Environment

GRAHAM PEEBLES – Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016

May 2, 2016

Millions of the poorest, most vulnerable people in Ethiopia are once again at risk of starvation. Elderly men and women, weak and desperate, wait for food and water; malnourished children lie dying; livestock, bones protruding, perish. According to a statement issued by the World Food Programme (WFP) on 6th February, over 10 million of the most vulnerable require urgent humanitarian assistance. This figure was published in the Joint Government and Humanitarian Partners’ Document (HRD) in December last year, and does not take into account the seven and a half million people who annually receive support from Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme – PSNP, (established in 2005 to enable, “the rural poor facing chronic food insecurity to resist shocks, create assets and become food self- sufficient), taking the total in need to almost 18 million. The worst affected areas, according to USAID, are the pastoral areas of Afar and Ogaden Region – where people rely totally on their livestock – and the agricultural lowlands of East and West Haraghe – close to the capital Addis Ababa. Read

Lornet ­­­­­­­­­­­­Turnbull – National Parks Are Used Mostly By Older White People. Here’s Why That Needs to Change

May 2, 2016

The breathtaking beauty of the Pacific Northwest seems perpetually in your face—the jagged snow-capped peaks of the Olympics, the rolling mountain ranges of the Cascades. There are times Mount Rainier seems so close, it’s almost like you can reach out and touch it. Almost. Yet some people spend their entire lives seeing these mountains from every possible angle without ever visiting them. That is particularly true for people of color, and not just in the Pacific Northwest but across the United States, where studies and anecdotal evidence show they are among the most infrequent users of state and federal lands. Read

Is Monsanto’s Glyphosate Actually Helping the Environment?

May 1, 2016

Many environmentalists are falling for this glib marketing pitch. Here is why it’s false. Action Alert! At the federal and local levels, stopping invasive plants with pesticides like glyphosate is being seen as a conservation priority. But what is it doing to our soil and our food? For many years, the federal government has been devoting large sums of money to combating “invasive plants”—plants which are not native to a particular location and which can cause damage to the environment, like crowding out native species and reducing crop yields. This has also been happening at the local level, with community conservation groups increasingly seeing the fight against invasive species as the primary means by which the environment can be restored to its natural state. To those looking to rid the land of invasive species, only one solution, essentially, is being offered—toxic pesticides. This trend has, of course, been exploited by Monsanto, which uses its significant influence with government officials to sell more Roundup. For much of the 1990s until recent years, Monsanto’s Roundup profits were growing steadily. One Monsanto executive has been quoted as saying, “Roundup was God at Monsanto.” Read

US national forests and grasslands could yield less water in future climate

April 29, 2016

A warmer climate may lead to higher growth and productivity on U.S. national forests and grasslands, but university and U.S. Forest Service researchers say this could reduce quantities of freshwater flowing from most of these lands, even with increases in precipitation. Results were published in Scientific Reports. “The national forests and grasslands managed by the U.S. Forest Service represent only 9 percent of the U.S. land area, but play an important role in providing freshwater that contributes to about 14 percent of the national water supply,” says Kai Duan, a North Carolina State University postdoctoral researcher working with the Forest Service Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center and the study’s lead author. “A notable tradeoff between water yield and productivity is expected to intensify under higher greenhouse gas emissions and associated climate change in the future, posing greater challenges to managing these lands and balancing these important ecosystem services.” Read

Dahlia Lithwick – Pseudoscience in the Witness Box

April 28, 2016

The Washington Post published a story so horrifying this weekend that it would stop your breath: “The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.” What went wrong? The Post continues: “Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far.” The shameful, horrifying errors were uncovered in a massive, three-year review by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Innocence Project. Following revelations published in recent years, the two groups are helping the government with the country’s largest ever post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence. Read

Clean water crisis threatens US

April 28, 2016

The United States is on the verge of a national crisis that could mean the end of clean, cheap water. Hundreds of cities and towns are at risk of sudden and severe shortages, either because available water is not safe to drink or because there simply isn’t enough of it. The situation has grown so dire the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence now ranks water scarcity as a major threat to national security alongside terrorism.The problem is being felt most acutely in the West, where drought conditions and increased water use have helped turn lush agricultural areas to dust. But dangers also lurk underground, in antiquated water systems that are increasingly likely to break down or spread contaminants like lead. The crisis gripping Flint, Mich., where the water supply has been rendered undrinkable, is just a preview of what’s to come in towns and cities nationwide, some warn. Read

THICH NHAT HANH – The World We Have

April 28, 2016

Only when we combine our concern for the planet with spiritual practice will we have the tools to make the profound personal transformations necessary to address the coming environmental crisis. Thich Nhat Hanh offers us the guiding principles for a new ecospirituality of mindful living. We are like sleepwalkers, not knowing what we are doing or where we are heading. Whether we can wake up or not depends on whether we can walk mindfully on our Mother Earth. The future of all life, including our own, depends on our mindful steps. We have to hear the bells of mindfulness that are sounding all across our planet. We have to start learning how to live in a way so that a future will be possible for our children and our grandchildren. I have sat with the Buddha for a long time and consulted him about the issue of global warming, and the teaching of the Buddha is very clear. If we continue to live as we have been living, consuming without a thought to the future, destroying our forests and emitting greenhouse gases, then devastating climate change is inevitable. Much of our ecosystem will be destroyed. Sea levels will rise and coastal

Graham Vanbergen – TTIP – current EU GMO rules to be ‘disregarded’ as EU Commission caves in to US pressure

April 28, 2016

A joint report conducted by Greenpeace, Corporate Europe Observatory and Gene Watch UK issued a briefing paper last week entitled “Commission fails to regulate new GMOs after intense US lobbying.” In essence, the European Commission has effectively deserted its principles when it comes to GMO’s entering the food chain within the 28 nation bloc. Intense lobbying by United States representatives for the EU Commission to disregard current GMO rules which require stringent safety tests and labelling has proved successful. The result is that genetically modified organisms produced through a modified technique called ‘gene editing’ will be allowed. Gene editing is all but the same as anything we understand about GMO’s generally. Freedom of Information documents show the scale of US lobbying has overwhelmed the EU Commission who now stand accused of bowing to US pressure and abdicating to the corporations and rejecting citizen concerns. The documents reveal that US representatives pushed for the EU to disregard its own GMO rules on the basis that the EU were simply putting up barriers and stifling trade under the proposed TTIP negotiations. The papers state that the EU should completely ignore health and environmental safeguards to pave the way for successful negotiations. Read

Vijay Prashad – Why NATO Has Become One of the Most Destructive Forces on the Planet

April 27, 2016

In May 2012, in the warm Chicago sunshine, I sat with journalist Jim Foley who had just returned from Syria. Jim and I had come for a large demonstration against a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). War reporting in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria had not been easy on Jim, who was an easy-going man. “You can’t get what the Afghan people really think,” he said, when you travel with US troops and rely upon a US-military translator. Nearby sat a group of Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans who had planned to return their medals to their commanders. Jim had a great deal to say about warmongers, the merchants of war. NATO’s advocates were among them. They had come to celebrate their war on Libya. Meanwhile, in Libya, the devastation had spilled social toxicity across its landscape. This mattered little to NATO’s bureaucrats. Jim would later return to Syria, where ISIL took him prisoner. Sadly, two years later, Jim would be the first American to be beheaded by ISIL on camera. He was another victim of a senseless war. At the NATO protest in 2012, one protestor carried a sign, “I can’t believe we still have to protest

‘There is No Doubt’: Exxon Knew CO2 Pollution Was A Global Threat By Late 1970s

April 27, 2016

Throughout Exxon’s global operations, the company knew that CO2 was a harmful pollutant in the atmosphere years earlier than previously reported. DeSmog has uncovered Exxon corporate documents from the late 1970s stating unequivocally “there is no doubt” that CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels was a growing “problem” well understood within the company. “It is assumed that the major contributors of CO2 are the burning of fossil fuels… There is no doubt that increases in fossil fuel usage and decreases of forest cover are aggravating the potential problem of increased CO2 in the atmosphere. Technology exists to remove CO2 from stack gases but removal of only 50% of the CO2 would double the cost of power generation.” [emphasis added] Those lines appeared in a 1980 report, “Review of Environmental Protection Activities for 1978-1979,” produced by Imperial Oil, Exxon’s Canadian subsidiary. Read
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