De Caprio & 200,000 Climate Guardians March For Change

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On April 29th, Leonardo DiCaprio joined the more than 200,000 people who took to the streets in Washington, D.C. calling for action on climate change. The People’s Climate March had sister marches across the country and around the world, demonstrating a strong sense of unity for climate justice in the face of an American president who denies the existence of climate change. 

Prior to the march, DiCaprio and LDF met with Indigenous leaders from North and South America who shared stories of their efforts to protect their lands, waters, and people from the impacts of fossil fuel extraction. Chairman Dave Archambault from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe talked about their ongoing commitment to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has shifted from protest to a battle in the courts.  Manari Ushigua, President of Sápara Nation, asked for LDF’s support of his community’s fight against rapid expansion of oil drilling across the tribe’s territory in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The meeting closed with a powerful prayer for protection of the planet led by Mati Waiyu of the Chumash Nation.

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DiCaprio helped kick off the march down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the White House with the Indigenous block. The group held signs with powerful messages including “Keep It [oil] In the Ground” and “Protect – Defend – Resist.” The march was organized by the 900-group-strong People’s Climate Movement, which included non-profit environmental and social justice groups, as well as labor unions and companies committed to taking action on climate change.

The march culminated in a rally led by Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network, a Diné and Dakota leader who was prominent during the Dakota Access fight, and Carrie Fulton, an environmental justice organizer in D.C. “What do we do when our communities are under attack? Stand up, fight back!” said Goldtooth.

The weather in D.C. reached a sweltering 91 degrees Fahrenheit, which only emboldened the march against global warming.

Approximately 370 sister marches took place worldwide, including marches in almost every U.S. state, as well as the U.K., Germany, New Zealand, Mexico, Greece, Japan, Kenya, and the Philippines.

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Ratification Of The Paris Agreement Delayed

Michael Gove on a school visit

It’s now nine months since the COP21 climate treaty was agreed in Paris. At the time,I met the agreement with both celebration and condemnation: it marked an important global moment for collective action on climate change but lacked the ambition and detail on how even a 2ºC target could be met. Many observers recognised that the proof of its success would be in the national policy commitments made by governments and ministers in the months and years that followed.

Other Than That Everything's Perfect

Other Than That Everything’s Perfect

Importantly, the Paris agreement will not enter into force until 55 countries representing 55% of total global emissions have ratified it. As it stands, 26 states have completed this, totalling 39.06 % of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Notably, this includes China and the United States, who last week jointly announced their ratification of the Paris Agreement, marking a very important step in the treaty’s journey.

Sadly, the UK has dawdled on Paris ratification and has not yet made any announcement of when it intends to do so. Since December, the stock response of both the Prime Minister and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (and formerly the Department for Energy and Climate Change) has been that the government will do so ‘as soon as possible’.

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In Parliament today, I asked the Prime Minister if she will commit to ratifying the agreement before the follow up negotiations in November of this year. She sidestepped the question and refused to give a firm date. With 2016 set to be the hottest year on record, this casual approach is at odds with ever more serious warnings about the severity of the climate crisis.

At the national level, it has been a terrible year for climate and energy policy. With the ongoing reckless obsession with fracking, the failure to embrace energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority, and the delay in new subsidy announcements for offshore wind, it should come as no surprise that the Committee on Climate Change announced in June that the government lacks half the policies it needs to meet its 2030 emissions targets.

Indeed, it is clear that UK energy and infrastructure policy is going in completely the wrong direction – cutting support for renewables and efficiency, locking in high-carbon gas for decades to come, and squandering taxpayers’ money on new nuclear and runways.

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In a further sign of government neglect, yesterday, the new Minster for Climate Change, announced a probable delay in the publication of the vital Carbon Plan. The plan will detail how the UK will meet its targets under the Climate Change Act. This delay comes at a time when the UK’s attractiveness as a destination for investment in renewable energy has reached an all-time low. The responsibility for this lies solely with chaotic and unpredictable government policy. The dismal failure of the Treasury and the Energy Department to halt the potentially catastrophic Business Rate rises to schools, businesses and community organisations with solar panels on their rooftops is a further example of that.

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Without a global step change in ambition, global temperatures will likely rise by 3.7°C and beyond. The consequences of this kind of change are unimaginable – indeed, we do not know the full implications of breaching planetary boundaries in this way. As a nation with an historic responsibility for carbon emissions, as well as the skills, expertise and resources to help create the solutions, the UK must take responsibility.

Delaying the ratification of the Paris Agreement – never mind dodging the ongoing questions about how we meet our own carbon reduction targets – demonstrates a dangerous and reckless approach to the most important issue of our time.

With much of the real detail of the Paris agreement being discussed at the follow-up COP22 negotiations in Marrakech in November, it would send all the wrong signals for the UK to turn up without having ratified it.

(This is an excerpt from Caroline Lucas MP’s blog)

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Keep Counting…..

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‘I vaguely remember hearing psychologists say that there was a preponderance of psychopaths at the top of the corporate and political worlds, could that really be true?’

  • Jon Ronson ‘The Psychopath test’

Question: How many wars has America engaged in during the twentieth century and the twenty-first century and why is this relevant to the current situation in Syria? It isn’t, but lets list the number of militarised punch ups they’ve been engaged in anyway.

  1. The Occupation of Nicaragua.
    (1912–1933)
  2. Occupation of Haiti.
    (1915–1934)
  3. Occupation of the Dominican Republic
    (1916–1924)
  4. World War I
    (1917–1918)
  5. Russian Civil War
    (1918–1920)
  6. World War II
    (1941–1945)
  7. Korean War
    (1950–1953)
  8. Lebanon Crisis
    (1958)
  9. Bay of Pigs Invasion
    (1961)
  10. Simba Rebellion
  11. (1964)
  12. Dominican Civil War
    (1965–1966)
  13. Vietnam War
    (1965–1973[a], 1975[b])
  14. Multinational Force in Lebanon
    (1982-1984)
  15. Invasion of Grenada
    (1983)
  16. Tanker War
    (1987–1988)
  17. Invasion of Panama
    (1989–1990)
  18. Gulf War
    (1990–1991)
  19. Iraqi No-Fly Zones
    (1991–2003)
  20. Somali Civil War
    (1992–1995)
  21. Intervention in Haiti
    (1994–1995)
  22. Bosnian War
    (1994–1995)
  23. Kosovo War
    (1998–1999)
  24. War in Afghanistan
    (2001–2014)
  25. War in Afghanistan
    (2015–present)

The list is as impressive and as notable as the many accolades psychopathic gang leaders award themselves. Because lets face it, when human beings within an ordered society pick fights, the way America as a military power picks its fights, our reaction as law abiding citizens is to call the police. We only look on in awe if we aspire to be like the psychopathic thug who prefers to beat his victims to a pulp, rather than choosing to engage in some intelligent peaceful discourse.

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Folks who consider self-control to be an indication of character, intelligence and moral integrity don’t get excited at the notion of engaging in any social interaction with folks who don’t. The bottom line? I choose like most folks not to court the association of the blood thirsty, the amoral and the plain psychopathic. Would that the government I did not vote for would choose the same.

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Granted Americans are an intelligent people and an intelligent nation, but other equally intelligent nations like Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan have been left literally in pieces after America has finished waging their wars in them. As for the morality of extensive capitalising on the destruction of other nation states, by bringing in American companies to rebuild the infrastructure, if this was happening in Africa we would cry Kalebule (corruption) very loudly.

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But the whole point of these wars some would say, is to keep America safe. Well then, have all these conflicts created this result? Will the conflict in Syria create this result? The French are finding that there’s a personal cost associated with their involvement in the war in Syria that neither they nor anyone else could have anticipated. Will the Americans who inadvertently created ISIS and the British Prime Minister who wishes to partake of the ‘fun’ find any different?

Food Irrigated With Fracking Water May Require Labels In California

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A new bill proposed in California would require all produce irrigated with fracking wastewater to come with warning labels. 

The bill, which Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D) introduced on Monday, would require any crops grown with water that had previously been injected into rock formations to free oil and gas reserves and sold to consumers in the state to be labeled. The warning would read, “Produced using recycled or treated oil-field wastewater.”

“Consumers have a basic right to make informed decisions when it comes to the type of food that ends up on the family dinner table,” Gatto said in a press release from his office. “Labeling food that has been irrigated with potentially harmful or carcinogenic chemicals, such as those in recycled fracking water, is the right thing to do.”

Federal officials, environmentalists and the petroleum industry remain intensely divided on how safe fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is. Debates over fracking largely revolve around whether the practice contaminates nearby groundwater, but an increase in farmers hydrating their crops with treated, previously injected water purchased from oil companies has aroused new concern. 

A report released last month by the California Council on Science and Technology did not discover strong evidence of dangerous chemicals in the recycled water — but it also found that state regulators did not have an adequate testing process and that there was “not any control in place to prevent [contamination] from happening.” 

It’s a risk Gatto believes people should be informed of. 

“No one expects their lettuce to contain heavy chemicals from fracking wastewater,” he said. “Studies show a high possibility that recycled oil-field wastewater may still contain dangerous chemicals, even after treatment.”

All About The Benjamins: Coal, Pollution & Mine Inspectors In Appalachia

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In June 2013, mine operator and Kentucky state representative Keith Hall went to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet with a complaint.

Kelly Shortridge, a mine inspector with the Division of Mine Enforcement and Reclamation in Pikeville, had been soliciting Hall for bribes to ignore violations on Hall’s Pike County surface mines.

Hall told two cabinet officials that he had already paid Shortridge “a small fortune,” and that the mine inspector “liked the Benjamins.” A report was drawn up, forwarded to the cabinet’s investigator general and Secretary Len Peters, and went nowhere.

The FBI began investigating the matter when the Lexington Herald-Leader published Hall’s complaint report through an open records request. In June, Hall was found guilty of bribing Shortridge to ignore Hall’s safety and environmental violations.

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During the trial, the bureau submitted evidence that strongly suggests Keith Hall was not the only operator paying Kelly Shortridge. Shortridge himself has admitted to taking bribes from other Pike County operators.

So how deep does the conspiracy go? That’s the question many are asking in the wake of Hall’s trial. The Herald-Leader published a recent editorial that pointed out the familiar territory here:

This is not the first time questions have arisen about the Pikeville office of the Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement where Shortridge, an inspector for 24 years, worked.

Other Pikeville-based inspectors allowed a surface mine (not owned by Hall) to operate without a permit for 18 months, until July 2010, when rain dislodged the unreclaimed mountain and flooded out about 80 families. One of the inspectors retired a month later.

Remember, too, that the division went years without penalizing coal companies for filing bogus water pollution reports by copying and pasting the same data, month after month.

This falsified water pollution data was only discovered after a coalition of environmental and citizen groups including Appalachian Voices discovered water monitoring reports that the department had neglected to review for over three years. The fact that the FBI had to find out about Hall’s allegations by reading the newspaper – and not through the cabinet itself – reveals a similar pattern of negligence.

How committed is the cabinet to enforcing Kentucky’s environmental and safety regulations around mining? The answer may lie in the phenomenally small salary that the state was paying Shortridge at the time of his 2014 resignation: $45,160 a year.

This may seem like an insignificant detail, but it speaks volumes about how our regulatory systems function, what they prioritize, and what motivates the individuals who operate within them. Shortridge was using his small salary, in addition to the bribes he was taking from Hall and others, to pay for his wife’s medical bills. It’s impossible to speculate about his personal character, but it does seem clear that he was responding to a specific set of material conditions in a way that most individuals on that kind of salary – and in that kind of position – very likely would.

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Without much incentive to enforce existing regulations, and knowing that it pays more to cozy up to the industry than to fight it, we really must ask: how many other Kelly Shortridges are out there? This doesn’t seem like an unreasonable question to ask of a regulatory system that, at best, lacks the political capital and material resources to enforce violations, and, at worst, is overseen by the very mine operators it’s supposed to be regulating. (Before being voted out of office in 2014, Keith Hall was the vice chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.)

Finally, Keith Hall’s remark that Kelly Shortridge “liked the Benjamins” – an incredibly condescending statement from a man who once appropriated his own county’s coal severance tax to the benefit of one of his companies – is revelatory. It hints that there are boundaries to what is and what isn’t acceptable within relationships between the coal industry and the state: Shortridge was getting ambitious; his greed was somehow different than Hall’s. Keep in mind that this was confessed to two cabinet officials, mob-style, as if Shortridge was breaking a set of established rules. Hall needed Shortridge until he didn’t, and then sold him down the river when he became an annoyance.

Now that they’re both paying for breaking the rules, will Governor Steve Beshear’s administration adequately investigate further possible corruption? It unfortunately doesn’t look likely.

As the Herald-Leader editorial notes, “This should be a moment of truth, but history tells us not to expect an aggressive self-examination of the state agency’s love affair with the coal industry.”

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– See more at: http://appvoices.org/2015/07/30/a-moment-of-truth-for-kentuckys-coal-regulators/#sthash.oVZYbSbu.dpuf

These Beautiful, Translucent Barriers Quiet Traffic—And Generate Power At The Same Time

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Where could this be? The Netherlands of course, where it seems like all such clever plans start (solar bike path, anyone?).

And this has to be one of the best Dutch ideas yet—roadside noise barriers that also generate solar power. Not only that, they work on cloudy days, and one kilometer (0.62 miles) provides enough electricity to power 50 homes.

The plan seems so obvious, you wonder why it hasn’t been done before. But the key is a new kind of solar panel. They’re cheap, they’re transparent, and they use a different light-gathering tech that works under the gray skies of Northern Europe. They’re called luminescent solar concentrators (LSC), and they’re translucent sheets which bounce light internally to the edges of the panels, where it is beamed onto regular solar panels “in concentrated form.”

The LSC panels can be made in different colors, so the result is something like an oversized stained-glass window. Because light can shine through them, they could be used in urban areas, shielding noise without making either pedestrians or motorists feel cut off.

The test, which launched on June 18, along the A2 highway near Den Bosch, includes regular solar panels as a control, and also to see how both kinds of barrier fare in the outside world, when subjected to real life and real vandalism.

The project is being run by researcher Michael Debije, at the Eindhoven University of Technology. Debije’s breakthrough is this new kind of LSC panel. Regular LSC panels reabsorb light as they channel it to the solar arrays at their edges. Debije’s panels fix this. Added bonus: they also look good.

Beware permitting fracking, says farmer who allowed coal methane borehole

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A farmer who gave an energy company permission to dig a test borehole for coal bed methane gas out of a sense of national duty has warned other landowners not to allow fracking and other unconventional gas exploration companies on their land.

The potential of gas drilling to pollute water courses and the effect it could have on the value of farmland left Paul Hickson and his family stressed for years and no wealthier, he said.

“I very much regret signing anything. I would never ever go into this kind of agreement again. As a farmer or landowner, you have the most to lose. I would say to anyone approached, please don’t let anyone drill on your land [to extract coal bed methane and gas by fracking shale].”

Along with several other local farmers, Hickson signed an initial access agreement for a test site in 2008 with Composite Energy, which got planning permission for a test site at Brooklands farm at Dudleston, near Ellesmere in Shropshire , but never drilled.

The company was then taken over by Dart Energy but planning permission lapsed and Shropshire county council is still in the process of deciding whether to allow it to be refreshed. But the access agreement made by Hickson with Dart Energy in 2012 expired last week and the landowner, whose family has farmed the area for 100 years, has refused to refresh it.

Hickson, whose 570-acre farm is at the southern edge of the former Denbighshire coalfield and borders the estate of the pro-fracking former environment secretary Owen Paterson, said that when he signed the access agreement he had no idea of the physical or psychological impact that gas drilling could have.

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“When I signed it there was never any mention of the damage that drilling could do to. I was badly informed from the start. It was a bad access agreement. It was only two pages long but it made out that the company would only be here for a little while and then they would go away. I signed but I now regret it very much,” he told the Guardian.

A protest camp known as Dudleston Castle was set up on his land and he met strong opposition from villagers who feared environmental damage and the prospect that their properties would lose value and environmental damage. More than 500 local people objected to the company’s planning application.

He said that he only gave permission out of a sense of national duty instilled by his father: “He always said that while it was our land whatever was underneath it belonged to the country. I always knew I was never going to make money from it because you never receive royalties for anything dug more than six foot deep on your land.

“It was put about in the village that I was going to make a lot of money but I never was. Some people were quite abusive.”

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Hickson, whose sons have a pedigree herd of rare Brown Swiss cattle, says he regretted signing when he when he learned how potentially damaging the drilling operation could be.

“This is an organic farm and with the drilling on my land I would have lost that status. If chemicals had seeped into the land they would have got into the springs on the farm and could have poisoned my cows,” he said.

Coal bed methane extraction involves pumping large quantities of water out of old coal seams to release trapped gas. It only needs the fracturing of rock with water and chemicals when the gas flow declines, usually after a few years.

But like hydraulic fracking for shale gas, it produces very large volumes of polluted water, requires many wells to be drilled and can lead to air pollution.Campaigners say around 60 planning permissions have been granted in Britain so far .

“I can see why the villagers were upset. I learned that any pollution of the two springs on my land would devalue the farm 60-70%, and that if my cows died I would not get compensation. All I would have received was up to £4,000 to put the land back to what it was.

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“I lost friends over this whole thing, but I also made some new ones. What it caused me and my family was stress. I was worried about the health of my mother and others and I was ill a lot.”

He added: “Paterson disappointed me. He thinks fracking is wonderful and has said that he would welcome it in his constituency. But he never came to see us. Before the election he was twice invited to talk to the community about the drilling but he declined to speak to them.”

Although Hickson says he changed his mind shortly after signing, he could not say anything publicly under the terms of the agreement. It was only when that expired last week that he could legally withdraw his permission to drill, and talk.

“IGas [which has since acquired Dart Energy] approached me last week to ask if I would renew the agreement. They met me on the farm for two hours and I told them about the problems. They were very understanding. They said they were willing to give me a big fee to sign another contract but I said if they put up £50,000, even £100,000, I would not be interested. I am glad it’s all over. That’s the end of it.”

The Guardian 2015