Activists Occupy Site of Proposed Lithium Mine in Nevada

By Kollibri terre Sonnenblume, originally published by Macska Moksha Press

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 placeit’s seriously in the booniesbut 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 oceanthe 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 acresclose to nine square milesand 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” onewhich was no minebecause 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 objectsincluding peopleare 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 placein somebody else’s home.

In a statement issued by the Western Watersheds Project about the BLM approving the Thacker Pass lithium mine, Kelly Fuller, their Energy and Mining Campaign Director warned:

“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 downand hopefully stopthat insatiable growth.

To follow or support the campaign, visit the Protect Thacker Pass website at or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.

This article draws on a podcast interview I did with Will Falk on January 18th. Listen to it here.

Teaser Photo by Max Wilbert

Having kids increases global warming.

But don’t blame the parents…

Eva Wiseman

When world leaders get serious about reducing carbon emissions, we can raise families determined to improve the planet’s future

Family having a picnic beside their camper van, waist upGKC216 Family having a picnic beside their camper van, waist up

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.

Climate ‘apocalypse’ fears stopping people having children – study

Survey of 600 people finds some parents regret having offspring for same reason

Children at a climate protest in Brussels

Born into a dying world? Children at a climate protest in Brussels, Belgium. Photograph: Isopix/Rex/ShutterstockDamian Carrington Environment editor@dpcarringtonFri 27 Nov 2020 06.00 EST


People worried about the climate crisis are deciding not to have children because of fears that their offspring would have to struggle through a climate apocalypse, according to the first academic study of the issue.

The researchers surveyed 600 people aged 27 to 45 who were already factoring climate concerns into their reproductive choices and found 96% were very or extremely concerned about the wellbeing of their potential future children in a climate-changed world. One 27-year-old woman said: “I feel like I can’t in good conscience bring a child into this world and force them to try and survive what may be apocalyptic conditions.”

These views were based on very pessimistic assessments of the impact of global heating on the world, the researchers said. One respondent, for example, said it would “rival world war one in its sheer terror”. The research also found that some people who were already parents expressed regret over having their children.

Having a child also potentially means that person going on to produce a lifetime of carbon emissions that contribute to the climate emergency, but only 60% of those surveyed were very concerned about this carbon footprint.

“The fears about the carbon footprint of having kids tended to be abstract and dry,” said Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, of Yale-NUS College in Singapore, who led the study. “But the fears about the lives of existing or potential children were really deep and emotional. It was often heartbreaking to pore through the responses – a lot of people really poured their hearts out.”Advertisement

The number of people factoring climate change into their reproductive plans was likely to grow, Schneider-Mayerson said, as the impacts of global heating became more obvious. “To address this, we really need to act immediately to address the root cause, which is climate change itself,” he said.

The study, published in the journal Climatic Change, found no statistically significant difference between the views of women and men, though women made up three-quarters of respondents. A 31-year-old woman said: “Climate change is the sole factor for me in deciding not to have biological children. I don’t want to birth children into a dying world [though] I dearly want to be a mother.”

The researchers found that 6% of parents confessed to feeling some remorse about having children. A 40-year-old mother said: “I regret having my kids because I am terrified that they will be facing the end of the world due to climate change.”

Schneider-Mayerson said: “I was surprised – for parents, this is an extremely difficult statement to make.”BirthStrikers: meet the women who refuse to have children until climate change endsRead more

The study is the first peer-reviewed academic study of the issue and analysed a large group of concerned people. The survey was done anonymously so people could express themselves freely.

“It is an unprecedented window into the way that [some people] are thinking and feeling about what many consider to be the most important decision in their lives,” said Schneider-Mayerson.

Other findings were that younger people were more concerned about the climate impacts their children would experience than older respondents, and that adoption was seen as a potential alternative to having biological children.

The study indicated that climate-related fears for their children’s lives were rooted in a deeply pessimistic view of the future. Of the 400 respondents who offered a vision of the future, 92.3% were negative, 5.6% were mixed or neutral, and just 0.6% were positive.

One 42-year-old father wrote that theworld in 2050 would be “a hot-house hell, with wars over limited resources, collapsing civilisation, failing agriculture, rising seas, melting glaciers, starvation, droughts, floods, mudslides and widespread devastation.” Schneider-Mayerson said he thought the pessimistic views held were all within the range of possibilities, if not necessarily the most likely outcome.

However, he said further research was needed on a more diverse group of people and in other parts of the world. The self-selecting group in the study all lived in the US and were largely white, more highly educated and liberal.

Previously, opinion polls of the general public indicated people were connecting the climate crisis and reproduction, with one poll in 2020 finding that among 18- to 44-year-old US citizens without children, 14% cited climate change as a “major reason” for not having children. In 2019, scores of women in the UK said they were starting a “birth strike” until the climate crisis was resolved.A-Z of climate anxiety: how to avoid meltdownRead more

Seth Wynes, of Concordia University in Canada, whose 2017 study found having one less child was the greatest impact individuals can have in fighting climate change, said the researchers had properly stressed that the sample was not representative of all Americans. But he said the distress over the decision to have children made sense. “Climate change is already affecting our world in frightening ways and so it’s certainly reasonable to account for the climate crisis when thinking about the future of one’s family.

“As climate change continues to worsen, it is important to understand how perceptions of the future can change the way everyday people plan their lives,” Wynes said. “This study is an initial step in growing that understanding.”

There is also growing evidence of climate anxiety affecting mental health and earlier in 2020 more than 1,000 clinical psychologists signed an open letter warning of “acute trauma on a global scale”. Last week, a survey revealed that more than half of child and adolescent psychiatrists in England were seeing patients distressed about the state of the environment.

The Psychology of Denying Overpopulation

Douglas T. Kenrick Ph.D.

Easy math meets bad behavioral economics.

Posted Sep 13, 2020

Let’s imagine we were giving an award for the worst social problem in the world today. Do you have any nominations? 

International conflict? Racial prejudice? Environmental destruction? Millions of homeless refugees? Exploitation of women? There’s one problem that connects all of those, but politicians are often silent about it. 

Overpopulation may not be the root of all evil, but it is indeed at the root of many of the world’s other miseries.

Just do the math. As a minimum, every additional person needs a certain quantity of food to eat and clean water to drink. Extra people could, in theory, live without roofs over their heads, but no one wishes for a world with more homeless people. Beyond basic needs for food, water, and shelter, more people need more energy—to light their homes and cook their food, and when that is achieved—to power their refrigerators and washing machines. At higher levels of economic development, people desire cell phones, big screen televisions, and automobiles. At the highest levels, they want second homes and vacations in far-away destinations, reached by flying on gas-guzzling airplanes. 

More people means more competition for food and clean water, more demand for places to build homes, and more energy consumed. You don’t need a fancy mathematical model, just the ability to add two and two (or two billion and two billion, still second grade math). 

The predictable result of all those extra people satisfying all their increasing energy needs is water and air pollution, garbage floating in the oceans, forests being cut down, longer and longer traffic jams, and increasing urban sprawl. Easy math there, too.

You need to do a little multiplication to understand how the different consequences of overpopulation magnify one another. In a recent blog, I noted how Thomas Homer-Dixon and a team of eminent political scientists linked overpopulation and its consequent resource depletion to intergroup conflict—which follows as people migrate out of blighted areas like Bangladesh into other overpopulated areas, like India, where migrants are unwanted. Homer-Dixon made the case in Scientific American in 1992, when the world population was just over 5 billion. It’s now around 7.5 billion and, perhaps predictably, there are now 150 million homeless people in the world, and an estimated 1.5 billion more (that’s billion) living in “inadequate shelter.” The equation works against people living in countries with the least resources, which are growing at faster rates, so there’s less to go around but more people needing it. 

After I mentioned this topic recently (an open letter to Samantha Power), one reader referred me to the writings of Philip Cafaro, a philosopher at Colorado State who writes about environmental ethics, overpopulation and the preservation of wild nature. I just finished reading Cafaro’s article on “Climate ethics and population policy,” and recently began his book, “How many is too many: The progressive argument for reducing immigration into the United States.” 

In the article on climate ethics and population, Cafaro noted that the continuing failure to deal with overpopulation is not solely the fault of traditional religious groups, like the Catholic church (which has actively worked against birth control). Cafaro points out that his fellow progressives often refuse to talk about the problem, and sometimes attack and insult him when he even brings it up. article continues after advertisement

Why would progressives refuse to talk about the problem of overpopulation? Well, the reader who pointed me to Cafaro’s work also pointed me to an article by George Monbiot in the Guardian,  titled “Population panic lets rich people off the hook for the climate crisis they are fuelling.” Monbiot rails at middle class Americans and Brits, such as Jane Goodall, who dare to publicly express concerns about overpopulation. Here is a central part of Monbiot’s case: 

Malthusianism slides easily into racism. Most of the world’s population growth is happening in the poorest countries, where most people are black or brown. The colonial powers justified their atrocities by fomenting a moral panic about “barbaric”, “degenerate” people “outbreeding” the “superior races”. These claims have been revived today by the far right, who promote conspiracy theories about “white replacement” and “white genocide”. When affluent white people wrongly transfer the blame for their environmental impacts on to the birthrate of much poorer brown and black people, their finger-pointing reinforces these narratives. It is inherently racist. 

That helps explain why people like Cafaro might be reluctant to talk about overpopulation. But Cafaro argues that overpopulation denial is ultimately harmful to the very third-world people Monbiat claims to be defending against the nefarious Jane Goodall. 

Indeed, ignoring the consequences of overpopulation is the most immoral thing we can do, whether we are good Catholics or ultra-progressive atheists, and whether we are concerned about people in the first or the third world. The world’s poor are the ones experiencing the worst consequences. It is their forests  being obliterated most rapidly, their water being dried up or polluted, their children without enough food to eat, their tribes being driven from their homes by other local tribes who want the same scarcer and scarcer resources. 

One temporary solution is to open our borders, allowing more of the world’s desperate people to come to the United States, England, the Netherlands, and Germany. That is the case Samantha Power made in her painful stories of the desperate people she encountered as a journalist and later as U.N. ambassador, which triggered my earlier open letter. The statistics seem to indicate that most immigrants are not criminals or terrorists, but are, compared to those who grow up in first world countries, actually more eager to work long and hard hours. Cafaro acknowledges the obvious — opportunities in a first world country are substantially greater than those in the third world. And if you are a rich or middle class American, immigrants bring benefits, such as cheaper labor and better bottom lines on stock dividends (large corporations have used the availability of cheaper immigrant labor to break unions, drastically cut salaries and benefits for employees, and produce more net profits for investors).article continues after advertisement

But Cafaro notes that the benefits to middle and upper-class Americans translate into severe costs for poorer Americans. Middle-class people are generally out of touch with how those economic benefits to them translate into the hefty costs associated with unemployment or underemployment among African-Americans, poor whites, and native Hispanics. Many of these less fortunate groups have lost the union jobs that permitted their parents to live comfortable lives. This in turn leads to loss of health care benefits, and many other unpleasant downstream consequences. 

There are other costs to overpopulation, both within and outside the boundaries of first world countries. The destruction of natural habitats to increase farmland and suburbs, combined with overfishing the oceans, has led to the extinction or near extinction of many other species, and diminished the pleasures of finding a quiet natural place to walk and listen to the birds.  

To the argument that it is immoral to encourage other people to reduce their family size, Cafaro counters that it is immoral to close our eyes to the environmental destruction, starvation, and future wars that follow from ignoring overpopulation.

Policies to reduce population size don’t need to be coercive.  Indeed, Cafaro points to data suggesting millions of people in poorer countries who would be happy to control their family sizes if  given access to free or low-cost birth control. Making abortion legal and safe would also help. Some people have reasonable objections to abortion, but if those objections are also accompanied by an opposition to birth control, which could reduce abortions, that is harder to justify given current world population and all the attendant problems of scarcity and desperation facing many children born into the third world. A third solution should be noncontroversial: support education for women, because women who stay in school have fewer children, and those children of educated moms live better lives.  article continues after advertisement

Cafaro also points out that having one less child does more for the environment than all of the other pro-environmental choices you could make: buying a hybrid car, putting in solar panels, improving your insulation, driving and flying less are things we should all consider, of course, but they don’t add up to nearly the same benefits as a little bit of family planning.  

There is another obstacle that stems not from religious fundamentalism or misguided political correctness, and I’ve heard it from some of my most educated friends. An ever-increasing population means an ever-increasing market for goods, and is better for “the economy.” But this is using a short-sighted definition of economic utility, which considers dollar signs in the immediate future but ignores the unequal distribution of those dollars into some people’s accounts but not others. The economic utility argument has multiple flaws if we see utility in a world in which fewer people are desperate and miserable, more people live comfortable lives, and more of us get to enjoy the best things in life (that should be free, like a nearby forest or stream).

Back to the math, there is a point at which cramming the world with more people to generate more profits simply can’t go on. That point may already be upon us, and the question is whether we can use our knowledge of human psychology and behavioral economics to rebalance the equation. At the least, we could devote more intellectual and economic resources to getting people to stop denying the problem.

Ocasio-Cortez discusses family planning, possibly freezing her eggs

[Here’s an idea; how about not breeding at all (especially if she wants to be a role model for today’s world). She could always adopt (another dog or cat)…]

Judy Kurtz  2 hrs ago

21 pictures of truly beautiful destinationsTrump, Biden make final campaign push with less than a week before…Ocasio-Cortez discusses family planning, possibly freezing her eggs

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) says she’s thinking about starting a family and has considered freezing her eggs.a woman sitting on a bench talking on a cell phone: Ocasio-Cortez discusses family planning, possibly freezing her eggs© Greg Nash Ocasio-Cortez discusses family planning, possibly freezing her eggs

“I’m sitting here, I’m like, Do I freeze my eggs? Can I afford to do that?” the New York Democrat told Vanity Fair with a laugh in a cover story for the magazine’s December issue, published Wednesday.

“My orthodontist was telling me about how she was doing IVF, and I’m, like, asking her what her experience is like,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

The average cost of in vitro fertilization per cycle is between $12,000 and $17,000, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Freezing eggs can typically cost between $15,000 and $20,000 per cycle, says digital database Fertility IQ.

The 31-year-old lawmaker – the youngest member of Congress – says it’s “important” for conversations around family planning to be openly discussed “because women, we have to make these choices that men simply don’t have to make.”

She pointed to the experience of Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who in 2018 became the first senator to give birth while in office. Duckworth also made history again days later, when she brought her newborn daughter on the Senate floor to cast a vote.

It’s not the first time Ocasio-Cortez – who is a dog mom to her French bulldog, Deco, with partner Riley Roberts – has opened up about seeing kids in her future and the struggles of balancing pregnancy and motherhood with the demands of Congress. “I don’t think too much about [the future],” Ocasio-Cortez told Vogue last year. “I’d probably say the most in the future I think about has to do with personal stuff, like how I would handle having children.”


Firefighter Dies in Blaze Sparked by Gender-Reveal Celebration

Sean Plambeck  
A firefighter has died battling a fire that was inadvertently sparked by pyrotechnics for a gender-reveal celebration in Southern California, the authorities said Friday.

a plane flying over a forest: A helicopter dropped water on the El Dorado Fire in Angelus Oaks, Calif., on Tuesday.© Eric Thayer for The New York Times A helicopter dropped water on the El Dorado Fire in Angelus Oaks, Calif., on Tuesday.The U.S. Forest Service said the firefighter died on Thursday while working in the San Bernardino National Forest on the El Dorado Fire, which has burned through 19,000 acres since it was sparked on Sept. 5.

The name of the firefighter was being withheld until family members were notified, and the cause of the death was being investigated.

“Our deepest sympathies are with the family, friends and fellow firefighters during this time,” Zach Behrens, a Forest Service spokesman, said in a statement.

The fire began when a “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device” used in the gender reveal ignited four-foot-tall grass at El Dorado Ranch Park.

The family’s efforts to douse the flames with water bottles proved fruitless, Capt. Bennet Milloy of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire, said at the time. The family called 911 to report the fire and shared photos with investigators.

Criminal charges were being considered, Captain Milloy had said, but would not be filed before the fire is extinguished. Cal Fire could also ask those responsible to reimburse the cost of fighting the fire, he added.

“I can’t speak on their behalf,” Captain Milloy said of the family, “but personally, I can only imagine how terrible they have to feel for a lot of reasons.”

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Gender-reveal celebrations became popular about a decade ago as a way for new parents to announce the sex of their child, often in the presence of family and friends. Simple versions of these celebrations often involve couples cutting open pink or blue cakes, or popping balloons filled with pink or blue confetti.

But they have also proved dangerous. In April 2017 near Green Valley, Ariz., about 26 miles south of Tucson, an off-duty Border Patrol agent fired a rifle at a target filled with colored powder and Tannerite, a highly explosive substance, expecting to learn the gender of his child.

When placed with colorful packets of powder and shot at, Tannerite can fill the air with colorful residue for gender-reveal parties: blue for boys or pink for girls.

The resulting explosion sparked a fire that spread to the Coronado National Forest. It consumed more than 45,000 acres, resulted in $8 million in damages and required nearly 800 firefighters to battle it. The border agent immediately reported the fire and admitted that he started it, the United States attorney for the District of Arizona said in September 2018.

Christina Morales and Allyson Waller contributed reporting.

World fails to meet a single target to stop destruction of nature – UN report

‘Humanity at a crossroads’ after a decade in which all of the 2010 Aichi goals to protect wildlife and ecosystems have been missed

Coral on the Great Barrier Reef, which has suffered its most widespread coral bleaching on record.
 Coral on the Great Barrier Reef, which has suffered its most widespread coral bleaching on record. Photograph: James Cook University/AFP via Getty Images

The world has failed to meet a single target to stem the destruction of wildlife and life-sustaining ecosystems in the last decade, according to a devastating new report from the UN on the state of nature.

From tackling pollution to protecting coral reefs, the international community did not fully achieve any of the 20 Aichi biodiversity targets agreed in Japan in 2010 to slow the loss of the natural world. It is the second consecutive decade that governments have failed to meet targets.

The Global Biodiversity Outlook 5, published before a key UN summit on the issue later this month, found that despite progress in some areas, natural habitats have continued to disappear, vast numbers of species remain threatened by extinction from human activities, and $500bn (£388bn) of environmentally damaging government subsidies have not been eliminated.

Six targets have been partially achieved, including those on protected areas and invasive species. While governments did not manage to protect 17% of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10% of marine habitats, 44% of vital biodiverse areas are now under protection, an increase from 29% in 2000. About 200 successful eradications of invasive species on islands have also taken place.

The UN said the natural world was deteriorating and failure to act could undermine the goals of the Paris agreement on the climate crisis and the sustainable development goals.

The UN’s biodiversity head, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, said humanity was at a crossroads that would decide how future generations experience the natural world.

“Earth’s living systems as a whole are being compromised. And the more humanity exploits nature in unsustainable ways and undermines its contributions to people, the more we undermine our own wellbeing, security and prosperity,” she said.

The report is the third in a week to highlight the devastating state of the planet. The WWF and Zoological Society of London (ZSL)’s Living Planet Report 2020 said global wildlife populations were in freefall, plunging by two-thirds, because of human overconsumption, population growth and intensive agriculture. On Monday, the RSPB said the UK had failed to reach 17 of the Aichi targets and that the gap between rhetoric and reality had resulted in a “lost decade for nature”.

The 20 Aichi biodiversity targets are broken down into 60 separate elements to monitor overall progress. Of those, seven have been achieved, 38 have shown progress and 13 elements have shown no progress. Progress remains unknown for two elements.

A dead anteater lies on the road near a burning tract of the Amazon jungle, in Rondonia State, Brazil, August 2020.
 A dead anteater lies on the road near a burning tract of the Amazon jungle, in Rondonia State, Brazil, August 2020. Photograph: Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

A leading target to halve the loss of natural habitats, including forests, has not been met. While global deforestation rates have decreased by about a third in the past five years compared with pre-2010 levels, the degradation and fragmentation of biodiversity-rich ecosystems in the tropics remains high. Wilderness areas and wetlands have continued to disappear and freshwater ecosystems remain critically threatened.

Half a trillion dollars of harmful government subsidies for agriculture, fossil fuels and fishing are highlighted in the report as a particular area of concern by its lead author, David Cooper, deputy executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

“We are still seeing so much more public money invested in things that harm biodiversity than in things that support biodiversity,” he said.

Although there has been progress in some regions, the proportion of overfished marine stocks has increased in the last decade to a third of the total, and many non-target species are threatened because of unsustainable levels of bycatch. As a result, the target to sustainably manage and harvest all fish and invertebrate stocks has not been met.

Plastic waste and excess nutrients have not been brought to levels that do not damage ecosystem function and biodiversity around the world, according to the report. About 260,000 tonnes of plastic particles have accumulated in oceans with severe impacts on marine ecosystems, often with unknown implications. Electronics pollution is also highlighted as an issue of increasing concern, fuelled by high consumption rates.

More than 60% of the world’s coral reefs are under threat, especially because of overfishing and destructive practices, and a 2015 target to minimise threats was missed. It was also missed in 2020, with the climate crisis, ocean acidification and costal development blamed for their poor state.

Overfishing has contributed to the threat facing 60% of the world’s coral reefs.
 Overfishing has contributed to the threat facing 60% of the world’s coral reefs. Photograph: Hotli Simanjuntak/EPA

The target on protecting life-sustaining ecosystems while taking into account the needs of women, indigenous communities and poor people were not met. The assessment of the state of nature on Earth found ecosystems that provide clean water, medicine and support livelihoods have not been protected, disproportionally affecting women and vulnerable communities.

The report authors, however, pointed to the conservation efforts that led to as many as 48 species being saved from extinction in recent decades as a sign of hope.

Cooper said: “Hidden behind those global aggregates there is important progress and, you know, that gives us signs that if you do put policies in place, they do work.”

He added that the failure to meet the targets was down to certain governments not understanding the scale of the challenge faced by the natural world. “I think countries are taking it seriously, but perhaps sometimes they’re leaving it to the environment ministries and not elevating this enough to something that’s got to be the whole of government.”

The report comes as parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity negotiate the targets for this decade. The final round of negotiations for agreement had been scheduled to take place in Kunming, China, last October but have been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and are now expected to take place in May 2021. A significant part of the draft proposal is to protect 30% of the planet.

Sir David Attenborough makes stark warning about species extinction

Media captionSir David Attenborough met some of the few remaining gorillas in the Virunga Mountains at the time some 40 years ago

Sir David Attenborough returns to our screens this weekend with a landmark new production.

The tone of the programme is very different from his usual work.

For once Britain’s favourite naturalist is not here to celebrate the incredible diversity of life on Earth but to issue us all with a stark warning.

The one-hour film, Extinction: The Facts, will be broadcast on BBC One in the UK on Sunday 13 September at 20:00 BST.

“We are facing a crisis”, he warns at the start, “and one that has consequences for us all.”

What follows is a shocking reckoning of the damage our species has wrought on the natural world.

Scenes of destruction

There are the stunning images of animals and plants you would expect from an Attenborough production, but also horrific scenes of destruction.

In one sequence monkeys leap from trees into a river to escape a huge fire.

In another a koala limps across a road in its vain search for shelter as flames consume the forest around it.

Image captionPangolins are trafficked in great numbers for their scales

There is a small army of experts on hand to quantify the scale of the damage to the ecosystems of the world.

Of the estimated eight million species on Earth, a million are now threatened with extinction, one expert warns.

Since 1970, vertebrate animals – birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and amphibians – have declined by 60%, another tells us.

We meet the world’s last two northern white rhinos.

These great beasts used to be found in their thousands in Central Africa but have been pushed to the brink of extinction by habitat loss and hunting.

“Many people think of extinction being this imaginary tale told by conservationists,” says James Mwenda, the keeper who looks after them, “but I have lived it, I know what it is.”

Northern white rhino
Image captionJames Mwenda: ‘Many people think of extinction being this imaginary tale’

James strokes and pets the giant animals but it becomes clear they represent the last of their kind when he tells us that Najin and Fatu are mother and daughter.

Species have always come and gone, that’s how evolution works. But, says Sir David, the rate of extinction has been rising dramatically.

It is reckoned to be now happening at 100 times the natural evolutionary rate – and is accelerating.

“Over the course of my life I’ve encountered some of the world’s most remarkable species of animals,” says Sir David, in one of the most moving sequences in the film.

“Only now do I realise just how lucky I’ve been – many of these wonders seem set to disappear forever.”

Crisis in the natural world

Sir David is at pains to explain that this isn’t just about losing the magnificent creatures he has featured in the hundreds of programmes he has made in his six decades as a natural history film-maker.

The loss of pollinating insects could threaten the food crops we depend on. Trees and other plants regulate water flow and produce the oxygen we breathe. Meanwhile, the seas are being emptied of fish.

There is now about 5% of trawler-caught fish left compared with before the turn of the 20th century, one expert says.

The northern white rhino
Image captionTwo female rhinos are the last of their kind

But the pandemic provides perhaps the most immediate example of the risks of our ever-increasing encroachment into the natural world, as we have all been learning in the most brutal fashion over the last six months.

The programme tracks the suspected origins of coronavirus to populations of bats living in cave systems in Yunnan province in China.

We see the Chinese “wet market” in Wuhan which specialises in the sale of wild animals for human consumption and is thought to have been linked with many of the early infections.

Cause for hope

The programme is uncompromising in its depiction of the crisis in the natural world, admits Serena Davies, who directed the programme.

“Our job is to report the reality the evidence presents,” she explains.

But the programme does not leave the audience feeling that all is lost. Sir David makes clear there is still cause for hope.

“His aim is not to try and drag the audience into the depths of despair,” says Ms Davies, “but to take people on a journey that makes them realise what is driving these issues we can also solve them.”

The programme ends in iconic style.

We see one of the most celebrated moments in all the films Sir David has made in his long career, the moment he met a band of gorillas in the mountains on the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.

Image captionGorillas face many threats but there is hope for their recovery

A young gorilla called Poppy tries to take off his shoes as he speaks to the camera.

“It was an experience that stayed with me,” says Sir David, “but it was tinged with sadness, as I thought I might be seeing some of the last of their kind.”

The programme makers have been back to Rwanda and, after a long trek, spot Poppy’s daughter and granddaughter in the deep forest scrub.

We learn that the Rwandan government has worked with local people to protect the animal and that the gorillas are thriving.

There were 250 when Sir David visited in the 1970s, now there are more than 1,000.

It shows, says Sir David, what we can achieve when we put our minds to it.

“I may not be here to see it,” he concludes, “but if we make the right decisions at this critical moment, we can safeguard our planet’s ecosystems, its extraordinary biodiversity and all its inhabitants.”

His final line packs a powerful punch: “What happens next”, says Sir David, “is up to every one of us.”

You can see David Attenborough’s, Extinction: The Facts, on BBC One in the UK on Sunday 13 September at 20:00 BST.

Human activity has wiped out two-thirds of world’s wildlife since 1970, landmark report says