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Book Review: Anthropocene Islands: Entangled Worlds by Jonathan Pugh and David Chandler

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/04/2022 - 8:51pm in

In Anthropocene Islands: Entangled Worlds — available open access— Jonathan Pugh and David Chandler explore the importance of thinking with islands in the Anthropocene, showing how island thinking and practices can provide solutions to our planetary crises. This thought-provoking book delivers a loud and clear message that a research agenda for island studies is urgently needed in the Anthropocene era, writes Sibo Chen

Anthropocene Islands: Entangled Worlds. Jonathan Pugh and David Chandler. University of Westminster Press. 2021.

Anthropocene Islands book coverIn recent years, the growing prominence of the Anthropocene in both scholarly and public discourses has been accompanied by a profound crisis of faith in Western modernity. This crisis, as Jonathan Pugh and David Chandler note in Anthropocene Islands: Entangled Worlds, demonstrates how modern frameworks of reasoning — which assume that humans have the capacity to understand ‘the world’ as a coherent, controllable and manageable object — are fundamentally flawed.

Similarly, French philosopher Jacques Derrida asserted that as faith in modern reasoning crumbles, the stark realisation that ‘there is no world, there are only islands’ becomes apparent. In the views of Pugh and Chandler, however, Derrida’s assertion must be taken seriously: what would happen if human geographers viewed islands as emblematic figures of Anthropocene thinking? This is the central question addressed throughout Anthropocene Islands.

The book’s arguments are presented in six chapters. Chapter One introduces the book’s main theoretical concerns by discussing the importance of ‘thinking with islands in the Anthropocene’. Conventional climate change narratives tend to portray islands and their inhabitants as passive and helpless victims waiting to be rescued by others. Such narratives, according to Chapter One, are closely associated with older European and modern thought that perceives islands as insular and backward in comparison to continents. The arrival of the Anthropocene not only calls into question continental reasoning’s superiority, but also allows for generative engagement with islands for alternative approaches to being (ontologies) and knowing (epistemologies).

Three islands, Baa Atoll, Maldives

Image Credit: Photo by Ahmed Yaaniu on Unsplash

Chapters Two and Three explore two approaches to relational ontology afforded by critical inquiries into islands: ‘Resilience’ and ‘Patchworks’. The Resilience approach emphasises how the resilient capacities of socio-ecological systems on islands challenge Western modernity’s homogenisation of various life forms under common denominators. Islands, as isolated sites dense with immanent interactions between lives, exemplify relational entanglements — a central theme addressed by many Anthropocene thinkers. The productive differentiation and individuation found on many islands thus have important implications for contemporary engagements with the Anthropocene.

By comparison, the Patchworks approach accepts the Anthropocene as a current state of humanity and explores how island thinking and practices can provide spatial and temporal solutions to planetary crises. Central to various examples of patchworks reviewed in Chapter Three is the idea that islands allow us — as subjects deeply influenced by the hegemonies of contemporary society — to reflect and appreciate our relational interconnections, thereby working collaboratively toward more sustainable human-nature relations.

Chapters Four and Five discuss how critical inquiries into islands enable two relational approaches to epistemology: ‘Correlation’ and ‘Storiation’. The authors define both approaches as onto-epistemological since they regard knowledge as intrinsic to being rather than a product of passive reflection. Echoing the previous chapters’ emphasis on relational entanglements, the Correlation approach views knowledge as being generated through experiences, practices and habits entrenched in relationships. Accordingly, when examining how islands and their inhabitants are impacted by climate change, it is imperative that scholars and policymakers prioritise correlational perspectives, recognising the global implications of island changes.

While correlations still build upon regular, reiterated patterns of interaction that are open to calculation, comparison and measurement, the relations examined by the Storiation approach are intra-actions and effects embedded in island practices. The relational richness of these practices prompts Anthropocene scholarship to engage with island imaginaries when discussing the ongoing afterlives and effects of planetary crises. Accordingly, the Storiation approach foregrounds the necessity of disrupting conceptual binaries such as subject/object and thought/being, as well as departing from the coherently graspable interrelations proposed by modernist or mainland epistemologies.

Chapter Six concludes the book by reiterating the importance of island scholarship in the Anthropocene. It makes the case that the widespread scholarly interest in islands reflects ‘the rise of non-modern, relational, non-linear and more-than-human thinking’ (34). Another key insight offered in this chapter is that relational ontologies and epistemologies should not be perceived as one homogenous ‘other’ to Western modernity. Given that relational perspectives acknowledge the coexistence of world and thought, a fruitful research agenda for alternative and non-modern approaches to the Anthropocene should embrace postmodernity’s deconstruction of the grounds for truth claims.

Anthropocene Islands outlines an ambitious agenda for researching the Anthropocene by thinking about and with islands. The book’s discussion of relational ontologies and epistemologies is thought-provoking and should be of interest to readers exploring the philosophical implications of the Anthropocene. Having said that, the book’s readability is unavoidably hampered by its challenging theoretical subjects. Additional ethnographic details about island thinking and practices could help to exemplify the complex theoretical content in Chapters Two through Five. Overall, Anthropocene Islands delivers a loud and clear message: a research agenda for island studies is urgently needed in the Anthropocene era.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

 

Book Review: Interspecies Politics: Nature, Borders, States by Rafi Youatt

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/04/2022 - 11:07pm in

In Interspecies Politics: Nature, BordersStatesRafi Youatt explores instances in which relations between human and nonhuman beings complicate and transform our conventional understandings of politics. This is an important contribution to burgeoning transdisciplinary scholarship that demonstrates not only the injustices that anthropocentrism inflicts upon human and nonhuman worlds, but also how it makes us systematically misunderstand ourselves, writes Philip Conway.

Interspecies Politics: Nature, Borders, States. Rafi Youatt. University of Michigan Press. 2020.

Book cover of Interspecies PoliticsIt has now been 22 years since Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer proposed ‘Anthropocene’ as the name for a new geological epoch brought about by the effects of human industrial activity and consumption. Over the past decade or so, the Anthropocene has gone from niche jargon to popular buzzword — and perhaps, these days, even a bit of a cliché. As the hype ebbs, however, academic studies of the intensely holistic, interdependent, relational, more-than-human qualities of planetary politics continue to prosper. Rafi Youatt’s Interspecies Politics: Nature, Borders, States is a case in point.

Like many in the humanities and social sciences, Youatt laments the anthropocentrism and implicit colonialism of ‘Anthropocene’, preferring the term ‘Ecocene’ instead (3). His focus, moreover, is not so much geological as situational, investigating a number of specific geopolitical, international and — most crucially — interspecies circumstances where the relations of human and nonhuman beings complicate, and perhaps even demand the transformation of, our taken-for-granted understandings of politics.

Youatt’s analyses of concrete circumstances are interwoven with far-reaching theoretical reflections, circling around what, to many, will surely be a provocative central thesis: namely, that ‘political life involves the interactions of multiple species over the conditions of shared life’ (1). Politics is ‘interspecific’, not just in certain circumstances but at its core. This is, however, politics of a quite particular sort. It is ‘thin politics’: ‘politics in the absence of government’. Accordingly, interspecies politics, and hence politics as such, finds its model in ‘the thin political relations between nation-states’ (9).

Bird on barbed wire in front of power station

Image Credit: Photo by Cameron Raynes on Unsplash

The first of Youatt’s case studies — focusing on the US–Mexican border (27–50) — is, for me, the strongest in advancing this argument. The border is a racial-ideological barrier, crucial to the imagination of US white nationalism. It is also, though rather incompletely, a technological barrier, built from walls, fences, firearms, surveillance techniques and raw physical violence. In some parts, this technological barrier takes advantage of given or ‘natural’ obstructions to movement. At others, the walls and fences are themselves subverted by the often harsh and always shifting landscape.

However, at every stage, the border is also a porous frontier, traversed by both humans and a panoply of nonhuman species — jaguars, ocelots, nilgai, ticks, white-tailed deer — all of which participate in the construction and contestation of the practices of sovereignty; all of which have complex, overlapping sovereignties of their own. The case is convincingly made: no adequate political and/or international account of the border seems possible without consideration of interspecies relations. The human story requires the nonhuman story, and vice versa.

The second case study, I found fascinating but less convincing: on the ecological circumstances of the notorious US torture base at Guantánamo Bay (51–69). The chapter particularly focuses on the so-called ‘Banana Rats’, or hutia — an elsewhere-endangered rodent species that thrives in and around the US base. National security, Youatt argues, is already ‘interspecific’: it requires the elimination and management of threats across species lines. Indeed, the very relation of human to subhuman — as the institution of torture necessarily presupposes — is itself produced through interspecies practices.

This seems true. However, the relationship of humans to hutia at Guantánamo, which can encompass both systematic culling and an ironic kind of celebration, seems less than essential to the dehumanisation that is occurring within the base’s confines. Unlike the US–Mexican border, where no adequate account seems possible in ignorance of local interspecies entanglements, an adequate account of torture at Guantánamo seems very much possible without ever mentioning the hutia, as richly emblematic as this relationship is of the multispecies reality of security practice.

The fourth chapter brings us to Isle Royale National Park and to the case of wolves (73–96). A more perfect example of the territoriality and sovereignty of a nonhuman species one could not wish for. Indeed, there is a reason why wolves are deeply woven not only into human security practices but also into mythology — an untamed, mysterious other, lurking at the fringes of safety and order. However, at this point Youatt’s book begins to demonstrate certain patterns, which put strain upon its central arguments. With only passing exceptions, this is less a book about interspecies or inter-animal politics than it is about inter-mammalian politics. We are dealing only with some very specific species — and thus maybe reaching some rather predetermined conclusions. An investigation of the interspecies relations of migratory birds or microbial life, for instance, might demand a quite different perspective.

Chapter Five takes a slightly different turn, focusing upon the issue of more-than-human personhood, such as it is manifested in legal covenants reached upon the basis of Indigenous cosmological and political principles. Pachamama in Ecuador and iwi-Whanganui in New Zealand are the two main examples (97–113). The recognition of the personhood of the Whanganui River, for instance, constitutes an inter-collective agreement made upon precisely the sort of ‘thin political relations’ (9) — extended not just to ‘interests’ but also to ontologies — that Youatt’s political theory is driving towards. In contrast to the standard all-in-this-together humanist narrative of the Anthropocene, this is a politics premised upon the irreducible reality of political-existential diversity and division (110–13). Answers to the problems of the present epoch must, therefore, come from negotiations between such collectives, not from presupposing a prior identity that would already, in principle, unite them.

Anthropocentrism makes for bad anthropology. Youatt’s Interspecies Politics constitutes an important contribution to a burgeoning transdisciplinary academic literature that demonstrates not only the injustices that anthropocentrism inflicts upon human and nonhuman worlds, but also how it makes us systematically misunderstand ourselves. The international, Youatt implores, ‘is not a space above but rather a constitutive element of societies everywhere’ — societies, that is, both human and nonhuman (18, 145). These arguments, while primarily directed towards Youatt’s colleagues in the discipline of International Relations, have ramifications that reach — and deserve to be read — well beyond that community.

The book is not without its limitations. Its emphasis on inter-mammalian relations, I have already mentioned. Its go-to theorists, meanwhile, are largely limited to those superstars of the poststructuralist canon — Jacques Derrida, Judith Butler, Michel Foucault and so on. Despite the seemingly anarchic presuppositions of Youatt’s political theory — which grounds politics itself upon ‘the absence of government’ (9) — anarchist political thought is notable by its absence.

I have approached this review as a chance to take stock. Youatt’s Interspecies Politics is, in many respects, typical of a now well-established transdisciplinary genre. Its crucial value is that it demonstrates the importance of the international as a concept and problem not only for specialists of International Relations but also for anthropologists, geographers and posthumanists of every field. Its crucial limitation is, perhaps, that the book continues to lean so heavily on the very traditions of thought that it seeks to go beyond. While theorists writing on the Anthropocene are legion, it may be that our theorists of the Anthropocene — or Ecocene — have yet to arrive.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

 

Book Review: Sustainable Finance in Europe edited by Danny Busch, Guido Ferrarini and Seraina Grünewald

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/04/2022 - 8:44pm in

In Sustainable Finance in Europe, editors Danny Busch, Guido Ferrarini and Seraina Grünewald bring together contributors to explore regulatory developments in sustainable finance in the European Union. This necessary book will enable readers to understand the latest regulatory activities in the context of growing global commitments to sustainability, writes Irina Bevza.

Sustainable Finance in Europe: Corporate Governance, Financial Stability and Financial Markets. Danny Busch, Guido Ferrarini and Seraina Grünewald (eds). Palgrave Macmillan.2021.

Sustainable Finance in Europe book coverSustainability means meeting our needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (UN Brundtland Commission 1987). In other words, in our daily lives, we should consider ecological, social and economic limitations to secure the long-term prosperity of society. For example, to maintain environmental integrity, we need to ensure that natural resources are consumed at a rate where they can replenish themselves. Furthermore, social and economic integrity means that universal human rights and basic necessities are attainable by all people, with economic systems kept intact and activities such as secure sources of livelihoods made available to everyone.

In recent years, sustainability has become part of the global commitments promoted by regulators, corporations and citizens. In the European finance industry, in 2018 the European Commission introduced the Action Plan for Financing Sustainable Growth. This seeks to reorient capital flows towards sustainable investment; manage financial risks arising from climate change, environmental degradation and social issues; and foster long-termism in financial and economic activity.

In Sustainable Finance in Europe, editors Danny Busch, Guido Ferrarini and Seraina Grünewald have gathered views of academics and practitioners on the latest regulatory developments in sustainable finance in the European Union. While the rapid development of sustainable finance in the region is evident, there are many stumbling blocks in terms of implementation, driven by gaps and misalignments in regulation globally. This book offers contributions in various areas, including the fields of corporate governance and financial markets.

Plant growing out of pot of money

Image Credit: Photo by micheile .com on Unsplash

In ‘Sustainable Corporate Governance: The Role of the Law’, Alessio M. Pacces looks at sustainable finance through the lens of corporate governance and investigates the role that law plays in supporting sustainable developments. The intuition underlying sustainable finance is that individuals who care about sustainability prefer to invest in sustainable corporations. In practice, most individuals indirectly own shares via their pension savings plans and do not decide in which corporations to invest or how to vote on their shares. Institutional investors such as mutual or pension funds make such decisions on behalf of individuals.

Ownership of publicly held companies is concentrated in the hands of large institutional investors — for example, in the US and the UK the twenty largest investors own a majority of the capital of a typical company. Moreover, EU-based institutional investors are the second largest institutional investors in the world (161). Therefore, with such significant influence, these institutional investors can steer investee companies towards sustainability. They are well positioned to enact the sustainability preferences of the individuals whose investments they manage. However, these institutional investors might not do this because their own incentives may not align with the interests of these beneficiaries, thus creating an agency problem, or because beneficiaries may have different preferences for sustainability and disagree on how to foster it. Therefore, the obstacle for sustainable corporate governance is the alignment of institutional investors’ objectives with the environment-friendly preferences of their beneficiaries.

Pacces identifies two challenges to sustainable corporate governance: the transparency of institutional investor behaviour in relation to sustainability, as discussed above; and the clear specification of what is a sustainable investment in the context of particular activities. Practitioners need to have a usable and clear definition applied to sustainable investing that can be used consistently by everyone. When individuals meet their financial advisors and enquire about sustainability-oriented investment products, they should have a clear understanding of the investment products they will be putting their funds into, including how assets are selected for investment and how fiduciary duties are performed.

Pacces concludes that ‘the recent and upcoming EU law on standard sustainability indicators, transparency of voting behaviour, and disclosure of sustainable investment by institutional investors is likely to improve this incentive alignment, making institutional investors increasingly cater to the preferences of their beneficiaries for sustainability’ (174). The Revised Shareholder Right Directive (EU) 2017/828 established, on a comply-or-explain basis, the transparency of voting behaviour for all institutional investors. Taxonomy regulation (EU) 2020/852 introduced a legislative framework defining sustainable economic activities with reference to specified environmental objectives. However, ‘whether and to what extent sustainable corporate governance is compatible with the business model of different kinds of institutional investors remains to be seen’ (174).

In ‘Sustainability Disclosure in the EU Financial Sector’, Busch attempts to assess whether Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) (EU) 2019/2099 can successfully harmonise sustainability-related disclosure rules and fiduciary duties across EU member states, financial products and distribution channels. Harmonised sustainability-related disclosure rules are necessary for the comparability of different financial products and hence can further improve transparency and efficiency in the marketplace.

On the one hand, the SFDR offers uniform rules included in regulations, which will have direct effects, rather than in directives that would have to be transposed into national law to take effect within a member state’s national legal order. Thus, the SFDR could contribute to harmonisation by directly affecting entities falling under the regulation. On the other hand, the ‘comply-or-explain’ basis of the regulation means that entities may sometimes choose not to comply with certain sustainability disclosures as long as they provide an explanation. This can potentially negatively impact harmonisation. Ultimately, Busch concludes, ‘before we reach a sufficient degree of harmonisation of sustainability-related disclosure rules and fiduciary duties there is still a long way to go’ (442).

The rapid development in sustainable finance in the EU has been evident over the past few years and is changing the finance industry. Recent and upcoming EU regulations have had significant impact on market practitioners who have had to redefine their business models and incorporate requirements outlined by the regulations. As Pacces and Busch both conclude, although the regulations are promising, their impact is yet to be seen. But will all the hard work related to sustainable finance regulation lead to a more sustainable world? A continued discussion on sustainability is essential for regulators and practitioners to track whether their activities will answer this question. Sustainable Finance in Europe is necessary because it outlines current discussions on the subject and allows the reader to understand ongoing regulatory activities in the context of global commitments to sustainability.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

 

It takes callous ignorance on a staggering scale to adopt Sunak’s position opposing energy efficiency measures 

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/04/2022 - 5:10pm in

This tweet is from the political editor of the Telegraph this morning:

I suspect that the Telegraph has reliable sources for this story. If so, it is profoundly worrying given the battles on climate change to come.

First, hundreds of millions is nothing compared to the problem of energy waste we face in the UK’s 30 million properties, many of which are still hopelessly energy inefficient.

Second, energy efficiency provides the best rate of return on all energy investment by actually cutting use.

Third, this really is about tackling the climate crisis in that case.

Fourth, it also fits firmly into the fuel poverty and levelling up agendas.

Fifth, it could also create new long term employment opportunity.

But the Treasury says no. Climate change, poverty, the end of life on earth, inequality, meeting basic needs: none of those are as important as balancing the government’s books.

And staggeringly that is when hundreds of millions have been raised with new green savings products for which no use has been decided as yet. In other words, hypothecated funding for this was already available.

But still Sunak fought it.

It takes callous ignorance on a staggering scale to adopt Sunak’s position. We have to presume that’s what he possesses.

Ukraine War Sparks Fears of More Gas Extraction in Quake-Prone Region

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/04/2022 - 5:00pm in

Tags 

Environment, World

The cracks showed first in the walls. They cleaved through kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms. They marred bookstores, cafés, and churches dating to the 14th century. Then came the rifts between neighbors, relatives, and friends as people sought money from the fossil fuel companies to pay for repairs. Schools were razed and children crammed into temporary structures while new, earthquake-resistant facilities were built. On village main streets, shop owners taped signs to windows explaining that their businesses had moved across town. Psychologists went on Dutch television to warn about the damage to society. Canals that had flowed from left to right began flowing right to left. An antique windmill leaned to one side. Even cows started acting strange.

Gas extraction in Groningen, a province in the north of the Netherlands that is home to Europe’s largest natural gas field, has caused over 1,000 earthquakes since Exxon Mobil and Shell began drilling there in 1963. The Dutch government has designated hundreds of homes acutely unsafe, and thousands of others must be reinforced or repaired. After repeatedly taking to the streets at night with flaming torches, residents have pushed the government to increase the number of compensation payments and pledge to end extraction. But when Russia invaded Ukraine, forcing governments across Europe to reconsider their dependence on Russian oil and gas, Dutch pundits blithely offered a solution: further extraction in Groningen.

Before the war, the Netherlands got 15 percent of its gas from Russia. (Across the European Union, the figure is a whopping 41 percent.) Now, as Europe tries to decrease that dependency, its leaders are looking at fossil fuels close to home. “Everybody is afraid that if [Russian President Vladimir] Putin closes down gas flows to Europe, the only option is to increase production in Groningen,” said Peter Kodde, a senior organizer with Milieudefensie, an environmental group based in Amsterdam. On Monday, following reports of mass killings of civilians in Ukraine, some European leaders called for sanctions on Russia’s energy industry — a move that could increase pressure to extract inside the EU.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has reignited a painful debate over fossil fuels across Europe and North America, as the oil and gas industry has seized on the war to push for more extraction. In the United Kingdom, members of Parliament have called to restart fracking. In Germany, the finance minister has proposed lifting a ban on new drilling for oil and gas in the North Sea. In the United States, Republican lawmakers have proposed resuming drilling in the Arctic. In February, Bloomberg columnist Karl W. Smith went so far as to assert: “Fracking may be America’s most powerful weapon against Russian aggression.”

“We have the damage, the uncertainty. And there’s nothing in return. It’s starting to feel like we’re a colony.”

The victims of this approach are people like Groningen resident Coert Fossen. One summer day in 2012, he was sitting at home when his chair began shaking and swaying. Overhead, he could hear the wooden beams that supported the roof of his 80-year-old house creaking. Fossen had experienced earthquakes while living in Pakistan 20 years earlier, but this was different. It felt as if a train were passing underneath his house. It turned out that he was just over a mile from the epicenter.

Fossen became a member of the Groninger Bodem Beweging, whose name means “Groningen earth movement.” All told, some 350,000 people live in the immediate earthquake zone; the group was formed to give them a voice. On its website, the GBB compiles data on earthquakes and their effects. The group’s data showed that the quakes had grown both more severe and more frequent over time. But its activists maintained that the Richter scale wasn’t an adequate measurement because the earthquakes happen just 1.9 miles beneath the earth’s surface, in a layer of damp peat. Because the soil is so wet, quakes pulse out across a broad area. The earthquake that shook Fossen’s house clocked in at magnitude 3.6, which elsewhere in the world is considered minor, but it was strong enough to knock dozens of items off the shelves of a nearby grocery store and damage hundreds of homes.

An estimated ten thousand people march during a rally against gas extraction on January 19, 2018 in Groningen, Netherlands.

An estimated 10,000 people march during a rally against gas extraction on Jan. 19, 2018, in Groningen, Netherlands.

Photo: Pierre Crom/Getty Images

In 2015, Fossen started volunteering for the GBB. He is now the group’s chair. Like many in Groningen, he has a stoic humility about his own predicament. He has filed claims for damage to his house following five different quakes, but he maintains that his own situation is not so bad. He is outraged on behalf of his neighbors, though. Many of those most affected by the earthquakes are older people. Because the earthquake damage has gutted the real estate market, he told me, some of those who have moved to care homes have simply abandoned their houses.

The Dutch government earns revenue from extraction in the Groningen gas field. In 2018, the Dutch central statistics agency found that the government had reaped more than 417 billion euros from extraction in the province since 1965. Much of that money has been invested back into development projects in the west and south of the Netherlands, in cities including Amsterdam and Rotterdam. “We have the danger,” said Fossen. “We have the damage, the uncertainty. And there’s nothing in return. It’s starting to feel like we’re a colony.”

In January, the Dutch government announced that it planned to double gas extraction in Groningen in 2022 to meet demand in Germany. The news sparked a torch march through the provincial capital that drew 8,000 to 10,000 people despite strict coronavirus measures. Another 1.2 million joined digitally. The government took note, and in March, State Secretary for the Extractive Industries Hans Vijlbrief slashed the target extraction amount. When I visited Fossen the following week, the mood in Groningen was subdued. Some people were satisfied with that concession. But those who took a long view of the problem were not. In the latest issue of the GBB’s magazine, Fossen had written, “Anyone living in Groningen knows that fairy tales do not exist. Thunderclouds are looming again.” The magazine’s cover showed a government minister with his hands on a gas valve defecating on a wooden brace marked “Groningen.” The same kinds of braces prop up vulnerable houses across the province.

Only a few years earlier, the government had set 2022 as the date when extraction would cease entirely. Since then, leaders have continually postponed the end date while reserving the right to extract more gas in emergency situations. “We have been saying for years already, ‘Fix a date,’” said Fossen. “Because that will give people here some certainty about the future.” On Friday, the Dutch government said that a closure of the fields in 2023 “remains within reach,” at the same time acknowledging that the energy crisis brought on by the war in Ukraine could lead to more extraction in Groningen as a “last resort.”

Activist Coert Fossen, chair of the Groningen Bodem Beweging, in Loppersum, the epicenter of Groningen’s extraction-induced earthquakes.

Activist Coert Fossen, chair of the Groninger Bodem Beweging, in Loppersum, Netherlands, the epicenter of Groningen’s extraction-induced earthquakes.

Photo: Mara Hvistendahl

I met Fossen in Loppersum, the epicenter of the earthquake zone, where the GBB works out of a room in the old train station. Fossen lives in a nearby town; for his day job, he monitors soil pollution for an environmental institute. With a population of just under 10,000, Loppersum is a collection of spacious brick houses spread out around a towering church. “This used to be a place where rich farmers retired,” he said. The town is about 10 miles from the Wadden Sea, an elaborate tidal flats system that is crucial to global biodiversity.

We left the station. It was a sunny spring day, the sky a brilliant cloudless blue. Across the street from the GBB office, a house built around the turn of the 20th century was being reinforced. The entire edifice was wrapped in scaffolding, and the property was surrounded by a tall chain-link fence. “The complete structure has to be checked,” Fossen said. “The walls may need to be made thicker and strengthened. And they’ll look at the windows.”

Fossen stopped in front of the house next door. To me it appeared intact, but Fossen pointed to a discolored patch of brick. “See there, below the windowsill? Those are repaired cracks.”

We kept walking. Everywhere were cranes, piles of wood and cement, and empty, bulldozed lots. The sound of chirping birds mixed with the din of clanking metal and humming machines. In 2020 alone, 63 homes were marked for demolition in Loppersum.

Gas was discovered in Groningen in 1959. In an interview for the 2017 documentary “Geschenk uit de bodem” (“Gift from the Earth”), retired Exxon engineer Douglass Stewart described visiting the Netherlands at the time and calculating how much gas was in the ground. “I said to myself, that would be almost the biggest gas field in the world.” He recalled thinking, “When I go back to Exxon, I’m going to tell them they’ve got a lot of gas, and you’re going to make a lot of money.” In 1963, Shell and Exxon began drilling and extracting through a joint venture called Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij, or NAM.

Much of the Netherlands is reclaimed land at or below sea level, and its complex network of dikes, dams, and canals functions only with extensive engineering and oversight. When the waterworks fail, the consequences can be disastrous. In 1953, for example, a storm breached dikes in the south of the country, killing 1,800 people. In Groningen, fossil fuel interests acknowledged early on that extraction would cause the earth to sink, prompting a need to adjust the waterworks. But they otherwise downplayed the possible side effects of tinkering with such a delicate landscape, along with the broader impact of drilling for gas, which they touted as a cleaner alternative to coal.

Residents started to feel earthquakes in the 1970s, but the government only installed seismometers in 1986. In the years that followed, the tremors intensified. A local scholar and hobby geologist named Meent van der Sluis warned that the tremors were related to drilling. NAM ridiculed him. “It was denied until it was impossible to deny any more,” said Kodde, of Milieudefensie. Today there is a monument to van der Sluis alongside a road in Groningen: a 26-foot-tall sheet of steel, split by a giant crack.

Technically, NAM was subject to government regulation. In practice, though, the company maintained close ties with regulators. “It’s my impression that the system was designed for them to hold hands forever,” said Tom Postmes, a social psychologist at the University of Groningen who studies the effects of damage from extraction.

“It’s my impression that the system was designed for them to hold hands forever.”

The fossil fuel companies and the Dutch government nonetheless fell out after it became clear that thousands of houses would need to be repaired. NAM — and, for a while, an institute closely aligned with the joint venture — was responsible for assessing damage, an arrangement that led to many dissatisfied residents. In 2017, following public pressure, the Dutch government took control of the process, while NAM continued to cover the costs of repairs. But inequities persisted.

To many, the repair and compensation process feels arbitrary. The homes on one side of a street I walked with Fossen had been rebuilt, yielding tidy duplexes on treeless lots. Across the way, people still lived in vulnerable housing. “How do you explain that on the one side of the street the houses are unsafe and need to be reinforced, and on the other side of the street they are safe and don’t need to be reinforced?” said Ina Blink, the director of Stut-en-Steun, an organization in Loppersum that supports residents affected by extraction. “The result is social disruption.”

Residents end up battling the authorities over whether the cracks in their kitchen were caused by gas extraction or normal aging. “Many people perceive this isn’t just,” said Postmes. “They go and appeal. They get bogged down in procedures. The bureaucracy and the risk of getting into conflict with authorities, that is the most disruptive.” The process can drag on for so long that some choose to avoid it, either opting for one-time compensation payments or foregoing damages altogether. In a 2016 survey of 16,300 Groningen residents, Postmes and colleagues found a significantly elevated risk of stress-related health complaints among people whose houses had been damaged more than once.

Fossen and I passed Loppersum’s new school, a single-story structure with many supporting columns and few windows. Eventually we reached the outskirts of town. On the edge of a field, near a flock of grazing sheep, people were living in bland temporary buildings that resembled strip malls. The wait for a new house can stretch to over a year. I remarked that the dwellings looked small. “There’s a running joke saying that all these temporary houses are very comfortable,” Fossen said. “You can turn on the TV with your nose.”

As the war in Ukraine drags on, the profit incentive to extract more natural gas is high. During the 1970s energy crisis, both fossil fuel companies and the Dutch government reaped significant profits. Even today, some fossil fuel proponents contend that because there have so far been no fatalities in the Netherlands, extraction is safe. (Activists say that’s a low bar.)

In March, a local newspaper claimed that 60 percent of Groningen residents supported increasing extraction to counter Putin. Activists immediately questioned the survey of 1,000 residents. Had they asked people whose homes were damaged, whose livelihoods were destroyed? “We know many residents who think otherwise,” said Blink. “They might feel solidarity with Ukrainians. But if you chat with them for longer, then it turns out that they actually don’t want more extraction. The past 10 years were not an example of how we should go forward.” A market researcher for the company that conducted the survey, Enigma Research, told The Intercept that the sample was not randomly selected. Instead, Enigma relied on results from two different internet polls: an ongoing panel of Groningen residents and a poll on the newspaper’s website in which people were asked to fill in their postal codes. The researcher, Robert Oosterbaan, said that Enigma had then selected responses by age and gender so that they reflected the overall demographics of the province. Only 34 percent of respondents live in the part of Groningen affected by earthquake damage — the same ratio as in the province as a whole.

Whether more gas will ultimately be extracted in the Netherlands because of the war remains unclear. At the very least, Groningen residents and activists hope that the conflict will provide an opening for a public discussion of the consequences of the country’s reliance on gas. “It’s a silver lining,” said Postmes. “We start asking ourselves the question, ‘Where does all this energy come from?’”

One obvious solution is to decrease the use of fossil fuels altogether, through rationing and other policy changes. “What we now need is a real understanding that this is a crisis, and we need a crisis approach,” said Kodde. “That means dumping everything that’s market-based and voluntary. And it has to be way more total and way more demanding.” On Friday, the Dutch government seemed to move in that direction, launching an energy conservation campaign and announcing that thermostats in government buildings would be adjusted to reduce reliance on Russian gas. The EU recently released a more ambitious plan to increase reliance on renewables, but the EU does not have the power to enforce this at the member state level. For now, the decisions made in Brussels are far from the reality of life in Groningen.

Even after gas extraction in Groningen stops, the earthquakes will continue for years. Decades of drilling and extraction have left fluctuations in pressure beneath the ground. To compensate, gas will continue to flow from areas where the pressure is higher to areas where it is lower. No one knows exactly when the tremors will cease. “There’s hardly any experience in what the effects are over time in highly populated areas,” said Fossen.

The last earthquake to hit Loppersum was on Friday. A Groningen resident tweeted that they and their partner had taken bets on the magnitude, adding: “The winner gets to send an angry email to NAM.” The quake registered at magnitude 2.7, prompting 250 damage claims as of Sunday.

Before we parted ways, Fossen took me through Loppersum’s sleepy downtown. Several storefronts were under construction; most businesses were closed. But stenciled on one window was a torch. Underneath it, in Dutch, were the words “Fight for Groningen.”

The post Ukraine War Sparks Fears of More Gas Extraction in Quake-Prone Region appeared first on The Intercept.

Mass coral bleaching of Australia's Great Barrier Reef goes under the media radar

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/04/2022 - 1:56am in

The devastating event threatens reef's long term survival

Originally published on Global Voices

Great Barrier Reef faces another severe bleaching event

A screenshot from an ABC News video “Great Barrier Reef faces another severe bleaching event”

The busy news cycle seems to have crowded out coverage of the fourth mass coral bleaching in six years at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority confirmed this in its Reef Health report on March 25, 2022:

It did not receive the attention such an event usually generates in mainstream or social media, either locally or internationally. The war in Ukraine, floods in eastern Australia, debates about Australia's Federal budget before a national election in May, the unexpected death of much-admired cricketer Shane Warne and other celebrity news took centre stage down under.

Coral reef scientist Professor Terry Hughes lamented:

NPR’s radio program “All things Considered” featured a brief report:

It included this comment from Emily Darling of the Wildlife Conservation Society:

What jumps out at me is the frequency of these events. There's just been no recovery window for the corals.

Not everyone on social media is convinced:

On the other side of the continent, Federal parliamentarian Josh Wilson is concerned that similar damage to the Ningaloo Reef in his State of Western Australia needs more publicity:

The Australian federal budget was brought down a week after the bleaching announcement. The speech by Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, mentioned climate change just once. Many condemned the lack of extra funding to combat climate change. The Climate Council lamented this failure of funding:

THE 2022 Federal Budget has failed to deliver any meaningful commitments to address escalating climate change in Australia.

Nicki Hutley, Climate Councillor, leading economist and former Partner at Deloitte Access Economics, who was in today’s Budget lockup, has calculated that just 0.3% of total expenditure for 2021-2024 has been committed to climate change initiatives, falling even lower, to just 0.2% in 2024-2026.

The pro-renewables Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) had a bleak take on the numbers:

They argued that: “Despite the Federal Government saying it’s committing funding to energy and emissions reduction measures in the 2022-23 Budget, the spending on climate is reducing over the next four years, and spending on LNG, gas, carbon capture and storage, and ‘clean’ but not necessarily ‘green’ hydrogen has increased.”

At “The Conversation”, scientists from north Queensland's James Cook University highlighted another unusual aspect of the bleaching:

This is the first time the reef has bleached under the cooling conditions of the natural La Niña weather pattern, which shows just how strong the long-term warming trend of climate change is.

Coincidentally, the United Nations World Heritage Centre's monitoring mission was visiting Australia to decide whether the reef should be listed as a World Heritage site in danger:

UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre and IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) will undertake a mission to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef from 21 to 30 March 2022 to assess its state of conservation and a long-term sustainability plan for its protection.

In July 2021, Environment Minister Sussan Ley managed to avert this potentially embarrassing outcome.

In a different part of eastern Australia, Sydney’s world-renowned Bondi beach was experiencing another climate-related event:

Meanwhile, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has warned that “limiting global warming to 1.5°C is beyond reach”.

Retired soccer star and human rights activist, Craig Foster, was just one of many to underline the urgency:

This is really serious

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/04/2022 - 1:09am in

Tags 

Environment

The latest report from the IPCC has been carefully crafted to avoid being thrown aside as alarmist and therefore untrustworthy. It is actually telling us that action is not just needed urgently – it is critically important that we act NOW – where ‘we’ means the whole world. OK. So that is impossible. But WE…

The post This is really serious appeared first on The AIM Network.

Climate Science and Financial Risk: Forging a Path to More Climate-Resilient Businesses

Is the search for better valuations of climate risks to help businesses reducing global emissions an exercise in self-delusion?

A Pipeline Election?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/04/2022 - 8:58am in

A Pipeline Election?

A controversial fracked gas pipeline and export facility project is dead, but the fight over it could play an important role in a congressional primary battle heating up along Oregon’s southern coast. As yet another new United Nations climate report warns of the existential danger of new fossil fuel development, the primary will test whether unpopular fossil fuel projects loom large enough in the minds of voters to make climate change a major electoral issue.

In 2007, the Canadian energy giant Pembina proposed a 234-mile long pipeline stretching across much of southern Oregon to move fracked gas from Canada and the Rocky Mountains to the West Coast. In 2014, the corporation expanded its proposal to include the Jordan Cove liquefaction export facility in Coos Bay, Oregon, which would have been the first such export facility on the West Coast and given Pembina access to gas-hungry Asian markets.

The pipeline’s proposed path crossed five major rivers, state and federal lands, and would have required the developer to either buy rights-of-way from almost 700 landowners or seize their property via eminent domain.

The proposal, which became known as the Jordan Cove project, faced massive opposition from landowners along the pipeline’s route, as well as from Oregon politicians, local environmental groups, and tribes. When the project was canceled in December, the lawyer representing landowners opposing the pipeline told E&E News, “I can say the landowners are utterly delighted that this chapter of their 15-year nightmare is over and hopefully that will truly be the end of Pembina’s hopes to build this project.”

But while the project may be dead, its ghost still looms large in the state, especially in the coastal congressional district of retiring progressive Rep. Peter DeFazio. That’s because one of the pipeline’s high-profile supporters, Oregon Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle, is now running for DeFazio’s seat in Congress and racking up support from progressives like DeFazio and establishment Democrats alike — while at the same time taking money from one of the project’s main lobbyists.

Oregon’s congressional primaries will be held on May 17.

Hoyle’s Corporate Backers

DeFazio, who has represented Oregon's 4th congressional district since 1987, announced his retirement from Congress last December. A founder of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, DeFazio said the latest redistricting, which left the district leaning more heavily Democratic, ensured that a fellow Democrat would succeed him.

Within hours of his announcement, Labor Commissioner Hoyle announced her candidacy. Scarcely a month after throwing her hat into the ring, Hoyle had not only received endorsements from DeFazio and both Democratic U.S. senators, but also contributions from several key members of the party’s corporate wing.

“I’ve known Val Hoyle for 25 years and also know her commitment to aggressively dealing with climate change and fighting for a greener future,” DeFazio wrote in an op-ed last month for the Oregon Register-Guard. “While some of the other candidates share this commitment, Val is the only person who can advance environmental policy and bring together voters of all stripes who believe their livelihoods will be threatened in the transition to a greener future.”

But while Hoyle had a track record of passing pro-worker legislation as a state legislator, she also supported the Jordan Cove project, as DeSmog recently reported. As an unsuccessful candidate for Oregon secretary of state in 2015, Hoyle pledged her support for the pipeline, while acknowledging she would “take heat” for it.

“I will say that in this room. I will say it in rooms of people who oppose liquefied natural gas,” she said at a debate. “I’m not afraid to have an opinion. I hope when I have your back that you'll also have mine.”

Hoyle has now said she will not support new fossil fuel infrastructure projects if elected to Congress.

Still, one of the pipeline project’s top lobbyists donated to Hoyle’s campaign in December, according to campaign finance records reviewed by The Lever.

According to the records, lobbyist Raymond Bucheger gave the maximum individual contribution of $2,900 to Hoyle’s campaign that month. According to federal lobbying records, between 2013 and 2018 Bucheger lobbied for Jordan Cove LNG, a subsidiary of Pembina Pipeline Corp., and then lobbied directly for the company behind the pipeline between 2018 and 2020.

Bucheger also reportedly advised a local chamber of commerce on how to set up an astroturf organization to boost local support for the pipeline project.

During her secretary of state campaign, Hoyle accepted thousands in contributions from Jordan Cove.

The labor commissioner’s past support for the pipeline project “shows that she is not on the side of Oregonians, our drinking water, or our climate,” said Kyle Purdy, an organizer for the Sunrise Movement. “It is shocking that while our state was experiencing firsthand the impacts of the climate crisis… Val Hoyle was taking thousands of dollars from a foreign pipeline company and loudly bragging about her support for new fossil fuel infrastructure.”

Strictly speaking, Hoyle didn’t take money from a foreign pipeline company. Accepting campaign cash from foreign people or corporations is generally illegal. But the U.S.-based Jordan Cove is wholly owned by Pembina Pipeline Corp., which is based in Calgary.

The state agency that supervises election laws declined to investigate Jordan Cove’s donations, with its director saying his office didn’t want to become a “gotcha agency.”

During her congressional campaign, Hoyle has also received support from corporate donors.

Bradley Tusk, Michael Bloomberg’s former campaign manager and now CEO of Tusk Ventures, a New York venture capital fund, also gave the maximum to Hoyle. His political consultancy, Tusk Strategies, has retained the New York City charter school lobby, the New York City police union, real estate interests, Uber, and Andrew Yang’s recent mayoral campaign, as clients, according to reporting by The Intercept.

Additionally, the Save Democracy PAC, which Tusk runs, donated $5,000 to Hoyle. Tusk did not return a request for comment.

When Hoyle ran for Oregon secretary of state in 2016, she received a $250,000 contribution from Michael Bloomberg, almost half of her total fundraising in the election. A Bloomberg spokesperson said at the time he was backing Hoyle because of her support for a gun control bill in the state legislature.

Hoyle was also endorsed this year by the New Democrat Coalition Action Fund, the electoral arm of the caucus supporting pro-business Democrats. The group backs candidates in swing districts or in districts held by Republicans that it believes could be flipped Democratic.

Hoyle’s campaign didn’t respond to requests for comment for this story.

“The District Can Lead On Climate”

Hoyle’s past support for the Jordan Cove project infuriated many Oregon environmentalists and discouraged them from supporting her Congressional campaign.

Instead, many major local and national environmental groups have endorsed Doyle Canning, a lawyer and activist who was a member of the Jordan Cove opposition and helped organize landowners against the project.

Canning ran a primary campaign against DeFazio in 2020, challenging his initial support for the Jordan Cove project — support that the Oregon congressman withdrew in 2019. Canning is now running a campaign almost entirely focused on the climate crisis; her website features the tagline “Oregon's Climate Champion For Congress In 2022.” She is once again focusing attention on the pipeline project, given Hoyle’s support for it.

“The district can lead on climate in a way that is profound,” she told The Lever. “And that is because we have this very strong climate movement that just defeated a $15 billion pipeline company. The Jordan Cove fight changed the political climate in Oregon forever.”

Canning has been endorsed by many major local and national climate groups — including the Sunrise Movement, Food and Water Watch Action, Friends of the Earth Action — and prominent activists, including 350.org founder Bill McKibben.

Recent polling commissioned by three such groups, Climate Hawks Vote, the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund, and Friends of the Earth Action, shows that the Jordan Cove pipeline is on still the minds of voters in Oregon’s fourth district, even as Hoyle leads Canning 24 percent to 8 percent among likely primary voters.

A poll of likely Democratic primary voters in the congressional district, conducted by Public Policy Polling on behalf of Climate Hawks Vote, found that while none of the leading primary candidates have significant support — 54 percent of respondents said they didn’t know who they were voting for — candidates’ support for Jordan Cove could play a role in their vote.

Fifty percent of respondents said they would be less likely to vote “for a candidate who supported the Jordan Cove proposed export terminal for liquefied natural gas,” while 9 percent said it would make them more likely to vote for that candidate.

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