Category Archives: Water

After Exxon Fined for Sanctions Violations, Calls for Rex Tillerson to Resign

When secretary of state was CEO of ExxonMobil, says Treasury, the oil giant showed a “reckless disregard” for sanctions

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-20-2017

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was CEO of oil giant ExxonMobil when the company violated U.S. sanctions against Russian officials in 2014. (Photo: Greenpeace/PolluterWatch)

“It’s time Rex Tillerson step down or be removed,” said Gigi Kellett of Corporate Accountability International, following an announcement on Thursday that ExxonMobil will pay $2 million for violating U.S. sanctions against Russian officials while the now-secretary of state was the company’s CEO.

“ExxonMobil demonstrated reckless disregard for U.S. sanction requirements,” according to enforcement filing released by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which issued the penalty. Though the fine is reportedly the maximum penalty allowed, it’s pittance to one of the world’s most profitable and powerful corporations, which last year reported a profit of $7.8 billion. Continue reading

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Study Calls for Rapid “Negative Emissions” as Scientist Warns “Shit’s Hitting the Fan”

New study, led by James Hansen, is meant to bolster climate kids’ case against the federal government

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-19-2017

If “large fossil fuel emissions are allowed to continue[…] the burden placed on young people and future generations may become too heavy to bear,” the researchers write. (Photo: Takver/flickr/cc)

The “shit is hitting is the fan,” said noted climate scientist James Hansen, countering “this narrative out there…that we have turned the corner on dealing with the climate problem.”

Hansen is lead author of a new study that warns that there “is no time to delay” on climate change efforts and argues that they must go beyond just slashing emissions of CO2—”the dominant control knob on global temperature”—to extracting CO2 from the air, or “negative emissions.”

The team of international researchers writes that “the world has overshot appropriate targets”—a conclusion that “is sufficiently grim to compel us to point out that pathways to rapid emission reductions are feasible.” Continue reading

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Poll: Most Americans Oblivious, But Not Uncaring, to Overseas Suffering

“Near-famine, which is affecting 20 million people in Africa and the Middle East, is likely the least reported but most important major issue of our time.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-14-2017

The Trump administration has proposed drastic cuts to humanitarian aid programs in the midst of the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945. (Photo: Gerry & Bonni/Flickr/cc)

The vast majority of Americans are “oblivious” to the fact that more than 20 million people are on the brink of starvation in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and Nigeria, according to a recent survey conducted by the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

A “staggering” 85 percent of Americans simply don’t know that these nations are facing such dire shortages of food and other necessary resources, IRC discovered. Continue reading

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Will global warming change Native American religious practices

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What does the shrinking of the Colorado River mean for Native American religions? Ken Lund, CC BY-SA

Rosalyn R. LaPier, Harvard University

The Colorado River, one of the longest rivers in the United States, is gradually shrinking. This is partly a result of overuse by municipalities and seasonal drought. The other reason is global warming.

The decline in the river reservoir will have serious implications for large U.S. cities, such as Los Angeles, that depend on the Colorado River as their water source. In addition, this will also have an impact on the Native American tribes who view the Colorado River as sacred to their religions.

As Ka-Voka Jackson, a member of the Hualapai tribe and a graduate student working to address climate change on the Colorado River and restoring native plant species along its banks, stated,

“The Colorado River is so sacred not just to my tribe, but to so many others.”

As a scholar of Native American religions and the environment, I understand how indigenous people’s religions and sacred places are closely tied to their landscape. For the past 100 years, indigenous peoples have been forced to adapt to changes in their environments and modify their religious rituals in the United States. The U.S. government made certain Native American religious practices illegal in the 19th and early 20th century. Although these policies have since been rescinded, they led to changes in many indigenous practices.

Global warming, however, is different. The question is whether indigenous people will be able to adapt their beliefs all over again due to the impact of global warming on the natural world.

Adapting to change

The Blackfeet tribe in Montana brought changes in their relationship with the natural world as a result of the policies of the U.S. government from the 1880s to the 1930s.

For example, the Blackfeet purposefully moved religious ceremonies from one time on their liturgical calendar to completely different times to avoid the U.S. government penalizing native people for dancing or participating in religious ceremonies.

The Blackfeet moved their annual O’kan, or sundance festival, from late summer (usually held at the end of August) to the Fourth of July celebration. They avoided U.S. government punishment by masking their ceremonies within state-sanctioned public events.

Policies related to the mining of natural resources and damming of rivers on indigenous lands have also led to changes in Native Americans’ religious practices.

Historian David R. M. Beck interviewed elders and researched how the Menominee tribe in Wisconsin adapted to the loss of their sacred fish, the sturgeon, after a paper mill built a dam across the Wolf River.

Lake sturgeon on Bad River in Wisconsin. USFWSmidwest, CC BY

The sturgeon disappeared after the dam was built in 1892, because they could no longer swim upstream to spawn. For over 100 years, the Menominee tribal members continued to pray and conduct their annual “returning of the sturgeon” ceremony in the spring – even though there were no more sturgeon in the river. The Menominee ultimately won the right to return the sturgeon to the Wolf River in 1992 and the tribe revitalized the full ceremony and celebration of their sacred fish.

In all these situations, Native American tribes learned to adapt to the challenges placed before them, modify their religious practice and embrace a different relationship with the natural world.

Global warming and religion

When it comes to global climate change, it affects everyone, not just specific groups in specific places. But for many indigenous peoples, natural resources are closely linked to religious beliefs and practices.

Historically, indigenous peoples used the natural seasonal cycles of weather, plants and animals as part of their liturgical or religious calendar. The Blackfeet held their annual “beaver bundle ceremony” in the early spring as ice melted off rivers and beavers returned to the open waters. In Blackfeet mythology, a beaver served as a deity who taught humans how to cultivate tobacco, which the tribe used for important religious ceremonies and as a peace offering to their enemies.

What would the movement of beavers mean? Bryn Davies, CC BY-NC-ND

There are signs, though, that beavers are now moving north due to global warming. Biologists are currently studying both beavers and the birch and alder shrubs
that beavers eat, as both move north into new regions. Scientists worry that as a keystone species, the movement of beavers will change the northern ecosystems as they cut off waterways and build beaver dams. And shrubs will change the local waterways that they grow by. This will affect local animal species.

What will happen when there are no more beaver in Blackfeet territory? Will their religious traditions adapt similar to the Menominee when they faced the loss of their sacred sturgeon?

Religion and resiliency

From the arctic tundra to the American desert southwest, and places worldwide, indigenous peoples will be facing the impact of global climate change.

Regarding the shrinking of the Colorado River, researchers Brad Udall and Jonathan Overpeck have concluded that, “Failing to act on climate change means accepting the very high risk that the Colorado River basin will continue to dry up into the future.”

If this river faces a drier future, it will likely affect the Mojave, a people indigenous to the Colorado River basin, who believe the river was created by their ancient deity Mastamho as part of their sacred landscape.

As the G-20 convenes in Germany this week to discuss global issues including climate change, indigenous scholars, such as myself, are wondering what the future holds for indigenous peoples, their environments and their religions.

The ConversationIndigenous communities can be resilient and adapt their internal religious beliefs to outside challenges, as Native American tribes from the turn of the 20th century have proven. Climate change presents yet another challenge.

Rosalyn R. LaPier, Research Associate of Women’s Studies, Environmental Studies and Native American Religion, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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With at Least 200 Killed, 2016 Was Deadliest Year Ever for Earth Defenders

New report finds ‘activists are being murdered, attacked, and criminalized by the very people who are supposed to protect them’

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-13-2017

“We are fighting for our lands, for our water, for our lives,” Jakeline (right), who has received death threats for protesting mining in Colombia, told Global Witness for the report. (Photo: Global Witness)

Last year was the deadliest in history to be an environmental activist, according to a new report that found, on average, nearly four people were killed per week.

Defenders of the Earth, released by U.K.-based human rights group Global Witness, lists the names and locations of 200 environmental advocates who were killed around the world. While the report found Brazil, Colombia, and the Philippines were the nations with the most murdered environmentalists in 2016, Honduras has been the deadliest country for environmental activists over the last decade. Continue reading

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Ditching Diplomatic Duties, Tillerson Accepts Lifetime Achievement Award From Oil Industry

Top US diplomat traveled to Turkey where he was honored for serving as CEO of fossil fuel giant ExxonMobil

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-10-2017

Rex Tillerson. Photo: premier.gov.ru [CC BY 4.0) , via Wikimedia Commons

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—a former CEO of the world’s largest oil company—is under fire on Monday for setting aside his diplomatic duties on Sunday to accept a lifetime achievement award from the World Petroleum Congress is Istanbul, Turkey.

“Secretary Tillerson’s warped notion that it’s appropriate to attend and accept an award at an oil industry conference proves yet again that he has no idea how to be the United States’ chief diplomat,” said Greenpeace USA senior climate campaigner Naomi Ages. Continue reading

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EPA Head’s Plan to Gut Popular Water Rule Condemned as Gift to Polluters

Environment advocates rail against Pruitt’s plan

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-27-2017

The EPA’s intended rollback of the Clean Water Rule could impact the drinking water of 117 million Americans. (MajJar/Flickr/cc)

Stirring criticism from environmental groups, Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt said Tuesday that the Trump administration will take steps to roll back the Clean Water Rule, the Obama-era regulation that grants clear protections to America’s waterways and drinking water supplies.

The Clean Water Rule requires oil companies to develop oil spill prevention and response plans, demands that states identify and develop plans to clean up protected waters that don’t meet standards, and bans companies from dumping waste into protected waters, among other provisions. Continue reading

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We Will Soon Be Using More Than The Earth Can Provide

Forget the GDP, it’s time for our leaders to pay attention to metrics that matter.

By . Published 6-14-2017 by YES! Magazine

From January 1 to August 2, the world’s 7.5 billion people will have used as much of Earth’s biological resources—or biocapacity—as the planet can regenerate in a year. Photo by freemixer / iStock.

Four days after President Trump announced the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, the Global Footprint Network (GFN) reported that Earth Overshoot Day 2017 will fall on August 2. Most Americans likely have no idea what that means.

The basic point is quite simple: From January 1 to August 2, the world’s 7.5 billion people will have used as much of Earth’s biological resources—or biocapacity—as the planet can regenerate in a year. During the remaining five months of 2017, our human consumption will be drawing down Earth’s reserves of fresh water, fertile soils, forests, and fisheries, and depleting its ability to regenerate these resources as well as sequester excess carbon released into the atmosphere. Continue reading

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Involuntary Manslaughter Charges for Top State Health Official for Role in Flint Water Crisis

Advocacy group says new charges boost call for governor to resign

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-14-2017

Michigan’s top health official was among five people charged with involuntary manslaughter for their role in the Flint water crisis. (Photo: Flint Rising/ Facebook)

Michigan’s attorney general announced Wednesday that the head of the state’s health department and four others have been charged with involuntary manslaughter for their role in the years-long Flint water crisis.

Nick Lyon, director of Michigan Health and Human Services, “failed in his responsibilities to protect the health and safety of the citizens of Flint,” state AG Bill Schuette said at a press conference Wednesday. Continue reading

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Bolivian President Warns Trump’s America ‘Main Threat to Mother Earth and Life Itself’

By ditching global agreement on climate, Evo Morales says United States denying “future to upcoming generations”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-6-2017

Bolivian President Evo Morales addresses the Ocean Conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York, on June 5, 2017. (Photo: Xinhua/Li Muzi)

As the United Nations this week warned the world’s ocean are “under threat as never before” from global warming and other human activity, Bolivian President Evo Morales took direct aim at President Donald Trump by saying his decision to withdraw from Paris climate agreement proves the United States is now the “main threat to mother Earth and life itself.”

Addressing the first international Oceans Conference at the UN headquarters in New York City on Monday, Morales charged that by rejecting the scientific consensus and ditching the landmark agreement, the U.S.—the world’s largest driver of greenhouse gas emissions and its “main polluter”—was “denying science, turning [its] backs on multilateralism and attempting to deny a future to upcoming generations.” Continue reading

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