Editor’s Note: Last winter, we published a news report about the winter hunt for buffalo in Yellowstone National Park. Today we are bringing you a short update from Stephany Seay, co-founder of Roam Free Nation, about an appeal for a ceasefire for the last wild buffalo at the Yellowstone National Park for this upcoming winter.
It is time for a cease-fire in the so-called buffalo hunts that take place on the western and northern edges of Yellowstone National Park.
Last winter was the worst “hunting” season the buffalo suffered since the 19th century.
Winter came early and hard and we witnessed one of the largest migrations into Montana long before Yellowstone was established. Mostly tribal hunters slaughtered no less than 1,175 buffalo in the killing fields of Beattie Gulch in the Gardiner Basin.
Most of the tribes currently hunting under treaty right actually extended their hunting seasons to take advantage of the situation. It’s bad every year, but last winter Beattie Gulch became a massacre site with gut piles stretching as far as they eye could see, many of them encased baby buffalo who would never see the light of day.
A river of blood ran down Beattie Gulch into the Yellowstone River.
The hunters ignored the tragedy they had caused, and instead patted themselves on the back for a successful season.
Buffaloes in danger outside Yellowstone
Roam Free Nation, along with our allies at the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Gallatin Wildlife Association, and the Council for Wildlife and Fish, recently sent a letter to Gallatin National Forest Supervisor Mary Erickson, asking her to close Beattie Gulch to bison hunting due to serious concerns for public safety.
For Roam Free Nation, it’s much more than that; the well-being of our National Mammal is the gravest concern. The Yellowstone buffalo are currently being considered for Endangered Species Act listing by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, yet in the meantime, nearly every single one gets gunned down after stepping out of the park, so listing can not come fast enough.
We know those who “hunt” there will fight us, because they have a sovereign right to kill. But, just because you have a right, doesn’t make it right.
Humans have a responsibility and obligation to ensure the viability and evolutionary potential of hunted populations, and all creatures we share this Earth with.
Such is not the case in these so-called hunts.
At the October 2023 Interagency Bison Management Plan meeting, Yellowstone’s head bison biologist, Chris Geremia, warned state, federal, and tribal decision-makers — as he has for many years now — against any lethal action in the Hebgen Basin, near West Yellowstone.
Why? To attempt some semblance of protection for the imperiled Central herd; the last truly wild, migratory buffalo left in the country. The Northern herd migrates into Montana’s Gardiner Basin; the Central herd migrates into both the Gardiner Basin and Hebgen Basin, meaning they are doubly impacted by mismanagement actions.
The Central herd has been in decline for over a decade
Yellowstone biologists continue to warn against hunting in the Hebgen Basin, but these warnings continue to fall on deaf ears. As I write this, already 8 bull buffalo have been taken by state hunters near West Yellowstone.
It is a disservice by hunt managers to ignore these warnings, and it is utter disrespect and irresponsibility by hunters to continue to kill. It’s time for hunters to stop doing the dirty work of Montana’s Department of Livestock and their cattle interests.
These killing frenzies are not sustainable. Wild buffalo will never be able to restore themselves so long as there is no restraint by hunters and no enforcement by hunt managers.
The buffalo barely have any opportunity to access or express themselves on the meager “tolerance” zones they’ve been granted. A cease-fire is in order to allow them to do just that, then we work together for more buffalo on a much larger landscape.
Stephany Seay is the co-founder of the Montana-based Roam Free Nation, a native-led organization who works to defend the last wild buffalo and all of wild nature. More information can be found at RoamFreeNation.org.
Photo of Yellowstone bison by kasabubu/pixabay via Canva.com
Editor’s Note: The Halmahera Island in Indonesia is the only known home to the Hongana Manyana tribe. Unfortunately, it is also the home to vast reserves of nickel. Mining companies are now evading the indigenous rights and ecological rights of the inhabitants of the island, as well as of the island herself, to steal the nickel. The nickel is going to be used for manufacturing electric cars. The following piece is taken from Survival International.
Nickel Mining Threatens Uncontacted Hongana Manyana Tribe in Indonesia
The Hongana Manyawa – which means ‘People of the Forest’ in their own language – are one of the last nomadic hunter gatherer tribes in Indonesia, and many of them are uncontacted.
They have a profound reverence for their forest and everything in it: they believe that trees, like humans, possess souls and feelings. Rather than cut down trees to build houses, they make their dwellings from sticks and leaves. When forest products are used, rituals are performed to ask permission from the plants, and offerings are left out of respect.
The Hongana Manyawa root their whole lives to the forest, from birth to death. When a child is born, the family plant a tree in gratitude, and bury the umbilical cord underneath: the tree grows with the child, marking their age. At the end of their lives, their bodies are placed in the trees in a special area of the forest that is reserved for the spirits.
If there is no more forest, then there will be no more Hongana Manyawa.
Providing for themselves almost entirely from hunting and gathering, the Hongana Manyawa are nomadic; setting up home in one part of the forest before moving on and allowing it to regenerate. They have unrivalled expertise in the Halmahera rainforest, hunting wild boar, deer and other animals and maintaining a close connection with the sago trees – now threatened by deforestation from mining – which provide their main source of carbohydrate. They also have incredible medicinal knowledge and can treat many sicknesses with local plants, although this has become increasingly difficult following the new diseases brought by forced contact and resettlement in villages.
It’s more convenient for me to keep moving because the food is much more diverse and available, I can go hunting regularly. Permanently staying in the village is very uncomfortable and there is a lack of food.
Avoiding contact to stay alive
The arrival of the mining companies is just the latest threat to the Hongana Manyawa and their land. In recent decades, Indonesian governments have repeatedly tried to force contact onto the Hongana Manyawa, with the aim of stopping their nomadic way of life and evicting them from their ancestral forest home. They say this is to “civilize” them: they have tried to settle the Hongana Manyawa and have built Indonesian-style houses for them. The Hongana Manyawa say these new houses, with roofs made of metal sheets rather than palm leaves, made them feel “like animals in a cage”.
We are so happy living by the forest with different kinds of meat and food, where we can collect roof materials so we can replace the zinc roof the government has built for us.
As with uncontacted tribes the world over, forced contact has proved disastrous for the Hongana Manyawa. They were immediately exposed to diseases to which they had no immunity – from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, terrible outbreaks of diseases which the Hongana Manyawa refer to as “the plague” affected the newly-settled villages, leading to widespread suffering and even death.
We had many different diseases when first settled, some of the sickness led to deaths, some people had fever that went on for days and nights and endless coughing for days and even weeks.
The contacted Hongana Manyawa also serve as convenient scapegoats for the police, who frequently blame them for crimes they have had nothing to do with. Several of them have been imprisoned for murders they did not commit and have languished in jail for many years.
It’s better to live in the forest so we don’t get accused of these things. We feel unsafe and many of the men moved into the forest and then came to get their wives and families. Some are deep in the forest…they are deeply traumatized.
Far from being respected for their unique and self-sufficient ways of living, the Hongana Manyawa experience severe racism and are regularly described by Indonesian officials and the media as ‘primitive’. There is a widespread belief that they would benefit from ‘integration’ into wider society: a belief that comes with disastrous and deadly consequences.
Many Hongana Manyawa are now living in government-built villages. Many others – traumatised by the government’s forced settlement attempts, like other peoples around the world who have experienced forced contact – have returned to their forest.
The uncontacted Hongana Manyawa have made it clear time and time again that they do not want to settle or have outsiders coming into their forest. They are very much aware of the dangers – including fatal epidemics of disease – which forced contact brings. As with the uncontacted Sentinelese tribe of India, it is little wonder that they are defending their lands and shooting arrows at those who force their way in.
But now they face the threat not just of being forced out of the forest that sustains them, but of seeing it all destroyed by corporations rushing to provide a supposedly ‘sustainable’ and ‘environmentally friendly’ lifestyle to people thousands of miles away.
‘Green’ mining threatens the lives of uncontacted tribal people
The greatest threat to the Hongana Manyawa today comes from a supposedly ‘green’ industry.
Their rainforest sits on lands rich in nickel, a metal increasingly sought after as an ingredient in the manufacture of electric car batteries. Indonesia is now the world’s largest producer of nickel, and Halmahera is estimated to contain some of the world’s largest unexploited nickel reserves. Nickel is not essential for these batteries, but now that the nickel market is booming, mining companies are homing in and tearing up huge swathes of rainforest.
The uncontacted Hongana Manyawa are on the run. Without their rainforest, they will not survive. These cars are marketed as ecofriendly alternatives to fossil fuel powered cars, but there is nothing ecofriendly about the way nickel is being mined in Halmahera.
It goes without saying that uncontacted tribes cannot give their Free, Prior and Informed Consent to exploitation of their land – which is legally required for all ‘developments’ on Indigenous territories under international law.
Nevertheless, Weda Bay Nickel (WBN) – a company partly owned by French mining company Eramet – has an enormous mining concession on the island which overlaps with Hongana Manyawa territories. WBN began mining in 2019 and now operates the largest nickel mine in the world. Huge areas of rainforest which the Hongana Manyawa call home have already been destroyed. The company plans to ramp up the mining to many times its current rate and operate for up to 50 years.
If we don’t support the fight for their forest, my uncontacted relatives will just die. The forest is everything, it is their heart and life. My parents and siblings are in the forest and without support they will die. Everything in the forest is getting destroyed now – the river, the animals, it is gone.
The Indonesian government claims that nickel mining is “critical for clean energy technologies” yet coal-fired power stations are being constructed at IWIP to process the nickel. The International Energy Agency estimates that 19 metric tons of carbon are released for every metric ton of nickel smelted and there is evidence from a similar project in Sulawesi of this leading to respiratory diseases for locals. Not only is this mining (accompanied by roads, smelters and other huge industrial projects) devastating the Hongana Manyawa’s rainforests, it is also polluting the air and damaging the rivers. The processing of nickel is often highly toxic, involving a host of chemicals which produce almost two metric tons of toxic waste for every metric ton of ore processed.
They are poisoning our water and making us feel like we are being slowly killed.
Eramet, Tesla and connected companies
International companies are involved, directly or indirectly, in the mining of uncontacted Hongana Manyawa land.
WBN is a joint venture between several companies, but French company Eramet is part-owner and responsible for the mining itself. Eramet prides itself on its environmental and human rights credentials, claiming that it will “set the standard” and “be a benchmark company” when it comes to human rights. Yet it continues to mine on the territory of the uncontacted Hongana Manyawa.
Survival has learned that German chemical company BASF is also planning to partner with Eramet to build a refining complex in Halmahera and that a possible location for this may be on uncontacted Hongana Manyawa territory. This would be devastating for the uncontacted Hongana Manyawa in the area, who are already in hiding from mining.
Survival has been told that uncontacted Hongana Manyawa are now fleeing further and further into the rainforest, traumatized by the attacks on their forests and way of life.
Trees are gone and replaced with the big road, where giant machines go in and out making noise and driving the animals away.
Tesla, the world’s largest electric vehicle company, has signed contracts worth billions of US dollars to buy Indonesian nickel and cobalt for its batteries. Its CEO Elon Musk has also had high level negotiations with the Indonesian government to open an electric car battery factory in the country. Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has even offered Tesla a ‘nickel mining concession.’
Tesla’s Indigenous rights policy states: “For all raw material extraction and processing used in Tesla products, we expect our mining industry suppliers to engage with legitimate representatives of indigenous communities and include the right to free and informed consent in their operations.”
Yet Tesla has now signed deals with Chinese companies Huayou Cobalt and CNGR Advanced Material, both of which have links to nickel mining in Halmahera. While supply chains are secretive and often obscure, Tesla’s interests in Indonesia and the scale of the planned mining in Halmahera make it possible that nickel mined from Halmahera could well end up in Tesla cars.
I do not give consent for them to take it…tell them that we do not want to give away our forest.
Demand for electric cars is driving the destruction of uncontacted people’s lands.
Rather than destroying yet more of the natural world, and the people who defend it, in the name of combating climate change, we should be supporting uncontacted tribes to defend their rainforests and their land rights; they are the guardians of the green lungs of the planet.
We the Hongana Manyawa, do not want a mining company to come, because it will destroy our forest. We will protect this forest as much as we can. If the forest is destroyed, where will we live?
Take Urgent Action for the Hongana Manyawa
The Hongana Manyawa are running out of forest and running out of time. They desperately need international support to stop the destruction of their homelands before it’s too late.
The Hongana Manyawa’s land rights must be recognised. Survival is calling for the declaration of an emergency zone for the uncontacted Hongana Manyawa. Around the world, Survival has successfully campaigned for the land rights of uncontacted tribes, defending them from outsiders bringing in deadly diseases and devastating development projects which could destroy them.
We are calling for:
– Eramet and the other companies mining in Halmahera, to immediately abide by international law and stop mining and other developments on the lands of uncontacted tribal people.
– Tesla and other car companies to publicly commit to ensure that none of the nickel or cobalt they buy ever comes from the lands of the uncontacted Hongana Manyawa in Halmahera.
– The Indonesian government to establish an ‘Uncontacted Tribe No-Go Zone” to protect the uncontacted Hongana Manyawa and their territories.
With your support, the territories of the uncontacted Hongana Manyawa can be protected from mining so that they can continue to live as they choose on their own land.
I want to share my knowledge with my grandchildren and those who want to learn how to eat and live in the forest.
Please tell Tesla to pledge that none of the minerals they buy ever comes from the lands of uncontacted Indigenous people in Halmahera – and let the mining companies, and the Indonesian authorities, know you’ve done so.
Editor’s Note: This is a short report-back from the Interagency Bison Management Plan meeting by Stephany Seay. Stephany Seay is a founder of Roam Free Nation.
By Stephany Seay/Roam Free Nation
Jaedin Medicine Elk and I traveled to Chico Hot Springs, MT, for the fall Interagency Bison Management Plan meeting, which took place on Halloween. Not exactly how we wanted to spend this holiday, but the buffalo come first. This is our report back to you.
We learned that the Montana State Vet (Dept. of Livestock), Marty Zaluski, has retired. The new state vet is Dr. Tahnee Szymanski. She is a native Montanan and a graduate from Oregon State University, a big agriculture school. To our knowledge, she may be the first female state vet for Montana. We hope she will be more gentle than the men before her.
We also learned that one of Yellowstone’s bison biologists, P.J. White, has retired.
There was much hoopla from the Montana Dept. of Livestock in regards to language the Park and other agencies wanted to strike from the Operations Plan in regards to vaccinating wild bison. In 2014, Yellowstone squashed the idea of vaccinating buffalo, because it doesn’t make sense on so many levels. It is domestic, invasive cattle who should be vaccinated, not wild buffalo. To date, there is no safe and effective brucellosis vaccine because former President George W. Bush placed brucella abortus on the Center for Disease Control’s bio-terror agent list. A foolish move that prevents scientists from working to find a vaccine that works. On cattle.
More urgently, Yellowstone released their summer bison population estimate. The Yellowstone buffalo population dropped by 2,000 in the last year. Mainly due to excessive treaty hunting. The Park reported that 60-70% of the population migrated into the Gardiner Basin (north edge of Yellowstone) where there was a record “harvest”, as we have previously reported.
Chris Geremiah, Yellowstone’s head buffalo biologist reported that the imperiled Central herd continues to decline. As he has for over five years now, he again recommended that no buffalo be hunted in the Hebgen Basin, on the west side of the Park. But, the hunters will not listen. The Central herd are the only buffalo who migrate into the Hebgen Basin, but they also migrate into the Gardiner Basin, being doubly impacted by “management” actions (hunting, slaughter, quarantine).
Astoundingly, he also recommended that hunters kill MORE females than bulls! The females are the matriarchs, the ones who teach the youth where to find the best grass, the best water, the safest lands and routes to get there. They are also the ones who carry in their wombs the next generation. As we stated in our public comments, killing the females is what destroys a nation.
Once again, they set no quota, meaning if we have a heavy winter like last year, it could be another free-for-all killing frenzy. Though they did suggest that no more than 1,100 should be taken, that’s only a suggestion that holds no weight. Buffalo advocates know that killing one is too many right now. These populations need federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. They must be allowed to recover and restore themselves on the lands that are their birthright, and ESA listing is the only thing that will give them the respite to do so. But, restraint and respect for these circumstances aren’t something that agencies or hunters really care about.
The MT. Dept. of Livestock appealed to treaty hunting tribes to actually help them by hazing with bullets, should buffalo approach or breach the so-called tolerance zones, beyond which, buffalo are currently not allowed. Once again, they want to use tribes to do their buffalo-killing dirty work.
In an interesting twist, some members of the Interagency Bison Management Plan began questioning what they were doing, why do they exist, what is their purpose in moving forward? They currently have no purpose other than to maintain the status quo and make the lives of the last wild buffalo one of unnecessary challenges and misery.
The public comment period actually came *before* lunch, this time. There were some really great words said on behalf of the buffalo. One person really stands out. Wendy, someone we’ve been in touch with since last winter. A Montana resident with a brilliant mind who knows exactly what’s going on. In her comments, she sang a version of “Home on the Range” that put the DOL to shame. It was brilliant. She had visual aids, some blown up photos of ours that really helped illustrate the travesty she was conveying. It was an honor and pleasure to meet her.
Winter is here now, and the deep snows are just around the corner. We need your support to be in the field, to stand in defense of our buffalo family. There is a lot of travel and lodging involved to keep us on the front lines, so please, do what you can to support our work in standing with the last wild buffalo. Thank you so much for loving wild buffalo!
Next week, November 9, we will travel to Bozeman to watch a public screening of Yellowstone Voice’s “A Path Forward for the American Bison” at the Museum of the Rockies. We will be part of a panel discussion after the documentary plays. We wish you all could be there with us. Trust that we will represent.
Editor’s Note: The following piece is an argument for deep green environmentalism and attempts to answer the questions: What is deep green environmentalism? How have other forms of environmentalism (particularly bright green and technological) failed to save nature? Why do we need deep green environmentalism?
In recent years the media has noticed that the incessant calls of “climate emergency” followed by no action that is making any material difference to the climate change crisis has lead to people feeling depressed about the future. Of course, being the media, they report on this as if it’s a simple story of a world split into three categories of people: climate activists, climate deniers, and climate doomers. But this is too simple a story, as we will see.
This essay was prompted by a March 24, 2023 Washington Post article about “climate doomers”. The article describes these doomers as a group of people who “believe that the climate problem cannot, or will not, be solved in time to prevent all-out societal collapse.”
This article comes shortly after the IPCC’s AR6 Synthesis report Summary for Policymakers was published mid-March. The report states that global warming has reached 1.1C above the 1850–1900 baseline, that greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase despite thirty-plus years of warnings about climate change and global conferences to address the issue, and that global warming has contributed to “widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people.” It goes on to say that despite these thirty years of meetings and reports and hand-wringing, it is “likely that warming will exceed 1.5C” and that “every increment of global warming will intensify multiple and concurrent hazards.”
Is it any wonder that many reading this report and the news stories about it might believe climate change will not be solved? We can see with our own eyes that at 1.1C warming, already extreme weather events linked to climate change are connected with conflict, food and water shortages, natural disasters, and even war. Is it any wonder that we might think “likely” warming of 1.5C — 2.0C might cause societal collapse? Especially when one looks at the graph of primary energy consumption, which shows a relentless upward climb of the world’s consumption of coal, oil, and gas (with recent minor dips correlating only with the massive recession in 2008 and with a global shutdown for Covid in 2020).
It is obvious to anyone who has eyes that energy use increases with economic growth. It is obvious to anyone who understands the rudimentary basics of how the global economy works that the only time energy use dips is when recession or pandemics hit and cause a whole lot of economic pain for people without sustained government bailouts. While the energy share of so-called renewables increases in minuscule amounts each year, its share is tiny in comparison to that of fossil fuels, and with the timelines outlined in recent IPCC reports, it’s obvious to most observers that, even if renewables worked as promised, there is no way fossil fuels will be replaced anytime soon. Thus, the conclusion that “the climate problem cannot, or will not, be solved in time to prevent all-out societal collapse” starts to look a bit like a realistic outlook. Do these realists deserve to be called “doomers”?
The Washington Post article goes on to talk about the worry that “doom” can cause paralysis, and admonishes us that we must maintain hope if we are to be effective climate change activists. The main protagonist of the story is a young activist worried about human extinction. The story ends on a hopeful note with the same young activist focused instead on engaging in his community by “showing there is support for the solutions.” Unfortunately, the article doesn’t discuss what those solutions are.
The world the mainstream media seems to see when it’s reporting on climate change is one focused almost entirely on carbon: burning too much of it, the people who deny that burning it is bad, the people who are trying to get the world to burn less of it, and the people who are categorized as doomers because they realistically assess the situation and begin to lose hope.
However, this perspective is missing the bigger picture. Occasionally, the media will report on other crises — the pollution crisis (plastic pollution is popular in the media, and “forever chemicals” have recently made the news a few times) and the biodiversity crisis (although the UN meetings about biodiversity bring far fewer participants, and far less press coverage) have made the mainstream news a few times in the past year.
How often do you hear about “ecological overshoot” in the mainstream media? If you say “never” then you’d be right. How often do you see any mainstream media articles about a serious plan for reducing human consumption, for changing the global economic system, or (shudder) addressing overpopulation? If you think that any journalist attempting to write about these topics might be fired, I’d agree.
Most people have never heard of “The Great Acceleration” or the “Planetary Boundaries Project” outside certain activist circles. These projects aim to show how human impact is increasing exponentially across many domains, and that the planet has thresholds beyond which the Earth systems that support us begin to fail.
Fewer still have engaged with the idea of “ecological overshoot”, a concept familiar to ecologists studying species, but not so to the general public. One of my favorite resources for understanding ecological overshoot is a 1977 video of Donnella Meadows explaining overshoot and collapse at Dartmouth College. Meadows is one of the authors of the 1972 report Limits to Growth, which used a computer simulation to illustrate the consequences of unchecked human growth (population, consumption, pollution) on the ecosystems that support us, and the loss of carrying capacity that overshoot creates. Another excellent resource about ecological overshoot is William Catton’s 1980 book, Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change. Needless to say, if the world had more seriously contemplated the concept of ecological overshoot back when Meadow’s Limits to Growth and Catton’s Overshoot were published, we might not be in the predicament we find ourselves in today.
The 80’s almost entirely erased whatever concern these books might have created. The decade of “greed is good” accelerated economic growth around the world, and cemented society’s trajectory of hyper consumption and its attendant destruction of the natural world.
Just because most people ignored ecological overshoot doesn’t mean it went away; in fact the overshoot worsened considerably and exponentially in the subsequent decades, and continues to do so today. Indeed, due to 3% average growth (as measured by GWP, gross world product), we’ve burned half of all the fossil fuels ever burned by humans and used as many extracted materials in the past 35 years as we did in the prior 10,000 years. This is the power of exponential growth. Along with exponential growth and destruction comes accelerating loss of carrying capacity, as outlined by Limits to Growth in 1972.
“The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” — Albert Bartlett.
Ecological overshoot of the carrying capacity of one’s environment can have many causes. In her 1977 video, Donnella Meadows describes how removing the predators of a deer population causes a huge spike in deer numbers, which causes the larger numbers of deer to eat all the food available to them, which creates a loss of carrying capacity as the ecosystem is over-grazed and degraded, which then causes a collapse in the deer population below its original level. This is standard behavior for a species in ecological overshoot.
We humans are a species in ecological overshoot. That means we are currently consuming more than the ecosystems we rely on for life can support, and polluting our environment with more waste and toxics than it can absorb. Why hasn’t human population collapsed yet? Because we are still on the upside of the spike.
This spike can’t last for long; as with all species in overshoot, our population will collapse too. Just as the deer ate too much food and lowered the carrying capacity of their environment, we are consuming too much and polluting too much, and as a result we too are lowering the carrying capacity of our environment — which in our case, is most of the planet.
The big picture that mainstream media, like the Washington Post, is missing is that climate change is just one of many symptoms of our species in ecological overshoot. When you step back and look at the big picture, what you see is this:
As a species, we rely on flourishing ecosystems all over the globe to support us and provide the basics for human life on planet Earth: food, water, shelter, and community.
If the ice melts in the Arctic, that affects weather systems the world over. If the Amazon rainforest is cut down, that, too, affects weather systems the world over. More extreme weather impacts our ability to grow food; it causes floods in some areas and droughts in others, affects the availability of clean water, and damages ecosystems.
If we degrade the soil with industrial agriculture, we cause top soil loss, which means we can grow less food, and we have to use a lot more fertilizer (which is made from fossil fuels and causes pollution) to get the same food output.
If we pollute the land with toxic chemicals, we pollute our own food, either directly by polluting crops, or by polluting the animals we eat for food.
If we pollute the fresh water, we reduce the availability of water to drink and contaminate and harm the other species we depend on for life. If we pollute the oceans, we contaminate and harm marine life, contaminate and harm ourselves when eat marine animals, and degrade the carrying capacity of the oceans.
Like the deer in Donnella Meadows’ lecture, our numbers have grown too large; we are consuming too much of everything in our ecosystems (food, trees, soil, wildlife, metals, minerals, fossil fuels, etc.) and degrading the carrying capacity of the Earth’s ecosystems to support us. Our population will crash, and badly. Whatever number of humans was sustainable before the invention of agriculture, before the industrial revolution — before we began degrading topsoils, before we began using fossil fuels to exponentially speed up extraction from and destruction of the natural world — that number will no longer be possible because the carrying capacity of the Earth will be much lower.
This is true not just for humans. Our species’ loss of carrying capacity affects other species too. There are the many species we are driving extinct (at 1000 times the natural extinction rate). We have caused almost total pollution and degradation of natural habitats, meaning far fewer and less healthy and diverse flora and fauna can live in what’s left of these habitats. We are destroying the carrying capacity of the planet for everyone, not just ourselves.
The relentless focus on climate change in the past few years — by governments, by the media, and now by corporations that take advantage of our climate concerns to sell us a whole new assortment of products — has blinded many of us to the bigger picture of ecological overshoot.
Why the focus on climate change, out of all the possible symptoms of ecological overshoot? Because corporations could see how to monetize climate change, and they’ve done so, quite effectively. Of the many symptoms of ecological overshoot, climate change is the only one that can be solved (or so we are told) by new technologies. “Innovations” as corporate PR firms, the World Economic Forum, and government policy makers like to call them. Technologies that will generate “carbon free” electricity (if you ignore all the fossil fuels used to mine the materials to make these technologies, and manufacture the components, and the carbon released from the ground when it’s destroyed to install these technologies); technologies that provide the illusion we can keep living like we’re living, with electric cars, hydrogen fueled planes, and plastic made with carbon from plants instead of carbon from fossil fuels (never mind the thousands of toxic chemicals required to mix with the carbon to actually make the plastic).
For fifty years, corporations have been perfecting their public relations and greenwashing savvy. They’ve stolen from us an environmental movement that cared about life on planet Earth, and replaced it with an environmental movement that cares only about carbon and technology. Young people marching for “climate justice” demand solar panels and wind turbines; calls to protect the rainforest are nowhere to be heard these days.
Mainstream media and certain climate scientists refer to those of us who prefer to see the whole picture of ecological overshoot as “doomers” too. They lump us in with those concerned about climate change who really have given up hope, whether by realistic assessment of the situation we’re in or because they get sucked in by charismatic people who peddle conspiracy theories, as the Washington Post article describes.
Why do we get lumped in with the “climate doomers”? Because we don’t believe that so-called renewable technologies are a solution to climate change, and because we don’t agree with the now-mainstream view that continued extraction of non-renewable materials to keep this hyper consuming, hyper polluting way of life going is a good idea.
If the media was willing to delve deeper, and understand the bigger picture, they might see the climate-centric view of the world is too simplistic a view. There are many of us out here who do not fall into the “climate doomer” category, despite our push back on the relentless drive for renewables in the media. There are many of us out here who are concerned with the health and flourishing of Earth’s ecosystems, who are desperately concerned with all the symptoms of ecological overshoot, who see more extraction in the name of “technology” as worsening the situation, not improving it, and most importantly, who are working hard to protect the natural world.
We are the deep green environmentalists — the ones who understand that the natural world is primary, for without it, human animals will not have food, water, shelter, and community. We are the ones who don’t want to live in a world paved over with concrete and poisoned with chemicals and with no old growth forests left and no tall grass prairies left, with no Northern Right whales in the oceans, and no sage-grouse booming in the sagebrush steppe.
We see climate change as just one of many problems we face, and see solutions in understanding that we are human animals, rather than in more technology. We see ourselves not at the top of some imagined hierarchy but as part of a web of life; not as separate from or more important than the connected natural communities of the world, but completely dependent on these communities and their flourishing.
Remember the title of William Catton’s book? Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change. “Revolutionary” means “involving or causing a complete or dramatic change.” We deep greens are the ones who are fighting for revolutionary change. We are fighting to save the planet — really save it, not just pretend we can save it with technology to reduce carbon. Does that sound “doomer” to you? Granted there are some who likely have given up, and I included a circle for them too — the “deep green doomers”. But I’ve never met one. Never. Every deep green environmentalist I know is an activist working for revolutionary change. Every single one.
The mainstream media never talks about us deep green environmentalists. With corporate masters to serve, thousands of young people marching in the streets demanding solar panels and wind turbines is what writes the headlines. Extremes sell, so reporting on “climate doomers” grabs the eyeballs.
What doesn’t work is reporting on the slow, painstaking work of saving a species of tiny frog from a geothermal development, or the tedious late nights it takes to file lawsuits to protect sage-grouse habitat and organize people to prevent timber sales or stand in front of bulldozers. But this is what it takes to actually save the planet. Not greenwash it, not replace overconsumption of one non-renewable material extracted from the Earth with overconsumption of another in a desperate attempt to keep this way of life going when it’s obvious to anyone who is paying attention that’s impossible.
What really doesn’t work is suggesting, even the tiniest little bit, that the dominant paradigm of infinite economic growth on a finite planet is a recipe for failure, as illustrated in the graph of ecological overshoot. The editors at mainstream media outlets in the pockets of corporate masters and government policy makers would never let an article like that get published, would they?
Editor’s note: The US military is the largest emitter of greenhouse gas pollution in the world. It is through the allocation of over half the federal government budget that this is made possible. So when companies say that the destruction of the environment must be done to save the planet, this fact is never mentioned. We are in fact in an existential situation and yet ending the war machine is never on the table. The evil empire will do what it has always done, which is to extract the wealth of the land to the determinant of those that live there. And this will not end until it collapses. If we are to have anything left before this happens we must fight to save it.
In early summer, Vale BLM (Bureau of Land Management) held a Resource Advisory Council meeting in McDermitt, ground zero for the critical minerals rush on public lands. Lithium driller Jindalee HiTech got to talk about the company’s horrifying new exploration drillingproposal for 267 more drill holes, wastewater sumps, and 30 miles of new “temporary” roads. The project would tear rip apart irreplaceable Sage-grouse Focal habitat, as a prelude to open pit strip mining for lower grade lithium. The BLM geologist showed a video, How Critical Minerals are Vital to the Climate Fight, that had appeared on ABC news.
One narrator, Reed Blakemore, was from the Atlantic Council think tank known for never seeing a War or US-backed coup it wouldn’t propagandize and cheerlead for. The other narrator works for an organization called SAFE. Their mission appears to be strident propaganda shaping policies, perceptions and practices and support for wresting control of critical minerals and energy, no matter how unsafe it makes the world or how much environmental damage is caused. The two harangue viewers about the need to get “shovels in the ground”. It includes a clip of Biden bragging about the Defense Production Act.
SAFE’s Website boasts about working with retired 4 star generals. A scroll through their Twitter account shows them pushing for streamlining environmental analysis–like the type of NEPA and tribal consultation short-cuts which contributed to the Thacker Pass (Peehee mu’huh) controversy that rages on. SAFE screeches about mineral laundering by China, adores high voltage transmission lines, and my favorite: “SAFE believes the Biden admin must take an aggressive approach that raises strong walls around foreign entities of concern while lowering drawbridges for our allies, like South Korea”. And hurl pots of burning oil down on the enemies of Fortress America from the castle keep?
This energy transition and critical minerals crusade on public lands is very much about retaining a corporate iron grip on energy, and increasingly seems to be about feeding the Military Industrial Complex. Watching the video, it belatedly dawned on me that critical minerals and green energy Neocons are driving much of the agenda. It’s certainly neocolonialist, but with the added twist of the Neocon global control freaks, and no dissent is allowed. We’ll grab what we want, anywhere, no matter if we break it all apart, no restraints tolerated, and we and our friends will make a fortune. The McDermitt caldera encapsulates the clash between supposed clean energy and the dirty reality for public land, water, communities, biodiversity, and a sane path to sustainability and energy change.
The EV “revolution” is being carried out with the same mindset, hubris, lies, greed, propaganda and war mongering that plunged us ever deeper into the fossil fuels mess and Forever Wars. The public is being propagandized by the Atlantic Council, SAFE, and others to blindly accept the sacrifice of any place, anywhere – under claims of saving us from climate change (as we continue to guzzle energy without limits). It’s also about domination and empire. Just like with oil, they won’t be content with a “domestic supply”, and instead seek to control all of it. Leadership of big green groups often appears captured by these critical minerals and energy Neocons – witness those dead serious Sierra Club outreach e-mails with a tangle of high voltage transmission lines portraying NEPA short-cuts as a good thing.
War Contractor Bechtel Selected to Build the Thacker Pass Mine, Mine Costs Double
Environews provides a whirlwind summary of some 2023 Thacker Pass events. Lithium Americas contracted with Bechtel Mining and Metals for engineering, procurement and execution of the mine. Bechtel is an industrial contractor and war profiteer who reaped massive government contracts during our Forever Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They’ve already signed a reconstruction agreement with Ukraine, a tad prematurely. They go way back, having built Hoover Dam and infrastructure for the Manhattan atomic bomb project at Hanford and elsewhere. Hanford plutonium was used in the nuclear bomb the US dropped on the people of Nagasaki Japan. To this day, Bechtel is involved in Forever Clean Up at nuclear facilities, including the most toxic place in America, and helping work on new nukes, keeping the gravy train going. The International Committee for Investigative Journalists summarized:
“Bechtel has been heavily involved in both commercial and military nuclear activities. These have included some of the most notable nuclear mishaps in U.S. history, from California’s San Onofre reactor installed backwards, to the botched clean up of Three Mile Island … Bechtel is finding ways to profit from the radioactive mess its projects have created.”
Regarding Bechtel’s endless Hanford work and profiteering Joshua Frank describes “they have a really bad track record and are well known for reaping the spoils of U.S. military ventures all over the globe. In October they had a test facility up and running that was going to do a run of vitrification for low-level radioactive waste. They basically had a ribbon cutting for this big machine and it ran for a week, then overheated, and they had to shut it down”.
Tribes consider this land to be a Traditional Cultural Property. Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and Summit Lake Tribe submitted a Traditional Cultural Property Eligibility Statement, (Peehee mu’huh: A Living Monument to Numu History and Culture District. September 12, 1865 Thacker Pass Massacre Site) to the BLM. It seeks official Interior Department recognition. Now it’s reported that BLM is sitting on the document, and never transmitted it to the National Park Service who oversees National Historic Register sites. Meanwhile, site integrity is being obliterated. Time after time – in local, national and international media – elders and tribal members have said that lithium mining desecration and destruction at Thacker Pass is like digging up Arlington Cemetery.
A recent deluge of news articles, many appeared planted, hyped a geological study that largely rehashes long known geological information. This helps fuel speculation and increase political pressure on agencies to rubberstamp projects. Following weeks of media gushing about the overblown study, the Nevada Currentexposes what’s going on:
“The study was funded by Lithium Americas, and includes research from Lithium Americas employee and shareholder, Thomas Benson”. He was the lead author, but most media stories skipped right over that inconvenient fact.
“John Hadder, the director of the Great Basin Resource Watch … said while the study may be helpful in pitching mining in the area, his organization has heard claims of “largest lithium deposit” from places around the world.
“I am concerned that this report will be used to advance more lithium mining in the region, and pressure the frontline peoples to accept mine plans,” said Hadder. “Regardless of how much lithium may be extractable, the sloppy permitting process that led to the Thacker Pass mine must not be duplicated. Indigenous ancestral lands that have cultural values must be protected, and Indigenous communities should have the right to say no”.
The publicity also bumped up Lithium Americas stock that had sagged a bit. And it seems there was another purpose, too. Lithium Americas is angling for a $1 billion DOE (Department of Energy) loan handout, the largest amount ever. The same outlets that hyped the geological paper are all agog, casting this as “an historic 1 billion”. Reuters now reports“Lithium Americas had raised its budget for the first phase of the Thacker Pass project to $2.27 billion, from $1.06 billion, reflecting changes to its production plans”. The loan is claimed to be 50 to 75% of the mine cost. Is this price explosion due to estimates of production linked to the hyped study, or is there a huge mine cost over-run right out of the starting gate? Lithium Americas did choose a contractor with long experience profiting off the US’s trillion-dollar foreign misadventures and nuclear mess. If the lithium mine gets this obscene DOE handout, will dollars evaporate, like four Hanford whistleblowers exposed:
“It is stunning that, for a decade, Bechtel and AECOM chose to line their corporate pockets by diverting important taxpayer funds from this critically essential effort,” Assistant US Attorney Joseph Harrington said in a news release …The case started after four whistleblowers came forward in 2016, telling federal prosecutors about alleged time-card fraud in which the companies billed the U. S. Department of Energy for work that was never completed. The companies hired hundreds of electricians, millwrights, pipefitters … to build the plant … and then over-charged for the workers even when those workers had no duties to perform …”.
The Department of Justice Press release on the Hanford deception is here. The time-card fraud involved DOE funds. Now DOE appears on the verge of lavishing a billion-dollar loan on Lithium Americas who uses this same contractor.
GM Thacker Pass Lithium in Ultium Batteries, GM and War Machines
GM is now implicated as a major player in Caldera lithium mania. In January 2023, GM announced it would invest $650 million in Lithium Americas and use Thacker Pass lithium for its Ultium batteries:
“Lithium carbonate from Thacker Pass will be used in GM’s proprietary Ultium battery cells. … GM is launching a broad portfolio of trucks, SUVs, luxury vehicles and light commercial vehicles using the Ultium Platform, including the GMC HUMMER EV Pickup and SUV, GMC Sierra EV, Cadillac LYRIQ, Cadillac CELESTIQ, Chevrolet Silverado EV, Chevrolet Blazer EV, Chevrolet Equinox EV, BrightDrop Zevo 400 and BrightDrop Zevo 600”.
But these aren’t the only GM vehicles using Ultium batteries. Clean Technica headlined, “The US military is buying Ultium Battery Packs from GM Defense”. Get ready for the Green Wars, folks, including the Green Wars for Green Minerals. Are wild and sacred places of the McDermitt Caldera going to be destroyed not only for bloated GM pick-ups, street Hummers and virtue signaling about the climate crisis, but also for War machines too — gutting the West for critical minerals so we can waste untold amounts of energy and minerals on more Forever Wars?
GM Defense proclaims it’s driving the future of military mobility, with a five-passenger All-Electric Military Concept Vehicle, and working on energy storage for the tactical warfighter. Ultium batteries are also used in armored diplomatic vehicles that look like a sure hit with narco kingpins. Other monstrosities like this tactical truck, don’t yet appear to have EV batteries, but GM does promise they’re fuel efficient. How long until US troops de-stabilizing South American countries to gain control of their lithium, or maneuvering to grab foreign oil, are cruising around in EVs? At the end of a Reno KTVN Channel 2 video full of land destruction images and lithium company spin, the reporter says “lithium is a hot commodity”. The lithium company’s spokesman replies “it’s essential for national security”. Note that lithium is also used in designs of some nuclear reactors and in the nuclear weapons industry.
GM Greenwashing, Thacker Pass Lithium, Social Injustice
A Mighty Earth report, GM Wants ‘Everybody In’ on Greenwashing, tells how GM’s human rights policy conflicts with its investment in Thacker Pass, how they’re building hulks while smaller cars sold may largely be from China, a continuing dirty supply chain, a poor score in indigenous rights protection, and how often GM makes commitments but doesn’t follow through. In the report, the People of Red Mountain Atsa Koodakuh wyh Nuwu explain that “the entire landscape of the McDermitt caldera is sacred to Nevada, California and Oregon tribal nations”
The brutal 1865 US cavalry massacre of a Paiute camp at Thacker Pass was part of the memory-holed Snake War of Extermination. The massacre was not revealed by BLM in the mine EIS. During litigation, Tribes presented resounding evidence – US surveyor records, contemporaneous newspaper stories, and survivor Ox Sam’s own account from Big Bill Haywood’s Autobiography. The Biden-Haaland BLM brushed it all aside, to the anger and dismay of Tribes and many other people. The stalled Traditional Cultural Property document contains the records. Perhaps doling out a $1 billion loan for the destruction of an officially recognized massacre site might be a bridge too far, even for Jennifer Granholm’s DOE.
In spring 2023, the Ox Sam women’s protest camp was set up at Thacker Pass by a gaping water pipeline trench the company had ripped past sacred Sentinel Rock. The camp was raided after a protest action. Now Ox Sam descendants and white activists associated with the camp are being sued in a vile SLAPP suit: After getting hammered with lawsuits aimed at halting development of a lithium mine at Northern Nevada’s Thacker Pass, a Canadian-based mining company has turned the tables and is suing the mine’s protesters … the protesters and an attorney representing them counter that the lawsuit is similar to a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP), aimed at intimidating and silencing their free speech”.
How’s that for upholding ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) principles, and the other social responsibility jargon Lithium Americas and the mob of Caldera miners use to lull investors?
Aurora Schemes of Yellowcake and Green Uranium
Aurora Energy Metals is trying to resurrect a uranium project long thought dead. Promotion videos show Greg Cochran, an Australian “uranium veteran” leading the Aurora charge. Before alighting in the Caldera, Cochran had been with Australian uranium miner Deep Yellow. Here’s Friends of the Earth Melbourne on Deep Yellow, “The Mulga Rock uranium project east of Kalgoorlie is now under the leadership of a team with a track record of over-promising, under-performing and literally blowing up cultural sites”. And this from the Conservation Council of WA (West Australia),“We’ve gone from the inexperienced and cash-poor Vimy Resources to Deep Yellow who are led by a team with a track record that highlights why uranium mining does not have a social license”.
Aurora drilled a few exploration holes in fall 2022 extended a bit of drilling into a winter exclusion period. Now they seek to expand drilling under a NEPA-less, no public comment Notice, which is how the Jindalee sagebrush killing drilling to date has been done.
Aurora’s mining scheme, where some lower grade lithium overlays uranium deposits, is explained in a Proactive Investors video. Cochran envisions the mine of the future with a conveyor belt or pipeline jetting lithium or uranium slurry or crushed rock from Oregon across the state line down onto private land in Nevada, where a processing plant and waste heaps would be located. The video interviewer asks: “Tell me more about this property you bought in Nevada”. Cochran replies:
“Yeah, we kept that under wraps for quite a while because we wanted to make sure that nobody else kind of gazumped us. … We had this strategy of identifying suitable locations within Nevada for the processing plant … because… we know that they understand mining a lot better than Oregon … Nothing is a free pass, but it would allow us, we believe, to permit quicker. Private land to boot is even more attractive. … We discovered that one of the landowners was looking to sell. So, right place, right time. I’m already … envisioning … the mine of the future. Where you develop this mine. You’ve got a crusher, you run a very fancy overland conveyor – or pipeline for that matter – across to Nevada which as the crow flies it’s only 8 or 9 k’s – so there’s no tracking, no footprint … negligible CO2 emissions …’.
He says the Aurora project would be ticking all the boxes in terms of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) approval – right after detailing a plan to evade Oregon regulations on uranium pollution by moving the hot rocks across the state line. Apparently, radioactive material infiltrating air, groundwater, plants, wildlife, and contaminating the community, doesn’t count when you’re ticking ESG boxes. The same plan is repeated in a Mining Network video here, with Cochran talking about Nevada land enabling Aurora to “permit a quarry in Oregon”, which he describes as fairly straightforward, while siting the processing plant and waste heaps in Nevada. In a Thacker Pass state permitting meeting, Nevada Department of Environmental Quality staff admitted they couldn’t recall not permitting a mine.
Aurora’s Nevada land is around 4 miles west of town, right by the state line south of where the Disaster Peak county road starts. In an Australian publication, Aurora, described as a “shining light”, says that because there’s some hydropower at the site “we have the potential to deliver green uranium”, in a “uranium friendly mining jurisdiction”. Welcome to Nevada – the Uranium Waste Heap State. No Rocks Too Hot to Handle. You can already envision more billboards sprouting up on Highway 95.
A past effort to wrest uranium from Caldera earth fizzled when Fukushima grayed up the miner’s blue sky on uranium. Back then, Oregon mining activist Larry Tuttle warned in Read the Dirt about yellowcake production, water use, the toxic waste stream, tailings ponds and Oregon’s very own Lucky Lass superfund site experience near Lakeview:
“Sulfuric acid in the tailings also dissolves and leaches heavy metals – mercury, molybdenum, arsenic, lead, manganese, and cadmium – as well as uranium. (The Aurora site has already been extensively mined for mercury, which pose additional health perils; sulfuric acid easily bonds with and transports mercury to waterways.) Residual uranium elements in the tailings decay and release radon; heavy metals also continue to interact within tailings and other wastes.
For communities as diverse as Moab, Utah, and Jeffrey City, Wyoming (often called yellowcake towns), the effects of uranium mining on public services and resources; ground and surface water; and, air quality are serious and dramatic”.
The Moab Times just reported on resistance to uranium mining and processing at the La Sal Complex near Moab and the Pinyon Plain mine near the Grand Canyon, in “Ute Mountain Utes march against White Mesa as Energy Fuels prepares to reopen uranium mines”:
“Some White Mesa residents have long been concerned that the mill, which lies four miles north of the community, is contaminating nearby groundwater, air and wildlife with radon that allegedly blows and seeps off the mill’s tailings impoundments”.
While uranium miners attempt to tamp down dangers, Ute tribal members monitoring past mining effects have measured whopping levels of uranium in spring water, there’s a sulfur odor in the air with re-processing taking place, and animals are disappearing from the mesa. For the record, uranium was recently shifted from the critical minerals list, and is now a fuel mineral with friends in Congress. Caldera uranium is found in uraninite and coffinite ore. No, someone didn’t have a morbid sense of humor, it’s said to be named after a geologist.
Trying to track the serial land destroyers and speculators who’ve descended on the Caldera is quite confusing. It’s unclear who now controls FMS claims. On-line sources show conflicting information. An Aurora prospectus said they control Oregon FMS “CALD” claims. A company named Chariot now appears involved with Oregon and Nevada FMS claims – all located in terrible places for wildlife. Lithium Americas holds a north-south block of claims in extremely sensitive wildlife habitat up in the Montana Mountains. They repeatedly told the public during the Thacker Pass EIS process that the project was sited to avoid those Sage-grouse conflicts, and that they wouldn’t mine up there because wildlife values were so high.
Puzzlingly, a 2016 SEC Report map shows Lithium Americas then controlling much of the current Jindalee claims block in “Miller” [Malheur] county. Why would they let go of Oregon claims while gearing up for Thacker? FMS Nevada claims lie in critical sagebrush by the east face of the Montanas. LiVE, another company, also has some Nevada claims. This month, there were mining press articles and a video about Jindalee drilling again this November. I contacted Vale BLM, and BLM says No. If you’re out in the Caldera, keep your eyes on what’s going on.
Jim Jeffress, a retired NDOW biologist (so he can speak his mind) describes how ideal for Sage-grouse Caldera lands are. He says what happens in the Montana Mountains with key sage grouse habitat “will define the resolve of the state of Nevada and BLM in the recovery of Sage-grouse in Nevada”. He extols the high bird abundance, the ideal habitat configuration, calls the Montanas exceptionally important, the gold standard for Sage-grouse, and a critical bridge between populations, writing:
“My primary concern is focused on ANY mine site or extraction areas on top of the Montana Mountains in the area commonly referred to as Lone Willow, now or in the future. That concern extends into Jordan Meadows in the east that serves as wintering grounds for the Montana Mountains sage-grouse population and those in southern Oregon”.
The Caldera is a unique inter-connected ecosystem, spanning Nevada and Oregon, with irreplaceable habitat for Sage-grouse and other wildlife. It must be protected from a mad, rapacious minerals rush.
Environmental Advocates and Groups To Protest Latest Proposed Algonquin Pipeline Expansion Near Shuttered Indian Point Nuclear Plant
On Tuesday, activists will rally outside the shuttered Indian Point nuclear plant in Buchanan in protest of the latest proposed Algonquin Pipeline Expansion in the area. The protest will occur blocks from where, in 2016, three activists were arrested for blocking the last Algonquin Pipeline expansion of an added 42-inch high-pressure pipeline. In addition, two older 32-inch and 23-inch pipelines run underneath the plant. Decommissioning at Indian Point houses over 2,000 tons of irradiated fuel rods in addition to other radioactive waste.
Protestors will call on Governor Hochul to stop pipeline owner Enbridge’s latest “Project Maple” proposal. Project Maple was noticed by Enbridge HERE.
WHAT: Rally calling on Governor Hochul to stop Enbridge’s “Project Maple” fracked gas pipeline expansion
WHEN: Tuesday, November 14 at 4:30pm ET
WHERE: Outside the shuttered Indian Point nuclear plant on the corner of Bleakley Ave & Broadway in Buchanan, NY
WHO: Activists representing Food & Water Watch, United for Clean Energy, Safe Energy Rights Group, and more
“Project Maple” would significantly expand the amount of gas transmitted through the Algonquin Pipeline which runs from the Hudson Valley through Connecticut to Massachusetts. Enbridge anticipates its proposal to come on line as soon as November 2029.
The proposal to expand fracked gas in the region comes despite New York’s Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act which mandates greenhouse gas emissions reductions of at least 85 percent by 2050 and the state’s nation leading ban on fossil fuels in new buildings, which will go into effect in 2026.
Editor’s Note: With the increase in offshore wind energy surveys, the number of stranded North Atlantic Right Whales on East Coast beaches has also increased. Right Whales were declared as a critically endangered species by the US National Oceanographic and Administrative Administration (NOAA) in 2020. Survey and construction for offshore wind requires sonar to inform about the condition of the seabed where the wind turbines are supposed to be embedded. Right whales depend of whale calls to maintain contact with each other, gather to feed and to find mates. The oceanic noise pollution caused by the sonar disrupts all of this.
Save Right Whales Coalition is comprised of environmental and community organizations, scientists, and conservationists working to protect the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale and other marine life from the industrialization of their ocean habitat through large-scale offshore wind energy development across the eastern seaboard. The following piece is a compilation of a press release and an open letter to the public. Both of these were taken from the Save Right Whales website.
Whale Conservation Group Calls on NOAA to Halt All Offshore Wind Sonar Surveys After Discovering Mitigations are Ineffective
Report finds marine mammals are being exposed to much louder noise levels than NOAA has stated which could be the cause for whale deaths
September 11, 2023 – An investigation into recent whale deaths in the Atlantic has found that the noise produced by offshore wind sonar activities is much louder than NOAA Fisheries’ National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has reported. Consequently, the setback distances adopted by NMFS to protect ocean life from the noise are too short and place whales and other marine mammals at a high risk of encountering harmful levels.
The Save Right Whales Coalition (SRWC), a group of long-time environmental activists dedicated to protecting the critically-endangered North Atlantic right whale from the industrialization of its ocean habitat, issued this letter to NOAA Administrator Richard Spinrad exposing the problem. According to the letter, “inadequate mitigations during a sonar survey could result in marine mammals experiencing sound levels that may injure or kill.” Since the only mitigation for sonar noise is distance, the shortened distances enforced by NMFS have “rendered any expected mitigations useless.”
SRWC’s finding is supported by a sound study conducted by Rand Acoustics, LLC, a leading acoustics firm in Maine. Earlier this year, Rand captured actual high decibel noise levels at a wind survey site approximately 43 nautical miles east of Barnegat Light, NJ. Rand found that the frequency and sound power levels he recorded did not match the equipment NMFS and the project sponsor said would be used. Rand’s data show the noise emitted from the sonar was much louder. This finding prompted a comprehensive review of the incidental harassment authorizations (IHAs) issued by NMFS which revealed a regular pattern of NMFS applying mitigations based on quieter sonar devices than those actually in use.
“In our review, we found that NMFS simply accepted the sonar sound levels provided by the wind developers without independently validating these levels,” said Lisa Linowes, a co-founder of SRWC. She warned that all mitigations relating to sonar noise in the IHAs are predicated on the loudness of the sonar devices. Underestimating the actual noise level of sonar used by survey boats would lead to the specification of shorter ‘safe’ distances from marine mammals than were necessary for their protection. The setback distances also play a key role in calculating the number of marine mammal ‘takes’ NMFS authorized for the sonar activity. “Had NMFS applied the correct sonar sound levels when issuing the IHAs, the number of takes would have been materially greater,” Linowes said.
This finding suggests that there has been a complete breakdown in the system designed to protect marine wildlife and protect the North Atlantic right whale from extinction. SRWC has requested emergency action by NMFS and BOEM to address this matter beginning with the immediate revocation of IHAs now active.
The investigations of SRWC and Rand Acoustics, LLC are featured in the powerful new documentary released by Michael Shellenberger’s PUBLIC titled Thrown to the Wind. The film can be viewed at this link.
Whistleblower Speaks Out: Offshore Wind Will Drive Whales to Extinction
Dear Fellow Concerned Members of the Public,
The critically-endangered North Atlantic right whale, one of the most imperiled mammals in the world, seemed until just a few years ago to be on a path to recovery. It was our nation’s energy policy in the 18th century to kill the right whales for their oil, but the species was recovering after the 1982 ban on whaling took effect.
Today, the whale is in more danger than ever. An “unusual mortality event” beginning in 2017 has reduced the population by 30 percent. The North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium’s October 2022 count estimates that only 340 individuals survive, with fewer than 70 breeding females and an overall decline in body size. Major sources of stress today include fishing gear entanglements, vehicle collisions, and climate change.
But one source of danger to the right whale is rarely discussed: the industrialization of their habitat by offshore wind companies, enabled by two government agencies, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries (NOAA Fisheries) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). The head of New England Aquarium’s whale impact monitoring program has openly stated that the first offshore wind projects will serve as a “test bed” to study their impacts on the whale.
A recently-surfaced letter from a whistleblower indicates that BOEM and NOAA were aware in May 2022 that offshore wind construction and operation posed a direct danger to the North Atlantic right whale.
The author, NOAA’s own Chief of Endangered Species, Dr. Sean Hayes, bravely sounded the alarm, noting that not only the construction but also the operation of wind turbines could result in extinction.
Yet these agencies have failed to put in place any meaningful measures to protect this critically endangered species from extinction.
By NOAA Fisheries’ own admission, “The potential biological removal (PBR) 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.” In plain language, this means the death of a single whale could make the difference between extinction and recovery.
Recent data collection finds the whales are increasingly relying on the southern Massachusetts wind lease area as a last refuge for foraging and raising their young. Because the federally-designated critical right whale habitat is out of date, these very same areas have been approved by the federal government for industrialization by offshore wind companies.
For a long time it was unclear what effects the plants’ construction and operation might have on whales. Several groups including our coalition raised the alarm and called for a moratorium until more studies could be conducted.
In response to these concerns, NOAA Fisheries and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in October this year released a draft joint strategy to “to protect and promote the recovery of North Atlantic right whales while responsibly developing offshore wind energy.” But this strategy is misleading – the authors frame their plan to meet their obligations under the Endangered Species Act as a mere “vision,” and there is little evidence that the proposed mitigation measures are effective, practicable or backed up by sufficient funds.
Our coalition’s public comments can be found here.
In order for the development of the projects to go forward, an Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) must be issued by NOAA when a federally listed marine mammal may be harmed. The issuance of an IHA requires that it is possible to fully mitigate the effects of any harassment, and from Hayes’ letter it is clear that this is not the case.
Hayes’ letter stresses that the presence of wind turbines would disrupt the dense populations of zooplankton that right whales rely on for food. Hayes describes the wind lease area as “the only known winter foraging area for right whales” and warns against the impacts not only from construction but also from the expected 30-year operation of offshore wind turbines on foraging grounds, which could “vary from hundreds of meters for local individual turbine impacts…to large-scale dipoles of surface elevation changes stretching hundreds of kilometers.”
Most damningly, he states, “impacts from installed and operating turbines cannot be mitigated for the 30-year lifespan of the project, unless they are decommissioned.”
A lawyer from the Conservation Law Foundation, an organization that is “strongly supportive of offshore wind,” acknowledged that the area slated for wind development was poorly surveyed for right whales prior to the permitting agencies selling 1,400 square miles of our federal waters to foreign wind energy companies.
NOAA and BOEM’s draft mitigation plan fails to address Hayes’ concerns. Additionally, it is interesting that the letter was not made available to the public until November when a local newspaper, the New Bedford Light, accessed it through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Hayes has risked his career and reputation by writing a letter of this seriousness. The international offshore wind industry is estimated to be worth $31.2 billion. Major conservation organizations, including the New England Aquarium and the Environmental League of Massachusetts, receive funding and sponsorships from offshore wind companies. Not to mention the weight of the Biden-Harris’s administration’s pro-offshore wind policy, backed by numerous large government agencies.
But evidence continues to mount. On November 24th, scientists published stronger evidence indicating that offshore wind operations “can have a substantial impact on the structuring of coastal marine ecosystems,” with effects far beyond the area of the turbines themselves.
With fewer than 350 North Atlantic right whales alive today, we must heed the science and call on the government to fulfill its obligations. The first large-scale offshore wind projects cannot serve as test beds to determine the impacts of turbines on a critically endangered species. And while climate change is an imperative, it is indefensible for any industrial project to push a species to extinction.
It was our own whaling industry that pushed the right whale to the brink. Today, our energy industry seems to be repeating its mistakes.
With this in mind, we are no longer calling for a moratorium. We are calling for the project to be canceled outright.
It is unacceptable for the government to allow large-scale industrial experiments in critical habitat for a species on the brink of extinction. The construction of industrial wind projects in any North Atlantic right whale habitat is, at this point, a clear violation of the Endangered Species Act.