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Wednesday, 25 May 2016 13:23

How to Feed the World as the Planet Warms

DR. DAVID SUZUKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Earth 0525wrp opt(Photo: NASA)Calculating farming’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is difficult, but experts agree that feeding the world’s people has tremendous climate and environmental impacts. Estimates of global emissions from farms range widely. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency puts them at 24 percent, including deforestation, making agriculture the second-largest emitter after heat and electricity.

Agriculture contributes to global warming in a number of ways. Methane and nitrous oxide, which are more potent than CO2 but remain in the atmosphere for shorter times, make up about 65 percent of agricultural emissions. Methane comes mainly from cattle and nitrous oxide from fertilizers and wastes.

According to the World Resources Institute, “Smaller sources include manure management, rice cultivation, field burning of crop residues and fuel use on farms.” Net emissions are also created when forests and wetlands are cleared for farming, as these “carbon sinks” usually absorb and store more carbon than the farms that replace them. Transporting and processing agricultural products also contribute to global warming.

We need to eat. So what’s the answer? That obesity is epidemic in parts of the world while people starve elsewhere and that an estimated one-third of food gets wasted, shows improving distribution and reducing waste are good places to start—but won’t be enough to significantly curtail agriculture’s contribution to climate change.

Reducing meat and animal-product consumption and production—especially beef—would cut emissions, but wouldn’t get us all the way.

JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Uber 0525wrp(Photo: Guilhem Vellut)Pouty, whiney, spoiled-bratism is not nice coming from a four-year-old — but it's grotesque when it comes from billion-dollar corporate elites like Uber and Lyft.

The two internet-based ride-hiring brats call themselves "ridesharing" companies, but that's a deceit, for they don't share anything — their business model relies on folks needing a ride to hire a driver through the corporations' apps. With the bulk of the fare going to out-of-town corporate hedge funders.

The tow outfits have swaggered into cities all across our country, insisting that they're innovative, tech-driven geniuses. As such, they consider themselves above the fusty old laws that other transportation companies, like taxis, follow. So Uber and Lyft have made it a corporate policy to throw hissy fits when cities — from Los Angeles to Atlanta, Houston to Portland — have dared even to propose that they obey rules to protect customers and drivers.

The latest tantrum from the California giants happened in Austin, when the city council there adopted a few modest, perfectly-reasonable rules, despite the screams of PR flacks from both outfits. The petulant duo then used fibs and high-pressure tactics to get enough signatures on petitions to force a special election to overturn the council's action. Naturally, being brats, they gave the city an ultimatum — "Vote our way or we will leave town" — and assumed that Austin's tech-savvy voters would flock to do whatever the popular ride-sharing service wanted.

But they picked the wrong city. First, they ran a campaign of blatant lies, as though Austinites wouldn't question them. Then, they shoved a sickening level of corporate cash into their campaign, apparently thinking that the sheer tonnage of ads would win the day for them. However, the slicks from California turned out to be uber-goobers. Despite spending $9 million (more than the combined spending of all city council candidates in the past decade), they went down, 56-to-44 percent.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016 May25warrentrumpElizabeth Warren's scorching criticism of Donald Trump is effective because it comes from impassioned conviction candidly expressed. (Photo: AFGE)

While Bernie Sanders continues to use his candidacy to advance progressive options for the future of the United States, Hillary Clinton has already stated that she assumes she'll get the nomination. Although Sanders looks to win more delegates, his mission appears to also be focused on using his continued role as an active candidate to press for concessions from the Clinton camp and to build a movement.

Indeed, among all the news media clamor over irresolvable enmity and political differences between the Clinton and Sanders campaign, behind the scenes there are clearly negotiations going on. These talks resulted in, for example, Sanders being able to choose five members of the 15-person Democratic Party Platform Committee. Sanders is choosing people who stick in the craw of the Clinton camp and neoliberal Democratic Party leadership. According to Reuters, they are "Arab-American Institute President James Zogby; noted professor Cornel West; Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison; Deborah Parker, an activist on Native American rights; and Bill McKibben, an activist on environmental issues."

While granting Sanders and his ideas for reform a role in the convention, Clinton is moving on to continue vigorously campaigning for votes in the remaining primary, while -- as the mainstream media so frequently describes it -- "pivoting" to running against Trump.

That, however, is already proving a challenge to the sprawling bureaucratic, focus-group-vetted, poll-tested Clinton campaign. According to a commentary by Jake Novak that appeared on CNBC.com, two of three of Clinton's biggest campaign mistakes are that she generally offers uninspiring platitudes in her speeches and on social media -- and that she lets Donald Trump "drive the agenda."

Tuesday, 24 May 2016 08:21

Bill Nye: Climate Deniers Are Wrong

Bill Nye at lecture(Photo: US Embassy Tokyo)BILL NYE OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

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As you may know, I am very concerned about global warming and global climate change. The science of global warming is long settled, and one may wonder why the U.S., nominally the most technologically advanced country in the world, is not the world leader in addressing the threats enumerated by the U.S. military, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and others. I hope people will take the facts we face into account as they head to the polls this year.

The ocean is warming and expanding. This effect alone will displace millions of people. The effects on agriculture, water supplies, and weather patterns will create a great many problems for a great many of us. By my reckoning, our delay and the reluctance of conservative presidential candidates to embrace the problem and discuss it is a result of the diligent effort of a handful of climate change deniers. They have been especially successful at introducing the idea that routine predictive uncertainty, e.g. plus or minus two percent, is somehow the same as plus or minus one hundred percent. It isn't, and the deniers are wrong.

Hemp scarf(Photo: Theo Wright)LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

BuzzFlash is ad-free because of sustaining support from readers like you. Help keep independent media strong by making a tax-deductible donation today!

Outdoor clothing company Patagonia has released a new short film to advocate for the legalization of industrial hemp in the U.S.

The multipurpose plant, which has been used for centuries to make rope, textiles, foods, personal care products and more, became a controversial substance in 1937 due to the "Marihuana Tax Act," which basically lumped hemp with marijuana and made it illegal to grow even though the former has no psychoactive properties. Hemp is listed as a federal Schedule 1 drug in the Controlled Substances Act.

However, there are plenty of reasons why industrial hemp should be legalized, from its substantial health benefits to its potential to lower the environmental impacts of textile production. Also this: In 2016 alone, the U.S. will import an estimated $500 million in products made from the cash crop.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016 May24cpdpatchChicago's contract with the Fraternal Order of Police union has many provisions that obstruct investigations of misconduct. (C. Holmes)

BuzzFlash is ad-free because of sustaining support from readers like you. Help keep independent media strong by making a tax-deductible donation today!

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune this past Sunday, for decades the City of Chicago has negotiated contracts with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) that grant cops special rights to avoid accountability for misconduct and violence committed against citizens:

From the moment Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police started negotiating its first contract with City Hall 35 years ago, the union identified an issue that would prove key to its members: ensuring officers had robust protections when they were investigated for misconduct.

City Hall had its own focus: money.

Since that first contract, mayors from Jane Byrne to Rahm Emanuel have routinely fought to hold tight on the bottom line, while the union that represents thousands of rank-and-file officers has worked to, among other things, build layers of insulation from scrutiny.

One product of that bargain between the city and the FOP has been a flawed system in which officers are rarely held accountable for misconduct. 

The special contract concessions allow Chicago police officers special rights during internal investigations of their conduct, which the police do not afford to civilians. According to the Tribune,

Critics say the provisions provide police the opportunity to collude and even formulate a favorable version of events after an incident such as a shooting. They say, too, that they can create a chilling effect that keeps some victims from coming forward for fear of retaliation. 

KEN KIMMELL ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Reposted with Permission of the Union of Concerned Scientists 

Fraud 0523wrp opt(Photo: Union of Concerned Scientists)On Wednesday, I received a letter signed by thirteen members of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. In my thirty years as an attorney, public official, and now UCS President, I have never seen anything quite like it. The letter states that the House Science Committee is “conducting oversight of a coordinated attempt to deprive companies, non-profit organizations and scientists of their First Amendment rights.” This sounds like an oversight effort UCS could support—but for what follows.

The representatives are requesting “all documents and communications” between UCS and state attorneys general and between UCS and other NGOs related to our work to hold oil and gas companies accountable for deception. Apparently, these elected representatives believe that UCS and others have infringed on the free speech rights of fossil fuel companies such as ExxonMobil.

How? By sharing information with these attorneys general about whether ExxonMobil and others misled the public about the dangers of climate change, and by explaining how climate change caused by burning fossil fuels is harming people and places in their states.

You know what else this tells me? The campaign to hold companies accountable is working.

How absurd is this request?

Let’s start with the premise of the letter—that the free speech rights of companies such as ExxonMobil are violated by an investigation. This is nonsense. No company has a First Amendment right to knowingly provide misinformation about the harm associated with its product (in this case the emissions of heat trapping gases from the combustion of fossil fuels). And attorneys general have every right to investigate whether the companies’ actions amounted to an actionable fraud.

In fact, the letter itself compromises the First Amendment rights of the Union of Concerned Scientists and the other recipients of this letter.

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Sledge 0523wrp(Photo: M.T. Richardson)As often noted in the passionate writings of Henry Giroux, poor Americans are becoming increasingly 'disposable' in our winner-take-all society. After 35 years of wealth distribution to the super-rich, inequality has forced much of the middle class towards the bottom, to near-poverty levels, and to a state of helplessness in which they find themselves being blamed for their own misfortunes.

The evidence keeps accumulating: income and wealth -- and health -- are declining for middle-class America. As wealth at the top grows, the super-rich feel they have little need for the rest of society.

Income Plummets for the Middle Class

According to Pew Research, in 1970 three of every ten income dollars went to upper-income households. Now five of every ten dollars goes to them.

The Social Security Administration reports that over half of Americans make less than $30,000 per year. That's less than an appropriate average living wage of $16.87 per hour, as calculated by Alliance for a Just Society.

Wealth Collapses for Half of Us

Numerous sources report that half or more of American families have virtually no savings, and would have to borrow money or sell possessions to cover an emergency expense. Between half and two-thirds of Americans have less than $1,000.

For every $100 owned by a middle-class household in 2001, that household now has just $72.

Not surprisingly, race plays a role in the diminishing of middle America. According to Pew Research, the typical black family has only enough liquid savings to last five days, compared to 12 days for the typical Hispanic household, and 30 days for a white household.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

2016 May20malheurMalheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, where armed anti-federal land militants occupied the site and demanded the public land from the US government earlier this year. (Photo: John Matthews)

During the armed occupations of the Cliven Bundy ranch in 2014 and of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge this year, the "sovereign citizen" militants carrying out the occupations were seizing federally owned lands and demanding their privatization. The unjust irony of these demands was that -- in both cases -- the militants were descendants of white colonialist settlers trying to claim personal ownership of land that is the rightful property of Indigenous peoples.

The occupations of the Bundy ranch area and Malheur were covered by the mainstream media as a standoff between law enforcement officials on the federal and local levels versus the militia occupiers. A vital public policy issue that the confrontations raised is to what extent are public lands under threat in the West.

A new report, "The Disappearing West," by the Center for American Progress offers an ominous analysis of the diminishing Western lands open for public use. "Every 2.5 minutes, the American West loses a football field worth of natural area to human development," the study states. The report, conducted in conjunction with Conservation Science Partners, warns of the looming peril:

From governors’ mansions to the halls of Congress, questions about land and wildlife conservation command relatively little attention today. The conventional wisdom seems to hold that the most consequential battles over America’s wild places are already settled. President Theodore Roosevelt, Sierra Club founder John Muir, and the environmental activists of the 1960s won protections for national parks, national forests, and wilderness areas. In the eyes of some politicians, the West’s open spaces are not only well protected, but too well protected. An anti-parks caucus in the U.S. Congress, for example, wants to block new national parks and sell off the West’s national forests to private owners....

Friday, 20 May 2016 07:31

Will Vegans Save the World?

DR. DAVID SUZUKI OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Vegan 0520wrp opt(Photo: EcoWatch)Will vegans save the world? Reading comments under climate change articles or watching the film Cowspiracy make it seem they’re the only ones who can. Cowspiracy boldly claims veganism is “the only way to sustainably and ethically live on this planet.” But, as with most issues, it’s complicated.

It’s true, though, that the environment and climate would benefit substantially if more people gave up or at least cut down on meat and animal products, especially in over-consuming Western societies. Animal agriculture produces huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, consumes massive volumes of water and causes a lot of pollution.

But getting a handle on the extent of environmental harm, as well as the differences between various agricultural methods and types of livestock and balancing that with possible benefits of animal consumption and agriculture isn’t simple.

Estimates of how much animal agriculture adds to greenhouse gases range widely, from about 14 to more than 50 percent of total global emissions. Agriculture exacerbates climate change in a number of ways. Clearing carbon sinks such as forests to grow or raise food can result in net greenhouse gas increases. Farming, especially on an industrial scale, also requires fossil fuel–burning machinery, as does processing and transporting agricultural products.

Determining the overall contribution is complicated by the fact that livestock agriculture accounts for about 9 percent of human-caused CO2 emissions but far greater amounts of other greenhouse gases, which are worse in many ways but less dangerous in others.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock farming produces 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the global warming potential as CO2. It also contributes “37 percent of all human-induced methane (23 times as warming as CO2), which is largely produced by the digestive system of ruminants and 64 percent of ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain.” But methane stays in the atmosphere for about 12 years and nitrous oxide for about 114, while CO2 remains for thousands of years.

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