By Karuna JaggarFood  07:48AM EST
Stop Irrigating Your Produce With Oil Wastewater

Would you eat oranges grown with oil wastewater? You might be already without knowing it.

Wonderful Citrus, the U.S.'s largest citrus grower and the company behind the popular Halos mandarins and Bee Sweet Citrus, another huge citrus grower, are using leftover wastewater from oil companies to irrigate their citrus—while also using pink ribbons to sell them.

The use of oil wastewater for food irrigation is expanding rapidly in California—the U.S.'s third largest oil-extracting state, which also produces more than a third of the nation's veggies and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts. Oil corporations are increasingly supplying their wastewater to California-based agricultural companies like Bee Sweet and Wonderful to use for food irrigation during an historic drought. As this type of irrigation is set to expand, we believe this is an urgent public health issue because of the potentially hazardous chemicals associated with the oil extraction process.

Companies use pink ribbons to gain customer loyalty and increase their sales. After all, pink ribbons are profitable. But companies shouldn't put their profits before our health.

Bee Sweet Citrus puts a pink ribbon on their Sweetheart Mandarin labels "to achieve prevention and find a cure for breast cancer in our lifetime." And Wonderful Citrus participates in an in-store cause-marketing promotion called Pink Ribbon Produce, aimed at "uniting the produce industry in the fight for breast cancer."

Both of these companies claim to care about women with breast cancer and are using pink ribbons to sell their products—all while failing to protect farm workers and the public from the potential health risks of using oil wastewater to irrigate their citrus. We call this pinkwashing.

Oil companies use hundreds of chemical additives during the oil extraction process—to drill, maintain and clean their wells. In addition, the oil extraction process releases chemicals that are trapped underground. So when oil is extracted from underground reservoirs, wastewater comes back up with it and can contain all sorts of chemicals. Oil wastewater used for food irrigation has been found to contain the chemical benzene, a known human carcinogen linked to breast cancer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Maximum Contaminant Level Goal for benzene in drinking water is zero, which means "there is no dose below which the chemical is considered safe."

In a new report released earlier this month by Physicians, Scientists and Engineers—Healthy Energy, University of California—Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of the Pacific, researchers call for a more thorough investigation of the potential health risks associated with using oil wastewater for crop irrigation in light of the potential health harms and gaps in safety testing.

The report finds that despite oil corporations being required to report chemical additives, 38 percent of the chemical additives could not be "sufficiently identified for preliminary hazard evaluation" because oil corporations are concealing them as trade secrets. Of the chemicals these scientists were able to analyze, they found that "43 percent of them can be classified as potential chemicals of concern from human health and/or environmental perspectives." They found that 10 chemicals are known or potential carcinogens. And they didn't even evaluate which chemicals are hormone disruptors, a class of chemicals which is linked to increasing our risk of breast cancer.

Current tests of oil wastewater used for food irrigation only look for some of the chemicals used in the oil extraction process. Because of the gaps in testing and treatment, an independent council of scientists commissioned by the State of California recently recommended that wastewater from fracking operations should not currently be used to irrigate our food. But the potential public health risks of the chemicals in oil wastewater are not limited to the fracking process and this report extends the recommendations to include wastewater from any oil operations. We, along with other public health groups and scientists, believe that wastewater from all oil extraction processes should not be used to grow our food, to protect both farm workers and the public from potential public health risks that have not been adequately studied.

Using oil wastewater to irrigate our food has not been proven safe—neither for the health of the public nor for the health of farm workers, who are exposed firsthand to these chemicals. In fact, an expert panel is currently reviewing the potential health risks associated with using oil wastewater for food irrigation—while the state is still permitting this type of irrigation. A growing body of scientific evidence demonstrates the role of our everyday exposure to toxic chemicals in increasing our risk of breast cancer. We need to put the brakes on this process immediately.

In August 2016, we joined with 350,000 concerned people who wrote to California Gov. Jerry Brown, urging him to end the use of oil wastewater for food irrigation. To date, he has failed to do so. In the absence of strong government action, we're calling on Bee Sweet Citrus and Wonderful Citrus to stop using oil wastewater to irrigate their crops while using pink ribbons to sell their citrus—a practice we call pinkwashing.

Instead, these two companies, which are huge players in their local water districts, should stand up for women affected by breast cancer. We believe they have the power not only to stop using oil wastewater to grow their own citrus crops, but also to stop the use of oil wastewater for growing food altogether.

Send a letter to Bee Sweet Citrus and Wonderful Citrus to tell them to stop pinkwashing. Tell them to stop irrigating their produce with oil wastewater and to use their power to ensure that oil wastewater is not used to irrigate any of our food.

By Stefanie SpearEnergy  02:41PM EST
Protests Escalate as Flooding at Muskrat Falls Hydroelectric Project Imminent

Renowned Inuk artist Billy Gauthier has not eaten since Oct. 13. He is on a hunger strike against the proposed flooding of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project reservoir.

The Muskrat Falls project, part of the $8.6 billion Lower Churchill hydroelectric project in Labrador, Canada, will flood the Lake Melville river valley, which has cultural and spiritual significance for the Innu and Inuit peoples.

Indigenous people have come to this section of the Churchill River, located directly above Muskrat Falls, for thousands of years. Archeological evidence shows it was a common resting spot. When the dam goes online, this area will be flooded. Ossie Michelin

Construction of the Muskrat Falls Generation Facility began in 2013 and sources say flooding will begin in the next 36 hours.

Opposition to this project has been long-standing. Ossie Michelin, a freelance journalist living in Labrador, has been documenting the fight against the dam. He shared how the hydroelectric project "will cut through the unceded territory of the NunatuKavut Inuit, the only group of Inuit in Canada with an outstanding land claim," and "destroy hundreds of kilometers of forest and contaminate fish and seal stocks with methylmercury."

Roberta Benefiel of Grand Riverkeeper in Labrador, shared that, "There are many other issues with this project that Grand Riverkeeper Labrador has been vocal about over the years. Right now we are standing with the entire community on the methylmercury issue because that is the issue that has galvanized all of us, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike. They absolutely must clear the Reservoir of soil, vegetation and trees before they begin to fill it. Nothing short of the full clearing will satisfy us."

According to Emerald Nash, an activist and acquaintance of Gauthier:

If they flood this reservoir without first clearing vegetation and topsoil, waters downstream will be poisoned with methylmercury. The people living there will not only face serious health risks but will also lose their source of food and a large part of their cultural identity. Contamination will undoubtedly threaten the traditions of the Innu and Inuit communities there. In Labrador hunting and fishing is a way of life, and for many it is a means of survival.

Despite pleas from the Nunatsiavut government and warnings from researchers at Harvard University, provincial energy company, Nalcor, has chosen to move forward with its plans to flood Lake Melville without any effort to remove the materials that will lead to contamination.

In a final push to try and stop the flooding of the river valley until the debris is removed, a blockade has been ongoing since Oct. 15. Land protectors have come out in force to block the gate to the Nalcor facility at Muskrat Falls.

At first, the demonstrators were not allowing anyone into or out of the main gate. Busloads of Laborers were being turned away. At one point, they would not even allow an emergency vehicle to pick up an injured worker. A compromise was made and the Nalcor employee was allowed to be taken to hospital.

On Oct. 16, there were nine arrests. A "Nurse-In" was also held where nursing mothers and babies came out to demonstrate. They held signs that read: "Don't poison our breast milk."

There are currently more than 200 standing guard at the blockade. Approximately 40 people have broken through the main gate and are occupying the work site.

On Sunday, Gauthier, along with fellow hunger strikers Delilah Saunders and Jerry Kohlmeister, attended the "Make Muskrat Right" demonstration in Ottawa. They called on the government to prevent the leaching of methylmercury into the water source by fully clearing the reservoir before flooding begins. Labradorians are afraid that methylmercury will contaminate fish and game stocks, bringing an end to their traditional lifestyles.

"Nalcor and our own provincial government are ignoring our needs and refusing to protect us," Gauthier said. "I feel we have to go to the federal government and ask for their protection."

According to Gary Wockner, Waterkeeper Alliance board member and international river advocate, "These kinds of fights are escalating across the planet as hydropower is being rammed down the throats of citizens, all under the guise of 'clean energy.' It's not clean energy if it causes methane emissions that make climate change worse, floods and poisons the homelands of local people, and destroys fisheries. We are seeing the same conflicts across the globe in Central America, Latin America, Asia, Europe and here in Canada. Hydropower is dirty energy and dirty business."

By Wenonah HauterEnergy  11:40AM EST
DOJ Must Protect First Amendment Rights for Charged Journalists Amy Goodman and Deia Schlosberg

[For the latest on this case, click here.]

North Dakota has charged journalist Amy Goodman and filmmaker Deia Schlosberg for doing their jobs: reporting and documenting the peaceful protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. This string of arrests constitutes nothing less than a war on journalism and a victory for fossil fuel interests that have banked on the pipeline.

We call on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to act to protect the first amendment rights of those attempting to tell the stories of the water protectors fighting the risky pipeline. The DOJ must investigate the arrests of Amy Goodman and Deia Schlosberg at the hands of North Dakota police.

The first amendment is not only a cornerstone of our bill of rights, but the right to free speech and freedom of the press is critical to addressing our climate chaos. We need brave journalists to tell the stories of injustice that are occurring at the hands of the banks and fossil fuel companies seeking to extract every last drop of fossil fuels for profit—no matter the cost.

We applaud Goodman and Schlosberg for courageously documenting the peaceful actions at Standing Rock and call upon Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate their arrests and act to protect the first amendment rights of those attempting to tell the stories of the water protectors fighting this risky pipeline.

By Bill McKibbenClimate  12:33PM EST
Bill McKibben: The Question I Get Asked the Most

The questions come after talks, on twitter, in the days' incoming tide of email—sometimes even in old-fashioned letters that arrive in envelopes. The most common one by far is also the simplest: What can I do? I bet I've been asked it 10,000 times by now and—like a climate scientist predicting the temperature—I'm pretty sure I'm erring on the low side.

"What can we do to make a difference?"The Thinker

It's the right question or almost: It implies an eagerness to act and action is what we need. But my answer to it has changed over the years, as the science of global warming has shifted. I find, in fact, that I'm now saying almost the opposite of what I said three decades ago.

Then—when I was 27 and writing the first book on climate change—I was fairly self-obsessed (perhaps age appropriately). And it looked like we had some time: No climate scientist in the late 1980s thought that by 2016 we'd already be seeing massive Arctic ice melt. So it made sense for everyone to think about the changes they could make in their own lives that, over time, would add up to significant change. In The End of Nature, I described how my wife and I had tried to "prune and snip our desires," how instead of taking long vacation trips by car we rode our bikes in the road, how we grew more of our own food, how we "tried not to think about how much we'd like a baby."

Some of these changes we've maintained—we still ride our bikes, and I haven't been on a vacation in a very long time. Some we modified—thank God we decided to have a child, who turned out to be the joy of our life. And some I've abandoned: I've spent much of the last decade in frenetic travel, much of it on airplanes. That's because, over time, it became clear to me that there's a problem with the question "What can I do."

The problem is the word "I." By ourselves, there's not much we can do. Yes, my roof is covered with solar panels and I drive a plug-in car that draws its power from those panels, and yes our hot water is heated by the sun, and yes we eat low on the food chain and close to home. I'm glad we do all those things, and I think everyone should do them, and I no longer try to fool myself that they will solve climate change.

Because the science has changed and with it our understanding of the necessary politics and economics of survival. Climate change is coming far faster than people anticipated even a couple of decades ago. 2016 is smashing the temperature records set in 2015 which smashed the records set in 2014; some of the world's largest physical features (giant coral reefs, vast river deltas) are starting to die off or disappear. Drought does damage daily; hundred-year floods come every other spring. In the last 18 months we've seen the highest wind speeds ever recorded in many of the world's ocean basins. In Basra Iraq—not far from the Garden of Eden—the temperature hit 129 Fahrenheit this summer, the highest reliably recorded temperature ever and right at the limit of human tolerance. July and August were not just the hottest months ever recorded, they were, according to most climatologists, the hottest months in the entire history of human civilization. The most common phrase I hear from scientists is "faster than anticipated." Sometime in the last few years we left behind the Holocene, the 10,000 year period of benign climatic stability that marked the rise of human civilization. We're in something new now—something new and frightening.

Against all that, one's Prius is a gesture. A lovely gesture and one that everyone should emulate, but a gesture. Ditto riding the bike or eating vegan or whatever one's particular point of pride. North Americans are very used to thinking of themselves as individuals, but as individuals we are powerless to alter the trajectory of climate change in a meaningful manner. The five or ten percent of us who will be moved to really act (and that's all who ever act on any subject) can't cut the carbon in the atmosphere by more than five or ten percent by those actions.

No, the right question is "What can we do to make a difference?"

Because if individual action can't alter the momentum of global warming, movements may still do the trick. Movements are how people organize themselves to gain power—enough power, in this case, to perhaps overcome the financial might of the fossil fuel industry. Movements are what can put a price on carbon, force politicians to keep fossil fuel in the ground, demand subsidies so that solar panels go up on almost every roof, not just yours. Movements are what take 5 or 10 percent of people and make them decisive—because in a world where apathy rules, five or ten percent is an enormous number. Ask the Tea Party. Ask the civil rights movement.

The other side knows this, which is why it ridicules our movements at all times. When, for instance, 400,000 people march on New York City, I know that I will get a stream of ugly tweets and emails about how—saints preserve us—it takes gasoline to get to New York City. Indeed it does. If you live in a society that has dismantled its train system, then lots of people will need to drive and take the bus, and it will be the most useful gallons they burn in the course of the year. Because that's what pushes systems to change.

When brave people go to jail, cynics email me to ask how much gas the paddywagon requires. When brave people head out in kayaks to block the biggest drilling rigs on earth, I always know I'll be reading dozens of tweets from clever and deadened souls asking "don't you know the plastic for those kayaks require oil?" Yes, we know—and we've decided it's well worth it. We're not trying to be saints; we're trying to be effective.

We're not going to be forced into a monkish retreat from society—we need to engage this fight with all the tools of the moment. We're trying to change the world we live in and if we succeed then those who come after will have plenty of time to figure out other ways to inhabit it. Along the way those who have shifted their lives can provide inspiration, which is crucial. But they don't by themselves provide a solution. Naomi Klein once described visiting an "amazing" community farm in Brooklyn's Red Hook that had been flooded by Hurricane Sandy. "They were doing everything right, when it comes to climate," she said. "Growing organic, localizing their food system, sequestering carbon, not using fossil-fuel inputs—all the good stuff." Then came the storm. "They lost their entire fall harvest and they're pretty sure their soil is now contaminated, because the water that flooded them was so polluted. It's important to build local alternatives, we have to do it, but unless we are really going after the source of the problem"—namely, the fossil-fuel industry and its lock on Washington—"we are going to get inundated."

Like Klein, I find that the people who have made some of those personal changes are usually also deeply involved in movement-building. Local farmers, even after a long day pulling weeds, find the energy to make it to the demonstration, often because they know their efforts out in the field aren't enough, even to guarantee a climate that will allow them to continue their efforts. No, the people calling environmentalists hypocrites for living in the real world are people who want no change at all. Their goal is simply to shame us and hence to quiet us. So we won't make them feel bad or disrupt the powers that be.

It won't work, unless we let it. Movements take care of their own: They provide bail money and they push each other's ideas around the web. They join forces across issues: BlackLivesMatter endorsing fossil fuel divestment, climate justice activists fighting deportations. They recognize that together we might just have enough strength to get it done. So when people ask me what can I do, I know say the same thing every time: "The most important thing an individual can do is not be an individual. Join together—that's why we have movements like or Green for All, like BlackLivesMatter or Occupy. If there's not a fight where you live, find people to support, from Standing Rock to the Pacific islands. Job one is to organize and jobs two and three."

And if you have some time left over after that, then by all means make sure your lightbulbs are all LEDs and your kale comes from close to home.

By Annie LeonardClimate  12:26PM EST
President Obama, Here's How to Cement Your Climate Legacy

Wednesday started the last 100 days of Obama's presidency. So rather than speculate on who our next leader will be, let's focus on what our current one still has the power to do on behalf of our climate.

With an election season as inconceivable as this one's turning out to be, it's easy to forget that Barack Obama is actually still our president—and he still holds the power to take the bold action on climate change we need.

There's no question President Obama has moved the needle when it comes to taking action on climate change.Flickr / Creative Commons

There's no question President Obama has moved the needle when it comes to taking action on climate change. More so than any other U.S. president to date, he has pushed for political solutions to carbon pollution at home with the Clean Power Plan (though that now has to fight its way through legal challenges).

On the global stage he has pushed for consensus among world leaders that we all need to deal with our addiction to fossil fuels, helping to broker the Paris climate accord and a landmark deal with China.

This would be a strong legacy, if it weren't for the stark reality that even developing the oil, gas and coal in fields and mines that already exist would take us beyond 2 C of warming into climate chaos territory, let alone if we frack, drill or otherwise dig up fossil fuels from new sites, of which there are plenty of companies hoping to do just that. (If you want to know more about the math behind our planet's climate boundaries for energy production and use, check out Oil Change International's brilliant but scary new analysis).

Faced with this reality, we need President Obama to do everything in his power to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Specifically, in the next 100 days, the president needs to use his executive power in the U.S. to put a stop to new oil and gas drilling and fracking projects on our public lands and waters, just as his administration did earlier this year when it imposed a moratorium on new coal mining. Since President Obama took office, more than 10 million acres of public lands across the U.S. and more than 15 million acres of public offshore waters in the gulf have been turned over to energy corporations for fossil fuel extraction.

And there's plenty more where that came from.

Taking public lands off the table when it comes to fossil fuel developers would not only be an important step towards safeguarding our climate, but would also protect the many communities whose land, air and water are being poisoned. From the Gulf Coast, to Colorado, to North Dakota, to Alaska, the way that fossil fuels are extracted, processed and transported pose grave threats to public health, people's livelihoods and ancestral lands and waters. Protecting these spaces would send a clear message that America wants a just transition away from fossil fuels, not an abusive relationship where we're beholden to them, however much they hurt us.

When tThe New York Times interviewed President Obama recently, the reporter observed that "He believes that his efforts to slow the warming of the planet will be the most consequential legacy of his presidency." Studies have shown that by ending fossil fuel extraction on federal lands and waters, Obama can significantly reduce global emissions and make progress towards his Paris commitments.

So with 100 days still as the leader of the free world and the ability to stop fossil fuel extraction on our public lands and waters, the president doesn't have to just believe in his climate legacy, he can take action that makes it real.

Join us in telling President Obama: Protect our communities and our climate. End new fossil fuel leasing today.

By Josh FoxClimate  05:35PM EST
Outrageous! Felony Charges Given to Journalist Filming Anti-Pipeline Protest

Many of you may have read my post on EcoWatch this morning, and already know that Deia Schlosberg, the producer of my new climate change documentary, How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can't Change, was arrested Tuesday in Walhalla, North Dakota, for filming a protest against a pipeline bringing Canadian tar sands oil into the U.S.

But, what you probably don't know is that she was escorted to the courthouse this afternoon and was charged with Class A and C felony charges that carry 45 years maximum sentences combined. The charges include, two Class A felony charges and one Class C felony charge, and conspiracy to theft of property, conspiracy to theft of services and conspiracy to tampering with or damaging a public service.

I am outraged and need your help. Please watch my Facebook video below, read the letter I'm asking you to sign and then click here to sign it. Thank you!

Here's my Facebook live video from just one hour ago:

Here's the letter I'm spreading around in hopes to get more people to sign on:

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

I regret to inform you that documentary filmmaker Deia Schlosberg, producer of How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can't Change was arrested while filming a protest action in North Dakota. She was held for 48 hours in Pembina County Jail without access to her attorney.

This should send a chill down the spine of every documentary filmmaker and journalist. In my view, the North Dakota police are in violation of the First Amendment, charging a documentary filmmaker with conspiracy rather than viewing her as a reporter/journalist exercising her First Amendment right is unfair, unjust and illegal. We need a show of support right now for Deia's immense courage and for the First Amendment.‎

Now here is the really bad news and this is why we need you to act right now. This afternoon she was escorted to the courthouse where she was charged with Class A and C felony charges that carry 45 years maximum sentences combined. She has been charged with: two Class A felony charges and one Class C felony charge, and conspiracy to theft of property, conspiracy to theft of services and conspiracy to tampering with or damaging a public service.

These charges are a threat to our freedom of expression on the most basic level and especially to documentary filmmaking. If we cannot film events as they're happening, especially protest events or events that the establishment and the police might consider crime, we will never work or live in the same way again.

How many times have you been in a situation where people were being arrested and your camera was the only witness to the event that could truly portray what was happening?

Imagine now that simply by filming the actions of others you could face felony charges with maximum sentences of 45 years. That's why we have a First Amendment. The Constitution protects the freedom of the press and our right to document events.

We need an outcry from all documentary filmmakers, journalists and artists immediately.

I'm asking you to sign onto a very simple letter that states this:

Dear members of the media, governor of North Dakota Jack Dalrymple, U.S. Attorney General Chris Myers and President Obama:

Deia Schlosberg was exercising her First Amendment right as a journalist. The state of North Dakota's criminal complaint filed against her on Oct. 13 should be dropped immediately. Journalism, especially documentary filmmaking, is not a crime, it's a responsibility. The freedom of the press is a fundamental right in our free society. The charges filed against her are an injustice that must be dropped immediately.

Here's who has signed on to the letter so far:

  • Josh Fox, Oscar Nominated director, documentarian and filmmaker
  • Daryl Hannah, actress/activist
  • Neil Young, musician
  • Frances Fisher, Activist, Treasurer - EMA, Actress
  • LEE CAMP, Host, Redacted Tonight
  • Christopher Ryan, writer
  • Bill McKibben, Writer, Co-Founder
  • Mark Ruffalo, Actor, Director, Activist
  • Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
  • David Braun, Director, Writer, Producer
  • Alex Ebert (AKA Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros) golden globe winner
  • Steven Tabakin, Peabody Award-winning film producer
  • Chloe Maxmin, Founder First Here, Then Everywhere
  • Alexis Krauss, musician
  • Jon Bowermaster, author, filmmaker, journalist
  • Alexander Zaitchik, author/journalist
  • Francesca Fiorentini, Journalist
  • Paul Bassis, Producer
  • Tim DeChristopher, Founder of Climate Disobedience The Action Center for Education & Community Development, Inc.
  • Nathan Truesdell Documentary Filmmaker
  • Bethany Yarrow, singer/activist
  • Chris Paine, director "who killed the electric car"
  • Vallejo Gantner, curator, arts executive
  • Jane Kleeb, Our Revolution Board Member, Nebraska Democratic Party Chair-Elect
  • Tanya Rivero Warren, journalist
  • Maggie Surovell, Professor of voice and speech
  • Seven McDonald Award Winning Columnist (LA Weekly, Harper's Bazaar, Nylon)
  • Henry Lai, director of product design, Echo360
  • Councilman Robert Eklund, Town of New Lisbon NY
  • Julia Pacetti President of JMP Verdant Communications
  • Deborah Parker, Tulalip Tribal Citizen, Board Member, Our Revolution
  • Greg King, Editor, Filmmaker
  • Alex Tyson, Filmmaker
  • Alison Klayman, Sundance-winning, Emmy-nominated documentarian and filmmaker
  • Stefanie Spear, Founder/CEO EcoWatch
By Gary WocknerClimate  10:41AM EST
7 Wild Rivers Under Attack by Hydropower Dams

By Gary Wockner and Lydia Bleifuss

Hydropower, falsely sold to the public as a source of "green" or "clean" energy, is expanding at an alarming rate in many of South America's beautiful and ecologically pristine rivers.

In line with a global trend, many South American governments—backed by multi-national hydropower corporations, international financiers and profit-motivated corruption—continue to endorse hydropower developments as "renewable" sources of energy despite public opposition and dramatic negative environmental impacts.

Hydropower destroys rivers, often forces the relocation of local communities, increases the spread of vector-borne diseases, and disrupts local cultures and ecologies that have evolved together for thousands of years. Perhaps even worse, methane emissions from hydropower reservoirs are making climate change worse.

Here are seven incredible rivers flowing through South America that are currently threatened:

1. The Beni River

Beni River, Bolivia.Havelock13 / Deviant Art

The Beni River in Bolivia is a tributary to the Madre de Dios which flows into the Amazon. The Beni is threatened by the proposed Bala Hydropower Plant, which would be constructed in the Bala Gorge. The reservoir would flood up to 2,000 square kilometers, including a great portion of the Madidi National Park, jeopardizing tropical forests and biodiversity. Like many hydro developments in South America, the Bala's electricity production estimations are based off of limited hydrological data and accuracy is unreliable.

2. The Jondachi River

Jondachi River, Ecuador.Abraham Herrera

The Jondachi River in Ecuador is a tributary of the Napo Basin which flows into the Amazon. The "La Merced de Jondachi" hydroelectric project would divert the majority of the river's water, which provides world renowned whitewater paddling. Although Ecuador seeks energy independence, development of the Jondachi has been met with fervent resistance from organizations like Ecuadorian Rivers Institute. The massive hydroelectric dam would cause a dramatic decline in the local eco-tourism industry, in addition to ecological degradation, both of which contradict the developer's "clean" and "sustainable" energy platform.

3. The Maipo River

Maipo River, Chile.Paulo Urrutia

The Maipo River in Chile, a whitewater destination and also Santiago's main source of drinking water, is threatened by an internationally financed hydropower tunneling system that is siphoning away the majority of the water of its tributaries—the Volcán, Yeso and Colorado rivers. The hydropower project has met sustained local opposition because it would cause drastic ecological shifts in the valley and has already caused groundwater contamination due to tunnel construction. The proposed electricity production is compromised by drought in the region and isn't reliable. Further, the electricity would be largely funneled to the private mining industry or exported to Argentina for profit.

4. The Marañón River

Maranon River, Peru.Gary Wockner

The Marañón River in Peru is the Amazon River's largest tributary. On the grounds of "national interest," the construction of approximately twenty internationally financed dams have been proposed. Four projects are currently in the permitting process, although none have begun construction. The projects—which would devastate the river's ecological health, fragment nutrient flow and flood local communities—are meeting increasing local, national and international opposition.

5. The Ñuble River

Ñuble River, Chile.Paulo Urrutia

The Ñuble River of Chile runs through the Bío Bío Region and is currently slated for two hydropower projects. While the Chilean government claims the electricity is needed for public use, private mining corporations appear to be the biggest supporters of the projects. Beyond the The Ñuble's amazing scenery and sections of class III/IV whitewater opportunities are jeopardized, as are local farms that would be drowned. While some nearby agricultural communities once recognized the benefits of increased irrigation access the reservoir would provide, the realities of human relocation and an overwhelming focus upon energy production have generated increasing resistance to the developments.

6. The Quijos River

Quijos River, Ecuador.Abraham Herrera

The Quijos River in Ecuador is a tributary of the larger Napo Basin. While one dam already exists on this river (named "Coca Codo Sinclair HPP"), several others are proposed that would slice this once wild and pristine river into an eviscerated tunnel and reservoir plumbing system. The government of Ecuador is endorsing these nationally and internationally financed projects, claiming they will provide "clean" and "sustainable" hydropower, while disregarding the unavoidable environmental degradation and negative social implications that have already started to take hold.

7. The Rocín River

Rocín River, Chile.

The Rocín River in Chile flows from the Andes in the Valparaiso Region. Northern Chile holds some of the largest copper deposits and thus mines, in South America. The privately funded and legally approved hydropower project planned for this river would provide electricity to those mines, which are also held by private companies. Due to the remoteness of the Rocín, relatively little attention has been focused on the development despite local community concerns regarding water access for agriculture and also contamination of both surface and groundwater from mining activities.

Almost all of these seven proposed hydropower projects in South America are being pushed forward to create electricity to be sent to private mining corporations or exported to nearby countries for profit. In most cases, the negative human and environmental consequences are being glossed over, and the "Environmental Impact Assessments" required by governments lack scientific rigor and integrity. Government corruption may also be playing a role as hydroelectric companies are rarely held accountable in permitting processes nor are they required to strictly follow national environmental laws.

Most projects are marketed to the public as "green" energy. In South America's tropical Amazon Basin, for example, methane emitting hydropower reservoirs have been measured to be bigger greenhouse gas polluters than coal-fired power plants of equivalent electricity production. International financial institutions and hydroelectric corporations that fund these projects are distanced from the problems they create, while they continue to push hydro development forward under the guise of "clean" energy mandates that resulted from COP21, the 2016 Paris climate agreement.

Layers of different preservation strategies are needed to guarantee any river's safety in South America, and fortunately there are groups who are working on creating and maintaining them. However, these river-protection movements are often isolated from each other and lack funding to help connect and promote their effectiveness. The seven cases above are but a sliver of the threats to South America's—as well as the world's—magnificent rivers. These threats are constantly expanding and shifting, and demand an urgent global response.

By Carl PopeClimate  03:00PM EST
Is the Media to Blame for Climate Inaction?

For years climate reporting had two strands: climate science got more alarming as we got closer and closer to exceeding various warming thresholds, and climate diplomacy and public policy were a relatively unbroken saga of disappointment and delay.

The media flocks to bad news, conflict, grid-lock, failure. Both strands of the pre-2014 climate story nourished this appetite. Since 2014, however, the climate story grew more complex, hopeful—but harder for the media to summarize. Greenhouse gas concentrations continue to grow at an alarming rate; projections of the risks of these concentrations become steadily graver, more bad news. So this week we were told that the planet was hotter than it has been in the last 100,000 years.

Current climate commitments fall far short of what is needed to avoid catastrophe—which causes concerned observers to argue that the world is not taking the problem seriously.

But on the solutions front, progress is accelerating. Climate diplomacy and public policy are not only galloping ahead at an unprecedented speed, their pace is increasing. We are in danger of not realizing that.

The media doesn't know how to cover a story that is headed in two directions, so it's unlikely that this week will be reported as a huge turning point in the fight for climate protection—but it was.

First, with ratification by the EU of the Paris agreement came into legally binding force, five years earlier than originally envisaged. Media coverage of this possibility has focused on one defensive motivation, the desire to ensure that a potential Trump Administration could not pull the U.S. out. But that fear moved ratification up only a few months. It's clear that the major emitters wanted to ratify Paris in early 2017 at the latest, a step which not only locks in the U.S. but also accelerates all of the processes embodied in the bottom up Paris agreement—a critically important factor in maximizing the odds that the next round of global commitments , due in 2019, are as ambitious as possible.

Second, next week in Kigali, the world for the first time is poised to commit to the total phase out of one of the six major climate pollutants, HFC refrigerants. While these chemicals—an unintended consequence of the Montreal Protocol phase out of ozone layer destroying chemicals which the HFC's replaced—have thus far contributed only a small part of overheating to date, their use is growing rapidly, their phase out is expected to cut mid-century temperatures by a startling .5-1 degrees, avoiding the emissions of HFC's with the warming potential of 200 billion tons of CO2.

Third, the global community for the first time established an effective global emission limit for an entire sector of the economy, flying. At the Montreal meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization, 60 countries representing 80 percent of the world's aviation agreed to cap global emissions from air travel at the 2019-2020 level, requiring emissions growth after that date to be offset. There are significant limitations to this agreement—we will need to phase out all emissions by 2050 not just emissions growth. There are concerns that the use of offsets, while offering a promising funding mechanisms to reduce deforestation, postpones the problem of eliminating aviation's reliance on fossil fuels. This is still a powerful precedent, and the airline industry overall actually favored a faster timeline.

Canada, which only a year ago was viewed as a major barrier to climate progress, became the first industrial nation outside the EU to embrace a national carbon price, putting in place one of the ingredients for a eventual global financial regime capable of achieving a decarbonized world economy by 2050.

The Netherlands concluded it would shut down its almost brand new fleet of coal power plants, because the nation could not meet its Paris climate pledge without doing so.

These events are being covered by the media, but in a low-key, low intensity way—and the press won't be jumping up and down and pointing out to the things that didn't happen—and whose absence is enabling the building momentum behind climate progress:

  • The Polish government, which badly wants to delay the fading of coal from the EU's energy mix, didn't choose to blockade early EU ratification of the Paris agreement.
  • A fractious, challenging U.S.-China relationship on security issues was not allowed to get in the way of the two countries coming together on the aviation deal in Montreal.
  • India's legitimate anger at the U.S. over how the Trade Representative is handling WTO complaints against India's efforts to build its domestic solar industry did not yield to India either refusing to ratify Paris this year or its declining to permit the phase out of HFC's.
  • The major developing countries agreed, voluntarily, to participate in capping aviation climate pollution, when they still have many important reforms they are still seeking on climate finance from the industrial world.
  • Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau chose to commit his government to carbon pricing without waiting for the reluctant, slower Provincial governments like Manitoba to agree.
  • The Dutch government did not hide behind Europe's post-Brexit financial uncertainties to delay the decision on shutting down its coal plants.

Per se, road blocks not thrown up, or excuses for delay not offered, don't solve the problem. But they are significant and consequential signals that countries, including the biggest emitters and the historic laggards, are now serious above moving forward. And since forward momentum in the climate space creates its own tail winds (through economies of deployment), this first round of speed will turbo-charge the next round, giving us a serious shot of meet the de-carbonization imperative.

This week is what momentum feels like—and we need to find a way to better celebrate momentum, because it is the single process with the best shot of rescuing a stable climate.

By Stefanie SpearClimate  09:25AM EST
Landmark Climate Change Conference Starts Today

[EcoWatch will be interviewing many of the speakers today at this event. Click here to watch our Facebook Live videos.]

A landmark climate change conference starts today in Oberlin, Ohio. The conference will bringing together many of the world's leading thinkers, political figures, economists, investors, philanthropists, business leaders, educators and public intellectuals to discuss the changes needed to "spur a successful transition to a sustainable, resilient, prosperous and equitable economy driven by safe, renewable energy." Oberlin College and The Oberlin Project are hosting After Fossil Fuels: The Next Economy from Oct. 6 - 8.

The three-day event will focus on the economic and political realities we face in light of a warming planet. With just one month away from the presidential election, conversation on these issues couldn't be more relevant as we have two candidates with very different plans on how to address climate change.

"The most critical issue we face is climate change," said David W. Orr, the Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics Emeritus at Oberlin College and the founder and visionary behind The Oberlin Project. "Climate and energy issues are flip sides of the same coin. We are now in the transition to a very different economy and we don't have a lot of time to get this right.

"October is just one month before a critical presidential election and we need to be heard in that cacophony. The governors are important speakers [at this event] because most of the action on climate change has been at state levels and it is the states who have been the real drivers in climate policy."

Speakers include:

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger, 38th Governor of California: Governor Schwarzenegger made California a world leader in renewable energy and combating climate change with the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. He is the founder of The USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy, which is committed to advancing post-partisanship to find the best ideas and solutions to benefit the people they serve.
  • Bill McKibben, Founder, Author and environmentalist McKibben was awarded the Right Livelihood Prize, sometimes called the "alternative Nobel," in 2014. His 1989 book, The End of Nature, is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change and has appeared in 24 languages. He is a founder of, the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement. The Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he was the 2013 winner of the Gandhi Prize and the Thomas Merton Prize and holds honorary degrees from 18 colleges and universities. The Boston Globe has said that he is "probably America's most important environmentalist."
  • Hunter Lovins, Natural Capitalism Solutions: Lovins is president and founder of the nonprofit Natural Capitalism Solutions. A renowned author and champion of sustainable development for over 35 years, Lovins has consulted on sustainable agriculture, energy, water, security, and climate policies for scores of governments, communities, and companies worldwide. She is currently a professor of sustainable management at Bard MBA.
  • Bill Ritter, 41st Governor of Colorado: Governor Ritter was elected Colorado's 41st governor in 2006. During his four-year term, Ritter established Colorado as a national and international leader in clean energy by building a new energy economy. After leaving the governor's office, Ritter founded the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University, which works with state and federal policymakers to create clean energy policy throughout the country. Governor Ritter's book Powering Forward – What Everyone Should Know about America's Energy Revolution was published earlier this year.
  • Michael Brune, President of the Sierra Club: The Sierra Club's executive director since 2010, Brune is one of today's most inspiring and effective environmental leaders. Prior to joining the Sierra Club, Brune led Rainforest Action Network for seven years. Under Brune's leadership, the Sierra Club has grown to more than two million supporters and is at the forefront of the drive to move beyond fossil fuels to clean energy while also protecting America's remaining wild places.
  • Mindy S. Lubber, Ceres: Lubber is president and a founding board member of Ceres, a nonprofit organization that is mobilizing many of the world's largest investors and companies to take stronger action on climate change, water scarcity, and other global sustainability challenges. She directs Ceres' Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), a group of 120 institutional investors managing over $14 trillion in assets focused on the business risks and opportunities of climate change. Lubber also oversees engagements with more than 100 companies, many of them Fortune 500 firms, committed to sustainable business practices and the urgency for strong climate and clean energy policies.
  • Tom Steyer, NextGen Climate: Steyer is a business leader and philanthropist who believes that we have a moral responsibility to give back and help ensure that every family shares the benefits of economic opportunity, education, and a healthy climate. After founding and running a successful California business, he left to work full time on nonprofit and advocacy efforts. He now serves as president of NextGen Climate, an organization he founded in 2013 to prevent climate disaster and promote prosperity for all Americans.
  • Mark Campanale, Carbon Tracker Initiative: Campanale is founder of the Carbon Tracker Initiative, where he is responsible for management strategy, board matters, and developing the capital markets framework analysis. Originator of the "unburnable carbon" capital markets thesis, he commissioned and edited the report "Unburnable Carbon, Are markets Carrying a Carbon Bubble?"

The conference will be the first major event held in the new Peter B. Lewis Gateway Center, a state-of-the-art conference center located within The Hotel at Oberlin. The center is on target to become one of the rare LEED Platinum hotels and conference centers, and is the cornerstone of Oberlin's Green Arts District.

Watch the entire conference via this live feed: