61 Reasons This Is the Most Anti-Environment House of Representatives in History
What’s worse than a do-nothing Congress? It’s a do-something-bad Congress. That’s what we see today from the House GOP majority.
While much media attention has focused this year on congressional gridlock—how Congress hasn’t been able to pass a Farm Bill, immigration reform or budget measures—the problem, in fact, is the Republican-controlled House. The Senate has passed bipartisan bills on a number of major issues.
House Republicans, meanwhile, have pushed forward more than 60 anti-government, anti-health and anti-environment initiatives, as noted below.
They’re picking up where they left off in the 112th Congress when they earned the title of the most anti-environment House in history.
During this August recess, when members of Congress are back in their states meeting with the public, we hope you’ll take a look at the tally below and consider asking them: What are your goals? Whose side are you on? What will you accomplish?
Just look at what they do.
Before the current recess, they pulled off the floor a major transportation bill aiming to fix our decaying infrastructure. Instead, they voted on a bill that would keep any new health or environmental standards from going into effect, and another one doubling down to ensure that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules addressing the oil and coal industries would die before the first bill killed them.
In many other ways, House Republicans have tried to repeal, roll back or throw up roadblocks to fundamental protections. Their plans would leave our health jeopardized, our rivers and streams polluted, our air dirty, our wildlife depleted and our lands developed with a Wild West mentality.
The House rank-and-file Republican membership is so zealous that their own leaders haven’t been able to get them to go along with some of their own proposals.
These House GOP ideologues don’t vote for “less regulation.” They vote literally for no safeguards at all. They like to characterize their proposals as simply adhering to mainstream conservative ideals. But they actually are far more radical than that. Just some examples:
- Republican measures to “reform” regulation are not some middle-ground effort to limit the burden on companies. Instead, they would literally tear apart the system that has protected Americans since the early twentieth century, making it next to impossible to put in place any new protection for air, water, food and land—while giving competitive benefit to recalcitrant companies. (See REINS and RAA below.)
- The Republican efforts to promote offshore drilling don’t just make it easier to get permits for drilling. Instead, they require that half the available territory for drilling be put out to lease each and every year, until every last piece is leased, regardless of any concerns about that pace or where it may be dangerous to local recreation and fishing industries or the number of inspectors available to act as a deterrent from unsafe practices.
- The Republicans have not just tried to “slow down” EPA or make it look more closely at regulations, as they sometimes claim. Instead, they have pushed to permanently block EPA from protecting waters, from basing air pollution limits on health concerns, and from doing anything at all to address climate change, including reining in carbon pollution from older power plants, which kick out 40 percent of the nation’s carbon pollution and today face no limits.
- They have not just tried to “trim” the federal budget or limit new federal spending. Instead, they have taken a cleaver to agencies that provide basic protections—a one-third cut in EPA in one year, and an even greater cut on all research to move us forward on renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Significantly, House Republicans are using their majority to muscle these initiatives through, ignoring the public support for basic safeguards. With a handful of exceptions—such as an anti-climate amendment, a bill clipping EPA’s regulatory power, a pro-offshore drilling measure and harsh spending cuts in an energy and water bill, which each drew between eight and 16 Democratic votes on the floor—most measures have garnered scant or no Democratic support.
In the 112th Congress, House Republicans were just as reckless. They held about one anti-environment vote for every day the House was gaveled into session, according to Democratic staffers on the Energy and Environment Committee. The total, 317 votes, can be seen here.
That was why Rep. Henry Waxman, (D-CA), a member of the Environment Committee, and then-Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, called it the most anti-environment House in history.
This House GOP crusade has yielded nothing for the American people. Fortunately, the U.S. Senate and the White House have stood up to their industry giveaways, favors and backroom deals.
Have they gotten the message? No.
While accumulating a skimpy record of 22 bills signed into law—on such issues as precious-metal blanks and naming a bridge for Stan Musial—House Republicans have spent most of their time trying to ride roughshod over our air, land, water, wildlife and public health in the first months of the 113th Congress.
Following is a partial list of their efforts contained in pending legislation, or measures approved by committee or passed by the full House.
Individually, these measures represent caving to industry lobbyists or blind adherence to rigid ideological positions. But like a painting made of many brush strokes, together they reveal an unrelenting House Republican agenda that is anti-health, anti-community rights, anti-environment and, in total, against the broad interests of the American public.
Hobbling Federal Agencies That Protect the Public and Fight Pollution
1. The Interior and Environment appropriations bill would cut the EPA’s budget by 34 percent, down to levels not seen since 1990 (and, adjusted for inflation, to the level in 1976); making it next to impossible for the agency to enforce the environmental laws Congress has passed to protect our health, our lands, our air and our water. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
2. Included in the EPA spending bill is a provision to slash funding for rehabilitating and repairing the nation’s aging sewage systems to just $250 million from $1.44 billion previously. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
3. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 435) would permanently block EPA from clarifying which streams and wetlands are protected by the Clean Water Act. This would deny Clean Water Act protection for countless streams and wetlands, many of which are sources of drinking water and help with flood control. Identical language appears in the Energy and Water appropriation. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
4. The Energy Consumers Relief Act would subject any significant rule affecting an energy industry issued by EPA to a veto by the Energy Department, an agency with a wholly different mission from EPA’s, which is to protect public health, fight pollution and mitigate climate change. This would allow vital health and environmental safeguards to be nullified. Passed by the House.
5. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 436) would block the Department of Interior (DOI) from enforcing safeguards designed to protect streams from pollution from surface coal mining. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
6. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 437) would require a 90-day review by Congress before EPA could strengthen limitations on pollution from urban stormwater systems. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
7. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 439) would prevent implementation of the National Ocean Policy (NOP), a landmark policy designed to safeguard our oceans and coasts. That rider also requires a report on all FY 2011, FY 2012 and FY 2013 spending on the NOP and requires the President's budget proposal for FY 2015 to identify all proposed funding for NOP. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
8. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 443) would block the EPA from enforcing rules to limit exposure to lead paint. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
9. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 444) would repeal for the length of the appropriation EPA’s ability to require any industries with high probability of polluting to carry insurance to cover environmental damages they cause. This amendment would allow these risky industries to pass off the damages they cause to the public. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
10. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 448) would permanently block the EPA from setting standards to require the recycling of water used by power plants for cooling. Many older power plants use enormous amounts of coolant water, killing millions of fish in the process and then discharging the hot water. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
11. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 450) would prevent EPA from publicly disclosing “personally identifiable” information about livestock facilities, including the location of factory farms. A similar provision is in the Farm Bill. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
12. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 452) would permanently block the EPA from limiting pollution from stormwater runoff from a wide variety of logging operations. The Farm Bill (Sec. 11323) has a similar provision. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
13. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 455) would prevent the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management from protecting waters from pollution when utilized for hydraulic fracturing operations on public lands and from managing water resources in order to benefit fish and wildlife populations. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
14. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 456) would prevent EPA from updating the definition of “fill material” allowing the mining industry to continue dumping toxic waste from mountaintop removal activities into mountain streams. A similar provision is in the Energy and Water appropriations bill. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
15. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 457) would block EPA from enforcing particulate matter standards from applying to metal casting facilities which use furnaces to reprocess industrial sand. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
16. The REINS Act (Regulations From the Executive In Need of Scrutiny), a broad-based attack on regulation, would allow a single house of Congress to block any major agency-proposed regulation affecting health, safety, the environment or the economy. Passed by the House.
17. The Regulatory Accountability Act would slow or block the adoption of new health and environmental safeguards by imposing on the EPA and other agencies an ornate and overly complex process for rulemaking and giving regulated industries many more ways to tie up new rules in court. Passed by full committee.
18. The RAPID Act (Responsibly and Professionally Invigorating Development)—designed to ram through construction of major projects, such as oil refineries, power plants, nuclear waste dumps, big flood control projects and the like—would place arbitrary, and short, time limits on environmental reviews, severely limiting consideration of less harmful alternatives and reducing all-important public participation. Passed by full committee.
19. The Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act would give the executive branch opportunities to ignore Congressional deadlines by allowing polluters to disrupt court proceedings that try to enforce the law. Passed by full committee.
20. The Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act would have the effect of bogging down new and existing regulations with cumbersome and superfluous reviews. Passed by full committee.
21. The 2013 Farm Bill would prevent the EPA from restricting pesticide use near certain fisheries until there is a new study by the National Research Council (NRC) of the underlying science that informs the limitation. Passed by the House.
22. The Farm Bill contains a provision that would prohibit EPA from modifying, canceling or suspending a pesticide registration on the basis of a biological opinion issued by NOAA Fisheries Service or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service until the completion of an independent study on the opinions. Passed by the House.
23. In the Farm Bill is a provision that would bar states from enacting or enforcing their own food and farm laws, which could invalidate more than 150 state laws that currently protect health, animal welfare and food safety. Passed by the House.
24. The Offshore Energy and Jobs act would prevent the Interior Department from conducting thorough environmental and safety reviews of offshore oil leases, including oil spill response capacity, as called for under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Passed by the House.
25. The Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act aims to undermine meaningful public participation and environmental review under NEPA by setting an arbitrary deadline for reviews of the “siting, construction, expansion, or operation of any natural gas pipeline projects.” If deadlines are not met, the permit or license “shall go into effect.” Passed by full committee.
Endangering Wildlife and Public Lands
26. The House Appropriations bill for the Interior Department cuts the Fish and Wildlife Service budget by 27 percent and, for the first time in many years, provides no money for new land acquisition through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
27. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation would block funding for Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs), a network of public-private partnerships that provide shared science to ensure the sustainability of America's land, water, wildlife and cultural resources. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
28. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation would prohibit funding to create or expand wildlife refuges. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
29. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation would prohibit researching endangered species on private property. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
30. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 114) severely limits the public’s right to address decisions made by the Bureau of Land Management that favor industry, leading to decisions that will further harm essential federal ecological resources and wildlife. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
31. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 118) would block funding to implement the “Wild Lands” initiative of Interior Secretary Salazar in 2010. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
32. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 119) would exempt the trailing of livestock across public lands and the implementation of trailing practices by the Bureau of Land Management from environmental review under NEPA. It also precludes trailing decisions from be being protested by stakeholders. (Trailing is the practice of deliberately moving herds of sheep or cows across miles of federal lands where they could interact with, and possibly infect, endangered wild species). Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
33. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 120) would prohibit the listing of the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
34. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 407) would allow the Secretary of Agriculture to rely on outdated forest plans, ignoring the reality that national forests are quickly changing in the face of climate change. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
35. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 409) would prohibit funds from being used for the taking of land by eminent domain without congressional approval, with the exception of federal assistance to Florida for Everglades restoration. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
36. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 411) would exempt grazing permits from environmental reviews indefinitely. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
37. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 410) sets a minimum size of Alaskan timber sales in Region 10, an area that includes the Tongass and Chugach national forests. These timber sales can include exports of red and yellow cedar. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
38. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 432) would limit Forest Service review and appeals processes. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
39. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 434) would increase the maximum authorized term of grazing permits issued for domestic livestock on public lands from 10 to 20 years. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
40. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 438) would block any limits on the use or access to federal land for hunting, fishing or recreational shooting if those activities were allowed as of Jan. 1, 2013. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
41. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 453) would exempt from environmental review grazing allotments assigned to permittees and lessees to replace ones made unusable by drought or wildfire. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
42. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 454) would enable wholly unrestricted off-road vehicle use on National Forest System land. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
43. The Protecting States’ Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act would block the federal government from regulating the controversial oil and gas drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on most federal lands, and instead relinquish control to the states, no matter how weak their oversight. Passed by full committee.
44. Under the guise of mitigating future fire risks, the Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention Act would undermine the protections of NEPA, which call for public comment and thorough review, by fast-tracking the opening of federal lands to grazing and logging for 10 and 20 year terms respectively. Introduced in committee.
45. The Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act seeks to throw open public lands to widespread oil and gas drilling by, among other means, cutting short public input and charging a $5,000 “documentation fee” to citizens who exercise their rights under law to challenge the environmental soundness of a lease. Passed by full committee.
46. The National Petroleum Reserve Alaska Access Act aims to rush through oil drilling approval in the Alaskan reserve by setting impossibly short deadlines on the Interior Department review mandated under NEPA. Passed by full committee.
47. The National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act would give agencies the discretion simply to declare that a mineral exploration or mining permit would not constitute “a major federal action” and thus prevent the application (and protection) of NEPA. Passed by full committee.
Blocking Efforts to Combat Climate Change
48. The Energy and Water appropriations bill cuts nearly a billion dollars, a 50 percent reduction, from renewable energy projects and research at the Department of Energy. This includes slashing funds for the popular ARPA-E research agency by 81 percent and reducing funds by $220 million for the Office of Science, which supports much of the critical basic research that drives our innovation economy. Passed by the House.
49. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 445) would block EPA from limiting carbon pollution from power plants. Passed by subcommittee, pending in committee.
50. An amendment to the Energy Consumers Relief Act bars EPA from attributing any benefits to reductions in carbon emissions. This would prevent EPA from implementing any energy efficiency rules and essentially denies that climate change is having any adverse impact on public safety, health, agriculture or the economy through sea-level rise, drought, super-storms, heat waves and other extreme weather. Passed by the House.
51. A provision in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 419) would require the President to submit a report to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees on “all Federal agency funding, domestic and international, for climate change programs, projects and activities in fiscal years 2011, 2012, and 2013.” Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
52. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 420) would prevent the EPA from limiting pollution from livestock production under the Clean Air Act. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
53. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 421) would prevent the EPA from requiring the reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
54. The 2013 Farm Bill would cut all funding for rural renewable energy and efficiency development, including solar and wind, which help decrease reliance on polluting fossil fuels. Passed by the House.
55. A provision in the Interior appropriations bill would rescind $1.3 billion from the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program and transfer $285.6 million to wildfire suppression operations. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
Undermining Public Health
56. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation would limit the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's ability to add new toxic substances to the list of waste materials considered hazardous. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
57. A rider in the Interior and Environment appropriation (Sec. 451) would permanently prevent EPA from updating standards for cleaning up gasoline and cutting smog-forming pollution from cars and light trucks (Tier 3). Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
58. Section 442 of the Interior and Environment appropriation would create confusion and uncertainty by exempting certain stormwater discharges from coverage in municipalities' Clean Water Act discharge permits. This exemption would lead to endless factual disputes over the source and destination of individual sites' runoff, and it would prohibit permit requirements for those pollution sources, allowing them to continue degrading local water bodies without consequences. Passed by subcommittee, pending in full committee.
59. The Farm Bill would sharply reduce, then end, funding for conservation programs, which help restore wetlands and prairies and reduce fertilizer and pesticide pollution that poison our rivers and drinking water. Passed by the House.
60. The Farm Bill would gut all Clean Water Act restrictions on spraying pesticides into certain bodies of water, reversing a 2009 court decision. Passed by the House.
61. The Farm Bill loosens the oil spill prevention obligations of certain agricultural operations, even though oil spills from a farm are just as harmful as those from industry. Passed by the House.
Next week marks the second Earth Day of the coronavirus pandemic. While a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions has limited our ability to explore the natural world and gather with others for its defense, it is still possible to experience the wonder and inspiration from the safety of your home.
Here are three new films to watch this Earth Week that will transport you from pole to pole and introduce you to the scientists and activists working to save our shared home.
Where to Watch: Apple TV+
When to Watch: From April 16
The coronavirus pandemic has brought home the stakes of humanity's impact on the environment. But the lockdowns also proved how quickly nature can recover when humans give it the space. Birds sang in empty cities, whales surfaced in Glacier Bay and capybara roamed the South American suburbs.
The Year Earth Changed captures this unique year with footage from more than 30 lockdowned cities between May 2020 to January 2021. Narrated by renowned wildlife broadcaster David Attenborough, the film explores what positive lessons we can take from the experience of a quieter, less trafficked world.
"What the film shows is that the natural world can bounce back remarkably quickly when we take a step back and reduce our impact as we did during lockdown," executive producer Alice Keens-Soper of BBC Studios Natural History Unit told EcoWatch. "If we are willing to make even small changes to our habits, the natural world can flourish. We need to learn how to co-exist with nature and understand that we are not separate from it- for example if we closed some of our beaches at for a few weeks during the turtle breeding we see that it can make a huge difference to their success. There are many ways that we can adapt our behavior to allow the natural world to thrive as it did in lockdown."
Where to Watch: San Francisco International Film Festival
In 1989, Will Steger led an international team of six scientists and explorers to be the first humans to cross Antarctica by dogsled. Steger and his team weren't just in it for the adventure. They also wanted to draw attention to the ways in which the climate crisis was already transforming the icy continent and to rally support for the renewal of the Antarctic Treaty, which would keep the continent safe from extractive industries.
In After Antarctica, award-winning filmmaker Tasha Van Zandt follows Steger 30 years later as he travels the Arctic this time, reflecting on his original journey and once again bringing awareness to changes in a polar landscape. The film intersperses this contemporary journey with footage from the original expedition, some of which has never been seen before.
"Will's life journey as an explorer and climate activist has led him not only to see more of the polar world than anyone else alive today, but to being an eyewitness to the changes occurring across both poles," Van Zandt told EcoWatch. "But now, these changes are happening in all of our own backyards and we have all become eyewitnesses. Through my journey with Will, I have learned that although we cannot always control change, we can change our response. I feel strongly that this is a message that resonates when we look at the current state of the world, as we each have power and control over how we choose to respond to hardships, and we all have the power to unite with others through collective action around a common goal."
After Antarctica is available to stream once you purchase a ticket to the San Francisco International Film Festival. If you miss it this weekend, it will screen again at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival from May 13 to May 23.
Tasha Van Zandt
Where to Watch: Virtual Cinema
While many films about the climate crisis seek to raise awareness about the extent of the problem, The Race to Save the World focuses on the people who are trying to stop it. The film tells the story of climate activists ranging from 15-year-old Aji to 72-year-old Miriam who are working to create a sustainable future. It follows them from the streets to the courtroom to their homes, and explores the impact of their advocacy on their personal lives and relationships.
Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker Joe Gantz told EcoWatch that he wanted to make a film about climate change, but did not want to depress viewers with overwhelming statistics. Instead, he chose to inspire them by sharing the stories of people trying to make a difference.
"Unless millions of people take to the streets and make their voices heard for a livable future, the politicians are not going to get on board to help make the changes needed for a sustainable future," Gantz told Ecowatch. "I think that The Race To Save The World will energize and inspire people to take action so that future generations, as well as the plants, animals and ecosystems, can survive and thrive on this planet."
Check back with EcoWatch on the morning of Earth Day for a special preview of this inspiring film!
By Michael Svoboda
For April's bookshelf we take a cue from Earth Day and step back to look at the bigger picture. It wasn't climate change that motivated people to attend the teach-ins and protests that marked that first observance in 1970; it was pollution, the destruction of wild lands and habitats, and the consequent deaths of species.
The earliest Earth Days raised awareness, led to passage of new laws, and spurred conservation. But the original problems are still with us. And now they intersect with climate change, making it impossible to address one problem without affecting the others.
The 12 books listed below remind us about these defining interconnections.
The first three focus on biodiversity and on humanity's fractured relationships with the animals we live with on land.
The second trio explores the oceans and, at the same time, considers social and cultural factors that determine what we know – and don't know – about the 75% of our planet that is covered by water, perhaps the least well understood part of the climate system.
Agriculture and food security are examined by the third tranche of titles. This set includes a biography that may challenge what you think was/is possible, culturally and politically, in the American system.
Finally, there is the problem of waste, the problem of single-use plastics in particular. These three titles offer practical advice and qualified hope. Reducing litter might also reduce emissions – and vice versa.
As always, the descriptions of the works listed below are drawn from copy provided by the publishers or organizations that released them. When two dates of publication are included, the latter is for the paperback edition.
A Life on Our Planet My Witness Statement and Vision for the Future, by David Attenborough (Grand Central Publishing 2020, 272 pages, $26.00)
See the world. Then make it better. I am 93. I've had an extraordinary life. It's only now that I appreciate how extraordinary. As a young man, I felt I was out there in the wild, experiencing the untouched natural world – but it was an illusion. The tragedy of our time has been happening all around us, barely noticeable from day to day – the loss of our planet's wild places, its bio-diversity. I have been witness to this decline. A Life on Our Planet is my witness statement, and my vision for the future. It is the story of how we came to make this, our greatest mistake – and how, if we act now, we can yet put it right. We have one final chance to create the perfect home for ourselves and restore the wonderful world we inherited. All we need is the will to do so.
Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction, by Michelle Nijhuis (W.W. Norton 2021, 352 pages, $27.95)
In the late 19th century, as humans came to realize that our industrializing and globalizing societies were driving other animal species to extinction, a movement to conserve them was born. In Beloved Beasts, science journalist Michelle Nijhuis traces the movement's history. She describes the vital role of scientists and activists such as Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson; she reveals the origins of organizations like the Audubon Society and the World Wildlife Fund; she explores current efforts to protect species; and she confronts the darker side of conservation, long shadowed by racism and colonialism. As the destruction of other species continues and the effects of climate change escalate, Beloved Beasts charts the ways conservation is becoming a movement for the protection of all species – including our own.
How to Be an Animal: A New History of What It Means to Be Human, by Melanie Challenger (Penguin Random House 2021, 272 pages, $17.00 paperback)
How to Be an Animal tells a remarkable story of what it means to be human and argues that at the heart of our existence is a profound struggle with being animal. We possess a psychology that seeks separation between humanity and the rest of nature, and we have invented grand ideologies to magnify this. In her book, nature historian Melanie Challenger explores the ways this mindset affects our lives, from our politics to our environments. She examines how technology influences our relationship with our own animal nature and with the other species with whom we share this fragile planet. Blending nature writing, history, and philosophy, How to Be an Animal both reappraises what it means to be human and robustly defends what it means to be an animal.
Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean's Biggest Secret, by Jess Keating, Illustrated by Katie Hickey (Tundra Books 2020, 34 pages, $17.99)
From a young age, Marie Tharp loved watching the world. She loved solving problems. And she loved pushing the limits of what girls and women were expected to do and be. In the mid-twentieth century, women were not welcome in the sciences, but Marie was tenacious. She got a job at a laboratory in New York. But then she faced another barrier: women were not allowed on the research ships (they were considered bad luck on boats). So Marie stayed back and dove deep into the data her colleagues recorded. At first the scientific community refused to believe her, but her evidence was irrefutable. The mid-ocean ridge that Marie discovered is the single largest geographic feature on the planet, and she mapped it all from her small, cramped office.
Science on a Mission: How Military Funding Shaped What We Do and Don't Know about the Ocean, by Naomi Oreskes (University of Chicago Press 2021, 744 pages, $40.00)
What difference does it make who pays for science? After World War II, the US military turned to a new, uncharted theater of warfare: the deep sea. The earth sciences – particularly physical oceanography and marine geophysics – became essential to the US Navy, which poured unprecedented money and logistical support into their study. In Science on a Mission, historian Naomi Oreskes delves into the role of patronage in science, what emerges is a vivid portrait of how naval oversight transformed what we know about the sea. It is a detailed, sweeping history that illuminates the ways funding shapes the subject, scope, and tenor of research, and it raises profound questions about American science. What difference does it make who pays? A lot.
Dark Side of the Ocean: The Destruction of Our Seas, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do About It, by Albert Bates (Groundswell Books 2020, 158 pages, $12.95 paperback)
Our oceans face levels of devastation previously unknown in human history due to pollution, overfishing, and damage to delicate aquatic ecosystems affected by global warming. Climate author Albert Bates explains how ocean life maintains adequate oxygen levels, prevents erosion from storms, and sustains a vital food source that factory-fishing operations cannot match. Bates also profiles organizations dedicated to changing the human impact on marine reserves, improving ocean permaculture, and putting the brakes on heat waves that destroy sea life and imperil human habitation at the ocean's edge. The Dark Side of the Ocean conveys a deep appreciation for the fragile nature of the ocean's majesty and compels us to act now to preserve it.
The Planter of Modern Life: Louis Bromfield and the Seeds of a Food Revolution, by Stephen Heyman (W.W. Norton 2020, 352 pages, $26.95)
Louis Bromfield was a World War I ambulance driver, a Paris expat, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist as famous in the 1920s as Hemingway. But he cashed in his literary success to finance a wild agrarian dream in his native Ohio. There, in 1938, Bromfield transformed 600 badly eroded acres into a thriving cooperative farm, which became a mecca for agricultural pioneers and a country retreat for celebrities like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. This sweeping biography unearths a lost icon of American culture. While Bromfield's name has faded into obscurity, his mission seems more critical today than ever before. The ideas he planted at his utopian experimental farm, Malabar, would inspire America's first generation of organic farmers and popularize the tenets of environmentalism years before Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.
Food Fights: How History Matters to Contemporary Food Debates, edited by Charles C. Ludington and Matthew Morse Booker (University of North Carolina Press 2019, 304 pages, $32.95 paperback)
What we eat, where it is from, and how it is produced are vital questions in today's America. We think seriously about food because it is freighted with the hopes, fears, and anxieties of modern life. Yet critiques of food and food systems all too often sprawl into jeremiads against modernity itself, while supporters of the status quo refuse to acknowledge the problems with today's methods of food production and distribution. Food Fights sheds new light on these crucial debates, using a historical lens. Its essays take strong positions, even arguing with one another, as they explore the many themes and tensions that define how we understand our food – from the promises and failures of agricultural technology to the politics of taste.
Our Changing Menu: Climate Change and the Foods We Love and Need, by Michael P. Hoffmann, Carrie Koplinka-Loehr, and Danielle L. Eiseman (Comstock Publishing Associates 2021, 264 pages, $21.95 paperback)
Our Changing Menu unpacks the increasingly complex relationships between food and climate change. In it, Michael Hoffmann, Carrie Koplinka-Loehr, and Danielle Eiseman offer an eye-opening journey through a complete menu of before-dinner drinks and salads; main courses and sides; and coffee and dessert. Along the way, they examine the escalating changes occurring to the flavors of spices and teas, the yields of wheat, the vitamins in rice, and the price of vanilla. Their story ends with a primer on the global food system, the causes and impacts of climate change, and what we can do. Our Changing Menu is a celebration of food and a call to all – from the common ground of food – to help tackle the greatest challenge of our time.
Plastic Free: The Inspiring Story of a Global Environmental Movement and Why It Matters, by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz and Joanna Atherhold Finn (Columbia University Press 2020, 272 pages, $28.00)
In July 2011, Rebecca Prince-Ruiz challenged herself and some friends to go plastic free for the whole month. Since then, the Plastic Free July movement has grown from a small group of people in the city of Perth into a 250-million strong community across 177 countries. Plastic Free tells the story of this world-leading environmental campaign. From narrating marine-debris research expeditions to tracking what actually happens to our waste to sharing insights from behavioral research, Plastic Free speaks to the massive scale of the plastic waste problem and how we can tackle it together. Interweaving interviews from participants, activists, and experts, it tells the inspiring story of how ordinary people have created change in their homes, communities, workplaces, schools, businesses, and beyond. Plastic Fee offers hope for the future.
Can I Recycle This? A Guide to Better Recycling and How to Reduce Single Use Plastics, by Jennie Romer (Penguin Books 2021, 272 pages, $22.00)
Since the dawn of the recycling system, men and women the world over have stood by their bins, holding an everyday object, wondering, "Can I recycle this?" This simple question links our concerns for the environment with how we interact with our local governments. Recycling rules seem to differ in every municipality, leaving average Americans scratching their heads at the simple act of throwing something away. Taking readers on an informative tour of how recycling actually works (setting aside the propaganda we were all taught as kids), Can I Recycle This gives straightforward answers to whether dozens of common household objects can be recycled. And it provides the information you need to make that decision for anything else you encounter.
Zero Waste Living: The 80/20 Way: The Busy Person's Guide to a Lighter Footprint, by Stephanie J. Miller (Changemaker Books 2020, 112 pages, $10.95 paperback)
Many of us feel powerless to solve the looming climate and waste crises. We have too much on our plates, and so may think these problems are better solved by governments and businesses. This book unlocks the potential in each "too busy" individual to be a crucial part of the solution. Stephanie Miller combines her climate-focused career with her own research and personal experience to show how relatively easy lifestyle changes can create significant positive impacts. Using the simplicity of the 80/20 rule, she shows us those things (the 20%) that we can do to make the biggest (80%) difference in reversing the climate and waste crises. Her book empowers busy individuals to do the easy things that have a real impact on the climate and waste crises.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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Over the past year, Amazon has significantly expanded its warehouses in Southern California, employing residents in communities that have suffered from high unemployment rates, The Guardian reports. But a new report shows the negative environmental impacts of the boom, highlighting its impact on low-income communities of color across Southern California.
The report, from the People's Collective for Environmental Justice (PCEJ) and students from the University of Redlands, shared with The Guardian, is meant to serve as an "advocacy tool to help raise awareness related to the warehouse industry's impacts on Southern California's air pollution issues," Earthjustice noted.
California's Inland Empire, 60 miles east of Los Angeles, has emerged as one of the largest "warehousing hubs" in the world in just the past few decades, according to Grist. Since establishing its first warehouse in the region in 2012, Amazon has become the largest private employer in the region, where 40,000 people now work in Amazon warehouses, picking, packing, sorting and unloading, as well as driving trucks and operating aircrafts, The New York Times Magazine reported.
"The company is so enmeshed in the community that it can simultaneously be a TV channel, grocery store, home security system, boss, personal data collector, high school career track, internet cloud provider and personal assistant," The New York Times Magazine added.
In just the last year, Amazon has tripled its delivery hubs in the region due to the demand for online shopping during the COVID-19 crisis. But despite the economic boom, heavy air pollution mainly from trucks going in and out of the warehouses infects nearby communities, the new research showed, according to The Guardian.
The research found, for example, that the populations living within a half-mile of the warehouses are 85 percent people of color, while California's overall population is 64 percent people of color, The Guardian reported. The research also found that communities with the most Amazon warehouses nearby have the lowest rates of Amazon sales per household.
"Amazon has boomed in 2020 and tripled the amount of money it's making, and it is happening at a cost to the folks who live in these communities," Ivette Torres, a PCEJ environmental science researcher and analyst, who helped put the research together, told The Guardian.
The research also demonstrated that the top 10 communities with the most warehouses in the region also experience pollution from other facilities, like gas plants and oil refineries, Earthjustice wrote in a statement.
"The Inland Empire, probably more than any region in the United States, has disproportionately [borne] the brunt of the environmental and economic impact of goods movement, and Amazon is driving that now in the Inland Empire," Jake Wilson, a California State University, Long Beach, professor of sociology, told Grist.
Last year, the San Bernardino International Airport Authority ratified a decision to allow an air cargo facility development at the airport, allowing Amazon to operate more flights out of the region, Grist reported.
Among the local residents to oppose the decision was Jorge Osvaldo Heredia, a resident of San Bernadino in Southern California since 2005. "This whole region has been taken over by warehouses," Heredia told Grist, and commented on the "horrible" air quality in the city on most days. "It's really reaching that apex point where you can't avoid the warehouses, you can't avoid the trucks," he added.
Advocates who published the research are pushing on the South Coast Air Quality Management District, a local air pollution regulatory agency, to move forward with the Warehouse Indirect Source Rule, which would require new and existing warehouses to take action to reduce emissions locally each year, The Guardian reported. Some solutions include moving towards zero-emissions trucks and mitigation fees.
"Last year, we saw some of the worst air quality, with wildfires adding to it, and the trucks were still in and out of our communities. So this is a huge change that we need right now, and that we actually needed yesterday," Torres concluded, according to The Guardian.
Scientists at the University of Purdue have developed the whitest and coolest paint on record.
Painting buildings white to help cool down cities has long been touted as a climate solution. However, the white paints currently on the market reflect only 80 to 90 percent of sunlight and cannot actually cool a roof to below air temperature, The Guardian reported. However, this new paint can.
"Our paint can help fight against global warming by helping to cool the Earth – that's the cool point," University of Purdue Professor Xiulin Ruan told The Guardian. "Producing the whitest white means the paint can reflect the maximum amount of sunlight back to space."
The new paint, introduced in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces on Thursday, can reflect up to 98.1 percent of sunlight and cool surfaces by 4.5 degrees Celsius. This means it could be an effective replacement for air conditioning.
"If you were to use this paint to cover a roof area of about 1,000 square feet, we estimate that you could get a cooling power of 10 kilowatts. That's more powerful than the central air conditioners used by most houses," Ruan said in a University of Purdue press release.
The new paint improves upon a previous paint by the same research team that reflected 95.5 percent of sunlight. Researchers say it is likely the closest counterpart to the blackest black, "Vantablack," which can absorb as much as 99.9 percent of visible light. The new paint is so white for two main reasons: It uses a high concentration of a reflective chemical compound called barium sulfate, and the barium sulfate particles are all different sizes, meaning they scatter different parts of the light spectrum.
White paint is already being used to combat the climate crisis. New York has painted more than 10 million square feet of rooftops white, BBC News reported. Project Drawdown calculated that white or plant-covered roofs could sequester between 0.6 and 1.1 gigatons of carbon between 2020 and 2050. The researchers hope their paint will enhance these efforts.
"We did a very rough calculation," Ruan told BBC News. "And we estimate we would only need to paint one percent of the Earth's surface with this paint — perhaps an area where no people live that is covered in rocks — and that could help fight the climate change trend."
The research team has filed a patent for the paint and hope it will be on the market within two years, according to The Guardian. However, Andrew Parnell, who develops sustainable coatings at the University of Sheffield, said it would be important to calculate the emissions produced from mining barium sulphate and compare those with the emissions saved from using the paint instead of air conditioning.
"The principle is very exciting and the science [in the new study] is good. But I think there might be logistical problems that are not trivial," Parnell told The Guardian. "How many million tons [of barium sulphate] would you need?"
Parnell thought green roofs, or roofs on which plants grow, might prove to be a more ecologically friendly alternative.
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Less than three years after California governor Jerry Brown said the state would launch "our own damn satellite" to track pollution in the face of the Trump administration's climate denial, California, NASA, and a constellation of private companies, nonprofits, and foundations are teaming up to do just that.
Under the umbrella of the newly-formed group Carbon Mapper, two satellites are on track to launch in 2023. The satellites will target, among other pollution, methane emissions from oil and gas and agriculture operations that account for a disproportionate amount of pollution.
Between 2016 and 2018, using airplane-based instruments, scientists found 600 "super-emitters" (accounting for less than 0.5% of California's infrastructure) were to blame for more than one-third of the state's methane pollution. Now, the satellite-based systems will be able to perform similar monitoring, continuously and globally, and be able to attribute pollution to its source with previously impossible precision.
"These sort of methane emissions are kind of like invisible wildfires across the landscape," Carbon Mapper CEO and University of Arizona research scientist Riley Duren said. "No one can see them or smell them, and yet they're incredibly damaging, not just to the local environment, but more importantly, globally."
For a deeper dive:
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