Category: Writings

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.

Pruitt – the climate-denying EPA head

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.

Susan Theberge: Rising up to meet this moment

Rising up to meet this moment

Susan Theberge, CAN Newsletter Editor
 

Ready or not, we are called upon to meet this moment in history. What can we draw on as sources of strength, encouragement and resiliency? We would love to hear the thoughts of our readers. To get us started I offer a few reflections.

We belong to each other 
Let’s join together to protect each other from harm and create safety for those at risk. In doing so we deepen our trust and build unity across different struggles.

Care for ourselves and each other
We are in this for the long haul. We need healthy ways to cope when things feel overwhelming.  And relationships that support us and our work together.

We are stronger when we join together.
History teaches us that sustained mass action is our greatest source of power. Look to those who came before us for inspiration and courage. 

Be guided by our love for this earth and the sacredness of all its inhabitants
Affirm the interconnection of all life and ground all we do in the principles of non-violent action.

Welcome others into the work.
Let’s find ways to connect with people new to this work and support everyone in finding their place. We can challenge ourselves to listen more attentively, hear more deeply, and respond with more kindness and understanding.

Incorporate climate justice into all our work 
Ground our work in justice, equity and the awareness that environmental justice communities are disproportionately impacted by the forces driving climate change, and are more vulnerable to and impacted by the results of climate change.

Accept leadership from those most affected 
Recognizing that our views, beliefs and perceptions are conditioned by our past experience and where we stand in life, honor leadership from those most affected by climate change in any particular situation. 

Fierce love will save this place.
Climate Action Now is a home for everyone who wants to be part of building a vibrant, unstoppable climate justice movement. Please join us.

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

 

LTE Tina Ingmann: Urges everyone to break spiral of climate silence

Urges everyone to break spiral of climate silence

 

I eagerly watched all three presidential debates, hoping climate change might finally burst onto the national stage. I was, of course, disappointed.

Maybe I was naïve to think that companies funded by oil and gas advertising revenue would entertain a discussion on global warming.

The media isn’t alone in avoiding this topic. According to Yale climate communication experts, we are trapped in a “spiral of silence” about climate change. Seven in ten Americans rarely or never discuss it, even though a majority is “worried” or “somewhat worried” about global warming.

After all, who wants to be the wet blanket bringing up such an uncomfortable and complex topic? Climate silence is real. Defense specialists acknowledge climate change as a major security threat; therefore, isn’t discussing it our patriotic duty?

Meanwhile, growing numbers of faith leaders urge climate action as a moral imperative as millions face displacement, hunger, drought, severe heat waves, flooding, wildfires and violent storms.

 
We have almost run out of time to restore a stable climate. The longer we wait to drastically reduce emissions, the more difficult our task. The window to transition to a clean energy economy may be as short as a few years.

Big media is not telling the story, so we, the people must step up. I believe that when enough of us come to terms with the full implications of the climate emergency, our collective outrage will break grip of the bottom-liners who would rather have us passively accept climate chaos as our fate.

 
We must use our voices to resist these forces. Otherwise we might have to tell our grandchildren: “We all knew something was wrong, but no one talked about it, so it didn’t seem urgent.”

Each one of us can take action on climate today by breaking the spiral of climate silence.

Tina Ingmann

(Letter to the editor, published in the Hampshire Daily Gazette  November 2, 2016)

 

Marty Nathan: Climate crisis has greatest impact on poor people

 

We are entering a time of climate emergency, when murderous mega-storms, droughts, and heat waves are happening with increasing frequency and intensity. We are getting a preview of things to come in this mounting crisis, caused by the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels.

The climate change process is occurring in a human society divided not just by geography, but deeply cleaved by class, race and gender. We are not all equally capable of withstanding the onslaught of high winds and rising seas.

What are the climate change lessons so far? The recent Hurricane Matthew follows Katrina, Rita and Sandy in making one very clear statement: Poor people and poor communities, predominantly those of color, have and will increasingly suffer the most from the climate crisis, unless we consciously intervene on several fronts.

Matthew first pummeled western Haiti, destroying thousands of homes and killing hundreds of people, the number not yet settled because assessment and aid provision is still not complete.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Its hillsides are deforested, decreasing barriers to wind and flood damage. Dwellings are poorly made to withstand the power of hurricanes. Lack of roads and transport vehicles prevents evacuation in the face of disaster. Clean water is at a premium, meaning that the cholera bacteria introduced there after the earthquake six years ago could dig in and prosper, killing hundreds and lying in wait for opportunities for new human hosts. Health care resources are extremely limited. And those same nonexistent roads and vehicles bar relief and recovery efforts. The destruction wrought and still ongoing is appalling.

Matthew was the product of climate change. The atmospheric greenhouse gas blanket has warmed the ocean’s surface and has increased evaporation over tropical waters, filling the air with rain that is then dumped in torrents in tropical storms, typhoons and hurricanes. There have been more Level 4 and 5 hurricanes around the world in the last three decades than ever in recorded history. Climatologists and honest observers call them the new normal, the result of the human-heated world.

Coastal and island communities are more vulnerable because of their geography. However, some seaside dwellers, because of wealth and political power, are capable of escaping, withstanding and rebuilding after hurricane winds and flooding. As was so vividly demonstrated in Haiti, the criminal irony is that climate change created by the fossil fuel emissions of the wealthy in the global North disproportionately destroys the lives, livelihoods and communities of the poor and the powerless.

On the U.S. coast, the message was the same. I lived for many years in North Carolina, visiting the eastern part of the state for vacations at the beach. Impressions remain with me of deep poverty in isolated rural communities where lived the descendants of plantation slaves. Lumberton, named the poorest town in the country, is home to an officially unrecognized Lumbee tribe who share the community with African Americans, mostly poor whites and more recently-arrived Latino farmworker families.

When Matthew dumped nine inches of rain on Lumberton’s Robeson County, many were unable to leave, most were unable to take essential belongings, virtually none had flood insurance, and the region has become a human disaster area. Fortunately, no one was killed, but thousands lost homes and work.

Poor rural areas are a haven for environmentally toxic industry, and eastern North Carolina has been a poster child for pollution by hog agribusiness. In general, climate change-derived storms cause breakdown of the barriers between industrial poisons and the water, land and air of the surrounding community. In eastern North Carolina, for the second time in history, flooding produced overflow and breaching of the hog manure pools. No one knows how much or for how long local surface water and wells will be affected.

As Haiti and Lumberton demonstrate, the unequal victimization of the poor by climate disaster in return reinforces the injustice of the economic system. Poor people lose the little they have and may become homeless and displaced, forced to migrate to far-away cities without social support.

It is clear to me from a moral perspective that A) To prevent disaster like we have not imagined, we must address the climate emergency and cut fossil fuel emissions; B) We must protect the socially targeted victims of climate chaos by specifically focusing our resilience efforts on poor nations, communities and individuals; and C) Creating resilience necessarily must involve redistribution of wealth, providing adequate housing, work, income and education to those who are more and more shut out by our stratified social system. This is called climate justice.

I am glad to say we in Massachusetts are taking on the challenge. There is an important effort to cut emissions, the Carbon Pollution Fee and Rebate Plan, afoot in the Legislature. It will place a fee on all fossil fuels entering the state, making them more expensive to burn. All the fees collected will be returned to state residents, so that those who use less gas, oil and coal will come out ahead.

The scheme has been successfully applied to lower greenhouse gas emissions in British Columbia and in several countries around the world. We need to pass and implement it.

However, we must also make sure that it is a progressive measure that benefits working people and the poor just as disproportionately as the climate crisis targets them.

I, as a doctor who has contributed way more than my share of car, airplane and home heat emissions to the atmosphere compared to my impoverished patients in the North End of Springfield, neither need nor deserve a rebate.

We who have benefited the most from the fossil fuel orgy of the last several decades can afford to give back to create a more just and climate change-resilient society.

Let’s learn from the last disaster while we do our best to prevent the next one.

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.

Published in the Gazette Oct 10, 2016

LTE Daphne Stevens: We can all act on climate change

Daphne Stevens: We can all act on climate change

Letter to the editor, published in the Hampshire Daily Gazette  September 27, 2016

We can all act on climate changeThank you to Marty Nathan for her two-part series about climate change on Sept. 6-7.

The articles were very clear about what is happening and what we all need to do to save life on this planet as we know it. I have been a climate activist for over 30 years and often feel despair.

For others who are disturbed by these changes, get involved to help find solutions. Join Climate Action Now, or CAN, which is an excellent group of very committed activists in this area. People in my church are very involved as well. Vote for those who will put the climate first when they make decisions.

Clearly, we cannot continue as usual, so join us as we work together in camaraderie. Also listen to your children because these things are being discussed. If you don’t discuss these changes, like the very serious drought that we are experiencing, children won’t have anyone to take their fears too.

Daphne Stevens

Marty Nathan: Responding to climate change emergency we face

 

Recently the Massachusetts legislature passed the long-awaited Omnibus Energy Bill. As a climate change activist, I joined hundreds of others making calls to our legislators to request a bill that would decrease the state’s investment in the acquisition and burning of fossil fuels.

We won some things. There is a good plan to identify and plug methane leaks from our cities’ natural gas pipes. The state is set to acquire 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power and the bill encourages onshore wind development as well.

In another victory, it did not institute a measure to require electric ratepayers to fund new gas pipelines in the state.

But the bill was emblematic of the gradualism adopted by our political leadership that simply cannot meet the challenge of the climate emergency we are facing.

Our house is on fire, and we are using a teacup to douse the flames.

I do not blame our legislators too much. Meeting the climate crisis, the task that should be the focal point of our thinking and action, requires not responding to all the appeals to continue the status quo. When lobbyists or reporters accuse one of being an alarmist or destroying jobs, charges that could mean defeat at the next election, it is difficult to stand one’s ground.

However, our task now will require throwing off convention and adopting wisdom and courage seldom seen in politics. It means fully understanding the implications of the emergency we face.

In his recent article featured on the cover of the New Republic, climate activist Bill McKibben compares our plight to a new world war waging all around us that we have yet to engage. This time, however, the enemy is not a Hitler or Hirohito plotting to steal resources and land, destroy towns and dominate nations.

Instead, the enemy is climate catastrophe, the physical and chemical product of industrialization and its rapacious mining and burning of fossil fuels. The lethal opponent was created by us humans, usually from the best of intentions, to improve our lives and society.

However, the buildup of greenhouse gasses that resulted has heated our Earth beyond levels seen since long before civilization began, with the rate of warming unprecedented in the last thousand years. “Carbon and methane now represent the deadliest enemy of all time, the first force fully capable of harrying, scattering, and impoverishing our entire civilization,” McKibben writes.

He states bluntly that the war has already begun with heat waves and megastorms, out-of-control forest fires resulting from massive droughts, quickly melting polar ice raising sea levels, decimation of species and new tropically based infectious diseases appearing far out of their traditional range.

As usual with most wars, many of the first victims are those not responsible for the conflict: Those of the global South are most vulnerable and first to be ravaged by such disasters as the Philippines Typhoon Haiyan and the massive Pakistani floods.

McKibben spins the metaphor of the war against climate change, describing scientists clamoring for decades for a massive offensive against the enemy, only to be ignored and abused by this country’s “Fifth Column” – the fossil fuel industry and those in its financial thrall.

The call to mobilizeNow, though, in 2016 we as a nation must realize that all of the isolated climate change-related disasters we have faced add up to our new Pearl Harbor. Consequently, our task is to mobilize for the clean energy and conservation offensive needed to drop the concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases. We cannot rely on the gradualism of the present system whose apex agreement – the Paris Climate Agreement – will inevitably heat up the world by 3.5 degrees centigrade by 2100.

We must and can enter emergency mode and implement the plans that scientists such as Mark Jacobson of Stanford University have been forming to power 80 percent of the U.S. economy with renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.

To do so requires massive investment in solar and wind energy, about 300 huge factories to produce each in this country. There must be unprecedented growth of public transportation, realistic pricing on fossil fuels (including jet fuels) that reflects their actual social cost, a fracking ban, a prohibition against drilling or mining fossil fuels on public lands (which contain half of the untapped carbon left in America), a climate litmus test for new development projects and an end to World Bank financing of fossil fuel plants.

As a start.

A national conversion of this magnitude was successfully undertaken 75 years ago. What is needed parallels the efforts of 1941 to 1945, when our government invested in building and transforming factories all over the country to turn out the bombers, tanks, guns, uniforms and all the equipment necessary to fight the Nazis and Japanese. War bonds, Victory gardens, gasoline and food rationing cards, Rosie the Riveter and the draft affected all of society as it converted to wage the war.

Though McKibben does not say so, much of the investment necessary for today’s gargantuan undertaking can and should come from the $600 billion yearly military budget. It would make ironic sense, since the military is the most carbon-intensive institution in the country.

Despite what the deniers and gradualists say, such a publicly funded conversion would not mean loss of jobs. To the contrary, the fossil-fuel-based economy is less job-rich than a green one, by about two million workers, and in general those green jobs would pay more and be less dangerous than those in gas, oil and coal.

As a society we simply cannot afford to pursue the present course. The damages already wrought in the U.S. by the western drought, superstorms Katrina and Sandy, the recent Louisiana floods and all the lesser climate change-based disasters are costing tens of billions of dollars, with much more inevitable in the near future. If we are afraid of losing money and jobs, the present approach is a debacle.

It is time for each of us, individually, to respond to the climate emergency, assess our lives and become engaged in fighting the greatest threat of our times.

As a start, we have a unique opportunity to involve ourselves with the elections taking place this fall. We need to campaign and to demand that our politicians submit neither to the denial nor the gradualism that will mean climate defeat. We must engage our political leaders and persistently show them we support only bold action and comprehensive approaches that will swiftly convert us to clean energy.

We have to impress upon them that piecemeal approaches are no longer acceptable in this historic struggle.

Marty Nathan, MD, lives in Northampton and writes regularly on environmental issues. The first part of her essay appeared Wednesday and can be found on GazetteNET.com.

Marty Nathan: US mobilized for WWII, why not now for climate?

 

Climate Justice a Spotlight on Springfield TV

By Dineen O’Rourke

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 10.07.34 AM

In Springfield, environmental racism has been threatening one of humanity’s basic rights for years – the right to breathe. 1 in 5 people in the city have asthma, a rate that sharply increases for children and people of color.1 “We have to stop taking the air we breathe for granted,” shared Michaelann Bewsee, founder and organizer of Arise for Social Justice.

To highlight this issue, the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition (SCJC) recently organized a panel filmed live on Focus Springfield Community TV, bringing together representatives of local and statewide organizations working towards environmental and climate justice. The panel, hosted by Springfield Ward 1 City Councilor Adam Gomez, featured Michaelann Bewsee of Arise, as well as Claire Miller, community organizer at Toxics Action Center, Ivette Hernandez from Keep Springfield Beautiful, and Jesse Lederman, spokesperson for Stop Toxic Incineration Springfield.

Watch the stream of the entire panel discussion here.

Over 20% of children in Springfield have asthma, which is more than double the statewide rate of childhood asthma, and 50% higher than the national average. This rate almost triples for African American and Latino children in Springfield.1 This is what environmental racism looks like.

Ivette Hernandez spoke of being a single mother of three children while living in the North End, one of the most low-income areas of the city. One of her children has chronic asthma, which has caused upwards of 15 school absences a year. “The lack of accountability and action from our city’s government on these issues is unacceptable,” she said, adding that low-income communities like the North End are treated as “less than human.”

With over 500 known gas leaks in the city and a proposal to build a new toxic biomass incinerator, Springfield is heading in the wrong direction of fixing this asthma emergency, even though these organizations have been highlighting problems like this for years. Two years ago we marched to the Springfield City Hall and witnessed the unanimous vote to pass the Climate Action Resolution developed by the SCJC. The determined hope was palpable in the air of the courtroom. From the Springfield high school students who spoke about climate change, to the parents of children with asthma, and from religious leaders to community organizers, everyone had a pertinent story to share about why climate justice is the necessary path for Springfield.

But now, over two years later, Mayor Domenic Sarno still has not implemented the Climate Action Plan that his government unanimously passed. The SCJC has increased their pressure by demanding a Climate Justice Plan, one that would employ Springfield residents to alleviate the city’s unemployment issues. “We don’t want a climate change plan. We want a climate justice plan,” Michaelann voiced on the panel.

There’s a critical need for a framework of race and class politics when discussing sustainability and climate action. Without these frameworks, the constant push for renewable energy and electric vehicles from wealthy environmentalists becomes isolating and polarizing for those unable to afford such solutions. We are not going to buy ourselves out of climate change; our emotional and societal dependence on consumerism is part of the very problem that laid the groundwork for climate change. The changes we require come from collective action and dedicated grassroots organizing. We are not free until everyone is free.

Climate Action Now is one of the co-founding organizations of the SCJC. Our work has also included organizing against the Kinder Morgan Northeast Energy Direct, a pipeline that would have carried gas obtained by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, from Pennsylvania through New England. After a two-year-long grassroots movement, with a wide array of strategies, Kinder Morgan withdrew their pipeline application from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and our struggle became a success.

Yet even with this recent victory, fracked gas and methane will continue to be a threat in our region – our work is not over. Springfield is now organizing against a dangerous amount of methane leaks in the city’s gas heating system, with over 500 discovered in the city in one year alone. “These streets can explode at any given time,” remarked Jesse Lederman. “It’s unacceptable.”

Not only does this gas leak into the atmosphere, rapidly accelerating climate change and increasing the risk of asthma and neurotoxin disorders, it also is an economic loss that falls on the backs of electric ratepayers in the city. Home Energy Efficiency Team estimated that in 2014 alone, this escaped gas accumulated to a loss of $2.3 million. Northampton is facing almost 100 known gas leaks, believed to be have cost ratepayers $600,000 in 2014. The SCJC is currently awaiting a response from a letter sent to Colombia Gas, the city’s electric utility company, requesting a meeting to discuss this issue. You can sign this petition to demand Colombia fix these leaks immediately. “Yes, fixing the leaks can be costly,” remarked Ivette Hernandez. “But we have a lot of people here looking for jobs,” echoing the interconnected justice aspect of the Climate Justice Plan.

As City Councilor Adam Gomez aptly stated to close the panel, “creating real change in our community will begin with real unity.” In a world rapidly warming world with rising seas and increased pollution, hope can understandably be a difficult emotion to turn to. Our hope for a better world becomes more actualized when we come together and take collective action.Screen Shot 2016-06-04 at 2.40.05 PM

Get involved with the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition!

What: SCJC Monthly Meeting
When: Wednesday, June 8, 6pm
Where: Arise for Social Justice office, Springfield
RSVP: (413) 734-4948

This meeting is open to all interested in being apart of the campaign to make Springfield a most just, sustainable, and healthy place for all. Whether you were apart of the founding of the coalition or you know little about climate change, all are welcome to learn about the work of this inspiring coalition.

 

Dineen O’Rourke is a student at Hampshire College and an organizer with Climate Action Now. Follow her on Twitter: @dineenorourke.

 

References

  1. Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition

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