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Susie Cagle's Posts


USDA report predicts all manner of end-times for crops and forests

Darla Hueske

Climate change will absolutely devastate American agriculture and forests. Don't believe me? Ask the feds.

The Department of Agriculture released a new analysis of cropland and climate, showing that bets are off after the next 25ish years. From USA Today:

"We're going to end up in a situation where we have a multitude of things happening that are going to negatively impact crop production," said Jerry Hatfield, a laboratory director and plant physiologist with USDA's Agricultural Research Service and lead author of the study. "In fact, we saw this in 2012 with the drought." ...

Farmers will be able to minimize the impact of global warming on their crops by changing the timing of farming practices and utilizing specialized crop varieties more resilient to drought, disease and heat, among other practices, the report found. ...

By the middle of the century and beyond, adaptation becomes more difficult and costly as plants and animals that have adapted to warming climate conditions will have to do so even more -- making the productivity of crops and livestock increasingly more unpredictable. Temperature increases and more extreme swings in precipitation could lead to a drop in yield for major U.S. crops and reduce the profitability of many agriculture operations.

Warmer weather, the USDA predicts, will also help weeds grow, potentially stunting grains and soybeans.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food


New-old disaster aid may be coming for troubled farmers

Drought eradicates the greenLast year, American farmers saw the worst drought in more than half a century. At the same time, some disaster aid programs went unfunded. Why? Blame the expired Farm Bill, of course.

Crop insurance and emergency disaster loans are still available to farmers and ranchers, but other relief programs designed to help during times of drought and other disasters saw their funding end more than a year ago.

But now Congress is considering a bill to reinstate that aid “until” a new farm bill happens. (Hahaha [weep].) From the Governing blog:

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is sponsoring legislation that would retroactively restore those disaster relief programs for 2012 fiscal year as well as the rest of the 2013 fiscal year while Congress works on creating another long-term farm bill.

"These livestock disaster programs expired in September 2011, leaving our livestock producers with no safety net," Baucus said in introducing his bill. "For over a year and a half, through one of the worst droughts in recent memory, our producers have been left to fend for themselves."

Read more: Food, Politics


Anti-Agenda 21 bill is back in Arizona, wants to eat your brains

Agenda 21: It came to take your freedom!
Charles A. Nesci

Which state is valiant and insane enough to lead the fight against the United Nations' blueprint for a more sustainable world, i.e. those vile and dangerous plans for global social control community gardens and bike paths known as Agenda 21? Yes, it's wild, libertarian, sprawly, water-importing Arizona!

Last May, less insane heads managed to prevail in the Grand Canyon State, shooting down a bill that would have prohibited state and local governments from adopting anything even a little bit related to sustainability and Agenda 21. But the idea has crawled out of the grave in the form of SB 1403 [PDF], a new bill that would prohibit any local government in Arizona from implementing any "creed, doctrine, principles or any tenet" of Agenda 21.

"Any way you want to describe it, Agenda 21 is a direct attack on the middle class and the working poor," the bill's sponsor Sen. Judy Burges said during a hearing on it in 2012. "The primary goal of Agenda 21 is to create social engineering of our citizens and it will impact every aspect of our daily lives."

Or not at all. In fact, Agenda 21 calls for helping poor people and the environment both. Too bad it's been sitting around gathering dust for 20ish years!

But speaking of social engineering, Arizona is also looking at a bill that would allow teachers to tell kids that climate change is but a fairy tale! Suddenly I'm not so worried about their bike lanes.

Read more: Politics


Seattle and San Francisco consider divesting from fossil fuels

protest: "coal divestment now"

The divestment campaign that began in late 2012 has grown up so quickly! It seemed like just yesterday that Bill McKibben et al were convincing colleges to pull their money out of the fossil fuel industry and in turn feel much better about their moral selves.

Now the movement's graduated and moved on to lobbying municipal governments to do the same. So far Seattle and San Francisco's city employee pension funds are both looking at divesting from fossil fuel companies.

From the Financial Times:

If the Seattle retirement scheme were to divest from such companies completely, it would be the first to take such a step, said Stephanie Pfeifer of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, which represents some of Europe's largest pension funds and asset managers.

Mindy Lubber, president of the US-based Ceres investor advocacy group, agreed, saying the move underlined the mounting push for investors to acknowledge the long-term risk of investing in fossil fuel companies, as policies to curb climate change keep emerging.

"The divestment movement without question is re-raising the question of whether fossil fuel companies are the best investment and I think over time they're not going to be," she said.

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy


We’re on the verge of a scary undersea gold rush

Two of the most popular shows on cable television right now are about digging for gold. Exciting! Gold! One of these shows, the Discovery Channel's Bering Sea Gold, focuses on the human difficulties and dangers of digging for gold under the sea floor off the coast of Alaska.

This pursuit of material mineral riches seems like it might be a bad idea for these individuals, especially that dude with the bloody hand. But when the gold is even deeper under the sea, digging it up could be an even worse idea. And at today's inflated gold prices, digging up the ocean will be as lucrative as it could be destructive.

National Geographic’s feature story on deep-sea mineral mining sets up a scary proposition for the Solwara 1 site in Papua New Guinea especially, where one company hopes to blaze a path into the deep with new mining technologies that could allow for the scooping up of billions if not trillions of dollars worth of deep-sea minerals.

[A] fledgling deep-sea mining industry faces a host of challenges before it can claim the precious minerals, from the need for new mining technology and serious capital to the concerns of conservationists, fishers, and coastal residents.

The roadblocks are coming into view in the coastal waters of Papua New Guinea, where the seafloor contains copper, zinc, and gold deposits worth hundreds of millions of dollars and where one company, Nautilus Minerals, hopes to launch the world's first deep-sea mining operation ...

Samantha Smith, Nautilus's vice president for corporate social responsibility, says that ocean floor mining is safer, cleaner, and more environmentally friendly than its terrestrial counterpart.

"There are no mountains that need to be removed to get to the ore body," she says. "There's a potential to have a lot less waste ... No people need to be displaced. Shouldn't we as a society consider such an option?"


Huge paper company promises to stop being deforesting jerks

Image (1) sumatran-tiger_h200.jpg for post 22288Over the last 20 years, a third of the forest cover on the Indonesian island of Sumatra -- home to endangered tigers and orangutans -- was destroyed. The clear-cutting of the rainforest helped make Indonesia the world's fourth-biggest carbon emitter. And much of it was done in the name of paper -- Asia Pulp & Paper, to be exact. But not anymore. From The Washington Post:

Asia Pulp & Paper, the third-largest pulp and paper company in the world, announced Tuesday that it is halting operations in Indonesia’s natural rain forests, a victory for advocates who have been negotiating with the company for the past year.

The Singapore-based company, which controls logging concessions spanning nearly 6.4 million acres in Indonesia, said it also has agreed to protect forested peatland, which stores massive amounts of carbon, and to work with indigenous communities to protect their native land. ...

Aida Greenbury, the firm’s managing director for sustainability, said that a coalition of environmentalists, customers and some of the firm’s own employees had pushed for an end to native forest logging.

“We heard very loud and clear what they want us to do,” she said. “It is an investment for the sustainability of our business, not only an investment in the environment and the social impact we’re creating.”

Here's more from the righteous rabble-rousers at Greenpeace, who worked with the World Wildlife Fund and the Rainforest Action Network to shove APP's clear-cutters out of the forests:


Bike bans declared unconstitutional in Colorado, introduced in Missouri

no_bikes_flickr_richard_drdul_616.jpgBike happy, cyclists, and bike free! The Colorado Supreme Court this week overturned a ban on bikes in the town of Black Hawk, where since June 2010 cycling citizens have been forced to walk their bikes through downtown's narrow roads or face $68 tickets. From The Denver Post:

Black Hawk's ban forced cyclists to walk their bikes through the city's casino-lined streets on the southern end of the famed Peak to Peak Highway, a high-country scenic by-way popular with road cyclists. ...

Black Hawk had argued that its home-rule status allowed it to script its own traffic laws. The city said the 2009 state law that required vehicles to give cyclists a 3-foot berth was unmanageable for gambler-toting tour buses and casino delivery trucks navigating Black Hawk's narrow streets. So the city's leaders chose to ban bikes. ...

The Supreme Court ruled the issue was not just local but impacted state residents. The court noted that municipalities can ban bikes -- Denver prohibits pedalers on the 16th Street Mall, as does Boulder on a stretch of Pearl Street -- but it must provide alternate routes within 450 feet, as required by state law.

The city's statement on Monday said it would "look for alternatives" to address safety concerns but would not develop an alternate bike path. "The city has no plans to construct any special accommodations to address this issue."

I wonder if Missouri State Rep. Rick Brattin (R) reads the Colorado news? Maybe he should! The state legislator is planning to introduce a bill to ban bicycling on at least some state roads. From the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation:

Read more: Living, Politics


Want to fight climate change? Don’t work so hard

Sleepy business jerks

Here's one way to stop global warming: SMASH CAPITALISM!

That is how I choose to read a study released this week by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which found that switching to a “more European” work schedule, i.e. working fewer hours and taking more vacation, could prevent as much as half of "global warming that is not already locked in." From U.S. News:

"The relationship between [shorter work hours and lower emissions] is complex and not clearly understood, but it is understandable that lowering levels of consumption, holding everything else constant, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions," writes economist David Rosnick, author of the study. Rosnick says some of that reduction can be attributed to fewer operating hours in factories and other workplaces that consume high levels of energy. ...

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


Frackers set their sights on the Golden State

Old-style drilling in California.

California's Monterey Shale is full of sweet, sweet crude -- maybe upwards of 400 billion barrels of the stuff. It's also full of earthquake-prone faults and fertile farmland. I have an idea: Let's frack the hell out of it! From CNN:

Running from Los Angeles to San Francisco, California's Monterey Shale is thought to contain more oil than North Dakota's Bakken and Texas's Eagle Ford -- both scenes of an oil boom that's created thousands of jobs and boosted U.S. oil production to the highest rate in over a decade. ...

"Four hundred billion barrels, that doesn't escape anyone in this businesses," said Stephen Trammel, energy research director at IHS [Cambridge Energy Research Associates].

The trick now is getting it out.

That will require convincing residents of the Golden State to hack up the land North Dakota-style. And by "convincing," I mean "bribing."

Several oil companies have put together research teams to work on the Monterey, said Katie Potter, head of exploration and production staffing at NES Global Talent, a company that recruits oil industry professionals.

If the Monterey takes off, Potter said the impact on jobs in the state would be huge, saying the shale boom has already created 600,000 jobs nationwide over the last few years.

"It could potentially solve the state's budget deficit," she said.

The Monterey Shale is not as easy to frack as other shale areas because it's not flat -- it's been crunched up by years of earthquakes. While there are 400 billion barrels in there, only about 15 billion could be drilled out with current technology; most would require "more intensive fracking and deeper, horizonal drilling," The New York Times reports. Currently, according to the Western States Petroleum Association, 628 of California's 47,000 active wells are fracking. From the Times:

Severin Borenstein, a co-director of the Energy Institute at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, said technological advances and the high price of oil were driving interest in the Monterey Shale, just as elsewhere.


Walmart’s big push into groceries is not good for small farmers

Yes it's cheap but ... Photo: Walmart Stores
Walmart Stores
Yes it's cheap, but ...

When you think of Walmart, you probably think of cheap Chinese products and labor. But about two-thirds of the money Walmart spends to stock up its U.S. stores now goes for domestic products. That's because, over the last decade, Walmart has moved aggressively into the grocery sector, and most of our food items are grown and produced here in the U.S. Ten years ago, groceries made up less than 25 percent of the retail giant's sales; they now make up 55 percent. From CNN:

Experts say that this shift was no accident. The nation's largest retailer adapted to fit the needs of its cash-strapped customers in the midst of a slow economic recovery. Shoppers today are more concerned with buying basics like milk and bread than electronics and apparel, many of which are foreign-made, and the retailer is shifting focus to keep up.

"Consumers have been shopping more for 'needs' than for 'wants,' and that's why groceries are still the number one thing in their budgets," said Craig Johnson, president of independent consulting firm Customer Growth Partners. "In return, Wal-Mart has become a needs-oriented store."

Walmart's crushing the competition, with higher sales than Kroger, Safeway, and SuperValu grocery chains combined. Its house "Great Value" brand boasts the biggest sales of any food brand in the U.S. To assert its dominance in the grocery sector, Walmart "leverages its scale" so its suppliers can pay lower prices to farmers, as investing site Trefis reports -- which is bad news for small farmers across the country. Sure, god made a farmer, but god also made an American profit motive. From NPR's The Salt blog:

Wal-Mart claims its emphasis on local has saved customers over $1 billion while helping farmers. But Wyatt Fraas, of the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyon, Neb., would like to see those benefits and cost savings broken down.