I'm often asked how I manage to be hopeful for the future when I spend a great deal of time publishing news about the daunting environmental problems impacting the world. I reply that it's because of the passion and commitment of the people I know who work hard every day to protect the planet we all share.
There's no better example of the warriors working toward a sustainable future than the 700 people who attended River Rally in Portland, OR May 4-7. For the first time, River Network and Waterkeeper Alliance joined forces to host River Rally with attendees from more than 40 U.S. states as well as Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, India, Iraq, Mexico, Peru, Senegal and the United Kingdom.
The opening reception included a Tribal Invocation by Gerald Lewis, a Yakama Nation Tribal Councilman and Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission Chairman. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson gave the evening's keynote address.
The following morning began with Alexandra Cousteau, National Geographic Emerging Explorer and founder of Blue Legacy, relaying "the need to tell our stories" and how "we have to shine the light on the important work people are doing" to protect the world's water.
During the four days of the conference, water advocates spent time in workshops that shared best practices for watershed restoration, stormwater management, water quality monitoring, water and energy conservation, green infrastructure, habitat restoration, safe drinking water and more.
The keynote speaker for Saturday evening was Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, senior attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council and president of Waterkeeper Alliance, who was introduced by James Curleigh, CEO of Keen Footwear, one of the leading sponsors of the Rally.
Curleigh's exuberance shined through as he philosophized on "living a HybridLife"—having a commitment to create, play and care. He then introduced Kennedy, referring to him as "a legend and the ultimate water warrior."
Kennedy also keynoted a rally in Portland with more than 400 people on May 7 opposing the exporting of coal and six coal export terminals proposed for Oregon and Washington that would ship 150 million tons of coal per year from Wyoming and Montana to Asia.
The last night of the conference was the River Heroes Reception, which celebrated the work of many of the water advocates through the presentation of awards from their colleagues.
Throughout the conference, I had the opportunity to sit down with many of the Keepers and River Network affiliates to get the skinny on their work.
One of the most interesting stories I heard came from Nabil Musa, the Iraq Upper Tigris Waterkeeper. Musa discussed the many problems Iraq's watershed faces due to pollution and degradation of the rivers themselves, and upstream water diversion projects. He also mentioned the challenges he faces as an advocate in a country where government decision-makers view the rivers as abstract resources that they can pollute, divert, drain and trade away without consideration of the communities and ecosystems that are destroyed.
Danielle Katz, founder and executive director of Rivers for Change, talked about the 12 Rivers in 2012 campaign that will explore, sample and record conditions on 12 critical California rivers as they paddle from Source to Sea down these watersheds. The campaign will highlight the health of these local ecosystems to help promote the interconnectedness and interdependence of our states' communities on this precious resource.
I met with Carla Garcia Zendejas, a board member of Bahia Magdalena Baykeeper and Tijuana Waterkeeper. Bahia Magdalena works along the Pacific coast of the Mexican state of Baja California Sur. Julio Solis serves as Magdalena Baykeeper and works to protect mangroves and gray whale breeding grounds against unsustainable large-scale tourism development. Tijuana Waterkeeper is on the U.S.-Mexico border in Baja California. Margarita Diaz serves as Tijuana Waterkeeper and works to improve conditions of the Tijuana River watershed due to challenges from the lack of sewage infrastructure, and educates the public and governmental officials on the consequences of polluting the waterway.
Cathy Kellon and Kate Carone from Ecotrust talked about the Whole Watershed Restoration Initiative that focuses on restoring salmon spawning and rearing habitat to ensure recovery of Pacific Northwest salmon and steelhead.
Spokane Riverkeeper Bart Mihailovich shared his story about trying to reverse a culture of non-compliance with state, federal and tribal clean water laws. From addressing toxic runoff to holding dischargers accountable, Spokane Riverkeeper is restoring a river that for generations has been the main vein of the great Inland Northwest.
Brenda Archambo, president of Sturgeon For Tomorrow, explained the importance of protecting the bottom-dwelling, ancient species of lake sturgeon and how she assists fisheries managers in the rehabilitation of this species that made its first appearance about 136 million years ago.
I sat down with Krystyn Tully, vice president of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, who told me about the new Swim Guide, an app that makes it easy to explore and enjoy the best beaches near the Great Lakes, California Coast, Florida and Alabama.
While hanging out in the hotel lobby, I ran into Hans Cole from Patagonia, the sponsor of the scholarship fund for River Rally. I thanked him for his support and he replied, "We know how important it is for grassroots activists working on the front lines of the environmental crisis to get the right training and to feel connected to a larger community."
Thanks to the leadership of executive directors Marc Yaggi from Waterkeeper Alliance and Todd Ambs from River Network for having the foresight to combine efforts and create the largest international gathering of water protection advocates.
I'm grateful for the time I spent with these incredible water warriors who are making a difference in their communities and local watersheds. There's nothing like spending five days with kindred spirits in the lush Pacific Northwest to rejuvenate the soul and rekindle the fire to go back home and continue the work of protecting our planet.
Many people shop online for everything from clothes to appliances. If they do not like the product, they simply return it. But there's an environmental cost to returns.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.
We Need More Than Listening<p>By now we have all become sadly accustomed to the current administration sidelining scientists, most prominently Dr. Anthony Fauci, because the facts they provide do not fit with the political rhetoric of the moment.</p><p>I have <a href="https://www.csldf.org/2019/08/22/csldf-helps-climate-scientist-maria-caffrey-fight-for-scientific-integrity/" target="_blank">my own history</a> of filing a scientific integrity complaint with the National Park Service (which falls under the Department of the Interior) after senior ranking employees attempted to censor one of my scientific reports. I know all too well the damage and pain that these actions cause, not just for the individual scientist, but also because these <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/attacks-on-science" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">attacks on science</a> over the last few years have undermined sound, evidence-based decision making.</p><p>President-elect Biden has repeatedly said that he will <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/521638-trump-biden-will-listen-to-the-scientists-if-elected" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">listen to the scientists</a>. While this is certainly a welcome change, listening can only take us so far. This past week Lauren Kurtz from the <a href="https://www.csldf.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Science Legal Defense Fund</a> and my colleague <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/gretchen-goldman" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gretchen Goldman</a> published <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ten-steps-that-can-restore-scientific-integrity-in-government/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article</a> listing 10 actions the new administration should implement to show their commitment to strengthening government science:</p><ol><li>Clearly prohibit political interference and censorship.</li><li>Protect scientists' communication rights.</li><li>Acknowledge that attempts to violate scientific integrity, even if ultimately not fruitful, are still violations.</li><li>Protect federal scientists' right to provide information to Congress and other lawmakers.</li><li>Commit to incorporating the best science as part of agency decisions.</li><li>Elevate agency scientific integrity policies to have the full force of law.</li><li>Publicly release anonymized information about scientific integrity complaints and their resolutions at every agency.</li><li>Institute an intra-agency workforce, potentially under the White House <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/strengthening-science-and-si-at-ostp.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Office of Science and Technology Policy</a>, to coordinate scientific integrity efforts across agencies, foster discussion of policy improvements, and standardize criteria for policies across agencies.</li><li>Strengthen whistleblower protections.</li><li>Ensure that policies cover all actors who will be dealing with science.</li></ol>
Time for Action<p>I have spoken to many scientists, particularly federal scientists, who are eager to turn the page so they can hurry back to the work they had been doing before this administration, but I urge caution in assuming that things can be "normal" again.</p><p>Before Trump, I naively thought the scientific integrity policies established during the <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/12/19/scientific-integrity-policies-update" target="_blank">Obama administration</a> would be sufficient. I never imagined that any administration could so willfully ignore and attack expert advice and evidence that is intended to protect us and our public lands.</p><p>I have personally witnessed how hard our federal scientists work. They put in long hours with minimal pay (far less that what they could get if they worked in private industry) to pursue one simple goal: to make things better for the nation.</p><p>We need stronger scientific integrity policies to protect these people and their work. But more than that, we need stronger scientific integrity laws because they also benefit society.</p>
By Andrea Germanos
Environmental campaigners stressed the need for the incoming Biden White House to put in place permanent protections for Alaska's Bristol Bay after the Trump administration on Wednesday denied a permit for the proposed Pebble Mine that threatened "lasting harm to this phenomenally productive ecosystem" and death to the area's Indigenous culture.
<div id="da98c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="478a197b7c59c92787c92bec92f1ac39"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1331662923710693376" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Bristol Bay forever, Pebble mine never. #NoPebbleMine #SaveBristolBay https://t.co/CBQ9zuy8A5</div> — Save Bristol Bay (@Save Bristol Bay)<a href="https://twitter.com/SaveBristolBay/statuses/1331662923710693376">1606328156.0</a></blockquote></div>
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OlgaMiltsova / iStock / Getty Images Plus
By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.