Eco Buzz

Recap – Stories and Beer: Farm-to-Bottle Entrepreneurship

Triple Pundit - Fri, 2014-04-18 08:24

Join us at the Impact HUB SF - or online - for “Stories & Beer” on April 17th when Nick Aster will be chatting with Almanac and Headlands Breweries.

The post Recap – Stories and Beer: Farm-to-Bottle Entrepreneurship appeared first on Triple Pundit: People, Planet, Profit.

Categories: Eco Buzz

Chris Christie is still trying to force a pipeline through the New Jersey Pinelands

Gristmill - Fri, 2014-04-18 04:28

In January, on the heels of the embarrassing revelation that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) staffers created a traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge to punish an obscure political rival, Christie and his allies were handed a defeat. The New Jersey Pinelands Commission rejected a proposed 22-mile natural-gas pipeline that would go through a national reserve of forests and wetlands. Though Christie went so far as to bully a commissioner who was skeptical of the pipeline into recusing himself from the decision, that wasn’t enough to secure approval.

But now the pipeline is back. The state’s leading power brokers want the commission to reconsider and are pressuring commissioners to change their votes, working both behind the scenes and through public statements and symbolic votes in county and town legislative bodies. The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported, “A growing number of elected officials from Gov. Christie to lawmakers including Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) have joined county freeholders and township officials in support of the project. They are considering ways of returning the issue to the Pinelands Commission, possibly as a ‘compelling public need’ for energy security and scores of jobs.”

The promise of merely “scores” of jobs in a state with 8.9 million residents is a clue that job creation is not the real issue. One of Christie’s top cronies is involved in the proposal. The law firm of David Samson, whom Christie appointed as chair of the Port Authority, represents Rockland Capital, owners of the power plant that the Pinelands pipeline would supply with natural gas. As Wayne Barrett noted in the New York Daily News, “Christie … was so eager to help Rockland that his [Department of Environmental Protection] and Board of Public Utilities (BPU) decided to support the pipeline, paid for by rate increases, despite that the fact that … it would run underground through 15 miles of the million-acre Pinelands, the country’s first natural preserve and a United Nations Biosphere Reserve.” (Samson resigned from the Port Authority last month after the Bridgegate debacle and media reports that he is under federal investigation for lobbying for companies with business before the Port Authority.)

The B.L. England power plant, which would be served by the pipeline, currently burns coal. Christie’s Democratic predecessors had forced it to sign agreements to reduce its pollution or switch to natural gas. The Christie administration gave it a reprieve until 2015.  Switching from coal to gas could be beneficial to the climate — when burned, gas emits roughly half the CO2 that coal does (though that’s not so impressive compared to wind or solar). But in practice, natural gas drilling operations and pipelines often leak methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas, which can neutralize any climate benefit. And beyond climate change, the pipeline would pose obvious threats to the local environment.

Environmental critics say the proposal has such strong backing because the beneficiaries, such as Samson, are politically connected. “It’s not the jobs, it’s the power,” says Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. Tittel also speculates that Christie, seeking support from anti-environment conservatives in the Republican presidential primary, is trying to bolster his pro–fossil fuel bona fides. “The governor had been pro-wind until he went national,” says Tittel. “This [project] is in the middle of an area that was set aside for big wind farms. Cheap gas power will kill offshore wind.” The Christie administration did not respond to a request for comment.

Environmentalists and neighbors would like to see the B.L. England plant shut down. Ironically, climate change, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, makes its shoreline location especially precarious. “The power plant is in an area that floods with storm surges,” notes Tittel.

And the plant is a blight on the shore. “It’s a big ugly smokestack in a scenic area, Ocean City, which is a tourist hub,” Tittel says. If you decommissioned the plant, Tittel argues, you could create more jobs with development of condos, hotels, and restaurants in the area. (Although any development in a future flood plain could be risky, power plants are especially vulnerable to a storm surge, as all of Lower Manhattan learned when it lost power for days after a transformer station on the East River got hit during Superstorm Sandy.)

Unfortunately, New Jersey politicians are notorious for making these types of decisions on the basis of cronyism rather than empiricism. Christie’s latest heavy-handed tactic was to veto 5 percent raises for the Pinelands Commission staffers.


Filed under: Article, Business & Technology, Climate & Energy, Politics
Categories: Eco Buzz

Coastal Ecosystem Restoration Yields Remarkable Returns

Triple Pundit - Fri, 2014-04-18 02:49

Returns of $15:1 and more job creation than offshore oil & gas development are among the economic benefits of coastal ecosystem restoration projects, according to a study of projects on three U.S. coasts by the Center for American Progress and Oxfam America.

The post Coastal Ecosystem Restoration Yields Remarkable Returns appeared first on Triple Pundit: People, Planet, Profit.

Categories: Eco Buzz

Video Interview: Justin Bakule; Exec. Director, Shared Value Initiative

Triple Pundit - Fri, 2014-04-18 02:49

Join Nick Aster for a live chat with Justin Bakule, Executive Director of the Shared Value Initiative, on Wednesday, April 16th.

The post Video Interview: Justin Bakule; Exec. Director, Shared Value Initiative appeared first on Triple Pundit: People, Planet, Profit.

Categories: Eco Buzz

Women in the Workforce: How Businesses Honor Them in 2014

Triple Pundit - Fri, 2014-04-18 01:26

Women are making leaps and bounds in the business world and are being honored for their social impact, innovation, and contributions to the workforce. Here are three examples of businesses that are honoring their female employees for all that they do.

The post Women in the Workforce: How Businesses Honor Them in 2014 appeared first on Triple Pundit: People, Planet, Profit.

Categories: Eco Buzz

Interview: Eric Weinheimer Gives His Top Tips at the Social Enterprise Alliance Summit 2014

Triple Pundit - Fri, 2014-04-18 01:09

A personal interview with Eric Weinheimer after the “State Of The Art on Employment Social Enterprises” session at the Social Enterprise Alliance Summit 2014 in Nashville, Tenn.

The post Interview: Eric Weinheimer Gives His Top Tips at the Social Enterprise Alliance Summit 2014 appeared first on Triple Pundit: People, Planet, Profit.

Categories: Eco Buzz

EPA Data Shows U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Slightly Decreased in 2012

Triple Pundit - Fri, 2014-04-18 00:59

The EPA’s recently released inventory shows that greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. decreased by 3.4 percent from 2011 to 2012.

The post EPA Data Shows U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Slightly Decreased in 2012 appeared first on Triple Pundit: People, Planet, Profit.

Categories: Eco Buzz

Should Citibank Bail Out Citi Bike?

Triple Pundit - Fri, 2014-04-18 00:51

Citibank's namesake bike-share program is about to hit the skids and is struggling to attract new sponsors. Should the bank pony up some more cash?

The post Should Citibank Bail Out Citi Bike? appeared first on Triple Pundit: People, Planet, Profit.

Categories: Eco Buzz

‘Netflix for Legos’ Is More Than Mere Child’s ‘Pley’ in the Sharing Economy

Triple Pundit - Fri, 2014-04-18 00:41

Toddlers and preschoolers exchanging toys through the sharing economy – no, it’s not a scene from Portlandia’s recent sketch spoofing collaborative consumption, but the idea behind a startup that rents out Lego sets to kids and other fans of the iconic plastic bricks. Billed as a “Netflix for Legos,” Pley ships its members a new-to-them Lego set, lets them play with it as long they like and sends customers another set once the previous toys returned.

The post ‘Netflix for Legos’ Is More Than Mere Child’s ‘Pley’ in the Sharing Economy appeared first on Triple Pundit: People, Planet, Profit.

Categories: Eco Buzz

People of color contribute least to smog, yet breathe more of it. WTF?

Gristmill - Thu, 2014-04-17 21:43

Get a load of this: It’s not poor people whose nostrils get the dirtiest air. It’s people of color — even wealthy ones.

It’s true, you can’t 1,000 percent separate race and class, but new findings from the University of Minnesota found that race, more than income, determines who smog hurts the most. Writes ThinkProgress:

When low-income white people were compared to high-income Hispanic people, the latter group experienced higher levels of nitrogen dioxide. Altogether, people of color in the U.S. breathe air with 38 percent more nitrogen dioxide in it than their white counterparts, particularly due to power plants and exhaust from vehicles.

Unfair, especially because people of color produce less air pollution than white people (African-Americans, for example, emit 20 percent less CO2 than white Americans). So why is this happening? You know, other than racism? Writes Atlantic Cities:

[T]hat’s still a subject for further investigation; [U-Minnesota Professor Julian] Marshall notes that one theory is that more non-whites tend to live in pollution-rich downtown areas and near freeways.

The difference isn’t unique to New York and L.A. — it’s true even in the Midwest. The researchers specifically call out Michigan and Wisconsin as places where policymakers should take their findings into account and use air pollution regulations to stem inequality. Lowering people of color’s NO2 exposure to that of white people would prevent 7,000 heart attack deaths every year, the researchers write.

Since air pollution is the No. 1 environmental health risk around the world, killing 7 million people annually, it’s pretty significant that people of color are disproportionately affected. It’s yet another reminder that our ideal clean-air, clean-water, bike-safe future’s gotta include gender, racial, and class equality. Onward!


Filed under: Cities, Climate & Energy, Living
Categories: Eco Buzz

Fighting the Descent Into Oligarchy with Corporate Social Responsibility

Triple Pundit - Thu, 2014-04-17 21:22

A recent study from political science professors at Princeton and Northwestern concludes that America is, as the incomparable Hamilton Nolan put it, actually more like an oligarchy than a democracy. In other words, it is corporations and wealthy individuals -- not unions, public interest organizations or regular humans -- who control the levers of power in America.

The post Fighting the Descent Into Oligarchy with Corporate Social Responsibility appeared first on Triple Pundit: People, Planet, Profit.

Categories: Eco Buzz

Newly discovered gnat species named after Bill McKibben

Gristmill - Thu, 2014-04-17 20:15

If you had the power to name a living creature, would you use that power wisely? Would you name it after one of your heroes? Let’s be real: Beyoncemus knowlesi does have a pretty nice ring to it!

Peter Kerr, a scientist with the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s State Collection of Arthropods, recently discovered a species of gnat. Through a great feat of willpower, he was able to avoid the temptation of christening it Gnat King Cole, Jr. (There’s a reason that Grist staff members aren’t scientists.) Instead, he decided to name it after foremost green activist, author, and Grist board member Bill McKibben, honoring McKibben’s commitment to protecting the health of the planet and all of its forms of life.

The Megophthalmidia mckibbeni makes its home in California. It enjoys fungi, forests, and following 350.org on Twitter. Just kidding about the last one – gnats can’t use smartphones, guys!

We reached out to McKibben to find out how he felt when he learned about his new spirit animal. He was predictably modest:

“I felt truly honored. I love this planet we got born onto, from the big down to the very small. To be officially connected with its great diversity – well, that means a lot.”

And as it turns out, McKibben has a lot in common with this insect:

“I was born in California, and my father was a member of the Sierra Club back when it was mostly a hiking group, spending his weekends in the mountains and forests, so I feel some extra kinship. And I love mushrooms too. I wouldn’t dare try to pick them myself, but I’ve never met one I didn’t find delicious.”

Sounds like a good match! Well done, Peter Kerr.


Filed under: Article, Living
Categories: Eco Buzz

The Quick & Dirty: A CEO. A Leader. Sometimes We Need a Bit of Both.

Triple Pundit - Thu, 2014-04-17 19:49

Novel idea: To be a thought leader you need a thought -- and you need to lead. A bit of both please.

The post The Quick & Dirty: A CEO. A Leader. Sometimes We Need a Bit of Both. appeared first on Triple Pundit: People, Planet, Profit.

Categories: Eco Buzz

Airbnb can make your dreams of running a brothel come true

Gristmill - Thu, 2014-04-17 19:27

Thought you were renting your place so an exhausted sightseer could crash? Oh, she’s definitely sleeping … with some horndog and his hundos.

In an unexpected result of the sharing economy, Airbnb rooms might be replacing NYC hotels as primo sex worker spots. As one anonymous 21-year-old escort told the New York Post:

It’s more discreet and much cheaper than The Waldorf. Hotels have doormen and cameras. They ask questions. Apartments are usually buzz-in.

Her escort agency rents apartments for a week at a time through Airbnb, she told the Post, then cycles sex workers and their clients through. The agency avoids detection (or it did til recently) by having the ladies pay for the rooms with their personal plastic. Clever yet illegal!

Sure, the sharing economy functions under the assumption that others will use your lawnmower, car, or apartment as gently and upstandingly as you do, and one Post report doesn’t mean you necessarily have to sideeye every pillow in your pad. But carnal embraces are bound to take place in rented rooms, hotel or Airbnb, pro bono or on spec. So if you aren’t cool with finding 10 used condoms and baby wipes at your place (or worse), as a New Yorker in the Post story did, maybe don’t put your home on Airbnb.


Filed under: Cities, Living
Categories: Eco Buzz

Screw being ladylike on a bike

Gristmill - Thu, 2014-04-17 18:22

Turns out the sexist soap bubble we live in doesn’t pop when you hop on a Surly. If anything, people get MORE judgey: Ladies, you better not get to work sweaty and unpretty! But how dare you ride in a skirt and heels? I half expect some guy with a handlebar mustache to promote riding sidesaddle. (Lest you think we live in a post-gender society, know that women in the U.S. only take 1-in-4 bike trips.)

Former Grist editor Sarah Goodyear reached out to female cyclists, asking what it means to be feminine on two wheels (if there even IS such a thing). Reading the smattering of responses she got over at Atlantic Cities was both reassuring and eye-opening, reinforcing that there’s no one way to be a woman on a bike, just as — WAIT FOR IT — there’s no one way to be a human on Planet Earth. (Crazy, I know.) Here are a handful of ruminations on cycling, fashion, and gender (all of which you should read, BTW):

“I like to hope that I’m changing/expanding the perception of what is feminine when I zip around on my bike while wearing a dress.” — Emily

“It’s not that I want to avoid looking feminine, but that I want to be seen primarily as a cyclist. Yes, I’m a woman who rides, but how often do we talk about masculinity and riding?” –Caitlin Cohn

“I weird people out when I show up in a public space and take off half my layers. Women are expected to show up to places already presentable.” –Melody Hoffman

“I was always turned off by the pandering-seeming marketing of ‘feminine’ bike products: cute cruisers, wicker baskets, and that ‘I’m just always constantly biking to some cutesy-picnic-date’ vibe … ‘Feminine’ can be having really strong, shapely legs! ‘Feminine’ can be taking up less physical space, using less fossil fuel, and caring about the environment!” –Ruby Gertz

“Cycling is one of life’s greatest joys for me. I couldn’t care less what it implies about my femininity.” –Nsedef

YEAH. So eff gender expectations of being sporty or sexy or both. Wear what you want; just get your feet on the pedals!


Filed under: Cities, Living
Categories: Eco Buzz

Walmart’s New LED Light Fixtures to Save $34,000 per Store

Triple Pundit - Thu, 2014-04-17 17:55

Walmart recently announced that it will buy LED ceiling lighting fixtures for new supercenters in the U.S., stores in Asia and Latin America, and Asda locations in the U.K.

The post Walmart’s New LED Light Fixtures to Save $34,000 per Store appeared first on Triple Pundit: People, Planet, Profit.

Categories: Eco Buzz

New hurricane maps will show whether your house could drown

Gristmill - Thu, 2014-04-17 16:39

The federal government will begin making its hurricane warning maps more colorful this summer, adding a range of hues to represent the danger of looming floods.

Red, orange, yellow, and blue will mark coastal and near-coastal areas where storm surges are anticipated during a hurricane. The different colors will be used to show the anticipated depth of approaching flash floods.

Severe flooding that followed Superstorm Sandy helped prompt the change — NOAA says it had a hard time convincing Manhattanites that they faced any real danger from such floods.

“We are not a storm-surge-savvy nation,” Jamie Rhome, a storm surge specialist with NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, told Reuters. “Yet storm surge is responsible for over half the deaths in hurricanes. So you can see why we’re motivated to try something new.”

Here’s a hypothetical example of what one such map might look like for Florida. Beware, Ft. Myers!

National Hurricane CenterClick to embiggen.
Filed under: Climate & Energy
Categories: Eco Buzz

Vermont poised to mandate GMO labels on food

Gristmill - Thu, 2014-04-17 15:52

Vermont is on the verge of becoming the third American state to require the labeling of foods that contain genetically modified ingredients.

State senators approved a GMO-labeling bill on Tuesday with a 28-2 vote, sending it back to the House, which approved an earlier version with a 99-42 vote last year. Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) has said he’s likely to sign it.

The bill would require the words “partially produced with genetic engineering” to be stamped on packages of GMO-containing food sold in Vermont. The lists of ingredients would also need to specify which items contain GMOs. It would be illegal to market such foods as  “natural,” “naturally made,” or “naturally grown.”

Connecticut and Maine have both recently passed similar laws – but those laws will only take effect if enough other states do likewise. The two states don’t want to face the inevitable lawsuits from Big Food on their own.

Vermont is the first state willing to go it alone. Its bill would take effect in July 2016. State lawmakers say they crafted the language of the bill carefully, hoping it could survive court challenges.

“It’s quite likely we will be sued,” bill sponsor Sen. David Zuckerman, a member of the Vermont Progressive Party, told Politico. “We have looked at the various court cases out there.”

The Grocery Manufacturers Association confirmed that it could be a party to a lawsuit against the rules. “We will continue to fight to protect the accuracy and consistency of food labels,” said GMA Vice President Mandy Hagan. Which might sound like a pro-GMO-labeling stance – if only those words had been uttered by somebody else. “If it turns out that litigation is the best way to do that then that is an option we will pursue,” she continued.


Filed under: Food, Politics
Categories: Eco Buzz

Ask Umbra: How do I know if my local swimming hole is safe?

Gristmill - Thu, 2014-04-17 11:02

Send your question to Umbra!

Q. Summer is coming, so I wonder if the river near my house (the famous Kamogawa) is safe for my kids to splash in. There is a garbage incinerator upstream, though not directly on the river, and the operators *swear* it does not leak. Is there a water testing kit? What kinds of things would I want to test for? And what kinds of safety limits would I want to look for? It does not have to be drinking-water quality, just safe enough to stick their little feet and hands in.

Gabi
Kyoto, Japan

A. Dearest Gabi,

You’ve just officially made it Water Week here at Ask Umbra. On Monday, we waded into what kind of substances we can safely put in the water; today, let’s address whether or not we can put ourselves in as well.

I hope you’ll forgive me for answering your question broadly. I don’t know how clean the Kamogawa is, nor will my expense account cover phone calls to Japan to check. But I can share some information I hope will be useful to you and anyone else longing for a warm-weather dip in a local waterway.

When water-quality monitors talk about a lake or river being safe for swimming (or splashing), they’re almost always talking about bacteria – whether or not there is any, and in what numbers. Specifically, we’re concerned about the infamous E. coli: Not because it’s dangerous in and of itself (most strains aren’t), but because it’s a good indicator that other, nastier bugs are invisibly doing the backstroke in there. Why? E. coli is commonly found in human and animal poop – so if it’s in the water, then sewage probably is, too.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the local sewage treatment plant is overflowing into the river (though it might). High E. coli counts also often come from stormwater runoff, which washes pet waste and bird poop, plus oil, fertilizer, trash, and pesticides into streams and lakes. No matter the source, we should be concerned about the presence of bacteria because it can make us sick, and kids are especially at risk. And you don’t have to drink the water to come down with a case of Kamogawa’s revenge: Open cuts can admit nasty bacteria, and just getting the bugs on your skin can eventually transport them into your mouth.

Many agencies here in the States sample the water regularly, particularly at popular swimming spots, and publish the results. These can usually be found through a town or county environment department; a little Googling should point you in the right direction. Failing that, there are some consumer water-testing kits on the market; the Vermont Health Department sells one, for example, and some labs offer kits online. Becky Hammer, a water attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, tests for E. coli as a volunteer for a water-quality project near her Virginia home, and recommends checking to see if your local authorities have a similar program. Any lab should be able to tell you what the safe limits for bacteria are and whether or not your river exceeds them.

Industrial and chemical pollution of the sort you might get from a negligent factory upstream is another matter, Gabi. As far as I can tell, detecting this kind of contamination is beyond your typical citizen-scientist. A funky smell, sludgy water, an oil slick, or lots of dead fish can tip you off that something is amiss, but Hammer recommends checking with those local water-quality officials for a more definitive answer.

If you’ve done your due diligence and decide it’s OK for the kids to wade and splash a bit, following these don’ts won’t hurt, either.

  • Don’t let the kiddos put their heads underwater.
  • Don’t go in after heavy rains, as that’s when stormwater runoff makes high bacterial counts most likely.
  • Don’t swim or wade near or downstream of storm drains.
  • Don’t let the kids get in if they have open wounds or scrapes.
  • Don’t forget to wash their little hands and feet when you’re done.

Happy researching, Gabi, and I do hope you turn up good news about your lovely river. I hear it gets hot in Kyoto come summertime.

Horseplayfully,
Umbra


Filed under: Living
Categories: Eco Buzz

Is climate change the new slavery?

Gristmill - Thu, 2014-04-17 10:53

The latest report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is out, with its layers of deadening bureaucratic prose. Climate watchers have had their latest chance to make out, as best they can, what biblical futures await us on a hotter, drier, stormier planet. Two sentences from the report’s second installment struck me with the force of a storm surge: “Climate change is projected to progressively increase inter-annual variability of crop yields in many regions. These projected impacts will occur in the context of rapidly rising crop demand.” Translation: We’ll have smaller harvests in the future, less food, and 3 billion more mouths to feed.

The IPCC has done an heroic job of digesting thousands of scientific papers into a bullet-point description of how global warming is shrinking food and water supplies, most drastically for the poorest of Earth’s 7 billion human inhabitants. Being scientists, though, they fail miserably to communicate the gravity of the situation. The IPPC language, at its most vivid, talks of chronic “poverty traps” and “hunger hotspots” as the 21st century unfolds. The report offers not a single graspable image of what our future might actually look like when entire populations of people — not only marginalized sub-groups — face perennial food insecurity and act to save themselves. What decisions do human communities make en masse in the face of total environmental collapse? There are no scientific papers to tell us this, so we must look to history instead for clues to our dystopian future.

The last global climate crisis for which we have substantial historical records began 199 years ago this month, in April 1815, when the eruption of Mt. Tambora in Indonesia cooled the Earth and triggered drastic disruptions of major weather systems worldwide. Extreme volcanic weather — droughts, floods, storms — gripped the globe for three full years after the eruption.

In the Tambora period from 1815 to 1818, the global human community consisted mostly of subsistence farmers, who were critically vulnerable to sustained climate deterioration. The occasional crop failure was part of life, but when relentless bad weather ruined harvests for two and then three years running, extraordinary, world-changing things started to happen. The magnitude and variety of human suffering in the years 1815 to 1818 are in one sense incalculable, but three continental-scale consequences stand out amid the misery: slavery, refugeeism, and the failure of states.

Across what was then the Dutch East Indies, the rice crop failed for multiple years following Tambora’s eruption. In response, the common people did what they always did when faced with starvation: They sold themselves into slavery, by the tens of thousands. In faraway China, desperate parents likewise sold their children in pop-up slave markets.

Across the globe, starving peasants abandoned their homes, roaming the countryside in search of food, or begging in the market towns. Irish famine refugees, numbering in the tens of thousands, were met by armed militias at the gates of towns whose inhabitants feared a kind of zombie invasion by human skeletons carrying disease. In France, tourists mistook beggars on the road for armies on the march.

Meanwhile, governments everywhere feared rebellion, so they closed borders and shut down the press. Europe witnessed an upsurge of end-of-the-world cults. In southwest China, Yunnan province suffered total civic breakdown post-Tambora, only to remake itself as a rogue narco-state, new hub of the booming international opium trade.

These are the sorts of world-altering disaster scenarios the IPCC’s board of scientist-bureaucrats fail to mention in their latest report. But then, climate change has never had its own proper language, a language commensurate with the threat it represents, a language that would forcefully express what it is: the great humanitarian crisis of the 21st century.

To invent a language for climate change, we might start with the historical analogy of slavery, which flourished during the Tambora climate emergency two centuries ago. Like our future under climate change, slavery was a human-designed global tragedy that lasted centuries, displaced tens of millions of people, and reorganized the wealth and demographics of the planet. Like climate change, slavery institutionalized the suffering of millions of people from the global south so that folks in Europe and North America (and China) might lead more comfortable, fulfilling lives. And like climate change, few people at the time saw slavery as a serious problem. Even those who did believed nothing could be done without bringing about global economic ruin. That exact argument is used today to defend the continuation of our fossil-fuelled societies.

Please, scientists: Tell us how you really feel about climate change

Henry David Thoreau would have given “12 Years a Slave” the Oscar for best picture, too

Blood on the leaves: The hidden environmental story in “12 Years a Slave”

Some historians have argued that it was the harnessing of carbon energy — not the abolitionists — that truly made an end to slavery possible in the 19th century. But in a dark historical irony, that same carbon energy, as a pollutant altering the chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans, is now ushering in a new era of global slavery. Millions this century, living and yet unborn, face displaced lives without hope or freedom of choice, only desperate hardship, due to haywire changes in weather patterns.

Does that make climate change the new slavery?  One thing we can say with “high confidence,” to use the lingo of the IPCC, is that even now — as the U.N. panel marks its quarter-century anniversary with its fifth and most dire report — there is no international climate change movement comparable to abolitionism. For one thing, we don’t even have a name for the millions of people across the world who are passionately committed to the cause of averting climate disaster. Even Bill McKibben, probably the most effective climate activist in the United States, when branding his organization, could do no better than a number — 350, the parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere we need to return to for climate safety.

Given that climate activism is faring so badly in the public-relations stakes, perhaps it’s time to brush off the old slogan that worked so famously well for the abolitionists, the rallying cry of the greatest humanitarian victory of all time: “Am I not a Man and a Brother?” And instead of an African in chains above the caption, let’s show a crowd of faces from Africa, Asia, the Pacific, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and the Arctic north — the faces you won’t find in the IPCC’s report, but who are stubbornly real nevertheless, living precariously in their millions on the shifting global frontlines of climate change.


Filed under: Article, Climate & Energy
Categories: Eco Buzz
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