On Dec. 4 in Spokane, Washington, more than 800 people packed the Spokane County Fairgrounds for the fifth of seven scheduled public hearings on the proposed Cherry Point coal terminal in Whatcom County. Nearly 700 people showed up to oppose the construction of the largest coal export terminal in North America.
Included in opposition were citizens from Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming and Montana, including tribal leaders, farmers and a very inspiring fourth grader who garnered the only permitted applause of the afternoon.
We were simultaneously inspired and outraged by what happened in Spokane last night. On one hand, the overwhelming passion, perseverance and diversity of those who spoke in opposition was moving, but on the other hand the misguided frustration and short-term interests of those in favor was demoralizing. Here are some of our frustrations from yesterday:
- The Army Corps of Engineers is attempting to improperly limit the scope of the environmental analysis to short-term local impacts although we are talking about increased consumption of a fossil fuel that is wreaking havoc on our climate.
- Coal export investors paid temporary workers to stand in line starting at 6 a.m. to hijack the public process and take speaking slots away from concerned citizens.
- The overly simplistic dichotomy that this decision is a choice between jobs or the environment.
- The belief by coal supporters that it is okay to destroy the global climate and hurt millions of people by burning more coal as long as the project provides a few hundred jobs.
- A lack of critical mass urgency to do what needs to be done, and can be done, to protect our climate so that future generations have a safe and healthy planet.
But we don’t want to focus on the most frustrating aspects of last night’s hearing, we want to tell you why it inspired us and renewed our faith in the goodness, intelligence and fair-mindedness of our fellow citizens.
We saw hundreds of people give up their usual Tuesday night activities with friends and family to stand up for the future of our planet. It was profoundly humbling to be a part of the growing global citizens movement to disenthrall ourselves from a dangerous addiction to fossil fuels. We heard moving testimony from elected officials, doctors, tribal members, community groups, business owners, farmers, ranchers and environmental groups. We were proud to add to that testimony with words from our Waterkeepers in India, Bangladesh and China.
The unified message brought forward by those of us who spoke out against the lunacy of the Cherry Point coal export terminal was:
- The scope of the Environment Impact Statement must take into account every community impacted by the mining, transport and burning of coal.
- Opposition to coal trafficking stems from a broad base of authentic citizen support that genuinely wants to transition away from planet-killing fossil fuels and create jobs in renewable energy.
- Scientific evidence conclusively shows that the pollution from coal burned in India and China will harm people, waterways and fisheries in the Pacific Northwest with mercury and fine particulates that rob children of IQ points and cause respiratory disease.
- This decision is far more complex than a simple and unhelpful jobs-vs-environment dichotomy, it is a decision that has global impacts in a quickly changing world.
Fifty years from now, future generations will look back at us and note who fiddled while the planet burned, who poured gas on the fire and who did their best to put it out. It was profoundly humbling to stand in solidarity with so many people last night who were willing to pick up the hose and try their best to put out the fire. We look forward to upcoming hearings in Portland, Oregon on Dec. 6, Vancouver, Washington on Dec. 12 and Seattle, Washington on Dec. 13, when more people will come together to combat the global conflagration that awaits us if we continue mining, transporting and burning coal.
Visit EcoWatch’s COAL EXPORTS page for more related news on this topic.
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.