Arizona Quietly Sells Land to Freeport-McMoRan for Mining Waste

The Arizona State Land Department this month sold nearly 17,000 acres of pristine desert land to Freeport-McMoRan, a Phoenix-based international mining company, which plans to use the property to store waste from its Bagdad copper mine.

…It is nearly seven times the size of a pending land acquisition by a British-Australian company for a mining operation near Superior. That project, Resolution Copper, would involve extracting copper from beneath Oak Flat, an area that Native American opponents consider sacred, and until a land swap, was protected from mining.

…”That is habitat that will be lost for the rest of our lives and probably hundreds of years into the future, if not forever,” Trudeau said. “This is a tremendous impact of almost unprecedented scale in Arizona.”

As with most large mining operations, Freeport-McMoRan’s waste storage proposal also raises concerns of water contamination. The Bagdad area, which is about 65 miles west of Prescott, sits close to several watersheds, including for the Santa Maria River, the Big Sandy River, and the Bill Williams River.

Freeport-McMoRan has a track record of water contamination.

…And a recent rollback of Clean Water Act regulations by President Trump’s administration removed protections for smaller bodies of water, including those found in the Bagdad-area property, like seasonal rivers, groundwater, and “ephemeral streams” that only flow after rain. According to Trudeau, the Trump decision took away environmentalists’ sole avenue for challenging Freeport-McMoRan’s proposed tailings site.

Arizona Quietly Sells Land to Freeport-McMoRan for Mining Waste | Phoenix New Times


Want to double world food production? Return the land to small farmers

A recent comprehensive survey by GRAIN, examining data from around the world, finds that while small farmers feed the world, they are doing so with just 24% of the world’s farmland – or 17% if you leave out China and India. 

…Only 1% of all farms in the world are larger than 50 hectares, and that these few farms control 65% of the world’s farmland.

…The confusion stems from the way FAO deal with the concept of family farming, which they roughly define as any farm managed by an individual or a household. (They admit there is no precise definition. Various countries, like Mali, have their own.)

Thus, a huge industrial soya bean farm in rural Argentina, whose family owners live in Buenos Aires, is included in FAO’s count of ‘family farms’.

What about sprawling Hacienda Luisita, owned by the powerful Cojuanco family in the Philippines and epicentre of the country’s battle for agrarian reform since decades. Is that a family farm?

Looking at ownership to determine what is and is not a family farm masks all the inequities, injustices and struggles that peasants and other small scale food producers across the world are mired in.

It allows FAO to paint a rosy picture and conveniently ignore perhaps the most crucial factor affecting the capacity of small farmers to produce food: lack of access to land. 

…Small food producers’ access to land is shrinking due a range of forces. One is that because of population pressure, farms are getting divided up amongst family members. Another is the vertiginous expansion of monoculture plantations.

In the last 50 years, a staggering 140 million hectares – the size of almost all the farmland in India – has been taken over by four industrial crops: soya bean, oil palm, rapeseed and sugar cane.

…Other pressures pushing small food producers off their land include the runaway plague of large-scale land grabs by corporate interests. In the last few years alone, according to the World Bank, some 60 million hectares of fertile farmland have been leased, on a long-term basis, to foreign investors and local elites, mostly in the global South.

While some of this is for energy production, a big part of it is to produce food commodities for the global market, instead of family farming.

…The data show that the concentration of farmland in fewer and fewer hands is directly related to the increasing number of people going hungry every day.

According to one UN study, active policies supporting small producers and agro-ecological farming methods could double global food production in a decade and enable small farmers to continue to produce and utilise biodiversity, maintain ecosystems and local economies, while multiplying and strengthening meaningful work opportunities and social cohesion in rural areas.

Want to double world food production? Return the land to small farmers!


Climate change: Wine supply threatened due to global warming

If the global temperature rises by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, the regions of the world that are suitable for growing wine grapes could shrink by as much as 56% , according to the study. 

And with 7.2 degrees of warming, 85% of those lands would no longer be able to produce good wines.

Climate change: Wine supply threatened due to global warming


Food Security and Economics in Newfoundland

Ask people about buying food in Newfoundland and Labrador, and you’ll start hearing a few consistent comments: that fresh produce can be very expensive, that storm-related shipping delays can cut off the supply of food, and that the island of Newfoundland has, at any given time, [only] three days of fresh food on the shelves.

…Food security, conceptually, isn’t limited to the idea of running out of food on the shelves. It can mean that you just can’t afford the spinach that is on the shelf, and are left to other, less nutritious options. It can also mean that there is nowhere from which to procure food, or that the shipments can’t make it. All of these conditions can apply to Newfoundland and Labrador.

And as climate change advances, such circumstances can change—and get worse.

…“There’s a high rate of unemployment, and there’s a high correlation between suicide ideation and addiction issues when there’s nothing to do during the day. There’s no job, there’s no fisheries and you’re home,” Halley says.

The garden project, which began last year with help from a grant from Eastern Health, would give Halley’s clients the chance to work the land and eat the produce they grew. Eight raised beds were installed at the cathedral.

…“The population I work with… they can go to soup kitchens, they can get some assistance from the government,” Halley says. But “the quality and the standard of food that they’re able to buy is very poor.”

The social worker says she supports people from all walks of life, including those with lucrative professions, but those who struggle economically were most interested in the garden project “because they don’t have access to the quality of food that their bodies want.” She cites the example of one person who can’t work and feels constant stress from bills. He found comfort in the garden, being able provide himself with fresh vegetables.

The garden project has also built community, Halley says.

…On the coast, iorn places like Rigolet, Brace says—an area connected to larger cities by warm-weather ferry service and fair-weather flights. She says that while there is a government subsidy for food, quality goes down as winter comes. Despite best efforts, the weather can destroy fresh, sensitive produce—even exposure between the airport and the store is problematic. “Greens won’t make it, like lettuce—it’s too far, too cold. When I go to the grocery store, even in some of the best times of the year, it’s produce that wouldn’t be left on the shelf here.”

Nevertheless, “prices go up in the winter, but they never seem to get back to the prices before the winter months. It’s just steadily climbing, and jobs are not as plentiful.”

…In communities like Hopedale and Rigolet, the high costs of shipping food have prompted people to consider alternatives old and new: keeping traditional means of hunting and gathering alive while exploring gardening and hydroponics.

…Problems with food availability in Rigolet, combined with traditional views on living off the land, have spurred this involvement. “We have one supplier, one grocery store. In this town there’s no competition,” Michelin says. “The prices are really high. Very often, too, we have low-quality foods, when it comes to produce and frozen meat.”

And with one airline serving the town, sometimes food from afar is just not available, she says. Ships come in the summer—but summer weather can be long delayed. “That hasn’t even started yet, and it’s almost July—it’s a very short shipping season,” she explains.

…The Good Food Box project was born, Brace says, as a way of addressing a quandary particular to coastal Labrador: the only people who can afford grocery store prices are also the only ones who can afford to buy their food in advance at wholesale prices, leaving others to fend for themselves. The Good Food Box project pooled money together, allowing Rigolet residents to bulk order frozen meat and share the discount.

…The economic realities in places like Rigolet help dictate their need for self-sufficiency. In a globalized world of international trade, tiny Rigolet doesn’t exactly fit into grand economic schemes. “One thing about Rigolet, unfortunately, is our lack of economic development—we have none,” Michelin says. “We’re a town that doesn’t export anything, we don’t process anything. So, it’s poor.”

Michelin, who is Inuit, says the people of Rigolet have been living off the land for many years—but increasing modernization has meant increasing prices. Seaworthy watercraft and outboard motors can cost many thousands of dollars. Guns are expensive, ammunition is expensive, snowmobiles are expensive.

…She says she would like to see a shift in political rhetoric around how to respond to food insecurity in places like Newfoundland and Labrador. After hearing a politician promise to fly food via helicopter and plane to Labrador following “storm after storm,” she wondered why politicians haven’t suggested more empowering approaches to the problem.

“I’m thinking, people in Labrador are really smart, and they’ve been hunting and fishing for years,” she says. “Why aren’t we supporting them with a hydroponic green house? We provide employment, they become self-sufficient. We’re flying in food for people when they can grow it here, and it gives them something to do.”

However, she says, approaches have to be practical. Halley cited the infamous case of Newfoundland’s ill-fated cucumber greenhouse. Advanced by former Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Brian Peckford and Philip Sprung’s Enviroponics, the Mount Pearl-based project consumed more than $13 million from taxpayers—and $22 million in total—before Enviroponics went bankrupt and the facility was sold for a dollar. The greenhouse shut down soon afterward. The story is so infamous that CBC Archives wrote about it again last year.

Halley says she remembers the project and its unearthly orange glow, visible from St. John’s at the time. The problem, she says, is that the hydroponic greenhouse wasn’t used to grow produce of local interest. Instead, Peckford proposed that Newfoundland might position itself to dominate the world cucumber market. The plan failed, and cows ate many of the 800,000 cucumbers grown—at a cost of $27.50 per cucumber to taxpayers. The problem, as the CBC reported at the time: Newfoundlanders ate, on average, half a cucumber per capita per year.

‘Nothing’s like it used to be’ – Anglican Journal


What’s in your water? Researchers identify new toxic byproducts of disinfecting drinking water

“That process of killing potentially fatal bacteria and viruses comes with unintended consequences. The discovery of these previously unknown, highly toxic byproducts, raises the question how much chlorination is really necessary.”

…Phenols, which are chemical compounds that occur naturally in the environment and are abundant in personal care products and pharmaceuticals, are commonly found in drinking water. When these phenols mix with chlorine, the process creates a large number of byproducts. Current analytical chemistry methods, however, are unable to detect and identify all of these byproducts, some which may be harmful and can cause long-term health consequences, says Prasse.

…Their experiment found the compounds 2-butene-1,4-dial (BDA) and chloro-2-butene-1,4-dial (or BDA with chlorine attached). BDA is a very toxic compound and a known carcinogen that, until this study, scientists had not detected in chlorinated water before, says Prasse.

…”In other countries, especially in Europe, chlorination is not used as frequently, and the water is still safe from waterborne illnesses. In my opinion, we need to evaluate when chlorination is really necessary for the protection of human health and when alternative approaches might be better,” says Prasse.

What’s in your water? Researchers identify new toxic byproducts of disinfecting drinking water


New emails show the Justice Department is helping Big Oil fight climate lawsuits

At every turn, ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips, and Shell fought tooth and nail against the wave of lawsuits, arguing that the plaintiffs should look to the federal government, not the private sector, for financial assistance related to climate change. Now, a new investigation from InsideClimate News has revealed that the federal government has been working with some of those oil companies to oppose the wave of lawsuits.

Some 178 pages of emails between U.S. Department of Justice attorneys and industry lawyers — obtained by the Natural Resources Defense Council — show the government has been planning to come to the aid of these lawsuit-afflicted companies since early 2018. Not only did the DOJ work on an amicus — “friend of the court” — brief in support of major oil companies shortly after the San Francisco and Oakland lawsuits were filed, but the department was also working with Republican attorneys generals from 15 states to come up with a plan to help those companies. Department of Justice attorneys had several phone calls with lawyers defending BP, Chevron, Exxon, and other oil companies, and even met some of them in person.

Curiously, the Department of Justice did not reach out to the plaintiffs in the cases, like the cities of Oakland and San Francisco, to collaborate. The department’s environmental division, which bills itself as “the nation’s environmental lawyer,” opted to covertly work with industry groups rather than the communities it’s supposed to represent.

…“It’s very unusual for the federal government to be so aligned with industry on a damages case,” he said, particularly when the government isn’t implicated in the case. If the lawsuits were successful, oil companies, not the federal government, would be compelled to pay the damages.

New emails show the Justice Department is helping Big Oil fight climate lawsuits | Grist


How Virginia’s $3.7 billion rail plan fits Amtrak’s long-term vision

With new routes and faster and more efficient service, the number of Amtrak trains operating in Virginia is expected to double by 2030.

…The state exemplifies Amtrak’s growth strategy of focusing on adding short-haul trips that compete with car rides and flights in dense urban corridors, they say.

…In recent years, Amtrak has been beefing up short-distance service across the country, advancing its vision to connect major metropolitan areas in regions undergoing significant growth and where there is little to no rail service, while fulfilling Americans’ growing desire for cost-efficient and more environmentally friendly travel options.

…Virginia, one of 18 states that sponsors Amtrak service, has some of the best-performing routes, officials said. Combined ridership for the four routes connecting Richmond and other major cities to Washington and the Northeast grew to 971,415 in 2019, from 844,698 the previous year — a 15 percent increase. That’s well above the average 2.4 percent increase among all state-supported lines and the 2.5 percent growth of Amtrak’s entire network.

“In just the 10 years since 2009, ridership has more than doubled on our Virginia corridors,” Anderson told members of Congress at a Nov. 13 hearing. “What these and our other very successful state-supported corridors have in common is that they offer multiple daily frequencies with trip times that are competitive with driving and flying.”

…In 2011, Virginia became one of only a few states to create a dedicated funding source for rail projects. The Virginia Intercity Passenger Rail Operating and Capital Fund gets .005 percent of the state’s retail sales and use tax, which equals about $50 million to $60 million annually.

…Increasing train service in the state makes sense, both for reducing traffic congestion and from an economic standpoint, officials and transportation experts say. A recent state study of the I-95 corridor estimates it would cost $12.5 billion to build one additional travel lane in each direction for 50 miles in the corridor.

How Virginia’s $3.7 billion rail plan fits Amtrak’s long-term vision – The Washington Post


Trump Administration Dismantles Clean Water Rule Days After Gutting National Environmental Policy Act, Putting Park Waters Further at Risk

The revised water rule eliminates protections for more than half of America’s wetlands, along with many rivers and streams that were once protected under the Clean Water Act — threatening drinking water for millions of people and national park waterways across the country.

The administration’s revised water rule paves the way for more pollution from mining, manufacturing and large farms to flow into waterways, which will ultimately impact water that we all depend on for drinking, fishing and swimming. Today’s announcement comes just two weeks after the administration’s rollback of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that requires government agencies to carefully consider public health and our environment before permitting proposed projects on federal lands, while also giving the public a voice in the process. 

Trump Administration Dismantles Clean Water Rule Days After Gutting National Environmental Policy Act, Putting Park Waters Further at Risk · National Parks Conservation Association


Scientists move Doomsday Clock closer to midnight

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of its symbolic Doomsday Clock closer to midnight, indicating that the likeliness of a human-caused apocalypse has increased since last year.

The Bulletin adjusted the clock to reflect looming threats from nuclear weapons and accelerated global warming.

The clock is now set at 100 seconds to midnight, the closest it has ever been to symbolic doom and the first time the hands have been within the two-minute mark.

Scientists move Doomsday Clock closer to midnight


Greta Thunberg fires back at Steven Mnunchin after he said the teen should get a college degree

Thunberg, who’s taking a gap year from school to campaign for action on climate change, called him out on Twitter, saying it “doesn’t take a college degree in economics” to see that “ongoing fossil fuel subsides and investments don’t add up.” She paired her tweet with an interactive graph showing the correlation between greenhouse gas emissions and the “carbon budget” — how much room is left before average temperatures rise to a perilous level, another 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Greta Thunberg fires back at Steven Mnunchin after he said the teen should get a college degree – CBS News


Trump Removes Pollution Controls on Streams and Wetlands

The Trump administration on Thursday will finalize a rule to strip away environmental protections for streams, wetlands and other water bodies.

…The Obama rule protected about 60 percent of the nation’s waterways, including large bodies of water such as the Chesapeake Bay, Mississippi River and Puget Sound, and smaller headwaters, wetlands, seasonal streams and streams that run temporarily underground. It limited the discharge of pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides and industrial chemicals into those waters.

…This is not just undoing the Obama rule. This is stripping away protections that were put in place in the ’70s and ’80s that Americans have relied on for their health.”

…The new water rule will remove federal protections from more than half the nation’s wetlands, and hundreds of thousands of small waterways. That would for the first time in decades allow landowners and property developers to dump pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers directly into many of those waterways, and to destroy or fill in wetlands for construction projects.

…[The changes] on Thursday will complete the process, not only rolling back 2015 rules that guaranteed protections under the 1972 Clean Water Act to certain wetlands and streams that run intermittently or run temporarily underground, but also relieves landowners of the need to seek permits that the Environmental Protection Agency had considered on a case-by-case basis before the Obama rule.

…That could open millions of acres of pristine wetlands to pollution or destruction, and allow chemicals and other pollutants to be discharged into smaller headland waters that eventually drain into larger water bodies, experts in water management said. Wetlands play key roles in filtering surface water and protecting against floods, while also providing wildlife habitat.

… The E.P.A.’s Scientific Advisory Board, a panel of 41 scientists responsible for evaluating the scientific integrity of the agency’s regulations, concluded that the new Trump water rule ignores science by “failing to acknowledge watershed systems.” They found “no scientific justification” for excluding certain bodies of water from protection under the new regulations, concluding that pollutants from those smaller and seasonal bodies of water can still have a significant impact on the health of larger water systems.

Trump Removes Pollution Controls on Streams and Wetlands – The New York Times


US drinking water contamination with ‘forever chemicals’ far worse than scientists thought

The contamination of US drinking water with manmade “forever chemicals” is far worse than previously estimated with some of the highest levels found in Miami, Philadelphia, and New Orleans.

…The chemicals were used in products like Teflon and Scotchguard and in firefighting foam. Some are used in a variety of other products and industrial processes, and their replacements also pose risks.

…The chemicals, resistant to breaking down in the environment, are known as perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. Some have been linked to cancers, liver damage, low birth weight and other health problems.

…Of tap water samples taken by EWG from 44 sites in 31 states and Washington DC, only one location, Meridian, Mississippi, which relies on 700ft (215m) deep wells, had no detectable PFAS. Only Seattle and Tuscaloosa, Alabama had levels below 1 part per trillion (PPT), the limit EWG recommends.

In addition, EWG found that on average six to seven PFAS compounds were found at the tested sites.

US drinking water contamination with ‘forever chemicals’ far worse than scientists thought | Environment | The Guardian


Scientists certain that drilling is causing earthquakes

On Thursday, the U.S. Geological Survey released the first comprehensive maps pinpointing more than a dozen areas in the central and eastern U.S. that have been jolted by quakes that the researchers said were triggered by drilling. The report said man-made quakes tied to industry operations have been on the rise.

Scientists have mainly attributed the spike to the injection of wastewater deep underground, a practice they say can activate dormant faults. Only a few cases of shaking have been blamed on fracking, in which large volumes of water, sand and chemicals are pumped into rock formations to crack them open and free oil or gas.

…Yet another study, this one published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, connected a swarm of small quakes west of Fort Worth, Texas, to nearby natural gas wells and wastewater disposal.

…The ground has been trembling in regions that were once seismically stable, including parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas.

The largest jolt linked to wastewater injection — a magnitude-5.6 that hit Prague, Oklahoma, in 2011 — damaged 200 buildings and shook a college football stadium.

The uptick in Oklahoma quakes has prompted state regulators to require a seismic review of all proposed disposal wells.

…[Trump’s toothless sham, the] Environmental Protection Agency said there no plans for new regulations as a result of the USGS study.

Scientists certain that drilling is causing earthquakes