Editor’s note: None of the events are being organized by DGR. We stand in solidarity and encourage our readers to get involved in these if possible.
Kangaroo: A love-hate story (Film Screening)
Kangaroo reveals Australia’s relationship with its beloved icon, uncovering disturbing scenes behind the largest mass destruction of wildlife in the world. Using investigative techniques such as interviews, citizen footage, and research, Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story shows how the kangaroo meat industry and the Australian government put profits ahead of animal welfare, native species protection and the environment. In addition, farmers who are guided by misinformation and profit take whatever steps they deem necessary to eradicate the species.
A free community screening presented by Woolgoolga Regional Community Gardens and Kangaroo Advocate Yurpia McCafferty, at 6pm (AEST) Tuesday 7th March, on 79 Scarborough St, Woolgoolga. You can find out more about the event here.
Violence Against Rural Indigenous Women: Brazil, Guatemala, Peru, and the United States
Throughout the Western Hemisphere, indigenous women and girls suffer extreme and disparate levels of gender-based violence. For those living in rural and remote communities on their own indigenous lands, these problems are even more pronounced. Our event will feature a panel of indigenous women from Brazil, Guatemala, Peru, and the United States, who will discuss how violations of indigenous peoples’ land rights and right to self-government expose their women and girls to racial discrimination, gender-based violence, and other human rights violations and how living in rural communities intensifies these problems.
The webinar will happen on March 8, 2023 at 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. (EST).
Black Summer Vigil
This online and offline event is being organized in the three-year anniversary memorial for the three billion animals who died in the Australian bush fires. The event will bring together stories from first responders across wildlife rescue, rural fire service, photojournalism, Aboriginal custodianship, veterinary medicine, ecology, and more. Speakers include:
Greg Mullins, Former Commissioner, Fire and Rescue NSW; Climate Councillor and founder, Emergency Leaders for Climate Action. Greg warned Australia’s then–Prime Minister in April 2019 that a bushfire catastrophe was coming. He pleaded for support and was ignored, then risked his life dealing with the ramifications on the ground.
Internationally recognised ecologist and WWF board member, Professor Christopher Dickman oversaw the work calculating the animal deaths from Black Summer. A Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, Professor Dickman already wore the heavy task of being an ecologist during the sixth mass extinction, in the country that has the worst rate of mammalian extinction in the world. On 8 January 2020 media around the world shared his finding that Black Summer fires had killed one billion animals. Sadly, the fires continued for two more months, and his team’s final count was three billion. This does not include invertebrates: it is estimated 240 trillion beetles, moths, spiders, yabbies and other invertebrates died in the fires.
Coming up from the South Coast, owner of Wild2Free Kangaroo Sanctuary Rae Harvey, as seen in The Bond and The Fire. She is in the sad position of having personally known and cared for a number of Black Summer’s victims: many of the orphaned joeys she cared for were killed in the fires. (She nearly died herself too.) For three years, she has been unable to even speak their names. Now, for the first time, she will tell the story of the joeys she lost.
Cultural burning practitioner and Southern NSW Regional Coordinator with Firesticks Alliance, Djiringanj-Yuin Custodian Dan Morgan. Dan practises using Aboriginal knowledge to heal Country. He has worked for 18 years with the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service and is on the board of management for the Biamanga National Park, a sacred area home to the last surviving koalas on the NSW south coast – which was partly destroyed by the fires of Black Summer.
Head of Programs & Disaster Response at Humane Society International (HSI) Evan Quartermain, who was one of the first responders on Kangaroo Island where nearly 40% of the island burnt at high severity.
The physical event will happen in Camperdown Memorial Rest Park (Sydney) at 2pm Sunday 2 April 2023 (AEST). You can also attend it online. You can find more information here.
This new case contains major allegations that were not heard in the prior court case, and may be a significant road block for the mine.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“This Fight Isn’t Over” – Three Tribes File New Lawsuit Challenging Thacker Pass Lithium Mine
February 17, 2023
RENO, NV — Three Native American tribes have filed a new lawsuit against the Federal Government over Lithium Nevada Corporation’s planned Thacker Pass lithium mine, the latest move in what has become a two-year struggle over mining, greenwashing, and sacred land in northern Nevada.
The lawsuit, filed by the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Burns Paiute Tribe, and Summit Lake Paiute Tribe on in Federal District Court on Thursday evening, includes three major allegations.
First, the tribes claim that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) withheld crucial information from the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office and lied about the extent of tribal consultation in order to secure legally-required concurrence about historic properties in Thacker Pass.
Second, the tribes allege that Lithium Nevada, with BLM’s complicity, lied about terminating a set of older permits for mining-related activities in Thacker Pass. Further, the tribes say that the BLM has, without notifying tribes or the public, expanded the scope of previous permit authorizations dozens of times, allowing Lithium Nevada to conduct preliminary mine construction activities that are harming traditional cultural properties in Thacker Pass.
Third, the lawsuit argues that the BLM lied about consulting with Tribes before issuing their Record of Decision, and that the agency has continually refused to acknowledge both oral and written histories presented by the Tribes about the sacredness and cultural significance of Thacker Pass.
In total, the lawsuit asserts that the BLM has violated the Federal Land Policy Management Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act, and is also guilty of Breach of Contract.
This lawsuit comes just one week after Judge Miranda Du ruled largely in favor of Lithium Nevada and the BLM in a prior consolidated case involving claims brought in 2021 by environmental groups, a local rancher, and two Native American tribes (the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and the Burns Paiute Tribe).
However, that case only considered events and information prior to January 15, 2021, when the BLM issued the Record of Decision (ROD) — the main Federal permit — for the Thacker Pass lithium mine project. Tribal claims were curtailed by this limitation, which blocked key evidence from being heard — evidence that is integral to the new case.
The new lawsuit is also strengthened by the addition of the Summit Lake Paiute Tribe, one of the Tribes that the BLM claims to have consulted with prior to issuing the ROD. Summit Lake and both other tribes the BLM claims to have consulted (the Winnemucca Indian Colony and Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe) have disputed BLM’s assertion that any consultation took place. (The Winnemucca Indian Colony filed to intervene in the previous court case, but was blocked from taking part by Judge Du, for seeking intervention too late in the case.)
All three litigating tribes hold Thacker Pass, known as “Peehee Mu’huh” in the Paiute language, as a sacred and culturally important site which has been used for gathering edible and medicinal plants, hunting and fishing, conducting ceremonies, camping, and everyday lifeways of Paiute and Shoshone peoples. Many oral histories, passed down for generations among regional Native American communities, tell of the significance of this area.
Thacker Pass is also the site where two massacres of Paiute people took place – one which occurred prior to colonization as part of an inter-tribal raid, and a second which took place on September 12, 1865, when Federal troops massacred between 31 and 50 Paiute men, women, and children in a surprise attack at dawn.
Much of this history has been assembled for the first time in a comprehensive ethnological report commissioned by the Reno Sparks Indian Colony and Summit Lake Paiute Tribe, which is titled “Thacker Pass/Peehee mu’huh: A Living Monument to Numu History and Culture.” The tribes submitted that report to the Department of the Interior on February 3rd as part of an application to list both the 1865 massacre site and the whole of Thacker Pass, which tribes are calling the “Thacker Pass Traditional Cultural District,” under the National Register of Historic Places. (Numu is what the Northern Paiute call themselves.)
Arlan Melendez , Chairman of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony:
“When the decision was made public on the previous lawsuit last week, we said we would continue to advocate for our sacred site PeeHee Mu’Huh. A place where prior to colonization, all our Paiute Shoshone ancestors lived for countless generations. And is the very same place they were massacred (never laid to rest properly) by the U.S. Calvary. It’s a place where all Paiute Shoshone people continue to pray, gather medicines & food, honor our non-human relatives, honor our water, honor our way of life, honor our ancestors.
Our contention is with the largest lithium mine in country and the expansion of the 40 plus other lithium claims proposed for the State of Nevada. They should have notified all Tribes sooner. The Thacker Pass permitting process was not done correctly. BLM contends they have discretion to decide who to notify or consult with. They only contacted 3 out of the 22 tribes who had significant ties to Thacker Pass.
One of the Biden Administration’s first actions when they took office was to prioritize ‘regular, meaningful, and robust consultation’ with Tribes. That did not happen with Thacker Pass, and we need the Federal Government to make that right. Our history, our culture, our people, and our sacred sites must be protected.”
Diane Teeman, Director, Culture & Heritage Department, Chairperson, Tribal Council, Burns Paiute Tribe:
“Thacker Pass is known as a spiritually powerful place because of the presence of the remains of tribal Ancestors and their spirits. Our Paiute oral history tells us that we Paiutes have lived in this area since before the Cascade Mountains were formed. Our people follow our unwritten traditional tribal laws and philosophy of life which require we respect all other living things including plants, animals, minerals, and so on. Our traditional ways require we live in reciprocity with all other things and never put ourselves as feeble humans above others. For this reason, our unwritten traditional tribal law requires we do everything in our power to protect it. Only the Tribe and its members can speak to the significance of an area to the Tribe.”
Will Falk, attorney representing the RSIC and SLPT:
“BLM fast-tracked its review of the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine Project and was moving so fast, it made a number of mistakes including failing to identify the September 12, 1865 massacre site, even though BLM possessed descriptions of this massacre in its own General Land Office records. The Tribes have notified BLM of the cultural, spiritual, and historical significance of Thacker Pass, but BLM continues to refuse to acknowledge this information. BLM’s failure to acknowledge the information the Tribes have provided about the significance of Thacker Pass was not reviewed by the court in the previous lawsuit. BLM has committed a number of violations of federal law since the original lawsuit was filed in 2021. My clients and I look forward to exposing the tricks BLM has played on the Tribes for the Thacker Pass Project.”
Michon Eben, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer at the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony:
“Part of the Federal Government’s responsibility is to determine if a proposed mining project may adversely affect historic properties. Historic properties include Native American massacre sites. The BLM failed in its trust responsibility to tribes and now our ancestor’s final resting place is currently being destroyed at Peehee Mu’huh. Why is it that when our ancestors’ burials are under threat, its business as usual? We are demanding mutual respect for our dead relatives and their final resting place. The BLM and non-native archeologists do not have the expertise to determine whether a property is of religious or cultural importance to a tribe. Native American tribes are the special experts of our culture and Peehee Mu’huh/Thacker Pass is significant to regional tribes and to American History.”
Shelley Harjo, Fort McDermitt Tribal Member:
“Are we willing to sacrifice sacred sites, health and internal balance for short term economic gains while giant corporations create unmeasurable wealth, deplete resources, and leave our future generations to endure the disorder the Thacker Pass mine would leave behind? I will never believe this is the best method for greener living and nor do many other native people in our area. My elders who have been going up to fish and gather medicine in the Thacker Pass have been followed and harassed by Lithium Nevada’s private security, and now say they don’t feel safe on their own ancestral homeland. This is an unacceptable bullying tactic against elderly women by a foreign mining company that has no business here.”
Max Wilbert, Protect Thacker Pass:
“Global warming is a serious problem and we cannot continue burning fossil fuels, but destroying mountains for lithium is just as bad as destroying mountains for coal. You can’t blow up a mountain and call it green.”
The Thacker Pass lithium mine project has become emblematic of what critics say is a rushed transition to “green energy” that is replicating many of the problems of the fossil fuel industry, resulting in major environmental damage, and harming communities on the frontlines. Opponents of the Thacker Pass say they aren’t arguing in favor of fossil fuels, but in favor of protecting the Earth. Lithium Nevada claims that its lithium mine will be essential to producing batteries for combating global warming, and the Biden administration has previously indicated some support for Thacker Pass. Opponents of the project have called this “greenwashing,” arguing that the project would harm important wildlife habitat and create significant pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions. They say that electric cars are harmful to the planet and a different approach is needed to address the climate crisis.
General Motors recently entered into an offtake agreement with Lithium Americas, the parent company of Lithium Nevada, to purchase a $650 million stake and to buy the lithium that is produced at Thacker Pass. News reports have stated that the agreement is contingent on the results of the previous lawsuit. It is unclear at this time how the new lawsuit will affect GM’s commitment to Thacker Pass.
Editor’s Note: Due to their early adoption of renewables, Germany has been hailed as an example by mainstream environmentalists. The myth that Germany is cutting back on fossil fuel has already been debunked in Bright Green Lies. With their main supplier of fossil fuel going to war with Ukraine, Germany is facing a crisis. They are vying for alternate sources, which they have found under their own soil in Lützerath. They are trying to evacuate a hundred villages to get coal under their ground. In a brave attempt to defend their land, the people are putting up a fight against the German state.
Today’s post consists of three separate pieces. The first is a Common Dreams piece covering police brutality against the local communities. The second is a firsthand account of one of those many protestors who joined the local villagers in fighting the German state. This account explores the need for training and militant resistance to industrial civilization. The post finally culminates in an excerpt from Derrick Jensen’s Endgame.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Deep Green Resistance, the News Service or its staff.
Police Evict Last Anti-Coal Protesters From German Village Slated for Destruction
“The most affected people are clear, the science is clear, we need to keep the carbon in the ground,” said Greta Thunberg at the protest.
The way was cleared for the complete demolition of the German village of Lützerath and the expansion of a coal mine on Monday after the last two anti-coal campaigners taking part in a dayslong standoff with authorities left the protest site.
The two activists—identified in media reports by their nicknames, “Pinky” and “Brain”—spent several days in a tunnel they’d dug themselves as thousands of people rallied in the rain over the weekend and hundreds occupied the village, which has been depopulated over the last decade following a constitutional court ruling in favor of expanding a nearby coal mine owned by energy firm RWE.
As Pinky and Brain left the 13-foot deep tunnel, which police in recent days have warned could collapse on them contrary to assessments by experts, other campaigners chainedthemselves to a digger and suspended themselves from a bridge to block access to Lützerath, but those demonstrations were also halted after several hours.
Protesters and their supporters have condemned the actions of law enforcement authorities in the past week as police have violently removed people from the site, including an encampment where about 100 campaigners have lived for more than two years to protest the expansion of RWE’s Garzweiler coal mine.
The vast majority of protesters were peaceful during the occupation. German Interior Minister Nancy Fraeser said Monday that claims of police violence would be investigated while also threatening demonstrators with prosecution if they were found to have attacked officers.
“If the allegations are confirmed then there must be consequences,” said Fraeser.
Fridays for Future leader Greta Thunberg joined the demonstrators last week, condemning the government deal with RWE that allowed the destruction of Lützerath as “shameful” before she was also forcibly removed from the site on Sunday.
“Germany is really embarrassing itself right now,” Thunberg said Saturday of the plan to move forward with the demolition of the village, as thousands of people joined the demonstration. “I think it’s absolutely absurd that this is happening the year 2023. The most affected people are clear, the science is clear, we need to keep the carbon in the ground.”
“When governments and corporations are acting like this, are actively destroying the environment, putting countless of people at risk, the people step up,” she added.
"Germany is really embarrassing itself right now."@GretaThunberg has joined climate activists in Germany who are resisting the demolition of the Luetzerath village for a coal mine expansion. pic.twitter.com/yEmjWtycVP
Campaigners have warned that the expansion of the Garzweiler coal mine will make it impossible for Germany to meet its obligation to reduce carbon emissions and have condemned the government, including the Green Party, for its agreement with RWE. Under the deal, the deadline for coal extraction in Germany was set at 2030.
RWE’s mine currently produces 25 million tonnes of lignite, also known as brown coal, per year.
Extinction Rebellion demonstrators in the Netherlands said last week that the protest in the village “is not so much about preserving Lützerath itself.”
“It symbolizes resistance to everything that has to make way for fossil energy while humanity is already on the edge of the abyss due to CO2 emissions,” said the group.
“The people in power will not disappear voluntarily; giving flowers to the cops just isn’t going to work. This thinking is fostered by the establishment; they like nothing better than love and nonviolence. The only way I like to see cops given flowers is in a flower pot from a high window.” — William S. Burroughs
By Agent Eagle
Thousands of people storming a village occupied by police. It was not the revolution, but it was close.
A demonstration had been announced for January 14, a Saturday, in Keyenberg, which is next to Lützerath, Germany. Underneath the villages and their fertile loess soil lies lignite. The German government, the world’s number one lignite miner with 140 million tons extracted a year, dispossessed the residents of approximately 100 villages around the strip mine Garzweiler 2 utilizing laws from Nazi Germany. The police occupy and defend the area that is now in the possession of the energy firm RWE from the people.
Despite attempts at forced evacuation, a couple of activists were still holding out in Lützerath, underground or in the trees. However, since the police had disbanded their community kitchen and thrown out all paramedics, their time was running out.
Therefore, on Saturday, we knew we would make a last attempt at reoccupying the village.
The weather was stormy, which was an advantage in the end because it disabled armored water cannon trucks. The mud was sticky. The rain was heavy. There were police around the entire village, police along the horizon, police as far as the eye can see. Yet thousands of people marched to Lützerath despite the police doing everything they could to prevent us from doing so by using tear gas, batons, riot shields, dogs, horses, anti-riot water cannons, a helicopter and military tactics. It was a siege that began when one of the people organizing the legal demo told us to ignore the police and go for the village.
A group of hooded activists in black marched right through the police lines, throwing smoke bombs and shooting fireworks. Of around 35,000 people, approximately 5,000-10,000 joined in, but we progressively kept losing more on the way to Lützerath. We advanced by taking land and by breaking through police lines, for example by distracting the police, so we could push through elsewhere. Then the police rearranged and it all began anew. It took 6-7 hours to even get to the village.
By then it was almost dawn. Most of the people were deciding to turn around.
The police managed to surround the entire village. They had erected two special fences around the village and the surrounding woods. They had also built a road through the strip mine, so they could bring in ordnance while they prevented all of our vehicles from getting through.
Lützerath leaves an impression. A mark on the consciousness of the people. Some are confronted with the violence of the machine for the very first time. The lifeless bodies of protestants being dragged through the mud by policemen. Running and panicked screams. A heavily armed policeman coming at you, swinging his baton, bellowing, hitting you in the face, despite you raising your arms. In such a moment you become fully conscious of the absurdity and brutality of a system that does not protect you but the interests of a company tearing the life from this very earth. You notice you do not have a weapon because somebody told you that you were prohibited from carrying one. But he does, and he is using it.
You also see the people coming together to lift a woman in a wheelchair over an earth wall. You see the crowd forming a protective circle, shouting and pulling on a policeman who is pushing a screaming woman. I felt something very special that is hard to describe. A solidarity that does not need words.
Over a hundred people were hurt, some severely. The police won, the area was evacuated and flattened in the cruelest way possible. Landmarks that were supposed to go to museums were destroyed. Still, some people are holding out to slow down the monstrous rotary excavator. If RWE manages to mine just one quarter of the amount of lignite it plans to mine, if Lützerath falls, the earth will warm more than 1.5°.
The reason we failed in the end was not hunger. Nor exhaustion. Nor lack of equipment. The reason we failed was morale. Morale was, of course, low from hours of wading through mud and static battles with the police, but people can push through hardships and overcome fear. For this, they need motivation. That could look like a leader giving them a goal and pointing them in the right direction, or knowing that reinforcement is on the way.
What we would have needed was a detailed plan, experience and more structure. A tighter, more responsive form of organization led by people with an iron will. Numbers can only do so much. If he has a weapon, and is willing to use it, and you do not have a weapon and you are not willing to take risks, then he wins. More militant activists led the push, and most of them were carried off by police fairly early on.
I believe the “activisti,” as they are called here, would have profited from training. For example, many people were too timid to effectively advance, so what would have helped is a kind of military structure with leaders and strategically positioned militant activists.
If we could do it again, I would make sure we would have brought the right equipment along and that the people who knew how to carry and use it were protected until arriving at the fence. In Germany, you are not allowed to bring “protective weapons” to demonstrations, meaning any kind of armor to protect you from police violence. I would have disregarded that. In the deciding moment of this battle, right before the fence, I would have given people shields and armor that a group would have carried up until then and I would have told them to shield the people breaking into the fence.
I would have brought smoke grenades, balloons and water guns filled with colorful paint and pepper spray and maybe even a truck with a hose mounted on top to send the police into chaos. We could have made a coordinated effort to storm into their rows and to disarm them, put bags over their heads, use the pepper spray, colors and flash grenades to blind them and tie them up.
We could have notified people of our plans without alerting police via messenger groups.
We could have driven a truck into the outer fence, maybe put wooden planks over the gap between the fences and climbed over it.
We could have used drones to scout and carrier drones to bring supplies.
We could have stormed the perimeter and disabled or even taken over the water cannon truck.
In the ensuing confusion we could have brought in material for barricades. The fences would have worked to our advantage: we would have barricaded ourselves inside and around it. At night, we would have laid down bricks and spikes to keep the police from bringing in reinforcements. We could have sabotaged the police cars that were already there — it is easy to pop their tires. Or we could have taken them, crashed them and used them for the barricades. People in the very densely populated Ruhrgebiet could have sabotaged police stations and laid fires the whole night to keep the police busy. We could have held our position until morning.
For all of this, we would have needed high amounts of coordination and structure and also morale to keep it coming. Everyone would have needed to lose their fear of state violence and to fight till the bitter end.
Agent Eagle is a German radical feminist and an environmental activist.
“Some failures to act at the right time with the right tactic (violent or nonviolent) may set movements back or move them forward. The trick is knowing when and how to act. Well, that’s the first trick. The real trick is kicking aside our fear and acting on what we already know (because, truly, we depend on those around us, and they are dying because they depend on us, too).
I asked a friend what he thought is meant by the phrase, ‘Every act of violence sets back the movement ten years.’
He responded, ‘More often than not, before I say anything radical or militant at all in any sort of public forum, I wonder who is taking in my words. And I wonder what will be the consequences if I say something that may threaten the worldview of those in power.’
He paused, then continued, ‘I think identity has a lot to do with resistance to violent acts. It’s pretty apparent to us all at a very early age that you’re absolutely forbidden by the master to use the ‘tools of the master to destroy the master’s house.’ Imagine a child who is routinely beaten with a two-by-four, who one day picks it up and fights back. Imagine especially what happens to this child if he’s not yet big enough to effectively fight back, to win. Not good. On the larger scale I don’t think many people are willing to identify themselves with these types of acts or with anyone willing to commit these types of acts simply because it is forbidden by those in power and therefore to be feared.’
Another short pause, and then he concluded, ‘The way I see it, the phrase about setting the movement back is coming from a place of fear. It surely can’t be coming from the perspective of successful pacifist resistance to the machine. If it did, we wouldn’t be here discussing how to stop the atrocities committed by this culture.’
Near the end of our book Welcome to the Machine: Science, Surveillance, and the Culture of Control, George Draffan and I wrote, ‘A high-ranking security chief from South Africa’s apartheid regime later told an interviewer what had been his greatest fear about the rebel group African National Congress (ANC). He had not so much feared the ANC’s acts of sabotage or violence — even when these were costly to the rulers — as he had feared that the ANC would convince too many of the oppressed majority of Africans to disregard ‘law and order.’ Even the most powerful and highly trained ‘security forces’ in the world would not, he said, have been able to stem that threat.’
As soon as we come to see that the edicts of those in power are no more than the edicts of those in power, that they carry no inherent moral or ethical weight, we become the free human beings we were born to be, capable of saying yes and capable of saying no.”
In the last few years whales stranded on the beaches of the East Coast have become common. In just the past two months there have been over a dozen. And that does not include the whales who have died in that time and sank to the bottom of the ocean. Fishermen blame industrial wind farm surveys, the wind industry blames climate change, and the vessel strikes of the global supply chains of civilization will not slow down. All the while mainstream “environmental” groups have become PR people for industrial energy. That stance is mutually exclusive from their professed goal to protect wildlife like desert tortoise, sage grouse, bats and to Save The Whales.
NOAA declared an official “unusual mortality event” for humpback whales in 2016, when the number of deaths on the East Coast more than doubled from the average in previous years. Coincidentally that is the same year when offshore wind development began, which coincides with the huge jump in NOAA Incidental Harassment Authorizations. The claim that this huge jump in mortality predates offshore wind preparation activities is patently false. This strong correlation is strong evidence of causation, especially since no other possible cause has appeared. It also seems odd that dead whales are now showing up on the west coast just as wind development is starting up there as well.
If what we are seeing is what happens during the surveying process for an offshore wind farm, we can only imagine what will happen when major construction begins. If vessel strikes are a leading cause of death, why on earth would you diminish habitat and increase vessel traffic with the construction of wind turbines? Yet in the recent denial of a vessel speed reduction, NOAA said it was “focused on implementing long-term, substantive vessel strike risk reduction measures.” Hopefully that will include the cancellation of any further wind farm construction. We certainly should not be increasing vessel traffic at this time, we should be restricting it. Vessel strikes and ocean noise from these extra ships and their sonar mapping is killing whales.
Noise interrupts the normal behavior of whales and interferes with their communication. It also reduces their ability to detect and avoid predators and human hazards, navigate, identify physical surroundings, find food and find mates. Such effects make it difficult for whales to avoid ships. It is one of NOAA’s four threats, along with vessel strikes, fishing gear entanglements and climate change.
Sound travels farther and four times faster in water than in air (at a speed of almost 1,500 meters per second). The noise produced by humans can therefore spread considerable distances underwater. These sounds can be relatively constant, such as the noise produced by a ship’s engine and propeller, or sudden and acute in the case of naval sonar and seismic air guns. The sound produced by a seismic air gun can cause permanent hearing loss, tissue damage and even death in nearby animals.
Evidence for the lethal effects of noise can be hard to document in the open ocean, but seismic surveys have been linked to the mass mortality of squid and zooplankton. In 2017, research revealed that a single air gun caused the death rate of zooplankton to increase from 18% to 40–60% over a 1.2 kilometer stretch of the ocean off the coast of southern Tasmania.
Examination of the dead whales revealed they had suffered trauma similar to decompression sickness. This was believed to have been caused by sudden changes in their deep diving behavior following exposure to sonar. The wind companies are using sonar in the geotechnical and site characterization surveys. There is also the detonation of unexploded ordnance (UXO) items from ship wrecks at this time, accidental and intentional.
Noise increases animals’ physiological stress. Research found that a reduction in shipping following the 9/11 terrorist attacks led to a six decibel drop in noise levels in the Bay of Fundy on Canada’s Atlantic coast. This coincided with lower levels of physiological stress detected in North Atlantic right whales when researchers measured stress hormones from floating whale feces.
During construction of the turbines, high-duty cycle impact pile driving (one strike every ~two seconds) will be used. And the pile driving is expected to occur for approximately four hours at one time for monopile installation, and 6 hours per pile for piled jacket installation.
This takes us to the biggest threat to whales and the ocean ecosystem that they live in: climate change. Climate change is caused by greenhouse gas emissions. These are created by industrial development. So climate change is a symptom of industrial development. That is the extractive industries of mining, deforestation, agriculture, factory fishing and dams which provide — through production, manufacture, transport, installation and operation — the current conveniences of a modern way of human life.
Industrial development destroys ecosystems. More industrial development, by the installation of thousands of offshore wind turbines, will not solve the problem of climate change. There’s one inescapable truth about the headlong rush to cover vast swaths of our countryside and oceans with 800-foot-high wind turbines: the more turbines that get built, the more wildlife will be harmed or killed. And no amount of greenwashing can change that fact. So it is distressing to see the numbers of whales washing up on our beaches. NOAA also says there is no proof that offshore wind is killing the whales. We must remember the onus isn’t on whales to prove guilt, it’s on industrial development to prove their innocence.
The production of the materials as well as the manufacturing processes for wind turbines and associated infrastructure of the extracted energy storage and transmission are made possible by burning fossil fuels. To obtain the raw material used in wind turbines, habitat is destroyed through open pit mining and mountaintop removal. The raw materials are then transported to processing plants to be turned into the component parts. It will take a tremendous amount of energy to mine the materials; transport and transform them through industrial processes like smelting; turn them into wind turbines, batteries, infrastructure and industrial machinery; install all of the above; and do this at a sufficient scale to replace our current fossil-fuel-based industrial system. In the early stages of the process, this energy will have to come mostly from fossil fuels, since they supply about 80 percent of current global energy. Their emissions will be added to the current use emissions. After manufacture, the turbine parts need to be transported to the project location. The construction and operation of offshore wind farms increase boat traffic, also leading to more greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. All of which adds to a non-existent carbon budget and thus increasing climate change. Not to mention the increased risk of marine mammal vessel strikes.
All of that energy use has a carbon payback period to plan, build, maintain and decommission the processes involved in an offshore wind turbine and its required infrastructure amounting to many years. This could be up to a quarter of its expected lifecycle. But this does not take into account the wildlife loss and habitat destruction from those processes. And then in 20 years the process must be done all over again. So this is not renewable. Also there are not enough metals on the planet to produce even the first generation of a total electric energy extracting transition, even if we mine the deep sea as we are starting to do.
Currently only 20% of our energy is electric. The other 80% is fossil fuel, the bulk of which is used by industry. The industrial advantage of fossil fuel is that it is stored energy that is extracted rather than an energy extracting device that requires storage and transmission infrastructure.
The paradox of “renewables” is that they need unprecedented volumes of non-renewable mined materials. Increasing “renewables” means large upticks in battery metals such as copper, cobalt, lithium and nickel. Wind turbines need rare earth metals such as neodymium of which there are scarce amounts. But the work wouldn’t stop there.
Closed mines themselves are a huge source of devastation. If all mining stopped today there would still be an area at least the size of Austria with degrading and, in some cases, dangerous levels of heavy metals. Mining brings materials that have been locked up in concentrations underground and lets them out into the world. Mines usually operate at depths below the water table — they need to be constantly dewatered using pumps. When a mine is abandoned, the ground water gradually re-floods underground passages and mineral seams over many months, creating acidic reservoirs of water. Above ground there are tailings ponds and piles of low-grade ore with traces of heavy metals. All of this material is exposed to oxygen and water. Exposing such elements wreaks havoc on ecosystems, soils and water supplies through acid leaching. A mine that is abandoned can have chronic pollution for hundreds if not thousands of years.
Cleaning up a mine consists of reducing water acidity, detoxifying the soil and treating waste before reintroducing flora and fauna to the site. It’s a lengthy, expensive process and can cost billions for a single large mine. Avoiding an environmental catastrophe and cleaning all the world’s mines at once would cost hundreds of billions or even trillions of dollars. So mining the materials needed for renewable energy will increase the threats to biodiversity. These threats will surpass those avoided by “renewable” climate change mitigation.
The concept of material footprints, in addition to carbon footprints, should be taken into consideration by governments. If not, the planet’s scarce non-renewable resources will continue to be destroyed. These factors will more than offset BOEMs calculations for climate change in the DEIS.
During their operation wind turbines create a disturbance in the air that can have far-reaching effects on the environment. The turbulence created is known to warm up the surface temperature around them by up to 2℉. This will change the climate by taking away the cooling breeze. Wind turbines will change weather patterns and currents which will create more and stronger storms.
Michael Moore, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said whales face “a suite of risks” as turbines are built, such as increased vessel traffic and potential changes to the ecology. But that ecological change, he said, “needs significant further study to truly understand its significance.”
As Sunrise Wind admits, their planned construction and operations activities are not expected to “take” MORE than small numbers of marine mammals. They say incidental long-term impacts that have negative effects on large whales from the presence of turbine foundations is uncertain. For the right whale, according to NOAA Fisheries, “The potential biological removal level for the species, defined as the maximum number of animals that can be removed annually while allowing the stock to reach or maintain its optimal sustainable population level, is less than 1.” This means the death of a single right whale could make the difference between extinction and recovery.
There is no question wind turbines kill wildlife. Humans and domestic animals account for 96% mammal biomass on the planet. Only 4% is wild. Our activity has reduced the biomass of wild marine and terrestrial mammals by six times. Humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970, leading the world’s foremost experts to warn that the annihilation of wildlife is now an emergency that threatens all life on the planet.
Jennifer Jacquet, a professor of environmental studies at New York University, said, “But we know that even in the face of a shifting climate, direct exploitation remains the largest factor affecting aquatic animals.”
BOEM is basing its conclusions in the DEIS on a false analysis that offshore wind turbines will reduce climate change. They will not. It makes no sense to increase disturbance to whales when they are suffering through an unusual mortality event. Whales as a keystone species are the canary in the coal mine. As they go, so do we. That in the effort to save the climate and continuance of business as usual, we are destroying the environment. If this offshore wind project continues, it will be humans who experience an unusual mortality event.
Carl van Warmerdam has lived his life on the West Coast of Turtle Island. He has always aligned with the counter culture ideals there. Now he currently lives on the coast of New England, the ancestral home of the North Atlantic Right Whale. If you would like to help Save the Whales email Lafongcarl@protonmail.com. We stopped offshore wind before, we can do it again.
Editor’s Note: Even when local governing units make decisions for the welfare of the environment, state laws are designed to crush them. The following story covers how a small town is getting sued for passing a local ordinance to prevent pollution from factory farms. The basis of the lawsuit is that the ordinance is against the state law of Wisconsin. This story was originally published by Grist. You can subscribe to its weekly newsletter here.
This lawsuit is far from one of its kind. Similar lawsuits have been filed against a local government for trying to protect the environment against corporate interests. DGR News Service covered a series regarding the fight of Lake Eerie Bill of Rights in the state of Ohio. Read more about it here.
The small community of Laketown, Wisconsin, home to just over 1,000 people and 18 lakes, is again at the center of a battle over how communities can regulate large, industrial farming operations in their backyards.
The town, which is half an hour from the Minnesota border, is the target of a lawsuit supported by the state’s largest business lobbying group, which claims the town board overstepped its role when it passed a local ordinance to prevent pollution from concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs*.
Filed in Polk County Circuit Court in October, the lawsuit pits local farmers against the municipality, where decisions are made by a single town chair and two supervisors. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, or WMC, a lobbying group that defines itself as the state’s “largest and most influential business association” is representing the residents suing the town through its litigation center.
Early this year, WMC sent a letter to the town board that they would see legal action if the ordinance was not repealed. The notice of claim, sent in April, argues the town passed an ordinance with various illegal provisions under state law. The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Litigation Center, who have previously filed lawsuits to rollback state protections against water pollution, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
“They see this ordinance, if not challenged, as something that may become more the norm around the state,” Adam Voskuil, staff attorney for the nonprofit law office Midwest Environmental Advocates, told Grist. This law office has issued its support for Laketown’s ordinance in the past but is not representing the municipality in this ongoing litigation.
As the agricultural industry increasingly forces farmers to “get big or get out,” CAFOs have become plentiful across Wisconsin and the country at large, with more and more animals living on CAFO operations in recent years. The size of these farms varies within a state but generally are seen as operations with 2,000 or more pigs, 700 or more dairy cattle, or over 1,000 beef cattle.
The growth of these operations has been linked to public health problems like various cancers as well as infant death and miscarriages, caused by water contaminated with waste runoff from farms. On the other side of Wisconsin, residents in Kewaunee County have seen manure coming out of their faucets from one the largest CAFOs in the state, who sued the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource last year when they were denied a request to nearly double their size.
As more confined animal feeding operations, like the hog farm pictured, pop up across the country, towns and counties have attempted to regulate their growth. chayakorn lotongkum / Getty Images Grist
When communities try to respond with local-level enforcement, both industry interests and a lack of power at the local level cause townships to get creative with their responses.
Every state has some form of a “right-to-farm” law, which stops farms from being targeted for nuisances related to the daily operations of the industry, such as odor, noise, and effects on the environment. From there, each state has some form of a regulatory process that outlines how large farms are allowed to operate.
In Iowa, which leads the country in CAFOs, the state government sets all regulatory requirements and local towns and counties are out of luck when it comes to enforcement, according to John Robbins, Planning and Zoning Administrator for Cerro Gordo County, Iowa. He said the county once had a restrictive ordinance for CAFO zoning on the books, but after a state law took control, counties now have “very limited authority.”
Last year, when a Missouri hog farm spilled 300,000 gallons of waste into nearby waterways, two counties attempted to regulate CAFOs differently than the state government. Those counties had to sue to challenge state-level laws and are now awaiting trials in the state Supreme Court.
Further West, Gooding County, Idaho has seen the whole gambit of what Wisconsin towns could be facing. In 2007, the central Idaho county named after a famed state sheep rancher passed an ordinance regulating CAFOs in the county limits. A month later, industry groups Idaho Dairymen’s Association and Idaho Cattle Association started a court battle with the county that ended two years later, with the state supreme court ruling in the county’s favor. Gooding County’s legal representatives did not respond to a request for comment.
Wisconsin’s Livestock Facility Siting Law generally restricts how local municipalities can stop or slow new CAFOs or expansions to current facilities. This law is at the crux of arguments in opposition to Laketown and other surrounding communities’ proposed or passed ordinances.
Other Wisconsin communities have enacted local level ordinances to regulate these large farms. In 2016, northern Bayfield County enacted a CAFO ordinance that imposed a one-time fee and required operators to have increased manure storage options. After a large hog farm estimated to produce over 9 million gallons of manure a year was proposed in Polk County a few years ago, the county attempted a moratorium on CAFOs, but the measure did not pass.
Since then, at least five neighboring towns of Laketown have passed similar ordinances.
“This is one of the first times I’ve seen a town refuse to back down to some of these letters.” Adam Voskuil, Midwest Environmental Advocates staff attorney
The Laketown ordinance that sparked the lawsuit is an operations ordinance, unlike Bayfield’s ordinance which focused on zoning. Laketown CAFO operators are asked to file a one-time fee equal to a dollar for every animal unit as well as give detailed plans of how they will prevent ground and air pollution stemming from their facilities. Passed in 2021, the ordinance states it is based upon Laketown’s obligation to “protect the health, safety and general welfare of the public.”
All along the way, industry groups Venture Dairy Cooperative and the Wisconsin Dairy Alliance, its website features the slogan “Fighting for CAFOs Every Day,” have sent threatening letters to towns that passed ordinances or moratoriums, with the help of WMC.
“This is standard operating procedure for the Big Ag boys,” said Lisa Doerr, a Laketown resident of over 20 years who raises horses and commercially farms hay and alfalfa with her husband.
Doerr has been involved at the local level in opposition to CAFO since Polk County learned of a proposed 26,000-hog farm. Doerr, who worked with the Large Livestock Town Partnership, a multi-town committee that examines the environmental impact of CAFOs, said she worried that the landscape of the town and county would change if local action wasn’t taken.
“The name of our town is Laketown because we’ve got lakes everywhere,” she said. “We still have a middle class farming community. We haven’t had corporate ag take over everything.”
In its recently filed response letter, Laketown’s attorney said WMC’s argument falls flat as it is based solely on the state-level zoning law, while the town’s ordinance regulates the operations and conduct of a facility. They also noted that since the ordinance passed, no facilities have applied for a permit, which means the town has not yet enforced any actions WMC says are unlawful. Laketown board chair Daniel King declined to comment, citing the ongoing lawsuit.
Midwest Environmental Advocates attorney Voskuil said he was heartened to see that Laketown has been holding its ground. “This is one of the first times I’ve seen a town refuse to back down to some of these letters,” he said.
Farther south in Wisconsin, another county is reeling from letters threatening legal action. Crawford County, which borders Iowa, enacted a CAFO moratorium in 2019 but did not renew the moratorium after studying the issue for a year. Forest Jahnke, a coordinator with the Crawford Stewardship Project, said the decision to not renew the moratorium was highly influenced by the deluge of similar threats of litigation and backlash, which had a “chilling effect” on efforts to move forward.
“The fear of litigation is a very strong and deep one in our local municipalities and county governments,” Jahnke, who was a member of the committee studying the CAFO moratorium in Crawford County, said.
Since the moratorium rolled back, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources greenlit a Crawford County hog farm, home to 8,000 pigs and expected to generate 9.4 million gallons of manure each year
Tribal Chairman: “It’s Our Responsibility to Protect Sacred Sites”
RENO, NV — The Thacker Pass Lithium Mine in northern Nevada is headed back to Federal Court on January 5th as the lawsuits against the project near completion, but project opponents are raising the alarm that Lithium Nevada Corporation has already begun work on the proposed mine.
Lithium Nevada’s workers at Thacker Pass have begun digging test pits, bore holes, dumping gravel, building fencing, and installing security cameras where Native Americans often conduct ceremonies. Lithium Nevada also conducted “bulk sampling” earlier this year, and may be planning to dig dozens of new test pits across Thacker Pass. They’re claiming this work is legal under previous permits issued over a decade ago. But Tribes and mine opponents, including the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and Summit Lake Paiute Tribe, disagree.
They point to language in the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine that says “authorization of [the mine] will terminate the [earlier permits].” The Federal permit for Thacker Pass was approved on January 15th, 2021.
Will Falk, attorney for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, explains: “Lithium Nevada told the government and the American public that it would terminate the older permits upon BLM’s approval of the Thacker Pass Project. Now they are going back on their word, it appears they are lying to get a headstart on building the Thacker Pass mine, and the BLM is allowing them to get away with it.”
Thacker Pass, known as Peehee Mu’huh in Paiute, is a sacred site to regional tribes whose ancestors lived in the area for thousands of years, and were massacred there on at least two occasions.
Michon Eben, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer at Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, says the site is incredibly important to Native American history. “Peehee Mu’huh is a sacred place where our ancestors lived and died. We still go there to pray, gather food and medicine, hunt, and teach our youth about the history of our people.” Eben and the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony are currently hosting an exhibit on the impacts of mining on Native people of Nevada.
Tribal members have stated in court filings that, because of the history of battles and massacres on the site, Thacker Pass is as significant to their culture as a site like Pearl Harbor is to American history. Arlan Melendez, Chairman of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, understands the importance of battle and massacre sites as both a Native American and as a U.S. Marine Corps veteran.
“As tribal leaders, it’s our responsibility to protect and honor our sacred places,” says Melendez. “Throughout US history, tribes have always been set up to lose in the US legal system against BLM. This Lithium Mine stands in the way of our roots and it’s violating the religious freedoms of our elders, our people.”
Falk, the Tribal attorney, says that Lithium Nevada’s construction activities at Thacker Pass are also violating tribal consultation rights.
“The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and Summit Lake Paiute Tribe are still engaged in consultation with the BLM about the September 12, 1865 massacre site, a site that will be completely destroyed by Lithium Nevada’s mine if this project is built,” Falk says. “It’s hard to believe a government agency is consulting in good faith when they are already allowing the site to be harmed.”
Shelley Harjo, a tribal member from the Fort McDermitt Shoshone Paiute Tribe and an employee of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, has called the planned destruction of Thacker Pass “the biggest desecration and rape of a known Native American massacre site in our area.”
The upcoming January 5th hearing in Reno’s Federal Courthouse will be the final oral argument in the ongoing lawsuits against the Thacker Pass mine. Mine opponents are planning a march and rally outside. Plaintiffs, including the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, Burns Paiute Tribe, four environmental organizations, and local rancher Edward Bartell, have alleged numerous violations of the law, and Judge Miranda Du is expected to issue her opinion in the case within days or weeks of the January 5th hearing.
“No matter what happens in court on January 5th, Thacker Pass is being destroyed right now and that threat will be ongoing,” says Max Wilbert, co-founder of Protect Thacker Pass. “We have to stop that.”
Lithium Nevada claims that its lithium mine will be essential to producing batteries for combating global warming, and the Biden administration has previously indicated some support for Thacker Pass. Opponents of the project have called this “greenwashing,” arguing that the project would harm important wildlife habitat and create significant pollution. They say that electric cars are still harmful to the planet.
January 15, 2021 — Due to “fast-tracked” permitting under the Trump Administration, the Bureau of Land Management releases a Record of Decision approving the Thacker Pass mine less than a year after beginning the Environmental Impact Statement process. On the same day, Max Wilbert and Will Falk established the Protect Thacker Pass camp.
February 11, 2021 — Local rancher Edward Bartell files a lawsuit (Case No. 3:21-cv-00080-MMD-CLB) in U.S. District Court alleging the proposed mine violates the Endangered Species Act by harming Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, and would cause irreparable harm to springs, wet meadows, and water tables.
February 26, 2021 — Four environmental organizations (Basin and Range Watch, Great Basin Resource Watch, Wildlands Defense, and Western Watersheds Project) file another lawsuit (Case No. 3:21-cv-00103-MMD-CLB) in U.S. District Court, alleging that BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act, Federal Land Policy Management Act, and other laws in permitting the Thacker Pass mine.
June 24, 2021 — The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments, calls on the Department of the Interior to rescind the permits for the Thacker Pass project.
Spring and Summer 2021 — Rallies, protests, and prayer runs take place in Orovada, Winnemucca, Reno, Carson City, and at Thacker Pass. More than 100 mine opponents gather at Thacker Pass to commemorate the 156-year anniversary of a September 12, 1865 massacre of at least 31 Northern Paiute men, women, and children committed by the 1st Nevada Cavalry. Thousands of people visit the site.
July 19, 2021 — The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and Atsa koodakuh wyh Nuwu (People of Red Mountain) files a successful motion to intervene in Federal District Court (Case No. 3:21-cv-00080-MMD-CLB) alleging that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) in permitting the planned lithium mine.
August 2, 2021 — Burns Paiute Tribe files a motion to intervene on the side of tribal plaintiffs (Case No. 3:21-cv-00080-MMD-CLB).
September 15, 2021 — Bureau of Land Management accuses Will Falk and Max Wilbert of trespass for providing bathrooms to native elders at Thacker Pass, fining them $49,890.13.
October 8, 2021 — Eighteen native elders from three regional tribes request a BLM permit for their ceremonial camp. The BLM does not respond.
November 29, 2021 — The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony files an amended complaint in federal court alleging major previously unknown violations of the law. In January, Judge Miranda Du rejects the amended complaint because she wants to make a final decision on the case within a few months (note that the case has now continued for another calendar year).
February 11th, 2022 — Winnemucca Indian Colony files a motion to intervene in the lawsuit on the side of plaintiffs, claiming that BLM’s contention that they consulted with the Tribe is completely false. Judge Du rejects this motion shortly afterwards with the same reasoning used above.
August 2022 — BLM “discovers” five new historic sites at Thacker Pass and for the first time acknowledges the September 12, 1865 massacre took place, but continues to reject tribal expertise.
September 2022 — Lithium Nevada Corporation begins digging up portions of Thacker Pass for “bulk sampling” despite consultation still being ongoing between the Bureau of Land Management and regional tribes over cultural sites.
October 2022 — Dozens of mining activists from four continents visit Thacker Pass as part of the Western Mining Action Network biennial conference.
Will Falk, Attorney for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and Summit Lake Paiute Tribe
Bethany Sam, Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Media Relations
Max Wilbert, Protect Thacker Pass