Rep. Markey wins election for Senate seat in Massachusetts

Indianz.com

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, will be joining the U.S. Senate. Markey won a special election for the seat that was vacated by former Sen. John Kerry (D), who now serves as Secretary of State under President Barack Obama. Markey defeated Republican Gabriel Gomez. With Markey leaving the House, the next person in line for the top Democratic spot on the House Natural Resources Committee is Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon). But news reports say Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Arizona), who has a more prominent record on Indian issues, is also vying for the post.

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, www.whitehouse.gov

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.

A Conversation With Sprint Car Racing Champion Glenn Styres

Vincent Schilling, Indian Country Today Media Network

Though Sprint Car racing champion Glenn Styres, Tuscarora, may have the number zero emblazoned on his car and his jacket , he is certainly not a zero on the track or in his life. As of April 2012, when ICTMN last spoke with him, Styres boasted 27 career victories racing 360 and 410 Sprint Cars.

Since that time he has had added a few more wins. And he’s also won by losing–pounds, that is. Styres made a healthy effort to lose weight, and he’s been successful. And that’s helping him on the race track, too.

In a conversation with ICTMN, Styres, the owner of Ohsweken Speedway in Ontario and 2012 winner of the King of the 360’s, talked about his success in his professional and personal lives and how the two concepts work well together for a life of continuous achievements.

How have things been going the last year?

You know, I’ve won three of the last four races. I started out the season and I swear to God I could have won the first one I was in, but I started my victory speech before I crossed the finish line. I guess you call it counting your chickens before they’re hatched or some damn thing like that.

What else has been going on for you?

In January, I went to the Chili Bowl Nationals. It’s a race that I race in every year. I had gained a lot of weight and I was not taking care of myself. I broke my wrist; I had shoulder surgery, knee surgery and suffered from ailment after ailment.

The weight just creeped on. Before I knew it, I was 250 pounds and I did not fit in my car very good. My face was squishing into my helmet’s windshield. I was really snug in the car, I was really uncomfortable and it was dangerous and I couldn’t breathe.

Something happened where I said, ‘This is it, and I’m going to turn my health around.’ I got a personal trainer and a nutritionist, I focused, worked hard and after 12 weeks, I am now 202 pounds. I lost 48 pounds.

I was speaking to someone at the office and told her, “I hope I do well this year.” She said, “You are already working on it. What you are doing today is creating your future.’”I never forgot that. For six weeks, I have maintained my weight. I have now set a new goal to be 195 pounds with my personal trainer.

I was 27 years old when I was last 205 lbs. I haven’t been 195 since high school.

That is impressive to make such a healthy change. Has it affected your ability to race a Sprint Car?

My car loves the new weight. I have laid down the fastest laps, I am strong in the car and I don’t run out of wind like I used to. I don’t lose focus. It is something short of a miracle.

I’ve been fortunate to work with such people as Sylvester Stallone, Tiger Woods and Al Pacino, and if I’m going to be representing diabetes I am not a very good representative. I didn’t like the way I looked. I want to practice what I preach.

To do this, I have been carrying my lunch bag with me with all my fruits and vegetables, which is hard to do in this day and age because this whole industry is designed for failure. You can’t go to a restaurant and get a salad, there’s too much crap in it. I stay out of restaurants now. If I go to a restaurant, I make my shake and I will go in and have a light salad.

Out of all the vehicles in the world to race, you chose to race Sprint. What is a 360 or 410 Sprint Car and why did you choose this particular vehicle?

This is my analogy of a Sprint Car. You have heard of the UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship]? It is very violent and an all or nothing kind of fighting. That is Sprint Car racing. It is the fastest and most violent form of motorsports with 4 wheels you could ever imagine.

If you get somebody that races Formula One cars to come and race one of these, they will say ‘Are you freaking nuts? I ain’t freaking driving one of them.’

These things take you for a ride, you don’t drive them. This car is two seconds faster than NASCAR or Formula One’s. They took this car to Bristol to find the fastest racecar; The Sprint Car was by far the most dominant, had the most horsepower per pound and was the most feared car to drive.

Sprint cars weigh about 1,450 pounds. The 360 is 740 horsepower and the 410 car is 900 horsepower. But the 410s have an aluminum front engine, which makes the front end a lot lighter. It is wicked and spooky. Just to drive the 410 car has taken me several years to get used to.

I talked to Donny Schatz, a World of Outlaws champion, and said, “these things are scary, they petrify me.” I asked him, “how long is it going to take for me to get used to these things?” He said, “It doesn’t go away.” I said, “you gotta be kidding me.”

Driving a Sprint Car is going 160 miles an hour in a snowstorm on roads you don’t know. That is basically how much you pucker up driving these things.

You were heading out to the Knoxville Nationals last August. How’d it go?

Out of 150 cars approximately, I was the sixth fastest overall. And I was 250 pounds at the time. I am going to go down there this year 50 pounds lighter and I got a special engine made which is 30 pounds lighter so I am taking 80 pounds off my car. Those guys are going to catch hell.

What’s your career highlight?

The biggest race of my career was in East Bay, Florida in February, The King of 360’s which was a copy0,000 to win show, I missed practice, our event was Thursday night and I started 42nd in points – which is last place. I still turned up number one at the end of the night. It was spectacular. On the last corner, on the last pass it was wicked.

In general, what would you say are the key factors to your success?

The biggest thing is that your attitude controls your altitude. If you have a good attitude you get a lot of help and a lot of support. In this industry I see a lot of bad attitudes and they’re not around for very long. With me, it is “yes sir, no sir.” To carry yourself as well-mannered and as a polite businessman is key. If you do the right thing, the right things will happen.

It is tough, because I didn’t start racing until late. I was 35 years old when I started. A lot of people are retiring at this time. For me to get into a sport at such a late age and not ever having driven a Sprint Car, now that I think about it, it’s quite amazing.

One of the analogies I use is that driving one of the Sprint cars is like learning to play a fine instrument like a violin or piano. It takes 12 years to become a phenomenon. I started racing in 2000 so this is my 13th year. I am telling you, my car is magical. My whole team and everything is magical. I am just speechless.

I don’t know how to describe it, but I am at the point in my car that I don’t know what my feet are doing, I don’t know what my hands are doing, they are just trained and conditioned now to do whatever they have to do without me thinking about it. It is an amazing feeling. I have people coming up to me that say, ‘Man, you just make that look so easy, that car is just gliding around.’

I don’t know how to describe the feeling, the energy – I am so proud, I don’t know how to describe it. I can have the worst day of my life, but when I get into that car, everything just disappears. It is just paradise.

Do you have any words of advice for a young person who wants to get into car racing?

I have always said to anybody that would listen, “Never give up on your dreams. Dream big and keep dreaming and just keep it in sight. Look at my dream; it didn’t happen until I was 35.”

 

Read more at https://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/06/26/conversation-sprint-car-racing-champion-glenn-styres-150112

Leonard Peltier Day Honors Imprisoned Native Icon

Gale Courey Toensing, Indian Country Today Media Network

Leaders of the Oglala Lakota Nation have declared June 26 Leonard Peltier Day in honor of the American Indian Movement activist who has been in prison for 36 years, convicted of murdering two FBI agents in a trial that leading social justice organizations say was unfair and tainted by political influence.

Peltier (Anishinaabe-Lakota) was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in 1977 for the death of two FBI agents during a confrontation with American Indian Movement (AIM) members on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota June 26, 1975. Peltier admits to being present, but denied at his trial and ever since that he shot the agents. Amnesty International calls Peltier a political prisoner.

Oglala Lakota Nation President Bryan Brewer and Vice-President Thomas Poor Bear issued a proclamation June 24 naming June 26thLeonard Peltier Day. The proclamation reads:

Whereas, June 26, 1975, is a historical day on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and

Whereas, The Oglala Sioux Tribe holds in high esteem people who stand for peace, justice and freedom, and

Whereas, Leonard Peltier, a man asked to stand and protect traditional elders and the Lakota Oyate, sacrificed himself that day, and

Whereas, we hereby proclaim this day so the Oyate and the world will know and honor Mr. Peltier and remember that we as a people continue to heal, and

Whereas, although Mr. Peltier cannot be in attendance for this historic event, we must and will continue his work to heal a nation through human rights, social rights and indigenous rights all over the world, now

Therefore, pursuant to vested authority, we do as President and Vice President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, hereby proclaim June 26, 2013 as a day of honoring for Mr. Leonard Peltier and hereafter every 26th day of June.

Len Foster, Navajo, a volunteer spiritual advisor for Native prisoners, visited Peltier in U.S. penitentiaries for 28 years, including Leavenworth in Kansas and Lewisburg in Pennsylvania, sharing sweat lodge and pipe ceremonies. But Foster has not seen Peltier for over a year since he was transferred to the prison in Colemen, Florida, a maximum-security facility with restrictive visiting rules.

“They consider him a maximum security level prisoner and his security clearance has stayed the same even though he has become a model inmate and a revered elder in the eyes of other Native prisoners. He’s 69 years old, and he’s been incarcerated 36 years now and has some health issues, including diabetes and high blood pressure and the pains and ailments around them,” Foster told Indian Country Today Media Network.

Peltier became eligible for parole years ago, Foster said, “yet they continue to deny him. I think it’s time he was paroled and if not paroled then released for medical purposes or on clemency. We’re working on a presidential pardon,” Foster said. “We continue to ask everyone to support his release, including the readers of this story. By writing Obama a handwritten letter asking for a pardon for Leonard. That would bring about some reconciliation between the non-Indians, the USD government and the Indian nations. We continue to pray that will happen.”

 

Marchers carry a large painting of American Indian Leonard Peltier during a “National Day of Mourning,” Thursday, November 22, 2001, in Plymouth, Massachusetts. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Marchers carry a large painting of American Indian Leonard Peltier during a “National Day of Mourning,” Thursday, November 22, 2001, in Plymouth, Massachusetts. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

 

Read more at https://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/06/26/leonard-peltier-day-honors-imprisoned-native-icon-150122

Supreme Court Reverses, Remands Baby Veronica Case Back to South Carolina

 Dusten Brown with daughter Baby Veronica in their Nowata, Oklahoma home (Cherokee Nation)

Dusten Brown with daughter Baby Veronica in their Nowata, Oklahoma home (Cherokee Nation)

Suzette Brewer, Indian Country Today Media Network

In a move that ensured the protracted continuance of the four-year custody battle over Veronica Brown, the Supreme Court today reversed and remanded Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl back to the South Carolina courts for further review. In a narrow 5-4 ruling that revealed the philosophical fracture among the justices, the nation’s highest Court held that sections of the Indian Child Welfare Act “did not bar the termination of parental rights” under state law.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, rested the majority argument on the hair-splitting phrase “continued custody,” holding that “showing that serious harm to the Indian child is likely to result from the parent’s ‘continued custody’ of the child—does not apply when, as here, the relevant parent never had custody of the child.” Further, the majority ruled that existing Indian family placement preference do not apply when “no alternative party has formally sought to adopt the child.”

Though the Court did not terminate the parental rights of Dusten Brown or transfer custody of Veronica back to the Capobiancos, the justices left intact the remainder of the Indian Child Welfare Act and remanded the case back to South Carolina. Now, Brown and the Capobiancos will square off yet again in what has become one of the longest, most bitter, contentious and expensive custody fights in U.S. History. In his ominous concurrence with the majority ruling, Justice Clarence Thomas raised the stakes by included a voluminous appraisal of the Indian Commerce Clause and its rhetorical application in the difference between “tribes” and “Indian persons.”

In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor made clear that simply because the majority disagreed with the Congressional policies outlined in ICWA, it was not a valid reason to “distort the provisions of the Act.”

“The majority does not and cannot reasonably dispute that ICWA grants biological fathers, as “parent[s],” the right to be present at a termination of parental rights proceeding and to have their views and claims heard there.” wrote Justice Sotomayor.  “But the majority gives with one hand and takes away with the other. Having assumed a uniform federal definition of “parent” that confers certain procedural rights, the majority then illogically concludes that ICWA’ substantive protections are available only to a subset of “parent[s]”: those who have previously had physical or state-recognized legal custody of his or her child. The statute does not support this departure.”

Court watchers in this case have now shifted the focus from the stricken provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act to the broader, more widely interpreted standard of “best interest analysis” in determining custodial placement of Veronica between Matt and Melanie Capobianco and Dusten and Robin Brown.

“What this Court said is that going forward, unwed birth fathers who do not take the steps required to acquire parental rights will not benefit from the provisions in ICWA,” said Martin Guggenheim, Professor of Law at New York University. “By remanding back to the lower courts, ‘best interest’ is now a new question before the courts, and that she may suffer a second disruption in her life. But Sotomayor did remind the reader in her dissent that the Cherokee Nation could put forward other options in jurisdiction and adoptive preference. Either way, the Supreme Court won’t care what South Carolina does with respect to interest, though the length of time [Veronica] spent with the father is now a factor in his favor.”

While the Court did strike certain sections of the law, it left intact the rest of the act, which is still applicable under federal mandate.

“We’re relieved that the Court upheld Congressional authority to protect Indian children,” said Terry Cross, executive director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association. “This decision only applies to unwed fathers, but it remains our job to make sure people know that ICWA is still law, it’s still in force and they have to follow it.”

At the Cherokee Nation tribal headquarters in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, Principal Chief Bill John Baker pledged the tribe’s support in assisting Dusten Brown in the duration of this litigation.

“Certainly we’re disappointed with the ruling, namely because Dusten Brown now has a whole litany of legal issues still before him,” said Baker. “But we are hopeful that he will prevail because the facts in this case are on his side. As a father and grandfather, it’s hard to see any parent be told that they can’t raise their own biological child. Regardless of the circumstances, it has been extremely painful to watch.”

 

Read more at https://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/06/26/supreme-court-reverses-remands-baby-veronica-case-back-south-carolina-150121

Bill and Hillary Clinton’s Global Initiative Ups Support of Tribes

Rob Capriccioso, Indian Country Today Media Network

On June 15, Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) announced plans to promote and help six South Dakota tribes develop a joint wind energy project. The tribes are the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate and the Yankton Sioux Tribe; the project will ultimately see them place several wind turbines on their reservations in an effort to create electricity to sell on the open market.

“It has always bothered me that the green energy revolution has escaped the tribal lands by and large,” President Bill Clinton said at a June 15 event hosted by the foundation in Chicago. “Those who live on tribal lands without casinos still have the lowest per capita income in the country. The potential of this is staggering.”

The tribes are raising funds and increasing financial capacity to make their vision happen, so the promotion by CGI at this early stage is important, organizers say. The project is estimated to cost up to $3 billion, and this money is supposed to be raised by a power authority that will be formed and owned by the tribes.

Clinton said this was a “favorite commitment” of his because it stands to benefit both poor tribes and America at large.

While the Clintons have gone out of their way to say that their foundation work is not political, their new and increased outreach to tribes on renewable energy is seen as a positive sign for tribal advocates who hope to curry favor in 2016 and beyond. And for the Clintons and their allies, tribal contributions and Indian votes are always attractive.

Bob Gough, a leader with the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy, is one who looks favorably on “a new and growing relationship with CGI and Indian country,” saying that Hillary Clinton “has been an ally for years.” He noted that his organization has previously worked with her on tribal wind power issues to seek a change in tax policy to help tribes in this area.

Gough noted, too, that his organization has worked with CGI since 2005 and helped offset half of the carbon footprint of the foundation’s first meeting. He has met twice with President Clinton, who has said during these meetings that he wishes he could have done more as President for tribal communities.

Hillary Clinton, who left her position as Secretary of State with the Obama administration on February 1, joined the Clinton family foundation just a few days before the CGI tribal announcement. In her opening speech at the CGI conference where the tribal announcement was made, she identified three major areas that she would focus on—early childhood development, economic development and opportunities for women and girls.

“The Oceti Sakowin Wind Project fits perfectly with this focus, so regardless of whether she again seeks public office, we hope that she will continue to champion policies that will spur economic development in Indian country,” said Jon Canis, a lawyer with Arent Fox who has worked pro bono for the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

Finding ways for the federal government to work with tribal governments on renewable energy projects has been a major focus of some tribes throughout the Obama administration to date, and many would like to see increased work done in this area in future administrations.

Canis noted that President Clinton was the first sitting president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to visit a reservation when he visited Pine Ridge in 1999, and Hillary Clinton campaigned strongly for the Native vote in 2008. He said that he is hopeful the new CGI support signifies an understanding of the importance of building a strong economic base for tribes.

“We hope that whoever may run in the 2016 election will work hard to gain the trust and support of Indian country and pursue policies that promote economic development on rural tribal lands,” Canis added.

Canis said the Clintons have a standing invitation to visit any of the reservations of the participating tribes. “Now that the Oceti Sakowin Wind Project is a featured commitment with CGI America, we will submit progress reports every six months, and will be invited to attend the next conference to report in person. As progress on this project continues, we hope it will cause many dignitaries, including the Clintons, to visit the tribes to see for themselves.”

 

Read more at https://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/06/24/bill-and-hillary-clintons-global-initiative-ups-support-tribes-150081

At-risk kids get a new safe haven

Julie Muhlstein, The Herald

It’s a bigger safety net for kids, an immediate way out of dangerous situations.

That’s how Cocoon House CEO Cassie Franklin describes a new program, National Safe Place. Bright yellow “Safe Place” signs will soon show up on all Everett Transit buses. The signs are part of the National Safe Place effort to let kids know that help is available for the asking.

Cocoon House, a local agency that shelters and provides other programs to at-risk young people, is working with Everett Transit to bring National Safe Place to Snohomish County.

“It allows us to reach kids in that moment they want help,” Franklin said. It could be late at night. A child might be a runaway, or may have left a dangerous party.

Drivers on all buses with “Safe Place” signs will be trained to help, Franklin said. If a young person asks, the driver will call Cocoon House to send a “navigator,” a staff member available around the clock to pick up that child or teen. Help could be as simple as a ride home, or as comprehensive as emergency shelter and counseling.

“It’s an exceptional program,” Franklin said.

Cocoon House will officially launch National Safe Place at Saturday’s grand opening of its new Cocoon Outreach Center in Everett. The event, open to the public, is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the center at 1421 Broadway.

The two-story outreach center is several blocks north of the former Cocoon House U-Turn Drop-In Center. That facility was in leased space. Cocoon House used grant money to buy and renovate the building for its new outreach center, formerly Old West Mortgage.

The new center is more than double the size of the old U-Turn site, with upstairs space for a WorkSource representative and a drug and alcohol treatment coordinator from Catholic Community Services. There’s room, too, for a shower and full kitchen.

“It’s a wonderful space,” Franklin said. The new center will have Cocoon House staff to help kids with housing and counseling information, school goals or reconnecting with family. Many teens on the streets are involved in gangs or are sexually exploited, she said.

“It’s nice to have all those services right there, with food, a place to get inside from the rain, so they can just spend time being a kid again,” Franklin said.

National Safe Place is one more way to help get kids off the streets. Franklin said Safe Place signs will be displayed first on Everett Transit buses, but the program may grow to include libraries and other venues.

Although it’s a partnership with Everett Transit, Franklin said Cocoon House is the lead agency for the program here. With a cost of about $70,000 per year, most of that for staff time, National Safe Place is supported locally by the Evertrust Foundation, the Howarth Foundation and individual donors. “We are still in search of additional funding partners,” Franklin said.

Steffani Lillie, an Everett Transit spokeswoman, isn’t sure when signs will go up on buses, but said Tuesday that Cocoon House and transit agency administrators recently took part in Safe Place training. Driver training will follow that, she said.

“We’re still working out logistics,” Lillie said. Along with Cocoon House navigators, transit inspectors may also be called upon to take kids to safe places, she said.

“We currently operate in 41 of 50 states at nearly 20,000 Safe Place locations,” said Hillary Bond, a spokeswoman for National Safe Place. Based in Louisville, Ky., the program was started in 1983.

National Safe Place has been in operation in King County about two years, Franklin said. While Cocoon House is licensed to run the program in Snohomish County, in the Seattle area it is run by YouthCare.

Around the country, Bond said, Safe Place signs are up in buses, YMCAs, fire stations, grocery stores and fast-food restaurants.

“Teens may be experiencing a family crisis, bullying or sexual identity issues. We want them to seek help,” Bond said. “The ultimate goal is to reunite the child with their family, if possible.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Grand opening

The Cocoon House Outreach Center will host a grand opening 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday at its new facility, 1421 Broadway, Everett. It will include the launch of National Safe Place. RSVP requested, not required; email julio.cortes@cocoonhouse.org

Information about Cocoon House: www.cocoonhouse.org/index

Information about National Safe Place: http://nationalsafeplace.org

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.”

Obama’s Plan for the Climate: Greenwash Our Way into Oblivion

By Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

At 1:45 today, President Obama announced his new Climate Action Plan in a nationally televised speech.

He described the emerging climate crisis and its impacts–both past, present and future, while be suffered the heat of an abnormally warm June day in Washington, DC.  His arguments for climate action were compelling and hard to argue with.  Unfortunately his actions do not match his words.

Unlike Bill McKibben, I do not believe that “the solutions agenda [Obama has] begun to advance moves the country in a sane direction.” (Did you read the actual Climate Action Plan, Bill?!?)   No, what I read in Obama’s Action Plan was a rehashing of the same old dangerous false solutions that many of us have been fighting for years and years.  But what’s really criminal is that even though Obama clearly understands both the science and implications of climate change, he still pushes an agenda that will drive us all over the climate cliff.

First the plan’s “Case for Action” reiterates Obama’s pledge to decrease carbon emissions by a paltry 17% below 2005 levels by 2020–but only if all other major economies agree to do so as well.  Climate scientists are not calling for 17% reductions by 2020.  In fact, countries like the US need to reduce our emissions by 80-90%.  And not in seven years, but immediately.  Last year preferably.

The main takeaway from Obama’s horrific bit of greenwashed nonsense? We can continue our unsustainable way of life indefinitely with just a few key tweaks.

“Deploy clean energy.” Ain’t nothin’ clean about this.  Obama’s “clean energy” plan includes more fracking, more oil, more nukes, more biofuels and “clean coal.”  Yes, Obama wants to stop climate change by screwing over rural communities through promotion of more hydrofracking and increased natural gas exports; expanding domestic oil production–including the hellish Bakken shale oil fields (but don’t worry, it will be clean Bakken oil­–no really, that’s in there); devoting more land to growing feedstocks for plant-based liquid fuels (i.e. less land for biodiversity, growing food or for peasant communities to survive on); protecting forests that store carbon while cutting down trees to burn for electricity production; building more nuclear power plants (apparently never heard of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl or Fukushima); and maintaining the fantasy of that wonderful oxymoron “clean coal.” Sane direction?

Spur Investment in Advanced Fossil Energy Projects.  Like “clean” coal, we can burn our fossil fuels and stop climate change too!

Maintain Agricultural Sustainability. For this one, Obama wants us to trust the vehemently pro-GMO US Department of Agriculture to “deliver tailored, science-based knowledge to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.”  ‘Climate ready’ GMO crops anyone?

Negotiate Global Free Trade in Environmental Goods and Services.  Right, cuz global free trade has served biodiversity, ecosystems and the 99% so well!

But the most ludicrous item is the last on the menu: “Leading efforts to address climate change through international negotiations.”  (I know, I know, stop laughing)

This section excels in its newspeak.  It highlights the disastrous 2009 UN Copenhagen Climate Conference as “historic progress,” and insists that the secretly negotiated Copenhagen Accord (that was booed even by reporters when Obama announced it late in the negotiations) was a breakthrough in developing “a new regime of international transparency.”  Omitted is the fact that this Accord was never actually consensed upon, but merely “noted” by the official body.  Well history is “his story” after all…

The section goes on to trumpet the accomplishments of the equally disastrous UN Climate Conference in Durban in 2011–about which Nature Magazine wrote “It is clear that the science of climate change and the politics of climate change, now inhabit parallel worlds.”

Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International similarly condemned Durban’s outcomes, “developed countries, led by the US, accelerated the demolition of the world’s international framework for fair and urgent climate action.  And developing countries have been bullied and forced into accepting an agreement that could be a suicide pill for the world.  An increase in global temperatures of four degrees Celsius, permitted under this plan, is a death sentence for Africa, small island states, and the poor and vulnerable worldwide.  This summit has amplified climate apartheid whereby the richest 1% of the world have decided that it is acceptable to sacrifice the 99%.”

But Obama’s Climate Action Plan insists Durban was “a breakthrough”–because countries agreed to come up with some kind of new climate agreement that would not go into force until 2020.

Gee, guess who won’t be in office anymore in 2020…

Sorry, Jared, Subway food can be just as bad for you as McDonald’s

Sarah Laskow, The Grist, www.grist.org

Yes, sure, fine, it is possible to get a somewhat healthy sandwich at Subway. It will have watery, shredded lettuce on it, and peppers, and maybe avocado. It will taste like nothing. And let’s be real: That is not what people are ordering at Subway. They are ordering the foot-long Italian sub, with its layers of (relatively) delicious, fatty meat. Or they are ordering the Big Philly Cheesesteak.

The result of these choices is that, despite Subway’s enormously successful advertising campaign pitching it as a healthy fast-food alternative, the chain is feeding just as much crappy food to people as McDonald’s is. Or, as the New York Daily News reports:

“We found that there was no statistically significant difference between the two restaurants, and that participants ate too many calories at both,” public health scholar Dr. Lenard Lesser, who led the study, said in a statement.

The study sent 100 kids to McDonald’s and to Subway and tracked what they bought. The calorie count for the McDonald’s meals came in ever so slightly higher — but not enough to make a real difference. And, even without a side of salty, salty fries, Subway meals had higher sodium content.

Moral of the story: If you want to eat healthy, it doesn’t matter which chain restaurant you go to. What matters is what you order, and you’re not that likely to order the gross salad when the salty, fatty alternative is right there.