Rachel's Democracy & Health News #889
Thursday, January 11, 2007

From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #889 ..........[This story printer-friendly]
January 11, 2007


[Rachel's introduction: Navajo grandmothers and youth are camped out in the wintry desert near Burnham, New Mexico, to protest construction of a 1500-megawatt coal-fired power plant. They need food and firewood to continue their vigil. "We have to make a stand," says Lori Goodman, speaking for the group.]

By Peter Montague

It has been snowing in the Four Corners region of the Navajo Nation, near Burnham, New Mexico, where Navajo grandmothers and youth are camped out in the desert, protesting a proposed 1500-megawatt coal- burning power plant. (See photos here and listen here.) The plant would be built by Sithe Global Power of Houston, Tex., and co-owned by the Dine' Power Authority, a Navajo tribal enterprise. In the Navajo language, dine' means roughly "the people."

This would be the third coal-fired power plant built on Navajo land, and the first co-owned by the Navajos themselves. But not all Navajos want to own a plant that powers air conditioners in Arizona and southern California by burning 5.5 million tons of Navajo coal each year. "They get the electricity and we get the pollution," said one protester.

In the desert near Burnham, the Dooda [meaning, "No"] Desert Rock Vigil has continued since December 12 when Elouise Brown first discovered strangers drilling a water well on Navajo land. In a video available on youtube, Ms. Brown explains how it all started. She confronted the drillers, telling them they could not continue onto Navajo land. "We live here and I'm just not going to let you go through," she said. The drillers broke past her and she chased them in her car, caught up with them, and blocked their way with her vehicle.

From there, the protest grew. Ms. Brown got her family involved and they decided to camp out on the land. "We're not moving. That's the bottom line. We're going to stay put. We're not leaving the area until they tell us, 'We decided not to build,'" said Ms. Brown, who is a member of Dine' CARE -- Dine' Citizens Against Ruining our Environment.

"Spending Christmas huddled around a campfire and protecting our land is not something that we resisters had originally planned," says Ms. Brown. "Most of us expected large family dinners, Christmas tunes, and gift exchanges," she said. "We are being watched by the police 24 hours/day and every time a vehicle comes by, they charge over and scare the elders and medicine people visiting the Resisters' Vigil," Ms. Brown explained on an internet blog set up to keep the world informed about the protest vigil.

"Feeling the cold wind against our faces at this Dooda Desert Rock Vigil is not something that we regret," Ms. Brown wrote. "It is a time for us to continue standing up for what is right. We are reconnecting with our ancestors through prayer and we are learning, re-learning about our traditional, cultural, and spiritual roots."

After the Dooda Desert Rock Vigil group formed in mid-December, the press began taking notice of the desert encampment, and pressure mounted on Navajo authorities. On December 18, Navajo president Joe Shirley visited the encampment to explain why burning another 5 or 6 million more tons of coal per year was a good thing. The power plant would be clean, he said, and it would create 400 permament jobs.

But "clean" is a relative term. Coal plants produce major amounts of pollution, even when "strict" regulations require the use of modern pollution controls. The two coal-burning plants already operating on Navajo land tell the story.[1]

The Four Corners power plant, rated at 2040 megawatts, sits on Navajo land in Fruitland, N.M., 25 miles west of Farmington. It is licensed to emit 157 million pounds of sulfur dioxide per year, 122 million pounds of nitrogen oxides (NOx), and 8 million pounds of soot per year. Plus it emits 2000 pounds of mercury.

Fifteen miles northwest of Farmington -- just outside Navajo territory -- we have the 1800-megawatt San Juan Generating Station in Waterflow, New Mexico. It burns an estimated 6.3 million tons of coal each year, releasing more than 100 million pounds of sulfur dioxide (SO2), more than 100 million pounds of nitrogen oxides (NOx), roughly 6 million pounds of soot, and at least 1000 pounds of mercury.

Just 185 miles to the west lies an even larger coal plant on Navajo land, the 2400-megawatt Navajo Generating Station in Page, Arizona, which burns 8.5 million tons of coal each year, emitting 185 million pounds of sulfur oxides, 143 million pounds of nitrogen oxides, 9 million pounds of soot, and 2400 pounds of mercury.

In 2000, U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimated that existing coal plants produce pollution equivalent to 3.5 million automobiles.[2]

The Four Corners area is also dotted with 18,000 active oil and gas wells, which contribute large quantities of volatile organics and nitrogen oxides to the local air. The volatile organics combine with the nitrogen oxides to created ground-level ozone. Add tons of soot, and you've got a deadly combination.

Dr. Marcus Higi of Cortez, Colorado testified recently that he has never seen worse asthma than he encountered on the Navajo reservation where he worked as a physican for four years.[3] "I've seen the worst asthma cases out here near the power plants," he said. "A kid would come in, barely breathing. They're basically on the verge of death." He had to fly five children to hospitals to save their lives, he said. The price for power is health, he said.

In July U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an air permit to Sithe Global for the Desert Rock plant. In October EPA held two public hearings on the permit it had already issued. At the hearing in Durango, Colorado, Erich Fowler, who lives near Kline, Colo., about 30 miles from Farmington, testified that a yellow haze "as bright as daffodils" blocks his view of Farmington. When clean air mixes with it, "the sky begins to look like it's filled with scrambled eggs," he said.[4]

During the hearing, residents of the area expressed doubts about EPA's ability or intention to curb the pollution from the Desert Rock plant. Colleen McKaughan, assistant director of EPA's Region 9 air division assured everyone that EPA would be aggressive and vigilant.

Even the Farmington (N.M.) Daily Times -- whose editorial staff never met a coal-burning power plant they didn't love -- reported that, "Scientists at the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) say the [Desert Rock] plant could emit enough pollutants to risk the public's health despite using some of the best pollution control technology available. They worry additional emissions could raise ozone levels to a breaking point."[3]

EPA's Colleen McKaughan said EPA did not take ozone into consideration when issuing the Desert Rock air permit in July because "it wasn't required," she told the Daily Times.[3]

At the public hearings, testimony revealed that EPA had issued the air permit based on a mathematical model of air quality, but the model did not factor in emissions from the 18,000 active oil and gas wells in the area. Furthermore, the model was based on air measurements taken at only two locations -- one in Farmington and one in Rio Rancho near Albuquerque, 150 miles from the Four Corners area.

According to the Denver Post, the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) estimates that emissions from gas development in the area already have exceeded standards for nitrogen oxides. And the BLM has proposed allowing another 10,000 wells over the next few decades.

"It looks like we need to go back and look again at nitrogen oxides and ozone concentrations," the EPA's Colleen McKaughan said.[2]

Meanwhile, the project is rolling forward. Everyone knows that carbon dioxide and mercury are likely to be regulated more strictly in the next few years, so dirty, old-style power plants are scrambling to get their construction permits now, before the regulations require them to modernize.

To increase its profits from Desert Rock, Sithe Global Power has cut a deal with the Navajo Nation reducing Sithe's taxes by 67%, and Sithe is now negotiating with the San Juan County, N.M. for a similar reduction.[5] The county tax assessor has expressed concern that there won't be enough money to pay for the needed infrastructure -- specifically mentioning the need for additional roads, schools, and jails.

Proponents say construction of the power plant would create 1000 temporary jobs for four years. Many of those jobs would be taken by transients moving to the area, some with families. Local schools already lack sufficient teachers, partly because teachers are reluctant to move to an area that is so polluted. The proposed solution is video conferencing -- piping the picture of a teacher from one school to another.[6]

Another part of the infrastructure that would be stressed by Desert Rock is health care. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has reported that "current federal funding levels are insufficient to operate an adequate health-care system for native Americans." Two members of the Dooda Desert Rock Vigil -- Dailan J. Long and Sarah Jane White -- recently asked, "How are we supposed to deal with the health effects of Desert Rock if there are already severe deficiencies in our health- care system?... Subjecting us to further pollution while there are severe shortages in our health care is environmental injustice in its purest form," they wrote.[7]

A court has ruled that the Dooda Desert Rock Vigil has no right to block access to the land near Burnham, or even to be consulted about what's going to happen.

Through an interpreter, Alice Gilmore explains in Navajo that has lived at the site since birth and said her father lived there before her. She holds a grazing permit to the land that dates back at least as far as the 1960s. Her family continues to keep sheep and cattle there and has no intention of leaving, she told a reporter for the Farmington (N.M.) Daily Times.

"These people are just fed up with how they've been ignored for the past two and three years," said Lori Goodman, one of the founders of Dine' CARE. "That's what we're reduced to. We have to make a stand."

The Dooda Desert Rock Vigil group has issued the following statement, asking for various kinds of help:

** Money: Resisters need money for gas and food, and also for bail money if necessary. Please send donations to local resident and supporter:

Elouise Brown 1015 Glade Lane 34 Farmington, NM 87401

Ms. Brown can also be reached at thebrownmachine@hotmail.com

** Media attention: the more media and observers are present the less likely Desert Rock is to run people over or harass them. Contact the media, tell them what is going on. Contact Navajo Authorities, tell them you are extremely concerned. Be a legal observer. Spread this Alert!

Media Contact: Lori Goodman, cell #: (970) 759-1908, e-mail address: kiyaani@frontier.net

** Contact the Authorities! Tell them you have heard about Desert Rock's harassment of Navajo elders and youth. Tell them you are extremely concerned! If enough people contact these offices they will know that the world is watching.

Shiprock Police Department phone: (505) 368-1350 fax: (505) 368-1293

Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley's Office P.O. Box 9000 Window Rock, Arizona, 86515 phone #: (928) 871-6352

George Hardeen, Navajo Nation Communications Director, Office of the President; Office #: 928-871-7000 Cell #: 928-380-7688 e-mail: georgehardeen@opvp.org

Bureau of Indian Affairs (Gallup Office); they are conducting the Environmental Impact Statement. Harrilene Yazzi, NEPA Coordinator Bureau of Indian Affairs, Navajo Regional Office P.0. Box 1060 Gallup, New Mexico 87305 Phone: 505-863-8314 Fax: 505-863-8324

Other soucres of information about the vigil include these:

Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN)

The Sage Council

Indigenous Action Media


[1] The coal in the Four Corners area is sub-bituminous, with a heat value of about 11,000 btus [British thermal units] per pound. Based on the latest pollution-control regulations covering the Four Corners Power Plant and the Navajo Generating Station, we can calculate that each megawatt-year of power requires burning 3540 tons of coal, and results in the emission of 77,000 pounds (lb.) of sulfur dioxide (SO2), 60,000 lb. of nitrogen oxides (NOx), 3,900 lb. of soot, and 1 pound of mercury, and consumes 14 acre-feet of water. An acre-foot is enough water to cover an acre of land with water one foot deep. For a 1500 megawatt plant, multiply each of these number by 1500 to get annual emissions; for a 2000 megawatt plant, multiply each of these numbers by 2000, and so on.

These figures do not include the extremely large tonnages of toxic coal ash that are produced each year, which are typically buried in the ground. The ash contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), dioxins, and toxic metals.

[2] Electa Draper, "Power plant project's future hazy," Denver Post October 5, 2006, pg. B5.

[3] Lisa Meerts, "Doctor Shares Concerns About Adding Another Power Plant," Farmington (N.M.) Daily Times October 13, 2006,

[4] Lisa Meerts, "Colorado residents voice concerns about Desert Rock," Farmington (N.M.) Daily Times October 3, 2006.

[5] Cory Frolick, "Desert Rock needs an alternate tax structure," Farmington (N.M.) Daily Times August 5, 2006.

[6] Lisa Meerts, "Desert Rock would bring jobs, students to area," Farmington (N.M.) Daily Times Nov. 18, 2006.

[7] Dailan J. Long and Sarah Jane White, "Op-Ed: Burnham Residents Barely Breathing, Still Fighting," The New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.), Nov. 5, 2006, pg. F3.


From: Christian Science Monitor ..........................[This story printer-friendly]
December 23, 2004


[Rachel's introduction: New greenhouse-gas emissions from China, India, and the U.S. will swamp cuts from the Kyoto treaty.]

By Mark Clayton

So much for Kyoto.

The official treaty to curb greenhouse-gas emissions hasn't gone into effect yet and already three countries are planning to build nearly 850 new coal-fired plants, which would pump up to five times as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as the Kyoto Protocol aims to reduce.

The magnitude of that imbalance is staggering. Environmentalists have long called the treaty a symbolic rather than practical victory in the fight against global warming. But even many of them do not appear aware of the coming tidal wave of greenhouse-gas emissions by nations not under Kyoto restrictions.

By 2012, the plants in three key countries -- China, India, and the United States -- are expected to emit as much as an extra 2.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide, according to a Monitor analysis of power-plant construction data. In contrast, Kyoto countries by that year are supposed to have cut their CO2 emissions by some 483 million tons.

The findings suggest that critics of the treaty, including the Bush administration, may be correct when they claim the treaty is hopelessly flawed because it doesn't limit emissions from the developing world. But they also suggest that the world is on the cusp of creating a huge new infrastructure that will pump out enormous amounts of CO2 for the next six decades.

Without strong U.S. leadership, it's unlikely that technology to cut CO2 emissions will be ready in time for the power-plant construction boom, many say.

"If all those power plants are online by 2012, then obviously it completely cancels out any gains from Kyoto," says Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeler with the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The reason for the dramatic imbalance is coal. Just a few years ago, economists and environmentalists still pictured a world shifting steadily from "dirty" coal-fired power plants to "cleaner" natural-gas turbines. But the fast-rising price of natural gas and other factors abruptly changed that picture. Now the world is facing a tidal wave of new power plants fired by coal, experts say. "China and India are building coal-fired capacity as fast as they can," says Christopher Bergesen, who tracks power plant construction for Platts, the energy publishing division of McGraw- Hill.

China is the dominant player. The country is on track to add 562 coal- fired plants -- nearly half the world total of plants expected to come online in the next eight years. India could add 213such plants; the U.S., 72. (See chart below.)

Altogether, those three nations are set to add up to 327,000 megawatts by 2012 -- three quarters of the new capacity in the global pipeline and roughly equal to the output of today's U.S. coal-fired generating fleet.

The new coal plants from the three nations would burn about 900 million extra tons of coal each year. That, in turn, would emit in the neighborhood of 2.5 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, Dr. Schmidt estimates.

"I'm not hugely optimistic we are going to slow the rate of carbon emission overall any time soon," says Schmidt of the Goddard institute. "If this sort of thing continues unchecked, we won't be arguing about climate change in 2100, because the changes will be all too obvious."

But several uncertainties remain. First, not all of the plants may be built. In the U.S., for example, local opposition may halt construction of some of the 100 coal-fired plants now in various stages of development. According to Mr. Bergesen's numbers, 72 plants could be added, the basis for the Monitor's estimates.

Another uncertainty: Slightly less than half of the new plants Platts forecasts for China and India have an official start date. If only those plants with start dates are built, then the expected emissions from the three nations would total only 1.2 billion tons of CO2, still more than double the required reduction from Kyoto. But that estimate is conservative, experts say, because Chinese and Indian leaders face few political barriers to power-plant construction and big demands for more power.

Efficiency a key

Although U.S. coal-fired plants are far more efficient than those in China or India, all three countries, presumably, would install state- of-the-art technology. The Monitor's estimates are based on the assumption that the new plants in all three nations will be 10 percent more efficient than today's U.S. average -- a conservative estimate, experts say.

The third uncertainty involves new technology. Having rejected Kyoto, President Bush says the U.S. will pursue its own policy of voluntary carbon reductions and conduct research into technologies like "carbon sequestration" -- burying CO2 rather than emitting it. To do that, the U.S. Department of Energy hopes to develop new technologies by 2012 that would economically capture the greenhouse gas before it leaves the power plant.

One approach -- called Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) technology -- aims to siphon off CO2 before it's sent up the stack. The largest U.S. power company, American Electric Power in Columbus, Ohio, plans to build at least one commercial IGCC plant by 2010. Another coal-burning power company, Cinergy, in Cincinnati, this month said it also would build an IGCC plant.

But funding for a key billion-dollar federal IGCC experimental program called FutureGen is lagging. And unless the U.S. sets a limit on CO2 emissions that creates a market for carbon-reducing technology, there is little financial incentive to invest in such technology, experts say. As a result, the technology appears unlikely to be deployed in time to make much difference in the coming surge of power-plant construction.

Without such technology, the impact on climate by the new coal plants would be significant, though not entirely unanticipated. They would boost CO2 emissions from fossil fuels by about 14 percent by 2012, Schmidt estimates. That's within the 1 to 2 percent annual range for CO2 growth expected in "high-growth" scenarios put forward by climate scientists. But it does not fall into the "maximum" scenario they use to evaluate the worst-case impact of greenhouse gases.

The power of six

"The point is that a relatively small number of countries holds the fate of the planet in their hands in terms of climate change," says David Hawkins, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's climate center. "If the five or six countries building all these power plants were to come together to develop a strategy for carbon capture applied to coal, it would be a huge step toward cutting global warming."

Energy security is one factor driving the shift. With its 250-year supply of coal, the U.S. is often called the "Saudi Arabia of coal." China, with similarly huge reserves, is even planning to convert coal into synthetic fuel for cars -- even though such processes typically produce large amounts of greenhouse gases.

Coal's low price has been a powerful incentive, too. Chinese authorities are pushing for cleaner power. But gas pipelines in China aren't fully utilized because of that fuel's higher cost, experts say. And in the U.S., utility companies are shifting focus from natural gas to coal instead.

"There has been an abrupt about-face," says Robert McIlvaine, who heads his own Northfield, Ill., information company that tracks the construction of coal power plants globally. "Utilities that would not consider a coal-fired plant a year or two ago are now moving forward with coal-fired projects."

With natural gas prices expected to continue rising, 58 other nations have 340 new coal-fired plants in various stages of development. They are expected to go online in a decade or so. Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, and Turkey are all planning significant new coal- fired power additions. Germany also plans to build eight coal plants with 6,000 megawatts capacity.

But China is the key. "The Chinese will surpass the coal-fired generating capacity and the CO2 emissions of the U.S. in the next couple of years," Mr. McIlvaine says.

Hit by blackouts and power restrictions for 18 months, China has been scrambling to relieve that pressure. Scores of unauthorized power projects about which little is known have sprouted nationwide -- along with hundreds of official projects, McIlvaine says. Because of this, even careful estimates could be low, both he and Bergesen say.

"Environmental optimists were assuming the world was going to switch to gas, but when you're short of gas you use your own coal," says Philip Andrews-Speed, a China energy expert at the University of Dundee, in Scotland. "What you're seeing with China and the others is the cheapness and security of coal just overwhelming the desire to be clean."

Copyright 2007 The Christian Science Monitor


From: AlterNet ...........................................[This story printer-friendly]
January 9, 2007


[Rachel's introduction: George Monbiot's new book Heat picks up where Al Gore left off on global warming, offering real solutions without sugar-coating the large personal sacrifices they will require.]

By David Morris

Al Gore is our generation's Paul Revere. Riding hard through the country, he warns us of the impending arrival of climatic disaster. He's proven an astonishingly effective messenger. An Inconvenient Truth may receive an Oscar for Best Documentary. Overflow crowds greet his presentations with standing ovations.

Which, come to think of it, is odd. When has someone ever delivered such an ominous message to such tumultuous applause? (Aside from those who insist we are in the end times and the rapture is near.)

In a recent speech to a standing-room-only audience at the New York University School of Law, Gore declared, "We are moving closer to several 'tipping points' that could -- within as little as 10 years -- make it impossible for us to avoid irretrievable damage to the planet's habitability for human civilization." The audience cheered wildly. Presumably audiences are not cheered by the prospect of imminent catastrophe. So what is going on here?

British journalist George Monbiot, author of Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning (Doubleday, 2006) has a theory.

"We wish our governments to pretend to act," he writes. "We get the moral satisfaction of saying what we know to be right, without the discomfort of doing it. My fear is that the political parties in most rich nations have already recognized this. They know that we want tough targets, but that we also want those targets to be missed. They know that we will grumble about their failure to curb climate change, but that we will not take to the streets. They know that nobody ever rioted for austerity."

Austerity? Hold on. Al Gore and the rest of the U.S. environmental movement never utter the word "austerity." Their word of choice is "opportunity." The prospect of global warming, they maintain, can serve as a much-needed catalyst to spur us to action. A large dose of political will may be required, but we need not anticipate economic pain. We can stop global warming in its tracks, expand our economy and improve our quality of life. We can, in other words, do good and do quite well. A leading environmentalist, for whom I have a great deal of admiration, summed up his position to an interviewer, "I can't stand it when people say, 'Taking action on climate change is going to be extremely difficult.'"

And there's the rub, as dear Hamlet would say. By claiming we can solve the problem of climate change painlessly, environmentalists confuse us. They offer stark and rigorous presentations terrifying us about the near-term, dire consequences of global warming. And then they offer generalized, almost blithe assurances about how we can avoid these dire consequences without great sacrifice. We are horrified and soothed at the same time. It's a dangerous strategy. Many who focus on the catastrophic present-day images of An Inconvenient Truth believe we have gone beyond the point of no return, which leads to cynicism and passivity. Those who are spurred to action believe that buying a hybrid car or taking an eco-vacation will address the problem.

Indeed, the "take action" section of Al Gore's website, www.climatecrisis.net recommends the following steps. Put on a sweater. Use more efficient light bulbs. Turn the thermostat down 2 degrees. Drive less.

I'm sure Al Gore knows that even if millions of individuals were to adopt such actions, the pace of ecological disaster would not slow one whit. I presume he views these actions as a way for us to demonstrate our willingness accept responsibility for our consumption habits. The next, and far more important, step is to persuade us to work collectively and aggressively for bold new policies. A recent letter from Al Gore, emailed from MoveOn.org asked us to do just that by signing a petition to push Congress to action.

Gore declared, "I'm ready to push for real solutions, but I need your help ..." The email offered no policy solutions. Nor does Al Gore's web site or speeches, except for his recommendation that America immediately freeze its greenhouse gas emissions and then reduce them.

George Monbiot, a reporter for the British newspaper, Guardian takes up where Al Gore and many others leave off. Heat is a remarkable book. For it is not written to convince the unconvinced [of] global warming, but to educate the already-persuaded, those who exited the theater after watching An Inconvenient Truth with fire in their bellies, ready to fight the incoming menace about what must be done, and ready to face the significant sacrifices that will have to be made along the way.

Monbiot's assumptions differ only modestly from those of Al Gore. Both believe the window of opportunity is short, and closing. Both believe we must immediately freeze greenhouse gas emissions and then reduce them by up to 60 percent below current levels by about 2030. (Gore may use the 2050 time frame). Monbiot recommends more rapid reductions than others, but he argues persuasively that an ounce of reduction in the early years can avoid the need for a pound of reduction in the later years.

A key contribution by Monbiot is that he addresses the question Al Gore asks, but doesn't answer. "(W)hat would a responsible approach to the climate crisis look like if we had one in America?" Monbiot asks the question of his home country, United Kingdom.

Monbiot launches his investigation by asking a crucial question rarely discussed by Al Gore and other U.S. environmentalists: How does the responsibility of the world's largest polluters differ from that of the rest of the world? The average American generates more than 10 times the greenhouse gas emissions as does the average Chinese, and perhaps 30 times more than the average citizen of Bangladesh. (The gluttony of the average citizen of the UK is not far below that of the average American).

When Al Gore says he wants to free emissions, presumably he's talking about planetary emissions, not U.S. emissions. Otherwise, he's asking humanity to freeze the current stark disparity in resource use in place. That's politically impossible and morally disagreeable. Since the U.S. and UK generate a disproportionate amount of global greenhouse gases, a responsible approach presumably would require them to disproportionately reduce their emissions.

Monbiot argues for a global carbon emissions cap allocated on a per capita basis. Since all of humanity shares the biosphere, which has only a limited absorptive and cleansing capacity and all humans are created equal, then each should have equal use of that capacity.

The implications of biospheric equity are so profound and so disturbing, that it is understandable why American environmentalists shy away from discussing the issue. Currently, global carbon emissions are about 7 billion tons, roughly, 1 ton per person. But the average American generates, directly and indirectly, some 10 tons per capita. Thus, to save the planet and cleanse our resource sins, Americans must go far beyond freezing greenhouse gas emissions. As a nation, we must reduce them by more than 90 percent, taking into account the sharp reductions in existing global emissions necessary to stabilize the world's climate.

Suddenly we realize that addressing the global warming problem will be very difficult, not only politically but economically and institutionally. And it may well entail significant sacrifice.

Consider the following: California has received much well-deserved praise for enacting legislation that establishes a statewide carbon cap for 2020 equal to the state's 1990 emission level. Achieving this goal would mean reducing current emissions by about 13 percent. Another 80 percent reduction will be necessary if California is to achieve its fair share of the global emissions reductions necessary to stabilize climate change.

Monbiot recommends the per-capita carbon budgets be allocated nationally. Nations would decide how to parcel out these allocations. Ideally, these could be passed through to individuals. But Monbiot notes the administrative costs involved in having people spend their carbon allowances on tens of thousands of products and services, each one denominated in carbon credits as well as currency. To simplify the process, he recommends a strategy developed by two of his compatriots, Mayer Hillman and David Fleming. They argue that since 40 percent of the UK's carbon emissions result from the use of fuels and electricity and it is relatively simple to develop a method by which individuals pay for these energy sources with carbon credits, 40 percent of the nation's carbon allocations should be passed through to individuals. The remaining 60 percent would belong to the government, which might auction them off to generate revenue.

The bulk of Heat is an exhaustive sector-by-sector, hardheaded examination of the near-term technical and economic capacity for wealthy, industrialized nations to achieve the necessary reductions. The examination relies on an immense volume of technical studies and primary research. Monbiot concludes that the UK can indeed achieve sufficient reductions within the time frame, but just barely, and at a high cost.

Although none of the reductions will be easily achieved, Monbiot's analysis concludes that those related to transportation may be the hardest of all. To reduce ground transportation emissions sufficiently, he suggests the need to severely lessen individual shopping trips. To accomplish this, he proposes that goods be delivered. He cites a UK Department of Transportation study that notes, "a number of modeling exercises and other surveys suggest that the substitution of private cars by delivery vehicles could reduce traffic by 70 percent or more." Every van the stores dispatch, in other words, takes three cars off the road. Monbiot also proposes to transform out of town superstores into warehouses, to be visited only by vehicles that pick up supplies. That will save even more energy, because warehouses use only 35 percent as much heat and 29 percent as much electricity as do stores.

In only one sector does Monbiot fail to identify a technical solution at any cost: air travel. Flying generates about the same volume of greenhouse gases per passenger mile as a car. But, of course, flights are many miles longer than drives. Fly from New York to California and back and you will generate as much greenhouse gas emissions as you will by driving your Prius all year.

Monbiot reluctantly concludes, "(T)here is simply no way of tackling this issue other than reducing the number, length and speed of the journeys we make." Knowing the audience for whom the book is intended, he acerbically adds, this will mean the end of "shopping trips to New York, political meetings in Porto Alegre, long distance vacations."

He urges his readers "to remember that these privations affect a tiny proportion of the world's people. The reason they seem so harsh is that this tiny proportion almost certainly includes you."

Monbiot sums up his findings, "I have sought to demonstrate that the necessary reduction in carbon emissions is -- if difficult -- technically and economically possible. I have not demonstrated that it is politically possible."

Is it politically possible? The last paragraph of Heat is not hopeful. "(T)he campaign against climate change is an odd one. Unlike almost all the public protests which have preceded it, it is a campaign not for abundance but for austerity. It is a campaign not for more freedom but for less. Strangest of all, it is a campaign not just against other people, but also against ourselves."

Which may be why we hear so much talk about the problem but so little talk about sacrifice.

For those who favor aggressively expanding renewable energy, dramatically improving efficiency and abandoning our dependence on imported oil, but remain unconvinced about the timing and severity of climate change, the disconnect between rhetoric and reality doesn't matter. They can view the threat of global warming as a means to an end, a rhetorical device to stimulate people and governments to aggressively embrace these objectives. If we do get 25 percent of our expanded energy consumption from renewables by 2025, they will be satisfied. Indeed, they will be ecstatic.

But for those who truly believe that widespread and perhaps irreversible ecological disaster is imminent, for those who believe we have only a 10-year window of opportunity before disaster becomes inevitable, expanding renewable energy and improving efficiency is not sufficient unless it is done at a scale and on a pace that dramatically reduces global carbon emissions by 2030, with emissions by nations like the United States and United Kingdom being reduced by upwards of 90 percent.

By not sugar coating the means, Heat provides an important public service. By clearly presenting his data, Monbiot lets us decide where we agree and where we disagree. He invites a conversation. I look forward to it. And I hope to soon see a U.S. environmentalist take up the Monbiot challenge and put together an equally thorough and rigorous examination of our own ability to tackle global warming.

David Morris is co-founder and vice president of the Institute for Local Self Reliance in Minneapolis, Minnnesota and director of its New Rules project.


From: The Record (Hackensack, N.J.) ......................[This story printer-friendly]
January 7, 2007


[Rachel's introduction: "There's a common thread" between the Ramapoughs in New Jersey and the Chippewas in Canada," says Ron Plain, chairman of the Aamjiwnaang environmental committee. "We're not afforded any human rights."]

By Alex Nussbaum

SARNIA, Ontario -- The parallels are striking.

A native tribe blames industrial pollution for widespread illness. A child dies of a rare leukemia. Land that sustained ancestors for thousands of years, locals complain, is no longer fit to fish or hunt.

But these aren't the Ramapough Mountain Indians of Upper Ringwood [N.J.]. They are Chippewas, members of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation in Canada.

Tons of the toxic paint sludge dug out of the Ramapoughs' Ringwood neighborhood have been buried in a landfill near the Chippewas' reserve in Sarnia. A relief for one community, a burden for another.

The landfill is just one of a litany of worries for a community of nearly 1,000 people hemmed in by dozens of oil refineries, chemical factories, natural-gas wells and toxic cleanup sites here in Canada's "Chemical Valley." The Aamjiwnaang blame this industrial overload for high asthma rates and reduced life spans.

The dump, the industries and the sludge from New Jersey are all examples of how the worst pollution often ends up among those with the least clout, some here say.

"There's a common thread" between the Ramapoughs and the Chippewas, says Ron Plain, chairman of the Aamjiwnaang environmental committee. "We're not afforded any human rights."

The operators of the Clean Harbors landfill, however, don't think it is a threat.

The commercial hazardous-waste dump is 3 miles from the reserve, amid a wide-open stretch of farm fields. The smokestack atop its incinerator rises 225 feet into the sky, the highest point for miles.

Clean Harbors takes the worst of the worst from the Great Lakes region -- waste from auto plants, refineries, foundries and chemical makers. The company buried 190,000 tons of hazardous waste in 2005. It burned 90,000 more.

More than 5,000 tons of Ringwood's sludge has been brought here because it's too toxic -- even after processing in Michigan -- for burial in the United States.

When the trucks roll into Clean Harbors, an on-site lab tests samples. Material that passes muster is pushed into 60-foot-deep pit by bulldozers.

The landfill doesn't have the geosynthetic liners required of most dumps in the U.S. and Canada. Until recently, Ontario didn't require treatment of the waste buried here to make it less toxic, as other states and provinces do.

But the landfill is carved into a 120-foot-deep layer of natural clay and chalk, a unique geologic feature that the company claims makes it perhaps the safest hazardous waste dump in North America. The waste is topped with an additional 20 feet of clay. Toxic liquids that percolate out are collected and incinerated. The company also tests grass and leaves outside the site to ensure chemicals aren't spreading.

"I always put us second only to the nuclear industry as far as regulatory controls," said Donald Schwieg, a Clean Harbors vice president. "There's no environmental impact from this site."

There have been problems. Clean Harbors agreed to donate $60,000 to environmental groups last year for failing to properly report waste imported from the U.S. In 1999, farmers parked their tractors outside the gates to protest contaminated water and methane gas leaks.

Some neighbors don't mind the landfill. The waste "has to go somewhere," said Bill Allingham. "If you don't want it, then the best darn cure is to quit your consumerism. But people want and they want and they want."

Plain says people on the reserve just want the government to enforce environmental rules and to study their health complaints -- something the Ramapoughs spent years pleading for.

Plain says his sister-in-law and mother-in-law died of cancer last year. His cousin is in mourning for his 13-year-old grandson, who died in November of a rare form of leukemia some studies have linked to benzene, an industrial chemical. The boy's grave is in a cemetery beside towering chemical tanks.

In 2005, a University of Ottawa study found women here had given birth to twice as many girls as boys in recent years, an oddity some Chippewas blame on pollution. The author of the study, however, says the cause is unclear.

There's one more similarity to the Ramapoughs: People are frightened of living amid the pollution, but they are too tied to the land to go.

"We've been here 6,000 years," Plain said. "We didn't create this. We shouldn't have to leave."

Copyright 2007 North Jersey Media Group Inc.


From: The Chronicle Herald (Halifax, Nova Scotia) ........[This story printer-friendly]
January 8, 2007


[Rachel's introduction: Tamaqua Borough in Pennsylvania is asserting the rights of nature in a unique law intended to curb corporate power.]

By Silver Donald Cameron

Hardly anyone noticed it, but one of the most important events of 2006 may prove to have been the passage of the Tamaqua Borough Sewage Sludge Ordinance, a law enacted by the 7,000 brave souls who inhabit the community of Tamaqua, Penn.

Tamaqua's revolutionary ordinance does two things. It denies the right of corporations to spread sewage sludge as fertilizer on farmland, even when the farmer is willing, and it recognizes natural communities and ecosystems as legal persons with legal rights. It is among the first "wild laws" to be passed anywhere in the world.

To understand the importance of wild law, consider this. The law recognizes as "jural persons" various bodies that are abstractions -- corporations particularly, but also governments, foundations, universities, churches and other groups. These entities exist in our collective minds -- you can't touch them, smell them or see them -- but they all have legal rights, particularly property rights.

Yet other entities that are absolutely real in every sense rivers and trees and animals have no legal rights at all. If Foulwater Mining Corp. dumps tailings in the river, the downstream town of Feckless Flats can sue for damage to its water supply. Both the corporation and the town are fictions, but they have standing in the courts. The river does not and neither do the plants, fish and animals in the stream.

What if they did? A decade ago, researching The Living Beach, I ran across a brilliant 1971 essay by Christopher Stone, a law professor at the University of Southern California, called Should Trees Have Standing? Towards Legal Rights for Natural Objects.

Stone's essay began at the dividing line between property, with which we have no ethical relationship, and things-with-rights, with which we do. There is no "natural" boundary between the two, though we usually think there is. But, wrote Stone, the history of Western law shows a steady migration of items of property into the category of things- with-rights.

In Roman law, a man had absolute power over his children. He could even put them to death. In 1858, a U.S. court could say explicitly that "a slave is not a person, but a thing." Natives, Jews, Chinese, women (especially married women), animals all of these have at various times been considered property, and have been denied the most basic of rights. But today, all of them have a substantial basket of rights.

Stone argued that natural objects should have at least three basic rights: the right to institute legal action at their own behest; the right to have injuries to them taken into account in determining legal relief; and the right to benefit from that relief. Since trees and birds and beaches cannot exercise those rights themselves, individuals or groups should be able to apply to the court for legal guardianship, and for the right to litigate on behalf of the natural object.

Stone was arguing for an ethical relationship with nature, and pleading that we start to think in less "homocentric" terms. We are not protecting natural objects for future human generations; we are protecting them for themselves. The environment does not exist for man; it may be that man exists for the environment.

In 2003, a South African lawyer named Cormac Cullinan expanded these ideas in a book entitled Wild Law: A Manifesto for Earth Justice. Humans are members of an earth community, Cullinan noted, and we cannot ignore the rights of that community, which makes our own existence possible. We need a new body of law whose first priority is to protect the ecological community in which we live.

This is not a cozy idea. Under such a regime, Nova Scotia Power could be sued on behalf of polar bears, whose habitat is being destroyed by the degradation of the air. Since NSP's coal-burning plants are among Canada's worst polluters, the bears might win the case and you and I would have to find other ways to generate electricity. That would be "wild law" with a vengeance.

Wild law could give ocean-bottom plants the right to challenge Clearwater's bottom-trawling, or a bog the right to an injunction to block a drainage project. It might allow trees to demand that this newspaper be published only electronically.

Wild law will not soon gain that kind of traction or will it? Without rapid and radical change, the days of our own species may be numbered, and the fundamental justice and sanity of wild law is indisputable. Once begun, the process of legal change can move surprisingly quickly. Twenty years ago, who would have thought that an almost universal ban on smoking in public lay within the realm of possibility?

Peer deeply into the sewage sludge of Tamaqua. It may contain the future of the law.

Visit Silver Donald Cameron's website at www.silverdonaldcameron.ca


From: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility ..[This story printer-friendly]
December 28, 2006


Orders to Cater to Creationists Makes National Park Agnostic on Geology

[Rachel's introduction: The National Park Service is under orders to ignore geology and keep a straight face while Creationists claim the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood.]

Washington, DC -- Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

"In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is 'no comment.'"

In a letter released today, PEER urged the new Director of the National Park Service (NPS), Mary Bomar, to end the stalling tactics, remove the book from sale at the park and allow park interpretive rangers to honestly answer questions from the public about the geologic age of the Grand Canyon. PEER is also asking Director Bomar to approve a pamphlet, suppressed since 2002 by Bush appointees, providing guidance for rangers and other interpretive staff in making distinctions between science and religion when speaking to park visitors about geologic issues.

In August 2003, Park Superintendent Joe Alston attempted to block the sale at park bookstores of Grand Canyon: A Different View by Tom Vail, a book claiming the Canyon developed on a biblical rather than an evolutionary time scale. NPS Headquarters, however, intervened and overruled Alston. To quiet the resulting furor, NPS Chief of Communications David Barna told reporters and members of Congress that there would be a high-level policy review of the issue.

According to a recent NPS response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by PEER, no such review was ever requested, let alone conducted or completed.

Park officials have defended the decision to approve the sale of Grand Canyon: A Different View, claiming that park bookstores are like libraries, where the broadest range of views are displayed. In fact, however, both law and park policies make it clear that the park bookstores are more like schoolrooms rather than libraries. As such, materials are only to reflect the highest quality science and are supposed to closely support approved interpretive themes. Moreover, unlike a library the approval process is very selective. Records released to PEER show that during 2003, Grand Canyon officials rejected 22 books and other products for bookstore placement while approving only one new sale item -- the creationist book.

Ironically, in 2005, two years after the Grand Canyon creationist controversy erupted, NPS approved a new directive on "Interpretation and Education (Director's Order #6) which reinforces the posture that materials on the "history of the Earth must be based on the best scientific evidence available, as found in scholarly sources that have stood the test of scientific peer review and criticism [and] Interpretive and educational programs must refrain from appearing to endorse religious beliefs explaining natural processes."

"As one park geologist said, this is equivalent of Yellowstone National Park selling a book entitled Geysers of Old Faithful: Nostrils of Satan," Ruch added, pointing to the fact that previous NPS leadership ignored strong protests from both its own scientists and leading geological societies against the agency approval of the creationist book. "We sincerely hope that the new Director of the Park Service now has the autonomy to do her job."


Read the PEER letter to NPS Director Bomar

View the NPS admission that no policy review on the creationist book has occurred

See the 2005 NPS Director's Order #6 on Interpretation

8.4.2 Historical and Scientific Research. Superintendents, historians, scientists, and interpretive staff are responsible for ensuring that park interpretive and educational programs and media are accurate and reflect current scholarship...Questions often arise round the presentation of geological, biological, and evolutionary processes. The interpretive and educational treatment used to explain the natural processes and history of the Earth must be based on the best scientific evidence available, as found in scholarly sources that have stood the test of scientific peer review and criticism. The facts, theories, and interpretations to be used will reflect the thinking of the scientific community in such fields as biology, geology, physics, astronomy, chemistry, and paleontology. Interpretive and educational programs must refrain from appearing to endorse religious beliefs explaining natural processes. Programs, however, may acknowledge or explain other explanations of natural processes and events. (Emphasis added)

Trace how the creationist book controversy started and grew

Look at tax dollars used to support the Bush administration program of "Faith-Based Parks"

Contact: Carol Goldberg (202) 265-7337


Rachel's Democracy & Health News (formerly Rachel's Environment & Health News) highlights the connections between issues that are often considered separately or not at all.

The natural world is deteriorating and human health is declining because those who make the important decisions aren't the ones who bear the brunt. Our purpose is to connect the dots between human health, the destruction of nature, the decline of community, the rise of economic insecurity and inequalities, growing stress among workers and families, and the crippling legacies of patriarchy, intolerance, and racial injustice that allow us to be divided and therefore ruled by the few.

In a democracy, there are no more fundamental questions than, "Who gets to decide?" And, "How DO the few control the many, and what might be done about it?"

Rachel's Democracy and Health News is published as often as necessary to provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

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