It’s that time of year, when I deliver my mid-December look back at the past twelve months and share my hopes for 2016.
It’s hard (well, maybe not that hard!) to believe that certain folks haven’t moved an inch on their belief systems. Top offenders in my book continue to be Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who now holds the chair of the US Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works (despite the fact that he doesn’t believe in climate change), and the Koch Brothers, who continue to sabotage any moves toward clean energy that would put a dent in their financial bottom line.
The Kochs are top funders of foundations, “think tanks,” public relations flacks, and associations that push out disinformation on topics from climate science to renewable energy. Think the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, or the Heartland Institute. When it comes to campaign contributions, the Kochs are following their donor playbook of 2014. That year, they gave $104,000 to Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS). His League of Conservation lifetime record on the environment comes in at a whopping 5 percent.
While we are talking fossil fuels, hats off to my state’s Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, who is looking into the actions of Exxon Mobil, and if they are culpable of misrepresenting to the public and their investors the science of climate change. Just in case you have a moment of empathy for Exxon Mobil, remember that they — along with other fossil fuel producers (coal, oil, and gas) — receive annual subsidies in the amount of $20.5 billion. This includes tax breaks for clean up actions.
Despite what approximates unending negativity, like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) pushing the “climate alarmist” narrative at a recent Senate hearing, there has been a great deal to point out on the positive side of the ledger. Much of it goes to efforts by people who are not willing to sit by and let their children’s future be compromised.
The EPA released a top tool called the EJ Screen: Environmental Justice Tool, which allows communities to examine a breakdown of stats that outlines how they are being impacted by environmental quality issues and risks.
State lawmakers are forging their own paths, differentiating themselves from federal representatives. At the Paris Climate Conference, a group of 350 officials from forty-six states released a letter, outlining their goal of reaching 50 percent clean energy by 2030, and 100 percent clean energy by 2050. Mayor Frank Cownie of Des Moines, Iowa stated,
“Our region used to be coal country, and now is powered by 40 percent wind. That’s the future that cities and states are creating.” Jeri Muoio, Mayor of West Palm Beach in Florida, pointed out, “Cities and states are on the front lines of climate change. As sea levels rise, our city is in danger.”
Groups and individuals are mobilizing to protect neighborhoods. I’ve been able to write about a number of them. Here are some shout-outs:
- South Bronx Unite: Based in an area of the Bronx that is an “environmental sacrifice zone,” the group has been pushing back against the siting of a Fresh Direct 500,000-square-foot facility.
- Burrillville Against Spectra Expansion: This hyperlocal group is fighting fracking infrastructure in its backyard. Currently, they are saying no to the expansion of a compressor station that is already the cause of high levels of air, water, and noise pollution.
- Sane Energy Project: One of the groups that helped organize opposition to the Port Ambrose Liquefied Natural Gas Project. Governor Cuomo vetoed the project this past November.
- Cherri Foytlin: A mother of six who has been working to keep awareness ongoing about the aftermath of the British Petroleum disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. She has been an advocate for residents in South Louisiana in their fight to get justice from BP — which included a trip to jail. Foytlin advocates for the concerns of Indigenous people specifically through the prism of environmental justice.
2015 was the year the President Obama vetoed the Keystone XL Pipeline. “Kayaktivists” captured the nation’s attention as they confronted Royal Dutch Shell Oil in the Port of Seattle. Months later, Shell claimed that it would discontinue its Arctic drilling plans due to “the realities of lower global oil prices.” Pope Francis became a vocal spokesperson for the environment, addressing audiences including the United Nations, where he specifically invoked a call for global environmental justice.
Every American citizen has the opportunity to make his/her voice count when the 2016 Presidential and House election comes around. Voting for candidates who will make sure that arresting climate change and divesting from fossil fuels is a priority that may be the most patriotic act of 2016.
JOIN MOMS CLEAN AIR FORCE