What the New Green Deal Means for the Food on Your Plate

The long-awaited policy proposal from Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey has finally surfaced—and it aims to turn U.S. agriculture into a positive force for climate change and social justice.

Today, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) released their much-anticipated Green New Deal with the goal of creating millions of jobs by expanding renewable energy and de-carbonizing the economy over the next 10 years.

The need for a food-system overhaul also gets a shout-out in the closing line of the resolution, which notes that the projects required by a Green New Deal will include “providing all people of the United States with … access to clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and nature.”

Agriculture’s presence in the Green New Deal is the result of a palpable urgency that has emerged in food and farming movements to make sure that the effort not only reduces industrial agriculture’s massive carbon emissions, but also transforms a host of environmental problems and inequities embedded in how America’s food is produced.

“The Green New Deal sets a bold vision for dealing with the climate change crisis, which will soon escalate into a full-blown disaster if we don’t make the kinds of changes outlined in this plan. There are many good ideas in this resolution, but this is just the first step in the process,” Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) said in a statement to Civil Eats. “There is a lot of work to be done in the days ahead to iron out the details, like opportunities to work with farmers to trap more carbon in the soil. But I’m confident that we can pass something in the House and send it to the Senate, because the American people have demanded action.” MORE

Ottawa’s Wood Buffalo plan ‘not good enough’: First Nations

Canada’s largest national park is at risk of losing its status as a World Heritage site due to the impacts of dams, oil development and climate change

Image result for Ottawa’s Wood Buffalo plan ‘not good enough’: First Nations

The federal government is promising to create artificial ice jams, strategically release water from BC Hydro dams and assess cumulative impacts on northern Alberta’s Peace-Athabasca delta in an attempt to retain the World Heritage status of Canada’s largest national park.

However, Ottawa’s long-awaited action plan for Wood Buffalo National Park rejects a World Heritage Committee recommendation calling on Canada to  conduct an environmental and social impact assessment of the controversial Site C dam. The action plan says the federal government’s hands are tied because an assessment of the project was completed by a federal-provincial review panel before the dam was approved in 2014.

“There is no legal mechanism in federal legislation to suspend or negate the authorization or undertake a new environmental assessment for a project that has been approved,” says the 96-page report compiled by Parks Canada, in consultation with 11 Indigenous communities and the B.C., Northwest Territories and Alberta governments.

Site C looms large in those concerns, said Becky Kostka, Smith’s Landing First Nation lands and resources coordinator. Last month, the committee wrote to Canada’s ambassador to the UN expressing concerns that the dam would permanently affect the land rights of Indigenous peoples in B.C. MORE



These probiotics for plants help farms suck up extra carbon dioxide

A mix of fungi and bacteria added to the soil makes agriculture more productive–and helps stop climate change.

[Photo: Locus Agricultural Solutions]

On thousands of acres of orange groves in Florida, farmers are adding beneficial fungi and bacteria to the soil, which makes the oranges grow bigger and sweeter–and makes the soil suck up enough extra CO2 so that each acre offsets the emissions from a passenger car. Call it probiotics for soil.

“Agricultural soils are one of the world’s largest carbon sinks,” says Paul Zorner, CEO of Locus Agricultural Solutions, the startup that makes the particular combination of probiotics in use on the farms. “If they’re treated right, you’re going to absorb a lot of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.”

Unlike the ocean, which has absorbed the brunt of human emissions so far–becoming more acidic and hotter and threatening marine life as that happens–soil can benefit from extra carbon. “Soil is the exact opposite,” Zorner says. “Soil actually enriches its productivity when you’re sequestering carbon, and so the soil and crop and ultimately the growers benefit by sucking as much CO2 from the atmosphere to the plant into the soil as possible.” MORE

The children skipping school aren’t ruining the planet – you are

Stop criticising pupils striking about climate change. The so-called adults are the ones leading us into a catastrophe

 ‘These protests have spread rapidly, from Australia to Germany, from Sweden to Belgium.’ Photograph: Omer Messinger/Getty Images

If there is one political subject that remains neglected and underestimated because of how we have for centuries run our societies, economies and families, then it is children. Although the experience and process of growing up has in many ways profoundly changed through history, our understanding of children has failed to keep pace.

Nothing makes this clearer than the children’s climate strikes. These protests, involving school-age children refusing to attend class to focus the attention of political leaders on the global climate crisis, have spread from Australia to Germany, from Sweden to Belgium; the first strikes in the UK take place on Friday 15 February and in the US later this month. But instead of taking them seriously, many “adults” (usually, though not exclusively old men in leadership positions) are still dismissing them with the utterly paternalistic argument that all these protests are nice and cute, but skipping school? Why can’t the children protest in their “free time”, instead of endangering their own education and their future which we, the adults, supposedly have provided for them.

The most absurd reaction has emerged from Belgium, where an environment minister, Joke Schauvliege, has been forced to resign after claiming that the Belgian children skipping school were being directed by unnamed foreign powers. MORE


Europe climate change protests: Teenage girls organize mass school walkouts and protests
A Huge Climate Change Movement Led By Teenage Girls Is Sweeping Europe. And It’s Coming To The US Next.

Australian court rejects coal mine on climate grounds

Australia is one of the world’s biggest producers of coal AFP/TORSTEN BLACKWOOD

SYDNEY: An Australian court on Friday (Feb 8) delivered a landmark ruling by rejecting plans to build a coal mine on the grounds it would worsen climate change.

Chief Justice Brian Preston said a planned open cut coal mine in a scenic part of New South Wales state would be in “the wrong place at the wrong time”.

The ruling by the New South Wales Land and Environment Court was notable for citing not only local impacts of building the proposed Gloucester Resources mine, but also secondary “climate change impacts” of the eventual use of the coal. SOURCE


Fort Chipewyan hopes to have Canada’s largest off-grid solar project operating by 2020

The sun rises over frozen Lake Athabasca near Fort Chipewyan, Alta. on Friday December 12, 2014. Vince Mcdermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

The Alberta government will contribute $3.3 million towards Three Nations Energy LP – a company founded by the Athabasca Chipewyan and Mikisew Cree First Nations, as well as Métis Local 125 – to help build 7,500 solar panels in the community.

Once complete, it will be the country’s largest off-grid solar project and generate the same amount of fuel produced by 800,000 litres of diesel. The project is said to cost a total $7.8 million.

“We have the Three Nations, industry, and government all sitting down together, looking at a problem that is true all across northern Canada and that is communities that are 100 per cent dependent on diesel in order to be able to provide their energy,” said Richard Feehan, Alberta’s Minister of Indigenous Relations, at a press conference in Edmonton. “There’s been a lot of concern that because diesel is not the best fuel for the environment, that the communities would like to take a step toward shifting away from that.”

The solar panels are expected to begin operating in fall 2020. MORE

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Releases Green New Deal Outline

The Green New Deal legislation laid out by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey sets goals for some drastic measures to cut carbon emissions across the economy. In the process, it aims to create jobs and boost the economy. Amr Alfiky/NPR

In very broad strokes, the Green New Deal legislation laid out by Ocasio-Cortez and Markey sets goals for some drastic measures to cut carbon emissions across the economy, from electricity generation to transportation to agriculture. In the process, it aims to create jobs and boost the economy.

In that vein, the proposal stresses that it aims to meet its ambitious goals while paying special attention to groups like the poor, disabled and minority communities that might be disproportionately affected by massive economic transitions like those the Green New Deal calls for.

Importantly, it’s a nonbinding resolution, meaning that even if it were to pass (more on the challenges to that below), it wouldn’t itself create any new programs. Instead, it would potentially affirm the sense of the House that these things should be done in the coming years.

The bill calls for a “10-year national mobilizations” toward accomplishing a series of goals that the resolution lays out. SOURCE


The Green New Deal Lands in Congress

The Cautious Case for Climate Optimism

Believing in a comfortable future for our planet probably means some giant carbon-sucking machines.

Photo-Illustration: Joe Darrow/Sven Schabbach/Getty Images

[Adapted from The Uninhabitable Earth, by David Wallace-Wells, to be published on February 19 by Tim Duggan Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2019 by David Wallace-Wells.]

It’s not too late. In fact, it never will be. Whatever you may have read over the past year — as extreme weather brought a global heat wave and unprecedented wildfires burned through 1.6 million California acres and newspaper headlines declared, “Climate Change Is Here” — global warming is not binary. It is not a matter of “yes” or “no,” not a question of “fucked” or “not.” Instead, it is a problem that gets worse over time the longer we produce greenhouse gas, and can be made better if we choose to stop. Which means that no matter how hot it gets, no matter how fully climate change transforms the planet and the way we live on it, it will always be the case that the next decade could contain more warming, and more suffering, or less warming and less suffering. Just how much is up to us, and always will be.

Since I first began writing about climate a few years ago, I’ve been asked often whether I see any reason for optimism. The thing is, I am optimistic. But optimism is always a matter of perspective, and mine is this: No one wants to believe disaster is coming, but those who look, do….Given only conventional methods of decarbonization (replacing dirty-energy sources like coal and oil with clean ones like wind and solar), this is probably our best-case scenario. It is also what is called — so often nowadays the phrase numbs the lips — “catastrophic warming.” A representative from the Marshall Islands spoke for many of the world’s island nations when he used another word to describe the meaning of two degrees: genocide.
….But this fall, the start-up incubator Y Combinator called for proposals in four areas, hoping to invest in companies that would suck carbon out of the atmosphere by expanding the reach of the ocean’s phytoplankton (which naturally absorb CO2 in the ocean and turn it into oxygen) or reengineer it to do so more prolifically; by making the world’s rocks massive carbon sinks; by inventing new enzymes that would filter the air; and by flooding large areas of the world’s deserts with beds of algae engineered to absorb all that CO2.

Children’s Climate Crusade Litigation: Trump Administration Files Opening Brief in 9th Circuit


Image result for Children’s Climate CrusadeA new approach to Environmental Law

The Juliana v. U.S. climate change litigation (better known as part of the Children’s Climate Crusade) is back in the spotlight. The case was filed in Oregon U.S. District Court in 2015 on behalf of future generations to force governmental action on climate change.

Last Friday’s brief tees up four primary issues that will determine whether the case eventually goes to trial:

  1. Are the plaintiffs’ climate grievances sufficiently specific to constitute a “case or controversy”?

First, the government argues that the plaintiffs lack standing because their allegations do not constitute a “case or controversy” under Article III of the Constitution. According to the government, plaintiffs “have only a generalized grievance and not the required particularized injury because global climate change affects everyone in the world.” As a result, the government argues that the plaintiffs “cannot plausibly connect their narrow asserted injuries — like flooding or drought in their neighborhoods — to any particular conduct by the government.” The government also argues that the court cannot remedy the claimed injuries, another requirement of standing.

This is a high hurdle for the plaintiffs. The government argues that a single federal judge should not be allowed to “seize control of national energy production, energy consumption, and transportation” in ways that would address the alleged harms. MORE

Federal Court quashes federal policy allowing transfer of salmon into fish farms without testing for contagious virus or consulting with Indigenous peoples

Image result for salmon smolts

On Feb. 4, 2019, the Federal Court issued its reasons for judgment regarding certain decisions made by the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard. The Court’s reasons were extensive, spanning roughly 200 pages.

At issue in Morton 2015 was a condition DFO had included in fish farms’ licenses to operate. This condition allowed the operator to itself authorize transfers if it deemed certain criteria were satisfied. The Court in Morton 2015 held that (i) this approach constituted an impermissible delegation of the Minister’s regulatory authority to fish farm operators, and (ii) s. 56(b) requires the Minister to take an approach consistent with the precautionary principle when considering transfer requests.

…Further, the Court considered that the health of wild Pacific salmon was (i) a relevant factor required to be taken into account but was not, and (ii) that not accounting for this was additionally contrary to the precautionary principle, which further rendered the Policy unreasonable. MORE