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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category



The Nuclear Power Debate

Nov17

by: Rick Herrick on November 17th, 2014 | 7 Comments »

nuclear power plant

Credit: Creative Commons/ brewbooks

I have been a socially responsible investor for over forty years. I apply strict ethical screens in choosing my companies. I also look for companies that sell products that make the world a better place. I take pride in owning such companies.

In making my investment decisions, I have made few compromises. Two weeks ago, however, I made a big compromise with my long held principles. I purchased a small position in an electric utility with some plants that run on nuclear power. It was not an easy decision. I made it only because I can no longer see a happy solution to the problem of global climate change without an increased reliance on nuclear power in the short term.

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Our Climate Futures: Take a Look

Nov11

by: on November 11th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

climate change melting glaciers

Credit: Creative Commons/TijsB

The Bad News? The current U.N. report on climate unequivocally states that global warming is happening, that we are causing it, that it will be much worse than previously projected, and that we need to reduce damaging emissions to near zero.  Also, the U.S. has just catapulted into congressional and state leadership a political party committed to rejecting these scientific findings and expanding our use of fossil fuels. The Good News?  Actually—right at the moment I can’t think of anything.

Forecasting the future is typically impossible. However, here are two scenarios of our future: as the oil eventually runs out, as the storms and droughts and social disequilibrium vastly increase, as so much of what we thought was guaranteed fades away, what will life be like?

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James Inhofe: A Not-So Sly Fox Set to Guard the Henhouse

Nov6

by: on November 6th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

The children’s story of the fox that people set to guard the henhouse represents a cautionary tale. It warns us of the dangers of granting unfettered access and responsibility within a confined space or field to someone having a conflict of interest. By us placing the fox in charge, we give the predator free rein to literally kill and eat our chickens. What we are left with is a bloodied and depleted henhouse.

In a larger political sense, the story warns us not to allow an industry to engage in “self-regulation” without ensuring sufficient safeguards and alternate means of control, or of hiring industry insiders to monitor their industry.

Unfortunately, we the people failed to heed the warning of this children’s tale by voting in the majority to turn over control (to grant [relatively] unfettered access and responsibility) of the United States Congress, in both houses, to the Republican Party. We don’t know yet exactly the consequences of our collective action, but one thing is certain: as the “majority” Party, Republicans will serve as the chairs of all Senate committees and will continue to do so in the House of Representatives.

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The Fight for Clean Potable Water in Detroit

Oct15

by: on October 15th, 2014 | No Comments »

global citizens festival central park

Thousands crowded Central Park in New York City for the Global Citizens Festival on September 27. Credit: Creative Commons/ Anthony Quintano

Over 60,000 people in New York’s Central Park and millions more around our planet were treated to the eclectic sounds of world-class performers at the third Global Citizens Festival on Saturday, September 27. Performers included Jay Z, Beyoncé, Carrie Underwood, The Roots, Tiesto, No Doubt, Sting, and Alicia Keys.

The organization Global Citizen, whose goal is to eliminate extreme poverty worldwide by 2030, sponsored the event to shed light on poverty, which continues to affect an estimated 1.2 billion people, and to empower individuals and the world community to take concrete actions to end this scourge. Specifically, Global Citizen urges people to contact world leaders to focus on issues of providing vaccines, education, and sanitation to all the world’s citizens.

Internationally, more people have mobile phones than have clean potable water and sanitation facilities. An estimated 3.4 million people die each year of diseases caused by lack of access to clean water and adequate sanitation infrastructures. This shortage kills people around the world every four hours. This lack of clean water and vaccinations significantly lowers a person’s chances for quality education, keeping them in extreme poverty. The vicious cycle continues.

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The Ghost in the GMO Machine

Oct7

by: Paul Koberstein on October 7th, 2014 | No Comments »

Kaua'i Waimea chlorpyrifos

Dust swirls around the GMO test fields on the Hawaiian island of Kaua`i near the town of Waimea. Data reported by the state of Hawaii shows that heavy amounts of the insecticide chlorpyrifos are being applied to these fields. Photo by Klayton Kubo

The bodies and minds of children living on the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i are being threatened by exposure to chlorpyrifos, a synthetic insecticide that is heavily sprayed on fields located near their homes and schools.

For decades, researchers have been publishing reports about children who died or were maimed after exposure to chlorpyrifos, either in the womb or after birth. While chlorpyrifos can no longer legally be used around the house or in the garden, it is still legal to use on the farm. But researchers are finding that children aren’t safe when the insecticide is applied to nearby fields.

Like a ghost drifting through a child’s bedroom window, the airborne insecticide can settle on children’s skin, clothes, toys, rugs, and furnishings.

In fact, it’s likely that the only people who needn’t worry about exposure to chlorpyrifos are adults living far from the fields in which it is sprayed. That includes civil servants who work for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which regulates the stuff, and executives with Dow Chemical, the company that manufactures it.

In a regulatory process known as re-registration, the EPA will decide in 2015 whether it still agrees that chlorpyrifos is safe for farming, or whether it will order a complete ban, as Earthjustice, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Pesticide Action Network have demanded in lawsuits filed in 2007 and in 2014.

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What Happens when a Ritual Works: The People’s Climate March

Sep29

by: on September 29th, 2014 | No Comments »

People's Climate March 2014

Credit: Creative Commons/South Bend Voice

Originally published in National Catholic Reporter

Religious folk are not so good at a lot of things but we are experts at ritual. The mass. The wedding. The baptism. The Bar Mitzvah. The funeral. The Praise service.

At the climate march we multifaith types joined the rest of the people who love the earth enough to march and create a ritual. When a ritual works, people feel something. They are changed. They come in the door one person and go out another.

The best moment was at 12:58 p.m. when a call went out for two minutes of silence. It was real. Quiet in New York City? Very much so. And then a secular ritual – the wave – joined the quiet, starting from the back and waving all the way through the thousands gathered. Like an ululation – an Arabic shout that accompanies ritual – the sound built its joy and pierced the quiet with happiness. EVERYBODY I know says that was the moment worth the bus rides, the sleeping on the floor and the expensive packaged food. For me, it was an urban bliss, a sacralization of all that has been desacralized, a punctuation marking off the time before we had hope we could love the earth from the time when we forgot or did not. Hope waved its arms and its voice at us, and we waved back. I know this mostly happens at large sports events. So what? The blend of the sacred and the secular, the earth and the heavens was everywhere.


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Corporations as Tools for Social Change

Sep26

by: Rick Herrick on September 26th, 2014 | Comments Off

Solar Panels

Credit: Creative Commons/Intel Free Press.

In the late 1970s I read a fascinating article in the New York Times regarding the Mobil Oil Corporation. According to the Times, several African-American leaders purchased small positions in the company. Their ownership of Mobil Oil stock gave them the right to lobby for change.

Their target was South Africa. These black leaders began speaking at general shareholder meetings of the corporation. They also lobbied corporate officers. They had two goals in mind. The first was to integrate the dining facility in the South African plant. The second was to achieve equal pay for equal work. They achieved both goals. Their victory was an important symbol of change in the anti-apartheid movement.

At about the same time Leon Sullivan, an African-American minister in Philadelphia, came onto the scene. Reverend Sullivan was a board member of the General Motors Corporation. In the late 1970s he devised a set of principles requiring corporations with divisions in South Africa to treat all employees fairly. If the company violated the Sullivan Principles, American corporations were to cease doing business with them. Reverend Sullivan worked tirelessly to have these principles adopted and was able to achieve some notable successes.

Again, at about the same time, the anti-apartheid disinvestment campaign emerged. This movement required pension funds and college endowments to sell their equity holdings in companies with operations in South Africa. Students lobbied and protested boards of trustees in many universities to achieve these goals. Anti-apartheid activists made similar demands of state and local pension funds.

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Instant Karma: Downwind Deaths from Nevada Atomic Testing

Sep23

by: on September 23rd, 2014 | 4 Comments »

atomic bomb

American military forces participating in Nevada Atomic testing.

I was only eleven years old when The United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. I remember the moment well for I was sitting across the street at the Thompson Club in Nahant, Massachusetts waiting for my twin brother to join me to play baseball. Suddenly I felt an immense sense of collective loss, and then a short time later my twin brother came running from across the street telling me that we had dropped an atomic bomb on Japan. Even at that young age, I somehow sensed we had released an evil, powerful genie that could eventually destroy the planet and ourselves.

Power corrupts. Absolute atomic power absolutely morally corrupts, particularly when it is in the hands of the Military/Industrial complex with the power to control and destroy the world – whereas human life eventually becomes collateral damage as it did with the atomic testing during the sixties in Nevada.


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The Climate March Was Great. Now What?

Sep23

by: on September 23rd, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Hundreds of thousands of us marched against climate change Sunday to emphasize to the political leaders of the world assembling at the UN in the next few days that this is an issue of intense concern for the people of the world. We demand action, not just pious statements of concern!

There were people from around the world marching down the streets of NY, including people of every imaginable religion and ethnic group. It was an immense outpouring of people who were not content to sit back and just wait some more. And the spirit was one of joyful affirmation of our caring for the earth and the life support system of the planet. There was very little anger – the feeling was one of elation that so many people had come together to show their upset and their caring for the fate of Earth. They came with walkers and with baby strollers, young and old, many people in every age group. They sang, they danced, they cheered, they chanted their messages, and it was a beautiful manifestation of all that is good in human beings! And this scene was repeated around the country in dozens of cities and around the world as well.

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Environmental Justice and the “Science” of Denial

Sep22

by: on September 22nd, 2014 | Comments Off

Only after the last tree has been cut down,
only after the last river has been poisoned,
only after the last fish has been caught,
only then will you learn that you cannot eat money
.”
– Cree Proverb

climate change protest

Protestors in Melbourne in 2009 share an important message on the climate crisis. Credit: Creative Commons/Takver

The White House recently released its National Climate Assessment that reported our global climate is, in fact, changing, and this is due primarily to human activity, in particular, the burning of fossil fuels. The Assessment investigated approximately 12,000 professional scientific journal papers on the topic of global climate change, and discovered that in the articles expressing a position on global warming, 97 percent fully authenticated both the reality of global warming and the certainty that humans are the cause.

Additional studies released since the White House report signaled the beginning of the depletion and ultimate total collapse of glaciers in Antarctica, which can continue to raise worldwide sea levels an additional 4 feet. This depletion is now irreversible.

What seems clear to the scientific community seems like science fiction to many key politicians, including Lamar Smith (R-TX), paradoxically the Chair of the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, who has been a perennial skeptic of human-produced climate change. He stated on the floor of the House:

“We now know that prominent scientists were so determined to advance the idea of human-made global warming that they worked together to hide contradictory temperature data.”

He quoted no sources, and his accusations were later proven false.


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