LAWSUITS ARE CHALLENGING ALMOST ALL TRUMP’S ENVIRONMENTAL OFFENSIVES

By blocking these common sense standards, the administration is reversing progress in cleaning the air we breathe and fighting climate change

On Thursday, President Trump made international headlines by announcing his intent to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement—a landmark decision that was met with outrage and dismay from climate activists and environmentalists. But while the gesture carries great symbolic significance, signaling the president’s disinterest in international climate efforts, any hope of actually achieving our domestic climate goals pledged under the agreement had already long since vanished.

Since January, the Trump administration has taken swift steps to dismantle numerous climate and environmental priorities established under the Obama administration, including the repeal of multiple environmental regulations. And environmentalists are fighting back—by way of the courts, that is. Just about every environment-related action the Trump administration has taken has been met with a legal challenge.

Trump is no stranger to litigation—reports suggest he was sued thousands of times as part of his career in real estate before ever becoming president. But since assuming office, he’s also been met with record-setting numbers of legal challenges. In his first two weeks as president alone, his administration was sued more than 50 times, mostly over the travel ban he implemented shortly after his inauguration. By March, reports suggest the number of lawsuits had risen above 100.

A major reason for the high rate of litigation has to do with the president’s generous use of executive orders, often in ways that environmental and social groups feel oversteps his authority, according to Michael Burger, executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School. The travel ban is perhaps the most high-profile example of these.

What we’ve seen with Trump is an attempt to really use the executive order to create whole new policies.

“Executive orders tend to be directives from the president to administrative agencies to carry out internal tasks,” he said. “On occasion, they’re used to set broader policy agendas. But what we’ve seen with Trump is an attempt to really use the executive order to create whole new policies. And some of the policies that these executive orders are seeking to create are at direct odds with the statutes that provide the executive branch with its authority to take any action at all.”

To date, several dozen of the lawsuits currently filed against the Trump administration are directly related to climate and environmental issues. A number of them, although certainly not all, are related to executive orders.

In regard to Paris, White House advisers had actually cited potential lawsuits as an extra reason the president should withdraw from the treaty. Prior to Thursday’s announcement, they’d suggested that if the U.S. remained in the treaty while failing to enforce greenhouse gas-reducing regulations—namely, the Clean Power Plan, which the Trump administration has been actively working to unravel—environmental groups could pin new lawsuits advocating for climate regulations on the commitments laid out in the Paris agreement.

But as The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips recently pointed out, Trump’s getting sued for his environmental policies either way. He’s already facing a handful of cases over major policy points—and now that the Paris announcement has dashed hopes that the administration will make climate action a U.S. priority, more may be coming in the future.

We’ve put together some of the major examples of recent federal actions and the lawsuits they’ve inspired so far.

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What we’ve seen with Trump is an attempt to really use the executive order to create whole new policies

The promised border wall

A cornerstone of President Trump’s campaign, from its earliest days, was the promise of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. And a January executive order on the topic of immigration sealed his intent, calling for the immediate construction of a wall along the Mexican border.

The idea has been met with resistance from a wide array of social communities and organizations, but it’s also been challenged by environmentalists concerned about its effect on the natural landscape. In April, conservation group Center for Biological Diversity and Arizona Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration that would block the project’s construction, claiming that the government failed to adequately assess the wall’s potential environmental impact. The plaintiffs express concern that the wall could have a negative impact on water systems and native species, particularly endangered ones like jaguars.

The revival of the coal industry

Another key Trump campaign promise involved the reinvigoration of the declining coal industry. And in March, the Trump administration took a step in that direction by lifting an Obama-era moratorium on new coal leases on public lands. This directive was also issued in an executive order.

Almost immediately, the Northern Cheyenne tribe in Montana, along with a group of environmental organizations, sued the Trump administration for lifting the ban without completing an environmental review of the coal-leasing program. The plaintiffs suggest that the government should have first evaluated the program’s “significant environmental, health, and economic impacts—including impacts from climate disruption caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, and socioeconomic and environmental impacts to local communities.”

Another chance for Keystone XL

Among the most controversial environmental issues that arose during the Obama administration was that of the Keystone XL pipeline. This proposal called for a new pipeline branch between Alberta and Nebraska, running through parts of Montana and South Dakota in the process. The idea was met with fierce protests from Native American, social justice and environmental groups, and it was ultimately rejected by President Obama.

But in January, Trump signed an executive order aimed at advancing the project, and in March the administration officially approved the pipeline’s construction. In response, multiple environmental organizations sued the administration, arguing that the approval of the project relied on an outdated environmental assessment and ignored new information about the pipeline’s potential impact. A separate lawsuit was also filed by conservationists and representatives of indigenous groups.

Tough breaks for wildlife

In yet another reversal of an Obama-era rule, Congress voted in February to undo a regulation aimed at protecting certain Alaskan wildlife from predator control operations on public lands, prohibiting the shooting of denning mother bears and wolves as well as certain types of trapping and aerial hunting. President Trump signed the reversal into effect.

In April, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the strategy Congress used to repeal the regulation—a little-known law that allows Congress to overturn federal regulations within a limited amount of time after they’re finalized. The case challenges an aspect of this law that stipulates that after a rule has been repealed in this manner, no substantially similar regulation may be enacted again without congressional approval. The case argues that “this constraint on future rulemaking violates the separation of powers that must be maintained between the legislative and executive branches under the U.S. Constitution.”

At the time it was filed, Reuters reported that the lawsuit—the first of its kind to make such a challenge—stood little likelihood of success.

The expansion of offshore drilling

Last month, President Trump signed an executive order that could expand offshore oil and gas drilling, directing Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to review an Obama ban on drilling in certain parts of the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. In May, a group of environmental groups responded with a lawsuitchallenging the president’s authority to make such a move.

The plaintiffs point out that President Obama initiated the ban in the first place under a law called the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which provides guidelines for oil and gas development leasing. They argue that this act allows presidents to withdraw certain areas from consideration for leasing—but that “neither OCSLA nor any other provision of law authorizes Presidents to undo such withdrawals.”

Attacks on energy efficiency programs

It’s not just environmental groups that are pushing back against the Trump administration’s environmental policies—states are jumping on the bandwagon now as well.

By blocking these common sense standards, the administration is reversing progress in cleaning the air we breathe and fighting climate change.

In January, the White House directed federal agencies to place new or pending regulations on hold until they could be reviewed by incoming Trump administration agency heads. Among the regulations delayed as a result were a series of energy efficiency appliance standards introduced by the Obama administration. Energy efficiency standards are widely regarded by environmentalists as an important way to cut down on the energy consumption of individual households, businesses and other buildings, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the process.

As a result, in April a coalition of state attorneys general filed a notice of intent with the Department of Energy to sue within 60 days. The states were joined in their protest by the city of New York and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

In a statement at the time, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman decried the delays as harmful to both public health and the environment. “By blocking these common sense standards, the administration is reversing progress in cleaning the air we breathe and fighting climate change – and denying consumers and businesses some $24 billion in savings,” he said.

Written by CHELSEA HARVEY, published in FUSION 5 June 2017.

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9.8 million people employed by renewable energy, according to new report

“In the last four years the number of jobs in the solar and wind sectors combined has more than doubled”

Nearly 10 million people were employed in the renewable energy sector last year, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) said on Wednesday.

IRENA’s report, Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2017,states that global renewable energy employment in 2016, excluding large hydropower, hit 8.3 million. If direct employment in large hydropower is included, that figure climbs to 9.8 million.

“Falling costs and enabling policies have steadily driven up investment and employment in renewable energy worldwide since IRENA’s first annual assessment in 2012, when just over seven million people were working in the sector,” Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA’s director-general, said in a statement.

“In the last four years, for instance, the number of jobs in the solar and wind sectors combined has more than doubled,” Amin added.

The report showed that solar photovoltaic was the biggest employer last year, accounting for 3.1 million jobs, up 12 percent compared to 2015. The wind sector represented 1.2 million jobs, while biofuels were responsible for 1.7 million jobs.

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Kevin Frayer | Getty Images

 

Amin went on to state that the potential for renewable jobs was significant. “As the scales continue to tip in favor of renewables, we expect that the number of people working in the renewables sector could reach 24 million by 2030, more than offsetting fossil-fuel job losses and becoming a major economic driver around the world.”

Globally, IRENA said that 62 percent of jobs were to be found in Asia. In China alone, 3.64 million people were working in renewables last year, an increase of 3.4 percent.

Africa was another area where utility scale developments had made “great strides”, IRENA said, although off-grid solutions were also playing a key role.

“In some African countries, with the right resources and infrastructure, we are seeing jobs emerge in manufacturing and installation for utility-scale projects,” Rabia Ferroukhi, head of IRENA’s Policy Unit and deputy director of Knowledge, Policy and Finance, said.

“For much of the continent however, distributed renewables, like off-grid solar, are bringing energy access and economic development,” Ferroukhi added. “These off-grid mini-grid solutions are giving communities the chance to leap-frog traditional electricity infrastructure development and create new jobs in the process.”

Written by  and published in CNBC the 24th of May 2017

Indigenous Communities Lead Massive Peoples Climate March in D.C.

Estimated 200,000 converge on nation’s capital to demand climate justice

Article written by JONATHAN HAHN and published on SIERRA the 29th of April 2017

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THE PEOPLES CLIMATE MARCH, WASHINGTON, D.C. | PHOTO BY JONATHAN HAHN

Before upwards of 200,000 singing, chanting people filled the streets of Washington, D.C., to protest the Trump administration’s awful record on climate change, the day of action began with a quiet ceremony.

At the foot of the reflecting pool at the National Mall early Saturday morning, as the sun shot over the lip of the Capitol Building in streaks of purple and gold, a circle of tribal elders welcomed the dawn with a chant to honor earth and water. A crowd in concentric circles gathered around them. Tobacco changed hands. Seated elders from tribes across the United States were greeted by brothers and sisters. A man in a green bandana covering his face walked around the crowd with a cooking pan full of burning sage, to which those present extended their arms as he went by, beckoning the smoke.

This sun ceremony, during which elders welcomed spirits from the four directions, officially opened the Peoples Climate March in Washington, D.C., today—a massive show of resistance to President Trump’s environmental attacks as the new administration marked its 100th day in office. An estimated 200,000 people turned out in blistering heat to demonstrate their defiance to 100 days of climate denial, and show their support for the front-line communities that are already suffering the effects of global climate change.

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THREE WOMEN ARRIVE FOR THE SUN CEREMONY AT DAWN AT THE REFLECTING POOL, WASHINGTON, D.C. | PHOTO BY JONATHAN HAHN

Indigenous resistance was front and center in Washington as native leaders and tribal members joined other communities of color to lead the march forward and deliver its message: They will not be silent in the face of environmental racism, fossil fuel extraction on native lands, and climate change.

“I wanted to bring my daughters here today, because I’m trying to make a point,” said Cherri Foytlin, state director of Bold Louisiana and a signer of the Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty. “That a lot of times we talk about the youth being the future, the leaders of tomorrow, but as you can see, the youth are the leaders of today. Especially our beautiful indigenous youth. They are telling us loud and clear what they want: They want a livable planet.”

The Peoples Climate March was planned even before the outcome of the 2016 presidential election was known, as a way to compel the new administration—regardless of who it was—to make climate action a priority. Now, the environmental movement is fighting to protect what progress had been made during the Obama years from the Trump administration’s relentless attack on climate policy, and the science supporting it.

Since Trump entered the White House, his administration has moved to roll back the Clean Power Plan, has reopened coastal waters in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans to offshore oil drilling, and has encouraged increased coal mining. White House officials are deliberating whether to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Just 24 hours before the march got underway, the EPA took down several pages on its website dedicated to climate policy and data in what appeared to be the administration’s latest effort to deny the science of climate change.

In an interview at the reflecting pond on the National Mall, Mustafa Ali, the former head of the environmental justice program at the EPA and new senior vice president at the Hip Hop Caucus, reacted to the EPA’s scrubbing of climate science from its site. “I think it’s a shame,” he said. “I think it also shows us that there is a real fear that if people see that information, then they will get even more engaged. I see it as an attack on communities, an attack on our way of life, and on the foundations that have been built over the last number of decades.”

The march got underway in front of the Capitol Building at 3rd and Jefferson SW, sorted into eight blocs representing the different factions of the climate movement, with indigenous and other front-line communities leading the front, followed by immigrants and LGBTQI, labor, youth, scientists, faith, and environmentalists. Huge banners and billboards bobbled above the crowd—“Native Nations Rise,” “Water Is Life,” and “We Exist, We Resist, We Rise”—as dancers traced figure-eights down Pennsylvania Avenue.

When the crowd passed the new Trump International Hotel, the sight triggered jeers and chants of “Resistance is here to stay; welcome to your 100th day!” When the front of the march reached the White House, the crowd erupted in song. Singing and native drum lines broke out, while behind the gates, at the entrance to the White House, a group of well-dressed men and women stood around watching or photographing the cheering marchers.

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MARCHERS AS THEY PASS BY THE WHITE HOUSE | PHOTO BY JONATHAN HAHN

The marchers were at once festive, buoyed by the collective show of strength, and determined to sustain opposition to the Trump administration.

“Our current administration needs to know that climate change is a real thing,” said Deirdre Campbell, who lives just outside Baltimore and came to the march with her youngest sister, Erica, and oldest Nephew, Alex. “Climate denial is not a policy.”

Amy Kennedy came to the march from Savannah, Georgia, with her son, Jax. “The children are the future,” she said in an interview about why she traveled all the way to Washington. “It’s not our planet; it’s theirs.”

In addition to the demonstration in Washington, sister marches took place in some 300 other cities and towns. In Boston, thousands of people gathered on the Boston Commons as a local minister told the crowd, “We are here because there is no Planet B.” In the Los Angeles area, celebrities and local elected officials rallied in Wilmington, a neighborhood near Long Beach that is plagued by pollution from the area’s heavy industries and port facilities. At least 2,000 people rallied at the Maine State House in Augusta, while a march in Tampa Bay, Florida, stretched for blocks. In the San Francisco Bay Area, several thousand people converged on the shores of Oakland’s Lake Merritt for a rally that included indigenous leaders and local environmental-justice groups. There, 70-year-old Margaret Gordon, an organizer with a group called No Coal in Oakland, summed up the crowd’s concerns with a fiery one-minute speech from the stage. “Keep the fossil fuels in the ground. Clean up our air, water, and soil,” she said.

The massive march in the capital concluded with a rally at the base of the Washington Monument, where musicians played on a stage as native dancers sang and chanted in drum lines nearby, and marchers tied multicolored ribbons to a metal frame to create “The Climate Ribbon” tree.

Some people, such as 18-year-old Maddie Atkins of Portland, Oregon, had traveled across the country to be there. “I’m here because I believe that young people have something to say about climate change,” she said. “We have the moral authority to speak about it. We’re not going to back down. This is not just about us; it’s about the future generations that come after us. Young people are collectively fed up with administrations that continue to value short-term priorities and short-term victories over the long term. Trump should realize that young people are not just going to sit back.”

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MADDIE ATKINS OF PORTLAND, OREGON, MAKES A SIGN FOR THE PEOPLES CLIMATE MARCH, WASHINGTON, D.C. | PHOTO BY JONATHAN HAHN

Melina Laboucan-Massimo, a member of the Lubicon Cree First Nation in north-central Alberta who is a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace and is on the board of 350.org, said she hopes today’s march will send a message to politicians that they are out of step with the majority of people who are rightly concerned about climate change. “With the changes we’ve seen out of the Trump administration, such as with the approval of the Keystone pipeline and the amazing resistance we saw in Standing Rock, and the outright disrespect and human-rights violations we saw there, we need to continue to work on these issue and demand justice for our brothers and sisters that are already experiencing the immense impact of climate changes,” she said.

Wayne Frederick of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe is a tribal council representative for the Okreek Community. He came to D.C. to stand in unity with other indigenous people. “The Keystone XL pipeline is one of the most dangerous pipelines to our community,” he said in an interview while at the It Takes Roots “Mother Earth’s RED LINE” action at the Capitol Building the day before the march, wearing a red T-shirt that said, “Skoden!” (“Let’s go then,” in reservation slang). He says the threat from the Keystone pipeline to the Ogallala aquifer, the only source of drinking water for the Rosebud Sioux, is one of his biggest concerns, including the pipeline’s corridor, which he says is shooting between tribal land. “We have at least 13 resolutions opposing it since 2010.”

Frederick was among those at the early morning sun ceremony that began the day. Those who were there had been invited to bring drops of water from their lands, towns, and territories. At the end of the ceremony, they combined their water into a communal copper vessel that was then to be poured into the Potomac River.

As they mixed each other’s waters into the communal vessel, people chanted, “Water is life.”

Now rivers have the same legal status as people, we must uphold their rights

Rivers around the world have been desecrated in every way. Now the Ganges and New Zealand’s Whanganui have legal standing, how will we protect their rights?

Article written by Ashish Kothari, Mari Margil, and Shrishtee Bajpai and published in TheGuardian the 21st of April of 2017

Several geographically-distant but related events signalled a dramatic mind shift in humanity’s troubled relationship with nature last month. First, the New Zealand parliament passed the Te Awa Tupua Act, giving the Whanganui River and ecosystem a legal standing in its own right, guaranteeing its “health and well-being”.

Shortly after, a court in India ruled that the Ganges and Yamuna rivers and their related ecosystems have “the status of a legal person, with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities … in order to preserve and conserve them”.

The history of the rivers makes these proclamations remarkable. The Ganges has long been considered sacred and millions of people depend on it for sustenance, yet it has been polluted, mined, diverted and degraded to a shocking extent. The Whanganui has witnessed a century-old struggle between the indigenous Iwi people and the New Zealand government over its treatment. Notably, the Iwi consider themselves and the Whanganui as an indivisible whole, expressed in the common saying: “I am the river, and the river is me.”

Rivers are the arteries of the earth, and lifelines for humanity and millions of other animals and plants. It’s no wonder they have been venerated, considered as ancestors or mothers, and held up as sacred symbols. But we have also desecrated them in every conceivable way. Can giving them the legal rights of a human help resolve this awful contradiction?

Perhaps, if we are able to think beyond the material limits of how we relate to nature, we can encourage political and economic measures to create a deeper and more ethical relationship. New Zealand and India have recognised the intrinsic rights of rivers, beyond their use for humans. Both recognise rivers as having spiritual, physical and metaphysical characteristics. These crucial extensions of law are based on ethical principles rarely recognised since the industrial age, but this is how indigenous peoples have long treated nature.

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New Zealand’s parliament has given the Whanganui River and ecosystem a legal standing in its own right. Photograph: Alamy

What does it mean for a river to have the rights of a person? If the most fundamental human right is the right to life, does it mean the river should be able to flow free, unfettered by obstructions such as dams? Does the right extend to all creatures in the river system? How can a river, with no voice of its own, ensure such rights are upheld or ask for compensation if they are violated? Who would receive any compensation? And can such rights undo past wrongs?

The New Zealand law recognises that past activities, including a hydroelectricity project, caused damage. The implication is that any such future activities could violate the river’s rights. The Indian court’s orders are vague on some of these aspects, but with a number of hydroelectricity projects being built or planned for the upper reaches of the Ganges and the Yamuna, a clearer articulation of what the court’s orders mean is urgently needed.

And while New Zealand entrusts custodianship of the river to the Iwi people and the government, India puts its faith mostly in government officials and legal experts. This appears shortsighted, given that the country has so far failed to maintain the health of the Ganges and the Yamuna. How will its officials be responsible “parents” – as designated by the court – if their superiors continue to make decisions that are detrimental to the rivers, such as massive hydro-project construction? Can these officials sue their own government?

Another issue is the Indian court’s equation of the Ganges with Hinduism. Hindus do venerate this river, but communities of other religions have lived along it for centuries. In an atmosphere of increasing religious divisiveness in India, these court orders must not be hijacked by forces of intolerance.

The decisions in New Zealand and India come amid a growing global movement towards recognising the rights of nature. Since 2006, dozens of communities in the United States have enacted the world’s first laws recognising such rights. In 2008, Ecuador became the first country to secure the rights of naturePachamama – in its constitution, Bolivia enacted the Law of Mother Earth three years later, and in 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 22 April as International Mother Earth Day.

Though the Ecuadorian government has been slow to implement nature’s rights, the country’s courts have issued several decisions upholding them. In a case brought in the name of the Vilcabamba River in 2011, the provincial court of Loja ruled that the rights of the river had been violated by government road construction, and ordered the restoration of the affected river corridor.

Crucially, in the US and Ecuador, people and governments can “step into the shoes” of nature; when people witness the failure of a government to uphold nature’s rights, they can bring cases on its behalf.

At a time of accelerating species extinction, ecosystem collapse, and climate change, this movement marks a transformation in humankind’s relationship with the natural world. Recognising such rights does not stop all human use of nature, but means that our actions must not interfere with the ability of ecosystems and species to thrive. Eventually, respect for nature should be built into how we live, and not because a law is telling us to do so.

Circle of Life

By reframing the economy, Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics changes our view of who we are and where we stand.

Article written by George Monbiot, published in Monbiot.com the 13th of April 2017

So what are we going to do about it? This is the only question worth asking. But the answers appear elusive. Faced with a multifaceted crisis  – the capture of governments by billionaires and their lobbyists, extreme inequality, the rise of demagogues, above all the collapse of the living world – those to whom we look for leadership appear stunned, voiceless, clueless. Even if they had the courage to act, they have no idea what to do.

The most they tend to offer is more economic growth: the fairy dust supposed to make all the bad stuff disappear. Never mind that it drives ecological destruction, that it has failed to relieve structural unemployment or soaring inequality, that, in some recent years, almost all the increment in incomes has been harvested by the top 1%. As values, principles and moral purpose are lost, the promise of growth is all that’s left.

You can see the effects in a leaked memo from the UK’s foreign office: “Trade and growth are now priorities for all posts … work like climate change and illegal wildlife trade will be scaled down.” All that counts is the rate at which we turn natural wealth into cash. If this destroys our prosperity and the wonders that surround us, who cares?

We cannot hope to address our predicament without a new worldview. We cannot use the models that caused our crises to solve them. We need to reframe the problem. This is what the most inspiring book published so far this year has done.

In Doughnut Economics: seven ways to think like a 21st-century economist, Kate Raworth reminds us that economic growth was not, at first, intended as a measurement of well-being. Simon Kuznets, who standardised the measurement of growth, warned: “the welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measure of national income.” Economic growth, he pointed out, measures only annual flow, rather than stocks of wealth and their distribution.

Raworth points out that economics in the 20th Century “lost the desire to articulate its goals.” It aspired to be a science of human behaviour: a science based on a deeply flawed portrait of humanity. The dominant model – “rational economic man”, self-interested, isolated, calculating – says more about the nature of economists than it does about other humans. The loss of an explicit objective allowed the discipline to be captured by a proxy goal: endless growth.

The aim of economic activity, she argues, should be “meeting the needs of all within the means of the planet.” Instead of economies that need to grow, whether or not they make us thrive, we need economies that “make us thrive, whether or not they grow.” This means changing our picture of what the economy is and how it works.

The central image in mainstream economics is the circular flow diagram. It depicts a closed flow of income cycling between households, businesses, banks, government and trade, operating in a social and ecological vacuum. Energy, materials, the natural world, human society, power, the wealth we hold in common: all are missing from the model. The unpaid work of carers – principally women – is ignored, though no economy could function without them. Like rational economic man, this representation of economic activity bears little relationship to reality.

So Raworth begins by redrawing the economy. She embeds it in the Earth’s systems and in society, showing how it depends on the flow of materials and energy, and reminding us that we are more than just workers, consumers and owners of capital.

This recognition of inconvenient realities then leads to her breakthrough: a graphic representation of the world we want to create. Like all the best ideas, her Doughnut model seems so simple and obvious that you wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself. But achieving this clarity and concision requires years of thought: a great decluttering of the myths and misrepresentations in which we have been schooled.

The diagram consists of two rings. The inner ring of the doughnut represents a sufficiency of the resources we need to lead a good life: food, clean water, housing, sanitation, energy, education, healthcare, democracy … . Anyone living below that line, in the hole in the middle of the doughnut, is in a state of deprivation. 

The outer ring of the doughnut consists of the Earth’s environmental limits, beyond which we inflict dangerous levels of climate change, ozone depletion, water pollution, loss of species and other assaults on the living world. The area between the two rings – the doughnut – is the “ecologically safe and socially just space” in which humanity should strive to live. The purpose of economics should be to help us enter that space and stay there.

As well as describing a better world, the doughnut model allows us to see, in immediate and comprehensible terms, the state in which we now find ourselves. At the moment we transgress both lines. Billions of people still live in the hole in the middle. We have breached the outer boundary in several places.

An economics that helps us to live within the doughnut would seek to reduce inequalities in wealth and income. Wealth arising from the gifts of nature would be widely shared. Money, markets, taxation and public investment would be designed to conserve and regenerate resources rather than squander them. State-owned banks would invest in projects that transform our relationship with the living world, such as zero-carbon public transport and community energy schemes. New metrics would measure genuine prosperity, rather than the speed with which we degrade our long-term prospects.

Such proposals are familiar, but without a new framework of thought, piecemeal solutions are unlikely to succeed. By rethinking economics from first principles, Raworth allows us to integrate our specific propositions into a coherent programme, and then to measure the extent to which it is realised. I see her as the John Maynard Keynes of the 21st-Century: by reframing the economy, she allows us to change our view of who we are, where we stand, and what we want to be.

Now we need to turn her ideas into policy. Read her book, then demand that those who wield power start working towards its objectives: human prosperity within a thriving living world.

Canadian oil firm pulls out of national park in Peru’s Amazon

Pacific abandons one million hectare concession including indigenous peoples’ territories along Brazil border

Article written by  and published in TheGuardian the 22nd of April 2017

A Canadian-headquartered company, Pacific Exploration and Production, has pulled out of a huge oil and gas concession overlapping a new national park in the Peruvian Amazon. The concession, Lot 135, includes approximately 40% of the Sierra del Divisor national park established in 2015.

The concession has provoked opposition in Peru and just across the border in Brazil for many years, including regular statements since 2009 from indigenous Matsés people in both countries and a lawsuit recently filed by regional indigenous federation ORPIO. Both Lot 135 and the park overlap territory used by the Matsés and a proposed reserve for indigenous people living in “isolation.”

Pacific signed a contract for the concession in 2007, the year after a significant chunk of it had been declared a supposedly “protected natural area” but eight years before it became a national park.

The company’s decision to pull out was made public by UK-headquartered NGO Survival International. Institutional Relations and Sustainability Manager Alejandro Jimenez Ramirez told Survival in a letter dated 13 March 2017:

“As you may know, the company has a new management and post evaluations of current opportunities, it has made the decision to relinquish its exploration rights in Block 135 and return the block to Perupetro [the Peruvian state entity responsible for establishing concessions and contracting companies] effective immediately. To date legal processes are underway. . . [W]e wish to reiterate the company’s commitment to conduct its operations under the highest sustainability and human rights guidelines, avoiding damages to cultures and their surroundings; a value promise we feel remains intact.

Perupetro confirmed to the Guardian that Pacific has pulled out, stating that the last day of its contract was 13 March, when the company wrote to Survival. “That is the reason why Lot 135 now doesn’t appear on our [March 2017] map,” says Perupetro’s communications officer Candice Suarez Oppe. 

ORPIO’s David Freitas called Pacific’s decision “good news”, but warned that the concession still exists – and therefore another company could be contracted to operate there.

“The essential thing is for Lot 135 to be annulled,” Freitas told the Guardian. “It can be done. More pressure [is required].”

ORPIO’s lawsuit, supported by the Lima-based Instituto de Defensa Legal (IDL), requests the judge to order the Energy Ministry and Perupetro to re-draw the boundaries of Lot 135 so the proposed reserve for indigenous peoples in “isolation” is excluded. It also requests the judge to order the state entity running the park, SERNANP, to modify the management plan so the proposed reserve – and another proposed reserve – become “strictly protected” zones.

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Matsés man Raúl Binan in Peru’s Amazon with apparatus from Pacific’s exploration in Lot 135. ‘PSE’ stands for Pacific Stratus Energy, a Pacific subsidiary, and ‘SAE’ for SAExploration, which was contracted to conduct seismic tests. Photograph: David Hill

The lawsuit was filed in November 2016, but to date the judge has not formally responded.

“We hope that the judge, Jose Enrique Reategui, will admit our lawsuit and then emit his sentence as soon as possible,” says IDL’s Maritza Quispe. “The indigenous peoples in isolation and initial contact in the proposed reserves are put at serious risk by the park and the superimposition of the oil concessions.”

Sierra del Divisor is Peru’s third biggest national park, adjacent to the border with Brazil. It is home to numerous eco-systems, an extraordinary range of flora and fauna, and river headwaters feeding into key Amazon tributaries. It boasts the “only mountainous region” in the lowland rainforest, according to Peruvian NGO Instituto del Bien Comun, and its most iconic topographical feature, El Cono, can be seen from the Andes on a clear day.

In 2012 and 2013 Pacific explored in what is now the north of the park and, according to ORPIO’s Freitas, it had been planning further exploration as recently as mid-2016. Freitas told the Guardian that operations by the company – including seismic tests – almost certainly drove some of the people in “isolation” across the border into Brazil’s Javari Valley.

“They don’t acknowledge the border,” he says. “There’s a great deal of protection [on the Brazilian side] and they can live peacefully there. Maybe, for now, those who went into Brazil will come back [to Peru].”

Survival’s statement implied that Pacific pulled out partly because of a campaign it has been running against operations in Lot 135 as well as opposition from the Rainforest Foundation Norway and Peruvian indigenous federations ORPIO, AIDESEP and ORAU, but the company reportedly disputes that.

“The firm says its decision came down to business not public pressure,” states a Reuters article published in March. “It decided not to develop one million hectares of land deep in the jungle on the Peru-Brazil border because of financial concerns, a company spokeswoman said. . . “We made operational decisions not to pursue this concession. . . it has nothing to do with pressure,” the Pacific Exploration spokeswoman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.”

Pacific was US$5.4 billion in debt as of late 2015, according to company documents. It filed for bankruptcy in April 2016 and was then restructured.

Asked by the Guardian why the company abandoned Lot 135, communications coordinator Carolina Azcuenaga says Pacific now has new management which evaluated “current opportunities” and decided to “focus on its assets in Colombia and other concessions in different parts of Peru.”

Lot 135 extends for more than one million hectares and is estimated by Perupetro to hold prospective deposits of almost one billion barrels of oil.

When It Comes To Clean Cars, Is The California Way The Right Approach?

California’s strict zero-emissions vehicle strategy may not be the most consumer-friendly and egalitarian way to tackle the problem.

Article written by JUDITH LEWIS MERNIT and published in FastCompany the 21st of April 2017

Capital & Main is an award-winning publication that reports from California on economic, political, and social issues.

Eric Noble works in the automobile industry, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t worry about climate change. When he and his two sons, 11 and 15 years old, travel south to surf on Baja’s Pacific Coast a few times a year, they can see the impact greenhouse gases are having on the earth. “We can see the sea level rising,” he says. “Little coastal roads we used to be able to drive on are inundated now. This is happening.” He understands that transportation is responsible for more than a quarter of the greenhouse gases that linger in our atmosphere, and light-duty vehicles—passenger cars, mostly—emit close to two-thirds of that pollution.

And so Noble, who is president of the Orange County, California-based automotive consulting firm CarLab, also worries whether California’s strict zero-emissions vehicle strategy, which forces automakers to market exhaust-free hydrogen-fueled and battery-powered vehicles in the state, is really the most consumer-friendly and egalitarian way to tackle the problem—not just in California and the nine states that have followed its lead on emissions standards, but throughout the nation.

The Trump administration, responding to auto industry complaints, has already signaled its intention to revisit an Obama-era rule calling for automakers to steeply raise the average fuel efficiency of their fleets—standards written to provide consistency with the California market. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has threatened to reexamine California’s independent authority to regulate tail pipe emissions as well (though it’s uncertain whether he can). But even if nothing changes at the national level, the greater problem is that zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs), just aren’t selling. “There is no demand,” Noble says. “There never has been. If federal subsidies are pulled or California loses its exemption, ZEV sales would go to next to nothing.”

A 2015 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Electric Power Research Institute found that electrification of the national vehicle fleet could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to 80 million to 100 million average passenger cars by 2050. But those numbers assume that more than half the miles drivers log will be powered by grid electricity, and that the grid gets the majority of its power from carbon-free sources. After all, electric cars that run on coal-fired electricity might be doing more harm than good.

California is moving rapidly toward low-carbon electricity generation. But even with a cleaner grid and solar charging stations in home garages, it’s not enough for automakers to sell a handful of clean cars to do-gooder early adopters. People have to buy them in sufficient numbers to make a difference. Even with substantial perks for drivers—a $7,500 federal tax credit for a pure electric vehicle, carpool lane privileges, the quiet power of an electric motor—manufacturers still lease their cars cheap, and at a loss.

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[Photo: NGerda via Wikimedia Commons]

ALLEVIATING “RANGE ANXIETY” BUT LOSING MONEY

“There’s not a single automaker that makes money on an electric car,” Noble says. Tesla, with its rising stock shares and fame, turned a slim profit in the third quarter of 2016, but that’s likely due to the $139 million in ZEV credits it sold to less-green manufacturers. General Motors expects to lose money on every unit it sells of its new Chevrolet Bolt, the all-electric car pitched as an answer to “range anxiety,” because, if you’re careful not to drive it too hard, it can last for 238 miles on a charge.

The problem, says Noble, is not just that at current prices it costs less to fill a tank than to charge a long-range battery. It’s that current EV technology doesn’t fit the pattern of most drivers’ habits—what Noble calls a “duty cycle.” To benefit from a battery-powered electric vehicle, which at its low end has a range of 85 to 130 miles, “you have to own your own house, have an enclosed garage that’s securable, preferably with a 240-volt power outlet,” Noble says. “You’ve got to have a 20- to 50-mile commute, ideally with HOV lane access.” If you live in an apartment, park on the street or in a structure without an EV charging portal, “you’re out.”

Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles would suit a broader range of drivers, but “hydrogen is eons away. It’s not even worth talking about.” Even if there were enough fueling stations spread across the state to give drivers confidence, there wouldn’t be enough hydrogen: No one has quite figured out a hydrogen-production process that doesn’t squander more energy than it creates.

The way Noble sees it, California would do better to promote “milder” forms of low-emissions vehicles—hybrids, conventional engines with efficient transmissions—cars that people already want, and that serve their duty cycles. The state air board, however, is trending in the other direction. In the 2018 model year, incentives to market plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt, which run on both gas and electricity, will decline. Eventually, they’ll go away: By 2030, the state has ruled, only hydrogen fuel cell and pure battery-electric cars will earn automakers the credits they need to do business in the state.

Noble thinks that’s a mistake, and a strategy almost guaranteed to put California far behind on its mandated goal of reducing statewide greenhouse gas emissions to 40% of 1990 levels by 2030. Worse, it won’t make a dent in the climate.

SETTING THE STANDARD FOR THE COUNTRY

Noble’s grim assessment of California regulation runs counter to the state’s official narrative, which is that for the last half century or more, it has done more than any regulating authority in the world to clean up cars. In 1959 the state legislature ordered the Department of Public Health to establish standards for ordinary pollutants like carbon monoxide and particulates; in 2006, the state legislature passed the world’s first law to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, including tail pipe emissions. The auto industry and George W. Bush’s administration resisted mightily, but in 2009 California got the waiver it needed under the Clean Air Act to enact tough greenhouse gas emissions standards for mobile sources. Within the next three years, the California Air Resources Board developed its Advanced Clean Cars program, a set of mandates and strategies aimed at reducing the heat-trapping gases, along with the soot-and-smog forming contaminants, emitted by cars and trucks.

California’s Zero Emissions Vehicle program has been in effect since 1990, but the Advanced Clean Cars program ramped up its goals dramatically. It operates like a cap-and-trade program for cars: Automakers are required to earn credits toward their green-vehicle quotas every year by delivering super-low or zero-emission vehicles for sale. If they can’t do that, they can buy credits from manufacturers who have more than they need. Unsurprisingly, Tesla, which sells long-range battery-electric vehicles exclusively, has made more than $500 million dollars since 2009 selling credits to other manufacturers. Fiat Chrysler, known for its Jeeps and trucks, bought many of them.

“It’s what we call ‘technology-forcing’ regulation,” says David Gerard, a professor of economics at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, of the ZEV program. “They’re saying, ‘You can’t do it now [but] you’re going to figure out how to do it. It doesn’t matter whether you can make money doing it.’ They’re forcing you to make a commercially viable product out of something that is not commercially viable.” It’s not a new practice: In 1961, California required automakers to install “positive crankcase ventilation” valves on new cars to mix more fresh air into tail pipe emissions; a decade later, the EPA began requiring automakers to reduce emissions of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides from tail pipes, knowing that, in most cases, it could only be done with a certain technology known as the three-way catalytic converter.

Such regulations inevitably cost manufacturers money, and they may or may not create jobs; Gerard, who’s written extensively on this topic, thinks they probably don’t. (One researcher who concluded they did, Michael Porter, has seen his famous “Porter Hypothesis” both debunked and upheld at regular intervals.) But they do force technology to evolve. In the first five years of the Advanced Clean Cars program, the number of ZEV models in showrooms has grown from 3 in 2011 to 35 in 2016, according to a presentation by General Motors’ Britta Gross at a CARB symposium last September. Engineers have gone to work on making lighter, cheaper, more powerful batteries that charge in minutes, sometimes even without plugging in. Utilities and municipalities have begun to install charging stations on major roadways throughout the state.

Gross, GM’s director of advanced vehicle commercialization policy, argues that some of those technology advances would have happened anyway. “There was a real confluence of events that got us to where we are today,” she says, including the company’s experience with the EV1 in the 1990s, a car that originally ran on a plain lead-acid battery before it moved to the more robust nickel-metal hydride. Making the lithium battery automotive-capable was “an evolution of physical chemistry” that simply took time, she says. “It’s not like we could take a lithium battery from your laptop and put in a vehicle.”

And yet it’s no coincidence that the majority of those lithium-battery powered vehicles ride on the highways in California, and the nine states that have adopted California’s tail pipe emissions standards. “Some of this stuff would have happened [without the ZEV program], to be sure,” said Steve Flynn, the director of air resources division in one of those states, New York, at a March 24 CARB hearing. “But I don’t think any of us believe it would have happened in the time frame that we’re looking at now.”

And when you’re talking about arresting the global temperature rise, Flynn noted, “Time is important.”

HYBRIDS ARE HIT AND MISS

There’s no question that plug-in hybrids, and hybrids in general, are a clean-car technology that’s easy to love. By driving one, you save gas, gain some environmental cred, and never have to suffer from range anxiety. But CARB, in a January review of the Advanced Clean Cars program, found that while plug-in hybrids “can generate significant benefits over conventional vehicles,” in actual use, they don’t quite pack the climate-and-smog relieving punch of ZEVs. Drivers of the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt tend to fall back too often on the convenience of their gas tanks.

Besides, says David Gerard, the point of technology-forcing policy is not to reward companies and people for doing what they already do, but to guide people into habits and technologies that will better serve society’s goals. Car manufacturers were more heavily rewarded for marketing hybrids when hybrids were rare; as they achieve, in Eric Noble’s words, “ubiquity in the market,” they need fewer incentives to maintain their presence on the roads.

In a way, technology-forcing is like the space program: It may not yield immediately practical results, but over time, it pays off in ways no one previously imagined. When the EPA started forcing manufacturers to use computers to monitor cars’ emissions systems, for instance, automakers figured out they could use computers for all kinds of other functions, like climate control and collision avoidance. “The guys at EPA would tell you that they helped the industry,” Gerard says. “Automakers never thought about using computers before that.” By forcing a solution to noxious tail pipe emissions, the EPA helped trigger a market for newer luxury cars.

Nor is technology the only way to go about reducing tail pipe emissions; Gerard, like most economists, would much prefer to slap a carbon tax on gasoline, although that’s a steeper hill, politically. Local and state regulators could also go further in their ambitions, fixing not just the automobile society’s problem with air pollution but with parking and congestion and expensive fixes to freeways: They could direct their efforts toward designing a public transportation network that’s so appealing and clean and convenient that people willingly give up their cars.

THE LOOMING TRANSPORTATION DIVIDE

According to a survey of experts conducted by researchers at the University of California, Davis, autonomous vehicles could one day bring about a dream scenario for transportation, where inexpensive, emissions-free robot cars pick you up at home or work and deliver you, on demand, to a transit hub. They could also produce a nightmare, in which only the rich ride around in gas-powered driverless cars, leaving the rest of us to battle it out in increasingly congested roadways and inadequate public transit. The difference, says UC Davis professor Daniel Sperling, founder of the university’s Institute of Transportation Studies, will be whether local and state governments look far enough down the road to make the dream happen.

The advantage of autonomous vehicles, says Sperling, is that they’re not yet widely available. “So we have an option to guide that technology with policy.” The state can require that autonomous vehicles sold in the state be electric, for instance. It can encourage carmakers to design “passenger-centric” instead of “driver-centric” vehicles, making ride sharing easier with backseats just as comfortable as the ones in front.

GM has already begun to use the Bolt, driver attached, in a San Francisco ride-sharing program. Starting in 2018, the company will partner with the ride-sharing company Lyft to turn thousands of driverless Bolts loose in the city. “This isn’t just a retail market,” Gross says. “This is a commercial opportunity.”

Sperling, who is also a member of the air board, rejects the criticism that the ZEV program has been a failure because it hasn’t sold as many cars as projected. “Outside of a few places in China or Norway where they’ve dumped massive subsidies, the California policy is the most effective in the world,” he says. But that’s not necessarily because it’s aimed at putting a zero-emission vehicle in every garage, though he believes it will someday. It’s because it’s done what technology-forcing regulation is meant to do. “It’s been the most effective at motivating the auto industry at building these electric vehicles, and motivating local governments to think about how to do permitting for charging stations.” It has meant that, when Volkswagen got caught installing smog-test-defeat devices in its diesel cars last year, its punishment included paying out $800 million to build out electric-vehicle charging infrastructure around California.

All of that progress could support the dream scenario Sperling prophesies, but only if the right rules get written for our driverless, ride-sharing future. It won’t matter what decisions are made at a federal level. “There’s no big role for the national government in what we’re talking about here,” Sperling says. “A lot of it has to do with how we use vehicles, which is the prerogative of local and state governments.” Our transportation habits, it turns out, have more to do with what happens close to home than what happens at the EPA.