'This Is a Big Deal': Warren Vows to Ban New Leases for Fossil Fuel Drilling Offshore and on Public Lands
By Jessica Corbett
Environmental activists and advocacy groups praised Sen. Elizabeth Warren Monday after she promised that if she is elected president in 2020, she will ban new fossil fuel extraction leases for federally controlled lands and waters.
"It is wrong to prioritize corporate profits over the health and safety of our local communities," the Massachusetts Democrat wrote on Medium. "That's why on my first day as president, I will sign an executive order that says no more drilling — a total moratorium on all new fossil fuel leases, including for drilling offshore and on public lands."
"This is a really important stand to take," 350.org cofounder Bill McKibben tweeted Monday.
He thanked the senator her new policy proposal, which focuses on "keeping our public lands in public hands, and maintaining and preserving existing lands," as well as "making our public lands part of the climate solution — not the problem."
This is a really important stand to take. thank you @SenWarren https://t.co/YdNgSW1Wld— Bill McKibben (@Bill McKibben)1555344682.0
"This is a big deal," said author and activist Naomi Klein. "We can't only talk about the things we want to add — millions of new jobs in renewables, efficiency, transit, green public housing. All that's great. But we gotta be willing to be honest about what we have to subtract too."
This is a big deal. We can't only talk about the things we want to add -- millions of new jobs in renewables, effic… https://t.co/k8IJ7btCpr— Naomi Klein (@Naomi Klein)1555354044.0
Celebrating Warren's "bold plan" on Twitter Monday, both 350 Action and Greenpeace USA noted the pressure it puts on other candidates in the crowded Democratic field.
"Americans want our next president to be a real climate leader, and candidates are listening," tweeted 350 Action. "Who's next?"
Wow: @ewarren has a bold plan to #KeepItInTheGround. "On my 1st day as president, I'll sign an order that says no m… https://t.co/JH9dQJ2Gib— 350 Action (@350 Action)1555344094.0
A cosponsor of the Green New Deal resolution currently before Congress, Warren was one of only three 2020 Democratic candidates — along with Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) — who received checkmarks across the board on 350 Action's 2020 climate policy scorecard, released in late March.
The unveiling of Warren's public lands policy follows a series of other bold proposals from the presidential hopeful. She also has put forward plans to offset tax loopholes exploited by large U.S. corporations; establish nationwide universal childcare; help family farmers compete with agricultural giants; and break up major technology companies.
Warren's approach to managing public lands comes in stark contrast to that of the Trump administration, which has gutted environmental protection rules and worked to expand fossil fuel extraction offshore and on public lands. The senator was among those who opposed the recent confirmation of David Bernhardt, a former fossil fuel lobbyist, to head Trump's Interior Department.
The Trump administration currently poses a grave threat to public lands and waters "with its casual denial of science and apparent amnesia about massive crises like the BP oil spill," Warren argued in her Medium post — but "it doesn't have to be this way. We must not allow corporations to pillage our public lands and leave taxpayers to clean up the mess."
America’s public lands provide us with clean air and water, sustain fish and wildlife, and offer a place for millio… https://t.co/SYJ9Smbo7U— Elizabeth Warren (@Elizabeth Warren)1555345525.0
While Warren's vow to impose a moratorium on drilling leases was highly praised, that wasn't the only promise she made Monday.
"As president," Warren wrote:
- I will set a goal of providing 10 percent of our overall electricity generation from renewable sources offshore or on public lands.
- I will use my authorities under the Antiquities Act to restore protections to both [Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah] and any other national monuments targeted by this administration.
- I will fully fund our public land management agencies and eliminate the infrastructure and maintenance backlog on our public lands in my first term.
- I will recruit 10,000 young people and veterans to jumpstart a 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps — and increase the budget of AmeriCorps' one-year fellowship program to fund it. This will create job opportunities for thousands of young Americans caring for our natural resources and public lands, deepening their lifelong relationship with the great outdoors.
"The National Park Service is funded by taxpayers," she added, "and it's long past time to make entry into our parks free to ensure that visiting our nation's treasures is within reach for every American family."
Acknowledging that "a patchwork of ownership and access rights means that as many as 10 million acres in the West are not accessible to hunters, anglers, and other outdoor enthusiasts," she also committed to "unlocking 50 percent of these inaccessible acres, to grow our outdoor economy, help ease the burden on our most popular lands, and to provide a financial boost across rural America."
Though Warren's policy is national in nature, she also emphasized the importance of the Interior Department "meaningfully" incorporating local stakeholders, including tribal groups, in public lands management.
"America's public lands belong to all of us," she concluded. "We should start acting like it — expanding access, ending fossil fuel extraction, leveraging them as part of the climate solution, and preserving and improving them for our children and grandchildren. Together, we can manage and protect our public lands for generations to come."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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By Joe Roman and Taylor Ricketts
The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is the deepest and longest period of malaise in a dozen years. Our colleagues at the University of Vermont have concluded this by analyzing posts on Twitter. The Vermont Complex Systems Center studies 50 million tweets a day, scoring the "happiness" of people's words to monitor the national mood. That mood today is at its lowest point since 2008 when they started this project.
The Hedonometer measures happiness through analysis of key words on Twitter, which is now used by one in five Americans. This chart covers 18 months from early 2019 to July 2020, showing major dips in 2020. hedonometer.org<p>These same tweets also indicate a potential salve. Before pandemic lockdowns began, doctoral student <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=0P0ZYbIAAAAJ&hl=en" target="_blank">Aaron Schwartz</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/pan3.10045" target="_blank">compared tweets before, during, and after visits to 150 parks, playgrounds and plazas</a> in San Francisco. He found that park visits corresponded with a spike in happiness, followed by an afterglow lasting up to four hours.</p><p>Tweets from parks contained fewer negative words such as "no," "not" and "can't," and fewer first-person pronouns like "I" and "me." It seems that nature makes people more positive and less self-obsessed.</p><p>Parks keep people happy in times of global crisis, economic shutdown and public anger. Research has also shown that transmission rates for COVID-19 are <a href="https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Is-risk-of-coronavirus-transmission-lower-15287602.php" target="_blank">much lower outdoors than inside</a>. As scholars who study <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=yFzb2EUAAAAJ&hl=en" target="_blank">conservation</a> and how nature <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=CCnUeN8AAAAJ&hl=en" target="_blank">contributes to human well-being</a>, we see opening up parks and creating new ones as a straightforward remedy for Americans' current blues.</p>
Park Visits Are Up During the Pandemic<p>According to the Hedonometer, sentiments expressed online started trending lower in mid-March as the impacts of the pandemic became clear. As lockdowns continued, they registered the lowest sentiment scores on record. Then in late May, effects from George Floyd's death in police custody and the following protests and police response once again could be seen on Twitter. May 31, 2020 was the saddest day of the project.</p><p>Recent surveys of park visitors around the University of Vermont have shown people <a href="https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/sd3h6" target="_blank">using green spaces more</a> since COVID-19 lockdowns began. Many people reported that parks were highly important to their well-being during the pandemic.</p>
<div id="4c7e4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bc0ac146ab2a94228f32d973fc2ab272"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1289428912879964160" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">#Goldengatepark #sf #quarantinemood https://t.co/9l3ufnbkt6</div> — Suvd (@Suvd)<a href="https://twitter.com/Suvd19486406/statuses/1289428912879964160">1596258783.0</a></blockquote></div><p>The powerful effects of nature are strongest in large parks with more trees, but smaller neighborhood parks also provide a significant boost. Their impact on happiness is real, measurable and lasting.</p><p>Twitter records show that parks increase happiness to a level similar to the bounce at Christmas, which typically is the happiest day of the year. Schwartz has since expanded his <a href="https://arxiv.org/pdf/2006.10658.pdf" target="_blank">Twitter study</a> to the 25 largest cities in the U.S. and found this bounce everywhere.</p><p>Parks and public spaces won't cure COVID-19 or stop police brutality, but they are far more than playgrounds. There is growing evidence that parks contribute to mental and physical health in a range of communities.</p><p>In a 2015 study, for example, Stanford researchers sent people out for one of two walks: through a local park or on a busy street. Those who walked in nature showed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.02.005" target="_blank">improved moods and better memory performance</a> compared to the urban group. And a team led by <a href="https://penniur.upenn.edu/people/eugenia-gina-south" target="_blank">Gina South</a> of the University of Pennsylvania showed in a 2018 study that greening and cleaning up blighted vacant lots in Philadelphia <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0298" target="_blank">reduced local residents' feelings of depression, worthlessness and poor mental health</a>.</p>
Creative Strategies<p>It isn't easy to create new parks on the scale of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park or the Washington Mall, but smaller projects can expand outdoor space. Options include greening vacant lots, closing streets and investing in existing parks to make them safer, greener and shadier and support wildlife.</p><p>These initiatives don't have to be capital-intensive. In the University of Pennsylvania study, for example, renovating a vacant lot by removing trash, planting grass and trees and installing a low fence cost only about US$1,600.</p><p>Urban green space is most needed in neighborhoods that have lacked funding for parks, especially given <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/08/nyregion/coronavirus-race-deaths.html" target="_blank">COVID-19's disproportionate impact on Black and Latinx people</a>.</p><p>Cities can also create parklike spaces by <a href="https://theconversation.com/with-fewer-cars-on-us-streets-now-is-the-time-to-reinvent-roadways-and-how-we-use-them-140408" target="_blank">closing streets to cars</a>. Many cities worldwide are currently retooling their transportation systems for the post-COVID-19 world in order to <a href="https://thecityfix.com/blog/bicycles-slower-speeds-livable-city-paris-mayor-anne-hidalgo-plans-ambitious-second-term-dario-hidalgo/" target="_blank">reallocate public space</a>, widen sidewalks and make more space for nature.</p><p>Urban designers, artists, ecologists and other citizens can play a direct role, too, creating pop-up parks and green spaces. Some advocates <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-15/a-brief-history-of-park-ing-day" target="_blank">transform parking spaces into mini-parks</a> with grass, potted trees and seating for just the time on the meter, to make a larger point about turning so much public space over to cars.</p><p>Or cities can invest a little more. Minneapolis, Cincinnati and Arlington, Virginia, have won <a href="https://www.tpl.org/parkscore" target="_blank">national recognition</a> for their ambitious investments in public park systems. These areas could serve as models for neighborhoods that lack access to parks.</p>
<div id="25fd0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="383f0d2df0237e9359c30dcce6cd6c42"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1276558744835379201" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Looking to safely get outside? Check out the best parks for social distancing in this year's top ten ParkScore citi… https://t.co/HJjEtDsrTD</div> — The Trust for Public Land (@The Trust for Public Land)<a href="https://twitter.com/tpl_org/statuses/1276558744835379201">1593190296.0</a></blockquote></div>
A New Park Deal?<p>The United States has historically driven economic recovery with major infrastructure investments, like the New Deal in the 1930s and the 2009 <a href="https://www.investopedia.com/terms/a/american-recovery-and-reinvestment-act.asp" target="_blank">American Reinvestment and Recovery Act</a>. Such investments could easily include nature-positive spaces.</p><p>Parks are not panaceas, as evidenced by the widely publicized <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/06/nyregion/amy-cooper-false-report-charge.html" target="_blank">racist confrontation between a white woman and a Black birder</a> in New York's Central Park in early July. But Hedonometer data add to a <a href="https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/7/eaax0903?utm_source=miragenews&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_campaign=news" target="_blank">growing body of evidence</a> that they provide <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1807504116" target="_blank">clear mental health benefits</a>. Creating and expanding parks also <a href="https://www.nrpa.org/contentassets/f568e0ca499743a08148e3593c860fc5/economic-impact-study-summary.pdf" target="_blank">generates jobs and economic activity</a>, with much of the money spent locally.</p><p>We believe investments in nature are well worth it, offering both short-term solace in difficult times and long-term benefits to health, economies and communities.</p>
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<div id="7eb49" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="83819841e380a7072ec66d3186c160e8"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1291705003984510977" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨RESPONSE to #Mauritius #OILSpill 🚨 “Once again we see the risks in oil: aggravating the #ClimateCrisis, as well as… https://t.co/PBLioZat6X</div> — Greenpeace Africa (@Greenpeace Africa)<a href="https://twitter.com/Greenpeaceafric/statuses/1291705003984510977">1596801446.0</a></blockquote></div><p>"There is no guaranteed safe way to extract, transport and store fossil fuel products. This oil leak is not a twist of fate, but the choice of our twisted addiction to fossil fuels. We must react by accelerating our withdrawal from fossil fuels," Greenpeace Africa Senior Climate and Energy Campaign Manager Happy Khambule said in a <a href="https://www.greenpeace.org/africa/en/press/11864/greenpeace-africa-response-to-mauritius-oil-spill/?utm_campaign=oil&utm_source=t.co&utm_medium=post&utm_content=single-image&utm_term=mauritius-oil-spill-reactive" target="_blank">statement Friday</a>. "Once again we see the risks in oil: aggravating the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/climate-crisis" target="_self">climate crisis</a>, as well as devastating oceans and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/biodiversity" target="_self">biodiversity</a> and threatening local livelihoods around some of Africa's most precious lagoons."</p>
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