Could "Liking" an Anti-Pipeline Facebook Post Soon Be Illegal?
By Joshua Axelrod
A new South Dakota law — written in consultation with the company that owns Keystone XL — could punish people for exercising their right to peaceful protest. Is it a harbinger of things to come?
America was born out of protest. Revolution and rebellion, bred in part by crackdowns on protests, affirmed that a protected right "peaceably to assemble" in support — or protest — of ideas affecting Americans' lives was crucial to our fledgling democracy's survival. And so, the very first amendment added to the newly ratified U.S. Constitution enshrined public protest as a right.
@realDonaldTrump Trump encouraging people to attack Protestors for exercising their first amendment right to protes… https://t.co/OsZB5MeK5z— Ryan Hill (@Ryan Hill)1556924596.0
Thanks to the foresight of those who framed our Constitution, public protest has become a key component of our democratic process, a means by which the people can make their voices heard and effect real, even historic, change. The right to assemble played a crucial role in the women's suffrage, civil rights, and antiwar movements, to name just a few. Still, in each of those instances, mobilized citizens had to contend with powerful, entrenched forces who fought back aggressively and did whatever they could to stifle these movements and preserve the status quo.
This same struggle is playing out again today. As the American and global communities grapple with the mounting climate catastrophe, the fossil fuel industry is holding nothing back in its attempt to silence its critics and those who assemble to protest their destruction of our shared climate. In a surprising number of states, antidemocratic legislation is being pushed through state legislatures with the backing of fossil fuel companies, conservative think tanks, and industry-tied mega-donors.
TC Energy (formally known as TransCanada), the company behind #KeystoneXL, helped to conceive the Riot Boosting Act… https://t.co/Rmpq4IhSZB— NRDC 🌎 (@NRDC 🌎)1557249962.0
In March, Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota signed legislation to usher in a new law that has come to be known informally as the Riot Boosting Act: an assault on Americans' right to protest that perversely tries to pass itself off as a good-governance measure. Conceived with the assistance of TC Energy (TransCanada) — the company behind the embattled Keystone XL pipeline — this law would, among other things, authorize the state to sue individuals and groups for protesting projects like Keystone XL, should there be any damages as a result of the protest.
The insidious nature of this law becomes obvious on closer inspection. By coining a new term — "riot boosting" — South Dakota creates an atmosphere of vagueness and fear that aims to chill the voices of indigenous people and others who are passionately opposed to projects like Keystone XL. After all, the state already has a law on the books to punish those who might destroy property or put people in danger during a protest.
U.S. Protest Law Tracker
But the Riot Boosting Act is different. It creates a fund specifically dedicated to going after individuals, groups, and organizations outside of the state that it believes are "riot boosting." Could someone leading 500 people in a chant at a pipeline protest where five people end up getting in an altercation with police be considered to have "encouraged" a riot? Could someone sharing details of a protest — time, place, what to wear, etc. — on his or her Facebook page be seen as "advising" rioters? Those are exactly the sorts of questions that South Dakota and TransCanada want pipeline opponents to be asking themselves. Their hope is that fear of legal repercussions, no matter how tenuous, will keep these people silent, at home, not watching as projects like Keystone XL further degrade our environment and threaten the health and heritage of entire communities.
If you think that sounds like a law designed to have a chilling effect on free speech, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) agrees. Representing Dakota Rural Action and several other groups, the ACLU has filed suit against the state, asserting that the Riot Boosting Act and a pair of other closely related laws violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution.
Sadly, the drama unfolding in South Dakota is a single example of a nationwide anti–free speech push from the fossil fuel industry. At the time of writing, legislators in Illinois, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas are considering bills that create or intensify penalties for protests near oil and gas pipelines. (This regularly updated tracker provides a running list of state and federal laws geared toward restricting the people's right to protest.)
Indeed, the laws being pushed in Texas and passed in Louisiana are often flagged as the worst of the bunch. In Texas, House Bill 3557 would make some forms of protest a second-degree felony, on par with second-degree murder. It also contains the same long-arm provisions as the South Dakota bill, authorizing the state to go after organizations seen to have supported protesters with penalties of up to $1 million. In Louisiana, a clever reclassification of oil pipelines as "critical infrastructure" now means that protesters assembled too close to pipelines can be prosecuted for criminal trespassing, a felony offense for which a conviction may bring prison time.
Many of these laws may be found unconstitutional. But while their constitutionality can be debated, one thing is beyond debate: They are deeply, profoundly un-American. The First Amendment right to peaceful assembly isn't some bit of arcane legal wording that can be relaxed whenever it proves troublesome to corporate interests or their friends in high governmental places. It's a bedrock principle of American freedom. And if it's somehow decided that we don't have the right, after all, to protest things that we believe pose a threat to our health, our communities, or our future, then we'll have entered a new phase of American history that would make our nation's founders shudder with fear.
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By Alexandra Rowles
Oregano is a fragrant herb that's best known as an ingredient in Italian food.
However, it can also be concentrated into an essential oil that's loaded with antioxidants and powerful compounds that have proven health benefits.
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By Emily Grubert
Natural gas is a versatile fossil fuel that accounts for about a third of U.S. energy use. Although it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, natural gas is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Reducing emissions from the natural gas system is especially challenging because natural gas is used roughly equally for electricity, heating, and industrial applications.
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What RNG Is and Why it Matters<p>Most equipment that uses energy can only use a single kind of fuel, but the fuel might come from different resources. For example, you can't charge your computer with gasoline, but it can run on electricity generated from coal, natural gas or solar power.</p><p>Natural gas is almost pure methane, <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/" target="_blank">currently sourced</a> from raw, fossil natural gas produced from <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/where-our-natural-gas-comes-from.php" target="_blank">deposits deep underground</a>. But methane could come from renewable resources, too.</p><p><span></span>Two main methane sources could be used to make RNG. First is <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks" target="_blank">biogenic methane</a>, produced by bacteria that digest organic materials in manure, landfills and wastewater. Wastewater treatment plants, landfills and dairy farms have captured and used biogenic methane as an energy resource for <a href="http://emilygrubert.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/eia_860_2017_map.html" target="_blank">decades</a>, in a form usually called <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/biomass/landfill-gas-and-biogas.php" target="_blank">biogas</a>.</p><p>Some biogenic methane is generated naturally when organic materials break down without oxygen. Burning it for energy can be beneficial for the climate if doing so prevents methane from escaping to the atmosphere.</p>
Renewable Isn’t Always Sustainable<p>If RNG could be a renewable replacement for fossil natural gas, why not move ahead? Consumers have shown that they are <a href="https://www.nrel.gov/analysis/green-power.html" target="_blank">willing to buy renewable electricity</a>, so we might expect similar enthusiasm for RNG.</p><p>The key issue is that methane isn't just a fuel – it's also a <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/ghg_report/ghg_overview.php" target="_blank">potent greenhouse gas</a> that contributes to climate change. Any methane that is manufactured intentionally, whether from biogenic or other sources, will contribute to climate change if it enters the atmosphere.</p><p>And <a href="http://doi.org/10.1126/science.aar7204" target="_blank">releases</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2019.07.029" target="_blank">will happen</a>, from newly built production systems and <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-methane-emissions-matter-to-climate-change-5-questions-answered-122684" target="_blank">existing, leaky transportation and user infrastructure</a>. For example, the moment you smell gas before the pilot light on a stove lights the ring? That's methane leakage, and it contributes to climate change.</p><p>To be clear, RNG is almost certainly better for the climate than fossil natural gas because byproducts of burning RNG won't contribute to climate change. But doing somewhat better than existing systems is no longer enough to respond to the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2923" target="_blank">urgency</a> of climate change. The world's <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/" target="_blank">primary international body on climate change</a> suggests we need to decarbonize by 2030 to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.</p>
Scant Climate Benefits<p><a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab9335/meta" target="_blank">My recent research</a> suggests that for a system large enough to displace a lot of fossil natural gas, RNG is probably not as good for the climate as <a href="https://investor.southerncompany.com/information-for-investors/latest-news/latest-news-releases/press-release-details/2020/Southern-Company-Gas-grows-leadership-team-to-focus-on-climate-action-innovation-and-renewable-natural-gas-strategy/default.aspx" target="_blank">is publicly claimed</a>. Although RNG has lower climate impact than its fossil counterpart, likely high demand and methane leakage mean that it probably will contribute to climate change. In contrast, renewable sources such as wind and solar energy do not <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/carbon/" target="_blank">emit climate pollution directly</a>.</p><p>What's more, creating a large RNG system would require building mostly new production infrastructure, since RNG comes from different sources than fossil natural gas. Such investments are both long-term commitments and opportunity costs. They would devote money, political will and infrastructure investments to RNG instead of alternatives that could achieve a zero greenhouse gas emission goal.</p><p>When climate change first <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1988/06/24/us/global-warming-has-begun-expert-tells-senate.html" target="_blank">broke into the political conversation</a> in the late 1980s, investing in long-lived systems with low but non-zero greenhouse gas emissions was still compatible with aggressive climate goals. Now, zero greenhouse gas emissions is the target, and my research suggests that large deployments of RNG likely won't meet that goal.</p>
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a list of 431 products that are effective at killing viruses when they are on surfaces. Now, a good year for Lysol manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser just got better when the EPA said that two Lysol products are among the products that can kill the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
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For all its posturing on climate change, the Democratic Party has long been weak on the actual policies we need to save us from extinction. President Barack Obama promised his presidency would mark "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow," and then embraced natural gas, a major driver of global temperature rise, as a "bridge fuel." Climate legislation passed in the House in 2009 would have allowed industries to buy credits to pollute, a practice known to concentrate toxic air in black and brown neighborhoods while doing little to cut emissions.
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By Charli Shield
When an elephant dies in the wild, it's not uncommon to later find its bones scattered throughout the surrounding landscape.
Elephant Burial Grounds<p>Highly social creatures that form deep familial bonds, elephants have long been observed gathering at the site where a peer or family member has died — often spending hours, even days, quietly investigating the bodies or the bones of other dead elephants.</p><p>Although the popular idea that dying elephants are instinctively drawn to special communal graves — so-called "elephant graveyards" — is a myth, their tendency to go out of their way to visit the bones and tusks of the deceased isn't unlike human rituals at graveyards, says animal psychologist Karen McComb.</p><p>"They spend a lot of time touching and smelling skulls and ivory, placing the soles of their feet gently on top of them, and also lifting them up with their trunks," McComb, who's been studying African elephants for 25 years in Kenya's Amboseli National Park, told DW.</p><p>The most striking part of watching an elephant experience loss, Poole recalls, is the quietude. She still remembers one of the first elephant deaths she witnessed; a mother who birthed a stillborn calf. That elephant stayed with its baby for two days, trying to lift it and defending it from vultures and hyenas.</p><p>"I was so struck by the expression on her face and her body. She looked so dejected. It was really like, 'Oh God, these animals grieve…'. It was just so different," Poole told DW. </p>
Witnessing Emotions in Animals<p>Not all scientists are comfortable concluding that elephants grieve. Among the more than 30 reports of elephant reactions to death that Wittemyer co-reviewed in <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10329-019-00766-5" target="_blank">a study published in November 2019</a> were accounts of "enormous variation and nuance" he says. "It can be incredibly involved and intricate for extended periods or can be relatively cursory checks."</p><p>In Wittemyer's own experience, it can be difficult not to attribute some kind of emotional experience to the more involved interactions between elephants and their dead.</p><p>He shares the story of an "extraordinary event" involving the death of a 55 year-old matriarch in Kenya in a protected area that happened to be near his place of work. She was visited by multiple unrelated families while she was dying, including another matriarch that exerted such enormous effort attempting to lift her to her feet that she broke her tusk, which Wittemyer says, is "like breaking a tooth." </p><p><span></span>"It was a remarkable example of this heightened emotional state, it was very clearly a very stressful interaction," he says.</p>
A Different Sensory World<p>One factor that limits our ability to fully grasp the way elephants process and respond to loss is our markedly different sensory experiences of the world.</p><p>An elephant's world is fundamentally olfactory — based on smell. Ours is visual. Previous <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25053675/" target="_blank">research</a> has shown elephants possess the most scent receptors of any mammal, and can <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17949977/" target="_blank">use smell</a> to discern the difference between different human tribes from the same local area.</p><p>That could explain why elephants exhibit such interest in sniffing the bones and tusks of others, as a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1617198/" target="_blank">2005 study</a> from McCombs highlighted. When presented with the skulls and ivory of long-dead elephants and those from other large herbivores, including rhino and buffalo, McCombs and her team found elephants approached and were specifically attracted to the remains of their own species. </p><p>Without access to the smells an elephant picks up on, Wittemyer says "an enormous amount of stuff" could be missed by humans when studying these behaviors.</p>
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