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AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaEbola(Photo: CDC/Cynthia Goldsmith)As weeks go, last week wasn’t exactly a great one. It began with the inevitable appearance of Ebola in the United States. It ended with ISIS beheading yet another hostage. Our two biggest fears on the global stage just flexed their muscles and got scarier. It is no surprise then, that there is a panicky edge to the discussion of either topic, or that the proposed solutions to either issue are becoming ever more extreme and outlandish.

Let’s take a step back for a second. Yes, Ebola is awful. The death toll in West Africa is over 3000, and the total number of cases could hit 1.4 million within 4 months. Given that the current outbreak has a mortality rate that is pushing 60%, those are grim figures. But, despite widespread panic, the number of confirmed cases within the United States remains at exactly one. And yes, ISIS is awful. Over 5000 Iraqis have died as a result of its military actions, and ISIS is singularly unconcerned with avoiding things like genocide or war crimes. But how many Western hostages have been beheaded by ISIS? Four, a number that will hopefully remain unchanged.

That last paragraph could be taken in a very nasty way. No Americans dying? Eh, who cares? That isn’t my intention at all. What is interesting is how we’ve seemed to settle upon ISIS and Ebola as our designated fears of the season, especially since things aren’t going all that well elsewhere. From the Ukraine, to Hong Kong, to Egypt, to Estonia, there are any number of areas in the world where things could very rapidly spiral out of control just as easily as the situation in Iraq and Syria. Back at home, heart disease kills 600,000 every year, and even a lightweight like measles has taken 41 in 2014. Again, it would seem that there are many things out there that are every bit as threatening, if not more threatening, than Ebola.

Published in Guest Commentary

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSwingset(Photo: Chamaeleon)The air at Texas playgrounds could be hazardous to children’s health. That’s what nonprofit environmental testing group ShaleTest, which tracks the impact of shale oil and gas extraction for communities which can’t afford such tests, found as part of its Project Playground: Cleaner Air for Active Kids funded by Patagonia. The group ran air quality tests at five recreational parks and playgrounds in the north Texas, located near natural gas processing plants in the Barnett shale fracking area. It found harmful chemicals, including carcinogens, at all five.

“The oil and gas industry claims that they’re drilling responsibly,” said ShaleTest president Tim Ruggiero. “These tests show they’re not.”

The story was featured on the cover of the alternative newsweekly Fort Worth Weekly this week under the headline “Bad Air Day.” It described a deserted Delga Park in Fort Worth next to a huge natural gas compressor station run by Chesapeake Energy, which reporter Peter Gorman had to leave after two hours because his eyes were tearing and he had difficulty breathing.

ShaleTest collected air samples at the locations and compared the results to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)’s Effects Screening Levels (ESL) and Air Monitoring Comparison Values (AMCV), “set to protect human health and welfare,”  according to the TCEQ. The parks include two in Fort Worth, one in the Fort Worth/Dallas area suburb of Mansfield, the city of Denton and DISH in Denton County, whose story was told in Josh Fox’s Gasland films.

“The people living around Delga Park, in particular, are going to be sacrificed in the long term,” Calvin Tillman, former mayor of DISH and co-founder of ShaleTest, told Fort Worth Weekly. “And the sickening thing is that they’re being sacrificed so that the gas company can make a few bucks.”

Published in Guest Commentary

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCows(Photo: EcoWatch)

With the federal government considering sustainability for the first time as it solicits public comments for its 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the Center for Biological Diversity, as part of its Take Extinction Off Your Plate campaign, is encouraging the government to adopt guidelines that are more environmentally friendly.

Center for Biological Diversity says the new guidelines should include recommendations to reduce meat and dairy consumption.

The guidelines, issues by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services every five years, offer recommendations on eating to maintain a health weight and prevent disease. This year comment guidelines include a field for “Food Systems Sustainability,” asking for comments pertaining to the impact of food groups or commodities on the whole food system and on sustainability metrics that have been implemented or are in development.

“Animal agriculture has devastating impacts on wildlife and the environment,” says Center for Biological Diversity. “Meat production is one of humanity’s most destructive and least efficient systems, accounting for astounding levels of wildlife losses, land and water pollution, deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions.”

Published in Guest Commentary
Tuesday, 30 September 2014 07:27

The Power to Solve Climate Change

FRED KRUPP OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaClimateMarchEcoWatch(Photo: EcoWatch)What’s it going to take to turn the corner to a safe and stable climate? People power and market power. That was my main takeaway from a whirlwind week in New York City.

That pairing may seem odd, since some have fallen into the habit of dividing the climate community into “outsiders,” grassroots activists who demand action, and “insiders,” policy advocates who seek to correct market failures (such as the absence of a price on carbon) in order to harness the power of the marketplace to drive change. But many climate change advocates, myself included, were busy doing both last week—and both are absolutely essential to the climate solutions we need.

I began the week at the People’s Climate March, one of an estimated 400,000 Americans who took to the streets of New York City to make an urgent call for climate action. It was thrilling to see so many people—including Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) members and staff from around the country—gather for a demonstration that was both peaceful and passionate. Tuesday morning my EDF colleagues and I hosted a meeting of officials and experts from China and the U.S., and later that day I spoke at the United Nations about the urgent climate threat posed by unchecked methane pollution, then shared ideas for restructuring global energy incentives with international leaders.

It was fitting that all of this began with a protest march, since motivating the public to demand action is absolutely necessary if we are going to prevail against the opponents of climate action. It was, by all accounts, the largest rally in the history of the climate change movement—even before you include the 2,600 smaller gatherings taking place in 166 countries around the world.

Published in Guest Commentary

AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAmericanFlags(Photo: Lipton Sale)Sunday night President Obama made an appearance on 60 Minutes to talk about the ongoing efforts against ISIS. The quote that everyone is focusing on, of course, is Obama’s admission that they “underestimated ISIS.” The right is predictably working itself into a fine froth over this. Had we only carpet bombed everything back in 2013, the Middle East would now be a virtual utopia and nothing would ever go wrong in the region again. Personally, I don’t find the president’s admission to be a huge shock. Given that our last president had a bit of trouble thinking of a single mistake that he might have made, ever, it is refreshing to hear Obama utter words along these lines. I wouldn’t call myself a fan of the actions we have taken, as we try to correct for our underestimation, what with the unforeseen consequences crawling out of the woodwork, but still, it’s nice to hear some acknowledgement of our fallibility.

Which is why the bit that does irk me is the following gem:

“America leads. We are the indispensable nation. We have capacity no one else has. Our military is the best in the history of the world. And when trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don't call Beijing. They don't call Moscow. They call us.”

If that statement were a vehicle, it would be a Hummer with chrome-plated bumper nuts. It’s belligerent. It’s remarkably tone-deaf, coming from a man whose words are typically finely crafted. And it is, yes, stupid. There is a truth in it – no denying that. Given the amount of money we pour into our military, it certainly has the capacity to bomb, shoot, and generally wreck vast swathes of the world. We have enough nuclear weapons to ignite the Earth’s atmosphere. Our capacity is huge.

We are freaking awesome.

Published in Guest Commentary
Monday, 29 September 2014 09:18

The Climate Change Deniers Hall of Infamy

STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGlacier(Photo: Luca Galuzzi)The science of anthropogenic global warming/climate change is quite clear, and has been for quite some time. It is supported by observational evidence, such as the massive melting of sea ice, Antarctic ice, and the glaciers. Indeed, the data and reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, supported by 97% of the scientists world-wide concerned with the wide variety of related matters, has concluded, and reported with an ever-increasing sense of urgency, that massive, anthropogenic changes in our climate, due to global warming and the associated acidification of the world's oceans, are underway. If they not reversed, soon, major irreversible changes in life on Earth will take place over the next century or so, with many species, including possibly our own, either not surviving or being reduced greatly in numbers. That is, in a century or so the Earth will be frying and drowning at the same time. At the same time, we are told by the vast majority of scientific opinion that the process can be significantly slowed down and then hopefully stopped --- if major actions to reduce the anthropogenic production of Greenhouse Gases and related pollutants are taken now.

But right now, that seems unlikely, unlikely at least at the levels at which such actions would need to be taken in order to be effective. And who is standing in the way of that process? Why the Global-Warming/climate-change Deniers, of course, virtually all of whom are or were or will be connected to the fossil fuels and related industries in one way or another. They are a tough bunch. And so, I should think that, even if they are wrong (and they most surely are), they will want the world then to know who they were now. If the frying/drowning process does occur, I am sure that they would want to be known far and wide as the folks who were responsible for those outcomes. And so, I propose that they be given their very own Hall of Infamy, so that down the road, whoever is left can readily identify those who were responsible for their plight.

Published in Guest Commentary

HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaPeoplesClimateMarch(Photo: Kingdebater)Okay, so we had this historic march a little while ago.

It was....

...joyous, beautiful, exhilarating, inspiring, life-confirming...and in many ways turning point.

Now that the dust has settled a bit, we can see that it will change things for a long time to come.

It proved to ourselves and the world that we have a huge, diverse, broad-based movement. And that we can put aside our differences and all get along when we have to.

We are our species' ever-evolving immune system. We are the survival instinct that must defeat the corporate profit motive.

We are also part of a mighty activist stream that's campaigned for peace, civil rights, social justice, workers' rights, women's rights, gay pride, election protection, No Nukes and so much more.

We've endured the circular firing squad and want it abolished.

Published in Guest Commentary

JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaSugar(Photo: Lauri Andler)Despite all of its vivid past history of enlightened protests in favor of Truth and Justice, my home town of Berkeley hasn't been very radical at all lately.  In fact, the city has pretty much turned into a Yuppie paradise and a developer's dream.  But, boy, Berkeley has still managed to somehow put its foot in the lion's mouth! 

And all that we did to raise this huge nation-wide brouhaha was to simply propose a new November ballot measure wherein a small tax would be levied on sodas -- then suddenly all Hell has broken loose here.  Suddenly we woke up one morning to find that the American Beverage Association was staging a full frontal assault on our town. 

The ABA has taped "Vote No on Measure D" posters on almost every one of our lamp posts, has hired friendly ladies to hand out "Vote No on Measure D" fliers at our flea market -- and has begun distributing large numbers of "Vote No on Measure D" T-shirts, fliers, billboards, push-polls and mailers that follow us everywhere we go.

The American Beverage Association has spent $300,000 on its campaign against Measure D so far -- and apparently has another $200,000 more yet to spend.  Its minions come and bang on our doors.  I dare not even answer the phone any more! 

The American Beverage Association has gone total beast-mode on Berkeley.

Published in Guest Commentary
Thursday, 25 September 2014 10:02

Climate Reckoning: My Family’s Coal Story

JEFF BIGGERS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCoalEagleCreek(Photo: Jeff Biggers)Four years after the publication of my memoir/history, Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland, I found myself sitting in the front row of an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency hearing in southern Illinois. It was a historic evening in Harrisburg, only a few miles from where Peabody Energy sank its first coal mine in 1895, and a few blocks from where I had sat on the front porch as a kid and listened to the stories of my grandfather and other coal miners about union battles for justice. For the first time in decades, residents in coal country were shining the spotlight on issues of civil rights, environmental ruin and a spiraling health crisis from a poorly regulated coal mining rush.

The total destruction of my family’s nearby Eagle Creek community from strip-mining was held up as their cautionary tale. The takeaway: Strip-mining more than stripped the land; it stripped the traces of any human contact.

“We have lost population, we have lost homes and we have lost roads,” testified Judy Kellen, a resident facing an expanded strip mine in Rocky Branch. “We have lost history. We have to endure dust, noise levels to the pitch you wanted to scream because you couldn’t get any rest or sleep, earth tremors, home damages, complete isolation of any type of view to the north, health issues, a sadness in your heart that puts a dread on your face every day, and an unrest in the spirit that we knew nothing of.”

A lot has changed in these four years—much of it troubling, and much of it inspiring.

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAntiChoice(Photo: Msci)Meet Dr. Willie Parker. He is one heck of a courageous man. Chances are you've never met anyone like him.

He grew up dirt poor in Birmingham, Alabama; as a teenager he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, and was a "boy preacher in Baptist churches"; he was "the first black student body president of a mostly white high school"; he went to Harvard, became a college professor, and successful obstetrician "who delivered thousands of babies and refused to do abortions."

Dr. Willie Parker had what some might call a second "come to Jesus" moment, deciding "to give up his fancy career to become an abortion provider" -- for the poorest of the poor and the most needy -- at the only surviving abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi. These days, he travels a "circuit roughly similar ... to the one traveled by Dr. David Gunn before an anti-abortion fanatic assassinated him in 1993."

Dr. Parker's "name and home address have been published by an antiabortion Web site with the unmistakable intent of terrorizing doctors like him. ...[and] he receives threats that say, 'You've been warned.'"

Published in Guest Commentary
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