People in the Third World by Paul Fitzgerald 0

Cartoon by Paul Fitzgerald, via Cartoon Stock.  Used with Permission.

Cartoon by Paul Fitzgerald, via Cartoon Stock. Used with Permission.

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From cartoonist Paul Fitzgerald’s website:  I’ve been scratching ‘Polyp’ political cartoons since 1980 (for Leeds Student Newspaper) and took it up full time in the 90′s, having been a care worker before then. New Internationalist Magazine, bless ‘em, gave me my first big break, turning over a whole issue to STARVE TREK, a political spoof of Captain James Knee Jerk beaming neoliberal politics down to reluctant planets throughout the galaxy. I owe them my career, I guess… THANK YOU, NI! Since then I’ve drawn cartoons for anyone who’ll have me, including Ethical Consumer Magazine, WDM, Christian Aid, War on Want, The Big Issue, Friends of the Earth, FoE, Liberty, People and Planet, Campaign Against the Arms Trade, and all the other usual suspects.Paul Fitzgerald on Facebook.

The Environment – Poverty Collide 0

Beached whale comforted by 10 rescuers.  Via Wikimedia Commons; Homeless veteran, Boston, MA. By Matthew Woitunski [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Beached whale comforted by 10 rescuers. Via Wikimedia Commons; Homeless veteran, Boston, MA. By Matthew Woitunski [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Last December, I wrote an EarthDesk post that called upon American environmentalism to turn its attention to poverty and homelessness. A reader replied on Facebook that she resented the implication environmentalists ignore the poor, as she and others were fighting poverty by fighting climate change.

I have heard this proposition often, from seasoned colleagues as well as the young and fervent. It would befuddle most of America’s 46 million who are living in poverty610,000 who are homeless, and 17.5 million who are food insecure, as well as the 1.3 billion citizens of the developing world who suffer from extreme poverty.

Stark as these statistics are, they do not tell the entire story, or illustrate the multiplier effect these populations suffer, domestically and overseas: poor health and inadequate medical care, bad water resources, lack of education, communities of dangerous environmental quality, civil unrest, crime and a pervasive hopelessness about their prospects ever changing.

This rift between environmentalism and the less privileged is not new. The environmental justice movement was founded to cure it. But, like my Facebook friend, many environmentalists then came to believe that making the world safe for the poor was synonymous with solving poverty itself.

In the United States, we have reasoned our way into thousands of questionable adventures that placed the core issue of poverty in the policy backseat. Our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now against ISIL, are approaching the $2 trillion mark. Smaller examples abound, such as NASA’s “low-cost” $79 million LCROSS mission to locate 24 gallons of water on the moon — I acknowledge the randomness of that example . . .  but also the ease with which hundreds of billions of dollars of others can be named.

None of this is to say these appropriations would have otherwise made their way to social programs. They would not have; nor is there a powerful enough voice to assure they could, particularly in the nation’s capital where the cause of the middle-class is an obsession. The environmental movement could help change that.

The environment – poverty divide takes on added significance when considering the plight of the global disenfranchised, within the context of climate change, and the nagging truth that industrialization has made the developed world far better off.

A statement by India’s new environmental minister, Prakash Javadekar, reported in the September 24  New York Times, makes the point:

The moral principle of historic responsibility cannot be washed away. . . India’s first task is eradication of poverty. . . Twenty percent of our population doesn’t have access to electricity, and that’s our top priority. We will grow faster, and our emissions will rise.

Minister Javadekar, and the conundrum to which he has given voice, will find sympathetic ears. In the September 26 Chicago Sun Times, Patrick Allitt, Cahoon Family Professor of American History at Emory University, wrote that human lives in the developing world will benefit from economies built by dirty fuels. In the meantime, the planet will continue its slow movement toward cleaner technologies:

The only way out of mass poverty is industrialization. Every rich country is industrial. All the poorest ones are not. We can understand the global warming debate only by keeping this basic truth in mind.

. . . [T]he trade-off is clear. If we have to weigh actual lives saved against hypothetical future ones endangered, we are right to choose the actual ones. Besides, far more future lives will end prematurely without the continued spread of fossil-fueled industrialization than with it.

I am invariably on the opposite side of the Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank founded by Charles Koch and others. Business, government and citizens need order and rules — a hardwired requirement we do not outgrow after childhood. But a statement in a recent commentary by Paul C. “Chip” Knappenberger caught my attention because of its essential truth, and chilling reminder, for American environmentalists in particular:

[W]hile developing countries pursue  “luxuries” like indoor lighting and clean cooking facilities (not to mention improved sanitation), developed countries are awash in the luxury of debating whether to alter the relative components of their fuel mix.

Poverty, hunger, homelessness — these speak to a fundamental failure by society and the global economy. They are undeniable evidence of immediate catastrophes at-large within our own species. They are not subsets of environmental affairs. Their persistence is measured in millennia — not in time elapsed since the industrial revolution.

The environmental movement can avoid a collision course with the interests of our poor and disenfranchised, fellow homo sapiens if it takes on their case based upon its own merits — as a preeminent cause that stands beside, not behind, global challenges such as climate change, the worldwide water crisis, toxic contamination and pervasive habitat destruction.

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Pace Environmental Policy Clinic Reports for Duty 0

L to R: Alexandra Catalano, Alyssa Vilas Boas, Andreas Christou, Jaclyn Barbato, Jessica Alba, Anthony Morgan-Jones, Haylei Peart, Kiefer Kofman, Mychael Lotocky, Nadya Hall, Carlos Villamayor Ledesma.

L to R: Alexandra Catalano, Alyssa Vilas Boas, Andreas Christou, Jaclyn Barbato, Jessica Alba, Anthony Morgan-Jones, Haylei Peart, Kiefer Kofman, Mychael Lotocky, Nadya Hall, Carlos Villamayor Ledesma.

Pace Academy’s Fall 2014 Environmental Policy Clinicians reported for duty with a full docket awaiting from their Spring 2014 colleagues: community energy, wildlife protection, invasive plants, food justice, circus animals, and nightsky pollution. We will follow them as they earn their six credits representing clients Village of Ossining, Westchester Land Trust, International Dark-Sky Association, and Pace Center for Community Action and Research.

Follow the Clinic’s ePolicy blog where our clinicians post first-hand, up-to-the-minute briefings and developments on their cases. More to come from our new and outstanding members of the Pace Academy family.

Art for the People’s Climate March 0

This week’s EarthDesk Sunday features poster art created for today’s People’s Climate March. For more information about some of the art and artists visit the websites Creative Resistance and Just Seeds.

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China on the Verge of Exterminating Its Sturgeon 0

The Gezhouba Dam, completed in 1988, created an obstacle for Chinese sturgeon that attempted to migrate from the sea to spawning grounds in the freshwater reaches of the Yangtze River -- one of many impediments to the continued survival of the 240 million year-old fish.

Gezhouba Dam is one of many impediments to the survival of the Chinese sturgeon. Completed in 1988, it created an  obstacle for sturgeon attempting to migrate from the sea to spawning grounds in the freshwater reaches of the Yangtze River and its tributary river the Jinsha.

Despite years of warnings from marine scientists, the Chinese sturgeon, Acipenser sinensis, may be the first of 26 subspecies of sturgeon worldwide to face extinction. Damming, pollution, overfishing and habitat destruction are the causes. According to the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences, researchers could locate no young sturgeon migrating back to the sea, as usually occurs in August.

Postage stamp celebrating the Chinese sturgeon.

Postage stamp celebrating the Chinese sturgeon.

This is only the latest in a series of alarming reports about the 200 million year-old fish. In a 2007 story, National Geographic described efforts to save the Chinese sturgeon. But scientists now fear that mitigation initiatives were too little too late.

Sturgeon are in trouble the world over, including on the Hudson, EarthDesk’s home river. Our Atlantic sturgeon and the Chinese sturgeon are two of ten subspecies of sturgeon included on the IUCN red list of critically endangered species.

We wrote on August 10:

Overharvesting of its meat and caviar, pollution, habitat alteration, power plant intakes — the list of insults that humans have invented trump every challenge thrown in the sturgeon’s path during 2,000,000 centuries of life on Earth . . . Imagine those millennia as a twenty-four-hour clock; it has taken us less than one -tenth of a second to endanger all twenty-six subspecies of this enduring, prehistoric fish worldwide.

The UK’s The Guardian of September 15 provided an excellent summary of the Chinese sturgeon crisis.

Poisoning the Poor by Pat Bagley 0

EarthDesk is pleased to return after a brief summer hiatus. In the coming year, we will focus special attention on members of our own species whose sustainability is challenged daily by poverty, food insecurity, illness, homelessness and bigotry. After all, if we cannot create a society that will sustain ourselves, how can we build a world that will sustain other living things? In that spirit, the first EarthDesk Sunday of the new university year features this recent cartoon from the excellent Pat Bagley.

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“Poisoning the Poor” by Pat Bagley. Via Cagle Cartoons. Used with permission.

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Patrick “Pat” Bagley is an American editorial cartoonist and journalist for The Salt Lake Tribune in Salt Lake City, Utah. His cartoons have appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian of London, The Times of London, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and the Los Angeles Times. He has produced more than 10,000 cartoons for the Tribune.

Pat is also an illustrator and author of independent political cartoons and children’s books. His liberal political stance contrasts with the conservative state of Utah, and has influenced several books of political cartoons and humor. Bagley’s 2002 book Dinosaurs of Utah and Dino Destinations was nominated for the Utah Children’s Book of the Year. Bagley was the recipient of the 2007 Torch of Freedom Award from the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah. Bagley was awarded the 2009 Herblock Prize for editorial cartooning by a unanimous panel of judges, made up of Garry Trudeau, Jules Feiffer and John Sherffius, representing the Herb Block Foundation.

More on Pat Bagley at the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists.

See more of Pat Bagley’s work at Cagle Cartoons.

EarthDesk Returns September 14

Sturgeon Moon 2014 0

Many are calling tonight’s full moon a “super moon.” More important, it is a Sturgeon Moon, as occurs each August. In honor of its appearance coinciding with EarthDesk Sunday, below is a reprise of last year’s post about the same occasion.

Earlier this evening, I laid my tools on the cabin top of the boat on which I was working, and settled-in to watch the rust red moon crawl to the shoulders of the Hudson Highlands. Once there, it continued upward, as if loosened from the grip of gravity, and floated beyond the river’s cragged peaks.

It was a Sturgeon Moon. According to the Farmer’s Almanac:

The fishing tribes are given credit for the naming of this Moon, since sturgeon, a large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water, were most readily caught during [August]. A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon because, as the Moon rises, it appears reddish through any sultry haze. It was also called the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon.

River, mountain, moon, boat; there was no place I would rather have been, except perhaps parked on Bob Gabrielson’s Burd Street Dock in Nyack, NY, of an early May morning in 1981. That day, I climbed out of my pickup truck camper to breakfast on blackfish and watch the red sun rise one hour prior to our fishing tide. Just four weeks earlier, I had resigned my job in the state legislature, moved into the old black Ford, and driven south to join Bob’s commercial fishing crew for the full shad season.

It was a dry spring. Because of the increased salt in the estuary, all manner of ocean fish were making their way into the lower river. In addition to blackfish, we regularly saw flounder, sea robin, starfish, and jellyfish. The previous evening, we picked up a young Atlantic sturgeon, about ten inches in length. A rubber band was wrapped around its midsection, an uncommon but known phenomenon on the river. I would see it again on a different baby sturgeon two summers later off Garrison, NY.

Just beneath the band, the sturgeon’s body was severely constricted and the flesh raw. If the rubber band did not kill it first, its young midsection was now a certain target for deadly infection and fungus. At some point in its short life, the fish had swum into the carelessly tossed band, which became caught on the rough-skinned body and remained while the sturgeon grew.

Sturgeon are a lens into the past. They are often called living dinosaurs. Their lineage dates back 200 million years. In late spring, adult Atlantic sturgeon leave their ocean home to migrate up the Hudson, and other East Coast rivers, to spawn in the freshwater reaches. Young sturgeon use the estuary’s nourishing waters as a nursery ground until they are about three-feet long and hearty enough to begin a life at sea. (Read more here)

Author Robert H. Boyle described sturgeon well in his book The Hudson River: A Natural and Unnatural History:

They have long, leathery snouts on the front of the head, while the bottom part is soft and white with a vacuum cleaner–type mouth that can hang down like the sleeve on an old coat. The eyes are small and glistening, like threatening peas, and the hard body is almost crocodilian, armed with five longitudinal rows of sharp shields, or scutes.

There are twenty-six subspecies of sturgeon worldwide, all with similar physical characteristics, all imperiled.

Just a few miles from our nets, on the Piermont waterfront, Cornetta’s Seafood Restaurant boasted a sight found at no other eatery in the Hudson Valley. Mounted on the wall of the upper dining room was a seven-foot, ten-inch Atlantic sturgeon. When alive, it probably weighed 250 pounds.

“There isn’t a person who doesn’t say, ‘I can’t believe this is out of this river,’” proprietor Suren Kilerciyan once told me. “And they all call it ugly— until they learn that sturgeon is where caviar comes from, and then they change their minds.”

It was by no means the largest sturgeon ever caught. The Guinness Book of Animal Facts and Feats reports a documented female beluga sturgeon captured in the Volga estuary in 1827 that weighed 3,250 pounds and measured twenty-four feet long. According to Boyle, the largest Hudson River sturgeon reached 13 feet.

Its natural history would be the sturgeon’s most remarkable aspect were it not for its stunning decline. Only shark and humans prey on sturgeon. Guess which has decimated the population. Overharvesting of its meat and caviar, pollution, habitat alteration, power plant intakes — the list of insults that humans have invented trump every challenge thrown in the sturgeon’s path during 2,000,000 centuries of life on Earth. In 1996, Atlantic surgeon were banned for capture on the Hudson River, and in 2009 declared endangered, after an unbroken chain of fishing seasons dating back to the same indigenous tribes who honored the Sturgeon Moon.

Imagine those millennia as a twenty-four-hour clock; it has taken us less than one -tenth of a second to endanger all twenty-six subspecies of this enduring, prehistoric fish worldwide. Worth remembering the next time someone passes you the caviar, or you think to cast off a rubber band. More

Lego Wars: Old Patnership with Shell Oil Breeds New Controversy 0

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1977 Lego Model of Shell Oil Rig.

There is concern anew over the decades-old partnership between Lego and Shell Oil. Shell is a major player in the growing efforts to exploit Arctic resources as shipping lanes open due to Arctic melt. See: EarthDesk August 8, 2013.

Greenpeace is leading an effort to convince Lego to abandon the partnership, and has produced a video to deliver the message, “Shell is polluting our kids’ imaginations.” The video is below. A link to the Greenpeace campaign is here.

Toxic Algae Horror in Ohio by Nate Beeler 0

Toxic Algae Horror by Nate Beeler. CagleCartoons.com, Used with permission.

Toxic Algae Horror by Nate Beeler. Via Cagle.com, Used with permission.

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Here is Nate Beeler‘s profile from the The Columbus Dispatch:

beeler_100Nate Beeler, the award-winning editorial cartoonist for The Dispatch, has earned the reputation of being both a top-flight artist and first-rate journalist. Formerly the cartoonist for the Washington Examiner, he won the 2009 Thomas Nast Award from the Overseas Press Club and the 2008 Berryman Award from the National Press Foundation, among other awards.

Beeler, 31, is a native of Bexley and earned a journalism degree at American University. His cartoons have appeared in such publications as Time, Newsweek and USA Today.