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Blog Posts: Activism

April 22nd, 2015

Time for Congress to Protect our Public Lands from Fracking

By Wenonah Hauter

Wenonah Hauter at a public lands rally outside the Capitol on Wednesday.

Wenonah Hauter at a public lands rally outside the Capitol on Wednesday.

Today is Earth Day, an ideal time to think about what we can do to better preserve and protect our environment. Fittingly, the Protect Our Public Lands Act, which would ban fracking on all federal lands, was reintroduced today by Congressmembers Mark Pocan and Jan Schakowsky, and 12 additional cosponsors.

Sadly, fracking has already seriously damaged our public lands. By the end of 2014, oil and gas companies held leases on more than 34 million acres of public land, and more than 200 million additional acres are currently being targeted for drilling. These lands were set aside by past generations for the protection and enjoyment of future generations. Yet the oil and gas industry has been allowed and even encouraged by our current crop of federal leaders to decimate this land.

When President Obama’s Bureau of Land Management originally proposed rules to regulate fracking on public lands, more than 650,000 public comments were delivered demanding an outright ban on the practice instead. Ironically, President Obama is giving his Earth Day address from south Florida’s Everglades today, a delicate wetlands habitat that is under threat from fracking on adjacent public lands. While Obama selected the Everglades to highlight the risk that climate change poses to the location and the rest of our planet, his Earth Day message is wildly inconsistent with his support for fracking.

More and more Americans are demanding real action against fracking on the federal level. We are fortunate to have key members of Congress who are willing to heed this call. The rising national movement against fracking has been driven not just by emerging science, but also a groundswell of grassroots activism. In response, New York enacted a statewide ban in December and the Maryland General Assembly recently passed a two-and-a-half-year moratorium on fracking. It is becoming more clear that regulating fracking still risks accidental spills, water contamination, methane leaks, earthquakes and habitat destruction. The only way to negate these risks is to ban fracking entirely.

The Protect Our Public Lands Act is a huge opportunity for Congress to get on the right side of history by protecting national resources and heritage, while also decreasing America’s contribution to climate change. It is time for real action to be taken to protect our country’s pristine lands and pass the Protect Our Public Lands Act. Banning fracking on public lands should be a no-brainer for Congress and the President.

Tell you member of Congress to support the Protect Our Public Lands Act!

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April 6th, 2015

Standing Up For Philadelphia’s Sustainable Economy

By Judy Wicks

Judy Wicks

Judy Wicks is joining Food & Water Watch to fight the “Dirty Fossil Fuel Plan”.

Philadelphia’s biggest polluters are trying to bring even more dirty and dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure to our city, threatening our sustainable local economy and the health of our citizens.

In the early 1970s, my block of Victorian brownstones faced demolition to make way for a strip mall. Compelled to save our homes, my neighbors and I organized, fought the demolition plan and won. I realized then that people can exercise our true power when we work together.

It was on the first floor of my house on that block that I founded the White Dog Café in 1983, which became a pioneer in Philadelphia’s vibrant farm-to-table restaurant scene. Now, the oil and gas industry is pushing forward a plan they’re calling the Philadelphia “energy hub” that would sideline sustainable local economies like our bountiful local food system. So I’m standing with Food & Water Watch and the other organizations working to fight the “Dirty Fossil Fuel Plan.”

This is important to me, not only because a fossil fuel-based economy threatens life on Earth for future generations, but also because it poses an immediate danger. Every day, oil trains carrying highly flammable crude oil pass right through our neighborhoods, only blocks from my own home. Across the continent, these same trains have derailed, causing horrific explosions and fires that have lasted for days.

Judy Wicks oil train

Judy Wicks standing in front of an oil train, just a few blocks away from her home.

Philadelphia could be next.

Tragically, natural gas explosions have already happened in Philadelphia. In my neighborhood, where the lines are nearly 100 years old, gas leaks are a regular occurrence. Last year, a row house only four blocks from mine blew up due to a gas leak, destroying adjacent houses and damaging 10 homes. Residents escaped with their lives, but their homes were completely destroyed. Just last week, a gas explosion in New York City collapsed three buildings, killing two and injuring nearly 20 people.

Philadelphia has the opportunity to plan a safe and clean energy future and to grow our urban economy to be among America’s most sustainable cities. We can invest in our regional food and renewable energy systems and encourage the sustainable economies already thriving in our city. However, some of our city’s dirtiest fossil fuel executives have a different plan in mind. They want to turn Philadelphia into a hub for dirty energy with more oil trains, more gas pipelines and more explosive fossil fuels like liquefied natural gas. Let’s make sure that the Philadelphia City Council does not invest our tax money in this dying, dead-end and deadly industry.

Like the mall that nearly demolished my home over 30 years ago, the “Dirty Fossil Fuel Plan” entraps us in a stale vision that we need to move beyond, and precludes new and creative dreams like White Dog Café once was for me. Help us defeat these fossil fuel pipe dreams and protect a vibrant and healthy future for Philadelphia!

Click here to send a message to Philadelphia City Council urging them to steer away from this dangerous plan.

Thanks for taking action.

Judy Wicks is the founder of the White Dog Café. She also founded Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia and Fair Food Philly. 

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March 11th, 2015

Fifty Years After Selma, We Still Need To Organize to Protect Our Civil Rights and Environment

BlogThumb_Wenonah1

Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch

Protect our democracy:
Oppose Citizens United

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By Wenonah Hauter

Last weekend, many leaders gathered in Selma to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the violent police crackdown on African American community members who were marching from Selma to Montgomery for the right to vote. The televised police violence captured the attention of the nation and ultimately led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA). But today, thanks to a small handful of wealthy elites, we must redouble our efforts to maintain our civil rights — as well as protect our environment and public health.

Voting rights under attack 50 years later

The same big corporate interests that are behind the legislative push to deregulate our environmental laws and prevent any meaningful action to protect our planet are the same ones pushing to restrict access to the ballot, effectively rolling back 50 years of civil rights gains. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), made up of corporations including Koch Industries and ExxonMobil, lobbies for reactionary state legislation around the nation like backing restrictions on voting including voter ID laws. It is no wonder that these powerful interests are working to restrict the vote – their agenda is unpopular and they can only continue to push their regressive policies by preventing popular democracy from flourishing.

The VRA was the ultimate outcome of effective organizing. It was used to strike down many onerous, discriminatory, and oppressive laws that disenfranchised people including poll taxes, literacy tests, inequitable redistricting plans, voter ID laws and other unfair measures that restricted or otherwise interfered with the right to vote.

In 2013, however, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, ushering in a new era of legislation restricting the right to vote. From Texas to Wisconsin and Alabama to Pennsylvania (and elsewhere) conservative state legislatures, at the behest of ALEC, have moved to restrict the right to vote.

Another powerful grassroots movement: fighting fracking

We can see the impact of voting rights and participatory democracy through the environmental work we are engaged in – and the powerful movement rising up over the past decade to stop hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in our rural communities is a great example. New powerful technologies have enabled the oil and gas industry to drill deep into previously hard-to-reach sources of gas, but the cost of the new technique is high: some people who live near fracking sites have become seriously ill from contaminated air and water. Others can light their tap on fire due to the amount of methane in their water. What’s worse, the oil and gas industry isn’t required to disclose the chemicals they use in the fracking process, but many are known endocrine disruptors and carcinogens. Communities with fracking have seen declines in property values, increases in crime and losses in local tourism and agriculture.

The costs of the new hydraulic fracturing technique are so high that communities from New York to California have risen up to say no to fracking. More than 450 communities have successfully passed measures taking action against the destructive practice. And thanks to strong grassroots organizing, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo moved to ban fracking last December. Everywhere the governor went, he was met by people urging him to keep fracking out of the state. Countless protests, call-in days, petition gathering events and other grassroots pressure finally tipped the scales in democracy’s favor.

We must keep organizing to shore up progressive wins

We must keep up the pressure—from organizing to stop fossil fuels development in favor of developing cleaner energy technologies, to upholding and advancing civil rights gained at Selma.

As we reflect on the 50th anniversary commemoration events, it is critical that we push for a legislative restoration of the Voting Rights Act. And, it is important for all of us in the environmental and broader progressive movement to actively support these efforts, while at the same time working at the local, state and national level to insure that our basic rights are upheld.

The environmental and civil rights movements, beyond being ultimately progressive in nature, have common cause. We know that communities of color and the poor are disproportionately impacted by environmentally polluting industries, which are driven by large corporate interests. From fracking operations that impact communities in California’s central valley and Pennsylvania’s rural communities, to water privatization that affects people living in large urban areas like Detroit, to factory farms that pollute rural communities from New Mexico, to Iowa and North Carolina, the communities that are most likely to be impacted by environmental pollution are also most likely to be affected by legislative efforts to restrict the vote. Environmental rights and civil rights go hand in hand and communities that are impacted by environmental harms need to be empowered to protect themselves through free and clear access to the ballot.

As we are battling to restore our planet, we need to stand together as a broad based progressive movement to restore our democracy and the right of everyone to fully participate in it. The acts of the protestors of the civil rights movement took great courage. Again, we need acts of great courage to sustain our democracy.

Food & Watch is proud to have stood against the regressive efforts of ALEC as members of the Democracy Initiative, a broad coalition advocating for reforms to get money out of politics and expand the right to vote. We are proud to have stood with the NAACP’s Rev. Barber and the Moral Monday movement and protests in North Carolina. And, we are proud to stand with communities suffering from environmental pollution across the country. But we must do more and we must do more together.

We live in a time where our environment and our democracy is threatened by a cabal of massive corporations led by people that are willing to destroy our communities in order to extract every last bit of profit. We need the maximum engagement and participation of all to push back against these forces.

Let’s reflect on the courage and achievement of the brave marchers for justice in Selma 50 years ago and then recommit to championing meaningful legislation to advance voting rights, restore our democracy and protect our environment for all people and future generations.

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February 27th, 2015

Climate Deniers Watch: Sen. Jim Inhofe Thinks Snowballs in Winter Disproves Climate Change

Mitch_JonesBy Mitch Jones

We are used to Congress’s Climate Deniers making boneheaded statements, but the bottom of the barrel has definitely been scraped now.

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, brought a snowball to the floor of the Senate yesterday as “evidence” that the scientific basis for belief in climate change is untrue. There’s even video.

Apparently, that there is snow in Washington DC in February 2015, disproves that 2014 was the hottest year on record. If that doesn’t make sense to you, that’s probably because you aren’t as easily confused as the chairman of the Senate’s environment committee. Or, maybe you aren’t in the paid service of the oil and gas industry. Senator Inhofe, on the other hand, has taken at least $1.7 million from the oil and gas industry to fund his campaigns throughout his career. And the oil and gas industry has gotten its monies worth.

Global_Climate_Change_MapNot only has Senator Inhofe promoted patently absurd arguments on the Senate floor, he wrote a whole book of them. Science deniers like Inhofe ignore the facts about what climate scientists say about the strange behavior of the polar jet stream during the last few years. It’s responsible for the frigid weather that the south is experiencing right now. Anyone who is serious about following the newest research on climate knows that greenhouse gases are causing chaotic and unpredictable weather patterns. But the oil and gas industry are paying politicians to be blind to this fact. Read the full article…

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January 22nd, 2015

Opportunity for Some, Favoritism to Corporate Interests

Corporate_BS_Detector

By Wenonah Hauter

Once again, dark money ruled on Election Day 2014 when a slew of die-hard reactionaries swept into office, their victories clinched by donations from a small group of selfish big money donors. These wealthy funders seem to believe they can hide behind the gates of their fancy estates and not experience the adverse effects of global climate change or the consequences of the other regressive policies they promote. So how did these radicals, who are out of touch with the values of most Americans, spend their second week of the 114th Congress? Rubbing elbows with one another and the other sycophants that feed at the trough of dirty money.

I’m talking about the Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action’s 2015 Conservative Summit, “Opportunity for All, Favoritism to None,” the perfect setting for a love fest of extremists that included a number of House and Senate members. Speaking on their frightening agenda for energy, the House budget, trade and other matters, the name of the game for the current Congress is DEFENSE. Read the full article…

January 9th, 2015

Brother Dave Andrews Left a Legacy of Good Will for a Good Fight

Brother_Dave_AndrewsFrom the Food & Water Watch Staff,

For those of us here at Food & Water Watch, the arctic chill that has gripped much of the nation this week brought with it the sad news of the passing of a beloved colleague, friend, and member of our family. It is with a heavy heart that we share with you that Senior Food & Water Watch Representative Brother Dave Andrews passed away on Monday, January 5. Brother Dave was an integral part of the mission here at Food & Water Watch, having devoted much of his life’s work to ensuring that communities both at home and overseas had access to healthy food and safe, clean, affordable water. In addition to being a remarkable ambassador for the critical issues that affect billions of people around the world, he was a gentle friend and mentor to many here among our staff.

While Brother Dave retired from Food & Water Watch last August, he was still very much in touch with many of us here and we will forever be grateful for his service and friendship. We thought the best thing to do would be to reach out to some of his colleagues on the food team who worked closely with Brother Dave throughout his time with us. We asked them to share a few thoughts about Brother Dave so that you, our readers and supporters, can get just a small idea about how important he was to us and to the goals of our organization. The quotes are followed by links to some interviews and articles Brother Dave wrote that might give you an idea of just how special he was. We now say goodbye to our friend who we will miss greatly. Read the full article…

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December 16th, 2014

Don’t Let Fracking Destroy Her Legacy

By Alex Nagy

Dianne Thomas

Dianne Thomas, anti-fracking activist.

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Dianne is one of the amazing people I get to work with as the Southern California Organizer for Food & Water Watch. Dianne and her late husband worked hard to build a home in Carson, California to leave behind for their children, but the oil and gas industry could destroy their legacy.

When Dianne found out that Occidental Petroleum (“Oxy”) was planning to drill 200 new wells over the next 10 years, she asked if there would be fracking: they answered yes. The night before, she had caught a special on TV about extreme oil extraction — she saw homes cracking and falling apart because of fracking.

That’s when Dianne and her neighbors reached out to Food & Water Watch. They had heard about the work we were doing with communities to ban fracking.

Dianne and I started to meet weekly to strategize about the campaign — how to get Carson’s story in the news and how to build more public support. It was clear that Dianne was passionate, and as a skilled community activist she would give Oxy a fight. I helped by providing the information and resources to fight this fracking proposal, including reports from our research team and insight from other organizers working to stop fracking in towns across the country.

With your support, we can continue to partner with local activists like Dianne and provide the resources to ban fracking!

While the City Council was considering Oxy’s proposal, we convinced them to put a 45-day hold on all new drilling in Carson. During that time, the community rallied support to convince the Council to put a permanent ban on new drilling. At several City Council meetings, there were so many people that supported the ban, we couldn’t all fit in the room!

Oxy used a lot of dirty tricks to overturn the temporary ban and get approval to start drilling. They even bribed people by offering gift cards to generate support for fracking at City Council meetings. They also pulled some powerful political strings, with a local paper reporting that Governor Jerry Brown called Carson’s mayor to urge him to kill the fracking ban. Clearly the community was doing something right if Big Oil and Gas were trying so hard to shut them down.

When it came down to it, we knew the vote was close. The movement against fracking in Carson was strong, but Oxy’s connections were powerful and they had spent a lot of money to fight the ban. Unfortunately, Oxy’s money and lobbying won out, and the Council voted against the ban on drilling.

But our fight is far from over — we are continuing to work together to keep fracking out of Carson, and out of other communities in California and across the country. We know we can’t let up, that we have to work even harder because if we don’t stop it, new oil drilling could start in Carson in 2015. Will you stand with us to ban fracking in communities across the country by making a generous gift?

Dianne is in this fight because Carson is her home, it’s where she bought a house and has worked hard to create a legacy for her children and grandchildren. I’m committed to this work because, like Dianne, I can’t just sit by as some corporation comes into a community and destroys the land, water and health of real people. This is all of our fight, because no one should be at risk of the dangers of fracking.

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November 21st, 2014

The Last Straw for Irish Citizens: The Struggle Against Water Charges

By David Sánchez

IrishRight2WaterA European country in crisis. Men in black come to the rescue. With the complicity of the national government, they impose painful measures on the population. Men in black never forget to be nice to their friends, so the measures include a provision to privatise public water services. As a reaction, massive citizen’s mobilisations take place. The story sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

We have already experienced this situation in Greece, and just a few months ago, Greek citizens won the battle, and water will remain in public hands. Now history repeats itself, and the struggle against water privatisation and commodification is at boiling point in Ireland.

The Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Irish Government and the men in black (also known as the Troika, formed by the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank) provides for the introduction of domestic water charges and the establishment of a new water utility, Irish Water, easy to be privatised in the near future. In a nod to their cronies, the men in black tapped former Irish Minister of Environment Phil Hogan, who led the implementation of these changes, as the new European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development.

Following months of protests and resistance, on November 1, more than 150,000 people mobilised across Ireland to oppose the changes. Water charges in Ireland will discriminate against those with less economic means and the unemployed, adding another regressive tax at a time when citizens have been asked to make too many sacrifices to solve an economic crisis which they did not cause. Ireland’s public water system is already paid for through general taxation, which is progressive, and charges commercial users. The Irish people have already shown that they wish it to remain that way.

Once again, European citizens should raise their voice against water privatisation and commodification. Food & Water Europe, together with our allies at the European Water Movement, want to express our solidarity with Irish citizens. Resisting water charges means fighting for access to water as a universal human right, and against the commodification of water. And it means blocking future privatisation attempts.

When will the European Commission finally get the message? Its provisions to privatise water failed in Greece, and they will fail in Ireland if citizens continue with their mobilisation. People in the streets of Dublin, Madrid or Athens; citizens voting in Thessaloniki, Rome or Berlin; nearly 2 million Europeans signing the Citizens Initiative on the Right to Water. All of them are claiming water as a public and common good. Men in black should be nice, for a change, to their citizens — not to their friends.

You can support the Irish campaign on the Right to Water here.

 

November 5th, 2014

Using Our Voice and Our Votes to Fight Corporate Interests

By Wenonah Hauter

1411_FBHL_ElectionsQuote-C1I can’t say that I was surprised as the returns came in from the bruising midterm election last night. It’s no accident that a group of die-hard reactionaries were elected in many states from the flood of dark money, in combination with low turnout and shocking voting rights abuses. Once again, the Democratic strategy of sounding “Republican Light” and relying on TV ads to win seats in a handful of swing states has proven ineffective.

The fact is, no matter which party is in control of Congress, our way forward remains clear: We must continue to organize and keep elected officials accountable on the issues we care about.

While news programs spent most of yesterday and today talking about big wins for the Republican Party and corporations, the American people still managed to make a considerable difference. Voters went to the polls in Reading, Pennsylvania and Sussex Borough, New Jersey to prevent corporations from privatizing their respective water systems. In addition, the people of Athens, Ohio, San Benito County and Mendocino County, California and Denton, Texas all successfully voted to ban fracking in their communities.

This midterm election put communities and corporations up against one another in a very unfair fight. Plain and simple, Big Oil and Gas tried to use money to bludgeon its opposition. In San Benito County alone, the oil industry spent about $2 million in order to spread misinformation about fracking and lead residents astray.

But what did local residents have to fight against this dangerous campaign of lies? They wielded true facts about fracking, backed up by independent scientific research. And these dedicated activists pounded the pavement, talking with neighbors and building a network of trust.

People dedicated to banning fracking in their communities may have been outspent 13 to 1. But they still managed to win, and preserve the wellbeing of the places they live for future generations. To date, 136 communities in the U.S. have banned fracking, and that number is only likely to grow.

By gutting campaign finance laws, the U.S. Supreme Court put a gaping wound in our democratic process. The Koch Brothers and other greedy sources of dark money have given corporate interests a soapbox and a megaphone to push a dangerous, selfish agenda.

Things will be very tough in Congress now, and we expect more McCarthy-like tactics. But Food & Water Watch and our supporters will not be cowed or frightened.

We will continue to fight for our right to clean drinking water and safe food; for our right to know what ingredients are used in our food; for our right to preserve our health and our environment; for our right to create a better, healthier world for our children and future generations.

That’s why no matter what the results of the elections at any given time, we must continue to raise our voices and engage politically so that we can build the political power to create the world we want for our children and grandchildren.

That’s what we’ll continue to do in 2015.

October 31st, 2014

Frackers in Bed with Dr. Evil: Covers Pulled Off

By Lane Brooks Corporate_BS_Detector

It’s hard to forget that moment in the 2012 presidential race when Mitt Romney, speaking before guests at a $50,000 a-plate fundraiser, uttered his now infamous 47% remark. Thanks to the wonders of modern smart phone technology, the speech was caught on camera, leaked to the public and became a major talking point for the Obama campaign.

Well, it seems that Richard Berman, the man known as “Dr. Evil” and the “arch-enemy” of do-gooders had a bit of a Mitt Romney moment himself a few months ago. The New York Times recently reported that Berman and his associate Jack Hubbard were taped giving a speech before the Western Energy Alliance, a trade association for the oil and gas industry, where they shared a few pages from their playbook for attacking and attempting to discredit progressive causes. Check out The Center for Media and Democracy for an overview of those tactics.

As public opposition to fracking grows, the oil and gas industry is obviously feeling the heat. That’s why it’s deployed Berman, and this transcript only reinforces that fact. The industry is truly scraping the bottom of the proverbial oil barrel, turning to deceptive tactics because the truth is against it. Berman isn’t the entire problem here, but he and his associates embody the corporate greed that has allowed destructive oil and gas practices to proliferate.

Berman and Hubbard also name check several of their foes, including the organizations they selected to attack through their Big Green Radicals initiative. That’s when our ears started to burn. You may remember that Food & Water Watch was included in this initiative to discredit the movement to protect the public from fracking.

In detailing their work to discredit advocacy organizations, Hubbard boasted of their tendency to “get personal,” by digging up dirt on board members, even going so far as to research the title information for their cars. What’s next, going through their trash? We wouldn’t put it past them.

As damning as the recording of Berman and Hubbard is, it wasn’t exactly shocking. Their tactics are obvious to anyone who reads newspapers or watches television. But what was priceless about catching Berman and Hubbard on tape is the fact that the speech was recorded and leaked by an oil and gas industry executive apparently offended by Berman and Hubbard’s bravado.

It’s definitely a sign you’ve gone too far when the oil and gas industry, not exactly known for its decency, is offended by your tactics.

What effect will Berman and Hubbard’s gaffe have on the debate over fracking and our nation’s energy future? It’s too soon to tell. But next time you see an ad on TV touting the so-called possibilities of fracked oil and gas, remember that it could have Berman & Company’s fingerprints all over it.

Ultimately, it’s important to note that nobody would be employing Berman & Company if they didn’t feel truly threatened by the national movement to ban fracking. The industry might possess bottomless coffers, but we’re armed with something more important—the truth—that fracking poisons our most essential resources, contributing to climate change and undermining the future of our planet. So, keep on fighting to protect your communities from fracking, and we’ll continue to use factual research and organizing power to push for a global ban on fracking. We may also start locking our trashcans at night.

Read the transcript here.

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