Column: Marty Nathan: Our planet has a fever

Published in the Hampshire Daily Gazette August 02, 2018

I really want to write good news. Honestly and personally, I hate heat and I hate suffering. And I hate rants. I want to write joyously about how what we are doing in cutting greenhouse gas emissions is decreasing CO2 and methane levels and fulfilling the biospheric need for a stable climate.

No such luck. The reality is that the planet itself is hot and suffering and beginning to rant, if we will listen. Last month, a Washington Post weather story began with the sentence, “From the normally mild summer climes of Ireland, Scotland and Canada to the scorching Middle East to Southern California, numerous locations in the Northern Hemisphere have witnessed their hottest weather ever recorded.” Fifty-four people died in the heat wave in Canada, and the thermometer hit 90 degrees in Northern Siberia on July 5, 40 degrees above normal. That same day, temperatures seem to have risen to the highest ever recorded on the African continent, at 124 degrees in Ouargla, Algeria. The heat surpassed or tied all-time records across North America and in Europe: from Los Angeles to Denver, Burlington and Montreal, and across the Atlantic to cities in Scotland and Ireland. Quriyat, Oman, posted the highest daily low temperature ever recorded on June 28: 109 degrees.

Our planet has a fever. The inconvenient truth is that global warming and climate chaos are happening. Heat and drought have resulted in fire seasons throughout the American West that now start three months earlier than in the past. But again, it is a world-wide phenomenon: flames are incinerating towns and forests from Redding, Calif., to Athens to northern Sweden above the Arctic Circle, each fire producing more emissions and more heat to compound the problem.

Probably our ancestors’ greatest accomplishment, the one that contributed most uniquely to the survival and dominance of our species, was control of fire. Now the effort to stop the burning of carbon to carbon dioxide poses the greatest challenge to the sustainability of life.

In the face of the crisis, leaders continue to sort themselves. There are the “climate change-makers” (ironic, since they are also the deniers). Donald Trump and his administration just last week announced a full-mouth tooth extraction from the Endangered Species Act, paving the way for more deforestation, mining, building and drilling while he ushers threatened animals and plants into extinction. For the first time since the Act’s adoption in 1973, economic impact (read profit) is to be weighed in decisions to protect species at risk, and states, who have closer ties to eager developers and drillers, will have a say in the process. Local author Elizabeth Kolbert wrote The Sixth Extinction, which reviews humanity’s startlingly rapid destruction of the planet’s flora and fauna, equivalent to only five previous known episodes of species collapse in all of Earth’s 4.5 billion-year history. Responding to Trump’s plan, she quoted Congressman Raul Grijalva, who described it as “part of the endless special favors the White House and Department of the Interior are willing to do for their industry friends.”

Grijalva is right of course. The announcement and coordinated acts by Congressional Republicans augmented the news that the administration overall has drastically cut penalties for corporate wrongdoing compared to the Obama Administration. The worst decrease in fines not surprisingly came from the Environmental Protection Agency, which lowered them by a stunning 94 percent, from $29 billion in 2016 to a measly $1.9 billion in 2017. So even if regulations are broken under the new, hobbled Endangered Species Act, violators have little to fear.

The opposition to Trump’s plundering sports an admirable lineup, though. Recently Massachusetts’ Maura Healey joined six other state attorneys general demanding that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the first time consider the environmental costs, including climate change, of building new gas pipelines. FERC is responsible for licensing new fossil fuel infrastructure, and to call it a pushover is to be kind. Since 1999, FERC has approved around 400 natural gas pipeline projects and rejected only two. In that time enough pipeline has been built to deliver nearly twice the average daily consumption of natural gas in the U.S., 40 billion cubic feet greater even than the peak demand per day during the 2014 “Polar Vortex” cold snap. “By determining public benefit without regard to adverse environmental impacts and without consideration of the climate harm caused by a project, the Commission is failing to meet its obligations…,” AG Healey stated in her comments.

So, Trump wants corporations to have control over saving species and the AGs want those who breathe air and desire a livable climate to have a say in building fossil fuel infrastructure of questionable value.

Then there is the case of Massachusetts House Democratic leadership and Speaker Robert Deleo. They had the opportunity this session to join the Senate in legislating crucial greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Yet so far, they have refused to step up to the plate. The Senate passed a clean energy bill that would: rapidly increase the renewable energy portion of our state’s electricity supply (the Renewable Portfolio Standard or RPS) sufficient to reach 100 percent by 2050; remove the net metering caps that are halting solar projects and killing our solar industry; provide the full benefits of solar energy to low income and renting families; increase offshore wind production by 5,000 MW and establish environmental justice principles in law. In return, the House offered up… a northingburger. What finally came out of the Conference Committee was a pitiful compromise: only a 2 percent rise per year in the RPS for 10 years starting in 2020; the possibility of 1600 MW more offshore wind power; and no action on the caps to net metering or the barriers to low-income people needing solar energy. Moreover, final bill incentivized the burning of trash as an energy source, allowing it to continue polluting Massachusetts air, usually in the poorest neighborhoods.

A group of us spent quite a bit of volunteer time last week calling voters to ask that they urge their state representatives to demand action in the Conference Committee. More than once, I heard comments like, “You mean my progressive state doesn’t have these things already?! What’s going on?”

What’s going on is a fight to the death, literally, to protect vested interests and their status quo against the survival needs of future generations.

There are a lot more of us than there are of them. How do we sort out?

Marty Nathan MD is a mostly-retired Family Practitioner at Baystate Brightwood Health Center, a mother and a grandmother. She is a steering committee member of Climate Action Now and the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition. She offers many thanks to Adele Franks for her information and editing.

Climate change, Hurricane Maria and neglect in Puerto Rico

Published on MassLive.com  Posted Aug 8

Click here for story with photos https://www.masslive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2018/08/climate_change_maria_and_negle.html

By Marty Nathan and Jomarie Ramirez

For two years we have known that the world is hotter than it has been for the last 115,000 years. The planet’s mean temperature has risen by 0.9 degrees Centigrade (1.6 degrees Fahrenheit) almost half way to the two-degree C upper limit that triggers geological feedback loops on a grand scale – melting of the Arctic tundra and sea ice, forest destruction and death of microscopic marine life – processes that will by themselves spew huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

This summer we have seen and felt the heat. We in Springfield were scorched by near-100-degree temperatures early in the summer. The south-central US – Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana – saw heat indices approaching 115 degrees this week and nearly 35 million Americans carried out their lives under excessive heat warnings. Most alarming, there were fires in Sweden, where temperatures went above 90 degrees north of the Arctic Circle.

There are no reputable scientists today that dispute either climate change or its human cause. The drilling and burning of fossil fuels have been putting unprecedented amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air and creating a blanket over the Earth that prevents heat escape into space.

Now the results are rolling in, faster than was earlier predicted, and those left “holding the bag”, suffering for fossil fuel company profits, are the people who can least afford it and are least responsible.

Rising temperatures are breeding more powerful storms. Before 2017, New Orleans was the poster child for climate injustice. After Hurricane Katrina hit the City in 2004 it was the inhabitants of the Lower Ninth Ward, mostly black, very poor and unprotected, who died when the levies broke. Prevention of the flooding, evacuation of the victims and then cleanup and rebuilding were all neglected because these were the people with the least political and economic clout in the region. Over 1,800 people died and tens of thousands were scattered across the country, our first internal climate refugees.

There should never be competition for misery, but the story of Katrina has now been replaced in extent of devastation and neglect by that of the people of Puerto Rico battered and killed by Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

When Donald Trump met with Governor Ricardo Rossello in San Juan after the storm, he threw paper towels at men and women without shelter, and congratulated FEMA and his own administration for a death toll reported at that time as “only sixteen”.

But as the months went on and on and tarps were not delivered, floods were not drained, electricity, roads and buildings were not repaired, people continued to die from the effects of the storm. Climate change gave Maria its force but neglect by the United States government caused the deaths from heat, unclean water and lack of phone service, oxygen, refrigeration, medicines, transportation, and adequate food. A Harvard study in June estimated that there were 4,645 deaths attributable to the damage caused by the storm unrepaired by a disaster relief effort that was too little too late.

The blatant inadequacy of federal response was documented by other investigators from Politico who compared the efforts in Texas after the 2017 Hurricane Harvey with those that met Maria. They found that “the Trump administration — and the president himself — responded far more aggressively to Texas than to Puerto Rico. FEMA and the Trump administration exerted a faster, and initially greater, effort in Texas, even though the damage in Puerto Rico exceeded that in Houston.”

* It took six days from Hurricane Harvey to get more than 70 helicopters above the Texas coast delivering emergency supplies and saving lives, but over three weeks to fly the same number of helicopters over Puerto Rico.

* Nine days after each hurricane FEMA had approved $142 million for Harvey victims but only $6.2 million for Maria victims. Three times as many FEMA personnel had arrived, and they had delivered three times as many meals, twice as much water, and four times as many tarps in Houston as in Puerto Rico.

* It took just ten days for FEMA to approve permanent disaster aid for Texas compared with forty-three days for the Island.

There are arguments that the relief efforts in Puerto Rico were hampered by its geography as an island and its already-impoverished infrastructure crumbling further because of the austerity imposed by financial crisis. But we are talking about a country, the United States, that could deliver “Shock and Awe” half-way around the world if it wants to engage in war. And most Puerto Ricans would argue that the financial crisis was largely a product of unfair deals made with US banks by corrupt officials, leaving the Island deeply in debt and having to sacrifice its educational, medical and power infrastructure to its colonial financiers on the mainland to pay the debt.

The results? The Island has suffered mass out-migration, with more than 135,000 having left the Island by March and a half million expected to have moved to the mainland by 2019 due to the effects of the storm. Those who arrived in the US impoverished and desperate are now facing eviction from the motels and hotels where they were sheltered without jobs, family or other options.

On the other hand, rich speculators working with local officials are exploiting the financial desperation of those left whose businesses, farms and jobs have been disrupted by the storm. They are closing schools and medical facilities, privatizing electricity for corporate profit, and buying up land dirt cheap to create, as one journalist dubbed it, “A Playground for the Privileged”. In June there were 55,000 homes in foreclosure and developers are replacing them with luxury homes and hotels for tourists.

This is the new face of climate injustice: lives lost and families made refugees while their homes are replaced by golf courses and pools for the rich. Climate change brings moral challenges. Are we up to them?

Marty Nathan, MD, is an almost-retired family physician at Baystate Brightwood Health Center and a member of Springfield Climate Justice Coalition.
Jomarie Ramirez is a long-time resident and activist in Springfield who recently returned from visiting her family in Puerto Rico.

Columnist Marty Nathan: Baker ineffective governor in climate crisis

Published in the Hampshire Daily Gazette Wednesday, June 06, 2018

My husband is rightfully proud of himself. He is an anthropologist in the process of retiring from Smith College after a distinguished career of research, writing and teaching about African pastoral nomads, people in the dryland north of Kenya who move from place to place herding their goats, cattle and camels.

He has presented his material and led discussions in conferences all around the world, from Dubrovnik to Ulaanbaatar.

With the climate crisis, we increasingly have felt the need to cut down on traveling, particularly that requiring airplane flight. We made the hard choice not to visit our daughter and her first child born in Bangkok four years ago and got some flak from friends and family about it.

But world travel was recently underlined as a threat to the environment for belching greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. Tourism has been found to produce around four times the emissions previously estimated, due both to an explosion in world travel and inclusion in the calculations of the overspending, overeating and hotel use of travelers. Not unexpectedly, the United States is number one in tourism emissions, but the Chinese are competing as their population becomes richer.

Air flight is so voraciously fossil-fuel consumptive that a single person’s round-trip flight from San Francisco to New York can create almost one-fifth of that average individual’s annual carbon footprint.

There need to be systemic fixes to halt the damage. Carbon should be priced for jet fuels to raise prices to capture the externalized costs of flight (think asthma, cardiovascular disease and climate change) with which the burning of fossil fuels burdens our society. We should fight for it.

However, that would be a federal action and — just as we must figure out ways to sidestep all the other crimes of commission and omission of the present regime — we are forced to act directly here. To fly should not be automatic but should be a well-considered choice after reviewing all the options.

My husband decided that, rather than flying to Brazil to give a 15-minute presentation, Skyping was a better option, despite the lure of the rain forest and Latin culture. There is a website for folks like him — climate scientists, activists and regular people — who won’t fly or fly less at https://noflyclimatesci.org/.

Beyond individual efforts, municipalities are increasingly taking on the load of effecting carbon-emissions cuts. We in the upper Valley have witnessed the visionary actions of the Northampton City Council’s 100 percent renewable energy resolution and Amherst Town Meeting’s zero net energy building ordinance. The former commits all energy-related decisions made by Northampton to weighing the goal of achieving our power from renewable generation. It allows us to pursue community choice energy in a coalition with Amherst and Pelham that can select our electricity supply from cleaner sources.

The Amherst ordinance has the force of law, requiring all new municipal structures to create as much energy as they consume, a huge but not impossible task.

Some may give this a ho-hum: The northern Valley is always doing these outlandishly moral things. But on Friday, Mayor DomenicSarno of Springfield made a welcome announcement long sought by residents and concerned neighbors unified in the Springfield Climate Justice.

Almost four years ago, letter-writing, marching and council-meeting speakouts had brought forth a climate justice resolution voted into effect unanimously by the City Council. It authorized a sustainability plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the city, develop the green economy and provide resiliency to climate change particularly for the most vulnerable poor neighborhoods. The plan was written with a goal of an 80 percent emissions reduction in the city by 2050. But no interim guidelines were adopted that would truly allow that goal to be reached and the mayor did not budget staff to implement it. It looked to most observers like one more study destined to gather dust on the shelves of City Hall archives. (Or to crinkle in the heat of the coming decades.)

Then, on Friday, the mayor announced that a full-time sustainability officer would be hired, and reasonable and ambitious interim goals would be adopted. This affects all of us. Springfield is the largest city and thus the largest polluter in western Massachusetts. This will make our children healthier while fighting climate change.

Going up a government level, the news is not so good. Despite Charlie Baker’s ad naming him a “clean energy champion for Massachusetts” who is “leading the charge to reduce carbon emissions,” neither Baker nor House leadership have done what should have been done this legislative session to advance full funding of public transit, adequately lift the net metering cap to incentivize rooftop solar generation, sufficiently raise the renewable portfolio standard to rapidly increase the percentage of electricity generated from clean sources, or pass a fair price on carbon in Massachusetts.

All were possible this legislative session, but Baker did nothing to make them happen. The ad is simply a lie. Baker is timid and protective of the status quo, not the governor we need in a time of climate crisis.

Hopefully, Scott Pruitt will drown in the corrupt swamp that he has created at the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration, and a new Congress will take on the necessary tasks in Washington in January. Until then, and until the end of this legislative session, keep those calls to House leadership coming in.

Demand a just climate agenda for the state while we work to implement the progressive municipal plans of western Massachusetts. And rethink that next trip.

Dr. Marty Nathan lives in Northampton and is a physician at BaystateBrightwood Health Center in Springfield. She is on the steering committee of Climate Action NOW and drinks coffee with 2degreesatgreenneighbors.earth. She may be reached at martygjf@comcast.net.

June 4 2018 – Action in Springfield – Poor People’s Campaign of Massachusetts

Monday, June 4. 1-3 PM Court SQ Springfield.  FMI contact Arise Springfield

The Mass Save energy efficiency program is seeking input from the public

MASS SAVE NEEDS TO BE BROADER, DEEPER AND MORE ACCOUNTABLE!

Speak out:  Thursday, April 5 at 6pm in Springfield

Submit written comments:  by email.  See below.

We are facing a climate crisis with rising temperatures and sea levels, megastorms and droughts caused by the burning of fossil fuels. We need to cut our greenhouse gas emissions now, and by doing so, improve our air quality, our health and our energy bills.

Massachusetts is a nationwide leader in energy efficiency and conservation, which are the most cost-effective and potent means of decreasing emissions. Our energy efficiency programs are known as Mass Save, which uses the dollars taken from our electric and gas bills to fund weatherization for our houses and replacement of inefficient furnaces, refrigerators, air conditioners and lightbulbs.

It is a great start, but the electric and gas companies that make up Mass Save CAN DO BETTER, allowing us to better cut pollution, fight climate change and meet the challenges of the Global Warming Solutions and Green Communities Acts.

Energy experts are calling for:

  1. Accountability. Overall energy efficiency (EE) goals for the program should increase annually and be aggressive and science-based.  These goals should generate  penalties for the utility Program Administrators who do not reach them.  Performance incentives should be tied to not only meeting, but exceeding the goals.   Goal attainment must be assessed by measured results- actual energy savings– not just on estimates.  These actual outcomes need to be reported to the public in a way that is easy to understand, so that we know where our dollars are going and how much of an impact they are having.
  2. Serving those in need. Better outreach must be made to low income and non-English-speaking households, households with disabled, elderly and people of color.  Pilot programs should be designed and tested to see which are most effective in reaching those in greatest need.  This should be coupled with transparency about the services that these households are actually receiving from Mass Save. Furthermore, there should be an “opt-out” policy, assigning audits to all those low income customers who qualify for LIHEAP and any discount utility rates. These customers could be offered the option to opt-out of such services, and not be burdened by having to request the energy auditing services themselves.  Energy audit results from these customers should be reported, along with a listing of the remedial actions taken and the energy savings that resulted.
  3.  Expansion of coverage. More moderate income people (up to 120% of median income) should qualify for full subsidies of all energy saving measures. These households often cannot afford to pay the remainder of the cost of the upgrades that are not subsidized by the program
  4. Better serving renters. Mass Save should publicly engage landlords in discussion of the benefits of energy efficiency and explore ways to grant rights to their tenants who pay their own utility bills such that the tenants can institute  energy efficiency measures on their own. We suggest that the utility could prepay for such improvements and could be repaid over time through the utility bills.
  5. Redefine cost-effectiveness. Energy assessments and subsidized energy efficiency (EE) upgrades must be more comprehensive and science-based than the limited ones now provided. EE measures should be included that may take more than seven years to pay back in cost savings or that provide health benefits to the household and neighborhood. Contractors should be given some leeway to expand their work once on the site, according to their determination of what EE measures would have continuing benefit. Additionally, energy efficiency measures that reduce peak demand (and thus lower demand for the dirtiest, highest cost electricity) should be covered.
  6. Transparency. Communities should know how many households have been served each year, how many low and moderate income households were served, how many households were served in which English is not a primary language, and what specifically what services were provided.  In addition, customers should be surveyed about their satisfaction with the services, and the broader population should be surveyed to determine barriers to using the Mass Save program.
  7. Air source heat pumps. Energy efficient air source heat pumps should be made available and heavily subsidized for those houses already benefiting from energy efficiency measures, including those households presently using gas, oil, coal or electricity for heat.

Every year, Mass Save is unable to spend all the money taken from our bills to fund energy efficiency. Mass Save needs to work more effectively, broadly and deeply, and with more transparency and accountability.

Please take your comments to the  Mass Save Listening Session, 6 pm,  Thursday, April 5 at the UMass Center, 1500 Main Street, Springfield. We want to pack the room and want all to speak out for our right to health and sustainability through energy efficiency.     If you are interested in carpooling from the north, meet at 5pm at the Sheldon Field lot in Northampton.

Whether you are able to go to the hearing or not, please submit your comments by email by sending to:   info@optenergy.comrachel.evans@state.ma.us and DOER.ENERGY@state.ma.us .  In the subject line, put “Written statement for Energy Efficiency Advisory Council”.  Then ask for confirmation that it will be distributed to councilors.

Click here for Facebook event

 

 

 

Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count

Columnist Marty Nathan: Laws needed to deal with climate change

Published in The Hampshire Daily Gazette Wednesday, January 31, 2018

I was walking to the River Valley Co-op Sunday morning, pondering what I would say in this column, when a pickup truck narrowly missed hitting me in the Jackson Street crosswalk at Bridge Road.

The driver had run a red light and I reacted with a classic “What the …?!” pose. But then I audibly finished the phrase when the Toyota behind him followed his path and came even closer to flattening me. He yelled back at me as though I were the aggressor.

I immediately knew there were lessons here, so I will dare to spin them.

I can remember when there were fewer laws protecting pedestrians. There were not many crosswalks. Drivers had a lot more freedom to drive as and where they wanted, and since it was an unequal match — body vs. automobile — a lot of destruction was done to those on foot.

The public danger and immorality of uncontrolled car use was slowly recognized and now every city enforces pedestrian safety. Some, like the scofflaws who threatened me on Sunday, ignore the law, but by doing so they risk jail, particularly if they are successful in doing me in.

More recently the public health threat of tobacco was recognized and codified in laws throughout our country, controlling where and when people can light up, to protect us all from heart and lung disease caused by the smoke. The same should happen with guns to stop the epidemic of violence from mass and individual shootings.

They are practices that most people recognized were wrong before they were made illegal. They violated the public trust, the right to live free of threat by the actions of others. The process of codifying in law that which we know benefits society is nearly always stymied by those (big car, big tobacco, big gun) who sell and profit from lack of restriction on their product and claim they represent the civil rights of the users. Corporate advertisers have fabricated an ideology of “freedom” for the driver, smoker, gun owner.

That ideology has masked a David and Goliath (like me and the car) battle for health and safety against huge, wealthy and powerful corporations. Alert civil society is David.

Enter climate change and environmental devastation. Human rights advocates around the world recognize a fundamental right to breathe clean air in a stable climate without destructive hurricanes, massive drought with associated crop failure, rising seas and flooding, and killer heat waves. It is as basic as my right to life when I step into that crosswalk.

And yet, despite progress first made under Richard Nixon in the 1970s to convert into law that which was known to be reasonable and moral, the Trump administration and corporate friends are wiping out all the protections against climate chaos, heat and rising seas on behalf of the right of polluters to profit. Nixon’s Environmental Protective Agency and its regulations are systematically being dismantled by Trump and Scott Pruitt.

Our coastal waters, public lands and Arctic are open to drilling and despoiling with taxpayer subsidy in a mad drive for profit that will raise world temperatures well above climate tipping points that will yield uncontrollable warming.

To protect the public trust and human rights, particularly of the most vulnerable poor in our country and around the world, we must make (and sometimes remake) the laws that stop the polluting. It’s rough to do it now on the federal level, but we have 2018 elections coming soon.

In this state, there is a lot of lawmaking to be done to protect that public trust for a livable climate:

It must become expensive to pollute. There needs to be a price put on the burning of fossil fuels that begins to capture some of the externalized costs that are borne by all of us in the form of asthma and heart disease they cause as well as the climate they change. (H1726/S1821)

There must be a significant structured rise in the amount of renewable energy that we substitute for coal, gas and oil-burning in generating our electricity. (H2706/S1846)

We must defy the Trump administration’s attempt to kill solar energy development through the imposition of tariffs and instead remove Massachusetts net-metering caps that now limit panel owners’ benefiting from their investment and ensure that low-income communities have access to solar power. (H1396/S1831)

Our Department of Public Utilities, which arbitrates the structure of energy delivery, must stop acting as protectors of the gas companies, welcoming every proposed pipeline as a long-missed relative. There are better alternatives now, and the building of new fossil fuel infrastructure, using taxpayer or ratepayer funds, is a rotten investment. (H3400/S1847)

Speaking of investment, our state and our cities need to follow New York City’s lead and divest from fossil fuels. (H3281)

Poor and working people need institutionalized protection from the kind of polluting industries that tend to be sited in their communities. (H2913/S426)

These are some of the laws that we need to adopt to deal squarely with this century’s overarching public health threat, climate change. They state clearly that, when weighed against corporate profitability and the “rights” of polluters, human life and our planet’s sustainability must win in a just, democratic society.

Every Tuesday morning, I get together with good friends around a kitchen table to drink coffee, eat pastries and gossip. We also call our legislators and let them know exactly what we think should become law in our state to protect our society and our children’s future.

We request that good sense become good law. You are welcome to join us or, if you like, create your own gathering. If we recruit hundreds if not thousands of Davids, Goliath doesn’t have a chance.

Dr. Marty Nathan lives in Northampton and is a physician at BaystateBrightwood Health Center in Springfield. She is on the steering committee of Climate Action NOW and drinks coffee with 2degreesatgreenneighbors.earth. She may be reached at martygjf@comcast.net.
…read more here

Column: It’s time to promote, encourarge, support grassroots efforts to combat climate change

It’s time to promote, encourarge, support grassroots efforts to combat climate change (Guest viewpoint)

In this June 3, 2017, file photo, the coal-fired Plant Scherer, one of the nation's top carbon dioxide emitters, stands in the distance in Juliette, Ga. A recent poll finds that less than a third of Americans support President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, with just 18 percent of respondents agreeing with his claim that pulling out of the international agreement to reduce carbon emissions will help the U.S. economy.(AP Photo/Branden Camp, File)
In this June 3, 2017, file photo, the coal-fired Plant Scherer, one of the nation’s top carbon dioxide emitters, stands in the distance in Juliette, Ga. A recent poll finds that less than a third of Americans support President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, with just 18 percent of respondents agreeing with his claim that pulling out of the international agreement to reduce carbon emissions will help the U.S. economy.(AP Photo/Branden Camp, File)
 

Since May 31, the world is talking climate change, I am happy to say. Most of the message is angry and scornful of the Trump Administration’s plan to exit the Paris Climate Change Accord. President Trump has rejected the United States’ leadership role in preventing climate disaster in favor of continued profits for the oil, gas and coal industries. That act was the crowning blow in his battle against environmental responsibility. The offensive has included the appointment of oil well huggers Scott Pruitt, Rick Perry, Ryan Zinke and Rex Tillerson; executive orders that reopened federal lands to mining and drilling; budgetary gutting of the EPA and all other renewable energy programs: and suspension of the Clean Power Plan to cut emissions from U.S. power plants.

Trump’s ultimately leaving the Climate Change Treaty was not unexpected, but it was foolish. The biggest issue of course is its damage to the planet. A Washington consultancy, the Climate Advisors, predicts that Trump’s climate policy will cause U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, which have been falling, to begin to flatten or increase by 2020, and to inject an extra half-billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere by 2025. Global warming will increase, leading tomore killer heat waves, superstorms, drought, crop failure, melting ice and rising seas.

 

But there is mounting worldwide recognition of the economic and public health advantages to a rapid transition to conservation and renewable energy. Industrial and job growth is booming in the field of solar and wind energy. The U.S. not only will be stigmatized by its immoral stand towards the world’s climate future, it simply will not be able to compete in a rapidly changing world.

Recognizing the danger and the opportunity, local and state leaders are filling the vacuum left by the federal government. As of this writing, more than 350 mayors representing 65.8 million Americans in 44 states have signed on to the “Climate Mayors” coalition. Springfield’s Mayor Domenic Sarno was one of them.

Aligning with the other 194 nations that adopted and remain in the accord, they pledged to “continue to lead. We are increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We will buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks. We will increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice.”

Thirteen states, including Massachusetts, have joined the pledge to Paris. The twelve are home to a third of Americans. Gov. Jerry Brown of California has met with Chinese leadership to consider ways to work together to develop and adopt renewable energy technology. China has replaced the U.S. in the clean energy arena and California leads U.S. states in its climate goals and controls.

 

Trump’s ignorance and greed on behalf of the fossil fuel industry may have sparked a new awareness among those who are paying attention: this is a fight that must be fought from the grassroots. Our federal government, at least for now, is firmly backing the other side.

In Massachusetts, there is a raft of initiatives on the legislative agenda that would catapult our state into the forefront of the battle against climate change. An environmental coalition is backing plans to achieve electricity powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 and siting green jobs in high-unemployment communities like Springfield. There are also strong bills in Boston for carbon pollution pricing, grid up-grades, electric vehicles, and countless other conservation measures. It is up to us to make sure that our legislators know that we are not fooled by Trump, that we support conservation and renewable energy and we expect the same from them. Call them.

Unfortunately, parts of the present Massachusetts budget run contrary to the direction we must take. The budget shortfall has hit the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, which is threatening to cut back on and eliminate routes that are necessary to those who don’t have or don’t want to use cars. I only found out because I ride two of those buses, the P21 Express and the B48, to Springfield to my job.

 

This is a climate justice issue. Low income people will be hit particularly hard, losing their means of commuting, shopping, caring for family members. On the other hand, we are a society that must begin to abandon our cars in favor of less fuel-burning alternatives. Public transit must be expanded, not contracted. The PVTA does not have nearly the number or frequency of routes to be easily usable by most people. Public buses are necessary to fight climate change and support economic equity.

There have been several hearings about the bus route eliminations, with round denunciations of the cuts. Check out the proposed changes and send your opinions at http://www.pvta.com/info4.php. This is a chance to think globally and act locally.

Marty Nathan is a physician at Baystate Brightwood Health Center in Springfield and lives in Northampton.

Columnist Marty Nathan: Citizens must stand against environmental assaults

Published in the Hampshire Daily Gazette

By MARTY NATHAN
Wednesday, July 05, 2017
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On Saturday, June 24, 98-year-old Frances Crowe sat in her wheelchair as it was rolled into the path of construction of Kinder Morgan’s Connecticut Expansion Pipeline in the Otis State Forest in Sandisfield. There she stayed, with eight others, temporarily blocking work, until she was rolled away and arrested with the others on a trespassing charge.

Frances had joined the Sugar Shack Alliance, a grassroots group of folks originally motivated to stop the North East Direct Pipeline that Kinder Morgan had proposed to carry gas from fracking operations from New York to Dracut for shipping overseas. For the last year the Alliance has turned its attention to preventing the building of the 3.8-mile pipeline loop also owned by Kinder Morgan and affiliate Tennessee Gas Pipeline. It is being routed onto 17 acres of Otis State Forest land that contains biologically important wetlands and sacred Native American sites. This project is a flagrant violation of Article 47 of the Massachusetts Constitution prohibiting such development on preserved land, but was nonetheless permitted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Frances’ arrest was by no means the first in the campaign, nor will it be the last. The struggle in Sandisfield is stirred, as with almost all environmental fights these days, by three powerful stimuli:

Opposition to local pollution and despoliation of precious air and waterways. Old trees are being felled and the pipeline almost certainly will leak methane and fellow-traveler toxic chemicals into the air and the previously protected lakes and streams nearby.
Climate justice. Building the pipeline violates rights to their traditional religious sites by the Narragansett Tribe. Moreover, it wrecks the state’s compact with all its citizens to protect, not to destroy, our common resources.
Resistance to the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure enabling more carbon dioxide emissions from natural gas burning and more methane blow-off from leaks. Over twenty years, methane is eighty times as potent as carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas in warming our planet.
The need to say No to burning and emitting fossil fuels just became more urgent. The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change last week led scores of world leaders and scientists in a declaration published in the prestigious journal Nature that humanity has but three years, to 2020, to begin to decrease global emissions or face the catastrophic consequences of uncontrollable global warming.

Sandisfield, therefore, is part of the epic struggle of our times to save our planet from the devastation that is already claiming coral reefs destroyed by bleaching, agricultural fields in the West devastated first by drought and now by floods, and coastal communities in Haiti and Eastern North Carolina wiped out by hurricanes. The Sugar Shack Alliance is spurred on by the always-relevant maxim, “Think globally and act locally.” They are blockading a path to the ruin of the biosphere.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the opposition… As the New York Times reported, Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Scott Pruitt is one of the few effective members in the Trump Cabinet. Effective, that is, at destroying the agency he was appointed to lead. In mapping his agenda, he has consulted not his own EPA scientists — some of the best in the world — but rather fossil fuel industry lobbyists: the board of the industry lobbying group American Petroleum Institute (with whom he met at Trump Tower), representatives from American Chemical Council and the Republican Attorneys General Association (which he formerly headed). The attorney generals group has taken $4.2 million from fossil-fuel related companies like Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries since 2013, and has filed fourteen lawsuits against the EPA.

Pruitt is their man and they are getting what they pay for. Environmental experts are amazed at what he has achieved in the corporate thrall. He relieved chemical companies of the unbearable burden of preventing explosions and spills at their plants. He reversed a ban on the use of a pesticide that the EPA’s own scientists have said is linked to damage of children’s nervous systems. Despite saying that he is taking the lead in cleaning up toxic sites, he supports a 25 percent budget cut in the Superfund program, which always has been vastly under-resourced.

He has taken a wrecking ball to programs to control greenhouse gas emissions. He was a leading proponent of abandoning the Paris Climate Agreement and will create the legal path to exit it. He has filed to undo or weaken the Clean Power Plan which would limit emissions from coal-fired power plants. He has delayed a rule requiring oil and gas companies to control methane emissions at wells, and eliminated a requirement that they even report on how much is leaking.

This is what the folks of Sugar Shack are up against. A lopsided struggle? It could be seen that way. But increasingly everyday Americans are seeing that the conflict has at its heart our very lives and future. It will take commitment and organization to channel that awakening and fight for a conservation and renewable energy agenda instead of further investment in polluting fossil fuels. To sit on the sidelines grants victory to those, like Pruitt, with the power.

Choose your side and join the fray.

Dr. Marty Nathan lives in Northampton and is a physician at Baystate Brightwood Health Center in Springfield. She is on the steering committee of Climate Action NOW.
http://www.gazettenet.com/Citizens-must-unite-to-fight-environmental-degradation-11113538

Frances Crowe, pictured here during an anti-war rally, shows the way for citizens who want to stand up against assaults on the environment, says columnist Marty Nathan.

 

Support Indigenous Ceremonial Stone Landscape Protection

August 18, 2018

Dear Friends,

This is a special fundraising appeal to ask supporters of Ceremonial Stone Landscapes to donate to a Climate Action Now project that is very important to us: the protection of indigenous ceremonial stone landscapes. Here are two reasons why:

– Justice for indigenous people

– Restoration of accountability for federal agencies

This project combines these goals in one lawsuit against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the agency that approved the Kinder Morgan gas pipeline in Sandisfield, Mass. and allowed the destruction of Ceremonial Stone Landscapes that are of cultural significance to indigenous peoples.

Please note: Sugar Shack Alliance has offered a matching grant for up to $4000.  Please make a donation on our  fundraising page https://tinyurl.com/CeremonialStones. Once we match this grant we will have only $500.00 to go.

Ceremonial Stone Landscape Feature  

Photo credit: Doug Harris

Do you know that hidden among the hills and valleys of New England are Ceremonial Stone Landscapes created over thousands of years by the indigenous peoples of this region? Indigenous tribes along the east coast of North America used stone structures as part of their religious and cultural ceremonies, and some of these sacred sites are now being destroyed for gas pipeline projects.

Last summer, right in our own backyard, Kinder Morgan/Tennessee Gas Pipeline built the Connecticut Expansion Pipeline through protected land in Otis State Forest. In the process they desecrated at least 23 of the seventy-three ceremonial stone landscapes that had been identified by the New England tribes.

What are ceremonial stone landscapes?

A ceremonial stone landscape is a series of stone groupings, petroglyphs, chambers, or other features created by indigenous   reasons that include marking astronomical cycles, deaths, or other significant events. In the Northeast we generally find these “prayers in stone” hidden in fields, woods, near streams, and even under water. Doug Harris, the Deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office, explains the traditional belief that these stones are physical manifestations of living prayers to Mother Earth, calling for balance and harmony in places where traumatic events took place. They should not be altered. When the stones are disassembled and reassembled, the spiritual content is broken.

Who allowed this desecration to happen?

Any time federal approval or federal funds are required for a project, the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) mandates a federal agency, in this case FERC, to consider the impact on historic and cultural resources before the project is approved or funds are expended. The NHPA requires consultation with federally recognized Indian Tribes for projects that are on tribal lands and with any tribe that “attaches religious and cultural significance” to the property, regardless of where it is located. FERC approved the Connecticut Expansion Project before the Tribes documented the 73 ceremonial stone landscapes that would be impacted and then did not engage in meaningful consultation with the tribes on how to mitigate the impact on them.

This is nothing new – FERC regularly violates NHPA by delaying review until it is too late to avoid destruction of these sacred resources. FERC’s failure to follow the requirements of the NHPA is illegal and the Narragansett Tribe has filed a lawsuit.

 One third of the ceremonial stone landscapes in Otis State Forest have already been destroyed. Why file a lawsuit now?

When it learned that the ceremonial stone landscapes would be destroyed, the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office (NITHPO) moved for party status in the FERC permitting process and opposed the start of construction. On May 10, 2017, NITHPO requested a rehearing of FERC’s order that authorized construction; it took until January 10, 2018, for FERC to deny the request. It was too late to save the stone landscapes from destruction.

Photo credit: Lisa McLoughlin

On March 2, 2018, NITHPO filed a petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit asking the D.C. Circuit to review: 1) FERC’s orders granting the Tennessee Gas Pipeline the right to construct the Connecticut Expansion Project, and 2) FERC’s rejection of NITHPO’s request for rehearing.FERC also denied NITHPO’s motion to intervene, forcing NITHPO to file a second request for rehearing, and then filed a motion to dismiss NITHPO’s petition in the D.C. Circuit. These procedural maneuvers indicate that FERC is trying to keep NITHPO out of court.

Although harm has been done, good can still come of it.

Across the U.S., fossil fuel infrastructure is being built at an alarming rate. FERC oversees all interstate gas pipelines and many other energy infrastructure projects in the U.S. The goals of this case are threefold: to clarify and enforce federal law, namely the National Historic Preservation Act; to clarify FERC’s consultation requirements; and to establish FERC’s fiduciary duty to Tribal Nations. After reading the parties’ briefs and questioning their counsel in oral arguments, the U.S. Court of Appeals will issue an order that will be binding on FERC. If NITHPO prevails on some or all of its claims, FERC will have to comply with the court’s holdings in future pipeline and other projects across the country.

Why should I help?

Given the historical and continuing genocide of indigenous peoples through the taking and destruction of their lands, their resources, their sacred sites and their way of life, this campaign offers us a rare opportunity for a concrete act of solidarity and respect, and in that spirit we are asking you to join our efforts with as generous a contribution as you can offer.

NITHPO’s lawyer, Anne Marie Garti (who was instrumental in defeating the Constitution Pipeline in New York State) believes this case has a high likelihood of success. She is working at a reduced rate for this social justice effort.  Because of the generosity of people like you, Climate Action Now has raised  $48,248 for this lawsuit through donations and a few small grants.

We are hoping that this is our final fundraising appeal.

We only need another $8,500 to fund this lawsuit.

You can be part of this precedent-setting case.

Please give as generously as you can – a gift that’s significant for you – whether that is $5 or $1,000.

Mail a tax deductible check made out to Creative Thought and Action with CSL in the memo line to:

Rene Theberge, Climate Action Now Treasurer

77 Prospect Street, Apt. 35

Northampton, MA 01060

MA 01002

Sincerely yours,

Susan and Rene Theberge

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