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At its final meeting of 2013, the Sierra Club's Board of Directors passed a resolution honoring lifelong conservationist and longtime Sierra Club volunteer leader Patrick Goldsworthy, who died this October at age 94.
In 1957, Goldsworthy helped establish the Sierra Club's first chapter in the Pacific Northwest (then called the Northwest Chapter) and its close ally, the North Cascades Conservation Council (NCCC).
"Dr. Goldsworthy was present at the creation of the Northwest's conservation movement, back in the days when horn-blasting logging trucks lined up outside wilderness hearings," writes Joel Connelly of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "Goldsworthy was a gentleman, but relentless in his advocacy."
Born in Ireland in 1919, Patrick Donovan Goldsworthy earned his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, joining the Sierra Club while still a student there. After serving in the U.S. Army and Air Force, he moved to Seattle in 1952 to become a professor of biochemistry at the University of Washington.
No sooner had Goldsworthy settled in Seattle than he heard about illegal logging being allowed in Olympic National Park by the park superintendent. His response was to travel to the park, photograph the destruction, and help stop the logging.
In 1956 he was elected to the board of Olympic Park Associates, and the following year he helped found the Club's Northwest Chapter (now split into the Washington State and Oregon chapters) and the NCCC. The two organizations led the fight to establish the Glacier Peak Wilderness in 1960, pass the Wilderness Act in 1964, and establish the iconic North Cascades National Park in 1968.
"Pat always impressed me as one of the true gentlemen of Northwest Conservation," says author and fellow Olympic Park Associates activist Tim McNulty. But Goldsworthy was nothing if not tenacious in pursuit of his conservation goals.
In 1962, when Interior Secretary Stewart Udall came to Seattle for the 1962 World's Fair, local attorney/conservationist Irving Clark, Jr., invited Goldsworthy to a beach party honoring Udall on nearby Bainbridge Island. Joel Connelly relates the story in the Post-Intelligencer:
"Now Pat," Clark admonished Goldsworthy, "Steward Udall is a busy man." Clark gently suggested that Goldsworthy let Udall relax and hold off lobbying for a national park in the North Cascades.
No way! Armed with maps, Goldsworthy positioned himself just inside the door of the beach house. He waylaid Udall, took him into the study, and laid out the case for a park. Goldsworthy, lugging topographical maps, became a familiar figure in Washington congressional offices.
Six years post-Bainbridge, Goldsworthy stood with Udall at the White House while President Lyndon Johnson signed the North Cascades Act into law. He received a pen used by LBJ to sign the act."
Below, Goldsworthy with LBJ at the 1968 creation of North Cascades National Park.
In 1966 Goldsworthy received the Sierra Club's William E. Colby Award for outstanding leadership and service to the Sierra Club.
"Pat was perpetually genial, always self-effacing, ever eager to give credit to others," reads the Sierra Club resolution honoring Goldsworthy. "He was a particular inspiration to each young person he encountered. Pat remained active in every major wilderness battle in Western Washington up until his death. As a result of his work and inspiration, Americans have a nearly unbroken block of wilderness and national park land stretching along the crest of the Cascades from the Canadian border to just south of Mt. Rainier National Park.
"Pat inspired generations of the Sierra Club's chapter and group leaders and staff members with his dedication, his persistence, and his confidence that our political system could and would match his vision if we were effective advocates. There was not a cynical bone in his body. Pat lived a full life, so we cannot so much mourn his passing as honor his legacy and take his example to renew our own commitment to the work he pioneered."
Other places Goldworthy was instrumental in protecting include the Wild Sky, Alpine Lakes, William O. Douglag, Norse Peak, Boulder River, Chelan-Sawtooth, Henry M. Jackson, Mt. Baker, and Noisy-Diobsud wilderness areas.
"If you want to see his legacy," says Joel Connelly, "lift your eyes to the hills."
Erica Thames grew up and spent most of her life in a low-income community in Southern California's Inland Empire, a region of more than four million people just east of Los Angeles that is beset with some of the worst air pollution in the U.S.
"Growing up, I had a general idea of environmentalism in the form of recycling, saving water, etc.," the 23-year-old activist told MTV in an interview this fall. "But it wasn't until I started learning about environmental justice and environmental racism that I became really involved."
Thames hooked up with the Sierra Club in 2012 when she was a student at San Bernadino Valley College. While volunteering at an Inland Empire cultural collective called Chicccaa (Chicano Indigenous Community for Culturally Conscious Advocacy and Action), she met Allen Hernandez, an organizer with the Club's My Generation campaign.
Thames quickly became a key volunteer leader with the campaign, going door-to-door to ask local residents to sign petitions supporting rooftop solar in low-income communities, and organizing demonstrations opposing California utilities' restrictions on renewable energy.
"Erica took the lead in organizing these demonstrations," says Hernandez. "We wouldn't have had such a successful rally outside Southern California Edison's headquarters this August if it wasn't for her." The demonstration, pictured above and below, was held to protest the utility's opposition to California families installing solar panels on their homes.
Thames, above at right, said that many of her friends and neighbors in the Inland Empire were initially skeptical when she began working to bring rooftop solar to her working-class community, which in addition to being plagued with bad air also suffers from high unemployment.
"People would say, how does that apply to me? I don't have $20,000 to put rooftop solar on my house," she told the Associated Press this fall. But when she explained that the growth of rooftop solar would mean local construction jobs, savings for local property owners, and lower electric bills and cleaner air for everyone, it hit home. "When you start talking about health benefits and jobs, people become really intrigued."
Hernandez calls Thames "the most critical volunteer I've had." The admiration runs both ways. "Allen mentored me completely," Thames says. "I wasn't sure what to expect when I started out as a Sierra Club volunteer. Allen taught me all about environmental justice -- and injustice. He really drove home the point that the area where I grew up was hit hard by environmental racism."
This fall, Thames moved to Austin, Texas, to work for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. "Being a staff organizer gives me the time and resources to be able to dedicate myself to creating change," she says. "It was a bit of a challenge at first dealing with culture shock -- Texas and California are totally different worlds! But the skills I learned in California helped greatly, and I was able to make the transition with not much problem."
Thames stresses that organizations like the Sierra Club must make it a priority to assist communities like the one in which she grew up in their fight of resistance against environmental racism.
"Erica is an example of what investment in our communities can produce," says Hernandez. "She was already a student leader at her college, but her involvement and development with the My Generation campaign helped her achieve community leader status. Her furious and unwavering commitment to social justice and environmental justice is both humbling and inspiring."
You know somebody is really walking the green walk when you meet them in Los Angeles and they show up on their bicycle. That was the first thing that impressed me about Skylar Funk, above at left, when I met him recently at a coffee shop in the Silver Lake neighborhood near downtown L.A. The second was his infectious enthusiasm for a project that is now coming down the home stretch.
Funk is co-leader with Merritt Graves, at right above, of the alternative pop band Trapdoor Social, which broke onto the music scene last December with their debut release, Death of a Friend. The two met in an Environmental Analysis program at Pomona College in 2006 and quickly bonded over their shared passion for music and the environment. After graduating, Funk spent a year volunteering for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign.
Now, Trapdoor Social is partnering with the Sierra Club, Everybody Solar, and GRID Alternatives to raise $20,000 for a solar energy project in Los Angeles. All proceeds from pre-orders of Trapdoor Social's new album, due out in the new year, will go toward installing solar panels on the roof of Homeboy Industries, a non-profit that provides services, counseling, and job training -- with a special focus on the green energy sector -- to formerly gang-involved men and women.
"Merritt and I want Trapdoor Social to be part of a movement that engages people in making social change," Funk says. "Climate disruption is an urgent matter, and the Homeboy solar fundraiser is an opportunity for us to make a point about the importance of renewable energy."
"We're excited about the emerging clean-energy economy, which will promote national security through energy independence and job creation in a new sustainable sector," says Graves.
Trapdoor Social is using Pledge Music, an online "direct-to-fan" music platform, to host the fundraiser. Anyone who makes a donation by the end of 2013 will get the band's new album prior to its official public release, along with the satisfaction of knowing they've contributed to two righteous causes: clean energy and a non-profit that is making a real difference in helping motivated people turn their lives around.
"We are very grateful to be the beneficiaries of this project," says Father Greg Boyle, at left, a Los Angeles native, Jesuit priest, and founder & executive director of Homeboy Industries. "The installation of solar panels at Homeboy will reduce our energy costs, increase awareness about renewable energy, and help us promote our Solar Panel Installation Training and Certification Program. Our hope is that we will quickly get more people involved in the program, completing the courses, passing the national test, and eventually working in the solar panel installation industry."
The Sierra Club got involved with the Homeboy solar fundraiser this summer when Funk contacted Sierra Club organizer Michael Sarmiento, whom he'd met during his stint with Beyond Coal.
"The Sierra Club is really excited to be supporting Trapdoor Social in this project," says Sarmiento, an organizer for the Club's My Generation campaign, which focuses on expanding access to clean energy across California, especially in low-income communities and communities of color. "Partnerships like this will help create good jobs in the renewable energy sector and bring substantial energy savings to families and organizations like Homeboy that are doing such amazing work."
Above, Funk and Graves tour Homeboy's offices with program coordinator Thaddeus Skiles. Below, the band visits the Sierra Club's L.A. headquarters.
"Clean energy is the energy of the future, and the future is now," says Aura Vasquez, statewide partnerships representative for the Club. "The savings and environmental benefits of clean energy can't be overstated. As we transition away from fossil fuels, it's critical that we replace that energy with clean, renewable sources. Two-thirds of all new solar panel installations in California are currently taking place in low-income and middle-class neighborhoods, and we want to make sure that clean energy is available to everyone."
Last week Trapdoor Social co-sponsored an event at Homeboy's headquarters, below, for all the Southern California partners who have joined the Homeboy solar fundraiser, including the Sierra Club, Everybody Solar, GRID Alternatives, ecoSolargy and Solectria, which are donating panels and inverters, and Orion, which is donating mounting systems.
"We're on a mission," says Funk. "We want to use our music and the megaphone we're fortunate enough to have through Trapdoor Social to raise money and awareness about environmental sustainability. And you will hear the passion in the music."
(Click on the photo above to watch Trapdoor Social's new video for their song, Like You Never.)
On Thursday Sierra Club staff and DC chapter members braved a frigid afternoon in our nation's Capital to join supporters of immigrant families from the labor, faith and civil rights communities at the breaking of the Fast for Families. Calling on Speaker John Boehner and the House of Representatives to be true to the deepest values of this nation of immigrants, fasters and their supporters predicted Congressional action in the New Year to enact long delayed legislation that includes a path to citizenship.
Supporters of families who have been separated and harmed by our country's outdated immigration policies have been fasting on the National Mall since before Thanksgiving. As Javier Sierra noted in his column earlier this week, the fast has attracted the country's attention, including President Obama, the First Lady, Vice-President Joe Biden and the Democratic leadership in Congress, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
In his column supporting the fasters, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said, "There's no excuse for forcing millions of people to live outside the prevailing currents of our society, where they are frequently exploited and where they often suffer the worst effects of environmental pollution."
At yesterday's event, former SEIU Vice President Eliseo Medina referred to the fast as a wake-up call to the nation about "the moral crisis caused by our broken immigration system." Medina was one of four original fasters who broke their fast on December 3, and passed the baton to others including Sojourners founder Rev. Jim Wallis, Congressman Joe Kennedy III, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel.
Echoing the spiritual resistance embodied in earlier fasts by Mahatma Gandhi, who led the struggle for India's freedom from colonialism, and Cesar Chavez, who opened the nation's consciousness to the plight of farmworkers, yesterday's event opened with interfaith prayers in Spanish, English and Korean. At the close, fasters broke their fasts by breaking bread and sharing grape juice in a spiritual communion with participants.
Among the sacred verses quoted was Isaiah 58:6: "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice...to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?"
-- Dean Hubbard, Director of the Sierra Club's Labor Program. Photos by Javier Sierra.
Last week the Bridgeport, Connecticut, city council met for the first time since new council members were elected and sworn in. That meant Connecticut Beyond Coal activists were on-hand to say "Welcome" and make sure the new members know that Bridgeport should be coal-free.
"There were nine new members elected to the 20-person council,"' said Onte Johnson, a Beyond Coal organizer in Bridgeport. "Every council meeting there is a 30-minute public speaking forum to present to the city council matters pertaining the community. We took that opportunity and came strong!"
Johnson said activists and students from Yale, Quinnipiac, and the University of Bridgeport spoke for 10 minutes to the Mayor and City Council about the local Beyond Coal campaign's goals.
"We discussed a transition for Bridgeport's coal plant, the health impacts of coal and carbon pollution, and how it all contributes to climate disruption and the health of our children and community," said Johnson.
Bridgetport's coal plant ranks as the tenth most harmful coal plant in the U.S. The Beyond Coal activists in Bridgeport have made the news before for their activism demanding that the city retires the dirty coal plant. Keep up the great work!
By Javier Sierra
During 22 days, four social justice heroes fasted in Washington, DC, to support immigration reform including a path to citizenship, in the shadow of the very same Congress that refuses to vote on it.
Their names are Cristián Avila, Dae Joong Yoon, Eliseo Medina and Lisa Sharon —the vanguard of a movement hungry for justice for 11 million undocumented immigrants who live in the shadows of our society exposed to all kinds of injustices.
Their sacrifice —under the theme “Fast for Families”— has attracted the country’s attention, including President Obama, the First Lady, Vice-President Joe Biden and the Democratic leadership in Congress, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. But so far, all they have to show for it is the indifference of a House of Representatives that stubbornly refuses to vote on a bill the Senate has already approved.
The fast, inevitably, brings us memories of César Chávez’s formidable struggle in favor of justice and humane treatment for farm workers in California and other Southwestern states.
During his activism, this social and environmental justice giant completed two hunger strikes and, in 1988, a “Fast for Life” in protest against the use of pesticides. Over 36 days, Chávez sacrificed his body to safeguard the health of tens of thousands of farm workers who suffered a daily toxic bombardment of terrible consequences.
Our moral debt to Chávez is enormous. And a new initiative is trying to partially repay it. The Department of the Interior has submitted a proposal to Congress to establish a new National Historic Park to honor Chávez and the farm workers movement he led along with Dolores Huerta.
After evaluating 100 sites of historic significance regarding Chávez’s legacy, the department has recommended that the following five be integrated into this new park:
—The 40 Acres National Historic Landmark, in Delano, CA, where he completed his first hunger strike.
—The Filipino Community Hall, also in Delano, the headquarters of the 1965 grape strike.
—The César E. Chávez National Monument at Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz, in Keene, CA, where he lived and founded the United Farm Workers Union.
—The Santa Rita Center, in Phoenix, AZ, where he underwent his second hunger strike in 1972.
—And the route of the 1966 Delano to Sacramento March, a 340-mile walk that Chávez and his fellow activists covered to protest the working conditions in the California vineyards.
“Recognizing these sites associated with his leadership of the United Farm Workers as part of a national historical park will ensure that his contributions to the Civil Rights movement will be preserved and shared as an inspiration for future generations,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.
Chávez’s spirit was almost palpable in the air of that cool morning in Washington, DC, when his successors ended their fast after three weeks of sacrifice.
But the struggle continues, and several other activists took their places to continue reminding the consciences of the House members that 11 million people are still suffering deportations, deaths on the border, labor exploitation and environmental injustices that threaten the health of their families and communities.
All of them also deserve a monument, a monument to human decency.
Javier Sierra is a Sierra Club columnist. Follow him on Twitter @javier_SC
This Tuesday, December 10, our nation's highest courts will hear two landmark Clean Air Act cases that have big implications for public health. First and foremost, the Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday on the Environmental Protection Agency's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.
Back in 2011, EPA unveiled this update of a critical public health protection that would reduce power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, dangerous pollutants that form soot and smog and contribute to poor air quality days and respiratory illnesses affecting millions of Americans. They call this the Cross State Air Pollution Rule because it curbs the millions of tons of air pollution that travel downwind and across state lines each year. Pollution doesn't stop at state lines.
Unfortunately, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals handed down an extremely controversial divided ruling in August of 2012 that struck this rule.
The EPA and a coalition of environmental and public health organizations - including the Sierra Club - sought review by the Supreme Court, and on June 24, 2013, the Court agreed to hear the case. Briefs submitted by the EPA, our coalition of the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and many others make the case that the DC Circuit's ruling is unfounded, contrary to the Clean Air Act, based on a misunderstanding of interstate pollution, and seriously jeopardizes the ability of downwind states and the EPA to protect millions of people from dangerous ozone and particulate matter pollution.
The benefits of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule are remarkable. According to the EPA, this standard would prevent up to 34,000 deaths annually, would prevent 1.8 million days of missed work/school annually, and would provide $120-280 billion in benefits every year at a cost of only $1.8 billion in the first year, and roughly $1 billion a year thereafter. The benefits-to-cost ratio is about 100 to 1!
What's more, for many downwind areas, 75 percent or more of local air pollution comes from upwind states. In parts of Connecticut, more than 90 percent of ozone pollution is due to pollutants flowing in from other states. Without this cross-state protection, these states simply cannot resolve their air quality problems, putting the health of their citizens at grave risk.
Industries and states and many others are standing together calling for implementation of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. Just today, underscoring the urgency of the problem, governors of eight Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states petitioned EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to reduce air pollution blowing into the region from nine Midwestern and Appalachian states.
The second major public health protection coming before a court this week is the EPA's Mercury and Air Toxics Standard. Coal plants are the largest source of mercury pollution in the U.S., so of course the industry is challenging this standard that requires them to stop dumping so much mercury into our air and water.
Mercury is a powerful neurotoxin that can damage the brain and nervous system. Mercury is of special concern to women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, since exposure to mercury can cause developmental problems, learning disabilities, and delayed onset of walking and talking in babies and infants.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hold oral argument on December 10 regarding these challenges by industry to this critical public health mercury standard.
Make no mistake about it - this Tuesday, December 10, is a big day for clean air and public health in our nation's highest courts, and there are tens of thousands of lives on the line.
-- Mary Anne Hitt, Beyond Coal Campaign Director
Evan Halper's December 2 article in the Los Angeles Times, "Power Struggle: Green energy versus a grid that's not ready" perpetuates the false narrative that renewable energy increases the risk of blackouts, when in fact the problem is centralized fossil fuel nonrenewable generation.
A more accurate, but perhaps less sensational, story would detail California's national leadership in reliably increasing the use of renewables -- like solar and wind energy. A recent report by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation and the California Independent System Operator, two entities charged with ensuring grid reliability, highlights the many solutions the state is already adopting to address concerns raised by Mr. Hapler.
For example, despite Mr. Halper's claim that "nobody can say for certain when the wind will blow or the sun will shine," the potential grid impacts arising from the variability of wind and solar energy are being addressed through improved forecasting and new regional partnerships that better leverage the geographic diversity of wind and solar resources, reducing overall variability in the energy system.
The article also suggests that California regulators recklessly disregarded cost concerns in requiring utilities to deploy energy storage. This couldn't be further from the truth. State regulators only adopted an energy storage requirement after an independent third-party analysis concluded that it is a cost-effective resource offering significant grid benefits.
As for renewables, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently concluded that if a third of the energy in the West were supplied by wind and solar, these resources would displace $7 billion in annual fuel costs and reduce greenhouse gas pollution from the energy sector by approximately 30 percent.
The article also devotes significant space to depicting the effects of a 2011 blackout in San Diego that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission attributed to a faulty response by grid operators following an outage of a transmission line. This blackout had nothing to do with renewables. To the contrary, local clean energy like rooftop solar helps mitigate these types of events by generating energy locally and reducing reliance on imported power.
Of course, entirely missing from the article is the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas pollution to avoid the increasingly catastrophic impacts to California and the rest of the world. As the LA Times reported the day after Mr. Halper's article was published, a new National Resource Council report warned that accelerating levels of greenhouse gas pollution are increasing the risk of abrupt and severe changes to the climate that will leave nature and society with little time to react. California's leadership in both increasing the use of renewable energy and proactively finding solutions to address any grid impacts should be commended and accelerated, not baselessly criticized.
-- Matt Vespa, Sierra Club Senior Attorney
By Catherine Collentine, Sierra Club Beyond Natural Gas Colorado Campaign Representative
Successful ballot measures in Colorado to ban or place moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") built momentum to get methane emissions regulated in new statewide air-quality standards released in late November. In last month's elections, all four of the local ballot initiatives to halt or ban fracking in Colorado communities passed. Industry outspent community activists 40 to 1, but the people of this state got their message across loud and clear that they don't want fracking near their homes, schools, or communities.
These big wins were followed by the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission proposing a set of emissions standards that would, if enacted, lead to a significant reduction in emissions of ozone-inducing methane and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) -- chemicals which form ground-level ozone (commonly known as smog) -- and emissions from natural gas drilling and fracking operations in the state.
While these rules are a step in the right direction to regulate the natural gas industry and would make Colorado the first state in the nation to regulate methane emissions, more action is needed. Colorado is out of compliance with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air-quality standards along the population centers of the Front Range, where four out of five Coloradans live. (Colorado's population is about 5.2 million; more than 4 million live along the Front Range.)
The serious health effects of poor air quality are borne by citizens, especially young children and the elderly who suffer from asthma and other upper respiratory ailments. The natural gas industry is exempt from significant federal environmental regulations including the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. Through exemptions and lack of regulation, natural gas operations have been allowed to expand without safeguards for public health and the environment. The Air Quality Control Commission rules are necessary to slow this out-of-control polluting by drilling operations.
The proposed rules provide a promising start to significantly reducing methane and other pollutants from Colorado's oil and gas operations, but they must be strengthened further before they are finalized. A final rule must ensure that local control is given to communities to determine if they want destructive fracking in their backyards. The rules must address both the health and climate impacts of drilling and fracking, and require state-of-the-art technology to maximize emission reductions and tighten the timeline for leak detection and repair provisions.
This is our opportunity to hold the natural gas industry accountable to our citizens, communities, and the health of our environment. We look forward to making sure that all voices are heard, especially people facing the prospect of drilling near their homes and neighborhood schools, and those whose health and quality of life are at stake. We will work with the Air Quality Control Commission and the administration of Governor Hickenlooper -- as well as with other stakeholders in this process -- to push for the highest air-quality standards possible.
The Boulder, CO, Event Attracted Artists and Activists from Throughout the US and Abroad
On a cool November morning in Boulder, CO, we all were seated on this packed shuttle bus and decided to start introducing ourselves to each other. Soon I realized I was surrounded by loads of talent from many parts of the US and the world.
And my realization was reinforced when a gentleman seated a couple of rows ahead of me said, “I am Homero Aridjis, pleased to meet you.” Aridjis is Mexico’s most relevant poet, author of more than 50 books, and leader of the Group of 100, perhaps Latin America’s most influential environmental organization.
I got up and introduced myself shaking his hand in admiration. After all, my first assignment for the Sierra Club back in 2001 was to write a column for don Homero about the terrible effects of NAFTA’s Chapter 11 in Mexico. Little did I know that the circle was going to be completed on a rocking bus on our way to Boulder’s Municipal Library.
We finally arrived at our destination to attend the kick-off ceremony of the event that had attracted us all, the Americas Latino Festival, the first Latino arts and cultural event inspired by social and environmental justice and by everyone’s right to enjoy a healthy environment.
I attended representing the Sierra Club, one of the main sponsors, to make two presentations: the first one regarding climate change and environmental justice in the Latino community, and the second about the strengthening of democracy, and voter participation and protection.
I first shared the stage with Adrianna Quintero, founder and executive director of NRDC’s Latino Outreach Program, and Paty Romero Lankao, a sociologist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
From left to right, organizer Irene Vilar, presenters Adrianna Quintero, Pati Romero Lankao and Javier Sierra (Photo: ALF)
My presentation dealt with the environmental paradox facing Latinos. On one hand, we Latinos are much more aware than the population in general of the dangers of the climate crisis and the need to open the gates to a prosperous, clean energy economy; and on the other, we disproportionally suffer the consequences of environmental degradation and pollution.
I made extensive use of the findings of the landmark National Survey on Latinos and the Environment conducted last year by the Sierra Club and NCLR. The study revealed that 92 percent of Latinos believe climate change is either taking place (77%) or will happen in the near future (15%). The same percentage believes we all have the responsibility to take care of God’s creation on earth.
Latinos, however, do suffer a daily, toxic bombardment with devastating consequences. Forty-three percent of us live or work dangerously close to a toxic site, such as a coal-burning plant, a refinery, an incinerator or an agricultural field. Almost half said at least one member of their family suffers from asthma and more than 40 percent said at least one family member has cancer. This happens among the community with the nation’s lowest healthcare insurance enrollment.
Then I indicated that without the Latino vote, which has proven to be crucial in the last two presidential elections, the progressive movement, including the environmental community, would fail to attain its lofty goals. And finally I explained how the Sierra Club has been reaching out to Latinos to be an integral part of the conservation movement and of the fight against pollution and polluters.
On my second presentation, I shared the panel with some very relevant Latino civil society leaders, such as María Echaveste, former presidential advisor to Bill Clinton and current policy and program development director at the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy, UC Berkeley; Héctor Sánchez, executive director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement; Ben Monterroso, national executive director of Mi Familia Vota, and Marcos Vilar, national field director of Mi Familia Vota.
The panel’s main focus was continuing the national Latino organization’s efforts to promote voter participation among Latinos, especially in off-years, such as the upcoming 2014 campaign. The panelists also dealt with the dangers of voter ID laws, which are designed to suppress the minority vote, especially the Latino one.
Of special concern was the Supreme Court decision earlier in the year that gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the most effective instrument to protect the franchise in the country’s history. I emphasized that in the months that followed the decision, many states across he country moved to restrict the minority vote.
In general, the festival succeeded in attracting personalities in the arts, political activism and the environmental movement to confront problems and challenges from a unique artistic and cultural point of view. The combination worked, thanks to participants like the ones mentioned above and many more, such as:
• Writer Junot Díaz, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in fiction and witness to the Caribbean diaspora in the US.
• Writer Laura Esquivel, author of “Like Water for Chocolate.”
• Journalist Ray Suarez, a 14-year PBS veteran and current anchor of Al Jazeera’s “Inside Story.”
• Spanish artist Lorenzo Durán Silva, whose intricate leave cuttings depicting nature subjects has astonished art critics around the world.
• Guillermo Gómez Peña, Chicano poet, actor and political activist.
• Dafnis Prieto, percussionist, composer and current MacArthur Fellow, and many more.
The Americas Latino Festival has broken ground in the cultural, political and environmental arena, not only for Latinos but for the rest of the country as well. Let’s hope this is only the beginning.
Javier Sierra is a Sierra Club columnist, @javier_SC
By Elisabeth Keating, Washington State Chapter Communications Chair
Growing up a New Englander, I was steeped in the lore of Thanksgiving. My parents hailed from the Boston Irish tribe of Massachusetts, and my four siblings and I were raised in southwest Connecticut. Thanksgivings were huge feasts, encompassing multiple types of pies, turkey, stuffing, creamed onions and green beans. And there was always the shared ritual of touch football with our cousins.
My family didn't eat any fish at Thanksgiving. But in fact, fish have been an intrinsic component of our nation's Thanksgiving feast from the start. After an Indian named Squanto taught the pilgrims to fish and harvest corn, the pilgrims and he teamed up in 1621 to plan a celebratory meal that probably included Atlantic salmon.
We've come a long way since 1621.
The FDA is now on the cusp of approving the first genetically modified animal: a genetically modified salmon that is part eel and includes antifreeze in its DNA so it can grow all year long. I wonder how John Smith would have reacted at that first Thanksgiving if Squanto had dumped some fish on the table and said, "We didn't actually catch this fish. We made it out of an eel, and threw in some antifreeze. Enjoy!"
In all seriousness:
Given that salmon is a keystone species that is intrinsic to Northwest tribal culture, identity and economic survival, it's hard to understand why the FDA hasn't considered any economic or cultural input from the tribes in its evaluation.
As I learned this fall from Anne Mosness, a wild salmon advocate who served on the steering committee of the failed Initiative 522 movement to label genetically modified food in Washington State, the U.S. FDA hasn't run rigorous testing on the fish from either the standpoint of its safety for human consumption or its potential effect on the wild salmon population if it escapes open pens and enters the environment.
It's not just that the AquaBounty salmon is partially eel, partially made with antifreeze. The AquaBounty salmon is bred to grow far more quickly than wild salmon. The risks of AquaBounty fish are well documented in this Center for Food Safety report: Genetically Engineered Salmon: The Next Generation of Industrial Aquaculture.
And while AquaBounty says it's raising the fish in Panama to prevent dangers of its escaping into the oceans, many of its permits are missing. And eventually, the salmon will be grown in open pens in the Pacific Northwest, given the strong emphasis on aquaculture and farmed fish from NOAA.
Things are moving quickly: Canada just approved genetically modified salmon eggs.
The Northwest tribes have already weighed in in a letter to the FDA, Brian Cladoosby, Chairman of the Swinomish Tribal Community, said "The Tribe is also concerned that genetically engineered salmon pose a grave threat to the environment and to the health of the general population. We strongly believe that it would be an error for the FDA to accept the unsupported "guarantee" that all genetically engineered fish can be contained and not adversely impact people and the environment. History has shown that fish raised in aquaculture facilities can - and will - escape. It is also likely that genetically engineered fish would eventually be raised in open ocean net pens because nearly all commercial salmon production occurs in such pens. Farmed salmon routinely escape."
Tribal culture as well as fishing rights are put at risk by the AquaBounty salmon.
As Chief Weninock, of the Yakama tribe put it, back in 1915:
My strength is from the fish; my blood is from the fish, from the roots and berries. The fish and game are the essence of my life. I was not brought from a foreign country and did not come here. I was put here by the Creator. The approval process for genetically modified salmon has moved forward in secret without much attention from the national press. When you think about what we're at risk of losing, that seems extremely reckless.
• A rich tribal culture organized around the celebration of wild salmon, steeped in tradition.
• All the money and effort poured into salmon habitat restoration on the Elwha Rver and the Puyallup, to name just a couple.
• Massive efforts on the Sierra Club's part (as well as our partners) to make ecosystem-based management a key tenet of the revitalized Columbia River treaty.
• The entre wild salmon fishing industry: An economic bulwark of Washington State.
• Healthy food: full of omega vitamins. (Genetically modified salmon does not have the health benefits of wild) " Essential food for Pacific Northwest's rich and abundant wildlife including spirit bears, grizzlies, orcas, and wolves.
• A big profit for AquaBounty
• An untested fish that won't be labeled in stores or distinguishable from real wild salmon
• The first genetically modified animal approved for human consumption: that has been tested as a drug, not an animal.
This doesn't make sense. The risks are too high.
Eating salmon is about more than consuming any fish that's put in front of you and not knowing where it comes from. As the Northwest tribes know, it's about celebrating the cycle of life and carefully harvesting our bountiful planet.
In September 2013, the Lummi Nation held the first reef net fishery in generations. The net is suspended between two canoes. Tribal fishermen watch for the salmon to swim close to the surface, then lift the net. “A sxwole (reef net) is a gift from our creator, therefore an inherent right,” said Al Scott Johnnie, tribal cultural administrative policy assistant. “The sockeye salmon spirit came to our people and showed them how to make the reef net from the willow and other materials that were used from long ago. This was a way of life for our people, and the method was also to allow our sockeye to go up into the river so they could replenish, because they were our extended family.” For more information, read "Lummi Nation holds reef net fishery at Cherry Point."
OK, it's scary. What can you do about it?
KCBS News & Public Affairs Director, Sonya Green speaks with Rob Purser, Fisheries Director of the Suquamish Tribe, Valerie Segrest, Community Nutritionist and registered member of the Muckleshoot Tribe, and Anne Mosness, long time Fisherwoman and President of the Women's Maritime Association about their take on the possible approval of genetically engineered salmon for commercial sale.
The National Outdoor Book Awards has named Continental Divide: Wildlife, People, and the Border Wall, by photographer, writer, and borderlands activist Krista Schlyer, as the winner of the 2013 award for Nature and the Environment.
When Schlyer learned that hundreds of miles of border walls recently built along the U.S.-Mexico border were causing damage to sensitive wildlands and wildlife, she took notice. More important, she took photographs. These photos, along with a well-researched narrative of the wild places of the borderlands, fill the 292 colorful pages of Continental Divide.
"This is groundbreaking work," says National Outdoor Book Awards Chair Ron Watters. "The effects of the border wall on the environment have been left out of the national discourse, but Krista casts a bright light on this forgotten part of the debate."
"Krista's writing and photography raise awareness about threats to land, air, water, and wildlife in our borderlands," says Dan Millis, leader of the Sierra Club's Borderlands Team and Conservation Program Coordinator for the Grand Canyon (Arizona) Chapter. "Continental Divide is engaging, stunningly beautiful, and has a tremendous impact on us, the audience. For years, Krista has been a steadfast and powerful advocate for borderlands conservation, and she has helped Sierra Club bring the work of the Borderlands Team to a whole new level."Borderlands Campaign, says she wrote Continental Divide to help people understand what's at stake in the borderlands. "The fate of endangered jaguars, Sonoran pronghorn, ocelots, one of the last five free-ranging bison herds in North America, rare ecosystems that don't exist anywhere else in the United States -- all of these are jeopardized by the border wall. What are we willing to sacrifice for our war on the border?
"I saw this herd of bison crossing the border fence back when it was just a barbed-wire fence, and I later learned that they were traveling between their main water source in Mexico and their main food source back in the U.S. This was in 2007, just as the U.S. government was starting construction of the border wall. The wall now blocks migrations not just by bison, but thousands of other creatures that call the borderlands region home."
Working with the International League of Conservation Photographers, Schlyer organized a border-wide expedition to photograph landscapes, wildlife, and the impacts of the walls and the border buildup. The result was a photo exhibition that has toured around the country, and Schlyer's subsequent work culminated in Continental Divide.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has already built more than 650 miles of walls and metal fencing along the 1,950-mile border separating the United States and Mexico, and another 700 miles of wall and fencing are planned. When Congress authorized the border wall, it allowed Homeland Security to waive environmental laws near the border, and as a result, the wall has devastated wildlife migration paths. It has also rerouted human traffic through the most pristine and sensitive of wild lands, including wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, and national forests.
"Continental Divide is an important work on nature, and it's timely," says Waters, the National Outdoor Book Award chair. "It is the judges' hope that the book plays a role in jump-starting a more fully informed debate on the wall."
Between mid-October and the second week of November, the EPA held 11 public listening sessions across the country to solicit feedback, ideas, and input from the public about the best Clean Air Act approaches to reducing carbon pollution from existing power plants -- the nation's largest stationary source of carbon pollution, responsible for about one third of all greenhouse gas pollution in the United States.
Doing what it does best -- mobilizing grassroots support -- the Sierra Club answered the bell for the listening sessions. Club activists and supporters packed conference rooms, raised the roof at rallies and hearings, and submitted comments online, sending EPA a loud and clear message that Americans want the strongest possible safeguards against industrial carbon pollution from power plants.
In Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Lexana (Kansas), New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., more than 3,000 Sierra Club members and coalition supporters turned out for the listening sessions, organized and participated in rallies, and generated media attention. Over 2,000 people, including nearly 1,200 Sierra Club members and supporters, gave testimony supporting strong new carbon-pollution guidelines. By contrast, a total of 375 people testified in opposition.
Meanwhile, thanks to the Sierra Club's online organizing efforts, more than 16,000 people took action online, urging the EPA to put forth the strongest possible safeguards.
The Sierra Club has compiled a report about the listening sessions, recapping what came down at each location, including details from testimony and a statistical breakdown of how many citizens spoke out for and against strong new guidelines.
While historically the military has been one of the world's biggest fossil fuel consumers, in recent years it has moved to the front lines of alternative and renewable energy investments. The U.S. Department of Defense has committed to 680 alternative energy projects, driven by the fact that shifting to cleaner fuels not only benefits the environment, but also, ultimately, because it "reduces energy dependency, helps protect service members and costs less money," according to Department of Defense spokesperson Mark Wright.
One of the major goals of the energy projects is to cut down on petroleum use, and one of the ways the military is doing this is through investments in alternative fuel vehicles, such as plug-in electric vehicles and energy storage. And like many military projects that drive technological innovation, the benefits will eventually be shared by everyone.
A recent report by Navigant Research estimates that the U.S. military will more than double its current $435 million spending on alternative fuel vehicles by 2020, mostly through investments in plug-in electric and hybrid-electric vehicles for non-tactical purposes (i.e., vehicles used for administrative or operative support of military functions). Based on interviews with Department of Defense officials and alternative fuel vehicle acquisition policies, Navigant predicts this investment will result in the military acquiring nearly 100,000 electric vehicles within the decade.
Scott Shepard, a lead researcher on the report, said that although "[Department of Defense] investment in [plug-in electric vehicles] will not drive mainstream interest in plug-in electric vehicles," the military investments may well help drive the technology development in advancing plug-in vehicles.
Vehicle-to-grid technology is one of these exciting developments. Some of the military's planned plug-in vehicle fleets will work as part of microgrids through vehicle-to-grid connections. Vehicle-to-grid-enabled plug-in electric vehicles act as energy storage units when plugged in, able to store energy, and then release it to the grid when needed. In Japan, vehicle-to-grid programs are already in place.
In military application, the vehicle-to-grid plug-in electric vehicles would support power security in established microgrids, even during energy instability or emergency situations -- qualities that make such a setup clearly advantageous to the military. Vehicle-to-grid-enabled microgrids are already underway in bases in Hawaii and Colorado, and plans for expansion have been announced.
Outside of microgrids, vehicle-to-grid plug-in electric vehicles can potentially produce revenue from frequency regulation services for larger grids -- a benefit that is "of specific interest to the military," according to Scott Shepard. The military clearly wants to save fuel and money, and electric vehicles and battery storage are a smart way to do that.
For the rest of us, technical and regulatory challenges still prevent mass vehicle-to-grid adoption in the U.S., but the University of Delaware is testing the vehicle-to-grid technology in civilian lifestyles with a fleet of vehicle-to-grid-enabled electric Mini Coopers, and earning nearly $2,000 per vehicle every year for energy storage and grid-balancing services. If the military investments in vehicle-to-grid technology can open the window for public use, the benefits from getting paid to plug in will likely make plug-in electric vehicles more attractive to new car buyers.
Already we're seeing companies take interest in consumer-based energy storage. For example, a rule by the California Public Utilities Commission requires investor-owned utilities to incorporate 1325 MW of electrical energy storage in their systems by 2020-including 200 MW of customer-side storage, which may involve vehicle-to-grid plug-in electric vehicles in the future.
Leandra Cooper is an intern for the Sierra Club's Future Fleet & Electric Vehicles Initiative.
Can We Afford More Air Pollution, Climate Disruption, and Higher Bills?
By Matthew Vespa, Senior Attorney, Environmental Law Program
This past June, Southern California Edison (“SCE”), one of the largest electric utilities in the nation, announced the permanent retirement of the 2,200 MW San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (“San Onofre”) after significant tube damage was discovered in its steam generators. The unexpected shutdown of San Onofre presents an exciting opportunity for California to demonstrate how it can continue to meet its future energy needs without new fossil fuel plants.
Unfortunately, state regulators at the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) are now considering building new gas plants in Southern California to replace San Onofre. Given the severe impacts of gas plants on public health and the environment, the region’s reduced energy needs, and the availability of clean energy solutions, there is no legitimate basis for the CPUC to approve new gas-fired power plants in response to the San Onofre shutdown.
New Gas Plants Are Costly, Increase Air Pollution, and Move Us Backwards On Meeting Our Climate Goals
New gas plants are extremely costly and would exacerbate the serious public health impacts already experienced in a region with some of the dirtiest air in the nation. New gas plants would also undermine California’s climate targets by replacing a carbon-free energy source with carbon-intensive generation. Following the shutdown of San Onofre, greenhouse gas pollution from in-state electricity generation rose 35 percent due to increased use of gas-fired power plants.1
Authorizing new gas plants as a permanent replacement solution for San Onofre in lieu of clean energy alternatives would mark a significant and potentially unrecoverable step backward in California’s efforts to combat climate change. As recognized by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, “a transition to zero- and near-zero emission technologies is necessary to meet 2023 and 2032 air quality standards and 2050 climate goals.”2
We Don’t Have to Choose Between Reliability and Pollution
Fortunately, no new gas plants are needed. While one might reflexively assume that retirement of a facility the size of San Onofre would require at least some gas-fired replacement generation, this assumption ignores both the significant progress California has already made in transitioning toward clean energy and the additional potential to accelerate deployment of clean energy resources.
Due in part to incorporation of recently adopted building and appliance codes, the latest demand forecast by the California Energy Commission (“CEC”) lowers future projections of energy demand in Southern California by over half the capacity provided by San Onofre. Remaining need resulting from the retirement of San Onofre should be met by properly accounting for anticipated progress in California’s clean energy programs: energy efficiency, distributed (rooftop and small scale) solar, energy storage, and demand response (incentivized changes in energy use by consumers from their regular usage pattern). To the extent that need still remains, it can be filled with additional targeted deployment of these resources.
If necessary, transmission improvements can also reduce the need for new gas-fired generation in the LA Basin. For example, the Mesa Loop-In project proposed by SCE to upgrade an existing substation would reduce generation need in the LA Basin by 1,200 MW –- the equivalent of two new mid-size gas plants.
A preliminary decision by the CPUC to approve new gas plants to replace San Onofre is expected in January. Contact the CPUC today and tell them not to replace San Onofre with new dirty gas plants. Gas plants will make our air and climate worse and just aren’t needed.
For more information on San Onofre and evidence highlighting the lack of need for new gas plants as replacement capacity, read the following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on the San Onofre Nuclear Plant.
 California Air Resources Board, 2208-2012 Emissions for Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting Summary (Nov. 4, 2013) (showing increase in in-state greenhouse gas emissions from 30,732,214 metric tons in 2011 to 41,610,182 in 2012 and attributing change to increase in use of natural gas as fuel due to decrease in hydroelectric generation and loss of San Onofre), available at http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/reporting/ghg-rep/reported-data/2008-2012-ghg-emissions-summary.pdf.
 South Coast Air Quality Management District, Final 2012 Air Quality Management Plan (Dec. 2012), p. 1‑20, available at http://www.aqmd.gov/aqmp/2012aqmp/Final/Chapters.pdf.
By David Scott, Sierra Club President
As many readers of this blog are well aware, in June the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing the gray wolf (Canis lupus) from the list of threatened and endangered species. The proposal would strip Endangered Species Act protections from wolves across nearly the entire continental U.S., despite the fact that there are few, if any, wolves left in the vast majority of their former range.
Four public hearings on the proposed delisting were scheduled for earlier this fall, but three of them -- in Sacramento, Albuquerque, and Denver -- were cancelled due to the federal government shutdown. At the hearing that did take place, on September 30 in Washington, D.C., several Sierra Club activists were among the 73 citizens who spoke out against delisting (only three spoke in favor), and Sierra Club Legislative Director Debbie Sease spoke at a pre-hearing rally.
Despite cancellation of the official hearings, in early October hundreds of wolf supporters held citizens hearings in Albuquerque and Denver. In Albuquerque alone, 300 people showed up for a "Save the Lobo" rally and unofficial hearing where activists recorded video testimony to be delivered after the shutdown. (Americans for Prosperity, funded by the Koch Brothers, attempted to hold an event next door to the Save the Lobo rally, but only about 30 people showed up.)
Four make-up hearings on the gray wolf delisting have now been scheduled, and three are taking place this week, in Denver, Albuquerque, and Sacramento. A fourth and final hearing will take place in Pinetop, Arizona, on December 3.
Denver - Tuesday, November 19, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Place, Denver, CO 80202; (303) 405–1245
Albuquerque - Wednesday, November 20, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Embassy Suites, Sandia Room, 1000 Woodward Place NE, Albuquerque, NM 87102; (505) 245–7100
Sacramento - Friday, November 22, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. the Marriot Courtyard Sacramento Cal Expo, Golden State Ballroom, 1782 Tribute Road, Sacramento, CA 95815; (916) 929–7900
Pinetop, AZ - Tuesday, December 3, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Hon-Dah Conference Center, 777 Highway 260, Pinetop, AZ 85935 (3 miles outside of Pinetop at the Junction of Hwy 260 and Hwy 73); (928) 369–7625
I urge all who care about giving gray wolves a fighting chance of continuing their comeback to attend one of the hearings in person and speak out. And if you cannot attend a hearing, please take action here. The deadline for submitting public comments is December 17.
Wolf recovery has been one of our greatest Endangered Species Act success stories. Stripping away federal protections now, before the population has fully recovered, will negate the decades of hard work that have gone into bringing wolves back from the brink of extinction. Without federal protections, this magnificent symbol of our wild heritage will almost certainly slide back into harm's way. Wolf hunting seasons have been reintroduced over the last two years in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, and more than 550 wolves were killed by hunters or trappers in the Northern Rockies this past season alone.
Wolves are among North America's most charismatic animals. The howl of the wolf is emblematic of our country's last wild places, reminding us of the power and beauty of the natural world. Wolves once ranged from coast to coast and from Alaska to Mexico, but they have been victims of prejudice since their early encounters with people. Targeted by bounty hunters for their pelts, they were poisoned, trapped, and shot, until by the 1970s, wolves remained only in remote areas of Minnesota and Michigan in the lower 48 states.
The tide began to turn when Congress enacted the Endangered Species Act in 1973, and wolves received official protection that same year. Since then, thanks to the federal protections, wolf populations have rebounded in the continental U.S., and today there are about 1,800 gray wolves in the Northern Rockies and roughly 4,000 in the Great Lakes states.
The current proposal to strip gray wolves of federal protections reflects a political desire, not scientific reality. Now is the time to finish the job of wolf recovery, not abandon gray wolves to the same kinds of destructive forces that endangered them in the first place.
By Michael Marx, Sierra Club Beyond Oil Campaign Director
The Sierra Club has long supported Walmart workers and communities in their struggle for dignity and fairness. Sustainability simply can't happen without respect and humility, and it won't happen when a company like Walmart fails to follow through on climate promises.
When it comes to the environment, Walmart touts its stewardship, but a report released by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance -- Walmart's Assault on the Climate -- establishes that the world's largest retailer is failing to cut its carbon pollution. Walmart's own accounting shows that its carbon pollution has risen by 14 percent since the 2005 launch of its sustainability PR campaign, when it promised to lower it's emissions across the board.
Walmart's failure to cut its carbon pollution is even more devastating because the company excludes international shipping, new store construction, and sprawl from its calculations. Meanwhile, only 4 percent of the power Walmart uses to power its stores comes from renewable sources. Walmart is failing on clean energy.
On transportation, the Sierra Club's Future Fleet campaign is working to help Walmart and other companies increase the fuel efficiency of their fleets. This is an area where Walmart could lead the industry. But the company's reliance on extreme fuel sources like oil from tar sands tie it to the world's dirtiest sources of energy. Large companies have an outsized influence on the efficiency of cars and trucks that manufacturers build, and on the sources of fuel that oil companies use. Nineteen major U.S. companies are avoiding oil from tar sands in their shipping and vehicle fleets. Walmart needs to take similar responsibility for its owned and contracted car and truck fleet and its carbon pollution.
The latest science reaffirms that to avoid irreversible harm from climate disruption, we must immediately make deep cuts in carbon pollution and move quickly toward a clean-energy economy. As the world's largest retailer, Walmart has an outsize share of responsibility to help get us there. Unfortunately, today's report indicates that Walmart is not taking effective steps to shift to renewable energy, increase energy efficiency, reduce waste, or sell sustainable products. Walmart cannot continue to out-size and out-pollute its competitors while simultaneously touting its business model as compatible with environmental sustainability.
Similarly, Walmart cannot continue to support climate deniers and radical anti-environmental public officials. Climate denial is a cynical and dangerous strategy, copied from the tobacco industry, to attack scientists and undermine public trust to delay action on cutting carbon pollution. Walmart has exercised its immense financial power to shirk the American public's demands for socially responsible business. The company is failing America on carbon pollution, it's failing its employees on livable wages and on the dignity and respect they deserve, and it's failing Americans by delaying action on climate.
If Walmart wants us to live better, it can start by treating its workers with the dignity and respect they deserve and taking real steps to cut carbon pollution.
By Elisabeth Keating, Washington State Chapter Communications Chair
After I witnessed a Galapagos green turtle hatchling finding the ocean (see Sharing "Hatch Day" with a Galapagos Sea Turtle), I set out to learn everything I could about the dangers that my turtle will face throughout his 60-year lifespan. I turned to sea turtle expert Dr. Bryan Wallace, Chief Scientist at the Oceanic Society, for some answers. That's Wallace, below, with a Galapagos green sea turtle.
What did I learn? Sea turtles face many threats from global warming. Ocean acidification could harm their shells and deplete their sea grass diet, their nesting beaches may become swamped, and as beach temperatures rise, it could skew the gender of hatchlings.
"The sex of hatchlings is determined by nest temperature," Dr. Wallace told me. "So as the planet warms, the sex ratio of sea turtles could be skewed. We could have higher numbers of females."
Beachfront overdevelopment can cause turtle hatchlings to become disoriented by bright lights, or impeded by buildings from finding the ocean. And in places like the Galapagos, boat strikes are becoming more of a problem as tourism increases. Overfishing also harms turtles, which can get tangled in nets and fishing gear.
Despite all these threats, Dr. Wallace remains positive. "I think we're underestimating how flexible turtles can be. They've adapted before to climate change. The big question is, how fast can they adapt?"
Some environmentalists have taken heroic steps to save sea turtle habitat. But as Dr. Wallace told me, "There are lots of things you can do to help the world's sea turtles, even if you don't live near the ocean. Everyday decisions by individual people really add up. If a significant number of people took responsibility for what they do it could make a big difference. "
Eat sustainable seafood. "By following the guidelines of Monterey Bay Aquarium and Blue Ocean Institute, you can be sure you're making smart seafood decisions that help protect turtles and marine ecosystems.
Shrimp fishing can be especially harmful to sea turtles and other marine species that get caught in shrimping nets. (Species who are not the intended prey are known as "bycatch.") Making smarter shrimp choices that reduce bycatch could save thousands of turtles."
Avoid plastic bags. "Bring a reusable bag to do your shopping. Even if you live in a landlocked city, your bags end up in the ocean eventually. Plastic doesn't biodegrade very quickly and it's a big deal for turtles. My colleagues and I are seeing more and more plastic in sea turtles' guts when we do necropsies determine the cause of death. A recent study showed that 40 percent of leatherbacks had some level of plastic in them, and that the rate of plastics showing up in turtles' guts is increasing. "
Make sea turtle-friendly travel decisions. "Beachfront development can be very harmful to sea turtles. It's unusual to see a hatchling in the daytime. They usually travel at night to avoid predators. Once ready to leave the nest, they first orient themselves to visual cues. They look for the brightest point on the horizon -- almost always the ocean. So artificial light really screws with their ability to find the ocean. They also use secondary cues like hearing the ocean, the smell of the ocean, and a sense of going downhill to find their way.
If you're taking a beach vacation, do your research and stay at turtle-friendly places. Ask them lots of questions before you book: Are sea turtles nesting at your property? Do you have turtle tours? Are your lights turtle-friendly? Reward seafront resorts that help turtles by spending your money there. "
Learn about sea turtles and where they live. "I work with an organization called The State of the World's Sea Turtles, or SWOT. Our goal is to measure the health of sea turtle populations around the world. We're creating a global network of people working to accelerate the conservation of sea turtles and their habitats, pooling and synthesizing data, and regularly sharing information. As part of this effort we author an annual report called The State of the World's Sea Turtles."
Support SWOT's work by volunteering or making a donation. "The SWOT research team isn't just made up of scientists. We rely upon help from concerned citizens to help us create a global database of sea turtles around the world. If you live near sea turtles and would like to join the SWOT team, we'd love to have you! Visit this page to sign up. Or you can donate to our research efforts and support sea turtle conservation around the world."
Elisabeth Keating is a Seattle-based writer and environmental activist.
By Dan Byrnes, Sierra Club Media Team
Off the charts. Strongest of the season. Super typhoon.
These are the descriptors media reports have given to Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in recorded history, that made landfall in the Philippines on Friday.
With winds of up to 147 miles per hour, this typhoon might be stronger than any other of its kind to touch land in history. But even worse, the storm brought massive destruction to communities in the Philippines. At least four people were killed, and nearly 720,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes.
Just days after the first anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and properties in the Northeastern United States, this super typhoon reminds us that increasing erratic weather has indeed become the new norm worldwide.
But we don't need to keep hearing these wake-up calls. We know what is fueling these superstorms, and there's something we can do about it. Climate disruption and its associated warmer temperatures are aggravating our weather patterns. Warmer ocean water pumps more energy into tropical storms, making them more intense and potentially more destructive. And warmer temperatures could increase the probability of drought and wildfire.
What can we do to slow these storms and and save other communities from threatening blows? The U.S. must lead on global climate action by reducing and ultimately eliminating the number-one cause of climate disruption -- carbon pollution.
True, the U.S. has made progress within its borders to reduce carbon pollution. A grassroots-led effort to move beyond fossil fuels like coal and oil and the advocacy of thousands has led us into a clean energy revolution with wind, solar, and other energy-efficient solutions. And the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the first-ever standards to clean up dangerous carbon emissions from new power plants in the U.S., the biggest unchecked source of climate-disrupting pollution.
But we need to scale these efforts up to a worldwide top priority if we want to see fewer weather-related catastrophes. The U.S. Department of Treasury has said it would no longer fund dangerous coal projects abroad, and other international financial institutions in the U.S. government, like the U.S. Export Import Bank, will issue similar guidances. This momentum must pick up steam, because runaway climate disruption won't begin to subside until fossil fuels are left in the ground.
The situation is not hopeless -- we're moving forward toward clean energy at a record pace. But we have to do whatever it takes to protect families and communities around the globe from extreme weather fuelled by the climate crisis. That's why as our thoughts go out to the communities and families affected by Typhoon Haiyan, we must urge our leaders to move forward on clean energy and break the chains held by the fossil fuel industries that are taking us backwards into a dark place. A world fueled by clean energy with a stable climate is possible. We're on the right path, and we can't afford to slow down.
A group of kids and their parents in Albuquerque just won the "Most Significant Political Message" award in the city's recent South Valley Dia de los Muertos Parade. The youth used the parade to speak out against the Albuquerque mayor's plan to over develop the town's river zone. And those kids? They're from the Central Group of the Rio Grande Sierra Club Chapter and the Bosque Action Team.
Here's the back story: Albuquerque is one of the only cities in the United States to have maintained its riparian habitat intact in an urban setting. The area formally called the Rio Grande Valley State Park, is known by locals as "the Bosque," the Spanish word for forest.
The first advocate for the Bosque's protection was Aldo Leopold, who at the time was the first secretary of the the town's chamber of commerce. He said that:
Albuquerque will be the site of the 50th Anniversary of Wilderness Conference in October of 2014 - Leopold helped to establish the country's first Wilderness - the Gila.
But now Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry is pushing a concept for the Bosque that would widen and pack trails, among other developments that would turn this open space into an urban park. Citizens have rallied to protect the area, but so far their cries have fallen on deaf ears from the mayor.
Congrats to the young activists for getting some attention for such an important forest! We hope the mayor responds very soon.
Thanks to Rio Grande Chapter Director Camilla Feibelman for this information.