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Action Camp Shuts Down Site of First U.S. Tar Sands Mine

By Peaceful Uprising

By Peaceful Uprising

Bookcliffs Range, Utah – Dozens of individuals peacefully disrupted road construction and stopped operations on Monday at the site of a proposed tar sands mine in the Bookcliffs range of southeastern Utah. Earlier this morning, Utahns joined members of indigenous tribes from the Four Corners region and allies from across the country for a water ceremony inside the mine site on the East Tavaputs Plateau. Following the ceremony, a group continued to stop work at the mine site while others halted road construction, surrounding heavy machinery with banners reading “Respect Existence or Expect Existence” and “Tar Sands Wrecks Lands”.

Indigenous people lead everyone to bless the water and pray for the injured land at the site of the tar sands test pit where work was stopped.

“The proposed tar sands and oil shale mines in Utah threaten nearly 40 million people who rely on the precious Colorado River System for their life and livelihood,” said Emily Stock, a seventh generation Utahn from Grand County, and organizer with Canyon Country Rising Tide. “The devastating consequence of dirty energy extraction knows no borders, and we stand together to protect and defend the rights of all communities, human and non-human,” Stock said.

Monday’s events are the culmination of a weeklong Canyon Country Action Camp, where people from the Colorado Plateau and across the nation gathered to share skills in civil disobedience and nonviolent direct action. Utah’s action training camp and today’s action are affiliated with both Fearless Summer and Summer Heat, two networks coordinating solidarity actions against the fossil fuel industry’s dirty energy extraction during the hottest weeks of the year.

“Impacted communities are banding together to stop Utah’s development of tar sands and oil shale.  We stand in solidarity because we know that marginalized communities at points of extraction, transportation, and refining will suffer the most from climate change and dirty energy extraction,” said Camila Apaza-Mamani, who grew up in Utah.

Lock-downs in combination with mobile blockades were used to enforced a for a full-day work stoppage at Seep Ridge Road.

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Bank of America’s Toxic Tower

By Sam Roudman / New Republic

By Sam Roudman / New Republic

New York’s “greenest” skyscraper is actually its biggest energy hog

When the Bank of America Tower opened in 2010, the press praised it as one of the world’s “most environmentally responsible high-rise office building[s].” It wasn’t just the waterless urinals, daylight dimming controls, and rainwater harvesting. And it wasn’t only the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification—the first ever for a skyscraper—and the $947,583 in incentives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. It also had as a tenant the environmental movement’s biggest celebrity. The Bank of America Tower had Al Gore.

The former vice president wanted an office for his company, Generation Investment Management, that “represents the kind of innovation the firm is trying to advance,” his real-estate agent said at the time. The Bank of America Tower, a billion-dollar, 55-story crystal skyscraper on the northwest corner of Manhattan’s Bryant Park, seemed to fit the bill. It would be “the most sustainable in the country,” according to its developer Douglas Durst. At the Tower’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Gore powwowed with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and praised the building as a model for fighting climate change. “I applaud the leadership of the mayor and all of those who helped make this possible,” he said.

Gore’s applause, however, was premature. According to data released by New York City last fall, the Bank of America Tower produces more greenhouse gases and uses more energy per square foot than any comparably sized office building in Manhattan. It uses more than twice as much energy per square foot as the 80-year-old Empire State Building. It also performs worse than the Goldman Sachs headquarters, maybe the most similar building in New York—and one with a lower LEED rating. It’s not just an embarrassment; it symbolizes a flaw at the heart of the effort to combat climate change.

Buildings contribute more to global warming than any other sector of the economy. In the United States, they consume more energy and produce more greenhouse gas emissions than every car, bus, jet, and train combined; and more, too, than every factory combined. When we’re not traveling between buildings, we’re inside them, and that requires energy for everything from construction to heating and cooling to running appliances.

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Why Do Protesters Against Egregious Environmental and Financial Misconduct Get Arrested, But Not Corporate Perpetrators?

By Mark Karlin / Truth-Out

By Mark Karlin / Truth-Out

It’s sadly what we’ve come to expect: advocates for saving the planet — and present and future lives with it — and those who protest financial crimes and improprieties get arrested, charged, and often serve jail time, but those responsible among the corporate and financial elite go free.

In this case, the headline on mlive.com (as in Michigan) that came to our attention reads, “Four protesters arrested at Enbridge pipeline construction site charged with felony.” 

Enbridge is a massive intertnational oil and gas pipeline company (based in Canada) that, as noted in a study by the Polaris Institute, fesses up to large scale environmental damage:

Thousands of litres of dangerous fluids are released from the company ’s pipelines and holding tanks into the environment each year.

According to Enbridge’s own data, between 1999 and 2010 , across all of the company’s operations there were 804 spills that released 161,475 barrels of hydrocarbons into the environment.

This amounts to approximately half of the oil that spilled from the oil tanker the Exxon Valdez after it struck a rock in Prince William Sound, Alaska in 1988.

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China’s Bad Earth

By Josh Chin and Brian Spegele / The Wall Street Journal

By Josh Chin and Brian Spegele / The Wall Street Journal

In Dapu, a rain-drenched rural outpost in the heart of China’s grain basket, a farmer grows crops that she wouldn’t dare to eat.

A state-backed chemicals factory next to her farm dumps wastewater directly into the local irrigation pond, she says, and turns it a florescent blue reminiscent of antifreeze. After walking around in the rice paddies, some farmers here have developed unexplained blisters on their feet.

“Nothing comes from these plants,” says the farmer, pointing past the irrigation pond to a handful of stunted rice shoots. She grows the rice, which can’t be sold because of its low quality, only in order to qualify for payments made by the factory owners to compensate for polluting the area. But the amount is only a fraction of what she used to earn when the land was healthy, she says. The plants look alive, “but they’re actually dead inside.”

The experiences of these farmers in Dapu, in central China’s Hunan province, highlight an emerging and critical front in China’s intensifying battle with pollution. For years, public attention has focused on the choking air and contaminated water that plague China’s ever-expanding cities. But a series of recent cases have highlighted the spread of pollution outside of urban areas, now encompassing vast swaths of countryside, including the agricultural heartland.

Estimates from state-affiliated researchers say that anywhere between 8% and 20% of China’s arable land, some 25 to 60 million acres, may now be contaminated with heavy metals. A loss of even 5% could be disastrous, taking China below the “red line” of 296 million acres of arable land that are currently needed, according to the government, to feed the country’s 1.35 billion people.

Rural China’s toxic turn is largely a consequence of two trends, say environmental researchers: the expansion of polluting industries into remote areas a safe distance from population centers, and heavy use of chemical fertilizers to meet the country’s mounting food needs. Both changes have been driven by the rapid pace of urbanization in a country that in 2012, for the first time in its long history, had more people living in cities than outside of them.

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Time is Short: Resistance Rewritten, Part I

By Lexy Garza and Rachel Ivey / Deep Green Resistance

By Lexy Garza and Rachel Ivey / Deep Green Resistance

View video of the event at the Deep Green Resistance Youtube channel

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

This quote by Spanish writer and philosopher George Santayana was posted on the wall in my high school history classroom. The idea, as my history teacher explained, it is that learning about history is vitally important because by knowing and understanding past events, we can actively shape the future.  According to my teacher’s view, at least the view he shared with his students, the history in our textbooks is objective, time-tested truth, and nothing more nor less.

Some time after that class ended, I read another George Santayana quote, which is somewhat less often quoted, “history is a pack of lies about things that never happened told by people who weren’t there.”

Taken at face value, this statement goes to the other extreme and completely writes off the history we’re taught as lies, as intentionally untrue.  I think that both these views let us off too easy, because the stories we call history, and the process by which some stories become the dominant stories, the ones we teach to our children, is more complex than the dichotomy of truth vs. lie.

Another often repeated idea about history is that it’s “written by the victors.”  This gets closer to a nuanced look at what history means and what it does.

For instance, in 1890 the US army massacred 300 Lakota men, women and children at Wounded Knee, burying them in a mass grave.  Twenty US soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor for this atrocity, just one of the many perpetrated by European colonizers who called genocide their manifest destiny.  The vast majority of “historical” accounts throughout the decades don’t call Wounded Knee a massacre; they lend it a false legitimacy by calling it a battle. The same goes for the Washita massacre carried out by Custer in 1868.  So-called historical accounts refer to this event as the Battle of the Washita.  As it’s been said, “When a white army battles Indians and wins, it is called a great victory, but if they lose it is called a massacre.”

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Against Forgetting

By Derrick Jensen / Orion

By Derrick Jensen / Orion

This essay was originally printed in the July/August 2013 issue of Orion. Request a free trial issue of Orion here.

Last night a host of nonhuman neighbors paid me a visit. First, two gray foxes sauntered up, including an older female who lost her tail to a leghold trap six or seven years ago. They trotted back into a thicker part of the forest, and a few minutes later a raccoon ambled forward. After he left I saw the two foxes again. Later, they went around the right side of a redwood tree as a black bear approached around the left. He sat on the porch for a while, and then walked off into the night. Then the foxes returned, hung out, and, when I looked away for a moment then looked back, they were gone. It wasn’t too long before the bear returned to lie on the porch. After a brief nap, he went away. The raccoon came back and brought two friends. When they left the foxes returned, and after the foxes came the bear. The evening was like a French farce: As one character exited stage left, another entered stage right.

Although I see some of these nonhuman neighbors daily, I was entranced and delighted to see so many of them over the span of just one evening. I remained delighted until sometime the next day, when I remembered reading that, prior to conquest by the Europeans, people in this region could expect to see a grizzly bear every 15 minutes.

This phenomenon is something we all encounter daily, even if some of us rarely notice it. It happens often enough to have a name: declining baselines. The phrase describes the process of becoming accustomed to and accepting as normal worsening conditions. Along with normalization can come a forgetting that things were not always this way. And this can lead to further acceptance and further normalization, which leads to further amnesia, and so on. Meanwhile the world is killed, species by species, biome by biome. And we are happy when we see the ever-dwindling number of survivors.

I’ve gone on the salmon-spawning tours that local environmentalists give, and I’m not the only person who by the end is openly weeping. If we’re lucky, we see 15 fish. Prior to conquest there were so many fish the rivers were described as “black and roiling.” And it’s not just salmon. Only five years ago, whenever I’d pick up a piece of firewood, I’d have to take off a half-dozen sowbugs. It’s taken me all winter this year to see as many. And I used to go on spider patrol before I took a shower, in order to remove them to safety before the deluge. I still go on spider patrol, but now it’s mostly pro forma. The spiders are gone. My mother used to put up five hummingbird feeders, and the birds would fight over those. Now she puts up two, and as often as not the sugar ferments before anyone eats it. I used to routinely see bats in the summer. Last year I saw one.

You can transpose this story to wherever you live and whatever members of the nonhuman community live there with you. I was horrified a few years ago to read that many songbird populations on the Atlantic Seaboard have collapsed by up to 80 percent over the last 40 years. But, and this is precisely the point, I was even more horrified when I realized that Silent Spring came out more than 40 years ago, so this 80 percent decline followed an already huge decline caused by pesticides, which followed another undoubtedly huge decline caused by the deforestation, conversion to agriculture, and urbanization that followed conquest.

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Peak oil lives, but will kill the economy

By Nafeez Ahmed / The Guardian

By Nafeez Ahmed / The Guardian

Last Monday’s BBC News at Ten broadcast a report by science editor David Shukman arguing that concerns “about oil supplies running dry are receding.” Shukman interviewed a range of industry experts talking up the idea that a “peak” in oil production has been “moved to the backburner” – but he obfuscated compelling evidence in his own report contradicting this view.

“There’s still plenty of oil – we just haven’t got all of it out of the ground yet. There’s not a real danger of there being no fossil fuel,” one oil company executive told the BBC. “There’s enough oil in this country for another 100 years with our present technology and there’s more around the world to be found yet.”

Following a chorus of industry hype on the wonders of shale gas and fracking, Shukman finally referred in passing to a new scientific paper published by Eos, Transactions – the newsletter of the American Geophysical Union – saying that the paper “supports the assertion that a peak in oil production is ‘a myth’ but argues that the rising cost of extraction could itself provide a limit, and may act as a brake on economic growth.” He then closed his report with the following quote from a leading industry figure: “The era of cheap oil is over, but we’re a long way from peak oil – costs will go up but the technology will respond.”

The thrust of the message was that peak oil is a myth because we’re not running out of oil. Even if costs go up, this will automatically spur the technological innovation that will make continued extraction of expensive oil viable.

But Shukman’s characterisation of the new Eos paper is a combination of falsehood and half-truth. Far from describing peak oil as a myth, the paper’s conclusions are far more nuanced, and point to an overwhelming body of evidence contradicting the industry hype that the rest of his report parrots uncritically.

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Rare-earth mining in China comes at a heavy cost for local villages

By Guardian Weekly / The Guardian

By Guardian Weekly / The Guardian

From the air it looks like a huge lake, fed by many tributaries, but on the ground it turns out to be a murky expanse of water, in which no fish or algae can survive. The shore is coated with a black crust, so thick you can walk on it. Into this huge, 10 sq km tailings pond nearby factories discharge water loaded with chemicals used to process the 17 most sought after minerals in the world, collectively known as rare earths.

The town of Baotou, in Inner Mongolia, is the largest Chinese source of these strategic elements, essential to advanced technology, from smartphones to GPS receivers, but also to wind farms and, above all, electric cars. The minerals are mined at Bayan Obo, 120km farther north, then brought to Baotou for processing.

The concentration of rare earths in the ore is very low, so they must be separated and purified, using hydro-metallurgical techniques and acid baths. China accounts for 97% of global output of these precious substances, with two-thirds produced in Baotou.

The foul waters of the tailings pond contain all sorts of toxic chemicals, but also radioactive elements such as thorium which, if ingested, cause cancers of the pancreas and lungs, and leukaemia. “Before the factories were built, there were just fields here as far as the eye can see. In the place of this radioactive sludge, there were watermelons, aubergines and tomatoes,” says Li Guirong with a sigh.

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Bombs dropped on Great Barrier Reef marine park

By Associated Press in Canberra / The Guardian

By Associated Press in Canberra / The Guardian

Two American fighter jets dropped four unarmed bombs into Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park last week, when a training exercise went wrong, the US Navy said, angering environmentalists.

The two AV-8B Harrier jets, launched from the aircraft carrier USS Bonhomme Richard, each jettisoned an inert practice bomb and an unarmed laser-guided explosive bomb into the World Heritage-listed marine park off the coast of Queensland state on Tuesday, the US 7th Fleet said in a statement on Saturday. The four bombs, weighing a total 1.8 metric tons (4,000 pounds), were dropped into more than 50 meters (164ft) of water, away from coral, to minimize possible damage to the reef, the statement said. None exploded.

The jets, from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, had intended to drop the ordnances on the Townshend Island bombing range, but aborted the mission when controllers reported the area was not clear of hazards. The pilots conducted the emergency jettison because they were low on fuel and could not land with their bomb load, the Navy said.

The emergency happened on the second day of the biennial joint training exercise Talisman Saber, which brings together 28,000 US and Australian military personnel over three weeks. The US Navy and Marine Corps were working with Australian authorities to investigate the incident, the Navy said.

A 7th Fleet spokesman did not immediately respond on Sunday, when asked by email whether the dumping posed any environmental risk.

Australian Senator Larissa Waters, the influential Greens spokeswoman on the Great Barrier Reef, described the dumping of bombs in such an environmentally sensitive area as “outrageous” and said it should not be allowed.

“Have we gone completely mad?” she told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “Is this how we look after our World Heritage area now? Letting a foreign power drop bombs on it?”

Graeme Dunstan, who is among the environmentalists and anti-war activists demonstrating against the joint exercises, said the mishap proved that the US military could not be trusted to protect the environment.

“How can they protect the environment and bomb the reef at the same time? Get real,” Dunstan said from the Queensland coastal town of Yeppoon, near where the war games are taking place.

The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest network of coral structures, is rich in marine life and stretches more than 3,000km (1,800 miles) along Australia’s northeast coast.

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Originally posted by The Guardian here.

It’s time to take our heads out of the tar sands

By Quebec delegation to Fort McMurray

By Quebec delegation to Fort McMurray

Local tragedies, such as the one in Lac Megantic, must not distract from the global tragedy which threatens us all.

We write today as witnesses, witnesses to an ecological and social disaster which words can scarcely describe: we have just returned from Fort McMurray, Alberta, the nerve-centre of the tar sands. Welcomed by the local Indigenous community and accompanied by hundreds of citizens from across North America, we walked through the heart of the largest industrial project on the planet. Some of us also visited the Suncor Oil facilities at that company’s invitation.

What we have seen and heard has left an indelible mark upon us. We return deeply saddened and angry. The extent of the devastation caused by this industry is obvious to anyone who sets eyes upon the place, and the numbers confirm this feeling. Each day, oil sands production releases 11 million litres of toxic water into our natural environment — 4 billion litres per year — and emits the equivalent, in greenhouse gas emissions, of 15 million cars.

This is to say nothing of the appalling social effects upon local populations. In some Indigenous communities in the region cancer rates have exploded, and now exceed the Canadian average by a staggering thirty per cent. Meanwhile, the industry has treated First Nations with complete contempt: the Beaver Lake Cree community, for example, has recorded no less than 20,000 violations of their territorial treaties. In many cases, as much as 80 per cent of the territory of Indigenous communities is inaccessible to them at one point or another of the year due to tar sands development. Just as it is here, the Indigenous peoples are the forgotten ones in these types of development projects.

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