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Oil continues to dump into the Gulf

<cross-posted on It’s Getting Hot in Here>

They said it was safe. BP’s environmental impact statement from February 2009 stated that it was,  “unlikely that an accidental surface or subsurface oil spill would occur from the proposed activities”, and that “due to the distance to shore (48 miles) and the response capabilities that would be implemented, no significant adverse impacts are expected [1].” Now, millions of gallons of oil have dumped into the Gulf of Mexico since April 20thand more continues to poor into the waters every day. Yesterday President Obama visited Louisiana to assess the threat posed by this growing oil spill [2].

An oil containment boom is swamped by waves along the Louisiana coast at South Pass of the Mississippi River Thursday, April 29, 2010. (AP Photo/Bill Haber) via Boston.com

The Earth is now bleeding. Unfortunately a run to the pharmacy wont supply the Band Aids needed for this injury. Five thousand feet under the sea a pipe is spilling unknown volumes of oil straight into the Gulf. Attempts to recap it have been unsuccessful. Stopping the spill now looks like it could take weeks if not months, as a giant dome is developed to capture the oil and a “relief” well is drilled [3].

Oil, bottom right, is seen approaching the Louisiana Coast, top left, in this aerial photo taken 8 miles from shore, Wednesday, April 28, 2010. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) Via Boston.com

Oil has already covered over 3,800 square miles of ocean [4]. At risk are the fragile ecosystems of birds that are just beginning to build nests and mate, fish, shellfish, and countless threatened species are found in and around the ten wildlife preserves that are likely to fall in the path of the oil spills as it continues to disperse [5]. The economic impacts of this spill will spread far as fisherman who weathered Hurricane Katrina are seeing Gulf fisheries shut down that are America’s biggest source of seafood.

They are lighting the Gulf on fire. Burning the fuel off is one of many efforts being used to contain the spill. Rough seas for the past few days however, have stymied many efforts at burning the oil off and sending it into the atmosphere. Already 34 miles of boom have also been deployed to form a skirt around a small part of the Gulf Coast to protect the shore from oil. Dispersal agents are another method being used, though in untested ways as they are released in unprecedented volumes both underwater and above.

Dirty energy is jeopardizing human survival. This incident has cost 11 lives and comes in the wake of several other fossil fuels related disasters in the past month including, the methane explosion in West Virginia that killed 29 miners, the collapse of a mine in Kentucky that killed 2, and the wreck of a coal carrying ship that spilled oil across the Great Barrier Reef [6][7][8].

People hold the solutions. Hair salons with the organization, Matter of Trust are beginning to collect hair clipping, that can be made into mat to soak up oil [9]. People are submitting ideas for ways to clean up oil spills that can be readily implemented to the website InnoCentive [10]. Fishermen are signing up to lend their boats and time to the clean up effort as the oil begins to come ashore. The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the Sierra Club and a number of other organizations are calling on people everywhere to call the White House and their Congressmen to put an end to offshore drilling, fossil fuel subsidies, and move to clean energy options [11]. If we don’t move away from our dependence on fossil fuels these accidents will continue to occur.

Let’s stop being fuelish and get to work building a clean energy future.

—————-

[1] Burdeau, Cain; Holbrook Mohr (2010-04-30). “Document: BP didn’t plan for major oil spill”. Associated Press. Retrieved 2010-04-30.  http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g5gnWbqZ9SqBHvSYqJeE2AT5KebwD9FDNQR00

[2] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/may/02/obama-visits-louisiana-oil-spill

[3] BP (2010-04-30). “BP Steps Up Shoreline Protection Plans on US Gulf Coas”. Press release. Retrieved 2010-04-30.  http://www.bp.com/genericarticle.do?categoryId=2012968&contentId=7061565

[4] “Gulf Oil Spill, by the Numbers”. CBS News. 2010-04-30. Retrieved 2010-04-30. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/04/30/national/main6447428.shtml

[5] http://www.deccanherald.com/content/66822/oil-spill-reaches-us-coast.html

[6] http://itsgettinghotinhere.org/2010/04/23/preventing-the-next-mine-disaster-unionize/

[7] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/30/us/30mine.html

[8] http://itsgettinghotinhere.org/2010/04/05/coal-and-oil-destroying-great-barrier-reef/

[9] http://www.matteroftrust.org/

[10] https://gw.innocentive.com/ar/challenge/overview/9383447

[11] http://www.cleanenergy.org/www.sierraclub.org/oilspill

May 3, 2010 at 1:00 pm 2 comments

Take aways from the NCSE Conference

Written by Lorena Hildebrandt, SEN Steering Committee Member & Winthrop University Student.

Earlier last month, I was privileged to attend the National Council for Science and the Environment’s conference in Washington, D.C. on the creation of a new green economy with several professors and another student from my university. Scientists, academics, and policy makers gathered to discuss alternatives to our current economic system. It was incredibly exciting to participate in the dialogue of a new economic model that incorporates ecological principles rather than the externalization of the true costs of production at the expense of human health and the environment.

Many new ideas and innovative concepts electrified the air in the Reagan conference center, but there were some that remain especially prominent in my consciousness as an activist. One was a question posed by author and filmmaker John de Graaf, whose work criticizes the environmentally detrimental endless treadmill of consumption capitalism generates, otherwise known as affluenza. In a workshop designed to create policy recommendations to the Obama Administration, Graaf asked about a dozen of us, “what is the economy for anyway?” Graaf was questioning policy that places the market and GDP above all other considerations such as human health/well-being and the environment. I think this is an important question to keep in mind as we seek solutions to environmental problems through policy. What is our economy for anyway? Are there sacrifices we can make?

I was most struck by Gus Speth, former dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and his closing speech. His message resonated with me as an activist and student studying environmental history and environmental political theory. Speth spoke about the history of environmentalism in the U.S. beginning in the late 1960s and early 70s with an orientation known as survivalism. Surivialism stresses the limits of growth in a world of finite resources. He spoke about how there was an outcry from the public, creating an imperative for action. This new ecological movement created momentum for new environmental policies in the latter part of the 20th century.

Speth warned however, that “early successes have locked us into patterns of environmental solutions” that are no match for the ecological crisis we have at hand.    After four decades of environmental work opting to work within the system rather than fix it, Speth explained, “here we stand at the brink of world destruction.” His inescapable conclusion? We need “a new environmentalism in America, the world.” This new environmentalism amounts to the incorporation of not just environmental reform but political, social, and economic reform – a new progressive movement holistic and conscious enough to act for solutions that are deeper than traditional models.  As an activist, I think this level of consciousness regarding the destructiveness of our current systems is good to keep in mind while engaging in political advocacy work.

For more information on the National Council for Science and the Environment and research on environmental issues check out: http://ncseonline.org/


March 6, 2010 at 9:55 pm Leave a comment

Inside COP15: Where are We Now?

cross-posted on http://sustainus.org/blog

I have been in Copenhagen for two weeks now and have watched from the inside and outside of the Bella Center as the UN Climate Change Negotiations proceed. At this point the progress that is needed to have a fair, ambitious, and binding treaty has not occurred. The nations of the world are still stuck in a political gridlock and the transparency of this process for observers is becoming increasingly limited.

Right now I am sitting in the Bella Center, wearing a bright orange t-shirt that says, “How old will you be in 2050?” I am listening to the plenary session broadcasted on screens throughout with clusters of NGOs, young people, and party delegates crowded around. Security guards walk around staring me in the eyes. Outside protesters are trying to break-in. We are receiving fragmented reports about what is going on just beyond these walls, of what has become a UN fortress. Somehow I have managed to find myself within it, in a surreal microcosm of the world. I am struggling with a mix of emotions in navigating what on one hand seems an incredible access to power but on the other is the reality that the struggles that appear to be contained in this conference center are really much bigger and are found outside and back at home.

The pace of the negotiations is wrenching many of us here in the heart as our frustrations and fears about our futures and others are put on the line with the increased delays in action. The marches outside with thousands and the dozens of actions within the Bella Center are drawing the world’s gaze to Copenhagen and on climate change, yet it doesn’t seem to be enough. It is incredible to me that my country or rather a few key decision makers are able to stall the process. Though really, that is only a simple analysis of the state of things right now. We are working with a process that is flawed (whether or not there is anything better—I do not know). I wrote yesterday on the SustainUS Blog about my inspiration from the amazing people I have met and the development of networks of people that are seeking solutions now. This seems to be the best we have at this point.

The science on climate change is no longer in debate and it is apparent here that we must think beyond our economic and political concerns and realize a moral call to action to address this issue. The images for me that most stand out from the past week are those from when I pass the incredible people who are undertaking the Climate Justice Fast, several of these individuals are now on day 42 without food. They have undertaken the fast because of their loss of what to do in the face of the inaction we see. I sympathize wholeheartedly at this point, and will join them tomorrow for a day of fasting with world leaders and citizens from around the world.

Other moving images from the past week include those from the march of 100,000 in the streets of Copenhagen on Saturday, where people of all ages stood in solidarity for climate action, this image was further solidified when I came back to the Bella Center and saw Bill McKibben of 350.org standing at a computer beaming with excitement as pictures from 350 vigils on that same day came streaming in from around the world. Government action is necessary on this issue but it will only come if the people demand it. Despite some progress recently, the United States still needs to take bolder action for our country’s prosperity and that of the entire planet. Let’s envision a future that is truly sustainable where clean renewable energy powers our lights and people see the impacts of their actions on everyone else worldwide and take action to foster healthy and long-term relations. Despite the daily frustrations on seeking a better way, I am reminded of the words of Kumi Naidoo from just over a week ago, “We can do this, we must do this, we will do this!”

December 16, 2009 at 7:25 pm 1 comment

Power Shift Carolinas is here!

Power Shift Carolinas is here! Weeks of planning have culminated in hundreds of students gathering at the campus of UNC Chapel Hill this weekend. This morning we heard inspiring speakers that reminded us that we must take this movement beyond conferences and meetings. They reminded us that the climate movement is not so unique from any other social movement. We are all seeking a new paradigm that addresses issues of domination and oppression of people’s livelihoods. Students braved crisp October weather as we sat in an outdoor theater and were reminded that being green is not always easy, despite what retailers often make us think.

Stephanie Powell, of the Southern Energy Network, rallies the crowd.

Stephanie Powell, of the Southern Energy Network, on stage.

I have now stepped away from the workshop halls where my peers are learning skills that they will take home with them to teach to others.  Away from the Power Shift hub-bub I find myself on a plush sofa in the UNC Chapel Hill student union with a TV blaring beside me and students munching on disposable platters that will soon disappear into a waste stream that terminates in an unknown place. I remember that I’m responsible too, we all are.  Seeking climate justice is going to be a long winding path that won’t end with a federal climate bill and won’t end in Copenhagen.

Here at Power Shift I join some of the most amazing people I know. These are friends who constantly motivate and inspire me with their passion and energy and make me believe that it is possible. As Marcie Smith, said this morning, “it is the incremental steps and actions that are building to a tipping point in this movement and that will lead us to the future we seek.”  Power Shift Carolinas is proving that people throughout the U.S. Southeast are ready – are you?

October 17, 2009 at 5:11 pm 1 comment

Urgency of Now

cross-posted on the SustainUS blog

Students from UNC Asheville's Active Students for a Healthy Environment met with Rep. Shuler on August 25th

Students from UNC Asheville's Active Students for a Healthy Environment met with Rep. Shuler on August 25th

Access to our federal elected officials certainly improves when we live within the beltway of Washington DC, but in our districts across the nation our elected officials are closer at hand than we might expect. In the past month I have met with my Representative and a legislative assistant from one of my Senators offices. These two meetings took place all within a short bike ride from my home in quaint little Asheville, NC.  Previous to these meetings my only experience in meeting with my congressional officials was during the Power Shift conferences in Washington D.C.

I have realized though, that I cannot wait for another Power Shift to setup meetings with my elected officials. If there was ever a time to seek out our congressional representative’s local offices, the time seems to be now. Coming down the climate policy pipeline is a Senate bill that will address climate change on the domestic front and international UN climate negotiations leading (we hope) up to a treaty signed in Copenhagen this December. The success of one is heavily hinged on the success of the other. Without a clear demonstration from Congress of how we are going to address climate change within our own borders, the US delegates to the climate negotiations will likely not advocate for the boldest policies knowing that they do not have the support of Congress back home. What is needed is a call to action from our president and from our elected officials in Congress. Their leadership will come much sooner if they know that they have the support of the country and constituents like us. In my meeting with Rep. Heath Shuler, I was excited by his enthusiasm for real clean energy solutions that take us away from coal–but as a Representative it seemed he saw his battle as being already won with the American Clean Energy and Security Act already passed. I reiterated to him the importance of providing strong leadership to keep the inertia building as we address climate change.

There are now 84 days until the UN meets in Copenhagen. As the negotiations stand now, the treaty looks disgustingly weak. We have got to fix it up.  The words of Martin Luther King swell in my heart as I consider what is at stake and call my Senator’s office again.

“We are now faced with the face that tomorrow is today.  We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.  In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late.”   -Martin Luther King

With the possibility of a better future for all, we can all face the “the urgency of now.”

-Ellie J.

September 17, 2009 at 6:50 pm 1 comment


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