After lengthy private negotiations, a pro-fracking regulatory bill finally saw the light of day in the Illinois legislature last week. Unsurprisingly, it's being rushed through the legislature faster than a vampire escaping the first rays of morning sunshine.
Under the direction of Illinois Gov. Quinn, this bill, which will give rise to shale gas extraction of oil and gas in a state that has not yet seen large-scale fracking, had been crafted in the shadows for many months. But what has caught everyone in Springfield unawares is the equally swift and ferocious citizen opposition, which has arrived on the scene with a wooden stake and the fury of Van Helsing.
Four days of sit ins and arrests at Gov. Quinn’s office mark the rapidly growing momentum of the grassroots movement to stop fracking in Illinois. As an intense series of actions last week demonstrate a deep level of commitment among concerned citizens, the national spotlight turns toward Illinois and has captured the attention of powerful progressives, environmentalists and national anti-fracking forces.
"Residents in the areas targeted for fracking have been denied any meeting and any voice in the backdoor negotiations," said Dayna Conner, a Southern Illinois landowner and mother of three who was arrested for sitting in at Gov. Quinn’s office last Wednesday. "Gov. Quinn and Attorney General Madigan have negotiated away our health and well being to the gas industry for fracking that will devastate our homes and put our families at risk."
At the heart of the issue is the regulatory bill. Although the bill has half-hearted support from some environmental groups who argue that compromise regulation is better than none at all, the grassroots believe it will pave the way for widespread fracking in two-thirds of the state. They are stalwart in advocating for a moratorium on fracking and vow to ramp up their fight until fracking is stopped.
Pointing to serious inadequacies in the proposed regulations, they note that the bill was crafted with the participation of industry and legislators taking thousands in campaign contributions from fracking interests. The invitation-only meetings included no input from scientists and health professionals. Many downstate environmental leaders believe that residents and organizations in the areas of the state targeted for fracking would have agreed to far fewer compromises had they been included in negotiations.
Activists point to dangers from water contamination, air pollution and fracking in Illinois' active earthquake zones. They question whether fines will be large enough to deter violations, and doubt rules will be adequately enforced by a badly underfunded, understaffed department that's notoriously cozy with extracting industries. Several counties already passed anti-fracking ordinances, but the state bill would stop them from setting many local restrictions. With little or no scientific basis for the regulatory bill, they believe that Attorney General Madigan, Gov. Quinn and others who brokered the deal are sacrificing their communities for the oil and gas industry's hypnotizing promises of jobs and revenue.
Those arguments were the basis for escalating protests last week. Friday was the fourth day-long sit in at Gov. Quinn’s office as activists demanded a meeting with the governor to urge him to support a moratorium. They pointed to countless requests for a meeting over the previous 18 months and called this a last resort. The sit in on Thursday ended with three arrests as the Capitol building closed, with many more concerned citizens there in support throughout the day.
Springfield resident Melody Lamar was arrested Thursday and spoke to a rally Friday to deliver the message that Illinois politicians would be held responsible for what she called the inevitability of sick families, ruined farms and environmental devastation from fracking.
The sit ins and arrests began Tuesday after citizens packed the Illinois House Executive Committee’s hearing on the regulatory bill, demonstrating strong opposition and erupting in chants of “shame!” when it passed.
Joining residents from across the state in speaking against the bill were Academy Award-nominated Gasland filmmaker Josh Fox and Sandra Steingraber, PhD, a nationally acclaimed environmental health expert, biologist and author who grew up in Illinois. Steingraber testified that the proposed regulations failed to protect public health and the environment, and called the process for creating them "anti-scientific decision making."
Earlier in the week in Normal, IL, Josh Fox launched a grassroots tour for his sequel documentary, Gasland Part II, which comes out on HBO in July. More than 400 packed the theater, giving the film a long standing ovation and staying late to learn how to take action.
As grassroots groups such as Illinois People’s Action and Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing increase pressure for a moratorium, the national anti-fracking, environmental and progressive movements are focusing on Illinois. Actor, director and leading anti-fracking activist Mark Ruffalo was among those urging the state not to allow fracking, tweeting on Thursday that, "Fracking cannot be done safely, don't poison Illinoisans."
National environmental organization 350.org sent an email blast to their membership in Illinois on Thursday, joining the grassroots in targeting phone calls to Gov. Quinn and Attorney General Madigan. Other national organizations including CREDO Action, Greenpeace, Food & Water Watch, Breast Cancer Action, Center for Biological Diversity and Americans Against Fracking have previously weighed in.
After escalating action by the grassroots, both the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Sierra Club clarified their organizational positions on the compromise regulatory bill and the moratorium. Both note that the regulatory bill will not protect public health and the environment and that they would prefer a moratorium. The NRDC wrote last Monday, "make no mistake, there are still deficiencies and this bill won't make fracking safe." Sierra Club Illinois echoed the sentiment later that same day, writing that the new regulations "will not make fracking safe."
Yet, politicians and industry representatives have used the support of two national environmental groups for the regulatory bill to marginalize residents from fracking regions who continue fighting for a moratorium.
It’s clear that citizens want the regulatory bill laid to rest and that now no problem resulting from fracking will go unnoticed or unchallenged. The newly emboldened grassroots warn that the regulatory bill will not only spell disaster for Illinois but that it will come back to haunt those who created and supported it. As concerned citizens testified last Tuesday, they intend to hold those who paved the way for fracking Illinois responsible for every accident and every poisoned well. Given their increasing momentum—and agreement in the environmental and progressive community that the regulations are grounded in political expediency rather than science—elected officials would be wise to take heed.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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If weather is your mood, climate is your personality. That's an analogy some scientists use to help explain the difference between two words people often get mixed up.
Size Matters<p>Climates are a bit like woven tapestries. The big picture is important, no question. But so are all the seemingly minor details found inside the larger whole.</p><p><a href="https://research-information.bris.ac.uk/en/persons/tommaso-jucker" target="_blank">Tommaso Jucker</a> is an environmental scientist at the University of Bristol. In an email, Jucker says he'd define the term microclimate as "the suite of climatic conditions (temperature, rainfall, humidity, solar radiation) measured in localized areas, typically near the ground and at spatial scales that are directly relevant to ecological processes."</p><p>We'll talk about that last bit in a minute. But first, there's another criteria to discuss. According to some researchers, a microclimate — by definition — must differ from the larger area that surrounds it.</p><p><a href="https://www.cfc.umt.edu/research/paleoecologylab/publications/Davis_et_al_2019_Ecography.pdf" target="_blank">Forests</a> provide us with some great examples. "The climate near the ground in a tropical rainforest is dramatically different from the climate in the canopy 50 meters [164 feet] above," says University of Montana ecologist <a href="https://www.cfc.umt.edu/personnel/details.php?ID=1110" target="_blank">Solomon Dobrowski</a> in an email. "This vertical gradient among other factors allows for the staggering biodiversity we see in the tropics."</p><p>Likewise, scientists observed that a 2015 partial <a href="https://animals.howstuffworks.com/insects/bees-stopped-buzzing-during-2017-solar-eclipse.htm" target="_blank">solar eclipse</a> caused the air temperature of an Eastern European meadow to <a href="https://rmets.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/wea.2802" target="_blank">change more dramatically</a> than it did in a nearby forest. That's because trees provide not only shade, but their leaves also reflect solar radiation. At the same time, forests tend to reduce wind speeds.</p><p>All those factors add up. A 2019 review of 98 wooded places — spread out across five continents — found that forests are 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) <a href="https://natureecoevocommunity.nature.com/posts/47363-forests-protect-animals-and-plants-against-warming" target="_blank">cooler on average</a> than the areas outside them.</p><p>Now if you hate the cold, don't worry; there's a cozy exception to the rule. According to that same study, forests are usually 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) warmer than the external environment during the wintertime. Pretty cool.</p>
A Bug's Life<p>When does a microclimate stop being, well, micro? In other words, is there a maximum size we should be aware of when discussing them?</p><p>Depends on who you ask. "In terms of horizontal scale, some have defined 'microclimate' as anything that is less than 100 meters [328 feet] in range," Jucker says. "I'm personally less prescriptive about this."</p><p>Instead, he says the "scale at which we want to measure [a particular] microclimate" ought to be "dictated" by the questions we're trying to answer.</p><p>"If I want to know how temperature affects the photosynthesis of a leaf, I should be measuring temperature at centimeter scale," Jucker explains. "If I want to know if and how temperature affects the habitat preference of a large, mobile mammal, it's probably more relevant to capture temperature variation across [tens to hundreds] of meters."</p><p>For instance, solitary plants have the power to generate itty-bitty microclimates. Just ask <a href="https://www.colorado.edu/geography/peter-blanken-0" target="_blank">Peter Blanken</a>, a geography professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder and the co-author of the 2016 book, "<a href="https://amzn.to/2XN6FT8" target="_blank">Microclimate and Local Climate</a>."</p>
The urban heat island effect is a good example of how microclimates work. NOAA
Microclimates on a Grand Scale<p>It's no secret that our planet is going through some rough times at the macro level. The global temperature is <a href="https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/" target="_blank">climbing</a>; nine out of the <a href="https://www.noaa.gov/news/2019-was-2nd-hottest-year-on-record-for-earth-say-noaa-nasa" target="_blank">10 hottest years on record</a> have occurred since 2005. And by one recent estimate, roughly 1 million species around the world are <a href="https://ipbes.net/sites/default/files/2020-02/ipbes_global_assessment_report_summary_for_policymakers_en.pdf" target="_blank">facing extinction</a> due to human activities.</p><p>"One of the big questions that ecologists and environmental scientists are trying to answer right now is how will individual species and whole ecosystems respond to rapid climate change and habitat loss," says Jucker. "...To me, [microclimates are] a key component of this research — if we don't measure and understand climate at the appropriate scale, then predicting how things will change in the future becomes a lot harder."</p><p>Developers have long understood the impact small-scale climates have on our daily lives. <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/urban-heat-island.htm#pt0" target="_blank">Urban heat islands</a> are cities that have higher temperatures than neighboring rural areas.</p><p>Plants release vapors that can moderate local climates. But in cities, natural greenery is often scarce. To make matters worse, plenty of our roads and buildings have a bad habit of absorbing or re-emitting heat from the sun. <a href="https://www.google.com/books/edition/Microclimate_and_Local_Climate/LHUZDAAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=urban%20heat%20island" target="_blank">Vehicle emissions</a> don't exactly help the situation.</p><p>Still, it's not like Boston or Beijing are thermal monoliths. Sometimes, the documented temperatures <a href="https://e360.yale.edu/features/can-we-turn-down-the-temperature-on-urban-heat-islands" target="_blank">within a single city</a> vary by 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit (8.3 to 11.1 degrees Celsius).</p><p>That's where metro parks and city trees come in. They have nice cooling effects on nearby neighborhoods. "Several cities around the world have developed programs to increase urban green spaces," says Blanken. "Tree planting programs and green roof programs, have been shown to lower surface temperatures, decrease air pollution and decrease surface water runoff (urban flash-flooding) in urban areas."</p>
An "explosive" wildfire ignited in Los Angeles county Wednesday, growing to 10,000 acres in a little less than three hours.
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Note: This story was originally published on August 6, 2020
If asked to recall a hurricane, odds are you'd immediately invoke memorable names like Sandy, Katrina or Harvey. You'd probably even remember something specific about the impact of the storm. But if asked to recall a heat wave, a vague recollection that it was hot during your last summer vacation may be about as specific as you can get.
<div id="ecf36" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c2dcc9d48a6cd61f247df1544539a783"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1290959314132361216" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Naming heatwaves is a good idea—making the abstract concrete, the invisible visible. Why should hurricanes and wild… https://t.co/hDWgYb79Ob</div> — Ed Maibach (@Ed Maibach)<a href="https://twitter.com/MaibachEd/statuses/1290959314132361216">1596623660.0</a></blockquote></div>
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Thailand has a total population of 5,000 elephants. But of that number, 3,000 live in captivity, carrying tourists on their backs and offering photo opportunities made for social media.
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One of the challenges of renewable power is how to store clean energy from the sun, wind and geothermal sources. Now, a new study and advances in nanotechnology have found a method that may relieve the burden on supercapacitor storage. This method turns bricks into batteries, meaning that buildings themselves may one day be used to store and generate power, Science Times reported.
Bricks are a preferred building tool for their durability and resilience against heat and frost since they do not shrink, expand or warp in a way that compromises infrastructure. They are also reusable. What was unknown, until now, is that they can be altered to store electrical energy, according to a new study published in Nature Communications.
The scientists behind the study figured out a way to modify bricks in order to use their iconic red hue, which comes from hematite, an iron oxide, to store enough electricity to power devices, Gizmodo reported. To do that, the researchers filled bricks' pores with a nanofiber made from a conducting plastic that can store an electrical charge.
The first bricks they modified stored enough of a charge to power a small light. They can be charged in just 13 minutes and hold 10,000 charges, but the challenge is getting them to hold a much larger charge, making the technology a distant proposition.
If the capacity can be increased, researchers believe bricks can be used as a cheap alternative to lithium ion batteries — the same batteries used in laptops, phones and tablets.
The first power bricks are only one percent of a lithium-ion battery, but storage capacity can be increased tenfold by adding materials like metal oxides, Julio D'Arcy, a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, who contributed to the paper and was part of the research team, told The Guardian. But only when the storage capacity is scaled up would bricks become commercially viable.
"A solar cell on the roof of your house has to store electricity somewhere and typically we use batteries," D'Arcy told The Guardian. "What we have done is provide a new 'food-for-thought' option, but we're not there yet.
"If [that can happen], this technology is way cheaper than lithium ion batteries," D'Arcy added. "It would be a different world and you would not hear the words 'lithium ion battery' again."
One of the concerns about a warming planet is the feedback loop that will emerge. That is, as the planet warms, it will melt permafrost, which will release trapped carbon and lead to more warming and more melting. Now, a new study has shown that the feedback loop won't only happen in the nether regions of the north and south, but in the tropics as well, according to a new paper in Nature.
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By Jessica Corbett
A sheriff in Florida is under fire for deciding Tuesday to ban his deputies from wearing face masks while on the job—ignoring the advice of public health experts about the safety measures that everyone should take during the coronavirus pandemic as well as the rising Covid-19 death toll in his county and state.
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<div id="79024" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4ac086eab58b9713f2ad777c40938252"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1293578984148606977" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">This actively puts peoples' lives at risk. https://t.co/GKF0Xgjyex</div> — CAP Action (@CAP Action)<a href="https://twitter.com/CAPAction/statuses/1293578984148606977">1597248238.0</a></blockquote></div>
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