Could ecocide become an international crime?

A long-running campaign to classify environmental destruction as a crime is finally gaining ground. But who is behind Stop Ecocide and why is the world starting to listen? 

URG Insights - The Amazon fires: the burning of rights.

The Amazon is on fire. Photo credit: LAD0T. December 6, 2017. S. Creek Fire 251. Licensed under: CC BY-ND 2.0.

Look closely at an Extinction Rebellion rally and you may see, among the flags featuring the movement’s hourglass logo, another symbol: a green peace sign, turned upside down. Squint, and it could look like a branching tree. This is the symbol of the Stop Ecocide campaign, an initiative set up by the lawyer Polly Higgins, and led by her until her death from cancer last year. Stop Ecocide want to make the large scale destruction of the environment a crime against peace, like genocide.

Higgins spent ten years proselytising, but only in the past year has her idea caught on. Extinction Rebellion made it a demand and, in November 2019, Pope Francis said he was considering making ecocide a sin. There is no single solution to the climate and ecological crisis, but increasingly a number of people think Higgins imagined the nearest thing to it.

Higgins defined ecocide as “the extensive destruction, damage to or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished.” She intended this definition to cover environmental destruction on the scale of the 2010 BP oil spill which was considered to be the largest ever: 134 million gallons leaked in the Gulf of Mexico, killing between two and five trillion fish and nearly 200,000 turtles. It cost the fishing industry an estimated $247m.

Last summer’s fires in the Amazon could be another example. They were largely thought to have been started by ranchers and loggers. President Bolsonaro, in office since January 2019, had overseen a sharp drop in fines dished out for environmental infractions whilst also taking resources and protections from officials who were supposed to enforce them. It amounted to tacit support. If ecocide were made an international crime, then Bolsonaro could be tried in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

With cases of genocide and other war crimes, the ICC does not try the foot soldiers following orders, but the politicians and generals who issued those orders. Similarly, if ecocide passed into law, politicians and CEOs would be deemed to have ultimate responsibility and would be the ones tried.

The proposed law would also criminalise large-scale commercial activities such as tar sand oil extraction and deforestation. This would render many destructive business models unviable and should, in theory, allow more environmentally friendly ones to flourish.

Supporters argue economic disruption is a small price to pay to protect the ecosystems on which civilisation depends. Resources from the natural world are currently being consumed at 1.7 times the rate they can replenish themselves. In May, Jared Diamond, a Pulitzer Prize winner and professor of geography at UCLA, told New York Magazine that, unless we slow the rate we are exhausting fisheries, soils and freshwater, he would estimate “the chances are about 49 per cent that the world as we know it will collapse by about 2050”.

“Sooner or later,” says Jojo Mehta, who now runs the ecocide campaign, “the state to which we’re reducing the ecosystems on which we depend is going to dictate that a law like this has to come into place. What we are trying to do is get ahead of the game and make sure this law comes in sooner so we have time to adapt.”

Expanding the remit of the ICC is a surprisingly simple process. Any state can propose an amendment to its governing document, the Rome Statute. If two-thirds of the 123 ICC member states back it, then it will apply to those two-thirds. If eight-tenths back it, it will apply to everybody. Perhaps Donald Trump would withdraw from the ICC rather than allow American CEOs to be put on trial, but even if he did, they could still be tried for overseeing ecocide in ICC signatory countries. But Mehta hopes nobody would need to be tried, because companies would be granted time to transition to new business models.

Higgins and Mehta long ago gave up trying to convince wealthy post-industrial nations. Instead, Mehta now mostly lobbies countries at the front line of the climate and ecological crisis, such as Vanuatu, the South Pacific island nation threatened by sea level rises. Votes from these smaller nations are just as powerful in the ICC as those from larger countries. On 2 December of last year, at an assembly in the Hague, John Licht, Vanuatu’s ambassador to the EU, said: “We believe this radical idea merits serious discussion.” It was the first time a state representative had called for ecocide to be a crime since 1972 when it was raised by Swedish politician Olof Palme at a UN environmental conference in Stockholm.

Licht’s statement was a strong hint that Vanuatu may soon submit the amendment. Mehta hopes that, once one government submits, worldwide pressure will encourage other governments to do so.

Critics of the Stop Ecocide campaign say that the imposition of this law would collapse the economy. Polly Higgins liked to assuage this fear by comparing it to the fears of business leaders two hundred years ago, who said the economy would collapse if the slave trade was abolished. It didn’t. She wrote in her book, Eradicating Ecocide, that “within just a year of rendering slavery unlawful, traders were profitably trading in other commodities, such as tea and china”.

This analogy with abolishing the slave trade is beguiling. It suggests consumerism could simply go on as before. But, whilst the process of changing international law might be surprisingly simple, the scale of change it would bring to our everyday lives is vast. It would change what we eat, by increasing the cost of beef and other foods linked to deforestation. It would change what we wear, by putting an end to fast fashion. It would change our choice of gadgets, transport, and much else.

If the Stop Ecocide campaign succeeds it will need to argue that a more frugal existence might actually be a happier one, but also that we have no alternative.

SOURCE

Ben Cooke is a staff writer at the Times

‘Black Lives Matter’ is About More than the Police

Black life must be valued at every stage and in every facet of society. We won’t rest until it is.

Every time another Black person is murdered by the police, it’s easy to point to a single officer as the culprit. George Floyd was killed under the knee of officer Derek Chauvin — we saw it ourselves. But Chauvin is just one officer in a culture of police violence, and policing is just one of the systems responsible for taking Black lives. COVID-19 exposed a number of the others.

It’s no coincidence that Black people, who are more likely to be killed by the police, are also dying at disproportionate rates of COVID-19. While some say it’s due to the prevalence of underlying health issues like diabetes and high blood pressure in the Black community, the conversation doesn’t end there, and pointing a finger at these conditions misses the bigger picture. We need to ask ourselves — how did we end up here?

The Black community is not inherently vulnerable to COVID-19. We’ve been made vulnerable through decades of unequal access to health care. We are made vulnerable every time a doctor or other health care provider dismisses us because they don’t believe our symptoms. We are made vulnerable through over-policing, which has led to not only our murders, but to our overrepresentation in jails and prisons, where the virus is spreading rapidly and has already killed hundreds. Even though public health experts have warned of the severe risk that incarcerated people face due to the conditions they live in, most have been left to languish as COVID-19 threatens to turn their detention into a death sentence.

In fact, jails and prisons are where multiple systemic failings that take Black lives converge — over-policing, over-incarceration, inadequate health care, and the deadly result.

When we say Black Lives Matter, we’re talking about more than police brutality. We’re talking about incarceration, health care, housing, education, and economics — all the different components of a broader system that has created the reality we see today, where Black people are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of white people, where Black people are given harsher sentences for the same offenses, where Black people are more likely to be held on bail pretrial, and where Black people are dying not only at the hands of police, but because of an unequal health care system. Black lives should matter in all stages of life — and to honor that truth, we must radically transform the system from its roots.

Systemic problems aren’t easy to fix, but we can take steps toward progress by re-examining the way we fund and rely on law enforcement in this country. A huge amount of public resources are put toward law enforcement agencies, at the expense of critical social services like education and health care. This doesn’t make us safer. It puts Black lives in danger of police brutality and of getting ensnared in the mass incarceration system. More law enforcement is not the answer. It’s what got us here in the first place.

Our culture of law enforcement puts the police in places they don’t need to be. Police don’t have to be the first responders to all crises, and they shouldn’t be. Social workers, doctors, and others can serve in place of police for issues including mental health crises, domestic violence, addiction, and homelessness. However, to create this reality we need to de-prioritize law enforcement — and cutting funding is a good start. Lawmakers should divert funding for police departments and put it to better use in community-led initiatives. Investing in services like health care and education will reduce the role of police in society, protect Black lives, and shift the focus to helping people rather than harming them.

When I co-founded Black Lives Matter almost seven years ago, the conversation about police brutality was just beginning to enter the mainstream discourse — not because police violence was anything new, but because of the work of activists and advocates who brought the issue to light with the help of technology that allows us to capture incidents on our phones. Today, more people are rallying for Black Lives than I would have ever imagined. That in itself is a sign of progress. But to turn Black Lives Matter into more than a rally cry, we must roll up our sleeves and do the work. Let’s tear down systems that harm us and strengthen systems that will advance true equality.

Let’s make sure that Black life matters at every stage and in every facet of society, well before a cop has his knee on a man’s neck.

SOURCE

From protest to progress

Black Lives Matter protesters in Washington, D.C., speak about the weight of history and their hopes for the future

From protest to progress: Black Lives Matter protesters on the change they want to see

Protesters who came out to a recent march in Washington, D.C., speak with CBC News about their experiences with systemic racism, the impact of the killing of George Floyd and their hopes for the future.
MORE

Toronto police officer found guilty of assault, brother not guilty, in Dafonte Miller beating case

 

EU countries agree their green transition fund will not pay for move to nuclear or fossil gas

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 19, 2020. Picture taken February 19, 2020 REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

(Reuters) – European Union countries agreed on Wednesday that the bloc’s flagship fund to wean regions off fossil fuels should not finance nuclear or natural gas projects, despite calls from some Eastern countries for gas to be eligible for EU funding.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive, wants to set up a 40 billion euro Just Transition Fund, comprised of 30 billion euros from an EU coronavirus recovery fund and 10 billion euros from its budget for 2021-27.

The fund aims to encourage a shift from high-carbon industries that would help coal miners to retrain and find new low-carbon jobs, and support regions whose economies depend on polluting sectors to build new industries.

Ambassadors from the EU’s 27 member states agreed on Wednesday that the Just Transition Fund should not support the decommissioning or construction of nuclear power plants, nor investments related to fossil fuels, according to a document published on Thursday.

The position is in line with the Commission’s, making it likely that the final Just Transition Fund will exclude nuclear and gas.

The proposal will be finalised following negotiations between member states, the Commission and EU Parliament, with the latter typically favouring ambitious climate change policies.

With EU leaders still wrangling over the size and shape of the EU’s recovery fund and budget, member states held off agreeing a number for the size of the pot.

While transition money is off the table, fossil gas projects could still seek support from other parts of the EU budget and coronavirus recovery funds – so long as those projects “do no harm” to the bloc’s emissions-cutting goals.

Eight eastern countries last month urged the EU to include natural gas projects in future funding, which they say they need to shift away from coal power.

Natural gas produces about half as much CO2 as coal when burned in power plants, but gas production is associated with leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Climate campaigners say new gas plants could stand for decades, threatening the EU’s aim to cut its net emissions to zero by 2050.

SOURCE

Reporting by Kate Abnett, editing by Marine Strauss and Angus MacSwan

Don Ross: The best news I’ve heard in a long time

Conceptual design of OPG’s proposed deep geologic repository (DGR) Source: Ontario Power Generation
The good news is now official! Ontario Power Generation has withdrawn their application for the proposed deep geologic repository for low and intermediate level radioactive wastes that they had intended to construct beneath the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Kincardine, and today the Minister of Environment and Climate Change announced that he had “terminated the environmental assessment process of the designated project at the request of the proponent.”

Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) Project for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste

Interested Parties
June 26, 2020 — The Minister of Environment and Climate Change has terminated the environmental assessment of the Deep Geologic Repository for Low and Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste Project (the Project) pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. Ontario Power Generation notified the Minister that it wishes to terminate the federal environmental assessment for the Project. This letter can be viewed at the following link:
Letters from the Minister of Environment and Climate Change regarding this decision have been sent to Ontario Power Generation and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and can be viewed at the following links:
You are receiving this message as a member of the distribution list for the environmental assessment of the DGR Project. If you would prefer not to receive emails regarding the environmental assessment, please send a message to CEAA.DGR.Project-Projet.DGR.ACEE@ceaa-acee.gc.ca.
Sincerely,
Deep Geologic Repository Project
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
160 Elgin Street, 22nd Floor
Ottawa, ON K1A 0H3

CEAA.DGR.Project-Projet.DGR.ACEE@ceaa-acee.gc.ca


Don Ross is a member of the County Sustainability Group


16 Ways The Pandemic Recovery Could Be Green

Clockwise from top left, hardwood logs in Charlotte, Vermont in 2020; solar panels in Pittsfield, Mass. in 2010; a group of volunteers work in a community garden; compostable food (AP Images; Getty Images; and Compassionate Eye Foundation/Natasha Alipour Faridani via Getty Images)

It is said, “a good crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”

As the world continues to confront the coronavirus pandemic and the deep economic fallout, environmentalists say this is a golden opportunity for a green recovery — using federal funds to avert the next global crisis on the horizon: climate change.

With Congress considering a second multi-trillion-dollar stimulus spending package, WBUR asked local environmental thinkers how they’d use pandemic funding for a green recovery. Here are some of their responses:

Insulate All Buildings For Free

This would lower everyone’s energy bill, help small businesses grow and provide many new jobs for energy assessors, insulation technicians and inspectors. It would also have an especially positive impact on gateway cities like Lawrence, where high carbon pollution and high energy bills cause negative health consequences for the community.

— Susan Almono, co-founder of Merrimack Valley Interfaith Team, which is affiliated with Massachusetts Interfaith Power and Light

Susan Almono of Massachusetts Interfaith Power and Light. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Susan Almono of Massachusetts Interfaith Power and Light. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Rethink Streets

A recent study showed a clear link between air pollution and COVID mortality rates. We need a sustainability response to COVID that builds public health and improves air quality, and a cornerstone of that recovery will be building density without crowding. That means redesigning urban streetscapes to widen sidewalks and install protected, dedicated bus and cycling lanes. And it means running transit service more frequently and all day long.

— Jim Aloisi, former Mass. transportation secretary

Former Mass. Transportation Secretary Jim Aloisi stands on Dorchester Avenue in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Former Mass. Transportation Secretary Jim Aloisi stands on Dorchester Avenue in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Fund Nuclear Energy

The global economic system needs an immediate conversion to low carbon energy sources that must be clean, reliable, safe and affordable. New nuclear technology fits the bill and is available now. In fact, today nuclear energy is by far our nation’s largest source of clean electricity. And we can make it the backbone of the war on climate change. Decision time is now.

— Jacopo Buongiorno, professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT

Jacopo Buongiorno, MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory director of science and technology. (Courtesy)
Jacopo Buongiorno, MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory director of science and technology. (Courtesy)

Grow More Food In The City

Since the pandemic hit we’ve been growing more food and seedlings for our folks experiencing higher rates of food insecurity. The pandemic has exposed how badly our food chain needs repairing. The solutions we’re coming up with in this crisis should be continued. With increased recovery funding we can acquire more land and train more urban farmers so we can do our part to meet the other rapidly approaching crisis: climate change. More farms, more food in the city, means lower global warming emissions and a decrease in rising temperatures.

— Patricia Spence, president, Urban Farming Institute

Patricia Spence, president of the Urban Farming Institute. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Patricia Spence, president of the Urban Farming Institute. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Quadruple Each State’s Energy Efficiency Investments

Efficiency is the cheapest source of energy, and unleashing efficiency would grow millions of jobs that can’t be exported, reduces our need for foreign energy, lowers energy bills, can increase economic equity, and spurs innovation of new technologies.

— David Cash, dean at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies

David Cash, dean at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies. (Courtesy)
David Cash, dean at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies. (Courtesy)

Change The Flow Of Capital

This pandemic has been devastating on my community and shown us that we need a wholesale change in how money moves. We’ve got to localize and diversify the decision makers of our capital flows, and the system itself can’t just keep rewarding and thinking about future profits. We’ve got to take into consideration: does it renew, does it restore, does it revitalize our soil, our air, our communities? We think like that, maybe we have a chance.

— Glynn Lloyd, executive director of the Foundation for Business Equity

Glynn Lloyd, executive director of the Foundation for Business Equity. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Glynn Lloyd, executive director of the Foundation for Business Equity. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Create A Green Jobs Service Program

We can build essential skills in the green economy, in areas like wind and solar. Beyond just providing a paycheck and health insurance, it also can provide skills training and apprenticeship opportunities for those involved. This can set up for good-paying careers into the future and contribute to the shift away from fossil fuels.

— Tim Cronin, policy manager at the Climate Action Business Association

Tim Cronin, policy manager at the Climate Action Business Association. (Courtesy)
Tim Cronin, policy manager at the Climate Action Business Association. (Courtesy)

Make Concrete Greener

I want the economic stimulus to move us closer to the goal of net zero carbon concrete, which is the most used building material in the world and accounts for over 7% of greenhouse gas emissions. We need to increase investment in research and incentives for the use of captured carbon dioxide in the production of concrete and aggregates, which will result in permanent carbon sequestration in buildings and infrastructure.

— Jeremy Gregory, executive director at MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub

Jeremy Gregory, executive director of MIT's Concrete Sustainability Hub. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Jeremy Gregory, executive director of MIT’s Concrete Sustainability Hub. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Create Car-Free Districts

These six to 10 permanent blocks could include open-air cafes, outdoor markets, concerts, picnics and lots of green and open spaces that encourage people to walk, bike, relax and practice physical distancing. The beauty of super-blocks is that it can be done anywhere — on a main street, urban area, suburban community, along a waterfront. This solution is good for our well-being, good for small businesses and good for our climate and environment.

— Mary Skelton Roberts, co-director of the Barr Foundation Climate Program. (Editor’s note: The Barr Foundation is a financial contributor to WBUR). 

Mary Skelton Roberts, co-director of the Barr Foundation Climate Program. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Mary Skelton Roberts, co-director of the Barr Foundation Climate Program. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Increase Composting

A third of all food today is wasted in the United States — that weighs in at 400 pounds per person per year. That’s 8% of global carbon emissions. We can reduce emissions and create badly needed jobs when local governments create diversion mandates and businesses are incentivized to increase composting. With centralized composting for every town and city, from farm to factory to fork, we can reduce waste.

— Rachel Kyte, dean at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. (Courtesy Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)
Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. (Courtesy Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)

Make Businesses Buy Recycled Products

I would like to see businesses that get government support be required to buy office products made from recycled materials. By “buying recycled” these companies support the local waste system, create jobs, save energy and save municipalities money by increasing the value of what gets put in the recycling bin. Let’s encourage more businesses and individuals to close the loop.

— Gretchen Carey, president of MassRecycle

Gretchen Carey, president of MassRecycle. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Gretchen Carey, president of MassRecycle. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Invest In Black-Owned Businesses

Recovering from COVID-19 is an opportunity to embed equity into our response to climate change, so those most impacted receive the benefits of investments. Federal funding should be made available to prepare Black, small businesses to be contracted to support the recovery from COVID-19. The same approach can be used for underestimated groups to conduct the building retrofitting necessary to help cities reach net-zero climate goals by 2050.

— S. Atyia Martin, CEO of All Aces

S. Atyia Martin, CEO and founder of All Aces. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
S. Atyia Martin, CEO and founder of All Aces. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Create A Climate Corps

The pandemic has left over 33 million Americans unemployed, and many of them may not be able to return to the admittedly low-wage jobs they had before. We can build on existing models to create a “Climate Corps” that works in cities and rural areas to prepare our communities for climate change. It could serve as a green jobs pathway that trains individuals in growing fields like renewable energy and adaptation planning, and would be a down payment on the just transition that we need.

— Nina Schlegel, director of the Global Center for Climate Justice

Christina "Nina" Schlegel, director of the Global Center for Climate Justice at Northeastern University. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Christina “Nina” Schlegel, director of the Global Center for Climate Justice at Northeastern University. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Use New England Wood More Wisely

Coronavirus shows global supply chains are risky. New England’s abundant forests could support tall buildings made from engineered wood, sourced from local, well-managed woodlands, reducing imports and the use of highly-emitting steel and concrete. Stimulus incentives for lower carbon construction, and in support of new wood manufacturing facilities, could help solve the climate crisis and create new jobs.

— Frank Lowenstein, deputy director at New England Forestry Foundation

Frank Lowenstein, deputy director of the New England Forestry Foundation. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Frank Lowenstein, deputy director of the New England Forestry Foundation. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Build Micro-Grids

The communities most impacted by COVID-19 will be the hardest hit by the climate crisis. We know that energy systems play a key role in our communities’ sustainability and resilience. By developing community led micro-grids, we democratize energy distribution, move away from an extractive economy reliant on fossil fuels, and provide resiliency to our neighborhoods. Community micro-grids are a powerful tool in the creation of a green economy that advances people’s sovereignty and self-determination.

— Maria Belen Power, associate executive director of GreenRoots

GreenRoots Associate Executive Director Maria Belen Power. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
GreenRoots Associate Executive Director Maria Belen Power. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Tax Carbon

I live in East Boston, a minority-majority community that has exponentially higher rates of asthma and pollution-related diseases. And now not only do we have the second-highest rates of COVID in Boston, but one of the highest populations of essential workers on top of that. It’s time we put a price on carbon with rebates going back to communities for mitigation. Our essential workers deserve it.

— Sonja Tengblad, coordinator for Mothers Out Front, East Boston

Sonja Tengblad of Mothers Out Front in East Boston. (Courtesy Sonja Tengblad)
Sonja Tengblad of Mothers Out Front in East Boston. (Courtesy Sonja Tengblad)

Supreme Court sides with Uber driver seeking better pay, benefits

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada has cleared the way for Uber drivers to take the next step in their fight to be recognized as employees.

In a decision today, the high court upheld an Ontario Court of Appeal decision that opened the door to a class-action suit aimed at securing a minimum wage, vacation pay and other benefits for drivers.

The man behind the planned class action, David Heller, is an Ontario driver for UberEats, a service that delivers food from restaurants to customers at home.

He argues that Uber drivers are employees, which entitles them to protections under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act.

Ontario’s highest court said a clause in Uber’s services agreement that requires all disputes to go through arbitration in the Netherlands amounted to illegally outsourcing an employment standard.

Heller earns about $400 to $600 a week before paying taxes and expenses, using his own vehicle and working 40 to 50 hours a week, amounting to revenue between $21,000 and $31,000 annually.

He says this works out to $10 to $12 an hour, while the minimum wage in Ontario is $14 an hour.

In its decision, the Supreme Court says the arbitration agreement is invalid, noting someone in Heller’s position could not be expected to appreciate the financial and legal implications of the arbitration clause.

“We agree with the Court of Appeal. This is an arbitration agreement that makes it impossible for one party to arbitrate,” said seven of the high court justices.

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada has cleared the way for Uber drivers to take the next step in their fight to be recognized as employees.

In a decision today, the high court upheld an Ontario Court of Appeal decision that opened the door to a class-action suit aimed at securing a minimum wage, vacation pay and other benefits for drivers.

The man behind the planned class action, David Heller, is an Ontario driver for UberEats, a service that delivers food from restaurants to customers at home.

He argues that Uber drivers are employees, which entitles them to protections under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act.

Ontario’s highest court said a clause in Uber’s services agreement that requires all disputes to go through arbitration in the Netherlands amounted to illegally outsourcing an employment standard.

Heller earns about $400 to $600 a week before paying taxes and expenses, using his own vehicle and working 40 to 50 hours a week, amounting to revenue between $21,000 and $31,000 annually.

He says this works out to $10 to $12 an hour, while the minimum wage in Ontario is $14 an hour.

In its decision, the Supreme Court says the arbitration agreement is invalid, noting someone in Heller’s position could not be expected to appreciate the financial and legal implications of the arbitration clause.

“We agree with the Court of Appeal. This is an arbitration agreement that makes it impossible for one party to arbitrate,” said seven of the high court justices.

Another justice who sided with Heller went even further, saying the arbitration agreement with Uber effectively bars him from accessing a legally determined dispute resolution, imposing undue hardship on Heller and undermining the rule of law.
SOURCE

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 26, 2020.

Uber driver hopes Supreme Court ruling will help change labour laws for gig workers

 

How you built a movement for a Just Recovery

350.org is building a global climate movement.

This Tuesday, we [350.org] joined our friends from Climate Action Network Canada, Sierra Club BC, and Leadnow to hold an e-rally where thousands of people delivered over 105,000 petition signatures to federal party leaders, MPs, and cabinet ministers demanding a Just Recovery. We also heard from movement leaders who are organizing tirelessly for Indigenous rights and support systems for migrants.

If you missed the rally, you can watch the recording and petition delivery here.

The rally was powerful, and it was just the first step. We need to keep building momentum to ensure elected officials continue to put people first in their recovery plans from COVID-19. Keep the conversation for a Just Recovery going through the summer by holding a teach-in in your community. Check out our resources to help you get started.

Together, we’ve all done so much in these last few months. Here is a look back at the incredible people-powered organizing that has led to this moment:

When COVID-19 hit communities across Canada, people across the country came together to organize mutual aid efforts and demand that no one was left behind in the government’s response. People like you fought to ensure everyone had the support they needed to pay bills and meet their basic needs. Communities also organized to demand more than just gratitude for frontline workers — calling for critical supports such as decent pay and sick leave.1

Then, tens of thousands of us spoke up to tell governments to put people before profit. And, it worked. After people across Canada called on elected officials to reject multi-billion dollar bailouts to Big Oil, the government listened. When Trudeau announced support for the oil and gas sector, it was primarily for cleaning up abandoned oil wells. Thanks to people-powered action, Big Oil got a small fraction of what they were demanding.2

At the end of May, 400+ other organizations, unions, and grassroots groups, representing millions of people, launched the 6 principles for a Just Recovery.3 Communities across Canada committed to not going back to business as usual of climate inaction and rising inequality after the COVID-19 pandemic. Together, we began to build a mass, people-powered movement to fight for a Just Recovery that puts people first.

This month, over 40 communities across Canada held digital teach-ins about how we can win a Just Recovery.

Last week, as the government asked for input on post-pandemic recovery plans, hundreds of you submitted briefs in support of a Just Recovery. So many people participated that the government’s online portal temporarily crashed.

In early June, the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery south of the border, and Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Eishia Hudson – among 4 other fatal police shootings in Manitoba in April – all at the hands of police-state violence sparked a mass movement to defend Black and Indigenous lives. It was an important reminder that to fight for a Just Recovery and climate justice, we must also fight to dismantle white supremacy and defund harmful institutions, like the fossil fuel industry and the police.4 We took a step towards starting this conversation by co-hosting a mass teach-in about how our fight for a Just Recovery must be anti-racist.5

These past few months have made it clear that in a moment of crisis, we need people-powered organizing to make sure political leaders put communities first. Let’s continue to push for a Just Recovery and Green New Deal to build back better.

With gratitude, Amara

PS – Now, as world leaders prepare to convene for the G20 summit, people are speaking up to demand that finance ministers around the globe deliver a Just Recovery. G20 finance ministers hold the pursestrings for the wealthiest economies in the world. And they can make a Just Recovery possible. Will you speak up to demand that all G20 finance ministers, including our own Minister Bill Morneau, deliver a Just Recovery for all?


References:

1 – 5 Ways to Demand Justice During the COVID-19 Pandemic

2 – Our response to today’s announcement about federal support for Big Oil

3 – The 6 principles for a Just Recovery

4- Climate justice means justice for black lives

5 – Why a Just Recovery means Justice for Black and Indigenous lives

A Convergence of Crises

“This is a hard time to be alive. It’s a time of concurrent crises. …In a sense, the world has been on fire for a while now. The climate crisis and global warming say that, the fevers induced by the pandemic say that, and now the fires incited by the history of racism, injustice and exclusion say that.” -Michael Meade

“Here is what my research has taught me. It’s possible for crisis to catalyze a kind of evolutionary leap.” -Naomi Klein

Covid-19 grew into a global pandemic that shook the foundations of our lives and shut down the world. Country by country, it spread around the globe and closed economies, transportation systems, schools, stores and life as we knew it. In the United States of America, our world’s wealthiest and “most advanced” country, we found ourselves caught off guard, and living under the misguided and disastrous leadership of our current President. We now hold the highest number of coronavirus infections and fatalities in the world: 2 million confirmed cases and climbing, 120,000 deaths and counting, and disproportionately impacting communities of color and our most poor and vulnerable populations by statistics that are greater than 6 to 1. We thought we were living in the greatest moment of challenge and change in a generation, and then we discovered that the plot was only getting thicker.

With our economy slowed down, travel suspended, and the consumption habits of our American lives radically reduced, we found ourselves in an economic recession, one that is still unfolding and the full extent of which is still unknown. More than 28 million people are unemployed, with ongoing uncertainty around when jobs will reopen, and many more are on furlough unsure if they will be invited to return. Some of our most essential workers — farm workers, construction workers, care providers — are trapped by our broken immigration system and stranded without any form of government assistance or healthcare. As the direct impact of Covid-19 continues to hit us, the stimulus checks are not enough, food banks are running short on supplies, child hunger is spiking across the nation, and the fate of our collective future feels tattered and worn. Our economy is shaking — built on a house of cards, ballooning debt, and a widening chasm between everyday people and the billionaires getting richer even amidst our crisis— and it could all come crashing down upon us.

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was cruelly and inhumanely murdered by a white police officer in Minneapolis pressing his knee to his neck for over eight minutes. The atrocity was caught on video and broadcast to a captive nation that was quarantined at home and paying close attention. It was another blatantly racist killing of an unarmed Black man, the latest in the long and tragic history of racial injustice in this country. The outrage spread like wildfire across our nation and around the world. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have taken to the streets in protest, standing up for the sacredness of Black lives and demanding justice, action and accountability. Amidst fires, curfews, violent confrontations with the police, and authoritarian threats from the President, the grief and rage has boiled over. The spirit of freedom and liberation has ignited in the hearts and minds of people everywhere. Young people, families, health care workers, and caring citizens of all backgrounds are rising up together and letting their voices and demands for justice be heard.

As if what is happening in the foreground was not enough, in the backdrop of it all is the ever-present and looming threat of climate change, mass species extinction, resource depletion and widespread environmental destruction. With the hottest temperatures ever recorded in the Arctic and rising, devastating wildfires increasing, and climate-related superstorms becoming the norm — the future of our blue-earth home and the life-support systems we depend on are hanging in the balance. In many ways our current challenges may just be a preparation for the massive disruption and survival challenges still to come. Slowing down our economy has shown us the power of nature to regenerate and how we can live with a smaller ecological footprint; yet we are far from changing our lifestyles and taking the collective action to make the shift to a clean, just, and green economy for all.

Poet and mythologist Michael Meade writes, “The word crisis comes directly from the ancient Greek healers, who used the word to describe a turning point in a disease.” It’s when a patient either gets sicker and begins to die, or starts to heal and begins a path of recovery. As we navigate this connected set of crises — a health crisis, an economic crisis, a racial justice crisis, an ecological crisis, a human and culture crisis — it’s clear that we’re at an unprecedented moment of reckoning.

If we continue to live in the way that we’ve been living, we won’t survive. But if we change course and respond to the opportunity of these crises together, we can create a world where we all thrive.

“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.” -Arundhati Roy

“This pandemic / Is systemic / Global pandemic / Endemic Systemic No Equality” -Aisha Fukushima

Author and activist Arundhati Roy has named the Covid-19 pandemic as a portal from one world to the next. While the portal is still open, what has changed is the depth of its transformative potential and the meaning of the word “pandemic.”

As we continue to navigate the health concerns of the coronavirus, and while the reopening debates rage on and we prepare for the coming second wave, a deeper, wider, at-the-heart-of-our-culture pandemic has opened up and is riveting us all. Racism and its 400 year history of inequity that ravages on today is our pandemic. Our underfunded schools and the hundreds of thousands of children without equal access is our pandemic. Economic disparity in all its forms, the ever-increasing wealth gap, poverty and homelessness is our pandemic. Loneliness, isolation, suicide and our mental health crisis is our pandemic. Materialism, consumerism, and our culture of overwork and fatigue is our pandemic. The unfathomable loss of biodiversity, the devastation of our natural ecosystems, the endless pollution and waste generated by our way of life on this planet is our pandemic. Our lack of meaning, morals, a sense of the sacred and a larger purpose is our pandemic.

When we search for the root cause of our interrelated crises, we discover a worldview based on separation, competition, endless growth, and exploitation. Every culture has a story made up of core beliefs and assumptions. It shapes the way we think and act and guides how we build and construct our social reality. It’s the water we swim in, an operating system running us all. The dominant culture and structures we live in today follow the rules built into the DNA of our system of capitalism and the neoliberal mindset that has colonized our lives and world.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. named this radical — meaning “getting to the root” — analysis in his own words over half a century ago:

“We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

Going even further, he wrote:

“The black revolution is much more than a struggle for the rights of Negroes. It is forcing America to face all its interrelated flaws — racism, poverty, militarism, and materialism. It is exposing the evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society. It reveals systemic rather than superficial flaws and suggests that radical reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced.”

There is a sickness at the heart of our culture that infects us all. It lives in our minds and bodies. It pervades our systems and structures. It shows up in how we treat each other and how we live our everyday lives.

How do we heal the soul of our culture and create systemic change? How do we shift our society from a story of separation and othering, to a story of interconnectedness and belonging? Can we apply the same energy and emergency responses we’ve used to address the Covid-19 pandemic to root out and dismantle the deep patterns of patriarchy, racism, sexism, ableism, exploitation, colonization and all of the cultural codes that are causing this Great Sickness?

The doctor is here, and it’s not Dr. Fauci this time; it’s our own inner knowing and collective sense. Our prognosis is clear: we are sick and we need a Great Healing.

“King’s response to our crisis can be put in one word: revolution. A revolution in our priorities, a reevaluation of our values, a reinvigoration of our public life and a fundamental transformation of our way of thinking and living that promotes a transfer of power to everyday people and ordinary citizens.” -Cornel West

“We don’t want a normal or a new normal. We want a revolution. We want a moral revival. We want a transformation.” -Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

There’s no vaccine for the sickness we are facing, but the medicine we need lies within us and between us. From the depths of our crises and souls, a movement is rising that holds the power to heal and liberate us all.

We see it powerfully in the protests and marches on the streets as hundreds of thousands of Americans — and people around the world — rise up to end the long history of racism and to honor the lives taken of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmad Arbery, Tony McDade, and countless more. Black-led movements — rooted in a long history of organizing and movement-building — are leading the way to #defundpolice, invest in our communities, and fundamentally transform our policing and justice systems. White people are looking harder and deeper at their privilege and complicity, engaging in the essential work of undoing racism internally and externally, vocally inviting their family and friends to show up for racial justice so that we can end the myth and structures of white supremacy once and for all. People of all colors, faiths, generations and backgrounds are rising in solidarity for Black freedom, justice, joy and beauty.

This movement is rising from all of the places we are experiencing pain and injustice, and from our deep care and love for the world. We see it in our health care workers, who amidst their long hours of caring for others related to Covid-19 and beyond, are simultaneously working to bring about health equity and transformation to our health care systems. It lives in our communities, neighborhoods, and mutual aid networks, and in all of the ways we are showing up with kindness and care for our collective well-being. We see it in our impassioned teachers, educators and parents who are working to transform our inequitable school systems and to raise a generation that embodies the ways of a new world.

It lives in our next economy movements that are building local and cooperative businesses, shifting money away from extractive systems and into regenerative models to create an economy that works for all and our planet. It flows in our efforts to end mass incarceration and to bring restorative justice to our schools and communities. We see it in the Poor People’s Campaign and our Just Transition movements, and in all of our efforts working to end poverty and ensure that everyone has housing, a livelihood, and what we need to live a life of health, dignity and opportunity.

Our farmers, permaculturists, and backyard gardens are part of this movement. We see it in our immigration and right to citizenship movements, ensuring that people who were born here and immigrated here have the same rights and care as the rest of us. We witness it in the beauty and power of our Queer and Trans movements in their stand for human dignity and the inherent right to be loved as we truly are. It lives in our Native and Indigenous peoples movements fighting for sovereignty, protecting their lands and waters, defending the Sacred, and revitalizing their cultures and languages as they work to heal from the ravages of colonization and erasure.

We see it in the people and communities that are practicing the deep work of healing and vulnerability, who are tenderly caring for the wounds of history and healing the trauma in our bodies — personal, collective, and generational — creating lives of wellness, wholeness, and connection. It continues to rise in our women’s movements, in the power of #MeToo, and in every workplace, leadership position, political office, and social setting where women are leading the way. We see it in the young people of these times, stepping forward with such power and purpose, rooting in the wisdom of their ancestors and elders, taking their place on the front lines with a courage and creative fire that is carrying us to places we’ve never traveled before.

A movement of movements is rising, flowing from a long history, stretching wide and deep, intersecting, cross-pollinating, building in power and momentum. To some they seem like disconnected struggles, but they are united by a common struggle for freedom, rooted in our love for justice and life, and part of a deep social healing and collective liberation that connects us all.

Let’s be clear: understanding that our movements and peoples are all connected is not a cause for some type of simple rah-rah-rah, happy dance and celebration. It’s not an excuse to sit back, relax and wait for some inevitable liberation; not is it an excuse to bypass the ways that we are complicit with the oppression of the past and present. It’s a call for us to engage more fully, deeply and broadly; to come together in solidarity on behalf of each other’s struggles and liberation. It’s an opportunity to participate in the deep healing work that’s inevitable in our coming together, and to learn how to show up in service and with humility. We see this clearly in the ways that white and non-Black people of color are using their bodies as shields at protests, ensuring they are the first to get arrested and protecting Black lives from further harm.

Systemic insight allows us to understand that structural racism is at the root of our capitalistic economy, which is at the root of our climate crisis, and therefore the work for Black liberation is fundamentally tied to the work for climate justice and protecting our planet. While we engage in our connected struggles and movements, our current movement moment asks us to show up powerfully for the sacredness of Black lives and liberation. Michelle Alexander writes:

“Our only hope for our collective liberation is a politics of deep solidarity rooted in love. In recent days, we’ve seen what it looks like when people of all races, ethnicities, genders and backgrounds rise up together, standing in solidarity for justice, protesting, marching and singing together, even as SWAT teams and tanks roll in. We’ve seen our faces in another American mirror — a reflection of the best of who we are and what we can become. These images may not have dominated the media coverage, but I’ve glimpsed in a foggy mirror scenes of a beautiful, courageous nation struggling to be born.”

Abraham Joshua Heschel once declared that “The very future of this nation depends on how we respond to the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.” That legacy is the work of building a Beloved Community where we all belong and thrive together. Its a legacy of ending white supremacy, racism, poverty, and systemic oppression in all its forms, and “creating a qualitative change in our souls, and a quantitative change in lives.”

We are closer than ever before, yet there is still so much to heal and transform. Just as this has been the work of generations, this will be the work of our lifetime and generations to come. We need to continue preparing for the long haul as we keep mobilizing and keep the pressure on. Alicia Garza, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, reminds us:

“It takes organizing. Protest to up the ante. Public and private pressure. Electoral organizing strategies. Telling new stories about us and what we are fighting for. We gotta stop looking for easy answers and instead join the hard work. Please and thank you. Be good to yourselves. This is a marathon that no one wants to run.”

Some say that we were made for these times. Whatever your perspective, we are alive at this pivotal moment and we all have a role to play: marching on the streets, organizing in our communities, storytelling and writing songs for the revolution, making art, preparing food, caring for others, mentoring and teaching, donating funds, sharing your heart, gifts and medicine however you are able to. This is a time of mass awakening and we all are being called to show up and become something we have never been before.

We are hospicing the old and midwifing the new. We are disrupting, dismantling, defunding, and decolonizing the life-destroying forces in our society while we reboot, rebuild, reimagine, and regenerate the life-serving forces of our world.

This pandemic. It’s systemic. And so are our movements. So are our hopes, dreams, and actions. So is our deep love and care for this world. This river is mighty and these times are momentous. We are part of something sacred, healing and beautiful. May we find our way together..

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What Stands in the Way of Making the Climate a Priority

Our energy systems have been slow to change, even though rapid climate change represents the ultimate in imaginable violence, injustice, and chaos.Photograph by Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty

Inertia and vested interest, it seems to me, are the two forces that make changing the system for the better so rare. Once things are as they are, some group benefits from them—and that group usually has more of a stake in maintaining the status quo than others have in changing it. But, as I wrote last week, moments arise when the Zeitgeist is threatened—when what is considered normal, natural, and obvious seems suddenly up for grabs. Right now, traditional policing seems less obvious than it did a month ago, and, though the police unions and the administrators will work hard to make that thought disappear, at least for the moment, the discipline and the passion of the people marching and organizing are actually overcoming the tendency for the focus to drift away. And, as a result, all of a sudden the rest of us notice that a few people have been hard at work all along, imagining why it might not make sense to send combat-ready troops into our cities to deal with the slight but inevitable tensions of living together in a society. Here, for instance, is a series of interviews on CNN about how one might deal with speeders or drunk drivers without tickets or arrests. When you first listen, you think, That’s different—would it really work? But that’s the good thing about moments like this: our minds are open to new possibilities in ways that they usually aren’t.

Inertia and interest are the main reasons our energy systems have been slow to change, even though rapid climate change represents the ultimate in imaginable violence, injustice, and chaos. (Indeed, the evidence shows that, around the world, emissions are “surging” back to typical levels as societies emerge from the post-sheltering phase of the coronavirus pandemic.) Sometimes, the efforts of vested interests are almost comical. Consider, for instance, the fact that many of our homes have a large tank of flammable gas that we burn when we wish to heat our food, resulting not only in global warming but also in levels of indoor air pollution that are often so high they would be illegal were they outside. At some point in our history, this was perhaps an improvement over burning wood or dung. But now we have easy-to-use and more affordable induction cooktops, which make far more sense (at least in new homes, where there’s no sunk investment in cooktops and ranges). Some jurisdictions have started mandating the installation of such electric appliances in new construction, threatening the power of the incumbent inflammable technology. I’ve written in this column before of the California gas-workers’ union that, as the journalist Sammy Roth discovered, threatened a “no-social-distancing” protest in a town, at the height of the pandemic, in an effort to block such a law. Now Rebecca Leber, writing in Mother Jones, reports that the natural-gas industry is systematically paying Instagram influencers to plug its product with a targeted audience of “hispanic millennials,” “design enthusiasts,” “promising families,” and “young city solos.”

But inertia plays as large a role as interest, sometimes. A couple of weeks ago, the Washington Post ran an excellent account of the effort to make the Empire State Building more energy efficient. Aided by gurus from the Rocky Mountain Institute, who have been working on such projects for decades, the management changed out old lights, added insulating film to the building’s sixty-five hundred windows, stuck reflecting foil behind the radiators, and provided “regenerative braking” for the building’s seventy-three elevators, so that, when they slow down, the extra electricity is returned to batteries. These and other changes reduced the building’s electricity use not by five or ten per cent but by forty per cent. Forty is a big number, considering that the tenants still get the same use from their offices, which are as well lit, warmed, cooled, and ventilated as before. We obviously have to install a lot of solar panels and wind turbines in the next decade to meet climate goals, but if we cut electricity use by forty per cent we’d have to install far fewer. That we haven’t done so is, I think, mostly a function of that inertia. If you’re running a building, you have many jobs: finding tenants, collecting and raising rents, providing basic services and maintenance. And business school might not have taught you about regenerative braking. But now you may have to learn: last week, the Times reported that even institutions as sacred as the thirty-year mortgage are under threat, as banks start figuring out they don’t want to be left holding properties that are literally underwater. As the great poet James Russell Lowell once observed, “New occasions teach new duties.” The past seven years have been the hottest ever recorded, and, on Saturday, a spot on the Siberian coast became the northernmost place on Earth to record a temperature of a hundred degrees Fahrenheit; this is a new occasion.

Passing the Mic

R. L. Miller is a California climate activist who, for some years, has run a PAC called Climate Hawks Vote, which tries to elect candidates who are particularly eager to combat global warming. (I’ve sat on the board of the group.) She has also served as chair of the climate caucus in the California Democratic Party, and has just been elected by fellow California Party members to the Democratic National Committee, with the goal of making the climate a priority in the campaign.

What’s the strategy for the D.N.C.?

Top priority right now is the platform! I ran for the D.N.C. on a platform of transparency and accountability. I was particularly fired up about the D.N.C. leadership’s refusal to hold a climate debate.

The D.N.C. Climate Council has released a bold, visionary set of policy recommendations. I helped set up the council, and am on its advisory board, but can’t take credit for drafting the recommendations. Check out the platform!

Separately, the Biden-Sanders unity task forces are finishing up their work and are due to release their recommendations soon. I don’t know whether those recommendations will play into the platform. Everything has been done behind closed doors, and I’ve heard rumors that the recommendations may not be made public. Having said that, there are some very good people on the climate task force, whom I trust to convey the urgency of the climate crisis.

Finally, there’s the official platform-drafting committee of the D.N.C. Apparently, the Climate Council’s work has offended some old-school types at the D.N.C. To be clear, I’ve been elected to the insurgent wing of the D.N.C.! If the official platform committee is doing anything at all, besides sniffing at insurgents, it’s not happening in public. So I believe the D.N.C. needs to be holding public hearings on the platform.

Poll after poll during primary season showed climate change was the top priority for young voters, and second only to health care for Democratic voters in general. Do you sense that the Party is ready to make it a priority, too? What stands in the way?

And then there’s the scary part. What I’ll be taking to the D.N.C. is a very personal perspective on a climate-fuelled disaster. The Woolsey Fire, of November, 2018, came within five hundred feet of my home. I heard about it early enough, via Twitter, that I was able to evacuate my frail, elderly mother safely. I watched my children’s childhood memories burn down on national television: their preschool, their soccer fields, their neighborhood parks. I remain nervous and jumpy every October, when the hot Santa Ana winds blow. I don’t know if anyone else on the D.N.C. can say they’ve been directly affected by a climate disaster. But it changes one’s perspective.

You keep track of lots of congressional and local races around the country. Who are the candidates you’re watching most fondly?

Everyone who’s not focussed on the Presidential race is working hard on flipping the Senate. At Climate Hawks Vote, we’ve endorsed Mark Kelly, in Arizona, and Jaime Harrison, in South Carolina, both of whom were unopposed in their primaries. We stand with every other green group in the nation for Ed Markey, of Massachusetts, the co-author of the Green New Deal and countless other climate bills.

Probably the best race from a climate perspective is the Colorado Senate primary, on June 30th. Andrew Romanoff is running explicitly on a Green New Deal, and his initial climate ad went viral. Washington Democrats prefer John Hickenlooper, known unfondly as Frackenlooper. Romanoff has recently gained ground on Hickenlooper in the polls.

At the same time, there’s room for more real climate hawks in the House. Too many Democrats, still, pay lip service to the climate crisis, but witness how rank-and-file members of Congress have had to beg leadership for crumbs of clean-energy tax-credit extensions. We’ve endorsed Cathy Kunkel—yes, there are climate hawks in West Virginia—and Christy Smith, in California, and are planning more endorsements.

[I should note, for the record, that I’ve done events with the Kunkel and Romanoff campaigns as well.]

Climate School

Speaking of bracing challenges to business as usual, the invaluable Kate Aronoff offers an update on New York City activists’ plans to turn the fetid penal colony on Rikers Island into a solar farm. A quarter of the island’s real estate could provide enough energy to turn off the gas “peaker” plants scattered around the city, many of them in the communities housing the people of color who, at the moment, end up on Rikers in disproportionate numbers. An alternate plan? Another runway for LaGuardia, which would pretty much define business as usual.

A warming climate causes sharp increases in stillbirths and low-birth-weight babies, according to a new study. During the hot months of the year, a one-degree-Celsius increase in temperature in the week before delivery raised the chances of stillbirth six per cent, and—per usual—the effect was worse for black mothers. “Black moms matter,” one of the study’s authors said. “It’s time to really be paying attention to groups that are the most vulnerable.”

There has been some alarm in the climate-science community these past weeks over a new study suggesting that the planet’s temperature may rise even faster than feared. According to this new research, clouds seem to exacerbate warming, so the damage from doubling carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may be a rise of five degrees Celsius, not three. There has been some pushback, too, from climate experts such as nasa’s Gavin Schmidt, who argues that the consensus figures are probably more likely to be accurate, and that any reëvaluation is at best “premature.” It seems to me that this debate overshadows the more important growing sense that any given temperature rise produces more ecological havoc than scientists predicted. With global temperatures up just one degree, for instance, we have seen a hellish heat wave across Siberia. A sobering account in the Guardian reports that, among other things, “swarms of the Siberian silk moth, whose larvae eat at conifer trees, have grown rapidly in the rising temperatures.” A moth expert named Vladimir Soldatov told a reporter, “In all my long career, I’ve never seen moths so huge and growing so quickly.”

“Everywhere I have been—inside BP, as well as outside—I have come away with one inescapable conclusion,” Bernard Looney, the C.E.O. of the British oil giant, said in a speech in February. “We have got to change.” Maybe the company is set on shifting, as the Times reported last week, but Amy Westervelt—whose Drilled blog is an endless source of good information—got her hands on a video of Looney talking to his own troops. “We’re probably going to be in oil and gas for decades to come,” he says, “because how else is that eight-billion-dollar dividend going to get serviced?”

An interesting examination by Ted Nordhaus and Seaver Wang of the reasons that some East Asian countries may be turning away from nuclear energy proposes that the trend may be less because of the technology and more because of nuclear power’s historical ties to regimes now out of favor.

The Irish government seems close to becoming a world climate leader: if the various parties agree, a new “programme for government” would not only mandate seven-per-cent annual emissions cuts but would also stop all new exploration for oil and gas in Irish waters, and would ban the importation of fracked gas from the United States. (Though there’s always a local angle: the proposal doesn’t put a solid end date on the practice of burning peat.)

In the United Kingdom, the veteran campaigner Jonathon Porritt, whose activism stretches back to the nineteen-eighties, has a new book out, “Hope in Hell,” which argues that this could be the “climate decade”—but only if we summon “a sense of intergenerational solidarity as older generations come to understand their own obligation to secure a safer world for their children and grandchildren.”

Scoreboard

⬆️A rather large win this past week: the Vatican told Catholics to divest from fossil-fuel companies—indeed, to “shun” them. The Vatican Bank said that it is following this advice.

Warming Up

If there’s one thing this newsletter appreciates, it’s good organizing, especially when no one sees it coming. Apparently, K-pop stans played no small role in persuading the Trump campaign that massive crowds of true believers were heading for its Tulsa kickoff rally, instead of the less-than-sell-out number that actually showed up. I think BTS would almost certainly sell out the B.O.K. Center, and with luck they’d perform “Not Today.”

“You want a new world, too? Oh, baby, yes I want it.”

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