Category: Marty Nathan

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.

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.
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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
·
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.

 

Columnist Marty Nathan urges taking action for climate justice

Printed in the Hampshire daily Gazette

http://www.gazettenet.com/Columnist-Marty-Nathan-on-the-climate-justice-movement-9658048

Columnist Marty Nathan urges taking action for climate justice

Community members lead the Springfield March for Climate, Jobs and  Justice on Saturday. RENE THEBERGE
By MARTY NATHAN

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

I’m writing this from a near-horizontal position on my living room couch, resting my elderly bones after a good march from the Federal Building to the Springfield City Council steps on Saturday.

It was a sister event to the 200,000-strong People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C., one of hundreds around the country. My husband and I joined 1,200 others in Springfield, and were struck by a tone and integrity different from past such rallies.

What distinguished the Springfield March for Climate, Jobs and Justice?

First, it was bigger. As an organizer, I have known the frustration of encouraging people to show up to make the needed case. Political activity is not on most people’s front burner. Jobs (often more than one) kids, housework — the immediate — need to be taken care of before dealing with climate change, war, or immigration.

Too, there is a feeling of powerlessness in the face of government and corporate policy, and some anxiety about the kickback of taking a public stand. Most people may have strong feelings about the headlines but encounter a certain embarrassment at the thought of marching holding a sign and repeating “The people united will never be defeated!” I get it.

But the Trump era has changed a lot of things. His and his administration’s brutal racism and sexism, his open embrace of the wealthiest at the expense of public interest, his ignorance and willingness to endorse the most cockamamy excuses for his actions have both frightened and emboldened people. And once they have been out in the streets, the empowerment, existential meaning and social connection are a welcome alternative to despair and a stiff drink.

Second, it was broader. On April 29, we marched for climate justice, the concept that we can and we must reverse the deep-seated inequity of our society even as we fight against climate change. In my many years as a political activist, I have found that often people’s personal and cultural needs have interfered with our ability to get along.

Environmentalism has been viewed as a “white thing.” White people don’t show up for Black Lives Matter or immigration rights events. Racism, sexism, genderism and just plain individual needs have divided folks who should have been supporting each other around issues of human rights and a sustainable world.

But again, Trumpism has made us examine our priorities. Although the majority of marchers were white folks, Springfield’s diverse neighborhoods and unions were well represented and had skin in the game. Hip hop artist Tem Blessed gave the most sophisticated analysis of the intertwining of our social problems and environmental destruction, blending his experiences as a young victim of police brutality with his longing for a sustainable world. The march endorsed the May Day immigrant workers strike and the rights of women to equal pay for equal work.

It was a good step forward and I am deeply grateful to all who came out and made the long march. Those who went to D.C. get special respect for having borne the hottest April 29 in recorded history. We still have jobs, kids and homes to attend to, but we thoughtfully chose to sacrifice a day for more intangible but absolutely necessary ideals.

Two recent studies point out both the dangers of our not acting on climate justice and the benefits of confronting it. A January study by Ray Bradley of UMass found that New England will warm faster than all other parts of the country except Alaska and will reach a 2-degree Centigrade rise by 2025. Snow will become a relatively rare commodity and wintertime rain and flooding will prevail. It confirms previous studies that indicated Boston’s sea level will rise higher than previously predicted: 10 feet by 2100, causing flooding in 30 percent of the area.

On the other hand, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health last week published research on the impacts of putting a fee on all gas, oil and coal coming into the state, what is called a “carbon fee.” They found that the implementation of either of the two bills before the Massachusetts Legislature now, S.1821 (An Act Combating Climate Change), and H.1726 (An Act to Promote Green Infrastructure, Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and Create Jobs), would result in 349 lives and $2 billion in health benefits saved in Massachusetts from 2017 through 2040. The decrease in pollution that would occur as we combat climate change would also reduce asthma, heart attacks and stroke.

The flooding, extreme heat and pollution-related disease always have weighed heavier on poor and low-wage working communities, particularly those of color. Precarious housing, lack of transportation and air conditioning, and increased direct exposure to pollutants in these communities make them particularly vulnerable to the ravages of bad air and climate change, though they have contributed the least to the problem.

The climate justice movement has always made sense. The lives most at risk are the lives already weighed down by economic stress and racism. We in the climate movement are finally beginning to get it. And act on it.

Marty Nathan, MD, is a mother and grandmother who lives in Northampton and works at Baystate Brightwood Health Center in Springfield’s North End. She is a steering committee member of Climate Action NOW.

Columnist Marty Nathan: Massachusetts leads on renewable energy

Published in the Hampshire Daily Gazette March 1, 2017

I am sitting on my porch reveling in the glorious, sunny day. It is 72 degrees. I am in my shirtsleeves, my neighbor just biked by in shorts and my friend will soon bring her 6-month-old for a walk. So I should complain?

Well, yes. Last week’s high temperatures in Boston, Buffalo and Pittsburgh broke records. Weather is not climate, for sure, and a couple of days do not global warming make. But the trend, which is climate, is ever upward.

In February, almost 4,500 daily high temperature records were broken, and the winter of 2016-2017 is on its way to beating 2015-16 as the warmest in recorded history. Arctic sea ice decreased by 9 percent, but more shockingly, Antarctic sea ice was at its smallest for January since records began, down 23 percent.

As the ice melts, the ocean surface it covered absorbs solar radiation rather than reflecting it back to space as did the white ice. This is one of those feedback loops that at a certain point incur warming independent of human-derived greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet even as we hurtle toward climate disaster, never has the federal government so belligerently denied the problem nor so aggressively repositioned to increase greenhouse gas emissions in order to foster fossil fuel company profits.

 The cabinet members appointed and the bills and executive orders signed just in the first month illuminate the regime’s objective.

Scott Pruitt was narrowly confirmed to head the Environmental Protection Agency after Senate Democrats battled unsuccessfully in committee to postpone the vote till thousands of emails ordered released by a federal judge from Pruitt’s office of the Oklahoma Attorney General became available. That the nomination was shoved through without that information was a disgrace to the deliberative process. That the emails exist is a testament to corporate corruption.

First, it should be noted that Pruitt used a private email server to conduct public business, something that he denied under oath at his Senate hearing. More importantly, though, he worked “arm in arm,” according to the New York Times, with major oil and gas producers, electric utilities and Koch Industries-linked groups to roll back any and all environmental regulations.

Pruitt represented their interests in the most precise manner and in return received big dividends. Not just once did Pruitt transfer corporate-written complaints about federal restrictions on their pollution directly to his official stationery.

His ghost-written appeals protested controlling the belches of a coal-fired power plant, limiting the spewing of potent greenhouse gas methane from wells on federal land, and preventing smog-causing chemical release.

His closest buddies were Devon Energy, Oklahoma Gas and Electric and the American Fuel and Petrochemicals Manufacturers. In return he was granted huge donations to his political campaigns, fundraisers at company expense and even the management of his reelection campaign by the Devon CEO.

As is now well known, Pruitt sued the EPA, the very agency he is now appointed to head, 14 times to prevent it from doing its job. Rachel Maddow calls him a puppet.

Even as Pruitt was being confirmed, Trump signed two of what can only be termed climate-change promotion bills. The first eliminated the requirement for US energy companies to report their payments to foreign governments in their dealings to extract fossil fuels. The bill was designed to prevent bribing of corrupt leaders for access to oil and gas (Exxon/Putin/proposed Siberian oil megadeal comes to mind).

The second reversed an Obama regulation restricting coal companies from toxic dumping in streams, a small step toward stewardship of the land they mine. Both bills made extraction and emissions easier and cheaper for big oil, gas and coal.

In late February, the administration released two executive orders. Both are focused on eliminating federal agency regulations. I am not alone in assuming they will be used to free corporations from all restraint based on public health, consumer and worker protection, and a sustainable climate. His proposed budget promises to cut funding of domestic agencies including the EPA and the Department of the Interior, even as military spending and the nuclear arsenal are expanded.

The intent is clear. Steve Bannon, Trump’s closest adviser, has admitted that their plan is to destroy domestic federal agencies. Be it by legislation, executive order, budget cuts or the likes of Pruitt, Rick Perry and Rex Tillerson, we will lose protection from corporate excess. There will be dirtier air and water, sicker workers and communities. The billionaires will be richer.

But we are being given a choice. This month, a statewide coalition of environmental groups led by Environment Massachusetts and including local Climate Action NOW, announced a legislative plan to achieve electricity powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. HD 3357 and SD 1932, submitted by state Sen. James B. Eldridge, D-Acton, and state Reps. Marjorie Decker, D-Cambridge, and Sean Garballey, D-Arlington, would make the state a leader in solar and wind power and an example for the country in the fight against climate change.

Also firmly on the Massachusetts legislative agenda are viable bills for carbon pricing, grid upgrades, conservation measures and specific acts immediately to encourage wind and solar power production.

Trump has touted his actions as a job-creator, but this is a pile of alternative facts. Results are in and energy efficiency and renewable sources produce 2.5 to 9.5 times as many jobs as fossil fuels per dollar spent. Massachusetts’ course is not only the most beneficial to environment and humanity but to economic growth as well.

If this were a horse race, I would bet on little Massachusetts and all the other states that are bucking the corrupt tide. Unfortunately, it’s a race for our health and our future. All the more reason to bet the bank.

Marty Nathan, MD, is a mother and grandmother who lives in Northampton and works at Baystate Brightwood Health Center in Springfield’s North End. She is a steering committee member of Climate Action NOW.

 

Columnist Marty Nathan: Saving the world while building community

Published in the Gazette Feb 1, 2017

Columnist Marty Nathan: Saving the world while building community

  • Dr. Marty Nathan, left, of Northampton, speaks during a forum called “Climate Action in a Time of Crisis” Saturday at First Churches of Northampton. Listening beside her is state Senate President Stanley Rosenberg of Amherst. JERREY ROBERTS

    By MARTY NATHAN

I remember the 1962 Cuban missile crisis when I gathered cans of food to store in our carport cabinets in preparation for nuclear war. We were supposed to stock our basements with water and food to consume after the bombs fell and we waited for the radiation to decrease.

Problem was, our house was small and we had no basement and thus no protection. With my 11-year-old brain, I tried to comprehend annihilation of the world as I knew it.

Now in my 60s, the feeling is eerily similar and equally unreal. We are approaching destruction of our biosphere, this time in slow motion but nonetheless terrifying. The cause this time is climate change.

The threat has ramped up dramatically since the inauguration of Donald Trump. His advisers and cabinet picks are fossil fuel company CEOs and shills who are dedicated to drilling and burning every last molecule of carbon left in the ground in order to ensure corporate profits.

This is the opposite of scientific dictates to immediately eliminate emissions to prevent geologic and climatologic feedback loops — albedo effect, melting tundra, carbon sink-filling — that will continue the process completely outside of our control.

 

On Jan. 28, over 600 people filled First Churches in Northampton. They came because there is rapidly growing recognition of the crisis. In the past, we could console ourselves that somebody else would fix it, but suddenly a whole lot of folks are realizing that our best resource for fighting this massive peril — the federal government —- is now openly fronting for the enemy.

What are we who love Earth and the coming human generations to do? I think we have several options that will require commitment, courage, time and energy.

Do not give up on the federal government. We must limit the damage from the present regime and fight to replace it with those not promulgating “alternative facts.” Protest the blasphemy and carnage, building a movement that is interlocked with all others suffering from Trumpism: workers, poor people, immigrants, people of color, women, children, LGBTQ people.

Support nationally important legal and regional fights. The repermitting of the Dakota Access and the Keystone XL pipelines is a disaster for all of us and we must be willing to back up the resistance of those whose homes, culture and livelihoods are affected by oil, gas and coal infrastructure.

Put on your marching shoes. On April 29, come to D.C. for the second People’s Climate March, and respond to every invitation possible fighting for climate and justice.

Begin work now for the next critical election in 2018 when we must break the stranglehold that the fossil fuel industry holds on Congress.

Since much is blocked on the federal level, though, organize locally and statewide to make Massachusetts into a model for the rest of the country in climate justice.

Join an organization that is working on what you think is important.

Push locally for rooftop and community solar and insulation, especially for low-income neighborhoods; tree-planting and care; environmentally sound zoning; expanded public transit; streets safe for pedestrians and bicycles; and schools that teach about climate change and environmental sustainability.

Be ready for direct action to prevent the building and extension of fossil fuel infrastructure. We scored resounding success blocking the Kinder Morgan Northeast Energy Direct pipeline last year.

It’s not over, folks. We have in Sandisfield an attempt by Tennessee Gas to build a storage pipeline through pristine Otis State Forest. Destructive, dangerous and unneeded, our resources should instead be spent on conservation and the expansion of renewable energy.

Become a citizen lobbyist to focus the Massachusetts State Legislature on the most important task it has ever undertaken, creating potent laws to stop emissions while establishing a just economy. Many such laws are being introduced right now, calling for rapid transition to 100 percent renewable energy while focusing the derived economic development/green jobs on so-called gateway and environmental justice communities.

Some bills restrict new pipeline building, two would create a carbon pollution fee, some divest state pension funds from fossil fuels, while others formulate funding for new green energy investment. They all need co-sponsorship by our state representatives now to become law. Contact your representative by Friday and ask them for co-sponsorship of all the bills endorsed by Climate Action NOW at https://docs.google.com/document/d/124lTZ7wEqoO7zTD-xKedS8qRLGumoMD4R90fRpFUAi8/edit.

I must repeat: This is the fight of our lives, folks. Through it we can not only literally save the world as we know it, but build community we are proud of.

Marty Nathan, MD, is a mother and grandmother who lives in Northampton and works at Baystate Brightwood Health Center in Springfield’s North End. She is a steering committee member of Climate Action NOW.

Showdown at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation

By Marty Nathan

An issue of worldwide concern is at stake in the drylands of North Dakota, where those opposing climate charge are supporting Native Americans from all over the country who fear for the loss of their water and sacred grounds and demand the respect for their treaty rights.

Thousands of people have gathered at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, bedding in recreational vehicles, tipis, tents, yurts and vans. The flags of different native American bands wave in the wind as residents of all ages and many ethnicities share food, outhouses, campfires, information, and work. They have come for a single purpose: stopping the building of the enormous underground Dakota Access Pipeline that will carry fracked crude oil from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota to Illinois and ultimately to the Gulf of Mexico. If this Dakota Access Pipeline is finished, 500,000 barrels of oil a day will pour through it to New Orleans for refining and shipping.

Native Americans are fighting the oil pipeline, saying it would pollute the Missouri River and destroy sacred lands.

Paki Wieland, my friend for more than two decades, called me from Standing Rock. She is a retired social worker and former nun, a woman deeply devoted to peace and the rights of the poor. She has used her retirement to engage in all the social change that work had previously forestalled.

The encampment of Native Americans is led by the local Standing Rock Sioux and calls itself the Water Protectors. Its leaders put out an international call for help to stop the Pipeline which will run under the Missouri River just upstream from their water source. Any leak in the pipeline would destroy that precious resource and make their community unlivable. Such an accident could contaminate both the Ogalala aquifer underlying all land between the Missouri and the Rockies as well as the Mississippi River that the Missouri enjoins some miles south.

Horseback riders make their way through an encampment near North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux reservation on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016.

Further, the pipeline is being constructed through traditional Sioux burial grounds. On Labor Day construction crews invaded that sacred site. The Water Protectors’ attempt to stop the destruction met a heavy-handed response by local sheriffs and corporate private security who sicced vicious dog on peaceful protesters.

Paki had responded to the Water Protectors’ call, packing a few belongings into a friend’s RV and driving the 27 hours to Standing Rock. There she witnessed a profoundly moving display of unity among folks who have not acted together for decades, if ever.

For the first time in 140 years the seven bands of the Sioux Nation had come together physically and politically to oppose the pipeline. Navajo traditional runners made the trek on foot all the way from Arizona and a group of young people, ReZpect Our Water, ran to Washington. DC, to deliver a petition to President Obama.

The circle has widened beyond indigenous peoples. Five hundred religious leaders incensed by the inexorable violation of Native American treaties stood together in early November to protest the ongoing colonization that the DAPL represents. Non-native environmental activists have joined tribal members lashing themselves to the construction machinery. Money for the encampment has poured in from around the country.

Why the focus here? What is pulling these disparate groups together?

1. The call of justice and the rights of Native Americans to their land, communities and livelihoods is a major propelling force.

2. The destruction of precious aquifer and surface water, at a premium in the west, would be an irretrievable loss throughout the region.

3. Pipeline owner Energy Transport Partners has used corrupt insider tactics to gain access to the land, and federal oversight has been lacking. ETP has never performed an environmental impact assessment, has never negotiated with the Standing Rock Tribe and has continued with construction despite a joint recommendation from the Department of Justice, Department of the Army and Department of the Interior to halt.

4. The purpose of the DAPL, like its now defunct sister, the Keystone XL is to release to the world more fossil fuels to burn. The US is drilling too much oil and natural gas for domestic consumption, and prices are too low for fossil fuel companies to profit. They must reduce production and transport costs and send the excess oil to overseas markets. Yet the emissions from burning the DAPL oil pose a true threat to an atmosphere that already has absorbed enough carbon dioxide to raise world temperatures more than 1.5 degrees Centigrade.

We have the capacity to substitute the oil drilled in North Dakota with conservation measures and renewable energy. And for the sake of the Standing Rock Sioux and our own children’s future, we must.

There will be a standout in support of the Standing Rock Sioux on Nov. 29 in Springfield.

It will be a tough fight since Donald Trump himself is invested in Energy Transport Partners and its CEO donated to his campaign.

If you would like to support the Standing Rock Sioux, visit the website http://www.ocetisakowincamp.org/donate.

Marty Nathan MD is a physician at Baystate Brightwood Health Center, lives in Northampton, and is on the steering committees of Springfield Climate Justice Coalition and Climate Action NOW.

Published in MassLive: http://www.masslive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2016/11/showdown_at_standing_rock_siou.html

 

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