Archive for politics

Going green by… forgetting what day of the week it is?

It has come to my attention that I made a Wednesday post today. Yes, it is Tuesday. No, I am not saving energy by cutting out one day’s commute – I’m just dumb.

I do, however, want to talk about Somalia and toxic waste. (via Amanda Peterka) Remember how America ships a lot of trash to cash-strapped locales, “outsourcing” landfilling and hazardous waste disposal? Yeah. The Huffington Post says the same thing is going on in Somalia, and so does MyDD. Not that it explains all the piracy going on, but it helps explain one aspect of a complicated situation.


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Payload from North Korea Test Rocket Lands in Pacific Ocean; My Plea for International Environmental Regulation for Pollution Prevention and Green Commerce

So, the Pacific Ocean is becoming more and more like a landfill every day.

We’ve heard all week about North Korea’s plans to launch a test rocket. Today, they did. Obama looks pissed and says they should be punished. “Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.”

And… that’s why the U.S. hasn’t ratified pretty much any treaty the U.N. drafts up.

This including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which entered into force in 1994, partly to arrange for states’ rights to natural resources and responsibilities for pollution prevention. Two countries among the group that signed on but did not ratify the convention: the United States and North Korea (along such fellow countries as landlocked Niger and Chad). 

I’m sure Obama’s interest in rules and enforcement relates primarily to getting the UN Security Council to punish North Korea for its nose-thumbing at international peace and security. But I have to wonder if the U.S.’s economic decline is going to increase U.S. interest in international treaties – not just for security, but for environmental rules, too. I think the purpose of this is two-fold: first, providing increased coordination in regulation of pollution prevention and environmental protection for concerns that necessarily travel across borders (water, pollution, air). Second, the facilitation of economic activities with some standardization to promote exports would solve problems for organic farmers, ranchers, and beekeepers and promote international product safety and stewardship.

So far, we’ve ignored the 1979 Moon Treaty (declaring the Moon to be the “common heritage of mankind”) with our national security policy of exploiting the Moon’s resources (to be fair, The Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies had just upwards of 3 signatories). A lot of little tokens with the Russian emblem are now littered all over the surface of the Moon. We’ve shot lead-filled bullets all over the Gulf. We’ve blown giant potholes in Afghanistan. In pursuit of an enemy, nobody stops to think about the havoc wreaked on the planet (and maybe rightly so – a country’s job is, after all, primarily to protect the citizens in its custody – it’s easier to look at short-term military protection than long-term environmental protection). 

And this is why I think a little international environmental rule making could be a very good thing. I know not to hold my breath for environmental enforcement, but a little rule making a-la-the-U.S.-Constitutional-Commerce-Clause could go a long way. With China testing Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo for carcinogens, water becoming a world commodity, and climate change crossing borders, coordinated treatment of international commerce and pollution could prevent a lot of expensive, deadly mistakes and abuses – not to mention confusion created by multitudes of commercial standards.

Just as the world needs to unite to prevent genocide effectively, environmental protection is a truly international concern that will need coordination and basic agreement.

In other absurd news about international dumping, the March 2009 issue of Harpers details archaeologists’ quest to find Star Wars sets littered across the world (and finds that some have turned into chicken coops in Tunisia).  Read more about the article from Above the Convenience Store.

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Bush Administration Rushes to Entrench 8 Years of Bad Environmental Policy Long After Due Date Passes

The outgoing political appointees in the federal government are trying to pull a fast one on us.

The Bush Administration is rushing to put in place a set of 20 regulation changes – 4 of which slow environmental and worker protection and remove barriers for big companies to cut environmental corners.

image from – too bad there’s not one of the entire administration.

Mind you, this is so far past due date it’s not even funny – a May memo from the White House Chief of Staff wrote that proposals for regulations should be received no later than June 1. I don’t know about you, but if I tried to turn in a paper 6 months late, I would be s#*% out of luck.

According to the New York Times, these proposals include rules that would:

1. Require another step in regulating workplace chemicals (longitudinal studies of exposure over an employee’s working life), adding up to 2 years to a process that already takes 8.

2. Remove barriers to building power plants near national parks and wilderness areas

3. Reduce the role of federal wildlife scientists in declaring whether endangered species will be threatened by highway or dam construction

4. Allow coal companies to dump rock and dirt from mining into streams and valleys.

These proposals are to change the Code of Federal Regulations, a bundle of rules created by federal departments and agencies that have the force of law. While it would be easy for Obama to overturn any executive orders coming from Bush, it would require a public comment period and proof of a “reasoned analysis” to overturn these regulations – easy, of course, but time consuming.

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Quotable Quotes from Obama

Image from

Obama spoke today via video to a climate change conference in Los Angeles. Courtesy the New York Times, some notable quotes:

* “Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all.”

* “Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response.”

* “My presidency will mark a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change that will strengthen our security and create millions of new jobs in the process.”

* “When I am president, any governor who’s willing to promote clean energy will have a partner in the White House. Any company that’s willing to invest in clean energy will have an ally in Washington. And any nation that’s willing to join the cause of combating climate change will have an ally in the United States of America.”

I like where this rhetoric is going!

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Government Goes Green

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty unveiled the “Green Jobs Investment Initiative” to the 2009 state legislature yesterday. It’s a group of tax exemptions, mostly for business, to invest in green jobs and renewable energy. In total, the initiative would spend $90.25 million in the next six years.

Image from Minnesota Politics blog.

Pawlenty has suspicious timing. He did not support a Green JOBZ initiative in 2008, and his proposal comes while a task force of department officials and other experts were in the midst of creating a similar proposal. JOBZ is Pawlenty’s job creation effort. Said Rep. Tim Mahoney, DFL – Saint Paul, “I didn’t know JOBZ was (a) chameleon – apparently if it isn’t working, it just changes color.”

Read more from the Pioneer Press, the Star Tribune, MSNBC, the Governor’s Office, Politics in Minnesota, and a related article on Pawlenty and climate change from MinnPost.

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To any Americans reading this,

The most important thing you can do for the environment is to vote on Tuesday. I don’t care who you vote for. You can even walk to your polling place.

If you live in Minnesota, find your polling place by address.
You don’t even have to have registered yet. Bring your Minnesota driver’s license. Or, bring your MN state ID. Or, bring your tribal ID. Any of these must have your photo, signature, name and current address. Failing that, bring a utility bill to your name at your address due within 30 days of Nov. 4 along with a photo ID – student ID, a current ID with an old address, a passport. Or, bring someone who is registered in your precinct to vouch for you.
Most polling places open at 7 a.m., but a few in small townships may open as late as 10 a.m. All polling places close at 8 p.m., but if you are in line by 8 p.m. you must be allowed to vote.

If you live in Colorado, polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Know your name and address. Click to verify your voter registration status.

If you live in California, visit the Secretary of State website.

In any other state, google your state’s Secretary of State.

While we’re talking national politics, visit The Green Leap Forward, a blog about China’s burgeoning grassroots environmental movement.

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Red, blue and … green?

The Presidential ’08 race is well underway, and as you all gear up to bike to your local caucus or primary you should know where each candidate stands on environmental issues (from a nonpartisan political education group based in Cambridge, MA).

You can also check out each candidate’s fact sheets from What would happen to the environment if McCain and Huckabee ran together?

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