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Thursday, 25 September 2014 10:02

Climate Reckoning: My Family’s Coal Story

JEFF BIGGERS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCoalEagleCreek(Photo: Jeff Biggers)Four years after the publication of my memoir/history, Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland, I found myself sitting in the front row of an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency hearing in southern Illinois. It was a historic evening in Harrisburg, only a few miles from where Peabody Energy sank its first coal mine in 1895, and a few blocks from where I had sat on the front porch as a kid and listened to the stories of my grandfather and other coal miners about union battles for justice. For the first time in decades, residents in coal country were shining the spotlight on issues of civil rights, environmental ruin and a spiraling health crisis from a poorly regulated coal mining rush.

The total destruction of my family’s nearby Eagle Creek community from strip-mining was held up as their cautionary tale. The takeaway: Strip-mining more than stripped the land; it stripped the traces of any human contact.

“We have lost population, we have lost homes and we have lost roads,” testified Judy Kellen, a resident facing an expanded strip mine in Rocky Branch. “We have lost history. We have to endure dust, noise levels to the pitch you wanted to scream because you couldn’t get any rest or sleep, earth tremors, home damages, complete isolation of any type of view to the north, health issues, a sadness in your heart that puts a dread on your face every day, and an unrest in the spirit that we knew nothing of.”

A lot has changed in these four years—much of it troubling, and much of it inspiring.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT 

pacificocbeachThe Califonia Pacific Ocean beachfront (Photo: Curtis Gregory Perry)

The surfer dudes have won a battle for all of us against a leading plutocrat. 

Here's the headline of a September 25 Los Angeles Times article,"California surfers beat tech billionaire in fight over beach access" that explains the stakes:

It was surfers versus a Silicon Valley tech billionaire, and on Wednesday, the surfers won -- for now.

A San Mateo County judge ruled tentatively Wednesday that Vinod Khosla, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, had wrongly denied public access to Martin's Beach, which for decades was visited by thousands of locals who picnicked, surfed and fished in its protective cove.

The case resonated with some people because it reflected fears that tech billionaires were buying up coastal properties with the intention of keeping others out.

Joe Cotchett, an attorney for the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation, which brought the suit, called Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach's decision "a huge victory for all of the people of California."

On August 29, BuzzFlash at Truthout posted a commentary that detailed how some wealthy California beachfront property owners were impeding state-mandated public access to the Pacific Ocean Beachfront.

2014.9.24.UN.BFUN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks at the opening of the launch of the UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All 2014-2024. (Photo: United Nations Photo / Flickr)

ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

The issue of climate change skyrocketed in public awareness this week as the UN Climate Summit yesterday in New York City, and the historic People’s Climate March Sunday joined by 400,000 people, attracted attention and news coverage around the world.

The UN Climate Summit was convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who invited world leaders from government, finance, business and civil society “to galvanize and catalyze climate action.” The event was not intended to strike binding agreements but to build momentum for the December 2015 UN climate conference in Paris.

“The human, environmental and financial cost of climate change is fast becoming unbearable,” Ban said at the opening ceremony of the UN Climate Summit. “We need a clear shared vision.”

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aholdermoleUS Department of Education

The website Wall Street on Parade has been tenacious in uncovering misdeeds in the nation's financial capital, as well as various levels of government that enable the malfeasance. On September 23, it reported on an intriguing speech by Attorney General Eric Holder in an article entitled, "Eric Holder Says Justice Department Has Moles on Wall Street":

Avoiding detection as a mole becomes so much more challenging when the highest law enforcement officer in the land, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, comes to New York to address Wall Street’s lawyers and tells them, flat out, that he’s got moles stationed inside his Wall Street targets. (There were likely 100,000 text messages flying about Wall Street before Holder got to the next paragraph of his speech.)

The revelation by Holder came on September 17, not in off the cuff remarks, but in a carefully prepared speech delivered at NYU School of Law in Manhattan.

Wall Street on Parade points out that the moles are called "undercover cooperators" by the Department of Justice.

No doubt Holder's on the record objective in his speech was to warn Wall Street that they were being watched from the inside by an army of informers – and that this might dissuade them from wrongdoing. However, a more cynical perspective would posit that the attorney general was giving notice to Wall Street financial firms to be more careful about disclosing their legally questionable behavior to too many staffers - and alerting them not to leave any paper trails that indicate intent to commit illegal acts.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014 06:11

We Have Met the Existential Threat, and It Is Us

2014.9.24.BF.Watts(Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Francisco Cendejas)AKIRA WATTS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

- Sun Tzu

Let me make a bold prediction. ISIS will never invade the United States. We will never have a Red Dawn moment, when jihadist troops parachute into sleepy, Midwestern towns. The Wolverines, alas, will never be called out of retirement. Not everyone seems to see it that way, as might be gathered from the fact that we are now bombing multiple countries, in the belief that an insurgency can be neutralized by purely military means. The circle of violence widens, as Israel has decided to get in on the fun, by shooting down a Syrian jet. Oh, and the bombing doesn’t really seem to be working.

Better writers than I have argued that bombs alone are not going to bring about an end to the situation in Iraq and Syria, so I will leave that argument aside, beyond noting that it would be neat if it could receive more than passing acknowledgement from our bold and fearless leaders. Instead, let’s talk about ISIS. As is standard in beginning such a discussion, insert the obligatory disclaimer about them being Very Bad People. They are to Islam what the Westboro Baptist Church is to Christianity, were the WBC given military grade weapons. Very Bad People, yes?

You know who else is very bad? Joseph Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Myanmar was run by very bad people until they became a kind-of sort-of democracy and now we like them. Iran is very bad except in those cases in which we need their help and support and then we’re totally cool and high-fives all around. Bashar al-Assad is a very bad person and we’re definitely not on his side except we sort of need to bomb a few of those very bad people who are rebelling against his very bad government.

There’s a whole lot of very bad people out there, is what I’m getting at.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

apoverty2(Photo: Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!)

The website of the Annie E. Casey Foundation makes clear that the well-being of children and families in the United States, regardless of income, is a key focus of its philanthropy. A important tool in focusing on this issue is providing up to date data and information. The goal is to provide policy makers and citizens with the tools to understand the extent of childhood and family poverty in the US. 

Keep independent media strong and help debunk the myths spread by corporate media! Make a tax-deductible donation to Truthout and BuzzFlash now.

On one of the foundation's web pages, it states the alarming reality that, "The United States continues to have one of the highest relative child poverty rates among all developed countries":

In order to compare rates of poverty across countries many researchers use “relative” poverty rates, which examine a family’s income relative to the average family in the country. A recent report by UNICEF found that the United States had more children living in relative poverty - defined as living in a household in which disposable income is less than 50 percent of the national median – than all but one other economically advanced countries, Romania.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAntiChoice(Photo: Msci)Meet Dr. Willie Parker. He is one heck of a courageous man. Chances are you've never met anyone like him.

He grew up dirt poor in Birmingham, Alabama; as a teenager he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, and was a "boy preacher in Baptist churches"; he was "the first black student body president of a mostly white high school"; he went to Harvard, became a college professor, and successful obstetrician "who delivered thousands of babies and refused to do abortions."

Dr. Willie Parker had what some might call a second "come to Jesus" moment, deciding "to give up his fancy career to become an abortion provider" -- for the poorest of the poor and the most needy -- at the only surviving abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi. These days, he travels a "circuit roughly similar ... to the one traveled by Dr. David Gunn before an anti-abortion fanatic assassinated him in 1993."

Dr. Parker's "name and home address have been published by an antiabortion Web site with the unmistakable intent of terrorizing doctors like him. ...[and] he receives threats that say, 'You've been warned.'"

HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaClimateMarch1(Photo: Shadia Fayne Wood)The most hopeful, diverse, photogenic, energizing and often hilarious march I've joined in 52 years of activism---and one of the biggest, at 310,000 strong---has delivered a simple messag​e: we can and will rid the planet of fossil fuels and nuclear power, we will do it at the grassroots, it will be demanding and difficult to say the least, but it will have its moments of great fun.

With our lives and planet on the line, our species has responded.

Ostensibly, this march was in part meant to influence policy makers. That just goes with the territory.

But in fact what it showed was an amazingly broad-based, diverse, savvy, imaginative and very often off-beat movement with a deep devotion to persistence and cause, and a great flair for fun.

For when push comes to shove---and it has---our Solartopian future will be won one victory at a time.

Oh....yes, yes, yes....we will try to influence the policy-makers. The UN, the Obama Administration, the bought and rented Congress, the usual suspects.

But we won't be begging. It needs to be the other way around.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aearthna(Photo: NASA Goddard)

As more than 300,000 people marched in New York on Sunday to advocate a dramatic change in strategies to reduce global warming, it should not be forgotten that the groundwork for the destruction of our atmosphere - as far as the US role in the looming catastrophe is concerned - began with the near annihilation of Native-Americans.

It is generally accepted by Native American historians that Native religions and worldviews have long been grounded in the premise that the earth is sacred. An abstract of a research paper by J. Baird Callicott, a professor of philosophy and environmental ethics at the University of North Texas, sums up the contrast between the conquered and the conquerors:

A generalized traditional Western worldview is compared with a generalized traditional American Indian worldview in respect to the practical relations implied by either to nature. The Western tradition pictures nature as material, mechanical, and devoid of spirit (reserving that exclusively for humans), while the American Indian tradition pictures nature throughout as an extended family or society of living, ensouled beings. The former picture invites unrestrained exploitation of nonhuman nature, while the latter provides the foundations for ethical restraint in relation to nonhuman nature.

It may appear simplistic to summarize these two worldviews as the difference between respecting our environment and exploiting it, but in general, these trends hold true.

(Photo: Samantha Allen)(Photo: Samantha Allen)

HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Two vans and a big bus pulled up to the First Watch restaurant for breakfast ​Saturday​ morning in Columbus, Ohio.

They were filled with truly great people, the new Climate Riders, on their way to New York City.

Twenty-four hours on the road each way for a few hours to march against the corporations that are killing our planet.

"I hate the Koch Brothers," one of them tells me over pancakes. "They are wrecking the Earth for all of us."

I've come just five miles from my house on the east side. It's about a half-hour on the ​my bike​ through the flatlands of the state capital, where a corrupt, climate-killing legislature has been working to outlaw renewables, ban the sale of Tesla cars, kill passenger rail service, subsidize dying nukes and embrace fracking with all its corporate might.

These good folks have come from Kansas and Missouri. Overnight to Columbus, then all day to Allentown, Pennsylvania, where they'll stay the night. Then two more hours into the city tomorrow morning. March through the day. Get back on the bus and into the vans around 9pm. Then ride a full day back to the far midwest.

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