also our food system and our building stock.

Our 21st century nation’s dependence on 20th century fossil fuels is the greatest threat we face, far more so than the current financial crisis. A coordinated, comprehensive transition to an economy that is no longer dependent on hydrocarbon fuels and no longer emits climate-changing levels of carbon—a Post Carbon Energy Transition—will be the Obama Administration’s greatest opportunity to lead the nation on a path toward sustainable prosperity.

Overview: Need and Scope

As a new Administration prepares to take the reins of power, America’s economy is descending into a recession or, quite possibly, a depression. Read the rest of this entry »


[This is a huge victory, Mountaintop Removal is a horrible destructive practice of coal mining in Appalachia that destroys communities and the environment. Organizers, including Rainforest Action Network and many members and chapters of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), have been fighting this for a long time through creative nonviolent actions and pressure, and today we can celebrate a major victory as Bank of America caves to our demands! – alex]

From Bank of America’s website:

“Bank of America is particularly concerned about surface mining conducted through mountain top removal in locations such as central Appalachia. We therefore will phase out financing of companies whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountain top removal. While we acknowledge that surface mining is economically efficient and creates jobs, it can be conducted in a way that minimizes environmental impacts in certain geographies.”

We are thrilled that just two and a half weeks after RAN’s day of action against coal and coal finance, Bank of America has made a public commitment to stop financing the devastating practice of mountaintop removal mining. This has been a major demand of the banks for the Global Finance campaign and we applaud Bank of America as it takes a step in the right direction – a step away from coal. Congratulations to everyone who has helped to pressure Bank of America to end it’s financing of coal and mountaintop removal – this is a truly incredible grassroots victory!

We will have more information about Bank of America’s announcement soon, as we work with our team and our allies to respond. For now, let’s celebrate!

Originally posted by Annie on Rainforest Action Network’s website.


On November 16th, SDSers had a ‘cough-in’ and ‘die-in’ from the terrible fumes coming from Bank of America, as part of Rainforest Action Network’s ‘Nationwide Day of Action’ against new Coal-fired power plants and destructive mining practices such as Mountaintop Removal. more pics below…

Read the rest of this entry »

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