News

Wal-Mart to close 269 stores, 154 of them in the US

NEW YORK – Wal-Mart is closing 269 stores, more than half of them in the U.S. and another big chunk in its challenging Brazilian market.

The stores being shuttered account for a fraction of the company’s 11,000 stores worldwide and less than 1 percent of its global revenue.

The closures will affect 16,000 workers, 10,000 of them in the U.S.

The announcement comes three months after its CEO Doug McMillon told investors the world’s largest retailer would review its store fleet in amid increasing competition from all fronts, including from online rival Amazon.com.

In the U.S., 154 locations will be closed, most of them small format stores called Walmart Express, which were launched as a test program in 2011. The remaining 115 locations to close are spread over Latin America, mostly in Brazil.

This story will be updated as we learn more information.

California Livestock Produce 1,400 Times More Methane Gas than L.A. Leak

So you may have heard that since the end of October, a storage well that is operated by SoCal Gas in Aliso Canyon, outside of Los Angeles has been leaking methane. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) that so far, 78,000 tons of methane has been released and that number is steadily climbing.

This is bad people. Methane is greenhouse gas that has a global warming potential 86 times greater than that of CO2 on a 20 year time frame. The EDF says that the daily leakage has the same 20-year climate impact as driving 7 million cars a day.

But is this really the worst U.S. environmental disaster since the BP oil spill? What about… livestock?

According to Mother Jones 70,000 pounds of methane is being released every hour which equates to 1.68 million pounds per day.

In the state of California, there are 6.95 million cows. The average cow produces between 250-500 liters of methane every day. The cows residing in California alone are emitting over 193 million pounds of methane every single day.

This means that currently, cattle being raised for meat and dairy are emitting 1,448 times more methane than the Aliso Canyon gas leak!

This methane leak is a terrible disaster that likely won’t be fixed until spring of 2016 and unfortunately is all but out of our hands. So why not help alleviate, or not contribute to even more methane being emitted into our atmosphere, and adopt a vegan diet today?

www.cowspiracy.com/take-action

Costa Rica Powers 285 Days of 2015 With 100% Renewable Energy

In March, EcoWatch reported that Costa Rica powered the first 82 days of the year solely with renewable energy. Now that we’re closing in on the end of the year, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) announced that the country ran entirely on renewables for 285 days between Jan. 1 and Dec. 17.

“We close 2015 with 99 percent clean energy!” ICE wrote on Facebook, saying that “the energy produced … in 2015 reaches 98.95 percent with renewable sources as of December 17.”

“We are closing 2015 with renewable electricity milestones that have put us in the global spotlight,” ICE electricity division chief Luis Pacheco told AFP.

The majority of the country’s energy (75 percent) comes from hydropower, thanks to a vast river system and abundant rainfall, and the rest of its renewables come from geothermal, biomass, wind and solar. Despite a very dry year, ICE said it was ahead of its renewable energy targets and Pacheco predicted that 2016 would be an even better year because a new $2.3 billion hydroelectric plant will be coming online.

The country reportedly wants to move away from its dependency on hydropower, though, and harness more of its electricity needs from geothermal and wind. It plans to retire its heavy fuel oil-powered Moin plant in 2017 and wants to move its transportation sector away from fossil fuels. The country has made all this progress, while reducing overall energy costs, which fell by 12 percent this year and the ICE expects costs to keep falling.

“The government has pledged to build an electric train which will be integrated with public buses,” Gabriel Goldschmidt, regional head of infrastructure for Latin America and Caribbean at the International Finance Corporation, which is part of the World Bank, told the Huffington Post. “There is also a proposal to start replacing oil-powered cars with electric cars as part of a new bill in congress that aims to offer consumer incentives to lower the prices of these cars. This would have multiple benefits including better air quality.”

Costa Rica’s heavy reliance on hydropower has been criticized by some. Gary Wockner of Save the Colorado argues that hydropower is actually “one of the biggest environmental problemsour planet faces” and a ” false solution” for addressing climate change.

“Hydropower has been called a ‘methane factory’ and ‘methane bomb’ that is just beginning to rear its ugly head as a major source of greenhouse gas emissions that have so-far been unaccounted for in climate change discussions and analyses,” Wockner said last month.

Still, the country is among the vanguard of nations around the world moving towards a 100 percent renewable energy future. Several countries have hit impressive benchmarks for renewables in just a few short years. And many places have already made the transition to fossil-fuel-free electricity. Samso in Denmark became the world’s first island to go all in on renewables several years ago. Most recently, Uruguay, three U.S. citiesBurlington, Vermont; Aspen, Colorado; and Greensburg, Kansas-along with Kodiak Island, Alaska, have all made the transition.

San Diego, Vancouver, Las Vegas and other major cities around the world have pledged to go 100 percent renewable. Sweden made headlines earlier this year when it pledged to be among the first countries to go fossil free. Hawaii pledged to do so by 2045-the most ambitious standard set by a U.S. state thus far. Several other islands, including Aruba, Belize, St. Lucia, Grenada, the British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and San Andres and Providencia have pledged to go 100 percent renewable, through the Ten Island Challenge, created by Richard Branson’s climate group the Carbon War Room.

Greenpeace and researchers at Stanford and UC Berkeley have laid out plans for every state in the U.S. to adopt 100 percent renewables and a Greenpeace report published in September posits the world can achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Mark Jacobson, one of the researchers from Stanford, said the barriers to 100 percent clean energy are social and political, not technical or economic.

Just last week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in an interview that “You could take a corner of Utah or Nevada and power the entire United States with solar power.”

And, it looks as if the Paris climate conference earlier this month helped create market certainty in renewables, as fossil fuel stocks tumbled and renewable energy stocks soared. After the landmark Paris agreement was reached, the coal industry’s European lobbying association feared that the deal meant the sector “will be hated and vilified, in the same way that slave traders were once hated and vilified.”


Photo Credit: Brandon Watson

 

Bernie Sanders Vows to Protect Organic Farming, Calls Out Monsanto As Presidential Campaign Heats Up

Unlike most of the top candidates, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders has a long history of speaking out against big corporations, factory farming, and the Biotech giants. As early as 1994 he was fighting against companies such as Monsanto using chemicals that impact human and animal health. He was also one of the few senators that introduced the Farm Bill that would require labeling of any genetically engineered ingredients in food.


 

Unlike another candidate running on the democratic platform Hilary Clinton who fully supports GMOs, Sanders believes that the biotech companies are “transforming our agricultural system in a bad way.” He says that he stands for the right of the people to know what is in our food (through mandatory GMO labeling that he helped pass in Vermont, an effort that the GMO giants are trying to block through the DARK Act) and supports family-owned and organic agriculture.

During a private dinner event on December 27 th, Sanders spoke about how to make sure our food is healthy and our farming is ethical, as well as other big issues that his campaign stands for.

“The debate should be – how do we make sure that the food our kids are eating is healthy food. And having the courage to take on these huge food and biotech companies who are transforming our agricultural system in a bad way,”

– Sen. Bernie Sanders

He also goes off on the fossil fuel industry, saying it’s past due time we start to shift toward renewable and alternative energy.

Perhaps the most exciting part of his speech happens a few minutes in as he describes the food scene in his home state, where organic farming and farmer’s markets are becoming commonplace.

Bernie Sanders

“We have hundreds of farmers markets (in Vermont), you’ll find people buying food, beef and poultry directly from farmers, and there’s a growing farm to school pipeline,”

“It’s something we’ve worked very hard on and I think all over this country people are concerned about the quality of food their kids are eating.”

Sanders goes on to talk about how his own additions to the Farm Bill would help make this vision a reality for people across the country, and also calls out Monsanto on a key food and GMO-related topic that is being completely ignored by the mainstream media once again.

He also gets a few shots in against the factory farm industry. “We need legislation and efforts designed not to protect factory farming, corporate farming but to protect family-based agriculture,” he says.

You can watch the full speech by clicking here.


 

[Photo Credit: E.Hernandez & DonkeyHotey]

Sorry Monsanto: Organic Food Demand Is Absolutely Exploding

To any current or ex-employees of Monsanto, Valhalla would like to offer itself as a potential employer at our farm, legal or media teams. Just write to us at [email protected]
There is place for everyone in this new world we’re building.


You can attribute this change in market demand to education. You can attribute it to the mass awakening happening around the planet. But either way, you can’t argue with the numbers. Eating organic is no longer ‘fringe’ or something done solely by health-nuts and athletes, hippies, and paranoids. In fact, consumer demand for organic food is seeing double digit growth year over year, and it doesn’t show signs of stopping.

Over 20,000 stores now offer organic food products. A report has shown that in 2012, more than $28.4 million was spent on healthful organic food, and that number has grown since the report published such findings. According to Nutrition Business Journal, organic food sales will reach a startling $35 billion this year. For those of us who don’t take our health for granted, this is just the beginning of a food revolution.

We’re eating better in every category of food, too, not just organic apple and oranges. People are boycotting toxic food-producing companies faster than you can say ‘lawsuit’ as they realize we’ve been lied to. People now know that something made in vats with chemical additives or spliced and diced with GMOs is anything but ‘natural.’

We are turning away from companies like Kellogg’s and Pepsi-Co, Coca-Cola, and Kraft to companies that we can actually trust – companies that don’t sell us non-food and call it food.

Organic Tomatoes Lawrence Miglialo Valhalla Farms
Organic Tomatoes. [Taken at Valhalla Farms in Montreal, Canada]
Or how about putting harmful additives used to make yoga mats in bread, as Subway once did before individuals pressured them to remove azodicarbonamide from their food? We just won’t sit silent anymore. Even beer companies are feeling the pressure to not only disclose toxic ingredients, but to change their ways, and stop using them.

While fresh fruits and vegetables leading the way in organics for the past three decades, and accounting for 43% of U.S. organic food sales in 2012, dairy, bread, packaged foods, snack foods, meat, poultry, seafood, and even condiments are seeing an up-turn in organic sales.

For now, individuals are purchasing their organic foods primarily through conventional and natural food supermarkets and chains, according to the Organic Trade Association (OTA), but this is also changing as more people turn to food co-ops and even neighbors for fresh, organic food.

We’ve come a long way since the organic food movement’s beginnings. Yes, our grandparents and great-grandparents just grew… food. They didn’t even call it organic, though they often didn’t use pesticides or herbicides, and certainly not petroleum-based or chemical fertilizers.

Lawrence Potato ORganic Photography HiRes
Organic Potatoes. [Taken at Valhalla Farm in Montreal, Canada]
The modern organic movement began at the same time as industrialized agriculture. It began in Europe around the 1920s, when a group of farmers and consumers sought alternatives to the industrialization of agriculture. In Britain, the organic movement had gathered pace in the 1940’s. Today, people around the world, from the US to Bhutan, are asking for, and even growing organic food.

Indeed, growing our own food is becoming an absolutely essential part of our collective future.

In the same way that petrochemical companies don’t want to see the impending evolution of solar and wind power, Big Ag doesn’t want to accept what is happening with our food consciousness. We know better now, and so we ask for better. Our wallets are truly determining the future food landscape.

Report On Marijuana Overdose In 2015

Marijuana legalization has been the talk of North America for years now. It’s arguable that one of the biggest campaign promises made by Canada’s new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was his goal to legalize cannabis countrywide. In the US, cannabis is legal in some form in 23 states, and with that we see a staggering number we should all consider. The number of Americans who fatally overdosed on cannabis in 2015 was: 0.

No one. Not a single person.

This of course is a huge increase from the year before which was also, zero. So it begs the questions: why is marijuana illegal? And why are other substances like alcohol and pharmaceuticals legal, yet they actively contribute to killing people in large numbers?

Hemp and cannabis became illegal back in 1937 for an all too common reason, it threatened the businesses of powerful people. You can grab the full ridiculously political story on that in an article I wrote about hemp and how they used cannabis to outlaw it back in 1937.

Legal Dangerous Substances

I’m not going to be one to say that it’s the substance’s fault all the time, because it’s not. I’m also not going to say whether things need to be legal or illegal right now. Instead I’m going to focus on the reality of what is happening.

Alcohol is legal, and very accessible in our society. It’s seen as a good time and something we can drink daily to relax after work. This year, the substance has aided in killing Americans at a rate that hasn’t been seen in roughly 35 years according to the Washington Post.[1] Reports state that more than 30,700 Americans died from alcohol-induced causes in 2015. This number does not include those who died as a result of alcohol related deaths like drunk driving or other accidents. If it did, the number would be close to 100,000.

According to a 2006 report in American Scientist, “alcohol is more lethal than many other commonly abused substances.” The report goes on to also mention:

Drinking a mere 10 times the normal amount of alcohol within 5 or 10 minutes can prove fatal, whereas smoking or eating marijuana might require something like 1,000 times the usual dose to cause death.

But it may not be fair to say that marijuana doesn’t have downsides because clearly it does. It’s speculated that it can cause brain developmental challenges in people under the age of 25 who smoke regularly, as it affects grey matter and it can of course also lead to drugged driving which can also be dangerous.[3] But are the dangers as bad as alcohol? And can we truly compare therapeutic values? What about when we look at pharmaceuticals?

Here are 2 graphs from the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

Looking at reported cases in the US, we see that prescription drugs prescribed by a doctor, as well as pain reliever addictions, have led to a combined 42,000 or so deaths in 2014. This is even more than alcohol! Strictly from a statistics point of view, prescription drugs, while having value in other areas, come with a great number of downsides and also happen to be the biggest business. Is there a conflict of interest in handing out these drugs when the ability to make money is attached? Do more drugs than are needed enter our society? The obvious answer is yes, when you look at how often drugs are not only wrongly prescribed, but are also the first option to fix something fickle before we even look at the potential behind lifestyle changes.

Public Demand

Although the public in North America in general seems to be pushing for the legalization of marijuana, it is still opposed heavily. Some groups include the pharmaceutical lobby, who would lose big in profits, as well as police unions who would lose federal budget for the war on drugs. You can begin to see our society runs less on common sense and more on political and monetary rigidity with groups all working against each other in their own interest.

But to be honest, legalization is a whole other topic, because I believe it is not quite as good as people hype it up to be. Some challenges that would come in include who controls marijuana growth, the quality of what is made available, and the manipulation of that product.

Interestingly enough, among all 2016 presidential contenders, Democratic hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is the only one who outright supports the legalization of marijuana. As of now the substance is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, up there with heroin and LSD. (which is a whole other topic of discussion)

Final Note

Entirely blaming a substance for the cause of people’s deaths and addictions is not an effective way of looking at the problem, nor is regulation of those substances going to be the answer in helping people. We have a large disconnect in our society in helping people with mental, emotional, and physical challenges and we are obsessed with isolating issues into black and white when most of the time they are not. I believe many of these deaths are a sign of other challenges in our society that we are opposed to looking at such as a lack of enjoyment and fulfilment in our jobs, not doing what we love, not processing our emotions, treating illness as purely physical and so forth. Until we can address many of these factors and implement solutions, we will always be creating addicts who find substances to get addicted to in order to compensate for other areas of their lives. This isn’t to say things like alcohol and prescriptions drugs are good and therefore should be so easily available to people, but more so to suggest that we all look at the full picture.


 

Sources:

1. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/12/22/americans-are-drinking-themselves-to-death-at-record-rates/

2. https://www.americanscientist.org/libraries/documents/200645104835_307.pdf

3. http://www.thecannabist.co/2014/11/17/marijuana-young-brain-study/23251/

H/T: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/marijuana-deaths-2014_56816417e4b06fa68880a217

 

People Aren’t Smart Enough for Democracy to Work, Scientists Say

From: yahoo.com
The democratic process relies on the assumption that citizens (the majority of them, at least) can recognize the best political candidate, or best policy idea, when they see it. But a growing body of research has revealed an unfortunate aspect of the human psyche that would seem to disprove this notion, and imply instead that democratic elections produce mediocre leadership and policies.

The research, led by David Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell University, shows that incompetent people are inherently unable to judge the competence of other people, or the quality of those people’s ideas. For example, if people lack expertise on tax reform, it is very difficult for them to identify the candidates who are actual experts. They simply lack the mental tools needed to make meaningful judgments.

As a result, no amount of information or facts about political candidates can override the inherent inability of many voters to accurately evaluate them. On top of that, “very smart ideas are going to be hard for people to adopt, because most people don’t have the sophistication to recognize how good an idea is,” Dunning told Life’s Little Mysteries.

He and colleague Justin Kruger, formerly of Cornell and now of New York University, have demonstrated again and again that people are self-delusional when it comes to their own intellectual skills. Whether the researchers are testing people’s ability to rate the funniness of jokes, the correctness of grammar, or even their own performance in a game of chess, the duo has found that people always assess their own performance as “above average” – even people who, when tested, actually perform at the very bottom of the pile. [ Incompetent People Too Ignorant to Know It]

We’re just as undiscerning about the skills of others as about ourselves. “To the extent that you are incompetent, you are a worse judge of incompetence in other people,” Dunning said. In one study, the researchers asked students to grade quizzes that tested for grammar skill. “We found that students who had done worse on the test itself gave more inaccurate grades to other students.” Essentially, they didn’t recognize the correct answer even when they saw it.

The reason for this disconnect is simple: “If you have gaps in your knowledge in a given area, then you’re not in a position to assess your own gaps or the gaps of others,” Dunning said. Strangely though, in these experiments, people tend to readily and accurately agree on who the worst performers are, while failing to recognize the best performers.

The most incompetent among us serve as canaries in the coal mine signifying a larger quandary in the concept of democracy; truly ignorant people may be the worst judges of candidates and ideas, Dunning said, but we all suffer from a degree of blindness stemming from our own personal lack of expertise.

Mato Nagel, a sociologist in Germany, recently implemented Dunning and Kruger’s theories by computer-simulating a democratic election. In his mathematical model of the election, he assumed that voters’ own leadership skills were distributed on a bell curve – some were really good leaders, some, really bad, but most were mediocre – and that each voter was incapable of recognizing the leadership skills of a political candidate as being better than his or her own. When such an election was simulated, candidates whose leadership skills were only slightly better than average always won.

Nagel concluded that democracies rarely or never elect the best leaders. Their advantage over dictatorships or other forms of government is merely that they “effectively prevent lower-than-average candidates from becoming leaders.”

Source: yahoo.com

SpaceX successfully landed its Falcon 9 rocket after launching it to space

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully landed upright on solid ground at Cape Canaveral, Florida this evening, after traveling into space and back. It’s the first time SpaceX has been able to gently touch down the Falcon 9 post-launch – something the company has been trying to do for the past year. It’s a big first step toward reusable rockets.

This launch was also the first time SpaceX has flown since June, after one of its Falcon 9 rockets exploded en route to the International Space Station. Now this return-to-flight mission has made history – no one else has ever landed a rocket that has gone as deep into space as the Falcon 9.

It’s a big first step toward reusable rockets

As big as this is for SpaceX, it’s not the first time a vertical take-off rocket has landed upright after launching into space. In November, Jeff Bezos’ private spaceflight company Blue Origin announced that it had landed its rocket New Shepard post-launch. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is more complex than New Shepard: it’s designed to go higher in space, and much faster.

Right now, all rockets that travel into orbit are either destroyed or lost after taking off. It’s something that drives up the cost of spaceflight; an entirely new rocket must be built for each launch. But if SpaceX can routinely reuse its rockets, the company saves the cost of manufacturing new vehicles for follow-up missions. That could make spaceflight a lot more affordable.

SpaceX has tried this landing twice before. In January and April, the company attempted to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 – a 14-story tall portion of the rocket body – on a floating platform out at sea. The rockets fell over and exploded both times.

So tonight’s landing may be due to some changes since those two attempts. The most obvious change is that today’s landing attempt is on solid ground, rather than at sea – a floating ship is a smaller and more unpredictable target. That’s not all, though. SpaceX introduced an updated version of the Falcon 9, informally named the Falcon 9 v1.1 Full Thrust. This version of the rocket has a modified structure and an updated engine, that’s supposed to provide more thrust.

If SpaceX can routinely reuse rockets, that may force change in the whole private space industry. SpaceX CEO Musk noted that it costs $16 million to manufacture the Falcon 9, but only $200,000 to fuel. Eliminating a $16 million expense could drastically bring down launch costs.Competing launch providers may have to explore reusable rockets as well to compete with SpaceX on future contracts.

Developing…

Company Selling ‘Bottled Air’ Sells Out in 4 Days as China’s Smog Crisis Deepens

Like a scene from “Spaceballs,” one Canadian banker has lucked into a potentially lucrative career as the co-founder of a new company literally selling bottles of air to smog-ridden China. Now, what started as a joke prophesied in the 28-year-old sci-fi comedy is a viable, booming business.

Vitality Air’s Moses Lam says he sold his first bag of air as a joke with co-founder Troy Paquette on Ebay. It sold for “less than 50 pence.” The next bag, however, sold for £105, or $160.

“That’s when we realised there is a market for this,” Lam said.

Founded only last year in Edmonton, the Canadian start-up company now markets “fresh air from the Rocky Mountains,” and China is scrambling for the luxury of even one short, clean breath of air ever since the company began shipping there a mere two months ago.

Canada Sells Air To China

“Our first shipment of 500 bottles of fresh air were sold in four days,” Lam told the Telegraph in a phone interview. Currently, a crate is carting an additional 4,000 bottles to China, but a majority of those bottles have already been sold.

Vitality Air nabs 100 yuan (£10), or just over $15 for a 7.7 liter can of Banff National Park Rocky Mountain air. That’s 50 times higher than the cost of mineral water in China.

Air pollution in China has gotten so bad, especially for those living in its cities across the northeast and in the south, that Xinhua, a state-run news agency, tweeted an image, Tuesday, of the city center nearly invisible beneath a quilt of heavy smog. Its caption clearly underlines local frustrations: “Heavy smog hit China, again!”

Canada Sells Air to Canada

That tweet came only a week after Beijing was hit with a red alert for its air pollution, resulting in half the city’s vehicles promptly being parked, even on the sides of roads, until things blew over.

Lam and Paquette are not the first jokesters to bottle air and sell it to China, though, either. Beijing artist Liang Kegang pulled in £512 (roughly $770) last year for a glass jar he claimed to have preserved from a trip he’d taken to southern France. The year before that, multimillionaire Chen Guangbiao hocked air that wasn’t even from the Rocky Mountains. It was merely bottled in less-polluted regions of China, in pop cans, and sold for 5 yuan, or 77 cents.

According to Vitality Air’s China spokesperson, Harrison Wang, most of the company’s clients tend to be wealthy Chinese women out to find appealing gifts for friends and family. But even the elders and the jet set are taking interest, as Vitality Air also sells well in senior homes and posh nightclubs.

“In China fresh air is a luxury, something so precious,” Wang said, and business is good. New potential distributors approach the company all the time.

Explore. Dream. Discover. Breathe. pic.twitter.com/boAcLc8Qif

– Vitality Air (@vitalityair) September 1, 2015

China isn’t alone in its interest in bottled air, either. Vitality Air also sells all over North America, India and the Middle East, though China remains its biggest market overseas at this time.

What Vitality is struggling with the most is keeping up with demand. Claiming they bottle every bottle by hand, Lam stated, “It’s very labour intensive but we also wanted to make it a very unique and fun product.”

“We may have bit off more than we can chew,” he added.

Vitality Air’s success comes as an enormous, delightful surprise, considering it began as a joke selling something entirely free at the moment, and something everyone needs but almost everyone takes for granted. Lam’s parents have told him, however, not to quit his day job, and he hasn’t.

COP21 Giant PR Stunt Skeptical

COP21: Talk is Cheap – Why I’m Skeptical of The Paris Climate Talks & You Should Be Too

Having been in Paris for 2 weeks at COP21- ground zero of the negotiations of a climate deal that involved close to 195 nations from around the globe- so many of us in attendance are enormously disappointed with the results. While many are celebrating this as an historic moment – I believe it might be one …

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Vermont Governor Interrupted By Fractivists In Paris

PARIS, France – In one of the first edgier, unsanctioned confrontations at the official “Le Bourget” climate summit, a flank of young anti-fracking activists on Wednesday interrupted a panel of US politicians, including Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, calling out their hypocrisy as climate leaders.

Soon after Gov. Shumlin took the podium, two young women rushed the stage, and unfurled a banner that read “Fracked Gas = Climate Change.” Activists continued to stand up and speak out for the duration of the panel, with one declaring to the room: “These aren’t climate leaders, these are climate cheaters.”

Protestors were keen to get across that while Shumlin is being lauded as a climate leader in Paris, back in his home state he’s marshalling forward a major fracked gas pipeline that would snake its way through small Vermont farms and accelerate fracking across the U.S. east coast.

Nathan Joseph, 27, a former Vermonter who now works on a farm in rural Pennsylvania-a state heavily impacted by fracking-stood up in the middle of the Shumlin’s speech.

“I live on the frontlines of fracking in the Marcellus Shale and you are putting through a fracked gas pipeline that jeopardizes people’s livelihoods,” declared Joseph. He also mentioned the concerns of farmers in Vermont whose land was being seized by eminent domain for the pipeline.

Next up, Aly Johnson-Kurts, 21, a native Vermonter, stood up and addressed the governor.

Aly acknowledged that Shumlin banned fracking a few years ago-but highlighted how championing new fracked gas infrastructure simply pushes fracking onto other communities outside Vermont’s borders.

“Vermont banned fracking in 2012, and in the announcement speech you cited risks to safe drinking water and health. In supporting the Vermont gas pipeline, you are simply putting those risks on other communities,” Aly said, facing the governor. “If you want to convince everyday Vermonters that your legacy as governor is one of true environmental stewardship, you must reverse your position on the pipeline.”

Shumlin called Aly “beautiful and eloquent,” but encouraged her to settle down.

A couple vocal audience members countered the protesters by saying: “Shut up”; “That’s enough”; and “Nobody wants to hear you.” Curiously, very similar comments were heard when now Middlebury alum Abigail Borah interrupted U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern’s comments at the Durban climate talks in 2011. By the time Borah finished her remarks, calling on the U.S. and other delegates to “to act now…or threaten the lives of the youth and the world’s most vulnerable,” she received plenary-wide applause.

Shumlin retorted with a line often used by climate deniers and obfuscators: “How did you get here, on an airplane? Or did you swim over?” he asked the protesters. “Because you used fracked gas in that plane, so you better find a way to swim home.”

Earlier, Shumlin told the packed audience “we can’t move fast enough to get off oil and coal” as a way to fight climate change and boost the economy. His seeming exception for natural gas not only flummoxes but also deeply frustrates Vermonters who’ve staunchly opposed the this pipeline in their state for the past three years.

To the Vermont Governor’s credit, he eventually offered the microphone to Aly-but the moderator with Georgetown Climate Center would not allow it.

Soon afterwards, Shumlin left the panel, exiting the event a half an hour before it was set to close.

Bill McKibben, a long-time resident of Vermont, who’s partaking in a number of anti-fracking workshops and events in Paris, offered his support.

“It’s good to see the boisterous spirit of VT translated across the Atlantic,” McKibben told me. “I think the fracked gas pipeline was planned in a different age back before we knew much of what we know about the effects of fracking and methane on the atmosphere. So, it’s a good time for a re-evaluation.”

When Maeve McBride, lead organizer with 350 Vermont, heard about how Vermonters were tailing Shumlin in Paris, she was “proud and heartened.”

“Governor Shumlin has talked a good talk on climate, yet he and his staff actively advocate for expanding fracked gas infrastructure in Vermont,” Maeve wrote in an email. “While Vermont banned fracking, Shumlin’s administration has been promoting the import of fracked gas and cutting deals with Vermont Gas. Vermonters would end up footing the more than $154 million bill for this new pipeline, and Vermont Gas is seizing Vermonters’ land through eminent domain. Governor Shumlin is no climate hero.”

After Shumlin left the session, other speakers took to the podium, including California’s EPA chief, and a senior advisor to Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington state.

These speakers were likewise met with rounds of pointed, mostly unsolicited, questions regarding the approval of fracking in California and why Gov. Inslee wasn’t halting a proposal for the “largest crude rail terminal in the nation” proposed for his state.

With two days left until the climate negotiation are supposedly set to wrap, expect young people to keep stirring the pot.


Written by Joe Solomon for Common Dreams.

 

Canada Shocks COP21 With Big New Climate Commitment

Sunday night, Canada surprised a world of nations and negotiators in closed-door climate talks in Paris by endorsing a much bolder, ambitious target for cutting greenhouse gases than the UN climate change summit is officially aiming for.

Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna told a stunned crowd that she wants the Paris agreement to restrict planetary warming to just 1.5 Celsius warming -not two degrees. It was the first time she has made such a statement.

In the room was former CBC meteorologist Claire Martin, a Green Party observer at the talks: “I was like ‘freaking out.” I was writing it all done like a nut,” she said.

Reading from her notes, Martin reported the minister’s remarks like so: “‘We want to send a strong political signal.’ The necessity, that she sees, is one in which we transition sustainably.”

“But she was quite clear -‘I support the goals of 1.5’ and echoed the comments of another party about human rights and indigenous peoples. Canada supports legally binding provisions, and we are committed to following through.”

“She wants a five-year review, and it must be ‘ambitious’ and ‘accountable.'”

“Adaptation is ‘incredibly important’ and she has full support for the ambitious nature of this agreement,” Martin added, about the minister’s remarks.

McKenna’s office confirms it

Minister McKenna’s spokesperson confirmed Monday that she supports “including reference in the Paris Agreement to the recognition of the ‎need to striving to limit global warming to 1.5, as other parties have said.”

“Canada wants an agreement that is ambitious and that is signed by the greatest number of countries possible.”

And crucially, “the most important thing is that each country should be legally required to submit a target. And to report on progress on that target on a regular basis.

This is not the same as legally binding countries to reach their target, as many reports have noted. Countries’ targets will still be outside the agreement. But McKenna’s office added:

“There should also be a legally binding requirement in the agreement that countries improve their targets regularly.”

‘I am over the moon’

Green leader Elizabeth May said: “I am over the moon. It’s fantastic news!”

“It creates a very ambitious trajectory for reduction of emissions, but it’s what’s required. If we’re going to keep low-lying island states from going under water, that’s what’s required.”

“If we want to have a reasonable prospect of not having the Greenland ice sheet create five to eight metre sea level rise, it’s what’s required.”

“It’s a safer zone than two [degrees], which represents a lot of irreparable, irreversible damage to large parts of the world. So 1.5 is good.”

The moves just one week after Prime Minister Trudeau promised the world in his speech to the UN climate gathering that climate change would be a “top priority” for Ottawa.

But this latest statement about aiming for 1.5 Celsius has environmentalists -who haven’t been in the habit of congratulating their federal government after nine years of Harper rule -rushing to issue happy-with-Canada press releases.

“This is an incredibly promising signal that Canada really is ready to lead when it comes to ambition and securing a strong global climate deal. Now Canada has a chance to leverage this leadership across key pieces of this agreement and this is what we hope to see over the coming days,” said Steven Guilbeault of Montreal’s Équiterre in Paris.

Likewise, Karen Mahon, of ForestEthics, said: “Action and a strong deal in Paris will help Canada as it returns home and works closely with provinces to develop a plan that puts Paris promises into action”

“Canada is redefining itself in Paris, but it will need to take its leadership home to prove that they really are back.”

Dale Marshal, of Environmental Defence, added Canada would confirm its climate leadership if it put in a “credible financing package” for a developing-country “Loss and Damage fund,” and continued work to get an ambition mechanism that allows reviews of targets and financing before 2020.

Trudeau: ‘no time to waste’

It remains to be seen if the world’s nations agree to Canada’s urging to cap dangerous global warming at 1.5 C.

But praises for Canada come on top of heaps of laudings from Canadian First Nations leaders for backing the inclusion of Indigenous rights in the climate treaty process too. It’s a move opposed by the European Union and United States over fears it could leave them liable for climate damages.

Prime Minister Trudeau said last week in Paris: “Indigenous people have known for thousands of years about how to care of our planet. The rest of us have a lot to learn, and no time to waste.”

Vancouver commits to run on 100% renewable energy

Vancouver has become the latest city to commit to running on 100% renewable energy. The city of 600,000 on Canada’s west coast aims to use only green energy sources for electricity, and also for heating and cooling and transportation.

Vancouver Mountains Canada Sustainable Snow Peaks

Cities and urban areas are responsible for 70-75% of global CO2 emissions and that’s where “real action on climate will happen” said Park Won-Soon, Mayor of Seoul, South Korea at the ICLEI World Congress 2015, the triennial sustainability summit of local governments where Vancouver made the announcement.

“We are the green tide coming together to save the world from climate change,” Park said to nearly 15,000 members of local government including more than 100 mayors.

Andrea Reimer, Vancouver’s deputy mayor told the Guardian: “There’s a compelling moral imperative but also a fantastic economic case to be a green city.” The 100% goal is likely to be set for a target year of 2030 or 2035 for heating/cooling, with transport taking until 2040 to 2050. These could happen sooner with national and provincial government support.

People and businesses want to live and work in clean and green urban areas, said Reimer, adding that whoever develops expertise in shifting to 100% renewable energy will own the 21st century.

Vancouver can achieve 100% renewable electricity in a few years but heating, cooling and transportation will take longer. The city’s ambition is to be the world’s greenest city by 2020 despite the fact Canada has had one of “the most environmentally irresponsible national governments” for the last 10 years, she said.

Park announced that Seoul, with 11 million people and growing fast, will reduce its energy use and increase renewable generation, including rolling out 40,000 solar panels to households by 2018 and 15,000 electric vehicles. By 2030 it is hoped that CO2 emissions will be cut by 40%.

More than 50 cities have announced they are on their way to 100% renewable energy including San Diego and San Francisco in California, Sydney Australia, and Copenhagen. Some are aiming for 2020, others by 2030 or 2035.

Some, like Reykjavik, Iceland, are already there for electricity and heat. The entire country of Costa Rica was powered by renewables for 75 consecutive days this year.

“Just three years ago we’re saying 100% renewable really is possible, now many cities and regions are doing it,” Anna Leidreiter, coordinator of the Global 100% RE Alliance – an international alliance of organisations pushing for a shift away from fossil fuels.

If large utilities or energy companies are in control it will slow down attempts to tackle climate change, Leidreiter said. “The business model for renewables is completely different, it should benefit people not corporations.”