Look Around: The Costs of Not Acting on Climate Are Adding Up Fast

From major hurricanes and flooding to droughts and fires, the refusal to accept the science of global warming is getting very expensive.

— by Common Dreams staff

The La Tuna fire that raged in Los Angeles over the weekend was the largest ever seen in the city. Wildfires in California have been tied to the effects of climate change. (Photo: @climatesignals/Twitter)

As Houston begins a recovery from Hurricane Harvey that is likely to last several years and cost many billions of dollars, the threat of extreme weather events around the country and the globe are illustrating the impact of climate change—and the damage being done by right-wing politicians including President Donald Trump who have refused to heed repeated warnings from scientists and other experts.

Author and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben summed up the current state of affairs in a number of major U.S. cities, juxtaposed with Trump’s decision earlier this year to withdraw from the 2016 Paris agreement on climate change:

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has warned that the damage done to the country’s fourth-largest city could cost the government $180 billion—more than Hurricane Katrina cost in 2005. Aside from rebuilding costs, Houston-area residents may pay in other ways as well: as Common Dreams reported, the Center for Biological Diversity finds that “Oil refineries and chemical plants across the Texas Gulf coast released more than 1 million pounds of dangerous air pollutants in the week after Harvey struck.

On Monday morning, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said there is an “increasing chance” that the Florida Peninsula and the Florida Keys will see “some impacts” from the rapidly-approaching Hurricane Irma, and that “rough surf and dangerous marine conditions will begin to affect the southeastern U.S. coast by later this week.”

In Los Angeles, meanwhile, firefighters spent the weekend fighting what Mayor Eric Garcetti called “the largest fire in the history of” the city, covering about 7,000 acres and forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate. The wildfire, known as the La Tuna fire, broke out amid temperatures in the hundreds, and the Union of Concerned Scientists has noted that climate change is “fueling the frequency of wildfires” throughout the state in recent years.

As Andy Rowell, writing for Oil Change Internationalwrote in a column on Monday, Harvey’s damage in Houston and across the region “should also be a wake-up call to the climate-denying president that unless he acts on climate, there will be more Harveys.”

Rowell continues:

It is a wake-up call to the media to accurately report the disaster, including how climate change fuelled its intensity. It is also a wake-up call to the oil industry in so many, many ways.

On a national and international level it shows how our continuing dependence on fossil fuels will drive more extreme weather events. On a regional level it shows how ill-prepared the fossil fuel industry—and wider petrochemical industry—were to an event like this, despite decades of warnings.

Instead the fossil fuel industry’s complacency, malaise, self-regulation and capture of the political system are all to blame too. They have led to a system of peril.

Writing for Common Dreams on Monday, Randall Amster refers to it as the “new normal of destabilization”—a world in which climate-related disasters are happening more often and with escalating costs.

“In just the past week,” he writes, “we’ve seen record-breaking rainfall and wildfires plague parts of the United States. Globally, such extreme events appear to be increasing in frequency and magnitude. Droughts, floods, fires, and more can be seen as warning signs of impending ecosystem collapse at the planetary scale, with impacts felt in locales and regions around the world. While no single event may be able to draw a causal line directly from climate change, the cumulative correlation indicates escalating destabilization.”

Meanwhile, Trump and his cabinet remain reluctant to discuss the causes of disasters like Harvey as they strike. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt declared it was “misplaced” to discuss the storm’s link to climate change last week.

But that view was specifically countered by journalist Naomi Klein who said that it is in the midst of these climate-related disasters when the conversation about global warming and its impacts is most important.

“Talking honestly about what is fueling this era of serial disasters—even while they’re playing out in real time—isn’t disrespectful to the people on the front lines,” argued Klein at The Intercept. “In fact, it is the only way to truly honor their losses, and our last hope for preventing a future littered with countless more victims.”


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If You’re Against Immigrants, You’re Against My Grandma

Many good kids — with the same American dreams my grandparents had — now fear being exiled to a land alien to them.
— by Mitchell Zimmerman

One day in a Latvian town more than 100 years ago, when my grandmother wasn’t much more than a girl, she heard that the czar’s “recruiters” were coming to conscript men into the Russian army for 20-year terms.

Two days before they came, a handsome young man she’d known only slightly told her he was going to America instead, and asked her to come along as his bride. She agreed.

Their travels weren’t wholly lawful. Lacking proper papers to enter Germany, where they planned to embark on a steamer to New York, they were smuggled across the border at night, in a cart.

Some 40-odd years later, when I was a small child, my mother would take me to Brooklyn to visit them. I recall grandma as a short, ancient grownup, her face square and her cheeks jowly. Despite having lived in New York for decades, she still spoke little English — only enough to make halting jokes. I don’t think she ever became a citizen.

She and grandpa faced hardship and discrimination. They’d been called “kikes” and “Jew bastards.” They’d been asked, “Why don’t you go back where you came from?”

New York’s Ellis Island, circa 1900. (Photo: NIAID / Flickr)

But they stayed, and their children and grandchildren — including my brother, a journalist, and myself, a lawyer — climbed the ladder to success.

My grandparents come to mind when I meet my young friend — “Jesús,” let’s call him, a pro bono client.

Jesús, too, is an immigrant. But he recalls little of coming to America, and less of Mexico, his birthplace. He was only 7 when his mother, hoping for a better life and lacking proper papers, carried him here.

Jesús grew up in East Palo Alto, California — a small city not far geographically from the prosperity of Silicon Valley, but a world away socio-economically. Plagued by poverty, drugs, and crime, the town was once the murder capital of America.

When he reached high school, Jesús found himself behind the kids from the richer towns. But he enrolled in the school’s computer science track, applied himself, and ultimately won a nationwide “Young Entrepreneur of the Year” competition.

The school offered him little guidance about a path to college, but he found his own mentors. Eventually, he earned a B.S. from a small local college, paid for by soccer and academic scholarships — and hard work.

Jesús meanwhile devoted himself to diffusing conflicts among Latino and black gangs in violent neighborhoods. “When asked about putting himself in harm’s way,” a counselor informed me, “Jesús said he didn’t want to live in a world where people hate each other based on the color of their skin.”

For some people, this is all irrelevant. All we need to know about Jesús is that he’s “illegal” — and so should be deported.

This would be fundamentally unfair. Jesús, like many others whose parents brought them here, had no say in whether or how he entered the United States. But also like those others, he’s lived an entirely American life.

I assisted Jesús with his ultimately successful application for DACA status.

This Obama-era program (in full, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) offered a little security to youths like Jesús who arrived as children. If they were in school (or graduated) and had no criminal record, they were eligible to remain in the U.S. for a renewable two-year period.

With an anti-immigrant administration coming into office, however, many of these good kids fear being exiled to a land alien to them. I hope Trump has the decency to let them be.

Jesús is now 24 years old and works at a tech start-up. He has an American wife, son, and baby daughter. His aspirations, like my grandparents’ were, are to educate his kids, work hard and prosper, and continue to inspire others to set aside despair and reach for the stars.

How American those ambitions seem to me.


Mitchell Zimmerman is an intellectual property lawyer who devotes much of his practice to pro bono work. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

Health Care Isn’t a Bargaining Chip

Women should be free to make their own health decisions no matter what they earn or where they live.
 — by Congresswoman Barbara Lee

Conservatives and progressives don’t agree on much these days. Regardless of their party leanings, though, a clear majority of Americans believe that politicians shouldn’t meddle in a woman’s personal health care decisions.

Yet for too long, women’s health care has been a political bargaining chip.

Anti-choice politicians have worked to ensure that women enrolled in government health plans — including veterans and government employees — don’t get abortion care coverage.

That needs to stop. It’s past time to stand up and protect a woman’s access to health care, no matter how she’s insured, where she lives, or what she earns.

That’s why I introduced the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act — or the EACH Woman Act — to ensure that politics never comes between a woman and her own personal health decisions.

ProgressOhio/ Flickr

Legislative tactics like the Hyde amendment, which denies many women access to the full range of available reproductive healthcare, are a constant reminder that women’s rights are under attack and that the GOP’s war on women is still raging.

These restrictions deny Medicaid coverage for abortion, forcing one in four low-income women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term and pushing many families deeper into poverty.

In fact, according to San Francisco’s Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, a woman who’s denied an abortion is more likely to rely on public assistance and live in poverty, and less likely to work full time.

Meanwhile, other anti-choice legislators are taking their war on women to the states. From Alabama to Utah, they’ve passed laws that interfere with private insurers’ ability to cover abortions for policyholders. This has a profoundly negative impact on women who rely on government health care as well as those trying to buy their own.

The Hyde amendment and state laws like these force women to make choices that often aren’t best for their families, their faith, or themselves. That’s simply wrong.

The EACH Woman Act would end these outdated anti-woman policies and empower each woman to make her own health care decisions regardless of how she’s insured, how much she earns, or where she lives. Period.

However, to pass this important legislation, I need your help. We need a committed, grassroots effort of supporters calling and writing to their Members of Congress and asking them to be bold, to repeal the Hyde amendment, and to pass the EACH Woman Act.

EACH woman should able to make her own health decisions without politicians interfering.


Congresswoman Barbara Lee is a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Services, and Education. She represents California’s 13th district Congress. Lee.House.Gov
Distributed by OtherWords.org.

Voters Reject Oil Titan Chevron, Elect Progressive Bloc in Richmond, California

Tom Butt elected mayor and slate of progressive candidates all win city council seats after grim battle with corporate power

by Nadia Prupis, Common Dreams staff writer

Members of the Asia Pacific Environmental Network march against Chevron in Richmond, California on August 9. (Photo: Malena Mayorga/Flickr)

A slew of progressive candidates were elected in Richmond, California on Tuesday night in a resounding defeat of corporate power, after a multi-million-dollar opposition campaign funded by Chevron brought national attention to the race but failed to take control of City Hall.

Local politician Tom Butt, a Democrat, was elected mayor with 51 percent of the vote, beating the Chevron-backed candidate, Nat Bates, by 16 points. Richmond Progressive Alliance representatives Eduardo Martinez, Jovanka Beckles, and outgoing  Mayor Gayle McLaughlin also won three of the four open seats on the City Council.

Collectively, those candidates became known as Team Richmond.

In a victory speech from his campaign base, Butt said, “I’ve never had such a bunch of people who are dedicated and worked so hard. It’s far away above anything that I’ve ever experienced.”

The sweeping win in the David-and-Goliath story was seen by many as an excoriation of corporate influence in elections after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Uche Uwahemu, who finished third in the mayoral race, said, “The election was a referendum on Chevron and the people obviously made it clear they did not appreciate the unnecessary spending by Chevron so they took it out on the rest of the candidates.”

Chevron spent more than $3 million funding three political action committees that executed an opposition campaign including billboards, flyers, and a mobile screen, spending roughly $72 per voter in hopes of electing a slate of candidates that would be friendly to the oil giant.

Martinez, Beckles, and McLaughlin have all criticized the company and promised to tighten regulations on it. Chevron has an ugly history in the city, particularly in the wake of a large and destructive fire at their refinery in 2012, for which Richmond sued the company.

Butt spent roughly $58,000 on his campaign—a shoestring budget relative to Chevron’s resources.

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State-by-State Reports: The Economic Benefits of Fixing Our Broken Immigration System

— by Megan Slack, August 01, 2013

America has always been a nation of immigrants, and throughout the nation’s history, immigrants from around the globe have kept our workforce vibrant, our businesses on the cutting edge, and helped to build the greatest economic engine in the world. But our nation’s immigration system is broken and has not kept pace with changing times. Today, too many employers game the system by hiring undocumented workers and there are 11 million people living and working in the shadow economy. Neither is good for the U.S. economy or American  families.

Commonsense immigration reform will strengthen the U.S. economy and create jobs. Independent studies affirm that commonsense immigration reform will increase economic growth by adding more high-demand workers to the labor force, increasing capital investment and overall productivity, and leading to greater numbers of entrepreneurs starting companies in the U.S.

Economists, business leaders, and American workers agree –  and it’s why a bipartisan, diverse coalition of stakeholders have come together to urge Congress to act now to fix the broken immigration system in a way that requires responsibility from everyone —both from unauthorized workers and from those who hire them—and guarantees that everyone is playing by the same rules. The Senate recently passed a bipartisan, commonsense immigration reform bill would do just that – and it’s time for the House of Representations to join them in taking action to make sure that commonsense immigration reform becomes a reality as soon as possible.

In addition to giving a significant boost to our national economy, commonsense immigration reform will also generate important economic benefits in each state, from increasing workers’ wages and generating new tax revenue to strengthening the local industries that are the backbone of states’ economies. The new state by state reports below detail how just how immigration reform would strengthen the economy and create jobs all regions of our country.

We must take advantage of this historic opportunity to fix our broken immigration system in a comprehensive way. At stake is a stronger, more dynamic, and faster growing economy that will foster job creation, higher productivity and wages, and entrepreneurship.

STATE REPORTS

Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas
California Colorado Connecticut Delaware
Florida Georgia Hawaii  
Idaho Illinois Indiana Iowa
Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Maine
Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota
Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska
Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico
New York North Carolina North Dakota Ohio
Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island
South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas
Utah Vermont Virginia Washington
West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming  

Reprinted from The White House Blog.  For more information:

Forest Service Summer Jobs—Apply NOW!

Forest Service Summer Jobs on Bridgeport Ranger District

Want to Work in One of the Most Scenic Areas in the Country?

BRIDGEPORT, California… The Bridgeport Ranger District of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest is recruiting for temporary summer positions.  Applicants must be U.S. citizens, and at least 18 years old.  Positions are available in the following disciplines:  firefighting, recreation, wilderness, trails, OHV patrol, archaeology, range, and wildlife.

Pay grade is dependent upon individual skills and qualifications.  College students, veterans, and all interested individuals are encouraged to apply for these mainly May-through-September jobs.  The majority of seasonal positions work in Bridgeport, California; a few fire positions, however, are located in Topaz, California.  Housing is often available for seasonal District employees.

The 6.3 million-acre Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest consists of ten Ranger Districts located throughout the state of Nevada and eastern California, and is managed out of 9 offices and a Supervisor’s Office in Sparks.  The Bridgeport Ranger District is located on the west side of the Forest.  It is flanked on the west by the dramatic Sierra Nevada and falling away eastward to the Great Basin Desert, encompassing a wide cross-section of Great Basin landscapes ranging from high-alpine plant communities to salt-desert flats.

The District Office is located in Bridgeport, California.  Its 1.2 million acres span five mountain ranges, two-thirds of which is in Nevada, while one-third is in eastern California.  The District borders Yosemite National Park on our southwest, the Stanislaus National Forest to our west, and the Inyo National Forest to our south.

The Hoover Wilderness, designated in the original Wilderness Act of 1964, is about 80 percent within the District.  The District’s robust program of work includes grazing, fire suppression, prescribed fire and fuels treatments, wildlife, fisheries, watershed, noxious weeds, minerals, heritage resources and a variety of special uses.

Recreation, including activities associated with fishing, camping, hiking, and backpacking, is extremely popular in this spectacular mountain setting.

All positions are filled through USAJobs, the federal government’s on-line job website. USAJobs is located at www.usajobs.gov.  Applicants will need to set up an account, and then apply for the respective positions.

A listing of the seasonal positions that may be filled on the Humboldt-

Toiyabe National Forest (including the Bridgeport Ranger District) is posted at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/htnf/home/?cid=STELPRDB5403735.

For further information about fire positions, call David Easton at 760-932-5804, for recreation jobs, call Adrianne Thatcher at 760-932-5812, and for wilderness and trails positions, call Jeffrey Weise at 760-932-5824.  For general information, or information about other positions, call the Bridgeport Ranger Station at 760-932-7070.

USDA FOREST SERVICE
HUMBOLDT-TOIYABE NATIONAL FOREST
Bridgeport Ranger District
HC 62, Box 1000
Bridgeport, CA 93517
760-932-7070