Documentary Explores Tensions Between Indigenous Cultures and Renewable Energy Development


By Aji, June 24, 2013, for New Day

Who Are My People?, documentary by Robert Lundahl, premiered on Saturday in San Diego, California. The film explores the disconnect that occurs when non-Indians assume that using sacred ground for renewable energy is an automatic benefit that must outweigh the rights of the land’s indigenous peoples to their ancestors’ history and ongoing traditional practices.

At the heart of the dispute is a contest between Native American traditions and developers and government officials who contend benefits from the projects such as greenhouse gas reductions and renewable energy production outweigh their disturbance of cultural resources in the bleak desert terrain.Some of those resources, Lundahl said, seem “downright strange to Anglo-European eyes – like enormous geoglyphs, or earth drawings, visible from space, including giant human-like forms and complex geometries.”

“Stranger still,” he added, “international energy companies want to build their facilities right on top of these sacred communications from the distant past. In the process, they are tearing apart the social and cultural fabric of indigenous descendants.”

Mr. Lundahl is white. He has a history of making documentary films about Native subjects and issues, for which he has received a number of industry and academic awards. Those awards, however, are bestowed by the dominant culture, and are not themselves an indicator of whether he gets it right from an Indian perspective. That said, it appears that he makes an effort to showcase actual Native voices in his films, and this one appears to be no exception.

For those who wish to view the film, the release dates are listed on the film’s official Web site as “Coming Soon.” The site does, however, make it possible to view a trailer and read about Mr. Lundahl’s artistic vision and intent. Since the premiere occurred only two days ago, it’s worthwhile to keep tabs on future showings, particularly to see how it’s received in the portions of Indian Country that the film covers.

Study says tar-sands oil not more likely to leak; activists fault study

By Claire Thompson,

Supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline cheered Tuesday’s release of a study that deemed diluted bitumen — the heavy crude mined in Alberta’s tar sands that Keystone would carry to Texas — just as safe to transport via pipeline as other forms of crude oil. They see the results as further clearing the way for approval of the pipeline.

But environmental groups criticized the methodology and limited scope of the study, which was conducted by the National Academy of Sciences. From Inside Climate News:

[T]he conclusions were based not on new research but primarily on self-reported industry data, scientific research that was funded or conducted by the oil industry, and government databases that even federal regulators admit are incomplete and sometimes inaccurate.

Critics also faulted the study for comparing diluted bitumen (or dilbit) to other heavy Canadian crudes, instead of to the conventional light oils for which most U.S. pipelines were built. Environmentalists have argued that tar-sands and other heavy oils, which must be diluted with chemicals in order to be moved through pipelines, could be more corrosive to those pipelines. And the study only addressed the likelihood of a spill, not the negative impacts — to the economy, the environment, and human health — were a spill to occur.

Inside Climate News again:

The report examined the potential for pipeline leaks but did not address the consequences of a spill, the key concern for environmentalists and people who live near pipelines. …

Carl Weimer, executive director of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Pipeline Safety Trust, said the report’s conclusions aren’t surprising, given its narrow scope.

The report “only tells us that the probability of a failure of a pipeline carrying dilbit is no different than the probability of the failure of an oil pipeline carrying other types of heavy oils,” Weimer said in a statement. Regulators have “so far failed to analyze whether the consequences of dilbit pipeline failures are greater than those of conventional oil spills.”

There’s good reason to be particularly worried about dilbit spills:

[D]ilbit behaves differently from conventional crude oil when it spills into water. A 2010 dilbit spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River is still being cleaned up nearly three years later. Unlike conventional oil, which usually floats on water, dilbit is composed of bitumen—a heavy crude oil—and light hydrocarbons used to thin the bitumen so it can flow through pipelines. During the Kalamazoo spill, the light chemicals gradually evaporated, leaving the bitumen to sink into the riverbed.

Because the study found no additional dangers posed by dilbit, it doesn’t recommend updating pipeline rules.

Of course, calling tar-sands pipelines no riskier than other oil pipelines isn’t exactly a huge comfort. From 1990 to 2011, more than 110 million gallons of oil spilled from U.S. pipelines. The question is not just whether there’s a high chance Keystone XL could leak, but what the consequences would be if — more like when — it did.

The report came out on the same day Obama made an unexpected mention of Keystone XL in his hotly anticipated climate speech. But Reuters ignored that plot twist in reporting on the study’s impacts:

While the report might not put to rest debate over the safety and impact of importing more Canadian crude, it added to growing signs President Barack Obama is likely to finally approve construction of the line after a more than four year wait that has frustrated Canadian politicians and operator TransCanada Corp.

“I think it’s harder to come up with reasons not to approve it than to approve it,” said Sarah Emerson, director at Energy Security Analysis Inc in Boston. “Most people in the industry expect it to be a foregone conclusion.”

But if Obama sticks to his word — that he won’t approve the pipeline if it’s found to “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution” — the question of leaks along Keystone should be moot.

Claire Thompson is an editorial assistant at Grist.

Rethinking Plastics Campaign

Consequences of Convenience

Green Sangha,

We’re addicted to plastic, especially plastic bags.
If you are like 95% of US shoppers, whenever you purchase anything, it ends up in a plastic bag.  In the grocery store, most of us put our vegetables and fruits as well as bulk items into single-use plastic produce bags, and all those bags end up in a single-use plastic check-out bag.

Shoppers worldwide are using 500 billion to one trillion single-use plastic bags per year.
This translates to about a million bags every minute across the globe, or 150 bags a year for every person on earth.  And the number is rising.

“But plastic bags are so convenient!”
It depends on how far you are looking.  A plastic bag may be convenient for a minute or two when you carry something out of the store, but consider these costs:

  • Plastic bags are made from a non-renewable resource: oil!
    An estimated 3 million barrels of oil are required to produce the 19 billion plastic bags used annually in California.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
    Plastic manufacturing’s air pollution contributes to “global weirding” (extreme weather of all sorts).
  • Non-biodegradable
    Plastic is food for no one.  It never completely breaks down.
  • Litter
    We see bags hanging on trees, along the roadside, slipping down the storm drain, and floating in the ocean.  Even when we do put them in the garbage, they don’t always make it to the landfill.  47% of landfill blow-away trash is plastic.
  • Toxicity
    Manufacturing plastic releases toxins in the air, as does recycling plastic.  The additives used in plastic are often toxic and can leach into our food.  The surface of plastic is chemically attractive to some of the worst toxins in our environment (e.g., PCBs and pesticide metabolites).
  • Harm to Marine Life
    An estimated 100,000 marine mammals and turtles, one million seabirds, and countless fish worldwide are killed by plastic rubbish each year.
  • Choking the ocean
    Beaches on every continent are littered with plastic scraps and particles.  In a 2008 surface trawl of the North Pacific Gyre, 46 pounds of plastic were found for every pound of zooplankton.
  • We’re eating plastic
    Fine particles of plastic are taken in by filter-feeders in the ocean.  These plastic-laden creatures are then eaten by larger animals and plastics work their way up the food chain, all the way to our seafood menu.

Green Sangha’s Work

Since 2006, our actions have included:

  • Co-leading a successful campaign to ban plastic check-out bags in Fairfax, California
  • Working with markets in the SF Bay Area to reduce or eliminate plastic produce bags, saving an estimated 8 tons of plastic per year
  • Giving over 280 presentations to over 8500 citizens
  • Publishing articles in local newspapers and magazines
  • Showing our plastics display in scores of festivals, conferences, and other public gatherings
  • Testifying before elected councils and boards

What You Can Do

  1. Be the Change
  2. Share
  3. Join the Campaign. Sign up for our Email Newsletter to read about current actions and starting one in your community.
  4. Support Our Work. Donate to help us spread the word and produce more videos, raising awareness and catalyzing real change.

Working Together

Tell us your ideas and wishes for your locality, and we can multiply our results. We can speed the “Great Turning” away from the model of industrial waste and pollution, and instead move toward sustainable communities.

Victory! Oneida Nation and Green Bay ban the burning of waste

How grassroots organizing is stopping waste incinerators in Wisconsin

protester-with-gas-maskKristen A. Johnson and Ananda Lee Tan, GAIA

Last month, members of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin hammered the final nail in the coffin for waste incinerator proposals on the Oneida lands, including parts of Brown and Outagamie Counties.

On May 5, more than 1800 Oneida General Tribal Council members overwhelmingly voted to reject the Oneida Seven Generations Corporation’s bid to build a pyrolysis gasification incinerator. Despite millions of dollars of subsidies offered by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the Green Bay City Council and now the Oneida Nation have sent a clear message to all extreme energy and waste corporations that burners are not welcome in their backyards, or those of their neighbors.

This facility fight has been at the center of public debate for more than two years, and numerous environmental groups, health experts and advocates from around the state and across the U.S. provided support for this protracted community battle. However, the most inspiring, and instructive stories are those of grassroots, community organizing that led these victories. The following are reflections from parallel organizing efforts in the communities of Oneida and Green Bay.

Incinerator Free Brown County: Persistent and Adaptive Organizing

Incinerator Free Brown County came together in the fall of 2010, when an article appeared in the Green Bay newspaper announcing that a waste-to-energy plant would be built by the Oneida Seven Generations Corporation (OSGC). The proposed site was near a residential area in the Village of Hobart. Alarmed by the potential health, economic, and environmental hazards posed by this plant, residents banded together, posting flyers door-to-door, in an effort to galvanize awareness and concern. They formed the Biomass Opposition Committee (BOC), and after the site was relocated to the city of Green Bay, they changed their name to Incinerator Free Brown County (IFBC) to promote a countywide campaign.

Everyone within a 2-mile radius of the incinerator site was made aware of the proposal and community members joined meetings to discuss organizing plans. At each meeting core members volunteered to raise funds to cover organizing expenses. These funds were used to share information about waste incineration through local signature petitions, fact sheets and media.

IFBC reached out to groups such as GAIAIndigenous Environmental NetworkGreenaction for Health and Environmental JusticeWaukesha Environmental Action League, Clean Water Action, and the Wisconsin Sierra Club for support. A number of health professionals also responded, experts who testify in support of communities opposing polluting industries. In March 2013, Dr. Paul Connett and Bradley Angel of Greenaction gave public presentations on the danger of incinerators and the benefits of zero waste. DVD recordings of their presentations were used to deepen community awareness.

Opposition to the incinerator grew in the spring of 2011 when Clean Water Action financed and—with community input—designed 4 billboards and numerous yard signs that broadcast their message to the general public, attracting the attention of the Mayor, local media, and the OSGC.

However, the fight was not without its challenges. For months, the Mayor, City Council and elected officials of the Oneida Nation avoided meeting with organizers.

IFBC kept detailed records of all documents produced by the OSGC and used these to strategically expose contradictions in the company’s technology claims. Organizers met with local officials, educating Green Bay’s elected leaders on the environmental, health, and economic impacts of the incinerator. Local residents were encouraged to contact officials to ensure that public opposition remained on the agenda.

Finally, in October 2012, after a legal challenge highlighting misleading claims by the incinerator company, IFBC and allies convinced the Green Bay Council to revoke the incinerator’s conditional use permit.  After the Mayor decided not to veto the council’s vote, the City Attorney officiated revoking of the permit.

Organizers with IFBC have shared their insights in their Incinerator Resistance Guide—so that other grassroots groups can learn from their lessons, mistakes, and successes as well as ways to maintain good humor during such protracted battles, where persistence and perseverance win.


Organizing the Oneida Nation with Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Leah Sue Dodge is a member of the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin, one of six Indigenous Nations that make up the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. Leah first learned of the waste burner from an opinion piece in the Oneida Tribal newspaper. Her community was already wary of the toxic threats posed by this facility, as well as the prospect of thousands of diesel trucks transporting garbage through the community on route to the incinerator.

With the emerging debate in neighboring Green Bay, and news that the incinerator company had made claims there would be no harmful emissions, not even smokestacks, associated with this untested waste gasification technology, members of Leah’s community grew increasingly concerned.

After the Green Bay City Council revoked the incinerator permit, OSGC followed with legal action. On January 9th, 2013 a Brown County circuit court judge decided to uphold the Green Bay decision, finding that the company had indeed misrepresented the facts: “(OSGC) indicated that there are no smoke stacks, no oxygen, and no ash. I am satisfied that is a misstatement.”

The decision prompted OSGC to look at siting a smaller “plastics-to-fuel” incinerator on tribal lands—as a stepping-stone towards a “full size” facility. Learning this news Leah decided to get more involved. As an Oneida member, Leah felt a responsibility to warn her community about Oneida money being invested in this project, and that her Tribe’s reputation was at stake, despite personal concerns about how her actions could affect her Tribal employment due to the powerful and moneyed interests involved. However, in her words, “The risk of my home being poisoned was greater than these fears.”

To start her inquiry, Leah decided to meet with key Oneida decision-makers: Oneida Business Committee Chair Ed Delgado and Yvonne Metivier, Oneida Elder Advisor to the Chairperson. Metivier suggested Leah draft a petition to demonstrate broad community opposition, and bring the matter before the General Tribal Council for a vote. She advised Dodge to keep the petition focused, and achievable in scope: a) aimed at stopping the incinerator from being approved for all Oneida lands, and, b) worded in a manner that did not require extensive legislative or financial analysis.

Leah promptly went to work, drafting and seeking signatures for the petition, which read: The General Tribal Council directs the Oneida Business Committee to stop Oneida Seven Generations Corporation (OSGC) from building any “gasification” or “waste-to-energy” or “plastics recycling” plant at N7239 Water Circle Place, Oneida, WI or any other location on the Oneida Reservation.

Over the next 10 days, Leah gathered names on the petition, ensuring they were all Oneida members of voting age. Signatures of Oneida members of all ages, as well as members of other tribes were also presented to the Oneida Land Commission in opposition to a land-use permit for the facility. Despite the proposed site being in ecologically sensitive wetlands, and less than a mile from the Turtle Elementary School, the high school and Oneida legislative offices, the Commission decided in favor of the facility.

At this stage, Leah decided to seek broader community engagement. Leading into the May 2013 general assembly of the Oneida Tribal Council, Leah purchased ads in the Tribal newspaper, distributed information for concerned Oneidas to share via social networks. Leah worked with others to develop a community action for two days at an intersection near the incinerator site. Deliberately choosing not to label the action a “protest”, they called it a Fun Action of Conscience & Teaching (FACT). “This was about supporting what we are for, rather than focusing solely on what we are against.”


Oneida artist Scott Hill recommended using visuals emphasizing traditional Oneida beliefs about the teaching spirits of animals, including the guiding stories of the clan animals, Turtle, Bear and Wolf:

  • The Turtle symbolizes Mother Earth, turtle island – the caretakers of the land
  • The Bear is a symbol of the Earth’s natural medicines and plants, healers
  • The Wolf clans are the peacekeepers, pathfinders – guarding and guiding communities against harm. I am of the wolf clan….

In sharing the principles embedded in these stories with community members, families and friends driving and walking by; stopping, listening, and engaging in discussion—dozens of new community members resolved to oppose the toxic threat to their lands, their families and their community.

Visually communicating these stories was a key element of the FACT action, with artistry by Hill helping illustrate the philosophy of caring for earth’s precious resources—because the Great Law of Peace teaches that in all actions we must consider how we affect the next seven generations. Leah noted this philosophy was clearly at odds with the business model of any company planning to waste and burn earth’s resources, despite their attempts at green branding.

Hill also painted posters combining tribal icons with gas masks because, “everybody understands poison”. Scott’s grandson, Talyn Metoxen, enjoyed taking part as well, wearing a gas mask and holding his grandfather’s artwork.

The FACT action coupled with strong presentations to the Oneida General Tribal Council served to unite the Oneida community against the burners, going to show how community-led organizing can be irresistible when coupled with place-based culture and ecosystems knowledge.

Leah Sue Dodge acknowledges the support received from the Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin, IFBC and their neighbors of the Mather Heights Neighborhood Association, who all valiantly and victoriously fought the incinerator proposal outside the Oneida Reservation. She hopes that, moving forward, Tribal leadership will work with these organizations to challenge environmental and health threats for the benefit of everyone.

Boeing’s opposition to fish study a sticking point in budget

Jerry Cornfield, The Herald

OLYMPIA — A dispute on how much seafood Washington residents devour entangled lawmakers Tuesday as they worked to reach agreement on a budget and avert a partial shutdown of state government next week.

The House and Senate collided on whether a study is needed before any work is done to revise state rules that tie the amount of fish each resident eats with the levels of contaminants allowed in water discharged from industrial facilities.

Boeing Co. opposes efforts to increase the fish consumption figure because it would lead to stricter water quality standards. Compliance could require the company to spend millions of dollars in renovations at the facilities.

The budget passed by the Senate in the first special session funds a comprehensive study to figure out how much fin fish and shell fish each resident will consume over their lifetime. The Senate did not include the study in the budget it approved during the regular session.

Senators want the study to determine where fish consumption is highest and lowest in the state, what species are getting eaten and even “the preparation and cooking methods” for the fish used by residents.

The budget does not say when the study is due or how much it will cost, though a person familiar with it estimated the price would be around $1 million.

House Democrats and Gov. Jay Inslee strongly oppose the Senate approach. Representatives reached Tuesday said they viewed the study as an attempt to indefinitely delay the process of changing the fish consumption standard.

Nonetheless, House and Senate members were working Tuesday on compromise language to clear away one of the last impediments to securing a deal on a new two-year spending plan for the state.

Fish consumption is not a new issue around Olympia.

Under former Gov. Chris Gregoire, the state Department of Ecology was in the midst of boosting the fish consumption figures and toughening water quality rules when Gregoire interceded to derail the effort. Her ecology director at the time, Ted Sturdevant, is now a key adviser to Inslee.

Gregoire acted amid heavy lobbying from Boeing and other large firms on the potential economic effect to their businesses, according to a story by InvestigateWest reporter Robert McClure that ran in The Herald.

This year Inslee sought to keep the matter out of the hands of lawmakers.

“We’re working on the issue,” he said in a March interview following a speech to members of the Aerospace Futures Alliance.

“It’s a really important issue both for health issues and aerospace so we’re working on a solution to solve both problems,” he said. “As far as timing, I can’t give you an answer on that.”

Responsibility to Future Generations: Renewable Energy Development on Tribal Lands

David Agnew, Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, meets with leaders of the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians and the Moapa Solar Project. (by Eric Lee)
David Agnew, Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, meets with leaders of the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians and the Moapa Solar Project. (by Eric Lee)

David Agnew,

Today, the President announced his comprehensive plan to cut the carbon pollution that is changing our climate and affecting public health.  Reducing carbon pollution will keep our air and water clean and safe for our kids and grandkids.  It will also create jobs in the industries of the future as we modernize our power plants to produce cleaner forms of American-made energy that reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  And it will lower home energy bills and begin to slow the effects of climate change.

While no single step can reverse the effects of climate change, we need to begin preparing to leave a safe and clean planet to our children.  Last weekend, in the desert northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada, I had the privilege of visiting a project that is already working to meet the challenges laid out today in the President’s Climate Action Plan.  The intense desert heat and bright sun made it crystal clear to anyone who stepped outside that this location has plenty of solar energy to harness.

The Moapa Solar Project, on the Moapa River Indian Reservation, is a 350 megawatt solar energy project that will help power over 100,000 homes and generate 400 jobs at peak construction.   The Moapa Paiute tribe has set aside approximately 2,000 acres of their 72,000 acre Reservation for the project, including some acreage to ensure a protected habitat for the endangered desert tortoises living near the project. A commitment to protect their tribal homelands from the effects of existing power sources led this tribe to gain approval from the Secretary of the Interior in 2012 for construction of the first utility-scale solar project on tribal lands.  As part of the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, the Moapa Solar project will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil while creating good jobs in the heart of Indian Country – jobs that can’t be shipped overseas.

The 56 million acres of tribal lands in the United States hold great potential for solar, wind and geothermal projects, and the Obama Administration remains committed to working with tribes on a government-to-government basis to help break down the barriers to clean energy development.  The passage of the HEARTH Act and the recently updated Department of the Interior regulations to streamline leasing on tribal lands are returning greater control over land use decisions to tribes, and individual landowners are already helping to promote housing and economic development throughout Indian Country.  The Moapa Solar Project holds valuable lessons that we will look to as we seek to encourage additional clean energy projects on tribal lands.

While visiting the site of the Moapa Solar Project, I also had the pleasure of meeting a dedicated group of tribal leaders and project managers who are working hard to make this project a reality.  I appreciated their hospitality on a hot Saturday afternoon.  All the best to Chairman Anderson, and a warm thank you to Vice Chairman Lee, Environmental Coordinator Darren Daboda, the Moapa Tribal Council and other tribal leaders who are working hard to bring clean energy and good jobs to their community.  I applaud the Moapa Tribe’s leadership, vision and perseverance, and wish them all the best in this exciting endeavor.

David Agnew is the Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

Massive flooding hits Canada’s dirty energy center: A wakeup call on climate change?

Rising floodwaters seen in Calgary this weekend. Photo: Wayne Stadler/cc/flickr
Rising floodwaters seen in Calgary this weekend. Photo: Wayne Stadler/cc/flickr

Andrea Germanos, June 24, 2013, Common Dreams

Might the torrential rainfalls that have set off record floods in the Canadian province of Alberta—home of the massive tar sands project—jolt action on climate change?

Widespread flooding has left homes and business submerged, washed out roads and left rivers swelling. In Calgary, Canada’s dirty energy capital, tens of thousands of residents have been displaced due to the flooding, while thousands have had to flee the southeastern city of Medicine Hat, which is still bracing for more floods on Monday.

“This is like nothing we’ve ever seen before in Alberta,” Alberta Premier Alison Redford said on Sunday.

The heavy rains also hit farther north, closer to the tar sands belly of the beast, triggering an oil spill that forced oil giant Enbridge to shut three of its major pipelines serving the tar sands.

The crude oil giant reported on Saturday that “unusually heavy rains in the area may have resulted in ground movement on the right-of way that may have impacted” its Line 37 pipeline causing a spill of 750 barrels.

The spill prompted the company to shut its Athabasca and Waupisoo pipelines as well.

But the disastrous flooding that has hit the province is a disaster foretold, Calgary resident and journalist Andrew Nikiforuk wrote in The Tyee Monday:

In 2005 the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative promised warming temperatures, melting glaciers, variable rainfall, changes in stream flows, accelerated evaporation and more extreme events.

In 2006 climate scientist Dave Sauchyn told a Banff audience that “droughts of longer duration and greater frequency, as well as unusual wet periods and flooding” would be the new forecast. Meanwhile researchers documented a 26-day shift in the onset of spring in Alberta over the past century.

Five years later the Bow River Council concluded that “Our rapidly growing population demands much of the land and water. Our climate is changing and the future of our water supplies is uncertain.”

In 2010 the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, an agency that the Harper government killed last year because it didn’t like its messages on climate change, reported that changing precipitation patterns were “the most common gradual, long-term risk from a changing climate identified by Canadian companies.” […]

In 2011 the NREE published more inconvenient truths in a document called Paying the Price. It concluded that annual cost of flooding in Canada due to climate change could total $17 billion a year by 2050.

A 2011 document on climate change’s impact on the Bow River warned that events could be far more severe than modern water management has previously experienced.”

And then came the kicker. In 2012 Insurance Bureau of Canada produced a report by Gordon McBean, an expert on catastrophes. It bluntly warned that Alberta “will be greatly affected by drought and water scarcity under changing climate conditions, and can expect potential increases in hail, storm and wildfire events.” Spring rainfall could increase by 10 to 15 per cent in southern Alberta too.

Maybe, though, wrote Nikiforuk, this will be “Calgary’s Manhattan Moment” in which the people of Calgary “may even reassess their government’s carbon-laden pipeline fantasies as well as the pace and scale of the tar sands.”

5 takeaways from President Obama’s climate speech

President Obama spoke today about his climate agenda at Georgetown University (Larry Downing/Reuters)
President Obama spoke today about his climate agenda at Georgetown University (Larry Downing/Reuters)

By Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post

What did we learn from President Obama’s climate speech Tuesday? Here are five takeaways.

1. He won’t duck the climate implications of Keystone XL, even though he may still end up approving it. Obama declared, “Our national interest will be served only if this pipeline does not significantly exacerbate the climate problem.” That means the administration will be analyzing whether approving the project will generate more greenhouse gas emissions than blocking it would. However in its draft environmental impact assessment, the State Department indicated that even if the president denies a permit to TransCanada to build the project, the oil in Alberta may be shipped to the U.S. by rail, leading to comparable emissions. So Obama’s final decision will largely depend on how his deputies crunch the numbers.

2. Electric utilities will face stricter carbon limits, but we won’t know for a year what they will look like. Obama said when it comes to power plants being able to emit unlimited carbon for free: “That’s not right, that’s not safe, and it needs to stop.” But under the timeline he issued today, the Environmental Protection Agency won’t issue a proposed rule on existing power plants until June 2014, and won’t finalize it for another year after that. As American Electric Power’s president and CEO Nick Akins said in an interview after the speech: “So the devil’s still in the details.”

3. The president is willing to demonize climate skeptics. “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth society,” the president said, a shot across the bow given the fact that most congressional Republicans question the link between human activity and global warming.

4. The Obama administration will apply the climate test broadly, to decisions ranging from flood insurance to federal road projects. One of the least-trumpted and most significant elements of the new initiative is that the White House will now factor in climate impacts to a host of decisions, including how to construct new projects and rebuild after federal disasters.

5. Obama hopes to secure a few international climate agreements by the end of his second term. It’s not unusual for second-term presidents to focus on foreign policy; Obama made it clear in his speech that it was time for the U.S. “to lead” on climate, by striking a handful of accords on greenhouse gas emissions. That could include a global agreement to phase out hydrofluorcarbons, potent greenhouse gases used in refrigerants and air conditioning, as well as a bilateral climate agreement with China.

This is what your supermarket would look like if all the bees died off

Holly Richmond, The Grist

From bee-killing companies pretending to love bees to researchers frantically trying to create a disease-resistant superbee, it’s been kind of a rough week for bees, who have already been having a rough couple of years due to dying off left and right. But why should you care? It’s not like bees are delivering your mail or making you dinner or sewing your clothes, Cinderella-style.

But bees DO pollinate a bunch of shit that you probably like to eat. Need a visual? Check out these before and after pics from Whole Foods that illustrate the amount of produce that would vanish if all the bees died off:


Screen shot 2013-06-13 at (Jun 13) 1
Whole Foods Market

According to Whole Foods:

One of every three bites of food comes from plants pollinated by honeybees and other pollinators. Yet, major declines in bee populations threaten the availability of many fresh ingredients consumers rely on for their dinner tables.

To raise awareness of just how crucial pollinators are to our food system, the University Heights Whole Foods Market store temporarily removed all produce that comes from plants dependent on pollinators. They pulled from shelves 237 of 453 products – 52 percent of the department’s normal product mix.

Freaky, right? At least we’ll still have chili-cheese Fritos.