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
Contact: Lisa Linowes
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 SRWC letter sent to NOAA can be found at this link.
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.
The Save Right Whales Coalition
Photo by Nicholas Doherty on Unsplash
Editor’s Note: The following is a testimony that Will Falk gave at Truth, Reckoning and Right Relationship with the Great Lakes on October 16 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on the shore of Lake Erie, Cleveland. Here, Will relates Robert J. Lifton’s concept of claims to virtue to the destruction of the natural world. No matter how many stories we build to justify our destruction, at the end, the destruction of the natural world is never going to be ethical, and is going to destroy all life on Earth – including humans.
If you wish to discuss the content, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Great Lakes saved my life.
By Will Falk
On April 17, 2013, while living in Milwaukee, WI and working as a public defender, I tried to kill myself in my apartment a few blocks from the shore of Lake Michigan. After I was released from the hospital – and while I was recovering, trying to understand what led me to the decision to try to take my own life – I spent every morning that spring and summer on a big red granite boulder listening to and watching Lake Michigan.
I heard her gentle freshwater waves breaking on sand. I heard the cries of sea gulls. I heard soft summer rains fall on the lake with the joyful song of water completing the long journey from the Earth’s surface to the clouds, across oceans and continents, to fall into the welcoming arms of more freshwater. I saw great blue herons stalking bluegill fish in the shallows. I watched bugs, butterflies, and songbirds crisscrossing the breeze, their flight patterns sewing stitches of color in the air. I smiled while children, celebrating their summer freedom, swam, played, and learned what it means to be human in a classroom far older than school.
Listening and watching like this pulled me from the despair that caused me to attempt suicide. Lake Michigan gave me the medicine I needed to recover. Lake Michigan truly saved my life. And, through my memories of that beautiful time, Lake Michigan continues to save my life.
Of course, the natural world also gives us life. All life depends on clean water, healthy soil, a habitable climate, and complex relationships formed by living creatures in natural communities. The Great Lakes are some of these natural communities. Because so much life depends on the Great Lakes, the needs of the Great Lakes are primary. Social morality must emerge from a humble understanding of this reality. Law is integral to any society’s morality, so law must emerge from this understanding, too.
One breezy June day in 2013, filled with gratitude because the natural world saved, gave, and continues to give me my life, I vowed to spend the rest of my life trying to save the natural world’s life. I am a lawyer. Law is one tool we have in the fight to protect the natural world. One of the first problems anyone who tries to use law to protect the natural world encounters is that our legal system is rooted in an assumption that the natural world is mere property for humans to use, exploit, and destroy. This is one of the main reasons we’re living in a time of intensifying ecological collapse – a time when humans may, in fact, be capable of destroying Earth’s life support systems.
I do not believe it is human nature to destroy the natural world. I believe it is human nature to recognize our kinship with the natural world, to recognize that the natural processes giving us life are sacred. I believe that it is human nature to insist that all of our relatives in the natural world, all of the processes giving us life, must be protected. My beliefs are supported by the reality that our ancestors lived for hundreds of thousands of years in traditional cultures that did not push the planet to the brink of total ecological collapse. All of those traditional cultures taught that nature is sacred and that we have a responsibility to protect our other-than-human kin.
So, what happened? If it is human nature to treat the natural world as sacred, why does our legal system currently objectify the natural world?
The simple truth is that people who are willing to exploit the natural world will, in the short term, always have more power than those who respect the boundaries of nature. Human cultures that are willing to take more from the land than the land freely gives eventually exhaust their land. When this happens, these cultures are confronted with a choice: either they look for new lands to take what they need or they collapse. Either they impose boundaries on themselves or they find new boundaries to break. When these exploitative cultures conquer new peoples and lands, their exploitative ideologies replace life-centered, traditional ideologies.
The history of the colonization of this continent is a crystal clear example of how this process has played out in history. Europeans exceeded the carrying capacity of their homelands and began establishing colonies around the world to funnel resources back to Europe. This process, which is ongoing, is genocidal and ecocidal. Traditional communities are massacred for defending the land. Traditional cultures are destroyed or driven underground because their teachings question whether all of this is inevitable. And, all of this is done, ultimately, to control the land and resources.
The psychologist, Robert Jay Lifton, who devoted his career to understanding the psychological justifications that made the Holocaust possible wrote in a 2014 New York Times opinion piece, “Over the course of my work, I have come to the realization that it is very difficult to endanger or kill large numbers of people except with a claim to virtue.” Lifton explained that the Nazis didn’t characterize their actions as mass murder, they were “purifying the Aryan race” and “creating more living space for Germans.” Here, Americans have made and use similar claims to virtue to justify atrocities. As Americans pushed Native peoples onto reservations and stole their land, they weren’t engaged in genocide against Native peoples, they were manifesting their destiny.
We can extend Lifton’s idea to the natural world. It is very difficult to destroy the natural world and kill large numbers of other-than-humans except with a claim to virtue. At the heart of one of the most dominant European mythologies – Judeo-Christianity – are claims to virtues like the one found in the Bible’s Book of Genesis where people were taught that they “have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on earth.” Armed with that justification, and the technologies made possible by that justification, Europeans have come to dominate this land and her indigenous peoples.
Western legal systems, heavily influenced by Christianity, provide more of these claims to virtue. Humans are not destroying whole natural communities with mines, pipelines, crops, and clearcuts, they are simply exercising their property rights. Corporations that pump toxins into lakes and rivers are not polluting, they are complying with democratically-enacted regulations. Conversely, humans trying to pass rights of nature laws are not protecting their kin, they are depriving corporations of due process and equal protection.
I hate to reduce the Great Lakes – beings so ancient and so powerful – to an argument based in human self-interest. Regardless, know this: Human bodies are mostly water. If you’re one of the estimated 35 million people in the United States and Canada who depend on Great Lakes watersheds and you’re hydrated right now, the Great Lakes are literally part of you. If carcinogens continue to be pumped into the Great Lakes, if climate change burns more of the Great Lakes away and causes algal blooms to become worse and more frequent, if oceangoing, industrial vessels continue to drag species that push native species to the brink of extinction into the Great Lakes, you will be harmed. No claim to virtue can protect you from that. This is, unfortunately, ecological reality.
If we’re truly going to stop the destruction and return human cultures to right relationship with the natural world, we must change our legal system from one that objectifies nature to one that recognizes that the needs of the natural world are primary, that the health of the Great Lakes is more important than the health of the economy, and that in killing our relatives in the natural world, we are killing ourselves.
We must insist that our legal system becomes biophilic or biocentric as opposed to anthropocentric. Biophilia means the love of life – of all life. Law must protect sea gulls and summer rain; blue herons and bluegill; bugs, butterflies, and songbirds; rivers, forests, grasslands, the Great Lakes, and all the human children who depend on them.
Anything less is simply suicidal.
Will Falk is an attorney, writer, poet, activist, and organizer with Protect Thacker Pass. Protect Thacker Pass is an “independent, grassroots collective of people” protecting the land and all life from a proposed lithium mine in the Central Basin, Nevada. For Thacker Pass Facebook click here.
Photo by Emily Studer on Unsplash
DGR conducted its annual fundraiser on Ecology of Spirit. If you have missed it, you can view it here. You can also visit our auction for paintings, books, brownies and conversations. The auction will remain open till October 31.
Editor’s Note: Since the 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen, states and corporations alike have relied on the assumption that energy companies can be persuaded to rethink their business and initiate a transition process towards “renewable” energy and engagement in the “green” economy. That reliance has only increased since the climate talks in Paris in 2015.
Carbon trading and REDD+ are only some examples. In this scheme, every country gets a quota of carbon emissions. Heavily industrialized countries, instead of trying to meet the quota, can pay to exceed the quota. This fund is then used to reimburse less industrialized countries who emit less carbon than their quota.
In other words, they get paid to not deforest. While it may seem like a win-win situation, it is difficult to justify how this scheme actually helps reduce carbon emissions. This article from 15th September 2023 highlights some of the problems with the carbon credit system.
By Jessica Corbett/Common Dreams
Echoing previous warnings from climate advocates and studies, an environmental watchdog on Friday released research from experts at the University of California which shows that trying to offset fossil fuel emissions with popular forest carbon credit projects “is a pipe dream.”
As the new Berkeley Carbon Trading Project assessment—funded by Carbon Market Watch (CMW)—explains, “The voluntary carbon market generates credits, each nominally equivalent to one metric ton of carbon dioxide reduced or removed from the atmosphere, from a wide range of projects around the globe.”
Carbon credits don’t stop deforestation
Critics have long argued that carbon credit schemes are “false solutions” that harm poor communities where such projects are based and enable companies worldwide to greenwash their polluting activity rather than implementing reforms or investing in action to actually combat deforestation and the climate emergency.
“Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) is the project type that has the most credits on the voluntary carbon market—about a quarter of all credits to date,” the assessment details. “These projects pay governments, organizations, communities, and individuals in forest landscapes (primarily tropical ones in the Global South) for activities that preserve forests and avoid forest-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”
Over the past two decades, more than $3 billion has been poured into REDD+ and nearly half a billion carbon credits have been awarded, yet “deforestation is still continuing at an alarming rate,” the report notes. Berkeley researchers’ analysis of four methodologies that have generated almost all REDD+ credits—under Verra, the largest voluntary carbon market registry—revealed that estimated GHG emissions reductions were dramatically exaggerated.
“We found significant over-crediting from all of the factors we reviewed, the core causes of which are a combination of incentives and uncertainty,” said Barbara Haya, who led the research. “Everyone involved in the voluntary carbon market, from the buyers and sellers of credits, to the registries who write the rules and the auditors who enforce them, all benefit from more credits.”
“Large uncertainty in climate benefit calculations creates many opportunities for market participants to choose assumptions that inflate credits issued,” Haya added. “Drawing on all evidence, we conclude that REDD+ is ill-suited for carbon offsetting.”
As a CMW briefing published with the assessment summarizes:
- Project baselines are significantly overestimated, the research found, leading to the creation of carbon credits that represent imaginary emission reductions.
- Similarly, leakage is systematically underestimated by projects, which make use of flexibilities provided to them by the methodologies to downplay the risk of deforestation moving to areas outside of their project.
- The creation of low-quality carbon credits is further fueled by exaggerated estimates of the quantity of carbon stored within the trees that are protected by projects.
- The risk that the trees protected by REDD+ projects will die in the future is also drastically underestimated by projects, which again use methodological flexibility to misrepresent the real deforestation threat that forests will face in the future.
- Finally, the safeguards implemented by Verra are weak, do not protect communities from harm, and are not properly upheld by the validation and verification bodies.
Business over conservation projects
Verra released a lengthy response to the new assessment, which welcomed “the insight of the broader scientific and environmental community into our work on nature-based solutions,” but also said that “it is important to note that the vast majority of findings and recommendations from this research align with extensive and systematic work to update the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Program that Verra has carried out over the last two years.”
Inigo Wyburd, a CMW policy expert on global carbon markets, said that “we welcome Verra’s willingness to engage with our research and hope that it will take on board our findings and implement all of our recommendations.”
“Businesses are offsetting their emissions on the cheap by buying low-quality carbon credits connected to forest protection projects in the Global South,” the expert added. “When only 1 in every 13 carbon credits represents a real emissions reduction, their action is lost in the forest.”
Meanwhile, as Gilles Dufrasne, CMW’s policy lead on global carbon markets, highlighted, “biodiversity, the climate, and Indigenous people or local communities are losing out on what should have been a system to drive meaningful financial flows to the forest conservation projects that so desperately need it.”
“Offsetting should be axed,” he argued. “It cannot work in its current form, and carbon markets must evolve into something different. The focus should be on getting money to the right place, rather than getting as many credits as possible.”
As Patrick Galey, senior fossil fuels investigator at Global Witness, pointed out on social media Friday, the new research was released as the African nation Liberia is preparing to sign an offsetting agreement conceding 10% of its territory to Blue Carbon, a private company in the United Arab Emirates led by a member of an Emirati royal family.
Middle East Eye reported late that month that the deal for “control of one of the most densely forested territories” on the continent “would violate a number of Liberian laws, including the 2019 land rights law.” Additionally, as CMW policy expert Jonathan Crook told the outlet, “there’s no clarity as to what will be done to calculate what emission reductions have taken place.”
IndoMet in the Heart of Borneo, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
DGR conducted its annual fundraiser on Ecology of Spirit. If you have missed it, you can view it here. You can also visit our auction for paintings, books, brownies and conversations. The auction will remain open till October 31.
Editor’s Note: The impact of climate change has begun to impact the financial market. Insurance companies aim to make profit on risk coverage. However, if the risk for any sector runs too high, they tend not to invest in that. Nuclear reactors are a common example. Private insurance companies do not insure nuclear reactors as the associated risks are too high. With the rapidly increasing climate change, however, insurance in even the housing market has become too costly. The article describes this phenomenon.
By Tik Root/Grist
From California to Florida, homeowners have been facing a new climate reality: Insurance companies don’t want to cover their properties. According to a report released today, the problem will only get worse.
The nonprofit climate research firm First Street Foundation found that, while about 6.8 million properties nationwide already rely on expensive public insurance programs, that’s only a fraction of 39 million across the country that face similar conditions.
“There’s this climate insurance bubble out there,” said Jeremy Porter, the head of climate implications at First Street and a contributor to the report. “And you can quantify it.”
Each state regulates its insurance market, and some limit how much companies can raise rates in a given year. In California, for example, anything more than a 7 percent hike requires a public hearing. According to First Street, such policies have meant premiums don’t always accurately reflect risk, especially as climate change exacerbates natural disasters.
This has led companies such as Allstate, State Farm, Nationwide, and others to pull out of areas with a high threat of wildfire, floods, and storms. In the Southern California city of San Bernardino, for example, non-renewals jumped 774 percent between 2015 and 2021. When that happens, homeowners often must enroll in a government-run insurance-of-last-resort program where premiums can cost thousands of dollars more per year.
“The report shows that actuarially sound pricing is going to make it unaffordable to live in certain places as climate impacts emerge,” said David Russell, a professor of insurance and finance at California State University Northridge. He did not contribute to the report. “It’s startling and it’s very well documented.”
Russell says that what’s most likely to shock people is the economic toll on affected properties. When insurance costs soar, First Street shows, it severely undermines home values — and in some cases erodes them entirely.
The report found that insurance for the average California home could nearly quadruple if future risk is factored in, with those extra costs causing a roughly 39 percent drop in value. The situation is even worse in Florida and Louisiana, where flood insurance in Plaquemines Parish near New Orleans could go from $824 annually to $11,296 and a property could effectively become worthless.
“There’s no education to the public of what’s going on and where the risk is,” said Porter, explaining that most insurance models are proprietary. Even the Federal Emergency Management Agency doesn’t make its flood insurance pricing available to the public — homeowners must go through insurance brokers for a quote.
First Street is posting its report online, and it also runs riskfactor.com, where anyone can type in an address and receive user-friendly risk information for any property in the U.S. One metric the site provides is annualized damage for flood and wind risk. Porter said that if that number is higher than a homeowner’s current premiums, then a climate risk of some kind probably hasn’t yet been priced into the coverage.
“This would indicate that at some point this risk will get priced into their insurance costs,” he said, “and their cost of home ownership would increase along with that.”
Wildfires are the fastest growing natural disaster risk, First Street reported. Over the next 30 years, it estimates the number of acres burned will balloon from about 4 million acres per year to 9 million, and the number of structures destroyed is on track to double to 34,000 annually. Wildfires are also the predominant threat for 4.4 million of the 39 million properties that First Street identified as at risk of insurance upheaval.
“You don’t want someone to live in a place that always burns. They don’t belong there,” he said. “We’re subsidizing people to live in harm’s way.”
First Street hopes that highlighting the climate insurance bubble allows people to make better informed decisions. For homeowners, that may mean taking precautions against, say, wildfires, by replacing their roof or clearing flammable material from around their house. Policymakers, he said, could use the information to help at-risk communities adapt to or mitigate their risk. In either case, Porter said, reducing threats could help keep insurance rates from spiking.
Ultimately, though, Russell says moving people out of disaster-prone areas will likely be necessary.
“Large numbers of people will need to be relocated away from areas that will be uninsurable.” he said. “There is a reckoning on the horizon and it’s not pretty.”
Photo: Wildfire in Santa Clarita, California in October 2007. Photo by Jeff Turner via Wikimedia Commons
Ecology of Spirit
Species extinction. Chemical pollution. Global warming. The death of the oceans.
Our planet is in crisis. And while the wealthy and governments pour trillions into technological so-called “solutions,” things are spiraling out of control.
What if solving the ecological crisis depended on decolonizing our minds and altering our very cosmology?
What if a biocentric worldview — one which places the natural forces shaping our world at the center of our morality — could help us access the courage we’ll need to stop the destruction?
On October 21st, join us for special 3-hour live streaming event: Ecology of Spirit: Biocentrism, Animism, and the Environmental Crisis. Access the event on https://www.facebook.com/events/
This event will explore issues of biocentrism with a focus on direct relationship to the spirit world and on organized political resistance to the destruction of the planet. There will be opportunities to ask questions and participate in dialogue.
The mainstream environmental movement is funded mainly by foundations which often do not support foundational or revolutionary change. Radical organizations like Deep Green Resistance therefore rely on individual donors to support our activism around the world, which is why “Ecology of Spirit” is also a fundraiser.
We’re raising funds to support global community organizing, fund mutual aid and direct action campaigns, and sustain our core outreach and organizational work.
Whether or not you are in a financial position to donate, we hope you will join us on October 21st for this event!
Editor’s Note: We bring to you a combination of two posts. The first is about a mass arrest of activists during climate protests on September 18. The protests were part of a global coordinated climate action. The second is about the new permits issued in the US for offshore oil drilling. For a president who ran his election on not allowing any more drillings, the move is a shift from his electoral promises. Though reflecting a lack of integrity, it still does not come as a surprise. Both the Democratic and Republican parties have shown, time and again, to favor corporations over nature, people, justice and freedom. This crackdown on protestors and permission for new drilling projects are just a reflection of that. As much as we oppose fossil fuels and oil drilling, DGR does not believe a renewable transition to be a solution to it. And calling a climate emergency to pursue that purpose would be folly.
114 Climate Defenders Arrested While Blocking Entry to NY Federal Reserve
By Brett Wilkins/Common Dreams
A day after tens of thousands of climate activists marched through Manhattan’s Upper East Side demanding an end to oil, gas, and coal production, thousands more demonstrators hit the streets of Lower Manhattan Monday, where more than 100 people were arrested while surrounding the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to protest fossil fuel financing.
Protesters chanted slogans like “No oil, no gas, fossil fuels can kiss my ass” and “We need clean air, not another billionaire” as they marched from Zuccotti Park—ground zero of the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement—to pre-selected sites in the Financial District. Witnesses said many of the activists attempted to reach the New York Stock Exchange but were blocked by police.
“We’re here to wake up the regulators who are asleep at the wheel as they continue to let Wall Street lead us into ANOTHER financial crash with their fossil fuel financing,” the Stop the Money Pipeline coalition explained on social media.
Protests against 300-mile-long oil pipeline through the Appalachians
Local and national media reported New York Police Department (NYPD) officers arrested 114 protesters and charged them with civil disobedience Monday after they blocked entrances to the Fed building. Most of those arrested were expected to be booked and released.
“I’m being arrested for exercising my First Amendment right to protest because Joe Manchin is putting a 300-mile-long pipeline through my home state of West Virginia and President [Joe] Biden allowed him to do it for nothing in return,” explained Climate Defiance organizer Rylee Haught on social media, referring to the right-wing Democratic senator and the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
As she was led away by an NYPD officer, a tearful Haught said Biden “sold us out.”
“He promised to end drilling on federal lands, and he’s selling out Appalachia’s future for profit,” she added.
The demand is: declare a climate emergency
Responding to the “block-long” line of arrestees, Climate Defiance asked: “Why are we getting handcuffed while people who literally torch the planet get celebrated for their ‘civility’ and their ‘moderation’?”
Alicé Nascimento of New York Communities for Change told WABC that the protests—which are part of Climate Week and are timed to coincide with this week’s United Nations Climate Ambition Summit—are “our last resort.”
“We’re bringing the crisis to their doorstep and this is what it looks like,” said Nascimento.
As they have at similar demonstrations, protesters called on Biden to stop approving new fossil fuel projects and declare a climate emergency. Some had a message for the president and his administration.
“We hold the power of the people, the power you need to win this election,” 17-year-old Brooklynite Emma Buretta of the youth-led protest group Fridays for Future told WABC. “If you want to win in 2024, if you do not want the blood of my generation to be on your hands, end fossil fuels.”
‘Gross Denial of Reality’: Biden Infuriates With Approval of More Offshore Drilling
By Julia Conley/Common Dreams
Rejecting the corporate media’s narrative that U.S. President Joe Biden’s newly-released offshore drilling plan includes the “fewest-ever” drilling leases, dozens of climate action and marine conservation groups on Friday said the president had “missed an easy opportunity to do the right thing” and follow through on his campaign promise to end all lease sales for oil and gas extraction in the nation’s waters.
The U.S. Interior Department announced Friday its five-year plan for the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, including three new areas in the Gulf of Mexico where fossil fuel companies will be permitted to drill.
Government won’t reach it’s climate goals whith new drilling leases
Biden promised “no new oil drilling, period” as a presidential candidate, but he announced the plan six months after the administration’s approval of the Willow oil drilling project in Alaska incensed climate advocates.
The industries have already bought 9,000 drilling leases – to which the new leases will be added. This is “incompatible with reaching President Biden’s goal of cutting emissions by 50-52% by 2030,” said the Protect All Our Coasts Coalition, citing the findings of Biden’s own Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its Office of Atmospheric Protection earlier this year.
Texan citizens suffer under pollution in the Gulf region
While the final plan scales back from the eleven sales that were originally proposed, said the coalition, “the plan is a step backwards from the climate goals the administration has set and for environmental justice communities across the Gulf South, who are already experiencing the disproportionate impact of fossil fuel extraction across the region.”
The coalition includes the Port Arthur Community Action Network, which has called attention to the risks posed to public health in the Gulf region by continued fossil fuel extraction.
“Folks in Port Arthur, Texas die daily from cancer, respiratory, heart, and kidney disease from the very pollution that would come from more leases and drilling,” said John Beard, the founder, president, and executive director of the group. “If Biden is to truly be the environmental president, he should stop any further leasing and all forms of the petrochemical build-out, call for a climate emergency, and jumpstart the transition to clean green, renewable energy, and lift the toxic pollution from overburdened communities.”
Our fossil fuel-lifestyle incompatible with the survival of the earth
Kendall Dix, national policy director of Taproot Earth, dismissed political think tanks that applauded the “historically few lease sales” on Friday.
“The earth does not recognize political ‘victories,'” said Dix, pointing to an intrusion of saltwater in South Louisiana’s drinking water in recent weeks, which has been exacerbated by the fossil fuel-driven climate crisis.
“As the head of the United Nations [António Guterres] has said, continued fossils fuel development is incompatible with human survival,” he added. “We need to transition to justly sourced renewable energy that’s democratically managed and accountable to frontline communities as quickly as possible.”
Biden’s drilling plans break his campaign promises
Along with groups in the Gulf region, national organizations on Friday condemned a plan that they said blatantly ignores the repeated warnings of international energy experts and the world’s top climate scientists who say no new fossil fuel expansion is compatible with a pathway to limiting planetary heating to 1.5°C.
“Sacrificing millions of acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas extraction when scientists are clear that we must end fossil fuel expansion immediately is a gross denial of reality by Joe Biden in the face of climate catastrophe,” said Collin Rees, United States program manager at Oil Change International. “Doubling down on oil drilling is a direct violation of President Biden’s prior commitments and continues a concerning trend.”
Rees noted that 75,000 people marched in New York City last week to demand that Biden declare a climate emergency and end support for any new fossil fuel extraction projects.
Protesters fear the destruction of land based communities and wildlife
“End Fossil Fuels is pretty clear,” said Rees, referring to campaigners’ rallying cry. “Not ‘hold slightly fewer lease sales,’ not ‘talk about climate action’—End. Fossil. Fuels.”
Despite Biden’s campaign promises, Rees noted, the U.S. is currently “on track to expand fossil fuel production more than any other country by 2050.”
“I feel disgusted and incredibly let down by Biden’s offshore oil drilling plan. It piles more harm on already-struggling ecosystems, endangered species and the global climate,” said Brady Bradshaw, senior oceans campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity, another member of the Protect All Our Coasts Coalition. “We need Biden to commit to a fossil fuel phaseout, but actions like this condemn us to oil spills, climate disasters, and decades of toxic harm to communities and wildlife.”
Inflation Reduction Act serves industrial extension
The lease sales, said Sarah Winter Whelan of the Healthy Ocean Coalition, also represent a missed opportunity by the administration to treat the world’s oceans “as a climate solution, not a source for further climate disaster.”
Under the Inflation Reduction Act, negotiated by the White House last year, the government is required to offer at least 60 million acres of offshore gas and oil drilling leases before developing new wind power projects of similar scope.
“A single new lease sale for offshore oil and gas exploration is one too many,” said Whelan. “Communities around the country are already dealing with exacerbating impacts from climate disruption caused by our reliance on fossil fuels. Any increase in our dependence on fossil fuels just bakes in greater impacts to humanity.”
Gulf communities, added Beard, “refuse to be sacrificed” for fossil fuel profits.
“We say enough is enough,” he said.
Editor’s Note: In 2015, a study developed nine indicators for planetary health, and corresponding nine threshold or boundaries. According to a recent study based on the same framework, six of the nine boundaries have already been crossed, while the other three are in the process of being crossed. This should come as a surprise to very few. The interesting fact about this new framework is that climate change is only one of the nine indicators in the new model, which is unlike in the mainstream environmental movement belief. This framework gives a much more holistic picture of the current ecological crisis than is common among the wider culture.
By Julia Conley/Commondreams
Scientists behind a new study on the crossing of the Earth’s “planetary boundaries” on Wednesday likened the planet to a sick patient, warning that six out of nine barriers that ensure the Earth is a “safe operating space for humanity” have now been breached.
Researchers at the University of Copenhagen, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), and other international institutions analyzed 2,000 studies to update a planetary boundary framework developed in 2009 by the Stockholm Resilience Center, completing the first “complete check-up of all nine processes and systems that determine the stability and resilience of the planet.”
The boundaries for climate change and land use have been broken for decades as extractive industries have razed forests and planet-heating fossil fuel emissions have significantly increased since preindustrial times.
The “novel entities” boundary—pertaining to the accumulation of synthetic pollution from substances such as microplastics, pesticides, and nuclear waste—was quantified for the first time in the study, which was published in Science Advances.
Freshwater change—both “green” freshwater in soil and vegetation and “blue” freshwater in bodies of water—has also been breached, along with biogeochemical flows, or the flow of nitrogen and phosphorus into the environment, which can create ocean dead zones and algal blooms.
“We don’t know how long we can keep breaching these key boundaries before combined pressures lead to irreversible change and harm.”
The study marked the first time researchers quantified a control variable for the “biosphere integrity” boundary, which they found was breached long before the framework was introduced—in the late 19th century as the Industrial Revolution and other factors accelerated the destruction of the natural world.
Co-author Wolfgang Lucht called biosphere integrity “the second pillar of stability for our planet” next to climate change, and warned the pillar is being destabilized by humans “taking out too much biomass, destroying too much habitat, deforesting too much land. Our research shows that mitigating global warming and saving a functional biosphere for the future should go hand in hand.”
“This update on planetary boundaries clearly depicts a patient that is unwell, as pressure on the planet increases and vital boundaries are being transgressed,” said Johan Rockström, director of PIK. “We don’t know how long we can keep breaching these key boundaries before combined pressures lead to irreversible change and harm.”
The boundaries for atmospheric aerosol loading, or air pollution, and ocean acidification, are both close to being crossed, while the atmospheric ozone boundary is currently well below the “zone of increasing risk,” due to global initiatives within the Montreal Protocol, adopted in 1987.
The fact that the boundary for ozone depletion was once “headed for increasing regional transgressions” and slowly recovered, said co-author Katherine Richardson of the University of Copenhagen, shows that it is possible to bring the planet back from the boundaries that it’s close to crossing or that have been breached to a lesser degree, such as freshwater change.
“We can think of Earth as a human body, and the planetary boundaries as blood pressure,” said Richardson. “Over 120/80 does not indicate a certain heart attack but it does raise the risk and, therefore, we work to reduce blood pressure.”
The boundaries that have reached the highest risk level are biosphere integrity, climate change, novel entities, and biogeochemical flows.
The update to the framework “may serve as a renewed wake-up call to humankind that Earth is in danger of leaving its Holocene-like state,” reads the study, referring to relatively stable state the planet was in between the end of the last ice age—10,000 years ago—until the start of the Industrial Revolution.
The study, said global grassroots climate action campaign Extinction Rebellion, offered the latest evidence that policymakers must do everything in their power to “just stop oil”—ending approval for fossil fuel projects, subsidies for oil and gas companies, and policies that slow down a transition to renewable energy.
“We are not separate from the Earth,” said the group. “We ignore these warnings at our peril.”
Event alert: Planet Local Summit
Local futures is organizing its biggest and boldest event ever – the Planet Local Summit – which is set to begin this Friday! We are excited and honoured to welcome participants from 50 countries (and counting) to our livestream, along with our in-person audience in Bristol, UK.
If you haven’t already registered, there’s still time to book your attendance online and join like-minded localization community representatives from every corner of the earth.
In Bristol, the excitement is building, with a huge mural celebrating the Planet Local Summit unveiled in the city last week. Created by iconic local artists Silent Hobo and Inkie, the colorful 600 ft mural (pictured above) has been unveiled at the Tobacco Factory – Bristol’s biggest and most famous street art wall.
Local groups have also organized 10 pre-summit events to highlight the best of Bristol, including farm open days, community dialogues, and food tours.
You can find the full summit program here.