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« University of Georgia… | Home | Solar panels on the W… »

Becoming friends of the Earth

15 09 10 - 21:05 By Jason Francis

Friends of the Earth, founded in 1969, is a non-profit organization based in Washington DC. It is part of Friends of the Earth International, a network of 77 national groups and more than 5,000 local activist groups working together to create a more healthy and just world. With over 2 million members and supporters worldwide, their campaigns include focusing on clean energy as a solution to global warming; protecting people from potentially harmful technologies; promoting low-pollution transportation; and generating support for a financial transactions tax to fund anti-poverty and climate change programs in the developing world. Erich Pica, an internationally recognized expert on energy subsidies, is president of Friends of the Earth US. Jason Francis interviewed him for Share International.

Erich Pica
Share International: Can you tell us about some of the projects that Friends of the Earth US is currently participating in?

Erich Pica: One of the biggest campaigns we are running now is the Climate Justice Campaign, which is linked to the international negotiations on climate change. As a bit of background, most Friends of the Earth International groups have agreed to a set of climate change principles which highlight the importance of reducing global warming gases as well as providing significant funding for clean energy transfers and climate change adaptation to developing countries. In addition to making these financial resources available, the United States and other developed countries need to make more extensive reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions than developing countries.

Putting these principles into practice, during the past several years Friends of the Earth International and Friends of the Earth US have been sending campaigners to the various UN-sponsored conferences where negotiations for an international climate change treaty are taking place - whether it's Copenhagen, Bonn, or elsewhere. These campaigners from Europe, the United States, Africa, South America and Asia give voice to the needs of the developing world at these forums. We also have campaigners in developing countries who are working with their national governments to make sure they are pushing a very aggressive stance on climate change mitigation as well as funding for climate change adaptation.

Campaigners in the United States are pushing the US government to provide more funding and to be more proactive in the energy legislation that’s being debated in the US Congress right now. These multiple campaign activities create a fairly loud voice on the international scene for stronger emission and finance targets.

SI: What are some successes that Friends of the Earth has had over the years?

EP: Friends of the Earth US helped draft the Pavley Law in California in 2002, which was the first greenhouse gas emissions law for vehicles. President Obama just recently made that greenhouse gas standard for vehicles, the law of the land in the United States. Friends of the Earth campaigners in the past have shut down over 200 dams and levees by working against the US Army Corps of Engineers and saving countless rivers from being dammed and diverted.

One of our first fights was stopping supersonic transport from being developed. The supersonic transport program was government-funded passenger airline research that would have created a fleet of airplanes that travel faster than the speed of sound. We argued against that based on environmental and ozone impacts and won that fight.

We have run a number of campaigns through our efforts called the Green Scissors Campaign, which is a coalition of taxpayer, environmental, public interest and consumer groups that cut federally wasteful and environmentally unhelpful spending from the federal budget. Over the years we have cut subsidies for nuclear power, additional dam construction, and oil and gas exploration, saving taxpayers in the US approximately 55 billion dollars during the life of the program.

Working with our international colleagues, we were recently able to create an emission control area around the United States and Canada. Cruise ships currently burn bunker fuel, which is perhaps the dirtiest fuel on Earth, emitting large amounts of toxins and pollutants. Along with the International Maritime Organization and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we were able to create a zone extending about 200 miles from Canada and the United States where these vessels are required to use much cleaner-burning marine distillate fuel. This change will reduce health costs around the country in the 40 ports that violate EPA clean air standards. These are just a few of the victories that we’ve had.

SI: Social justice, as well as environmental issues, are key to the work of Friends of the Earth. What is the group's view of the relationship between social justice and environmental protection?

EP: For Friends of the Earth, social justice and environmental protection go hand in hand. You could protect the environment and your sole mission could be to protect a piece of land, but unless you are addressing the social and economic reasons behind what is causing the environmental destruction in the first place, you are still going to have the root causes impacting the environment in any situation - whether it is over-fishing in the oceans, deforestation in Indonesia, ethanol production in Brazil, or putting coal-fired power plants in poor communities in the United States. Typically, environmental degradation goes hand in hand with the inequality faced by indigenous people around the world.

SI: Proponents of nuclear energy tout it as a solution to global warming. What is Friends of the Earth's viewpoint on nuclear energy?

EP: Friends of the Earth US was in part founded on opposing nuclear power. From an economic angle, the nuclear power industry is still incapable of paying its own way. From the production and mining of uranium to waste disposal, the US government heavily subsidizes nuclear power. From an environmental standpoint there are the problems associated with the mining and processing of uranium, and the disposal of radioactive waste once it has gone through the reactor, which no one has figured out how to deal with around the world. This is an environmental problem, but also a moral one, because we are saddling future generations for tens of thousands of years with managing the radioactive waste being generated by nuclear power reactors.

From a basic global warming perspective nuclear power produces carbon emissions through the processing of uranium from mining. It is not a carbon-free technology. New nuclear power reactors are going to take 10 years to build, and we know we can invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy a lot quicker and it will give us much better results. We just don't see nuclear power as a viable option and we need to start reducing nuclear power now.

SI: What needs to change to lessen the power of both the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries over government officials?

EP: There are multiple levels of reform we have to undertake. First, corporations have too much access. Recently the US Supreme Court decided on the Citizens United case, which essentially gave corporations unlimited free speech, allowing unlimited corporate donations to political campaigns.

There has been a legal theory for about 100 years that corporations should have the rights of people. That doctrine has codified into law and through court decisions a number of precedents that give corporations the rights of you or me. We don't believe that we can have fundamental reform or address the critical issues of the environment, healthcare, or other social justice or progressive causes until we figure out how to reset corporate power. Part of that is Citizens United and campaign finance reform. Part of that is also that corporations get all of the benefits of being a person, but none of the liability.

What happened to the eleven BP workers in the oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was essentially negligent homicide. What the spill is doing to the Gulf communities is environmental homicide. If this were a crime scene we would be throwing these people into jail, not allowing them to talk on television and justify and cover up their actions.

Market and corporate fundamentalism have become pervasive in the US economy as well as globally during the last 40 years, typified by the philosophy "in corporations we trust." We no longer question the decision-making of corporations. We give up governmental regulatory authority to corporations. And we have seen the impacts of this philosophy: baseless corporate fundamentalism leading to the largest Wall Street meltdown since the Great Depression. We saw this "in corporations we trust" philosophy as a factor in the BP oil rig disaster. We became complacent. Right now we are at the height of corporate power and fundamentalism.

We as a society need to take that ground back. It's going to take a broader progressive push from the environmental community, the healthcare community, the Civil Rights community, unions, and from the gay, lesbian and transgender rights community. It's going to require a concentrated push from all of these progressive areas to even begin to push back on this fundamentalism, which is in the US government and economic system.

SI: Looking at this broader, collective push, there is going to have to be common ground, a unifying vision. Could that cohesion be the acceptance that we need to move away from a competitive, divisive and materialistic society, no matter where it may be found, and base our economic systems and various other institutions on sharing, where people and the environment come first?

EP: Absolutely. Right now we measure our economic growth and happiness by all the wrong things - how much we can consume and buy - versus the relationships we have and the ability to provide healthy food. In my office I have a quote from the Dalai Lama called the Paradox of our Age. It begins: "We have bigger homes but smaller families. More conveniences but less time." The impact of our consumption-based economy is that we have more 'stuff' but are leading less fulfilled lives. We are throwing more stuff away, yet we are captured by the very things we are buying. We have to rethink this because the planet can’t sustain our rabid consumption of stuff.

SI: We have discussed what has been going wrong with addressing climate change and other environmental issues. On the other side, what needs to be done so climate legislation starts to go right?

EP: Any climate legislation has to start with the science. It has to start with reduction targets that are greater and more aggressive than what scientists are calling the worst case scenario. That means we have to push for far more than 20 per cent reductions. We should start pushing for 40 or 50 per cent reductions by 2020.

There also must be a strong recognition that the United States is a primary emitter of these pollutants. Regardless of what China is doing right now, the United States has been the largest polluter historically. On top of the scientific reductions, we have a moral obligation to go even further because we are the ones basically pushing the planet over the edge.

With the reduction targets, we need to figure out how to reduce emissions and put a price on carbon without using Wall Street-based mechanisms. The problem with the legislation being debated by the US Congress now is that it uses "cap and trade" - a market-based device that essentially empowers Wall Street, the Goldman Sachs' [global investment and trading firms] of the world, to find out ways to make money and maybe reduce global warming emissions. If you believe that corporations already have too much power and authority in society, and in the wake of the Wall Street meltdown, it seems like insanity to empower these corporations to make greenhouse gas reductions. We need to put a price on carbon through some sort of tax or fee structure that is managed by the federal government.

It also makes no sense for the government to subsidize or protect the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries - industries that essentially got us into this mess - or even acknowledge that they have a place in the future. We have to make investments both in clean energy research and development, but more importantly in deploying the technologies. We can depend on the marketplace, to some degree, to deploy these technologies, but at some point we have to treat this like World War II or President Kennedy sending a man to the moon. At some point the government needs to be proactive and use its funding and ability to regulate and legislate to push the market, the economy, and consumers to use less energy.

Those are the core principles of a climate bill. You can do that in different ways, but that's what has to happen.

SI: Is there anything else you would like to add?

EP: Global warming is the first radical global symptom of living outside our natural bounds, and requires us to fundamentally rethink how to use, produce and consume energy. This is only the first of the many indicators that we are seeing.

We are seeing the rapid collapse of marine ecosystems. We are seeing a lack of clean water in communities around the world. We are seeing impacts on agricultural land because of industrial farming, which has taken root over the past 40 years. We are seeing the collapse of many of the Earth's ecosystems and natural systems - whether it's the carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle or water cycle - that is a result of the Industrial Revolution of the last 150 years.

It's the goal, the call, of the modern environmental movement to fundamentally, once and for all, fix these problems by convincing society that there is a better way. That's the call of the future. That's the call of the present time. If we don’t succeed it's hard to imagine what the planet will be like in 50 years.

Source: Share International Magazine Used tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
one comment

Good post. I'm experiencing some of these issues as well..
hack (URL) - 04 10 18 - 02:54

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Raging wildfires: Climate changes to blame for record season?

Saturday 16 July 2011 at 06:07 am Raging wildfires: Climate changes to blame for record season?

By Pete Spotts

The images are stark: soot-grimed firefighters steering bulldozers or wielding shovels to clear underbrush; curtains of orange flame tracing the contours of summits; aircraft dumping chemicals to slow a fire's progress.

Between Jan. 1 and early July of 2011, slightly more than 38,000 wildfires charred the landscape in the United States at a record pace. So far this year, wildfires have consumed just under 4.9 million acres of forest and grassland, a cumulative expanse the size of New Jersey.

That's 1 million more acres than fires consumed during the same period in 2006, which saw a record 9.9 million acres burned for the entire year.

Beyond the numbers, this year's fires may provide the first large-scale tests of the effectiveness of projects undertaken over the past decade to help forests survive wildfires, several specialists say.

The West's forests are adapted to deal with certain types of wildfires, researchers note. But since the mid-1980s, they add, some of these forests have experienced an increasing number of fires to which they are not well adapted.

Many researchers trace this shift in part to climate change. more

Hybrid Moves Into Housing

Sunday 22 May 2011 at 01:14 am Hybrid Moves Into Housing

By Brenda Krueger Huffman

(Chicago) – Recycling - Check. Conserving energy - Check. Hybrid car - Next car, check. Hybrid home system - What? Yes, it’s here. Hybrid has seamlessly, successfully moved into housing.

Safety Power, Inc. was initially started to provide homes with back up power. The company quickly grew to include renewable energy options and advising commercial and industrial clients with electrical conservation. Recently the company has come full circle and began marketing a new more capable type of renewable energy system for homes.

The award winning firm was voted one of the “Top 5 Sustainable Product Companies in Illinois” and continues to grow its residential client base in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Safety Power also serves larger firms on the national level.

Robert Brazzale, President of Safety Power, a master electrician turned entrepreneur, began Safety Power in 2007. An avid member of Local First Chicago, Rob believes in assisting sustaining local economies with green collar jobs and belongs to many green orientated groups in Chicago and around the country. more

Are electric car makers missing the trick?

Tuesday 29 March 2011 at 11:12 am Are electric car makers missing the trick?

by Martin Ott

I believe that electric car makers may be driving us all down the road that may result in the same sort of technology failures that we have seen in the past.
I'm not referring to the Sinclair scooter here but cast your mind back to the débâcle of Betamax v VHS home recording systems. The eventual winner was the technically inferior VHS but the battle was not resolved until innumerable consumers had paid out for worthless Betamax systems. Back in the 70's a similar conflict occurred over audio systems when America fell in love with the 8 track tape system that moved magnetic tape in a loop over the player head at a high speed resulting in a better sound. The world market finally dictated that the audio cassette was the way to go but not until millions of consumers had been lumbered with home and in-car systems that went down the technological cul de sac. more

Wind Turbine Manufacturer Acknowledges SGS´s Contribution towards Successful Project Completion

Tuesday 29 March 2011 at 10:57 am by Suresh Varma

The Theni Wind Farm project was developed by CLP India Pvt. Ltd., one of the major wind farm project developers in India. Located in the south western part of Tamilnadu, a southern state of the country, the facility consists of 60 Vestas V82 geared wind turbines. As recognition of its contribution towards the successful execution of this wind power project SGS received Vestas award.

Each turbine at the wind farm has a capacity of 1.65 MW IEC Class IIB machine with a blade diameter of 82 m. After a six-month long completion period, the Theni Wind Farm was officially opened in May, 2010.

Acting as contract engineer during project execution, SGS was responsible for ensuring that all activities were carried out at the site by the contractor in line with the final agreement. In doing so, SGS supervised the quality of construction works, the fulfillment of the technical parameters and kept the project within the scheduled time and contracted price. more

E.ON uses PPC's Broadband Powerline technology in smart grid project

Tuesday 29 March 2011 at 10:37 am E.ON uses PPC's Broadband Powerline technology in smart grid project

by Power Plus Communications

Mannheim - Power Plus Communications AG (PPC), the leading provider of Broadband Powerline Communication systems (BPL) for smart grids has taken on a key role within an E.ON smart grid project to facilitate an extension of Cisco's Connected Grid Solution.

E.ON Westfalen Weser AG is currently trialing smart grid technology within its network of 1.3 million inhabitants and PPC's proven medium voltage BPL solution has connected substations in the project using the existing power grid.

Using BPL technology, standard compliant and IP-based data transfer rates of 5-30 Mbit/s can easily be achieved via the medium voltage cable itself. Within E.ON’s smart grid project, PPC's medium voltage technology facilitated the extension of Cisco's Connected Grid Solution. The Cisco smart grid Router and Switches used in the project are highly compatible with BPL networks, providing a real cost advantage over fiber optic networks – which can be much more expensive where cables are not pre-existing.

By combining their technology at Westfalen Weser, PPC and Cisco have ensured the evolution of fast and efficient smart grids which are controlled on an IP basis. This increases the reliability of the power grid, fulfills regulations and drives down costs. At the same time this modern smart grids communications technology makes it possible to effectively integrate renewable energy into the grid. more

MIT Infrastructure "Life Cycle" Study is Progress Both Left & Right Can Embrace - Part 2, Fiscal Responsibility

Saturday 19 February 2011 at 09:02 am By Brenda Krueger Huffman

Chicago – Perhaps moving to the center is where we all need to be politically on the environment and effective spending compatibility. Not all green technology is crazy, and not all business profit or government expenditure is evil.

Even if you do not believe in man caused climate change, we can all agree leaving a cleaner planet and a more fiscally responsible government for the next generation is preferable to not doing so.

Perhaps green technology can be cost effective, and government fiscal responsibility may realistically include affordable green initiatives. Honest “life cycle analysis” and “life cycle cost analysis” study considerations should be a political compromise starting point both the left and the right can embrace. more

Global warming: Impact of receding snow and ice surprises scientists

Thursday 27 January 2011 at 11:05 am Global warming: Impact of receding snow and ice surprises scientists

By Pete Spotts

Washington - A long-term retreat in snow and ice cover in the Northern Hemisphere is weakening the ability of these seasonal cloaks of white to reflect sunlight back into space and cool global climate, according to a study published this week.

Indeed, over the past 30 years, the cooling effect from this so-called cryosphere – essentially areas covered by snow and ice at least part of the year – appears to have weakened at more than twice the pace projected by global climate models, the research team conducting the work estimates.

The study, which appeared online Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience, represents a first cut at trying to calculate from direct measurements the impact of climate change on the Northern Hemisphere's cryosphere. The study was conducted by a team of federal and university scientists who examined data gathered between 1979 and 2008. more

EPA presents plan on greenhouse gases

Wednesday 05 January 2011 at 10:38 pm By Mark Clayton

Washington - Setting the stage for a New Year battle royal between Congress and the White House over greenhouse gas emissions, the US Environmental Protection Agency Thursday laid out a timetable for the nation's largest carbon emitters – power plants and refineries – to begin curbing those pollutants.

Republicans have said all year that they plan to pull out all the stops to keep the EPA from phasing in greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations beginning in 2011, saying they would damage the energy industry, raise prices, and cost jobs.

Rep. Fred Upton (R) of Michigan, the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has said he opposes the regulations on greenhouse gases and indicated he would lead efforts to revoke EPA regulations in the next Congress. The new regulations, he says, will likely lead to the shut down of coal-fired power plants.

"To protect jobs and fortify our energy security, we should be working to bring more power online, not shutting plants down," Mr. Upton said in a statement. "We are woefully unprepared to meet our nation's growing energy demands, yet this administration's 'none of the above' energy policy will do nothing but cost jobs, make energy more expensive, and increase our dependence on foreign sources of energy."

Environmentalists lauded the EPA's move. more

Supreme Court takes global warming case that targets power companies

Monday 13 December 2010 at 03:21 am By Warren Richey,

Washington - The US Supreme Court on Monday agreed to examine a major environmental lawsuit that seeks to force six electric power companies to cap and reduce their carbon-dioxide emissions to fight global warming.

The lawsuit - filed in 2004 by eight states, the City of New York, and three land trusts - targets what it claims are the largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the United States and among the largest in the world.

It seeks a judicial order declaring that the fossil-fueled power plants are a "public nuisance." It also seeks a judicial order capping the plants' greenhouse gas emissions and requiring the plants to adopt a schedule of reduced emissions in future years. more

Outside Cancun climate conference, Caribbean Sea testifies to global warming

Monday 13 December 2010 at 03:09 am By Ezra Fieser,

Bayahibe, Dominican Republic - This summer's extreme heat may seem like a distant memory as winter approaches the United States.

But the summer that broke heat records across the Northern Hemisphere is still being felt below the surface of the Caribbean Sea: 2010 will likely be one of the most deadly years on record for coral reefs.

If diplomats attending the two-week global climate change talks that opened Monday in Cancun, Mexico, want more evidence of the negative and potentially devastating affects of warming temperatures, they need look no further than the blue sea outside their hotels. Researchers say that throughout the Caribbean coral reefs are "bleaching," a condition that occurs when they are under extreme stress due to warmer-than-normal sea temperatures. more