By Mahima Jain
Over recent months Raja, a farmer in India's Tamil Nadu state, has had a change of routine.
Farming in Crisis<p>Farmers and activists fear the legislation will exacerbate existing stresses in the agricultural sector, which has experienced stagnant growth for six years and decades of rising debt. The pressures are believed to have <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/india-children-grapple-with-the-aftermath-of-farmer-suicides/a-51213478" target="_blank">pushed thousands to suicide</a>.</p><p>"There is so much uncertainty," said Raja, whose income hasn't increased for over a decade. "Before the software boom of the 1990s, I was earning as much as my engineer friends. Today, I am nowhere." He's been selling a 75 kg bag of paddy rice at around $13 (€10.70), less than the government's minimum price support, for over 15 years. </p><p>Raja worries that the new laws, which weaken price guarantees for certain crops, will leave farmers even more vulnerable. </p><p>The current laws push for contract farming, wherein farmers enter into legally binding agreements with large corporations and private players. Activists say this will place them in an unequal power relation, as a failure to deliver crops due to harvest loss could even mean loss of land. </p><p>A breakthrough in calming the months of protest initially appeared to come on January 12 when the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/india-supreme-court-puts-contentious-farms-laws-on-hold/a-56208301" target="_blank">Supreme Court decided to temporarily suspend the legislation</a>. But it was not the victory many hoped for. </p><p>"Farmers movements are against the Supreme Court order," said Ashlesha Khadse, activist and volunteer with Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch, a women farmers group. </p><p>The court has appointed a committee to hold further discussions between protesters and government officials to help resolve the ongoing dispute. Khadse says farmers believe the appointed members are supporters of the laws and will continue protesting until they are fully repealed. </p>
Ecological Roots of Crisis<p>She also argues the legislation fails to tackle the root causes of the sector's problems.</p><p>"The laws don't mention the environment," said Khadse. "But the farm crisis today has ecological roots." </p><p>She says that today's problems can be traced back to the 1960s Green Revolution, when the government supported industrial cultivation of specific crops and adopted modern technology to maximize output. India's food basket was homogenized as certain crops — mainly high-yield varieties of rice, wheat and pulses — were favored over others. </p><p>Land has been left depleted by monocultural cultivation of high-yield seed varieties, said Khadse. She believes the costs of inputs needed to keep producing has pushed farmers into a cycle of debt.</p><p>"The increase in agricultural productivity has come at a tremendous cost to the environment," said Thomson Jacob, a policy consultant at the Centre for Biodiversity Policy and Law in Chennai. Jacob says these include loss of soil nutrients, excessive irrigation, water scarcity, indiscriminate application of some nutrients and pesticides and loss of agrobiodiversity. </p><p>Farmers today are dealing not only with the legacy of the Green Revolution but the added impacts of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/indias-himalayan-apple-farmers-feel-the-heat/a-51607119" target="_blank">climate change</a>. Those working in the agricultural sector, which employs over 40% of India's labor force, grapple with drought and flooding. </p><p>Raja says a changing and unpredictable climate is affecting the yield on his farm. In late November last year, his crops were partially damaged as a result of Cyclone Nivar. Research shows that cyclonic activity in the Bay of Bengal, along which Tamil Nadu sits, has been rapidly intensifying due to rising temperatures.<a href="https://indiaclimatedialogue.net/2020/06/05/cyclones-rise-as-climate-change-heats-up-indian-ocean/#:~:text=Like%20Nisarga%20and%20Amphan%2C%20a,factors%20driving%20this%20rapid%20intensification.&text=%E2%80%9CThese%20are%20record%20temperatures%20driven%20by%20climate%20change." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"></a></p>
Further Incentivizing Monoculture<p>Although cultivation practices have been intensified since the Green Revolution, today 82% of Indian farmers still have lands of less than 5 acres (2 hectares).</p><p>Karthik Gunasekar, an activist with Chennai Climate Action Group, believes a further deregulated market will add pressure to increase output.</p><p>"These new laws will push monocultural farming and unsustainable practices," said Gunasekar. He argues the laws should be repealed and that price protection should instead be offered for a more diverse range of crops to incentivize their cultivation. <br> <br>Without the security of a base price and poor market linkage, India's indigenous crops — which are not high-yielding — have fallen out of favor over the years. </p><p>However, Jacob says that if farmers are given incentives to produce traditional seed varieties then the push for contract farming could be used to help reverse the decline engendered by the Green Revolution. </p><p>"If contract farming encourages organic products, it will <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/social-entrepreneurship-for-sustainable-farming-in-india/a-42147375" target="_blank">enhance agrobiodiversity</a>," said Jacob, adding this could be through export of traditional rice varieties and certified organic products. </p><p>Raja is less optimistic for the future. He feels disillusioned by the fact that instead of engaging with the farmers as equals, the government has left them at the mercy of courts and corporations. </p><p>"I don't want my children to enter this occupation, even though we've done it for generations," he says. "We farmers no longer trust the government."</p><p><span></span>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/the-ecological-roots-of-india-s-farming-crisis/a-56368937" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
First, Jane Fonda's Gracie and Frankie co-star Sam Waterson joined her. Then, Ted Danson accompanied her on the step of Capitol Hill for her weekly Fire Drill Fridays protest. The duo was arrested Friday demanding congressional action to address the climate crisis, as CBS News reported.
- Jane Fonda Arrested During Climate Protest on US Capitol Hill Steps ›
- Jane Fonda, Sam Waterston Arrested on Capitol Hill Protesting for ... ›
- AOC Joins Jane Fonda for Fire Drill Friday - EcoWatch ›
More and more Americans are retrofitting their bathrooms with high-end bidets, allowing them to enjoy cleanliness and hygiene without creating as much paper waste. Not all bidets are created equal, however, and before deciding on a particular brand, it's important to do your homework. Take a look at our comprehensive Toto bidet review, and our reviews of Tushy and Omigo, to learn more about all of their options.
Toto USA<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/TOTO-BT500B-01-Piedmont-Vertical/dp/B00084P3GO/ref=sr_1_3?crid=ZG6AGN0U9VQL&dchild=1&keywords=toto+piedmont+bidet&qid=1613591898&sprefix=toto+piedmo%2Caps%2C188&sr=8-3" target="_blank">Toto's Piedmont bidet</a> offers an elegant, classic design, and it also comes with built-in safeguards that prevent it from ever overflowing. It is available in several color options, and will look good with any contemporary bathroom design.</p><p><strong>Why buy:</strong> This is the most affordable standalone bidet in Toto's catalog. This bidet is a good option if you are remodeling your bathroom or are building a home and want to save water and paper waste from the start. Priced starting at $533, you can find it through other retailers for around $280.</p>
Toto USA<p>The <a href="https://www.amazon.com/TOTO-BT930B-01-Vertical-Cotton/dp/B0015IVUOQ/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=toto%2Blloyd%2Bbidet&qid=1613592001&sr=8-2&th=1" target="_blank">Lloyd bidet</a> has a much bolder, "skirted" design, but it also shares the Piedmont's flushing rim and integral overflow features, which keep you from ever experiencing spillage.</p><p><strong>Why buy: </strong>This is a fancier product with a more striking appearance, and is mainly suited for a larger, more formal design. It retails for a slightly higher price point: The Lloyd model starts at $780 in total, but you can find it for $526 through other retailers.</p>
Toto USA<p>The company's flagship standalone bidet is known as the <a href="https://www.amazon.com/TOTO-BT784B-01-Clayton-Vertical/dp/B0018L9JUC/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=toto+clayton+bidet&qid=1613592108&sr=8-2" target="_blank">Clayton</a>. It includes the same overflow safeguards as the other two, and of course, each of these products is backed by Toto's longstanding commitment to excellent craftsmanship.</p><p><strong>Why buy: </strong>This is the most traditional in its visual style, and, with a number of colors to choose from, it will look great in almost any bathroom design. The Clayton starts at $734, but is available through other retailers for around $426.</p>
Toto USA<p>This electronic smart bidet seat fits onto your existing toilet bowl and offers a number of comfort features, including a heated seat, automatic air deodorizer, adjustable warm water, warm air dryer, self-cleaning wand, and a wireless remote control.</p><p><strong>Why buy:</strong> We chose the <a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00UCIOX2Q/ref=redir_mobile_desktop?_encoding=UTF8&aaxitk=-XjvJQOmffOcAmiCOZvtAA&hsa_cr_id=7413316040901&pd_rd_plhdr=t&pd_rd_r=0e0e7f3d-0baf-4977-85d3-663f618a76d8&pd_rd_w=Yi3yF&pd_rd_wg=LUFHB&ref_=sbx_be_s_sparkle_lsi3d_asin_1_img" target="_blank">Toto C200</a> as the overall best bidet in <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/best-bidet-toilet-seats-2650502928.html" target="_self">our review</a> of top brands. In addition to the features mentioned, its dual action oscillating and pulsating spray and pre-mist function provide a comfortable and sanitary clean.</p>
Toto USA<p>The <a href="https://www.amazon.com/TOTO-SW3046-01-Electronic-Contemporary/dp/B078GTKSXK/ref=sr_1_2?crid=15NGPC9YFANKH&dchild=1&keywords=toto+s500e&qid=1613960063&sprefix=toto+s500e%2Caps%2C171&sr=8-2" target="_blank">Toto Washlet S500e</a> bidet seat includes the features found in the C200, plus instantaneous water heating, front and rear wash functions, two-user preset memory, and the company's <a href="https://www.totousa.com/technologies/ewater" target="_blank">EWATER+ technology</a>. This system uses electrolyzed water to keep the wand and toilet bowl clean.</p><p><strong>Why buy:</strong> This high-end Toto electric bidet seat can help you reduce water and toilet paper use, and it can help reduce the need for chemical cleaning products with its EWATER+ technology.</p>
Toto USA<p>The <a href="https://www.amazon.com/TOTO-SW2014-01-Electronic-SoftClose/dp/B0165UFOGS/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?crid=30E9Y1LAN9ZRW&dchild=1&keywords=toto+washlet+a100+elongated+bidet+toilet+seat&qid=1613589664&sprefix=toto+washlet+a100%2Caps%2C167&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUFBR1FMUTdJR1hXNUEmZW5jcnlwdGVkSWQ9QTAyNjIwOTkxUE1EWk5CQjg2QTZPJmVuY3J5cHRlZEFkSWQ9QTA0NDc1MzExSk1UMk5CQzJYVUhVJndpZGdldE5hbWU9c3BfYXRmJmFjdGlvbj1jbGlja1JlZGlyZWN0JmRvTm90TG9nQ2xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ==" target="_blank">A100</a> is an entry-level Washlet bidet attachment, but still offers numerous comfort features. It includes a heated seat with temperature control, aerated warm water with a dual action spray, and an attached arm control panel.</p><p><strong>Why buy: </strong>One of the most affordable Toto bidet options, it still lets you adjust the water temperature and pressure settings, and features rear and front cleaning functionality for a feminine wash.</p>
Thousands of protestors marched in front of Frankfurt's International Motor Show (IAA) on Saturday to show their disgust with the auto industry's role in the climate crisis. The protestors demanded an end to combustion engines and a shift to more environmentally friendly emissions-free vehicles, as Reuters reported.
By Stuart Braun
A year after activist Greta Thunberg first stood in the rain outside the Swedish parliament with her now iconic "Skolstrejk för klimatet" — school strike for the climate — placard, the movement she spawned has set the tone for environmental protest action around the world.
Keeping up the Fight<p>Some say they've noticed a drop-off in numbers. "It's harder for students to miss out on school nowadays," Berlin student Martha Stert, who attended more than 20 weekly Fridays for Future protests in 2018, told DW.</p><p>The 18-year-old — whose summer break finished at the beginning of August — says teachers have become stricter about missing class as the weekly protests have continued; and that the movement's reputation has also been negatively affected by some students who use the strikes as an excuse to miss school.</p><p>But while Stert says she herself is struggling to attend protests as final year exams loom, she believes that younger students are just as enthusiastic and will keep up the momentum. "Protesting at school time" is an essential strategy, she said, as it's the only thing adults "are going to take notice of."</p><p>Orli Mastrocola-Simon, an 18-year-old final year high school student who has attended <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/australian-kids-skip-school-in-climate-protest/a-46516457" target="_blank">climate strike protests</a> in Hobart in the southern Australian state of Tasmania, agrees. "A lot of people are definitely still involved, they are very enthusiastic and passionate," she told DW as she also readies for exams. </p><p>While Mastrocola-Simon believes the movement also drew supporters because it was somewhat fashionable, many of her friends have since become committed activists who are traveling interstate to attend protests against the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/environmentalists-vow-to-fight-carmichael-coal-mine-in-australia/a-39126204" target="_blank">Adani coal mine</a>, for instance. </p>
A Generational Issue<p>Moritz Sommer from the Institut für Soziologie, Freie Universität Berlin, and co-author of a <a href="https://protestinstitut.eu/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/ipb-working-paper_FFF_final_online.pdf" target="_blank">working paper</a> on the emergence of the Fridays For Future protest movement in Germany says part of the success of the movement is the fact that "Fridays For Future manages the climate issue as a generational issue."</p><p>"These young people feel attached to each other, they feel that their future is in danger," he told DW, adding that the movement grew up less through social media platforms than in the classroom. </p><p>Sommer's Fridays For Future paper that was released this week includes evidence that most participants found out about the protests through word of mouth, not Twitter or Facebook.</p><p>And while some political groups have supported and tried to influence the movement that has been credited with helping <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/germanys-greens-hit-poll-high-ahead-of-merkels-bloc-survey/a-49094285" target="_blank">Green parties</a> get their highest vote at the European elections in May, Sommer said the strikes are managed through school councils, not political parties. In this way, they have been able to appeal to a broad church by being politically non-partisan. </p><p>"A year ago, would anyone have believed that there would be a movement like this," a German Fridays For Future activist who is simply known as Simon, told DW. </p><p>Even in week 52 of the protests on August 16, when much of the northern hemisphere was still in a summer slumber, there were at least 1000 strikes in 99 countries — including in Berlin, where hundreds turned out barely a week after school returned. </p>
Pressuring Politicians<p>In Ottawa, Canada, a small group of four weekly protesters have grown to up to 20 outside Parliament Hill in the capital.</p><p>"It's difficult to ask youth who have never taken part in any form of civil disobedience to stand up and fight against world governments they've seen as allies," Mia Beijer, who co-founded Future Rising Ottawa this January at the age of 15, told DW. </p><p>"But with the knowledge and information so easy to obtain, more and more youth are standing up and taking part in the youth climate movement, and we are becoming more and more connected." </p><p>Like in Australia, where students have actively targeted the prime minister, Scott Morrison, who last year said that "kids should go to school" — and who famously carried a piece of coal into parliament to extol the virtues of the fossil fuel —Canadian protesters are pressuring their political leaders to create change. </p><p>While the incumbent Liberal party under <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/Justin-Trudeau">Justin Trudeau</a> has, according to Beijer, "purchased old, leaky <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/protests-threaten-to-halt-controversial-canadian-oil-pipeline/a-43876668" target="_blank">pipelines</a> and given subsidies to several fossil fuel companies and corporations," she is concerned that "even the Green Party is showing signs of weakness when it comes to the environment and making meaningful changes for our future."</p><p>"We haven't seen enough dramatic change, from any world government, to steer us away from the climate apocalypse we are all heading towards," Beijer said. "So we will continue to strike, march and protest until we are no longer terrified to dream about what is to come in our futures." </p>
Mass Mobilization<p>Simon from Fridays For Future in Germany says the strategy is working. "I believe the movement is helping put the climate crisis high on the political agenda," he told DW, noting that since the protests began, a "<a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-emergency-new-hope-or-just-empty-words/a-49523833" target="_blank">climate emergency</a>" has been declared in countries such as Great Britain, France and Canada, as well as in various cities across the world.</p><p>"Mobilization continues," said the authors of a July report titled <a href="https://protestinstitut.eu/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/20190709_Protest-for-a-future_GCS-Descriptive-Report.pdf" target="_blank"><em>Protest for a Future</em></a>. "This wave of climate protest mobilization is unique in its tactics, global scope and appeal to teenage school students," the report's editors Mattias Wahlström, Piotr Kocyba, Michiel De Vydt and Joost de Moor added, pointing to a long future ahead for the movement. </p><p>This longevity will be further assured as the movement broadens, says Sommer, adding that the "Global Week for Future" climate strikes planned from September 20 will symbolize the next phase of an "astonishing" protest movement. In Germany, major trade unions, for example, will join the school strikers in one of their biggest mobilizations. </p><p>"We hope adults from all walks of life will join the young all over the world," said Simon of the upcoming intergenerational climate protests organized by Fridays For Future.</p>
'No one is too small'<p>But above all, the movement will stay true to Thunberg's motto that "no one is too small to make a difference" — also the title of her best-selling book.</p><p>Typical is 14-year-old Mary Ellis Stevens of Charlotte, North Carolina, who has maintained a weekly school strike for climate outside Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center for 19 weeks — often on her own. </p><p>"I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept," reads her Twitter bio.</p>
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.
U.S. Protest Law Tracker
By Dan Nosowitz
According to the little explanation in English media we have, the farmers were protesting "to reduce farm subsidies and leave more latitude to member states under the bloc's Common Agriculture Policy (CAP)." The protests are likely tied to an announcement in May that the European Commission proposed to reduce farmer subsidies in its member states, a proposal that was swiftly met with condemnation from the French government.
By Jon Queally
Thirty-nine people were arrested in California on Tuesday after approximately 500 animal rights activists organized by the Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) network staged a non-violent vigil and attempted a rescue operation at an industrial egg facility in the town of Petaluma.
Margot Kidder, the iconic actress who passed away Sunday at age 69, was most famous for playing Lois Lane opposite Christopher Reeve in the Superman films as an intrepid journalist who didn't let her lack of superpowers stop her from fighting for what she believed in. In real life, Kidder was similarly heroic in her commitment to protecting the environment.
Caught live on video, an 18-year old male driver plowed his pickup into a crowd of about 40 Native American protestors in Reno following an angry exchange of words. One woman was hospitalized. Quanah Brighten, executive director of United Native Americans Inc., called it a hate crime.
An 18-year old male driver plowed his pickup into a crowd of about 40 Native American protestors in Reno.
At about 6:40 p.m. Monday, the pickup truck approached the intersection where demonstrators had gathered under the Reno Arch. On video, the truck can be heard revving its engine. Witnesses said they heard racial slurs from the male driver and his 17-year old female companion. Angry words were exchanged. Then, suddenly, the man roared into the crowd. The entire horrific event was broadcast live on Facebook.
Five people were hurt, including Kitty Colbert, 59, of Carson City, Nevada, who was taken to the hospital with injuries that were described as non-life threatening. According to the Reno Police Department, four others were treated on the scene for minor injuries. "He could have killed me," Colbert says on the video.
It could have been far worse. "I heard the driver ask one of the protesters, 'Do you want me to kill your homies?' and that really set everybody off," Wayman told AP on Tuesday. "This is a hate crime," Brightman told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Some say a hate crime was committed in Reno on Monday when a truck plowed through Columbus Day protest https://t.co/V3flRhU8HT— Yahoo News (@Yahoo News)1476212475.0
The driver stopped his vehicle several blocks from the scene and called police. The two occupants of the vehicle have been questioned, but no arrests have been made.
Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve said in a statement Tuesday:
This incident is troublesome and saddens us deeply. I take these matters very seriously, and I believe they must be investigated thoroughly and promptly. Public safety is our highest priority, and I want all Reno residents to know that we are working swiftly and diligently to make sense of the events that took place last night. Please be advised that the Reno Police Department will hold anyone responsible accountable for their actions once the investigation has concluded.
Activists exchange words with occupants of pickup truck moments before it drove into the crowd. Louis Magriel
"They sort of arrived with an antagonistic behavior," said Martin Christian, an eyewitness.
"They were saying derogatory remarks against Native American people," another witness said.
The event had been organized by the American Indian Movement of Northern Nevada in support of the Standing Rock action against the Dakota Access Pipeline and in protest of Columbus Day.
"I respect an individual or group's right to conduct lawful protest, and encourage people to express their First Amendment rights," Mayor Schieve said. The demonstration was one of many held on Monday as support grows for Indigenous Peoples Day to replace Columbus Day.
Shailene Woodley Arrested While Peacefully Protesting Dakota Access Pipeline https://t.co/8DIRfFJMTc @KXLBlockade @IdleNoMoreNews— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1476221427.0
In the midst of recent national controversy surrounding government surveillance of the public, a recent Freedom of Information Act request to the Nebraska State Patrol has exposed evidence that TransCanada provided training to federal agents and local Nebraska police to suppress nonviolent activists protesting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline by arresting them on “anti-terrorism statutes.” The presentation slides, obtained by grassroots landowner advocacy group Bold Nebraska, target Tar Sands Blockade activists by name.
“This is clear evidence of the collusion between TransCanada and the federal government assisting local police to unlawfully monitor and harass political protestors,” said Lauren Regan, legal coordinator for Tar Sands Blockade and executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center. “These documents expose the truth that the government is giving the nod to unlawful corporate spying. By slinging false allegations against peaceful activists in this presentation, TransCanada puts them at risk of unwarranted prosecution.”
Although TransCanada’s presentation to authorities contains information about property destruction, sabotage and booby traps, police in Texas and Oklahoma have never alleged, accused or charged Tar Sands Blockade activists of any such behaviors. Since August 2012, Tar Sands Blockade has carried out dozens of successful nonviolent direct actions to physically halt construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas and Oklahoma. All of these acts, as well as every pipeline protest in Nebraska, have maintained strict commitments to nonviolence.
“Try as TransCanada might to slander Tar Sands Blockade and our growing grassroots movement, we know who the real criminals are,” said Ron Seifert, a spokesperson with Tar Sands Blockade who was pictured in the slideshow. “The real criminals are those profiting from this deadly tar sands pipeline by endangering families living along the route and pumping illegal levels of air toxins into fence-line communities.”
“If anything, this shows the effectiveness of campaigns to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and fossil fuel extraction as a whole,” said Scott Parkin, an organizer with Rising Tide North America and a non-violence trainer also pictured in the slideshow. “We’ve been fighting coal, oil and natural gas for a long time using these time-honored tactics and strategies. We’ll continue to use them precisely because they have been so effective in making change throughout American history.”
Grassroots resistance to Keystone XL is growing in Texas and Oklahoma where TransCanada is currently digging up freshly laid sections of the pipeline that failed integrity inspections. The East Texas Observer reports that at least 70 “anomalies,” including dents and shoddy welds in the pipe, were identified in a 60 mile span, and in some areas these imperfections occur at a rate of three per mile.
“A discovery like this presentation reveals that TransCanada has no problem lying to authorities and intentionally misleading the public in pursuit of its own private gain,” says Seifert. “If TransCanada officials cannot be trusted to tell the truth about the peaceful nature of Keystone XL protestors, why should we believe they’ve told the truth about the integrity of their pipeline and the real threats it poses to the hundreds of rivers and creeks that it crosses?”
The full slideshows are available at Tar Sands Blockade's website.
Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.
According to Free Speech Radio News, in Puerto Rico, activists are set to march this weekend against the government’s plan to build a natural gas pipeline that would intersect the island. The government-run electric agency, called PREPA, or Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, says the project would lower utility rates for residents and cut carbon emissions. But opponents of the project warn the 92-mile pipeline would cut through environmentally sensitive areas, threaten communities along the way and continue the island’s reliance on non-renewable resources.
This weekend in New York, a march is planned in solidarity with the protests taking place in Puerto Rico. Activists say they will meet at 26 Federal Plaza and make their way to the New York District US Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps of Engineers was forced to extend a 30-day comment period after failing to release a Spanish version of a draft environmental assessment in late 2011.
Click here to listen to an interview with Dr. Arturo Massol, a professor of biology at the University of Puerto Rico and spokesperson with Casa Pueblo, one of the organizations leading the protest this weekend.
On Jan. 10 at 1 p.m. on the west lawn of the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, concerned citizens from all over the state will gather to ask Gov. John Kasich to impose an indefinite moratorium on Ohio's oil and gas wastewater injection well sites and the natural gas extraction process that has become well known as fracking, until further research and proper regulations are put in place to protect human health and the environment.
This protest is in response to the 11 earthquakes that have hit the Youngstown, Ohio area since March 2011. The most recent earthquake, with a 4.0 magnitude that was felt nearly 200 miles away, shook the community on New Year's Eve. Won-Young Kim, a research professor of seismology geology at Columbia University who is advising the state of Ohio on the Dec. 31 earthquake, said that circumstantial evidence suggests a link between the earthquake and high-pressure well activity. Kim said he believes that the recent earthquake did not occur naturally and may have been caused by high-pressure liquid injection related to oil and gas exploration and production.
Fracking is a method of gas extraction that involves injecting a brew of toxic, heavy metal lubricants, chemicals and sand deep underground to fracture rock formations that release oil and gas. Hydraulic fracturing uses enormous quantities of fresh water, which gas companies take from nearby streams, ponds and rivers, or truck in if there is no immediate water source. Every time a gas well is fracked, four to nine million gallons of water are injected into the ground with a secret brew of chemicals. A single well can be fracked up to 12 times, totaling more than 100 million gallons of freshwater used in the lifetime of a well.
Some of the fracking fluid used in the process of breaking apart the shale remains underground, but a large majority of it comes back to the surface mixed with hazardous chemicals, volatile organic compounds, and even radioactive material that was trapped underground and released in the process. This wastewater is then trucked to a disposal well and pumped back underground. With millions of gallons of hazardous liquid created during this process, a major challenge for the natural gas industry and regulators, has been the disposal of this toxic byproduct of fracking.
It is this toxic wastewater that is being high-pressure injected into many of Ohio's deep wells, as far down as 9,000 feet, and blamed for the recent Youngstown earthquakes. Thanks to Ohio's geology and the Kasich administration, along with other elected officials, Ohio now receives about 1,000 truckloads of frackwater everyday at disposal wells around Ohio. Ohio is home to 177 oil and gas wastewater injection well sites, 10 times more than surrounding states. More than half of the fracking wastewater coming into Ohio is from out of state, including from New York and Pennsylvania.
Concerns on how to dispose of fracking wastewater are only one of the problems associated with natural gas extraction. Fracking has been linked to more than 1,000 incidents of groundwater contamination across the U.S., including cases where people can actually ignite their tap water. There is no doubt that proper regulations on the state and federal levels are lacking.
In New York state, opponents of fracking are asking lawmakers to extend the moratorium that was put into place in 2010, due to concerns that hydraulic fracturing, without proper regulation, could pollute groundwater.
Concerns over the extraction of natural gas are experienced worldwide and impact rural, suburban and urban communities. The number of anti-fracking groups is growing every day. Frustrations are running high as the U.S. continues to lack a sustainable energy policy that puts a cap on carbon and supports investment in renewable energy generation and manufacturing instead of supporting extreme fossil fuel extraction.
On the federal level and in Ohio and many other states, incentives for renewable energy projects and manufacturing need to be put back in place. Three years ago we were making some progress in moving toward a sustainable energy supply. But over the last couple years, states and the federal government have stripped away the incentives that were a first step in leveling the playing field between renewable and nonrenewable energy. Since the fossil fuel industry is so highly subsidized and externalizes much of its costs, the renewable energy industry cannot compete without the help of incentives.
In Ohio, we passed SB 221 in July 2008. It mandates that 25 percent of Ohio's electricity generation come from advanced energy sources by 2025 with 12.5 percent from renewable sources including hydro. Half of the renewable energy generation has to come from within the state. It even contains a 0.5 percent solar carve out that has increased the value of solar renewable energy credits in the state. Coupled with this legislation was the Ohio Advanced Energy Fund grant program that provided a financial incentive to invest in renewable energy projects. However, the legislature failed to renew this grant program in 2010 and the number of projects in our state has greatly declined.
Creating jobs at the expense of human health and the environment is not sustainable. Energy generation is not a job vs. the environment issue. It's a need for a cleaner environment creating jobs—green jobs that will transition our country to relying on cleaner, renewable sources of energy. Investment in renewable energy will create jobs, revitalize our strong manufacturing base and provide long-term solutions to our energy needs without contaminating our drinking water, polluting our air, displacing communities and making people sick.
I know there's no perfect solution or silver bullet that will generate all the world's energy needs, but it is clear that supporting extreme fossil fuel extraction—like fracking, mountaintop removal coal mining, tar sands mining or building pipelines like the proposed Keystone XL that would take the most toxic and corrosive oil from Alberta, Canada and pipe it through the breadbasket of America to ship it overseas—is not the answer. Energy efficiency, investment in distributed generation and grid-feeding renewable energy projects, rebuilding the electric grid, and investment in battery storage and innovative energy technologies is the direction our country needs to take.
The next several months are going to be interesting. As of right now, according to the House Energy & Commerce Committee clock, Obama has 43 days to decide on the Keystone XL pipeline as stated in the payroll tax-cut extension bill passed at the end of last year. Gov. Anthony Cuomo will decide on the fate of New York's moratorium on fracking as early as this week. Ohioans will speak out on Tuesday concerning their fears of continued natural gas extraction and disposal of toxic wastewater in their state. Public comments are being accepted on Obama's proposal to allow drilling in the pristine Arctic Ocean and increased drilling in the Gulf of Mexico before adequate safety standards are in effect. Regulations aimed at limiting harmful power plant pollution that crosses state lines (including sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, which annually would prevent 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 heart attacks and 400,000 cases of asthma) have been put on hold by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Appeals Court in Washington. Unfortunately, the list goes on.
I've been working in the grassroots environmental movement for more than 23 years. I've never seen so many people so worried about the health of the planet and concerned for future generations as we continue to consume resources at an unprecedented rate, and allow corporations to run our government and privatize our natural resources. I've also never seen such incredible grassroots leadership and collaboration among environmental organizations as we have today. Like I said, the next several months are going to be really interesting. Be sure to stay-tuned to EcoWatch.org as we keep you up-to-date on all the issues.