Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies

If you happened to fall to Earth from space last night and found a working television, like as not you saw the president of the United States doing a passable imitation of a man giving a speech. A first-molecule surface impression, thoroughly devoid of context, would leave you thinking this person did relatively fine. Not a fireball on the stump, to be sure, but not a calamity, either. He did not fall down, throw things or curse anyone’s mother. No fake emergencies were declared.

The best thing one can say about Donald Trump’s State of the Union performance last night — and it was a performance, nothing more — was that he did not treat the assembled members of Congress, the high court, the joint chiefs, special guests and television audience like they were one of his howling rally crowds outside some abandoned airplane hangar in Alabama or western Pennsylvania. No, Mr. Trump stuck to the script on the teleprompter, and that’s when the trouble began.

As promised during the pro forma pre-speech leaks to the press, the first third of the address was suffused with fluffy bipartisan pabulum no one in the building believed for a second, least of all the speech-giver himself. Pretending at it was a hard hustle from the jump. Before he spoke a word, Trump barreled his way through House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s ceremonial introduction of the president, oafishly denying her even a sliver of the spotlight he so desperately craves. So much for bipartisanship.

Trump cribbed 19-year-old lines from Bill Clinton about greeting the 21st century, bragged about the US being the world leader in oil exports and fracking, and strutted out a few right-wing legislative victories like cutting the estate tax and wrecking the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. Of course, he got the whole room to stand and cheer for the hyper-expensive might of the military more than once. When he leaned into the microphone and intoned, “The state of our union is strong,” there was Speaker Pelosi, perched over his left shoulder like Poe’s raven, shaking her head and mouthing, “Nope.”

Then it got weird.

“An economic miracle is taking place in the United States,” said Trump about 30 minutes in, “and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.” He capstoned these strange and poorly assembled comments with one last penetrating line: “We must be united at home to defeat our adversaries abroad.” It took half an hour, but he attempted in that moment to tie the ongoing Robert Mueller investigation inextricably to terrorism, war and political dysfunction.

The infamous border wall made its first appearance at the 9:33 pm mark, put up its feet and stayed a while. A word cloud of this portion of the speech would include “onslaught,” “MS-13,” “caravans,” “cruel,” “troops,” “sexual assault,” “dangerous” and “countless Americans murdered,” putting it on par (minus the ubiquitous blue duct tape) with virtually every public statement Trump has made since he first began threatening to shut down the government two months ago. No mention was made of Mexico footing the bill. He did, however, have the gall to complain about walls around the estates of the wealthy while, behind his own walls, undocumented workers are being panic-fired by the score. “Walls save lives,” he claimed. “I will get it built.” Quoth Pelosi: nevermore.

There were several moments beyond Trump’s not-so-subtle Mueller jab and his hectoring about the wall that truly made the bile rise. A few minutes after explaining how everyone was doomed without his precious “barrier,” Trump did a quick riff on repairing the nation’s infrastructure. In the aftermath of the lethal polar vortex that descended upon half the country last week, talking up infrastructure repair moments after blathering about his useless and expensive wall was Perfect Trump.

Context, from last week’s Washington Post:

Frigid temperatures across the Midwest taxed the infrastructure that was keeping the coldest parts of America warm. Electrical grids collapsed, airline fuel lines froze and authorities encouraged the largely homebound population of the hardest-hit states to turn thermostats down to ease the burden on utility systems.

While Trump was beating the nation over the head with his wall last week, people in the center of the country were told to turn down the heat even as they risked freezing to death because the infrastructure tasked with keeping them alive and safe was groaning on the edge of collapse. The polar vortex killed at least 24 people and sent dozens more to the hospital. Not a single one of them would have been spared their fate by a wall on the southern border, but money tasked to build it could be well-used to help keep the heat on for millions. Unsurprisingly, this did not merit a mention last night.

“Already, as a result of my administration’s efforts,” said Trump during the second third of his marathon ramble, “in 2018 drug prices experienced their single largest decline in 46 years.” This, as it turns out, was one of almost 30 bald-faced lies he told last night. “A recent analysis of brand-name drugs by The Associated Press found 96 price increases for every price cut in the first seven months of 2018,” reports the science and medicine journal STAT. “At the start of last year, drug makers hiked prices on 1,800 medicines by a median of 9.1 percent, and many continued to increase prices throughout the year.”

Trump’s inaccurate crowing about lower drug prices also managed to cruise right past the pharmaceutical elephant in the room: insulin. “Insulin products cost very little to manufacture,” reports Mike Ludwig for Truthout, “but prices have skyrocketed in recent years. A vial of insulin that once cost around $25 now goes for about $400 to $500. Standing between people living with Type 1 diabetes and the insulin that keeps them alive are a number of wealthy corporations that value profit margins over human health. When people die from lack of access to medicine, health care profiteers should expect resistance.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 100 million people in the US have either diabetes or pre-diabetes, a number that is sure to rise as our population grows older and our diets grow worse.

For all that, the evening was not, in fact, a comprehensive dumpster fire. The Democratic congresswomen, rookies and veterans all garbed in whiteto honor a century of suffrage, owned the night. When Trump claimed credit for the number of women in the workforce, those white-robed women erupted in cheers and smiles, high-fiving each other as they leveled derisive laughter at the man behind the podium. Without downplaying their individually earned success at the polls, they made their message clear: We have this job because of you, putz. Thanks for that.Trump gave them his standard patronizing sneer, but even he knew he’d been aced.

And then there was Stacey Abrams, former candidate for governor of Georgia, who delivered the Democratic response. Abrams filled her short remarks with more dignity and truth than Trump could manage in his 90 grueling minutes. The Georgia gubernatorial election was perhaps the most blatant and destructive recent example of racist voter suppression in the US. Abrams’s words — including her call to voting rights — carried profound weight, and her vividly hopeful demeanor shined through even as she spoke of the darkest corners of modern politics. If Abrams does not announce her candidacy for the Senate soon, I will eat this keyboard at high noon on Main Street.

The State of the Union address is nothing more or less than a television show. Under normal circumstances and for most of the assembled, it is an opportunity for all the political peacocks to strut for the cameras before returning to the business of screwing us over in the holy name of someone else’s profit margin. With Trump involved, however, it is absolute farce. Nothing last night made this more obvious than the pre-speech announcement that Rick Perry had been tapped to be the designated survivor. If the building had exploded with all hands lost, we would have greeted the morning snug in the capable hands of a guy who couldn’t remember the name of the agency he currently heads.

These speeches are supposed to be about big ideas, our furthest hopes and greatest dreams. Here’s to hoping this is the last time we see Donald Trump delivering this particular address.

15 ways the Trump administration has impacted the environment

President Donald Trump signs a presidential memorandum to “minimize unnecessary regulatory burdens” on October 19, 2018. Since his earliest days in office, President Trump has been

… Read More

PHOTOGRAPH BY DOUG MILLS, THE NEW YORK TIMES

For the past three years, National Geographic has been tracking how this administration’s decisions will influence air, water, and wildlife.

SINCE THE TRUMP administration took office, it has been fighting what they call an “anti-growth” agenda put in place by the Obama administration. Regulations that required businesses to spend time and money to meet the former administration’s environmental standards were swiftly reviewed and, in many cases, rolled back.

National Geographic has been tracking the decisions that will impact America’s land, water, air, and wildlife. What started with curtailing information when the president took office in 2017 has evolved into actions like executive orders that open public land for business.

States, municipalities, and NGOs have responded to these changes by filing lawsuits to block the administration. Some, like lawsuits against the Keystone XL pipeline, have successfully kept public land closed to additional development.

Below are 15 influential decisions made by the Trump administration that could impact the future of our nation.

Clean air

1. U.S. pulls out of Paris Climate Agreement

This is perhaps the decision that set the tone for the Trump administration’s approach to the environment: when he moved to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement in June of 2017. To many, it signaled less U.S. leadership in international climate change agreements. (Read more about this decision.)

2. Trump EPA poised to scrap clean power plan

The Clean Power Plan was one of the Obama’s signature environmental policies. It required the energy sector to cut carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030, but in October 2017 it was rolled back by Trump’s EPA. Among the reasons cited were unfair burdens on the power sector and a “war on coal.” (Read more on why Trump can’t make coal great again.)

3. EPA loosens regulations on toxic air pollution

This regulation revolved around a complicated rule referred to as “once in, always in” or OIAI. Essentially, OIAI said that if a company polluted over the legal limit, they would have to match the lowest levels set by their industry peers and they would have to match them indefinitely. By dropping OIAI, the Trump EPA forces companies to innovate ways to decrease their emissions, but once those lower targets are met, they’re no longer required to keep using those innovations. (Read more about air pollution.)

4. Rescinding methane-flaring rules

Under the Affordable Clean Energy rule issued in August 2018, states were given more power over regulating emissions. In states like California, that means regulations would likely be stricter, whereas states that produce fossil fuels are likely to weaken regulations. The following month, the EPA announced they would relax rules around releasing methane flares, inspecting equipment, and repairing leaks. (Read more about methane.)

5. Trump announces plan to weaken Obama-era fuel economy rules

Under the Obama administration’s fuel economy targets, cars made after 2012 would, on average, have to get 54 miles per gallon by 2025. In August 2018, the Trump Department of Transportation and EPA capped that target at 34 miles per gallon by 2021. The decision created legal conflict with states like California that have higher emission caps. (Read more about speed bumps in the way of super-efficient cars.)

Water

6. Trump revokes flood standards accounting for sea-level rise

In August 2017, President Trump revoked an Obama-era executive order that required federally funded projects to factor rising sea levels into construction. However, in 2018, the Department of Housing and Urban Development required buildings constructed with disaster relief grants do just that. (Read more about how rising sea levels may imperil the internet.)

7. Waters of the U.S. Rule revocation

What are the “waters of the U.S.?” President Trump issued an executive order in 2017 ordering the EPA to formally review what waters fell under the jurisdiction of the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers according to the 1972 Clean Water Act. The proposed change narrowed the definition of what’s considered a federally protected river or wetland. (Read more about Trump’s plans to roll back the Clean Water Act.)

Wildlife

8. NOAA green lights seismic airgun blasts for oil and gas drilling

Five companies were approved to use seismic air gun blasts to search for underwater oil and gas deposits. Debate over the deafening blasts stem from concerns that they disorient marine mammals that use sonar to communicate and kill plankton. The blasts were shot down by the Bureau of Energy Management in 2017 but approved after NOAA found they would not violate the Marine Mammal Protection Act. (Read more about how scientists think seismic air guns will harm marine life.)

9. Interior Department relaxes sage grouse protection

The uniquely American sage grouse, a bird resembling a turkey with spiked feathers, has become the face of the debate between land developers and conservationists. In both 2017 and 2018, the Trump administration Department of Interior eased restrictions on activities like mining and drilling that had been restricted to protect the endangered bird. (Read more about how the sage grouse become caught in the fight over who owns America’s west.)

10. Trump officials propose changes to handling the Endangered Species Act

In July of 2018, the Trump administration announced its intention to change the way the Endangered Species Act is administered, saying more weight would be put on economic considerations when designating an endangered animal’s habitat. (Read more about the rollbacks facing endangered animals.)

11. Migratory Bird Treaty Act reinterpretation

Companies installing large wind turbines, constructing power lines, or leaving oil exposed are no longer violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act if their activities kill birds. This controversial change was declared by the Trump administration in December of 2017. (Read more about why legally protecting birds is important.)

Opening public lands for business

12. Trump unveils plan to dramatically downsize two national monuments

Unlike national parks, which have to be approved by Congress, national monuments can be created by an executive order, which the president said means they can be dismantled just as easily. Such was the case for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, which President Trump reduced and opened for mining and drilling companies in 2017. Tribes and environmental groups are challenging that interpretation in court. (Read more about the impacts of downsizing these two monuments.)

13. Executive order calls for sharp logging increase on public lands

Just a day before the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, President Trump issued an executive order that called for a 30 percent increase in logging on public lands. The decision was billed as wildfire prevention, though environmental groups say it ignores the role climate change plays in starting wildfires. (Read more about California’s historic wildfires.)

Security & Enforcement

14. Trump drops climate change from list of national security threats

The Trump administration’s decision to delist climate change from national security threats in December of 2017 meant less Department of Defense research funding and a nationalistic viewpoint on the potential impacts of wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. (Read more about how climate change is forcing migration in Guatemala.)

15. EPA criminal enforcement hits 30-year low

The size and influence of the EPA has shrunk under the Trump administration, and it’s illustrated by their diminished prosecuting power. Criminal prosecutions are at a 30-year low, and many violations that would have been prosecuted in the past are now being negotiated with companies. The administration says this is streamlining its work, but environmentalists have warned it could lead to more pollution. (Read more about the scientists pushing back against President Trump’s environment agenda.)

Crocodiles moved from world’s tallest statue, angering environmentalists

Rob Picheta, CNN • Published 26th January 2019
http://www.cnn.com/travel/article/crocodiles-removed-worlds-tallest-statue-india-scli-intl/?iid=ob_article_footer_expansion

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(CNN) — Officials have started removing hundreds of crocodiles from the site of the world’s largest statue in India, prompting an outcry from conservationists and concerns about the welfare of the reptiles.
The crocodiles are being relocated to allow for a seaplane service to carry tourists to the Statue of Unity, a 597-foot-tall statue that opened in Gujarat in October, AFP reported.
At least 15 have already been lured into metal cages and moved elsewhere in the west Indian state, the Indian Express newspaper reported, with hundreds still remaining in the waters surrounding the landmark.
But the operation has been criticized by environmentalists and politicians.

The statue is twice the height of the Statue of Liberty.

The statue is twice the height of the Statue of Liberty.
SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
“Have we collectively lost our minds?” Bittu Sahgal, the editor of environmental magazine Sanctuary Asia, tweeted in response to the story.
“As any environmentalist will tell you, this is sheer insanity!” Indian journalist and activist Pritish Nandy added, while others questioned whether the move contravenes the country’s wildlife protect laws.
Crocodiles are a protected species in India, listed under Schedule 1 of the country’s Wildlife Protection Act, meaning they cannot be moved unless a state government determines it is “necessary for the improvement and better management of wildlife therein.”
Local forestry official Anuradha Sahu said the state’s government had ordered the removals “for safety reasons as the tourist influx has increased,” according to AFP.
But the All India Mahila Congress, the female wing of opposition party the Indian National Congress, said the move showed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government was “keeping the environment at bay again.”
The Gujarat Forest Department did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.
The towering Statue of Unity depicts Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a popular political and social leader who was part of the freedom struggle that resulted in India’s independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
Twice the height of the Statue of Liberty, the landmark is estimated to have cost more than $410 million to erect.

Indian construction workers at the plinth structure of the statue.

Indian construction workers at the plinth structure of the statue.
SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
It is widely seen as the personal project of Modi, who announced the plans in 2010 and formally unveiled the statue in October.
But transport links to the site, which sits in a remote part of the Narmada district around 100 kilometres from the city of Ahmedabad, are limited, with most tourists currently arriving by bus.
The government finalized three seaplane routes in the region in June to improve access.

Stop the rock-stacking

A writer calls for an end to cairns.

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you’d like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston atbetsym@hcn.org.

Stones: We’ve built pyramids and castles with them and painstakingly cleared them out of farm fields, using them to build low walls for fencing. We marvel at the rocks in the Grand Canyon, Arches and Grand Teton national parks. Yet a perplexing practice has been gaining ground in our wild spaces: People have begun stacking rocks on top of one another, balancing them carefully and doing this for unknown reasons, though probably as some kind of personal or “spiritual” statement.

These piles aren’t true cairns, the official term for deliberately stacked rocks. From middle Gaelic, the word means “mound of stones built as a memorial or landmark.” There are plenty of those in Celtic territories, that’s for sure, as well as in other cultures; indigenous peoples in the United States often used cairns to cover and bury their dead. Those of us who like to hike through wilderness areas are glad to see the occasional cairn, as long as it’s indicating the right way to go at critical junctions in the backcountry.

Stone piles have their uses, but the many rock stacks that I’m seeing on our public lands are increasingly problematic. First, if they’re set in a random place, they can lead an unsuspecting hiker into trouble, away from the trail and into a potentially dangerous place. Second, we go to wilderness to remove ourselves from the human saturation of our lives, not to see mementoes from other people’s lives.

We hike, we mountain bike, we run, we backpack, we boat in wilderness areas to retreat from civilization. We need undeveloped places to find quiet in our lives. A stack of rocks left by someone who preceded us on the trail does nothing more than remind us that other people were there before us. It is an unnecessary marker of humanity, like leaving graffiti –– no different than finding a tissue bleached and decaying against the earth that a previous traveler didn’t pack out, or a forgotten water bottle.  Pointless cairns are simply pointless reminders of the human ego.

I’m not sure exactly when the practice of stacking stones began in the West. But the so-called Harmonic Convergence in 1987, a globally synchronized meditation event, brought a tighter focus on New Age practices to Sedona, Arizona, just south of my home. Vortexes, those places where spiritual and metaphysical energy are reputed to be found, began to figure prominently on national forest and other public lands surrounding Sedona. Hikers near these vortexes couldn’t miss seeing so many new lines of rocks or stacks of stones.

Since then, the cairns, referred to as “prayer stone stacks” by some, have been multiplying on our public lands.  Where there were just a dozen or so stone stacks at a much-visited state park on Sedona’s Oak Creek 10 years ago, now there are hundreds.  What’s more, the cairn craze has mushroomed, invading wilderness areas everywhere in the West.

Why should we care about a practice that can be dismantled with a simple foot-push, that uses natural materials that can be returned quickly to the earth, and that some say nature will remove eventually anyway?

Because it’s not a harmless practice: Moving rocks increases erosion by exposing the soil underneath, allowing it to wash away and thin soil cover for native plants.  Every time a rock is disturbed, an animal loses a potential home, since many insects and mammals burrow under rocks for protection and reproduction.

The multiplying rock stacks.
Robyn Martin

But mainly, pointless cairns change the value of the wilderness experience by degrading an already beautiful landscape. Building cairns where none are needed for route finding is antithetical to Leave-No-Trace ethics.  Move a stone, and you’ve changed the environment from something that it wasn’t to something manmade. Cairn building might also be illegal, since erecting structures or moving natural materials on public lands often comes with fines and/or jail time. Of course, I doubt the Forest Service will hunt down someone who decided that his or her self-expression required erecting a balanced stone sculpture on a sandstone ridge.  Yet it is an unwelcome reminder of humanity, something we strive to avoid as we enjoy our wild spaces.

Let’s end this invasive practice.  Fight the urge to stack rocks and make your mark.  Consider deconstructing them when you find them, unless they’re marking a critical trail junction. If you must worship in the wild, repress that urge to rearrange the rocks and just say a silent prayer to yourself.  Or bring along a journal or sketchpad to recall what you felt in the wild.

Let’s check our egos at the trailheads and boat launches, and leave the earth’s natural beauty alone. Her geology, as it stands, is already perfect.

Robyn Martin is a contributor to Writers on the Range, the column service of High Country News. She is a senior lecturer in the honors program at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

Massive boom will corral Pacific Ocean’s plastic trash

Massive boom will corral Pacific Ocean’s plastic trashPhoto: AP Photo.

https://www.whec.com/news/-massive-boom-will-corral-pacific-oceanrsquos-plastic-trash-/5063246/

September 08, 2018 03:03 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Engineers will deploy a trash collection device to corral plastic litter floating between California and Hawaii in an attempt to clean up the world’s largest garbage patch in the heart of the Pacific Ocean.

The 2,000-foot (600-meter) long floating boom will be towed Saturday from San Francisco to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — an island of trash twice the size of Texas.

The system was created by The Ocean Cleanup, an organization founded by Boyan Slat, a 24-year-old innovator from the Netherlands who first became passionate about cleaning the oceans when he went scuba diving at age 16 in the Mediterranean Sea and saw more plastic bags than fish.

“The plastic is really persistent and it doesn’t go away by itself and the time to act is now,” Slat said, adding that researchers with his organization found plastic going back to the 1960s and 1970s bobbing in the patch.

The buoyant, a U-shaped barrier made of plastic and with a tapered 10-foot (3-meter) deep screen, is intended to act like a coastline, trapping some of the 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic that scientists estimate are swirling in that gyre but allowing marine life to safely swim beneath it.

Fitted with solar power lights, cameras, sensors and satellite antennas, the cleanup system will communicate its position at all times, allowing a support vessel to fish out the collected plastic every few months and transport it to dry land where it will be recycled, said Slat.

Shipping containers filled with the fishing nets, plastic bottles, laundry baskets and other plastic refuse scooped up by the system being deployed Saturday are expected to be back on land within a year, he said.

The Ocean Cleanup, which has raised $35 million in donations to fund the project, including from Salesforce.com chief executive Marc Benioff and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, will deploy 60 free-floating barriers in the Pacific Ocean by 2020.

“One of our goals is to remove 50 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in five years,” Slat said.

The free-floating barriers are made to withstand harsh weather conditions and constant wear and tear. They will stay in the water for two decades and in that time collect 90 percent of the trash in the patch, he added.

George Leonard, chief scientist of the Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, said he’s skeptical Slat can achieve that goal because even if plastic trash can be taken out of the ocean, a lot more is pouring in each year.

“The plastic is really persistent and it doesn’t go away by itself and the time to act is now,” Slat said, adding that researchers with his organization found plastic going back to the 1960s and 1970s bobbing in the patch.

The buoyant, a U-shaped barrier made of plastic and with a tapered 10-foot (3-meter) deep screen, is intended to act like a coastline, trapping some of the 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic that scientists estimate are swirling in that gyre but allowing marine life to safely swim beneath it.

Fitted with solar power lights, cameras, sensors and satellite antennas, the cleanup system will communicate its position at all times, allowing a support vessel to fish out the collected plastic every few months and transport it to dry land where it will be recycled, said Slat.

Shipping containers filled with the fishing nets, plastic bottles, laundry baskets and other plastic refuse scooped up by the system being deployed Saturday are expected to be back on land within a year, he said.

The Ocean Cleanup, which has raised $35 million in donations to fund the project, including from Salesforce.com chief executive Marc Benioff and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, will deploy 60 free-floating barriers in the Pacific Ocean by 2020.

“One of our goals is to remove 50 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in five years,” Slat said.

The free-floating barriers are made to withstand harsh weather conditions and constant wear and tear. They will stay in the water for two decades and in that time collect 90 percent of the trash in the patch, he added.

George Leonard, chief scientist of the Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, said he’s skeptical Slat can achieve that goal because even if plastic trash can be taken out of the ocean, a lot more is pouring in each year.

Touching letter from the smartest gorrila Koko before passing away: “Man stupid”

http://feedytv.com/touching-letter-smartest-gorrila-koko-passing-away.html

Posted on 09-08-2018.

The smartest gorrila Koko in the world alerted human kind before the death.

Born in San Francisco Zoo in 1971, Koko began learning American Sign Language at the age of one, and, according to her trainers, was able to learn vocabulary at the same rate as a child with learning difficulties.

According to the Gorilla Foundation, Koko knows over 1,100 different signs, although many of these have been adapted in order to compensate for her inability to form the same complex hand shapes and movements as humans.

Koko has been filmed delivering a message to the humans of the world, encouraging them to become more conscious of their responsibility to protect the planet.

The message Koko wanted to send to human beings.

And she claimed that people should do something for nature right now or too late

Watch video:

 

Earth Overshoot Day Shows We’re Devouring The Planet’s Resources Much Too Fast

We need 1.7 planets to fulfill our appetite for stuff. And it’s getting worse.

Global Footprint Network, an international nonprofit that calculates how we are managing ― or failing to manage ― the world’s resources, says that in the first seven months of 2018 we devoured a year’s worth of resources, such as water and fibers like cotton, to produce everything from the food on our plates to the clothes we’re wearing and the gas in our cars.

This year sees the earliest Earth Overshoot Day since the 1970s, when humanity’s resource consumption first started to exceed what the planet could renew in a year.

GLOBAL FOOTPRINT NETWORK NATIONAL FOOTPRINT ACCOUNTS 2018

“At the moment, we’re able to live in this ecological debt by using up the Earth’s future resources to operate our economies in the present ― in other words, we’re running a Ponzi scheme with our planet,” Mathis Wackernagel, CEO of Global Footprint Network, told HuffPost. “It might work for now, but as we dig ourselves deeper into debt it will eventually all fall apart.”

Wackernagel said he is certain that humanity will move out of overshoot. “The question,” he said, “is whether we do so by design or by disaster.”

Rampant deforestation, acute freshwater shortagescollapsing fisheries and dramatic biodiversity loss show some of the ways that our overuse of resources is already being felt.

There’s a human cost to all of this, said Michael O’Heaney, executive director of environmental campaign group The Story of Stuff.

“When we don’t live in harmony with the Earth’s ability to sustain itself, people get hurt ― you see ecosystem collapse in places primarily impacting poor people, people in the global south,” O’Heaney said.

Research indicates that while the effects of climate change will be felt everywhere, the poorest nations will be hit hardest.

Yet it’s some of the wealthiest countries that are creating the most ecological debt. If the world’s population lived like the U.S. currently does we would need five planets to sustain consumption levels, according to Global Footprint Network’s data. In contrast, if the world lived like India we would require only 0.7 of a planet to maintain annual resource demands.

Globally, we’re using up nature 1.7 times faster than our planet’s ecosystems can regenerate. In other words, our planet relies on 1.7 planets worth of resources.

GLOBAL FOOTPRINT NETWORK NATIONAL FOOTPRINT ACCOUNTS 2018

“This is not an individual consumer problem,” said O’Heaney. “There’s a systemic problem here ― we have a system that chews up resources, creates products using those resources, spits them out and then makes them so that they’re not durable, makes them so that people throw them away. Take the example of bottled water. We all did fine without water in plastic bottles 25 years ago.”

As corporations have convinced us that we need things like bottled water, governments have been doing an increasingly bad job of protecting our natural resources, O’Heaney said.

Ultimately, he said, the solution lies in transitioning away from the “dinosaur economy” that relies on rampant consumption of resources and is powered by fossil fuels, and instead pushing for economies that use sustainable materials and run on renewables.

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HuffPost’s “This New World” series is funded by Partners for a New Economy and the Kendeda Fund. All content is editorially independent, with no influence or input from the foundations. If you have an idea or tip for the editorial series, send an email to thisnewworld@huffpost.com. 

Earth Overshoot Day: Humans are using Earth’s resources faster than ever, group warns

“There are consequences of busting the ecological budget of our one and only planet,” the CEO of the Global Footprint Network network said.
by James Rainey / 
Image: Ratcliffe on Soar power station

Coal-fired powered, Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station in Nottinghamshire, England. (Photo by: Loop Images/UIG via Getty Images)Loop Images / UIG via Getty Images

A hummingbird flew into New York’s Times Square Friday, and has been hovering and flitting high over the heads of tourists and workers ever since.

Never mind that the bird arrived via jumbo screen — the arresting image was intended to turn attention to humanity’s tenuous place in nature. The onscreen message: “Earth Overshoot Day is August 1…Because We Have Only One Earth…#MoveTheDate.”

Created by the Global Footprint Network environmental nonprofit, Earth Overshoot Day estimates the point in the year when humanity has consumed more natural resources and created more waste than Earth can replace or safely absorb in a year. The Aug. 1 date projected this year is earlier than any time in the dozen years the calculation has been made and a warning, especially, of the heightened challenge from the accumulation of greenhouse gases.

“Fires are raging in the Western United States. On the other side of the world, residents in Cape Town have had to slash water consumption in half since 2015,” said Mathis Wackernagel, CEO of the Oakland, California-based Global Footprint Network. “There are consequences of busting the ecological budget of our one and only planet.”

Earth Overshoot

JUL.20.201800:16

The electronic billboard campaign in Times Square — with additional images of a blooming hibiscus from renowned slow-motion nature filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg — will be followed by a YouTube and Facebook livestream July 31 and Aug. 1. The live video feed will feature environmental leaders from around the world, including representatives from the United Nations, the World Wildlife Fund, Earth Day Network and others.

The Earth Overshoot concept is designed to bring urgency to climate issues that can seem distant in time and place. It aims to keep citizens and decision-makers in touch with spiraling carbon dioxide levels, particularly Americans who don’t live in coastal flood zones or in the path of more frequent and sizable hurricanes.

HOW EARTH OVERSHOOT DAY IS CALCULATED

When the first overshoot calculation was announced in 2006, it found that Earth used a year’s worth of resources by Oct. 9. The Global Footprint Network determines the date by drawing data from the United Nations, the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, among others. These estimates of productive land and sea area, grazing land, cropland and fishing grounds are expressed in so-called global hectares. This measurement (roughly 2.5 acres) is meant to be a standard unit, projecting average productivity, that can be tallied to represent the Earth’s total “biocapacity.”

The researchers then examine the demand side: mankind’s need for crops, livestock and fish, timber and space for urban development, along with a calculation of the forests’ capacity to absorb carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. The difference between this “ecological footprint” and the Earth’s biocapacity represents the overshoot.

The Aug. 1 date declared this year means that, for the final five months of the year, mankind is overdrawing natural resources. Framed another way, it would take 1.7 Earths to supply the resources needed to feed, clothe and sustain Earth’s 7.6 billion people for a year.

Earth Overshoot

JUL.20.201800:16

Global Footprint Network also calculates the biocapacity and ecological footprint at the national level, offering a look at how much each country is living beyond its home-grown resources. It shows, for example, that the United States has a biocapacity of 3.6 hectares per person but that the average consumption is 8.4 hectares per person, meaning that Americans are running a 4.8 hectare per-capita deficit. Stretched across a population of 317 million, that country uses all of its native resources by March 15, the formulation suggests. To continue consuming at current levels indefinitely, the U.S. would need the resources of five Earths.

That’s in sharp contrast to nations that have little industry and relatively few cars and trucks and often substantial forests, pumping oxygen back into the biosphere. So Suriname in the northern end of South America, has a biocapacity of 97 hetacres per person, but each of its 496,000 inhabitants only uses 2.7 hectares, on average, annually. So the tiny nation produces a large 94.6 hectares of “reserve.” Because the construct is only theoretical, though, Suriname can’t escape the excess carbon dioxide most other countries pump into the atmosphere. And it exports surpluses of wood and commodities that other countries can’t produce on their own.

Andrew Simms, a progressive British political economist who helped conceive the idea, said it is important to show how cultures live beyond their own resources. “The wealthiest countries, in particular, depend on a much larger land base than they have themselves to enjoy the material lifestyles they are accustomed to,” Simms said. Wackernagel said his group uses the statistics conservatively and that, if anything, the overshoot date underestimates humanity’s impact on the planet.

A GLOBAL RESPONSE

The calculation is not without critics. A World Wildlife Fund official in Britain wrote a column in 2010 calling the footprint “clever” and “succinct.” But he added that the diverse array of data it compiled — from greenhouse gas emissions, to rainforest destruction, to corn yields — was hard to reconcile and made the calculation “a useful guide stick rather than anything absolute.”

Rush Limbaugh offered a less generous critique after the announcement of the overshoot date in 2015. “If we have exhausted our yearly allotment of natural resources,” Limbaugh asked, “then why are we still breathing?”

Wackernagel responds that just because resources like water and oxygen remain available, it doesn’t mean they aren’t being depleted to threatening levels. “We can live off of depletion for a time,” he said, “but not forever.”

“We can live off of depletion for a time but not forever.”

Regardless of the calculation’s degree of precision, it has met the Global Footprint Network’s goal of driving conversation about natural resources. Coverage has grown steadily, with organizers saying the story received 1.3 billion web hits in 2017, across more than 1,900 websites. In a few countries, including Japan and the United Arab Emirates, governments have discussed reshaping public policy around the limits suggested by the overshoot calculations.

The awareness gap seemed on display Friday at the south end of Times Square, not far from where the giant images of the hummingbird and hibiscus appear a couple times an hour. A dozen Americans said they had never heard of the Earth Overshoot concept, though several said they had deep concerns about damage that humanity was inflicting on the Earth.

George Allen, 61, declared it “not a good thing” that President Donald Trump has rolled back measures to slow down global warming. ” His wife, Regina added: “It’s important to us that we do all that we can do to make sure that we protect the Earth so that our grandchildren can live on this Earth and live well. But not just them, but their children, and their children’s children.” As proof of their commitment, the couple, from Louisville, Kentucky, said they were deeply committed to recycling.

When a young German family was asked about Earth Overshoot, even the 8- and 11-year-old daughters did not hesitate to recognize the term. Back in their hometown of Bielefeld, the Hoeners said the topic of environmental costs can come up among among neighbors, in school and, often, on the news. The state of North-Rhine Westphalia, the most populous in Germany, has made the ecological footprint central to its reckoning of environmental costs and benefits.

Nadine Hoener, visiting New York with her daughters and husband, said the ecological footprint concept comes up “all the time,” adding: “In Germany, people are quite aware of that problem.”

This seems unlikely to happen in the U.S. anytime soon. Wackernagel, a Swiss-born PhD, trained in community and regional planning, is quoted routinely in European publications. He has the lead essay in the 2016 annual environmental report for North-Rhine Westphalia.

But he has grown accustomed to an American identity closely attached to the idea of unlimited horizons. Wackernagel recalls President Ronald Reagan’s second inaugural address, in 1985: “There are no limits to growth and human progress when men and women are free to follow their dreams.”

But the world’s population has ballooned by nearly 3 billion since then, driving the need for more creative solutions. And the overshoot date can play a role in communicating both urgency, and opportunity, Wackernagel believes.

“By seeing the world more clearly, we have a leg up in understanding the forces and trends,” he said, “and hence, we can steer innovation — a deep American value — towards where it gives us the highest chances to succeed.”

Why thousands of barred owls are being shot by U.S. conservationists? Is it fair to kill one species to save another? 

CBC Radio · June 22

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Barred owls are being culled in the Pacific Northwest to save the critically endangered spotted owl. (Toby Talbot, File/AP)

Humans shouldn’t be interfering with nature by killing one species to save another, according to a lawyer who is working to oppose a cull of barred owls.

The owls are being shot by conservationists in the Pacific Northwest in an effort to save their feathered cousin, the critically endangered spotted owl.

“We shouldn’t be choosing sides,” said Michael Harris, the director of the wildlife law program at Friends of Animals. His group opposes the cull and is preparing a second lawsuit to try to stop it.

“We really believe that they need to be given that opportunity to see if they can coexist in their new environment,” he told The Current’s guest host Piya Chattopadhyay.

“We just don’t know what the ultimate outcome would be if these two species were given a chance to figure it out.”

Barred owls are relatively new to the west coast, having spread across the continent via the towns and cities that have grown in the last century. They’re bigger and more aggressive than the spotted owl, and have been pushing them out of their nesting grounds, which is what has prompted conservationists to cull their numbers.

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The spotted owl, seen here in California’s Tahoe National Forest, is one of the most endangered birds in Canada. (Debra Reid/AP)

About halfway through a six-year experimental cull, roughly 2,000 of the birds have been shot in Oregon, Washington and California.

Harris argued that the barred owl is just doing what it’s supposed to do: finding ways to survive and prosper.

By intervening, he told Chattopadhyay, we’re not giving the barred owl “a fair shake.”

Not ‘natural evolution’

Animal ethicist William Lynn said by destroying the owls’ habitats, humans contributed to the problem in the first place.

“This is not natural evolution,” he told Chattopadhyay.

“This is entirely the product of human actions. It’s a human-caused extinction in the making.”

Lynn was hired by the U.S. government to examine the ethics of killing the birds. While “we can’t kill our way back to biodiversity,” he ultimately came to support the cull. Government conservationists have explored non-lethal ways to manage barred owl numbers, but they just don’t work, he said.

Barred owls are doing great across North America. Spotted owls are critically endangered.- William Lynn. animal ethicist

He argued that when you weigh the value of a barred owl’s life against the chance that the endangered spotted owl species will become extinct, the barred owl loses.

“Barred owls are doing great across North America. Spotted owls are critically endangered,” he said.

The culling is an experiment, he added, and is not expected to continue indefinitely.

“This experiment is to remove some barred owls to see whether spotted owls can form a refugia, a sort of a defensible territory in which they can live and flourish in the wild.

“If they can’t — and this experiment ends — that doesn’t mean that killing barred owls is going to go on.”

https://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-june-22-2018-1.4716183/why-thousands-of-barred-owls-are-being-shot-by-u-s-conservationists-1.4716188

BREAKING: Trump administration pushes forward on Arctic Refuge drilling

From Defendersorg

Today the Trump administration announced the start of a process to sell out the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for destructive oil and gas development.

This announcement is especially outrageous since it comes just one day before the 8th anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, an industrial disaster that left thousands of animals – from dolphins to birds to sea turtles – covered in oil, and huge swaths of water and beaches covered in chemicals and sludge.

Jim, when will they stop subjecting our precious wildlife and wild lands to such dangerous, irresponsible industrialization?

The Trump administration’s reckless dash to expedite drilling and desecrate the Arctic Refuge is unacceptable.