Trump’s Golden Era of Energy Is Turning to Lead

Trump’s Golden Era of Energy Is Turning to Lead

By Justin Mikulka              July 25, 2020

 A drilling rig on a former ranch outside of Barstow, Texas, in the Permian Basin
It was just over a year ago that President Trump announced, “The golden era of American energy is now underway,” saying that his policies focused on exploiting oil, gas, and coal were “unleashing energy dominance.”What a difference a year makes. On July 10, the Financial Times ran an article with a headline that asked, “Is the party finally over for U.S. oil and gas?” And there is no doubt that it has been quite a party for the last decade. At least, for the fracking executives who have enriched themselves while losing hundreds of billions of dollars investors gave them to produce oil and gas. Meanwhile, profits never materialized.

Lately, prospects for the broader fossil fuel industry look more like lead than gold.

For starters, the oil and gas industry in America is facing an era of losses, bankruptcies, canceled projects, and declining demand. It is highly likely that history will show that this point in time was the beginning of the golden era of renewable energy and the decline of the fossil fuel industry.

Fracked Shale Oil and Gas Industry Failing

President Trump’s 2016 campaign was backed heavily by the oil and gas industry, with strong support from fracking CEOs like Continental Resources’ Harold Hamm. The story of record American oil production due to fracking was even being touted by President Obama, who rightfully took credit for the fracking boom that occurred on his watch. That’s despite President Trump recently taking credit for it as well.

But as we have documented over the last two years at DeSmog, the fracked oil industry has been a financial failure for more than the past decade. The industry produced record amounts of oil and gas but lost huge sums of money in the process. And now even industry leaders are admitting the U.S. oil industry has already peaked, a little more than a year after President Trump declared the beginning of the “golden era.”

In extensively detailing the failures of the shale oil and gas industry, The New York Times recently noted, “The industry’s decline may be just beginning.” It cites industry analysts’ predictions that as many as 250 oil and gas companies could file for bankruptcy by the end of 2021.

The U.S. fracking boom gave President Trump and many others the confidence to talk about unleashing America’s energy dominance. Yet today, the industry is a financial disaster, and even its leaders are admitting its best days are behind it.

Declining Demand for ‘Freedom Gas’

Weeks after President Trump’s “golden era” statement, the U.S. Department of Energy put out a now-famous press release touting the future of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports and referring to LNG as “freedom gas” and “molecules of U.S. freedom.”

America is awash in natural gas from the fracking boom. That includes the gas that shale drillers intentionally sought out, as well as the large amounts of “associated gas” that comes from fracked oil wells. Due to this oversupply, at times the price for natural gas in the Permian region of Texas has gone negative.

With so much cheap natural gas in America, the industry has been racing to build out hugely expensive LNG export terminals and the supporting infrastructure needed to export this gas to the world. However, as DeSmog reported in May, the U.S. is just one of many countries flushing the global market with LNG, and the economics here no longer pencil out.

This year, global buyers are canceling orders for U.S. LNG, leading natural gas producers in America to seek out storage for the gas they can’t sell. And now the U.S. natural gas market is facing a storage crisis just like the one that ended up driving U.S. oil prices negative in April. According to The Wall Street Journal, Goldman Sachs recently told its clients that the U.S. could run out of gas storage capacity by October.

A new report from Global Energy Monitor is warning of a “gas bubble.” The industry is certainly facing long-term troubles. The Wall Street Journal recently summed up the U.S. gas problem: “There is simply too much of it.”

New Pipelines Face Increasing Challenges

New pipelines to move oil and gas were part of the rush to take advantage of the expected golden era of energy in America. However, oil and gas industry finances, combined with ongoing legal challenges from activists, mean the pipeline industry has also taken some serious blows recently.

The news for U.S. pipeline companies was so bad in early July that The New York Times asked, “Is This the End of New Pipelines?”

On July 5, Duke Energy and Dominion Energy — the two firms behind the proposed $8 billion Atlantic Coast pipeline that would have brought fracked gas from West Virginia to North Carolina and Virginia — announced they were cancelling the project. The companies cited ongoing legal challenges from activists who have opposed the pipeline for the past six years as the reason for the decision.

However, Dominion Energy has since sold its pipeline business to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and is planning major investments in renewable energy. These moves indicate that the cancellation might have also been a financial decision and not one driven solely by opposition from activists.

In early July, a federal judge also ordered the shutdown of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) until the U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers conducts a comprehensive environmental review for the pipeline’s impacts. But the U.S. Appeals Court since ruled on July 14 that the pipeline can operate until the legal issues are resolved. DAPL is owned by Energy Transfer, whose CEO, Kelcey Warren, recently held a fundraiser for President Trump.

The Keystone XL pipeline also lost another legal battle that will further delay its potential completion, in a situation that has broader implications for the pipeline industry. In May, the state of New York rejected the proposed Williams pipeline, which would have brought fracked gas from Pennsylvania to New York.

This certainly doesn’t look like a golden era for new oil and gas pipelines in the U.S., despite multiple efforts by President Trump to ease their construction.

U.S. Coal Industry Declining Rapidly

In 2018 President Trump declared that “the coal industry is back.” In reality, the U.S. coal industry is trapped in a death spiral. Coal is in even worse shape than the oil and gas industries, leading to headlines such as, “Are We Witnessing the Death of Coal?”

Year-to-date U.S. coal production is down almost 27 percent compared to last year. Furthermore, government projections show that, for the first time, renewables are on track to power more power of the U.S. than coal in 2020. With such a steep decline, the U.S. coal industry has experienced a wave of bankruptcies under Trump.

Perhaps the best indication of how poorly the U.S. coal industry is doing comes from utility companies which are choosing to close coal power plants, sometimes years ahead of schedule — and replace them with cheaper renewable energy sources.

Even outside of considering the climate impacts, the economics of using coal for electricity in the U.S. do not make sense going forward.

The End of an Era

Despite President Trump’s policies and ongoing rhetoric, the U.S. fossil fuel industries are in decline and serious financial trouble. At the same time, the costs for wind and solar power and energy storage have fallen dramatically, making them competitive with fossil fuels for power generation.

Perhaps the strongest indicator of the troubles facing the fossil fuel industries is the fact that this scenario has unfolded under perhaps the most fossil fuel-friendly president in history. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is run by a former coal lobbyist; yet the coal industry is still failing. This administration continues to repeal environmental, health, and safety regulations to help the oil and gas industry — although the courts are blocking some of those efforts. The oil and gas industry continues to spend generously on advertising campaigns selling the false idea that natural gas is “clean energy” and a climate solution.

The fossil fuel industries still retain significant power in U.S. politics, both nationally and in many energy-producing states, but even that power can no longer hide the painful economics facing these industries — no matter what President Trump says.

Trump’s continued disregard for the environment and climate change poses a mortal threat

Los Angeles Times – Politics

Editorial: Trump’s continued disregard for the environment and climate change poses a mortal threat

The Times Editorial Board                
President Trump's persistent efforts to undermine environmental protections places us all at grave risk. <span class="copyright">(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)</span>
President Trump’s persistent efforts to undermine environmental protections places us all at grave risk. (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

 

It’s fitting that President Trump invoked an interstate highway expansion in Atlanta last week to announce final rules that, if they survive the inevitable legal challenges, will undermine one of the nation’s bedrock environmental laws, the National Environmental Policy Act. American voters face a fork in their own road this November — stay on the Trump expressway to environmental degradation and catastrophic climate change, or shift to the road, bumpy as it may be, to a cleaner environment and more sustainable future of wind, solar and other energy sources that do not involve burning fossil fuels.

The COVID-19 pandemic understandably has seized the nation’s attention, but that hasn’t lessened the risk we all face from air and water pollution and carbon-fed global warming. Trump has unabashedly sought to dismantle federal regulatory structures to speed up construction projects while forging a national energy plan based on producing and burning fossil fuels.

His embrace of the oil, gas and coal industries defies the global scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels emits greenhouse gases that make the Earth less habitable by warming the atmosphere, feeding stronger and more frequent storms, triggering devastating droughts that propel human migration, and pushing up sea levels so that they encroach on cities and other human settlements. In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported last week that unusually high tides led to record flooding among one-quarter of Atlantic and Gulf Coast communities where the agency maintains tide gauges. Climate change is no dystopian vision of the future; it is here.

Trump’s efforts to eviscerate regulatory oversight of the environment is rooted in his belief that regulations are for the most part unnecessary hurdles to economic progress. He bewails the amount of time it takes for projects to clear environmental reviews and related court challenges, adding what, in his mind, are unnecessary costs and delays. To be honest, he may have something there. NEPA came into being five decades ago — signed into law by President Nixon — and it’s not out of line to suspect that there are places where the law and the regulations that arose from it could use some reasonable revising. But Trump and his industry-connected advisors are not the ones to trust with such a task.

These new rules are not reasoned updates. By requiring environmental impact analyses to be completed within two years (now they often take twice that), the administration seeks to cut short the consideration of those most affected by major projects — often people of color and low-income households — and disarm the environmental activists fighting to ensure that necessary environmental protections are respected. The rules also would require regulators to no longer weigh the cumulative effects of a proposed project and limit their review to effects “that are reasonably foreseeable” and “have a close causal relationship” to the work being done. So, for example, a proposed project’s emissions could not be added to those of other nearby emitters to determine whether their cumulative impact creates an excessive burden on a specific community.

Separately, the Government Accountability Office reported last week that the administration tweaked the formula for measuring the “social cost of carbon” so that estimates of the potential harm from emissions are seven times lower than they used to be. It’s foolhardy — and dangerous — to look at environmental impacts through such a narrow lens.

Meanwhile, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, after lengthy negotiations with progressive environmentalists who had backed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), released a $2-trillion plan for quickly shifting the nation from its reliance on fossil fuels to renewable sources.

It’s not the controversial “Green New Deal” that progressives have been pushing, but it’s in the neighborhood. Getting such a measure through Congress even if both chambers were controlled by Democrats would be no easy task, but Biden’s proposal at least recognizes the dire future we all face if the nation — and the world — do not fundamentally alter how we produce and consume energy.

The world cannot afford to backslide on environmental protections and the all-important fight to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Yes, jobs are important, but survival more so. The errors and consequences of the past are crystal clear. The question is, will we heed those lessons?

Book by Trump’s niece paints him as habitual liar, inept businessman

USA Today

‘Far beyond garden-variety narcissism.’ Book by Trump’s niece paints him as habitual liar, inept businessman

Courtney Subramanian, David Jackson and Michael Collins, July 8, 2020

 

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s niece says he was scarred by his father and developed habits of lying and self-deception that shadowed him into the White House, according to a copy of her much-anticipated memoir obtained by USA TODAY.

“This is far beyond garden-variety narcissism,” Mary Trump writes in her book, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.” “Donald is not simply weak, his ego is a fragile thing that must be bolstered every moment because he knows deep down that he is nothing of what he claims to be,” she writes.

“In Donald’s mind, even acknowledging an inevitable threat would indicate weakness. Taking responsibility would open him up to blame. Being a hero – being good – is impossible for him,” she writes in the book.

The memoir, the subject of a legal battle between Mary Trump and her family members, including the president’s brother Robert Trump, is set to be published July 14 by Simon & Schuster, two weeks earlier than planned.

This cover image released by Simon & Schuster shows "Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man", by Mary L. Trump, Ph.D. The book, written by the niece of President Donald J. Trump, was originally set for release on July 28, but will now arrive on July 14.

In many ways, the book is a biography of three Trumps: The president, his father, Fred Trump Sr., and his older brother, Fred Trump Jr., the author’s father.

Mary Trump, a 55-year-old psychologist, blames Fred Trump Sr. for giving Donald his bad habits. She also blames the family patriarch for driving her own father to alcoholism and an early death.

The elder Trump is cast as a cold and forbidding patriarch who wanted his son to follow in his footsteps – his eldest son. But as young Fred struggled, the father shifted his attention to young Donald – demanding him to follow less-than-scrupulous real estate practices and eventually propping him up if his own initiatives failed.

“When things turned south in the late 1980’s, Fred could no longer separate himself from his son’s brutal ineptitude; the father had no choice but to stay invested,” Mary Trump writes.

“His monster had been set free.”

In the book, Mary Trump describes how she helped The New York Times obtain tax documents showing the Trump organization consistently undervalued its properties to reduce its tax bills. Those documents also showed that Fred Trump Sr. propped up Donald Trump after his business failures.

She also writes that in order to get into a private Ivy League university, the young Donald Trump hired someone to take his Scholastic Aptitude Test.

The book says that after Trump announced his White House run in 2015, Trump’s sister, retired appeals court judge Maryanne Trump Barry, mocked him.

“He’s a clown – this will never happen,” Judge Barry said, according to her niece.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany called Mary Trump’s memoir a “book of falsehoods.”

“It’s ridiculous, absurd allegations that have absolute no bearing in truth. Have yet to see the book, but it is a book of falsehoods,” she told reporters.

In a statement, White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews accused Mary Trump of being only interested in the money while claiming “to be acting in the public interest.”

“President Trump has been in office for over three years working on behalf of the American people – why speak out now?” the statement said. “The President describes the relationship he had with his father as warm and said his father was very good to him. He said his father was loving and not at all hard on him as a child. Also, the absurd SAT allegation is completely false.”

‘Fantasy worlds’ and Madonna’s gum chewing

Donald Trump tended to create his own fantasy worlds, Mary Trump writes.

In order to get into the prestigious University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, the future president paid someone to take his SAT, she writes.

“To hedge his bets he enlisted Joe Shapiro, a smart kid with a reputation for being a good test taker, to take his SAT’s for him,” Mary Trump wrote. “That was much easier to pull off in the days before photo IDs and computerized records.”

During the 1990’s, she wrote, her uncle asked her to ghostwrite a book about him to be called “The Art of the Comeback.” Mary Trump writes that she was given little guidance on what the book would contain, so she tried to focus on the adversity that he had overcome to reach his success. But there was little evidence to support that narrative considering he was about to enter his fourth bankruptcy with the Plaza Hotel, she writes.

One night, she said, he called her, sounding excited, to let her know that Rhona Graff, his longtime executive assistant at the Trump Organization, would hand her some pages he had been working on for the book. Mary Trump said she received a manila envelope the next day, containing about 10 typewritten pages, that she had hoped would help her glean insight on how he ran his business or the role he played in development deals.

“It was an aggrieved compendium of women he had expected to date but who, having refused him, were suddenly the worst, ugliest, and fattest slobs he’d ever met,” she wrote.

Among those women was Madonna, who “chewed gum in a way Donald found unattractive,” and Katarina Witt, a German Olympic figure skater and two-time gold medalist who Trump thought “had big calves.”

Mary Trump writes that Donald Trump never paid her for the book project and eventually he sent someone else to fire her from the gig.

Later in 1998, when Mary was first introduced to Melania Trump, the future president told his future wife that Mary had dropped out of college (true) and had come back herself from a drug problem. (Mary said she has never taken drugs).

“By conflating my dropping out of college and his hiring me to write his book (while throwing in a fictional drug addiction), he concocted a better story that somehow had him playing the role of my savior,” Mary wrote.

She added: “The story was for his benefit as much as anybody else’s, and by the time the doorbell rang, he probably already believed his version of events.”

While it may have seemed harmless at the time, the people surrounding Donald Trump – including members of the media – consistently normalized his “aberrant behavior” and mischaracterized him, Mary Trump writes. In his debut on the New York real estate scene, Trump was described as a “brash, self-made dealmaker,” she said.

“He was neither self-made nor a good dealmaker,” she said. “But that was how it started – with his misuse of language and the media’s failure to ask pointed questions,” she said.

‘He’s a clown’

Trump’s own sister dismissed the idea of him running for president, Mary Trump writes.

Maryanne Trump Barry, a retired federal appeals court judge, mocked the idea of his running after his announcement in mid-2015, Mary Trump writes.

“He’s a clown – this will never happen,” Judge Barry said, according to her niece.

Trump Barry – who said Trump has “no principles! None!” – later criticized him for invoking their brother’s alcohol problems during a campaign discussion about addiction.

She told the author: “He’s using your father’s memory for political purposes and that’s a sin, especially since Freddy should have been the star of the family.”

Putin, Kim Jong Un and Mitch McConnell

Mary Trump has especially harsh words for the people who surround Trump and enable him to stay in power.

“The people with access to him are weaker than Donald is, more craven, but just as desperate. Their futures are directly dependent on his success and favor,” she said. “Although more powerful people put Donald into the institutions that have shielded him since the very beginning, it’s people weaker than he is who are keeping him there.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Republican Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, “all whom bear more than a passing psychological resemblance to Fred,” recognized after the election that Donald Trump’s personal history and personality flaws made him vulnerable to manipulation, Mary Trump writes.

In this photo taken on February 09, 2017, a photograph of Fred Trump, the father of US President Donald Trump, is seen in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC.
In this photo taken on February 09, 2017, a photograph of Fred Trump, the father of US President Donald Trump, is seen in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC.

 

“His pathologies have rendered him so simple-minded that it takes nothing more than repeating to him the things he says to and about himself dozens of times a day – he’s the smartest, the greatest, the best – to get him to do whatever they want, whether it’s imprisoning children in concentration camps, betraying allies, implementing economy-crushing tax cuts, or degrading every institution that’s contributed to the United States’ rise and the flourishing of liberal democracy.”

A ‘petty, pathetic little man’

The president’s initial response to the coronavirus pandemic “underscores his need to minimize negativity at all costs,” Mary Trump writes.

“Fear – the equivalent of weakness in our family – is as unacceptable to him now as it was when he was three years old,” she said.

She points to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s response to his state’s outbreak of COVID-19 cases as an example of “real leadership,” further revealing the president as a “petty, pathetic little man – ignorant, incapable, out of his depth, and lost to his own delusional spin.”

“He’ll withhold ventilators or steal supplies from states that have not groveled sufficiently,” she said. “What Donald thinks is justified retaliation is, in this context, mass murder.”

At the end, Mary Trump writes “Donald isn’t really the problem after all” – it is his enablers, from his father to the celebrity media to the congressional Republicans who acquitted him of impeachment.

“This is the end result of Donald’s having continually been given a pass and rewarded not just for his failures but for his transgressions – against tradition, against decency, against the law, and against fellow human beings,” she writes.

A golden shoe and Ivanka’s wedding

Mary Trump also dishes on other members of the Trump family.

Ivana Trump, Donald Trump’s first wife, had a penchant for regifting, according to Mary Trump. She recalls receiving a gold lame shoe with a four-inch heel filled with hard candy, wrapped in cellophane, for Christmas. The gift was so puzzling, Mary Trump wrote, and she wondered whether it had been a door prize or a party favor.

The following year solidified Ivana’s habit of passing off other gifts: a gift basket containing a tin of gourmet sardines, water crackers, vermouth-packed olives and a salami. The tissue paper in the basket had the indentation of where another jar was clearly removed. Mary Trump joked with her cousin David that the absent jar was “probably caviar.”

Mary Trump’s mother once received a luxury handbag from Ivana that “contained a used Kleenex.”

In another part of the book, she recounted seeing her family for the first time in nearly a decade at the October 2009 wedding of her cousin Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, considered by many to be the president’s shadow chief of staff.

Before the vows, she recalled Kushner’s father, Charles, recalling that when his son first introduced him to Ivanka, he “had thought she would never be good enough to join his family.”

“It was only after she had committed to converting to Judaism and worked hard to make it happen that he had begun to think she might be worthy of them after all,” she wrote.

Mary Trump said she found “his condescension a bit out of line” considering he was just released from jail over tax evasion and witness-tampering, a charge that included him hiring a prostitute to seduce his sister’s husband, having the encounter secretly filmed and then sending the recording to his sister at his nephew’s engagement party.

Legal battle

Though the book’s publication date is set for next week, it remains the subject of a legal battle.

In a lawsuit he filed in New York at the end of June, Robert Trump argued that Mary had no right to speak or write about her family. His lawyers said she signed a family estate settlement almost 20 years ago that included a confidentiality clause explicitly saying members of the family would not “publish any account concerning the litigation or their relationship,” unless they all agreed.

A New York appellate court last week ruled the publication could go ahead.

But a temporary restraining order remains on Mary herself. A lower court judge in New York is due to consider whether to continue or drop that order later this week.

Mary Trump’s lawyers and lawyers for Simon & Schuster argued that blocking the book amounted to unconstitutional prior restraint, a violation of the First Amendment rights of Mary Trump and the publisher.

Chris Bastardi, a spokesman for Mary Trump, declined comment, noting that the book is still in litigation: “The restraining order is still in place on our side.”

A 20,000-tonne oil spill is contaminating the Arctic – it could take decades to clean up

A 20,000-tonne oil spill is contaminating the Arctic – it could take decades to clean up

Permafrost near Norilsk, Russia. Romzes333 / shutterstock

After a storage tank in Norilsk, northern Russia, collapsed in late May, 20,000 tonnes of diesel fuel was released into the environment. Strong winds caused the oil to spread more than 12 miles from the source, contaminating nearby rivers, lakes and the surrounding soil.

The spill perhaps didn’t get the international attention it warranted as it happened in the midst of a global pandemic and just a few days after the death of African-American George Floyd, which sparked a wave of Black Lives Matter protests. But the spill was a major disaster with serious implications.

As experts in Arctic ecosystems, we are worried about the long-term impacts of this diesel spill in such pristine environments where cold, harsh conditions mean that life is limited. While bacteria are known to “clean up” oil spills elsewhere in the world, in the Arctic, their low numbers and slow rates of activity could mean diesel products linger for years, if not decades.

A diesel spill differs from other oil spills

Major oil spills such as that of the Exxon Valdez in 1989 or Deepwater Horizon in 2010 typically involve thick, gloopy crude oil that sits on the surface of seawater. For these sorts of spills, clean-up best practice is well known. However, the recent Norilsk spill involved thinner, less gloopy diesel oil in freshwater, making clean-up more difficult.

Diesel – in dark red – spreads along the Ambarnaya River near Norilsk. Source: European Space Agency

 

Diesel oil contains between 2,000 and 4,000 types of hydrocarbon (the naturally occurring building blocks of fossil fuels), which break down differently in the environment. Typically, 50% or more can evaporate within hours and days, harming the environment and causing respiratory problems for people nearby.

Other, more resistant chemicals can bind with algae and microorganisms in the water and sink, creating a toxic sludge on the bed of the river or lake. This gives the impression that the contamination has been removed and is no longer a threat. However, this sludge can persist for months or years.

How different parts of the ecosystem respond

At the bottom of the food chain in rivers and lakes are microscopic plants and algae that need sunlight to create energy through photosynthesis. When oil first enters the water it sits on the surface and forms a sort of oily sun block, and so these organisms rapidly decrease in number. Zooplankton (tiny animals) that feed on them also eventually die off.

Over time, wind and currents help disperse this oily layer, but some oil will sink to the bottom and, with their predators diminished, algae will return in even greater numbers.

Soils in the Russian Arctic harbour fewer organisms than elsewhere in the world, thanks to cold, harsh conditions, where the ground is often frozen, liquid water is scarce and there are few nutrients available. But nonetheless, these soils are still teeming with life and badly affected by oil spills.

Initially, oil coats soil particles, reducing their ability to absorb water and nutrients, negatively affecting soil organisms as they are unable to access food and water essential for survival. This oily coat can last for years as it is very hard to wash off, so often the soil has to be physically removed.

As of July 6, Nornickel, the mining company that owned the storage tank, says it has removed 185,000 tonnes of contaminated soil (about 14 times the weight of the Brooklyn Bridge). The soil is being stored on site to be “cleaned” by certified contaminant experts by early September.

The “cleaned” soil will then likely be returned to its original site. Also, 13 Olympic swimming pools’ worth of fuel-contaminated water has been pumped from the river to a nearby industrial site where harmful chemicals will be separated and the “clean” water will likely by returned to the river.

This is better than nothing, although toxins will likely remain in both the water and soil. Over months and years, these toxins will build up within the food chain, starting with the microscopic organisms and eventually causing health problems in larger organisms such as fish and birds.

Some of these small, largely invisible organisms in both the soil and freshwater can in theory be part of the solution. Diesel contains carbon (which is essential for all life) and some microorganisms actually thrive on fuel spills, helping to break down contaminants by using the carbon as a food source.

Normally, cold Arctic conditions hinder microbial activity and bio-degradation. The current Arctic heatwave may speed up this process initially, enabling oil-degrading microorganisms to grow, reproduce and consume these contaminants more rapidly than normal. But due to the region’s lack of water and the nitrogen and phosphorous needed for growth, even a heatwave can only help these microorganisms so much.

This will probably happen again

May 2020 temperatures compared to the longer-term average. Norilsk is right in the dark red area. Copernicus Climate Data Source, CC BY – SA 
Russian authorities have blamed the collapse on the poor state of the fuel tank and have requested Nornickel pay “voluntary compensation” for environmental damage. Nornickel denies negligence and says the fuel tank failed due to rapidly thawing permafrost.

This spring saw Siberia experience temperatures 10°C warmer than average and, with permafrost underlying most of Russia, the region is highly vulnerable to climate warming. Indeed, 45% of oil and gas extraction fields in the Russian Arctic are at risk of infrastructure instability due to thawing permafrost.

Without more stringent regulations to improve existing infrastructure then more spills are likely to occur, especially given how rapidly permafrost is melting in these areas causing unstable ground.

While nature and her oil-degrading microbial communities can help clean up our mess, we should avoid relying on a largely invisible force that we don’t fully understand to fix a much larger human-generated problem. And how can a environment already on the edge of devastation ever fully recover?

UN: Coronavirus will create 45 million more poor people in Latin America, UN report warns

The Independent

UN: Coronavirus will create 45 million more poor people in Latin America, UN report warns

Germania Rodriguez Poleo, The Independent            July 9, 2020
© UNICEF/UN0309959/Arcos
© UNICEF/UN0309959/Arcos. The coronavirus pandemic will create 45 million more poor people in Latin America in 2020, according to the United Nations.

The report, released on Thursdays by UN chief Antonio Guterres, paints a dark picture for Latin America and the Caribbean, predicting an economic contraction of 9.1 per cent — the worst the region has seen in 100 years.

Devastating economic consequences from the coronavirus pandemic such as a steep decline in tourism and sharp drop in remittances will see Latin America’s poverty levels increase by 7 per cent from 2019. This would mean there will be a total of 230 million people living in poverty in the region with a population of 630 million. Moreover, as many as 28 million Latin Americans could enter a situation of extreme poverty in 2020, meaning they won’t be able to afford to feed themselves.

More than three million people have been infected with coronavirus in Latin America and more than 132,000 have died from it.

Many Latin American countries, such as Brazil, have some of the world’s worst Covid-19 infection rates per capita. Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras are expected to see the biggest increases in poverty in their population, per the UN report.

“This is a region that for seven years has already had very low growth, with structural gaps and an unsustainable development model that have been exacerbated by very weak social protection, fragmented health systems and deep inequalities,” said executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) Alicia Bercena, according to the Associated Press.

UN chief Gutierres said in a recorded video message that in order to recover Latin America’s economy, it’s necessary to change the development model of the region.

“This implies creating fairer tax systems, promoting the creation of decent jobs, strengthening environmental sustainability and reinforcing social protection mechanisms,” he said.

Trump abuses our national parks, and he’s doing it again at Mount Rushmore

The Guardian

Trump abuses our national parks, and he’s doing it again at Mount Rushmore

Jonathan B Jarvis and Gary Machlis                    July 3, 2020
Trump to visit Mount Rushmore amid controversy

In the United States, parks have always been used as spaces for public protest, places for commemorating acts of resistance and the struggle for a more perfect union, and stages for presidents to call for national unity or celebrate civic purpose.

As his Mount Rushmore event scheduled for Friday makes clear, Donald Trump misunderstands and misuses all these precedents.

Consider the national park areas in Washington, especially those around the White House, which have been the sites of peaceful protests for generations. A women’s suffrage march in 1913 disrupted Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration in the public park named Lafayette Square. The Reflecting Pool and Lincoln Memorial were the center of the peaceful 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, when more than 250,000 demonstrators listened to Martin Luther King give his “I Have a Dream” speech.

In contrast, when Trump decided to use Lafayette Square as a photo opportunity last month, he had police and military personnel disperse peaceful protesters with flash grenades and pepper-ball munitions.

Throughout history, other US presidents have employed national parks to unify and inspire the American people. Theodore Roosevelt spoke at the 1903 commemoration of the Gateway Arch at Yellowstone national park, reminding the American people: “We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.”

In the summer of 1969, Richard Nixon spoke at the dedication of the Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwoods national park. Nixon, hardly a president with a flawless reputation, nevertheless talked of unity and pride in the country as he dedicated the grove to the wife of his former political opponent.

Trump neither comprehends nor takes seriously his responsibilities to his fellow citizens, and he can only envision our public spaces and historical parks as taxpayer-funded stage pageant backdrops for his political rallies and photo ops, which divide rather than unite.

<span>Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images

 

During his 2016 campaign for president, Trump traveled to the hallowed ground of Gettysburg national military park. At the site of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, he gave a speech that “curdled into bitter resentment”, as he railed against his perceived enemies, particularly the media, the government, the opposition party and the intellectual elite.

Last month, he held a Fox News town hall television interview inside the Lincoln Memorial, where events are supposed to be prohibited. He was only able to stage this television show at Lincoln’s feet because David Bernhardt, the secretary of the interior, specially relaxed the regulations governing use of our most sacred public monuments.

We must rescind the authority of the interior secretary to create exceptions for the partisan uses of national memorials

“I assume the show is a big show, right?” Trump asked.

It has become clear that we need clearer rules and restrictions on the use of force against peaceful protesters in public parks. We also need to hold national and local leaders to account when they exploit rather than protect parks. And we must rescind the authority of the interior secretary to create exceptions for overtly partisan uses of national memorials.

The locations of current tragedies of police brutality, including the 38th Street and Chicago Avenue intersection in Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed, should be commemorated as national historic landmarks – just as the 54 miles that peaceful civil rights demonstrators walked in 1965 are commemorated as the Selma to Montgomery Trail. Black lives matter.

This Friday, Trump travels to Mount Rushmore to watch fireworks over the park, reversing a moratorium on fireworks that has been in place for a decade because of concern about wildfires in the park’s 1,200 acres of forest and the surrounding Black Hills national forest. The National Park Service is managing a lottery for the 7,500 tickets to the event – with no social distancing, even as South Dakota faces over 6,000 active Covid-19 cases and the audience will include visitors from around the country.

Mount Rushmore, carved over the objections of the Sioux on the stones of their sacred Black Hills, has become a symbol of America. Love it or hate it, it should not be used for partisan politics. The nightly lighting ceremony is powerful theater, as the large halogen lights warm and then illuminate the carved images of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt. Trump knows this, and will probably use Mount Rushmore as a stage for a partisan political rally full of rancor, insults, and racial divisiveness.

It will probably take Trump’s handlers’ best efforts to prevent him, as the halogen lights warm, from having the spotlights move from Washington and Jefferson on to himself, and to prevent long, vertical, bright-red Maga banners from being unfolded as he begins his performance. His supporters will cheer, his opponents will shout, and the US national parks – often called America’s “best idea” – will be more tarnished from misuse.

  • Jonathan B Jarvis served 40 years with the National Park Service and was its 18th director
  • Dr Gary Machlis served as science adviser to the director of the National Park Service and is a professor of environmental sustainability at Clemson University
  • The opinions expressed here are those of the authors.

“What to the Slave is 4th of July” James Earl Jones

Open Culture

Every year on this day, Frederick Douglass’s fiery, uncompromising 1852 speech, “The Meaning of July 4th for the Negro,” gets a new hearing, and takes on added resonance in the context of contemporary politics. It has never ceased to speak directly to those for whom the celebrations can seem like a hollow mockery of freedom and independence. The American holiday commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence—next to the Constitution, the U.S.A.’s most cherished founding document, and a text, for all its rhetorical elegance, which cannot escape the irony that it was written by a slaveholder for an emerging slave nation.

Slavery had always been a contentious subject among the colonists. And yet the American Revolution was a war waged for the full freedom and enfranchisement of only a very few white men of property. Not only were black people excluded from the nation’s freedoms, but so too were conquered Native American nations, and in great part, poor white men and women who could not vote—though they were not chained in perpetual servitude as human chattel, with little hope of liberty for themselves or their descendants.

Douglass gave the speech in Rochester, NY, seventy-six years after the first July 4th and at a time when the country was riven with irreconcilable tensions between abolitionists, free-soilers, and the slaveholding South. The Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Act—at least, in hindsight—made the impending Civil War all but inevitable. The speech reveals the celebration as a sham for those who were or had been enslaved, and who could not consider themselves American citizens regardless of their status (as Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney would affirm five years later.)

Just above, you can hear a powerful reading of Douglass’s speech by James Earl Jones, delivered as part of Howard Zinn’s Voices of a People’s History of the United States. Read an excerpt of the speech below.

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is a constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes that would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.

Douglass’s speech condemned the “scorching irony” of American independence even after the Civil War, as racist terrorism and Jim Crow destroyed the promise of Reconstruction. In our present time, writes Pulitzer Prize-winning author and professor Isabel Wilkerson, amidst the rash of high profile police killings and an ensuing lack of justice, events “have forced us to confront our place in a country where we were enslaved for far longer than we have been free. Forced us to face the dispiriting erosion that we have witnessed in recent years—from the birther assaults on a sitting black president to the gutting of the Voting Rights Act that we had believed was carved in granite.” We might add to this list the resumption of the failed “War on Drugs” and the federal government’s announcements that it would do little to safeguard civil rights nor to investigate and prosecute the surge of white supremacist violence.

And yet the “self evident” mythology of American freedom and equality—and of American innocence—remains potent and seductive to many people in the country. As the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute put it a few days ago, “The birth of the United States was unique because it was a nation founded not on blood or ethnicity, but on ideas.” To this ahistorical fiction, which manages to erase the founders’ own statements on race, the colonization of indigenous lands, and even the bloody Revolutionary War in its strangely desperate zeal to sweep the past away, Douglass would reply: “The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and the crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.”

Angela Davis on Abolition, Calls to Defund Police, Toppled Racist Statues & Voting in 2020 Election

Democracy Now

Angela Davis on Abolition, Calls to Defund Police, Toppled Racist Statues & Voting in 2020 Election

Democracy Now Web Exclusive      June 12, 2020

 

Video: https://publish.dvlabs.com/democracynow/360/dn2020-0612.mp4?start=1191.0

Amid a worldwide uprising against police brutality and racism, we discuss the historic moment with legendary scholar and activist Angela Davis. She also responds to the destruction and removal of racist monuments in cities across the United States; President Trump’s upcoming rally on Juneteenth in Tulsa, the site of a white mob’s massacre of Black people; and the 2020 election, in which two parties “connected to corporate capitalism” will compete for the presidency and people will have to be persuaded to vote “so the current occupant of the White House is forever ousted.”

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

 

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace ReportThe Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman. As the nationwide uprising against police brutality and racism continues to roil the nation and the world, bringing down Confederate statues and forcing a reckoning in city halls and on the streets, President Trump defended law enforcement Thursday, dismissing growing calls to defund the police. He spoke at a campaign-style event at a church in Dallas, Texas, announcing a new executive order advising police departments to adopt national standards for use of force. Trump did not invite the top three law enforcement officials in Dallas, who are all African American. The move comes after Trump called protesters ”THUGS” and threatened to deploy the U.S. military to end, quote, “riots and lawlessness.” This is Trump speaking Thursday.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They want to get rid of the police forces. They actually want to get rid of it. And that’s what they do, and that’s where they’d go. And you know that, because at the top position, there’s not going to be much leadership. There’s not much leadership left.

Instead, we have to go the opposite way. We must invest more energy and resources in police training and recruiting and community engagement. We have to respect our police. We have to take care of our police. They’re protecting us. And if they’re allowed to do their job, they’ll do a great job. And you always have a bad apple no matter where you go. You have bad apples. And there are not too many of them. And I can tell you there are not too many of them in the police department. We all know a lot of members of the police.

AMY GOODMAN: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is also calling for an increase to police funding. In an op-ed in USA Today, he called for police departments to receive an additional $300 million to, quote, “reinvigorate community policing in our country.” On Wednesday night, Biden discussed police funding on The Daily Show.

JOE BIDEN: I don’t believe police should be defunded, but I think the conditions should be placed upon them where departments are having to take significant reforms relating to that. We should set up a national use-of-force standard.

AMY GOODMAN: But many argue reform will not fix the inherently racist system of policing. Since the global protest movement began, Minneapolis has pledged to dismantle its police department, the mayors of Los Angeles and New York City have promised to slash police department budgets, and calls to “defund the police” are being heard in spaces that would have been unthinkable just a few weeks ago.

Well, for more on this historic moment, we are spending the hour with the legendary activist and scholar Angela Davis, professor emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz. For half a century, Angela Davis has been one of the most influential activists and intellectuals in the United States, an icon of the Black liberation movement. Angela Davis’s work around issues of gender, race, class and prisons has influenced critical thought and social movements across several generations. She’s a leading advocate for prison abolition, a position informed by her own experience as a prisoner and a fugitive on the FBI’s top 10 wanted list more than 40 years ago. Once caught, she faced the death penalty in California. After being acquitted on all charges, she’s spent her life fighting to change the criminal justice system.

Angela Davis, welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us today for the hour.

ANGELA DAVIS: Thank you very much, Amy. It’s wonderful to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, do you think this moment is a tipping point, a turning point? You, who have been involved in activism for almost half a century, do you see this moment as different, perhaps more different than any period of time you have lived through?

ANGELA DAVIS: Absolutely. This is an extraordinary moment. I have never experienced anything like the conditions we are currently experiencing, the conjuncture created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the recognition of the systemic racism that has been rendered visible under these conditions because of the disproportionate deaths in Black and Latinx communities. And this is a moment I don’t know whether I ever expected to experience.

When the protests began, of course, around the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and Tony McDade and many others who have lost their lives to racist state violence and vigilante violence — when these protests erupted, I remembered something that I’ve said many times to encourage activists, who often feel that the work that they do is not leading to tangible results. I often ask them to consider the very long trajectory of Black struggles. And what has been most important is the forging of legacies, the new arenas of struggle that can be handed down to younger generations.

But I’ve often said one never knows when conditions may give rise to a conjuncture such as the current one that rapidly shifts popular consciousness and suddenly allows us to move in the direction of radical change. If one does not engage in the ongoing work when such a moment arises, we cannot take advantage of the opportunities to change. And, of course, this moment will pass. The intensity of the current demonstrations cannot be sustained over time, but we will have to be ready to shift gears and address these issues in different arenas, including, of course, the electoral arena.

AMY GOODMAN: Angela Davis, you have long been a leader of the critical resistance movement, the abolition movement. And I’m wondering if you can explain the demand, as you see it, what you feel needs to be done, around defunding the police, and then around prison abolition.

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, the call to defund the police is, I think, an abolitionist demand, but it reflects only one aspect of the process represented by the demand. Defunding the police is not simply about withdrawing funding for law enforcement and doing nothing else. And it appears as if this is the rather superficial understanding that has caused Biden to move in the direction he’s moving in.

It’s about shifting public funds to new services and new institutions — mental health counselors, who can respond to people who are in crisis without arms. It’s about shifting funding to education, to housing, to recreation. All of these things help to create security and safety. It’s about learning that safety, safeguarded by violence, is not really safety.

And I would say that abolition is not primarily a negative strategy. It’s not primarily about dismantling, getting rid of, but it’s about reenvisioning. It’s about building anew. And I would argue that abolition is a feminist strategy. And one sees in these abolitionist demands that are emerging the pivotal influence of feminist theories and practices.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain that further.

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, I want us to see feminism not only as addressing issues of gender, but rather as a methodological approach of understanding the intersectionality of struggles and issues. Abolition feminism counters carceral feminism, which has unfortunately assumed that issues such as violence against women can be effectively addressed by using police force, by using imprisonment as a solution. And of course we know that Joseph Biden, in 1994, who claims that the Violence Against Women Act was such an important moment in his career — the Violence Against Women Act was couched within the 1994 Crime Act, the Clinton Crime Act.

And what we’re calling for is a process of decriminalization, not — recognizing that threats to safety, threats to security, come not primarily from what is defined as crime, but rather from the failure of institutions in our country to address issues of health, issues of violence, education, etc. So, abolition is really about rethinking the kind of future we want, the social future, the economic future, the political future. It’s about revolution, I would argue.

AMY GOODMAN: You write in Freedom Is a Constant Struggle, “Neoliberal ideology drives us to focus on individuals, ourselves, individual victims, individual perpetrators. But how is it possible to solve the massive problem of racist state violence by calling upon individual police officers to bear the burden of that history and to assume that by prosecuting them, by exacting our revenge on them, we would have somehow made progress in eradicating racism?” So, explain what exactly you’re demanding.

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, neoliberal logic assumes that the fundamental unit of society is the individual, and I would say the abstract individual. According to that logic, Black people can combat racism by pulling themselves up by their own individual bootstraps. That logic recognizes — or fails, rather, to recognize that there are institutional barriers that cannot be brought down by individual determination. If a Black person is materially unable to attend the university, the solution is not affirmative action, they argue, but rather the person simply needs to work harder, get good grades and do what is necessary in order to acquire the funds to pay for tuition. Neoliberal logic deters us from thinking about the simpler solution, which is free education.

I’m thinking about the fact that we have been aware of the need for these institutional strategies at least since 1935 — but of course before, but I’m choosing 1935 because that was the year when W.E.B. Du Bois published his germinal Black Reconstruction in America. And the question was not what should individual Black people do, but rather how to reorganize and restructure post-slavery society in order to guarantee the incorporation of those who had been formerly enslaved. The society could not remain the same — or should not have remained the same. Neoliberalism resists change at the individual level. It asks the individual to adapt to conditions of capitalism, to conditions of racism.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, Angela Davis, about the monuments to racists, colonizers, Confederates, that are continuing to fall across the United States and around the world. In St. Paul, Minnesota, Wednesday, activists with the American Indian Movement tied a rope around a statue of Christopher Columbus and pulled it from its pedestal on the state Capitol grounds. The AIM members then held a ceremony over the fallen monument. In Massachusetts, officials said they’ll remove a Columbus statue from a park in Boston’s North End, after it was beheaded by protesters early Wednesday morning. In Richmond, Virginia, protesters toppled a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis from Monument Avenue Wednesday night. In the nearby city of Portsmouth, protesters used sledgehammers to destroy a monument to Confederate soldiers. One person sustained a serious injury, was hospitalized after a statue fell on his head. In Washington, D.C., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined other lawmakers demanding the removal of 11 Confederate statues from the National Statuary Hall in the Capitol.

Meanwhile, President Trump said he will “not even consider” renaming U.S. Army bases named after Confederate military officers. There are 10 such bases, all of them in Southern states. Trump tweeted Wednesday, “These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom,” unquote. Trump’s tweet contradicted Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair General Mark Milley, who suggested they’re open to discussion about renaming the bases. And a Republican committee in the Senate just voted to rename these bases, like Benning and Bragg and Hood, that are named for Confederate leaders.

Meanwhile, in your hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, Angela, comedian Jermaine Johnson is pleading not guilty to charges of “inciting a riot” after he urged protesters at May 31st rally to march on a statue of Charles Linn, a former officer in the Confederate Navy.

Did you think you would ever see this? You think about Bree Newsome after the horror at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina, who shimmied up that flagpole on the grounds of the South Carolina Legislature and took down the Confederate flag, and they put it right on back up. What about what we’re seeing today?

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, of course, Bree Newsome was a wonderful pioneer. And I think it’s important to link this trend to the campaign in South Africa, Rhodes Must Fall. And, of course, I think this reflects the extent to which we are being called upon to deeply reflect on the role of historical racisms that have brought us to the point where we are today.

You know, racism should have been immediately confronted in the aftermath of the end of slavery. This is what Dr. Du Bois’s analysis was all about, not so much in terms of, “Well, what we were going to do about these poor people who have been enslaved so many generations?” but, rather, “How can we reorganize our society in order to guarantee the incorporation of previously enslaved people?”

Now attention is being turned towards the symbols of slavery, the symbols of colonialism. And, of course, any campaigns against racism in this country have to address, in the very first place, the conditions of Indigenous people. I think it’s important that we’re seeing these demonstrations, but I think at the same time we have to recognize that we cannot simply get rid of the history. We have to recognize the devastatingly negative role that that history has played in charting the trajectory of the United States of America. And so, I think that these assaults on statues represent an attempt to begin to think through what we have to do to bring down institutions and reenvision them, reorganize them, create new institutions that can attend to the needs of all people.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think should be done with statues, for example, to, oh, slaveholding Founding Fathers, like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson?

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, you know, museums can play an important educational role. And I don’t think we should get rid of all of the vestiges of the past, but we need to figure out context within which people can understand the nature of U.S. history and the role that racism and capitalism and heteropatriarchy have played in forging that history.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about racism and capitalism? You often write and speak about how they are intimately connected. And talk about a world that you envision.

ANGELA DAVIS: Yeah, racism is integrally linked to capitalism. And I think it’s a mistake to assume that we can combat racism by leaving capitalism in place. As Cedric Robinson pointed out in his book Black Marxism, capitalism is racial capitalism. And, of course, to just say for a moment, that Marx pointed out that what he called primitive accumulation, capital doesn’t just appear from nowhere. The original capital was provided by the labor of slaves. The Industrial Revolution, which pivoted around the production of capital, was enabled by slave labor in the U.S. So, I am convinced that the ultimate eradication of racism is going to require us to move toward a more socialist organization of our economies, of our other institutions. I think we have a long way to go before we can begin to talk about an economic system that is not based on exploitation and on the super-exploitation of Black people, Latinx people and other racialized populations.

But I do think that we now have the conceptual means to engage in discussions, popular discussions, about capitalism. Occupy gave us new language. The notion of the prison-industrial complex requires us to understand the globalization of capitalism. Anti-capitalist consciousness helps us to understand the predicament of immigrants, who are barred from the U.S. by the wall that has been created by the current occupant. These conditions have been created by global capitalism. And I think this is a period during which we need to begin that process of popular education, which will allow people to understand the interconnections of racism, heteropatriarchy, capitalism.

AMY GOODMAN: Angela, do you think we need a truth and reconciliation commission here in this country?

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, that might be one way to begin, but I know we’re going to need a lot more than truth and reconciliation. But certainly we need truth. I’m not sure how soon reconciliation is going to emerge. But I think that the whole notion of truth and reconciliation allows us to think differently about the criminal legal system. It allows us to imagine a form of justice that is not based on revenge, a form of justice that is not retributive. So I think that those ideas can help us begin to imagine new ways of structuring our institutions, such as — well, not structuring the prison, because the whole point is that we have to abolish that institution in order to begin to envision new ways of addressing the conditions that lead to mass incarceration, that lead to such horrendous tragedies as the murder of George Floyd.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to come back to this discussion and also talk about President Trump going to Tulsa on Juneteenth. We’re speaking with Angela Davis, the world-renowned abolitionist, author, activist and professor emerita at University of California, Santa Cruz, author of many books, including Freedom Is a Constant Struggle. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Shanty Tones” by Filastine. This is Democracy Now! The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we spend the hour with the legendary activist, scholar, Angela Davis, professor emerita at University of California, Santa Cruz.

President Trump has announced he’s holding his first campaign rally since the quarantine, since lockdowns across the country, since the pandemic. He’s holding it in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 19th — a highly symbolic day. It was June 19, 1865, that enslaved Africans in Texas first learned they were free, two years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The day is now celebrated as Juneteenth. California Senator Kamala Harris tweeted in response, “This isn’t just a wink to white supremacists — he’s throwing them a welcome home party,” unquote.

Well, Tulsa recently marked the 99th anniversary of one of the deadliest mass killings of African Americans in U.S. history. In 1921, a white mob killed as many as 300 people, most of them Black, after a Black man was accused of assaulting a white woman. The white mobs destroyed a thriving African American business district known at the time as the Black Wall Street of America.

Well, this all comes as a Tulsa police major is coming under fire after denying systemic racism in the police force there and saying African Americans probably should be shot more. Listen carefully. This is Major Travis Yates in an interview with KFAQ.

MAJTRAVIS YATES: If a certain group is committing more crimes, more violent crimes, then that number is going to be higher. Who in the world in their right mind would think that our shootings should be right along the U.S. census line? All of the research says we’re shooting African Americans about 24% less than we probably ought to be, based on the crimes being committed.

AMY GOODMAN: “We’re shooting them less than they probably ought to be”? Tulsa’s mayor and police chief have both blasted Yates for the comment, but he remains on the force. And on Friday, President Trump will be there. Angela Davis, your thoughts on the significance of the moment, the place?

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, that’s — well, you know, I can’t even respond to anything he does anymore. It’s just so, so, so, so ridiculous. And it is, however, important to recognize that he represents a sector of the population in this country that wants to return to the past — “Make America great again” — with all of its white supremacy, with all of its misogyny. And I think that at this moment we are recognizing that we cannot be held back by such forces as those represented by the current occupant of the White House. I doubt very seriously whether the people who come out to hear him in Tulsa on this historic day — of course, all over the country, people of African descent will be observing Juneteenth as an emancipatory moment in our history.

But I think that our role is to start to begin to translate some of the energy and passion into transforming institutions. The process has already begun, and it can’t be turned back, at least not by the current occupant of the White House. I’m not suggesting that it’s easy to create lasting change, but at least now we can see that it is possible. When someone like Roger Goodell says “Black lives matter,” even though he did not mention Colin Kaepernick, and even though he may have — he probably did not really mean it, what that means is that the NFL recognizes that it has to begin a new process, that there is a further expansion of popular consciousness.

In New York, of course, you need to ask whether you really want to create new jails in the boroughs in the aftermath of closing Rikers, or whether you need new services. You know, I’ve been thinking about the case of Jussie Smollett, and I’m wondering why — in Chicago, given the conditions surrounding the murder of Laquan McDonald, the police department should be thoroughly investigated. And we need to ask: How is it that the public could so easily be rallied to the police narrative of what happened in the case of Jussie Smollett?

So, there is so much to be done. And I think that the rallies that the current occupant of the White House is holding will fade into — don’t even merit footnotes in history.

AMY GOODMAN: Angela Davis, I wanted to ask you about another event that’s taking place on Juneteenth, on June 19th. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is finally going to issue you the Fred L. Shuttlesworth Award during a virtual event on Juneteenth. And I wanted to ask you about this, because you returned to your hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, last February after the institute had at first rescinded the award due to your support for BDS — Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement — and your support of Palestinians. After outcry, the institute reversed its decision. More than 3,000 people gathered to see you talk at an alternative event to honor you, which was hosted by the Birmingham Committee for Truth and Reconciliation. This is a clip of your comments that day.

ANGELA DAVIS: It became clear to me that this might actually be a teachable moment.

IMANI PERRY: Yes.

ANGELA DAVIS: … That we might seize this moment to reflect on what it means to live on this planet in the 21st century and our responsibilities not only to people in our immediate community, but to people all over the planet.

AMY GOODMAN: We were there covering this amazing moment, where the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute had rescinded the award to you, the Fred L. Shuttlesworth Award, went through enormous turmoil. The mayor of Birmingham, so many people across the spectrum criticized them for it, but then this process happened, and you are going to be awarded this. Can you talk about the significance of this moment? And what do you plan to say on Juneteenth, the day that President Trump will be in Tulsa?

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, thank you for reminding me that these two events are happening on the same day. And, of course, that was, I think, the last time I actually saw you in person, Amy, in Birmingham. A lot has happened over the last period, including within the context of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. They have completely reorganized. They have reorganized their board. They have been involved in conversations with the community. Of course, as you know, the mayor of Birmingham was threatening to withdraw funding from the institute. There was a generalized uprising in the Black community.

And, you know, while at first it was a total shock to me that they offered this award to me, and then they rescinded it, I’m realizing now that that was an important moment, because it encouraged people to think about the meaning of human rights and why is it that Palestinians could be excluded from the process of working toward human rights. Palestinian activists have long supported Black people’s struggle against racism. When I was in jail, solidarity coming from Palestine was a major source of courage for me. In Ferguson, Palestinians were the first to express international solidarity. And there has been this very important connection between the two struggles for many decades, so that I’m going to be really happy to receive the award, which now represents a rethinking of the rather backward position that the institute assumed, that Palestinians could be excluded from the circle of those working toward a future of justice, equality and human rights.

AMY GOODMAN: Speaking about what’s going on in the West Bank right now and about the whole issue of international solidarity, the global response to the killing of George Floyd. In the occupied West Bank, protesters denounced Floyd’s murder and the recent killing of Iyad el-Hallak, a 32-year-old Palestinian special needs student who was shot to death by Israeli forces in occupied East Jerusalem. He was reportedly chanting “Black lives matter” and “Palestinian lives matter,” when Israeli police gunned him down, claiming he was armed. These links that you’re seeing, not only in Palestine and the United States, but around the world, the kind of global response, the tens of thousands of people who marched in Spain, who marched in England, in Berlin, in Munich, all over the world, as this touches a chord and they make demands in their own countries, not only in solidarity with what’s happening in the United States? And then I want to ask you about the U.S. election that’s coming up in November.

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, yes, Palestinian activists have long supported Black people’s struggle against racism, as I pointed out. And I’m hoping that today’s young activists recognize how important Palestinian solidarity has been to the Black cause, and that they recognize that we have a profound responsibility to support Palestinian struggles, as well.

I think it’s also important for us to look in the direction of Brazil, whose current political leader competes with our current political leader in many dangerous ways, I would say. Brazil — if we think we have a problem with racist police violence in the United States of America, look at Brazil. Marielle Franco was assassinated because she was challenging the militarization of the police and the racist violence unleashed there. I think 4,000 people were killed last year alone by the police in Brazil. So, I’m saying this because —

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, the president of Brazil, a close ally of President Trump. We only have two minutes, and I want to get to the election. When I interviewed you in 2016, you said you wouldn’t support either main-party candidate at the time. What are your thoughts today for 2020?

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, my position really hasn’t changed. I’m not going to actually support either of the major candidates. But I do think we have to participate in the election. I mean, that isn’t to say that I won’t vote for the Democratic candidate. What I’m saying is that in our electoral system as it exists, neither party represents the future that we need in this country. Both parties remain connected to corporate capitalism. But the election will not so much be about who gets to lead the country to a better future, but rather how we can support ourselves and our own ability to continue to organize and place pressure on those in power. And I don’t think there’s a question about which candidate would allow that process to unfold.

So I think that we’re going to have to translate some of the passion that has characterized these demonstrations into work within the electoral arena, recognizing that the electoral arena is not the best place for the expression of radical politics. But if we want to continue this work, we certainly need a person in office who will be more amenable to our mass pressure. And to me, that is the only thing that someone like a Joe Biden represents. But we have to persuade people to go out and vote to guarantee that the current occupant of the White House is forever ousted.

AMY GOODMAN: Angela Davis, I want to thank you so much for this hour, world-renowned abolitionist, author, activist, professor emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz, author of many books, including Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us. Stay safe.

A List of All the Crucial Environmental Pollution and Water Regulations the Trump Administration Has Waived So Far During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A Pandemic in Review: A List of All the Crucial Environmental Pollution and Water Regulations the Trump Administration Has Waived So Far During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration has been tested and faced with impossible tasks and decisions to save the nation from the spread of the Coronavirus. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has revoked several crucial regulations in the name of necessity and economic restructuring which has developed a deep wound in terms of environmental safety. Here’s a running list of all the Obama-era regulations revoked, waived, or altered:

Clean Water Regulations:

Brain Damage-Causing Clean Water Regulation Waived Against Court Orders:

EPA waived a regulation for a contaminant in clean water that harms babies’ brains and can reduce their IQ severely at a young age. The chemical, perchlorate, had been recognized as harmful for years and had been ordered by the court to introduce a new regulation by this month. However, the EPA did not introduce a new regulation, instead waiving the current existing regulation out of reason that perchlorate was not present enough in water to the point where regulations would need to be implemented.

Investigated for Poor Water Policy in San Francisco:

The Trump Administration has been accused of doing a poor job maintaining water policy in San Francisco. According to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democratic lawmakers have discovered the carelessness of the Trump Administration in enforcing water policy in California, and this has caught the attention of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Review of Harmful Water Pipeline Projects: 

EPA announced that they would be removing a key portion of the Clean Water Act, depriving states the ability to block harmful pipeline projects that cross within their waterways. States are now limited in yet another way in moderating clean water quality– before the removal of this rule, part of section 401, states were allowed one year to approve or reject projects that go through rivers and streams to weigh how the project would affect the water quality in the surrounding region. The justification given by an EPA administrator was that the law has “held [the] nation’s energy infrastructure projects hostage.”

Waiving Requirement to Monitor Waterways for Hazardous Weedkiller:

EPA lifted the requirement of monitoring waterways in the Midwest for the presence of the weed killer atrazine. Even though the administration’s reason behind this action is because of “the sudden impact of COVID-19,” it is still putting a risk to the health of residents who rely on these now-unchecked waterways.

Pollution Regulations:

Fails to Update Flaring Requirements Linked With Respiratory Disease:

As the health hazards and perilous impacts on the environment caused by the burning of these fuels continue to be exposed, public outcry to re-assess environmental rules and requirements has likewise increased: this past Thursday, numerous environmental organizations took legal action against the federal organization, Environmental Protective Agency (EPA), due to its inaction in updating over 30-year-old regulations regarding an industrial process known as flaring.

Trump Weakens Federal Authority on Clean Air Regulations:

The Trump Administration signed executive orders waiving many environmental regulations. One of the regulations waived was federal authority on clean air regulations. The EPA proposed a new rule that changes the way the agency conducts analyses to impose Clean Air Act regulations. This new rule has been favored by the Trump Administration, and this new rule will effectively limit the strength of air pollution control.

Trump Administration Makes Move to completely Roll Back Methane Pollution Regulations:

The EPA has recently made steps in its work to roll back its methane emissions limits. With the current timelines the rollbacks could be finalized as early as July. Right now the EPA has sent in the proposal to the Office of Management and Budget to be reviewed and possibly accepted. This particular piece of legislation has been worked on by the Trump Administration’s EPA since 2016.

Loosening Fuel Emission Standards amid COVID-19 Pandemic:

More than twenty states filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, claiming that their decision to lower fuel economy standards puts public health at risk– with the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, this ruling has only become increasingly magnified. Because of this ruling, it is predicted there will be approximately 900 million more tons of carbon dioxide released than the Obama administration standards.

US rivers and lakes are shrinking for a surprising reason: cows

The Guardian

US rivers and lakes are shrinking for a surprising reason: cows

Troy Farah                       July 2, 2020
<span>Photograph: Rick T Wilking/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Rick T Wilking/Getty Images

 

As a fifth-generation rancher in Colorado, Paul Bruchez knows the value of water. Not only does he raise cattle irrigated by the Colorado River and its nearby tributaries, Bruchez runs a fly-fishing business on those same streams.

“My income, my life, requires a reliable water resource,” he said. But since moving to northern Colorado two decades ago, the Colorado River has shrunk by an average of 20% compared to last century. Climatic conditions are one culprit – the area is suffering the worst regional dry spell on record.

But there’s another big problem….Cows.

A recent analysis published in Nature found cattle to be one of the major drivers of water shortages. Notably, it is because of water used to grow crops that are fed to cows such as alfalfa and hay. Across the US, cattle-feed crops, which end up as beef and dairy products, account for 23% of all water consumption, according to the report. In the Colorado River Basin, it is over half.

“There are many smaller streams that have been dried up completely,” said Brian Richter, the study’s lead author and the president of Sustainable Waters, a water conservation non-profit. “We’re only seeing the beginning of what’s going to become a major natural resource issue for everybody living in the western United States.”

Agriculture accounts for 92% of humanity’s freshwater footprint across the planet, and has long been identified as a major culprit in drought. But the new study suggests how extreme its impact can be.

<span class="element-image__caption">Cattle in western Colorado.</span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph: John P Kelly/Getty Images</span>Cattle in western Colorado. Photograph: John P Kelly/Getty Images

“The fact that over half of that water is going to cattle-feed crops just floored us,” Richter said. “We had to double and triple check to make sure we got the numbers right.”

Lake Mead, in Arizona and Nevada, for example, hasn’t been full since 1983, and has fallen by almost two-thirds in the last 20 years alone. According to Richter’s analysis, almost 75% of that decline can be attributed to cattle-feed irrigation.

In the Colorado River Basin as a whole, which services about 40 million people in seven states and is overtaxed to the point that it rarely ever reaches the ocean anymore, that number is 55%.

It takes a lot of water to make a double-cheeseburger. One calculation puts it at 450 gallons per quarter-pounder. The study also found that most of these water-intensive beef and dairy products are being consumed in western cities. “Beef consumers living in the Los Angeles, Portland, Denver and San Francisco metropolitan areas bear the greatest responsibility for these hydrological and ecological impacts,” Richter and his colleagues reported.

Related: Sinking land, poisoned water: the dark side of California’s mega farms

Around 60 species of fish in the western US are experiencing increased risk of extinction due to draining water tables, according to the study. As streams dry up, toxic chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides that run off from farms become concentrated, suffocating river-dwelling fauna. Invasive species can find a foothold in the changing environment.

It’s a dire situation, but people like Richter and Bruchez are working on solutions. For the past 18 years, Bruchez has been involved with local water sustainability efforts, including several multimillion dollar river restoration projects, and champions strategies like improved irrigation systems and rebuilding riparian habitat.

<span class="element-image__caption">Several states rely on the Colorado River for drinking water and growing crops.</span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph: Julie Jacobson/AP</span>Several states rely on the Colorado River for drinking water and growing crops. Photograph: Julie Jacobson/AP

The most cost-effective solution, proposed in Richter’s paper, is fallowing farmland, meaning letting it sit idle, without irrigation. “You can’t get more water savings off of an acre than by not watering it,” Richter said, and described it as “growing water” rather than a crop. He noted that the strategy should be temporary and rotational, and that ranchers should be compensated because they lose income growing nothing. Fallowing is at least twice as effective as other water-saving tactics, according to Richter’s analysis.

Agricultural strategies aside, people who eat beef and dairy will ultimately need to consume less or choose products that don’t depend on irrigated crops fed to cows, Richter said. Plant-based meat alternatives can play a role, as one analysis found that a meatless Beyond Burger generates 90% fewer greenhouse gas emissions and has practically no impact on water scarcity.

“Reduced consumption of beef is one very effective way for an individual consumer to reduce their water and energy footprint; however, it is difficult to guarantee that there would be a subsequent decrease in water stress in the western US with decreased beef consumption,” Dr Shelie Miller, the director for University of Michigan’s Program in the Environment, said in an email. “Even with decreased water consumption associated with beef and dairy, there are a multitude of competing water demands in the western region of the US.”

In other words, even if beef and dairy are sucking American rivers dry, addressing cattle-feed crops is only part of the solution to growing water scarcity.

Bruchez, the rancher, is concerned about “the volume of water that is used to put into people’s yards, parks, golf courses, whatever for scenery”. Agriculture, he said, “isn’t in my eyes the only thing to look towards”.