Q&A with Bill Moyers: How the Grassroots Movement Must Rise to Challenge Corporate Control
In late September, veteran journalist and public television host Bill Moyers, now eighty-years old, announced he was finally retiring (and yes, this time he means it) after more than 40 years as one of the nation's most trusted voices in news, politics and culture.
Though he briefly left television in 2010 after his show Bill Moyers' Journal came to end, he and his team returned to public television with a new show, Moyers & Company, in 2012. Alongside a new web platform, BillMoyers.com, the show became a weekly assessment of current events with Moyers interviewing some of the leading voices and experts on economic, political, environmental and social issues.
However, in his note to viewers on Sept. 29, Moyers wrote that as the end of the third year of Moyers & Company approaches "it’s time finally to sign off."
He will do so, he said, "as the luckiest fellow in broadcast journalism for having been a part of public television for over half of my 80 years. I never expected such a full and satisfying run at work I could love so much, and I am deeply indebted to everyone with whom I have been associated on this long and rewarding journey."
Though the final show is scheduled to air on Jan. 2, Moyers took time on Thursday of this week to participate in an online Q&A with his viewers to discuss the nature of his work, plans for the future, and his current take on the key political issues that have been at the core of so much of his journalistic work.
The Q&A's lead-off question got straight to the point, with a participant asking Moyers to identify the three most important issues now facing the nation and to explain their significance.
" We have to figure out how to have a morally-based conversation about politics and economics. If it's all about money and return on investment and stock shares and all that, instead of what kind of society works best for those who don't have such 'goods,' we're finished as a democracy, because some people will be able to buy anything they want and vast numbers of others will be unable to afford what they need.  The corruption of power and money is so pervasive and systemic that we have to take it on at every level, which requires that  there has to be a broad-based movement for democracy that mirrors and exceeds what Bill McKibben, 350.org and kindred spirits like Naomi Klein have built to reverse global warming."
A follow-up question targeted the familiar question among many progressives, which asked if it was time to do away with the two-party system that dominates U.S. domestic politics.
"Even if it were time, it's not going to happen," Moyers wrote. "The two parties are too entrenched in the rule-making process that enables them to make their own elimination impossible. Both parties have lost their footing, however, in the everyday experience of real people and they have to be challenged without remorse or retreat. Someone has said Left and Right have lost their footing, but the Right is more certain about what it wants. It wants control of the Republican Party. The Left is too content just to rent space in the attic from the Democrats. Until that changes, the Republican Party is going to be too extreme and the Democrats too enfeebled. Neither will change voluntarily because the people in charge have too great a stake in the status quo."
Moyers acknowledged the reality that a majority of people simply are not paying attention to these key political issues, but that this fact should not dissuade those who are paying attention from continuing to push for the necessary changes. "The fate of society—especially democracy," he said, "depends upon the minority of people who care enough to engage and stay engaged." He urged those viewing the conversation to engage with their neighbors and create what he called a "Committee of Correspondence" in order to foment local discussion and action. Moyers invoked the 20th century Wisconsin progressive Robert "Fighting Bob" LaFollette who said that "democracy is a life" and one that "requires constant struggle."
And in a final word, Moyers offered this message:
The greatest challenge we face in America today is to stop the buying and selling of our politicians and political process by corporations and the rich. You may have seen the story earlier this week: For the first time ever the Vatican rented out the Sistine Chapel to a corporation—Porsche—for guests who paid $8,000 a head to attend a concert there. For the first time a corporate donor determined who could be invited to that sacred place. That's what has happened to democracy. Either we reverse Citizens United and insist democracy is about equal representation, or we might as well close up shop.
What follows is a sampling of some of the other questions submitted and the responses offered by Moyers:
Q: What do you think is the single most important thing everyday people can do to get the country back in balance?
Join with someone else like-minded and keep adding others. For example, suppose two of you, six of you, 60 of you showed up at the next public event where your Member of Congress is asking for your vote, circulate printed records of who has contributed money to him/her, and start peppering him/her with questions. Then be at the next rally, or if it's where you can't get to, use your "Committee of Correspondence" to alert the one(s) near where he or she will next appear.
Q: Do you support a Constitutional amendment to get the money out of politics and end corporate personhood?
Yes. One that says: "Corporations are not people. Money is not speech."
Q: I marched on Sept. 22 with 400,000 others in the People's Climate March. My mother marched on the first Earth Day, 1970. After that one, impressive strides were made toward cleaner air and sustainability. This time, I get the feeling that news of the march has been suppressed; beyond the choir that marched, few have even heard of it. What is your take?
Corporate media largely ignored it—you are right. And then, three days after the march the U.S. started bombing in Syria and Iraq and stories about the march and climate change were driven from the news. Fortunately, we still have the web to create alternative media to spread the word.
P.S. Don't quit marching because the press doesn't notice.
Q: How do you stay optimistic in the face of all the serious problems we are facing?
I'm not always optimistic. Sometimes I despair. But reading history helps (in fact, I strongly urge all of you to seek out and read Frank Rich's stunning article on the cover of New York Magazine about the year 1964—and so many of us fooled ourselves about the nature of progress. Perspective helps: I don't think anything we are facing today, except for global warming, is more than my grandparents and my parents faced. Remember, they lived through the First Gilded Age or the Roaring Twenties that flamed out into Great Depression. World War II. The Holocaust. Sustained racism. The Korean War. Vietnam. And so on. So I take heart that if they tackled their generation's challenges, we can, too. Furthermore, as the political scientist Gramsci said (and I may not have it exactly): Practice the pessimism of the mind—see the world as it is without rose colored glasses; but also practice the optimism of the will—do whatever you can, wherever you are, to make this a better world. We have to keep criticizing what's wrong, but we are also obligated to act to change what it is we are criticizing.
Q: You are one of the best, if not the best, interviewers today. What makes a great interview? How do you approach each interview?
Thanks. For me the key is editing. Anyone can go on at length in a conversation, but bringing a long conversation down to its essence without the guest feeling exploited requires a team of people devoted to that purpose, and I have that kind of team: researchers, producers, editors, colleagues. It also takes sustained preparation—either from life experiences or focused study. I read widely, keep notes, clip articles, and then from a thorough briefing book prepared by that team I mentioned, I try to outline what interests me and what might interest you (the viewer). That road map helps even when spontaneity seizes either the guest or me. We usually converse for an hour and what you see on the screen is our best effort to do justice to what the guest truly wanted to say. I've been at this for 41 years and cannot remember a single guest who complained he or she was misrepresented, even when I am disagreeing.
Q: As the next generation of journalists get their chops, who would you suggest we listen to or read?
There are so many I couldn't begin to single them out. For all the woes of newspapers and all the shallowness of television, there is world-class journalism happening today in every medium. "Search and ye shall find" those who move, inform, and inspire you. We're experiencing a surge of long-form journalism in books, and I'll post some of my favorites at billmoyers.com before my last broadcast on Jan. 2.
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A fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has been found in at least 10 states, and people are wondering: How do I protect myself now?
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By Tara Lohan
A key part of the United States' clean energy transition has started to take shape, but you may need to squint to see it. About 2,000 wind turbines could be built far offshore, in federal waters off the Atlantic Coast, in the next 10 years. And more are expected.
Threats to Birds<p>One of the gravest threats facing birds is climate change, according to Audubon, which found that rising temperatures threaten <a href="https://www.audubon.org/2019climateissue" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">nearly two-thirds of North America's bird species</a>. That's why the impending development of offshore wind is a good thing, says Shilo Felton, a field manager in the organization's Clean Energy Initiative, but it also comes with dangers to birds that need to be better studied and mitigated.</p><p>The most obvious risk comes from birds colliding with spinning turbine blades. But offshore wind developments can also displace birds from foraging or roost sites, as well as migratory pathways.</p><p>Along the Atlantic Coast four imperiled species are of top concern to conservationists: the endangered piping plover, red knot, roseate tern and black-capped petrel, which is being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act.</p><p>"Those four species are of utmost importance to make sure that we understand the impacts," says Felton. "But beyond that there are many species that are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act that could potentially see more impacts from offshore wind."</p><p>Northern gannets, for example, are at risk not just for collision but <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/308703197_Possible_impacts_of_offshore_wind_farms_on_seabirds_a_pilot_study_in_Northern_Gannets_in_the_southern_North_Sea" target="_blank">habitat displacement</a>.</p>
A northern gannet flying along Cape May, N.J. Ann Marie Morrison / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0<p>"There's <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006320716303196" target="_blank">some evidence</a> that they just won't use areas where turbines are, but that also excludes them from key foraging areas," says Felton. Researchers are still studying what this may mean for the birds. But a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0141113620305304" target="_blank">study</a> published in December 2020 conducted at Bass Rock, Scotland — home to the world's largest northern gannet colony — found that wind developments could reduce their growth rate, though not enough to cause a population decline.</p><p>Other birds, such as great cormorants and European shags, are <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006320716303196" target="_blank">attracted to wind developments</a> and use the infrastructure to rest while opening up new foraging areas farther from shore.</p><p>"There's plenty of potential for a bird to use a wind farm and still to avoid the turbines themselves," says Felton.</p><p>Birds like pelicans, however, are less versatile in their movements and are at particular risk of collision because of their flight pattern, she says.</p><p>But how disruptive or dangerous offshore turbines will be along the East Coast isn't yet known.</p><p>Federal and state agencies, along with nongovernmental organizations, says Felton, have done good research to try to better understand those potential impacts. "But these are all theoretical, because we don't have a lot of offshore wind yet in the United States."</p>
Threats to Ocean Life<p>Birds aren't the only wildlife of concern. More development in ocean waters could affect a litany of marine species, some of which are already facing other pressures from overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction and climate change.</p><p>Scientists have found that marine mammals like whales and dolphins could be disturbed by the jarring sounds of construction, especially if pile driving is used to hammer the steel turbine platform into the seafloor.</p><p>The noises, though short-lived, could impede communication between animals, divert them from migration routes or cause them to seek less suitable areas for feeding or breeding. Research from Europe found that harbor porpoises, seals and dolphins may avoid development areas during construction. In most, but <a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/7/4/045101" target="_blank">not all cases</a>, the animals were believed to have returned to the area following construction.</p><p>The biggest concern for conservation groups in the United States is the critically endangered North American right whale. There are fewer than 400 remaining, and the species' habitat overlaps with a number of planned wind development areas along the East Coast.</p><p>"Offshore wind is in no way the cause of the challenges the whales face, but it's going to be another pressure point," says John Rogers, senior energy analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists.</p><p>Researchers aren't sure how right whales will respond to the noise from pile driving.</p><p>"But we are concerned, based on what we know about how whales react to other noise sources, that they may avoid [wind development] areas," says Kershaw.</p><p>And if that displacement causes them to miss out on important food resources, it could be dangerous for a species already on the brink.</p><p>There are a few other potential threats, too.</p><p>Ships associated with the development — more plentiful during construction — also pose a danger. In the past few years cargo ships, fishing boats and other vessels have caused half of all deaths of North Atlantic right whales.</p>
A juvenile right whale breaches against the backdrop of a ship near the St. Johns River entrance. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission / NOAA Research Permit #775-1600-10<p>And after construction, the noise from the spinning turbines will be present in the water at low decibels. "We don't quite know how the great whales will react to those sounds," says Jeremy Firestone, the director of the Center for Research in Wind at the University of Delaware.</p><p>Other marine mammals may also perceive the noise, but at low decibels it's unlikely to be an impediment, <a href="http://www.int-res.com/abstracts/meps/v309/p279-295/" target="_blank">research has found</a>.</p><p>And it's possible that wind development could help some ocean life. Turbine foundations can attract fish and invertebrates for whom hard substrates create habitat complexity — known as the "reef effect," according to researchers from the University of Rhode Island's <a href="https://dosits.org/animals/effects-of-sound/anthropogenic-sources/wind-turbine/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Discovery of Sound in the Sea</a> program. Exclusion of commercial fishing nearby may also help shelter fish and protect marine mammals from entanglements in fishing gear.</p>
Ensuring Safe Development<p>Despite the potential dangers, researchers have gathered a few best practices to help diminish and possibly eliminate some risks.</p><p>When it comes to ship strikes, the easiest thing is to slow boats down, mandating a speed of <a href="https://biologicaldiversity.org/w/news/press-releases/vessel-speed-limits-sought-protect-endangered-north-atlantic-right-whales-2020-08-06/" target="_blank">10 knots</a> in wind development areas, and using visual and acoustic monitoring for whales.</p><p>Adjusting operations to reduce boat trips between the shore and the wind development will also help. A new series of service operating vessels can allow maintenance staff to spent multiple days onsite, says Kershaw, cutting down on boat traffic.</p><p>For construction noise concerns, developers can avoid pile driving during times of the year when whales are present. And, depending on the marine environment, developers could use "quiet foundations" that don't require pile driving. These include gravity-based or suction caisson platforms.</p><p>Floating turbines are also used in deep water, where they're effectively anchored in place — although that poses its own potential danger. "We have concerns that marine debris could potentially become entangled around the mooring cables of the floating arrays and pose a secondarily entanglement risk to some species," says Felton, who thinks more research should be conducted before those become operational in U.S. waters — a process that's already underway in Maine, where a <a href="https://composites.umaine.edu/2020/08/05/diamond-offshore-wind-rwe-renewables-join-the-university-of-maine-to-lead-development-of-maine-floating-offshore-wind-demonstration-project/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">demonstration project is being built</a>.</p><p>If loud noises are unavoidable during construction, noise-reducing technologies such as bubble curtains can help dampen the sound. And scheduling adjacent projects to conduct similar work at the same time could limit the duration of disturbances.</p>
The foundation installation of the off shore wind farm Sandbank using a bubble curtain. Vattenfall / Ulrich Wirrwa / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0<p>Once turbines become operational, reducing the amount of light on wind platforms or using flashing lights could help deter some seabirds, NRDC <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/harnessing-wind-advance-wind-power-offshore-ib.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">researchers reported</a>. And scientists are exploring using ultrasonic noises and ultraviolet lighting to keep bats away. "Feathering," or shutting down the turbine blades during key migration times, could also help prevent fatalities.</p><p>"We need to make sure that offshore wind is the best steward it can be of the marine ecosystem, because we want and expect it to be a significant part of the clean energy picture in some parts of the country," says Rogers. "We also have to recognize that we're going to learn by doing, and that some of these things we're going to figure out best once we have more turbines in the water."</p><p>That's why environmental groups say it's important to establish baseline information on species before projects begin, and then require developers to conduct monitoring during construction and for years after projects are operational.</p><p>Employing an "adaptive management framework" will ensure that developers can adjust their management practices as they go when new information becomes available, and that those best practices are incorporated into the requirements for future projects.</p>
Putting Research Into Action<p>Advancing these conversations at the federal level during the Trump administration, though, has been slow going.</p><p>"We didn't really have any productive discussions with the administration in the last four years," says Kershaw.</p><p>And when it comes to birds, Felton says the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's recently completed "draft cumulative environmental impact statement" covering offshore wind developments had a lot of good environmental research, but little focus on birds.</p><p>"Part of that comes from the current administration's interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act," she says.</p><p>President Trump has been hostile to both wind energy <em>and</em> birds, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/05/climate/trump-migratory-bird-protections.html" target="_blank">and finished gutting the Migratory Bird Treaty Act</a> in his administration's the final days, removing penalties for companies whose operations kill migratory birds.</p><p>There's hope that the Biden administration will take a different approach. But where the federal government has been lacking lately, Kershaw says, they've seen states step up.</p><p>New York, for example, has established an <a href="https://www.nyetwg.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Technical Working Group</a> composed of stakeholders to advise on environmentally responsible development of offshore wind.</p><p>The group is led by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, but it isn't limited to the Empire State. It's regional in focus and includes representatives from wind developers with leases between Massachusetts and North Carolina; state agencies from Massachusetts to Virginia; federal agencies; and science-based environmental NGOs.</p><p>New York's latest solicitation for clean energy projects includes up to 2,500 megawatts of offshore wind and <a href="https://www.nyetwg.com/announcements" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">requires developers</a> to contribute at least $10,000 per megawatt for regional monitoring of fisheries and other wildlife.</p><p>Environmental groups have also worked directly with developers, including an agreement with Vineyard Wind — an 800-megawatt project off the Massachusetts coast that could be the first utility-scale wind development in federal waters — to help protect North Atlantic right whales.</p><p>The agreement includes no pile driving from Jan. 1 to April 30, ceasing activities at other times when whales are visually or acoustically identified in the area, speed restrictions on vessels, and the use of noise reduction technology, such as a bubble curtain during pile driving.</p><p>"The developers signed the agreement with us, and then they incorporated, most, if not all of those measures into the federal permitting documents," says Kershaw. "The developers really did a lot of bottom up work to make sure that they were being very protective of right whales."</p><p>Environmental groups are in talks with other developers on agreements too, but Felton wants to see best practices being mandated at the federal level.</p><p>"It's the sort of a role that should be being played by the federal government, and without that it makes the permitting and regulation process less stable and less transparent," she says." And that in turn slows down the build out of projects, which is also bad for birds because it doesn't help us address and mitigate for climate change."</p><p>Kershaw agrees there's a lot more work to be done, especially at the federal level, but thinks we're moving in the right direction.</p><p>"I think the work that's been done so far in the United States has really laid the groundwork for advancing this in the right way and in a way that's protective of species and the environment," she says. "At the same time, it's important that offshore wind does advance quickly. We really need it to help us combat the worst effects of climate change."</p><p><em><a href="https://therevelator.org/author/taralohan/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Tara Lohan</a> is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis.</em></p><p><em style="">Reposted with permission from <a href="https://therevelator.org/offshore-wind-wildlife" target="_blank" style="">The Revelator</a>. </em></p>
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