Oil and Coal: Above the Law, and Below It

This view of a former mountaintop in Pike County, Kentucky, which is now lying in nearby valleys, shows what's left when the coal is gone. (Photo by iLoveMountains.org/Flickr)

This view of a former mountaintop in Pike County, Kentucky, which is now residing, in the form of dust, in the people who live nearby. Who is breaking the law, the people who did this or the people who protest it? (Photo by iLoveMountains.org/Flickr)

Here is what we have come to in America, nicely encapsulated in two events, one in California, the other in West Virginia. In California, another brazen demonstration that Big Oil is above the law, not merely when its toxic emissions sicken hundreds of people, but when it poisons the law enforcement officers sent to control them. In West Virginia, a clear reminder that should you think to petition your government for the redress of grievances, you may well find yourself below the law, left to ponder the true meaning of the First Amendment to the Constitution (freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, right to petition your government and so forth) in your jail cell. Continue reading

Climate Hawks: Deniers of Another Kind?

In Chongqing, China, in 2011, they were saying “If we don’t do something about this real soon, it’s going to get real bad. They didn’t. It did. And on it goes. (Photo by Leo Fung/Flickr)

In Chongqing, China, in 2011, they were saying “If we don’t do something about this real soon, it’s going to get real bad. They didn’t. It did. And on it goes. (Photo by Leo Fung/Flickr)

The best thinkers and writers about the rampant destruction of natural systems that is the hallmark of our times profess, almost unanimously, that mankind faces catastrophe unless something is done, something effective, right away. Political action is a necessity, they say, nationally and internationally. We must find the will to act. A respected, frequent commenter on this site suggested the other day that to do anything else is a distraction from the vital effort to transform politics. But is that “unless,” that ever-present qualification — the notion that something might be done, tomorrow or maybe the day after, to save us from the worst consequences of our actions — itself a form of denialism?

I think so, and I submit into evidence three headlines from this week’s news. Continue reading

Falling Colors: The Long Agony of Trees

Spectacular? Not Really. The fall foliage season is increasingly pastel, washed out, as on Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains pictured here. The culprit is that visible, constant pall of pollution. (National Park Service Photo)

Spectacular? Not Really. The fall foliage season is increasingly pastel, washed out, as on Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains pictured here. The culprit is that visible, constant pall of pollution. (National Park Service Photo)

A long-time friend of, and commenter on, The Daily Impact, Gail Zawacki, has for years maintained a lonely vigil on behalf of trees. On her blog. Wit’s End, she chronicles the massive, mortal harm being done to trees all over the world by air pollution. They are, in fact, slowly dying, a fact that should be most strikingly obvious to everyone in the fall, when by the tens of thousands we drive our emissions-rich cars long distances to see the fall colors. Which, increasingly, aren’t there any more. In part because of the emissions from our cars. Yet no one (except Gail) seems able to see the sick trees for the pale forest. Continue reading

Toxic Green Slime Attacks America

Algae -- the rising tide that poisons all boats.  (Photo by gorize/Flickr)

Algae — the rising tide that poisons all boats. (Photo by gorize/Flickr)

Toxic Green Slime Attacks America! What a great movie pitch! Awesome special effects! Multitudes of bikini-clad victims! Unfortunately, it’s true, so hardly anybody is interested. This summer, 21 states that we know of — most don’t even bother to keep records on this pestilence — closed beaches and issued public-health warnings when their waters became clogged with blooms of toxic green algae. At least one person and 20 pets have been killed by the slime, along with untold numbers of birds and wildlife. Yet no cable news network has gone wall-to-wall on this spreading, deadly threat — perhaps because there’s no mystery here. We know who the culprit is, and we know how to stop the threat. Continue reading

Gulf of Mexico: “There is No Life Out There.”

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge Manager Jereme Phillips reports oil on a refuge beach in Alabama in June of 2010. Three years later, the hits just keep on coming. (Photo by Jennifer Strickland USFWS)

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge Manager Jereme Phillips reports oil on a refuge beach in Alabama in June of 2010. Three years later, the hits just keep on coming. (Photo by Jennifer Strickland USFWS)

The Gulf Oil spill is old news, right? 2010? Over and done with. The seafood industry has recovered. tourists are back, BP has kept its promises to make things right. We know that because that’s what the incessant BP commercials on television are telling us. BP seems to believe its own commercials, because it announced in June that it and the Coast Guard were ending regular patrols of the Gulf Coast (except for Louisiana) looking for washed up oil. It did this, it said in its exuberant announcement, because of its “extraordinary progress in cleaning up the Gulf,” which, it declared, is almost back to normal. Who you gonna believe? BP’s commercials, or your lyin’ eyes? Continue reading

It’s Official: Breathing is Bad for You

pollution prosperity

(Photo by Mike Licht/Flickr)

The World Health Organization has classified polluted air as a Group One human carcinogen. That puts the air that most people in the world are breathing in the same category of harmfulness as such things as asbestos and cigarette smoke. It also ranks the eastern United States, along with China, Mexico and North Africa as having the most polluted air in the world. In some ways, of course, this is old news. Some of us figured out a few decades ago that polluted air is not good for you. Nevertheless, as reported by Reuters this new study is going to rock some big boats. Continue reading

FAA Protects Exxon Oil Spill with No-Fly Zone

A frame from  the video that seems to have prompted the no-fly order.

A frame from the video that seems to have prompted the no-fly order.

Hours after pictures like the one at right began appearing on the Internet, showing the scope of the Exxon pipeline oil spill in the town of Mayflower, Arkansas, the Federal Aviation Administration clamped a no-fly zone over the town. The FAA order is to be in effect “until further notice,” and exempts only aircraft under the supervision of an Exxon  employee. Any questions about who owns America? Continue reading

The China Syndrome Worsens

Lanzhou, on the Yellow River in China, is one of the most polluted places in the world and is typical of the the consequences of unrestrained industry that are bringing Chinese protesters into the streets. (Photo by sandandtsunamis/Flickr)

China has long been the secret envy of American industrialists. Imagine being able to do whatever you want — build any factory anywhere, pay people whatever the hell you feel like laying them, dump your waste wherever the hell you feel like dumping it — all with no interference from any news media, EPA, environmental organization or opposition party. Forget West Virginia — that’s almost heaven.  But be careful what you wish for, boys and girls; China is coming apart faster than we are. Continue reading

Thunderstorms on Steroids Punching Holes in Ozone

A thunderstorm near Denver, Colorado reaches for the stratosphere. These days, supercharged thunderstorms are punching through the ozone layer, exposing living things below to a new threat. (Photo by Dan Mahr/Flickr)

Scientists at Harvard University have discovered yet another unexpected — not to mention unintended — consequence of  climate change. Thunderstorms on steroids — supercharged by the increased heat energy trapped in the atmosphere — are, as it were, punching massive holes in the ozone layer. The implications for life on earth are profound, and profoundly negative. Continue reading

USGS: World on Really Bad Acid Trip

/Flickr)”]The US Geological Survey has been getting things right since at least the 1930s, when it correctly identified the Dust Bowl — while it was occurring — as a human-caused, not natural, event. Few people recognized the implications at the time, few know them today, and not many paid attention last fall when the USGS told us something else it knows about what we are doing to the world that nourishes us: industrial activities are turning the world to acid.

Continue reading