Obama Administration Deals Series of Anti-Environmental Blows

Down in Appalachia, things are not much better, where the coal-extraction industry was recently given the green light to proceed with 42 of its 48 pending mountaintop-removal permits. While Obama speaks out about the negative impact of the aptly named process, where mountains are blown apart to expose thin lines of coal, he is not willing to take on an industry that continually pollutes rivers and threatens public health.

“If you still have an Obama sticker on your car, maybe think about scraping it off and sending it to the White House with your objections,” says Mike Roselle of Climate Ground Zero, who is working hard to stop mountaintop removal in West Virginia and elsewhere. “Blowing mountains to pieces is a crime.”

Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank | Alternet

The Earthquake That Screamed “NO NUKES!!!”

As the whole world lurches toward a fossil fuels mega-disaster — if we keep burning them, we make the planet less habitable; if we stop burning them (voluntarily, or, soon enough, as oil reserves diminish), our oil-addicted economy tanks  — it has been both predictable and scary to see the nuclear industry attempt a comeback.

Like drug pushers saying, “Hey, we’re out of pot, so try some crack instead,” nuke-pushers seem oblivious to the fact that their so-called solution will only exacerbate our problems. But, because this the land of the denial-dumb, they’ve been building momentum with their nukes-are-green bushit. At least until reality intervened:

The massive earthquake that shook Japan this week nearly killed millions in a nuclear apocalypse.

It also produced one of the most terrifying sentences ever buried in a newspaper. As reported deep in the New York Times, the Tokyo Electric Company has admitted that “the force of the shaking caused by the earthquake had exceeded the design limits of the reactors, suggesting that the plant’s builders had underestimated the strength of possible earthquakes in the region.”

What a surprise! All of those sober assurances we’ve been getting from white-coated nuclear engineers over the years were … wrong. Or dishonest.

We should keep it in mind when the current crop of nuke-pushers spin their nonsense:

 There is only one thing we know for certain about this advertising: it is a lie.

Atomic reactors contribute to global warming rather than abating it. In construction, in the mining, milling and enriching of the fuel, in on-going “normal” releases of heat and radioactivity, in dismantling and decommissioning, in managing radioactive wastes, in future terror attacks, in proliferation of nuke weapons, and much much more, atomic energy is an unmitigated eco-disaster.

To this list we must now add additional tangible evidence that reactors allegedly built to withstand “worst case” earthquakes in fact cannot. And when they go down, the investment is lost, and power shortages arise (as is now happening in Japan) that are filled by the burning of fossil fuels.

It costs up to ten times as much to produce energy from a nuke as to save it with efficiency. Advances in wind, solar and other green “Solartopian” technologies mean atomic energy simply cannot compete without massive subsidies, loan guarantees and government insurance to protect it from catastrophes to come.

This latest “impossible” earthquake has not merely shattered the alleged safeguards of Japan’s reactor fleet. It has blown apart—yet again—any possible argument for building more reactors anywhere on this beleaguered Earth.

Michael Sky

Bush’s policies are accelerating climate change

Joseph Stiglitz,  chief economist at the World Bank from 1997 to 1999, and current chief critic of globalization, on why today’s G8 meetings will accomplish nothing regarding climate change:

So far the United States has refused to join other industrialized nations to find a reasonable solution to protect the climate. There are serious efforts in every industrialized nation to do something about protecting the environment — just not in the United States. I want to see the heads of state in Heiligendamm confront President Bush and say: “We need an international set of regulations, and you, as the world’s most powerful man, have an obligation to be part of it!”

The problem, as ever, our my-way-or-the-highway President.

Talking is always good. But President Bush has proven to be extremely obstinate in the past. His guiding principle has always been that his policy would ultimately prevail, no matter what the issue — and no matter how his policies affected the rest of the world.

Michael Sky

Ignorance In Charge

I was listening to NPR a few mornings ago when NASA administrator Michael Griffin made his jaw-dropping comments re. global warming. So much of what he said was wrong, wrong, wrong, but this really sums up everything wrong about the Bush years:

I guess I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now, is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that’s a rather arrogant position to take.

The most arrogant nation is history is already deciding — here and now — to alter the global climate in pursuit of power and profit. Bush America is already claiming the privelege to decide global matters without reference to the opinions of others and in direct opposition to actual scientific findings.

Michael Sky

Turning Tar into Oil: An Economic and Environmental Disaster Looms

There is a certain irony there: The United States invaded Iraq at least in part to secure access to its oil. Now, thanks partly to economic blowback from that disastrous decision, it has found the “security” it was looking for right next door. It has become fashionable to predict that high oil prices will spark a free-market response to climate change, setting off an “explosion of innovation in alternatives,” as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote recently.

Alberta puts the lie to that claim. High prices have indeed led to an R&D extravaganza, but it is squarely focused on figuring out how to get the dirtiest possible oil out of the hardest-to-reach places. Shell, for instance, is working on a “novel thermal recovery process” — embedding large electric heaters in the deposits and literally cooking the earth. And that’s the Alberta tar sands for you: The industry already contributing to climate change more than any other is frantically turning up the heat.

The process of refining bitumen emits three to four times the greenhouse gases produced by extracting oil from traditional wells, making the tar sands the largest single contributor to Canada’s growth in greenhouse gas emissions.

Naomi Klein | The Nation 

This Fatal Complacency

What if dealing with climate change meant more than a flick of a switch? Would our friends in the industrialized world think differently if the effects of climate change were worse than extended summer months and the arrival of exotic species? Cushioned and cosseted, they have had the luxury of closing their minds to the real impact of what is happening in the fragile and precious atmosphere that surrounds the planet we live on. Where climate change has occurred in the industrialized world, the effects have so far been relatively benign. With the exception of events such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the inhabitants of North America and Europe have felt just a gentle caress from the winds of change.

I wonder how much more anxious they might be if they depended on the cycle of mother nature to feed their families. How much greater would their concerns be if they lived in slums and townships, in mud houses, or shelters made of plastic bags? In large parts of sub-Saharan Africa, this is a reality. The poor, the vulnerable and the hungry are exposed to the harsh edge of climate change every day of their lives.

Desmond Tutu | the Guardian/UK

Acting Now To Save Life On Earth

Life on this planet can stand no more plundering. Quite apart from obedience to the universal moral imperative of saving living nature — the Creation — based upon religion and science alike, conserving biodiversity is the best economic deal humanity has ever had placed before it since the invention of agriculture.

The time to act is now. Those living today will either win the race against extinction or lose it for all time. They will earn either everlasting honor or everlasting contempt.

E.O. Wilson | The Seattle Post-Intelligencer 

Arming Ourselves as the World Burns

At present, for every $1 spent on alternative energy research in the United States, $200 is spent on the military. It has been estimated that over 40% of each American citizen’s tax bill goes to war.

The earth is being choked by carbon emissions as the nations of the world continue to spend their money on perceived short-term threats rather than on the future needs of their children. Much of the world looks to the United States as a global leader. We need a national leader who will direct our goals away from confrontation and toward cooperation in the search for life-giving energy.

Paul Buchheit | CommonDreams 

New Thinking To Save The Earth

Once, this nation took for granted that its power in the world depended on the sway of the American idea — liberal democracy, freedom, opportunity, equality. But in the middle of the 20th century that changed, a move away from influence to imposition. Power came from an arsenal, and ultimate power from a nuclear arsenal. Today’s Pentagon budget is at Cold War levels without the Cold War because we Americans no longer believe in the power of our own idea. But military power is an illusion, as Iraq shows, like Vietnam before it. Resisting populations cannot finally be coerced, only killed. Meanwhile, nuclear weapons still threaten the environment more than anything.

Global warming can prompt a terrible fatalism, as if forecast catastrophes are certain to befall the planet. But the future is not an extension through time of what is already perceived. That’s the point of revised thinking about everything from nature to power, since history shows that thought is the soul of creativity, and therefore of creation. Human choices brought the earth to this brink of ultimate harm, and human choices, informed by changed ideas, can rescue it.

James Carroll | The Boston Globe