More Americans believe in angels than in climate change. Still, a poll released earlier this year indicated that more Americans than ever now think that climate change is happening, that it is caused by human activity and that world leaders have a moral obligation to do something about it.
So why are we getting so little action? If a large majority of people actually thinks our only home, the Earth, suffers from human behavior, then shouldn’t our personal and public actions reflect that reality? Oh, sure, lots of people drive electric cars, but lots more drive SUVs. I know that California has implemented a “cap-and-trade” program that will limit the future growth of carbon in the air, but the state has not banned fracking, which wastes water and hurts our air quality. And I know that the federal government has been setting higher goals for vehicle mileage —
In what was widely seen as a stunning rebuke to President Obama’s efforts to speed through congressional approval of the administration’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement, the House of Representatives last Friday rejected a key measure needed to “fast track” the controversial pact.
The defeat came in a vote on one of two related bills that both needed to pass for Fast Track to move forward — a reauthorization of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) funds, a program that pays for job retraining for those thrown out of work because of free trade deals like TPP.
House Republicans have vowed to get another floor vote on TAA as soon as early this week to allow the White House a second chance at fast track.
The reauthorization failed by a lopsided 126-302 — a margin attributed to the efforts of a broad coalition of labor unions,
“With great power comes great responsibility.” It’s one of those truisms that’s been echoed in various forms throughout the ages, from the likes of Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and even the Spider-man comics. Unfortunately, powerful major corporations like Walmart don’t often take responsibility for their tremendous impact on America and the rest of the world. As Walmart opens its annual shareholder meeting on June 5, we at the Food Chain Workers Alliance urge stockholders and executives alike to consider our newly-released report, Walmart at the Crossroads, which examines the impact of Walmart’s food supply chain on labor and the environment.
Walmart, number one on the Fortune 500 list of American companies, has net sales totaling $473.1 billion. With foodstuffs making up 55 percent of its sales, this corporation controls 25 percent of grocery sales in the U.S. Consequently, Walmart’s actions and inactions reverberate through the food chain,
On Wednesday, May 20, the day after a Santa Barbara County fire inspector discovered a stream of contaminated crude oil flowing onto a pristine segment of the Southern California coast, a group of researchers published a study linking the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill to a mass die-off of bottlenose dolphins. The 46 carcasses examined for the study had suffered from “rare, life-threatening and chronic adrenal gland and lung diseases.” The researchers concluded that these diseases were “consistent with exposure to petroleum compounds as seen in other mammals.”
Hearing this, the casual observer might say duh, and wonder why such a study makes the news at this late date, a full five years after British Petroleum’s oil rig exploded and sank,
To the west of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, in California’s vast, dry San Joaquin Valley, a catastrophe is unfolding. Drought-stricken growers, deprived of surface water for irrigation, are pumping ancient aquifers at a rate that will eventually extinguish them forever, should the water shortage persist. About 120 miles away, on the opposite side of the snow-starved mountain range, sits the Owens Valley. Here, the drought is merely an aggravating factor in a water crisis that began more than a century ago. In 1913, William Mulholland and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power completed the aqueduct that tapped the river that once irrigated the high desert basin and diverted it to the citrus groves of the San Fernando Valley, 200 miles to the south. Then in 1970, the LADWP completed its second aqueduct and began pumping the valley’s groundwater until all but a single major spring had run dry.
A common refrain among opponents of clean air, water and endangered species is that environmental regulation kills jobs. From some perspectives, they’re occasionally right: Go talk to a coal miner in Kentucky staring down the Obama administration’s new rules for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants, or an Oregon tree-feller on the topic of spotted owls. When rules to protect nature and public health kick in, whole economies sometimes die.
But it’s also true that people living in poverty suffer disproportionately from industrial pollution, and that wealth benefits from the long-term protection of resources — without restraint, after all, one day there’d be no forests to log. So a United Nations’ Brundtland Commission in 1987 proposed another way of looking at the situation, one that wouldn’t pit laudable values against each other, but would instead regard economic and environmental health as inseparable. The Brundtland participants coined the term “sustainable development” and,
“Absolutely not. In fact, if I could increase it, I would,” said Nestlé Waters North America CEO Tim Brown Wednesday on KPCC, when asked by NASA hydrologist Jay Famiglietti whether he would ever consider moving his water bottling operations out of drought-stricken California, like Starbucks is doing. By Brown’s estimate, Nestlé’s bottling business currently uses 700,000,000 gallons of California groundwater a year.
Nestlé isn’t the only company draining California’s aquifers and shipping the water out of state in the middle of a megadrought. In fact, as I reported here this week, the Crystal Geyser Water Company is getting ready to open up a brand new operation in Mount Shasta, at the headwaters of the Sacramento River. And, just down the road from the Crystal Geyser site, plans are being drawn up to build yet another, “boutique”
To sign up for Leighton Woodhouse’s email newsletter on the drought, go to Land of Thirst.
Nine years ago, Raven Stevens moved to Mount Shasta, California, after being priced out of the housing market in Santa Cruz, where she had lived for 27 years. She describes the picturesque mountain town just south of the Oregon border as a community “in transition.” By that she means two things: it is an economy moving from logging to more sustainable industries, such as tourism. And it is a community being overtaken by transplants from the Bay Area, like herself.
“We bring our crazy ideas with us,” she says. “And we get a hard time for that. We’ll never be locals. I’ve heard some people say, ‘You people should just go back to where you came from.’”
The house Stevens and her partner purchased in Mount Shasta is about two thousand feet south of an old water bottling plant that was vacated in 2010 by Coca-Cola/Danone.
(Editor’s Note: This is an encore posting from our State of Inequality series.)
March 1, 2060
Just the other day, you asked me two questions that I failed to answer. How did California get into the fix it’s in today? And, a half century ago, when I was writing regularly about our home state, did anyone see this future coming?
I must confess the real reason for my evasion was that your questions reminded me of a document from those days that I couldn’t immediately put my hands on. It took me a week but I finally found it on a very old laptop computer I still hang onto. (I know, I know, I’m a dinosaur!)
This artifact is dated 2010, and it’s a map of sorts — not of a city but of a future.
One day late last year, retired police officer Robert Mitchell took several visitors on a tour of the West Fresno community where he has lived for decades. But it was hardly a nostalgia excursion.
This is an encore posting from our State of Inequality series
First, there was a stop at Hyde Park, a former dump. There was another at a sports complex and fishing pond built on a Superfund cleanup site. And still another at a controversial meat-rendering plant operated by Darling Ingredients Inc. that residents say has spewed foul smells into nearby residential areas for more than half a century.
“You constantly had the horrific odor of the processing that occurs here at Darling,” said Mitchell, a thoughtful man with a bushy white beard and deep voice. He and his visitors stood outside the Darling plant,
California is in the midst of what is arguably the worst drought in its recorded history.
Powered by Cincopa Video Hosting for Business solution.California’s Megadrought in the Central ValleyPictures of land and people in California’s Central Valley impacted by the state’s historic drought.Dead orchards are bulldozed and woodchipped to make into compost.flash 16cameramake Canonheight 600orientation 1camerasoftware Adobe Photoshop CC 2originaldate 10/28/2014 5:34:26 PMwidth 900cameramodel Canon EOS 5D Mark IICitrus grower Bryan Hixson alongside the Friant-Kern Canalflash 16cameramake Canonheight 600orientation 1camerasoftware Adobe Photoshop CC 2originaldate 10/28/2014 12:23:12 AMwidth 900cameramodel Canon EOS 5D Mark IIAlmond husks. Almonds are highly water-intensive, but growers are holding onto their almond fields and even switching over to the crop because it yields among the highest profit margins.flash 16cameramake Canonheight 600orientation 1camerasoftware Adobe Photoshop CC 2originaldate 10/28/2014 7:10:32 PMwidth 900cameramodel Canon EOS 5D Mark IIBoth the high-speed rail and the effort to restore the San Joaquin salmon run are political third rails in the Central Valley.flash 16cameramake Canonheight 600orientation 1camerasoftware Adobe Photoshop CC 2originaldate 11/6/2014 12:00:38 AMwidth 900cameramodel Canon EOS 5D Mark IICitrus grower Gus Carranza in his fieldsflash 16cameramake Canonheight 600orientation 1camerasoftware Adobe Photoshop CC 2originaldate 10/27/2014 8:13:52 PMwidth 900cameramodel Canon EOS 5D Mark IICalifornia’s Proposition 1 was an emergency measure to mitigate the drought situation,
What do Facebook, Kaiser Permanente, Staples and the San Francisco Department of Environment have in common? All four appear on a list of corporate and government entities that pledged to stop purchasing furniture treated with flame-retardant chemicals. The Center for Environmental Health (CEH), the organization behind the pledge, hopes to steer business away from furniture containing flame retardants, which have been linked to a range of health risks. All the offices on the list spend a combined $520 million on furniture every year.
The pledge coincides with new state legislation that will require manufacturers to attach labels to furniture treated with flame retardants. In September Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1019, which takes effect January 1, 2015.
Treating furniture with flame-retardant chemicals used to be standard procedure for meeting California’s furniture flammability code, known as Technical Bulletin 117.
“For a long time government regulations were promoting the use of these chemicals,” Charles Margulis of CEH tells Capital &
Steve Clemons is Washington editor-at-large for The Atlantic, whose spin-off site, CityLab, covers new ideas and issues facing urban metro areas worldwide. Each year CityLab convenes a gathering of global city leaders in person to discuss innovative ideas and projects that are emerging in urban communities. This year CityLab’s conference was held at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Shortly afterward, Capital & Main spoke to Clemons. In this video clip he speaks of L.A.’s past and its new allure.
Also Watch: Steve Clemons on Government
From boiling the soon-to-be-mashed potatoes to rinsing the fruits and vegetables, clean water is an essential ingredient in every household that will be preparing Thanksgiving dinner.
And yet, the absence of adequate federal support means our public water systems are under threat. Over the next 20 years, U.S. water systems will likely require a staggering $2.8 to $4.8 trillion investment, and for-profit corporations such as Veolia and Suez are jumping at the opportunity to privatize America’s water supply so they can pocket a portion of those trillions we’ll need to spend.
A new report released by Corporate Accountability International with Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU), shows that promises made by private water corporations fail to materialize or come at the expense of deferred infrastructure maintenance, skyrocketing water rates and risks to public health.
The good news, however, is that cities across the country and all over the world are increasingly rejecting water privatization and are taking back public control of their water systems.
This month the U.S. and China reached an historic and unexpected agreement on climate change. As a follow-up, China announced that it will cap its coal consumption by 2020. The U.S. and China are the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world, and the world’s largest economies. What does this mean for us?
Climate change isn’t something that we can wait 50 or 100 years to deal with – it is happening right now. The U.S. is seeing more severe weather, unprecedented sea level rise, loss of habitat and expanding ranges of pests and diseases.
The primary driver of climate change is the carbon that humans put into the atmosphere and the biggest producers of carbon are coal-fired power plants that generate electricity. China is now the world’s largest user of coal.
In the climate change agreement, China promised to reach its peak emission of carbon and other greenhouse gases,
Thanksgiving is our national food-focused holiday–but Los Angeles has an all-year-round reputation for food obsessions: Paleo diets. Veganism. Juicing. Fasting. Fusion food trucks, kimchi pizza, chorizo-filled potstickers with duck sauce reduction (yes, that is a real recipe).
What gets a lot less foodie press, though, is the City of Los Angeles’s innovation in creating one of the most progressive food policies in the nation.
Cities around the country have established programs to improve the availability of nutritious food for residents and set ethical and environmental standards for the suppliers to the multitude of public institutions that feed millions every year. In 2012 the city established the L.A. Food Policy Council to develop an equitable food policy for Los Angeles and to answer some key questions: How does a city that buys tons of food every year define “locally grown” food? How do purchasing policies sustain small farmers?
Have you ever felt paralyzed by the apocalyptic projections of global warming? Have you walked away from a presentation, article or news report feeling despair about the heating of our planet? You’re not alone. Amongst young Americans polled, global warming is a major worry.
The fear is good and warranted; the despair and paralysis are not. According to Jonathan Parfrey of the L.A.-based nonprofit, Climate Resolve, climate change needs to be seen as a local issue that people can address and do something about. And he has many ideas about how that can be done.
“L.A. has a spectacular climate,” says Parfrey, “we all love it. That’s why we’re here.” But global warming can hurt our city by impacting the things we care most about — including our health, food and water supply, property values, air quality and fire safety.
What’s called the “urban heat island effect” —
If you’re looking for a real fright this Halloween season, there’s no need to find a haunted house or to visit the coffin in your neighbor’s yard. Just take a look at the independent film Plastic Paradise, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I saw the film recently with about 200 mostly high school and college students in Santa Monica High School’s Barnum Hall.
It’s hard to know where to start with the grossness of the plastic mass circulating in the world’s ocean gyres (the five swirling oblong currents in the furthest-most reaches of the planet’s oceans). On the Midway Atoll, one of a string of volcanic islands halfway between the U.S. and Japan, tons of old flip-flops, bottles, pacifiers, toys, sippy cups, bottle tops, garbage bags, laundry baskets and every other item of non-destructible plastic origin you can think of, washes up on the formerly pristine,
At some point during the last decade, as various plans have been floated to avert climate change, it struck me that we’re focusing on the wrong problem. Global warming caused by a buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (carbon dioxide chief among them), has indeed sped us in the direction of rendering the planet uninhabitable for life, human and otherwise. But climate change is not a disease in itself. Instead, it’s a symptom of a disease, systemic and pernicious, brought on by squandering the parts of nature we call “resources” at a breathtaking clip and without restraint. All of the solutions on offer, from displacing coal with natural gas in the West to constructing more nuclear reactors in the South, are supposed to allow us to go living exactly as we do, without the consequences.
Except we can’t. As Naomi Klein, author of No Logo and the blockbuster bestseller, The Shock Doctrine,
Seleta Reynolds, Los Angeles’ new chief of transportation, wants to help break L.A.’s dependence on cars. She believes that bikes are key to doing it. New York City, the Bay Area and other metropolises have already begun to show that a mixed transportation network with a central role for bicycles can be achieved in America. But can bikes prosper in the most infamous car town in the world?
Before being hired by Mayor Eric Garcetti this summer, Reynolds helped lead San Francisco’s Livable Streets office in that city’s transportation agency. She sees a bit of L.A.’s future in San Francisco’s present.
“In San Francisco, people are truly multimodal,” she told Capital & Main. “They take taxis, they take Uber and Lyft. They ride their bikes, they take a bike-share. They take the ferry, they ride the bus, they take the Muni Metro. Sometimes they drive, they take car-shares.