Keeping It In The Ground?


“Keep it in the ground” activists protesting the Bayou Bridge Pipeline on February 17, 2018 near Belle Rose, Louisiana. Travis Lux/WWNO

Under the current circumstances in the USA (you know what we mean) it is not straightforward to consider optimism obvious. But stranger things have happened. Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) for reminding us that when times get tough, the tough tough it out on behalf of us all:


Activist Cherri Foytlin vows to physically block construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana.
Travis Lux/WWNO

The United States oil business is booming and the country could soon be the largest crude oil producer in the world. Despite this record-breaking production, climate change activists campaigning to move away from fossil fuels say they are making progress.

Here’s the idea underpinning the ‘keep it in the ground‘ movement: to address climate change, activists say known reserves of fossil fuels will have to be left untouched instead of burned. In the meantime, they want countries to transition to renewable forms of energy such as solar and wind. Continue reading

Starbucks Taking Some Responsibility


Thanks to the Guardian’s consumer affairs correspondent, Rebecca Smithers, for this:

Starbucks trials 5p takeaway cup charge in attempt to cut waste

People buying hot drinks in cardboard cups in 35 London branches will pay ‘latte levy’

Starbucks will be the first UK coffee chain to trial a “latte levy” – a 5p charge on takeaway coffee cups – under plans that aim to reduce the overuse and waste of 2.5bn disposable cups every year.

In the latest offensive in the war against plastic waste, the chain said it hoped the move, starting on Monday, would help change behaviour and encourage customers to switch to reusable cups instead. Continue reading

A Pro-Environment Form Of Apartheid


Jonathan Watts, over at the Guardian, has this news:

Britain and Europe must ban palm oil in biofuel to save forests, EU parliament told

Forest peoples affected by plantations urge EU to enact ban despite diplomatic opposition

If Britain and other European nations are to fulfil forest protection goals, they must ban the use of palm oil for biofuel and tighten oversight of supply chains, a delegation of forest peoples told parliamentarians this week.

The call for urgent, concrete action comes amid an increasingly heated diplomatic row over the issue between the EU and the governments of major palm-producing nations such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Costa Rica.

The European parliament voted last April to prohibit sales of biofuels made from vegetable oils by 2020 in order to meet its climate goals. This was followed by a related vote last month. Whether and how this might be implemented is now being considered by the European Commission and member states.

Continue reading

Ask Whole Foods About Wonderful


How wonderful is that?!? An organization that has been digging into the question of where all that fracking water is going in recent years. Thanks to Food & Water Watch, one of the most vigilant watchdogs helping the public become aware of fracking’s potential dangers, for asking questions that we all have reason to care about. And since the answers are not so wonderful, they are choosing perfect market-based locations to ask regular folks whether they are aware of the very cozy relationship between fracking waste water and the food we eat. Even some certified organic foods, it turns out. The image above is from their current press release:

PomWashington, D.C. — Are families around the country—and around the globe—eating California produce grown with toxic water from oil drilling? If they consume Halos Mandarins, POM Wonderful pomegranate juice, Wonderful pistachios, Sunview Raisins, Bee Sweet citrus or Sutter Home wine, they almonds_bottommay well be. Those companies grow some of their products in four water districts in California’s Central Valley that buy wastewater from Chevron and other oil companies’ drill sites. Now, Food & Water Watch is announcing a campaign to ban the practice, which threatens our food, farm workers and the environment, with a new documentary by noted filmmaker Jon Bowermaster and a campaign video capturing shocked reactions from people who previewed the video last week in front of Whole Foods’ headquarters in Austin, Texas. [continued below]

Thanks to WNYC for this half hour in which we learned about the study. For a decade-old but still profile of the wonderful couple who we hope will come clean on this, take a look here:

fiji_bottle_top…Lynda and her creative team immediately set to work promoting the water’s “untainted” origins. (Fiji Water comes from an aquifer on the island of Viti Levu.) The bottle’s label was retooled: the image of a waterfall (Lynda: “Surface water? Yuck!”) was replaced with a bright-pink tropical flower and palm fronds, and the company’s slogan was changed from the ho-hum “Taste of Paradise” to the more direct “Untouched by man. Until you drink it.” Since the makeover, sales have improved by three hundred per cent…

Rich, as the saying goes. Continue reading

A Community Of Immigrants Prevails


Coogan’s faced a rent increase so extreme that it could not be misconstrued as a negotiating ploy. The response from the neighborhood was swift and overwhelming. Animation by Christopher Hopkins-Ward

Jim Dwyer, a New York Times reporter who we have only had reason to feature once in these pages, should have remained on our radar once we saw his attention to one of our heroes, Chuck Feeney. In particular, if we had snooped around one year ago after reading that article, we would have found this. Interesting fellow, beyond his journalistic talents. But he dropped off our radar, and for the last year we have probably missed many stories that would fit in these pages. Case in point, he wrote a story a couple weeks ago that failed to capture our attention.

And what a failure, though we might be forgiven the mistake. In the early paragraphs he mentions that the bar at the center of the story is closing because its landlord, a hospital, has plans for the building where the bar is located. That sounds not only ho-hum, but perhaps like progress; hospitals are the most communitarian of institutions, right? We correct that now:

Coogan’s, an Uptown Stalwart, Makes Its Last Stand

Divesting Scales With Leadership

Screen Shot 2018-01-12 at 5.25.34 AMThanks to the Guardian for giving Bill McKibben the space to put the New York City decision in perspective:

Over the years, the capital of the fight against climate change has been Kyoto, or Paris – that’s where the symbolic political agreements to try and curb the earth’s greenhouse gas emissions have been negotiated and signed. But now, New York City vaulted to leadership in the battle.

On Wednesday, its leaders, at a press conference in a neighborhood damaged over five years ago by Hurricane Sandy, announced that the city was divesting its massive pension fund from fossil fuels, and added for good measure that they were suing the five biggest oil companies for damages. Our planet’s most important city was now at war with its richest industry. And overnight, the battle to save the planet shifted from largely political to largely financial. Continue reading

Moyers & McKibben


Environmental activists in kayaks protest the arrival of the Polar Pioneer, an oil drilling rig owned by Shell Oil, in Seattle. Backbone Campaign / Flickr

A book by one of our favorite activists being reviewed, in the form of an interview, with one of the greats of decent, thoughtful media:

Moyers and McKibben: What to Do When Time Is Running Out for the Planet

By Bill Moyers

980x (14).jpg

Penguin Press, 2017

I wasn’t one of the 50,766 participants who finished the New York City Marathon last weekend. Instead, I spent the average marathon finish time of 4:39:07 to read a book—obviously a small book. In the interest of disclosure, I didn’t even start the race, but that’s another and even shorter story than Radio Free Vermont, the book from which I did occasionally look up and out the window to check on the stream of marathoners passing our apartment, their faces worn and haggard.

A shame, I thought, that I couldn’t go outside and hand each one a copy of the book that had kept me smiling throughout the day while also restoring my soul; I was sure the resilience would quickly have returned to weary feet and sore muscles now draped in aluminum foil for healing’s sake. I admire those athletes, but wouldn’t have traded their run for my read, because Radio Free Vermont is funny, very funny, all the more so considering the author is one of the more serious men on the planet—the planet he has spent his adult life trying to save. Continue reading

Keep National Parks Safe, Know Your Chocolate

Choc.jpgThe rise in artisanal cacao farming, as we have noted on occasion, can have important implications for conservation. Whether you are a chocoholic or just a casual dabbler in the sweet bi-product of cacao, this report deserves your attention (click on the image to go to the source):

Chocolate is everywhere. It is the afternoon pick-me-up, the sensual indulgence, the accoutrement to seduction. Lovers gift truffles, skiers sip on rich hot chocolate, and connoisseurs savor the tiniest, richest bite of single origin dark chocolate. The ancient Aztecs believed that chocolate was an aphrodisiac, and the emperor Montezuma was reported to gorge himself on chocolate in advance of his trysts. Continue reading

Unlikely Underdog Progress


The Burmese star tortoise was declared functionally extinct in the early 2000s, but conservation efforts have helped the species make a comeback. Credit Eleanor Briggs

Thanks to Steph Yin for news out of Burma, of all places:

Slow and Steady, a Tortoise Is Winning Its Race With Extinction

The Burmese star tortoise was almost history.

By the early 2000s, the natives of central Myanmar’s deserts had dwindled to such low counts in the wild that ecologists declared them functionally extinct. Continue reading

BirdsCaribbean Hurricane Relief Fund

Over the last month or so I’ve been helping to copy-edit articles submitted to the Journal of Caribbean Ornithology, which is where our findings on the Golden Swallow in Jamaica will be published soon. The Journal of Caribbean Ornithology is run by BirdsCaribbean, an NGO dedicated to the study and conservation of birds in the Caribbean basin.

After the catastrophic winds and flooding that occurred throughout the Caribbean in the last month, island natural habitat has suffered greatly, and not all birds were able to weather the storms, or if they did, they may not have the shelter and food needed to survive. But there is something you can do to help them!

Continue reading

Model Mad, National Monument Protection Coalition

Arch Canyon, within Bears Ears national monument in Utah. Bears Ears is under threat from the Trump administration. Photograph: Francisco Kjolseth/AP

More examples of corporate social responsibility and activist collaboration taking the higher ground position over flawed public policy.

Native Americans and environmental advocates get help from outdoor retailers as they battle proposal to change monuments’ boundaries

Environmental activists, Native American groups and a coalition of outdoor retailers have vowed to redouble their efforts to protect public lands, after the US interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, recommended on Thursday that Donald Trump change the boundaries of a “handful” of national monuments.

“Secretary Zinke’s recommendation is an insult to tribes,” said Carleton Bowekaty, co-chairman of the Inter-Tribal Coalition, which asked Barack Obama to create the Bears Ears monument in Utah in 2015, citing increasing thefts and vandalism at more than 100,000 native cultural sites in the area.

Millions of petitioners have joined an urgently assembled advocacy effort to dissuade the Trump administration from moving against the monuments. On Friday, the outdoor retailer Patagonia, which spearheaded the industry initiative, said the group would continue its efforts. Continue reading

Ensuring Public Access To Climate Science


Sterling Library at Yale University in New Haven Connecticut, US. Photograph: Alamy

Thanks to John Abraham, and the Guardian’s team focused on the Environment, for shining the light on the good works of those who work to ensure our access to essential environmental science at a time when there are efforts to silence the science:

Yale Climate Connections: America’s beacon of climate science awareness

Stellar work by group led by Anthony Leiserowitz on putting climate change research into public domain is empowering citizens and institutions Continue reading

Conservationists And Public Servants Collaborate In South Texas


Birders walking under trees draped in Spanish moss in the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge near Alamo, Tex. The border wall would traverse the refuge. Credit Michael Stravato for The New York Times

Thanks to Michael Hardy and the New York Times for this coverage of an unwanted, disruptive intruder:

MISSION, Tex. — Last month, Marianna Wright, the executive director of the privately owned National Butterfly Center here, discovered survey stakes on the property marking out a 150-foot-wide swath of land.

Ms. Wright later encountered a work crew cutting down trees and brush along a road through the center. The workers said they had been hired by United States Customs and Border Protection to clear the land.

“You mean my land?” Ms. Wright asked, before kicking them out. Continue reading

Have Cause Will Travel


We have found that when travelers can support a cause they believe in while traveling, they will go out of their way to do so. When our hotelier colleagues make it easier for a traveler to support a cause, we can only celebrate it:

The Standard Telephone Co. Wants YOU to Ring Your Rep

Over the past few months, we’ve been thinking a lot at The Standard about what we can do to support positive, productive activism. As we’ve gone out and talked to people who are engaged in this very thing, one piece of advice we’ve heard again and again is this: speak up! There are lots of ways to take action, lots of ways to make a difference, but there is no substitute for the simple act of making your voice heard. Continue reading

“Arks of the Apocalypse”

U.S. National Ice Core Laboratory, Lakewood, Colo. photo credit: Spencer Lowell for The New York Times

Thanks again to the New York Times for highlighting the global nature of this scientific “call to arms” to save not only data, but genetic and organic material as a back-up plan for future generations. From the Svalbard Global Seed bank in Norway, to sperm banks for coral, endangered wildlife, and even glacial ice – these archives are meant to provide both a life line to the future and answers about the past.

The fragility of each project is evident as Science itself has come under attack from current public policy, which doesn’t appear to see the irony of their denial in the face of facts about climate change.

It was a freakishly warm evening last October when a maintenance worker first discovered the water — torrents of it, rushing into the entrance tunnel of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a storage facility dug some 400 feet into the side of a mountain on a Norwegian island near the North Pole. A storm was dumping rain at a time of year when the temperature was usually well below freezing; because the water had short-circuited the electrical system, the electric pumps on site were useless. This subterranean safe house holds more than 5,000 species of essential food crops, including hundreds of thousands of varieties of wheat and rice. It was supposed to be an impenetrable, modern-day Noah’s ark for plants, a life raft against climate change and catastrophe.

A few Norwegian radio stations and newspapers reported the incident at the time, but it received little international attention until May, when it was becoming clear that President Trump was likely to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement. Suddenly the tidings from Svalbard were everywhere, in multiple languages, with headlines like “World’s ‘Doomsday’ Seed Vault Has Been Breached by Climate Change.” It didn’t matter that the flood happened seven months earlier, or that the seeds remained safe and dry. We had just lived through the third consecutive year of the highest global temperatures on record and the lowest levels of Arctic ice; vast swaths of permafrost were melting; scientists had recently announced that some 60 percent of primate species were threatened with extinction. All these facts felt like signposts to an increasingly hopeless future for the planet. And now, here was a minifable suggesting that our attempts to preserve even mere traces of the bounty around us might fall apart, too.

Continue reading

Pines, Beetles & Grizzlies


Zoe Keller

Thanks to Thomas McNamee for his opinion on these matters:

The Government Is Now the Yellowstone Grizzly’s Biggest Threat

In March 2016, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing the Yellowstone grizzly bear population from the list of threatened species. The uproar was ferocious. Conservationists, scientists, 125 Indian tribes and some 650,000 citizens expressed concern about the move.

Now the government has gone and done it anyway. Continue reading

Spaceship Earth

We recently encountered Parley for the Oceans when Doug Aitken’s water pavilion installation came onto our radar.

Both the collaborative ethos and the focus of the cause are dear to our hearts.

Parley is the Space Where Creators, Thinkers, and Leaders come together to raise awareness for the beauty and fragility of our oceans and collaborate on projects that can end their destruction.

Parley for the Oceans addresses major threats towards our oceans, the most important ecosystem of our planet.

We believe the power for change lies in the hands of the consumer – given he has a choice – and the power to shape this new consumer mindset lies in the hands of the creative industries.

Artists, musicians, actors, filmmakers, fashion designers, journalists, architects, product inventors, and scientists have the tools to mold the reality we live in and to develop alternative business models and ecologically sensible products to give us earthlings an alternative choice, an everyday option to change something.

Continue reading

Model Mad, Mayors


Mayor Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh, left, and Mayor Ann Hidalgo, of Paris, are outspoken supporters of the Paris climate accord. Credit Justin Merriman for The New York Times (Peduto); Christophe Ena/Associated Press

She has been featured in these pages due to her creative approach to governance more than once. We are happy to see Ann Hidalgo again, this time providing another example of the “don’t just get angry–do something with creative ferocity” ethos implied in these constant observations of model mad. And we are especially grateful for the joint commentary with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who we hope to see more of:

…Though separated by an ocean and a language, we share a desire to do what is best for our citizens and our planet. That means putting aside parochial politics and embracing the global challenge of fighting climate change. In doing so, we can create a cleaner, healthier, more prosperous world for Parisians, Pittsburghers and everyone else on the planet. Continue reading

Leadership On Climate Change Is Alive And Well

California Gov. Jerry Brown talks with Sharon Dijksma, Netherlands Minister for the Environment, during the joint Netherlands and California Environmental Protection Agency conference called, “Climate is Big Business,” at the Presidio Wednesday, May 24, 2017, in San Francisco; Photo: Eric Risberg, Associated Press

The news yesterday that the USA is exiting the Paris climate accord was in a font size the New York Times only uses at times of true tragedy–i.e. big news. Editorials accompanying that headline on the front page were proportionately big with invective:

Our Disgraceful Exit

Trump’s Stupid and Reckless Climate Decision

Brooks: Trump Poisons the World

Krugman: Trump Gratuitously Rejects the Paris Accord

All consistent with the implications of the news. There is no discounting the scale of that tragedy, so it is possibly not the right moment to look for silver linings. But that is what we do here, so here goes. In the model mad series we linked to a story about California Governor Jerry Brown, who has been making a stand during decades of public service, and he clearly has no intention of slowing down. The governors of California, New York and Washington on Thursday announced a new “alliance of states dedicated to fighting global warming and urged others to join them”.

“California will resist,” Brown told journalists on a conference call, going on to say that  the administration may well create the exact opposite of what is intended –

an aroused citizenry — and an aroused international community — who will not tolerate this kind of deviant behavior from the highest office in the land.”

Brown and his counterparts, Jay Inslee of Washington and Andrew Cuomo of New York, announced that they would join forces in a United States Climate Alliance, a coalition of states committed to upholding the goals of the Paris agreement.

The three states, combined, represent more than 20 percent of the U.S. population and at least 10 percent of the country’s greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the governors. Continue reading