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A Climate Resistance Game Plan for 2018

Climate
Christine Irvine / 350.org

By Jamie Henn

Let's talk for a moment about how the climate movement is going to fight back in 2018.

But first, a public service announcement.

This Jan. 31, movement leaders like the one-and-only Bernie Sanders, 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus, Jacqueline Patterson of the NAACP, and more, are coming together for an event called "Fossil Free Fast: The Climate Resistance," to lay out a movement game plan for 2018.


If you're in the DC area you should attend the event (tickets here). If not, you can host or join a house party to tune into the broadcast with fellow activists in your community. There are more than 100 parties already registered nationwide. This isn't an evening you want to miss.

OK. Now let's get down to the business of resistance.

After a year of watching the Trump administration wreck havoc on our communities and the climate, we know that 2018 is going to bring an onslaught of new assaults. On the climate front, those attacks will take the form of cutting environmental protections and easing the way for more fossil fuel extraction.

We got a preview of horrors to come in January, when the administration announced it would be opening up our coastlines for offshore drilling. That's on top of plans to expand mining on public lands, allow for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and rubber stamp any and all new fossil fuel projects the industry can come up with.

Even more insidious is the way in which U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is attempting to dismantle decades of environmental regulations. If there's a rule in place to protect public health or the environment, you can bet Pruitt is taking a hatchet to it. At the top of his kill list for 2018 is the Clean Power Plan, the Obama-era policy to limit pollution from coal fired power plants and one of our most important tools to combat rising emissions.

But there's an Achilles heel to Trump and his cronies' plan to smother the nation with pipelines and smog, because no matter the actions they take in Washington, DC, these fossil fuel projects need to get built in towns, cities and counties across America. Trump can crow all he wants about coal, oil and gas, but ultimately, it's not his little hands doing the construction. Even with the full backing of the White House, the only way a fossil fuel project moves forward is if it can secure all the necessary permits and local support. That can be tough for new mines and it's especially difficult for major pipelines, which often run through multiple states and dozens of towns and counties along their proposed routes.

Which brings us to the first way that we're going to fight back in 2018: organizing in our communities to stop all new fossil fuel projects.

Right now there isn't a project in North America that doesn't face some form of community resistance. From British Columbia to Pennsylvania, local groups are building alliances to resist any new project the industry throws our way. By working together, we can hold back fossil fuel projects long enough so that renewables take over and the economic case for building these pipelines and mines disappears. We're not going to win every fight, but so far, the resistance is working and even the most inevitable seeming projects are now facing stiff opposition.

Take the case of Keystone XL. One of Trump's first actions when he was elected was to approve the federal permit for the project. Since then, he's been bragging that they " built the Keystone XL pipeline." Meanwhile, the actual pipeline is still rusting above ground somewhere in the Dakotas waiting to be assembled. In the real world, Keystone XL is still miles away from construction. TransCanada, the company building the project, may have a permit, but they're still struggling to line up enough buyers for the tar sands oil they want to ship down to Texas (the company announced last week it had secured two-thirds of the commitments it needs, but even those pledges are shaky and had to be propped up by the government in Alberta). TransCanada also hasn't secured construction rights from farmers and ranchers along a new route they've been forced to take through Nebraska.

There's even a bolder roadblock facing Keystone: you. Over the past few months, nearly 15,000 people have signed the Promise to Protect, a pledge to travel to the route of the pipeline if TransCanada attempts to start building and peacefully resist construction in every way we can. The Promise to Protect should send a chill down the spine of TransCanada and any of their financial backers. Our organizing has held this pipeline back for over seven years and Trump can't do anything about it. You could have the CEO of ExxonMobil in the White House (oh wait, he's secretary of state) and Keystone still wouldn't get built. This resistance isn't going anywhere.

Even if you don't live near a pipeline or a fracking well there's still a way to contribute to stopping projects. Just like in the fight against Big Tobacco or nuclear power, we're going to be using the model of local resolutions to beat back the fossil fuel industry everywhere they rear their head. Our goal is to pass hundreds of "Fossil Free" resolutions in cities and towns across the country that ban the construction of new fossil fuel projects. In doing so, we'll help tie up the industry in a web of resistance and helping protect our communities in perpetuity.

That's job number one: stop all new fossil fuel projects. But playing defense isn't enough—we also want to go on offense to build the world that works for all of us, not just a wealthy few. Which brings us to job number two.

The second way we're going to fight back in 2018 is driving forward a fast and just transition to 100 percent renewable energy for all.

Together, we're going to use 2018 to build a groundswell for 100 percent renewable energy in cities and towns across America. By the end of the year, our goal is to have won at least 100 commitments from communities to go to 100 percent renewable in a just and equitable way. More than that, we want to show the inevitability of the entire country moving in this direction. That means a lot of public education to show people this world is possible, and a lot of political pressure to make sure that every candidate for elected office has signed onto our goal of 100 percent for all.

For many climate advocates, the 100 percent piece will seem clear. Over the last decade, advances in renewable energy technology have made it possible to get all of our power from the sun, wind and water. New breakthroughs in battery storage mean that old concerns about the "reliability" of renewables are quickly fading away. The vision of a carbon-free world is quickly coming into focus.

But what about the justice and equity piece? We know that our current fossil fuel-based energy system, and all the pollution that comes with it, didn't just get built on a whim. It was enabled by and has perpetuated deep social inequality. While predominantly white, affluent communities can flip on the light switch and still enjoy clean air and water, poorer communities of color are often stuck with a power plant or oil refinery polluting their neighborhoods and threatening their children's health. Meanwhile, because of corporate monopolies and a lack of worker protections, the vast wealth being created by the fossil fuel economy has flowed in one direction: upwards. As fossil fuel billionaires have pocketed ever more profits, workers and entire communities have been left behind. Climate change just exacerbates these pre-existing inequalities. The same communities who have born the brunt of our pollution-based economy are often on the frontlines of climate impacts.

With the transition to 100 percent renewable energy, we have perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity to rebuild our economy in a more just and equitable way. Through public investments, we can guarantee that it's not just the rich who can afford to put up solar panels, but those who live in public housing or rental units who are first in line for retrofits and upgrades. With worker training programs and the right incentives, we can make sure that there are enough jobs created so that both workers in the fossil fuel industry and those who never had a shot at a good paying, union job, can get employment in the renewables sector. By making sure that everyone has a seat at the table, we can design transition plans that make sure we truly have 100 percent "for all" rather than just the 1 percent.

That's the work we need to continue in 2018. There are already great 100 percent efforts underway, from Sierra Club's "Ready for 100" campaign to the NAACP's "Solar For All" effort. Our job is to double, triple, and quadruple these efforts. Remember those "Fossil Free" resolutions I mentioned above? This is the second piece of that puzzle. As we call on our cities and towns to ban new fossil fuel infrastructure, we'll also ask them to commit to "100 percent for all" and then work with them to make sure they're implementing these plans.

These two pieces of local resistance, fighting projects and promoting renewables, can make up the bulk of our efforts in 2018, but there's another key way we need to make progress. That's because as beautiful and brilliant our distributed resistance is going to be, we still need a way to strike at the heart of the fossil fuel industry. As we work from the bottom up to flip our energy mix, we also need to hit the industry where it hurts: their pocketbooks.

The third way we're going to fight back in 2018 is by continuing the fossil fuel divestment movement and ensuring that not a penny more goes to new fossil fuel projects.

Over the last five years, the fossil fuel divestment campaign has grown from a handful of college campuses to the largest divestment effort in history. By now, nearly 700 institutions representing $6 trillion in assets have made some form of divestment commitment. In December, the trillion dollar Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund announced that it was expanding its coal divestment to include oil and gas. Soon after, the World Bank announced that it was no longer going to finance new oil and gas development.

Perhaps the most amazing series of announcements came just a couple weeks ago. Governor Andrew Cuomo kicked things off by announcing that New York State was going to pursue fossil fuel divestment. Not to be outdone by Albany, Mayor Bill de Blasio took an even bolder step forward, announcing that New York City would not only be divesting from fossil fuels, but also suing the five largest publicly held oil companies for damages caused by climate change. It's hard to overstate the significance of this move. The world's most iconic city and heart of the global financial industry has declared war on fossil fuels.

It feels like fossil fuel divestment may be reaching a tipping point. With New York city and state taking a steps forward, the excuses for others to hold back are looking increasingly lame, and risky. Oil, coal and gas are quickly becoming the guns and tobacco of the 21st century: investments-non-grata for institutions with a conscience. Even those without a conscience are dropping their stocks, however, since nobody wants to be the last one holding onto fossil fuels when the rest of the world realizes the industry is doomed.

Our job in 2018 is to push divestment over the top. Every new city, state and institution that makes a divestment commitment helps hasten the day when the entire economy moves away from fossil fuels and into clean energy. Forget trying to engage with fossil fuel companies—we've had three decades of those sorts of efforts and little show for it—it's divestment that will send a clear signal that business as usual is no longer possible. As fossil fuel stocks become increasingly tainted, it will becomes less and less acceptable for banks (who worry deeply about their brands) to finance new coal, oil and gas development, putting the industry in even more of a precarious situation.

Bring these three pieces together—stopping fossil fuels, building momentum towards 100 percent, and divestment—and we've got ourselves a game plan for 2018. Now here's the timeline. This year, we've got two key dates to work towards.

The first is Sept. 8, 2018. That's the weekend before the Global Climate Action Summit, a major conference being held in San Francisco to drive forward local action on climate change. The summit is connected with the United Nations climate talks, but instead of focusing on national governments, the meeting in September will focus on the commitments from "non-state actors," i.e. cities, states, investors, businesses and other institutions.

Our goal is to leverage this summit as a way to drive forward the three demands above: no new fossil fuel infrastructure, 100 percent renewable energy for all, and fossil fuel divestment. Since every one of our mayors and governors is being invited to make a commitment for the summit, every one of them can be pressured to meet our demands before that September deadline. Just to make sure, we're planning a mobilization the weekend before, on Sept. 8, at city halls and state houses across the country. Whether those rallies are a celebration of the commitments our elected officials have made, or a protest demanding they do more, will depend on them.

After we take to the streets in September, we'll focus on the next key date on the calendar. You guessed it: Nov. 8. If it isn't abundantly clear by now, elections have consequences. We need to make sure that this election day, every single person that cares about climate justice is registered to vote and knocking on doors to send a clear signal to the establishment that we need elected officials who don't just believe in climate change, but are ready to do something about it. Nonprofits that can't engage in electoral activity will be investing in public education and voter registration, while political organizations will be promoting climate champions and taking down deniers and industry puppets. As activists, our job will be to figure out how we can make the biggest difference locally and support any and all national efforts that support our end goals.

So, let's get to work. Fossil Free Fast, the event on Jan. 31, is when the action begins. It's also the perfect opportunity for you to get a group together in your community, or meet up with an existing crew, and lay out your game plan for working on the goals above (and whatever other priorities you want to take on) over the coming year.

2018 isn't a year to sit on the sidelines or behind the comfort of your screen. It's a year to get out and organize. The resistance is everywhere and it's brilliant and beautiful and brave. The deepest thanks to all of your who are already deeply involved in driving it forward. To the rest of you, join us.

Jamie Henn is co-founder and director of strategic communications for the international climate campaign 350.org.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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What Is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Most commonly, the injury involves the protective sheath, or myelin, that wraps nerves and is essential to nerve function.

Without the myelin sheath, signals that go through a nerve are slowed or lost, which causes the nerve to malfunction.

To diagnose Guillain-Barre Syndrome, neurologists perform a detailed neurological exam. Due to the nerve injury, patients often may have loss of reflexes on examination. Doctors often need to perform a lumbar puncture, otherwise known as spinal tap, to sample spinal fluid and look for signs of inflammation and abnormal antibodies.

Studies have shown that giving patients an infusion of antibodies derived from donated blood or plasma exchange – a process that cleans patients' blood of harmful antibodies - can speed up recovery. A very small subset of patients may need these therapies long-term.

The majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients improve within a few weeks and eventually can make a full recovery. However, some patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome have lingering symptoms including weakness and abnormal sensations in arms and/or legs; rarely patients may be bedridden or disabled long-term.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Pandemics

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, many neurologic specialists have been on the lookout for potentially serious nervous system complications such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Though Guillain-Barre Syndrome is rare, it is well known to emerge following bacterial infections, such as Campylobacter jejuni, a common cause of food poisoning, and a multitude of viral infections including the flu virus, Zika virus and other coronaviruses.

Studies showed an increase in Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases following the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, suggesting a possible connection. The presumed cause for this link is that the body's own immune response to fight the infection turns on itself and attacks the peripheral nerves. This is called an "autoimmune" condition. When a pandemic affects as many people as our current COVID-19 crisis, even a rare complication can become a significant public health problem. That is especially true for one that causes neurological dysfunction where the recovery takes a long time and may be incomplete.

The first reports of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in COVID-19 pandemic originated from Italy, Spain and China, where the pandemic surged before the U.S. crisis.

Though there is clear clinical suspicion that COVID-19 can lead to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, many important questions remain. What are the chances that someone gets Guillain-Barre Syndrome during or following a COVID-19 infection? Does Guillain-Barre Syndrome happen more often in those who have been infected with COVID-19 compared to other types of infections, such as the flu?

The only way to get answers is through a prospective study where doctors perform systematic surveillance and collect data on a large group of patients. There are ongoing large research consortia hard at work to figure out answers to these questions.

Understanding the Association Between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barre Syndrome

While large research studies are underway, overall it appears that Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare but serious phenomenon possibly linked to COVID-19. Given that more than 10.7 million cases have been reported for COVID-19, there have been 10 reported cases of COVID-19 patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far – only two reported cases in the U.S., five in Italy, two cases in Iran and one from Wuhan, China.

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Though the reported cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far all have severe symptoms, this is not uncommon in a pandemic situation where the less sick patients may stay home and not present for medical care for fear of being exposed to the virus. This, plus the limited COVID-19 testing capability across the U.S., may skew our current detection of Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases toward the sicker patients who have to go to a hospital. In general, the majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients do recover, given enough time. We do not yet know whether this is true for COVID-19-related cases at this stage of the pandemic. We and colleagues around the world are working around the clock to find answers to these critical questions.

Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.

Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.

Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Reposted with permission from The Conversation.


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"Of course, like in any collaborative effort, there are areas of negotiation and compromise," said the New York Democrat. "But I do believe that the Climate Task Force effort meaningfully and substantively improved Biden's positions."

 

The 110 pages of policy recommendations from the six eight-person Unity Task Forces on education, the economy, criminal justice, immigration, climate change, and healthcare are aimed at shaping negotiations over the 2020 Democratic platform at the party's convention next month.

Sanders said that while the "end result isn't what I or my supporters would've written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families throughout our country."

"I look forward to working with Vice President Biden to help him win this campaign," the Vermont senator added, "and to move this country forward toward economic, racial, social, and environmental justice."

Biden, for his part, applauded the task forces "for helping build a bold, transformative platform for our party and for our country."

"I am deeply grateful to Bernie Sanders for working with us to unite our party and deliver real, lasting change for generations to come," said the former vice president.

On the life-or-death matter of reforming America's dysfunctional private health insurance system—a subject on which Sanders and Biden clashed repeatedly throughout the Democratic primary process—the Unity Task Force affirmed healthcare as "a right" but did not embrace Medicare for All, the signature policy plank of the Vermont senator's presidential bid.

Instead, the panel recommended building on the Affordable Care Act by establishing a public option, investing in community health centers, and lowering prescription drug costs by allowing the federal government to negotiate prices. The task force also endorsed making all Covid-19 testing, treatments, and potential vaccines free and expanding Medicaid for the duration of the pandemic.

"It has always been a crisis that tens of millions of Americans have no or inadequate health insurance—but in a pandemic, it's potentially catastrophic for public health," the task force wrote.

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a former Michigan gubernatorial candidate and Sanders-appointed member of the Healthcare Task Force, said that despite major disagreements, the panel "came to recommendations that will yield one of the most progressive Democratic campaign platforms in history—though we have further yet to go."

 

Observers and advocacy groups also applauded the Unity Task Forces for recommending the creation of a postal banking system, endorsing a ban on for-profit charter schools, ending the use of private prisons, and imposing a 100-day moratorium on deportations "while conducting a full-scale study on current practices to develop recommendations for transforming enforcement policies and practices at ICE and CBP."

Marisa Franco, director of immigrant rights group Mijente, said in a statement that "going into these task force negotiations, we knew we were going to have to push Biden past his comfort zone, both to reconcile with past offenses and to carve a new path forward."

"That is exactly what we did, unapologetically," said Franco, a member of the Immigration Task Force. "For years, Mijente, along with the broader immigrant rights movement, has fought to reshape the narrative around immigration towards racial justice and to focus these very demands. We expect Biden and the Democratic Party to implement them in their entirety."

"There is no going back," Franco added. "Not an inch, not a step. We must only move forward from here."

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.