Welcome to Rocket Trike Diaries—a 10 week video tour of the 2011 "Ride for Renewables: No Tar Sands Oil On American Soil!" Join Renewable Rider Tom Weis as he pedals his rocket trike 2,150 miles through America’s heartland in support of landowners fighting TransCanada’s toxic Keystone XL tar sands pipeline scheme. Here are the video entries from Week Seven:
Video Entry #44: Nebraska Rancher (Part I): "I'm Pissed Off as Hell."
Renewable Rider Tom Weis has a no holds barred conversation with Karl Connell, a rancher from Newport, Neb., who has much to say about TransCanada and Nebraska's Legislature. Karl explains the threats posed to his land, livestock and family from contaminated runoff, oil spills, blowouts and explosions. He shares a Material Safety Data Sheet listing the dangerous chemical composition of tar sands crude oil. He also shares a photo documenting TransCanada's pre-construction of a nearby pumping station, despite not having been granted permission to build. He says he has been treated "like shit" by the company, which is threatening to steal his private property through eminent domain. Calling the behavior of Nebraska Senators "disgusting," he suggests some have been "bought and sold by TransCanada."
Video Entry #45: Nebraska Mom to Obama: We Will Defend Our Home "No Matter What"
Renewable Rider Tom Weis hears 3rd generation rancher Susan Luebbe draw a line in the sand against Keystone XL, which would come within 200 yards of her home. Susan describes TransCanada's land agents as "not friendly at all," saying they lied to her right off the bat. She says she will not allow Canada to take away their land and will defend it "no matter what."
Video Entry #46: Nebraska Rancher: Keystone XL Reeks of "Graft, Corruption"
Renewable Rider Tom Weis hears rancher Ernie Fellows from Mills, Neb. describe how Keystone XL, which would come within 300 yards of his home, violates amendments to the U.S. Constitution. He charges the company obtained illegal easements, saying land agents lied to him and are taking advantage of the elderly. Saying he never considered himself an "environmentalist" until now, Ernie recounts how Nebraska senators have disrespected citizens and how "this whole thing speaks of money, graft, corruption, under the table payments..."
Renewable Rider Tom Weis and Ron Seifert team up with Occupy Lincoln in Nebraska. After forming a human "line in the sand" against Keystone XL on the steps of the capitol, about 100 marchers and bikers snaked their way through downtown Lincoln. Recognizing that TransCanada is a poster child for how greedy, corrupt corporations are dominating the other 99%, the group made an exception to their general rule of no issue-specific politics by explicitly opposing the tar sands pipeline.
Renewable Rider Tom Weis listens to Alex Pourbaix, president of Energy and Oil Pipelines for TransCanada, talk about the company's planned reroute around Nebraska's Sandhills at a November press conference in Lincoln, Neb. Contrary to numerous media accounts, Mr. Pourbaix clearly states the company's proposed Keystone XL reroute is NOT designed to avoid the Ogallala Aquifer—the drinking water supply of millions of Americans and source of one-third of our nation's farmland irrigation water—leaving this critical U.S. resource exposed to toxic tar sands pipeline leaks.
Video Entry #49: Ron Seifert Shows Coal Train Who's Boss
Renewable Rider Tom Weis talks with Ron Seifert after he races, and beats, a coal train. The two are biking the Jamaica North bike trail together, heading south out of Lincoln, Neb., shortly after President Obama's cynical decision to punt on Keystone XL. For more on that, check out: "Now Is the Time to Fight the Keystone Pipeline."
Video Entry #50: Green Industrial Revolution on Display in Kansas
Renewable Rider Tom Weis gets a tour of the green industrial revolution in action courtesy of Ruth Douglas Miller, director of KSU's Wind Application Center. "Resourceful Kansas" is a joint renewable energy efficiency project of KSU, Riley County and GBA Architects & Engineers, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Designed to save the taxpayers money, the project is a microcosm of the nascent green industrial revolution. Wind turbines, solar systems, geothermal heating, skylights, and high efficiency lighting and insulation are all display at the Riley County Public Works property on the outskirts of Manhattan, Kansas.
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Trump Denies CDC Director's 2021 Timeline for Coronavirus Vaccine ›
- Trump Orders Hospitals to Stop Sending COVID-19 Data to CDC ... ›
- Two White House Staffers Test Positive for Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
- Trump Admin to Disband Coronavirus Task Force - EcoWatch ›
- Pence Offers 'Prayers' as Hurricane Laura Hits Gulf Coast While ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Every September for the past 11 years, non-profit the Climate Group has hosted Climate Week NYC, a chance for business, government, activist and community leaders to come together and discuss solutions to the climate crisis.
- Covering the 2020 Elections as a Climate Story - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Delays 2020 Earth Overshoot Day by Three Weeks ... ›
By Elliot Douglas
The coronavirus pandemic has altered economic priorities for governments around the world. But as wildfires tear up the west coast of the United States and Europe reels after one of its hottest summers on record, tackling climate change remains at the forefront of economic policy.
- German Business Leaders Call for Climate Action With COVID-19 ... ›
- Climate Activists Protest Germany's New Datteln 4 Coal Power Plant ... ›
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>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
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.