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US Army gets eco-conscious, preps mega solar plant
By Austin Modine | The Register
You know the "go green" push is reaching a zenith when the fuel-slurping US Army wants to get serious about having a daintier environmental footprint.
The Army said it's enlisting several big new energy projects to promote less energy waste in local and overseas bases. Among its ambitions are rolling out a fleet of electric vehicles, establishing biomass fuel demonstrations at select Army posts, and constructing what could be one of the most powerful solar power plants in the world.
"We spend over $3bn every year on energy and the majority of it is spent on our installations. We can significantly reduce our energy consumption by partnering within government and with the private sector to capitalize on the great strides in proven technology that have been developed and implemented across the country," said Secretary of the Army Pete Geren. Read more.
It's opposed by Public Citizen, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace, and ...
NASA Warming Scientist James Hansen Hopes Congressional Climate Bill Fails!
By Marc Morano, Climate Depot
Washington, DC - NASA scientist James Hansen, perhaps the most vocal voice in the U.S. warning of a man-made global warming crisis, has declared he hopes Congressional efforts to pass a cap-and-trade climate bill fail. "I hope cap and trade doesn't pass, because we need a much more effective approach,” Hansen said during a keynote lecture at Columbia University's climate conference on May 2, 2009.
Two Fridays ago on the first day of its release, I went to an early afternoon screening of the film The Soloist. I'd been eager to see it since it focuses on the real life relationship between Los Angeles Times journalist Steve Lopez and Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, a homeless member of Los Angeles' Skid Row community suffering from debilitating mental illness. In the story, as told in Lopez' columns in the LA Times, in his book, and in the screenplay by Susannah Grant, Lopez first meets middle-aged Nathaniel Ayers in downtown Los Angeles in front of a statue of Beethoven where Ayers is playing a two string violin. In that serendipitous meeting Lopez discovers that as a youth Ayers had been a gifted student at Juilliard, New York's prestigious school for the performing arts. This revelation leads Lopez on a personal mission to rehabilitate the troubled man - a mission Lopez is still on today, four years after their first encounter.
My intense desire to see this film had been predicated, foolishly as I have since come to learn, on the romantic notion that viewers would see The Soloist and be moved to help the homeless. But the film I saw, with its cartoon-like unsympathetic portrayal of the people of Skid Row, that displayed none of their individuality, humanity or humor, would never provoke such action. Instead of showing the hearts of the inhabitants and telling a few of their tales, the film portrayed them as a Fellini-esque monolith - a tainted Gomorrah teeming with decadence and dereliction.
By Norman Solomon
In the Arctic, sea ice is melting. In the United States, houses are foreclosing.
And in Washington, the Senate is becoming a real-life Bermuda Triangle for progressive agendas.
Proposals for major limits on carbon emissions aren’t getting far in the Senate, where the corporate war on the environment has an abundance of powerful allies.
As for class war, it continues to rage from the top down. Last week, a dozen Democratic senators teamed up with Republicans to defeat a bill that would have allowed judges to reduce mortgages in bankruptcy courts.
President Obama supported that bill. But as the Associated Press reported, he was “facing stiff opposition from banks” and “did little to pressure lawmakers” on behalf of the measure. The Senate “defeated a plan to spare hundreds of thousands of homeowners from foreclosure through bankruptcy.”
By Dave Lindorff
For almost a generation, the Democrats in Congress have been able to pretend to be the party of ordinary working people, the party of progressives, and the inheritor of the mantel of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, all the while doing little of substance and catering primarily to the interests of Wall Street and the nation’s corporate interests.
The Democrats managed this sleight of hand for so long by claiming that while they had the best of intentions, reality, in the form of their inability to pass legislation, even when they were in the majority in both houses of Congress, that could avoid being filibustered to death by a Republican minority.
That situation has continued to this day, with the party currently having 58 seats in the Senate.
More than 100 people were arrested during a series of demonstrations in Washington yesterday, including five members of Congress who were part of a group that gathered outside the Sudanese Embassy to condemn the expulsion of aid agencies from Darfur.
All told, police squared off with demonstrators at three unrelated protests that began in the morning and continued into the afternoon. Eight people were arrested outside the embassy, seven Greenpeace activists were arrested near the State Department, and 91 others were arrested during a demonstration by disability rights advocates outside the White House.
The activities followed a weekend of other protests connected to the meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Yesterday began with a show of civil disobedience that snarled rush-hour traffic as seven Greenpeace activists scaled a construction crane at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue NW, near the State Department, and unfurled a huge banner to call attention to global warming. The crane was on the site of a future institute for peace.
Years before it was announced that Van Jones, the premier green-jobs advocate in the country, was headed to the White House, it was clear that Van Jones was headed to the White House. Thomas Friedman devoted an entire 2007 column to Jones, writing of his lofty goals, "I would not underestimate him." Jones muscled his way through Congress to get a Green Jobs Act passed in 2007 and then lavished praise on Nancy Pelosi and now-Labor Secretary, then-Rep. Hilda Solis. Pelosi returned the favor with a rave book blurb for Jones' 2008 best-seller The Green Collar Economy, writing that Jones possessed "sparkling intelligence, powerful vision, and deep empathy." When he wasn't running his fix-poverty, fix-the-planet nonprofit in Oakland, Calif., he was seeding Obama's transition team with ideas for an all-encompassing environmental/labor/energy/
It's natural, whether as a website or an individual, to get caught up in issues that are immediate and urgent. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have been the focus of so many TomDispatch columns are happening right now. People are dying now. The economy is melting down now. The foreclosed and homeless are waking up now in ever-growing numbers. Unemployment lines are getting longer as you read this. Children are hungry this very minute, and the anxiety of a middle-class in freefall is palpable right now almost anywhere you go.
But now and then, it's also useful to take a step back and ask some longer term questions. Even if we could stop the wars, put people back to work (and back into their homes), even if we could get consumers spending again, there's always the "what-for" question. What have we accomplished if all we've done is reset the clock on the next war, the next bubble, the next bust... and if, all the while, the ice is melting and the globe warming?
Chip Ward, a TomDispatch contributor since 2003, spent 16 years confronting corporations that pollute and run, leaving sickness and suffering in their wake. He was focused on urgent and immediate tasks that made a difference right away (and, while he was at it, running a library system in Salt Lake City that was slowly filling up with homeless people). Recently, he took a break and retreated to the remote canyons of southern Utah where he's been reflecting on that bigger picture and, as it happens, on the nature of bigness itself at a moment when "too big to fail" is the phrase du jour. Tom
Too Big to Fail
Ecological Ignorance and Economic Collapse
By Chip Ward
"Too big to fail." It's been the mantra of our economic meltdown. Although meant to emphasize the overwhelming importance of this bank or that corporation, the phrase also unwittingly expresses a shared delusion that may be at the root of our current crises -- both economic and ecological.
In nature, nothing is too big to fail. In fact, big is bound to fail. To understand why that's so means stepping away from a prevailing set of beliefs that holds us in its sway, especially the deep conviction that we operate apart from nature's limits and rules.
Here's the heart of the matter: We are ecologically illiterate -- not just unfamiliar with the necessary scientific vocabulary and concepts, but spectacularly, catastrophically, tragically dumb. Oh yes, some of us now understand that draining those wetlands, clear-cutting the rainforests, and pumping all that CO2 into the atmosphere are self-destructively idiotic behaviors. But when it comes down to how nature itself behaves, we remain remarkably clueless.
Since April Fool's Day expired, there has been nothing but bad news about Earth's various ice shelves circulating through the news. Antarctica's Wordie and Larsen ice shelves? The first is simply gone, and the second is disappearing fast. How about the Connecticut-sized Wilkins shelf? It has fragmented into polar pieces after the ice tether holding it to the Antarctic peninsula snapped this week, signaling that the Earth is undergoing some profound changes.
So what do melting ice shelves a world away have to do with the rest of us? That is where the fools come in.
"This continued and often-significant glacier retreat is a wakeup call that change is happening," USGS glaciologist Jane Ferrigno explained in a joint United States Geological Survey and British Antarctic Survey on the melt. "Antarctica is of special interest, because it holds an estimated 91 percent of the Earth's glacier volume, and change anywhere in the ice sheet poses significant hazards to society."
This winter, as Congress was scrambling to pass the stimulus package, the bottom fell out of the renewable energy sector -- the very industry that lawmakers have held out as our best hope of salvaging the economy. Trade groups like the American Wind Energy Association, which as recently as December was forecasting "another record-shattering year of growth," began predicting that new installations would plunge by 30 to 50 percent. Solar panel manufacturers that had been blazing a trail of growth announced a wave of layoffs. Some have since cut their workforces in half, as stock prices tumble and plans for new green energy projects stall.
Camp Lejeune Historic Water Update
Daniel McGowan, Another "War on Terrorism" Victim
by Stephen Lendman
Of so-called "eco-terrorism" in his case, a term believed coined by Ron Arnold, executive director of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise (CDFE), a radical right wing group established on July 4, 1976 "to continue (the) Revolution of liberty, free enterprise and individual initiative....without hindrance by government."
According to Sourcewatch:
"Arnold blurred the boundaries between nonviolent civil disobedience and more contentious tactics such as vandalism and sabotage," (mostly rejected by environmentalists) by equating property damage to "terrorism as a societal threat."
For millenniums, microbes have been a staunch technological ally. They have leavened our bread and cured our cheeses. Now, engineers are asking them to convert carbon dioxide into fuel and to build a new generation of batteries. Some of the smallest life forms with which we share the planet are helping us cope with the energy challenges of the 21st century.
Forget about the so-called hydrogen economy for a moment. The much-discussed plan to use hydrogen as a major power source has serious problems, such as how to deliver the fuel to consumers.
Bruce Logan at Penn State says methane could be a much more appealing candidate. Through the study of how microbes produce methane in swamps, bogs, and landfills, he and his colleagues believe they have found a perfect source for the gas.
Johann Hari: The protesters are the ones we should listen to at this summit | Independent UK
The way out of the credit and the climate crunch is the same - a Green New Deal
When this hinge-point in human history is remembered, there will be far more sympathy for the people who took to the streets and rioted than for the people who stayed silently in their homes. Two global crises have collided, and we have a chance here, now, to solve them both with one mighty heave – but our leaders are letting this opportunity for greatness leach away. The protesters here in London were trying to sound an alarm now, at five minutes to ecological midnight.
Many commentators seemed bemused that the protesters focused on the climate crunch as much as the credit crunch. What's it got to do with a G20 meeting on reviving the global economy? Why wave banners saying 'Nature Doesn't Do Bail-Outs' today? Because both crises have their roots in the same ideology – and both have the same solution.
By Ted Glick, CCAN Policy Director
The House Energy and Commerce Committee discussion draft, “The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009,” released on March 31st is very robust, a 648 page document. Based upon one reading of this document, these seem to be most of the significant provisions:
-It would establish a cap-and-trade system which sets mandatory and declining limits on greenhouse gas emissions (ghg) over the next 40 years. Emissions credits would be allocated to accomplish this, but the draft is silent on how many of those credits would be given away or auctioned, or perhaps distributed in some other way. This remains to be negotiated.
Outrage Growing Over Perchlorate Contamination | WISN
Group Says Government Must To More To Protect Public
MILWAUKEE -- An environmental group is accusing the government of not doing enough to protect people and the nation’s food from potentially dangerous levels of a rocket fuel ingredient.
It’s called perchlorate and it’s a key component in rocket fuel.
"We don't think people realize how widespread of a contaminant it is," Environmental Working Group Dr. Anila Jacob said.
The group says that 20 million to 40 million Americans may be exposed to the chemical.
"We know that the CDC has found perchlorate in 100 percent of the people they've tested, so there's widespread exposure, through contaminated drinking water and also through contaminated food," Jacob said.
Longer version with more detail and advice: HERE.
For Meetings with Congress Members and Senators
During April 4-19, 2009, Recess
Adjust to your communities’ priorities and to fit your representative and senators. Make the case to them of the necessary trade-off in defunding war in order to fund human needs. Make alliances with activist groups wishing to pressure elected officials on domestic funding needs and workers’ rights.
Oppose Escalation of War in Afghanistan and Pakistan
A bipartisan group of fourteen members of Congress recently wrote to the president asking him to reconsider his proposal to send more troops to Afghanistan. Your representative and senators should send similar letters, and should include opposition to missile strikes or the introduction of troops into Pakistan.
[Obama accepts a treaty with Iraq without Senate ratification and declares in a signing statement that Congress cannot interfere in his power to make treaties all by himself (the Constitution be damned), but when it comes to climate change Obama won't sign a treaty unless Congress approves it BEFOREHAND? -- DS]
Barack Obama May Delay Signing up to Copenhagen Climate Change Deal
By Patrick Wintour, The Guardian/UK
Barack Obama may be forced to delay signing up to a new international agreement on climate change in Copenhagen at the end of the year because of the scale of opposition in the US Congress, it emerged today.
Senior figures in the Obama administration have been warning Labour counterparts that the president may need at least another six months to win domestic support for any proposal.
Such a delay could derail the securing of a tough global agreement in time for countries and markets to adopt it before the Kyoto treaty runs out in 2012.
By Jere Locke and Alyssa Burgin
All of our hopes, all of our dreams for the next generation--for our children and grandchildren-- are now on a collision course with nature if our governments don’t soon act to limit carbon emissions. This year will be pivotal in deciding the future of this planet. For many years, the U.S. has dragged its feet in passing legislation on the subject, while sabotaging international negotiations. Congressman Lloyd Doggett is to be applauded in recognizing the severity of this situation, reflected in his just-released “Safe Markets Development Act of 2009”, but he does not go far enough.
World Wildlife Fund is asking individuals, businesses, governments and organizations around the world to turn off their lights for one hour – Earth Hour – to make a global statement of concern about climate change and to demonstrate commitment to finding solutions. On Saturday, March 28th at 8:30pm millions of people around the world will turn off their lights for one hour, Earth Hour to join the largest call to action on climate change in history.
Maine Water Justice Activists Mark World Water Day | Press Release
On Sunday, March 22nd a coalition of Maine Water Justice activists organized World Water Day in Portland, Maine. They did this in concert with thousands of other actions taking place throughout the world in recognition of World Water Day, an annual day of action created by the United Nations to highlight the importance of freshwater resources and to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.
Today, 2.6 billion people do not have access to clean water worldwide.
In the United States, the support for public water systems has been slashed during the last several administrations, therefore encouraging privatization by cash strapped municipalities. When water systems are privatized for profit, water quality goes down and becomes more expensive and water cut-offs increase drastically.
DC! Tomorrow! Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Hearing on "Preparing for Climate Change: Adaptation Policies and Programs"
Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Hearing on "Preparing for Climate Change: Adaptation Policies and Programs" | Press Release
WASHINGTON, DC The Subcommittee on Energy and Environment will hold a hearing titled, "Preparing for Climate Change: Adaptation Policies and Programs" on Wednesday, March 25, 2009, in 2123 Rayburn House Office Building. This hearing will examine ongoing domestic and international efforts to reduce climate change vulnerability, and potential policies in climate change legislation that could assist such efforts.
Kerry Baker, DAV’s assistant national legislative director, issued an update Tuesday in which he reported that about 182 veterans are in the database. Of those, 48 have developed lymphoma, leukemia or some other form of cancer. Another 55 reported pulmonary disorders, including asthma and asthma-like symptoms. Other reported conditions include multiple sclerosis, sleep apnea and heart problems. At least 16 veterans entered into the database have died, Baker said.
The Veterans Affairs Department is gathering data to monitor potential health problems in troops who say they were made ill by exposure to smoke from open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a letter to Congress.
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is the biggest consumer of coal in the United States and last Christmas residents living near the TVA Kingston Steam Plant were flooded with approximately 1.6 billion gallons of coal waste after a retaining wall at the facility failed.
The spill was 40 times the size of the Exxon Valdez, has caused severe health problems, and polluted the water and the air quality throughout the region. So far the TVA hasn't taken full responsibility for the spill and another could happen at any time.
Authorities declared a disaster zone Friday along a stretch of some of Australia's most popular beaches after tons of fuel oil that leaked from a cargo ship blackened the creamy white sand for miles.
The government of Queensland state denied it had acted too slowly to stop an environmental disaster, and threatened the shipping company with a multimillion-dollar lawsuit.
National parks at Moreton and Bribie islands just north of the state capital of Brisbane were hardest hit by oil spilled Wednesday from the container ship Pacific Adventurer, and oil washed ashore in pockets along the Sunshine Coast.