Earth Matters is a weekly compendium of wonderful, disturbing, and hideous news briefs about the environment.

Rep. Deb Haaland, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Department of the Interior.AS INTERIOR secretary, HAALAND COULD CHANGE RACIST NAMES ON FEDERAL LANDS

If Rep. Debra Haaland, the Laguna Pueblo woman who has been nominated as the next secretary of the interior, is confirmed by the Senate, she will be in a position to replace racist names of rivers, lakes, and mountains. Renaming has been underway for decades, but that very fact shows how slow the process is. The 131-year-old Board on Geographic Names (BGN) doesn’t come up with names itself but picks from those proposed by others on a case by case basis. For instance, in fiscal year 2019, the BGN scrutinized 165 proposed replacement names, approving 138 and rejecting 27—a typical year. One name change made at the request of the Georgia Senate: Runaway Negro Creek in Chatham County, which was renamed Freedom Creek. In 2016, BGN approved renaming Harney Peak, South Dakota’s highest mountain, to Black Elk Peak. This pleased the state’s Native population as Black Elk was a highly respected spiritual leader of the Oglala Lakota. But it irked Sen. John Thune and then-Gov. Dennis Daugaard, with Thune calling it a “unilateral decision” done without consulting South Dakota leaders. Army Gen. William S. Harney was known for his ruthlessness in engagements with the Indian resistance from Florida to the Dakotas. In 1855, under his command, soldiers killed about half of the 250 Lakota they had cornered in a cave, including many women and children, resulting in the Grattan Massacre.

Last year, Haaland introduced the Reconciliation in Place Names Act that would establish a 16-member advisory board with the purpose of renaming places with offensive names. The bill collected 15 co-sponsors, all of them Democrats. Michael Doyle at GreenWire notes that at Interior Haaland might follow in the footsteps of Stewart Udall, secretary of interior under JFK. He ordered that a racist slur against Black people used in many place names “shall not be used on any new Federal maps or publications as part of a geographic name.” Changes began right away, but it took a decade before “Jap” was replaced by “Japanese” or “Nisei” in place names. In 2015, a survey found 1,441 federally recognized places with questionable names. 

WHITE HOUSE DISMISSES TWO CLIMATE SCIENCE CRITICS

Two scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, David Legates and Chief Scientist Ryan Maue, were “relieved of duties” at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Tuesday after their boss learned that on non-government websites, the two had published “Climate Change Flyers” brimming with misleading claims with the implication they were government approved. The papers used the White House executive seal and OSTP’s seal and stated that they were copyrighted by OSTP. But OSTP Director Kelvin Droegemeier hadn’t approved the papers, and he was reportedly furious. The two men were brought into the White House posts last year because of their role in previously publishing papers questioning the seriousness of climate change, something the Trump regime has engaged in from the beginning. Legates has a senior role at NOAA, and Maue is a meteorologist and longtime climate science denier once employed by the right-wing Cato Institute. In November Legates was assigned to run the U.S. Global Change Research Program and detailed to the White House. Scott Waldman at ClimateWire reports that Legates recruited a number of cronies, many with ties to the right-wing Heartland Institute. The goal behind the publication of the flyers was to establish climate science denialist assertions as part of the public record that could be used in the National Climate Assessment and in court cases to fight regulations, according to unnamed sources. Both men are expected to leave NOAA by week’s end.

advocacy group has ideas to set Biden on a path to reach 100% EV sales in a decade

The Zero Emission Transportation Association (ZETA) has issued a policy platform with 34 recommendations for adoption by the incoming Biden-Harris administration and the 117th Congress to phase out tax credit limits on sales of electric vehicles (EV) by 2030. ZETA’s first recommendation would reform the federal EV tax credit. Currently, this lets EV buyers get up to a $7,500 tax credit when they file their returns. That credit expires after a manufacturer has sold 200,000 eligible vehicles. Tesla and General Motors have passed that total. ZETA wants Congress to rewrite the credit to eliminate the sales cap, make the credit refundable at the point of sale, set up a credit for the first sale of a used EV, and offer an incentive to people who retire their internal combustion cars. They also recommend investing $30 billion to speed the development of EV charging infrastructure, a 30% investment tax credit for medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles and passing the “Clean School Bus Act,” S. 1750, which Vice President-elect Kamala Harris introduced in the Senate in 2019. “This is a really unique time for us—certainly at the time of a new Congress coming in, a new presidential transition—to be putting forward a plan like this that is actionable and that we can really leverage to see a big difference,” ZETA Executive Director Joseph Britton said on a Zoom call with reporters Tuesday.

Northern Spotted OwlsTRUMP REGIME OPENS UP 3 MILLION ACRES OF SPOTTED OWL HABITAT TO LOGGERS

In August, as part of a settlement with a lumber association, the White House proposed that 205,000 acres of the 9.5 million designated as critical habitat for the threatened northern spotted owl be removed from protection. But as Lisa Friedman and Catrin Einhorn reported Wednesday, a decision was made to increase the removal to 3 million acres, 15 times the original proposal. Loggers sued in 2013 over the protective designation, arguing that it would ruin them financially. “These common-sense revisions ensure we are continuing to recover the northern spotted owl while being a good neighbor to rural communities within the critical habitat,” Aurelia Skipwith, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a statement. Common sense isn’t how many wildlife advocates view it. Said Susan Jane Brown, a staff attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center, “I’ve gotten several calls from wildlife biologists who are in tears who said, ‘Did you know this is happening? The bird won’t survive this.’” Unnamed sources told the reporters that Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and other senior appointees in the Trump regime were behind the move, and that the department’s previous biological analysis was ignored in the decision.

NEW PAPER BY 17 SCIENTISTS PREDICTS “collapse of civilization” WITHOUT VIGOROUS ACTION 

Under the title of “Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future,” the paper was published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers of Conservation Science. The authors explain that even though there are many solutions to our environmental crises, they are not being put in place fast enough to halt “the relentless progression of biodiversity loss and other existential threats tied to the continuous expansion of the human enterprise.” Here’s how they introduce their work:

Humanity is causing a rapid loss of biodiversity and, with it, Earth’s ability to support complex life. But the mainstream is having difficulty grasping the magnitude of this loss, despite the steady erosion of the fabric of human civilization (Ceballos et al., 2015; IPBES, 2019; Convention on Biological Diversity, 2020; WWF, 2020). While suggested solutions abound (Díaz et al., 2019), the current scale of their implementation does not match the relentless progression of biodiversity loss (Cumming et al., 2006) and other existential threats tied to the continuous expansion of the human enterprise (Rees, 2020). Time delays between ecological deterioration and socio-economic penalties, as with climate disruption for example (IPCC, 2014), impede recognition of the magnitude of the challenge and timely counteraction needed.

BILL WOULD FUND TEAR-DOWNS OF INNER-CITY HIGHWAYS

Last month, soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced a $435 billion economic justice bill that included $10 billion to establish a pilot program to tear down urban highways and rebuild the surrounding neighborhoods with strong input from the residents. Supporters call it the “Highways to Boulevards” initiative, but its formal name is the Restoring Neighborhoods and Strengthening Communities Program. It would only be provided where there is a high concentration of low-income residents and/or people of color, particularly in areas harmed when the highways were built. So federal money would be used to remove highways built with federal money. To make this work without causing more harm, in addition to funding the tear-downs, the bill would also provide money for “community engagement and capacity building” in order to determine what it is that underserved residents actually want to do with the land freed up when freeways are removed. The money could also be used to set up community land trusts that would produce revenue to fund anti-displacement measures allowing residents to remain “and reap the economic benefits of having their neighborhoods transformed into human-centered places,” reports Kea Wilson at Streetsblog.

 

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Earth Matters is a weekly compendium of wonderful, disturbing, and hideous news briefs about the environment.

Rep. Deb Haaland, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Department of the Interior.

AS INTERIOR secretary, HAALAND COULD CHANGE RACIST NAMES ON FEDERAL LANDS

If Rep. Debra Haaland, the Laguna Pueblo woman who has been nominated as the next secretary of the interior, is confirmed by the Senate, she will be in a position to replace racist names of rivers, lakes, and mountains. Renaming has been underway for decades, but that very fact shows how slow the process is. The 131-year-old Board on Geographic Names (BGN) doesn’t come up with names itself but picks from those proposed by others on a case by case basis. For instance, in fiscal year 2019, the BGN scrutinized 165 proposed replacement names, approving 138 and rejecting 27—a typical year. One name change made at the request of the Georgia Senate: Runaway Negro Creek in Chatham County, which was renamed Freedom Creek. In 2016, BGN approved renaming Harney Peak, South Dakota’s highest mountain, to Black Elk Peak. This pleased the state’s Native population as Black Elk was a highly respected spiritual leader of the Oglala Lakota. But it irked Sen. John Thune and then-Gov. Dennis Daugaard, with Thune calling it a “unilateral decision” done without consulting South Dakota leaders. Army Gen. William S. Harney was known for his ruthlessness in engagements with the Indian resistance from Florida to the Dakotas. In 1855, under his command, soldiers killed about half of the 250 Lakota they had cornered in a cave, including many women and children, resulting in the Grattan Massacre.

Last year, Haaland introduced the Reconciliation in Place Names Act that would establish a 16-member advisory board with the purpose of renaming places with offensive names. The bill collected 15 co-sponsors, all of them Democrats. Michael Doyle at GreenWire notes that at Interior Haaland might follow in the footsteps of Stewart Udall, secretary of interior under JFK. He ordered that a racist slur against Black people used in many place names “shall not be used on any new Federal maps or publications as part of a geographic name.” Changes began right away, but it took a decade before “Jap” was replaced by “Japanese” or “Nisei” in place names. In 2015, a survey found 1,441 federally recognized places with questionable names. 

WHITE HOUSE DISMISSES TWO CLIMATE SCIENCE CRITICS

Two scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, David Legates and Chief Scientist Ryan Maue, were “relieved of duties” at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Tuesday after their boss learned that on non-government websites, the two had published “Climate Change Flyers” brimming with misleading claims with the implication they were government approved. The papers used the White House executive seal and OSTP’s seal and stated that they were copyrighted by OSTP. But OSTP Director Kelvin Droegemeier hadn’t approved the papers, and he was reportedly furious. The two men were brought into the White House posts last year because of their role in previously publishing papers questioning the seriousness of climate change, something the Trump regime has engaged in from the beginning. Legates has a senior role at NOAA, and Maue is a meteorologist and longtime climate science denier once employed by the right-wing Cato Institute. In November Legates was assigned to run the U.S. Global Change Research Program and detailed to the White House. Scott Waldman at ClimateWire reports that Legates recruited a number of cronies, many with ties to the right-wing Heartland Institute. The goal behind the publication of the flyers was to establish climate science denialist assertions as part of the public record that could be used in the National Climate Assessment and in court cases to fight regulations, according to unnamed sources. Both men are expected to leave NOAA by week’s end.

advocacy group has ideas to set Biden on a path to reach 100% EV sales in a decade

The Zero Emission Transportation Association (ZETA) has issued a policy platform with 34 recommendations for adoption by the incoming Biden-Harris administration and the 117th Congress to phase out tax credit limits on sales of electric vehicles (EV) by 2030. ZETA’s first recommendation would reform the federal EV tax credit. Currently, this lets EV buyers get up to a $7,500 tax credit when they file their returns. That credit expires after a manufacturer has sold 200,000 eligible vehicles. Tesla and General Motors have passed that total. ZETA wants Congress to rewrite the credit to eliminate the sales cap, make the credit refundable at the point of sale, set up a credit for the first sale of a used EV, and offer an incentive to people who retire their internal combustion cars. They also recommend investing $30 billion to speed the development of EV charging infrastructure, a 30% investment tax credit for medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles and passing the “Clean School Bus Act,” S. 1750, which Vice President-elect Kamala Harris introduced in the Senate in 2019. “This is a really unique time for us—certainly at the time of a new Congress coming in, a new presidential transition—to be putting forward a plan like this that is actionable and that we can really leverage to see a big difference,” ZETA Executive Director Joseph Britton said on a Zoom call with reporters Tuesday.

Northern Spotted Owls

TRUMP REGIME OPENS UP 3 MILLION ACRES OF SPOTTED OWL HABITAT TO LOGGERS

In August, as part of a settlement with a lumber association, the White House proposed that 205,000 acres of the 9.5 million designated as critical habitat for the threatened northern spotted owl be removed from protection. But as Lisa Friedman and Catrin Einhorn reported Wednesday, a decision was made to increase the removal to 3 million acres, 15 times the original proposal. Loggers sued in 2013 over the protective designation, arguing that it would ruin them financially. “These common-sense revisions ensure we are continuing to recover the northern spotted owl while being a good neighbor to rural communities within the critical habitat,” Aurelia Skipwith, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a statement. Common sense isn’t how many wildlife advocates view it. Said Susan Jane Brown, a staff attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center, “I’ve gotten several calls from wildlife biologists who are in tears who said, ‘Did you know this is happening? The bird won’t survive this.’” Unnamed sources told the reporters that Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and other senior appointees in the Trump regime were behind the move, and that the department’s previous biological analysis was ignored in the decision.

NEW PAPER BY 17 SCIENTISTS PREDICTS “collapse of civilization” WITHOUT VIGOROUS ACTION 

Under the title of “Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future,” the paper was published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers of Conservation Science. The authors explain that even though there are many solutions to our environmental crises, they are not being put in place fast enough to halt “the relentless progression of biodiversity loss and other existential threats tied to the continuous expansion of the human enterprise.” Here’s how they introduce their work:

Humanity is causing a rapid loss of biodiversity and, with it, Earth’s ability to support complex life. But the mainstream is having difficulty grasping the magnitude of this loss, despite the steady erosion of the fabric of human civilization (Ceballos et al., 2015IPBES, 2019Convention on Biological Diversity, 2020WWF, 2020). While suggested solutions abound (Díaz et al., 2019), the current scale of their implementation does not match the relentless progression of biodiversity loss (Cumming et al., 2006) and other existential threats tied to the continuous expansion of the human enterprise (Rees, 2020). Time delays between ecological deterioration and socio-economic penalties, as with climate disruption for example (IPCC, 2014), impede recognition of the magnitude of the challenge and timely counteraction needed.

BILL WOULD FUND TEAR-DOWNS OF INNER-CITY HIGHWAYS

Last month, soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced a $435 billion economic justice bill that included $10 billion to establish a pilot program to tear down urban highways and rebuild the surrounding neighborhoods with strong input from the residents. Supporters call it the “Highways to Boulevards” initiative, but its formal name is the Restoring Neighborhoods and Strengthening Communities Program. It would only be provided where there is a high concentration of low-income residents and/or people of color, particularly in areas harmed when the highways were built. So federal money would be used to remove highways built with federal money. To make this work without causing more harm, in addition to funding the tear-downs, the bill would also provide money for “community engagement and capacity building” in order to determine what it is that underserved residents actually want to do with the land freed up when freeways are removed. The money could also be used to set up community land trusts that would produce revenue to fund anti-displacement measures allowing residents to remain “and reap the economic benefits of having their neighborhoods transformed into human-centered places,” reports Kea Wilson at Streetsblog.

 

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