12 December 2011, 11:06
First-time rules for coal-power toxics are due Friday
How tough will President Obama be on coal plant pollution?
This Friday, the Obama administration has the historic opportunity to rein in a coal industry that has been allowed to pour toxic emissions like mercury, benzene and arsenic into our lives without limit.
There’s little question that the administration will set limits – the law requires it and the courts have ordered it. The question, and the opportunity facing Obama, is how strong those limits will be.
For more than two decades, the powerful coal industry has dodged stricter pollution limits while countless other industries have cleaned up their acts. They have operated without national restraints on the amount of mercury and other toxic air pollution released from power plant smokestacks. The court order ending this free pass is the result of relentless Earthjustice litigation.
The industry isn’t giving up, however. It is ferociously lobbying to weaken and postpone those safeguards. Coal lobbyists are depicting the Environmental Protection Agency's new standards as job killers without acknowledging that coal pollution costs lives. They would have us forget that more than half of all coal-fired power plants have already deployed widely available pollution control technologies and managed to stay open for business. They have also claimed, falsely, that the new rules will compromise electric reliability. Recent reports by the Department of Energy and by business groups and industry analysts repeatedly say otherwise.
These red herrings distract from the life-saving mission of stricter pollution controls. Coal-fired power plants are responsible for 99 percent of mercury emissions, and those emissions have led to warnings against eating fish from mercury-contaminated lakes and streams across America. Children exposed to mercury in the womb or at a young age are at risk of impaired brain function, neurological problems and reduced IQ.
Americans are standing up for clean air and strong safeguards that bring an end to mercury pollution from power plants.
People have traveled to Washington from across the country to be heard on this issue, and in the largest outpouring of public comment on a rule ever received by the EPA, 900,000 Americans have written to the agency to support a strong rule. Many of the power companies, including large utilities like Duke Energy and Exelon, are expressing support for strong safeguards.
According to a report by the Environmental Integrity Project, the 50 worst mercury polluters generated nearly half of the power plant industry’s total mercury emissions. It’s time that this minority of bad actors plays by the same rules as everyone else. As these plants are forced to clean up or shut up, clean energy sources like wind and solar can move into the marketplace, creating green jobs that don’t sacrifice public health.
In recent months, President Obama has shown his commitment to creating a clean energy economy by ordering a review of the Keystone XL pipeline and proposing new fuel economy standards that will save drivers more than $80 billion at the pump each year while dramatically reducing carbon pollution. By staying strong on these new air toxics rules for power plants, he will signal his intent to continue down the road to a clean energy future.
While driving around the city during the 2010 Holiday day season, I couldn’t help but notice how few Christmas Lights were being displayed in our working class communities. On December 18th I showed up at a food distribution center to help my brother (who is a pastor) pick up some food baskets for some of the needy members of his church. While there, the man in charge said there had been a 66% increase at their food shelter in November. Not a 66% increase from last November, but a 66% increase over October 2010. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that the working class people are hurting all over our city and nation.
At a recent Summit I attended in Washington D.C. that was
sponsored by the Ecological Society of America and the National Education
Association, Environmental Literacy was said to be the new battle cry for the
environmental community. We decided
that we as a group needed to begin teaching a readiness to our young Americans
regarding their uncertain future as far as our planet and sustainability is
I left that summit with determination to do what I could in
my city to pass on what information I had learned. Yet it is quite obvious in order to begin such a process, some
degree of togetherness would be required, to give the effort both a
collaborative foundation as well as content.
As far as I am concerned that is where we are in trouble in America. To collaborate means you must have feelings
for your fellow collaborator’s issues and concerns too. Unfortunately the world in which we live
makes staying on top of your own agenda, a necessity. So much so, few if any of us has time to truly understand the
feelings or concerns of potential co-collaborators.
Paul Hawken’s the author of Blessed Unrest is an
environmentalist who attempted to get a hold on what is called the
international environmental movement.
What he discovered was that there are possibly over 2 million organizations
working towards ecological sustainability and social justice. Over 2 millions, and each of these
organization have their own agenda, which caused Paul to say that by any
conventional definition, the vast collection of committed individuals does not
or cannot constitute a movement. Movements
have leaders & ideologies. People
join movements and identify themselves with a group. This present environmental movement dose not fit that standard
model. It is being shaped in
schoolrooms, farms, jungles, villages, companies, desert, fisheries, slums, and
yes, even fancy New York hotels.
Paul went on to say; as he counted the vast numbers of
organizations, it crossed his mind that perhaps he was witnessing the growth of
something organic. Rather than a
movement in the conventional sense, he wondered if it could have been an
instinctive, collective response to perceived threats? He asked a series of questions like; how
does it function? How fast is it
growing? How is it connected? Why is it being largely ignored? Can it successfully address the issues that
governments are failing to: energy, jobs, conservation, poverty, and global
warming? Will it become centralized or
will it continue to disperse its power to ideologies and fundamentalism?
He said when he was describing the movement to politicians,
academics, or the business people; he found that many of them felt they already
knew what was going on, because of what they have learned from groups like
Amnesty International or the Sierra Club.
And he also noted that people inside the movement (what I call the
environmental community) have their issues too. They tend to only base their judgment on what they learn from the
organizations they are linked too, even though their networks can only encompass
a fraction of the whole.
He ended his review by saying, what I do see is compelling;
coherent, organic, self-organized congregations involving tens of millions of
people dedicated to change. When asked
if he is pessimistic or optimistic about the future, he says; If you look at
the science that describes what is happening on earth today and aren’t
pessimistic, you don’t have the correct data.
If you meet the people in this unnamed movement and aren’t optimistic,
you haven’t got a heart. He said what
he sees is ordinary and some not-so-ordinary individuals willing to confront
despair, power, and incalculable odds in an attempt to restore some semblance
of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.
That is what I see the annual Breaking The Silence
conference providing ordinary citizens and not so ordinary environmental and
community leaders in the Kansas City region, our own locally based
Environmental Literacy conference.
By addressing together over a 24 hour period the current trends in our local environmental circumstances, the conference is finally become what it was design to become from it inception. The place where once a year we gather and Environmentally educate ourselves.
April 20, 2010.Good morning,
Building A Sustainable Earth Community (BSEC) and I are about to finalize our program for the April 25th Greening of America event we are co-sponsoring at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, at 4501 Walnut, Kansas City, Missouri, with their Racial Justice and Green Sanctuary groups. In the meantime we felt it was time for us to let you in on our plans.
Van Jones, the once Green Job Czar for President Obama', founded a group called Green For All out of Oakland, California. Well this weekend, Green For All will have a representative in town to co-sponsor the Drake - Campus Consciousness Tour 2010, which will be occurring at UMKC Monday April 26th. . You can find more on the tour by going to Greenforall.org (once there click on #2 on the Learn More screen).
As Kansas City's official Green For All Academy associate, I have been trying to get Green For All to Kansas City for over 2 years. I am thrilled that they are finally coming. What they are able to do for young people, when it comes to greening of America is above any other groups that I have associated in this country. They push for issues that concern our people of color youth. They use positive means and music to reach them, and have been recently getting more and more big name entertainers to join them in that effort.
This is a wonderful opportunity for Kansas City, Kansas & Missouri. As an environment educator, I look for more ways to collaborate than I do to advance my on agenda. I feel we are losing the battle through a competitive funding system. I feel we as operators of youth related organizations must find a way to prevent the funding systems from derailing our effort to benefit the youth that we all serve. I would love for Sunday's event to be the beginning of such a discovery.
Together we stand, divided we fall. The past event on the Plaza was an example of us as an environmental community falling.
What do I want from you on Sunday, first of all your passion for the work you are doing; secondly I want to give everyone on the panel a chance to say who they are, and what they do with and for youth. After which we will open the session up for Q & A. I plan on surrounding the above with musical acts. 2 or 3 to open, 1 in the middle, and 2 to close. I plan on starting the program at 4:00 and ending somewhere around 5:30, and being out of the building by 6:00.
Now that is a quick overview of what I am wanting to do. My next request is for those of you working with youth, to bring some youth with you. I am not trying to have a room full of people, as much as have a gathering of quality individuals who will commit themselves to trying to build a Green For All program with the youth in both Kansas and Missouri.
This can be as big as we want it. It is entirely up to us. You are receiving this because we want you to join us. I am sorry for the short amount of time to prepare, but as you know that happens. Please let me know as soon as possible if we can count on you and some of your youth to attend. Come and help me show the Green For All people that Kansas City is indeed a great place for them to be.
March 28, 2010
By ROY HARRYMAN
A program launched by local businessmen is enabling children and young adults to plant, cultivate, harvest and sell organic vegetables.
All the activity starts at the 8.5-acre farm of Joe Jennings. Children from the University of the Arts and Logistics of Civilization, a private school at 1303 N. 36th St., visit twice a week. The students ranging in age from preschoolers to high school seniors come face to face with earth, plants, worms and weeds as they raise vegetables including beans, corn, squash, onions, kale, lettuce, collard greens and Swiss chard.
“They get their hands dirty and deal with nature,” said KeShaundra Hadley, an instructor at the school.
Once the produce is ready for harvest, students take turns selling it at Merriam Organic Market, 5740 Merriam Drive, which is open from 4 to 8 p.m. every Tuesday.
Some of the food is also used at the school’s affiliated Food for Life Supreme Diner as well as its supermarket and bakery. At the end of the growing season, students will use the proceeds for a special activity of their choice, Hadley said.
Jennings, the farmer, has hosted many student groups and said the experience teaches them not only agriculture but economics.
“They expose themselves to the farm and learn that money doesn’t grow on trees,” he said. “You have to learn how to work for it. The more exposure you get to various ways of life, the more intelligent you will be.”
The program, called From the Land to the Pan, was introduced by community organizer Richard Mabion, who shared the idea with the school this spring. Mabion, Jennings and Quindaro merchants Andy Ammons and Gary Wilson pay for the school’s booth space at the market.
Mabion thought of the idea two years ago. Then last summer he tried his hand at organic farming with Jennings. He sold the fruits of that labor at a Quindaro produce market. Having experienced the sweat and joy of farming himself, he joined with his friends to bring the concept to schoolchildren.
“What it’s doing is teaching students the whole process of where food comes from, what it’s like to get food on the table,” Mabion said. “They get a chance to see there are benefits to working out at the farm.”
Children from the school also visit the Kansas City Community Farm, 4223 Gibbs Road, on Fridays. There they get lessons in agriculture and more hands-on experience.
“They have been one of the best youth groups I’ve had come out to the farm,” said Katherine Kelly, a farmer and executive director of the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture. “The kids are really curious and engaged.”
Kelly said early experiences with organic farming can set the stage for a healthier lifestyle in an age of childhood obesity.
“Getting kids out to the farm and engaged in growing vegetables ... is putting them in contact with real food that is healthy for them and tastes good and has a story attached to it,” she said. “I think it helps them really appreciate it for life.”
Mabion, who has also introduced farming ideas at Wyandotte High School, said the program helps children learn self-sufficiency, gain pride in their neighborhood and experience community support.
“We’re all in this together,” he said.
He hopes to see other area students involved in hands-on farming.
Mabion said watching children work the land tugs at his heartstrings.
“To see kids doing that was just a sight to behold because you just don’t see kids do that nowadays,” he said. “It’s beautiful. It never ceases to amaze us.”
As for Jennings, he said his contribution is in helping to mold young minds.
“I’m just trying to participate to help train kids who will be the leaders of the country in the future,” he said. “It’s just a joy for me to be able to help someone because my slogan is, ‘Who have you helped today?’”
January 01, 2010
There is a need for spirituality in the environmentalist
movement. Thus far many environmental groups have tried to argue their case on
purely objective terms, to the detriment of their cause. Trying to persuade
people to bolster biodiversity on the grounds of economic necessity is a hard
argument to win when the forces working against biodiversity (such as the
forestry industry) have very strong economic arguments regarding families, jobs
and rural communities. As long as environmentalists continue to fight
economists in purely economic terms, they are destined to lose.
As usual BSEC is taking the necessary step to be inclusive. As long as environmentalists continue to fight economists in purely economic terms, they are destined to lose. Thus there is a need to re-inject something of a religious faith into environmental debate and have it accepted into the debate on those terms. Biodiversity is worth fighting for not because of its economic value, but because it is the right thing to do! Without this the environmental movement is left open to incremental degradation. The victories of today swiftly become the loses of tomorrow unless there is some sustaining influence. Also without an environmental ethic present in our day-to-day activities we find that our impact grows incrementally.
See our schedule of workshops and be sure to add this one. It is so important; we have asked them to do both a morning and afternoon workshops.
December 28, 2009
The Global Indigenous Movement Has to Begin Within Our Own Academic Youthful Studies.
December 24, 2009
ALAN HOSKINS, Kansan Contributor
The Kansas Secretary of Health and Environment and the great grand-daughter of Booker T. Washington headline the Third Annual “Breaking the Silence” Environmental Conference to be held at the Reardon Convention Center in downtown Kansas City, Kan., Friday and Saturday, Jan. 8-9.
Roderick Bremby, the Secretary of Health and Environment for the state of Kansas, and Sarah O’Neal Rush, the great grand-daughter of Booker T. Washington, will deliver the keynote addresses on Saturday morning.
The conference will also feature more than a dozen breakout sessions and
free health screenings for anyone who attends. Co-produced by Kansas City
Kansas Community College and the Wyandotte County Health Department,
admission is just $1 a day. The conference will be held from 5-10 p.m. on
Friday and 9 a.m.-9 p.m. on Saturday.
The conference will open with two performers on Friday night – story teller Molly Postlewait and poet laureate Lloyd Daniel. “We will use Friday as a way for us to bond for a weekend of Environmental Education,” said Mabion.
One of the presentations will be from the KC Plant Project, a coalition that has come together to publicize the Kansas City Honeywell Nuclear Weapons plant. Scheduled speakers are Jay Coghlan from Nuke Watch, N.M., who will speak on the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex; and Maurice Copeland, who will address health related issues affected by nuclear power.
Breakout sections will cover a wide variety of areas ranging from energy efficiency, health research, sustainable food production and environment law to prisoner’s re-entry, No Child Left Inside, Job Core for Single Parents and Food, Not Lawns.
The conference will conclude with the showing of an award-winning documentary, “Taking Root,” which tells the dramatic story of Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai, whose simple act of planning trees grew into a nationwide movement to safeguard the environment, protect human rights and defend democracy.
Further conference details can be found on-line at www.breakingthesilence.us.