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Democrats Must Include Plank to End Mountaintop Removal
The Democrats have nothing to lose. And everything to gain—especially the health and lives of residents in the coal mining areas of central Appalachia.
Calling it "Judy's plank," in honor of beloved West Virginia mountaineer Judy Bonds, whose untimely death in 2011 served as a wakeup call to the mounting humanitarian and health care crises from mountaintop removal mining, the Democratic Party platform should officially include a commitment for an immediate moratorium on the devastating form of strip mining at their national convention in Charlotte on Sept. 4.
Ending one of the most blatant civil rights and environmental crimes is not just the right and moral thing to do. It would be a smart move for the Democrats and President Obama, whose recent pander to Big Coal in a bizarre Ohio ad against Romney was rightly denounced by environmentalists and health care advocates as a disgrace.
And Charlotte, whose bright lights and big city operates on coal-fired plants from mountaintop removal operations, would be a symbolic place to start.
Let's be real: Obama doesn't have a chance of winning West Virginia. A prison inmate gave the President a run for his money in the Democratic primary. Most of West Virginia's top Democrats, like U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, Rep. Nick Rahall and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, are such sycophants to the Big Coal lobby that they aren't even attending the convention.
In truth, mountaintop removal provides less than 5-7 percent of national coal production. It's simply not needed any more. Meanwhile, as study after study is released documenting the link between mountaintop removal fallout and birth defects and cancer, among other diseases, as well as irreversible destruction of waterways and biological communities, a humanitarian crisis is growing every day.
The Democrats can not speak of being advocates for clean energy, civil rights and the environment if they turn their backs on besieged residents in Appalachia and quietly accept mountaintop removal mining.
In fact, Democrats should also ask someone like Goldman Prize recipient Maria Gunnoe to speak at the convention, as well.
Because, who speaks for Appalachia? Out-of-state coal companies and their political lackeys, like Manchin, or deeply rooted and devoted citizens like Judy Bonds and her family.
"My daddy was a mountaineer before he was a coal miner," Bonds reminded us. "You know the coal industry's trying to rewrite heritage. They're trying to say 'well, what about your coal heritage?' Oh yeah, my coal heritage. I got plenty of that. That's my history of resistance against the abuses of the coal industry. That's my coal heritage."
On Sept. 4, the Democrats should embrace that same inspiring heritage against the abuses of the coal industry and call for an end to mountaintop removal.
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By Julia Conley
Climate campaigners on Friday expressed hope that policymakers who are stalling on taking decisive climate action would reconsider their stance in light of new warnings from an unlikely source: two economists at J.P. Morgan Chase.
Tensions are continuing to rise in Canada over a controversial pipeline project as protesters enter their 12th day blockading railways, demonstrating on streets and highways, and paralyzing the nation's rail system
Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.
"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.
The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."
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