The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists have taken the sobering step of moving their Doomsday Clock from 11:55 up to 11:57 the closest we've been to to global catastrophe since 1987 and the bad old days of Reagan's unrestrained arms race with the Soviet Union. Two reasons were cited by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists "catastrophic warming' and the US and Russia's programs to "modernize" their nuclear weapons arsenals.
"Unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernizations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity, and world leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe. These failures of political leadership endanger every person on Earth.” Despite some modestly positive developments in the climate change arena, current efforts are entirely insufficient to prevent a catastrophic warming of Earth. Meanwhile, the United States and Russia have embarked on massive programs to modernize their nuclear triads—thereby undermining existing nuclear weapons treaties. "The clock ticks now at just three minutes to midnight because international leaders are failing to perform their most important duty—ensuring and preserving the health and vitality of human civilization."
Another unmistakable sign our leaders need to start addressing these threats to our common survival with the urgency and gravity they deserve. A poll at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists website shows that 68% of respondents think the clock should be even closer to midnight (shudder).
When Shell executives hire consultants to tell them how to deal with 4 degrees of temperature increase, and the Obama Administration tells Shell to go ahead and drill offshore in the arctic, our political and economic leaders continue to dismiss the long term consequences of their actions.
The Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 left 60 percent of nation's streams and millions of acres of wetlands without clear federal protection, according to EPA.
The new rules say a tributary must show evidence of flowing water to be protected — like a bank or a high water mark. The regulations would kick in and force a permitting process only if a business or landowner took steps to pollute or destroy those waters.
For more than 40 years, American families and businesses across the country have counted on the Clean Water Act to protect the streams and wetlands we rely on for our way of life – from recreation to public health to a growing economy. In recent years, however, court decisions have led to uncertainty and a need for clarification. One in three Americans now gets drinking water from streams lacking clear protection, and businesses and industries that depend on clean water face uncertainty and delay, which costs our economy every day. Too many of our waters have been left vulnerable to pollution. That’s why I called on the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to clear up the confusion and uphold our basic duty to protect these vital resources.
Today, after extensive input from the American public, they’re doing just that – finalizing the Clean Water Rule to restore protection for the streams and wetlands that form the foundation of our nation’s water resources, without getting in the way of farming, ranching, or forestry. This rule will provide the clarity and certainty businesses and industry need about which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act, and it will ensure polluters who knowingly threaten our waters can be held accountable. My Administration has made historic commitments to clean water, from restoring iconic watersheds like the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes to preserving more than a thousand miles of rivers and other waters for future generations. With today’s rule, we take another step towards protecting the waters that belong to all of us.
“The Obama administration’s new regulation implies that Washington bureaucrats know better than the people of our state,” Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) said in a statement.
“This rule is reckless and unwarranted, and I will work tirelessly to stop this expansion of federal control,” she said.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was more forceful with his condemnation.
“The administration’s decree to unilaterally expand federal authority is a raw and tyrannical power grab that will crush jobs,” he said, noting that the majority of the House has joined various government leaders in fighting the rule.
“These leaders know firsthand that the rule is being shoved down the throats of hardworking people with no input, and places landowners, small businesses, farmers, and manufacturers on the road to a regulatory and economic hell,” Boehner said.
"Power grab", tyrannical", "bureaucrats", "shoved down the throat of hardworking people", and the always classic—"crush jobs". Oh my! Even snowball enthusiast James Inhofe warmed his hands by the fire before pulling "increase federal control over private lands" out of his expensive suit pocket.
Like policies that address climate change, if you asked, most Americans want our waterways free from pollutants. However, like policies that address climate change, what the American people want may not matter unless they show that they really want it enough.
A short time ago, in a crowded senate meeting, a fracking moratorium died. SB 1132 was defeated 18-16-6 with 4 Democrats voting against the bill and 3 Democrats abstaining. The Democrats who voted against the bill included Lou Correa, Cathleen Galgiani, Ed Hernandez, & Norma J. Torres. And the Democrats who decided to abstain included Ben Hueso, Ricardo Lara, and Richard D. Roth. If these 3 Democrats had voted YES instead of abstaining, the bill would have passed. Even though the official California Democratic Party platform calls for an immediate moratorium on fracking; and even though 78% of Democratic voters favored a moratorium on fracking; seven Democrats chose to ignore their party's position. These Democrats refused to listen to the voices of the majority of Californians (68%); and they failed to prioritize the health and safety of their constituents over the rhetorical nonsense of the oil and gas industry.
Of course, even if the bill would have passed, Governor Jerry Brown has made it abundantly clear that he will veto any fracking moratorium or ban that lands on his desk. Moreover, Jerry Brown has the executive authority to place an immediate moratorium on fracking. With the demise of the SB 1132, Governor Jerry Brown, once again, became the focal point of the anti-fracking movement in California.
Frustrated and burnt out, I decided to finally take a short break from anti-fracking activism. I still followed the news and shared fracking articles through social media on occasion, but I was done signing petitions, going to hearings, and joining conference calls. Looking to other campaigns, both current and past, I began researching different strategies, tactics, and actions, searching for ways to strengthen the anti-fracking movement in California. What started as a research project would soon become a journey that would change my life forever…
If you are aware of the existence of tar sands mining on United States soil,
please feel free to click here to skip the introduction.
Tar Sands Extraction In The United States
A single tweet can change the world. It’s the butterfly effect of online activism. Last June, I just so happened to stumble upon such a tweet. This tweet may not have changed the world, but it spawned a chain reaction of events that shaped me into the person I am today. The tweet was about a Climate Justice Action Camp taking place in July. The Utah-based action camp would be a week focused on Climate Justice and Nonviolent Direct Action. In Utah, Land defenders have established a permanent protest vigil inside the boundaries of a planned tar sands strip mine. That's when I discovered the existence of tar sands mining on U.S. soil.
A Canadian based corporation called US Oil sands has attained construction permits for 32,000 acres of land for tar sands strip mining. This land, however, is located on protected Ute tribal land. On June 12, 2014, the EPA issued a directive to U.S. Oil Sands, stating that the company needs additional permitting before they can proceed with the project because the strip mine is located on traditional Uintah and Ouray Reservation land. The EPA’s letter indicates that US Oil Sands needs tribal authorization in order to proceed with the construction of the site. To date, US Oil Sands has never sought the Ute Tribal Government's approval of the project. Despite the EPA's orders, they have chosen to move forward with construction.
If you have ever seen pictures or videos of the Alberta Tar Sands, then you understand the threat that we face here in Utah. The US Oil Sands project in Utah is also located in the Colorado River Basin, which provides drinking water to 40 million people. It also provides water for 15 percent of the nation’s produce. The consequences of contaminating the Colorado River Basin would be irreparable. As for the future of tar sands mining in the United States, the story gets worse. The "Bureau of Land Management has proposed opening 800,000 acres of public lands in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming to tar sands and oil shale extraction. The US Geological Survey states the area contains between 353 billion and 1.146 trillion barrels of oil with “high potential for development,”—that is two to seven times as much as Alberta’s 170 billion barrels." The BLM’s own Environmental Impact Statement states that tar sands mining would “completely displace all other uses of the land." The climate implications of this project are astounding. Compared to the climate footprint of the Canadian Tar Sands, these three states hold 100% to 600% more CO2 in undeveloped tar sands and oil shale reserves.
With the movement against the Keystone XL pipeline growing stronger every day, I was shocked to discover that only a handful of organizations had joined forces with front-line communities in Utah to resist this project. Thee organizations include Peaceful Uprising, Tar Sands Resistance, and Rising Tide have lead taken the lead on putting an end this Utah based project. I read through the details about the Climate Justice Action Camp. This action camp would not only teach me about direct action and climate justice, it would also give me an opportunity to directly resist tar sands extraction on US soil. With little deliberation, I submitted my application for the Action Camp. A few weeks later, I was on my way to Utah.
Welcome To Utah
Please Note: For the sake of protecting the identities of those who wish not to be mentioned by name, this story will be told in a fashion which does not reveal the identity of any other individuals who attended this week long camp and action in Utah. If you would like to skip to the action, please click here.
The drive from California to Utah took a little over ten hours to complete. As we made our way to the action camp, we toured the toxic legacy of Utah’s fossil fuel industry. There are refineries hundreds of feet from populated low income communities; shale oil and oil shale fracking wells littered across the eastern side of the state; open evaporation pits that store fracking wastewater with no fencing; and there are areas in Utah with some of the worst air quality in the nation.
On the way to the plateau, we visited one of the many rivers and streams that fracking and tar sands companies are using to extract millions of gallons of water for oil production. These streams and rivers feed into the Colorado River, a vital source of drinking water for millions of people throughout the United States. We visited a wastewater evaporation pond that fracking companies use to literally allow the waste and toxic byproducts of fracking to evaporate. The putrid stench makes you want to vomit. Breathing in the chemicals for only a few minutes was enough to give me a migraine for the rest of the drive.
As we got closer to our destination, the oil-ridden wasteland outside my window soon evolved into beautiful plateaus and lush oasis-like forests hidden in the valleys between. The land was teeming with wildlife, horses, and grazing cows. The camp was located at the bottom of a small valley near the proposed tar sands project. Aspens covered the entire edge of the valley. These trees, amazingly, are all bound to a single root deep below the earth. In the evenings, bears would visit our camp every 20 minutes. On clear nights, stars, galaxies and planets were visible to the naked eye. And, for the first time in my life, I was finally able to listen to the sound of true silence. All of this was now being threatened by tars sands extraction.
Waking up at the crack of dawn, I felt like I was back in college. The new faces, the lesson plans, and the persistent note taking. Before this camp, I thought I knew the meaning of climate justice. I thought I knew the true purpose of nonviolent direct action. From the onset of camp, my naive perspective of these terms quickly dissolved. The week was filled with new knowledge, new friends, and a new appreciation for the planet we are fighting to protect. The more I learned, the more I changed.
I used to think that the climate was greatest issue of our time; that the only thing that mattered was a livable planet for future generations. When you start talking about climate justice, the picture begins to change. Climate justice is not just about fighting climate change, it's about fighting for everything that makes us who we are. It's about fighting for gender equality and putting an end to the patriarchal cancer that has infected our society. It's about fighting for LGBTQA rights and racial justice. It’s about labor justice, immigration rights and indigenous rights. Climate Justice is not simply aiming to mitigate the climate crisis, it's aiming to destroy the pillars of oppression that continue to desecrate our way of life. It's about putting an end to economic inequality, colonialism, and our oligarchic government.
The same flawed system that has brought the climate crisis to our doorsteps is the same flawed system that has brought about the social and economic injustices that continue to plague our society. Instead of fixing one symptom of this societal disease, we should instead be diagnosing the problem as a whole. And if we honestly intend to be avoid climate chaos, we will need more than environmentalists to win this fight. We will need a collective message that can truly amass an unstoppable movement. If we continue to make this a movement about the environment, we will not only fail to prevent the worst impacts of climate change due to a lack of numbers and diversity in our movement, but we will ultimately do nothing to dismantle the social and economic pillars of oppression that got us here in the first place.
Whether we are fighting for immigration rights, defending front line communities from oil and gas extraction, working to overturn citizens united, or fighting to lift communities out of poverty, we are all fighting for a crucial component of climate justice. A movement's purpose is not to bring something to an end; the purpose of a movement is to create something new. We are not trying to end climate change, we are trying to create a sustainable and just society. While we may all have our own particular motivations to fight for these various things, we are all fighting different heads of the same systemic hydra. If we chop off one problem, however, two more problems will take its place. The fight for climate justice on the other hand, goes right to the heart of the systemic problem.
Nonviolent Direct Action and Civil Disobedience
During the second half of the week, we focused a lot of our time on nonviolent direct action. We learned about strategies, tactics, formations, soft blockades, hard blockades, etc. We spent a few days practicing direct actions in a variety of potential situations. The day before the action, our entire camp marched to the tar sands construction site. Carrying signs, banners, and instruments, we chanted, marched, and made our way to a test site outside the construction zone for the new tar sands project.
The test pit was the size of a large swimming pool and all around it, the rocks, dirt and trees that once stood there, sat in piles. At the bottom of the pit was a mixture of thick crude, viscous bitumen, and partially consolidated, clay-like tar sands. Having rained the day before, large puddles of standing water stood at the bottom of the test pit. When we first arrived, the cattle from a nearby farm were drinking the tar sands laced water.
Sometimes you really do have to see it to believe it. When it comes to the tar sands, you can look at thousands of photographs and videos, but you can never truly grasp the reality of tar sands production until you see it for yourself. I entered the site and crawled down the side of the pit to see the tar sands up close. When I made it to the bottom, I went down to my knees and put my hand into the puddle of thick oil in front of me. I stood up and watched the oil slowly drip from my fingers. What are we doing to this planet?
We returned to the dirt road and continued our march. As we drew nearer to the site, the sounds of trucks and construction collided with our drum rolls and chants. We turned off the road and approached the border of the site. After a testy stand off with the police, we stood outside the border of the site for a while, chanting, playing music, and holding banners. We soon called it a day and headed back to camp. Everyone went to bed early that night. And, by 4 AM the next morning, everyone was packed up, suited up, and ready for action.
Tar Sands Resistance
We drove from the camp to the entrance of the tar sands site, pulled over, parked, and made our way inside. We traveled half a mile into the site to where the construction vehicles were located. One team jumped the fence and locked themselves to the vehicles. Another team formed a soft blockade at the entrance of the facility where another land defender had U-locked themselves to the front gate. Thirty minutes later, the police finally made their way down the road, And just before noon, as more and more police made their way into the site, our final dispersal warning was given. As a member of the soft blockade, our mission was simple: Protect the land defenders locking themselves down to the equipment inside. By noon, our mission was a success -- we had officially shut down tar sands construction for the day. After some deliberation within the group, we decided to disperse. The police walked us off the premises to where the rest of the camp was gathered at the entrance of the site. Everyone grabbed some food and water as we reflected on the morning's actions.
An hour or so later, the police finally detained the land defenders locked to the vehicles within the gated facility. As the vans made their way to the entrance of the site, several of us began talking about forming a soft blockade at the entrance of the site to stand in solidarity with our arrested comrades. We would stand on the border of the site along the public road, sing a few songs, and then disperse when an order was made. As the vans pulled up, twenty of us walked into the road. Eight land defenders, including myself, formed a wall, linked arms, and started singing. The police officers slowly approached our wall.
With no dispersal warning, the woman to my right was ripped away and tackled to the ground. People began shouting as the rest of the camp swarmed closer to the scene. Two people from the crowd ran in and tried to free the woman who was being detained. I broke away from wall to help. The other officers advanced towards us. I retreated back to the wall linked arms and yelled for everyone to sit down. The group began chanting "Let Her Go! Let Her Go!" as a police officer made his way towards me.
The cop bent down and looked me in the eyes: "I'll tell you what's going to happen. You are all going to disperse, or you will all be arrested." Overzealous and full of adrenaline, I responded: “No, I'll tell you what's going to happen. You are going to let her go, and then we are going to disperse." She should not have been arrested. She was given no dispersal warning, and we were legally standing on a public road. After a few more snappy exchanges with the cop, the police gave their one and only dispersal warning. The group in the street came together and linked arms. We began chanting again: "Let them go! Let them go!"
The police officer that I talked back to immediately grabbed me and tried to rip me from the group. I struggled for a few minutes before the officer was finally able to tear me away from the wall. I could feel my friends behind me trying to pull me back. The cop twisted my arm and cuffed me. I did as much as I could to make the second arm more difficult to cuff, but the cop soon lost his patience and I was thrown face first into the ground. He jumped on top of me and pushed his knee into my spine. I screamed out in pain as he was finally able to cuff my other wrist. He lifted me off the ground and pushed me towards the van. I joined six others in the van, five from the vehicle lock down, and one from the public road blockade.
As we made our way back towards civilization, the beautiful landscapes outside my window transformed into the same oil wasteland we had seen before. As I examined the open wastewater pits and fracking wells, my emotions let loose once again. When was this madness going to finally end? Even at the point of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion, I knew in my heart that our actions had made a difference, and I knew it was only a matter of time before our movement would finally succeed in paving the road to a sustainable and just society. It's moments like this that redefine the meaning of pain and love. You remember that when you fight for something you love, the pain, anguish, and exhaustion is entirely worth it.
"After a massive direct action protest today at the site of U.S. Oil Sands’ tar sands strip-mining site, a total of 21 were arrested and are currently awaiting charges at Uintah County Jail in Vernal, Utah... 13 people were arrested for locking to equipment. An additional six people were arrested after sitting in the road to prevent the removal of those being taken away in two police vans... Two additional people were arrested when they arrived at Uintah County Jail to provide support to the land defenders inside." ~Utah Tar Sands Resistance
Jail is not the funnest thing in the world, but sitting in a jail cell with seven other land defenders for 24 hours is not that bad. We sang songs, talked, ate really bad prison food, and slept. While we were behind bars, social media was blowing up with the story of our action. We were also able to raise enough money through social media to cover the bail fee. Thanks to a wonder individual who paid the bail upfront, we were released early that afternoon.
When we made it back to the motel that the others were staying at, I immediately looked for coverage of the action. The action was mentioned in a lot of mainstream online news coverage, and in response to the action that took place, US Oil Sands ended up shutting down operations for an entire week. Most importantly, the action was being talked about by tons of environmental organizations. Organizations like 350.org, Rainforest Action Network, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, and Oil Change International all commended the action and shared our story. The first tar sands mining project in the United States was now on everyone's radar. Twenty-One people were arrested, and millions of people across the nation learned about a project that they never knew existed. This is the true power of nonviolent direct action.
"We stand in solidarity with the Utah anti-tar sands protestors whose commitment to protecting our air, water and climate—at the expense of their own freedom—is inspiring. We applaud the local Utah campaigners for fighting to stop the first-ever tar sands mine in the U.S.” ~Lindsey Allen, Executive Director, Rainforest Action Network
When I returned to California, I brought with me new knowledge and a new perspective. My determination to put an end to fracking in California had never been stronger. It was time to raise the stakes in the fight to ban fracking. It was time for the anti-fracking movement in California to take this fight to the next level.
The Frack Wars Continue
If you are already up to date with the latest news on fracking and wastewater
injection in California, feel free to click here to skip the introduction.
During last year's election, residents in Mendocino County and San Benito County passed measures to ban fracking within their counties. In Santa Barbara County, however, we were not so successful. Thanks to nearly $10 Million spent by Oil Industry, the measure to ban fracking and other forms of unconventional oil and gas extraction in Santa Barbara County, failed. In December, the shot heard around the anti-fracking world came from New York. Citing a newly released compendium of health studies conducted by the New York Health Department, Governor Cuomo banned fracking in New York State.
As the year came to an end, the evidence against fracking continued to pile up. We've seen more evidence of water contamination, induced earthquakes, air pollution, and climate exacerbation. With nearly 600 earthquakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater in 2014, Oklahoma surpassed California to become the most seismically active state in the nation. Earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or higher were a twice a year occurrence in Oklahoma prior to 2008. Since the beginning of last year, they've been experiencing two magnitude 3.0 or higher earthquakes every day. The reason? You guessed it --Fracking and Wastewater Injection. New studies in Ohio and Texas have also come to similar conclusions. The verdict on the climate impact of fracked natural gas has been reached: The methane leaking from fracking wells throughout the nation is making the overall climate impact of fracked natural gas more greenhouse gas intensive than coal. Fracked natural gas is a bridge fuel to climate disaster. Where many studies have already linked fracking to the methane contamination of groundwater, new studies from Pennsylvania have found direct evidence of a causal link between fracking and water contamination involving fracking fluids.
In California, we've learned that hundreds of wastewater evaporation pits in the central valley are illegally unlined, allowing toxic wastewater to seep into the surrounding environment. In Kern County, we now know that oil companies like Chevron are selling "recycled" fracking wastewater to farmers who are in turn using this wastewater to irrigate and water their crops. It's been estimated that Chevron's recycled wastewater alone is being used to irrigate and water 10% of Kern County's crops. We've seen the "Faces of Fracking" -- stories from the front-lines in the fight against extreme energy extraction in California -- where oil companies are fracking hundreds of feet away from schools in the central valley; where fracking and acidizing is taking place literally next door to communities of color in LA County; and where entire farms have been poisoned by fracking wastewater.
As we entered the new year, California's historic drought continued to intensify. Earlier this year, the Governor issued the first ever mandatory water cuts in California. The water restrictions, however, are only focused on reducing municipal water consumption by 25%, which would only cut California's total water usage by a meager 6.25%. Big AG and Big Oil, of course, are both exempt from these mandatory water restrictions. We know that fracking uses more than 2 Million gallons per day to unlock oil and gas in California, but when you consider the total water usage by the oil and gas industry for oil and gas production, those numbers start to look ridiculous. It's been estimated that the Oil industry alone uses more than 80 Billion gallons of water each year. The majority of that water is not necessarily suitable for drinking, and some of that water is reused in other fracking operations, but an unknown fraction of that water is freshwater that we cannot afford to frack away amidst an unprecedented drought. Recently, it was estimated that California has a little less than one year of water remaining. Once those resources are exhausted, we will be forced to rely on our already depleted groundwater aquifers. Bad news for water drinkers in California: These aquifers are being contaminated.
Last July, we discovered that a handful of wastewater injection wells in California were illegally injecting toxic fracking wastewater into protected clean drinking water aquifers. California officials ordered an emergency shutdown of 11 oil and gas waste injection sites in Kern County under suspicions of aquifer contamination. It was soon confirmed that nine of those sites were in fact injecting fracking wastewater and other byproducts into clean water aquifers. Earlier this year, the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) revealed that nearly 2,500 wastewater injection wells have been illegally permitted to inject oil and gas waste into drinking water aquifers. "More than 2,000 of the wells are currently active, with 490 used for injection of oil and gas wastewater and 1,987 used to dispose of fluids or steam used in enhanced oil recovery techniques like acidization and cyclic steam injection." In March, an additional 12 wastewater injection wells were shut down.
In light of this, more than 150 organizations filed a legal petition to demand an end to fracking and wastewater injection. The legal petition was later rejected. Meanwhile, California legislators grilled DOGGR throughout several hearings to review the state's catastrophic Underground Injection Control (UIC) program. A host of Democratic state legislators have also submitted three separate letters to the Governor, demanding an immediate shutdown of the illegally permitted wastewater injection wells.
The news of this contamination came out days before the March for Real Climate Leadership. On March 7th, more than 8,000 people marched through the streets of Oakland to demand an end to fracking in California. It was the largest anti-fracking protest in US history and the largest climate-related demonstration in Bay Area history. For the remainder of the weekend, anti-fracking leaders from all over the state gathered for the first official anti-fracking convergence in California. We spent two days exchanging ideas, building new relationships, telling our stories of success and failure, and discussing future strategies, tactics, and actions. To my pleasant surprise, one of the dominating themes of the weekend's discussions was nonviolent direct action.
Enough Is Enough
Over the past two years, the anti-fracking movement in California has been primarily focused on forcing Governor Jerry Brown to use his executive powers to put a ban on fracking and other forms of unconventional oil and gas extraction. Over the same time period, it has become increasing clear that these extraction techniques cannot be done safely. Despite the overwhelming evidence and science, Governor Brown has continued to stubbornly support the use of fracking in California. For nearly three years, we’ve delivered our demands in every form of legal protest imaginable: we’ve rallied, we’ve marched; we’ve interrupted speeches; we’ve delivered hundreds of thousands of petitions; we’ve called, emailed, sent letters, and delivered comments. And yet, our Governor has completely ignored our demands for a ban on fracking, acidizing, and other forms of unconventional oil and gas extraction. The bottom line for activists at the convergence was simple: 'Enough is enough. We are fed up with being ignored.' It was time to raise the ante in the fight against extreme energy extraction in California. It was time to engage in nonviolent direct action.
In Utah, a single nonviolent action shut down the construction of the proposed tar sands site for an entire week, while bringing national attention to a project that had been under the radar for many environmental organizations. Twenty one arrests were made, and millions of people learned about the first tar sands project on US soil. A similar campaign in California would not only bring national attention to the fight to end fracking in California, it would provide the necessary pressure to force someone like Governor Jerry Brown to use his executive powers to ban fracking in California. Still, the platform for such a campaign had yet to be constructed. Given the bureaucratic nature of a lot of environmental organizations, this campaign would have to originate from the grassroots. A few months ago, myself and a few others decided to make this campaign a reality.
Following in the footsteps of the Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance, we soon gave birth to the Fracking Pledge of Resistance. The pledge calls on California fractivists to commit, should it be necessary, to engage in nonviolent direct action in order to put an end to fracking and other forms of unconventional oil and gas extraction in California. The goal is not to get arrested; the goal is to put an end to fracking by pressuring the Governor, through more direct means, until he is forced to ban it. When activists in New York were fighting for a ban on fracking four years ago, a pledge of resistance was used to provide additional pressure on Governor Cuomo to put a moratorium on fracking. In order to put the necessary pressure on Governor Brown to do the same, we too must pledge to resist. The Pledge of Resistance will not only bring national attention to the anti-fracking movement in California, it will redefine the future complexion of environmental activism.
The Fracking Pledge Of Resistance
Today we are calling on the people of California to come together, collectively, in order to protect the health and safety of our communities, our children, and ourselves from the egregious dangers of fracking and other forms of unconventional oil and gas production. It’s time for the people of California to take this fight to the next level. Today, we are asking you to take a pledge to put an end to unconventional oil and gas extraction in California. Governor Brown has been ignoring the science, the evidence, and the people of California for far too long. Enough is enough. It’s time for us to finally send Jerry Brown a message he can't ignore. It's time for us to pledge to resist. We are asking you to commit, should it be necessary, to engage in nonviolent direct action in order to put an end to fracking and other forms of unconventional oil and gas extraction in California.
"I pledge, if necessary, to join others throughout California, and engage in acts of nonviolent direct action in order to send a strong message to Governor Jerry Brown, demanding an end to fracking and other forms of unconventional oil and gas extraction in California."
By signing this pledge, you are committing to, if necessary, engage in nonviolent direct actions to protest the continuation of fracking, acidizing, and other forms of unconventional oil and gas extraction in California. Some of these actions will involve risking arrest, something that many are not prepared to take. There is a role for everyone in this movement, and the same is true in direct action campaigns. There will be many actions that do not involve risking arrest; and every action will have roles that carry no risk of arrest. Our goal is not to get arrested; our goal is to put an end to unconventional oil and gas extraction. In making this pledge, we hope to convince Governor Brown to finally take action to protect our water, our health, and our climate by putting an end to these toxic extraction methods in California. There are thousands of people out there who are just as passionate about this as we are; people who understand that extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary actions. Midst the worst drought in over 1,200 years, with 2,500 wastewater injection wells poisoning clean water aquifers, and with oil and gas extraction wasting millions of gallons of freshwater per day, the circumstances have become extraordinary. With all other legal avenues of political change exhausted, the time for extraordinary action is now.
The most important lesson I learned in Utah was the true force of nonviolent direct action. It has the power to accelerate a movement, to put a human face on the issues we fight for, and to change the moral complexion of the issue altogether. So far, the anti-fracking movement has been a movement focused on exposing the true dangers of fracking. Where advocacy may show the world the dangers of fracking, nonviolent civil disobedience will expose the moral imperative to put an end to fracking. Like the actions in Utah, the coming wave of nonviolent direct action in California will put the anti-fracking movement in California on the national radar. This year, thousands of Californians will attend nonviolent direct action training events throughout the state. We will organize, we will mobilize, and we will make our voices heard.
If we truly intend to put an to fracking, the anti-fracking community in California must come together, collectively, to demand on a ban on fracking. We must abandon the notion that fracking can be properly regulated. There is no evidence to suggest that a regulatory framework can properly mitigate the countless dangers that have been attributed to the practice. Only a handful of environmental organizations in California have taken a strong stance against fracking. Meanwhile, half of our movement's resources are being spent by environmental organizations to establish stricter regulations on fracking and wastewater injection. With a severely corrupt, incredibly inefficient, understaffed regulatory agency, there is absolutely no possible way to legitimately enforce any of these regulations. Today, we must come together and call for a ban on fracking.
Most importantly, we must move beyond our our current stasis of passive engagement. More petitions won't change this Governor's mind. More phone calls and emails won't bring an end to fracking in California. Governor Brown won't ban fracking unless we force him to. When Jerry Brown was Governor back in the 70's, the anti-nuclear movement utilized nonviolent direct actions and civil disobedience to force the Governor to take action against nuclear power. For sit-ins and hunger strikes to blockades and mic checks, the anti-nuclear movement in California worked to permanently close nuclear plant across the state, prevent new projects from being approved, and helped to pass legislation in opposition to nuclear power. The environmental concerns are parallel, and the target of our movements is the same: Governor Jerry Brown. History has a way of repeating itself; and we must learn from the failures and successes of our past. In our case, history tells us that while Governor Brown may be stubborn, he can be swayed by direct action.
How This Story Ends
Fracking is not only harming our climate and our environment, it is bringing harm to communities with fracking and acidizing wells in their backyards; it threatens the health of our farmers and the integrity of our food; it threatens the quality and quantity of our water resources; and it poisons the air we breath. Fracking is not an environmental issue, it is a climate justice issue. Extreme energy extraction is one enemy among many in the fight for a sustainable and just world, but this common foe is tangible, preventable, and able to be shut down. Beyond tar sands extraction and some conventional forms of oil and gas extraction, fracking is also one of the final frontiers for the fossil fuel industry. If we can put an end to fracking, we can truly cripple the oil and gas industry. And if we can put a stop to it here in California, we will set an example for the rest of the nation. In order for this to happen, we must continue to pressure Governor Brown until he is forced to issue an executive order to ban fracking and other forms of unconventional oil and gas extraction. To do this, we must step outside the box of conventional activism, into the realm of nonviolent direct action.
Throughout history, nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience has invigorated movements to successfully ban harmful practices, pass laws, and overthrow dictators. With nonviolent direct action as our catalyst, we will successfully bring an end to fracking and other forms of unconventional oil and gas extraction in California.Today, I am calling on each and every one of you to take the pledge to resist fracking in California. We will not be silenced, and we will not be ignored. Whether he likes it or not, Governor Jerry Brown will meet our demands; and we will ban these destructive extraction techniques in California.
Our democracy reads like an open book. What you see is what you get. You follow the money you get your answers. That's the way fast tracking of the TPP went down in the Senate. The Guardiandid the math and it's pretty simple; you grease the palm you get the vote.
Fast-tracking the TPP, meaning its passage through Congress without having its contents available for debate or amendments, was only possible after lots of corporate money exchanged hands with senators. The US Senate passed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) – the fast-tracking bill – by a 65-33 margin on 14 May. Last Thursday, the Senate voted 62-38 to bring the debate on TPA to a close.
Using data from the Federal Election Commission, this chart shows all donations that corporate members of the US Business Coalition for TPP made to US Senate campaigns between January and March 2015, when fast-tracking the TPP was being debated in the Senate:
Out of the total $1,148,971 given, an average of $17,676.48 was donated to each of the 65 “yea” votes.
The average Republican member received $19,673.28 from corporate TPP supporters.
The average Democrat received $9,689.23 from those same donors.
The amounts given rise dramatically when looking at how much each senator running for re-election received.
Amy’s Burger prepared for the forthcoming Amy’s Drive Thru from Amy’s Kitchen
The future of American style sustainable food is coming to a drive-thru near you. The announcement by Amy's Foods, which is now ubiquitous in your local supermarkets frozen and canned food section, to open a fast food drive-thru in its home base of California seems to be arriving at the perfect time to coincide with the news that Americans are reducing their consumption of meat and dairy.
Anyone who's spent time in the frozen-food aisle is likely already familiar with Amy's Kitchen, the Petaluma-based maker of vegetarian frozen entrees, soups, salsas, non-dairy ice cream, and even candy. But after nearly three decades of building a grocery-store empire, founders Andy and Rachel Berliner are planning on moving the company, which is named for their daughter, into the fast-food space. As the Press Democrat reports, the couple are plotting the first Amy's Drive Thru restaurant in Rohnert Park, right next to an In-N-Out Burger and a McDonald's. Located at Wilfred Avenue and Redwood Drive, right next to Home Depot and the Graton Resort & Casino, the 4,000-square-foot space is set to open in May, right before Amy, now 27, gets married.
Like the Amy's prepared foods, everything at Amy's Drive Thru will be vegetarian, organic, and GMO-free, with veggie burgers, fries fried in sunflower oil, personal pizzas, burritos, and salads on the menu. (The one exception is the sodas, which won't be organic but will be preservative-free.) Everything will be available in vegan and gluten-free versions, including hand-scooped shakes made with a choice of regular or non-dairy ice cream, and rice-flour-based buns for the burgers. And it'll be affordable as well, with burgers running $3 or so, burritos going for $5 and under, and a combo meal of a double cheeseburger, shake, and fries maxing out at $10.
We now know that meat and dairy production is a major contributor to climate change and water and land degradation. The United Nations states that we must reduce meat and dairy consumption to slow the worst effects of climate change and to prepare for increased world population.
It's been especially difficult for Americans who are used to a fast, over-worked and over-scheduled lifestyle. The fast-food lifestyle seems especially difficult to break. So the news that healthy, climate friendly, delicious, fast food will be available is manna from heaven.
Disclaimer: I am a Amy's devotee and can't wait for Amy's Drive-Thru to hit my neighborhood!
This starts focused on a specific California solar program, then below the fold is exploration of a nationwide dot-org website operated by N.C. State University's Clean Energy Technology Center (and funded by the DOE) for hunting state by state, US territories (how often do they get remembered, right?), and "Federal"/national, by incentive type and by technology type, and a lot of other ways, not limited to low-income or residential. Huge database! And of course there's always energystar dot gov and the California energy assistance program as listed at www dot benefits dot gov.
Myself, I was just trying to find out if my dedicated-little-panel solar-powered attic-exhaust fan (because I couldn't find anyone to paint my roof cool to decrease elec usage/bills/footprint in my ruinously hot area) is at all rebate-able by California or my local electricity company. First I shlepped hours through PG&E's innumerable webpages, and then spoke on the phone with lots of helpful people with lots of information, 'though none of it applicable to me: as in the past, I find there's a donut hole fall-into-able by low-income folks who have to save up for one little conservationist and bill-saving improvement per decade or so because we don't have the income to be able to pay loan interest for doing a "bundled" [PG&E's term] improvements that would qualify for rebates.
I emailed it to friends, saying "According to the inter-active map of disadvantaged areas —hard to use, at least by me, but I managed finally to fine it down enough— it looks like you are in one of the shockingly many designated neighborhoods/areas, and you are certainly low income enough - those seem to be the 2 requirements. (I don't qualify, my neighborhood is not disadvantaged according to the map.) It's a short article. PLEASE GIVE IT A READ!!!! Maybe an answer to even atheist prayers" and one of them emailed back in under an hour, "It's got an online application form. I applied. Here's hoping!!"
It has been a long time coming, but the EPA and Corps of Engineers have issued their final rule on what waters are protected under the Clean Water Act - helping ensure that the headwater, intermittent, and ephemeral streams that feed into our larger rivers - along with the connected, adjacent wetlands - are protected under our nation's flagship water protection law. The Act's coverage has been rolled back under Supreme Court rulings from 2001 and 2006 and subsequent interpretations. The new Clean Water Rule helps reinstate much of the protections that were lost, while maintaining compliance with the Court rulings by demonstrating that these streams and wetlands have a "significant nexus" with US navigable waters - the standard that Justice Kennedy set in his 2006 Rapanos decision.
EPA Administrator McCarthy has posted a clear explanation of why we need the Clean Water Rule, but the rule's premise is really very simple and strongly supported by science. If you want to protect our rivers for drinking water, swimming, fishing, ecosystem values - you need to start by protecting their sources in the streams and wetlands that are their tributaries. That is nothing more than common sense, so, of course, it is being vigorously opposed by GOP leaders in Congress - and too many Dems that are willing to cross the aisle to join them.
It's now been nearly three months since I owned a working car. My decision to go car-free was part forced by not having a running car and not having the means at the time to afford even another stopgap (a beater that costs little enough to be paid for with no financing), and part by choice.
Over the past few years, I had begun to notice just how expensive having a car can actually be. Aside from the sticker price, there's the cost of gas (not cheap), maintenance (also not cheap), insurance (not cheap; are you noticing a pattern?), the variety of fees required to keep your car street-legal (registration, inspection, etc.), and frequently here in Houston, tolls. The last one was actually an even worse issue when I lived in the far northern suburbs of Dallas and thanks to Rick Perry's addiction to toll roads, there was almost no feasible alternative.
All that money spent so that you can get yourself to and from work on a daily basis. You know, so that you can make money.
Of course, few people tell you about the alternatives to automobile ownership. Even in a city like Houston, which is essentially run by the oil industry (who of course wants everybody to drive everywhere), going car-free is possible. Or at least it's possible to go without owning a car. I ride the bus to get to and from work every morning. I walk to errands or I manage to work them in during my daily schedule. I do have a ZipCar account available for when I absolutely need to get somewhere that the buses won't go, like my frequent court appearances in other counties (where the local denizens don't want public transit because poor people, presumably.)
And you will not believe the reactions that this lifestyle gets within social circles.
Mark Weisbrot, writing at Aljazeera is of the opinion that the public discussion of the TPP has been much more robust than discussion of NAFTA had ever been. And that even though the proposed agreement is cloaked in secrecy, enough has been leaked that the TPP proponents have lost the public argument and are resorting to lies and increased secrecy to bully the American people into quieting down their opposition.
Lauded economists Krugman, Stiglitz and Baker have all come out in strong opposition to the TPP:
This week, economists Dean Baker and Paul Krugman warn that people should be suspicious of any agreement that leads its proponents to lie and distort so much in order to sell it. They called attention to President Barack Obama’s former Chief of Staff William M. Daley, who made the ridiculous claim in a New York Times op-ed that it is “because our products face very high barriers to entry overseas in the form of tariffs, quotas and outright discrimination” that the U.S. ranks 39th of the 40 largest economies in exports as a share of GDP. As Baker and Krugman pointed out, it is actually because the U.S. is a very large economy, and therefore the domestic market is sufficient for many U.S. companies.
This is just one of the many arguments in TPP’s favor that cannot pass the smell test. Take the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism, which enables businesses to sue governments and can force them to overrule their laws, even the decisions of their highest courts, or pay hefty fines. Proponents’ alleged rationale for including this provision is to protect foreign investors in countries where the rule of law is weak. Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate economist like Krugman, pointedly asks why it is included in the proposed trade agreement with Europe (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). Let me offer you a hint: It’s not because Germany and France are likely to expropriate factories owned by foreign investors, or that their judicial systems are weak on investors’ rights.
Those concerned about the environment, public health, food safety and labor have all strongly expressed their concerns, as I wrote about here.
Weisbrot believes that all the TPP proponents have left is President Obama's fear inducing message that: ‘If we don’t write the rules, China will write the rules’ . Of course, China isn't even part of the initial group of proposed TPP members, but the writing is on the wall, if this deal goes through China is next in line for membership.
Thing is, we now know who is writing the rules behind the curtain. This is a global power grab by the largest multi-national corporate and industry entities in history.
House Speaker John Boehner may think it's "stupid" to suggest that the recent fatal Amtrak crash had anything to do with lack of funding, but the evidence keeps piling up that Boehner's the stupid one here. The United States spends far less than its peers on rail, and:
As a consequence, industry experts say, despite having some of the least-extensive passenger rail networks in the developed world, the United States today has among the worst safety records. Fatality rates are almost twice as high as in the European Union and countries like South Korea, and roughly triple the rate in Australia.
Analysts say the impressive safety record in Europe and Asia is the result of steady government spending of billions of dollars on development and maintenance of railroad infrastructure — including sophisticated electronic monitoring and automated braking systems developed over the past 20 years.
As a percentage of gross domestic product, the American investment in rail networks is just a quarter of that in Britain and one-sixth that in France and Australia, while Japan spends nearly three times as much per person as the U.S. does.
Over the past decade, even developing countries including India, Russia and Turkey have consistently invested far greater shares of their G.D.P. on rail.
Not exactly grounds for a "We're number one" chant, there.
We're looking at a consequence of Republican refusal to invest in American infrastructure. It's played out not just in less safe trains but in slower trains and fewer trains. If Republicans hadn't stood in the way all these years, we could have had a speedy, energy-efficient, safe rail network and thousands of jobs creating and maintaining it. Instead, we have a desperately underfunded, inadequate rail system and John Boehner saying it's stupid to see the facts for what they are.
Earlier this week, in between the much-appreciated & simultaneously disagreeable-to-hiking rain storms, I took my dogs out for a wildflower sight-seeing hike. We went to a close, common hike for us, Spring Creek Archaeological District. It is part of the San Juan National Forest(and 10,000's of acres), near Navajo Lake Colorado State Park & ~25 miles west of Chimney Rock National Monument. Thanks Obama! He signed the Legislation making Chimney Rock, a sacred Native American celestial/astronomical/ceremonial site, into a National Monument a few years ago.
Climb up the mountain, and step over the orange pile of petals to see lots more wildflower pictures.
The Indonesian Navy destroys foreign fishing vessels caught fishing illegally in waters near North Sulawesi yesterday. Photo: REUTERS
Divers and scientists report that Indonesia's reefs are missing their big fish. The mother of all reefs is, and has been, over exploited by illegal foreign fishing ships. Some ships are trawlers that kill everything in the path of it's large and deadly nets. As a result, the coastal communities of Indonesia are fishing for juvenile fish and other protein that they can grind into fishmeal and use as feed for coastal prawn farms.
Indonesia is at the center of the Coral Triangle, one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world with over 76% of the world’s coral species and 37% of the world’s reef fish species within its boundaries. Global trends for this region demonstrate that fishing effort has been and is increasing at a faster rate than any other region of the world’s oceans. Fishery management is failing to reach sustainability. Recent studies have shown that the increase of fishing pressure is threatening the health of fish stocks, impacting coral health, and resulting in underperforming fisheries. This is significant considering that 50% of the protein intake by thousands of coastal communities comes from fish and that hundreds of thousands of people – including many women – have a job direct or indirectly related to Indonesian fisheries.
To date, the challenges of enforcing, monitoring, and controlling catch and effort regulation in Indonesia’s multi-species, multi-gear fisheries have been considered too high. The culprits were considered to be foreign fleets, legal or illegally operating inside Indonesian waters. Also, local fishers would point to roaming groups of dynamite and cyanide fishers as a major problem. Until now, not much thought has been given to how local coastal fishers contribute to overfishing. Since the transmigration programs and programs that provide subsidized technology, today and every day, an armada of hundreds of thousands of small and medium scale fishers put their fishing gears in waters inside the 4-nautical mile zone, along all coasts of the Indonesian archipelago
The good news out of Jakarta yesterday is that the government has had it with this problem and sank a large Chinese fishing vessel. They also sank 40 other foreign boats that had been caught fishing illegally in Indonesian waters. Beijiing is not expected to take this news lightly. Other regional capitals will bristle as well.
The 300 gross tonne Chinese vessel was destroyed with a low-explosive device on its hull in West Kalimantan, said Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti.
“This is not a show of force. This is just merely (us) enforcing our laws,” Ms Susi was quoted as saying by The Jakarta Post.
The Gui Xei Yu 12661 is the first Chinese boat to be sunk since Indonesian President Joko Widodo declared war on illegal foreign fishing boats last December.
The Indonesian Navy detained Gui Xei Yu in 2009 after it was caught fishing near the South China Sea, a hotly disputed area involving China and South-east Asian nations such as Malaysia and Vietnam.
Besides the Chinese ship, the authorities also destroyed 40 other vessels in different places across the country. They included five boats from Vietnam, two boats from Thailand and 11 from the Philippines, The Post reported.
Shortly after assuming office last October, Mr Widodo launched a campaign to protect Indonesia’s maritime resources and domestic fishing industry, which loses billions of dollars in revenues to illegal fishing each year. He has also pledged to transform Indonesia into a maritime power and, in December last year, orchestrated a much-publicised sinking of three empty Vietnamese vessels.