Monday, April 22, 2024

Something to Know - 22 April

There are a couple of things happening today.   One is the beginning of the Trump Trial in New York.   It is commonly known as "the hush money trial", but in reality it is truly an election interfering trial in that Trump pulled some stunts to ensure that his encounter with a porn star was hidden from voters prior to the 2016 election (which is a felony).   Okay, there is that one, but the larger and more enduring issue that affects the long-term viability of our way of life is - Climate Change.   To that end, HCR does well in emphasizing that the Department of the Interior is no longer a fixer for actions by corporate interests in pillaging our land and fouling the air.  Trump has done a lot to try and destroy democracy and foul the air, but that will soon be over (my opinion), but we have to focus our attention on our natural environment and pay attention to Earth Week, and all it means to us.   HCR is good for that today, and she does not say one word about the rotting stench with the fake skin and hair coloring, fouling the air in a New York courtroom.

Heather Cox Richardson from Letters from an American 

Sun, Apr 21, 9:21 PM (10 hours ago)
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During her confirmation hearings in 2021, Interior Department secretary Deb Haaland promised "to responsibly manage our natural resources to protect them for future generations—so that we can continue to work, live, hunt, fish, and pray among them." Noting her Indigenous heritage, Haaland tweeted, "A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior…. I'll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land."

Her approach was a shift from the practice the Interior Department had established at the beginning of the twentieth century when it began to prioritize mineral, oil, and gas development, as well as livestock grazing, on U.S. public lands. But the devastating effects of climate change have brought those old priorities into question. 

Republicans, especially those from states like Wyoming, which collects more than a billion dollars a year in royalties and taxes from the oil, gas, and coal produced on federal lands in the state, opposed Haaland's focus on responsible management of natural resources for the future  and warned that the Biden administration is "taking a sledgehammer to Western states' economies."

On Thursday, April 18, the Interior Department finalized a new rule for a balanced management of America's public lands. Put together after a public hearing period that saw more than 200,000 comments from states, individuals, Tribal and local governments, industry groups, and advocacy organizations, the new rule prioritizes the health of the lands and waters the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management oversees. Those consist of about 245 million acres, primarily in 12 western states.

The new rule calls for protection of the land, restoration of the places that have been harmed in the past, and a promise to make informed decisions about future use based on "science, data, and Indigenous knowledge." It "recognizes conservation as an essential component of public lands management, on equal footing with other multiple uses of these lands." The Bureau of Land Management will now auction off leases not only for drilling, but also for conservation and restoration. 

Western state leaders oppose the Biden administration's efforts to change the Interior Department's past practices, calling them "colonial forces of national environmental groups who are pushing an agenda" onto states like Wyoming. 

The timing of the Interior Department's new rule can't help but call attention to Earth Day, celebrated tomorrow, on April 22. Earth Day is no novel proposition. Americans celebrated it for the first time in 1970. Nor was it a partisan idea in that year: Republican president Richard M. Nixon established it as Americans recognized a crisis that transcended partisanship and came together to fix it.

The spark for the first Earth Day was the 1962 publication of marine biologist Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, which showed the devastating effects of people on nature by documenting the effect of modern pesticides on the natural world. Her exposé of how the popular pesticide DDT was poisoning the food chain in American waters illuminated the dangerous overuse of chemicals and their effect on living organisms, and it caught readers' attention. Carson's book sold more than half a million copies in 24 countries. 

Democratic president John F. Kennedy asked the President's Science Advisory Committee to look into Carson's argument, and the committee vindicated her. Before she died of breast cancer in 1964, Carson noted: "Man's attitude toward nature is today critically important simply because we have now acquired a fateful power to alter and destroy nature. But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself? [We are] challenged as mankind has never been challenged before to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature, but of ourselves."  

As scientists organized the Environmental Defense Fund, Americans began to pay closer attention to human effects on the environment, especially after three crucial events. First, on December 24, 1968, astronaut William Anders took a color photograph of the Earth rising over the horizon of the moon from outer space during the Apollo 8 mission, powerfully illustrating the beauty and isolation of the globe on which we all live. 

Then, over 10 days in January and February 1969, a massive oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, poured between 80,000 and 100,000 barrels of oil into the Pacific, fouling 35 miles of California beaches and killing seabirds, dolphins, sea lions, and elephant seals. Public outrage ran so high that President Nixon went to Santa Barbara in March to see the cleanup efforts, telling the American public that "the Santa Barbara incident has frankly touched the conscience of the American people." 

And then, in June 1969, the chemical contaminants that had been dumped into Cleveland's Cuyahoga River caught fire. A dumping ground for local heavy industry, the river had actually burned more than ten times in the previous century, but with increased focus on environmental damage, this time the burning river garnered national attention.

In February 1970, President Nixon sent to Congress a special message "on environmental quality." "[W]e…have too casually and too long abused our natural environment," he wrote. "The time has come when we can wait no longer to repair the damage already done, and to establish new criteria to guide us in the future."

"The tasks that need doing require money, resolve and ingenuity," Nixon said, "and they are too big to be done by government alone. They call for fundamentally new philosophies of land, air and water use, for stricter regulation, for expanded government action, for greater citizen involvement, and for new programs to ensure that government, industry and individuals all are called on to do their share of the job and to pay their share of the cost."

Meanwhile, Gaylord Nelson, a Democratic senator from Wisconsin, visited the Santa Barbara oil spill and hoped to turn the same sort of enthusiasm people were bringing to protests against the Vietnam War toward efforts to protect the environment. He announced a teach-in on college campuses, which soon grew into a wider movement across the country. Their "Earth Day," held on April 22, 1970, brought more than 20 million Americans—10% of the total population of the country at the time—to call for the nation to address the damage caused by 150 years of unregulated industrial development. The movement included members of all political parties, rich Americans and their poorer neighbors, people who lived in the city and those in the country, labor leaders and their employers. It is still one of the largest protests in American history.

In July 1970, at the advice of a council convened to figure out how to consolidate government programs to combat pollution, Nixon proposed to Congress a new agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, which Congress created that December. 

In honor of Earth Day 2024, Democratic president Joe Biden has called for carrying on the legacy of our predecessors "by building a greener, more sustainable planet and, with it, a healthier, more prosperous nation." 

In a statement, Biden noted that no one can any longer deny the impacts and staggering costs of climate change as the nation confronts historic floods, droughts, and hurricanes. 

"Deforestation, nature loss, toxic chemicals, and plastic pollution also continue to threaten our air, lands, and waters, endangering our health, other species, and ecosystems," he said. He noted the administration's efforts to build a clean energy economy, providing well-paid union jobs as workers install solar panels, service wind turbines, cap old oil wells, manufacture electric vehicles, and so on, while also curbing air pollution from power plants and lead poisoning from old pipes, the burden of which historically has fallen on marginalized communities.

Biden noted that he brought the U.S. back into the Paris Climate Accord Trump pulled out of, is on track to conserve more lands and waters than any president before him, and has worked with the international community to slash methane emissions and restore lost forests.

And yet there is much more to be done, he said. He encouraged "all Americans to reflect on the need to protect our precious planet; to heed the call to combat our climate and biodiversity crises while growing the economy; and to keep working for a healthier, safer, more equitable future for all."

Happy Earth Day 2024.


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