In today's On the News segment: Renewable energy isn't only outpacing new fossil fuel capacity, it's also spurring billions of dollars in economic development; the New York Court of Appeals says that towns have the right to ban fracking; an island nation in the Pacific is hedging its bets against climate change; and more.
Thom Hartmann here - on the best of the rest of....science and green news.....
You need to know this. Big Oil should be terrified. Renewable energy isn't only outpacing new fossil fuel capacity, it's also spurring billions of dollars in economic development. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, "the world is already adding more renewable-energy capacity each year than fossil fuel capacity." And, a new report from the Sierra Club says that investing $500 million in renewable energy in the next few years will stimulate a market for clean energy services for the poor that generates about $12 billion every year. Five hundred million is chump change compared to the costs of fossil fuel development, and 12 billion is one heck of a return on investment. Making the switch to green energy is one of the most important parts of our fight against global warming. In addition, the solar and wind revolutions also have the potential to stimulate world economies and fight global poverty. Unlike fossil fuel extraction, which destroys our environment for the benefit of billionaires, renewable energy protects our planet, and spurs real economic growth that can improve the lives of millions. Whether or not Big Oil wants to admit it, the switch to green energy is happening, and it's only going to pick up steam. As Bloomberg's 2030 Market Outlook project points out, "renewable energy may reap as much as two-thirds of the $7.7 trillion in investment for building new power plants by 2030." It's only a matter of time before this green revolution does away with toxic fossil fuels. There's much more we need to do to fight global warming and poverty, but we must remember that it's "when" - not "if" - we finally stop Big Oil from standing in the way of progress.
The New York Court of Appeals says that towns have the right to ban fracking. Last week, that court upheld a ruling from a lower court, which said that towns can block natural gas drilling, even when state law allows fracking. The New York towns of Middlefield and Dryden were the subjects of this lawsuit, despite the fact that 170 towns and cities in that state have also banned fracking. The oil and gas industry filed the lawsuit in 2011, claiming that New York's gas, oil, and mining laws precede local bans on drilling. The courts disagreed with the industry, and said that local governments have the authority to decide how their land is used. Although a 2008 fracking moratorium has kept natural gas drilling out of New York state, the gas industry has been biding their time to get their hands on land throughout that state. These cities and towns passed fracking bans to keep drilling out if and when that moratorium is lifted, and those bans have now been upheld. After the ruling, a town official from Dryden said, "Today the Court stood with the people," and added, "It's clear that people, not corporations, have the right to decide how their community develops."
They say that those who don't learn from history are bound to repeat it. According to a recent study from Washington State University, that same principal applies when it comes to overpopulation. Researchers studied one of our nation's longest "baby booms," which occurred in the Native American population between 500 and 1300 A.D. During that time, new understanding of farming and food storage allowed more stability, and birth rates "exceeded the highest in the world today." However, overpopulation made it nearly impossible to survive after a long drought around the mid-1100s, and cities that once held 40,000 people were wiped out within 30 years. While a smaller population could have saved resources and survived, the large numbers made it impossible to maintain society's needs. Difficult conditions led to increased violence and deterioration, and before long, these populations completely crashed. We could learn a lot from this archeological history. As one of the authors pointed out, "population grown has its consequences."
An island nation in the Pacific is hedging its bets against climate change. The Republic of Kiribati has recently purchased eight square miles of land on a larger island 1,200 miles away. Kiribati has already been effected by rising oceans. In some areas of the small country, sea level has risen more than a centimeter a year – about four times the global average. President Anote Tong knows it is only a matter of time before his nation disappears beneath the sea, and he is doing his best to protect the 100,000 people who call Kiribati home. As salt water is already contaminating that nation's ground water, for now, they will use the new land for farming to protect their food security. However, President Tong said that at some point, they can relocate residents to higher ground on their new property. It's only logical to prepare for the inevitable, and to ensure that your nation has enough to eat. At some point, many countries will have to deal with this same problem, so it's a good thing that Kiribati is planning ahead.
And finally... Many celebrities use their status to help out a worthy cause. In addition to making new films and being a father to six, actor Brad Pitt is also working to help Native Americans. Pitt runs a non-profit called Make it Right, which built 150 sustainable homes in Louisiana's Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina. Now the actor is making it right for Native Americans in Fort Deck, Montana. Make it Right has partnered with the tribes to build 20 green homes for low-income residents, including special residences for seniors and the disabled. Brad Pitt's organization is using responsible development, reclaimed materials, and solar power to build these homes, which residents will own after renting for 15 years. Various architecture firms and sustainable materials companies are helping out with the project, and breathing new life into the Fort Deck community. Low-income home ownership experts are even helping to set up the system to ensure that people can afford to own these homes. If more celebrities used their status, their time, and their money in the way that Brad Pitt does, we can only imagine how they could improve our world.
And that's the way it is for the week of July 7, 2014 - I'm Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.