Grist News 2021-01-06


Politics: What the Georgia Senate candidates think about climate change

By: Zoya Teirstein on 5 January 2021, 11:45 am

It may be a new year, but the 2020 election isn’t over yet. All eyes are on Georgia, where four candidates are duking it out over a pair of crucial U.S. Senate seats. The two runoff races will finish what was started on November 3, when no candidate in either of the state’s Senate races managed to win a majority of the vote. If Democrats win both those races, the Senate will be split 50-50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris acting as tiebreaker, which would give President-elect Joe Biden the latitude to accomplish at least some of his legislative agenda. If Republicans prevail in one or both of them, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will retain control of the upper chamber, dashing Democrats’ dreams of passing policy on everything from health care to climate change.

Democrat Jon Ossoff, a 33-year-old investigative journalist, is facing off against 71-year-old Republican incumbent David Perdue, former senior vice president for the shoe company Reebok. Democrat………

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Politics: Biden nominees signal cooperation with states on climate

By: Chris D’Angelo on 5 January 2021, 11:30 am

This story was originally published by HuffPost and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

President-elect Joe Biden has assembled what environmentalists are calling an “all-star” team to lead his government’s efforts to curb climate change and reverse the Trump administration’s astoundingly pro-polluter legacy.

Democratic Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico, one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress and a strong supporter of the Green New Deal movement, would replace a former oil lobbyist if the Senate confirms her as head of the Interior Department. In place of the ex-coal lobbyist running the Environmental Protection Agency would be Michael Regan, who brokered the biggest coal-ash cleanup settlement in U.S. history as North Carolina’s………

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Justice: Green groups have a racism problem. Waterkeepers are trying to solve it.

By: Cameron Oglesby on 4 January 2021, 11:45 am

In August, the Waterkeeper Alliance, a global network of grassroots leaders dedicated to the preservation of local waterways, finalized the charter for its justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion committee. This step toward racial equity and representation, which took months of planning, is in line with the surge of anti-racism commitments made over the summer by environmental nonprofits around the country.

The Waterkeeper Alliance is set on doing more than paying lip service to diversity and inclusion. Instead, it wants to make them priority areas for waterkeepers worldwide.

If you’ve ever wondered who in your community works to ensure that the local river, lake, or coastal area that you and your family like to visit on the weekends remains pollution free and easily accessible, look no further than the Waterkeeper………

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Fix: How activists successfully shut down key pipeline projects in New York

By: Greta Moran on 4 January 2021, 11:15 am

If all had gone according to plan, the Constitution pipeline would be carrying fracked gas 124 miles from the shale gas fields of Pennsylvania through streams, wetlands, and backyards across the Southern Tier of New York until west of Albany. There it would join two existing pipelines, one that extends into New England and the other to the Ontario border as part of a vast network that moves fracked gas throughout the northeastern United States and Canada.

For a while, everything unfolded as expected. When the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the project in 2014, the U.S. was in the midst of a fracking boom that would make it the world’s largest producer of natural gas and crude oil. Williams Companies, the lead firm developing the project, was awaiting state approval of………

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Climate: ‘I’ll be fierce for all of us’: Deb Haaland on climate, Native rights, and Biden

By: Nina Lakhani on 3 January 2021, 11:00 am

This story was originally published by The Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Debra Haaland is making American history.

The 60-year-old Congress member from New Mexico will next month become the first Native American cabinet secretary in U.S. history, when she takes responsibility for the country’s land and natural resources as head of the Department of the Interior under Joe Biden.

Haaland is a member of the Laguna Pueblo, one of 574 sovereign tribal nations located across 35 states. According to the 2010 census, 5.2 million people or about 2 percent of the U.S. population identifies as American Indian or Alaskan Native — descendants of those who survived U.S. government………

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Climate: A wetter and warmer Alaska means dangerously slippery slopes

By: Victoria Petersen on 2 January 2021, 11:00 am

This story was originally published by High Country News and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

An hour before sundown on December 2, Lilly Ford and her family heard a “strange, low rumble” outside of her home in Haines, Alaska. It lasted about a minute as a 600-foot-wide slurry of timber, mud, soil, and debris cascaded down a nearby mountain, through a residential area, and into the ocean. “I couldn’t believe the mountain had swept people and houses away just like that — ripped the ground out from under them,” Ford said. “It’s just not something you’d ever anticipate.”

Haines, population 2,500, saw more than 8 inches of rainfall during the first two days of December — a total that topped the monthly average by 2 inches. Hundreds………

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Cities: A Massachusetts city will post climate change warning stickers at gas stations

By: Oliver Milman on 1 January 2021, 12:15 pm

This story was originally published by The Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Cambridge, Massachusetts, has become the first U.S. city to mandate the placing of stickers on fuel pumps to warn drivers of the resulting dangers posed by the climate crisis.

The final design of the bright yellow stickers, shared with the Guardian, includes text that warns drivers the burning of gasoline, diesel, and ethanol has “major consequences on human health and the environment including contributing to climate change.”

The stickers will be placed on all fuel pumps in Cambridge, which is situated near Boston and is home to Harvard University, “fairly soon” once they are received from printers, a city spokesperson confirmed.

“The………

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Climate: Drilling and mining companies got a holiday gift from Trump

By: Cameron Oglesby on 31 December 2020, 12:15 pm

For a limited time only, some of America’s protected lands are open for heavy-duty industrial development. The Trump administration has made it a priority to open vast stretches of U.S. lands to mineral extraction projects. Over the past four years, at least 10 million acres have been leased to oil and drilling companies, turning formerly pristine forests and mountain-scapes into spreads of cratered, barren land laden with heavy machinery.

The next administration is likely to take a different approach to federal lands. President-elect Joe Biden will take office on January 20, 2021, and has announced a diverse and climate-conscious set of cabinet nominees. Notably, the nomination………

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Climate: A resolution for 2021: Be a better ancestor

By: Kate Yoder on 30 December 2020, 5:10 pm

Who needs the arrow of time, anyway? Roman Krznaric, an author and philosopher, is in search of unconventional ways of thinking about time, ones that aren’t tied directly to the clocks ticking all around us. In one exercise, he imagines his young daughter as a 90-year-old, cradling her first great-granddaughter in her arms.

“I look at her face, her old face, and I walk over to the window and look at the world outside, and see what kind of world that is,” he said. “I think of my daughter, or her great-grandchild, living well into the 22nd century — a time which is not science fiction, but an intimate family fact.”

It’s a sobering experiment for Krznaric, who, like a lot of us, has a “pretty dark” vision of the future. But most people don’t lose sleep over the fate of people who aren’t alive yet. More pressing concerns — the global pandemic, for example — have lodged themselves into our anxious brainspaces. The people of the future are………

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Fix: Fix got struck by climate cupid. Here’s who we’ve been crushing on this year.

By: Brianna Baker on 30 December 2020, 11:15 am

A lot of good stuff got buried in the bad news avalanche that was 2020. But fear not! Fix shoveled through the hip-deep snow to reveal our climate crushes — the leaders, thinkers, and system-shakers who gave us goo-goo eyes this year. They’re behind the movements, moments, and milestones that kept the climate momentum going. Some are individuals, others are groups, but all are swoon-worthy.

So settle in with a cup of cocoa and show some love for the people who have been driving progress, even through a blizzard of a year. (That’s our last snow metaphor. Promise.)

A cool (not cringey) climate-concerned celeb

Kevork Djansezian / Getty

Emmy-nominated Zazie Beetz — you know her from shows like Atlanta and movies like Joker — launched a must-see IGTV series this year: Zazie Talks Climate. Beetz interviews writers, activists, policymakers, and others to, in………

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Climate: After a century of growth, have carbon emissions reached their peak?

By: Shannon Osaka on 29 December 2020, 11:45 am

In late March, approximately a third of the world’s population found themselves under some kind of stay-at-home order due to COVID-19. The effects were dramatic: Virtually overnight, bumper-to-bumper traffic gave way to empty roads; bustling airports became echoing ghost towns; retail stores and restaurants closed their doors and turned off the lights. And some started wondering whether the coronavirus pandemic — and the abrupt halt in all those normal, fossil fuel–burning activities of life — would have a lasting effect on the overheating planet.

Now, as 2020 draws to a close, scientists have an answer — of a sort. According to the latest data from the Global………

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Justice: The environmental justice issue no one wants to talk about

By: Angely Mercado on 29 December 2020, 11:30 am

Environmental justice is having a moment. The term, which encompasses the many ways by which low-income people and communities of color suffer an unequal burden from pollution, contamination, and climate change, has seen a surge in use, largely due to the recent American political campaign.

Democratic primary candidates frequently mentioned environmental justice (or environmental racism) in their stump speeches, campaign pledges, and in debates — an indication that ideas that were not in the political discourse a decade ago, may shape some future climate policies. Environmental justice came up frequently enough in the primary that the first-ever Presidential Environmental Justice Forum was held in November 2019 and drew Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren, as well as billionaire activist Tom Steyer. It’s been a big focus of President-elect Joe Biden’s climate platform and was discussed frequently as he unveiled his climate team in earlier this month. Beyond the………

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Feature: Editors’ picks: Our favorite Fix stories of 2020

By: Fix staff on 29 December 2020, 10:35 am

In the final countdown to 2021, we’re taking a minute to look back on a year that’s been like no other. We asked Fix staff to share their favorite stories from the 2020 archive and to reflect on what made these pieces special. Whether it’s because they brought a hint of optimism to an otherwise grim year or because they taught us a little something new, these are the stories that stuck with us in 2020. We hope you’ll enjoy this highlight reel of hope while stuck inside this winter (unless you’re lying on a beach somewhere, in which case … jealous!).

Meet the Rapper-Turned-Restaurateur Bringing Beats (But Not Meats) to the East Bay

By Adrienne Day

Courtesy of Vegan Mob

“I choose this profile of Oakland artist and vegan chef Toriano Gordon. It’s………

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Climate: Only 2020 could bring us words like these

By: Kate Yoder on 28 December 2020, 11:45 am

Birth strike, flygskam, Pyrocene: And we thought things couldn’t get worse

Firenado, hothouse, smokestorm: The year fires went wild

Hotumn, meatmares, ecoanxiety: Oh, how young we all were then

Remember the Australian bushfires? Back in January, the unprecedented blazes looked like strong candidates to make wildfires the disaster theme of 2020, even as news buzzed in the background about the spread of a mysterious new coronavirus. Instead, the………

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Fix: This artist envisions an intersectional future for the climate movement

By: Claire Elise Thompson on 28 December 2020, 10:30 am

As 2020 draws to a close, Fix asked 21 climate and justice leaders to offer their predictions for 2021. We’re presenting a handful of their responses in depth — because we could all use some extra hope these days. Be sure to check out the full list of predictions here.

Layel Camargo is the ecological arts and culture manager at The Center for Cultural Power — an organization led by artists and women of color who support narratives and artistic endeavors that “imagine a world where power is distributed equitably and where we live in harmony with nature.”………

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Business & Technology: Floating ‘mini-nukes’ could power countries by 2025, says startup

By: Jillian Ambrose on 27 December 2020, 11:00 am

This story was originally published by The Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Floating barges fitted with advanced nuclear reactors could begin powering developing nations by the mid-2020s, according to a Danish startup company.

Seaborg Technologies believes it can make cheap nuclear electricity a viable alternative to fossil fuels across the developing world as soon as 2025.

Its seaborne “mini-nukes” have been designed for countries that lack the energy grid infrastructure to develop utility-scale renewable energy projects, many of which go on to use gas, diesel, and coal plants instead.

The ships are fitted with one or more small nuclear reactors, which can generate electricity and transmit the power to………

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Climate: Wildfire smoke is loaded with microbes. Is that dangerous?

By: Matt Simon on 26 December 2020, 11:00 am

This story was originally published by Wired and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

If you’re unfortunate enough to breathe wildfire smoke, you’re getting a lungful of charred plant material, noxious gases, and — if the fire tore through human structures — incinerated synthetic materials. All across the board, it’s bad stuff, proven to be a severe detriment to human health, particularly for those with respiratory conditions like asthma. And not to pile on the worries, but that haze also turns out to be loaded with microbes like bacteria and fungi.

The problem is, scientists have only just begun to study this smoky microbial community. That led a pair of researchers………

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Justice: Will California finally fulfill its promise to fix the Salton Sea?

By: Mark Olalde on 25 December 2020, 11:00 am

This story was originally published by High Country News and the Desert Sun is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Red flags flutter outside the schools in Salton City, California, when the air quality is dangerous. Dust billows across the desert, blanketing playgrounds and baseball diamonds, the swirling grit canceling recess and forcing students indoors. Visibility is so poor you can’t see down the block. Those days worry Miriam Juarez the most.

Juarez, a mother of three and active volunteer at the schools, often received calls to pick up her 7-year-old son, Lihan, when sudden nosebleeds soiled his outfits. But she couldn’t leave her job, harvesting vegetables in the fields that form square oases in the Coachella………

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Ask Umbra: Is wrapping paper wasteful, or is it the least of our problems?

By: Eve Andrews on 24 December 2020, 11:45 am

Q.Dear Umbra,

My family compulsively reuses wrapping paper, to the point that I think we’ve got some from decades ago. What is wrapping paper made from, how scary is it, and most importantly, should everyone become hoarders like my family?

— Giving In Family That Expects Reuse

A.Dear GIFTER,

Present wrapping is sort of the apotheosis of an environmentalist nightmare. You’re taking a gift (symbol of consumerism!) and dressing it up in shiny paper and bows and frills (single-use products!) that will be immediately discarded (landfill waste!). This is probably why environmentalists have long been considered “no fun.” Because wrapping — and, perhaps more accurately, unwrapping — presents is fun! It’s an experience replete with surprise, beauty, generosity, and other good stuff.

There are more environmentally sound ways to do it, of course. As you already do, keeping and reusing wrapping paper and ribbon and gift bags over………

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Climate: Congress finally wants to give a boost to this no-brainer clean energy technology

By: Emily Pontecorvo on 24 December 2020, 11:30 am

Congress made history on Monday, passing the first significant legislation to address climate change in more than a decade. As part of the almost 5,600-page omnibus bill that will fund the government through next September if President Trump signs it, lawmakers included requirements to phase down the use of powerful greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons and extend tax incentives for renewable energy projects.

For decades, investment tax credits have helped speed up solar and wind development by lowering costs. Now, they could do the same for another form of carbon-free energy that became eligible for a 30 percent tax credit for the first time ever. It’s called waste heat to power, or WHP.

In the U.S., about 67 percent of our energy is squandered. Various inefficiencies………

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