Briefly

Stuff that matters


Standing Rock

Watch people on the frontlines of the Dakota Access fight defend their water and their rights.

Mni Wiconi: The Stand at Standing Rock takes us to the scene of the standoff over the pipeline, where gathered protesters face police violence. The phrase Mni Wiconi, which means “water is life” in Lakota, has been used to rally support for the movement.

The pipeline’s original route was rejected because it was a threat to Bismarck’s water supply, but it now poses that same risk to the neighboring Standing Rock Sioux.

Despite recent developments that make approval for the pipeline likely, Winona LaDuke, founder of Honor the Earth, warns against despair in the short film: “Don’t operate out of fear; operate out of hope. Because with hope, everything is possible.”

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well, that escalanted quickly

Here’s what Trump’s latest executive order means for our national monuments.

The order, which Trump will sign Wednesday, directs the Interior Department to review all national monument designations over 100,000 acres made from 1996 onwards.

That includes between 24 and 40 monuments — notably, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, and Mojave Trails in California.

During the review, the Interior Department can suggest that monuments be resized, revoked, or left alone, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said at a briefing on Tuesday. We can expect a final report this summer that will tell us which monument designations, if any, will be changed.

Environmental groups are already voicing opposition. If designations are removed, it could make it easier to eliminate protections and open land to special interests like fossil fuels.

Zinke, a self-proclaimed conservationist, said, “We can protect areas of cultural and economic importance and even use federal lands for economic development when appropriate — just as Teddy Roosevelt envisioned.”

In between further adulations of his hero, Zinke said that he would undertake the “enormous responsibility” with care. “No one loves our public lands more than I,” he said. “You can love them as much — but you can’t love them more than I do.”


Sashay Away

Coal is giving us blatant hints that it’s on the way out.

And for a government that adores market forces so much, it doesn’t seem to be heeding them very well. Consider the following:

1. In 2016, there were over twice as many American jobs in solar energy production as in coal (373,807 vs. 160,119), the New York Times reported. Note that the coal industry continues to be a relatively large employer in Wyoming, West Virginia, and to a lesser extent North Dakota and Kentucky.

2. But here’s a surprise from Chris Beam, the new president of Appalachian Power — an energy company based in Charleston, West Virginia. “[Gov. Jim Justice] asked me, ‘I’d like you to burn more coal,’” Beam told the Charleston Gazette-Mail. “Well … We’re not going to build any more coal plants. That’s not going to happen.”

Why? Corporations like Amazon and Google that might look to expand energy sourcing to Appalachia have greener preferences. (Beam isn’t the first energy CEO in the region to show interest in renewables.)

3. The EPA just held a session to invite public opinion on which clean air regulations should be cut — ever-conveniently during a Monday morning. The loudest respondents? Fossil fuel lobbyists.

Can we stop trying to make coal happen?


Imperfect storms

That ridiculous heatwave really was caused by climate change.

Or at least there’s a greater that 80 percent chance that it was.

If you have ever been reprimanded by some insufferable pedant (maybe me) for blaming the record-breaking heat on climate change, prepare to receive some validation. A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that you were likely right.

Lead author Noah Diffenbaugh and a team of researchers found that human-caused global warming has nudged up the thermostat on the hottest day, and hottest month, across more than 80 percent of the Earth. They also found we’ve also turned up the volume on the weather, increasing the likelihood of a record dry year in 57 percent of places observed.

Last year, the National Academies published a fat report on attributing extreme weather events to climate change. The report said that, although science can’t deliver an absolute verdict about what caused a specific heatwave or hurricane, it can tell us how much climate change boosted the likelihood or intensity of that event. In other words, science deals in probabilities, not absolute certainties. But as the science improves, with papers like this latest one, those probabilities get higher and higher.


grist 50

Meet the fixer: This scientist brings social justice to her field.

Growing up in New York, Cynthia Malone had clear goals. “I had this vision of becoming the next Jane Goodall — the black Jane Goodall,” she says. She earned a master’s degree in conservation biology from Columbia University studying oil palm expansion and conflicts between humans and wildlife. Her fieldwork took her to the Solomon Islands, Indonesia, and Cameroon.

While working toward her degree, Black Lives Matter protests and viral videos of police brutality gripped the country. So she got involved. Malone began working with Columbia’s graduate students of color and Black Youth Project 100, a youth-led organization that coordinates direct action and political education. She also cofounded the Diversity Committee at the Society for Conservation Biology. Her goal there is to make human diversity in the sciences as important as biological diversity.

Malone is headed into a Ph.D. at University of Toronto studying neocolonialism and who gets a seat at the table in conservation decisions. She’s also building a network of environmental scholars of color and activists to “think through what a decolonized conservation science would look like.” In other words: create a new, more equitable vision for the future of science.


Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.


The beginning of the end

Britain just went a whole day without burning any coal for electricity.

It hit the milestone on Friday, going a full 24 hours without relying on the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel.

That’s a first since the Industrial Revolution — and an indication of big changes in the country that brought us the original steam engine.

Britain is on track to completely stop generating electricity from coal by 2025, with two-thirds of the country’s coal-generating capacity gone within the last five years. The nation is rapidly switching to renewables like solar and wind power as well as to natural gas. Last year, coal produced just 9 percent of Britain’s electricity, down from 40 percent in 2012.

Britain led the world into the coal-burning age, but that era is rapidly coming to a close. Next stop: the future.


Grist 50

Meet the fixer: This advocate connects green Latinos.

Ten years ago, Mark Magaña was a D.C. lobbyist, when the Bipartisan Policy Center hired him to rally Latino support for an ill-fated bill to limit corporate carbon emissions. As Magaña soon found, there was no network to tap. Even within green groups in Washington, most Latino environmentalists didn’t know each other.

“The more I got into it, the more I saw the individuals in D.C. were very isolated,” Magaña says. “If I went to a green reception, maybe I’d be the only Latino in the room. Maybe there’d be one other, but I wouldn’t know them.”

In response, Magaña founded GreenLatinos, a national network of Latino environmental advocates that connects grassroots efforts with power and money in Washington. So far, the group has convinced the Environmental Protection Agency to close several contaminating landfills in Puerto Rico and brought attention to the Standing Rock pipeline protests in the Spanish-language media.

Diversity is the future of the environmental movement, Magaña says. “Now it’s investment time, investing in the communities,” he says. “They will be the environmentalists of the future.”


Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.