Jane Fonda Says Bernie Sanders Is the Only Climate Candidate
By Jessica Corbett
Octogenarian actor and activist Jane Fonda declared ahead of a climate action protest in California Friday that the U.S. needs a "climate president" and she is now backing Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is leading a grassroots movement challenging the Democratic Party establishment coalescing around former Vice President Joe Biden.
"We have to get a climate president in office, and there's only one right now, and that's Bernie Sanders," Fonda told USA TODAY prior to the Los Angeles rally. "So, I'm indirectly saying I believe you have to support the climate candidate."
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is technically still in the Democratic presidential primary race, but Super Tuesday effectively made it a two-person contest between Biden and Sanders (I-Vt.). USA Today noted that Fonda previously donated to Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who have since ended their campaigns.
Sanders' Green New Deal proposal to tackle the global climate crisis and ensure a just transition to renewable energy has been hailed by climate advocates as a "game-changer." The plan, unveiled in August 2019, calls for "100% renewable energy for electricity and transportation by no later than 2030 and complete decarbonization by at least 2050."
Fonda's comments about supporting Sanders came ahead of the second Fire Drill Friday event in California. In October 2019, Fonda launched Fire Drill Fridays as a weekly civil disobedience campaign in Washington, DC that aimed to pressure U.S. policymakers to ambitiously address the human-caused climate crisis.
After a few months and five arrests, Fonda returned to California to resume filming her Netflix show Grace and Frankie. She also partnered with Greenpeace USA to bring Fire Drill Fridays to the West Coast. The first monthly rally was held on Feb. 7 at City Hall in Los Angeles. The second event was Friday, in the Los Angeles Harbor area, and focused on environmental racism.
Oil sites in communities like Wilmington are not a coincidence. There's a reason we don't see them in wealthier, pr… https://t.co/mTosOnzBvi— Greenpeace USA (@Greenpeace USA)1583540179.0
With the Fire Drill Friday demonstrations, "we're protesting an existential threat that could determine the future of human life on the planet, basically," Fonda explained to USA Today.
Fonda's attorneys struck a deal with a DC judge that the 82-year-old won't face penalties or court dates for her arrests as long as she isn't arrested in Los Angeles for three months. Although she won't be risking arrest for a while, Fonda continues to demand climate action — specifically, cutting emissions by 50 percent over the next decade and phasing out fossil fuels by 2050.
"This is going to be very, very, very hard, and it requires millions and millions of people to do more than just be concerned, but to actually become activists and become willing to put their bodies on the line," Fonda said. "That's why we're doing Fire Drill Fridays."
Fonda was joined Friday by her Grace and Frankie co-stars Lily Tomlin and Sam Waterston as well as other celebrities and national and community organizers. After rallying at offices of Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino, a group of actors and activists visited fossil fuel impact zones in the area before blockading the entrance of a Warren E&P oil extraction site. There were no arrests.
"While we're in the midst of a massive communicable health crisis across the globe, a much quieter health crisis is worsening in communities like Wilmington, California where hundreds of residents, activists, and celebrities joined me today," Fonda said in a statement Friday. "We heard powerful stories from community members who have become seriously ill simply by living in their own homes where drilling is occurring in their backyards, without their permission."
"We will be watching California leadership, specifically Councilmember Joe Busciano, who has allowed his district to become a sacrifice zone for the fossil fuel industry, and demanding they do better," Fonda promised. "We will not quiet down until our leadership decides to protect the people and our climate."
An amazing display of action and solidarity today at #FireDrillFriday — and we're not stopping! Thank you to all th… https://t.co/Jz1jQLkewm— Greenpeace USA (@Greenpeace USA)1583541303.0
Fonda's vow to hold California leadership accountable was echoed by other climate activists. Annie Leonard of Greenpeace USA called Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom to "do something for the health and and safety of communities like Wilmington, and begin a just transition away from fossil fuels for the industry's workers."
Newsom, Leonard said, "must stop issuing new permits for oil and gas projects, drop existing fossil fuel production, and roll out setback limits by creating a 2,500-foot public health and safety buffer zone between fossil fuel infrastructure like the Warren E&P sites and homes, schools, and other sensitive sites in neighborhoods like Wilmington."
As Wilmington community organizer Alicia Riveria explained:
Oil operations happen right next to our homes and schools and parks in Wilmington. People are suffering while politicians are sitting on their hands. Just last week a fire broke out at one of the refineries in our community and we had to advise residents to stay indoors and close their windows to try to mitigate toxic fumes from coming into their homes. There is environmental racism at play for frontline communities across California, and it's unacceptable.
Dr. Saba Malik of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles and the STAND-LA Coalition said, "It's public health common sense — based on a mountain of scientific evidence — that oil production does not belong anywhere near homes, schools, or other sensitive land uses."
"So why do they remain in communities like Wilmington and South Los Angeles?" Malik added. "Because these communities are comprised overwhelmingly of people of color, lower income people with less access to adequate healthcare, resulting in an even greater risk of chronic disease and increased vulnerability to the effects of these environmental insults."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Melissa Gaskill
Two decades ago scientists and volunteers along the Virginia coast started tossing seagrass seeds into barren seaside lagoons. Disease and an intense hurricane had wiped out the plants in the 1930s, and no nearby meadows could serve as a naturally dispersing source of seeds to bring them back.
Restored seagrass beds in Virginia now provide habitat for hundreds of thousands of scallops. Bob Orth, Virginia Institute of Marine Science / CC BY 2.0<p>The paper is part of a growing trend of evidence suggesting seagrass meadows can be easier to restore than other coastal habitats.</p><p>Successful seagrass-restoration methods include <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0304377099000078?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">transplanting shoots</a>, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1061-2971.2004.00314.x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mechanized planting</a> and, more recently, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-17438-4" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">biodegradable mats</a>. Removing threats, proximity to donor seagrass beds, planting techniques, project size and site selection all play roles in a restoration effort's success.</p><p>Human assistance isn't always necessary, though. In areas where some beds remain, seagrass can even recover on its own when stressors are reduced or removed. For example, seagrass began to recover when Tampa Bay improved its water quality by reducing nitrogen loads from runoff by roughly 90%.</p><p>But more and more, seagrass meadows struggle to hang on.</p><p>The marine flowering plants have declined globally since the 1930s and currently disappear at a rate equivalent to a football field every 30 minutes, according to the <a href="https://www.unep.org/resources/report/out-blue-value-seagrasses-environment-and-people" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Environment Programme</a>. And research published in 2018 found the rate of decline is <a href="https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2018GB005941" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">accelerating</a> in many regions.</p><p>The causes of decline vary and overlap, depending on the region. They include thermal stress from climate change; human activities such as dredging, anchoring and coastal infrastructure; and intentional removal in tourist areas. In addition, increased runoff from land carries sediment that clouds the water, blocking sunlight the plants need for photosynthesis. Runoff can also carry contaminants and nutrients from fertilizer that disrupt habitats and cause algal blooms.</p><p>All that damage comes with a cost.</p>
The Value of Seagrass<p>As with ecosystems like rainforests and <a href="https://therevelator.org/mangroves-climate-change/" target="_blank">mangroves</a>, loss of seagrass increases carbon dioxide emissions. And that spells trouble not just for certain habitats but for the whole planet.</p><p>Although seagrass covers at most 0.2% of the seabed, it <a href="https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/seagrass-secret-weapon-fight-against-global-heating" target="_blank">accounts for 10%</a> of the ocean's capacity to store carbon and soils, and these meadows store carbon dioxide an estimated 30 times faster than most terrestrial forests. Slow decomposition rates in seagrass sediments contribute to their <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/238506081_Assessing_the_capacity_of_seagrass_meadows_for_carbon_burial_Current_limitations_and_future_strategies" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high carbon burial rates</a>. In Australia, according to <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.15204" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">research</a> by scientists at Edith Cowan University, loss of seagrass meadows since the 1950s has increased carbon dioxide emissions by an amount equivalent to 5 million cars a year. The United Nations Environment Programme reports that a 29% decline in seagrass in Chesapeake Bay between 1991 and 2006 resulted in an estimated loss of up to 1.8 million tons of carbon.</p>
Eelgrass in the river delta at Prince William Sound, Alaska. Alaska ShoreZone Program NOAA / NMFS / AKFSC; Courtesy of Mandy Lindeberg / NOAA / NMFS / AKFSC<p>Seagrasses also protect costal habitats. A healthy meadow slows wave energy, reduces erosion and lowers the risk of flooding. In Morro Bay, California, a 90% decline in the seagrass species known as eelgrass caused extensive erosion, according to a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0272771420303528?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper</a> from researchers at California Polytechnic State University.</p><p>"Right away, we noticed big patterns in sediment loss or erosion," said lead author Ryan Walter. "Many studies have shown this on individual eelgrass beds, but very few studies looked at it on a systemwide scale."</p><p>In the tropics, seagrass's natural protection can reduce the need for expensive and often-environmentally unfriendly <a href="https://www.nioz.nl/en/news/zeegras-spaart-stranden-en-geld" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">beach nourishments</a> regularly conducted in tourism areas.</p><p>Seagrass ecosystems improve water quality and clarity, filtering particles out of the water column and preventing resuspension of sediment. This role could be even more important in the future. By producing oxygen through photosynthesis, meadows could help offset decreased oxygen levels caused by warmer water temperatures (oxygen is less soluble in warm than in cold water).</p><p>The meadows also provide vital habitat for a wide variety of marine life, including fish, sea turtles, birds, marine mammals such as manatees, invertebrates and algae. They provide nursery habitat for <a href="https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/32636/seagrass.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly 20%</a> of the world's largest fisheries — an <a href="https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/science/seagrass-meadows-harbor-wildlife-for-centuries/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">estimated 70%</a> of fish habitats in Florida alone.</p><p>Conversely, their disappearance can contribute to die-offs of marine life. The loss of more than 20 square miles of seagrass in Florida's Biscayne Bay may have helped set the stage for a widespread <a href="https://www.wlrn.org/2020-08-14/the-seagrass-died-that-may-have-triggered-a-widespread-fish-kill-in-biscayne-bay" target="_blank">fish kill</a> in summer 2020. Lack of grasses to produce oxygen left the basin more vulnerable when temperatures rose and oxygen levels dropped as a result, says Florida International University professor Piero Gardinali.</p>
Damaged Systems, a Changing Climate<p>Governments and conservationists around the world have already put a lot of effort into coastal restoration efforts. And that's helped some seagrass populations.</p><p>Where stressors remain, though, restoration grows more complicated. <a href="https://www.rug.nl/research/portal/en/publications/the-future-of-seagrass-ecosystem-services-in-a-changing-world(3a8c56db-7bed-4c9e-ac7f-c72453e2a102).html" target="_blank">Research</a> published this September found that only 37% of seagrass restorations have survived. Newly restored meadows remain vulnerable to the original stressors that depleted them, as well as to storms — and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/climate-crisis">climate change</a>.</p>
Seagrass in Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida. Alicia Wellman / Florida Fish and Wildlife / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0<p>In Chesapeake Bay a cold-water species of seagrass is currently hitting its heat limit, especially in summer, according to Alexander Challen Hyman of University of Florida's School of Natural Resources and Environment. As waters continue to warm due to climate change, the species likely will disappear there.</p><p>Climate-driven sea-level rise complicates the problem as well. Seagrasses thrive at specific depths — too shallow and they dry out or are eaten, too deep and there isn't enough light for photosynthesis.</p>
But There’s Good News, Too<p>Luckily, left to its own devices, a seagrass meadow can flourish for hundreds of years, according to a <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2019.1861" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper</a> published last year by Hyman and other researchers from the University of Florida. The researchers arrived at their conclusion by looking at shells of living mollusks and fossil shells to estimate the ages of meadows in Florida's Big Bend region on the Gulf Coast.</p><p>That area has extensive, relatively pristine seagrass meadows. "Our motivation was to understand the past history of these systems, and shells store a lot of history," said co-author Michal Kowalewski.</p><p>A high degree of similarity between living and dead shells indicates a stable area, while a mismatch suggests an area shifted from seagrass to barren sand. The researchers found that long-term accumulations of shells resembled living ones, suggesting that the seagrass habitats have been stable over time.</p><p>That stability allows biodiversity to thrive, creating conditions where specialist species can survive and flourish, according to Hyman.</p><p>Discovering the long-term stability of seagrass meadows has implications for choosing restoration sites, Kowalewski notes.</p><p>"There must be reasons they thrive in one place, while a mile away they don't and fossil data says they probably never did," he said. "If we remove a seagrass patch, we cannot hope to plant it somewhere else. It's not just the seagrass that is special. The location at which it's found is special, too."</p><p>A better approach is conserving these habitats in the first place, but we're not doing enough of that right now. The UN reports that marine protected areas safeguard just 26% of recorded seagrass meadows, compared with 40% of coral reefs and 43% of mangroves.</p>
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