10 Reasons Bernie Sanders Is 'Rockin' in the Free World'
It's hard not to #FeelTheBern these days, that is the Bernie Sanders energy that is storming the nation. Just last week Sanders had the largest turnout of any presidential candidate so far in this primary race with nearly 10,000 people attending his speech in Madison, Wisconsin.
Clearly people are finding it refreshing to actually believe the campaign promises being touted by a candidate. A self-described democratic socialist, Sanders, 73, is a U.S. Senator for Vermont and has been in Congress for more than 22 years. He has a 95 percent lifetime score for voting in favor of protecting the environment and is a longtime supporter of immediate action on climate change.
I had the chance to see Sen. Sanders in Denver, Colorado on June 20 where he spoke to a crowd of more than 5,000 people at the University of Denver.
This event was just days after Donald Trump announced his run for president while playing Neil Young's classic tune "Rockin' in the Free World." The next day, Young released a statement saying, "Yesterday my song 'Rockin’ in the Free World' was used in a announcement for a U.S. presidential candidate without my permission ... Music is a universal language. So I am glad that so many people with varying beliefs get enjoyment from my music, even if they don’t share my beliefs. But had I been asked to allow my music to be used for a candidate—I would have said no."
However, Young, a Canadian citizen, "is a supporter of Bernie Sanders for president of the United States of America," according to Rolling Stone. So no wonder why Neil Young's songs were blasting from speakers in the Hamilton Gymnasium at the Richie Center in Denver and, "Rockin' in the Free World" was featured as Sanders entered and exited the stage. It was truly epic, especially for those that are longtime fans of Young, like I am.
The crowd finally settled down after a very warm welcome. Sanders began by saying, "This campaign is not about me. It's not about Hillary Clinton. It's not about Jeb Bush. It's not about any other candidate. This campaign is about you, your kids and your parents. It is about creating a political movement of millions of people who stand up and loudly and proudly proclaim that this nation and our government belongs to all of us and not just a handful of billionaires."
Sanders went on to talk about democracy. He said, "Democracy is not about the last election in which 63 percent of the American people and 80 percent of young people did not vote. That's not democracy. Democracy is when people from one end of this country to the other, stand up and say that there is nothing that a great nation can not accomplish."
"This country today, in my view," Sanders continued, "faces more serious problems in any time since the great depression, and if you add to that the planetary crisis of climate change it may well be that today, in our time, we face more challenges than anytime in the modern history of this country."
Sanders then dug deep on many issues, including income inequality—which he calls the greatest moral, economic and political issue of our time—health care, outrageous costs for a college education, unemployment rates, low minimum wage, gender inequality, LGBT rights, paid sick leave and the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
Next he tackled what he calls "one of the worst decisions in the history of our country." He said, "By a 5 to 4 decision, the Supreme court said to the wealthiest people in our country, 'okay guys, you already own much of America, we are now going to give you the opportunity to own the United States government.' And people like the Koch brothers ... they said 'hey that's great' ... and what Citizens United allowed is for these people to spend billions of dollars to buy candidates to make the rich richer and everyone else poorer."
He explained, "This issue of campaign finance reform is so important because it impacts every other issue of concern."
And that is why the one campaign promise Sanders has made so far is that he will have a litmus test for his nominees for the Supreme Court and, as Sanders said, "that litmus test is that anybody I nominate will make it clear to this country that they will rehear Citizens United and vote to overturn it."
"The Koch brothers alone—second wealthiest family in America, an extremely rightwing family," Sanders continued, "will spend more money on this election cycle than either the Democratic or Republican parties ... This is not democracy. You are looking at an oligarchy form of government.”
And, as everyone expected, Sanders then launched into his pledge to fight climate change. "We have the moral responsibilities to make sure that the climate that we leave to our kids and grandkids is habitable. The debate is over, maybe with the exception of Fox television. Other than that scientists have almost unanimously agreed that A, climate change is real, B, it is caused by human activity with the emission of carbon, and C, it is already causing devastating problems here in our country and around the world."
"And they have said that while the problems are very serious right now," Sanders continued, "they will only get much much worse if we don't seize a short window of opportunity to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy."
"If we continue business as usual, if we do not transform our energy system that, by the end of this century, the planet Earth will be between 5 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer. What that will mean is more and more drought, more flooding, more extreme weather, more acidification of the ocean, more rising sea level. It will also be a huge national security issue for the entire world."
Sanders then blessed Pope Francis "for speaking out in a way that nobody in Congress would ever speak out about what money and inequality is doing to people all over the world, and now he's speaking out on climate change."
He finished by saying, "If we stand together. If we do not let people divide us by race, by whether we were born in America or born in Mexico, whether we are gay or whether we are straight ... we can create the political revolution that this country needs."
And then, "Rockin' in the Free World" enveloped the gymnasium.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Mark Hertsgaard
What follows are not candidate endorsements. Rather, this nonpartisan guide aims to inform voters' choices, help journalists decide what races to follow, and explore what the 2020 elections could portend for climate action in the United States in 2021 and beyond.
Will the White House Turn Green?<p>Whether the White House changes hands is the most important climate question of the 2020 elections. President Donald Trump rejects climate science, is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, and has accelerated fossil fuel development. His climate policy seems to be, as he tweeted in January when rejecting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to protect New York City from storm surges, "Get your mops and buckets ready."</p><p>Joe Biden, who started the 2020 campaign with a climate position so weak that activists gave it an "F," called Trump a "climate arsonist" during California's recent wildfires. Biden backs a $2 trillion plan to create millions of jobs while slashing emissions—a Green New Deal in all but name. Equally striking, his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, has endorsed phasing out fossil fuel production—a politically explosive scientific imperative.</p><p>The race will be decided in a handful of battleground states, five of which already face grave climate dangers: Florida (hurricanes and sea-level rise), North Carolina (ditto), Texas (storms and drought), Michigan (floods), and Arizona (heat waves and drought). <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us/" target="_blank">Public concern is rising</a> in these states, but will that concern translate into votes?</p>
Will Democrats Flip the Senate, and by Enough to Pass a Green New Deal?<p>With Democrats all but certain to maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate will determine whether a potential Biden administration can actually deliver climate progress. Democrats need to pick up three seats to flip the Senate if Biden wins, four if he doesn't. But since aggressive climate policy is shunned by some Democrats, notably Joe Manchin of coal-dependent West Virginia, Democrats probably need to gain five or six Senate seats to pass a Green New Deal.</p><p>Environmentalists, including the League of Conservation Voters, are targeting six Republicans who polls suggest are vulnerable.</p><ul><li>Steve Daines of Montana, who denies climate science</li><li>Martha McSally of Arizona</li><li>Thom Tillis of North Carolina</li><li>Susan Collins of Maine</li><li>Joni Ernst of Iowa (bankrolled by Charles Koch)</li><li>John James of Michigan (also a Koch beneficiary)</li></ul><p>Republican Senators are even at risk in conservative Kansas and Alaska. In both states, the Democratic candidates are physicians—not a bad credential amid a pandemic—who support climate action. In Kansas, Barbara Bollier faces an incumbent funded by Charles Koch. In Alaska, Al Gross urges a transition away from oil, though his openness to limited drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve dims his appeal to green groups. He faces incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan, who receives an 8 percent lifetime voting record from the League of Conservation Voters.</p>
Will Local and State Races Advance Climate Progress?<h4>THE CLIMATE HAWKS</h4><p>Under Democratic and Republican leadership alike, Washington has long been a graveyard for strong climate action. But governors can boost or block renewable energy; the Vermont and New Hampshire races are worth watching. Attorneys general can sue fossil fuel companies for lying about climate change; climate hawks are running for the top law enforcement seats in Montana and North Carolina. State legislatures can accelerate or delay climate progress, as the new Democratic majorities in Virginia have shown. Here, races to watch include Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Colorado.</p><h4>THE CLIMATE POLICY MAKERS</h4><p>Perhaps the most powerful, and most overlooked, climate policy makers are public utility commissions. They control whether pipelines and other energy infrastructure gets built; they regulate whether electric utilities expand solar and energy efficiency or stick with the carbon-heavy status quo. Regulatory capture and outright corruption are not uncommon.</p><p>A prime example is Arizona, where a former two-term commissioner known as the godfather of solar in the state is seeking a comeback. Bill Mundell argues that since Arizona law permits utilities to contribute to commissioners' electoral campaigns, the companies can buy their own regulators. Which may explain why super-sunny Arizona has so little installed solar capacity.</p><p>In South Dakota, Remi Bald Eagle, a Native American U.S. Army veteran, seeks a seat on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, which rules on the Standing Rock oil pipeline. And in what <em>HuffPost</em> called "the most important environmental race in the country," Democrat Chrysta Castaneda, who favors phasing out oil production, is running for the Texas Railroad Commission, which despite its name decides what oil, gas, and electric companies in America's leading petro-state can build.</p>
Will the Influencers Usher in a Green New Era?<h4>THE UNCOUNTED</h4><p>The story that goes largely under-reported in every U.S. election is how few Americans vote. In 2016, some 90 million, <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/08/09/an-examination-of-the-2016-electorate-based-on-validated-voters/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly four out of every 10 eligible voters</a>, did not cast a ballot. Attorney Nathaniel Stinnett claims that 10 million of these nonvoters nevertheless identify as environmentalists: They support green policies, even donate to activist groups; they just don't vote. Stinnett's <a href="https://www.environmentalvoter.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Voter Project</a> works to awaken this sleeping giant.</p><h4>THE SUNRISE MOVEMENT</h4><p>Meanwhile, the young climate activists of the <a href="http://www.sunrisemovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sunrise Movement</a> are already winning elections with an unabashedly Green New Deal message. More than any other group, Sunrise pushed the Green New Deal into the national political conversation, helping Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey draft the eponymous congressional resolution. In 2020, Sunrise has helped Green New Deal champions defeat centrists in Democratic primaries, with Markey dealing Representative Joe Kennedy Jr. the first defeat a Kennedy has ever suffered in a Massachusetts election. But can Sunrise also be successful against Republicans in the general elections this fall?</p><h4>THE STARPOWER</h4><p>And an intriguing wild card: celebrity firepower, grassroots activism, and big-bucks marketing have converged behind a campaign to get Latina mothers to vote climate in 2020. Latinos have long been the U.S. demographic most concerned about climate change. Now, <a href="https://votelikeamadre.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Vote Like A Madre</a> aims to get 5 million Latina mothers in Florida, Texas, and Arizona to the polls. Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayak, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are urging mothers to make a "pinky promise" to vote for their kids' climate future in November. Turning out even a quarter of those 5 million voters, though no easy task, could swing the results in three states Trump must win to remain president, which brings us back to the first category, "Will the White House Turn Green?"</p>
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By Tony Carnie
South Africa is home to around 1,300 of the world's roughly 7,100 remaining cheetahs. It's also the only country in the world with significant cheetah population growth, thanks largely to a nongovernmental conservation project that depends on careful and intensive human management of small, fenced-in cheetah populations. Because most of the reserves are privately funded and properly fenced, the animals benefit from higher levels of security than in the increasingly thinly funded state reserves.
Vincent van der Merwe at a cheetah translocation. Endangered Wildlife Trust
Under Pressure<p>Cheetah populations elsewhere in Southern Africa have not prospered over the past 50 years. In Zimbabwe, cheetah numbers have crashed from 1,500 in 1975, to just 170 today. Botswana's cheetah population has held steady at around 1,500 over the same period, but illegal capture for captive breeding and conflicts with farmers and the growing human population are increasing. In Namibia, there were an estimated 3,000 cheetah in in 1975; roughly 1,400 remain today.</p><p>In contrast, South Africa's cheetah numbers have grown from about 500 in 1975 to nearly 1,300 today. Van der Merwe, who is also a Ph.D. student at the University of Cape Town's Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild), says he's confident that South Africa will soon overtake Namibia and Botswana, largely because the majority of South African cheetahs are protected and managed behind fences, whereas most of the animals in the neighboring countries remain more vulnerable on mainly unfenced lands.</p><p>Wildlife researchers Florian Weise and colleagues have reported that private stock owners in Namibia still trap cheetahs mainly for translocation, but there are few public or private reserves large enough to contain them. Weise says that conservation efforts need to focus on improving tolerance toward cheetahs in commercial livestock and game farming areas to reduce indiscriminate trapping.</p><p>Van der Merwe says fences can be both a blessing and a curse. While these barriers prevent cheetahs and other wild animals from migrating naturally to breed and feed, they also protect cheetahs from the growing tide of threats from humanity and agriculture.</p><p>To simulate natural dispersion patterns that guard against inbreeding, the trust helps landowners swap their animals with other cheetah reserves elsewhere in the country. The South African metapopulation project has been so successful in boosting numbers that the trust is having to look beyond national boundaries to secure new translocation areas in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique.</p><p>Cheetah translocations have been going on in South Africa since the mid-1960s, when the first unsuccessful attempts were made to move scores of these animals from Namibia. These relocations were mostly unsuccessful.</p>
Charli de Vos uses a VHF antenna to locate cheetahs in Phinda Game Reserve. Tony Carnie for Mongabay
Swinging for the Fences<p>But other wildlife conservation leaders have a different perspective on cheetah conservation strategy.</p><p>Gus Mills, a senior carnivore researcher retired in 2006 from SANParks, the agency that manages South Africa's national parks, after a career of more than 30 years in Kalahari and Kruger national parks. He says the focus should be on quality of living spaces rather than the quantity of cheetahs.</p><p>Mills, who was the founder of the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Carnivore Conservation Group in 1995, and who also spent six years after retirement studying cheetahs in the Kalahari, says it's more important to properly protect and, where possible, expand the size of existing protected areas.</p><p>He also advocates a triage approach to cheetah conservation, in which scarce funds and resources are focused on protecting cheetahs in formally protected areas, rather than diluting scarce resources in an attempt to try and save every single remaining cheetah population.</p><p>"People have an obsession with numbers. But I believe that it is more important to protect large landscape and habitats properly," Mills said.</p><p>He suggests that cheetahs enclosed within small reserves live in artificial conditions: "It's almost like glorified farming."</p><p>"In the long run we have to focus on consolidating formally protected areas," he added. "Africa's human population will double by 2050, so cheetah populations in unfenced areas will become unsustainable if they are eating people's livestock."</p>
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