irish environment - Home

irish environment

ieBlog

It’s Time to Scare the Bejesus Out of People about Climate Change

Part 2 – More Bejesus Needed, But for Whom?

 

Over the past few years we have explored the challenge of talking about climate change in ways that might influence or move readers to accept the reality of or believe more deeply in the risks from climate change, and even to take some action to fight these risks.  Often we are working off a post by David Roberts of Vox and now we have a recent post from Roberts that has triggered some follow up thoughts to previous posts of our own.

Roberts looks at “alternative framings” on getting people’s attention on climate change in contrast to the most frequent frame which is: climate change is dangerous and we should do what we can to avoid it. Recent research from Switzerland examined some “alternative framings”, including: global warming as an economic opportunity, a way to spur technological innovation, a national security threat, a way of reducing local pollutants, a religious or moral imperative.  The result of the study was that alternative ways of speaking about climate change did not increase support for greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation.

Like most of us, Roberts is a bit frustrated that, seemingly, no matter what “framing” we use, it does not affect people.  It seems that we all are trapped in existing frames reinforced by trusted sources and repetition, and breaking through these spaces is not easy.   The old adage seems to prevail:  know your audience and speak to them in ways they are familiar with.

Another dimension is suggested by recent politicking.  We hear much about energizing the base.  That is, politicians, and Trump is a prime example, can and do say the most frightful (with Trump also the most outrageous) things to motivate their already committed supporters to stay committed, to give money and, above all else, to get out and vote.  Other spokespersons are delegated the task of speaking to undecided or independent voters to persuade them of the legitimacy of the party’s positions. 

 

 

 

Isaac Cordal, Politicians talking about climate change

 

 

 

Perhaps we have a parallel universe with regard to climate change.  There are the people who fully understand the reality and risks of climate change and are committed to doing something about it.  They are responsive to the most frightful things we can say about the impacts from climate change, because they “know” them likely to be true, and getting reinforced can keep them engaged, active and contributing. We can scare the bejesus out of them, to good effect.   See, It’s Time to Scare the Bejesus Out of People about Climate Change (1 April 2014).  We should not forget this “base” of support for climate change, as the Democrats forgot much of their base in the 2016 election.

For the others — the undecided, the skeptics and deniers —we need to continue to rely on hard evidence, clear thinking and exposition.  We need to continue to expose the nefarious doings of the fossil fuel industry undermining our efforts, end subsidies for fossil fuels, promote the environmental and economic benefits of renewable energies, and remind people that the extreme weather events they are experiencing are unlike what they have witnessed in their lives and are due, in large part, to climate change. 

We should not forget that these messages have developed only over the past several decades.  When people first began to address climate change in the 1980s, the risks were largely theoretical, and therefore unpersuasive, and large-scale reliance on sun and wind was a dream.  Just several decades later these are both actualities.

And remember the struggle to overcome the tobacco industry in its denial of the health risks from smoking and, importantly, second-hand smoking.  This struggle has taken 40-50 years and is not yet over because of continuing well-funded industry opposition.

Finally, don’t forget to reach out to the next generations on climate change, as they grow up.  It’s their fight as much as anyone’s.

When all else fails, we will have to rely on fire and brimstones, or a series of catastrophes, to persuade the uncommitted.

 

 

Sources

David Roberts, “Is it worth trying to “reframe” climate change? Probably not.” Vox (27 Feb 2017).
http://www.vox.com/2016/3/15/11232024/reframe-climate-change

“It’s Time to Scare the Bejesus Out of People about Climate Change,” in ieBLOG section of irish environment (1 April 2014).

“Talk, Talk, Talk About Climate Change – It’s Driving Some Well-Intentioned People (like Jonathan Franzen) Crazy,” in ieBLOG section of irish environment (1 May 2015).

“It’s time to label sacks of coal like we do packs of cigarettes: SMOKING KILLS” in ieBLOG section of irish environment (1 July 2014).

 

Everybody Seems to Be Moving to Cities. Why?

Looking for jobs and excitement, escaping war zones, and, soon, getting away from climate change impacts

 

In 1950 the world’s population was about 2.5 billion, with 746 million living in urban areas (about 30%); by 2014 the world population stood at 7.2 billion, with 3.9 billion (or 54%) in urban areas.  By 2050, the world’s population will more than double to about 9.7 billion, with over 6 billion or close to 70% of the population living in urban areas globally.  Much of that growth over the past several decades, and continuing into 2050, and beyond, is in Asia and Africa. 

The growth in size and density of cities often comes from people moving from small towns, villages or the countryside in search of jobs or economic opportunities, and perhaps some of the intensity offered by city life.  These are typically people from the same country, with similar languages and culture.  People from the Irish countryside moving to Dublin, and people from across India moving to Mumbai are examples.

Of course the economic opportunities of the cities are relative to what the migrating people left behind: the poorer the farm or service jobs back home, the more attractive the cities become.  But the life encountered in the big cities can be harsh, with very low paying, menial jobs.  And living accommodations in the cities can range from very crowded living spaces to squalid slums. Density often varies according to income, and those with higher education seeking professional jobs fare better.

More recently there has been the influx to large cities in troubled countries of immigrants trying to escape horrible, raging war zones across the countryside.  Or the at-risk populations flee to big cities in other countries seeking a safe haven and a chance to survive. They are often people from social-cultural-religious backgrounds that are very different from those in the “host” country.  The on-going, intense conflict within European Union countries over immigration from the Middle East and Africa exemplifies this development.

Soon there will be yet another category of people moving to big cities across the globe.  These will be the environmental refugees who will be trying to escape the disastrous impacts from climate change, including massive and frequent flooding, killing heat waves, drought, and other extreme weather events, as well as shortages of food resulting from the effects of climate change.

In some cases, the people at risk will be from small low-lying island communities and countries and, presumably, they will try to relocate in nearby countries.

In some countries citizens will suffer from extreme droughts in the countryside and head for large cities.  In Brazil in 1915, and again in 1932-33, the government forced mass internment of peasants trying to reach a capital city, Fortaleza, because drought had destroyed their farms.  The peasants were locked into camps with little food and unhealthy living conditions.  Many died.

In other cases, however, mega-cities themselves will be threatened with survival, especially those along water bodies. To the extent those cities do not have the economic resources and/or political will to prepare for or defend against the climate changes, then part or all of the multi-million populations of those cities will have to migrate to safer lands, away from the risks from climate change.  Some may seek shelter inland of their country, but how would they survive there.  What jobs would there be?  What economy would even exist?  What food would be available?

Eco Watch

Those who could not escape inland, or were prevented by authorities, would migrate elsewhere, somewhere not subject to the risks from climate change.  Certainly large cities in the same country or in other countries would be attractive because of the economic and other resources available in cities.

There are large, pressing questions about which cities will be at greatest risk from climate change, how many people from these at-risk places will have to move from what threats, and where else they will be able or allowed to go.  Then the issues facing the current crisis with immigrants from Middle East and Africa war zones trying to flee to culturally, nationally and religiously distinct areas will be replayed on a global scale.

National and international plans to adapt to climate change need to consider these pressing problems.

 

Sources:

“Urban Density” in iePEDIA section of irish environment magazine (March 2017).

World’s population increasingly urban with more than half living in urban areas, United Nations, Development (10 July 2014).  http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/news/population/world-urbanization-prospects-2014.html

Demographia: World Urban Areas – 12th Annual Edition (April 2016).  http://www.demographia.com/db-worldua.pdf    The report applies a generally consistent definition to “built-up urban areas”.

City Mayors Statistics, The largest cities in the world by land area, population and density: Ranked by population density: 1 to 125 (6 Jan 2007).
http://www.citymayors.com/statistics/largest-cities-density-125.html

“Brazil’s forgotten history of imprisoning citizens fleeing drought in concentration camps: extreme droughts in the South American country in the early 20th century saw the government interning rural peasants fleeing the disaster,” thejournal.ie (Feb. 2017).   http://www.thejournal.ie/brazil-drought-concentration-camps-3254236-Feb2017/?utm_source=twitter_self

 

Editor’s Update (13 March 2017):

Florence Williams, “Warning: living in a city could seriously damage your health,” The Guardian (13 March 2017).  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/13/warning-living-city-seriously-damage-health

 

 

Agriculture has been hiding in the grasses to avoid dealing with climate change

Pressure is mounting for action, finally

 

We have written recently about how the conversation about agriculture’s responsibility for the growth of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in Ireland has changed. That shift in the conversation is now increasingly happening across the globe following the Paris climate agreement.

Agriculture has been given a free pass by the Irish government to avoid reducing GHGs, particularly methane, at the same time that the government is expanding the sector and is behind in its obligations under EU law to reduce GHGs. Various rationales have been advanced by the industry-government to justify this privileged position, as embodied in their joint policy called Harvest 2020 and Food Wise 2025. A leading rationale was that Irish food products were necessary to save the poor and starving populations around the world. Of course this has been roundly debunked. As we noted:

The food being produced, and promoted, by the Irish agri-food-government complex is upscale beef and cheese and milk that is exported primarily to the UK and EU and other international markets. Irish food products are not going to feed the growing masses in developing countries who are underfed or even starving, but rather are going to contribute to more obesity for the world’s well-off. So the populations in the developing countries, where growth will happen, do not need Ireland’s food products, and cannot afford them. See Report on Climate Smart Agriculture in irish environment magazine (below in Sources).

The report itself, Climate Smart Agriculture, acknowledged that, “At its heart, however, [Food Wise 2025] is a plan to increase food output in the period to 2030, which would result in an increase in absolute gross levels of greenhouse gas emissions.” At 38. This report was issued by the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) and the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) (July 2016).

Around the same time, a group of environmental Non Government Organisations (eNGOs) issued a response to the IIEA/RDS report reinforcing the fallacy of the rationale. See Report on Climate Smart Agriculture.

In addition to the “we-need-to-feed-the-poor-and-starving” rationale, the industry-government has argued that the agriculture sector in Ireland can move toward a “carbon neutrality” through carbon sequestration by grassland soils and forestry, arguably reducing its GHGs. Again the IIEA/RDS and eNGO reports demonstrate that such options are far fetched. “Carbon neutrality” is not even well defined.  The alleged efficiency measures to get there, wherever “there” is, are merely theories or lab experiments with little proven implementation, or any interest by farmers to adopt such measures.  And expansion of forestry is wishful thinking as Ireland has one of the lowest levels of forest cover in the EU, at 11%, and the goals of increasing forest cover would require planting 16,000 hectares per year yet the government’s target remains at 7,300 hectares per year. Moreover, the discussion always talks about carbon, ignoring entirely methane, the GHG with the highest emission levels from agriculture.

Finally, recent research reports from Teagasc, the Irish government’s Agriculture and Food Development Authority, acknowledge that the government’s agriculture targets and policies are not compatible with climate change obligations. In one report, it analysed the possibilities of mitigation from managing soil functions, including carbon sequestration. It accepted that such efforts were unlikely to offset the emissions from an expanded agriculture sector. Clearly something has to give: either an uncontrolled expansion of agriculture or Ireland’s legal obligations to reduce GHGs.

This new-found realism about agriculture’s responsibilities for climate change in Ireland is reflected and reinforced by global efforts to deal with the obligations embodied in the Paris climate agreement of December 2016. As an article by Georgina Gustin in inside climate news demonstrates: “After years of being off the table in climate talks, agriculture is now being considered widely by countries trying to reach their Paris emissions cuts pledges.”

The commitments at Paris, while voluntary, have been taken seriously by most, not including President T-Rex in America.

Over 80% of countries indicated they would use agricultural practices to curb GHGs, as well as related practices in forestry and land use. Confirming this focus, at the Marrakech meetings to start the process of implementing the Paris agreement, there were at least 80 agriculture-focused sessions. One environmentalist argued that as agriculture accounts for 13% of GHGs it is surprising that it has taken so long for the focus to land there. Since in Ireland agriculture accounts for about 33% of GHG emissions, the delay is all the more surprising.

Gustin points out that in the first global climate summit, in 1992, agriculture hardly mattered. Over the past decade research on agriculture has intensified, but even here the emphasis was on the effects of deforestation and land use rather than specifically on agriculture. While efforts have created mitigation strategies and measures for forestry, the same cannot be said about agriculture.

Agriculture has always been a sensitive area as it implicates food supplies and rural life in most countries. At the same time, the farming community is recognizing that they are being adversely impacted by climate change with flooding, drought, lower pollination, and invasive species, and that mitigation, from whatever sector, serves their interests.

The focus on agriculture’s responsibilities globally will only further expose the privileged position that agriculture has enjoyed in Ireland. That privilege may be short-lived.

While much needs to be done to figure out exactly how farming practices can be modified to help reduce GHGs, and preserve farming as a viable livelihood, certainly in Ireland it is about time that the government convened a public consultation on the matter. If the expansion of the agriculture sector is going to continue, then the sector has to contribute its fair share of efforts to significantly reduce GHGs, or the government needs to identify who else is going to make sacrifices. The IT industry? All drivers? Or all taxpayers because the government chooses to pay massive fines for failing to meet its GHG-reduction obligations?

 

Sources:

Georgina Custin, “2017: Agriculture Begins to Tackle Its Role in Climate Change” inside climate news (4 Jan 2017).  https://insideclimatenews.org/news/03012017/agriculture-climate-change-paris-agreement-global-warming-drought

“Climate Smart Agriculture: If Only. Reports from IIEA/RDS, and from Environmental Pillar/Stop Climate Chaos,” in Reports section of irish environment magazine (September 2016).

Kristine Valujeva, Lilian O’Sullivan, Carsten Gutzler, Reamonn Fealy, Rogier P.O. Schulte, “The challenge of managing soil functions at multiple scales: An optimisation study of the synergistic and antagonistic trade-offs between soil functions in Ireland,” Land Use Policy (15 Dec 2016).  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264837716300205

Interview with Dr. Cara Augustenborg in Podcast section of irish environment magazine (February 2017).

“Carbon Neutral” in iePEDIA section of irish environment magazine (January 2017).  http://www.irishenvironment.com/iepedia/carbon-neutral/

 

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR? Not Much of A Chance for That in 2017

Thanks to T-Rex and RasPUTIN

 

At the end of a year, journalists and others are inclined to write optimistically about the hope for the next New Year. Who wants to be depressing at the start of something new?

Unfortunately, we are living in a new dimension ruled by the US President-elect, T-Rex (see previous ieBLOG), and his close companion, RasPUTIN, the President or Czar of Russia. Here are two wild and crazy guys who seem to have bonded, even though they actually have not met in person. They enjoy bullying and boasting, and enjoy hanging around with the well-to-do, the one percenters. One has short hair, the other more than enough for both, though orange.

Like the fuel sources they champion — oil and gas — they are fossilized, living in dark regions polluting the earth with their political emissions, including tweets.

With T-Rex and RasPUTIN dominating two of the most powerful nations, the reality is that 2017 very likely will be disruptive, unsettling, depressing and dangerous. Just for one example, it is certainly possible, if not likely, that they will collude to put part of the Arctic at great risk from drilling and producing oil and gas, assisted by another Rex, Tillerson, as the new Secretary of State. The fossil fuel companies and their stakeholders will reap the benefits.

Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil, received the Order of Friendship from RasPUTIN and presumably T-Rex might also receive such an honor from his pal. T-Rex does love attention and shiny objects.

 russian-order-of-friendship

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While all this may spell disaster, there is some good news in the wind. Whatever inane, confused, or patently false statement T-Rex offers, he most likely will contradict it within days. Words on one day have no relation to words on the next or any other day; meaning evaporates. Those in the international community, and even his Republican colleagues, likely will soon learn this lesson, if they haven’t already. This will of course cause some consternation among his Cabinet since they won’t be able to figure our what his policy or position is.

The best advice for when T-Rex ascends the throne in several weeks is to ignore whatever he says.

But under no circumstances ignore what he actually does. His policies, as opposed to his words, do have consequences. We need to nail down his policies and attack those that threaten our environment, and other social and economic benefits. Don’t let him avoid the meaning and impacts of his policies.

Lastly there is no use getting angry at T-Rex. But do get even by making fun of him. As the comedian Seth Meyers and President Obama did at the White House Correspondents dinner in 2011 over a possible presidential run by T-Rex. Or as Alec Baldwin does in his imitation of T-Rex on Saturday Night Live. T-Rex was not amused by Meyers or Baldwin and he showed it. Some have suggested he was humiliated by the Meyers roast. But then Trump humiliated himself when he failed to carry off any humor at the 2016 Al Smith dinner in New York, and was even booed by the audience of the New York elite.

T-Rex has very thin skin and retaliates whenever he feels slighted. So if we’re lucky RasPUTIN will offer T-Rex some slight that nobody else will perceive, and T-Rex will pout and then Tweet and then turn elsewhere to get some attention. Perhaps Nigel Farage can re-establish that “special relation” between the US and UK and T-Rex can be knighted. Or T-Rex can get a role on Games of Thrones, returning to his strength and origin in pure fantasy TV.

snl-tillersonputintrump 

 

 

 John Goodman as Rex Tillerson, Beck Bennett as Putin, and Alex Baldwin as T-Rex, examining drilling sites in the Arctic.

 

 

Sources:

Seth Meyers Destroys Donald Trump @ White House Correspondents Dinner 5/1/2011 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Km4R377s4M

Grahma Vyse, “Donald Trump’s Ultimate Humiliation,” The New Republic (21 Oct 2016).  https://newrepublic.com/article/138025/donald-trumps-ultimate-humiliation

Best & Funniest Moments Alec Baldwin as Trump on ‘SNL’ Cold Open  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sY5u4OnH6Y

Joe Romm, “Trump, Putin, and ExxonMobil team up to destroy the planet,” ThinkProgress (11 Dec 2016).  https://thinkprogress.org/trump-putin-and-exxonmobil-team-up-to-destroy-the-planet-fb88650acfa1#.qt338v8b6

 

 

 

“Trump-l’oeil” is a way of creating the optical illusion that the new President-elect exists in 3 dimensions when we know he has only 2 dimensions, at most

Here are three things we can do to undermine his potentially destructive behavior.

 

120116-t-rex-copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(1) Never speak his name. The newly-elected President has a deep infatuation (perhaps even lust) for hearing and seeing his name spoken and written large. He also has survived financially, in part, by selling his name as a brand. Given the bankruptcy of many of his actual businesses, his name is all he may have left. So we should deny him his name by never speaking it. Instead, henceforth he should be known only as “T Rex,” short for Tyrannosaurus rex, the dinosaur that aside from being one of the largest of the known carnivorous dinosaurs has arguably received the most media exposure

120116-boycott-bw-copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(2) Boycott. The media reports that T-Rex, as President, may not be subject to conflict-of-interest laws. As a result, the T-Rex business empire can proceed while being run by his children. They will have control over assets that include stock in companies building pipelines and investments in foreign countries, some of which include people close to or actually part of a foreign government. T-Rex will of course know all this. The potential conflicts of interest are limitless.

What can we do? Besides keeping a close eye on and objecting to his conflicts, we can boycott his products, his services, his hotels, his golf courses, including anything that bears his name. It does not matter if he does not own an asset, e.g. a hotel or apartment building. If it has his name on it, he makes money off it. If the value of his businesses falls, he may remain impervious but at least our spirits will rise.

Just recently the owners of three large apartment buildings on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, which had T-Rex’s real name brandished over the front of the buildings, announced the name would be removed from the buildings and from the uniforms of staff. Tenants had strenuously objected to T-Rex’s name on the buildings.

And let’s not forget that the term “boycott” and the socio-political action it represents started in Ireland during the Irish Land War.

fight-back

 

 

 

 

 

 

(3) Fight back. If T-Rex reneges on the Paris climate agreement, it has been suggested by Nicholas Sarkozy, former President of France, that the EU could impose a carbon tariff on imports from the US, based on the amount of CO2 emitted in producing the goods.

On the dangers of T-Rex gutting the US Environmental Protection Agency, we have to assume he will try. And that others in Europe may follow his lead. But we should remember this has been tried before. In the early 1980s, President Reagan tried to gut the US EPA. His efforts were most obvious during the unfolding of an environmental disaster at Times Beach, Missouri. Here’s what happened and how Reagan failed over 35 years ago.

Times Beach, Missouri, Environmental Disaster

If you want to visit Times Beach, Missouri, all that remains of the town is a huge mound in a park under which lay buried the town itself. Its demise was caused by a small time waste hauler who, in the late 1970s, sprayed dioxin-contaminated oil wastes from a chemical company over horse farms and dirt roads throughout Missouri.

The dioxin-contaminated soil killed horses and sickened children who played on the horse farms. The owners of one of the horse farms, Judy Piatt and Frank Hempler, confronted the waste hauler who denied any responsibility, claiming he was spreading only used oil. The owners did not believe him so they donned disguises and followed him, documenting everywhere he dumped the oil.

State and federal health authorities, including the Center for Disease Control (CDC), were called in because of the death of the horses and illnesses of children. Eventually they identified the toxic substance as dioxin. Federal authorities, including the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), investigated the chemical plant and began to clean up the plant site.

The challenge was to find the sites where dioxin was dumped, measure the levels of dioxin, determine how dangerous they were, and what to do about the contaminated soil. The horse farmers, Piatt and Hempel, were able to provide documentation of where the waste hauler dumped the dioxin, including on the dirt roads throughout Times Beach.

One major problem that EPA and others had was that in the 1970s there was no federal law that governed such situations – toxic waste sites that the responsible parties had closed or abandoned. The gap in the law was closed in December 1980 through the passage of the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as the Superfund law. The Superfund law established a government fund for the investigation and cleanup of abandoned toxic waste sites, with strict liability provisions that allowed the government to recover the costs of the cleanups from all responsible parties.

As tough as the law was when it passed in December 1980, it immediately ran into headstrong opposition from the administration of newly elected President Ronald Reagan who assumed office in January 1981. Reagan was unsympathetic to environmental issues and immediately set out to diminish the effectiveness of the federal EPA by cutting resources, delaying regulatory actions, and reducing enforcement. These efforts to undercut the EPA, and the Superfund program in particular, were carried out by people appointed by Reagan, particularly Anne Gorsuch, the head of the EPA, and Rita Lavelle, the head of the hazardous waste division. Both Gorsuch and Lavelle joined the EPA from jobs in industries that had been regulated by the EPA, and were viewed as foxes sent to guard the chicken coop.

The Reagan administration cut EPA funding by 17 percent, and Gorsuch abolished the enforcement office, dispersing the staff into other programs. Soon after Lavelle assumed control of the hazardous waste program, she met privately with industry representatives whose hazardous waste sites were being investigated by the EPA. The meetings led to claims that Lavelle was entering into sweetheart deals with companies to relieve them of the obligation to pay for the multimillion-dollar cleanup of these sites. When the Reagan administration refused to surrender EPA documents to Congress, it was seen as an attempt to hide such deals. There were also reports that the EPA was attempting to lower the standard for dioxin cleanups. This, and the reductions in staffing and resources mandated by Reagan, including laboratories needed to analyze samples, deepened the distrust of both the EPA and the Reagan administration, especially among those trying to deal with the dioxin in Times Beach and elsewhere.

While the public demanded that the EPA take action to protect those exposed to the dioxin, Rita Lavelle stated repeatedly that no emergency existed, and that since not enough was known about dioxin, more studies were needed before action could be taken. When asked why some of the sites were not fenced, she infamously retorted that fences merely encouraged children to climb over them. Many saw these arguments as attempts to delay the process, as a denial of the seriousness of the dioxin exposure, and as an unwillingness to spend the Superfund money that Congress had appropriated.

The EPA’s handling of events in Missouri became an embarrassment in the fall of 1982 when an environmental organization, the Environmental Defense Fund, published a leaked EPA document that listed fourteen confirmed and forty-one suspected dioxin sites in Missouri, and reported that the EPA was going to clean up sites only if the level of dioxin exceeded 100 ppb, whereas the CDC was arguing for cleanups where the dioxin level was only 1 ppb.

Since the town of Times Beach had the largest population of all the sites, it received the most attention. Sampling began in late 1982 and residents soon grew accustomed to people in white moon suits taking samples of the dirt on their streets.

120116-dioxin-copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By 1983, based on test results, the CDC advised that the people of Times Beach should get out. Within days, police established roadblocks to prevent access to the town, and people in moon suits returned to take further samples.

Despite the growing crisis in Times Beach, officials at the EPA headquarters remained dismissive. Lavelle insisted that there was no emergency. Others closer to the Reagan White House saw Lavelle herself as a disaster in the making because of the public outcry.

Both Lavelle and Gorsuch were dismissed from the EPA for a variety of reasons, including their handling of Times Beach. Gorsuch was cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over certain documents. Subsequently, Lavelle was convicted of perjury before Congress, of obstructing a Congressional investigation, and of submitting a false statement. She spent four months in jail and served five years of probation.

Due to the public uproar about how the people in Times Beach were treated by EPA, President Reagan had to appoint a widely respected former head of EPA, Willaim Ruckelshaus, to replace Gorsuch in the hopes of regaining the trust of the public in EPA’s work.

The waste hauler, Russell Bliss, was prosecuted on a variety of charges, including illegal dumping and tax fraud, and was sentenced to a year in jail. The people of Times Beach were bought out and moved out of harm’s way, and the town itself was demolished and covered with a mound of soil. It lies buried there today.

 

Postscript:

Attacks on EPA did not miraculously end with the Times Beach disaster, and at that time the Democrats controlled the House of Representatives. So the current control of both the House and Senate and the Presidency by a basically climate-denying party does not bode well.

On the other hand, many business and industry leaders largely understand and accept the nature of and adverse impacts from climate change. Many are also committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to transforming their operations through the use of renewable and low-carbon energy sources, clearly in part for their own economic security. Many companies conduct business in the EU as well as the US and likely will adopt in the US whatever GHG-savings operations are required for the EU.

But it should always be remembered that it was the public protest, the heroic efforts of Piatt and Hempel and other individual citizens, and the concerted efforts of many environmental organizations that triggered the reform of the EPA and the halt to the worst abuses of the Reagan attempts to gut the EPA.

 

Sources:

Robert Emmet Hernan, “Times Beach, Missouri,” [excerpts] in This Borrowed Earth: Lessons From the 15 Worst Environmental Disasters Around the World, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010 (English); China Machine Press, 2011(Chinese).

Oliver Milman, “Trump administration could roll back US environmental protection, critics fear,” The Guardian (13 Nov 2016).  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/13/climate-change-trump-administration-environmental-protection

Arthur Neslen and Adam Vaughan, “Trump victory may embolden other nations to obstruct Paris climate deal,” The Guardian (11 Nov 2016).  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/11/trump-victory-may-embolden-other-nations-to-obstruct-paris-climate-deal

Charles V. Bagli, “Trump Won the Election, but 3 Manhattan Buildings Will Lose His Name,” The New York Times (15 Nov 2016). http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/16/nyregion/trump-won-the-election-but-3-manhattan-buildings-will-lose-his-name.html

Coral Davenport, “At U.N. Meeting, Diplomats Worry Trump Could Cripple Climate Pact,” The New York Times (15 Nov 2016).  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/16/world/united-nations-climate-change-trump.html

Justin Andress, “27 Trump Brands to Boycott,” Destination Tips (31 Oct 2016).  http://www.destinationtips.com/advice/27-trump-brands-to-boycott

Natasha Geiling, “Business community to climate denier Donald Trump: Climate action is an economic imperative,” Think Progress (17 Nov 2016).  https://thinkprogress.org/new-report-details-the-staggering-cost-of-climate-inaction-4f4bc7bff4d#.yilyd9lkm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

« Newer Entries   1  2  3 ... 13  Older Entries»

ieBLOG

It’s Time to Scare the Bejesus Out of People about Climate Change

Part 2 – More Bejesus Needed, But for Whom?

CURRENT

PAST 1 Apr 2017