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Ecological News

Debt and farming have now become synonym.

Ground Reality - Wed, 08/16/2017 - 15:50

Pic: From Web
It was exactly in the month of August 2016. A suicide note left behind by a 22-year-old graduate student, Gopal Babarao Rathod, son of a small farmer from Yavatmal in Maharashtra, made such a poignant reading, but at the same time he in his own humble way questioned the very premise behind the prevailing economic policies. He asked: “A teacher’s son can easily afford to pay a fee of Rs 1-lakh to become an engineer but tell me how a farmer’s son can afford so much fee?” He then went on to add: “why is it that the salaried employees get dearness allowance without even asking for it whereas farmers are denied adequate compensation for their produce?”
More recently, in April this year, another 21-year-old student, daughter of a Maharashtra farmer, committed suicide. Unable to bear the stress her parents were undergoing in trying to find a suitable match for her and to get her married, Sheetal Yankat decided to end her life by jumping into a village well. In a suicide note she left behind, she wrote: "My parents are extremely poor and have been unable to raise money for my marriage. I am committing suicide because I don't want my parents to come under a debt burden. The economic condition of my family has worsened over five years because of the failure of crops. My two sisters got married somehow with very simple marriage ceremonies. My father is trying his best for my marriage. But since the middlemen are not able to lend money, my marriage has got delayed for two year. Therefore, I am ending my life with the hope that my father will not be burdened by anymore debt and perhaps my death will also end the dowry practice.”
A few months back in Punjab, a young farmer Jaswant Singh committed suicide. He owned three acres of land and had an outstanding debt of Rs 10-lakh. The distress that he was undergoing was clearly visible. But one fine day he took his five-year-old son for a bicycle ride. Eyewitnesses say that he first tied his son to his waist before he jumped into a nearby canal. In a suicide note he left behind he regretted carrying his son to the watery grave but categorically stated that he knew his son would not be able to repay the outstanding dues and so it wasn’t worth living. 
The tragedy that struck these farming families symbolises the agony that the entire farming community is living with. There is hardly a day when farm suicides are not reported from one part of the country or other. The serial death dance on the farm continues unabated. Majority of these deaths are because farmers are unable to pay back loans. They can’t pay back loans because agriculture has over the years turned uneconomical. They are in reality buried under piles of credit taken from multiple sources. In the absence of adequate income, they have no option but to rely on credit. After all, they too have to bring up their families; they too have to educate their children; they too have to provide for health expenses; and they too have to meet the aspiration of their children.
The Union Minister of State for Agriculture in November 2016 had acknowledged in Parliament that farmers are reeling under an outstanding debt of Rs 12.60-lakh crore every year.
In the past 22 years, mounting indebtedness has pushed an estimated 3.30 lakh farmers to take their own lives. Those who have refrained from taking the extreme step are no better. They continue to somehow survive, living in acute distress, and hoping against hope. Several studies have shown that almost 58 to 62 per cent farmers sleep empty stomach. They are the victims of an economic designWhile the policy emphasis has been on increasing crop production, the more important issue of whether this is accompanied by a rise in farm incomes has been simply pushed under the carpet.
For all practical purposes, debt and farming have now become synonym. Seventy years after Independence, and 55 years after the Green Revolution was launched, economic freedom continues to elude farmers. Economic Survey 2016 made it abundantly clear. Accordingly, the average income of a farming family in 17 States of India does not exceed Rs 20,000 a year. In other words, farming families in roughly half the country are surviving on less than Rs 1,700 a month. Knowing that it is not possible to rear a cow in the same amount, I shudder to think how these families survive year after year. 
Year after year farmers have toiled hard to produce a bumper harvest. But little do they realise, when they cultivate a crop, they actually cultivate losses. In order to keep food inflation under control, successive governments have denied farmers their rightful income. The entire burden of keeping food prices low has been very conveniently passed on to farmers. In other words, it is the farmers who are bearing the entire cost of subsidising the consumers. Farm incomes remain almost frozen or bare enough to cover only the cost of production. Over the past few decades, agriculture has been deliberately kept impoverished.
The Commission for Agricultural Cost and prices (CACP) computes the net returns. Let’s try to see whether the net returns have increased. In Maharashtra, which has been faced with massive silent protests by Marathas, and which I believe is the primary reason for the discontent, the net return per hectare for paddy is Rs 966, which means if worked on a monthly basis it will come to less than Rs 300 a month. For Ragi, Maharashtra farmers actually incur a loss of Rs 10,674 per hectare; for Moong (minus Rs 5,873); for urd (minus Rs 6,663). Even for cotton, the net return is only Rs 2,949 per hectare. Considering that cotton is sown in June and its harvesting begins in October, with the pickings going on to November, December or even January, the average income per month from cultivating cotton comes to a paltry Rs 700 per hectare. 
Viewed from the national level, the net returns for crops like paddy, sugarcane, maize, and cotton have actually declined in the past three years. For most of the dryland crops, the returns are in the negative. If the farmer is destined to harvest losses, I wonder what kind of technological and financial support can bail them out. Giving them more credit, even if it comes from institutional agencies/banks, has only pushed them further into a debt trap. As a former Prime Minister Chaudhury Charan Singh had once remarked: A farmer is born in debt and dies in debt.
Keeping food prices low is in consonance with the dominant economic thinking aimed at drastically reducing the work force in agriculture. This is what the World Bank had desired way back in 1996. It had expected 400 million people to be moved out from the rural to the urban areas in India by the years 2015. Successive governments have therefore created conditions of economic hardship to make it possible. Public sector investments have declined over the past few decades, especially after the economic reforms were unleashed in 1991. Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan used to say that the biggest reforms would be when farmers are moved out of agriculture, to meet the ever-growing demand of cheaper labour for the infrastructure industry. The National Skill Development Council already has spelled out plans to bring down the population in farming from the existing 52 per cent to 38 percent by 2022.
It is all going as per the design.
Farmer is no longer seen with pride. Gone are the days of Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan. Today, farmer has become a burden on the nation, and the entire effort of policy planning is to off-load the burden as quickly as possible. #
Agrarian crisis: Gone are the days of Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan; the debt-ridden farmer is a liability. FirstPost. Aug 15, 2017. http://www.firstpost.com/india/agrarian-crisis-gone-are-days-of-jai-jawan-jai-kisan-the-debt-ridden-farmer-is-now-a-liability-3932941.html 
Categories: Ecological News

HEALTH ADVISORY: Venison, Elk May No Longer Be Safe to Eat — Study: Deadly Chronic Wasting Disease Could be Moving to Humans

Environews.tv - Tue, 08/15/2017 - 19:31

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/081517-venison-elk-may-no-longer-safe-eat-study-deadly-chronic-wasting-disease-moving-humans/"; reddit_title = "HEALTH ADVISORY: Venison, Elk May No Longer Be Safe to Eat — Study: Deadly Chronic Wasting Disease Could be Moving to Humans"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) — Alberta, Canada — Early results from an ongoing study testing human susceptibility to chronic wasting disease (CWD), a growing epidemic among deer and elk, has led Health Canada to warn “that CWD has the potential to infect humans.”

Chronic wasting disease is an incurable, inevitably fatal illness that can affect all cervids: deer, elk, moose and caribou. It is one of several prion diseases (pronounced pree-on), of which the most well-known is mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) identifies six known animal prion diseases and five that affect humans. The most common prion illness in people is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).

In an advisory dated April 26, 2017, Health Canada cited a research project led by Dr. Stefanie Czub, head of the virology section at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), using cynomolgus macaques (Macaca cynomolgus). These primates are the closest to humans that can be used in medical research. “These findings suggest that CWD, under specific experimental conditions, has the potential to cross the human species barrier, including by enteral [oral] feeding of CWD infected muscle,” the advisory stated.

“The shockwaves are still reverberating through the scientific community because of this research,” said Darrel Rowledge, Director of the Alliance for Public Wildlife (APW), in a lengthy interview with EnviroNews. A former forester, Rowledge calls himself an activist and has been studying chronic wasting disease for almost 20 years. He’s visited the lab where the CFIA study is underway. “This is a wakeup call. These macaque data are stunning.”

Prions are abnormal, misfolded proteins. Lacking cell nuclei, they are not alive like bacteria, though they behave much like parasitic life forms as they replicate themselves by hijacking and misfolding otherwise normal proteins in the unfortunate host. They cause diseases that are collectively called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, or TSEs. Such diseases commonly infect the brain and spinal cord, and are nearly always undetectable until symptoms arise, often years or even decades after infection.

CWD was first identified in Colorado in the 1960s and has since spread to 24 states and two provinces in Canada. Small outbreaks have also occurred in South Korea and Norway.

Spongiform Encephalopathy: Brain of the First Reindeer to Test Positive for CWD in Norway

It has long been believed that CWD is unlikely to infect humans due to the presence of a so-called “species barrier.” But BSE was also considered to be cordoned off until 1996 when Great Britain admitted, after years of denial, that mad cow disease had been transmitted to humans. Worldwide, 229 deaths have been reported. Those people were infected by eating meat or organs from disease-ridden cattle.

Previous studies on chronic wasting disease have hinted at the possibility of transmission to humans, leading the World Health Organization (WHO) to recommend in 2012 that no “part or product of any animal which has shown signs of a TSE should enter the (human or animal) food chain.” Recent controlled laboratory studies have shown that other mammals can be infected with CWD. These include mice, voles, and squirrel monkeys. A 2012 study by researchers at Colorado State University found domestic cats susceptible to CWD infection.

“There’s always been a suspicion of the possibility, a hypothetical risk of transmission to humans,” Dr. Ryan Maddox, an epidemiologist with the CDC, told EnviroNews. “It’s something CDC has been keeping an eye on for a number of years.” But the new CFIA study adds further concern.

Begun in 2009, Czub started with 21 macaques, all females two and a half years old. Three were designated as negative controls while 18 were infected, or “challenged,” as scientists prefer to say, with CWD. Five were infected orally, two through the skin and nine directly into the brain. Three animals received intravenous injection of blood from other CWD-challenged macaques. Of the 21 animals, 10 are dead so far, including one of the three control specimens, which was euthanized for purposes of the study.

As some of these macaques became sick, they developed anxiety and tremors. Researchers reported that they began to lose control of their bodily movements. Four of the animals began wasting away, with one having lost one-third of its body weight in less than six months. Post-mortems and other tests have been completed on five macaques so far. Under the microscope, the tissue samples showed damage typical of malformed prion proteins, primarily in the spinal cord and brain.

Cynomolgus Macaques Used for Research

“We felt that these results should be communicated,” Czub told EnviroNews in a detailed phone interview. “It teaches us really something about the species barrier.” She explained that BSE, or mad cow disease, showed up mainly in the spinal cords of macaques during earlier experiments, “and it seems to be the same in chronic wasting disease.”

What most surprised the researchers was the short length of time it took for some of these test animals to show signs of disease. The earliest onset was four and a half years — the same amount of time that cynomolgus macaques need to develop infection from BSE. “It should have taken longer for CWD,” Czub said.

Dr. Stefanie Czub

One of only six experts certified by the World Organization for Animal Health to head a BSE Reference Laboratory, Czub was born in Marburg, Germany to parents who were both veterinarians. She earned her doctoral degree in Berlin where she first became involved in researching prion diseases. Czub gained more experience in the field at the National Institute of Health in Montana. In addition to her position at the CFIA, she teaches at the University of Calgary and has published many papers on prion diseases.

While most scientists would wait for the completion of their study and then submit the results to a peer-reviewed journal, Czub and her colleagues felt they couldn’t wait. “This whole experiment was done to generate data for a risk assessment of chronic wasting disease, and a risk assessment is always to protect human health,” Czub explained. “What we have so far is important enough to communicate it.”

The information was presented to the Canadian health authorities by the Alberta Prion Institute, which is funding the study. Health Canada, an organization described as “responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health,” responded with its risk advisory.

EnviroNews asked the Public Health Agency of Canada, a separate arm of the Ministry of Health, for its response. In an email reply, Anna Maddison, Senior Media Relations Advisor, stated, “Initial results from a Canadian-led research project suggest that chronic wasting disease (CWD) is transmissible to non-human primates, specifically macaque monkeys. Although these findings are scientifically significant, the implications for human risk are not yet clear. The study is ongoing, and the final results must still be subjected to formal expert peer review.”

Rowledge demurred. “There is clearly a disconnect between policy and science,” he said. “We have been, at a fundamental level, ignoring some of the basic rules of science and epidemiology for years.”

A 2017 whitepaper published by the APW explains, “Prions are extremely resilient, known to resist disinfectants, alcohol, formaldehyde, detergents, protein enzymes, desiccation, radiation, freezing, and incineration [at greater than] 1100°F.” The paper, now being revised in light of Czub’s findings, was co-authored by Rowledge along with experts from the University of Calgary, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board and Canada’s National Wildlife Disease Strategy.

Students at Montana State University Test a Deer for Chronic Wasting Disease

“CWD is very, very challenging,” Czub sighed. According to the APW whitepaper, chronic wasting disease now represents “the largest bio-mass of infectious prions in global history.”

“This is not just an issue that matters to people who care about wildlife,” Rowledge added. “This matters to everyone.” That’s because approximately 75 percent of new human pathogens in the past 25 years have originated in animals, according to a 2009 British study. That study goes on to note, “Greater risks to human health from wildlife pathogens appear to be inevitable as a consequence of increasing human contact with wildlife through greater access to, and disturbance of, wildlife habitats.”

CWD is believed to have originated in Colorado, likely in mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) in the 1960s. It has expanded both geographically and to other cervids through exportation of infected herd animals, the environment and even through plants. Where deer or elk are highly concentrated, the infection can spread rapidly. A 2004 study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found that CWD migrated to Canada from the U.S. through a game farm in Saskatchewan. The disease spread from there to other game farms and to animals living in the wild. Game farms, artificial feeding and baiting encourage the spread of chronic wasting disease.

Captive Elk Cow With Chronic Wasting Disease — Photo: Terry Kreeger — For: Wyoming Game and Fish

The Alliance for Public Wildlife estimates that 7,000-15,000 CWD-infected animals are consumed in North America each year. Rowledge explained they derived that figure through statistical analysis of deer populations in infected areas, the prevalence of infection and the number of animals harvested by hunters. But he cautioned that as state governments have cut back on testing, lack of hard data makes precise numbers difficult.

Testing of deer and elk kills is mostly voluntary, and usually comes at the request of hunters only when they suspect a diseased animal – typically from signs such as drooling or emaciation. “It’s not just that we don’t have enough precautionary measures to stop people from eating [these animals]; it’s that we’ve failed fundamentally to follow science and evidence in terms of containing the epidemic,” Rowledge said.

Deer Drooling with Chronic Wasting Disease

In the U.S., Colorado, Wyoming and Wisconsin are considered the hotspots for chronic wasting disease. According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, one in every three elk and one in two deer are known to be infected with chronic wasting disease. This year, the state instituted mandatory testing in some areas.

Wyoming is in danger of losing its entire deer population to CWD. A 2016 University of Wyoming (UW) study of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) herds in the state, published in Plos ONE, found a 10 percent annual decline in the population of these herds, with the likelihood they would be wiped out in less than 50 years.

At least three cases of CWD-infected deer have been reported in Pennsylvania this year. In Wisconsin, one in eight deer in a single CWD-prone area tested positive in 2016. More than 65,000 animals killed in that region went unexamined, while testing in the state as a whole declined from 30,272 animals in 2002 to 6,129 in 2016.

Extracting a Deer Lymph Node for CWD Testing — Photo: Tom Carlson — For: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Hunters, it seems, are more likely to kill infected deer. The UW study found that CWD-positive animals were over-represented in the harvest, possibly because infected animals change their behavior and react more slowly. But those subtle changes may not be apparent to the hunter, leading them to skip testing and possibly consume tainted meat.

“This is where it becomes really concerning for human health,” said Czub. “The muscle tissue we used [in our experiment] was from white-tailed deer, from a farm population in Saskatchewan and those animals did not show clinical signs [of CWD].” They would have appeared healthy to the average hunter.

Most states downplay the risks to people with statements like the one published in a pamphlet for hunters by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department that reads: “There is currently no evidence that CWD is transmitted to humans.” Colorado states: “Currently, there is no evidence that CWD poses a risk for humans; however, public health officials recommend that humans avoid exposure to CWD prions.” The Wisconsin Bureau of Wildlife Management website reads, “There is no strong evidence that chronic wasting disease (CWD) can be passed to humans.”

David Edmunds Testing for CWD Through Tonsil Biopsy — Photo: Todd Cornish

The World Health Organization, in an overview of prion illnesses, says, “No human case has been linked so far to these animal diseases.” The CDC, on its web page about CWD, states, “To date, no strong evidence of CWD transmission to humans has been reported.” The written response we received from the Public Health Agency of Canada echoes the same line: “At this time, there is no direct evidence to suggest that CWD may be transmitted to humans.” These organizations all recommend that hunters take precautionary measures when handling their kills and have suspected animals tested. But that may not be enough.

Diseased animals can harbor CWD prions for years without showing any signs. There is no diagnostic test short of a post-mortem to detect infected specimens. “A singular event can become a massive problem,” warned Rowledge. “In the case of BSE [mad cow disease] going to people, it was extremely unlikely, but 229 people lost that lottery.”

“At this point our recommendation is for hunters to strongly consider testing in situations where they may be hunting in an area where CWD has been identified in the cervid population,” said Ryan Maddox of the CDC, adding, “We’re looking into how we might revise that in the future.”

Of particular concern are indigenous populations who may rely on wild game for a large portion of their meat protein. Authorities in Canada contacted First Nations immediately following the release of the CFIA study data.

But what if you don’t hunt and don’t eat venison or elk? Can CWD still find its way into your home?

In 2009, researchers in Wisconsin watched 40 deer carcasses and 10 gut piles to see which scavengers took an interest. There was a surprising find: “Domestic dogs, cats, and cows either scavenged or visited carcass sites, which could lead to human exposure to CWD,” stated the study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management. Cats were shown to be susceptible to chronic wasting disease in a separate 2013 study published in the Journal of Virology. These researchers concluded “that the ingestion of and/or open wound exposure to CWD-contaminated material could cause feline TSE disease.”

What you feed your cat or dog might be worrisome too. Pet food contains “meat by-products” which, according to PetMD, can include diseased livestock. A 2013 investigation by Slate found that zoo animals, euthanized shelter animals and road kill all go to rendering plants, where they are ground up, cooked and then sold to pet food manufacturers. More than one million deer are killed in vehicle collisions in the U.S. each year. Wyoming, a known hotspot for CWD, made the top-10 list of states where a driver is most likely to strike a deer, according to insurance industry statistics. At these rendering plants, large cookers heat the raw ingredients to between 250 and 275 degrees for 90 to 180 minutes, according to an EPA document. But prions are known to resist destruction at temperatures four times that high.

Deer antler velvet, which the CDC found to contain chronic wasting disease prions, is now a popular nutritional supplement. It’s being used as a performance enhancer by athletes, and sellers claim it promotes muscle strength, energy and endurance. Dr. Andrew Weil, a practitioner of integrative medicine, writes, “I know of no scientific evidence to support any of the marketing claims made for these supplements.” The CDC warned, “Our studies indicate that antler velvet represents an additional source for human exposure to CWD prions.”

9-Year-Old Boy Poses With CWD-Positive Deer

All of these avenues of possible exposure worry Rowledge. “We have to stop the movement of live animals, we have to stop the movement of product, we have to stop the movement of equipment from these game farms, we have to stop hunters from moving positive animals out of CWD areas.”

Both Canadian and U.S. authorities say they are taking steps to look for any indication that chronic wasting disease may have spread to humans in any form. So far, they’ve seen none. Maddison wrote to EnviroNews, “The Public Health Agency of Canada, in collaboration with Canadian health professionals and healthcare institutions, conducts ongoing national surveillance for all human prion diseases in Canada.”

Maddox explained that the CDC works with the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center at Case Western Reserve University to review “unusual cases” of human prion disease. Autopsies are performed and brain tissue examined. They look at cases from Colorado and Wyoming, where CWD has been endemic for decades. They also examine younger prion disease victims because the most common human prion disease, CJD, shows up primarily in older adults. Any similar disease in younger patients would raise a red flag. Aware of Czub’s new findings, Maddox said, “We’re paying close attention to this study and keeping track of what’s going on in the human population in this country as far as prion diseases go.”

There are caveats to Czub’s research, which she freely admitted. It is in-progress research, and the complete results will not be in for a few years. The study won’t be published in a peer-reviewed science journal until then. Additionally, two of the macaques in her study had diabetes, which Czub explained, lowers the level of insulin in the animal. Insulin is known to have a protective effect on neurons in the brain, thus potentially making them more susceptible to infectious prions.

But her study, which is funded at least through 2018, raises important questions about the potential for chronic wasting disease to show up in humans. She told EnviroNews that the scientific community may be overestimating the strength of the species barrier. “It’s something which I think we will need to be really dealing with.”

Rowledge was more blunt. “I don’t know what part of this isn’t a disaster unless we get in front of it.”


Invasion of the Zombie Elk – Chronic Wasting Disease Spreading Fast, Nearing Yellowstone Herds

(EnviroNews Nature) – In the late 1980s, farmers in Great Britain started to notice their cows stumbling around, acting strangely and losing weight. The problem got continually worse, until in 1993, more than 36,000 cattle in the UK died in a single year from mad cow disease. Prior…

PRION BOMBS! – Physicians Group Says Stericycle Undoubtedly Releasing Deadly Prions and Radiation

(EnviroNews Utah) – PRION: a word that many have never even heard before, but little do they know that this deadly and virulent “pest” may be lurking right on their dinner plate, or inside their cute little pets Fluffy and Rover, or even right in dear ol’ Gramma’s…

Dr. Tyler Yeates MD Calls Out Stericycle For Incinerating Deadly Brain-Attacking Prions Into the Environment – Stericycle Owns Up to it!

(EnviroNews Utah) – North Salt Lake City – In a shocking admission Thursday night at a heated town hall meeting, a VP from Stericycle has admitted that the company is allowed to accept and burn deadly and arguably indestructible brain-destroying prions at its North Salt Lake incineration facility…

Dr. Brian Moench of UPHE Discusses the Potentially Deadly Burning of Prions by Stericycle Medical Incinerator

(EnviroNews Utah) – Following Stericycle’s simply flabbergasting admission last Thursday night where they acknowledged that they are allowed to accept and burn deadly and largely indestructible prions, protestors took to the streets outside one of the country’s last standing hazardous medical waste incineration plants. Prions are the malformed…

Amy Uchida, 4th Year Medical Student at the U of U, is Asked About Stericycle’s Incineration of Deadly Prions

(EnviroNews Utah) – According to documents on the Department of Environmental Quality website, Stericycle’s permit needs to be renewed by August 19, 2013. The company’s current permit expires on Feb. 19, 2014. Regg Olsen is listed as the contact at the Department of Air Quality (DAQ) in charge…

The post HEALTH ADVISORY: Venison, Elk May No Longer Be Safe to Eat — Study: Deadly Chronic Wasting Disease Could be Moving to Humans appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

US Solar Industry Hangs in the Balance as ITC Tariff Decision Looms — Nearly 90,000 Jobs at Risk

Environews.tv - Mon, 08/14/2017 - 00:57

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/081317-us-solar-industry-hangs-balance-itc-tariff-decision-looms-nearly-90000-jobs-risk/"; reddit_title = "US Solar Industry Hangs in the Balance as ITC Tariff Decision Looms — Nearly 90,000 Jobs at Risk"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews D.C. News Bureau) — Washington D.C. — A hearing at the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) set for August 15, 2017, may decide the fate of the nation’s solar industry. Prompted by two major solar cell and panel manufacturers, SolarWorld and Suniva, the ITC is investigating whether these companies have been harmed by a flood of imports. If the ITC finds in their favor, it could impose tariffs that would threaten 88,000 U.S. solar jobs, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

“There’s no allegation of wrongdoing, there’s no allegation of violating the law, there’s no allegation of unfair trade practices,” Abigail Ross Hopper, CEO of the SEIA, told EnviroNews. “There is merely an allegation that our domestic companies can’t compete because there are too many imports.”

Both Suniva and SolarWorld are in bankruptcy. And while both companies manufacture in the U.S., Suniva is majority-owned by Shunfeng International, based in China, while SolarWorld’s parent company, itself bankrupt, is headquartered in Bonn, Germany.

In a summary of the SEIA’s prepared remarks for the upcoming ITC hearing, emailed to EnviroNews, the trade group points out that Suniva and SolarWorld “were unable to manufacture and supply the 72-cell modules required to meet demand. Their production capacities were insufficient to handle scale requirements for those projects. Therefore, to meet utility-scale demand, increasing CSPV (crystalline silicon photovoltaic) imports were pulled into the U.S. utility market – they did not ‘flood’ the market – to supply developers with necessary products.”

The U.S., where the solar panel was invented, now manufactures only two percent of the world’s panels. China produces 65 percent, according to the Renewables 2017 Global Status Report. But despite its dismal global market share, U.S. solar manufacturing is not moribund. “There is a pretty vigorous solar manufacturing base here in the United States, with about 38,000 people and over 600 companies manufacturing here,” Hopper said.

The solar industry set a record in 2016, with installations accounting for 39 percent of all new electric generating capacity in the U.S. The sector as a whole employs 260,000 Americans through 9,000 businesses. The average cost of solar panels has dropped 63 percent in five years. “Over the next five years, we think solar will triple,” said Hopper, adding, “That presupposes there is no untoward trade action imposed on our industry.”

SolarWorld and Suniva have asked the ITC to set a minimum price of 78 cents per watt on solar panels manufactured outside the U.S. That would bring costs back to much-higher 2012 levels, wiping out much of the competitive advantage solar energy now enjoys. A report from analyst firm IHS Markit predicts that if the requested tariffs are granted, solar demand will plunge by 60 percent over the next three years.

In a surprise twist to this story, conservative groups, including the Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), along with non-solar industry associations and manufacturers, formed the Energy Trade Action Coalition to oppose the tariffs. “Protectionism is never the solution for an inability to compete globally,” said Bill Gaskin, former President of the Precision Metalforming Association. “Our country’s trade laws should never be co-opted into causing widespread pain for the broader U.S. economy.”

U.S. lawmakers are lining up on both sides of the trade dispute. Representatives Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Rob Woodall (R-GA), both representing states with Suniva facilities, indicated their support of the tariffs, according to The Hill. However, an August 11, 2017 letter signed by 16 senators, including Republicans and Democrats, expressed “deep concern” and urged the ITC to “carefully consider the potential negative impact” on solar jobs and companies.

The ITC is set to make its decision on September 22, 2017, but that’s not the only threat to the burgeoning U.S. solar industry. On April 14, 2017, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry directed the Department to conduct a study of the electric grid and electricity markets. Language in the directive alarmed renewable energy producers. Perry’s memorandum pointed to “regulatory burdens introduced by previous administrations that were designed to decrease coal-fired power generation,” claiming that, “Such policies have destroyed jobs and economic growth, and they threaten to undercut the performance of the grid well into the future.”

Hopper brought up Perry’s memorandum during her interview with EnviroNews as well, saying, “A lot of the industry is pretty anxious about the grid study that Secretary Perry has ordered out of the Department of Energy. Given the way in which it was framed, there was concern that renewables were being seen as a threat to the security of the grid, and we think that’s not an accurate representation of what’s happening.”

The study was due June 19 but has yet to be released. A leaked draft of the study obtained by Bloomberg New Energy Finance showed that it found solar and wind power pose almost no threat to the reliability of the U.S. power grid. Conversely, the draft states, “The power system is more reliable today due to better planning, market discipline, and better operating rules and standards.” As for now, it remains unclear when the final study will be published and what it will say upon review by political appointees.

Meanwhile, some utility industry efforts to derail residential solar have also cost jobs. When the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada eliminated net metering in 2015, which allowed consumers to sell excess energy from their rooftop solar installations back to the utility, the state lost more than 2,600 jobs. Subsequently, industry giants SolarCity, Sunrun and Vivint Solar all closed their operations in Nevada. A New York Times report published July 8, 2017, found “a concerted and well-funded lobbying campaign by traditional utilities, which have been working in state capitals across the country to reverse incentives for homeowners to install solar panels.”

Meanwhile, rooftop solar customers in Utah are up in arms as Rocky Mountain Power wants the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) to reduce the amount it pays homeowners for the electricity they send back to the grid. The Salt Lake Tribune wrote the proposal “could be devastating to the growth in the industry.” In testimony before the PSC, Vivint Solar said it could lose 425 jobs in the state.

In Florida, the utility industry spent more than $21 million to push an amendment to the state constitution that could have severely crimped future industry growth. The Miami Herald called it an attempt “to deceive voters into supporting restrictions on the expansion of solar by shrouding Amendment 1 as a pro-solar amendment.” The strategy backfired when a representative from the James Madison Institute, which SourceWatch labels a “right-wing advocacy group,” was caught referring to the initiative as “a little bit of political jiu-jitsu.” In the end, Florida voters rejected the amendment.

Earlier this year, the Nevada state legislature overrode the utilities commission – and even went one step further. On June 15, Governor Brian Sandoval signed Assembly Bill 405, which restored net metering — but the law goes beyond that. Nevada became the first state to guarantee, under law, the right to self-generate electricity. “This law will give homeowners and businesses who may have wanted to go solar the assurances they sought, and we expect strong solar growth and jobs to follow,” said Sean Gallagher, SEIA’s Vice President of State Affairs. Tesla, Sunrun and Vivint Solar have now all said they plan to resume sales and installations in the state.

Hopper pointed to the turnaround in Nevada, as well as positive outcomes in Colorado and a number of individual electric utility rate cases elsewhere. Now large, investor-owned electric utilities are putting their resources in commercial-scale renewable projects. “Most of the growth is coming from utility scale solar,” Hopper told EnviroNews. “They’re doing it because it makes economic sense; it’s a good business to be in, and we welcome any and all players to the table.”

Free-market economics are the driving force behind the growth of solar and wind, as environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. pointed out in a recent video interview with EnviroNews. Yet the industry could be derailed by political action in Washington, dictated by President Trump, who has vowed to “end the war on coal.”

To Kennedy, that’s a losing strategy. “Anything that Trump does is not going to bring back a single coal job, not one,” he said. “If you believe in markets, you have to believe that the era of coal has ended.”


DOE Report: Solar Creates More U.S. Electricity Jobs Than Oil, Gas, Coal, Nuclear Combined

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) – Washington D.C. – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued its second annual U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) in January of 2017, and the numbers didn’t bode well for the fossil fuels industry. On the other hand, the statistics for the solar…

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: ‘If you believe in markets, you have to believe the era of coal has ended’

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) – Park City, Utah – “Anything that Trump does is not going to bring back a single coal job, not one,” said environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. “If you believe in markets, you have to believe that the era of coal has ended.”…

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Talks Tesla, Electric Big Rigs and the Impending Death of Fossil Fuels

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) – Park City, Utah – In the view of environmental advocate and Waterkeeper Alliance President Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the oil industry is trying to hold back the future. “The only way they can maintain market dominance is by controlling our political system, because…

Wyoming GOP Introduces Bill That Penalizes and Outlaws Wind and Solar Energy

(EnviroNews Wyoming) – Cheyenne, Wyoming – In the second week of 2017, nine Republicans submitted Senate Bill 71 to the Republican-dominated Wyoming legislature – a bill that would outlaw and penalize the large-scale production of wind and solar energy in the Cowboy State. If the bill becomes law,…

1st Solar Panels Sprout at Chernobyl as Ukraine Seeks Investments to Solarize Exclusion Zone

(EnviroNews World News) – Chornobyl, Ukraine – Three decades after the disastrous nuclear accident at the Chernobyl power plant, the site is once again set to produce electricity, but not from atomic reactors – this time from solar panels. Business Insider (BI) reported that a small 1.5-megawatt (MW)…

Coal India, World’s Largest Coal Producer, Scraps 37 Mines Due to Plummeting Solar Prices

(EnviroNews World News) – India, a target of President Donald Trump’s wrath when he announced he was withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement (Paris Accord), is moving away from coal. That was evident on June 10, 2017, when the country’s government-owned Coal India Limited announced it…

Historic First: Solar Plant Illuminates Syrian Refugee Camp, Vastly Improving Quality of Life

(EnviroNews World News) – Azraq, Jordan – The newly activated two-megawatt solar photovoltaic power plant at the Azraq refugee camp in Jordan is the first refugee camp in the world to be powered by a renewable energy facility. The plant started running May 17, 2017, and will provide…

The post US Solar Industry Hangs in the Balance as ITC Tariff Decision Looms — Nearly 90,000 Jobs at Risk appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

Side-Splitting Video: Infomercial Hits Primetime TV: Meet ‘Trumpy Bear’ (Yes This is Real News)

Environews.tv - Sun, 08/13/2017 - 15:37

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/081317-side-splitting-video-infomercial-hits-primetime-tv-meet-trumpy-bear-yes-real/"; reddit_title = "Side-Splitting Video: Infomercial Hits Primetime TV: Meet ‘Trumpy Bear’ (Yes This is Real News)"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews USA Headline News Desk) — When members of the EnviroNews team showed the Trumpy Bear infomercial to people, nearly all thought it was a gag and started cracking up immediately. Several social media commenters have stated that at first, they thought it was a “Saturday Night Live skit.” But it’s not. It’s actually a very real product being marketed and sold in a full-throttle two-minute infomercial on nationwide TV.

And the sellers are deadly serious about it too. So serious in fact, that they selected a sales narrator with a voice so manly even James Earl Jones would be jealous. Set to bombastically orchestrated patriotic-sounding music behind trombones and brass, where you can almost see the WWII war planes flying and artillery exploding in the background, the narrator boldly but smoothly takes the viewer on a journey indeed. To commence the video, he patriotically states:

The wind whispered through the forest. A storm is coming. You cannot defeat the storm. From the trees rose a resounding voice. I fear nothing! I come when the trumpet sounds. I am the storm — the great American grizzly. Introducing: the original Trumpy Bear — the fearless super plush American grizzly.

Trumpy Bear is no ordinary teddy bear to be sure, he comes equipped with several highly useful amenities — features like a white collar, a long red tie, a comb-able orange hair muff, and best of all, a hidden zipper, that when opened, unleashes an amazingly cozy, stars-and-stripes, American flag blanket.

Trumpy Bear Wrapped up in His Own Flag Blanket

Possibly the most important thing to know about Trumpy Bear: He “was born June 14: Flag Day.” And let’s not forget it!

Trumpy Bear’s Comb-able Silky Orange Hair Makes Him Complete

But besides the awesome Team America music and the super suave narrator, the best thing about this sales video has to be the testimonials — testimonials hailing Trumpy Bear as life’s ultimate companion. Hell, who needs a dog, when Trumpy Bear is man’s new best friend?

Trumpy Bear

A macho motorcycle rider proudly states, “I’m a former Marine, and I’m proud to have Trumpy Bear ride by my side. Once a Marine, always a Marine!”

Marine Motorcycle Rider with Trumpy Bear

“Trumpy can even honor your own American heroes,” says the narrator as the video cuts to Trumpy Bear sitting on a home military alter with pictures of family members in the armed forces, alongside their medals and awards. “God bless America, and God bless Trumpy Bear,” an elderly lady asserts.

In another scene, Trumpy is cruising along in a golf cart. “Everyone knows Trump Bear loves to go to the golf course,” the actor states. “When I ride with Trumpy Bear, he makes my golf game great again. Thank you Trumpy Bear!”

One testimonial features an elderly but stern man, cuddling the Trumpy Bear, who says, “I am an Army vet, and I am proud to own the Trumpy Bear. And I will always be proud to be an American.” After all, what could be more American than cuddling with the Trumpy Bear?

Trumpy Bear — Born on Flag Day

So whether you’re a God-fearin’, gun-totin’, righter than right-wing American who would like to lead a Donald Trump fan club, or a tofu-eatin’, rainbow colors wearin’, left field lefty who needs the best white elephant gift ever, you can’t go wrong with Trumpy Bear. And best of all, as the infomercial clearly points out at the end: You can “order the super plush Trumpy Bear for only two payments of $19.95, and receive a special certificate of authenticity. Don’t miss out on owning a piece of American history.”

“Trumpy: the most fearless bear anywhere. Order now!” the narrator concludes.


Hilarious Japanese Animated Video Goes Viral: ‘Donald Trump Elected World President’

(EnviroNews World News) – There’s not a lot that can be said in the introduction to explain the contents of this absolutely hilarious animated commercial out of Japan, featuring mainstream media dominator and GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump – you just have to see it for yourself. The…

Bald Eagle Smacks Donald Trump Upside the Head (and Hair) With Its Wing

(EnviroNews World News) – An American bald eagle smacked Donald Trump upside the head in August of 2015 when he was prepping for a TIME Magazine cover story. To be clear, the eagle bashed him in the hair not once, but several times – real quick like -…

The post Side-Splitting Video: Infomercial Hits Primetime TV: Meet ‘Trumpy Bear’ (Yes This is Real News) appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

Trees in Amazon make their own rain. Be sure, tropical forests in India also do the same.

Ground Reality - Fri, 08/11/2017 - 13:19
Pic: tourmyindia.com
Whenever I drive up the mountains, what often strikes me first are the low hanging clouds in the midst of the mountain ranges. I had always thought that the formation of the vapor clouds, considering that the monsoon clouds were still far away, was because of the trees. The higher the density of trees, the higher the probability of vapor clouds.

I couldn't say for sure because I had no scientific backing to prove my point. Most people, I am sure, too thought they knew it but like me were unsure in the absence of a proper scientific explanation. The low hanging clouds were simply dismissed as 'mist' and that was it. “All you can see is the water vapor, but you don’t know where it comes from,” says Rong Fu, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. (See the Science report, link below)  

Like many of us, Rong Fu too thought it was possible that plants were releasing enough moisture to build low-level clouds. But she needed to explicitly establish the connect, between moisture and the forests. To find out, she and her colleagues began researching in the tropical forests of Amazon, using NASA’s Aura satellite, a spacecraft dedicated to studying the chemistry of Earth’s atmosphere. While the low hanging clouds over Amazon were clearly visible but what needed to be established was that these were not as a result of a drift of moisture from the ocean. Satellite data helped her prove the point. Two significant conclusions are: 

1) Moisture that evaporates from the ocean tends to be lighter than water vapor released into the atmosphere by plants. That’s because during evaporation, water molecules containing deuterium, a heavy isotope of hydrogen made of one proton and one neutron, get left behind in the ocean. By contrast, in transpiration, plants simply suck water out of the soil and push it into the air without changing its isotopic composition.

2) From the satellite data she found that the early moisture accumulating over the rainforest was high in deuterium—“too high to be explained by water vapor from the ocean,” Fu says. What’s more, the deuterium content was highest at the end of the Amazon’s dry season, during the “greening” period when photosynthesis was strongest. 

This explained, as a news report -- Trees in the Amazon make their own rain -- published in the American journal Science (Aug 4, 2017) states: The Amazon rainforest is home to strange weather. One peculiarity is that rains begin 2 to 3 months before seasonal winds start to bring in moist air from the ocean. Now, researchers say they have finally figured out where this early moisture comes from: the trees themselves.

What is true for Amazon is also true for the rest of the tropical forests, which we have been mercilessly cutting down in the name of development. While rainforests are threatened by climate change, the reverse is also true. Indonesia for instance had experienced several severe droughts in recent decades. The worst occurred in 1982-1983 and 1997-1998 when millions of acres of forest burned. Even in the Amazon, between 2005 and 2010,  severe droughts were recorded. Rivers dried up, isolating communities, and millions of acres burned. (http://kids.mongabay.com/elementary/501.html#cc). It now becomes apparent as to why Western Ghats need to be saved from the kind of economic growth that Amazon has been lashed withIn India, the monsoon period is not only shifting but is also squeezing. If you want the rains back, save trees. 

Environmentalist Usha S from the Thiruvanthapuram-based voluntary society Thanal, says: "This is what tropical rainforests used to do. South Kerala used to have rains for 11 months in a year." 
Ironically, Kerala was faced a severe drought last year, some considered it to be the worst in 125 years. Well, the policy makers may not agree but the fact remains that the imposition of a flawed development model had actually acerbated the drought crisis. 

So far it was believed that trees play a crucial role in producing oxygen and absorbing carbon-dioxide, which helps to reduce the climate change impact. But while Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) and the resulting heating of the climate was being blamed for freaky weather, extended periods of acute drought, more flooding in some regions, and the monsoon going topsy-turvy, the role trees play in maintaining an ecological balance was not considered economically significant. According to Nature (Sept 2, 2015), since the beginning of the civilisation, 46 per trees have been axed. Every year, 15 billion trees are being felled. 

Well, if the rains have disappeared don't blame the raingods. 

Over the years, I have seen, followed and admired the role of the World Rainforest Movement. What the WRM has been saying for long, and which makes terrific economic sense, has been simply ignored by the policy makers as an 'anti-development' stand by a bunch of activists. Its recent statement about climate change and forest crisis makes a very important point about the fallacy of the recent proposals by aiming at a 'zero net deforestation'. Accordingly, “zero net deforestation” means that large-scale deforestation can continue as long as large-scale industrial monoculture plantations of eucalyptus, acacia, pine and other trees continue to expand.  

It further states: The New York Declaration on Forests that includes a pledge to end “net” deforestation, which means they will continue logging if the damage can be “offset” somewhere else. The Declaration was signed in 2014, on the sidelines of the UN Secretary General’s climate summit. Yet, this Declaration, stating that it aims “to cut natural forest loss in half by 2020, and strive to end it by 2030”, does not spend a word on what its agri-industry signatories will do to actually halt plantation expansion. This very expansion continues to lead to deforestation in direct and indirect ways." (Read the fill statement here: http://wrm.org.uy/actions-and-campaigns/the-climate-and-forest-crises-cannot-be-solved-with-number-games-and-false-solutions/)

Rong Fu's latest study reinforces what sensible people have been pointing to for quote long now. I think it should make the world to sit back and re-think about the very basis of what constitutes growth economics. Destroying pristine forests and commodifying natural resources is not growth economics; it is violent economics. We cannot allow growth economists to confuse us with numbers anymore. We need adequate rains. #

More reading: 

Trees in Amazon make their own rain. Science, Aug 4, 2017. 
Categories: Ecological News

Defenders of Wildlife Announces New Satellite Data Program to Track Wildlife Habitat Loss

Environews.tv - Fri, 08/11/2017 - 12:17

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/081117-defenders-wildlife-announces-new-satellite-data-program-track-wildlife-habitat-loss/"; reddit_title = "Defenders of Wildlife Announces New Satellite Data Program to Track Wildlife Habitat Loss"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews Nature) — On Aug. 3, 2017, Defenders of Wildlife (Defenders) released a pilot report demonstrating how satellite data, remote sensing and cloud computing can be used to monitor wildlife habitat loss. Defenders’ Center for Conservation Innovation (CCI), which focuses on the use of technology and data in protecting endangered species, relied on figures from NASA and the European Space Agency along with Google Earth Engine to measure habitat disturbances in the range of the lesser prairie chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus). Specifically, the new method detects three forms of habitat disturbance: oil and gas well pads, wind turbines and agricultural conversion.

“Using satellite data to document habitat loss can provide more accurate and up to date information, which is critical for making informed decisions about how to protect and recover these species,” Defenders Conservation Data Specialist Michael Evans told EnviroNews. Evans co-authored the report with Ya-Wei Li.

In a press release, Jamie Rappaport Clark, Defenders President and CEO, states the technique “can even help determine whether developers are complying with their [Endangered Species Act] (ESA) permits, thereby increasing protections for imperiled species and their habitats.” She also described the initiative as “a new and cost-effective way to monitor wildlife habitat.”

In the study, Monitoring Habitat Loss for Endangered Species Using Satellite Data: A Case Study of the Lesser Prairie Chicken, Defenders used algorithms developed in-house to measure habitat disturbance of the lesser prairie chicken between September 2015, when ESA protections for the species were removed, and April 2017. It was determined that more than 258,000 acres of habitat were lost in the species’ ranges within Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas. The majority of this loss resulted from agricultural conversion, while the development of oil and well gas pads and wind farms also caused habitat disturbances.

In the release, Defenders “encourages renewable energy developers to identify suitable, wildlife-friendly sites for wind and solar development through its ‘Smart-from-the-Start’ program.” It also calls on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to embrace “open data and technology” by posting all ESA plans and permits online. Defenders says this transparency would empower it and other stakeholders to monitor the footprints of various projects impacting wildlife habitats and to in turn notify relevant government agencies of violations.

In the future, Defenders plans to launch an online search tool for the remote-sensing and satellite data. Evans explains:

The idea is that someone can choose an area of interest – either a species’ habitat or an area undergoing development – and get notifications in real time when habitat changes are detected… Given the large number of permits and agreements issued annually, a tool that can be used by both the Services and conservation partners to quickly and efficiently detect agreement violations by permittees would be an important step toward ensuring endangered species receive the full benefits of ESA protections.

He adds that making the tool available to the public will enable Defenders to “recruit the public to help the Services identify violations of ESA regulations, and fill important knowledge gaps about the status of habitat for imperiled species.”

Evans says the CCI will be applying this technique to other endangered or imperiled species, including the greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), which is threatened by “increasing attempts now to conduct oil and gas leasing in its habitat.” In early August, Department of the Interior Secretary Zinke announced plans to revise the historic 2015 sage grouse conservation plan – a move that has conservationists and stakeholders across the board concerned.


Defenders of Wildlife Stashes 14,000 Endangered Species Documents Before Trump Can Delete

(EnviroNews Nature) – Washington D.C. – Nearly 14,000 documents related to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) have been preserved and made available for improved conservation efforts under a new initiative launched March 30, 2017, by Defenders of Wildlife (Defenders). “The Endangered Species Act is the strongest conservation law…

Birdbrained? Trump Admin Attacks ‘Historic’ 2015 Sage Grouse Plan, Enviro Groups File FOIAs

(EnviroNews Nature) – Washington D.C. – On August 4, 2017, Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke published a memorandum calling for the immediate revision of the 2015 Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan. This memo follows up on his June Secretarial Order to review sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) protections…

The post Defenders of Wildlife Announces New Satellite Data Program to Track Wildlife Habitat Loss appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

Birdbrained? Trump Admin Attacks ‘Historic’ 2015 Sage Grouse Plan, Enviro Groups File FOIAs

Environews.tv - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 21:26

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/080917-birdbrained-trump-admin-attacks-historic-2015-sage-grouse-plan-enviro-groups-file-foias/"; reddit_title = "Birdbrained? Trump Admin Attacks ‘Historic’ 2015 Sage Grouse Plan, Enviro Groups File FOIAs"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews Nature) — Washington D.C. — On August 4, 2017, Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke published a memorandum calling for the immediate revision of the 2015 Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan. This memo follows up on his June Secretarial Order to review sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) protections and the recommendations of the ensuing review task force.

Conservation groups describe Zinke’s memo and the recommendations as “reckless” and detrimental both to the sage grouse and to complex compromises already established between environmentalists and industry leaders. These agreements are inherent to the landmark 2015 plan, which aims to protect and enhance sage grouse habitat — namely the sagebrush ecosystem, a.k.a. the “sagebrush sea,” through multi-organization collaborations and voluntary conservation efforts.

A DOI press release states Zinke’s June order sought to ensure “conservation efforts do not impede local economic opportunities.” After a 60-day evaluation of the plan, the review team now proposes, among other actions, to “modify or issue new policy on fluid mineral leasing and development… work with the states to improve techniques and methods to allow the states to appropriate population objectives,” and to “investigate the removal or modification of Sage Grouse Focal Area in certain states.”

“The recommendations are a sideways attempt to abandon habitat protection for unfettered oil and gas development [in] favor of discredited, narrow tools like captive breeding and population targets. Gutting the structure of these plans puts the entire landscape at risk,” Nada Culver, Senior Director of Policy and Planning at the Wilderness Society, said in a statement.

The sage grouse’s habitat range spans 11 Western states and according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the species, which once numbered in the millions, is now estimated at between 200,000 and 500,000 individuals. Concerns over how habitat conservation would hinder industry, agriculture and local economies, particularly as Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing was considered, kept the sage grouse protection debate in the national spotlight for 15 years.

Greater Sage Grouse — Southern Utah — Photo by: Emerson Urry

The 2015 plan, which preempted ESA listing for the species, was achieved after years of costly evaluation, conflict and compromise between scientists, environmental groups, ranchers, extractive industries, and federal, state and local government agencies. While many conservationists, Western governors or industry reps were not satisfied, then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell characterized the resulting plan as “truly a historic effort – one that represents extraordinary collaboration across the American West.”

The American Petroleum Institute (API) applauded Zinke’s August memo. “Removing administrative barriers to conservation is critical to protecting the greater sage grouse without hindering responsible energy development and local economic opportunities,” said API Upstream Director Erik Milito.

Zinke’s memo falls in line with the Trump Administrations’ opening of public lands to fossil fuel development and the review task force references Trump’s related Executive Order, “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth,” as well as Zinke’s Secretarial Order on “American Energy Independence.”

Zinke’s focus on empowering states to directly manage conservation efforts within their borders mirrors the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) 2017 recommendations for legislative changes to the ESA, which also alarm environmentalists. “We cannot risk opening the [ESA] to the avalanche of destructive amendments that would gut our nation’s most effective law for protecting endangered and threatened wildlife,” Jamie Rappaport Clark, Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO, said in June.

Zinke cited “complaints by several of the governors” about “their ability to use federal lands” in his ordering of the review of the Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan. However, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper sent Zinke public letters in April and May, specifically advising against a complete review of the hard-won compromise.

“If [the plan is] treated [carelessly] and without bringing all of those people back to the table, you risk ruining not just the plans or what they do for birds and 350 other species, but for the incentive to work together and compromise for shared outcomes,” Sara Greenberger, Vice President of Conservation Policy for the National Audubon Society, told the Casper Star Tribune.

Greenberger, who served under Jewel during the era in which the current sage grouse plan was developed, also conveyed the importance of emphasizing habitat restoration over captive breeding. An initial July report on a farm-and-release program in Wyoming, which is home to 37 percent of the species, finds this method to be ineffective – many eggs didn’t hatch successfully and those that did experienced a high mortality.

Chris Saeger, Executive Director of the Western Values Project, calls Zinke’s Order “another reckless decision made by special interests and Washington politicians behind closed doors – it is a clear giveaway to industry that undermines years of work by Western governors, communities and stakeholders,” adding that it “could well fast-track the greater sage grouse’s listing as an endangered species.”

On August 9, The Center for Biological Diversity (The Center) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking public records related to Zinke’s sage grouse recommendations. The Center is seeking all records related to his June Order and August Memo. It points out in a statement that the sagebrush sea habitat supports 350 species in addition to sage grouse, which are now “at risk of becoming casualties of the Trump Administration’s misguided mission to promote fossil fuel development and other extractive interests at the expense of preserving America’s public lands for wildlife, recreation and water.”


Lions and Tigers and… Sage Grouse? Oh My! – The Granddaddy Endangered Species Battle of Them All

(EnviroNews Nature) – On World Wildlife Day, March 3, 2017, EnviroNews Nature released one of the largest and most expansive documentaries ever published on a wildlife species in peril – the greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). The academic yet entertaining film spans a plethora of topics and includes…

Dept. of Interior: No Protection for Greater Sage Grouse Under Endangered Species Act

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) – Commerce City, Colorado – On the morning of Tuesday August 22, 2015, Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Sally Jewell announced that Centrocercus urophasianus, a.k.a. greater sage grouse, will not receive protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). A decision by U.S. Fish…

Sec. Sally Jewell Announces DOI Will Not List Bi-State Sage Grouse as Endangered

(EnviroNews Nevada) – Reno, Nevada – To the dismay and disappointment of environmentalists, conservationists and biologist alike, Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Sally Jewell announced on April 21, 2015 (which also happened to be Earth Day) that the bi-state sage grouse will not be making its way…

Will Redrawing Core Sage Grouse Areas in Wyoming Help Save the Bird From Extinction?

(EnviroNews Wyoming) – Douglas, Wyoming – In late April a gloomy report was issued by Pew Charitable Trusts that claims there is a 98.7 percent chance greater sage grouse will go extinct in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin in 30 years if the current course continues. The Powder River…

Obama Administration Comes Out Against NDAA Sage Grouse Rider

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) – Washington DC – In a surprising environmentally-friendly move today following the Department of the Interior’s green light for Shell Oil Company’s arctic drilling ambitions yesterday, the Obama Administration came out against a controversial rider in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that…

20 Western Governors Trying to Seize Power Over Endangered Species Act – Green Groups Say No Way

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) – Whitefish, Montana – On June 28, 2017, the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) released its 2017 recommendations to alter the Endangered Species Act (ESA) after its annual meeting in Montana. The resolution arrived at calls for an increase in state power over ESA implementation…

Senate Hearing: Green Groups Say Committee Moving to Gut the Endangered Species Act

(EnviroNews Nature) – On May 10, 2017, Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), led a committee oversight hearing called, “Conservation, Consultation and Capacity: State Views on the Need to Modernize the Endangered Species Act.” Green groups decry Barrasso’s desire…

Republicans Lick Chops While Revving Up To Dismantle The Endangered Species Act

(EnviroNews Nature) – Washington D.C. – On Feb. 15, 2017, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) held a hearing called, “Oversight: Modernization of the Endangered Species Act.” Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Chairman of the EPW, held this two-hour hearing to explore “the need to modernize…

The post Birdbrained? Trump Admin Attacks ‘Historic’ 2015 Sage Grouse Plan, Enviro Groups File FOIAs appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

RCEP will undo the gains of food self-sufficiency built so assiduously over the decades

Ground Reality - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 17:26

Pic: Global Politics and Law
The damage caused by climatic change is not going to be the biggest worry that a farmer is likely to face in future. There is a still a bigger disaster would be a price crash after a bountiful harvest. Farmers know when the drought is approaching; they know what precautions to take when the heat spell extends for long. They remain prepared to face insect attacks and know how to minimise crop losses at times of heavy rains. But just imagine the severe blow that a farmer receives when he finds that after an abundant, the prices crash.
This is what I call as ‘Produce and perish’. Farmers produce a record harvest, only to suffer an unforeseen disaster. 
After two years of back-to-back drought, the rain gods finally smiled. Expecting a normal crop season, farmers put in their labour hoping to partly offset the losses suffered in the past two years. A bountiful harvest would result in good prices for them, they thought. But the markets suddenly crashed. Prices of dal, tomato, potato, onion, sarson, and all other vegetables crashed forcing farmers to dump the produce on the highways at many a places. Farmers’ anger imploded into a massive protest that began from Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, eventually resulting in five farmers dying from police farming. 
But there is more trouble brewing on the farm front. At a time when farmer unions are planning for a jail bharo protest from Aug 9 to Aug 15 seeking farm loan waiver and implementation of the Swaminathan Committee recommendation of providing 50 per cent profit over the cost of production, what they are not aware is that an international trade negotiations currently underway holds a much bigger threat to the future of Indian agriculture. In fact, as and when it comes into existence, it would allow unbridled imports of highly-subsidised agricultural commodities at zero duty thereby pushing small farmers to abandon agriculture.
Let’s examine what is at stake. Over the past few decades, especially after 1995 when the World Trade Organisation (WTO) came into existence, the effort has been to force the developing countries to remove trade barriers and import duties. What was attempted initially through the WTO was aggressively pushed under the bilateral Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) between two countries or a group of countries. While numerous studies have shown that India has hardly gained from the opening up of the domestic market, the damage done to agriculture has been enormous.
Sridhar R from Thanal, a voluntary society based in Thiruvanthapuram, explains how the FTA with ASEAN trading block has already hit the livelihoods of plantation growers in Kerala. “Seven years ago, we, as civil society and the Govt of Kerala, had predicted that reduction in import tariffs would impact Kerala seriously, especially in rubber, and spices.” He says that as per the prediction the imports have increased and prices have fallen. The Central Government, which went ahead and signed the deal, has done nothing whatsoever to compensate or support the farmers whose lives and livelihoods have been affected. However, Kerala is left to shoulder the burden of providing Rs 5 billion every year to compensate the rubber farmers for the price fall. Only about 30 per cent farmers get the compensation, with the rest of the community gradually moving out.
As if this is not enough, a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) treaty, which concluded its latest round of negotiations at Hyderabad in July, is considering removing import duties on 92 per cent of the traded commodities. Still worse, the import duties that will be reduced to zero under the treaty cannot be raised later, a provision that even the WTO did not impose. In other words, the RCEP treaty, if India agrees to sign, would open up the Indian market for zero import duty for all times to come. It will take away the right from India to protect and ensure the livelihood security of its 600 million farmers. The treaty is being negotiated between 16 countries, including South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and China. 
Surprisingly, every time India enters into a trade negotiation, it seeks ‘greater market access for its services, including easier norms for its professionals to move across borders for short-term work’. While this is certainly important but I what I fail to understand is why agriculture is being deliberately sacrificed in the process. After all, protecting domestic agriculture, which entails the livelihoods of 600 million farmers, cannot be placed on the chopping block of international trade. Take the case of dairy sector. According to Jayan Mehta, senior general manager of Amul dairy cooperatives, 15-crore livelihoods engaged in dairy farming will be severely hit from the current RCEP negotiations.
India is the biggest producer of milk in the world. Presently, the imports of milk and milk products are allowed with an import duty ranging between 40 to 60 per cent. This provides enough protection for the local dairy industry to build its competitiveness. Opening up the flood gates will inundate India with cheaper milk flowing in from Australia and New Zealand. Let us not forget that while Australia which has only 6,300 dairy farmers; and New Zealand with 12,000 dairy farmers are pushing in aggressively to protect the economic interests their small dairy farming community, India is willing to sacrifice the livelihoods of 15- crore farmers.
Since India has a huge domestic demand of milk, it doesn’t have the kind of export surplus that Australia and New Zealand have.  Just because Australia and New Zealand are willing to provide more access to IT professionals does not mean India should put dairy farmers on the chopping block.
Dairy is not the only commodity for which the market is to open up. India will have to open up for all kinds of fruits, vegetables, pulses, potatoes, spices, plantation crops, seeds, silk, processed foods etc. Although India is still insisting on allowing zero tariff import on only 80 per cent of the traded goods, and is seeking a three-tier structure, the negotiations are led by the dominant and aggressive stance of countries like China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea, which will eventually have their say.
It has taken so many years for the world to understand that WTO was designed to serve the commercial interests of only the top 1 per cent. Not drawing any lessons, the RCEP treaty is being negotiated under a complete secrecy. What was negotiated at the Hyderabad round of talks has not been made public. A few people sitting in heavily guarded negotiations take decisions, which eventually impact the future of 99 per cent of the population. This is grossly unfair. # 
Categories: Ecological News

Watch: Ever Seen an American White Pelican Walk on Water? (Video)

Environews.tv - Fri, 08/04/2017 - 14:22

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/080417-watch-ever-seen-american-white-pelican-walk-water-video/"; reddit_title = "Watch: Ever Seen an American White Pelican Walk on Water? (Video)"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews Nature) — Heber, Utah — The American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) is an amazing bird to say the least. It can even walk on water. Well, ok, maybe it hops on water with the assistance of a few wing beats, but it’s still pretty impressive. But hopping on water isn’t the only praise-worthy thing about this majestic bird — it has many other endearing qualities.

The American white pelican is the second largest bird in North America behind only the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus), which is nearly extinct. Its massive wingspan can reach 10 feet, while with its disproportionally long beak the bird measures as long as 70 inches and weighs up to 30 pounds. During mating season, the bird grows a conspicuous bump on its beak which falls off when breeding is over.

Despite its size though, the mighty flier is actually quite graceful, and who’d have thought it could hop across the water so effortlessly before getting airborne — like a massive 747 jet airliner moving itself down the runway prior to takeoff.

American white pelicans nest in large colonies on salty inland lakes throughout North America. As much as 20% of the species’ population nests on Gunnison Island in Utah’s infamous Great Salt Lake. The hopping birds featured in this story’s video were filmed on Strawberry Reservoir — also in Northern Utah.

As many as 5,000 breeding pair have been observed at a single nesting site. Birds arrive in March or April to scope out the grounds and start competing for a good place to raise a chick — maybe even two if the mating pair is lucky. Nesting starts in May or June.

This species of pelican has a very large beak and throat pouch, used for catching prey and filtering out sediment after scooping for fish. But surprisingly, American white pelicans are pack hunters of sorts. They prefer to hunt in groups, herding fish and cooperating for higher success. In addition to fish, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos also feasts on crawfish (of which there are many in Strawberry Reservoir) as well as salamanders and other amphibians.

Fortunately, the American white pelican’s numbers are doing very well as compared to many North American avian species, and the bird is listed as “Least Concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Hundreds of Pelicans at Goat Rock Beach in Northern California

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The post Watch: Ever Seen an American White Pelican Walk on Water? (Video) appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

The fight against GM mustard in India is crucial for the global war on GMOs

Navdanya Diary - Thu, 08/03/2017 - 17:32

By Ruchi Shroff – LifeGate, 1 August 2017



If approved, GM mustard would become the first GMO to enter India’s food chain: this is why the fight doesn’t involve India alone but the whole world.

Amidst the determined push by biotech lobbies to impose genetically modified (GM) mustard in India, civil society movements and farmers’ organizations are once again doing battle to oppose this new product of genetic engineering. If approved, gm mustard would become India’s first GM food crop, which poses grave health and environmental risks.

If approved, genetically modified mustard would become the frist gmo in India’s food chain

The release of GM mustard would threaten farmers’ livelihoods and pose a high risk of contamination of mustard germplasm in a centre of cultural diversity such as India. GM mustard has potential adverse impacts on honeybees. Farmers worry that gm mustard will impact the pollen and nectar collection by honeybees resulting in lower mustard honey production and exports. Farmers and civil society are worried that the approval for this technology will open the gates for the entry of tens of other GM food crops. Bayer‘s Liberty Link crops are only two of the wo main types of gm crops resistant to the herbicide glufosinate.

The case of gm mustard in India

The battle against the approval of GM mustard (DMH11)in India is consequently growing across the whole country. In May 2017, hundreds of farmers and activists demonstrated outside the gates of the Environment Ministry in Delhi, while India’s largest farmer’s unions also wrote to Minister for the Environment Harsh Vardhan asking him to reject the commercialisation of gm mustard. Vardhan is also the Minister of Science and Technology and was one of the funders of gm mustard development. In a clear conflict of interests, he is now also the person who will take the final decision to approve or not. Resistance to the corporate takeover is growing also at a local level. While corporations and their lobbies, such as ABLE India, have upped the ante on the approval of gm mustard, thanks to the resistance across the country, five key Indian states including mustard-growing states have now banned the cultivation of gm mustard. The latest State to take a stand is Rajasthan, which has stated that it will not allow gm mustard even in case of approval at the federal government. With Rajasthan being the state where 46 per cent of Indian mustard is grown, this position could become crucial in the process.

The Indian state of Rajasthan said that it will not allow the cultivation of GM mustard, even if the government approves it

This is not the first time that Indian mustard is under threat. In 1998 India’s indigenous edible oils made from mustard, coconut, sesame, linseed and groundnut processed in artisanal cold-press mills were banned, using food safety as an excuse. The restrictions on import of soya oil were simultaneously removed. One million oil mills in villages were closed. And millions of tons of artificially cheap gm soya oil continue to be dumped on India. Last year, over 124 farmers groups, scientists, lawyers and activists organized an All India People’s Assembly against gm mustard and launched a nationwide ground campaign, working with farmers to practice ecological methods of agriculture with local varieties as well as organising festivals celebrating indigenous mustard and inviting citizens to join the civil disobedience. While the resistance against the imposition of gm mustard takes root, it is important to save and propagate the indigenous diversity of mustard.

The future of the food and farming system of the world

The battle against the commercialization and approval of GM mustard by civil society movements in India is not about the narrow issue of a technology tool in a specific area of the world, it is about a much broader issue of which food and farming system we want globally.

The release of specific GM crops in those parts of the world which are recognized as a centre of origin of those same crops, raises important questions on the issue of germplasm contamination and represents a threat to the future of biodiversity at a global level. In the Report “Maize Under Threat, GE Maize Contamination in Mexico”, published by Greenpeace in 2003, the authors state that “GE crop contamination in centres of diversity poses a major global concern and urgent measures must be taken to ensure the integrity of such centres. We can’t afford to let the very sources of our food supply become irreversibly contaminated”.

The global battle against GMOs

As the immense diversity of mustard crops is now under threat in India, so too are under way harsh political debates and people’s mobilizations in other parts of the world to counter similar issues. For more than a decade Monsanto and other agrichemical industries have been fighting to impose GM corn in Mexico. In 2012, in response to the umpteenth request by Monsanto for authorisation to grow and commercialize GM corn, a coalition of Mexican scientists, the Unión de Científicos Comprometidos con la Sociedad (UCCS) – Union of Socially Concerned Scientists, published a declaration and launched a wide international opposition campaign.

For more than a decade Monsanto and other agrichemical industries have been fighting to impose GM corn in Mexico.

The declaration states that “Mexico is not only the cradle of corn, the second most important commodity crop in the world, but it also stewards one of the few Centers of Origin and Diversification, from which the world derives the genetic diversity needed to maintain its production in the mist of new plagues and climatic challenges”. With reference to and in support of the declaration, Etc group defined the possible authorization of GM corn by the Mexican government as a “crime of historic significance”. Moreover, the News Release states that “genetic contamination of Mexican peasant varieties will be inevitable. We are talking about damaging more than 7,000 years of indigenous and peasant work that created maize – one of the world’s three most widely eaten crops”.

The victory against GM eggplant in India

Since its approval in Bangladesh in 2013, the cultivation of Bt eggplant (Bt brinjal) has been strongly criticized. Farida Akhtar, founder of Ubinig, a Bangladeshi NGO that maintains community seed banks, declared that Bangladesh is a centre of origin of brinjal and home to over 100 varieties. “These varieties”, she said “now face genetic contamination from the GM varieties through natural cross-pollination”.

The same Bt Brinjal was stopped in India in 2010. At the time civil society movements and numerous independent scientists had expressed great concern on how contamination between the GM eggplant and other eggplant traditional varieties would have been rapid and irreversible. The Supreme Court declared a moratorium of 10 years on any field trial, while the technical advisory committee (TEC) also recommended a ban on the “release of GM crops for which India is a centre of origin or diversity, as rice, brinjal, and mustard”.

According to Vandana Shiva women play a crucial role in agricolture because boast unique skills and knowledge for the conservation of biodiversity and an economy based on it © Aamir Qureshi/Getty Images

The only GM crop cultivated in India is Bt cotton. The experience of Bt cotton cultivation over the past 15 years has exposed the hype about GM crops and the devastation on farmers livelihoods and biodiversity.

Within a decade, Bt cotton was adopted by nearly 7 million farmers, and they cover 97 per cent of the area planted with the crop today. But the pests for which BT cotton was created have become resistant and pesticide use on farmers fields have gone up.

Not against technology, but for a democratic debate

History may repeat itself. Since its introduction for approval, the fact that GM mustard is a glufosinate herbicide resistant crop has been hidden from the public. Glufosinate is a neuro toxic pesticide that causes damage to nerves and the brain. Mustard is used as a medicine and in every kitchen of India. Herbicide tolerance would mean increased plant residues. The farmers’ battle is therefore not against technology. The country needs a democratic debate on the systems of food and agriculture that protect biodiversity, people’s health, farmers livelihoods. Decisions about what we eat and how our food is grown cannot be left to opaque committees, connected to the biotech industry and disconnected from the democratic processes that should govern our lives and our food. The movements are demanding a high level citizen enquiry which makes transparent the links between institutions and the agrichemical corporations of the Poison Cartel.

Related Campaign

Sarson Satyagraha – Civil Disobedience against GM Mustard                           
Categories: Ecological News

Global Agriculture -- What the World Failed to Follow

Ground Reality - Sun, 07/30/2017 - 21:06

Pic courtesy: 123RF.com 

It has been exactly 13 years since I was invited by the UK Food Group and Sustain to make a presentation on My Vision for a Global Agriculture at a Dialogue on Agricultural Trade Reform, Subsidies and the Future of Small and Family Farms and Farmers, held at London, on June 30, 2004. But looking at the recommendations I made, and I would like you to look at them carefully, you will agree that crisis wouldn't have been of the order that we see today. had the world taken a wise step towards ushering in equity and sustainability. Not only this would have reduced greenhouse gas emissions and in the bargain limited the damage by climate change, what I suggested would have also reduced the yawning inequality.
This was written in 2004. It certainly needs to be updated. But the essence remains the same, even now. This is what I wrote: "My Vision for a Global Agriculture comes at a crucial time in the history of international agriculture. I wish the powers that be, and that includes the agriculture ministers of the G-8 countries, and international agencies like FAO/IFAD/World Bank and the likes had paid some attention to it, and the world wouldn't have been faced with the kind of crisis that we are confronted with now. It is my strong belief that sooner or later the world will have to return to a sustainable pathway in agriculture, the sooner it happens the better it will be for humanity.
Well, the short of it is this didn't happen. And the crisis on the farm meanwhile has meanwhile worsened, the environment already devastated. Climate change has the world sitting on a tripping point, and inequality has only multiplied so much so that the world is in dark without any silver lining visible on the horizon. 

On how to resurrect agriculture.  
Restoring the pride in agriculture should be the obvious challenge for the global community. Numerous international approaches show emphasis, through the use of cliches like strengthening marketing infrastructure, scientific management of scarce water resources, empowering farmers to take informed decisions and so on. A growing volume of evidence now clearly suggests that such jugglery in presentation has not helped. Hidden in the jargon is the intention to commodify natural resources. What is needed is a fresh approach that takes the ground realities into consideration before embarking upon any policy imperatives.
I am trying to spell out a series of parameters that should underline all international approaches to agriculture. These are based on Mahatma Gandhi's Talisman that suggests: 'Think of the poorest person you have ever known, and ask if your next step will be of any use to him. In short, the effort should be to wipe every tear from every eye.'
Sustainable Livelihoods: focusing on tackling the causes of poverty, hunger, the inequitable distribution of income and low human resource base with the objective of providing everyone with the opportunity to earn a sustainable livelihood. The green revolution areas are encountering serious bottlenecks to growth and productivity. Excessive mining of soil nutrients and groundwater have already brought in soil sickness. If the livelihood of the marginalised in the society (and that in the majority world is in agriculture) it must be secured by economic activities that are sustainable, that do not threaten the integrity of the environmental assets on which they depend.
Food Sovereignty: Every country should have the right to food sovereignty. It should result from the interplay of three determining factors: food production, food availability and access to food. A sustainable livelihood approach is the strength of food sovereignty. It should be people centric, based on community strengths, eco-friendly and gender sensitive. Food production, a central pivot of food sovereignty, must be based on minimal use of external inputs and that includes chemicals, transgenics and water. Access to food cannot be left to the market forces, it has to be the obligation of the society and the state.
Local Solutions: For the past three decades, more so after the introduction of the land-grant system of education, the focus is on finding global solutions to local problems in agriculture. The World Bank/IMF, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and now some of the major donors like DFID and GTZ have been embarking of translocating alien approaches to agricultural improvement and have thereby exacerbated the crisis on the farm front. This process must be immediately stopped, if not reversed. Given the diversity of the agro-ecological regions, sustainable agriculture needs location-specific solutions.
Multiple Cropping: Emphasis on commodities has encouraged monocultures, loss of biodiversity, encouraged food trade in some commodites, distorted domestic markets, and disrupted the micro-nutrient availability in soil, plant, animals and humans. Thrust on farm commodities have also pushed in trade activities, encouraged food miles, adding to greenhouse emissions, water mining, and destruction of farm incomes. The need is to revert back to the time-tested farming systems that relied on mixed cropping and its integration with farm animals, thereby meeting the household and community nutrition needs from the available farm holdings.
Away from Cash Crops: For the past two decade at least, the World Bank/IMF and some other academia and donors have been pressing developing countries to diversify from staple foods to cash crops in what is being projected as the right approach to add to farm incomes. This is a politically motivated advise and runs counter to the sustainable approached spelled out above. Many Latin American countries are faced with a serious land degradation crisis and increasing hunger as a result. It also pushes farmers into a death trap since the developing countries do not have the resources to provide for adequate marketing infrastructure.
Reversing Farm Exodus: The disappearing family farms in the developed countries and the process of further marginalisation of the farming communities in the developing world are the symptoms of the same malaise. Farmers are being pushed out of agriculture through a farming system that is becoming increasingly unremunerative and industrialised. To maintain ecological balance, and to maintain the multi-functionality of agriculture, as well as to ensure sustainable livelihoods, the focus of any policy imperative should be to restore the pride in family farms. This will need adequate state protection and support and at the same time should be based on the principle of mutual compatibility with the small farmers in the majority world.
Reorienting Farm Research: International agricultural research, as well as the national agricultural research systems, should re-orient the focus of farm research based on the principles of - farmer friendly, environment friendly and long-term sustainability. Instead of the 'Lab-to-Land' approach, which has done immense damage to agriculture globally, the emphasis should be on learning from the land, meaning going back to farmers and the traditional farming systems. Technology need not always be high-tech and sophisticated. It can be simple and effective. This can only be ensured if the effort is to fit the new and improved technology to farmers need rather than asking farmers to fit into the technology package developed. This can only happen if farm research is brought back to the public sector. All technology should be freely available, and should not come with any proprietary tags.
Changing Food habits: Obesity has already emerged as the biggest killer in America, leaving tobacco-related deaths to the second position. This is the outcome of the private industry efforts to change the food and dietary habits to suit their commercial interests. First junk foods, and now genetically modified foods, the industry is desperate to ensure its acceptability irrespective of the human costs involved. Changing food habits of the urban consumers, that dictates the market demand, is certainly a difficult task. No effort can be meaningful as long as the food industry is allowed to use advertisement space. Food advertisements should therefore be banned. If hospitals are not allowed to advertise, there is no reason why the food industry cannot be directed to stop media advertisements.
Encouraging Local Markets: Creating a global market for farm produce is the bane of modern agriculture. The seed multinationals, the food giants, and the supermarkets, have cornered the food chain in the process thereby destroying livelihoods, local markets and also drastically reducing food choices. Such a market strategy has resulted in the disappearance of locally produced nutritious foods as a consequence of which micro-nutrient deficiency in human populations have grown manifold. Encouraging local markets will also reduce the dependence upon long distance transportation thereby minimising global warming. It will also help in bringing back the traditional and neglected crops, and help in changing the food habits.
Jai Kisan: A happy farming family is the base for any and every strong economy. It is also the foundation for an all-round economic growth and development. It is also the pre-requisit for sustainable development at the local, national and international level. Unfortunately, the farmer (called Kisan in India) has become a burden on the global society. Every government is keen to get rid of them as quickly as possible. Globalisation, economic liberalisation and the free trade paradigm are all aimed at pushing farmers out of agriculture. This political process and the mainline thinking has to be reversed for the sake of the global economy as well its sustained future. We need a world where every country is proud of its farmers, and where every farmer is proud to be the food provider - the annadata

For the detailed paper, just see the 2nd item on this linkhttp://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=7850

Read also: An 11-Point Agenda for resurrecting Indian agriculture and restoring the pride in farming. May 2014. http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.in/2014/05/my-11-point-agenda-for-resurrecting.html


Categories: Ecological News

High-Intensity Workouts (Spin, CrossFit) Sending People to ER With Life-Threatening Condition

Environews.tv - Sun, 07/30/2017 - 18:32

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(EnviroNews Headline News Desk) — Today’s high-intensity workout trends are sending a substantial number of people to the emergency room with a life-threatening condition known as rhabdomyolysis, according to a report authored by Daniella Emanuel for CNN on July 26, 2017. Activities such as Spin class, CrossFit, P90X, weightlifting and distance running are all to blame the report said, landing dozens of people in the hospital around the country.

Rhabdomyolysis is a malady first officially recognized in 1908 following the Messina earthquake in southern Italy, though it’s been suggested it was first referenced in the Bible. The condition results in a rapid breakdown of muscle tissue accompanied by a large release of the protein myoglobin into the bloodstream. The excessive myoglobin leads to dark “tea-colored” urine, nausea, extreme joint stiffness, brain fog, confusion and in severe cases, full-blown kidney failure.

The condition can arise when an individual takes up a new strenuous exercise routine, beyond or significantly different than what they are accustomed to. CNN‘s story references the case of a 33-year-old Los Angeles actor named Michael Everett, who went to his first SoulCycle class pumped up and full of enthusiasm. But within a few minutes, Everett reported he could feel his thighs hurting in an abnormal way. Despite not feeling right, Everett pushed through and finished the class, but his symptoms kept getting worse. After some good luck researching his own symptoms on the internet, he was in the hospital by the following evening. The diagnosis: rhabdomyolysis. It took a week for him to be discharged from the hospital and he says his legs are still sore with pain.

A study published in the American Journal of Medicine titled, Freebie Rhabdomyolysis: A Public Health Concern. Spin Class-Induced Rhabdomyolysis, focuses on three acute cases of the disease caused suddenly by Spin class. The study says hospitalization commonly occurs following a subject’s first class. The three cases observed include an individual who suffered the onset after spinning for only 15 minutes, a second person who otherwise exercised regularly, and a third case, where a 33-year-old kindergarten teacher had to be placed on dialysis after she experienced full renal failure. All three subjects became ill after their very first Spin class.

Dr. Alan Coffino, nephrologist and Chairman of Medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York, co-authored the study after treating the 33-year-old kindergarten teacher, and told CNN, “It’s tough to tell somebody who’s 33 years old, ‘I need to start you on dialysis.’ And so you treat them with a lot of fluids, and you hopefully get them to the point where their kidneys open up and they start getting rid of the toxins and they don’t have to go on dialysis… In her case, we had to pull the plug and put her on dialysis.”

Rhabdomyolysis can be caused by multiple things other than strenuous exercises. Side effects from several pharmaceutical drugs can lead to the condition through causing the release of myoglobin. The disease was seen frequently during World War II in survivors who had been trapped and struggling for life under the ruble of bombed buildings. But in 2017, it’s the fitness craze that’s often to blame.

“I’ve had patients come in who can’t walk. They can’t get out of bed. They call 911 because their muscles don’t work,” Dr. Derek Fine, Associate Professor of Medicine and Interim Chief of Nephrology at Johns Hopkins Medicine told CNN.

Rhabdomyolysis is caused by acute trauma to the muscles — an excessive overload beyond what the subject is accustomed to. In mild cases, the patient is given a lot of fluids and monitored for a few days while the body flushes out the toxins. In more serious cases, like Everett’s, it can take a week or more of being hooked up to IVs and “pumped with fluids” to flush the toxins from the bloodstream. But in the most severe cases, the sufferer may require dialysis to remove the myoglobin from the blood in an effort to salvage the kidneys — and without that treatment, the ailment can be fatal. In some cases, muscle groups can swell and lock up completely, requiring surgery to release the pressure.

Patients are diagnosed in part by analyzing their creatine kinase (CK), a.k.a. creatine phosphokinase (CPK), levels. The disease range starts around 1,000 U/L, ranging to 5,000 U/L in severe cases. CPK is an enzyme involved in converting creatine inside the body, and it can leak into the bloodstream when muscles are damaged. Patients are released from the hospital only after their CKP levels have returned to normal.

Michael Everett in Hospital With Rhabdomyolysis — June, 2017

Researchers warn that people who exercise regularly and are otherwise in good shape can fall victim to rhabdomyolysis. Usually the condition occurs when these individuals push themselves too hard or try a new exercise or routine that works an underused muscle group. In the medical literature there are currently 46 documented cases of people being hit with rhabdomyolysis after Spin class. 42 of those instances occurred during the person’s very first class — like Everett and the kindergarten teacher.

“I just wish SoulCycle would have said at the beginning of the class, ‘if you work out too hard, this can happen to you,'” Everett told CNN.

Dr. Maureen Brogan, associate professor of medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital and lead author of the study, is concerned about Spinning in particular due to its popularity saying, “[With] Spinning, you burn 600 calories in an hour, and you lose up to a liter an hour of sweat. 600 calories is like running six miles. So if you’re not conditioned, you wouldn’t just run six miles.”

Individuals taking up Spinning or other strenuous programs like CrossFit, Insanity and P90X are urged to stay hydrated and start slowly, and to gradually build the intensity of their workouts over the course of days or weeks. Instructors are encouraged to become more aware of rhabdomyolysis, to inquire and ascertain who is new in their classes and to start off newcomers with an easier version of the routine — incrementally increasing the intensity of their program.

“It’s better just to err on the side of caution and take things slowly,” Brogan concluded.

The post High-Intensity Workouts (Spin, CrossFit) Sending People to ER With Life-Threatening Condition appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

Study: Radioactive Hot Particles Still Afloat Throughout Japan Six Years After Fukushima Meltdowns

Environews.tv - Sat, 07/29/2017 - 15:54

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(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) — Radioactive particles of uranium, thorium, radium, cesium, strontium, polonium, tellurium and americium are still afloat throughout Northern Japan more than six years after a tsunami slammed into the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant causing three full-blown nuclear meltdowns. That was the conclusion reached by two of the world’s leading radiation experts after conducting an extensive five-year monitoring project.

Arnie Gundersen and Marco Kaltofen authored the peer reviewed study titled, Radioactively-hot particles detected in dusts and soils from Northern Japan by combination of gamma spectrometry, autoradiography, and SEM/EDS analysis and implications in radiation risk assessment, published July 27, 2017, in Science of the Total Environment (STOLEN).

Gundersen represents Fairewinds Associates and is a nuclear engineer, former power plant operator and industry executive, turned whistleblower, and was CNN’s play-by-play on-air expert during the 2011 meltdowns. Kaltofen, of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), is a licensed civil engineer and is renowned as a leading experts on radioactive contamination in the environment.

415 samples of “dust and surface soil” were “analyzed sequentially by gamma spectrometry, autoradiography, and scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray analysis” between 2011 and 2016. 180 of the samples came from Japan while another 235 were taken from the United States and Canada. The study further clarifies, “Of these 180 Japanese particulate matter samples, 57 were automobile or home air filters, 59 were surface dust samples, 29 were street dusts (accumulated surface soils and dusts) and 33 were vacuum cleaner bag or other dust samples.”

108 of the Japanese samples were taken in 2016, while the other 72 were gathered in 2011 after the meltdowns. Gundersen and Kaltofen tapped 15 volunteer scientists to help collect the dust and soil — mostly from Fukushima Prefecture and Minamisouma City. “A majority of these samples were collected from locations in decontaminated zones cleared for habitation by the National Government of Japan,” the study revealed. For the 108 samples taken in 2016, an “International Medcom Inspector Alert surface contamination monitor (radiation survey meter) was used to identify samples from within low lying areas and on contaminated outdoor surfaces.”

A Fairewinds Associates’ video from 2012 features Gundersen collecting five samples of surface soil from random places throughout Tokyo — places including a sidewalk crack, a rooftop garden, and a previously decontaminated children’s playground. The samples were bagged, declared through Customs, and brought back to the U.S. for testing. All five samples were so radioactive that according to Gundersen, they “qualified as radioactive waste here in the United States and would have to be sent to Texas to be disposed of.” Those five examples were not included as part of the recently released study, but Gundersen went back to Tokyo for samples in 2016. Those samples were included, and were radioactive, and according to Gundersen were “similar to what I found in Tokyo in [2012].”

Furthermore, 142 of the 180 samples (about 80 percent) contained cesium 134 and cesium 137. Cesium 134 and 137, two of the most widespread byproducts of the nuclear fission process from uranium-fueled reactors, are released in large quantities in nuclear accidents. Cesium emits intense beta radiation as it decays away to other isotopes, and is very dangerous if ingested or inhaled. On a mildly positive note, the study shows that only four of the 235 dust samples tested in the United States and Canada had detectable levels of cesium from Fukushima.

Cesium, due to its molecular structure, mimics potassium once inside the body, and is often transported to the heart where it can become lodged, thereafter mutating and burning heart tissue which can lead to cardiovascular disease. Other isotopes imitate nutritive substances once inside the body as well. Strontium 90 for example mimics calcium, and is absorbed by bones and teeth.

“Different parts of the human body (nerves, bones, stomach, lung) are impacted differently,” Kaltofen told EnviroNews in an email. “Different cells have radio-sensitivities that vary over many orders of magnitude. The body reacts differently to the same dose received over a short time or a long time; the same as acute or chronic doses in chemical toxicity.”

In contrast to external X-rays, gamma, beta or alpha rays, hot particles are small mobile pieces of radioactive elements that can be breathed in, drunk or eaten in food. The fragments can then become lodged in bodily tissue where they will emanate high-intensity ionizing radiation for months or years, damaging and twisting cells, potentially causing myriad diseases and cancer. The study points out, “Contaminated environmental dusts can accumulate in indoor spaces, potentially causing radiation exposures to humans via inhalation, dermal contact, and ingestion.”

The study also explains, “Given the wide variability in hot particle sizes, activities, and occurrence; some individuals may experience a hot particle dose that is higher or lower than the dose calculated by using averaged environmental data.” For example, a person living in a contaminated area might use a leaf blower or sweep a floor containing a hefty amount of hot particle-laden dust and receive a large does in a short time, whereas other people in the same area, exposed to the same background radiation and environmental averages, may not take as heavy a hit as the housekeeper that sweeps floors for a living. People exposed to more dust on the job, or who simply have bad luck and haphazardly breathe in hot radioactive dust, are at an increased risk for cancer and disease. High winds can also randomly pick up radioactive surface soil, rendering it airborne and endangering any unsuspecting subject unlucky enough to breath it in.

Hot particles, or “internal particle emitters” as they are sometimes called, also carry unique epidemiological risks as compared to a chest X-ray by contrast. The dangers from radiation are calculated by the dose a subject receives, but the manner in which that dose is received can also play a critical factor in the amount of damage to a person’s health.

“Comparing external radiation to hot particles inside the body is an inappropriate analogy,” Gundersen told EnviroNews in an email. “Hot particles deliver a lot of energy to a very localized group of cells that surround them and can therefore cause significant localized cell damage. External radiation is diffuse. For example, the weight from a stiletto high heal shoe is the same as the weight while wearing loafers, but the high heal is damaging because its force is localized.”

Kaltofen elaborated with an analogy of his own in a followup email with EnviroNews saying:

Dose is the amount of energy in joules absorbed by tissue. Imagine Fred with a one joule gamma dose to the whole body from living in a dentist’s office over a lifetime, versus Rhonda with exactly the same dose as alpha absorbed by the lung from a hot particle. Standard health physics theory says that Fred will almost certainly be fine, but Rhonda has about a 10 percent chance of dying from lung cancer — even though the doses are the same.

External radiation and internal hot particles both follow exactly the same health physics rules, even though they cause different kinds of biological damage. Our data simply shows that you can’t understand radiation risk without measuring both.

Some isotopes, like plutonium, only pose danger to an organism inside the body. As an alpha emitter, plutonium’s rays are blocked by the skin and not strong enough to penetrate deep into bodily tissue. However, when inhaled or ingested, plutonium’s ionizing alpha rays twist and shred cells, making it one of the most carcinogenic and mutagenic substances on the planet.

“Measuring radioactive dust exposures can be like sitting by a fireplace,” Dr. Kaltofen explained in a press release. “Near the fire you get a little warm, but once in a while the fire throws off a spark that can actually burn you.”

“We weren’t trying to see just somebody’s theoretical average result,” Kaltofen continued in the press release. “We looked at how people actually encounter radioactive dust in their real lives. [By] combining microanalytical methods with traditional health physics models… we found that some people were breathing or ingesting enough radioactive dust to have a real increase in their risk of suffering a future health problem. This was especially true of children and younger people, who inhale or ingest proportionately more dust than adults.”

“Individuals in the contaminated zone, and potentially well outside of the mapped contaminated zone, may receive a dose that is higher than the mean dose calculated from average environmental data, due to inhalation or ingestion of radioactively-hot dust and soil particles,” the study says in summation. “Accurate radiation risk assessments therefore require data for hot particle exposure as well as for exposure to more uniform environmental radioactivity levels.”


The Dirty Deadly Front End of Nuclear Power – 15,000 Abandoned Uranium Mines (Pt. 1)

(EnviroNews DC Bureau) – Editor’s Note: The following news piece represents the first in a 15-part mini-series titled, Nuclear Power in Our World Today, featuring nuclear authority, engineer and whistleblower Arnie Gundersen. The EnviroNews USA special encompasses a wide span of topics, ranging from Manhattan-era madness to the…

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(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) – Editor’s Note: The following news piece represents the forth in a 15-part mini-series titled, Nuclear Power in Our World Today, featuring nuclear authority, engineer and whistleblower Arnie Gundersen. The EnviroNews USA special encompasses a wide span of topics, ranging from Manhattan-era madness to…

The post Study: Radioactive Hot Particles Still Afloat Throughout Japan Six Years After Fukushima Meltdowns appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

70 years after Independence. With each passing year, the economic crisis on the farm has only worsened.

Ground Reality - Sat, 07/29/2017 - 13:27

When Will the Sun Dawn on Indian Agriculture? -- pic from Web
“Woh Subah Kabhi to Aayegi”
Whenever I see the face of a farmer I am reminded of this Raj Kapoor song from a yesteryear film. With misery writ all over, the resulting despondency is clearly evident. But while Raj Kapoor was able to sing his way out for a happy ending, the Indian farmer is getting deeper and deeper into the clutches of a chakravayuah.
It has been an endless wait. For 70 years, the farmers have toiled hard to produce bumper harvests. Year after year, the records have tumbled. But with each passing year, the plight of a farming family has only worsened. For a country, which was somehow surviving not long ago in what is generally referred to as ‘ship-to-mouth’ existence, with food aid rescuing a large section of the population from starvation; the valiant farmers have pulled the country out from the throes of what many writers had predicted to be a fit case for a mass slaughter.
Once the pride of the nation, farmers have now become an economic burden. An ungrateful nation is waiting for every available opportunity to offload the burden.
It was in 1965 that the then US President Lyndon Johnson had got upset over a statement the Indian Prime Minister made. In an interview toa US newspaper Lal Bahadur Shashtri had termed the American war in Vietnam as “an act of aggression”.  But this was unacceptable. How could a hungry nation dare to call the US an aggressor? The US stopped food supplies, sending the Indian government into a tizzy. The then food minister C Subramaniam later told me that there was a time when the country was left with food stocks for only seven days. There was panic all around.
In response to the deepening food crisis, Shashtri had appealed to the nation to fast on Mondays. Realising the great role farmers can play in bringing food self-sufficiency, he coined the popular phrase Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan.
After Lal Bahadur Shashtri successful launched the milk cooperatives, which later brought in the white revolution, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi literally sowed the seeds of Green Revolution. While the government imported high-yielding seeds of dwarf wheat from Mexico, and made available irrigation along with external inputs like chemical fertiliser and pesticides, farmers did the rest. In 1967, the first harvest after the Green Revolution technology was introduced was a record 5 million tonnes higher. Since then the country has not looked back. From an era of food imports, India graduated to food self-sufficiency.
But what is little known is the financial impetus the government provided to farmers. In 1970, when the salary of school teachers was Rs 90 per month, the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for wheat was Rs 76 per quintal. Giving a higher assured price to farmers as well as an assured market (by setting up the Food Corporation of India), the policy makers have to be appreciated for ushering in what was essentially a famine-avoidance strategy. For a country which witnessed 28 famines during the British Raj, the remarkable turnaround was only made possible by a valiant farming community.Defying all prediction, famine had become history in India.
The ‘glorious’ period for farmers lasted for a decade and a half. Although Green Revolution had bypassed small farmers, an effort was made to paint a rosy picture of prosperity. The image of a progressive farmer driving a tractor was flashed as a sign of prosperity. In reality, the increase in production did not commensurate with an accompanying increase in farm incomes. While the successive governments were content with bumper harvests, farming as a community remained neglected. Coupled with a declining rate of public sector investments, the demise of agriculture began soon after the mid-1980s.
I remember when Punjab and Haryana, comprising the food bowl, registered a shortfall in wheat procurement in 1983-84; the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had made an air dash to Chandigarh. She was visibly upset and made it loud and clear when she pulled up the Chief Ministers – Darbara Singh of Punjab and Bhajan Lal of Haryana – at the airport itself. She was furious at the failure of Punjab and Haryana to meet the food procurement targets.
And then began the downslide.
By 1991, when the World Trade Organisation (WTO) came into existence, a complacent nation began to shift focus from agriculture. With Europe and America too building mountains of food, milk and butter surpluses in the same period, the dominant economic thinking turned to global competitiveness thereby reducing import tariffs to allow for cheaper imports. At the same time, the entire burden of keeping food inflation under control was passed on to farmers. Farm output prices globally remained frozen. According to an UNCTAD study, between 1990 and 2010, a period of 20 years, farm gate prices had remained static.
The dismal trend has since continued. While farmers were denied their rightful income, huge salary jumps were provided to other sections of the society. From a monthly salary of Rs 90 per month in 1970, the salary of school teachers for instance jumped by 280 to 320 times by the year 2015, a period of 45 years. In the same period, salary of government employees went up by 120 to 150 times; and that of college professors by 150 to 170 times. Wheat price for farmers on the other hand increased by a paltry 19 times in the same period. Agriculture turned uneconomical, and repeated demands for providing a level playing field fell on deaf years.
It was in 1996 that the World Bank directed India to move 400 million people out of agriculture in the next 20 years, by 2015. Since every World Bank loan comes with roughly 140 to 150 condionalities, each loan re-emphasised the urgency to move farmers out of agriculture. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had time and again expressed the need to shift 70 per cent farmers. Raghuram Rajan, former Reserve Bank of India governor had said that the biggest reforms would be when India moves farmers out of agriculture. Then only will cheap labour be available for infrastructure development.
For nearly three decades, more so after the economic reforms were ushered in, agriculture has been a victim of deliberate neglect and apathy. Successive governments had deliberately created conditions turning farming non-viable thereby forcing an increasing number of farmers to abandon agriculture and migrate to cities. Meanwhile, food imports have soared. According to Down to Earth magazine, food import bill for 2015-16 stood at Rs 1,402,680,000,000. This was more than the annual budget for agriculture.
The shift to imports comes at a time when the emphasis is to drive farmers out of agriculture. As I said earlier, to keep food inflation under control, farmers have been routinely paid less, not even to cover the cost of production, thereby driving them against the wall. Signing MoU with African and BRICK countries for importing pulses, oilseeds and wheat in future is simply an effort to shift from food self-reliance to meeting the domestic food requirement through imports. What is not being realised is that importing food is like importing unemployment. Food imports first hit the small farmers, who are the first to abandon farming and migrate to cities.
But I doubt if such details mean anything to mainline economists and policy makers. Their focus is on creating economic conditions that force farmers to move out of agriculture. This is exactly what the mainline economic thinking prescribes, and Indian policy makers are blindly following a strategy that has failed the world over. After all, with country after country facing jobless growth, and India being no exception, what is not being realised is that only agriculture can bail out the economy.
Nevertheless, with the markets crashing after every harvest, and with the government reluctant to save farmers by ensuring that they get at least the Minimum Support Price (MSP) that has been announced, farmers are pushed deeper and deeper into chakravuyah -- a never ending cycle of debt. Even the MSP being given is often less than the cost of production. In Maharashtra, for instance, the production cost of tur dalhas been worked out at Rs 6,240 per quintal. The MSP announced was Rs 5,050 per quintal, and in reality what the farmers were able to sell tur, and that too after waiting for a week or so in the mandis, was between Rs 3,500 to Rs 4,200 per quintal.
Take another case. A farmer in Haryana toils hard for three months, putting all his labour to reap a bountiful harvest of potato, only to find the prices crashing thereby forcing him to sell 40 quintals of potato for just 9 paise a kg. These are not isolated cases. It is because of distress prices becoming a norm rather than an exception that the country faced an angry protest by farmers in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh recently. The shock a farmer gets when prices crash often turns fatal. But the fact remains the government has rarely come to his rescue. And in my understanding, the recent protests were only a trailer; the full movie will follow.
Poor farmer has been left to live in indebtedness, which keeps on multiplying with every passing year. The economic crisis farmers are facing is compounded by the denial of a rightful income to farmers for his produce. To keep food inflation under control it is the farmers who have paid the price. In reality, it is the farmers who have been subsidising the nation all these years. Successive governments have therefore deliberately kept agriculture impoverished. An estimated 58 per cent of the farmers go to bed hungry every night.
With each passing year, the economic crisis on the farm has worsened. The Economic Survey 2016 tells us that the average income of a farming family in 17 states of India, which means roughly half the country, is a mere Rs 20,000 a year or less than Rs 1,700 a month. Such a dismal income, merely enough for subsistence, was the outcome of economic policies over the years. I shudder to think how these farming families must be surviving all these years. After all, it is not even possible to rear a cow in less than Rs 1,700 per month. Will these farmers ever be able to witness a new dawn; a new dawn that bring back the pride in farming? Woh subah kabhi to aayegi?
I have my doubts. Despite the farmer protests, the policy push is to drastically cut down the number of people on the farm and move agriculture into the hands of corporate. The National Skill Development Council report makes it abundantly clear. It has already laid out a target of bringing down the population engaged in agriculture from the existing 57 per cent to 38 per cent in the next five years, by 2022. While the job market is drying over the years, with only 1.6-crore jobs created in past 13 years, against 16.25-crore jobs expected to be created in the same period, pushing small and marginal farmers out of agriculture will only worsen the employment prospects. After all, if a daily wage worker or a dehari mazdoor is what the government has in mind when it talks of job creation then it is high time to revisit the economic policies. 
Agriculture is being killed deliberately to keep economic reforms going. To achieve economic growth, mainline economists tell us that it is absolutely essential to move bulk of the population from agriculture to the cities. Food can be produced by promoting corporate farming or can be imported. This is exactly the roadmap that has been laid by the World Bank and the financial institutions. Credit rating agencies provide a higher ranking for achieving the target. The economic design is well laid out. #

आजादी के 70 साल से भारत के किसानों का कभी न खत्म होने वाला इंतजार Gaon Connection. Aug 9, 2017 https://www.gaonconnection.com/samvad/70-years-of-independence-endless-waiting-of-indian-farmersस्वतंत्रता दिवस विशेष : अपने हक की‍ आय भी नहीं मिलती किसानों को, पार्ट-2. Gaon Connection. Aug 9, 2017. https://www.gaonconnection.com/samvad/farmers-did-not-get-their-income-even-70-years-of-independence-column-by-devinder-sharma
వేకువ వచ్చేనా.. Sakshi, Hyderabad. Aug 10, 2017http://epaper.sakshi.com/c/21235166
Pawning Nation's Spine. Orissa Post. Aug 9, 2017http://www.orissapost.com/epaper/090817/p8.htm 
Categories: Ecological News

Watch: Rare Event: Psychoactive San Pedro Cactus Flower Blooming (Awesome Time-lapse)

Environews.tv - Wed, 07/26/2017 - 16:13

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(EnviroNews California) — Monte Rio, California — It’s a rare event that typically takes one of these spiny green cacti a decade or more to achieve: the first opening of its strikingly white flower. When the San Pedro cactus does finally bloom, spectators are lucky to see its blossom for more than a day or two before it withers away, leaving the otherwise ordinary-looking species unglamorously plain for many months to come. And even then, the San Pedro leaves its intricately complex flower open only at night, unfurling it at dusk, and then folding it up again by morning.

This summer, EnviroNews California got lucky when it spotted one in a neighborhood in Monte Rio, California, ready to open its inner beauty for the world to see, right before dusk. EnviroNews hurried as quickly as possible to set up the time-lapse and start snapping pictures, in an effort to capture the rare episode.

The San Pedro cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi) is named after Saint Peter, because like St. Peter, it is said the cactus “holds the keys to heaven,” but allows the participant to “reach heaven while still on earth.” It has been used in a ceremonial manner in Peru and other South American countries for at least two thousand years — perhaps much longer.

San Pedro like peyote, contains a swath of alkaloids, some of which (like mescaline) act on the psyche and spirit in a medicinal way. In addition to mescaline, the cactus contains such alkaloids as anhalonidine, anhalinine, hordenine, tyramine, 3-methoxytyramine, and multiple variations of dimethoxyphenethylamine and methoxyphenethylamine.

Oftentimes, traditional medicine men or women prepare an extract of the cactus to concentrate its potency. The preparation is then drunk or eaten, whereafter the medicinal, healing and at times, visionary effects, start to take effect on the participant.

Similar to peyote, the cactus is consider safe and nontoxic, even in very high amounts. San Pedro though, unlike peyote, is still legal to cultivate in the United States, leaving many to wonder why a solitary and small button cactus like peyote was every persecuted in the first place. Though San Pedro is legal to grow for ornamental houseplant purposes, it is a gray area to be sure, whether the species can be propagated for ingestion.

Regarding cultivation, San Pedro is a relatively easy cactus to grow. Because it thrives at high elevation — as high as 9,800 feet in fact — and with high rainfall and snow, San Pedro is hearty and resilient in many climates — from sea level, to the high Andes Mountains. The cactus can be easily reproduced without seeds by simply cutting a mature cactus off at its base, allowing it to scab over for several days or even weeks, and then replanting it in a new pot. The cutting will soon sprout roots and start to grow again. As for the original pot from where the cutting was taken from, its root-mass will pop new “pups” from the stump, which will grow quickly in place of the original specimen.

The post Watch: Rare Event: Psychoactive San Pedro Cactus Flower Blooming (Awesome Time-lapse) appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

Carol Surveyor: Challenging Rep. Chris Stewart, Aiming to Become 1st Native American Congresswoman Ever

Environews.tv - Tue, 07/25/2017 - 17:13

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(EnviroNews Utah) — Salt Lake City, Utah — On July 21, 2017, at an LBGTQ bar called the “Sun Trap” in Salt Lake City, Carol Surveyor announced her candidacy for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District. She runs as a Democrat, and if elected, will be the first Native American congresswoman in United States history. She is already the first Native American woman to run for Congress in Utah’s history.

Surveyor, who is Co-Founder of the Utah League of Native American Voters, is a well-known activist who now seeks to expand her impact through becoming a lawmaker. She hails from Shiprock, New Mexico, and is born to parents of the Edgewater and Bitter Water clans of the Dine’ people, a.k.a., the Navajo Nation. She is a single mother of three daughters and according to her own words, “[knows] what it feels like to make minimum wage and to have my health insurance cut.”

Her goal, amongst many others, is to unseat Republican Representative Chris Stewart — a controversial figure in Salt Lake’s progressive constituency, and a man who’s even been chased out of town hall meetings to the sound of angry chants and jeers over issues pertaining to climate change and the environment.

Thus far, Surveyor has only one Democratic challenger for the ticket: Misty K. Snow. Surveyor’s acting campaign manager Moroni Benally told EnviroNews that at this point, they “are not expecting anyone else to enter the race.” Snow, who works as a cashier in a grocery store, made a bit of history herself last year when she became the first transgender woman to run as a nominee for the U.S. Senate, challenging Republican incumbent Mike Lee.

Surveyor has been on the front-lines on myriad social and humanitarian issues, and was a strong voice on the ground in North Dakota at the encampment surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) fight.

In an effort to delve deeper, EnviroNews USA Editor-in-Chief Emerson Urry caught up with Surveyor in an exclusive interview. The transcript reads as follows:

Emerson Urry: So, there are between five and six million Native American people in the United States – about two percent of the overall population. That’s a pretty significant number. You’re attempting to do something no human being has ever done before: become the first Native American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives. Why do you think there hasn’t been a Native congresswoman to this point? What can be done, above and beyond your candidacy, to inspire Native American women to become more involved in the political process? You said in your announcement speech, “It’s about time.” Tell us more.

Candidate Carol Surveyor: I think part of the reason is the way this country views and treats women. Hillary Clinton received a great deal of criticism because she was a woman. Women of color are often overlooked in their opinions, their views, their leadership, and so forth.

Native Americans have traditionally been overlooked and forgotten in this country, women in native communities are traditionally matriarchal. Yet, there have been many native women who have run for public office. In the past, there are native women who have run for federal office, but unsuccessfully. Again, I think this is because politics is still viewed as a men’s game. My remark about “it is time,” refers to changing the game, and what better way to change the entire game than by electing a Native woman? Doing so would be a shift in the way many people the world over see the U.S., how many people see U.S. politics in this country, and it would show how progressives in the U.S. recognize and understand the forgotten voices. I am a forgotten voice.

Urry: You chose an interesting venue for your candidacy announcement event: the Sun Trap — an LBGTQ bar in Salt Lake City. Tell us more about that — and elaborate on your connection to the LGBTQ community in Utah and tell us what you’ll do to stick up for those people.

Surveyor: I have many friends who are LGBTQ, in fact, my campaign manager is queer. I have seen how this community has been treated, how they have fought for their rights, and how resilient this community is in facing the obstruction and erosion of not only their liberties, but really their lives. My connection, as cliched as it sounds, really comes from my personal observation of how my close friends are treated. It is time we end this treatment and allow all people the rights and dignities they deserve.

Urry: You’re on EnviroNews now, so let’s talk about the environment. Utah suffers under a hampering, ongoing air pollution crisis of relentless “red air day” spikes. Despite many efforts by state lawmakers and Utahans across the board to get a handle on the issue, the dangerous, deadly environmental problem persists. What can you do at the federal level to ensure Utah starts to significantly clean up its air? What is your plan to address this bipartisan problem that affects all Utah’s residents?

Surveyor: I really think the efforts by many governors across the country to implement the policies of the Paris Accord is a good start, especially within the political landscape of states rights in this state. At the federal level, I will work to strengthen the Obama Administration’s regulations on carbon, but also work to ensure further safety measures are taken for our health. Because in the end, it is about the health of our children and the health of the planet.

I really think addressing the bipartisan problem in Utah is about framing air pollution as a family values issue – because it is. The earth is our mother, our children deserve a healthy planet, the economy thrives in environmentally sound and safe areas. And if it’s framed as an economic expediency issue, then there are many entrepreneurs who have the knowhow and genius to help create markets that create jobs and preserve the earth and climate at the same time. I believe in our best and brightest; we can’t believe that our genius is stifled in creating a better future.

Urry: As states go, Utah, behind only Nevada, has the second highest percentage of land owned by the federal government, with 64 percent of its terrain being held by Uncle Sam. Utah’s Governor, and many of the state’s current congressmen, such as Representative Rob Bishop, would like to see Utah back in control of as much of that federal land as possible, and multiple “land grab” efforts have been made to take territory back. Many of these same GOP lawmakers also support reversing the status on places like Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. What is your position on the vast stretches of federal land within Utah’s boarders? Should more of it be under the control of the state? Or, should it remain how it is now — under federal control?

Surveyor: I believe when the people have spoken and when there are moral and religious claims on the land (such as Bears Ears), then we must act as a democracy and yield to the voice of the people. In terms of the land in control by the federal government, I understand as much, if not more than they do, about the reach of the federal government in controlling land. As a member of the Navajo Nation, tribes have little control over their own land; so I get the frustration.

There are two issues at play here: one is a question of federalism and tribal sovereignty – this goes all the way back to Jefferson and Adams; the other is an issue of the moral use of the land when in control of the tribes or the states. In Utah, at this time, I believe a deep compromise can be reached about the ultimate use of the land. I firmly believe the State of Utah can control its own land and make use of it for the future of the Utah in a way that does not harm the earth, or in a way that does not add to climate change, and in a way that moves us toward energy choice.

Urry: Utah is a place riddled with mining, industrial plunder and waste operations. It’s been reported for example, that over 95% of Utah’s many oil and gas wells have been fracked. You are a Water Protector, and you were at the DAPL protests at Standing Rock in North Dakota correct? What was your takeaway from that experience? What did you learn? And how will you fight for water in the Beehive State if you are elected the next representative for Utah’s 2nd District?

Surveyor: I did go to Standing Rock, yes. My takeaway from that experience is that direct action is necessary at times when there is persistent injustice. I learned that Standing Rock represented democracy in action. And this is one of the reasons why I am running: the voice of the people is ignored many times. Standing Rock amplified the voice of the people in a way that it hasn’t for some years. Water is indeed life — farmer’s livelihoods depends on clean water, industry depends on water, technology depends on water. It is all connected. If we do not have access to clean water, there is no economy, there are no jobs. It’s that simple.

Urry: Representative Chris Stewart, your soon-to-be opponent if you overcome any other Democratic challengers (of which there is currently one), is also the Vice Chair of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee. During his run for office in 2012, he said the EPA is “a federal agency he would like to see dissolved.” What’s your stance on that? Is American industry over-regulated? Compare your own views to the congressional record of your opponent. How would you be stronger on issues pertaining to the environment?

Surveyor: Chris Stewart’s record can be reduced to making big government smaller. In other words, this is about state’s rights and local control. The EPA is viewed as a regulatory obstacle for success; I see the EPA as pollution relief, asthma relief. Can agencies in the federal government be more efficient and streamlined? Absolutely! But essential agencies that have proven their efforts in pollution relief have lead to thriving economies — just look at what happened in both LA and NYC before and after the EPA was created. No one can say it wasn’t because of the relief the EPA gave to these cities.

If we cannot be good stewards of the environment, and think of ways to innovate using the American entrepreneurial genius, then what are we doing as Utahans? We are capable of economic innovation that reduces climate change, while also expanding and creating clean and renewable energy markets that create jobs. Because in the end, this is the Utah argument: we need to get rid of the EPA because is stifles growth. I refuse to believe that Utah’s ingenuity can be stifled by anything. These things relieve us from life-threatening pollutants.

Urry: Lastly, you mentioned the weakening of VAWA, the Violence Against Women Act, in your announcement speech. Something you have spoken about openly is the tragic murder of your own mother, as sentencing looms against the perpetrator in that horrendous crime. How has going through that incredible ordeal changed you as a person? And how on Earth do you take something like that, and turn it into anything positive? How has this tragedy motivated you in your nascent political life, and how will it influence your policymaking in the future if you are elected?

Surveyor: It is difficult to explain the impact of my mother’s death. It is hard to imagine a life without my mom still.

My mother believed in me whole heartedly in everything that I did. She taught me to believe in myself and when I would start to doubt myself (which I often did) she helped me to always put things into perspective. No one can replace what we had. And now she is not here to help me and support me like she always did. Instead I now remember the lessons she gave me when we were together to help me keep moving forward and continue to live this life for both of us.

I carry my mother with me. On May 29, 2016, I moved here to Salt Lake City to be my mother’s voice and advocate. I wanted to be here, accessible to the lawyers who were on my mother’s case. I was determined to fight for my mother. You see, we had already lost my mother’s younger sister, Selena Hathale to domestic violence. She, Selena, was also murdered in Phoenix, Arizona, leaving her son Joey at a tender age of 7 or 8 years old. So, you see I wasn’t going to let this go by. I sold my furniture and moved out of a home and came here with my two daughters and whatever could fit in my four-door Taurus. I was determined to tell the world about my mother, and I did just that. I took my voice to the streets joining activists here in the community, speaking at rallies; I was also the DJ on Sundays. I traveled to Standing Rock in North Dakota to tell my mother’s story alongside the Water Protectors. I made sure on January, 2017, that at least 10-12,000 people heard me tell the story when I spoke at the woman’s rally here in Salt Lake City. And today, as I stand here before you, I am running for U.S. Congress.

My family has been through a lot, but we are no different than most families. We pray, we eat our meals together and sometimes we disagree, but our prayers and our love for each other keeps us strong. The strength of my family will help me rise above the challenges as they always have.


Should Rep. Chris Stewart Sign Over the Deed On His House to This Medical Doctor Over EPA Bet?

(EnviroNews Utah) – Salt Lake City – “Let me challenge you on something. Would you be willing to bet your house against my house, that you cannot find anywhere where I said, or advocated, or suggested that we dissolve the EPA? Would you be willing to do that?”…

Rep. Chris Stewart Skates Out Backdoor After Claiming He Had the “Courage” to Meet With Environmental Groups

(EnviroNews Utah) – In this outrageous episode of activism where a multitude of Utah’s top environmental groups had coalesced around a town-hall featuring freshman Republican Congressman Chris Stewart, just about everything you can imagine went down. Following a warmup rally where the groups were protesting Stewart’s controversial subpoenaing…

Moderator Tries to Control Media Taping at a Town-hall for Rep. Chris Stewart and is Stuffed By Image Providers and EnviroNews Utah

(EnviroNews Utah) – The moral of this story is as our producer said “very simple.” Never try to shut down an EnviroNews cameraman or camerawoman from rolling tape at a public meeting. Thank you.

The post Carol Surveyor: Challenging Rep. Chris Stewart, Aiming to Become 1st Native American Congresswoman Ever appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

Need to look beyond farm loan waivers.

Ground Reality - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 12:45
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has time and again reiterated that his government will waive small farmer’s loan up to Rs 2 lakh. This will cost the state exchequer close to Rs 9,500-crores benefitting 10.25 lakh farmers. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has said that Rs 34,000-crore farm loan waiver will benefit 89 lakh small farmers.  And yet there is a spurt in farmer suicides.
Punjab has recorded 21 suicides in the past 20 days. The Chief Minister himself says that he doesn’t understand why the suicides have risen ever since he announced a loan waiver. In Maharashtra, 42 farmer suicides have been recorded in the past two weeks. In Marathwada region alone, 19 farmers have ended their lives in 7 days, between June 19 and June 25. In Madhya Pradesh, 38 farmers have committed suicide since the day 5 agitating farmers were shot dead in police firing.Ideally, the number of farmer suicides should have come down after a loan waiver is announced. After all, if not all the farmers, the loan waivers do benefit a section of the small and marginal farmers. That the number of suicides pick up after a loan waiver is announced shows there is something terribly wrong in our understanding of the farm crisis. Either the loan waiver isn’t the right way to address the prevailing farm crisis or the way loan waivers are designed and implemented, even small farmers don’t see much benefit.
With no hope of an economic price, farmer’s problem is how he will repay back the loan that he is going to take for the next crop that he plans to cultivate. After all, even if a fraction of farmers’ outstanding loan is waived, he still has to take credit to sow the next crop. While I agree that farmers have been deprived of their rightful price all these years, and therefore the loan waiver should be seen as an opportunity to payback the gratitude, I think the time has also come to look beyond loan waivers. Economists and policy makers need to be a little more imaginative and suggest measures that can provide real income in the hands of farmers in the long run.
Take the case of Punjab, the food bowl. With 98 per cent assured irrigation and productivity of cereal crops (wheat, paddy and maize) being the highest in the world, I see no reason why these progressive farmers should be committing suicide. Punjab has now become a major hot spot of farmer suicides. This is primarily because farmers have been deprived of their rightful income, which essentially comes from Minimum Support Price (MSP). I have always wondered why Punjab, which has a wide network of APMC regulated mandis and village link roads, cannot provide farmers with 50 per cent profit over the cost of production (C2 cost) as recommended by the Swaminathan Commission. But then this is only a practical solution for Punjab and Haryana, which have a fairly well-developed network of crop procurement. For the rest of the country, I have always been suggesting setting up a Farmers Income Commission. 
If Punjab, for instance, were to announce that it is willing to provide farmers with what the Swaminathan Commission recommends, it will entail an annual expenditure of Rs 8,237-crores. My calculation shows that in case of wheat, the C2 cost comes to Rs 1,203 per quintal and adding 50 per cent profit, the total comes to Rs 1,805 per quintal. Since the MSP being paid by the centre is Rs 1,625 per quintal, the remaining Rs 180 per quintal is what the State government needs to pay. In other words, given that 106.5 lakh tonnes of wheat was procured in 2016-17 marketing season, the total burden on Punjab government will be Rs 1917-crore. 
In case of paddy, the C2 cost plus 50 per cent profit, is a little higher. The C2 cost of Paddy is Rs 1,484 per quintal and adding 50 per cent profit takes the price to Rs 2,226 a quintal. Since the MSP is Rs 1,550 per quintal, it leaves a margin of Rs 676 per quintal. Considering the paddy procurement of 93.6 lakh tonnes in 2016, the total burden to implement Swaminathan Commission recommendation comes to Rs 6,320-crore. For both the crops, the annual burden that will accrue to the Punjab government would be Rs 8,237-crore. 
If you think Rs 8,237-crore is too big an amount, and would be a waste of scarce resources that the Punjab government has, think again. Punjab farmers have been deprived of their rightful price all these years. According to Dr R S Ghuman committee report, which was instituted by the previous Badal government, Punjab farmers had lost Rs 62,000-crore between 1970 and 2007 on account of being paid a low MSP which did not even compare favourably with the wholesale price. The economic deprivation of agriculture therefore is not a recent phenomenon, it has been going on ever since the formative days of Green Revolution. Isn’t it therefore the time to pay back? How long can we go on treating farmers as second class citizens? Whenever there is a talk of raising the MSP for farmers, I see an uproar saying that it is not wanted, the prices should be kept low because otherwise the retail food prices will go up. In other words, farmers have been kept impoverished to provide cheaper food for the consumers.
Much of the drug problem in Punjab is also related to the demise of agriculture. With agriculture becoming uneconomical over the years, and with little possibility of employment in cities, rural youth had taken to drugs. Turning farming profitable is perhaps the only way left now for the policy makers to create sustainable livelihoods. We are talking of 18-lakh farming families, and if these families can see an economic worth is farming, Punjab can restore the pride in agriculture. It is high time Punjab takes the Udta Punjabimage in its stride and makes a course correction that can lay a model for the rest of the country. Punjab government’s job is not only to take care of its employees, ensure they get monthly income package plus a plethora of allowances. Its job is also take care of farmers and farm workers. #
Categories: Ecological News

First Article of Impeachment Filed Against President Donald J. Trump by Two House Dems

Environews.tv - Wed, 07/12/2017 - 16:26

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/071217-first-article-impeachment-filed-president-donald-j-trump-two-house-dems/"; reddit_title = "First Article of Impeachment Filed Against President Donald J. Trump by Two House Dems"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews Politics) — Washington D.C. — It took only 173 days, but it has finally happened: the first article of impeachment has been filed against Donald J. Trump, forty-fifth President of the United States of America.

The bill, House Resolution 438 (H.R. 438), was introduced by two House Democrats, Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Al Green (D-TX) “against President Donald J. Trump for High Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

A press release issued by Sherman’s offices reads, “The Article is based on Article 1, dealing with ‘Obstruction of Justice,’ which was passed by the Judiciary Committee on a bipartisan vote on July 27, 1974, regarding Richard M. Nixon.”

“We now begin the effort to force the House Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on Obstruction of Justice and Russian interference in our election,” Sherman wrote in a statement.

The two lawmakers took the initiative after bombshell reports by the NY Times this week exposed Donald Trump Jr., alongside Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, attended meetings with Russian Attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, allegedly representing the Kremlin, in an effort to gather dirt on Hillary Clinton.

“Recent disclosures by Donald Trump Jr. indicate that Trump’s campaign was eager to receive assistance from Russia,” Sherman said in a media release. “It now seems likely that the President had something to hide when he tried to curtail the investigation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the wider Russian probe. I believe his conversations with, and subsequent firing of, FBI Director James Comey constitute Obstruction of Justice.”

In a statement to Time correspondent Zeke Miller, the White House called Sherman and Green’s effort “utterly ridiculous” and “a political game at its worst.”

Representative Green addressed members about the measure on the House floor, in a scathing speech that concluded with words from William Cullen Bryant. Green lambasted Trump’s behavior, and called for impeachment followed by a Senate trial, saying the President is not “above the law.” The video and transcript can be viewed just below:

Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com

Representative Al Green: Thank you Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I rise today with a heavy heart. I rise today with a sense of responsibility and duty to the people who have elected me — a sense of duty to this country — a sense of duty to the Constitution of the United States of America. I rise today Mr. Speaker to call for the impeachment of the President of the United States of America for obstruction of justice.

I do not do this for political purposes Mr. Speaker. I do this because I believe in the great ideals that this country stands for — liberty and justice for all — the notion that we should have government of the people, by the people, for the people. I do it because Mr. Speaker, there is a belief in this country that no one is above the law, and that includes the President of the United States of America.

Mr. Speaker, our democracy is at risk. Mr. Speaker this offense has occurred before our very eyes. It is perspicuous. It is easy to understand.

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about a president who fired the FBI director who was investigating the President for his connections to Russian involvement in the President’s election. Mr. Speaker, this is not about the President firing the FBI director because he was investigating someone else. It’s because the FBI director was investigating the President himself. And after firing the director, he went on to let us know that he considered the investigation when he fired him. And then he Tweeted language that would be intimidation or a warning — an admonition, very strong to say the very least.

Mr. Speaker, we cannot allow this to go unchecked. The President is not above the law. It is time for the American people to weigh in. Mr. Speaker, the American people are a part of this democracy — this is a participatory democracy. The American people don’t participate on election day only. The American people participate daily, and this is your day to act. This is your day! I’m speaking to the American people. It is time for you to act. It is time for you to let us know where you stand.

I’ve seen a poll that indicates that a majority now, of those who are being polled, are for impeachment. And I’ve seen another poll that says a plurality of those. Whether it’s a majority or a plurality, let’s let the American people weigh in. The American people should speak up, speak out, stand up, so that we will get a sense of what the American people want.

This is not something to be taken lightly, and I do not. I think that this is one of the highest callings that a member of Congress has to address. I believe that this is where your patriotism is shown — where you demonstrate to the American people where you really stand. So, I take this stand. It’s a position of conscience for me. And I have not talked to another person in Congress about this. Each member of Congress has to make his or her own decision, so this is not about my encouraging other people to do things — other than the American people. This is about my position. This about what I believe. And this is where I stand. I will not be moved. The President must be impeached!

For those who do not know, impeachment does not mean that the President will be found guilty. It simply means that the House of Representatives will bring charges against the President. It’s similar to an indictment, but not quite the same thing. Once the President is impeached, then the Senate can have a trial to determine the guilt or innocence of the President — whether he is guilty or not guilty to be more specific. But the House of Representatives has a duty that it can take up, and that is of impeachment. I stand for impeachment of the President.

How can you weigh in? Well, you can contact my good friends over at Free Speech for People. And at this organization, they have a petition. The petition would allow you to weigh in and become a part of the nearly one million people who have already said the President ought to be impeached.

You can weigh in at ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.com — ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.com. And believe me, if a plurality of the people are saying it now, and that’s the poll that I really put my emphasis on — the one that says the plurality believes that the President should be impeached — more than 40 percent — I think that can grow. And I assure you, once you weigh in, American people, there will be a difference in the attitudes about this.

I want to thank you Mr. Speaker for this opportunity, because but for this opportunity, you might not hear my voice. I am a voice in the wilderness, but I assure you that history will vindicate me. I assure you that righteousness will prevail. I assure you that no lie can live forever, and truth crushed to earth will rise again. I yield back my time.



The post First Article of Impeachment Filed Against President Donald J. Trump by Two House Dems appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

20 Western Governors Trying to Seize Power Over Endangered Species Act — Green Groups Say No Way

Environews.tv - Tue, 07/11/2017 - 14:46

reddit_url = "http://www.environews.tv/071117-17-western-governors-trying-seize-power-endangered-species-act-green-groups-say-no-way/"; reddit_title = "20 Western Governors Trying to Seize Power Over Endangered Species Act — Green Groups Say No Way"; reddit_newwindow="1"

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) — Whitefish, Montana — On June 28, 2017, the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) released its 2017 recommendations to alter the Endangered Species Act (ESA) after its annual meeting in Montana. The resolution arrived at calls for an increase in state power over ESA implementation and an easing of the endangered species delisting process.

Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife (Defenders), issued this statement regarding the resolution:

The Western Governors’ Association’s call for legislative changes to the Endangered Species Act opens a Pandora’s box in this hostile Congress. Since 2015, Congress has introduced more than 150 bills, amendments and riders that would undermine the ESA and weaken conservation measures for imperiled species. We cannot risk opening the Act to the avalanche of destructive amendments that would gut our nation’s most effective law for protecting endangered and threatened wildlife.

WGA’s resolution, titled, Western Governors’ Association Policy Resolution 2017-11, Species Conservation and the Endangered Species Act (the Resolution) calls on “Congress to amend and reauthorize the Endangered Species Act of 1973 based upon seven broad goals,” which are:

  • “Require clear recovery goals for listed species, and actively pursue delisting of recovered species.
  • Increase the regulatory flexibility of the services to review and make decisions on petitions to list or change the listing status of a species under the ESA.
  • Enhance the role of state governments in recovering species.
  • Ensure the use of sound science in ESA decisions.
  • Incentives and funding for conservation are essential.
  • Foreseeable future must be defined.
  • States should be full partners in listing, critical habitat designations, recovery planning and delisting decisions, particularly when modeling is used in analysis.”

Each of these goals is described in greater detail in the publication and the WGA also published a related report and two-year recommendations. Within the Resolution, the WGA advocates strongly for states to be given full partnership in the stewardship of endangered species and their habitats. The WGA describes its concerns about how carrying out the ESA affects the economy of western states and their ability to successfully accommodate population growth, specifically mentioning infrastructure projects such as roads, “water projects and transmission lines.”

In contrast, at a February 2017 Senate committee hearing called, “Oversight: Modernization of the Endangered Species Act,” Clark testified that local political and economic factors should not be the driving force behind ESA decisions, and that “the federal government is the appropriate authority to ensure that at-risk species are conserved according to the best available science under the ESA… ” This committee was led by Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), who ran a second ESA “modernization” hearing in May. Barrasso has voted against the ESA 11 times since 2011, and sponsored eight legislative attacks on the ESA in the last two years.

While Defenders does not support legislative changes to the ESA, the NGO says it recognizes the importance of the inherent administrative flexibility of this essential conservation law. For example, the WGA favors the incentivizing of voluntary conservation efforts as one way of accomplishing “a full partnership between the states, federal government, local governments and private landowners.” Defenders’ Vice President of Endangered Species Conservation Ya-Wei, also known as Jake Li, supports this practice and told EnviroNews a successful ESA “requires incentives for landowners to voluntarily conserve endangered species.” He elucidated his point this way:

Many endangered plants and animals are found on private lands, and their fate depends largely on the willingness of landowners to restore habitat or reintroduce new populations of the species onto their property. The ESA has several tools to encourage these activities, including safe harbor agreements, candidate conservation agreements with assurances and habitat banks. [Defenders] strongly supports these tools and believes the [WGA] has recommended several administrative improvements to the ESA that would enhance how these tools are applied. That’s the beauty of the ESA — that it is flexible and can adopt new approaches to benefit species.

The WGA publication also calls for a clearer definition of the term “foreseeable future” regarding climate modeling and conservation objectives and questions whether climate change is an appropriate determinant factor in species evaluations. The report conveys: “The ESA may not be equipped to address this potential global threat to species and habitat… Predictions from climate models grow increasingly uncertain over time.”

The Western Governors’ Association represents the governors of 19 western states and three U.S.-flag islands. Wyoming Governor Matt Mead (R) launched the ESA initiative in 2015 as the WGA Chairman. Mead has expressed concern that the ESA disproportionately affects the economy and development of western states and of Wyoming in particular.

For example, Wyoming is home to nearly 40 percent of the remaining greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). The bird’s status under the ESA has been hotly debated and conservation efforts have been costly. The sage grouse was denied ESA protection by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 2015. At the time, U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Sally Jewell said at a press conference that the decision followed “the largest, most complex land conservation effort ever in the history of the United States of America – perhaps the world.”

In June 2017, Mead told members of the Wyoming Mining Association that his state “can’t be a zoo for endangered species” and that the ESA is “not good [for] industry, it’s not good for business and, quite frankly, it’s not good for the species.” He also strongly conveyed his pro-coal stance, stating that he wants “every one of those drops of coal out of the ground,” in a state that produces approximately 42 percent of the coal burned for power in America today. In 2013, Wyoming was the second largest energy producer in the U.S. behind Texas.

Governor Jerry Brown (D-CA) and Governor Jay Inslee (D-WA) were the only dissenters and refused to sign onto the Resolution. In a letter to Governor Mead, Brown stated Mead had “spearheaded an inclusive thoughtful process.” But, he explained that his state does not support Congressional action on the ESA or endorse the Resolution because, “the current climate in Congress is marked by chaos and partisanship. This climate will not result in good conservation policy.”


Senate Hearing: Green Groups Say Committee Moving to Gut the Endangered Species Act

(EnviroNews Nature) – On May 10, 2017, Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), led a committee oversight hearing called, “Conservation, Consultation and Capacity: State Views on the Need to Modernize the Endangered Species Act.” Green groups decry Barrasso’s desire…

Republicans Lick Chops While Revving Up To Dismantle The Endangered Species Act

(EnviroNews Nature) – Washington D.C. – On Feb. 15, 2017, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) held a hearing called, “Oversight: Modernization of the Endangered Species Act.” Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Chairman of the EPW, held this two-hour hearing to explore “the need to modernize…

300 NGO and Environmental Orgs Demand via Joint Letter Ntl. Guvs Assoc. Protect Endangered Species Act

(EnviroNews Headline News Desk) – Washington D.C. – On Feb. 23, 2017, a coalition of almost 300 NGO, environment, conservation and social justice groups concerned with the now uncertain future of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) sent a letter to the National Governors Association (NGA). The letter was…

Lions and Tigers and… Sage Grouse? Oh My! – The Granddaddy Endangered Species Battle of Them All

(EnviroNews Nature) – On World Wildlife Day, March 3, 2017, EnviroNews Nature released one of the largest and most expansive documentaries ever published on a wildlife species in peril – the greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). The academic yet entertaining film spans a plethora of topics and includes…

Dept. of Interior: No Protection for Greater Sage Grouse Under Endangered Species Act

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) – Commerce City, Colorado – On the morning of Tuesday August 22, 2015, Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Sally Jewell announced that Centrocercus urophasianus, a.k.a. greater sage grouse, will not receive protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). A decision by U.S. Fish…

The post 20 Western Governors Trying to Seize Power Over Endangered Species Act — Green Groups Say No Way appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

Categories: Ecological News

EnviroNews Concludes Epic Nine-Pt. Environmental Video Series With Robert Kennedy Jr. — Watch it Here:

Environews.tv - Thu, 07/06/2017 - 22:46

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(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) — Park City, Utah — Noted environmental activist Robert Kennedy Jr. sat down with EnviroNews Editor-in-Chief Emerson Urry for a nine-part video interview series on topics ranging from the end of fossil fuels to the health consequences of concentrated animal feeding operations to mercury in seafood. The interviews took place in Park City, Utah, on June 8, 2017, during the Waterkeeper Alliance International Conference.

Kennedy is President and Founder of Waterkeeper Alliance (the Alliance) – an expansive outgrowth of the Hudson River Fisherman’s Association (HRFA), formed in 1966. Kennedy was commissioned by Hudson Riverkeeper as an environmental lawyer in the mid-80s, and in the ensuing three decades has spearheaded countless legal actions against corporate polluters and the government, forging a track record of courtroom maneuvers that has cost environmental culprits billions.

Kennedy Jr.’s respect and love for the environment were formed in his early years while fishing and kayaking with his father, Robert F. Kennedy. His years with Waterkeeper Alliance have given him the expertise to see these issues from a lifetime of activism and leadership.

The episodes are all online now and cover a plethora of environmental topics. EnviroNews readers can link to the original stories and watch all nine segments via the video players just below:

How a Movement Was Born — as Recalled by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Waterkeeper Alliance was born out of the original Riverkeeper organization founded in 1983, in an effort to address the heavily polluted Hudson River in New York. “There was once a time when the Hudson kept changing color depending on what truck color was most popular at the GM plant in Tarrytown,” Kennedy recalled on EnviroNews. That organization spawned hundreds of others dedicated to protecting, preserving and repairing local rivers, bays and other waterways. The Alliance brings them under one umbrella and now includes more than 320 chapters spanning 30 countries.

RFK Jr.: ‘[Waterkeeper is] filing barrages of suits to stop the dismantling of the Clean Water Act’

Legal action has always been a hallmark of Kennedy’s work with Waterkeeper Alliance, but the Trump Administration’s focus on removing or rewriting environmental regulations has upped the ante for the organization. The Alliance filed its first suit against EPA head Scott Pruitt on February 23, 2017. “President Trump and his EPA administrator Pruitt are trying to limit the reach of the Clean Water Act to eliminate rivers in our country and streams and wetlands,” Kennedy said.

America’s Mercury Crisis: ‘Fish consumption is dangerous now’ — Robert Kennedy Jr. Weighs in

Kennedy revealed that he had accumulated high levels of mercury in his body from eating fish and from dental fillings. “I am a fisherman and I fish freshwater fish, which it turns out are very heavily loaded,” he said. Kennedy has since undergone chelation therapy and had his dental fillings removed. But his experience taught him the dangers of mercury poisoning, and he lamented that it was no longer safe to go fishing and eat the catch.

‘An Act of War’: RFK Jr. Puts U.S. Military and CAFOs on Blast for Trashing America’s Waterways

In this segment, Kennedy pointed out that the U.S. military is one of the nation’s leading polluters and that he’d gone to jail protesting naval operations in 2001 that were damaging the environment of an island in Puerto Rico. But next in line behind the military, Kennedy said, are the massive factory farms known as concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. “We’re the lead group suing CAFOs across the country,” said Kennedy about the Alliance.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: ‘I love James Hansen, but he is wrong on [the nuclear power issue]’

“I’m all for nuke if they can ever make it economic, but it costs 15 times the amount of solar, so why would you ever do it?” Kennedy told EnviroNews. “Plus, it’s unsafe.” Responding to a question from Urry about climate scientist James Hansen’s support for nuclear power as part of a solution to climate change, Kennedy said, “He doesn’t understand the cost advantage that solar and wind now have over the incumbents, including nukes.” Kennedy pointed to the outsized subsidies needed by the nuclear power industry and the exorbitant cost of dealing with nuclear waste.

Robert Kennedy Jr.: ‘Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) Are Destroying Democracy’

Continuing on the topic of CAFOs, in this segment, Kennedy said, “[CAFOs] destroy family farms. They destroy farm communities. They poison people. They’re emptying our landscapes. They’re destroying democracy.” He recalled how 28,000 family hog farmers in North Carolina had been replaced by 2,200 factories, with 80 percent of them controlled by just two companies.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Talks Tesla, Electric Big Rigs and the Impending Death of Fossil Fuels

With the solar and wind industries adding 362,000 U.S. jobs in 2016, Kennedy believes that economy no longer favors fossil fuels. “The only way they can maintain market dominance is by controlling our political system, because the markets have left them,” Kennedy explained. He sees competition and technology driving down the cost of electric cars, while the oil industry and Trump Administration try to forestall the transition to clean energy by approving new, expensive oil infrastructure.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: ‘If you believe in markets, you have to believe the era of coal has ended’

With the current administration promising to resurrect the coal industry, Kennedy responded, “Anything that Trump does is not going to bring back a single coal job, not one.” He pointed out that solar is growing 17 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy, and explained the cost advantage commercial solar plants already have over coal, gas, oil or nuclear enterprises. And he noted that “a lot of those jobs in the renewable energy sector are in red states like Utah, which are not going to benefit from the withdrawal of support” by President Trump.

How Fast Could U.S. Be Weaned off Fossil Fuels With Investment in a Real Electric Grid? RFK Jr. Weighs in

In the final episode of the series, Kennedy looked ahead: “We need smart transmission, we need smart grid technology,” he told EnviroNews. Renewable energy, distributed power generation and electric vehicles demand changes and new investment in the power grid. He foresees the day when the current electric utility companies are “going to be disrupted ultimately.”

Echoing Thomas Jefferson in the segment on CAFOs, Kennedy warned of the dangers of concentrated corporate power. “If you get rid of that diverse control of the landscapes, American democracy is doomed,” the environmental leader said with alarm.


Inside Look: Waterkeeper: Patrolling 2.5m Sq-Miles of Watershed, Catching Polluters, Saving H2O

In a bonus episode that aired with this series, Waterkeeper Alliance Executive Director Marc Yaggi explained the group’s mission to EnviroNews Utah Capitol Hill Correspondent Michael Orton. “Our world’s water resources are in peril,” said Yaggi. “Every day, about two million tons of pollution is dumped into our world’s waterways and it’s making people sick.” Waterkeeper Alliance focuses citizen action around three key campaigns: “Clean and Safe Energy,” “Clean Water Defense” and “Pure Farms, Pure Waters.” Each of these aims to address industrial pollution and protect important bodies of water.

The post EnviroNews Concludes Epic Nine-Pt. Environmental Video Series With Robert Kennedy Jr. — Watch it Here: appeared first on EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists.

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