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Why Dr. Evil Is Targeting Anti-Fracking Activists as 'Big Green Radicals'
The Oct. 30 New York Times ran a story about how the oil and gas industry and its high-priced lobbyist/publicist Richard Berman are personally targeting Colorado activists who are working in anti-fracking campaigns. The story is based on a secretly recorded speech given by Berman and his colleague to industry officials in Colorado Springs in 2014 during which he described how the industry was going hard negative and using personal attacks against activists and how the industry must prepare for an “endless war” against environmentalists about fracking.
I am one of the activists targeted by Berman. If you go to the website Berman highlighted in his speech, BigGreenRadicals.org, then click on “Colorado,” then click on “Gary Wockner,” you’ll see Berman’s hit job (it’s not very accurate or insightful). I’m in good company there, joined by my Congressman Jared Polis, Yoko Ono, Mark Ruffalo and other local Colorado activists with whom I’ve been proud to work over the past couple of years.
A few environmental leaders are taking Berman and industry to task for their tactics targeting me and others. After reading the story in the Times, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said, “You know climate deniers and big polluters are desperate when they turn to the tired old tactics of the tobacco industry to try and save themselves.” Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. called Berman “The Oil Reich’s Minister of Propaganda” in this tweet:
Rick Berman: The Oil Reich's Minister of Propaganda & public information #HOWDOTHESEPEOPLELIVEWITHTHEMSELVES? http://t.co/0iixpjotOM
— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@RobertKennedyJr) October 31, 2014
By the time the BigGreenRadicals.org website appeared in 2014, these personal attacks were old news in Colorado. The industry had been ramping up the negative rhetoric for over a year using Berman’s surrogate organizations, especially before and after the industry lost the four local ballot initiatives in Fort Collins, Broomfield, Lafayette, and Boulder in November of 2013 which banned or put a long-term moratorium on fracking. At one point during the election, they made door-hangers with that hit-job against me (including my photo) and hung them on thousands of doors in Broomfield (it didn’t work; we won the election anyway).
The fracking wars in Colorado are intense. I’ve chosen to be a visible public face, campaign organizer and spokesperson fighting against fracking. I chose to do this because climate change is real and is made worse by fracking for oil and gas, and because fracking causes severe negative impacts to public health, wildlife and landscapes, air and water, and to Colorado citizens’ property values. Further, I believe we need to switch to a renewable energy, no-carbon economy as soon as possible to mitigate and avert the worst impacts of climate change.
Mr. Berman has been doing negative personal attacks for a long time—in 2007, CBS’s 60 minutes described him as “Dr. Evil” for his past work attacking unions and animal rights groups. Now, the oil and gas industry has hired him to attack environmental activists in Colorado, thus solidifying the industry’s role here as a propaganda machine that will pretty much say and do anything to anyone to maximize their short-term profit at the complete expense of the public’s and environment’s long-term health. Perhaps this is a fight of good vs. evil, and so perhaps they’ve hired the right man.
Why are they attacking environmental activists? Because we are making a difference.
What can you do? Join us.
Gary Wockner, PhD, is an environmental activist living Colorado.
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Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.
"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.
The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."
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A warm day in winter used to be a rare and uplifting relief.
Now such days are routine reminders of climate change – all the more foreboding when they coincide with news stories about unprecedented wildfires, record-breaking "rain bombs," or the accelerated melting of polar ice sheets.
Where, then, can one turn for hope in these dark months of the year?