Mark Ruffalo: President Obama, You Still Have Time to Ban Fracking
By Dear President Obama
Three-time Academy Award nominated actor Mark Ruffalo and documentary filmmaker Jon Bowermaster sent a letter Tuesday respectfully calling on President Barack Obama to take immediate action addressing fracking during his last 100 days in office, which began Oct. 11.
The letter highlights the damages caused by increased oil and gas drilling and fracking over the course of the Obama administration. More than 17 million Americans now live within one mile of a well pad, putting their families at risk.
.@POTUS Mark Ruffalo asks Obama to crack down on fracking https://t.co/nmVOfLvRnw— Mark Ruffalo (@Mark Ruffalo)1476289534.0
Despite President Obama's leadership in acknowledging climate change and the Paris climate agreement, the expansion of drilling and fracking for oil and gas and their disastrous impact on the climate threaten to undermine his legacy. By supporting fracking, the Obama administration has put the health of hardworking Americans at risk, as this extreme form of fossil fuel extraction is contaminating people's drinking water, polluting the air, and making more and more families sick.
A documentary narrated by Mark Ruffalo and produced by Jon Bowermaster, Dear President Obama: The Clean Energy Revolution is Now, exposes the dire situation and includes interviews of people across the country, giving a voice to everyday Americans who have become victims of drilling and fracking. Filmmakers spent three years conducting interviews with scientists, economists, health professionals, geologists and whistleblowers, which provide the core narrative of the film.
The letter calls on the President and his top environmental and energy advisors to watch the powerful film. It also calls on President Obama to instruct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to resume investigations into aquifers and well water contaminated by drilling and fracking in Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Texas that were inexplicably halted during his first term, and to aggressively pursue additional investigations across the country where drilling and fracking have contaminated people's water.
THIS IS HUGE: Pro-Fracking Law Ruled Unconstitutional by Pennsylvania Supreme Court https://t.co/i1kGo1isZ3 @MarkRuffalo @joshfoxfilm @350— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1475239297.0
It concludes by reminding President Obama that evidence is overwhelmingly clear that fracking will have a lasting harm on people, drinking water, the environment and the climate.
The letter concludes, "During your time in office, science has overwhelmingly found that fracking is not clean, not safe and must not be a part of our energy future. With this evidence, states like New York banned fracking and others have put a halt to it. But there is a dire need for action and leadership at the federal level. You still have time to take action before you leave office."
Watch the Dear President Obama: The Clean Energy Revolution is Now trailer here:
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
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The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.