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Posts Tagged ‘state department’

I appreciate the recent blog post by the EPA Office of Environmental Justice. First, because it is outgoing Administrator Lisa Jackson’s recap on her top priority while she was at EPA and second, because it pays homage to a great community leader.  Though I may not be the protesting type, I strongly support those who organize and stand up for fair treatment, which all U.S. citizens deserve.  When it comes to environmental protection I support those who stand up for fair treatment even more.

In her final video message, Lisa Jackson spoke about the work of Hazel Johnson.  A founder of a Chicago nonprofit called “People for Community Recovery”, Hazel Johnson was often called the “Mother of Environmental Justice.”  If you’re new to the term of environmental justice (you haven’t been reading my old posts) it typically refers to the fair and equal treatment of all races so that people do not bare disproportionate environmental impacts such as air, water, and soil pollution.

During Lisa Jackson’s term as Administrator I too have seen a renewed focus on environmental justice.  The EPA Office of Environmental Justice released Plan EJ 2014, and 17 federal agencies have continually met to form the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice.  I presume Hazel would have been very supportive of Lisa Jackson’s work on EJ, but still concerned that these issues are ongoing.  Hazel coined the term “toxic donut” a term referring to encircling industries that were polluting in her Chicago neighborhood.  Lisa Jackson saw (as did I during my undergraduate degree) a similar pattern in Cancer Alley, a stretch of industries from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, Louisiana; many of these types of patterns are all across the U.S. from Texas to California to New Jersey.

Hazel’s top priority was for communities to be brought to the decision table when siting industrial facilities.  To me that seems like common sense. Sometimes that’s not the case and many community residents are ignored. But progress has been made and toxic sites have been cleaned up, so that should be applauded.  However the work is never done.  Not until Americans take a strong unified stance on how they use and obtain energy.  Open conversations about consumption and energy sources are the only ways to prevent things that Hazel and Lisa have so commonly seen.  You can see the EPA Blog post and video here.

A few weeks ago, the largest environmental march to date was organized in Washington D.C.; it was a march from the Washington Monument to the White House to tell President Obama to deny the Keystone Pipeline and reduce our use of fossil fuels.  It was organized by the Sierra Club and many local environmental groups across the nation.  I wanted to see it for my own eyes so I braved the cold and watched for 30 minutes.  The march was organized and civil, and many had signs to reject the Pipeline.  After the State Department’s release of a draft environmental impact statement, I don’t think pro-enviros are too happy.  I took a couple photos just so you could feel like you were there:

"Obama how dare you frack your momma" - said the crowd

“Obama how dare you frack your momma” – said the crowd

En route to the Washington Monument

En route to the Washington Monument

I presume warmth was the motivation for the get up.

I presume warmth was the motivation for the get up.

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And it’s “back to reality, back to life…” .  Actually, before we get back to our environmental reality, whatever that may be, let’s take a detour to the Old Line State where the Maryland House of Delegates approved a same-sex marriage bill!  Wahoo!  Finally, a very blue state is coming around to providing equal status under the law.  Let’s make it happen, Governor O’Malley, let’s make it happen. And, we are back to being better than New Jersey.

All right, I’ll leave it at that.  You didn’t come to here to get some yummy rainbow sherbet, you came for green goodness.  So I am here to provide.

And for those of you who took the time to enter into Paul Kingsnorth’s mind, I am here to give you a little lift.  For those of you who slacked and didn’t take the time, I am here to also give you lift (although you will probably be lifted a bit higher than the Kingsnorth clan because you didn’t damper your spirits by immersing into and reflecting on the sad state of environmental affairs). Because let’s face it, whereever you were at the past couple of hours or days, this news will be good news.  That is, unless, you were caught up making sure that you got to keep an extra twenty dollars in your pocket each month between now and the end of the year.  In that case, enjoy your victory and don’t rub it in our faces.  Because we enviros got a little joy of our own this week.

Between the back and forth headline drama about the payroll tax extension (for those of you who read the normal news) or the underneath the latest anti-environmental scandal (see the Heartland Institute—yeah, and you thought Bill Gates was such a saint after Foxconn showed how black the soul of Steve Jobs actually was…), there was a small, but notable headline about a climate change effort that is slowly gaining some steam. 

This week, the United States, through Hillary Clinton and the Department of State, joined a coalition of five other nations to combat some of the short-lived, but high global warming potential, greenhouses gases.  This coalition, called the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, is run by the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) and includes the countries of Canada (shocking, I know), Mexico, Sweden, Bangladesh, and Ghana.  In joining, nations are committing to curbing non-carbon greenhouse gas emission such as methane, soot, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), also known as “short-lived climate enforcers.”  There are no hard line numbers; this is just a voluntary, five-year commitment.  Instead of targets, the coalition plans fund education projects and joint public-private efforts to reduce emissions nations to “reduce diesel exhaust, stem the burning of agricultural waste, and capture methane from landfills, coal mines, and natural gas wells,” among other policy initiatives.

You might be asking yourself what good will this do, and I’m glad you pondered this.  These three pollutants are believed to account for approximately 30 to 40 percent of the nearly one degree Celsius rise in global temperatures since the beginning of the 20th century.  Furthermore, this voluntary effort has the potential to slow rising temperatures by up to .5 degrees Celsius.  If you read the Washington Post version, that halt could come as early as 2030; if you read the Scientific American version, it may take an additional 20 years.  And, in case that is not enough, WaPo points out that even the notorious climate change skeptic Senator James Inhofe (R-Ok) gets behind reducing soot.  Just when you and Paul Kingsnorth thought all was lost…

At this point, you might be thinking, “Get your head out of the clouds, optimist.  I’ve seen this before—Copehagen, Cancun, Durban… we’ve produced non-binding agreements and unless we hold people’s feet to the fire, nothing will happen.”  You, my eternally pessimistic friend (is that you, Peter Thiel?), might be correct that I am the queen of wishful thinking.  However, it’s worth noting that we did throw in $12 million for this effort (and by we, I don’t mean we here at Spinach.  We save our big dollars for the craps tables in Vegas). So we’ve got our feet within the vicinity of the fire on this effort.

It’s a small accomplishment relative to a national cap-and-trade policy or a carbon tax, but it’s an accomplishment nonetheless.  So before we get down and think about going out, let’s remember the little things.  Because just like your mother always told you (I know mine did), “Sometimes, it’s the little things that count.”

(Or, for bloggers, it’s the hyperlinks the hyperlinks that count.  And I just rocked the hyperlinks. So show me some love with a comment.)

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