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Santa Arrested at Gates of Crestwood Saying No to Dirty Energy, Yes to Renewables

Climate
Santa Arrested at Gates of Crestwood Saying No to Dirty Energy, Yes to Renewables

The Grinch, Santa and his elves took a short break from their Christmas preparations today to visit the gates of the Crestwood gas storage facility near Seneca Lake in New York to warn the company that Santa—and the world—is watching. His elves and local friends held signs saying, “Dirty energy = naughty, clean renewables = nice” and “Here comes the sun, go solar!”

Santa and 12 others, including the Grinch, were arrested for disorderly conduct while stopping a truck pulling construction equipment. Their message: there’s still time to get on Santa’s “nice” list.

Santa and 12 others were arrested today at the gates of Crestwood gas storage facility near Seneca Lake in New York. Photo credit: We Are Seneca Lake

“Santa is very worried about climate change,” elves close to Santa said. “He paid close attention to the climate negotiations in Paris. Where will we live when the ice at the North Pole melts? The reindeer are already falling through the melting tundra in their feeding grounds. It’s not just an issue for us, but for all the people living near the coasts … as ice melts, seas rise. Santa does not want anyone to be climate refugees.”

The Crestwood gas storage facility proposes to store methane, propane and butane in salt caverns under the shores of Seneca Lake. It is one of many projects, including pipelines, which aim to develop “new markets” for the current glut of natural gas from the fracking boom, committing people to using natural gas far into the future. Natural gas is primarily methane, a significantly more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe.

“I’m here today to make sure kids know who’s being naughty and nice,” said Santa. “Crestwood has been very, very naughty by promoting the use of natural gas, which is making climate change worse. The people getting arrested at the gate, on the other hand, are very, very nice and are working hard to protect all of us.”

“I applaud what protesters there [at Seneca Lake] are doing,” Robert Howarth said in an interview with Evan Dawson on WXXI’s Connections in response to news that the North Pole gang was blockading at Crestwood.

Howarth is a climate scientist and was a Cornell University delegate at the Paris climate talks earlier this month. “Coming out of Paris, we need to be carbon neutral by about 2035. Natural gas, and shale gas in particular, is a disaster to what we are trying to do to reach this climate target ... Methane is 100-fold more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide when it’s in the atmosphere ... If we immediately move off of natural gas, it will buy us 30 or 40 more years before we hit that 1.5 degree temperature increase.”

Santa and the Grinch joined many friends from the area in welcoming the return of the sun at Winter Solstice, noting that solar panels have been particularly high on the wish list requests in the area this year.

“Seneca Lake and the climate of the world are more important than things that go blink or things that are swirled,” said the Grinch. “The people who stand on this line today show the spirit of Christmas is not far away.”

Schuyler County deputies arrested the 13 shortly before 2 p.m. as they blocked a dump truck pulling a mini excavator from leaving the facility.

The 13 protesters were transported to the Schuyler County Sheriff’s department, charged with disorderly conduct and released.

Crestwood’s methane gas storage expansion project was approved by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in October 2014 in the face of broad public opposition and unresolved questions about geological instabilities, fault lines and possible salinization of Seneca Lake. The total number of arrests in the civil disobedience campaign over the past year now stands at 452. Whether due to low natural gas prices or the ongoing direct action campaign, construction of Crestwood’s natural gas storage expansion has not yet begun.

The 13 arrested today included: Stefan Senders (Santa Claus), 56, Hector, Schuyler County; Charlotte Senders (The Grinch), 19, Hector, Schuyler County; Coert Bonthius (Elf), 62, Ithaca, Tompkins County; Krys Cail (Elf), 62, Ulysses, Tompkins County; Lyndsay Clark (Elf), 54, Springwater, Livingston County; Kim Cunningham (Elf), 59, Naples, Ontario County; Barbara Eden (Elf), 63, Ithaca, Tompkins County; Patricia Heckart (Elf), 64, Ulysses, Tompkins County; Gretchen Herrmann (Elf), 66, Ithaca, Tompkins County; Todd Hobler (Elf), 53, Buffalo, Erie County; Gabrielle Illava (Elf), 26, Ithaca, Tompkins County; Bruce Reisch (Elf), 60, Geneva, Ontario County; and Gabriel Shapiro (Elf), 19, Ithaca, Tompkins County.

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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