Stuff that matters

down the pipeline

Courtesy Alabaster Fire Department/Handout via REUTERS

The Southeast could be in for more pain at the pump after a pipeline explosion.

The Colonial Pipeline caught fire outside Shelby County, Alabama, killing at least one worker and injuring five on Monday. At the time of the explosion, a nine-person crew was working on the pipeline.

This is the same pipeline that leaked in early September and spilled at least 252,000 gallons of refined gas into the Cahaba River watershed. The pipeline — which supplies up to 40 percent of the East Coast’s gas and serves an estimated 50 million people each day — was shut down for 12 days, leading to long lines and high prices at gas stations around the Southeast.

During the last shutdown, some residents were left without transit as the region is home to little public transportation. The same thing could happen again — Reuters reports that the pipeline will be down for at least several days.


A new guide will show you the way to national parks without a car.

Many of the most beautiful national parks in the United States are in sparsely populated rural areas, which often makes them inaccessible to non-drivers. Even for those who own a car or can afford to rent one, having to destroy nature in order to go see it may be an irritating predicament.

Enter, a website that offers information on how to do car-free getaways from New York and San Francisco. They have just released a guide to visiting national parks without a car.

Their interactive map does not include every national park, not by a long shot. But it does include many of the most spectacular ones in the unlikeliest of places for mass transit.

Who knew you could get to Glacier National Park in Montana by Amtrak or Grand Teton in Wyoming by shuttle bus? stretches, and sometimes breaks, the boundaries of what can fairly be described as mass-transit accessible. For Arches National Park in Utah, for example, it says you can walk or bike three miles from the nearest bus stop to the visitor center. It’s doubtful many visitors will be doing that, but at least they now know they have the option.

dakota access

No, all of your friends haven’t gone to Standing Rock without you.

Although it may appear that way from your Facebook feed, with everyone from your grandmother to your weed delivery guy checking in at the protest against the Dakota Access pipeline.

The reason for the apparent mass exodus to North Dakota is a viral Facebook post asking people all over the world to check in at Standing Rock in order to overwhelm the local police, who have, according to this Facebook post, been using authentic check-ins to target activists on the ground.

But how true is this? Snopes looked into the phenomenon and found no evidence that the Morton County police department is using Facebook check-ins to surveil the protests. “This claim/rumor,” said the police department, “is absolutely false.”

That said, the police could be using other, more accurate social monitoring technologies like Geofeedia, as the Atlantic points out.

As Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, writes:

Here’s more information if you want to help out.

Breathing doom


300 million children are breathing toxic air right now.

That’s according to a new report by UNICEF, which found that nearly one in seven children in the world live in areas where outdoor air pollution is at least six times higher than international guidelines set by the World Health Organization.

The report also found that air pollution — primarily caused by fossil fuel burning, vehicle emissions, waste incineration, and dust — contributes to the deaths of about 600,000 kids under the age of 5 each year. The statistics are most dire in South Asia, where an estimated 620 million children live with dirty air.

Air pollution is especially harmful to children as their lungs are still developing and their respiratory tracks are more permeable than adults’. But as UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake points out, “Pollutants don’t only harm children’s developing lungs, they can actually cross the blood-brain barrier and permanently damage their developing brains — and, thus, their futures.”

UNICEF is calling for countries to take several steps to minimize risk to kids, including reducing pollution, increasing access to health care, monitoring air pollution levels, and keeping polluting facilities away from schools and playgrounds.

“We protect our children when we protect the quality of our air,” Lake says. “Both are central to our future.”


Fossil fuels will be heavily represented at this year’s U.N. climate talks.

Next Monday, diplomats from around the world will convene in Marrakech to hammer out details over the next couple weeks for how countries will act on climate pledges made last year in Paris.

The menacing U.S. election won’t be the only outside influence shaping the talks. Environmental NGOs and clean industry reps of all stripes usually head to these conferences in droves.

But as the advocacy organization Corporate Accountability International shows, coal and gas representatives are also heavily involved. The long list of non-governmental organizations accepted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the body that runs the annual talks, includes groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Shell Foundation, linked to carbon-spewing companies such as Chevron and Shell.

Corporate Accountability International

The fossil fuel industry usually has its fingerprints all over these conferences. As Mother Jones’s Tim McDonnell reported last year, gas- and coal-reliant electric utilities sponsored the Paris talks. Shell and Chevron hosted events the year before at the talks in Peru.

In May, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua called for an examination of “observers” at the talks, like NGOs and private companies, that represent a conflict of interest. Let the debate begin.

gmo wars

One farmer gunned down another, apparently after a confrontation over an herbicide.

Why was there a dispute in Arkansas over herbicide in the first place?

Weeds evolved to tolerate the dominant herbicide glyphosate (aka Roundup), so Monsanto released a new soybean that’s been genetically modified to resist both glyphosate and dicamba herbicides. The problem with dicamba is that it can turn to vapor and blow onto neighbors’ crops, killing them. That was what allegedly prompted the dispute between Mike Wallace and Allan Curtis Jones. As DTN’s Chris Clayton writes:

Jones met Wallace on a county road on Thursday afternoon to talk about an unidentified dispute. Jones also brought his cousin along because he believed it could lead to violence. Jones told deputies Wallace confronted him and grabbed Jones by the arm. Jones then pulled away, drew a small-caliber pistol from his pocket and allegedly shot Wallace until the gun was empty.

Lord help us all.

Read more on the disputes over dicamba.

Catch It If You Can

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Leonardo DiCaprio’s new climate change film is now streaming.

DiCaprio, a longtime environmental activist, tackles the biggest challenge facing civilization in Before the Flood, a new documentary. He roped some big-name pals into the movie: President Obama, Pope Francis, Elon Musk, and other famous thinkers and world leaders.

Here’s how DiCaprio describes his latest passion project:

Before the Flood has been my three year journey exploring the subject of climate change. While making the film, we traveled around the world to learn more about the effects of climate change on our planet, and all of us. I had the opportunity to speak to scientists, world leaders, and activists on the urgency of this issue.

To make sure as many people as possible can see the film and get the climate message, the documentary is streaming for free, in addition to airing on the National Geographic Channel.

“Climate change is an issue that affects all of us,” DiCaprio says, “so please tune in and spread the word.”

Here’s the trailer, in which he sports both a man bun and a fluffy beard:

Dakota Access

REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

An obscure disaster-relief law was used to clear the Dakota Access camp.

The 1996 Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) allows other states to send law enforcement and employees when a governor declares a state of emergency — or, according to its website, “whenever disaster strikes!”

The compact encompasses all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and some territories, including Puerto Rico. Big hurricane hit your state? EMAC facilitates another state sending over emergency personnel while taking samples back to their state’s lab to test for contamination.

But it is also being activated to quell dissent.

Riot-clad police arrested 141 people Thursday for what the local sheriff says is trespassing on private property near a local highway. As EcoWatchDeSmog, and local outlets point out, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple used EMAC to bring in law enforcement from six states to clear the encampment near construction for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The mutual aid law was also used in Baltimore in 2015 following Black Lives Matter protests mourning the death of Freddie Gray. EMAC was even used ahead of anticipated protests at the Republican National Convention, resulting in the deployment of an additional 5,500 cops from across the country to Cleveland this summer.

EMAC director Angela Copple and her staff didn’t respond to a request to explain about why the program is being used in North Dakota.

Party trick

This Halloween, be a jerk — for the planet.

Because what’s scarier or more obnoxious than climate change? Here’s how you can make environmental catastrophe your +1 to the party this Halloween.

Want more spooky costume ideas? Check out our guide.