In August 2010, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit distributed an intelligence bulletin to all field offices warning that environmental extremism would likely become an increasing threat to the energy industry. The eight-page document argued that, even though the industry had encountered only low-level vandalism and trespassing, recent “criminal incidents” suggested that environmental extremism was on the rise. The FBI concluded: “Environmental extremism will become a greater threat to the energy industry owing to our historical understanding that some environmental extremists have progressed from committing low-level crimes against targets to more significant crimes over time in an effort to further the environmental extremism cause.” Since the 2010 FBI assessment was written, the specter of environmental extremism has been trotted out by both law enforcement and energy-industry security teams to describe a wide variety of grassroots groups opposed to the continued extraction of fossil fuels. Yet even as the resistance to “extreme energy projects” has grown in size and scope, there is little evidence to support the breathless warnings about “eco-terrorism.” Nevertheless, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and many state law enforcement agencies continue to promote the idea that environmental extremism is on the rise. At the same time, numerous intelligence-sharing networks between the private sector and law enforcement have been established at every level of government, giving rise to an unprecedented energy-intelligence complex.
If you look at maps of the affected areas, the inescapable impression is of vast expanses of ocean newly open for business. “This is a balanced proposal,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, acknowledging that it “would make available nearly 80 percent of the undiscovered technically recoverable resources.” If 80/20 is “balanced,” then Obama is “consistent.” In 2008, candidate Obama had attacked John McCain’s proposal to expand offshore drilling, saying, “It would have long-term consequences for our coastlines … When I’m president, I intend to keep in place the moratorium.” In early 2010, he erased that promise with a proposal to end the moratorium on oil exploration along the East Coast from the Delaware to Florida. But weeks later, the Deepwater Horizon went up in flames and sank a mile to the seafloor. It also sank Obama’s East Coast plan, which he withdrew. Now it’s back.
College students across the state convened in Annapolis yesterday afternoon to fight for stricter state environmental regulations. About 45 college students — including about 25 from this university — lobbied representatives to vote in favor of a bill that would prevent any hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the state until 2023. They also showed their support for a bill that would increase the state’s use of renewable energy sources, said Maya Spaur, a member of the Student Government Association Sustainability Committee. The group was brought together primarily by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, a nonprofit organization fighting global warming in this state, Washington and Virginia. “I’m really worried with Gov. [Larry] Hogan in the office,” said Spaur, a sophomore environmental science and technology and government and politics major.
As oceans become more acidic, the US shellfish business is facing “high economic risk” in 15 out of 23 coastal states, according to a study published Monday in the Nature Climate Change journal. Massachusetts tops the list of states facing the highest risk, the study concluded. Shelled mollusks such as oysters, clams and scallops are extremely sensitive to ocean acidification, according to the paper. Those species represent lucrative fisheries, and a big part of the economy in coastal communities that depend on their sale. The US shellfish industry brings in $1bn annually, according to the report. In the Southern Massachusetts fishery alone, shellfish makes up a $300m-per-year business, with the state giving out 1,350 commercial fishing licenses annually.
Maules Creek Mine – About 250 people gathered at the Leard State Forest in northern NSW from February 13 and 18 to stop Whitehaven Coal clearing the forest to make way for its proposed Maules Creek coalmine. The project has been plagued by protest for more than two years and more than 300 people have been arrested, including farmer Rick Laird and former Wallabies captain David Pocock. Protesters are concerned about the environmental impacts the mine will have on the surrounding forest, which comprises some of the last intact critically endangered box-gum woodland left on earth. The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage’s assessment of the project has described the forest as “irreplaceable”. The new mine is the largest coal mine under construction in Australia.
From December 1, 2014 until January 31, 2015, Fast for the Climate danced its way across Latin America, with one inspirational faith, community or activist leader fasting every day in an unbroken chain across the continent. We started in Lima on the first day of the UN Climate Talks, then finished up the Latin American leg of the 365 Days two months later. Now, the 365 Days of Fasting heads north. It continues on towards Paris, making its way across North America in February and March 2015. You can join all these fasters by signing up to Fast for the Climate on the website, fastfortheclimate.org. By doing so, you’ll join a global movement of people who fast each first day of the month as a sign of solidarity with those affected by climate change, and to demand climate action by our leaders.
When she was just 12 years old, my daughter Severn gave a speech at the 1992 UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. She spoke with such conviction that delegates were moved to tears. It was one of my proudest moments as a father. More than 20 years later, Severn is the mother of two young children, and the video of her speech is still making the rounds, inspiring people around the world. Its popularity speaks to the power the young have to affect the world’s most pressing issues. More than half the world’s population is under 30, a demographic now at the forefront of international decision-making and some of Canada’s most powerful environmental changes. Across the nation, youth are thinking critically about how we can become better stewards of our vast landscapes and spectacular wildlife and protect the air, water, soil and diversity of nature that keep us healthy and alive.
The area is known for its Calvert Cliffs, where 12-million-year-old fossils from the Miocene Era are plentiful, for its historic light house, beaches, fishing and boating, and for the usual activities of community life. Life is not so tranquil now. For the past 15 months, Cove Pointers have been learning what it means to live in a sacrifice zone, where corporate profits are more important than public safety and where their legitimate concerns are ignored. Dominion Resources is building a power plant, gas refinery and liquefaction train on the dormant site to import or export liquefied gas depending on whether the highest prices are at home or abroad. This is the first time anywhere in the world that an LNG export terminal would be placed in such a densely-populated residential community. Due to the associated pollution and hazards of chemical spills, fires and explosions, these plants are placed in remote areas or, as in the community of Quintana, Texas, the corporation offered to buy local homes at market value plus $25,000 to cover the inconvenience of moving.
I’m here from Toronto350, and we’re taking action for Global Divestment Day. Our message is that the tar sands are morally toxic and they’re economically toxic. Morally, all of their share prices are based on 5 degrees of climate change, enough to start runaway climate change. Economically, if the oil price isn’t above $95 a barrel, $271 billion of tar sands infrastructure won’t break even over the next ten years. It’s not an ethical investment. It’s not even an economically sound investment. So our message is that we have to take power away by hitting them where it hurts and be the smart money and get out of the tar sands.
A proposed expansion of the Enbridge Line 61 pipeline being debated in Dane County, Wisconsin may be even more critical than the KXL pipeline. Supervisor Patrick Miles is the chair of the Dane County Board’s Zoning and Land Regulation Committee. He recently told Madison’s community radio station WORT, “Tripling that capacity to me is… tripling the risk.” Compared to the Kalamazoo River spill, in which 800,000 gallons of Tar Sands crude spilled over the course of 17 hours, Miles said that “at the volume of what we’re talking about here, in an hour’s time, if there’s a spill at the proposed flow rate, we’d be talking about more than 2,000,000 gallons of the Tar Sands [oil] spilling. That’s a lot of oil.” Kaufman pointed out that Enbridge’s track record of spills, as well as the fact that much of the increased capacity of the line will consist of Tar Sands oil, could potentially increase that risk. The tripling in capacity of Line 61, which already carries Tar Sands crude oil from Alberta to Illinois, will make it a third larger than the projected Keystone XL.
As with many student-led movements, divestment campaigns have been dismissed by critics in the fossil fuel industry as nothing more than naïve idealism. Some researchers have also suggested that divestment campaigns, focused as they are on investments that directly relate to fossil fuels, would have limited economic impact. The economic tethers of fossil fuels, they say, stretch throughout the economy, including to the sites of investment that some divestment movements have suggested as alternatives. Yet for the students involved, understanding divestment as a strictly economic tool misses the point. Compared to private companies or governments, says Malkolm Boothroyd of Divest UVic, universities are a realistic starting point for divestment. Just as importantly, he adds, “Universities are well respected. When a university comes out and says it is not moral to invest in fossil fuels, that creates momentum.” Like the campaign for divestment from South Africa in the 1980s or tobacco in the 1990s, the current movement seeks to strip fossil fuels of their social license. For James Hutt of Divest Dal, the purpose of divestment is not just to economically undermine fossil fuels, but to promote the idea that that they’re socially unacceptable.
Residents of Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia gathered this week outside a country store, rural county courthouses, a Baptist church and a school library to protest the fossil-fuel industry’s harm to local communities. With the theme “Safeguard America’s Resources,” the Feb. 12 events included a march in Virginia to draw attention to the effects of natural gas pipelines on mountain communities; a prayer vigil and rallies in North Carolina against fracking, power plant pollution and coal ash dumping; and a student protest at Valdosta State University opposing a local pipeline project and calling on the University System of Georgia school to divest from fossil fuels. “The three-state unified message is a call to give affected communities the right to say no,” according to a statement from the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL), a North Carolina-based group working in seven states to protect the environment and public health.
Today, right now, the world is standing in a window of opportunity. Right now, the fossil fuel industry is on the defensive — from fracking bans, to the President’s renewed pledge to veto the Keystone XL bill, to a fossil fuel divestment movement that is truly hitting its stride. Today we’re demonstrating that there are thousands of people around the world who know that fossil fuel divestment is both the smart thing to do and the right thing — and those people are willing to take action in their own communities. We know that if it’s wrong to wreck the climate, then it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage. Earlier this week, the fossil fuel industry launched a concerted counter-attack on the divestment movement, only to have their efforts fall rather flat. This (perhaps apocryphal) Gandhi quote feels more apt than ever: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”