Nicaragua is one step closer to being carved in half by a massive cross-country canal. Leftist President Daniel Ortega rammed the project through his country's congress last week.
The lawmakers gave the Hong Kong-based HKND Group a 50-year concession to excavate and operate the canal, which is intended to rival Panama's. If it's actually built -- and that's still a big if -- it promises to give an economic boost to the bitterly poor country. Nicaragua would get a minority share of profits and, say backers, tens of thousands of jobs too.
Centro Humboldt environmental group deputy director Victor Campos told AFP the project to link Nicaragua's Atlantic and Pacific coasts will jeopardize the watershed that supplies water to most of the impoverished country's population when it transits through Lake Nicaragua. ...
The former vice-president said in an interview on Friday that he hoped Obama would follow the example of British Columbia, which last week rejected a similar pipeline project, and shut down the Keystone XL.
"I certainly hope that he will veto that now that the Canadians have publicly concluded that it is not safe to take a pipeline across British Columbia to ports on the Pacific," he told the Guardian. "I really can't imagine that our country would say: 'Oh well. Take it right over parts of the Ogallala aquifer', our largest and most important source of ground water in the US. It's really a losing proposition." ...
For the sake of any slow ones in the room, how can we be so sure that humans are responsible for climate change?
Basic mathematics is a good place to start.
That's how Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz explained his confidence that humanity is to blame for climate distruption. He was addressing Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), a climate skeptic, during a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on Thursday. McKinley was questioning whether humans or natural cycles were "primarily" responsible for climate change.
"The rise in CO2 emissions in the last half century is clearly tracked to our global increased energy use," Moniz replied. "I know how to count. I can count how many CO2 molecules have gone out from fossil fuel combustion and I know how many additional CO2 molecules are in the atmosphere."
Canadian artist Franke James knows how to convey gloomy information without being a downer. She takes a relentlessly cheerful, self-deprecating approach to issues too often screamed about by scolds and trolls. (It’s an approach we here at Grist admire.) Her illustrated essays call out individuals, corporations, and governments for their inadequate responses to environmental threats, but in an unfailingly good-natured way more likely to make you grin than grimace. Though her art reaches a wide audience, James is no subversive revolutionary; she herself says, “I don’t like to get in trouble for what I do.” So it’s hard to believe the Canadian government would be keeping its eye on her, much less interfering with her work.
In the U.S., Canada, and beyond, environmentalists of all kinds have been the subjects of increased government attention in recent years -- especially as opposition to fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline grows more intense. (Earth Island Journal has a great in-depth report on this trend, giving a typical example of how a small and civil local anti-fracking group that strove to avoid inflammatory rhetoric found itself featured in intelligence bulletins compiled by a private security firm and distributed to Pennsylvania state and local authorities.)
James didn’t know she was on the government’s radar until promised federal funding for a traveling show of her art in Europe was mysteriously yanked, and the Croatian nonprofit organizing the show was pressured to scrap it. By filing Access to Information requests (the same as a U.S. Freedom of Information request) and poring over internal government emails, James discovered that her art, and its criticism of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s tar-sands-boosting administration, didn’t sit so well with the feds. Her book Banned on the Hill tells the tale as only she can: in a series of illustrated essays, some of which were published a few years ago and cited by bureaucrats in their email exchanges as examples of James’ unacceptable artistic dissent.
We caught up with James -- whose work has been featured on Grist -- to learn what it’s like to be the unlikely target of misplaced government paranoia.
Q.Why do you make art the way you do?
A. There are a lot of people who don’t really like to sit down and read a book, and putting it together the way I [do], with words and pictures, gives a certain amount of fun to it. It makes for a very easy read.
Q.When did you start exploring environmental themes in your work?
Someone tipped off Stephen Colbert to the recent rant against the city's new bikeshare system by Wall Street Journal editorial board member Dorothy Rabinowitz -- and thank god for that. "The most important danger in the city is not the yellow cabs. It is the bicyclists," Rabinowitz says, adding that the new "blazing blue" bikes-for-rent have "begrimed" the city's neighborhoods. Uh, we'll just let Stephen take it from there.
The Justice Department and the state of Arkansas filed suit against the oil giant ExxonMobil over a March 29 pipeline rupture that spilled 210,000 gallons of oil into a residential neighborhood and waterways in the small town of Mayflower.
Residents of Lafayette, Colo., which has a population of 25,000, are collecting signatures in an effort to place a charter amendment on an upcoming ballot that would ban all new oil and gas extraction and establish a far-reaching community bill of rights.
Among other things, the bill of rights would proclaim that residents "possess a right to a sustainable, healthy energy future" and the "right to be free from involuntary chemical trespass including toxins, carcinogens, particulates, nucleotides, hydrocarbons and other substances." It would also declare that ecosystems "possess unalienable and fundamental rights to exist and flourish within the City of Lafayette."
With mounting public opposition against the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that would carry tons of tar-sands oil right down the middle of the country, pipeline owner TransCanada seems to be getting a little nervous. At least, that's the feeling you get reading the PowerPoint presentations the company's staff has been putting together back in the corporate bunker.
TransCanada and law enforcement presentation materials were obtained from Nebraska State Patrol via a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the grassroots opposition group Bold Nebraska. They reveal the corporate logic that’s driving the fight against anti-pipeline activists who have been attempting to physically blockade Keystone XL construction since 2012.
From the activists’ perspective, it’s been a whole lot of police pepper-spray and pain-compliance holds. From TransCanada’s point of view, though, the blockaders are endangering critical infrastructure, and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Here's a fun sample slide from a PowerPoint presentation, dated December 2012, apparently compiled by the company for local law enforcement agencies:
Hellish wildfires are ravaging parts of Colorado. Thousands of people have been evacuated and at least 360 homes have been destroyed by the Black Forest Fire, currently burning northeast of Colorado Springs. It's just one of many blazes being battled by firefighters in the state and across the West.
A new report [PDF] from the inspector general of the Interior Department reveals that the Bureau of Land Management routinely underestimates the value of coal, letting companies like Peabody and Arch Coal snap up federal mining rights for a song, often with little or no competition. More than 80 percent of coal leases up for auction in the past 20 years received only one bid, the report found.
The report said that the process by which the value of the leases is computed is faulty, costing the government millions. At the current rate of coal leasing, the inspector general found, every penny-a-ton undervaluation costs the taxpayers $3 million.