McKibben On The Supreme Court’s EPA Ruling

Photographs by Mitch Epstein

When you have found an explainer reliably clear on complicated but important issues, keep reading their essays:

The Supreme Court Tries to Overrule the Climate

A destructive decision in West Virginia v. E.P.A.

Credit where due: the Supreme Court’s 6–3 ruling in West Virginia v. E.P.A. is the culmination of a five-decade effort to make sure that the federal government won’t threaten the business status quo. Lewis Powell’s famous memo, written in 1971, before he joined the Supreme Court—between the enactment of a strong Clean Air Act and a strong Clean Water Act, each with huge popular support—called on “businessmen” to stand up to the tide of voices “from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians” calling for progressive change. Continue reading

Justice For Dom & Bruno

Dom Phillips (center), seen here taking notes as he talks with Indigenous people, reported regularly for the Guardian. Photograph by Joao Laet / AFP / Getty

Only one article by Dom Phillips in our pages, and not a single mention of Bruno Pereira seems wrong, to say the least.  As a rule obituaries are not our thing in these pages, but we have made exceptions.

Bruno Pereira was among the many senior officials and veteran experts at FUNAI who had gained a reputation for a robust defense of the agency’s guidelines in the Javari. Photograph by Daniel Marenco

Two Murders in the Amazon

The disappearance of Dom Phillips and Bruno Araújo Pereira, and the crisis created by Jair Bolsonaro’s policies.

From the moment that Dom Phillips and Bruno Araújo Pereira vanished, on June 5th, in the Brazilian Amazon, there were suspicions of foul play. Phillips was a British freelance journalist dedicated to environmental issues, and Pereira, his friend and guide, was a prominent Brazilian Indigenous-affairs expert.

Photograph by Nelson Almeida / AFP / Getty

He was assisting Phillips with research for a book, tentatively titled “How to Save the Amazon.” Continue reading

Bears Ears Co-Management

Muley Point in Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. Mark Holm for The New York Times

After plenty of contention, a move in the right direction, at last:

Five Native American tribes will work with the Bureau of Land Management to plan and conserve Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, officials said.

Bears Ears National Monument, whose red-rock landscape sprawls across more than 1.3 million acres in southeastern Utah, will be managed jointly by the federal government and Native American tribes in what administration officials said represents a “one-of-a-kind” model of cooperation. Continue reading

Good Journalism, Excellent Environmental Coverage

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff. A white ibis flies over the Everglades, where many bird species nest each year. Restoration efforts in Florida’s “river of grass” have begun to show signs of progress.

The CS Monitor was the newspaper delivered to our home when I was growing up. Lucky me. These days it still offers good journalism, but is no longer a paper. They made the switch to digital-only in 2008. In earlier years of my monitoring dozens of news sources for this platform it was the source of numerous stories of environmental interest in our pages. But in the last few years, for no particular reason, I failed to monitor their website for stories. And then today, this:

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff. Birds look like white flecks from the air.

‘River of Grass’: Inside the quest to restore the Everglades

Richard Mertens Special contributor

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff. Three eggs sit in a nest in the Everglades.

Eight hundred feet up, the helicopter banks hard to the left. The horizon disappears. Mark Cook, an avian biologist, peers out his side window at a small irregular patch of water below. It’s hardly distinguishable from innumerable other patches that lie in every direction, dark and shining amid a ragged expanse of brown marsh grass and green tree islands. Continue reading

Action Is The Thing

ILLUSTRATION: WIRED; GETTY IMAGES

Climate inaction is a theme bookending the first decade of our chronicling news stories and analytical essays. Why, we have stopped bothering to wonder, is inaction so persistent? Whether activism or other forms of action, there is not enough of it relative to the scale of the crisis. We thank Eleanor Cummins, a freelance science journalist and adjunct professor at New York University’s Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program for these ideas as published in Wired:

‘Thinkwashing’ Keeps People From Taking Action in Times of Crisis

When it comes to issues like climate change, too many let the perfect become the enemy of the good, while the world burns.

LESS THAN A decade ago, “wait and see” arguments about climate change still circulated. “We often hear that there is a ‘scientific consensus’ about climate change,” physicist Steven E. Koonin wrote in The Wall Street Journal in 2014. “But as far as the computer models go, there isn’t a useful consensus at the level of detail relevant to assessing human influences.” The idea was that the world needed more data before it could respond to the threat posed by global warming—assuming such research indicated a response was even necessary. Continue reading

Adaptation Was Better Than Doing Nothing, But Nowhere Near Good Enough

Katharine Hayhoe warns that if we continue emitting greenhouse gases no adaptation will be possible. Photograph: Courtesy of Dr Katharine Hayhoe

We have been promoting adaptation for about as long as we have been posting here.  Fiona Harvey the Guardian’s Environment correspondent, interviews a scientist who will not soft peddle how far gone we are from those options:

We cannot adapt our way out of climate crisis, warns leading scientist

Katharine Hayhoe says the world is heading for dangers people have not seen in 10,000 years of civilisation

The world cannot adapt its way out of the climate crisis, and counting on adaptation to limit damage is no substitute for urgently cutting greenhouse gases, a leading climate scientist has warned. 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

Preservation & Protection Via Gamification

Incentives to behave differently in relation to the environment is a constant topic here, but we have not used the word gamification before. Today is finally the day. Thank you, Lindsey Galloway:

Palau’s world-first ‘good traveller’ incentive

Responsible travellers will be able to unlock exclusive cultural and nature-based experiences (Credit: Colors and shapes of underwater world/Getty Images)

In a world-first initiative, visitors to Palau will be offered exclusive experiences based on how they treat the environment and culture, not by how much they spend.

Despite being home to fewer than 20,000 residents, the Republic of Palau is making an outsized impact to preserve the planet. Not only did the country Continue reading

100% Renewable California Energy Milestone

Solar and wind power projects have been booming in California, like the Pine Tree Wind Farm and Solar Power Plant in the Tehachapi Mountains, but that doesn’t mean fossil fuels are fading away quickly. Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Recovery from a long-term addiction to fossil fuels was never going to be easy. Necessary? Yes. But it will still be a long haul even with milestones like this one in the western USA. Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) for this news:

California just ran on 100% renewable energy, but fossil fuels aren’t fading away yet

On a mild Sunday afternoon, California set a historic milestone in the quest for clean energy. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing and on May 8th, the state produced enough renewable electricity to meet 103% of consumer demand. That broke a record set a week earlier of 99.9%. Continue reading

Lawns Gone, Good Riddance

Jaime Gonzalez of Par 3 Landscape and Maintenance removed grass at a condominium complex in Las Vegas. The lawn is considered “nonfunctional” under a new state law.

In case you have been to the city, or even just heard about how water is flaunted as a key attraction, and wondered how they can justify such use of a limited resource, then Is That an Outlaw Lawn? Las Vegas Has a New Approach to Saving Water may be worth a few minutes of your time. We recently shared news of a voluntary initiative to reconsider lawns for reasons entirely different from those in the story below. Henry Fountain‘s text accompanied by Joe Buglewicz’s photos, tells the story of Las Vegas lawns, where water resources are so limited, this seems a long time coming:

Mr. Donnarumma documented water running off a sidewalk into the curb from sprinkler overspray.

With drought and growth taking a toll on the Colorado River, the source of 90 percent of the region’s water, a new law mandates the removal of turf, patch by patch.

LAS VEGAS — It was a perfectly decent patch of lawn, several hundred square feet of grass in a condominium community on this city’s western edge. But Jaime Gonzalez, a worker with a local landscaping firm, had a job to do. Continue reading

Climate Policies To Cheer On

(Washington Post illustration; Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post; iStock)

I am heading to Ithaca tomorrow for family reasons, so the third item described in the story that follows is of particular interest. But every one of the items is worth reflecting on, in a news world without enough such stories. Our thanks to the Washington Post Staff who put this list together:

10 recent climate policies that could make a difference

Stories from the past six months that show what local and national policy change can look like

The most recent IPCC report makes it clear: There is no one silver bullet that can address global warming. Instead, nations, businesses, communities and individuals all have a role to play in helping to create a safer and more sustainable future. But without action from the world’s wealthiest countries, the nations and people who are least at fault for fueling climate change will be the ones who suffer the most, the scientists behind the report warn. Continue reading

Old Growth Forest Protection Schemes

Caryssa Rouser, a propagation specialist with Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, plants a sequoia tree in October, 2021, in Sequoia Crest, California. Noah Berger/AP

Old growth forests matter for so many reasons. Not least, biophilic reasons. But at this moment, we rightly pay more attention to their value with regard to urgent climate issues. Maddie Oatman makes a good case in this Mother Jones essay:

Why Old-Growth Forests Matter So Much in the Fight Against Climate Change

Biden’s executive order to preserve ancient trees is a big deal—but it could have gone further.

Few experiences have rendered me as awestruck as the winter morning I spent wandering through a grove of ancient sequoias, their sienna bark glowing against the snowy ground. 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

If SUVs Were An Individual Country

The Biden Administration is set to unveil a new set of fuel-efficiency standards on Friday. Photograph by David Paul Morris / Bloomberg / Getty

Elizabeth Kolbert’s essay offers perspective on how the SUV category has grown as a percentage of the global fleet, and what that has meant for fuel consumption. The point of the essay seems not to demonize owners of SUVs, but to suggest a mechanism to put the category on a level playing field with more fuel efficient vehicles. The humanist in me imagines that most SUV owners would own up, given the chance, and take responsibility for their footprint and pay their fair share:

A Better Idea Than Releasing Oil from the Strategic Reserve

It’s time to do away with the S.U.V. loophole.

On Thursday afternoon, President Joe Biden announced that the federal government would release up to a hundred and eighty million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve over six months. The move, aimed at bringing down gas prices—“Americans are feeling Putin’s gas price hike at the pump,” Biden tweeted—is obviously politically motivated. 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

Frederick Law Olmsted At 200

Portrait of Frederick Law Olmsted (detail), 1895, by John Singer Sargent (1856–1925); The Artchives/Alamy Stock Photo.

From Hedgehog Review, a bit of scholarly reflection on a man whose impact on the landscape of cityscapes is still worthy of consideration:

The Man Who Built Forward Better

On Frederick Law Olmsted’s Bicentennial

Witold Rybczynski

What would Frederick Law Olmsted (1822–1903) make of his works today, in the bicentennial year of his birth? No doubt he would be delighted by the survival and continued popularity of so many of his big-city parks, particularly Central Park and Prospect Park, but also parks in Boston, Chicago, and Montreal, as well as Buffalo, Detroit, Rochester, and Louisville. He might be surprised by the bewildering range of activities these parks now accommodate—not only boating and ice-skating, as in his day, but exercising, jogging, picnicking, and games, as well as popular theatrical and musical events. I don’t think this variety would displease him. After all, it was he who introduced free band concerts in Central Park, over the objections of many of his strait-laced colleagues. He would be pleased by the banning of automobiles; his winding carriage drives were never intended for fast—and noisy—traffic. Continue reading

Circularity & The Future Of Recycling Plastic

Getty

Since our earliest days we have had team members searching for news on the subject of plastic, and what to do about it. The Atlantic, publishing an article by Ula Chrobak that was originally featured in Undark, points out The False Promise of Plastic Recycling:

A French company has a new solution to the plastic problem. Not everyone is buying it.

Since the first factories began manufacturing polyester from petroleum in the 1950s, humans have produced an estimated 9.1 billion tons of plastic. Of the waste generated from that plastic, less than a tenth of that has been recycled, researchers estimate. Continue reading

Plastic, The Gift That Keeps Giving

An artwork at the Nairobi summit venue by the artist Benjamin von Wong, made with rubbish from Kibera slum, urging people to ‘turn off the plastic tap’. Photograph: Monicah Mwangi/Reuters

We have endless opportunities to demonstrate leadership, thanks to plastic:

World leaders agree to draw up ‘historic’ treaty on plastic waste

UN environment assembly resolution is being hailed as biggest climate deal since 2015 Paris accord

World leaders, environment ministers and other representatives from 173 countries have agreed to develop a legally binding treaty on plastics, in what many described a truly historic moment. Continue reading