May Boeve grew up in the '90s, in a world where environmentalism was presented less as a social movement than as a personal lifestyle choice: buy a car that doesn't use much gas, insulate your house, use energy-efficient lightbulbs, compost. So when she was an undergraduate at Middlebury College, she and a group of friends set out to practice environmentalism differently, taking their cues from the social justice movements they were learning about in history class (civil rights) and seeing play out in the world around them (marriage equality). "Clearly, a lot of people were concerned about climate change,” Boeve …
It sucks to be crapped on by a bird. So imagine being crapped on by hundreds of millions of them every year.
That's the reality for Chesapeake Bay.
In the adjacent state of Maryland, more than 300 million chickens in factory farms produce more than a billion and a half pounds of waste every year. Most of that waste is spread over farmland -- ostensibly as a fertilizer, but that just happens to be the cheapest way of disposing of all that crap. Now almost half the farms in the state are saturated with phosphorous from the manure; that phosphorus runs off the farms and into the estuary and bay, where it fertilizes algal blooms that threaten the seafood and tourism industries.
Last year, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) backed away from proposed new regulations to deal with the problem, caving to pressure from the poultry industry. But now two state lawmakers have stepped up by introducing legislation that would compel poultry companies to pay to help protect and restore Chesapeake Bay.
“Poultry companies are polluting with impunity while the public pays for the cleanup,” said one of the lawmakers, Shane Robinson, a Democrat.
With global warming changing growing seasons and ranges, and with droughts and storms picking up in intensity, the men and women who produce America's food could use some scientifically sound advice for coping with the changing climate.
The hubs will provide information about ways producers can prepare for potential threats to their crops and livestock as parts of the country are experiencing increasing severe weather events and pest invasions, which scientists have tied to the affects of climate change. And they will coordinate resources through federal and state governments, universities and non-governmental agencies.
It's bad enough that the federal government leases out public lands to private companies to be torn up and mined for coal. Even worse is that the feds are ripping off taxpayers in the process, leasing the coal tracts at way-below-market prices, through a totally inept program, according to a new federal study.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has leased 107 coal-laden tracts of land to mining companies since 1990, recently generating about $1 billion a year for federal coffers. Coal mining on federal land accounts for two-fifths of the 1 billion tons of coal mined every year in the U.S. Less coal is being burned in the U.S. these days, but it still produces about 40 percent of the nation's electricity. Meanwhile, coal exports are growing.
You might know Tom Colicchio as a Top Chef, but he also seems to be in the running for Top Food Activist.
In addition to being head judge of the Bravo hit reality TV show and chef/owner of Craft Restaurants, Colicchio is an influential advocate for ending hunger and improving the safety and environmental practices of the food system. He is a board member of the nonprofit Food Policy Action, and he recently served as executive producer of A Place at the Table, a film about food insecurity in America directed by his wife, Lori Silverbush.
Colicchio is concerned that different segments of the food movement aren't coming together to support each other. In fact, he wonders if there's really a food movement at all.
Among other issues, he's worried about systematic overuse of antibiotics in the raising of animals, which has been linked to a rise drug-resistant superbugs.
We spoke last week, the day after the U.S. House passed its version of the farm bill.
Q.What got you interested in issues like hunger and food access?
As we reported Monday, the Senate has voted to delay rate-hikes for residents of flood-prone areas who currently enjoy cheap, government-issued flood insurance. Here's the reaction from one of those residents via Twitter:
But budget hawks, along with insurance industry reps and environmentalists, were doing a different dance. The Washington Post’s editorial board had this to say:
It takes some chutzpah for [flood insurance] beneficiaries to act entitled to subsidies from the vast majority of taxpayers who chose not to live on the beach -- or who never could afford it in the first place.
And here’s the kind of mood that this whole fracas has put lawmakers in:
(Rep. Michael Grimm [R-N.Y.] later explained that he threatened to toss the reporter over the balcony and “break” him “in half -- like a boy” because he was rattled from a day of debating flood insurance reforms.)
In case you're just joining us, here's why all this matters: The law that led to the rate hikes in the first place -- it’s called the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, and it passed in 2012 -- sent a clear message to Americans living along our increasingly storm-ravaged coasts: We, as a country, cannot afford to rebuild your communities every time a hurricane wipes them out. If you choose to live in a place that is vulnerable to storm surges or floods, you will have to take that risk upon yourselves.
After much delay, debate, and rending of garments, the farm bill is now just a presidential signature away from becoming law. Tuesday afternoon, by a vote of 68-32, the Senate passed the same bill the House approved last week.
Before today only Ecuador and Dominican Republic had included climate change in their constitutions.
Speaking to RTCC from Tunis, [Member of Parliament] Dhamir Mannai, who proposed the inclusion of a climate amendment, said legislators were concerned about the potential impacts a warming world could have on Tunisia.
“This opens the door for legislation for both the environment and climate protection,” he said.
“As MPs we wanted to tackle the issue head on, and then tackle it through climate legislation, and hopefully put us in a position where we can demand that other countries do the same.”
Retiring a coal power plant in North Carolina wasn't enough to prevent it from fucking up the environment.
Tens of thousands of tons of coal ash and tens of millions of gallons of polluted water have burst out of Duke Energy's shuttered Dan River Steam Station, severely soiling the Dan River -- a waterway popular with hikers, campers, fishing folks, and recreational boaters. The pollution can be seen miles downstream.
The power plant operated from 1949 until 2012, and the coal ash being stored on site was residue left behind after coal was burned. Coal ash contains poisonous heavy metals including arsenic, mercury, and lead. A state agency and environmentalists have been suing Duke in an effort to force it to clear out 14 such coal-ash dump sites across the state, including the one that just ruptured.
But Duke insisted that its dump sites were safe. Just last month, Duke spokeswoman Erin Culbert told the Asheville Citizen-Times that the utility was monitoring groundwater around its coal-ash storage sites to ensure that its neighbors are protected. She rejected environmentalists' calls for the coal-ash ponds to be cleaned up. "[S]pecial interest groups rely on emotion, not facts, to advance their mission to phase out coal," Culbert told the newspaper.
It gets worse.
"We are confident," Duke's general manager at the power plant told the EPA in a 2009 letter, "that each of our ash basin dams has the structural integrity necessary to protect the public and the environment."
We sure hope it felt nice to be so confident about that.
Specifics on the spill are still hard to come by, but it appears that a 48-inch stormwater pipe burst at the power plant, releasing enough ash from a 27-acre storage pond to fill 20 or 30 Olympic-sized swimming pools. According to company estimates, 50,000 to 82,000 tons of ash flowed into the river, along with 24 million to 27 million gallons of tainted water.
Members of Congress have been clamoring for months to undo one of the most ambitious pieces of climate-related legislation they ever passed. The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 would force coastal property owners to pay full market rates for their flood insurance. The law barely mentioned climate change, but it laid the groundwork for a more sane approach to building -- and rebuilding -- along increasingly disaster-prone coastlines and riverbanks.
Last Thursday, however, the Senate voted 67 to 32 to approve the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, which would delay the phaseout of federally subsidized flood insurance by as many as four years. That would postpone flood-insurance hike shocks for Americans living in coastal and shoreline properties. But it would also mean that the federal government would continue to encourage homebuilding in vulnerable areas -- with taxpayers picking up the tab following inevitable inundations.