Insights
By Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.Insights  12:05PM EST
Corruption Abounds as Bahamian Parliament Threatens to Jail Lawyer and Judge in Environmental Scandal

Undercover police raided an environmental activist's home. Cabinet ministers hacked and then released to the media emails and sensitive financial information from an environmental group. When the Supreme Court ruled that the cabinet ministers had violated the environmentalists' right to privacy, the ministers tried to jail the environmental group's lawyer and the judge who decided the case.

Are these assaults on civil and human rights and the rule of law taking place in some far-away, fragile, failed state, teetering on the brink of dictatorship? Unfortunately, this is happening less than 100 miles from Florida in the Bahamas, a long-standing democracy, American ally and member of the British Commonwealth.

Bahamian officials' alliance with a billionaire polluter, has created a constitutional crisis in their island nation—and cause for concern for their country's freedom-loving allies on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

The target of abuse by the politicians and police is Save the Bays, the umbrella organization of Bahamian Waterkeepers. It's a feisty little advocacy group that safeguards Bahamian coral reefs, beaches and marine environments through education and legal action. These efforts sometimes put Save the Bays and its Waterkeeper affiliates at odds with the country's big polluters, foreign developers and their friends in the Bahamian parliament.

The nation-shaking drama began when Save the Bays' Clifton Bay Waterkeeper sued Canadian apparel manufacturer Peter Nygard for illegally taking public ("Crown") land by filling Clifton Bay and destroying its world famous marine area to expand buildings on his private Lyford Cay residence. Nygard is a well-connected billionaire who boasts of having donated millions of dollars to members of the current Bahamian government. His neighbor, philanthropist and co-founder of Save the Bays, Louis Bacon, subsequently was subjected to a bogus police raid on his home called-in by Nygard in retaliation. Bahamian undercover officers handcuffed and threatened Bacon's household staff, and in what was clearly intended as a menacing gesture, collected photos of Bacon's children. The commissioner of police later apologized to Bacon for the raid, blaming it on an officer cozy with Nygard, and the pictures were returned.

In March, a group of Bahamian cabinet ministers mysteriously procured Save the Bays' private emails and financial records and disclosed them in an open session of Parliament, under the guise of Parliamentary privilege. Save the Bays promptly challenged this unlawful conduct in court. In August, the Bahamian Supreme Court ruled against the ministers, holding that publishing their private communications violated constitutional rights to privacy.

Instead of backing down, the ministers doubled down. They appealed the ruling, which could eventually be heard by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London—the court of final appeal for Commonwealth countries—arguing that Parliamentary privilege trumped personal rights to privacy, and that the Supreme Court lacked power to enforce the constitution against Parliament. Just for clarification, the ministers are challenging the seminal doctrines that an independent judiciary is the ultimate arbiter of constitutional interpretation. That separation of power underlies a millennium of western law.

"The right to privacy is the essence of liberty," said Frederick Smith, Save the Bays' legal director and Queens Counsel. "Were the minister's actions upheld as lawful, it would deal a crippling blow to personal freedom in the Bahamas and open the door to further extreme abuses of government power."

Furthermore, a decision to weaken privacy rights and bolster government power in the Bahamas could affect all British Commonwealth nations, which look to each other's judicial systems for legal precedents.

Even more troubling, the Bahamian government is now seeking retribution through unprecedented, punitive contempt proceedings. In a gross display of political intimidation, the ministers are actually seeking to jail Smith, who successfully argued the case against them, and have even threatened to jail Supreme Court Judge Indra Charles, who decided the case.

Resurrecting an archaic procedure from the feudal dawn of western legal history, the ministers have appointed a hand-picked Parliamentary committee that can investigate, judge, sentence and imprison Bahamian citizens—including Judge Charles—for actions that parliament considers insulting. This is a dangerous expansion of government power over civil society.

Unfortunately, the trampling of basic rights is becoming a pattern in the Bahamas. In early September, police detained Bahamian attorney Maria Daxon on charges of "criminal libel" for speaking out against the government.

This type of bullying overreach signifies a disturbing perversion of Bahamian democracy that could blowback on the economy, 15 percent of which is dependent on the financial services industry and the demand for confidentiality and privacy. Paul Moss, president of Dominion Management Services Ltd, a pre-eminent Bahamian-owned financial services firm, expressed alarm that parliamentarians or their minions had illegally hacked the emails of Save the Bays activists.

"This country has built an industry on privacy, and that is being grossly betrayed," Moss told the Bahamian Tribune. "When the international community sees there's no distinction between the Government and abuses of power, we're going to have a difficult time sustaining that [financial services] business when really it's already contracting."

If such privacy infringements are allowed to stand, it would set a legal precedent that could undermine banking privacy not just in the Bahamas, but in other Commonwealth banking centers such as the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands.

Abandoning the rule of law, stomping on privacy rights, and publicly savaging and jailing sitting judges, lawyers and environmental and human rights NGOs clashes with the Bahamas' hard-won image as a financial and tourist haven. It's time for level-headed leaders in the Bahamas to step in and fix this fiasco before more lasting damage is done.

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By David GuggenheimInsights  04:37PM EST
How Castro and Cousteau's Legendary Friendship Preserved Cuba's Oceans

Our captain watched with some consternation as an unidentified vessel, gray with no markings, headed straight toward our vessel, anchored more than 50 miles off Cuba's southern coast. Others in the crew speculated nervously about the approaching boat, never previously seen in these parts. The boat pulled alongside and two imposing figures boarded, both in olive military uniforms. A mustachioed representative of the Ministry of Interior stood beside his taller colleague whose uniform, like the boat that carried him, bore no markings at all. A sidearm hung imposingly from his belt. He turned to the captain and requested to meet with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. makes a journal entry aboard ship during The Explorers Club's expedition to document unexplored waters off southern Cuba in 2014.David E. Guggenheim

At that moment, Kennedy—a leading environmental activist, president of Waterkeeper Alliance and son of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy—was 90 feet below the surface with the rest of our group, observing a dozen or so Caribbean reef sharks tracing mesmerizing circles about us. We were carrying the flag of The Explorers Club, visiting and documenting previously unexplored coral reef ecosystems in Cuba's southern waters.

After returning to the boat, the mission of our mysterious guests was revealed. We had been visited by a representative of former Cuban president Fidel Castro's personal guard who had a letter from the Comandante for Kennedy. Mission complete, they posed for a quick photo and departed on the 50-mile journey back to shore and the six-hour drive back to Havana. They had traveled an incredible distance to find us and hand-deliver a letter. We were obviously quite curious as to its contents.

Our captain, Arjel, and the two soldiers that delivered the letter from El Comandante to our vessel.David E. Guggenheim

A few days earlier, Kennedy, Jr. and his family had visited with Castro, who welcomed them warmly. Nearly 52 years prior, Robert Kennedy, serving as U.S. Attorney General, and his brother, President John F. Kennedy, were within a whisker of war with Cuba and the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The quiet Castro-Kennedy, Jr. meeting was historical. Relations between Cuba and the U.S. were warming, though the dramatic announcement of normalization of diplomatic relations would not occur for another six months.

Kennedy, Jr. shared the letter with me, a polite set of Castro's reflections on the meeting and kind words for Kennedy and his family. What I found especially significant in the letter was his discussion about oceans:

"For many years I was a passionate spearfisherman without the proper awareness of the beauty and value of coral reefs. Through this I knew some of the experiences of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who in such a way fell in love with the sea that ended up becoming one of the most famous defenders of the life and the value of the seas. Today it is known that the sea is one of the largest and varied sources of protein foods. These factors helped me understand the importance of the services you have rendered to the people of the United States and other nations of the world in their struggle to protect the environment."

The influence of Cousteau on Castro has been a recurring theme I have heard from Cuban colleagues during my many years working in Cuba. Castro read and was influenced by Cousteau's books and, in 1985 when Cousteau visited the island to make a documentary, the two finally met and shared a special friendship. Castro granted Cousteau with rare privilege during his visits. Cousteau and his team became the first non-Cubans to pass through the gate of the U.S. Navy's Guantanamo Bay installation since 1962. He is reported to have freed dozens of political prisoners at Cousteau's request. And Castro spent a great deal of time with Cousteau, dining with him aboard his vessel, Calypso.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau's Vessel, Calypso, in Havana Bay (1985)Cousteau Society

In the late nineties, aboard another research vessel visiting from the U.S., Castro reflected on his friendship with Cousteau and said, "You know, he loved exploring Cuban waters because of our protection." In the Cousteau documentary, Cuba: Waters of Destiny, Cousteau is clearly taken with what he observes in Cuba: "My first dive in the waters of Cuba serves as a moment of truth…around me, large fish among flourishing coral, a reef more rich than any I have seen in years," a stunning reminder that even 30 years ago, the unraveling of coral reef ecosystems in the Caribbean was well underway. Today it is estimated that the Caribbean has lost half of its coral cover. Spared in part by a history that has caused Cuba to develop profoundly differently than the rest of the Caribbean, coupled with world-class environmental laws, many of Cuba's coral reef ecosystems have been spared the demise observed throughout the Caribbean.

Before allowing the Calypso to depart Cuba's waters, Castro challenged Cousteau, asking him why he didn't have a Cuban scientist aboard. Consequently, Cousteau later welcomed Dr. Gaspar Gonzalez Sansón, former vice director of the University of Havana's Center for Marine Research, to serve as a visiting scientist aboard Calypso in New Zealand. Years later, Dr. Gonzalez would become our co-principal investigator for a decade of expeditions off Cuba's northwestern coast and regaled us with hilarious tales of a Cuban among Frenchmen aboard Calypso.

Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau (left) and Dr. Gaspar Gonzalez Sansón (right) on the bow of the Calypso in New Zealand. At the request of Fidel Castro, Dr. Gonzalez served as a visiting scientist during Cousteau's "Rediscovery of the World" expedition.

The friendship of Cousteau and Castro continued and strengthened in environmental solidarity at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 where Castro delivered a sharply-worded and uncharacteristically brief address, imploring the developed world to "stop transferring to the Third World lifestyles and consumer habits that ruin the environment. Make human life more rational." In early 1998, less than six months after Cousteau passed away, Castro fondly remembers a playful encounter with Cousteau at the Rio Earth Summit: "They have all the heads of state lined up for a 'photo op' in Rio, and I pulled him [Cousteau] up with me, and say, 'Captain, join this picture in the 'photo op' because most people here know nothing about the environment. And he came up and was in the 'photo op' with all of us."

President Fidel Castro and Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau in a playful exchange at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.

In July 1997, Cuba enacted Law 81, the Law of the Environment, a truly impressive set of laws and regulations meant to reverse the environmental damage from prior decades and chart a path of sustainability. Within a decade, Cuba banned the destructive fishing practice of bottom trawling from its waters. Today, Cuba has nearly met its goal of protecting 25 percent of its marine waters in marine protected areas, one of the largest percentages in the world. (In comparison, the world average is currently 2-3 percent). Many Cubans attribute Law 81 and Cuba's ongoing commitment to the environment to Castro's environmental ethic, which the Comandante, in part, attributes to Cousteau.

With the passing of Castro and a possible retreat on Cuba relations by an incoming Trump Administration, there is a growing uneasiness about Cuba's uncertain future. Facing profound economic need and unprecedented growth pressure, especially in response to plans more than triple tourism by 2030, Cuba will be put to the test in the months and years ahead. For now, Cuba remains a green, unspoiled jewel in the Caribbean. It is a place where policy is still informed by science and fact, and decisions governed by its laws.

By 2014, it had been some time since Castro had last donned a mask and personally explored Cuba's waters, but it was clear that his passion and curiosity for the sea was as strong as ever. In his letter, Castro made a simple but urgent request of Kennedy, Jr: "Today, I beg you, if you have a few minutes, tell me about the general impression of what you have seen on the bottom..." Several weeks later, Kennedy complied and assured the Comandante that for now, Cuba's marine ecosystems were still healthy and spectacular.

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Insights
By Carl PopeEnergy  04:10PM EST
Standing Rock: Native American's Version of Gandhi's 1930 Salt March

Today was supposed to be the deadline for thousands of protesters encamped to prevent completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline across Lake Oahe on the Missouri River to evacuate their camp-sites. Instead it has become a moment of celebration, as the Army Corps of Engineers and the Obama Administration have concluded that a new Environmental Impact Statement is needed to determine the best route across the Missouri River. But the incoming Trump Administration is likely to reverse the decision, with uncertain legal results for the environmental assessment process.

The resistance by the Standing Rock Sioux nation and its allies to the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline routing signaled a new stage in evolving community resistance to fossil fuel extraction and transportation—but also reveals some ugly fissures within America as we enter a four year, almost certainly traumatic presidency.

Standing Rock has been the largest and one of the longest, Native American resistance protests in modern America. It differs from earlier fossil fuel protests like those against Keystone XL or Shell's basing Arctic drilling vessels in the Port of Seattle because the protesters attempted to physically disrupt the construction, not just symbolically protest it.

They have succeeded, for the moment. Months ago construction slowed, Corps of Engineers permits were suspended and the President had already called for consideration of alternative routes. Native American vetoes of fossil fuel projects had become an acknowledged part of the regulatory and permitting landscape in Canada, but only recently have the tribes inserted themselves routinely into these processes in the U.S. They have some won victories already, as when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied the permit for a coal and oil export terminal at Cherry Point, Washington, saying the project would impair fishing grounds guaranteed to the Lummi Nation by treaty.

The backstory of the project is particularly outrageous; alternative routings that would have avoided the Standing Rock issues altogether appear to have been rejected by the Army Corps and the developer, Energy Transfer Partners, because they might threaten water supplies for Bismark, North Dakota—a conscious decision to put an Indian nation at risk to protect a non-Indian community. Energy Transfer Partners appears to have tried to cover up evidence that the construction was disrupting sacred sites and actually faces fines from North Dakota as a result. And both the state and Energy Transfer have persistently treated the Standing Rock Sioux as one among many stakeholders who should be expected to participate in the regulatory process designed by North Dakota, rather than as a sovereign nation whose rights were, at the very least, in dispute and needed to be negotiated.

Indian advocates point to Standing Rock as evidence of a broad consciousness among Native Americans of the need to see the fight against fossil fuel development as continental. By September, more than 300 tribes had gathered at the protest camp, at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers, along with numerous non-Indian supporters like a contingent of Catholic workers.

Standing Rock organizers cite the evolution in Canada of a multi-First Nation alliance to resist any and all projects that would increase production of oil from the Albert tar sands. The first version of this treaty was signed in 2013; the latest, signed last September, and has now grown to link 112 Canadian and Northern U.S. tribes in a united front to oppose all pipelines or other infrastructure which might facilitate increased tar sands production.

(Their opposition is critical because Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, last week approved two pipeline expansions serving the tar sands, expansions which would enable an additional 900,000 barrels of oil a date to reach U.S. and world markets, significantly increasing the likely price tar sands producers can get for their product, and the amount of it they can pump. But the First Nations will continue the fight).

In response to the Standing Rock ongoing protests, the New York Times intensified its coverage of the resistance, including the first of two full throated editorials calling for the pipeline to be rerouted. Then, on the night Nov. 20, police surrounding the protesters escalated their tactics and crossed the line into brutal crowd suppression. In the words of a second The Times editorial denouncing the actions, "They drenched protesters with water cannons on a frigid night, with temperatures in the 20s. According to protesters and news accounts, the officers also fired rubber bullets, pepper spray, concussion grenades and tear gas. More than 160 people were reportedly injured, with one protester's arm damaged so badly she might lose it."

By the standards of historic violence against Native Americans, this is small bore stuff—nothing like Wounded Knee for example. But it has been some time since peaceful protesters in the U.S. were met with such violence. A recently established norm—that Americans may disruptively protest as long as they are peaceful without fearing police violence—broke down.

After the brutal events of Nov. 20, the first instinct of the Corps and the State were to intensify the crack-down. The Corps declared that it would shut down the camp-site where most of the protesters have been housed and that any who remained would be subject to arrest for trespass. (This was stunningly tone deaf after the events in Eastern Oregon where right-wing ranchers armed with guns and openly threatening violence were permitted to occupy a federal wildlife refuge which also was the home to important sacred sites without being arrested for months). The state of North Dakota followed up by ordering the protesters evicted because their dwellings were not adequately winter-proofed.

Both the Army Corps and North Dakota backed off slightly in the days following, the Corps making clear it would not forcibly evict protesters even if they were trespassing, and the state clarifying that it's "blockade" of food and other supplies would be enforced with a threat of fines, not by actually physically obstructing access. Two thousand U.S. veterans organized as Veterans Stand for Standing Rock, agreed to serve as human shields for the protesters to avoid the kind of violence that flared up on Nov. 20. Then came Sunday's stunning announcement.

In some ways Standing Rock is a Native American version of Gandhi's 1930 Salt March—and while the Trump Administration is likely to try to ram through the permits needed to complete Dakota Access, it's similar efforts to revive Keystone XL are triggering vociferous opposition from Nebraska ranchers, unlikely partners with the Sioux, but symbolic of a new and emerging coalition. And Gandhi did not succeed in undoing the Salt Taxes—his game was much bigger, intensifying Indian resistance to British rule. Standing Rock, even if the pipeline gets built, seems likely to have had that impact across a wide swathe of Indian Country in the U.S.


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By Stefanie SpearEnergy  05:59PM EST
Standing Rock Celebrates as Army Corps Denies Key Permit, Halts Project

The Obama Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers officially denied the easement to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota after a many months-long campaign by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and allies against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Army Corps will undertake an environmental impact statement (EIS) to look at potential alternative routes for the pipeline.

"Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it's clear that there's more work to do," Assistant Sec. of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy said in a statement. "The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing."

Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II celebrated the news. "We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration and commend with the utmost gratitude the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing," he said.

"The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all of Indian Country will be forever grateful to the Obama Administration for this historic decision. We thank the tribal youth who initiated this movement. We thank the millions of people around the globe who expressed support for our cause. We thank the thousands of people who came to the camps to support us, and the tens of thousands who donated time, talent and money to our efforts to stand against this pipeline in the name of protecting our water. We especially thank all of the other tribal nations and jurisdictions who stood in solidarity with us, and we stand ready to stand with you if and when your people are in need."

The 1,172-mile pipeline would carry 470,000 barrels per day from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to a refinery in Illinois. The $3.7 billion project was entering its final stretch. More than 80 percent of the pipeline has already been constructed.

According to a tweet from Dallas Goldtooth of Indigenous Environmental Network, "It is NOT a straight DENIAL but rather a MAJOR suspension on a decision pending a limited EIS. The U.S. Army Corps will conduct a limited Environmental Impact Statement on the river crossing and explore possibilities for alternative routes. This is a win! A huge win!"

Here's what Interior Sec. Sally Jewell tweeted today:

Thousands of veterans arrived at the Oceti Sakowin protest camp today to act as an unarmed militia and peaceful human shields to protect the Indigenous activists from police brutality.

"The water protectors have done it," Greenpeace spokesperson Lilian Molina said. "This is a monumental victory in the fight to protect Indigenous rights and sovereignty. Today's decision shows that when people unite to stand for what's right, they can alter the course of history.

"We are confident that a thorough environmental impact statement will show that this pipeline will jeopardize land and water supply no matter where they attempt to place it. To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must keep dirty fossil fuels in the ground.

"Energy Transfer Partners, Governor Dalrymple and President-Elect Trump must respect today's decision and recognize the will of the people to stop this disastrous pipeline. The fight doesn't end today. Any attempt to circumvent the easement denial will be met with staunch resistance."

Here's the rest of Archambault statement:

Throughout this effort I have stressed the importance of acting at all times in a peaceful and prayerful manner – and that is how we will respond to this decision. With this decision we look forward to being able to return home and spend the winter with our families and loved ones, many of whom have sacrificed as well. We look forward to celebrating in wopila, in thanks, in the coming days.

We hope that Kelcey Warren, Governor Dalrymple, and the incoming Trump administration respect this decision and understand the complex process that led us to this point. When it comes to infrastructure development in Indian Country and with respect to treaty lands, we must strive to work together to reach decisions that reflect the multifaceted considerations of tribes.

Treaties are paramount law and must be respected, and we welcome dialogue on how to continue to honor that moving forward. We are not opposed to energy independence, economic development, or national security concerns but we must ensure that these decisions are made with the considerations of our Indigenous peoples.

To our local law enforcement, I hope that we can work together to heal our relationship as we all work to protect the lives and safety of our people. I recognize the extreme stress that the situation caused and look forward to a future that reflects more mutual understanding and respect.

Again, we are deeply appreciative that the Obama Administration took the time and effort to genuinely consider the broad spectrum of tribal concerns. In a system that has continuously been stacked against us from every angle, it took tremendous courage to take a new approach to our nation-to-nation relationship, and we will be forever grateful.

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Insights
By Bill McKibbenTrump Watch  10:58AM EST
Bill McKibben: How to Save the Planet From Trump

We're going to be dealing with an onslaught of daily emergencies during the Donald Trump years. Already it's begun—if there's nothing going on (or in some cases when there is), our leader often begins the day with a tweet to stir the pot and suddenly we're debating whether burning the flag should lose you your citizenship.

These crises will get worse once he has power—from day to day we'll have to try and protect vulnerable immigrants or deal with the latest outrage from the white supremacist "alt-reich" or confront the latest self-dealing scandal in the upper reaches of the Tower. It will be a game (though not a fun one), for 48 months, of trying to preserve as many people and as much of the Constitution as possible.

Apollo 17's Blue Marble.NASA

And if we're very lucky, at the end of those four years, we might be able to go back to something that resembles normal life. Much damage will have been done in the meantime, but perhaps not irreparable damage. Obamacare will be gone, but something like it—maybe even something better—will be resurrectable. The suffering in the meantime will be real, but it won't make the problem harder to solve, assuming reason someday returns. That's, I guess, the good news: that someday normal life may resume.

But even that slight good news doesn't apply to the question of climate change. It's very likely that by the time Trump is done we'll have missed whatever opening still remains for slowing down the trajectory of global warming—we'll have crossed thresholds from which there's no return. In this case, the damage he's promising will be permanent, for two reasons.

The first is the most obvious: The adversary here is ultimately physics, which plays by its own rules. As we continue to heat the planet, we see that planet changing in ways that turn into feedback loops. If you make it hot enough to melt Arctic ice (and so far we've lost about half of our supply) then one of the side effects is removing a nice white mirror from the top of the planet. Instead of that mirror reflecting 80 percent of the sun's rays out to space, you've now got blue water that absorbs most of the incoming rays of the sun, amping up the heat. Oh, and as that water warms, the methane frozen in its depths eventually begins to melt—and methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Even if, someday, we get a president back in power who's willing to try and turn down the coal, gas and oil burning, there will be nothing we can do about that melting methane. Some things are forever, or at least for geologic time.

There's another reason too, however, and that's that the international political mechanisms Trump wants to smash can't easily be assembled again, even with lots of future good will. It took immense diplomatic efforts to reach the Paris climate accords—25 years of negotiating with endless setbacks. The agreement itself is a jury-rigged kludge, but at least it provides a mechanism for action. It depends on each country voluntarily doing its part, though, and if the biggest historic source of the planet's carbon decides not to play, it's easy to guess that an awful lot of other leaders will decide that they'd just as soon give in to their fossil fuel interests too.

So Trump is preparing to make a massive bet: a bet that the scientific consensus about climate change is wrong, and that the other 191 nations of the world are wrong as well. It's a bet based on literally nothing—when The New York Times asked him about global warming, he started mumbling about a physicist uncle of his who died in 1985. The job—and it may not be a possible job—is for the rest of us to figure out how to make the inevitable loss of this bet as painless as possible.

It demands fierce resistance to his silliness—clearly his people are going to kill Obama's Clean Power Plan, but perhaps they can be shamed into simply ignoring but not formally abrogating the Paris accords. This is work not just for activists, but for the elites that Trump actually listens to. Here's where we need what's left of the establishment to be weighing in: Fortune 500 executives, Wall Streeters—anyone who knows how stupid a bet this is.

But we also need to be working hard on other levels. The fossil fuel industry is celebrating Trump's election, and rightly so—but we can continue to make their lives at least a little difficult, through campaigns like fossil fuel divestment and through fighting every pipeline and every coal port. The federal battles will obviously be harder, and we may lose even victories like Keystone. But there are many levers of power, and the ones closer to home are often easier to pull.

We also have to work at state and local levels to support what we want. The last election, terrible as it was, showed that renewable energy is popular even in red states—Florida utilities lost their bid to sideline solar energy, for instance. The hope is that we can keep the buildout of sun and wind, which is beginning to acquire real momentum, on track; if so, costs will keep falling to the point where simple economics may overrule even Trumpish ideology.

And of course we have to keep communicating, all the time, about the crisis—using the constant stream of signals from the natural world to help people understand the folly of our stance. As I write this, the Smoky Mountain town of Gatlinburg is on fire, with big hotels turned to ash at the end of a devastating drought. Mother Nature will provide us an endless string of teachable moments, and some of them will break through—it's worth remembering that the Bush administration fell from favor as much because of Katrina as Iraq.

None of these efforts will prevent massive, and perhaps fatal, damage to the effort to constrain climate change. It's quite possible, as many scientists said the day after the election, that we've lost our best chance. But we don't know precisely how the physics will play out, and every ton of carbon we keep out of the atmosphere will help.

And amidst this long ongoing emergency, as I said at the beginning, we've got to help with all the daily crises. This winter may find climate activists spending as much time trying to block deportations as pipelines; we may have to live in a hot world, but we don't have to live in a jackbooted one, and the more community we can preserve, the more resilient our communities will be. It's hard not to despair—but then, it wasn't all that easy to be realistically hopeful about our climate even before Trump. This has always been a battle against great odds. They're just steeper now.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Moyers & Company.

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By Daryl Hannah Neil YoungEnergy  09:59AM EST
The Standing Rock Protests Are a Symbolic Moment

This past Thursday was Thanksgiving. A time when we remember a feast, the first Thanksgiving, on Plymouth plantation in the autumn of 1621. The tales of pilgrims from the Mayflower who celebrated the harvest, shared and broke bread with the first Americans, are still used as inspiration and shared with children, teaching them the beauty of gratitude.

Standing Rock.©Lori Panico

But it is now widely understood this Thanksgiving story is a fictional history. It was invented to whitewash the vicious genocide wrought upon the native inhabitants of this magnificent continent. Not only did the Europeans try to eradicate native populations, but they made every effort to eviscerate their culture, their language and eliminate them from these coveted lands.

From Plymouth Rock to Standing Rock, this lie has made our Thanksgiving Day a day of mourning for the First Nations, all the tribes big and small, those who came before us.

A few weeks ago we traveled to visit the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota. We arrived at this unprecedented historical gathering of more than 500 tribes and thousands of others standing on the frontlines to protect water, to state the most basic human truth, to say water is life. Despite the painful history, today they fight peacefully for us all.

The camp grows as winter comes. Standing in protection of our most vital life support systems, but also for the rightful preservation of Native American cultural ways and their sovereignty. Everyone we talk with is committed to peaceful resistance. Weapons, alcohol and drugs are forbidden there.

Standing together in prayer to protect water displays a deeply rooted awareness of life's interconnected nature, and of the intrinsic value and import of traditional ways. This growing movement stems from love, it is the most human instinct to protect that which we love. An eager and engaged youth are at the core of this pipeline route resistance, learning from a population of elders who pass down unforgotten knowledge.

It is an awakening. All here together, with their non-native relatives, standing strong in the face of outrageous, unnecessary and violent aggression, on the part of militarized local and state law enforcement agencies and national guard, who are seemingly acting to protect the interests of the Dakota Access pipeline profiteers, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, above all other expressed concerns. They stand against corporate security forces, the county sheriff and the national guard. Standing while being hit with water cannons, mace, teargas, rubber bullets. Standing without weapons and praying, the water protectors endure human rights abuses in freezing temperatures. Supplies arrive from all over as the social media universe shares the heartbreaking news to the world, that an American corporate media is not free to report. Thus, it is the ugliness of corporate America, seen around the world.

But they stand, their hair frozen from water cannons. They stand for all that is good and they stay strong.

We are calling upon you, President Barack Obama, to step in and end the violence against the peaceful water protectors at Standing Rock immediately.

We will be going back to support the water protectors again.

Let us all stand with them in thanks, in appreciation for the ancient wisdom they carry, in thanks for this opportunity for true gratitude. For giving us a path forward. For trying to show us a road to survival.

We offer our support and our respect. We hear the call to protect the water protectors to listen, learn and get engaged. They are brave. We thank them. And we can give thanks for the bounty.

Like water on the garden of activism, America's surprise president brings a bounty of opportunity. The great issues of our time are now brightly illuminated and people are becoming more aware of them than ever, from sea to shining sea, from Standing Rock to Wall Street.

The surprise president-elect was not the winner of the popular vote, does not have a mandate for the change of ideals envisioned. Keep in mind, close to over two million more people voted for another candidate. Nor is the surprise president the leader of the free world. Two hundred of the world's nations believe in science, above the profits of the oil, gas and coal industries, and are committed to working together to protect the future from an unchecked climate crisis. The surprise president claims he does not believe in climate science nor the threats it presents and his actions and words reflect that claim in tangible and dangerous ways.

Do not be intimidated by the surprise president's cabinet appointees as they descend the golden escalator. Those who behave in racist ways are not your leaders. The golden tower is not yours. The White House is your house.Your growing activism in support of freedom over repression, addressing climate change, swiftly replacing a destructive old industries with safe, regenerative energy, encouraging holistic thinking in balance with the future of our planet; that activism will strengthen and shed continued light on us all. These worthy goals must be met for all the world's children and theirs after them.

This is our moment for truth.

Unintimidated, stand, speak up and show up. Be counted. Be like our brothers and sisters at Standing Rock. Be there if you can. The progress we have made over 240 years as a nation, has always come first from the people.

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By Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.Energy  07:27PM EST
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr: 'I'll See You at Standing Rock'

In 1966, my father held Senate hearings to investigate violent attacks by growers against pickers in the produce fields surrounding Delano, California. A young United Farmworkers organizer, Cesar Chavez, was orchestrating peaceful protests by Filipino and Chicano farmworkers against meager pay and brutal working conditions. My father only reluctantly attended the hearings. While he was sympathetic with the farmworkers' plight, he already had a full plate of issues ranging from the Vietnam War, rioting cities to starvation in the Delta and education on Indian reservations. He didn't think he had bandwidth for another cause.

"Why do I need to fly all the way to California," he complained to his aid, Peter Edelman, on the airplane out. But then something made him mad; A Kern county sheriff explained to the committee that he had imprisoned the peaceful protestors "for their own protection" to safeguard them from violent growers and their hired thugs.

The prospect of law enforcement officials deploying the states police power on behalf of lawbreaking corporations against law abiding citizens whose only crime was their poverty and powerlessness made him steam. My father despised bullies and believed in rule of law. He gaveled the morning session to a close. "May I suggest that during the luncheon period of time that the sheriff and the district attorney read the Constitution of the United States?" That afternoon, he joined the farmworkers on their picket line. Chavez became his closest political and moral ally.

On Sunday, the U.S. Army Corps issued a declaration to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe that might have been penned by the Kern county sheriff. The Corps Colonel John Henderson told Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II that the agency was evicting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protesters from their camp for their own protection.

The tribes and their supporters will be moved to a "free speech" zone a great distance from the pipeline. Henderson's threats would be troubling if addressed to any group of American citizens, but coming from the U.S. Army Corps to the Sioux nation, it is positively chilling. One wonders whether Colonel Henderson is even peripherally aware of the Corp's central role in the Indian genocide, the most shameful stain on America's national experience, our high ideals and character.

Standing with my son Conor Kennedy and the water protectors.

Anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes has observed that Genocide is a continuum that runs for years, decades or centuries. It begins with marginalization and dehumanization of an identifiable minority, the theft of their lands and property, their slaughter and decimation, and the gradual squeezing of remnant populations. The central organizing principle of the continuum is a narrative that turns "others into non-persons or monsters," that normalizes atrocities and rationalizes the "every day practice of violence."

Colonel Henderson's letter manages to be both, patronizing and menacing. In that sense, it captures perfectly the tone and content of a hundred letters received by Indians from U.S. Corp colonels and generals over four centuries, all of them repeating genocide's persistent refrain: "For your own good, move off the land, or else."

Similar letters to the Sioux preceded the evictions that reliably followed their various treaties with the American government in 1825, 1837, 1851 and 1868. Those missives were the milestones that officially declared, justified or ratified the long parade of treaty violations by the U.S. government, enforced by the Army Corps, each of them shrinking the Sioux's rightful treaty lands.

It's worth remembering that the lands and waterways now coveted by Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, are the same lands our government and the U.S. Army Corps deeded the Sioux in the treaties of 1825 and 1851. Those treaties and the Fort Laramie treaty of 1868 each promised the tribe that these deeded lands would remain the Sioux's "so long as the grass is green, the eagles fly and the rivers flow," or phrases of similar construction.

Eight years after we signed that last treaty, the Sioux received their most devastating removal letter from the Army Corps; Trespassing prospectors had discovered gold in the Black Hills, the sacred lands and critical hunting grounds where the Sioux wintered away from the frigid, barren plains that are uninhabitable during the cold months. Obviously white people would now need them back! In direct violation of the treaty, Colonel George Custer rode into the Black Hills to evict the justifiably angry Sioux to make way for the illegal mines. When the Sioux rose up to enforce the treaty, resisting Custer's military attack, Colonel Henderson's predecessors slaughtered their women and children at Wounded Knee.

Now, once again, illegal white mineral interests need the Sioux's land, and, once again, the Army Corps is insisting the Sioux move.

Colonel Henderson's threats are meant to protect DAPL's promoters, Energy Transfer Partners, an outlaw oil company. Construction of the 1,200 mile Dakota Access Pipeline project clearly violates the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires a full environmental impact review for any project that "might have significant environmental impacts" on an area larger than one-half acre. There is no question that the 1,200 mile pipeline meets both criteria.

The pipeline will create more carbon pollution than 27 coal burning power plants, and cross and disrupt 209 waterways, including Lake Oahe, the Sioux's only water source. The Sioux recognize this as the final eviction—without Lake Oahe, their remnant reservation is uninhabitable. The Corp considers a catastrophic water poisoning pipeline failure, so likely, that following protests by Bismarck residents, Henderson agreed to move the pipeline away from its more direct route across the Bismarck water supply and into Indian country.

Henderson's menacing letter on behalf of yet another law-breaking mineral interest has mobilized 300 American tribes who have assembled to protest the illegal construction, the largest gathering of tribes in a century. Indian Country regards DAPL as an existential threat; for the tribes the outlaw enterprise, forced upon them at gunpoint, represents the extension of their 500 year genocide into a new millennium. But Chief Archambault has consistently stated the Indians are not fighting only for Indian rights but for American democracy and for humanity's survival.

Energy Transfer's lawbreaking comes at a critical juncture in human history as governments struggle to choose between oil company profits on the one hand, us people and the planet on the other. The juxtaposition of forces at Standing Rock is Orwellian; on one side are the Sioux and their supporters.

The Sioux have been highly disciplined about maintaining the respectful and non-violent character of their demonstration. Tribal committees train and screen protesters and restrict access to the protest sites to those who can be trusted to maintain prayerful and peaceful protest in the face of ferocious police violence. These demonstrations mainly consist of quiet prayer ceremonies.

Deployed against them is an out of control police force and DAPL's army of private security guards. The unhinged fury of their attacks is reminiscent of the police violence against southern civil rights demonstrators in the 1960's. To make way for an outlaw company, highly militarized police and private security forces have unleashed the awesome military might of state police power against law abiding American citizens. The police and corporate security brigades appear to be testing a suite of high-tech and often savage, crowd control equipment now in the possession of our militarized police forces.

On a recent trip to Standing Rock, I saw truck mounted facial recognition equipment tagging protestors from surrounding hilltops. I experienced the jarring barrage of acoustic cannons. The state and private security forces deployed water cannons against protesters in sub-freezing weather endangering their lives, tear gas bombs, pepper spray, flash bang grenades which might cost one protester her arm, and plastic bullets which felled a Sioux elder the day I left. Largely out of sight of the national press, the police employ terror tactics and behave like savage animals.

Visiting Standing Rock.

The Obama administration has the power to end this conflict, overnight, simply by declaring that the pipeline company comply with existing federal law and complete an environmental impact statement before DAPL is allowed to proceed.

The company dreads this outcome; an EIS would require Energy Transfer Partners to disclose the true cost and benefits of its project. The American people would see, through all the smoke and mirrors, that this project is a 1,200-mile boondoggle designed to allow billionaire investors like Donald Trump to make themselves richer by impoverishing other Americans.

The company's claims to be a job creator will wither in the daylight. Like the Keystone XL pipeline, DAPL is unlikely to produce even 100 long term jobs while jeopardizing the water supply for 18 million people and the breadbasket of American food production.

Despite its contrary denials to the public and regulators, DAPL has admitted privately that its oil will be shipped to Asia where it will lower manufacturing costs for America's foreign competitors and aggravate climate chaos. If Obama were to order an Environmental Impact Statement, our incoming president, Donald Trump, would be powerless to reverse that determination. The question now is: Will Obama act?

In the meantime, Americans who care about freedom and justice are flocking to Standing Rock to support the Sioux, just as justice loving Americans of an earlier generation went to Selma, to Jackson and to Delano.

"I'll see you at Standing Rock" has become the battle cry for Americans who still share an idealistic vision for our country.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is president of Waterkeeper Alliance and former editor of Indian Country Today—the largest newspaper serving the Sioux and Native American communities.

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By Stefanie SpearEnergy  10:56AM EST
Army Corps Clarifies Eviction Notice to Standing Rock

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which sent an eviction notice to Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault on Friday, released an update Sunday to clarify their plans to close the Oceti Sakowin Camp, which lies just north of the Cannonball River in southern Morton County, North Dakota.

The Army Corps said they have no plans to forcibly remove anyone, though those who stay, the agency said, do so at the risk of being ticketed or arrested.

"We fully support the rights of all Americans to exercise free speech and peacefully assemble, and we ask that they do it in a way that does not also endanger themselves or others, or infringe on others' rights," Omaha District Commander Colonel John Henderson said in a statement.

The Army Corp's update on the eviction came the same day that a coalition of groups—Camp of the Sacred Stones, International Indigenous Youth Council, Indigenous Environmental Network and Honor the Earth—released a new statement, which said, "We will not be moved."

Water protectors continue to take a stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline.©Lori Panico

The statement went on to say:

"We stand united in defiance of the black snake and are committed to defense of water, our Mother Earth, and our rights as Indigenous people. We call on all people of conscience, from all Nations, to join the encampments and stand with us as we put our bodies on the line.

"The Army Corps has no authority to evict us from these lands. The Oceti Sakowin encampment is located on the ancestral homeland of the Lakota, Mandan, Arikara and Northern Cheyenne—on territory never ceded to the U.S. government, and affirmed in the 1851 Treaty of Ft. Laramie as sovereign land belonging to the Great Sioux Nation.

"We call on the White House to deny the easement now, revoke the permits, remove the DAPL construction workers and order a full environmental impact statement in formal consultation with impacted tribal governments."

Watch the Facebook live video of the Standing Rock press event held Saturday afternoon in response to the eviction letter:

"Just one day after Thanksgiving, and the government is once again breaking trust with Indigenous peoples," 350.org's Executive Director May Boeve said. "It's the pipeline company who should be vacating this land, not the water protectors and their supporters. President Obama can no longer remain silent while people's lives are being put at risk by the actions of the Army Corps and militarized law enforcement. The only just and responsible way to end this confrontation is for the President to reject the pipeline once and for all."

The eviction letter from the Army Corps came just 12 days after the Army Corps announced that it would delay a decision on granting an easement to Energy Transfer Partners. The enforcement date of the eviction, Dec. 5, is one day after more than 600 veterans plan to join the water protectors at Standing Rock to peacefully protest the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The $3.8 billion pipeline project is now in its final stretch with more than 80 percent of the pipeline already constructed.

"We will stand our ground for the water and the unborn generations," the joint statement from the water protectors said. "Our fight is not just about a pipeline project. It is about 500 years of colonization and oppression. This is our moment, a chance to demand a future for our people and all people. We ask you to join us."

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