In June of 2022, upwards of 35 percent of the U.S. could instantly lose access to legal abortion. The Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization could effectively overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark case in 1973 which held that a person’s right to choose an abortion was integral to their right to privacy and therefore should not be dictated by the government. Through decades of carefully orchestrated, conservative state-level action, 24 states are poised to overturn Roe protections, including 10 with immediate “trigger bans” in place, which would remove already limited abortion access as soon as federal protection ends. While this is overwhelming, there are steps we can take now to protect and expand abortion access. Since change happens from the ground up, one of the most critical things we can do is to increase our support of state- and local-level reproductive rights and justice activism.
For people living in these “trigger ban” states, or in historically excluded communities across the country, already limited abortion access could end entirely. For those in sanctuary states like Colorado, limited resources could become even more strained. For all states, tenuous abortion access laws are only as strong as the current makeup of that state’s lawmakers. It took decades in Washington State and in Virginia, for example, to build up progressive state legislatures to advance reproductive rights protections, but it would not take long to undo that progress if either state legislature flipped to a conservative majority. In Southern states like North Carolina, a conservative state legislature is continuing to push through abortion restrictions despite the fact that the majority of constituents support Roe.
Every single person in the U.S. would be impacted by the overturning of Roe v. Wade. We all know and love someone who has had an abortion. In fact, an estimated 23.7 percent of people who can give birth will have an abortion by age 45. Without Roe, it will be even more likely you or someone you love could be criminally charged for having a miscarriage: In Georgia, people could face up to 30 years in prison for miscarrying; in Alabama, an individual was charged with manslaughter in the loss of pregnancy after being shot; in Washington State for miscarrying in a hotel room — or even for using certain forms of birth control. Any one of us could be sued for driving a friend or partner to their abortion, under the new Texas law that criminalizes “aiding and abetting” of abortions. If you are lucky to live in a place with state-level abortion protections, you could expect that your independent clinics and abortion providers, who are already under-resourced, would be further constrained when people from neighboring states come to seek care. No one is exempt from the impact of overturning Roe v. Wade, and no one should underestimate the power of precedent when it comes to removing individual rights to bodily autonomy.
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The protection of reproductive rights at the state level, both the creation of policies that improve abortion access and the prevention of restrictive policies that reduce it, has taken decades. It has been most effective with local power- and relationship-building, the intentional centering of community voices and the cultivation of egoless leadership. Expanding reproductive rights can only be accomplished through the continued building of trust with and participation by community members in the grassroots organizing groups.
Central to this discussion is that reproductive rights are only a small piece of the abortion access ecosystem. Local and regional abortion funds, and organizations like SisterSong, have for decades emphasized that legal protections are only the bare minimum, and often not even that. The right to live in health and safety takes far more than basic legal protections, and actual abortion access is dependent on several more factors than just whether Roe holds. This remains true, and if Roe is overturned, abortion access would become even more dependent than it already is on where a person lives, their income level, their physical ability, their type of insurance, where they are in their pregnancy, and deeply ingrained disparities due to their race, gender and how they self-identify. Roe has never been enough. We need better.
Fortunately, we are not without power. We can donate to or volunteer with grassroots organizations in our states and communities. We can support local abortion funds and volunteer to escort patients at clinics. We can ask local candidates — from school board commissioners to city councilors to state legislators — where they stand on reproductive rights, health and justice issues. We can vote in all municipal and state elections, and hold elected officials accountable to their campaign promises about abortion protection. We can remind each other that the decision to get an abortion is personal. We can and should speak out about why we support abortion access to help remove harmful abortion stigma. We can remind each other that the majority of people across the country support abortion access, and that the conservative action is not reflective of the majority viewpoint.
Abortion access impacts every single person in our country, regardless of gender, geographic location, income or political orientation. We cannot lose our fundamental right to private decision-making about our own bodies, and — while this feels frightening and overwhelming — we all can and should work together to make a difference. Your voice matters. Every voice does.
“There’s been a lot of large crowd gatherings tonight, a lot of celebratory fireworks going off, kind of spontaneous,” police Superintendent David Brown said. “They were dispersing a crowd when they heard shots and felt pain.”
Those were just two of some 88 shootings that occurred in Chicago over the weekend, with at least 14 fatalities in that number, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The victims, ranging in age from 12 to 30, were from incidents scattered across the city. The most tragic shooting saw a 12-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy killed and several others injured early Monday morning in Washington Park.
Milwaukee police are investing multiple shootings that occurred Sunday, resulting in several injuries and at least one death.
An 18-year-old woman was shot and killed Sunday at 11:30 p.m., with at least one suspect being sought. Other shootings resulted in an injury to a 30-year-old man and a 14-year-old girl.
President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, shown here on Jan. 20, 2021, attend Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle during Inauguration Day ceremonies in Washington, D.C.Evan Vucci/AP
After a contentious debate, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has voted to move forward with a process that could call into question the eligibility of politicians like President Joe Biden to receive Communion.
The bishops voted 168-55 in favor of drafting “a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church,” officials announced on Friday afternoon, the final day of their three-day virtual meeting. Six bishops abstained.
Biden’s election as only the nation’s second Roman Catholic president has prompted renewed debate over denying communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, a position at odds with church teachings.
During their online meeting, bishops held a spirited discussion Thursday before voting on the proposal to direct thebishops’ Committee on Doctrine to draft the statement. Such a document, once completed, could include guidelines for denying communion to public officials.
A Catholic president has become a lightning rod for debate
Biden was mentioned by name or alluded to several times, including by Bishop Liam Cary of the Diocese of Baker in Oregon, who described what he sees as an “unprecedented situation in the country.”Article continues after sponsor message
“We’ve never had a situation like this where the executive is a Catholic president opposed to the teaching of the church ” Cary said.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, who leads the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, has been among the most vocal critics of Biden’s support abortion rights. He said he’s disturbed by Catholic officials who “flaunt their Catholicity” while publicly taking positions on abortion that conflict with those of the church.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann, of Kansas City, presents a report on stem-cell research during the general meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Orlando, Fla., Thursday, June 12, 2008.Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP
“This is a Catholic president that’s doing the most aggressive thing we’ve ever seen in terms of this attack on life when it’s most innocent,” Naumann said.
Other bishops urged caution, echoing a warning from the Vatican that movingforward with the document could politicize the sacrament of Holy Communion and risk deepening divisions among American Catholics, at a time when many are just beginning to return to in-person worship.
“Bishops now want to talk about excluding people at a time when the real challenge before them is welcoming people back to the regular practice of the faith, and rebuilding their communities,” Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago warned.
Bishop Robert Coerver of Lubbock, Texas, described what he saw as a rush to address the issue, and suggested that the debate was being clouded by concerns about upcoming elections.
“I can’t help but wonder if the years 2022 and 2024 might be part of the rush,” he said. “And I think we need to be real careful not to get embroiled in the political situation.”
Soon after, Bishop Thomas Daly of the Spokane Diocese expressed skepticism about calls by some bishops for more time to discuss the matter and engage in dialogue with officials who support abortion rights.
“There is an aggressiveness in a number of elected officials, and this call for dialogue,” he said “Sometimes I wonder if the dialogue is meant not truly to listen but to delay.”
The bishops’ vote concerns what is largely a procedural step – but one fraught with debate, given larger disagreements over how church leaders treat public officials who take positions at odds with those of the Catholic Church. Those decisions currently are left to local bishops.
About two-thirds of American Catholics believe Biden should be allowed to receive Communion, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center released in March. But many Catholics – like Americans in general – are starkly divided on the issue by party; more than half of Catholics who also identify as Republicans said Biden should not be allowed to receive the sacrament because of his views on abortion.
Discussion of who can receive the sacrament has a long history
The issue of who is eligible to receive the sacrament also has divided U.S. Catholic Bishops; several have called for denying communion to Biden and other prominent Roman Catholic officials who take positions on abortion at odds with those of the Catholic church, while others have argued the Eucharist should not be used to advance political goals.
Church leaders have expressed concerns about declining Mass attendance, and how well parishioners understand the full meaning and significance of the sacrament. In 2019, only about one third of American Catholics surveyed by Pew said they believed the church’s teaching known as “transubstantiation” – or the idea that during communion, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Instead, most Catholics said they saw the sacrament as symbolic. According to church teaching, Catholics are expected to be free of any significant, unconfessed sin and in what’s known as a “state of grace” when receiving communion.
Similar discussions have arisen before, most notably when Democrat John Kerry, also a Roman Catholic, was running for President in 2004. The debate resurfaced surrounding Biden’s run for President in 2020.
Biden, only the nation’s second Catholic president, was endorsed by Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups during his presidential run in 2020. The year before, he pleased abortion rights advocates by ending his longtime support for the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funds from being used to pay for abortions for low-income women, in most cases.
The three-day meeting, which is being held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, ended on Friday afternoon.
Preparation of a new statement on the meaning of the Eucharist is only a first step; the bishops would have an opportunity to amend the proposed document at a future meeting before voting on whether or not to approve it. They’re scheduled to meet again in person in November.
Local media report San Pedro Mixtepec Clean Beaches Committee, who found the female dolphin, said it had received blows all over its body and injuries to its fins as well as a broken jaw.Dailymail.co.uk: News, Sport, Showbiz, Celebrities from Daily MailPauseNext video0:42 / 2:01SettingsFull-screenRead More
Mexican authorities, among them the Federal Prosecution for the Environment Protection (PROFEPA) and the secretary of Environmental and Natural Resources along with the Sea University are investigating the case in order to discover the cause of the death of the mammal.
The striped dolphin was reportedly 1.57 metres (5.15 feet) long and weighed around 100 kilogrammes (220 lbs).
Authorities have now removed the dolphin’s body from the beach.
The striped dolphin inhabits temperate or tropical, off-shore waters and is found in abundance in the North and South Atlantic Oceans, including the Mediterranean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. +6
Mexican authorities, among them the Federal Prosecution for the Environment Protection (PROFEPA) are now investigating
More: Dolphin is found suffocated to death by a DIAPER that got caught in its teeth and throat while it swam off the coast of Mexico
Also known as laughing gas, N2O does not get nearly the attention it deserves, says David Kanter, a nutrient pollution researcher at New York University and vice-chair of the International Nitrogen Initiative, an organisation focused on nitrogen pollution research and policy making. “It’s a forgotten greenhouse gas,” he says.
Yet molecule for molecule, N2O is about 300 times as potent as carbon dioxide at heating the atmosphere. And like CO2, it is long-lived, spending an average of 114 years in the sky before disintegrating. It also depletes the ozone layer. In all, the climate impact of laughing gas is no joke. Scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have estimated that nitrous oxide comprises roughly 6% of greenhouse gas emissions, and about three-quarters of those N2O emissions come from agriculture.
But despite its important contribution to climate change, N2O emissions have largely been ignored in climate policies. And the gas continues to accumulate. A 2020 review of nitrous oxide sources and sinks found that emissions rose 30% in the last four decades and are exceeding all but the highest potential emissions scenarios described by the IPCC. Agricultural soil – especially because of the globe’s heavy use of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser – is the principal culprit.
Synthetic fertilisers are a large source of N2O emissions in agriculture (Credit: Getty Images)
Today, scientists are looking at several ways to treat the soil or adjust farming practices to cut back on N2O production.
“Anything that can be done to improve fertiliser use efficiency would be big,” says Michael Castellano, an agroecologist and soil scientist at Iowa State University.
Humanity has tipped the Earth’s nitrogen cycle out of balance. Before the rise of modern agriculture, most plant-available nitrogen on farms came from compost, manure and nitrogen-fixing microbes which take nitrogen gas (N2) and convert it to ammonium, a soluble nutrient that plants can take up through their roots. That all changed in the early 1900s with the debut of the Haber-Bosch process that provided an industrial method to produce massive amounts of ammonia fertiliser.
This abundance of synthetic fertiliser has boosted crop yields and helped to feed people around the globe, but this surplus nitrate and ammonium comes with environmental costs. Producing ammonia fertiliser accounts for about 1% of all global energy use and 1.4% of CO2 emissions (the process requires heating nitrogen gas and subjecting it to pressures of up to 400 atmospheres, so it’s very energy-intensive). More importantly, the fertiliser drives increased emissions of nitrous oxide because farmers tend to apply the nitrogen to their fields in a few large batches during the year, and crops can’t use it all.
When plant roots don’t take up all the nutrients from fertiliser, the greenhouse gas N2O is released (Credit: E. Verhoeven et al/California Agriculture 2017/Knowable Magazine)
When plant roots don’t mop up that fertiliser, some of it runs off the field and pollutes waterways. What remains is consumed by a succession of soil microbes that convert the ammonia to nitrite, then nitrate and, finally, back to N2 gas. N2O is made as a by-product at a couple of points during this process.
There’s really a gold mine living in the soil – Isai Salas-González
Carefully dispensing fertiliser right when plants need it or finding ways to maintain yields with reduced nitrogen fertiliser would reduce these N2O emissions. Scientists are looking at various ways to do that. One strategy under investigation is to use precision agriculture techniques that use remote sensing technology to determine where and when to add nitrogen to fields, and how much. Another is to use nitrification inhibitors, chemicals that suppress the ability of microbes to turn ammonia into nitrate, impeding the creation of N2O and keeping the nitrogen in the soil for plants to use over a longer span of time.
Widely adopting these two practices would reduce nitrous oxide emissions about 26% from their current trajectory by 2030, according to a 2018 estimate by researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria. But the authors say it will take more than that to help meet greenhouse gas targets such as those set forth in the Paris Agreement. So, scientists are exploring additional strategies.
One option involves harnessing the potential of certain microbes to directly supply nitrogen to plants, much as nitrogen-fixing bacteria already do in partnership with beans, peanuts and other legumes. “There’s really a gold mine living in the soil,” says Isai Salas-González, an author of an article on the plant microbiome in the 2020 Annual Review of Microbiology and a computational biologist who recently completed a PhD at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In that vein, since 2019 the company Pivot Bio has marketed a microbial product called Pivot Bio Proven that, they say, forms a symbiosis with crops’ roots after an inoculant is poured in the furrows where corn seeds are planted. (The company plans to release similar products for sorghum, wheat, barley and rice.) The microbes spoon-feed nitrogen a little at a time in exchange for sugars leaked by the plant, reducing the need for synthetic fertiliser, says Karsten Temme, chief executive of Pivot Bio.
Microbes in the soil break ammonia down through a series of reactions, releasing N2O in the process, which can be measured in the field (Credit: Getty Images)
Temme says that company scientists created the inoculant by isolating a strain of the bacterium Kosakonia sacchari that already had nitrogen-fixing capabilities in its genome, although the genes in question were not naturally active under field conditions. Using gene editing technology, the scientists were able to reactivate a set of 18 genes so the bacterium makes the enzyme nitrogenase even in the presence of synthetic fertiliser. “We coax them to start making this enzyme,” Temme says.
Steven Hall, a biogeochemist at Iowa State University, is now testing the product in large, dumpster-sized containers with corn growing in them. Researchers apply the inoculant, along with different amounts of synthetic fertiliser, to the soil and measure corn yields, nitrous oxide production and how much nitrate leaches from the base of the containers. Though results of the trial are not yet out, Hall says there’s “good initial support” for the hypothesis that the microbes reduce the need for fertiliser, thereby reducing nitrous oxide emissions.
But some soil scientists and microbiologists are sceptical of a quick microbial fix. “Biofertilisers” like these have had mixed success, depending on the soil and environment in which they are applied, says Tolu Mafa-Attoye, an environmental microbiology graduate student at the University of Guelph in Canada. In one field study of wheat, for example, inoculating the crops with beneficial microbes enhanced growth of the plants but only resulted in slightly greater yields. Unknowns abound, Mafa-Attoye’s Guelph colleagues wrote in February in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems – such as whether the microbes will negatively affect the soil ecology or be outcompeted by native microbes.
Instead of adding in a microbe, it may make more sense to encourage the growth of desirable microbes that already exist in the soil, says Caroline Orr, a microbiologist at Teesside University in the UK. She has found that cutting back on pesticide use led to a more diverse microbial community and a greater amount of natural nitrogen fixation. In addition, production of nitrous oxide is influenced by the availability of carbon, oxygen and nitrogen – and all are affected by adjusting fertiliser use, irrigation and ploughing.
Take tillage, for example. An analysis of more than 200 studies found that nitrous oxide emissions increased in the first 10 years after farmers stopped or cut back on ploughing their land. But after that, emissions fell. Johan Six, a co-author of the analysis and an agroecologist at ETH Zürich in Switzerland, thinks that’s because the soils start out in a heavily compacted state after years of equipment driving over them. Over time, though, the undisturbed soil forms a cookie-crumb-like structure that allows more air to flow in. And in high oxygen environments, microbes produce less nitrous oxide. Such no-till systems also result in more carbon storage because less ploughing means reduced conversion of organic carbon to CO2– thereby providing an additional climate benefit.
Switching to minimal ploughing could help reduce N2O emissions from soils (Credit: Getty Images)
It may even be possible for farmers to save money on fertiliser and water and reduce emissions, all while maintaining yields. In research on tomato farms in California’s Central Valley, Six found that study plots with reduced tillage and a drip irrigation system that slowly oozed nitrogen to plants – reducing how much of the nutrient pooled in the soil – lowered N2O emissions by 70% compared with conventionally managed plots. The farmer who implemented those changes was also compensated for his greenhouse gas reduction through the state’s cap-and-trade program. With the right incentives, persuading farmers to cut their emissions might not be that hard, says Six.
In Missouri, farmer Andrew McCrea grows 2,000 acres of corn and soy in a no-till system. This year, he plans to trim back his fertiliser use and see if the Pivot Bio inoculant can keep his yields more or less the same. “I think all farmers certainly care about the soil,” he says. “If we can cut costs, that’s great too.”
And if policymakers turn to tackling nitrous oxide, there should be rippling benefits for all of us, says Kanter of New York University. Some of them could be more rapid and tangible than addressing climate change. The same measures that lower N2O levels also reduce local air and water pollution as well as biodiversity losses. “Those are things that people will see and feel immediately,” Kanter says, “within years as opposed to within decades or centuries.”
China will allow all couples to have a third child in a bid to arrest the shrinking birthrate and aging population that are risks to the country’s long-term economic prospects.
“Allowing every couple to have three children and implementing related support policies will help improve the population’s structure,” the Xinhua News Agency reported, citing a Politburo meeting held Monday. It wasn’t clear when the move would take effect, although the meeting was to discuss major policy measures to be implemented in the five-year period which started this year, according to Xinhua.
China has been gradually reforming its stringent birth policy that limited most families for many years to only having a single child, with a second child allowed since 2016. However, that did little to reverse the declining birthrate and further relaxation of the limits is unlikely to lead to a sustained increase.Report ad
The Politburo also said that China “will prudently lift the retirement age in a phased manner,” according to the report of the meeting presided over by President Xi Jinping. The increase in the age at which people can retire was included in the current five-year plan although there were no details.
China’s declining birthrate means the population may soon begin shrinking. Bloomberg Economics estimates the slowdown in population growth means the world’s most populous country could peak before 2025. The annual average population growth of 0.53% in the past decade was the slowest since the 1950s, according to recent census data released.
As in East Asia and Europe, preferences have shifted toward smaller families. A spike in births following the previous relaxation to allow most families to have two children was short-lived, with many parents citing the high costs of housing and education as a limiting factor. There were only 12 million new babies born in China last year, the lowest number since 1961.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews look at the scene where dozens of people were killed and some 150 injured in a stampede during the Lag BaOmer festival at Mount Meron in northern Israel on Friday.Sebastian Scheiner/AP
JERUSALEM — At least 45 people were killed and some 150 more injured in a crush at a religious festival of ultra-Orthodox Jews in northern Israel, where tens of thousands of faithful had convened in one of the country’s largest events since the pandemic began.
The chaos at Mount Meron began early Friday at the festival of Lag BaOmer, which features bonfires and dancing around the Galilee tomb of a 2nd century rabbi.
Witnesses said people were asphyxiated or trampled in the tightly packed corridor. The stampede occurred in the men’s section of the gender-segregated festival, Reuters reported, quoting medics, who said that casualties included children.
Officials had limited the number of bonfires at the site this year in an attempt to control crowds because of COVID-19 concerns.
“There weren’t a lot of bonfires this year, and I believe that’s why everyone came all at once,” said a young survivor, identified as Avraham, speaking to Israeli Channel 12 television from his hospital bed.
Hezi Levi, the director general of Israel’s Ministry of Health, told NPR that he was concerned about a potential virus outbreak because of the large crowds.
“I expressed yesterday my concern of gathering together of hundreds of thousands of people who are coming to celebrate the Lag BaOmer, and we spoke about a scenario that might be very dangerous regarding corona,” Levi said. “We are not sure that everybody is vaccinated. We know children under 16 years old are not vaccinated. And it’s very dangerous to transfer the disease.”Article continues after sponsor message
Despite warnings from Israeli health officials, local media estimated the crowd at this year’s festival at around 100,000 people.
Another witness told Haaretz newspaper, “It happened in a split second; people just fell, trampling each other. It was a disaster.”
Rescue officials put the death toll at 45. Zaki Heller, a spokesman for the Magen David Adom rescue service, said 150 people had been hurt in the stampede, six of them were in critical condition.
Authorities struggled to identify the dead, asking families to bring medical records and photographs of their relatives to Israel’s central morgue.
Relatives continued to search for their missing loved ones Friday morning, after buses evacuated crowds from the site overnight and cellphone service collapsed in the area. Israelis posted photos of their relatives, and the Israeli president’s office set up an emergency hotline to help families searching for missing relatives.
Families of those who died in the stampede are racing to bury the dead before sundown Friday, the start of the Jewish Sabbath when burials do not take place.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the site of an overnight stampede during an ultra-Orthodox religious gathering in the northern Israeli town of Meron, on Friday.Ronen Zvulun/Pool/AFP via Getty Images
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who briefly visited Mount Meron around midday Friday, called the tragedy “one of the worst disasters that has befallen the state of Israel.” He said Sunday would be a day of national mourning.
The death toll is similar to number of people killed in a 2010 forest fire, which has been regarded as Israel’s deadliest civilian tragedy, according to The Associated Press.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said Israel received an outpouring of condolences from Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and representatives of aboutadozen other countries, including the Gulf Arab kingdom of Bahrain, which established diplomatic ties with Israel last year.
One act of kindness caught local media attention: Despite the Muslim fast for Ramadan, residents of a Palestinian Arab town in the area set up food and drink for Jewish participants evacuating the pilgrimage site.
On Friday, January 15th, two activists drove eight hours from Eugene, Oregon, to a remote corner of public land in Nevada, where they pitched a tent in below-freezing temperatures and unfurled a banner declaring: “Protect Thacker Pass.” You’ll be forgiven if you’ve never heard of the place—it’s seriously in the boonies—but these activists, Will Falk and Max Wilbert, hope to make it into a household name.
One of the activists is Will Falk, a writer and lawyer who helped bring a suit to US District Court seeking personhood for the Colorado River in 2017. He describes himself as a “biophilic essayist” and he certainly lyrical in describing the area where they set up:
“Thacker Pass is a quintessential representation of the Great Basin’s specific beauty. Millions of years ago a vast lake stretched across this land. Now, oceans of sagebrush wash over her. If you let the region’s characteristic stillness settle into your imagination, you’ll see how the sagebrush flows and swells like the ancient lake that was once here. On the north and south ends of the Pass, mountains run parallel to each other. The mountains feature outcroppings of volcanic rock left by the active volcano that was here even before the ancient lake. The mountains cradle you with the valley’s dips and curves up to the ever-changing, never-ending Great Basin sky. During the day, the sun shines down full-strength creating shape-shifting shadows on the mountain faces. At night, the stars and moon shine with such intensity and clarity that you can almost hear the light as it pours to the ground.”
I’ve spent enough time in the Great Basin to attest to its beauty myself: the dramatic ranges, the expansive flats, the gnarled trees, the stiff-stemmed wildflowers, and the lean, sinewy jack rabbits; they are all expressions of endurance in a landscape imbued with the echoes of the ancient. How long ago it must have been, when waves lapped the foothills, yet the shapes they left are unmistakable. The sense is palpable of being elevated, inland, and isolated from the ocean—the waterways here don’t run to the sea, hence the name “basin.”
Austere as it all is, humans have lived in the area for many thousands of years, digging roots, gathering seeds & berries, harvesting pinenuts and hunting game. These traditions, though assaulted, survive.
To the Europeans seeking fertile valleys to farm or dense forest to cut, the Great Basin offered little to nothing, so most of the folks from “back east” just passed through. But ranching and mining cursed the region since the invasion began, and its grasses were razed and its rocks ripped open. Still, many areas, especially up the slopes, were spared the hammering that befell the tallgrass praries of the Midwest and the old growth forests of the West, which were extirpated to the degree of 95% or more. In fact, some of the last best wildlife habitat in the lower 48 still hangs on in the Great Basin, ragged though it might be around the edges.
Yet it seems the time has come when these “wastelands,” as so many erroneously consider them, will be put on the chopping block for a new kind of exploitation: “green” energy development. Massive solar arrays and huge wind farms have been taking the lead in this latest wave of exploitation, and now mining is being imposed. Not coal for fuel or gold for wealth but lithium for electric car batteries.
Thacker Pass is the site of a proposed lithium mine that would impact nearly 5700 acres—close to nine square miles—and which would include a giant open pit mine over two square miles in size, a sulfuric acid processing plant, and piles of tailings. The operation would use 850 million gallons of water annually and 26,000 gallons of diesel fuel per day. The ecological damage in this delicate, slow-to-heal landscape would be permanent, at least on the human scale. At risk are a number of animal and plant species including the threatened Greater Sage Grouse, Pygmy Rabbits, the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, a critically imperiled endemic snail species known as the Kings River Pyrg, old growth Big Sagebrush and Crosby’s Buckwheat, to name just those that are locally significant. Also present in the area are Golden Eagles, Pronghorn Antelope, and Bighorn Sheep.
A cultural heritage also exists in this area. In describing the north-south corridor immediately to the east of Thacker Pass, wildtender Nikki Hill says:
“This pass in Nevada is a bridge of great importance. My auntie, Finisia Medrano, would speak of how this was the way one would travel by horse or foot from the wild gardens of Eastern Oregon to continue into Nevada and still be supported, finding food and water for the journey. She would speak of how there was no other real good way to make this crossing, due to a lack of resources in the surrounding landscape. If this is the case for a human, it is the case for all the non human people traversing this area as well. There is so much fragmentation, in landscape, mentality and relations, all stemming from a displaced sense of belonging. How will we know our way back to places, both in spirit and in touch, without threads of continuity to weave together?”
It’s industry vs. ecology once again, and there’s nothing “sustainable” about it for the thousands of creatures who will lose their lives or homes if the mine is allowed to happen.
The reason that Will Falk and his fellow activist Max Wilbert rushed to the site on January 15th was because that’s the day the Bureau of Land Management issued it’s “record of decision,” which greenlighted this horrific project. The BLM considered four alternatives and admitted that it did not choose the “environmentally preferable” one—which was no mine—because it would not have satisfied the “purpose and need”—which was obviously the mine itself. I point this out to illustrate that US land management decisions are primarily made in favor of development not preservation. Typically, what environmental regulations do exist are weak, poorly enforced, and increasingly watered down. Hence, Falk and Wilbert’s decision to take direct action.
This is not the most comfortable time of year to be camped out in northern Nevada, so I admire them for making this choice. Overnight lows are in the teens and twenties at this time of year, and daily highs in the thirties and forties. Snow is possible. But it’s the truth that showing up is often the only way to make a difference.
They sent out a press release on Monday, January 18th, announcing their encampment. Said Falk: “Environmentalists might be confused about why we want to interfere with the production of electric car batteries.”
Here, Falk is speaking to the fact that over the last twenty years, the focus of mainstream environmentalism has narrowed in on carbon pollution as a central concern, too often to the exclusion of issues like industrial development, technological consumption and other forms of pollution. Specifically, the topic of automobile use has been reduced to a question of emissions when, in reality, cars and car culture are problematic for many other reasons:
Car-related deaths in the US are typically around 40,000 per year, and far more people are injured, sometimes maimed for life.
Cars kill countless animals annually in both urban and rural settings. Whether the vehicle is gas-powered or battery-powered doesn’t make a difference to the poor squirrel, cat, coyote, skunk or deer who is taken out.
Roads themselves demand a tremendous amount of resources for their construction and upkeep. If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of carbon in the world.
In rural areas, roads fragment habitat, preventing natural pattern of foraging, hunting and migration.
Car tires contain toxic substances that are harmful to wildlife, and as the Guardian recently reported, Salmon in the Pacific Northwest are being killed by a chemical being washed into rivers and streams by the rain.
City life is made far less hospitable by the quantity, speed, and dominating presence of cars. Streets and parking lots can take up 50% of a US city. Much of that would be better be used for other purposes like pedestrian plazas, green spaces and urban agriculture.
Then there are the cultural aspects of car culture. The car-based suburbs struck a terrible blow to localized communities in the US, breaking up close-knit urban neighborhoods and replacing them with atomized subdivisions, in which each household (now reduced to its “nuclear” form, without extended family) was isolated with a propaganda machine. The “conveniences” imposed on us then ended up having a far higher price tag than advertised, and the resulting consumer culture is now swallowing up the world. From a mental health stand point, the alienation the suburbs inflicted on our society still tortures us to this day.
More subtle, but very real, is the way our perception is shaped by observing the world from inside a metal box at great speed. From a vantage of insulation and separation, other objects—including people—are reduced to mere obstacles. The dehumanization that is imprinted this way doesn’t immediately end when we get out of the vehicle.
Replacing gas stations with charging stations is not going to address any of this. Though the globalized system of extraction that supports all of this is itself running out of fuel, I fear that electric vehicles will only draw out the agony.
Some will argue that electric cars are beneficial regardless of all of the above, because they do reduce emissions while driving, and doesn’t that make them worth it? That’s unclear. The entire calculus must include the damage incurred by lithium mining, and by all the other extractive activities needed specifically for electric cars. The air might indeed be fresher in the city, but at the cost of habitat destruction, pollution and human suffering in another place—in somebody else’s home.
“The biodiversity crisis is every bit as dire as the climate crisis, and sacrificing biodiversity in the name of climate change makes no scientific or moral sense. Over the last 50 years, Earth has lost nearly two thirds of its wildlife. Habitat loss is the major cause. Humans can’t keep destroying important wildlife habitat and still avoid ecosystem collapse.”
Human rights issues are also in the mix. Lest we forget, the US-backed right-wing coup in Bolivia in late 2019 was motivated in part by desire to control the lithium deposits in the Andean highlands, a place of otherworldly beauty. (See “Coups-for-Green-Energy added to Wars-For-Oil.”) Though the Bolivian people have since taken back their government, they experienced violence and suffering in the meantime. Unfortunately, the socialist party returned to power also favors mining the lithium. Their model is Venezuela, where oil profits were used to fund social programs. So, US leftists should take note that overthrowing capitalists does not automatically translate into “green” policy.
As Falk said: “It’s wrong to destroy a mountain for any reason – whether the reason is fossil fuels or lithium.”
The real answer, of course, is fewer cars. Plenty of activists, academics and planners have been talking about how to do that for years, and there’s plenty of solutions to pick from. What’s been lacking so far is the political will and the vibrant movement needed to force that will.
Nikki Hill further commented:
“The answer to the climate crisis is not ramping up new, more, green energy. This ‘green’ is just a word coloring the vision of insatiable growth, peddled by green greed. The green we need so desperately is the one that fills our hearts with connected wonder with the rest of the living world. And that requires slowing the fuck down.”
Indeed. And as of Friday, January 15th, two activists are camped out in Thacker Pass, Nevada, to slow down—and hopefully stop—that insatiable growth.
When world leaders get serious about reducing carbon emissions, we can raise families determined to improve the planet’s future
Family time: ‘In a conversation like this the stakes are so high that the largest reasons for having children – love, hope – can be dismissed in an inch of ink.’ Photograph: Alamy Stock PhotoSun 13 Dec 2020 03.00 EST
When I had my daughter I felt like the first person to have a baby; now I’ve had my son, I feel like I might be the last. An academic study into how young people factor climate change into their reproductive choices makes for dark reading, with 96% “very or extremely” concerned about their potential children in a climate-changed world. For some the concern is so severe they’ve decided not to have children at all. “I can’t in good conscience bring a child into this world and force them to try to survive what may be apocalyptic conditions,” one 27-year-old woman said.Advertisement
More shocking even, were the 6% of parents who confessed to feeling remorse about having children. One 42-year-old father painted a Goya-like picture of his children’s adult life, “a hot-house hell, with wars over limited resources, collapsing civilisation, failing agriculture, rising seas, melting glaciers, starvation, droughts, floods, mudslides and widespread devastation”. After reading this, I put the kettle on and had a small cup of tea and waited until my hands stopped shaking. Bloody hell. Literally, bloody hell. Man, I feel for that dad, singing his children to sleep before curling up on the landing and rocking, slowly. As well as pressing upon one of my archipelago of dready bruises, his quote made me consider the intellectual compromises required in order to have a baby.
There are the physical details – a person growing inside you – which, at the beginning especially, are so unlikely they feel more akin to a metaphor or fable than science. There is the naming of the child, a task better suited to a god, who at least would not be burdened with class prejudice or negative associations with snotty classmates. There is the folding of tiny empty vests, the fantasies of their talents. And then, the stories one must tell themselves to stave off the terrors that come free with every child. Terrors including but not limited to: the child rolling off the sofa, going hungry, being bullied or, at the far end of the continuum, being drowned aged 38 in a town-sized mudslide. This catastrophising leads to such things as the purchase of knee-pads or, in the case of this 42-year-old dad, terrible, terrible regret.
These doom-tinged prophesies are not unique to those with climate anxiety – they are baked into parenthood
Which is not to say it’s irrational. All signs, yes, lead to horrible devastation, and indeed, it is a good idea for a child to wear protective clothing when careening on their scooter down a bumpy hill. But these doom-tinged prophesies are not unique to those with climate anxiety – they are baked into parenthood. Ask any group of childless young people today if they want kids and many of the reasonable ones will say no, partly because it is no longer taboo to be honest about wanting to keep your independence, and live a beautiful life of freedom with the responsibility of only your own arse to wipe, and partly because until one has a child, such a thing remains abstract and completely bananas. It is a trick question, grounded in the privilege of choice. There are thousands of reasons not to have kids – the fact that the world is ending is simply one of them.
I do not begrudge for a second these people choosing to remain childless either in an attempt to save the planet, or for fear of the child having to live through its death rattle. It is entirely sensible – in fact there are few rational reasons to have a child. But I do feel uneasy about the load of responsibility and sacrifice placed on to individuals, rather than companies or countries.
The problem for those surveyed is that having kids increases global warming. But if our polluting industries and the governments that support them limited their energy use, the children themselves would not cause such harm. If world leaders made serious changes, actively reducing carbon emissions and the use of fossil fuels, the basic needs of children, like staying warm or even travelling abroad, need not be so impactful.
In a conversation like this the stakes are so high that the largest reasons for having children – love, hope – can be dismissed in an inch of ink. But, well, maybe that’s for the best.
Because, of course, the choice to procreate and care for a stranger for the rest of your life, to carry them first in your belly and then on your back and then in every line on your face is a mad and objectively silly idea. And yet, some people will continue to do it in the same way that they will continue to fall in love. This is what humans do. And each child’s future will always be uncertain, because that is the nature of future. But we know that humans adapt, because we’ve seen ourselves adapt.
In the same way that having a baby makes a person suddenly aware of steps a buggy can’t manage, so it can radicalise them, creating a family determined to improve their planet’s future. To have a baby is to indulge in an ancient form of magical thinking, where fairytales are made flesh. Where all terrors must be swallowed and their stones spat out, clean now, and ready to plant.