A few weeks ago the New Mexico Environmental Law Center’s media director, Juana Colon, suggested I should write a blog post about policymakers’ recent embrace of nuclear power as just a way to enrich the world’s economic elites while at the same time continuing to subject poor and minority communities to various kinds of radioactive pollution, and therefore continue to encourage wasteful energy consumption. Her words were actually a lot angrier and profanity-laced, largely because the office had been preoccupied with a series of preposterous pro-nuclear pieces of legislation during the state legislative session (Such as declaring nuclear power green energy [PDF] and seeking that it become part of the governor's clean energy efforts [PDF]) Adding to that, President Obama had also just announced his intention to increase the subsidies the public would lavish on the nuclear industry.
I’ve thought a lot about Juana’s suggestion and there are a lot of interesting aspects to the nuclear power puzzle that deserve some ink.
To begin with, there’s the issue of who benefits from increasing nuclear power generation. At every point along the nuclear fuel chain, the flow of money reinforces current economic and social power disparities. In an interesting case of metaphorical biomimicry, public handouts to the nuclear industry tend to get larger as they move up the nuclear fuel chain, much the way bioaccumulated toxins become more concentrated the higher they move up the food chain. At the beginning of the fuel chain – uranium mining – economic benefits go either to large multinational corporations and their executives, or just to the executives, in the case of junior mining companies who subsist on speculation. At the generation phase of the fuel chain, corporate elites accrue even more benefits. As President Obama’s nuclear loan guarantees demonstrate, when the taxpayer is handing out money, the really big bucks go to a few corporate interests, in this case the Georgia utility, Southern Company. Exelon, GE and Areva will no doubt not be far behind with their hands stretched out.Read More ...
Today, Coloradans have a chance today to shape the future of America’s National System of Forests, some 193 million acres of mountains, grasslands, rivers and lakes all across the country. The U.S. Forest Service is hosting more than 30 national town hall meetings to hear, straight from the people who use these lands, why our nation’s forests are so important. One of those meetings will be held tonight in Lakewood, Colorado, with sessions following throughout the region [PDF] beginning tomorrow in Missoula and Billings, Montana, and in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho.
Chances are the Forest Service is going to get an earful. Colorado alone has 14.5 million acres divvied up among 11 national forests and two grasslands. From adventures scaling Colorado’s famous “14ers” to sportsmen and anglers setting out to their favorite haunts, Colorado’s national forests have many fans, representing many different voices.
However, these lands are also used for timber, grazing, and even oil and gas development. Historically, development agendas have driven how the Forest Service decides to manage these lands and their resources.
National parks across the country, including California’s desert national parks like the Mojave National Preserve, Joshua Tree National Park, and Death Valley National Park have begun developing action plans to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions as part of the National Park Service Climate Friendly Parks Program. The Climate Friendly Parks Program helps individual parks reduce their climate pollution, offers special public education programs about how global warming is already affecting our parks, and helps inspire visitors to embrace climate friendly solutions like using clean energy, reducing waste, and making smart transportation choices.
California’s desert parks are some of the largest national park sites in the lower forty-eight states and attract millions of visitors each year. This leads to a unique set of problems in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.
For example, Mojave National Preserve, located in eastern California, was created by the 1994 California Desert Protection Act.
The 1.6 million acre Mojave National Preserve has singing sand dunes, spectacular rock formations, pristine night skies and a diverse array of plant and animal life. It’s made substantial investments in clean, renewable solar energy, energy efficiency programs and implemented aggressive recycling programs. The problem is that biologists, geologists, archaeologists and maintenance staff have to drive vast distances, sometimes hundreds of miles in a single day, to protect plants, animals, archaeological and geological resources. That not only translates to a great deal of fossil fuel being consumed, but also to greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the park’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions comes from mobile sources.
When I first saw this image thumbnail in our Flickr pool, I couldn't really tell what it was. I enlarged it for further examination, and found a beautifully-composed image with a strong message and a lovely title: "Hopeful."
The State of California is in the middle of a process that will result in the state’s Fish and Game Commission designating an array of near shore marine reserves along the length of California’s coast. The reserves are intended to preserve and restore marine resources including commercially valuable fisheries.
The California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) was charged with developing the reserves when the California legislature passed the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) in 1999. Several abortive efforts by CDFG and a 2004 amendment to the Act led to the current effort.Read More ...
Yesterday marked the close of the first official hunting season for wolves ever to take place in America’s lower 48 states. More than 250 wolves were killed as a result of Montana and Idaho’s hunting seasons and more than twice that number have been killed overall since wolves lost federal protections in May of 2009.
And while assessing the true biological impact of the delisting decision and subsequent hunting season on the regional population will need further observation and time, one thing is clear: The optimistic talks of an official hunting season leading to a greater tolerance for wolves in the region were seemingly based on wishful thinking.
As the hunt draws to a close, tensions over wolf management remain high. Last year there were more illegal killings of wolves in the Northern Rockies than there were in 2008. Unscientific anti-wolf rhetoric in the West has become so commonplace and unchallenged in regional media articles that it’s in danger of becoming accepted as ‘fact.’
Recent headlines from across the region showcase the escalating persecution wolves face from many sides: from the usual vocal anti-wolf interest groups to political candidates and state legislative officials looking not to inform but to incite fear by whipping their constituents into an irrational wolf-hating frenzy.
We asked readers to add images of spring to our Flickr pool, and you graciously obliged. This picture, from user lenfwilcox, is of an aprium blossom in Fresno, California. Aprium, we understand, is a cross between an apricot and a plum. It sounds delicious and looks delightful! Continue sharing your images with us on Flickr; we love seeing them. We are also now featuring reader photos on the MyFlickr tab on our Facebook page.
A new buzzword phrase appears to making the rounds in the natural resource policy world. The phrase is “social license”. I wasn’t sure what the phrase meant, so I looked it up on where else…Google. Here is what I found. Apparently it originally came to mean the unwritten approval that a corporation needed to gain from a local community to operate in that community.
Today, it appears to have been broadened to refer to acceptance by society, where that society is nonlocal. And, it isn’t limited to corporations. Now, the term has entered public land policy discussions. My first reaction was somewhat cynical, thinking that it was another academically led attempt to create a sub-sub-sub field or published-based reputation by inventing new jargon to describe something we all knew. But actually it seems more to be an attempt to restore the glory days of foresters in charge of forests, this time producing trees to fuel the bio-fuel revolution.
As one rather truculent and perceptive Forest Service friend told me, social license means “letting foresters do what they used to do, in the role they used to have”. I wonder if this isn’t a mistake. We have moved away from the Older Days of trained professionals who “knew best” how to manage our natural resources. Instead we have seen a thousand collaborative experiments, of talk of “civic environmentalism” or building “civic capacity” where these projects involve those who are willing to do the back breaking work of trying to build a community’s resiliency for problem solving. In fact, we might go so far as to argue that a whole lot of expert/professionals licenses have been revoked socially because this is a different era with different problems, solvable by those with a certain attitude and mindset, rather than the right “license” to make decisions. Let’s see how this plays out.
The wolf debate in the West is irredeemably ossified. I realized this when I strolled into the town square in Jackson, Wyoming, Saturday morning and saw the crowd of cowboy-booted and behatted protestors, gathered for an anti-wolf rally, hefting signs blazoned with tired, decade-old slogans - “Save Wyoming Wildlife; Delist Canadian Wolves,” “Wolves: smoke a pack a day,” and “Wolves are the baddest pouchers [sic] in the USA.” The equally stereotypical Patagonia-clad environmentalists with their “I love wolves” and “Humans are the pests” signs completed the tableau. With rampant states-rights fervor in the air, all I could think about was Civil War re-enactments; the audience already knows how the battle turns out, but show up anyway to make sure each sides plays its role properly. In this case, everyone was in perfect character, and the outcome was just as predictable.
As it stands now, the wolf debate is binary: you are either for wolves, or against them. Arguing over the details of the science, which provides few definitive answers, is a means of asserting an identity-based affiliation with one clique or the other. Try to elucidate a nuanced position to either side, and you’ll find yourself immediately under attack.
But for me, an ecologist with a background in anthropology and human rights work, the wolf situation presents a labyrinthine, highly nuanced ethical conundrum. Maintaining a viable wolf population requires connectivity over large scales, which means that wolves must utilize private lands and public resources such as elk herds. Maintaining ecosystem functionality is the ultimate goal, and society must bear the short-term costs in order to reap the longer-term benefits.
The three most important things to know about what health care reform means to Indian Country are simple ideas. First, the United States, officially and permanently, recognizes its trust and treaty obligation for health care delivery to American Indians and Alaska Natives. Second, there will be more money (not enough, but more) pumped into the Indian health system. And, third, President Barack Obama has delivered on a major, long-sought promise to Indian Country.
Now let’s consider a few details.Read More ...