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October 3rd, 2014

The Future Is Ours to Fight For: Ban Fracking Now

By Lilly Adams

BlogThumb_GFDLilly[1]

Lilly Adams of University of California Berkeley’s Students Against Fracking

My generation was born into a climate crisis. It was not until college that I realized I was inheriting a disaster I did not cause, but would be forced to deal with nonetheless. In tolerating, and sometimes endorsing, irresponsible, destructive practices like fracking, and in resisting sustainable change, our leaders are burdening and jeopardizing the health and safety of my generation and future ones. And while this may feel unjust, it is an opportunity for us to take up this fight and play a vital role in forging a sustainable future.

We may have inherited a climate of chaos, but we move forward in a climate of activism, change and hope. I’m joining the Global Frackdown because the ball is in our hands to fight for a livable future — for my generation and those to come.

The natural world has inspired and motivated me since I was a child. But my reasons for engaging in environmental activism, specifically in the fight against fracking, extend far beyond a personal love of nature. Stopping fracking is not just about protecting our water, air and landscapes; it is about protecting social justice. As I have learned more about fracking, I have come to realize the many ways in which it hurts our communities. Fracking-related water contamination and poor air quality threaten peoples’ health, yet fracking wells are drilled mere hundreds of feet from elementary schools. Drilling for oil and natural gas turns quiet towns into industrial extraction sites. It emits methane, a greenhouse gas that is 87 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, which exacerbates the effects of climate change. To add insult to injury, these effects are disproportionately felt by marginalized communities whose voices are silenced by oil and gas corporations that insist fracking is safe and harmful to no one. Read the full article…

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Making Big Ag Bigger Is Not “Climate-Smart”

By Genna Reed GMO_Farming_BlogThumb

Combatting climate change was on everyone’s radar recently when the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Summit spurred the White House, governments and food corporations to pledge to make changes to address the biggest environmental concern of our time, specifically with respect to agriculture. Led in part by corporate behemoths like Walmart and McDonald’s, a new project was born out of this summit: the UN’s Global Alliance for “Climate-Smart Agriculture” (CSA). Read the full article…

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October 1st, 2014

The Movement to Ban Fracking Has Momentum

By Wenonah Hauter

Just over a week ago, I had the pleasure of participating in the People’s Climate March, along with our allies and thousands of citizens from around the world. We stood together in New York City to demand that our world’s leaders take definitive action on climate change. Of course, a big part of our mission on climate change is our fight to ban fracking, and while 2014 has seen some major milestones for our efforts, perhaps the most important of these is the evidence that our movement is growing. In order to get you inspired for the 2014 Global Frackdown, we created a video to show you some of the faces that are out there working hard around the country to ban fracking. As our video demonstrates, we are building on this momentum, and we need you to join us on October 11 to show just how strong we are.

Throughout 2014, we have witnessed citizens taking action across the nation, as well as around the globe. At Food & Water Watch, we have been keeping track of this progress as evidenced by the growing number of actions taken by communities against fracking. Last year’s Global Frackdown was a huge success and 2014 is shaping up to be our biggest Frackdown yet. It’s a good thing our movement is growing because we need to show our strength now more than ever.

The oil and gas industry has been pushing its agenda for expansion, particularly in California, Florida, Maryland, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. In fact, just this week the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved Dominion Cove Point in Maryland, one of the largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities in the nation, and the only one that’s located close to a community. In New York, our efforts to birddog Governor Cuomo have proven successful. The Governor himself commented on the tenacious and persistent nature of our efforts to remind him that we don’t want fracking in the Empire State. So far, mainly due to the determination of this movement, we’ve kept fracking out of New York.

We are honored and proud to stand with each and every one of our allies in this critical fight against fracking. Will you join us? You can join an already existing event or even plan to host one by visiting Globalfrackdown.org, and we encourage you to share your stories with us. Help us spread the word about this year’s Global Frackdown by sharing this video.

Where will YOU be on October 11?

Offsetting: Financial Hocus-Pocus Posing as Conservation

By Eve Mitchell

What Is This “No Net Loss” Concept?
  • Greenwashing of environmental destruction
  • Financial hocus-pocus masquerading as conservation
  • A false assumption that nature exists to serve us
  • An effort to put a price tag on nature
  • An attempt to sell biodiversity offsetting to a skeptical public
  • A critical call for you to write the European Commission and tell them, nature is not for sale!

The EU No Net Loss Plan
Is Just No Good

Stand Up for YOUR Natural Heritage Now

 Write NOW
(Before 17 October Deadline)
 

 

You can’t end up right if you start out wrong. At least it’s awful hard (and takes a big helping of blind luck).

The EU is showing every indication of making a very bad turn indeed on biodiversity offsetting, and you can help us put on the brakes. Biodiversity offsetting is all the rage lately because it offers a seemingly easy way for governments to allow habitats to be destroyed by companies that can afford to pretend to make up for the damage somewhere else. It doesn’t work.

Offsetting is getting a lot of attention, including from esteemed organisations like the London Zoological Society. The zoo hosted a conference on offsetting in April attended by a host of representatives of companies that make money from this kind of thing. They were addressed by no less than the (now former) UK Minister for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Owen Patterson offering official support.

An extreme version of the erroneous biodiversity offsetting is the No Net Loss concept. No Net Loss (or NNL in the jargon) says you can somehow recreate the nature you destroy without really causing any “damage” at all, even if you don’t “replace” like-for-like (so destroying a salt water marsh and replacing it with forest of the same “value” equates to no overall damage done – it’s mind boggling).

We’re not buying it and neither should you. Here’s how you can help: 

The European Commission is holding a consultation on adopting NNL as a key principle in Europe. The consultation is part of implementing the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020 (which “aims to halt biodiversity loss and to conserve ecosystem services”). The Strategy’s Action 7 is “to ensure no net loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services”. The Commission proposes to use NNL and biodiversity offsetting to do it.

The Commission says the purpose of its consultation is “to gather views” about that proposal. We need to tell them we don’t like it one bit.

Nature Not For Sale has written a letter to the Commission we can all sign. Please do.

The letter explains our reasons for rejecting offsetting.

It tells the Commission, “Nature is a common good that all share rights to and have responsibilities over.” You get the idea. Please help us tell the Commission to get the EU headed in the right direction. I did.

September 29th, 2014

What Will it Take for the EPA to Act on Fracking?

By Emily Wurth

CraigStevensDimockWater-FBSQIt is well known that drilling and fracking contaminate water and it’s happening all across the United States. Yet President Obama and his administration, including the Environmental Protection Agency, are not only letting this happen unchecked, they’re actively promoting and expanding fracking. That’s why we’ve long been blowing the whistle and demanding answers.

Last Thursday, a Resources for the Future Policy Leadership Forum featured a conversation with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. Craig Stevens, whose water is contaminated from a gas pipeline, and I attended the forum hoping that we could ask Administrator McCarthy a single question: why won’t she meet with the families affected by water contamination from drilling and fracking for oil and gas?

Read the full article…

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September 26th, 2014

Notes from the “Wicked” Weed Summit

By Genna Reed weeds and tractor steering wheel

On September 10, the Weed Science Society of America held its second summit to discuss the so-called “wicked” problem of herbicide resistance in agriculture, hosted by the National Academy of Sciences. In a fitting sequel to the 2012 meeting with the same charge, many of the speakers got close to tackling the true problem at hand, our chemical-intensive paradigm in agriculture, but never quite got there. Perhaps one of the top reasons for this was the make-up of the audience members, 40 percent of which identified themselves as hailing from the agricultural chemical industry, which has an interest in selling more agrochemicals. Only about 5 percent were farmers.

Read the full article…

Fighting for a Frack-Free Europe

By Katherine Cirullo

BlogThumb_GFD_Geert_globalfrackdown_global_frackdown

Geert deCock, Food & Water Europe Policy Officer, is joining this year’s Global Frackdown to fight for a ban on fracking.

With just two weeks until the Global Frackdown, we called up our colleague Geert deCock in Brussels to get the low-down on Europe’s fight against fracking — the progress that’s been made and the work that still needs to be done. Prepare to be inspired.

Geert, to start us off, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Why did you become involved in the fight against fracking?

My name is Geert deCock. I’m Belgian, and I work for Food & Water Watch in Brussels for the European program. My main focus is to campaign for a ban on fracking in Europe and to generally support the groups that oppose fracking in Europe, providing knowledge about fracking, its many harmful impacts and that ways in which we can organize to stop it.

I became involved in the fight against fracking when living in Alberta, Canada (Edmonton), quite close to the tar sands, where I was exposed to a lot of the rhetoric around oil and gas extraction and its “supposed” benefits. That’s when I became politicized about energy and climate and fossil fuels. I saw that there was such a huge gap between what the government was saying about “minimal” risks of tar sands extraction and the real experiences of nations and communities — the very real health impacts tar sands extraction has on people living in those areas and the environment. There’s such a close parallel to fracking where, again, the industry claims the benefits are huge and the risks are minimal, when really, if you talk to the people on the ground, it’s the other way around.

Food & Water Watch is calling for a ban on fracking and an aggressive transition towards renewable energy, all across the globe. Why is it important that communities around the world become involved in this fight, not just those in the U.S.?

Right now in Europe, we don’t have particularly large-scale fracking operations yet. So, it’s important to ban fracking now, before it is too late — before fracking begins and contaminates local water supplies, pollutes the air, industrializes once agrarian communities and really exacerbates global climate change. Read the full article…

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September 25th, 2014

The Science is Still Out on GMO Moths

By Genna Reed Soy_Field

Like many relatives, vegetables within the cabbage family share a similar trait: they’re prone to invasion from pests. Cornell University is at work to address the problem, but if its current “solution” is any indication, it scientists definitely need to go back to the drawing board. The USDA has made available for comment, the environmental assessment of the field trial of the genetically engineered diamondback moth, cooked up in a lab to supposedly protect cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and their kin from pesky invaders.

Read the full article…

September 23rd, 2014

How your Tax Dollars are Helping Distort the GMO-Labeling Debate

By Tim Schwab

GMO_Farming_BlogThumbThese days, one of the biggest debates around food concerns labeling genetically engineered foods. State-level ballot initiatives and legislative efforts to require labeling of GMOs have sprung up in more than twenty states, with Connecticut, Maine and Vermont already declaring victories for consumers by mandating labeling.

Yet our nation’s taxpayer-funded cooperative extension program, created by Congress 100 years ago with a mission to conduct education and outreach around important agricultural topics, has been largely silent in the raging public debate. If so desired, the USDA and our fifty states could marshal their army of extension officers and specialists to weigh in on GMO labeling. Perhaps wisely, extension has not taken a position.

However, individual extension employees are speaking out, and in the places where extension pops up in the GMO-labeling debate, it’s almost always taking the side of the biotechnology industry, using industry studies and talking points to make their case. Extension specialists from the University of California are speaking out about how GMO labeling will increase the cost of food or will discourage consumers from eating healthy food. Extension officers from Cornell University and the University of Connecticut call consumers uninformed or emotional, then proceed to recite industry spin about GMOs.

Such statements not only evidence a bias toward industry, they also are grossly inaccurate and highly misleading. Let’s examine the argument regarding higher costs associated with GMO labeling, the main talking point of industry-funded lobbying campaigns against labeling efforts. Such claims are undergirded not by independent science, but by industry-funded studies. This spring, the biotechnology industry funded a Cornell University professor to conduct a study that found—surprise—that GMO labeling will increase costs for consumers.

While the University of California’s extension highlights the findings of industry studies, it ignores those funded by GMO-labeling advocates or independent sources, which arrive at different conclusions.

Indeed, the GMO labeling debate sure would sound different if extension asserted itself as an impartial disseminator of information, noting that independent studies often show that labeling GMOs will not substantially increase the price of food for consumers, while those studies funded by industry groups, which have a financial interest in prohibiting labeling, show the opposite.

Or what if extension officers instead noted that sixty-four nations require GMO labeling or that many countries have banned or restricted production of GMOs? They could also mention that there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs, and independent researchers have long complained that industry restricts independent research.

The law that created extension charged it with disseminating “useful and practical” information about agriculture to the public, but extension officers are only telling one side of the story on GMOs, that of industry, which is neither useful, nor practical—nor accurate. And the public debate on this controversial issue has suffered for it.

Want to learn more about the 100-year anniversary of extension? Check out the rest of the series here.

Why a Carbon Tax Won’t Save the Climate

By Mitch Jones

Factory_PollutionAs the UN meets this week to discuss our climate future, here’s one thing they probably won’t be talking about but should: how finance and regulating carbon don’t mix.

When Food & Water Watch created the Common Resources Program in April of 2011, we did so to push back against the finance industry’s desire to use nature as a new source for profits. In the international community this effort is referred to as the “financialization of nature”. The basic idea is that new commodities are being created, which then necessitates new markets for those commodities. On top of those markets, Wall Street hopes to build new financial markets and speculative financial instruments like those that brought down the global economy in 2007. The most egregious example of this may be Citibank Chief Economist Willem Buiter’s dream of a global water market that would not only rival, but also swamp the oil market in size and would have “futures markets and other derivative water-based financial instruments — puts, calls, swaps” built on top of it. Financial speculation in the housing market was bad enough, but in water? It’s unthinkable, unless you’re a Wall Street banker.

So, what’s this got to do with pricing carbon? Quite a bit actually, because the same failed economic myths that support the desire for water markets support the idea of pricing pollution. We’ve already documented the problems with pricing pollution, including carbon, through cap and trade. And while cap and trade is still being pushed at the state and regional level, nationally the push is for a carbon tax.

The problems with the carbon tax begin with its regressivity. A regressive tax is one that hits households with lower income harder than those with higher income. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that under a $28/ton carbon tax, the bottom 20 percent of income earners would pay 2.5 percent more in taxes, while the top 20 percent would pay less than 1 percent more.

The politics of passing a carbon tax will make this inequality worse. While the carbon tax is already regressive, the most likely proposals to get bipartisan and corporate support couple it with a reduction in individual and corporate taxes that make it even more so. Unfortunately, the politics that would have to come together to pass a carbon tax would likely necessitate just this sort of tax swap to get the votes to pass.

Beyond the regressive nature of any carbon tax that could get the votes to pass, we should also be clear that using “pricing” to reduce pollution is the wrong approach. Pricing relies on the idea that “market signals” are the best way to regulate pollution. Put a price on it, and businesses and households will respond by polluting less. The goal has been to replace environmental regulations with these price and market signals.

We should be clear, polluting companies want to have a set cost they can factor into their pricing of their products, that is, pass on to us, instead of having to respond to regulation that will clean up their businesses and reduce their pollution. And they want that cost to be unrealistically low.

Yvo de Boer, the former chair of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) has proposed a carbon tax he thinks can work. That carbon tax is set at €150 (or about $193) per tonne. For comparison, the current price for carbon in the EU’s trading scheme is about €6.30. Proposals for a carbon tax in the U.S call for a tax in the $20 -$30 per tonne range. Even if we accepted the questionable economics of financializing carbon, and we don’t, then these proposals are woefully inadequate when it comes to stopping climate change. But, it’s at a level acceptable to some major corporations that want to be seen as “doing something” on climate change.

Instead of a “price on carbon” we need an aggressive cap on emissions, a prohibition on allowing states to use gimmicks and false solutions to achieve the cap target (be it pricing, offsets, or switching to natural gas), a focus on efficiency, and greater investment in bringing truly renewable energy up to scale to provide the electricity we need. And these aren’t solutions we can wait for Wall Street to bring to us. We need to build power in our communities, put pressure on our decision makers, and ensure that we’re a unified voice calling for effectively regulating pollution.

The climate can bear no less.

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