Local communities want Trump’s border wall torn down

January 29, 2021 by  
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On his first day in office, President Joe Biden ordered construction to halt on Trump’s infamous border wall. But environmentalists and communities living along the border want him to go much further, tearing it down and reversing the wall’s damage. Donald Trump set aside $15 billion for his “big beautiful wall” between the southern border of the U.S. and Mexico. About 455 miles had been constructed out of a planned 738 miles by the time Trump left office. The former president got his hands on the money by declaring a national emergency in 2019 and diverting tax dollars that would have otherwise gone to defense or counter-drug programs. But he didn’t spend a lot of time assessing the environmental and cultural impact. Hundreds of miles of land have been blasted and bulldozed, including protected public land and sites sacred to Native Americans. Related: Trump administration disregards border wall’s environmental impact “It’s a disaster, a mess, the suspended laws must be put back on the books to give border communities equal protection, and every section looked at carefully so that it can be torn down in a coordinated and responsible way, and the damage addressed immediately,” said Dan Mills, the Sierra Club’s borderlands program manager, as reported by The Guardian . Community leaders are asking Biden to cancel outstanding wall-building contracts, send experts to assess damage, tear down the wall whenever possible and clean up all the metal, barbed wire and concrete. They also urge the president to rescind waivers suspending 84 federal laws pertaining to public lands, endangered species , clean air and water and Native American rights. They’ve asked him to withdraw lawsuits against private landowners lodged to seize their land by declaring eminent domain. “It was a complete waste of money and poorly thought out, and is a constant unsightly reminder of Trump’s ugly approach to Latin America,” said retired professor Sylvia Ramirez. “The wall should never have gone up, we tried to fight it, and now it will be very difficult to undo.” Ramirez has relatives buried in historic cemeteries which are now cut off between the international border and Trump’s 30-foot wall. Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case brought by the ACLU, Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Commission about the legality of diverting billions from the Department of Defense without Congress’ okay. Via The Guardian Image via White House Archive

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How Wall Street can win on climate In 2021

January 25, 2021 by  
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How Wall Street can win on climate In 2021 Ben Ratner Mon, 01/25/2021 – 01:00 This year, financial institutions must make a significant leap forward on climate — from pledges to progress. Even amidst a global pandemic, 2020 proved climate finance and a focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are more than passing fads, with net-zero financed emissions commitments from Morgan Stanley , JP Morgan  and a group of 30 international asset managers —  Net Zero Asset Management Initiative   — with $9 trillion in assets under management. At the start of 2021, leading investors openly recognize that climate change presents a massive systemic risk and a multi-trillion-dollar opportunity. But for the vast majority of firms, the real work of implementing climate and ESG integration is ahead. With increasing public, government and shareholder attention on climate, here are three ways sustainable finance leaders will emerge in 2021. 1. Integrate climate into core business A 2050 net-zero vision may be an inspiration, but it is not a plan. To realize its ambitions, Wall Street must integrate climate into its core business, evolving its approach to capital allocation and changing its relationships with carbon-intensive industries. Asset owners will demand no less of asset managers. This transition will require a far sharper focus on short-term, sector-specific benchmarks tied to decarbonization pathways — starting with the high-impact industries that matter most for solving the climate crisis.  For example, in the oil and gas sector, investors can assess progress and pace toward net-zero by monitoring companies’ methane emissions, flaring intensity, capital expenditures, lobbying and governance. Concentrating on five key metrics over a five-year period will allow investors to distinguish climate leaders from laggards. As with other core financial issues, monitoring metrics is just the start. To advance their climate commitments, investors should pair metrics with accountability. For asset managers, corporate climate performance should strongly inform investment stewardship, proxy voting and fund construction. For banks, climate benchmarks should influence loan eligibility, interest rates and debt covenants. Wall Street knows how to set quantitative targets and factor corporate performance and risk into financial decisions — now climate must become part of the new business as usual. 2. Align proxy voting with climate goals Advancing sustainable investing in 2021 will also necessitate a shift in proxy voting among the world’s largest asset managers. Last year, BlackRock and Vanguard voted against the vast majority of climate-related shareholder proposals filed with S&P 500 companies. BlackRock opposed 10 of 12 resolutions endorsed by the Climate Action 100+ , a coalition it joined last January, and later signaled an intention to support more climate votes in future years. There’s a better way. Both PIMCO and Legal and General Investment Management supported 100 percent of climate-related proposals filed with S&P 500 firms during last year’s proxy season, sending a powerful message to CEOs about the materiality of climate risk. As asset managers around the world unveil new ESG products and brand themselves as sustainability pioneers, proxy voting will become the litmus test for climate authenticity in finance for 2021.   3. Support regulations and policies required to decarbonize While the finance community has traditionally taken a hands-off approach to public policy advocacy, industry norms are changing . Investors understand that scaling the climate finance market depends on Paris-aligned government action, and some have proven willing to engage on issues ranging from carbon pricing to methane standards . With the incoming Biden administration prioritizing climate, investors should double down on climate-friendly advocacy , supporting both financial regulations and regulations of carbon-intensive sectors consistent with a 1.5 degrees Celsius scenario. As BlackRock CEO Larry Fink has emphasized, updated regulation of the financial system is needed to help monitor and manage economy-wide climate risks. As linchpins of capital markets, banks and asset managers have a crucial role to play in pushing federal agencies to safeguard the economy from climate-related shocks. For example, supporting rigorous mandatory climate risk disclosure from the SEC and appropriate ESG rulemaking from the Department of Labor can help investors build Paris-aligned portfolios. However, investor-led policy advocacy cannot end with financial regulation. As the Global Financial Markets Association noted , reaching net-zero by 2050 involves both financial regulation and environmental regulation of carbon-intensive sectors. The right mix of emission standards and incentives can slash pollution, drive technological innovation and improve the economics of low carbon investments. Given the rise of passive index investing, supporting government action in carbon-intensive sectors is essential, as leading financial firms favor continued investment over sector level divestment. In particular, policies and regulations to cut methane emissions and flaring, to accelerate vehicle electrification and to clean up the electric grid should be top priorities in 2021. Contributors Gabe Malek Topics Finance & Investing GreenFin Investing Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Episode 247: Biden wish lists, supporting ‘intersectional environmentalists’

December 4, 2020 by  
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Episode 247: Biden wish lists, supporting ‘intersectional environmentalists’ Heather Clancy Fri, 12/04/2020 – 02:00 Week in Review Stories discussed this week (7:35). In the quest for carbon offsets, (almost) anything goes Recycled plastic: There’s market demand, but where’s the supply? Features What Joe Biden could do to cultivate carbon removal innovation (16:35)   Nonprofit Carbon180 has plenty of ideas for how the Department of Energy and the Department of Agriculture can collaborate to cultivate new economic opportunities centered on carbon removal. Co-founder and managing director Giana Amador suggests top priorities. How financial policy could charge up clean energy  (29:00)   Without Congressional control, President-elect Joe Biden will find it tough to pass ambitious climate action, but he can do much by aligning financial policies to address risks associated with climate-fueling activities. GreenBiz Senior Energy Analyst Sarah Golden offers details.  Biodiversity in fashion (37:35)   Liesel Truscott, director of nonprofit Textile Exchange, and Helen Crowley, a Kering sourcing executive serving as an advisor at Conversational International, discuss a new tool to help the fashion and textile industry understand and measure impacts and dependencies on nature in materials sourcing — and make changes to better support biodiversity.  Inclusive environmentalism (47:37)   Intersectional Environmentalist, an organization seeking to amplify underrepresented, diverse voices in the environmental movement, is teaming with tea company TAZO on a new internship program. Co-founder Sabs Katz addresses why this issue deserves more attention from companies. Read the whole interview. *Music in this episode by Lee Rosevere: “Curiosity,” “Knowing the Truth,” “And So Then,” “Thinking It Over,” “I’m Going for a Coffee,” “Introducing the Pre-roll” and “Here’s the Thing *This episode was sponsored by Salesforce and Shell Resources galore Say ‘hy-drogen’ to a decarbonized future. Our latest energy transition webcast at 1 p.m. EST Dec. 8 explores the potential for green hydrogen technologies, with experts from Shell, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Green Hydrogen Coalition. Sign up here . Recycling’s makeover, courtesy of AI and robotics. New technologies are solving logistics logjams and making it simpler to sort more materials. Join the discussion at 1 p.m. EST Dec. 10.  Do we have a newsletter for you! We produce six weekly newsletters: GreenBuzz by Executive Editor Joel Makower (Monday); Transport Weekly by Senior Writer and Analyst Katie Fehrenbacher (Tuesday); VERGE Weekly by Executive Director Shana Rappaport and Editorial Director Heather Clancy (Wednesday); Energy Weekly by Senior Energy Analyst Sarah Golden (Thursday); Food Weekly by Carbon and Food Analyst Jim Giles (Thursday); and Circular Weekly by Director and Senior Analyst Lauren Phipps (Friday). You must subscribe to each newsletter in order to receive it. Please visit this page to choose which you want to receive. The GreenBiz Intelligence Panel is the survey body we poll regularly throughout the year on key trends and developments in sustainability. To become part of the panel, click here . Enrolling is free and should take two minutes. Stay connected To make sure you don’t miss the newest episodes of GreenBiz 350, subscribe on iTunes . Have a question or suggestion for a future segment? E-mail us at 350@greenbiz.com . Contributors Joel Makower Deonna Anderson Sarah Golden Topics Podcast Carbon Removal Carbon Policy Renewable Energy Policy & Politics Racial Issues Environmental Justice Fashion Collective Insight GreenBiz 350 Podcast Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 54:53 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz Close Authorship

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Episode 247: Biden wish lists, supporting ‘intersectional environmentalists’

Is your environmentalism intersectional? It should be

December 4, 2020 by  
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Is your environmentalism intersectional? It should be Deonna Anderson Fri, 12/04/2020 – 01:30 In late May and then in June when companies and individuals were posting black squares across social media as a symbol of their commitment to Black lives, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, eco-communicator Leah Thomas was thinking of a more concrete, tangible way to improve the environmental movement in a way that intentionally includes Black, Indigenous and other communities of color. In that moment, Thomas founded Intersectional Environmentalist (IE), a mission-driven organization committed to dismantling systems of oppression by amplifying historically silenced voices in the environmental movement, along with co-founders Diandra Marizet, Philip Aiken and Sabs Katz.  “We want transparency. We want people to be inclusive, and we want people and companies not to be silent on these issues anymore because that’s how we’ve gotten to this point in the first place,” said Katz, director of communications at IE. “By continuing to be silent, we will only perpetuate these negative aspects of society.” I spoke with Katz (pictured left) about what the organization has been building since it was founded in June, its new partnership with TAZO and the Intersectional Environmentalist team’s hopes for 2021.  This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Deonna Anderson: What has Intersectional Environmentalist been up to since you founded the organization a few months ago? Sabs Katz: It has been a little bit of a whirlwind just really understanding the amount of growth that we’ve had in less than six months. But we’ve been focusing our efforts on a couple of different pillars that are really central to IE as a business. One of them is community building. We do that through our Instagram page. And we have a website as well that aggregates a lot of educational resources that look at different topics and look at different communities for people who are interested in learning more about intersectional environmentalism. So we’ve been focusing on community building there.  We’ve also been developing an accountability program for businesses to incorporate intersectional environmentalism into their workplace. And we’ve been focusing on really developing and hoping to set a standard as a business and show other companies that you can be a mission-driven company and still pay your workers fair wages. You can still be profitable and have all of these positive initiatives that can make a difference in the world and yeah, not really compromise your values. Anderson: Can you describe what intersectional environmentalism is and how that’s different from environmental justice and climate justice or how those things might work together? Katz: I’ll start off with a little bit of background. Intersectional theory and critical race theory has been studied largely by Kimberlé Crenshaw , a professor and a lawyer. And she really inspired Leah Thomas, our founder, to incorporate this idea of intersectionality into environmentalism because a lot of times, when we do hear the term intersectional it’s applied to feminism. So Leah, when she was in college, heard and understood intersectional feminism and identified with that but noticed that within the environmental space there wasn’t really a lot of that applied to people’s environmentalism.  And historically the environmental movement has been very white-washed. So after the murder of George Floyd in May, she came out with this graphic that ended up going viral that said environmentalists for Black Lives Matter and defined intersectional environmentalism, a form of environmentalism that advocates for both people and the planet and identifies the ways that injustices are done to certain groups of people without minimizing or silencing under-amplified voices within this space. Intersectional environmentalism … is more of a framework for one to achieve environmental justice. So someone can be an intersectional environmentalist with the goal of attaining climate justice.         View this post on Instagram                       A post shared by Leah Thomas (@greengirlleah) Anderson: Because the GreenBiz audience is mostly corporate sustainability professionals, I’m curious about your business accountability program. Can you tell me how that program works?  Katz:  Right after we were created, there were a lot of companies reaching out to us who wanted to partner with us in different ways or just to find out how to incorporate a more intersectional perspective into their business, into their CSR goals. We developed this accountability program because we wanted people to continue doing the work, and we didn’t want to lose the momentum of people being activated and using their voices. The accountability program is made up of four modules over the course of four months, so there’s one module per month.  There are a couple of different aspects but one of them is largely an online coursework program where the company can participate and learn more about intersectional environmentalism. They can learn more about why it’s important to have sustainability goals and also have diversity goals. I feel like when we see a lot of companies that participate in sustainable practices, it’s very non-human-focused in many ways.  For example, a lot of fashion companies might use organic cotton or maybe they’ll use recycled plastic. But one thing that they might not necessarily talk about is how the production of plastic can cause pollution. A lot of chemical factories or factories that create plastic are located in largely BIPoC [Black, Indigenous and people of color] communities and cause negative health consequences. We want to really encourage companies to lean into those conversations and not minimize those conversations that are deemed maybe a little bit too political. Because what we’re seeing a lot of is that a lot of new folks in Gen Z, a lot of millennials, want to be supporting companies that are transparent. They want to support companies that have a stance against social injustice and environmental injustice. So it’s not only something that is good for moral’s sake. It’s good business practice as well. Anderson: It sounds like you are encouraging businesses to take a more holistic approach to the way that they achieve sustainability within their business versus just their bottom line and thinking more about people. Katz: Absolutely. And within the environmental space for so long, the conversation has been very focused on conservation or it’s been focused on like plastic in the oceans, all of which are obviously very important conversations to have. But we are not really talking about the ways that humans are being negatively impacted by the effects of the climate crisis and disproportionately BIPoC communities and low-income communities are being impacted. And those are the voices that continue to be erased within the environmental movement because it seemed a little bit too political. But when these are realities that are happening every day, it does no good to continue ignoring or to continue silencing those voices when we should be all fighting for an environment that is just for everyone. So that is one of our main goals with this program. Anderson: Intersectional Environmentalist recently launched a partnership with TAZO Tea to help with the launch of IE’s first cohort of interns, with a $250,000 donation from the tea brand. I’m curious about how the internship program works and also how the partnership came about. Katz: Leah Thomas, our founder, had been in contact with somebody from TAZO. They’re a huge fan of Leah herself. And so this has been a conversation that’s been going on for a little bit going back and forth because TAZO has been wanting to take a stance and wanting to invest in environmental justice organizations. We as IE have always known that we want to pay people for their work, and we don’t believe that people should be giving free labor. And we believe unpaid internships should be abolished because they’re just frankly not fair. And they take opportunities away from people who might not be able to work for free. A large part of what we do is find ways to make sure that we can pay all of our activists, all of the activists on our team. We’re still pretty young. Sometimes our budget’s a little bit scrappy. But we don’t want to take advantage of people. So this partnership is really a collaboration in many ways because of TAZO’s desire to really support a lot of these environmental justice initiatives. It does no good to continue ignoring or to continue silencing those voices when we should be all fighting for an environment that is just for everyone. And our goal is to continue growing as a team and also ensure that everybody on our team is paid fair wages. All of our interns are paid $21 an hour. And we just want to make sure that we set the standard, like I said before, to show companies that regardless of how big or how small you are, there are ways that you can fund your interns. And so we don’t want these huge companies, especially companies that are much larger than us, to think that it’s still OK to have unpaid internships when there are ways to really fund that.  Anderson: Has the internship already started for these folks? Katz: Yes, the first official day was Nov. 10 on Tuesday right after the election. So it was kind of a whirlwind. But yes. They started a couple of weeks ago. We have a creative cohort of interns. We have eco-communication, social media, environmental justice research interns. And it’s been really exciting hearing the feedback. I know we received well over 1,000 applications, and the applications were only open for a week. So it really shows the desire and the need for more companies to really be imbuing these ideals of social justice and environmentalism within their business. And it’s showing that people want to do this work, and people really want to make their voices heard and be a part of a community that is making a real difference in the world. Anderson: It seems to me that your partnership with TAZO is kind of unique. Are there opportunities for other businesses to get involved with IE? And do you have visions of ways that businesses can get involved outside of your business accountability program and things like this partnership with TAZO? Katz: Absolutely. I think one thing that I forgot to mention earlier is that we do partner very thoughtfully with certain businesses. For example, today we’re doing a series of cookouts with Impossible Foods. We do a lot of social media partnerships. We partnered with Allbirds, a sustainable footwear company. And they created a bunch of posters that were put up in New York City. They were put up in [Los Angeles] and San Francisco in partnership with IE. We are very open to doing partnerships in many different ways. That being said, we want to be very thoughtful and considerate and develop relationships with these businesses rather than having it be a one-off thing because we’re really focused on that community-building aspect. I would say there are definitely other ways to partner with us, not just within that accountability program respect. Anderson: I’m looking forward to seeing what those other partnerships become. Pivoting a bit, 2020 is almost over — it’s been an interesting year, and IE was started this year. I’m curious as we go into 2021, what are some of IE’s hopes about the impact that you have on the environmentalism movement? Katz: I’ll split it up into two different answers. The first one, what are our hopes? Our hope is really to bring intersectional environmentalism to the mainstream environmental movement and have that be the focus of every future environmental conversation. We don’t want it to just be talking about the polar bears. Obviously, we want to talk about the polar bears. But we want to really have the conversations of how are people being impacted? And who are the folks who are most impacted by the negative aspects of the climate crisis? We can no longer continue to ignore the ways that BIPoC communities are being disproportionately impacted.  We’re already seeing climate refugees, folks who are no longer able to live within their communities or within their countries because the weather is too hot to live there or the conditions, the air conditions, the air pollution conditions make it no longer a viable community. We really want folks to not shy away from these conversations. When we look at a lot of environmental organizations, a lot of environmental nonprofits, the largest ones are ones that focus on conservation. They focus on nature. They focus on animals. All of which are absolutely wonderful.          View this post on Instagram                       A post shared by IE (@intersectionalenvironmentalist) But when we look at how often environmental justice organizations are funded, the amount of money that goes to funding these companies and these initiatives is minuscule compared to something like the World Wildlife Fund or the Nature Conservancy, not to disparage those organizations whatsoever. But I think it reflects a larger issue in that why are we not funding this research? Why are we not funding these initiatives? So we’re really hoping to shift that conversation in many ways. We’ve already heard stories of students in universities who are asking their schools to implement intersectional environmentalist courses into their coursework and make those required courses for any environmental majors.  Those would be one of the more grassroots initiatives that we hope to see, and we hope to continue seeing. And then in terms of IE as a business, we are looking to expand a little bit. Right now we are a for-profit, and we very consciously decided to become a for-profit because we wanted to show that you can be a mission-driven organization and still make money and you can still pay people fair wages. One of our goals for 2021 is to create a nonprofit arm so that area can focus on doing a lot more of the grassroots work, whether that’s through our mentorship program, which we’re still continuing to flesh out, or funding grants for sustainability of intersectional environmentalist organizations.  We’re fleshing out that arm in 2021. We’re also hoping to create a media house almost like Jubilee with the goal of really highlighting a lot of these stories of environmental injustice and really bring it to the forefront so that people can no longer ignore these conversations. Anderson: Is there anything we didn’t talk about that you feel is important for GreenBiz readers to know about the work that you are doing at IE?  Katz: I just want to reiterate that a lot of people and a lot of young consumers nowadays, they want to be able to support companies that take a stance when it comes to social justice, when it comes to environmentalism. We don’t need to see just the black squares on social media. We want to see real action being taken. We want transparency. We want people to be inclusive, and we want people and companies not to be silent on these issues anymore because that’s how we’ve gotten to this point in the first place. And by continuing to be silent we will only perpetuate these negative aspects of society.  And not to shy away from them because, like I said, folks want to be supporting these companies … There will always be some folks who don’t want to have that conversation, who don’t want companies to necessarily feel like they should be having that conversation. But at the end of the day, it’s the right thing to do. And it’s the way of the future. And we have to continue having these conversations in order for us to have a future that is intersectional. Pull Quote It does no good to continue ignoring or to continue silencing those voices when we should be all fighting for an environment that is just for everyone. Topics Social Justice Environmental Justice Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Illustration by  GoodStudio  on Shutterstock.

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New eco-friendly, decomposing construction foam unveiled

November 25, 2020 by  
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Researchers have come up with a new, more eco-friendly and effective form of building insulation material. The new material was developed due to the shortcomings of the traditional polyurethane-based foam insulators. These traditional insulators harm the environment via the release of volatile compounds into the atmosphere. A group of engineers from the University of North Texas College of Engineering led the research. The engineers, led by Professor Nandika D’Souza of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, have been working on the project since 2018. D’Souza’s lab earned a National Science Foundation grant worth $302,285 to help find a solution to the shortcomings of the conventional insulators. After much research, the team revealed a new type of insulation material, which is less harmful to the environment . By mixing corn-based polylactic acid with cellulose, in combination with supercritical carbon-dioxide, researchers found they could create an environmentally friendly product. This type of insulator is not only safe but also combustible and decomposable. “PLA on its own was good, but we found it wasn’t as strong as the conventional insulation, so we came up with the idea of mixing cellulose in,” D’Souza said. “ Cellulose is a degradable fiber and is often found as a waste in the paper industry, so not only is it stronger, but also is cheaper and easier to come by.” The team has already tested its new technology at the UNT Engineering Zero Energy Lab, a space designed to test alternative energy generation technologies. With the technology already tested and proven in the lab, it only has to go through trials in the construction industry to determine its viability. Kayode Oluwabunmi, one of the doctoral students in DSouza’s lab, says the undoing of conventional foam is its inability to break down once it’s no longer usable. This means the foam lingers in the environment. “The conventional foams are not environmentally-friendly and do not break down once they are no longer usable. They can stay in the environment for 1,000 years,” Oluwabunmi said. Besides its ability to decompose, the new material is also long-lasting. It shares a similar lifespan with the conventional foam and allows a 12% increase in heating and cooling. In other words, this material will help control energy flow better and with fewer risks. + The University of North Texas Images via The University of North Texas

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New eco-friendly, decomposing construction foam unveiled

Migratory birds triumph over Trump administration

August 13, 2020 by  
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Migratory birds had a victory on Tuesday when a federal judge struck down the Trump administration’s latest anti-bird move. By rewriting the Migratory Treaty Bird Act (MTBA), Trump wanted to allow polluters to kill birds without repercussions. The MTBA was first enacted in 1916 and codified into federal law in 1918 to protect birds that were going extinct. Originally, it covered certain species of birds in Canada, which was then part of Great Britain, and the U.S. Later, the act broadened to include more species and more countries, including Mexico, Russia and Japan. The MTBA is one of the oldest wildlife protection laws in the U.S. and was one of the National Audubon Society’s first big victories. Related: US and Canada in drastic crisis with 3 billion birds lost since 1970 Since 2017, Daniel Jorjani, solicitor for the Department of the Interior, has pushed to change the rule. Jorjani’s proposed update would punish construction companies, utilities and other industries, whose work sometimes kills birds , only if they intentionally harmed avian populations. This contradicts the spirit of the act, which urges companies to consider migratory patterns of birds in a project’s development phase. Fortunately for migratory birds, U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni upheld the act. “That has been the letter of the law for the past century,” Caproni said. “But if the Department of the Interior has its way, many mockingbirds and other migratory birds that delight people and support ecosystems throughout the country will be killed without legal consequence.” Environmentalists and bird advocacy groups celebrated the victory. “We’re elated to see this terrible opinion overturned at a time when scientists are warning that we’ve lost as many as 3 billion birds [in North America] in the last 50 years,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “To relax rules, to have the unhampered killing or birds didn’t make any sense [and] was terrible and cruel really.” Via EcoWatch and Audubon Image via Wolfgang Vogt

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2020: Fossil fuels are dead, long live the sun

August 13, 2020 by  
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2020: Fossil fuels are dead, long live the sun Hunter Lovins Thu, 08/13/2020 – 00:15 We’re female entrepreneurs and environmentalists. We’ve spent decades promoting clean energy technologies. In this strangest of all years, as the death toll mounts from a disease caused by human incursions into once intact ecosystems, we’re observing another death — the demise of fossil fuels. Is that possible? Consider this: In April, Royal Dutch Shell, one of the largest companies in the world, announced its intent to become a net-zero carbon company by 2050. When oil and gas companies say that they’re getting out of oil and gas, shouldn’t you? No doubt Shell is counting on some miracle like carbon capture to preserve its adherence to a century-old business model of selling oil. And who could blame it? For years, extracting the black gold from the ground, processing it, then selling gasoline, fuel oil, petrochemicals and other refined products has been one of the most profitable businesses in history. In 2008, Exxon made a record $40.6 billion . For years, seven of the top 10 companies on the Dow Jones Index were oil companies until 2016 when most fell out of the top 10, leaving only Exxon. Last year, no fossil company made the top 10 list. Exxon’s 2018 revenues were half of what it made a decade earlier; in 2019, it was only $14.3 billion . That’s still a lot of money, but running an oil business is capital-intensive: Exxon was borrowing to pay dividends before COVID-19. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis reported that “the world’s largest publicly traded oil and gas companies shelled out a total of $71.2 billion in dividends and share buybacks last year, while generating only $61 billion in free cash flow.”  Meanwhile, the coal and natural gas industries are also collapsing around us — a swift decline from the shale fracking boom. Fracking equipment sits idly in fields, and utilities shutter coal and natural gas power plants indefinitely. While businesses, community organizations, utilities and government agencies move away from dependence on fossil-fueled power generation, you can make that same shift, too. In April, the bubble popped, perhaps forever: Oil future prices hit negative $37 a barrel.  What happened? COVID-19 constricted commuting, and demand for refined oil products fell fast. Oil companies ran out of places to store the stuff. Tankers at anchor in the Houston Ship Channel started bumping into each other, but the oil kept flowing.  Why? It turns out it’s not easy to stop. Capping a well, realistically, means writing it off. Wells are capital-intensive to drill in the first place, but they are also costly to reopen. The cost to buy an oil rig runs from $20 million to $1 billion. Renting one isn’t cheap, either. In 2018, Transocean (yes, the folks who brought you the BP oil spill) charged Chevron $830 million ($445,000 a day) for one rig for five years. We bet someone’s now trying to renegotiate that contract. Hydraulic fracturing isn’t any cheaper. Even before the coronavirus hit, the shale gas Ponzi scheme was falling apart as investors realized that the enormous sums that they were asked to continue pouring into the industry were never likely to return a profit . Prices to frack a new well vary widely, depending on whether you’re drilling in West Texas or horizontally to frack under housing developments, varying from $40 to $90 a barrel. The costs multiply because fracked wells typically last less than a year. Even before COVID-19, traditional oil was lifting for $10 to $20 a barrel in Saudi Arabia, with a world average of $40. Fracking was not a viable industry even before oil went negative.  If this is the case, isn’t it a breach of fiduciary responsibility to invest in oil and gas extraction? If these are your own funds, throw them away if you wish, but Bevis Longstreth , former Securities and Exchange commissioner forecasted back in 2018, “It is entirely plausible, even predictable that continuing to hold equities in fossil fuel companies will come to be ruled negligence.” This helps explain why more than $11 trillion have been divested from fossil ownership, even before the University of California announced that it was divesting its $80 billion portfolio. Surely the world runs on oil. This will just be a blip to what is an essential industry for humankind, won’t it? No. It won’t. We can see the end. When the Kentucky Coal Museum puts solar on its roof because it is cheaper than hooking up to the coal-fired grid at its doorstep, it’s over. For fundamental economic reasons, solar power generation plus battery storage will provide at least half of electric power generation globally by 2030. Last summer, General Electric walked away from a natural gas plant in California that had a projected 20 years life because it can’t compete with solar. And this trend is happening around the world.  India canceled 14 new proposed coal plants because they can’t compete with solar. Portugal achieved 1.6 cents a kilowatt hour (¢kWh) for utility-scale solar, a price almost five times below building a new coal or gas plant. This spring the government announced that the country was 100 percent renewably powered and canceled all subsidies for fossil energy . And then Abu Dhabi set the latest new record for “everyday low price” when it brought on utility scale solar at 1.3 ¢kWh. In the bellwether state of California, the death knell for fossil fuels came when the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power signed a deal to buy power from a utility-scale solar plus battery storage facility at 2.9¢kWh. To put it simply, that is record-cheap solar power. While businesses, community organizations, utilities and government agencies move away from dependence on fossil-fueled power generation, you can make that same shift, too. You can have solar on your roof, a battery bank in your garage and be immune from power shutoffs, rising prices and vulnerability of all sorts. Centralized energy distribution from fossil fuels via the grid is not reliable (or cheaper). Extreme weather events are the biggest contributor to power outages and will increase with climate change, which the Department of Energy estimates costs the U.S. economy $150 billion annually. Customer-sited solar plus storage allows you to generate and store your own power, on or off-grid. Welcome to the triumph of the sun. Pull Quote While businesses, community organizations, utilities and government agencies move away from dependence on fossil-fueled power generation, you can make that same shift, too. Contributors Catherine Von Burg Topics Renewable Energy Solar Oil Natural Gas Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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2020: Fossil fuels are dead, long live the sun

Dakota Access Pipeline placed under environmental review

March 27, 2020 by  
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Members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe have, for many years, been voicing concerns about the likelihood of  environmental  hazards from the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). And, once more, the DAPL has made headlines, thanks to a federal judge’s recent decision to strike down permits issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The USACE has thus been ordered to conduct a more comprehensive analysis via an environmental impact statement (EIS) to ascertain any violations with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The controversy stems from worries about leaks that could drastically affect the environment, especially where the DAPL runs under the Missouri River. Any oil spills in the Missouri River would compromise the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s reservation downstream, by contaminating their lands and drinking water.  Related:  UK carbon emissions decline 29% in past decade “The many commenters in this case pointed to serious gaps in crucial parts of the Corps’ analysis – to name a few, that the pipeline’s leak-detection system was unlikely to work, that it was not designed to catch slow spills , that the operator’s serious history of incidents had not been taken into account, that that the worst-case scenario used by the Corps was potentially only a fraction of what a realistic figure would be – and the Corps was not able to fill any of [the gaps in the analysis],” said U.S. District Judge James Boasberg. The USACE’s lawyer from the Department of Justice has declined to comment. Instead, the Grow America’s Infrastructure Now (GAIN) Coalition made their position known about the judge’s decision. GAIN has been described by the  Business & Industry Connection (BIC) magazine  as “a diverse coalition of businesses, trade associations and labor groups that share a vested interest in creating jobs and strengthening the U.S. economy through infrastructure development.” As GAIN Coalition spokesperson Craig Stevens told NPR news, “Not only does this decision risk one company’s investment, but it could also jeopardize our nation’s economic and energy security moving forward.” Meanwhile, Native American tribes and green lobbyist groups are pleased with the ruling, citing it as a legal victory for the environment. Via NPR Images via Fibonacci Blue

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Recycled plastic to soon pave Los Angeles roads

October 18, 2019 by  
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To better manage plastic waste , Los Angeles is in talks with Technisoil, an innovative manufacturing company, to viably incorporate plastic into the city’s roads. Typically viewed as an ecological scourge, plastic waste can also be seen as a valuable resource when repurposed. Substituting asphalt road materials with upcycled plastic waste could spell cost savings for both road construction and waste management endeavors. Because plastic does not degrade easily, it has now become a significant environmental threat, often entering our oceans and harming marine life. At the same time, road maintenance can be a costly enterprise. To address the two key global issues of excess plastic waste and sustainable road maintenance, Los Angeles and Technisoil are jointly piloting the use of recycled plastic in road construction plans. Related: $87M wildlife bridge in California will be a haven for mountain lions The innovative method will be tested at the corner of West First Street and North Grand Avenue. First, plastic waste will be fragmented into pellets. These pellets will next be melted into a type of oil-based material, called bitumen. Bitumen is the petroleum-based binding agent in asphalt. Thus, the “plastic oil” will then be mixed in with other paving materials to create a type of plastic-infused asphalt. What are some advantages to these plastic roads? First, they are a less expensive alternative when compared to bitumen or traditional asphalt. Because plastic-suffused asphalt reduces the amount of petroleum in asphalt, these roads require less time to assemble, making them a more financially feasible choice. Similarly, these roads have a lower carbon footprint because the repurposed plastic produces less emissions. These plastic roads are durable, have a longer lifespan and are seven times stronger than regular asphalt, translating into less need for road maintenance. Environmentalists worry that the plastic will leach into waterways. But both the city of Los Angeles and Technisoil claim they’ve performed tests that prove otherwise. The timing is opportune for Los Angeles to leverage recycled plastic because China has ceased accepting recyclables from the City of Angels. Rather than having plastic accumulate in Southern California landfills, this venture promises to effectively utilize plastic while concurrently alleviating waste management and road construction costs. Should this process prove successful, it will be a model that other cities across the U.S. can implement as well. Doing so will bring the nation closer to mitigating plastic pollution while simultaneously helping to improve the country’s vast network of roads that have yet to be repaired or updated. “This is an exciting technology and a sustainable technology,” said Keith Mozee, assistant director at the Department of Street Services. “And it’s something that we believe going forward could be game-changing if we deploy on a large scale.” Via The Architect’s Newspaper Image via Giuseppe Milo

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Recycled plastic to soon pave Los Angeles roads

Proposed Florida bill could require prescription for sunscreens in effort to save coral reefs

October 18, 2019 by  
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In a bid to protect the Sunshine State’s reefs from coral bleaching , a new legislative bill has been proposed that requires a physician’s prescription for sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, on grounds that these chemicals are harmful to marine coastal environments. The two ingredients are found in roughly 80 percent of all commercially available sunscreens. Discouraging their widespread use can help protect Florida’s fragile coral ecosystems. Following in the footsteps of Hawaii and Key West , all over-the-counter sunscreens will need to be free of both oxybenzone and octinoxate to be deemed safe enough for use, because both chemicals contribute to coral reef bleaching and the compromised health of reef aquatic life. If approved, the bill will take effect in 2020. Related: Pacific heat wave threatens coral reefs in Hawaii and other regions Coral reefs are a valuable asset to the Sunshine State. They are beneficial for environmental and economic reasons, such as protecting coastal communities from wave action and storm surges, providing ecosystem biodiversity, serving as a food resource and offering commercial tourism opportunities. What’s more, Florida is “the only state in the continental United States to have extensive coral reef formations near its coasts. These reefs extend over 300 miles,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) . Coral reef activities promote tourism and businesses that “generate $3.4 billion and support 36,000 jobs in the region each year.” Reputed to be the third-longest coral barrier reef in the world, Florida’s celebrated reefs, sadly, have not been faring well in recent years due to a combination of factors: warming ocean temperatures, acidification, rising sea levels, erosion, pollution, coastal development, offshore oil and gas drilling, dredging, boat groundings, propeller and anchor damage, unsustainable fishing activities, invasive species and infection and disease. Because the coral reefs are left at a delicate tipping point, a patchwork of restoration efforts, largely from marine conservation groups, have attempted to revitalize them. It is hoped this bill can help save the fragile ecosystem. Oxybenzone and octinoxate are harmful to corals. As documented by a NOAA study published in the journal Environmental Contamination and Toxicology , they damage coral DNA, beget aberrant growth and defective development in young coral, exacerbate coral bleaching vulnerabilities and ultimately prevent the coral from reproducing properly. Because both oxybenzone and octinoxate accumulate in coral tissue, the coral become highly susceptible to infection and disease, likewise culminating in reef degradation. Critics complain the new legislation will increase skin cancer risks; however, the bill’s proponents argue for a shift toward “reef-friendly” alternative sunscreens. The National Park Service , for instance, recommends “titanium oxide or zinc oxide, which are natural mineral ingredients.” Neither titanium oxide nor zinc oxide have been found to be harmful to coral reefs, making both appealing as eco-friendly substitutes. Via CNN Image via Shutterstock

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