‘It was time to fight back’: My journey from the Republican Party, through grief, to advocacy

USA Today

‘It was time to fight back’: My journey from the Republican Party, through grief, to advocacy

Rachel Vindman – October 31, 2021

On Sept. 27, 2018, I was volunteering in my daughter’s second-grade classroom. My phone was buzzing with updates of Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony during Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. I remember the day so clearly; after I finished at the school, I sat in my car and listened to a recording of her opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

I believed her, and yet my deep skepticism of the news media, my belief in our “system” and my conservative political identity left me searching for reasons to discount her testimony. Maybe she misremembered who had attacked her or the severity of the attack? I could not get her out of my mind. She had displayed such bravery and grace in the face of the ugly and vile attacks.

So began my journey away from the Republican Party.

Grieving and growing

The following month I read Max Boot’s “The Corrosion of Conservatism,” which I couldn’t get out of my head for months. The Trump administration continued to erode my faith in the strength of our American democracy. As a foreign policy expert, my husband did not follow domestic policies and politics like I did, so we didn’t discuss it much; he knew how I felt about President Donald Trump, but he had a job to do, and he has never been one to care about “palace intrigue” and gossip.

The following January, I attended a Women’s March for the first time. I felt like a fraud; Alex and I drove to Washington, D.C., together, and we parked in front of the White House as he went to work in the building while I attended the march. I was plagued with major imposter syndrome!

Rachel Vindman is a wife, mom, podcast host, writer and activist.
Rachel Vindman is a wife, mom, podcast host, writer and activist.

Then, a mere 13 months after Ford’s testimony, it was my family in the eye of the storm, weathering ugly and vile attacks and withering criticism from the president and some lawmakers as my husband, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, testified during Trump’s first impeachment.

As I sat awake in the early hours of Oct. 29, 2019, I realized something. I didn’t leave the Republican Party. It left me.

Alexander Vindman: The White House staffer who sparked Trump’s 1st impeachment, tells his story

The first days and months after Alex’s testimonies were acutely uncertain and scary. It reminded me of my mother’s cancer diagnosis or my very high-risk pregnancy with our surviving daughter; at first your head spins as you process the news, then you learn to live in the storm despite being terrified. There is no other choice because children must be fed, bills must be paid and life needs to be lived. So you figure out how to put one foot in front of the other. It’s the story of women since time immemorial.

This period lasted for almost a year. Only in looking back at it now can I see how awful it was; we were going through the stages of grief and we could only speak to very close family and advisers. Thankfully we had each other, but the isolation took a heavy toll. A few weeks into my husband’s retirement in the summer of 2020, I heard about another journalist – one I have followed for a long time – whose life and family were being threatened. That was my moment. I remember where I was when I heard the story and I made the decision right there: I would no longer be silent.

"The first days and months after Alex’s testimonies were acutely uncertain and scary," writes Rachel Vindman.
“The first days and months after Alex’s testimonies were acutely uncertain and scary,” writes Rachel Vindman.

It was time to fight back, publicly and in a way that honored and reflected what my family and those close to me had endured. It was important to me to speak out in ways that were a genuine reflection of who I am in real life. I want my family and close friends to see me on TV or read something I wrote and think, “Yes, that’s Rachel.”

So I proudly joined a movement of women who were using their voices and talents to fight for the things that mattered most to them. I began to engage and found more ways to promote democracy, amplify women’s voices and ensure my voice is heard in my local community as well as on a national level.

The best me for this season of my life

It is hard to articulate the sense of freedom and empowerment I experienced once I began speaking out and working on causes and issues that are important to me. Every week on my podcast, “The Suburban Women Problem,” we speak to every day women who are making a difference in their communities, and every week I am inspired. For me, a huge part of telling their stories is talking about the good and the bad: what motivates us and how we came to this work while also discussing the difficult parts. Like so many others, I have guilt over adding more responsibilities and activities to my already full calendar – if you’re reading this and you’re waiting on me for a response to an email or something else I owe you, know you are not alone.

Rachel and Alex Vindman in their Virginia home.
Rachel and Alex Vindman in their Virginia home.

I have lost friends due to my activism. There are even those who supported us during the impeachment saga but have since distanced themselves because they do not understand why I refuse to return to my “regular” life. To them I simply say this is the most authentic version of Rachel Vindman for this season of my life. I don’t know how long this moment will last, but I am committed to doing all I can do now.

More than two decades ago, I was hiking near the Sea of Galilee. The main part of the hike was through a river bed that was filled with softball-size rocks that were impossible to stand on so my companions and I were forced to constantly move forward or we would lose our balance and fall. I tried to stop once, and I fell. I still have the scar as a reminder that I must keep moving forward. The scenery and companions change throughout the years, but our goal should remain the same. Keep moving forward.

Rachel Vindman is a wife, mom, podcast host, writer and activist.

Climate change reshaped Earth with extreme weather this year

Associated Press

Climate change reshaped Earth with extreme weather this year

Seth Borenstein October 30, 2021

A train passes a railroad crossing surrounded by floodwaters from rain and melting snow in Nidderau near Frankfurt, Germany, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
A train passes a railroad crossing surrounded by floodwaters from rain and melting snow in Nidderau near Frankfurt, Germany, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
A man watches as wildfires approach Kochyli beach near Limni village on the island of Evia, about north of Athens, Greece on Aug. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Thodoris Nikolaou)
A man watches as wildfires approach Kochyli beach near Limni village on the island of Evia, about north of Athens, Greece on Aug. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Thodoris Nikolaou)
A woman wrapped in a blanket crosses the street near downtown Dallas, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. Temperatures dropped into the single digits as snow shut down air travel and grocery stores. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
A woman wrapped in a blanket crosses the street near downtown Dallas, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. Temperatures dropped into the single digits as snow shut down air travel and grocery stores. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
People take pictures of Lake Mead near Hoover Dam at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Friday, Aug. 13, 2021, in Arizona. The bathtub ring of light minerals shows the high water mark of the reservoir which has fallen to record lows. (AP Photo/John Locher)
People take pictures of Lake Mead near Hoover Dam at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Friday, Aug. 13, 2021, in Arizona. The bathtub ring of light minerals shows the high water mark of the reservoir which has fallen to record lows. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Children standing on a small mud dyke are reflected in the stagnant water, in Langic, Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, South Sudan, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. This is the third straight year of extreme flooding in South Sudan, further imperiling livelihoods in the world's youngest country. A five-year civil war, hunger and corruption have all challenged the nation. Now climate change, which the United Nations has blamed on the flooding, is impossible to ignore. (AP Photo/Adrienne Surprenant)
Children standing on a small mud dyke are reflected in the stagnant water, in Langic, Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, South Sudan, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. This is the third straight year of extreme flooding in South Sudan, further imperiling livelihoods in the world’s youngest country. A five-year civil war, hunger and corruption have all challenged the nation. Now climate change, which the United Nations has blamed on the flooding, is impossible to ignore. (AP Photo/Adrienne Surprenant)
An Icebreaker making the path for a cargo ship with an iceberg in the background near a port on the Alexandra Land island near Nagurskoye, Russia, Monday, May 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
An Icebreaker making the path for a cargo ship with an iceberg in the background near a port on the Alexandra Land island near Nagurskoye, Russia, Monday, May 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
People walk on salt flats in Badwater Basin, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Death Valley National Park, Calif. Death Valley, in southeastern California's Mojave Desert, reached 128 degrees Fahrenheit (53 Celsius) a day earlier, according to the National Weather Service's reading at Furnace Creek. The shockingly high temperature was actually lower than the previous day, when the location reached 130 F (54 C). (AP Photo/John Locher)
People walk on salt flats in Badwater Basin, Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Death Valley National Park, Calif. Death Valley, in southeastern California’s Mojave Desert, reached 128 degrees Fahrenheit (53 Celsius) a day earlier, according to the National Weather Service’s reading at Furnace Creek. The shockingly high temperature was actually lower than the previous day, when the location reached 130 F (54 C). (AP Photo/John Locher)
People ride a canoe through "sea snot" in Turkey's Marmara Sea by the Caddebostan shore, on the Asian side of Istanbul, Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Sea snot is a huge mass of marine mucilage, a thick, slimy substance made up of compounds released by marine organisms. (AP Photo/Kemal Aslan)
People ride a canoe through “sea snot” in Turkey’s Marmara Sea by the Caddebostan shore, on the Asian side of Istanbul, Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Sea snot is a huge mass of marine mucilage, a thick, slimy substance made up of compounds released by marine organisms. (AP Photo/Kemal Aslan)
The Staten Island Ferry departs from the Manhattan terminal through a haze of smoke with the Statue of Liberty barely visible, Tuesday, July 20, 2021, in New York. Wildfires in the American West, including one in Oregon created hazy skies as far away as New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
The Staten Island Ferry departs from the Manhattan terminal through a haze of smoke with the Statue of Liberty barely visible, Tuesday, July 20, 2021, in New York. Wildfires in the American West, including one in Oregon created hazy skies as far away as New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Destiney Barnard holds Raymond William Goetchius while stranded at a gas station near the Dixie Fire on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021, in Doyle, Calif. Barnard was helping Goetchius and his family evacuate from Susanville when her car broke down. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Destiney Barnard holds Raymond William Goetchius while stranded at a gas station near the Dixie Fire on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021, in Doyle, Calif. Barnard was helping Goetchius and his family evacuate from Susanville when her car broke down. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Birds fly over a man taking photos of the exposed riverbed of the Old Parana River, a tributary of the Parana River during a drought in Rosario, Argentina, Thursday, July 29, 2021. Parana River Basin and its related aquifers provide potable water to close to 40 million people in South America, and according to environmentalists the falling water levels of the river are due to climate change, diminishing rainfall, deforestation and the advance of agriculture. (AP Photo/Victor Caivano)
Birds fly over a man taking photos of the exposed riverbed of the Old Parana River, a tributary of the Parana River during a drought in Rosario, Argentina, Thursday, July 29, 2021. Parana River Basin and its related aquifers provide potable water to close to 40 million people in South America, and according to environmentalists the falling water levels of the river are due to climate change, diminishing rainfall, deforestation and the advance of agriculture. (AP Photo/Victor Caivano)
The Dixie Fire burns down a hillside towards Diamond Mountain Rd. near Taylorsville in Plumas County, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
The Dixie Fire burns down a hillside towards Diamond Mountain Rd. near Taylorsville in Plumas County, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Ernest Hollis looks for items at his granddaughter's house that was devastated by floodwaters, Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, in Waverly, Tenn. Heavy rains caused flooding in Middle Tennessee days ago and have resulted in multiple deaths, and missing people as homes and rural roads were also washed away. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Ernest Hollis looks for items at his granddaughter’s house that was devastated by floodwaters, Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, in Waverly, Tenn. Heavy rains caused flooding in Middle Tennessee days ago and have resulted in multiple deaths, and missing people as homes and rural roads were also washed away. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Bare trees stand in a destroyed forest near the Kemerkoy Power Plant, a coal-fueled power plant, in Milas, Mugla in southwest Turkey, Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021. A wildfire reached the compound of a coal-fueled power plant in southwest Turkey and forced evacuations by boats and cars. (AP Photo)
Bare trees stand in a destroyed forest near the Kemerkoy Power Plant, a coal-fueled power plant, in Milas, Mugla in southwest Turkey, Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021. A wildfire reached the compound of a coal-fueled power plant in southwest Turkey and forced evacuations by boats and cars. (AP Photo)
Keeping cool in record setting temperatures, Beau Jess and daughter River, 3, reach for falling water as they play at the Splash Pad in Haller Park on Monday, June 28, 2021, in Arlington, Wash. (Andy Bronson/The Herald via AP)
Keeping cool in record setting temperatures, Beau Jess and daughter River, 3, reach for falling water as they play at the Splash Pad in Haller Park on Monday, June 28, 2021, in Arlington, Wash. (Andy Bronson/The Herald via AP)
A house is surrounded by flood waters in Londonderry on the outskirts of Sydney, Australia, Tuesday, March 23, 2021. Hundreds of people have been rescued from floodwaters that have isolated dozens of towns in Australia's most populous state of New South Wales and forced thousands to evacuate their homes as record rain continues to inundate the countries east coast. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
A house is surrounded by flood waters in Londonderry on the outskirts of Sydney, Australia, Tuesday, March 23, 2021. Hundreds of people have been rescued from floodwaters that have isolated dozens of towns in Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales and forced thousands to evacuate their homes as record rain continues to inundate the countries east coast. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
A woman throws away rubbish in the center of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany, Monday July 19, 2021. More than 180 people died when heavy rainfall turned tiny streams into raging torrents across parts of western Germany and Belgium. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
A woman throws away rubbish in the center of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany, Monday July 19, 2021. More than 180 people died when heavy rainfall turned tiny streams into raging torrents across parts of western Germany and Belgium. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
Boats languish over the last pools of water available on the Payagua stream that reaches the Paraguay river amid a historic drought that is affecting its levels, in Chaco-i, Paraguay, Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)
Boats languish over the last pools of water available on the Payagua stream that reaches the Paraguay river amid a historic drought that is affecting its levels, in Chaco-i, Paraguay, Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)
Ice coats a cave in the Eagle Glacier on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska. The glacier is remote, and one way to access it involves a 5.5 mile hike on a rugged trail to a public use cabin followed by lake crossings. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
Ice coats a cave in the Eagle Glacier on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska. The glacier is remote, and one way to access it involves a 5.5 mile hike on a rugged trail to a public use cabin followed by lake crossings. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
Residents walk along a dirt road in the Urus del Lago Poopo indigenous community, which sits along the salt-crusted former shoreline of Lake Poopo, in Punaca, Bolivia, Monday, May 24, 2021. Bolivia's second-largest lake dried up about five years ago, victim of shrinking glaciers, water diversions for farming and contamination. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
Residents walk along a dirt road in the Urus del Lago Poopo indigenous community, which sits along the salt-crusted former shoreline of Lake Poopo, in Punaca, Bolivia, Monday, May 24, 2021. Bolivia’s second-largest lake dried up about five years ago, victim of shrinking glaciers, water diversions for farming and contamination. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
A man carries goods on his bicycle as he walks out of the Yubei Agricultural and Aquatic Products World in Xinxiang in central China's Henan Province on July 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Dake Kang)
A man carries goods on his bicycle as he walks out of the Yubei Agricultural and Aquatic Products World in Xinxiang in central China’s Henan Province on July 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Dake Kang)
Pink water washes over a salt crust on May 4, 2021, along the receding edge of the Great Salt Lake. The lake has been shrinking for years, and a drought gripping the American West could make this year the worst yet. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Pink water washes over a salt crust on May 4, 2021, along the receding edge of the Great Salt Lake. The lake has been shrinking for years, and a drought gripping the American West could make this year the worst yet. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
A woman is carried through a flooded street in Angleur, Province of Liege, Belgium, July 16, 2021. Severe flooding in Germany and Belgium has turned streams and streets into raging torrents that have swept away cars and caused houses to collapse. (AP Photo/Valentin Bianchi)
A woman is carried through a flooded street in Angleur, Province of Liege, Belgium, July 16, 2021. Severe flooding in Germany and Belgium has turned streams and streets into raging torrents that have swept away cars and caused houses to collapse. (AP Photo/Valentin Bianchi)
Homes are flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, in Jean Lafitte, La. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Homes are flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, in Jean Lafitte, La. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
A kayaker fishes in Lake Oroville as water levels remain low due to continuing drought conditions in Oroville, Calif., Aug. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Ethan Swope)
A kayaker fishes in Lake Oroville as water levels remain low due to continuing drought conditions in Oroville, Calif., Aug. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Ethan Swope)
A child cools off with the water to the fountain during a heatwave in Pamplona, northern Spain, Aug. 13, 2021. Stifling heat gripped much of Spain and Southern Europe. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
A child cools off with the water to the fountain during a heatwave in Pamplona, northern Spain, Aug. 13, 2021. Stifling heat gripped much of Spain and Southern Europe. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
Floodwaters submerge vineyards near Cognac, southwestern France, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021. Scientists say damaging frost that caused significant economic loss to France's central wine-growing region this year was made more likely by climate change. (AP Photo/Yohan Bonnet)
Floodwaters submerge vineyards near Cognac, southwestern France, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021. Scientists say damaging frost that caused significant economic loss to France’s central wine-growing region this year was made more likely by climate change. (AP Photo/Yohan Bonnet)
People travel through a torrential downpour caused from the remnants of Hurricane Ida, near Columbus Circle on Sept. 1, 2021. As weather becomes more extreme and unpredictable caused by climate change, transit officials say that more needs to be done to prepare the East Coast's vital transit systems. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
People travel through a torrential downpour caused from the remnants of Hurricane Ida, near Columbus Circle on Sept. 1, 2021. As weather becomes more extreme and unpredictable caused by climate change, transit officials say that more needs to be done to prepare the East Coast’s vital transit systems. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Fires raged. Rivers flooded. Ice melted. Droughts baked. Storms brewed. Temperatures soared. And people died.

Climate change in 2021 reshaped life on planet Earth through extreme weather.

World leaders are gathering in Scotland to try to accelerate the fight to curb climate change. So far, it’s not working, as the world keeps getting hotter and its weather more extreme, scientists and government officials say. They don’t have to point far back in time or far off for examples.

There have been deadly floods in Belgium, Germany, China and Tennessee. Fire blazed in parts of the U.S. West, Greece and even the Arctic.

Heat waves proved deadly and unprecedented, pushing temperatures in the Northwest and even reaching 116 degrees Fahrenheit (47 degrees Celsius) in Portland, Oregon, a city known for its mild climate. Hurricane Ida paralyzed New York City with record-breaking, deadly rain.

“These events would have been impossible without human-caused climate change,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

In just the United States, there have been 18 weather or climate disasters this year with losses exceeding $1 billion a year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Those 18 disasters caused 538 deaths and nearly $105 billion in damage. In the 1980s, the average year only saw three such disasters.

A report from AIR Worldwide, a global risk modeling firm, estimates that now each year extreme weather is costing $320 billion around the world, with only about one-third of it insured.

“We now have five times the number of recorded weather disasters than we had in 1970, and they are seven times more costly,” Guterres said, speaking about global totals. “Even the most developed countries have become vulnerable.”

Environment | Health – Happiness | Labor and Working | Politics in America | Sustainable Life – Organic Farming | Today's News? | Veterans

tarbabys blog hacked !

John Hanno October 30, 2021

Dear tarbabys blog readers:

The Tarbaby’s Blog was hacked about 6 weeks ago. Our webhost IONOS has been trying to correct the problems, but have still been unable to fix the posting issues, so please be patient. I’m way behind in posting and will try to catch up in the next few weeks.

Whether posting and debating about the coronavirus and public health, the environment and the catastrophic consequences of global warming and climate change, the threats to America’s Democratic institutions, politics, voter suppression and intimidation, Veterans advocacy, fair labor practices or a long list of vital social and economic issues, truth tellers become a target for those who would like to silence public debate and speaking truth to power. We will not be silenced. Please stay tuned.

Climate migration doesn’t have to be a crisis

Yahoo News 360

Climate migration doesn’t have to be a crisis

Mike Bebernes, Senior Editor October 25, 2021

“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories and debates.  What is COP26 and how will it affect the future of climate change? Glasgow, Scotland called COP26. 

What’s happening

The Biden administration on Wednesday released a report that predicts climate change will force “tens of millions” of people around the world to be displaced in the next few decades. The report echoes the findings of a number of previous studies that suggest worsening climate impacts — sudden disasters like fires and storms, plus more gradual problems like rising seas and drought — could displace as many as 200 million people before 2050.

Climate change affects the whole world, but the citizens of certain low-income countries everywhere from Central America to sub-Saharan Africa are especially vulnerable to climate-related displacement. Beyond the harm of millions of people being forced from their homes, climate migration could threaten the stability of resource-strained countries and increase the risk of conflict between nations, according to a separate national security assessment released this week.

While estimates paint a particularly dire picture of the future, some of the effects of climate displacement are already being felt around the world. The United Nations estimates that an average of 21.5 million people worldwide are displaced by sudden disasters every year. Droughts and storms in Central America are believed to be one of many reasons for an influx of migrants heading to the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years. The Syrian civil war, which has created a devastating humanitarian crisis and displaced more than 13 million people over the past 10 years, has been partially attributed to a drought that forced rural farmers to flood into urban areas.

Why there’s debate

As worrying as some forecasts of the future are, a range of experts say that with the right preparation and investment, climate migration can be managed to limit suffering and prevent countries from falling into chaos.

A key step, most experts argue, is for rich countries like the U.S. to do everything within their power to prevent people from being forced to migrate in the first place. That starts with limiting greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. Doing so would reduce the potential severity of storms, droughts and other factors that drive people from their homes. Rich countries also need to offer aid to poorer countries to adapt to climate change — for example, helping low-income countries build infrastructure to handle higher sea levels and stronger storm surges and dealing with major population shifts within their borders, since most climate migrants relocate to new areas of their home countries.

Many also argue the U.S. will need to update its immigration system to prepare for the unique challenges of managing climate migration. Some immigrant rights activists say climate displacement should be added to the list of reasons a person can qualify for refugee status. That’s controversial on both the left and the right. There’s broad agreement among experts, though, that a more permissive immigration system — with less focus on aggressive border enforcement and more pathways to enter the country legally — could not only prevent unnecessary suffering, but also create benefits for the U.S. economy.

What’s next

Climate migration is expected to be one of many important issues discussed by world leaders at the upcoming U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Representatives from nearly 200 countries will meet over the course of two weeks in hopes of reaching an agreement on an emissions reduction strategy to avert the worst potential impacts of climate change.

Perspectives

Strict immigration enforcement isn’t the answer

“States that have grown addicted and accustomed to solving problems with walls and weapons are acting to news of climate-linked mobility by trying to repel people, hoping to insulate themselves. … Not only will this cause ever more human suffering, it will fail on its own terms.” — Todd Miller, Independent

Fear-inducing rhetoric about the threat of climate migration must end

“When most people think of ‘climate’ and ‘immigration,’ they think at the global scale — which can be scary. The idea that a changing, increasingly inhospitable climate will drive mass migration is frightening. … But migration is, and has always been, a form of adaptation — and it can be a major benefit to receiving communities.” — Claire Elise Thompson, Grist

Immigration laws need to be updated to recognize climate displacement

“A lack of lawful migration opportunities forces many of those moving for climate-related reasons to do so without authorisation and at risk of exploitation and abuse. But solutions are within our grasp.” — Tamara Wood and Edwin Abuya, Thomson Reuters Foundation

With the right planning, climate migrants can help the U.S. thrive

“Migration can bring great opportunity not just to migrants but also to the places they go. As the United States and other parts of the global North face a demographic decline, for instance, an injection of new people into an aging work force could be to everyone’s benefit.” — Abrahm Lustgarten, New York Times

The U.S. must provide extensive support for vulnerable countries

“The best deterrent to migration is hope. We must provide the leadership that allows the people

in our own hemisphere the chance to survive and prosper at home.” — Cecilia Muñoz, The Hill

Climate shouldn’t be treated as the only reason people leave their homes

“In general, illegal border crossings can be traced to any number of factors: job opportunities, drug trafficking, political shifts, and, yes, climate change. There’s nothing wrong with bringing attention to these issues by examining them in print. But to solve a problem, you have to properly define it first. We can and should address the border crisis and climate change at the same time. But conflating the two only makes that task more difficult.” — Sean-Michael Pigeon, National Review

Limiting climate change will reduce the need for climate migration in the first place

“The most useful thing that the developed countries of the West can do to help endangered societies elsewhere is to rapidly limit our own carbon emissions — for if we fail to do so and temperatures rise uncontrollably, then weak states around the world will assuredly fail.” — Anatol Lieven, Foreign Policy

We should start helping people relocate before their situation becomes desperate

“Real change — like relocating entire neighborhoods and communities out of harm’s way — would be far better handled not in times of crisis, when the displaced must weigh complex decisions in the midst of chaos and loss, but before a crisis hits.” — Alexandra Tempus, New York Times

Climate migrants can be an enormous asset if given the right opportunities

“The easier we make it for the young to move to places where they can contribute productively, such as by building more sustainable housing and irrigation systems, the better our odds during the turbulent decades ahead.” — Parag Khanna, National Geographic

Is there a topic you’d like to see covered in “The 360”? Send your suggestions to the360@yahoonews.com.

Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Comparing January 6 to a terrorist attack, former lawmakers – including Republicans – say Congress must investigate Trump’s role

Business Insider

Comparing January 6 to a terrorist attack, former lawmakers – including Republicans – say Congress must investigate Trump’s role

Charles Davis – October 29, 2021

Trump mob Capitol attackers fight with police
Violent Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Photo by /John Minchillo/ AP
  • The legal brief, filed in federal court in Washington, DC, is signed by 22 Republicans.
  • It argues Congress has a right to see Trump’s presidential records related to January 6.
  • The documents are being sought by the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.

Former President Donald Trump’s campaign to undermine confidence in the 2020 election unfolded “like a fever dream in James Madison’s restless imagination,” testing American democracy like no other previous US president, argues a legal brief filed this week by a bipartisan group of 66 retired members of Congress.

The filing, first reported by The Washington Post, comes as part of a lawsuit initiated by Trump that seeks to block congressional investigators from obtaining White House documents that could expose the former president’s role in the January 6 insurrection. Trump’s lawyers have argued such documents are protected by “executive privilege” and outside of Congress’ legislative mandate.

But the former lawmakers, including 22 Republicans, say that argument does not hold up – and that the extraordinary nature of the US Capitol riot, not a request for presidential records, is the actual threat to the US Constitution and the separation of powers.

“The once unimaginable problem here, of course, is that a sitting president and his aides personally orchestrated a multifaceted assault on the peaceful transition of presidential power,” the brief states, “and neither Congress nor the public more broadly yet knows the full range of means deployed or considered and discarded.”

What is publicly known, however, is that “Trump played an outsized – and likely central – role in orchestrating the events that led to the January 6th attack,” the lawmakers argue, likening it to a thwarted terrorist plot.

“If traitors bent on disrupting and damaging our government were to meticulously plan and nearly succeed in flying a jumbo jet into the White House, we would not expect Congress to implement stronger safeguards without the opportunity to investigate the attackers,” the brief states.

Tom Coleman, a former Republican member of Congress from Missouri, told the Post that it was vital that Trump’s lawsuit be defeated. “If Congress fails to win this case,” he said, “then you might as well pack up Congress and let them go home because this is fundamental to our checks and balances and the rule of law in this country.”

These Aren’t Justices. They’re Used Car Salesmen, and They’re Coming for Your Abortion Rights.

Daily Beast

These Aren’t Justices. They’re Used Car Salesmen, and They’re Coming for Your Abortion Rights.

Erin Gloria Ryan October 25, 2021

Photo Illustration by Kristen Hazzard/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Kristen Hazzard/The Daily Beast/Getty

One of the oldest sales tricks in the book is the one where the salesperson presents the potential buyer with an extremely crappy option first, and follows that up with an only moderately crappy second option. The potential buyer, dazzled by the jump in quality between options one and two, won’t scrutinize option two as much, because it’s so much better than option one. This has been employed by slimy realtors, wedding planners, and used car salesmen.

And now, we’ve reached the point in the American experiment where the Supreme Court’s new conservative majority has resorted to a cheap sales tactic in an attempt to rehabilitate its image. Lower the customer’s expectations enough, conventional wisdom goes, and they’ll thank you for ripping them off.

This week, the court agreed to hear a legal challenge to SB8, the Texas law that bans abortion once a “fetal heart rate” is detected—usually around the sixth week of gestation, which is actually around three weeks after the implantation of a fertilized egg in the wall of a uterus, or a little over a week after a missed menstrual period in a person with a predictable schedule. The law empowers any ol’ Yosemite Sam to enforce said ban by filing a lawsuit against anybody who “aids or abets” an abortion. This means doctors, receptionists, advocates, and even Uber drivers who bring a patient to a clinic could be on the hook.

Texas Passes Bill That Would Create Anti-Abortion Vigilantes

The high court agreed to hear the Biden administration’s challenge to the law on Nov. 1, on an expedited schedule. Legal observers predict that the court will toss the law out. I—and many wary pro-choicers—predict that after tossing the law out, the media will fawn over the court’s newfound social moderation, and the Susan Collinses of the world will crow that they were right, the hysterical feminists were wrong, and the Supreme Court was never going to toss abortion rights on—as Mike Pence would say—“the ash-heap of history.”

The following month SCOTUS will hear oral arguments in the case of Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health, testing the constitutionality of a Mississippi law that directly confronts Roe v. Wade by banning abortion after 15 weeks’ gestation. Roe established in 1973 that the government has no right to interfere with abortion access prior to fetal viability—around 24.5 weeks’ gestation (a full-term pregnancy takes 40 weeks). Dobbs is the direct challenge to Roe that conservative activists have had a hard-on for since Reagan.

This Case Will Mark the Beginning of the End for Roe v. Wade

John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett do not look like or live like the people whose rights they are about to strip. None of them are women of childbearing age. None of them are poor. Five of those six are Roman Catholic. Five of them are men. Five are white. None of them are from Texas or Mississippi. They would not be on the court in the first place had they not impressed conservative advocacy groups like the Federalist Society with their fringe bona fides that put their beliefs in opposition to the supermajority of American voters who believe that Roe v. Wade should not be overturned, and that access to abortion should be preserved.

Without the smokescreen of SB8, it would have been more difficult for the court’s conservative majority to pass off their inevitable favorable ruling in Dobbs as anything less than a wildly undemocratic ruling by a judicial body that has gone irretrievably off the rails. But thanks to SB8, we’re going to get a taste of “See, America? We could have done Option 1 (overturn Roe as hard as we possibly can!) but instead we did Option 2! (overturn Roe, but less hard).” As though the rights of women to choose whether or not they want to go through childbirth were a used car.

Tossing SB8 is a distraction. It is less than the least I previously believed the Supreme Court could do in its desperate quest to re-establish public trust and a sense of nonpartisan legitimacy. SB8 is an objectively crazy law. If the court were to uphold it, and by extension grant that it is a-OK for states to enact laws that allow ordinary citizens to enforce unconstitutional mandates, there’s nothing but small-time, cable hit-hungry legislators’ nonexistent capacity to feel shame stopping a free-for-all across the country. California’s Democratic supermajority could pass a law that would pay citizens tens of thousands of dollars to turn in people who “aid or abet” the sale or trade of any firearms. Conservative strongholds like Idaho could empower citizens to sue people who facilitate same-sex weddings.

But Mississippi’s 15-week ban is inhumane and patriarchal as well. Almost all abortions occur at or before 12 weeks, because most women who are pregnant and don’t want to be would like to end the pregnancy as soon as they possibly can, plus the procedure is less costly and complicated if it is performed early. But banning abortions after 15 weeks is a particularly cruel move considering that many serious birth defects can’t be detected before then. Fifteen weeks is less than halfway through pregnancy, and months before fetal viability. Unless the state of Mississippi plans on covering the cost of expensive early genetic testing for every pregnant person, a 15-week ban will force some women to carry and eventually give birth to wanted but nonviable pregnancies, unless they can afford to travel out of state.

If somebody showed up at your home and declared that they were going to beat you up and burn your house to the ground, and then had a change of heart and decided instead to merely burn your house to the ground, it would be—at the very least—tacky of them to expect gratitude in response. Hallmark does not make Thank You (For Doing The Second Worst Possible Thing) cards.

Similarly, the Supreme Court upholding Mississippi’s law while striking Texas’ does not cure the court of its partisan blight. This transparent sales tactic approach is designed to trick the American people into accepting the unacceptable.

Guilt, grief and anxiety as young people fear for climate’s future

Reuters

Guilt, grief and anxiety as young people fear for climate’s future

Natalie Thomas, Barbara Lewis, Jonathan Shenfield October 22, 2021

FILE PHOTO: Environmental campaigners march ahead of the COP26 climate summit, in London

Environmental campaigners march ahead of the COP26 climate summit, in London.

FILE PHOTO: Global Climate Strike of the movement Fridays for Future, in Berlin

Global Climate Strike of the movement Fridays for Future, in Berlin

FILE PHOTO: Ice sculptures of children by Sand in Your Eye at New Brighton Beach

Ice sculptures of children by Sand in Your Eye at New Brighton Beach

LONDON (Reuters) – Overwhelmed, sad, guilty are some of the emotions young people say they feel when they think of climate change and their concerns world leaders will fail to tackle it.

Broadly referred to as climate anxiety, research has stacked up to measure its prevalence ahead of the U.N. talks in Glasgow, which begin at the end of the month to thrash out how to put the 2015 Paris Agreement on curbing climate change into effect.- ADVERTISEMENT -https://s.yimg.com/rq/darla/4-6-0/html/r-sf-flx.html

One of the biggest studies to date, funded by Avaaz, an online campaign network, and led by Britain’s University of Bath, surveyed 10,000 young people aged 16-25 years in 10 countries. It published its results in September.

It found around three quarters of those surveyed considered the future frightening, while a lack of action by governments and industry left 45% experiencing climate anxiety and distress that affected their daily lives and functioning.

Elouise Mayall, an ecology student at Britain’s University of East Anglia and member of the UK Youth Climate Coalition, told Reuters she had felt guilty and overwhelmed.

“What I’d be left with is maybe the sense of shame, like, ‘how dare you still want lovely things when the world is ending and you don’t even know if you’re going to have a safe world to grow old in’.”

She spoke of conflicting emotions.

“You might have sadness, there might be fear, there might be a kind of overwhelm,” she said. “And maybe even sometimes a quite like wild optimism.”

Caroline Hickman, a psychotherapist and lecturer at the University of Bath and one of the co-authors of the research published in September, is working to help young people manage climate-related emotions.

“They’re growing up with the grief and the fear and the anxiety about the future,” she told Reuters.

“SENSE OF MEANING”

London-based psychiatrist Alastair Santhouse sees climate change, as well as COVID-19, as potentially adding to the burden, especially for those pre-disposed to anxiety.

For now, climate anxiety alone does not normally require psychiatric help. Painful as it is, it can be positive, provided it does not get out of control.

“Some anxiety about climate change is motivating. It’s just a question of how much anxiety is motivating and how much is unacceptable,” said Santhouse, author of a book that tackles how health services struggle to cope with complex mental issues.

“The worry is that as climate change sets in, there will be a more clear cut mental health impact,” he added.

Among some of the world’s communities that are already the most vulnerable, extreme weather events can also cause problems such as post traumatic stress disorder.

Leading climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, 18, has experienced severe climate anxiety.

“It’s a quite natural response, because, as you see, as the world is today, that no one seems to care about what’s happening, I think it’s only human to feel that way,” she said.

For now, however, she is hopeful because she is doing everything she possibly can.

“When you take action, you also get a sense of meaning that something is happening. If you want to get rid of that anxiety, you can take action against it,” she said.

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; Editing by Alison Williams)

‘This stuff won’t go away’: PFAS chemicals contaminate Wisconsin’s waterways and soil

The Guardian

‘This stuff won’t go away’: PFAS chemicals contaminate Wisconsin’s waterways and soil

Tom Perkins October 22, 2021

Last year, residents in Campbell, Wisconsin, a four-square-mile island city in the Mississippi River, learned disturbing news: toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” used in firefighting foam at a neighboring airport had probably been contaminating their private wells for decades.

As state and local leaders search for a solution, residents now use bottled water for drinking, cooking and brushing their teeth. Yet the situation represents more than an enormous inconvenience. Some strongly suspect that the seemingly high rate of cancer, Crohn’s disease and other serious ailments that have plagued the island’s residents stem from the dangerous chemicals.

“It’s emotionally draining,” said Campbell town supervisor Lee Donahue. “People are angry that it happened, they’re angry that they had no control over it, and they’re angry that their well is contaminated for no fault of their own.”

Campbell isn’t alone. Across the US similar stories of water contaminated with PFAS are emerging.

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of chemicals used across dozens of industries to make products water, stain and heat resistant. They’re called “forever chemicals” because they don’t naturally break down, and they persist in the environment and accumulate in humans’ and animals’ bodies. The compounds are linked to cancer, decreased immunity, thyroid problems, birth defects, kidney disease, liver problems and a range of other serious diseases.

Between July and October, officials in nearby Eau Claire in Wisconsin shut down half its 16 municipal wells over PFAS contamination, and across the state PFAS have poisoned drinking water supplies, surface water in lakes and streams, air, soil and wildlife like deer and fish that are eaten by the state’s residents.

As municipalities and residents wrestle with the water crisis, the state’s Republican-controlled legislature has killed legislation and blocked funding meant to address the problem, which is likely much larger than currently known: only about 2% of the state’s utilities have tested for the chemicals, and those that have check for no more than 30 of the approximately 9,000 PFAS compounds that exist.

“We’ve had difficulty just testing water to get a handle on the scale and scope of PFAS contamination,” said Scott Laesar, water program director with the Clean Wisconsin advocacy group. “We are asking for some really basic information about what’s in people’s water, and if we can’t even get that, then we’re in a difficult spot.”

Wisconsin’s troubles aren’t unique. States around the US are contending with similar difficulties, as increased testing has revealed that drinking water supplies for more than 100 million people are contaminated with PFAS, and the Environmental Protection Agency recently revealed 120,000 sites across the country that may expose people to the chemicals.

A sign warns anglers not to eat fish from the Huron River because of high levels of PFAS contamination.
A sign warns anglers not to eat fish from the Huron River because of high levels of PFAS contamination. Photograph: Jim West/Alamy

The compounds’ ubiquity makes it difficult to determine sources of contamination, but Wisconsin airports and military bases that use PFAS-laden firefighting foam have often been identified as the culprit, including in Eau Claire, Madison, Milwaukee and Campbell.

The state’s combined groundwater standard for six types of PFAS is 20 parts per trillion (ppt), and the chemicals were detected at levels up to 70 ppt Eau Claire. Madison, a city of more than 250,000 and Wisconsin’s capital, found PFAS in all of its 16 drinking water wells in May 2020, but only at levels that exceeded health standards in one of them, which had been shut down months before.

Meanwhile, the lakes and streams around Madison are contaminated at startling levels. Officials have recorded counts for multiple compounds as high as 102,000 ppt, and levels in fish from nearby Lake Monona reached 180,000 ppt. Wisconsin department of natural resources signs posted along the region’s riverbanks warn residents against eating fish.

***

Cities like Milwaukee that draw drinking water from Lake Michigan on the state’s east side face less of a threat because the chemicals are diluted by the large body of water, but many private well owners who aren’t connected to municipal systems have recorded dangerous levels.

In Marinette, just north of Green Bay along Lake Michigan, a massive 10-sq-mile PFAS plume grew from a firefighting foam testing ground owned by manufacturer Tyco Fire Products. The plume hasn’t contaminated the municipal system at high levels, but levels in nearby private wells have reached 254,000 ppt, and alderman Doug Oitzinger said rates of thyroid disease and testicular cancer in young men in the region are “off the charts”. The plume has contaminated the city’s sewage sludge, which now has to be shipped to a specialized facility in Oregon.

PFAS chemicals, including from firefighting foam, contaminates waterways throughout the US.
PFAS chemicals, including from firefighting foam, contaminates waterways throughout the US. Photograph: Jake May/AP

“This stuff is in the groundwater and won’t go away,” Oitzinger said.

Polluting the lake still has wider consequences. PFAS have been found in a range of Great Lakes fish, and the DNR issued an advisory to limit the consumption of rainbow smelt.

Though residents across the political spectrum are being exposed and PFAS legislation has had at least some bipartisan support, Wisconsin’s Republican leadership last session killed the Clear Act, which would have established drinking water standards and funded cleanup, among other measures. The bill is once again stalled in the Republican-controlled legislature. Democratic governor Tony Evers’ last budget proposed $22m for statewide PFAS testing and cleanup, but that money was stripped away. The state legislature is expected to kill new limits on PFAS being developed by the DNR.

In Campbell, town officials are demanding that the Federal Aviation Administration stop using firefighting foam with PFAS, as is now required by law, but the airport continues using it, town supervisor Donahue said. The city of La Crosse, which owns the airport, has sued PFAS manufacturers for allegedly hiding the foam’s danger.

The cleanup effort is also meeting resistance from an unlikely source – water utilities, which say they don’t have money to filter the chemicals. Meanwhile, one of the few actions taken by the DNR that would require testing and cleanup faces a legal challenge from the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce trade group, which represents some of the state’s PFAS polluters. Should the case go to the state’s supreme court, it will be heard by a pro-business, Republican-controlled judge panel.

“We have an industry that would rather not know what’s out there and is engaged in a pretty cynical effort to maintain the status quo,” Laeser said. “This legislature has had numerous opportunities to invest in addressing PFAS and they have elected not to do so.”

Poll: More than two-thirds of Republicans say climate change is ‘not an emergency’

Yahoo News

Poll: More than two-thirds of Republicans say climate change is ‘not an emergency’

Andrew Romano, West Coast Correspondent October 22, 2021

As President Biden pushes Congress to pass his climate agenda just days before world powers gather in Scotland to hash out a new international accord, more than two-thirds of Republicans (67 percent) continue to insist that climate change is “not an emergency,” according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.

Coming on the heels of a summer that featured record-setting heat waves, wildfires and floods — all exacerbated by climate change — the result is a stark example of how U.S. politics imperils global progress on the issue.

The survey of 1,704 U.S. adults, which was conducted from Oct. 19 to 21, found that nearly all Democrats (78 percent) and a plurality of independents (45 percent) view climate change as “an existential threat that must be addressed now with major legislation.”

Yet less than one-quarter of Republicans (24 percent) agree. Instead, more than 6 in 10 believe, falsely, that global warming is either “not a real threat” (38 percent) or a threat that “the government has already done enough to address” (24 percent).

The poll underscores the challenge facing Biden as he aims to slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to half of 2005 levels by the end of the decade and set an example for other countries to follow. Both the public at large and all but one Democrat on Capitol Hill — centrist West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin — favor Biden’s plan to transition the economy to sustainable sources of energy. But Republicans do not.

Joe Biden
President Biden speaking about his infrastructure plan during a recent visit to Scranton, Pa. (Susan Walsh/AP)

In little more than a week, leaders and representatives from nearly every country in the world will gather in Glasgow for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry has called the conference the world’s “last best hope” of keeping global temperature rise from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels in an effort to avert a cascade of devastating consequences for the planet.

recent review of 88,128 scientific papers on climate change since 2012 has concluded that 99.9 percent of the studies agree that humankind’s burning of fossil fuels is responsible for the rise in global temperatures.

Yet even that fact is disputed by Republicans. According to the Yahoo News/YouGov poll, more Republicans continue to believe that human activity is not causing climate change (47 percent) than believe it is (34 percent). In contrast, just 4 percent of Democrats and 29 percent of independents deny the role of human activity in global warming.

The same pattern persists on issue after issue: A huge majority of Democrats and a substantial plurality of independents take climate change seriously and support the kind of major legislation Biden has proposed — while Republicans remain the outliers. The result is a consistent 15-to-20-point advantage for climate action among Americans at large. For instance:

● 48 percent of Americans favor cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030; just 27 percent are opposed.

● 48 percent favor limiting greenhouse gas emissions from gasoline-powered cars and coal-fired power plants; just 30 percent are opposed.

● 43 percent favor a proposal to limit greenhouse gas emissions by rewarding utilities that switch to renewable energy and requiring utilities that continue to burn coal and oil “to pay more over time.” That is the $150 billion cornerstone of Biden’s clean energy plan, which Manchin has forced the administration to abandon. Just 27 percent are opposed.

● 45 percent favor “a program that requires polluters to pay a fee for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit” if it includes “a rebate for families making less than $400,000 per year” to offset potential price hikes on “gasoline, electricity or home heating fuel” — a description of the “carbon tax” plan Democrats floated as an alternative to Biden’s clean energy proposal. Just 25 percent are opposed.

● And 45 percent say a major effort to address climate change would be “good for the economy because it will create new industries and jobs,” while just 31 percent say it would be “bad for the economy because it will destroy existing industries and jobs.”

Icebergs which calved from the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier
Icebergs that calved from the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier floating near Ilulissat, Greenland. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

There are limits to how much Americans are willing to personally spend to combat global warming. Without a rebate, support for a carbon tax falls (to 36 percent) and opposition rises (also to 36 percent). When asked to select “changes you would be willing to make” to help solve the problem, far more say they’d be willing to buy an electric car or solar panels with a government rebate (35 percent and 42 percent, respectively) than without (15 percent and 18 percent). And the most popular changes are the ones that require others to pay more, such as raising taxes on Americans earning more than $400,000 a year (42 percent) or on corporations earning more than $5 million (40 percent). Very few Americans are ready to pay more for gas (14 percent) or meat (15 percent).

The message seems to be that government, not individuals, should bear the brunt of climate action — which is why Biden has proposed rebates for most Americans, along with higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy. Yet while a majority of Democrats (73 percent) and a plurality of independents (40 percent) agree with the president that “the U.S. cannot afford to wait any longer to pass major climate change legislation,” most Republicans (59 percent) say “the U.S. cannot afford to pass major climate change legislation right now.”

With additional reporting by David Knowles

The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,704 U.S. adults interviewed online from Oct. 19 to 21, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2020 presidential vote (or non-vote) and voter registration status. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.6 percent.

A half-mile plastic-trapping device in the Pacific caught 64,000 pounds of trash – including a fridge, mannequin, and toilet seats

Business Insider

A half-mile plastic-trapping device in the Pacific caught 64,000 pounds of trash – including a fridge, mannequin, and toilet seats

Aria Bendix – October 22, 2021

The Ocean Cleanup
Workers with The Ocean Cleanup empty plastic onto the deck of one of the organization’s vessels. The Ocean Cleanup
  • The Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization, launched a device into the Pacific Ocean to remove plastic.
  • The device brought back 64,000 pounds of trash in two-and-a-half months.
  • The organization found a mannequin, refrigerator, and toilet seats among the debris.

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, around 1,200 miles from shore, sits a giant vortex of trash known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The site is home to more than 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic – the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world.

Over the summer, a nonprofit organization called The Ocean Cleanup ventured into the patch to test out a new device it had built. In essence, it’s an artificial floating coastline that catches plastic in its fold like a giant arm, then channels it into an attached funnel-shaped net. Two vessels tow the entire contraption through the water at about 1.5 knots (slower than normal walking speed) – enough for the ocean current to push floating garbage into the net. Once that net fills with plastic (every few weeks or so), a crew hauls it up out of the water and empties the garbage onto one of the vessels.

The device, which the group calls “Jenny,” recently collected nearly 64,000 pounds of plastic over the span of two-and-a-half months. Then a crew hauled it to shore for recycling.

The team found some strange items among the debris, including a mannequin, refrigerator, and toilet seats.

“Toilet seats are very, very common at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” the organization’s founder, Boyan Slat, said at a press conference on Wednesday.

He called the patch a modern-day archaeological site.

“Most of the stuff we collect is fishing gear – that has the highest probability of actually making out to the garbage patch to last there,” Slat said. “So you see a lot of buoys and crates and nets, but we also see some stuff that clearly comes from land. We see things like toothbrushes. You see handles of umbrellas. We see toys.”

The Ocean Cleanup
A plastic bottle collected by The Ocean Cleanup’s “Jenny” device. The Ocean Cleanup

The garbage patch is accumulating plastic over time as more enters the ocean from storm drains, canals, or rivers. Wind can also carry trash from landfills or garbage bins toward the ocean.

The Ocean Cleanup has built a fleet of catamarans to remove plastic from rivers before it reaches the ocean, but Jenny is its flagship invention. It’s the first device that has proven capable of cleaning the garbage patch – an ambition many scientists previously deemed impossible.

Starting Thursday, The Ocean Cleanup announced, it plans to start removing plastic from the garbage patch routinely, rather than as part of a technology test, as it had done thus far. Slat estimated that 95% of the plastic items Jenny catches can be recycled. The organization hopes to partner with consumer brands to turn the trash into recycled products, then funnel proceeds back into the cleanup efforts.

The Ocean Cleanup came close to failure
The Ocean Cleanup
A haul of plastic collected by “Jenny.” The Ocean Cleanup

The Ocean Cleanup has set itself an ambitious goal to remove 90% of floating ocean plastic by 2040. But until recently, it struggled to develop a device that could actually make headway on that.

The organization launched its first attempt at a plastic-catching device in 2018, after five years of research, but the prototype broke in the water. A newer model, released in 2019, did a better job of collecting plastic, but The Ocean Cleanup estimated that it would need hundreds of those devices to clean the world’s oceans.

So scientists and engineers began to question whether the group could deliver on the tens of millions of dollars it had acquired in funding.

“From the very beginning we had a lot of doubters and, honestly, I think they were kind of right about that because we really didn’t know what we were doing those first years,” Slat said on Wednesday. “Honestly, I, too, doubted many times whether we would ever make it, ever get to this point. We had so many close calls. We almost ran out of money a few times. We had these tests that kept failing.”

ocean cleanup
The Ocean Cleanup’s new plastic-catching system, “Jenny.” The Ocean Cleanup

Jenny, however, showed promise almost as soon as the device entered the water. During its first two-hour test, it collected 220 pounds of plastic. Slat said he started to feel optimistic after the third test, when his team texted him a picture of a mountain of plastic Jenny had captured.

“I still get goosebumps just thinking back about that moment,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been happier.”

At peak performance, Slat added, Jenny could probably collect around 4,400 pounds of plastic per day. But there are 220 million pounds of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. So The Ocean Cleanup estimates that it would need about 10 Jennys to clean up 50% of the patch in five years.

Slat acknowledged that his team has only made a tiny dent so far – but it’s progress, he said.

“It’s really hard to imagine that all that stuff just used to float out there in the middle of the ocean, 2,000 kilometers offshore,” Slat said. “It still would have floated out there 10 years from now, 50 years from now, probably even 100 years from now. This stuff is so persistent.”