Pantanal Priorities

The Pantanal wetlands in Brazil.

The Pantanal wetlands in Brazil. MARKUS MAUTHE / GREENPEACE

There is not much that has happened in Brazil in the last few years that I would consider good environmental news.

YALE ENVIRONMENT 360

So one more urgency is at risk of getting lost in all the rest (which may be part of a strategy). But making it easier to extract the extracted from the center of the continent is akin to adding fuel to a very big fire:

A Waterway Project in Brazil Imperils a Vast Tropical Wetland

The Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland, has been battered in recent years by agricultural development, drought, and fire. Now, a push to turn the region’s key river into a waterway for soybean-laden barges threatens to alter the natural flows of this iconic ecosystem.

It takes 14 hours for Lourenço Pereira Leite to reach his fishing spot.

He and his brother-in-law chug along in a simple one-engine motorboat, towing their traditional fishing canoe behind them. Continue reading

Really, Starbucks?

Pro-union pins sit on a table during a watch party for Starbucks’ employees union election in December in Buffalo, N.Y.  Starbucks union organizers say the company is closing a New York store to retaliate. Joshua Bessex/AP

Most of the companies and places and people we ask the question “Really?” of are more clearly acting in bad faith. In this case we are more puzzled that certain. We have generally been a fan of the company that had much to do with improving the lot of coffee farmers, with educating the public about coffee quality, with treating its employees fairly, and many other good works. If their employees feel the need to organize, and clearly want to organize, then Starbucks not supporting them seems out of character. Closing a shop location in Ithaca, a town we know well, may be due to that town being cosmopolitan enough to have several good coffee options:

Starbucks union says the coffee giant is closing a store to retaliate

Starbucks is closing a store in Ithaca, N.Y., in what Starbucks union organizers are calling an illegal move of retaliation after workers at the location voted to unionize. Continue reading

The Dirty Banking & Fossil Fuel Relationship Seen From Another Angle

We know a bit about dirty banking. While we do not think money is a dirty word, we have seen how dirty it can get when mixed with fossil fuels. So thanks, as always, to Bill McKibben for this further illumination. We are sharing his newsletter, rather than the New Yorker story he references, because as you will see below he encourages sharing Your money is your carbon:

If you’ve got $125k in the financial system, it’s doing as much damage as your cooking and your heating and your flying. These are the most important new climate numbers for many years

Earlier today I published a big story in the New Yorker about how banks are driving the climate crisis. A report from a consortium of environmental groups made clear that for the biggest, richest companies on earth, the cash they keep in the banking system (which gets lent out for pipelines and the like) produces more carbon than their actual, you know, business. Google emits more carbon from its money than its phones, and Netflix from its streaming, and so on. Continue reading

Desalination’s Discontents

The commissioner of the panel said: ‘The ocean is under attack … I cannot say in good conscience that this amount of damage is OK.’ Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

Desalination, which we celebrated multiple times over the years, might not be all as good we thought it was:

Joy for environmentalists as California blocks bid for $1.4bn desalination plant

Poseidon Water sought to turn seawater into drinking water but activists said plan would devastate ecosystem on Pacific coast

California coastal panel on Thursday rejected a longstanding proposal to build a $1.4bn seawater desalination plant to turn Pacific Ocean water into drinking water as the state grapples with persistent drought that is expected to worsen in coming years with climate change. Continue reading

The Rights Of Man Versus The Rights Of Nature

For most of history, people saw themselves as dependent on their surroundings, and rivers and mountains had the last word. Illustration by Marion Fayolle

Florida is on my mind today. Yesterday I listened to some excellent reporting on this podcast episode and was surprised to learn that some consider the political climate in the state environmentally-friendly. Surprising because the entire reporting emphasized what sounded like anti-regulatory business-friendly fervor. And after reading this article by one of my favorite writers, I think the state will be on my mind for the indefinite future (late in the article she writes “Start taking Stone seriously and it’s hard to stop;” so far she is correct):

A Lake in Florida Suing to Protect Itself

Lake Mary Jane, in central Florida, could be harmed by development. A first-of-its-kind lawsuit asks whether nature should have legal rights.

Lake Mary Jane is shallow—twelve feet deep at most—but she’s well connected. She makes her home in central Florida, in an area that was once given over to wetlands. To the north, she is linked to a marsh, and to the west a canal ties her to Lake Hart. To the south, through more canals, Mary Jane feeds into a chain of lakes that run into Lake Kissimmee, which feeds into Lake Okeechobee. Were Lake Okeechobee not encircled by dikes, the water that flows through Mary Jane would keep pouring south until it glided across the Everglades and out to sea. Continue reading

When Diplomats Must Be Undiplomatic

Yesterday I posted about one of the easier topics among the many options I have to post about every day. Today, a topic increasingly frequent in my posts, but definitely not an easy one. So I look to one person to summarize our week-to-week progress or lack of it. As always, I recommend signing up for his newsletter:

The World’s Top Diplomat Has Had It Up to Here

The Secretary General of the UN models how to think about climate change

I can remember when some of us organized what may have been the planet’s first truly huge climate march, with 400,000 people descending on New York in 2014. Then UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon came to walk with us for a few blocks, and it was considered remarkable: the world’s top diplomat had previously been too diplomatic to join in protests challenging the policies of his member nations. Continue reading

Watching Whales, Hopefully Forever

An orca pod feeding. Iceland, one of the few countries that still hunts whales commercially plans to end the practice from 2024. Photograph: Nature Picture Library/Alamy

Of all the dozens of times in our pages where whales are the central topic, there was once when Icelandic whaling was featured. And that story was about ending the practice of hunting these majestic animals. Today’s story–‘Meet us, don’t eat us’: Iceland turns from whale eaters to whale watchers–is the first time I have heard that travelers are the primary market for whale meat there. Strange, but true:

Reykjavik harbour. The small red boat on the right is an Elding whale-watching vessel. The blue one with a tall mast is a whaling boat. Photograph: Abby Young-Powell

The country’s plan to end commercial whaling is driven by falling demand but also a 15-year-long campaign aimed at their biggest consumers of whale meat – tourists

Onboard a small whale-watching boat making its way across the choppy waters of Faxaflói Bay, off the south-west coast of Iceland, a guide urges tourists not to eat whale meat. Continue reading

Close The Hose Of Fossil Fuel Cash

Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, said fossil-fuel funding ‘has been used to compromise leading academic institutions’. Photograph: James Ross/AAP

Hats off to Michael Mann and colleagues for this determination:

Universities must reject fossil fuel cash for climate research, say academics

Open letter from 500 academics likens fossil-energy funding of climate solutions to tobacco industry disinformation

Universities must stop accepting funding from fossil fuel companies to conduct climate research, even if the research is aimed at developing green and low-carbon technology, an influential group of distinguished academics has said. Continue reading

Climate Forests

LET TREES
GROW
PROTECT THE CLIMATE

Last week’s epic essay by Bill McKibben in the New Yorker was followed up by his weekly newsletter, in which he mentions the organization above. Visit and see what they are doing. And the newsletter is a useful footnote to the essay:

…It argues that the time has come for us to end—after 200,000 years—the central place of combustion in human affairs, and rely instead on the fact there’s a flaming ball of gas hanging 93 million miles away in the sky. I won’t repeat the argument here, but I do want to extend it a little. Continue reading

McKibben’s Longform Power Pitch

The market for electrons is predictable, meaning that solar panels installed on farmland can provide a fairly stable income for farmers. Photograph by George Rose / Getty

Illustration by Álvaro Bernis

If you have not been reading Bill McKibben regularly, or at all, here is as good a place to start as you will find. It is a long, powerful pitch:

In a World on Fire, Stop Burning Things

The truth is new and counterintuitive: we have the technology necessary to rapidly ditch fossil fuels.

In 2020, fossil-fuel pollution killed three times as many people as COVID-19 did. Photograph by Artur Widak / NurPhoto / Getty

On the last day of February, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its most dire report yet. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, had, he said, “seen many scientific reports in my time, but nothing like this.” Setting aside diplomatic language, he described the document as “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership,” and added that “the world’s biggest polluters are guilty of arson of our only home.” Continue reading

The Force Of Law, On Top Of Information & Protest

A protest in Marseille against the French supermarket chain Groupe Casino for allegedly selling meat products linked to deforestation. Photograph: Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty

What can we do when commercial interests damage our collective future? The identification of and protest against companies doing business in ways that cause environmental destruction are two important forces, but the force of law is another. Thanks to the Guardian for its ongoing coverage of these:

Legal eagles: how climate litigation is shaping ambitious cases for nature

Plans for an airport in the Tagus estuary have failed to take into account its impact on the wetlands, lawyers argue. Photograph: Handout

Environmental lawsuits are nothing new but now lawyers are turning their attention to cases that address the loss of biodiversity

The Tagus estuary near Lisbon is Portugal’s largest wetland, a vital habitat and stopover for tens of thousands of migratory birds, including flamingos, black-tailed godwits and glossy ibis. Continue reading

Jumpstarting System Change

So many things to change, so little time. If you are looking for a way to jumpstart a change to the system, consider these six lifestyle adjustments (thanks to the Guardian for the feature story on Jump):

From using smartphones for longer to ending car ownership, research shows ‘less stuff and more joy’ is the way forward

Founder of the Jump campaign Tom Bailey. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Observer

Research shows that people in wealthier, high-consuming countries can help avert climate breakdown by making six relatively straightforward lifestyle changes, creating a society of “less stuff and more joy”.

Experts say if enacted these “shifts” would account for a quarter of the required emissions reductions needed to keep the global heating down to 1.5C and increase pressure on government and the private sector to make the necessary far-reaching systemic change. Continue reading

As The World Burns

Heat waves have become hotter, droughts deeper, and wildfires more frequent, the I.P.C.C. report states, and the window of time for doing anything about it is fast closing. Photograph by David McNew / Getty

Even as a geopolitical crisis has our full attention, we cannot ignore other important information about our shared future. Click through to the magazine website where one of our favored interpreters of environmental news helps us understand how The Latest U.N. Climate Report Paints Another Grim Picture:

The Secretary-General cites a “criminal” abdication of leadership. Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a case that may hamper emissions regulations.

There were two front-page-worthy developments on Monday in the world of climate policy. Perhaps even more significant than either one was the fact that they were at cross-purposes. Continue reading

We Have Seen The Future, And It Is Youthful

Sunrise models itself on the civil-rights movement of the fifties and sixties. Photograph by Evan Jenkins for The New Yorker

In the current issue of the New Yorker, Andrew Marantz offers an inside view of The Youth Movement Trying to Revolutionize Climate Politics; we can only hope they succeed where previous generations have failed:

Sunrise has already shifted the conventional wisdom about climate change. Now it wants to create a mass movement, combining street protest with policy negotiation, while there’s still time.

On the evening of November 12, 2018, six days after being elected to Congress and six weeks before being sworn in, the socialist Democrats Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez walked into an Episcopal church in Washington, D.C. Inside, more than a hundred activists in their teens and twenties milled around a font of holy water, wearing nametags on their flannel and fleece, eating pizza from paper plates. Continue reading

Subsidizing Environmental Degradation Must End

An electoral poster objecting to a proposed ban on subsidies for Swiss farms. A 2021 report found almost 90% of global farming subsidies are harmful. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty

We missed this when it was first published a couple weeks ago, but it is still fresh and important:

World spends $1.8tn a year on subsidies that harm environment, study finds

Research prompts warnings humanity is ‘financing its own extinction’ through subsidies damaging to the climate and wildlife

The world is spending at least $1.8tn (£1.3tn) every year on subsidies driving the annihilation of wildlife and a rise in global heating, according to a new study, prompting warnings that humanity is financing its own extinction. Continue reading

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Asks For Your Help

If you have been following the pipeline news stories and you care, but not yet found a way to get involved, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe offers you a simple first step to help them end the DAPL. Click on the DAPL EIS Countdown Alert signup image below to show support, by asking to be alerted when public comments open:

The Next Step to End DAPL

The fight to stop the Dakota Access pipeline isn’t over, and you can help right now! This month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will take public comment on DAPL’s fatally flawed Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Sign up to be first in line to tell the Corps to conduct a proper environmental review — without interference from the fossil fuel industry. We’ll let you know how to make your voice heard as soon as the comment period opens! Thank you for standing with Standing Rock.

Big Companies, Big Noise

(Original Caption) A man sitting atop a girder over the city is shown taking photos of the unfinished municipal building.

Bill Mckibben’s newsletter is one of the most efficient ways to stay informed on issues of interest to us in our daily posts on this platform. This week’s edition, titled Needs Improvement, is as good as any other recent edition. Consider subscription options that suit your budget by clicking the button, if you appreciate what you read below:

The Economic Giants Must Do Better than Meh

No one expects small businesses to be the leaders on climate change, though of course a noble handful are. It’s the giants—who have enormous brands to protect, and large margins to cover the cost of changing—that need to be out front. The ones with big ad campaigns with lots of windmills and penguins and cheerful shots of the smiling future. The ones who have made a lot of noise about ‘net zero.’ And how are they doing? Meh. Continue reading

Big Agriculture, Anti-Regulation & Antisocial Behavior

Click any image here to go to an op-ed video that takes just over 14 minutes to watch. You’ll get an inside look into what has happened to food production in the USA, and how, and why.

Summed up, it is all about the power of big-ag lobbying. They want no regulations. They want to decide on their own how to produce food. And it is making a big mess. This anti-regulatory ideology, which has the hallmark of antisocial behavior, is not unique to agricultural lobbyists, but is quite well illustrated by them.

Meet the People Getting Paid to Kill Our Planet

American agriculture is ravaging the air, soil and water. But a powerful lobby has cleverly concealed its damage.

“We’re Cooked” is an Opinion Video series about our broken food system and the three chances you get to help fix it — and save the planet — every day.


The global food system is a wonder of technological and logistical brilliance. It feeds more people than ever, supplying a greater variety of food more cheaply and faster than ever.

It is also causing irreparable harm to the planet. Continue reading

Big Win On Climate, Says McKibben

Early offshore action in Texas. the rigs are bigger now—so big that a federal court found yesterday that they’re endangering the climate.

His first book was an early harbinger that we wish had changed the world. Now, decades later, his newsletter is worth subscribing to. When Bill McKibben says something has gone right, we cannot wait to read it:

Something went right!?

Through no fault of its own, Biden’s team gets a big win on climate

Last summer the Biden administration granted the largest set of offshore oil leases in American history. The ironies abounded—Biden had insisted during his campaign that he would not be doing this (“And by the way, no more drilling on federal lands, period. Period, period, period,” he’d explained during the New Hampshire primary); it was the Interior Department that officially sold the leases, headed by a secretary, Deb Haaland, that environmentalists had fought like crazy to get confirmed. Continue reading

Global North, Global South & Responsibilities

Photo: Hannah Whitaker; Prop Styling: Marina Bevilacqua.

David Wallace-Wells has done it again. Devastated me with considerations I should have had on my own, but had not. And he makes it so vivid that once you see his point you cannot stop seeing it. Having lived in the Global South for a majority of my adult years, but having been born into and lived in the Global North for the first half of my life, this story resonates with me in ways I cannot quite describe. But the quote from Proverbs in yesterday’s post seems even more intensely relevant:

Climate Reparations

A trillion tons of carbon hangs in the air, put there by the world’s rich, an existential threat to its poor. Can we remove it?

I. What Is Owed

Brazil, 2019. Photo: Cristina de Middel/Magnum Photos

The math is as simple as the moral claim. We know how much carbon has been emitted and by which countries, which means we know who is most responsible and who will suffer most and that they are not the same. We know that the burden imposed on the world’s poorest by its richest is gruesome, that it is growing, and that it represents a climate apartheid demanding reparation — or should know it. We know we can remove some of that carbon from the atmosphere and undo at least some of the damage. We know the cost of doing so using tools we have today. And we know that unless we use them, the problem will never go away. Continue reading