New Zealand will pack up members of a Kiribati family and send them back to their drowning island rather than grant them refuge.
That's thanks to a ruling by New Zealand's High Court, which rejected Ioane Teitiota's historic bid for aslyum. Attorneys had argued that Teitiota and his family shouldn't be forced to return to an island that is frequently flooding as seas rise, inundating farms and contaminating drinking water supplies. The BBC reports on the ruling:
An eleventh-hour legal settlement has stopped the U.S. Supreme Court from gutting a legal standard that is pivotal to civil rights and environmental justice law. But it only lives to fight another day.
The settlement wraps up a case called Mount Holly Citizens in Action v. Township of Mount Holly, which was scheduled for oral arguments before the Supreme Court in December. (I wrote about the case earlier this month.) It involved a neighborhood of mostly low-income, black and Latino residents in New Jersey who were challenging an eminent domain-driven redevelopment plan, arguing that it was uprooting dozens of people of color in a disproportionate manner compared to white residents.
The case was built on a Fair Housing Act claim that prohibits “disparate impact” in zoning plans. The disparate impact clause has protected African Americans for decades after cities found ways around desegregation laws by basically zoning and pricing black residents out of certain neighborhoods. But an uncomfortable number of current Supreme Court justices have proven hostile to disparate impact claims. Many observers feared that the Mount Holly case would backfire, giving conservative judges a chance to undermine the provision, repeating what they did with the Voting Rights Act this summer.
Thanks to the recent settlement between the parties, however, the fair housing law will continue to protect people of color, at least for now. The settlement requires 44 of the houses built under the redevelopment plan to be offered at affordable rates, and 20 of those offered to go to current residents at no extra expense to them. It also puts the kibosh on a larger effort by the judges to limit the scope of civil rights claims.
Once upon a time, in a land called the grocery store, customers could walk right in, grab a turkey, and take it home for Thanksgiving. The only choice to make was about size: big, huge, or insanely enormous? It was a time before words like “heritage” and “organic” became part of our food lexicon; back then, a bird was a bird, and feeding it low dosages of antibiotics in every meal had yet to be connected to the spread of antimicrobial resistant superbugs. It was a simpler time for the American Thanksgiving, but not a better one.
The turkey aisle has a lot more variety now, but it hasn’t made picking the best one easy. Free-range? Organic? Heirloom? Heritage? Is there a difference, and does it matter? Yes and maybe.
Thanksgiving for vegetarians really isn't that big of a deal. Unless you're sitting at a table where everything has been pre-drenched in gravy or stewed in chicken stock or fried in bacon fat (I assume that such tables exist, but I have never sat at one), there are probably enough meatless foodstuffs to make a meatless meal.
But it's a holiday that centers around turkey, and thus there's an odd spotlight that shines, each year, on meat abstainers. What will they eat? What will they bring? Also: Are they lepers?
When these questions arise, you vegetarians might start to feel defensive or prideful or hungry. In response, let your omnivorous friends know that there are, in fact, plenty of vegetarian dishes that can share the spotlight with turkey and feel a little more main-course-y than brussels sprouts or even a gratin. All they need is to feel comforting, and not yell too loud (e.g. no habañero mac and cheese). Here are 12:
Lauren Regan became a lawyer for idealistic reasons: There were trees; she wanted to save them.
Then, in October 2001, the Patriot Act was signed into existence, and the landscape of environmental protest changed. Police, now equipped with military surplus gear and Homeland Security funding, began to treat protesters differently. So did the legal system.
In 2003, Regan founded the Civil Liberties Defense Center specifically to help environmental activists navigate this new legal landscape. Regan spoke with me recently about how location and legal precedent mean a lot when you’re interested in saving a landscape.
Q. What made you decide to become an environmental lawyer?
A. I saw a potential way to be even more effective as an activist. Before that, I was involved in forest activism.
Q. So you were a tree-sitter?
A. I certainly learned to climb trees. But I was not big on going to jail. For the most part, in activist land, there is an understood line of what is legal and illegal. If you don’t want to put yourself into a position to be arrested, there’s always a lawful space for you at a protest. You can be the media contact, or a legal observer.
Q. What changed during the transition from activist to lawyer? Did it make you see activism any differently?
A. Protests and tree sits can save a little forest with a lot of effort, but getting an injunction in a timber sale case can shut down the entire national forest for a while. I also litigate timber sales and Endangered Species Act cases and Clean Water Act cases.
But then once I was doing that kind of law, I realized that oftentimes activists were getting really shoddy criminal representation. Especially as the punishments have gotten more severe and the stakes have gotten higher, it’s more important that there are lawyers who specialize in defending dissent in all its different forms.
Meet the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. There must have been some kind of mixup when the group's name was registered -- it's not actually a committee for a constructive tomorrow. It's a $3 million-a-year climate-denying group funded by the likes of ExxonMobil to try to convince the world that climate change is no big deal. (Its latest "special report" extolls the virtues of pumping more carbon dioxide, a.k.a. "the gas of life," into the atmosphere.)
The wildlife-killing honeymoon is over for the fast-growing wind energy industry.
Wind turbines are working wonders for America's renewable energy blitz. But a nasty environmental side effect is the heavy toll they can take on birds and bats, hundreds of thousands of which are killed every year after colliding with turbines' spinning blades. The Obama administration has been criticized for turning a blind eye to such environmental crimes, but the recent settling of a federal case suggests that the eye is blind no more.
Duke Energy has agreed to pay $1 million for killing 163 eagles, hawks, blackbirds, larks, wrens, sparrows, and other protected bird species at two wind farms it operates in Wyoming -- violations of the 95-year old Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Of those birds, 14 were golden eagles.
Q.I'm considering moving to a state where gray water recycling isn't legal (somewhere in the Midwest). I'd like to hook up a laundry gray water system when I get there. Of course, I'd follow all the best management practices as defined by the states where gray water is legal.
But if I'm caught, what can they do to me? It's not like I'm going to be arrested and sent to jail for using gray water, right? I'm hooked on gray water and just can't stop using it.
Jude M. Highlands Ranch, Colo.
A. Dearest Jude,
I’m glad you’re ready to talk about your gray water habit. Admitting that you’re hooked is the first step toward solving the problem. But in your case, the problem isn’t so much with you as it is with the country’s widely varying water reuse regulations.
Unless it's immediately proceeded by the word "no," the phrase "good news" rarely appears these days in stories about climate change. But in a year in which we found out that our oceans may rise this century by as much as three feet and that atmospheric carbon dioxide is higher than it has been in nearly a million years, there were still some bright spots. And in preparation for Thanksgiving, we've compiled a list of four environmental developments for which you can give thanks. You can see even more on Twitter by searching the hashtag #ClimateThanks.
1. The U.S. and the World Bank will avoid financing coal-fired power plants abroad.