Greener Times

Promoting a sustainable society…one day at a time.

December 21 – 27

Posted by Trey Smith on December 22, 2009

Greener Times for the Week of December 21 – 27
Volume 4 No. 36
an e-publication for Greens anywhere and everywhere

Greener Times Collective: Maryrose Asher, Duff Badgley, Tom Herring and Trey Smith (Editor)

In This Week’s Issue
* For Your Consideration…
* Thoughts By the Way: A Favorable Climate
* Our Climate Crisis: Arrest Warrant for Barack Obama, President of the United States
* From Where I Stand: Swaneagle Harijan – Youth In Action: Dine and Hopi Frontline of Global Warming
* This Week in History
* Unspinning the Spin: Capitol Power Plant & Cap-And-Trade

For Your Consideration…
Monsanto Named Worst Corporate Climate Lobbyist

Biotech giant Monsanto has been criticised for its aggressive corporate lobbying on climate change at the Copenhagen summit. In a public vote organised by an alliance of NGOs, including Friends of the Earth and Spinwatch, the US agricultural company came out ahead of oil giant Shell and the American Petroleum Institute. Monsanto was nominated for its promotion of genetically modified (GM) crops as a solution to climate change and for pushing its crops to be used as biofuels. According to the alliance, the expansion of GM soy in Latin America is contributing to major deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions…

Resisting the Dangerous Allure of Global Warming Technofixes
In the summer of 2006, geoengineering — the radical proposal to offset one human intervention into planetary systems with another — came roaring out of the scientific closet. Deliberate climate modification, as climate scientist Wally Broecker once noted, had long been “one of the few subjects considered taboo in the realm of scientific inquiry.” Two things spurred this dramatic reversal: growing alarm because climate change was hitting harder and faster than expected and the abysmal failure of political efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Indeed, since world leaders signed the Rio Convention on Climate Change in 1992, global emissions climbed from 6.1 billion metric tons of carbon a year to 8.5 billion tons in 2007. Dismayed by the inaction, Paul Crutzen, a Nobel laureate, published a controversial paper in August, 2006 that opened the door to the hitherto unthinkable…

A ‘Dow Jones’ Index for the World’s Climate
The International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) has attempted to cut through the confusion surrounding climate change data by releasing a single graph based on a range of different climate change indicators, including global average temperatures and Arctic sea-ice coverage. In creating what the scientists behind it describe as a ‘Dow Jones index’ for the world’s climate, the IGBP says the Climate Index graph is ‘unequivocal, global… and is in one direction’…

Thoughts By the Way: A Favorable Climate
Tom Herring is a former Vashon Island Community Council member, but now chooses to sort nails in his shop. Catch more of Tom’s thoughts on his blog.

The most important act for wealthy countries at Copenhagen would be to help low-lying countries cope. That’s because nothing any country can do will perceptibly slow climate change. The next important act is to stop screwing up. It now is more important to live right than to bandage wrongs: to quit building dreamliners and airport parking garages, quit fueling cars with living carbon, quit making internal combustion automobiles, quit creating markets for rare earth elements, quit buying fresh fruit from across the globe, quit NAFTA, quit protecting the financial sector, and quit US designs on other peoples lands. And how’s this for “cutting the ribbon” on doing right: let’s hear a drum roll for the announcement that the US will de-commission all ICBM silos. No? then let’s all run outside and start screaming.

As to climate change, either science does not know how to teach, or science is gagged. As it is, a majority of the public including Alexander Cockburn thinks that the current warming is natural. And dust devils like the pirated science e-mails easily blind us. The error in teaching is omission of the full story of carbon. The following is taken mostly from a book about ice corings.

Creation of a livable climate and life is the story of the where and the what of carbon. Four billion years ago all the carbon was upstairs. The amount of the element has never changed, but in various chemical forms the amounts in land, sea, and “air” have changed constantly. By four hundred million years ago, atmospheric carbon had fallen to a level engendering oxygen-breathing life. Dinosaurs roamed. An event then occurred in which the temperature shot up more than 10 Celsius, that’s 18 Fahrenheit. Dinosaurs died. By four million years ago the temperature and atmospheric carbon had come back down, and there appeared modern life, albeit some links missing. Since four hundred thousand years ago the modern story of carbon has been read from ice corings. The corings reveal that atmospheric carbon dioxide has been nearly constant, cycling between 200 and 300 parts per million with a period of 100,000 years. Ice has advanced and retreated in conjunction. This cyclic behavior is the result of a slight precession of the earth’s orbit. Although next to nothing, the effect on the earth becomes appreciable by repetition. Time has its due, you see. Nowadays we are in one of those 100,000 year warming/coolings, or more accurately, we had been in one.

People like Cockburn, who are born for the purpose of pinning puffery to the wall and who have correctly pinned Al Gore, are doing the public a disservice in making too much of that slight eccentricity in the earth’s orbit. Worse are the multitude who deny evident fact in order to justify their new cars and their god-given right to bottled water. The slag from the blast furnace at Copenhagen is as painful to follow as the daily misinformation peddled and passed on by pundits. Christopher Hayes for example writes in The Nation that “cap and trade” is good, and that the administration is mistaken in trying to pass off climate legislation as jobs legislation. Huh? Science is gagged, and punditry is pound foolish. Atmospheric carbon is 90 points above its natural level of 300. An iceberg the size of Rhode Island had melted off of Antarctica. People in Bangladesh are shin deep in the Indian Ocean. James Hanson says that the best thing the conference at Copenhagen can do is fail. To you, Duff.

Alley, R.B.: The Two-Mile Time Machine
Climate Fog, The Nation, December 21/28

Our Climate Crisis: Arrest Warrant for Barack Obama, President of the United States
Duff Badgley is the leader of the One Earth Climate Action Group and was a candidate for Governor as a Green in 2008. He can be reached at 206-283-0621.

As President of the United States before and during the COP15 Climate Summit of December, 2009, you willfully and knowingly engaged in criminal behavior that: (1) will greatly worsen our unfolding global Climate Crisis; (2) will result in the deaths of millions of humans and other creatures; (3) severely threatens the lives of your own children; and (4) continues and extends the lethal, planet-ruining practices of your criminal predecessor, George W. Bush. Your criminal indictment:

1. You directed U.S. COP15 negotiators to introduce a proposal to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 4% by the year 2020, based on 1990 levels.
2. You knew when you directed these negotiators to make this proposal that the International Panel on Climate Change had estimated that GHG reductions of 25% to 40% below 1990 levels are needed by 2020 to avoid greater than 2C degrees of global warming.
3. You knew, prior to COP15, that the United Nations Secretariat had predicted a reduction in GHG emissions of only 4% by the year 2020 based on 1990 levels will lead to a 3C degree rise in global warming and to a concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide of 550 parts per million (ppm).
4. You knew, prior to COP15, that independent scientists have concluded a reduction in GHG emissions of only 4% by the year 2020 based on 1990 levels would result in atmospheric carbon dioxide soaring to over 750 ppm and to 3.9 C of global warming.
5. You knew, prior to COP15, that rises greater than 2C of global warming will likely trigger dangerous and runaway climate conditions, threatening to turn the Earth into a forbidding planet unlike that on which human civilization developed.
6. You knew, prior to COP15, that GHG cuts of more than 45% from 1990 levels by 2020 are likely needed to get on a path for the only scientifically credible target for a safe planet: 350 ppm.
7. You have prevented the United States from endorsing 350ppm.
8. You knew, prior to COP15, proposals like the U.S.’s would result in the death or displacement of millions of people and the extinctions of hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of species.
9. You knew, prior to COP15, President Mohamed Nasheed, of the Maldives, had called GHG reductions like the U.S. proposal “the logic of the madhouse, a recipe for collective suicide.”
10. You knew, prior to COP15, proposals like the U.S.’s would sign a death warrant for many of the world’s poorest children. Up to 250,000 children from poor communities could die from hostile climate conditions before the next major climate meeting in Mexico at the end of 2010.
11. You knew, prior to COP15, proposals like the U.S.’s would mean, in the words of Sudan’s COP15 delegate, Lumumba Stanislas Dia-ping, the “incineration” of Africa—the land of your father.
12. You knew, prior to COP15, proposals like the U.S.’s would badly harm climates and economies of 106 countries of the Africa Group, the Alliance of Small Island States, the Least Developed Countries Group, the Bolivarian Alliance–those least responsible for causing the Climate Crisis.
13. During COP15, you refused to materially change the U.S. 4% GHG reduction proposal. The summit then failed to achieve any binding GHG reduction targets.
14. These are your crimes. We are the People of the Planet. We demand you stop this criminal behavior, or, like Richard Nixon, resign from office now.

From Where I Stand: Swaneagle Harijan – Youth In Action: Dine and Hopi Front Line of Global Warming
“From Where I Stand” is a revolving column currently featuring the writings of Swaneagle Harijan and Dr. Richard Curtis. If you’d like to get in on the act and contribute to this feature, contact editor Trey Smith.

November 18, 2009 Rick Fellows, his 5 year old daughter Olivia, a young woman Becky Fitzpatrick and i departed on the Blue Green bio-diesel school bus for Big mountain/Black Mesa. As we headed down I-5, we picked up riders who contacted Black Mesa Support, Rick or me via email in Portland, Eugene, Ashland, Berkeley and finally, Flagstaff, arriving with 21 allies on November 21 at the home site of Bessie Begay and her extended family. We made it to one of the major US front lines in the global battle against genocide, coal resource extraction and attendant climate change. We were part of several caravans participating in the yearly Thanksgiving work week supporting traditional Dine resister families hanging on to their old way of life in the face of slow motion genocide.

A circle of supporters from all over the west and the country with a dash of Europeans formed to listen to Dine Elders, their younger relatives and organizers welcome and lay out what needed to be done. The impressive number of over 100 young people was inspiring as the rigorous requirements to even make it that far included a firm commitment to work daily for the entire week to help prepare resisting families for the long, cold winter ahead. Also, a cultural sensitivity packet needed to be read and signed before one joined the caravans to assure greater understanding and less cross cultural difficulties.

Donations of tools, food and warm clothes were neatly laid out on tarps for families to take as they needed. Seeds of Peace had meals going in their well organized kitchen making sure all present were well fed before beginning the week’s work. Some workers stayed at the base camp in tents or hogans while others prepared for at least 5 day stays with families they were assigned to assist. Each supporter was required to arrive self sufficient, including enough food and water to last their entire stint in this remote high desert.

Small work parties were formed and sent to families scattered over the region impacted by Peabody’s drive to expand the largest US coal strip mine in the quest to fuel more coal fired power plants in Page, Arizona and northwestern New Mexico. Under the direction of traditional Dine elders and their families, these young allies repaired rutted roads, replaced sheep corrals, repaired fences, cut and delivered firewood, herded sheep, cooked, cleaned, hauled water and many assorted other tasks keeping subsistence living functioning smoothly.

I spent the week with my dear friend Pauline Whitesinger, a traditional Dine elder resisting Peabody and forced relocation for over 30 years. She asked me to rake the chips and bark scraped from log used in her newly rebuilt hogan. I also kept her fire going, cooked, cleaned, chopped and stacked wood, filled her water buckets from 55 gallon drums even made a batch of fry bread that was actually round for a change.

The week came to a rapid close. Danny Blackgoat, Roberta’s son, gave me a ride to the base camp while Pauline rode with her granddaughter Rachel and her family. We gathered to listen again to Dine elders, their relatives as well as a young Hopi woman who was thrown out of the Hopi Tribal Council meeting recently due to her opposition to the forced removal of traditional Dine, the extraction of coal, the draining of yet another aquifer to slurry the coal to Page and the disrespect given to traditional Hopis aligned with traditional Dine opposing this madness that is key to climate change.

As a supporter and ally of over 25 years, i was asked by Black Mesa organizers to speak as their elder. It deeply moved me and the power of what must be done to truly put an end to genocide once and for all in the Americas came through me with deep soul force. It is my long held belief that privileged white skinned Americans must be willing to risk their very lives to say “NO” to genocide of traditional peoples, the first casualties in greed driven resource extraction, whose suffering since colonialist invasion has been unceasing. I feel called to lay down my life in the authentic tradition of Gandhi and countless others who know in their hearts that soul force remains our truly most honorable weapon, especially among those of us with privilege. Our people have ridden on the backs of the suffering of Indigenous peoples for far too long with few powerful actions on our part to halt this injustice that now threatens all of life.

As i listen to the reports from Copenhagen, i am struck at the missing voices of Indigenous peoples from the southwest who are eloquent in their defense of sacred land for the coming generations. I had hoped that those who have succeeded in making the radar screen of activism with mountain top removal would include this critical facet of resistance to the global climate crisis that already has lost many thousands of lives due to the genocidal forced relocation. Coal extraction, no matter where it occurs is directly tied to ALL coal extraction and it ALL must be stopped. We have a particular duty to seek out, hear and heed those whose lives have been threatened for over 500 years as they have been speaking the truth of what humanity must do to survive since Europeans first stepped upon shore claiming these then pristine lands for their own selfish purposes.

The week was ended with a prayer by Danny Blackgoat with each person exiting the circle by shaking the hand of Bessie Begay and her family. We boarded the Blue Green biodiesel bus dropping off young people along the way north. Most were deeply satisfied with their week’s work with many considering the seriousness of what must be done to save Indigenous people, sacred lands, and to shape the fate of all life.

P.S. Word is that there will be a bicycle caravan to Black Mesa/Big Mountain next year! Check out www.blackmesais.org for details.

This Week in History
This Week in History, published by Carl Bunin and edited by Al Frank, is a collection designed to help us appreciate the fact that we are part of a rich history advocating peace and social justice. While the entries often focus on large and dramatic events there are so many smaller things done everyday to promote peace and justice. Find more info at http://www.peacebuttons.info/E-News/thisweek.htm.

December 21, 1956: The Montgomery, Alabama, public buses were officially integrated. This happened following a successful boycott of city buses led by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and initiated by Rosa Parks’s refusal to move to the back of the bus.

December 23, 1944: General Dwight Eisenhower endorsed the finding of a court-martial in the case of Eddie Slovik, who was tried for desertion, and authorized his execution. It was the first such sentence against a U.S. Army soldier since the Civil War, and Slovik was the only man so punished during World War II. He made no secret of his unwillingness to enter combat, but his pleas to be reassigned to noncombat status were rejected. Eisenhower ordered that Slovik’s execution be carried out to avoid further desertions in the late stages of the war.

December 24, 1865: Months after the fall of the Confederacy and the end of slavery, several veterans of the Confederate Army formed a private social club in Pulaski, Tennessee, called the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Its first priority, declared in its creed, was “to protect the weak, the innocent, and the defenseless from the indignities, wrongs, and outrages of the lawless, the violent, and the brutal.” In fact, the Klan terrorized and killed former slaves, sympathetic whites and immigrants.

Unspinning the Spin: Capitol Power Plant & Cap-And-Trade
Maryrose Asher is a former Chair of the Green Party of Washington State and a tireless activist of many causes. Her column will appear periodically in GT.

In the past, I have for the most part deferred writing about climate change or related subjects as the expert on the GT panel of writers is without doubt Duff Badgley. However, something caught my eye recently regarding the Capitol Power Plant in Washington, DC, that I thought would be of interest to readers of Greener Times.

As background, the Capitol Power Plant was built in 1910 to supply electricity for the US Capitol and other buildings in the Capitol complex under the terms of an act of Congress (April 28, 1904). Since 1952, the Capitol Power Plant no longer provides electricity but continues to supply steam and cooled water. Data from the year 2006 shows that the Capitol Power Plant burned 17,108 tons of coal and produced 60,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

From an October 6, 2008, Congressional Research Service (CRS) report for Congress titled, “Administering Green Programs in Congress: Issues and Options,” by Jacob R. Straus, Analyst on the Congress Government and Finance Division, we learn in order to generate stream the power plant utilizes, on average, a combination of three fuels, natural gas (43%), low-sulfur coal (47%), and fuel oil (10%).

A study by the Clean Air Task Force (June 2004) ranked the Washington Metropolitan Area fifth among US metropolitan areas where health was impacted by power plant emissions. “The study estimates power plant emissions in the Washington Metropolitan Area as a whole produce 515 annual deaths, 524 hospital admissions, and 851 heart attacks.”1

A published report by the Clean Air Task Force, as a result of separate study done in 2002, showed that “disadvantaged groups were found to be especially vulnerable to air pollution; while only 25 percent of the population studied has less than a high school education this group suffers approximately half of the mortality attributed to the plants.”2 It is important to note that in this 2002 study, THE CAPITOL POWER PLANT WAS NOT INCLUDED IN THE STUDY.

However, the Capitol Power Plant is responsible for 65 percent of the particulate matter (PM2.5) most closely associated with human health effects.

The US government, therefore, owns a coal-burning power plant known to be responsible, as stated above, for 515 annual deaths, 524 hospital admissions, and 851 heart attacks, and this from data gathered over five years ago!

Even more interesting is how Congress decided to solve the problem or, better said, assuage its collective duty to shut down the plant.

From a story in the Washington Post by Jonathan Weisman dated November 5, 2007, “Capitol to Buy Offsets in Bid to Go Green,” we find that “Daniel Beard, the House’s chief administrative officer will cut a taxpayer-funded check today for $89,000 to buy credits that will offset the impact of 30,000 tons of carbon belched into the atmosphere by the US Capitol’s antiquated, coal-burning power plant every year.”

The article goes on to state,

Buying pardons for its offenses is, however, thanks to the growing market for carbon offsets. You simply turn over some money, and the offsetters promise to absolve your sins by putting it to use on green technologies, planting trees, pumping carbon dioxide underground and the like. But the carbon-offset trade is only as good as the offsetters’ word and the market’s police force. Beard will make his purchase on the Chicago Climate Exchange, which administers a voluntary cap-and-trade system, in which North American Participants pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Companies that reduce more than their pledge can sell their good deeds on the market to those, like the US Capitol, who are not doing so well.

As to how this carbon offset system worked, a Washington Post article by David A. Fahrenthold, “Value of US House’s Carbon Offsets Is Murky,” dated January 28, 2008, questioned the logic of purchasing carbon offsets and states the money spent may not have produced the desired benefits. The article traced some of the money to the following:

  • Money went to farmers in North Dakota for tilling practices that keep carbon buried in the soil. But some farmers were already doing this, for other reasons, before the House paid a cent.
  • Funds went to Iowa where a power plant has been temporarily re-jiggered to burn more cleanly, but the test project had ended more than a year before the money arrived.

On January 14, 2008, a letter from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations sent a letter to Comptroller General David M. Walker requesting that the Government Accounting Office (GAO) examine the carbon credits marketplace. The GAO report came out in the summer of 2008.

On July 29, 2008, the minority leader requested that the Speaker “immediately relieve House Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard of his duties in part because Mr. Beard spent $90,000 to purchase carbon credits on the Chicago Climate Exchange.”

At a Senate Rules Committee Energy Efficiency Hearing (pg. 16-17), we have the following criticism of carbon offsets leveled by one senator:

Yes, I am very skeptical about carbon offsets. I could put it pleasantly, but I might as well just put it bluntly. The opportunities for scamming that thing are huge, and the question I have been unable to get anybody to answer for me when we have gotten into that area is: How do you know that the person who plants a tree in order to provide the carbon offset would not have planted the tree anyway? And, indeed, I have heard from some farmers who have said, “You know, I just got an insight into a major new income stream for me, because as I was out planting trees, somebody came up and said, ‘Can we buy the planting of your trees to sell as carbon offsets?’” And he said, “I would have planted the trees anyway, but now I can get some money for doing something that would have happened anyway.” And when I raised that with some people, they say, “Oh, well, we are going to investigate that.” We are going to have to be sure that there is, in fact, a real carbon offset rather than a scam.

So, dear readers, we have the precedent of the US government, in order to deflect its responsibility, having used cap-and-trade in response to criticism by environmentalists and health experts. Instead of shutting down this antiquated coal-burning monstrosity, primarily due to obstructionists within Congress from coal-producing states, Congress went the route of carbon offsets and personally found they simply do not work.

Will this end the cap-and-trade discussions now going on in the Senate? Not likely, if a December 14, 2009, post by James Murray on Business Green.com is correct: “Moderate Democrats and Republicans increasingly confident they can secure the 60 votes needed to pass cap-and-trade legislation.”

Footnotes
1. Dirty Air, Dirty Power: Mortality and Health Damage Due to Air Pollution from Power Plants, Conrad G. Schneider, Abt Associates, June 2004, sponsored by Clean Air Task Force; Synopsis.
2. Health Impacts of Air Pollution from Washington, DC Power Plants, “Clean Air Task Force, May 2002.

Additional resource material:
CRS Report for Congress
Capitol Power Plant – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Capitol to Buy Offsets in Bid to Go Green – washingtonpost.com
Bipartisan group of senators tables compromise climate bill – 14 Dec 2009 – BusinessGreen.com

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