Category: Writings

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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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.

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

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