Truthout Stories Sun, 28 Aug 2016 23:34:38 -0400 en-gb Ohio Residents Clash With State and County Government in Fight to Ban Fracking Via the Ballot

A 2012 anti-fracking protest in Ohio.A 2012 anti-fracking protest in Ohio. (Photo: Josh Lopez /

For years, local Ohioans have been told by courts and elected officials that they have no control over fracking -- "it is a matter of state law."

However, groups of determined residents are refusing to accept this argument, taking steps to establish local democratic control over what they see as vital societal questions of health, safety, and planetary survival. But not without resistance from their own governments.

In recent years, Ohio has seen fracking-induced earthquakes, contaminated waterways, and new proposals for natural gas pipelines and compressor stations, all amidst the accelerating march of climate change. Together, these events have brought the fight against fracking to a fever pitch for the Buckeye State.  

Fed up, residents have taken to the local ballot initiative process -- by which citizens write, petition for, and vote on legislation -- to propose "Community Bill of Rights" ordinances to ban fracking, injection wells, and associated infrastructure for natural gas production and transportation. Their efforst are part of a growing nationwide Community Rights movement

This summer, citizens of Medina, Portage, Athens, and Meigs counties collected signatures for county-wide ballot initiatives that would establish new county charters and enshrine rights to local democratic control over fossil fuel development. All four gathered enough signatures to get on their respective November ballots. Normally, that would be enough. But not in Ohio, where Secretary of State and gubernatorial hopeful Jon Husted has done everything he can to stymie the movement's use of direct democracy.

It is a rematch from last year, which ended in the Ohio Supreme Court pulling three county-wide initiatives -- in Medina, Fulton, and Athens counties -- from their ballots, just weeks before the November 2015 elections.

The court battle came after Husted claimed "unfettered authority" to determine the legality of local initiatives, before they go to a vote. Though his power grab was struck down by the court, Husted won the case on a technicality, and no votes were cast. The court ruled that the county initiatives failed to define a new "form of government," a requirement for new county charters, which all the initiatives proposed.

Making Adjustments for 2016

This year, petitioners fine-tuned their initiatives to insure they would satisfy the "form of government" requirement; though they argue the requirement is being politically applied. Nonetheless, petitioners updated their initiatives, going so far as to detail how county coroners will be compensated under the new charters.

With Husted's power to remove local ballot initiatives squashed, he has turned to organizing county boards of elections -- appointed by Husted himself -- to do his bidding. The links between Husted, the boards of elections, and the industry are clear. In Meigs county, for example, one member of the board of elections is Ohio Gas Association President Jimmy Stewart, and in March 2016, the Ohio Oil and Gas Association hosted a fundraiser for Husted.

In July, the county boards of elections in Meigs, Portage, and Athens all voted 4-0 to pull their measures from the ballot. The boards of elections say the measures are invalid because they do not delineate every single duty of all county officers. In Medina -- where a local judge and prosecutor have cautiously resisted the NEXUS natural gas pipeline and a gas compressor station -- the board split 2-2. The decision was then put to Husted, who broke the tie in favor of the fossil fuel industry.

Petitioners in all four counties are filing appeals. "It's a form of voter suppression," said Tish O'Dell of the Ohio Community Rights Network, who has worked with Ohio communities since 2012 to propose and pass similar measures.

Meigs, Portage, and Athens petitioners have filed protests against their boards of elections, but like Medina's tie breaker vote, their protests will be sent to Husted's desk. If and when he denies them, petitioners say they will appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court. Medina's appeal of Husted's tie-breaking vote will head straight to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Husted is doing his best to expand on the 2015 Ohio Supreme Court decision, which recognized an "alternative basis for invalidating [ ] charter petitions." Namely, via the "form of government" requirement. Upon closer look, however, it appears that a basic assumption underpinning the tactic is flawed.

In 2015 the court clarified that Husted and boards of elections have no authority to rule on the legality or constitutionality of petitions. The basis of Husted's argument is that the "form of government" question is an administrative one, not a legal one. But the requirement comes from the Ohio Constitution; ruling on it requires interpreting the constitution.

Athens County's own county prosecutor pointed this out in a letter to his board of elections, advising them to place their initiative on the ballot. "It is the Judicial Branch and not the Executive Branch that is to interpret issues of Constitutionality," the prosecutor writes. "The Board [of Elections] should perform a ministerial function and allow the initiative process to take place if the number of signatures required are valid and properly presented." Instead, the Athens County Board of Elections invalidated the initiative because it "relies on the [Ohio] Revised Code to determine qualifications and salaries of elected officials."

Democracy at Stake

In his tie-breaking decision for Medina, Husted points to the only other Ohio county charters that were passed via the initiative process -- in Summit and Cuyahoga counties -- as positive examples of how the 2016 measures should be written. 

Husted's office declined to comment on how the Summit and Cuyahoga initiatives satisfied the "form of government" requirement and what distinguishes them from those being proposed for the November 2016 election. "It would be inappropriate to offer additional comment while the matter is pending before our office," wrote an Ohio Secretary of State spokesperson in an email.

In their appeals, the petitioners argue that the Summit and Cuyahoga examples actually support their argument. In protest, the petitioners point out that the Ohio County Commissioners Handbook "notes that neither Summit County nor Cuyahoga County…have followed" the form of government requirement.

Ohio's county boards of elections and Secretary of State give no guidance for petitioners on how they can satisfy this "form of government" standard. When queried by DeSmog, the Secretary of State's office gave no comment on this. As a result, petitioners are left guessing and the democratic process held hostage by the personal interpretations of boards of elections and the Secretary of State.

Climate at Stake

Meanwhile, climate change is accelerating by leaps and bounds. Anthrax bacteria are being liberated by thawing permafrost, Lake Erie is warming, melting glaciers could release Cold War-era toxic waste buried beneath Greenland's ice, the Zika virus has hit the United States, ecosystems are becoming unbound, and the sea continues to rise.

But for the oil and gas industry, millions of dollars are at stake in this local ballot battleground. The anti-fracking ballot initiatives would have immediate impacts not only on extraction and injection of fracking waste, but on large infrastructure projects -- like the NEXUS pipeline, which is slated to carry fracked gas across Ohio but is seeing opposition from local residents who are holding up the project. According to NEXUS court documents, for every month of delay, the pipeline project loses $17 million. In Medina, the project is a year behind schedule.

The pipeline, which proposes to pump 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas through Ohio each day, has been met with opposition again and again. Defiant private property owners and county prosecutors and judges have postponed land surveying, jeopardizing NEXUS's permit application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The last thing the pipeline's owner, Spectra Energy, needs is a legal fight against a new county charter. For Spectra, the drawn-out nature of the democratic process currently at play in Ohio is a liability.

Regardless of the accuracy of their legal arguments, the actions of Ohio Secretary of State Husted and the boards of elections have already affected that process.

Every day the measures are caught up in court is a day of full-out campaigning lost. Among the uncertainty, petitioners continue to campaign as though the measures will be voted on this fall. And if they are refused the ballot, Ohio petitioners say they will try again next year. And the year after that. And the one after that.

News Sun, 28 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
"Necessary Trouble" and a Long, Hard Struggle: Talking Movements With Sarah Jaffe

Perhaps the most essential book of the year, Sarah Jaffe's Necessary Trouble provides an extensive and vivid overview of organizers and movements from the 2008 financial crisis onwards and the connections between them, along with a nuanced historical summary of the issues at hand.

Sarah Jaffe. (Photo: Julieta Salgado)Sarah Jaffe. (Photo: Julieta Salgado)What connects the recent movements that have shaken the foundations of US inequality? In her acclaimed book Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt, Sarah Jaffe introduces us to the people making trouble from Wisconsin to Ferguson, from Occupy Wall Street to Moral Mondays. Click here to order what Robin D.G. Kelley calls "The most compelling social and political portrait of our age."

Sarah Jaffe's Necessary Trouble is one of the most essential books of the year -- an extensive, vivid overview of "trouble-making" organizers and movements from the 2008 financial crisis until, if not quite today, then the moment the book went to press. Each chapter not only covers a movement or group of campaigns, but also provides a concise but nuanced historical summary of the issues at hand.

It's a book that feels "necessary" indeed, almost overdue. Whether we realized it or not, we have been in need of a book that traces the connections between the Wisconsin Capitol occupation and the campaigns waged by Walmart and fast-food workers, that looks honestly at what the Tea Party has had both in common and in conflict with protesters at Occupy Wall Street and in Ferguson, and that gives due credit to Moral Mondays and Black Lives Matter.

And we have been in need of someone like Jaffe to do it, someone who understands intersectionality and class struggle, who resists simplistic narratives and avoids backseat organizing or condescending lectures about strategy, instead largely letting the people who made these movements happen tell their own stories. She spoke to Truthout about some of the issues raised in Necessary Trouble including racism, horizontalism, and why climate change is a class issue.

Joe Macaré: Necessary Trouble is in many ways an optimistic book, one that on the whole celebrates a range of movements and campaigns. Was that a conscious choice or did you just find more to uplift than to critique?

Sarah Jaffe: This is a book with an overarching argument about this historical moment more than a book meant to be a deep dive into any particular movement. If I had 100,000 words to delve into Occupy Wall Street or Moral Mondays or any one in particular I might have spent more time diving into critiques of particular aspects of each one, but that just wasn't the book I was writing.

"Trying to understand why people feel a certain way isn't trying to excuse them. It's part of the job of journalism."

I don't think I'm uncritical or cheerleading in this book, yet I am optimistic. I remember the 1990s, the early 2000s, the things you just couldn't say in polite company. The world is a different place now. Things are still hard, people are still struggling, but people are fighting and that is, as Jane McAlevey says, the best news I've had in a long, long time.

The Tea Party are a fascinating presence in your book: You treat their initial anger at the financial system in good faith, but you're clear about the racism that quickly became prominent and how the politicians, who were elected in their name, acted. What can we learn from the Tea Party's story?

There's a tendency lately to treat racism as either/or, as something that only bad people are, rather than something that is a quality of the society we live in that none of us can escape. That doesn't mean we can't fight it, but it means that it's something we all have to grapple with, not just the people who like Donald Trump.

So I think people can be racist and be advocating policies that I think are wrong and harmful and also be angry at many of the same things I'm angry at. We can never convince those people that progressive policies are better if all we do is wag our fingers piously and call them names. Trying to understand why people feel a certain way isn't trying to excuse them. It's part of the job of journalism.

The politicians who call themselves Tea Partiers are largely opportunists who saw a chance to hitch themselves to something that looked like a rising star. The wealthy ideologues who dump money into elections were doing that already and had been for decades. Your average Tea Party protester wasn't calling for privatizing Social Security. Opportunist politicians and billionaires who claim to come bearing gifts aren't just a problem on the Right, and I think the biggest lesson we can take from the Tea Party is to be wary of them.

You also show how white people's reluctance to acknowledge racism as an issue has caused setbacks, from labor's Operation Dixie to Oath Keeper groups that split over whether or not to show solidarity with Black protesters in Ferguson. What have been the hallmarks of movements and campaigns where solidarity across racial lines has been possible?

My favorite example is in Robin D.G. Kelley's Hammer and Hoe, a book everyone should read about the Communist Party in Alabama during the Depression years. The Communist Party had a lot of problems in the US, but what it did in the South, particularly, was take the struggles of Black workers and Black sharecroppers as key to the class struggle it wanted to wage in the US. So the Communist Party in Alabama was made up of those workers, and they fought against lynching and police violence and false arrests alongside labor struggles for fair wages and equal treatment and inclusion for Black workers in unions. That wasn't a sideline struggle, it was the struggle.

"If there isn't just one leader, then it's harder for things to fizzle if something happens to one person."

I was saying that we tend to personalize racism. We think of racism as people who say racist things or join racist groups or show up at a Trump rally with a sign saying "Build the Wall." We don't think of racism as where houses are built, what kind of a mortgage you get and what kind of air you breathe. We spend a lot of time trying to cleanse ourselves from the original sin of racism rather than trying to come up with ways to fight to change the systems that maintain it.

You identify many of the movements in the book as having a "horizontal" structure, to one extent or another, almost to a defining extent. "Horizontalism" has not been without its critics, but what are the advantages it has given these movements?

Horizontalism, I think, in this moment, is a response to a deeply hierarchical society in which people feel taken advantage of by and failed by elites. Chris Hayes wrote about this period as the "Twilight of the Elites." If our ideas about meritocracy are wrong, if the people in power have proven themselves catastrophically unworthy of that power -- the financial crisis being the latest, biggest example -- then maybe we need some new structures.

But it's been hard to implement. In practice, a handful of people tend to get anointed leaders of the movement by the media, whether they in fact are or are just really good at getting themselves interviewed. Reporters tend to move in packs and so once one outlet calls someone a leader, everyone else will rush to follow -- not even always in bad faith, but because they are busy and very few people get the luxury of being social movement beat reporters.

Consensus process, particularly 100 percent consensus, is unwieldy and most groups seem to have scrapped it after Occupy. Watching the different organizations of the Movement for Black Lives experiment with organizational forms is really fascinating, but I don't know that anyone has "solved" the problems yet.

I think horizontalism and the viral character of these movements -- their tendency to spread across the country and the world very quickly -- go hand in hand. If you don't have to wait for the leader to come to your city and start a protest, you can just plan one, call one and connect to people online to get them to turn out. If there isn't just one leader, then it's harder for things to fizzle if something happens to one person; which is a real concern, as we're starting to see activists brought up on harsh charges and facing serious sentences.

"We don't really know the shape of things while we're in them."

One movement that is less horizontal featured in a chapter of the book is Moral Mondays. What's exciting and worth emulating about Moral Mondays?

As a feminist and someone who came of age politically in the 1990s -- peak culture wars -- I'm really fascinated by a movement calling itself "moral" that embraces queer and trans rights and abortion rights as issues. I also appreciate the southern-ness of Moral Mondays, since there's an annoying tendency, particularly in the Northeast, to disparage the South and make jokes about letting it secede every time some reactionary policy happens in the South. Ignoring the reactionary policies being implemented in the North and West Coasts, of course.

Moral Mondays has been emulated not just in the South but in Illinois and New York, where people have felt a real connection to the idea that they can make demands that are not just based on the law or the constitution but based on a real idea of justice and right.

The question of whether -- and how -- to engage with electoral politics is one with which various movements in the book wrestle. What has the Bernie Sanders campaign shown about the opportunities and limits of movement engagement with elections?

It's certainly the question on everyone's mind these days, I think. I'm writing to you on the train to Seattle right now, so heading for Kshama Sawant country, and I don't think there's any doubt that her election has had an impact on that city.

"The struggle is long and hard and successes are signposts along the way."

I grappled with the question of elections the most -- really trying to answer it -- in the chapter that groups the Wisconsin movement and the Chicago teachers together, because both of those had an unsuccessful move into electoral politics. I posited in that chapter that we would need to see candidates with more of a grounding in the movement in order to have movement electoral successes.

Since then, we've seen the #ByeAnita campaign in Chicago and the parallel campaign in Cleveland to get rid of Timothy McGinty, and both of these were basically run without endorsing their opponents, which is really interesting. The Teaching Assistants Association in Wisconsin tried to do the same -- endorsing Scott Walker's ouster without endorsing Tom Barrett, the Democrat running against him -- with less luck.

As far as Sanders goes, in the last week I've had several conversations with people who are really grappling with where to go next after Bernie's ultimately unsuccessful bid to be the Democratic nominee. There is no doubt that people were really drawn into something there that felt real and important and new to them, and I don't think that energy just disappears. The question of where it goes is going to be one I'll have my eye on for the next couple of years, for certain.

If electoral campaigns are not necessarily the end goal, are there better metrics to assess the success of movements? Is it turning out big crowds, passing legislation, providing direct aid to people, or something else?

"Success" is such an interesting question. Pretty much everyone, at the time I was pitching this book to publishers, thought that Occupy was a "failure." By the same metric people think Bernie Sanders is a failure. I think both of those assumptions are wrong.

I think it was my friend Jesse Myerson who said a few years ago that we don't call the Civil Rights movement the bus boycott movement. Montague Simmons of the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis said "It's not 1964, it's 1954." We don't really know the shape of things while we're in them. Writing this book gave me the opportunity at some points to reflect back a few years and in others, I really had to struggle to figure out a place to stop, a way to evaluate, because things were and are so very much in flux.

"The same wealthy class that exploits our labor and fraudulently forecloses on our homes has also destroyed the climate."

But in terms of the demands of these movements, we really see what I think of as a range of demands, sometimes for one very particular immediate thing -- vote out Anita Alvarez, fire Bill Bratton, raise the minimum wage to $15 -- and then something medium-term -- a union contract for fast-food workers, say, or closing a prison or a jail -- and then the ultimate goal, something like abolishing police, abolishing capitalism. So do you evaluate the movement based on the immediate goal, the medium-term one, or are you totally disingenuous and do you say "Well Occupy didn't create the revolution so it was garbage?" The struggle is long and hard and successes are signposts along the way, often toward an ultimate goal that I hear many people saying they know they won't be around to see.

Right now we're seeing the return of camps as a tactic, this time used by Black-led movements against police violence: Freedom Square in Chicago, Abolition Square in New York City, and the (recently evicted) #DecolonizeLACityHall. Why do you think tents have gone up again and what are the advantages of an "occupation"?

I just wrote a long piece about this so I'll just say briefly that I think at a time when public space is more and more scarce, privatization reigns and social institutions like labor unions are in decline, the fact that people come together to hold a space to be political in public together is really meaningful. Like horizontalism, it seems to illustrate the desires that protesters have for a society that feels more equal and more connected.

The book points out several examples of how organizers identified connections between different issues and used those to bring in new people and find new targets for actions. Which connection of overlapping or intersecting issues do you think is most exciting and important right now?

I can't say enough times that the Vision for Black Lives document is an amazing piece of work that everyone should read and engage with.

It almost feels like it misses the point to pick out a particular connection, because the point is that these things all overlap. But one of my favorite bits in the book is Mychal Johnson from South Bronx Unite, an environmental justice organization in New York, who notes that Eric Garner, who was choked to death by a police officer on Staten Island, grew up in a heavily polluted area and suffered from asthma. The South Bronx too has the highest asthma rates in the country and when fighting the location of yet another polluting business in their community, South Bronx Unite used the slogan #WeCantBreathe, citing Garner's last words and noting that the people who are the first victims of environmental degradation are usually Black and Latinx people, in whose communities trash dumps and factories and hazardous waste are situated. Inequality, he said, is in the air we breathe. That same community flooded during Hurricane Sandy, with that polluted water flooding back onto their streets.

You describe climate change in the book as "the ultimate intersectional issue" -- can you say a little about what that means?

(Image: Nation Books)(Image: Nation Books)When I proposed this book, climate change wasn't a chapter. I realized very quickly that it needed to be and eventually I realized that it needed to go last, because it sums things up in a way. The same wealthy class that exploits our labor, sells us bad mortgages and fraudulently forecloses on our homes has also destroyed the climate. Those people are not going to be the ones who suffer the most for it, because they have the money to get out of the way of the disaster.

I went to college in New Orleans. I was gone by Hurricane Katrina and I remember watching it on TV and wondering what had happened to my neighbors and my friends -- this was before you could mark yourself "safe" on Facebook -- and remembering an old rumor that the city had rigged the levees to blow in the Lower Ninth Ward in the case of a storm like this one. Not true, but a fairly good metaphor for how things happened. The working-class Black people who mostly lived in that neighborhood were the ones who suffered the most. An unequal society will not deal with tragedies and crises equally, so to fight climate catastrophe we need to change the relations of power that we live under.

Opinion Sun, 28 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
We Can Have a Healthy Climate With Zero Warming in Our Lifetimes

Redkill Lodgepole Pine stand behind a field of Douglas' Sunflower at Steamboat Lake State Park, Colorado.A healthy climate is not always as it seems. Redkill Lodgepole Pine stand behind a field of Douglas' Sunflower at Steamboat Lake State Park, Colorado. Less than 0.7 degree Celsius of average warming across the globe was responsible for allowing the native mountain pine beetle to kill 20 percent of western US forests between the late 1990s and 2010. The attack continues today with the addition of spruce and fir beetles to the infestation. (Photo: Bruce Melton)

We can have a climate with zero warming. Some of the tools for getting us there, such as alternative energy, are widely known but they cannot reverse the trend in our lifetime. Atmospheric carbon renewal can, and we have the proven technologies to do it.

Redkill Lodgepole Pine stand behind a field of Douglas' Sunflower at Steamboat Lake State Park, Colorado.A healthy climate is not always as it seems. Redkill Lodgepole Pine stand behind a field of Douglas' Sunflower at Steamboat Lake State Park, Colorado. Less than 0.7 degree Celsius of average warming across the globe was responsible for allowing the native mountain pine beetle to kill 20 percent of western US forests between the late 1990s and 2010. The attack continues today with the addition of spruce and fir beetles to the infestation. (Photo: Bruce Melton)

We can have a healthy climate -- a climate with zero warming -- in our lifetimes. The message for the last 20 years has been that we have to reduce emissions drastically to prevent dangerous climate change of more than 2 degrees C (3.6 F). This strategy would have likely worked when it was first suggested, but we have delayed far too long since then. Now, even stringent emissions reductions allow our warming to at least double and likely triple before finally beginning to cool.

We must begin to reduce the load of already-emitted, long-lived carbon dioxide (CO2) climate pollution in the sky, regardless of costs. The good news is that, not only will costs be very similar to many things we do in our society today whose costs are taken for granted, but by disconnecting emissions reductions strategies from the removal of already-emitted climate pollution in our sky, we vastly simplify the myriad strategies that have been developed to avoid dangerous climate change.

Haven't We Begun to Deal With Climate Pollution?

The Clean Power Plan, implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in February 2016 seeks to limit emissions to Kyoto Protocol Era levels by 2030 -- 18 years later than Kyoto's 2012 target. Meanwhile, at the UN Paris Climate Conference in 2015, President Obama committed the US to an emissions reduction of 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. This is 30 years behind Kyoto Phase 2 goals of 80 percent emissions reductions by 2050.

Clearly, current rules and commitments are far behind those set 20 years ago. Moreover, since the beginning of the Kyoto Era, we have emitted almost as much climate pollution as we emitted in the previous 230 years. The Clean Power Plan has been stayed by an unprecedented Supreme Court decision pending a decision in the lower courts, but will likely be upheld.

Because of the great delay in action, current US emission reduction policy -- along with 80 percent commitments around the globe -- would allow the concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere to rise to 440 ppm by 2050-60, and would allow the temperature to rise by anywhere from 1.6 to 2.7 degrees C, or double to triple our current warming. Under this best-case scenario of aggressive emissions reductions, global temperature still would not fall back to today's levels for 400 to 500 years and would not fall back to preindustrial "zero warming" for thousands of years.

Is 2 Degrees C Safe?

The demarcation of the "2 degrees C" threshold for dangerous climate change -- set in 1990 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- was an effort to put real numbers to the concept of "dangerous climate change." The IPCC's 166-page document is summarized by two sentences that spell out the risks of climate change with a certain warming:

Beyond 1.0 °C may elicit rapid, unpredictable, and non-linear responses that could lead to extensive ecosystem damage....

An absolute temperature limit of 2.0°C can be viewed as an upper limit beyond which the risks of grave damage to ecosystems, and of non-linear responses, are expected to increase rapidly.

The wording of the two statements above sheds light on just how "safe" 2 degrees C actually is. In contrast to these statements from 26 years ago, current extreme events are happening with less than a degree of warming. Even the most aggressive emissions reduction strategies allow for warming that is over double what has already occurred. Plus, warming-caused feedbacks generally grow more profound with increased heat, meaning that impacts will increase faster and become more extreme relative to impacts happening already.

What Is the Safe Target?

The Paris climate talks last year -- the 21st meeting of the IPCC -- made the strong suggestion that we stop using 2 degrees C of warming as a description of a "safe threshold" to dangerous climate change; and it was agreed that efforts would be made to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C or less. But is this sufficient?

The IPCC has a long and significant history in the academic literature of badly underestimating the impacts of climate change. An excellent example is that as late as the 2007 IPCC report, Antarctica was not supposed to begin losing ice until after 2100. In the 2013 report, however, Antarctic ice loss is now approaching that of Greenland. Importantly, the first academic findings on Antarctic ice loss were published in 1994. The consensus process of the IPCC causes their statements to lag recently published science; in this case, by 20 years.

Meanwhile, in 2008, James Hansen, the former 32-year director of the US climate modeling agency at NASA, lowered his threshold for dangerous climate change to 300-350 ppm CO2, or about 0.5 to 1.0 degree C of warming. We are at 400 ppm today; preindustrial CO2 was 280 ppm.

The rapid increase in extreme weather events we have been experiencing could hardly be viewed as "safe." However, other dramatic impacts are quickly making themselves apparent. Reports of the initiation of the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) are becoming frequent. Megafires, according to an article in National Geographic, have grown to sizes that National Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell says would have been "unimaginable" two decades ago. NASA and Columbia University say heat extremes, such as the $12.7 billion Texas/Southern Plains drought in 2011, are made 10 to 100 times more likely with already experienced warming. This work also says that these extreme heat events, that once happened across 0.1 to 0.2 percent of the Northern Hemisphere, now happen across 10 percent of the Northern Hemisphere every year.

Prehistoric evidence of abrupt sea level rise when Earth was about as warm as it is today -- about 121,000 years ago -- shows that the collapse of the WAIS resulted in 6.5 to 10 feet of sea level rise in what could be as little as 10 to 24 years. After more than two decades of IPCC sea level rise estimates of about two feet in 100 years, modeling is finally beginning to approach prehistoric evidence. The challenge has been that the IPCC rely on modeling that they themselves admit is underestimated. The former modeling of only four inches from Antarctica by 2100 is now at three feet. It is important to understand that this new modeling work is in its infancy and like the IPCC, likely underestimates. The good news is that modeling has broken free of the previous constraints that so badly underestimated ice sheet collapse relative to actual prehistoric evidence.

With the latest ice sheet collapse warning in April 2016, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is looking forward to upcoming publication of ongoing research from multiple sources. NOAA says that because the lag in time between academic research and inclusion of that research in the scientific consensus can be as much as "ten years," in the next few years we will see academic publication that shows 10 feet of sea level rise from Antarctica will happen in the next 50 years. This rate is far greater than the adaptability threshold of three feet per century.

With only two meters of total sea level rise (6.5 feet), 187 million people would be physically displaced. Work from the German National Science Academy says that flooding from only 1.2 meters (4 feet) of sea level rise would impact up to 310 million people and cause up to $210 trillion in damages by 2100.

The excessive heat and flooding extremes that we have already endured -- as well as the unimaginable impacts from the 10 feet of sea level rise that is set to occur -- have been caused by warming of 0.7 degrees C or less. That current policy and commitments allow additional warming that is more than double what we have already seen is ample evidence that current climate pollution strategy is far behind.

Zero Warming -- a Primer

This brings us back to that question: How do we move forward?

Some of the tools for getting us there are widely known: efficiency increases, alternative energy, agriculture improvements, reforestation, electric cars, smart grids, DC power transmission, showering with a friend. These are all important and critically so, because of the great risk of further increasing extremes. But these tools all allow warming of double to more than triple our current level before the temperature begins to very, very slowly cool. Emissions reductions help -- in that they reduce the amount of CO2 that we are releasing into the sky -- but even with aggressive emissions along the lines of the greatest reductions feasible, our climate continues to warm for at least 50 years. What is needed, if we are going to leave our children a healthy climate, are tools that can immediately begin to reduce the very long-lived CO2 that is already in our sky.

Fortunately, science has advanced a bit over the past 20 years. There is now a set of technologies out there that have been proven to do the job of atmospheric carbon removal. For $21 trillion (the cost of US health care from 2000 to 2009), we could create an infrastructure that would remove 50 ppm CO2 from our sky and make a huge dent in the atmospheric loading that is causing the warming. This cost is about $200 per ton of CO2. Newer technologies hold even more exciting prospects cost-wise. The best estimates for new technologies are at $20 per ton for capture and 20 percent more for disposal. The company, Global Thermostat, in Menlo Park, California, has a full-scale industrial pilot project that uses waste heat and is reportedly capturing CO2 at $10 per ton.

Some of the new technologies are even more compelling. One new line of research shows that CO2 captured directly from the sky can be used to create carbon nanofibers, a very advanced material that could be used to build almost anything from automobiles to homes. Production costs are similar to that of aluminum and the carbon fibers have a value 1,000 times that of aluminum. There is a fuel cell technology that can capture carbon dioxide from direct fossil fuel generation emissions that does not require additional energy and actually increases the generation capacity of the energy facility.

Then there are the solar radiation management technologies (SRM), such as injecting sulfates or tiny mirror-like particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect sunlight. There is some very important work ongoing in this field of geoengineering that could be revolutionary as well. But whereas the climate pollution removal techniques described above are relatively simple, the implications of SRM are no less significant than the greenhouse gas experiment we have been implementing for centuries. Take sulfate injection, for example. This technique is often suggested to have grave acid rain consequences but the amount of sulfates used is 100 times less than what is required to create significant acid rain. Maybe more importantly, once sulfate injection ceases, impacts to the atmosphere are completely gone after two years or less. The bottom line, however, is that atmospheric geoengineering is little studied and fraught with challenges, and far more work needs to be done before implementation is seriously considered.

The Next Steps to a Healthy Climate

We need to give ourselves permission to go beyond emissions reductions alone and seek a healthy zero-warming climate. A group of dedicated academics and climate science outreach specialists are doing just that. The Healthy Climate Project is the first to approach the issue of a zero-warming healthy climate.

What we can do as individuals is vitally important because policy grows from public will. Discuss healthy climate goals with your peers. Mainstream the concept. We need to fund development and increased research for even more compelling technologies than already exist, build a safety monitoring organization (like the Food and Drug Administration, but for carbon removal), and scale up these technologies.

The Healthy Climate Project is the first of its kind. Its "Declaration" asks President Obama to authorize research to complete the industrialization of new atmospheric CO2 removal and storage technology and commit to a healthy climate for America.

We have the tools. Now we need to allow ourselves to go beyond emissions reductions alone, in order to leave our children a planet free from dangerous climate change.

Note: Detailed references for the claims in this article can be found here.

Opinion Sat, 27 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Graduate Students Are Workers: The Decades-Long Fight for Graduate Unions, and the Path Forward

Graduate student workers publicly launch their union drive at Columbia University on December 5, 2014. (Photo: David Klassen)Graduate student workers publicly launch their union drive at Columbia University on December 5, 2014. (Photo: David Klassen)

The National Labor Relations Board's ruling that teaching and research assistants at Columbia University are workers and are legally protected by US labor law is historic. The ruling vindicates years of organizing by graduate employees across the US and creates a path forward for organizers at many other universities.

Graduate student workers publicly launch their union drive at Columbia University on December 5, 2014. (Photo: David Klassen)Graduate student workers publicly launch their union drive at Columbia University on December 5, 2014. (Photo: David Klassen)

In the summer of 2004, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the five-member body which adjudicates US labor law, ruled that graduate student teaching assistants and research assistants at Brown University were "primarily students, and not workers." The Bush-appointee-dominated board's ruling had immediate implications for graduate students at private universities, who had won protected status under the National Labor Relations Act four years earlier, when the board had ruled in favor of graduate employees' organizing efforts at New York University (NYU).

The NYU administration, freed by the Brown University ruling from its obligation to negotiate a second contract with the Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC), the first, and to this day, only union to win recognition at a private university (and twice, at that), elected to use the NLRB to break the union. In an attempt to force the recalcitrant administrators back to the bargaining table, NYU's graduate employees went on strike on November 9, 2005, and remained on strike well into May of the following year. It was, and remains, the longest strike in the history of the US academic labor movement.

Striking graduate student workers picket outside NYU’s Bobst Library in November 2005. (Photo: Steve Fletcher)Striking graduate student workers picket outside NYU's Bobst Library in November 2005. (Photo: Steve Fletcher)

As a first year graduate student at NYU in 2005, I experienced the strike firsthand, organizing colleagues across the university to vote to strike and walk the picket lines. As the weeks turned into months, there were long debates on the picket line and in innumerable meetings over strategy and tactics. Could we both force NYU to return to the bargaining table of its own accord through direct action, and also utilize political pressure at the federal level to reverse the Brown decision and restore legal protections and labor rights to graduate student teaching and research assistants? Even with broad support across the graduate employee labor movement, it was hard to wrap our heads around how we could bring NYU to the table, much less undo Brown.

Graduate employees will no longer have to engage in stultifying debate against the false premise that what they do is not work.

Today NYU graduate employees are once again unionized. After 10 years of organizing, the GSOC, officially known as GSOC-United Auto Workers (UAW), won a second contract with the administration last spring. And this week, on August 23, 2016, the NLRB announced that it was finally overturning Brown after 12 years, ruling that Columbia University graduate employees (save those whose research is funded by outside foundations) are indeed workers. The decision will permit graduate employees at Columbia to hold a union representation election, 14 years after the board confiscated and ultimately destroyed the ballots of an earlier unionization drive at the university. Perhaps more importantly, the board has restored to graduate employees at private universities the legal rights and protections which US labor law extends to those whose work it recognizes as such. Aaron Greenberg, chair of the Local 33 graduate employee unionization campaign at Yale recently chartered by UNITE HERE, which represents the food service, maintenance, clerical and technical workers on campus, told Truthout that Local 33's members are "ecstatic.... The law now recognizes the work that we do and that we have a right to unionize and to organize."

Graduate student workers take part in a civil disobedience action on April 27, 2006, as part of the 2005-2006 GSOC-UAW strike at NYU. (Photo: Tracy Neumann)Graduate student workers take part in a civil disobedience action on April 27, 2006, as part of the 2005-2006 GSOC-UAW strike at NYU. (Photo: Tracy Neumann)One would be hard pressed to gather from breathless headlines in the academic trade press that endlessly re-stage the same bad-faith debate -- "Are unions an appropriate forum for graduate employee representation? Are grad employees workers?" -- that such unions have existed as recognized bargaining units for nearly half a century. The first attempts to organize graduate students at the University of Wisconsin (UW) took place in 1962. The Teaching Assistants Association (TAA) first bargained on behalf of UW's teaching assistants in 1969. It did so for 42 years, and today continues to fight for graduate students' labor rights in the face of the state government's attacks on public-sector collective bargaining.

Long before the TAA, there were attempts to organize graduate student unions at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1930s, and again in the 1960s. And the TAA itself was hardly alone, riding a wave of faculty and graduate student organizing which also led to the University of Michigan's Graduate Employee Organization (formed in 1970) and the University of Oregon's Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (formed in 1975).

Picket signs lie in a heap after a graduate student worker picket at NYU on November 10, 2005. (Photo: Tracy Neumann)Picket signs lie in a heap after a graduate student worker picket at NYU on November 10, 2005. (Photo: Tracy Neumann)It's common for advocates to point out that there have been graduate employee unions at public universities for decades, and none of the apocalyptic prophesies proffered by anti-union administrators, legislators and jurists have been realized. Less well known is the longer history of graduate employee organizing at private universities. Almost immediately after the NLRB extended its jurisdiction to workers at private universities, teaching assistants began to organize. In 1972, teaching assistants at Yale engaged in a series of rolling grade strikes, raising stipends by as much as 100 percent in some departments. This culminated in the formation of the short-lived Teaching Assistants Organization. In the 1980s and 1990s, new organizing drives at Yale, the University of California, the University of Minnesota, the University of Washington and the University of Iowa inspired more campaigns -- at the University of Illinois, at the University of Maryland and at NYU. Glossing over this history aligns with administrative anti-union arguments that unions do not belong in private institutions. It maintains the fiction that academic labor unions are novel, intrusive and disruptive, when in fact graduate employees have been organizing them since many current university presidents were children. It also underscores how important and how overdue this week's ruling really is.

When the GSOC won representation and its first contract in the early 2000s, new organizing drives began at Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell and Brown. With GSOC's recertification in 2013, organizing began again at many of these institutions, but also took off at schools like Harvard and The New School, which had never been part of the wave of pre-Brown graduate employee organizing. Over the past 12 years, while graduate employee organizing at private universities was mostly trapped in a holding pattern, it continued at public institutions like the University of Connecticut, where graduate employees formed a UAW local in 2014. Across the US, organizing by adjunct teachers and post-doctoral workers has exploded, with unions forming everywhere from local Catholic institutions to prestigious and wealthy, globally known research universities like Duke and Georgetown. The NLRB's recent Columbia decision means that graduate employees at private universities can rejoin this broader movement of contingent academic workers, that they can ally with adjuncts, food service and maintenance workers, faculty and other campus staff to build a broad movement to transform how higher education functions as an employer. This week's decision may well spark dozens of new organizing campaigns.

"We have a path to victory, and we feel really pleased with the decision, really excited about our path forward."

The questions that the Columbia decision settles -- whether graduate employees are workers and whether unions are appropriate to higher education -- are questions whose answers virtually everyone has agreed, save university administrators, their lawyers and their lobbyists. During the NYU strike, picketers playfully mocked the logic of the Brown decision and the university administration, chanting, "If we're not workers, then we're not working!" This week, the majority of the labor board announced that it has "no difficulty" affirming that graduate students are workers. Nor should it -- teaching assistants and research assistants work long hours for low wages, producing significant value for their institutions and often receiving little in return. It's unionization, which, in many instances, has allowed graduate employees access to affordable health care. The GSOC's first contract at NYU raised pay by an average of almost 40 percent across all departments, less a testament to how much students were earning after the contract, than how little they were being paid prior to it.

Graduate student workers and undergraduate supporters picket on November 30, 2005, as part of the GSOC-UAW strike at NYU. (Photo: Tracy Neumann)Graduate student workers and undergraduate supporters picket on November 30, 2005, as part of the GSOC-UAW strike at NYU. (Photo: Tracy Neumann)

In the Columbia decision, the majority ruled, "There is undoubtedly a significant economic component to the relationship between universities, like Columbia, and their student assistants," noting that "on average, private nonprofit colleges and universities generate a third of their revenue from tuition." Importantly, the board threw out the Brown argument that the instructional character of graduate student labor made it not-labor, offering this explanation:

The fact that teaching may be a degree requirement in many academic programs does not diminish the importance of having students assist in the business of universities by providing instructional services for which undergraduate students pay tuition. Indeed, the fact that teaching assistants are thrust wholesale into many of the core duties of teaching -- planning and giving lectures, writing exams, etc., including for such critical courses as Columbia's Core Curriculum -- suggests that the purpose extends beyond the mere desire to help inculcate teaching skills.

University administrators have been quick to respond to Columbia with a boilerplate approach that is even more disingenuous now than it was a decade ago. While clinging desperately to the increasingly tenuous claim that graduate employees aren't workers, a claim belied by the many hours teaching assistants and research assistants spend grading, teaching, preparing for class and meeting with students, university administrations and their organizations have also cynically continued to claim that unions threaten academic freedom and instruction.

The amicus brief filed in February by several Ivy League universities against the union in the Columbia decision parrots the language the NYU administration used 11 years ago to explain why it had chosen to bust GSOC. The brief adopts the NYU administration argument that the union had filed grievances that impinged on academic matters when it sought to combat the administration's attempts to erode the bargaining unit by hiring adjuncts to teaching assistant's courses for less money and fewer benefits than unionized teaching assistants. Another amicus brief filed by higher education lobbying associations points to graduate employees at the University of California's fight for small class sizes (an obvious workload matter) as evidence that collective bargaining necessarily encroaches on similar territory. The cynicism here lies in the way that university administrators have, for many years, managed academic concerns as business concerns and cried foul when their employees have attempted to respond on that terrain.

Unless the combined lobbying might of the Ivy League and its union-busting law firms can prompt another Brown or a reversal by the Supreme Court, graduate employees will no longer have to engage in stultifying debate against the false premise that what they do is not work, that one can't be both a student and a worker at the same time, and will no longer have to defend themselves against spurious arguments about the damage that unions do to a profession that management has itself steadily degraded over the last half-century. Now, the graduate employees who are holding the torch for all of those who have organized and fought for this moment for so many years can focus on fighting for important issues like child care, parental leave, health care, equitable workload and prompt and fair payment. For Aaron Greenberg, Columbia is a "major decision for the academic labor movement and the graduate employee labor movement in particular."

"It's exciting for us," Greenberg told Truthout. "We have a path to victory, and we feel really pleased with the decision, really excited about our path forward."

News Sun, 28 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Anti-Abortion Groups Sue for Right to "Counsel" Patients Entering Clinics

Anti-abortion groups are reasserting their claim that the First Amendment allows them to "counsel" patients entering clinics as well as set up religious "crisis pregnancy centers" adjacent to full-spectrum reproductive health care facilities. This is a direct challenge to bubble zones meant to protect patients.

Opponents of abortion protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, March 2, 2016. (Photo: Gabriella Demczuk / The New York Times)Opponents of abortion protest in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, March 2, 2016. (Photo: Gabriella Demczuk / The New York Times)

Two anti-abortion organizations -- the Pro-Life Action League and the Live Pro-Life Group -- filed suit against the City of Chicago this week, claiming that the "Bubble Zone Ordinance" enacted on October 7, 2009 violates their constitutional right to "counsel" patients approaching reproductive health care facilities.

In their suit filed on August 23, 2016, the plaintiffs cite both the US and Illinois Constitutions, claiming they "have suffered and are suffering irreparable injury to their constitutional rights" because they cannot approach patients inside an eight-foot "bubble" within 50 feet of an abortion clinic entrance.

"The Bubble Zone Ordinance ... targets certain categories of speech; that is, passing a leaflet or handbill, displaying a sign, or engaging in oral protest, education, or counseling," the complaint states. "It was enacted and is applied so as to restrict pro-life speech, but to permit unrestricted speech in favor of abortion or concerning topics and speakers not disfavored by the City."

Bubble and buffer zones -- which vary in size and specifics, such as whether protections are stationary (radiating from a fixed point) or encircle patients (moving with them as they approach clinics) -- have not been enacted randomly to target groups that oppose abortion, as the suit against the City of Chicago purports. These laws and ordinances are a response to violence and threats of violence from opponents of abortion rights.

The Feminist Majority Foundation's National Clinic Access Project surveys have tracked the targeting of abortion providers since the early 1990s. The most recent, released last year, found that 25 percent of clinics experience anti-abortion activity on a daily basis and 42.8 percent experience such activity weekly, while only 12 percent of clinics say they never experience anti-abortion activity. Additionally, 92 percent of abortion providers report that patients entering their facility have expressed safety concerns.

"It is very distracting and stressful for the patients and their friends and family to be subjected to this behavior."

In 2014, the Supreme Court's McCullen v Coakley decision struck down the state of Massachusetts' buffer zone ordinance, which provided 35 feet of protection from health care facility entrances. Some reproductive rights advocates predicted that a wave of lawsuits challenging other buffer zone laws around the country would follow -- but those lawsuits never materialized. A federal lawsuit was filed and withdrawn without comment in Englewood, New Jersey, early last year, challenging that city's newly enacted buffer zone. The precedent set in Hill v. Colorado, which affirmed that state's 100-foot protection area around clinic entrances in June 2000, continues to provide municipalities with legal grounds to maintain similarly crafted ordinances and laws. Chicago Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey told ABC News that the Chicago ordinance is "almost identical" to the Colorado law -- "except that our buffer zone is half the size." He vowed that "the city will vigorously defend against this suit."

The Pro-Life Action League and Live Pro-Life Group are attempting to be the first plaintiffs since Eleanor McCullen to successfully challenge abortion clinic protections, citing the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to free speech and due process to do so. The bulk of the complaint sidesteps the foundational claims of constitutional violations, instead outlining incidents of the Chicago ordinance being inconsistently enforced -- something that clinic escorts and staff report to Truthout as well -- and responding officers not knowing the "plain language" of the law. The plaintiffs cite specific officers and clinic escorts who provide a shield outside facilities for patients approaching and leaving, in an attempt to prove that the law is unnecessary and that the protesters are themselves in need of protection. Clinic escorts, meanwhile, reject the claims made by the plaintiffs.

Betsy Schaack has been volunteering as a clinic escort for more than five years in the Chicago area. She told Truthout that while some groups simply pray outside clinics, in a clear expression of First Amendment expression of religion and free speech, the Pro-Life Action League protesters in particular are "decidedly more aggressive in their attempts to stop patients."  

"Usually, these [Pro-Life Action League] protesters reach into car windows with their propaganda as patients are dropped off at the door of the Washington [Family Planning Associates] clinic," Schaack said. "Since this is clearly within the eight-foot patient 'safety net,' there is no place this woman is free from protesters. If we ask a protester to move out of the eight-foot area, we are met with comments like 'Shut up; we don't have to listen to you,' or they just yell their misguided sound bites louder -- 'Don't let them kill your baby!' 'The abortion pill can be reversed!' etc. I understand freedom of speech, but what the [Pro-Life Action League] engages in is harassment."

The other group Schaack witnesses harassing patients regularly is the Christian Liberty Academy -- a private school that's a part of the other plaintiff in the suit, the Live Pro-Life Group. Their clearly labeled buses are stationed prominently outside the Washington clinic once a month on average as students are led in "sidewalk counseling" (the name that Pro-Life Action League founder Joe Scheidler gave to patient targeting when he wrote the book on the practice in 1985). Patients don't typically recognize picketers as "counselors," according to Schaack.

"Most times [after asking] to be left alone, the patient will continue to be terrorized until she gets into the clinic," said Schaack. "In fact, last week as I was walking a patient from her car, her partner actually asked the picketer to 'Stop speaking to the lady that way.' It is very distracting and stressful for the patients and their friends and family to be subjected to this behavior."

Schaack and her fellow escorts regularly rely on the bubble ordinance, calling police to enforce restrictions to the clinic entrance as well as to assist patients attempting to cross a very busy street from the public parking lot to the door. Clinic escorts serve as the community response to harassment and abortion clinic targeting, but can only legally and effectively do so much to protect patients. They provide a visible zone of support for patients approaching a picketed clinic and allow them relief from the stress of being stalked, shamed and shouted at. 

Until abortion is seen as a public good and communities at large are aware of the harassment, galvanizing enough support for clinics to effectively expel picketers from their sidewalks without needing to call the police remains a significant challenge.

Schaack acknowledged the frustration many escorts and social justice groups feel right now.

"Unfortunately, calling the police is the only thing that gets the attention of the protesters," she said. "We ask them numerous times politely to move out of the eight-foot buffer zone and we are met with comments like, 'That's not a law, that's just something arbitrary,' or, 'We follow God's law.'"

The response from law enforcement is inconsistent at the clinic, but a car is always sent to respond to the call. Once the officers leave, however, Schaack says the harassment often resumes.

"Four or more protesters will all descend on an individual patient or couple, surround them with graphic signs, and begin rapid-fire quoting Bible verses and sharing condemnation."

Halfway across the country, the anti-abortion group A Hand of Hope Pregnancy Resource Center has used similar grounds -- First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to free speech, religion and equal treatment under the law -- to file a federal suit against the city of Raleigh, North Carolina, for denying their request to open a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) next door to the Preferred Women's Health Center, which offers abortion as one of its services. CPCs are typically religiously run and masquerade as reproductive health facilities. They shame and lie to prospective and current patients about everything from the law surrounding abortion access to how far along they are to risk factors for terminating a pregnancy.

Opponents to the opening of this new CPC included those concerned about access to abortion care as well as those simply trying to prevent conflict that could come from the two businesses operating adjacently. As reported by local outlet The News & Observer, Tonya Baker Nelson, founder and executive director of Hand of Hope, said those concerns are unwarranted. "We do not protest and we will not allow people to protest on our property," Nelson said. "And we don't need to stand on the corner to try to get people to come see us."

The presence of a CPC, however, might encourage an increase in harassment from anti-abortion protesters, even if those protesters don't specifically come from Hand of Hope. Local clinic escorts tell Truthout that picketing is routine and aggressive in Raleigh, and an extensive national investigation by NARAL Pro-Choice America found that proximity to CPCs increases the likelihood that a full-spectrum reproductive health care facility's patients will be harassed.

"Raleigh actually has three different CPCs that seem to have different protester followings," Kelsea McLain, who is director of patient advocacy at A Woman's Choice, Inc., told Truthout. "Birthchoice [a local crisis pregnancy center] also opened a [location] within walking distance of our clinic and routinely sends representatives to the public space in front of the clinic to try and nab our patients and bring them over to the crisis pregnancy center. We find their brochures shoved in our fence and mailbox constantly, never quite sure if annoyed patients or over zealous protesters placed them there."

McLain said Raleigh does not have a buffer or bubble zone like Chicago's, but would gladly welcome one to protect both clinic staff and patients.

"Our patients often say this quote, almost verbatim: 'They have a right to be out there, but I have a right to not be harassed,'" said McLain, who added that she doesn't feel safe accessing public areas around the building because in the past, picketers have surrounded her while trying to access the mailbox. The protesters also position themselves on either side of the public easement at the clinic's driveway, waving patients away, standing in front of cars and trying to hand out fliers with anti-choice propaganda and false information.

"Our protesters specialize in something we call 'the swarm,'" said McLain. "Four or more protesters will all descend on an individual patient or couple, surround them with graphic signs, and begin rapid-fire quoting Bible verses and sharing condemnation. These swarms have a great track record of terrifying patients and sometimes will result in patients running back to their cars and leaving the area, missing their appointment."

McLain says a buffer or bubble zone would "give patients breathing room" and make accessing the parking lot safer.

A long-time Chicago-area clinic escort agreed with McLain's assessment that bubble and/or buffer zones -- while imperfect in their ability to guarantee an end to harassment -- provide significant protection and relief to patients and staff. Speaking anonymously due to security concerns, the escort told Truthout what it was like before Chicago enacted the ordinance being challenged.

"Before the bubble zone, anti-choice protesters could get as close to patients and the clinic door as they wanted," she said. "They couldn't block the door because of the FACE Act, however, when large groups of people congregate in front of a place, blocking happens indirectly. The outside of our clinics looked like a mob scene when there were large groups of protesters -- even with small groups."

The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in May of 1994 in response to more than a decade of violence such as arson and the assassination of abortion providers. As reported in a Religion Dispatches article by Alana Massey, the Pro-Life Action League in particular has been active in the violence that led to the FACE Act and nationwide recognition that abortion clinics had become battlegrounds.

According to Massey's report, "In 1985, following a year during which there were 10 bombings and 16 cases of arson, the senior Scheidler famously called for 'a year of pain and fear.' For over a decade he was a named defendant in the high-profile case, Scheidler v. NOW, in which the National Organization for Women argued that Scheidler and others effectively formed a criminal conspiracy to close clinics that provided abortion services."

The Chicago-area escort who spoke with Truthout was volunteering in the days where picketers chained themselves to doorways and took other extreme measures.

"It was very stressful with protesters shouting and having large signs right by our entrances," she said. "The bubble zone allows an eight-foot bubble of protection within 50 feet of the clinic entrance; this small bubble -- especially by the door -- has made a world of difference."

She points out that eight feet is certainly close enough for picketers to communicate with patients, despite the suit's claim that things like "ambient noise" prevent them from doing so.

"I am grateful the bubble zone exists now," she said. "While some protesters just come and pray and not say or bother anyone, the folks who yell hurtful things and shame patients are not counseling, in my opinion."

News Sun, 28 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Socializing the Corrupt: Cheating, Education and Law Enforcement in Pennsylvania

Collaborations between higher education institutions and law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania have multiplied in the past two decades. Although they purportedly aim to improve law enforcement by educating current and future law enforcers, they have effectively lowered academic integrity standards and encouraged systemic cheating.

Cheating in online courses was not only tolerated, but to some extent, also encouraged by Penn State.(Photo: ini budi setiawan / Flickr)

Collaborations between higher education institutions and law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania have multiplied in the past two decades. Although many of these collaborations purportedly aim to improve law enforcement by educating current and future generations of police officers, they have unfortunately produced ethically questionable and socially deleterious consequences, such as lowering academic integrity standards, encouraging systemic cheating and artificially inflating graduation rates. As a result, higher education institution executives and law enforcement leaders in Pennsylvania have managed to create an educational system for socializing successive generations of corrupt police.

The expression socialization of the corrupt is Charles Bahn's. In the 1975 article "The Psychology of Police Corruption," he compares police corruption to academic cheating. In a study of students' attitudes towards cheating and their actual cheating behavior, there was no correlation. Students who disapproved of cheating still cheated; others who approved of cheating chose to abstain. Bahn concludes that, "while verbal morality is learned, it is not necessarily true that the related behaviors are also learned." The implication of this study for police training is that being taught the importance of an institution's core values (e.g., honesty, integrity, fidelity) and expressing one's commitment to these values do not curtail unethical behavior. Socializing the corrupt means filling students' heads with empty slogans and moral platitudes, hoping that they will do what is right in any particular situation.

In their own lapses of moral judgment and unethical behavior, higher education and law enforcement leaders effectively socialize students to behave similarly. For this reason, we should be particularly alert to partnerships between higher education institutions and law enforcement agencies that lower standards for ethical conduct, fail to enforce academic integrity policies or tolerate and/or encourage systemic cheating. When cheating is systemic, the problem cannot be reduced to the actions of a few bad actors or wayward students. Instead, it must be appreciated in terms of the relations and processes of the whole system. Executive leadership, administration and/or faculty explicitly or implicitly accept and endorse certain features of the entire learning process (e.g., lack of exam proctors, students' advance access to exam questions, widespread use of cheat sheets), the acceptance and endorsement of which gives an imprimatur to students' cheating behavior. Although most (though not all) of these features violate college and university policies, they are tolerated -- and in some cases encouraged -- by instructors, administrators and executive leaders who prioritize the achievement of productivity goals (e.g., retention and graduation rates) over academic integrity. In Pennsylvania, collaborations between law enforcement and academic institutions that enable systemic cheating and socialize the corrupt are becoming increasingly widespread.

Penn State World Campus

As a higher education institution, Penn State has suffered its fair share of controversy over the past decade. The Sandusky scandal, Joe Paterno's unpopular banishment (as well as his subsequent death) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association sanctions have scarred the institution's reputation, though perhaps not permanently. The Paterno family and the successor to Penn State's president Graham Spanier have sought to recover the good name of the former football coach and Penn State. I have worked as a philosophy faculty member at Penn State's Hazleton campus for the past seven years.

When former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky raped boys from his charity, The Second Mile, Penn State administrators covered up the crimes in order to protect the institution's reputation. However, the victims came forward; Sandusky was convicted on 52 counts of child molestation, and Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier and other university officials who failed to report the abuse were ousted. Not surprisingly, Penn State's student enrollment declined sharply soon after the Sandusky scandal became news. Enrollment numbers, especially at the satellite campuses, are still far below what they were prior to the scandal. The only division of Penn State with growing enrollment is World Campus, Penn State's online division.

In 2006, I was recruited to teach courses for World Campus. One of World Campus's academic integrity policies, intended to prevent systemic student cheating, was that the final exams for all its courses had to be proctored in person by someone approved by the administration. Otherwise, administrators and instructors feared that students would pay someone more knowledgeable than them to take their exams in their place. This unethical form of student cheating, called "ghosting," is specifically prohibited in the boilerplate academic integrity policy that is included in almost every Penn State course syllabus. For many students, finding a proctor and having the proctor approved by a World Campus administrator was an inconvenience. A year later, the policy had been largely scrapped in favor of the honor system for most courses in Penn State World Campus's course catalog (only a few online courses in math, sciences and sociology still require proctors).

When I complained in 2009 about the disappearance of proctors, I soon found myself without courses to teach the following term. In 2015, when I was invited back to World Campus and taught one course, I complained about poor course design and my suspicion that many students were cheating. One of the most engaged and industrious students in the course, Matthew Gagala, also complained to the philosophy department chair and academic division dean that the course was poorly designed. I was promptly told that I would never teach another philosophy course for World Campus again.

The removal of the proctoring safeguard is obviously a sore issue for faculty, since we are duty-bond to uphold academic integrity standards. For executive leaders and administrators, though, dispensing with the proctoring requirement meant one less barrier to increasing enrollments and generating tuition dollars from Penn State's only growing division.

Penn State World Campus serves an emerging and largely untapped student population from the corporate and military sectors. These students have limited time. For most, their employers are willing to pay the entire tuition bill or a substantial portion of it. Retaining and graduating these tuition-paying students is a major objective of Penn State. Many who earn their Penn State degrees through World Campus, particularly those serving in the military, eventually pursue careers in law enforcement. The removal of the exam-proctoring safeguard signaled to students that cheating in online courses was not only tolerated, but to some extent, also encouraged by Penn State. Academic integrity was nothing more than an empty slogan that took up space in the cluttered policies section of a course syllabus.

The decision to scrap the proctor requirement in most of the World Campus courses is not on par with the Sandusky scandal cover-up. Nonetheless, the lesson Sandusky teaches us is that we should voice our outrage when Penn State's leaders try to hide the truth. Former Penn State student and instructor Kristin Rawls hopes others will see the Sandusky scandal as a call for social action and public accountability. "Ultimately, I hope that the Sandusky case will have an important public impact, empowering others like me to speak out and motivating the public to demand answers about just what goes on in State College -- even beyond the football stadium," she writes.

Likewise, we should ask why World Campus decided to lower its academic integrity standards and demand accountability, including an explanation of what alternative to in-person proctoring prevents ghosting in Penn State's online courses.

In their own examination of the fallout from Penn State's Sandusky scandal, Henry and Susan Giroux noted, "The corporate university is descending more and more into what has been called 'an output fundamentalism,' prioritizing market mechanisms that emphasize productivity and performance measures that make a mockery of quality scholarship and diminish effective teaching -- scholarly commitments are increasingly subordinated to bringing in bigger grants to supplement operational budgets negatively impacted by the withdrawal of governmental funding."

Penn State's key productivity measures include enrollment, retention and graduation rates, which help in the recruitment of new cohorts of students who apply, accept and enroll at Penn State every year. Lowering academic integrity standards and encouraging systemic cheating in online courses has artificially inflated the figures for these output measures, including (but not exclusively for) military students, many of whom go on to pursue careers in law enforcement. In this way, Penn State has contributed to socializing new generations of corrupt police in Pennsylvania.

Harrisburg Area Community College

Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) has become embroiled in its own share of controversy over the past two decades, including employee theft of a quarter-of-a-million dollars by an executive vice president and warnings from their accreditor for lack of student learning and curriculum assessment. The same accreditor, Middle States Commission on Higher Education, had also warned Penn State over its mishandling of the Sandusky scandal.

In 2004, a cheating scandal erupted at HACC's municipal police academy. Cadets in the present and past classes reported that copying exams and employing them as cheat sheets was tolerated and even encouraged by instructors who announced in class that test questions and entire exams were reused from term to term. The release of the copied exams to the media led to an administrative crackdown and enforcement of HACC's long-neglected academic integrity policy. 

In its press release, HACC's leadership team offered its own account, clearly aimed at softening perceptions that the cheating was systemic:

The cadets involved had received copies of questions gleaned from earlier tests. Many of those questions are used from year to year and they are supposed to remain confidential even after the cadet leaves the academy. The earlier tests appear to have been recreated from memory after leaving the exams. There is no indication that physical copies of the exams ever left the testing room.

After three parallel investigations, no instructors or administrators at HACC's municipal police academy were punished for reusing test questions or entire exams. While a majority of the cadet class had been involved in the cheating, only two would be dismissed from the academy. HACC's leadership merely assured the public that it was "working with the Municipal Police Officers Training Commission to enhance the security of the entire testing procedure."

Similar to Penn State, HACC does not require proctors for online exams. A relative of mine in one of HACC's Associates programs once confessed to me that she had cajoled boyfriends and family members for years to complete her online coursework for her, including writing her papers and taking her online exams. As an educator, I felt I had an ethical duty to report her plagiarism and ghosting to HACC. Without inspecting all of the available evidence, HACC reported that it had completed an investigation and found no reasons for disciplining the student. I then filed a FOIA request to find out why HACC would so easily dismiss these flagrant academic integrity violations, but HACC denied my request on the grounds that disclosing the investigation records would violate the student's privacy, as protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). I believe that the FERPA exemption claim was only a pretext to hide the mechanisms by which HACC tolerates and encourages systematic student cheating for the sake of bolstering its retention and graduation rates.

Pennsylvania State Police Academy at Hershey

In February 2016, another cheating scandal came to light, this one at the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) Academy in Hershey. The similarities between it and the HACC municipal police academy scandal would shock, except for the long history of police training collaborations between PSP and HACC. (For instance, PSP and HACC jointly manage a Polygraph Institute at the Northeast Counterdrug Training Center.)

The official story of how the cheating scandal was exposed is that an instructor found a cadet's cheat sheet and contacted the media to report the wrongdoing. However, this account overlooks the curious fact that the cheating was made possible by the PSP instructor (and others like him at the Academy), who recycled test questions and entire tests from term to term. An alternative story offered by dismissed cadets is that one cadet had a crisis of conscience, alerted the media and administrators at the Academy, only to become a casualty of the affair, one of the 29 cadets who either quit or were forced to leave the Academy.

Many of the incoming cadets have little or no college education. Their anxiety about memorizing the procedures, laws and codes in the 1,900-page Criminal Justice Handbook likely influenced their decision to cheat. Almost identical to the HACC cheating scandal, prior cohorts of cadets had prepared the cheat sheets and handed them to successive incoming classes. Some instructors looked the other way, while others openly supported reliance on these inherited shortcuts. According to a report from Wallace McKelvey on, four cadets who either gave up or were told to leave anonymously described the cheating scheme as instructor-approved.

McKelvey writes: "Instructors routinely told the cadets, 'the next class should have it easier than you did.' That meant that members of the 143rd class provided study materials to the 144th class that they had been given by the members of the 142nd class." After a cadet confessed, he learned the truism that a good deed never goes unpunished. "Telling the truth did nothing for me," he said.

Meanwhile, in an earlier report on, McKelvey also reported that an anonymous source within the PSP Academy expressed disappointment that the platitudes about honesty and integrity that instructors teach cadets never influenced their behavior:

One thing I preach to young troopers is don't lie, period. Police officers don't get rich from this job. The one thing you bring to this profession, and should leave with, is your integrity.

Another lamented, "You're not supposed to lie, cheat, or steal." Nevertheless, Bahn's conclusion rings true in the wake of the PSP Academy cheating scandal: verbal morality and actual moral behavior, never the twain shall meet.

An Unfortunate Way Forward

Besides the collaborations between HACC and the PSP, Penn State has also offered to become a partner with the PSP in its struggle to overcome this public relations nightmare and recruit a larger and more diverse police force. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf described the challenge the state of Pennsylvania and the PSP face: "We're trying to address the issue of replenishing the state police force with more cadet classes. Obviously, if there indeed is a cheating scandal and people disqualify themselves because they aren't living up to the high standards of the state police in terms of integrity, that will create a problem, but I'm doing what I can." Penn State researchers will survey cadets and determine ways to boost recruitment, retention and graduation rates, similar to how Penn State overcame the Sandusky scandal by tapping a new population of students through its online division, World Campus. Unfortunately, this way forward may mean that the PSP Academy emulates HACC and Penn State, continually lowering academic integrity standards and encouraging systemic cheating, while maintaining secrecy and silencing dissent for the sake of artificially inflating productivity figures. In short, Pennsylvania is now poised to socialize whole new generations of corrupt state troopers.

News Sat, 27 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Chefs Get Creative About Restaurant Food Waste

(Image: Pixabay)(Image: Pixabay)

The numbers are big. $218 billion of food is wasted every year in the United States -- 1.3 percent of national GDP, or $1,500 a year for a family of four. In a country with 48 million food-insecure people, this represents 1,250 calories per person, every day.

For restaurants and chefs, reducing food waste is becoming business as usual. Not only does it help the bottom line -- a potential savings of $1.6 billion a year in an industry with tight margins -- it saves resources all along the food supply chain.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle for Restaurants

The "three Rs" mantra of enviros everywhere (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) is equally applicable to restaurants and other commercial and institutional food services, according to Dana Gunders of the National Resources Defense Council. Gunders breaks it down like this: Plan smart and don't have extra food to begin with, feed surplus to people if possible, animals second and then look at composting as a last resort.

She also points out that not all food waste is created equal. More resources go into producing animal products. Not wasting meat goes a long way in saving resources overall. Gunders compares throwing away a hamburger to taking a 90-minute hot shower, whereas throwing away an egg is like taking an 11-minute shower.

Gunders and others spoke Wednesday during a Chef Power Hour, a monthly conference call that gathers food experts, journalists and chefs from around the country to discuss issues buffeting the food system.

Chef Steven Satterfield of Miller Union Restaurant in Atlanta gets even more specific, advising chefs to purchase only what they can serve in a day or two. Tracking sales trends and waste closely, engaging staff in the waste reduction conversation and accessing large-scale composting services when possible also are key. In addition, he makes it a practice to source ingredients locally whenever possible and to purchase seconds from farmers for dishes where the produce's shape or color is not integral to the quality of the dish (think gazpacho).

Donating surplus food is not often an option for well-run restaurants, says Satterfield, because the volume is usually not enough for a feeding program. Restaurants could, however, feed their own employees before and after shift, as he does at Miller Union twice a day. 

Don't forget the egg. Everything, especially leftovers, tastes better with a fried egg on top. One surprisingly effective solution to reducing waste? Shrink the size of the takeout container. Restaurants that switch to smaller containers for leftovers find more food goes home, Gunders said. Apparently customers feel more comfortable taking a half a pork chop or that side salad home in a tiny package. After all, who wants to lug a big box around to save a little bit of food?

Lastly, Satterfield recommends reducing portion size on dishes that routinely come back from the table with leftovers. Restaurants can even lower the price on reduced portions and perhaps sell more overall.

Put an Egg on it

Reducing food waste is great and all, but what about the actual food? Culinary creativity, after all, is what chefs aspire to and one reason we go to restaurants. Satterfield encourages chefs to embrace creativity to use every possible part of an ingredient.

Garlic and onion peels, even corncobs, can be used for stock. Carrot tops can enhance pesto and herbal sauces. Overripe berries become jams and jellies. At Miller Union, fried carrot peels are a favorite garnish.

Specials created from diverted waste could be a chef's next culinary triumph. Satterfield created a popular $13 appetizer at his restaurant by soaking day-old bread strips in juiced kale stems and topping with apple jelly made from cores and peels and a chicken liver mousse. The mousse was inspired by a delivery of whole chickens that came with a bonus -- livers still intact.

Or, Satterfield says, chefs can simply blanch and freeze excess produce for future use. And don't forget the egg. Everything, especially leftovers, tastes better with a fried egg on top.  

The Policy Picture

Katherine Miller of the James Beard Foundation says chefs participating in their education programs are very receptive to making changes in their restaurants to reduce food waste. Still, there are barriers at the larger community and policy levels. For example, access to a large scale composting facility can be hit or miss. The Washington, DC area is home to 2,500 restaurants but has no composting business serving the food industry.

Betsy Barrett of Food Policy Action works to promote legislation before Congress to overhaul the US food system for safety, health, waste reduction and food access, among other improvements. One bill, the Food Recovery Act, includes Good Samaritan protection for businesses donating food as well as explicit labeling for "use by" dates that distinguishes between safety and peak quality dates. Both will keep food out of the landfill and on plates, says Barrett.

The Chef Power Hour is hosted by Chefs Collaborative, a Massachusetts-based program hoping to make sustainable practices second nature for every chef in the United States. Realizing that vision, says programs director Alisha Fowler, starts with raising awareness, educating food professionals and in turn, those professionals educating their customers. A little support at the policy level doesn't hurt either.

As Dana Gunders of NRDC puts it: "If the restaurant is setting a culture and having a dialogue with their customers about food waste, that's the best way to realize change."

News Sun, 28 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Disrupting the Myth of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Age of Trump, Sanders and Clinton

The 2016 presidential election cycle and its three prominent candidates are being held up as representing polarizing interests that are emblematic of the political, economic and cultural tensions of our time. Yet, a look back at the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt reveals some familiar tones and policy positions that capture those of Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

As president, Roosevelt is widely celebrated by American "progressives" for fathering the New Deal, which encompassed financial regulations, union rights and a number of social programs. While FDR's extramarital affairs are well known, what is less known is his racist and anti-Semitic worldview and white supremacist loyalties, which contributed to the suffering and death of millions of the most vulnerable people.

Many understand the New Deal as a program to save US capitalism based on Keynesian interventions meant to soften its blow via social programs and collective bargaining rights, while simultaneously regulating the most volatile aspects of the banking system. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was passed to serve this purpose. According to the National Labor Relations Board:

Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA") in 1935 to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the US economy.

The NLRA offered accommodations via basic legal protections to an increasingly radicalized labor movement during a time of intensive labor strife when communist and socialist affiliations or sympathies in the US were on the rise. Championed by a working-class German immigrant (Senator Robert Wagner) and signed by a hesitant President Roosevelt, the NLRA went on to be an increasingly effective instrument in regulating organized labor as a means to conform to, and partner with, the interests of capitalists. As Roosevelt described the act when signing it:

A better relationship between labor and management is the high purpose of this Act. By assuring the employees the right of collective bargaining it fosters the development of the employment contract on a sound and equitable basis. By providing an orderly procedure for determining who is entitled to represent the employees, it aims to remove one of the chief causes of wasteful economic strife.

As an act of recognition rights, the NLRA legally protected union activity and collective bargaining rights for most private sector workers, while at the same time making unions wards of a federal government that was constitutionally constructed to prioritize the interests of individualism and property rights.

As a presidential candidate and during his four terms in office, Roosevelt had a close relationship with Southern Jim Crow Democrats ("Dixiecrats") and often went out of his way to not disrupt the "southern way of life" of Jim Crow. Thus, he remained silent on segregation and in 1935 refused to support the federal anti-lynching legislation of the Costigan-Wagner bill. In 1937 FDR appointed Hugo Black, a U.S Senator from Alabama and known member of the Ku Klux Klan, to the US Supreme Court. Black went on to validate FDR's decision to incarcerate Japanese Americans by writing the court's majority opinion in the case of Korematsu v. United States. In 1941, FDR appointed James F. Barnes, a former US Senator from South Carolina and staunch segregationist to the US Supreme Court. Barnes left the court a year later to serve as FDR's Director of Office of Economic Stabilization, and between 1943-1945 served as the Director of FDR's Office of War Mobilization. Barnes was on FDR's short list for Vice President in 1944.

Catering to the demands of Dixiecrats, FDR excluded Black workers from key provisions of the New Deal, as Juan Perea of the Loyola University School of Law describes it, "to preserve the quasi-plantation style of agriculture that pervaded the still-segregated Jim Crow South." To do so, the New Deal was crafted to exclude agricultural and domestic workers from the Social Security Act (old-age benefits), the National Labor Relations Act (union rights) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (pay and hours standards). At the time, sixty-five percent of the Black workforce were agricultural and domestic workers. Filipino, Native, Japanese and other subordinated groups also made up a significant portion of the farm and domestic labor force. Writing in the Ohio State Law Journal, Juan Perea goes on to explain:

During the New Deal Era, the statutory exclusion of agricultural and domestic employees was well-understood as a race-neutral proxy for excluding blacks from statutory benefits and protections made available to most whites. Remarkably, despite these racist origins, an agricultural and domestic worker exclusion remains on the books today, entirely unaltered after seventy-five years. Section 152(3) of the National Labor Relations Act still excludes agricultural and domestic workers from the protections available under the Act.

Immediately following the 1936 Berlin Olympics hosted by Nazi Germany, FDR only invited white US Olympians to the White House, excluding eighteen Black athletes, including the four-time gold medal winner Jesse Owens. Owens would go on to comment, "Hitler didn't snub me -- it was our president who snubbed me. The president didn't even send me a telegram."

When elected president in 1933, FDR inherited the racist and unconstitutional program known as the "Mexican Repatriation Program." In the midst of the Great Depression when unemployment was high, white scapegoating of Black, Brown and Indigenous people only intensified. Within this context, the Mexican Repatriation Program, coordinated between federal, state, local governments and industry deported to Mexico more than one million people of Mexican ancestry living in the United States. Approximately sixty percent of those were Mexican American citizens. In the Pace Law Review, Kevin Johnson writes:

It is clear today that the conduct of federal, state, and local officials in the campaign violated the legal rights of the persons repatriated, as well as persons of Mexican ancestry stopped, interrogated, and detained but not removed from the country. The repatriation campaign also terrorized and traumatized the greater Mexican-American community.

Roosevelt actively supported the program during his first term in office and thereafter passively allowed the program to continue into the 1940s. When World War II led to a shortage of farm workers, FDR negotiated the 1942 Bracero Program with Mexico, which was a "guest worker" program that allowed Mexican farm laborers to enter the US on a temporary basis. Writing in the Cleveland State Law Review, Ronald Mize points out, "[t]hough the specific link has not been directly demonstrated, it is certainly more than coincidence that only six months previously, thousands of Japanese farmers and farm laborers (mostly residing in California) were detained as suspected 'dangerous enemy aliens.'"

As documented by historian Greg Robinson, long before he became president, FDR believed that Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, and Indians "should be excluded, on racial grounds, from equal citizenship and property rights with whites." In a 1923 essay in Asia magazine, FDR wrote, "that the mingling of white with oriental blood on an extensive scale is harmful to our future citizenship."

As tensions mounted between the US and Japan leading up to World War II, Japanese American citizens and residents (already legally prevented from owning property and interracial marriage) were further subjected to discrimination and violence, rationalized by unfounded suspicions of disloyalty. Although German and Italian Americans were not feared to be agents of Hitler and Mussolini, Japanese Americans were cast as a sinister race and inherent agents of Imperial Japan.

In early 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) took steps to more deeply examine these fears by appointing a number of investigators, most notably a wealthy businessman (and alleged intelligence agent) named Curtis B. Munson to investigate Japanese Americans on the Pacific Coast to determine if they were indeed a national security risk. Munson spent months traveling throughout the region interviewing military officers, military commanders, municipal leaders, FBI agents, Japanese Americans and those associated with them. When Munson's investigation was complete, he turned in an intelligence report on November, 7, 1941 titled Report on Japanese on the West (better known as the Munson Report), which concluded:  

There is no Japanese 'problem'… [t]here will be no armed uprising of Japanese. There is far more danger from Communists and people of the Bridges type [homeless people]… than there is from Japanese. For the most part the local Japanese are loyal to the United States or, at worst, hope that by remaining quiet they can avoid concentration camps or irresponsible mobs. We do not believe that they would be at least any more disloyal than any other racial group in the United States with whom we went to war.

Additional intelligence reports communicated to FDR during this time included a letter from John Steinbeck, which was solicited by an intelligence agent who knew that Steinbeck was closely associated with the Japanese community in Salinas, California. Steinbeck summarized his thoughts by writing, "there is no reason so far to suspect the loyalty of Japanese-American." In October 1941 Munson confided in a letter (not in his report), "the Japs here are in more danger from us than we are from them."

The US declared war on Japan on December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Two months later, ignoring his own administration's intelligence findings and defying his Attorney General's council against it, FDR signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. This presidential action ordered the evacuation and indefinite incarceration of 120,000 people of Japanese decent, of all ages, most of whom were US citizens, with many more being legal permanent resident "aliens." The evacuation involved those who lived in "military areas" that included all of California and much of Oregon, Washington and Arizona.

In February 1942, as World War II intensified and Japanese American incarceration was being enacted, Curtis B. Munson warned, "we are drifting into a treatment of the Japanese corresponding to Hitler's treatment of the Jews." In the same month US Army General Ralph Van Deman, known as the "The Father of American Military Intelligence," expressed that the removal of Japanese communities from the West Coast is "about the craziest proposition that I have heard of yet."

Roosevelt came from a wealthy aristocratic family who, like many patrician families of the time, were openly anti-Semitic. While serving as an Overseer of Harvard University in the 1920s, FDR initiated quotas on Jewish admission to the University.

FDR's long-standing anti-Semitism had grave consequences during the Jewish Holocaust. As Nazi Germany proceeded to persecute then exterminate European Jews in the 1930s and into the early 1940s (pre-war), FDR went out of his way to maintain diplomatic ties with Hitler. While Roosevelt was well aware of the Jewish Holocaust as it was intensifying, he was mostly silent about it publicly and consistently blocked Congressional and Jewish American efforts to save the lives of European Jews by allowing them to immigrate to the United States. This position was reflected in 1939 when nine-hundred and thirty Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi's aboard the German ship St. Louis implored the FDR administration through telegrams at sea to allow them entry into United States. Telegrams sent directly to FDR were not responded to, while a State Department response to passengers stated they must "await their turns on the waiting list and qualify for and obtain immigration visas before they may be admissible into the United States." Also in 1939, the Wagner-Rogers bill was introduced in Congress that would have allowed 20,000 German Jewish children into the US above and beyond the existing quotas. FDR refused to support Wagner-Rogers. Accordingly, Rafael Medoff, the founding director of The David Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, reports "there is evidence" that FDR once dismissed pleas from Jewish refugees as "Jewish wailing" and "sob stuff."

The book titled The Diary of Anne Frank details the 15-year-old Anne Frank's personal saga of when she and her family were hiding in an attic apartment for two years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. In the years leading up to the Frank family going into hiding, their eventual capture and Anne, her sister and mother's death; Otto Frank (Anne's father) desperately applied for US visas for his family on numerous occasions. In a futile attempt to use personal connections within the US to secure visas, Frank wrote to his influential American friend Nathan Straus Jr. in 1941 pleading, "I would not ask if conditions here would not force me to do all I can in time to be able to avoid worse… perhaps you remember that we have two girls. It is for the sake of the children mainly that we have to care for. Our own fate is of less importance." As Professor of History at American University Richard Kreitman frames it, "Frank's case was unusual only in that he tried hard very late -- and enjoyed particularly good or fortunate American connections. Still, he failed. The fact that Anne Frank was one of those who did not make it is a poignant reminder of what was lost."

Roosevelt friend and donor, Breckinridge Long, was appointed as the Assistant Secretary of State that oversaw immigration in 1940. In his diary, Long reported that when he described his visa procedures to FDR, "I found that he was 100% in accord with my ideas." Thus, at the behest of FDR, Long made already strict immigration laws even stricter. This resulted in ninety percent of the stringent quota slots available to immigrants from countries ruled over by the Nazi's never being filled. If Long had not done this, it is estimated that up to 190,000 Jews would have escaped the Holocaust under the restrictive polices alone. According to Arthur Klein, the author of the book An Unplanned Roundtrip, Long "obstructed rescue attempts, drastically restricted immigration, and falsified figures of refugees admitted." In a 1940 intra-department memo, Long wrote:

We can delay and effectively stop for a temporary period of indefinite length the number of immigrants into the United States. We could do this by simply advising our consuls to put every obstacle in the way and to require additional evidence and to resort to various administrative devices which would postpone and postpone and postpone the granting of the visas."  

In response, one refugee aid worker declared, "We cannot continue to let these tragic people [German Jews] go on hoping that if they comply with every requirement, if they get all the special documents required…if they nerve themselves for the final interview at the Consulate, they may just possibly be the lucky ones to get visas when we know that practically no one is granted visas in Germany today." The simple fact remains, if the US would have relaxed its immigration polices and proactively intervened to rescue European Jews instead of mollifying Hitler, hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of lives would have been saved.

In 1942, FDR appointed Johns Hopkins University president Isaiah Bowman (a known racist and anti-Semite) to lead the Office of Post-War Planning, tasked with examining population resettlement after the war with a focus on "problems arising out of racial admixtures and…the scientific principles involved in the process of miscegenation [interbreeding]." One such concern of FDR's that was posed to Bowman was if the darker "South Italian stock" was "as good as the North Italian stock" and how their biological characteristics compared with other national groups. FDR also expressed concern about Jewish influence in postwar North Africa, fearing they would "overcrowd the professions." FDR had expressed similar concerns about Jews in the US and elsewhere. FDR claimed that Jewish quotas,

…would further eliminate the specific and understandable complaints which the Germans bore towards the Jews in Germany, namely, that while they represented a small part of the population, over fifty percent of the lawyers, doctors, school teachers, college professors, etc, in Germany, were Jews.

FDR is also on record claiming that antisemitism in Poland resulted from Jews dominating the economy.

As documented by Henry Wallace (FDR's Vice President) when approving a post-war plan recommended by Bowman, Roosevelt expressed his desire to "to spread the Jews thin all over the world." According to Wallace's diary, FDR claimed to have done this during his time as a prominent resident of Merriwether County, Georgia "and at Hyde Park [New York] on the basis of adding four or five Jewish families at each place. He claimed that the local population would have no objection if there were no more than that." With the knowledge of the president, Bowman's Office of Post-War Planning distributed reports throughout the Roosevelt administration that "advised against mixing races and warned that the admission of significant numbers of foreigners would endanger America's racial well-being." Bowman implored, "Our civilization will decline unless we improve our human breed… [t]o support the genetically unfit and also allow them to breed is to degrade our society."

In sum, it is important to understand FDR's worldview as being reflective of the inequitable cultural political economy the United States was founded upon. It is also important to recognize the best and worst of FDR's "progressive" policies as being pragmatic actions to save and preserve the nation's original social order. Yet, in the era of global financialization, true power has no national loyalties, possesses no conscience, its domain knows no borders, its institutions have no center and its wealth has no real material value. While Trump and Sanders represent a return to variations of the nation's "good ole days," both of which the FDR administration encompassed; it is Clinton whose popularity depends on certain myths while more thoroughly representing the pragmatic interests of this era's inequitable power structures.

Opinion Sun, 28 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Vijay Prashad: Hillary Clinton Shows Dangerous Tendency to Go to War No Matter the Consequences

In our extended interview with scholar Vijay Prashad, he discusses the US presidential election and notes that while President Obama was reticent, then-Secretary of State "Hillary Clinton led the charge against Libya. This shows, to my mind, a profound dangerous tendency to go into wars overseas, damn the consequences. If you're looking at this from outside the United States, there's a real reason to be terrified."


AMY GOODMAN: And what do the US elections mean for what's taking place now?

VIJAY PRASHAD: Well, look, I mean, it's -- you can see from your news report at the beginning that, in domestic terms, there is a great difference between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump has not only been absorbed by the white nationalists, but he himself appears to be a white nationalist. But seen from the rest of the world, the difference between the two is minimal. You know, here you have Donald Trump, who is, in many ways, erratic. God knows what he'll do once he becomes president. He will lead a party --

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think God knows what he'll do, once he --

VIJAY PRASHAD: Yeah, I think God knows what he'll do. You know, I mean, I think that if the Republican Party was at such a place where Ted Cruz, who said that he would like to bomb Syria, to see the desert essentially be irradiated -- if the Republican Party can see somebody like that as normal, as rational, then, you know, God help us if the Republicans are in charge of things.

But let's take the case of Hillary Clinton. You know, here's somebody who actually pushed Obama to go into the Libyan operation. You know, Obama was reticent to enter the operation in Libya. The French were very eager. And Hillary Clinton led the charge against Libya. This shows, to my mind, a profound dangerous tendency to go into wars overseas, you know, damn the consequences. And I think, therefore, if you're looking at this from outside the United States, there's a real reason to be terrified that whoever becomes president -- as Medea Benjamin put it to me in an interview, whoever wins the president, there will be a hawk in the White House.

News Fri, 26 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Climate Change Pledges Not Nearly Enough to Save Tropical Ecosystems

US Secretary of State John Kerry signs the Paris Agreement at the UN in New York while holding granddaughter Dobbs Higginson on his lap. Scientists warn that the agreement is insufficient to prevent disastrous climate change. (Photo courtesy of US Department of State)US Secretary of State John Kerry signs the Paris Agreement at the UN in New York while holding granddaughter Dobbs Higginson on his lap. Scientists warn that the agreement is insufficient to prevent disastrous climate change. (Photo courtesy of US Department of State)

The Paris Agreement marked the biggest political milestone to combat climate change since scientists first introduced us in the late 1980s to perhaps humanity's greatest existential crisis.

Last December, 178 nations pledged to do their part to keep global average temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over preindustrial levels -- adding on an even more challenging, but aspirational goal of holding temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

To this end, each nation produced a pledge to cut it's own carbon emissions, targeting everything from the burning of fossil fuels to deforestation to agriculture.

It seems like a Herculean task, bound, the optimistic say, to bring positive results.

Yet, less than eight months later, a study in the journal Nature finds that those pledges are nowhere near as ambitious as they need to be to keep temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius, let alone 1.5 degrees. And in August, British scientists reported that this year's record El Niño has already pushed us perilously close to the 1.5 degree milestone.

The Bramble cay melomy (Melomys rubicola) declared extinct in 2016 due to habitat loss due to rising sea levels, the first mammal known to go extinct due to human caused climate change. (Photo by Ian Bell courtesy of the Government of Queensland, Australia, Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY) license)The Bramble cay melomy (Melomys rubicola) declared extinct in 2016 due to habitat loss due to rising sea levels, the first mammal known to go extinct due to human caused climate change. (Photo by Ian Bell courtesy of the Government of Queensland, Australia, Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY) license)

Meanwhile, temperatures are not rising evenly around the planet, with the Arctic warming far faster than the tropics. That fact originally caused scientists to hypothesize that polar ecosystems would suffer more dire climate change impacts ahead of tropical habitats.

But over recent years, researchers began seeing that some tropical ecosystems are being decimated by climate change far faster than expected -- think coral reefs -- while many more habitats may be weakened over time -- think mangroves, cloud forests and rainforests -- if global human effort and political willpower don't surge quickly.

Toward a Hotter World

Study leader, Joeri Rogelj, told Mongabay that he wasn't surprised by his findings showing that current national carbon reduction pledges would blast past the 2 degree target, leading to global warming of between 2.6 degrees Celsius and 3.1 degrees Celsius.

"The pledges currently on the table are a first step in a continuous process of pledging, reviewing, and taking stock to what they add up," said Rogelj, a Research Scholar at the Energy Program of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). "This process has been defined by the Paris Agreement, and nations are thus expected to review and adjust their pledges in light of the best science over the coming years."

The Paris Agreement was structured from the bottom up, whereby national pledges would be reviewed every 5 years (beginning in 2020) in order to make sure that carbon cut targets are boosted as time goes by.

Still, Rogelj cautioned, if pledges aren't sufficiently ramped up – and followed through on – it will make achieving the 2 degrees Celsius goal "significantly more ambitious" after 2030.

While a temperature rise of 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius, as opposed to 2.6 to 3.1 degrees Celsius, may not sound like much in numerical terms, many scientists have pinpointed the 2 degree target as the limit beyond which the world would face dangerous climate change.

Impacts would likely, many say, become catastrophic if temperatures are allowed to come anywhere near 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

Yet, for some ecosystems a 2 degree C rise in temperature is already going to be a catastrophe. Tropical ecosystems, just like Arctic ecosystems, appear to be particularly vulnerable because species there have evolved within very specific and often narrow temperature ranges. As many species face escalating temperatures, they may simply not survive.

And temperature rise isn't the only global warming impact to consider: extreme weather, ocean acidification, and sea level rise are all effects that are currently, and will continue to be, felt across the tropics.

Coral Reef-mageddon

"We're kidding ourselves that a 2 degree Celsius global increase will be safe for coral reefs and for the people who depend on them, given the damage we're already seeing," Terry Hughes bluntly stated in a Mongabay interview.

"Most reefs have already bleached three or more times in less than 20 years," explained Hughes, who is the Director of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

He points to his own country's global warming-catastrophe: the Great Barrier Reef. Super-warm waters this year led to around half of the coral in the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef dying off. In some places, nothing is left but white coral ghosts. These massive changes came far earlier than were forecast by climate models.

Tropical corals -- tiny animals that build up reefs over time out of the exoskeletons of their ancestors -- live in a complex, symbiotic relationship by trading nutrients with single celled algae called zooxanthellae. It's these zooxanthellae that lend corals their splendid bright colors along with the bulk of their energy.

But when coral reef water temperatures get too high, the coral expels the zooxanthellae and the symbiotic partnership, at least for a while, is shattered. This is called coral bleaching and it doesn't mean the coral is dead – yet. But it is starving.

Corals can recover from such bleaching events, but not if they occur too often or if the waters simply become too hot for the zooxanthellae to return. If that happens, a tipping point is reached where the coral will starve for energy and the whole reef is at risk of dying and being taken over by seaweed -- setting up a new, less biodiverse marine ecosystem.

Coral reef biodiversity is seriously threatened by climate change. (Photo by Richard Ling licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version)Coral reef biodiversity is seriously threatened by climate change. (Photo by Richard Ling licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version)"This is the third global bleaching event since the first one in 1998, triggered by a rise in average global temperature of just one [degree] Celsius," Hughes noted darkly.

What's happened on the Great Barrier Reef due to a 1 degree Celsius rise is almost beyond comprehension -- a 2 degree Celsius increase and the world's biggest coral reef and one of the globe's greatest ecosystems may be eradicated -- something that could happen within a few decades.

While nearly 50 percent of the northern Great Barrier Reef was lost this year, the southern portion was also damaged. In all, around 90 percent of the entire ecosystem was hit by this current bleaching -- an event linked to high El Niño temperatures supercharged by climate change.

The Great Barrier Reef is not alone: what happened there is just a part of a vast global bleaching event that began in 2014 (the longest yet recorded) which is striking many of the world's reefs with similar devastation. The full impact will likely not be known for months, if not years.

This mass-bleaching event, combined with recent ones, raises a serious question: can coral reefs survive any further climate change? Or have they already hit their survival threshold?

Jan Lough weighs in, asserting that the "only acceptable level" for coral reefs is the Paris aspirational goal of 1.5 degree Celsius. But this is a goal some scientists believe we have already passed, or inevitably will pass shortly -- there already being too much heat in the climate system to avert this temperature increase.

Add to this the fact that even if global carbon emissions begin to fall soon, it's extremely unlikely they will fall fast enough to conserve the bulk of the planet's coral reefs.

Lough said that even if the improbable 1.5 degree Celsius goal were achieved, some coral reefs are "likely to change in terms of community composition, as resilient species survive, and vulnerable species are lost, with future bleaching events." This will make surviving reefs "much simpler ecosystems."

And science tells us that simpler ecosystems tend to be less robust and more vulnerable to stressors. Among those escalating stressors: ocean acidification -- caused when high levels of atmospheric carbon are absorbed by the oceans. Acidification at high levels could eventually cause corals and shellfish to melt away into the seawater.

Coral is threatened by both warmer ocean temperatures and ocean acidification. (Photo by Nhobgood Nick Hobgood licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)Coral is threatened by both warmer ocean temperatures and ocean acidification. (Photo by Nhobgood Nick Hobgood licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

Tropical coral reefs are arguably the ocean's most important ecosystem. They are by far the most biodiverse marine habitat: although they cover just one percent of the ocean's surface, it's estimated they may house a staggering 25 percent of the world's marine species at some point in their lifecycles.

That is bad news for human beings too: coral reefs are vital to many of the world's fisheries and provide food and work to hundreds of millions of people.

"Tragically, we're losing corals from the most remote, most pristine places where there are no other human pressures," said Hughes. "We simply have to reduce emissions if we want our children to see reefs for themselves."

"Shocking" Mangrove Die-off

There is some good news on the climate change front regarding tropical coral reefs. Last year, scientists reported finding a reef-building refuge for corals -- they hide from high temperatures and acidification extremes by growing in the shade of mangrove tree roots. But now, the bad news: other scientists have found that mangrove forests are being seriously impacted by global warming and sea level rise.

Norman Duke, an expert on mangroves with James Cook University, suffered a terrible shock in June when he flew a helicopter over northern Australia's Gulf of Carpentaria to witness a reported mass die off of mangrove forests in an otherwise remote and healthy region.

"I have not seen such imagery anywhere before," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). "I work in many places around the world, and I look at damaged mangroves as part of my work all the time. These are the most shocking images of dieback I've ever seen."

Duke estimated that this mass mangrove death covered some 7,000-10,000 hectares (17,297-24,710 acres). Looking at past satellite images, he was able to confirm that the mangroves only died during the past year.

He believes super-hot temperatures, combined with a lost rainy season are responsible.

The mangroves simply couldn't stand up against the one-two punch of extreme drought combined with climate change. Duke now believes the Gulf of Carpentaria mangrove ecosystem could change over time into saltmarsh and saltpans.

"Where rainfall is higher, then these wetlands are dominated by mangroves, and where rainfalls are low, then these same wetlands are dominated by saltmarsh and saltpans," he explained.

This year's die off, emphasized Duke, was "an extreme response instead of the previously observed gradual shift in the zonal ecotones." Climate change is popularly presented in the media as unfolding slowly over decades, with a gradual shift in temperature and precipitation regimes. But the reality we are seeing in the tropics and elsewhere is sometimes quite different, with some years (such as 2015-16) bringing sudden, abrupt temperature increases accompanied by drastic shifts in rainfall levels around the globe.

In the same way that coral reefs in a warmer world could be suddenly forced past a tipping point into a new type of ecosystem dominated by seaweed, mangrove forests could shift to become less-biodiverse and less productive saltmarsh, saltpan, or other type of ecosystem.

The climate change double punch of increased heat and drought could even prove to be a quadruple punch: mangroves are also threatened by rising sea levels and by extreme weather events, such as global warming-induced super-storms.

Mangroves already represent some of the best buffers against intensifying extreme weather along coasts worldwide, but battering by too many severe storms can take its toll and weaken mangroves already struggling against rising temperatures and more erratic rains. Studies have shown that warmer seas are breeding more intense hurricanes, a reality that will escalate as global atmospheric and ocean temperatures climb.

Sea levels will also continue rising -- due to both the expansion of ocean water as it is heated, and the melting of land-based glaciers. As that happens, marine waters will swamp many mangrove forests, eventually likely killing them.

One ray of hope for mangrove forests: rising sea levels may allow this ecosystem to move inland, taking over freshwater marshes as they become inundated by salt water -- but such a takeover depends on many factors. The potential for mangrove expansion also doesn't take into account the rapid degradation and clear cutting of mangrove forests to make way for fish and shrimp aquaculture operations to feed the globe's rapidly rising human population.

Burning Rainforest

Predicting the impact of climate change on rainforests is difficult, but scientists expect some major shifts and potential shocks.

One way in which climate change is expected to hit rainforests is by changing rainfall levels, likely increasing the length and intensity of droughts and thereby increasing the risk of wildfires.

Massive drought and huge wildfires that were once rare to non-existent in tropical forests are becoming more common in places like the Amazon and Indonesia. (Though it is important to point out that these gigantic fires are often stoked or directly caused by careless deforestation and agroindustry policies. In Indonesia, for example, it's been customary for locals to clear land through burning.)

But continuing drought this year, NASA warns, has left the Amazon drier than any year since 2002. Doug Morton, an Earth scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a press release that the regional drought has "set the stage for extreme fire risk in 2016 across the southern Amazon." The risk of fire from July to October exceeds levels seen in both 2005 and 2010 when vast areas of the Amazon rainforest burned.

Intensified droughts and wildfires certainly harm wildlife and plant life in the tropics where species haven't adapted to fire as in temperate forests.. Such events also have another impact: they worsen climate change.

Last year's Indonesian wildfires, for example, released more carbon than the entire US economy over the time period the country was burning. In the Amazon, extreme drought in 2010 impeded tree growth and increased tree death, shutting down the Amazon's vast and vital carbon sink, temporarily preventing carbon storage across the region. And of course, the shutdown of tropical forest carbon sinks could mean more carbon in the atmosphere, worsening in turn the global warming impacts on rainforests.

Still, Lucy Rowland, a University of Exeter post-doctoral research fellow, said the future impacts of global warming on rainforests remain "very hard to predict."

"We can say that rising temperatures, particularly accompanied by drought, are likely to limit rainforest atmospheric carbon uptake and most likely lead to tree mortality." But part of what makes forecasts difficult, according to Rowland, is that warmer temperatures and drought in rainforests are also offset in part by increased levels of photosynthesis fueled by rising CO2 levels.

Unfortunately, non-plant species will receive no such compensation. A recent study in Scientific Reports found that even with a warming of only 2 degrees Celsius, some animal populations (as well as many human populations) may have to move as much as 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) over less than a century in order to stay within their current temperature regime.

And of course, the specific trees, shrubs, or flowering plants which those animals associate with, and rely on for food and other needs, must likewise somehow move along with them.

If they don't move, the authors of the paper write, "they will simply bear the cost of elevated environmental temperatures."

Those species unable to move or adapt will go extinct.

Cloud Forests Marching Too Slowly

While scientific uncertainties make climate change effects on rainforest ecosystems hard to predict, the impacts on tropical cloud forests are more straightforward. In fact, "cloud forests are among the most vulnerable terrestrial ecosystems to climate change," according to one Nature study.

Like rainforests, cloud forests thrive in a very particular temperature range and require a significant amount of moisture. But cloud forests are also found in high mountains; they crown summits at very specific altitudes in great luminescent rings of green, and require almost constant cloud cover -- hence their names -- to survive.

Scientists predict that as the world warms, cloud forest plant and animal species will be forced to migrate upslope to stay within safe, livable temperature ranges. Indeed, researchers have already documented cloud forest plants attempting to move upward. But already scientists are finding that although some plants are migrating toward mountain summits, they are not doing so fast enough to keep up with rapidly rising temperatures.

And those migrating forests could hit roadblocks. A 2013 study presented in PLOS ONE found that cloud forests in Peru were finding it difficult to move into the habitat occupied by the puna grasslands above them. The researchers don't know why this is the case, but it may spell doom for many of the plant and animal species in this region unless humans intervene and provide assistance. Many cloud forests will also run into human-dominated landscapes, such as livestock pasture or montane agriculture as they try and move upslope.

Also, as temperatures climb up the mountain, that will open the door for the large scale movement of lowland species upward, potentially resulting in conflicts with upland species. In Costa Rica, one researcher reports that 25 lowland bat species have already moved up into the famed Monteverde Cloud Forest.

Climate change may also shift cloud cover and life giving rains away from tropical cloud forests. Without clouds, cloud forests and the unique wildlife and plants they support are unlikely to persist. The Monteverde cloud forest is already seeing such drying out.

If global temperatures rise unabated, cloud forests will eventually be forced to retreat higher and higher up mountain slopes, until upon reaching the very peaks, they simply have no place to go. With no escape route to cooler climes, submerged in heat, cloud forest species would be obliterated.

Norman Duke said it's important to remember that none of these climatic changes and impacts are strictly linear. "While there may be a longer term trend upwards, sea level doesn't just rise steadily, it also goes up and down. This applies to most of the [climate change] factors, including temperature."

But as temperatures rise, there is no question that impacts will follow suit. "The greater the rise in temperature the worse the consequences," noted Duke.

The Potential for Mass Extinction

Mark Urban, with the University of Connecticut, in a study last year looked at extinction risks for species linked to climate change. To get the best estimate possible, Urban analyzed findings from 131 studies.

He found that currently 2.8 percent of species face extinction due to climate change -- this with a warming of around 0.9 degrees Celsius. If that warming jumps to the Paris pledged 2 degrees, extinction rates could rise to 5.2 percent of all species on the planet.

And if we hit 3.1 degrees Celsius this century, as projected by Joeri Rogelj's study, which totaled up the current Paris pledges and the maximum temperature rise they could bring?

Then we could lose 9 percent of the world's species due to global warming.

That's nearly one-in-ten species facing extinction from climate change -- and of course that doesn't figure in extinction from other human induced threats like habitat degradation and destruction, deforestation, pollution, overharvesting, poaching, invasive species, or a lethal combination of any two or more of these combined with climate change.

Greenpeace Climate March 2015 Madrid. World leaders are under increasing public pressure to take action on global warming. The current carbon cut commitments made by 178 nations under the Paris Agreement, though a start, are not enough to prevent serious damage to tropical ecosystems. (Photo by OsvaldoGago licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)Greenpeace Climate March 2015 Madrid. World leaders are under increasing public pressure to take action on global warming. The current carbon cut commitments made by 178 nations under the Paris Agreement, though a start, are not enough to prevent serious damage to tropical ecosystems. (Photo by OsvaldoGago licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

It's also important to realize that climate change impacts, including extinctions, won't suddenly just cease in 2100. Without action they will continue apace into the next century.

"With every increase in the global temperature, extinction risks do not just increase, they accelerate," Urban explained. "Therefore, even going a bit beyond the current 2 degree Celsius limit greatly enhances the risk to the Earth's biodiversity."

That's why "nations have to start implementing their [Paris] pledges without delay." said Rogelj.

He added that he hoped studies like his "help countries to increase the ambition of their pledges, even before 2020." That's the year when countries must come up with their second round of pledges.

Raising the Stakes, Avoiding the Endgame

But cutting emissions is only part of the answer. Warming is already occurring and will keep occurring due to the climate forcing already introduced into the climate system. And ecosystems are already suffering its impacts, as are many human populations.

As a result, William Laurance, a rainforest ecologist with James Cook University, asserts that conservationists should also turn to an old, but tried, tool to combat climate change: protected areas.

"In terms of [climate] mitigation measures, the best strategies are to conserve large, topographically and climatically complex, and interconnected protected areas," he said. "This will give species the best chance to move or find refugia during extreme climatic events." Those large core areas could be linked by wide wild corridors that allow for mass animal and plant migrations to adjust for climate change.

For species and ecosystems in dire straits, humans will have to decide whether or not to intervene. Should we pick up and move species to help them remain in the right climate? Should we bring especially climate-sensitive species into captivity to create insurance populations -- captive refugia -- against extinction? Could some ecosystems only survive in manmade climate-controlled facilities, with hopes that one day the world could be rewilded?

At the same time, Laurance said, conservationists can't ignore other threats "such as poaching, illegal fires, and habitat fragmentation" that could wipe out species already struggling in a warming world.

In addition rapid research and response scientific teams may be needed to respond to climate change induced ecosystem emergencies already impacting endangered species and biodiversity hotspots.

Paris was a first step. But it was a late step -- the world has already warmed 0.9 degrees Celsius. Now countries must struggle to achieve individual carbon cut pledges that will add up to meet the overall goal. Then in 2020 -- or preferably before -- they will need to step up and redouble their efforts to meet new more stringent goals. This was always the plan, but it won't be easy.

However, coral reefs and cloud forests haven't the time to wait. And nature does not negotiate. Nor does the 2 degree Celsius goal set in Paris offer any real assurance to the survival of many tropical ecosystems and species.

"I remain optimistic that we can still limit warming," said Urban. "But even if we manage to meet [the Paris] targets, we still have the challenge of keeping natural and human systems intact for a long and protracted heat age as a result of centuries of emissions."

News Sun, 28 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400