95 Scientists and Economists Call on Obama to Veto Keystone XL Pipeline Bill
Yesterday, 95 scientists and economists released a letter urging President Obama and Secretary Kerry to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, calling it a "step in the wrong direction" if the Obama administration is serious about addressing climate change. The letter draws upon comments President Obama made at Georgetown University in June 2013 when he stated, "allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation's interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution." As the scientists and economists confirm in the letter, "...now more than ever, evidence shows that Keystone XL will significantly contribute to climate change."
As the letter explains:
"[T]he [pipeline's] potential incremental annual emissions of 27.4 MMTCO 2e is more than the emissions that seven coal-fired power plants emit in one year. And over the 50-year expected lifespan of the pipeline, the total emissions from Keystone XL could amount to as much as 8.4 billion metric tons CO2e. These are emissions that can and should be avoided with a transition to clean energy."
Furthermore, "[a]s the main pathway for tar sands to reach overseas markets, the Keystone XL pipeline would cause a sizable expansion of tar sands production and also an increase in the related greenhouse gas production." Given that tar sands produce more greenhouse gas emissions over their life cycle than conventional oils, any expansion of the tar sands would be detrimental to efforts to stave off the worst of the climate change scenarios.
The letter released yesterday follows up from an April 2014 letter from scientists and economists that also articulated Keystone XL's detrimental impact on climate change mitigation. That letter, like this one, called on Obama and Kerry to reject the project. Since last April, the case for rejection has only strengthened.
In January, the Nebraska Supreme Court's decision confirmed the pipeline's planned route, which re-initiated the State Department's National Interest Determination process. In this process, the State Department, in consultation with eight other agencies, considers factors like environmental concerns, foreign policy, and cultural impacts to determine whether the proposed project is in the national interest. In its comments to the State Department released last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wrote that tar sands is far more fossil fuel intensive than conventional oil and that, given low oil prices, there would likely be no economically viable alternative means for transporting tar sands to the U.S. Once the State Department makes its determination, Secretary Kerry will recommend his decision to President Obama. Obama will then make the final decision on whether Keystone XL should be rejected or approved.
In addition, since the April letter, oil prices have plummeted, making Keystone XL's potential impact on climate change even more pronounced. As the EPA noted in its commentary, the transportation of tar sands by rail is not an inevitable, or possibly not even a feasible, alternative to a pipeline. As the State Department concluded in its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), were oil prices to fall to between $65 and $75 a barrel, the fact that rail transport is more expensive "could have a substantial impact on oil sands production levels—possibly in excess of the capacity of the proposed project."Currently oil prices are between $50 and $60 per barrel.
Nevertheless, even were oil prices to rebound, the signatories of today's letter state, Keystone XL would still have a substantial negative impact on global climate change.
The slew of prominent scientists and economists from across the U.S. and Canada who stress Keystone XL's implications for climate change include Nobel laureates, fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS), fellows of the Royal Society of Canada, and, yes, Bill Nye. The following is a small sample of the signatories:
- Dr. Philip W. Anderson, who won the 1977 Nobel Prize in Physics alongside Sir Nevill Francis Mott and John Hasbrouck van Vleck. They won the prize "for their fundamental theoretical investigations of the electronic structure of magnetic and disordered systems."
- Dr. Kenneth J. Arrow, who won the 1972 Nobel Prize in Economics alongside John Hicks "for their pioneering contributions to general economic equilibrium theory and welfare theory." Dr. Arrow also received the National Medal of Science in 2004—the nation's highest scientific honor—for his contributions to the field of economics and has served as a convening lead author for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments.
- Numerous lead authors and coordinating lead authors for United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment reports.
- Fellows of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) including Dr. James McCarthy, Dr. Richard Norgaard, and Dr. Michael Oppenheimer, and Fellows of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC) including Dr. Mark Jaccard and Dr. Lawrence Dill.
- Winners of Heinz Awards in the Environment, and in the Human Condition—including Dr. Gretchen Daily, Drs. Paul and Anne Ehrlich, Dr. George Woodwell, Dr. James Hansen, and Dr. Michael Oppenheimer.
- Winners of the Volvo Environment Prize, which is awarded for "Outstanding innovations or scientific discoveries," including Dr. Paul Ehrlich, who won it jointly with John Holdren (now President Obama's senior advisor on science and technology issues) in 1993; Dr. George Woodwell (2001), and Gretchen Daily (2012).
- Dr. David Keith, 2006 winner of Canadian Geographic's "Environmentalist of the Year"—who is both a Harvard Professor and President of a Calgary, Alberta company that works on ways to capture carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere.
This letter further confirms the growing evidence that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would be an environmental catastrophe. If President Obama and Secretary Kerry are serious about addressing climate change, they should take the letter's warnings to heart and lay the issue of Keystone XL to rest by rejecting the project.
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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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Twenty-five years ago, a food called Tofurky made its debut on grocery store shelves. Since then, the tofu-based roast has become a beloved part of many vegetarians' holiday feasts.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
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