Newsdesk – February 21, 2021

In the face of climate change, some environmentalists are fighting not to close power plants but to save them.Illustration by Clément Thoby; Source photograph by David Paul Morris / Bloomberg / Getty

The Activists Who Embrace Nuclear Power. Heather Hoff had earned a B.S. in materials engineering from the nearby California Polytechnic State University and work only in a series of eclectic entry-level positions until she started working in one of the county’s major employers,  the Diablo Canyon Power Plant.  Jobs there were stable and well-paying. But Diablo Canyon is a nuclear facility—it consists of two reactors and Hoff, like many people, was suspicious of nuclear power. Her mother had been pregnant with her in March 1979, when the meltdown at a nuclear plant on Three Mile Island, in Pennsylvania, transfixed the nation. Hoff grew up in Arizona, in an unconventional family that lived in a trailer with a composting toilet. She considered herself an environmentalist and took it for granted that environmentalism and nuclear power were at odds. Hoff was hired in Diablo Canyon as a plant operator. In the course of years, Hoff grew increasingly comfortable at the plant. She began to believe that nuclear power was a safe, potent source of clean energy with numerous advantages over other sources. For instance, nuclear reactors generate huge amounts of energy on a small footprint: Diablo Canyon, which accounts for roughly nine percent of the electricity produced in California, occupies fewer than six hundred acres. It can generate energy at all hours and, unlike solar and wind power, does not depend on particular weather conditions to operate. Hoff was especially struck by the fact that nuclear power generation does not emit carbon dioxide or the other air pollutants associated with fossil fuels. Eventually, she began to think that fears of nuclear energy were not just misguided but dangerous. Her job no longer seemed to be in tension with her environmentalist views. Instead, it felt like an expression of her deepest values. Hoff and her co-worker Kristin Zaitz organized a series of meetings at a local pipe-fitters’ union hall. They served pizza for dozens of employees and their family members, who wrote letters to the State Lands Commission and other California officials. Other nuclear plants across the country were also at risk of closing, and soon they decided that their mission was bigger than rescuing their own plant. They wanted to correct what they saw as false impressions about nuclear power—impressions that they had once had themselves—and to try to shift public opinion. They would show that “it’s O.K. to be in favor of nuclear,” Zaitz said—that, in fact, if you’re an environmentalist, “you should be out there rooting for it” – The New Yorker

  • Nature Makes Wood. Could a Lab Make It Better? – Wired
  • A Different Kind of Land Management: Let the Cows Stomp – The New York Times
  • The life-altering effects heat is having on American children – The Guardian
  • Guest post: Health benefits of Paris climate goals could save millions of lives by 2040 – Carbon Brief
  • Blaming the Wind for the Mess in Texas Is Painfully Absurd – The New Yorker
  • Germany concerned about Poland’s nuclear energy plans – Made for Minds
  • Australians fear climate change more than catching Covid, survey shows – The Guardian
  • ‘Making Peace With Nature’- Made for Minds
Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico was nominated to lead the Interior Department. She is the first Native American to be chosen for a cabinet position.Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

Native Americans ‘Left Out in the Cold’ Under Trump Press Biden for Action. After showing political clout in the 2020 election, tribal communities are hoping for more attention and money to address their long-running problems with poverty, health care and other issues. When President Biden introduced Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico as his pick for interior secretary, making her the first Native American to be selected for a cabinet position, he acknowledged the country’s long history of failing the land’s first citizens. Tribal communities angry over their treatment during the Trump administration, which oversaw a deeply flawed response to the pandemic on tribal lands, are now hopeful that Mr. Biden, who benefited from their enthusiastic support in battleground states like Arizona last year, will back a far-reaching agenda to address the poverty that has long ravaged their communities. They are pushing to ensure that any infrastructure plan the Biden administration pursues includes substantial money to improve access to water and electricity and to improve roads and bridges. They want more funding for their woeful health care service. They want changes to the federal land-use policy to minimize environmental damage from energy projects. And they want a renewed commitment to improving their schools. During the campaign, Mr. Biden released a policy agenda outlining his plans for Native Americans and tribal communities. It included proposals to immediately reinstate the annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, nominate judges who understand federal Indian law and fully fund the Indian Health Service. Mr. Biden received about 13,500 more votes from the reservations than Hillary Clinton did in 2016. Jonathan Nez, the president of the Navajo Nation, one of the hardest-hit areas by the pandemic in the country, was among the Native American voters who helped Mr. Biden win Arizona. The tribe, which is in parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, has suffered more than 1,000 coronavirus-related deaths and over 28,000 positive cases among the reservation’s more than 170,000 residents –  The New York Times

The Brazilian Amazon isn’t the only Mercosur region under intense environmental pressure. The Gran Chaco biome located in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina has been devastated by encroaching agribusiness and cattle ranching. In Argentina, nearly 8 million hectares (19.7 million acres) of forest have been cleared. Jan 30, 2020 Image © Martin Katz / Greenpeace.

European public roundly rejects Brazil trade deal unless Amazon protected.  The gigantic trade agreement between the European Union and the Mercosur South American bloc (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay), if ratified, would be the biggest trade deal in history, totaling the US $19 trillion. It would greatly benefit Brazilian agricultural commodities producers and the nation’s struggling economy. However, the South American country’s horrific environmental record under President Jair Bolsonaro could now doom the agreement, as the EU’s conservation-sensitive public rejects Mercosur. “The Mercosur deal is important for the Brazilian government,” said Marcio Astrini at Observatório do Clima, a network of Brazilian environmental NGOs, who commented on the poll results. “Our message to European leaders is that any [trade] deal involving Brazil must be conditional on concrete measures and verifiable results to stop the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. We are happy to note that the European public agrees. We hope European politicians will listen too.” France, along with other European countries and the European Commission (an institution that represents the interests of the EU) have expressed their concern. Emmanuel Macron’s government recently sent a document — called a side paper — to the EU Trade Policy Committee asking that new deforestation and global warming commitments be made by Mercosur members before the trade agreement can be ratified. “The current deforestation in the Mercosur countries, which may be a consequence of adopted policies,… does not meet the goals set out in the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Convention on climate change,” says the document. Besides France, the Parliaments of the Netherlands, Austria, and Belgium’s Walloon region, have already announced they will not endorse the trade pact. The ratification also finds resistance by Ireland and Luxembourg. “The first ever European Climate Law will hopefully soon come into force… We will put forward legislation to ensure that the EU market does not drive deforestation on the other side of the world,” declared von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission.  “We know how important this is for investors, who are looking for truly sustainable projects. Our European Union green bond standard, for example, and taxonomy will lead the way. It will bring clarity on what accounts for sustainable, eco-friendly activities. We all benefit from nature and we all benefit from the protection it gives us. So I think we all have to play our role in this game”- Mongabay