Chinese Protests Expose Communist Flaws

Over the course of the past few days, China has been home to a rare site, a protest attended by thousands of enraged Chinese citizens.  These protests come on the heels of a corrupt land sell by local government officials in the village of Wukan in the Southeastern corner of the country.  While the land sell only amounts to about 6.5 square miles of farm land, local officials failed to inform residence that their land was being sold.  Following the sale, local farmers were promptly kicked off their land with no prior warning, which ultimately led to the upheaval. To add insult to injury, the citizens have not and do not expect to be reimbursed for their land.  This phenomenon of government appropriation of privately owned land has long been a problem in China and the source of much frustration for Chinese citizens.

Chinese authorities have not released plans for the sold land but one can’t help but conjure memories of past land use decisions by the Chinese government.  Most notably, the Three Gorges Dam, which displaced millions of people while local government officials embezzled government relocation funds.  Though national authorities have their heart in the right place by providing relocation funds to displaced citizens and by building massive renewable energy projects, much of their effort is tarnished by corrupt local government officials. 

Out of the corruption comes high unemployment rates, high homeless rates, and rampant social distain for local government, which in turn, can lead to environmental problems.  These are all things that keep China from being a more sustainable country; though making a country as large as China more sustainable seems like an impossible task, China has the unique ability to make swift and drastic national changes due to their communist regime.  While China has made respectable efforts to become environmentally sustainable, they have not realized the need for holistic sustainability, which optimizes social, economic, and environmental benefits. 

The world witnessed China’s commitment to the environment when they essentially banned plastic bags overnight, which studies show, has prevented the use of more than 1.6 million tonnes of oil.  China’s population makes such an immediate and noticeable impact on the world environment that their communist system seems to be the most effective method of government; but China has time and time again neglected to respect the natural human rights of their citizens.

While citizens have shown resistance to local authorities, they have not lost faith in the Chinese communist system.  Amidst anger toward local officials at the recent protests were intermittent cheers of “Long live the Communist party!”  Even with a suspect human rights record, national pride and communist support remain solid in China.  

What the world has seen from China is a supposed commitment to becoming a more environmentally friendly country; however China continues to miss the target by exemplifying an unwillingness to take their citizens rights into account or stop local government corruption, which leads to further environmental issues.  China has the unique power of being able to have complete government oversight of the planning and implementation of eco-friendly development project.  But this means nothing until they quit overlooking the well-being of Chinese citizens.  You cannot have sustainability without the consent of the people and these protests show that the Chinese government does not have the peoples consent.

Photo Credit: iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/article/2010/06/20100625122522lcnirellep0.8219416.html#axzz1hI2OxF00

New Move to Compensate Victims of State Eugenics Program

It was 1967; Elaine Riddick was only 13-years-old when she was raped by a neighbor while taking the long road home.  She became pregnant from this event, and nine months later awoke in a hospital bed, bandages covering her stomach.  She had given birth to a baby boy, and in the process became a victim of her state’s eugenics program designed to weed out undesirable persons by having them surgically sterilized. 

Beginning in the 1920s, the scientific theory of eugenics gained popularity across the country.  Eugenicists believed that immoral and less favorable traits could be eliminated from the gene pool by sterilizing those seen to possess this traits.  Among notable eugenicists were Dr. Clarence Gamble (of the Proctor and Gamble fame) and James Hanes (of the clothing company).  Groups like the Human Betterment League were instituted to carry out the messages of the movement.

Taking a cue straight from the horror section, between the 1920s and the 1970s, 31 states participated in and had their own government backed eugenic programs. The goal was simple: eliminate the likelihood of community dysfunction by making it impossible for those residents thought of as “unfavorable” to have children.  Years after Riddick’s fallopian tubes were cut and tied, she found that a “five-person state eugenics board in Raleigh [North Carolina] had approved a recommendation that she be sterilized. The records label[ed] Riddick as ‘feebleminded’ and ‘promiscuous.’  They said her schoolwork was poor and that she ‘does not get along well with others.’”

It was not until years after the ordeal that Riddick knew the full extent of the work done to her body.  Her first son was to be her last.  “I was raped by a perpetrator [who was never charged] and then I was raped by the state of North Carolina,” Riddick confesses to MSNBC–she uses words like “butchered” to describe how she felt.  “They took something from me both times…The state of North Carolina, they took something so dearly from me, something that was God given.”

In the years since, North Carolina has made steps in righting their wrongs of the past.  In 1977, the eugenics board was dissolved; the law that made it possible for involuntary sterilization was repealed in 2003, and in 2002 North Carolina officially issued an apology to the approximately 7,600 victims of state induced sterilizations.  In the time since, current governor of North Carolina, Beverly Perdue, has created three task forces charged with finding a manner in which to properly compensate those who lives were changed by government intervention.  If those victims are financially compensated, then North Carolina will be the first state in the country to move beyond apologies and towards actions guided to help the victims.

It is estimated that approximately 2,000 victims are alive today and it is just a matter of linking the right person to the right case, say officials involved with the case.  According to the Charlotte Observer, after searching for victims for over a year, “the state has matched just 41 survivors to its records.”

Governor Perdue expresses her, and the state’s, wish to put the actions done in the past behind them and work to keep the state moving forward.  “I want this solved on my watch.  I want there to be completion.  I want the whole discussion to end and there be action for these folks. There is nobody in North Carolina who is waiting for anybody to die.”

To show your support for those victimized by the North Carolina eugenics program and to urge the state in making the victims a priority, sign the petition here.

Photo Credit: nih.gov/catalyst/2001/01.09.01/eugenicslogo.jpg

EPA Accused Of Wrongdoing Regarding Science Of Climate Change

The Environmental Protection Agency has been accused by a government watchdog agency of cutting corners when compiling information for a document regarding climate change. In response, the EPA contends that they “reasonably interpreted” the guidelines when putting together their report, noting that the agency “undertook a thorough and deliberate process in the development of this finding, including a careful review of the wide range of peer-reviewed science.”

A report released by the Inspector General contends that in the process of producing a scientific document that would influence the regulation of climate change restrictions, the EPA failed to take part in a necessary review process. The EPA document on climate change marked the first time the government began to regulate greenhouses gases, which was a controversial decision within the government. Of the allegations that the EPA cut corners, Inspector Arthur A. Elkins, Jr. said “while it may be debatable what impact, if any, this had on EPA’s finding, it is clear that EPA did not follow all the required steps.”

The investigation into the EPA was ordered by James Inhofe, a Republican senator from Oklahoma. Inhofe, who has denied the science of climate change, posited that “the very foundation of President Obama’s job-destroying agenda was rushed, biased, and flawed.” The lengthy report takes pains to accuse the EPA of wrongdoing by making the claim that the EPA intentionally misrepresented research regarding climate change.

The findings of the report concluded that before making the assertion that climate change is harmful to human health, the EPA should have sought out an independent peer review of the research. The peer review process is part of the necessary procedure required by the White House Office of Management and Budget guidelines. 

Rather than have the science peer reviewed, the EPA chose to use assessments and summaries by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council, among other sources. The report does concede, however, that the EPA “generally followed” requirements to support the proposal of their findings, but cut corners when it came to the peer review.

The report released by the Inspector General recommends that the EPA “revise its Peer Review Handbook to accurately reflect OMB (Office of Management and Budget) requirements…instruct program offices to state in proposed and final rules whether the action is supported by influential scientific information or a highly influential scientific assessment, and revise its assessment factors guidance to establish minimum review and documentation requirements for assessing and accepting data from other organizations.”

While the government watchdog agency disputes the validity of the EPA’s claims regarding climate change, multiple sources have verified the truth behind the EPA’s scientific research. David Doniger, the policy director of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, has characterized the EPA’s scientific findings as an “enormous, multi-layered pyramid” that has been compiled over a number of years.

Despite James Inhofe’s insistence that the science behind climate change is fabricated, the work of the EPA has been undeniably enlightening. Besides writing the reports that influenced the government to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, the EPA has accomplished multiple milestones since its creation in 1970. The agency has been responsible for banning harmful substances such as certain pesticides, lead-based paint, and lead in gasoline. The agency has also set fuel efficiency standards, supervised the cleanup of contaminated areas, and reinforced the Clean Air Act, among many other beneficial acts for the environment. Regardless of the accusations leveled against the EPA, the most harmful thing in this situation would be to ignore the science behind climate change.

Photo Credit: nice.larc.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/epa_logo.jpg

New York City Green Plan Update Shows Progress, Charts Future Goals

New York-plan-sustainability-updateFour years ago New York City launched a plan aimed at making it one of the most livable and environmentally friendly cities in the United States.  This Earth Day the world got its first in-depth update on how New York City’s green plan, titled “PlaNYC” is progressing.  New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg unveiled an updated plan at the city’s Harlem Stage.  The plan tracks progress made since the original PlaNYC was launched in 2007, and outlines 400 goals the city intends to meet by the end of the year 2013.

PlaNYC is our agenda for a greener, greater New York that will help guide our city to a better future,” said Mayor Bloomberg.  “In four short years we’ve come an incredibly long way toward our goals, and now, together, we’re finding new ways to accelerate our progress.”

PlaNYC is divided into ten sections, each one focused on a different aspect of city livability or environmental responsibility.  Long term goals include cutting the amount of waste sent to landfills by 75%, improving public transit opportunities, and making sure all city residents live within a ten-minute walk of a public park.  PlaNYC also aims to reduce greenhouse emissions 30% below 2005 levels by the year 2030, and to give New York City the cleanest air quality of any large city in the country.

So far greenhouse emissions have fallen by 13% since the plan’s launch—although since a variety of economic and other factors determine yearly emission levels, this doesn’t necessarily mark the beginning of a permanent trend.  Since 2007 the city has also made headway toward increasing access to parks and public transit, and in greening the New York’s yellow cab fleet.  Overall New York City has made impressive strides in the last four years, despite an economic downturn many predicted would derail sustainability initiatives.  Now the city has a chance to build in this hopeful beginning and realize even more of its goals in the years ahead.  The updated PlaNYC specified which initiatives are likely to be a major focus in years to come.

When it comes to air quality, one of the most significant milestones the mayor’s office hopes to achieve is the phase out of heating systems that emit dangerous levels of soot.  Boilers that rely on dirty-burning heavy oils produce pollutants responsible for an estimated 3,000 deaths in New York City each year.  The 1% of buildings in the city that use heavy heating oils generate 86% of the soot pollution from buildings.  New city regulations will target the dirtiest and most commonly used heavy oils.  By 2015 use of #6 heating oil in buildings will be prohibited, and by 2030 #4 oil will be phased out as well.  Since soot is a greenhouse gas, this should also help New York reduce its contribution to climate change.

Other major initiatives included in the updated PlaNYC include a loan program to help residents pay for building efficiency upgrades, tax incentives to encourage vegetable gardens on building roofs, and plans for renewable energy projects like solar plants that could be built on top of former landfills.  Mayor Bloomberg also announced a new social media tool, called “Change By Us,” that will help connect residents with information and resources to reduce their own environmental impact. 

“Earth Day is time when we ought to remember the wisdom of this Kenyan proverb: ‘The Earth was not given to you by your parents.  It was loaned to you by your children,’” Mayor Bloomberg said on Friday. “We cited that proverb on Earth Day four years ago, when we unveiled PlaNYC and it’s in that same spirit that we update it today.  Through the plan we will make sure that the city we return to our children is a sustainable one.”

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/mcleod/3727809992/

Anti-Nuclear Demonstrator Killed in India Protest

In Jaitapur, India, local police shot into a crowd of demonstrators protesting a proposal to build a nuclear power station in the area, killing one person. 

Gulabrao Pol, the Maharashtra Police inspector general, said that police were forced to fire upon the crowd after the “mob consisting of hundreds of people took the law into their own hands.”

The police had thrown tear-gas shells, charged the mob with bamboo sticks, and fired rubber bullets into the crowd to try and disperse them.

Following the riot, more than 20 people were arrested and 8 police officers were injured when the demonstrators began throwing rocks and the police station was set on fire. 

Officials told the state assembly that about 600 to 700 people were involved in the demonstrations, and that some were suspected to have been armed. 

Local farmers and fishers were protesting the proposed plant, saying that the plant would rob them of their livelihood and nuclear waste would damage the soil and the water that sustain them. Environmental campaigners also cited the plants proposed location in their argument against the project, saying that the location is prone to natural disasters like earthquakes. 

Insiders in the nuclear industry also doubted India’s ability to handle a disaster on the level of the Fukushima power plant that was hit by an earthquake and tsunami.

Currently, nuclear power is only 3% of India’s energy output, but plans to increase that to 6% by the end of the decade and 13% by 2030.

Instead, environmental campaigners want the government to focus and invest on renewable energy sources.

Photo credit: tva.gov/power/nuclear/images/sqn_plant.png

Republicans Consider Controversial Figures for Energy Chair

November 11, 2010
By: GreenAnswers Staff

Having won control of the House, Republicans are gearing up to pick a leader for the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee. Two of the leading candidates are Texas Representative Joe Barton and Michigan Representative Fred Upton.

Although Barton has reached a Republican party term limit by serving three consecutive terms as the Republican leader of that committee, he is petitioning for a waiver from the rule. Barton caused a national stir earlier in the year by apologizing to BP and claiming the company was the victim of a White House “shake down” when BP was asked to designate a $20 billion recovery fund for the Gulf oil spill.

Momentum for Barton has been growing in Republican circles, as his rival for the committee position, Representative Upton, has been receiving criticism for his support of energy efficiency laws. Specifically, Upton, along with California Democratic Representative Jane Harman, co-sponsored a bill to phase out incandescent bulbs and to require that they be at least three times as efficient as today’s bulbs by 2020, as a part of the Energy Independence and Security Act.

Upton’s support of energy efficiency regulations are in stark contrast to both Barton, as well as Illinois Representative John Shimkus, who is also seeking the committee chair. Shimkus, who is an ardent climate change skeptic, on Wednesday reiterated to Politico his earlier claims that climate change is not a threat to humans since “I do believe in the Bible as the final word of God… and I do believe that God said the Earth would not be destroyed by a flood.” In 2009, Shimkus had made a similar argument in a subcommittee hearing, explaining that carbon dioxide is “plant food… So if we decrease the use of carbon dioxide, are we not taking away plant food from the atmosphere?… So all our good intentions could be for naught. In fact, we could be doing just the opposite of what the people who want to save the world are saying.”

In 2007, Shimkus was also criticized for comparing the war in Iraq to a baseball game between his “beloved” St. Louis Cardinals and the “much despised” Chicago Cubs.

The final candidate for the leadership post is Florida Representative Cliff Stearns, who is an advocate of expanded offshore drilling, as well as drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Stearns has also questions the science behind climate change.



Videos of Representative Shimkus discussing climate change at a subcommittee hearing.